It had been a long day for all those in the Hufflepuff Common Room.
There was a gaggle of fifth years looking sullenly at their spellbooks, muttering darkly about examinations between themselves, while scribbling frantically on parchment. Behind them was an infestation of first years, playing a loud game of Exploding Snap, their ignorance to the largely unspoken rules of etiquette that dominated the hierarchy of the Common Room indisputably obvious; many of their older counterparts were scowling over the tops of books, exchanging irritated glances with each other in turn that quietly said, first years, aren’t they the worst?
Somewhere, up a winding staircase, and two doors to the left, past an unflattering portrait of a witch brandishing a prominent nose, was the seventh year girls’ dormitory.
Even from outside the door, a shocked cry was audible.
“Oh, but you can’t! June, you can’t! You really can’t!”
Inside, a ring of four girls were sitting on the floor, the warmth of the four-poster beds abandoned.
The other girls rang in similar protest.
“June, it’s not a very good idea…we all know how he is…he’s absolutely cruel!”
“Just think about what you’re doing, will you?”
The black-haired girl sitting squatly in the center of the bedlam twisted her hands together. “You lot don’t have any confidence in me,” she said glumly.
The brunette on her right folded her arms. “It’s not that we don’t have confidence in you, it’s just that Al Potter is such a – a – ”
“He is not,” said June lightly, examining her nails. “I like him, Priscilla.”
The Priscilla in question – a Priscilla Fawcett - gave her a superbly annoyed look. As the daughter of a highly polished pureblood family, whose ancestry, as Priscilla habitually liked to remind them, wove back to the likes of Perpetua Fawcett, the look of disdain quite suited her clear features. Indeed, Priscilla was not Priscilla without her crisp robes, offensive tone, unfiltered diction, and aptness for the grandiose. “June Bernard, you’re hopeless. You really are.”
On her left, the two other girls – Lucy Weasley and Trista St. Clair were looking equally stunned.
“Not Albus Potter,” said Trista, raising an eyebrow. Having been sorted into a House only marginally known for its talents, the increasingly enigmatic Trista had surprised most of Hogwarts by being termed the next Gwenog Jones; she was a brilliant statistician and strategist on and off the Quidditch field. The distinguished pragmatist of the group, she often times injected the voice of reason that was often absent in the company of her peers. Where June was weakness, Priscilla was heated anger, and Lucy was softness, Trista was rational. So, she assumed the role again. “Have you forgotten what happened when Iris Bosworth tried to ask him out? He rejected her openly in front of the whole Astronomy class. He just doesn’t take to these kinds of things. The odds’re against you.”
“Iris Bosworth is a bit dim,” said Priscilla fairly. “Remember what happened during last year’s Apparition lessons? She splinched half of her body! How she managed that, I’ll never know. It takes a special kind of talent to be that stupid!”
“Poor Iris,” said Lucy sadly, “I’ve heard she’s still scared of Apparating.”
“I’ll ask him during lunch when everyone’s talking, so nobody overhears,” said June in her usual quiet way. “I don’t want to annoy him by attracting a lot of attention…and anyway, attention is the last thing I really fancy…and I’m sure he feels the same…”
“Be careful, will you?” This came from Lucy Weasley, whose round face was looking worried as she pondered her friend as though she had only really seen her for the first time. Lucy, who was half a Weasley courtesy of her father, and half-a-something-else-that-nobody-cared-to-remember through her mother’s side, was about as close to Albus as anyone in the Hufflepuff House was ever going to get.
“Al – Al doesn’t take kindly to strangers…especially not with little things like fancying people. He reckons it’s a waste of good time.”
Priscilla scowled. “He’s a waste of time. As far as I’m concerned, he can only do two things successfully: sulk and unfortunately, breathe. You’re too good for that self-centered, egomaniacal – ”
“Don’t say that about him,” said June. “I think he’s nice.”
“If by nice, you mean the head-in-his-arse type, then he’s bloody Dumbledore!”
“You’re just bitter that he beat you on all of last year’s examinations,” said Trista, exchanging a knowing glance with Lucy.
“Don’t you say that, St. Clair! You know that those exams are a fix! Last year’s curriculum was so weighted on History of Magic and we all know that class is about as educational as doxy droppings.”
“That doesn’t mean much coming from you,” said Trista, “you’re hardly ever awake in there. All you ever do is copy Ursula Urquhart’s notes.”
Having sufficiently delved into the subject of schoolwork, the two girls began squabbling at once, comparing grievances and attempting to shed light on the rumor that Headmistress Sprout’d really hired a vampire to replace Professor Whitby.
Lucy scooted closer to June and patted her comfortingly on the hand. “If it’s worth that much to you, June, I’ll support you. I’ll try putting in a good word about you to Al, if he’s willing to listen.”
“Really?” At this, June brightened considerably. “Lucy, you’re the best!”
“I know, dear. You’re not to worry about Albus when we’re here.”
The tone of her voice indicated that she had tired of the topic of Albus Potter. Soon enough, there was a rimming chime from the grandfather clock leaning against the wall. In harmony, all the lamps flickered to darkness, signaling the time to retire. June drew the curtains around her bed and watched the reflections of the stars dot the windowpane beside her bedside. A little distance away, she could still hear Priscilla and Trista arguing under their breaths.
For what it was worth, June Vivienne Bernard was passable.
Her soft features, coupled with pale skin and a heart-shaped face still lingered, at seventeen, in the awkward bounds of adolescence, even if only tangentially. She was depressingly short and the dreams of reaching her mother’s elegant frame were long quashed by the frustrating genetics of a father who was only tall enough to reach the middle cabinet in the kitchen.
Then, there were the various tics in her life: a myriad of insecurities regarding everything from her intelligence to the way she always seemed to whisper her words, and the ridiculous way she dressed. And it did not help that her circle of friends were as they were: Priscilla was rather foul-tempered and prone to fits, but it was agreed upon by the general populace that she was something of this generation’s Hermione Granger. Trista St. Clair had reached a rather odd level of popularity in the Hufflepuff House; despite being rather finicky, overly meticulous, and exclusive, in their fifth year, she had secured, for the first time in a century, the Quidditch Cup for their house.
Lucy was a Weasley, and therefore, popular, distinguished, and well set on all paths in a post-Hogwarts career.
And then, troublingly enough, there was Albus Potter.
And all she was, was twittering, air-headed June Bernard: well-intentioned, but usually wrong, nervous, overly whimsical, and so brilliant as not to scrape even a Poor in her last Arithmancy exam, no matter how much she’d tried and wept about it afterwards.
A few hours before the morning of, June arose and readied herself for the day. The floors all below were bustling with the sparks of an early morning symphony as fellow students everywhere awoke; there was a creak of bedsprings, the scrape of curtains, and the clack of the showers.
Trista was already up and about, having showered and packed for Quidditch practice in the afternoon (it seemed rather frivolous, June considered, since the Christmas holidays began tomorrow, but what did she know about Quidditch?); Trista waved as she ran down, her bag bulging with her strategy books.
So, with that, June considered herself with the small mirror by her bedside.
Her hair was…lackluster…not horribly frizzy, but with a slightly dead sort of quality. Not at all like Priscilla’s glossy brown -
There was a soft clang behind her and June jumped. “Oh, you scared me,” she said, her heart still pounding. “I – I’ve been thinking.”
Lucy sat down, her school robes draped over one arm. “Oh good. We’ve all been hoping you have.”
There was a muffled voice from a shape hidden in bedcovers. “Does this mean you haven’t lost your mind?”
June ignored this. “I need you to do me a favor.”
“What is it?” asked Lucy cautiously.
“I want to write a letter to Albus – and I was wonder – wondering if you could give it to him for me. I – I don’t think I can bear to say it to Albus in person,” she muttered shame-facedly, going red. “I’d rather just watch his reaction…that way, neither of us will have to go through it…in person.”
“And in case he says yes, June? You can’t have a relationship if you’re afraid to look at him.”
“I’ll worry about it then. I’m going to run downstairs and get some breakfast.”
And she hurried out, leaving Lucy and Priscilla shaking their heads.
“She’s so dimwitted sometimes,” said Priscilla lamentably.
The first half of the day was a mellowed affair. June went from class to class, only half there (a usual sight), with Priscilla Fawcett at her heels, ranting endlessly on why confessing to Albus Potter was an idea dumb even for her.
“He’s like the human version of a dementor,” she said heatedly, as they made their way to Charms after breakfast. “He sucks happiness out of people and if you get too close – ” She flailed her arms above her head, and made a pathetic whooshing sound.
Lucy Weasley, even from three seats away, guessed what Priscilla was still on about and rolled her eyes.
June, who was still highly engrossed in her letter to Albus looked up idly. Anything would be better than listening to Priscilla rave about Albus – even if it meant she had to rave about something else. “How did you find the novel I lent you?”
Her obvious ploy to change the subject worked. Priscilla’s look of disgust deepened even further. “Honestly, when you were lending me a book, I was so surprised,” she said in hushed tones as Professor Flitwick marched by. “I didn’t really think you could read much.”
“And?” asked June.
“I was right,” said Priscilla baldly. “It was horrible. June, Love at Hogwarts, really? This’s what you get up to reading? This is where all your convoluted ideas on romance come from. There is no prince waiting under some tower. Those things don’t exist, never exist, and never will exist. You’ll be waiting forever for some queer idiot in tights.”
“Fifi LaFolle is a wonderful writer. I thought it was splendid,” said June earnestly. “And it was so funny, too – the scene by the Potions Dungeon – I really thought Harriet was so realistic and the way Daniel was around her was so sweet – ”
“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. It shriveled up my brain to read! And the girl was just – what an airhead!”
“Harriet is not – ”
“Oh, look at me, I’m an awkward teenage girl, who randomly screams things to myself, is as clumsy as hell, runs into fit, half-naked boys in Quidditch changing rooms even though I don’t play Quidditch, and spends all my time drooling mindlessly after men even though I take about 50 NEWT’s. I’ve got some superficially profound internal issues that are somehow compromised after snogging someone, make ridiculously stupid plans to hook people up that miraculously work out, and at the same time, I have this horrible, ridiculously good looking male after me, who I hate for no real reason. And have I mentioned I’m clumsy?” Her voice had taken on a furious edge. “Because I’m clumsy! And awkward! I’m definitely awkward! My awkwardness bloody seethes!”
Priscilla exhaled irately, looking very much like an angry elephant.
“All right, girls, enough talking back there!” Professor Flitwick gave them a squeaky admonition. “Miss Fawcett, let’s see the charm, shall we?”
“Yes Professor,” said Priscilla, her voice turning suddenly sweet as she turned to the various glass objects placed in front of them. She pointed her wand to a glass frog. “Geminio!”
A perfect duplicate appeared at once. Satisfied, Flitwick wandered off. Within a few minutes, Jelena Jorkins, waved her wand so eagerly at her glass kitten that it had imploded, showering half the class with glass shards.
As class ended, June left, picking glass out of her robes along the way, with Priscilla at her heels, still blathering murderously, in turns about Albus Potter and men in tights. It was time for lunch.
June walked down the long corridor, and down the marble steps that lead to the Great Hall, her hands shaking. As they had agreed, she saw Lucy outside the Great Hall, looking nervous herself. When she spotted June, she started up and run over.
“Oh, I don’t think this is such a good idea…”
“You agreed! You said you would!”
“Oh all right!” said Lucy, looking still more nervous; she seized the letter and stored it in her bag. “But not immediately, though. Let’s wait for a bit until the first years are on about something and it’s properly loud. Then I’ll go over. Come on, I see Trista. Let’s go eat first.”
June too could spot the outline of Trista’s blonde hair in the corner of the Hufflepuff table. Lucy held on to her arm tightly and they navigated past a rowdy group of fifth year boys and a third year girl who was sobbing ferociously. One of her friends was patting her back, saying genially, “Oh, don’t mind Matthew, you know he’s just rubbish…”
This did little to ease June’s nerves. Trista waved them over, before pressing a goblet of pumpkin juice into June’s hand with a reassuring, “Drink something, anything, alright? Just relax.”
The first half of lunch passed unbearably slowly. Trista was still laughing at something Justin Macmillan had said, Priscilla was staring angrily at her lunch as though it had done her a great personal injustice, and Lucy was looking as uncomfortable as June felt.
Finally, June elbowed Lucy, who gave a stiff nod and reached into her bag. Trista and Priscilla both stared at her as she arose and made her way over to the Gryffindor table.
And to the side, looking passably annoyed at the noise of the Great Hall, his book covering most of his face, was Albus Potter. He had the architecture of an old-world gentleman and perhaps that was why she fancied him so much. He reminded her of the swooping gait of medieval castles; their surety in their existence was mirrored precisely in his mannerisms. Or perhaps it was the green eyes and how intelligent everyone said he was. And how quiet…
Looking back, June realized precisely how many follies she’d singlehandedly managed to commit.
The first of many mistakes was fancying without ever really knowing him. They’d had an odd Potions project together in their second year, but neither of them remembered this, as Albus simply had not cared enough to, and June had lived in a pre-Albus world. They’d left with distinctly polar impressions; to June, Albus Potter was decent, if reserved, and to Albus, she had been nothing more than an addition to an ever growing list of idiotic classmates he’d encountered. But since then, they’d shared a few classes without ever much coming in contact, and had passed each other through hallways, corridors, and Quidditch games without ever properly meeting.
The second was reading that book by Fifi LaFolle. It had done her in more than she could’ve ever imagined. One day, she’d looked up and noticed how very much Albus Potter resembled Daniel Whitman – the broad-shouldered, muscled Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain featured in Love at Hogwarts; much, much later, she would realize how utterly absurd and baseless the observation had been.
But, until then, Lucy was whispering to Albus, who was surveying her with a lack of interest. She slipped the letter beside his plate and he opened it.
June’s stomach rotated.
His eyes flickered back and forth as he read it. He looked up, saw Lucy hovering anxiously, and asked her something. To June’s intense horror, Lucy promptly pointed down the Hufflepuff table, towards her. June began choking on her pumpkin juice.
Albus looked up at her, and arose.
He made his way over the crowd, before arriving before her. Under his tall stature, she shrank back. Trista and Priscilla were watching incredulously.
“You sent this?” He held up the letter. He didn’t sound angry...it was a near miracle…maybe he would…
At her reply, his eyebrows rose. Her friends were not the only ones watching now; a few sixth year girls had caught on to what was happening and had hushed the remainder of their Hufflepuff peers into silence, after much oohing, and pointing down the table.
June swallowed resolutely, blushing wildly. “Um, so…what did – what did you think of it?”
To her amazement, he laughed. Out of nervousness, she laughed back.
“Spelling. I recommend you work on yours.” He tossed the letter at her; she made a grope at the air, but it landed in her goblet of pumpkin juice, and she pulled it out hastily.
There was a moment of silence, before there was a burst of laughter in the back. June stared at her hands. They’d been right – her friends had been right…why hadn’t she listened?
He turned and began walking away.
“It is bad, isn’t it?” said June, giving a hollow laugh, her gaze still resolutely on her hands. She felt horrible on the inside – like everything was squirming – and her body was strangely heated. “But – um – what – what’s your reply?”
There was none. He kept walking.
In the girls’ dormitory, Priscilla emptied herself of every swear word she knew and a few June was inclined to think she had conjured for the occasion.
Lucy tossed Trista another Cauldron Cake. Obediently, Trista began opening the wrapping, before passing it to June, who took it with a watery smile.
“What an arsehole! Who says things like that to someone else?” Priscilla was still on about it. “Spelling. I recommend you work on yours. Dying. I recommend Albus Potter works on trying.”
“Yes, it was incredibly callous of him,” said Lucy, paling. “I wish he hadn’t gone about it that way, but June, it’s really for the better. You two wouldn’t have gotten along in the least. You’re lovely and you like simple things and he’s – ”
“ – as sensitive as molding bread,” offered Priscilla.
June said nothing. As soon as Albus had left the Great Hall, the Hufflepuff table had broken out into a web of whispers. She had shakily made as dignified of an exit as she could muster; she had grabbed her books, the accursed pumpkin juice stained letter, and ran out, her friends calling after her. As she left, she could hear someone saying, “What an idiot, doing it during lunch like that. It’s like she was begging to be put down in front of everybody.”
No doubt the news of what she had done had spread to her Gryffindor, Slytherin and Ravenclaw classmates, courtesy of her own table.
Trista put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll be off for the holidays tomorrow and by the time we come back, everyone’ll have forgotten.”
“Right,” said Priscilla, “and who needs self-righteous pricks anyway? You’ve got us! We’re as good as it comes!”
“Absolutely,” said Trista. “We’re quite the collection.”
“We’ve got all kinds of specimen before us, ladies and gentlemen,” said Priscilla, in a boisterous tone. She arose and leapt on top of her bed, flourishing her wand like a cane and pointing it at Lucy. “I present to you, Lucy Amelia Weasley. Quite possibly the biggest prude sighted at Hufflepuff House in the past two centuries and without enough sleep, the resident ghoul of the group.”
“Thanks a lot,” said Lucy frowning.
“And then there’s this fine girl, June Vivienne Bernard, a notable ninny extraordinaire. But be careful of the creature, she’ll confess love to you in a letter lacking proper punctuation if you’re a surly enough twit!”
“Thanks, Priscilla,” said June, the corners of her mouth twitching. It helped slightly to know that Priscilla thought the whole matter was ridiculous enough to joke about it already. She threw the remainder of her Cauldron Cake at Priscilla, who ducked, and went on in the same brazen tone.
“Then there’s the group bint right here – Miss Trista Jeanne St. Clair - so ladies, hold your gentlemen back!”
“Me?” said Trista incredulously. “Why on earth am I the group bint?”
“Because every group needs to have one. And besides, unless you count June’s nonexistent relationship with the soon-to-be late Albus Potter, the painting of the witch with the ugly nose winking at Lucy, or my torrid affair with my Arithmancy book, you’re the only one who’s had a date in a good year.”
“Two dates with Duncan in a whole year and I’m the bint. Lovely. So, what does that make you?”
“I’m the most brilliant witch this house’s ever had.”
“The word to describe you is similar to witch, but not quite,” said Trista dryly.
“I think it should go something like this,” piped up June for the first time in the evening. Everyone shared a successful smile among them as she spoke. “The seventh year Hufflepuff girls dormitory is proud to present Miss Priscilla Marie Fawcett, who can rave, criticize, and be skeptical of any topic within ten and a half seconds.”
There was a collective laugh and June gave a small, sad sigh.
“Feeling better, June?” asked Lucy, giving her a hug.
“Yes. Thank you.”
As her friends returned to laughing, June surveyed the room dully. The night sky outside her window seemed so awfully empty.
The train ride home was quiet. Priscilla was engrossed in a book, while Trista and Lucy played Gobstones on the ground. Trista, perhaps out of habit or brilliance, was beating Lucy badly, who seemed only to be playing out of mild interest.
June watched the snow outside engulf the broad valleys outside; the soft boundaries of their side seemed to sink the whiteness. The azure sky was largely blocked by the flecks of snow falling mercilessly on the windowpanes and she traced small, transparent patterns on the glass.
Sometime later, she asked her friends in a wobbly voice, “Will you visit me over the holidays?”
“Of course,” said Lucy. There was a round of agreement.
“You’re moving into the new flat, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” said June, trying not to feel a small pang at the thought of moving into another cramped flat. This one, at least, was slightly bigger than the last…and her father had seemed so happy after he’d told her he’d purchased it… “Dad told me he’s been packing for the last two weeks. I’ve got nothing at all to do and we can’t afford to go anywhere, so come visit, alright?”
“Absolutely,” said Trista.
Priscilla was looking thoughtful; she lived in a large manor in France, so coming to visit was more complicated than a simple Apparition trip over. “I’ll have to get Papa to install an international Floo grate in our house. Either that or I’ll get a portkey, but I’ll make it over here. It’ll take more than an ocean to stop me!”
“Thank you,” said June, relieved.
Within a few minutes, the train came to an abrupt halt, billowing steam onto the teeming platform beside it. The glass on the compartment door shook as hordes of students piled out into the hallways, all in a mass squabble to locate trunks, owls, cats, books, and wands, as they made their way to the platform.
June passed the Head Boy, Baron Davies, on her way out, where he was bellowing himself hoarse at a group of fifth year Gryffindor boys who had attempted to set off forty consecutive Dungbombs placed around in various compartments as a joke. “YOU IDIOTS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU COULD’VE DONE? THE ENTIRE PLATFORM WOULD’VE REEKED! WE DON’T HAVE BARRIERS FOR SMELLS! WHAT WOULD’VE HAPPENED IF MUGGLES SMELLED IT PAST THE PLATFORM, EH?”
“Poor Baron,” said Lucy pityingly, hoisting up her trunk as she made it onto the platform. “Oh, I see Molly. I’ve got to go.” She gave each girl a hug, before walking towards a redhead who looked slightly older than her.
“Well, my mum’s here as well,” said Trista lightly. After eliciting a promise that everyone would write to her, she too was gone.
“Jacques’ll also be here soon,” said Priscilla, bracing herself against the slice of the mid-winter chill. “June, will you be alright on your own? June?”
She followed June’s line of sight, before gawking slightly at the masochistic characteristic of the action. A large group of redheads stood, around a large quantity of owls and trunks; even from the distance, the burst of noise and action was obvious.
June could recognize several of the Weasley and Potter clan. There was Rose Weasley – they’d sat together in Charms last year, a word barely passing between them; June was connected to Priscilla Fawcett, which, in the hierarchy of things, made June a once-removed enemy of Rose’s. Then there was Lily Potter, who June only knew from Trista’s tirades on the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. Then, slightly off to the side was Albus.
He looked up.
June flushed and looked away before he would notice her staring.
“Let it go, June. Just let it go. Don’t worry about it.”
“It’s hard to. I feel like a – like such a fool…everyone must be laughing at me…”
“Well, if it’s any comfort, I reckon it’s got to do with the idiocy of the time more than with you. It feels like all everyone cares about is who’s dating who and who did what and who wore what. It’s ridiculously shallow.” Priscilla rubbed her hands together and her breath came out in a puff of misty air. “It’s like the value of intelligence is weaning by the day.”
“I know…” Knowing this, however, did not help the cause.
“Jacques’s here,” said Priscilla. A man with an aged, powerful face approached. He gave Priscilla a small hug, and pulled up her trunk. “Alright June, this’s it. Write me if anything comes up and take care of yourself.”
With all of her friends gone, June found no viable reason to stay in the freeze of the winter winds. She pushed her trunk to a further set space and reached inside her robes for her wand. She still wished that, beyond anything, her father were here to walk her off, past the barrier as so many others were doing in front of her. But, it was a selfish and impractical wish. Apparition was so much easier than his old car and she had been the one to insist that there was no need for him to trouble himself.
So, with the flick of her wand, she left, with the azure sky rotating out of view, and the chill of the winds shifting.
Author's Note: So, another WIP is one I hardly need, I suppose, but I've had this one in my mind for a very long time now.
Credit where credit is due: The plot of the story is loosely inspired by the concept of the manga 'Mischievous Kiss' by the late Tada Kaoru. While it borrows the general premise of 'Mischievious Kiss' - a rich boy, a poor, dimwitted girl and the plot point that put them under the same house - this story is not a pure retelling of it in any way and has most of my subplots. It features my own OC's, and works as a parody of 'Mischievious Kiss' and of the romantic comedy genre as a whole.
I hope you've enjoyed this story thus far and it's very odd little cast. It's my goal to make a different and (hopefully) intelligent romance in a saturated genre with a saturated pairing. Please let me know how you felt that attempt was, along with any comments or thoughts.
Thanks so much for reading!
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