Chapter 8 : Cinderella and a Matter of Pumpkins
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After dinner and a decent amount of dawdling the next night, June positively fled out of the Common Room.
Behind her, the rest of the Hufflepuff seventh years were staring after her.
“Where’re you going?” Lucy called.
“Studying for a bit!”
“I didn’t know Bernard could study,” said Desmond in a loud whisper.
“She can’t,” said Trista, staring after her, open-mouthed. “I mean, I’ve never seen her actually try!”
“June, it’s after curfew!” Lucy said.
“I’ll be fine,” said June, clambering out of the round portrait hole. The circular, still life painting of a bowl of grapes closed behind her.
“What is she up to?” said Priscilla, narrowing her eyes.
June skipped to the corridor before the Arithmancy room and waited outside, bouncing on her feet. She turned around at every whisper of noise. On the first occasion, it was a giggling gaggle of first years. On the second, it was the Fat Friar floating serenely along. He waved to June as he passed through the wall and floated through the ceiling towards the Astronomy tower.
They’re really not doing much about staying up after hours anymore, thought June.
Finally, there was an impatient clack of footsteps. From the harsh sound against the noise, June could already tell Albus was approaching quickly. She straightened her robes out as he rounded the corner in a huff.
Her face brightened. “Hi,” she said, managing a smile.
His eyebrows rose at her smile. “Alright, we’re getting this over with right now. Have you got the time?”
June craned her head to peek at the grandfather clock around the corner. “Ten-twenty.”
“We’ve got half an hour, then. I’ve got Astronomy at eleven. Remind me when it’s ten-fifty.”
“You take a NEWT in Astronomy? Is class really that late at night?”
“Stop wasting my time. We’re getting started.”
“Okay,” said June, beginning to empty her robe pockets.
“Are you mad?” he hissed, taking grab of her hand before she could extract her wand. “Not here. Anybody could see us.”
“What if they do?” she said, frowning. “I could just say you were helping – ”
“Nobody can know about this. I don’t want to be seen around you.” He yanked her robe sleeve as he pulled her around the corner; the gruff movement against her skin seeped through her robes and irritated her skin, but it left her feeling warm. “There’s an empty Potions dungeon a few doors down. We can use that.”
“Nobody’ll see us?” she asked, grinning.
Suddenly, the thought of being left alone with Al uninterrupted didn’t seem so unpleasant.
“It hasn’t been used in years.”
He was still yanking on her sleeve until they reached the front of the door. There was an awkward moment when he was still holding onto her, but staring angrily at the door that made June cough.
“Er…” she squeaked, staring at the death grip he had around her wrist.
He recoiled immediately, looking irritated. Soundlessly, he waved his wand over the door and it opened, revealing the dusty contents of a long abandoned classroom.
“Dungeon ten. One of the first at Hogwarts,” said Albus to nobody in particular. He passed her on the way in, leaving her hesitating over the threshold.
There were a few dozen musty, wooden desks and chairs scattered around the room, blanketed in a fine layer of grainy dust. Besides the grimy window, cobwebs and the lone broken lamp by the teachers’ desk, the room was also crawling with the occasional spider.
“It – it doesn’t look so nice,” said June lamely.
Albus pulled a chair from the corner of the class and took a seat on it, looking unimpressed. “Sorry it isn’t exactly hospitable, but you don’t really have a choice.”
She took a cautious step in. A spider scuttled for cover from the light splaying across and June all but ran towards Albus.
“Spiders! I hate spiders!” she said, shuddering. “Why does every creepy place like this have spiders?”
“Let’s just get this over with. What exactly do you need help with?”
June extracted her wand. “Charms.”
“Specifically. You don’t expect me to teach you every – ” At June’s blank expression, he broke off. “You’re joking.”
“I don’t really know what I’m doing in class.”
“There’s no way you can be that stupid. Not even you. What Charm can you do then?”
A smug smile crept across June’s face. “Geminio.”
Albus flushed angrily. “Fine, show me.”
June pointed to the broken lamp. “Geminio.”
Its duplicate appeared by its side. Albus’s expression hardened.
“So you can do it.”
“We wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t.”
“Fine, then. Let’s try something more difficult. How did you do on the essay from last month?”
June began a deadpan stare at the wall. “Not well.”
“You’re wasting my time.” He got up from his chair. “I’m leaving. If you’re going to be this cryptic about how – ”
“No, stop!” said June, side-stepping him to block the door. “You can’t! I’m going to fail without you!”
“Ask somebody else. This time, you won’t even need to blackmail them.”
“I wanted you to help me!”
“That makes absolutely no sense! You don’t even know me!”
Both their voices had reached a shouting level. June stared up at him defiantly, crossing her arms.
“I want you to help me! Sit down again! Or do you really want me to start spreading that picture?”
There was a long pause.
The chair ground against the dungeon floor as Albus sat back down, looking venomous. “Why’d you fail the last essay?”
“I – I don’t know much about Conjuring charms. I thought they’d be easy…”
Albus shook his head in exasperation. “You idiot, Conjuring charms require an advanced knowledge of Charms and Transfiguration. It’s NEWT level, after all.”
“I’m…not doing so well in Transfiguration, either. We’ve got a second essay due in two weeks on Conjuring charms. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Now there’s a confession,” muttered Albus to himself. “Alright, tell me what you know about them.”
June shuffled her feet, desperately attempting to recount a lecture that had passed nearly a month ago. Memories of passing notes with Priscilla surfaced as Professor Flitwick squeaked over them in his corner. “Um…you visualize what you want to conjure. And then you – ” June made a circling motion with her wand.
Albus let out a sigh. “That doesn’t make an iota of sense, Bernard.”
“You don’t just visualize something and expect it to appear, do you? Even magic has its limitations. You can’t make something out of nothing.”
“I’ve seen people do it all the time!” said June, “During class, Professor Flitwick made a goblet appear!”
Albus pointed his wand at the floor. A quill materialized alongside a sheaf of parchment. “Pick it up and start writing what I say.”
“I had some in my bag,” mumbled June as she stooped to the floor and took a seat beside him. He rolled his eyes.
“Okay, look. It isn’t so difficult to understand. It’s impossible to create something – magical or not – without giving up something of equal value.”
“It isn’t so hard to understand!” said Albus in frustration. “This is one of the basic rules of magic. We learned it in second year. How do you not know?”
“It’s the law of equivalent exchange in magic. You compensate the changes you make to the outside world with your raw magical potential. Simple spells like reparo or a color changing spell won’t take much out of you because they’re small physical changes – easily compensated for. Conjuring something out of mid-air is different. You’re pulling it out of nonexistence by putting enough magic into it. You have to visualize it and push aside a large amount from your magical reserve. The right wand motion makes this process faster.”
“Like this?” June swiped the air with her wand.
“Too big. You’re scattering magic everywhere, what’ll that do? Make it concise and sharp. Like this.” He gave the air an annoyed jab. Another quill clattered on the floor.
When June attempted to mimic him, nothing happened.
“You’re not pushing hard enough. Come on, it’s just a quill! It’s not hard!”
Spots of color appeared on June’s face as she jabbed the air again.
“More. Stop wasting my time. You’re not trying hard enough.”
After a half dozen tries, Albus sat back in his chair, lazily closing one eye. “This is a gigantic waste of time. You’re hopeless – ”
With one last, desperate burst of effort that sprung tears to her eyes, June bit her lip and channeled all of her miniscule concentration into her wand hand. She could feel something tingling as it slid down her arm into her fingertips and into her wand and it burst forth with a warmth.
A lone white feather floated to the ground.
June wiped the drops of perspiration off her forehead as Albus opened his eye and stared at the ground.
“So much for the law of equal exchange. That’s kind of pathetic.”
He bent down, picked it up and held it to June. She stared at him for a moment, still reeling in exhaustion.
“That was a lot harder than I thought it would be.” She accepted the feather from him, thinking it something of a peace offering. “Do you think I could get an O on the next practical examination?”
“Seeing as it’s in a week, no.”
“I could!” said June, flushing. “How many people get O’s in our class anyway?”
“Four, maybe five. And besides, it’s a practical examination. That means you can’t just make up things and hope it works out. You’ve got to know the principles behind it and actually get results.”
“You really have no idea where you stand, do you?” Albus flicked his wand lazily and the quill and parchment floated out of June’s hands towards him. He drew a line at the top of the page. “This would be me.”
June stared at the line, lost. “You’re…a line?”
“No, you idiot! The lines show the class ranking. Not just counting your House or mine – all the Houses.”
“You’d still be first?”
“Yes,” said Albus simply. “Second would probably be your friend Fawcett. Third would be Rose.”
“Stop asking stupid questions. How many Roses are there in our year? Fourth would be Archie Twycross. Do you know what this means?”
“No,” said June after some silence.
Albus sighed in exasperation. “We can approximate there are maybe forty people across all four Houses in our year. And since a NEWT in Charms is now required for graduation, all of these people would be in it. So there’s a ranking of forty. Everyone in the top four ranking has achieved it because of natural aptitude. Whether or not they work hard is almost completely irrelevant. Everyone from five to twenty has a combination of both in varying levels.” From the line he drew at the top, he left a large space and drew a second line.
“Well, that makes no sense!” said June, “You study all the time! You’re always reading!”
“Not for this. And stop interrupting. Everyone from twenty to thirty has to work hard to compensate for less natural ability. I suppose Lucy would be in that category.” An even larger space preceded the third line.
“I suppose me too,” said June, staring at the vacancy between the line at the top and the one he’d just drawn.
“Don’t flatter yourself. Between thirty and forty would be the idiots of every house. The Magical Maintenance workers of tomorrow.” A line near the bottom of the page appeared. “Complete lack of natural ability and lack of hard work. You’d be down here somewhere, Bernard. If there are around forty people – thirty-eight, most likely – in our House, you’d be around thirty-eight.”
“Of course you would,” said Albus breezily. “Behind you would be that ape Bates and the biggest waste of oxygen to prowl Hogwarts – Iris Bosworth.”
“You don’t know everything. Henry isn’t so bad – and Iris’s a nice girl! I can score just as well as anybody in our class can!”
“Don’t kid yourself.”
“I can get into your precious top ten if I want to!”
“Right,” said Albus, another of his typical sneers spreading on his face. “I know I’m a decent teacher, but nobody can get you that good that fast.”
“I can!” When Albus began laughing, June shouted over him, “I’m going to!”
“It’s in a week, you idiot.”
“If I do it, what’ll you do for me?”
“Nothing. I’m not agreeing to anything stupid.”
“Ooh, I know. You can carry me around the school!”
Albus’s mouth opened in outrage. “I’m not agreeing to that.”
“You will if I do well next week,” said June smugly. “And besides, why do you think you know so much about our class anyway?”
“We’ve all been in the same year for seven years. It’s only a handful of people. You notice things after a while.”
“You noticed things about me?” said June, dropping the indignation from her voice and smiling.
“Don’t get the wrong idea. Everyone is bound to notice things about you. God knows how many things you’ve exploded. In forth year, we had to evacuate the Potions dungeon during our final exams because your sleeping draught ended up releasing poisonous gas and you nearly killed Professor Tugwood.”
“Everyone says I’m the reason he retired,” said June in a small voice. “He used to work for the Auror Department and he said that I got closer than any Dark wizard to doing him off.”
“And you set Greenhouse five on fire during our OWLs.”
“You were there? How do you remember?”
“You fool, there was a stampede out, don’t you remember? Half of us got second-degree burns! I needed treatment for three days!”
“You got burned as well?”
“I was standing right next to you,” said Albus stiffly. “You clearly don’t remember absolutely anything other than yourself.”
“You’ve got photographic memory!” said June. “That’s incredible you remember! No wonder you score so well!”
Albus snorted derisively, but June continued over him, beaming. “And you remember me. You don’t know what a lovely thing that is for you to say!”
“Oi, I don’t remember you, I remember all the horrible things you – ”
“I don’t care what Priscilla says about you,” said June happily. “I don’t think you’re gay at all!”
They walked out of the class in an awkward silence.
Outside, the torches had dimmed somewhat as the mandated bedtime approached, overcasting the long hallway in shadows. They still had a trip that lasted several staircases down before the June could branch off to the Hufflepuff Common Room.
As they walked down, June mumbled, “Thanks for today.”
“You helped me.”
“Don’t interpret that the wrong way. You made me help you. I didn’t do it because I wanted to.”
June shrugged. “Either way.”
“I’ve never seen someone learn as slowly as you, Bernard.”
“As long as I learn it in the end, it doesn’t matter.” As their footsteps reverberated off the walls, June said, “You don’t have to call me Bernard all the time. Do you even know my first name?”
“I wasn’t under the impression we were on first name terms.”
“I’ve called you Albus before,” said June. Mostly in my head, though. While I was dreaming about you coming up a tower to see me.
“You don’t remember?”
“No. And I don’t remember letting you, either.”
“I didn’t know I needed permission. It’s just your name. Plenty of girls call you Albus.”
“Most of them are related to me.”
“But the other ones, too! The ones that follow you around.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, them. Yeah, they do. Those idiots.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” said June coldly, abruptly stopping.
He kept walking. “Rich coming from you. You’re blackmailing me.”
She began jogging to keep up with him as they descended the first flight of stairs. “Doesn’t matter, though. I’m not insulting you.”
“You’re lowering me to the position of teaching you. It’s more than an insult, believe me.”
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. “All you did was keep repeating ‘law of equal exchange’ every five minutes.”
“I wouldn’t have to if you understood what I was telling you!”
“I did my best, Albus!”
“I’d prefer if you just called me Potter.”
“There’s like fifty Potters running around,” said June, smirking. “So, no, I won’t.”
“Only me and Lily.”
Their conversation was dwindling as they walked down the stairs. In the silence, there was a large ding as a clock chimed and echoed through the halls.
Albus stopped, mid-step and jerked around in surprise. “Damn it, I completely forgot! What’s the time?”
“I don’t know!”
“I told you I had Astronomy at eleven! Why didn’t you remind me?”
“You were the one going on about your memory! I thought you’d remember!”
He gave June a frustrated scowl before racing down the stairs.
“Why are you running so fast?!” said June, panting behind him. “It’s only one class!”
“I have a test today!”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
“Why didn’t you remind me?”
At the foot of the stairs, he broke off, breathing deeply and staring in disbelief at the clock swinging from the wall. June descended behind him, struggling to keep her book bag slung over her shoulders. “What hap – ” At the sight of the clock, she stopped herself. Midnight. How on earth was it that late already?
“How the hell is it midnight?!” said Al, in front of her. She didn’t dare herself to peek at his face. “That means even if I run there, I’ll have maybe half an hour left to fill up three star charts!”
“I’m sorry,” she began feebly, “I didn’t know I’d kept you that long – ”
But he had already begun to run. He sprinted down several flights of stairs, turned left and was out of her sight. She stood there, still staring at the clock, unsure of what to do.
Of course, he’d be furious at her tomorrow.
That wouldn’t stop her from making him come anyway.
After all, the exam was only a week away.
She began making her way back to the Common Room, sighing sadly to herself as she did so. At least he’d been civil for some time.
But all the same, it didn’t go quite as she’d hoped.
Imagine if they’d kissed under the stars?
With him, even that dingy old Potions dungeon would’ve seemed romantic – cobwebs and all.
But so much for him being anything at all like Prince Charming.
Prince Charming was kind-hearted and understanding and not the least bit cynical. She couldn’t think of a Prince Charming in existence that would’ve called his Cinderella stupid.
Not that Albus and June were anything at all like Prince Charming or Cinderella. Cinderella probably remembered important things.
If anything, watching Albus yelp about it being midnight and watching him race down the stairs, he was closer to being like Cinderella than June would ever be.
The next night, June spent most of dinner staring at Albus.
He was in half-grin at the antics of one of the other Gryffindor boys. As soon as he locked eyes with June, it slid off his face.
Priscilla was watching June more carefully as June stared absent-mindedly at Albus. “Why do you keep looking at him?”
“Nothing more than the usual Albus Potter stalking tendencies, I see,” said Trista, before June could retort.
“Your habit of desiring chauvinist pigs needs to change,” said Priscilla. “If I got near Albus Potter, I’d hex – ”
“Not this speech again,” groaned Trista. She arose from the table and began walking down the Hufflepuff table, calling out names. “Podmore, Sloper, Robbins, Macmillan, Jorkins, Bones. I’ll see you on the Quidditch field in fifteen minutes.”
There was a collective groan from the table, the loudest of which emerged from Duncan. “Trista, I can’t – I’ve got so much homework tonight.”
Trista gave him a murderous look, and wordlessly marched to the other side of the table. Duncan shrunk as she approached. “Er, Trista, what’re you – ”
She grabbed hold of his collar and yanked him out of his seat. Most of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students were now watching in amusement as she proceeded to drag him along the floor unrelentingly before bellowing, “NO EXCEPTIONS, UNDERSTOOD?”
The rest of the team nodded meekly.
“I’m sorry, Trista, I – ”
“You shut up!” She shook Duncan and his head bobbed. “We’ve got our match coming up and we can’t practice without a Keeper! Then how will the Chasers practice?! Now’s not the time to be selfish!”
“But – Transfig – ”
“And why do you even need Transfiguration in the first place? You’re going professional, aren’t you? Precisely when during your matches d’you think you’ll need to be transfiguring toads? I’d love to know!” In the same screeching voice, Trista pushed Duncan to his feet and marched him out of the Great Hall.
“Grateful every day that I didn’t make the Quidditch team,” said Nicholas. “Quidditch is such a brutish sport. Disgusting how everyone’s going at one another, sweating and grunting.”
“I’ll be sure to tell Trista you said that,” said Priscilla swiftly.
“I’d rather you didn’t,” said Nicholas, going green.
“Speaking of Quidditch, anybody interested in essence of chomping cabbage?” Desmond pulled out a small green vial from his robes as the Hufflepuff Quidditch team arose and made to leave the Great Hall, their heads bent as though attending a funeral. “Only ten sickles! Known to improve reflexes!”
When he got no response, he muttered angrily, “Nobody’s got any good taste anymore.”
“Does it really improve reflexes?” said Lucy, snatching the vial out of his hand and eyeing it. “It looks a rather lot like Flobberworm slime…you know, for being essence of chomping cabbage.”
“I don’t know what you’re insinuating!”
Priscilla reached over and gave the vial a shake. “You do know that essence of chomping cabbage is extremely rare, don’t you? They try to bite your hands off when you try injecting them.”
“Hence the price, Fawcett. Don’t insult my intelligence. I know my products.”
“Really? And do you know that real essence of chomping cabbage is actually violet?” She threw the vial back at Desmond, who caught it with one hand, looking extremely sheepish.
June interrupted their conversation with a dreamy sigh as Albus began to laugh.
He was laughing!
Not at anything she’d said. He probably didn’t know she was still watching him, but he was laughing at something some Gryffindor boys were doing.
From the Great Hall, Henry Bates scampered in, looking around wildly, before spotting June and making his way towards her, waving. “June! June, sorry I’m late! I know you must’ve waited, but I’m here for you know!” He took a seat in front of her, blocking her view of Albus, as he promptly started a chronicle of his day. “I was late because of Care of Magical Creatures, you know. Professor Hagrid kept me back – ”
June shifted her position until she could see Albus again and sighed non-committally every few minutes. Henry, evidently satisfied at the attention she was now giving the space above his shoulder, grinned.
Nicholas Corner took a look around the table – at June in some Albus Potter-induced trance, Henry with his usual cluelessness, Lucy lecturing a bored Desmond, who was now attempting to convince some first years that the Flobberworm slime was dragon blood and Priscilla who was egging the first years on.
“It really is dragon blood, really – ”
“Of all the obnoxious, irresponsible things to – ”
“You should try tasting some,” Priscilla was saying over them, “it does wonders for your skin, trust me.”
“And June, you’ll never believe – “
Meanwhile, Trista was probably leading most of the Hufflepuff team through some torturous exercises under the rain with the usual insanity. Duncan was likely shrieking and diving for cover every few minutes.
“And people think Hufflepuffs are dull, honestly,” said Nicholas to himself as the first year who had sampled some of the Flobberworm slime erupted in boils. Priscilla and Desmond burst out in laughter, drowning out June’s sighs, Henry’s blather and Lucy’s angry shriek.
The following two nightly sessions with Albus passed fast. He was usually aggrieved to have to visit June every single night, but the threat of releasing the incriminating photographs put everything in perspective.
June was not faring much better on the Conjuring front.
Her newfound sense of focus, however, was largely led on by Albus and his cynicism. He sat in the same creaky chair and had the same remarks every time.
“You can’t, Bernard. You really can’t.”
The first session – after two sweaty hours of trial and impatience – produced a half dozen quills, most disfigured. Albus kicked away quill after quill, looking unimpressed. “You do know that we’ve got no idea what we’re supposed to Conjure, don’t you?”
June ran a sweaty palm on her forehead. “Yes. So?”
“So, you should try practicing making something other than feathers. Try parchment.”
Then came the ordeal of Conjuring parchment. For the first half an hour, June managed nothing. Forty minutes in (Albus had given up at that point and was blatantly working on homework while June struggled), her wand went off with a loud bang and enveloped the entire dungeon with smoke.
June coughed through the green haze. “Albus?!”
She could hear Albus, but he sounded a great distance away. “Bernard, what did you do?”
“I was just trying to – “ she stopped herself and began coughing loudly. Her hacking coughs echoed through the dungeon.
“Get out of there right now!”
“I can’t see you!” wheezed June. Her eyes were beginning to itch frantically and she closed them, suddenly feeling very warm and irritated.
There was a loud clunk as she walked into the wall and tears sprung to her eyes. The urge to scratch at her skin was overwhelming.
“Bernard, you’re impossible!” She could feel Albus’s hand grab her shoulder and impatiently jostle her out of the room. Once they were bathed in the light of hallway, she hesitantly opened her eyes.
“What is it?”
“My eyes are itching.”
“Well, obviously. They’re irritated. Take a look at your arms.”
June opened her eyes again carefully and squinted at her arm. A long line of angry welts had emerged along her palms and snaked up her arm. The hand where she was still holding on to her wand was covered in red stripes; her wand was still emitting small clouds of green smoke. She recoiled and the wand clattered to the ground. The need to dig her nails into her skin and scratch at the redness emerged again.
Albus picked up her wand and tapped his own over it. It immediately stopped smoking.
“That was noxious gas,” said Albus, with no expression. “I don’t know how you manage it. You were trying to conjure something as simple as parchment – ”
June bowed her head wordlessly. “Could you get angry at me later? This hurts…”
When she reached out her hand for her wand, he frowned and pocketed it. “No, not yet.”
“We’re going to the Hospital Wing.”
“Er – because you look horrible. And we’ll need some Essence of Dittany to get rid of these.” He held his own arm up and June could see the same trail of welts.
He turned on his heel and began walking down the hallway. After a long moment’s pause, June followed him, her eyes still half-closed from the irritation.
“Albus, I’m so – ”
“Don’t bother apologizing.”
“No, I really mean – ”
“You’re some kind of statistical anomaly, Bernard. And don’t take that as flattery. You’re incredibly unlucky.”
As they descended down the stairs, June frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve been watching you try to do magic and you’re horrible. It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Your wand. It doesn’t like you much.”
“It chose me,” said June indignantly. “How can it not like me?”
“How else can you explain it spewing poisonous gas all over you?”
There was a long stretching silence as they climbed down the second flight of stairs. They were attracting curious gazes from some girls on the Ancient Runes floor, but Albus ignored it and June was lost in a rare bout of thought.
“So, have you reached any conclusions about the wand yet?” asked Albus, after a pause.
June spluttered. I can’t tell him. I’ll just say something that sounds reasonable and he’ll believe me. “Erm…because I nearly broke it once and since then, it’s hated me?”
“That’s a rubbish explanation.”
“It makes perfect – ” In her discrete umbrage, June forgot the vanishing step in the staircase and in one moment of horror, felt her feet fly through nothingness and she fell forwards. She landed squarely against Albus’s back.
She threw her hands around his robes, trashing as she attempted to regain balance. She could feel something snapping inside her left leg and she gave a small yelp of pain.
“Get off me!”
“My ankle hurts!”
“I don’t care!” He gave a violent push backwards, but June moved her hands from around her robes to around his neck. “Stop that!”
“I told you my ankle hurts!”
“And I told you I don’t care!”
While he attempted to fight her off, June found a better footing and put her feet on top of his own.
“We’re almost at the Hospital Wing, just take me there!”
“I’m not carrying you down! You look ridiculous, get off!”
A few moments ago, a more docile June Bernard might have stepped down. Instead, she breathed deeply. “I’m telling everyone about the picture, then!”
“I don’t care what you say, I’m still not – ”
“I’ll also tell everyone you fancy James’s girlfriend!”
There was another long pause.
“Where did that come from?” said Albus, craning his head to get a look at her; he had another supremely annoyed expression on his face.
“I have friends who’ll believe me! I’ll tell Iris Bosworth tomorrow in Charms and the whole school’ll know by lunch that you fancy your brother’s girlfriend!”
Parading the photograph had been one thing. Now she supposed she really was slipping into the world of blackmail. But the welts were spreading and her ankle was twitching and now was not a time for much integrity.
“Bosworth’s a complete – ”
“Iris may be dim, but she can help me! And I’ll show the picture to Priscilla and she’ll probably have it sent to Witch Weekly!”
There it was.
The look of fear.
Threatening Albus Severus Potter wasn’t as hard as it supposed. It just took one accident prone Hufflepuff with a plan, her angry best friend who probably lacked a soul and enjoyed tormenting young children and the threat of an even more brainless Gryffindor.
“You know, Witch Weekly writes about you a lot! They’ll probably have a lovely time with this!”
There was a pregnant pause.
“Get on,” said Albus grudgingly.
June beamed and scooted closer to him. “Thank you.”
Once he’d managed to bend down and she’d scrambled onto his back, there was a short walk down to the Hospital Wing. They managed to attract a few stares from passing Prefects as they went down the last flight of stairs. It was odd being that close to him, but he was resolutely looking forward with an expressionless face and she looked behind him.
Was this really how the great love stories of the time worked out?
Had Juliet ever blackmailed Romeo? Had Isolde stumbled upon deeply incriminating photographs of Tristan then threatened to send them to a magazine?
So much for Cinderella and her prince. Prince Charming was supposed to wait for her as she daintily arrived at the palace, dressed in finery and looking graceful. This particular Cinderella had rashes breaking out over her, two bleary eyes and a mess of hair. She gave Albus a furtive glance.
Prince Charming had never given Cinderella a ride…had he?
So, what would that make Albus right now?
He…he wouldn’t be the pumpkin would he? Cinderella had rode in on a pumpkin – or something like that. A pumpkin with a bad temperament and black hair, probably went around insulting Cinderella, making her late for the Ball, and questioning the nice Fairy lady who'd helped her -
After threatening Albus with a version of him as a girl, falling on him, imagining him as a pumpkin stretched the boundaries of her imagination.
“Sorry about this,” said June in a small voice, after some thought.
I probably shouldn’t keep threatening him. Hattie never threatened Daniel half as much as I’ve threatened him.
Making him do whatever she wanted was also becoming slightly addicting.
Near the entrance of the Hospital Wing, he bent back down and she all but fell back onto the floor. He gave a shadowy half-smile when she plopped on the stone and emerged, groaning.
“Why’re you smiling?” she asked.
“I was just thinking – you’re ridiculously annoying. I mean, it’s enough to send anyone tottering to insanity. Your level of incompetence is stupendous.”
“Thanks,” said June grudgingly, massaging her ankle.
“You’re kind of amazing, though. You must be happy.”
“What?” said June, looking up at him in nervous shock. He isn’t about to jinx me or anything, is he?
“I mean, for all that stupidity, you still somehow managed to make me carry you through the school. And you didn’t even have to take any test to make me do it.”
“Yes, but – I mean, that was – that was an acci – ” Blushing horribly, June stopped herself. When he started to walk away, taking the same, strange shadowy half-smile, June called out, “Where’re you going?”
“We’re done here, aren’t we? I’m going back to my Common Room.”
“But – but didn’t you get hurt too?”
He called backwards. “I’ve got some Essence of Dittany in my dormitory.”
He had already turned the corner and was up a flight of stairs. June was still sitting on the floor, feeling the pain in her arms, her eyes, her ankle, but most of all her confusion.
If he had some in his room -
She turned to the door of the Hospital Wing, half whispering to herself. “Then why did you bother coming all the way here with me?”
Author's Note: And there it is, Junebus is off the road and on the beginning of a journey!
Thank you all so much for reviewing and to make up for the lack of Al in the last chapter, I put plenty of him here! I promise I'll get to responding soon. I adore reading your reviews and I'd love to know what you thought of Albus and June in this chapter? Cinderella and her pumpkin (according to June), genius and idiot (according to Albus) or chauvinist pig and airhead (according to Priscilla). I'd love to know your thoughts. :) Also, Romeo and Juliet are the property of William Shakespeare'and Tristan and Isolde are the property of Gottfried von Strassburg's. Neither are mine and neither is Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother or Prince Charming, who all derive from a folklore that's recurred throughout storytales from ancient times, from Greece to Korea to China to Egypt. No particular retelling is referenced, so there's no author I know to credit.
Also, random trivia of the chapter: Priscilla is related to one of the important characters in the coming chapters!
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