The first one to return to the Hufflepuff dormitory that fateful evening was a girl with blonde hair swishing around her shoulders.
“Long day?” asked Trista, a rueful smile on her lips.
“Yeah,” said June, who had spent most of the afternoon curled in bed. “You?”
“Oh, you know.” Trista shrugged noncommittally, peeling off her shoes. “We’re probably going to lose to Gryffindor, ending my chance of getting scouted. No big deal or anything.”
“I’m sorry, Trista.”
“Nobody played well today,” she said. “You know, as Chasers, Robbins, Sloper and I – we lack the chemistry the Gryffindors do. It’s disheartening, but they’ve got a good team. And I’m getting suspicious that Duncan’s been sneaking pastries again. If I catch him with as much as a biscuit, I’m beheading him.”
“You sound like Priscilla,” said June, her head still buried in her pillow.
“I don’t care! We’ve got to win this. What’ll I do if we lose? I’ve got to get scouted! We’re not that different, you know,” said Trista. “Both muggleborn – ”
“I’m not muggleborn,” June reminded her. “My mum was a witch.”
“Fine, we both grew up like muggles anyway. And we’ve both got people to support. I’ve got five siblings and a bum of a father. My brother’s trying to help, but it’s up to me. I can tell.” She gave along sigh. “So I’ve got to get scouted, get into one league or another. Get a steady pay and then I can help my mum with money. It’s a pain in the arse having some magical siblings and then some muggle ones too. You’ve got to worry about muggle money and Galleons and there’s never enough of either when you need it.”
“Why couldn’t we be a Weasley?” said June. “Life’s easier when you’re rich.”
“I’d rather be Priscilla myself. Do you know how much land her father owns? Apparently, he’s got several castles in Belgium. It’s almost obscene how rich they are.”
“Life’s so unfair…”
“No point thinking about it unless you plan to do something about it,” said Trista, flopping onto her bed. She emptied the contents of her bag on her bed and a dogeared strategy book and several quills fell out. She flipped through the book, a set expression on her face. “We win this game and we can go to the finals against Slytherin. I can get into a good Quidditch team and everything’ll work out.”
That evening, June reluctantly made her way to the Hospital Wing, groaning the whole while at the prospect of cleaning bedpans.
At the entrance of the Hospital Wing was Madame Lucinda, a middle-aged witch with haughty features and black hair twisted into a severe knot. “Oh, here you are. Come in now, Bernard. I’ve been told to expect you.”
She ushered June in, closing the door behind them. “As you can see, we’ve got a lot of bedpans to clean.”
“Okay,” said June nervously.
“Professor Flitwick insisted you’re not to leave until I give you at least two hours of manual labor a day, so if you finish that, clean the floor too. Make sure you don’t disturb anyone.”
“Come to my office if you need anything.” She sighed impatiently. “Please don’t need anything.”
After a long hour of emptying bedpans in the eerie silence of a nearly empty Hospital Wing, June felt her arms aching and the skin of her palms reddening in irritation. Beside the occasional tossing and moaning from the sole bed occupied by an ailing third year, she could feel the utter solace of the Hospital Wing slowly envelop her: perhaps it was the warmth of the room, or the sound of her washing off vomit from the bedpans, but it was oddly peaceful.
There was no Albus, no Cora, no Priscilla, no anybody. For the first time since she could remember, she was alone, but not lonely. The presence of herself filled up the room (save for the third year currently hacking up a lung). It was…different. Though not unpleasant.
Her mind was still pandering now and then to Albus’s expression when she had stormed out. She couldn’t remember what it had been. Anger? Confusion?
She emptied the last of the bedpan slop (there was no better term for it, really) into a bucket and scrubbed at the bedpan. It didn’t matter, she decided. Albus, or his confusion or his anger or his anything else. It all drifted back to her like a vague headache. A large, embarrassing headache, with all the details blurred.
What a proper fool she’d made of herself.
But there was always a time for new beginnings. And this would be hers.
For the past four years, since she had turned thirteen, she had always had somebody. She’d occasionally rotated them as the years passed – Baron Davies, Evan Sloper, Gregory Thomas. She’d gone so far as to write Baron Davies a letter, confessing everything in her fifth year (common sense had intervened and Priscilla had thrown it away before June could show him). Albus had been largely a seventh year infatuation; if she thought too much about it, she could never identify why she’d particularly fancied him. He was good-looking. That was all the criteria she’d ever had. Good-looking.
But now, seventh year was in its latter half and she had gone in and out of Hogwarts, accomplishing very little along the way. People had done great things in Hogwarts; she’d grown accustomed to the many disappointments of her life. But disappointments only came because depended on other people so often.
She stared out of a window high on the wall, watching the clouds sail lazily through the deep night. The oblong strips swam through the black-blue sky and past the stars and she felt warm and pleasantly sleepy.
It was time to let go of all the expectations she’d had.
It was time to go into the world – independently.
Outside the window, the world was beginning to thaw in preparation for February and eventually, for spring. She would spend this Valentine’s Day alone and perhaps the next one as well, but it didn’t matter anymore. She would learn to be happy by herself, no matter how strange it would be.
Madame Lucinda wandered out of her office when she heard the end to the scrubbing noise.
“Well, you’re required here again tomorrow evening at the same time.” She gave June a patronizing look, to which June beamed.
Her hands were hurting and pulsating from the strenuous labor, but she felt newly purified as she wandered out the Hospital Wing.
As she stood outside, she could hear the stillness of the evening reverberate. Downstairs, most of the students were making their way to dinner and the occasional bursts of distant laughter punctuated the silence as she walked up the stairs, still lost in thought. She forgot to jump up at the trick step on the third floor and bumped into an indignant Slytherin as she pondered her options repeatedly.
Finally, she found herself standing in front of the destination she hadn’t quite planned on reaching.
She stared up at the long, wooden door, a small frown appearing on her face. I don’t know if this’s a good idea…
But she took a deep breath and knocked.
By her third knock, the door opened and Professor Aubrey was peering over, looking incredulous.
“Why aren’t you at dinner?”
“I wanted to ask you something.”
Professor Aubrey swung the door open and ushered June in with a beckoning wave. “Of course. Come in.”
When June had taken a seat by the usual mountains of crumpled balls of parchment, Professor Aubrey took sat on her desk, blinking down at June. “So, what did you want to talk about?”
But before June could open her mouth, Professor Aubrey pushed her glasses up her nose and frowned down at her. “So, is this about the boy I’ve been hearing so much about?”
“What? No, that isn’t it – ”
“Because, June, as your Head of House, I’m willing to talk to you about anything.” Professor Aubrey clapped her hands together, entirely oblivious to June’s annoyance. “Albus Potter, huh? Well, you always have high expectations. I heard about the incident in Filius’s classroom and I admit, I was surprised.”
“I’m not talking about him at all,” said June crossly.
A breeze wafted through the open window, feeling refreshing and new.
“I was wondering if Hogwarts has any jobs for students.”
Professor Aubrey was looking agog. “Jobs?”
“I need some money.” June wrung her hands together, but watched Professor Aubrey expectantly. “So I was wondering if Hogwarts has any job opportunities.”
Professor Aubrey was still staring at her in surprise. But when June’s frown deepened, she blinked and resurfaced. “Yes, I think I’ve got some pamphlets somewhere.”
She burrowed her hands through several mounds of parchment, lifted up a cauldron that had been smoking on her desk and began opening drawers. “I won’t pretend I’m not surprised, June. Why the new interest?”
“I’d like to get a flat for my dad as soon as I graduate,” said June.
“Have you thought at all about what I told you earlier?”
“About Madame Malkin’s? Not much.”
“Well, you should. It’d suit you, now that you’ve begun to get more serious about life after Hogwarts.”
“I’ve got no materials.”
“I can arrange something or the other. Oh here.” Professor Aubrey flicked several brightly colored pamphlets at June, who picked them up gingerly, and blew off the dust.
“This’s from ten years ago!”
“Is it?” said Professor Aubrey airily, “Has it been so long?”
“I can’t use these!” said June, “Look, a Greenhouse assistant? This Greenhouse doesn’t even exist anymore.”
There was a long silence as June wiped the dust off her fingers.
“You’re entirely serious about this?” asked Professor Aubrey, twirling her glasses with her fingers.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” June looked up, surprised, as she saw Professor Aubrey watching her wordlessly, a curiously mixed expression flitting across her features. It was an odd mixture of a smile and a fluctuating anxiousness.
“Okay, then. Well, that’s decided. You can go down to dinner now, June.” She put her glasses back on and began rifling through her desk.
“What?” asked June blankly. “But you haven’t told me anything yet!”
“I’ll let you know soon. I’ve got to ask a few Professors first if they need help with anything.” She smiled. “Now, go on, go eat something.”
When June wobbled into the Great Hall, the noise of dinner had reached a peak.
She maneuvered her way to the Hufflepuff table, earning a few gawks in the process and a bit of pointing, but she felt nothing as she took a seat between Trista and Priscilla.
“How was the Hospital Wing?” asked Trista.
“Fine. Did you get your Quidditch thing worked out?”
“Not yet,” said Trista, frowning.
Beside her, Priscilla was attacking a chicken leg with her face. “Did you have fun cleaning up vomit?”
“It wasn’t too bad,” said June, shrugging as she helped herself to dinner.
Priscilla and Trista were both raising their eyebrows.
“Something’s gotten into you,” said Trista.
“Maybe she swallowed the Essence of Insanity again,” said Priscilla in a loud, audible whisper.
“I did not!” said June, indignantly. “That was only once and it was ages ago! I’m perfectly sane this time!”
Behind them, Lucy, Desmond Jordan and Nicholas Corner were bent over a vial that was bubbling away.
“So it’s not dangerous?” Lucy was asking.
“Not at all,” said Desmond breezily, “Might lead to a few warts here and there – but let’s face it, they’re fifth years, they’ll have them anyway.”
“What is it?” asked Nicholas, leaning away quickly. “It smells like rotten eggs.”
“That, my dear Corner, is the quintessential question. It’s the liquefied eye of a bicorn.”
“On the contrary, it’s known to have more than a dozen magical properties.”
“I’m still not letting you sell it,” said Lucy severely, “not until you know the real side-effects.” Before Desmond could protest, she snatched the vial and pocketed it.
“It’s perfectly safe!”
“You’re not allowed to sell it and that’s final!”
“Well, I’m sorry, mum, I’ll go up to my room, then.” He swung his bag over his shoulder and left in a huff, leaving Lucy staring angrily after him, huffing.
“Oh, he’s impossible! It isn’t my fault!” Lucy broke off when she caught June staring at her and reddened. “Hello, June.”
Lucy dropped her gaze. “I’ve been meaning to apologize, actually, about before – I think what you did was – ”
“It’s all right,” said June, with a smile.
“You were quite right, I went beyond what I should’ve – ”
“You were just trying to look out for me. It’s okay.”
Lucy bit her lip quaveringly. “Oh, June, I’m so glad you think so! I’ve missed you and it hasn’t been the same at all with Desmond or Nicholas!”
“Thanks,” said Nicholas snidely as Lucy threw her arms around June.
“I’ve missed you too,” said June, hugging her back as Lucy sniffed happily.
“Sentimental idiots,” said Priscilla, rolling her eyes. But she was smiling.
“So, has June really forgotten about Albus?” said Priscilla casually, as she strolled out of the loo. The sound of June showering echoed through the dormitory.
“Did she say so?” said Lucy. “I’m happy. I’ve told her from the beginning it wouldn’t work out.”
“I think she has,” said Trista, still bent over her Quidditch books, frustration plastered over her face. “It’s about time, don’t you think?”
“We’re not very romantic, are we?” said Priscilla, after several moments passed in silence.
“What makes you say that?” said Lucy.
“Oh please,” snorted Priscilla, “when was the last time any of us fancied anyone?”
“I’ve always rather thought that you fancied Duncan, Trista,” supplied Lucy.
“I do not!”
“You went on two dates with him,” said Priscilla.
“The first one wasn’t much of a date, considering all three of you tagged along. And the second time, everyone knows he wanted to ask out that Cora Livingston girl first and she rejected him, so he begged me to come to save face.”
“Poultry girl?” asked Priscilla speculatively. “Podmore must’ve taken some impact during Quidditch, if you know what I mean.”
“Anyway, it doesn’t really count. Besides, you fancy Desmond, don’t you Lucy?”
Lucy colored considerably. “What?”
“You’re always with him, bothering him about something or the other.”
“That’s different!” blubbered Lucy, “I’m preventing him from poisoning half the school! I’m a Prefect, it’s my job!”
“Whatever you say,” said Priscilla, rolling her eyes. “Well, as things go, I rather like you with Desmond, Lucy. You suit each other.”
“Stop saying silly things!”
“They do, don’t they?” said Trista, over Lucy. “You know, in an odd sort of way, I hoped Potter and June would work out.”
“I didn’t,” said Lucy, testily, “I told her – ”
“I did too,” said Priscilla. At the incredulous stares she received, she amended herself. “Just a bit. A tiny bit.”
“But still,” said Trista, “you of all people – you keep wishing him a violent death every time we see him.”
“I still do,” said Priscilla placidly. “But it would’ve been entertaining in a twisted sort of way, you know.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” said Lucy.
“Is it? I don’t know – it’s been rather entertaining so far, idiocy and all. And there’s been a lot of idiocy at that. But I’ve enjoyed it, as stupid as its all been.”
“I know what you mean,” said Trista thoughtfully, setting aside her quill. “It seems perfect, doesn’t it? In a very strange way, it is. Rich bloke, normal girl, misunderstandings – ”
“ –earthquakes– who knew natural disasters could be so well-timed?” added Priscilla.
“It was a bit strange,” ventured Lucy, “but stranger things’ve happened.”
“Of course, Albus should’ve started fancying June weeks ago if this was going to be a proper romance,” said Trista, “all they’ve done is argue.”
“She kissed him, so that kind of counts,” said Priscilla.
“No, he didn’t kiss her back. So it doesn’t,” said Trista.
“I feel uncomfortable with this,” said Lucy, lingering from the side.
“They do look nice together, don’t they?”
“Well…in a way…” said Priscilla reluctantly. She frowned from thought, squinting at nothing in particular as she fluffed a pillow. “Oh, God, they kind of do. How revolting.”
“You’re such a cynic,” scoffed Trista.
“I’m just allergic to romance. It makes me break out in hives at the thought. Stuck with a mindless member of the male gender for the rest of my life? No thank you.”
“Melodramatic as always,” said Lucy. “You just said you liked June with Albus.”
“Because they look nice together and I feel bad for her,” said Priscilla. “Like I would ever have bad enough bad taste to actually go after something like that myself…please.”
“June’ll be out soon,” said Lucy, “you better not say something like that around her. You’ll upset her.”
“She’s over him, she wouldn’t care,” said Priscilla.
June spent the next few days locked away in the library. Between double Divination and Potions, the last of the weekdays faded into the weekend. She would normally be inclined to laze through Saturday – sleep in and read some Fifi LaFolle when she wanted to.
But that Saturday, she woke up early, blinking sleep out of her eyes. Beside her, Priscilla was flopped sideways on her bed, her mouth gaping open as she slept. Lucy was daintily tucked in and Trista was hidden under her covers. She slipped out, shivering slightly in the cold, and after a shower, she made her way down to the library.
She pried the door open and found it abandoned. Even Madame Pince was nowhere to be seen.
Sighing to herself, she spread her bag over an empty table and began pulling books from shelves until she stacked a column of them on the desk: Charms for Beginners, Intermediate Charms, Magical Theory, Properties of Equivalent Exchange…
She had a long morning ahead of her.
Her head was hurting magnificently later that afternoon when she knocked once more on Professor Aubrey’s door. Phrases like ‘the ardency of the user’s wand must be potent enough to compensate for paucity of magical affinity’ had brought about the third headache of the morning.
“Professor – “
The door opened and she heard a hiss of, “Come in!”
“Is something wrong?” said June wonderingly, as she stepped over the usual clutter.
“Oh, nothing,” said Professor Aubrey crossly, ramming her glasses back on her nose. “The pewter won’t turn to gold when I – but it doesn’t matter – sit down, sit down. What can I do for you?”
“I came to ask about the job. You said you’d written…” June trailed off as Professor Aubrey gave the smoking cauldron on her desk another glare. “Er, is everything alright?”
Professor Aubrey looked up distractedly. “Right. You came for your job…thing…”
“Yeah,” said June, feeling less assured.
“Well, I talked to a few Professors recently. I think Septima – that’s Professor Vector to you – needs an assistant to help with remedial Arithmancy.”
“No thank you,” said June, “I practically needed to be in remedial Arithmancy myself when I took it.”
“And Professor Hagrid – ”
“You’re not exactly making this easy on me,” said Professor Aubrey with a huff. “Fine, here’s something easy. Professor Longbottom usually has a few helpers taking care of his Greenhouses. They’re mostly first and second years and they aren’t paid – ”
“I’ve got to be paid,” said June.
“ – but I’m sure I can ask Headmistress Sprout for an exemption. A small salary wouldn’t be too hard, I warrant, Professors get some money to spend on research materials if they ask and I could request something for you. And Neville could easily do so himself – I think he will – he’s quite fair about it.”
“I haven’t taken Herbology since fifth year,” said June nervously.
“Neither have the second years, so I don’t see how it’d matter. It’s just cleaning and watering plants. There’re a lot of them and so of course, he’d need help.”
“Plants?” said June, “Okay…”
It didn’t sound entirely unwelcoming. Watering plants was something simple enough even for her.
“Good,” said Professor Aubrey, beaming. “I’ll let Neville know, then. You can start on Monday.”
The third week of January saw one June Bernard venturing tentatively (very tentatively, for that matter) into Greenhouse Three, where she had been informed of the whereabouts of one Professor Longbottom. After a long weekend of studying and confusing herself with Charms terms and long nights of practicing Conjuring, she was understandably unenthusiastic from yet another exhausting adventure.
She peered anxiously into the Greenhouse and after several minutes of shuddering in the cold, entered.
The inside was almost exactly as how she remembered it – there were several dozen rows of potted plants, each which carried several bright purple flowers. The sudden field of green dazed her.
Professor Longbottom was still nowhere in sight. However, past the fifth row of the plant, a second year looked up at her. A small blonde boy brandished a watering can as he pointed and said to the empty room. “Look, it’s a girl.”
Another boy with identical features popped out from below a table, looking agog. “What?”
“I said it’s a girl!”
The second boy turned to gawk at her. “Yeah, guess so! How strange!”
“I’m looking for Professor Longbottom,” began June.
The first boy interrupted her, a concerned look spreading over his face “Are you lost? Do you need help?”
“What year are you?” offered the second one.
“Seventh,” said June, still perplexed. “I’m looking for – ”
“We’re both second years,” said one boy, puffing out his chest. “I’m a Gryffindor!”
“What’s your name?”
“June!” hooted the Gryffindor boy (at this point, both of them were blurring into the same person), “Well, I like it!”
“I’m Lorcan, in case you were wondering.” His large blue eyes popped excitedly at her.
“I’m Lysander,” said the other one, setting down the watering can and making his way to her, giving her a warm smile. “I’m a Hufflepuff too. Just like you.”
Lysander grabbed her hand and Lorcan grabbed the other and they both pulled her forward.
“Where’re we going?” asked June.
“To see the Professor, of course!” said Lysander with a shy grin. “Didn’t you want to see him?”
“Of course she did,” said Lorcan, tugging June forward more, “that’s why she asked, idiot.”
“Don’t call me an idiot,” said Lysandere patiently, “it’s not very nice.”
They reached the other end of the Greenhouse where the stopped in front of an enormous gaping hole in the dirt. As June stared at it, bemused, Lorcan bent his head over it and yelled, “Professor Longbottom! Someone’s here to see you!”
There was a heavy clunking noise and rather like a mole burrowing out of the dirt, Professor Longbottom emerged covered in dirt. He pulled the goggles off his eyes and a smile appeared on his face. He had the same round face and happy brown eyes that she had last seen in her fifth year. “Ah, hello there! You must be Helen’s girl!”
“Um…” Never having addressed a man who had just appeared out of a hole in the ground, June stood at an awkward standstill. “Yes…”
“I was just watering the Manticore Lily. It’s a bud, so it has to be buried deep underground for it to properly flower or it’ll spray noxious fumes everywhere,” he said kindly, obviously answering the unspoken question on her lips. “But I can’t promise you much of a pay.”
“You’re getting paid?!” said Lorcan excitedly, bouncing up and down with her hand still entwined with his.
“Helen told me about your – er – circumstances. It’s unusual, but certainly not unheard of, so I can say Hogwarts can compensate your work for five Galleons an hour. It isn’t much – ”
“I’ll take it,” she said immediately.
A broader grin spread on his face. “Great! Well, Lysander here – ”
“I’m Lorcan!” squeaked Lorcan indignantly.
“ – can show you around. It isn’t too hard and they come three times a week for two hours.”
“We like it!” said Lysander earnestly, “We like the plants!”
“And we don’t even ask for money,” said Lorcan.
“You two get to work,” said Professor Longbottom, raising an eyebrow at Lorcan. “And make sure you help Miss Bernard.”
“Yes, sir,” said Lysander, bowing his head. Lorcan instead shot June a suspicious look, before grabbing hold of her hand again and racing through the rows of plants.
“Where’re you taking me?” she said, struggling back as he relentlessly pushed forward.
“Well, we’re nearly done here, so we’re going to Greenhouse four!”
“Maybe you shouldn’t pull so hard,” said Lysander placidly from the side, “you might pull her arm off.”
When Lorcan had all but dragged her into the next Greenhouse, they stood facing another dozen rows of the same plant with the same purple flowers.
“Rosemallow,” said Lysander gently, when June looked his way. “You’re supposed to water them for eight weeks, then when they’re done blooming, you pick the flowers and make them into a powder. They’re good to fight common illnesses.”
“We make them for the Hospital Wing,” said Lorcan, nodding. “You’ll be helping us!”
One of them turned and pushed a watering can into her hands. When she looked at it blankly, Lysander smiled. “You’ve got to water them, but make sure not too much. You can only do a bit.”
“And they’re paying me for this?” wondered June aloud.
“Only paying you,” said Lorcan sourly. “But it’s harder than it looks. Sometimes the flowers try to bite your fingers if you water too much and they aren’t easy to reattach.”
“I lost my thumb once,” said Lysander, holding up his left thumb. “Had to get it reattached.”
“And whatever you do, don’t try digging them out – ”
“And you’ve got to put some dirt on the roots after you’re done watering – ”
“Don’t get scared if they make any noises – that’s normal – ”
After they were done shouting advice over each other, they gave her equally expectant looks.
“Good luck!” said Lorcan, walking away further into the rows.
She held the watering can shakily and began pouring into each pot and throwing dirt when she was done. Occasionally, one of the large purple flowers would bristle and unfold its petals and she would back away quickly before anything could happen.
Within ten minutes, both Lorcan and Lysander were staring at her in surprise. “Wow,” said Lorcan, goggling. “You didn’t get bitten!”
He sounded disappointed. Lysander grinned instead. “They like you!”
“They do?” asked June, who had never had a natural talent for anything, much less Herbology.
“Professor Longbottom did say they liked girls more though,” said Lorcan, scoffing. “That’s probably why he agreed to take you on.”
The way he said it was almost dismissive, but Lysander was still staring at her with his eyes shining eagerly and she smiled, moving on to the next row, feeling a strange mixture of peace and confidence.
The days got even busier. Class was in the early morning – where June was now avoiding Albus at all costs – Conjuring practice came after lunch, which was then followed by more classes. Hogwarts was suddenly more chaotic and exhausting than it had ever been before. Every night had bedpan duty that week and her hands were bruised and red from scrubbing the floor. On Monday and Wednesday, June trooped stoically down to the Greenhouses where she spent an hour and a half watering plants. They liked her more than they seemed to like either of the Scamander twins and it was oddly gratifying walking among the rows of purple flowers and hearing the calming silence.
It was a new feeling. In her seven years at Hogwarts, June had felt varying shades of humiliation, sadness, frustration and the occasional embarrassment. But this was more than simply being busy. This was a challenge.
Conjuring was as every bit as difficult as Albus had told her it would be.
There were several times in the early mornings of that Tuesday where she nearly set herself on fire. On her first attempt at Conjuring a scroll of parchment, she’d waved her wand overenthusiastically and the tip sprouted flowers instead. Her second produced only a wisp of parchment that promptly evaporated into the air. An hour later came several inches.
By the end of her third day at the Greenhouse – that Wednesday – Professor Longbottom assured her that she had completed her first five hours at the Greenhouse and pressed a small pouch into her hands. She ran back to the Common Room and dumped the contents of it on her bed, squealing happily at the sight of the round, gold Galleons shining back at her.
“Look, I made money!” she said, nearly bouncing on her feet, “It’s all mine!”
“Spend it wisely,” said Lucy sagely.
“Buy something nice for yourself,” said Trista.
And finally, Priscilla said, “Why didn’t you just ask me for money? If you needed it, I would’ve given it.”
“Because it’s mine, not yours!” said June triumphantly, shaking the Galleons under Priscilla’s nose. “Mine! I earned it! I did something right!”
Lucy and Trista laughed and Priscilla playfully pushed June backwards into her bed.
That Thursday evening, she saw Albus for the first time that week.
It began simply enough. She made her way down to the Hospital Wing and resumed emptying the bedpans of the day. She had dirt from the Greenhouses and vomit from the bedpans on her hands, but the urge to begin singing in the floor of the Hospital Wing with nothing but a broom as her dance partner was tempting. But she contended herself with smiling.
The Charms practical examination was the next day and after the hours in the library, she was beginning to understand that things were only as hard as she feared them to be.
He came in then, when she was still musing about Charms. She didn’t notice much of the entrance, but she could hear an argument reverberating from the open door.
“- I don’t want to! – ”
“You’ve dislocated a shoulder – we’re not arguing about this - ”
“I don’t need to come to the bloody Hospital Wing!”
There was a final push and he appeared, pushing the door open, holding a squirming redhead under his arm. Lily Potter was giving him a murderous look, splattered in mud and still brandishing her Quidditch broom. She was holding her arm in an oddly twisted angle and it flailed around on its own when she attempted to writhe away.
“I shouldn’t’ve told you,” she muttered, “one Bludger hit – honestly, like it doesn’t happen all the time – ”
“Get it set first and we won’t argue anymore,” he said coldly. “And stop being so childish.”
“I’m not – ” Lily’s eyes fell on June, who was crouched on the ground, a bedpan in her lap. “What’s she doing her? Did you arrange this?”
She wheeled around suspiciously at Albus, who said expressionlessly, pushing her forward with one hand, “Go find Madame Lucinda. Her office’s straight ahead.”
“But – ” Lily closed the distance between June and herself with her eyes. “You, you didn’t arrange this? Because from what I’ve heard – ”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Go find Madame Lucinda.”
“But – ”
He glared down at his sister, who mumbled venomously, but made a beeline for Madame Lucinda’s office, throwing June a glare in the process. June tucked the bedpan back under the bed and stood up, clutching the broom for support.
At this time in the evening, the Hospital Wing was nearly empty, save for the few people still asleep on beds overnight. But she looked at Albus and felt strangely uncaring that they were as close to being alone as they would ever be.
He immediately averted his gaze from her and stuffed his hands into his pockets.
After several long moments of silence, with only the voices of Lily and Madame Lucinda buzzing in the background, he finally cleared his throat. “What’re you doing here? Volunteer work?”
It came out as a derisive snort.
“Detention, actually,” she said lightly. “You of all people should know why.”
He scoffed at this. “Whatever.”
“I’m not going to apologize or anything.”
“Did I ask you to?”
“You seemed like it.”
“Okay,” she said, beginning to sweep a corner from her side. “Well, I’m not sorry, you know.”
For a minute, she wondered whether he’d make another sarcastic remark. Instead, he asked, “Why?”
She kept sweeping. “Er – I suppose it’s because I don’t care.”
“You don’t care?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Looking at him, she felt strangely proud of how far she had come. Where he had once been a goal, she had long passed him by and done it in the space of days.
“Why?” he said it in the same toneless voice as if he had heard something distasteful.
She began sweeping the rings of dirt from around him. “You’re not that important to me, you know.” When he didn’t reply and instead began a deadpan stare at the door of Madame Lucinda’s office, she said lightly, “I got a job. I’m going to get my father out of your house.”
There was no reply.
“It isn’t much money, but if I keep working, I think I can move out by Easter. Or at least by summer.”
“Aren’t you glad, though? You hated having us there. I won’t bother you anymore. Not here at Hogwarts, anyway.”
“That would be too much to hope for.”
“I mean it,” she said calmly, “I really mean it. If I’ve bothered you before, I don’t care enough to anymore. I won’t need your help anymore with anything. I’ll get rid of that photograph of yours.” Before he could begin rolling his eyes, she interrupted him with, “And if I can move my dad out, it’ll really just be goodbye.”
Suddenly, the possibility of not seeing Albus again floated into her mind.
She could almost shrug it off. Not just yet – not just yet with him standing there, his frown slipping off his face with enough speed that it could hit the floor. Not tonight – not with all the busyness of life and pressures of tomorrow. Not tonight, but someday soon. A someday that was fast approaching into tomorrow. And perhaps he could understand it.
“Is that what you want?” he snapped. “Want me to congratulate you for it?”
The office door opened and Madame Lucinda appeared, ushering a bad tempered Lily after her.
“Now, Miss Potter, I can’t have you back here another time this week. Five Quidditch injuries from the Gryffindor team itself! What the Headmistress’ll say of this, I don’t know.”
Lily was cursing under her breath. When she reached Albus, she irritably brushed against him on her way out. He turned after giving June a last waspish look.
Madame Lucinda watched them leave, saying apparently to herself. “Such a strange family.”
“Yeah, they are,” said June.
“It’s nearly nine, Bernard. You should be on your way.”
When June wandered into the Great Hall for dinner, most of the tables were empty with scant little left for dinner. Across, in a lone side of the Gryffindor corner, Albus was taking a drink out of a goblet of pumpkin juice. June slung her bag more tightly around her shoulders, made her way across the Hall, aware that he was watching her take a seat in the Hufflepuff table.
She could’ve said or done something, but she instead helped herself to what was left of dinner.
Because it almost didn’t matter anyway.
Author's Note: So, I kind of wrote this in a rush between all the college chaos. I apologize if it sounds abrupt - I didn't get much of a chance to edit and I really wanted to get this chapter up.
June's really growing up a lot; I'd love to know what you think of it and of Albus resurfacing now and then just to confuse her. Is Junebus doomed forever? ;)
Thank you guys so much for the amazing support for the last few chapters! I'm so lucky to have such lovely, generous (and feminist) readers! I'll try to update soon!
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