Chapter 12 : Crash
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“Stop being so nervous,” said Lucy calmly.
“And stop clinging on me,” said Priscilla, swatting off June’s grip on her arm. “It’s annoying.”
“I can’t help it,” June whined, “I’m scared to death!”
“No point being nervous,” said Trista, as Lucy nodded fervently. “That’s the key to success, really. To feel nervous beforehand so you’re not nervous when it matters.”
“And for God’s sake, don’t get over anxious and randomly start waving your wand – ” said Priscilla.
“Don’t say the spells backwards,” came from Lucy. Advice began flying from the three girls surrounding June until their voices began melding into one.
“ – don’t faint – ”
“ – explosions aren’t good for anyone’s mental health – ”
“Please don’t send Professor Flitwick flying through the air again. He landed on me last time. It got pretty awkward.”
“ – wand motion – ”
“ – falling over – ”
“Stop!” said June, frowning at them. They all broke off, and finally Lucy said, “June, there’s no point worrying. We’ve only got a few minutes before class. We might as well just relax.”
“Think of nice things,” piped up Trista.
June’s mind went entirely blank.
There was a scuffle of feet as Desmond and Nicholas arrived, having barreled past a group of Ravenclaws who were now glaring angrily at them.
“Hey there Bernard,” said Desmond in an attempt to be casual, stuffing something into his pockets. “Studied much?”
“Yes,” said June, “you?”
“Nah. I figure I’ll just wave my wand and see what falls out. It’s usually something interesting.”
“Or disgusting,” said Nicholas, looking disdainful.
“Did you study?” asked Priscilla suspiciously.
“Er – not – not exactly,” said Nicholas feebly as Priscilla glowered over him.
“You idiot, you’re just going to fail again!”
“You don’t know that! Besides, why do I even need a NEWT in Charms? I’m going into magical portraiture, aren’t I?”
“You can’t paint!”
“It’s abstract, you don’t understand it!”
“Neither do you!”
As Priscilla and Nicholas huffed angrily at each other, they had attracted the attention of the Ravenclaw girls, who were all grinning and whispering. June caught Rose Weasley’s eyes and when Rose’s smile widened, she immediately looked away. Staring at the redhead wouldn’t do much for her confidence.
“Ignore them,” murmured Lucy under her breath and June nodded stiffly.
The classroom door opened and Professor Flitwick began ushering them. June followed the Ravenclaw group listlessly, half hoping that something horrible would happen that would prevent her from making a fool of herself in front of everybody. Perhaps the roof would cave in and kill them all.
That would probably be too much to hope for.
“Bags and books away, wands up!” wheezed Professor Flitwick and there was a mass synchronization of chaos as everyone rifled through their bags and pockets for their wands. “When I call your name, step forward. I will hand you a piece of parchment labeled with the object you are to Conjure.”
Professor Flitwick pushed his glasses up his nose and began reading names. June could feel the sweat sliding from her palms onto her wand. The Hufflepuffs were situated in the second row, which left only the Ravenclaws and a few odd Slytherins in front of them.
It would only be a matter of minutes.
Clearing his throat, Professor Flitwick began reading. “Davies, step forward.”
Baron Davies struggled out of his chair, breathing deeply. The Head Boy badge glimmering on the front of his robes as he faced Professor Flitwick, who pressed a piece of parchment into his hand. Baron’s face went white as he read it.
“Are you ready, Mr. Davies?”
Baron nodded, holding his wand perfectly straight.
“You may begin.”
He swished the wand through the air, closing his eyes in concentration. A blurry line began materializing for a second before an ornate chandelier fell into his hands. The Ravenclaws burst out into applause.
Professor Flitwick inspected it carefully. “Slightly asymmetric. The wand movement could use more definition. Next, next!”
June’s panic increased as the line of Ravenclaws began shuffling forward. As expected, most of them did rather well, usually receiving a curt nod of approval from Professor Flitwick and the occasional note for improvement. To June’s disappointment, Rose managed to Conjure a nearly perfect parakeet cage, eliciting several swear words from Priscilla.
Only until one of the Slytherins accidentally his desk on fire did anything happen. It left Desmond and Nicholas howling with laughter, but it left June pale faced: she was next.
“Miss Bernard, if you will,” squeaked Professor Flitwick, smoke still furling in wisps around him.
She looked backwards as Professor Flitwick beckoned her and she could see the class staring at her. The Ravenclaw boys looked bored and the Ravenclaw girls were all watching her in pity. Lucy and Trista were whispering anxiously to each other. Priscilla made a nudging gesture.
She caught the eye of one of the Gryffindors as she accepted the parchment from Professor Flitwick. Perhaps out of idiocy or familiarity, she turned over her shoulder and searched for Albus. He, along with most of the class, was already watching her, but he looked almost – almost worried? irritated? perplexed? – but she turned back to Professor Flitwick and breathed deeply.
“You may begin.”
She opened the parchment and immediately paled as she read it in horror.
The biggest thing she had been able to Conjure in those lonely hours in the library was a goblet. She closed her eyes, and bits and pieces of phrases from various books flew in.
Constant concentration for large objects –
Visualize properly – it often helps to recreate something familiar or meaningful –
Familiar or meaningful.
Only one thing came to mind. Only one table in her recent memory even vaguely struck her as meaningful. She pushed as much emotion into herself as she could, thinking of the many summers she had spent passing it, walking past the crude heart carved into the side. Everything about it was warm and bittersweet and thinking about it brought a splurge of new memories: hot Augusts, stifling early mornings, the smell of bread baking, dust flying into the air. Her mother was near the very beginning, her face obscured by time by lovely anyway. She would flit in between the aisles of the tables methodically, a perfect smile on her features.
Her father had let June climb over the table when she was younger, she had done homework on it as summers had become Septembers and in her father’s café, it had been the first table they had ever bought when Mr. and Mrs. Bernard first opened for business.
Conjuring wasn’t like the last time.
She had let her wand do the work then. She had let it instinctively take over and warm her over as it intuited what she asked of it.
But she felt filled with purpose when the tip of her wand set off with a bang. Something heavy thudded to the ground and she heard a few shrieks; hesitantly, she opened her eyes.
There it was.
Long and lean and weathered, with cracks and ridges over it, but magnificent in its own aged way. Big enough to seat six. It was a deep, rich mahogany with all the grace of a piano unraveled onto the wood.
“Excellent!” squeaked Professor Flitwick, “Well done, well done indeed!”
Wordlessly, she nodded, feeling the thrill of triumph sweep through her. There was one moment where she stood in front of the class as she turned to walk and saw the confused, perplexed faces.
For the past seven years, she had never felt the perfection of victory in this classroom. She had felt nearly every other emotion, but as she made her way back to her seat, she had wondered why she had never bothered studying all this time.
She beamed at Lucy and Trista, who were gaping. Priscilla looked like she had been clubbed.
“How’d I do?” she said, with a happy grin.
Behind her, the Gryffindor girls broke out in whispers. As Professor Flitwick Vanished the table and called up Iris Bosworth, June turned and stared directly at Albus. He looked back at her expressionlessly and she gave him a half-smirk as she waved away Lucy’s congratulations.
“How did you do that?” Priscilla demanded, seizing June’s wand and inspecting it suspiciously. “It just isn’t possible.”
“Thanks,” said June dryly.
“You know we don’t mean it like that,” said Trista, frowning at Priscilla.
“I’m honestly bloody surprised you didn’t pull a Bosworth over us and conjure a stool with one leg,” said Priscilla.
“I for one thought it was very nice that it all turned out well,” said Lucy, beaming.
“Yeah, did you see Potter’s face?” giggled Priscilla, “He looked like you’d smacked him. Oh, I wish you had – properly, not just figuratively – a nice smack up the – ”
“Shh!” hushed Lucy, waving away Priscilla’s last words as the Slytherins struggled out of the packed classroom.
June had already earned a few looks from the Ravenclaw girls, who had held their heads high as the marched out uniformly. Nicholas and Desmond both emerged behind the door, equal grins on their face.
“I reckon I at least got an E,” Desmond was saying.
“Don’t be stupid, your crystal ball wasn’t even clear!”
When Desmond saw June, he stopped mid-retort and began with a rousing, “Bernard, you genius! You bloody genius! Did you see the size of that table of yours?”
June went scarlet as Desmond threw an arm over her shoulder and Nicholas hovered over her and Priscilla, peeking in to say, “Yeah, congratulations June!”
“You did well too,” she said earnestly.
“Nah, I probably got a Dreadful again.” He shrugged it off. “Whatever, when’ll I ever need to Conjure a chair in real life anyway?”
In response, Priscilla pushed him to the ground.
“Priscilla!” came Lucy’s shocked cry.
“Damn it,” he said, struggling up. “Why can’t you ever be normal?”
“You asked a question,” she said. “And I answered it for you.”
Trista pulled him to his feet as he made a face at her over Trista’s shoulder. “Psychopath.”
“Future homeless person.”
“Future dead person.”
“Ooh, scary Fawcett,” said Desmond, twisting his features. His arm was still around June’s shoulder and she smiled at him.
“Thanks Desmond,” said June, still feeling warm and happy.
He spared a moment from teasing Nicholas to look down at her, looking surprised at her seriousness. “Yeah, of course.”
There was a cluster of Slytherin girls who shuffled off, whispering excitedly among each other.
“Did you hear about Megara?”
“I think I got an Acceptable! Do you reckon I did?”
“I hate Charms, I hate it, I just – ”
Past the Slytherins came the Gryffindor girls who were walking in silence. Nikita Patil waved at June as she passed. Finally, the Gryffindor boys stepped out, two of them arguing vehemently about something. Albus was shunted to the side of them, looking the usual shade of irritation.
“Stop it, will you?” he snapped, brushing past them and making his way to the stairs. He turned slightly as he stalked past June and she thought for a brief moment that his eyes lingered on Desmond’s arm around her shoulder.
She smiled as he disappeared downstairs.
This was her victory.
Not even he could take it away from her.
“When will these things actually bloom?” asked June, gently tilting the watering can towards a purple bud.
“A few weeks, maybe,” said Lysander. “They’re here all year, though, because they’re so useful.”
He smiled toothily up at her when she thanked him.
“You don’t know two things about Herbology and you’re getting paid,” said Lorcan, making a face from several rows down.
In the late afternoon light, the dancing purple buds of the Rosemallow paired with the glimmering roots and mounds of dirt dispersed a fresh, earthy smell into the air. It smelled of the coming spring, even though winter raged outside the windows.
“You’re very bitter for being so small,” said June serenely as Lorcan looked on in outrage.
“I am not small!”
“You are.” She indicated a height near her shoulder. “See, you’re only that tall. That’s considered short. Every girl your year must be taller than you.”
Lysander grinned as Lorcan went red. “They are.”
“You shut it!” said Lorcan.
“That’s why Cathy Pomfrey won’t look at him,” said Lysander sagely.
Lorcan’s red set into an even deeper magenta. “You – you – I’m going to kill you!”
“That’s adorable,” said June, smiling as Lorcan approached Lysander threateningly and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“You’re not any better!” screeched Lorcan over June, “You fancy that – that Hufflepuff Quidditch girl!”
“Quidditch girl?” interjected June as Lysander turned red to match Lorcan.
“A Hufflepuff,” said Lorcan, shaking Lysander, “she plays Quidditch or something and she’s kind of old.”
“She doesn’t just play Quidditch,” said Lysander, appalled, “she’s the best Quidditch player our House’s had in decades!”
“She’s still too old for you! She wouldn’t look twice at you!”
“It’s only five years!” said Lysander with the air of someone who had clearly thought the calculation through.
“Five years?” mused June. Hufflepuff…Quidditch player. “Hang on, do you mean Trista St. Clair?”
Lorcan stopped, mid-shove. “Yeah, you know her?”
“She’s one of my friends, actually,” said June.
Lysander looked up at her, his blue eyes popping excitedly. “You know her?! She’s brilliant, isn’t she? Did you see the last game against Ravenclaw? They throttled their Beaters, if you saw – and they say she wants to play for England – but of course, she could, she’s – she’s – ”
“Here it comes,” murmured Lorcan, looking exasperated. Ignoring Lysander’s raving, he contented himself with staring out the transparent glass of the greenhouse.
“ – magnificent, don’t you think?” Lysander dreamily poured the rest of the water on a bud. “Her plays are some of the most original ones in Hogwarts history.” Quite abruptly, the dreamy look retracted from his face, replaced by a new shyness. “Do you think you could introduce me?”
“Why?” snorted Lorcan, still watching the glass, “So you can blubber all over her?”
“I wouldn’t blubber, I’d write her a poem! About how much I fancy her!”
“Hey look,” said Lorcan, in a different voice, pointing outside “I can see Rose from here!”
“Rose?” repeated Lysander, stopping himself and staring out the glass. “Where?”
As June peeked over their heads, Lorcan pointed at a distance in the snowy grounds. “Near Hagrid’s Hut. Look, Lucy’s with her.”
“She’s a Hufflepuff too!” said Lysander proudly.
“I know,” said June, smiling. “I’ve known her for the last seven years.”
Lorcan rolled his eyes. “Oh, there’s Roxanne.”
A small, dark-haired girl popped out in the snow, giggling and waving goodbye. June stared at her, never having seen the youngest Weasley before. But the figure that ambled out after her was too uncomfortably familiar to her.
“And there’s Albus,” said Lysander.
“Everyone went to visit!” said Lorcan indignantly, “How come Hagrid never invites us?”
“Probably because you tried slipping his flobberworms a Swelling Solution last time he did,” said Lysander. “And then one of them nearly ate me.”
In response, Lorcan grabbed Lysander, who instead fell back into June.
“Will you two stop fighting?” she said, pulling Lysander back to his feet.
Before Lysander could retort, a head of bright red hair peeked over the mound of snow, shortly followed by Lucy’s familiar plump frame.
“Look, Rose and Lucy,” said Lysander, apparently forgetting that not a few seconds ago, his brother had attempted throttling him. “Let’s say hello!”
He leapt to the edge of the greenhouse and seized open the door, letting a flurry of minute snowflakes blanket the ground. “Lucy, Rose, Roxanne! Hi!”
As he waved enthusiastically, Lorcan groaned, “Oh, not Rose. Please don’t – ”
“Don’t be rude,” hissed Lysander, pushing Lorcan forward. “Say hello! You too, June! You said you knew Lucy, right?”
June stood rooted in place. “Er, no thanks. I’ll talk to her some other time.”
“You’re a lunatic,” muttered Lorcan.
But as Lysander persisted calling, “Lucy! Roxanne!” it became apparent that they heard him. They stopped near a small mountain of snow and instead of walking straight towards the castle, Lucy stopped Rose, saying something and gesturing towards Lysander.
This would be the worst timing to date of Lucy’s kind intentions.
Rose seemed to be disagreeing; it was the first time in memory that June was praying that Rose would succeed in something.
Roxanne caught up to the two of them, jumping up excitedly and racing forward towards the Greenhouse. The others lingered for a moment before following.
Within seconds, Roxanne flew through the open door and directly into Lysander. He seemed to reverberate off of her as he landed on the floor. “Hi Lys! I saw you waving outside!”
“Roxie, you’re a bloody maniac,” said Lorcan, eyeing her with caution.
She turned to face him; of all the Weasley girls that June had seen, it became apparent that even as a second year, she was the prettiest. She had large blue eyes and brown toned skin and hair that was cut bluntly to frame her eyes. “Hi Lorc!”
“Don’t call me that,” said Lorcan, taking two steps backwards, his palms held in front of him. “And for Merlin’s sake, don’t get any closer.”
“Ignore him, Roxie,” said Lysander, nursing his head as he picked himself off the floor. “He doesn’t understand Hufflepuffs.”
She nodded, her grin widening even more. “That’s alright! I don’t mind! I saw you there, Lys, and I had to visit, I knew I just had to!”
“You only saw him this morning,” said Lorcan.
“Yes, but he’s my best friend and that’s an eternity away!” she bubbled, floating again towards Lysander, her eyes huge and unblinking. “Why did you wave? You did want to see me, didn’t you?” Her lip wavered. “Or didn’t you? Maybe you didn’t and then – then, that means you didn’t want me and that means – ”
“No, I did,” said Lysander weakly, looking alarmed at her sudden sadness.
She cheered up immediately, the huge smile reappearing. “Really?! I wanted to see you too! That’s why I came!”
The door reopened as Rose, Lucy and Albus clambered in, bringing another shower of snow. Albus shut the door behind him as Rose burst into an exclamation of, “Really, this is just a ridiculous idea! It’s freezing outside and I’d like to get back to the castle and instead, we’re dawdling here!”
“I wanted to say hello!” said Roxanne, wringing Lysander’s hand and shaking it so forcefully that his whole arm swung up and down.
“It’s cold outside and Roxanne wanted to say hello, so I thought it would be good to stop for a break,” said Lucy placidly.
“Look Lucy, June says she knows you!” said Lysander, pointing to June with his free arm as the other one continued to be thrown up and down.
“June?” Lucy turned in surprise, “Why would she – June?”
She caught sight of June squatting under a table.
It wasn’t much of an attempt at hiding, but it was a valiant one nonetheless.
Still, there was only so much a girl could do with a table and a watering can that didn’t involve hiding under it and holding the watering can over her face.
June emerged, blooming red. “Um. Hello…”
“What’re you doing here?” asked Lucy.
“Working,” said June in a small voice, hoping desperately that neither Rose nor Albus had overheard her; Roxanne was not much of a problem, seeing that she was speaking almost unintelligibly to Lysander, who had resorted to merely nodding.
“Oh,” said Lucy, flushing herself as she realized the obvious. “Of course, I’m so sorry.”
“Working?” said Rose, pushing back her red hair and watching June with wide eyes, “Oh, I’ve heard that Uncle Neville gets help around here. I always thought they were little children – or, you know – house elves – but I guess it’s all the same in the end. It must be so hard to be working here. Menial labor and all.”
She earned the glares of Lorcan and June as she smirked.
“It isn’t very hard,” said June as coldly as she could muster when her complexion was flaming. “It’s quite nice.”
“Oh, I imagine so,” said Rose.
“June earns money,” said Lucy defensively. “I think it’s quite smart myself.”
“Money?” goggled Rose gleefully, “Aren’t there better ways of earning money?”
“I like it here,” said June tersely. “And Professor Longbottom’s very kind to me and I need the money.” She set down the watering can. “I’m going to go now.”
“You’re leaving?” asked Lysander, who was now slightly blue from Roxanne’s chokehold on him.
“I’ll see you in a bit,” said June, peeling off the protective gloves. She ignored Lucy’s inquisitive stare, dodged Roxanne and Lysander, dodged Rose and made a reach for the door that was promptly blocked by Albus’s right hand.
She recoiled, staring hard at the ground; she could almost feel the disapproving glare wafting off from Albus. “What?”
“It’s cold outside,” he said. “Go through the other Greenhouses and up to the castle.”
“Mind your own business.”
His hand was still firmly blocking the door. “Go through the other door.”
“Oh, let her go out, Albus,” said Rose. “If she’s got no common sense, that’s her problem.”
“I don’t want to go through the other greenhouses,” said June, finally tilting her head upwards to stare defiantly at him.
Going through the other greenhouses was probably a better idea than freezing through the snow.
But since he’d been the one to suggest it, June supposed she’d rather take the cold inconvenience of the wintertime than admit anything to him.
“Don’t be stubborn.” He removed his hand and for a moment, June thought that he was letting her go. As she took a long step forwards, he blocked her by walking into her.
She could feel heat sweeping through her as she skidded against his shoulder. “Move.”
“Fine,” she said, frowning at him in frustration. He looked back at her, frowning. “Fine, don’t move then!” She sidestepped him, ducked under his arm and flung the door open as she ran onto the grounds.
She could hear the door closing behind her as she trudged angrily into the snow.
It really was freezing.
Her breath came up in a fog as her feet squelched in the snow. The wetness was seeping into her shoes and her cheeks were quickly flushing in a mixture of the cold and her own embarrassment.
First Rose was being typically Rose, then Albus was trying to boss her again…like nothing had changed between them in the time she’d yelled at him and marched away. Like all she had told herself about forgetting him and all the work she had done since didn’t matter to him at all and he was Albus Severus Potter – everybody had to like him.
The day had started normally enough.
And somewhere between it, she had ended here – freezing, alone, the wind biting furiously into her face and the wetness in her feet.
When she heard footsteps behind her, she stopped, not daring herself to turn around. “Lucy?”
“I told you it was cold.”
Balling her hands into fists, she kept walking forward, ignoring him.
“You’ve got to be stubborn about everything, don’t you?”
She could hear the smirk in his voice.
“Does it ever occur to you to stop making stupid decisions?”
At that, she whirled at him. “Why are you following me?”
And there he was, the smile she had predicted slapped on his face. It looked childish, misplaced on him – smiling at her, here of all places. He never smiled at her for the right reasons, only when it was time to belittle her or win some imaginary battle that she was tired of fighting.
“I’m not,” he said curtly. “Lucy wanted me to – ”
“Lucy wouldn’tve asked,” she said, irked. “If Lucy wanted anything, she would’ve come after me herself.”
At the surprise plastered on his face, she clutched her fists harder. “See? I’m not stupid anymore, am I?”
“I never – ”
“Don’t,” she said venomously, “I don’t want to know.”
She turned on her heel and began making her way up the winding path. One of the castle’s towers came looming into view.
After a long moment, she could Albus’s voice snaking from behind her. “How did you do that today?”
When she didn’t respond, he walked faster until he’d managed to cover the distance between them, stuffing his hands in his pockets. In the cold, his skin looked paler, his hair darker, his eyes greener. He was still handsome, even if she’d stopped fancying him…cold and distant, a star shining far, far past her. He looked more like the Albus that was once the figment of her imagination. “Are you going to answer me?”
She darted her eyes away from him. “No.”
He smirked. “You just did.”
Somehow, this was all part of one of the inane fantasies she’d conjured in the months past. The snow, them together, alone in the wintertime. He’d say something, she’d retort…it had all been so pleasant then. Instead, June felt nauseous at the thought of it.
“I don’t care,” she huffed.
“Why do you care?” she snapped.
There was a long silence. A gale blew more snow in between them.
“Now, tell me.”
She turned backwards, unaware of how much he’d managed to catch up, until he nearly stepped on her feet.
At his expressionless face, she said simply, “Because I tried. And I didn’t need you to do it.”
“I didn’t need you. I did it myself.”
For a brief, heart-stopping moment, she thought he would yell at her, and she prepared herself to yell back again. Instead, he stepped forward and she stepped backward. “You made me help you, don’t you remember?”
“You didn’t help at all. You weren’t trying to help me. You were too busy thinking you were too good for me – and hating – hating me for – ”
Her voice cracked and she hated herself for it.
“ – making me feel bad for existing, making me feel like I was always stupid – I didn’t have a lot in the first place and now I don’t need you anymore either – ”
“Made you feel bad for existing?” he echoed tonelessly.
“You never noticed?” she hissed back, “And now I’m trying to live my life in peace and you won’t let me and – ”
It was the closest to tears she had been near him.
But she would never let herself cry in front of him – or because of him – again.
His eyes were wide and green and for the first time, he looked like he had an emotion other than disapproval on his face. “I didn’t mean to.”
“You didn’t mean to?” she said incredulously, more red flushing into her face. “Oh, that’s funny!”
“Stop laughing at me,” he snapped, “I’m trying to – ”
“I know what you’re trying to do. I’m not giving you enough attention and now you’re badgering me because I don’t feel like worshipping you.”
He grimaced. “This is what I get for trying to see that you don’t freeze to death?”
“You should’ve let me!”
“That much is obvious.”
“And you’ll finally be alone and you can be a perfect arsehole all by yourself – ”
“Stop calling me that!”
“Stop giving me reasons to!”
Another violent wind blew over them, rattling the tree branches laden with snow above them. The branches quivered, before sweeping the snow they held onto the ground.
As the snow fell over her head, June could feel the cold infiltrating her fingers; they felt bloodless, frozen, and she rubbed them together furiously. “I’m tired of this. I’m tired of this conversation, I’m tired of you.”
“Stop saying stupid things.”
She began walking again, rubbing her hands as she went. “I’m sorry for fancying you. I regret it. There. I said it. Are you happy now?”
“I was trying to say something,” he said, sounding annoyed, “but you’re talking over me again.”
“I don’t want to listen, that’s why!”
“That’s very fair of you,” he huffed.
“When have you ever been fair to me?”
Once again, he had managed to walk and cover the distance between them. Instead of stopping, he kept walking fast and she could see his shoulders pass her by through the whiteness of the snow.
“I don’t have to be fair to you.”
She heard it through the wind and narrowed her eyes at his back, willing her anger to pierce through. “Then why do I have to be fair to you? Because you’re so brilliant, so famous, so bloody perfect”
He glanced over his shoulder. “Because you fancy me.”
“I did.” She’d expected herself to shout at him, but it came out softly. “I did. But that doesn’t really matter, does it?”
When he gave no response, she let the conversation fall into an icy silence. They passed the outline of the Astronomy tower, cloaked by snowflakes, and the distant lines of the Quidditch Pitch. A few feet from the Hogwarts entrance, Albus stopped.
June kept walking. As she began to near him, she heard him say, “Why do you always have to be so thick?”
“Don’t call me that!” she rounded on him. “Don’t keep acting like I’m completely worthless because I’ve stopped caring what you think!”
“When have I ever acted like that?”
He genuinely sounded perplexed. It irritated her how confused he seemed.
“Every time you talk to me!”
“Stop inferring things that aren’t there and throwing a fit about it.”
She turned scarlet. “I’m telling the truth.”
“You’re flattering yourself again.”
“Say what you want.” She stared up at him. “I’m going inside. This’s a waste of my time. You’re a waste of my time. I hate having this conversation over and over.”
“So that’s it?” he asked, before she could maneuver herself away from him.
“I told you I don’t care about you.”
“Funny way of phrasing that you basically got rejected and now, you’ve given up and you’re whining about it.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re trying to get a rise out of me again.”
“Am I?” he sounded amused.
“Yeah.” Her face slowly began to light up with illumination; everything made sense...somehow. Slowly, it was falling together. Any other girl might have caught it before, but she was June Bernard and this realization somehow had taken months to achieve. “You like making me feel bad. It makes you feel more important. Lucy told me that you’re not really like how you are. And I used to fancy you, so I know. You love rejecting girls. Iris, Cora, Nikita, Victoria, half the girls in our year…does it make you feel like you actually earned the fame you have?”
When he said nothing, she continued triumphantly. “You’ve got some kind of complex about all of this. Feeling famous and brilliant and me fancying you and you always saying horrid things – that helped, didn’t it?”
“Did it?” he said carelessly.
“Well, now I don’t need you anymore and eventually, nobody else will either. Because your dad’s the famous one and not you. Everyone’ll forget you just like I did. So you can stop pretending now.” Her breath came out in a cloud. “See? I’ve won.”
“You won?” he said.
“You’re not complicated or mysterious at all,” she said, willing him to contradict her. “You’re just kind of pathetic.”
When she broke off huffing, he was back to his deadpan, unimpressed stare. “So you won because you think you’ve forgotten me? According to you, you mean?”
“Yes and I – ”
He took a step forward, grasping her right hand in his. She stared at him, rooted in confusion, her mouth beginning to form words.
He interlaced their fingers. His skin was as cold and hard as hers had become, but a small warmth was trickling up her hand.
“Stop,” she said, attempting to pull away.
“Feeling uncomfortable, are we?” he gripped on more tightly, his fingers pushing her whole arm forward.
“I will if you stop struggling and listen,” he said calmly. His entire manner seemed to change as she ceased her yanking; he had a half-smile on his face…but for once, it wasn’t a prelude to his mocking. He leaned in closer, his breath fogging near her cheeks. “Would you be happy if I said I was sorry for the trouble I’ve given you?”
When his arms began encircling her shoulders and he pushed her forward once more until she was finally face to face with him and his confusing green eyes. He was waiting for her…to say something, to forgive him once more, so they could begin all of this again. So they could walk in circles…
She stared blankly at him, feeling a whirlpool of emotions flood through her, clashing for vocalization. “It’s too late for that now,” she managed.
He was still holding her hand vacantly, his eyes slowly widening.
Her heart threatening to thud out of her chest, she stomped on his foot. Taken by surprise, he released her hand and she raced past him, up the castle steps and through the open door. She could hear him cursing alone on the snow, but the world was suddenly too full of her heartbeats for him to matter.
After she had sped up her first flight of stairs, she stopped, staring at the trail of watery footsteps she’d left behind herself. Somewhere ahead of her lay all the answers to a new beginning without him.
Author's Note: I'm alive! I've survived my first few weeks of college and I've finally updated! College has been chaos so far: homework, getting lost (several times), hearing drunk people late at night, not eating, not sleeping, and lots and lots of reading Thoreau and Poe. I've managed an update after staying up until 2AM writing and juggling studying and Junebus. But here it is!
What did you guys think of this chapter? June being June? Albus being...whatever the heck he is, really. I think he defies classification. He might be a new species.
Also, last thing! I don't know if you guys've been following the Dobby Awards on the forums, but I'd really like to thank all of you who nominated my crazy Victoire/Victoire "Hourglass Tilting" and my Alice one-shot "Crown" and moved them to finalists for Best One-shot and for those who supported Rose in "Some Kind of Beauty". It means the world, so thank you so much for the nominations and votes. If you'd like to, please check them out! :D They're very different from the fluff/humor genre of 'BIR', but everyone's support and votes has made me feel so lucky and loved. ♥
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