It was suddenly the third week of May; despite the slow, boring Transfiguration lessons and the days she almost fell asleep in Charms, it was a bright blue afternoon and Desmond Jordan’s voice flew through the air on the megaphone.
“Welcome, witches, wizards and Slytherins! Today’s the day Hogwarts’s been waiting for!”
June strained her eyes against the sun; she could see Desmond hopping about excitedly in a separate podium near the front of the Quidditch field. She was sitting between Lucy and Henry, watching the sea of yellow and black in front of her.
“Good crowd,” said Nicholas approvingly. “Bigger than last year’s, I think.”
“Oh, I wish we didn’t have to meet Slytherin in the finale. I don’t even know much about Quidditch, but they’ve been the only House that’s been nice to us,” said Lucy. “I liked when they supported us against the Gryffindors.”
“They’re only nice when they need us,” said Nicholas. “Need I remind you that they hate the Gryffindors more than they hate us which is the only reason they supported us.”
Desmond’s voice boomed over them. “Excellent day for flying, ideal conditions. I’ll be joined one last time by guest commentator Prisicilla Fawcett of Hufflepuff – ”
A large number of boos emerged from the Gryffindors followed by a shrill, “Keep your manes on, you brutes!” from Priscilla.
“I’ll never understand how they’re still allowed to commentate after last time,” said June.
“Connections on both their sides,” said Nicholas, his eyes twinkling. “Desmond’s dad is legendary as a commentator, so naturally, Desmond’s been at it for years. I’ve heard it pays pretty well too. And as for Priscilla, being related to a Head of House doesn’t hurt. And of course, I’ve heard Headmistress Sprout’s eager for us to win again. Hufflepuff hasn’t had a winning spree like this in centuries. It’s always the bloody Gryffindors being showoffs.”
“And the Slytherins are out,” said Desmond. “I’ve been required to actually read their names this time as opposed to just sneezing like I did in the notable Hufflepuff-Slytherin match of ’22.” He pulled out a scroll of parchment and began reading blandly. Blurs of green and silver shot out from one end of the field into the sky, eliciting roars and cheers. “Urquhart, Flint, Smith, Parkinson, Zabini, Makehay, Chen. Courtesy of Professor Bulstrode for threatening me.”
“If you ask me, you should’ve just sneezed,” said Priscilla. “What awful names. Makehay, honestly.”
A boy on his broom stopped in mid-air and made an obscene hand gesture at Priscilla.
Before Priscilla could return it, Desmond stopped her. “Well, wasn’t that just lovely. On that note, we introduce the Hufflepuffs! Captain Trista St. Clair, who’ll be joining the Kenmare Kestrals come September, followed by future Falmouth minion Duncan Podmore, two Chasers – Sloper and Robbins, two Beaters - Macmillan and Bones and the Seeker and my future wife, Mila Jorkins!”
“Desmond,” said Lucy, rolling her eyes.
“Captains are shaking hands – that would be Alexander Zabini and Trista St. Clair – ” said Priscilla. “Urgh Trista, I hope you wash your hands. He looks he hasn’t bathed in a good month!”
“So no surprises then?” quipped Desmond. “Aaand they’re off!”
All fourteen blurs kicked off the field and shot up. The Quaffle and two Bludgers followed shortly after.
“The Snitch’s up!” said Priscilla. “And it’s disappeared. Fantastic.”
As the Quaffle went in the air, one of the Hufflepuff Chasers snatched it mid-air and began flying furiously forward.
“Anna Robbins with the Quaffle, speeding forward! Pass to Sloper, pass back to Robbins – come on, come on,” said Desmond.
A Bludger went flying from the Slytherin side and Evan Sloper dropped the Quaffle. It was quickly reclaimed by one of the Slytherins.
“Duncan, come on!” said Desmond, now dancing with the megaphone in hand. “COME ON.”
But before the Slytherin could aim, Trista had pushed it out of his hands and sped back across the field.
Desmond gave a whoop of joy. “St. Clair with the Quaffle, passing to Sloper, passing to Robbins, pass back to St. Clair – come on, Trista – ”
June squinted as Trista whirled frantically in the air, dodging two Bludgers that the Slytherin Beaters sent her way. One of the Slytherin Chasers slammed headfirst into her and Trista went flying off in the opposite direction, the Quaffle now dropped.
“DID YOU SEE THAT?!” Desmond roared. “THAT WAS BLATCHING. BLATANT BLATCHING. DID YOU SEE WHAT THOSE CHEATING, NO GOOD ARSE – ”
“That has to be a penalty,” said Priscilla.
Apparently, Madame Hooch seemed to agree. She angrily signaled and blew her whistle; the Quaffle was tossed back into Trista’s hands. Trista stared down the Slytherin Keeper – the Makehay Priscilla had insulted – and threw the Quaffle as hard as she could. He sprung for it.
It grazed his fingertips as it landed in.
“TRISTA, TRISTA, 10 FOR HUFFLEPUFF. 10-0,” danced Desmond as the scoreboards changed.
Trista thrust her hand in the air as boos emerged from the Slytherin side.
“And the Quaffle’s back in play,” shouted Desmond as the Quaffle was shot back to the center of the field. A tall, black-haired Slytherin girl caught the Quaffle in mid-air and began swooping beneath the Bludgers being pummeled her way. “Chen in possession of the Quaffle! Too bad she ended up a Slytherin and all – very fit girl – ”
“Eyes on the match,” said Priscilla, yanking the megaphone from him. “Elle Chen with the Quaffle, doesn’t look she’s passing at all – come on, Bones, aim the bloody Bludger or I swear I’m never helping you with Charms homework again!”
“Evelyn Bones aiming the Bludger,” said Desmond. There was much oohing as the Slytherin Chaser slipped underneath the Bludger and hurtled towards the Hufflepuff end. “Aaand that didn’t go anywhere. And looks like the other Beater – that’d be Justin Macmillan – is going to continue aiming like a one-armed flobberworm – great, lovely.”
As June squinted, she could see the Quaffle passing through the Hufflepuff hoops.
Desmond groaned. “Great! 10-10. Trista, we better win this!”
Trista looked up at him irritably.
As the minutes passed, June began closing her eyes out of sleepiness, with snippets of Desmond and Priscilla’s commentary floating over, occasionally punctuated by moans or cheers.
“ST. CLAIR SCORES, 30-20, HUFFLEPUFF, WE’RE BACK IN THE LEAD.”
“ – Podmore saves the goal! We’re still at 50-40, Hufflepuff!”
As June began slowly nodding off in stifling heat, she could hear Nicholas saying to Lucy, “Trista’s doing pretty well, but they’re all evenly matched. Makehay’s really a decent Keeper. It’s a damn shame.”
It didn’t seem like much time at all had passed before someone was shaking June awake. As she blinked furiously against the bright sunlight, she could hear Henry’s concerned voice. “I really don’t think you should be waking her up like that.”
“I’m awake,” croaked June, looking around wildly.
Nicholas was staring down at her, frowning. “Had to wake you up, Bernard. The game’s getting intense. You don’t want to miss the last game of Hogwarts by sleeping, do you?”
“No,” said June reluctantly, sitting up.
“Boys and their Quidditch,” tsked Lucy. “I’d rather like a nap myself.”
Whatever Nicholas’s outraged response was going to be, June never heard. There was a massive roar of, “GO, BONES, GO,” from Priscilla. They looked up to see a Hufflepuff Beater aim the Bludger; it spun, hitting a Slytherin Chaser squarely in the broom. The edge of her broom snapped off and she swerved down, forced to land.
“Julietta Parkinson’s down,” said Desmond. “Thanks to Evelyn Bones, she’ll have to sit out the rest of the game. No broom. Brilliant shot. That leaves us with one less problem.”
There was a cry of, “That had to be a penalty!” from the Slytherin Captain. He stopped in mid-air, crossing his arms. The rest of the team looked defiantly on.
“That was a fair shot and they know it,” said Priscilla, once again earning dirty looks. Madam Hooch seemed to agree; there was a whistle, a few angry shouts and the game proceeded.
“80-60 Hufflepuff,” said Desmond. “Hufflepuff still hasn’t lost the lead, though Slytherin’s not being as cooperative as it should be – “
Suddenly, there was a huge shouting noise from the air. The Slytherins began closing in, all shouting unintelligibly over each other, bolting up to a certain spot in the sky.
“Wha – what’s happening?” said Priscilla, turning to Desmond. “I can’t see a thing, the sun’s right in my face!”
“I’ve got no idea,” said Desmond. “Looks like someone’s seen something and they’re all running towards it. But the Quaffle’s still with Robbins, so does that mean - ”
Both the Slytherin Beaters frantically sent Bludgers hurrying towards a small dot in the sky.
“Hang on,” said Desmond, sounding weak. “Is that who I think it is?”
The dot streaked faster, whirling underneath the two Chasers who went flying towards her. Balancing precariously, the Hufflepuff Seeker stuck one foot out, attempting to kick one of the Bludgers coming her way.
“Watch your speed, Mila,” called Desmond.
Mila Jorkins ignored him. She was speeding faster and higher.
“If she falls from there, that could be serious,” said Priscilla.
“She knows that,” said Desmond. “And she hasn’t got much time. Look, that Makehay fellow’s coming towards her. And Zabini’s sending another Bludger!”
Mila Jorkins swooped through the air once more, avoiding the Bludger, though she wobbled considerably. She was spiraling higher and higher into the sky.
“I can’t watch,” groaned Desmond, covering his eyes. “I fancy her too much to. Wake me up when it’s over.”
“Go higher!” roared the Slytherin Captain. “I want everyone following her!”
“Zabini’s yelling for more elevation and it looks like most of the team’s listening,” said Priscilla. “She is the Seeker, after all. I suppose he thinks she’s seen the Snitch! But she looks like a speck from down here. I’ve really got no idea how above the stadium she’s planning to fly.”
More darts flew as the Slytherin players again attempted aiming Bludgers towards her. Mila Jorkins swerved once more. As she sped faster, she put one foot onto her broom precariously, barely managing to balance herself. She put the other foot up and began trying to stand. She began groping desperately at the air.
“Bloody hell, Mila, is this really the time to be trying stupid things?” yelped Desmond. “You’re 300 feet in the air!”
As she stood, more of the Slytherins began flying towards her; both the Beaters had the Beater’s bats out.
“Trista, DO SOMETHING,” yelled Priscilla. “You can’t just let your Seeker fall to her death!”
Trista, however, seemed to be staring upwards where Mila was flying. Instead of following her Seeker up in the air, she began moving down the field, far below where everyone else was. The rest of the Hufflepuff team was staring incredulously after her. Looking up now and then, she flew across to the center, hovering.
“What should we do?” one of the Chasers asked Duncan. “Trista! What should we do?”
Duncan stared at Trista. “Trista, say something! You’re our Captain!”
Trista ignored them, still trying to position herself.
Duncan frowned. “Forget it. Forget it, Trista's being useless. I’ll take charge.”
“Mutiny from Podmore?” said Priscilla. “So much for loyalty, Duncan!”
“Listen up,” roared Duncan. “I want Robbins and Sloper up there by Mila. Try taking out Makehay if you can, you two. I need Macmillan to get the Bludger out of Zabini’s hands.”
“It’s no use,” said Desmond. “I’m never going to forgive you for this, St. Clair.”
Mila Jorkins, still standing on her broom, lunged forward.
“BLOODY HELL,” yelled Desmond.
She thrashed through the air, something clenched in one closed fist. Her other hand feebly flailed for her broom, but missed. Screams came from all sides of Quidditch podium.
She fell, her robes ballooning under the air. Most of the Hufflepuff team began racing towards her, though she was now falling too fast.
As she hurtled beneath them, there was one lone dot on the field, positioned exactly below her, waiting for her. As Mila passed by her in mid-air, Trista grabbed by the arm and yanked her on to her broom.
There was a moment of stunned silence in the Quidditch field.
Priscilla looked, for once in her life, speechless.
Even Desmond seemed to be lost for words.
The first noise in the Quidditch stadium came from Trista. Laughing breathlessly, she took Mila’s hand and Mila slowly unclenched her fist. The Snitch whizzed into the air.
There was a roar from the Hufflepuff side.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” said Priscilla.
“TRISTA, YOU MAD GENIUS,” said Desmond, yanking away the megaphone. “BELIEVE IT OR NOT, IT REALLY HAPPENED, LADIES AND GENTS. HUFFLEPUFF GOT THE SNITCH. HUFFLEPUFF WINS.”
As the rest of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team began bolting towards them, Trista flew towards the ground, setting Mila Jorkins down gently. She thrust her hands into the air, waving madly.
Desmond’s yelling was barely audible over the cheers. “HUFFLEPUFF WINS. 230-60. EAT THAT, YOU DIRTY SNAKES.”
As Lucy and June clapped, Nicholas seemed half beside himself. Turning around, he grabbed onto Henry frantically, shaking Henry so hard his head bobbed. “Holy Hufflepuff, I can’t believe it! That lunatic St. Clair planned it out! We won!”
The afterparty was thrown in an abandoned dungeon and it proved a splendid sight. All four houses – even a few disgruntled Slytherins – had made an appearance. The butterbeers that Desmond had no doubt snuck in from The Three Broomsticks were sitting on tables along with what looked like half of Honeydukes.
The Hufflepuff Quidditch team was attracting cheers and handshakes as they swept past. June squeezed in through two Ravenclaws to find herself in the middle of a large crowd of Hufflepuffs, all attempting to jostle each other through to see the team.
“I can’t see anything,” she called to Priscilla.
“Stupid crowds,” said Priscilla with a scowl. “And who invited the Gryffindors? Why the hell did they think anyone wanted to see them?”
“Maybe they’re glad we won,” said June.
“Oh please,” Priscilla replied. “Everyone’s here for the free Butterbeer.”
Priscilla managed to step on the feet of several Hufflepuffs in front of her, causing them to wince and move away. Finally, she thrust her arm in and pulled someone out.
“Trista, we’re so glad you won,” said Lucy earnestly. “It was brilliant, it really was.”
“Thanks,” said Trista, still laughing. “I feel amazing. I can’t believe we pulled that off.”
“Congratulations,” echoed June. “Now you’re practically one of Hufflepuff’s most famous captains.”
“Only Melania Macmillian won more Quidditch matches than I did as Hufflepuff captain and that was centuries ago,” said Trista, eyes twinkling. “I’m really proud of everyone. We did an amazing job.”
“As you should be,” came another voice. Desmond emerged into the throng, holding butterbeer.“Hello, ladies. “Nice little trick you had up your sleeve there, St. Clair. Had it all planned ahead of time, did you?”
“Maybe,” said Trista, eyes glinting. “Or it might’ve just been a big coincidence that she got all the Slytherins on her tail and just jumped off and they looked stupid just watching her fall. Either way, I’m just lucky Mila trusted me to catch her.”
“I guess it’ll have to be a trade secret. Of course I understand. Anyway, how do you like the arrangements?” He swept his arm around the chaos around him; students were now mingling around the desks and even more people were attempting to cram through the door. “My doing, of course.”
“With some help from me,” piped up Nicholas.
“With minimal help from Corner,” Desmond amended.
“Oh, it’s lovely,” said Trista breathlessly.
“Now where’s Podmore?” asked Desmond. Before waiting for an answer, he peered into the crowd, thrust his hand in much like Priscilla did and yanked. A girl emerged from the other end, looking confused. “Whoops. Sorry Robbins. Looking for Podmore.”
He released and tried again. After his third try, Duncan emerged, spilling Butterbeer on himself.
“Excellent,” said Nicholas. “And I remembered to bring Bates.”
“For what?” asked Lucy and Duncan in unison.
“A little celebration and a little planning,” said Desmond. “I’m sure you lot have been very curious as to exactly what our year end prank will be?”
“I thought we already planned it,” said Duncan. He was silenced by the quelling look Nicholas shot at him.
“Don’t ruin it Podmoron,” said Priscilla. “We’ve got most of it thought out, but we still need to tell everyone who doesn’t know. After all, everyone’s got their part to play.”
“Prank?” spluttered Lucy. “What prank?”
“Why’re we discussing it here?” piped up Henry. “Won’t we be overheard?”
A few screams burst out from the Ravenclaw side and drowned him out. “I hope that answers your question,” said Nicholas tersely. “Yeah, anyway. There’re some bits we have to get done tonight so we thought we might as well let everyone know. And that mostly consists of St. Clair, Bernard and Weasley.”
Lucy still seemed to be processing what Desmond had said. “What prank?” she demanded once more. “There isn’t going to be one!”
“Look here, Weasley,” said Desmond looming over her. “I’ve been waiting my entire Hogwarts career for this. Every house pranks at the end of the year. You know that.”
“I’m a Prefect,” she hissed, jabbing at her badge. “Of course I know. Headmistress Sprout told us specially to report anything that involved pranking. After what the Ravenclaws did last year – ”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to be a royal stick in the mud about being a prefect. D’you honestly think that the prefects’ll do as they’re told? I’ve heard Baron Davies is helping the Ravenclaws with their prank and he’s bloody Head Boy,” said Desmond coolly. “Listen, we won’t break anything. All I’m saying is that we need to make a name for ourselves. A legacy, if you will. You can try stopping us, but Corner here knows some excellent Memory Charms that’ll make you forget the last few minutes. Or, for once in your life, you could try joining us, get some glory for your house and maybe having some fun while you’re at it.
Lucy faltered. At the stares she was receiving, she finally blinked and sighed. “You’re probably right about the other prefects. I already heard one of the Goyles talking this afternoon. Apparently, they’re planning on sneaking in Chinese Chomping Cabbages into our breakfast. But the Head Girl – Megara Vaisey – said she’d tell the Headmistress herself. Only I don’t think she really did.”
“Chomping Cabbages?” said Duncan, exchanging a glance with Priscilla and the other boys. “Really? That’s it?”
“I think we should keep an eye on Gryffindor,” said Henry. “Especially after last year.”
Desmond nodded. “Already on that. So here’s our plan.” He looked over his shoulder and began walking outside the dungeon, gesturing them to follow. When they left, he stopped in the hallway. “Alright,” he said, reducing his voice to a whisper. “We’re not going to do something idiotic like stealing the Sorting Hat or putting cabbages in people’s food. That sounds way too easy for me. All you’ve got to do is disguise the cabbages like chocolates and have them flown in by owl. And to get the Sorting Hat, you’ve just got to stand outside on the grounds and try Summoning it. We’re going to do something legendary.”
“Like?” said June.
“Like,” began Priscilla, “making our mark on all the other houses.”
“How?” asked Trista.
“The pranks always occur after we’re done with our final exams. We’re usually done with exams in the evening and the next morning, all hell breaks loose,” said Desmond. “Like the Slytherins planning the cabbage bit, for example. It’s during breakfast. Only we’ll let all three houses go first. That’ll make it look like we’ve got nothing planned. Then, when they head back to their Common Rooms, they’ll see exactly what we’ve done.”
“Which is?” asked Lucy.
“Replacing all their house decorations with ours,” said Nicholas, grinning. “You know, no outsider’s entered Ravenclaw’s Common Room for something like five hundred years. And no outsider’s entered Hufflepuff’s for a thousand.”
“What about those people who show up when we throw afterparties?” asked June.
“Those don’t count,” said Desmond dismissively. “We invite them. I mean, no intruders. Of course, Gryffindor’s got nothing to brag about. We broke into their Common Room just a few months back.”
“But there’s’ll be the hardest, won’t it?” said Duncan. “I mean, they’ve got that stupid portrait of some fat lady. Last time, we got lucky she didn’t scream her head off. And we had Ravenclaws and Slytherins with us. We don’t know if we can pull it off with just the eight of us.”
“We have to,” said Henry. “I always thought Slytherin’s might be the hardest. Nobody knows their password at all.”
“Working on it,” said Desmond. “Ravenclaw’s should be easy. Fawcett’s promised me she can answer the door’s question.”
“Easily,” said Priscilla.
“Okay, that leaves Gryffindor and Slytherin,” said Desmond. “Nicholas and I’ve got an idea for Slytherin. A certain charming fourth year, a Mr. Flint, is pretty desperate for one of my brain enhancing potions.”
“Those are just dragon droppings,” said Lucy with outrage. “I thought I threw all those away!”
“Alleged dragon droppings. And regardless,” said Desmond, “he thinks he’ll fail out of Transfiguration without them. Turns out he’s desperate enough that I might be able to persuade him that I’ll sell my very last bottle for a price.”
“The password,” said Trista.
“Right,” said Nicholas, smiling. “Those self-preserving, ambitious Slytherins and all that. They’ll sell each other out.”
“At least we wouldn’t do that to each other,” said Henry. “We’re Hufflepuffs.”
“Which only leaves Gryffindor,” said Desmond.
Suddenly, June became aware that almost everyone was staring at her. Even Lucy and Trista, following the others’ gazes, landed on her.
“What?” she began defensively. “What?”
“You’re involved with Albus Potter,” said Desmond.
“I am not,” said June.
“You can drop the act Bernard,” said Corner. “Priscilla already told us. Normally, we’d see this as an act of high treason against the honour of our house. But since this might actually work to our advantage, we’re letting the matter go.”
“Advantage?” squeaked June.
“Right,” said Desmond. “Even I’ll admit that we only got into Gryffindor’s Common Room last time out of luck. Some little first year came out and we all ran in. But that’s not going to work this time since we’ll need their Common Room to be empty when we go in. We need their password ahead of time. And you’ve got connections.”
“Yes,” said Priscilla. “Just get him to take you in once and you’ll remember the password and tell us. Once we’ve got that, all we have to do is put some Gryffindor ties on and the Fat Lady’ll let us right in. She won’t suspect a thing.”
“I can try,” said June. “Albus’ll be suspicious, though. I think he might already know we’re planning something. And by the sound of it, it seems like they’ve got something thought up too.”
“They’re planning to make a giant lion flag drop in on us during breakfast,” said Desmond. “Hardly worth blinking over.”
“And just where did you get that information from?” asked Lucy.
“I chatted up Iris Bosworth and she sung like a nightingale,” said Nicholas. “Only even she wasn’t dim enough to give up the password. A shame. And I don’t know any other Gryffindors so that possibility’s out.”
Desmond, Nicholas and Priscilla all stared down at June. “Okay, Bernard,” continued Nicholas. “Get Potter to let you in to the Gryffindor Common Room.”
“I could ask Albus,” began Lucy uncertainly.
“I’ve got something else for you to do, Weasley,” said Desmond, grinning. “You’ve taken Care of Magical Creatures, haven’t you?”
“It’s one of my NEWT classes, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“Oh, you’ll see,” said Desmond. “You and Bates are going to care for some special friends of mine.”
Another week of studying passed. Between Transfiguration, Defense, Charms and Divination, June could begin to convince herself that perhaps Desmond’s mental plan had been left behind.
On Wednesday, however, she found herself being cornered by Nicholas and Priscilla.
“June,” Priscilla began, a determined expression on her face. “I know you’ve been avoiding this, but you’ve got to ask Potter soon. It’s going to be June tomorrow. We’ve only got a week of classes left! We’ve got to tie up loose ends before it’s time.”
“Right,” said Nicholas, “Desmond managed to get the Slytherin password out of Flint. That only leaves Gryffindor’s.”
“I know you’re meeting with Potter tonight, so you’ve got to ask him,” said Priscilla. “And be subtle about it, will you?”
At both the faces staring her down, June shrank back. “I can try…”
“Good,” said Nicholas. “Just make it seem natural.”
“I…have an idea,” said June.
“You’ve got to work on your motion,” said Albus, pulling her wrist through the air. “Up and out. You’re flicking down.”
She tried once more, feeling his hand pressed on hers.
“Nice,” said Albus approvingly. “You’ve gotten much better at Disillusioning.”
It seemed so. The cauldron in front of him now appeared nearly invisible.
“So that’ll be it for today,” he continued, adding more ingredients into his cauldron. It bubbled and frothed in front of him.
“What is that?” asked June. “It’s been making that noise for the past hour.”
“Oh, it needs time to finish boiling.” Looking frustrated, he began stirring. “It’s supposed to be pearl white in color by now, but it’s still a bit more grey than white.”
She took a seat beside him, peering at it. “What is it?”
“Draught of the Sleeping Dead,” said Albus. “Healers need to know how to brew it.”
“What does it do?”
“It induces comas. Good for medical operations and all. Of course, those comas become permanent if you don’t know how to brew the solution.”
She edged away when she caught a sniff of it. “I liked the Amortentia more. This smells awful.”
He laughed. “Yeah, well, that’ll be the bicorn horn and the crushed beetles. It’s supposed to smell a bit like a graveyard, apparently. Doesn’t exactly make the whole room smell like roses like Amortentia does, does it?”
“Roses?” she said. “So those were the flowers you smelled?”
“Maybe,” was all he would agree to, before he went back to stirring.
“Why the mystery?”
“A little bit of mystery isn’t so bad.”
“Roses,” she said. “Roses…what smells like roses?”
“Er – ” Sneaking a peek at her, he cleared his throat. “Oh. Lily.”
“My sister. Yeah.”
“Lily smells like roses?” she asked skeptically. “She spends most of her time playing Quidditch and she smells like roses?”
“She has this hair thing – shampoo. It smells nice.”
“It smells nice,” she repeated, still looking disbelieving.
He went back to stirring.
“I don’t believe you at all. You’re not a very good liar.”
“Fine. I’ll tell you if you tell me something that I’ve wanted to know for ages.”
“Okay,” said June. “What is it?”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” he said, suddenly looking hesitant. “I feel like an idiot for asking. You really don’t have to answer.”
“Just tell me.”
“What…happened to your mum?” he asked.
June froze for a moment.
He seemed to realize and immediately began apologizing. “See, I told you I’m an idiot. Ignore me. Just forget it.”
“No,” she said slowly. “No, that’s all right. I don’t talk about her much, do I?”
“Not really,” said Albus. “Except for that one time you showed me her photograph. I tried asking my mum once. All I know is that they were friends. So what happened?”
“She died,” said June curtly. “When I was about eight. I don’t remember her too well, to be honest. I remember that she was very pretty. My dad would say often that she was too beautiful to have ended up with a man like him.” She gave Albus a sad smile. “Which is kind of true. I don’t really look much like my mum, though. She was much taller and pretty thin. I don’t really even look like my dad.”
“What about your mum’s family?” asked Albus gently.
“Oh, I’ve never met them. The Frobishers. They were some old pureblood family. After the Second Wizarding War, they were still very strict about what they believed in, apparently. My mum ran off with my dad when she was eighteen. They abandoned her and I never met any of them.”
After a moment of silence, Albus took her hand. “I’m sorry.”
“Well, they’re not really worth talking much about. They’re still around. I think there’s even a Frobisher a few years below us. But they’re not my family. They’ve got no idea I even exist. And my dad was an only child raised by his grandmum. And she died before I was even born, so there’s nothing on the Bernard side. My dad’s my family.”
“You’ve got my family now too.”
June smiled. “What?”
“My mum already adores you. And my dad gets along brilliantly with your dad. You’ve got to see them in the mornings when they’re on about the papers. My sister’s come around. And James never had a problem with you, even if he thinks your name is Jane. And if you haven’t noticed, I like you a fair bit too.”
“Just a bit? I’m glad,” she laughed. Looking steadily at Albus, she said. “When I was eight years old, my mum died in a bus accident. She was on her way home. It skidded off a road and flipped over and she died. I used to be really upset about it when I was younger – I still am, in a way - but you learn to live with that sadness, I suppose. I might not remember everything about her, but when she was here, I know I really loved her loads and she loved me. It was wonderful having a mum. It felt like a family. Then she was gone and all I had to remember her by was old photographs. And how we used to have an old table together. Or how we’d stand over this bridge during New Year’s. Things were really bad for a few years after that. My dad’s café became a mess and we had to hop from flat to flat when we couldn’t afford the rent. Then that ridiculous earthquake went and ruined everything and I ended up here with you.”
At his concerned expression, she added. “Don’t worry. I’m fine. You asked, so I told you. And it’s strange, but I feel the most connected to my mum when I’m using magic. You asked me a few months ago why my wand doesn’t like me so much. I never really went to Ollivander’s for my own wand. Since I was eight, I knew just which wand I wanted to use once I could do magic.” She yanked out the wand from her pockets. “This used to be my mum’s wand.”
“You never got your own wand?” he asked incredulously.
“I never really wanted to. My mum was my one connection to magic. She was the reason I’m even a witch, so I knew I wanted to use it. But it hated me for ages. That’s why I’d always be botching up spells and blowing things up.”
He took it from her, inspecting it. “Yeah, I see why. Wands don't work like that. They're not all just interchangeable. You've got to win them over. This’s spruce. Unyielding. Ten inches. It’s said that spruce doesn’t work well with nervous natures. And it’s positively dangerous in the wrong hands.”
“It hated me in the beginning, I know it did,” said June. “I always felt like I had to force the magic out of it. It’s strange, but after I stopped following you around so much and got properly mad at myself for being such an idiot, it started working better. I started doing okay in classes. I studied more, I worked more and I think it liked me more. We got along better, I suppose.”
“It works well for bold and intelligent people.”
“Like my mum. I think I must’ve changed for the better in some way if it thinks I’ve become more like my mum. More bold or intelligent.”
“You did. Maybe you were just more unyielding than it was.” He took her hands in his and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Thank you. For telling me.”
“You asked,” she said, shrugging.
“It’s strange,” said Albus, marveling. “Even your wand approves of you. I'm sorry to say this, but we should leave soon. It’ll be curfew in ten minutes.”
“Okay,” she said, beginning to pack. As she stuffed her spellbooks into her bag, she watched carefully as he bent over his cauldron, still looking thoughtful.
Suddenly, a chill ran through her as she remembered Priscilla’s words. They were depending on her.
Feeling dread sinking in, she swallowed. As quietly as she could, she grabbed his Potions spellbook and stuffed it into her bag before putting the rest of his things into his bag.
“I packed your things for you,” she said, holding his bag up.
“Thank you,” he said, accepting the bag. “Well, that’ll be good night, then.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Good night.”
There was a long, awkward moment as they stared at each other, wondering who would be the first to leave.
Finally, June said, “You should go.”
“Okay. Good night.”
She waited in the dungeon a few minutes after he left. This would have to be timed right. She’d have to catch him before he entered his Common Room but have it seem plausible.
After a few minutes, she set off in the direction of the Gryffindor Common Room. As she reached the stairs, she could see Albus walking a few flights down. Inhaling, she sped downstairs and down the corridor that led to their Common Room. To her relief, she found the corridor was empty.
There he was, walking right in front of the Fat Lady.
He stopped and turned back, looking surprised.
Trying to huff, she ran up to him, hoping she looked appropriately tired. “Sorry, I – ”
“What is it?”
“I accidentally packed one of your spellbooks in my bag,” she breathed out at once. She pulled it out and handed it to him. “Sorry.”
“Oh,” he said, accepting it from her without looking entirely convinced. “Right. Thanks.”
He stood in place, still looking as though he was suspicious.
Feeling nervous, June stood on tip toe and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Sorry about that. Good night.”
His cloudy expression cleared and he smiled. “That’s okay,” he called as she began to walk away.
She could hear him as he turned to the Fat Lady and said under his breath, “Mermaid scales.”
“Mermaid scales?” said Desmond skeptically, noting it down on his parchment. “You’re sure? Mermaid scales?”
“I’m positive,” said June gloomily. “I feel awful. I feel like I used him.”
“You didn’t,” said Priscilla, clapping a hand on her shoulder. “You did your house a great service. Besides, I know Potter would’ve done the same.”
“So that’s mermaid scales for Gryffindor and Phineas Nigellus for Slytherin,” said Desmond. “And Fawcett can cover Ravenclaw. That’s it, then. We’re ready.”
The seventh were all ushered around the mostly empty Hufflepuff Common Room.
“I feel like I’ve betrayed him,” said June again.
Desmond frowned down at her, nearly jabbing her in the face with his quill as he gestured. “Look, you didn’t betray anyone. You just happened to arrange a useful time to walk past him. That’s all. And anyway, this really comes down to a matter of two fat ladies in portraits.”
“What?” asked Henry. “Two fat ladies?”
“Right,” said Desmond. “It’s your choice, Bernard. It’s either the Fat Lady in Gryffindor who’s going to be mad at you or the fat lady in our Common Room.” He pointed to the portrait of Helga Hufflepuff behind him. “This’s for the honour of Helga Hufflepuff and Hufflepuffs everywhere, understand?”
From her position on the ground, Trista called out, “We need to start planning this out. It’s not like we’ve got loads of time left. There’s only a week left of classes.”
“And then we strike,” said Duncan, his fist flying in the air.
“I don’t know how long Lucy and I can hold out,” said Henry, exchanging a worried glance with Lucy. “They get restless this time of night and they make lots of noise.”
“And Desmond, they smell,” said Lucy. “I bathe them twice a day and everything, but it isn’t doing much.”
“If I can deal with it, so can you,” said Desmond. “For your house, Weasley.” With an ornate flourish, he pointed his quill once more at the portrait of Helga Hufflepuff that hung above the fireplace. “What would Lady Hufflepuff do?”
“Not this again,” said Lucy, fuming. “She’d probably throw everyone a very nice feast and see they’re all happy and well fed!”
“So I’m assuming you’re perfectly fine with Gryffindor getting all the glory, then? Or do you perhaps prefer Ravenclaw?” said Desmond. “Or the cabbages?”
Lucy fell silent. “Fine. But I’ll have you know, I’ve been feeling very guilty about all of this. I’ve been having nightmares and anything. I think I don’t deserve my post as a prefect for condoning this. I had a dream last night where Professor Sprout was telling me that I’m the greatest failure as a prefect she’s ever had and it was no wonder I didn’t make Head Girl.”
Everyone rolled their eyes.
“Moving on,” said Desmond. “Since the fated hour is close at hand, Fawcett, and I’ve been planning how we’ll be splitting up.”
“Splitting up?” said Nicholas. “I thought – “
“Though I’d’ve liked to do all of it together, we only have a one hour window when everyone’s off to breakfast” said Desmond. “It’s best if we work apart. So we’ve been debating the most efficient way to split into groups. We’ll be split into two groups.”
“There’s three houses,” Nicholas reminded him.
“I know,” Desmond said, waving him away. “We’ll be in two teams and we’ll have to take down two houses on our own. Then we reunite for the third.”
“How’re we splitting up?” asked Trista.
“Boys and girls,” offered Henry.
“No, we’ve got to distribute it so we’ve got a good mix of talents,” said Priscilla. “And we already know that Lucy and Henry’ve got to be in different groups because they’re in charge of our little friends.”
Lucy groaned. Everyone ignored her.
“So here’s how it’s going to be,” said Priscilla. “Group 1. Me, Jordan, Weasley and St. Clair. We’re taking down Gryffindor. Group 2. Nicholas, June, Podmore and Bates. You’re going to have to handle Slytherin.”
“Are you mad?” asked Nicholas incredulously. “I can’t just waltz into Slytherin with these three!” She swept her hands to where June, Duncan and Henry sat, ogling each other cluelessly. “We’ll be caught in seconds! As if anyone, even those dim idiots, would believe Bates could pass as a Slytherin.”
“Look,” said Desmond, incensed. “We split it up into what we thought was the best. You four’ve got a much better chance sneaking into Slytherin than we four do. Every bloody Slytherin knows who I am, considering my potions’re the reason half of them even passed their OWLs. Lucy’s got a bullseye on her back – she’s a Weasley, after all and looks like one too. Priscilla just commentated their last match and insulted the hell out of them. And Trista just beat them in the Quidditch final. The four of us’ve got no chance of getting in there without being stopped.”
“Polyjuice Potion,” said Nicholas, throwing up his hands. “I dunno – some Concealment spells – Priscilla, you’ve got to know some – ”
“We don’t have time for Polyjuice Potion,” said Priscilla. “And as far as disguises go, we’re planning some. Just some basic things. They definitely won’t be enough for us to just prance into Slytherin if they know who we are.” She put her hand on Nicholas’s cheek. “Look, you’ve got June, Henry and Duncan. I chose these arrangements for a reason and you’re just going to have to trust me. I know you can handle it. But remember you’ve only got half an hour in Slytherin’s Common Room. We’ll have the same time for Gryffindor’s.” She turned to the rest of the group. “And when Gryffindor and Slytherin are down, we go in for Ravenclaw.”
“But I’ve got something that’s been bothering me about all of this,” said Henry slowly. “How do we even know we’ll be left alone in these Common Rooms for a whole hour? What if someone just walks in on us?”
“That’s where my arrangements come in handy,” said Priscilla. “And NEWT Charms. Both Nicholas and I know some excellent repelling spells. Once we get in, we just hang around until a few people leave for breakfast and the Common Room’s empty. Then we use a repelling spell to secure the premise for a set amount of time.”
“Won’t a huge barrier around a Common Room be obvious?” said Lucy.
“You have no faith in me,” said Priscilla. “And it doesn’t work like that. There’s no giant physical barrier. It’s an invisible line. If you’re upstairs and try coming downstairs, if you pass the barrier, you’ll forget why you were coming down, feel very tired and go back up to sleep again.”
“It might be worth it to cast a simple Sleeping Charm on everyone first so no one walks in on us,” said Desmond. “And as you can see, this’s all well thought out. Or most of it is. Get ready. Get packed, study for your exams, tell your mummy you live her and brush your teeth twice a day. Because it’s all about to begin very soon."
Author's Note: And there it is! We're one chapter away from the end, everyone!
Thank you so, so much for sticking with me this far. Hopefully this chapter has been a good one. The next chapter features the Hufflepuffs taking their exams, pranking the three houses and leaving Hogwarts (and you). I hope some of the backstory on June's mum and her wand were interesting. Much love to you if you stuck out with me this far. One chapter to go. I'll update soon, I promise.
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