Chapter 19 : Finals and Farewells
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The one downside to flying with Mandy was that she was using an old school broom, which was a lot slower than mine. Several times I noticed I was slowing down, and turned around to find Mandy holding on to the tail of my broom, laughing. Eventually she said we could either trade brooms or she would keep holding on to my broom, so I consented to switch for a little while (and I held on to the tail of her broom this time to show her how annoying she was).
“Do you remember when James was flying through the hallway on two brooms?” I asked Mandy, as we touched down on the grass.
“Yeah, I saw him going by,” she said. “It was like skiing in the air.”
“Skiing? That Muggle sport where they race down hills on sticks?”
Mandy laughed. “Yes, although I promise it’s more interesting than that.”
“I’m going to try,” I said suddenly, then glanced around, hoping no one was watching.
“You’re going to try what James was doing? Standing on two brooms?”
“Yeah,” I said, as I positioned one foot on each broom. I took off, and as I was going slowly enough, Mandy’s broom wasn’t any worse than mine. I had my arms out to either side and was sort of hunched over, but I was doing it!
“Go faster!” shouted Mandy. “And you’re only three feet above the ground, that’s lame.”
I started going faster, lost my balance, and tumbled off the brooms, which sailed on another few feet and then landed. Mandy ran over to me, beside herself with laughter. “I hope you’re okay,” she said, “because I can’t stop laughing.”
I rolled over. “Why did I do this again?” I asked, massaging my head.
“I don’t know,” she agreed. “You need a professional to show you how it’s done… like me.” She picked up my broom and stood on it.
“No, you have to do it with two brooms!”
“Are you kidding? The school one’s terrible. Anyway, I’m demonstrating surfing, not skiing.”
I raised my eyebrows. Mandy grinned. “To you, it’s a Muggle sport where they stand on a board on the water.” She took off, and lasted a lot longer standing on the broom than I did.
“Thank you, thank you,” she said, bowing to her imaginary audience as she got off the broom.
“Show-off,” I said, but I was smiling. After about a quarter of an hour practicing standing on the broom, we gave up and started to head back inside.
As we passed by the Quidditch pitch, Ravenclaw’s team came out, having just finished their practice. There was nowhere to hide from Luke so I decided I’d finally just deal with it. When we reached the castle, the team split up to walk their separate ways, and Luke came over to me and Mandy.
Luke greeted us politely and asked us how we were doing, then told me, “I haven’t seen you in ages!”
“Yeah, err… I’ve been really busy studying for exams.” It might have been a reasonable excuse if he hadn’t seen me wandering over the grounds with my broom. But I couldn’t say anything rude to him – he didn’t deserve that. He was too nice. However, I still didn’t particularly want to speak with him.
“Yeah, those are really soon, but they’ll be over soon enough.”
“How’s your Quidditch team doing? Are you set for the final game this weekend?” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mandy start walking away.
“Pretty well. Potter’s got a good team though, it’ll be tough, but you never know.”
“Good luck,” I said.
“Thanks. Listen, I’m sorry if it seemed like I was avoiding you forever after we broke up. I hope we can just put that behind us and be friends again.”
“You were avoiding me?” I laughed with relief, and then admitted, “Really, don’t feel bad about it, I was avoiding you too.”
We laughed at how ridiculous we had been, and then told me he should go. I turned to go back to the Slytherin common room and felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. I was actually glad I’d stopped to talk with him, and gotten closure. Enough time had passed since our relationship ended that I thought it would be fine between us now – the days when I was always trying to impress him and the time when we were dating seemed so long ago. I couldn’t care less now. And it seemed he was over it as well.
As it turned out, Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw in the last Quidditch game, so they won the Quidditch Cup. They’d had it for years, so I wasn’t surprised, but I thought it was long since time for another house to have it.
Exams began in two days, so I spent literally the entire weekend in the library. I’d staked out a table for myself in a corner and spread books all over it, and I hardly ever left. I even slept there Saturday night, although that was unintentional; I’d simply fallen asleep and then woken up the following morning with my face stuck to my Charms book.
Mandy and Charlotte visited me on Sunday and asked if I was planning to move there permanently. But my biggest distraction came in the form of the four Gryffindor boys, who came into the library not to study, but to talk and use up my valuable time for last-minute studying. Well, Remus and Peter had come to collect some books, but I could not see any logical reason James and Sirius were there. They stopped by a table where some Gryffindors were studying, and then found my table.
I didn’t look at them as they approached, hoping they’d get the hint and leave. I was unsuccessful, however; they both sat beside me at my table, and James actually moved some of my books off to the side, removing the giant wall of textbooks I had constructed.
“I heard you’re planning to live in here,” said James, as he put his feet up on the table in the space he had just cleared.
“I don’t want to fail my exams,” I reasoned, scowling at his feet. “I wasted time all last week, so I have to make up for it now.”
“I assume you took a break yesterday to watch the finest Quidditch match of the year,” said Sirius. He was leaning back in his chair too, his arm resting on the back of my chair.
“You came to my table to gloat about Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup?” I asked, amused. “Haven’t you got anything better to do?”
Sirius grinned. “We’ve got all the time in the world. You’re taking this much too seriously.”
“Sixth-year exams don’t even matter,” James agreed. “It’s next year we’ll have to worry about.”
I was about to tell them to leave when Remus and Peter joined us. “I’m glad you’re finally taking a break, Melanie,” said Remus, carrying an armful of textbooks. “From what I’ve heard, you haven’t left the library for longer than an hour since yesterday afternoon!”
“That’s not entirely true, I saw her at dinner yesterday,” said Peter.
“I’m not taking any breaks, I need to read this entire book.” I held up my Charms book and attempted to hide behind it again.
“You don’t need to study for Charms, you have enough charm as it is,” said Sirius.
I rolled my eyes. “What, have you been getting lessons from James on cheesy one-liners?”
James made a noise in protest, and Sirius asked, “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“Well, thanks for visiting, but I really am trying to study.” I looked back at my textbook. Sirius’s arm moved from the back of my chair to my shoulder, and I shrugged it off immediately. James cleared his throat loudly.
“Are you flirting with me?” I asked Sirius incredulously, my mind suddenly replaying that conversation I’d heard between Sirius and James.
“Yep,” said Sirius. “But I do this to all my friends, see?” He slung his other arm around James’s shoulders, and ruffled his hair for good measure. Then he laughed at me.
“Find someone else to annoy,” I suggested.
Sirius yawned. “You’re no fun.”
I began moving my textbooks back around me like a bulwark, and retreated to my studying. Remus got James and Sirius to leave with him, and I mouthed “Thank you” to him as they walked off. He waved with the hand that was not carrying six books, and they disappeared out the door.
I watched them go with mild irritation, not even entirely sure why this visit bothered me so much. Slowly, an unwelcome thought came to me… was I actually disappointed that Sirius wasn’t really flirting with me?
Sighing, I bent down over my book again and continued reading about the Aguamenti charm.
True to my word, I spent the remainder of the weekend in the library, although I finally left my post at my table Sunday night, and slept in my bed. I woke up early on Monday, crammed for Ancient Runes, and then went off to take the exam. It went well; although I was sure I mistranslated a few sentences, I didn’t want to look them up afterwards to check. It was better to not think about it.
I ran into Charlotte that afternoon, and I hadn’t actually seen her for most of the weekend, as I’d been in my self-imposed isolation in the library. “Oh, who are you? Do you live here?” she asked as I walked into the common room.
“Your sense of humor astonishes me,” I said, sitting beside her on the sofa. “How were your exams today?”
“Oh, fine… I had Divination after lunch though, and it was complete rubbish. I ended up predicting my own imminent death – that’s what I saw in the cards – and then Professor Sage got all emotional and said she’d seen it coming since my first day of class, and was so proud of my Seeing ability.”
“I’ve been telling you for ages that class was worthless.”
“Yeah, she’s about a hundred years old; she might have lost her touch. Hector reckons he’d drop the class if he could, but we did sign up to continue it when we took it this year…”
“I feel that way about Potions. But I don’t know what I want to do with my life, so hopefully it’ll pay off when I decide.”
The door of the common room opened and Alanna walked in, her nose in a book, and she walked through to the staircase without looking at anyone. Mandy was behind her, and when she saw Charlotte and me, she came over to join us. “That was you over the weekend,” Mandy told me, gesturing to Alanna, who was now walking up the stairs and still not looking where she was going.
I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t that bad; I didn’t bring my books with me when I left the library.”
“That’s because you didn’t leave the library,” said Charlotte.
“You two think you’re so funny, but at least I’m going to pass Charms tomorrow.”
As I reviewed for my Charms exam, I recalled Sirius’s ridiculous comments to me while I’d been studying Charms in the library that weekend. Even though we’d be at Hogwarts for about a week and a half longer before going home, I just decided I just didn’t want to deal with the distraction of men any more. They were really much more trouble than they were worth. Earlier this year it had taken months of trying to impress Luke in order to get his attention, and for some reason Sirius was after me now, though it was the last thing I wanted.
I decided to help Sirius make up his mind about me – I did not fancy him at all, so my goal was to make him realise that he didn’t fancy me either because I was too weird and ridiculous. It was the end of the year, I didn’t care what people thought of me. Charlotte and Mandy were utterly confused when I walked down to breakfast on Thursday wearing a hat that resembled a miniature troll.
“Where in Merlin’s name did you get that?” asked Charlotte, making a face. “It looks like vomit.”
“I found it in your wardrobe,” I lied. She laughed, shaking her head, and poured herself a bowl of cereal.
I was thankful my friends were so tolerant. Although they made it clear they thought I was out of my mind, they still didn’t mind being seen with me even while I was wearing my hideous troll hat. We reviewed Transfiguration at breakfast and then went off to take the exam.
Of course, James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter were directly in front of us in the queue outside the classroom, and, of course, Mandy began talking with them the instant we walked up, although I would have liked her not to. I used the opportunity to talk to Remus while Mandy was occupying Sirius’s attention.
“Is this your new style, then?” asked Remus, glancing at my hat.
“Yes, I’m thinking I’ll start a trend,” I said. “Are you ready for the exam?”
“I hope so,” he said. “Do you—”
“I definitely am,” interrupted Sirius, who had showed up a second before and decided to barge into our conversation. Mandy and then James followed him.
“You didn’t study at all, did you?” I asked.
“Not much – you see, we’re brilliant at Transfiguration,” said James.
“What’s the deal with the hat?” asked Sirius. “Is that supposed to look like a giant bogey?”
“The stress of exams has got to me,” I said serenely. “I’ve gone crazy.”
“I’ll say,” said Peter, looking a bit worried.
“It’s her man-repellent,” Mandy explained. “Doesn’t look like it’s working.”
“It’s working for me,” said James. “I think I’d rather just go take the exam than stand here talking to you.”
“If it doesn’t work, try an Acromantula hat next time,” Remus suggested, laughing, as Professor McGonagall finally opened the door and the queue started to file in.
I made a face. “Good idea, but I’d scare myself if I looked in the mirror.”
Before we knew it, we were walking down to the horseless carriages that would take us to the Hogwarts Express and home for the summer. And the next time we’d be back, it would be the last year at Hogwarts – the last year we didn’t have to worry about jobs, the last year we could still be carefree kids, the last year we were still really protected from Voldemort. After that, who knew?
Mandy, Charlotte and I approached an empty carriage. As Charlotte got in, I looked back at the castle, and then at the front of the carriage. I had never really thought anything of it before, but now I knew it was actually pulled by a thestral. I reached out to touch the thestral I knew was there but could not see. I eventually found it; I wasn’t sure whether it felt silky or scaly or both. It was very weird.
“Mel, are you coming?” asked Mandy’s voice from inside the carriage.
“Yeah,” I said, stepping back from the invisible thestral and hopping into the carriage beside my friends. We watched Hogwarts disappear out of sight out the window, and then started discussing how old we felt as we just had one year left. On the train the three of us found a compartment together with Hector and Russell. We passed the time by sharing our various plans (or lack thereof) for the summer, and then made plans to all meet up and see the Hobgoblins concert in July.
The train ride back to King’s Cross was, as always, too short. As the Hogwarts Express puffed slowly into the station, on board the train was a flurry of activity as people said their last-minute goodbyes for the summer and got their belongings in order.
I lugged my trunk out of the compartment and into the hallway. Several doors away I saw Mulciber talking to Mark and his surly dark haired friend, whose name I had finally learned was Camilla. I wondered vaguely if Mulciber was trying to recruit first years to be Death Eaters.
My thoughts were interrupted when someone bumped into me, causing me to drop Mercury’s cage, and he screeched. Vanessa Saltz brushed past and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry you were taking up the entire doorway. I didn’t mean to bump into you.” Before I could do anything, she continued walking and pushed through another doorway just as Althea Seward was trying to walk through; Althea timidly stepped back. I picked up Mercury’s cage and stared after Vanessa, while Hector, who had left the compartment after me, called her a few choice words under his breath.
I dragged my stuff out and walked toward the door. “Hey,” I said to Althea. She just smiled in response. “Don’t let her push you around, you’ve got to stand up for yourself!” I said.
“She doesn’t upset me. I’m in no hurry, it’ll only take me about three more seconds to get off the train.” Althea smiled at me, and I considered that maybe I’d been wrong about her being weak – I admired her quiet strength, and how she accepted life’s struggles with grace. She continued fussing with her trunk, and Hector saw her and went to help. He tried to make conversation, but she just stared at her feet as he took the trunk from her and was too shy to say anything but “thank you.”
As we all stepped off the train, the goodbye hugs continued as people went off to find their families, and the platform was full of the sounds of people excitedly talking, and of owls hooting and cats meowing. I wished Althea a good summer, hugged Hector and then Charlotte before they went off to greet their families, and then found Mandy again and we waited as long as possible to leave each other.
I saw the Gryffindors near the other end of the platform. James was speaking to someone who must have been his father – he looked just like James, only much older. I met Sirius’s eyes as I was looking over, and he grinned and waved. I waved back at him, and Mandy nudged me hard in the ribs.
“Ouch! I was just waving,” I said to her. “I’m not going to say goodbye to you then, if you’re just going to punch me!”
She laughed, and gave me a hug. “I see my parents, so I should get going,” she said. “And I think I see yours, too.” I turned around, and sure enough, there were Mandy’s parents. Her father was grinning and looking around at all the students filing off the train with owls and trunks and broomsticks in hand. It seemed that it never got old for him, even after the many times he had come to drop off or pick up Mandy at the station. My father was standing a few feet away, watching him with disgust.
Mandy’s parents came up and hugged her; we talked for a few minutes and then as she started to walk away with them she turned back to tell me, “I’ll see you sometime this summer – I’ll write to you!”
“Okay! Bye Mandy!” I said, waving.
Finally I turned to meet my own parents, who were by now probably tired of waiting for me. Dad stopped glaring at Mandy’s father and glared at me instead. “Still hanging around with that Muggle friend of yours?” he asked.
What a great way to start the summer… I already wanted to go back to Hogwarts.
A/N: Thank you for reading! I'd love a review – they really make my day, even if it’s only a short one, or what your favourite food is, or an answer to this riddle: What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
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