A/N: Here it is... the final chapter of the revamped It Happens in Threes. I hope you've all enjoyed this story! Please leave me a review when you reach the end, and make sure you check out the author's note at the bottom of the page!
- CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE -
What had passed between Fred and me the night before felt like a dream. When I faced him the next day the tension between us was unspoken. We were perfectly able to interact normally on the surface, but I knew both of our minds were back on the cot in the hospital wing. As far as I could tell, George had no idea about what had happened between us, and until Fred and I could discuss it alone I didn't want to bring it up.
The three of us had discussed the previous night's events regarding Sirius Black from the moment I had made it out of the hospital wing. Although I didn't have any information regarding Black's escape, the two of them still hung on my every word. I wished I hadn't been out cold for the majority of the night, but aside from Harry, Ron and Hermione there wasn't a single student in the castle who knew more than I did. The speculations about what had happened were circling through the school. It had become common knowledge that Hagrid's Hippogriff Buckbeak had also escaped a terrible fate. The poor thing had been sentenced to death by the Ministry of Magic, but had miraculously disappeared mere minutes before he was to be killed. I had wondered whether Buckbeak's escape had anything to do with Black being freed, but Harry had vehemently insisted he didn't know what I was talking about when I asked him.
Professor Lupin had announced that he was leaving his teaching post. It had come as a blow to the majority of the school population, but there was no denying that parents would be furious when they found out a werewolf lay within the same walls as their children. Lupin didn't have a choice but to step down, or he'd risk an inquiry from the Ministry.
Overall, despite the gloom over Lupin's decision and the general fright that everyone was feeling over Black's escape, the castle was generally cheerful. The Dementors had been removed from school property, leaving students to roam the castle grounds freely during the beautiful summer weather. The common room and corridors were nearly always deserted as everyone flooded outdoors to enjoy their last Hogwarts hours in the sunshine. Fred, George and I were amongst the only people still inside, hiding away in the kitchens while the others took advantage of the final Hogsmeade visit of the year.
"So he's just vanished?" George asked, gaping at me as he picked apart a forgotten treacle tart on his plate. I had just finished telling him about the encounter I had had with Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew. The twins had been appalled to hear that Pettigrew had escaped after they had understood the full story of his bloodied past.
"Gone," I confirmed. "He transformed and ran off."
"Scabbers," George muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. "The whole time he was living in our house!"
"But where has he gone?" Fred asked. His eyes met mine and our gazes held for a moment too long. I felt my breath catch in my throat.
"Merlin knows," I said with a shrug. Fred's eyes were searching. I couldn't bring myself to look away.
"You don't think he could go back to… to You-Know-Who, do you?" George asked.
"Well no one knows where You-Know-Who is, do they?" Fred replied, tearing his eyes away from mine. I felt an immediate sense of relief. I hoped George hadn't noticed the awkwardness between us. "How d'you reckon Pettigrew would find him?"
"Say he does," I said, "I can't imagine You-Know-Who would be very happy to see him. Pettigrew's spent over a decade in hiding. He faked his own death to avoid admitting he was actually involved with the Dark Arts."
Regardless of how much we speculated, none of us could have any way of knowing where Pettigrew had run off to—neither could we come up with a feasible explanation for Sirius Black's miraculous escape. It was probably for the best that we didn't know the full truth. The fewer who knew, the safer it would be for Black to go into hiding.
When the three of us had exhausted the topic of Sirius Black it was nearly time for dinner. I had been on pins and needles waiting for the girls to arrive back so I could talk to them about Fred. When Katie and Alicia had returned with Lee I made a point of excusing myself from the twins to seek out the girls. I was bursting with the need to talk to someone about what had happened, and I was by no means willing to speak to George… or Lee.
The two of them reacted predictably. They were both equally stunned when I recalled the encounter in the hospital wing, but as the story progressed the surprise seemed to wear off quickly.
"So tell us again what happened," Katie urged.
The three of us sat under a big willow tree next to the lake as the sun sunk lower in the sky. We had taken a few handfuls of food with us to munch on while the rest of the school enjoyed dinner in the Great Hall.
"I've told you half a dozen times already," I protested, although I didn't have the heart to stop talking about it. I could feel myself flushing up as I recounted the annoyance Fred had shown when Ron had interrupted us kissing.
"I just can't believe it," Katie said. "After what happened the last time… I was sure it was over when nothing came of it."
"Why hasn't he said anything to you about it since?" Alicia asked.
"We haven't been alone since," I said.
"So why are you sitting here talking to us?" Katie asked. "You should be getting him alone so he can pluck up the courage and talk to you properly."
"Do you think Fred would actually do that?" I said with a frown. "I already thought he was interested once this year, and it turned out to be a fluke."
"A fluke?" Alicia said in disbelief. "Please, Juliet. That was not a fluke. Fred's daft but he couldn't be more obvious."
"Normally I'd agree with you," I said, "but when it comes to this I don't think there's anyone less obvious than Fred."
"You can't be serious," Katie laughed. "He's snogged you twice already and hasn't so much as made eyes at another bird since the start of the year!"
"Bird, Kates?" I said. "Ladylike, really."
"My point is Fred clearly fancies you," she said plainly. "You should talk to him about it."
My stomach gave an unpleasant lurch. Confrontation—especially in the case of relationships—was not something I thrived at.
I sighed. "I know I should. I've just got a horrible case of the nerves over the whole thing."
"This is Fred we're talking about," Alicia pointed out. "He may make a lot of silly girls in this castle weak in the knees, but I would never have guessed you'd react this way."
I let out a laugh despite myself. "You're right… I don't know what's come over me."
"You'll figure it out," Katie encouraged. "Just… whatever happens, don't give him too much satisfaction. He drives the rest of us bonkers at the best of times."
The last remaining hours at Hogwarts before summer hit passed almost too quickly for me to register. The fifth years were receiving their O.W.L.s back and I was pleased to see I had managed passing grades in History of Magic, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology and an Outstanding in Transfiguration and Defence Against the Dark Arts. I had even managed an Acceptable in Potions… although I had failed my practical examination, the written portion was enough to pass me. I had, however, failed Muggle Studies with a Poor. I had been a bit embarrassed until Fred had shown me his Dreadful Herbology mark. Overall I was pleased. It was a relief to have achieved as many O.W.L.s as I had.
At the end of the year feast Gryffindor was awarded the House Cup. After the excitement of winning the Quidditch Cup, the House Cup spread elation amongst our house. The frightening events of the school year seemed all but forgotten as our last days came to a close.
It wasn't long before Alicia, Katie and I were desperately fitting some last-minute items in to our trunks for the train-ride home. Amongst my usual items of cloaks, robes, weekend wear, Quidditch equipment, textbooks and school supplies, I also had a shove quite a few new items into my trunk. Hurriedly packing up my belongings I found a few scattered candies that were labeled with a hand-written W, a ball of Perception Putty that was hairy with fluff from my clothing, several broken quills and my supply of Animagus potion for the summer. Everything went into my trunk and was forced shut.
"All right, I think that's everything," I said to Alicia and Katie, who were both trying to stuff a few more forgotten items in to their bags.
"Al…most…done," Alicia grunted. She was having great difficulty fitting the last of her books in amongst her clothing and Quidditch gear. Her honey brown hair was flying around with the effort.
"I guess we'd better get a move-on then," Katie suggested as she did a quick scan of the room to ensure we weren't forgetting anything.
"The blokes will be waiting," I agreed.
After a final glance under my four-poster bed, I took hold of my trunk and began to drag it out of the door and down to the common room.
Fred, George and Lee were already heading out of the portrait hole door when we reached the bottom of the staircase. We hurried to catch up to them, reaching the door just before it swung closed.
"Until next year," George greeted the Fat Lady, giving her a cheeky grin and a wave.
"Not many of those left," she replied, looking pleased as she held a goblet in one fat hand. "Just a few short years and I'll be rid of you troublemakers for good. I'll drink to that!"
As the six of us made our way through the castle for the last time of the term, my eyes were instinctively on Fred. Despite my conversation with Katie and Alicia, I hadn't managed to muster up the courage to talk to him about what had happened between us. More than ever I was feeling the desire to sort everything out with him, but I still feared it may be for the best to just let it go. It may be cowardly to say, but imagining myself pursuing a relationship with Fred was terrifying. I'm ashamed to admit I preferred to wait for him to make the first move in striking that particular conversation.
"Oh, I'd almost forgotten!" George said, turning to grin at me as we reached the horseless carriages. "Juliet, did Fred give you the good news?"
Fred smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand as we began climbing into our carriage.
"Merlin! You're right, George, I plum forgot!"
George looked appalled and took a seat down next to me.
"Well if Fred here wasn't such a knob, he would have remembered to tell you that Dad has managed to get us tickets to the Quidditch World Cup this summer," George stated.
"And we're inviting you to come along," Fred continued, grinning at me from his seat across from me.
"Lee's going to be there too, and I suspect you two girls are going as well?" George asked Alicia and Katie.
"I won't be," Katie said, "I'll be gone all summer visiting family in Paris."
"Pff," George said dismissively. "If you'd rather spend time with family than watch the Quidditch World Cup then you're daft, Kates."
"You're going to miss out on good fun," Lee said with a grin on his face. I could almost see the pictures swimming in his mind.
"What d'you say Jules?" George asked, ignoring Alicia as she launched into her own story about why she wouldn't be going to the game either.
"Well of course I'd love to!" I said excitedly as Alicia looked put out at being unobserved by George. "Thanks for the invite."
"Brilliant," the blokes said in unison.
As our travel scenery changed from a horseless carriage to a scarlet steam engine, I basked in the carefree joy that came from having the six of us together. The year had taken me through many ups and downs, and it was nice to see that despite the chaos there was still a sense of steadiness within our group of tight-knit friends.
When the train came to a stop at King Cross station, I felt a sadness wash over me. It was difficult to say goodbye after spending so many consecutive days together. As we all gathered our things and hurried off of the train we gave each other our goodbyes. Katie ran off to find her parents and Alicia quickly spotted her older sister waving her over from the parking lot. Lee slapped Fred, George and I on the shoulders and bustled off into the crowd leaving the three of us to find our respective families.
"Are you going to come stay with us over the summer, Jules?" George asked me as the three of us rolled our trunks along behind us.
"Ah," I said, pretending to sound strained. "I'm not sure I can take much more of the two of you."
"Ah, we love you too," Fred laughed, grabbing my free hand in his. I looked down at our entwined fingers and frowned. It was only just a year ago that such a simple gesture would have been meaningless between us. After all that we had been through, however, it felt like it meant much more.
I caught his gaze and felt myself grin at the flirtation in his eyes. If there's one thing that could be said about Fred Weasley, it was that he continuously kept me on my toes.
My parents were waiting for me with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who were already greeting Ron and a very excited-looking Ginny.
"Oh, here they are now!" Mrs. Weasley said, waving us toward her. "I'd thought you'd gotten lost!"
She pulled Fred and George into a hug, placing a kiss on each of their cheeks—to which they responded with identical groans.
"Juliet, dear, you've made it back in one piece," my dad joked as I greeted my parents warmly. "I consider that a fair accomplishment considering the trouble you three no doubt got into this term."
"You've got no faith in me," I joked.
"You don't have to worry," George said, leaning over to give my shoulder a squeeze. "I made sure to keep her out of trouble. Can't say the same for Fred, mind. He was running amok with dear Juliet all year."
Fred shot his brother a dark look and I gave a nervous laugh. I hadn't forgotten how intuitive my mother had been the last time she had seen Fred and I together.
"Well Juliet, you'd better get going. There's no reason for you three to have to wait around for the rest of our lot to get here." Mrs. Weasley said to my parents and me. "But do be sure to come visit over the summer."
"You can count on it," I said, smirking at Fred and George.
"Alright then, come now, give us another hug."
"Come on Molly, you'll squeeze the life right out of them," Mr. Weasley said as his wife moved from hugging me to pulling Harry into a sort of death-grip.
Everyone shared a laugh before the large party began to split up. Harry headed off towards the Dursleys and Hermione found her parents in the crowd of excited students and families. I bade farewell to the Weasleys and turned to leave, following my parents through the pack of people.
I stopped, letting my parents get ahead and turned to look behind me. I was surprised, but very pleased to see it was Fred who was calling me back.
"What is it, Fred?" I asked, allowing an excited smile to creep onto my face despite my better judgment.
He stared at me a moment as if he had something to say, but as I watched he seemed to falter.
"Fred?" I asked when he failed to speak.
"I just, wanted to—"
"What?" I asked, and I unconsciously placed my hand on his chest.
There was an awkward pause where we both looked down at my hand before our eyes met up again. Fred gaped at me for a minute before clearing his throat and looking away in embarrassment.
"…remind you to write to me," he said.
I let out a breathy sigh, unsure if I felt more relieved or disappointed. I let my hand slip from his chest to rest awkwardly at my side.
"Of course I'll write, why wouldn't I?" I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice.
"Just didn't want you to forget," he said with a sheepish shrug.
"Well I promise I won't forget," I replied, feeling increasingly stupid. "I'll see you soon, Fred."
He gave me a lopsided smile and enveloped me in one last hug. I wanted very much to kiss him, but squashing down the sudden impulse I settled on giving him a peck on the cheek.
"Er… bye," I stammered, feeling my face heat up.
He grinned back at me and bent to press his lips to my temple. "See you, Jules."
With that, Fred turned and ran back to the group of red-heads waiting for him, leaving me with the suspicious feeling that there was something he hadn't told me.
A/N: Thank you to each and every person who has left me a review! I've had a lot of ups and downs with this story, and I'm happy to say I'm finally finished with it. I don't think it's the best writing, by any means, but I am proud of it. As I said in the very first chapter of this story, I began writing it when I was only twelve, and I've managed to see it through to the end. At the very least it has helped me improve my writing skills and hopefully given each of you a bit of entertainment while you pass the time online.
Please leave me a review as I love to hear what you have to say. In addition, if you're ready for more the sequel to It Happens in Threes is already up (and completed!). It is called The Plot Thickens. So if you want to see what happens next, by all means, go visit my profile now!
Thanks again for your support and, as always, happy reading!