Upstairs in her room, Emily sat and sobbed quietly. Her first torrent of tears had slowly dwindled, now hitching off in tiny sobs. Tired and weary, she felt a cheerless numbness unfold over her. She welcomed this numbness eagerly, wanting the nothingness it brought. She didn't want to think no more, thinking just made her head hurt and she was sick and tired of constantly hurting. One last tear slowly trickled down her cheek and wiping it roughly away, she threw herself down on the bed and stared up at blindly at the ceiling. Her eyes closed and wrapping her arms around herself, she turned on to her side - and alone and impassive, she waited for emptiness to come.
Tap tap, tap...
Tap, tap, tap...
Emily opened her eyes to a soft tapping. I must have fallen asleep, she thought groggily, rubbing hard at her eyes with the palms of hands. Her head thumped mercilessly, as she sat up, turned, and placed her feet on the floor. She sat still for a moment, trying desperately to remember what had caused the wretched feelings that still lingered inside her - and slowly, the memories came trickling back. She groaned out loud, wishing she were still asleep, and as she remembered Harry's words - her head began to pound all the more. "Damn it," she whispered out, asking no one in particular. "Why do I have to remember? - Why, can't I just forget?"
And, as Emily thought over things, a dreamy voice joined in with the still insistent tapping. "Emily," the voice called softly. "If you want to ignore me that's fine - I'll go away! Just tap back once for yes, and I'll go - and tap twice for no, and I'll stay..."
Emily, recognising the voice, couldn't help but let out a small laugh at the absurdness of the words. "Come on in, Luna," she called out, just loud enough to be heard.
"You have to tap once..."
"Luna, don't be silly, I said come in!" Emily turned her face to the door, waiting for Luna to enter, but as the seconds ticked by with no turn of the doorknob, she admitted defeat. Stretching across the bed, and emitting a disgruntled sigh, she rapped on the bedstead, loud and hard; the door immediately swung open and in walked Luna.
Luna, Emily noted - hadn't changed much from when she had last seen her, back at Hogwarts; she still held that air of distinct dottiness about her. Her wide, blue eyes still held that dreamy, faraway look and she still, Emily saw, wore her old Butterbeer-cork necklace. Thankfully, though, Emily thought - the old, radish earrings were gone, only to be replaced with dangling pinecones. The only drastic change in Luna was her hair. Whereas, before it had been long and a dirty blonde colour, now it was half long - one side being cut close to head and the other still flowing down her back in long waves. The dirty blonde colour could still be seen, but now a wash of the colour pink could be seen running through it. No doubt, Luna thought this to be the highest of bohemian fashion, and this caused a genuine smile to flicker on Emily's lips.
"So, Em," she asked dreamily, sitting down beside her. "Why are Harry and that Malfoy boy fighting over you? I suppose they're both in love with you...." Her voice trailed off and she turned to face Emily, all questioning eyed and with a sincere smile.
Emily, disconcerted by Luna's words, could only blink and stare back at her. "F - Fighting over me?" was all that Emily could manage to stammer out; the thought of Draco and Harry fighting over her depressed her.
"Oh, yes," Luna replied simply. "Tempers were getting frayed down there - I thought Harry was going to punch that Malfoy boy at one point...."
"Punch him!" Emily exclaimed loudly, as she wondered what on earth was happening downstairs. "Punch him - over me? Why?" However, she cut her words short - as she knew exactly why they were fighting. Emily, found herself suddenly blushing. "And, Draco?" She probed, dropping her eyes.
"Oh, the Malfoy boy looked ready to do the Cruciatus Curse," Luna answered her brightly. "He looked ever so mad..."
Emily felt a strange warmth flow through her at these words, and a bewildering sense of joy took over her.
Luna continued, adding on in her own uniquely, accurate way. "Do you like that Malfoy boy? Harry always hated him. I couldn't say if I liked him or not - not really knowing him that is! I always felt he might have had a sad home life or something - for he was quite the bully wasn't he, and bullies are normally quite insecure about things underneath it all, are they not? Hmmn, I guess I feel a little sorry for him..." Luna trailed off again and stared expectantly at Emily.
Emily stared back at her, gob smacked by her rush of words. She opened her mouth once or twice, similar to a goldfish swimming in a bowl, and struggled to find an answer. Really, she thought, bemusedly. Luna was just the most - confounding person! Every word she had just said was spot on - embarrassingly so! Finally, Emily opened her mouth to say the only thing she could think of. "Don't let Draco hear you feeling sorry him, he wouldn't appreciate it!"
"No, I suppose he wouldn't," Luna said cheerfully. "So, are you going to come downstairs now?"
Emily, just stared back at her - feeling oddly displaced and an uncomfortable silence fell.
Meanwhile, downstairs in the lounge, a conflict - of monstrous proportions was brewing. Green eyes met with pale grey from across the table; both eyes were narrowed with intent, both eyes watched the other warily. The hawk nosed, greasy haired man sat watching the two boys, with a look of weary contempt.
"I am not going there with him - I'd rather face the new Dark Lord with an army of werewolves behind him - than go anywhere with him! -"
"Do not underestimate the power of the new Dark Lord, Draco - you are in danger and must take the appropriate measures -"
"Oh, believe me Severus; I'm not underestimating the man. After all, I, if anyone, know just how dangerous he is - but I'd rather face him than have Potter accompany me to Hogwarts! And, in case this hasn't been noted before, I'd rather not go back to bloody Hogwarts at all!" Draco's rant came to an abrupt halt and, through narrowed eyes; he glared across the table at Harry. Harry glared back.
Across the table, Harry sat with his arms folded, defiantly, across his chest; he also hated the direction this conversation was going in, and opening his mouth, he added his two pennies worth of impartial wisdom with a very un-Harry like smirk. "What the hell makes you thing I want to go any where with you, ferret boy! Personally, I would rather face a thousand Dementors, waiting to give me a good night kiss, than go anywhere with you."
"Very amusing, Potty - I can't breathe for laughing! Oh, and don't try to be a Slytherin - it really doesn't work for you -"
"I wouldn't want to be a sneaky Slytherin, Malfoy," Harry snarked back, his anger starting to rise. "Who would actually want to be a Slytherin except for a prat like you? I even told the Sorting Hat so..."
"I'm warning you, Potter," exclaimed Draco, rising from his seat, and then pausing. "What do you mean about the Sorting Hat? You would never have made a Slytherin, you prissy Gryffindor!"
"TAKE THAT BACK!" Harry shouted, also rising from his seat and reaching for his wand....
"ENOUGH," Snape bellowed, also rising. "Enough of this nonsense! I will not have you acting in this manner - you will desist immediately, do you understand, IMMEDIATELY!" Snape's hand slammed down hard on to the table, making their mugs of mead jump and spill.
Both boys stood, shaking with anger, and glowering at each other. "Sit," Snape demanded, his eyes burning with determination. "Sit, and desist now!" Draco's eyes flicked to his former professor, and seeing his look of fixed resolve, he sat immediately. Remembering his former years at Hogwarts, Draco knew better than to push him further. Snape was not a man to be crossed; so instead, Draco sat with his jaw clamped tightly, holding back his emotions and drummed his fingers distractedly (and annoyingly) on the table.
Harry, on the other hand, remained standing - and continued to glare at Snape. Snape kept his gaze steady, as if daring the boy to say another word. Their eyes remained locked for a minute or so, and Draco sat watching them with curiosity, wondering who would yield first. Their glares remained unflinching for a few moments more, until Harry suddenly shuddered and looked away. Draco let out an amused snort at Harry's defeat and Harry turned his heated glare on him. He looked as if he was going to say something and he opened his mouth to do so, but after a moment, he shut his mouth, as if he had thought the better of it, and sat down.
"Well, now we have done with your adolescent tantrums, I suggest we get on with the situation at hand," Snape swept his gaze over both boys, and seeing no defiance, carried on. "Now, Miss Lovegood told us of The Key and its powers, and has promised us that she will search for this particular article, which, of course, would be quite helpful. It seems the new Dark Lord has an interest in The Key, maybe even has The Key in his possession, so the more information the better -" Snape broke off to look up the dark stairwell, tapping his finger against his cheek impatiently. "Now, when the girls come down, we can discuss this further - However, in the meantime, let us discuss the events of the -"
"I can go and fetch the girls down, I don't mind," Harry interrupted, already half way out of his chair.
Draco snorted at him, ready with a retort, but before he could say anything Snape cut him off. "Now, Potter -I'm sure the ladies will delight us with their presence soon. Let us discuss things further - The Dark Lord is -"
"Dangerous, highly dangerous, and has it in for me, and we can defeat him by constant talking," interrupted Draco, in an insolent drawl. Snape shot him a venomous look, and Draco dully rolled his eyes and shut up. Both boys shut out Snape's repeated words and fell into their own revelries.
Draco sat, sneering, trying his best not to think about anything, anything at all, especially not about Emily and their earlier confessions. Harry sat quietly; his arms, once again, folded across his chest.; thinking about Emily, and thinking about if he would ever get the chance to apologise to her. Both boys let out involuntary sighs and Snape carried on making plans.
The silence was long and drawn out and Emily squirmed uncomfortably inside. She had no idea of what to say; she didn't want to go downstairs, she didn't feel she could handle the pressure of that, just yet. But, she didn't really want to talk about what had happened to Luna either. It wasn't that she didn't trust Luna, it was just she didn't want to talk about it at all - to anyone!
Luna sat beside her, gazing abstractedly around the room. "So," she asked suddenly, breaking the strained silence. "Which one do you love? The Malfoy boy or Harry?"
"I - I don't love either of them," Emily spluttered out, flushing.
"Really," said Luna, getting off the bed and walking towards the wardrobe. "I just thought it was the Malfoy boy, seeing as you keep blushing whenever I mention him." Then she started tapping on the wardrobe with precise little taps.
Emily stared at her back, exasperated! "What, just exactly, are you doing, Luna?" she snapped out irritably, annoyed at Luna's ability to see through her. "Donít tell me you're trying to communicate with a boggart!"
"Well, yes, I am," replied Luna, matter of factly. "There was an article written by Jonas. T. Gibbleton. Who has spent the last fifty-years learning to communicate with boggarts. Basically, over the years, he has set up a complex form of communication, through precise tapping that allows us to get in touch with boggarts - they are really misunderstood, you know -"
Emily's mind boggled. Really, just the thought of it was mind-boggling! However, she felt she had to address one problem. "But, Luna," she asked, honestly baffled. "There isn't any boggart in there!"
"I know," Luna answered with a smile. "I'm just practicing!"
Emily goggled at her, then covered her face with her hands and shook her head. However, she couldn't help the amused smile that twitched at her lips.
"You're not annoyed with me, are you Emily?" Luna asked, moving back towards the bed. "I know that I annoy people sometimes, I really don't mean to..."
Emily felt a little ashamed. She had been rather annoyed with her; she'd been taking her frustration at others and aiming it at her. She sighed. "I'm sorry, Luna," she smiled weekly. "I'm not really annoyed at you - I'm just, annoyed at everything!"
Luna nodded. "That's ok, Emily," she smiled back. "I understand. Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"
And, out of the blue, Emily realised that she did want to talk about it. "It's just all so confusing," she wailed, clutching at her head. "I just don't know what to do anymore!"'
Luna nodded sympathetically. "Yes, all this lovey-dovey stuff does tend to get confusing; maybe you should talk with the Malfoy boy -"
"That just makes things worse," Emily wailed out again. "Every time we talk, things just get more complicated!"
"Well, the Malfoy boy does seem like a complicated person - maybe you should be with Harry instead."
"But, I don't want to be with Harry, he just makes things worse!"
"Yes, I suppose Harry can be pig-headed at times," Luna said earnestly. "Does the Malfoy boy feel the same way about you? - Well, he must do - seeing as he was fighting over you downstairs ... So, what exactly is the problem?"
Emily just stared at her incredulously, not believing what she was hearing. "What's the problem," she parroted. "You're asking me what the problem is."
"Well, yes, I am," she replied, not seeming to notice the disbelieve in Emily's eyes. "You obviously love him, and he seems to care about you - so, I was just wondering...."
Emily cut her off. "Well, there's the problem of the Dark Lord being after him, not forgetting the problem of him being a bigoted git! Oh, and did I mention the fact, that we can't be together 5 seconds with out fighting? And, of course, as Harry very nicely pointed out - we have only known each other for 3 days! Now, does that seem like a worthwhile relationship to you, Luna?"
Luna took a while before answering and she seemed to be thinking deeply, which made her eyes seem all the more dreamy. "Well," she finally answered, sounding very far away. "I wouldn't take much notice of Harry, he's probably just jealous and as for it being only a short time, what does that matter? Love can't be measured by time, nor can we help who we fall in love with, love just happens and only you, Emily, can decide if its worth it ... Do you think he is worth it?"
Emily just stared blankly at Luna, pondering over her words. Did she think he was worth it? Was any of this horrible confusion and pain worth it? Truthfully, the answer was, she did not know. Sighing wearily, she ran her fingers through her hair. "I just don't know that yet, Luna," she told her.
Luna simply looked at her, her eyes seeming rounder than ever. "I think you do," she told Emily quietly, searching her face. Emily flushed, and turned her head. She honestly didn't know how she felt. If Luna thought she knew, well that was fine; Luna often saw things others could not, but for now - Emily knew she couldn't cope with the intensity of her feelings. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Finally, looking up at Luna, she decided to move things on. She reached over and gave Luna a quick hug. Luna's eyes widened slightly, but she beamed happily back at Emily.
"That was nice, Emily," she told her, smiling brightly. "I don't often get hugs."
Emily couldn't help, but let a little giggle. Luna just looked so very pleased and happy and Emily found it was contagious. She gave her head a little shake and stood up. She turned to Luna, who was staring happily back up at her, and grabbed her hand, pulling her up. "C'mon," she said, with a new resolve in her voice. "Let's go and see if they've killed each other yet?"
"Oh, I doubt Mr Snape would let that happen," Luna told her, matter of factly, following Emily to the door. "I suspect Professor Dumbledore would be very upset with him, if he let that happen." Emily snorted out a burst of laughter at these words and, smiling happily at Luna, they both passed through the door.
Draco was sat, slumped uncharacteristically on the table, his head resting in his arms, when he heard feminine footsteps descend the stairs. He lifted his head slightly to see who was coming down, and sure enough, just as he had suspected, he saw it was Emily and Luna making their way down. He pulled himself up from his slouched position, straightened his shoulders and put on his most blasť expression. He need not have bothered though, he noted and feeling rather annoyed as well, as Emily simply ignored him, keeping her eyes firmly glued on Snape. Well, at least she's avoiding Potter's glance too, he gloated to himself, as he watched her taking a seat, trying her best to avoid Potter's pleading eyes.
"Ah, ladies," Snape's voice rang out from across the table. "I'm so glad you finally joined us; now, finally, we may be able to make some progress."
Emily ignored Snape's sarcasm and drew a seat up to the table. She placed her chair a little out of the way of the others, sat, and asked smoothly. "So, what have I missed?"
Snape remained silent, deciding instead to watch Luna - as she picked up the most heaviest looking chair, staggered with it across the floor, placed it beside Emily's, sat down and then beamed across the table at him. Emily noted, with some small pleasure, how taken aback Snape seemed by Luna's behaviour and she couldn't resist a small smirk at his expense. Snape, at that very moment, turned his head in her direction and happened to notice her amusement at his detriment. His lips stretched into thin, cruel smile and he pounced. "And, now that Miss Carlisle has finally graced us with her much eagerly, anticipated presence, shall we begin?" Snape, on seeing a flush creep over Emily's cheeks, smiled smugly to himself, knowing that his jibe had hit his intended mark.
Emily felt her cheeks flame at his words. Angered, she scowled back at him. But, the triumph that gleamed in his eyes cowered her. Giving him one last look of contempt, she averted her eyes and pretended to be immersed in the horribly, patterned tablecloth. From the corner of her eye, she could see Harry sitting across from her and she noted, with some small pleasure, that he looked as uncomfortable as she did. She briefly wondered if Draco looked ill at ease too. However, as her back was turned on him, she couldn't take a sneaky peek at him without being noticed. So, instead, she decided to keep her eyes fixed on the tablecloth, wondering if the eyes she could feel boring into her back of her neck were his.
The table had now fallen into an apprehensive silence. Each and every one of them all lost in their own thoughts with only Luna seeming at ease with the situation.
"Miss Lovegood," enquired Snape, breaking the silence and getting straight to the point. "Would you now like to explain, in greater depth, just what you hinted at earlier?" Emily lifted her eyes to look at Luna and saw she was still beaming happily at Snape.
"Yes, of course I will Mr Snape," answered Luna. "Would, you like me start at the beginning?"
Snape closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, apparently appalled at the notion of being called Mr Snape and, for once, finding himself at a loss for words, he merely nodded his head for her to continue.
Luna, at his cue, started her story, staring disconcertingly at Snape's right ear, all the way through her tale. "Well, you see," she began, "it really started three years ago when dad found out that the ministry were keeping the truth about hinkypunks from us -"
"Miss Lovegood," Snape interrupted her through gritted teeth. "Would you kindly keep to the matter at hand?"
Luna diverted her gaze from Snape's right ear and started addressing his greasy forelock instead. "But, hinkypunks are important Mr Snape..."
"But, they do not concern us now, Miss Lovegood," Snape retorted sharply - and Emily could see his jaw tighten and his knuckles turn white as he rested his chin on top of his clenched fist. Clamping her lips together tightly, she resisted the laughter that threatened to spill from her mouth.
Luna, realising that persisting with the plight of the hinkypunks was not appreciated, shifted her gaze to Snape's left ear and began again. "Well, as I was saying, when dad was searching up the mistreatment of the hinkypunks, he came across this old article about the Key of Loth. I remember it well because dad was so excited about it when he told me." Luna stopped, suddenly, mid flow and all four heads turned to her, expectantly.
"Why have you stopped?" Draco snapped out, waspishly. "What on earth is wrong with you?"
Luna turned her head to stare at his nose. "I stopped in case anyone had any questions," she told him simply, before continuing and making Emily flush to her ears. "I see what you mean Emily; he has got a rather complicated attitude, although he does have fine cheekbones...."
Emily blanked out the rest of Luna's words, feeling utterly mortified. Her cheeks burnt horribly, and all she could do was wish that a werewolf would waltz right in and swallow her. Luna was still babbling on in the background, but all Emily could hear was a strange buzzing in her ear. So, this is what extreme mortification feels like, she pondered, as the feeling of eyes burning into the back of her neck intensified. She knew that he was staring at her, but she couldn't find the courage to turn and face him. Suddenly, something hit her hard on the back of her head. Instantly angry, she whipped her head round and glared at him; he was smirking back at her.
'You think I have fine cheekbones,' he mouthed at her, smirking, raising his eyebrows high. Emily scowled back at him and stuck up her finger in a rude gesture. This didn't seem to offend Draco though, only serving to make him smirk even more. He raised his eyebrows again, gestured to Luna with his hand and pointed his finger to his head, making circular movements that suggested at Luna's mental health. 'Loopy Luna,' he mouthed to her again, clearly making fun of her friend. Emily felt her anger rise and, wanting to wipe the smirk off his face; she stretched out her leg and gave him a swift kick to the ankle. She heard him give a muffled yelp and, without another glance at him, she deliberately turned her back on him, knowing he hated to be ignored. She felt another flying object hit her, only this time on her shoulder, but she continued to ignore him, choosing instead to listen to what Luna, her friend, had to say.
"... and so, whoever holds The Key of Loth - has complete control over all demon kind. All demons will follow their orders; they are bound to The Key. It is a very lethal weapon and difficult to destroy, only the acid of a basilisk poison will destroy it; it's a shame you killed the basilisk back in Hogwarts Harry that would have been quite useful! Well, anyway Mr Snape, that's about it and I really don't mind going down to London for you. I'm sure my dad still has that article somewhere, it's probably in the archives somewhere." Luna came to a stop, took her eyes from Snape's chin and smiled pleasantly at the people around the table.
"Thank you, Miss Lovegood," said Snape with a curt nod of the head. "You have been extremely helpful, indeed. Now, I think it's time to refine our plans - has anyone any questions?"
Before Emily could stop, she found herself voicing the question that still nagged at her constantly. "Who is the new Dark Lord?" she blurted out. Everyone froze, and a nervous tension seemed to descend on the table. Emily glanced from face to face, noticing how uncomfortable Draco and Harry seemed to have become, so she rested her eyes on Snape. "Why wont you tell me?" she asked him forcibly and hating not knowing. "Why are they allowed to know, but not me?"
"I have already told you the reasons -" Snape began, but Emily cut him off.
"Why, Harry? It's understandable that Draco should know, but why does Harry get to be told...."
"Harry is an Auror," Snape snapped, as if that explained everything.
"I'm part of the ministry; I'm training to be an Auror! Why -"
"You," Snape cut her off. "Miss Carlisle - have proved to be nothing but a proverbial thorn in the side! I will not discuss this any further; now, if that's everything, let us continue with our plans...."
At this obvious dismissal, Emily felt hot tears prick at her eyes and, turning her back to the table, she struggled to hold back the tears, while Snape, oblivious to her unhappiness, continued to talk.
"So, it has been decided. Let us put our plans in motion. Harry will accompany Draco to Knarlesdale -"
"No, I will not!"
"I'm not going with Potter, I told you -"
"- and Miss Lovegood has offered to go to London, leaving Miss Carlisle, who will of course go home...."
"I'm not going home, why do I have to go home?"
"You will go home, Miss Carlisle because it's the safest place for you -"
"Why can't you accompany me, Severus? Why do you have to?"
"For the millionth time, Draco! I have told you I cannot disperse that information!"
"I'm not going home, you can't make me!"
"Believe me Miss Carlisle, I can, and I will -"
"I'm not got anywhere with Pothead, Severus. I can assure you of th -"
"If, you make me go with him Snape, I tell you I will kill him!"
"In your dreams Potter, you're a dead man -"
"I insist you stop this ungodly bickering now - I will not tolerate this!"
I'm telling you, I'M NOT GOING WITH HIM!"
A silence followed Harry's final outburst, and all that could be heard was Emily's muffled sobs. Suddenly, Luna's placid voice broke though the silence. "Why can't Emily go with Draco?"
"NO!" Harry shouted.
"And why not, Potter?" Draco shot right back at him.
"B- Because she just can't - she isn't trained enough. Plus, you still have her wand!"
"Enough of this," Snape hissed vehemently, and stood to make his presence felt. "You will desist immediately!"
Both boys closed their mouths, but continued to glare at each other, while Snape seemed in deep thought. "Yes, his wand - we need to get his wand. An oversight, yes! However, it is one that can be rectified."
Emily, with red-rimmed eyes, looked over at Snape, wondering what on earth he was muttering about. She didn't understand his words, but for some unknown reason, her heart skipped a beat.
Snape, suddenly, snapped out of his reverie and began to speak quickly. "There has been a change of plans," he told them, his voice leaving no room for debate. "Potter, you will accompany Miss Lovegood to London and retrieve Draco's wand from the ministry, and you Miss Carlisle will accompany Draco to Knarelsdale -"
"But, she doesn't have a wand," cried out Harry frustrated. "She can't - it's too dangerous!"
"I never thought I'd agree with Potty, Severus. But, I agree, it will be too dangerous for her without a wand -"
"That is why," said Snape, without missing a beat. "Potter, will loan Miss Carlisle use of his wand..."
"I will do no such thing, my wand is -"
"I will loan Emily my wand," offered Luna, reaching across and handing Emily her wand. "I won't miss it for a day or two!"
"Thank you, Miss Lovegood," said Snape, smiling genuinely at her. "Then it is all settled. Harry will accompany you to London, retrieve Draco's wand and we will meet up again in two days time, at the Wiccan's Wand Inn in Knarlesdale -"
"No," protested Harry. "Dumbledore will..."
"Dumbledore will understand our need for new measures," interrupted Snape, cutting off his last feasible protest. "Then it is settled; Emily and Draco will proceed to Knarlesdale, Harry and Luna to London - and in two nights time we shall meet up at the Wiccan's Wand. And, remember, if I do not appear in Knarlesdale within the two days timeframe, you will proceed directly to Hogwarts without me. Is all that clear?" Snape then swept his eyes across their faces, and seeing no defiance on them, continued. "Then we will proceed immediately, please prepare for departure," and with that, he left the table and made his way to the proprietors office.
As Snape strode away, Emily was left reeling. The sudden turn of events had shocked her and Emily couldn't quite get her head around them yet. She stared in front of her, all her tears dried up, wondering what all this would entail. She would be alone with Draco again; could she handle that? And, in all honesty, she didn't think she could. She let her gaze slide over to Draco, hoping to get some answers from his expression, but Draco just stared ahead, his face an expressionless mask. No answers there then, she thought humourlessly, and then turned her gaze to Harry.
Harry, she noted, looked gob smacked - as if he couldn't believe the turn of events and Emily found out that she felt little pity for him. She supposed that the reasonable explanation for his dismissal of her was that he cared for her. However, she found that this did not make a blind bit of difference! Frankly, Emily decided she didn't care! All she knew for sure was that at that very moment, she really didn't want to be in the same room as him. Feeling the sudden need to get out of the room and to get some fresh air, Emily stood up abruptly. "I'm going for some fresh air," she said rather pointlessly, to no one in particular, turned, and fled from the room.
As soon as the fresh air hit her, Emily breathed a sigh of relief. She walked down a little way down the lane, kicking angrily at pebbles as she went, making them fly off in all directions. Just ahead of her lay an ancient fallen tree trunk, so she headed towards it, deciding it was the perfect place to sit and think. She plonked herself down on it and exhaled a heavy sigh. She glanced back at the inn and saw she was still quite close, still within sight. "Stupid, it's just all bloody stupid!" she mumbled out under her breath, lowering her head to her knees. "What on earth is going to happen now?"
Well; one thing is certain, she thought, answering her own question. You'll be spending the next day or two alone with Draco!
"And just how are you going to deal with that?" She asked herself aloud again.
I don't know, she answered, feeling hopeless with herself and the situation.
Luna had said, she remembered, it was for her to decide, that she thought Emily already had the answers. But, Emily was uncertain if she could find among this mass of confusion that writhed inside her. How could Luna have sounded so sure, when Emily was so undecided! Only, there was one thing she knew she was certain of - and that was her feelings for Malfoy. No, not for Malfoy - for Draco! Somehow, along the way, she had stopped thinking of him as Malfoy and somewhere inside of her very confused head; he had become Draco to her. Suddenly, a twig snapping behind made her jump to her feet and spin around.
Looking into the trees, she saw a figure with a crop of bright, red hair vanish. Ron, she thought to herself, absurdly. Ron Weasley? No, it couldn't be! And, as she stood pondering whether she was loosing her mind or not - she failed to hear the soft footfalls that approached her from behind; a hand touched her lightly on the shoulder. Emily jumped for the second time, with her heart beating wildly, and twirled around to see who had touched her - it was Harry.
"Emily," he said quietly with an almost pleading look in his eyes. "Can we talk? I need to tell you that I'm sorry -"
Without a word, Emily turned her back on him and started to walk away, back towards the inn. She could hear Harry running up behind and all too soon he was at her shoulder.
"Please, Em," he pleaded. "Please listen to me, don't ignore me! I really am so sorry - please Emily, speak to me..."
Emily just kept walking.
"Please, Emily - please! Just say something, even if it's that you hate me - just please don't ignore me..."
"I have nothing to say to you Harry - just leave me alone," she told him quietly, still not turning to face him. There was so much she did want to say to him, to yell at him - but Emily knew if she got started that she wouldn't be able to stop. They were close to the tavern door again - when Emily, finally, turned to face him. She took in his pleading eyes and hardened her heart. "Just leave me be for a while Harry. Maybe in a couple of days I'll be able to talk to you, but at the moment, I can't stand you being near me! So, just leave me alone!"
Harry looked crestfallen at her words and Emily couldn't help feel a twinge of pity for him. However, before she could say or act on her pity, the taverns door swung open and out came Draco and Luna.
"So, you see, it just proves that the ministry are hiding the truth about hinkypinks - don't you agree?" asked Luna, who stared expectantly at Draco's eyebrows and waited for him to answer her. Draco, looking extremely exasperated, just glared at her and, not bothering with an answer, stepped over the doorstep, saw Emily - and directed his glare at her. He also noticed, with some mild vexation, that Harry stood next to her.
"Enjoying yourself with Potter, Emily?" Draco sneered, throwing her a disdainful look. "I must say, I think your standards are slipping..."
These words ignited Harry like a torch. "SHUT UP, MALFOY - OR I'LL HURT YOU, BELIEVE ME!"
"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots, Potter! I'm so scared-"
"You should be, ferret boy - Just one more word...."
"And you'll what, Potter? Hex me to death? - After all, you've had plenty of practice at that haven't you Potter?"
"I'm warning you, Malfoy -"
"Oh, stop it! Do you think I'm worried about a stupid Gryffindork like you - when I have the new Dark Lord after me?"
"I'll do his job for him, if you don't shut up ferret face! Just donít push it..."
As the fight continued, Emily felt Luna sidle up beside her. "They're quite amusing, aren't they?" Luna stated, as she watched the sparring pair. "In fact, I find it really funny," and with that Luna burst into uncontrollable giggles. Emily just stared at her, slightly taken aback, but soon found her laughter was contagious and covering her mouth, Emily started to giggle too.
Her giggles soon broke off though, as Snape strode purposely through the door. "Come," he commanded, striding forward, with a sweep of the hand. "Let us now depart."
And, the gaggle of unlikely allies quickly followed his imposing figure, as he disappeared around the side of the inn. Rounding the inn, they all headed towards the old, overgrown path where Snape now stood. "Potter, Miss Lovegood," Snape addressed them, beckoning them over. "If you would like to Disapparate now, then we can all be on our way. Oh, and Potter - remember if I am not there within two days, you must go ahead without me - is that understood?"
Harry, looking slightly disconcerted at the speed in which events were proceeding, simply nodded his understanding.
"Then why are you still here, Potter?" Snape snapped sharply, urging him on.
Harry shot Snape a hot glare then turned his eyes to Emily; his eyes still held a plea in them - but Emily turned away from him. Seeing that he would get no response from Emily, he let out a disgruntled sigh, turned to Luna, took her hand and with a nod of acknowledgement, they both Disapparated with a pop!
After she heard the familiar pop, Emily turned back around to face Snape, who was already striding ahead along the path. "Come now," he called over his shoulder to them. "We must hurry!"
Emily shot a quick glance at Draco, who, when he saw she was looking, snorted derisively at her. Then, with a quick quirk of the eyebrow, he set off after Snape. Emily remained where she stood for a moment, glaring at his receding back. However, seeing that both figures were nearly out of sight, she quickly scurried after them, not wanting to be left behind.
She soon caught up with the two Slytherin's and quickly fell into step behind them. Following on behind Snape's billowing cloak, she found herself being led down the twisting and turning path, which soon led them into woodland. The trees overhead soon became thicker, letting very little daylight through, and amid the gloom, Emily found it very hard going. The ground underneath her feet was uneven and still brittle with frost, as the warm sunshine seldom reached the inner depths of this forest.
She kept on stumbling forwards, tripping over roots and knocking low branches out of her way. Thick brambles scratched at her arms and legs, with some even managing to cut through the thick material of her jeans. Emily felt miserable, scratched and sore. She hated this, hated ploughing through this untamed woodland. She was she had to admit, afraid. The dark shadows, cast by the trees, made her feel extremely apprehensive and the odd sounds of animals snuffling about in the undergrowth, did nothing to make her feel better. Suddenly, something small and furry streaked out in front of her; she let out a shrill scream, faltered, and felt herself falling forwards. Just before she hit the ground, she felt a hand wrap tightly around her upper arm and yank her upwards.
Emily looked up at her saviour and, from the bolt of electricity that had just shot through her arm, wasn't surprised to see Draco smirking down at her. She shrugged his hand roughly off her arm, glared at him, pushed in front of him, and somehow managed to trip over her feet again. She could hear Draco chuckle behind her back, as she struggled to steady herself, and she felt her anger rekindle again. She was about to turn around and give him a piece of her mind, when Snape's voice whispered harshly through the gloom. "Come," he whispered harshly. "The clearing is just ahead...."
Forgetting her anger for the moment, Emily went quickly after Snape. She saw him disappear into some thick bramble and, grimacing, she followed. She ducked down, scrambled through, trying desperately to ignore the thorns that scratched her and soon found herself crawling into a clearing. Snape stood a little way off, waiting - and Emily got quickly to her feet and made her way over to him.
Draco soon followed, looking harried and dishevelled. He came out of the undergrowth, got to his feet, and approached them, flicking fine needles off his clothes as he came. "Really, Severus," he drawled, as he looked disdainfully down at the state of his clothing. "Can't you find a civil way of travelling?"
However, Snape was in no mood for Draco's harping on. "Hush, Draco," he hissed, giving Draco a look of irritation. Then motioning them forward with his hand, he continued. "Come now, come closer, it is here that I must leave you. However, before I go I have things of import to tell you...."
"Where must you go, Severus," Draco questioned him again.
"I have already told you Draco - I cannot disclose that information to you - However, I do have things of great importance to tell you..." Snape stopped, eyeing Draco intently, to see if the impertinent boy would interrupt him again and on seeing the boy look properly abashed, he continued. "Firstly," he said, watching them both closely. "Try and not to use any magic unless you are in the up most danger, do you understand? The enemy now knows how to trace magic - so it is imperative that you understand this - so I ask once again, do you understand?" Snape paused, waiting for their reaction.
Emily looked down at Luna's wand in her hand and felt rather odd. Draco, stood next to her, nodded to Snape, showing that he understood.
Snape, obviously satisfied with their reaction, nodded. "Good," he stated simply, and he then delved his hand into his cloak. He soon brought out, what looked like to Emily, a map and a compass. "These," he said, beckoning Draco forward and dropping them in his hands. "Are called a map and compass, they will help you to get to Knarlesdale..."
"Are they magic," Draco enquired dubiously, eyeing the strange objects in his hands and Emily couldn't help but giggle.
"No, they are not magic, Draco," Snape continued, shooting a glare at the still giggling Emily. "They are a Muggle invention - I'm sure Miss Carlisle will know how to use them..."
"Muggle," Draco spat out, sneering down at the objects that he held in his hands in disgust. "I will not handle Muggle things! - Here," he said, thrusting them towards Emily, who stepped forward to take them. She snatched them off of Draco and gave him a glare. You didn't mind touching Muggle things last night, she thought to herself, as she folded the map into her back pocket and tried to work out the compass.
"Remember that we are to meet in two days time and that if I do not make it in time Draco, you and Potter must make your own way to Hogwarts. Do not wait for me - it would be highly dangerous! And, you Miss Carlisle, after Harry has reached you, must proceed back to the safety of your own home..."
"I'm not going anywhere with Potter...."
However, both Emily and Draco's protests were cut off as, with a swish of his cloak, Snape disappeared into the undergrowth and Disapparated!
With Snape's sudden departure, Emily and Draco found themselves alone and Emily couldn't help but shiver. Whether from fear, the cold, or from Draco's presence - she did not know! All did know, was that she had the most horrible feeling of foreboding. As she stared blankly at the compass, deep in thought, she felt Draco step up behind her. He rested his hand lightly on her back and in a slightly, mocking tone, spoke to her. "So, Emily," he whispered, winding his arm around her waist, and placing his chin on her shoulder. "Are you going to do your best to protect me? Do you think I need protection?"
Emily slowly turned her face to his, and looking into his pale, grey eyes, shuddered again. "I'll do my best to," she answered him truthfully. "If you need my protection that is..."
Draco wrapped his arms even tighter around her and dropped a small kiss on the curve of her neck. "Good," he whispered softly, sending small tingles all the way down her spine. "Because I have a feeling I'm going to need it."
A/N: I'm so sorry that this chapter took so long, but I'm sure most of you know that the last couple of moths have been troublesome for me, to say the least, lol! But, now that most of my problems have been sorted out, I will be posting on a more regular basis. Hopefully every two to three weeks. A big thank you to everybody who has stuck with me, I love you all for your unbelievable patience.
Emmie xxx xxx xxx
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