Chapter 13 : Chapter 12-We’re All In This Together
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Chapter 12-We’re All In This Together
Emma stared up at the canopy above her four poster bed. It was just another prison cell. She was not looking forward to getting up. She knew that her father had students spying for him, he had said as much before she had left for school. But he had been anticipating her being in the same house with them. He was not going to be happy, not at all.
And it was only a matter of time until he found out. Hell, he might already know. She couldn’t take it, this waiting around for the bomb to explode. Of course, she didn’t let any of this show on her face. Not that it mattered much in the privacy of her closed curtains.
Sighing, Emma forced herself to get up. She looked around. All of her dorm mates were fast asleep. She glanced at the clock. It was only six thirty. Still, she silently got up, grabbing a change of clothes. It was better this way, she decided. After her scene during the sorting, she really didn’t want to face her housemates yet. Last night no one had cared because they were all so tired. But in the light of day…Emma couldn’t deal with that on top of everything else. It was cowardly, she knew, but at this point she didn’t really care. Maybe if I don’t show enough backbone they’ll have to make me change houses, she thought wryly.
Twenty minutes later, she picked up her bag and started down the stairs. At the bottom, she couldn’t help but marvel at the common room. It was beautiful. She still couldn’t believe she was here. She had been dreaming about this day for years, the day she could get out of that hell-hole. She knew she wasn’t completely out of his grasp, but she was freer than she had ever been. And it felt good.
Emma knew people would be rising soon, so she left the common room quickly. So quickly, in fact, that she didn’t see a large figure lurking around the corner of the corridor. She reached the first set of stairs. As she began to descend, she felt a rough shove on her back, sending her tumbling. Emma threw her arms out instinctively to break her fall. Though fear rushed through her, she uttered no sound. She bounced off each stair, but something prevented it from hurting. It was as if she was merely a rubber ball. She knew what had happened, it had occurred before. Her magic took over to protect her.
Finally she reached the bottom, landing with a thud, her book bag landing next to her, the flap wide open with books and quills strewn everywhere. Thankfully she had gotten the inkwells with the anti-breaking charm already applied, or she would have had an even greater mess to deal with.
She looked to the top of the stairs. A large boy of about seventeen stood there, hand on his hips and a leer on his face. “Tripped, Emmaline?” he called out in a soft, mocking voice. She knew it had been him who had pushed her. It was one of her father’s cronies, Bruno Luby. He had dark, black eyes that glinted with malice. He brushed his wavy black hair away from his fore head as he smiled grimly at her. “What, you thought you could get away with that with no recourse?” He taunted.
“What are you talking about?” She knew what he was talking about, but she had to play a part.
“Getting put in Gryffindor. You told it to disobey your father’s wishes. It is all your fault.”
Emma closed her eyes. This was nothing new. Being blamed for things that were not her doing. She couldn’t help but sigh softly. A part of her had hoped that things might be different here.
“Yes, it’s all my fault.” she replied meekly.
Luby started down the stairs towards her, and she froze. “I sent word to your father about that unfortunate development last night. He should be getting that owl any time now. I’m sure he’ll be very upset with you, very displeased indeed.”
“Yes,” Emma agreed automatically.
Luby was standing next to her now. “I’d be more careful if I were you. You wouldn’t want to trip again and maybe break your neck.” He strolled off laughing. “The only good Gryffindor is a dead Gryffindor!” he called back just before he disappeared from view.
It was several moments before Emma realized she was shaking. She had been threatened before, but there was something about Luby’s parting words that sent a shiver down her spine. Would he really rather me dead than a Gryffindor? She wondered. Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching the top of the stairs. She didn’t want anyone to see her sitting there; they were bound to ask too many questions. Emma sprang up scurried to the Great Hall. The last few minutes had really robbed her of any appetite, but they had been told breakfast was mandatory today because schedules had to be passed out.
She was the first one in the Great Hall, the teachers hadn’t even arrived yet. But the platters on the tables filled with food as soon as she sat down at the Gryffindor table. After a few minutes of sitting silently and motionlessly, the wafting aromas enticed her to eat something. It was for the best, after all, for she needed her strength. Once she began to eat, she couldn’t stop. Everything was so good. She wasn’t used to being able to take all that she wanted.
Slowly the rest of the school trickled in. Emma was nearly done with her meal when Jake sat next to her. She couldn’t help but smile at him. She couldn’t believe how easily they had become friends. She thought she was going to be just as alone here as she was at home, but she wasn’t. “Hi,” she greeted him, her worries forgotten for a brief moment.
Jake frowned at her, and her heart sank. “Are you alright?” he asked.
Confused, Emma nodded. “I’m fine, why?”
“Why do you have a bruise on your face, then?”
Emma brought her hand up to the spot he indicated. Sure enough, it was tender. She must have hit her face when she was pushed. “Oh, that’s nothing.” She let out what she hoped sounded like a realistic laugh. “I’m really clumsy. I got mixed up getting out of the shower this morning and slipped and hit it. Silly me.” She knew better than to say she ran into a door. That excuse was so overused it was a definite red flag.
Jake gave her an odd look. She couldn’t tell if he bought her story. “Try to be more careful, alright? I don’t want you to break your neck or something.”
“Yeah,” she replied, unconsciously rubbing her neck. He hadn’t meant anything by it, he couldn’t have known about what had happened earlier, but his words reminded her of how all too present her problems were. “So,” she began, looking to change the subject, “Where’s your friend?”
Jake frowned. “Jack? Oh, he wasn’t ready to come down, he said he’d meet me here. Should be down in a few minutes.”
The pair continued to talk, learning a little more about each other. Nothing too serious, though. Emma was grateful for her newfound friend, but he didn’t need to know about her troubles. They are my burden to bear and mine alone.
After a while, Jack joined them, and slowly the conversation shifted to the two boys. Jake kept glancing in Emma’s direction, as if trying to let her in to his discussion, but she shook her head, occupying herself by playing with the scraps of food left on her plate.
Suddenly, there was a whoosh above their heads. Emma looked up. A hoard of owls swooped into the Great Hall, all carrying letters or parcels. “It’s the mail,” she heard someone say, but she couldn’t tell who. She braced herself. The owl could have been fast, he could have already sent a response. He could have sent a Howler. No, she corrected herself. He wouldn’t send a Howler. It would make it too public. He’ll want to sweep this under the rug. The owls all began to settle down on the tables, delivering their goods. Emma began to breathe again. There wasn’t anything for her. She had a little bit more time. Borrowed or not, it was a great relief.
Things began to settle down again. After what seemed like an agonizing long time, the heads of the houses stood at the head of their respective tables with a stack of schedules. There was a great deal of muttering and pointing at the Gryffindor table. The new professor, Professor Longbottom, seemed to be their head of house. Many of the Gryffindors didn’t seem to mind, many of the older ones congratulating him as they received their class list. It was the other tables, especially the Slytherin one, which seemed to care.
“He’s a first year!” she heard one hiss on her way up to the front. “How’d he get that gig?”
The professor smiled kindly as she reached him. “Name?”
Professor Longbottom riffled through the pages, searching. “Ah, here you are.” He handed her a piece of parchment. “If you have any questions, feel free to ask.”
Emma smile back at him shyly. “Thank you, sir.”
“You are quite welcome,” was the cheery reply.
Emma was hoping for Herbology first, that Professor Longbottom seemed like such a nice person. She sighed when she saw that she had Potions. With the Slytherins.
Back at the table, all the students were examining their schedules. She heard Jack groan. “Look at what we have first!” he cried out to Jake, stabbing his parchment with his forefinger.
She saw Jake look where his friend was pointing. “What’s so bad about Potions?”
Jack’s reply consisted on one word. “Snape.”
Jake frowned. “He seemed alright when I met him over them summer.”
“How’d you meet him over the summer?” Jack asked incredulously.
“He was the one they sent me with to get my school things.”
Emma could have laughed at the look on Jack’s face. “Seriously? And he didn’t poison you or anything?” Jake shook his head. She could see a slight look of annoyance that Jack didn’t seem to pick up on. “I’ve heard he’s a downright monster.”
Jake shrugged. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see then.”
Emma smiled to herself. Jake one, Jack zero.
Jake walked alone down to the dungeons, only going the wrong way once. He couldn’t understand Jack’s attitude towards Professor Snape. True, he didn’t seem to be nice and fuzzy, but he wasn’t giving him a chance at all.
He couldn’t explain it, but there was something about the professor that he liked. Snape was like no other adult he had even known. The man told it like it was, with no tiptoeing around the edges. Growing up an orphan, everyone thought that he would collapse if they poked him. It was aggravating after a while. But Snape didn’t give a damn, he treated him like anyone else. And even if it was ridicule, it was real. And that was refreshing.
He finally reached the classroom. He peered in and saw that it was still deserted. Jake gingerly walked in and sat down in the front row. He looked around. The room was quite bare, there was only a lectern and the professor’s desk in the front of the room, and there was a door off to the side. He took out an inkwell, quill, and piece of parchment. Those blasted things were so hard to write with. He had wanted to practice before school had begun, but it would have aroused suspicion in the home. He figured it would be best to work on it before he was expected to take notes.
He tried writing his name, the scratched it out in disgust. Ink had sprayed everywhere, and it looked like a two year old had written it. He tried again. J…that wasn’t too bad. Then the a…it sort of looked like it was supposed to. Then the c…. it looked like a box.
“This is worthless,” he grumbled. He had packed a few ballpoint pens and pencils in his bag just in case.
“Let me see it.” a soft voice said behind him. He turned around. It was Emma.
“Hi. Let me see it.” she repeated firmly
“Your quill.” He handed over the accursed feather. She pulled out her wand and tapped the tip of it. “Calamus Securus,” she muttered. The tip glowed slightly for a second, then faded once more. She handed the writing implement back to him. “Try it now.”
Jake dipped the quill into the inkwell. He wrote his name. It was as smooth as a ballpoint, if not smoother. “That’s amazing! How did you know that?”
She shrugged, a distant look coming to her eye. “My father. They charge you extra to buy them spelled already. He says it’s a conspiracy to bleed us dry.” She rolled her eyes. “Can I sit-”
“Hey Jake!” he heard Jack called. He sighed. It was great to find his old friend again, but it was kind of hard to act like the past few years hadn’t passed. “You saved me a seat, right?”
Jake shook his head. “You didn’t ask me too.”
Jack looked crestfallen. “I didn’t think I had to,”
He fell badly, but Jack was really bugging him. “Emma already asked to sit here.”
“Look,” Emma interceded, “I don’t want to get you two in a fight…”
“No,” Jake said firmly. “Sit.” He turned to Jack and pointed to the seat across the aisle. It was still empty. “You could sit there. We’re still kind of next to each other that way.”
“Fine,” Jack sighed, plopping his things down across the row.
“I really don’t want to cause trouble…” Emma began, still hovering by the chair.
Jake smiled. “Don’t worry about it. We have a few things we have to work out. Now sit already, it’s your seat!”
Emma sat down finally and looked at him shyly. “Thanks,” she whispered.
“For what?” Jake asked.
“For being a friend.”
Severus sighed as he strode down the corridor to the dungeons. Sometimes he wondered why he taught, he couldn’t stand most of the children in the school. Probably because it’s the only place that will have you, a voice in his head chided. He pushed it aside. He was about to make his grand entrance on a class of first years. He had to be in the zone.
He flung open the door, reveling in how the loud bang made half the brats jump in surprise. His robes billowed majestically behind him as he entered swiftly, a slight charm on them to add to the effect.
A frown crept onto Severus’s face. Normally his appearance was enough to silence a room, yet a good portion of the room was still conversing, including, he hated to say, many from his own house. He could have exploded-children these days had less respect than ever. He glared at the loudest perpetrators, arms crossed, until they finally got the message.
“I expect from now on,” he began in his more intimidating drawl, “that when I enter the room, there will be silence.” He strode over to his desk. “Anyone who continues they think what they have to say is more important than our lesson will be rewarded with a deduction of house points. Any questions?” He smirked. Like anyone would dare question him after that, half of them looked paralyzed with fear. Just where I want them…
“I expect,” he began, “that most of you, no, all of you, will have no talent in potion making. Frankly, teaching you is a waste of my time.”
“Then why bother doing it?” he heard a boy in the front row mutter across the row to…to the Baxter boy.
“Excuse me, Mr…?”
Mr. Smart Alec turned white, and gulped. “Mr. Mccrimmon, sir.”
“Ah, Mr. Mccrimmon, do you think you are better than me?”
He smiled wickedly, knowing that his victim was trapped. “Then I would suggest that you refrain from contradicting me. Ten point from Gryffindor.”
There was a groan from all of the Gryffindors in the class. “What?” Mr. Mccrimmon cried out.
“Twenty points,” Severus amended. “And I would keep your mouth shut if I were you, for I would like nothing more that to make it thirty.”
He strode over to the lectern, cloak billowing. “Now, let’s begin.” He shuffled his notes. “How many of you know what wormwood is?” No one raised their hands. Typical. “How about polyjuice?” Nothing. “Draught of the Living Death?” Silence. “That’s what I thought. So if you are so undereducated on this subject, why is it that only one student in this entire classroom is prepared to take notes?” It was the Baxter boy that was prepared. Interesting. There was a scramble for parchments and quills.
Let the games begin.
Emma couldn’t believe it. It had been a pretty good day, if you forgot about the little stair incident that morning. But there was no word from her father. Maybe he’ll take it better than I thought he would. Maybe no news is good news…
She sat in the common room, finishing up her last homework assignment. She had read the chapter for Transfiguration, as well as the three for potions. She was just wrapping up the final paragraph of the two foot essay Snape had assigned.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder. An older student was standing there with what seemed to be a letter in their hand. “You’re Emmaline Hurtz, right?” they asked, reading the inscription on the parchment.
Her heart sank. “Yes, it’s Emma though.”
“Sure,” the girl said. “Here, this is for you. An owl came to the window.”
Emma took it. She forced what she hoped was a cheery smile. “Thanks,”
It took a long time to muster up the courage to open it. For what must have been at least ten minutes, she sat there just staring at her father’s stern handwriting. She finally picked it up and was about to rip it, when Jake walked over. She shoved the letter in her Potions book.
“Hey, what’s up?” he asked.
“Not much, just working on my homework.” The boy sat down in the armchair across from her. Emma’s heart was pounding. She wanted so much to just forget that letter burning a hole in her book. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t continue to run from reality, no matter how wonderful it felt. She acted as normally as she could for the next half hour, chatting with Jake, and comparing potions notes. She loved how his face lit up when he was talking about the subject, he really seemed to have taken a shine to it after only one lesson. She enjoy it as well, but not that much.
Finally, Jake began to stretch. “Well, I’m off to bed.” He smiled. He did that a lot. She had never seen someone smile that much her entire life! “Night!”
Soon after Jake left, others followed. She glanced at the large clock on the mantle. It was just after midnight. She was virtually alone in the common room. Emma took a deep breath. It was time.
She slid her finger under the seal, and it broke with a crisp pop. The parchment crinkled ominously as she opened it. Emma read her father’s terse words.
How dare you defy me? Did you think that it would be some sort of good joke to get sorted into Gryffindor? You were supposed to go into Slytherin. But don’t worry, I will make this right, you pathetic excuse for a daughter. I am traveling to Hogwarts as soon as I can make arrangements. Don’t get too comfortable. Expect to be transferred.
Jake was just on the verge of falling asleep. His mind drifted, thinking vaguely of the classes of the day. He really enjoyed Potions….Potions…. Crap. He had forgotten his Potions textbook down in the common room. Groaning, he threw off the covers. It probably could wait until the morning, but it wasn’t like he had a ton of money lying around to buy a new one if it walked.
There was a slight chill in the night air. He slid a bath robe over his pajamas and crept softly down the stairs. Just before he entered the room below, he paused. There was a sound coming from the common room. Someone was crying, a girl it sounded like. Jake hesitated. He didn’t really want to bother whoever it was, but he really wanted to get his book back. It’s a public place; I have every right to go in there. I’ll just go in, go out, end of story.
He gingerly entered the room. Looking around, he didn’t see anyone, although he still heard the crying. There it is. The book was on the table near the chairs where he and Emma had been talking earlier. He made a beeline for it. He picked it up, and as her turned around to go back up the stairs, he froze. It was Emma, Emma was the one that was crying.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, worried. She had a crumpled look to her, and she was curled up in a ball. She muttered something through the tears, wiping at her eyes vigorously. “What was that?”
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
Jake scoffed, sitting next to her on the couch, placing his textbook down. “You’re obviously not fine if you’re sitting in the middle of the common room after midnight sobbing.”
That seemed to hit a nerve. She sat up a bit straighter. “I’m not sobbing.”
Jake smirked. “Oh, sorry, your ‘allergies’ are acting up, right?”
She rolled her swollen eyes at him. “Could you just do me a favor and leave me alone?”
Jake became serious again. Obviously joking wasn’t going to help her feel better. “I’m afraid I can’t do that,” he told her. “I’m not going to just leave you here. What happened?”
“I’m fine,” she insisted stubbornly.
“I can be just as stubborn as you.” He started to reach out to put his hand on her shoulder, but remembered her fear of contact from the train, and pulled it back. “I want to help you.”
She shook her head. “No,” she replied vehemently. “You hardly know me. You don’t need to deal with my problems.”
“Look,” Jake began. “We’re friends, right?” Emma nodded. “So, friends help each other. I want to help.”
“Friends also protect their friends. Ever think I’m trying to protect you?”
“From what?” Jake questioned.
She shook her head again. “I just got a letter from my father.” She was obviously changing a subject, but it still giving him the information he was interested in. “He’s not happy about my sorting.”
“Ah…” Jake replied. He frowned at her. “But it’s more than that, isn’t it?” he asked knowingly.
Emma shook her head once more, then nodded. “He’s coming. Here. He’s going to try to switch my house.”
Jake was taken aback. “Seriously? Who does he think he is?”
“Merlin,” Emma replied. “He has a bit of an ego.”
She buried her face in her hands, slumping over. “I don’t want to switch houses.”
Against all his better judgment, he placed a hand gently on her upper back. She tensed up under his touch, but slowly seemed to relax. “I don’t think they’ll make you. I have a feeling that this kind of thing isn’t something they take lightly.”
“But he has loads of connections,” she continued, looking right at him. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he wouldn’t buy off everyone here to make it happen. And even if they say it’s my choice, as long as he’s around, it won’t be my choice.”
Jake’s frown deepened. “You shouldn’t let him control your life so much,”
A dark look came into her eyes. It scared him. “You don’t understand.”
Jake sighed. “Then make me understand. I want to help!” This was one of the most frustrating things he had ever experienced.
“You can’t help. No one can.” Emma’s response was monotone, robotic.
“Fine,” Jake conceded. “Then let me help you feel better. Right now.” He opened up his arms. Emma looked at him apprehensively. “Hug?” She seemed to hesitate. She seemed to need some sort of reassurance. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he added, uncertain as to why.
She smiled sadly at him. “I know,” Emma moved closer to him, letting Jake taker her in his arms. She felt so tiny, so vulnerable, and Jake felt that is was his duty to take care of her. He couldn’t explain it, he knew it was crazy, he had just met Emma yesterday! But for some inexplicable reason, he cared about her more than he had ever cared about anyone. The two of them just seemed to click; it was a kind of connection that had always eluded him. Even when Jack was at the home, it took a few weeks for them to really start talking on a regular basis, let alone being friends.
“Don’t worry,” he whispered into her hair. “We’ll figure this out.”
She pulled away, looking at him oddly. “We?” she asked.
Jake nodded. “We. We’re in this together, like it or not.”
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