A/N: Sorry for the long wait! Also, just a trigger warning, this chapeter could have the potential to be heavy for some people.
*Password is taken from 'A Very Potter Musical'-I did not make it up and do not own it, and neither do I own the wonderful world of Harry Potter! :)
Chapter 16-This Is It
Several weeks passed. Emma was finally starting to get into a routine. It was so different from what she was used to at home, but in a very good way. The only blemish on her wonderful experience was her father’s goons. Every few days they did something to her, from tripping her in the halls to grabbing her and locking her in a broom closest bound and gagged for several hours. It was a nuisance that she learned to live with.
It was late in the evening, and she and Jake were walking back to Gryffindor tower. The two had become even closer, sharing more and more about themselves. But there was one thing that Jake didn’t know. It was her deepest darkest secret, and she didn’t want to tell him. She couldn’t bear to see the pity that would undoubtedly be in his eyes. He would act like she was something fragile, something that could break at any moment. She would become a thing rather than a friend. And she didn’t want that. It would be like He had won.
Suddenly someone stepped out from some crevice in the wall. It was Bruno Lubby, the bloke who had pushed her down the stairs on her first day. “Well, well, well,” he crooned, “Look at the lovely couple, a blood-traitor and a…hm, that’s funny, I don’t seem to know what you’re parents are Baxter, or wait, their dead!”
“Shove it Lubby, Emma growled.
“Excuse me?” The older boy demanded. “What did you say to me?” He took a few intimidating steps closer. Emma knew she would pay for this, but with Jake by her side, she felt more confident than she had ever been before.
“I said shove it,” she told him calmly. Lubby rushed at her, pinning her against the wall.
“Hey!” she head Jake cry out. “Leave her alone!”
Lubby kept her pinned against the cold stones with one hand while using the other to whack Jake across the face. She saw her friend recoil, clasping his cheek. “Leave him out of this,” she muttered under her breath.
The older boy put all of his weight into holding her against the wall. “Take it back,” he growled, “Take it back!” He pushed his arm against her throat, almost choking her.
“Okay, okay,” she gasped. “I take it back!”
Lubby let up in the pressure. “Good,” He grabbed the bag that was slung over her shoulder, ripped it open, and dumped the contents of it onto the floor. “Clean it up.” Emma bent over obediently to do as she was told. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jake move as if to help her. Lubby flicked his wand in Jake’s direction and her friend went flying backwards. “Let her do it, Baxter, cleaning is women’s work. Unless,” he began mockingly. “You’re really a bitch after all. Wouldn’t be surprising, you Mutt.”
Emma chanced a look up at Jake. His face was clenched, angrier than she had ever seen him. He looked as if he was going to lunge at the older boy. “Jake, don’t,” she called out, practically begging.
“Aw,” Lubby taunted. “Looky here, you’re girlfriend’s trying to stop me from kicking your ass.” He walked over to Emma who was almost finished cleaning up the mess he had made. He slapped her across the face. Hard. But she didn’t cry out, she didn’t respond. Not a single tear fell, though the place of contact stung. “Bitch,” he sneered, spitting on her. Finally he stalked off.
Neither Jake nor herself moved for a moment or two.
“Emma,” Jake asked her bewilderedly, “What the hell was that all about?”
She refused to look at him. “Nothing.” Grabbing her bag, she stood up and began walking back to the tower. The goons attacks had always come when she was alone, she could explain her disappearances or injuries on other things. Jake had never been there when she was being humiliated. And that had made it ten times worse. She heard Jake scrambling behind her.
“Emma!” he called after her. She didn’t stop. This would be it. If she told him about the thugs, she would have to tell him about everything. And she just couldn’t do that. “Emma!” His call was a bit closer, though much more out of breath. Suddenly he was in front of her, blocking her path.
“Jake, let me by, please,” she pleaded, eyes, glued to the floor. To look at him would have unraveled it all.
“No,” her friend stubbornly insisted. “What was that about?”
She closed her eyes. He wasn’t going to let this go, was he. She was going to have to face it after all. “It’s complicated, Jake,” she sighed.
She felt him take her hand and give it a slight squeeze. She had gotten used to his touch now; it no longer made her jump like anyone else’s. She couldn’t help but let a small smile out in spite of the situation. “I don’t care. Explain it to me then.”
She shook her head. “Not here.”
“Fine,” Jake told her. “We’ll go back up to the tower and find a secluded place to talk, alright?”
Emma looked up at her friend for the first time since the attack. Worry was seeping through his eyes, but there was something else there to: fury. This was a small comfort to Emma. He was outraged on her behalf, not pitying. There was still hope. But he doesn’t know everything yet. She nodded in agreement.
They walked back to the tower in silence. “Rumbleroar*,” Jake said as he gave the portrait of the Fat Lady the new password. He shook his head. “Where do they come up with these things?” he asked lightheartedly, clearly trying to make Emma laugh. She complied, wanting to please him.
They started to make their way over to a secluded corner. Emma felt like she was a prisoner being led to the gallows. Suddenly, she saw her salvation. Jack was walking towards him. Perhaps he could distract Jake enough so that he wouldn’t question him anymore. “Hey Jake!” Jack called, almost ignoring Emma. She was fine with it. She figured that he wasn’t sure how to act around her, so he preferred not to have to act at all. Typical man.
“Hey,” her friend replied. “Look, Jack, I have something important I need to do right now with Emma, I’ll talk to you later, alright?”
Jack frowned, but said, “Sure thing, mate,” and let them pass. Damn,
There was a window seat behind the staircase, a bit removed from the rest of the common room. It was just big enough for the two of them to sit comfortably with relative privacy.
She looked into Jake’s eyes. This is it.
Jake was utterly confused by what had just happened. Why on earth would an older student randomly beat Emma up? But it didn’t seem random. Based on Emma’s reaction, it seemed like this, or something like it, had happened before. And that made him furious.
He tried reading the expression in her eyes as she looked at him on that window seat, but it was almost impossible. But he could tell that she was preparing herself for something. Something bad. He braced himself as well.
Emma closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Jake wanted to say something, but worried that if he opened his mouth she would use it as an excuse to hide from him again. “I-I haven’t been completely truthful with you Jake.” she began. “You know I told you that I had some problems at home, right?”
“Well, they are more than just ‘problems’. I-” She paused. “Remember the letter my father sent me,” she asked, switching the subject.
Jake nodded. “Yes, the one where he basically blamed you for being put into the ‘wrong house’.”
“Yes,” she confirmed. “That. And remember how I told you he came to the school to try and change things and make them how he wanted.”
Jake replied in the affirmative.
“My father is very….demanding.” Emma continued. “He’s used to getting his way. And he gets angry when he doesn’t.” The whole time she was talking, his friend was looking down, as she tended to do when she discussed her father. She glanced up at him as she paused, and Jake took her hand reassuringly. She smiled slightly, though it didn’t reach her eyes. She seemed to subconsciously raise her other hand to the check where that Lubby brute had slapped her. “He gets violent sometimes.”
The pieces started to fall into place in Jake’s mind. His heart stopped. “He hits you,” he said in a monotone. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement he knew unequivocally was true.
Emma shook her head for a second, but then nodded, seeming to succumb to something. “My father,” she continued, her voice cracking, “is abusive.”
“Oh, Emma,” he sighed. Without thinking, he leaned forward and enveloped her in a hug. She stiffened slightly. “Oh, sorry,” he apologized, starting to pull away.
At his words, Emma responded, wrapping her own arms around Jake, pulling him close again. “It’s alright,” she mumbled into his chest, clinging to him as if for dear life. They held each other like that for a few moments before Emma pulled away. “Sorry,” she apologized, though he couldn’t see any reason why. Emma wiped a few tears from her eyes. “I usually can hold myself together better.”
“Emma,” Jake began, flabbergasted. “I’m surprised that you’re holding together so well considering what you just told me.”
She smiled at him grimly. “You learn how to hide it.” she told him bitterly. “If you show the pain you are feeling, they hurt you more. The only way to survive is not to resist. Resistance only eggs them on.”
Jake couldn’t believe what he was hearing. These were the words of a girl from a developing country kidnapped and sold into slavery, not of a girl from the English countryside. He couldn’t believe how well she had hidden it from him. And he couldn’t believe how blind he had been.
“I should have seen it,” he told her furiously. She seemed to jump at the gruffness of his voice, so he toned it down slightly. “I knew something wasn’t right, but I thought it was just your parents fought a lot or something. I had no idea…”
“Well,” Emma cut him off, “You were sort of right, it isn’t a happy marriage. She’s not magic, you see, so sometimes he uses his magic to hurt her, and she can’t fight back.” She shook her head. “But that is beside the point. Jake, I didn’t want you to know. I’ve gotten good at hiding things over the years, I know how to do it. And I know what not to do as well, you know, the obvious tells that shout something is wrong. Don’t beat yourself up over it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
This seemed to bring tears to her eyes, and for that Jake was instantly regretful. “Don’t you see, Jake? Anyone who get’s in my father’s way get’s crushed.”
“The Headmistress was able to stand up to him, it seems. You’re still here, aren’t you?”
“No, Jake, that was an exception,” she insisted. “She’s a very powerful witch. And it was a somewhat trivial matter. But when it comes to how he treats his family, my father will hear nothing and allow for nothing to be done. I didn’t want you to get involved in the Jake, I didn’t want you to get hurt too!”
Jake frowned. These new revelations didn’t clear up everything. “How would he be able to touch me? Does this fit in with that bloke harassing you out there?”
Emma gazed out the window at the murky darkness a while before responding. “He works for my father.”
“My father has paid several students, all Slytherin I believe to ‘keep an eye on me’, to keep me in my place. Kind of like surrogate fists, I suppose.”
A monster was forming within Jake, and right then it was howling. This was an outrage that had to be stopped. “He can’t do that!” was all he could manage to say.
“But he can,” was Emma’s resigned reply. “For all he lacks, my father had money, and lots of it. He can pay off practically anybody to look the other way. And those he can’t pay off, he has taken out, or at least knocked down a peg. And his thugs could go after you. I couldn’t let that happen.”
Jake looked into Emma’s eyes. “I would take their beatings a million times over if it meant they wouldn’t land a finger on you.” he told her sincerely.
It looked like Emma was going to start crying, a sad smile on her face. “I really appreciate that. Though to be honest, they’d probably just beat us both up.”
He could not believe how calmly she was discussing all of this, as if it was a fact of life. It probably is for her, he realized. It made his heart break.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she told him suddenly. For the first time she looked absolutely crushed.
“Don’t look at you how?” he asked, perplexed. What could have he possibly done wrong?
“Like you pity me.” she said softly. He didn’t think that it was possible, but her words made his heart break even more.
“But how can I not?” he asked desperately. “This is just awful.”
Emma stood up as if to walk away. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I ruin everything.”
“No,” Jake said firmly, following her. “You don’t ruin everything. This is not your fault.” She didn’t say anything for a moment, and she stayed put, arms crossed and eyes down.
She finally looked up at Jake. “I just wanted you to see me, not my problems.”
“I do,” Jake insisted. “and I’m going to do more than feel bad for you. I’m going to do something about it.”
Emma looked frightened. “What? What can you do about it? If you try anything here his thugs will go after you, and if you somehow got to him he’d just laugh and tell you to run along.”
Jake smiled mischievously. “I might not have the power to do anything, but I think I know someone who will.”
Emma frowned, biting her lower lip nervously. “Who?”
“One of the professors, they could probably do something. Maybe Professor Longbottom, since he is the head of our house. I mean, if those goons are harassing you here, that’s their problem. They might be able to do something.”
Emma nodded thoughtfully. “Perhaps,” She didn’t sound convinced.
Jake took her hand and started to pull her out from behind the staircase. “Come on!”
Emma looked at him as if he had grown a second head. “What. Are. You. Doing!?!” she hissed at him demandingly.
“We’re going to talk to Professor Longbottom,” he told her. He thought that it was best to have her see someone now while she was talking. He didn’t want her to clam up again, it would only hurt herself.
“No,” she insisted quietly, but her voice was firm. She held up her hand as Jake was about to speak. “It’s late, we’re just asking for trouble if we go out now.” She had a point. “We’ll go tomorrow.” She paused. “And I want to see Professor Snape instead of Professor Longbottom.” Her remarks confused him. While he liked the Potions Master, the man didn’t seem to be the most….comforting of people. He seemed like an odd choice.
“Why?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“Look, Jake,” she told him. “I have my reasons. I don’t know, I just think he’d be a bit more…understanding.”
“Professor Longbottom isn’t under your father’s hire, is he?”
His accusation seemed to startle her. “No!” she exclaimed. “There’s nothing wrong with Professor Longbottom. I just would prefer to go and see Snape.”
“Alright, then, tomorrow you’ll go and talk to Snape.” Emma nodded.
They started to walk back towards the open area of the common room. “Jake?” she asked just before they were in view.
She took a deep breath. “Could you come with me tomorrow?”
Jake relaxed. He was kind of hoping she would say that. “Of course! It’s what best friends are for.” He told her tenderly.
“You mean, this doesn’t change anything?” she asked. She shouldn’t have to ask.
“Of course not,” he replied, smiling softly at her. “I’m in this for the long haul.”
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