A/N: Hello all! This will be my last update for about a month or so. I am attempting JulNoWriMo in July, so most of my energy will be focused on that and reaching 50,000 words (or more). The good news? Last summer I wrote 52,000 words in this story, and I hope for a repeat this year! So there will be plenty of material for updates!
Once again, thank you to everyone for reading and reviewing! You all are awesome and your are the reason I stick with this! Love you all! <3
Chapter 18-Friend or Foe?
Emma couldn’t believe that she had actually gone through with it. She had told Snape everything, one way or another. He had offered her and Jake something to eat, but her stomach was tied up in knots. Jake had taken some, and grabbed a bit extra to put away in case she was hungry later. He was so sweet. She was lucky to have met him.
“Not that I think it will do much good, but Mr. Baxter, I think you should try to stay with Miss Hurtz in the halls.” Snape recommended as he escorted them to the door. “I am going to talk to the Headmistress to discuss how we are going to deal with this. You have the right to an education, Miss Hurtz, uninhibited by harassment. And I intend on giving it to you.”
She smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you, Professor,”
He returned her expression. “Any time,” His voice was gentle, a sharp contrast to the harsh criticism he had given her earlier in class. She knew that she was not going to see this side of him very often, but she was amazed that he was showing it to her at all.
Her hand was on the doorknob when Snape called out, “Oh, and Mr. Baxter? You’re first lesson will be tomorrow evening at eight. If anything changes, I shall inform you. Good day.”
As they walked down the corridors, Emma kept glancing over her shoulder. She had this feeling like they were being followed. That her father knew somehow that she had told and ordered his people to go after her. Jake placed an arm around her shoulder. “It’s going to be alright,” he whispered into her ear. She smiled worriedly.
“Aw, look at the lovebirds,” a hateful voice called out from behind her. It seemed as if her fears hadn’t been unfounded.
Jake tightened his grip on Emma’s shoulder. “Ignore him,” his muttered, picking up his pace and practically dragging her along.
“What, you afraid, Emmaline?” Lubby called. Her insides were burning with rage, but she restrained herself. “What were you doing in there with Snape so long for?” She tripped, Jake’s arm being the only thing stopping her from falling flat on her face. “So there was something going on,”
“Shove off, Lubby,” Jake called back behind them. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” he whispered to her. She nodded.
“What,” Lubby spat, “You and the professor getting it on in the dungeons?” he called out mockingly. Her face flushed at the suggestion. He was doing what he wanted. She was humiliated.
Jake broke away from her and rounded on Lubby. “Take that back!” he growled, eyes flashing with fury. Emma knew that Bruno would pulverize him.
“Jake,” she insisted tiredly. “Let it go, you’re just encouraging him. You don’t want to get a-” She had almost said ‘get a real detention’ which would have blown Professor’s Snape brilliant plan as well as directing his wrath in her direction. “-nother detention.”
Suddenly she heard the clicking of shoes on stone. Someone was approaching. Lubby noticed it too, and started to scurry in the other direction. The formative figure of Professor Snape rounded the corner, blocking Lubby’s pathway to escape. He looked at the scene before him critically. “Is there a problem here?” he asked offhand.
“No, no problem here, sir,” Lubby babbled, his personality completely transformed.
“Really,” Snape replied coldly, glancing at Emma, their eyes meeting briefly. “Well, then, move along. All of you.”
“Come on, Jake,” Emma told her friend, tugging at his hand. He finally followed.
“I can’t wait until Snape does something, you can’t live like this all the time!” Jake exploded.
His concern touched her, but didn’t make her feel any better. “Why, it’s not any different than what I’m used to at home,”
“Yes, but that shouldn’t be your norm. You should have somewhere where you can be and do whatever the hell you want to!”
She smiled at Jake. “You’re one heck of a friend, you know that?”
Severus had his arms crossed as he lounged in a chair in front of Minerva’s desk. He had just finished recounting what Emma Hurtz had told him earlier that day. The headmistress had a sad look to her eyes. “I really don’t know what to say, Severus,” she told him somberly.
He frowned. “How about that there is something we can do about this?”
“I’m afraid there really isn’t much we can do.”
His stomach dropped. He couldn’t believe his ears. “Excuse me?” he asked icily.
Minerva didn’t answer him. Instead, she stood up and walked over to a shelf on the wall. She traced her finger along the length of the shelf for a moment before selecting a volume. She flipped through it, ruffling the pages until she found what she was looking for. She brought the book over to Severus, and pointed to a passage. “These are the rules set up by the governors that we have to follow. They do give me some leeway, but not in matters such as these. Here, read.”
Severus picked up the handbook, and read:
The institution of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry may not involve itself directly in the personal home matters of students attending said school, excepting when the family of the student wishes the school to be involved, as in the case of a death or illness of a family member that will affect the learning of a student. It is not the school’s place to get involved with family matters.
“This is bullshit,” Severus exclaimed darkly.
“I agree,” Minerva agreed, “But my hands are tied.”
Severus flipped to the front of the book, searching through the table of contents. He flipped to the page it directed him to. “What about this?” He began to read.
The students of Hogwarts have the right to reasonable security of their education. If reasonable intimidation or harassment (as determined by the Headmaster or Headmistress) is discovered to be interfering with a student’s safety, it is acceptable to take action against the perpetrator or perpetrators so that the victim can get the education that they are entitled to.
“I think we can do something with this,” he told the Headmistress. “Like I said, her father has hired students to harass her. If that isn’t posing a risk to her safety and education, I don’t know what is.”
Minerva nodded. “Yes, you’re right, I think we can do something about that.” She grabbed a quill and some parchment and began writing furiously. “I am going to draft a statement for you and the other heads to read to your houses. I think we need to address this spying issue head on, in case Hurtz tries to target students in the other houses, especially Gryffindor.” She looked up at him, her spectacles perched on her nose. “Would you call the other Heads and tell them I need to speak with them right now?”
“Of course,” Severus replied, standing.
“Oh, and Severus?” she called out after him just before he exited. “We’re going to help that girl, I promise.”
Nodding, he left quickly to assemble the others.
“This is insane!” Neville declared after Minerva finished speaking. As someone who was going to be a father, he couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything so horrendous to their own child.
“Exactly,” Minerva agreed. “Which is why I think it’s important that we get the message across to the students that if they participate in a system like this, there will be consequences. And I also would like to talk directly to the father to try to explain to him that he cannot interfere with his daughter’s education. Severus, Neville, I would like you to both be present at that meeting.”
Neville frowned. “What does Snape, er, I mean Severus have to do with it.”
Minerva opened her mouth to speak, but the Potion’s Master cut in. “The girl came to me for help. I am going to see this through.” There was no room for negotiation in his voice.
“Alright, fine,” Neville conceded. “Plus you’re probably more intimidating than I am anyways,” His co-workers chuckled, though Snape did not seem amused. “Whatever it takes to get that bastard to leave his daughter alone.”
Minerva’s parchment crinkled in his pocket as Severus strode through the corridors towards the Slytherin common room. Minerva had ordered everyone to their houses and cancelled all activities at diner, with no exceptions.
He snapped the password at the portrait, which flew open to admit him. “Silence!” he called as he walked in dramatically to the silver and green den. He summoned the prefects over to him. “Search the dormitories, everyone is to be in the common room.
With a chorus of “Yes, sirs”, they dispatched to do their duty. After a few minutes, they returned with a few stragglers.
“It has come to the attention of the school that several students have been hired by an outsider to target specific students. The Headmistress would like me to inform you,” he dramatically pulled out her message from the inside of his robes. “that ‘any mercenary work done by students on the behalf of a person or persons wishing harm to anyone in this school will not be tolerated, and those caught conducting such business will be dealt with accordingly.’” He folded the piece of parchment up carefully. “I have the displeasure of reporting that most, neigh, all of the students who this statement applies to are currently standing in this room.” He paused, allowing the excited mumbles to go on for several moments. He sought out the perpetrators, most of which were shifting nervously at his words. “I shall read off the names of the aforementioned students, and they will accompany me.” he continued harshly. The room fell silent.
Severus pulled out another piece of parchment and cleared his throat. “Samuel St. Claire,” The smarmy redhead stood up. “Morris Conrad,” A sandy haired boy of about the same age followed suit. “Zachariah Bridgewater,” This one was the youngest of the bunch, and the only one to show some signs of fear. “Maurice Campbell,” The brunette joined his fellow brutes in standing. “And Bruno Lubby.” From what he understood, the last one had given Miss Hurtz the biggest amount of trouble.
“Look around,” he instructed his house member’s icily. “These are the faces of abusers, and worse, abusers for hire. These are the faces of the people who give our house a bad name. I am sick and tired of everyone assuming that we Slytherins are automatically evil. However, this will not change if you live down to their expectations. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” was the unanimous reply.
“Very well. Now, if you five would come with me…” He gestured for them to follow. Bridgewater came, trembling, and stood at his side. The rest remained standing where they were.
“What if we don’t?” Lubby asked. It appeared that he was the ringleader of the clan.
Severus smirked evilly at him. “Then you will leave us no choice but to expel you immediately.”
The thugs exchanged glances. Finally, Lubby stepped forward. “Fine, we’ll come. But I’m telling you, these charges are false, that little Hurtz twit is just trying to smear our good names.
Severus crossed his arms. “Oh, really now, your good names. If you noticed, I mentioned no names. Then how is it that you can accuse Miss Hurtz of anything? I never said she was involved? Unless you know she is and you decided to implicate yourself. I thank you very much, Mr. Lubby, that makes my job a hell of a lot easier. Now, come.” He marched the five out of the common room and up to Minerva’s office.
Minerva sat regally in her office chair as they entered, her fingers arched, forming a bridge. Fury was emanating from her very being. There were five chairs placed before her desk, and Severus couldn’t help but notice they were slightly lower than normal, adding to the Headmistress’s already considerable height, and adding to the impression of power. She was good.
“Sit,” she said venomously. The boys complied, though Bridgewater, pale with fear, stumbled to his chair and once seated gripped the seat until his knuckles turned white. “What do you have to say for yourselves?” Minerva demanded harshly. “Taking money to harass a First Year? What sort of behavior is that?”
A wail emitted from Bridgewater, seeming to startle Minerva. “I’m so sorry!” He bawled, “I didn’t want to do it, but I had to!”
“Shut. Up.” He heard Lubby whisper.
Minerva glared at the older boy. “I’d advise that you hold your tongue, Mr. Lubby.” She turned back to the sobbing boy. “Mr. Bridgewater, what did you mean?”
“He told me I could get easy money,” he pointed at Lubby. “My family doesn’t have much in the way of title or money. He told me that I could make some gold just by tripping that girl in the halls, sometimes shoving her out of the way. And he said that I’d be a true Slytherin, then. He said I’d bring honor to my family.” He hung his head. “I didn’t want to do it, but there wasn’t much harm in it, was there?” He looked up pleadingly at Minerva. “I am so sorry, Headmistress.”
“He’s lying!” Lubby proclaimed, his words echoed by his three elder companions.
Minerva looked at them skeptically. “Really, now,” She made eye contact with Severus, who nodded, pulling a glass vial from his cloak. “Professor Snape, if you will?”
He held up the container of colorless liquid for the punks to see. “Veritaserum, truth potion,” he clarified, knowing none of them were all too bright in the potions department. He pulled off the cork on the vial. “Just one drop of this will have you spilling you’re deepest and darkest secrets.” There was an almost audible collective gulp. They must have a lot of skeleton in their closets…
“This can’t be allowed!” the ringleader sputtered finally.
“Actually, Mr. Lubby, it is.” Minerva replied. “You may not be aware, but this is a very serious situation. I have talked to the Governors personally about this matter, and they have condoned this potion’s use in getting to the bottom of everything. Now, Severus, if you would administer the potion to Mr. Bridgewater.”
“Open up,” Severus ordered. He poured exactly one drop of the potion into the trembling boy’s mouth. A change came over the boy, his eyes stared blankly ahead of him, and his limbs stopped shuddering. The Veritaserum was kicking in. “Is what you just told us true?” he asked quietly, “Did Mr. Lubby talk you into harassing Miss Hurtz?”
“Yes,” Bridgewater said in a monotone.
“And is it also true that you only had minimal participation in this hazing?”
“Yes. I shoved her a few times, tripped her, but nothing more. It was Lubby and the rest of them who did most of the damage.”
“He’s lying,” Lubby reiterated, though his voice came out as a squeaky whisper.
“Oh, really now. He’s lying, is he? How about we try some Veritaserum on you, shall we Mr. Lubby?” he asked sinisterly. Severus just loved this part of his job. “And be forewarned, Mr. Lubby, the potion never lies.”
Professor Longbottom had just left the room. There was crazed muttering flying around the room about the news their Head of House had brought. Jack was sitting in one corner next to Jake and unfortunately Emma-the two were practically inseparable these days. He had to deal with her presence in order to spend much time with Jake at all. She was like the Yoko Ono of that Muggle rock group his Dad was obsessed with, the Slugs or something like that. “Can you believe that?” he asked Jake. “That’s crazy, kids being hired to beat up some poor bloke. They were probably all Slytherins, there’s not a good one in the bunch.”
“Yeah, probably,” Jake replied distractedly. He didn’t seem too startled at the news.
Jack waved his hand in front of Jake’s face. “Hello, earth to Jacob Baxter! What’s going on?”
Jake shook his head. “It’s nothing, nothing.” His friend glanced worriedly over at Emma. Jack studied her face closely. She looked miserable. Her arms were crossed protectively over her chest, and her eyes darted around the room as if waiting for something to jump out and grab her.
Something clicked. The looks on both their faces told him what he should have seen all along. “It’s you, isn’t it!” he exclaimed, turning to Jake. “You’re the bloke they were going after!”
Emma seemed to come to life. “Quiet!” she hissed, “I don’t want anyone to know!”
Jack frowned. “If they were going after Jake, why would it be your call if people knew or not?”
“Because,” Jake interrupted. “I’m not the one they have been targeting.” He took a deep breath before looking him square in the eye, “Emma is.”
Jack felt like a right bastard for all the crap he had given her over the past few weeks. “Emma?” he asked disbelievingly, his voice dropping down to a whisper. They both nodded.
Emma wiped a tear from the corner of her eyes before shoving her hair out of her face. “Yep, I’m the resident punching bag.”
Jack ignored her vain attempt at lightening the situation. “But who would do something like that to you? I mean, I know that you can be a pain in the arse sometimes…” he paused. “Sorry,” he added, realizing he should have watched his tongue.
She smiled at him, and for the first time he felt that it was absolutely genuine in spite of the levity of the situation. “That’s alright. As long as you know that you’re a bigger pain in the arse.”
He could tell she meant it in a playfully sparring way, so he let it slide off of him like water rolls off a duck. “Anyways, who would want to hurt you?”
She sighed, examining her fingernails intently. “Jack, it’s a long story…” Jake interceded.
“It’s alright, Jake.” Emma broke in. “I think we can trust him.” He was shocked, where had this come from! He was pleased alright, he didn’t really hate her, and it would be best for everyone if they could get along. And maybe her trusting him would be the start of that. Besides, he was pretty damn curious about what was going on. “My father. It was my father who hired them.”
Jack frowned. “Why?”
“Because,” she replied, almost as if that one word was explanation enough. “He’s a horrible person. He…” There was a second where Jack didn’t think she would continue. “He’s abusive and a control freak. He wanted to keep an eye on my while I was here, to keep me in line.”
“Merlin, Emma, that’s awful!” he exclaimed quietly.
She looked up and stared him directly in the eyes. “Do you want to know why I never seemed to like you Jack?”
He frowned, not sure how this was relevant, but his curiosity got the better of him. “Sure,”
The miserable look had crept back onto her face. “You remind me of my father.”
“What?” he shouted, forgetting about controlling his volume. Several people around the room looked in their direction at the sound of the cry. He had to improvise. “You’ve never had a Chocolate Frog, Jake?” he added loudly. Lowering his voice, he told Emma, “I’m nothing like your father; I would never hire people to hurt someone! I wouldn’t hurt a fly! Not on purpose at least.”
Emma’s mouth turned up sadly. “I know,”
“Then what do you mean?”
She shrugged. “There’s just something about how you hold yourself, some of your mannerisms that just remind me so much of him. It’s the strangest thing. But I know you’re nothing like him, well, at least based on what Jake’s told me about you.”
Jack couldn’t believe it. And this whole time he thought it had something to do with his being friends with Jake before she was. He had never felt so stupid in his life. “What are they?” he asked.
Emma looked at him, confused. “Pardon?”
“What are the things I do that remind you of him? If you tell me, I’ll try to stop.”
She shook her head vigorously. “I can’t ask you to do that,” she insisted.
Jack smirked. “You’re not asking. I’m volunteering.”
He glanced at Jake, whom he noticed was beaming. “What are you smiling at?” he questioned.
“Oh, nothing,” the other boy declared, though Jack knew he was lying. “I’m just glad that the two of you are finally getting along.”
A grin snuck onto Emma’s face as well. “Me too.”
Jack couldn’t help but chime in, “Me three.”
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