Chapter 2 : Chapter Two
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The final month of the lazy summer passed by fairly uneventful. Mrs. Lynch’s free time was completely spent on planning Jackson and Molly’s wedding, which sent her on her merry way to Molly’s house to discuss the precious details with her future-in-laws. Every night during dinner, Emma was obliged to sit through her mother’s one-sided discussions about wedding locations, bridal flowers, centerpieces, wedding gowns, and main courses. It seemed that, with her agreement to be a bridesmaid, Emma had signed her life away to her mother, the self-described wedding planner.
Fortunately for Emma, while Mrs. Lynch was entrenched in the wedding plans of her only son, her young daughter was granted as much time in her Quidditch Pitch as she needed. Whenever the house-elves wondered where on Earth Emma had ventured to, they would just have to listen for the sounds of quiet cursing and the swish of Quaffle soaring through a hoop out in the gardens. The house-elves grew to be so used to Emma vanishing from the main house that it was an honest surprise to catch sight of her before dinnertime, when Mrs. Lynch was always known to return home.
As the summer wound down, Emma was quite disappointed to find that she would not be receiving any last visits from her dear brother. Jackson, it seemed, was swamped with work for the Department of Magical Games and Sports for the Ministry of the Magic. According to some rumors swimming around the Ministry, the current head of the department was about to retire and was searching for a replacement—hence why Jackson was working overtime every night for at least the next month, or until the head decided who his replacement would be. Thus Jackson was unavailable to send his young sister off to her last year at Hogwarts.
By the time September 1st had finally crawled around, Emma was just about ready to return to Hogwarts. She could do with getting away from the Lynch Estate and seeing someone besides her mother or the house-elves; she had received a few invitations to spend time with her friends over the summer, but she hadn’t had it the heart to accept them. For some reason, the thought of leaving her mother alone bothered her in a way she couldn’t describe. Instead, Emma promised them they would get together when they returned to Hogwarts, and stayed with her mother for the entire summer.
Fortunately for our young heroine, Mrs. Lynch had been called away early that morning to the Ministry; apparently some sixteen-year-old idiot had tried to Apparate from Ipswich to Carlisle and ended up splinching himself, leaving his left leg behind. The only problem was that the leg had now vanished, and thus Emma’s mother had been ordered into the Ministry that morning to aid in the search for that missing leg. Emma, in turn, was given a free pass on any awkward good byes with her mother that were practically guaranteed for the end of the summer at King’s Cross Station. So, that morning, after a hot shower and a quick bite to eat, Emma Apparated with her trunk and broom case to the train station.
As always, Platform Nine and Three Quarters was bustling with people, from students to mothers to uncles to sisters. The air was hot and sticky, conjuring beads of sweat on the back of Emma’s neck. In the center of all the commotion was the gleaming, bright red Hogwarts Express, all prepared to shuttle the next generation of eager students to Hogsmeade. Even after six years, Emma couldn’t help but smile at the sight before her—she was ready to take one of her last trips back to Hogwarts, to the place that she had called home for quite a long time.
Just after Emma had taken a couple steps towards the train, a loud crash nearby made several heads, including her own. Some boy—his face was kept towards the ground, hiding his identity—had apparently overturned his cart, allowing his trunk to burst open and his belongings to scatter all around him. Passersby averted their eyes, continuing on their merry way to whichever destination they were so desperately searching for. Emma should have done the same; she should’ve just kept walking, keeping her head held high and acting as though nothing had happened.
When an eleven-year-old Emma had arrived at King’s Cross for her first year at Hogwarts, she had been frantic to get away from her mother. Her father’s death was still fresh in all of their minds, and the grief was too troublesome for Emma to comprehend. Her best solution was to keep her emotions bottled up, shrugging away from any of her mother’s searching embraces and avoiding questions by those nosy neighbors. Now, only minutes away from being able to start anew, to escape this excruciating sorrow at long last, Emma was impatient to rush through the barrier between Platforms Nine and Ten, and to board the Hogwarts Express. In her rush to flee, Emma had knocked over her trunk, spilling her clothes and school supplies all over the platform.
Mrs. Lynch, under enough stress as it was, seemed to visibly break; she coldly ordered her daughter to collect her belongings and suffer through the humiliation, as she had so clearly brought it on herself. And so young Emma, her face flushed with mortification and furious tears burning her bright eyes, was forced to stomach the blatant stares as she gathered everything from her textbooks to her knickers. It was a memory that did not leave her mind so easily.
Now, seventeen-year-old Emma found her eyes gazing at the boy still grasping for his effects, those horrid emotions still burning her stomach. Step after step she took towards the boy, until she was only inches from him. She kneeled down beside him, silently gathering several of his books in her hands, a piece of yellowing parchment tucked in the pages. Finally, Emma allowed her eyes to meet the ones of the boy, and was startled by the vivid green eyes staring back at her.
While Emma knew far too much about James Potter, she had little to no information on his younger brother, Albus. He was in Gryffindor, along with both of his other siblings; he stayed under the radar, a surprising feat, considering who his family was. From what she had seen from the fifth year, he seemed rather shy, keeping to himself and sticking with his miniscule group of friends. Seeing as how there were two years between them, Emma hadn’t exactly been offered opportunities to speak to the boy. Until now, that is.
Before she allowed herself to speak, Emma took in Albus’ features: vivid green eyes, messy, jet-black hair, a lanky build. She could easily see the resemblance between him and his brother; the most obvious difference was the lack of loathing she felt for the younger Potter.
“Here,” Emma told Albus now, sticking the stack of books into an empty space in his trunk. She glanced around the trunk, grabbing a set of bronze scales and a few more books. Astonishment filled her at the countless number of books that had been fit into the trunk; clearly Potter got the brains that his brother so severely lacked.
“Thanks,” Albus eventually told Emma as soon as his belongings had vanished from the platform and were nestled away.
“No problem,” the brunette shrugged, helping him heave the trunk back onto his cart. “You looked like you could use a hand.”
“Yeah,” he replied, his cheeks turning slightly pink. “I, er, lost control of my cart. That’s why my stuff was all over the place.”
“It’s happened to all of us at one point,” Emma smiled at him as she ran her fingers through her thick, dark hair. “Well, I need to go—“
“You’re Emma, right? Emma Lynch?” asked Albus abruptly. At her slow, puzzled nod, he continued, “I’ve heard my brother talk about you before. A lot, actually.”
“Oh, I’m sure he has,” Emma couldn’t help but smirk. “He must paint quite a picture of me.”
“That’s not true—“
The brunette shot him a look.
“Alright, it’s not exactly all compliments,” Albus relented reluctantly. “But even he admits that you’re one of the best Quidditch players in Hogwarts. Not even James can take that away from you.”
Emma couldn’t help but allow her eyebrows to rise in surprise at this tidbit of news. She could hardly imagine James ever offering her praise for anything, let alone actually admitting that she was a decent Quidditch player. The ludicrous idea of it all forced an odd discomfort throughout her body until she couldn’t help but cross her arms over her chest. Before Emma could even form a reply in her head for the middle Potter, a girl, younger than Emma, bounded over to Albus, her thick, bright red hair flying all about her.
“Al, please come back; James was just being a prat, you know how he—“ Lily Potter hesitated at the sight of Emma socializing with her older brother. She was so used to seeing her brother alone that it was mind-boggling to see him speaking to anyone, let alone an actual girl. “Oh, hello,” she finally said to Emma, a cautious smile spreading across her sweet face.
Like Albus, Emma didn’t know much about Lily. She was three years younger than her, and was fairly popular in her year as a Gryffindor. That was all she had ever heard of the youngest Potter—it was a bit understandable, since Emma barely associated with anyone in her own year, let alone the year three levels before hers.
“Hey,” Emma nodded to the girl now. Turning to Albus, she added, “I better try to find my own stuff; I’ll see you around though.”
Lamely waving goodbye to them both, Emma hurried back to her trunk and broom case, desperate to be left to her own solitude once more. Knowing her own luck, she’d be sucked into the whole Potter clan before she could even blink an eye, and that was not an experience she would ever want to suffer through. Sure, it’d be absolutely wonderful to meet her Quidditch idol, but, combine that with being stuck with that git, James Potter, and they cancel out pretty easily. Yes, she was better of just retreating and going off to find her own compartment. If life had taught her one lesson, it was that being alone was always the safest route.
“Have you seen Emma Lynch?”
“Emma, have you talked to her?”
“Do any of you know where Emma Lynch is?”
That soft, gentle familiar voice wafted down the corridor, stuttering to a stop every few corridors to creep into a crowded compartment. Each time it halted, it was forced to suffer through rejection and move on down the travelling train.
As it neared the section that Emma now resided in, she caught wind of it. Despite her instant knowledge of who was searching for her, Emma continued to dwell in her compartment. She was currently enraptured in Knocking the Keepers; at that point, she was reading up on the history of the Porksoff Ploy, one of the many maneuvers Emma knew that were used to fool opposing Chasers. The rest of her compartment had remained empty since her arrival a little more than an hour ago, which was an immense relief; it allowed her to read in peace. Or so she thought—the compartment door abruptly slid open, revealing the lovely Marina Torres.
When Emma had first met Marina six years ago, she had truly tried to hate her. The girl was so bloody perfect—pretty, sweet, and popular. The little Hufflepuff with those big, brown, doe eyes just seemed to entrance anyone who dared to take a peek at them. During those first couple days of classes in her first year, Emma had succeeded in her personal mission to despise Marina. While the young Quidditch lover had kept to herself, Marina had already gathered a group of giggly followers who had half a brain between them all. Emma had written the pretty girl off as insufferable, and seemed set to stay as far away from Marina as possible. That is, until their first ever Potions class.
At that point, Professor Slughorn was still teaching at Hogwarts; he had assigned the first year Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws to pairs. Emma had been placed with Brad Martin, a gangly Ravenclaw with shaky hands and a nervous stutter. At the table next to them was Marina, who had, with a stroke of luck, been paired with one of her foolish friends. About halfway through their progression of making the boil cure potion, a loud crash caused anyone to freeze. Apparently, Marina had added the wrong amount of porcupine quills, causing the potion hiss loudly, melt through the pewter cauldron, and splash right upon Marina’s beautiful face. It instantly broke out in vicious red boils, from the top of her forehead to the tip of her chin. Slughorn hastily sent her on her way to the Hospital Wing with one of the very few volunteers; it seemed that all of Marina’s so-called friends had forgotten how to raise their hands.
You know, children can truly be cruel to those who least deserve it. As soon as Marina vanished from the dungeons, malicious whispers about the poor girl broke out, and those dear friends who she had counted on so much were in the thick of those harsh words. Finally, as everyone else left, Emma had glanced back at Marina’s seat, only to find her belongings still there, untouched since she had rushed from the classroom. With a sigh, Emma placed Marina’s Potions equipment and textbooks in the girl’s bag, slung it over her shoulder along with her own bag, and, instead of heading to lunch with the rest of her classmates, went to the Hospital Wing.
At first, Marina had pleaded with Madame Pomfrey to not allow anyone to see her, in fear of anyone seeing her at her worst. Emma managed to sneak past the elderly matron and hand Marina’s properties over to her. Just as she was about to leave, the young girl softly asked her why she had gone to the trouble of helping her. Emma reluctantly replied that she did it because she hoped that someone would do it for her one day. They sat there in silence, until Marina offered her a chocolate frog stashed away in her bag—they’d been best friends ever since.
Now, six years later, Marina was still one of the prettiest girls in all of Hogwarts. Her black hair was long and shiny, spilling down past her shoulders. Gleaming amber eyes were framed by a fringe of dark eyelashes; her plump lips were a pale pink, her nose small and button-like. She was slight and petite, almost pixie-like in stature. Her soft face immediately broke out into a bright grin at the sight of Emma, rushing to throw her thin arms around her friend’s shoulders. “Emma! It’s so wonderful to see you,” beamed Marina as she embraced her laughing friend.
“It’s been three months, Rina,” Emma couldn’t help but smirk.
Marina released her fellow brunette and perched herself on the seat beside her. She was still smiling happily at Emma, not a bit fazed by her amusement. “It’s still been way too long. So much can change in that time—like Jackson getting engaged, right? Your mother must be thrilled.”
“Of course,” grinned Emma wryly. “She gets to control another aspect of my brother’s life—how could she not?”
Marina bit her bottom lip nervously, clearly debating her next question. At Emma’s questioning stare, she hastily fixed her expression and asked, “How was your summer? Was everything…alright?”
At first, Emma didn’t reply. She studied her fingernails, chewed down until they were nubs. No matter how much she cared for Marina, she wasn’t sure on how much she wanted to tell her about her family’s secrets, about the interworking of the relationship between herself and her mother; it was too complicated of a discussion to have. Finally, she responded, “It was fine. How was yours? I’m guessing you saw that prick of yours?”
Marina flushed and told her defensively, “Don’t call him that, Emma. Just because you two don’t get along—“
“Oh, that’s an understatement.”
The prick that Emma was speaking of was none other than Daniel White, seventh year Gryffindor, Marina’s current boyfriend and, in Emma’s mind, a pig-headed fool. While he may have been relatively handsome—wavy dark hair, deep brown eyes, a winning smile—Emma had not been tricked by his charm as Marina had. Ever since he had thrown a temper tantrum after, during a Quidditch match, Emma had bumped him off his path, forcing him to lose the Quaffle, without a penalty, they had only been able to agree on one thing—their immense dislike for one another. Even after Daniel and Marina had been dating for almost a year now, they had yet to work on their non-existent friendship, despite Marina’s desperate attempts to steer them in the right direction. Emma was adamant though—no matter how much she loved her best friend, she refused to even have a friendly conversation with him.
“If you would give him a chance, you’d see how sweet he is,” Marina tried to plead with her best friend now. A soft smile fluttered onto her face as she continued, “how gentle and caring he can be, and how much of an incredible person he is.”
“Marina,” Emma said, trying her best to stay patient, “you are the one dating him, not me. As long as you like him—which makes him an incredibly lucky bastard—that’s all that matters. You never listen to me whenever I mention your other idiot boyfriends, so why should this one be any different—“
“I’ve never dated any idiots before!” exclaimed Marina. “I mean, sure, a couple of them weren’t exactly winners but there was Jack—“
“Who leered at any girl that moved when you weren’t looking?”
“Oh, right. Well, what about Carlton? He was a good guy—“
“Wasn’t that the one who nearly lost his marbles when he caught you hugging your cousin?”
“Alright, alright, you’ve made your point,” sighed Marina, exasperated with Emma now. She leaned her pretty head back against the seat, closing her dark eyes and letting out a heavy sigh. “I’m telling you, though, Daniel is different. You’ll see it eventually; I’m positive you will.”
Emma held in the urge to roll her eyes as she simply shook her head at her friend. “We’ll see, love.” She got to her feet, stretching out her cramped-up legs.
“Where are you going?” Marina asked instantly as Emma neared the sliding glass door.
“To the loo,” she replied. “Would you like to join me? It could be a splendid experience we can recount to our grandkids.”
“Oh, shut up,” laughed the lovely girl as her best friend departed from the compartment, setting off down the corridor to the bathroom at the back of the train.
Emma was fortune enough only run into a few familiar faces; she silently nodded at them but managed to avoid any typical conversations about how her summer had gone, was she ready for the end of the year, who had been made Quidditch captains, etc. etc. etc. The latter topic would have been particularly painful for Emma, and she was rather pleased to find that she did not have to discuss it just yet.
Emma had been positive that this would be the year she would receive the prestigious title of Captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. She had worked tirelessly over the past five years to obtain that right to lead a team all the way to the Quidditch Cup, sacrificing blood, sweat, and tears in the process. Even Stephan Griffin, her own captain for three of those years, had all but sworn that Professor Longbottom, the head of Hufflepuff house, would be mad not to appoint her as captain after he graduated the year before. And yet, when Emma received her letter from Hogwarts that summer, there was no badge, no announcement letter—only a list of books she’d be required to purchase before the school year began. It was the ultimate insult, and it had all but crushed her. She was just relieved that she hadn’t had to explain it to Marina yet; that was a conversation she wanted to stall as long as possible.
As Emma was getting to business in the bathroom, she vaguely heard a fist pounding on the door to the boy’s bathroom. A slight frown playing on her lips as she finished cleaning her hands, she unlatched the door and stepped back into the corridor.
“Come on, hurry up,” grumbled James Potter irritably as he waited impatiently in the corridor, his back turned to Emma.
An instant scowl appeared on her face; it only grew as she realized his tall, stocky form was blocking the entire hallway, leaving her only an inch of space to make a quick getaway. Holding in a sigh, she stepped up to James and said quietly, “Excuse me.”
James lazily glanced over his shoulder and immediately glowered at the sight of the brunette. “What is this? Emma Lynch actually using her manners? Why, it must be a Christmas miracle,” he coolly told her as he continued to block her path.
“It would be even more of a miracle if you showed some courtesy and moved,” Emma retorted through gritted teeth.
“And miss an, as always, lovely conversation with you? Why would I do such a thing?” said James, now purposefully leaning against the wall parallel to him, arms crossed across his chest and looking rather amused with himself.
“Because you’re such a sweet, gentle guy who is, by no means, a git,” Emma replied as she refused to return his smirk.
“Finally you’re coming around to me. I knew it would only be a matter of time,” James’ smirk only seemed to grow as her temper continued to boil.
“I’d rather throw myself off this train, Potter.”
“That can be arranged.”
Rolling her eyes, Emma forcefully shoved past James and stormed down the corridor, refusing to glance over her shoulder to make sure the Gryffindor stayed behind. Unfortunately, she had no reason to—she could easily catch the sound of James’ footsteps quickly following her, unable to quit his pestering. “What’s got your panties all in a bunch, Lynch?” James asked, using his long strides to effortlessly keep up with Emma’s hurried pace. “I hope becoming captain of a losing team hasn’t made you even more irritable—“
Emma spun on her heel, immediately pointing her finger directly in his smirking face and opened her mouth, ready to furiously snap at him. Some little voice that sounded suspiciously like Marina in the back of her head whispered for her to stop, to control her temper. Finally, she shoved her clenched fist back to her side and quietly told him, “Just leave me alone, Potter.”
As to expected, James didn’t back down so easily. He continued to follow her back to her compartment as he told her, “I seem to have hit a nerve. What, is it the fact that I brought up your upcoming captaincy? Or, wait a minute—“A grin flashed across his handsome features as he continued, “Perhaps Professor Longbottom made the brilliant decision to hand the badge over to someone else. No wonder you’re in such a lovely mood.”
“Oh, shove off, Potter,” Emma snarled as she neared her compartment. She was hoping that she would be rid of him as soon as she reached the sliding glass door, but was soon distracted by the same door being thrown wide open.
Daniel White stalked out of the compartment, freezing as he caught sight of James and Emma only a couple feet away from him. He hadn’t changed since Emma had least seen him—still tall, handsome, and ridiculously overconfident. After a brief nod to James—they had been teammates on the Gryffindor Quidditch team for years, and had always seemed to be on decent terms—and ignored Emma altogether. “How’s it going, Potter?” Daniel asked him now.
“Fine,” replied James curtly. “Just having a conversation here with my favorite Hufflepuff.”
Emma shot a lethal glare up at him, but he seemed not to notice. He was continuing to watch Daniel with a wary eye, but it instantly disappeared as he caught Emma watching his expression.
“Visiting your girlfriend, White?” Emma finally queried, trying to peek over Daniel’s shoulder to make sure that Marina was still, in fact, there.
“I was,” he responded, fixing a stare filled with blatant dislike upon the brunette, “until she refused to come with me to my own compartment. It seems she was more interested in spending time with you than me.”
Emma couldn’t stop the smirk that crossed her features at these words; she hadn’t been this proud of her best friend since Marina had somehow managed to swipe an A on her Potions essay. She tried in vain to keep a straight face as she said, “How sad.”
Daniel shot her one more look of loathing before storming past them both, making sure to bump his shoulder into Emma, hard. “Nice seeing you too,” Emma called after him. She turned to James and added, “That’s one parasite I’m rid of—how about we try for two?”
James continued to stand there, appearing to be deep in thought before finally replying, “How about I leave if you tell me who your captain is?”
“No can do,” Emma shook her head. “Honestly, I have no idea,” she added at his skeptical glance. Her curiosity got the best of her as she asked, “Whose yours? Obviously it’s not you, since I don’t see a badge, and you haven’t thrown it in my face. Is it Weasley?”
James shook his head at the mention of his cousin, Fred Weasley. “I’ve been asking around, but no one seems to have any idea.”
A frown played on Emma’s lips as she nodded, thinking hard about what on Earth was going on. Had McGonagall forgotten to send out the badges or something? Obviously something wasn’t right. Just after she turned to return to her compartment, she glanced back at James and said, “Thanks.” It was an odd, actually having to thank Potter; it wasn’t something she ever wanted to get used to.
“For giving me something to think about.”
Emma said nothing more as she entered her compartment, going back to her best friend and leaving the puzzled Potter alone in the corridor.
And this is where we will leave off. Thank you for reading, and please don’t forget to review!