Chapter 3 : Two: In This Life
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“I’ve heard you have taken on an apprentice, Tiberius, though an eight-year-old does seem a little young to work with such spells as you practice,” deputy Headmaster Albus Dumbledore stated one day in the teacher’s lounge. His auburn hair was streaked with grey, but he still looked far younger than he really was.
Across the room, Grimm scowled. It was impossible to hide anything from Dumbledore.
“Telling Headmaster that she was my apprentice was the only way to keep him from saying that she had to leave. The last thing I will do is take Emma back to her aunts.”
Dumbledore smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. “One would think that you like the child, Tiberius. I thought that affairs of the heart were not in your qualifications.”
“You know me too well, Albus,” Grimm replied, his voice flat. “But I admit that you are wrong. No one said that I liked Emma, merely that I felt sorry for her previous situation.”
Dumbledore rose from his chair, hiding a look of amusement from his face. “What will the child do while she is here? Surely you won’t expect her to help with your experiments.”
Grimm glowered at Dumbledore. The man must read minds, he thought. I was just thinking about that very subject.
“She will do as she pleases,” he replied blandly, looking back down at his cup of coffee. “I merely brought her here, Albus, it is her choice what she will do with her time. As long as she does not interfere with my work, I will be happy.”
After Dumbledore had left, Grimm sighed and placed his cup on the table beside him. For the past week, Emma had been getting acquainted with the residents of Hogwarts and nearby Hogsmeade, charming them all with her quiet disposition and intelligent voice. Grimm found that she learned things amazingly quick, remembering her way around the castle with little difficulty and slightly understanding some of his work in the dungeon. Some of his seventh year students did not even understand his research as well as Emma seemed to be.
Hearing the girl’s infectious laugh as she helped the groundskeeper, Hagrid, hoe around his patch of giant pumpkins, Grimm looked out the window to watch her. His face expressionless, but his mind overflowing with thought, he sat there silently, even when the door opened.
“Tiberius, I just heard the strangest thing from Albus,” Minerva McGonagall announced upon seeing Grimm. “That you of all people adopted a girl-child. Is that true?”
A sardonic smile playing on his lips, Grimm looked up at his closest co-worker and one-time school rival. Minerva’s face was full of disbelief, as though she could not fathom him ever taking in a sickly cat much less a child.
“Indeed I have, Minerva,” he replied. “Did you not notice that fact earlier? Emma has been here for nearly a week.”
She sniffed, her eyes glaring at him. “Of course I’ve noticed her, but I did not hear until today that she was here because of you.”
“Well,” Grimm rejoined, rising from his chair. “Now you know. Good afternoon, Minerva. I have much to work on. If you need me, I shall be in my classroom. There is this new technique that I wish to try out.”
Just as he was leaving the room, Minerva moved as though to follow him.
“You know what people will say, Tiberius, when they hear of this,” she said, her voice becoming softer. “Some will accuse you of using her for...”
Grimm rounded on her, his face disfigured with fury and his usually calm grey eyes filled with anger. “People like saying things, but that does not mean that what they say is true. Never, ever say anything like that in my presence - or in Emma’s.”
With that, he left the room and slammed the door. His angry footsteps could be heard echoing through the empty hallways and down the stone staircase to his laboratory in the depths of the castle.
Days passed into weeks and weeks passed into a month. Soon, the students would be arriving for another year of schooling. The night before the Hogwarts Express would pull into Hogsmeade found Grimm sitting at his desk, trying to plan out his lessons for the year. Not too far away, Emma sat on a stool with her legs swinging back and forth, engrossed in a book.
For many minutes, the only sounds were of Grimm’s quill scratching the page and Emma periodically turning pages of her book. After a while, however, Grimm looked up and noticed Emma sitting there. He had not known she was there.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
Emma’s eyes appeared over the top of the book. “Hogwarts: A History. I was thinking that since I’m going to be living here, I might as well know a bit about the place.”
“You do realize that most people don’t read that book until their first year?”
The book was lowered and Emma stared at Grimm as though he had grown horns.
“Of course, I know that - er - sir.”
Grimm leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head. “Please, whatever you do, absolutely do not call me ‘sir’. Even my students do not stoop to that level. Anyway,” he added with a hint of a smile. “It makes me feel old.”
A strange look came over Emma’s face, a mix of confusion, alarm, and disbelief. The book had been closed and rested carefully on her lap, her attention now wholly focussed on the man seated behind the large walnut desk.
“What should I call you, is what you are asking me?”
He raised an eyebrow, his eyes suddenly dancing with amusement. “I suppose I am, seeing that I am now your official guardian and you are under my care.”
For a moment, Emma’s face darkened, as though she were thinking about her aunts and the life she lived a mere month beforehand. It disappeared quickly, however, replaced by a devious smile.
“Cousin Tiberius wouldn’t work, would it?”
Grimm winced at the name. “Whatever induced my mother to name me after a Roman emperor I will never know...”
Emma’s face turned quizzical. “What does ‘induced’ mean?”
“You ask too many questions. You’ll be a perfect Ravenclaw one day.”
“What does it mean, though?”
Grimm laughed and told her the meaning of the word.
“Oh, I see,” she replied, still in deep thought.
When she didn’t say anything more, Grimm went back to his work. The minutes ticked by with Emma perched on the stool, ignoring the book on her lap. She was deep in thought, as could be seen by the small furrow in her brow and the way her jaw was set.
For a little while, Grimm would glance at her ever few moments, but eventually he forgot her presence in the room so far did he become absorbed in his work.
Now for that seventh year class, I should probably teach them about... he was thinking when a small voice piped up beside him, nearly giving Grimm apoplexy.
“Could I call you ‘Uncle’ then? Just ‘Uncle’ without anything else.”
Taking in a deep breath, Grimm looked over at the girl now standing by his chair, not returning his stare, but gazing with curiosity at the rolls of parchment upon his desk.
What a strange child she is, he thought. But perhaps it was not so bad of an idea as I thought. I will not always be able to teach here. One day, she will take my place and I will train her to do so. Or better yet, she can take old Sluggy’s place; he’s been here for decades.
“Of course, child, that’s quite fine. Now, shouldn’t you be getting off to bed?”
Emma grinned, barely able to keep herself from throwing her arms around Grimm. He tried to be all gruff and strict, but she could see that it was only a mask. Behind that mask was an open heart and a mind full of questions, much like her own.
“G’night then, Uncle!” she said happily, grabbing her book from the stool and running out of the room.
She slowed down only after running up three flights of stairs. Her chamber was at the very top of Ravenclaw tower, even above all the students’ dormitories, which meant that she would have to save her energy for the rest of the climb. The hallways were long and meandering, lined with seemingly thousands of portraits. Since it was so late in the day, most of their subjects were snoozing, but others called out greetings to the girl as she passed. After quietly sneaking around the sleeping gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster’s office, Emma hurried past the closed girl’s lavatory, not wishing to speak with the ghost whose moans echoed through the empty room.
Finally, with a journey filled with talking portraits and long, dark passageways, Emma arrived in her room and flopped down on the large four-poster bed. Within minutes she was asleep, a peaceful smile upon her face.
The next day, Emma remained in her chamber reading the books she had hoarded from the school library and Grimm’s private collection. From the window, she watched the Threstals bring the carriages filled with students up to the castle. Over further, upon the lake, Emma saw Hagrid leading a swarm of rowboats across - the first years arrived very uniquely.
If there was one thing that Grimm had bothered to drill into her head, it was not to be seen by other students or get in anyone’s way during the day. The thought of sitting all day in the tower was not very pleasing to the girl, whose inquiring mind wanted to explore every inch of the castle, possibly finding convenient secret passages. Any building as old as Hogwarts castle would surely have its share to hidden byways, Emma reasoned with herself. Even though she highly respected Grimm and was happy that he had taken her away from her aunts, Emma couldn’t resist the urge to explore her new home.
After two days of steadily reading and sorting through her trunk, Emma slunk down the narrow stair that led up to her chamber, listening every moment for someone to jump out and catch her. Carefully opening the door at the bottom, she poked out her head. The long hallway was empty, but she could hear voices coming from the North Tower. Turning the other way, she hurried down the side of the hall, ready to disappear into the shadows at the first sign of people.
Before she made it to the main staircase, Emma passed a tapestry that she hadn’t observed very closely before. It showed a wizard banging a stick to music as a group of trolls made clumsy twirls and fell over their own feet. The tapestry was actually quite funny as long as one did not laugh at loud, for the wizard would glare at the viewer and grip his stick in a menacing way. Hiding her laughter behind a pale hand, Emma hurried past the absurd scene, almost running into a pot that she could easily hide in for days without anyone finding her. After going by a statue of a very lanky wizard, she started down the large marble staircase.
Reaching the sixth floor, Emma turned down a hallway, and then another, and then another. Before long, she was horribly lost. Passing by the portrait of a mean-looking warlock, Emma could have sworn that she had passed that very portrait five times. None of the rooms she saw were being used, so she was unable to ask anyone for directions. Even if she had seen someone, it was doubtful that Emma would have asked because of Grimm’s instruction not to be seen.
Turning a corner, Emma walked into a person who was much taller than her and wearing black and green robes. Stumbling back, she felt a hand grab her arm roughly.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” a silky male voice said. “Certainly too young for a first year, wouldn’t you agree, Narcissa?”
Emma nervously looked up at her adversary. He had straight white-blond hair that flowed over his shoulders and a pale pointed face that could have been reasonably handsome had not a cruel smile resided upon it. A badge on his school robes proclaimed him a Slytherin, perhaps the last sort of person Emma wanted to meet in the halls. Beside him stood a tall, willowy girl with blonde hair that shimmered like unicorn hair. She was extraordinarily pretty except for the look on her face that made it seem as though she was smelling something unpleasant.
“You can never tell, Lucius,” the girl Narcissa replied in a high, haughty voice. “Those first years keep getting smaller every year.” She looked down at Emma. “Tell us your name, little one.”
“Nobody,” Emma automatically replied.
Narcissa snorted while a frown replaced the evil smile on Lucius’ face.
“Nobody? What are you then, brat, another ghost? I haven’t heard of a new one appearing since Moaning Myrtle.” He squeezed Emma’s arm harder, forcing her to wince in pain.
“I’m not a ghost, or a student,” Emma replied, her eyes beginning to water. “I live here.”
“Then who are you?” Narcissa asked impatiently, vainly brushing back a strand of hair from her face. “Surely you know that children aren’t allowed here, so you can’t live here unless you’re a student. Everyone knows that.”
Emma didn’t answer her, not wanting to give into these bullies. She straightened her back and stared into the Slytherins’ faces, desperately trying to think of a way to get out of the situation. Lucius, believing that she would try and escape him, dug his fingers deeper into her arm.
“Tell us, little girl,” he demanded, his voice becoming dangerous. “Tell us or Narcissa here will turn your pretty face blue.” At this, Narcissa giggled, which to Emma was a terrible sound, and raised her wand.
Ideas raced faster through Emma’s head. How could she get out of this safely and without getting caught? She wasn’t scared at all, though some may think she should have been. In fact, she was more angry than scared. What ever had she done to have Lucius and Narcissa attack her like this? Bumping into someone while walking around a corner wasn’t a crime, was it? Well, maybe it was to these two, Emma thought.
Feeling Lucius’ hand upon her arm made Emma angrier by the second. She could feel the fire building up within, slowly at first, then like a wildfire. For a moment, her mind went blank. She forgot everything: where she was, who she was with, why she was there. Gradually, her eyes began to close and she began to slip away...
Suddenly, she heard a yell right by her ear. Curses filled the air around her. Emma shook herself awake and turned to see Lucius holding his hand in agony while Narcissa cooed over him. Hoping she could get away without them noticing, Emma slowly stepped back, but Lucius was too observant.
“Where do you think you’re going you little -?” he started to say, but was interrupted by the appearance of a wand nearly touching his nose.
“Little what?” a new female voice said. Emma looked up at her rescuer and saw a girl who looked very much like Narcissa, but with a darker complexion and more fortitude in her soft brown eyes. Her robes denoted her as a Ravenclaw while her appearance put her as being the same age as Lucius.
Perhaps this newcomer wouldn’t help as much as Emma had previously thought. She remembered that Grimm played favourites with the Ravenclaws.
“Malfoy, I’m afraid I’ll have to report you for that behaviour,” the Ravenclaw girl continued. “You too, Cissy, “ she added, nodding to Narcissa.
Cissy? Emma thought, looking between the two girls. They could easily have been sisters.
A hand was placed upon her shoulder, but far gentler than Lucius’ had been.
“Come on now, Emma,” the girl prodded, surprising Emma with her actual name. “Professor Grimm will have to know about this.”
Lucius Malfoy, still holding his sore arm, spluttered. “Grimm? What does he have to do with this?”
The Ravenclaw looked up at him, her face showing no emotion at all. “In case you didn’t know, Malfoy, this girl happens to be Grimm’s ward. Perhaps you should show her more kindness next time. Good day to you both.”
With a curt nod, she lead Emma away from the two Slytherins down a labyrinth of hallways.
“I was lost,” Emma tried to explain. “This floor is like a big maze!”
The girl smiled kindly. “Most new people here think so. It’s why the sixth floor isn’t used that often. Too many people get lost.” She frowned. “Or use that floor for hidden meetings. You must have run into Malfoy canoodling with my little sister.”
“Sister?” Emma exclaimed. “Narcissa is your sister? But you don’t act anything alike!”
The girl laughed, a slight bitterness in her voice. “Indeed we are, though sometimes I wish it wasn’t true. I’m Andromeda Black, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” Emma replied. “I’d tell you my name, but you already know it.”
Andromeda laughed, a much prettier sound than her sister’s. “Professor Grimm meant to keep your presence here a secret, so naturally, everyone knows about it.”
“That Lucius boy didn’t, though. He kept asking who I was.”
The warm smile on the other girl’s face disappeared. “Lucius Malfoy lives in his own little world. Just because his family is the wealthiest wizarding family in the country, he thinks that he can do whatever he wishes. And Narcissa is naive enough to like him for it!”
Emma shrugged, but said nothing. She didn’t really understand much about the magical world. She knew that she was a pureblooded witch, but that was all. Anyway, she had other things to think about. The pit in her stomach was growing as Andromeda led her down to the first floor. Going down that hall meant that she was being taken to see Grimm. Seeing Grimm would mean getting in trouble for wandering about during school hours. This would not be a good experience.
For most of the journey, the halls were empty, but whenever they passed by someone, that person would call out a friendly greeting to Andromeda. None of them seemed to notice Emma, however. To them, she must have looked like a first year who was getting a special tour of the school, or who was being taken to see the Headmaster.
They arrived in the dungeons a few minutes later. Passing by various classrooms, Andromeda led Emma into the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Grimm was teaching a class of rowdy first years. Three students at the back of the room were watching as another used a charm to magically lift a paperweight from Grimm’s desk across the room.
“Put that down, Podmore!” Grimm barked, grabbing the paperweight and gently placing it off the desk. He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, his dark robes swirling. Seeing Andromeda enter with Emma, his steely eyes narrowed.
“Take her to my office, Miss Black,” he commanded, his voice harder than usual. “I will join you as soon as I am done with this class.”
Andromeda nodded and took Emma back into the hallway and up the stairs to Grimm’s office. Emma knew the room very well; it was in this room where Grimm had begun to teach her the basics of magic and his secret love of potions-making. She also knew that this was the room where he gave detentions and tutored students. Not everyone who came into Grimm’s office had a pleasant experience. More often than not, being sent to Grimm’s office meant a weekend of doing extra assignments; all of them extremely difficult.
Emma sat on one of the hard chairs, worried about what could happen to her. Would she be locked up in her room for the next three years? Would she be not allowed to learn any more magic? Or, worse, would Grimm send her back to live with her aunts?
The mere thought of returning to Derbyshire and her aunts brought out a cold sweat on Emma’s small body, making her shiver from the cool air coming from an open window. Andromeda stood in front of the shelves, absently looking over the mostly-obscure titles and periodically taking one down to glance at it.
After about a quarter of an hour, the noise from the classroom next door subsided and Grimm entered the room, his face not quite angry, but not very kind. He refused to meet Emma’s eyes as she stared at him. She had disobeyed him, she knew, but surely she hadn’t done anything hugely wrong. Had she?
“Thank you, Miss Black,” he said, standing behind the chair to his second desk, which was covered in rolls of parchment and glass jars, much like the other in the classroom. “You may now go back to class. I’m sure Professor McGonagall will be missing you.”
Andromeda put back the dust-incrusted book she had been looking at. “It was no trouble at all, Professor,” she replied. “It was rather a pleasure to confront Malfoy. That boy really bothers me all the time!”
Grimm managed a small smile. “Indeed he does.”
On her way out, Andromeda gave a small wink at Emma, trying to comfort the younger girl, who was obviously quite worried. It did not seem to work, however, Emma only bit her lip until she could taste blood in her mouth.
“Emma, I am surprised at you,” Grimm began, sitting down at the desk and looking earnestly at the nervous girl. “First of all, you disregarded the rules I laid out for you. Secondly, you made yourself conspicuous to the two worst possible people in this school.”
“H-how do you kn-know that?” Emma stammered.
“If there is one thing that you must know about Hogwarts, Emma, is that there are eyes everywhere, watching our every move,” Grimm explained, his tone deathly serious. “Some of those eyes are not good ones, but others are willing to help those in need.”
“You know everything, then?” Emma asked, her voice still shaking.
Grimm leaned over the desk, his eyes now looking directly into hers. “Everything.”
Emma lifted her white hand hesitantly to scratch her head. “Even the fire thing?”
He sat back, a look of slight bewilderment on his face. “What about fire? I heard that you did something strange to make Malfoy leave you alone...”
“I don’t know what it was exactly,” Emma said, trying to explain. “It was like I could feel this fire inside of me getting bigger as I got more angry. Then it kind of blew up.”
Grimm raised an eyebrow. “‘Blew up’?”
“All I remember is that boy crying out and letting go of my arm. It was like he was burnt or something...”
An acid-scarred hand rubbing his beard, Grimm looked as though he were going to burst into laughter.
“All it means is that you have magical ability, a fact I was already aware of,” he said with much amusement. Then he looked back at Emma, the smile vanishing from his face. "Do not think for a moment, young lady, that you will easily get out of this scrape, even though you potentially wounded one of my least favourite students. People may know that you are here, but that does not mean that it is right for you to wander the halls. As I said earlier, Emma, this castle is not entirely safe, even for its occupants.”
Grimm’s tone was not menacing, but Emma still sat hunched in her seat as though he had yelled insults at her. Seeing that she was not relaxing, he sighed and shook his head.
“Merlin’s beard, child, I’m not going to send you back to your aunts. That would mean I would have to see them again, and that is one thing that I will not do. I promise that you will never, ever have to go back there.”
Her eyes wide, Emma stared at Grimm. “You’re not?”
Trying to force back the chuckle that was catching in his throat, Grimm replied. “No, but I will enforce some rules upon you. Spending all day up in that tower isn’t necessarily healthy for your mind or your body.”
Folding his hands upon his chest as he sat back in his chair, Grimm watched as Emma uncurled her short, but skinny, arms and legs from their positions and stood up. Her greenish-hazel eyes glowing with extreme happiness, she waited for what he was to say next.
“Hagrid has expressed the need for some help around the castle grounds,” he began, his face filled with amusement at the child who stood before him. “Although you won’t be able to do too much, I’m sure that learning about the environs of Hogwarts is just as important as anything else. During the afternoons, you will be at the mercy of the professors, running errands and such. After dinner, Emma, if you would so like I could teach you the basics of magic and potions-making so that one day you will make a half-decent witch, one who will be able to protect herself- “
He never finished what he was to say, however, because Emma, feeling so grateful to this wizard who had saved her from a life of potential pain and suffering, had run around the desk and thrown her arms around Grimm. Feeling profoundly embarrassed, but pleased, Grimm lightly patted the girl’s head and smiled.
“Just don’t let me catch you wandering around the school alone,” he warned her. “Malfoy especially may hold a bit of a grudge against you now that you made him look bad in front of the younger Miss Black. Cleaning cauldrons is not an exciting job, I’ll have you know.”
Emma looked up at him with a grin on her slightly-freckled face. A brilliant idea had come to her. “Don’t worry, Uncle, nobody will ever see me.”
EDITED - 17/07/05
Chapter title from Chantal Kreviazuk's "What if it All Means Something"
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