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Off the Rails by water_lily43175
Chapter 11 : eleven
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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I didn’t know what to do. In my seven years at Hogwarts, I’d learned a lot (well, perhaps not that much) but never had I been told how to deal with a Muggle finding out about magic. Did I bluff my way out of it? Explain the situation? Obliviate her? None of those options were particularly appealing. I ruled out the third almost straight away; I wouldn’t trust myself to perform a memory charm at the best of times.

“Carla...”

She squealed and took a step backwards, glancing behind her, as though checking her route to the door was clear.

“Don’t hurt me...” she said in what was barely a whisper, taking a second step back.

“I’m not going to hurt you, I promise.” I tried to sound soothing, though it wasn’t particularly my forte, and put my wand back in my pocket. Her eyes followed it, then snapped back up to my face once the wand had vanished from her sight.

“Let me go,” she said quietly, “let me leave...”

“No, Carla, wait-”

I made as if to approach her, raising my arm. She screamed again and backtracked hurriedly until she hit the wall behind her. She glanced to her side, towards the door.

“Carla, please, don’t leave, not yet, let me explain-”

She dashed to the door, yanked it open and ran out, slamming it shut behind her.

“Shit!” I said again, kicking the leg of the coffee table in frustration. There was a slight chink of broken glass as the table bashed against the broken picture frame, which was lying on the floor where Carlotta had dropped it. I drew my wand, pointed it at the photograph with a shaking hand, and said “Reparo!” The shards of glass flew towards each other, reassembling themselves on top of the photograph. I knelt down and picked it up, watching Lily and Brigid twirl round in the snow.

It was only then that I noticed the heavy pounding of my heart. I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm myself, and stood up.

It was Lily I needed right now. She’d know what to do. But she was currently at the Three Broomsticks, with the rest of my family, and if I was aiming for damage limitation – which, of course, I was – then alerting my entire family to the fact that I’d broken the Statute of Secrecy wasn’t a good idea.

I’d broken the Statute of Secrecy.

Shit.

My gaze moved to Brigid. She was my second option, and currently my only one, as everybody else who might help, like Aunt Audrey, Dominique, Rose or Teddy, was also at the Three Broomsticks.

Brigid was going to go nuts.

I took another couple of breaths to calm myself. It didn’t help; if anything, the more I thought about telling her what I’d done, the more terrifying it became. After all, that was the Ministry’s prime reason for existence, the Golden Rule that was drilled into all wizarding children, the underlying message in every lesson at Hogwarts. And in one stupid moment, with the help of one stupid little piece of metal that I intended to help uphold the Statute, I’d gone and broken it.

The irony wasn’t lost on me.

I set the photograph back down on the table, closed my eyes for a moment in one last-ditch attempt to prepare myself for what was to come, then Disapparated.

Brigid’s living room materialised around me. She was curled up in her favourite chair, reading a book. She looked up as she heard me Apparate.

“James!” she said with a smile – unlike Rose, she didn’t mind me literally dropping in on her. “I didn’t expect to see you today! Has the game finished already?”

I decided not to beat about the bush.

“Carlotta’s found out about magic.”

Although perhaps a more gentle approach would have been more effective.

Brigid’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

“James, tell me you’re joking.”

“Of course I’m not joking, why would I joke about something like this? Carlotta turned up at my house and saw my photos, Cordelia, everything! And then I bloody Apparated in at the same time, and drew my wand on her!”

“Shit.” Her hand flew to her mouth, just as Carlotta’s had a few moments before. She stared at me for a moment, before lowering it. “Why did you draw your wand on her?”

“I didn’t know it was her! I heard a scream, and Cordelia squealing! She was behind me at the time!”

“Well, what the hell was she doing in your flat when you weren’t expecting her?” She rose to her feet, looking as flustered as I felt.

“I don’t know! We hadn’t quite gotten that far, funnily enough, exchanging pleasantries wasn’t too high up on the agenda given that she’d just seen me materialise out of nowhere! She used my spare key, the one I keep under the doormat! Either that or she’s an expert at breaking and entering, and I highly doubt that.”

“Why do you keep a key under your doormat? You don’t need a key, you’re a wizard!”

“I can hardly use my wand to unlock it if there’s a Muggle there, can I? And you know me; I hardly ever remember to take a key with me if I don’t leave the flat by the door.”

She sank back into her chair and opened and shut her mouth a few times, before finally finding words.

“I – James – I’m beyond speechless.” She groaned and leaned back in the chair, her hands over her face. “The one time you’re proactive on upholding the Statute...”

“I’ve worked that out, funnily enough. Any ideas on what we do?” I was beginning to get antsy.

“Well, get in touch with the Obliviators, of course. Once they’ve done their job it’ll all be fine, although you’ll have a mark against your name of course, breaking the Statute is a serious issue, and you’ll have to be doubly careful in future, I don’t think I’ll be letting you anywhere near Muggles for a long while-”

“Brigid,” I interrupted her, “we can’t go to the Ministry. I don’t even know where she lives!”

She frowned. “Have you never walked her home?” She didn’t give me a chance to answer. “Oh, who am I kidding? This is you we’re on about. Know her surname?”

“Not a clue.”

“Well, that’ll make things slightly more difficult, but the Ministry will manage; they have their ways. And Al has met her, right?”

“They’ve been introduced-”

“Well then, that’s fine, he can help them out-”

“I don’t want her to be Obliviated, Brie,” I cut in.

She raised an eyebrow.

“Well, what’s your suggestion then? She knows about magic, James! You’ve broken the Statute! She has to be Obliviated, we can’t just leave her knowing about it-”

“She doesn’t know what she knows, all she saw was-”

“A moving picture, a squealing ball of purple fur, probably a broomstick too, knowing your inability to put things away, and you pointing a bloody wand at her! She may not have twigged the whole thing, but she fact remains, she saw it and that constitutes a Statute break. Besides, I think a moving photo is enough to freak out anyone.” She paused. “What exactly was her reaction to all this, anyway?”

I shrugged. “She’d already dropped the photo, probably just before I Apparated in. And then she screamed a couple of times. She didn’t say much, she just looked scared. I told her I wasn’t going to hurt her, and asked her to stay, just so I could try to smooth things over I guess, but she left pretty sharpish...”

I felt a dull pang in my stomach as I remembered the expression on Carlotta’s face, the look of sheer terror as I tried to approach her...

“Merlin, we’ve gotta do something, Brie,” I continued, falling back into the settee behind me. It was a mark of the seriousness of the conversation that she didn’t scold me for breaking the springs.

“You think?” she said sarcastically. “I’ve told you, Obliviate her.”

I shook my head.

“I can’t,” I said. “I just can’t. Wipe a month from her memory? It’s beyond cruel...”

“It wouldn’t be totally wiped, just the bits with you. The Obliviators are clever like that.”

“That’s still a fair chunk of memory to lose!” I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. “Lily said she’d never do it again. She said it was horrible, that she wished she’d never done it. You saw the affect it had on her-”

“Hers was a different case,” Brigid said sharply. “Carlotta is some bird you’ve been shagging for a few weeks, you can’t try to claim it would have an adverse affect on you if she were Obliviated. There’s nothing else to do, James! You can’t just leave her knowing about it! Aside from anything else, it’s cruel on her...”

Carlotta’s terrified face sprung back into my head again. I groaned and rested my head in my hands, but I could still see her face, as though it were burned into the insides of my eyelids.

“Surely there’s another option...”

“Well, yeah, you could try hunting her down and explaining it, but I can’t see that going well, she’s probably petrified of you now, and given that you don’t know where she lives-”

“She works at the Tav most nights,” I supplied.

“No. You are banned from the Tav, James Potter. I told you this would happen! I told you countless times! But did you listen? No, you just carried on without a care in the world. And now you come running to me to fix it when it all goes wrong!” She drew a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

“I’m sorry,” I said in a small voice, my head still in my hands.

“It’s okay, Jim. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s about learning from them, that’s all.”

“It’s not okay if I’ve broken the Statute...”

There was a pause.

“Don’t tell Mum and Dad.” I raised my head to look at her. “Please. They don’t need to know. They’ll be so angry if they find out...”

She shuddered, presumably at the thought of Mum angry.

“There’s a high chance they will, given how high up your Dad is in the Ministry, the Obliviators would be bound to let it slip-”

“There won’t be any Obliviators,” I glared at her.

She sighed.

“Let’s sleep on it, and talk about it tomorrow. But I really don’t see any other option.”

***

The next morning, I visited Rose. I walked round the corner to hers, as I knew that she wouldn’t appreciate me Apparating into the flat she and Albus shared.

She was in her dressing gown and slippers as she answered the door to me, and her hair was a mess; she’d clearly just gotten out of bed.

“This early? Really?” she groaned. She wasn’t known for being an early riser.

“Is Al in?” I asked.

She frowned.

“No, he’s at work. Why, have you come to see him?”

“No, I’ve come to chat to you and I didn’t want him here.” I shifted my weight from one foot to the other nervously. “Can I come in?”

She glanced behind her for a moment.

“I – yeah, I guess.”

She stepped backwards and opened the door wider for me to enter.

“You’d better have eaten, cause I’m sure as hell not feeding you,” she said as she shut the door behind me.

“Yeah, I’ve eaten.”

I sat down gingerly on one of the seats in the lounge. She took a seat opposite me, looking slightly puzzled.

“You don’t seem yourself this morning. You okay?”

I bit my lip.

“Something bad’s happened.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Carlotta’s found out about magic.”

Rose suddenly looked wide awake.

“She’s found out about magic,” she repeated slowly.

I nodded in trepidation.

“Bloody hell, James.” She clasped her hands together on top of her head, and stared across the room, seeming deep in thought. “You’re an idiot sometimes,” she said after a pause.

“I know.”

I must have looked as downtrodden as I felt, because she sighed heavily and lowered her hands.

“Oh, Jimmy. You don’t half know how to get into trouble.” She paused again. “Bloody hell...” She shook her head, her unruly mane of hair quivering violently with the movement. “Have you reported it to the Ministry yet?”

“No. And I don’t want to tell them, I don’t want her memory tampered with...”

“Well what the hell else do you suggest?”

Rose was incredibly similar to Brigid in some ways and her reaction to my news was proving to be much the same. Now the news had sunk in, she was getting angry with me, and I knew that once that was out, the pity would come. To be quite honest, I didn’t want either.

“How did she find out, anyway? I suppose you did something idiotic-”

“She let herself into my house yesterday when we were at the game,” I said shortly. “She saw the photo of Lily and Brie that’s on my coffee table, she saw Cordelia, she possibly saw Fiona too. Then I Apparated in right in front of her...”

Rose’s head fell into her hands.

“James,” she groaned into them. “You’re a fool, a bloody fool! And you think you can just get away with not telling the Ministry?” She raised her head, flinging hair everywhere. “You’ve broken the Statute! The Statute of Secrecy, James! There’s a Muggle out there who knows about our world when she’s not meant to! Imagine what could happen! She could tell someone. She could think that she’s going mad! The poor girl must be terrified! You can’t not tell the Ministry!”

“I know! But I don’t want her Obliviated, Rose!” I said firmly. “She’ll lose parts of a month of her memory! That would be enough to make her think she’s gone mad!”

“Better that than her remembering this,” she said solemnly.

“But...” It was my turn to, once again, bury my head in my hands. “Rose, she’s cracked so many new recipes at mine, cooking’s a huge thing for her, she wants to own a restaurant one day, and if she can’t remember how to cook things...”

Rose was silent. I raised my head to see her looking wretched.

“I know, James. I know. It’s a hard thing to do. But you have to remove all personal feelings in this situation, and just think about things practically. She can’t be left knowing about this. It’s cruel on her, and it’s a security risk.”

I chewed my lip.

“Would she tell anyone?” I said quietly. “I mean, who would believe her? They’d just think she’d gone a bit nuts-”

She probably already thinks she’s going nuts,” Rose said gently. “Please, James, you have to...”

I shook my head stubbornly. She sighed with aggravation.

“Well, I don’t know what you expect to be able to do then...”

“I could find her, try to explain-”

“Won’t work,” she said flatly. “This situation’s bad enough, without you making things worse.”

“You sound like Brie,” I scowled.

“Have you told her?”

I nodded.

“Yesterday, straight after it happened. Don’t tell Al,” I begged. “Please, whatever you do, don’t tell him, or anyone else. I can’t have Mum or Dad finding out...”

She looked reluctant.

“James, I don’t know if I can keep something this serious a secret-”

She was interrupted by the presence of somebody else at the doorway.

“Malfoy?”

Rose let out a squeal. She jumped up and ushered a boxers and t-shirt clad Scorpius Malfoy out of the lounge and down the hall.

“Bloody hell,” I breathed, staring at the space where he had stood for a moment.

Half a minute later, Rose returned, her face as red as her hair.

“Rose Weasley, you do surprise me.” A smirk played at the corners of my mouth.

She stood opposite me, looking sheepish.

“Don’t be mad-”

I frowned.

“Why the hell would I be mad?”

“Because he’s a Malfoy! The enemy! A Slytherin, the son of our dads’ nemesis, you know the drill-”

“Rose, he’s not his dad,” I said quietly. “Nobody should judge him on that. I certainly don’t. I don’t really know him, but if he makes you happy then I’m not exactly going to kick up a stink about it. How long have you been with him, anyway?”

“We’re not really together,” she said, still looking awkward. “We’re just ... seeing each other occasionally. I bumped into him a few months back at work, and it’s been developing since then. I’m kind of trying to keep it quiet though, at least for the moment, just to see what comes of it. I don’t want to ruin anything, you see. We have quite a judgemental family sometimes...”

She tailed off, looking nervous.

“You do what you want to do, Rosie,” I said firmly. “It’s your life, not your dad’s, or your brother’s, or Grandpa’s...”

She nodded and smiled slightly.

“Thanks, Jim,” she said quietly. “Promise me something?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t tell Al?”

I grinned.

“Your secret’s safe with me,” I reassured her. “It’ll all work out in the end, don’t worry.”

I only wished I could believe my own advice.


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