Chapter 11 : Emily Rhodes
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Albus and John set off for the Entrance Hall at the same time, as they were both meeting their dates at the same time. Hannah was already waiting for John when they arrived and the two of them set off immediately, Hannah giggling as the rain poured down on top of them as soon as John opened the oak front doors.
Albus loitered while he waited for Emily. He watched three other couples dash out the door, setting off for Hogsmeade. Another couple took one look at the rain and turned around. A group of second years ran out the doors, laughing and shrieking, brooms in hand, clearly ready for a pick-up Quidditch match in the rain. Why they’d choose to play Quidditch in the rain was beyond Albus.
Emily arrived dressed in a rain cloak and an umbrella in hand. She smiled at him and Albus felt his stomach flipflop. “Ready?” she said.
“Yeah,” Albus said, nodding.
“Oh, we’re of age. We can cast repellant charms on ourselves,” Emily said, stopping short in front of the doors. She took out her wand, aimed it at her head, and then smiled.
“You can do nonverabal spells?” Albus asked, pausing to cast a repellant charm on himself. “That’s impressive. I still can’t.”
“I practiced quite a bit over the summer,” Emily said.
Conversation about their summers and what spells Emily practiced during it lasted them until they reached Hogsmeade. Albus felt like a bit of a slacker by the time they got to the Three Broomsticks, having only done the bare minimum of homework over the summer. But Emily was a Ravenclaw, he reminded himself.
They ordered butterbeer and sat at a table in the back, next to a group of raucous third years, who were attempting to see how much butterbeer it would take them to feel tipsy. Albus didn’t have the heart to tell them that there was such little alcohol in butterbeer that it would be impossible to drink it fast enough to feel any effects before the body had time to process it.
Emily peeled the label off her butterbeer and smiled at Albus again. Albus took a sip, and tried to think of what to say next. He’d already exhausted every detail from his summer. Emily seemed to have as well.
“So-“ Albus began, deciding he would ask her about her nursing school application.
“How’s-“ Emily began at the same time. She laughed. “You first.”
“No, you go ahead,” Albus said, picking up his bottle again.
“I was just going to ask how James is doing,” Emily said. “I was pretty good friends with Meg Johnson.”
“Was?” Albus asked.
Emily sighed. “She’s gone a bit weird since James. Although I think it has more to do with her dad being in such trouble with the Ministry. They never got on, Meg and her dad. I think half the reason she dated James was to spite her dad. We haven’t really spoken since she left Hogwarts. I sent her an owl in the beginning of summer, but she never replied.”
“Oh,” Albus said. They didn’t get on, but Meg brought her dad lunch one day at the Auror Headquarters?
“Anyway, how’s James?” Emily asked.
Albus shrugged. “He’s ok.” He wasn’t sure how much of James’s business he should be telling James’s ex-girlfriend’s ex-friend.
“I heard he’s got permanent brain damage,” Emily went on. “Is that true?”
“Well…” Albus said. “I suppose, yeah. But it’s not like he can’t feed himself or anything. He just has trouble remembering things and gets confused sometimes. He’s still James.”
“And he really can’t play Quidditch again?”
“No,” Albus said. “He can’t. If he gets hit in the head again it could be life-threatening.”
“So what’s he going to do instead? I always thought he’d play professionally. I think everyone did. We all thought they’d be calling his name out at the World Cup one day. James Potter, Seeker for England!”
Albus wasn’t sure if he was imagining it, but it seemed a lot like Emily was more excited to talk about James than she had been about anything else so far. “Er, I dunno. Not sure he knows yet.”
Emily downed the rest of her butterbeer. “Well, whatever he decides, I’m sure he’ll be brilliant at it.”
Unless it involves magic, Albus thought, then immediately regretted thinking it, even though it was true.
“Want to go to Weasleys’?” Emily asked.
Albus raised his eyebrows. “You buy stuff from Weasleys’?”
“Not all Ravenclaws hate pranks,” she said as she stood up.
“It’s not that,” Albus said. “It’s that you’re a prefect.”
“Don’t you go to Weasleys’?”
“Well, yeah, but it’s my family’s business,” Albus pointed out.
“Come on,” Emily said, grabbing Albus’s hand.
Albus felt a tingle as he held onto Emily’s hand. He must’ve imagined her fascination with James. Either that or she was a really avid Quidditch fan and that extended to tragic stories of players whose careers ended before they started.
The rain had stopped, but the cobblestone street was still slick. Albus and Emily walked down the street, slipping every so often, but managing to stay upright. Weasleys’ was doing a roaring business, although they weren’t quite as packed as usual. Albus was relieved. They’d actually have room to move around.
“Al!” Uncle George shouted from behind the counter when they entered.
“Go on,” Emily said, letting to of his hand. “I’ll get what I need and meet you back here in a bit.”
Albus nodded, then weaved his way through the crowd and displays until he reached the counter. “Hi, Uncle George. Good day so far?”
Uncle George nodded. “I think the rain kept a few people away, but it’s been steady for the past hour or so. James is in the back, grabbing more Skiving Snackboxes. Two decades later and those are still our best selling item.”
“He’s working on a Hogsmeade visit day?” Albus asked. “I thought he wasn’t going to do that.”
“Normally, no, but the bloke who was supposed to work today called in sick. Didn’t have much of a choice. He’s been in the back a while now, though. Could you go see if everything’s ok?”
“Sure,” Albus said, nodding as he walked toward the back.
The noise from the shop immediately ceased as Albus shut the backroom door and walked through the aisles of stock. He found James where Uncle George kept the Skiving Snackboxes, awkwardly grabbing boxes with one arm and stacking them onto a cart.
“Hey, James,” Albus called out.
James stacked another box, then turned to Albus. “Oh, hey, Al. Hogsmeade visit day?”
“Er, yeah,” Albus said. “Let me help you with those.”
“Thanks,” James said.
Albus started grabbing boxes and stacking them on the cart. “How are you? How’s working here?”
James shrugged. “It’s all right. Uncle George doesn’t expect much. I just help out with whatever I can.”
“And your hand?” Albus asked, zeroing in on the brace James still wore on his wrist and hand.
James shrugged again. “Still there. Still useless.”
Albus nodded. Clearly James was not going to tell him what Teddy had told him at the Auror Headquarters. “I…I talked to Teddy a few days ago. He told me the therapy isn’t working anymore.”
A box slipped out of James’s hand and he tried to grab it, but fumbled it and it landed between them with a thud. Albus picked it up, examined it, and placed it on the cart.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” James muttered. “This should be enough.” He grasped the handle of the cart with his left hand and tried to push it, but it veered to the left, banging into the shelving unit.
“Here, let me,” Albus said, taking the cart from James.
James said nothing and walked alongside Albus toward the sales floor. Albus opened the door with a wave of his wand, only to find the shop significantly more crowded than before. Turning the cart, Albus craned his neck and looked for Emily, but couldn’t find her. He hoped she was patient enough to wait because Albus couldn’t just leave James to stock the shelves in this crowd and Uncle George had a queue fifteen people deep at the till.
There was a lot of whispering amongst the students as Albus and James maneuvered their way toward the Skiving Snackbox display and Albus could tell it was making James uneasy. He wished they would just stop. What was going on with James was none of their business. Luckily the only person near the Skiving Snackbox display was John, who broke out into a huge grin when he saw them.
“James, mate!” John said. “How are you?”
“All right,” James said, shrugging, but also smiling. “How’s the team?”
“Better now that Al convinced me to ease up a bit. They all hated me for a while there,” John confessed.
James snorted. “You can’t start off too hard on them. You’ve got to get everyone to like you and trust you as a captain first and then you can run them ragged.”
“Yeah, I suppose that would’ve been a better idea,” John said. “You’ll come to the first match, right?”
“Er…” James began. “I’ll think about it.”
“The team would love to have you there,” John said.
“I’ll lend you the Invisibility Cloak,” Albus said. “And you can stay in the changing rooms and no one except the team will have to know you’re there.”
James visibly relaxed. “All right. I’ll go. But only if Al gives me the Cloak. Just…don’t tell the team. That way they won’t be disappointed if I don’t show up. I still get awful headaches.”
“Deal,” John said. “Now, does your uncle have a limit on how many Snackboxes you can buy?”
“Nope,” James said. “Are you planning on skiving off every class?”
John laughed. “I’m selling them to first and second years and it’s really taken off. I’m considering partnering with someone from each of the other houses.”
“Why didn’t I think of that? That’s brilliant,” James said.
“I’m only charging a sickle extra, so I’m not making much per box, but given the demand it’ll add up,” John said as he began taking boxes off the cart and putting them directly into his shopping basket.
“Wait, weren’t you on a date today?” Albus asked. “Were you that awful to her that she ended it early?”
John groaned. “No, Al, she just didn’t fancy a trip in here. She’s waiting for me at the Three Broomsticks. And what about you? Where’d Emily Rhodes go?”
“Right behind you, John,” Emily said, coming up behind John. “There you are, Al. Your uncle said you were in the back helping- Oh, hi, James.”
James nodded and began moving the Snackboxes from the cart to the shelves. “Hi, Emily.”
“H-how are you?” she asked quietly, moving closer to James.
James shrugged, but didn’t say anything.
Emily chewed her lip. “Er…have you heard from Meg?”
James visibly flinched and Albus willed Emily to shut up. Why had he never asked Aunt Hermione to teach him Legilimency?
Emily didn’t seem to notice James’s reaction and kept going. “Because I sent her a few owls and still haven’t heard from her.”
John saved James the trouble of stocking the rest of the Snackboxes and shoved the remaining few into his already full basket. He then turned to Albus. “Well,” he said loudly. “I’m going to join the queue and get back to the Three Broomsticks. I’ll see you later. Good to see you, James.”
James grabbed hold of the cart, nodded at Albus and John, then hurried back in the direction of the backroom. Albus watched him go, torn whether to go after him or rejoin Emily.
“Want to go walk to the Shrieking Shack? I think the clouds are clearing,” Emily suggested.
Albus turned back to Emily. “Sure, but…give me a few minutes.”
Emily was waiting on a bench across the street from Weasleys’ when Albus emerged. He dodged a few third years who were kicking a Quaffle down the street and went to meet her. She stood when Albus reached her, setting off for the Shrieking Shack.
They said nothing for a few minutes, Albus too preoccupied with whether he ought to take her hand in his. He wasn’t about to pretend to be an expert in dating, but between Emily’s preoccupation with James and then Albus having to practically ditch her in order to help James, the date wasn’t going as well as it could’ve been. But would holding her hand make it better or worse?
“Your brother…he’s not okay, is he,” Emily said quietly as they passed the Hog’s Head.
Albus kicked a rock toward the side of the road and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Don’t…spread it around.”
While James’s injured hand, inability to play professional Quidditch, and traumatic brain injury were common knowledge thanks to the Prophet and various Quidditch magazines, no one outside the Potter-Weasley clan, Albus’s friends, and various healers knew the true extent of it. No one knew about the lasting effects of James’s brain injury or the fact that he couldn’t remember any spells. Albus was fairly certain most people thought James had made a full recovery, save from not being able to play professional Quidditch. And Albus was sure that’s how James wanted it.
“I just don’t understand how Meg could’ve dumped him after that,” Emily said.
“Technically James dumped Meg,” Albus said. “Could we not talk about James?”
“Sorry,” Emily said. “It’s just so tragic! He could’ve played for England!”
“Sorry!” Emily said again. “That was a stupid thing to say.”
“It’s just…everyone says that and it’s true, but not particularly helpful for James to keep hearing over and over again. One freak accident and he’s going to be known as James “He-Could’ve-Played-For-England” Potter for the rest of his life.”
“That’s a good point,” Emily said. “Oh, look, we’re nearly there. I swear, no matter how many times I see it, I still get freaked out.”
“Well, it is haunted,” Albus pointed out.
“But so is Hogwarts, technically. Oh, but you’ve been in there, haven’t you? Isn’t that where you found Boone? Did you see any ghosts?”
They reached the fence surrounding the Shack and Albus leaned on it before responding. “Yeah. No ghosts, but they were probably in another part of the Shack.”
“I hope Boone wins his lawsuit,” Emily continued. “It’s so awful, what the Ministry did to him. Do you know what’s happening to that bloke who really did do the murders?”
“They’re not sure they can try him by the Wizengamot, because he’s a squib,” Albus explained. “Nor are they sure they can lock him up in Azkaban, so he’s on house arrest.”
“That’s so messed up,” Emily said. “It does bring up a good question of what happens when the Muggle and wizarding worlds collide in terms of crimes. Azkaban is a prison for wizards, so is it right for a squib to get locked up there?”
“He killed wizards.”
“If a wizard kills a Muggle, they go to Azkaban, not Muggle prison,” Emily pointed out. “Look at Sirius Black.”
“He didn’t kill anyone,” Albus said quickly.
“I know that, but he was convicted of killing Muggles and he went to Azkaban for it. And if a Muggle killed a wizard, they’d go to Muggle prison.”
“But a squib isn’t a Muggle. Most squibs grow up in the wizarding world. And many of them stay in the wizarding world. There are places that will hire squibs.”
“But if you can’t do magic, is it fair for you to be in Azkaban?”
“Well, no one’s doing any magic if they’re locked up in Azkaban,” Albus pointed out.
Emily nodded. “I’ll give you that. I guess this is what everyone’s debating. Has anything like this even happened before?”
“A squib killing a wizard? Not since before we really had organized government. Rose looked it up. Last recorded case was so long ago the squib was hanged in the village square. Eye for an eye and all that.”
Emily winced. “Yikes.”
“Yeah, so they’ve nothing to go off of,” Albus said, just as thunder rumbled across the sky.
“We should probably head back,” Emily said, looking at the sky.
“Yeah, I suppose,” Albus agreed.
They set off back toward the castle, Albus once more debating whether he should hold her hand. When he finally got up the nerve to do it, Emily squeezed his hand and smiled at him. Maybe the date hadn’t gone as bad as he’d thought. But either way, the most successful part of it had been their discussion of murder and prisons while watching the Shrieking Shack. Albus wasn’t sure what that said about them as a possible couple, but he was willing to find out.
“So, are you going to tell us what you’ve plotted for this year?” Matt asked John and Kaden, who were whispering to each other in the Marauders’ Den.
“I don’t think they can beat last year,” Albus said, remembering to the previous year when John and Kaden had managed to put a duplication spell on everything in the Great Hall for Mischief Night.
“Not telling,” John said. “You should know by now that we never tell.”
“You’ll find out later tonight,” Kaden said.
“Or rather tomorrow morning,” John amended.
The following morning Albus and Matt walked very apprehensively into the Great Hall, unsure what they’d find. Neither of them had noticed when John returned to the dormitory late the previous night, and that was despite Albus not going to bed until one in the morning after staying up to complete a Charms essay.
“It seems normal…” Matt said quietly as they walked to the Gryffindor table.
“Too normal,” Albus said, looking around at their fellow students, who were all chatting and eating breakfast.
They sat across from Rose, whose head was buried in that morning’s copy of the Prophet. Her scones sat untouched on her plate. Amanda sat next to her, reading over her shoulder.
“What’s happened?” Albus asked as he pulled a platter of sausages toward him.
“The Ministry offered Boone a settlement,” Rose said, not looking up, “and he and his solicitor have rejected it.”
“As they should. It’s insulting,” Amanda added.
“They’re trying to avoid a nasty trial,” Rose said. “The media would have a field day with it. Not to mention at the rate members of the Wizengamot are resigning, they’ll have no one left to actually hear the trial.”
“If they want it settled out of court that badly they should’ve offered him more,” Amanda said.
“I agree,” Rose said, handing the paper to Albus.
Albus scanned the article, but it was very short and offered very little new information, other than what Rose just told him. He offered it to Matt, who shook his head.
“There’s a disgusting editorial in there, too,” Rose added. “Don’t waste your time with it. Full of myths about werewolves worthy of the early 1900s. I’ve half a mind to write my own editorial.”
“You should,” Amanda said. “Where’s John? I haven’t seen any pranks yet.”
Rose craned her neck toward the door. “I don’t see him either, but we’ve got to get to Defense.”
“Maybe the prank is no prank,” Albus said as they got up. “But that wouldn’t have kept him and Kaden out past one in the morning.”
“I could write them both up,” Rose muttered.
Albus kept his eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary on his way to Defense, but saw nothing stranger than two monks in portraits yelling at each other across the corridor. He couldn’t help but feel vaguely disappointed as they neared the Defense classroom.
“Why isn’t anyone going in?” Matt asked as they drew near and saw the crowd of classmates blocking the doorway.
“What’s going on?” Rose asked, pushing her way through. “I’m Head Girl!”
Albus followed Rose, noticing that everyone nearby was laughing. He made it to the front of the pack, looked in the doorway, and saw John and Kaden’s prank. Every single object in the classroom was stuck to the ceiling, upside down. It was as if someone had flipped the classroom on its head.
And in the center of the classroom, on the empty floor, stood Albus’s father, laughing and shaking his head.
“I’ll have to thank Mr. Brickston when he arrives,” Dad said. “Come in, everyone. We needed the desks cleared off anyway. Today’s will be a practical lesson.”
A/N: Sorry for missing last week! By the time I realized I missed an update I figured I'd just wait until today. I'll update once more next week before nano begins. Thank you for all the reviews!
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