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It’s raining outside today, and it isn’t improving my mood by much.

“Honestly Harry, if you keep that up, you’re going to wear holes in the carpet!” Hermione chides me, picking at the fraying edge of the comforter of the bed she’s sitting on. Ron just looks up at me with a pained expression and shrugs, as if to say, What can I say?

“Well,” I counter savagely, resisting the urge to pace the room as I’ve been doing for the past few hours, “I’d like to know what other brilliant plan you’ve got up your sleeve to get us out of this mess!”

“‘Us’?” she asks wearily, raising an eyebrow in skepticism.

“Me and Emma, I mean…”

I purposely don’t say Emma and I, not just because I’m too tuckered out to care, but also because I know it will annoy the hell out of her.

“How about we get something to eat then?” Ginny suggests from her cross-legged position at Ron’s feet, braiding the ends of her hair nervously. “Harry, honestly – you look famished.”

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job at pretending she isn’t there – isn’t even here for that matter – but it’s the first time she’s spoken directly to me since she and the rest of the Weasleys arrived at The Leaky Cauldron a little after I helped Emma back to her room to rest and recover.

Emma…

I can’t remember too clearly when the Ministry arrived, to probe me about my using magic in plain sight of Muggles and everything, but now they’re upstairs having a “conference”, debating on what to do with Emma.

I feel bad for her in a weird way, since I know she’s not going to walk away from all this unscathed. I’m sort of wishing I’d never met her now, not just my sake, but mainly for her own; if I hadn’t gone to the graveyard when I did and stayed at the wedding like I was supposed to, none of this would be happening right now: Emma would be safe, I’d be mopey and depressed, and the Weasleys wouldn’t have had to cancel the rest of the reception.

God I feel like an idiot.

“You’re blaming yourself again,” Ginny tells me as I surrender to gravity and exhaustion and plop down gracelessly into a chair. I put my face in my hands and study her through my fingers, watching her as she watches me.

“Well, somebody’s at fault,” I mutter miserably, fed up with the fact that I can never do anything right, how I can never just be frickin’ normal for once…

Ron gives a sort of strangled cough and none-too inconspicuously nudges Hermione in her side. “Actually, yeah, I think I’m gonna go get something from the bar. Come on then.”

“But I -”

He silences her with a second, harder nudge, accompanied with an even harder glare, and suddenly, it’s as if enlightenment has dawned on Hermione, her eyes going wide with a flush of understanding, and I’m not surprised to see she’s blushing deeply as Ron drags her out of the room. “Right then, food…”

Ginny waits until she can no longer hear their footsteps before standing to stretch. She comes up behind me and leans over the back of the chair to rest her hands consolingly on my shoulders, and for the first time since she arrived, I’m kind of glad she’s here.

“You look like hell,” she informs me matter-of-factly as she tries to fix my ever-untamable hair. I laugh, but the sound comes out rough and jagged. “Well, makes sense, seeing as I sure feel like it…”

She rests her chin on my head, and simply holds me, and I know she’s trying her best to just get me through this mess.

“Harry?”

“Mhmm…”

“What’s going to happen to her?”

My heart plummets.

So much for an angst relieving moment…

“I dunno,” I tell her, and in all honesty, I really don’t know what’s going to happen. “I guess all we can do for now is hope…”

“Have they questioned her yet?”

“Who? The Ministry?”

Ginny nods.

“Not yet, I don’t think,” I tell her, which I hope to God is true. “She’s still sleeping from when we got back from Fred and George’s.”

“Rough time she had, I reckon,” she guesses, referring to the whole magical aspect of things. I nod, knowing she’s definitely not far from the truth. “She thought it was all a dream the other night,” I laugh dryly. “Had to stupefy her just so I could get her here! She’s a lot tougher than she looks, I’ll warrant that. And you had to hear the way she was yelling at me at Fred and George’s – you’d think I’d brought her here against her will or something! I swear, if I could’ve just -”

“Ahem.”

Ginny and I jump about a foot in the air, and there, standing in the doorway to the room, is none other than Emma, looking rather pale and abashed at the sight of me and Ginny alone together, and before I can even blink, Ginny’s straightened up and preparing to leave.

She tries to smile at me reassuringly, another sign that what I did to our relationship in June still stands as is. “Well, I’ll leave you two to it then.” Ginny pauses only long enough in the doorway behind Emma to chide, “And don’t forget to eat something before you go to sleep Harry. ’Night Emma.”

I watch as Emma’s eyes follow after her, her lips barely moving as she replies. “’Night.”

As soon as she’s sure Ginny’s really gone, she rounds on me, and I can tell my long, sleepless night just got longer.

“What the hell is going on?!” she demands, positively fuming. “I drift off for a few hours, and what do I wake up to? This! This!”

I’m too tired to function right, and I find myself dazedly repeating her words. “This? What’s ‘this’?”

And that’s when it hits me:

She’s talking about me and Ginny!

Sitting up a little straighter, I at least try to break it to her gently. “Uh…yeah, that girl that just left? Ginny? Well, she’s my ex-girl - ”

“I wasn’t talking about her!” Emma hisses, looking even more pissed now. “I’m talking about this!” And she brandishes her wrist at me, giving it a violent shake, causing a pleasant ringing sound as the silver bands around it clang together.

“You’re in a tizzy over a couple of bracelets?!”

She sighs exasperatedly and slumps onto the edge of the bed, the very spot where Hermione had been picking at the blanket earlier. “Honestly,” she mutters, “I thought you were a wizard or witch or something!” Emma glares up at me and for the first time since I’ve met her, I notice certain darkness in the depths of her eyes, and a chill runs down my spine despite the warmth and comfort of my chair.

“They’re spelled,” she explains weakly, her gaze dropping to her lap as the anger deflates, along with the creepiness. “I think those robed weirdoes put them on me while I was sleeping.”

“Oh, you mean the Ministry?”

She looks back up at me with a pained expression. “You know them?”

I laugh dryly. “Know them? They’re practically the bane of my existence at this point. Aside from…”

I suddenly trail off, realizing way too late that I may have let on too much. Fortunately, Emma doesn’t press further.

“I see,” is all she says before giving the little bracelets another good shake. Regarding them somewhat bleakly, she asks me, “You wouldn’t be able to get them off, would you?”

I shrug, and stand to get my wand out of my pocket. “Well, I can’t make any promises, but I can give it a try…”

Going through a mental checklist of all the spells I’ve ever learned, honestly the only one I could think of useful enough for this would be the Alohamora charm, but even with that I’m not sure how much good it would do. Gingerly taking Emma’s wrist, I turn it this way and that in my hand, examining the bracelets, trying to find perhaps some weakness in the silver bands that would indicate where I should cast the spell. To keep the awkward silence between us from getting any thicker, I inquire casually, “You said these were spelled, right?”

She nods. “Yeah, I think so.”

Still not looking at her, I ask, “And what exactly do they do to you that would cause you to think that?”

Even out of the corner of my eye I can tell she’s grinning. “Oh, I dunno. I think it was the fact that I couldn’t walk out the front door of this place without having to chop off my arm that gave me the first clue.”

“So the bracelets are spelled to keep you here then…”

“Well, I would have to assume…”

“Right. Let’s see if I can do this properly than…

Alohamora!

There’s a faint whistling from my wand at first, but then I realize it’s coming from the bracelets, and the next thing I know, I’m sent flying back into my chair, as if I had been shoved by a pair of invisible hands.

A pair of very angry invisible hands.

“Oh my God! Are you alright?!” Emma tries to help me back up onto my feet, but as soon as her hand with the bracelets touches me, I feel as if my skin is on fire where she makes contact, and it’s all I can do not to shove her away just like her ruddy bracelets did to me.

“AGH!” I quickly pull away from her touch, and she stumbles back, her face pale stricken with fear, and out of instinct I reach out to keep her from falling, but she ends up grabbing my sleeve for support, and with the sound of ripping linen accompanying us, we crash to the floor.

“Damnit!” I curse as my glasses go skittering across the floor and under the bed. Emma’s foot somehow collides with my head, only making things worse. “Sorry!” she hastily apologizes, trying to sit up so she can help me. “Ouch! Sorry!”

“Just get off me,” I manage to croak, as she tries to squat, looses her balance, and topples onto me.

“I’m so sorry! Here, let me get your glasses…”

She becomes nothing more than a moving blur of color for a bit, as I sit cross-legged a few paces away from her, squinting as I try to watch her slide under the bed to reach my glasses. “I can see them,” she calls back to me, her voice muffled from God-knows how many layers of dirt and crap under there. “But I can’t reach them…”

“It’s alright,” I tell her, finally remembering I’m the one with the wand here. “I’ll get it. Accio glasses!

There’s a sharp intake of breath as she watches my glasses fly across the floor boards back into my hands, and then a fit of hacking coughs as the dust reaches her lungs.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” I apologize as I hurriedly put on my glasses and help pull her out from beneath the bed. She’s still choking away, and I give her a few awkward pats on the back, hoping I won’t have to do anything like CPR or the Heimlich maneuver…

“Better?” I ask, as her coughing slowly subsides to gentle wheezing. Emma tries to smile, but ends up giving me some sort of a lopsided grin before starting up all over again. “Uh…I’m no healer, but maybe you should sit down for a bit?” I suggest, going over to the bedside table to pour her a glass of water from the pitcher. I give her the cup and she makes a face after taking a sip.

“It tastes funny,” she complains, eyeing the contents suspiciously now.

“Oh, it’s just backwash,” I tell her quickly, hoping she won’t think I’m trying to poison her now.

She shoots me the dirtiest look she can muster up at this point, and glares at me over the rim of the cup as she takes another sip.

“Disgusting.” she mutters flatly. I shrug. “Well, better than if I had tried to conjure you up a glass. No telling what would’ve showed up in that.”

She sets the glass down beside her and is about to make some snippy comeback when the door to the room opens up again, and I wheel around expectantly, hoping to see Ginny again, but find my heart plummet to somewhere around my knees as I realize it’s the lion-like figure of the Minister of Magic taking up my doorframe.

Rufus Scrimgeour clears his throat authoritatively before addressing us both. “I believe the three of us are due to have a little chat.”

Beside me, Emma visibly pales, and it’s all I can do not to turn heel and run right there and then, seeing as it might be the only chance of freedom I’ll be likely to get.

Scrimgeour smiles at our stricken responses and holds the door for us, gesturing to file out. “Right then you two, follow me.”

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