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The chair I’ve been forced to sit in is neither comfy, nor comforting, and it’s taking all my will power not to simply get up and bolt out of here. Of course, there are the bracelets…

“So, who wants to start?” asks the lion-man with a rather cold smile. His elbows are rested lightly on his knees as he leans forward in his winged armchair by the fire, and his fingers are steeped together gingerly, reminding me very strongly of a picture I once saw in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Behind me, Harry is gripping the back of my chair so hard I can see his knuckles are white, which only makes me more nervous; obviously, he doesn’t particularly care for this man very much.

“Uhm, how about we get some sort of explanation from you first,” I suggest, surprised by my own boldness. “I mean, I don’t know about Harry here, but I have no clue whatsoever about anything that’s happened in the last two days, other than the fact that I was attacked, kidnap - saved against my will, and dragged here and tagged with these silver thingies like some kind of animal.”

If the lion man catches on to my obvious disdain, he does a good job of hiding it. His chilling smile only seems to broaden, and I feel a slight pressure on my shoulder as Harry slides his hand onto it. He gives a quick squeeze, as if to say Just let it go; I’ll take care of it from here. I shake him off angrily, and decide to take charge, throwing all pretenses to the way side.

“Listen, I don’t know what it is that’s going on between you two, but I don’t want to be apart of it, okay? In fact, I don’t want to be a bloody part of any of this!” I'm practically yelling at them now, and I soon find myself pacing back and forth in front of the empty fire place, trying to control my rage. The bracelets seem to clink in time with my steps, which isn't helping much.

“All I want to do, is put this all behind me and go home. Honestly.”

Lion-man makes this funny scratchy sound in his throat, and it takes me a minute or two to realize he is laughing - laughing!

“What’s so funny?” I demand brusquely, spinning around to face him with what I hope is a threatening scowl. But he just keeps on laughing, and after a bit, even Harry begins to look a bit agitated.

And suddenly, his laughter comes to an abrupt halt, and he is regarding me coldly again, not even bothering to pretend a smile.

“My dear, dear, dear girl – have you any idea what it is exactly that you’ve managed to stumble upon with your unfortunate encounter?”

I swallow, and clench my fists to keep from shaking. There is something in the tone of his voice that suggests something much worse than this awkward meeting is on the way…something very very bad…

“Uhm…a secret society of magicians?” I try to joke, but the crack in my voice gives me away.

Lion-man leaps from his chair with a swiftness that I think even Harry has not anticipated, and in less than three long strides he is inches away from my face, staring down at me with those flinty eyes, examining me as if I am some loathsome Petri dish specimen under a microscope, and I can feel his gaze taking in every detail of my face, as if searching for something…

And then, just as suddenly, he’s stepping back, head lowered somewhat apologetically as he situates himself back into his chair. He keeps his head lowered and steeples his fingers again, lost in thought.

Pale and looking rather stricken, Harry crosses quickly to my side, and tugs me rather roughly back to the brick of a chair I was so eager to get out of only moments ago. “Just let him say whatever he’s got to say,” he mutters tersely into my ear, leaning over as if to help me sit so Scrimgeour won’t be able to see, “and it’ll all be over soon. I promise.” But for some reason, despite his assuring words, I can’t help but feel as if there’s something I’m not quite understanding…as if they’re not telling me something…

“Miss Emma,” Scrimgeour suddenly pipes up, his glasses reflecting the light of the fire as he looks up at me, “do you have any idea what you are?”

I resist the urge to spare Harry a nervous glance, and instead repress my insecurities to don what I hope to be a rather convincing façade. “Well sir, last time I checked, I was human.”

Lion-man’s jaw twitches ever so slightly in response. “Let me rephrase the question: do you know whether or not you are a witch?”

Again, I refuse to let my confusion and frustration show. “Sir, in all honesty, as far as I was concerned, this was all a dream.”

He narrows his rock like gaze at me, and Harry’s grip tightens on my shoulders. “Well then, you won’t mind if I take a quick…check then, would you?”

“I – ”

There’s a blur as Harry suddenly steps between myself and Scrimgeour, wand bared, and his expression determined, if not threatening. “I swear, if you so much as touch her, I’ll - ”

“Yes, yes Mr. Potter,” the Minister cuts across rather airily, waving a hand dismissively, “you’re outstanding moral is much appreciated in the presence of your lady friend here, but a physical check was not the kind of test I quite had in mind.”

Harry visibly tenses, and for a moment, I find myself holding my breath as I watch two of the most fearsome forces I’ve ever come across try to stare each other down, while at the same time, I attempt to suppress the heated blush rising to my cheeks at the mention of Harry’s chivalry for his mere “lady friend”, as I apparently stand at the moment.

“It’s alright,” I finally manage, and I stand, nudging Harry aside as I cross to stand before Scrimgeour. “Just do whatever you have to do,” I tell him, “then let me go home if all proves false.”

Lion-man grins coldly up at me, then rises to his feet and procures from one of the many pockets of his traveling cloak a rather thin, woodish looking object. I sense Harry bristling again, and for a moment, fear grips me, causing Scrimgeour’s next question to take me entirely by surprise.

“Now, tell me Miss Emma: does the name ‘Albus Dumbledore’ ring any bells for you?”

“What the hell is that supposed to clear up?!” Harry interjects, his anger causing a few sparks to emit from the end of his wand and to fizzle out on the carpet. Scrimgeour ignores him and continues to stare intently at me, as I continue to eye the wand held between his bony hands.

“Miss Emma…?”

I shake my head, still never taking my eyes from the object. “No. The name means nothing to me.”

Lion-man sneers. “Is that so? Well, funny then, how that particular man seems to know you.”

At that, I tear my gaze from the wand and stare directly into those flinty eyes, my heart racing wildly in my chest.

Even Harry has now fallen silent.

“You see Miss Emma, as Minister of Magic, it’s my duty to make sure that last wills and testaments and whatnot are carried out accordingly and such, and in the case of Albus Dumbledore’s - ”

“Wait, you mean, he’s dead?” I interrupt, my pulse suddenly slowing to a mere crawl. Scrimgeour eyes me wearily. “Yes; he was murdered only a few weeks ago. Why do you ask?” His expression turns to that of suspicion, and immediately I realize I’ve said the wrong thing.

“I still don’t know who he was, if that’s what you’re implying,” I reply rather hotly, letting agitation get the better of me. “I just thought…well…maybe if he knew me as you say he did, perhaps he was…related to me?”

The last bit comes out sounding like a question, and as laughter suddenly bursts forth from the Minister, I feel a heat rise to my cheeks again as he mocks my childishness.

“Oh dear heavens no child!” he scoffs. “Believe me: if you had any relations whatsoever to the man, it would be all over the place – impossible to hush up. No, I don’t believe he knew you quite like that…”

“Well, perhaps if I saw a picture of him or something…” I blurt out stubbornly, grasping at invisible straws. For a moment, Scrimgeour looks doubtful, but a noise from behind causes me to turn and look at Harry. His face is hidden by his hair as he digs furiously within his pockets for something, and again I can feel my heart quicken in pace as hope burns within me once more. “You’ve got one?” I find myself asking in rather incredulous tones, but to my delight, Harry nodds, and withdraws the scrap of paper he’s been searching for.

“Now see here - !” Scrimgeour tries to intervene, but Harry pulls the picture aside as he reaches out to try and snatch it away. He thrusts it into my hands, and I find myself unable to look at it for a moment, suddenly frightened of what I may see. I stare at Harry imploringly, slightly begging for some miracle that could clear this whole mess up, but he only gazes right back at me, unblinking. “Well, go on,” he finally says after a moment of strained silence. “Take a look.”

And so I do, and immediately wish I hadn’t, because within the grubby newspaper clipping from the man’s obituary, I can see a pair of half-moon spectacles glinting up at me, shielding the all-too familiar piercing blue eyes from view.

“Well, do you know him?”

I tear my gaze from the picture, jarred back to reality by the sound of Harry’s voice. “Do I know him?” I repeat, my voice cracking in disbelief. “Do I know him?! Of course I know him!”

My voice has risen to that of a shriek, and Harry takes a step back in alarm as Scrimgeour rises to his feet, dark triumph on his face.

“This man here - ” I brandish a finger savagely down at the paper “ – this Albus Dumbledore you say? He’s my sponsor!”

“Your what?!”

I jump at the disgust eminating in Scrimgeour’s voice, as my stomach begins to knot uncomfortably.

“My sponsor,” I repeat icily, quickly noting that he still has that funny wand out. “He was my patron at the orphanage. See, after a certain age, if you’re not adopted, the government requires that the orphanage start to pay a sort of tax on you, if you can follow that. Well, Godric’s wasn't exactly rolling in money, so they set up a sponsorship program – kind of like that Quarters for the Hungry thing. They have an open house, where all these wealthy people can come and take a look see at all us older kids, who have slim to none chances of ever finding a family at our age, and then they can pick a kid to sponsor until they’re of age and can leave the care of the facility, or - in the event of a miracle – get adopted. He was my sponsor. Except, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t going by the name of Albus.”

An odd silence seems to fall in place as I pause to let my words sink in, and I find it rather hard to believe that Harry can be staring at me as if I’m some sort of freak show, while Lion-man just looks like he’s ready to move in for the kill.

“So you’re telling me,” he finally manages to say, “that you actually have known Dumbledore – for quite some time, by your own admittance?”

“Admittance?!” I repeat in amazement, my voice like ice. “What is this? Some kind of trial?!”

Scrimgeour shakes his head and waves a hand dismissively at his own carelessness. “Forgive me, forgive me,” he mutters irritably, trying to get back to the heart of the matter. “I only meant to - ”

“You know what? I don’t give a damn what you meant, alright? All I care about is what the hell is going to happen to me now that all this about me and what’s-his-face is out, and when can I just go home!”

It takes a moment for the loudness and abruptness of my obscenities to settle with Lion-man, and for me to realize that there are tears streaming down my face. I brush them away angrily, frustrated more than ever by the pitying looks coming from Harry.

“Well then,” Scrimgeour says quietly, gazing at me rather disinterested now. “I suppose then I’d better just get this part over with.”

My gaze falls on the pale wood of the wand as he holds it out to me, and for the tiniest of seconds, I feel as if something animal-like has awaken inside of me, and nothing would please me more than to rip the thin object from his hands and to lash out at everyone and anyone. But I squash the notion, shaking it off as confusing it with sheer loath for the Minister at the moment.

He gives his hand a little shake as he gestures for me to take it, and with trembling fingers and sincerest dread, I reach out and wrap my own hand around the wood, quietly accepting the passing of this mysterious torch of sorts, and it doesn’t surprise me even in the least bit when he explains, “It was Dumbledore’s. He explains explicitly in his will that this was to be left with you, if you ever found out about our world.”

“Well, how do you know that I’m the right Emma though?” I find myself asking stubbornly, suddenly doubtful, and I do my best to ignore the sinking feeling in my gut. But Scrimgeour points to my wrists, and I rear back in surprise to find that the bracelets have miraculously disappeared from sight, with no trace of them left at all upon my skin or clothes.

“That’s how I know I’m certain.” His tone is final, and slightly miffed, as if he’d been expecting more out of this conversation, and with a rather disdainful bow exits the room. I turn in amazement to inquire Harry’s reaction to this whole fiasco, but oddly, at the sight of him standing there, simply staring at me in cold disbelief, the words lodge in my throat, and not for the first time in my life, I feel completely alone and friendless in the world. Grasping the wand a bit more firmly in my hand, I pass a quick glance between it and Harry for one last time before muttering something about needing some rest, and I shove past the boy as quickly as my near expired frame will allow, so that he won’t have to see or hear the tears I am so badly aching to shed.

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