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“Remember, dear,” Alan coached gently, as he took one hand off the handle of the trolley to squeeze his daughter‘s shoulder reassuringly, even as Shiloh‘s face turned sour at another sugary name. If Alan noticed the look, than he was either apathetic or took it for a flash of nervousness for the coming task, for he patted her shoulder again and continued to give cheerful instructions. “Walk straight at the barrier and don’t stop. I’ll bring the trolley along after you.”

Shiloh looked at him, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. He was more nervous for her than she was for herself—and she was the one walking through a solid wall. But she’d been properly taught of what was to come and how she was to get onto Platform 9 ¾. She’d watched her mother go before her, paying close attention to the way Elaine had jogged towards the wall and disappeared into it without so much as halting for fear. Shiloh didn’t feel anything close to apprehension. She forced her lips to twitch in a partial smile to assure her father that she was not about to shatter her nose on the barrier. She’d traveled by Floo powder and Portkeys. She could handle this, no problem.

“Ready?” he asked, tightening his grip on her shoulder while he looked at her anxiously.

Shiloh nodded and he began counting slowly, calculatedly. Shiloh did roll her eyes this times—how many kids did this before her and would after her?--and she felt restlessness itch at her so hard that she couldn’t stand still. By the time her father had reached ‘2’ she sprinted forward toward the barrier. The world rushed by the corners of her eyes, an exuberant blur of colors and silhouettes, and the red and white of the bricks grew closer until they were all she could see. She gave a little leap at it and slammed towards it fearlessly. With a whooshing sensations and less time than it took to blink her eyes, she was on Platform 9 ¾.

The place was bustling, full of life and excitement—a foretelling of what could only be what Hogwarts would be like. Every inch filled with laughing kids and well-wishing parents, all teary-eyed at bidding their beloved children farewell, each of them wearing a shocking array of multi-colored robes and interesting Muggle-clothing that Shiloh had near-seen before. Old friends were finding one another and helping them carry trunks from the many trolleys whilst laughing and informing one another of what had happened since the last year. To the left, the sleek red and brown train gleamed brightly and issued bellows of wispy smoke from its long pipe, its engine chugging softly as it waited for the time to leave. Shiloh’s lips twisted upward into a slight, genuine smile as she felt her heart give a mixture of joy and elation. This was it, the Hogwarts Express, the vehicle that would take her to the next chapter of her life.

A brunette woman waved frantically at her and Shiloh moved to her mother’s side moments before her father appeared where she had just been standing, pushing along the trolley with Shiloh's large trunk. He stopped beside them, trying to keep a wide smile on his boyish face, even as he glanced awkwardly at Elaine. Shiloh understood the conversation that they carried only with their eyes and Elaine’s sad shake of her head.

Her parents had known this day would come; when they would have to bid their only child goodbye for longer than they had ever parted, knowing that they wouldn’t see her for months and then only for a brief holiday. They’d known it, but now that it had arrived, and it was but moments from the time they would hug each other farewell, they were not prepared for it. Shiloh knew that because they loved her dearly, they would send her to Hogwarts. She was a witch and it was her dream, but they would miss her. Her mother would no longer have someone to cook with or to pamper and her father would no longer have someone who shared his taste for Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans. But they would learn to adjust to the quiet of their house and to the fact that the potion shed was empty, its shelves were mostly bare. And they would rapidly adjust to the fact there would be no more rare explosions or time when they would have to rush to be sure she was well. They would be fine; Shiloh was sure.

“Well,” Shiloh broke the uncomfortable moment by taking Alan’s place at the head of the trolley. “We best be getting my trunk on the train.”

As she twisted the trolley about and pushed it toward a door in the train, she saw, out of the corner of her eye, Alan step to her mum’s side and fit his hand into hers. Dear old dad…giving strength to the woman he loved, even when he too was in need of strength.

Not pausing with the trolley, she glanced over her shoulder at her mother. Shiloh felt a bit of concern at the way it looked like her mother was fighting with tears every single moment. She tried to give her a smile, hoping that her mother would make it through the next minutes without crying out the Pacific Ocean. She didn’t want to have to feel guilty about fulfilling her dream and doing what every single wizard child eventually did. Her mum noticed the smile and gave one in reply, as though to say that she would be alright. Satisfied—at least, for the moment—Shiloh looked forward.

It happened quickly. A trolley being pushed towards the same door cut before hers and before she even clearly saw it, let alone had enough time to yank to a stop, the front of Shiloh’s trolley had slammed into it. The trolley bounced then tipped. Her hands held fast to the handle and Shiloh was pulled down with it. With a yelp of alarm, a crash, and various other sounds, Shiloh and the trunk hit the floor, the lid banged open, and her belongings scattered. Robes shot into the air and fell into crumpled piles of black cloth. Books were flung everywhere, landing open on the ground, covers spread and crisp, new pages becoming dirty and dog-eared. Shiloh’s music box rolled off on its side, momentum carrying it away from the fallen trunk.

“Shiloh!”

Ignoring her mother’s fearful gasp and shaking off the shock of what had just happened, Shiloh scrambled to her feet and hurried off to rescue her music box. It continued its roll toward the edge of the platform where it would fall beneath the train’s wheels, her most precious possession lost forever. Shiloh lunged for it as it reached the edge, but it just missed her fingers and she slammed painfully on the ground. She watched in horror, holding her breath as the music box teetered on the edge, praying that it would roll back toward her and not…

It fell off the edge.

“No!” Shiloh’s cry of anguish was a mere winded whisper.

A hand reached forth and snatched the box, stopping its fall and pulling it up from danger. From her place on the ground she craned her neck upward to seeing her music box’s rescuer. A boy---a third year by the look of it---stood there, stout and strong with ginger hair splashed gaily with sparkling sunlight.

“Sorry about that,” he apologized as he extended a hand to help her to her feet. His voice was cheerful and he wore a confident smile so wide the corner of his lips nearly seemed to disappear into his hairline. Clearly, he was an exuberant boy, merry even in the most opportune of moments. “Didn’t see you.”

So he’d been the one so careless as to hit her trolley. But he’d save her music box so she supposed they were even.

Ignoring his hand she pushed herself to her feet and smoothed out her clothes with a few, vigorous swipes with her hands. Turning her gaze up at him, she said, “Don’t worry about it. Trolleys are dangerous.”

“Very dangerous,” he agreed, still grinning. He looked at the music box and, as though remembering who's it was, held it out to her. “This yours?”

Shiloh nodded and snatched it away from him eagerly and possessively, cradling it close as though it was a long lost friend. It seemed unharmed by the ordeal, but just to be sure she opened it. The lovely melody came as clear and beautiful as it always was. She let out a relieved sigh that pushed past her lips and teeth unheard, but the breath tickled her lips. “Thank you.”

Before the boy could respond a bristling red-haired woman came up upon them. She turned to the boy, her face red-hot and her eyes were narrowed into a glare. “George, look at you. Causing havoc wherever you go. Look what you did to the poor girl.” Her words were hissed and spat at the same time, her hands clenched at her hips,trembling with anger. She was furious to the point she could have been described as demonic, and Shiloh didn’t blame the boy for recoiling.

“Easy, Mum,” George tried to reason soothingly, holding his hands before him as though he might have to shield an attack. “It was an accident. Honest.

“Accident?” his mother practically screeched, and Shiloh shifted uneasily knowing this was a conversation that she should not be a part of. “I never know what’s an accident with you, George. What with dungbombs…and fires…and…and--” She was so furious she was becoming flustered, tripping over her own tongue in an effort to describe her impish son. “and mail-order sinks, I…”

“Mail-order sinks? There’s an idea---” George’s mischievous grin was back, beaming fearlessly on his lips. He held up his hands as though outlining an ad or billboard. “‘Interested in a genuine Hogwarts sink? For a galleon, we’ll send it with the next owl’.”

She had no idea whether George was serious or not, but the idea that he might actually back up his statement made her chest tingle with amusement. The humor worked its way up her throat and her lips parted in a small, rare giggle that she quickly stifled by pressing her lips together. Even in the face of a mother who was as enraged as a banshee, he still had the gumption to be humorous. And he was funny. He’d made Shiloh laugh and that was a task not easily accomplished.

But she was the only one who found George comical.

“I’m serious, George,” his mother warned lowly. “That girl hit the ground twice and--”

Knowing George was getting in trouble because of her and that she was quite alright with the harmless event, Shiloh cut in. “I really am fine, ma’am. I’m positive it was just an accident.”

As though the mother had completely forgotten of the girl’s existence, let alone immediate presence, she jerked in surprise and turned around. Before she could speak they were surrounded by a group of people so quickly it was as though they had Apparated there. First there was Shiloh’s parents, Elaine fussing over Shiloh’s robes and her father asking if she was absolutely sure she was alright. Shiloh rolled her eyes and jerked away from her mother’s embarrassing concern. Honestly, she’d survived small explosions and fires from her potions; a couple of slams on the floor were nothing to her.

The next was a boy about her age, freckled face, lanky, and so red-haired that he could only be related to George, his face set into a curious expression, followed by a pretty young girl—their sister, Shiloh could only guess.

But the one that caught everyone’s attention was when a boy identical to George sauntered easily into the group and, without the least bit of self-consciousness held up a pair of white female underlings. “Did someone lose these?”

Though Shiloh was not easily embarrassed, having of pair of her underclothes flashed to a group of strangers tinged her cheeks with color. She ripped them out of the boy’s hands as the mother ridiculed her son with a sharp, “Fred!”

Face flushing with shame, the mother of the group turned to Alan. “I’m sorry about this.” She twisted her hands before, wringing them together for no more reason than to have something to do with them while dealing with the crazy situation.

Alan seemed equally abashed, his features a shade of crimson that would have looked beautiful on a cloak, but no so much on her father’s cheeks. He shifted his feet back along the floor, glancing from his daughter’s face as though unsure if she had broken her nose and then back to the floor where the embarrassment took complete control over even his worry for Shiloh. “Yes…well…” he struggled to find the words until he dared to look up at the woman. He fell silent, confusion marching across his eyes as he studied her for a moment, then pure, enlightening recognition flashed across his face. “Wait a minute. You’re Molly Weasley.”

Mrs. Weasley’s frowned deepened, no longer ashamed but rather perplexed. “Yes,” she agreed, but with great uncertainty, making it apparent that, although Shiloh’s father recognized her, she had no idea on earth who he was.

Seeing this, Alan extended his hand and introduced himself with a cheerful flourish, everything that had happened gone from his mind. “Alan Sanders. I work with your husband in the Department of Misuse for Muggle Artifacts.”

The air around them changed, going from awkward and bewildered to happy and introductory as Mrs. Weasley reached out her hand to shake Alan’s merrily. Shiloh rolled her eyes and resisted the urge to growl an annoyed sigh. She wondered if there was a place that this didn’t happen; when her father didn’t find someone he knew and went about talking and carrying on conversations while she was stuck there being introduced to a perfect stranger. It was always happening, and it bugged her to no end; honestly, was there one wizard in Europe that her father didn’t know from somewhere or something or other?

“Yes,” Molly said, smiling enthusiastically. “Arthur speaks about you all the time.”

And then, just as Shiloh had predicted, commenced the routine introductions. What was it with adults and the need to show off all their loved ones?

Molly began by resting a hand on the young girl’s head, a clear fondness as she grinned down at her daughter. “This is my youngest, Ginny.” She then glanced to either side of her at the twins who were still beaming their matching roguish grins, even when their mother’s face soured when she looked at them—not so much out of dislike—(for there was no doubt that she did love her boys or they could not irk her so)--but out of displeasure for their recent misbehavior. “And these two troublemakers are my twins Fred and George.”

“Troublemakers?” George repeated, mockingly appalled.

“We resent that,” said Fred.

“No matter how true it may be,” they finished in unison.

Once again, Shiloh felt delight tickle her insides and a small smile touched her lips.

Ignoring the twins, Shiloh’s father began his own introductions and Shiloh‘s smile instantly disappeared as she waited for all the unwelcome attention to be turned towards her and her mum. “This is my wife, Elaine,” Alan proclaimed happily as he gently set a hand on his wife’s shoulder. Elaine never seemed to mind being introduced, for she smiled sweetly, though a bit timidly.

“Oh I remember you,” said Mrs. Weasley to Shiloh’s mum. “You were sixth year when I started Hogwarts. Ravenclaw, right?”

Blushing bashfully, Elaine nodded.

“And this--” Alan touched Shiloh’s arm lightly, “is my daughter, Shiloh.”

“Pleasure,” Shiloh said polity, though she had no idea what else to say as Mrs. Weasley's eyes turned to the girl she believed her son had nearly murdered.

“Oh, you could say we’ve already met,” said George jestingly. “We ran into each other a few minutes ago.”

Literally, Shiloh mused, as her lips twitched again. She had to hand it to George; he was taken the gawkiness of the situation away and replacing it with blitheness.

“It’s her first year,” Alan said proudly as he laid a hand on Shiloh's head.

She sidestepped away from the touch, but no one seemed to notice how she was rapidly losing interest. Her gaze was turning to where her overturned trunk and scattered belongings, her urge to leave too strong to ignore.

“Really?” Mrs. Weasley said. “My boy Ronald’s—“ she gestured to the last freckled-faced boy— “is just starting too.”

Shiloh was no longer paying attention, for the conversation was switching from boring to intolerable. Besides, she was sick of seeing her belongings on the floor where people barely managed to keep from stepping on them. She headed toward the trunk and trolley and righted both. She began collecting her spilled belongings, piling up lost closed, straightening out the wrinkled pages, and checking more personal, dearer baubles like pictures and trinkets for harm—although there was none—before placing all of them into the trunk. Her music box was the last thing to go in and she tucked it safely in a wrapping of clothes and soft fabric where it would not be harmed by the jerking of the train. She finally closed and locked the trunk. Before she could grab a handle to drag it onto the train, George cut in front of her and wrapped a hand around her handle.

“What are you doing?” Shiloh demanded as Fred took the hand on the other side.

“It’s the least we can do.” George said genially as he and Fred lifted the trunk and started up the steps into the train with incredible ease.

Shiloh set her hands on her hips, her independent side ready to insist she could do it, but they were already on the train before she could so much as twist her mouth into an unfavorable sneer. Seeing them disappear, she saw that it was much too late to intervene. Besides if they were troublemakers—as they were accused and so proudly claimed to be–she doubted they would listen to her anyways. She could do nothing more than shrug and follow.

She climbed into the train and found that the aisles to be completely congested. Students were everywhere, many already dressing in the Hogwarts robes, laughing and giving out yelps of excitement in every sort of joyous chaos. As she tentatively pushed into the crowd, she was nearly shoved onto her rump as two Second Years who were chasing each other, ran past and knocked into her. She caught herself on a compartment wall, breathing a sigh of relief that she had not once again become a close friend to the solid ground and that her lungs wouldn’t have to fight for air.

Shiloh continued on, uncomfortable with the way so many were crammed into such a small place that she nearly locked ankles with everyone she passed. She'd never liked crowds or bumping shoulders with strangers. It would have almost been easier to scamper on hands and knees, crawling beneath sprawled legs, but Shiloh didn’t dare, knowing what a fool the whole school would think her to be. She did hope Fred and George had come this direction, because, if she had to fight her way back down her gained ground, she would be sorely peeved.

She was beginning to get the hang of navigating around the sea of unfamiliar faces and was nearly ridding herself of the image of getting lost in the many bodies when she stepped out of the compartment.

And then Shiloh felt nauseous.

“Well if it isn’t Shiloh Sanders. Pleasure seeing you here.”

“Same to you, Annadel,” lied Shiloh through a dark sneer. Annadel’s nose was surprisingly straight. Pity. Shiloh hadn’t broken it.

Annadel flipped her long blonde hair backwards off her shoulders and smiled sweetly as though she didn‘t remember the event of a weak ago, didn’t recall what it was like to see Shiloh‘s knuckles only to be blinded by pain a moment later. But there was a deep maliciousness in Annadel’s eyes that told Shiloh that Annadel recollected perfectly and longed for a chance to repay Shiloh in return for the bleeding nose. Shiloh’s stomach turned in disgust. That was the one bad thing about Hogwarts. Annadel would be there, given far too many opportunities to insult Shiloh‘s family.

A dark-haired girl with a pug-like face peeked her head out of the compartment. She was a first year, only a few months older than Shiloh, but her eyes were little dark spheres that reminded Shiloh of the horribly flavored pepper in the Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans.

“Oh, this is Pansy Parkinson,” Annadel gestured at Pansy, who scowled at Shiloh with an expression that left Shiloh wondering if maybe she had punched Pansy as well, or offended her in some past life, when she could have sworn that she‘d never met the girl before. Maybe Annadel had informed Pansy of the horrible girl who had slugged her for ‘absolutely no reason‘. Either that, or Pansy simply didn’t like the sight of her.

“Our families know one another,” Annadel explained to Shiloh, who in turn folded her arms over her chest and gave her a glance that was meant to say I-seriously-don’t-give-a-darn. But Annadel ignored Shiloh's glance and continued anyways.

“And Pansy, this is Shiloh Sanders. Our mothers are acquaintances.” She put emphasis on the word 'acquaintances', as though to be anything more with Elaine Sanders would be shameful.

“Pleasure,” Pansy said, still not smiling.

“Pleasure,” mimicked Shiloh, as unmeant as Pansy. If Annadel could call Pansy a friend, then Shiloh was as pleased to meet her as she was pleased to kiss a king cobra.

“I suppose you’d like to sit with us,” Annadel offered, even though Shiloh was sure it wasn’t genuine. Perhaps that or Shiloh had some plan that included cruel and unusual punishment—like listening to them talk about how they liked to do her hair all the way to Hogwarts. Aye, that would be misery.

“I’d rather be tied to the train wheels,” Shiloh replied coldly.

Annadel’s pasted smile lost its brilliance and slowly oozed off her lips. She slipped a hand into her pocket and, guessing what she was after, Shiloh did the same. Sure enough, the eternally predictable Annadel pulled out a wand from her robe pocket. The wand gleamed reddish brown and was slender and dainty, like a rosebud. “Like it, Sanders? It’s polished rosewood and unicorn hair.”

Unicorn hair? Shiloh snorted. Why am I not surprised?

Annadel grew even angrier at Shiloh unimpressed scuff, and, with a wicked grin on her face and a serpentine glint in her eyes, she raised her wand upward, pointing it at Shiloh‘s face. Pansy was watching the exchange with great interest and a few other kids paused to watch, as though eager to see someone turned into a frog.

“You know, I’ve been dying to try it out.” Annadel looked malevolent, but Shiloh didn’t feel a flicker of fear. Her hand was wrapped around her own wand and she was slowly calculating.

“Dying?” Shiloh snarled, tauntingly. “Promises, promises.”

Annadel’s eyes narrowed until they were little black slits and she pressed her wand ever nearer to Shiloh’s throat, but the confident sneer on Shiloh’s face never gave way to a fearful whimper, making Annadel all the more enraged. She always hated it when she didn’t get what she wanted.

Shiloh couldn’t explain how calm she was, but even facing her enemy in a tense situation in front of many people didn’t unsettle her. She could see clearly through Annadel’s bluff. Neither of them had been trained in magic or was allowed to use it until they reached school. However, in the chance that Annadel did have a spell, Shiloh had been pouring over her schoolbooks and, since Shiloh couldn’t imagine Annadel putting her perfect nose into a book, she was sure she was a bit better prepared. And in case their spells fell through, Shiloh threw a mean right punch---as Annadel knew very well.

After a moment of intense silence in which the small audience stood watching, waiting with baited breath to see how this would unfold, Shiloh finally chose her way of action.

“Well, Annadel,” Shiloh taunted. “What are you waiting for?”

Annadel’s cheeks flushed and she made a small sound. “Erm…”

Shiloh’s lips twisted in satisfaction. Annadel had expected her to turn tail and run and when she hadn’t, Annadel didn’t know what to do. With no spells, she was all talk and no walk. It showed Annadel for what she truly was: a fool.

Annadel tried to make the best of the things. She recovered her horrified expression back into cockiness and disdain and pocketed her wand. “I could, but I don’t want to waste it on the likes of you.”

Annadel was a believable actress, but the performance came too late. The audience had seen the coward she was and Shiloh had won—without so much as drawing a wand, only with cunning words. And victory was sweet.

Pansy and Annadel retreated into the compartment and Shiloh watched the door click behind them before she dared turn her back on her enemies and push past the bystanders. As she followed the aisle, steering and sliding past people, she saw Fred and George tearing towards her at a run. They wore excited expressions—though it wasn’t much different than usual—and they stopped when they saw her.

“You’ll never believe it,” said Fred, breathless excited.

“Believe what?” asked Shiloh, her mind instantly calculating what would get them so animated.

“Who we just met,” George replied.

Shiloh glanced from one to the other, unsure what was going on. Honestly, she’d had enough adventure for one day and she was weary of surprises. All she wanted was to ask them where her trunk was and to bid her parents goodbye before the train took left to Hogwarts. But they seemed all to eager to tell her, and it seemed impolite to not play along. And, after all, they had carried her trunk. “Who?”

In unison, they said, “Harry Potter.”

Shiloh’s face became blank and unreadable, though she felt as though someone had drenched her in cold water. Harry Potter? Everyone in the wizarding world knew about Harry Potter. He was as infamous as the sun and moon, as talked about as the weather, and as admired as a warm summer day. He was the Boy Who Lived, the one who had supposedly rid the world of You-Know-Who. Could it really be that Harry Potter?

But, of course it was him. There wasn’t any other Harry Potter. But if Fred and George had seen him on the train it could only mean that he had returned to the wizardry world. He’d come to Hogwarts, the same year that Shiloh had. It meant that she would be studying, learning, and living alongside the Harry Potter.

But it wasn’t wonder or excitement she felt---it was apathy and…discord. Harry might have rid this world of the Dark Lord and done the world a favor, but he’d done nothing to rid the world of Death Eaters. Besides, he’d been just a baby. Could he really have been responsible for something he likely couldn‘t remember or be praised for something he‘d done at an age where they had no choice about anything except whether to cry or to sleep? Famous or not, she wasn’t impressed by Harry Potter—not in the way the rest of the wizarding world fawned over him.

She neither liked nor disliked the idea of being at school with him, but she felt a great foreboding in her stomach, perhaps a foretelling that life at Hogwarts was going to be even more complicated than usual.

“Oh,” was the only sound she could force her numb lips to make.

“Yeah,” Fred went on, clearly obvious to the fact that she wasn’t as fervent as they were. “And he had the scar and everything.”

Shiloh was unsure what to say and what they wanted her to say. All she knew that she was feeling all too uneasy discussing Harry Potter, who was connected to You-Know-Who who was connected to Death Eaters. And that was a subject too close to home; to near the secret that Shiloh wasn’t just one who could admire the Boy Who Lived from afar and wasn’t just one who learned about Death Eaters as an interesting topic. She was connected, to Death Eaters, to You-Know-Who, maybe even to Harry Potter. She wanted to change the subject and fast.

“Where’s my trunk?”

“Oh,” George seemed to only then remember, and he paused a moment in an attempt to think of something other than Potter. “Three compartments back. It was the only one empty.”

“Thanks.” Shiloh pushed past them, nervous that if she stayed she would be subjected to every detail of their meeting with Potter. “See you.”

They weren’t listening. She was long forgotten in their minds, replaced by the Boy Who Lived. Before she could so much as glance behind her to wave, they’d already galloped off to tell someone else they’d met the Harry Potter and that he had the lightning bolt scar.

Shiloh put the thoughts of the Weasley twins far behind her and checked the compartment to make sure her trunk was there and, when she saw it safely stowed in the luggage compartment, she made her way back out to her parents.

This was the only part of going to Hogwarts that Shiloh had actually been dreading. Shiloh didn’t like goodbyes especially with her mother, the woman who’d cried when she did nothing more than accompany her father on a weekend business trip. Sure enough, Elaine’s face was turning red and her eyes were watery. Shiloh hated to see her mother cry and it would make her feel guilty, which was crazy since this was the moment they knew was coming. It also awakened her protectiveness of her mother, the need to make sure she was she was happy. Although it was unnatural for a child to feel that particular emotion, it had always been there.

It was why she helped her mother in the kitchen without complaint or why Shiloh made sure to spend time at tea parties and knitting with her—even though she despised it. She wanted to make her mother happy. After all, it seemed only fit that Shiloh try to be the daughter Elaine had always wanted, especially since Elaine had been the greatest mother Shiloh could ever ask for.

And not only was it hard for Shiloh because it would be near impossible for her mum, but because she would miss her parents. She would miss sharing a box of Bertie Bott’s and talking with her father about things in the Ministry. She would miss her mother’s gentle reprimands and kind touch. She’d miss the way her mother always checked on her in the middle of the night, smoothing away nightmares with soft caresses over Shiloh’s forehead or an extra twist to wind up the music box, or warming Shiloh by laying extra blankets over her. She’d miss the way in those moments, unconsciously she would feel her heart warm and ease, the feeling of being loved.

She’d miss their love.

But they’d all adjust. Shiloh would make friends at Hogwarts and, when she missed her family, she could rest assured that they did too. Her father would talk to Elaine about his day though Shiloh doubted their conversation would include All-Flavored Beans. Her mother would get used to the empty kitchen at breakfast times and the missing chair at dinner parties.

Still…

Shiloh didn’t object when Elaine took her in her arms, sniffing hard to hold back the tears. “You behave, now, and enjoy your term.,” she told her daughter bravely as she held her for a moment longer than necessary.

Alan hugged her as well, stooping low to wrap his thick arms around her small body. “Make us proud.”

“I will,” Shiloh said as she backed away. She forced a smile, hoping it would cheer up her tearful Mum and her emotional Dad. “Don’t worry. I’m only an owl away.”

They stood there an awkward moment of silence each perhaps not wanting to be the first to give a goodbye and fully resign themselves to the fact that they wouldn’t be together until Christmas. Shiloh was slowly inching backwards towards the train wanting to end her discomfort and simply flee back to her compartment. Her mother’s tears were starting to trickle down her face and her father was swallowing with great difficulty. They stayed that way, staring at each other until the train gave an impatient hoot. If they didn’t end this, Shiloh would miss her ride to Hogwarts.

“Well, goodbye,” Shiloh said hurriedly, just to get out the horrid word.

“Goodbye, we’ll miss you,” Elaine said, wiping her cheeks but failing to stop the flood of tears.

“Yes, Shiloh, goodbye.” Behind them the doors were starting to close. “You better hurry.”

Shiloh turned and ran to the train, barely making it past the closing door. She hurried all the way back to her compartment, the now almost empty aisle making it easier than it had been before. When she closed the door, the train gave a groan, a sudden jolt, and then began to move. Shiloh pushed open the window and stuck out her head.

From here she could see her mother, head in hands and shoulder shaking with her sobs. Shiloh felt that familiar twinge of guilt and protectiveness, but shoved it away and lifted her hand out the window to wave. Her father tapped her mother’s shoulder, and, when she looked up, pointed in Shiloh’s direction. Elaine smiled through her tears, looking joyous and heartbroken all at the same time. She returned the wave, her arm extended high over her head.

More for her mum’s sake than for her own, Shiloh continued to wave until the train had chugged out of the station and her mother had faded from view. She leaned back into the compartment and closed the window. Yes, her mother would be fine.

The train ride was long and quiet. Having a compartment to herself made it easier to do things like think and change into her robes in privacy, but the silence was powerful, almost deafening. She almost hoped that someone would knock on the door and enter—someone who had interesting tales to tell and the desire to befriend her.

But, Shiloh had never had a friend before. The only girl she knew that was her age was Annadel, who she hadn’t gotten along since they had first met at four years of age and Annadel had bitten her for no reason. And, thought Shiloh grimly, she still had fangs.

But Shiloh’s were sharper.

Shiloh knew there must have been others she had come in contact with, but she’d never started a friendship. To have friends was to open a piece of your heart and to do that meant to be completely honest and that, for someone with a secret as black as Shiloh’s, was frightening. But Shiloh had secretly hoped that she would meet someone at Hogwarts who she wouldn’t be afraid to call a friend. Who wouldn’t care that her birth mother had been a Death Eater.

But looking at the empty cabin and thinking about the cool way she had treated Fred and George, even after they had been nothing but kind, Shiloh couldn’t help but think the worst. She’d always been a loner. Maybe she always would be.






chapter image by caren

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