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Chapter Six

The Real Ghoul of Halloween

Shiloh adjusted quickly to her life at Hogwarts, finding her busy schedule much to her liking. Memorizing the order of her classes, she fell into a welcome pattern. She learned how to time the stretch between the classes so that she was never late. She learned how to never put off homework or risk not having it done of time. She rapidly mastered the rules of Hogwarts, those written and not. She knew to avoid the older students who desired a first year in their way as much as a dog wanted fleas. She became skilled in navigating the complicated halls and staircases—including those that had an annoying habit of changes. She even adapted to Peeves' constant pranks around the school, developing the art of taking a different route then the hall he occupied, of dodging his fired spit wads, and of ignoring him whenever he followed behind unsuspecting first years and taunted 'Little bitty first year! I'm going to get your ear!'. This caused most first years to run off screaming, but when Shiloh didn't do it, Peeves learned to leave her alone; she was no fun at all!

In short, Shiloh was becoming a well-rounded student. She was doing well in all her classes, except perhaps History of Magic. She could swear that the droning ghost was speaking in some undecipherable language, his monotonous voice shutting off her mind and luring her into sleep. Fortunately she was able to grasp more from the assigned reading than she ever could in class and made up the difference by pouring into extra chapters.

In Transfiguration, she managed not to make severe mistakes, meaning she wasn't among those that caused small explosions or turned their objects into something disastrous. She did as well as could be expected from an average, brainy first year. She'd even been the first person in her class to change a match into a needle, for which McGonagall had rewarded her with five points for Slytherin. For a while after that, other first years accused her of being a know-it-all and a bookworm, but she brushed off such things as their own jealousy speaking. Perhaps if they worked a bit harder and paid attention to the teacher, despite the fact that she was a Gryffindor, they might have been able to be the first. It wasn't because she was exceptionally brilliant that Shiloh succeeded; it was the fact that she at least tried.

In Charms, she did just the same—doing no more and no less than could be expected of her. Flitwick, however, seemed to have taken some sort of liking to her, but then again, there weren't many people that the zealous Professor Flitwick could actually not feel some sort of affection for.

Herbology was mildly interesting, and Shiloh learned to make a list of all the plants and their known and possible uses, knowing full well it would come in handy with her potions. Once they were placed in a cauldron, each herb and plant had the potential of transforming into some fabulous and amazing concoction with even more amazing uses. These plants in the hands of a potion-maker, meant much more than simply strange looking grasses and flowers. They could be turned into a cure for the sick or a poison for the enemy or even something hilarious to the average prankster. But other than the fascinating relation to the potions, Shiloh found the work tedious and boring, with no real adventure. They were only first years. They wouldn't get to the really dangerous plants for several years.

Another area she excelled at was Defense Against the Dark Arts. Though Professor Quirrell was a garlic-smelling, vampire-paranoid joke who hardly managed to teach them anything other than that vampires were something you should stay far away from, for the sake of your own sanity, she delved into the subject with a passion, pouring over all her book and memorizing jinxes, curses, and hexes that were in the Common Book of Spells. She longed with some unconscious dream or some sort of driving fear, she be able to defend herself from dark magic. She knew better than most that just because You-Know-Who was no longer about, it didn't mean that the word was any less threatened by the Dark Arts. But that ignorance wasn't their fault and may they be happy being blissfully unaware. But that happy innocence could not be apart of Shiloh's world. That easy peace could never be apart of her life; not when Shiloh remembered the pain that the Dark Arts could cause.

But regardless of whatever reasons drove her, Shiloh quickly excelled in the class. Whether it was by her exuberance or some natural talent, she didn't know, but quickly she was among the best of the Slytherin first years.

But it was in Potions where she really shone. Egged on by the goal she made in the first Potion class, she focused intensely in the class and could often be seen, hair pulled back in a messy, minuscule pony-tail with a dark ribbon and teeth chewing her bottom lip in concentration as she got lost in the word of mastering perfection and Potions. She was nearly always oblivious to the other students or the pops of small explosions or how Neville had somehow managed to melt his sixth cauldron this year. She barely knew or thought of anything besides how fine she was supposed to cut the herbs and how many times she was supposed to stir it clockwise. Lost in the thing that she loved, everything else seemed amazing unimportant, as though problems and worries or a world outside of this didn't even exist.

But she was never unaware of Professor Snape's calculative gaze and every time she would feel herself tightening, wondering if it had been good enough, before excelling a sigh of triumph when he passed on to the next student, giving them that same piercing gaze and commenting upon their mistakes. And by the time the end of October was rolling around, Shiloh was nearly convinced that she'd proved to Professor Snape that she wasn't a dunderhead and she'd nearly wanted to burst with joy. But even in her silent celebration she had realized that one faulty step, one mistake and she would be back to being thought of as just another idiot girl. But no, she wouldn't let that happen.

Her classes, however, seemed to be the only thing going well. Her personal life was another matter. Unfortunately, never having friends or anything more than her Potions' shed for company, Shiloh had never before had a 'social life', and she found that aspect of Hogwarts uncomfortably strange and daunting. Unlike her classes and homework, she was unable to adjust quickly to the new circumstance. It was in the times when she was in her room, listening to the chortling of her obnoxious roommates that Shiloh felt the tiniest flicker of being homesick, wandering how her parents were. They wrote her often, but how could that be the same as actually seeing them and she struggled writing them, somehow unable to find the words to describe how she was. As a result her returned letters were short, choppy, and vague and gave her parents little more information than the fact that Shiloh was alive and well.

On the plus side, Annadel and her friends left her well enough alone as though they could not possibly be bothered by someone so unworthy as her. Shiloh thought it was only because Annadel was still having trouble accepting the fact that Shiloh was indeed apart of the noble house of Salazar Slytherin. Besides, their avoidance wasn't complete, for they still sent her hateful looks that she could have easily avoided if they hadn't been accompanied by the snide remarks about her and her parents, when they thought she wasn't listening—or perhaps when they knew she was.

And as for Symone, well...they still sat together at meals and classes and held conversations and spent time in the common room together when it became too cool to go wading in the lake. At all appearances they were friends and both Symone and Shiloh would have believed it too, if it hadn't been for the way Shiloh did the little things to distance herself from Symone, knowing that they could be casual companions, but never friends—no matter how much she wished it could be otherwise. When it came to conversations, Shiloh merely listened but barely did anything more. Whenever the conversations would threaten to turn into something nonchalant or if the topic made Shiloh uncomfortable she would awkwardly and quickly change the subject or make an escape with some quickly-thought up excuse, most the time having to do with homework and the library.

The library was where Shiloh spent much of her time, completely homework quickly and thriving on the books she found on the many bookshelves. She loved exploring the mammoth labyrinth of bookshelves that stretched up so high that they made her slender self feel minuscule. She had a favorite table, near the window so there was always amble sunlight and she could glance through it and she the grounds of Hogwarts and the serene lake. From there she would read many books of many different genres. So far she'd read ten books based on Potions, seven dealing with Defense Against the Dark Arts and three detailing creatures of all sorts.

And with classes, homework, and all her reading, she was surprised to see that two months had come and gone and, to the excitement of the students and the rambunctious ghosts, Halloween arrived in a conjured flash of black and orange.

Sitting at the Slytherin table in the great hall, Shiloh watched the bats that floated from the stormy ceiling to just above the tables, their great leathery wings stirring up winds and causing the candles into the spectacularly carved pumpkins to flutterer and dance eerie. There was the normal amount of chatter throughout the hall, unabated by what was supposed to be a haunted feel in the great hall, though Shiloh found that it felt more lively than spooky. Whether it was caused by the new decorations or not, Shiloh could feel excitement like static in the air. This Halloween celebration would be interesting; she could feel it.

The feast began as the food appeared then, magically and suddenly. Platters were filled with all sort of delectable looking foods. Baked potato, turkey, and countless other choices of meat and veggies. Along with all the nutritious food there were many platters of desert and candies of all sorts and the mixture of sweet and spicy scents teased Shiloh nose. She was serving herself up a slice of meat and a cherry pasty when there was a startling bang as the door flew open and collided with the opposite. Dropping her plate as she jumped, prepared for anything from a fight to an escape, but as she surveyed to look at the door, she saw not anything fiercer than the garlic-smelling Professor Quirrell, his turban oddly askew and his face terrified as he ran up to the Head Table.

The hall stilled as they watched him, wandering what all the fuss was about and why he had been at the Head Table at the start of the feast. Shiloh leaned backwards on her chair, to see past a hundred heads to where Professor Quirrell stood before Professor Dumbledore, slumping against the table for support as he gasped, eyes wide in fear. “Troll—in the dungeon—” Despite how it shook incredibly, his voice was heard throughout the hall as nearly a thousand students held their breath. “Thought you ought to know.”

Without another world he collapsed to the ground in a dead faint.

With an earsplitting explosions, the Great Hall erupted into a roar. Some people screamed, others talked worriedly, and there was a great deal of the question 'What do we do'. People scrambled about as though wanting to run for it, but no, one roamed more than a few feet. Shiloh only rose to her feet, back rigid, her mind taking a moment for her to register what the Quirrell had said. A troll? Here at Hogwarts? How was that possible? But no matter how improbable it seemed, there was indeed a monster loose in the castle. Shiloh reached her hand into a pocket and clutched her wand.

Bright people fireworks exploded in air several times while Shiloh looked about frantically for the source, inches away from drawing her wand from her pocket. Finally her eyes settled upon Dumbledore, finding him with his wand calmly raised and purple shooting from its tip in fiery spurts. After they had gotten over the shock of the small explosions, students removed their arms from covering their heads protectively and looked towards their Headmaster as he spoke, his voice booming.

“Prefects,” he rumbled to the disquieted room, his strong voice holding a new urgency uncharacteristic to the eccentric man. “Lead your Houses back to their dormitories immediately.”

The prefects snapped into action and before a moment had passed a bustling Slytherin prefect came forth, his face gruff, and began to bark orders. “Let's go, all of you!”

The Slytherins needed no further prodding. Everyone sitting leaped to their feet and joined those standing as they pushed and shoved their way behind the prefects, bullying for something as simple as a place in line. Shiloh tried to do it calmly, forging her way between shoulders until she was in the middle of her group, but a selfish and panicked first year yanked on her shoulder, knocking her off balance. Stumbling forward and tumbling over her own, ungrounded feet, Shiloh bumped into another student, landing on him awkwardly. Instantly enraged, the older student swore bitterly.

“Shove off!” He elbowed her, which sent her back on her own feet, but knocked the wind from her painfully. “You bloody first year.”

Shiloh's blood crackled as she reached a free hand to her bruised ribs and she momentarily forgot about trolls. The real threat seemed like surviving angry Slytherins. “You first, Mudblood!” The word came off her lips, the worst insult she knew that she could give to a Slytherin, though, of course, she had entirely no idea if he was Muggleborn or would have had a problem with it he was. Only she knew that the best way to insult the average Slytherin was to call him a 'Mudblood'--no matter how filthy of a word it was.

And her aim worked.

“Why you little--!” Shiloh thought perhaps she had made a mistake—though she admitted felt no real regret—for the Slytherin looked angry enough to draw out his wand and, courageous or not, Shiloh knew she would stand no chance in a duel against the older student. However, it never came down for that because a prefect choose that moment to throw out another order.

“Orderly, now. First years together!”

She gave the boy a glare for his rudeness and a smug smirk at his devastated look at being unable to have the opportunity to jinx her and then she smoothly slipped between two students, creating a barrier between them. Her smirk falling, she turned her mind to the business of finding the other first years. She located one quickly and she was easily recognized. Upon seeing her Shiloh felt in unexplainable rush of relief, though whether it was for herself or for the student she was entire unsure. But at least, Shiloh had found her.

Shiloh pushed the rest of the way through the students in her way and when she reached the first year's side, she tapped her on her shoulder. “Symone.”

Symone let out a little cry of fright and spun around, pretty eyes voluminously filled with fear. Shiloh was taken aback, because this didn't appear to be the same Symone that Shiloh had known for the past months. It certainly was the fighter who'd stood up to her brother beside the lake or the calculative girl who insulted the boy when Fodder had dive-bombed them. Now Symone's was the picture of terror, looking pale and scared. It brought a sudden flash of burning emotion through Shiloh, something like what she felt she when she saw her mother upset on Platform 9 ¾. It was a powerful wave of courage and fervor that gave her the sudden desire to fight the entire world if that's what it took to protect the girl. The unexpected protectiveness caught her by surprise, but she quickly pushed away her shock.

As soon as Symone saw her clearly, the fear faded into blessed relief, leaving Shiloh to wonder if the intense panic had been caused for Symone herself or for Shiloh or simply because she didn't want to be alone. “Oh, Shiloh,” Symone breathed and grasped Shiloh's arm tightly, showing that she might not be as calm as her face now seemed. Shiloh had the impression that Symone was a very good actress when she wanted to be and the fear was still deeply there.

The resolution not to be friends didn't matter at the moment. In such crazy circumstances, everything was a great equalizer. Shiloh clasped Symone's arm in return, steering her along as the group left the Great Hall and wound through the halls.

“It'll be alright,” Shiloh assured calmly.

“I know,” Symone said, forcing a convincing smile though to Shiloh it still seemed fake. “The professors will bring down the troll in no time.”

Shiloh nodded in agreement and they spoke no more until they had reached the Common Room. The last trek through the dungeon was nerve-wrecking and every single student seemed to be clasping their wand and looking around as though they expected a troll to evaporate from thin air. But, after what seemed like forever, they reached the Common Room safely. Shiloh was never so glad to see so much green.

Shiloh and Symone made their way gratefully toward the green plush sofa and lowered themselves onto. It felt as though they had walked a thousand miles and now they could finally rest and relax, knowing that no tour could get through the password-sealed door. Symone was still blinking around her as though searching wildly for someone and Shiloh discretely followed the direction of her roaming eyes. Finally Symone's gaze resisted on a handsome third year boy with dark skin and tight ringlets. Shiloh recognized him immediately, though Symone had only pointed him out once before. It was Shiloh's other brother, Adrian. After seeing that Adrian was too safe in the Common Room, Symone breathed another sighed and the rest of her unease fled her. Shiloh had to hand it to Symone—she cared immensely for her family.

Shiloh felt her muscle began to ease from their tight coils, but she had not fully begun to relax when she heard that familiar, snide voice that she so loathed, coming from behind them. Shiloh's back tightened and she felt suddenly nauseous and fiercely angry, already feeling her jaw tighten in pent-up height.

“Did you see the way that filthy Half-Blood whimpered?”

Symone, knowing instantly who they were speaking about, turned rigid at Annadel's cruel remark. In collective bitterness, both Symone and Shiloh twisted about to look over their shoulders and past the couch's back to see their three roommates laughing mockingly as Annadel made little whines like a scare dog.

Annadel made a sound remarkably like that of a pig snorting. “Half-Blood puts cowering puppies to shame.”

Shiloh felt blood pound in her ears as her temper flared behind her emotionless mask. She could feel heat and anger in every part of her body, her muscles curling up on themselves. Everything seemed to fade, even something as usual as commonsense and the knowledge of thousands of witness from her mind. The sound of the chattering students was deafened and Shiloh could focus on no more than the girls' laughing faces and perhaps Symone's shock and blank expression—the evidence of her hurt. Shiloh could understand why Annadel could be cruel to her, because somehow along the way, some war and battle had been called into action between them. But did Annadel only attack Symone because she believed Symone to be Shiloh's friend and therefore another way to reach Shiloh? If so why couldn't Annadel leave Symone out of it! She'd never done anything! And if it was just because of her breeding than that was almost as bad. No one could choose their parents!

Shiloh was on her feet, whirling to face them before she could even consider otherwise. At the very least, she managed to contain the urge of punishment, for if she had gone with her first instinct she would have vaulted the couch and slugged Annadel right in that still-perfect nose. Instead she only bellowed out a, “Shut up, Annadel!”

Her yell startled half the room into silence and they turned half-surprised, half-curious gazes in her direction. Those who had not heard her call, followed the example of the other half, guessing instantly one was up. It didn't take long to locate the first year, eyes fiery and fist clenching a drawn wand at her side. They weren't overly concerned at the occurrence, for a fight in the common room was not quite a rare thing to the Slytherins. In fact, it was a term of enjoyment. However, the Slytherins didn't usually start dueling in plain sight in the first year and the group settled back, watching the gumptious kid in amusement.

Quite aware of her audience, Shiloh decided to ignore them. She was too deep in now and there was no turning back. “Shut up,” Shiloh hissed again, quieter this time, but even more dangerously.

Annadel's eyes crackled furiously—as though she honestly hadn't predicted that this would be how it would turn out and that she was quite eager for another round with Shiloh. She crossed her arms over her chest daintily and flipped her hair, looking the picture of conceited disdain. “Don't tell me what to do, Sanders.”

Annadel's two friends were at her side, looking as though they would eagerly back her up. Millicent made a show of cracking her knuckles and given Shiloh cackling glances, smile with such a wide smile that her crooked teeth showed through. Shiloh didn't allow herself be intimidated or think too closely on the fact that it was a ratio of three to one and the odds most certainly weren't in her favor. In moments like this, she didn't care for odds.

“You listen to me, Annadel,” Shiloh ordered lowly, unabated by Annadel's command. “And listen good or I'll hex you--”

Someone was suddenly wildly grabbing her shoulder, stubbornly pulling her away. “No, Shiloh, don't.” There was a determined command in her face and Shiloh allowed her eyes to move slightly in Symone's direction, just enough to see her face. It was set in apathy of Annadel, but in with the complete need to reason with Shiloh. “She's not worth it.”

For a moment, Shiloh allowed herself to consider that Symone might be right. They were in a room full of students who would likely tattle if they could see something in it for them, not to mention prefects who, even now, could award her detention, ruining her squeaky clean school record. And Annadel was not worth that. But then Shiloh remembered the temporarily hurt expression on Symone's face and Shiloh shook all thoughts of giving up on the battle away. No, Annadel wasn't worth pond scum, but making her eat her words was. Making her feel the pain she'd inflicted on Symone was indeed worth it.

Shiloh looked back at Annadel, words coming quickly to her mind and out her mouth almost as swiftly. “You can say anything you want about me, but leave the fight between you and me.”

Their conversation and personal rivalry was being witnessed by many, but Shiloh felt no concern or chagrin. None of the prefects intervened...yet. Neither of the girls had exactly broken rules, so they could only watch carefully and bemusedly.

Annadel's eyes flickered at Symone momentarily, the discreet movement caught by Shiloh's observant eyes and telling her that Annadel knew the meaning behind the thinly-vieled words. But, turning her eyes back to Shiloh, Annadel decided to play dumb, a performance Shiloh imagined was quite simple for her. “What are you talking about?”

“I mean,” Shiloh continued, having absolutely no problem in spelling out the situation. She kept her words calm and annunciated carefully. Perhaps that would get the words past Annadel's thick skull. “If you hate me, fine! But my parents and Symone aren't your pawns. If your quarrels with me, than fight me, instead of being a coward and poking pins at others.”

Annadel glared at her, seemingly oblivious to their audience or loving every moment of the chance of showing off how 'easily' a pureblood 'princess' could show one so impure her place.

“Don't call me coward, you filthy Mudblood's daughter!”

There were a mixture of snickers and sympathetic 'ouches', but a majority of them were looking at Shiloh with a bit of weighing disdain. Pedigree, at least if you weren't what they deemed 'pureblood', was not something you readily discussed. Shiloh had been their only two months and she knew that much. But now, Annadel had skillfully let all of Slytherin in on it. But Shiloh didn't honestly care what they thought of the so-called Mudblood daughter. However, she very much cared that Annadel had once again used that dirty word to describe her father. First Symone; now her father. Oh, Annadel, was so going down.

“So now you have a problem with the truth?” Shiloh taunted coldly. “We'll add that to your list of malfunctions. Believe me, it's getting lengthy.”

The response was the same, a mixture of laughter at the silky words—even Symone gave a reluctant chuckle—and fake-compassionate 'owes' for Annadel. But along with them where looks of subtle approval. Impure or not, this first year was smooth. But it wasn't that sent a smirk of satisfaction across Shiloh's lips. Rather it was the way that Annadel's checks flush with red like metal too-long in the fire.

“I-I--” she stuttered, shifting nervously in the eyes of the crowd. She seemed totally aware that she was no long in control of the crowd and their admiration for her had quickly switched to the quick-tongued Sanders.

“What's a matter, Delamb,” Shiloh said, her voice coming out completely malicious and icy. “No witty comment or are you agreeing with me? Aye?”

Another flash of laughter from the pleased audience and Annadel pursed her lips together and stomped her foot, looking like she might through a tantrum.

Hiding her grin, Symone knew it was far time to go, before the going got bad. She tugged on Shiloh's shoulder and hissed in her ear. “You shut her up. Let's go, before the prefects get bored.”

Shiloh knew she was right. It was only a matter of moments before the Slytherin prefects got fed up with this turnabout and decided to appease themselves by passing out detention to Shiloh for making such a scene. Besides, Shiloh had shut Annadel up and embarrassed her in from of at least a hundred eyes. That victory was enough.

“Later, Delamb.” The cheerfulness in the farewell was mocked, full of smugness that clearly taunted 'chalk up another point for me'. Without another world, Shiloh turned and with Symone at her side, they made an attempt at a refined exit, while trying to move rapidly.

But before they could even reach the line of bystanders to push past to their staircase, there was a call from someone in the crowd. “Hey! Look out!”

Shiloh whirled around, wand raised in preparation for war, in time to see Annadel with her own wand in air, a half-formed incantation on her lips. Without so much as the time to think or consider her actions, Shiloh acted, calling upon the first spell that came to her mind. It just happened to be the one she'd learned a few hours earlier in Flitwick's Charm glass. With a skillful, swish-and-flick, she barked, “Wingardium Leviosa!

Annadel's incantation turned into a squeal and she dropped her wand in surprise, as her shoes bobbed off the ground. Weightlessly, she began to hover, and, her face contorted with impossible fright, her lips twisted into a piercing scream. “Help!” But it, no matter how panicked, was drowned out by the uproarious laughter of the crowd as they watched the pathetic girl drifted upward. Even Symone was giggling at Annadel's expression of terror, and Shiloh felt her lips twitching. The brat was getting what she deserved!

Looking furious, Pansy and Millicent whipped out their wands and pointed them at their 'friend's attacker. Shiloh knew she had no way of defending herself from their attacks, and she steeled herself for the pounding jinxes that were sure to come. Nonchalantly, she wondered momentarily what the hospital wing looked like. She hadn't gotten a chance to see it, but tonight would be a good opportunity—if she wasn't knocked unconscious. But before she could muse too long on the idea of tour, Symone had drawn her own wand and with a breezed swish-and-flick and mumbled words, Pansy and Millicent's wands were jerked from their hold and pulled up to hover just above their head.

“Naughty, naughty,” Symone scolded, a serpentine grin on her face.

Pansy and Millicent jumped at their wands by Symone teasingly pulled them just out of reach. Still the two girls tried, their vain attempts setting the crowd up into fresh laughter. Finally, with wicked scowls pointed at Symone and Shiloh, Pansy and Millicent gave up and turned their efforts to the floating Annadel. Jumping up they seized her ankles and attempted to pull her down to the ground. It was quite useless, because all Shiloh had to do was lift her wrist a bit higher. But still they tried, grabbing robes and any hold they could get, playing a senseless tug-of-war with Shiloh until the rope, Annadel, let out a scream.

“Stop! You're hurting me!”

They let her go and Annadel jerked up another foot, letting out another banshee-like shriek.

“What's a matter, Annadel?” Someone from the crowd called above the gall of laughs. “Afraid of heights?”

Her only reply was another squeal as she kicked her legs frantically. By this time she was nearly five feet from the ground, looking like a great floating teabag.

Annadel made several gulping motions, the panic still written on her face, but she had not yet lost all of her arrogance. A little part of her pride remained, fixed tightly and illogically in such a helpless situation. Her face wrinkling in a flash of rage, Annadel demanded, hotly, “Put me down from here, Shiloh Sanders!”

Annadel was in no place to be making orders, though Shiloh didn't see the point in continuing the act. How could she possibly humiliating Annadel more? The girl was five feet from the ground while a hundred people mocked her! Even for Annadel, that was breeching on cruel. Besides, Shiloh was out for justice not revenge. Yet she couldn't help but feel a bit of delight in continuing. Whether or not it was pushing this a bit far, Shiloh didn't know and she honestly didn't care.

She opened her mouth and pushed dryly. “You didn't say 'please'.”

Annadel breathed in deeply, looking as though it was such a terrible thing to say such a demeaning word to Shiloh. She appeared as though she was about ready to refuse, but she took that second to look down and see the tops of her friends heads. The arrogance fled and she became just anther sniveling whelp, like the ones she so despised. It didn't seem as though she had much choice; lower herself to beg a Halfblood or drift on up to the rafters and live there with the bats. She chose the lesser of the two evils.


Shiloh didn't know whether this episode would humble Annadel or teach her her lesson, though she doubted it. After all, this was the same girl who had been turned into a three-year-old without any nice side-effects. If that could not have put a dent in that Delamb ego of hers, than nothing had the ability to do it. There was nothing left but to release her. But nothing said she couldn't have a little bit of fun doing.

“Well...” Shiloh drawled smoothly. “Since you asked nicely.”

And with that Shiloh released her, 'accidentally' forgetting to lower her gently to the ground. Annadel tumbled and somersaulted toward the ground with an earsplitting screech and thudded into her friends, knocking all three of them onto the ground in an ungraceful pile. Shiloh thought she could hear the breath leave all three girls as they temporarily disappeared behind the back of the coach. There was thunderous laughter as Shiloh gave an “Oops” that was filled with mock innocence. Symone giggled so hard she had to grasp her side and lost control of her charm, the wands falling on top of the pile of females. Annadel scrambled upright, followed by her hot-gazed cohorts. They began straightening their robes , snatching up their wands, and making other vain attempts at elegance.

Her face red with both embarrassment and fury, Annadel pocketed her wand and shot a dark scowl in Shiloh's direction. “You'll pay for this, Sanders. It's not over.”

No, Shiloh didn't doubt that, but she smirked anyways. There was a war between them. How it had started, Shiloh didn't know, and who had been the first to declare it, Shiloh didn't comprehend, but it was there, always known by both of them. Days like tonight were when battles were held, but the war hadn't been won. But, right now, Shiloh didn't care, because sweet victory was hers.

“Maybe but--” Shiloh lifted a finger into the air and made a mocked movement like tallying up a score on a board. “This round goes to me.”

With a half-growl of rage, half-squeal of a stuck-up brat, Annadel stomped a foot and began pushing through the crowd to reach the staircase to the dorm. Her cronies were quickly at her side, just as brilliantly red as Annadel. In their place, they left only the mocking laughter and a gloating Shiloh.

She couldn't rid the proud smirk from her face, and Shiloh didn't so much as try. She turned to Symone, but found someone else in her place arms, folded across his chest and eyes narrowed in a calculative glare as he stared down on her. It wasn't the sight of the glowering boy that moved the confident smirk from her lips, but rather the thing that was pinned to his chest, glaring at her impressively and forebodingly. A badge with a sharp, bold 'P'.

The stern-faced prefect looked at her for a long moment as Shiloh refused to show any of her nervousness. She silently mused on what her punishment would be, after all, she'd broken several school rules. She easily tallied them. Attacking a student. Fighting and causing general mayhem. Not to mention, using a spell for ill purpose, each worthy of a detention. Together, she might never escape detention. But she squared her shoulders and locked her jaw, ready to face the consequences of her decisions. After all, Annadel's expression of embarrassment had been well worth it.

Finally, the prefect nodded as though making a choice and opened his mouth. Shiloh steeled herself.

“She drew first. That's Slytherin justice.”

Stunned, Shiloh could only blink at him as his lips parted in a mischievous grin. He clapped her on her back with such a hearty slap that she nearly winced from the sting of it. “Nice charm, kid.”

Shiloh's mind blazed with disbelief. She had just broken several school rules in front of the eyes of an undeniable amount of witnesses, including two prefects, but the prefect was willing to let her slide for no more reason than so-called “Slytherin justice”. It seemed that what Shiloh had only guessed at was true. The House of Slytherin had rules all of its own and she had better learn them quickly. And one those rules were most defiantly not questioning good fortune.

Shiloh nodded and allowed a smirk to touch her lips. “Thanks.”

It was not the only one who gave her compliments that night. All of Slytherin seemed to have enjoyed the show and they went about, giving out rare praises accompanied by mocks directed at the absent Annadel. Shiloh lost counts of the many times she heard, “Great Levitation Charm” and “Good reflexes, Sanders” and the ever-popular “You've got wit...for a first year.” And on occasion, they exchanged 'first year' for a half-disgusted, half-surprised Halfblood. Shiloh didn't let any of the thinly-veiled insults get to her, but accepted all of it with mere nods, marveling at her new found popularity. For a first year, the fact that such older students knew her name was amazing.

But what she most enjoyed—though Shiloh would never admit it, not even to herself—was when Symone pulled her aside, a grin set on her face. Seeing her so happy and that brilliant smile back on her face, made Shiloh want to smile as well, but her lips only twitched pleasantly. But Symone's smile deepened as she locked eyes with Shiloh, her expression turning more serious. Not bad, just more serious, and her smile turned slighter, but just as sincere and grateful. “Thank you, Shiloh.”

Shiloh suddenly felt uncomfortable and tense, because it was dawning on her the predicament she set herself up for. She'd been so caught up in the flash of anger and enmity that had filled her, that she hadn't thought that she'd felt those emotions and followed through with those actions because of Symone. She'd done it to defend Symone, just like she stood up for her parents or for herself. But she had protected Symone, with or without realizing it. And that filled Shiloh with nervousness because it was something more than sitting side-by-side in a classroom or breakfast. It was a sign of...friendship. Shiloh suddenly wished to back peddle and find someway to excuse her actions as something else entirely, but one look at Symone's grateful expression and she stopped. Symone's thankfulness made Shiloh's heart tighten, which made her feel even more sheepish. Shiloh knew then, that even if the night had gone purely and she'd gotten jinxed or ended in detention, she would have done her actions over again. Symone deserved being stuck up for; just like she'd once stuck up for Shiloh.

And perhaps, Shiloh's resolution for a nonchalant relationship didn't matter tonight. But just for tonight.

Shiloh shrugged lightly. “It was nothing.” Symone opened her mouth as to argue that it was indeed not 'nothing', but Shiloh added quickly. “Besides, I be hexed if it weren't for you. Nice Wingardium Leviosa.”

Symone grinned, though it had a bit of sheepish note in it. The sparkle was back in her eyes. “I learned from watching the best,” she said, giving Shiloh a pointed glance.

Shiloh didn't press the comment off this time, knowing Shiloh would argue with her until she accepted the compliment. So humbly she nodded, her lips twitched again.

The half-serious and half-uncomfortable conversation ended in a flash as Symone's smile changed into fierce joy as an idea struck her. “Bran and Sherry bought me nearly a mountain of candy in Hogsmeade,” she spoke brightly, and Shiloh recognized the name Sherry as Symone's older sister. “Want some.”

Since a troll and a stuttering professor had rudely interrupted their dinner, Shiloh felt her empty stomach weighing her down and she didn't hesitate before nodding.

Shrugging past a couple of first years and a crowd of people, Shiloh and Symone jogged up the steps to their room. The paused at the door for a moment and, in unison, searched the crack of the door, looking for any speck of light that would give evidence that their roommates/enemies were still awake and ready to cause trouble. They say nothing, but they still entered the room cautiously, peering around the door to expect the room. They found their roommates sleeping on their beds, snoring peacefully. They crept in quietly and Shiloh slipped momentarily into her bed, drawing back the curtains so she change into her nightclothes in private while Symone went to her trunk to do the same and collect the candy.

They piled the sweets between them on the bed and sat crossed-legged, carrying on a casual and comfortable conversation. Speaking in whispered tones, they talked about classes, spells, teachers, and their separate families. Though she carried her part of the conversation, Shiloh mainly listened, nibbling attentively at chocolate frogs and licorice wands. They continued their conversation until their eyes began to droop and their stomachs would hold no more.

They cleaned up the rest of the candy and stored it in Symone's trunk for later enjoyment. They moved to their separate beds, the two next to each other. Shiloh opened her music box, winding it up carefully and then they both snuggled under their own covers, each lying on their favorite side. Their positions left them facing towards each other, the moonlight from the window splashing off their faces and illuminating their tired eyes.

Symone stifled a yawn and tried to smile, but it came off weary and casual, with no sign that she was truly worried about anything. “Do you think the professors took down the troll?”

“Hm...” Shiloh mused, her mind already fuzzed by the desire to sleep. With her mind fading into half-unconsciousness, fantasies came easily to the mind. The professors wielding their wands up high and casting spell after spell at the troll in brilliant explosions of color and masterful wand work, but it was Professor Snape who brought the troll tumbling to the ground. But Shiloh decided not to attempt to explain her wild reveries to Symone and carefully chose the route of humor instead.

“Don't worry, Symone,” Shiloh said, her voice barely more than an exhausted whisper. She didn't even open her eyes as she lifted a slender hand to gesture at the bed where Annadel's soft snores came from. “The real ghoul of Halloween is in the bed next to mine.”

Symone giggled.

But neither of them imagined, as they curled up beneath warm covers and were lured into happy dreams, how much of a terror Annadel was about to become.

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