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Chapter Seven


Explosive

 
*Author's Notes: I know that the timing in this and the beginning of the next chapter, might seem a bit off, but J. K. Rowling was never specific about the timing between Halloween in the Quidditch match. Most assume that it was probably the next day, but since the timing isn't certain, I decided to play around with it a little bit.


The very next day, Annadel tried to follow through her threat for vengeance. It was after school, and Shiloh was sitting alone on the grounds of Hogwarts, enjoying the quiet that was only slightly disturbed by the distant murmuring of other students and the subtle sounds of nature. Her back was set against a tree nearest the lake and her knees were lifted so she could her thighs for support for her books and pads of parchment. The ground that she sat on was a quilt of leaves, all of which were vibrantly colored in reds, yellows, browns, and that rare, but ever-beautiful, burgundy. The bare branches above her cast skinny shadows over her face and her written words as she scratched away at her homework, her mind currently lost in the arts and uses of that amazing plant called gillyweed. It had been assigned by Professor Snape and, as always, she got a head start on it, because she knew she could never have finished three rolls worth if she stupidly waited for the last minute.

There was a sweet breeze in the air and it tousled her hair, causing strands to leave the small ponytail and fall forward to tickle her nose. She blew a strand from her face and rubbed at her itchy nose with the heel of her hand, not noticing the quill as its point scrapped against her cheek. When she pulled her hand away, a blatant splotch of dark ink marked her cheekbone, a sharp contrast on her fair skin. Shiloh leaned forward carefully, so she did not lean against the fresh ink on the paper and smudge the neat handwriting, and dipped the quill into the ink-pot that she held steadily between her bare feet. Her shoes and stockings sat abandoned beside her as her toes wiggled in the grass. They had been stuffed in the suffocating things all day and now, she enjoyed the freedom immensely.

She was returning the quill to her paper and continuing on writing, when a foreboding shadow fell over her paper. Instantly aware of the hulking presence, Shiloh jerked as though expecting an attack. Along with the rest of her body, her hand involuntarily jolted, causing the quill to press into the paper and leave in ugly blot. Beautiful, Shiloh mused dryly to herself with an exasperated roll of her eyes directed at herself. Now she would have to copy the paper all over again. But, at that moment, she had bigger problems. As she raised her head, she half-expected to see Annadel with her wand raised aggressively. She found herself, instead, looking up at the stony-faced Slytherin prefect with his long face set into a serious expression. Shiloh suddenly wished that it had been Annadel, because when a prefect had such a forlorn expression it could only mean whatever was about to occur was far worse than a painful jinx.

The prefect didn't wait for her to respectfully ask what he needed and instead opened his mouth, his voice gruff. “Come on. Professor Snape wants to see us.”

Professor Snape wants to see us. The statement sent warning bells blaring about in her mind. Quickly she calculatedly the possible reason Professor Snape could have for calling her and a prefect to him, though she came up with positively nothing. She'd done nothing to incriminate her today. She'd been on time to all her classes; even impeccable early for some and she hadn't broken any rules...at least that she was aware of. Then what could it be? But Shiloh did know one thing. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good.

Trying to hide her apprehension and succeeding well, Shiloh asked, “Why?”

“Don't know,” the prefect replied impatiently, and his expression turned even darker. Without waiting for a single moment, he twisted on his heel and stalked toward the castle. He called over his shoulder a disgusted, “Hurry up!”

Without a protest, Shiloh capped her ink and threw it and the quill into her clothe schoolbag. Folding her paper, she shoved that into the bag as well. With the rough treatment, she knew that the paper was likely unreadable by now and the ink too smudged to be fathomed. At the moment she didn't care that her hour of hard work had been wasted. She cared about little as she found her heart hammering and her mind racing with the knowledge that haste was of the essence, yet what was bound to come was not going to be good. She gathered up her books, quicker than she ever had before and stuffed them inharmoniously into her bag. She jumped to her feet, slung her bag over her neck, and raced across the lawn to catch up with the prefect, who, by now, was already at the castle door.

In her haste, her anxious mind had forgotten something very important, and she was unconsciously aware of it, for it showed itself in the nagging at the back of her mind. However, she brushed it off carelessly. It couldn't be as important as getting to Professor Snape's office as soon as possible. But, perhaps, if Shiloh had not been so concerned in catching the prefect or what was soon to come, her normally smooth and calculative mind might have received an image of her shoes, nonchalantly sitting...by the trees.

She threw past the door and turned the corner sharply, racing after the prefect. The older student had long legs and mountainous strides and it seemed impossible that she would be able to catch up. However, she continued her breakneck speed. She pounded down the dungeon steps, leaped the bottom three steps, and landed with knees bent to balance herself. It helped to gain ground and, by the time the prefect had reached Professor Snape's office door, Shiloh had caught up with him, though not without side effects. She was completely out of breath and her side ached from the mad sprint through the halls of Hogwarts. She attempted to still her breathing and the rapid thundering of her heart, her pulse quickened by both the long run and the apprehension.

The prefect rested his hand on the doorknob, but paused and glanced at Shiloh momentarily. His nose wrinkled in disdain and disgust, but Shiloh could only imagine why. It could have been that he was extremely peeved that he might be getting into trouble with the Head of House and, whatever reason it was, Shiloh had something to do with the odious situation. That and Shiloh imagined she looked a sight. What, with her hair clinging pathetically in the ponytail, though most of the hair now hung limply about her face and she was winded and panting slightly. Not to mention, the splotch of ink on her cheek and no shoes on her feet—two things she was oblivious to.

Shaking his head in exasperation, the prefect twisted the doorknob and pushed in, the door opening with a squeak of protest. The prefect entered flowingly, his head held high for this was undoubtedly not the only time he could be found in Professor Snape's office. Shiloh entered, trying not to be tentative, but, as she crept in, her deep eyes took in everything uneasily. Just like the Potions' classroom, Professor Snape's office was dark and almost spooky, with shelves of jars with ominous ingredients lining the walls.

But the shelves were not the most eerie thing in the room, nor was it the thing that filled them that gave Shiloh a disquieting sense of doom. Rather it was the occupant of one the chairs before the professor's desk, the one she only saw when the person swiveled her head around to peer from about the back of the chair. Shiloh recognized the wicked grin on the girl's face immediately.

Annadel. Shiloh forced herself to remain calm, but her mouth went dry for she was already considering the possibilities of why she could possibly be here and coming to the only conclusion available. This had to be about last night; there was no other logical answer. Shiloh should have known she would do this; Annadel was the type to come running to someone in power, instead of fighting her own battles. Shiloh should have known that Annadel was nothing more than a spineless snitch!

Severus Snape looked up from his desk, taking them in with cool glances, and gestured absently to the two empty chairs. “Have a seat.” His voice was flat, neither polite nor impolite, but there was no mistaking the order.

The prefect quickly complied. He settled his large frame into the chair and crossed him arms over his chest, more for something to do with his hands than any real sign of impatience. Shiloh followed suit, but sat only on the edge of the chair, her body as tense as a coiled snake's.

Annadel turned from sending Shiloh her evil, impish sneer and flicked her gaze back to Professor Snape. Her eagerness was clear by the way she excitedly shifted in her chair, grinned cockily, and flipped her hair conceitedly over her shoulder. Shiloh had no doubt that their was little that Annadel would love more than Shiloh in detention.

“All right, Professor,” Annadel chirped, most disrespectfully, “punish her.”

Professor's Snape's eyes narrowed and his lips twisted in displeasure. It was obvious that he was holding back the full extent of his anger, though it didn't appear easy. Even now, his eyes were even darker than usual, and though his voice was still, he appeared dangerous. “I would ask you, Miss Delamb, not to give orders to a professor.”

Annadel eyes rose as she realized she had made a faulty move in this game that she was playing. Shiloh watched her carefully from the corner of her eye as Annadel forced herself to recover and grasp awkwardly at her manipulative acting skills. Annadel plastered on a humble and dutiful look. Shiloh wondered if it looked as fake to Professor Snape as it did to her.

“My apologizes, sir.”

Whether he forgive her or not was left unknown, although Professor Snape did not strike Shiloh as a very forgiving person. Instead of answering Annadel, Professor Snape decided to do the one thing that irked Anndel the most—well, other than being dangled midair in front of a large audience. He ignored her, and then turned his dark, cynical eyes to the prefect.

“Miss Delamb has informed me that Miss Sanders used a Levitation Charm on her in the Slytherin Common Room last night. Is this true?” But instead of keeping his gaze firmly on the prefect, he was interrogating, he met Shiloh's eyes, his black orbs boring into each other as though to see her reaction to the accusation.

Shiloh had once found his eyes impressive, the window to a soul filled with power and strength. But now, perhaps, because she knew her own guilt, she found them piercing, as though they could penetrate into her very being. She knew she was being silly, and that she was only reacting to a shamed conscience. But how could that be, when she did not regret her actions. She was remorseful that they would bring her trouble, but she couldn't take them back and she didn't want to. But whatever it was, she felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny and she was unable to bare his gaze for more than a few seconds. She looked away smoothly, setting her eyes on the leg of his desk.

After a moment, Professor Snape looked expectantly at the prefect who still hadn't spoken. Shiloh knew what was to come. Not punishing her himself was immensely different than lying to a professor. He would tell the truth and confess her actions to Professor Snape, and Shiloh would spend a day on her hands and knees scrubbing the Great Hall floor with her toothbrush while Argus Filch looked on gleefully. The prefect didn't even hesitate.

“No, sir, it's not.” The prefect sent a glare to Annadel, whose mouth had sudden dropped in a dumbfounded expression. “I don't know why she would come up with such a preposterous story.”

Shiloh tried to hide her surprise—and succeeded far better than she thought possible. The prefect had lied...for her? But just as quickly as she felt stunned and grateful, her surprise had faded and she was suddenly suspicious. The only question lingered in her mind was, What does he want?He didn't exactly strike her as the kind of person who did something for nothing.

Professor Snape locked eyes with the prefect, as though to catch a lie and, unlike Shiloh, the prefect bravely didn't look away, but kept his face blank of anything that would suggest mistrust. Still, despite the convincing lie, Professor Snape's gaze darkened all the more, and he sneered menacingly at the Professor. “Are you absolutely sure?”

The prefect nodded calmly, and added silkily, “Professor, do you honestly believe that if it were true, that I wouldn't have issued a punishment myself?”

Professor Snape leaned back his chair, his gaze thoughtful. Shiloh tried to read his expression, but was unable. His expression, as always, was simply too deep and unfathomable.

Annadel was suddenly free from the shock that had temporarily paralyzed her. In a second, she was a show of fury and was clearly about to throw a tantrum. She hadn't gotten her way, and Shiloh knew how much she hated that. Hair whipping wildly, she leaped to her feet and pointed a finger of damnation at Shiloh's chest. “He's lying!” she screamed unhappily. “Sanders assaulted--”

“Sit down, girl!” Professor Snape snapped angrily. “Before I give you detention!” His crackling fury was so frightening that Annadel would have had to be brain-dead not to react to his wishes.

She swiftly plunked herself down in her chair, but still looked entirely displeased. Her cheeks were a bright shade of red and her arms were crossed over her chest. She, however, did still have the stubbornness of a Slytherin and she spoke. “Sir, with all due respect--” Even in her anger, she was smart enough to continue to be polite, but not intelligent enough to shut up. “He is lying. My friends saw it. Everyone--”

“Miss Delamb,” Professor Snape interrupted. His strained voice made it clear that he was trying to keep his patience and to not strangle the wretched girl. Shiloh pitied him, because she knew all too well that Annadel could make even a saint lose their temper. At the very least, Shiloh had the luxury of being able to jinx her senseless. Professors did not have such perks. “Do you honestly believe I would accept the word of a first year—or even three first years—against the word of a prefect.”

“But, sir-” she whined unhappily.

And suddenly she had pushed him too far. Professor Snape was on his feet in an instant, one palm pressing in desk and the other arm stretched toward the door. He was shaking with rage and looking so demonic that Annadel squeaked, like a mouse did an instant before a cat struck.

“Out!” he growled in such a fierce way that Annadel immediately scurried to her feet and rushed toward the door, without so much as the time for a complaint or even another fearful yelp. Shiloh thought—though perhaps it was only a figment of her imagination—that, as Annadel's back disappeared behind the slammed door, she herself saw Professor Snape send her a disturbing look that could only be described as pure, loathsome disgust.

When the door had been shut for a long moment, Professor Snape sat back in her chair, looking tense and, as though he still carried a touch of his anger. She watched him cautiously, wondering quietly if she had heard the end of this. But Professor Snape only lifted a dismissive hand and said, “You two may go.”

The prefect, as though relieved that the interrogation was over, rose to his feet and swept out of the office so quickly that his robes nearly caught in the door as it swung shut. Hold her back bag to her stomach, Shiloh moved to follow him, but halfway there she slowed, remembering.

She didn't know what possessed her to do it; after all, it was absolutely none of her business. But after getting away with breaking so many rules without a single point being deducted from Slytherin, she was feeling quite bold. She didn't normally let her curiosity get the best of her, but perhaps her question would seem nothing more than sweet concern. She turned back around and found that Professor Snape had already gone back to whatever he was writing. The scratches of quill on parchment filled the quiet room without so much as abating as though the professor was oblivious to her lingering presence, but Shiloh knew he was far from ignorant.

“Professor Snape?”

He neither looked up nor halted his ceaseless writing, but gave an apathetic reply. “Yes, Sanders.”

“I was just wondering--” She paused for half a heartbeat, questioning her sanity before continuing. “What happened to your leg?”

She'd seen it that day as he walked between the desks, surveying their work with his usual unimpressed eye. The movement of one leg was stiff and unnaturally jerky, as though he had a slight, but noticeable limp. At the time, she had mused if perhaps he'd injured it while taking down the troll. Only, she'd reminded herself a moment later, he hadn't been anywhere near the troll. None of the professors had. According to the news and rumors that buzzed enthusiastically around the school like a swarm of bot flies, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weasley—first year Gryffindors—had knocked the troll senseless. She thought it was incredibly stupid, what they had done. But if they'd done it to seek glory, they'd certainly gotten it.

So, if not the troll, what had happened to the professor's leg? Had he simply come down on a step wrong and sprained it? But, if that was true, Shiloh was sure Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse, could have mended it in a second. Why then was it still injured? It seemed there was much more to this than met the eye, and the mystery teased Shiloh's calculative mind.

The scratching of the quill paused, as the sharpened point of the quill lifted gracefully away from the paper. The professor's eyes rose just a bit, but he didn't look at her. There was a thick silence that stretched on for what seemed like horse, but was only a heartbeat of a pause, while Professor Snape seemed to be consider some deep thought that played somewhere behind his unreadable eyes. Then, collecting himself smoothly, Professor Snape dipped his quill into the ink and his insistent writing continued.

Not so much as looking at her, he said disinterestedly, “I can't see how that would be any of your business.”

Shiloh knew much better than to press, for Professor Snape was completely right. It was not her business. But that was not the only thing she knew. Perhaps, because she kept her own secrets, Shiloh had always been blessed with the uncanny ability to see when someone was hiding something—whether it was insignificant or important. She'd seen it when Symone talked about her family, but never seemed to speak of her accountant father or about her Slytherin brother, Adrian. She saw it written in the letters from her parents, in that though they were kind and asked questions about her classes, they never mentioned her house of Slytherin.

The language of secrets was a difficult language to interpret, but she was a master translator. She saw secrets in an unmeant statement said, or even what had been left unsaid. She read it in an ill-placed emotion or and indecipherable though flashing behind the eyes. She witnessed it in slight pauses and a long babble. These were all signs that someone had a secret, and wanted to keep it to themselves, while they had been caught too near to it's truth.

And, now, that silence, that pause, and that though dancing through his gaze was enough for her to know. Professor Snape was hiding something.

Was there anyone who wasn't?

Though she wondered what it could possibly be, she knew the wisdom in holding her tongue. So she only nodded and said, “Of course, sir.”

She turned to leave and wrapped her fingers around the doorknob, but Professor Snape's voice stopped her.

“Sanders.”

Curious, Shiloh faced him once again. “Yes, Professor Snape.”

He didn't speak, but made the strangest gesture. He rubbed at one cheekbone, but she knew it wasn't something ideal. He was trying to tell her something, and she frowned in confusion not comprehending what. Her mother had made such a gesture once, when they were in public and Shiloh hadn't realized that she had a glob of frog intestines on her face. Knowledge striking her, Shiloh raised a hand to her cheek to touch her cheekbone and felt something wet. She brought back her hand and stared at her fingertips. They were now covered in a black, liquid substance and she instantly knew what it was.

Ink.

Forcing herself not to panic or to think too closely on the fact that she had arrived in Professor Snape's office with a shameful blob of ink on her face, she raised her wrist and rubbed vigorously at her cheek with her sleeve. After a moment, she lowered her arm, looking at Professor Snape beseeching. He nodded ever so slightly to show she had gotten it all. His face remained blank, but Shiloh knew he must think she was a fool. She was surprised he didn't sneer at her or call her a dunderhead, because he must think her an idiot. No matter how much she suddenly wanted the floor it open up and swallow her, she remained passive and collected, not showing any sign of embarrassment.

“Also,” Professor Snape spoke, his voice showing no particular emotion. “I would appreciate that, when next you come to my office, you remember to wear your shoes.”

Shiloh blinked, unsure entirely what he meant. What did he mean, she was not wearing her shoes? She discretely peered down her length, only long enough to see her pale toes peeking out from the bottom of her robes. She had the sudden urge to groan in misery. As though things hadn't been bad enough with ink on her face, she'd come to his office barefoot. It took all her willpower to keep from bolting from the room or, at the very least, blushing a very brilliant shade of red. Carefully, she tucked her feet backwards so they were hidden by her robes.

“Yes, sir. Anything else, sir?”

“Just one more thing,” he replied, but before he went on he once again locked gazes with her, staring directly into her eyes. She felt the discomfort again, but this time she could feel it as a prick in her mind as though he could see into her very thoughts. But that wasn't possible! She was just paranoid and, this time, she was determined not to look away, not to run from his eyes like a coward. Instead, she stared back into his piercing, judgmental gaze—unflinchingly and fearlessly.

When he spoke, his voice was quiet, still, and calm, but there was a deep knowing in the words that sent a shudder down her spine. “I would ask you to remember, that using magic against a fellow student is against school rules.”

Slowly, she moved backwards until she could feel the doorknob pressing into her lower back. All at once, she felt a crash of surprise and wariness and even a touch of anger. All at the same time, she wanted to protest, to deny, to claim innocence, and to demand how he could possibly know that Annadel had been telling the truth. Because he did know. It was clear in his certain eyes. He didn't think; he knew.

She collected herself quickly, hoping she hadn't shown the emotions she'd felt, but she suddenly wanted very much to flee from Severus Snape's office. She didn't know how he'd been able to know such things, but she did know that someone who could gain hidden knowledge was someone she should beware of. Because someone who could learn such secrets, was very, very dangerous. It made her wander what else he was capable of learning.

Yes, she still believed Professor Snape was a wonderful wizard, a brilliant Potions Master, and an incredible teacher, but as much as she admired him, she knew she had too be careful, because he was no man to be taken lightly.

As silkily as she could, she heaved a “Yes, sir.” before making a hasty exit.

 

As the door clicked into the frame of the door, Severus gave a subtle shake of his head and looked back to his paper, but he didn't go back to his writing. His mind was else where and was tugging at him to consider the events of the meeting and of that queer girl Sanders. That girl was...something else. Now, this was a no compliment, for Severus did not like that peculiar girl—though he never truly liked any of his students. It was more of the fact that he could find nothing that would properly and sufficiently describe the student. As much as he tried to discover one particular word to fit her, he was forced to discard it as it came up short. For once, word's had failed him. After all, it was not every day a student showed up in his office with inked cheek and bare feet.

However, he had to admit that Sanders had handled the situation well. When he'd pointed out the flaws, she had hidden her embarrassment well, something that was impressive, considering he'd known that, in the same situation, another would have turned scarlet, before beginning to apologize profusely. But she hadn't; she'd simply said, 'Yes, sir'. For a child, the girl had great control over her emotions, and he wondered what would cause her to develop such a skill. Then again, he himself had been so cautious with his expressions, but he had had his reasons. And, perhaps, she, too, had her reasons.

But as talented as she was, he'd seen her fear. He'd scared her, he knew, and felt no same. His ability at Legilimens came in handy in times like these when the truth was in question. He'd seen the truth in Delamb's eyes, as easily as he had seen it in Sanders, and when he'd so knowingly reprimanded her, she'd been afraid. The fact that he had someone known had shaken her and that was curious, for though he had seen her actions clearly in her mind, he'd also seen that she didn't feel ashamed. It wasn't the threat of trouble that had unnerved her; it was simply that he had seen her secret and she didn't like it. It made him muse at what else she could be hiding.

However, despite his knowledge of his crime, he'd chosen not to punish her. It made no sense when the prefect—liar that he was—had, for some undoubtedly selfish reason, chosen to vouch for her. That and Severus could understand perfectly how Sanders could have felt the desire to attack the wretched girl. Dangling Annadel over a group of spectators was incredibly tempting.

Sanders was a mischief-maker and a nuisance, but, he had to admit, she was a brilliant potionist. She had skill that equaled to students more than two years in advance and not once since term began had she failed to produce a perfect potion. She was dedicated, focused, and, at the very least, she wasn't a dunderhead—when it came to potions, that was. But, unlike Sanders, Annadel Delamb had not a single redeeming quality. In the time she'd been in his office, he had been able to sum her up as an arrogant, self-righteous child who believed the world and everyone it is was her plaything. But that was not the thing that disgusted him the most.

What turned his stomach was who she reminded her of. The way she flipped her hair, the straight, blond shape—though it was obviously dyed--, the conceited, high-pitched voice, the pretty face and slender body—all of it, all of her, reminded Severus of a young Ellessa. Annadel was looking at a picture of Ellessa, younger, perkier, more alive, but she was still Ellessa in appearance and in mannerism. So much so, that all doubt was stricken from her mind, and that was why he had grown so angry, that was why he had looked at her with such loathing. Because only one question remained in his mind, echoing itself over and over in his mind.

How can that be my daughter?



 

“What happened to you? You're sopping!” Symone gasped as she looked up from a difficult piece of Potions homework and sent Shiloh a quizzical and slightly concerned look as Shiloh slumped into the Common Room, her wet shoes squishing and leaving watermarks on the floor as she walked in.

Shiloh flicked her gaze over to her as she came to stand next to the table that Symone was working out, but didn't reply at the moment. She was torn between the desire to say nothing and stay miserable or to tell every stinking-detail of the wretched-smelling day. Symone, however, made the choice for her, as she breezed up from the chair and, gingerly as not to get herself wet, slid her arm through Shiloh's and pulled her toward the stairs.

“Let's get you into some dry clothes,” she said briskly, still sounding rather cheerful as though her happiness might rub off on Shiloh. “And then you can tell me all about it.”

“You sound like my mother,” Shiloh spoke, not even close to kidding. She was just not in the mood for joyousness, thinking that the only thing dry on her being was her voice. Besides, Symone honestly sounded like an eleven-year-old version of Shiloh's mum.

Symone stopped as they reached the door to their room and inharmoniously yanked Shiloh to face her. Symone's lips were puckered in mocked anger and her eyes were narrowed savagely, as her finger wiggled up and done before Shiloh's nose. Using a shrill voice, she scolded, “Now don't you sass me, girl. If you think you're too big for me to put you over my knees, you've got another think coming.”

Shiloh almost felt delight at Symone's attempt to make her smile. Almost. She was far too tired to even attempt at amusement.

Shiloh's impassiveness didn't seem to affect Symone, however, for she simply shrugged apathetically and pulled the door to their room open.

In a few minutes, Shiloh had changed in the privacy of the curtains and was now her spare pair of robes, relieved to out of the dreadful wet cloth. Symone hung Shiloh's cloak and robes near the fireplace, set the shoes nearby, and conjured a fire in the hearth with surprising skill.

“You're missing a sock,” Symone informed her from outside of Shiloh's curtains.

Tell me something I don't know, Shiloh mused irritably, as she rubbed tenderly at her heel that had been blistered by the friction of the wet shoes on her skin. She should have come to the dorm barefoot, but the thought of Professor Snape, Filch, or one of the other teachers seeing her had been unbearable. Even unmovable and temperate Shiloh had to draw the line on apathy somewhere. And she'd had enough humiliation for one day!

Her hair was still wet, and her skin felt clammy. It didn't help that the air pouring through the walls of the drafty room chilled her to the bone. With a shiver, Shiloh crawled under her blanket, soaking in the warmth. As she laid her head on the pillow, she wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and forget that the terrible day had happened, but that was quite impossible because she had not yet even had supper yet. Despite how exhausted she was, if she went to sleep now, she would be awake at three in the morning. Besides, Symone was not about to let her dose peacefully until she had pressed every horrible detail from Shiloh's reluctant lips.

Even now Symone was tentatively peeking through the closed curtains, making sure that Shiloh was dressed before sitting on the edge of the bed. She held out one of the chocolate frogs that she had taken from her stash of candy. “Take it,” she pressed kindly. “It'll make you feel better.”

Suppressing a groan, Shiloh forced her drooping eyes open and sat up, leaning against the headboard. She accepted the frog and greedily bit at the head, wishing it was truly the flesh of Annadel Delamb. The sweet chocolate failed to remove the bitterness from her mouth, but it did succeed in helping to loosen Shiloh's tongue and make her a bit civil.

“Annadel isn't here, is she?” Shiloh asked suspiciously. If she saw that good-for-nothing snitch she was going to hex her. As far as Shiloh was concerned, Annadel was the root of this wretched day.

“Nope,” Symone reassured as she folded her legs beneath her and nibbled at her own chocolate frog. “I haven't seen her or the rest of her pack of mewing house-cats since Potions class.” She chewed her chocolate thoughtfully and then swallowed. “She did something, didn't she?”

Seeing no harm in confessing everything, Shiloh weaved the story of the day in detail, starting with Annadel plot and the prefect's lie. Symone listened without interrupting, not doing anything more than giving the occasional understanding and sympathetic nod. When Symone got to the last part of the scene in Professor Snape's office she spoke quickly, only just managing not to be melodramatic. “And not only did he point out the fact that I had ink on my face, but that I was barefoot too.”

Symone gave a compassionate groan. She was a good listener and a good supporter. She would be a good friend, but she was not Shiloh's friend—as Shiloh was forced to remind herself. No matter how much she seemed to be right now.

Shiloh told of how Professor Snape had somehow managed to 'know' that Shiloh was, in fact, guilty of all Annadel had accused her off. Symone immediately asked the questions that Shiloh had been musing about over the last hour.

“But how could he know?” Her nose was wrinkled in quite a cute manner, but it was a sign of her intense confusion. “And why didn't he punish you?”

Shiloh could only lift her shoulders in an unknowing shrug. She had been debating on the answer periodically throughout the time that had passed since the episode had occurred. It was maddening how she could come up with no definite answer. She couldn't begin to guess how he could know such things when he had been troll-hunting the night before and could not possibly have witnessed it himself. Did he have spies or had others told on her? It might seem likely, if everyone hadn't loved the show. And as for the second question, it could be one of many reasons. The first and most likely was that whatever means he had used to find out the truth was not accepted by the Headmaster or could not be used as solid evidence for the other professors approval. Secondly, it could have been the prefect's refusal to tell the truth, which would have made Professor Snape look insane to call his own prefect a liar. Thirdly, and the least likely, was that Professor Snape had enjoyed what Shiloh had done quite as much as the other Slytherins had.

There was just no way to know for sure, so Shiloh only shrugged again.

Symone paused for a moment, as though forging her own debate, but after a short time, she moved on in the conversation. “It still doesn't explain why you were soaking wet.”

Shiloh resisted the urge to grimace as she recalled back to the horrible episode. She had the sudden urge to hex her pillow and pretend that it was the head of those stupid, wretched boys. Symone wanted patiently as she pushed away her anger and frustration, enough to give a shrug that was full of feigned-lightheartedness.

“Oh, some fourth-years thought it would be hilarious to throw my shoes into the lake.”

Symone's mouth dropped, but the surprise lasted only moments, before there was a hot flash in her eyes and her face contorted in rage. She looked quite like she was ready to seek out the group of older students and show them the business-end of her wand. “Who where they?”

Shiloh shrugged lightly, showing she didn't know. She temporarily thought back to the scene. After she had escaped from Professor Snape's office, Shiloh had been padding down to the lake to retrieve her shoes. Her thoughts had been whirling, and they were all she had been focusing on as she made the journey back to her tree. She had quite a lot to think about, from making theories of how Professor Snape had the knowledge that he had and why he didn't punish her and debating of why the prefect had covered for her. But a sight had snapped her from her reveries as she drew within fifty yards of the banks of the rivers. It was that of a handsome boy, holding her shoes high overhead in a mixture of glee and confusion, as though he was torn between two choices. A group of his friends—many of them, for he was obviously very popular—were circled around him, egging and cheering for him to do as he was tempted—toss the 'owner-less' shoes into the lake.

As soon as Shiloh had realized what was happening, she took of running towards, calling out pleas of 'Wait!' and orders of 'Stop!', but all was in vain. For as she slid to a halt next to the group, the main boy had given into the egging of his friends. With a noteworthy arch, the shoes—stockings and all—flew gracefully through the air and, with a splendid cha-plash, plunked into the lake water.

Her horror had quickly turned to rage as she watched her only pair of shoes plop into the surface of the lake. Jaw tightening, she pushed and elbowed her way through the group until she reached the handsome boy who had tossed her shoes. With an angry shove into the boy's waist, she had growled a menacing, “You jerk!” The boy had jerked, as though with surprised, and blinked down at her with almost a guilty expression. She still remembered how his audacity had made her all the more outraged. She knew that she should have been forgiving, should have seen that he hadn't been intentionally cruel, but had simply given into the delight of his friends, but she'd been far too angry, and she'd been seconds from grasping her wand and jinxing him, but she'd been unable to. Out of the corner of her eye, she'd seen her shoes sinking into the deep water, and she'd had no choice but to go chasing after them.

Shiloh could remember the delight and laughter of the group as they'd watched her wade into the deep water and dive into the water, with her thick robes pulling about her, to retrieve her shoes from the rock bottom. As she came dripping onto the shore, they had wisely run off, calling at each other and goofing about the way teenage boys did.

Shiloh shook herself out of her unpleasant reverie and shrugged again at Symone's name. “Just a group of Hufflepuffs. I only caught one name.” She thought back to the handsome boy, the main culprit in the crime against her. “Some boy named Cedric Diggory.”

Symone thought deeply for a moment, her eyes fixing on a place on the bed and her lips pursing slightly. Finally, she shook her head, showing the name didn't sound the least bit familiar to her. “Don't worry about them,” she said in an attempt to make Shiloh feel better. She nudged Shiloh's leg encouragingly with her bare foot. “They're just a bunch of prats.”

No, Shiloh didn't let them make her miserable. Symone was right. They were just a bunch of silly boys pulling stupid pranks, and they weren't worth the time of day to make her feel even the least amount of grief. But this entire horrific day was what really made her feel particularly anti-social. Because, as much as she wished she could say it was, the day had ended there and that she had simply come dripping uneventfully back to the Common Room, she couldn't. She'd met with the last person that someone wished to see when raining drops of water bigger than Mrs. Norris.

Symone seemed to want to make sure that the story was complete, because she nudged Shiloh again. “And then you came back here?” She left the question hanging, as though she already knowing that there was more of this tale to tale.

Shiloh shook her head slowly. “I ran into the prefect.”

Symone nodded, her eyes set on Shiloh intently as she eagerly drew in every single detail.

Shiloh thought back to the moment when she had come up on the group of seven year Slytherins who were, at that moment, placing bets on how long into the Slytherin vs. Gryffindor game it would take for the new Gryffindor seeker—Harry Potter—to tumble off his broomstick. For what she could gather, the average vote was five minutes, but the prefect bet a confident two. Shiloh was going to breeze right past them, hoping that that they wouldn't see her, but the prefect raised his eyes and recognized her.

“Oy,” he had called, a smirk of amusement climbing onto his face. “What happened to you?”

And, then, every single seventh year in the group was looking at her and chortling deviously. She had refused to let them get to her and ignored their sly smiles. Instead, she thought, that if she had to face the prefect when she was standing in a puddle of water that had come from her own robes, then she might as well get the answers to the questions that had been torturing her. Squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin, she had looked about as proud and sophisticated as a drowned rat could.

“Can I talk to you?”

The memory faded and Shiloh explained the rest of what had happened to Symone, “I pulled him aside and thanked him for covering for me.” Of course, Shiloh didn't add that she had done so grudgingly, for she the suspicion she had felt was thick and unbendable. “And he laughed at me.” Shiloh felt her jaw tight in irritation, remembering.

“Why?” Symone said, looking half surprised and half angry as though she too couldn't comprehend why the prefect would be so mocking.

As though it couldn't mean less to her—and, in a way, it didn't, because she'd known it all along—Shiloh shrugged absently and explained, “He wondered how I could possibly be so stupid as to believe he would risk his neck for a first year. He explained that the only reason he had done it was because, if Professor Snape learned that it had indeed happened and that he hadn't dealt punishment himself, he would have been trouble.” It didn't really surprise Shiloh; after all, it seemed at times, that every Slytherin was much more interested in saving their own necks than anyone else's.

Symone shook her head, her eyes crackling in sympathetic anger again, reminding Shiloh that not every Slytherin was completely self-absorbed. “Why does it seem that people older than us are always jerks?”

Shiloh lifted her shoulders in a shrug once again, but she couldn't help but think she was right. Older teenagers always seemed to consider first years a waste of skin and treat them as though they were even lower than that. Why? Perhaps it was because they had forgotten that they had once been as young and vulnerable as the first years where. Maybe it was because they forgot what it was like to be treated so cruelly. Or maybe, it was because they remembered, and thought that it was their chance at revenge—to hurt people like they'd been hurt.

But in the end, Shiloh could only say, “I don't know, Symone.”

It felt good to talk to Symone, knowing that she understood this horrible day. It was a wonderful feeling to know that there was someone there to patiently listen and comprehend. But, of course, Shiloh knew it could not last, and she felt a better taste in her mouth, wishing for things to be different; wishing that things could be like this always; wishing she were free to have friends as wonderful as Symone. But they weren't and never could be.

But Symone had a way of ridding her of such thoughts, and she did so now when her eyes began to sparkle. It was a familiar sparkle that Shiloh recognized, that rebel-gleam that was filled with mischievousness, humor, and orneriness that witnessed that she had a brilliant idea or, at the very least, a funny joke. In this case, it was both.

“You know what we should do about it?” Symone asked on the edge of excitement.

Shiloh had a few ideas, each starting with one curse or another, but Symone was smart enough to know that revenge and fighting was a last result.

Without waiting for Shiloh to give a reply, she claimed spiritedly, “We'll be absolutely nothing like them.”

Shiloh blinked and, then, despite herself, felt her lips beginning to twitch. Shiloh was convinced once and for all, that Symone was indeed a Slytherin, but not the horrible ones that they knew. Rather, she was everything a Slytherin should be. Cool, cunning, and impeccably ambitious, but who used such talents for the good. Because, in this, Symone was completely and totally right. What was it that the Sorting Hat had said? That she had 'the want to chart her own path, no matter if people tell her it's wrong'. And that was how Symone was too. They both wanted to be the opposite of what people expected of a Slytherin. To stand out in the crowd and to make a difference. And, when it came to so-called-standards, to rebel against them! And that was very, very Slytherin.

Shiloh smirked deviously. This new goal was very, very exciting, just as it would be very hard. But, Shiloh loved challenges.

“Now, enough of this seriousness,” Symone proclaimed with her Symone-like excitement and confidence. She picked herself off the bed and was prancing toward the door. “It's supper time, and I'm starving.”

Shaking her head in refined amusement, Shiloh followed her, wondering how the horrific events of the day already seemed a million miles behind her. The only thought she gave it was an unconscious wish that tomorrow was not nearly as hectic as too day. In fact, she desired it to be completely and totally uneventful.

But, in life at Hogwarts, is life ever boring?

 

 

Even now, frizzled hair standing on end and face covered with smoke, she didn't know how it had happened. Thinking back on it, she searched for clues in what could possibly have gone wrong, but she found nothing that could have ended as disastrously as this. Shiloh had been perfecting her potion. It was one she had done many times before, though she'd never gotten it completely perfect. As always, she had memorized the ingredients and the steps, then set out for an alteration that would make the potion better than it had before. As she moved through each step, she thought and calculated carefully, making no move until she was completely sure. She couldn't add porcupine quills, she knew that. Professor Snape had warned them that such an ingredient would cause an explosive reactions, but there were many other options. She'd thought and thought and only acted when she was sure it would work. She'd considered all possible outcomes and come up with one: the one she wanted to succeed. The experiment was going perfecting, and, as he past, Professor Snape was giving her an approving silence. But as he went by, Millicent leaned forward from her desk behind Shiloh and tugged sharply on the ends of Shiloh's hair, stinging Shiloh's scalp. Shiloh had swiveled in her chair, glancing over her shoulder, glared at Millicent, and hissed an only-partially-unmeant death threat. That's when it happened.

Boom!

With a flash of red flame that Shiloh only saw out of the corner of her eye, her potion exploded in a great burst of smoke. Reflexively, she flung herself from the table and the thick billows of smoke the belched from her bubbling potion. As a result, the stool tipped, and she tumbled backwards, landing hard on her back. The wind left her lungs in a painful 'oomph', and she immediately gasped for air, but the only thing she received was a lungful of smoke, sending her into a harsh coughing fit. The room was covered in an impregnable wall of thick gray smoke, so dense she couldn't make out anything but the silhouette of her own hand before her face.

The fume tortured her lungs, making them burn and ache, and made her throat fill as scratchy as fine sandpaper. Shiloh rolled onto her hands and knees, trying to keep low to the ground as she continued to cough and sputter between desperate and failed attempts to gulp in precious oxygen. All around her, she could hear the startled cries and screams as, somewhere behind the curtain of gray, mayhem erupted through the classroom. Shiloh could hear the scurrying of feet of the frightened students as they tried to run for the door, and, somewhere in a place that seemed quite distant, Shiloh heard Symone calling out her name.

Shiloh scrambled to her feet, trying to get her legs steadied. She couldn't see a darn thing! The smoke was burning her eyes, causing a layer of water to flood through them, only helping to sting and blur her vision more. Shiloh took an unsteady step in the direction she hoped would lead her to the doorway and to fresh air. But her feet struck something solid—the upset stool—and her shoes instantly became entangled in the legs of the stool. She reeled forward, thrown off balance. She waved her arms frantically, and her heart gave an erratic 'thump' as she tried to right herself. But all was in vain. Stomach jerking into her throat, she tumbled forward and slammed painfully into something firm and hard. She and whatever she'd landed against teetered uncertainly, before they both fell towards the swiftly approaching ground.

For the second time, Shiloh made contact with the rough stone floor, this time landing sprawled on her back. There was a thud surround by a thousand repetitive sounds of shattering glass. As things broke around her, Shiloh threw her arms over her face to protect herself as shards of glass and pottery flew haphazardly through the space about her. Instinctively, she curled on her side, pulling herself into a defensive ball until she was in a fetal position. She was unsure how she knew such a posture or why she so readily moved into it. She only knew that, somehow, this was the only position to be in when pain was about to come. The only way to be safe when she was in so much danger.

But the sharp sting of glass slicing skin did not come. Instead, all went eerily silent until she could hear nothing more than her own ragged breathing, and the soft sound of crushing glass and pottery as someone slowly approached.

Shiloh opened her eyes and gingerly rolled onto her back. She could feel pieces of glass lying flat beneath her, and she didn't dare moved again. Instead, she peered up through the smoke and her blurry eyes to see a silhouette towering over her; a shadow that was malevolent and odious. Shiloh saw a flick of robes and the calm movement of a wand, and all the smoke disappeared. Still, eyes clouded with water, she found herself unable to make out the face peering down at her.

Raised up curled fist, she rubbed at her eyes and cleared them of the irritating tears and the rest of the sting the smoke had left on them. Her vision now clear, she took in the sight.

She would rather she'd been blind.

Professor Snape towered over her, a sneer on his pallid face. With calculative and collected movements, Professor Snape pocketed his wand and straightened his robs, before fixing a hard, piercing look at Shiloh. In his dangerous eyes flashed rage and disapproval. It was the look she had hoped he'd never give her. The one that told her he was beginning to think she was like very student—a dunderhead.

Professor Snape stooped, wrapped his long pinching fingers around her upper arm, and yanked her, not gently, to her feet. She didn't like his tight grip on her arm, especially when he had that fierce, dangerous look in his eyes. No one had put such a tight hand on her since...

Jerking backwards, she folded her own fingers around Professor Snape's wrist and thrust his hand away. If he was surprised by her sudden need to escape, he didn't let it show, unless it was to sneer unhappily at her all the more.

And he was not the only one giving her such a look of animosity. The entire class—some covered in a fine layer of soot—glared at her hatefully, as though they thought she was the stupidest creature on this earth. However, several Slytherins were laughing heartily at Shiloh's misery. None laughed harder than Annadel and her two horrible friends. They giggled shrilly until Professor Snape locked them with a warning glare. They stopped laughing, but their shoulders shook with the effort.

Professor Snape looked back at Shiloh, and she didn't dare make the mistake of looking into his eyes. As her gaze fixed on the table she'd knocked over, on the jar of ingredients she'd shattered, and on the escaped cockroaches that now scurried towards freedom, Shiloh felt impeccably small, alone, and nearly homesick. She suddenly wanted nothing more than to be back in her potions shed, safe and sound, or, if that was impossible, for the world to open beneath her and swallow her whole. At least, that would be better than being beneath Professor Snape's glaring eyes.

“Miss Sanders, I don't believe porcupine quills were on the list of ingredients. In fact, I do recall saying not to put them in.”

“Porcupine quills?” Shiloh's numb lips repeated weakly, but her breathed words weren't loud enough to be heard.

For the first time, she began to wander what exactly had happened. Her potion had exploded, but never, in all her tires, had she gotten that terrible of a reaction. Her experiment had been going fine. The explosion had happened too fast for anything but an added ingredient to cause such a wretched reaction. Shiloh had done everything right. She couldn't have made such a wretched mistake. And...and...

“I didn't add porcupine quills, professor.”

There were surprised gasps throughout the classroom, and Shiloh understood. She'd disagreed with—or rather, defied—a professor—Professor Snape, no less. She'd given cheek when everyone knew she should have bowed her head and been silent. Professor Snape glared down at her fiercely, but Shiloh wasn't intimidated, nor did she regret her actions. She'd only been honest.

But, clearly, no one believed her.

“That's one point from Slytherin for disrupting my class,” Professor Snape said with a powerful snarl. “And another for lying, Sanders.”

Her anger flared. How could it be that she was the only one who saw that something terrible had happened—and it wasn't her fault?! Shiloh wanted to scream at them, wanted them all to know the truth that something simply wasn't right and that she wasn't a liar. And she was going to, starting with protesting against Professor Snape's unfair accusation.

“But I didn't--”

Before the defiant words could fully leaver her lips, Symone had wisely side up to her and, now, discretely ground her heel into Shiloh's foot. Shiloh words falted as she hissed in a low growl of pain and jerked her foot backwards, away from Symone. She turned to glower at Symone who was currently as covered in soot from chin to hair. Symone, unaffected by Shiloh's hot gaze, slowly shook her head in a silent message to shut up.

Shiloh understood the message, but how could she simply stay quiet, when everything gone wrong! But when Shiloh looked back at the raging Professor Snape, she knew the battle of fixing this had already been lost. She could feel it – all her hard work, every perfect potion, crumbling through her fingers. She had failed, in the one class she truly wanted to succeed in.

“But you didn't, what?” Professor Snape pressed, challenging her to finish and daring her to allow him to give her detention.

Shiloh said nothing for a long moment, knowing that to admit she was wrong would be a lie and would be admitting defeat. She knew above anything, that she hadn't made a mistake. She couldn't have, could she? But a bit of doubt touched over her. Could she have forgotten that she'd added the dreadful ingredient or had she accidentally grabbed the wrong jar and hadn't even realized it? Gnawing on her lip, she tried to remember in clarity, but her mind was fogged, and she simply couldn't. She began to have so little confidence in herself, in when that occurred she lost all conviction and all will to fight.

Still not looking at him and still clinging onto hopeless pride, Shiloh gulped deeply. “Nothing, sir. I made a mistake. And it'll never happen again.”

Professor Snape sneered sceptically and said, “I'll trust that I can leave you to clean up your mess.”

Shiloh nodded. What else could she do?

“And, you,” Professor Snape spoke sharply to Symone, “Since you're her friend, you can help her.”

Shiloh wanted to confess that Symone wasn't her friend. It was the truth and it would get Symone out of paying for Shiloh's mistake. But words would do no good, and Professor Snape was already walking back to his desk and commanding the others back to work. Shiloh gave Symone an apologetic shrug, to which Symone once again shook her head and gave a reassuring smile. Then they both got to work.

For the rest of the class, and some time after, Shiloh and Symone worked silently to clean up the mess, using magic where they could and 'Muggle' means when they couldn't. The whole time they ignored the snickers of mockers who somehow thought this was humorous and of the Slytherins' glares for loosing those 'numerous' points. More than once Symone raised her head to glare at them and hiss a cruel 'shut up'. But Shiloh said nothing, as though she was completely detached from everything. Shiloh's face was unreadable, but Symone knew that she was being tortured. A few times she opened her mouth to press Shiloh into talking about it, but, in those moments, Shiloh would move a bit away, clearing not in the mood for conversation.

When their task was done, Shiloh gathered her things, hugging her cloth bag to her stomach, and, without giving Symone a goodbye or waiting for Professor Snape to dismiss them, she jogged out of the dungeon. Shiloh wanted for dearly to be away from the place because she now felt as stupid as her favorite professor now thought she was.

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