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Chapter Thirteen

Life's Little Ironies

Symone kept on encouraging Shiloh, though the task soon went from helpful, to irritating. After all, “We'll get them next time” had been wonderful, steeling Shiloh with determination, but the bit uncertain, “Well, look on the bright side; the third time's the charm” had been the farthest thing from pleasing. Yet, still Symone had tried to keep Shiloh from the childish act of banging her head against the wall in frustration. Although, the many half-laughed, half-moaned “Blimey, who could have seen that coming?” only made the desire more tempting.

A month had somehow gone by and they still hadn't managed to get the Veritaserum down Annadel's throat!

They'd never managed to get closer than they had that day. It was difficult to so much as get near Annadel, and they couldn't sit by her every day; it would be too suspicious. The times when they did consider it relatively safe always seemed to be muddled up in some atrocious way. Once they had been about ready to lower themselves into seats beside Annadel when Draco, Crabbe and Goyle had breezed before them and settled into the three chairs. Looking haughty, Symone had opened her mouth to protest, and Draco had turned back to look at them.

“You don't mind, do you, Sanders, Zell?” In his tone, he had managed to tell them that he knew that, yes, they minded, and no, he didn't give a darn that they did.

Shiloh had never exactly been properly introduced to Draco Malfoy, but they knew each other. They were the same year, the same House, and that made it impossible not to know each other. There had been no introduction, no shaking of hands, but there'd been some sort of an acknowledgment, a passing about of each other's names. They were now something less than acquaintances. Her father's admiration of Lucius Malfoy—or rather Mr. Malfoy's generous donations to the Ministry—was not enough to judge the son by, so, when it came down to it, Shiloh could honestly say that she didn't like him. Nor did she hate him; she didn't even know him. Although, his association with Pansy, Annadel, and Millicent had to count for something.

Regardless of the fact that Draco was little more than a stranger, Symone had looked like she was prepared for a fight, but Shiloh had known better. Looking like they were eager to sit by their roommates would have been too conspicuous. Besides, the situation hadn't been worth the breath it would take to form an insult, especially not when it involved these people. So, Shiloh had nudged Symone's ribs, stopping her cold.

“Not at all, Malfoy,” Shiloh had said, with a bitter, unmeant smirk, and before Symone could decide to fight on, Shiloh seized her elbow and wrestled her toward an empty chair.

Other tries seemed to hold just as much fortune. They tried at every meal; they even tried when they'd found her having some warm milk in the common room. Every time, they failed miserably, in the simplest of ways. Annadel would leave, or someone would get in the way, or some tragedy would befall the drink. The only thing Shiloh had to be thankful for was that all these things would occur before she managed to waste some of the precious Veritaserum. So, it still lay in the pocket of her cloak, unmoved and practically untouched, except for Shiloh's occasional caresses, ensuring her that the potion was still there.

That was exactly what she was doing now, a month later. She sat at the lunch table, drawing her thumb along the length of the vial, feeling the familiar grooves and the ridges. She thought of little else as she picked listlessly at the food on her plate, pushing it about and poking it almost savagely with her fork. Symone didn't seem to have much appetite, either, something that was more unusual for her than for Shiloh, and her honey-colored eyes kept roaming from her plate to their three enemies.

Shiloh vigorously stabbed a baby carrot. She lifted it so she could survey the way it fit on the fork, but she had no intention of eating it. She just narrowed her eyes at it, not truly seeing it, but seeing the entire, frustrating situation for what it was: hopeless. It was infuriating, and she tossed the fork back on the plate, her face blank, her emotions empty. She felt nothing, thought nothing, unless it was one suggestion that flickered in her mind. A single desire that was becoming more and more tempting.

Maybe I should just give up.

“We can't give up, Shiloh.”

She tried not to give a visible start, barely managing to stop the spasm in her hand from knocking over her pumpkin juice. Had she said that thought aloud? Of course, she hadn't; she would never be that careless. But... Shiloh turned her eyes to Symone, looking for any reason that Symone would use that particular moment to say such a thing. Had she somehow sensed Shiloh's growing exasperation, or was she simply thinking the same thing, and showing her desire to give up? Shiloh wanted to believe the latter, because she couldn't accept that Symone could know her that well. No one knew her that well.

Besides, it didn't matter. Shiloh didn't really want to give up. The day she surrendered to Delamb would be the day her existence became worthless. Besides, she was a Slytherin, and they didn't accept losing well. However, she was seriously considering the fact that the Veritaserum might not be as wonderful of an idea anymore. If too much longer passed without success, she would have to debate on some other options.

Only, there were no other options.

Ignoring this train of thoughts, she picked up her fork and twirled it in her fingers.

“You should eat,” Symone pressed, leaning around Shiloh and surveying her still full plate. “You eat like a goldfish.”

That statement sounded annoyingly familiar to Shiloh; it didn't take long for her to figure out where she'd heard that before. “You sound like my mum.”

Symone wasn't offended; Shiloh wouldn't have said it if she'd thought for a moment that Symone would have taken it as an insult. Instead, Symone had her usual comeback. Shaking her finger in Shiloh's face, she ordered, “Now don't you sass me. If you don't eat, you'll make yourself ill, and if you think I'm going to feel sympathetic when you're too weak to move then...” Her speech would have been convincing—after all, her tone was perfectly bossy and she'd even managed that 'mother' look every girl knows—but a look of horror and bewilderment crossed her face and she stopped dead, looking away in shock. Finally she spoke, half groaning, “Blimey, now I sound like my mum!”

Shiloh couldn't help it. Her lips began to twitch, a smile threatening to show fully on her lips. The look on Symone's face was simply priceless—and utterly comical—but Shiloh refused to laugh, a resolution that became almost impossible when Symone burst into her own, heartfelt giggles. Shiloh wondered how Symone had the ability to make Shiloh place the worst of things to the back of her mind, if only for a few minutes. The simple normalcy of talking about their mums was so unique, making it seem like everything was uncomplicated and blissful. Almost like they were two friends just enjoying a break from classes.

But she can't be my...

I know.
Shiloh squelched the reminder. She knew perfectly well that she was messing with the boundaries that she had placed between the two of them, but she couldn't fix that at the moment. Not when there was no doubt that she still needed Symone's help to take down Annadel. She could deal with the 'no-friendship' policy later.

Shiloh was in a better mood, and clearly so was Symone because they managed to stomach a few bits before they had to collect their bags and rush to their classes.

Professor Severus Snape surveyed his class with hawk-like eyes, taking in their work and their attention as he passed by Longbottom. He closed his nose against the smell, commented on how the instructions said peppermint not pomegranate, and continued on as the boy began to stir vigorously. Too vigorously. Severus thought, not for the first time, that of any of them, this boy was going to flunk this class. It would be a miracle if he passed exams, with his substandard grades.

The thought of poor grades made Severus eyes move in the direction of Delamb and Sanders. As always, Delamb sat before Sanders, and the Parkinson and Bulstrode were seated right behind Sanders—a conspicuous arrangement for the enemies. It seemed plausible that they were up to something, that they had situated themselves like that with troublesome intentions. He'd yet to prove that they were ever once involved in anything other than their own potions. Not once had he caught Delamb or either of the other two with their hands poised above Sanders' cauldron. However, that was not quite surprising. With a whole class of first years, his eyes had to be many places at once; he couldn't afford to leave his gaze on Delamb for long, no matter what he suspected.

So, here, a month after he sworn to find the truth, he was nowhere closer to learning anything than he had been thirty-one days ago. For all he knew, Sanders could still have been lying. Then why was it that her potions only went horribly wrong when his eyes were fixed elsewhere in the classroom? Coincidence? Severus didn't think so. He'd learned long ago that, when there seemed to be something more going on, there generally was. Especially in Slytherin.

Whether or not he'd failed to catch Delamb in the act, whether he was uncertain what the honest truth was, he was still determined to find out, even if it took him another month.

Potions was nearly halfway through, and Annadel had yet to try anything, but Shiloh wasn't about to let that make her hopeful. Last time, the girls had waited until the moment when Shiloh was fishing for her vial to collect a sample of her potion in it, before utterly ruining it . Millicent had tripped her and sent her spinning into the table, upsetting her own cauldron. Shiloh had no doubt that Annadel would try something wretched today, and she kept one eye fixed on the blond head. She hoped that whatever it was, Annadel didn't make the potion explode. Twice in one month was a bit extreme, and Shiloh wasn't sure if her fortune would keep her from singeing her eyebrows this time around.

Shiloh looked away from Annadel long enough to stir in another ingredient, and she sensed Symone taking her turn watching their enemy. Shiloh was grateful, because it gave her the chance to count the strokes of her wooden spoon, both counterclockwise and clockwise. When she was sure she had the correct number, she looked up, staring at Annadel as she stood to reach for a container of peppermint.

It was in her hands and she was about ready to unscrew the lid, when she felt something collide with the back of her knee. Her leg buckled. She managed to catch herself on the edge of the table, her knees halfway to the ground, but the jar dropped from her hands. It landed upon the ground with a startling shatter, sending broken glass and peppermint flowers across the stone floor.

Shiloh pulled herself upright, regaining her balance, and then looked over her shoulder at the two behind her. Millicent and Pansy looked perfectly innocent, as though they hadn't just fired a hex at her. Their heads were dipped thoughtfully over their books as they pursed their lips together, a clear sign that they were trying not to laugh. Millicent failed. However, laugh wasn't the correct word to describe the sound she made, because Millicent didn't giggle. She snorted.

Pansy elbowed her, and she fell quiet, but not before they sent her a mocking smile. Shiloh would have given anything, anything at all, to slam her fist into their unnaturally white teeth, putting a dent in their sneering faces. It was happening again. She recognized all the steps. First, she was distracted; second, Annadel would make her move. There was nothing she could do to stop the game once it got started. Millicent and Pansy always made sure of that. Tt didn't mean that Shiloh had to make it easy for them. So, for the longest moment, she looked between them and Annadel, not giving them an opportunity to act.

“Is there something going on here?”

Professor Snape. Shiloh would have recognized that cool, emotionless voice even if she hadn't turned to look up at him. However, he wasn't looking at her. His eyes had gone past her, to the floor where the mess had been made. She knew what he was truly asking, and she knew where all this would lead: to a place where she didn't want to be.

She spoke anyways, giving the explanation he wanted, “I slipped, Professor.”

“Get it cleaned up,” he ordered, his brisk tone making it clear he had no patience for clumsy students who wasted valuable potions ingredients.

Shiloh knew that stooping on the ground to clean it up was exactly what the three girls wanted. As soon as she started collecting the broken glass, Annadel would act, but Shiloh also knew better than to argue with Professor Snape. She'd learned that lesson immensely well. Besides, Symone could always stop Annadel.

“Yes, sir.” Shiloh nodded and gingerly lowered herself next to the broken glass.

“And, you—“ Professor Snape gestured at Symone, his tone authoritative. “—help her.”

That destroyed Shiloh's last hope, and as Symone mumbled a 'Yes, sir' and lowered herself beside her, there was nothing left to do than to resign herself to her fate and another poor Potions grade.

Without a sigh or a show of disappointment, Shiloh watched Professor Snape walk on down the aisle. She was able to see little more than his legs, but she stared at them nonetheless. There was the man who was so wise, the one man who had the power to stop all of this, but he hadn't. She wasn't angry, nor did she think she admired him for any less—he was still a great wizard—but she was slightly sad. If only he'd believed me.

Yet, it didn't matter; she'd take care of it herself...eventually.

Shiloh withdrew her wand, poised it over the jar and mumbled 'Reparo', while Symone began collecting the sprigs of peppermint. They did it quickly and soon were pushing to their feet, looking towards Shiloh's potion, wondering what was going wrong with it. Instead, they saw Annadel's hand stretching towards it. Obviously, Annadel was a bit slow today, and Shiloh was determined to use that to her advantage. Forget Veritaserum! If Shiloh could catch her in the act than she wouldn't need to use it!

Without thinking, Shiloh lunged for Annadel's hand and froze when Annadel gasped as hand wrapped about her wrist. But it wasn't Shiloh's hand; it was much too large, with long, viselike fingers covered with pale skin. Stunned, Shiloh allowed her eyes to roam up the man's black-clothed arm, up to his chest, his neck, and finally to his face—that hard, unmoving face. His dark eyes were now fixed on Annadel with a look so harsh, so dark and knowing that it made Annadel tremble.

“P-Professor Sn-Snape—“ Her horror showed in her voice, as Annadel stammered on. She knew she'd been caught, and no matter how quickly she tried to make up a lie, the game was over. Somehow, someway, she had lost. “I...”

Professor Snape interrupted, his voice cold, unquestionable, “I think it is best that you keep your hands away from Miss Sanders' cauldron.”

Shiloh and Annadel both stared, both in their own sort of disbelief. For Annadel, it was the refusal to accept that she'd been caught, that after all this time, she'd actually been caught. But for Shiloh, it was confusion, a deep wondering on how it was possible that Professor Snape had been paying enough attention to catch her. Pansy's and Annadel's words from a month ago flickered back into her mind:

Snape wouldn't take his eyes off of me.

Do you think he suspects something?

It was impossible! He hadn't believed her. What could possibly have changed his mind?

“Professor...” Annadel tried again.

Professor Snape ignored her. “And until the time when you learn to put ingredients only in your own cauldron, I will just have to separate you two. Miss Delamb, move your things over besides Mr. Longbottom.”

“L-Longbottom...” The reality seemed to be sinking in, because she was no longer scared; she was back to being haughty, throwing out a protest, “But his cauldron smells horrible!”

It was true. Shiloh could catch whiffs of what smelled like fish guts coming from his general direction. She could only imagine what it would be like sitting next to it, but she couldn't say she was sorry that Annadel was about to find out.

For the first time, Professor Snape sneered, almost gleefully. “I know.”

Annadel didn't have much chance to protest; one never did when dealing with Professor Snape. She was soon collecting her items, muttering until Professor Snape ordered her to be silent. Finally, she was shuffling to sit next to Neville and plopping reluctantly into her chair.
Afterwards, Professor Snape returned to his pacing about the room. Pansy and Millicent stared after him with frozen looks of distress, before sending Shiloh hot scowls that she ignored.

Symone was gawking at Shiloh, her surprise matching Shiloh's own. For a moment, they could only stare at each other, as though asking what all of this meant. Neither of them knew; neither of them could believe it. The event simply refused to be absorbed by their muddled brains, so they only turned numbly back to their potions and finished following their directions, trying their best to either accept the strange event, or forget about it.

The latter was easier.

After what seemed like an eternity, Professor Snape finally dismissed the class. Shiloh didn't think that she'd ever seen Pansy, Millicent, and Annadel move so quickly as they did toward the door, they were already at the steps when Professor Snape's low voice—hardly more than a whisper, but slicing the air in a way that no one had trouble hearing—stopped them in their tracks.

“Miss Delamb, Miss Parkinson, and Miss Bulstrode will remain behind.” His eyes traveled through the crowd of students until they fell on Shiloh who froze behind her desk, lowering her bag slowly over her shoulder. “And Miss Sanders, of course.”

The three roommates returned to sit at one desk together, looking furious and a bit pale at the same time. Symone, however, had stopped as well. She gave Shiloh a worried look, as though wishing to stay with her, but that was impossible. She hadn't been asked to stay behind and she knew that Professor Snape wouldn't tolerate her presence. Even though, Shiloh had to admit that she would have appreciated her being there, that way she didn't have to be alone with the other three. She wouldn't be alone, though, she told herself. Professor Snape was there.

To ease Symone's desire to stay, Shiloh pressed her bag into Symone's gut, silently asking her to take it with her. “Go. I'll meet you at the library.”

Symone's eyes narrowed, making it clear that she was unhappy about the entire situation, but she didn't say anything. She collected her and Shiloh's bag and joined the line of students making their way outside. Shiloh went to the front of the classroom, settling herself in the chair next to Millicent. Her back was tense, as she felt three angry pairs of eyes on it. If it hadn't been for Professor Snape, she felt sure that she would have been hexed with three deadly curses.

Yet, even though the four of them where seated there, Professor Snape didn't speak to them. Instead, his eyes were on the students who were making their way out of his classroom. She followed his line of sight and found the last of the students. Among them was Symone, who forced a smile and mouthed something that seemed like 'Good luck'. Shiloh wasn't sure, but she thought she understood the basis of that encouraging look.

Only after all the students were gone and the door had closed did Professor Snape stand up and make his way around the desk to face the four of them. Before him, surveying all of them with a critical gaze, she felt small, like a smudge of dirt before a mop, but she refused to flinch or to slink down in the seat to half-hide herself beneath the table. The others simply looked at him, as unapologetic as innocent victims.

“You three,“ he spoke to Millicent, Pansy, and Annadel as though Shiloh wasn't even there, “have a lot of explaining to do.”

Millicent tried to play dumb; not the brightest move considering, but then again 'dumb' wasn't that much of a stretch for Millicent. “About what, Professor?”

Don't fake ignorance with me,” he commanded, his voice so low it practically hissed. Shiloh didn't think she'd seen him quite as annoyed as he was now, not even when he'd accused her of lying. His sneer was pasted firmly on his lips, filled with nothing but loathing, and his eyes crackled with a disgust that only intensified when he looked at Annadel.

All three of them blinked, perhaps uncertain on what the proper response should be. Silence certainly wasn't it.

“So, now you can't remember?” Professor Snape's smirked mockingly. “Perhaps this will jog your poor memory: You have been sabotaging Miss Sanders' potions.”

Pansy giggled nervously. “Oh, that.”

Brilliant, Pansy. The sarcastic thought fluttered through Shiloh's mind as she watched Pansy's two companions shove their elbows angrily into her ribs. Pansy winced painfully, and Shiloh couldn't even force herself to feel sympathy. Clearly, neither could Professor Snape. He didn't even blink, only continued in growing irritation.

“Yes, that.” His tone was become strained, and Shiloh knew his patience was wearing thin. She couldn't help but admire him, though. A lesser man would have been knocking their heads together ten minutes ago. “When did it all begin?”

His eyes glanced at Shiloh and she understood what he was doing: confirming her story. Besides, he needed a confession. He'd only caught them once, but he'd needed to know whether that was the only time. Perhaps he knew that now, but he wanted certainty.

There was a moment of hesitance, as the three exchanged a look as though calculating their next plan. But there was no plan, no road to take to get them out of this mess. They were trapped, and no matter how stupid they were, they couldn't deny that. Annadel saw it first, because she let out one, furious sigh. She hated not getting what she wanted. However, the look in her eyes spoke of hopeless, devastated defeat. Shiloh could only stare at that look, because it was the look that she had desired to seek for months, ever since she'd first figured out that Annadel was behind it. That look of helplessness, of defeat, of the same emotions that Annadel had pushed her through.

Maybe it was true. Maybe it was all coming to in end, not in the way Shiloh had expected, but maybe, just maybe, she wasn't dreaming this, and it all would be over as soon as Professor Snape passed out detention.

“The beginning of November.” Annadel sighed again.

The exact time everything had begun, three months ago, right when Shiloh had claimed. Professor Snape seemed to be thinking the same thing, because he glanced at Shiloh who gave a firm nod. A nod that said See. I told you.

Professor Snape put his hard gaze back on the three. “So for all that time, you have been endangering this entire class by making the already hazardous art of potion making even more precarious?”

They blinked in confusion for a moment, and Shiloh thought of pointing out that Professor Snape might not want to use such big words with them. However, she didn't dare interrupt. This was his moment with the three girls, and though he had an audience, she knew she didn't have a part or a say it. So she sat, watching as Millicent seemed to catch the gist of what Professor Snape had said. Her response only served to dig them in deeper.

“But we weren't trying to endanger the class; just Sanders.”

This time Pansy got revenge, elbowing Millicent for her misstep.

Professor Snape stared at her for a long moment, his face stony, but the closest thing to disbelief Shiloh had ever seen him come. Shiloh couldn't blame him; Millicent's stupidity astounded her too. “And that,” he growled menacingly, “is supposed to make a difference?”

Shiloh didn't read anything into the words. She knew that as a professor, he couldn't pick and choose what students he had the responsibility to care for. Her health had to be in as much consideration as any of the others. However, that didn't mean he liked her.

They didn't respond; it was the best choice they'd made in a long time.

Professor Snape continued on, “On behalf of your recklessness, ten points will be taken from Slytherin...for each of you.”

Thirty points. Oh, the other Slytherins were going to murder them. They must have known that, because looks of stricken horror crossed their faces. Shiloh smirked.

“Furthermore, each of you will be receiving six weeks' worth of detention.”

The duration seemed unfathomable to the three girls, who had probably never been punished in the entire period of their lives, other than that single detention after they'd attacked her. Millicent even looked like she was about to be sick. Annadel even squeaked out a protest. “Six weeks?”

“However,” Professor Snape added, his eyes flickering slightly but his voice slow and calm, “if you find that too unsatisfactory of a number...”

They fell right for his subtle track. Pansy crossed her arms and snapped, “You bet it is!”

Honestly, did they still believe that they were in control of what happened to them? That their say in things actually mattered? But they'd lost their right to be spoiled little princesses from the moment they'd been caught. Professor Snape proved that to them as he finished his first sentence.

“I can always give you two months,” he suggested with a slight sneer.

It was shocking how suddenly eager they were for six weeks of detention. As soon as their hearty agreements fell quiet, Professor Snape dismissed them. Shiloh remained sitting, her eyes focused on Professor Snape as he watched the three hurry outside. Shiloh understood that look of relief in his eyes—the relief that didn't show anywhere other than his eyes. Getting rid of those girls was like the removal of a blood-sucking tick.

When the door closed behind the three, he moved to sit behind the desk and Shiloh seemed suddenly out of place, wondering what he needed her to do. He hadn't so much as looked at her, given no dismissal or even made it clear the reason he'd had her linger behind. Unless seeing them punished and the situation resolved was all he'd needed her to do.

She only sat there, waiting for his response.

“You will be given the chance to make up your grades,” he said at last. He didn't even look at her as he picked up one of the potions and uncorked it. A foul odor poured forth and he slammed the top back on, scratching a large, failing mark on Neville's paper. “I'll schedule a few extra class sessions for you to retry the potions that Miss Delamb ruined.”

That was a cause for relief. At least her parents wouldn't be demanding what could possibly make her fail her best class. She didn't care to explain any of this, nor did she wish them thinking that something deeper had been behind it. They worried too much as it was.

A few moments passed, neither one speaking or moving. Perhaps Shiloh should have taken this as a clue that he wanted her to leave, but she didn't. Not until he said, “You may go now.”

That was it? Shiloh had trouble accepting that. Everything was done, with not even an apology or a simple, hesitant, “Well, maybe you're not a liar after all.” No, Shiloh hadn't even really expected that. Although, he could have at least given her an explanation of why, after all this time, he had decided to believe her story. She stood, so confused that it made her angry, as confusion often did. He should at least explain, but of course not. He didn't have the common courtesy to even do that.

As she made her way around the desk, she fought to keep from demanding what had changed, or even sneering “I told you I wasn't a liar”. But that would just end her up in detention alongside the other three, and she'd dealt with them enough, thank you very much! But maybe if she inquired politely, respectfully, she could get away with it.

With that in mind, she stopped and turned. “Professor Snape...”

He raised his head slightly, just enough so that he was looking at her, but he was still poised to turn back to his work. “Yes, Miss Sanders?”

She opened her mouth, but something stopped her. She wasn't sure what made her hesitate, but it was something about looking at him, hunched over his potions, continuing his work as a Professor, slaving hard for kids he probably didn't even like. Something about the sight spread a touch of wisdom in her mind. She didn't know what had changed the professor's mind, what he had observed or overheard that had made him give her story the benefit of a doubt, but did it really matter? In the end, he had believed her. And, no maybe. That was enough.

So, mid-sentence, she changed her mind and said something she hadn't intended, “Thank you.”

He lifted his head more, his attention completely on her. His eyes stared into her and she remembered to tilt her head just enough so their eyes wouldn't meet. Just because she admired him didn't mean she trusted him to start figuring out other things about her. She still didn't understand how he did it, or if she was just fooling herself, but if he had so ability to see things, she wasn't taking the chance.

He stared at her for a long moment, as though trying to calculate something, and then, finally, he simply gave one, deep nod.

Shiloh knew what that nod meant, and she smirked quietly to herself. With his subtle 'you're welcome' in mind, she could allow it all to sink in. She felt relief, knowing that Annadel was not going to sabotage her potions again. And it wasn't because of herself; it was all because of Professor Snape.

She made a beeline towards the door before he had the chance to ask anything more of her. As soon as she was out in the hall, her feet seemed to take a mind of their own, leading her up the steps and through the familiar path to the library, her pace growing brisker and brisker until she broke into a full-out run. She knew, somewhere deep inside of her, that she couldn't wait to tell Symone!

She hurried into the library, forced herself to slow and to close the door quietly. The last thing she wanted was for Madam Pince to scold her all the way out of the library for slamming doors. Shiloh made her way quietly toward the table she always used, the table where she knew Symone would be. Sure enough, at the table next to the window, Symone sat, gazing thoughtfully out at the distant Quidditch pitch where the Gryffindor team was practicing. Shiloh knew Symone's thoughts weren't on her beloved game of Quidditch; they were on her, worrying about what was had happened.

As soon as Shiloh laid eyes on Symone, all the emotions hit her full force, the relief, the happiness, the pure, giddy bliss. It all left her heart bounding and a rare smile spread across her face. Symone must have caught a reflection of Shiloh in the window, because she frowned and looked at Shiloh, probably wanting answers. She didn't have to ask; she didn't even have time to form a questioning look, because as soon as she saw Shiloh she knew. Shiloh didn't smile for nothing.

Symone let out a squeal that pierced the quiet atmosphere, but Shiloh didn't mind. Symone bounded to her feet and closed the distance to her, so quickly Shiloh felt sure that she was going to throw her arms around her. Before Shiloh could decide how she felt about that, Symone made her choice and stopped a foot from her.

“Did he give them detention?” she asked excitedly, eager for details.

Shiloh more than readily complied. “A whole six weeks' worth.”

If she was disappointed or had been hoping for three months, her face didn't show it for long. Instead, she was grinning almost evilly. “That's like a year to them.”

Shiloh nodded, and Symone gave a little spin around like a dancer, barely able to contain her joy. “I can't believe it! It's actually all over!”

Once again Shiloh nodded, and Symone set off into a fit of laughter, letting all the emotions of the past month—the frustration, the anger, the hate—all pour out in this divine blissfulness. Shiloh just watched her roommate, allowing herself to smirk and bask in the victory. Symone was right; it was all over.

That's when it happened. With the joy going through her and Symone's contagious laughter earning Madam Pince's glares, Shiloh just couldn't help it. She giggled. It was a small laugh, one she quickly stifled behind her hand, but it felt wonderful.

Symone clutched her aching ribs, her laughter easing a bit. “And you know what the most ironic thing is?” Symone asked, grinning widely. “We didn't even need the Veritaserum.”


As soon as the word filled the atmosphere, Shiloh felt herself go cold, Every inch of joy faded away in a mere second. Her smirk disappeared, and Symone's laughter and presence seemed to fade into distant memory as Shiloh could almost see her mother giving her that berating look that she saved for when Shiloh had forgotten something of great importance. How could she have been so stupid? How could she have forgotten? How could she believe that it was all over?

Because it wasn't, not yet.

“Symone...” Shiloh began, her lips feeling numb. She hated herself for ending Symone's joy, shattering her hope, but she had no choice.

As soon as Symone heard the tone in Shiloh's voice, she stopped her laughter and gazed at her friend. She seemed to understand immediately that something wasn't right, because her brow furrowed. “What is it?”

“We have to take it back.”

Symone frowned in confusion. “Take what back?”

“The Veritaserum,” Shiloh hissed, searching around to make sure they were alone. Except for Madam Pince their area seemed clear. However, even the moody librarian seemed to be satisfied that their ruckus had ended and they were now going to use the whispered voices that were required in the revered place called the library, because she left.

“Why?” Symone asked, clearly not wanting to believe.

“Because it's only a matter of time before Professor Snape notices that it's missing,” Shiloh strained, trying to drill the seriousness into Symone's brain. “And when he does, he'll figure out that I took it.”

Symone shook her head at that. “But that's impossible. There are a thousand students in this school. He can't possibly know it's you.”

“He'll figure it out,” Shiloh insisted urgently, thinking about the incident on Halloween and how he'd mysteriously known the truth of that. “Trust me, Symone. We have to take it back.”

Symone blinked for a long moment, her face blank other than for a flicker of exasperation. But it wasn't that exasperation that made Shiloh realize that she had accepted what they had to do. It was the two words that she proclaimed next, the ones that sent Madam Pince hurrying after them with a hot reprimand on her tongue. It was an exclamation that expressed all the distress, all the frustration, all the irony of this entire situation.

“Oh, crap!”

Thanks so much to my betas, Sandy and Joanna!

Also, I figured I should leave a note, because I'm tired of getting asked in reviews. Severus and Shiloh are not going to find out about them being father and daughter until the second year. I'm sorry; I know you all want them to find out, but it is extremely important for me to wait for a little while. However, something will be revealed in the last chapter of Year One that I hope will make up for this.

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