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Chapter 21: Chapter Twenty-One: All They Ever Wanted
All They Ever Wanted
There was a long screech as someone dragged a trunk across the floor. It was the last full day of Hogwarts before they would go home. With no school, Shiloh’s roommates were busily packing their trunks so that they could spend the rest of the day celebrating the up-coming holiday.
But, despite it being nearly noon, Shiloh had yet to pack up a single book. She still lay on her bed, resting on her stomach with her green and silver blanket pulled over her head. A quill was poised in Shiloh’s fingers and parchment lay scattered on the pillow before her. She eyed her writing with a critical gaze and attempted to come up with the last few words. It shouldn’t have taken three hours to write one letter.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have taken so long if she hadn’t stopped and reread the letter every few minutes. But as soon as she found herself looking to where it lay on her pillow, her hand was stretching toward it. As it was doing now.
She grabbed it, rolled onto her back, and pulled the letter inches from her nose.
You have to be one of most brilliant people we have met, and we haven’t even met you yet! There’s a mind-boggling statement if ever there was one!
Shiloh couldn’t help the way her lips twitched. She had fought it all the times she had read it before, and now had given up the vain attempt. They thought she was brilliant!
’You are indeed correct. Chocolate is indeed, yours truly, George.’
It was this line that told Shiloh that George was the one who had pinned these letters. She had matched the large, exuberant, sometimes sloppy handwriting to that of the letters before, and known he’d written those too.
And Dungbombs is my loser brother, Fred.
Here the handwriting changed and so did the writer. I’m not a loser! He’s the loser! That would have to be Fred.
After that was a large ink stain, where the quill had been blotted, perhaps caused by a fight over the quill. George must have won, for it was his writing that continued.
Forgive him. Anyways, where was I? Ah yes, you being right on the assumption. I’m not sure how you managed to guess. Fred thinks you’re a stalker; I, however, think you’re just brilliant. Another fight must have ensued for there were more scribbled lines and another large blot, after which George was continuing. It seems only fair that since you know who we are, that we learn who you are. But as it wouldn’t be nearly as fun for you to tell us—not that I think you would anyway—we will try to guess. We will do this by you answering one question in every letter. Here is the first:
Are you a boy or a girl?
Here’s to hoping we are as brilliant as you,
Dungbombs and Chocolate
P. S. Have a very Merry Christmas!
Shiloh couldn’t help the giggle that came to her lips. Now, if only she could finish the letter, they would hopefully find it before they went home tomorrow.
She rolled onto her stomach and looked thoughtfully down at the paper, rereading what she had written.
Dear Dungbombs and Chocolate,
As for how I managed to guess, I think I’ll keep that to myself, but trust me when I say I am not a stalker. I agree to your suggestion of answering any question you might ask on one condition. I have the right not to answer any question I so choose. I wouldn’t want it to be too easy, now would I?
But it really wasn’t that, was it? Shiloh had put in that clause because she was sure that they would ask what house Shiloh was in, and she simply couldn’t tell them that.
As for your question, I’m a girl. That should narrow your options down to half.
Now if she could only figure out how to end it.
Before she could do anything, her curtains were being pulled aside.
“Shiloh,” Symone said. “It’s almost time for lunch, and you haven’t even begun to pack yet.”
“I’m almost finished,” Shiloh replied lowly, making sure their housemates wouldn’t be able to hear them discussing.
“Come on, Shi,” Symone said with a playful smile. “You’re writing a letter; not a novel.”
Shiloh didn’t respond, only ignored her and glanced at the paper once again.
Symone sighed, but the sound was followed by a giggle. “Well, you should hurry. I don’t want you to be packing when all the rest of are celebrating Christmas at supper.”
“I can’t come anyway,” Shiloh said, frowning in disappointment. “I have detention with Professor Snape tonight.”
“That’s right,” Symone recalled, pouting sadly. She sighed melodramatically and flopped onto the bed. “Figures Snape would want to kill the Christmas spirit.”
Shiloh lips twitched.
Symone picked up George and Fred’s letter.
“I’m just not sure how to finish it,” Shiloh said. It was always hard, like she was pouring a piece of her heart out on the paper.
She glanced up at Symone whose face was hidden behind the letter. Shiloh hadn’t noticed it before, but large words were scrawled across the back. She snatched it from Symone’s hands.
“Hey!” Symone protested, but Shiloh ignored her, pulling the letter close to her nose to read the words.
P.P.P.(how many P’s are we at now?)S. Be in the Great Hall at five minutes after noon this Sunday. You won’t regret it!
Shiloh blinked. “Symone, what time did you say it was?”
Symone frowned at her curiously. “Ten until noon. Why?”
Shiloh pushed herself upright, feeling her heart pick up speed. It was a long walk from the depths of the dungeon up to the Great Hall, and she still had to change her clothes. She shoved herself to her feet, ran about to her trunk and threw it open. She shoved about clothes, books, and potion bottles, desperately searching for a clean pair of robes. But what was she to wear? Why did she care? After all, it was only George who wanted to meet her.
She froze realizing a critical flaw in her thinking. If she met them, everything would be spoiled. They would know she was a Slytherin, and then they’d rip up her letters sooner than reading them. She quickly ruled out the possibility. They had no possible clue who she was.
Shiloh seized a pair of robes that didn’t have a Slytherin badge sown upon it and hopped back onto her bed.
Shiloh’s best friend stared at her, her mouth agape. “What’s going on, Shiloh?”
Shiloh only shoved the letter in Symone’s hand. “Look at the back.” But before she could, Shiloh gave her an urgent push. “Watch for me,” Shiloh hissed.
Symone sent one last bewildered look over her shoulder before climbing to her feet and pulling the curtain closed behind her. She would keep watch—and read the letter—while Shiloh changed.
Once decent, Shiloh fell to her knees. She made sure the ink on the letter was dry, before tucking it inside her pillowcase for safe keeping. She sprang off her bed and began the search for her shoes. She found them—in Symone’s hands.
Symone wore a broad, excited smile, her white teeth flashing against her dark skin in a way that seemed brighter than usual. “I wonder what they have planned.”
Shiloh seized her shoes and hurriedly pulled them on, before swiftly exiting the room with Symone on her heels.
“I don’t know,” Shiloh finally replied, when she was safely out of her roommastes earshot. “But I have to find out.”
Her step was brisk as she made her way out of the dorms and Symone scrambled to follow. The common room was relatively empty; it seemed the last day of term was always sombre. Shiloh caught the sight of familiar people seated within the chairs, and their voices drifted to her as soon as she exited the girls’ dorm.
“So, Jacob,” Persephone was beginning, in the low sing-song tone she always used when she was exceptionally curious about something. She sat between Nicolette and Valiant on the couch, facing Jacob who was slumped in one chair looking half-awake. “Why was Demeter with you on Friday?”
It was a question that Shiloh had meant to ask Jacob that night, but in light of the serious conversation they had held immediately after that, it hadn’t seemed important anymore. She considered for a moment lingering to hear Jacob’s response, but she wanted to see what George had planned more. She passed them with nothing more than a quick glance.
But Jacob was paying more attention to Shiloh than the girl who had just asked him a question. Sitting up in his chair, he turned about to see the two trying to make a quick escape.
“Where you off to in such a hurry?” He gave a smile—a kind, affectionate smile that was wholly her Jacob, the same smile he gave everytime he looked at her since that night.
“Lunch,” she called over her shoulder.
“Without us?” Nicolette protested and leapt to her feet.
Shiloh only murmured the password, watched the door rumble out of her way, and stepped out into the cool dungeon hall. She heard feet against stone as her friends—it really did feel good to call them that—hurried to catch up with her.
“What’s the rush?” Jacob said, panting as though he had run a mile to catch up to his over-eager friend. He set her hand on her shoulder, but it was like attempting bridle a spirited horse. She simply kept galloping down the halls.
“I just have to be there by five after noon.”
“Why? Afraid they’re going to run out of food?” Jacob teased.
Shiloh didn’t respond. Friend or not, she still wouldn’t talk about her letters or George with Jacob.
Persephone took advantage of the silence. “Jacob, I’m still waiting for you answer my question.”
Shiloh listened with one ear, while her mind was preoccupied with the wondering of, What time is it now? Will I get there in time? Her heart beat a bit uneasily, and she ran her fingers through her hair. She wondered why she was so nervous, so excited, so anxious to just see him. And why...why was she still running her fingers through her messy hair as though she was worried about how imperfect George might think it looked?
“I don’t know,” Jacob was saying, sounding amazed himself. “We just ran into each other and started talking.”
“You and Demeter?” Persephone gasped. “Just talking? I mean, without trying to kill each other.”
“I guess so.”
“Someone catch me,” Persephone proclaimed melodramatically. “I think I might faint.” She swooned into Valiant’s arms. With a vicious smirk, Valiant pulled her arms away.
Persephone landed on the stone floor with a soft thump followed by a cry of ‘Ouch’.
Nicolette giggled, offered her hand towards Persephone, and helped her to her feet. “You see,” she said, to no one in particular. “I told you Demeter fancied him.”
Shiloh froze, her hand on the door that led into the Entrance Hall, and turned her head, her gaze sharp. Jacob too had stopped to gap at Nicolette as though scarcely believing what she had said. But Shiloh could believe it.
Shiloh honestly thought Demeter was beginning to see the truth. How could she not? Jacob was so different it was only a matter of time before she began to trust him. And then what? Would Demeter fall again for the boy she had once said yes to?
One day, Jacob and Demeter would be a couple. Shiloh feared for day. How long would it take for his new girlfriend to take his attentions away from the Heretics? How long until Demeter would convinced him to give up his troublemaking ways altogether?
How long after that until Shiloh completely lost her Jacob?
Shiloh didn’t have much time to worry about it, for Symone reached around her, opened the door, and shoved her into the Entrance Hall. As they stumbled out in the warmth and light, Symone seized Shiloh’s hand and yanked her towards the Great Hall.
As they entered, Shiloh looked anxiously across the hall at the Gryffindor table. She could make out the two redheads, sitting side-by-side as innocent looking as angels which. George was chatting with the girl by his side, who sat so near Shiloh felt disgust rise in her throat.
She studied the twins hard, but still they didn’t do anything. Her stomach began to twist, until Symone spoke her fear. “Did we miss it?”
“Miss what?” Jacob asked as he came up from behind Shiloh, resting his hands lightly on her shoulder, blinking down at Shiloh.
She didn’t reply, only seized his wrist and twisted it so she could see the face of his watch, ignoring his protest. The long hand quivered between the twelve and one. Two minutes to go.
“What you going bonkers for this time, Shi?” Jacob questioned teasingly.
Shiloh tipped her head back so she could meet his eyes. She thought about explaining, but as soon as she had opened her mouth, an uproarious sound rose from the other end of the hall. She jerked her head down to gaze at the Gryffindor table. Fred and George were climbing to their feet, standing on the benches and clambering onto the table.
Their mouths were wide as they dramatically belted out what it took Shiloh a moment to realize was singing—or what passed as it. But it wasn’t Fred and George making a scene of their mischievous selves that made Shiloh’s jaw drop. No, it was the song in which they sung, a song they had clearly written. As the first lines reached her ears, she felt her heart pounding against her chest as though she had run a mile.
Because they were singing about her.
The bold, the mischievous, the proud
Here's to the Heretics!
Let us we all fight along!”
The conversations that had roared through the Great Hall went utterly silent as the boisterous music continued to fill the hall. The twins now stood on the table, their chests thrust out proudly and their chins held high as though they were famous opera singers. Before the next lines, George pulled his wand from the pocket and swung it about, casting a charm. Spoons on the Gryffindor table leaped upward eagerly and began to clang against the cups, goblets, and bowls, offering a clang that didn’t have a steady rhythm, but then again, neither did the song. It went from low to high and the two were truly horrible singers, but Shiloh listened to the atrocious thing intently, thinking that it might have been the most amazing thing she had ever heard.
A smile spread across her face, so wide her cheeks ached. She scarcely noticed; her eyes were solely upon George—the boy who had written a song for her.
He likes the Heretics! she thought as her heart rejoiced. He likes me!
And Hogwarts was all affright.
But the Heretics stuck out their tongues
And mooned him as they stood to fight.
Shiloh felt heat rush up her neck and it took all her will to keep from turning a shade of red she had not known was in existence. Jacob doubled over in fierce laughing, and the girls in the Heretics giggled fiercely. Even despite Shiloh’s embarrassment, she too found herself joining them in their laughter. Somewhere, others did the same, while others just rolled their eyes or gave amused smiles. Only a few glared menacingly at the two Gryffindors, a couple Slytherins and a few who weren’t Slytherin, but the incorrigible twins hardly noticed.
And made them sing “I LOVE MUGGLEBORNS.”
The Heretics flipped them off and replied
Sure as hell, that's right!”
Professor McGonagall bustled into view, wearing a fierce expression. Shiloh knew if her Head of House was looking at her like that, she would have wished the world to open up and swallow her whole, if it at least got her away from Professor Snape’s frightful glare.
Without giving McGonagall a chance to speak, Fred leaped over the head of a first year who ducked in fright. Fred landed before her and swept a deep bow.
“May I have this dance?” Fred requested with a twisted half-smile that looked just as charming as his brothers.
“What?” was her only response. After four year, the boys couldn’t cease to stun their Head of House.
Fred seized her hand, pulled her near, and began to swing her about in a dance. McGonagall seemed too stunned to speak, and only allowed herself to be dragged about by the rambunctious Fred Weasley, while George continued to belt out the song.
And wish them all well.
Let's give the mighty “Huzzah!”
And may the Slyths go straight to Hell!”
George pumped his fist in the air, like the lead singer of the Weird Sisters after he finished a rock ballad and cried, “Thank you, Hogwarts!”
Fred pressed his cheek to McGonagall’s and tango-ed her across the floor, then dipped her low. Her tall hat slipped from her head and plopped onto the floor. When he set her upright, she squared her shoulders in an attempt to look as dignified as possible, but amidst the laughter, George's bows, and Fred's suggestive wink, it was nearly impossible.
Trying to fight back a brilliant blush, McGonagall snatched up her hat and sat it back on her head. Then she fixed her hot eyes upon the redheaded culprit, fixing him with a hot gaze. “I hope that was worth a month of detentions, Mr Weasley...and—“ She looked up at George. “—and Mr Weasley.”
“Totally,” Fred and George said in unison.
McGonagall narrowed her gaze, looking like a furious cat, and snarled, “Mr Weasley, get off the table at once. Tables are for food, not feet.”
“Shesh, McGonagall,” George said as he too leaped over the misfortunate first-year. “You sound like my mum.”
McGonagall only ignored him and swept away.
Jacob clapped his hands together, one pair of hands clapping that soon became hundreds. Shiloh excitedly brought her hands together, as Persephone gave a shrill cat-call of a whistle. Fred and George swept deep bows, and George’s dimple flashed handsomely on his cheek.
Shiloh’s heart hammered and felt wonderfully warm, as though some pleasant fire filled her chest and she could scarcely breathe—not in a way that was painful, but in a way that made her feel giddy and lightheaded. It was a feeling that she had never felt before, entirely new, exciting and wonderful.
And some part of her, though she would never admit it, wondered if this was what fancying someone was like.
Nearby people slapped George heartily on his back, but he was beginning to make his way through the crowd...towards Shiloh. Her heart beat louder, until she could hear it in her ears. He was coming towards her, and she thought of the dream that had happened so long ago but still remained vivid in her mind—George catching her in his arms, spinning her about, telling her she was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
But it was not Shiloh who George caught in his arms. It was the sandy-haired girl who stood before Shiloh, a wide grin upon her face. She went eagerly into his grasp, as though she had been there many times before. George spun her around exuberantly, their laughter intertwining. And when he had set her down, he eagerly kissed her laughing lips.
Someone had stabbed Shiloh in her heart. It was the only explanation to how her heart could go from such merry-making to feeling as though it lay broken and bleeding. The pain came so suddenly, that a gasp left Shiloh’s mouth.
Symone turned to her, her eyes wide with sorrow. “I’m sorry, Shiloh.”
Sorry? Why was Symone sorry when she couldn’t possibly understand how Shiloh felt? Shiloh didn’t understand why she felt this way. But who was she kidding? Of course, she knew!
She’d felt this way before. She’d felt it when Symone seemed to be spending more attention with the other Heretics than with Shiloh, or whenever the thought of Jacob and Demeter being together came to her mind, but she had never felt like this. She’d never felt so hurt than now when she knew that George had a girlfriend. She’d never wanted to scream at some girl she didn’t even know. And Shiloh had never felt as though her heart was being ripped apart.
Shiloh was jealous.
That’s ridiculous! she snapped at herself. Because the only way you could be jealous if you fancied him, and... She meant to think you don’t. She truly did, but the protest didn’t come. Because she finally accepted one crushing truth that made the jealousy all the harder.
She had been such a fool! She had known she could always lie her way out of trouble, but she had never known she was such an exceptional liar that she could deceive herself so perfectly. But she had. She had lied to Jacob, Symone, and herself. It was why she had begun writing to him, it was why she was so uncharacteristic around them, and it was why it had hurt so awfully when Jacob had teased her. But deep down, she’d known it all along. She’d just been too scared to admit it.
Shiloh fancied George Weasley. He was her very first crush, because he was brilliant and kind and so amazing. But she couldn’t like him. Because looking at George and his girlfriend, who were still snogging to the appreciative whoops of George’s brother, Shiloh knew he would never like her back.
It was the stupidest thing she had ever done. She didn’t just open up her heart and let anyone in. She was smarter than that, better than that, but she had paved her way to heartbreak one letter, one glance, one thought at a time.
Symone must have known it, for she reached out a hand. Shiloh only stepped away from her, not wanting to be comforted. She wanted to feel the ache of it so she would never forget how stupid she had been.
As she backed up another step, she bumped into Jacob and turned to face him, but he too was staring at her. She hated that he had been right all along, and she deserved any mocking he gave her. But he only sent her the same apologetic look as Symone, if he said he was sorry, she would hex him.
She shoved past him, not wanting to hear it, and stormed away—away from the cheers that came from George’s kiss, away from the pain, and even her own stupidity. She was running away, like she always did.
“Shiloh, wait!” Jacob called.
“No,” Symone snapped. “I’m her best friend. I’ll go talk to her.”
But Shiloh didn’t want to be talked to. She wanted to be left alone. So her brisk pace turned into a full out run, hoping Symone wouldn’t care about her enough to give into a chase. But Symone was Shiloh’s best friend; she cared enough to chase her to the ends of the earth.
The race finally ended back in their dormitory, as Shiloh stood panting before her bed. Shiloh blinked rapidly and took a deep breath to calm herself. She would not cry because of some stupid boy!
She heard the door open as Symone slammed into the empty room after her and pounded breathlessly up behind her. “Shiloh,” she began, resting a hand on Shiloh’s elbow, “are you okay?”
If Shiloh had been honest, she would have said no but she was an excellent liar and enjoyed misleading herself. Why break a perfectly rotten habit now? “I’m fine,” she said, forcing a neutral look on her face.
“No...No, you’re not.”
“Why not?” Shiloh asked. She wanted to be fine. She certainly didn’t want to think that she had let a guy into her life...not to mention her heart, when she had known full well that it could only end badly.
Curse it, I knew!
From the moment she began writing the letters she had known that as soon as George found out she was a Slytherin, he would hate her for it. It was the same rotten prejudice that she hated in the Conformists of Slytherin and whoever else hated those who weren’t pure, but she had overlooked it in George...because she fancied him. The pain had come a bit sooner and stronger than she had expected, for reasons a bit different than the rejection of a friendship, but still it was her fault.
I never should have written him.
“Because you like him,” Symone reasoned. “And you just watched him snog another girl. That’s got to smart.”
“Yes, I like him,” Shiloh admitted, for there was no use denying what they both knew—what Symone had known from the beginning. And yes, it hurts.
She knew there was only one way to escape it, and that was to run, to put as much distance between her and George as possible, and then to forget he even existed. It was the only way to escape the pain again. She had to go numb and to pretend it was all just a bad memory. She could do that; she done it many times before.
And she knew the first step was the hardest step.
She lowered herself to her knees before her trunk while Symone just blinked at her, mouth opening but no words coming worth. There were no words to make this situation better; only action.
Shiloh threw open the trunk and slowly moved away the clothes until she found what she was looking for: a chocolate frog box. Inside was not chocolate frogs, she knew, but one of the letters George and Fred had written her. She meant to collect them, a cherished keepsake, but things never went according to plan in her life, did they? She opened it, placed the other letter she had pushed into her pocket into it, then stood. She walked to the head of her bed and reached her hand into the pillowcase after the almost written letter. That too was dropped into box.
Shiloh’s strides were slow (in case she changed her mind) but determined (because she knew she wouldn’t). She walked to the fireplace and stood before it, staring into the roaring fire, then stretched out the box—a sacrifice to God to take away her pain.
Realizing what she was doing, Symone shrieked in horror and tore across the room to grab her wrist. “No, Shiloh, you can’t!”
Shiloh whipped away. “Why shouldn’t I?” she demanded.
“Because you like him!” she insisted.
“Yes, I like him,” Shiloh admitted for the second time, but this time it was laced with annoyance. She knew this was the only to end the pain, and pain made her do stupid things, like rant, “He’s brilliant and handsome and funny. But you know what else, Symone? He will never like me back.”
Symone recoiled. “Don’t say that. You’re smart and pretty; he’d be stupid not to like you.”
“He has a girlfriend,” Shiloh said, and by the look on Symone’s face, she had forgotten that. But Shiloh couldn’t. She could still see the girl, blue eyes bright, blond hair twirling. She was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Shiloh had no comparison to a girl like that. And besides, “I’m Slytherin.”
“So?” Symone snapped determinedly. “You’ll prove to him that Slytherins aren’t bad. That they can be as good as any Gryffindor and better. The Heretics are proof of that, and he loves the Heretics.”
“Only because he doesn’t know we’re Slytherin,” Shiloh pointed out. “And I won’t convince him Slytherins are all right. Symone, he would never even look at me.”
Yes, he would snog that Gryffindor girl, but all the times Shiloh had met him, George hadn’t even looked at Shiloh. She had no hope of even a friendship of him. It was better to accept that now, not a year from now when the truth of Shadow’s identity finally came out.
“But you’ll change that!” Symone said fiercely, grasping Shiloh’s arm even tighter. “I know you will!”
Shiloh looked down at the floor and shook her head. She was hurt enough and, if she tried to keep writing, tried to make him understand about Slytherin, it could only end in more agony. And it just...
“It’s just not worth the risk.”
Shiloh pulled her arm away and Symone let it slid from her grasp, but her eyes were wide with dread and her breath came unevenly.
“Please don’t,” she pleaded.
But Shiloh could see no other way. She had let herself feel hurt once; she wouldn’t do it again.
She stretched out her hand and said one last goodbye to George, to Shadow, to any hope that the two could one day be friends. She let the box fall. It landed in the centre of the fire, to be consumed.
She didn’t watch it burn, only turned around and walked towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Symone demanded.
“To lunch,” Shiloh said. Perfectly normal lunch.
“But George is still there,” Symone protested, “with his girlfriend.”
“So?” Shiloh’s voice said she didn’t care, her face said the same. Her mind was lying that it was true, and her heart would one day believe it too. She would see to that.
Symone only gave a shrug. “Okay, I’ll catch up in a minute.”
Shiloh shrugged her shoulders apathetically and walked out of the room, leaving all the feelings she’d ever had for George Weasley back in a chocolate frog box in a hot fire until they all smouldered into ashes.
It seemed so very cruel, that in one day the two desires of Shiloh’s heart could be taken away.
But that was just what this world was.
Shiloh was only twelve-year-old, much too young to understand something like that, but she knew it too well.
Shiloh stared at the paper that lay before her on the desk, telling the story of two Death Eaters who fates had met with some Aurors, one by the name of Zara Zell. Shiloh didn’t need to read the story; she had already heard it before. She knew of her mother’s death at her uncle’s hand, and her uncle’s imprisonment. But now, staring back at her from the page, was the face she had never desired to see.
Her mother was younger than she had imagined, only a couple of years older than Jacob when this picture was taken, and she was beautiful. Long blonde hair framed about her porcelain face—a smooth, defined jaw line and soft features just like Shiloh's, she realized with a start. But Ellessa's eyes were an icy blue and slanted, quite unlike Shiloh's own gaze.
Shiloh flicked her gaze to the next picture, to the one she knew as her uncle. Mordecai resembled his sister – same blonde hair, same blue eyes, and same arrogant smile. His face had more of a chiselled look, as though some Muggle artist had formed his sharp cheekbones and jaw line from a slab of marble. He was handsome and with that proud look in his eyes that matched Ellessa, he was very aware of it.
Shiloh slapped her hand down on them to cover them. Sometimes it was better not to know, and she wished she had never seen the picture.
She’d wished she’d never come back to the library at all.
She had thought it befitting to return here and finish her search. After all, she had begun in when she had first written to George. It was poetic irony to finish it after she’d stopped writing. The library was dead quiet and empty as a ghost town. Only a few Ravenclaws found it necessary to study on the last day of term.
It had seemed perfect to finish and finish she had, but Shiloh had found nothing, absolutely nothing.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise. What had she hoped for? An engagement announcement? A picture of them winning ‘The Cutest Couple’ award? A certain male Death Eater who she had committed a treacherous crime with?
Shiloh sighed. There had never really been much hope, but it had been a desperate desire to find her father, find the missing part of her, and it had only crumbled around her.
She heard footsteps behind her, and she turned about, already suspecting who was approaching her. Jacob was storming towards, looking a strange angry mixture of enraged and relieved. When he stopped before her, he placed his hands on his hips, breathing so hard his breath came as wheezes. He closed his mouth and took a deep breath to visibly calm herself.
“Do you want to explain why you thought it was a bloody good idea to wonder off on your own?” he demanded, his anger barely disguised beneath his words.
“No,” Shiloh replied flatly.
Jacob sucked in another deep breath. “You know, you scared Symone half to death when she walked in the common room and saw me. She scared me half to death when she woke me up from a sound sleep screaming about where you were. Imagine my surprise when she told me I was supposed to be in the library with you.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “But I’m fine. I just needed to be alone.”
Jacob let out a deep breath and his anger and fear left him in a rush. He eyed her first, as though making sure she really was all right, to the papers that were left scattered all over the table. Shiloh startled, realizing if he saw the contents there were too many questions that he could ask. And she wasn’t ready to tell Jacob the truth about her. Not today when she had already lost so much. She couldn’t lose her friend.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with George, does it?”
Shiloh gritted her teeth, holding within a scream that would have matched the sound her heart made at the mention of his name. “No.”
Shiloh turned her head to glare at him. “If you came to say I told you so, you can just spit it out.”
Jacob’s gaze darkened, and she knew the words had had the power to sting.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean that.”
“I know,” Jacob said as he ran a hand through his hair. He sighed. “I’m sorry too. I never should have teased you. I never meant any of that either.”
“I know.” Shiloh looked away from him, back at the paper, but that wasn’t a welcome sight either.
Jacob opened his mouth, as though about to say more, but Shiloh didn’t want him to. “Just give me a minute to put these up, and I’ll go back with you,” she said.
Once she had an armful of papers, she hurried to the shelf they belonged in and shoved them into. But by the time she turned about, she realized she had made a grave mistake. For Jacob had stepped forward, looking down at the paper she had left spread open. As Jacob took in her mother’s face, a deep frown pulled at his lips.
“Why are you reading about the Hardens?”
The Hardens. He said it like he knew them, for his voice was laced with disgust as he spat the name from his mouth. But everyone knew, Shiloh reminded herself. The wizarding world knew and hated the Hardens, as though it was their families they’d tortured and killed. They despised the Hardens because they were the sort that deserved to be despised. And Shiloh couldn’t blame them; she hated them too.
But she was one of them.
Shiloh pushed the thoughts out of her mind, made her face placid, and lied smoothly, “I’m doing an extra credit essay over the holidays for History of Magic. I just needed a bit more information before I went home tomorrow.”
“An essay on what?” Jacob scoffed in bitter sarcasm. “The cruellest people that ever lived.”
Shiloh's blood ran cold. Seeing the vehement hate in his eyes, she wondered if he were to know who she really was, if he would hate her too.
“You okay, Shi?” Jacob asked. “You look a bit pale.”
“I'm fine,” she assured, and as she listened to her tone, she almost believed it herself. She would have too, if her stomach wasn't so queasy she thought she might vomit.
He gazed at her uncertainly, but how could he know the torment that Shiloh was facing. He couldn’t know what it was like to be the daughter of the woman he had just described, and to never know who her father was, but know that he could only be as horrible as her mother.
And she wondered why she had wanted to find her father in the first place?
Wasn’t being the daughter of one Death Eater enough?
And what if she had found him while she had searched the paper, found a name, a face, and he had still been alive? Would she have sought him out? She decided, no, when it came down to it, she probably would have come to her senses and ripped up the paper. He could only have hurt her like her mother did. After all, he’d never wanted her. He’d abandoned her before she was even born, like she was rubbish.
Maybe because she was.
I wish I’d never began looking, her thoughts whimpered.
“Extra credit, Shiloh, really?” Jacob was questioning, pulling her from her thoughts. “Can we try another excuse, because I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that one? I mean, what kind of girl picks a topic such as this?”
Without pause, she met his eyes and said, “A girl like me.”
He let it go and said no more, which was the goal of her smooth response. She pulled the paper and rolled it up, doing her best not to look down at the picture, but feeling the eyes blinking up at her.
She wouldn’t be back, she knew. The search for her father ended today. She wouldn’t find him; she didn’t want to. She had spent twelve years burying the past only to stupidly dig it up. It was better to leave it as it had been, dark and obscured in the forgotten shadows of her past.
Dumbledore had been right. There were some things, some desires of the heart, worth taking the risk for, and there were some things...well...
Some things were best left forgotten.
“Come on, Jacob,” she said, as she turned to the only one she’d ever taken a risk on. “You can walk me down to the dungeons. I have detention with Professor Snape.”
Severus stepped aside as four second-years came skipping down the dungeon, belting out the tune the damnable Weasley twins had sung during what had begun as a peaceful lunch. “Here’s to the Heretics!”
The Heretics, huh? A bunch of fools they were. The Heir of Slytherin set a monster on Hogwarts, and what was their response? Displaying their righteous opinions against prejudice for all of Hogwarts to see. The Heretics might as well be poking the Dark Lord with a stick.
Severus had even discussed the matter with Albus.
“They’re going to get themselves hurt, Albus,” Severus had pointed out to him, as they walked from lunch together. “They’re playing with fire that’s far hotter than they realize.”
Albus, of course, had shown absolutely no concern. He had only offered a whimsical smile and, as his eyes danced merrily, he had almost seemed proud. “They’re standing up for what’s right, Severus.”
What was right? They were children; what did they know about what was right?
As the girls passed, Severus sent them a fierce glare that he hoped would silence them. However, Bloodmoon glared back, Zell ignored him, and Andreou sang all the louder. Only one of them was ambitious enough to turn about and to say sweetly, “Merry Christmas, Professor Snape!”
Severus glared at them all the more, and seeing this, the three girls seized the back of the blond’s robes and yanked her away from him, hiding their smiles. But at least, they’d stopped singing.
Severus whirled away from them, threw open the door to his office, and slammed it shut behind him.
“Merry Christmas indeed,” he seethed, as he drew his wand and flicked it at the fireplace. A fire burst to life, so large and vicious it nearly exploded out of the fireplace before it settled back down in a crackling fire.
Had any of his Christmases ever been merry? The closest he had ever come to happiness on the holidays was when he had spent them with Lily. But of course, all good things must come to an end, and his Christmases had been lonely and miserable ever since.
Then why was this year so much harder? Severus wondered. Why did every merry smile grate on his nerves? But maybe it was because it was this Christmas that he had finally accepted that every Christmas he shared would be spent alone. There was no Lily to bake him cookies, and no daughter to ever buy presents for.
Severus sighed and slumped into his chair behind his desk. He wished for something tedious to take his mind off of the coming holiday, but being end of term, there were no papers to grade, no lesson plans to work up. His hand moved of its own accord.
To the desk. To the drawer. To where lay the only piece of his daughter he had.
The drawer stuck as it always did, and it took quite a bit of tugging and pulling and swearing to pull it open. He ruffled through the papers to where the small square was hidden and caught it carefully in his long fingertips. He didn’t have to look at the picture to know the face; he had it so memorized it haunted him in his dreams. But still he looked at it, at the dark hair and black eyes, the little face. And he wondered how a slip of paper could bring him so much pain.
Was this to be his life? Bringing out the picture every July 1st, every Christmas, every damned moment he missed her until the end of his life?
You love her, Severus.
Yes, I love her. And I always will.
Severus felt something hot press into the back of his eyes, an act that only made him angrily. He slammed his fist into the desk. He would not cry!
There was a knock on the door, startling him.
“Who is it?” he barked at the door, willing whoever it was to go away.
“Shiloh Sanders, sir,” his visitor replied. “I’m here for my detention.”
Severus quickly returned the picture to the desk, shoving hard to get the stiff drawer to close. He rose to his feet, rounded the desk, and jerked the door open. Sure even, Sanders stood there, blinking up at him. Osgood hovered behind her, his arms crossed loosely over his chest, like he was some form of a bodyguard.
For a moment, Severus pondered if Shiloh knew. If she noticed the way the lines beneath the boy’s eyes were growing darker and the skin of his flesh was getting paler. Osgood had admitted to him that he was sleeping more, the pain was getting worse, and the potions Severus made for him was only serving to make him sicker. He was getting worse.
Severus brushed the thoughts away and stepped back so she could enter. Osgood bid her goodbye, she stepped within, and Severus slammed the door.
Severus was at a loss of what to do with her. In all truth, he had forgotten about the detention he had given her. Whether it was his preoccupation with his dislike of the holidays or his goal to block the incident of the snowball out, he hadn’t given it any thought since then. He had no punishment planned, no floors that needed to be scrubbed and he had already had Osgood alphabetize his potion ingredients the night before. He thought swiftly for inspiration, but in the end, he only told her to sit at the desk and shoved the paper and inkwell towards her.
“What should I write, professor?” she asked.
Severus had to consider that for a moment. He supposed she could write sentences, but what sentence exactly? I will not toss a snowball into a professors’ face, seemed more like a good comedy than a cruel punishment. So instead, he came up with the next idea. “Write an essay on why the rule of underage students not using magic outside of the classroom should be followed. Three rolls of parchment might make it sink in.”
There were very few people who accepted detention with such grace. It was almost disappointing.
After worrying all the way down from the library what punishment awaited her, having to write an essay was almost disappointing. Jacob had tormented her that Professor Snape was likely to Stickify her to the wall and throw snowballs at her. Shiloh had only scoffed sceptically, but being presented with that idea, made the simple act of writing an essay uncreative.
Professor Snape did seem a bit distracted tonight. From the moment she had begun scratching at the paper, he had turned his gaze into the fire and blinked into it as though he was a million miles from the cold, dark office.
Maybe he was thinking of the upcoming holiday, and the time spent with family. Did he have a family? A quick look at his left hand told her that he wasn’t married, and there were no photographs of smiling faces upon the desk. It was hardly her business, but she hoped when he left tomorrow, he had someone to go home to. No one should be alone on Christmas.
Images of her mother and father came to her mind, and suddenly she missed them. There was something about being with her parents that made the world seem safer and less painful. And after a day like today, with the search in the library and...George, Shiloh wanted nothing more than to go home.
Shiloh sighed, wishing tomorrow was here, and focused on the essay. Professor Snape had collected a book from one of the bookshelves, something about potions, and was shifting through it..
Shiloh’s hand began to cramp within an hour in, and she gave it a little shake in the attempt to loosen it before reaching the long black feather quill towards the inkwell. She quickly discovered that the inkwell was empty, and she looked up at Professor Snape. Shiloh hated to interrupt his concentration, but it couldn’t be helped.
He looked up.
“I’m out of ink, sir.”
His eyes flicked to the empty glass. He leaned back and wrapped his fingers around the top drawer. When it refused to budge, he swore impatiently, drew his wand, and flicked it sharply at the drawer. With an explosion, the drawer rocketed from the desk and skidded across the floor. Papers rained down from the ceiling, and the inkpot she had desired crashed into the floor.
Professor Snape swore and flicked his wand, vanishing the ink and repairing the jar. Shiloh climbed to her feet and began collecting the scattered papers. She set a stack of them on the desk and noticed she had missed one. The small square was thicker than the rest, and she realized as she picked it up that it wasn’t just some spare parchment, but a photograph. She told herself not to look—it was simply none of her business—but her curiosity got the better of her.
She turned it about in her fingers. An invisible hand wrapped about her neck, leaving her breathless no matter how much her breath quickened. She stood there, struggling to breath for a long moment.
Because it wasn’t possible.
It simply wasn’t.
It was a picture Shiloh had seen a thousand times, every time she had flipped open her music box. The baby who lay in the picture was even more familiar, and Shiloh’s music box was tucked within the blankets. And those big black eyes that blinked up at her.
Those were her eyes.
No, no, it wasn’t possible.
Severus certainly hadn’t meant to aim as much force into that spell, and though he swore as it skid across the floor, he couldn’t help but think that the drawer had had it coming.
What he hadn’t considered, as he calmly cleaned up the mess with a few flicks of his wand and his student collected the papers, was that was the drawer that contained the picture. He had quite kept that from his mind until he saw Sanders, standing with a look of exaggerated shock—even horror—on her face. His precious photograph was in her fingertips.
Was it truly so shocking that he might have a picture in his desk drawer? For all she knew, he was the proud father of five. It was highly doubtful, Severus admitted, but surely not so much so that it warranted her slack jaw and almost sickened amazement. Disgusted by her rudeness, he snatched the picture from her limp fingers.
“That’s mine,” he snarled possessively.
She stared at him, her black eyes riddled with disbelief, her pale skin whiter than cream. Her lips trembling, she stuttered, “N-no.”
“Excuse me?” Severus replied sharply, hoping the annoyed tone he chose would keep her from continuing with personal comments and dumb questions. He set his piercing gaze upon her and waited for her to continue.
She was shaking; Severus began to feel a bit of concern. This couldn’t be just about this picture could it?
“T-that’s...” she stammered. As though realizing how pathetic she sounded, she stopped, caught her breath, stilled her shaking frame, and tried again. It came out in a single, winded breath. “That’s mine.”
The words landed upon his ears, but the meaning escaped his mind. “What are you talking about? This foolishness—“Severus’ words ran off as the implications of what she had said finally sank in, pounding into him with such force that it left him breathless. He was quite sure the stunned surprise that had marred Sanders face a moment before now covered his own. But no, she couldn’t have said it was hers, couldn’t be claiming that she was the girl in the picture. It was impossible.
He spoke each word one at a time. “What...do...you...mean?”
The surprise—or perhaps it was panic—had faded, and the Sanders he knew was back, her eyes more forceful, her voice strong.
“That’s me. That’s my baby picture, and that’s my music box.” She stopped and swallowed, a touch of fear coming back in her eyes as she asked, “Why do you have my baby picture, Professor Snape?”
No, no, it couldn’t be!
He had checked her file, hadn’t he? Her birth date was August, not July. This girl that stood before him couldn’t possibly be his daughter.
But still he looked at her...really looked, as though he had never laid eyes on her. Her soft, delicate features, her dark hair, her onyx eyes. Could it be?
“Are...” And now he was the one stammering. “Are you sure.”
“Yes,” she said without hesitation. She was breathing hard, and he wondered vaguely if her heart was pounding just as hard as his.
“Do you still have the music box?”
She frowned in confusion. “Yes, but—“
“Here with you...at Hogwarts?”
“Why does that matter, Professor?” she asked sharply.
“Yes or no?” he demanded.
Perhaps it was the urgency in his voice that kept him from arguing, but she swallowed her undoubtedly many questions. “Yes.”
“Go get it and bring it back here.”
“Go!” he said fiercely.
She hesitated, eyeing him in a mixture of caution and curiosity. He could see that she was terrified, for the situation most have been scary. The motives for a professor having a baby picture in his desk—the way she claimed hers was in his—were neither pleasant nor comforting. Perhaps she would have been wiser if she had run from the room and never came back. He certainly didn’t wish her to, so he decided to try to be more kind.
“Please, Miss Sanders,” he said more calmly. “It is extremely important that you get your music box. I promise I will explain everything when you get back.”
Would he? He supposed he would have no other choice. The truth would come out, one way or another.
Shiloh gave him one last uneasy look, then nodded. She turned and bolted from the room, leaving him to sit quietly, his heart pounding, his mind reeling.
Somehow...someway...was it really possible? He had given up, only to come the closest to finding her he had ever been. And yet, he could hardly believe it was real. Had the girl he had fought with in an insane battle of wits, the girl who had sat in his classroom every day, and who he had so casually excluded from the possibility, really be his daughter?
Had all he had ever wanted been right in front him all along?
He stood, unable to remain sitting, and moved to the fire, staring into it. His heart leaped into his throat, exploding into a rapid, rejoicing beat. Perhaps what he had lost all those years ago was about to be found. Perhaps the longing that had begun on that muggy, rainy July was about to end. Perhaps the skies wouldn’t mourn for him anymore.
Perhaps Severus Snape had finally found his little girl.
“Shiloh,” he whispered, trying out the name, and a smile—one that was little more than a twitch of his lips—appeared. He liked her name.
Shiloh finally stopped running when she reached the common room and she slid to a halt in the centre of the room. The place was empty –and she cursed it. She longed to find Jacob, snoozing in one the stylish armchairs, so she could beg him to protect her.
But protect her from what?
She knew the implications of why an adult of no relation might have a child’s picture in their desk, but Professor Snape didn’t seem like the kind. But then again, none of them ever did—or so her parents had warned her. But even if that had been the case, how had Professor Snape found a picture of her as a newborn—a picture Ellessa had taken?
She stood in the middle of the empty common room, knowing she was completely on her own. If she stayed and hid, she knew Professor Snape could easily find her. But if she returned, he had promised to explain. She wasn’t sure she would like the answers, and she knew she couldn’t defend herself if he would try to hurt her.
Did she think he would hurt her?
In the end, she didn’t feel as though she had a choice. Sooner or later, she would have to face him.
Taking a deep breath and collecting her courage—which wasn’t admittedly much—she hurried to her room, collected her music box, and clutching it to her racing heart, made her way through the cold dungeon hallways to his office.
Again she hesitated, but she at last laid a trembling hand on the door of the office and pushed it open. She cautiously peeked within. Professor Snape stood facing the fireplace, his hands clasped behind his back. Hearing the door, he turned around and beckoned her to come within. With one hand clutching her box and the other her wand, she entered. She left the door ajar, wide enough that she could slide through if she should need a quick escape.
“Let me see it.”
Shiloh clutched it to herself even tighter and stared untrustingly at the long-fingered hands he had stretched forth. But if she wanted answers...
She stepped forward and set it reluctantly in his hands.
“Be careful with it,” she warned.
Severus had every intention of doing just that. It was beautiful, rich, and more ostentatious than anything he would have imagined Shiloh owning. However, it was precisely Ellessa’s style.
And it was the one...the very same was as in the picture.
He continued his investigation and cracked the lid, expecting to hear a melody fit for such an excellent piece of workmanship. He carefully spun the golden windup, but no matter how he turned it, no music came forth.
“Is it broken?” he asked.
“No,” she said, “it’s bewitched so only I can hear it.”
That sounded like Ellessa too. Not the sort to listen to a baby cry, but not the sort to listen to any music to smooth it either.
He opened the lid all the way, looking for any more evidence that bound this one to the one in the picture. What met his eyes was his picture, the very same one that was now tucked into his pocket.
It was her.
My God, it was his daughter.
He slowly closed the lid and turned towards her. She stood several feet away from him, her arms crossed over his chest as though for protection, looking at him in fright with those dark eyes.
He could scarcely breathe, scarcely even think. After so long of searching for her, he had never considered what he would do once he found her. He’d had no time to plan; the truth had been thrust on him in a single moment. He found his mind blank, at the wrong bloody moment, and it took him a few moments to decide.
She was right there, clearly frightened. She had every right to be. She had no clue who he was. He wondered if she had any idea of the past she had come from. It would certainly be more difficult to explain, but...
She deserved the truth.
He deserved his daughter to know who he was.
He stepped closer, but she leapt backward. He stopped, sighed, and held out her music box. “Take it,” he said, softly.
She eyed him mistrustfully, then quickly dashed forward, seized it, and jumped back, replacing the distance between them.
“Please sit,” he offered, but she remained on her feet until he took his own seat, giving her a barrier between them.
She sat on the edge, ready to bolt if the need should arise. He wasn’t sure how to begin, but he knew he should tread carefully. He was silent, considering the best words, but none seemed adequate.
Shiloh demanded, “Why do you have my picture, professor?”
It was a question he chose to answer honestly.”This picture was given to me a long time ago by a woman named Ellessa Harden.”
Severus paused to watch her reaction. Her breath caught, her hand tightened on her music box. It was a small response, but enough that Severus confirmed that Shiloh knew that name. She knew it well.
“And Ellessa Harden is your mother, isn’t she?”
Shiloh leaped to her feet, frightened, enraged. “How do you know that?” she hissed lowly. “No one knows that!”
And here it came—the words he’d wanted to say for so, so long.
“Because...I’m your father.”
Well, did I make you say OMG?
Hope it was worth the wait.
Thanks to Molly, my beta and most loyal fan, for waiting all this time. And too all those other fans who have waited three years for this. I hope you will continue to read. There is so much in store for little Shi-Shi and her father.
I mean obviously! Because how’s that for cliffhangers?