"There you are, good as new." My mother's mild tone causes me to glance at her in the mirror that we are standing in front of. Good as new, is that what she really thinks? That it doesn't hurt if you can't see it? She avoids my gaze as I knew she would and turns away from me. I look back at my reflection as I speak again.
"What about Izzy?"
"Already done, come on or you'll be late for the train." I nod and grab my trunk, my mother leaves before me and I can hear her moving Izzy out of her room. We meet in the corridor and the expression on my little sister's face makes me almost break down, she's petrified.
I haven't seen her all summer and I'm slightly surprised to see that she doesn't look like she's grown even an inch, in fact she looks smaller. Fear can do that to you.
"Come on Izzy, you'll be fine!" I say, planning to rub her back before remembering the marks I received the previous night, the marks that Izzy also may have hidden beneath the charm, and stopping midway through the motion. Our mother walks down the stairs carrying Izzy's trunk and I capitalise on our moment alone to crouch down to her, she's always been small for her age, she'll definitely be the smallest at Hogwarts.
"Izzy, you'll be fine, I'll be with you. Hogwarts is amazing, you'll love it." She bits her lip and tries to smile but it's not quite convincing.
She walks down the stairs in front of me and I pull my trunk down wincing with every movement, I know at least two of my ribs are damaged and I suspect that my left wrist is broken, again. I look down at it and see that my mother's charm has done its job, she's always been good at glamours.
We meet out father in the kitchen and he notices the slight step back towards me that Izzy tries to pass off as a stumble. He glances between us and then locks eyes with me.
"Yes, sir." I reply.
"And?" He asks.
"Down the stairs, sir." I reply mechanically. The cover story, just in case.
"Isobel?" He looks at her and I can almost see her recoil, I know what her answer should be but her voice shakes as she gives it.
"I fell off the bunk bed, sir." He nods and then smiles widely, I hate that smile, it's when the monster become the newly appointed Head of Magical International Cooperation.
"Let's get going then, are you excited girls?" His voice is completely different and I'm amazed that other people don't realise how fake it sounds. He strides towards us and picks Izzy up and squeezes her tightly, I notice the fear and pain in her face and I can tell she's finding this new side of our father that she only met this summer difficult to understand.
"You go first, Tilly?" My mother says, the same fake voice from her, she passes me the pot of Floo powder and I take it and Floo to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. As I'm spinning past the grates I allow myself a smile, I'm going back to Hogwarts, I'm getting out of that hell hole and this time Izzy's coming with me.
I land well and wait to the side of the fire for the rest of the family. My mother is next and I'm nervous until my sister emerges, she trips slightly on landing and in spite of my injuries I reach out and grab her.
"Oopsy Daisy, button, are you alright?" My mother asks, taking Izzy's hand and brushing the soot off her. I straighten up with a grimace and my father arrives before the expression is gone from my face, he adopts a concerned expression.
"Are you already Tilly, did you land funny?"
"I'm fine, Dad." I reply with a bright smile, he nods and we all move over to the platform.
My father keeps walking until we see the Weasley's and the Potter's and he waves at them as he approaches.
"Morning all, excited to be going kids?" He asks, looking down at Rosie and Al, my best friends, both wearing their prefect badges, they nod enthusiastically and then both come over to me and hug me.
"Hey Matilda, good summer?" Rosie asks, using my full and preferred name.
"Yes thanks, how are you?" I reply. Rosie tries a smile but it doesn't quite reach her eyes and I know why, it was only a few weeks ago when their Aunt Audrey was murdered. The case is still unresolved. I nod and look over at Mr Potter and see that he looks tired.
"This must be Izzy?" Al says, looking down at the terrified looking Izzy who is standing next to my mother.
"Yeah, Izzy this is Al Potter and Rosie Weasley, my best friends, remember?" Izzy nods but doesn't reply, my mother smiles and gives her a squeeze that I know must be painful.
"Don't mind Izzy, she's a bit nervous, aren't you, button?" Izzy nods and Rosie smiles in understanding.
"Don't worry Izzy, Hogwarts is brilliant. Our cousin Fred is starting this year as well, he'll probably be in our compar…" I look away from Rosie and towards her parents, my father is talking to Mrs Weasley and I tune in.
"…difficult transition but everyone thinks you're doing well, Keith."
"I appreciate that Hermione, thanks. Do you think Percy will enjoy teaching?"
"I'm sure he'll be good at it, I know he wants to keep an eye on the girls…"
"Understandable, did I hear a rumour that you'll be there too this year, Ginny?"
"On and off, just for the Quidditch and flying, I'll still be living at home though."
The Hogwarts Express makes a loud sound to indicate a five minute warning and the conversation between the adults is broken up and they all turn towards us.
"Come on girls, on you get." Says my father, moving towards me and Izzy, she shuffles towards me again and I wish she would be more subtle, it's only going to make it worse at Christmas.
My father picks her up again and kisses her pale face on the cheek before looking at me, still holding onto Izzy.
"Keep an eye on her, won't you Tilly?"
"Of course Dad, she'll be fine after the sorting."
"We won't mind where you go, remember that." My mother says as Izzy is placed back on the floor.
My father pulls me into a hug and whispers in ear.
"Don't let me down, and make sure she doesn't either."
"Don't worry Dad, we'll be fine." I say with a small laugh as I pull my face away from his, he smiles and kisses me on the forehead, it makes me want to throw up.
My mother gives me a small hug and then Izzy and I follow Rosie onto the train, we all wave and then, finally, the train pulls away and I let myself relax.
"Are you alright Matilda? You look a bit pale." Al asks, pulling out his Quidditch magazine, Izzy looks at me looking nervous and I smile at Al.
"I'm fine, I'm always pale Al, Izzy come with me I'll show you where the toilets are." I pull Izzy out of the compartment and walk the length of the train looking for an unoccupied toilet and drag Izzy into it before locking the door and casting a Muffialto, Al knows all the best Charms.
"Are you okay?" I ask, sitting her on the toilet.
"I…" She starts to cry and I kneel down hoping that the floor is clean.
"Where does it hurt?" I ask.
"My back…I…I don't understand…." Of course she doesn't understand, until her eleventh birthday at the start of the summer she had only seen the public side of my parents, it was the same with me but as soon as I blew out the candles and the birthday guests had gone home, everything changed.
"Izzy, listen to me…we're going to Hogwarts, its safe there!"
"What did I do…?"
"You didn't do anything wrong Izzy, it's them, it's them I promise."
"But…Daddy said it was my fault, Mummy did too!"
"They're lying, you've done nothing wrong, please believe me, Izzy!" She starts to sob and I pull her into a hug, it's too tight and she gasps, I pull back and look at her green eyes carefully.
"How bad is it?"
"It hurts, Mummy said she'd make it go away!"
"She doesn't mean heal it, she means hide it. That's what…" It's so hard to explain it to her, I pull up my sleeve to where a burn was inflicted last week, the skin is unbroken and as pale as the rest of my arm.
"Feel it." I grab her hand and run it over the burn, it stings and I wince, she retracts her fingers.
"Mum makes it disappear, not heal, you can feel it but can't see it. Do you understand?" She nods but still looks unsure.
"Can you heal it, Tilly?"
"I can't, not with the glamour on. I'll go to the library tonight and try and get some books to help me but…Izzy, you can't tell anyone about this, I mean it."
"Because they won't believe us and it will make things worse, Dad's Head of International Magical Cooperation now, he's powerful. We have to play the part of loving daughters." Izzy nods and I hug her again, lighter this time and stroke her brown hair.
"Why didn't you tell me what was going to happen?" She asks, in a quiet voice. I pull back and I can feel the tears in my eyes.
"I hoped that it wouldn't happen to you, I thought it was my fault. I love you Izzy, we have to stick together okay?" She nods firmly and relief sweeps through me, I was so worried she'd be angry that I didn't tell her but Izzy doesn't have an angry bone in her body.
"Good, one more thing."
"What?" She asks with fear in her eyes.
"Can you call me Matilda here? Tilly is just for them." She nods and smiles and I stand and check my own reflection for signs of tears and then wipe Izzy's face and kiss her on the forehead and open the door.
When we return to the compartment there are more occupants, even in grief it seems that the Weasley family stick close together. I walk to my seat by the window and Izzy sits opposite me looking uncomfortable, Rosie notices as I suspected she would.
"Izzy, this is my family, there are quite a few of us. This is Hugo, my little brother he's a Gryffindor third year," Hugo smiles and nods at Izzy. "Lily is my cousin, Al's sister and she's a third year Gryffindor as well."
"Hi, nice to meet you." Lily says, moving a chess piece.
"Over there is my cousin James, Al's big brother and…"
"…and I'm Head Boy this year, Gryffindor as well so if you need anything, I'm your man!" James says, winking at Izzy. James Potter is part-prat, part-charmer.
"Here we have Fred, another cousin, he's a first year, like you." Fred moves to sit next to Izzy, something in his smile makes me think that he is not as innocent as he looks.
"I'm Louis, sixth year Hufflepuff, another cousin of Rosie's." Louis says, looking up from his music player, he looks like someone who will always be described as cool, in the same way that Izzy will always be describes as cute.
"We're Molly and Lucy, twins if you didn't notice, I'm in Ravenclaw but Lucy's in Gryffindor. Oh, sixth year that is." I look over at the twins and instantly feel sorry for them. Their mother was found murdered in their own house, Percy Weasley had taken the twins to Ginny Potter's birthday party but Audrey had been under the weather so stayed home. When they returned she was lying on the coffee table with a slit in her throat, the twins had apparently Floo-ed ahead of their father and had seen everything.
Izzy nods at the twins and then glances at me, I give a quick nod confirming the unasked question.
"And finally and most importantly, I'm Roxy, Fred's big sister. I'm in sixth year Gryffindor as well."
"Nice to meet you all." Izzy says quietly.
"So, do you know where you'll be sorted?" Fred asks, I look away from them and towards Rosie and Al.
"So, where have you been? I swear its like holidays just swallow you up, we never see you!" Rosie says, passionately.
"I know, it was just one thing after another this summer." I say, it's a lie but I'm sure it will hold. "I'm really sorry about your Aunt." I continue, lowering my voice. Al nods and looks towards the twins.
"Thanks, it's horrible."
"Your Uncle is going to teach though?"
"Yeah, he wants a change now, he said he won't be able to go his office without thinking of Aunt Audrey, it was where they met and everything, she was his secretary." I nod, now my father occupies that office.
"What's he going to teach?"
"Arithmancy so we'll have him, my mom is coming to do Quidditch stuff as well."
"What about Madam Spinnet?" I ask, thinking of the previous Quidditch coach.
"She's pregnant, Mom was thrilled to get the job though, I think she wants to keep an eye on us, and Uncle Percy. Are you going for the team again?"
"Of course." I reply, I've been keeper since third year and I love it. I glance over at James and I'm not surprised to see that Quidditch Captain badge sitting higher than his Head Boy's badge. Rosie sees me looking.
"Yeah he made captain at last, Dad was over the moon, he danced around the kitchen."
"Are you going for it again?" I ask Al.
"I don't know, maybe." Al plays seeker but last year Lucy got the first team spot and I wonder if Al doesn't want to compete with her this year.
"You'll still practice though, right?"
"Oh yeah, definitely."
"D'you want to play chess?" Rosie asks, I nod and Al starts talking to Hugo as Rosie sets up the board.
"Well done on making prefect by the way." I say, sincerely.
"Thank, you don't mind do you?"
"Of course not, you and Al deserve it, don't give me a detention though."
"Have you ever had a detention?" She asks, smiling.
"Nope, clean record, unlike you." Rosie has a sharp tongue which can sometimes get her into trouble.
The compartment door opens and Libby Martins is standing there, with her Head Girl badge proudly displayed on her Ravenclaw robes.
"Are you planning on patrolling, Potter?" She asks, the compartment quietens. The fighting/flirting between Libby and James is always amusing to watch.
"Perhaps, why? Notice I wasn't there did you?"
"Of course I did, it was quiet." She replies, glancing around at the rest of the compartment, her gaze falters at the Weasley twins and then again at the first years.
"Can't have that can we, Libs?" James says, bouncing to his feet.
"Don't call me that."
"Do you prefer light of my life?" He asks, waggling his eyebrows. She tries to hide a smile and then they both leave.
"Are they actually dating?" I ask, looking at Al.
"No idea." He replies with a smile. I laugh and then start the game.
As I expected it doesn't take long for Rosie to beat me, she smiles as my king is shattered.
"No, I might have a quick nap before we get there, I didn't sleep well last night." I look across at Izzy and I'm pleased to see that her and Fred seem to be getting along well, they are playing Gobstones and both smiling.
"You always sleep on the train!" Al exclaims, setting up the board again to play Rosie.
"I know, I never sleep the night before though." It's a lie but it always works.
I lean on the window and within a few minutes I'm asleep.
Rosie nudges me awake by poking me in the ribs which causes me to gasp.
"Are you alright?" Rosie asks, wide-eyed. Izzy is looking at me, terrified.
"I'm fine, I'm just ticklish there." I reply, Rosie looks suspicious for a moment but then lets it go, I look at Izzy and smile in a reassuring way, trying to tell her without words that it is possible to function this double life.
We change quickly and everyone is so preoccupied that they don't notice me help Izzy get her robes on, I know her back must be really hurt her but to her credit she hides it well.
"Okay so you'll go with the other first years in the boats, I'll see you after the sorting."
"What if I'm in a different house?" She asks, looking worried.
"Don't worry, ask the hat for Gryffindor but if you're somewhere else I'll still see you after the speeches, okay?" She nods.
I say goodbye to her on the platform and she stands with the other first years. Hagrid smiles at me.
"She's a small one, ain't she?" He says.
"Surely everyone's small to you Hagrid?" Says Roxy, she walked Fred over as well.
"Suppose yer right, off yer go." We walk to the carriages and then Roxy finds her own friends and I find my way to Rosie and Al, they are standing with another Gryffindor fifth year, Robert Land.
"Hey Matilda, good summer?" He asks as we climb into the carriage, the step up hurts my ribs so I pretend not to hear, he asks again and I give a standard reply.
"Your little sister's starting this year, right?"
"That's right." I reply with a smile, it's impossible not to like Robert. He's kind and helpful, the most Hufflepuff of all the Gryffindor fifth years.
"She's tiny, Matilda!" Rosie says as we set off.
"I know, I think she'll have a growth spurt soon, or I hope she will!"
"Yeah, I doubt Mom will want to teach her to fly, the wind will probably knock her off!" Al says with a laugh.
When we walk into the Hall a wave of calm passes over me, as it always does on September the first. I'm home and safe for a few months, and Izzy is too.
We sit at the Gryffindor table and Professor Flitwick walks in with the first years following behind him, Izzy looks pale but no more so that the rest of them.
"Oh my god, she's so cute! She's like a little pixie!" Whisper's Fiona Gurton from a few seats down.
"She's Matilda's sister." Al says, Fiona turns to me looking surprised.
"She's adorable!" She whispers, I smile but don't reply.
The sorting starts and it doesn't take long to get through the alphabet towards P.
"Parker, Isobel." Calls Flitwick.
My sister walks up the steps and all around me I can hear other students gushing about her size. I glance at the staff table and notice that McGonagall is looking between Izzy and me, she nods as she sees me and I smile in reply.
Flitwick puts the hat on Izzy's head and a hush fills the hall. I cross my fingers under the table. The minutes pass and Izzy has a look of deep concentration on her face.
"Hat-stall." Mutters Rosie and I nod, it must be at least five minutes.
"GRYFFINDOR!" I laugh and clap with the rest of the students, Izzy passes the hat back to Flitwick and makes her way over to the table looking thoroughly relieved. I look at the staff table again and see that Professor Lupin is clapping at his new student.
The rest of the evening passes quickly and when McGonagall dismisses us I feel ready to collapse into bed.
I stand up and Rosie and Al bring the first years past me.
"Well done Izzy, you too Fred." I say, giving my sister a quick but light hug as she passes. She doesn't have time to reply to me but her smile says it all.
I walk to the Common Room with Robert and the other fifth years, Fiona Gurton, Ruth Stevens and Stuart Martin. They all talk about their summers and I listen with half an ear, I made it through the summer, I'm finally home.