Platform Nine and Three-quarters bustled. The start of a new Hogwarts year was always busy, but this year there was something else in the air, overlaying the usual sense of frantic excitement with a far less wholesome tension. Grim-faced and black-suited Aurors were scattered throughout the crowd, failing to mingle discreetly as they shot hostile glances at everyone who happened to pass their view. They were, apparently, on the lookout for anything suspicious.

A pair of slightly narrowed, pale eyes studied the scene carefully. Their owner was standing in the shadow of a pillar, leant nonchalantly against the bricks, and at first glance didn't look too out of place. A girl in her late teens, with short, dull-blonde hair and clad in plain black robes, she wouldn't have drawn the eye for long if anyone had looked at her. Odd, really, how they didn't. Any glance in her direction seemed to skim over her, unseeing, as if she were nothing more than an extension of the brickwork herself.

Steam swirled across the platform as the huge red bulk of the Hogwarts Express whistled, and the stragglers began to hurry towards the train. A boy with dark hair and glasses dodged past the girl's position without even glancing at her, followed by a tall red-haired man who passed so close by he almost trod on her foot.

Sam watched them go. She recognised the boy – with his face regularly printed across all the Wizarding papers, and even more regularly appearing in Field reports, she'd have had trouble not knowing who he was – but nearly getting trampled by celebrities wasn't something she was focusing on. There was one coming. She'd helped track this one down herself, and it was so close she could feel it. Still, so far everything had seemed clean.

She glanced back down the station, at another figure hidden in plain view. The taller woman noticed her look and gave a small nod of encouragement. She tucked a length of grey-streaked blonde behind her ear, settling back to watch. This wasn't her pickup – Luce was there in a more invigilatory role, and to make sure nothing got out of hand. Sam turned back to her vigil over the rapidly-emptying platform, determined that nothing would go wrong. The changes of the last three years weren't limited to the Wizarding community's increasing paranoia. She'd trained damn hard for this. Apprentice to lower Level-Four in three years would be fast, she knew, but they'd been a little short on Field after the Terrace's chaotic upheaval.

Her musings cut short as there was a discreet crackling sound from a pocket of her robe. She quickly plucked free a small, round mirror, and muttered "Sam". Her reflection distorted, dissolved, and reformed as a different face. Mismatched eyes stared out at her, disproportionably huge, and then Jackie moved back from the mirror and the rest of her face came into view. She was grinning broadly.

"Just wanted to wish you luck."

Sam raised an eyebrow.

"Isn't this against the rules?"

"Well, I figured –" Jackie suddenly vanished from the screen and a new face appeared. Richard's gaze could be piercing even through a mirror, but there was a small smile pulling the edge of his lips.

"– since I make the rules, I can break whatever I like." His expression went serious again. "Plus, the indicators are there's a Ministry Sue-squad heading your way. You should be out by then, just be aware. I expect you remember the non-Apparation exit. Good luck, Sam." The smile was back, briefly, before he vanished and the mirror returned to being reflective. Sam pocketed it and stiffened as some of her less-conventional senses started screaming. She looked up at the platform barrier in the same moment that it shimmered oddly and a new figure emerged.

It was a girl. Long, jet-black hair fell elegantly down past her shoulders, waving to its own breeze. Large eyes, deep grey and glittering with tiny flecks of captured silver, stared out of a set of flawless features, and her trolley – stacked impossibly high with Muggle designer bags – began moving alongside her at a wave of her hand. Sam looked closely at the pile of luggage, until she found a name embossed in gold across the biggest trunk.

A rather malicious grin spread across her face as she read the name:

Serena Black

Sam drew her wand, carefully checked her Interaction wards, and readied herself. The girl was going to have to pass right in front of her, if she wanted to get to the train. Heels clicked on the station as the Sue moved closer, tossing her raven mane impertinently.

Briefly, Sam wondered what her quarry was thinking. About school, probably, and making so many new friends, everything being so perfect, because nothing could possibly go wrong for her.

It might even be the best day of her life.

Sunlight caught on silver as Sam gently slid her spork from its holster.

"Well, kid, you're pretty much what I was." Sam stepped out of her cover and met the Serena's shocked grey stare. Her own smile was honest, and bright, and utterly terrible.

"Now, let's see if you're anything like I am."

End –






(Well, that's it! Thanks to my betas and reviewers, and I hope you all enjoyed the story. If you did, or didn't, or simply have a question I may not have addressed, then feel free to let me know (: )