"Open!" said Chloe, yanking on her trunk desperately. "Open! Please!"
She rattled the top violently and let go. Chloe stepped back with her hands on her hips and glared at it. It was mocking her. She heaved a sigh and resumed prying at the latches.
"Let go!" she begged as she threw her weight into an almighty tug. "Aaaaugh!"
Chloe landed with a loud smack on her bedroom floor. She clenched her fists, narrowed her eyes, and looked at the trunk, still firmly closed.
The gold letters on the side of the trunk gleamed cheerfully at her. C.G. Potter, they read.
Chloe took a seat on the lid and rested her elbows on her knees. She really only had to put a few more things in the blasted thing. Of course it was being difficult. Chloe swung her foot moodily and noted with satisfaction that it made a very noisy thud on the side of the trunk. Good. She hoped she would break it.
Filled with new resolve, Chloe leapt off the lid and scampered to her bed and picked up an armful of folded robes, freshly pressed this morning.
"I've got clothes," she said in a tempting tone. "Now be a good trunk…and open on up. I haven't got mothballs, honest!"
She tried the latch carefully. It held fast. That did it. Chloe threw the clothes on the floor, swung her brown hair behind her angrily, and swiftly kicked the side of the trunk.
Chloe's eyes widened as it flew open.
"Really!" she said huffily, picking up the clothes, "If that was all you needed…."
She was about to lay in her last set of robes when she thought she heard a noise. Chloe looked up sharply and held her breath. Shrugging it off as nothing, she double-checked the contents of her trunk.
"Books," she murmured, "cloaks, quills, parchment, dragonhide gloves…."
There was that noise again. She gazed around her room, puzzled. It was a faint snuffling sound…like an animal or something.
"….socks, scales, owl treats, photographs…."
Chloe glanced quickly around the room then got on her hands and knees to look under her bed. Finding nothing, she frowned and got to her feet. Her gaze rested on her window seat. It was a relatively large window seat and had a hollowed inside for stowing away things. Chloe cocked her head, crept over to one of the cabinets on the side of the seat and threw it open.
A crumpled mass of robes, hair, and tears gazed up at her, hiccupping with sobs.
"James!" exclaimed Chloe. "What are you doing in here?"
James, Chloe's four-year old brother, gave a choked whimper at the sight of her and smeared at his light brown eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks. "I don't want you to leave!"
Chloe felt the same twinge of guilt that had been bothering her for weeks. "I'm sorry Jamesy, but I have to go to school! Please come out!"
James shook the dust bunnies from his scruffy black hair, and burst into tears again as he shut the cabinet door, blocking himself from Chloe.
Chloe knocked on it gently.
"Yes?" James said, opening the door again.
"Will you come out and talk to me?"
"I'm going to stay in here forever and ever!" sobbed James.
"Because you're leaving me!" James shut the cabinet door again.
Chloe sank back onto her heels and sighed. She opened the adjacent door and crawled on her hands and knees into the window seat.
James was so startled he stopped crying for a moment and stared at her. Chloe pulled her feet in and shifted around in the cramped quarters. She hadn't been in here since she was six or seven. She wondered if she could still…
"Ow!" said Chloe, rubbing her head.
Nope. Not a chance. Even though Chloe was rather short, she had definitely outgrown this hideout. She remained lying on her side, her head propped up on her elbow, smiling at James, who could sit up quite nicely in the cabinet.
"You don't fit," he observed between hiccups.
"I do," said Chloe. "If I lie down."
"You're smashing the biscuits, Chloe," said James pointing to a plate of biscuits that Chloe hadn't noticed under her elbow.
"Sorry," she said shifting around a bit. "I'll admit though…it'll be a tight squeeze."
The crack of light that shone from the opening in the cabinet door was making a streak of light across James' face.
"What is?" he asked, completely forgetting his tears.
"I can live in this cabinet with you instead of going to school," said Chloe biting into a biscuit. "Why, I don't expect Mum and Daddy would notice."
James stared at her disbelievingly. "We're going to live here?"
Chloe nodded, nearly hitting her head again. "Of course! You suggested it."
"I did?" said James rubbing his eyes.
"I wonder how many days these biscuits would last us?" said Chloe. "And then I'm very sure this cabinet would be very dark at nighttime."
"Pitch dark. Plus, I don't know how we would read in here…it's very bad for the eyes you know."
Chloe smiled as James stared at her. She could see him thinking all of this over. She was just about to add the bit of having no toys in the cabinet when there was a soft rapping at the cabinet door.
"Who is it?" asked James politely.
"I'm looking for a Master James Potter."
James glanced sideways at Chloe, who shrugged and grinned.
"There's not a Master James Potter in here," said James truthfully, "Just a James Potter."
The cabinet door opened suddenly, and Harry's smiling face appeared. He couldn't hide the astonished expression on his face when he saw both of his children in the cabinet.
"Chloe," said Harry slowly, "You're in the cabinet."
"I know, Daddy," said Chloe.
"Might I ask why?" said Harry, who had learned, if nothing else from parenting, never jump to any conclusions.
"James doesn't want me to go to Hogwarts," said Chloe, "so we're going to live in the cabinet under my window seat."
Harry took a seat on the floor and smiled. "I see."
"It's true, Daddy," said James.
Harry held out his arms towards James. "Why don't you come on out, Scruff, and we'll have a talk about living in this cabinet."
James crawled out of the cabinet and narrowly missed kicking Chloe in the stomach. "What about Chloe?" he asked, after he had crawled into Harry's lap.
"This is a private conference. She can attend later," said Harry. He then closed the cabinet doors on Chloe who was about to climb out also.
"Daddy!" said Chloe indignantly.
"Now then," said Harry, "about the cabi—."
"There you are!" said another voice, which Chloe recognized as her mother's.
"Here I am," said James.
"I've been looking all over for you!" said Ginny. Chloe heard her familiar light footsteps enter the room. "Have you been in here the entire time?"
"He's got plans to live in the cabinet," said Harry. "We're discussing them."
"Chloe's living there too," said James.
Chloe heard her mother sigh. "Where is Chloe anyway? I thought she said she was going to be up in her room. I suppose not. I couldn't be lucky enough to have tabs on both of you at the same time."
"She's in the cabinet, Mummy," said James cheerfully.
"James," said Ginny, "what have Daddy and I told you about telling falsehoods? It isn't funny to say your sister is in the cabinet, when she isn't."
"But I'm not telling a falsehood!" James protested.
"I know, sweetheart, but imagination and lies are two different things," said Ginny, "I know you'd love to pretend that Chloe could live under the window seat…."
"Gin," said Harry, and Chloe could just imagine the grin spreading across his face, "he's not telling a lie."
For a good ten seconds there was silence and Chloe bit her lower lip to keep from laughing.
Her mother's voice was very calm as she spoke again. "James, where is Chloe?"
"Under the window seat!" chirruped James.
"Harry," said Ginny, her voice very controlled.
"Yes?" asked Harry, the amusement very apparent in