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Ashley Magnus had always known that her family was different. She lived in house full of ghouls and her mom was really old. Like, super old. Way older than even Andrea’s mom, who was 54. Ashley didn’t have a dad, either, but she did have the Big Guy, who looked after her when her mom was out of town. She had a brother, Henry, who wasn’t really her brother and who was also a werewolf, but they didn’t really talk about that. Last year, her mom had sent him to boarding school in England. At the time, Ashley had thought it was weird. What was wrong with the high school in Old City? She knew her mom had gone to boarding school too, but she never really talked about it. There were a lot of things they didn’t talk about. Now Ashley knew why.

Ashley Magnus had always known that her family was different, but it had never occurred to her that she might be different too. The day before she got her letter, her mom had sat her down and explained everything: Ashley Magnus was a witch.

“Seriously, Mom,” Ashley had rolled her eyes, “you’re not funny, you know.”

Helen had sighed. She’d looked upset, and a bit unsure, but she’d taken a stick out of the inside pocket of her jacket – a wand – and turned her paperweight into a canary.

“What the fuck?!”

“Language, Ashley!”

“Seriously, Mom?”

Her mom had softened, then, and told her everything. She spoke about some evil wizard dude called Voldemort, about the war, about the ‘boy who lived’. “You’ll meet Harry,” she said, and then, quietly, almost to herself, “he’s got Lily’s eyes.” Once ‘the war’ was over – a war that apparently everyone who wasn’t a witch or wizard or whatever had failed to notice – her mom had moved permanently to the Old City Sanctuary.

“Why?” Ashley asked, sensing that this was somehow very important.

“Things were different then,” her mom said. “The wizarding world was in disarray and we – ” she paused, as if reconsidering her words, “…it wasn’t safe.”

“But it is now?”

Her mom sighed. “Magic is always dangerous, Ashley. But that’s something I didn’t want you to learn before you were old enough. I didn’t want you to grow up... in the shadow of a war. Your father -” she closed her eyes, briefly, before continuing, “your father died in that war and he was…” She took a shaky breath and Ashley thought she looked like she might cry, “he was…on the wrong side.”

Ashley stared. Logically, she knew it shouldn’t matter. Her dad had been on the losing side in a war which, until half an hour ago, she hadn’t even known about. But still, she felt her chest tighten, and her pulse raced.

“He was on the same side as … Voldemort?”

Her mom nodded.

“He killed people?”

She nodded, again, blinking away tears.

“People you knew?” she asked, tentatively, but the sinking feeling in her stomach told her that she already knew the answer.

A tear slipped down her mom’s cheek, and she swiped it away with her shirt sleeve. “A great many.”

Oh my god. Ashley rounded the desk and flung herself into Helen’s arms.

“Why?” she whispered into her mom’s neck.

Helen kissed the top of her head, and rocked her like she had when she was five years’ old.

“That’s a question I keep on asking myself.”