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Kiss and Tell by appleaday

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 14,732
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 03/07/2006
Last Chapter: 11/17/2006
Last Updated: 11/17/2006


It started out like any other school night. Just a small midnight war between Gryffindors and Slytherins. Nothing special…until they get caught. Suddenly, instead of detentions, these eight troublemakers are facing an entire summer of discipline - together. Lies will be told. Secrets will be revealed. And we might finally answer that burning question: if you're locked in a broom cupboard with a Slytherin, how do you pass the time?

Chapter 1: Prologue
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‘Boost me up now, come on – I’ve almost got it.’

‘Cor, you’ve gotten fat,’ James muttered as he hefted Sirius onto his shoulder, giving the extra height needed to reach the latch on the cupboard.

‘Shut it,’ was the growled response, quickly followed by a satisfied grunt as the door swung open, allowing them access to the potion master’s private stores. ‘Right, we’re in.’

‘All right,’ James whispered, keeping his voice as low as possible. ‘We need unicorn hair…belladonna extract,’ he continued when a few silvery strands drifted down onto his shoulder. ‘And hen’s teeth,’ he concluded, watching as deft fingers stored two small vials in a trouser pocket.

‘Let me down.’ He shifted, using his knee as a stair step, and his coconspirator dropped silently back onto the stones. ‘We need the crucible, too.’

‘Where is it?’

‘Just there,’ Sirius pointed, finger a pale line in the darkness of the dungeon, aiming at a large cabinet with grate doors. ‘We’ll have to pick the lock, though – there are loads of spells on it.’

‘Fine, I’ll do that, you lock up here.’

Sirius grinned and set to relocking the cupboard they had just raided, blessing the fact that wizards, believing spells to be enough, rarely guarded against manual entry methods. As the two finished their larcenous work, a third voice cut across the room in an urgent hiss. ‘Someone’s in the corridor.’

‘Oh bollocks,’ Sirius muttered, dropping into a pocket of shadow and quickly hiding the unicorn hair in a secret pocket. A quick glance showed that James too had melted out of sight, probably crouched behind one of the stone tables, holding his breath. The figure in the doorway, barely visible even to their dark – adjusted eyes, was also obscuring itself, wand drawn just in case. All three were waiting breathlessly, worried about the fourth member of their little band who was on sentry duty at the top of the stairs. If all had gone according to plan, an advance warning had been hissed to the figure in the doorway before he had hidden himself. If not…well, hopefully he could outrun the caretaker.

It was not, however, the stooped, glaring form of the caretaker that entered the room, lantern held high. It was not even a lone figure – but three, three bodies dressed in dark colours, wands unlit, sneaking through the dark, round the tables, obviously familiar with the room. The three original pranksters remained completely frozen, breathing shallowly as they waited for something – anything – to happen. Luckily, however, the three faceless people sneaking through the room seemed to be on a mission not unlike their own, and were soon standing before the locked store cupboards, conferring in soft whispers.

‘It’ll be in with the poisons –‘

‘Keep your voice down –‘

‘Shut it. You two take this one, and I’ll take that one. And hurry up about it,’ the third voice added. Chords of recognition sounded in Sirius’ head, but there wasn’t time to puzzle it out. The three of them needed to sneak out of the room as fast as possible, before they were discovered. A small flicker of movement revealed that James was slowly and surely working his way towards the door. Sirius wasted no time in following suit. The three unknown figures were busy with locks, their wands not getting them far when it came to opening the stores. Sirius almost snickered derisively, but saved the noise for later, to share with friends. Bumping up against James at the door, they edged silently out, backwards, eyes on the figures, fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, going out backwards meant they had no eyes in the hallway, and James felt his back collide with something moments before a muffled curse broke the silence. Sirius’ eyes closed in defeat. Leave it to James to run into their own sentry. Eyes popping back open, Sirius saw that the three figures in the rear of the room had all stilled and turned. For a moment, the two groups stared at one another in silent disbelief. And then James whispered, ‘Oh bollocks,’ and it was on.

Immoblius! Sirius thought forcefully, wand aimed at the tallest of the three figures. James was also waving his wand, issuing a silent spell of his own. All three ducked as jets of light came streaming back at them, diving out of the door and scrambling up the stairs as quickly as possible.

‘You get anyone?’ James panted as they thundered towards the top, well aware of the noise in the dungeon, the sounds of three wizards chasing after them.

‘Dunno,’ Sirius hissed back. ‘But we’ve got trouble up here, too.’ At the top of the stairs a figure was brandishing a wand at a much larger silhouette, and with one well placed curse saw the broader boy go down.

‘Just jump over him,’ James called to the third member of their party, who was hesitating. ‘We’re already in trouble, just go.’

Skirting the fallen form, the two bolted down the corridor, closely followed by Sirius and James, whose wands were out and at the ready. ‘Bloody hell!’ Sirius yelped as a jet of magic flashed through the air mere centimetres away. James threw a Jelly Legs over his shoulder in retaliation, and they followed their fellow Gryffindors into the Trophy Room.

‘Did you see who any of them were,’ James whispered as they ducked down behind a suit of armor.

‘Slytherins, of course,’ was the snide reply. ‘The one at the top of the stairs was Geoffrey Donovan, and ten galleons says the tall one in the dungeon was Lyre.’

‘Shh,’ James hissed, gesturing for quiet as three figures skidded to a stop in the doorway to the room.

There was a quiet conference among the three, and then a voice cut through the semi – darkness. ‘We know you’re in here,’ it called in a sing-song lilt. ‘Come out come out, where ever you are…’

‘Insufferable git,’ Sirius breathed, eyes flashing.

‘Keep your shirt on,’ James whispered back. ‘They’ll get tired eventually and go home.’

‘We ought to be fighting them in the open –‘

‘We ought to be keeping ourselves out of trouble, now pipe down,' James hissed. Sirius grumbled, but subsided, crouching low into the shadow, cursing the faint moonlight that filtered through the room’s high windows. True, it allowed them to see the Slytherins creeping across the floor, but it limited hiding spots too much to really be an asset. ‘Almost there, almost there,’ James was whispering softly, watching as the figures, whose faces were actually covered in masks – stupid arrogant gits, Sirius sneered – slowly made their way to the doors on the opposite walls.

‘Think they just ran straight through?’ a voice asked softly, undeniably female as it floated through the patchy shadows.

‘Probably, haven’t got the bollocks to have a real fight –‘ a much deeper voice sneered. Sirius’s brows drew together in an expression of intense dislike.

‘Told you Lyre was with them –‘

‘Shut it,’ James hissed back. ‘They’re almost gone.’

And so they were. And they would have made it out, too, if it hadn’t been for a wand sliding out of a small hand, and that small hand darting out of its hiding spot for one split second to catch up the clattering bit of wood as it danced across the marble floor.

Immoblius,’ a Slytherin hissed triumphantly. There was a small squeak and the sound of an inert body tumbling to the floor.

Sirius was out from behind the armor in a flash, slinging a hex at the nearest figure, who went down immediately. James wasn’t far behind, battling with the smallest of the Slytherins. ‘Just get out of here!’ Sirius yelled to the two Gryffindors, one lying Stunned on the ground, the other hovering nervously over the body. Well aware that they were making far too much noise to not wake half the castle, James gave up on silent hexes and started flinging everything he could think of at the two remaining masked figures. Sirius joined the fray as soon as possible, and within moments only one Slytherin remained, and James was rolling on the floor, laughing hysterically thanks to a clever giggling charm.

‘You’ve really stuffed this up, you know that?’ Sirius snarled at the Slytherin, who appeared to be sneering elegantly back behind his mask.

‘It’s not my fault you can’t do anything right.’

Sirius’ wand flicked forward, the Slytherin diving out of the way just in time to avoid a perfectly cast Stunner. Unfortunately for Sirius, the spell slammed into a large suit of armor, which let out a deafening squawk before tumbling to the ground. The noise was like an entire kitchen full of pots and pans being hurled across a floor. With one last look at one another, Sirius and the Slytherin took off running in opposite directions.

‘Come on,’ Sirius called, grabbing up James, who was still hiccoughing from laughing so hard. ‘They’ll have heard –‘

They sprinted through corridors, vainly trying to make the Gryffindor common room, hoping their two companions had managed to do the same. But everything was set against them. The staircases refused to go the right direction. Trick doors turned into unyielding walls. Even six years of carefully sought shortcuts betrayed them as they hurtled through the halls, listening in dread for the sound of footsteps. Gasping for breath they skidded around a corner, saw the glow of a lamp, and whirled back the way they had come. But it was too late. The most dreaded sound in the world rang through the halls.


Oh, shit.

A/N - keep reading, it gets better, i promise!

Chapter 2: When in Doubt, Lie
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My name is Sirius Potter. And I’m in trouble. I should probably also go ahead and tell you, before you start making assumptions, that I’m a girl. I wasn’t supposed to be, mind you, and all the Mediwizards agreed that Mum would give birth to two healthy boys around Midsummer, and that would be that. And when you’ve got Harry Potter for a dad, well, of course his twin sons are going to be called James and Sirius. So, just a bit before midnight on 20 June, my older brother came shooting into the world. A few minutes later I followed, and it was immediately clear that everyone had been dead wrong about the boy bit. But Mum said that Sirius was just a star after all, and there was no reason it had to be just a boy’s name, (and since they hadn’t thought about girls' names at all) Sirius would do just fine.

But that doesn’t have anything to do with the situation at hand; the situation at hand is all about incompetence, arrogance, and having a good time. Oh, yeah, and the stupid ruddy Slytherins too. The clock on the wall beside me says its half two in the morning, which means I ought to be sleeping soundly in my bed in Gryffindor tower. Instead, I’m standing in our Head of House’s office, nursing a bruised arm and waiting. At least I’m not alone. James, my twin brother, is standing next to me, looking resigned and vaguely put out. Might have something to do with the fact that he got out–dueled with a giggling charm.

‘Mum’s going to kill us,’ he sighs morosely, his voice lacking all bitterness, just filled with a sort of resigned acceptance.

‘She’ll kill me first – then you can convince her that I talked you into it and you’re actually innocent,’ I say, attempting a bit of levity. Not surprisingly, it falls flat. That’s the thing about James – wonderful bloke, really, excellent man, just a bit prone to following rules. And really, this wouldn’t be a problem if I weren’t so prone to breaking them. For every good thing Jamie does, I do about three bad things. Somehow, this lands the both of us in detention. But he’s my brother, so he still loves me – most of the time.

Right now he’s shaking his head and sighing. ‘Are you ever going to change?’

‘Probably not.’

‘Right then, let’s just get this over with,’ he mutters as Professor Habersham, the head of Gryffindor, glares her way into the room. She’s wearing a frumpy looking mauve dressing gown and an old-fashioned bonnet. And she’s looking rather put out.

‘In here with the two of you,’ she snaps, shaking a finger outside the door. James and I exchange a confused glance - we’re already inside the office - and then realise she’s not talking to us at all. Trudging in, looking very guilty and sorrowful, are our two best friends: Ian Granger – Weasley and Kate Laramie. Kate is still moving a bit stiffly from the stunning spell she got hit with, and Ian is just looking morose.

‘Sorry,’ he mumbles to us. ‘They cornered us in the Charms corridor – no way they couldn’t see we’d all been in the same fight.’

‘Don’t worry about it mate,’ I say bracingly, trying to smile.

Habersham clears her throat, tapping one slippered foot on the floor. It would be more impressive if she were wearing shoes that actually made a tapping sound, but she’s working with what she’s got. I can respect that. ‘If you’re all quite finished,’ she says darkly, eyeing us in a most unfriendly manner. ‘Now. While I understand that the term is effectively over, that you are only waiting for you marks to come in, that it is summer and all you want to do is have a bit of fun, will someone kindly explain why you are all out of bed at this hour?’

She gets a bit shrill in the end, and we all wince. And, of course, its Jamie that speaks up. ‘We’re very sorry Professor –‘

‘Mr. Potter, you have not yet begun to feel nearly as sorry as you will. And I am not looking for apologies, I am looking for explanations. Provide one. Immediately.’

Her eyes rake over us like hot burning coals, and I take a deep breath. What I’m about to do is quite a gamble, especially if the Slytherins get caught and don’t lie, but it’s the best choice we’ve got. ‘We were just playing a game of hide and seek,’ I sigh, trying to sound ashamed. ‘It’s been a bit boring the last two days, and none of us could sleep, and we thought that if we were quiet we wouldn’t get caught – we honestly weren’t trying to harm anything.’

‘And yet you managed to start a duel with four students, also out of bed and wandering round the castle, no doubt for a completely unrelated reason?’ If her eyebrows arch any higher, they’re going to become part of her hairline.

I give her my best honest look, hoping it works. ‘I know it sounds ridiculous, especially given who its coming from, but really, we weren’t out looking for them, we just happened to meet up in the trophy room. We weren’t expecting them at all, and we, er, got into a bit of a row I’m afraid –‘ she snorts derisively, rolling her eyes, but she motions for me to continue. ‘We were being very irresponsible, and, given the high standard I usually hold myself to when sneaking out of bounds, I have to say that I’m ashamed of us,’ I finish off, sounding sincere because I actually mean it.

For a moment she doesn’t believe me. I can see the doubt playing out in her eyes. And then she nods once. ‘Disturbing as it is, that speech is sadly believable coming from you Miss Potter. But, it does not change the fact that you are still in a great deal of trouble. We are still looking into the matter – if we discover anything that does not match up exactly with your story, then you will be in detention for the rest of your natural lives. As it is, you will report to me at half eight tomorrow morning for your punishment.’ We all wince. ‘And fifty points will be deducted from Gryffindor.’ We all wince again. ‘Now, I believe it is time you were all in bed.’

‘That wasn’t right,’ Ian mutters as the portrait swings closed behind us. He’s shaking his head, barely visible in the low firelight coming from the hearth across the room. ‘She’s up to something.’

‘Course she is,’ Kate yawns. ‘She’s got us to deal with. Five sickles says we’re serving that detention tomorrow with the four gits we were fighting with – and that we’re cleaning the entire Trophy room, without magic. That’s her favourite.’ We should know, we’ve done it enough times.

‘I’m with Ian,’ Jamie shrugs, dropping into a chair. ‘That was too short, and too…nice.’

‘Who caught the two of you?’ I ask speculatively, looking from Kates to Ian.

‘Er…it was Norris and that new Arithmancy professor – whazzer name?’

‘Faulkner,’ I supply, nodding. ‘When did Habersham come find you?’

‘Uhh, ‘bout five minutes before we saw you,’ Kate estimates, shrugging. ‘It wasn’t that long – just from the Charms corridor to her office.’

Jamie and I exchange a look. ‘We were in her office for at least twenty minutes,’ he smiles tightly.

‘Was anyone with her?’

Its Ian and Kate’s turn to look at one another. ‘Just Renier,’ Ian says darkly. We all sneer: Renier is the disgusting git of a Runes professor who happens to be head of Slytherin house.

‘Something’s up,’ I say through a yawn. ‘We’re going to show for that detention tomorrow, and something’s going to happen – you mark my words.’

‘Consider them marked,’ Jamie grumbles sleepily. ‘I’m for bed.’

A/N - sorry the prologue and this chapter are so short - the rest will be longer, i promise. leave me a review and let me know what you think!

Chapter 3: Cruel, Unusual, and Downright Sneaky
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We’re the first ones awake the next morning, which is no surprise considering that there are no classes this week. We had exams last week, and now we’re just waiting for our marks to come in before we get the train back to London. Normally, this week is the best one of the entire year. And, until yesterday – or, more accurately, early this morning – it was. Now, however, it's eight am and we’re squinting, yawning, and stumbling down the stairs to the common room.

‘Unnatural,’ Ian, who is NOT a morning person, is mumbling to himself. ‘Completely unnatural…’

‘Oh shut it,’ Kates, who requires coffee before she can attain civility, growls back. ‘Let’s just get this over with.’

James and I shrug at one another and amble out of the portrait hole, the four of us walking silently towards Habersham’s office, wincing each time we pass through a shaft of bright sunlight. ‘Think the Slytherins’ll be there?’ James murmurs to me as we draw near her door.

‘Dunno,’ I mumble back. ‘I just hope they caught them all, the bastards – and that they’re in as much trouble as we are.’

‘We’ve just got detention,’ Ian reminds us, rather hopefully.

I snort. ‘For now,’ I murmur as we pass into Habersham’s room. ‘We’ve just got detention for now.’

‘Good morning,’ Professor Habersham says sharply, a maliciously pleased gleam in her eye as she surveys our sorry, sleep–deprives selves. ‘I trust you all slept well? Excellent. Now, before I set you to your task for the day, there is something I feel obliged to tell you.’ She’s definitely smirking now, and I feel the bottom drop out of my stomach: this cannot be good. ‘I’m sure you noticed that a single detention and the loss of a few house points was a rather light punishment for your crime - experienced as you are, you doubtless have been wondering what is to follow. While I can't get you specifis,' she positively purrs, 'I can say that the remaining portion of your punishment has been devised.’ I can see Ian’s head whip round to stare at us as she speaks, but I resolutely stare ahead. ‘This evening you will meet with the headmistress – she will inform you of the details as soon as all of the requisite permissions have been granted.’

‘Permission? Whose permission – ‘

‘All in good time, Miss Laramie, all in good time. Now, don’t look so apoplectic Mr. Potter, it will all sort itself out. In the meantime, you will be cleaning the Trophy Room – without magic.’

Finally – something familiar.

* * * * *

‘Wonder if the Slytherins are in detention, or if Renier just let them off for attacking us,’ Kate muses as she viciously scrubs tarnish off of a plaque.

‘Probably they’re sitting round in their common room, having brandy and arguing about whose father is richest, or whatever it is they do for laughs,’ I snort, resisting the urge to hurl the trophy I’m polishing (lauding someone called Humphrey Humperdinkle for taming the giant squid in his fifth year) across the room.

‘If we were caught by at least three professors though… I mean, he talked with Habersham, and then she mentioned that other students had been caught as well, so he’s got to punish them, at least a little,’ Jamie points out.

‘Still,’ Ian sighs. ‘I doubt they’re scrubbing anything by hand – their detention is probably to trace their bloodlines back to Salazar Slytherin or something.’

I snigger, placing Humphrey’s bit of history back into the case where it belongs, and taking up the next bit of brass. It’s not really funny, I suppose, because we’ve been at this for hours, and still have hours to go, but it is sort of satisfying knowing that at least four of Hogwarts’ most repulsive students are being punished as well. Which puts another thought into my head. ‘Last night, who do you think they were?’ I ask. ‘I mean, I recognised Lyre, and Geoffrey Donovan, but who were the others?’

Everyone thinks for a moment, hands going still as minds cast back to the darkness, the voices. ‘I suppose the girl would have to be Marielle Madryga, wouldn’t it?’ Kate says after a moment. ‘She’s the only bird what hangs round with them.’

I nod slowly, considering. ‘And the other was Caleb Rochester,’ Ian adds after a moment. ‘I’m almost sure of it. You’re positive it was Lyre though? I saw Donovan, but the whole bit seems, er, clumsy for Lyre.’

I roll my eyes. ‘Yes, I’m sure it was him – couldn’t you hear his nasty grating voice? And besides, you could see a bit of his hair hanging out from under that ridiculous mask.’

‘Whatever you say,’ Ian nods, turning away quickly. It’s common knowledge that, since our first year when the two of us had a full–fledged, if inept, duel, Atticus Lyre and I have hated one another. And who can blame me? Lyre is a conceited, disgusting, chauvinistic, narcissistic, smarmy wanker. And those are just his good qualities.

‘What do you think they were looking for?’ Kate asks a moment later, closing up a case she’s just finished with.

‘Probably some drug or other – rumor has it a few of the seventh years mix up Hazing Draughts pretty regularly,’ Ian replies nonchalantly.

‘And that translates to…?’ she trails off, still looking confused.

‘Er, sort of like cocaine, I guess,’ I reply. Third year I decided it would be fantastic to take Muggle Studies and see how the other half lives. The only things I actually remember are how to build explosives and the names of various illegal substances – just in case I ever get offered anything, I’ll know what it is. Needless to say, I dropped it before O.W.L.s.

Kate is grimacing slightly, and shaking her head. ‘The Muggle school I would have gone to was supposed to have problems with that,’ she explains. ‘It’s really nasty.’

‘Yeah, Hazing Draughts are too – you don’t even have to ingest them,’ James sighs. ‘You can just smell them, or rub them on your skin, and you immediately have trouble focusing, thinking, even talking. And its very addictive.’

‘Whatever they were looking for in the Potions room was in with the poisons,’ I supply, remembering overhearing Lyre ordering the others to look there.

‘Mandrake is essential in Hazing Draughts,’ James points out.

‘Yeah, but it’s not really a poison, is it…’

‘This is absolutely ridiculous,’ Ian groans several hours later, sprawling on his back, a rag in his hand. We’ve long since given over talking about the Slytherins, potions, and even what the Headmistress wants to see us about.

I stretch, popping my shoulders gently. I have to agree with Ian – it’s nearly five in the evening and we’re still polishing things in the Trophy room. If that’s not ridiculous, I don’t know what is. ‘We’re almost finished though,’ Katie points out, nudging him with her foot. ‘Just that last cabinet to finish with…’

We all stare at the gargantuan construction of wood and glass, full of cobwebby, tarnished trophies that, judging by the amount of dust gathered in the corners, no one’s cared about in roughly a thousand years. Still, it’s another easy hour of work, and since Habersham confiscated our wands at the door, there’s little chance we’ll finish before dinner. ‘Er, I don’t suppose you could help us along a bit, could you Si?’ Ian asks hopefully, nodding at the case.

I grimace, trying not to get any hopes up. ‘Course not – if she could do it, we wouldn’t have wasted all day cleaning by hand, would we?’ Kate finishes off a touch unsurely, turning to look at me curiously.

I heave a sigh and try to remind myself that this is fairly advanced. What they’re talking about is wandless magic. I’m supposed to be learning it – I showed a particular skill for nonverbal spellcasting, and our Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, who happens to know Dad, decided I ought to try some private lessons. So far I can open locks, levitate objects, and summon things by silently waving my hand. But those are all basic, common, everyday spells that I could accomplish without thinking in any case. The sad truth of the matter is, I’ve had more experience polishing brass by hand than I have with magic.

But James is giving me that wry, speculative look, and I sigh again. ‘I can try, I suppose. But there’s not much chance it will work –‘

‘If you could get rid of the dust and cobwebs, it would be worth it,’ Kate sighs wistfully.

Another shrug – I clean periodically. Mayhap a good Scourgify will do the trick. I shake out my shoulders, concentrate very hard, and take a deep breath. Keeping my eyes on the cabinet I extend one arm, gather my thoughts, and complete the requisite motion with my finger tip while thinking the spell very hard. The cabinet wobbles a bit, and I unintentionally shut my eyes, afraid that it will topple over like the suit of armor from last night. But when one eye cracks open to survey the damage, I’m greeted by the sight of a clean, sparkling case of gleaming brass. ‘Wow,’ I breathe.

‘Not too shabby,’ Ian agrees, grinning broadly.

‘Impressive, Miss Potter,’ a dry voice says from the doorway. Grimacing, I turn to see Professor Habersham standing just inside the room. ‘I’ll be sure to remember that you’re studying wandless casting the next time I assign non–magical cleaning as a punishment.’

‘It’s the only thing we’ve done,’ James assures her quickly.

‘Yes,’ she replies wryly. ‘I can see that. But never mind – come and take your wands back, and then kindly follow me to the Headmistress’ office.’

It’s a very quiet walk. We have, of course, spent the entire day theorising and projecting what punishment could possibly require permission from persons outside the school. Ian was afraid we were going to have to do one of the internships with the Ministry where you sorted post all day. James thought it was possible they had written our parents to see about keeping us a week into the summer for extra detention. Kate, the only Muggleborn out of us, wondered if we were going to have something called “community service”. I don’t have any idea what they could possibly be planning, but I'm willing to bet it'll be something much nastier than anything we’d come up with. After all, they are professors.

When we arrive at the stone gargoyle that guards the Headmistress’s office, Professor Habersham murmurs the password very softly, undoubtedly trying to keep us from hearing. Which is silly, because we’ve known it for ages. But we step onto the rotating stone stairs as though we’ve never been here before, and solemnly ride to the top. ‘You may come in,’ a voice says calmly once we are deposited on the stoop before the great wooden door.

Professor Habersham straightens her hat and throws the door open, motioning for us to proceed. I step through first, being the most experienced with the space. Jamie is probably right after me, seeing as he’s a Prefect and spends a bit of time in here as well. Ian and Kate follow apprehensively, trying to look collected and coming off as scared senseless. ‘Good evening,’ Professor Vespa says politely, her eyes twinkling at us across her desk.

I smile slightly. ‘Good evening, Professor.’ I rather like our headmistress. There’s something very clever about her, something powerful. She must have been very beautiful in her youth, with long dark hair and strong, aquiline features. Now she's what Mum would call handsome, her hair an even mix of black and white, her eyes like lodestones in her face, glittering and amused and wise.

‘You may stay, if you like, Professor Habersham,’ she adds, smiling slightly at the younger witch, who is slipping back out the door. Professor Habersham, looking embarrassed, takes up a space in the corner, shifting nervously from foot to foot. Professor Vespa, still looking slightly amused, turns back to us. ‘Please, do have a seat.’ Four armchairs plop into existence behind us, and one by one, we sink down into them. ‘Now, I am well aware of the reasons for your being in detention today, and I would like to say that I am very disappointed in you. But, that said, I must accept some of the blame for the situation.’

We all exchange glances, but no one dares interrupt. ‘You see,’ she continues, ‘Hogwarts has long had a legacy for creating powerful bonds between the members of its respective houses. However, there has never been any serious notion of school harmony, or of unity. Perhaps it is a flaw of our current Sorting system, and perhaps it is simply part of the human condition. Either way, it is something that has long bothered the Board of Trustees, and they are resolved to do something about it. You do not need to admit that the four students you engaged in a duel with early this morning were of another house. You do not even need to admit that there is a serious, long-standing rivalry between their house and your own – I know this already.

It is the goal of the Board of Trustees to create what they have termed a “neutral ground”. A space where students from the four respective houses can spend time – perhaps weekends during the school year, perhaps even summers – together, engaging in group activities designed to build trust and unity. It is their goal that, once removed from the group mindset of the Hogwarts House, students will develop compromise skills and the ability to socialise less exclusively, eventually destroying the negative elitism inherent to the house system.’

Her smile is beyond amused, bordering on the sadistic. And I get the impression that she thinks this plan for unification and trust is absolute bollocks. Which, as anyone with a grain of sense can see, it is. While its true that Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor coexist in relative peace (meaning we mostly just leave one another alone), no one will ever be able to get along with the Slytherins. And I think Professor Vespa knows that. But Professor Habersham is nodding happily in the corner, and my three comrades look appalled. ‘After many months of searching,’ Professor Vespa adds, ‘The board has settled on and purchased an old estate, a house with a fair amount of land attached, and are resolved to restoring it immediately. That is where the four of you come in. You will be spending the summer working in this new house, which is called Idlewild,

It will be your responsibility to see that the house and grounds are cleaned and brought up to standard. I believe it is, at the moment, rather dusty and overgrown. Your parents have been applied to, and have given their consent, for you to spend six weeks of your summer thus employed. This is intended not only as a punishment for the serious lack of respect you have shown for both your fellow students and the rules of this school, but as a learning experience. We hope that, in these six weeks, you will discover the importance of living in harmony, and the necessity of being able to put aside personal differences for the good of the whole.’

She pauses, and I swallow. There is a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I’m fairly sure the tips of my ears are pink from not breathing. When I finally manage to speak, my voice is shaking and tremulous. ‘But, Professor – that would – that would mean that –‘

‘Yes, Miss Potter,’ she smiles, the gleam back in her eye. ‘This means that you will not be working alone.’

‘Professor Renier, if you would be so kind as to fetch your charges?’ Professor Vespa says with a cool, gleaming smile.

The four of us jump slightly and turn to the corner behind her, finally spotting the mass of black robes that is the spindly, wraithlike professor. ‘Of course,’ he murmurs in his faintly nasal voice, fingers nimbly twirling his wand round to draw up the outline of a door. Murmuring some word or other – probably a portus incantation – he throws the filmy door open and stands back. ‘You may come out now,’ he orders sharply.

Four figures, all familiar, slowly amble out of the doorway. I assume that this is some sort of portal into their common room, or some other space where they were being held while our sentence was read. The sight of them makes me ill. The dark, smooth face of Caleb Rochester; lanky, ranging Geoffrey Donovan; voluptuous, nonchalant Marielle Madryga….all of them – they make me want to vomit. And then the last of them comes sauntering out, moving like a great languorous cat, too pleased with himself to ever be ruffled or disturbed. My nemesis…Atticus Lyre.

I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t good – looking. He’s got the sort of face that, even though the person behind it makes you want to tear out your hair while screaming obscenities, could still make a killing curse pause for a second look. Elegant, I suppose, sculpted – the features clean and even, shaded by just enough stubble to seem dangerous. But he’s not dangerous – he’s just a seventeen year old wanker who specialises in making my life miserable. And he probably looks like a five year old when he shaves, so no wonder he’s always got a five o’clock shadow. Ha.

‘Thank you for joining us,’ Professor Vespa says dryly to the new arrivals, motioning for them to remain standing. ‘I will not keep you much longer. Now that you are all aware of whom you will be spending the summer with, I would simply like to inform you that aggression, dueling, fighting, or trouble of any sort will not be tolerated. You will be given a detailed schedule as well as a list of tasks, rules, and other information tomorrow morning. You will be expected to complete all tasks assigned to you and carry all duties out politely, respectfully, and safely. The twelve of you –‘

‘Twelve?’ I hear a voice that sounds strangely like my own asking. ‘Twelve of us?’ Funny, my mouth seems to be moving too. And now she’s looking at me. Oh Merlin, I’ve interrupted again.

‘Yes, Miss Potter, twelve. Two members of Ravenclaw and two members of Hufflepuff have been appointed by their heads of house to join you – it would hardly be a productive bonding experience if everyone were not represented. They will not, however, be partaking in the more strenuous aspects of the restoration. That is your punishment for indiscretions past and present.’ I have the grace to blush before nodding. She smiles at me slightly, and continues. ‘This exercise is for your benefit, and therefore it is ultimately your decision how much you will take away from this experience. And now, having kept you quite long from your supper, I will say only this: true friends cannot simply be found, they must be made – the deepest and most enjoyable relationships in life are those that we work steadily to build and sustain. Do not overlook what is in front of you simply because you have never bothered to see it before.’ She gives one last, quelling look around, and nods once. ‘You may go.’

A/N - please review and let me know how you think it's going. comments and criticism are always welcome!

Chapter 4: Behind Door Number 1...
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‘This is absolute rubbish –‘

‘Mum’s sure to have already put Howlers in the mail –‘

‘Spending the summer with those gits –‘

I’m staring blankly ahead of me, scarcely aware that my feet are touching the stone. My entire summer is gone. Gone. That’s the only thought ringing through my brain at the moment. The only thing I can comprehend. The last summer of what is, effectively, my childhood…gone. Summer is something sacred. Summer is our birthday. Summer is soaking up sun, playing in the woods, being with family. Summer is paradise and comfort and just long enough to satisfy me without dragging on. But there is no summer this year. No quidditch at the Burrow. No Nan Weasley making us cookies. No Uncle Fred and Uncle George teaching us tricks. No Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron and all Ian’s little sisters running round. No Mum and Dad. No me and James.

‘Sirius – oi! Sirius!’

‘What?’ I grumble, breaking out of my reverie and staring round. I realise that we’re at the Great Hall finally, and I swallow, shaking my head to clear the cobwebs out.

‘Do you want to go in and eat or just nick something from the kitchens?’ Ian is asking with the air of someone repeating himself for the fourth or fifth time.

I peer through the doors, seeing everyone laughing, joking, having a good time. Normally, we’d be right in the thick of it – we’d be the cause of it. But not tonight. ‘No,’ I shake my head. ‘Let’s just see what Dobby and the rest have got for us.’

‘Right enough,’ James mutters, and it’s a mark of how low he is that he doesn’t look squeamish about bunging things from the House Elves.

We turn from the Great Hall and begin the hike to the kitchen door, the others still grumbling angrily. ‘Six whole weeks, in some manky old house, cleaning. Muggle cleaning, too, coz you know they’ll never let us use magic, even if we are of age,’ Ian is saying darkly, his footsteps more like stomps.

‘And the Slytherins won’t want to get their hands dirty,’ Kate adds disparagingly. ‘They’ll go off by themselves, and then of course the others aren’t being “punished” so they won’t have to help…’

‘You’re being awfully quiet,’ Ian says to me, bumping me with his shoulder to get my attention.

‘She’s just coming up with a plan to get us out of it,’ Kate says confidently. ‘Or at least a way to get back at Lyre and the rest.’

‘I’m not hungry,’ I say suddenly, realising that I won’t be able to stand another half hour of this, sitting round a table in the kitchens, surrounded by House Elves and food. ‘I’ll just meet you back in the common room,’ I add, and turn round. I can see Ian open his mouth to protest, but Jamie shakes his head, and Ian subsides. They trek silently on towards the kitchens, and I head for a trick door a ways up the corridor, a handy shortcut to the upper levels.

It isn’t that I don’t want to be around my friends right now – that’s not the case at all, actually. I just feel like I’ve failed them. Horribly. It was, of course, my idea to brew up a Deluding Draught to slip into various cups of pumpkin juice at the end of term feast. And it was my idea to sneak into the Potions stores to procure the ingredients we didn’t have. And while the prank would have been brilliant, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m the one who’s landed the four of us straight into the summer from hell. Resisting the urge to pause and beat my head against the corridor wall, I heave a sigh and keep walking, letting my feet take over, leading my back to Gryffindor Tower. The summer is going to be the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. We’ll be stuck in some old manor, cleaning, probably under “constant supervision” by the entire Board of School Governors. Probably, the whole lot of them is staying the house or something – we’ll have to take tea with them everyday, and do their laundry. Ick.

I’m so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I don’t realise I’m back in the main corridors of the school. Or that there are footsteps approaching behind me. I’m so absorbed that I don’t even catch on to what’s happening until it’s too late. A hand clamps round my arm, another presses into the small of my back, and before I can so much as let out a yell, I’m being shoved through a door into a small, dark space.

‘What the ruddy hell- Stupify!’ I shout, throwing my free arm out in an attempt to hurl the spell over my shoulder.

‘Calm down,’ a familiar voice snaps. ‘I’m not trying to hurt you – I just don’t want to be seen talking to you in public.’

With a snarl I jerk out of his grasp, snapping my fingers to conjure up a small ball of witch fire in my palm. ‘Get out of my way, Lyre.’

‘Or what,’ he smirks. ‘You’ll try to singe me? Relax,’ he repeats, leaning back against the door. ‘This isn’t an attack.’

‘I don’t care what it is,’ I growl. ‘I can’t be seen in hidden spaces with people like you – I’ve got a boyfriend.’

‘No you haven’t,’ he says, looking almost confused.

‘Yes I ha – oh, er…’ I don’t exactly know how to admit that he’s right. Two days ago I did have a boyfriend – Tommy Landrum – but I broke things off after he told me I needed to be more ladylike. ‘How did you know about that?’ I ask, having the impression that Lyre doesn’t waste much time keeping up with my social life.

He rolls his eyes, somehow managing to look elegant. ‘You did it in front of the entire Great Hall – ruined my breakfast. But that’s not the point –‘

‘No,’ I agree viciously. ‘It’s not – the point is I’d rather be half–eaten by a dragon than caught – dead or alive – in a broom cupboard with you.’

‘So that’s what this is,’ he murmurs, glancing around the tiny room, examining it in the flickering light from my palm full of flames. ‘Hm. I’ve never seen one before. No doubt you’re quite familiar with them, though,’ he adds, smirking down at me. There’s a strong desire to punch his nasty, smarmy face in. And I’m not one to deny my desires. But, before I can launch my balled up fist at his nose, he continues in a very businesslike tone. ‘Before you try to tear my throat out, or whatever it is you’re plotting, I want to ask you a question.’

‘Why does it hurt so much?’ I interrupt sweetly.

His brow wrinkles. ‘What –‘ he begins.

But by then, my knee has already connected with his groin, and he’s doubled over in pain. ‘Lots of nerve endings there,’ I explain, stepping over him as he curls into a ball on the floor, moaning. ‘One good hit and you’re down for the count –‘

I’m just tugging the door open when his hand clamps around my ankle, and with one good jerk he sends me sprawling to the floor. ‘If I didn’t have civilised manners,’ he growls, ‘I’d punch your bloody face in.’

After a moment I roll onto my stomach and push up onto my elbows, wincing because my left arm took a bit of a beating in the fall. ‘I hate boys who’re too scared to hit girls.’

‘Fear has nothing to do with it –‘

‘Yeah, right,’ I snort. ‘You’re just afraid you couldn’t match up.’ I’m trying to convince my left knee, which is wobbling, that I can in fact stand on it, and Lyre is managing a sitting position well enough. Slowly, ignoring one another to spare embarrassment, we haul ourselves to our feet and dust off.

‘About that question,’ he says a touch breathlessly, pressing his hand into his abdomen and wincing.

I smirk. ‘Yes?’

‘We – and by we I mean myself, Marielle, Donovan and Rochester –‘

‘Yes, so I gathered,’ I say acidly, motioning for him to get on with it.

‘We,’ he repeats, glaring at me, ‘wanted to know what your plan was.’

‘My plan?’ I ask blankly.

‘Yes, Potter, your plan – you know, the harebrained scheme you’ve cooked up to get yourself and your brother and those two idiots you hang round with out of the whole situation.’

‘I don’t have a plan,’ I say flatly, barely noticing that James and I aren’t classed as “idiots”. Not that Lyre ever passes up a chance to insult us – he knows insulting my friends is a sure way to get me angry.

At the moment, however, he’s looking rather shocked. ‘But – but – you always have a plan. Always. You always talk your way out of it, or create a diversion, or cut a corner – there has to be a plan.’ He sounds desperate, and looks desperate, and for a moment there’s a part of me that can forget he’s Atticus Lyre, disgusting scion of Slytherin, and see him for what he is: a boy who’s run out of options.

‘Look,’ I say more evenly. ‘There is no plan. If there was a plan, it would read “we’re fucked”. This isn’t about sweet talking Habersham and Renier, or offering to have detention every day until term ends.’

‘But –‘

‘No, there are no buts this time. Didn’t you look at her face when she was talking – didn’t you listen? We got caught at the wrong time. The really, really wrong time. This is about pressure, and control, and Vespa against the Board of Governors. It’s the Governors that want this – they’re the ones that think this whole “neutral space” anti–rivalry thing is going to work. Professor Vespa knows it’s a crap idea. She knows that, unless a miracle happens, we’re just going to come back hating one another more than when we left. She isn’t stupid. We’re just the unlucky sods who got caught, who have a history of getting caught, who fit the profile of everything they’re hoping to fix. And, if she’s really against it, we’re her best options. We’ll tear one another apart – they’ll see that it’s a really crap idea and give it over, and we’re the ones who’ll be sitting out in the cold with the shittiest summer ever ruining our lives. So no, I don’t have a plan. Short of dying tomorrow, there’s no way out of this.’

‘That’s rather… in depth,’ he finally says, nodding. ‘Depressing, but very clever – I hadn’t thought of it that way yet.’ I snort derisively – probably he wouldn’t have thought of it that way at all. ‘Do you think we could protest because the school doesn’t have the right to dictate our summers?’

I ponder for a moment and shake my head. ‘The alternative would probably be year long suspension, or out right expulsion. And if they’ve already gotten consent from our parents, its not like we can object on any account, can we?’

‘You mean you’re not of age yet?’

‘No,’ I sigh. ‘Not till the twentieth of June – well, the twenty – first, I suppose.’

‘You suppose? You don’t know your own birthday?’

I glare at him. ‘I was born at midnight exactly – I can pick.’

‘Oh, right. So basically you’re saying that we’re in it no matter what we want, and that there’s no point in arguing?’

‘Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Now if you don’t mind, this has been strange enough, and I’d like to leave before anyone thinks we’re in here doing something we shouldn’t be.’

The businesslike demeanor is gone, and he is back to his usual, languid, smirking self. ‘Things we shouldn’t be?’ he repeats suggestively, stepping towards me. In a space this small, it means I have to back up against the wall to not be pressed against him. ‘What shouldn’t we be doing?’

I can’t help it – he’s taller than me by a bit, and he smells nice, and there’s something about him, even when he’s being obnoxious. For a split second I glance at his mouth, see it curve into a satisfied smirk, and I plaster on my best sneer. ‘Anything – we shouldn’t be doing anything,’ I snap. ‘You can leave in three minutes, just so no one thinks we were in here together,’ I add, and step round him, opening the door and stepping out into the corridor before he can reply.

Of course, it would be too much to hope that I would emerge into a quiet empty corridor, and be able to go on my way, pretending nothing happened. Far too much to hope. Instead, I literally walk right into Kate, managing to shut the door behind me just in time. ‘Cor! What were you doing in there!’ she gasps, pressing her hand to her chest. ‘You nearly scared me to death!’

‘Sorry,’ I mutter, looking round at the others, who are all staring at me in confusion. ‘Just come from the kitchens?’ I ask, nodding to the packets of food they’re holding.

‘Yeah,’ Jamie says slowly. ‘Just coming from a bit of sweeping?’ he adds, nodding to the cupboard door.

‘Oh,’ I laugh, blushing a bit. Think Sirius, think. ‘No, no, course not. I, er, just needed to have a bit of a moment to, er, let my frustrations out, and thought it would be better not to do it in front of the entire common room – trying to keep a low profile and all.’

‘Oh, yeah, definitely,’ Ian nods, still looking slightly unsure. ‘Right then, let’s, er, just go on, shall we?’

I nod quickly, praying that I’m the only one that can hear Lyre snickering, no doubt shaking with stifled laughter, on the other side of the door. ‘Yeah, let’s go.’

A glance at Kate’s face shows me she’s still slightly skeptical, but like Ian, is apt to believe. One look at James, and I know I haven’t fooled him. There will be questions later. At least I have time to come up with answers.

A/N - okay, so this is probably the last chapter i'll be able to get out before the whole "server shut - down" episode, so...enjoy! (and don't forget to review - i really appreciate everyone who has!)

Chapter 5: The Weasley Temper
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‘Right, so I guess we’ll all be seeing one another in about five days anyway,’ Ian says, putting on a bright face, no doubt gearing up for hearing it from his mum. I can’t blame him – Aunt Hermione’s frightening enough when she’s not angry.

‘Yeah,’ Kate agrees in a brittle voice. Her parents couldn’t send her a Howler, being Muggles, but it didn’t stop them from writing her a very angry letter. Not that Jamie and I were any better off – Mum had written us both Howlers, which I had managed to throw out the window before they exploded, but we still got to listen to her rileing as the letters drifted down the side of Gryffindor Tower. She’d been audible almost until the letters had landed on the ground. Mum’s are like that.

‘We’ll miss you on our birthday,’ I sigh, hugging Kate. We’re all standing on Platform 9 3/4, putting off crossing the barrier for as long as possible.

‘Don’t suppose there’s any point in sending you a card or your presents – we’ll just do it once we get…there,’ Ian trails off morosely. We all nod. Ahead of us I see a head of silky golden hair atop a pair of broad shoulders, and glower at Lyre, Rochester and Donovan, who are huddled in a group, no doubt plotting something.

‘Oi – you coming?’ James asks, poking me in the side.

‘What?’ I ask, jumping slightly. ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m coming.’ I smile at Ian. ‘See you in a few days, mate.’ We hug, and then I give Kate a last squinch before grabbing my trunk handle and nodding at James. ‘You ready?’

‘Would if help if I was?’ I crack a smile and, waving to Kates and Ian, follow him through the barrier, ready for just about anything.

‘James Harold Potter!’ she snaps the moment his foot has tapped onto the King’s Cross platform floor. ‘And you – Sirius Cordelia Potter,’ she adds in a menacing hiss as I step out. I grimace inwardly – I hate my middle name.

We both paste on nervous, hopeful, even innocent smiles. ‘Hi Mum.’

‘Don’t bother,’ she snarls, turning on her heel sharply, her red hair swinging round her head. ‘Come on,’ she snaps, not glancing back at us. ‘And don’t say a word – I’m not in the mood to hear it. Getting yourselves in detention for an entire summer – sneaking out of bed at night – starting fights – no sense – no sense at all –‘

James and I exchange a glance and sigh heavily. Maybe it’s a plus that we’ve only got four days of this.

Mum doesn’t bother taking us to The Leaky Cauldron to Floo home. Instead, dragging us into a nearby alley, she snatches up our hands and, snarling at us to hold onto our trunks, Apparates instead. The funny, inside out feeling makes me dizzy for a moment, and when I open my eyes again, I'm standing in the front garden, staring at the handsome manor house that is Godric’s Hollow, our home. For a moment I smile, relishing the fresh air of Kent, the cool shade from the ancient oaks that surround the house. And then Mum starts muttering again, and I remember that I don’t have seven weeks of this heaven stretching before me, so I heave a great sigh, and followed her to the house.

‘You’re going to have a lot of explaining to do once your father gets home,’ Mum is saying sharply as she slaps through the kitchen, throwing sandwiches together. ‘I’ve taken the day off for you, you know – missing all sorts of important things, I’m sure –‘

James and I exchange a grimace, and sit at the kitchen table, knowing better than to interrupt Mum when she’s on a rant. She’s a bit like Nan Weasley, her mum, when it comes to being angry. Red hair, just beginning to show a bit of gray, flies round her head as she keeps up a steady stream of commentary on whatever crime’s been committed. The whole Weasley side of the family is like that, mostly. Well, except for Uncle Fred and Uncle George, who are usually causing the ruckus, and Uncle Ron, who just lets Aunt Hermione take control of things. In a way, I feel bad for Ian – scary as Ginny Weasley Potter is, Hermione Granger is twice as frightening.

‘You know Mum,’ I’ve heard plenty of stories about you hexing Slytherins.’ I immediately clap a hand over my mouth. Why does it open itself when I’m otherwise occupied? Why does it do these things to me? Why?

‘That is not the issue at hand, Sirius,’ she snaps, banging a plate with a sandwich down on the table. I grimace – I loathe corned beef. But, Mum’s not a housewife – she works for the Magical Reversal Squad, and if her sandwich making skills are a little shoddier than her spell unraveling skills then that’s just fine. ‘You’ve had more detentions than Fred and George ever dreamed of – you’ve set a new record at the school, Professor Vespa told me, more than that ruddy Sirius Black and your grandfather in their day –‘

‘Really?’ I ask excitedly. ‘A new record, more than Sirius Bl-‘ James kicks me under the table and almost imperceptibly shakes his head. I shut up immediately, feeling Mum’s glare boring through me.

‘That is not something to be proud of,’ she says sharply, but I can tell that she’s having trouble maintaining her ire. After all, she and Dad weren’t completely innocent at school – especially not Dad.

‘Course not,’ I murmur, looking down at my sandwich and debating taking a bite. Deciding its not worth it, I glance up at James and tell him exactly how crap this is. Of course, being his twin, I don’t even have to open my mouth.

‘Oh will you two stop that,’ Mum groans, thwacking around, pouring glasses of juice. ‘The two of you, talking to one another, without talking – just like your uncles – plotting things –‘

‘We’re not plotting anything,’ James sighs, standing and grabbing Mum up in a squinch, her head barely coming to his chin. ‘We’ve just heard a lot of this the last few days, and believe it or not, we know we’ve stuffed things up badly. In time, we might even be sorry for it,’ he adds mischievously.

‘Oh get off, you,’ she sighs, pushing away from him and glaring up into his face. ‘I know the two of you – especially this one,’ she adds, turning and shaking a finger at me. ‘She’ll never stop – gets it from her father.’

‘Speaking of which,’ I say, standing and grinning at the clock on the wall. Three of its hands currently point to “home” but the fourth has just gone into motion, humming above “in transit”. Moments later there’s a loud popping noise from the entry hall and, completely forgetting that I’m in loads of trouble, forgetting that I’m probably about to get the greatest telling off of all time, I bound into the lounge, beaming.


‘Uh,’ he groans as I leap onto him, hugging him tightly.

‘I missed you so much!’

‘I missed you too,’ he laughs, hugging me back. ‘How’s your year – er…never mind that now,’ he hurries along. ‘Where’s your – there he is! James – ‘ They shake hands, hugging and patting one another on the back. Dad sobers as soon as Mum appears in the kitchen doorway, his face forming into a serious frown. ‘Er, I believe we have something to discuss…’

‘Kitchen,’ Mum says sharply. ‘Now.’

Soon we’re all sitting around the table, Mum and Dad on one side, James and I on the other. Pretending I’m practicing Occulmency, I clear my mind and my face, becoming a blank slate. I learned long ago that this was the best way to deal with parental confrontation – generally, it keeps everyone from getting out of hand. James isn’t quite as good at this; despite my coaching, he still looks vaguely queasy whenever we’re really getting told off.

‘We received a letter from Professor Habersham – and then another from the headmistress,’ Mum begins. ‘Seems the two of you have been quite busy. Sneaking out of bed at two in the morning, and then, mysteriously meeting up with students that you happen to have a history of trouble with. And you honestly expect us to believe,’ she continues, getting heated, ‘that this was all an accident – that you didn’t plan this, that no one challenged you –‘

‘Er, perhaps we should calm down a bit dear,’ Dad says, pushing his glasses up his nose. ‘No sense in getting all –‘

‘I am not upset,’ she snaps loudly. ‘It is perfectly normal to believe that your children might not be telling you the truth when they have a history of keeping things from you –‘

‘Well, this time we are telling the truth,’ I say very calmly, telling myself that I’m not going to get angry. ‘Yes, we were out of bed at two in the morning, but it wasn’t because we had a date to meet Lyre and the others for a duel, it was because we were stealing things from the Potions stores. They happened to be doing the same thing at the same time, and it got a bit out of hand. And yes, that’s the truth – you can feed us Veritaserum if you don’t believe me.’

Mum eyes me for a moment. Dad looks at the table, knowing he has no room to talk since he, in his second year, had stolen things from the Potions master to make an illegal potion. Of course, he hadn’t gotten caught. Although, technically I suppose we didn’t either since no one knows why we were out of bounds – just that we were. Which is Mum’s next question. ‘Professor Vespa didn’t mention that you’d been caught in the Potions room – she said it was the Trophy room.’

‘That’s because she didn’t know we were in the Potions room – things didn’t really escalate until we were upstairs,’ James sighs heavily. ‘We decided there wasn’t much point in getting into more trouble if we didn’t have to.’

‘Although I don’t know what else they would have done to punish us,’ I add darkly. ‘They’ve come up with about the worst there is.’

‘Your mum and I aren’t going to punish you more,’ Dad says calmly, interrupting the silent complaining Jamie and I are doing to one another. We both look at him, surprised. ‘We’ve agreed that spending your summer cleaning out an old house with people you don’t like is cruel enough without us imprisoning you for the only four days of freedom you’ll have all summer. However, that doesn’t mean that we’re pleased with, or condone your behaviour in any way. So, instead of ranting and raving and yelling,’ he glances at Mum, who is holding her tongue, but still looks ready to do all of the above, ‘we just want to say this: we know that, while we were at school, we weren’t exactly models of good behaviour. We hexed Slytherins, we snuck round out of bounds, caused chaos, and generally set the school on its ear. But, that said, the circumstances are not the same. The world was a very different place – we were fighting a war even from inside the walls of Hogwarts, and perhaps there was more reason for us to do what we did. You, however, do not have the same excuse. Looking back, we can see things more clearly, and I know that right now rivalry and competition seem normal and certain and comfortable, but just remember that life goes on after Hogwarts. It wouldn’t hurt to try to get along.’

‘Right,’ I say evenly, nodding.

‘I’m serious,’ Dad says sternly.

‘No Dad, I’m Sirius – but don’t worry,’ I add when he groans at the bad pun. ‘We’ll be on our best behaviour.’

Mum snorts, shaking her head. Jamie pats her hand, smiling sincerely. ‘Don’t worry Mum – it’s us and Ian and Kate, we’ll take care of one another.’

‘And keep one another in line?’ she asks sceptically. ‘Well, I suppose we’ve already agreed to let you go…and we do trust you,’ she adds after a moment. ‘We know you’re very capable, and very clever – sometimes a bit too much for your own good – we just worry that you spend too much time having fun and not enough time working for things that are important.’

I nod, smiling. ‘We know. But fun is part of life Mum – just because we haven’t got a war to fight doesn’t mean we aren’t thinking about life beyond school. It’ll be all right in the end – you’ll see.’

‘That was so much easier than I expected,’ James sighs fifteen minutes later, as we climb the stairs, carrying our trunks behind us.

‘Which means we must really be in for a treat – Dad never could have talked Mum into not punishing us if he didn’t think we were about to go into the worst summer of our lives,’ I point out, wondering what our dear parents know that we don't.

‘Nice of them not to make it worse, though.’

I feel my eyes narrow as I think of all the things we could be getting into. ‘Nice of them indeed.’

A/N - after ages and ages of inactivity, i'm continuing this story - so thanks to all who have reviewed since the last chapter was put out, and thanks to all who pop in every few weeks to see if that update (long promised, never delivered) ever came. chapter 6 (and yes, i am telling the truth this time...) is on its way, so thanks for reading, and enjoy!

Chapter 6: The Gallows Walk
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Chapter 6

'Your legs look like lobsters.’

I crack one eye open to stare at Jamie’s upside down face, which is peering down at me bemusedly. ‘No they don’t,’ I reply on the tail of a yawn.

He merely cocks a brow. ‘Maybe you ought to look at them then – because if that’s not red, I’ve been confused about our house colours for years. Post’s here,’ he adds, dropping a pile of letters and magazines onto my stomach. ‘Latest issue of Teen Witch is in – knew you were breathless for that one.’

‘Oh ha ha ha,’ I grouse as I drag myself into a sitting position. It has long been a bone of contention that our Aunt Penny, Uncle Percy’s wife, doesn’t understand James or I at all. She thinks James is just like Dad and Uncle Ron – that is to say, quidditch mad – and that I’m just like…I dunno, her. For Christmas she got each of us a year’s subscription to a magazine - Quidditch World for James, and Teen Witch for me. Since James doesn’t play quidditch, he just passes his on to me. The Teen Witch is usually good for a few laughs (honestly, who needs to know which shade of yellow looks best as an eyeshadow?) but mostly its just a waste of her money, because I’ve never managed to read entirely through one.

‘How long’ve you been out?’ James asks as he settles beside me, leaning back against a tree trunk.

‘An hour or two?’ I estimate, swirling my toe in the water. We’re seated on the edge of the pond just behind the house, a favourite spot from when we were children that we both automatically return to now. When I got up this morning it was only natural to tug on shorts and a vest and amble down to the water, settling beneath the oaks to weave a crown out of grass and wildflowers as I watched the sun move over the ripples.

Beside me James nods easily, not needing to speak. We’re both remembering the hours we’ve spent in this garden – playing at Dark wizards and Aurors, pretend, building toy boats and swimming in this very pond. We had our first broom rides here, our first proper duel, back when Mum taught us how to “take care of ourselves”. This place is summer to me, summer and childhood and freedom.

A slight snore tells me that Jamie, lulled by the sun, has drifted off into a doze. I grin: this is just an invitation for a prank. But I’ll give him a few minutes – he’ll need his rest where we’re going. This thought immediately sours the moment – any reminder of our little “summer punishment” would, of course, but somehow now that we’re free from Hogwarts the unfairness of it all seems even more glaring. ‘Rubbish,’ I mumble, glancing down to see that my legs are a bit pink… not red – just…pink. Face it, you’re sunburnt my common sense tells me sternly. I shift to ease my foot further into the water and the glossy Teen Witch shifts in my lap.

When Are Your Stars Right for Turning on the Charm? the cover glitters, the noxious headline paired with a photo of a saucy young witch winking cheekily over the tops of her star-shaped sunglasses. She’s not pink, I notice – she’s a nice golden tan, and I briefly wonder what potion she slathered on to turn that colour. But then my eye catches further down the cover - Love Potion No. 10 the tag reads. The U.K.’s Ten Most Eligible Bachelors – All Under 25!

‘You’ve got to be joking,’ I mumble, flipping the cover open and finding the proper page. When I turn to it I stare dumbly down at Horace Moncrief-Atherby VI (he enjoys weather charms and has twenty four hounds! the magazine informs me brightly, the words printed just below a large picture of Horace, a rotund, tweedy fellow of twenty-two or so, surrounded by – yes – floppy-eared hounds.) Somehow I can’t quite believe that anyone – even a smarmy teen magazine – would go so far as to put together a list of England’s most eligible bachelors – under 25 too. Honestly, they’re not even old enough to be married – what’re girls on about, drooling over them like this? Its not as though they’ll ever actually meet them. And who would want a bloke that would willingly pose for a magazine like this anyway?

In my ire I’m flipping pages rapidly – churning past Ichabod Appleby and Gerrard Dashwood, prizes, the both of them – and am ready to fling the whole bit into the pond when I freeze and turn back a page, sure that my eyes are playing tricks. But no…

‘Oi! James!’ I shout, my voice higher than usual as I shake his leg, joggling him out of his doze.

‘Eh?’ he mumbles, cracking his eyes open. ‘What? Fish bite you? That’s hardly worth waking me –‘

‘No – its you!’ I cry, shoving the magazine into his face, pointing at the photo. ‘Look – you’re in this – this - rubbish!’

‘What!’ he cries, snatching the thing from me and staring at it in horror. ‘Bloody hell – what’s this about?’

‘It’s a list of the most eligible bachelors under 25 in England,’ I say, beginning to snigger. ‘And you’re in there. What did you do, give them an interview on the sly?’ I tease.

‘No! I would never - how’d they get this? And this photo? –‘

I can see what he means about the photo – there’s no possible way a reporter snapped that. It’s of James in his full Hogwarts regalia: trousers, shirt, tie, and jumper, all in the black and charcoal with the crimson and gold Gryffindor insignia. He even has his robes on – long billowing black things that trail impressively out behind him. His hands are thrust into his pockets and he’s walking towards the camera, his head turning from side to front slowly as though he’s just having a look around. And I can proudly say that he looks very handsome – every inch the clean-cut prefect with his dark hair and chiseled features. But he never wears those clothes outside of school – which means either a reporter snuck in, or a student snuck that photo out.

‘Bloody hell,’ he’s saying, his face going pale. ‘They’ve listed out my “previous girlfriends!” They claim I dated Helena Holt for half of last year! That’s bollocks – I don’t even know her. And they’ve got a physical profile with eye colour – and my estimated worth?!?!?!’

The last has his eyes nearly popping out of his head, and I snatch the magazine back with a hurried, ‘Let me see that!’ Sure enough there it is, right below his height (which is horribly wrong – he’s not a sodding giant, you know). “Based on his family’s Gringott’s holdings and known assets, T.W. estimates that James will come into a fortune of about 3,000,000 galleons – that’s 5.3 million in sterling for those of you who know Muggle money.” ‘Three million galleons,’ I read aloud, gobsmacked. ‘How do they figure that?’

‘Well… Mum and Dad are war heroes and all…and then there’s Grandad,’ James points out dazedly, head in his hands, his elbows balanced on his knees.

‘I know, but…that’s loads and loads of money James…’

‘I know,’ he groans. ‘And now the whole sodding country thinks it’s true.’

‘Well,’ I say slowly, doing some rather rapid mental arithmetic. ‘It could be…’

Not to sound rude, but I’ve always known our family is well off. Mum wasn’t when she was young, but that changed after the War when Grandad Weasley patented loads of magically modified Muggle things he’d been tinkering with for years. He’s practically the inventor of the magical mobile and the Melly – a mirror that’s spelled so you can watch quidditch and the MNN (that’s the Magical News Network) on it. And of course Mum played for England as seeker, and made loads of money off of endorsements, but she was only in the professional leagues for three years – then she retired to work at the Ministry, and while I know she and Dad are paid well (what they do isn’t easy, not to mention it’s ruddy dangerous) they’re not paid that well.

‘They probably just made it up,’ I say, shaking my head to clear it. ‘They probably just thought the name Potter was too good to pass on and so they made up loads of shite about you and then had some kid take that photo at school – it wouldn’t have been hard.’

‘Yeah,’ James is mumbling. ‘Yeah…’

‘And you look loads better than the others,’ I say comfortingly, flipping through the photos, pointing out Horace with his tweed-ensconced belly and the pimply Seymour Archibald. ‘You’re by far the best-looking one…’

But then my voice just stops working, because I’ve got to the last photo, and everything else has gone out of my head. Staring mockingly up at me from the page, cool clear eyes shaded by the pale fringe of his hair, is Atticus Lyre. Unlike James, he’s looking dead at the camera, as though daring it to snap his picture. And that stare goes straight through my belly, doing all sorts of jittering things on its way. I swallow nervously and finally the Lyre in the photo looks away, raising a fag to his lips and dragging on it with more liquid grace and disdainful elegance in that one simple gesture than I’ll be able to summon in my entire life. Without his eyes boring straight into mine I’m able to examine the rest of the photo – namely that he’s seated in a park somewhere, on a bench – and that he doesn’t appear to be posing. More like someone’s snuck up beside him, and he knows it, but he can’t be arsed to move, or to smile or to… And he’s wearing normal clothes – Muggle clothes – that look surprisingly worn in for someone who’s always epitomised the words “upper class” in my mind. I’ve always had this hazy notion that Lyre stalks around his parents’ fancy ancestral manor in robes made of…whatever men’s nice robes are made of. Wool? That seems a bit hot (not to mention itchy) for the summer. But what do I know?

And then his face has turned back to stare out at me, and I have to avert my eyes or I’ll think something I desperately don’t want to think. My attention shifts to the print beside the photo, and despite my best interests, I begin to read.

Atticus Lyre:
Height: 1.84 m.
Hair: blonde
Eyes: blue; green (reports differ…)
Age: 17
School: Hogwarts
Interests: quidditch, music, art, girls (!!!)

Having just come of age (his birthday’s 29 February, so get out those star charts!) Atticus is finally allowed to do magic outside of school – not that he hasn’t been casting a spell on female hearts for years.
(HA! Riiight, I snigger to myself) ‘He’s the best looking boy I’ve ever seen,’ one of his fellow Hogwarts students claims. ‘And he’s clever too – gets top marks in everything.’

‘”Gets top marks in everything,”’ I snipe – this time aloud - mimicking a high, girlish voice and wobbling my head around. ‘He’s a ruddy idiot.’ This last is said in decidedly biting tones. I don’t notice James, who is giving me a very odd look – I just keep reading.

His family home is in the Lake Country, but he spends extended periods in Cornwall with his grandmother (former Secretary of Mysteries Genevieve Dashwood Lyre) and has been spotted in France and Italy as well. But despite a self-confessed “wild streak”, Atticus doesn’t chase the spotlight. (Please…) ‘He’s very private,’ a close friend (who didn’t wish to be named) told Teen Witch in an exclusive interview last week. ‘He’s not the sort who enjoys having people follow him, or having his photo taken or anything like that-

‘HA!’ I shout, and James shakes his head.

‘What are you on about? They comparing lipstick brands again?’

‘No – its one of these rubbish articles. They’ve done one on Lyre – see?’ I flash him the page, the photo of Lyre brooding creditably up at us.

James snorts. ‘No wonder you’re shouting – it’s really not healthy to be that hostile you know.’

‘I am not hostile,’ I snap. ‘Not that I wouldn’t have a reason to be. I mean, he goes out of his way to make me angry – you know he does.’

‘Whatever you say,’ James shrugs.

‘You ought to see what they’ve written about him,’ I add, brandishing the magazine. ‘Listen to this – “‘He’s the best looking boy I’ve ever seen,’ one of his fellow Hogwarts students claims. ‘And he’s clever too – gets top marks in everything.’" What a load of tripe.’

‘Well he really is clever,’ James says, his eyes twinkling. ‘Even you have to admit that, since its you he’s always competing with.’

‘Bollocks,’ I snort. ‘Then they’ve got some “friend” of his saying he “doesn’t chase the spotlight” and that he’s “private” – honestly, he probably wrote this thing himself!’


‘What?’ I fairly snarl, looking up, still glaring because I’d been perusing the photo again.

‘Let it go,’ James says gently. ‘Just let it go.’

* * * * *

Three days later the article about Lyre is the last thing on my mind. In twelve hours James and I are due to Apparate – on our own as we officially came of age yesterday and Dad took us for our test! – to this moldy old manor out in the country to be slave-labour for the next six weeks. And while I may not be the most effeminate of girls, I still take packing seriously. No pun intended.

‘Have you seen my gobstones?’ I ask James, poking my head through the door that separates our rooms.

‘Er, no,’ he replies, looking up from his book. He finished packing ages ago, of course, and will probably come smirk at me in a few minutes and make snide comments about disorganised sisters. ‘Have you looked in your trunk?’

I roll my eyes, ‘yes, of course I have. They were just about yesterday – Dad and I had a game in the study, only now I can’t find them…’ I’m turning back into my room as I say this, and mentally see James shrugging behind me. So much help he is. And I could use a bit of help – really, I could. The sight in front of me is anything but comforting – heaps of stuff, mostly clothes and books, surround my open trunk. My broomstick leans against the wall just behind, and my shampoo and soap and things are all laid out on my bed. Deciding that distracting my brain with a bit of folding will encourage it to remember the location of the game, I amble over and take a seat on the floor, grabbing up the nearest article of clothing – a tshirt advertising The Banshees, one of my favourite bands. Rolling the shirt up tightly, I stow it in the corner of the trunk and then add four pairs of soft, worn jeans in beside it, my folding getting sloppier with each attempt.

By the time I’ve got to a thin hooded sweater with a pouch pocket in the front, I’m really just slinging it into a wad and dropping it perfunctorily into the trunk. So I’m usually a bit wrinkled – all part of the charm. ‘You know, you’d actually fit all of that in there if you folded it properly,’ Jamie says from behind me, and I turn to see him eyeing the veritable mountain of stuff I’m planning on cramming in.

‘That’s the point of magic, silly,’ I reply. ‘I don’t have to fold it all to make it fit.’

‘Hm. Why not just use a Pack! charm then?’ I glance at all my stuff. It would make life easier…but it would also mean I’d have no idea what I’d be bringing. I mean, its not as though I sorted through it all – I just went through the closet and chucked out everything I thought I might need. I’m gnawing on my lip, and James reads the expression, giving a little groan. ‘You haven’t a ruddy clue what’s there, do you?’ he sighs, shaking his head.

‘Yes I do,’ I automatically reply. ‘My things.’

I’m now balling up a short flirty kilt that Mum bought me the last time she went to the shops. Not really the sort of thing I wear, but maybe there’ll be somewhere to sneak off to in the village. Maybe Kate and I can talk the boys into it…

‘Why are you taking that?’ James asks bemusedly, nodding at the skirt. ‘Planning on seducing our caretaker into letting you off the hook?’

I hold the skirt up, confused. ‘This is not seduction material,’ I say after a moment’s thought. ‘It’s practically knee length.’

‘It’s practically see-through, is what it is,’ he shoots back. ‘Where the ruddy hell did you buy it?’

‘Mum got it for me,’ I say defencively. ‘It’s the fashion.’

‘Whatever you say,’ he shrugs, and I give up, re-wadding the skirt and dropping it into the trunk. He’s padded over and dropped down beside me, reaching into the pile and organising the non-clothing, stacking my books and diary and sketch-pad on the opposite side of my trunk from the clothes. ‘You bringing your broomstick?’ he asks after a moment.

‘I haven’t decided,’ I sigh. ‘I rather doubt they’ll let us go flying about, even if we are out in the country – seeing as this is punishment.’

‘Can’t hurt to try,’ is his calm reply, which is James-code for “nervous as a cat in a bath”.

‘It’s going to be alright,’ I say firmly as I squash the last of my shoes in on top of the disorderly pile. I know I look ridiculous, holding down a pair of trainers and my only pair of court shoes, but I want him to believe me, because if James isn’t sure, then I can’t be either. ‘We can do this.’

‘I know,’ he sighs, bringing the lid down and motioning for me to move my hands at the last. ‘I’m just worried about having to undo it once its over.’

In moments he’s at the door, and I’m still folded up on the carpet, trying to decide what he means.

* * * * *

The following morning Mum and Dad wait for us in the kitchen, Dad looking sleepy and rumpled even though he’s dressed in his work clothes and Auror robes. Mum looks as sharp and crisp as ever, her long hair twisted back in a knot, her eyes darting back and forth between us as we stuff down our toast and eye the clock. We’ve had very specific directions from Professor Vespa in the post, and while I know that both of us can Apparate perfectly safely (honestly, we’ve been doing it for ages in the practise classes) I don’t think it’s wise to tell Mum this – she might not take it well.

She’s still in a strop with us, of course, because not only are we in loads of trouble, but we’re spending the entire summer away from her. And whatever else Mum is, she’s an excellent mother. ‘Behave yourselves,’ she orders as I drain the dregs of my tea. ‘I won’t have any fighting, do you hear?’

‘Yes Mum,’ we chorus, knowing that this is her way of saying “be careful.”

‘Hermione says Ian’s been acting like a man condemned,’ Dad says with a yawn. ‘Of course, if I had four younger sisters, I’d act that way too,’ he adds, sipping his tea. Mum shoots him a glare, but doesn’t say anything. After all, she had six older brothers, and she lived to tell the tale.

‘We’ll cheer him up,’ Jamie promises, smiling at Mum. ‘Well, as much as we can.’

‘Which won’t be much,’ I mumble, sending my dishes to the sink with a wave of my hand.

‘You’ve been practising,’ Mum says with approval, watching as the dishes settle lightly into the basin.

I shrug, and James grins widely. ‘You think that’s impressive,’ he says, ‘you ought to see what she can do to an entire trophy case.’

Dad chuckles and Mum rolls her eyes. ‘I don’t want to know.’

‘No,’ I agree, glaring at Jamie, who is beaming mischievously back, ‘you don’t.’

‘You two had best be getting on with it,’ Dad says, looking at his watch. ‘This is the sort of thing its best to be early rather than late for.’

We all grimace: Dad would know. ‘Right then,’ I say as brightly as I can. ‘We’ll write, of course, and we’ve got our mobiles –‘

Not that you’re to overuse them,’ Mum reminds us sternly. ‘Emergencies only.’

James rolls his eyes. ‘Honestly Mum, aside from you and Dad, Ian and Kate are the only people we ever talk to with them.’

‘This is true,’ she says with a smile, and gathers him up in a hug. ‘Take care of yourself then, and keep in touch – when you get back we’ll still have time for a week or so at the Burrow. Fred and George will be there too,’ she adds, which she knows is incentive for us.

‘Brilliant,’ I grin, stepping up for my hug, which she immediately draws me into, squeezing me tight as though she’ll never see me again.

When she pulls back she looks up at me shrewdly and tips her head to the side. ‘You’re growing up, Sirius.’

I feel strangely bare in that moment, and so I muster up a cheeky grin. ‘Of course I am – I can’t let him have all the fun,’ I add, nodding at James.

She pats me on the shoulder and smiles, a little mistily. ‘It’s not that dear,’ she murmurs, stepping back, ‘its not precisely that.’

Dad eyes Mum warily – he knows better than anyone how eerily right she can be about these things – and gives me a hug of his own. ‘Don’t let anything happen to your brother,’ he orders in a low voice.

‘I heard that!’ James calls from where he’s gathering up his trunk handle.

‘Good,’ Dad calls back, and then presses a kiss onto my cheek. ‘And try to behave?’ he asks, arching a brow at me, his eyes kind behind his spectacles.

‘Only for you,’ I promise, returning the cheek-kiss on tip-toes before stepping back to join James by our trunks.

‘We won’t do anything regrettable,’ James promises, grinning cheekily.

‘Or at least we won’t get caught,’ I amend, my grin a perfect match for his.

‘Merlin help us,’ Mum and Dad chorus.

‘Right,’ we chorus back.

‘You ready Sico?’ James asks, turning to me, smile in place.

‘Whenever you are Jims,’ I beam back, telling myself that we’re not nervous at all.

‘Take care of each other,’ Mum orders.

‘Always do,’ we reply in harmony, and turn with our legs out, hurtling toward the summer from hell, determined to have a good time.

A/N - see, there really is a chapter six! whether you're reading the story for the first time, or are one of those that encouraged me to continue, thanks for looking in, and please leave a review to tell me what you think!