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It's Possible That– by The Riddler

Format: Novel
Chapters: 10
Word Count: 20,188
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Dumbledore, Lupin, Pomfrey, Slughorn, Snape, Sirius, Lily, James, Pettigrew, OC
Pairings: Sirius/OC, James/Lily

First Published: 06/03/2010
Last Chapter: 07/26/2011
Last Updated: 07/26/2011

Summary:







Wonderfully amazing banner by the always excellent .blink @ TDA!

It's possible that–
-James Potter is madly in love with my best friend.
-Eloise is sixteen but secretly still twelve.
-Sirius Black makes me want to skin myself alive whenever I see him.
-Remus is the only one with any common sense.
-Mary ate my last Cauldron Cake.
6000+ reads!


Chapter 1: The Quest for the Book of Transfiguration
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The scarlet steam engine rumbled along the tracks as thunder rocked the sky.

“Are we there yet?” I heard Mary ask.

I opened my eyes. It was so dark outside that I could barely tell one black shape from another.

“Mary, we only left the station three hours ago. We can’t possibly be close to Hogwarts.” Lily’s exasperated tone made me grin. “It’s hard to think that this is our last year together,” she sighed.

“Oh, come off it, Lily!” I sat up straight.

She laughed, but stopped abruptly, staring at the compartment window. The door slid open.

“Er…” A skinny boy with the greasiest head of hair I’d ever seen edged his way inside. He looked comically out of place; he was already wearing his uniform. He shuffled his feet, not meeting our eyes.
“Lily, can I have a quick word with you?”

She did not acknowledge that the boy had even spoken; she had turned her head so that he was no longer in her field of vision. The pleading expression on his face was so pathetic that I answered him.

“She can’t talk now, Severus.”

“It will only–”

“Later would probably be best,” I cut across him. My finality took him aback.

“Yeah,” a new voice chimed in. “Talk to her later, Snivilus.”

Two more boys appeared behind Snape, both wearing their traditional mischievous smirks.

Snape rounded on them. “No one asked you, Potter!”

“Who said I needed asking?” James replied. He glanced at his friend. “C’mon Sirius. Why don’t we take our friend and his wonderfully lubricated hair back to his own compartment?”

Snape looked to Lily for help, but she stared resolutely at the storm raging outside.

I jumped between James and Snape.

“Stop it! Just leave, will you?”

They all blinked at me, surprised. Finally, Sirius broke the silence.
“Let’s go James.”

James gave Snape one last searing look and then swept off after Sirius.

“You as well,” Mary piped up, pushing Snape into the corridor and slamming the door on him. She turned back to Lily and wiped her hand on the empty seat beside her. “You could’ve at least said something to him. The two of you used to be–”

“Well, it isn’t like that anymore!” Lily burst out. “He called me a Mudblood, Mary. He said he didn’t want to be friends anymore.”

“That was two years ago.”

“What’s done is done, and since you’ve been harassed by his little Death Eater pals, I don’t see why you’re telling me to admit that he and I breathe the same oxygen!”

I put my arm around her and mouthed to Mary, “Drop it.”

She changed the subject somewhat. “What made Potter and Black think that they had any right to barge in here like that?”

I laughed. “Oh come on, Mary. Think about it. They’re stuck up, arrogant Quidditch players. Not to mention that Potter has fancied Lily since fourth year.”

“He’s not the only person who fancies one of us,” Mary muttered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lily interjected.

“Did you see the look on Black’s face when Kat defended Snape?”

“I wasn’t defending him!” I insisted, repulsed.

“Well, by the looks of it, Black sure thought you were. He seemed honestly pissed.”

The door opened once more.

“Kat?”

“Eloise, what is it?”

My sister dropped down into the seat beside Mary. “Sirius stole my Transfiguration book again.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Make him give it back.”

She blushed. “You mean…talk to him? Kat, you know why I can’t do that!”

“You’re sixteen, not twelve,” I reminded her.

“Come with me.”

“Merlin’s pants, Eloise!”

The intensity in her gaze was so great that I could find no means of escape.

“Fine,” I stood up. “If I’m not back in fifteen minutes, send out a search party for my corpse, won’t you?”

Lily giggled. “Will do, Miss Katharina.”



I followed Eloise down the train. When we got to her carriage, she pointed.

“They’re in this one.”

I knocked and the voices inside hushed immediately. A boy’s face appeared at the window, apprehensive but then relieved when he recognized me.

“Kat, this is a nice surprise.”

“Hey, Remus. Listen, Black has a book that belongs to my sister and I would be much obliged if he gave it back.”

Remus turned. “Sirius.”

Nervous giggles erupted from within and I heard Black hiss, “Shut up, Peter!”

“Sorry,” Remus told Eloise kindly as Black came out with her book.

“Thanks,” she whispered without looking at either of them and scampered back to her compartment.

The moment she was gone, I whirled on Black.

“It was just a joke!” he cried.

“Really? What did you do– draw obscene pictures and write risqué comments in the margins?”

“Come off it, Parker. That was in third year!”

I glared at him. “Stay away from Eloise, Black.”

He glared right back. “No promises.”



“What have I been saying since–oh, I don’t know–forever?” Lily gloated. “Potter and his mates only want one bloody thing from us.”

Mary gagged. “Please, Lily! I’m eating!”

“You know it’s true,” she shot back, “and now Black has decided to start terrorizing Eloise.”

“It doesn’t help that she lets him do it, either,” I added.

“What can she possibly see in him?” Lily brandished her salad-stuffed fork at me. “Your sister has serious romantic issues.”

“No pun intended,” Mary mumbled. Lily scowled.

I looked down the Gryffindor table to where their little gang was sitting. As I watched, Pettigrew managed to accidentally overturn an entire pot of stew into James’s lap. I nudged Lily, who snorted with mirth into her leafy greens. Mary took one look at them and pushed her plate away.

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

I gasped sarcastically. “You? Mary Warren?”

“Shut up, Kat!”

The Great Hall suddenly fell silent as Dumbledore got to his feet at the staff table. All three of us mouthed along with his “welcome-back-stay-out-of-the-forest-let’s-sing-the-school-song-goodnight” speech.

As we got up to leave, someone slammed into me from behind and I fell, hitting my head on the wooden bench.

“Shit!” A face swam into focus above me.

“Get away from me, Black!” I shoved him back as I clambered to my feet. Without giving him a chance to apologize, I stalked away with Lily and Mary.

“Kat, are you okay?” Lily concernedly linked elbows with me as we climbed the marble staircase.

“Yeah, but Black is such a little–“

“I know.”

“I wish he would just–“

“I know.”

Mary patted my arm sympathetically.



The dormitory was as snug as ever before. Of the original five girls who had once lived here, only Mary, Lily, and I remained. Olivia had gotten pregnant and dropped out and no one was really sure why Marley had left.

We unpacked our trunks and settled down to sleep, unaware of the tragic events that were to take place the following morning.

Chapter 2: Stammer Boy
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“Transfiguration first thing,” Mary groaned over her porridge.

“Herbology,” Lily mumbled through a mouthful of toast and marmalade.

I glanced down my schedule. “Herbology.”

Lily grinned. We passed the schedules around to each other. I had most of my classes with Lily except for one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Mary had Potions with us but that was all.

“Hey, Prongs, look at this!” a familiar voice rang out behind me.

My schedule was snatched from my grip as James gave a shout of laughter, “Well, you two will be seeing rather a lot of each other, won’t you?”

Black chuckled.

“Give it back!” I demanded.

“As you wish,” he replied with a mock bow. The two of them took seats a few places down the table.

“Disgusting,” Lily remarked loudly enough for them to hear, and I saw James’s smirk falter.

I checked my watch. “Shall we? If we hurry, we can snag our station in the greenhouse.”

We left Mary to her Daily Prophet and made our way down the lawn to the greenhouses. To my great relief, neither James nor Black joined the queue waiting for Professor Sprout.



I walked back to the castle with Lily, but we parted ways in the entrance hall; she went to Arithmancy, I to Care of Magical Creatures.
Half of this class was theory and the other was practical. Once a week we had direct contact with the animals we studied. The other two classes were devoted to note-taking and poorly drawn diagrams.

I took a seat at one of the back tables and hung my bag on the back of my chair. On the board, there was only one word written: THESTRALS.

Thud!

A copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them shook the desk as it landed. To my horror and revulsion, Black sat down beside me.

“Fancy seeing you here.”

I concentrated on the single word on the blackboard. He glanced at it.
“Thestrals. Cool. Have you ever seen one?”

I didn’t say anything, hoping that if I remained inanimate he would sit somewhere else. No luck. He spent the entire class pelting me with stupid questions and little bits of torn up parchment.

The instant the bell rang, I was out if the corridor, sprinting across the entrance hall and down into Slughorn’s dungeon for Potions. Mary and Lily joined me a moment later.

“What’s wrong?” Mary asked, seeing my expression.

I told them what had happened in Care of Magical Creatures.

“That’s bloody awful,” Lily wrinkled her nose.

Mary shuddered.

I started unpacking my potions kit. “I just don’t see why the hell–”

A warning glance from Lily cut me off. Our favorite gang had just sauntered into the dungeon. I waved to Remus, who grinned back. Black returned my wave with mock enthusiasm.

When he turned his back, Mary made an obscene gesture. Lily cleared her throat and it took me a moment to realize that someone was standing in front of me.

“Oh, err… hi. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” the boy fidgeted. He held out my Care of Magical Creatures book. “Err… … s-someone told m-me to g-give this b-back to y-you,” he stammered.

“Oh. Thanks, err…”

He was already gone, running back to his seat at the front of the room.

I turned to the other two. “Who was that?”

Lily chuckled. “He’s in my Arithmancy class. Poor bloke doesn’t have many friends, if any at all. I can’t remember his name.”

At that point, Slughorn entered and class began. We finished our Drafts of Living Death early and watched as Pettigrew succeeded in fusing his cauldron to James’s. James hurriedly checked to see if Lily had seen this, but she was already doubled over with giggles.



In Charms, tiny Professor Flitwick was his usual squeaky self. After lunch, Professor McGonagall gave us her traditional either-get-with-it-or-get-out lecture in Transfiguration. I was looking forward to Ancient Runes until Black and Potter showed up, and Defense Against the Dark Arts was a total snoozer. (We took notes. How do you take notes in Defense Against the Dark Arts?!)

Dinner was enjoyable, although Mary complained loudly about Professor Bins, the ghost who taught History of Magic, who had assigned a large essay on the Goblin Wars.

“It’s the first bloody day back,” she said, taking her wrath out on her baked potato, “and now I have to go sit in the blooming library with Pince breathing down my neck whenever I inhale.”


Lily and I went back to Gryffindor Tower to relax. As we crossed the common room, James wolf-whistled at Lily, who, without even glancing at him, flicked her wand. I turned in time to see James’s robes fly up over his head and tie themselves securely.

Lily laughed. “Oops.”

We left James and his pants to their admirers were soon closeted smugly in our room.

Lily lay down on her four-poster and after a second asked, “Do you think Potter really fancies me or is he just screwing with my head?”

I thought about it. “I guess he could be genuinely in love with you if he’s capable of feeling human emotions.”

Lily smiled at my sarcastic tone. “Come on, Kat. Don’t take it the wrong–”

“You had better not be thinking what I think you’re thinking.”

“I’m not saying anything. I was only wondering if you thought his interest in me was genuine.” She glared at the expression on my face.
“Don’t look at me like that! I could never even dream of liking him in any way, shape, or form, and you know that!” she wrenched the hangings closed and behind them I heard her muttering, “Stupid, arrogant, pig-headed, Quidditch-playing, moronic, sophomoric, empty-headed…”



The next day, Muggle Studies was a welcome oasis after Transfiguration during which Pettigrew managed to transform Remus’s legs into those of a duck. Muggle Studies was one of the few classes that seriously interested me (on a good day when Professor Burbage didn’t ramble on and on forever). I was fascinated at the idea that people had learned to live without magic (my mother included).

I looked around the class, noticing that it was significantly smaller than last term. I did a double take. Stammer Boy from Potions stood at the back, unsure of where to sit. He saw me and made an awkward head gesture, as though asking if he could join me. I shrugged and he came over.

“Hi,” he muttered. He had a strangely crass voice. I hadn’t noticed it the day before.

Burbage introduced the “new” topic of similarities between the Floo Network and Muggle public transportation.

“What are the differences, though, apart from the fireplaces and the soot?” a girl in the front row piped up.

Professor Burbage surveyed her over the top of her spectacles. “Well, muggles have many more forms than we do: trains, planes–”

“And automobiles,” I mumbled under my breath and tuned out. We had covered this last term.

Stammer Boy, however, was listening to Burbage with rapt attention, scribbling down notes on his parchment. I stared at them. Who took notes in Muggle Studies?

He noticed and blushed a little. “This is my worst class,” he explained. “My family is pureblood.”

“I see.”

After a moment, he asked, “What about you?”

“Half-blood.”

“Oh.”

Burbage was still rambling about bus fares to the poor girl who had asked.

“What’s your name?” I inquired.

“Walter. Tristan Walter.”

The bell rang.

“It was nice to meet you, Tristan.”

He blushed even more. “You too, Kat.”

It wasn’t until I was submersed in Defense Against the Dark Arts that I realized that I had never told him who I was.



“Creepy little blighter.”

Lily, Mary and I were sitting beside the lake. The Saturday morning sun blazed overhead as we half-heartedly skipped stones across to the opposite bank.

“How did he find out what my name is?”

Mary chuckled. “Maybe he heard it through the grape vine,” she sang.

I smacked her knee. “Shut up, Mary.”

A cheer rang out.

“What the hell–”

I looked across the lawn and saw red figures zooming around above the Quidditch pitch.

“Shall we go watch?” Mary grinned slyly at Lily.

She gave a heavy sigh. “Fine.”



I cannot deny that James Potter was a fantastic Seeker. We watched as he zoomed around the pitch, weaving in and out of other players, Bludgers, and the Quaffle. Jeremy Stein, the team captain, nodded his approval, and James went to sit in the stands with the Beaters, Beck and Hare.

Lily jabbed me with her elbow and pointed. Black was swooping around the goalposts, whacking away the Chasers’ futile attempts at
scoring.

“He’s actually quite good,” Lily murmured.

“As much as I hate to say it, he is,” I admitted.

Sure enough, Black joined James in no time. The three Chasers were all men as well.

“No girls again this year,” Mary noted.

I laughed. “Jeremy doesn’t want to risk them around Black and Potter.”

“Yeah. Let’s not have Black do an Olivia repeat.”

Lily and I gaped at her. “What?”

“You didn’t know? He knocked her up in Filch’s broom cupboard after the Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup last term.”

“Sirius Black?”

“If you don’t believe me, just wait until the baby is born. I’ll bet it looks just like him.”

Lily nodded. “I heard that he’s been shagging Beth lately.” She turned to me with worried eyes. “You know, if Eloise isn’t careful–”

“Lily!”

“What? He’s exactly the sort of pervert who’d do something like that!”

Mary must have noticed my clenched jaw because I saw her nudge Lily out of the corner of my eye.

The field was mostly empty. As we stood up to leave, there was a wolf-whistle and Black shouted something that made the scarlet-clad figures around him roar with laughter.

If only Apparition was possible inside the grounds…


Chapter 3: Odysseus and Calypso
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Hey, everyone! Please excuse me if this chapter sounds a bit like a filler... I hope you'll all enjoy it anyway!
______________________________________________________________________________

Calypso fluttered down to perch on my outstretched arm and I stroked her feathers affectionately. Her enormous brown eyes blinked up at me as she hooted her delight. I couldn’t help laughing.

The Owlrey was always drafty, but that day it was especially cold. I shivered, cursing myself silently for neglecting to bring my cloak.
The door rattled open behind me and I heard whispers in the corridor outside.

“You know what, Prongs? I think that’s mental!”

“Think all you like, Padfoot, but I’m sending it.”

I ducked into a small niche as the boys entered.

“I’m telling you; don’t! You’re only going to make a complete ass of yourself,” Black insisted, trying to snatch the envelope from James, who held it out of reach.

“This isn’t any of your business, Sirius.”

I had never heard James’s voice sound that way; it was firm and final, all playfulness forgotten.

“It’s your funeral,” Black muttered, “and I don’t see why you have to use my owl to send her that ridiculous rubbish.”

“Shut up. If I use my own owl, she’ll know. Besides, it’s not like you use Odysseus to send letters home to Mummy or anything.”

Black gave a heavy sigh. “Have it your way, Prongs.”

The door creaked and slammed. He was gone.

James whistled and a handsome tawny owl soared down from the rafters. At the sight of him, Calypso let out the hair-raising screech for which her breed was named. James tensed, his wand flying into his hand.

“Who’s there?” he called, flecks of fear audible in his voice.

I edged out of my hiding place, swearing at my bird for giving me away.

“Damn it, Calypso.”

“You?” James’s whole face twisted in confusion. “What are you doing here, Kat?”

“This is the Owlrey,” I pointed out.

“Oh.” He was extremely flustered. “Right. How…exactly how much of that did you hear?”

I snickered. “Do you want me to give it to her?”

He hesitated.

“James.” I grinned at him. “She’ll get it. I promise.”

He nodded and handed me a folded piece of parchment.

“You know what, Kat?” You’re really not that bad.”

“Neither are you, James.”

He left, waving as he closed the door. I turned and looked up into the rafters as Calypso took flight from me and nestled beside Odysseus.



“Read it.” Lily threw the parchment down on top of my Potions essay.

“What? No! It’s none of my business.”

“Damn it! Just do it, Kat!”

To please her, I picked it up.

Lily–
I know that you probably won’t read this letter when you look down and see my name scrawled at the bottom, but I hope you will.
I want you to know that all the tricks, jokes, and pranks I’ve played on you over the years occurred so that you would take note of the fact that I exist. Apparently it worked but not in the way I hoped it would.
What I’m trying to say is that I’d really like to take you out sometime, but I’m never sure of how you’ll respond.
Shall we say next Hogsmede weekend?
James

While I read, Lily purposefully avoided watching my reaction. I handed the letter back to her and asked, “Well?”

“I don’t know!” she burst out. “I’m mixed up. I don’t know whether to believe that he’s actually matured or not.”

“Give him a chance, Lily.”

She gaped at me. “Excuse me? Did… did you just say that I should–”

“You heard me.”

“Katharina Parker. You… you really think I so?”

“I said it, didn’t I?”

There was a long pause. Lily’s green eyes never left my blue ones.
“Okay. I’ll try him, but one date only. If he blows it, it’s his loss.”



The next morning, James pulled me into a hidden corridor behind a tapestry on my way to Charms.

“Did she read it?” He gripped my wrist so intensely that I felt my blood flow cut off.

“Ouch, James!”

“Sorry.” He let go.

“Yeah, I gave it to her.”

“And?”

I studied his hazel eyes, which were scorched with curiosity and…was that anxiety? Taking a deep breath, I said, “You need to talk to Lily, not me. Besides, she’d think no less of you if you confronted her face to face. It might even impress her.”

He seemed to be processing this thought when the tapestry was ripped back and Black appeared.

“Hey, Prongs, I– holy shit.”

“No!” James and I both exclaimed.

Black smirked. “Sure.”

I gave him a withering look. “Eat dragon dung.” Turning back to James, I added, “By the way, talk to her at dinner. Maybe you can get her to go next weekend.”

“Maybe we could double!” Black called after me as I set off for Flitwick’s class.

I looked back at the end of the corridor. “Beth is easier!” I called back and disappeared as James roared with laughter.



“Does my hair look all right?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Lily.”

Mary giggled. “Whatever happened to ‘James Potter is an arrogant toe-rag’?”

Lily glowered at her. “I’m giving him one chance. One.” She turned back to her wardrobe.

Mary and I exchanged raised-eyebrow expressions as she explained for the thousandth time; “He’s meeting me in the common room and then we’re going for a Butterbeer. That’s it. It’s not really even a date.”

Mary snorted. “You’re in denial. You’re repressing the thought that you two are going to have children someday.”

Lily dropped the lip-gloss she was holding. “What? I–that’s completely–n-no way–utter–rubbish!”

I stood up. “I’m going downstairs. See you when you get back.” I winked at her and descended into the common room.

James flew at me the instant I reached the bottom of the staircase. “Is she still coming? She hasn’t changed her mind, has she?”

“No, she hasn’t, James. Calm down.” I tugged playfully at his sleeve.
“Do I look all right?”

Déjà vu.

“Yes. You look rather dashing, actually.”

He grinned, the nervousness in his eyes draining a little. Over his shoulder, I could see Black slumped in an armchair beside Remus, who was stretched out before the fire. He threw me a look that was between “what-the-hell-are-you-doing-talking-to-James” and something else that I couldn’t quite decipher.

A moment later, Lily appeared and the stupefied expression returned to James’s features. “W-wow,” he blinked repeatedly.

A dull flush colored Lily’s cheeks. “Will we meet up with you and Mary later?” she asked me.

I shrugged. “You tell me.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll see you at dinner.”

The two of them climbed through the portrait hole and out of sight.
Mary sniffled beside me. “My… my little baby’s all grown up and…. and going on a date!”

I laughed and she joined in.

“What’s so funny?”

Eloise glanced back and forth between the two of us.

“Lily and James are…well…err…”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

She launched into her victory dance. “Kaitlin owes me ten galleons!”

I gaped incredulously at her. “You two bet money? Are you serious?”

“No, but I am.” Black and Remus had come over when no one was looking.

Eloise immediately blushed scarlet and scrutinized the toes of her trainers. I ignored Black and addressed Remus instead. “Would you like to join us in Hosmede, Remus?”

His smile was slightly strained as he replied, “I’d love to, but I don’t think–"

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” Mary cut across him.

I nudged Eloise, who squeaked, “Yes, Remus. Please.”

“Well…” he hesitated. “All right. It’s not like there’ll be any trouble now that the Dynamic Duo has been split up by your fiery friend.”

Black’s face hardened. Remus turned to him. “Are you coming, Padfoot?”

Black stared directly into my eyes. “I’d love to–” (The bottom of my stomach plummeted into my ankles.) “–But I have to catch up on my Ancient Runes.”

Relief swept over me, but I saw Eloise’s face fall. As Black swaggered away, she mumbled something about unfinished Arithmancy and slunk upstairs.

I followed Remus’s gaze as he watched her go. Mary was already halfway out of the portrait hole.

I tugged at his arm. “C’mon, Remus.”

A little reluctantly, he came.



In the Three Broomsticks, Mary waited at the bar to get our drinks, leaving Remus and I at the table alone.

“So,” he began. “Your sister has a thing for Sirius.”

It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” I replied, “and I’d really rather not talk about it.”

He leaned forward. “Well, I would, Kat.”

I stared. “Remus, what the…oh. Oh, shit.”

His head collapsed into his palm. “I’m such an idiot.”

Shock was undulating over me. I cold do nothing but mouth soundlessly like a stupid goldfish. Finally, I heard myself ask, “How long?”

He raised his face and his tortured expression said everything that he could not.

Mary plunked down three Butterbeers in front of us, but I pushed mine away.

“You have it. I’m not in the mood for one anymore.”

She surveyed my face. “Dear, you look like someone just died.”

I got up. “I have to go.” Leaving her gawking after me, I pushed my way out into the street.

The chilly wind swooped around me, blowing my cloak here, there, and everywhere. My hair whipped across my face and created a black curtain through which I could hardly see. Suddenly, my foot caught in a jagged cobblestone and I came crashing down, my brave elbow trying and failing to save me.

An arm wrapped around my waist and hoisted me back to my feet. Brushing my hair out of my eyes, I looked up to thank my savior… and instinctively squirmed free.

“”You’re bleeding,” Black pointed out bluntly.

“What’s it to you?”

“Let me help you up to the Hospital Wing.”

“I’m fine,” I insisted, trying to staunch the cut with my robes.

He scowled. “What the hell is your problem?”

Remus’s anguished face swam before me, followed by the disappointment that was omnipresent in my sister’s eyes.

Blood soaked the sleeve of my robes. Lovely.

One of my knees gave way and immediately Black’s arm was around my shoulders, but his face was growing dim and hazy…

“Kat? Kat! Look at me…stay…”




Something wet was on my forehead. I blinked and Lily’s anxious features came into focus above me.

“Oh, thank God!” She smiled and stroked my hair, removing the wet cloth. “How are you feeling, love?”

I sat up, gazing at my newly mended and bandaged arm. “Better.”

There was a scuffle in the doorway of the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey’s voice carried down the ward.

“I’m sorry, but I must insist that you return to your dormitory. Get some sleep, now. You’ve been here all day.”

The door slammed and there was the sound of footsteps approaching my bed.

“Ah, she’s awake.” The nurse peered down at me. “You’re going to be perfectly fine. I suggest that you stay the night just in case.”

I nodded and Lily and I were left alone.

Smirking, I asked, “How’d it go with James?”

The light was dim, but a blush crept up to her cheekbones when I asked.

“It was lovely, actually. We went to the Three Broomsticks and were walking around the shops when Pettigrew told us–” she gestured to my elbow.

There was a beat of silence and then she asked, “What really happened, Kat?”

I took a deep breath. “Remus fancies Eloise.”

Her jaw dropped.

“It’s true! I couldn’t believe it when he told me. I went outside to get some fresh air and I tripped and… well…”

We both glanced at my arm again.

“He was here, you know,” Lily stated.

“Remus?”

“No. Sirius.”

“Why?”

“I dunno, but he refused to leave until you woke up. Madame Pomfrey was about to beat him about the head with a broomstick. He’d been here since you arrived.”

A pause, then I asked, “What do you suppose that means?”

She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. “Either he’s very intent on not taking the blame for your little accident or…”

“He doesn’t feel that way, and you know it.”

“It’s entirely possible. He never left your bedside until he was catapulted from the ward.”

The Hospital Wing door creaked open and we turned sharply, Lily ripping back the curtain surrounding us, to see the newcomer.

“O-oh. I th-thought you w-were s-sleeping. S-s-sorry. I-I didn’t m-mean–”

I smiled. “It’s quite all right, Tristan.”

Color flushed his cheeks when I said his name. “I t-trust you’re d-doing w-well?”

“Very well, thank you.”

“I, err… I b-brought you th-these.” He produced a bunch of wildflowers
with a shaking hand.

Lily restrained her giggles as she conjured a vase and arranged them on my bedside table.

“It was nice to see you again, Tristan,” I told him as he turned to go.

He nodded and disappeared down the corridor.

Lily shook her head. “Poor bloke. He’s practically licking your bloody shoes.”

I hit her with my pillow, but not before I hear her mutter, “I bet Sirius will be back with even better flowers tomorrow.”


Chapter 4: Heathcliff
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WARNING: This chapter is a little filler-ish as well. My apologies to all! Please REVIEW!!!
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He did return, although he brought no bouquet. When I opened my eyes, they focused on his pale features. Tension fled from him as I sat up.

“G’morning, Kat.”

I raised my eyebrows. “What happened to ‘Parker’?”

He ignored this. “How’s your elbow?”

“Fine.”

“You, err…you were bleeding pretty badly.”

I nodded. “I suppose I should thank you for trying to help me. I was, err…a little distraught.”

At that point, Madame Pomfrey bustled over. “Miss Parker, you have another visitor.”

She pulled back the curtain, revealing–

“Tristan.”

“Hello, Kat,” he replied, his voice oddly steady.

The awkwardness was thick enough to slice with a scalpel.

“It’s…lovely to see you this morning,” I offered.

The roots of his hair turned pink. “You as well. I just… thought I’d drop by and see how you were doing.”

Black cleared his throat loudly. Tristan started at the noise, noticing him for the first time.

“Oh. Good morning, Sirius.”

Black merely stared at him.

“I-I’ll be going, then.” He was gone.

I turned an exasperated look to Black.

“What?” he defended.

“Do you have to terrorize everyone?”

He cracked a grin. “Come off it. The ruddy git was practically begging for it.”

“Oh? How is Tristan a git, exactly?”

“Well…err…you know…pffft…he…” Black blustered.

I laughed. “Come to think of it, why are you even here?”

The silence spiraled around my eardrums, intensified by his piercing gray gaze.

My frustration was mounting. “Are you trying to pull a Heathcliff or something?”

Confusion twisted his mask out of its infuriatingly impassive expression. “What?”

“Never mind.”

What little color his face possessed drained from it. “Who the ruddy hell is Heathcliff?”

I forced laughter down into the pit of my stomach. “Oh, you know: tall, dark, handsome, every woman’s dream.”

His jaw was getting tighter by the second.

“He’s abroad, you know,” I continued, “But he’ll be back soon enough.”

“Did he go to Hogwarts?” Black asked, casually.

“No.”

“Durmstrang?”

“No.”

He stood up. “You know I’ll find out eventually, Parker.”

I glared up at him, registering the renewed use of my surname. “I’m
sure that you’ll torment me as much as possible when you do. IF you do, anyhow, which I doubt you will.”

He smirked. “I have my ways.”

“Of course you do,” I scoffed.

He was at the door. “How will I know when I’ve found your precious Heathcliff?”

We locked eyes; his determined stare equal to mine.

“You’ll know.”



James gawked at me incredulously. “Heathcliff?”

“Shut up, James.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I turned, puzzled. “How–”

“I read.”

We were in the library, skulking around the Restricted Section. (James had forged Slughorn’s signature.)

“Yes, but…aren’t you pureblood?”

“Does that matter?”

“No, but–”

“There you go.” He grinned. “Why Heathcliff, of all people?”

I thought about it. “I don’t know. I guess because…he’s infuriating.”

“Like Sirius.”

I scowled at him. “You’re repulsive.”

His smile widened. “I’m only playing, love.”

“Good.”
“Did you know about the Muggle section here?” James asked after a moment.

“No.”

“Here. Let me show you.”

He pulled me out of the Restricted Section and into the labyrinth of Pince’s domain.

“James, where–”

“There.”
In the very back corner of the library was a shelf stuffed with old Muggle classics.

“Here you are.” He pulled down a book. “Wuthering Heights. I’m sure that Sirius would find this very interesting if I–”

“Don’t you dare, James Potter.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“I want to watch him suffer.”

James laughed. “I’m sure you do.”

I skimmed the selection before me. Pride and Prejudice…David Copperfield…Romeo and Juliet…

“What the hell?” James held up a copy of The Hobbit.

I rolled my eyes. “Dear Merlin…”




Lily hardly ate at dinner. She just poked at her baked potato and barely touched her rhubarb crumble.

“What’s up, Lily?” Mary glanced up from her practically clean plate.

“Nothing.”

“You’re not eating,” I pointed out.

Lily half glanced down the table at James before she answered, “I…I
have to talk to you.”

“About what?” Mary asked.

“Oh…err…just to Kat, Mary.”

Mary looked affronted. “Oh. I…well, in that case–” She picked up her plate and stormed down the table to sit with Flannery Goldstein and her entourage of giggling friends.

Once she was gone, Lily leaned forward. “Do you like Sirius, Kat?”

I gaped. “Bloody hell, Lily! Of course not!”

“James told me about…you know… ‘Heathcliff’.” She drew quotation
marks around the name. “We both know that it’s complete rubbish, Kat. What the hell went through your head?”

I shrugged. “I’m sick of him one-upping me. I wanted him to shut up and go away.”

Lily laughed rather harshly. “That worked perfectly because he’s definitely going to do that now.”

“Shut up.”

“He’s really not that bad, Kat. I swear.”

“Really?” I snapped, shoving my palm into her face. “Would my hand look like a Panini grill if he ‘wasn’t that bad’?”

Lily flinched as if my scarred skin was offensive. “That happened a long time ago,” she whispered.

I didn’t respond but stared moodily at my no longer appealing cheesecake.

“I still can’t believe you haven’t forgiven him yet. Are you honestly saying that you’ve held that petty grudge for six years?” Her scornful tone was almost unbearable.

“He practically burned off my bloody hand, Lily!”

“It was in first year Charms!”

I stood up and grabbed my bag.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded rather loudly.

I smirked and replied with equal volume, “To see Heathcliff.”




All week long I received nothing but penetrating stares from Black. Every now and then I’d see him rifling through the Ancestry section in the library, searching fruitlessly for his prize.

“It’s taking a real toll on him,” James confided in me in the common room after Quidditch practice one night. “He hardly blocked anything today.”

(I looked over in time to see Black hurl a copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy across the room and storm upstairs to the boys’ dormitories. )

“If you don’t tell him soon, he’ll start developing ulcers or something.”

I merely grunted.

James rolled his eyes. “You know, I’m not sure if I’m getting through to you, Kat. You are messing with his mind, and it’s screwing him up. Stop it.”

He was using that same voice I’d heard him use in the Owlrey.

I gave a heavy sigh, knowing that my game was up. “Fine.”

“Praise Merlin.”

“How, pray tell, do you expect me to drop the bombshell on him?”

He hesitated. “Very carefully.”

I shook my head. “I don’t even understand why he cares so much.”
James turned to face me, his eyes brimming with pity and affection. “He really likes you, you know.”

My eyebrows disappeared into my dark bangs as I scoffed. “Please, James. I just ate.”

He seized my wrist. “I’m serious, Kat. Sirius…he…I think he may actually be in love with you.”

I laughed. “Oh, come off it! You’re talking about your best mate, James; the one who hates me, remember? The one who bewitched me so that I spoke only in questions. The one who torments Snape with you until the ruddy cow jumps over the moon. The one who supposedly knocked up Olivia Bryant. How the hell is he capable of even thinking about love?”

James didn’t answer for a moment, but then he said, “Deny it all you like, Miss Katharina, but Sirius Black is in love with you, whether you like it or not.”


Chapter 5: The Most Dangerous Game
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I poured over my Ancient Runes translation and desperately tried to tune out the dramatic whispers emanating from the Divination section behind my table. Nevertheless, they reached me loud and clear.

“Kaitlin, he… he likes her. I know he does.”

Wait a minute…was that–?

“So what, Eloise?”

SHIT.

“’So what’? Sirius is madly in love with my sister and that’s all you can say?”

I stood up and (casting a Disillusionment charm on myself) crept nearer.

“You have a marvelous tendency to over-exaggerate,” Kaitlin replied, level headed as always. “Besides, Kat loathes him. Eventually, he’ll realize that she isn’t interested and find someone else–like you. Until then, however, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait, my friend.”

There was a pause, and then Eloise sighed. “I suppose a little longer couldn’t hurt.”

I poked my (invisible) head around the side of a bookcase and noticed the two girls sitting cross-legged on the floor, pretending to search the bottom shelf.

Kaitlin patted Eloise on the shoulder. “’Atta girl. He’ll come ‘round… hopefully.”



The dormitory door slammed as Mary exited in a huff.

“What is it with you two?” I snapped, at Lily having had just about enough of their now constant bickering.

She didn’t answer, but stared stonily at her copy of The Daily Prophet.

“Lily, answer me!”

No response.

Angrily, I leaped off of my bed and hurried down the staircase after Mary.

The common room was packed and she was nowhere to be found.

“Looking for someone, Parker?”

“Not now, Black.”

He smirked that irritating smirk that I hated so much. “Right. She left, for one thing, and for another–”

I ducked away before he could finish and vanished through the portrait hole.

Out in the corridor, I saw her standing with her back against the wall, staring off into nothing.

“Mary?”

She started. “Oh. Hello, Kat.”

I beckoned. “Let’s walk.”

For a moment, we just gazed at each other, unmoving. Finally she shrugged and followed.

“Did she send you down here to interrogate me or something?”

“No. What the hell is going on with you two?”

Her eyes were brimming with tears. “I have no idea! I got back to the dormitory after dinner, and she must have forgotten to take her Midol because she called me ‘an annoying little twit’ and told me to get the hell out. Did I do something wrong? Has she said anything to you?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry she’s so…awful to you.”

Mary sniffled. “This is why I started hanging ‘round with Flannery’s crowd. You and Lily seem joined at the hip.”

I linked arms with her. “I’ll always be here for you, Mary.”

She smiled and hugged me. “Thanks, Kat.”



The lake was freezing, but I dangled my fingertips in it anyway, just to be sure that I still had the sense of touch. The waves rippled in unison with every twitch my forefinger found necessary.

I jumped as a dark reflection appeared.

“Oh, it’s you, Severus.”

“Hello, Kat. May I have a word?”

I shrugged and patted the grass beside me.

Snape had cleaned up a bit since the last time I’d seen him. His hair was a bit shorter and most of the grease wasn’t visible.

“Is this about Lily?”

“How did you know?”

“I’m psychic.”

He sighed; a heavy, longing, hopeless sigh that nearly broke my heart. “I need her, Kat. I don’t know what my life would be like without her. Please help me.”

I cringed inwardly as he begged. “I don’t know what you’re asking, Severus.”

“Talk to her. Make her forgive me or at least speak to me again. I…I never meant…any of it…ever…”

Delicately, I touched his arm as he rocked backward and foreword, his grief flooding from every pore in his body.

“Severus, I……I really don’t see how I… She… Her mind is made up,” I explained as gently as I could.

“No, it isn’t!” His eyes raked mine desperately. “It… it can’t be!”

Suddenly, his rocking ceased and he lay sprawled on the damp grass, breathing as though there was a great weight on his chest.

“Severus–”

He let out a strangled sort of cry.

Alarmed, I tried to help him sit up, but he was limp as a rag doll.

“Are you ill? Severus, answer me!”

No response.

I whipped out my wand and summoned a boulder to prop him upright. His breathing seemed to ease.

“Merlin’s pants, Snape! Care to explain?”

Our gazes locked, and in the depths of his dark eyes I saw the excruciating pain that one associates with Hell.

“I love her,” he rasped. “I…I have always loved her…”

I seized his arm and thrust it over my shoulder, helping him stand. As we started back to the castle, I said, “You can trust me, you know.”

He grinned slightly. “I do now.” The smile vanished as soon as it had come. “But promise me this– never tell anyone. Swear it!”

“All right. I swear.”

“Good.”

There was a pause and then he asked, “Can you help me up to the Hospital Wing?”



Lily slammed her Transfiguration book down on top of the copy of Wuthering Heights that I’d nicked from the library.

“What the hell were you doing?”

I arched a brow. “Well, Lily dearest, I was reading.”

She plunked down in the chair across the table. “You know what I mean! What were you doing by the lake with… him?”

I pushed her book lightly off of Emily Brontë’s beautiful text and resumed the story. “Severus and I were just talking,” I explained off-handedly.

“Shhh!” she hissed, frantically glancing around the common room (which was packed and noisier than ever, I might add) as though someone could overhear us.

“What?” I demanded. “Is that a crime now?”

“You know perfectly well how I feel about–”

“Yeah,” I snapped, slamming my novel shut. “I do, Lily, but what about how he feels? Did you ever consider that Severus has emotions too?”

She flushed a heated scarlet. “Well, what did you two ‘talk about’, then?”

I hesitated, recalling my promise never to tell. “He needed someone in whom to confide.” Standing up, I stretched, “I’m going to bed,” and without waiting for a reply, I headed for the staircase.



The morning dawned cold and crisp, the lawn crunching with each step. James kissed Lily’s cheek and disappeared into the changing rooms.

“Good conditions today,” I smirked at her.

“Oh, sod off,” but she was smiling too.

We found seats in the front and huddled in our cloaks against the frosty wind.

Soon the whole school surrounded us, screaming and wailing even though the players weren’t on the field yet.

Madame Hooch sauntered onto the pitch to a great deal of applause, and she was followed not long afterward by the Slytherins (who received hisses and boos from the scarlet-clad section).

The Gryffindor team emerged a little later to deafening whoops and cheers from all around. Madame Hooch gave them all her usual play-nice-now-kiddies-or-I’ll-use-my-influence-to-bloody-expel-you pep talk and both sides took their positions.

As soon as the red speck flew into the air, all was mayhem. Keilor Jordan’s commentary was nearly drowned by the renewed applause and hollers.

“…And Gryffindor takes possession. Jeremy Stein ducks Puggins, of Slytherin, and a not so cleverly hit Bludger. Close but no cigar, there, Ward,” he referred to the blotchy-faced Slytherin Beater. “Merlin, Stein is fast! He’s heading for goal. He’s gonna shoot, and–!”

The crowd roared: some in anger, but most with delight.

“He’s beaten the Keeper!” Keilor yelled. “Ten–zero, to Gryffindor!”

The match continued in much the same fashion. The Slytherins were simply no match for the efficiency of their lion-clad opponents.

“Ninety–twenty, to Gryffindor!” Keilor announced over the wave of ecstatic supporters. “No sign of the Snitch yet, though. Wonder what
Potter’s doing up there…”

High above, James was swooping around like a hawk, keeping an eye out for the tiny golden ball. Michael York, the other Seeker, was tailing him closely.

Beside me, Lily gasped and leapt to her feet. Both Seekers had plummeted toward the ground, and there, fluttering an inch above the grass, was a minuscule, shiny dot.

“They’ve seen it!” Keilor exclaimed, and the entire stadium hushed in anticipation. The two players zigzagged around the field, almost skimming the ground with their toes.

Lily was mumbling quiet prayers as–

“YES!”

Keilor let out a triumphant howl as James shot toward the sky, his fist held aloft with the Snitch held firmly within it.

The Gryffindors erupted into earsplitting shrieks of glee, and the whole team descended upon their Seeker, hugging him and letting loose loud cries of victory.

WHAM!

Lily screamed.

Smith, the other opposing Beater, laughed as his Bludger found its mark, and James was thrown backward off his broom, slamming into the ground forty feet below him.

Madame Hooch’s whistle sounded, and a few teachers hurried out onto the pitch as Keilor yelled, “What the bloody hell was that about, eh, Smith? Shove it up your–”

“Jordan!”

“Sorry, Professor.” Keilor edged away from Professor McGonagall.

“Oh my God,” Lily breathed. “OhmyGod. OhmyGod!”

I put my arm around her and forced her to sit back down on the bench.

“You are all dismissed back to the castle,” Keilor went on. “Potter’s condition will be announced after Madame Pomfrey has seen to him.
Off you go!”

“Except for you, Dennis Smith!” McGonagall barked into the magical megaphone.

The stands began to empty as students filed out.

“Is he all right?” Lily whispered.

I shook my head. “I don’t know, dear.”

“Let’s go.”

She stumbled a little with shock as we left the field, her face hollow with fear. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Snape following us, watching (actually more like stalking) Lily. I jerked my head at him in warning, basically telling him to bugger off or else. He slunk away, looking much like an overlarge snake as he did so.



The Gryffindor team was gathered around James’s bed, but Lily shoved her way through the wall of people to get a good look at him. I stood on my toes to see over Beck’s high shoulder.

Although Madame Pomfrey had done her usual spectacular job, bruises had engulfed nearly all of James’s face. His left arm was bound in a sling across his bare chest, which revealed a tight bandage around his cracked ribs.

The nurse bustled over and said, “Now, all of you know that he needs rest! If I have to explain this to one more Quidditch team–”

“Sorry,” Jeremy interjected. “We were just worried about him, ma’am.” He motioned to the rest of the group. “Let’s go, team.”

Five of them trooped out, but Black remained stationery at the foot of the bed. Lily’s gave hadn’t left James’s battered features, and she was caressing the fingers of his uninjured hands gently.

Madame Pomfrey pulled Black aside, muttering words that I could not hear. He nodded and grabbed my arm, dragging me out of the ward.

“Ouch! Black, what the–”

He wheeled to face me. “Oh, shut up,” he snapped. “She told me to leave the two of them alone in there, which meant that you had to come with me.”

“You could’ve just said that,” I grumbled, rubbing the spot where his nails had pierced me.

We glared at each other for a long moment, but then he softened a little.

“Did I hurt you?” He indicated my wrist.

I folded my arms stubbornly. “No.”

“Merlin’s pants,” he gave an exasperated sigh. “Let me bloody look at it.”

Reluctantly, I extended my limb for examination.

“Not bad,” he murmured. “Nothing compared to James.”

“Will he be okay?”

Black smiled. “Oh, yeah. He’ll be out in a few days, actually.”

“That’s good.”

We stood there awkwardly, not knowing what else to say to one another.

“I have… homework,” I invented and turned to go.

“Kat.” He spoke my name softly, almost in a whisper.

I looked around to find a smirk on his face.

“You know, this is the first civil conversation we’ve ever had,” he half-
joked.

“I’m sure that it will be the last.”

“Are you positive?”

“Quite.”

His smile widened. “I’ll quote you on that.”

“I’m sure you will.”

I marched away from him and through a door hidden behind a tapestry. In spite of myself, I was grinning too.


Chapter 6: Close Encounters
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Snow soon blanketed the lush, green grounds of Hogwarts. Professor Trelawney’s classroom at the top of North Tower was (I can’t believe I said this) a comforting oasis against the drafty corridors of the rest of the castle.

Christmas was approaching fast, and Lily dragged me into Hogsmede to help her buy a present for James.

“I have no idea,” she kept repeating over and over again until I kindly pushed her into Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop, and an idea popped into her head.

I bought a Fizzing Whizbee and waited while she spent ten minutes scurrying around, searching frantically for the “best thing possible”. (How one can go wrong in a sweet shop is beyond me…)

We journeyed to the Three Broomsticks for a Butterbeer before returning to school. Lily piled her packages into a chair as I came back from the bar with our drinks. We had hardly taken a sip before Peter Pettigrew appeared beside us.

“Hello, ladies,” he greeted us rather shyly (but this was Peter).
“These are for you.” He held out two scrolls of parchment tied with violet ribbons.

“Thanks, Peter.”

He left.

To Miss Katharina Parker–
You are cordially invited to attend the Christmas party I am hosting on Christmas Eve in my office. You are also heartily encouraged to bring a guest of your choice.
Eagerly hoping to see you there,
Professor H.E.F. Slughorn

“Slughorn’s party?” Lily asked.

“Yeah.”

“Are you going to ask Heathcliff?”

I kicked her beneath the table.




Gryffindor Tower was uncommonly quiet over the Christmas Holidays. The day of the party arrived, and Lily and I spent it lounging before the roaring fire (in the good armchairs, no less). She, of course, had asked James to escort her, but I was still contemplating possible “dates”.

“There’s always Stammer Boy,” she suggested.

“His name is Tristan, and no, thank you.”

The portrait hole opened and in walked our favorite Seeker.

“Hello, love.” He bent down, kissed Lily, and stood between us and the fireplace.

“Hey,” I protested. “You’re blocking our source of inhalable carbon monoxide.”

James raised his eyebrows. “I have a bone to pick with you, Parker.”

I sat up. “How so?”

“My best friend is down in the library right now, and he’s already cleared out the entire Wizarding History shelf. I specifically told you to tell him that this Heathcliff thing is all a game and you didn’t do it.”

“So what?”

“Kat, it’s cruel. He hardly talks about anything else.”

“Right.” I slid back down in my chair. “Isn’t he shagging Beth? I’m sure he brags about that.”

James rolled his eyes. “All I know is that he’s taking her to the soiree tonight.”

“Shagging,” Lily corrected.

I laughed. “Black will find out when the time is right.”

“Make it soon,” he half-threatened.

“Whatever.”




“I’ve changed my mind,” I announced to the practically empty dormitory. “I’m not going.”

Lily rushed out of the bathroom, her dress unzipped and half of her face makeup-less. “You have to!” she cried. “If you don’t, Remus will sit up here and be depressed all night!”

“I was joking,” I insisted, adding sarcasm, “but thanks for the concern about my psychological heath.”

She huffed and dove back out of sight.

I had been ready for ten minutes and she wasn’t even halfway finished yet…ugh.

After reorganizing my bookshelf alphabetically by author’s last name twice and refolding all of Lily’s clothes (which were scattered all over the room), she emerged and gave me a skeptical look.

“Really? That’s it?”

I glanced down at my black dress. “What’s wrong with it?”

She pushed me down into a chair. “Let me help you.”

A quarter of an hour later, she was satisfied.

I turned apprehensively to face my reflection in the mirror.

Who the hell was she? I scratched my cheek and so did the pretty figure in front of me.

“That’s you, silly,” Lily giggled.

She’d tied my hair up in this curly, elegant thing, except for a long, dark ringlet that tickled my collarbone. I was wearing a pearl necklace and matching earrings, neither of which belonged to me.

“Exactly how much makeup did you cake on my face?”

“You’re hardly wearing any at all!” she defended.

I took a second look. She had brought out my eyes very well, actually. They seemed a deeper shade of sapphire than they usually did…

Lily hurriedly checked the clock. “We’re late!” she cried, running for the door.

I followed, slightly slower due to the uncustomary skirt.

James, Remus, and Black were waiting in the common room. I hesitated around the corner of the staircase, unsure if I wanted to take wolf-whistles, ridicule, or both. Summoning all of my willpower, I clattered down the steps and Lily turned to James.

“Doesn’t she look great?”

“Yes,” but it wasn’t James who answered.

Black’s stormy gray eyes washed over me, almost hungrily drinking in the sight of me all dressed up.

Remus held out his arm. “Shall we?”



Slughorn’s office had obviously been magically enlarged. There was a large HAPPY CHRISTMAS banner along one wall, and the others were draped with red, green, and gold fabrics. A chamber orchestra played a lilting waltz in the corner, and there was a small, impromptu dance floor. Little house elves (brought from the kitchens, no doubt) waddled around with heavy trays of hors-devours.

Lily and James took to dancing immediately, while Remus and I received some food from a passing elf and stood talking together.

“You do look lovely tonight,” he remarked.

“Thanks. You don’t clean up to badly yourself.”

“Is, err, your sister not coming at all?” he asked, as casually as he could.

“Slughorn didn’t invite her,” I confessed. “She was hoping Black would–” I stopped short. “Ah, shit, Remus. I’m sorry.”

He grimaced. “It’s fine. Oh, speak of the devil…”

Black appeared at the entrance with a tall, super-skinny blonde girl in a scanty, glittery pink dress (typical) on his arm.

“That must be Beth,” Remus chuckled. “Dear God…”

“I think I need a drink,” I muttered and went to the punch bowl. To my horror, Beth joined me.

“You’re Kat,” she stated.

Ugh. Her voice was as Barbie-esque as it’s possible to get.

“So they tell me.”

“I’m Beth.”

“Nice to meet you.”

There was a very awkward silence.

She tugged at a strand of her (obviously bleached) blonde hair and asked, “So, like…who’s your date?”

“Remus,” I pointed, “but he and I are just friends.”

“Oh,” she sipped her punch. “I’m here with Sirius.”

“Who?”

“Like, Sirius Black. Don’t you know him?”

“Can’t say that I do.” Dear Lord, she was an idiot. My sarcasm was being utterly wasted.

“No. Way.” Beth gave me an incredulous look. “Everyone knows him! Geez, like, what kind of rock do you live under?”

There was a tug at my elbow, and Lily pulled me aside.

“Thank God you’re here! She’s a ruddy basket case.”

She grimaced. “A whore if I ever saw one.”

I glanced around. “Where’s your lover?”

“Getting drinks elsewhere. He doesn’t fancy…that,” she said, flicking her forefinger at the punch bowl. “Why were you speaking to her, anyway?”

I shrugged. “She started it. Apparently she knows me.”

“Odd. You don’t seem like her type.”

“If I wasn’t wearing heels right now, Lily Evans…”

“I was kidding, love!”

James and Remus joined us, leaving Black alone on the dance floor with Beth.

“Poor bloke,” Remus shoo his head.

James laughed. “It’s his own ruddy fault, Mooney!”

“Still…he could’ve picked someone with a little more dignity…”

I caught Lily’s eye and looked away extremely quickly, desperately
trying to conceal my giggles.

None of us knew how long we stood there, drinking Butterbeer and cackling about Merlin-knows-what. About halfway through the party, I noticed a house elf approach Black where he stood by himself. (Beth must’ve gone to the power room or something.) The elf whispered urgently in his ear and led him out into the corridor.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” I told Remus. “Um…bathroom.”

He nodded, trying not to look at James and Lily’s snog fest.



I slipped outside and followed the sound of the elf’s high-pitched, little voice.

“Mr. Black, sir, I bring very important news from Mistress Bryant, sir.”

“Olivia?”

“Yes, sir. She bid me tell you that the…the child, sir…it…it’s coming.”

There was dead silence, then–

“Are you sure?” Black’s voice was so low that I could hardly make it out.

“Quite sure, sir. Mistress Olivia also asked me to tell you that she has certain things that she wishes to discuss with you in person, and that she wants you to come as soon as possible.”

“She… she wants me to–?”

“Yes, sir.”

Another sickening pause…

“Thank you, Nelly.”

“Of course, sir.”

There was a loud crack, and I heard the sound of footfalls as Black began to pace, mumbling to himself.

“It can’t be! It’s too early…three more months left! I have to go…I have to…”

Muffled sobbing reached my ears. Silently, I tip-toed (after removing my shoes) toward the empty classroom and pushed the door open.
Black was seated on the teacher’s desk, his face in his hands. He glanced up as I entered. “Oh, thank God. I thought you were Beth.”

Pretending to look confused, I sat beside him. “What?”

His forehead knocked against my shoulder. Instinctively, I reached up and hugged him.

(All right… I know what you’re thinking. I’ll always hate him, but I can tell when someone needs a hug.)

“It’s going to be okay,” I murmured.

He pulled back. “Did you…were you listening?”

I scooted away, not meeting his eyes. “It…it was sort of hard not to.”

He swore loudly. “Damn it, Kat!”

“Oh, come off it, Black!” I got defensive. “Do you really think that I’d blab this sort of thing to the entire school?”

“You stooped low enough to listen behind the door!” he shouted back.

“I came in here to help you!”

“Well, I don’t need your bloody help!”

I took a deep breath. “Fine. I won’t bother in future.”

When I reached the corridor, I turned, “You should go see her. Believe me when I say that a child needs both of its parents.”




On Christmas morning, I awoke to Lily’s pillow hitting my face.

“Wake up! Presents!”

I rolled over to see a stack of parcels on the floor by my bedside
table.

Lily’s bed was already festooned with wrapping paper, and soon my own four-poster was identical.

I had received a Teach-Yourself-French book from my dad, a fuzzy Gryffindor hat with matching gloves from Mary, and a makeup bag (which was stuffed to bursting) from Lily.

“What’s this one?” she asked, picking up an envelope that had fallen off my bed.


Kat–
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to lose my temper last night, but it was out of my control.
I took your advice and plan to visit her very soon. Thanks for convincing me that it is the right thing to do.
Happy Christmas.


“It’s unsigned,” Lily noted. “Any idea about who sent it?”

I shook my head, even though it was a lie. She shrugged, grabbed James’s gift, and bounded downstairs.

The moment she was out of sight, I seized a few of the larger shreds of paper from my bed and set to work. They only just covered the entire book, but it was hidden nevertheless.


The two lovers were deeply ensconced when I approached the fireplace.

“Happy Christmas, you crazy lovebirds.”

James hugged me. “Happy Christmas! Is that for me?”

“No.”

He pouted teasingly.

I surveyed the room, which was deserted. “Where’s Black?”

“Gone.”

Beat.

“What?”

James sat back down beside his girlfriend on the enormous rug. “He left. Told me it was a family emergency.”

You got that right…

“You don’t suppose his brother’s injured again, do you?” Lily asked.

He put his arm around her. “Nah. I’m sure that Regulus is fine. He’s only Slyterin’s reserve Seeker this year because Flint didn’t want to chance him getting his head split open like last term.”

“What do you reckon, then?” She glanced back and forth between us.

I casually jerked my head. “Dunno. Sick mum?”

James merely grunted and replied, “Whatever happened, he seemed pretty level-headed when he left earlier.”

I nodded and went back upstairs to hide the package in a place where Lily could never find it.


Chapter 7: Modern Warfare...?
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He was back before we knew it. As Lily and I lazily made our way down to the Great Hall for Christmas Tea, I spotted him at the bottom of the marble staircase, walking with Remus.

“There he is,” Lily remarked. “It must not have been too serious if he returned so soon.”

Yes, Black. Being a father isn’t an enormous responsibility at all. A flare of frustration lashed up inside me. Why the ruddy hell did he not understand?

Remus caught sight of us and waved, but Black avoided my gaze and fled directly to the Gryffindor Table.


After Lily had forced down as many treacle tarts as she could, James and his three friends trotted down to where we sat with Eloise and Kaitlin.

“You girls up for a snowball fight?” Remus offered.

I glanced at the rest of the group. Kaitlin nodded enthusiastically and so did Lily, but Eloise merely stared at Black, who had pointedly fixed his eyes upon my fork.

“Sounds good,” I accepted. “We’ll meet you outside in later.”

Black smirked at me as they went upstairs to gather their weapons.



The flurries of the morning had ceased, and all was quiet as our two parties commenced their fort building. Lily and I began reinforcing the south wall as Kaitlin fixed the west corner and Eloise dejectedly manufactured ammo.

“Eloise seems pretty gloomy considering the fact that Sirius is here,” Lily commented.

“Keep your voice down,” I warned, casting my eyes in Kaitlin’s direction.

Lily glanced at my sister’s best friend, shrugged, and went back to adding a pile of snow to our nearly perfect wall. “Just saying.”

Our “army” gathered five minutes later to discuss tactics.

“I say that we stake out here and wait for them to vacate their fort,” Kaitlin suggested.

“They’re not stupid,” Lily pointed out. “They’ll leave someone behind to stop us from overtaking it.”

“Yeah– their weakest player: Pettigrew,” Kaitlin returned. “What do you think, Kat?”

I gazed over to where the boys huddled, somewhat sheltered in their icy fortress.

“I think…”

All four of them stared over at us for a moment, and then continued plotting.

“Kaitlin, you take Eloise and launch a frontal attack while Lily and I defend here.”

“Got it,” she began to load snowballs into her arms.

My sister took a minute to process the plan. “Explain that again…”

When the two of them had ducked out of earshot into a clump of bushes, Lily rolled her eyes at me. “If we have to repeat everything we say to her because she’s too busy ogling Sirius, I’m going to slap her. That’s just bloody pathetic…”

“I know.”

Shrieks erupted from across the battlefield.

“Look out!”

Kaitlin was pelting Pettigrew with snow, but Remus, James, and Black were all sprinting in our direction.

Hastily, we scrambled to arm ourselves. Eloise lunged out from behind a tree, and her shot hit Remus in the side of the head.

My first snowball missed James completely, but the second ricocheted off of his foot. I stooped to grab two more, but–

“Kat!”

WHAM!

My back slammed into contact with the frozen soil, and little lights blurred my vision. I blinked. Warm, gray eyes blinked back, almost an inch from my own. It took a moment for me to realize exactly who was pinning me to the ground.

“Sorry,” Black rolled off of me and stood up. “Got a little, err… carried away.”

As he offered me his hand to help me up, I caught sight of my sister.
She stared at me with a fury I had never dreamed existed within a human soul. Her fiery gaze bored into mine, almost challengingly.

“Come on, Kaitlin,” she said, pulling her wool cap back onto her head. “Let’s go.”

Her friend looked up from where Pettigrew cowered in the powdery slush. “What?”

“I’m tired,” Eloise insisted imperiously. “We should leave.”

“Allow me to escort you,” Remus jumped in.

My sister turned a nearly repulsed expression on him. “Oh. Err…
thanks, Remus.”

The three of them departed for Gryffindor Tower.

Black turned to me. “Can I talk to you?”

James seized Lily’s hand. “We’ll catch up with you later.” He half-dragged her toward the castle.

I raised my eyebrows. “What can you possibly have to say to me?”

“One,” he held up a finger. “What the hell is her problem?”

He meant Eloise. Crap.

“Is she not allowed to have hormones, now?”

He ignored this. “Two,” he held up a second finger. “If you haven’t noticed, Remus is madly in love with her. “

“I have, as a matter of fact.”

“Well, you’re her sister. Tell her to get her act together and either go out with him or tell him off.”

I gaped at him. “Excuse me? Why is that my problem? Remus can deal with it by himself. He’s a big boy.”

Black’s stormy eyes flashed, and for a split second, I was frightened. “No, he can’t! Don’t you get it? He cares about her too much to risk revealing his feelings! He knows she doesn’t think him worthy to wipe her shoes, but he still has some shred of hope!”

“Then what’s the point? He clings to an insane notion that she could fall in love with him, but he KNOWS that it’s completely impossible.” Tears flooded my cheeks, stinging as they dropped into my scarf. “YOU’RE his best friend, Black. YOU explain to him that Eloise has never and will never love him. YOU rip his heart to pieces!”

I slumped down on top of the ruined battlements, crushing it anew.

He knelt beside me, putting his hand on my arm. “Déjà vu, huh?”

I wiped my eyes. “Do you have anything else?”

“And three,” he completed, “I know that we’ve had…disagreements–” (Here his eyes flicked to my scarred hand.) “–But I think…I’d really like it if we could… be friends?”

I strained to keep the incredulity clear of my face but didn’t answer.

“I–I mean,” he stammered on. “You know, it’s just that…James wants us to ‘play nicely’, what with him and Lily and all. We don’t even have to talk! We could just…not rip out each other’s throats on sight.”

Pause.

“Damn it, Kat! Say something!”

A slow smirk uncoiled on my lips. “Does it hurt you to say these things?”

For a second, he fell for it, but then he grinned. “Shall we start over?”

I extended my hand. “I’m Kat Parker.”

He took it. “Sirius Black.”



Eventually, the rest of the school came back, and classes resumed. I caught Mary by the elbow on the way to Potions.

“Hey, you.”

She smiled. “You all right?”

“Pretty good. What about you?”

A slightly sad expression crossed her features. “The same, although…”
She gestured after Lily, who had disappeared down the steps to the dungeons the instant she set eyes on Mary.

We descended into the passageway, noting that the tense silence between the Gryffindors and Slytherins was more potent than ever. (We still hadn’t forgiven them for bludgeoning James at the Quidditch match.)

“See you around,” Mary muttered and slipped away before Lily could see us walking together.

The Fantastic Four (plus the redhead) were standing against the far wall. Sirius (I suppose I have to call him ‘Sirius’ now…) gave me a small smile as I approached.

Lily caught my eye and mouthed, “We need to talk.”

I nodded, but just then Slughorn’s belly beckoned us into the dungeon, signaling the beginning of an hour of chopping, bubbling, hissing, and (worst of all) his droning.

I thrust my bag down on the traditional table, but neither of my friends joined me. Instead, Sirius took Mary’s usual seat, directing his thumb over his shoulder to where James and Lily sat when I raised an eyebrow for explanation. As we unpacked our potion kits in silence, Remus came over.

“Do you mind?”

I nearly laughed. “Do you have to ask?”

He grinned.

“All right, class,” Slughorn boomed from the front. “Today we will be concentrating on perfecting the complex brewing techniques for…”

Mechanically, I began slicing my dragon heartstrings into the required strips.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sirius hissed. “Do we even know what we’re supposed to be doing yet?”

“Shut up,” Remus advised.

Three quarters of the way through the class, I added my final unicorn tail hair with a flourish and turned to see Sirius gaping at me.

“How did you do that?”

“What?”

“You’re wicked fast, you are!”

My face felt a bit warm, and I said nothing in reply. Automatically, I began helping Remus cut up his Shrivilfig skin.

After Slughorn had completed inspection and released us into the corridor, Sirius tapped my shoulder.

“Err…will you walk with me?”

I looked ahead, but Lily winked and motioned for me to stay behind.

Merlin’s pants…

I fell into step beside him, the awkward pause isolating us.

“Err…” he began again. “Can I ask you something?”

“That depends.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his sharp profile as he gazed determinedly into the distance.

“Do you have a thing going with that Walter bloke?”

“Tristan?! Hell no.”

Something like relief settled over his face, and a slight smirk curled the edge of his lips. “Oh. Well, I was just wondering because he seems to fancy you…a lot.”

I rolled my eyes, but ruined the effect by grinning a bit.

“You know,” he continued. “I sort of enjoy being on speaking terms with you.”

“Why is that, exactly?”

“Contrary to popular belief, Miss Katharina, you actually hold quite entertaining conversations.”

I playfully bumped him with my shoulder. “Shut up.”

“You see?” he chuckled. “I suppose I’ll see you later, then.”

“Err…sure.”

I watched him dart into the Great Hall to find James. Slowly, I followed, mulling the whole situation over in my mind.

As I sat down across from Lily, she jerked her thumb irritably up the table.

Eloise sat ten seats away; her hateful glare as pronounced as a drunk Italian.


Chapter 8: The Ominous Escapade
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February rolled around in a haze of mud, slush, and bedraggled Quidditch players. The teachers piled more and more homework upon us, claiming that we needed all the practice we could get with our N.E.W.T. so close.

“It’s blooming February!” Lily ranted late one day as she and I sat at a table in a dusty corner of the library. “The tests aren’t until after ruddy Easter!”

Madame Pince poked her vulture-like nose around a bookcase. “Shhh!”

When she turned her back, Lily stuck out her tongue and continued complaining under her breath.

I flicked aimlessly through my Care of Magical Creatures notes, catching sight of foreign ticks and marking penciled in among my minute handwriting.

“Sirius!”

Lily’s finger jumped to her lips, indicating the spot where the evil librarian had just disappeared.

“What?” she mouthed.

I tossed the parchment across the table.

She nearly burst with giggles. “L…looks like s-someone…wants to…ask…you…”

“Whatever, Lily.”

She rolled up the parchment and whacked me over the head with it. “What the hell is wrong with you? An incredibly attractive guy is into
you, and you don’t even care?”

“Oh, come off it! He is in no way ‘into me’.”

“I smell denial…”

“You smell nothing.”

She shrugged. “Have it your way.”

“I will, thank you.”



My bag was full to the splitting point as I hiked back up to the common room.

“Hey, Kat!”

I turned. “Oh. Hello, Tristan.”

He eyed my bag. “You want some help?”

“I’m fine.”

A scarlet flush licked his ears. “Listen, err…I was sort of wondering…”

Oh, damn.

“Would…would you be interested in…err…coming into Hogsmede with me this weekend?”

Poor kid…what to say? I couldn’t face Sirius if he asked, but I also didn’t want to endure the sniggering and inevitable teasing if I remained in Gryffindor Tower alone on Saturday night.

“Err…sure. Why not?”

He beamed. “Great! I…I guess I’ll meet you in the entrance hall?”

“Yeah. See you.”

I quickly darted behind a tapestry to escape.

Damn. Lily was going to kill me.



“You WHAT?”

“Calm down, would you please?”

“I will NOT clam down, Katharina Parker! You spoiled everything! Now he’ll never ask!”

“He wasn’t going to in the first place.”

“You don’t know that.”

I scowled up from where I lay sprawled on my bed. “Your pacing is incredibly obnoxious.”

“As is your stubbornness, and don't change the subject!”

My quill hovered over my half-translated Ancient Runes assignment as my mind drifted elsewhere. “You look as though you’re hatching a desperate, diabolical plot, darling.”

She whirled on me. “I am! Personally, I have no ruddy idea what the hell you see in the Tristan bloke. You and Sirius are friends, right? Why wouldn’t it work?”

I sat up. “Elementary, my dear Lily. First of all, Sirius and I will never be more than friends. End of story, world without end, amen. Secondly, there is still the problem that he didn’t ask me to go. If you look at it logically, he didn’t invite me and therefore doesn’t desire my company.”

She twirled a strand of her flaming hair around a finger. “I cannot believe you. You don’t really want to go with Tristan, so what exactly is your motive here?”

“Good night, Lily.” I pulled my hangings closed.

“Kat, I—”

“I said good night!”

I heard her sigh and the slam of the door as she went downstairs.

I was alone with my thoughts, and I wasn’t sure how wonderful that was.



The cold dregs of my tea lay in wait as I stared into them, half-heartedly contemplating “reading” the tea leaves and telling Tristan that our “date” was canceled due to unfortunate circumstances concerning the position of Neptune and the effect it would have on my lower intestine.

“Poor Madame Butterfly,” a voice murmured.

“What is it, Sirius?”

He sat down across from me, glancing down the table to where James and Lily were seated.

“Someone seems awfully glum considering that she has a date tonight.”

“It’s not a date!”

“Your lover seems to think otherwise.”

I groaned. “I don’t need this right now.”

“Fine,” he exhaled. “Listen. Lily is still under the impression that I am going to take you out tonight. I'm pretending that I have no idea about Walter. Just look like you’re refusing me. No! Make it noticeable! There. She saw it. Now maybe I’ll get some blooming peace!”

I smiled wryly. “I wish I could say the same.”



The Three Broomsticks was extraordinarily packed that night.

“Lily, please stay,” I begged her. “Don’t leave me alone with—”

“You had your chance to back out of it, Kat. James and I are over
there. If you feel like joining us, stop playing games with Triscuit Walden or whatever his name is.”

“It’s Tristan, and I am not ‘playing games’ with him. Have I ever once indicated that I have any romantic feelings for him at all?”

She smirked a bit haughtily. “You’re here with him tonight, aren’t you?”

“You know what I mean!”

She shrugged. “See you later, love.”

I slumped down dejectedly in my vacant seat. What the hell was I doing?

“Bonsoir, mademoiselle,” a horrendously ghastly French accent almost ripped out my eardrum.

“Hello, Tristan. What the—”

He plunked down two Butterbeers and a tray full of Firewhiskey shots.

“Are…are you going to drink all of that?”

He grinned a little too proudly. “Yeah.”

I shot Lily a glance, pointing discretely to his vast quantity of alcohol.

James had her ensconced. Damn.

Tristan slid me a flask. “That’s yours.”

Fifteen minutes later, three quarters of the tray was empty, and he swayed where he sat, nearly falling off his stool.

“I’m going out for a breath of air,” I announced and did just that.
The alley was dark, but I could still make out the silhouette of the lonely bench, which was its only inhabitant.

Lily was right. I shouldn’t have come with Tristan. The poor bloke was inside chugging down Merlin-knows-how-many shots, and all for what? My approval? Oh, God, I hoped not…

A wet, warm, slimy something touched my fingers, and I jerked, instantly pulling my limbs close to my torso.

“Lumos!”

The wavering light of my wand revealed a gigantic dog panting up at me. It blinked innocently, its tongue hanging down its snout as it nudged my toes with its nose.

Tentatively, I stretched out my palm, and it nuzzled my hand in a reassuring manner.

“Hey, boy,” I petted the dog’s furry black coat. “Where’d you come from, eh?”

It cocked its head to the side, as if to ask me the same question.
Before I knew it, I was blubbering away in an alley at night to a dog that couldn’t understand a word I was saying.

“I suppose you could say that I’m on a date. Not really, though; I’m not exactly attracted to the bloke. Lily tried to make me call it off, but I was too stubborn to listen to her; however, she did try to set me up with Sirius. Merlin’s pants… I actually considered it for a moment…Can you believe that? It doesn’t matter anyway. He never asked, which means that he only puts up with me because James wants him to keep a civil tongue in his head whenever Lily and I are in the vicinity.”

Suddenly, the dog dashed out of sight down the high street.

I gazed after it, nearly heartbroken that even a dog could not stand my presence for more than five minutes. Scrutinized my nails, I tried desperately to come up with an excuse for why I was taking so long. (Granted, Tristan was probably too drunk to notice any sizeable time lapse…)

“Remus! Remus, where— oh. It’s you, Kat.” Sirius sat beside me.

“Did you see that dog?”

He frowned. “What dog?”

“That huge black one. It just ran up the street and then you—never mind.”

His eyes slowly surveyed my face. “Are you all right? Walter didn’t drug your drink or anything, did he?”

I shook my head. “No. He’s just…drunk as a sailor.”

Sirius was quiet for a minute, but then he said, “Do you want to get out of here?”

“What, like…leave? Now?”

“Absolutely. Let’s go. Walter is too bloody hammered to notice and James and Lily are busy playing footsy under the table. Come on, Parker,” he elbowed me gently. “Let’s ditch this popsicle stand.”

I snickered. “Fine, but if he asks, you get to explain to Tristan exactly how you kidnapped me.”

“Deal.”



The Hogwarts grounds always look their best when soaked in moonlight. As we walked up the road from the village, Sirius pointed out a group of students assembled on blankets by the lake. Shrieks of laughter reached our ears as we drew closer.

“What are they doing?”

“Each other, probably.”

I hit him on the shoulder. “You’re revolting.”

“Well, well, well!” A rather high-pitched voice hailed us. “What have we here—Sirius and Kat? Welcome, fellow believers. Please sit with us.”

Uneasily, we followed suit.

Flannery gazed smugly around the circle. I scanned the crowd of unfamiliar faces, failing to recognize a single one.

“I call this gathering to order,” Flannery announced imperiously. “Before we begin with the, err…proceedings, Logan will light the traditional—”

“Yeah, yeah, I've got it.” Logan, the sandy-haired youth on Flannery’s left, waved a rolled piece of parchment for all to see.

“Very well. If you would, please, Logan…”

He flicked his wand, and the end of his joint sparked to life. He took a pull, and his whole body relaxed, a dazed, lifeless smile sliding across his lips. Slowly, it spread as the joint was passed from person to person, every member’s expression identical to Logan’s.

“Here,” the girl to my left attempted to push it into my grasp. “Take it.”

I stared at her. It may have been shadowy, but there was no mistaking her features.

“Mary!”

“That’s me,” she murmured as the boy next to her slid his hand
beneath her skirt. “Later, Joel. We’re nearly done here.”

Tears clouded my vision. What had happened to her? She was dressed far more scantily than I had ever seen her, and her beautiful, once-flowing blonde hair was now clinging together with grease. She must have lost at least ten pounds, her skin stretched tight over her scarily protruding ribs.

I staggered up and hurried away, stopping beneath a beech tree and collapsing at its roots. Rocking back and forth and seizing fistfuls of my own hair, I frantically tried to jerk myself awake, utterly convinced that this was a horrid nightmare. I could still make out Flannery’s distinct tone.

“Now, go! Let nature take its course.”

This had to be the vilest, most nauseating societies I had ever experienced…

A rustle in the bushes close by made me start.

“Hey, girl.” It was Logan. “What are you doing out here all alone? Don’t you want some real magic?”

“I don’t need any of that shit.”

He seized my hand in a vice-like grip. “‘Let nature take its course’,” he
quoted.

I clumsily drew my wand, reduced to using my left hand.

“Easy there, doll-face! I’m not going to hurt you.” With a sudden movement, he sent my only weapon clattering down to make friends with the grass.

“Hel—!”

His other hand silenced my cry with virtually no effort whatsoever.

“You nasty little bitch!” he hissed, his breath tickling my neck. “I told you that I wouldn’t hurt you.”

His nails bit down on my arm as he stroked it, my scream of pain muffled to nearly nonexistence by his clutching palm.

“Oi, Huntington!”

A blow struck the side of Logan’s head, and he threw me from him, my skull banging against a jagged rock.

Gentle hands wrapped themselves around my waist and helped me to sit up, while an anxious voice above me worried, “Kat…Kat! Oh, my
God! Wake up. Wake up!”

Whoever-it-was ran his fingers through my hair and along my jaw line.

My lashes parted to reveal Sirius bending over me.

“What did he do to you?” he demanded after I’d recovered slightly.

“Nothing. You have impeccable timing.”

His arm tensed around my shoulders. “As long as you’re okay.”

I nodded.

“Come on. Let’s get you upstairs.”

He offered his arm to assist me, and I clung to it like a drowning animal. Even with his help, my steps toward the castle were shaky.

“What happened? Earlier, I mean,” Sirius studied my expression. “What got you so upset?”

I took a deep breath. “That girl, the ne who handed me the joint— it was Mary.”

He gaped. “Bloody hell.”

“I don’t know what’s happened to her! She…she looks so…thin…like she’s hardly there at all. And…and her hair…she’s…messed up. She needs help…”

Sirius abruptly relinquished his supportive arm and dropped me on the floor in entrance hall.

“Listen to me,” he barked, a harsh bite in his throat. “Huntington could’ve seriously hurt you just now, and all you care about is your friend who is willingly romping around with losers and sleazy drug addicts? What’s the matter with you? You can’t have someone protecting you every minute of your life, Kat. It doesn’t work that way.”

“You didn’t see her! She—”

He shook me violently. “Don’t you get it?! She’s used to hanging ’round with that lot, but you—”

“What? Are you trying to tell me that you don’t think I could handle—?”

“Just shut up, will you? Huntington was going to… The point is you couldn’t do anything to stop him. Eventually, if Mary changes, she’s going to need a lot more than just you for support. Since she’s been inhaling… Merlin-knows-what, she’s going to need intense therapy and maybe even a prolonged stay in the Hospital Wing.”

I shoved him aside and scurried up the marble staircase. How DARE he say such horrid things! Did he honestly think that I couldn't take care of the people I loved?

“Hey!”

He followed, his Quidditch training enabling him to keep up and not even break a sweat.

I ducked into a passageway behind the statue of Boris the Bewildered on the fifth floor.

"Oi! What the–"

I skidded to a halt, wheeling to poke his chest hard with my index finger.

"You listen to me, Black. Don't you EVER tell me what I can and can't do. Do you understand? NEVER. What would you know about it, anyway?"

"'What would I know about it'? Are you that daft? You can't be some all-powerful being, Kat!"

"I know that!"

"Do you?"

I met his gaze challengingly but said nothing.

"What would have happened by the lake if someone hadn't pulled Huntington off you? What would you have done?"

Still nothing.

"Exactly. You couldn't fight him off, could you?" He sighed heavily. "I hate saying this, but you can't save everyone."

I dropped my eyes to the dusty floor of the corridor. "I'm tired."

When we reached the portrait hole, the Fat Lady raised her eyebrows suspiciously, but swung open when I gave her the password.

The common room was deserted.

“Well, err… good night,” Sirius called after me.

I said nothing but hopped up the stairs two at a time to my dormitory.

As I lay awake in my four-poster, I could still discern, faint though they were, the sounds of flirtatious giggles and triumphant shouts from down by the lake.
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Chapter 9: A Sudden Fascination With Muggle Studies
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“All students are required to study in groups of no more than two persons and are only permitted to review with a student of the same class. Potter! Turn around, and stop transfiguring Snape’s eyebrows in the shapes of farm animals!”

Ah, the average McGonagall lecture…

 

“As I was saying, your N.E.W.T.S are a lot more strenuous and demanding than your O.W.L.S. I advise you all to research anything and everything related to the subject of your N.E.W.T.S and— Potter! Must I threaten you with detention in every class? Five points from Gryffindor!” 

 

“Bummer,” Sirius muttered from my left. “Only two students? I suppose we’re stuck with each other.”

 

I turned to him, raising an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”


He grinned. “Oh, come off it. The lovebirds will be together for every class they have. That leaves you and I for the rest.”
The bell rang loudly, and everyone scrambled for the door.
“I'm surprised that you ever go out if that's your idea of asking a girl,” I chuckled.
He suddenly snatched my hand and fell dramatically to one knee on top of his bag.
“Please? Make me the happiest ruddy Seventh Year at Hogwarts. Katharina Parker, will you be my exam partner?”
The entire corridor was deadly still, every eye glued to my blushing face.“All right,” I acquiesced. “Just get up off the damn floor.”
As we walked away, a few wolf-whistles and suggestive cheers flew ar us.
I rapped Sirius’s elbow with my knuckles. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”
His smile reached his ears. “Not for long.” 

 

 

“What the hell? I can’t even see you!”

 

Shoving a teetering tower of Potions volumes aside, I almost sniggered, eyeing Sirius good-naturedly. 

 

“That’s because you’re supposed to be looking at your Charms notes, not me.”

 

“Strange as it may seem, Parker, you’re a vision compared with my review sheet on the Bat-Boogey Hex.”

 

“Stop it.”

 

I ducked behind my mountain of parchment from Defense Against the Dark Arts to signal the end of the conversation. I had nearly reached the end of my fourth scroll when a paper wad crash-landed and smudged a sentence or two regarding Dementors. 

 

“Sirius Black!”

 

My hiss went unanswered.

 

Curiosity getting the better of me, I smoothed out the message to read.

 

Why is your stalker-boyfriend studying right behind the Arithmancy shelf?

 

Damn, damn, damn, damn! Couldn’t he bugger the hell off? 

 

I shunted a stack of Rune dictionaries to one side, creating a small tunnel from my end of the table to Sirius’s. 

 

“Oi!” I whispered. “Did you have to point that out?”

 

His grin carried a hint of malice, those stormy eyes of his darting to a point just over my right shoulder.

 

“Ahem,” an all-too-familiar cough resonated loudly in the morgue-esque silence. “Kat?”

 

I turned, not bothering to be cheerful. “What?”

 

“I…c-can I t-talk to you?”

 

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a tad busy at the moment. Maybe some other time.”

 

“Ah…err…well…okay.”

 

I grumpily return to my schoolwork as he slouched away.

 

“Harsh much?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

Sirius tried not to smirk. “All I said was—”

 

“That’s enough of that, thank you.” 


“Oh, shit!” He dove out of sight beneath the desk.

I glanced around, but the only things visible were the grimy window and Beth, who was having her books stamped by a severe-looking Madame Pince.

 

I dipped down to join him, flabbergasted. “She can read?”

 

“Ssshhh! She’ll hear you!” 


“What the—”  

He clamped his hand over my mouth until Beth’s red heels had disappeared out into the corridor.

 

“Gedd uff muh!” His repressing fingers muffled my voice.

 

“Oh, sorry.”

 

We resumed our traditional seats, and after a second I muttered, “So…you and Beth—”

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

“Okay.” I stared down at my notes on Grindylows but didn’t take in a word.

 

He paused but then admitted, “She was just an easy shag—nothing serious. She moved on…or rather I forced her to.”

 

A flare of anger leapt up inside me. Was the next girl going to mean even less to him than Beth had?

 

He must have noticed the change in my expression. “Is something wrong?”

 

I gazed across the table at him, and he looked completely different all of a sudden. His casually tousled hair seemed artificial, his gray eyes cold and steely. Everything about his presence revolted me.

 

I stood up and marched briskly over to where Tristan slumped over his Arithmancy book. “Let’s study tomorrow.”


 

“Hey, Kat! Wait!”

 

At the bottom of the marble staircase, James caught up with me. His usual untidy hair was even more disheveled, as if he’d run all the way down from Gryffindor Tower. 

 

“Yeah?” I raised my eyebrows, waiting.

 

“About Sirius—”

 

“Merlin’s pants! I don’t give a damn what he—”

 

“I’ve had enough, Kat!”

 

I blinked. “Enough of what?”

 

“Your stupid game. Sirius is in that library day in and day out, still hunting for an elusive, FICTIONAL MAN!”

 

His voice rose to a shout, a scarlet flush creeping up his cheeks to match his tie.

 

“James—”

 

“DROP THE ACT, PARKER, OR I’LL TELL HIM FOR YOU! WHO’LL LOOK IMMATURE AND FOOLISH? NOT ME, AND CERTAINLY NOT SIRIUS, BUT YOU WILL! YOU’LL BE NOTHING MORE THAN A HEARTLESS GUTTERSNIPE! WHO WOULD STAND BY YOU THEN, EH?”

 

I stared at him, barely comprehending the tears in my eyes that were threatening to burst loose. Reaching into my bag, I pulled out the strangely wrapped package and handed it to James.

 

“Here,” my whisper was hardly audible after his screams. “He was supposed to…to get it at Christmas, but…” Without finishing the sentence, I rushed back upstairs, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t follow.


 

Never before had Muggle Studies so fascinated me. Suddenly, Professor Burbage’s long essays seemed less like a chore and increasingly more welcome as I scribbled away at them, deliberately avoiding Tristan’s gaze.

 

To brown the toast, one must first place the bread into a metal device, known as a toaster, and—

 

Tristan cleared his throat pointedly.

 

I took a deep breath. “Yes?”

 

“Err…I…um…” he sighed.

 

I hurriedly checked my watch. Had we only begun an hour ago?

 

“Kat, err…I hoped that you’d…let me apologize for what happened in Hogsmede. I…I was really just…d-doing it so you’d—”

 

I stood up, scooping my heap of parchment into my bag. “Sorry,” I cut him off, “but I just remembered that I…have an urgent appointment with…McGonagall. Job applications, you know.”

 

Without a backward glance, I tore from the room, earning a disapproving scowl from Madame Pince as I banged the door shut. Rounding the corner at breakneck speed, I ran smack into Sirius, causing him to drop his pile of books all over the floor.

 

“Merlin’s pants! Can’t you watch where you’re— oh. Sorry, Kat.”

 

Hastily, I crouched to help him retrieve his fallen volumes.

 

“No, don’t bother,” he waved his wand, and the stack reformed, flying neatly back into his arms.

 

“My bad,” I apologized.

 

He smiled. “No harm, no foul. Where were you dashing off to, may I ask?”

 

I shook my head, ashamed and a little disgusted. “Away from the library. I was studying with Tristan for—” 


“Oh, that’s right,” Sirius smirked. “You had a cozy little date with your boyfriend over a romantic review session of automobiles and telephones.”

I shrugged, to tired to butt heads with him at the moment. “I suppose that’s one way to put it.” 


He eyed me strangely but didn’t say anything. Shifting the tower of manuscripts into his left hand, he reached out and plucked a dust bunny from my shoulder.

“Oh, err…thanks.”

 

The side of his mouth twitched. “Sure. So, was that a lie?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Did you just lie to get away from him, of do you really have to see McGonagall?”

 

I blinked a little too quickly. “How—”

 

He snorted. “You’re not the only ruddy student who uses he library.”

 

 

 

Odd it may seem, but time sped up so much after Valentine's Day that I must have completely missed the month of March. April rolled around, bringing the traditional downpours and rumbles of thunder. James kept his team out on the pitch until it was too dark to fly straight. (He must have taken a hint to back off when Timothy Beck missed a Bludger with his bat and accidentally knocked the Quaffle out of Arthur Breslin's hands, sending it plummeting onto the head of Thomas Kelley.)

 

Lily and I sat up for James in the common room, working diligently at our increasing mountain of schoolwork. 

 

"Hey, Kat," her voice was muffled. The mound of lunar charts quivered, and soon her face poked through. 

 

"Hmm?" I didn't bother looking up, concentrating instead upon my Potions essay-- the Draft of Living Death. 

 

"Sirius. What do you reckon?"

 

"About what?"

 

"About him."

 

I put down my quill. "In what manner of speaking?"

 

She went a little pink. "Oh… in general, I suppose. Do you like him?"

 

I eyed her warily. "He's…all right, I guess. Why?" A horrid thought struck me. "Lily Evans, don't you dare try to set me up with him again!"

 

Immediately she shrank behind her copy of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration. "No! Not at all! I just thought…well, you two are much more civil toward one another than…other times this year…I was only…forget it."

 

I snorted. "No, Lily. You forget it."



The morning of the final Quidditch match dawned bright, dry, and gorgeous. The Gryffindor team was huddled together around an enormous platter of bacon and eggs, but none of them ate a thing.

"Come on, love," Lily tried to coax porridge into James's mouth. 

 

"You've got to eat something," I pointed out.

 

He heeded neither of us. "Sirius, I think it's time we went down to the pitch."

 

At this, the whole team stood and vacated the Great Hall. I turned away from the lovebirds' snog-fest to see Sirius waiting. 


"Err…good luck out there today."

He grinned a little. "Thanks. I heard Flint's recruited a new Keeper since last match--- Joachim Arnold. I'm not too bothered about it, but---"

 

"You two can chat later," James interrupted, smirking and taking his friend's elbow. "We’ve got to go." They sprinted off after the others.

 

A small chill ran down my spine. Had James given him the book? Did Sirius know that Heathcliff had never existed? Was he completely furious with me? … … Why did I even care? He and I hated each other. Why did this bother me so much?

 

"You ready?" Lily's voice came from a long way off.

 

"Huh? Oh, right, the match."

 

She shook her head in dismay. "Come on. You're nearly as bad as James."


 

Three-quarters of the stadium was solid scarlet and gold, screaming itself hoarse as the two teams zoomed around the pitch. Keillor Jordan's enthusiastic bellows could barely be heard over the roars of the crowd.

 

"Welcome to the final Quidditch match of the season, everyone! Today's game will decide which House wins the Quidditch cup (and a year's worth of bragging rights, I might add) until this jolly occasion returns next year. Now for the teams--- Slytherin vs. Gryffindor!"

 

At this, yells of delight sent a flock of birds soaring to the skies from its comfortable position on the shores of the lake. Madame Hooch stood ready, Quaffle in hand, between the two captains, Edward Flint and Jeremy Stein. Her shrill whistle pierced the air, and instantly there were red and green blurs swooping here, there, and everywhere. 

 

"And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Jeremy Stein of Gryffindor. He's an incredible Chaser, by the way. Look at him go! Nice pass to Arthur Breslin, who--- gah! No! Slytherin in possession---Puggins dodges a Bludger and speeds of down the field. Luckily, Timothy Beck hits him in the face with another Bludger. Good one, Tim!"

 

"Jordan!"

 

"Sorry, Professor."

 

The Gryffindor supporters cheered loudly as Jeremy caught the dropped Quaffle. 

 

"Gryffindor back in possession--- Stein ducks Smith and Ward, of Slytherin, and bolts off. He's heading straight for goal. Come on Jeremy! He shoots and---!" 


The rest of Keillor's sentence was drowned in the uproar from the scarlet-and-gold fans and boos from their green-and-silver adversaries. Joachim Arnold threw a filthy gesture at Jeremy as he returned to guard his central hoop.

"Ten--zero, to Gryffindor!"

 

Next to me, Lily was on the edge of her seat, fingers crossed in her lap, muttering under her breath. 


"Relax, will you? James will be fine."

"You don't know that," she hissed. "Those Slytherins always play dirty. It's become an unofficial rule."

 

I squinted down the field. Sirius was hovering in front of the goal posts, poised for defense. As Flint pelted toward him with the Quaffle, he tensed and (at the last moment, it seemed) swung his broom around, whacking the ball to Thomas Kelley, who passed back to Jeremy.

 

"Beautiful save there by Sirius Black!" Keillor shouted.


Lily nudged me with her incredibly bony elbow. I imitated her.

Suddenly, the entire stadium gasped as one, each person leaping to his or her feet, screaming and stamping as the two Seekers plummeted toward the ground. James was neck-and-neck with Michael York as they hurtled downward, each stretching, reaching, groping for the tiny golden ball---

 

"No! Our two Seekers lose their prize for the moment," Keillor groaned. "Gryffindor still in possession…"


On and on it went. Soon Lily's limbs unfolded themselves, and she reclined, too fatigued from anxiety.

"How much longer, d'you reckon?" she half-whined.

 

"Dunno," I shrugged. "Matches have gone on for weeks at a time, I've heard."

 

She rolled her eyes. "What's the score?" 


"Gryffindor leads by eighty points to twenty," Keillor chimed, as if on cue. "Still no sign of the Snitch, though… come on, Potter…"
Up in the air, James looked like a turkey vulture, flying in great loopy circles, surveying the distant grass below. Michael York was close behind, tailing him like a lost puppy.

"This is taking forever," Lily sighed, exasperated. "Why can't they just---"

 

"Shut up, Lily! Look!" 


The two Seekers had plunged into a spectacular dive, racing one another toward the ground and the tiny glint winking its silver wings above it. The tide of Gryffindor supporters leapt up, roaring James on as he plummeted, neck-and-neck with Michael York.
“The Snitch! They’ve seen it!” Keillor bellowed. “An intense drop by both Seekers leaves the rest of the players hovering to watch. COME ON, POTTER! MOVE YOUR RUDDY—”

At that point Professor McGonagall lost all remaining patience and finally yanked the magical megaphone from his grip.

 

This, however, had little effect upon the stamping and screaming scarlet-and-gold spectators. James and Michael York were entangled in one another’s futile efforts to grasp the fluttering Snitch. Lower and lower they dropped, the bellowing of the crowd spurring them to faster and faster speeds.  


“They’re going to crash!” Lily shrieked.

“Don’t be stupid!” the fifth year next to us shouted. “Potter’s not that thick!”

 

He was right. As the boy spoke, James pulled out of the dive, his fist waving above his head in triumph, and the stands erupted in a storm of cheers and victory chants. 


“Gryffindor wins, two-hundred and thirty to twenty!” Keillor bawled into the megaphone (which Professor McGonagall had tossed aside as she jumped to her feet, whistling like everyone else.)
“Kat, Lily!” Remus had fought his way across the stampede. “C’mon! Party up in the common room, Jeremy said.”

We exchanged euphoric glances. Somehow we had a feeling the McGonagall’s hope for a weekend of N.E.W.T. preparation wasn’t going to come through.



 

 


Chapter 10: The Delicate Pruning of the Venomous Tentacula
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 The party continued well into the depths of night, much to the dismay of both the Fat Lady and the little eleven-year-olds who couldn’t force their eyes open after ten o’clock. 

I stood alone near a window, (Lily and James had disappeared around midnight) pointedly avoiding the crowd, which was still going strong.


 

“All by yourself at three thirty in the morning?”


 

Half a smirk crept onto my lips.  “How many Butterbeers have you had, exactly? Those can’t be good for a Keeper’s hand-eye coordination.”


 

Sirius shrugged. “I’ll manage.” He glanced about with a knowing smile. “The two sparrows off having fun, eh?”


 

“Reckon so,” I yawned and nearly lost my footing as a Fanged Frisbee (no doubt thrown by the ever-jubilant Keillor Jordan) whizzed just passed my left ear. It ricocheted happily off the stone and rebounded across the room, landing with a soft hisssss in the embers of the fire.  


 

“Careful,” Sirius seized my arms to steady me, holding them far longer than he normally would have. 


 

I chanced a glance up into his face; those stormy grey eyes penetrated my own, but behind the mask of alcohol on his breath, they were sharp and unhindered . . . and there was something else . . .something that had changed . . .


 

“Listen, Kat. There’s . . .this thing I need to—”


 

At that moment Remus stumbled upon us. 


 

“Merlin’s pants, Mooney! How much have you drunk tonight?”


 

Remus’ face was blazing with worry. “It’s Eloise.”


 

I tore after him out of the portrait hole and into the thankfully deserted corridor.


 

She wasn’t far, slumped against the wall in a heap, muttering absolute rubbish to herself. Her friend Kaitlin bent over her, concern traced heavily across her brow. 


 

She looked up as we approached. “About bloody time, Lupin. She’s had at least half a bottle of Firewhiskey in the past quarter of an hour,” she informed me. “She was all right until around one, and then suddenly this manic depression hit her. “


 

“Get on her other side,” I advised, “and hook her arm around your shoulders. Let’s get her to Madame Pomfrey before it gets any worse. Remus, would you accompany us, please?”


 

“No!” Eloise’s screech echoed off the ceiling high above. “I wanna sleep here—hic—where iss nice.”


 

Her words slurred so much that intelligibility was almost impossible.


 

“No, Eloise. We’re taking you back to the dormitory. Come on now, dear. Up you get. It’s going to be—”


 

“Bitch, go away. I don’ wan’ chou. Leave me alone an’ go—hic—be a slut.”


 

“Eloise, you’re talking—”


 

“GET OFF ME!”


 

I turned wildly to Remus. “Do something!”


 

“What?!”


 

“Anything!”


 

He pulled out his wand. “Stupefy!”


 

Eloise went limp, and Kaitlin’s knees buckled under her dead weight. 


 

“Are you insane?” she hissed. 


 

“I panicked, all right?” he snapped back. “I didn’t see you come up with any brilliant ideas.”


 

Together, we hauled her up to the Hospital Wing. Madame Pomfrey wasn’t pleased.


 

“Good gracious! At this time of night, too. Well, come along, and bring her in here. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it too often: that blooming Quidditch is going to be the death of us all! No matter how many times I tell the Headmaster . . . but oh no. ‘It’s good for their competitiveness.’ . . .”


 

She grumbled all the way up the ironically vacant ward. “Now, what’s the matter with her?”


 

Both Remus and Kaitlin looked at me.


 

“She’s had a bit too much to drink, ma’am. What was it, Kaitlin? Half a bottle of Firewhiskey in fifteen minutes?”


 

Madame Pomfrey gawked. “Heavens, you young people!”


 

“We stunned her,” Remus added, trying to help.


 

“Well, you were right to bring her to me,” the nurse said, still a little flustered. “I’ll do my best to minimize the hangover symptoms when she wakes up. You all had better go to bed yourselves. Off with you, go on!” 


 

She chivied us to the door. “You can see her tomorrow. Good night.”


 

 


 

 


 

“Is she okay?” Sirius flew at me the moment I reentered Gryffindor Tower. 


 

“Madame Pomfrey’s seen worse.” Suddenly all my fatigue vanished. There was no way in hell that I could sleep tonight.


 

Most of the partygoers had disappeared to their dormitories, leaving a good littering of bottles, wrappers, spilled food, overturned furniture, and the remains of the vulcanized Fanged Frisbee in their wake.


 

I sat down in one of the good armchairs and watched the flames sink lower. Sirius followed.


 

“I never liked hospitals,” he offered. “Too clean, but too filthy and sick at the same time.”


 

I nodded.


 

“Why did she do that d’you reckon?”


 

I shrugged, not wanting to give away my suspicions, to give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d probably caused the demise one more girl. Poor Beth . . .poor Olivia . . .


 

“Kat,” his voice was almost a whisper. “What I was going to say before—well, I . . .I never properly thanked you for what you did at Christmas. It . . . it opened my eyes to what I’d done, and I swore to myself that I’d change. Do you believe that?”


 

“I admit that I’m having trouble visualizing it.”


 

He fixed me with a pointed glare. “I’m being perfectly honest. When I went to St. Mungo’s to visit her, I thought I’d just throw down some money and get the hell out. But then, when I saw her holding that . . .that tiny child, I . . .” he trailed off. “It was the most human I’ve ever felt.”


 

His gaze dropped to his fingers, analyzing every twitch. I couldn’t think of anything in the world to say.


 

“She was stillborn,” he added harshly, his face contorting into a painful grimace. “That beautiful little girl . . .so unfair . . .such a shame . . .Of course, Olivia was still keen on marriage, but there was no chance I’d settle. Maybe if the baby had lived, things would have been different. We wouldn’t be having this conversation, that’s for sure.”


 

Bitterness flecked the last comment.


 

“Sirius,” my voice was surprisingly gentle. “You’ve had a lot to drink. You’re tired; go up to bed.”


 

He stared, a hungry desperation emanating from him. “I couldn’t even tell James.”


 

My teeth sunk deeply into my bottom lip as my eyes misted over. “Sirius, really, y-you should rest.”


 

Now it was my turn to avoid looking at him. I noticed a hangnail on my left hand.


 

He sat frozen for a moment and then trooped up the boys’ staircase.


 

The flames crackled as they finally smothered the last log, and it collapsed inward upon itself, leaving nothing but ash-coated coals behind. 


 

 


 

 


 

The most dreaded of abhorred times was upon us. 


 

“Your N.E.W.T. schedules are of the upmost importance,” Professor McGonagall insisted at the end of one particularly tiresome Transfiguration lesson. “I have them here for you. Addams, Melody . . .Black, Sirius  . . .” 


 

“Bollocks!” Lily scanned her sheaf of parchment. “I’ve got ever shit class one right after the other. What about you?”


 

“Not too bad,” I mumbled, shifting me wrist so only she could read it. (Sirius was trying to catch a good look also.)


 

“Ah well,” Lily sighed. “Off to Pince’s chokehold to sell our souls to the Devil himself.”


 

Grudgingly we trudged out of the classroom and up two flights of stairs.


 

“Can you believe it, though?” she asked suddenly. “We’re almost done here. Got any ideas what you’re going to do when you leave this place?”


 

Sure, I’d thought about it. No one can truly say they’ve never once imagined their future life . . . except maybe Bertha Jorkins, but who counted her?


 

“Maybe the Muggle Liaison Office,” I said.


 

“But your mum’s a Muggle.”


 

“All the more reason to join, isn’t it?”


 

We threw our tower of books onto a table with a satisfyingly sonorous thud. The crash was sufficient to bring old Pince hobbling over, purple-faced with rage and brandishing her ruler.


 

“You depraved children! There will be—”


 

“—no more of that wretchedness in my library, or you can both march straight to the headmaster.” We completed her sentence routinely under our breath. 


 

When she’d finally scuttled away to the Invisibility section to badger a poor second year who couldn’t reach the top shelf, we set to work. The deathly stillness hung tantalizingly in the air around us. It was enough to put even the most frazzled student into a stupor. After two long and tedious hours I tentatively stretched my foot out to poke Lily’s. A return tap confirmed contact.


 

“Lily,” I whispered through the crack in the wall of volumes.


 

No reply.


 

“Lily!” Louder that time, my voice was slightly hoarse from lack of use.


 

Still nothing.


 

I kicked her, catching a kneecap.


 

“Bloody hell!"


 

The deep, manly yell I recognized too late. Shunting The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection aside, I saw his grimace of pain mixed with sheepishness.


 

“What have you done with Lily, Sirius?”


 

He raised his eyebrows. “Sure, make me the villain—always absconding with everything you hold near and dear to your heart, aren’t I? I thought we’d moved beyond that little snag in our wonderful relationship, Miss Parker, but alas, I am demoted to my former unworthy status.” The smirk at the end of this remark nearly pushed me over the edge.


 

Furiously, I dove back into my notes, icily imploring him to leave. What was the point, though? He always managed to do the exact opposite of what I wanted.


 

“Listen, Kat,” he continued as I rifled through Achievements in Charming for a better sketch of a Banishing Charm. “James delivered your little, erm . . . package to me the other night.”


 

The book fell from my grasp with a sharp thump onto the floor. I’d known this moment would have had to come sooner or later. He possessed an unnerving knack of choosing outstandingly inopportune places for dealing with situations like this.


 

“The contents of the parcel were . . .quite illuminating. There is, however, still one last question to be answered: how could you, one of the brightest students in the seventh year, dream up such a ridiculous lie?”


 

Behind his forced, calm tone of voice was suppressed mirth itching to break loose. He began dismantling the barricade of Potions manuscripts separating us. 


 

“Would you like your other kneecap fractured as well?” I hissed.


 

“Don’t change the subject,” his smirk was growing larger by the second. “Why did you do it?”


 

I scrambled for some clever witticism to hurl back at him but found none. He started to laugh


 

“How dare you?” I could no longer contain my outrage. “You, of all people, laugh at me for making up one false story! You, who break more hearts in one week than most do in a lifetime! You, who take on a façade of bravado when you are secretly the most insecure and selfish person I’ve ever met! I can see right through you, you know. You’re nothing more than a fake yourself.”


 

Sirius’s smile faltered, and he leaned forward, his face an impassive mask. “Tell me this, Parker. If I’m so fake, why are you on the defensive?”


 

He stood up. “And to answer your first question, Lily snuck off with James.”


 

Typical.


 

 


 

 


 

“You may as well put up with him,” Lily advised rather pompously through her gum shield as we gingerly trimmed the Venomous Tentacula in Greenhouse Three. “He’s not going to leave you alone in any case.”


 

I glared in resolved silence at my grooming shears.


 

“I think it’s terribly romantic,” she went on, shooting a furtive look over her goggles.


 

Again, I made no effort to respond.


 

“Come on, Kat. You can’t stay angry about this forever. At least it was only Sirius and not that weird Tristan bloke who trails you like a lost Grindylow. The exams are coming up soon anyway, and afterwords you won’t have to deal with any of it again.”


 

I coldly snipped at one of the Venomous Tentacula’s snakey vines, which was inching its way around the brim of Professor Sprout’s hat. I would never admit it, but I knew Lily was right.


 

 


 

 


 

The Hospital Wing was still relatively deserted when Lily and I arrived after lunch. Madame Pomfrey’s mood had greatly improved since our previous visit. 


 

“You really ought to keep a closer eye on your sister,” she told me gently. “She’s been in here a lot lately. First unexplainable stomach pains, then vomiting, then a bit of uncontrollable bleeding, and now this. She’s lost quite a bit of weight too now that I think about it.”


 

She cast a motherly glance at Eloise’s bed where Remus was curled up in a hard chair beside her like a pitiful, over-large dog.


 

“He truly cares for her, you know. I’ve seen plenty of lovesick kids in my day but never one so besotted, poor boy. They always end the same way. He’ll get his heart blistered and broken like all the rest. A crying shame if you ask me.”


 

A crying shame—she had that right. The unfortunate bloke was practically groveling at my sister’s feet in admiration and for what? A blunt, heartless rejection—that’s what. 


 

 


 

 


 

“If you don’t eat something, I’m going to pry open your jaws and shove this potato into your esophagus.”


 

“Lily, I don’t have time. The Transfiguration exam is tomorrow morning. How can you only think about your stomach at a time like this?”


 

I buried my nose once more in my copy of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration that I’d propped against the jug of pumpkin juice.


 

James snickered. “What are you worried about, Kat? McGonagall covered all the material weeks ago. We’ll be fine. Now eat these fried tomatoes.”


 

Reaching over, he plopped a ladle-full onto my barren plate. Lily obligingly tossed on a roll or two. 


 

“Where’s your partner in crime?” she teased him, beginning to butter my rolls for me.


 

“Library. Probably imitating the bookworm we have with us. Put it away,” he added, swiping my book out of sight beneath the table.


 

Too tired to protest, I picked up my fork.


 

“That’s the spirit,” James grinned, piling more pasta onto his own heaping platter. “You’ll feel better in the morning. Trust me.”


 

 


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