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Still We Rise by ValkyrieMP

Format: Novel
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 36,077
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Scenes of a sexual nature, Spoilers

Genres: Fluff, General, Romance, Action/Adventure, AU
Characters: Lupin, James, Lily, Sirius, OC
Pairings: James/Lily

First Published: 05/15/2020
Last Chapter: 09/05/2020
Last Updated: 09/05/2020

Summary:

With their seventh year coming to an end the Marauders and their circle of friends begin to succumb to romances, the Order of the Phoenix and what the future has for each of them in turn as adults during the First Wizarding War. 



Chapter 1: Chapter One
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  “Ripley, my love, my only, Goddess Divine, queen of Heaven and earth--” Sirius Black leaned over the overstuffed couches back in the Gryffindor Common Room, his grey eyes sparkling with mischief as he tried to charm his fellow student. 

 

“Save it, what d’ya want?” Ripley Todd lowered her book and gave him her attention. His gaze fell to the dust cover on the book and he arched a dark brow at the scantily clad female and bare chested Scottish warrior.

 

“You’re really reading that load of bollocks?”

 

“Feck off, I haven’t a line waiting to date me  like you do.” Ripley snapped the book shut and swung long, lean legs off the couch, rose. 

 

Sirius chose to ignore the stab at him and instead stated bluntly. “If you could cause a slight disruption during dinner I would be forever in your debt.”

 

She scowled at him. “Black, the amount you’re in debt to me already could reach the very top of Gringotts.” She maneuvered away from him and began toward the exit. 

 

Sirius dodged nimbly around the couch to block her from leaving. “It’s for a good reason.”

 

“Oh aye? It always is with you and your lot.” Ripley folded her arms, cocked her head to the side.

 

Sirius grinned rakishly. “You fancy me and my lot.”

 

“Aye, I’d fancy you leaving me and mine alone.”

 

“I can’t. Not with James head over heels for Evans.” Sirius changed his tactics suddenly, softened his intense gaze and leaned closer. “C’mon Rippy, it’s for love, you would do anything for that, wouldn’t you?”

 

She smiled a little, leaned in as well, dropped her brown eyes to the floor, and ever so subtly lifted them to his. “You think so?” She asked, voice breathy. 

 

Sirius had a moment where his mind shouted ‘trap’, but his body reacted to the eighteen year old in front of him. He moved a hair's breadth away from her mouth with his. “Of course.” His breath ghosted across full kissable lips as he moved even closer and waited for her to close. 

 

“Hmm,” Ripley traced a finger down his arm to his wrist, where she bent it back in one swift move that brought Sirius to his knees with a yelp and curse. “I don’t negotiate with terrorists.” She said with a wicked smirk. “But you’re cute. I’ll see if I feel up to it.”  She patted the top of his head and walked up to the female dorm. 

 

“Oh my Gods.” James Potter doubled over in the entry to the common room, his laughter echoing in the silence. 

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Mate, you should have seen your face,” James removed his glasses, wiped at his eyes. “Fuckin’ priceless.”

 

“I said shut up.” Sirius hurled a pillow at his best friend and flopped on the couch. “She’ll do it.” He lifted up her discarded book, thumbed through it and winced as a letter fell out. He checked the address briefly, tucked it into his robes as James strolled over.

 

“Think she can convince Evan’s to go to the Midwinter Ball with me?”

 

“I believe her words were ‘I don’t negotiate with terrorists’.”

 

James pondered for a moment, toying with a loose thread on his robes. “But I’m not you.”

 

“But you are after her best friend.” 

 

“Valid fact.”

0-0-0

Dinner hour dawned with Sirius hopeful that Ripley would come through. His sharp grey eyes searched for her along the Gryffindor’s table. He spotted Evan’s with her burnished hair and found Ripley across from her. He looked at the plate in front of her, she had barely touched what little she had put there, he frowned. She was a hearty eater usually, just as she was avid about fitness. She always joked it was to make up for how much she ate, but he knew from years before it was from being bullied for being overweight. 

James kicked him to bring his attention back to the present. “Now?”

 

“No, see if she comes through.” No sooner had the words left his mouth then he saw Ripley begin coughing. He paused, concern rising for her, until she looked his way, winked one bright brown eye. She pounded the table drawing the attention of several professors to her side and away from the view of the doors. 

 

“Go, go!” James hissed and shoved Sirius into the aisle. The two with Remus Lupin joining them in the corridor ducked into the shadows and withdrew the Marauders Map. “Now or never.” James whispered. 

 

0-0-0

“For Merlin's sake!” Lily Evans admonished Ripley as soon as they were back in their room. “Helping that-that--” She broke off with some sort of noise that had Ripley raising her brows, and lifting both her hands in a gesture of surrender. "Do you even know why?"

 

“I get it, I do--” began Ripley, but she was again interrupted by the red heads angry harrumph. “Y’know, I’m just gonna go get my book, and when I get back for the love of the Gods above, calm your shit. Please.” She left the room, took a moment at the top of the stairs to breathe a sigh of relief and rolled her neck around on her shoulders. She moved silently down the stone steps, her bare feet making no noise. 

 

“I can’t believe it worked!” 

 

Ripley paused at the last bend in the staircase at James’ exuberant shout. “Do you know what this means for Moony?”

 

“I know exactly what it means if we get caught,” there was Remus’ voice, full of logic, a hint of worry, but just as much excitement. 

 

Sirius suggested. “We should probably do something nice for Todd--considering she did assist us.”

 

“I’ll leave that to you.”

 

“Wrong kind of something nice.” Sirius rolled his eyes at James. 

 

James stared at him bewildered. “She’s bloody attractive, are you daft?”

 

Remus raised a hand as he sat in an armchair. “As the mutual party involved I can safely say that Ripley isn’t attracted to man whores, quote unquote.”

 

Sirius scowled at him. “In case you haven’t noticed, I've been in a bit of a dry spell since the middle of last year.”

 

“More like since summer,” quipped Lupin.

 

“It’s still summer.”

 

“It’s bloody September fourth!” James sputtered. Before an argument ensued Ripley took the chance and entered the room. “Rip.” He greeted her with a nod.

 

“James.” She answered coolly. 

 

“Ripley.” 

 

“Remus.” She returned his small smile with her own.

 

“Todd.” Sirius held out the book he knew she was after. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. 

 

“Black.” She retrieved the book with a small flush at the way he grinned about the cover. “You’re welcome by the way.”

 

“You didn’t give me a chance to say thank you,” he shot back. She lifted a shoulder in a casual gesture. “Have a good night Todders.” 

 

“Don’t forget to turn in your slips for Hogsmeade tomorrow.” She advised the group and departed. 

 



Chapter 2: Chapter Two
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He woke much too early for his own good, stared at the canopy for a moment before remembering the letter from the book. Sirius pulled the letter from his nightstand, and unfolded it quietly. 

 

My wee warrioress,

 

Not much to report right now, just your standard idjits that we’re dealing with. There’s whispers of a Dark Lord, but the Ministry isn’t finding much on it, or at least they’re not saying. Make sure you keep up with your workouts. I watched some muggles the other day and I’ve attached a demonstration of what they’ve been doing. I hope it helps.

 

I wish you would look into being a healer instead. You’ll still be serving the Wizarding World, just in a safer capacity. You needn’t risk your life, or your body to become an Auror. At this rate you’ll be the only female, and that worries me. You’re strong, I know you are, physically and mentally, but dammit it all lass--please. Think.

 

Love Always,

Da

 

Sirius frowned as he tucked the letter under his pillow. So that was that. He had no idea that Ripley had wanted to be an Auror, hadn’t realized that she hadn’t begun working out to lose weight, but to win in battles. He had seen her fight, occasionally, in his time at Hogwarts. He had heard about it more than seen, and knew she could hold her own. He tossed and turned for the better part of the night, and rose before dawn. He wandered down to the common room, saw the fire burning lowly and tossed a log onto it out of habit. He crossed his arms against the chill as he approached one of the stained glass windows. His grey eyes swept over the mist covered grasses and landed on a small figure running steadily away from the castle. He almost groaned aloud. Only Ripley, and a few overzealous Quidditch players would be awake at this hour to exercise. The Wizarding World had all sorts of potions and brews to fix anything you could imagine, yet here she was.

 

It wouldn’t be like her, he knew, she didn’t use magic that way, outright refused. His mind slipped unbidden back to the letter. He knew Aurors sometimes went undercover into the Muggle World, did she do it because of that? Even as he debated an owl tapped on another window, startled him enough for him to curse vehemently. Sirius went to the window, stared wide eyed at the Great Grey Owl on the other side. Its yellow eyes glowered at him until he fumbled to unlatch the window. It landed on the ledge and wiggled its bulk through the opening.  Curious, Sirius reached for the letter and quickly snatched his fingers back as the owl snapped at him. “All right, bloody hell.” He rolled his eyes, but managed a glance at who it was addressed for. Ripley Todd.

 

Go figure, he thought.  He wondered if he should tell the owl where his mistress was, thought better of it when he saw her returning toward the castle. It wasn’t long before she emerged.

 

“Your bloody satanic owl has a letter for you.” He spoke as she entered the common room breathing heavily. Without a word she lifted her arm. The owl landed his massive bulk on her forearm, climbed gingerly to her shoulder where he nuzzled her hair. 

 

“Caith isn’t satanic,” Her long fingers stroked the owls chest, and removed the letter. She paused, glanced at Sirius. “This just came?”

 

“No more than a few minutes ago.” He moved closer to her now, his black brows furrowed in worry. “Rip, why aren’t you telling us?”

 

“Us?”

 

“Me, James, Remus? Lily?”

 

“I didn’t think we were that close,” she responded coolly. He scoffed softly. “Regardless, don’t worry about me.” Ripely began to walk by him, but he grabbed her arm, impressed at the hard bicep beneath his fingers.  Caith let out a soft hoot as warning. 

 

“Ripley?”

 

“Sirius.” The Irish girl let her eyes meet his. “Why do you care all of a sudden?”

 

“I’ve always cared,” he began, but realized words would be pointless with her. Slowly, cautiously he brushed at sweaty strands of hair, tucked them behind her ear, and pressed his lips gently to her forehead. “Always.” He murmured. 

 

“I’m sweaty, gross--I need to--” Ripley stepped back, bumped into an armchair and waved her hand around in a circle. “See you at breakfast.” She hurried up the stairs to her room, crept inside to gather her hygiene kit, clothes and towel before her and the owl went for the showers. Inside she opened the letter from her father.

 

It’s done. 

 

That’s all that was written. She sat down on the wooden bench, and buried her face into her hands, wept with relief. Her dreams would come true. Her destiny to be an Auror was approved. All the hard work, all the hours training. Caith nuzzled into her. She stroked him, murmured to him softly in Gaelic. “No answer is needed.” She told him, rose and opened the one and only window. “You can head to the Owlry, I’ll bring you some snacks later.” He nibbled her fingers and departed. Her future was in her focus now, Ripley stripped off her clothes, and turned on the shower, waited until steam plumbed in vaporous clouds. In just under nine months she would attempt to join the ranks of Aurors alongside her dad, and her brothers. Her stomach danced nervously and excitedly all at once. As long as she passed her classes, and maintained her physical training that was all that could be done until the Academy. She hummed ‘The Rose of Tralee’ as she rinsed suds from her hair. 

 

“Rip?” Lily’s voice came into her reverie. 

 

“Maybe.”

 

“More like of course,” Lily quipped as she shed her fluffy pink robe and went into the shower beside Ripley. “How was your run?”

 

“Nice and chilly. I’m ready to eat a whole cow at this point.”

 

“Oh?” Lily rubbed her hands together making a thick white froth of soap. “You’ve not been eating much lately--”

 

“I've been accepted in, Lil,” Ripley couldn’t hold the news from her best friend. “I hate to jinx it--”

 

“In?” Lily asked, combing her fingers through her long hair, and then stopped. “In!”

 

“Aye!” Ripley laughed aloud now and then swore as Lily whipped the shower curtain back. The two started, one pair of bewildered green to the astonished brown. 

 

“Bloody hell!” Lily threw her arms around her naked best friend and did a little hop.

 

“Oh sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” Ripley tried to duck away. “Bloody fuck. You’re naked!” 

 

“As a jaybird!” Lily grinned at her. “I’m so happy for you.”

 

“Well, be happy in your own bloody shower.” Ripley shooed her away, flapping both hands. Lily rolled her eyes, but went away. “Why are you showering in here anyway? Aren’t you a head girl?”

 

“We find out today.”

 

“Potter is up for it too, isn’t he?”

 

“He is…” Lily let her mind slip to James Potter, and a slight smile graced her lips. “Rippy, what do you think of James?”

 

“Like as a person or--”

 

“In general.”

 

Ripley narrowed her eyes at the wall of the shower, and spoke slowly. “He’s certainly matured over the summer. He’s cute enough--nice enough I suppose...you’re gonna date him, aren’t you?”

 

“I was thinking about it. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

 

“You give too many chances,” said Ripley darkly and shut the water off. She began to towel off as Lily scoffed at her. “It’s true.”

 

“Speaking of chances.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Sirius.”

 

“Negative.” Ripley finished dressing, dried her hair with a spell, and tied it back in a ponytail.

 

“Leave it down. It’s Friday.” Lily exited the shower, wrapped in a towel. She dried her body with a spell, began to slather on her creams and potions.

 

“Exactly, it’ll be down tomorrow for Hogsmeade.” Ripley did a small glamour spell, and debated it. She removed the blush portion of the spell, settled with the darkened eyes and lashes. She was simple after all, and thanks to Madam Mayhems Clear Skin potion that she used daily her skin was usually blemish free, if not still bright red from exercising. 

 

“Suit yourself,” Lily straightened her tie, and did a quick one two turn to check her uniform. She looked at Ripley’s half done tie, and shirt that was only buttoned three-quarters of the way. “Really?”

 

“It’s Friday.” Ripley answered wickedly, and departed.

 

0-0-0

The day seemed to pass by quickly enough for Sirius, although if Defense Against the Dark Arts could get anymore boring, he heaved a sigh, and kicked back in his chair. “Maybe Mooney should teach this class.” He whispered to James and Remus.

 

“He’d do a damn lot better.”

 

“I’m actually inclined to agree with you on that Padfoot.” Remus beamed at his best friend. Then slid a look toward James as Lily raised her hand and answered a question. “You have it bad, mate.”

 

“Don’t I know it.”

 

“Just make your move.” Sirius demanded in a hushed voice. “Now or never, do or die.”

 

Ripley leaned back as if stretching . “Would you three kindly shut the fuck up? Some of us actually care about our NEWTs, and our future.”

 

Sirius grinned, dropped his chair quietly back down and wrapped a long finger around her ponytail, gave it a playful tug.  “Or what?” He inquired with a devilish grin. Her answer was a one fingered wave as she was called on for a question. His amusement grew when she not only answered correctly after not listening, but also offered a counter question.

 

The bell sounded for the end of the school day and amid the flurry of activity Sirius latched onto Ripley’s arm. “Will you tell me what’s going on with you?”

 

She inclined her head, brown eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Maybe someday.”

 

“Do you wanna tag along with us tomorrow?” This came from James. “You and Lily?”

 

She opened her mouth to say ‘no’, but saw the beseeching look from Remus, she sighed heavily. “Yeah, we’ll meet you at breakfast.”

 

“You, me, dinner?” Sirius asked.

 

“I see you every night at dinner.” Ripley shot back sweetly and shouldered her bag.

She linked up with Lily, and groaned in frustration . “So, we’re going with Remus, James and Sirius tomorrow.”

“Are we?” Lily grinned, and tossed a smug look over her shoulder at the two Ravenclaw girls that she knew fancied James. “How exciting.”

“I hate you,” muttered Ripley with a sigh. "The boy is losing his mind over you, put him out of his misery."


"I will eventually," said Lily with a warm smile. "Once I've seen more."  At Ripley's snort, she elbowed her best friend. "I meant maturity."

"Oh, aye, is that all?" Ripley grinned, tossed her ponytail over her shoulder, and pondered a moment. "I suppose, we'll make it a date then." Lily linked her arm through Ripley's and hugged. "Yeah, yeah." Rip took  a moment, leaned her head against Lily's. "I love you, Lil."

"I love you more."

"I love you most." Ripley said softly, her brown eyes shutting for a moment as the fear and worry for the war that was beginning in their world and what would become of them all. 

 



Chapter 3: Chapter Three
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Refreshed from a quick shower and dressed in her muggle clothes of jeans and a black off the shoulder sweater Ripley took a quick look around the common room, noted the Marauders at the fireplace. She debated a nook by herself, but even her introverted soul needed company now and then. She swung around the side of the couch, swatted at Sirius’ outstretched legs, and promptly sat when he moved them. 

 

“All right, love?” Remus spoke from the armchair beside her, softly, caring, as was his way. She gave him a little smile, nodded. Sirius plopped his legs down in her lap, earning a glare from her. She shifted her gaze over to James and Peter Pettigrew.

 

“Potions on Monday?” She asked the group. “Anyone?”

 

“The four of us all have it,” said James. “You and Lily as well?”

 

“And Persephone,” added Ripley referring to one of her other favored companions. 

 

“Is she still single?” Peter perked up a little. Ripley merely stared at him. “I mean--y’know--”

 

“I’m pretty sure she is,” this came from Sirius as he sat up, took his legs back. Ripley grunted in response. “That’s a yes. Are you fancying her?”

 

Peter blushed. “Well--I--uh, y’see…” He stammered to get the words out under Ripley’s  unwavering gaze. Sirius noticed, and laid a hand on Ripley’s knee. She turned her head toward him now, fixed him with the same stare, it reminded him of one of the big cats from London Zoo. 

 

“Let the boy try.” He advised gently. He saw the inner battle, knew it all too well. To let someone you were close to attempt to find love, or worse be hurt in the process.

 

“Ripley, I promise--” Peter began and froze as the woman rose slowly from the couch, Sirius stood with her, braced and ready. Her temper was nothing new to the Marauders and Peter tended to piss her off easily. 

 

“She’s in the library with the Ravenclaws studying.” The Gryffindor glanced at Sirius, offered a half smile to others before departing.  

Peter let out the breath he hadn’t known he had been holding and fell back against the armchairs legs. “Merlin she’s--”

 

“Padfoot?” James called after his disappearing best mate. He shared a look of concern and confusion with Remus. “Well, that’s a new development.”

 

“It is indeed,” said Remus thoughtfully as he stroked his chin. “Very interesting.” 

 

0-0-0

She sought the silence of the Room of Requirements, it was a hidden gem that McGonagall had told her to practice her skills in. The Head of Gryffindor knew of Ripley’s aspirations, and had been the guiding hand at Hogwarts since her third year when she asked to pursue the art of Animagi because it was a skill that could set her ahead of male counterparts for the selection process. She had achieved her form the year before, after waiting three years for a bloody electrical storm in Ireland. But here, now, the room was nothing more than a plush environment. A large couch with various throws and pillows sat before a large stone fireplace reminiscent of the one from home. 

 

In the background classical music played, beside the wall of bookshelves containing muggle literature and magical as well. She sat on the couch, firelight dancing across her classic features, but the frustration she felt hardened those features, causing two small frown lines between her brows, and her full mouth curved down.  It seemed everyone was intent on finding a companion that year. Whether it was teenage hormones getting the best of everyone or the realization that this was their last year together. She leaned back now, propped her riding boot clad foot on the sturdy oak coffee table, and tugged the sleeves of her sweater further down over her hands, before crossing an arm over herself and propped the other one up to nibble at her thumbnail. It was ridiculous. 

 

Her ears perked, tingled as the handle of the door engaged, slowly she drew her wand from her jeans, and waited. She relaxed when she caught the scent of leather, clean male and mint. “How did you know?” She asked as Sirius sat beside her on the couch.

 

“Well,” he began, pausing. “I don’t know. To be fair it wasn’t the first place I looked.” She grunted. “I checked your usual running path first.”

 

Ripley kept her gaze fixed on the fire even as her heart skipped unsteadily. Maybe he had learned something in the six years they had known each other. In a class of only forty students you took your chances on enemies and lovers. Sirius she knew had dated outside their year, and who could blame him? She had made the mistake of dating within her year, and now she had to share a potions class with the dirty slag. 

 

“You’ve been weird this year.”

 

Ripley narrowed her eyes at the fire, shifted slightly to look at him, her expression baleful. “It’s literally the first week of school.”

 

“James and I invited you and Lily for a summer holiday--Lily came for a few days and you were nowhere to be seen.”

 

“Sirius--” She began to defend herself, then simply sighed. “Listen there’s a lot happening outside of school that’s had my focus, I haven’t found my balance yet with it all.” 

 

“So maybe share the burden,” he retorted coolly. “I assume you’ve told Lily.”

 

“Only recently.”

 

“Then maybe you need to tell more people in order to feel better.”

 

Ripley worried her thumbnail, weighed the pros and cons in her mind. Finally, after what felt like an hour she sighed. “I have a spot at the Auror Academy.” 

 

“They’d don’t allow women to do that,” began Sirius, she turned her head, stared. “You’re the bloody test subject?”

 

“Per the letter that I got, yeah--I’m it.” The girl moved her head side to side. “Well, as long as I pass my tests here, and the entrance exam.”

 

“You’re smart enough, you’ll do fine.”

 

“Sweet Jesus was that a compliment from you?”

 

Sirius chuckled. “I do give them occasionally.” She rolled her eyes and mirrored his position on the couch, leaning back on the arm, her arm propped on a knee. “So, there’s more?” He pressed.

 

“Nothing more that you need to hear about,” she countered with a quick smile. “Now will you leave me alone?”

 

“Why would I do that?”

 

“Because you’re halfway a gentleman,” Ripley surmised. “And I’m sure there’s a few fourth years who have your eye.”

 

“Too young.”

 

“Realized the muggle law of child pornography when you turned eighteen?” 

 

“Your sarcasm is noted and appreciated,” he replied darkly. She shrugged her left shoulder exposing soft pale skin and he frowned.

 

“You’ve leaned out a lot.” 

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Not that you weren’t attractive before, voluptuous really, but now you’re more--” He flexed his bicep and made a grimace as if he were lifting heavy weight.  She arched both brows. “You’re--”

 

“Digging yourself a hole.” Ripley rose, tugged her sweater back into place as she rose and moved to the back of the couch. “If you won’t give me my peace and quiet I’ll go somewhere you can’t.” She chose to pace, to burn off her nervous energy. 

 

“Hourglass.”

 

“Pardon?” She paused in her pacing, turned to face him, her face bewildered.

 

“You’re more,” He moved his hands in the shape of an hourglass through the air. “Y’know.”

 

A slight twitch of her mouth. “Aye.”

 

“It’s nice, different, but nice.”

 

“Right.”

 

“You should wear--”

 

“I’ll advise you not to tell me what to wear, boy-o,” the Irishwomans words bore heavy caution as she leaned on the back of the couch, close enough to him that he could see her pupils dilated. 

 

“Not even if it’s a fantasy of mine?” Sirius teased with a wicked gleam in his eyes. 

 

Ripley tossed her head back and laughed so hard tears ran down. “Oh Gods.”

 

Sirius stood, ambled around the couch until he was in front of her. “What’s so gods damned funny?”

 

“The fact…” she began breathlessly, brushing at her wet cheeks. “That you, Sirius Orion Black, would fantasize about me.” It took only a moment for her to sober up from her laughing fit beneath his piercing grey gaze. “Oh ...oh bloody hell, you’re not having a go at me, are you?”

 

“No Toddy, I’m not.” 

 

“Well, shit.” She muttered. Out of self preservation she took a step back and saw his eyes light up slightly at the prospect of a challenge. “T’isn’t a game Sirius,” she stated firmly. 

 

“No one ever said it was,” he said softly. He saw the trapped look in her eyes, the panic on setting, and frowned. “What happened to you Rip?”

 

“I have to go.” She muttered and all but ran from the room. She needed air, space, anything to clear her head. She was all but running through the hall when she plowed straight into a solid body. She caught herself from going backwards, and bowed up on the intruder. 

 

“Hey Ripley.” Jason Ravencroft grinned at her, and Ripley felt like the floor under her gave out. 

 

“Ravencroft.” She took a step around the Hufflepuff, but he reached a hand out to grab her arm. She jerked it away, her brown eyes flashed dangerously. “Don’t fucking touch me.”

 

0-0-0

 

Sirius skidded to a halt from his jog when he heard her voice, quickly back tracked and paused around the corner, peeked to see what was happening, and simply stared confused.  “Oh c’mon you’re not still sore about last year are you?” Jason combed his fingers through his mess of dirty blonde hair.  Ripley barked out a bitter laugh, a sound that had Sirius flinching, Jason lifted his hands in a ‘help me out’ gesture. “It was one time.”

 

She nodded, a look of pure disgust on her face. “You’re a terrible excuse of a Hufflepuff, fuckin’ loyalty flew right over your head.” 

 

“Darling…” 

 

“You lost the right to call me that when you were balls deep in a Slytherin,” berated Ripley, and Gods didn’t it feel good to get that anger off her chest? 

 

Ravecroft scowled darkly, and this time when he grabbed at her he succeeded, she bit her lip to avoid yelping. Sirius was on the move, walking toward them. Jason snarled. “Now listen to me, maybe if you had spread--”

 

“Spread what?” She hissed dangerously. “My legs? Fucking fat chance.” His grip tightened and he swung across with his other hand catching her cheekbone with the back of his hand. She saw stars , and stumbled dazed for a moment. 

 

“You know I despise your vulgar language--” He began, all the while Ripley saw red and did the only thing that came to mind. She swung, hard as she could. Jason released her and fell back against the wall just as Sirius arrived and wrapped his arms around Ripley all but hauling her behind him.

 

“Stay out of this Black,” Jason rose unsteadily to his feet, swiped at his bleeding nose. 

 

“Not a chance,” Sirius replied casually. “I don’t like men who put their hands on women.”

 

“You think she needs your protection?” challenged Jason. “She doesn’t.” Ripley moved out from behind Sirius, shaking with rage.

“Look at her, she’s fine. I’m the one bleeding.”

 

“And rightfully so,” snarled Ripley. “Touch me again Ravencroft, and ye’ll see what happens.” The Irish brogue thickened with anger.

“Give it a shot, boy-0.” She wiggled the fingers of one hand in an insulting 'come here' gesture, Sirius nonchalantly pushed it down. 

 

“Rip head back to the common room,” Sirius advised wisely, his hand remained on her arm, gave it a squeeze of warning. “I’ll finish up here.”

 

“No need,” Ravecroft sneered at them both. “We’re done here.” He paused as he passed Sirius, who had moved automatically to shield Ripley or Jason, he wasn't sure who yet. “You’re barking up the wrong skirt with this one Black..." he eyed his ex-girlfriend with  curled lip. "She’s not as easy as your other conquests.”

 

Sirius nodded slowly, lips pursed in thought, he shrugged and grabbed Ravencroft by the neck of his shirt and slammed him hard against the wall. “I’ll say this once,” He hissed in the boy's ear. “You don’t talk to her, don’t bloody look at her and if you fucking touch her, I will kill you.” He pushed him back once more to make a point before turning his back on him. “Let’s go.” He muttered to Ripley. She nodded, glared once more at the Hufflepuff and followed Sirius at a hurried pace.



Chapter 4: Chapter Four
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Lily glanced up from her Transfiguration homework as James meandered into the Common Room. She tried to ignore the quickening of her heart. He sat down on the floor at the table she was working at and fiddled with the cuff of his sweater.  After a few moments, she set aside her homework, and looked at him as he cleared his throat. “Listen Evans--Lily,” he began, hesitated. How many times had she rejected him? Could he take another? The pain he already felt was new to him, the worry, and concern that this was their last year, and he was all but begging. 

 

“Yes," replied Lily with a small smile, her green eyes sparkling with mystery. 

 

“Hold on a tick, I’m trying to find the words for this, I don't want to--”

 

“Yes.” Lily repeated, laid her hand over his and smiled. Her eyes crinkled at the corner as his eyes widened in shock. 

 

“Re-really?” James stumbled out. “You’re not having a go?”

 

“Really. I mean after all Head Boy and Head Girl should be a team.” Lily grinned at him as she revealed the news. Her smile dropped as Sirius and Ripley entered looking haggard.

 

“Ripley what in the bloody hell…” Lily rose to her feet, her eyes narrowed at the bruising on her best friend's face. She whirled on Sirius. “You!”

 

“T’wasn’t him,” Ripley snapped annoyed and took a seat by the fire, chin on a fisted hand. 

 

“James, a glass from the private stash if you please.” Sirius spoke softly to his best mate. “She needs it.”

 

“Accio firewhiskey, accio glass.” James muttered quickly with a quick wave of his wand. He poured a solid finger as Lily conjured a pack of ice and knelt beside her friend, placed in soothingly against her burning hot cheekbone. Her worried searched molten chocolate, found her friend shut down from the world, in her own mind. 

 

“Sirius?” Lily spoke montonley. James pressed the glass of whiskey into Ripley’s hand, lifted her right with his own and observed the bruised, swollen knuckles with a frown, nudged Lily to clue her in. The red head sighed softly, conjured another pack of ice, and set it down on her friends hand. She rose to her feet, turned to the dark haired eighteen year old. "Explain." 

 

“Jason Ravencroft.”  Sirius took a swig from the bottle itself, leaned his forearm against the fireplace mantle as he watched Ripley’s face. “Fucker.”

 

“I agree with that.” Lily snapped, her cheeks flushed with anger. Ripley quirked a corner of her mouth in a wry smile. “It’s not a smiling matter.” 

 

“She didn’t go down without a fight….she didn’t even go down. He hit her first.” Sirius saluted Ripley with the bottle. “A solid strike.” 

 

She took a bracing sip of whiskey , took over holding the ice and leaned back in the chair with a sigh. “Mine or his?” asked Ripley dryly.

 

Sirius snorted. “Yours, he hits like a girl.” 

 

She tilted her head to one side, considered him and then grinned. “Yeah, he does.” 

 

“I feel like this is them flirting,” James spoke in Lily’s ear as she leaned against his arm a little for contact-- for comfort.

 

“I think you’re right,” murmured Lily slightly bewildered. “It’s scary.”

 

“But nice?”

 

“Exactly,” The red head watched with a soft smile as Sirius tipped Ripley’s head up by placing two light fingers beneath her chin, observed her cheek. “He cares.”

 

“More than anyone realizes,” James affirmed. “Shall we leave them alone? I’m sure Madam Gordon has something for her face.”

 

“We might as well,” Lily decided after a moment. She peered up at James, studied his profile, and smiled warmly. “You’re not half bad Potter.”

 

James grinned, and rubbed his knuckles gently against her jaw. “Neither are you Evans.”

 

“Just make out already,” demanded Ripley. They turned slightly to see both Sirius and RIpley staring at them in disgust. “Gods above. Are you two finally an item?”

 

“Yes.” Lily hissed out. 

 

“About bloody time.” Ripley and Sirius said together and then shot each other a look of irritability.

 

Sirius topped off her glass. “I’m just saying if you could bring dinner back, that would be grand.”

 

“We’ll bring you both something.”

 

Sirius scoffed and feigned being insulted. “I can go.”

 

“You reek of alcohol,” James pointed out. “And as the Head Boy and Head Girl, fuck that shit, we’ll bring you something.”

 

Sirius sniffed, and sat down on the edge off the coffee table, across from Ripley. “Wizards Chess?”

 

She took a sip of her whiskey, pondered. “Yeah, why not? You’ll beat me anyways.”

 

“We’ll be back soon.” Lily assured them as James ushered her away. Once they were gone Sirius heaved a sigh, set the bottle down and went to retrieve his game. Ripley sat in the empty common room, finally able to breathe deeply. She took account of how she felt. Pleasantly numb because of the whiskey setting in.  

 

“Got it,” Sirius jogged back into the room, cleared the table and set it up. Ripley tossed a cushion onto the floor and slid down onto it, leaning back against the couch for support. They moved their pieces methodically and in silence for the first part of the game, the whiskey bottle getting emptier and emptier. 

 

“So, you wanna tell me?” Sirius asked as he finished what was left in the bottle. She grunted as his piece destroyed hers. “Rip?” 

 

“Bugger off,” she made her move, smiled in triumph as his piece was crushed. Her glass had been empty and she had refused anymore since she felt like the room was staring to tip like a boat in rough water. Sirius leaned back a little, cocked his head to one side as he studied her.  No one would peg Ripley Todd as weak, he had heard her called many things over the years, but weak had never been one. It surprised him to hear any rumors about her, and he had ignored the one that had said she was dating the Hufflepuff, but that had been confirmed that day.

 

“So?” He pressed on, downing the last of his whiskey. "You going to tell me or sit there and brood?"

 

“You won’t quit will you?” She let him win the game to avoid him sulking. He shook his head. “Of course not,” She muttered, and shoved back from the table .”Fine, what do you wanna know?”

 

“All of it.” Sirius stood up, tossed a log on the fire to occupy himself, and then he chose to settle into one of the over-sized chairs. Ripley on the other hand rose to pace, a little unsteadily. “Let’s start with Mr. Suck.”

 

“I assume you mean Jason.”

 

“You’re correct, love.”

 

“Gods, I dated him last winter,” Ripley tapped her fingers in thought against the mantle, choosing her words wisely, carefully. “He was my first real boyfriend.”

 

“Were you in love?” Sirius asked softly, his stomach knotted as if he didn’t want the true answer. 

 

Her nose wrinkled. “No, fuck no,” She sighed, ran her fingers through her hair, de-tangling the knots as she tried to think of her words. “He was an experiment.”

 

“How?”

 

“To see if I was capable of having a relationship,” Ripley turned her head to look at him, her brown eyes daring him to argue with her. “I don’t think I am.”

 

“Bollocks to that.” Sirius snapped, and slapped his hands against his thighs as he rose. She arched both brows at him, inclined her chin in a queenly manner. He held up a hand to stave off an argument as he approached her. “Hear me out, what if, call me a wanker if you will, what if it was just,” he feigned a gasp. “Ravencoft being an asshole?”

 

Ripley rolled her eyes and sighed. “If I was date-able, if I was relationship material then he wouldn’t have to be balls deep in a fucking Slytherin, Sirius. Which, fun fact, he was.”

 

“So he cheated.”

 

“Yeah,” Ripley wrapped her arms around herself, leaned her shoulder against  the mantle. “Yeah he did. Multiple times, I don’t care who, I don’t need to know who.”

 

“Not all men are like that.”

 

She gave a derisive snort. “You are.”

 

“What?!” Sirius gaped at her, insulted, infuriated. “Now listen to me Ripley, whatever your middle name is Todd! I have never cheated on a lady friend. I haven’t even been with anyone since I was fiftee--”

 

“Fifteen?” Ripley asked softly. Fifteen when she had started getting closer with Remus, and a little with James. Fifteen when she had come into her own, and started dating around casually. Fifteen when she started to see Sirius as a potential, but never voiced it to him, never thought she had a chance. He nodded. “Ironic.” 

 

“I’m not above irony,” he replied quietly. She looked up at him, his grey eyes were intense and locked on hers. “Ripley…”

 

“Sirius.” She murmured, he leaned in, lifted a hand to brush her hair back from her face, cupped the nape of her neck.

 

“We’ve got sandwiches!” James burst into the Common Room with a platter of food. Ripley jumped back, distanced herself from Sirius as Potter’s mouth hung wide open, the platter of food dangerously close to falling.

 

“And Pumpkin Juice!” Lily sang out, she stopped beside James, pitcher in the air. “Whatever is that look on your face for James?” She sailed around him and placed her cargo onto the table, and rolled her eyes as James didn’t move. “Heaven's sake.” She took the platter as well and plunked it down. “Now then, tomorrow.” 

 

“Right,” Ripley cleared her throat, looking pointedly at Sirius. “James?”

 

“Did--You--He?” James pointed from his fellow Marauder to Ripley, touched two fingers together to imitate kissing.

 

“James Potter, sit.” Lily patted the cushion beside her oblivious to what she had come into. Sirius selected a chicken sandwich for himself. Ripley poured a glass of pumpkin juice, downed it, and filled another. “Eat.” Lily ordered. The Irishwoman sighed softly, and chose a ham and cheese sandwich. She sat opposite Sirius, felt his gaze on her even as she ate. They were joined by Remus not too long after a flood of students returned, the younger ones disappointed that they weren’t allowed to go to Hogsmeade. 

 

“Rippy?” A soft voice interrupted the seventh year's debate about a DADA topic. A young girl approached the inner circle, clambering around Sirius’ outstretched legs to reach the woman. 

 

“C’mere darling,” Ripley opened her arms and the ten year old plopped into her lap. “What’s wrong?”

 

“Mummy and daddy wrote me a letter,” Brienne Todd extended the letter to her older sister. Ripley took it, and scanned the words. Her frown deepened. “What does it mean?” 

 

“C’mere Brie,” Lily spoke now, noting the look on Ripley's face and motioned with her hands. “I’ll see you up so your sister can answer.”

 

“Go with Auntie Lily,” Ripley muttered, and kissed the strawberry blonde head. Brie nodded, hugged Ripley once and headed off with Lily. She reread the letter, shook her head, and buried her face into her hands. 

 

“Love?” Remus asked softly from beside her. She shook her head. Remus sighed softly, rubbed her shoulders, frowned at the knots he felt. Far too much tension for an eighteen year old. 

 

“All right, all right, shove off,” Sirius pushed to his feet, brushed Lupin’s hands away and took over much to the amusement of James and Remus. Ripley handed the letter to Remus, and returned to staring at her hands that hung between her legs. Tears had formed in her eyes, but she would be damned if they would fall, not here, not yet.

 

Remus read the scrawled handwriting, met James’ and Sirius’ gaze and looked around the Common Room. “We’ll discuss this when everyone has gone to bed.”

 

“Shouldn’t be much longer,” James said. “I’ll herd them along, Head Boy and all.” 

 

“I’m gonna shower,” Ripley rose from the chair, Sirius let his hands fall to his side, felt her slipping into herself, away from friends, from support.

 

“Maybe a bath?” He suggested, looked pointedly at James.

 

“A bath could be good, if she had help,” James answered. “You know where it is?”

 

“Of course,”  Sirius said with a scoff. “Password?”

 

“Stamus.” James answered quietly. “Be quick. Curfew is in an hour.”

 

“Quick is my--no, nevermind.” Sirius rolled his eyes. “Go get your things Ripley.” She pondered for a moment, then nodded. 

 

"Take care of her," said Remus softly as he tucked her letter safely into his pocket. "She'll need her family here more than anything."

 

"I've got her." Was the firm, confident response. 



Chapter 5: Chapter Five
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The two Gryffindors stuck close together, moving fast and nearly silently through the corridors until they reached the prefect's bathroom. Sirius guided her in and let her marvel at it.  “It’s giant.” She stared at the golden sunk in tub.

 

The man grinned and turned on the hot water faucet. “Bubbles?”

 

“Always,” she moaned with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. The tub filled out faster than she imagined it would and smelled delightfully of lavender. 

 

“There’s bath oil in there as well,” Sirius said as he walked over with a white fluffy robe draped over his arm. “Here,” he handed it to her. She pursed her lips looking at it, then him. “I’m not leaving you alone. Ravencroft is a prefect, and I don’t like him.”

 

“Fine.” She muttered and went to a stall. Quickly she stripped, slid the robe on and emerged. “No.” She glowered at Sirius as he bobbed in the water at the far end of the tub.

 

“Listen darling,” Sirius cupped a mound of bubbles and blew them into the air casually. “I’m not missing out on a chance to be in the big gold tub, all right?”

 

“Ugh, fine. Turn away.” She waited till he did and quickly shed the robe and slid soundlessly into the tub. “Stay on your side.” She ordered. 

 

“You act like I can’t control myself,” Sirius dragged his fingers through the silky hot water. “I should be scared of you.”

 

“You’re an idiot,” Ripley dunked her head into the water, and surfaced. Sirius cocked his head at her. “What?”

 

“Your bubbles…” He began. She looked down and gasped at the small amount of froth covering her front. She hurriedly moved into the mountain of suds beside her. “No need to be shy.” Sirius teased. “I’ve admired it from afar.” 

 

“You’re a flirt,” Ripley moved toward him, and gave a wide berth to grab a washcloth from the rack on the side. 

 

“Maybe,” Sirius rested an arm on the side of the tub, she gave him a look as she ran the washcloth over herself. “Maybe it’s just you and you’re finally starting to notice.”

 

“Black, you flirt with everything on two legs with a set of boobs.”

 

“Not as much anymore.” he admitted casually. He slid closer to her, snagged her arm before she could retreat. “Two things.” He began, sputtering at the bubbles. “One relax, I don’t plan on doing anything that you don’t consent to.”

 

“How gentlemanly,” she choked out even as she kept a solid arms distance away, he tugged her closer till their bodies bumped.

 

“Two, you smell good.”

 

“I’m sitting in a bath, I hope so….” She broke off, squinted her eyes. “Is that--is that your dick?”

 

“I don’t control these things,” Sirius actually flushed and moved away from her. “I apologize.”

 

“All you did was touch my arm--” She looked baffled. Sirius shot her a look. “I’m just saying--I’m flattered?” Ripley cocked her head. “Yeah, I think flattered is the word.”

 

He nodded slowly, chose his words carefully. “Are you done?”

 

“Are you?” She shot back and looked pointedly at the bubbles. “Asking for a friend.”

 

“Rip.”

 

“All right, all right,” she rolled her eyes, and washed her hair quietly. “Sirius?”

 

“What?” He asked from where he floated, his gray eyes staring at the stained glass ceiling.

 

“You won’ try to date me will you?” Her voice was soft, and to his well trained ears scared.

 

“No, Ripley.” 

 

“Oh.” She was glad his back was to her because she couldn’t stop the expression of hurt, couldn’t deny the punch to the gut feeling, and the prickling of tears at the back of her eyes.

 

Sirius turned toward her, moved closer. “You’re not dating material, you’re more wooing material. You take time and effort.” 

 

“Ah.” She nodded once, stiffened as she felt his hands enclose around her waist, draw her closer. “So, not your type at all.” She finished with a small gulp. 

 

“I didn’t say that,” Sirius whispered, his fingers spread across her rib cage, feeling the softness, the hard. He rubbed his hands across her back, settled them on her hips. 

 

“I’m not in a place to have a relationship,” she said quietly, firmly. “Not with the Auror Academy.”

 

“That’s you saying that,” he pulled her in a little closer. “Thousands of Aurors have gone through that dating, engaged, married, divorced. You name it, they’ve done it.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Someone beside you may make it easier,” Sirius kissed her forehead softly. “Think about it. Our time is up.”

 

0-0-0

Remus glanced up from his book as they entered the room. “Ready?”

 

“Yeah,” Ripley now in her flannel pajamas settled by the fire, Sirius tossed a red throw at her to wrap up in, and sat beside her, casually lifted an arm. Lily watched with some bewilderment as her best friend leaned into Sirius Black. “My father and mother are going undercover,” she began. “There’s a group that’s banded together called The Order of The Phoenix. There’s some Aurors, but it’s mostly just rebels.”

 

“So the letter to your sister?” Sirius asked with a furrowed brow.

 

“Was meant for me, her owl is a proper idgit.” 

 

Sirius blew out a breath. “Well, shit.”

 

“Adequately put.” Lily snapped. “What do you need from us?” She asked Ripley. The brunette shrugged. “I’ll write to my parents, see if you can come for the holidays with Brie.” Lily offered with a small smile.

 

“No,” Ripley shook her head. “Either I’ll stay here with her or her and I will go home to Aunt Maggie’s. She’ll need some sense of normalcy whilst I figure out what exactly to tell her.”

 

“We could all go to Aunt Maggie’s.” Lily suggested with an innocent smile. “Spend Christmas together.” James looked at Remus who was already scanning his lunar calendar. 

 

“Where is Aunt Maggie’s?” The werewolf asked casually.

 

“County Clare, tucked away in the woods. She’s a very solitary witch, she may be visiting the Bahamas by then.” Ripley leaned her head against Sirius’ shoulder, closed her eyes, and took strength from him. Remus took the moment to nod to the Marauders. 

 

“Christmas in Ireland, why not?” Sirius squeezed her around the shoulders. She grunted softly. “I think you’ve had a rough day and should go to bed. Evans?”

 

“I’ve got her.” Lily rose, helped Ripley up. She waited until Ripley was on her way up the stairs, and turned to Sirius. “I’m trusting you.” She grasped his hand between both of hers. “I’m trusting you.” She repeated and departed.

 

“Does someone wanna tell me what the bloody hell is going on?” James glowered at Sirius and Remus.

 

“Moony?”

 

“So, to break it down, Ripley is going to be an Auror, Sirius doesn’t want to date any girls, unless they’re Ripley. We’re going to Ireland for Christmas. You and Lily have finally committed to each other and I’m still blissfully alone.” 

 

James blinked once, twice, swung his gaze to Sirius. “You don’t want to date anyone else?”

 

“Ripley--”

 

“Dude, she’ll murder you if you fuck up.”

 

“Maybe that’s why he wants to?” Remus suggested. “She’s challenging, but she returns what is given. If he loves her, she will return it. If he’s an arsehole, she’ll be an arsehole and leave him while she’s at it.”  

 

“Well put.” Sirius complimented. Remus grinned. “Anyways, we’ll see what she does.”

 

James simply stared at his two best friends, a look of utter bewilderment on his face. “I’m dreaming, that’s what this is. I’m dreaming. Evans finally dating me, Padfoot actually wants to settle down and with all people Ripley, and Moony has decided during a full moon that a holiday in Ireland is a great idea. I need to go to St. Mungos.”

 

Sirius barked out a laugh. “Maybe.”

 



Chapter 6: Chapter Six
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She took the morning off from her workouts, probably a bad idea, she thought as she lay nestled in her bed, her cat Loki snoring softly beside her. Her eyes hurt from crying when everyone else had fallen asleep, her heart ached to hear good news from her parents. She heaved a sigh, rubbed at her tired swollen eyes, squeezed the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger to ease the headache that she always got after a crying jag. She heard Lily roll over in her bed, across the way her fellow friend Penny Romanov tossed and turned as she tried to find a warm spot again. The room was chilly, a welcome feeling to Ripley, but she knew her mates didn't enjoy it.

 The Gryffindor slid out of bed and padded on bare feet to stoke the pot belly stove, she stayed beside it as the coals burst into flame at the fresh fuel. Some days she felt as if too much was on her shoulders. But then she reminded herself that she had been the one to put it there. No one was forcing her to work out every day, no one forced her into the Auror Academy. She rubbed at the nape of her neck, tried to knead away the knots. 

 

“Rip?” Penny was sitting up, her fleece throw wrapped around her shoulders, her cheeks flushed with sleep. “Y’alright?”

 

“Grand,” Ripley flashed a quick smile. “Just grand.” Her morning reverie was over, she gathered her hygiene items and muggle clothes for the days adventures before departing. Penny sat for a moment considered, and then tossed her slipper at Lily. The redhead grunted in response.

 

“What’s up with her?”

 

“Family stuff,” groaned Lily as she turned on her side. “Home stuff, y’know.”

 

“Does she at least have someone to talk to?”

 

“Oh yes.” Lily scrubbed her hands over her face. “She has me and James, Sirius and Remus are doing what they can, I’m sure she’ll tell you in her own time.”

 

Penny nodded. “I know how she works. Are you and James finally together?”

 

Lily grinned widely and did a little butt wiggle beneath the sheets. “We are.”

 

“About bloody time.” 

 

“I know,” Lily rolled her eyes. “But I wanted to be sure.”

 

“Is Rip still with that Hufflepuff guy?”

 

“Merlin no! He cheated on her, you didn’t hear?”

 

Penny scowled at her canopy. “No, I’ve been buried in books all summer. When did it happen?”

 

“Last spring, right before summer.”

 

“What a lousy git.”  Penny slid reluctantly out of bed and gathered her clothes to warm them by the stove. “I suppose he’s ruined everyone else's chances?”

 

Lily smiled secretively. “I wouldn’t say that.”

 

“Say what?” Ripley asked as she entered the room. 

 

“Nothing,” the two responded in unison. Ripley narrowed her eyes, but let it go as she went to her dresser. She observed her face, her damp hair, sighed. Using her wand she used a glamour spell, dried her hair and after considering her options opted for a spell to flat iron her hair into submission. Lily, dressed and with her auburn locks in ringlets sat on the edge of her best friend's bed as Penny and the two other girls left for the showers.

 

“Good?” Ripley asked as she tousled her hair into a more informal look. 

 

“Always,” assured Lily. “Are you OK?” Her concern was clear on her face. 

 

“Always,” replied Ripley with a quick smile. “Debating cutting my hair is all.”

 

Her best friend's face automatically brightened.  “We could get it done in Hogsmeade?” 

 

Ripley looked at her reflection in the mirror, her hair brushing the tops of her breasts. It would grow back, she knew, but she had kept the same length, the same style for the seven years at Hogwarts. And that, she thought with a wicked smile, was the answer.

0-0-0

Sirius was in the midst of a wrestling match when Ripley and Lily emerged from the castle. “Bloody Hell,” muttered Lily as James straddled Sirius’ back, and pretended to ride him like a bucking horse. Peter cheered them on, while Remus merely sat, and watched with a baleful expression.  Ripley strolled over to the tangle of men, debated her options. With a little sigh, she nudged Sirius in the side with her foot. 

 

“Leave off!” He shouted ferociously as James all but strangled him. 

 

“Mr. Black,” Ripley began in her best McGonagall accent, the boys froze, bounced to their feet.  “Can we go now?” The Irish brogue returned with a grin. 

 

Sirius narrowed his eyes, pointed a finger at her. “You’re good, Todd...maybe too good.” She grinned and sauntered away to chat with one of her friends from Ravenclaw. He watched her long enough that Lily cleared her throat.

 

“Do you mind?” She asked dryly even as James took her into his arms.

 

Sirius grinned. “Not a’tall.” 

 

“Seems our dear Ripley doesn’t realize the allure she’s gotten over the years.” Remus observed. Sirius scowled and followed his best friend's gaze. A Hufflepuff had joined the band and was casually leaning onto the column beside Ripley, as he combed his fingers through his thick auburn hair.  He watched her, the careful shift of her body when the boy who he had now realized was the pudgy Seamus Foster all grown up. Seamus reached out to touch Ripley’s arm. Said hand was caught midair by Ripley, she shook her head, and said something that had Seamus frowning. She made her goodbyes and walked back toward the group, her mouth in a thin line.

 

“Rip…”

 

“Carriages are here,” was her brusque reply as she didn’t pause in her stride toward said carriages. “Are we squeezing in?” 

 

“We’ll make it work,” said Lily easily as she clambered in, James behind her. Remus and Peter peeked in, debated their options as Ripley and Sirius slid in. 

 

“We’ll take the one behind you guys,” said Peter. “Sephie went into that one…”

 

Ripley snorted. “We’ll meet you guys at the square.” She smiled at Remus in farewell and closed the door. 

 

“What did Seamus want?” Sirius asked as the carriage jolted forward. Ripley wrinkled her nose, and settled into her seat. “Ripley.”

 

“He’s being a wanker that’s all.” She jerked a shoulder in a shrug, his eyes narrowed slightly. “Leave off Sirius.”

 

“Yes, how dare I show concern,” the boy griped irritably and turned from her to face the other way. 

 

“Now children,” James chided. “Let’s behave, and all get along.”

 

“Maybe if Madam ‘let me take care of myself’ realized that she isn’t all alone in life--”

 

The noise Ripley made was somewhere between fury and scorn. “Maybe if Mister “I’ll feck--”

 

“And we’re done,” Lily ordered with a wave of her arms. “We’re done. Ripley didn’t sleep well. And Sirius, you’re jealous.”

 

“Jealous!?” Sirius gaped at her while Ripley laughed bitterly. 

 

“Jealous,” Lily sniffed and turned her head toward Ripley. “And you--”

 

“Is this what we’re going to do today?” Ripley asked, baring her teeth in a snarl.. “We’re gonna fight?”

 

“Not everything has to be a fight, my love.” Lily informed her wisely. “I think that you try too hard to be tough, and that you’re prideful, stubborn, annoyingly bitter, and can be so pig headed that you put the hogs to shame.” 

 

Ripley pursed her lips, nodded slowly as she let the words sink in. “So, fight it is.”

 

“No,  you bloody fool,” Sirius rolled his eyes at her. “She’s saying you have friends, you think you’re above us because you don’t rely on us like we do on you. It’s time to get off that high horse.”

 

“He asked me to meet him in the broom closet on the fifth floor.”

 

“That little slimy git!” Sirius roared.

 

“See?” Ripley waved her hand as Sirius continued swearing, and hurling threats into the air. “‘But nooooo, Ripley is being stubborn, pig headed, prideful’. No, Ripley is being smart because now Sirius feels the need to have a pissing contest with a bloody Hufflepuff.” 

Silence fell over the carriage with Sirius muttering occasionally under his breath and Ripley staring out the window. Lily gave a sidelong look to James who merely shrugged in a helpless gesture. 

 

“And….?” Lily spoke quietly. Ripley rolled her eyes. “And what did we say?”

 

“We told him kindly, but firmly to go fuck himself.” Ripley answered and crossed her arms, finally facing her friends. “Happy?”

 

“You can do whatever you want.” Sirius said grimly. “Same goes for everyone else in this carriage.” The carriage that he spoke of halted at the top of the hill leading down to Hogsmeade. 

 

“So much for your streak of not being a man whore then.” Ripley said sweetly, and shoved the door open. 

 

“Sirius.”

 

“I know, I know,” The boy muttered as he went after her. He nearly swore when he had to jog after her. Gods knew she had the legs to move fast, but Christ.  “Todd.”

 

“Feck off.”

 

“Ripley.” Sirius didn’t grab her, knew better not to. Instead he met her stride for angry stride. “Teenage hormones aside, listen to me.”

“According to everyone else in that carriage I’m pigheaded, stubborn, bitter--”

 

“You are all those things and more, yet we’re still your friends. So,” He did stop her now, grabbing her hand in his. She faced him, and he saw--terrifyingly so--the tears that had welled into her eyes. “We care about you.” He said softly, cupped her face in his hands. “So much more than you could ever know. So, yes, when you take on the ‘I’ve got this handled fuck everyone else’ it hurts us, us your friends.”

 

“I don’t mean to,” she whispered huskily, rolled her eyes and squeezed them shut against the tears that snuck out. He brushed at them with the sleeve of his jumper. 

 

“I know you don’t,” Sirius pulled her into a tight hug, feeling her hesitation. Willed her to give in, even for a second. She softened ever so slightly, and her arms came around him, banded hard as steel in a hug. “There she is.” He murmured in her ear even as fellow students walked by with curious glances. “It’s not easy is it, love?” He cast a glance toward their friends, shook his head slightly when Lily stepped forward. She looked torn for a moment, she had always been the one to comfort Ripley and now--now it seemed someone else could. James wrapped an arm around her shoulders, kissed her temple. 

 

“Nothing in life is easy,” Ripley said darkly, sniffled. 

 

“You know what you need?”

 

“What?” She stepped back, did a glamour quickly. 

 

“A drunken night in the common room.”

 

  She gave a watery laugh, swiped at the loose tear, nodded. “You may be right.” 

 

“I’ll acquire a bottle for the group then.” He brushed his knuckles across her cheekbone. “Y’alright?”

 

“I will be,” she lifted her head, squared her shoulders. Sirius gave a little sad smile, and there she was he thought. A queen straightening her crown, and carrying on with her day. “Thank you.” She said softly.

 

“To Hogsmeade.” He offered his arm as their friends encroached.

She grinned, took his arm. “To Hogsmeade.”



Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
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The warm autumn wind blew through Hogsmeade, danced around the students who loitered in a line outside of Madam Puddifoots. The Marauders side by side decided that the line wasn't worth it and headed to the Custard Creamery for a healthy dose of ice cream, Prongs' treat this round due to a prank gone awry and the Head Boy feeling guilty. Now, with ice cream cones, or a sundae like Peter had, in hand they meandered in and out of shops. They had been walking in silence until Sirius lapping at a chocolate ice cream cone, broke it. “I just don’t understand it.”

 

“I do, for the most part,” said Remus with a shrug when Sirius glowered. “Try me on it, Padfoot.”

 

“I can’t,” muttered Sirius, casting his gray eyes to the sky in exasperation. “Then you deal with her.” 

 

“You’re the one who decided you want to try to get her to date you--it’s your turn.”

 

“Maybe I regret it.”

 

“Careful,” Remus warned. “There’s more than just Lily trusting you with our friend.” 

 

“Why is it everyone assumes I’m a ladies man and a cheater?” Sirius whined. 

 

Remus looked straight ahead of him, speaking plainly. “Some teenagers with nothing better to do I’m sure.” 

 

“We’re teenagers,” muttered James. 

 

“Teenagers that have to look ahead to what will come, Prongs,” said Sirius with a bitter taste in his mouth. When did he become an adult? “If the Order Ripley is talking about becomes more solidified, they’ll need people.” 

 

“I have a feeling it isn’t like asking to join a club, Padfoot,” remarked Remus with a wry smile. “They come to you.”

 

“Ah…” Sirius seemed to ponder that. “Well, fuck then.” 

 

“Does Ripley know more of it?” asked James as the idea swirled around in his mind.

 

“I’m not sure, only that her mother and father recently joined.” Sirius kicked at a loose rock, sent it tumbling away. “This war...it’ll change everything won’t it?”

 

James slung an arm around Sirius and Remus’ shoulders. “Here now, this is what we have, lads.” He gestured toward Hogsmeade. “Let’s live this year like it’s our last.”

 

Sirius grunted. “We graduate this year, you dolt, it is our last.” He perked up as he saw a flash of Ripley and Lily dashing into the hair shop. “Now what are they up to?”

 

James wrinkled his nose. “Probably getting some potions. Girls are weird.”

 

“You’re weird,” Remus shot back. As a group they turned into the Three Broomsticks and weaved their way to their usual corner booth. The first round of Butterbeer, bought by Sirius for losing a bet, was laid in front of them while Sirius contemplated ordering a light snack of fish and chips. 

 

“Sirius Black.” At the sound of his full name the Gryffindor lifted his head, already cocked to the side with a somewhat dangerous smile on his lips.

 

His gray eyes roved over the trio of Ravenclaw girls.  “Ladies?”

 

“Mind if we join you?” Florence--Merlin, he couldn’t remember her last name--but a pretty little Ravenclaw asked sweetly. James grinned wickedly, leaned back against the leather booth, and chose to let his best mate navigate the waters--especially since Ripley and Lily had entered the pub and were picking their way carefully through the crowd.

 

“Not today ladies,” Sirius said with a feigned smile.  "We're waiting on the rest of our party."

 

“Tomorrow then?” Florence offered with a little pout. “By the greenhouses?”

 

Sirius looked beyond her to scan the crowded pub for an out--a waitress, a fight--anything. “Tempting, but--

 

“But what?” 

 

“I’m occupied.”

 

Florence pouted her pink lips, placed her hand over his on the table, stroked those same fingers softly. “When will you have time for me?”

 

“Yes Sirius,” Ripley’s voice came out casually  where she stood hip-shot behind Florence, her arms crossed over her black sweater, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling with fury. “When might you have time for the slag?” 

 

“That would be on the twelfth of never, love,” grinned Sirius as he took in the sassy cut that Ripley had acquired at the hair shop. 

 

“And a fine answer that is, too.” Ripley slid past the Ravenclaws and into the booth beside Sirius, who tugged affectionately at a curl that ended at the top of her shoulders.  

 

“Jason slept with me, just thought you’d want to add another name to the list.” Florence snarled, she managed a step back as Ripley began to rise, with the urging of her friends Florence faded back into the crowd. 

  “Sticks and stones Toddy,” Sirius told her softly as she remained on her feet. “Sticks and stones.”  The Gryffindor tugged his friend's arm gently, and she thumped onto the padded bench with a small grunt. “She knows what will get a rise out of you.”

 

“It isn’t hard these days to do that,” commented Lily with a wry smile. Ripley offered a slight smile in return, and lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “But with a cute haircut.”

 

“I like it,” Sirius twirled his fingers around one the curls that brushed the top of Ripley’s collarbone. “So, Lily we’ll be drinking tonight in the Common Room.”

 

Lily pursed her lips in disapproval. “Will we?”

 

“Please?” asked Ripley after a moment of consideration, and wondered if her tolerance would be any better than the summer in Ireland. “We need to let loose. It’s our seventh year.”

 

“I’m not on duty,” James lent his input. “And neither are you, love. The Hufflepuffs are it for the weekend.” 

 

“You don’t have to drink,” interjected Ripley. “You can supervise.”

 

“Bollocks to that, I’ll have a drink or two,” Lily tossed her long hair over her shoulder and sent a smug smile toward James. “Not a stick in the mud.”

 

“Maybe not Evans,” the Quidditch player grinned, kissed her temple. “Maybe not.” 

 

0-0-0

It wasn’t uncommon for Seventh years to let loose in the Common Room in an organized and orderly fashion. If they weren’t the Marauders. The Prefects and with the pull of James and Lily it wasn’t hard to have the younger years disperse, or at the very least give up the couch and armchairs by the fireplace. Ripley contributed a bottle of white wine, smuggled in from Hogsmeade as she was of the legal age. Sirius and his never ending Fire Whisky supply was present as well. Peter procured snacks, Remus a supply of chocolate of all sorts. The girls had gone upstairs to shower off the day and change into other clothes. The Marauders had done the same, but as with most of the female species beat the women down stairs. 

 

James lounged on the couch, the latest copy of Quidditch Weekly in his hands, Sirius lay in front of the fire on his back, lazily levitating a whiskey glass, sending it to do spirals. Peter watched a group of Fifth year girls through beady eyes as they strode past giggling. The last member of their friends sat in his armchair beside the fire, a book open on his lap, nibbling at his chocolate.  

 

“Bloody Hell,” Sirius’ oath broke the silence, and he flopped onto his side. “What’s taking so long?”

 

“I guarantee it isn’t Ripley,” said James with a sad smile. “Just my lady love taking her sweet time.”

 

“Merlin's Beard, we’re only drinking, we’re not going to a party.” Sirius grumbled and cast his eyes toward the ceiling. He perked up at the sound of giggling and managed to swear loudly as Ripley pounced on him from across one of the maroon poufs.

 

Lily slid onto the couch beside James, puckered her lips for a kiss. “Been into the sauce already, haven’t you?” James asked after a peck. 

 

“Mhmm.” Lily stretched lazily out beside him her pink flannel pajamas pants riding low on thin hips. “Ripley’s idea.”

 

“I do have them occasionally,” the Irishwoman defended herself even as she and Sirius tousled in a skirmish. 

 

“What’s this I hear about you signing up for the Animagus course?” Remus interjected the conversation with his new bit of information

Ripley stopped rough housing and swore as Sirius pinned her down. “Eh?”

 

“Professor McGonagall said you were taking up the course.”

 

“Since when do you talk to the ole bat?” Peter asked with a giggle as Lily poured a glass of wine for herself and Ripley. 

 

“Not taking up, passed.” Ripley rolled up into a cross legged position and took the wine. “This summer when Ireland had that wicked lightning storm, that was my last step.”

 

“So, you’re registered then?” Sirius cast a sly glance at James and Remus.

 

“Aye,” she took a swallow of wine. “But, that was before my new markings.” 

 

“Don’t you have to keep them updated?” Remus asked with a smile. Ripley grinned at him. “That’s what I thought, you little scamp.”

 

“I am.” She admitted with a heavy sigh. 

 

“What is said marking?” This came from Sirius and Lily let out a loud guffaw of a laugh that had James looking at Sirius with concern. 

 

“I know what it is.” Evans sang out with a wicked smirk. 

 

“You shut your mouth,” Ripley threatened with a pointed finger. “Drink your wine, you lush.” 

 

“Drink yours first.”

 

“Hold on a tick,” Sirius placed his hand over Ripley’s as she went to raise her glass. “You’re an animagus and you didn’t tell anyone?”

 

She scowled at him. “I don’t go flashing every bloody thing I do to the entire world, Black.”

 

“It’s a hell of an accomplishment.”

 

“I’m aware.” She narrowed her gaze. “We all have our little secrets Sirius.”

 

“That we do,” he murmured and let go of her arm so she could race Lily.  Remus slid from his chair down to beside Sirius, rested his back against the hearth. “What do we think, Moony?”

 

“We think that she’s a capable witch, and a strong one to boot.” 

 

“I wonder what her form is.” Sirius watched Ripley line up shots of whisky, and winced a little as Lily bounced from couch to soft carpeted floor. “This may have been a poor idea.”

 

“How many more chances will we get though?” asked Remus quietly. “Times running out.”

 

“That it is,” muttered Sirius as Ripley tossed back a shot. “That it is.” 

0-0-0

“D’you think…” slurred Ripley an hour later, her head pillowed in Lily’s lap as the two attempted a thumb war game. “D’you think anyone ever sees anyone ever?”

 

“What?” Lily giggled. “What the bloody hell does that mean?”

 

“Y’know--after NEWTS and all.”

 

“I think,” Sirius pointed a finger at one of the two Lily’s sitting before him. “I think she means after ‘gaduation’.”

 

“Graduation.” Remus corrected and took a handful of crisps from the bag James handed over. “There’s definitely an ‘R’.” 

 

“Feck off.”

 

“Oooh, you speak my language,” Ripley wiggled her eyebrows at the black haired boy. He grinned at her. “But I’m serious.”

 

“You are not.” 

 

“I am!”

 

“You’re not. I’m bloody Sirius. Sirius Orion Black, of the noble house--”

 

“Shut up.” James hurled a pillow at his best friend and watched it be deflected onto Remus.  “Ripley, darling, I’ve a question for you?”

 

Ripley dug her hand into the bag of crisps that were making the rounds, and shoved a handful into her mouth. “Shoot.”

 

“Fuck, marry, kill.”

 

“Ooooh I love this game,” Lily sandwiched herself between James and Peter, facing Ripley. “Go on.” 

 

“Sirius, Remus, Snape.”

 

“Oy!” Sirius threw a pillow at James now. “Not people in the room!”

 

“The gauntlet has been thrown,” interrupted Lily, her hands held up for peace. 

 

Ripley pondered her choices, weighed her options. “Marry Remus--”

 

“Bollocks to that!” roared Sirius with a barking laugh. Remus merely sent him a baleful smile.

 

“Fuck Sirius. Kill Snape. No offense Lily.”

 

Lily lifted her shoulders. “None taken. My turn. Sirius.”

 

“Oh Merlin…”

 

“Fuck one, marry one, kill one,” Lily tapped her nose in thought. “Ripley, Florence, or Sephie.”

 

Ripley arched a brow at Sirius’ red face. “Embarrassed now Black?”

 

“Kill Florence….fuck Sephie….marry Todd.”

 

“There’s a wedding I’d like to see!” James hooted with laughter even as Sirius’ gray eyes latched and held Ripley’s brown. “Imagine! Padfoot and Toddy married!” 

 

“Yes...imagine,” Lily murmured looking from one to the other.  “I think we need a different game, James.”

 

“Truth or dare.”

 

“Are we feckin’ ten years old again?” asked Ripley as she poured herself a glass of whisky, though the room spun, and her words were slurred, she wanted the memory of Sirius’ hot gaze out of her mind. 

 

“I mean we could spin the bottle,” suggested Lily. 

 

Ripley gaped at her. “There’s only two females…”

 

“All the more fun,” grinned the redhead innocently. 

 

“I bow out at the thought of kissing Wormtail,” groused Sirius with a shiver. “No offense Peter.”

 

“None taken.” 

 

“Let’s do it,” decided Ripley suddenly, she bounced to her feet and then quickly staggered, caught herself on the arm of the couch, crossed her legs as if nothing happened. “After I go pee.”

 

I’ll accompany you.” Lily rose with the help of Sirius and James' heads as she boosted herself up. She linked arms with Ripley and the two stumbled giggling toward the stairs. Sirius waited until they were out of earshot and threw himself down on the carpet. 

 

“What have we done?” He lamented. 

 

“Paved the way for you to snog Ripley and see if that’s what you want.”

 

“Not to be the--wet blanket,” Remus began slowly. “But the ratio of male to female is not in our favor.”

 

“I may go to bed anyways,” said Peter, flushing hard. “I don’t know if I have anymore in me.” 

 

“Well, we can’t just do it with five.” 

 

“I could bow out gracefully,” volunteered Remus quickly. “It’s near to midnight already.”

 

“Lightweight,” groused Sirius with an arm over his face. 

 

James spoke finally. “Well, I know I don’t want to kiss Ripley, and I hope to the Gods you don’t want to kiss Evans.” He kicked his foot out at Sirius who had grinned wickedly at him.

 

“Especially not now,” Ripley stumbled back into the room, balanced herself with arms thrown out to the side--she took a moment to gather herself amid the snickers. She held her hands in front of herself, then dragged them through her loose curls. “Miss Evans,” she announced snootily, “Is vomiting, quite profusely in the ladies lavatory.” 

 

“Ew,” was Peter’s only comment before staggering toward the boys stairwell. “Just ew.”

 

“And on that note,” Remus brushed his hands against his legs, dusting off salt and oil from crisps. “I think we’ll call it a successful evening.” 

 

“Agreed,” moaned James as he forced himself to get to his feet. “Ugh, I’ll hate myself in the morning. Take care of Evans for me, Todders.”

 

“Too easy,” replied Ripley with a cocky smirk. “I gots this.” She watched the trio disperse, and focused on the two Sirius’ in front of her. “Now which one of you is the real one?”

 

Sirius snorted out a laugh as he moved closer. “Better?”

 

She held up her thumb and forefinger, held them an inch a part. “A wee bit.” 

 

“How drunk are you, Rip?”

 

“There’s two of you, and I feel like I’m in a rowboat on the lake.”

 

“Pretty drunk then,” he muttered, and cupped the back of her head, drew her in. “Don’t punch me.” His lips brushed her, testing. She had stiffened, but wasn’t fighting. “Was that so bad?”

 

“Tolerable at best,” the Irishwoman quipped. “My turn.” He barely had time to register her words before her mouth was on his, burning hot as a fever, her fingers dove into his black hair, her tongue flicked out, testing, teasing. Sirius moaned into the kiss, opened his mouth to her seeking tongue. Gods, he thought stunned, had this been in front of him the whole time, this fire?  When she pulled back, her lips dangerously close to his, her breath short, her dark brown eyes nearly black in the firelight. “Now we’re done.” She straightened her oversized tee shirt, turned on her heel and marched, a little unsteadily, upstairs. Sirius, mouth gaping, could only stare at the red and black checked pajama pants that disappeared around the bend. “Bloody hell.” He sat on the arm of a chair. “Bloody buggering hell.”



Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
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The next morning dawned with golden sunshine that spilled through the ancient glass of the Gryffindor tower, and directly into Lily’s face, her own groan woke her, she swore quietly under her breath as she rolled onto her back. Testingly she opened one blurry ink bottle green eye, and swiftly shut it. “Ripley?” She croaked out, who had covered her mouth in cotton balls over night? “Rip?”

 

The answering moan meant her friend was very much in the same boat. “‘Wasit?”

 

“Bad,” whimpered Lily as she covered her head with her feather down pillow.

 

“Yup,” muttered Ripley even as she pushed herself up to a sitting position, the room spun. Knowing enough, she was Irish after all, she set one foot on the floor. The room ceased its movement, and she could focus and take inventory. Cotton covered tongue, yup, severe dehydration, of course, nausea, not so much, but lingering. She dug her fingers into her hair, scratched and then whipped her head up with a curse. “Fuck.”

 

“What?” Lily groaned, turning toward her friend's repetitive use of the word.

 

“I kissed Sirius.”

 

“We didn’t play spin the bottle...did we?”

 

“We didn’t, no….this was when you decided to sing to the toilet.” 

 

“Ah…” Lily seemed to roll it over as she lay back down, then jolted upright. “You kissed him?”

 

“Aye,” Ripley buried her face into her hands now. “By all the Gods--what was I thinking?!”

 

“A whisky brain is what you had,” the Head Girl said knowingly. “You know how you are with whisky.” 

 

“Fuck me.” Ripley threw herself back down on her bed, cried out a little in pain. “Fuccck.”

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Further away in the boys dorm Sirius was on his hands and knees searching for a glass of water. “Water.” He managed to get the word out in a harsh voice, searching blindly. “Gods, anyone--water?”

 

“Here you oaf,” James passed down a full glass of water, watched Sirius drain in, and held out another. “Did we learn our lesson?” The Qudditch player was a little worse for wear, but not as far gone as his best mate. Whimpering Sirius curled into a ball on the floor. “I take that as a yes. Moony, Wormtail, status report?”

 

“Alive.” Wormtail groaned out. 

 

“And moving.” Remus finished as he gathered his hygiene kit. He cast a pitying glance at Sirius. “Not the same Padfoot who came in whooping and hollering that Ripley had kissed him.”

 

Sirius’ head shot up. “Merlin's beard!” He exclaimed. 

 

“And there it is,” muttered James as Sirius stumbled to his feet, shot a hand out to steady his friend. “Forgot that, did we?”

 

“Gods,” Sirius sat down hard on his trunk, buried his face into his hands. “I only went in for a kiss, a peck--and she--she just--!” He threw his hands in the air, made a sound as if a potion had exploded. He moved his hands uselessly in front of him, lost for words. 

 

Remus glanced at James, his tawny eyes concerned. “Do we need a healer?”

 

“A cold shower,” said James dryly. “Come on Sirius--”

 

“This  changes the game.”

 

“There is no game, it’s Ripley--the same Ripley that our first year you said she was husky.”

 

“And she’s filled out wonderfully,” argued Sirius. “Very shapely.”

 

“The same Ripley,” continued Remus now. “That you said you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole in our third year.”

 

“And--”

 

“Enough,” Sirius waved his hands. “I was wrong--so, so, so horribly wrong.” He buried his face again. James pondered for a moment, shared a knowing look with Remus. “What have I done?”

 

“Opened Pandora's Box from the sound of it,” Peter chimed in helpfully. Sirius lifted his head, and glowered. 

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Sundays were a day of rest, or catching up on homework, depending on what kind of student you were. Ripley used it as an escape from her thoughts, and went outside on her daily run. But even as she logged her customary two miles she thought of him, of the smoldering gray eyes, the firm, large palm on her neck, the lips--She didn’t have time to swear as she collided with something solid, and fell promptly on her ass, knocking the wind from herself. 

 

“Merlin!” Remus landed opposite her in a heap, her groan had him rolling to one side to check on her. “Rip?”

 

“Yup.” 

 

“Sorry, love.” Remus got to his feet, hauled her easily to hers, dusted at her hooded sweatshirt. 

 

“Fuck you,”  was the muttered response, and customary one considering it was Ripley. 

 

Remus smiled warmly, tucked a loose curl of hers behind her ear. “I thought you saw me.”

 

“I was--” She twirled a finger around her head. “Thinking.” They fell in step together, stride for stride. “Sirius told you.”

 

“Took him a few minutes to remember, but yes.”

 

“How stupid am I?” asked Ripley sullenly. Remus smiled, put his arm around her shoulders, squeezed. “That stupid, eh?”

 

“Not at all stupid,” assured the werewolf softly. “He was quite taken. Sirius isn’t used to women being so--forthcoming.” 

 

Ripley rolled her eyes, and kicked at a small rock, sent it hurtling away. “Women throw themselves at him all the time.”

 

“Flirting, not initiating physical contact like that.” 

 

“Well, point one for me I guess,” she muttered, leaned into Remus. “Why can’t being this old be easy?”

 

“I think life will get harder before it gets easier, love,” said Lupin wisely, his tawny eyes looking toward the castle. “Much harder.”

“I was afraid you’d say that.” 

0-0-0

 

She managed to avoid him for almost the entire day, but after dinner when most had gone off to their dorms for solitude, or showers, and she had chosen the fireside with her smut book. She wasn’t even a full page into her novel when the giggling bunch of hyenas entered the Common Room. 

 

“Did you hear about Sirius and Ripley?” One of the fourth year girls snickered out. At the sound of her name, Ripley lowered her book, her gaze narrowed. The girls were oblivious to her prone form on the sofa. “I heard that they shagged in the potions dungeon.”

 

“Noooo, Slughorn would never allow that.”

 

“He wouldn’t allow any of it, you dolt, that’s the point.”

 

“I heard that she tricked him into it--a love potion.” 

 

Ripley’s eyes went to the circular entryway as more students arrived, her heart stumbled a bit as Sirius entered with Remus. He cast his eyes to the giggling girls, and stopped as his name was uttered again. “Sirius told me that he would never touch her.”

 

“Well, sounds like he lied.” 

 

“I don’t see what he could see in her. I mean she’s so--so…”

 

“So, what?” Ripley asked coolly as she sat up from the couch, her chin propped on her fist in an inquiring manner. “So much older than fourteen--so much more his type then a giggling bunch of baboons?”

 

“So much more of a Gryffindor?” Sirius added on as he strode over to Ripley’s couch, so they could face the girls head on as a unified front. “More beautiful,” His dark gaze moved from one girl to the next, their heads dropping, cheeks flushing. “More courageous that any of you can possibly imagine. So, I’ll kindly ask you to shut up about it.”

 

“I won’t kindly ask,” this from Ripley as she rose to her full height of 5 feet, ten inches. “If I hear my name, his name, any of it leave your mouths again, you’d best make your peace with whatever Gods you fancy.”

 

“Bring it back a little Todders,” muttered Sirius as one girl began to openly weep.

 

“And for your information,” the Irishwoman snapped. “It was the Common Room where I snogged him bloody senseless, not the potions dungeon, not in a broom closet, right here while you children were sleeping, nor was there a love potion involved.” She snatched up her book, shoved her way through the girls and headed to her own room for peace and quiet.

 

It wasn’t long before Lily entered and threw herself onto Ripley’s bed. “Sirius is asking for you.”

 

“Hard pass.” Ripley turned onto her side away from Lily, continuing to read, Loki, the black and white cat that was Ripley’s merely gazed at Lily with yellow eyes. 

 

Lily fiddled with the gold bracelet that dangled from her wrist, her emerald green eyes watched the small jewel on the Eiffel Tower charm catch the light. “Could it be that you’re embarrassed over last night?”

 

“Could be,” admitted Ripley sourly. “Could also be the fact that the fourth years are spreading rumors now.” 

 

“Are they now?” intrigued Lily draped herself over Ripley’s hips, and gently lowered her best friends book. “What are they saying?” 

Resigned Ripley tossed the book off the bed, and burrowed her face into the pillow telling Lily all of it in a muffled voice. When the brunette had finished Lily frowned a little, and debated her words carefully, and how exactly to bring her thoughts to life. “Do you want me to have a word with them?”

 

Ripley gave her a miserable look. “No.” 

 

“Want me to talk to Sirius for you?” 

 

“No,” this was said with a heavy, heavy sigh. “I suppose I have to talk to him eventually about last night.” 

 

“It would be wise,” Lily said, tongue in cheek. “After all you did snog him senseless, and it’s showing.” 

 

Ripley perked up slightly at that, shifted underneath Lily’s weight. “Is that right?”

 

“According to James,” Lily settled in more, a gleam in her eyes. “Sirius has non-stopped talked about you, searched for you and sought you out most of the day. But, you’ve avoided him so far.”

 

“I did see him downstairs, with the fourth years.”

 

“And?”

 

“And he helped me put them in their place,” Ripley jerked a shoulder in a shrug.  “Is it too risky Lily?”

 

“What, love?” Lily furrowed her brows together in confusion. “Kissing him?”

 

“What if it turns into more? What if he doesn’t want me to be an Auror--I won’t be made to choose. I won’t.” Ripley all but bared her teeth in a snarl so strong were her words. Lily looked on worriedly. “I’ve worked too hard--too bloody hard--to let a man--Sirius Black of all people to derail me.” 

 

“Love, I highly doubt that he would steer you away from your dream--and either way,” Lily brushed at Ripley’s hair that covered her face. “We, all of us, support you, we want you to succeed.”

 

“What if I don’t?” Ripley asked so softly Lily wasn’t sure she had heard it, but she saw it in her friend's face, in the dark shadows beneath Ripley’s eyes. The fear, the worry, the drive. Lily smiled gently, framed her best friend's face in her hands, and lowered her forehead to hers.

 

“We will support you regardless. We won’t think you weak,” Lily’s words faltered as a warm tear landed on her hand. “We won’t think you less than the badass we know you are.” 

 

“I don’t want to fail, to fall.”

 

“Oh but darling,” Lily kissed her friends forehead. “What if you soar?”

0-0-0

Sirius paced the Common Room from fireplace to window and back, he worried his thumbnail with his teeth, something he hadn’t done since he was a second year, but here he was. Disgusted at himself, he brushed his hand on his black slacks.  James and Remus were engaged in a game of wizards chess, but it didn’t stop them from casting worried looks at their mate. 

 

“Have you ever seen him like this?” Moony asked softly. Prongs shook his head, moved his piece. “What do we do?”

 

“Nothing,” said James as he looked behind Remus, smiled in greeting to Lily as she came to sit beside him. She leaned into his arm as it came around her waist. “How is she?”

 

Lily hesitated, looked from James to Remus, then to Sirius, still pacing, and sighed. “She’s struggling.”

 

“They’re just rumors,” muttered Remus as he surveyed the board. 

 

“It’s not just that,” argued Lily. “She’s put so much pressure on herself to attend Auror Training, to succeed…”

 

“She’ll succeed,” James said with confidence.

 

“She doesn’t think so.”

 

“Yeah, well,” James winced as his piece was crushed. “She didn’t think Sirius fancied her and now look at the poor dolt.” 

 

“Fair,” murmured Lily, a little unsure still. Ripley entered the room, soundlessly, as she tended to do these days, and chose the armchair behind Remus to curl up on, Loki in her lap. Her brown eyes landed on Sirius, who was now muttering to himself as he paced, his gray eyes on the floor.

 

“Is he all right?” She whispered to Remus. The werewolf glanced up at her with a bland smile. “Well, Christ Jesus,” she muttered. “Had I known what would happen…”

 

“I think it’s good for him,” admitted James with a wicked smile, pushing his glasses up his nose from where they had slipped. 

 

“Has he eaten today?” 

 

“Some,” Remus affirmed, before finishing the game before him with a smirk of triumph. 

 

“Sirius,” Ripley spoke louder now, her alto voice had the boy stopping in his tracks, turning toward her. “Make sure you eat dinner.”

 

He moved toward her now in a predatory manner that had her back stiffening in response. “You.”

 

“What yerself, lad,” she said so softly, so threateningly that even Remus looked at her astonished. Sirius lifted his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I think everyone here knows what happened last night.” The group shared agreeable looks, some nods. “Then we don’t need to speak on it more. Alcohol was involved, this year is going to be stressful, mistakes--”

 

“Mistakes?” interrupted Sirius with a scowl. James tugged Lily’s sweater arm and jerked his head toward the door, Remus followed the couple in order to give privacy for what was about to happen. “Kissing me was a mistake?”

 

“A calculated one.”

 

“Calculated, is it?” Sirius approached her now. Ripley got out of her chair, her eyes like flints. “I’ll be calculated.”

 

“It wasn’t a challenge,” she held her ground even as he took a step closer, she jerked her chin in the air when he closed the distance between them. “I mean it.”

 

“I know.” He whispered, and took her mouth with his. It was as if fireworks were going off, she thought, his lips softened against hers. Her heart raced like a thousand horses racing through the fields of Ireland, stampeding away. She fisted her hands helplessly against his chest as his arms drew her closer, and for the first time since receiving the letter from her Da she felt steady. Sirius drew back, rested his forehead against hers, his breath shallow. “Rip…”

 

“Ahem,” Minerva McGonagall stood, hands clasped in front of her as she eyed her two students with a gleam of humor in her eyes. “Miss. Todd, a word in my office if you’re free.”

 

“I am, absolutely,” Ripley pulled away so fast, that Sirius was nearly sent off balance. He steadied himself, watched as his Head of House and the girl who had stolen his heart disappeared. He wondered if this would be the last time he would watch her back as she left him behind. 



Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
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It had been four months, one week, eight hours, and five minutes from when Sirius Black had kissed Ripley Todd in the Common Room in front of their Head of House. In the four months since then he and Ripley had agreed to disagree about their attraction to one another. They danced around each other, around their feelings, and bollocks to that. And now, his gaze shifted across the train car to where she sat her nose buried into a book about Curses, Counter Curses and Jinxes. And now they were heading to Ireland, to her home--he had never been before, and the fact that she had still gone through with the plan gave him hope. Ripley looked up as if feeling his gaze on her, she offered a small smile. Brienne lay sprawled beside her, head in her sister's lap as the early morning sun shifted in and out of clouds. 

 

“We’ll take a portkey when we reach the station,” Ripley said after a moment. “It’ll take us just outside of Aunt Claire’s cottage.”

 

“What’s the sleeping arrangement looking like?” James asked casually from where he and Lily sat snuggled together. 

 

“I’ll assume the two of you will want to share a bed.”

 

“It would be nice,” admitted Lily with a slight flush. “If we’re able.”

 

“Consider it done.” 

 

“Remus has his own room,” Ripley lifted her eyes finally to Sirius. “Brienne and I have our own rooms. You and I will be bunk mates.”

 

“Will we?” Sirius asked with a hint of a smile. “Lucky me.” 

 

“She snores,” Lily deadpanned in order to break the tension so thick she could have cut it with a knife. “Horribly.”

 

“Ah, feck off.” Ripley tossed the carton of a chocolate frog at her best friend. “She talks in her sleep.” 

 

“So do you,” the red head shot back with a winning smile. “Among other--”

 

 

“All right, all right,” Ripley conceded  with a scowl. “We’re done.” 

 

There was a lapse of silence broken here and there by Lily’s giggle. They were only missing Peter, who had been told firmly by his family that he would spend the holidays at home in England and not with his ‘pals’ in Ireland. No skin of her back, thought Ripley. She didn’t mind Peter, but her closest bonds were definitely in the train car, crammed together. 

 

“Who’ll be cooking?” asked Sirius as his stomach grumbled. She rolled her eyes, and pointed at herself. “You can cook?”

 

“Kitchen witch for a mother,” she reminded him. “I can cook, bake, brew potions. Weird, right?” 

 

“Sarcasm noted.” 

0-0-0

In a few hours slightly unsteady from the portkey Ripley shoved the sturdy wooden door of a stone cottage with thatched roof open. She shouldered her leather weekender bag, and with her wand drawn entered the cottage. Sirius drew his wand as she had, questioning her sixth sense as the cottage appeared normal, minus furnishings, he opened his mouth question, but She tapped the staircase, muttered a word. The lamps on the walls flared to life, the wooden floors gleamed, and the cottage was fully furnished. “She doesn’t like dust on her things,” explained Ripley. “It’s a little spell, but useful. Plus if there’s any squatters they don’t touch her shite.” 

 

“Wise,” Lily nodded in approval. “Powder room?” 

 

“I’ll do you one better and bring you all to your rooms, settle in, do what you will.” Ripley led the way up the creaking staircase. “Lily and James,” she jerked her head to the right, at an open door into the master bedroom painted a warm, sunny yellow. “Ensuite bathroom.” 

 

“Thank Merlin,” Lily sailed through, leaving James behind with the luggage. Brienne had already darted off to her own room. Remus took the smaller room boasting two twin beds across from the master. 

 

“You’ll share the bath with Sirius and I,” Ripley nodded toward one of the doors on the west wall. “We’ll figure out shower times later.” 

 

“Brienne?”

 

“She’ll use the wee bathroom downstairs, she’s young, stairs won’t kill her.” Ripley smiled wryly. “Sirius?”

 

“Last but not least.” He said and opened the door at the end of the hall. He smelt--her--he realized when he opened the door. It was wonderfully furnished, polished oak furnishings, deep sage green walls that brought to mind relaxation. The smell, lemon and beeswax, a hint of lavender. She set her bag down on the ivory chaise that lay at the foot of the bed. “We’ll figure out where we’ll sleep--”

 

“Oh, fucks sake, Rip,” Sirius turned to her with a scowl. “I’m perfectly capable of sharing a bed with you without being overcome with lust.”

 

“Noted.” She replied with a slight smirk. “I sleep on the side closest to the door.” She went to move past him, to make a list for the market, but he stopped her with a gentle hand on her pelvis. 

 

“Ripley, have you been avoiding me?”

 

“Four months later and you’re asking that?”

 

“Call it a hunch.”

 

“I’m not avoiding, I’m distancing--there’s a difference.” She patted his hand, a hint to let her pass. “There’ll come a time,” she continued to the door, placed a slender hand on the frame, turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. “Where I will be ready--but it’s not now Sirius. Not when we’re eighteen, not during a war, and not before I’m an Auror.”  She left the room, leaving the scent of rosemary and spearmint from her hair potions. 

 

“We’ll see about that.” 

0-0-0

 

The cottage boasted a large kitchen, it was the heart of the home afterall, with its big hearth of stone, thick slab table with benches, and a bowl of fruit always stocked. Ripley listened to the muggle radio, her aunt lived as a muggle to fit in more, with the occasional magical touch. It would help her in the long run, when she stayed with Claire she learned the ways of muggles, to act like them, talk like them. Live like them. A perfect spy for the Ministry, capable of fitting in and protecting both worlds. So, she kneaded dough for bread by hand, it calmed her, relaxed her as cooking always had. The scent of the drying herbs that hung from the exposed beams above the four paned window above the sink comforted her.

 

She gazed out at the mist covered hills, and when a favored song came only smiled softly, and let her voice lift in song. “I don't know if you can see the changes that have come over me.  In these last few days I've been afraid that I might drift away. I've been telling old stories, singing songs that make me think about where I've come from, that's the reason why I seem so far away today--”

 

“I always knew you could sing,” Remus spoke for the open doorway of the kitchen that led to the mudroom, she turned her head, smiled softly as she continued to sing softly under her breath. “It’s a sad song?”

 

“Tis about coming home,” said Ripley as she turned the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it with a linen towel to rise. “About Ireland, change and growth."

 

“Naturally,” his ears perked up as a reel began to play from the radio. “Do you know this?” 

 

“It’s called The Reel Around The Sun.” She dusted her hands off from flour, held out her hands with a smile. “C’mon then.”

 

“Oh Ripley, I don’t know…” Remus looked doubtfully at her even as she grabbed his hands and began to swing him around the kitchen.

 

“I don’t know how--”

 

“I’ll teach you,” she spun him in three quick turns, and led him down the length of the flagstone floor. He managed to catch on a little, she was rusty at it--it had been a long time since she had danced or sung, yet here she was. 

 

Sirius watched from the doorway, James and Lily flanking him as she tossed her head back laughing, her brown eyes shining as Remus took a turn to spin her in three tight circles, catching her round the waist. Her curls, longer now from her hair cut, spun out as they turned, her feet executed what he knew were ‘Irish steps’, quick and graceful.

 

“Oh Hell.” He murmured as her peal of laughter sent a warm shiver down his spine. 

 

“And there it is,” muttered James as he watched his best mate fall in love before his eyes. Lily hummed softly beneath her breath, and held onto James’ hand, cherished the moment. The song ended and Remus breathless landed hard on a bench at the table. Ripley, cheeks flushed, smile wide turned, and froze when she saw her audience. “Brie is taking a nap.” Lily broke the silence. 

 

“Traveling tires her out easily,” stated Ripley. She got a kettle on the boil, moved to the fridge and put together a little cheese and meat tray to carry them through until dinner. Sirius stoked the fire, putting more peat on, while Remus, Lily and James sat down at the table. 

 

“Anything I can do to help?” asked Sirius as he leaned on the counter beside Ripley. She shook her head. “Is that you being stubborn?”

 

“That’s me being able to handle a cheese tray,” replied the Irishwoman dryly. She drew down solid stoneware mugs from the open shelves, selected a squat sturdy teapot, filled it with boiling water. Sirius plopped tea bags in the mugs, carried them over without her asking. She pursed her lips, but chose not to say anything, instead she set the tray on the table, passed the tea pot around. 

 

There was a companionable lull of silence, broken now and then only by the crunch of crackers. Finally James spoke. “Any word from your parents?”

 

“They’re alive,” said Ripley darkly. “Da won’t say much in letters, but they’ll floo on Christmas if they can.” She fiddled with the string of her used tea bag, seeking the words. “I think--I know--that what they’re doing, what the Order is doing is the right thing.”

 

“But?” inquired Lily, her hand tensed under James, and he squeezed it to lend comfort.

 

“But they need people--they need soldiers.”

 

“You,” Sirius began, cupping his hands around his mug. “Are not a soldier.”

 

“Neither are my parents,” she shot back, eyes fierce. “And what are they doing? I can’t let them do it alone.”

 

“They are others.”

 

“Oh, aye, there’s always others,” snarled Ripley rising to pace, mug in hand. “There’ll always be others.” She flicked her wand at the lights to brighten the suddenly dim kitchen. “But when they fall, who takes their place?”

 

“Ripley, they won’t…” Lily began but faltered at her friend's distraught face. 

 

“Won’t what, Lily? Get killed? We’re in a war.” Ripley glanced at the door of the kitchen when she heard the stirrings upstairs, lowered her voice. “D’ya think I haven’t come to terms with the fact that my ma and da are doing dangerous missions? I’ve thought of their deaths every night since they joined, I’ve dreamt that I’ve had to bury both parents. I’d rather be there fighting beside them, then sitting in the bloody unknown all the time.” Her voice caught unexpectedly, and she turned her back toward her friends, to strengthen herself, to compose. “The point is,” she continued on, her voice wavering slightly. “When we graduate, when I’m an Auror, I will join the fight.” 

 

Silence hung in the air thick as the fog that had creeped in around the cottage, the peat fire crackled suddenly, and Remus spoke. “I’ll join you.”

 

Lily looked sideways at James, got his node. “We will as well,” she announced, inclining her chin at Sirius’ gawk. 

 

Ripley turned slightly at the sound of Sirius rising from his bench, watched him warily as he moved to the fireplace, tossed more peat in, he held a brick, motioned at her with it. “The Wizarding World may be at war, but we are not.”

 

“We are citizens of the Wizarding World,” argued Ripley, she gestured with her arm at all of them. “We are witches, we are wizards, our students will be targeted if they are Muggleborn. Not too mention this tyrant will target Muggles soon. And then what, Sirius?” 

 

“Why should I stand for them when they’ve done nothing for us?”

 

“Careful Sirius,” warned Ripley coldly. “Your starting to sound like mommy dear."

 

James let out a soft hiss of breath. “Easy Rip.” Sirius smiled slightly at his friend. “Maybe--maybe we should just let this rest.” James suggested helpfully.

 

Ripley scoffed. “War is the only way, it’s come to that now.”

 

“I have no family,” Sirius spoke gruffly now, his throat tight with emotion. “Everyone in this cottage right now is my family. What happens if you go to war?” His eyes latched onto Ripley’s, held. “What happens when that war you so crave to join enters our homes, our school, breaks families apart,” his voice broke, the hoarseness burned. “And the innocent will die with the rest of us. I will not fight, nor will I ask others to fight in my absence.” He departed the room, with Remus and James hot on his heels. Ripley stared after him, brown eyes swimming with tears.

 

Lily moved to her, wrapped her into a hug. “We’ll pull through. Sirius will see.” 

 

“Will he?” asked Ripley quietly, and let the silent tears fall.



Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
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The snow came that night, not a lot of it, but enough to paint the Emerald Isle with its downy white. Ripley watched it from the kitchen window the next morning, her hands holding a steaming mug of tea, the sounds of her friends chattering happily behind her. The night before had been tense, admittedly, but when she and Sirius had gone to bed they were on speaking terms, beside the wall of pillows she had placed between them on the queen bed, much to his dismay. He watched her, as he was prone to doing those days, her long legs in warm black leggings, her feet in thick wool socks of burgundy that matched the sweater she wore. He realized all too clearly in that moment that this would be the last Christmas they would spend together outside of the war. How many times had they said this year would change everything? She stiffened at the counter, reached for her wand, and was heading to the front door before anyone could speak. 

 

Brienne chased after her sister. “Ripley?”  She was a few feet behind Ripley when the front door slammed open. Ripley shielded her sister behind her, wand raised, a curse on her lips. Both fell when her father stumbled into the house. “Da!” Brienne shouted, but Ripley blocked her joyous jump toward her father, and instead pointed her wand.  “Ripley, that’s Da!” Brienne argued tearfully even as Sirius drew her away, and he and his friends formed a half circle behind Ripley, wands at the ready.

 

Ripley crouched in front of the man with the bloodied face, examined him silently, before speaking. "The birds a flying high.”

 

“The sly fox chases them.” The man responded.

 

Ripley dropped onto her knees, tears of relief running down her face. “Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach.”  

 

“That we do, mo chroi, that we do.” At his words the man who was James ‘Jamie’ Todd got to his knees, and embraced his weeping daughter. Behind them the Marauders and Lily lowered their wands, released Brienne who flung herself into their arms. 

 

“Where’s ma?”  Ripley pulled back searching the snow outside, squinting against the sun. Her father cupped his daughter's face, brought it to his, pressed his forehead to hers. “Da?” Ripley’s voice broke even as she saw in his stark blue eyes what she had feared since September.  “Not mama.”

 

“Captured.” He said softly, so as not to alarm his youngest. 

 

“Where’s ma!?” Brienne’s voice pitched higher, her wide eyes panicked. She moved away from her father and sister, stared at the quiet Gryffindors, Lily’s tears. “Not ma…” Brienne threw herself at the stairs, pounded up them to her room, slammed the door. Jamie got to his feet with the support of Ripley, wiped at his ruddy face, at his tears. 

 

“C’mon then Mr. Todd,” Lily offered her hand. “I’m fairly skilled at healing.”

 

“I’ve got the whisky,” announced Remus, both he and James took an arm, assisting the man into the kitchen. 

 

Sirius approached Ripley hesitantly, she stood in the open doorway, tears streaming down her face, her hands balled into fists at her side. “I will find out who,” she said between gritted teeth, “And mark my words Sirius Black,” she turned her head to look at him. “The war has come to our homes now.” 

 

0-0-0

The Todd family convened in the study so that Jamie could talk to his daughters about their mothers capture. The Marauders and Lily sat in the kitchen helpless. Lily fiddled with decorating for Christmas to try and bring joy back into the house, as much as she could at least. She knew Ripley had been close to her mother, not as much as her Da, but a mother was a mother after all. James handed her the bundle of mistletoe. “Are you all right?”

 

“I’ll be fine,” said Lily softly. “Mrs. Todd, she’s a kind woman, generous with her home. It’ll tear Brienne up the most. Ripley will pull through,” she sighed. “As she does.” 

 

“But for how much longer?” asked Remus with his head in his hands. “I’m surprised that she hasn’t gone out after the Death Eater.”

 

“She’s only eighteen,” stated Sirius.

 

“It’s war Sirius, she’ll want revenge.”

 

“She won’t get it,” said Jamie as he entered the room, limping on his right leg, despite Lily’s healing the pain was there, not as bad though.. “I’ve spoken to her on it, she knows the rules.” 

 

“No offense Mr. Todd, but Rip isn’t a rule follower.” James chuckled a little. 

 

“She’s a strong moral code,” Jamie drew a Guinness from the fridge, and opened it. “If she does anything before she’s an Auror, she will be sent to Azkaban.” 

 

“And after Hogwarts?” challenged Sirius who received a sharp kick from Remus. 

 

Jamie eyed the black haired youth. “You’re Sirius Black, aren’t you?”

 

“Guilty.” 

 

“I know some of your family.”

 

Sirius winced. “I’m terribly sorry.”

 

“You’re not like them.” Jamie stated and left the room, leaving Sirius gaping.

 

“Well then,” Remus grinned. “I think that was approval.” 

 

“I didn’t do anything,” Sirius looked around confused. “Did I?”

 

“It’s what you give off, an aura, if you will,” Ripley announced from the mudroom where she came in laden down with shopping bags. 

 

“I thought you had been in the study?” 

 

“We have floo powder in the study,” she answered. “I walked back from town.” 

 

“Are you--”

 

“The Order is searching for Ma,” stated Ripley with a confident air. “They’ll find her.” She began to unpack the groceries, her hands faltered when Lily wrapped her arms around her from behind. The Marauders saw it then, the strong facade wavered. “They have to.”

 

“Ripley.” Jamie spoke from the doorway, Brie at his side. “I’m taking her to your grandmothers.”

 

“But Da…”

 

“I don’t want her here, not while I’m around--you five are old enough, with enough knowledge to defend yourselves. She’s not.” 

RIpley sighed, looked at her baby sister, nodded. “I’m sure Nan will make her Christmas a happy one.” Her brown eyes glinted suddenly. “Would someone be wanting their presents before they go?” 

 

“Could I da?”

 

  “I suppose so,” Jamie winked at his daughters. Ripley dashed away to gather her sisters wrapped presents from the tree in the study. Sirius merely accio’d his for her downstairs. 

 

“Lazy,” James muttered. Sirius sneered at his best friend, and held the neatly wrapped box of royal blue with a silver bow out to

Brienne. 

 

“Really?” The girl asked with wide eyes, he nodded. She tore into the box as Ripley reentered the room, laden down with boxes. She peered over the top of them, then glared at Sirius.

 

“Sorry darling,” he grinned at her as Brie’s excited squeal broke the silence. Brienne stared down at the little red collar in her hand, with its golden tag that read Bugs. 

 

“Is there something that goes with that?” Jamie asked with a twitch of his mouth. Sirius nodded, produced a fluffy gray kitten from behind his back. Brienne stared in shock, and with shaking hands took the kitten. “Well then,” Jamie clapped Sirius on the shoulder, and rubbed a big finger over Bugs’ head. “You’ll have to choose between the owl and the cat, for school.”

 

“Bugs will come to school like Loki, and Fergus will travel to and from with mail.” Brienne said decidedly as she put the collar on her new cat. 

 

“Let’s have a look,” Lily said excitedly and had Brienne and Jamie moving to the others. Ripley set her presents on the table, slid a look at Sirius.

 

“Well, now all mine are pointless.”

 

“Nah,” Sirius slung an arm around her shoulders, hugged. “She needed a friend.”

 

“How long have you had that planned?”

 

“October,” he said with a slight flush. He jolted as Brienne came over and threw her arms around him. Hesitantly he patted her down soft blond hair.

 

“Thank you Sirius.” She gazed up at him with eyes so full of love that Ripley had to look away. So trusting, so young. Brienne squeezed again and then went back to her new friend. 

 

“Well,” Sirius cleared his throat, rubbed at the back of his neck. Ripley gave in a little, and hugged him as well. 

 

“Thank you.” She whispered in his ear, kissed his cheek. “Thank you Siri.” His arms wrapped around her tight, and he buried his face into her shoulder, gave her what strength he could. 

 

“Is that so?” Jamie murmured in mild surprise. 

 

“It’s a recent development,” supplied Lily with a small smile. Brienne had moved on to Ripley’s pile now and grinned wildly at receiving her own set of Wizards Chest, a necklace made with rose quartz, a scarf in Gryffindor colors, and in awe she held a ring in her hand, eyes wide.

 

“Ye won’t fit into it yet,” said Ripley walking over. “But,” she conjured a long silver chain, slid the ring onto it. “Ye will some day.”

 

“Tis a Claddaugh,” Brie said in awe. 

 

“Aye, with a ruby, to remind you that you’re--”

 

“A Gryffindor.” They finished together. Ripley smiled, brushed her knuckles across her sister's cheek. “That’s right, never bow down, never forget who you are.”

 

“Love, loyalty and friendship,” Jamie provided for the non-Irish folk in the room. 

 

“I’ve engraved it as well, with the family motto.” 

 

“You have a motto?”

 

“Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach,” stated Brie, her eyes fierce.

 

“We live to fight another day,” said Ripley with a hint of pride. Sirius nodded in approval. “Now then, will you have dinner with us before ye go?” She asked her father.

 

“Nan’s waiting for us.”

 

Ripley tried to smile, blinked at the prickle of tears. “Be safe.”

 

“I’ll write when I can.”

 

“And you, ye wee monster,” Ripley hugged Brie tightly. “Take care of yourself, I’ll see you soon.” 

 

Jamie hugged his oldest to him. “Be smart,” he warned. “Study hard. I love you.”

 

“I love you more, Da.”

 

“I love you most.” He kissed her brow, and took his youngest and her loot to the fire, threw in a handful of floo powder. “45 Notting Hill Dublin Ireland.” And they were gone.

 

“So, no little sister,” began James with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “No dad. You know what this means?”

 

“Oh no,” muttered Remus.

 

“Naked house!”

 

“No!” Once the unanimous shout from his friends.

0-0-0



Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
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Without Brienne, without Jamie Ripely wandered aimlessly for an hour. To be reunited and torn apart so quickly wasn’t unusual, Jamie was an Auror after all, but she always had her ma to rely on. Now her mother was missing. Six months, Ripley thought to herself as she found herself back in the study with the brightly lit Christmas tree. Six months, finish school, take NEWTs and then right into the Auror Academy. The Order had six months and then some to find her mother, six months before Ripley would take matters into her own hands.  Who was she kidding? She threw herself down onto the plush emerald couch in front of the fire, stared at the flames broodingly. Until she was an Auror, until she had purpose, she could only sit and wait, and Gods, she hated that more than anything. She looked up as Remus entered, looking a little worn.

 

“All right?” She asked him.

 

He nodded, the full moon was that night, the haggard appearance was a norm. “It’s a rough day.”

 

“That it is,” she drew the brightly colored handmade throw from behind her, rose and draped it over Remus in the arm chair. “You should nap.” 

 

“Nap sounds lovely,” he muttered, his eyes drooping. She smiled a little, stoked the fire, and when Ginger, her aunts cat trotted in, she snuggled her briefly, and placed the cat in his lap. Ginger settled purring, her yellow eyes squinting happily. She watched him for a long moment, brows furrowed. She wasn’t blind to routines, nor was she an idiot. She knew once a month that the boys looked more ragged than usual the night after a full moon, she knew Remus was testier during the week, the scratches on his face. No, she wasn’t stupid. She rested a hand on Loki’s back, and then kissed Remus’ forehead. Selecting a book from the expansive library she settled back onto the couch, if she couldn't comfort Remus, she could be nearby just in case. 

 

It wasn’t long before her own eyelids slid down, her book draped across her breasts. That was how Sirius found them an hour later, both sprawled in separate areas, Remus wore a peaceful expression, one that Sirius would hate to ruin with the urging to head outside with dusk almost upon them. Ripley on the other hand, was fighting a battle in her own mind, it was written on her face, grief, anger, hurt. With a frown he leaned over the edge of the couch and gave her a nudge. She came up swinging, enough so that he jumped back, crashed into a side table and sent a decorative vase tumbling to the floor. Their voices merged together with two very different reactions. 

 

“Was that the Belleek vase?”

 

“Are you okay?” Sirius held her arms by her waist, waited for the startled prey look left her eyes. “And yes that was Belleek.”

 

“Christ Jesus.”

 

“She can repair it.” Sirius shrugged, let her go and gave Remus a gentle shake. “Wakey wakey, Moony.”

 

“Hard to sleep through you stampeding through,” said Remus as he stretched his length out, and rose. He glanced down at the vase and table, arched a brow at Sirius. “Bull in a china shop, that’s what you are.” He glanced at the clock on the mantle. “Bugger, that time all ready?”

 

“Hence why I got you up,” Sirius said pointedly. “Off we go.”

 

“I’ll make some food for when you all return,” offered Ripley as she set the table back to rights, and picked up the broken vase.

 

“Oh Rip,” Remus shuffled around uneasily. “You don’t have to be, really it’s just a pub crawl.”

 

She turned to him, cocked her head to one side. “Am I stupid?”

 

“Oh shit.” Sirius muttered and stepped back.

 

“Of course not,” flushed Remus sheepishly. 

 

“Then don’t act like I am.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “You’ll have food waiting after your--” She waved her hands wildly. “Whatever, and you’ll be bloody grateful. End of story.” She stormed out of the room to do just that. 

 

“She knows?”

 

“I don’t know what she knows, but it’s Ripley.” Sirius lifted his hands in a helpless gesture. “And she's making food.” 

 

“We have to tell her at some point, Lily too.” They walked together, past the kitchen where Ripley was slamming cupboard doors and cursing under her breath, and out the backdoor to where James awaited them. 

 

“Are you mad?”

 

“Always,” said Remus with a slight smile. He surveyed the area, the woods were close, a short trod through the field and they would be on their way. He glanced back at the cottage, at the warm lights, and smoke pluming through the chimney. “They should know.”

 

“They will one day.” Sirius assured him. “We’ve other things to attend to.”

0-0-0

Lily paced the kitchen while Ripley built the sandwiches on a thick block of wood. “They could be hitting on every muggle woman in sight.” The red head bared her teeth in a snarl. “And here we are waiting at home like the little wives.”

 

Ripley layered cheese, ham and turkey on a thick slice of soda bread, and remained silent, even though her eyes went to the window where the world outside faded into darkness. The wolfs howl echoed suddenly in the night, and had Lily freezing. The two girls met gazes, and Lily sat down hard on the bench at the table. “Severus always said--”

 

“We’re not in danger,” Ripley interrupted her firmly. “It’s Remus. Same as always.”

 

“I know,” Lily dragged her fingers through her loose hair. “I know.” She shivered though as the howl came again, this time followed by wild barks. “Are there dogs nearby?”

 

“Of course,” muttered Ripley. “I think the lads are animagi.”

 

“They weren’t in your class,” pointed out Lily with a little snort. “There were only a handful--” She broke off, narrowed her bottle green eyes. “You don’t think….illegally?”

 

“What better way to support Remus?” Ripley elaborated with a little shoulder shrug before she put the platter of sandwiches into the fridge. “I can’t say I blame them, if I had known--”

 

“You do now,” observed Lily with a sudden grin. Ripley arched her brow at her best friend. “Hear me out. You’re an animagus, registered granted, you’re friends with them, you’re capable of making sure they don’t...get into too much trouble.” 

 

“No.” 

 

“Just this once.” Lily begged with worried eyes. “They’re not from here, they don’t know the land.” 

 

“Bloody hell,” whined Ripley pitifully. “Fine. Fine.” She lifted her hands, and left the room muttering beneath her breath. “Babysitting here, babysitting there. Bloody fool men.” With a sigh she walked into the night, she could hear the yips and growls across the field.

 

“They couldn’t even go in all the way?” She asked herself disgustedly and took a deep breath, relaxed and shifted.

 

0-0-0

“He’s fiery tonight!” Sirius barked to James as he bounded around Remus, ducking and dodging the attempts to swipe. Winded he finally took a break, huffing and puffing. James stood by the woodland in his stag form, a twig hanging from his mouth as he chewed contemplatively. He lifted his head suddenly, snorting out a grunt. Sirius and Remus both stopped rough housing long enough to see the streak of tawny fur through the snow covered field. 

 

“What the hell is that fucking thing?” Sirius blocked Remus from advancing curiously. “Not you, you stay.” He perked his ears, waited for noise. The attack came unexpectedly, one moment he was there, and the next he and the massive bulk of the tawny creature were in a snow drift wrestling. James watched with a mildly interested cock of his proud head. Remus sniffed the air, ambled forward a little, and glanced blandly at James when he stomped his hoof. 

 

Sirius finally managed to break free, and retreated. “It’s a fucking lion!” 

 

“It’s Ripley, you idiot.” James replied and chose another twig from the snow. Sirius’ black head looked back to the lioness who licked her paw daintily. 

 

“Well fuck me.” Sirius moved around her, not speaking.

 

“Cat got your tongue Sirius?" Ripley  asked with a shake of her massive head. Sirius edged closer, walked in a circle around her. “Do you mind?”

 

“Is that…” he moved closer, leaped back when she swiped her big paw at him. “Do you have a tattoo?”

 

“What?” Jame asked excitedly, trotted over and examined her right haunch. “Where do you hide that?” 

 

“Feck off. The only reason I’m out here is because of Lily.” She watched warily as Remus came closer, sniffing at her. Sirius growled softly when Remus licked the top of the lioness' head. She froze, unsure of there werewolf, but Remus had already moved on.

 

“Lily knows?” James whipped his head toward the dim light of the cottage. “Wait, how do you know?”

 

“I’m not an idjit,” the reply came with a swish of her long tail. She eyed Sirius’ form. “You make sense.”

 

“So do you.”

 

“Ahem,” James posed himself artistically against the round moon overhead. “And me?”

 

“Your horns are overcompensating.” 

 

James glared as best he could at her. “They're antlers, and we don’t need a babysitter. We’ve been doing this long enough.”

 

“I see,” Ripley rose regally from her sit, and stretched her length, yawning with a small roar at the end. “Be back by morning, stay close.” She began to trot away when Sirius joined her. 

 

“I’ll see you back.” He trotted alongside her until the edge of the yard surrounded by it’s stonewall. She shifted there, straightened her clothes, and looked down at the dog who in human form came up to her hip. She laid a hand on his head, dropped a kiss on his scratched snout.

 

“Thank you.” She said, and headed inside. Sirius waited for the door to close, for the light in her bedroom to turn on before he returned to his best friends. 



Chapter 12: Chapter Tweleve
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The next morning was Christmas eve. And as the sun dawned casting brilliant shades of red, golds and pinks across the skies, Lily hummed in the kitchen as she set out the platter of sandwiches Ripley had made the night before. From above she heard the shower turn on. Her friend was awake and moving. Her heart quickened as the back door opened, and James led the group in, no worse for wear. He smiled wearily at her as she held out a stoneware plate, with a sandwich, crisps and apple slices. He kissed her forehead, and sat before tucking into his meal. Remus was next, fresh scratches on his face, looking beyond exhausted. “Thank you,” he muttered softly when she handed him a plate. She smiled warmly, kissed his cheek. 

 

“Ripley?” asked Sirius, his voice hoarse as he took his plate, and bit into the sandwich. 

 

“Showering,” answered Lily as she put a kettle on for tea. He grunted in response, and took another sandwich from the platter. “Do you have a present for her?”

 

“As a matter of fact,” said Sirius with a scowl at her. “I did.”

 

“I approved it,” interjected Remus wearily. “Just to be sure.” Lily beamed at him. “I think she’ll like it.”

 

“Hopefully,” Lily harrumphed and took down mugs for tea. “Rip?”

 

“Present,” the Irishwoman entered with a wide yawn, and scowled at all three men as they peered over sandwiches at her. “You’re fine,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Secret safe. To the grave so on and so on.”

 

“You’re welcome to join us anytime back at school,” offered Remus with a friendly smile.

 

“As fun as that sounds,” she began dryly. “I have a lot of tests that I need to ace before the end of term.” 

“I don’t want to think of it,” Lily stated, looping an arm around Ripley’s waist, fighting the urge to tell her best friend that she had lost too much weight lately. “It’s Christmas.” 

 

“Aye, it tis,” Ripley hugged Lily to her. “Happy Christmas, aghra.”

 

“And to you,” Lily squeezed tightly, and closed her eyes for a moment, a sense of dread enveloping her. “I love you.”

 

Ripley pulled back, brown eyes showing mild worry. “Are ye dying?”

 

“No--I just don’t tell you enough.”

 

“I love you,” Ripley kissed Lily’s cheek, and moved away to prepare a second breakfast. James demolished his second sandwich and hovered around the stove as Ripley buttered a cast iron skillet, beside her on the counter was the batter for french toast, sliced bread, and eggs.  Sirius made his wave over, hovering behind her, his stomach growled in anticipation. 

 

“Bacon?” He asked hopefully. 

 

“Fetch it from the ice box.” She prepared breakfast amidst the chatter of her closest friends, with the muggle radio playing Christmas songs in the background. After a full feast the boys left to get a decent nap in before the festivities of the day commenced. Ripley and Lily chose a walk outside in the sparkling snow, beneath the rarely seen sun of Ireland. 

0-0-0

Sometime later, closer to five in the evening Remus tossed more peat onto the fire, breathing in the scent of a Christmas goose roasting, with potatoes and other accouterments, he heard Ripley’s voice singing along in the kitchen, and a half drunk Lily joining in. Sirius popped open a bottle of champagne as he entered the study, observed the tree with it’s pile of presents. 

“I think we went overboard.” 

 

“Nonsense,” Lily walked in her arms loaded down with a charcuterie board, and Ripley followed behind with more wine and champagne. 

 

“We’re getting drunk?” asked Sirius grinning. Ripley smirked. “I love it.” 

 

“James first,” Lily took an extravagantly wrapped present from beneath the tree. James flushed at it. 

 

“Aw Evans...you do care.”

 

“Shut up,” Ripley rolled her eyes as she dug through the presents beneath the tree to organize them.  She sat down finally, drew her knees into her chest, arms wrapped around her legs, and watched James as he teared excitedly into the present from Lily. 

 

“Bloody hell,” James stared down at the polished wood box, embossed with his initials. Inside was an array of broom care products and maintenance care. He stared at her, pretty Lily Evans with the tousled auburn hair, and flushed cheeks. “I love you.”

 

  “I love you too.” Lily smiled even wider, and they leaned in to kiss. Ripley swallowed hard past the lump in her throat, blinked rapidly at the burn of tears. Across them Sirius met her eyes, held them. She knew the look well enough. It was their look. Thousands of words unspoken between them, lingered in mouths that wouldn’t open.

 

“Grab one for Evans,” James demanded of Ripley who quickly obeyed after a hard swallow of champagne. Ripley tossed a small square package to Lily who immediately tore into it. A pair of small emerald earrings lay in a velvet box. Ripley nodded her approval with pursed lips. James smirked at her. 

 

“Remus.” Ripley held out her present to him. He stared for a moment surprised,  but took it, and neatly rolled the twine from the present. 

 

“Jane Austen?” He stared down at the worn book, opened the cover gently. “First Edition?!” He turned tenderly through the pages, his cheeks flushed with boyish glee. “I love Sense and Sensibility.” 

 

“I try.” She dug out another one for James from her, and then found one of Sirius’. “Siri.” She held out the narrow box to him. He took it, read the tag upside down, let his brows wing up in surprise.

 

“Aw, Toddy--”

 

“Feck off.” She drained her glass and poured another, smiling at James’ thank you for his broom compass. 

 

“You gave him a knife!?” Lily threw a wad of wrapping paper at Ripley as Sirius played with his new penknife. “Why!?”

 

“Magic won’t always be there to save you,” said Ripley with a roll of her eyes. “Obviously.” 

 

“Oh yes, obviously,” Lily rolled her eyes mockingly. 

 

“Open this one,” Sirius nudged a box over with his foot. “I’ll have you know it was hell to find this short notice.”

 

“Is it your heart on a platter?” Ripley inquired sweetly as she undid the gold bow. Her next snide remark fell from her lips as she pulled out the lioness plush. It was at least eighteen inches long, perfect for snuggling. “Well, shit.”

 

“I’m not done yet,” he said with a wicked grin. “But that’s a start.” He watched her fingers stroke mindlessly over the soft fur on the plush, even as she stared at him with curiosity and suspicion. 

 

“Remus first,” she said and shoved a medium sized box toward Remus. He stared at her. “I had a summer job, stop it.” He dug into the box and pulled out numerous bars of chocolate to which he gave her a sheepish smile, his favorite Honey Dukes treats and finally a thick leather bound book. He opened it, stared for a moment, then slowly flipped through.

 

Sirius, nosy as ever, leaned over and opened his mouth. “How---” Within the book were pictures taken from first year all the way up. All of them, just them. 

 

“You never paid attention to me,” said Ripley with a shrug. “It made it easier to capture you all.” Sirius glanced up, met her eyes with an arched brow. “Yes, I know how pitiful that sounds.”

 

“Thank you Rip,” Remus leaned over Sirius and hugged her tightly, tugging her braid affectionately. “Thank you.” 

 

“Of course, aghra.” She rose as the buzzer sounded on the oven. “Give me about ten minutes, dinner will be ready.” She left the room with her glass of champagne. Lily turned to Sirius, and gestured widely with her arm.

 

“I’m goin’, I’m goin’,” he muttered and snagged the last gift from under the tree. “Bossy witch.”

 

James grinned and snuggled Lily. “My witch.” 

0-0-0

Ripley was balancing the roast precariously on one hand as she slid potatoes from the oven with the other. Sirius sighed at her stubbornness, set her gift on the counter and grabbed pot holders. “Give.” He said, and took the roast from her, and set it on the table. 

 

“I had it,” she argued, face flushed with the heat from the oven. He took the potatoes from her next, and met her scowl with a wide grin, and kissed her brow. “You’re free with your affection, lad.” She stated dryly as she dished veg into a serving bowl. 

Sirius arched his eyebrows at her back and took the box from the counter, traded the bowl she held for the gift. “Open.” 

Ripley sighed, but took the present and admired the silver wrapping before tearing into it. 

 

“It’s a lot rolled into one...if that makes sense….” Sirius began as she set the box down with a furrowed brow. He waited, nervously, as she slowly removed the packing. She drew out the thick leather bound book and flipped the cover open. It was blank, she breathed in the scent of new paper, and leather. “It’s a journal…” Sirius began. “I figured when you can’t talk to us--or won’t rather, that you need to y’know…” He mimed with his hands. “Pour it out.” She smiled, held the book to her chest for a moment before gasping. She pulled out the silver necklace, with a single pearl, attached was a note.  

 

She is unshakable not because she doesn’t know pain or failure, but because she always pushes through. Because she always shows up and never gives up. Because she believes anything is possible no matter the odds. And perhaps what makes her beautiful has less to do with what lies upon the surface and more to do with what lies within. She isn’t just beautiful because of her appearance. No, she is beautiful because of the way she chooses to live and love. In the way she embraces all of life’s experiences — good or bad. In her willingness to bend but never break, and in her courage to believe that the darkness can’t hold her as long as she continues to create her own light. She is just like a pearl — made from grit but full of grace. She is unstoppable — she knows it's not what happens, but how she chooses to respond, with perseverance in her mind and passion in her heart.

 

“Ugh you arse,” Ripley brushed at the tear that rolled down her cheek. 

 

“It’s true,” Sirius moved to her now, framed her face between his hands. “Every word of it Rip.”

 

“Y-you wrote that?” 

 

“I did.” He wiped away another tear with the pad of his thumb. “Here.” He took the necklace and put it on her. “Beautiful. Here, there’s more.” He nudged her toward the box.

 

“Ye’ve done enough…”

 

“Posh.” He flapped a hand, and motioned again. 

 

“Christ,” she muttered, and fingered the pearl on her necklace, feeling the glow inside. She pulled out a box of butter toffee, and grinned. It was her favorite. Sirius waited with bated breath as she went further into the box. A scarf in green and black plaid, made in Ireland of course. A bag of cat treats for Loki. And at the bottom of the box a silver ring with black gem. She lifted her head, eyed him warily. 

 

“I’m not proposing you goon,” he said and took the ring from her. “McGonagall, and Flitwick assisted with this. It’s black tourmaline, good for protection and courage…” He broke off as her brown eyes filled with tears. “Ah, don’t start...if you tap it three times,” He did so, and his voice came from it. You are stronger than you know, braver than you know, and more capable of every badass thing you have ever wanted to do. You, Ripley Anne Todd, are amazing, beautiful and strong. Don’t ever forget. “I figure--if you needed a pick me up…”

 

Ripley took a shaky breath, slipped the ring on her right hand. Perfect fit. “Bloody hell Siri,” she muttered, and framed his face between her hands, and kissed him long, and hard. 

 

“So, you like it?”He asked when she eased back, her laugh warmed him from head to toe, and they hugged. “Time to eat?”

 

“Oh aye, get the others.” Ripley waited until she was alone to let out a shuddering breath, and acknowledged her aching heart, and the heady feeling of love.

0-0-0

Authors Note- I'm so sorry it took me so long to update. I left the Army, got married, worked a lot of overtime, but we're back, mostly. So, I've discovered I have a wicked time writing a teenage perspective so don't be surprised if the rest of the novel turns to them as adults in the Wizarding World vs Hogwarts



Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
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The Christmas holidays were gone too soon for Lily’s liking, she pondered over them as she and Ripley relaxed in the dormitory, it was the last week of January, and the new semester had already begun to wear on her friend. The silence was broken by the occasional meow from Loki as Ripley organized her belongings, making room for the gifts given to her at Christmas. The framed photo of the Marauders, her and Lily snapped on New Years Eve went on her nightstand. She had been quiet since Christmas day, Lily observed her now as she finally settled onto the bed with Loki, her nose in an advanced potions book, her weakest subject and an all too important one to become an Auror. 

 

“Ripley….”

 

“What?” The girl didn’t look up from the book, her brow furrowed in concentration.

 

“It’s okay to ask for help, y’know.”

 

“I don’t need it,” Ripley muttered, flipping restlessly through the pages, trying to find the potion she struggled on the most. There. Veritaserum. Potentially one of the most important potions in the Wizarding World's Justice system. It took a full twenty-eight days to cure, she needed to brew one by June. It was already the end of January. Less than six months to perfect something that simply escaped her. 

 

“Slughorn is nice, he’s willing--”

 

“Lily!” Ripley’s head jerked up, and her words fell away. Lily Evans, of the emerald eyes, looked taken aback. “Ugh,” Ripley slammed the book shut, startling Loki away. “I’m sorry,” she groaned, and buried her face into her hands. “Gods, I’m sorry.”  The bed sank as Lily came over and wrapped Ripley into a hug. “I have spent so long trying to get ready for this--physically, emotionally, academically,” her voice was muffled against Lily’s shoulder. “I can’t fail.”

 

“You won’t...and if you did you’re more than skilled enough to become a healer, or work at Gringotts--” Lily reassured, Ripley pulled away, looked at her best friend sorrowfully, Lily gave her a weak smile. “But those aren’t you...I know.” 

 

“I’m gonna walk.” Ripley hugged Lily hard, and departed. Lily looked down at the potions book with a sigh, and then outside at the snow fall. It wasn’t going to get easier. 

 

0-0-0

 

Lily approached Professor Slughorn’s classroom with a purposeful air around her, she poked her head in, and saw him grading papers. “Professor, do you have a moment?” 

 

“Ah, Miss. Evans, of course, of course, come in.” He set aside his pile of essays and beamed at her. “What can I do for you?”

 

“It’s about Ripley…”

 

“Oh?” Concern etched his face as he beheld his favorite student. “Is she all right?”

 

“She’s worried about her grade for this class...you know she wants to be an Auror.”

 

“A hard task for a female,” Slughorn said easily. Lily inclined her chin in defiance. “Now, it’s nothing against your sex, but Aurors are soldiers, Miss Evans…” He chuckled, saw that there was no humor in her face, he cleared his throat. “You’re well taught, truly gifted in this class. If you and Miss Todd would like to use the room and the ingredients after hours then you may, Merlin knows Miss Todd will need every bit of assistance along the way.” 

 

“Thank you Professor,” Lily smiled warmly at her and left with a bounce in her step. Horace Slughorn shuffled through his ledger, found Ripley’s name, and nodded. 

 

“Yes, she’ll be fine.”

0-0-0

 

The cold wind whipped across the frozen Black Lake and swirled around Ripley’s calves as she walked along the hard packed rocks, her bare hands were shoved deep into the pockets of her bomber jacket, the knitted maroon and gold hat that her grandmother had sent was tugged over ears that had been bitten raw from the wind. She kicked at a chunk of snow, her boot catching a rock with it. She tilted her face toward the sky, eyes closed and breathed. She loved Scotland, loved Hogwarts, her friends...Sirius. Her eyes popped open, and she shook her head with a growl, even as her fingers touched the pearl on its thin silver chain. 

 

“Todders!” A Hufflepuff male lifted his arm in greeting from far ahead. She lifted hers in return, and waited for Alex Croft to join her.

“Hey,” he said breathlessly, his boyish grin bringing her own smile to the surface. “You look so mad. Even from back there.”

 

“Resting bitch face, Croft,” she replied with a shrug as they fell into step together. “Can’t help it.”

 

“Are you worried about tests?”

 

“Always.”

 

“Don’t be,” Alex swung a companionable arm around her shoulders. “N.E.W.T.s are meant to psych you out, man.” 

 

“I need to get Outstanding or at least Exceeds Expectations, and bloody potions,” she growled the last word. 

 

“Yeah, but Rip, you more than decent at every other subject, potions just throws you, but c’mon, Lily is a potions whiz, ask her.”

 

“I don’t want help,” whined Ripley. “I don’t want to rely on someone--”

 

“But you’re not,”  Croft moved his hand to give her a little smack to the back of the head, it resulted in a hard punch to his side, he grunted. “If swallowing your damn Gryffindor pride to ace a subject you struggle in is weak, then you’re screwed, man.” 

 

Ripley sighed through her nose, and rolled her brown eyes skyward. “Fine! Ok, fine, I need help.”

 

“There!” Alex squeezed her around the shoulders. “That wasn’t hard, now was it?” 

 

“I hate you,” she muttered, and glanced behind them at the sound of running feet. Lily jogged to them, beaming from ear to ear. 

 

“Slughorn has offered the classroom and the ingredients.” 

 

Ripley narrowed her eyes at Croft then Lily. “You fuckers are in cahoots, aren’t you?”

 

“She may have owl’d me.”

 

“I did,” Lily grinned. “So, when do you wanna start?” 

 

Ripley felt a little spark of hope. “Y’know, now is better than never.”

0-0-0

March 1978

 

They spent four hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in February in the dungeons. Ripley was passing her other classes with the usual amount of effort, she knew it was easier because she was geared more toward instant gratification. In charms, a spell done correctly and you saw the result then and there, in Defense Against the Dark Arts, her lioness patronus came with ease, happy memories were abundant at that time in her life. But potions, she needed the extra nudge, the extra grit to get through the tedious process. 

 

Lily, Alex and Slughorn hovered around as she pulled out her Veritaserum from its box where it had been curing. She stared at it, nervously. “Looks good,” Slughorn said, took the vial from her, and opened it, sniffed. “Odorless, good.” Her heart fluttered, her cheeks flushed with excitement. 

 

“Alex?” Lily gestured toward it. “You want to?”

 

Alex thought of the last one he had tested, and rubbed his stomach with a wince. “It’s your turn.”

 

“Bollocks,” Lily muttered and took the potion. “Cheers.” She toasted the three and downed it. “Tasteless.” She nodded in approval, shifted to look at Ripley. “Be gentle.”

 

Ripley grinned wickedly. “Are you ready?”

 

“No,” Lily said quickly, winced. 

 

“James Potter.”

 

“I’m going to marry him,” Lily flushed immediately. “Do we have to?”

 

“Biggest fear?”

 

“Losing everyone I love.”

 

“Have you ever had inappropriate thoughts about me?” Alex intervened with a grin.

 

“Mr. Croft!” Professor Slughorn scolded.

 

“No.” 

 

“I don’t think your potion is working, Rip,” Croft muttered, his cheeks reddened. 

 

Ripley rolled her eyes at him, looked at Lily, pondered. “Don’t hate me.”

 

“I could never hate you, even when you’re whiny, stubborn, self centered, selfish--”

 

“I get it, I get it,” said Ripley with a wince. “What do you think about Petunia’s fiance?”

 

“He’s a boorish, brainless, dunce. And if anyone ever earned the name muggle it’s him, the slimy git.” 

 

“I would say successful,” Slughorn patted Ripley’s shoulder. “Well done, Miss Todd. Reproduce it for the N.E.W.T.s and you’ll get an Exceeds Expectations out of me.” Her shoulders slumped forward in relief. “Until then you may continue to use the classroom. We start brewing for N.E.W.T.s beginning of May.” 

 

Ripley left her arms linked with Lily and Alex, her smile wide and triumphant. “Thank you guys.”

 

“You did it,” Alex said with a grin. “We just cheered you on.”

 

“And hovered annoyingly close,” Lily said, winced. “Bloody hell, how long does this last?”

 

“An hour or so,” Ripley shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno, never had to drink one.”

 

“You’re an asshole,” Alex cackled and peeled off from them with a wave for the Hufflepuff dorm. 

 

Lily groaned as they climbed the stairs, and leaned her head on Ripley’s shoulder. “James is gonna be in the Common Room.”

 

“And?”

 

“What if he takes advantage?”

 

“Don’t tell him anything, just smile and nod and we’ll run upstairs.” Ripley said the password and entered first. The Marauders were around the fireplace, homework spread around them, Remus seemed to be leading the group in Defense work. James perked up at the sight of Lily, and rolled across Sirius to get to her.

 

“Hey Lily,” he kissed her lightly.

 

“Ugh, you smell like the backside of a Hippogriff,” she retreated behind Ripley, hands over her mouth. The Irishwoman barked out a laugh, Sirius sauntered over, brows furrowed in confusion.

 

“Now that hurts,” the Black said with a wicked grin.

 

“You aren’t much better,” Lily said, and groaned in frustration. 

 

Sirius’ eyes lit with knowledge, and he pointed at Ripley. “You nailed it?”

 

“Nailed what?” James asked confusedly, and sniffed subtly at his armpits, wrinkled his nose.

 

“Nothing.” Ripley answered. 

 

“Truth potion.” Lily squeaked out from between her hands. 

 

“Lily!”

 

“I’m sorry!” Lily cried out. “I can’t help it.”

 

“So you have to tell the truth?” Sirius asked with a smirk.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does Ripley--”

 

“No, no, no,” the girl in question threw her hands out in front of her, and glared at him. “We don’t ask those questions. Move on.”

“Does she love me?” Sirius asked quickly, and jumped back from Ripley’s wide swing of a punch. 

 

“She won’t say it.” Lily looked apologetically at Ripley who had distanced herself, shaking her head, and was now leaning on the back of the couch.

 

Sirius glanced at Ripley now, saw the necklace she hadn’t taken off since Christmas, and the ring he had given her. Both were suited to her style, to her. “So, she does love me?”

 

“The truth is,” Lily began to lie. “She doesn’t--” The words wouldn’t come no matter how hard she tried. She gestured helplessly. “She loves you.” 

 

“As a friend?”

 

“Of course as a friend, you dolt.” James answered now. “Stop wasting the truth serum on that,” He turned to Lily, his eyes gleaming. “Would you ever marry me?”

 

“Of course.” The words left before Lily could clap a hand over her mouth. Ripley  tugged on her friends arm, dragged her away. “Name the date! Bollocks!” 

 

When the two were safely in their dorm room Ripley glowered at Lily. “I didn’t know he would ask that!” Lily covered her face and threw herself onto Ripley’s bed. “I’m sorry!”

 

“You’re fine,” Ripley sighed and lay beside Lily. “He would’ve figured it out.” She stared at the canopy above her bed. “Think he’ll back off now?”

 

“I think he’ll push you further than anyone ever has and that the tears you’ll shed for him will make you stronger.”

 

“Thanks truth serum.”

 

“Sorry, not sorry.”Lily found Ripley’s hand, linking their fingers. “You’ll be my maid of honor, y’know.”

 

“I know.”

 

“I’m going to marry James Potter, someday, and we’ll have a baby boy, and a baby girl, a cottage, a cat--”

 

“And live happily ever after,” Ripley pressed a kiss to the back of Lily’s hand. “I’ll make sure of it.”

 

“How?” Lily rolled onto her side, faced her best friend. “How can any of us make sure of it?”

 

“By fighting, by winning.” Ripley tapped her finger against the tip of Lily’s nose. “You may want to stay up here until dinner, it’ll wear off by then.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“Library, for studying.”

0-0-0

It wasn’t the library she went to, though the thought crossed her mind, it was outside where her heart sought solace, where she yearned to be alone. The sharp breeze from the Forbidden Forest brought the scents that comforted, pine, wet wood, the smell of leaves. She closed her eyes and let it wash over her. She wouldn’t go in, not against the Headmasters orders, but she could walk the edge safely enough.  She turned slightly to look behind her as a new scent emerged, leather, mint and the underlying smell of cologne. Sirius jogged toward her, she waited politely for him to reach her. 

 

“It’s almost dinner time,” he said in lieu of greeting. “We checked the library.”

 

“I changed my mind.”

 

“Good, you’ve put too much on yourself Todders, you need a breather.” He fell into step with her, at ease with each other, his hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers. “Any word about your mum?”

 

“None,” she answered softly, felt the catch in her throat and she swallowed hard to clear it. “Da is hopeful as always.”

 

“The Order will find her.” Sirius surmised with a weak smile. “If they don’t, then you will.” 

 

She scoffed. “Yeah, me, the one who just barely managed a truth serum, the one who is getting through potions by the skin of my teeth.” She gestured toward Hogwarts, her brown eyes shining with unshed tears--Gods they came so quickly these day. “This isn’t real life, Siri, this is--is a fantasy land that we live in for our childhood and dictates our entire life, I suck at potions, I barely made it through Ancient Runes.”

 

“You were wonderful at Muggle Studies and Muggle Music.”

 

“Great, so I know how to work a bloody record player.” 

 

“Rip…”

 

“No, Sirius,” she shook her head, brown pony tail  whipping to and fro. “I’m not looking for reassurance or anything.”

 

“Just need to let it out?”

 

“Aye,” she sighed heavily. He nodded solemnly, and gestured ahead of them, indicating she had the floor. “I just don’t know anymore Sirius. I feel like eighteen shouldn’t feel like this. Like the world is changing around us and we’re sitting here sheltered while others die in our stead.”

 

“Do you want to die?”

 

“Christ Jesus,” Ripley balked at his question, glared. “No! Fuck no.”

 

“Just checking, love, settle down.” Sirius put an arm around her shoulders, pulled her in for a little hug. “I don’t wanna lose you.”

“Sirius.” She grumbled with a wince. “Cut it out.”

 

“You think you know it all, y’know that?” Sirius kept his arm around her, even when her shoulders stiffened in offense. “No, no, you’ll hear me out, darling. You think you know everything about everyone, about every part of this world we’re heading into and you don’t.  And that’s okay.” He let her pull away now, so she could face him. He noted, with dismay, the fighters stance that she automatically took on these days, and saw the laughing, prankster first year she had been so long ago disappearing behind this stern woman she was becoming. “You forget that you’re a child, still.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

“You’re someone's child, Ripley.” Sirius snapped, his tone had her reeling back as if he had struck her. “You think your Da wants to see you dead in a war? Do you think your mum does? Or us? Your friends?” 

 

“No,” she muttered sulkily. His arm came around her waist now, pulled her close to him. “Stop.” She squirmed as two Ravenclaws strolled past them now that they were closer to the castle. He only tightened his grip. “You’re an arse.”

 

“I know,” he grinned boyishly at her, and she couldn’t stop her answering grin. “There she is.” He kissed her forehead, and nuzzled his nose into her hair, breathed deep for a moment. This stutter in his heart, the clench in his stomach, lump in his throat--all were new, all were because of her. 

 

“Ripley!” Lily waved from the castle stairs, her hair shining under the sun. “Come on! We’re going to the lake until supper time!” She linked hands with James, and linked arms with Remus. Sirius smiled as Ripley quickened her pace. Their days were numbered, but they would remember these times.

 

 

Authors Note: There's a high chance that we're just gonna end the school year, next chapter. Let me know if that's agreeable, or rushed.

​​​​​​​



Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
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June 1978

 

“This is it!” Lily sang as she stood beside Ripley outside the Great Hall. They were dressed in their black robes, witches hats that they hadn’t worn since the sorting ceremony seven years ago tilted jauntily. She gripped Ripley’s hand hard, as they began to file in, two by two. Before them stood Sirius and James. Behind them Remus and Peter, the excited chatter of their classmates buzzed in Ripley’s ears. The last month had weighed so heavy on her, her robes bagged from the weight lost lately, stress had a way of making her skip meals, but she passed. Maybe not with flying colors and the like, not like Lily--bright witch--but she passed and her dream was in her reach. 

 

Sirius looked behind him, met her eyes, and winked one bright gray eye. “Here we go, Toddy.”

 

“Watch yourself, Black.” She said with a warm smile. Exactly how they had started seven years ago. She had no idea that seven years later she would be wearing a ring that he charmed, and a necklace that defined her. Lily’s hand tightened even more as they sat at Gryffindor table. James, Sirius and Peter sat across from them, Remus beside Ripley. They ended their final feast with a toast given by Albus Dumbledore.

 

“Your attention please,” He stood before them, golden jeweled goblet raised in a toast. “To our graduation class of 1978, may you always know the right path,” his crystal blue eyes landed on the Marauders, crinkled at the corners with good humor as he remembered their hi-jinks. “May you always choose your friends wisely,” his eyes shifted to Lily, James. “May you find your happiness,” to Sirius, “Your family.” Remus now. “May you always run a little wild,” and finally Ripley. “May you always find the answers you seek, even in the darkest of times.” He smiled, lifted his cup higher. “To our graduates, cheers!” 

 

The cheers that erupted from the class of 1978 was deafening, many pounded the tables with fists, and whooped and hollered. James leaned across to kiss Lily, Sirius pushed him aside and managed to kiss the red head's cheek. A short scuffle ensued. Ripley leaned into Remus, looked up at his tired face. The full moon had been a few days before. “Hey.” She said softly. 

 

“Hmm?” Lupin looked down at her, green eyes widened in recognition. “Rippy.” He warned, inching away.

 

“Too bad,” she said and kissed him lightly on the mouth. “Congratulations.” 

 

“No, no, no,” Sirius waved his arms in front of him, and leaped across the table. 

 

“Mr. Black!” McGonagall yelled aghast from the front even as Sirius scooped Ripley into his arms and snogged her soundly in front of everyone.

---

“TODD!” The bellow snapped Ripley out of her reverie as she crawled below barbed wire in the mud and pouring rain. “Maybe if you stopped fucking daydreaming you would be done by now!” The senior Auror instructor took his wand from his throat, and spoke to his companion. “What are her scores?” 

 

“Sir?”

 

“It’s our tenth week, she’s got five more to go, how does she compare?” Alastor Moody gestured for the clipboard. His eyes skimmed it, he grunted. “Jamie Todd’s girl, right?”

 

“Correct,” Craig Richardson, a scarred, and stern Auror watched Ripley sprint past three of her male counterparts and scale a wall. “He prepared her for it, even if she does lack physical strength.”

 

“She struggles with poisons and antidotes,” Alastor muttered.

 

“So did you, Alastor,” Albus Dumbledore spoke now from where he was tucked away in his purple cloak, shielded from view. “I want her.”

 

“Doesn’t mean she’ll be a good Auror,” muttered Moody, winced a little as Ripley slid across the finish line on her front, seconds behind the first place runner. “She’s all right. But she needs to work on her attitude.”

 

“Ripley Todd? Attitude?” Craig said dryly, thinking of the girl's father. “No, say it isn’t so.” 

 

“Har, har.” Alastor glanced at his clipboard, qued his wand. “Disguises, go.” He watched trainees scramble to dig out polyjuice potions, watched Ripley closely as she stepped back away from her peers, rolled her shoulders, and  lifted her face toward the rain, a flash and the lion stood, bright eyes glaring at the men. “Well, fuck me.”

 

“You have to research your trainees better, Alastor.” Dumbledore said lightly. “I’ll see you at her graduation.”

 

“Bloody hell.” 

0-0-0

 

Days came and went, the weeks turned into a month, night fell over the Auror training academy in late August, long gone were the sessions of push ups and corrective physical training, they were past that point. Ripley showered in her private bathroom, her body bore the bruises of duels gone wrong, of hand to hand combat. She tilted her face to the spray of water, let the hot tears flow down the drain. For the tenth time that day she rubbed her ring, listened to Sirius’ voice. Is it going? Is it--

Yes Idiot.

Ripley, hey it’s, uh, it’s Sirius. You’re probably out there kicking ass right now, and taking names, hell I dunno you may be missing us...missing me. I just wanted you to know that you’re stronger than you know, you’re so much braver than you think and no matter how many times you get knocked down you’ll rise up, always. Just remember that

 

She sobbed softly, her heart ached for home, for her dad and mom, for a solid hug from Lily, for Remus’ quiet comforting voice--Sirius’ arms. She left the shower, dried off and fell naked into bed for another dreamless night. 

---

Sirius lay awake a fortnight later, staring at the ceiling of James and Lily’s flat. He had Ripley’s most recent letter in his hand. Lily’s cat, Isis, was curled beside him, her green eyes watching him. “I know.” He said to the cat. “It’s a few more days.”

 

“Padfoot?” James knocked lightly. “You up?”

 

“As always,” Sirius answered. “C’mon in.” James entered, offered a dry smile. “Rip write you guys?”

 

“Lily mostly.” 

 

“Did she say anything good?” 

 

“She’s struggling,” sighed James as he sat on the edge of the double bed. “I don’t suppose she tells you that.”

 

“You know Rip,” shrugged Sirius with a slight smile. “She puts on a brave face.”

 

“She’s passing though,” reassured James with a grin. “She’s proving herself.”

 

“At what cost?” inquired Sirius with a little frown. “How much of Ripley are we gonna get back?”

 

“I dunno Padfoot, but she’s making a path for women.”  

 

“Women doing our fighting,” muttered Sirius, he shifted onto his side at the bell of the flat ringing. “Who the bloody hell is that?”

 

James rose, drew his wand. “No idea.” He went into the den, Lily was by the fireplace, wand drawn as well. “Stay put Evans.” He motioned for Sirius to move with him. He counted silently to three, and yanked the door open.

 

 “That won’t be necessary Mr. Potter,” Albus strolled into the flat, and took his purple cloak off with a flourish. “Miss Evans, Mr. Black.” He nodded to the others and handed Sirius his cloak. 

 

“I’ll put the kettle on,” announced Lily with a warm smile toward her former headmaster. “I assume we’ll need it.”

 

“Still bright as ever, Miss. Evans.” Dumbledore beamed as she went to the little kitchen. “I hear congratulations are in order for you and Mr. Potter. When’s the wedding date?”

 

 

“We’re aiming for early September or October, hopefully Ripley will be back by then.”

 

“Have you seen her?” Sirius asked hopefully, Albus looked at him, a hint of pity in his eyes. “Just...wondering.” The man muttered.

 

“I saw her only a couple weeks ago,” Albus took a seat by the simmering fire. “She’s doing well, or as well as can be expected.” He waited for Lily and James to join him. Lily set the tea tray on the low table, served while Albus spoke. “They’re entering into field exercises this week, a final testament of their training.” Albus sipped his tea, pondered his words carefully. “I don’t wish to bring darkness to this conversation, but I feel that we must discuss things.”

 

“It’s half-ten,” began James with a slight smile. “We figured it wasn’t a social call.”

 

“Miss. Todd informed you of the Order her mother and father are part of, correct?”

 

“Yes,” muttered Lily, cupping her mug tightly, bottle green eyes trained on the liquid in it. 

 

Albus offered a small smile. “I think you all know what I’m about to ask,” he met each of their eyes individually, lingered on James and Lily’s. “It’s a lot to ask...but there is no pressure, no expectation. The Order of the Phoenix is based solely on volunteers, it will be dangerous, Miss. Todd’s mother is still missing, almost a year now...” 

 

“I’m in,” announced Sirius without hesitation, Albus arched a single brow at the man.  Sirius leaned back, arrogantly proud. “You’ll take Toddy too?”

 

“That’s the plan, Mr. Lupin and Mr. Pettigrew as well.”

 

James met Lily’s eyes, she sighed softly, offered a bit of a smile--nodded. “You’ll have us, Professor,” stated James with a hint of a frown. 

 

“Excellent,” the elder grinned at them, tapping his knees. “This will be a grand adventure.”Lily offered a weak, reassuring smile to the man, but inside she felt a little knot form in her stomach. Later after plans were made, meetings set and she was tucked into bed beside James, Lily curled into him, sought comfort.

 

“It’s here, isn’t it, James?” She whispered, her cheek pressed into his chest. “The war. Just like Rip said.”

 

“It is, my love,” James turned his head, kissed her forehead. “But we’ll see it through, us, the Order. It’ll be fine. I promise.” 

 

0-0-0

 

The wedding didn’t happen in September, James and Lily had their first mission, Sirius his second, and Ripley who had yet to see her best friends, or her family graduated alone, and went to work. Alastor Moody strode ahead of her through the London streets, they were dressed in Muggle clothing, fitting in fairly well, just two people in a hurry to catch the train. “Todd?”

 

“Sir?” Ripley jogged to catch up, matched his pace, her brown eyes behind shaded glasses scanning frequently. 

 

“Ugh, Moody is fine,” Alastor guided her into the busy street, weaved in and out of cars, into the train station. “We’ll be taking the train as far as Pepperingeye, then we walk to the Portkey, from there we’ll be at Headquarters.” 

 

“Got it.”

 

“Did you let him know?” Alastor asked casually as he handed off their tickets.

 

Ripley shoved her back pack onto the baggage rack in their compartment.  “Who?”

 

Alastor smiled wryly, nodded to her hand. “The one that gave you the ring.” 

 

“No...no he doesn’t know.” Ripley leaned against the window, facing the door, as she had always done on the Hogwarts Express. “I didn’t tell anyone.”

 

Alastor grunted, he mimicked her position, looking at the file open in his lap. “Do you think you changed?”

 

“I know I have,” she fiddled with the necklace she wore. “Happens, right?”

 

“It does,” Alastor replied easily, and stretched out with a sigh. “You’re a smart kid, stubborn, bitchy sometimes, and let’s be honest, I don’t trust your antidotes yet, but you’re better than you were.” 

 

“Why are you giving me a pep talk?”

 

“We’re in a war, Todd,” Moody set aside the file in his bag, slid his dark eyes over toward her. “The Dark Lord has come to power, the more followers he gets…”

 

“The weaker we become.”

 

“Exactly,” he nodded. “So, if you changed--it’s for the better, have no earthly possessions that you care about losing. That’s my advice.”

 

She nodded sullenly, let her brown eyes shift to the passing scenery, almost wished that she was heading back to Hogwarts, to the world she had been so ready to leave, so ready to prove herself--and here she was, a Probationary Auror, no one had been able to attend graduation, the Order had to run, and she understood that. Moody had helped her as well, they’d gotten piss drunk that night, and she had listened to war stories from the man. He was asleep now, his mouth hanging open slightly, snores rumbling out of his barrel chest. She shook her head a little, and shut her own eyes. Rest while you can, she thought to herself, for the fighting has just begun.



Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
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Pepperinge Eye was a small town on Britain's coast along the North Sea, nearly six hours out of London and much too small to be a matter of importance to any witch or wizard. Alastor and Ripley arrived at precisely half six via the copper kettle portkey, and walked the rest of the way in. The crumbling rock wall surrounded a wooded yard, a small bridge over a stream, secured by a spell led to the cottage of white plaster with a thatched roof in need of tending. Ripley’s eyes strayed to the motorcycle in the front yard, and frowned. 

“Is that his?” Moody asked, noting her glance. She nodded, jaw clenched. “It’ll be all right Todd.”

 

“I’m sure.” She let him lead the way into the cottage, the door was charmed with a password--fitting. Upon entering the dwelling Ripley smelled lemon and beeswax, comforting smells compared to the Auror Academies sterile smell. She heard them, the rambunctious laughter of James and Sirius combined with the irritable, exasperated sigh of Lily. 

 

“Darling, it’s all in good fun,” James' voice carried down the hall with its polished wood floors, and bright yellow walls. She led the way now, moving toward her comrades as if in a dream. 

 

“Good fun is a game of Wizards Chess, not learning a spell to make someone--” Lily broke off at the movement in the doorway. Her best friend stood there, looking haggard, a black eye that was in the middle of healing graced her left eye, but she wore a smile.

 

“Merlins Beard!” Lily cried out and threw herself into Ripley’s arms. Those arms, stronger now, taut with muscles that hadn’t been, wrapped so tightly she thought she wouldn’t be able to breathe. “I’m sorry we weren’t there,” wept Lily into Ripley’s shoulder.

 

“It’s all right,” Ripley murmured, and braced herself as James leapt over the couch and joined the hug. “Bloody hell James!” Her laugh rang out as he ruffled her hair, tugged affectionately on her braid. The two pulled away, James with his arm around Lily’s waist, greeted Alastor as Sirius approached. 

 

His grey blue eyes took in the woman before him, no longer a girl, but a woman. Her brown eyes the color of warmed honey lingered on his. “Rip.”

 

“Sirius.”

 

“Oh for fucks sake,” Alastor muttered, and unceremoniously shoved Ripley into Sirius. The former Gryffindor reacted and caught her tightly against him, grinned at Moody in gratitude. 

 

“You’ve put on some weight Toddy,” he commented as he swung her up in a circle. “Hercules, look out.”

 

“Sod off,” Ripley growled, her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. His arms tightened around her in a solid Sirius hug. She closed her eyes only for a moment, relished the feeling, tucked it away in a happy memory file within her brain. “Are you done?” She asked quietly.

 

“Not yet,” he whispered hoarsely. “Not yet Rip.” Behind them James gestured the others toward the kitchen, and drew Alastor, who had watched his protege with mild concern, into a discussion about the Order. Lily muttered something about tea and went to busy herself, and to swallow the lump in her throat. 

 

Ripley sighed softly, Sirius hummed in her ear, nuzzled his nose into her hair. “Stop being weird,” she shook her head to free herself. In response he merely clamped his arms down and began to snuffle loudly at her neck, ear and hair. Her laugh sounded strange to her own ears, how long had it been? Sirius pulled back grinning at her, she had no choice but to grin back. 

 

“You look good,” she admitted, holding him now at arms length. “I take it the motorcycle is yours?”

 

“I’m trying to enchant it to fly. My little pet project since sixth year,” he shrugged casually.  She stared at him in astonishment.

“What?”

 

“A flying motorcycle?”

 

“Combing the two worlds I love,” Sirius winked at her. “Gotta live a little dangerously, Toddy.”

 

“We’re part of a secret Order hellbent on destroying the Dark Lord, I felt like that was living dangerously to be honest.” 

 

“That’s fair,” Sirius looked behind him at the soft thump, Loki meandered into the room, her yellow eyes on him. “Your momma is here.” He moved aside. In all his years--nineteen to be exact--he had never seen a cat more dog like than Loki, but here the damn cat was, meowing incessantly as she trotted to Ripley. 

 

“My baby!” Ripley fell to her knees, gathered the vibrating cat into her arms, smothering her with kisses. “Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you. Let’s see the teefies, let me see the teefs, and the beans, ohhhh look at the beans,” She buried her nose into the kneading paws. 

 

“Hell of a welcome for that cat,” James said wryly from the doorway. “Teas on.” Ripley rose, Loki in her arms. “Caith is upstairs with the others,” James added as they walked side by side. “He’s been a pain in the arse.”

 

“I imagine so,” Ripley shrugged her shoulders. “He takes after me.”

 

“Bloody true,” Sirius mumbled under his breath. “Demon creature from Hell.”

 

“Heard that.”

 

“It’s what makes you, you,” offered James with a wry smile. “And we would never change you.”

 

“Sirius would.”

 

“Bollocks.”

 

“Bet.”

 

Sirius rolled his eyes, and hugged Ripley unexpectedly from behind, arms tight around her. “Only you dear,” he sang and swayed as James made a gagging noise, and helped Lily lay the table. “Are the one for me,” Sirius took Ripley’s hand in his and turned her in a circle, before holding her to him in a slow waltz. Lily nudged James and smiled at her two friends. Moody finally cleared his throat. “Todd.”

 

“Right.” The Auror moved away from Sirius and retrieved her backpack. “Take a seat,” she told her friends. Sirius obeyed, noting the subtle change in his friend. She had always had a commanding presence, hell that was part of what  drew him to her, but now her very presence demanded attention, those sharp eyes the color of strong tea moved from one person to the next. “Moody and I have gathered some intel that we’ll share with the rest when they arrive, but for the time being, with who we have now, there’ll be a mission run Friday night, to the Underground Clubs in London. The Death Eaters have been recruiting...well, vampires.” 

 

Lily set her tea cup down with a hard clink, her emerald eyes widened. “Vampires?!”

 

“Merlins beard,”breathed out James with raised brows. “They mean business.”

 

“Todd and Black will be taking the mission,” Moody spoke now, his hand covering the top of his mug, a finger tapping in thought. “I assume you know the area?” He directed his question at Sirius who nodded. “Good. The motorcycle will be a good guise, not many wizards ride one. You’ll want to change up your wardrobe Todd, trousers won’t fly in the club.” 

 

“I can magic up a dress for her,” Lily offered with a wicked grin. “I have just the thing in mind. Did you bring your makeup?”

 

“Do I own makeup?” shot Ripley back with a scowl.

 

“So, a shopping trip is in order,” the red head nodded once. “We can do that tomorrow. We have four days, we’ll make it work.” She handed a biscuit to Ripley. “Eat. You’ve lost weight.”

 

“Because that’s terrible?” Ripley asked with a roll of her eyes and bit into the ginger biscuit, smiled. “Bloody delicious.” She gestured to Moody to have one. He did his best to hide his smile, but nodded in approval. “I’m ready for a nap.”

 

“I’ll show you where,” Sirius offered, all but leaping to his feet. The two departed the room with Sirius turing to give James a thumbs up. 

 

Moody heaved a sigh. “He loves her.”

 

“Unfortunately,” muttered James. He covered Lily’s hand with his. “Maybe they’ll be happy like us.”

 

Lily offered a small smile, shook her head a little. “I don’t think that’s in the cards for them, my love.”

 

“Not for Todd,” Moody rose from his seat. “I’ll take the same room as last time.”

 

“It’s yours.” Lily stood as well and began to clear the table. She worried her lower lip with her teeth, James leaned on the counter beside her, and then slid along it until he was in front of her. “Do you mind?”

 

“Not a’tall,” he grinned at her, nibbled at her nose. “What’s wrong, Evans?”

 

“I want to get married, this month.”

 

“Oh?” James arched his brows. “We can do that.”

 

“I don’t know what this--”

 

“Lily.” He shifted, turned her into his arms. “We can get married today if you really wanted to.”

 

“It’s this bloody war…”

 

“I know.” He pressed his lips to her forehead, cheek and finally her mouth. “Soon.”

 

0-0-0

 

Sirius watched as Ripley moved around the room, unloading what she had in her bag, enlarging items she had shrunk to pack more easily. He caught the glint of the pearl necklace that she still wore, he had noticed the ring first off--had looked for it--he admitted to himself now. She glanced at him as she shrugged out of her jacket.  “You leaving?”

 

“Are you changing?” He asked with a wicked grin. She shot him a disapproving look.

 

“I plan on cleaning up, yes.”

 

“Fine, wet blanket.” He teased, but left her alone after directing her toward the lavatory. She sighed in the new quiet, gathered her items and went into the small bathroom. She had just stepped into the steady stream of delightful hot water when the door opened and shut bringing in a gust of cold air.

 

“I swear to all the Gods above us Sirius Orion Black I will fecking end you.”

 

“Rip.”

 

“Jesus Lily, a knock, yeah?”

 

“Rip,” Lily peered around the edge of the shower curtain, stared at her best friend. Ripley arched her brows at Lily’s lack of privacy.

 

“What love?”

 

“I think--” Lily took a shuddering breath, gave a weak smile. “I think I’m pregnant.” 

 

Downstairs James and Sirius looked at the ceiling upon hearing Ripley’s shout and the solid thump that ensued. Sirius muttered under his breath, moved his chess piece. Moody looked from one man to the other. “No one is gonna check?”

 

“If you spent the last seven years with both you’d understand,” replied James absentmindedly. “Lily probably told her of the new wedding plans.”

 

“Probably,” agreed Sirius.

---

Upstairs in the cramped bathroom Ripley sat on the edge of the tub wrapped in a towel staring at a weeping Lily. She patted Lily’s back, rubbed her hand in soothing circles. “Hey, it’ll be okay.” 

 

“A baby Rip,” sobbed Lily. “In the middle of a bloody war.” 

 

“Listen to me,” Ripley framed Lily’s face between her hands. “Have you missed your period?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are ye late?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you fecking serious?”

 

“No...he’s James’ best friend…”

 

“No, you--” Ripley growled and dug her fingers into her wet hair. “We’re getting one of those muggle tests that just came out, you’re bloody taking it.”

 

“The one where you pee…”

 

“Aye,” Ripley rose, towel dried herself off, and quickly changed into a pair of jeans, and a black jumper. "Let’s go before the men ask questions.”

-0-0-0

The small apothecary in town didn’t carry tests, Ripley muttered under her breath as they left the store, and cast her eyes skyward at the gathering clouds. “We’ll go into London.”

 

“There’s got to be something closer than that,” whined Lily. “What about Norwich?”

 

“Well, let’s try there then,” Ripley and Lily ducked down a long alley, and two quiet pops that passer-bys ignored were heard. They glanced around at their luck of landing in an empty car lot and quickly headed for the nearest store. “They bloody better have them.” Lily grumbled.

 

“Do you have to pee yet?”

 

“I’ve had to pee since we left,” the redhead steered Ripley away from the beer and crisps aisle and shoved her unceremoniously toward the family planning. “We’ll get some after the test.” Lily stopped in her tracks and stared at the aisle. “Rip?”

 

“Here,” Ripley grabbed the first EPT she found and handed it to Lily. “Matter of fact,” she grabbed two more boxes. “Just to be sure.” She spotted the lavatory at the end of the building. “Come on.” They paid for the boxes quickly and headed to the loo. 

 

Ripley paced outside of the stall as Lily ripped open packages and then the steady stream was heard alongside a relieved sigh. She worried her thumbnail, twisted her ring around on her finger. She glanced at her magical watch, they had been gone almost an hour. The toilet flushed and Lily appeared holding her three sticks. She offered one out to Ripley who gave her a disgusted look. “Ye feckin’ peed on that, I’m not touching it.”

 

Lily grinned. “C’mon.”

 

“No,” said Ripley firmly, and snagged a box to read it. “Fuck me.”

 

“What?”

 

“It takes two bloody hours.”

 

“Two!?” Lily sagged back against a sink. “I did all the shite, the eyedropper, the bloody sheeps blood, all of it.” She closed her eyes, shook her head. “I can’t have a baby, Rip. Not now. Not like this.”

 

Ripley nodded in understanding. “Life finds a way, my love, even if you’re not ready. Let’s get some things for home, and we’ll go back, hide the tests in my room and by afternoon tea we’ll be ready.”

 

0-0-0

Sirius looked up as Ripley and Lily appeared just outside the barriers they had set up for protection, he wiped his forehead with a greasy hand, watched them with narrowed eyes, and turned down his muggle radio that was blaring ABBA. “What’cha got there?” He nodded toward the bags.

 

“Food.” 

 

He leapt to his feet and reached into Lily’s bag, she all but dropped to her knees and rolled away to protect it. “No! No! Not this one!” 

“Here,” Ripley handed him a package of Walkers Nonsuch Toffee. He grinned at her. “Leave her alone, Siri,” she said softly when their fingers brushed.

His brows furrowed in confusion and he looked quickly at the pale Lily in question.  “You’ll tell me?”

 

“When it’s time.”

 

“Rip.” Lily hissed and waved her free hand. Ripley offered Sirius a benign smile and loaded down with her grocers bags followed Lily inside. The man stood for a moment, munching on toffee and twirling his wrench in little circles. He finally shrugged and went back to work on his bike since daylight was fading quickly.



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