A/N: Hello all my lovely readers! I'm sorry this took longer than normal...life got in the way. But, well, chapter 8 is here, and I hope you enjoy it!

James blinked idly, the edges blurred in the world in front of him. A dull aching throbbed behind his eyes, as if to needlessly remind him that not wearing his glasses gave him a headache.

Great. Just the way to start off the day, no? Half blind and cringing from persistent pain.

With a small sigh, James did what he had been trying not to do. He moved.

Which, of course, was exactly what he had been dreading. Because the result was a sharp pain that shot through his side, making him wince once more.

But he was a Gryffindor, and in just moments he had his glasses settled on his nose, his back pressed firmly against the pillows. At last, the room seemed to come into focus...and the sight reminded him of the answer that his weary memory of the night before could not provide.

He was in the hospital wing...and Sirius had dragged him here last night, hadn't he? Yeah...after...after Remus.

Oh god. Remus. He must be in here too...

And right on cue, James could here a ruffling of sheets as the occupant of the next bed sat up. The messy head of hair turned to see that it was, indeed, Remus...just as he had suspected.

And it was with a pang that he watched his friend. Moony was looking quite horrid and sickly...eyes drawn and red, skin pallid, sandy hair absent of luster and falling limp beside his face and in front of his eyes. Poor kid.

"Good morning, James" Remus said miserably, his eyes flicking up to James' face before locking onto the floor. His legs were swung over the side of the bed, his hands grasping the edge with white knuckles. All James could do was force a smile, and try his best to muster a cheery tone to his voice as he replied.

"I'm feeling loads better, mate. Almost good as new!"

That was an utter lie, of course. He felt like crud, really. Everything hurt, especially the crimson gash that was covered with a purple paste and bandages underneath his pajamas. That hurt like hell, and it stung from whatever it was that Poppy had treated it with...

...But what good would it do to tell Remus the truth? He'd be a terrible excuse of a friend if James just told Remus flat out that he really did feel as dreadful as he looked at the moment.

For all of Prongs' efforts, however, Remus didn't even look up. He just nodded, and muttered a lame 'That's good' to nobody in particular.

"Really, Rem. I'm spectacular. I bet Poppy will even let me out later today...and once you're free too we can all sneak out to Hogsmeade and maybe get some butterbeers from the Three Broomsticks. Wouldn't that be great? And then we could stop in the kitchens on the way back, and bring back a feast to the common room or someth..."

"Look, James. I'm really sorry." Remus cut him off. When James looked up from his rambling at the source of the noise, he was met with the sight of troubled amber eyes as they peeked at him through a curtain of bangs.

"Sorry for what, mate?"

"For...for hurting to you. It's my fault you’re here with me instead of with Sirius and Peter, eating breakfast. It's my fault your face is all scratched up...and I'm sure there's more damage that's due to me underneath your clothes. I'm so sorry..."

"But, moony...you didn't mean to hurt me..."

"In some sick and twisted way, I did....didn't I, James?"

James sat and contemplated that for a moment, before shaking his head decidedly.

"It wasn't you, Rem. It was your, dare I say it, furry little problem that sort of...got out of control last night. I guess he's more of a problem than we imagined, huh."

Remus just nodded, before falling into silence.

"Moony, you've got to listen to me when I tell you that it wasn't your..."

But once again, he was cut off by the huffing of a very annoyed school nurse.

"What are you two boys doing, moving about and whatnot. Mr. Lupin, lie back down this instant. You want to make a quick recovery, don't you? And you, Mr. Potter...you ought to be resting too..."

James put on his best smile; the one he had put on for McGonagall not too long before, and replied "But Poppy, why would Remus and I want to rest when we’re in such good company? After all, not every 17 year old gets to have quite so lovely a school healer as we do."

Madame Pomfrey rolled her eyes, lifting the bottom of James shirt to get a better look at the bandages that she had to change.

"You're quite the kiss-up, Mr. Potter." came her reply, although it was soaked in amusement nonetheless. She smiled as James scooted to the other side of the bed when she went to change his bandage. Her comment was met with a snort from Remus' bed, and a small laugh from James himself.

"Indeed I am. Now...it's really not necessary to change that, is it? I can feel it, really. I've made a miraculous recovery during the night, and everything's all healed! Isn't that fabulous? So, really...more of that purple stuff isn't needed. Honest."

"I'm not going to add any more of 'that purple stuff', James. That was only to clean the wound a bit while you caught some much-needed shuteye. According to Mr. Black, you earned a visit to me because of...what was it? A prank you were setting up that went bad, if I remember. Well, I certainly wouldn't put it past you three. It's too bad poor Mr. Lupin got ill last night and couldn't join in your excitement...but then again, perhaps that was a good thing. We definitely didn't need any more close calls. From the looks of that, " Madame Pomfrey said, gesturing towards the bloody bandages that covered a portion of James' side, ", you could have gotten very seriously injured last night. You got lucky, Mr. Potter. Very lucky."

"Aw, I'm sure I would have been fine, Poppy. I always am." James assured, more for Remus' sake (who was surely listening) than anything else.

"It's Madame Pomfrey. Not Poppy. Now, let me take a look at that wound, Mr. Potter."

"No, really...it's alright..."

But it was too late. Poppy was already pealing away the bandages and assessing the damage. And James, of course, was wrong...no miraculous recovery had been achieved. However, there seemed to be nothing that woman couldn't fix.

Sirius sighed, much in the same manner that James had in the hospital wing.

He, too, was dreading something horrible that was surely to come. With a small groan, he buried his head into his hands for the billionth time that hour, his elbows resting on the hard wooden surface of the Gryffindor table.

"Don't worry too much, Padfoot. Maybe Kat will wake up and think it was only a dream or something." Peter offered, his hands twisting in his lap. He believed that just about as much as he believed in Santa Claus, but this lack of confidence in Sirius was unnerving him.

If Sirius wasn't confident, then where did that leave him?

Mr. Black ran his fingers through his hair, before letting his hands fall away to leave a very haggard looking face.

"In a perfect world, Wormtail. In a perfect world..."

Merlin, this was terrible. Remus was going to blame himself for the whole mess. That was something that Sirius knew to be 98% true. He was just like that.

It was almost as if he'd rather take on the responsibility of the entire world and its actions, rather than put the blame on anything else. And to say it just simply happened wasn't a logical excuse to that mind of his. And so, it was his fault.

The fact that it was him who did the damage, albeit in a vicious and twisted state of mind at the time, didn't help his reasoning either.

And James. Sirius felt terrible about that. It should have been him who had helped Kat to safety, and Sirius who had done the physical task. It's easier for a dog to bite back, isn't it? It might have been easier for him to pounce and pin Remus down, as well, rather than just ram him to the ground and watch him get back up over and over. But in the panic of the moment, logical thought like that just didn't happen. It's an instinctual sort of thing, and Sirius' instinct had been to save Kat.

Merlin. He was such a sucker when it came to damsels in distress.

Well, he had paid the price. From what he had gathered, Kat was a fairly intelligent girl. She must have figured out that he was an illegal animagus by now.

So now she knew his big secret. Which would be a problem, because if she told, it would most likely mean he’d be sent to the one place he never wanted to get to.


If even just one lucky star was on his side, however, Kat hadn't realized that Sirius certainly wasn't the only illegal animagus she had befriended. And Sirius hoped to keep it that way.

At least, until he knew that he could trust her. And then it'd still be up to his friends if they wanted to tell or not.

The good part was, that they had something against her, too. And, although Sirius barely knew anything, and he didn't know exactly what it meant, or what good it would do to tell anybody...he knew that what he had said last night had hit home. Just by the expression on Kat's face when he had brought it up.

Her little friend and their argument that night in Diagon Alley certainly seemed to mean something to her. And since that's all Sirius had, that's what he would cling to for now.

"Hey...hey Sirius. Look who it is who's come down for some breakfast!" Peter piped up, dragging the raven-haired teenager out of his thoughts.

And when his grey eyes jumped towards the entrance, his heart jumped up into his throat.

Lily and Kat were awake.

Sirius stood up, waving his hand in greeting at the girls, a mask of cheeriness painted onto his face.

Merlin. He didn't need just one lucky star on his side now. He needed a whole galaxy of them.

Lucky stars were in no way the reason that Kat suddenly stopped dead outside the door to the Great Hall. It was all on her own sheer will, and her mind was now ticking at a mile a minute.

Goddamnit. Couldn't she at least eat breakfast before having to deal with all of this? Sheesh. Nothing in this new Hogwarts life ever gave her a break, did it?

She had thought that she had already figured out the night before what to do. You know, nod, smile, pretend nothing had happened, but really hope to God that Sirius wouldn't try and mention the little interlude with the Death Eater he and the others had caught her in the other night just to convince her to shut up about him being an illegal Animagus.

Oh yes, she'd definitely figured that one out. She wasn't completely useless when it came to figuring things out. And having a dog suddenly transform itself into someone you'd recently befriended was a pretty big clue.

And so now, there was a delicate balance. If she didn't say anything, he wouldn't. If he tried to hint to someone about any suspicions about her interlude, she'd immediately be forced to tell his little secret, and vice versa. It was terrible, but what could either of them do?

She could tell him everything, of course.

...Yeah. Like that was going to happen.

Apparently she had looked pretty stupid standing stock still like that, because Lily stopped to turn around and look at her, a confused look on her face. "Kat? Are you okay?"

"Huh? Um...yeah. I'm fine." Mentally shaking herself, she sped up her pace to come even with Lily, and offered a little smile. "Are we eating or what?"

"Um...yeah..." Lily watched as Kat walked ahead of her towards the table with a newfound determination that hadn't been there a moment before when she'd first spotted the Hall.

What on earth had that been all about?

Following Kat towards the Gryffindor table with an almost cautious expression as if she wasn't quite sure what was going to happen, Lily watched the expression on the new girl's face. It was almost impossible to tell that anything was wrong...if anything were wrong at all. At most, she looked like a blank slate.

Sirius rose to meet them and gave a little wave in greeting, and Lily noticed his facial expression with a jolt of surprise. He looked almost the same as Kat when they'd first walked in.

What the hell was going on here?

Oblivious to Lily's complete and utter confusion, Kat moved to sit down at the table. After a small wave towards Peter, she gave a little smile to Sirius in a way of a "good morning", but it didn't reach her bright blue eyes, which said something completely different. Keep your mouth shut, and I'll do the same.

Well done, she mentally congratulated herself as she looked at the breakfast of oatmeal and pumpkin juice in front of her. You're barely a week into this school, and not only are you being blackmailed, you're the one doing the blackmailing.

Well done indeed.

There wasn't anything she could do about it now...all she could do for the moment was sit, wait, and just see what unfolded. And maybe have some breakfast while she was at it.

Kat began to serve herself some oatmeal, the sight of the sticky, steaming blob bringing a small smile to her face. Just the sight of it made her remember when her great aunt (a Muggle who'd tried every single diet out there), before she died would tease Katrina mercilessly about how she was sure to blow up like a balloon someday with all the junk food she's always eating, knowing that Kat's metabolism could pretty much allow her to eat anything she wanted and not gain an ounce. It was a pretty annoying habit when she was younger and skinny as a pole though. Thank God her body had managed to proportion itself properly since then. Being a beanpole wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

That memory fluttering away across her mind, Kat ate a spoonful of her breakfast before looking around and commenting to no one in particular really. "Where's James this morning?"

Lily, looking up as Kat spoke, glanced around the table, just noticing that the annoying black haired boy wasn't even present. She was right, and she'd also reminded Lily about another one of their little group who wasn't present. "Yeah...and Sirius, do you know if Remus is doing any better?" She'd assumed he'd have been given some sort of healing potion and be out of the hospital wing by now.

Sirius scratched the back of his head awkwardly as Kat inquired to James' location.

No, he hadn't missed that warning look beneath the smile that Kat had sent him just moments before. But she sure wasn't making it any easier to avoid the subject, whether she knew it or not.

"Prongsie? He's in the hospital wing with Remus, though not by his own choice. Poor guy became victim of a prank-gone bad. My fault, really, for convincing him and Peter to set up a prank in the first place, isn't that right Wormtail?"

Sirius turned to look at his friend as Peter nodded enthusiastically, catching on to Sirius' little game and following his lead automatically. Sirius smiled, pleased with his answer. There...it was so vague that it was believable. And nobody would doubt that the Marauders would be sneaking about, setting up a prank in the middle of the night.

Of course, something struck him while he sat there, shoveling food into his mouth. Something James had said over the summer.

"Lily hates the way I'm always pulling pranks on the Slytherins. So this year...we've got to let up a little, alright? And they've got to be discrete, if we do it at all. This is the year, Padfoot. I can feel it. And if getting Lily to even look at me differently means no more pranks, then I'm willing to give that up..."

Damn. Sirius' hadn't taken that into account when he came up with his story. And this was a nice way to pay James back for taking the worst from Moony last night. He had to fix this.

"James didn't want to go out last night. Between being worried for Remus, and not wanting to start any unnecessary trouble with the Slytherins...it took a lot of convincing for him to go." Sirius added, glancing over at Lily as he said this. "He's matured over the summer. He really has."

But just then, something caught his eye. It was a flash of dark brown curls, pulled up into a loose ponytail. A smile slid onto his mouth as he turned to watch the figure that lay beneath, and as the girl placed her bag beneath the bench and slid onto the seat, Sirius could see the profile of her familiar face.

Finally. Something good in a morning filled with troubles.

Sirius practically forgot about the three friends around him, his attention focused on the pretty girl a few yards down the bench. She was alone for now, and seemed indifferent about it, really. This girl wasn't dependant upon others...Padfoot had gathered that from their little chat the morning before.

Brita Rollins. That's what she introduced herself as...of course, Sirius had heard of her. After all, she was a Gryffindor.

An extremely attractive Gryffindor.

It was a wonder why he had never gotten around to her before. But, well...he had always had so many girls who’d been strong and bold and ready, and had let him know that they were interested. He’d never had to go after one of them before, without knowing if they would say yes or not.

But maybe this would prove to be more rewarding than just taking what he was getting. Being the automatic center of attention when it came to girls without trying for it was getting a bit boring, anyway.

His musings were interrupted, however, when he saw a rather arrogant figure approach the lone girl...

This was his chance.

"I'll...I'll be right back, ok?" He muttered distractedly, his head turning towards his friends, his eyes never leaving the brown-haired beauty sitting a little ways away.

Brita sat with one leg tucked beneath her, absent-mindedly chewing on a mouthful of cereal as her eyes drank up the words of the book in front of her. She loved mornings like this, where she could enjoy some peace before her day started, the murmur of sleepy chatter around her acting as her medium between eerie quiet and deafening noise.

Her peace didn't last long, though. Somebody had slid into the seat beside her, his hand falling over the page in front of her, blocking the words from view.

With a sigh Brita turned to see who come to pay her a visit...and found, to her dismay, the person she was dreading to find above every one else short of Lord Voldemort.

"Oh...it's you." She greeted shortly. Pulling the book out from under his fingers she snapped it shut, and placed it on her lap. It seemed her reading time had come to an end.

The boy who sat beside her smirked, his chest puffed out arrogantly.

"The one and only" came his reply, his light-green eyes gazing upon her as if he had already stolen her heart.

"Thank Merlin there's only one of you..." Brita muttered under her breath. The boy pretended he didn't hear.

"What do you say, Rollins. You, me, Saturday night. All alone in the astronomy tower..."

He was leaning forward now, as if his nearness would entice her into saying yes. Brita leaned back slightly, her nose scrunching up for a moment as if to show her disgust at the idea. She was about to decline, but somebody else already beat her to it...

"Oh, I'm sorry Gabe, but you see…Brita has prior engagements on Saturday night. It seems somebody's already asked her for the honor of her company. But, you know...don't feel bad. There are plenty of other fish in the sea. You'll find somebody who doesn't mind having an arrogant git like for a date."

Gabe's green eyes narrowed at the handsome figure of Sirius as he came up behind Brita, his gaze filled with a new level of dislike. Gabriel Spindler was arguably more arrogant than Sirius Black, although he didn't gain nearly as much attention. This Hufflepuff was indeed not hard on the eyes, with his light green eyes, matched with fair skin and light brown hair. His shoulders were broad and his build sturdy, with an ego the size of ten Quidditch pitches combined. Gabe's pride would never allow him to take such a verbal beating from a pretty boy like Sirius. No, he wouldn't win this without a fight.

"Back off, Black. I had claims on her first." Gabe hissed, standing up in order to seem more intimidating. But Sirius didn't back off, as he had been instructed. In fact, her merely shoved his hands into his pockets and tilted his head to the side, as if he were rather enjoying this show of testosterone. With a tone of amusement in his voice, he replied to Gabe's statement.

"You see, Spindler...this is why you can never keep a girl for more than a few days. Women aren't property for men to claim, and they shouldn't be treated as such. I hate to break it to you, but no self-respected woman would go anywhere alone with you on their own free will."

"Why, I ought to..." Gabe started, but Sirius cut him off.

"What you ought to do is leave, for heavens sake...while you still have an ounce of your pride left. Can't you see she's not interested?"

Spindler opened his mouth to reply, but when nothing came out, he closed it. His face was red now, and he looked about ready to explode...but with one last glare he turned his back on the two and stormed away.

Sirius stood quietly for a moment, and Brita took a few moments of her own to shove the novel she'd been enjoying into her bag, before standing up. She was a good seven inches shorter than Sirius' 6'1" stature, but Sirius was used to that. There weren't many girls who were as tall as him. And besides...Brita's height seemed to fit her.

"Thanks." Brita said, her voice quiet as her gaze met Sirius'. Her fingers played with the strap of her book bag, which was now swung over her shoulder. "What you did was really sweet...but you lied to Gabe. Nobody's asked me out for Saturday night."

"Not until now. I was hoping, maybe if you weren't busy, you and I could spend Saturday night together. And I promise, no astronomy tower on the first date. Unless, of course...you want to."

Brita rolled her eyes, but a smile slid upon her lips nonetheless. "At least I have a choice of it this time."

The girl paused after that, looking to the side as she bit her bottom lip in thought. After a moment or two, she nodded, meeting Sirius' gaze once more.

"I suppose it wouldn't do any harm. All right then… Saturday night it is. I'll see you around."

And with that, Brita gave a small wave and a smile, and then left the great hall.

Peter was having trouble trying to keep up a conversation...he never knew what to say around girls, it seemed. They just never responded to him like they responded to Sirius or James or even Remus.

"So...erm...Kat. How do you like Hogwarts so far?" He asked awkwardly, hopeful that, just maybe, Kat's answer would lead them somewhere.

But he didn't need to try and carry a conversation any longer, for Sirius came strolling back at that moment with a victorious smile upon his face.

He sat down with a totally different demeanor, his grey eyes shining brighter than they had when he left.

"Isn't it just a lovely morning?" He asked to nobody in particular. And indeed, a day that had seemed condemned from the start had just taken a turn for the better.

Lily had never been struck with anything as suddenly then as if she'd been struck by lightning. First of all, she'd been furious...no...outraged when Sirius had let it slip that James had gone along with them once more on one of their little pranks.

All of a sudden, it was as if any warm affections she'd been growing for him had simply vanished.

The way he treated people with those pranks. It was disgusting. Arrogant, pompous jerk! If she'd thought that he was even TRYING to let up a little and win her affections, than he had failed miserably! Whatever had happened to him, it served him right! That two-faced, lying, pompous, air headed little....

"James didn't want to go out last night. Between being worried for Remus, and not wanting to start any unnecessary trouble with the Slytherins...it took a lot of convincing for him to go. He's matured over the summer. He really has."

Hang on for a minute there. James Potter, THE James Potter was trying to keep AWAY from a stupid prank instead of jumping head first into it? C'est impossible!

And yet here it was, his best friend telling her this in a tone she'd never heard come from his lips before. Call her crazy, but it sounded like...sincerity.

This was extraordinary. The way her mood kept changing was baffling as well. A moment ago she'd been furious at the raven-haired boy, and now...now she needed little to no conviction to believe that he really was trying to straighten up.

Lily sat back in her chair, oblivious to the world, though faintly aware that life was going on around her, with or without her personal participation. She knew she probably looked dazed, but really...she didn't care.

She probably could have seen this coming. But even after her conversation with Kat that morning, she just wouldn't have been able to see it coming. But it had hit her like a rock, and she wasn't in any way prepared for it.

Lily Evans no longer hated James Potter.

On the contrary...

The threads of mutual affection were ever so slowly making root and strengthening themselves.

When Sirius disappeared, Kat wasn't quite sure if she were relieved or annoyed that he'd been able to take an easy way out by simply walking away, and she was going to have to stay here and try and make pleasant company with a bunch of people she'd just met, while all the while trying to pretend that nothing was wrong.

I'm ready for my close-up, Monsieur Directeur.

"So...Peter." Kat smiled as sweetly as she could, glancing over her shoulder towards the direction Sirius had headed off into. Where had that guy gone? "Um...Hogwarts? It's been...interesting...to say the least."

Well done Kat. That's the understatement of the year.

She barely heard if he responded to her or not. She'd spotted Sirius at the other end of the table, and wasn't sure if she was between relief or rage.

The horny bastard didn't have time to try and straighten out anything COMPLICATED in his life, but he was still able to flirt with another girl! Unbelieveable!

You're not jealous are you?

If she could slap the little voice in her head, she would. Of COURSE not!! I'm just pissed off that he has the ability to shake off worrisome emotions like that. Why couldn't she have that?

If you say so.

Well done Kat, she thought to herself as she helped herself to some more pumpkin juice. You've managed to lose your mind. You're arguing with your inner voice.

Moments later, after a little while of awkward silence, an incredible feat when there were so many people talking and laughing around them, (and with Lily seemingly in her own little world at the moment), Sirius returned to them, bright and cheery, and with the air about him of a man that had just conquered his terrain.

Two could play at this ignorance game. At his comment on the beauty of the day, Kat smiled sweetly at him, though every word held the slightest trickle of venom. "Yes, beautiful." With one gulp, she downed her goblet of pumpkin juice and rose swiftly from the table. "Come on Lil, we don't want to be late for class."

Seeming to shake out of whatever trance she'd been in during most of the course of the meal, Lily suddenly shot up to stand beside her, nearly knocking over her bowl of porridge. "Yeah...don't want to be late..." She looked around at them, as if only just aware of their company, before gently tugging on Kat's arm. "Come on. Transfiguration is right near the hospital wing. If Remus and James aren't out by break, we could stop by and see them."

Nodding her compliance, Kat followed along beside her, feeling as if she were leaving a cloud of fog behind her, and everything suddenly looked a lot clearer and lighter for her to breathe in. She and Sirius were going to have to tread delicately in the dance they were doing, but in the end it would work out the best for the both of them, no secrets told on either side.

As long as he kept his mouth shut.

"What was that about?" Peter asked, tilting his head slightly to the side in confusion. "We still have 20 minutes before classes begin, and some people haven't even gotten down to breakfast yet. Why are they rushing to get to their classes?"

An ounce of Sirius' jubilant expression melted from his face, the corners of his mouth sagging ever so slightly into a frown. He turned his back so that only Peter could see his face, before whispering. "She knows about me."

Peter's expression of confusion increased, his eyebrows furrowing close together. "What does she know about you?"

In reply, Sirius just made a barking noise under his breath. Peter caught on, his complexion paling and his eyes widening slightly.

"Does she know about James and I too? And...and Remus?" He asked, his voice soaked in worry. When Sirius shook his head, Peter visibly relaxed.

"What are you going to do about it? If she tells, then..."

"I can wind up in Azkaban, I know." Sirius cut Peter off. You could tell that he had thought this all over in the very little free time he had had. "But we know something that she doesn't want getting around either. So she won't tell if we don't. Hopefully."

Peter's dark-blonde eye brows were furrowed again, this time in thought. "We...wait, what do we know about Kat that everybody else doesn't?"

"You know...what we saw that night in the Leaky Cauldron? When your family had to go on that last minute vacation or something? Didn't somebody tell you about that?" Sirius replied, as if it were the most obvious thing ever. Peter's brows furrowed even farther, the expression on his face a bit puzzling. It looked almost as if Peter didn't remember going on a family vacation at all...

But suddenly, it turned to one of understanding. Whatever Peter had forgotten had certainly been remembered. The boy shook his head, blonde hair swishing in the motion. "No." he replied, "Nobody ever told me anything extraordinary had happened that night."

"Really? Well, I'll tell you tonight. Just stay in the common room after everyone else has gone, and I'll fill you in."

"Alright. I can do that."


"Hey, Padfoot? Do you think you and Kat are going to have to act all strange around each other for the rest of the year?"

"...I certainly hope not, Wormtail. I certainly hope not."

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