A/N: My goodness. I'm sorry that this took so long to update, you guys! Time flew by without me knowing, and before I got back on track with school and sports and clubs and all that jazz, it'd been way longer than the month I usually try to update my stories in.

At least, I made this one long. Longer than any other, I believe. So, again, I'm very sorry for the long wait. We're at an exciting part now, so I hope you enjoy it!

The mid-October breeze whispered of the nearing winter outside of the common room window. Framed above the window sill was nothing but a masterpiece of natural beauty: the trees of the forest below were clinging to a sea of gold and maroon, as if to celebrate their favorite house of Hogwarts. The sky was a blazing blue with painted clouds blooming where they pleased. Students lazed about on the grounds, worrying of nothing in particular and turning up their collars against the wind. Things at Hogwarts had, indeed, settled into a routine of normalcy during the past month of class and homework and some genuine fun in between.

But there were two students by the names of Mr. Potter and Mr. Black who weren't outside, enjoying the Friday that was upon them. Instead, they sat in the empty common room in front of the burning flames, quietly thinking.

The past month had been...different...from what they had expected. Sirius and Kat treaded around each other carefully in a delicate dance as fate watched with an entertained eye. Surely, Sirius mused...this couldn't go on forever. Something had to happen soon. His grey eyes stared into the fire; chin perched upon his hand as he leaned against the arm of the chair. But something else was on his mind now. Or someone, really. A young woman by the name of Brita Rollins, to be more exact.

The whole school was talking about the pair. Sirius Black had actually stayed with one girl. For a whole month and a half. This had to be breaking some sort of record. It just had to.

And they looked good together as well, much to the dismay of the female population of Hogwarts. They could so often be seen walking hand in hand, or even sitting together in the common room doing homework.

But...that wasn't the only thing the student population was gabbing about in their spare time. No, the Marauders seemed different themselves this year. There was a definite decrease in the amount of pranks pulled. They weren't bragging even half as much as they used to. Sirius hadn't had 12 girlfriends in the past month. Peter could be seen running off from the group at random moments, when he used to stick around constantly. Remus didn't shush the group when they got too loud in the common room (now a rare occurrence anyway). And every time he saw that new girl, Kat, well...he always looked as if he wanted to tell her something. But he never did.

And James? Well, he hadn't asked Lily out yet. Not even once. And every time he looked as if his hand was about to jump to his hair like it had five million times before, he shoved it automatically into his pocket. The only thing that hadn't changed was the way he smiled at her from across the room with that I-don't-want-anybody-but-you smile, and how he watched her when she wasn't looking with a dazed expression.

What was happening to this world? Could it be that the Marauders, kings of the classroom and students alike, were...growing up?

It certainly seemed so. And it was a little unnerving.

Well, tomorrow marked Hogwarts’ first scheduled trip into Hogsmeade, and the student population clung to the one tradition that the royalty of Hogwarts surely wouldn't let down. Something big had to happen. Something big always happened at Hogsmeade with the Marauders there.

And the undeniable fact was that something big was going to happen tomorrow.

The morning of that fateful day dawned gray and breezy. It was definitely not summer anymore, and the fires inside the castle were slowly getting a good reason to be lit.

Kat rolled over onto her side lazily, staring out the window beside her bed to check and see what sort of day it would be like. Yes, she was actually in bed. Over the past month, she'd slowly been trying to get more sleep. It wasn't until about a week ago however, that she'd actually had more than two hours of blissful darkness before she was shaken violently awake in a cold sweat and tears by the terrifying, violent images flashing through her nightmares in rapid succession.

Sitting up now, Kat curled up tightly, warm in her comforter, hugging her knees to her chest. It hadn't exactly been a nightmare the night before that had kept her awake until a few hours before dawn. It was more like a memory. She'd been back in her own home again, the one she'd grown up in, with her parents and her little sister, April. It'd been around midsummer, when Kat was about seven, before they'd been forced to move to America because of the threat of Voldemort. It'd be years before April was born, but they were a content family anyway.

"C'mere Kati!"

Kat weaved through the massive crowds, all of them jostling her as if she didn't exist. Her hair, which was already long and not nearly as dark as it would fade to be as she grew older, flew behind her as she ran, following her father's voice.

They'd gone to a local Renaissance fair that day, for her father, a man who could do quite a bit more than scratch a few notes on nearly any instrument, had gotten a job there to play the role of minstrel to the King and Queen of the fair. That day, Kat and her mother had gone with him, though she'd just run off a moment ago to grab the headpiece that had fallen from her hair, and now ran to catch up with them.

Hurrying along, she caught sight of her father, who leaned down to scoop her up into his arms. It was just past sunset, and the sky was a purplish black, causing people to light their medieval torches to keep the fair illuminated. People drifted about, a mix of modern clothes and period costumes. There was a man juggling flaming torches just to their right, and the tempting smell of roast pork wafted enticingly through the air. Kat had never been to a fair like this before, and the whole day she'd been going around with her eyes wide with wonder.

Her parents had definitely looked the part that day. Her dad, in a cap with a gaudy feather and a cape pulled off the perfect minstrel, flute in his belt and guitar (modern instrument...but no one cared), and her mother in a period gown of pale purple, a silver ribbon threaded through her dark hair.

They'd even dressed Kat up for the occasion. To play the part of a minstrel's daughter, the little girl had been put in a gypsy girl costume, a white dress that came just past her knees, colored scarf around her waist and a crown of braided ribbons in her hair...which kept falling out.

Her father had carried her through the crowd, her on one arm and holding her mother's hand with the other. "And now Kati," he said, using his nickname for her, "we go and play for the King and Queen. And you're to be my little assistant, okay?"

She'd nodded vigorously. Her papa was her hero, and she'd do anything to please him.

They'd gone to a clearing on the grassy fairgrounds, lit up with flaming torches, surrounded by people, and the "King" and "Queen" seated upon their makeshift thrones to watch them. Her father, setting her down on the grass, spoke quietly to her as he tuned his instrument. "You going to sing the echo song with me?"

Kat clapped her hands together with delight. Her father would sing this song with her mother on cold winter nights in front of the fireplace...now she would be able to sing it too!

Standing up, her papa strummed the first chord. "Come and I will sing you..."

Kat piped up happily. "What will you sing me?" The crowd smiled and laughed its appreciation at the little girl's voice.

"I will sing you one-oh."

"What will the one be?"

"One to one lives all alone, forever more shall be, so come and I will sing you...."

"What will you sing me?"

"I will sing you two-oh."

"What will the two be?"

"Two of them are little white babes, coated all in green-oh, one to one lives all alone forever more shall be, so come and I will sing you..."

Her mother had sat there playing the flute along with them, and the three of them had sung their songs, until Kat could remember no more, because she'd fallen asleep on the dewy grass at her mother's feet while her parents continued singing, late into the night, until they carried her home and tucked her away into bed.

The song slowly faded away in Kat's mind. Touching her own cheek, Kat realized from the moistness she found there that she'd been silently crying in her sleep. Dear God how she missed her parents, her family...especially her little baby sister, April, who was only three and barely able to comprehend exactly what was going on.

Leaning her head back, Kat allowed herself to remember. It wasn't that they needed these small jobs to keep going...not that at all. Her father had worked downtown at some office job or another, and her mother had owned her own small shop that sold homemade chocolate down the street. (They had been Muggles, after all). No, her dad had done things like that just for fun, and her mother had always been right there, ready to seize the fun of it. They'd been amazing like that.

She sighed gently. April was in good hands now, barely able to understand that mommy and daddy weren't coming home, and that big sister Kati wouldn't be home until summertime. She'd been terrified when Kat had first told her...but it was for her own good. The family she'd put her with had been friends with her own parents, coming even closer together when Kat had been revealed as a witch and they could let her family know that they weren't Muggles. Worry plagued Kat constantly about her precious little sister, but what could she do? Bringing her to Hogwarts for proper constant supervision was out of the question, and dropping her off in some Muggle help centre was even more dangerous. They didn't know about Voldemort, wouldn't be able to know what had happened to the little girl that mysteriously died in her sleep.

No. April was as safe as she could be where she was. Two full-grown wizards, their older son out of school and working for the Ministry to protect her, and a younger son who would be able to play with April and keep her from getting lonely.

She would be fine. Just fine.

A rustling in the bed across from her snapped her out of her thoughts. Quickly, Kat rushed to wipe her eyes as Lily's head popped up above her blankets.

"Morning," she yawned sleepily, her red hair a tangled mess around her head.

Kat gave her a smile. "Morning."

Slowly, Lily rolled herself out of bed, nothing short of unwillingly. Shivering, she quickly threw on her housecoat. "Jeez. Well, if it's cold in here, that means the temperature will be just right out there."

Kat tilted her head to one side. "'Out there'?"

Lily looked up at her, baffled. "Didn't you remember we're going to Hogsmeade today?"

Okay, she'd completely forgotten. But now that Lily mentioned it, she was more than just a little excited. Having lived in America for the past six years, when it was suggested once they discovered that Kat was a witch that it would be much safer for her to have schooling there, Kat had never visited any full wizarding villages before. This would be something completely new.

Slowly, the other girls rose from their sleep, and they all began to get ready, standing in front of the long, enormous mirror in the bathroom, carefully trying to fix hair and makeup, because God knows that women do NOT roll out of bed looking like they want to.

Another of the benefits of Hogsmeade was that those attending would not have to wear the Hogwarts uniform for the day, but rather their own clothes. A great break to the monotone look that they all seemed to hold onto for most of the year, except when they were in the common room or on holiday.

Lily sat on a chair in front of the mirror, eyes half squeezed shut, yet peeking through her lashes at her reflection at the same time. She'd dressed herself in a close-fitting cream colored cashmere sweater, just warm enough for her not to have to wear anything as a coat, a dark green corduroy skirt that fell to her ankles with only a hint of a slit on each side, warm socks and black boots, as well as a jade pendant necklace around her neck. She sat there warily watching Kat in the mirror, as the other girl stood behind her, fiddling with her thick red hair with her wand.

Alice laughed from beside them where she was carefully applying eyeliner. "Lily, you look like you're going to tear Kat's eyes out with those slitted eyes like that."

"I won't have a reason to, as long as she keeps that wand away from any body parts and doesn't make me look like an Oompa Loompa."

"Those guys didn't have much hair. And what they had was green, not red." She put away her eyeliner and applied a shimmery gloss to her lips with a flourish, talking to the others through their reflections in the mirror.

"One of those Troll dolls then. Either way, I better not look like a puffball." Kat clicked her tongue.

"Don't trust my genius do you?" She twirled her wand around a little bit. "I don't know why you fight it Lily," she commented, a slight shimmer coming from her wand as she carefully styled Lily's out-of-control curls into loose, natural waves around her shoulders. Kat was already dressed as well, though her clothing consisted of dark blue jeans, a long white tank top, a dark brown corduroy jacket, embroidered with roses around the cuffs, and tall black boots with barely a heel, hidden beneath her jeans, as well as her usual jewelry. While she was working hard to make sure that Lily's hair was falling just the way she wanted it to, her own hair was thrown up into a chic messy bun, her bangs sweeping across her face, dancing around her eyes.

A few minutes more, and she nudged Lily in the back. "Go on, open your eyes, it's not like I shaved your head or anything."

"But my hair looks terrible when it's curled!"

"You keep your eyes closed much longer and you'll discover you look a lot worse with no hair at all.

"They're open!" And indeed, her bright green eyes did snap open as she said the words. "...Wow."

Lily ran her fingers through her red hair, admiring the way that Kat had made it fall, not in the corkscrew curls that she usually woke up with, making her head look like a big puffball, but just in loose, gentle waves that flattered her face. Kat smiled triumphantly. "Like it?"

Lily kept running her fingers through her hair in amazement. "Love it." She turned to look at the other girl. "However, I do NOT have enough time in the morning to do this every day."

Kat shrugged. "Fine. Special occasions then." She smiled deviously. "Your first date with James perhaps?"

Lily threw her hairbrush at her.

Not long after, the two of them hurried down the stairs into the common room, Lily pulling on a pair of black finger gloves, and Kat wrapping a long, thin pale blue knitted scarf around her neck. "Where're the boys?"

Lily glanced around at the nearly empty common room. "I guess they left already?" She slipped her second glove on. "Or they're not even awake yet."

Shrugging, the two of them headed downstairs. A quick security glare from Filch, and they were free, free for an entire day to do whatever they wanted.

"I feel kinda bad about leaving them behind," Kat commented, glancing back at the receding castle.

Lily thought for a moment. "We could check at the Three Broomsticks later, this little pub that's open to students. They're usually there drinking Butterbeer if they can't find anything interesting to do."

Tugging on Kat's arm, Lily dropped the subject quickly by pulling the new girl into Honeydukes, and as usual, the place had its usual effect of awe-inspiring glory that made everyone forget pretty much anything.

Kat wandered through the crowded place, staring at all the different kinds of candy and sweet imaginable. "Has anyone ever passed out in here?"

Lily laughed, checking the price on the Sugar Quills. "Not that I know of, but I wouldn't be surprised."

They exited the shop a while later, Lily uncertainly braving a box of Every Flavor Beans, and Kat slowly licking away at a spiraled lollypop that spun slowly in the breeze like a pinwheel toy so she never licked the same spot (or flavor) twice.

Outside, they met up with Alice, who'd just arrived, and the three of them headed to explore Zonkos, where though they didn't buy anything, they got quite a bit of amusement out of Charlie Papkins, who'd tripped and fallen into a box of Nose-Biting Teacups, and squealed in pain as they sprang to life and began snapping at him from every angle until someone took pity and pulled him out.

The girls were headed back outside when they ran into Frank, who'd come looking for Alice with a flower and a raised-eyebrows invitation to Madam Puddifoots. From the look on his face, Kat didn't need to know what that place was; the suggestive look in his eyes and Alice's blush told her everything she needed to know.

And so, once again Lily and Kat set off alone. The breeze began to die down a little as they wandered down the streets, only the odd dead leaf scuttering by as if by its own free will, and as they finished up their sweets, Lily turned to Kat. "Do you want to go up and check out the Shrieking Shack? It's just up that hill there," she pointed down to the end of the street.

Intrigued, Kat nodded, and the two of them started the short trek up the hill, the sky slowly darkening above them, threatening rain, a thunderstorm even, if the distant rumbling thunder wasn't just an empty threat.

Leaning on the fence that surrounded the Shack, Lily explained the lore of the place to Kat.

"The villagers are terrified of this place. They say that on moonlit nights you can hear violent ghosts raging and howling inside, ripping up furniture and breaking everything inside, making a terrible racket. No one will go near it, and it's all boarded up, like someone thought that maybe that would be able to keep the ghosts inside." She gave a little half laugh.

Kat leaned upon the fence as well, crossing her arms beneath her as she stared up at the Shack. "Have you ever heard the noises?"

Lily shook her head. "We all have to be back before dinner, well before nightfall, so no Hogwarts student is ever here late enough to be able to hear them. A lot of people have said they're going to try and stay the night here, punishments by teachers be damned, but they always chicken out in the end."

Kat's dark blue eyes followed the dead leaves dancing in what little wind circled around the Shack. Violent ghosts? Howling noises? It sounded fantastically spooky, mainly...actually, completely because it was just a story, the lore of suspicious village folk who'd run out of stories to tell by their cooking fires. This was just a story, a legend, unlike the horror stories of Voldemort, a very real, very threatening force that could strike at any moment, like a deadly cobra.

A chill passed over Kat, and she shuddered slightly. Lily glanced at her. "Cold?"

She shook her head. "Nah. I think someone just walked over my grave."

She stared up at the house, windows dark and half-heartedly boarded up. Whoever had done the nailing, had obviously figured out that doing a determined job was basically a pointless task when it came to ghosts.

Suddenly, Kat stood back. Lily didn't notice the jerkiness in her movement, and assumed that the position had simply been uncomfortable.

Kat stared up at the house with unease. Had she really seen a shadow pass beside the window?

Don't be silly, she scolded herself. That's just your overactive imagination, thanks to your morbid thoughts about Voldemort.

Maybe so. But even still, it was worth checking out.

"C'mere," she said to Lily, tugging her gently away from the fence. "I think I saw something up there."

"What? Where?"

"Against one of the back windows, you can see right through to the back here, see?" She pointed. "C'mon, let's check it out."

Holding Lily's wrist, she pulled her along to the other side of the Shack. Here, the structure's angle blocked their view of the street, but for those standing on the street, they were easily visible. It was a strange angle that while was secluded...at the same time it wasn't.

Lily lifted her green eyes to stare up at the Shack. "I don't see anything. Are you sure it wasn't just an owl flying by?"

Kat scanned the place as well, her bright blue eyes flicking back and forth with an almost restrained alarm. Something didn't feel right. "No...I'm sure I saw someth-"

Kat felt a rush of air trickled past the back of her neck. Fear suddenly filled her, before she even knew why, and she turned around, ever so slowly.

"Hello precious."

The Death Eater behind her was enormous. If she'd thought that the guy who'd drawn her down to the grounds last month was huge, she was sadly mistaken by the girth of the man in the black robe before her. He towered over both of the girls, and his voice echoed inside his mask, giving a chilling effect.

These men didn't work for Voldemort for nothing. They were frightening.

Lily gave a half strangled scream when she turned around and saw him, but it was carried away on the wind that had picked up again. Kat's primal instinct was to run. To get out of there was quickly as possible, with Lily. Grabbing the other girl's sleeve, she whipped them both around, intending to race back down the hill, on instinct alone. Her brain wasn't thinking clearly.

Unfortunately, it didn't matter if she were thinking clearly or not. Directly behind them stood yet another Death Eater, slightly smaller than the first, and she suspected that it was the same one who'd threatened her on the streets of London when Remus and the rest had first seen her.

"Going somewhere?" She could almost see the sadistic grin beneath his mask.


She spun around as the first one spoke again, grabbing Lily's arm tightly, almost like a primal instinct of protection, and as a grounding for herself to make sure she didn't pass out or anything stupidly girly like that.

"We've come to do a little bit more...persuading." He reached out for her, and she stepped swiftly backwards.

"Come now girl, two little words and it's finished."

"No." She was surprised how steady and defiant her voice was. She held her chin level. If they were still on orders not to kill her, then she should be okay.

He pulled out his wand, and out of the corner of her eye she could see the other doing the same. "Wrong answer."

Lily shoved in close beside her, and Kat could literally feel her trembling with fear. Then she realized that it wasn't fear making her move. She was going for her wand.

In the distance, she could see figures running towards them...

Kat couldn't think. She didn't even have time to whip out her own wand before she heard a muttering and a bright red jet of light shot narrowly beside her ear, barely missing her and Lily as well.

"That was a warning," the enormous one said venomously. "Now then, let's see if you can't give us the right answer."

There was a chuckle of laughter from the other one. "Come on now precious, prove to us that Mudbloods actually have brains."

Kat's cheeks flamed with anger. They were mocking them!

A tingle started to spread through her fingertips, and she didn't have enough of a clear head to recognize the warning signs. Thunder rumbled overhead, and lightning flashed, illuminating the Death Eater's masks. "One more try poppet, and then you and your friend will go somewhere where there's no more pain like this."

It happened in a flash. Lily whipped out her wand, the Death Eaters raised theirs, pointing them at the two girls. A small group of people that she couldn't recognize in the impending darkness, wind and blowing leaves of the storm came ever closer, and they all pulled out their wands, pointing them directly at the Death Eaters. Kat snapped.

She made to lunge out at the Death Eater, in furious rage, and at the same time he shot his spell straight at her, a jet of red light, which usually meant one of three things...the Unforgivable Curses. With a sound like a gunshot, there was a brilliant flash of blinding white light, illuminating the surrounding area as if it were daylight.

It lasted a bare second. All at once, they were back in the darkness of the storm, the rain came pouring down in a sheet of water, like buckets had been upturned over their heads, and the small group somehow felt a strange crackle in their chests...not painful, merely uncomfortable. The Death Eaters were nowhere to be seen.

Soaked instantly to the bone, clothes sticking to her skin and her bangs flattened to her face, Kat stood still, catching her breath, desperately realizing what had happened, and who she was with.

This was bad.

"You four spend way too much of your money in that shop." Brita commented, a teasing smile on her lips as Sirius' arm snaked around her waist, pulling her close. It was chilly out today, and she appreciated his extra body warmth.

"Zonkos is worth ever knut and sickle spent there, darling. Haven't I taught you anything?" Sirius replied, squeezing Brita to him for a moment before walking comfortably together. James was walking on the other side, and then Remus and then Peter.

And to make things better, they were all loaded with joke supplies from Zonkos. Although they had vowed not to pull as many pranks in their last year, it was almost tradition to stop at Zonkos and spend half of the money they had brought with them. Even Brita had a small bag with the trademark 'Z' printed on it. Another twenty five percent was spend on sugar-loaded products from Honeydukes, which they had stopped in first of all. And last but not least came Butterbeers from the Three Broomsticks. It was the last stop they were planning on for the day, and it seemed fitting that with all that had changed this year, at least their Hogsmeade traditions stay the same.

Afterward, they would go back to the common and sample all of their newly purchased treats. And then they'd maybe head down to the Quidditch Pitch and play around a bit. After that it'd be time for dinner, and, well, after that...the night would lead them where it wanted.

But for now, it was butterbeer time. Yum.

Sirius opened the door for Brita, who slipped out of his grasp and through the entrance. Sirius stayed where he was until everybody else was safely in and out of the wind, before he himself followed.

There. Their usual table by the window was even left open for them.

Being Hogwarts royalty had its advantages sometimes.

Taking their seats, the five were quiet while they waited for Madame Rosmerta to come and take their orders. As great as today was turning out to be so far, it could have been even better.

If only Kat and Lily had come with them.

But things had been so awkward between Kat and the Marauders ever since she found out about Sirius. She seemed nice enough to trust, but the fact was that Sirius could wind up in Azkaban if she let his secret slip. And while Kat might have thought that they had a nice bit of dirt on her as a sort of trade-off, it really wasn't true. After all, they didn’t even know what her secret actually meant.

So Kat'd been confronted by Death Eaters. Big deal. There were few people in their day and age who hadn't. Voldemort was growing ever more powerful, and it was a scary thought that he was recruiting young witches and wizards. Scary, but true.

Kat hadn't told them of anything that might have sparked the Death Eaters to come for her, though. In fact, Kat hadn't told them much of anything relating to her life before Hogwarts. So, according to the Marauders...they really had nothing to keep her from spilling the beans except trust and friendship.

And it was a risky cliff to be dangling over, but it was all they had to rely on.

For now, anyway.

"Holy..." James began to mutter under his breath, his knuckles suddenly white as he clutched the edge of the table. His hazel gaze was locked onto the glass window. Obviously, something that was happening outside had caught his attention.

Of course, his gaze had originally latched onto a splash of beautiful red hair amongst the browns and blonds and blacks. Lily, in short. But then, his eyes had always been magnetically attracted to her.

But...she wasn't having fun with Kat, like he'd expected. She was...

Oh god.

"What is it, Prongs?" Peter asked, suddenly curious and alert.

"Death Eaters." James blurted, already standing. The other three boys stood up as well, and Brita stared up at them looking quite confused and frightened.

"Where?" Remus asked, already dreading the worst. And he certainly got it.

"Surrounding Lily and Kat..." Came James' hurried answer. Thankful he hadn't taken off his jacket just yet, he left his packages on the floor beside his chair and darted to the door, hand already digging in his pocket for his wand. Anybody who knew him could tell he was on the verge of panicking. His Lily was in trouble, along with their new friend.

Remus and Peter followed suit, halfway to the door already as Sirius leaned down and gave Brita a quick kiss on top of her head. He whispered a hurried "I'll meet you back in the common room later. Don't go outside until you know its safe." And began pushing his way through the crowd that was forming by the window already to watch the scene.

Those who didn't have to fear the death eaters were splattered across the cobblestones in groups, whispering gleeful gossip to each other. They pointed up at the two girls and the two death eaters and the four boys who were sprinting towards the scene as fast as their legs allowed. Those with sense and something to lose realized the dangers or having a pair of death eaters so near, however, and ran to the closest shelter they could find. Screams filled the air.

But the four didn't even notice the impending storm, or the on-lookers. They were only worried about two girls, trapped between two death eaters that towered over them in comparison. The Marauders plowed on until there was just 20 yards between them and the girls. Then 10 yards. Then 8. Then 6. Then 4.

By 2 yards they had their wands at the ready, aiming and just about to fire.

But they never got the chance.

Suddenly a figure that looked like Kat in the darkness lunged at the larger of the two death eaters, and a burst of red light shot from the end of his wand. Sirius could hear Remus scream somewhere beside him, and Sirius tensed all over. Oh god. A loud, sharp sound filled the air, as if the noise itself was cutting through the atmosphere, and a light as blinding as the sun illuminated the area.

And then, it was over.

The rain came down in sheets, flattening even James' hair to his head. For an eternity the six teens stood in silence under the grieving sky, all eyes on one dark-haired girl.
Screams echoed in the town below them as people ran to keep dry and recovered from their fright, but those on the hill stayed on the hill. Some, like Lily, were shivering from fright and coldness, their arms wrapped around them to keep safe and warm. Others were breathing heavily, recovering from the adrenaline rush that had flooded their veins. And the rest were just frozen stock still, not daring to move until somebody else did.

Finally, Sirius spoke, though his words were no less comforting then the deafening silence they had just faced.

"We need to talk. Now."

And with that, he placed his unsteady hands on Kat’s shoulders and began to steer her down the slippery hill. Peter hurried after him, and Remus waited until he saw James place his hand on Lily's back protectively, before all three of them followed Sirius' example.

Remus knew that Lily had just given James a really bad fright. He could have just lost her, in those few moments. And though he couldn't hug or kiss her or comfort her like he might want to, he settled for merely placing his hand on the small of her back. As long as his fingers could feel the wet material of her sweater, then he would be all right.

But Remus had been scared just as severely. And he was still frightened. This wasn't what they had been hoping it was. The death eaters weren't just trying to recruit Kat like they did any other witch or wizard. The fact that they had showed up in broad daylight in clear view and attacked her and along with friend had disproved that theory.

And that was what frightened him so much. For now, Kat was all right. But the fact that the one girl he had had feelings for in the longest time was pretty darn high on Voldemort's most wanted list meant that she wouldn't stay safe for long, and that unnerved him greatly. It was scaring him to death.

Scarier still was that Remus himself wasn't totally in the clear either. Being a werewolf automatically put him in danger of being recruited. It was like some nightmarish draft against those he cared for most so that he could work under the creature that had cursed him: Fenrir. But Death Eaters hadn't shown up at Hogsmeade for him, had they? No.

So whatever it was that Voldemort wanted from Kat, it must have been pretty valuable.

The group made their way in a solemn urgency into the school and through the halls. Sirius led them up one staircase, then another, then another, then another, until their muscles were screaming their resistance in the form of pain and exhaustion.

But finally, Sirius pulled Kat to a halt and stopped himself in front of a bare patch of wall. Letting go, he did something that James, Peter, and Remus had seen him do dozens of time before, and had done themselves.

He shut his eyes and walked in front of the wall once, then back. Then he did it again. And after the third and last time...a door appeared suddenly in the wall.

"Come on." Sirius said, all tones of playfulness that normally plagued his voice lost. He ushered everybody in, before closing the door behind him. Turning his back to the group, he twisted the shining key that was left in the door until he heard a satisfying 'click'.

They didn't want any surprises while they were there. Well...any coming from the outside, anyway. There were sure to be lots of surprises coming from the mouths of those they had thought they knew at least in the slightest bit. From those that now glanced around the room cautiously.

"Sit." Sirius ordered, gesturing to the seat. "Things can't go on like this. We can't leave you girls and let you be attacked again. We can't let you go around with a secret that can jeopardize our futures…that can get me locked away in Azkaban, Kat. This is the second time we've witnessed an attack on you, though I'm almost positive there have been many other times."

He began pacing back and forth in between the two couches that sat in front of the fire, like the gutters that would lead you nowhere but the flaming pins that made up scariest game of bowling you'd ever dare to play. The walls were a dark, rich, mysterious blue, and the candles that set the dark corners aglow were a royal purple. Indeed, the room did have a sense of importance to it...but at the same time the blue of the walls were a little unnerving. It was like a dark foreboding ocean, or a sky so vast that it cut them off from the rest of the world.

And in a way, they were cut off. It was a good thing, too, because a lot of things that would be said were best said away from the ears of those less trustworthy.

Sirius paused in his pacing and pushed on through the silence once more. "Two times have...weird incidences occurred around Kat. First, the Dark Arts class in September. And now, the obvious power she exerted in the hill. Not all witches can do that, Kat. In fact, you're the first I've ever met. I may be taking a shot in the dark here...but V...Voldemort's after something, and I think that that's it."

He sunk into an empty space on one of the couches, his elbows resting on his knees and his hands running through his hair before he spoke again. "We need to be clued in or else we'll all be in greater danger than we are already. Too many secrets are being kept from people who only want to help. So this is what we're going to do to solve the problem." Sirius looked at James with an ’Are you ready for this?' expression on his pale face. His hair was still damp, as were his clothes. They now hung on him awkwardly, and so he pulled off his Jacket and stuffed it over the couch.

"It's not fair to just ask Kat to spill all her secrets. We would be holding all the cards then, and nobody wants to be in a game of high-stakes poker without any cards, right? So we'll all go around and tell one of our secrets. And no stupid stuff, like 'I had a fling this summer with so-and-so'. Real secrets...ones with consequences. Is that all right with you guys?" He asked, looking at the people surrounding him. Lily and the remaining of the Marauders all nodded their heads hesitantly. He didn't want to look at Kat, because if she didn't do this then they'd still be at square one. "To make sure that none of us just run out of the room and tell the wrong people the wrong things, I asked for this when I requested this place. " At this point, he held up a small book, it's cover hard and golden and shining bright as new, it's pages creamy and blank. "It's a promise book. Basically, if you sign any sort of promise within this book, it will keep you from telling anybody but those who signed the page...unless it sees fit to do otherwise. So, if one of us were in mortal danger and the secret needed to be shared with somebody else to go get help, then you'd be allowed to. The only other way to break the promise is if all those who signed before sign again and write that the promise has become invalidated. James and I found it in his library last year, and fooled around a bit until we figured it out."

With a single wishful thought, a quill and bottle of black ink appeared on Sirius' lap. He took it and twisted the cap to the bottle, dipped the quill into it, and then began to scribble on the first empty page:

'We, Sirius Black, Lily Evans, Remus Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, James Potter, and Katrina VanDoyle, do hereby promise not to reveal any of the secrets entrusted to us tonight in the Room of Requirement.'

Beneath it, he signed his name.

"Alright. I guess I'll start then." He took a deep breath and, staring into the fire, he said in a clear voice "I'm an illegal animagus. I turn into a dog at will. If anybody found out, I could spend a hell of a lot of time in Azkaban, and that's definitely something I'm not looking forward to."

He let it sink in to the only person who didn't yet know, Lily, before handing her the ink, the quill, and the book.

"Your turn."

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