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Welcome, welcome to another chapter. Well, they say good things come to those who wait and I can’t say how thrilled I am to see that you have returned. Yes, yes things are unfortunately running down on this story. I would say only about two chapters left. This rest of this story will have to be completed pretty quickly as my writing has now become a race against time. You see in about a week and a half my family is moving, and when we move I have no idea what my internet access will be like. Obviously, no internet no story. But I’ll try as hard as I can to finish it before I have to leave. And on one more note, packing totally sucks! But enjoy this chapter and be very glad that you have nothing to pack…I hope. (Unless it is for vacation in which case I am beyond jealous of you.) Oh, and by the way this chapter is VERY long. You might want to take it in two shots. I would.

Chapter Twenty One

My Betrayal

The war got worse as the months continued to pass and everything got worse with it. As tight as things were before, they got even tighter. James and Sirius were being desperately overworked; even though they were just beginning Aurors they had work being dumped on them from all levels. I felt completely insignificant continuing to work at Flourish and Blotts but I didn’t have any other choice. Normally the job wasn’t too bad but it got worse with the war. Diagon Alley was not as popular as it used to be considering most people were having trouble affording the things they normally bought. Business at the store ran to an all time low making work just as low. My wages were decreased because of the slow business; just what I needed.

As much as James and Sirius were being overworked, Lily was even more. It would be awhile before she would start her maternity leave and the hospital was always full of new war injuries. I was shocked beyond belief that the press still seemed bent on not letting the public know exactly what was going on in their world.

“Why are we still getting this crap?” I asked Vicky one night, gesturing to the latest edition of the Daily Prophet. Vicky only responded with a shrug as I chucked the paper into the garbage.

Peter was another person who was being overworked. The problem was that I didn’t know what he was working on. He would simply go every morning and return every night. Sometimes he would go on business trips and be gone for a few days at a time. Nearly every time I visited Peter’s apartment I was sure to run into Nott. It became viciously annoying and my dislike for the man continued to grow. It was a hard thing to put my finger on but he was just…so…so irritating. He was always with Peter and they always seemed to be talking. And the way they would always talk in hushed tones made me think that they were talking about something really important, but it was something that I couldn’t know about. Peter used to tell me everything, now it seemed like he was telling Nott.

It wasn’t that Peter didn’t talk to me. He did talk but it always felt that he was holding something back. Something was on the tip of his tongue but every time he seemed about to reveal what it was he would stop himself and take in a deep, shuddering breath. I would have loved to ask him what was going on but I truly didn’t know the questions to ask. It felt as if I was chasing a ghost; a shadow. Sometimes it was there and sometimes it wasn’t. How could I worry myself over something that I couldn’t even describe? Worried about one of my stupid paranoid feelings? I couldn’t be. In times such as these faith is needed above all things; faith I could not afford to lose. I spilled all these feelings to Lily when she was about three months into her pregnancy.

“What is it that you don’t like about him?” Lily asked as she dug into a thick piece of cheesecake; her latest craving at four months pregnant.

“I don’t like him because he’s always there!” I responded; pouring myself a glass of juice. “He and Peter are always together and…”

“You’re jealous?’ Lily asked, licking a creamy bite from her fork.

“I am NOT jealous!” I protested, promptly choking on the gulp of juice in my mouth. I calmed myself, putting a hand on my chest. “I really don’t think its jealousy. I mean when Peter and I are together he is so wonderful. It’s not as if he neglects me when we’re together. It’s just that I feel like he’s talking to Nott instead of me. And he’s so wonderful that when I think like this I just end up feeling guilty.”

“You can’t ever feel guilty for your feelings,” Lily responded wisely. “Maybe you should just talk to him about this.”

“But what is this?” I asked, confusing myself. “How would I even begin to explain how I’m feeling? Sometimes I don’t even know myself. I’ve never been this way before. I find myself randomly crying for no reason at all. As if something is coming but I don’t know what it is?”

“Hey, I’m supposed to be the one that is weeping at random times,” Lily said, her bright red hair pulled back into a high ponytail. “Just talk to him. Peter understands you so I’m sure you will both get to the bottom of these feelings.” I grinned at Lily and gave her a hug.

“Alright, I’ll talk to him.”

********

I didn’t talk to him. As I headed to work for a short shift I talked myself out of it. Peter did tell me things. I mean Peter told me something truly severe. He had killed someone in the time that he had disappeared and he admitted it to me. That could not have been easy.

When I finally reached Diagon Alley and entered the shop it was in its usual empty state. Everyone looked up when I entered, hoping that I would be a customer. Their expressions darkened when they saw it was simply Katie Potter. I was about to sit at my desk and begin to sift through the tiny pile of paperwork that had found its way to me when Mr. Fredrick, the store manager, called me to his office. His office was really just a small, rickety desk set up in the back corner of the store. Mr. Fredrick was a small, bald man with a pointed brown mustache. He had always been kind to me and his eyes were sympathetic when I reached the back of the store.

“Katie,” he started, gently and I could sense the foreboding feeling in the air. Mr. Fredrick went on to explain how they were stretched thin for any sort of money and that they could no longer keep me on the staff.

“We’re letting you go,” he ended his speech saying. I know he felt bad so that helped. It let me know that he did care. I had been beyond angry when I left my job at the Prophet but I didn’t feel nearly as bad after I lost this one. This job had been holding me back.

Still, I felt rather downcast when I slumped back to my apartment four hours earlier than usual. The mail was on the kitchen counter as usual and two letters with bright blue seals in the shape of a phoenix caught my eye. I sifted the rest of the letters off of them and found that one was indeed addressed to me., the other for Vicky. I moved over to the couch and slit open the seal with my finger before slipping a thin piece of parchment out of the envelope. The letter was written in tall, slanted letters with an elegant curve.

Dear Ms. Potter,

I urge you to make sure that no one is reading this over your shoulder for it is for your eyes only. You have been sent this letter because I know that you will be able to effectively help our cause. I know you know that the war is getting worse and that the Ministry is taking few if any steps to prevent it from escalating even further. I feel that the only way we can stop this war is by taking swift and decisive action. I propose gathering our most clever minds in all fields of magic and thinking. Together I believe that we will be able to put an end to this war before more lives are affected. So if you are feeling what I am feeling and are hoping for what I am hoping for I ask you to join me at the Shrieking Shack this Saturday night at 8:00. A strange meeting place you may think but these are strange times. Do not under any circumstances speak of this to anyone until after this meeting and you meet the rest of the people who will become part of this society. The Ministry will not look kindly upon this forming so we must use the utmost discretion. This shadow of evil will pass but we can make it pass quicker. I know I will see you Saturday night and I am looking forward to it so we can begin to put an end to this war for good.

Respectively yours,

Albus Dumbledore

The Order of the Phoenix

-Also please bring this letter as you will need it in order to be admitted.

The door slammed and I jumped a mile. I heard Vicky laugh from behind me.

“Are you alright?” Vicky grinned. “You look a little pale.”

“I need to talk to you about something,” I replied, running my finger tip along the words Order of the Phoenix.

“Wait,” I told myself as Vicky started to put her things down. The letter urged us to use absolute discretion. What if she hadn’t received the same letter? What if it was something totally different? By the time I had gotten my mind around these thoughts Vicky had come over and sat n the couch next to me.

“What’s up?” she asked casually.

“Nothing,” I responded lamely. “Just make sure you look through the mail. I thought I saw something in there for you.”

********

Considering I now, yet again, had no job the next few days that led up to Saturday really dragged by. Luckily there was a supreme air of excitement that made the days slightly more bearable. However, it was insanely hard not to speak to anyone about this, considering how secretive and intense it sounded.

Finally Saturday night arrived and I left a little before eight so I would be exactly on time. I was more than a little nervous. What was this all about? The letter had intrigued me, to say the least, but I couldn’t help feeling a little on edge. What if this was some kind of vicious practical joke. Maybe Valarie was still out there trying to screw up my life again. I had to giggle at that thought.

I had never been to the Shrieking Shack, it had always scared me. After Remus’ confession I of course knew it wasn’t haunted. However, knowing it was where Remus suffered and changed into a werewolf didn’t ease my tension. I spent a lot of time staring and the Shrieking Shack before I had the courage to go knock on the door. I had always imagined the place to be deserted so it felt very strange to be knocking on the door. However when I did knock the door was promptly opened and a house elf, with tremendously long ears appeared.

“Your letter Miss?” he squeaked importantly. I showed it to him, wondering what the house elf would do if I was a person that didn’t have a letter. Would he smack me with his ears?

“This way please,” the house elf said sharply heading off down a narrow hallway. The Shrieking Shack was in the nicest words, crude and disgusting. Why would someone pick this hole for such an important meeting? The walls were falling apart and they were a sickly grey color. Floorboards were sticking up from the ground looking like gnarled fingers threatening to grab me. The house scurried in front of me nimbly; me following, tripping like a fool. He, or she, finally stopped at a door and gestured for me to enter. I nodded, smiling before slipping inside. The room was ridiculously cramped. Two of the walls were terribly small, making the room a sharp, rectangular shape. A long table, one that looked as if it had given many splinters in the past, was shoved into the center with rickety chairs around it. Dumbledore was sitting at the head of this table, beaming in light blue robes, contrasting intensely with the gloomy backdrop.

“Ms. Potter!” he exclaimed, smiling. “Please, come sit!” I scanned the room and to my utter relief saw Remus sitting at one end of the table. I smiled pleasantly at Dumbledore before sliding into the seat next to Remus.

“Thank god you’re here,” I whispered. “I was starting to think…”

“That you were in the wrong place?” Remus tried.

“No, that I had gone absolutely mad.” I was even more thrilled when James, Lily, Sirius, and Vicky joined us not to much later. There were people I didn’t know of course though I did recognize a few other Hogwarts graduates from our grade. But…no Peter.

“Don’t worry,” I told myself. “We don’t even know what this thing is about. I might not even want to be a part of it.” As if hearing my thoughts, Dumbledore stood and began to address the small group of people, about twenty.

“Welcome to the first meeting of the Order of the Phoenix,” he said, in that soft, yet commanding voice. “In my letter I began to explain what it is that we will be doing here. We have one main purpose, and that is to stop Voldemort, and more importantly the war. Voldemort is a terribly powerful wizard with a lust for pain and suffering of innocent people, especially muggles. He has a band of followers called Death Eaters who are just as bent on killing and rampaging our world. I know you all know this. I just want to remind you what it is we are up against. This is not going to be easy. People could be injured, or your very life might even be lost. I feel it necessary to tell you that this is beyond dangerous work that I am asking you to become involved with. If you feel that you cannot deal with such tremendous pressure I ask you not to partake in these events and leave here guilt free. I am not commanding you to be a part of this organization, it is simply a request. The twenty two people I have invited here tonight have special talents, talents that can and will help us put a stop to this war.”

Dumbledore continued by going around the room, pointing to each person and how they would be assisting the Order. Some would be excellent spies, not only to spy on the enemy but on the Ministry as well. Some would be recruiters; searching for more people to join us. When he got to Lily he explained how she could give immediate care to those who were injured in the field of duty. James and Sirius had fantastic dueling skills, not to mention tracking skills and many more. Remus had an excellent knowledge of spells and he also had a wonderful head of wisdom on his shoulders, which is more valuable than a wand.

Before Dumbledore got to me I had to wonder what it was he thought I was good at. What the hell was I good at? I couldn’t think of much. Too late. He was looking at me.

“Ms. Potter is a fantastic writer; she used to work for the Daily Prophet.” Well he certainly didn’t miss a trick.

“In today’s world the public needs to be informed, not of stories fabricated by the government but the truth. If they don’t know the truth they cannot be expected to react properly to the situation that is currently barring down upon them. So I think it would be advantageous to have Ms. Potter and some others of course, to begin a sort of underground newspaper. We would distribute it to the public and allow them a window to the truth.” No one else interrupted Dumbledore as he spoke about them so I kept silent as he passed on to the next person.

An underground newspaper? That sounded crazy! But at the words underground newspaper, my heart did jump a little in my chest. Finally a way to tell the real stories. Finally! I had to admit it; Dumbledore had seemed to have gathered a group of sensational people. But where was Peter? And the worst thing was that if he wasn’t here, I couldn’t talk to him about any of this. Nothing at all.

****July 31, 1980****

“Robert, I need those notes on my…well on my pathetic little shelf by seven!” Nearly five months later I found myself, on the hottest day of the year thus far, desperately trying to finish the latest edition of the Phoenix Press by its deadline.

“And tell Allen that if he doesn’t have that copy to me in ten minutes I’m going to kill him!” In the past months the Order of the Phoenix as well as my (I mean our) little underground newspaper had grown terribly fast. The Shrieking Shack had changed nearly as much as the Order itself. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a pile of crap, but it had a homey feeling to it, probably because we all spent so much time there. It was constantly buzzing with people, sometimes in good moods, sometimes desperately serious. Situations at the Order could change in a heartbeat. About two months ago we had all been working happily when James had to be rushed in after he had gotten infected with some weird magical fungus. Lily took care of him for three solid weeks, while still being pregnant of course.

We had more failures than successes at the Order. People got hurt, properties were destroyed, and yes, we even had one death. But the success made it worth it. When we got a Death Eater captured. When we followed a lead a rescued some kidnapped muggles. When we received random owls from the public thanking us for writing the truth in our paper. Things like that kept us going. Kept us thinking that we were actually making a difference in the world.

Sweat was literally running down from my forehead when Allen entered my “office” which was actually a corner of a musty old room that was home to an old pipe organ.

“Ok,” he breathed his sweat with seeping through his shirt. “So Robert said I have until ten to finish the copy?”

“No!” I hollered, completely exasperated. Remmy the house elf (yep, the one with the big ears) rushed into the room in the middle of my rant.

“Ms. Potter?”

“Allen, I said that I needed the copy in ten MINUTES!!!!”

“I can’t do that!”

“Well you’re gonna!” Allen left in a huff. I always get a little hostile when it gets close to deadline time, I can’t help it. The heat, obviously the Shrieking Shack had no sort of cooling system, was unbearable. Sometimes a rare breeze would drift in through a hole in the roof but that was it. When I ranted about like this I think I scared some people, but in truth I had never felt so alive. I loved being in charge. And I loved being in charge of something that gave me so much pride to do.
“Ms. Potter?” Remmy asked again, tearing me from my thoughts.

“Sorry Remmy,” I answered. “What’s up?”

“I have an urgent message from your brother. He says you need to get to St. Mungos right away.”

“Is he alright?” I asked, urgently.

“Yes, yes,” Remmy squeaked. “It’s Lily. She’s gone into labor.”

“Oh my…” I murmured, falling into my seat. For a moment, no deadline existed, no Order even. Lily was in labor! The baby was coming! I started to shove papers and things into my shoulder bag when Robert came back into the room.

“Are you going somewhere?” he asked, eyeing my motions curiously.

“Yes, my niece or nephew is about to be born!” I exclaimed, starting for the door.

“You can’t go!” Robert said, stepping front of me with his huge pile of papers. “This is one of the most important editions of the paper. The Madame Selena story is in here! We’re not going to finish this without you!”

I sighed defeated before setting my bag down back on the ground.

“How much longer?” I inquired, even though I pretty much knew the answer already.

“At least a few more hours.”

“Alright.”

********

It was much more than a few hours. Hours upon hours. But we got it done, thank heavens. By the time I finally reached the correct hospital, after having gone to two wrong ones, it was nearly eleven o clock. I ran into Mum, Dad, and Charles in the waiting room. I hugged them all and there were kisses all around.

“How is it all going?” I asked, tired and excited at the same time.

“We’re still waiting,” Mum replied, beaming. “They moved her to the delivery room awhile ago but we haven’t heard anything new yet.”

Less than an hour later James came out with a dizzy smile on his face.

“I have a son!” he gasped, to our great joy. We all shared a tangled family embrace. I could feel happy tears form in my eyes. I had a nephew! A little while later we were all invited to come inside and see the baby. Lily looked exhausted but tremendously pleased with herself. My tears came faster when I saw the little baby in her arms. The beautiful baby boy had a lot of dark hair on top of his head and his little eyes were shut tightly. He was passed around from person to person and when he finally reached my arms I sighed with happiness.

“I’m pretty sure this is the most beautiful baby ever born,” I smiled happily. “Does he have a name?”

“Yes,” Lily answered proudly. “His name is Harry. Harry James Potter.”

“Hi, Harry,” I said quietly as his gorgeous eyes opened. “He’s looking at me!” I realized that moments like this are what make life worth living.

********

More time passed and soon the new year started. Harry grew and grew. Mum, Lily’s parents, and me always fought over him when Lily and James required a babysitter. He was a happy baby and probably the most adorable. I realize that everyone thinks that about their nephew but this time it’s true. Harry is just too cute!!! As months in the new year continued to pass he just got more and more adorable and he would just do more adorable things.

“Yeah, but you don’t have to deal with him when he’s crying at all hours of the night,” James told me, cracking a grin.

“Harry can cry all he wants,” I said jokingly. “He has you for a father.”

Not only Harry was growing. The conflict in our world continued to grow as well. Not in size, but in intensity. Both sides suffered losses and gains but no one was truly winning. Attacks got more vicious as well as our defenses. Our efforts at the Order were forced to double. My worry for the ones I cared about grew also. One day when I went to Lily and James’ to visit them and Harry they told me some rather troubling news.

“Dumbledore has suggested that we go into hiding,” James said, not really meeting my eyes.

“Why?”

“Not really sure,” James replied, and I knew he was lying. “But always do what the Dumbledore orders.”

I didn’t laugh at his little pun.

“For how long? Where will you go? How is this to be arranged?”

“We can’t really say,” Lily answered from the sink, where she was giving Harry a bath. “Dumbledore has demanded that we are completely secretive about this, even from the people we love.”

“Okay,” I said, uncertainly, going to the sink and wiping bubbles from Harry’s head. My heart twisted uncomfortably as I wondered when I would see them all together again.

********

A couple more months later I was sitting in Peter’s apartment waiting for him to finish making tea. Our relationship had improved even more since I had started to work at the Order. Peter’s job had always been rather secretive and now mine was the same. I couldn’t tell him anything so I was forced to tell him that I was still working at Flourish and Blotts. I didn’t like lying to him but I didn’t have any other choice. The Order of the Phoenix thrived on its secrecy and I had promised in my early days that I would never do anything to compromise it. It bothered me that Peter had not been invited in the first place but what could I do? It was not my job to find people.

Peter and I chatted until I absolutely had to get back to work at the Order.

“So come over to dinner tonight?” I asked, slipping my arms around Peter’s waist. “I’ll cook.”

“I don’t know,” Peter replied, cracking a smile.

“Okay, I won’t cook,” I said, catching onto his joke.

“Then I’ll be there. And I’ll have a surprise for you.”

“Well, I’ll see you later then,” I smiled and kissed him goodbye.

********

I looked up from my simple dinner preparations (I used a magical cookbook which did most of the scary work for me) when I heard a knock at my door. I knew it was Peter before I even opened the door.

“Hey, love,” he smirked, sweeping me into his arms.

“So what’s the surprise?” I asked, pecking him on the cheek. Peter dug into the brown shoulder bag clinging to his side and started to dig around. He fished for a few seconds and then pulled out an old video tape.

“Later,” he declared. “Let’s eat.”

While we ate Peter seemed supremely distracted and slightly nervous. I asked him multiple times what it was that was bothering him so but his responses were vague and unhelpful. So we ate nearly in silence but kept our eyes on each other the entire time.

“I love you so much,” Peter said suddenly when I was about to clear the tables off. I walked over to Peter and he pulled me down so I was sitting on his lap. I gave him a lopsided grin and was surprised to see how serious his face seemed. I was about to ask him again what was troubling him but he started talking first.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for days upon days. So many things have been telling me not to, that I’m not ready. But my heart tells me to just do it. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love you and I know I never will again. You are the best thing that ever happened to me and I don’t ever want to be without you. I know there is about a million other more romantic ways to do this, and I know that women dream about this moment all there lives. But this is how I’m doing it. I know it’s far from perfect and it’s probably barely romantic but this is it, this is all I’ve got.”

Then, he reached into his pocket and out came a little velvet box. And my heart skipped a beat and I stopped taking in breaths. Oh my gosh. Then the box was opened and a ring with a spectacular, sparkly diamond glittered before my eyes. The light jumping from the sensational ring started to swirl as my eyes filled with tears.

“Katie…”

Oh god. He’s going to do it.

“Will you marry me?” I clapped a hand to my mouth as tears continued to patter down my face.

“Yes,” I gasped. “Of course I’ll marry you!”

**** October 30, 1981****

“That is quite a rock!” Mum said two days later when I finally made it out to her house to show her the ring.

“I know, can you believe it?” I gasped, the food that was set in front of me, untouched. I was much more set on talking now than eating.

“What does Peter do again?” Mum asked, grabbing my hand for a closer inspection. “I mean this couldn’t have been cheap.”

“What are you saying?” I snapped, pulling my hand roughly away. Mum picked a little at the food in front of her.

“It just…this whole mystery job thing again. Everyone in the world is stretched thin at the moment. We’ve been forced to give up certain luxuries. I’m just wondering how he could afford all this.”

“He loves me,” I responded, an edge in my voice. “He wanted to make this as special as possible. He works hard.”

“At what though?” Mum persisted, her mouth full of sandwich. “He worries me. And now that you guys are…you know…you worry me too. I want to know you are going to be safe with him.”

“There is no place I’d be safer!” I found myself yelling. “He would die before he’d let anything happen to me. He takes care of me. And if you care about me at all you would accept him and know that he is a wonderful person who brings out the best in me.”

“Excuse me for being concerned,” Mum muttered, rolling her eyes in that Katie-is-being-ridiculous sort of way.

“Well stop it!” I exploded. “I came over here to celebrate the fact that I’m engaged but you continue spewing suspicions about the man I’m in love with.”

“Well, if you intend to continue being so hostile, maybe you should just go,” Mum responded darkly.

“Fine!” I growled. “Goodbye!”

********

I stormed into Peter’s place later, my hair frazzled and red in the face. He heard my loud entrance and came into the kitchen.

“Hi, you’re early,” he said, looking concerned at the rage in my eyes.

“My mother does NOT know how to let something go!” I cried, throwing my hands around in violent motions. My voice was so loud that it carried through the entire apartment.

“What do you mean?” Peter asked, looking at the door behind him.

“She got on me again about your job. She saw how big the ring was a started asking more questions. She won’t let it go. I don’t understand what she wants from me.”

“An explanation I suppose,” Peter answered uncomfortably. “But I’ve told you nearly everything. My job revolves around secrets, secrets I can’t talk about just because your mother needs to know.”

“Maybe if you told me just a little bit more…” I tried.

“He can’t.” A new voice entered the room and I looked over Peter’s shoulder to see Gallgrin Nott join us from the adjoining room.

“Our jobs depend on us being secretive,” Nott said silkily, moving so he was standing next to Peter. “Maybe you should appreciate the fact that your future husband makes enough money to even buy you a ring like that.”

“Oh really?” I was beyond mad at this point. Who the heck was this guy to criticize me? He didn’t even know me. My dislike for the man grew intensely.

“Yes,” Nott pressed on. “Suspicions and questions like that from your mother are dangerous in times like these. They can get people into trouble.” He was looking at Peter when he was saying this.

“It won’t happen again,” Peter muttered back to him. Nott whispered something else to Peter but then swept past me and left the apartment. I ran a hand through my hair in agitation.

“Why does he always have to be here?” I asked, my eyes flashing dangerously. Peter came closer and tried to take my hand but I pushed it away. “I mean seriously. Does he always have to be around? I hate that guy!”

“HEY!” Peter yelled, making me jump. “Gallgrin Nott is not only my friend but he is one of my greatest friends!”

“Why?” I yelled back. “What has he done to earn such a prestigious position in your life?”

“He saved my life!” Peter roared.

“What are you talking about?”

“When we were…out there…I was in trouble,” Peter answered numbly. “I would have been killed if Gallgrin didn’t act when he did. He saved my life and because of him I’m standing in front of you.”

I silent tear ran down my face as I moved cautiously towards Peter and pressed myself into his arms, my engagement ring glinting in the light as I moved.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “I won’t doubt you or your judgment.” Peter, satisfied with this answer, whispered back an apology and stroked my hair gently.

**** October 31, 1981****

“Are you sure you don’t want to come to lunch with my mother?” I asked for the fifth or sixth time to Peter. “I mean it might help to smooth things over if she saw you and remembered how much she likes you. And Dad and Charles are out for the weekend for some father-son time so it would really just be my mother. You wouldn’t be bombarded by the whole family.”

We were in my apartment and I was rushing to collect myself before heading off to an apology lunch with Mum.

“I’m having lunch with Sirius,” Peter replied.

“Just with Sirius?” I asked. “What’s going on?”

Peter shrugged.

“He said he needed to talk to me about something. It sounded pretty important too. He seemed really grim and secretive about the whole thing.”

“Well good luck with that,” I answered, knowing he wasn’t going to go into much more detail. “And I will see you later.” I started to leave the room and Peter put on a pout.

“I don’t get a kiss?” he whined. I giggled and rushed back to kiss him before giving him a wink and sprinting out the door.

********

I had to make a stop at the Order of the Phoenix Headquarters before heading over so I got to Mum’s a little later than I expected; it was more evening time than afternoon. I rang the bell when I got to the house just in case Mum was in the shower or something. I knocked three times and there was still no response. I reached down and moved the flowerpot that decorated our front porch and stooped down to pick up an old key that was lying underneath it. It stuck a little in the lock but I eventually managed to get the door open and step into the foyer.

“Mum?” I called. The house was strangely silent and for some reason I felt goose bumps prickle all along my arms. I wandered through the lower level; hit the living room, family room, kitchen, and even the laundry room. No Mum. I rubbed at my neck in agitation. She said she would be here.

Upstairs seemed like the only place left to go. I slipped off my shoes before stepping onto the clean, cream colored carpet that blanketed the stairs. I hurried up the steps into the narrow hallway that split off into four bedrooms and one bathroom. I was about to call out again when the door to my parent’s room burst open, spitting smoke.

I started to choke after I immediately swallowed a bunch of the swirling black mass. It stung my eyes harshly and I could feel sweat immediately drench my body, as if someone had dumped a bucket of it over my head. I waved my hand violently in front of my face, desperate to see anything. At that moment a figure flew out of the smoke filled room, heading for the stairs. I staggered forwards and found myself directly in their path. I noticed that the figure had a manly stature as he slammed into me. He was wearing a mask but those eyes…did I know those eyes. He threw me roughly from him a continued to barrel down the stairs. I crashed to the floor, my knees giving out.

I was coughing crazily from the smoke but somehow managed to find the strength to crawl into my parent’s room. I could feel the smoke slipping along my neck and arms as I frantically searched for anything and anyone.

“Mum,” I gasped, as more smoke entered my mouth. I crawled around feeling around on the carpet until I came to some fabric and then suddenly a hand. I grabbed it instantly and held it to my chest.

It would be a good half hour before the smoke would start to dissipate. And then I would finally see Mum, spread out on the floor. Her face had a nasty slash across it and her eyes were wide open. But they were empty. I found my chest getting tight as I realized that Mum…was gone.

********

“Drink this,” Sirius said gently, thrusting a glass of water at my hands yet again.

“I don’t want it,” I gasped, but taking it anyway. “Did you get a hold of James and Lily?” Sirius shook his head.

“They need to stay hidden. Dumbledore is taking care of it.” I took a sip of the water, most of it slopping over my shirt. My hand was shaking constantly so I was forced to set it down. I was sitting in my apartment with Sirius waiting for Peter, Remus, and others to arrive.

Sirius told me that I was in shock. I sat on one of Vicky’s barstools rocking back and forth. I didn’t feel shocked. I felt sick. I felt like I needed to jump out of my own skin. I kept rubbing my arms, even though I wasn’t in the slightest bit cold.

“Ministry officials are inspecting the house,” Sirius explained. “And owls have been sent to your father requesting his immediate return.” I heard these words but they just sort of bounced off me. I was too clouded to listen, as if all that smoke had invaded my brain. How could the world go back to the way it was? How could things ever get better? I was about to take another drink from my glass when the door burst open and Peter entered, followed by none other than Nott.

I stiffened immediately at the sight of that man and a serious sense of recognition came over me. Those eyes. I stood up as Peter approached.

“Katie,” Peter started, extending his arms, but I pushed them away.

“You,” I breathed, pointing at Nott. “It was you. You did it.”

“Did what?” Peter asked gently, looking terribly concerned.

“He killed Mum. He was IN the house when I got there.”

“Katie, you know that’s not true.”

“NO!” I shrieked loudly. “I saw him. I KNOW it was him!” I made a dangerous stride over to Nott to smack him across the face but Sirius caught me first.

“Don’t,” he gasped, his eyes tired but still fierce. “Are you sure you saw him?”

Was I sure? Not totally. It was just a feeling. I recognized him. It HAD to be him. A deep feeling that was refusing to be silenced.

“I don’t think you could have seen him,” Peter suddenly said, coming up next to us.

“And why is that?” Sirius snapped. He was glaring at Nott confirming my feeling that Sirius also got a strange vibe from him.

“Because Nott was with me at the time, working at the office,” Peter responded. I shoved Sirius’ arm from me and flew at Peter.

“If he was with you why didn’t he just say so?!” I asked, raising an angry eyebrow.

“You didn’t give him a chance!” Peter yelled. “After I had lunch with Sirius I went back to the office and Nott WAS there. I’m sorry that this happened but don’t go blaming my friend because you don’t like him!”

“Do you swear?” I demanded, with a quivering lip. “Do you swear he was with you?”

Peter sighed and looked as if he was thinking very hard. Then he looked back at me.

“Years ago, when we were still in Hogwarts you promised me that you would never doubt me again. I need you to keep that promise now.” I threw my hands up in frustration and the agonizing pain I was feeling but knew that Peter was right. I had promised him that I wouldn’t doubt him. But this was different. This was something much more intense than an old promise.

“What about me?!” I shrieked. “What about you trusting me?! How can you believe him but not me?”

“Katie…” Peter started, but I had already got my answer. Peter was going to take Nott’s side.

I shut my eyes tight and wished that everything would go back to normal. Mum would be alive again and everything would be fine. But when I dared myself to open my eyes again nothing had changed. Everyone was still staring at me as if I had gone insane. I looked over at Peter. This was the most awful day of my life and here he was defending Nott instead of my feelings. My insides started to squirm and hurt so I pushed past everyone and went for the door.

I looked over to see over my shoulder once to see Peter coming after me. By the time I reached the doorknob Nott had caught Peter by the arm and said firmly,

“Let her go.”

With an angry yell I wrenched the engagement ring off my finger and whipped it across the room.

Nott’s eyes caught mine for a moment and I glared as hard as I could at him before opening the door, grabbing my keys from their little hook, and slamming it after me.

*******

Considering I had just left my own apartment and had no where to go I headed to the only place I had a key to; Peter’s place. It felt strange to have abandoned my own apartment when I really should have just kicked everyone out. But my strength of thought was focused elsewhere; on Nott. I hated him with every fiber of my being. I hated that Peter’s attention was focused on him all the time. I hated the fact that I hated him. I hated the fact that I KNEW he had something to do with the death of my mother. I KNEW it. I just couldn’t prove it.

“Stop it,” my brain commanded. “Peter promised that he had nothing to do with it. They were both working together at the time.” These thoughts continued to attack each other in my head until I reached Peter’s apartment and flung open the door. I felt so full of sadness and despair. I wanted Peter to come through the door and take me in his arms. I wanted him to tell me that everything was going to be alright, even if it wasn’t. I was angry, so angry at Peter, but I needed him to be with me.

I had never needed Peter more than at these moments. I sat on the expensive blue couch in Peter’s apartment shaking like a leaf. I rocked back and forth my hair, stringy, and refusing to get out of my face. I put my trembling hand against my lips as a small stream of tears ran down my face to the corner of my mouth. I was warm and cold at the same time; my body couldn’t seem to decide how it was feeling. I continued shaking until I grabbed the garbage can from the floor and threw up into it. I staggered to the bathroom afterwards to wash out my mouth. I gasped at my appearance. I had never looked so unlike myself. My eyes were streaked with red lines, my cheeks were flushed and puffy and my hair had a greasy tinge considering it hadn’t been washed today. I thought I was calming down but at that moment my breathing became more ragged and I dissolved into hysterical tears again; a broken shell. I knelt down next to the sink feeling as if I might be sick again.

“Stop it,” I told myself. “This isn’t going to help anybody.” I sniffled loudly and crammed a tissue to my eyes to blot away the tears that somehow just kept coming. I felt starved for attention. I needed to be held. I needed to be wanted and cared about. Where was Peter? I calmed myself enough so I could brush my teeth, cleansing the sick feeling and taste from my mouth. I finally managed to make it back to the couch and curl up in a ball upon it. I felt as if I would never move again. I thought of Peter’s face and twisted my hair around on my finger.

“I need you,” I muttered, wondering if Peter could hear me; praying he could hear me. At that moment there was a knock at the door and I flew over to it wondering if my prayer had been answered. I threw the door open to find not Peter but Sirius standing before me. I could remember a time, I could just barely remember, when I would have died if Sirius had seen me in this sort of state. Sirius noticed my tearstained face and haggard appearance and pulled me into a much needed hug. We stood there in each other’s arms for minutes upon minutes. I breathed in Sirius’ scent; my face buried in his shoulder.

“You’re trembling,” he whispered in my ear. I didn’t know how or if he wanted me to respond to this statement so I kept silent. I pulled away from him and went back over to the couch.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, once again twisting my hair.

“I’m looking for Peter,” Sirius admitted, coming to sit next to me.

“Wasn’t he with you?”

“Yeah, but he left like a half hour ago,” Sirius responded. “I feel like I need to be with him tonight.”

“Well I have no idea where he is,” I declared miserably.

“I can’t believe he’s not here,” Sirius said understandingly. “I mean after everything that’s happened.”

“I know,” I gasped. “Sometimes I wonder if he really loves me.”

“Come on…” Sirius said. “You know he does.”

“He at least doesn’t love me the way he used to. He’s working a lot of the time and when he is actually with me, he’s distant and mysterious. He spends all his time with that Nott man when he should be with me. I’m going to be his wife…well was going to be. I just wish he felt the same way he used to.”

“Don’t worry,” Sirius answered tenderly, leaning forward and pushing a stray strand of hair out of my face. “Everything will turn out alright.” I took a deep breath as his fingers gently grazed my forehead. It felt good to feel again. I turned my head so my eyes were staring deeply into his. Sirius gulped and quickly removed his hand and stood up.

“I really should go,” he insisted. “I was looking for Peter…and clearly he’s not here.”

“I don’t want you to go,” I responded, going over to him. Sirius backed up as I cam closer. I gave him a small, half smile still coming closer. What was I doing? When I finally came up next to Sirius I stepped into his arms. If I had been my normal self at this moment my heart rate would have sky rocketed and my brain would have been shouting alarms at me. But I found myself surprisingly calm as I moved my hands up to Sirius’ face ignoring the image of my engagement ring in my head. Sirius’ eyes were full of confusion as I pulled his face to mine and put my lips to his.

His initial reaction was to pull away and he attempted to do so but I leaned in closer to make sure the connection between our lips were not broken. All the fear and surprise about what was happening was stifled by my need to be needed. It felt so good to be close to someone again and to be wanted. The kiss in reality only lasted a few seconds but it seemed to take much longer. I couldn’t believe that I was kissing Sirius Black. I used to dream about this moment but there was definitely something wrong.

“Sirius…” I muttered, pulling away and turning red. His eyes were still staring deeply into mine.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured, still not moving away from him. “I just…” I was cut off by a loud slamming sound that made us both look up.

“What was that?” I asked with my eyes and Sirius headed off in the direction where the sound had come from. He came back shrugging.

“I guess it was nothing.”

“As was this,” I stated, gesturing between Sirius and I the fear and reality of the situation setting in at last. Now my brain was shrieking things at me. “This never happened. We’re not going to talk about it. We’re not even going to think about it.”

“Okay,” Sirius replied calmly, still looking tragically confused. “I’ll go. I have…to…do….something.”

And then he was gone. I sank into the couch, putting a hand to my lips; they were tingling. What had I done?

I didn’t realize then that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

********

Oh my, and that is the wonderful chapter 21. Whew! That took a long time to write. Let me know what ya thought! I promise that it will only take a few seconds!!!!! Then get back outside and enjoy the gorgeous summer that is outside! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you for 22! Only two chapters left!!! Yikes!!!

Much love,

Kira

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