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The scarlet steam engine rumbled along the tracks as thunder rocked the sky.

“Are we there yet?” I heard Mary ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She can’t talk now, Severus.”

“It will only–”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I jumped between James and Snape.

“Stop it! Just leave, will you?”

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

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

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

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

“That was two years ago.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door opened once more.


“Eloise, what is it?”

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

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

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

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

“Come with me.”

“Merlin’s pants, Eloise!”

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

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

Lily giggled. “Will do, Miss Katharina.”

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

“They’re in this one.”

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

“Kat, this is a nice surprise.”

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

Remus turned. “Sirius.”

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

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

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

The moment she was gone, I whirled on Black.

“It was just a joke!” he cried.

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

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

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

He glared right back. “No promises.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve lost my appetite.”

I gasped sarcastically. “You? Mary Warren?”

“Shut up, Kat!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, but Black is such a little–“

“I know.”

“I wish he would just–“

“I know.”

Mary patted my arm sympathetically.

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

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

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