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My apologies to all those who think this chapter sounds like a filler. (Don't worry; I think it does as well!)
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He was back before we knew it. As Lily and I lazily made our way down to the Great Hall for Christmas Tea, I spotted him at the bottom of the marble staircase, walking with Remus.

“There he is,” Lily remarked. “It must not have been too serious if he returned so soon.”

Yes, Black. Being a father isn’t an enormous responsibility at all. A flare of frustration lashed up inside me. Why the ruddy hell did he not understand?

Remus caught sight of us and waved, but Black avoided my gaze and fled directly to the Gryffindor Table.


After Lily had forced down as many treacle tarts as she could, James and his three friends trotted down to where we sat with Eloise and Kaitlin.

“You girls up for a snowball fight?” Remus offered.

I glanced at the rest of the group. Kaitlin nodded enthusiastically and so did Lily, but Eloise merely stared at Black, who had pointedly fixed his eyes upon my fork.

“Sounds good,” I accepted. “We’ll meet you outside in later.”

Black smirked at me as they went upstairs to gather their weapons.



The flurries of the morning had ceased, and all was quiet as our two parties commenced their fort building. Lily and I began reinforcing the south wall as Kaitlin fixed the west corner and Eloise dejectedly manufactured ammo.

“Eloise seems pretty gloomy considering the fact that Sirius is here,” Lily commented.

“Keep your voice down,” I warned, casting my eyes in Kaitlin’s direction.

Lily glanced at my sister’s best friend, shrugged, and went back to adding a pile of snow to our nearly perfect wall. “Just saying.”

Our “army” gathered five minutes later to discuss tactics.

“I say that we stake out here and wait for them to vacate their fort,” Kaitlin suggested.

“They’re not stupid,” Lily pointed out. “They’ll leave someone behind to stop us from overtaking it.”

“Yeah– their weakest player: Pettigrew,” Kaitlin returned. “What do you think, Kat?”

I gazed over to where the boys huddled, somewhat sheltered in their icy fortress.

“I think…”

All four of them stared over at us for a moment, and then continued plotting.

“Kaitlin, you take Eloise and launch a frontal attack while Lily and I defend here.”

“Got it,” she began to load snowballs into her arms.

My sister took a minute to process the plan. “Explain that again…”

When the two of them had ducked out of earshot into a clump of bushes, Lily rolled her eyes at me. “If we have to repeat everything we say to her because she’s too busy ogling Sirius, I’m going to slap her. That’s just bloody pathetic…”

“I know.”

Shrieks erupted from across the battlefield.

“Look out!”

Kaitlin was pelting Pettigrew with snow, but Remus, James, and Black were all sprinting in our direction.

Hastily, we scrambled to arm ourselves. Eloise lunged out from behind a tree, and her shot hit Remus in the side of the head.

My first snowball missed James completely, but the second ricocheted off of his foot. I stooped to grab two more, but–

“Kat!”

WHAM!

My back slammed into contact with the frozen soil, and little lights blurred my vision. I blinked. Warm, gray eyes blinked back, almost an inch from my own. It took a moment for me to realize exactly who was pinning me to the ground.

“Sorry,” Black rolled off of me and stood up. “Got a little, err… carried away.”

As he offered me his hand to help me up, I caught sight of my sister.
She stared at me with a fury I had never dreamed existed within a human soul. Her fiery gaze bored into mine, almost challengingly.

“Come on, Kaitlin,” she said, pulling her wool cap back onto her head. “Let’s go.”

Her friend looked up from where Pettigrew cowered in the powdery slush. “What?”

“I’m tired,” Eloise insisted imperiously. “We should leave.”

“Allow me to escort you,” Remus jumped in.

My sister turned a nearly repulsed expression on him. “Oh. Err…
thanks, Remus.”

The three of them departed for Gryffindor Tower.

Black turned to me. “Can I talk to you?”

James seized Lily’s hand. “We’ll catch up with you later.” He half-dragged her toward the castle.

I raised my eyebrows. “What can you possibly have to say to me?”

“One,” he held up a finger. “What the hell is her problem?”

He meant Eloise. Crap.

“Is she not allowed to have hormones, now?”

He ignored this. “Two,” he held up a second finger. “If you haven’t noticed, Remus is madly in love with her. “

“I have, as a matter of fact.”

“Well, you’re her sister. Tell her to get her act together and either go out with him or tell him off.”

I gaped at him. “Excuse me? Why is that my problem? Remus can deal with it by himself. He’s a big boy.”

Black’s stormy eyes flashed, and for a split second, I was frightened. “No, he can’t! Don’t you get it? He cares about her too much to risk revealing his feelings! He knows she doesn’t think him worthy to wipe her shoes, but he still has some shred of hope!”

“Then what’s the point? He clings to an insane notion that she could fall in love with him, but he KNOWS that it’s completely impossible.” Tears flooded my cheeks, stinging as they dropped into my scarf. “YOU’RE his best friend, Black. YOU explain to him that Eloise has never and will never love him. YOU rip his heart to pieces!”

I slumped down on top of the ruined battlements, crushing it anew.

He knelt beside me, putting his hand on my arm. “Déjà vu, huh?”

I wiped my eyes. “Do you have anything else?”

“And three,” he completed, “I know that we’ve had…disagreements–” (Here his eyes flicked to my scarred hand.) “–But I think…I’d really like it if we could… be friends?”

I strained to keep the incredulity clear of my face but didn’t answer.

“I–I mean,” he stammered on. “You know, it’s just that…James wants us to ‘play nicely’, what with him and Lily and all. We don’t even have to talk! We could just…not rip out each other’s throats on sight.”

Pause.

“Damn it, Kat! Say something!”

A slow smirk uncoiled on my lips. “Does it hurt you to say these things?”

For a second, he fell for it, but then he grinned. “Shall we start over?”

I extended my hand. “I’m Kat Parker.”

He took it. “Sirius Black.”



Eventually, the rest of the school came back, and classes resumed. I caught Mary by the elbow on the way to Potions.

“Hey, you.”

She smiled. “You all right?”

“Pretty good. What about you?”

A slightly sad expression crossed her features. “The same, although…”
She gestured after Lily, who had disappeared down the steps to the dungeons the instant she set eyes on Mary.

We descended into the passageway, noting that the tense silence between the Gryffindors and Slytherins was more potent than ever. (We still hadn’t forgiven them for bludgeoning James at the Quidditch match.)

“See you around,” Mary muttered and slipped away before Lily could see us walking together.

The Fantastic Four (plus the redhead) were standing against the far wall. Sirius (I suppose I have to call him ‘Sirius’ now…) gave me a small smile as I approached.

Lily caught my eye and mouthed, “We need to talk.”

I nodded, but just then Slughorn’s belly beckoned us into the dungeon, signaling the beginning of an hour of chopping, bubbling, hissing, and (worst of all) his droning.

I thrust my bag down on the traditional table, but neither of my friends joined me. Instead, Sirius took Mary’s usual seat, directing his thumb over his shoulder to where James and Lily sat when I raised an eyebrow for explanation. As we unpacked our potion kits in silence, Remus came over.

“Do you mind?”

I nearly laughed. “Do you have to ask?”

He grinned.

“All right, class,” Slughorn boomed from the front. “Today we will be concentrating on perfecting the complex brewing techniques for…”

Mechanically, I began slicing my dragon heartstrings into the required strips.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sirius hissed. “Do we even know what we’re supposed to be doing yet?”

“Shut up,” Remus advised.

Three quarters of the way through the class, I added my final unicorn tail hair with a flourish and turned to see Sirius gaping at me.

“How did you do that?”

“What?”

“You’re wicked fast, you are!”

My face felt a bit warm, and I said nothing in reply. Automatically, I began helping Remus cut up his Shrivilfig skin.

After Slughorn had completed inspection and released us into the corridor, Sirius tapped my shoulder.

“Err…will you walk with me?”

I looked ahead, but Lily winked and motioned for me to stay behind.

Merlin’s pants…

I fell into step beside him, the awkward pause isolating us.

“Err…” he began again. “Can I ask you something?”

“That depends.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his sharp profile as he gazed determinedly into the distance.

“Do you have a thing going with that Walter bloke?”

“Tristan?! Hell no.”

Something like relief settled over his face, and a slight smirk curled the edge of his lips. “Oh. Well, I was just wondering because he seems to fancy you…a lot.”

I rolled my eyes, but ruined the effect by grinning a bit.

“You know,” he continued. “I sort of enjoy being on speaking terms with you.”

“Why is that, exactly?”

“Contrary to popular belief, Miss Katharina, you actually hold quite entertaining conversations.”

I playfully bumped him with my shoulder. “Shut up.”

“You see?” he chuckled. “I suppose I’ll see you later, then.”

“Err…sure.”

I watched him dart into the Great Hall to find James. Slowly, I followed, mulling the whole situation over in my mind.

As I sat down across from Lily, she jerked her thumb irritably up the table.

Eloise sat ten seats away; her hateful glare as pronounced as a drunk Italian.

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