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Salutations, readers! It's been a while, but I finally managed to churn out another chapter. Please enjoy and remember to leave a lovely little review!                                     

“All students are required to study in groups of no more than two persons and are only permitted to review with a student of the same class. Potter! Turn around, and stop transfiguring Snape’s eyebrows in the shapes of farm animals!”

Ah, the average McGonagall lecture…


“As I was saying, your N.E.W.T.S are a lot more strenuous and demanding than your O.W.L.S. I advise you all to research anything and everything related to the subject of your N.E.W.T.S and— Potter! Must I threaten you with detention in every class? Five points from Gryffindor!” 


“Bummer,” Sirius muttered from my left. “Only two students? I suppose we’re stuck with each other.”


I turned to him, raising an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

He grinned. “Oh, come off it. The lovebirds will be together for every class they have. That leaves you and I for the rest.”
The bell rang loudly, and everyone scrambled for the door.
“I'm surprised that you ever go out if that's your idea of asking a girl,” I chuckled.
He suddenly snatched my hand and fell dramatically to one knee on top of his bag.
“Please? Make me the happiest ruddy Seventh Year at Hogwarts. Katharina Parker, will you be my exam partner?”
The entire corridor was deadly still, every eye glued to my blushing face.“All right,” I acquiesced. “Just get up off the damn floor.”
As we walked away, a few wolf-whistles and suggestive cheers flew ar us.
I rapped Sirius’s elbow with my knuckles. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”
His smile reached his ears. “Not for long.” 



“What the hell? I can’t even see you!”


Shoving a teetering tower of Potions volumes aside, I almost sniggered, eyeing Sirius good-naturedly. 


“That’s because you’re supposed to be looking at your Charms notes, not me.”


“Strange as it may seem, Parker, you’re a vision compared with my review sheet on the Bat-Boogey Hex.”


“Stop it.”


I ducked behind my mountain of parchment from Defense Against the Dark Arts to signal the end of the conversation. I had nearly reached the end of my fourth scroll when a paper wad crash-landed and smudged a sentence or two regarding Dementors. 


“Sirius Black!”


My hiss went unanswered.


Curiosity getting the better of me, I smoothed out the message to read.


Why is your stalker-boyfriend studying right behind the Arithmancy shelf?


Damn, damn, damn, damn! Couldn’t he bugger the hell off? 


I shunted a stack of Rune dictionaries to one side, creating a small tunnel from my end of the table to Sirius’s. 


“Oi!” I whispered. “Did you have to point that out?”


His grin carried a hint of malice, those stormy eyes of his darting to a point just over my right shoulder.


“Ahem,” an all-too-familiar cough resonated loudly in the morgue-esque silence. “Kat?”


I turned, not bothering to be cheerful. “What?”


“I…c-can I t-talk to you?”


“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m a tad busy at the moment. Maybe some other time.”




I grumpily return to my schoolwork as he slouched away.


“Harsh much?”


“Shut up.”


Sirius tried not to smirk. “All I said was—”


“That’s enough of that, thank you.” 

“Oh, shit!” He dove out of sight beneath the desk.

I glanced around, but the only things visible were the grimy window and Beth, who was having her books stamped by a severe-looking Madame Pince.


I dipped down to join him, flabbergasted. “She can read?”


“Ssshhh! She’ll hear you!” 

“What the—”  

He clamped his hand over my mouth until Beth’s red heels had disappeared out into the corridor.


“Gedd uff muh!” His repressing fingers muffled my voice.


“Oh, sorry.”


We resumed our traditional seats, and after a second I muttered, “So…you and Beth—”


“I don’t want to talk about it.”


“Okay.” I stared down at my notes on Grindylows but didn’t take in a word.


He paused but then admitted, “She was just an easy shag—nothing serious. She moved on…or rather I forced her to.”


A flare of anger leapt up inside me. Was the next girl going to mean even less to him than Beth had?


He must have noticed the change in my expression. “Is something wrong?”


I gazed across the table at him, and he looked completely different all of a sudden. His casually tousled hair seemed artificial, his gray eyes cold and steely. Everything about his presence revolted me.


I stood up and marched briskly over to where Tristan slumped over his Arithmancy book. “Let’s study tomorrow.”


“Hey, Kat! Wait!”


At the bottom of the marble staircase, James caught up with me. His usual untidy hair was even more disheveled, as if he’d run all the way down from Gryffindor Tower. 


“Yeah?” I raised my eyebrows, waiting.


“About Sirius—”


“Merlin’s pants! I don’t give a damn what he—”


“I’ve had enough, Kat!”


I blinked. “Enough of what?”


“Your stupid game. Sirius is in that library day in and day out, still hunting for an elusive, FICTIONAL MAN!”


His voice rose to a shout, a scarlet flush creeping up his cheeks to match his tie.






I stared at him, barely comprehending the tears in my eyes that were threatening to burst loose. Reaching into my bag, I pulled out the strangely wrapped package and handed it to James.


“Here,” my whisper was hardly audible after his screams. “He was supposed to…to get it at Christmas, but…” Without finishing the sentence, I rushed back upstairs, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t follow.


Never before had Muggle Studies so fascinated me. Suddenly, Professor Burbage’s long essays seemed less like a chore and increasingly more welcome as I scribbled away at them, deliberately avoiding Tristan’s gaze.


To brown the toast, one must first place the bread into a metal device, known as a toaster, and—


Tristan cleared his throat pointedly.


I took a deep breath. “Yes?”


“Err…I…um…” he sighed.


I hurriedly checked my watch. Had we only begun an hour ago?


“Kat, err…I hoped that you’d…let me apologize for what happened in Hogsmede. I…I was really just…d-doing it so you’d—”


I stood up, scooping my heap of parchment into my bag. “Sorry,” I cut him off, “but I just remembered that I…have an urgent appointment with…McGonagall. Job applications, you know.”


Without a backward glance, I tore from the room, earning a disapproving scowl from Madame Pince as I banged the door shut. Rounding the corner at breakneck speed, I ran smack into Sirius, causing him to drop his pile of books all over the floor.


“Merlin’s pants! Can’t you watch where you’re— oh. Sorry, Kat.”


Hastily, I crouched to help him retrieve his fallen volumes.


“No, don’t bother,” he waved his wand, and the stack reformed, flying neatly back into his arms.


“My bad,” I apologized.


He smiled. “No harm, no foul. Where were you dashing off to, may I ask?”


I shook my head, ashamed and a little disgusted. “Away from the library. I was studying with Tristan for—” 

“Oh, that’s right,” Sirius smirked. “You had a cozy little date with your boyfriend over a romantic review session of automobiles and telephones.”

I shrugged, to tired to butt heads with him at the moment. “I suppose that’s one way to put it.” 

He eyed me strangely but didn’t say anything. Shifting the tower of manuscripts into his left hand, he reached out and plucked a dust bunny from my shoulder.

“Oh, err…thanks.”


The side of his mouth twitched. “Sure. So, was that a lie?”


“Excuse me?”


“Did you just lie to get away from him, of do you really have to see McGonagall?”


I blinked a little too quickly. “How—”


He snorted. “You’re not the only ruddy student who uses he library.”




Odd it may seem, but time sped up so much after Valentine's Day that I must have completely missed the month of March. April rolled around, bringing the traditional downpours and rumbles of thunder. James kept his team out on the pitch until it was too dark to fly straight. (He must have taken a hint to back off when Timothy Beck missed a Bludger with his bat and accidentally knocked the Quaffle out of Arthur Breslin's hands, sending it plummeting onto the head of Thomas Kelley.)


Lily and I sat up for James in the common room, working diligently at our increasing mountain of schoolwork. 


"Hey, Kat," her voice was muffled. The mound of lunar charts quivered, and soon her face poked through. 


"Hmm?" I didn't bother looking up, concentrating instead upon my Potions essay-- the Draft of Living Death. 


"Sirius. What do you reckon?"


"About what?"


"About him."


I put down my quill. "In what manner of speaking?"


She went a little pink. "Oh… in general, I suppose. Do you like him?"


I eyed her warily. "He's…all right, I guess. Why?" A horrid thought struck me. "Lily Evans, don't you dare try to set me up with him again!"


Immediately she shrank behind her copy of A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration. "No! Not at all! I just thought…well, you two are much more civil toward one another than…other times this year…I was only…forget it."


I snorted. "No, Lily. You forget it."

The morning of the final Quidditch match dawned bright, dry, and gorgeous. The Gryffindor team was huddled together around an enormous platter of bacon and eggs, but none of them ate a thing.

"Come on, love," Lily tried to coax porridge into James's mouth. 


"You've got to eat something," I pointed out.


He heeded neither of us. "Sirius, I think it's time we went down to the pitch."


At this, the whole team stood and vacated the Great Hall. I turned away from the lovebirds' snog-fest to see Sirius waiting. 

"Err…good luck out there today."

He grinned a little. "Thanks. I heard Flint's recruited a new Keeper since last match--- Joachim Arnold. I'm not too bothered about it, but---"


"You two can chat later," James interrupted, smirking and taking his friend's elbow. "We’ve got to go." They sprinted off after the others.


A small chill ran down my spine. Had James given him the book? Did Sirius know that Heathcliff had never existed? Was he completely furious with me? … … Why did I even care? He and I hated each other. Why did this bother me so much?


"You ready?" Lily's voice came from a long way off.


"Huh? Oh, right, the match."


She shook her head in dismay. "Come on. You're nearly as bad as James."


Three-quarters of the stadium was solid scarlet and gold, screaming itself hoarse as the two teams zoomed around the pitch. Keillor Jordan's enthusiastic bellows could barely be heard over the roars of the crowd.


"Welcome to the final Quidditch match of the season, everyone! Today's game will decide which House wins the Quidditch cup (and a year's worth of bragging rights, I might add) until this jolly occasion returns next year. Now for the teams--- Slytherin vs. Gryffindor!"


At this, yells of delight sent a flock of birds soaring to the skies from its comfortable position on the shores of the lake. Madame Hooch stood ready, Quaffle in hand, between the two captains, Edward Flint and Jeremy Stein. Her shrill whistle pierced the air, and instantly there were red and green blurs swooping here, there, and everywhere. 


"And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Jeremy Stein of Gryffindor. He's an incredible Chaser, by the way. Look at him go! Nice pass to Arthur Breslin, who--- gah! No! Slytherin in possession---Puggins dodges a Bludger and speeds of down the field. Luckily, Timothy Beck hits him in the face with another Bludger. Good one, Tim!"




"Sorry, Professor."


The Gryffindor supporters cheered loudly as Jeremy caught the dropped Quaffle. 


"Gryffindor back in possession--- Stein ducks Smith and Ward, of Slytherin, and bolts off. He's heading straight for goal. Come on Jeremy! He shoots and---!" 

The rest of Keillor's sentence was drowned in the uproar from the scarlet-and-gold fans and boos from their green-and-silver adversaries. Joachim Arnold threw a filthy gesture at Jeremy as he returned to guard his central hoop.

"Ten--zero, to Gryffindor!"


Next to me, Lily was on the edge of her seat, fingers crossed in her lap, muttering under her breath. 

"Relax, will you? James will be fine."

"You don't know that," she hissed. "Those Slytherins always play dirty. It's become an unofficial rule."


I squinted down the field. Sirius was hovering in front of the goal posts, poised for defense. As Flint pelted toward him with the Quaffle, he tensed and (at the last moment, it seemed) swung his broom around, whacking the ball to Thomas Kelley, who passed back to Jeremy.


"Beautiful save there by Sirius Black!" Keillor shouted.

Lily nudged me with her incredibly bony elbow. I imitated her.

Suddenly, the entire stadium gasped as one, each person leaping to his or her feet, screaming and stamping as the two Seekers plummeted toward the ground. James was neck-and-neck with Michael York as they hurtled downward, each stretching, reaching, groping for the tiny golden ball---


"No! Our two Seekers lose their prize for the moment," Keillor groaned. "Gryffindor still in possession…"

On and on it went. Soon Lily's limbs unfolded themselves, and she reclined, too fatigued from anxiety.

"How much longer, d'you reckon?" she half-whined.


"Dunno," I shrugged. "Matches have gone on for weeks at a time, I've heard."


She rolled her eyes. "What's the score?" 

"Gryffindor leads by eighty points to twenty," Keillor chimed, as if on cue. "Still no sign of the Snitch, though… come on, Potter…"
Up in the air, James looked like a turkey vulture, flying in great loopy circles, surveying the distant grass below. Michael York was close behind, tailing him like a lost puppy.

"This is taking forever," Lily sighed, exasperated. "Why can't they just---"


"Shut up, Lily! Look!" 

The two Seekers had plunged into a spectacular dive, racing one another toward the ground and the tiny glint winking its silver wings above it. The tide of Gryffindor supporters leapt up, roaring James on as he plummeted, neck-and-neck with Michael York.
“The Snitch! They’ve seen it!” Keillor bellowed. “An intense drop by both Seekers leaves the rest of the players hovering to watch. COME ON, POTTER! MOVE YOUR RUDDY—”

At that point Professor McGonagall lost all remaining patience and finally yanked the magical megaphone from his grip.


This, however, had little effect upon the stamping and screaming scarlet-and-gold spectators. James and Michael York were entangled in one another’s futile efforts to grasp the fluttering Snitch. Lower and lower they dropped, the bellowing of the crowd spurring them to faster and faster speeds.  

“They’re going to crash!” Lily shrieked.

“Don’t be stupid!” the fifth year next to us shouted. “Potter’s not that thick!”


He was right. As the boy spoke, James pulled out of the dive, his fist waving above his head in triumph, and the stands erupted in a storm of cheers and victory chants. 

“Gryffindor wins, two-hundred and thirty to twenty!” Keillor bawled into the megaphone (which Professor McGonagall had tossed aside as she jumped to her feet, whistling like everyone else.)
“Kat, Lily!” Remus had fought his way across the stampede. “C’mon! Party up in the common room, Jeremy said.”

We exchanged euphoric glances. Somehow we had a feeling the McGonagall’s hope for a weekend of N.E.W.T. preparation wasn’t going to come through.



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