Sirius glanced over to where Adhara was sitting with Meadowes. She was listening to Professor McGonagall intently. He looked down at his own quill which hung listlessly between his fingers.

“You should talk to her already!” James whispered from next to him, smirking.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, arranging his face to look unconcerned.

“Adhara. You clearly want to. You’ve been avoiding each other ever since we came back from the holidays,” replied James, corking an eyebrow.

“I don’t,” whispered back Sirius, grudgingly.

Trust James to be annoyingly observant when least required. He was partly right, though. They had been avoiding each other, but Sirius didn’t want to talk to her. He thought he saw a look in her eyes every time they glanced at him which suggested she wanted to talk about the kiss. And he didn’t see what was there to talk about.

“Then why do you keep looking at her?” replied James teasingly. The smirk on his face annoyed Sirius slightly.

“Do I, really?” Sirius redirected casually, raising his eyebrows and praying that James wouldn’t be able to sense the heat that crept up his neck uncomfortably.

“Yes,” affirmed James. “Do you fancy her?” he asked abruptly, lowering his voice as McGonagall’s sharp eyes lingered on their corner of the classroom.

Sirius waited till she looked away to reply.

“No.” A pause. “But we snogged,” he said curtly. James stared at him for a moment and then his shoulders started shaking in silent laughter. Sirius turned to look at him and a reluctant grin spread across his lips watching James’ face turn redder with the effort to laugh soundlessly. He tried to mask his discomfort by pretending to kick James under the table, a movement that caused the seat in front of him to shake. Peter turned around looking startled.

“Potter!” McGonagall’s voice rapped across the class. Sirius grinned wider, knowing James was inevitably in trouble. “Sit up straight,” she admonished, and much to Sirius’ surprise and disappointment, turned to the class without another comment. “The class is dismissed. I would like the Gryffindor students to stay back a few moments please.”

There was a general hustle as the students gathered their belongings and moved out of the classroom. The Gryffindors looked at each other bewildered, wondering if they were all in trouble together. McGonagall’s impassive expression didn’t betray any hint.

“Would you all please gather to the front.”

Professor McGonagall’s voice sounded softer, lacking her usual sternness. Sirius walked up with James, Remus and Peter to join the girls who were already at the front of the class. Up close, he noticed something strained in McGonagall’s face. Her fingers were shaking slightly as she steadied her glasses on her nose.

“There is something you all need to know,” she started. Her voice sounded worried, and slightly scared. A sense of foreboding passed through Sirius. The Gryffindor head of the house never lost composure. “If you would all please accompany me to Professor Dumbledore’s office,” she said, gathering her wand and moving towards the door.

Still perplexed, the nine of them fell two paces behind McGonagall as they followed her down the corridor. Whispered supposing ensued among the girls, while James lost no time in telling Remus and Peter about Sirius’ confession. Peter oogled in amazement at Sirius while Remus just grinned.

“You fancy Adhara?” Remus asked, his eyes round and eyebrows raised.

“Course not!” he snorted, glancing furtively at the girls. Remus snorted disbelievingly while Peter and James started snickering again. Before Sirius could retort, they were standing in front of the familiar twin gargoyles that he had come face to face only once before.

Sweet Tooth,” McGonagall’s clear voice floated back to them. The gargoyles jumped apart and the spiral staircase was revealed. As they made their way up, even James was beginning to look a little serious. They gathered inside Dumbledore’s office. James nudged him and pointed to the phoenix, preening it’s magnificent gold feathers and perched on a high stand. Lily and Marlene seemed to be mesmerized by it, and even Adhara (Sirius noticed) couldn’t take her eyes off it.

“His name, is Fawkes.”

All nine heads turned to see Professor Dumbledore emerge from his inner chambers. Sirius noticed that the portraits, who had been pointing at them and whispering until then, fell silent and looked at Dumbledore expectantly. The portrait of Phineas Nigellus gave him a cold nod of recognition. Clearly, his great-great-grandfather had picked up on the talks circling the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, supposed Sirius. The thought of his disapproval was oddly satisfying, and Sirius returned his nod with a cocky grin that seemed to affront him much to Sirius’ gratification. He chuckled inwardly as Phineas Nigellus glared at him.

“Take a seat,” Dumbledore said, in his stately voice. He waved his wand and conjured extra chairs. McGonagall, however remained standing. Sirius noticed that her hands were clasped tightly in front of her.

“You must all be wondering why you are here,” Dumbledore started, walking around to behind his desk and facing them. He formed a steeple with his fingers as his electric blue eyes gazed down at each one of them. “I will save you further speculation and get to the point right away.” He inclined his head lightly. Professor McGonagall gripped the back of the chair nearest to her. “I know this will come as quite a shock, and I urge you to brace yourselves.”

Sirius was startled at the seriousness in his voice, and the momentary pause hung heavily over them.

“I regret to inform you that your classmate, Ms. Regina Flume, has been found murdered, along with her family.”
Adhara, Lily and Marlene gasped. Dorcas’ eyes widened. Sirius was quite taken aback himself. He saw James’ face grow serious and Remus’ grow white. Peter looked fearful. Mary’s hand flew to her mouth, and she started sobbing. McGonagall conjured a tissue and handed it to her, patting her head consolingly.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Dumbledore said, sounding it.

“B-but why?” Marlene whispered, verbalizing the one thought on everybody’s mind.

Dumbledore turned his eyes on her. He seemed to be considering something. “Well-” He paused to deliberate, “I am firmly convinced it is the work of Lord Voldemort.” Professor McGonagall shuddered.

“Why did they kill her? She’s just a child. Our age,” Lily’s voice cracked.

“That doesn’t seem to matter to them,” McGonagall spoke up unexpectedly, her voice thick and weary.

“There must have been a reason,” Dorcas insisted quietly, looking at Dumbledore intently. Dumbledore’s eyes regarded her fleetingly and a cursory knowing smile crossed his lips.

“I could be wrong,” he bowed his head humbly. “But I believe that they refused services to Voldemort.”

“What services?” James asked, curiously. Sirius was intrigued as well.

“Your guess is as good as mine.”

“And yours would be?” James persisted. Dumbledore turned to face James. He seemed to apprise him before replying.

“I’m not entirely convinced, but from what I have deduced by talking to their neighbors and friends, I believe Feodor was under the Imperius Curse. When he started fighting it, he took off with his family.”

“The controlling curse?” asked Adhara, her eyes wide. Dumbledore affirmed with a nod.

Sirius raised his eyebrows while James and Dorcas looked disgusted. Remus was shaking his head in horror and Peter’s eyes were wide. The Imperius curse was a big deal, even he knew that.

“What could they want from the Flumes?” asked Sirius frowning.

“Again, your guess is as good as mine,” Dumbledore reiterated.

“Then take one, won’t you?” James demanded once again. McGonagall looked at him sharply, almost objecting to his insolence. But Dumbledore’s gaze seemed nearly approving when he turned to answer this time.

“Feodor has powerful relatives in the Russian Ministry of Magic. They might have wanted his allegiance.”

Sirius wanted to push his luck a little and wondered if Dumbledore would indulge a group of thirteen year olds. But if there ever was a good time for luck-pushing, it was now.

“Who wants to recruit the Russians? Voldemort?” asked Sirius, sharply.

“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,” cried McGonagall, almost angrily, her face white.

“Now, now Minerva,” chided Dumbledore softly, “I have told you many times not to subscribe to that pseudonym.”

“And I have told you many times I will do just that,” McGonagall snapped, much to everyone’s amazement. She looked quite upset and Dumbledore didn’t press further.

“Why Russians?” demanded Sirius once again, determined not to go off track. None of this seemed to be making any sense.

“Support. Power,” replied McGonagall distastefully.
Dumbledore nodded. “Russians have the largest and most ruthless giant population. I believe that Vol-” Dumbledore glanced at McGonagall. “- the Death Eaters are looking to expand their resources.”

“Why can’t the ministry do something?” Adhara spoke up furiously. Her eyes were blazing, and Sirius noticed her fist clenched on her lap.

“The ministry isn’t in control.” It was James who replied this time. “The Death Eaters are rumored to have infiltrated the Ministry.” He looked at Dumbledore for validation.

“Your premise isn’t entirely baseless. But I wouldn’t dismiss them so easily, Mr. Potter. They’re doing the best they can in these extremely difficult circumstances,” Dumbledore replied cautiously.

“But… if the ministry is corrupt, then… who is going to stop these people?” Lily asked, her cheeks glistening with tears. Dumbledore remained silent.

For a second it looked like he was going to say something when McGonagall interjected. “The best you can do right now is to study hard, and learn to defend yourselves as much as possible.”

A look passed between McGonagall and Dumbledore. Dumbledore inclined his head in assent and replied, “I understand this news must be hard, especially for those of you who have interacted closely with Ms. Flume. My deepest condolences, it is indeed a terrible loss. I urge you all to remain strong, and focus on your education as Minerva said. That is your biggest strength at this point in time.”

Dumbledore rose from his seat, an indication that the conversation was done, and the others were to rise as well. The group that exited his office was decidedly more subdued than the one that entered.

A blanket of gloom had descended upon the Gryffindor common room. It was more the fact that this felt much closer to home than any of the other killings and disappearances in the Daily Prophet. There were speculating whispers, shocked expressions and an overall air of fear.

“Blows about the Flumes, doesn’t it?”

James turned to Owen Weasley and the Prewett twins who were sitting a little away from them.

“She was your classmate, yeah? Must be really hard for you lot,” Fabian Prewett spoke up.

James let his shoulders raise in a half shrug, with a nonchalant tilt of his head.

“What’s really hard is that it could have just as easily been any one of us,” Remus spoke up quietly.

“Don’t kid yourself, Moony,” replied Sirius, “you’re not that important.” Remus attempted a feeble smile. His face was pale (maybe because it was full moon tomorrow?).

“Don’t dismiss Lupin so easily.” Frank Longbottom had joined them, with Alice Rivers by his side. “Who knew the Flumes were important? All they did was make the best pastries in town!”

“I would hardly picture that Voldemort bloke getting offended by a rotten pastry,” replied James.

“Everything is more than what meets the eye,” Alice Rivers replied in her quiet voice. “You know, Amelia Bones told me that he tried recruiting her parents, and killed them when they refused.”

A thought suddenly struck James and he felt as if a heavy ball dropped to his stomach. It could have just as easily been his parents. Pureblood and a champion duelist, his father could have been approached just as much as the Bones. The faces of his parents floated in front of his eyes, and for a moment, James shuddered at the thought of being in Amelia and Edgar Bones’ shoes.

“... the Ministry claims they’re taking action,” Remus was saying.

“No,” James scoffed harshly. His tone of voice made everyone turn to him. “The Ministry is incompetent. They’re spending more time covering up their inadequacies and squabbling for personal glory.” He realized he sounded just like his father. The strength of his emotions had propelled him to his feet, and half the common room was looking at him.

“It’s true isn’t it?” He demanded, looking at the Prewett twins. He knew that that both their parents worked at the Ministry. They gave him identical nods.

“It’s become each man for himself,” said Gideon, shaking his head sadly.

“That’s just playing right into their hands,” argued James furiously.

“Potter’s right,” said Frank Longbottom, getting to his feet as well. “They could very easily capitalize on our selfish motives. Cause more rifts among us. Divide, and rule.”

“But what else can we do? We can’t trust the Ministry, we can’t trust anyone new,” said Marlene in a distressed voice.

“We can trust each other,” replied James, firmly. “Why do we have to depend on the Ministry to do something we can easily do?”

“Are you suggesting we take on this Voldy-person?” Sirius asked, his voice lined with derision.

“I’m suggesting we stop waiting around for someone else to protect us,” James said impatiently. “I’m suggesting, whatever happens, we stick together.” Silence followed his words, and James realized he was breathing a little hard.

Unos pro omnibus, omnes pro uno,” quoted Lily lightly, breaking the silence.

His fervent hazel eyes met her vibrant green ones and in that split second James knew that she alone had grasped the absolute essence of his words.

“Precisely. One for all, and all for one,” James translated with a small smile, without breaking her gaze. As she returned his smile with a twinkle of her eyes, he felt his stomach twist uncomfortably.

The air was wrought and heavy, as the girls silently went to bed one by one. Adhara lay on her side, staring at Regina’s unoccupied bed next to hers. Something heavy seemed to weigh her chest down, and she suddenly felt the need to get out of there.
The common room was empty save for a black haired boy, sitting on the rug and staring into the depths of the fireplace, the back of whose head was only all too familiar. For a moment she considered retracing her steps back to the dorm, but he had heard her footsteps and turned around. Their eyes met, maybe for the fiftieth time since the kiss-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of. For a second she looked at him unsurely, but he jerked his head, as if beckoning her toward him.

“What are you doing up so late?” she asked, sitting cross legged next to him in front of the fireplace, and leaning against the the couch behind her.

“Couldn’t sleep.” He was back to staring at the fireplace.

“Me either,” she replied.

The next few moments passed in silence, where only the crackling of the fire could be heard.

“Regina used to sleep in the bed next to mine,” she said softly, staring into the fireplace.

Sirius turned his head sideways to look at her.

“I didn’t know you were close.”

“We weren’t,” she affirmed.

Sirius resumed staring at the fireplace. “Then what’s gotten you so upset?” he asked after a pause.

“She’s dead, Sirius,” she replied, her eyes widening incredulously. “She’s our age. Shared our common room. Slept in our dorms. And now, she’s just… dead.”

Adhara felt an unpleasant tightening in her stomach. There was a thought she was holding back on, but saying it would make it all too real. To make things worse, Sirius laughed. Not a merry laughter, but more a bark-like scoff.

“What?” she demanded irately.

“It’s funny how grossly dissimilar my two worlds are.” She looked at him quizzically. “Here, the news of death is accompanied by shock and gloom. Back at home, it’s merely a dinner table conversation.”

“So, how do you feel? Shocked, or unconcerned?” she asked curiously.

He considered it for a moment. “Numb,” he replied finally. “You should have heard James up in the boys dorm, talking with Remus, Peter, Cresswell, Shacklebolt, Longbottom, the Prewett twins… Death is huge, death is a loss. I never saw it that way.”

Sirius’ bitter voice sounded slightly strained. She glanced at him sideways and saw him swallow.

“That’s why Hogwarts is so wonderful,” replied Adhara quietly, placing her palm over his arm. “Takes you away from your family, gives you a chance to see things for yourself, make your own opinions, take your own stand.”

“I didn’t know such a philosopher was hidden inside you, Selwyn,” said Sirius mockingly.

“The things you don’t know about me could fill a book, Black,” she replied, her eyes twinkling.

He raised his eyebrows at her and she raised her chin challengingly. He laughed again, the same hoarse laugh she had heard just before he had kissed her. Something must have showed in her expression, because the smile seemed to freeze on Sirius’ face as he looked searchingly into her eyes.

“So,” he paused. “We kissed.”

There it was.

Adhara felt a small flutter in her stomach.

“We kissed,” she repeated, raising her shoulders in half shrug.

“Er - So…”

“We don’t have to talk about it,” Adhara interjected, almost flippantly. She didn’t want it to matter, she didn’t want to care.

Sirius’ face broke into a wide grin. “Sounds good to me!” he said. He blinked, and the next moment, she was being kissed by him. Being sober this time, her senses were heightened and she could feel every delicious move, every gentle pressure of his lips on hers. She pulled back and raised her eyebrows.

“What?” he asked nonchalantly, “I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it again,” he said cockily, but pulled away slightly. She was almost sorry to see him detach, but he circled his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. They sat there, staring into the depths of the almost dying fire once again.

“Regina is dead, Sirius,” she said softly.

“I still don’t feel anything,” he muttered after a pause.

“I was mean to her in first year.”

“You were mean to everyone in first year.”

She turned to glare at him. “Thanks,” she said sarcastically.

“You’re welcome,” he replied cheekily.

She continued to glare as she turned away.

“You’re not a bad person, Adhara,” he said in a reassuring voice.
Adhara couldn’t help but smile.

“You’re not dead inside, Sirius,” she replied, dropping her head to his shoulder.

“You’re a good snog, Selwyn,” he said. She could hear the grin in his voice.

“I thought we weren’t talking about it.”

“We aren’t,” he replied lightly.


Lily saw the dark images of Sirius and Adhara, huddled in front of the dimming fireplace. She was surprised to see how cosy they looked, and felt slightly uncomfortable. Not wanting to intrude, she tiptoed her way across the common room, and gently pushed open the portrait. She glanced back and was relieved to see they hadn’t noticed. It looked like they were kissing. Her eyes widened for a moment but she took advantage of their distraction to close the portrait hole and hurry away. She saw Severus waiting for her at her destination, just as she had requested him to.

“What happ-”

Severus was cut short as Lily had thrown her arms around him, and started sobbing into his shoulders. She could feel him patting her shoulder awkwardly.

“There, there,” he muttered in her ear. She pulled back, sniffing, wiping her cheeks. Severus conjured a white handkerchief out of thin air and handed it to her. His cheeks looked unnaturally flushed.

“Regina Flume is dead,” she sniffled, dabbing her eyes and cheeks.

“I heard,” he replied in a low voice.

“Dumbledore says she was murdered by You-Know-Who’s followers.”
Severus remained silent. She guessed he didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t known Flume after all.

“It could have been any one of us,” she said fearfully, as Remus’ words from earlier suddenly came to her. “Why, maybe it’ll be me next. They hate muggleborns, don’t they?” she said wryly.

“No,” Severus said roughly. “It won’t be you.”

She gave a watery scoff. “How do you know, Sev?”

“I know,” he replied firmly. “They won’t come after you. They must have had a very good reason for killing the Flumes.”

Good reason?” She was horrified. “How could you say that?” Fresh tears flowed down her cheeks. “There’s no good reason for murder, Sev. Murder!”

Severus shuffled his feet uncomfortably as she continued to look at him with repulsion.

“N-no,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean it like that…”

“How could…” She found she was unable to continue. The rush of emotions were too much for her to handle, and she buried her face in her hands.

“I didn’t… it’s not like that Lily… Please don’t cry…” Severus implored, coming closer to pat her shaking shoulders hesitantly. Severus always had a knack of saying things the wrong way or at the wrong time.

“You should really watch what you say,” she said finally, frowning up at him. He nodded earnestly, looking ashamed of himself.

She sighed. There were other things bothering her. “Dorcas says this isn’t going to stop. That these people aren’t going to give up,” she said, searching his face for answers. She badly wanted him to tell her Dorcas was wrong, that they weren’t as dangerous as the Prophet and everyone made them out to be. She wanted him to reassure her that magic would solve everything, like he had when she was nine.

His black eyes looked almost sad as they lifted up to meet hers. “They aren’t going to stop, Lily,” he said hesitatingly. He looked thoroughly miserable as he said it. “But… you don’t know how far the boundaries of magic can be pushed,” he continued eagerly. “With You-Know-Who in charge, there will be no laws, no restrictions on the magic we perform.”

“Sev, they’re killing people!” she stamped her feet impatiently.

“No, Lily,” he argued hurriedly. “Remember how you told me all that you wanted to do with magic? How you insisted that we use our gift to help people? You can do all that without worrying about the Statute of Secrecy, if they’re in power,” he reasoned.

“All these… Er - incidents… they’re - Er - unfortunate.” He faltered towards the end. Lily looked intently at him, not knowing what to make out of his words.

“But, Sev,” she started quietly, a thought striking her suddenly.

“What use is all that if I’m dead?”

“Don’t say that!” he replied angrily. “You won’t… I won’t…” He spluttered, his face flushing.

“I’m scared, Sev,” she whispered. An odd look crossed his eyes as he reached out and clasped her hands that were twisting the handkerchief. She hadn’t realized they had been trembling until his thin, long fingers steadied them.

“You don’t have to be,” he replied earnestly.

She looked up into his thin, sallow face. “What if… what if it’s me next, or worse Tuney, or mum and dad…?”

“You worry too much,” he cut into her anxious tirade, gently. She wondered how someone could be so inconsiderate one moment and so sensitive the next. Severus wasn’t insensitive, she reasoned, he was just tactless.

“Dumbledore said that the best we can do now is learn to defend ourselves,” she said. Severus had withdrawn his hand and stuffed them in his pockets. “And Potter says we should all rally together, that we shouldn’t give up.”

A flicker of annoyance crossed Severus’ eyes at the mention of Potter’s name. She wished she hadn’t brought it up. Who was being tactless now?

“We won’t give up, will we, Sev?” she hurried to divert his attention away from her mention of Potter.

“No,” his voice sounded flat. Almost as if he was telling her what she wanted to hear. She looked at him anxiously, unable to read his expression.

“You’ll be on my side, won’t you?” she continued antsily.

“Of course,” he replied firmly, his tone kinder but continued to wear that unreadable expression.

“Always?” she insisted.

He raised his beady eyes to look at her face, and a muscle in his jaw twitched. “Always.”


Hello again. I know I should have updated sooner but RL got a little bit out of hand, and I wanted to edit a bit before posting. The next updates will be coming in shorter intervals, I promise.

This chapter is a little grave, but I do want to show how the war outside could affect the children within as well. What do you all think of this? Is the 'Always' a bit too much? Would you have liked to see any other character's reaction/Pov? Did any of you notice the little Lily/James moment?

This chapter is dedicated to my dearest beta Chiara (Felpata Lupin) and a very lovely person who has come on board to be my second beta - Bianca (victoria_anne)

Reviews are love, my dear readers.

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