A large, black, scruffy dog came lumbering through the bushes in the back yard, panting and almost looking like he was smiling.

"Mr. Snuffles!" I cried in an almost baby-like voice. The mutt bounded over, toppling me over like a child and licking my face while I giggled and half-heartedly tried to push him off. I smiled up into pretty blue eyes, never realizing how much they looked like Dad's or my own. "Why didn't you tell me you were an animagus?"

The dog turned his furry head to the side and whined a bit. "Piper, wake up."

I frowned. I didn't know animagi could talk in their animal forms. Why wasn't McGonagall a cat all the time?

"Earth... To... STONE!"

I jerked awake right as my head was slipping from my hand, almost landing in my cold oatmeal. An arm wrapped around my shoulders and squeezed, the arm's owner pressing a kiss to my temple.

"You are adorable," Terry said before letting go and focusing on his plate of eggs. "You act like you didn't get any sleep."

I rubbed my eyes and stifled a yawn. "I'm trying to catch up on the night before. And I didn't get to bed until late last night. I've had like six hours of sleep in the last two days." I pinched the bridge of my nose, willing away the start of a fatigue headache. All I wanted was to discover that I had a free period first thing this morning. Just the thought had my eyes drifting shut again.

Terry poked me in the ribs and I turned to scowl at him. He gave me only a slightly apologetic look. "Flit's about to come down with schedules."

He was nervous. With the change in teacher arrangments, he was no longer sure about training to be a curse breaker. He needed Defense Against the Dark Arts, but he and Professor Snape didn't get on very well. Professor Snape and anyone didn't get on very well.

"It's only two more years," I said sympathetically.

"Oh, sure, you say that now as an ickle Fifth Year, barely gearing up for her O.W.L.s, innocent to the ways and rigors of the N.E.W.T.s, but I remember my cousin in her Sixth and Seventh Years," he lamented. "She was practically demonized by the amount of homework and stress. Part of the reason I liked the idea of being a Curse Breaker was because I didn't have to pursue Potions." He looked at me with big puppy eyes, wanting more sympathy. I stared back.

"Call me 'ickle' one more time," I said finally. "I dare you."

Rather than be afraid, his face split into a grin and he pulled me close again. I made a face of fatigue and frustration, but put up with it because I'm pretty sure that's what good girlfriends do. Finally, I gave in and relaxed against him. You know, he was rather comfortable. My eyes began to close once more...

"Hey, where's your schedule?!"

My eyes shot open to find bright brown eyes staring at me from across the table. The eyes moved from me to Terry and back with flashing annoyance.

"I- uh- It- Ginny, this is the Ravenclaw table," I finally managed.

She snorted. "Yeah, because I didn't practically live here last year." She leaned forward, red hair spilling over her shoulders as she inspected the area in front of me, nose wrinkling at my untouched oatmeal.

"They're coming now, calm down, Ginny," Terry assured her. She cast him another annoying glance.

A piece of parchment floated down with about a hundred others across the table. I reached for it lamely, but it was Ginny who snatched it out of the air before it landed in my breakfast goop. She sat back down as I frowned at her and she put my parchment next to hers.

"We've got four classes together!" she said excitedly. "Starting with Charms!"

I laughed at her enthusiasm. "Does this mean we're going to show off our- our-" I yawned. "-Ah! Our house unity?"

"You're damn right we are," she replied with a smirk.

The tiny professor of Charms and head of Ravenclaw house was making his way down to the lingering Sixth Years at the table, going over their O.W.L. scores versus the classes they applied to continue taking this year. It didn't really matter that Snape was the new professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts- Terry had gotten an O, though how he managed with no DA and no proper teacher last year, I wasn't sure. As he reached my boyfriend, I tuned out the hall, pushing eating implements away from me and folding my arms on the table, putting my head down. Just a few minutes...

Something was poking my head.

"Knock it off!" Ginny hissed.

"She'll be late for class if I don't," said a different voice.

"I hate you all," I moaned. I looked up to see Dean Thomas grinning at me from next to Ginny. No one had any sympathy for the sleepy girl. Might as well give up until History of Magic class. "Do we even have History of Magic today?" I wondred allowed.

"Tomorrow," Ginny replied.

When they say life is not fair, this is what they meant. I pushed myself, resolving to stay awake. "Hey, Dean. What are you going to be when you grow up?"

"I'm going into art," he said proudly, his chest puffing up a bit. I forgot that both he and Terry were artists. He made a lot of the Gryffindor Quidditch banners from scratch. "I'd like to be one of the people that draws the moving portraits."

"What classes do you have to take to do that?" I asked.

"Charms, Transfiguration." He shrugged. "And I'm taking Defense Against the Dark Arts simply because I got the score to go on."

"You're taking Snape's class willingly?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Better to be prepared, right?" The question had an ominous feel to it that made me shudder. Funny how a shudder can wake you up better than coffee.

"Anyway, I should get going." Dean stood up holding Ginny's hand, helping her off the bench. "Your Charms class starts soon. Don't fall asleep." He kissed Ginny's cheek before disappearing into the thick of the mass exodus leaving the Great Hall.

"I should get going, too," Terry said, looking down at his new schedule. "I went ahead and took potions. I got the grade for it. Maybe it will come in handy when Snape finally forces me to quit Defense Against the Dark Arts in an insane and ranting manner." He leaned over and kissed my cheek. "We'll compare schedules later when Ginny isn't holding yours hostage."

I rolled my eyes, but turned to return his kiss, smiling as he left the table. A shiver ran down my spine and I looked around, suddenly feeling like I was being watched. Not just watched, but hated. It was enough to make anyone wide awake and aware. I glanced around wildly, searching. I found Ron glaring in what looked like my direction. When I caught his gaze, he turned away, saying something to Harry before they left the Hall.

"Why are you still with him after the Ron thing?"

I almost didn't register the question as I looked back and forth from one Weasley to the other.

"I- it-" I took a deep breath and stood up from the table. "I am going to class." I leaned over to snatch my schedule from her and look at it. When she had said 'starting with Charms' she meant that literally. First class of the day. I looked up at the smug look on her freckled face. "I'm making Luna sit between us."

"Because that's going to stop me."

... Damn.

"Just... Just shut up," I grumbled, getting to my feet.

Luna was waiting expectantly at the end of the table like she was trying to keep her distance. She smiled when she saw me approaching, glancing toward Ginny on the other side of the table keeping pace with me. I was suddenly stopped dead by an angry looking Cho Chang.

"Tryouts. This Saturday. I've already booked the pitch," she declared, a hard edge in her normally soft voice. "Congratulations on Prefect."

"Th- thanks?" I replied, uncertain. "Congratulations on captain. But, Cho, I wasn't going to try out this y-"

"Excuse me?" Her eyes narrowed. Who was this Cho Chang? She wasn't the same girl from last year. I took a small step back and cleared my throat.

"Look, I've got patrolling duties and it's O.W.L. year, plus I have Terry," I began nervously. "I can't juggle practice with all of that-"

"Do you think you're the first quidditch player to make Prefect and have to juggle school and duty and practice and a personal life?" she demanded, taking a step forward and forcing me one step back.

"N- no, I-"

"I need that arm of yours," Cho pressed, bearing down on me. I took another step back, holding said arm protectively with my left as if she might try and take it.

"Hey!" Ginny cried from across the table making both the captain and me look over. "She said no, now back off!"

"Of course you don't want her out there!" Cho shot back, glaring. It was rather uncharacteristic of her and I wondered what had gotten into her. "You're a Gryffindor and with Piper as Beater, we have a strong edge!"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "So strong, Gryffindor has held the House Cup for the last five years?" she retorted. She glanced up the table and made a little motion with her head. The next thing I knew, Luna was tugging on my arm while Cho was still distracted by Ginny. "Not to mention the Quidditch Cup during the years we actually had quidditch."

"Gross favoritism!" Cho shot back. She went to look at the empty place in front of her and whirled around just as Luna and I cleared the end of the table. "Saturday, Stone! Be on the pitch!"

Ginny smirked at her before practically skipping away toward Luna and I and we finally left the Great Hall.

"Good Merlin, I hate that girl," Ginny said as we walked. She sounded smug, proud of herself rather than angry.

"I wonder what's gotten into her," I said, glancing back to see Cho accosting other Ravenclaws, including last year's chasers Kael Chambers and Willa Bradley, about the news of tryouts.

The other team members had graduated last year with the exception of Duncan Inglebee whose parents pulled him from Hogwarts after they were told of the terrors Dolores Umbridge had imposed on the student body. Because the secret chamber with the killer snake, the homicidal prisoner being hunted by dementors, and the archaic tournament that put participants (and sometimes the spectators) in mortal danger just hadn't been reason enough to do it sooner.

Still, Cho Chang was normally a soft spoken, mild mannered girl. I was actually surprised that she was picked for captain considering. Perhaps she was trying to be the captain she thought Roger wanted her to be, but even he had never been so demanding.

I spent the rest of the day- nay, the rest of the week -dodging Ginny's questions and Cho's harrassment. Homework seemed to be piled on from all sides and Snape was particularly unforgiving in Defense Against the Dark Arts, stating the we had lacked proper training from the off and needed to catch up. With the exception of Professor Lupin in Second Year and Harry last year, I couldn't really argue with him. Still, the load seemed staggering compared to previous years. I really wanted to find time to talk to Harry about all this Black family business, but it seemed that he was busier than I was. Not to mention Ron was always there...

When Saturday came around, Luna, Terry, Ginny, and Momo (strangely) came to watch tryouts. Ginny insisted that I didn't have to go, but I felt I owed it to the team to at least show up. Cho seemed pretty proud of herself when I arrived, dragging my old Comet behind me. That trip for a new broom and gear I'd mentioned to Harry? Yeah, that hadn't happened...

The guilt weighed on my conscience, but I did my best to give the worst try-out of my life. Almost every swing missed and the ones that hit were weak and flimsy, barely sending the enchanted bludgers farther than just out of my reach. Several times, I went into an unintended barrel roll. It's a good thing I'm not afraid of heights anymore...

Cho glared at me from where she sat, hovering on her broom and watching my performance. I was so relieved when tryouts were over. She announced that the team would be posted by Monday in the common room before dismissing us and my cheerleaders showed up to hustle me away before she could corner me.

"Gryffindor tryouts are next Saturday," Ginny said as we headed inside. "You should come. Ron's trying out for Keeper again."

"Trying to keep his title of 'Weasley is Our King?'" I replied, trying to remain neutral on the subject of Ron and his trying out for the Gryffindor team. I was keenly aware of my boyfriend's hand in mine. "Sounds fun. I might come watch, if only to see the competition I don't have to face this year."

"You never know," Luna said airily. "She might put you on the team out of spite."

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