"Darn!" I cursed as I looked at my alarm clock, unset beside me. I jumped out of bed, stumbling as I did, and rushed to the bathroom to get myself sorted for the day.

Five minutes was all I had to get ready and make a ten minute journey across the castle to get to class. And of course it was just my luck that it was Defence Against the Dark Arts. If there was one thing Professor Jacobs didn't put up with it was tardiness. And it's not like I had a valid excuse as to why I had woken up late.

With my teeth brushed, my robes thrown on and my hair shoved up in a messy bun I grabbed my bag and ran down the stairs and started on my way to lesson.

Cursing under my breath, I legged it across the common room, barely keeping a hold of my bag. As I ran out the portrait hole I crashed right into a large body, dropping my bag and its entire contents all over the floor.

Without glancing up I murmured my apology, dropping to the floor to gather my belongings.

"Just woke up?" A familiar, amused voice asked from above me. He crouched down and proceeded to help me get my things back in order.

"You figure that out from the rushing?" I rolled my eyes at James as he handed me a pile of parchment. "Thanks."

"You have your robes on backwards." The smile on his face spread wider as he pulled himself up before offering me his hand to help me up to.

"You have got to be kidding me!" I glanced down at my robes, forcing myself to believe that he was just pulling my leg. He wasn't though. I looked back to the portrait hole and to my watch, trying to figure out if I could push it to go and sort myself out.

"Sort it out on the way." James started heading in the wrong direction. "But we need to leave now if you want to make it in time."

"But you're going the wrong way." I started heading in the opposite direction to James unsure of what he was playing at.

"Juliet. You have two choices here." James' voice made me stop in my tracks and turn back to face him. My eyebrow raised as I waited for him to continue. "Go that way, in which case I'll make some excuse up as to why you're late. Or come this way and actually make it in time."

"Unless you've managed to find a way around the anti-appiration charms I really doubt that." I mumbled but it didn't stop me from considering what he had said.

As I searched his face for any signs of mischief, my feet started heading in his direction. His eyes were full of sincerity and the smile on his face was warm. Nothing stood out that he was having a laugh.

"But could you please hurry up and make your mind up. I can't cover for you if I don't get going now." James turned away from me and started down the corridor, stopping when he go to a tapestry.

I rushed to catch up with him, deciding that I couldn't assume that just because he was Sirius' friend that he was genuine. I reminded myself that James had, in fact, been nothing but pleasant to me when I first got here; and that the only reason we hadn't spoken in the last two weeks was because him and Lily were avoiding each other just as much as me and Sirius were.

It was only when James went behind the tapestry rather that down the corridor that I paused for a moment, unsure of where he was even taking me. It was only a short moment before I shook my head and followed him in, revealing a narrow sort of tunnel.

I suppressed the urge to smile as I thought about how I should have known. Between Sirius and what he'd told me about James it would have been stupid to think they didn't know every secret passage way in the castle.

"I found this one with Sirius in our second year." James explained as though he could read my mind.

"And I bet it's not the only shortcut you know."

"Of course." James looked over his shoulder, flashing me an arrogant grin; a lot like the grin you'd see on Sirius' face. "You might want to rearrange yourself unless you want everyone else to see you like that." He gestured towards my clothes.

Without a word I pulled my arms out of my sleeves, awkwardly turning my robes around in the tight passageway.

I was suddenly grateful that I bumped into James, glad that it wasn't anyone who would ridicule me for my mistake. My mind quickly drifted to Sirius and how it was only a matter of time before he was in on it, finding ways to make me feel bad about it like he had managed to everything else.

"So,." James voice cut off my train of though, "has Lily mentioned anything about me listening to what she said?" He sounded unsure of himself, and in the dim light I could swear I sore a slight tinge to the back of his neck.

"Not really." I replied honestly. He have a bad taste in friends, but I could tell he was sincere when it came to Lily. Some part of me, deep down, hoped that maybe he could change her mind about him. "I mean, she's noticed that you're not talking to her. She thinks it's just you letting her cool down after your row though."

James didn't reply, nodding instead as he took it in.

There was something about the whole situation that tugged at my heart. Here, was a boy so desperately in love that he was doing the last thing he wanted to make her happy. Then there was Lily, who was so blinded by whatever had happened in the past that she wouldn't let herself see him in a different light.

"Listen, James. Whatever you did to Sev," I paused as I recalled the name, hoping it was the right one. When he didn't make a noise I continued, "I don't know if she'll be able to get past it. You just have to be patient I guess."

"She's still using Snivellus as a reason, after all this time?" There was a sudden coldness in his voice that I had never heard in it before. I flinched slightly at the harshness of it. "After what he did she's still siding with him!"

"What happened?"

James didn't have a chance to answer me as we came out of a corridor just in time for Professor Jacobs to start ushering the class into the room. The only problem was we weren't stood with the class. We were behind him.

That's when an idea cam into my head and I pulled my wand out, smiling at James as I did. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion, unable to decide whether he wanted to look at my wand or my face.

"Trust me." I whispered, the smile on my face showing just how amusing his reaction was.

I pointed my wand at his book bag before thinking Diffindo. His back split, causing everyone, including the teacher to turn to look at us. I managed to shove my wand up my cloak so that no one could see it.

"Miss Bryce. Mr Potter. Would you care to explain why you're late to my class?" Professor Jacobs bright blue eyes landed on me and I couldn't help but feel drawn in. I quickly shook myself out of it.

"Sorry, Sir. As you can see James has been having some trouble with his bag." I kept my voice steady as I easily lied to our good looking teacher, ignoring the odd looks the pair of us were receiving from our friends. "This must have been the fourth time that's happened on our way here." I dropped to the floor to help James pick up all his things.

"It might have something to do with Juliet not being able to repair the stupid thing properly." James retorted quickly, shooting me a glare as he pulled his own wand out of his robes to repair his bag.

The corners of my lips turned upwards as I tried not to giggle.

"Well if you pair of you could hurry up so we can get started." Professor Jacobs ordered, thankfully not thinking anything else of our lateness. He quickly took the class into the classroom and James and I got to our feet.

"Quick thinking." James said, impressed as he heading into the classroom ahead of me.

As we walked into the room we went to join the rest of the class who were stood at the back. The tables that were usually there were nowhere to be seen and everyone was stood at the back of the class. I said a quick thanks to James before heading to Lily.

The entire class was silent as we waited for Professor Jacobs to pull out sheets of paper. The entire class except Sirius and James that was.

"What do you mean you were helping her?" Sirius' raised whispers were loud enough to reach me, which meant there was no doubt about the fact that half the class were able to hear too.

My stomach dropped as I realised that I didn't even have to do anything to be dragged into Sirius' drama. Ignoring him didn't work. Avoiding him didn't work. Getting on with my life didn't work, so why was I even bothering.

James kept his voice so low, that even straining my ears wasn't enough to hear what he was saying.

"I don't care if she was late. Like that's my problem!" Sirius' voice was getting louder, despite his hushed tones as he tried to whisper to his best friend.

I chanced a look at him and was shocked to see James looking exasperated, whilst Sirius was glaring at him, angry oozing off of him.

It was getting beyond ridiculous. It was like even the mere thought of me drove him into a rage and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.

"We all swore that we wouldn't show anyone!" He had seemed to realise his voice was getting louder and had thankfully toned it down; at least to the point where Professor Jacobs wouldn't be able to hear any more. "She's been here two minutes and you're off showing her all our tricks!"

The teacher seemed to be making one last adjustment on whatever he was going to hand out and was paying no attention to the disagreement that was going on behind him.

"When did you two decide you were friends anyway?"

James let out a laugh as he ran a hand through his hair. "Is this a new rule you've come up with? We can't talk to anyone you've fucked over? What about Marlene? Can we still talk to her?"

"You know that has nothing to do with this!" Sirius spat through gritted teeth.

The two boys had everyone's attention at this point and James' eyes drifted across the room, stopping when they landed on mine.

"Now isn't the time. We'll talk about it later." James' voice was steady and loud enough so that everyone knew the show was over. Sirius' eyes followed James gaze and they too landed on me. He gave James a knowing nod before he looked away.

Not before I saw the fire in his eyes. The rage that hid behind them, that he normally hid so well. The rage that made me want to curl up in a ball.

Instead I just lifted my chin up and acted as if nothing had happened. He wouldn't get the satisfaction of winning. He wouldn't turn everyone against me and he wasn't about to make my life hell. It was my final year of school and there was no way in hell I was about to let a toe rag like him ruin it.

I turned my attention back to Lily who gave me a small, sad smile before nudging my shoulder with her own.

"He'll get over whatever his problem is."

I appreciated Lily's attempt at making me feel better but there was no need. He was just making the whole situation so much easier to handle every time he made a fool of himself. And that really was all he was doing at the end of the day.

. "Let him act like a 2 year old. All he's doing is throwing his toys out his pram." I shrugged as though it had no effect on me. "He'll get bored eventually and find a new victim."

As I spoke I could feel eyes burning into the back of my head. There were only two people who could possibly be looking at me, and I really doubted it was James.

"Right class." Professor Jacobs started, his voice cutting everyone off instantly.

Everything about him demanded respect. The way he walked, his hands clasped together behind his back. The way he narrowed his eyes as they worked around the room, catching everyone's gaze as they did. The authority with which he spoke was enough to quieten even the biggest trouble makers.

His piercing blue eyes were enough to capture anybodies attention, and they only added to his good looks. His chiselled features always had evidence of a five o'clock shadow. His ash blonde hair was always messy upon his head, very few grey hairs were starting to appear, the only thing that showed his age. Running down his left cheek was a scar, that somehow added to his looks.

"Today I'll be pairing you up. In your pairs, you'll be working on practising a list of defensive spells, which hopefully some of you will be able to perfect." He walked towards us, removing his hands from behind his back as he did. When he reached us he handed each of us a piece of paper. "You will be working with your partners for the next few weeks as we make our way through an array of different defensive spells. I want essays from each pair explaining what defensive spells are, what each spell does and when to use it. You don't have to just use spells we cover in class. If you can think of any more then all the better."

As he handed my my piece of paper I looked at the name on the top of it and cringed inwardly before glancing over at him. It was just my luck to be paired up with one of the four I'd done an amazing job of avoiding for as long as I did.

Remus was just glancing up from his paper, smiling warmly when he met my gaze. A smile that impossible to answer back with a smile of my own.

"It'll be mainly practical today, just jot a few notes down that might help with your essays." Professor Jacobs turned to walk towards the front of the room. "Oh, and everyone is required to cast the spells silently. As many as possible anyway."

Lily leant over my shoulder to read who I was paired with.

"At least you're with the decent one." She let out a sigh and shook her head before showing me the name on the bottom of her paper.

It was as she did this that Sirius sauntered over, over-confidence oozing off of him. As he reached Lily his arm snaked around her shoulders, which he only revelled in more when she cringed away from him.

"Lily, Lily, Lily." He looked down at her with a lop-sided grin on his face. "Looks like it's your lucky day."

I scoffed as Lily shrugged away from him, shaking my head as I did. It was like every time I had the displeasure of being in his company, he managed to get more and more obnoxious each time.

Sending Lily a small, sympathetic smile, I quickly made my way to Remus, hoping to put as much space between myself and Sirius as I could. Thankfully he seemed to have the same idea and dragged Lily to the other side of the classroom, coincidently where James and his partner happened to be.

"That looks like it's going to be a barrel of laughs." Remus commented once he followed my gaze. "I'll assume we'll both end up getting an earful later on."

I finally tore my eyes away from Lily and settled them on Remus. It was the first time I'd been this close to him in a while, the dark circles under his eyes more prominent at this range.

"Tell me about it," I took one last look over at Lily and the boys and had to stifle a laugh at Lily's face when she caught my eye. She was wordlessly asking me why I was doing and why I wasn't there to save her.

Reading the list of spells we'd been given I couldn't help but feel more at ease the further down the list I got. I might not have been the best student in most lessons; I was certainly not going to be the top of class for many things, but I was more than confident with every spell we'd been given.

If there was one thing I was grateful of it was that my father's military-like boot camp didn't just make sure that I was capable of looking after myself outside of school.

"What spell do you want to start with?" Remus asked, reading down the list with the same easy smile I can only assume I had on my face.

"You choose." I shrugged, not bothered in the slightest.

As Remus read down the list one last time I found myself looking around the classroom, watching everyone getting on with the work.

There were students struggling to keep a shield up for more than a few seconds, but with practice that would surely change. Getting the shield up wordlessly was the hardest bit. I was unsurprised to see James' partner dodging out of the way of spells that where deflecting back to them thanks to James successful casting.

"Let's start from the top." Remus' husky voice grabbed my attention and I nodded at him. "Ladies first."

With a small smile I silently put a shield between Remus and myself, just in time for it to deflect the disarming charm back towards him, causing him to jump out of the way. Pulling himself up, Remus' grin wider as we continued quickly working our way down the list.

By the time we were near the end of the lesson we had managed to get all the way down the list, except one. The Patronus charm. The one that was hard enough to get a corporeal result with words, let alone without. The one spell that Remus and I both agreed to leave for next lesson.

The pair of us sat down in the corner of the room, away from everyone else who was still taking part in the practical, getting our books out so we could start writing notes down for our essay.

"Jules, where have you been hiding out lately?" The normal, warm smile was gone from Remus' face, instead he seemed to be searching my face for something.

I mirrored him, searching his face under the delusion that maybe I could tell why he was wondering. "Just the library, or the dormitory. Anywhere you lot aren't."

Remus' eyebrows knitted together as he shook his head slightly, looking around making sure no one was in ear shot. "Listen, you don't have to lie to me."

My mouth dropped open the smallest amount as I racked my brain as to how he could know. I was good enough to know no one had followed me to the clearing, and I knew Regulus wouldn't have said anything. Shaking the thought out of my head I decided he must have been on about something else. There was no way he could know. No possible, logical explanation.

Finally letting myself relax, I smiled up at Remus. "What do you mean?" I knew I was a good liar. I had to be growing up the way I did.

"I know about you spending all your time with Regulus." He whispered, this time his eyes fell on Sirius who was laughing and joking with James, leaving Lily stood on her own with a face like a slapped ass.

I opened my mouth to say something but no words came out. I knew there was absolutely no way he should know, so how did he?

My eyes drifted to Sirius, wondering if that was why he was acting the way he was towards me. If one of them knew, the rest were sure to know.

"He doesn't know." Remus was watching me, watching my reaction for any sort of tell. "But he will find out. He's already getting suspicious of me. I can't keep covering for you."

Relief washed over me and I turned my attention solely to Remus. He was trustworthy, I knew that just from looking at him. Yet, at the same time, I wasn't sure if he would let slip to Sirius. He had no loyalty to me, so why would he go out of his way to prevent something from happening.

"What do you mean? How are you covering for me?" Confusion must have been evident on my face, I wasn't even attempting to hide it by this point.

"That doesn't matter." Remus brushed the question off, answering a little too quickly if you ask me. "You need to either stop, or tell him yourself. He'll go on a mad one if he stumbles upon it."

"I don't know how you worked it out, but I'm more than capable of covering my tracks." I shrugged off his worries, not sure I really understood where they were coming from. "He's not going to find out."

"Yes, he will." His words were final. "He has ways to find out. If you won't stop it, you have to be careful."

"Of Sirius? Yeah you said." I rolled my eyes as I shook my head. There was something funny about the whole thing. What did I have to be worried about? It's not like he could possibly get any worse than what he has been, right?

"No. Of Regulus."

A laugh bubbled out of my throat, echoing throughout the room. "I have nothing to worry about there."

"He's not a good person, Juliet." Remus' eyes were pleaded at this point. Pleading with me to take him seriously. Pleading with me to be careful.

All I wanted to do at this point was to get up and leave. How could someone assume he was a bad person just because he was in a different house to us. That really was all it was.

"And how do you know that?" I snapped, not bothering to keep my voice as low as I should have. "Have you ever spent more than two minutes with him? Have you ever tried to get to know him?"

"I don't need to." Remus' managed to lower his tone even more. "I've been around these people for the last seven years. I know what they're capable of."

"And maybe they think the same about you." I fumed, struggling to keep myself calm as we sat under the watchful eye of Professor Jacobs.

Remus sighed and rested his head against the wall we were leaning against. "I'm just telling you to be careful. There could be any reason to explain why he is spending his time with you, that might get hurt in the crossfire."

"Crossfire?" I glared at him, my eyebrows furrowed together. "Oh, you mean use me to hurt Sirius? This is what I mean about you not knowing him."

The door to the classroom swung open, interrupting not only me and Remus, but the rest of the class too. Professor McGonagall walked through the class, her lips pressed together tightly, stopping when she got to Professor Jacobs desk.

She spoke softly, under her breath to our DADA teacher, both their faces grim due to whatever they were talking about. Professor Jacobs gave a brisk nod before his eyes scanned across the room, landing on Remus and myself.

We shared a curious glance with each other as Professor McGonagall made her way to us, stopping when she stood before us. We both scrambled to our feet, uneasiness washing over the both of us under the intense look she had in her eyes.

"Miss Bryce," The deputy headmaster spoke, her face not giving away anything that was going on in her head. "Professor Dumbledore would like to see you in his office. If you could come with me."

My heart sank at the prospect of getting called to the headmasters office, especially this early into the year. I sure as hell hadn't done anything that meant I would be in trouble. Unless they knew I had been in the forbidden forest. It couldn't be that, could it?

I picked up my bag, ignoring the 'ooh's' the rest of the class were giving me. As I passed Lily I gave her a small smile, not that it would reassure either of us.

When we had been walking for a few minutes my curiosity got the better of me and I finally spoke for the first time since I'd seen the teacher.

"Why does Dumbledore want to see me?" I tried to keep any worry out of my voice, hoping that it would stop her from seeing any signs of guilt.

"I think it's best we wait until we get to Professor Dumbledore's office." She said, emphasizing the word professor.

We both walked in silence the rest of the way, my stomach tying itself in knots the closer we got. My palms were sweaty as I clenched and unclenched them, trying to calm my nerves.

"Pear drops." McGonagall's Scottish accent filled my ears as soon as we reached a gargoyle, which at the password a staircase appeared that we both stepped onto, taking us to a door which she opened and let us both in straight away.

The first thing I saw was my dad and I couldn't stop the grin from forming on my face. All my worries suddenly disappeared as I rushed past my teacher and gave him the biggest hug I could muster. His arms wrapped themselves around my, his scent drifting into my nostrils, reminding me of home.

"What are you doing here?" I couldn't contain my joy until I pulled away and saw the look on his face.

His eyes were dull, the life seemed to have disappeared from them. The colour in his normally flushed cheeks was nowhere to be seen and he looked like he hadn't slept in a month.

The knots in my stomach returned ten fold. I had never seen him in this state, even despite the things he saw during his job. Something was wrong.

"What is it?" I tried keeping my voice even.

"Take a seat, Jules." His voice was horse when he spoke. As though he was straining to get whatever he had to say out.

I did as he said, noticing for the first time that we were alone in the office. Dad came and knelt in front of me, putting a comforting hand on my knee as he did.

"You're mum's ill, Sweetie." His dull blue eyes glistened with tears as he choked out his words. "It doesn't look good."

My mind went blank. My ears started ringing, blocking out whatever it was he was saying. The only thing I could register was his lips moving.

If he thought it looked bad it meant he'd tried everything. And if he had tried everything it meant it wasn't a magical ailment.

"What is it?" I mumbled, unable to look away from his lips.

My ears didn't need to work to know what he said, I could lip read it well enough. Shaking my head was the only thing I could do as my brain worked in overdrive to register what he was saying.

The ringing subsided.

"The doctors are doing everything they can." Dad spoke, though he sounded so far away. It was as though I was underwater or something.

"I want to see her." The tears ran freely down my cheeks as my heart tore in two. It wasn't the first time this had happened. In fact, she almost gave up the last time.

"You have to stay here." He forced his voice to fill with authority but I just shook my head at him.

"No, I need to see her. Please."

"Juliet, you will stay here and focus on your work. That's an order." He suddenly went from loving, hurting husband, to strict and official in a split second and I knew there was no getting around him. "We'll keep you updated."

I didn't say anything for the rest of the time in there. All I could do was stare at a fixed point on the wall. It had happened before and he was never this bad. It couldn't be as bad as he was saying; I'd only been gone for a month. There had to be something we could do.

I looked at my dad one last time before I stood up, turning my back on him half way through his sentence. There had to be something I could do. She wasn't going to go like this. She was too strong to be beaten by cancer.

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