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Refreshed from a quick shower and dressed in her muggle clothes of jeans and a black off the shoulder sweater Ripley took a quick look around the common room, noted the Marauders at the fireplace. She debated a nook by herself, but even her introverted soul needed company now and then. She swung around the side of the couch, swatted at Sirius’ outstretched legs, and promptly sat when he moved them. 

 

“All right, love?” Remus spoke from the armchair beside her, softly, caring, as was his way. She gave him a little smile, nodded. Sirius plopped his legs down in her lap, earning a glare from her. She shifted her gaze over to James and Peter Pettigrew.

 

“Potions on Monday?” She asked the group. “Anyone?”

 

“The four of us all have it,” said James. “You and Lily as well?”

 

“And Persephone,” added Ripley referring to one of her other favored companions. 

 

“Is she still single?” Peter perked up a little. Ripley merely stared at him. “I mean--y’know--”

 

“I’m pretty sure she is,” this came from Sirius as he sat up, took his legs back. Ripley grunted in response. “That’s a yes. Are you fancying her?”

 

Peter blushed. “Well--I--uh, y’see…” He stammered to get the words out under Ripley’s  unwavering gaze. Sirius noticed, and laid a hand on Ripley’s knee. She turned her head toward him now, fixed him with the same stare, it reminded him of one of the big cats from London Zoo. 

 

“Let the boy try.” He advised gently. He saw the inner battle, knew it all too well. To let someone you were close to attempt to find love, or worse be hurt in the process.

 

“Ripley, I promise--” Peter began and froze as the woman rose slowly from the couch, Sirius stood with her, braced and ready. Her temper was nothing new to the Marauders and Peter tended to piss her off easily. 

 

“She’s in the library with the Ravenclaws studying.” The Gryffindor glanced at Sirius, offered a half smile to others before departing.  

Peter let out the breath he hadn’t known he had been holding and fell back against the armchairs legs. “Merlin she’s--”

 

“Padfoot?” James called after his disappearing best mate. He shared a look of concern and confusion with Remus. “Well, that’s a new development.”

 

“It is indeed,” said Remus thoughtfully as he stroked his chin. “Very interesting.” 

 

0-0-0

She sought the silence of the Room of Requirements, it was a hidden gem that McGonagall had told her to practice her skills in. The Head of Gryffindor knew of Ripley’s aspirations, and had been the guiding hand at Hogwarts since her third year when she asked to pursue the art of Animagi because it was a skill that could set her ahead of male counterparts for the selection process. She had achieved her form the year before, after waiting three years for a bloody electrical storm in Ireland. But here, now, the room was nothing more than a plush environment. A large couch with various throws and pillows sat before a large stone fireplace reminiscent of the one from home. 

 

In the background classical music played, beside the wall of bookshelves containing muggle literature and magical as well. She sat on the couch, firelight dancing across her classic features, but the frustration she felt hardened those features, causing two small frown lines between her brows, and her full mouth curved down.  It seemed everyone was intent on finding a companion that year. Whether it was teenage hormones getting the best of everyone or the realization that this was their last year together. She leaned back now, propped her riding boot clad foot on the sturdy oak coffee table, and tugged the sleeves of her sweater further down over her hands, before crossing an arm over herself and propped the other one up to nibble at her thumbnail. It was ridiculous. 

 

Her ears perked, tingled as the handle of the door engaged, slowly she drew her wand from her jeans, and waited. She relaxed when she caught the scent of leather, clean male and mint. “How did you know?” She asked as Sirius sat beside her on the couch.

 

“Well,” he began, pausing. “I don’t know. To be fair it wasn’t the first place I looked.” She grunted. “I checked your usual running path first.”

 

Ripley kept her gaze fixed on the fire even as her heart skipped unsteadily. Maybe he had learned something in the six years they had known each other. In a class of only forty students you took your chances on enemies and lovers. Sirius she knew had dated outside their year, and who could blame him? She had made the mistake of dating within her year, and now she had to share a potions class with the dirty slag. 

 

“You’ve been weird this year.”

 

Ripley narrowed her eyes at the fire, shifted slightly to look at him, her expression baleful. “It’s literally the first week of school.”

 

“James and I invited you and Lily for a summer holiday--Lily came for a few days and you were nowhere to be seen.”

 

“Sirius--” She began to defend herself, then simply sighed. “Listen there’s a lot happening outside of school that’s had my focus, I haven’t found my balance yet with it all.” 

 

“So maybe share the burden,” he retorted coolly. “I assume you’ve told Lily.”

 

“Only recently.”

 

“Then maybe you need to tell more people in order to feel better.”

 

Ripley worried her thumbnail, weighed the pros and cons in her mind. Finally, after what felt like an hour she sighed. “I have a spot at the Auror Academy.” 

 

“They’d don’t allow women to do that,” began Sirius, she turned her head, stared. “You’re the bloody test subject?”

 

“Per the letter that I got, yeah--I’m it.” The girl moved her head side to side. “Well, as long as I pass my tests here, and the entrance exam.”

 

“You’re smart enough, you’ll do fine.”

 

“Sweet Jesus was that a compliment from you?”

 

Sirius chuckled. “I do give them occasionally.” She rolled her eyes and mirrored his position on the couch, leaning back on the arm, her arm propped on a knee. “So, there’s more?” He pressed.

 

“Nothing more that you need to hear about,” she countered with a quick smile. “Now will you leave me alone?”

 

“Why would I do that?”

 

“Because you’re halfway a gentleman,” Ripley surmised. “And I’m sure there’s a few fourth years who have your eye.”

 

“Too young.”

 

“Realized the muggle law of child pornography when you turned eighteen?” 

 

“Your sarcasm is noted and appreciated,” he replied darkly. She shrugged her left shoulder exposing soft pale skin and he frowned.

 

“You’ve leaned out a lot.” 

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Not that you weren’t attractive before, voluptuous really, but now you’re more--” He flexed his bicep and made a grimace as if he were lifting heavy weight.  She arched both brows. “You’re--”

 

“Digging yourself a hole.” Ripley rose, tugged her sweater back into place as she rose and moved to the back of the couch. “If you won’t give me my peace and quiet I’ll go somewhere you can’t.” She chose to pace, to burn off her nervous energy. 

 

“Hourglass.”

 

“Pardon?” She paused in her pacing, turned to face him, her face bewildered.

 

“You’re more,” He moved his hands in the shape of an hourglass through the air. “Y’know.”

 

A slight twitch of her mouth. “Aye.”

 

“It’s nice, different, but nice.”

 

“Right.”

 

“You should wear--”

 

“I’ll advise you not to tell me what to wear, boy-o,” the Irishwomans words bore heavy caution as she leaned on the back of the couch, close enough to him that he could see her pupils dilated. 

 

“Not even if it’s a fantasy of mine?” Sirius teased with a wicked gleam in his eyes. 

 

Ripley tossed her head back and laughed so hard tears ran down. “Oh Gods.”

 

Sirius stood, ambled around the couch until he was in front of her. “What’s so gods damned funny?”

 

“The fact…” she began breathlessly, brushing at her wet cheeks. “That you, Sirius Orion Black, would fantasize about me.” It took only a moment for her to sober up from her laughing fit beneath his piercing grey gaze. “Oh ...oh bloody hell, you’re not having a go at me, are you?”

 

“No Toddy, I’m not.” 

 

“Well, shit.” She muttered. Out of self preservation she took a step back and saw his eyes light up slightly at the prospect of a challenge. “T’isn’t a game Sirius,” she stated firmly. 

 

“No one ever said it was,” he said softly. He saw the trapped look in her eyes, the panic on setting, and frowned. “What happened to you Rip?”

 

“I have to go.” She muttered and all but ran from the room. She needed air, space, anything to clear her head. She was all but running through the hall when she plowed straight into a solid body. She caught herself from going backwards, and bowed up on the intruder. 

 

“Hey Ripley.” Jason Ravencroft grinned at her, and Ripley felt like the floor under her gave out. 

 

“Ravencroft.” She took a step around the Hufflepuff, but he reached a hand out to grab her arm. She jerked it away, her brown eyes flashed dangerously. “Don’t fucking touch me.”

 

0-0-0

 

Sirius skidded to a halt from his jog when he heard her voice, quickly back tracked and paused around the corner, peeked to see what was happening, and simply stared confused.  “Oh c’mon you’re not still sore about last year are you?” Jason combed his fingers through his mess of dirty blonde hair.  Ripley barked out a bitter laugh, a sound that had Sirius flinching, Jason lifted his hands in a ‘help me out’ gesture. “It was one time.”

 

She nodded, a look of pure disgust on her face. “You’re a terrible excuse of a Hufflepuff, fuckin’ loyalty flew right over your head.” 

 

“Darling…” 

 

“You lost the right to call me that when you were balls deep in a Slytherin,” berated Ripley, and Gods didn’t it feel good to get that anger off her chest? 

 

Ravecroft scowled darkly, and this time when he grabbed at her he succeeded, she bit her lip to avoid yelping. Sirius was on the move, walking toward them. Jason snarled. “Now listen to me, maybe if you had spread--”

 

“Spread what?” She hissed dangerously. “My legs? Fucking fat chance.” His grip tightened and he swung across with his other hand catching her cheekbone with the back of his hand. She saw stars , and stumbled dazed for a moment. 

 

“You know I despise your vulgar language--” He began, all the while Ripley saw red and did the only thing that came to mind. She swung, hard as she could. Jason released her and fell back against the wall just as Sirius arrived and wrapped his arms around Ripley all but hauling her behind him.

 

“Stay out of this Black,” Jason rose unsteadily to his feet, swiped at his bleeding nose. 

 

“Not a chance,” Sirius replied casually. “I don’t like men who put their hands on women.”

 

“You think she needs your protection?” challenged Jason. “She doesn’t.” Ripley moved out from behind Sirius, shaking with rage.

“Look at her, she’s fine. I’m the one bleeding.”

 

“And rightfully so,” snarled Ripley. “Touch me again Ravencroft, and ye’ll see what happens.” The Irish brogue thickened with anger.

“Give it a shot, boy-0.” She wiggled the fingers of one hand in an insulting 'come here' gesture, Sirius nonchalantly pushed it down. 

 

“Rip head back to the common room,” Sirius advised wisely, his hand remained on her arm, gave it a squeeze of warning. “I’ll finish up here.”

 

“No need,” Ravecroft sneered at them both. “We’re done here.” He paused as he passed Sirius, who had moved automatically to shield Ripley or Jason, he wasn't sure who yet. “You’re barking up the wrong skirt with this one Black..." he eyed his ex-girlfriend with  curled lip. "She’s not as easy as your other conquests.”

 

Sirius nodded slowly, lips pursed in thought, he shrugged and grabbed Ravencroft by the neck of his shirt and slammed him hard against the wall. “I’ll say this once,” He hissed in the boy's ear. “You don’t talk to her, don’t bloody look at her and if you fucking touch her, I will kill you.” He pushed him back once more to make a point before turning his back on him. “Let’s go.” He muttered to Ripley. She nodded, glared once more at the Hufflepuff and followed Sirius at a hurried pace.

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