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    Lily glanced up from her Transfiguration homework as James meandered into the Common Room. She tried to ignore the quickening of her heart. He sat down on the floor at the table she was working at and fiddled with the cuff of his sweater.  After a few moments, she set aside her homework, and looked at him as he cleared his throat. “Listen Evans--Lily,” he began, hesitated. How many times had she rejected him? Could he take another? The pain he already felt was new to him, the worry, and concern that this was their last year, and he was all but begging. 


    “Yes," replied Lily with a small smile, her green eyes sparkling with mystery. 


    “Hold on a tick, I’m trying to find the words for this, I don't want to--”


    “Yes.” Lily repeated, laid her hand over his and smiled. Her eyes crinkled at the corner as his eyes widened in shock. 


    “Re-really?” James stumbled out. “You’re not having a go?”


    “Really. I mean after all Head Boy and Head Girl should be a team.” Lily grinned at him as she revealed the news. Her smile dropped as Sirius and Ripley entered looking haggard.


    “Ripley what in the bloody hell…” Lily rose to her feet, her eyes narrowed at the bruising on her best friend's face. She whirled on Sirius. “You!”


    “T’wasn’t him,” Ripley snapped annoyed and took a seat by the fire, chin on a fisted hand. 


    “James, a glass from the private stash if you please.” Sirius spoke softly to his best mate. “She needs it.”


    “Accio firewhiskey, accio glass.” James muttered quickly with a quick wave of his wand. He poured a solid finger as Lily conjured a pack of ice and knelt beside her friend, placed in soothingly against her burning hot cheekbone. Her worried searched molten chocolate, found her friend shut down from the world, in her own mind. 


    “Sirius?” Lily spoke montonley. James pressed the glass of whiskey into Ripley’s hand, lifted her right with his own and observed the bruised, swollen knuckles with a frown, nudged Lily to clue her in. The red head sighed softly, conjured another pack of ice, and set it down on her friends hand. She rose to her feet, turned to the dark haired eighteen year old. "Explain." 


    “Jason Ravencroft.”  Sirius took a swig from the bottle itself, leaned his forearm against the fireplace mantle as he watched Ripley’s face. “Fucker.”


    “I agree with that.” Lily snapped, her cheeks flushed with anger. Ripley quirked a corner of her mouth in a wry smile. “It’s not a smiling matter.” 


    “She didn’t go down without a fight….she didn’t even go down. He hit her first.” Sirius saluted Ripley with the bottle. “A solid strike.” 


    She took a bracing sip of whiskey , took over holding the ice and leaned back in the chair with a sigh. “Mine or his?” asked Ripley dryly.


    Sirius snorted. “Yours, he hits like a girl.” 


    She tilted her head to one side, considered him and then grinned. “Yeah, he does.” 


    “I feel like this is them flirting,” James spoke in Lily’s ear as she leaned against his arm a little for contact-- for comfort.


    “I think you’re right,” murmured Lily slightly bewildered. “It’s scary.”


    “But nice?”


    “Exactly,” The red head watched with a soft smile as Sirius tipped Ripley’s head up by placing two light fingers beneath her chin, observed her cheek. “He cares.”


    “More than anyone realizes,” James affirmed. “Shall we leave them alone? I’m sure Madam Gordon has something for her face.”


    “We might as well,” Lily decided after a moment. She peered up at James, studied his profile, and smiled warmly. “You’re not half bad Potter.”


    James grinned, and rubbed his knuckles gently against her jaw. “Neither are you Evans.”


    “Just make out already,” demanded Ripley. They turned slightly to see both Sirius and RIpley staring at them in disgust. “Gods above. Are you two finally an item?”


    “Yes.” Lily hissed out. 


    “About bloody time.” Ripley and Sirius said together and then shot each other a look of irritability.


    Sirius topped off her glass. “I’m just saying if you could bring dinner back, that would be grand.”


    “We’ll bring you both something.”


    Sirius scoffed and feigned being insulted. “I can go.”


    “You reek of alcohol,” James pointed out. “And as the Head Boy and Head Girl, fuck that shit, we’ll bring you something.”


    Sirius sniffed, and sat down on the edge off the coffee table, across from Ripley. “Wizards Chess?”


    She took a sip of her whiskey, pondered. “Yeah, why not? You’ll beat me anyways.”


    “We’ll be back soon.” Lily assured them as James ushered her away. Once they were gone Sirius heaved a sigh, set the bottle down and went to retrieve his game. Ripley sat in the empty common room, finally able to breathe deeply. She took account of how she felt. Pleasantly numb because of the whiskey setting in.  


    “Got it,” Sirius jogged back into the room, cleared the table and set it up. Ripley tossed a cushion onto the floor and slid down onto it, leaning back against the couch for support. They moved their pieces methodically and in silence for the first part of the game, the whiskey bottle getting emptier and emptier. 


    “So, you wanna tell me?” Sirius asked as he finished what was left in the bottle. She grunted as his piece destroyed hers. “Rip?” 


    “Bugger off,” she made her move, smiled in triumph as his piece was crushed. Her glass had been empty and she had refused anymore since she felt like the room was staring to tip like a boat in rough water. Sirius leaned back a little, cocked his head to one side as he studied her.  No one would peg Ripley Todd as weak, he had heard her called many things over the years, but weak had never been one. It surprised him to hear any rumors about her, and he had ignored the one that had said she was dating the Hufflepuff, but that had been confirmed that day.


    “So?” He pressed on, downing the last of his whiskey. "You going to tell me or sit there and brood?"


    “You won’t quit will you?” She let him win the game to avoid him sulking. He shook his head. “Of course not,” She muttered, and shoved back from the table .”Fine, what do you wanna know?”


    “All of it.” Sirius stood up, tossed a log on the fire to occupy himself, and then he chose to settle into one of the over-sized chairs. Ripley on the other hand rose to pace, a little unsteadily. “Let’s start with Mr. Suck.”


    “I assume you mean Jason.”


    “You’re correct, love.”


    “Gods, I dated him last winter,” Ripley tapped her fingers in thought against the mantle, choosing her words wisely, carefully. “He was my first real boyfriend.”


    “Were you in love?” Sirius asked softly, his stomach knotted as if he didn’t want the true answer. 


    Her nose wrinkled. “No, fuck no,” She sighed, ran her fingers through her hair, de-tangling the knots as she tried to think of her words. “He was an experiment.”




    “To see if I was capable of having a relationship,” Ripley turned her head to look at him, her brown eyes daring him to argue with her. “I don’t think I am.”


    “Bollocks to that.” Sirius snapped, and slapped his hands against his thighs as he rose. She arched both brows at him, inclined her chin in a queenly manner. He held up a hand to stave off an argument as he approached her. “Hear me out, what if, call me a wanker if you will, what if it was just,” he feigned a gasp. “Ravencoft being an asshole?”


    Ripley rolled her eyes and sighed. “If I was date-able, if I was relationship material then he wouldn’t have to be balls deep in a fucking Slytherin, Sirius. Which, fun fact, he was.”


    “So he cheated.”


    “Yeah,” Ripley wrapped her arms around herself, leaned her shoulder against  the mantle. “Yeah he did. Multiple times, I don’t care who, I don’t need to know who.”


    “Not all men are like that.”


    She gave a derisive snort. “You are.”


    “What?!” Sirius gaped at her, insulted, infuriated. “Now listen to me Ripley, whatever your middle name is Todd! I have never cheated on a lady friend. I haven’t even been with anyone since I was fiftee--”


    “Fifteen?” Ripley asked softly. Fifteen when she had started getting closer with Remus, and a little with James. Fifteen when she had come into her own, and started dating around casually. Fifteen when she started to see Sirius as a potential, but never voiced it to him, never thought she had a chance. He nodded. “Ironic.” 


    “I’m not above irony,” he replied quietly. She looked up at him, his grey eyes were intense and locked on hers. “Ripley…”


    “Sirius.” She murmured, he leaned in, lifted a hand to brush her hair back from her face, cupped the nape of her neck.


    “We’ve got sandwiches!” James burst into the Common Room with a platter of food. Ripley jumped back, distanced herself from Sirius as Potter’s mouth hung wide open, the platter of food dangerously close to falling.


    “And Pumpkin Juice!” Lily sang out, she stopped beside James, pitcher in the air. “Whatever is that look on your face for James?” She sailed around him and placed her cargo onto the table, and rolled her eyes as James didn’t move. “Heaven's sake.” She took the platter as well and plunked it down. “Now then, tomorrow.” 


    “Right,” Ripley cleared her throat, looking pointedly at Sirius. “James?”


    “Did--You--He?” James pointed from his fellow Marauder to Ripley, touched two fingers together to imitate kissing.


    “James Potter, sit.” Lily patted the cushion beside her oblivious to what she had come into. Sirius selected a chicken sandwich for himself. Ripley poured a glass of pumpkin juice, downed it, and filled another. “Eat.” Lily ordered. The Irishwoman sighed softly, and chose a ham and cheese sandwich. She sat opposite Sirius, felt his gaze on her even as she ate. They were joined by Remus not too long after a flood of students returned, the younger ones disappointed that they weren’t allowed to go to Hogsmeade. 


    “Rippy?” A soft voice interrupted the seventh year's debate about a DADA topic. A young girl approached the inner circle, clambering around Sirius’ outstretched legs to reach the woman. 


    “C’mere darling,” Ripley opened her arms and the ten year old plopped into her lap. “What’s wrong?”


    “Mummy and daddy wrote me a letter,” Brienne Todd extended the letter to her older sister. Ripley took it, and scanned the words. Her frown deepened. “What does it mean?” 


    “C’mere Brie,” Lily spoke now, noting the look on Ripley's face and motioned with her hands. “I’ll see you up so your sister can answer.”


    “Go with Auntie Lily,” Ripley muttered, and kissed the strawberry blonde head. Brie nodded, hugged Ripley once and headed off with Lily. She reread the letter, shook her head, and buried her face into her hands. 


    “Love?” Remus asked softly from beside her. She shook her head. Remus sighed softly, rubbed her shoulders, frowned at the knots he felt. Far too much tension for an eighteen year old. 


    “All right, all right, shove off,” Sirius pushed to his feet, brushed Lupin’s hands away and took over much to the amusement of James and Remus. Ripley handed the letter to Remus, and returned to staring at her hands that hung between her legs. Tears had formed in her eyes, but she would be damned if they would fall, not here, not yet.


    Remus read the scrawled handwriting, met James’ and Sirius’ gaze and looked around the Common Room. “We’ll discuss this when everyone has gone to bed.”


    “Shouldn’t be much longer,” James said. “I’ll herd them along, Head Boy and all.” 


    “I’m gonna shower,” Ripley rose from the chair, Sirius let his hands fall to his side, felt her slipping into herself, away from friends, from support.


    “Maybe a bath?” He suggested, looked pointedly at James.


    “A bath could be good, if she had help,” James answered. “You know where it is?”


    “Of course,”  Sirius said with a scoff. “Password?”


    “Stamus.” James answered quietly. “Be quick. Curfew is in an hour.”


    “Quick is my--no, nevermind.” Sirius rolled his eyes. “Go get your things Ripley.” She pondered for a moment, then nodded. 


    "Take care of her," said Remus softly as he tucked her letter safely into his pocket. "She'll need her family here more than anything."


    "I've got her." Was the firm, confident response. 

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