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Without Brienne, without Jamie Ripely wandered aimlessly for an hour. To be reunited and torn apart so quickly wasn’t unusual, Jamie was an Auror after all, but she always had her ma to rely on. Now her mother was missing. Six months, Ripley thought to herself as she found herself back in the study with the brightly lit Christmas tree. Six months, finish school, take NEWTs and then right into the Auror Academy. The Order had six months and then some to find her mother, six months before Ripley would take matters into her own hands.  Who was she kidding? She threw herself down onto the plush emerald couch in front of the fire, stared at the flames broodingly. Until she was an Auror, until she had purpose, she could only sit and wait, and Gods, she hated that more than anything. She looked up as Remus entered, looking a little worn.

 

“All right?” She asked him.

 

He nodded, the full moon was that night, the haggard appearance was a norm. “It’s a rough day.”

 

“That it is,” she drew the brightly colored handmade throw from behind her, rose and draped it over Remus in the arm chair. “You should nap.” 

 

“Nap sounds lovely,” he muttered, his eyes drooping. She smiled a little, stoked the fire, and when Ginger, her aunts cat trotted in, she snuggled her briefly, and placed the cat in his lap. Ginger settled purring, her yellow eyes squinting happily. She watched him for a long moment, brows furrowed. She wasn’t blind to routines, nor was she an idiot. She knew once a month that the boys looked more ragged than usual the night after a full moon, she knew Remus was testier during the week, the scratches on his face. No, she wasn’t stupid. She rested a hand on Loki’s back, and then kissed Remus’ forehead. Selecting a book from the expansive library she settled back onto the couch, if she couldn't comfort Remus, she could be nearby just in case. 

 

It wasn’t long before her own eyelids slid down, her book draped across her breasts. That was how Sirius found them an hour later, both sprawled in separate areas, Remus wore a peaceful expression, one that Sirius would hate to ruin with the urging to head outside with dusk almost upon them. Ripley on the other hand, was fighting a battle in her own mind, it was written on her face, grief, anger, hurt. With a frown he leaned over the edge of the couch and gave her a nudge. She came up swinging, enough so that he jumped back, crashed into a side table and sent a decorative vase tumbling to the floor. Their voices merged together with two very different reactions. 

 

“Was that the Belleek vase?”

 

“Are you okay?” Sirius held her arms by her waist, waited for the startled prey look left her eyes. “And yes that was Belleek.”

 

“Christ Jesus.”

 

“She can repair it.” Sirius shrugged, let her go and gave Remus a gentle shake. “Wakey wakey, Moony.”

 

“Hard to sleep through you stampeding through,” said Remus as he stretched his length out, and rose. He glanced down at the vase and table, arched a brow at Sirius. “Bull in a china shop, that’s what you are.” He glanced at the clock on the mantle. “Bugger, that time all ready?”

 

“Hence why I got you up,” Sirius said pointedly. “Off we go.”

 

“I’ll make some food for when you all return,” offered Ripley as she set the table back to rights, and picked up the broken vase.

 

“Oh Rip,” Remus shuffled around uneasily. “You don’t have to be, really it’s just a pub crawl.”

 

She turned to him, cocked her head to one side. “Am I stupid?”

 

“Oh shit.” Sirius muttered and stepped back.

 

“Of course not,” flushed Remus sheepishly. 

 

“Then don’t act like I am.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “You’ll have food waiting after your--” She waved her hands wildly. “Whatever, and you’ll be bloody grateful. End of story.” She stormed out of the room to do just that. 

 

“She knows?”

 

“I don’t know what she knows, but it’s Ripley.” Sirius lifted his hands in a helpless gesture. “And she's making food.” 

 

“We have to tell her at some point, Lily too.” They walked together, past the kitchen where Ripley was slamming cupboard doors and cursing under her breath, and out the backdoor to where James awaited them. 

 

“Are you mad?”

 

“Always,” said Remus with a slight smile. He surveyed the area, the woods were close, a short trod through the field and they would be on their way. He glanced back at the cottage, at the warm lights, and smoke pluming through the chimney. “They should know.”

 

“They will one day.” Sirius assured him. “We’ve other things to attend to.”

0-0-0

Lily paced the kitchen while Ripley built the sandwiches on a thick block of wood. “They could be hitting on every muggle woman in sight.” The red head bared her teeth in a snarl. “And here we are waiting at home like the little wives.”

 

Ripley layered cheese, ham and turkey on a thick slice of soda bread, and remained silent, even though her eyes went to the window where the world outside faded into darkness. The wolfs howl echoed suddenly in the night, and had Lily freezing. The two girls met gazes, and Lily sat down hard on the bench at the table. “Severus always said--”

 

“We’re not in danger,” Ripley interrupted her firmly. “It’s Remus. Same as always.”

 

“I know,” Lily dragged her fingers through her loose hair. “I know.” She shivered though as the howl came again, this time followed by wild barks. “Are there dogs nearby?”

 

“Of course,” muttered Ripley. “I think the lads are animagi.”

 

“They weren’t in your class,” pointed out Lily with a little snort. “There were only a handful--” She broke off, narrowed her bottle green eyes. “You don’t think….illegally?”

 

“What better way to support Remus?” Ripley elaborated with a little shoulder shrug before she put the platter of sandwiches into the fridge. “I can’t say I blame them, if I had known--”

 

“You do now,” observed Lily with a sudden grin. Ripley arched her brow at her best friend. “Hear me out. You’re an animagus, registered granted, you’re friends with them, you’re capable of making sure they don’t...get into too much trouble.” 

 

“No.” 

 

“Just this once.” Lily begged with worried eyes. “They’re not from here, they don’t know the land.” 

 

“Bloody hell,” whined Ripley pitifully. “Fine. Fine.” She lifted her hands, and left the room muttering beneath her breath. “Babysitting here, babysitting there. Bloody fool men.” With a sigh she walked into the night, she could hear the yips and growls across the field.

 

“They couldn’t even go in all the way?” She asked herself disgustedly and took a deep breath, relaxed and shifted.

 

0-0-0

“He’s fiery tonight!” Sirius barked to James as he bounded around Remus, ducking and dodging the attempts to swipe. Winded he finally took a break, huffing and puffing. James stood by the woodland in his stag form, a twig hanging from his mouth as he chewed contemplatively. He lifted his head suddenly, snorting out a grunt. Sirius and Remus both stopped rough housing long enough to see the streak of tawny fur through the snow covered field. 

 

“What the hell is that fucking thing?” Sirius blocked Remus from advancing curiously. “Not you, you stay.” He perked his ears, waited for noise. The attack came unexpectedly, one moment he was there, and the next he and the massive bulk of the tawny creature were in a snow drift wrestling. James watched with a mildly interested cock of his proud head. Remus sniffed the air, ambled forward a little, and glanced blandly at James when he stomped his hoof. 

 

Sirius finally managed to break free, and retreated. “It’s a fucking lion!” 

 

“It’s Ripley, you idiot.” James replied and chose another twig from the snow. Sirius’ black head looked back to the lioness who licked her paw daintily. 

 

“Well fuck me.” Sirius moved around her, not speaking.

 

“Cat got your tongue Sirius?" Ripley  asked with a shake of her massive head. Sirius edged closer, walked in a circle around her. “Do you mind?”

 

“Is that…” he moved closer, leaped back when she swiped her big paw at him. “Do you have a tattoo?”

 

“What?” Jame asked excitedly, trotted over and examined her right haunch. “Where do you hide that?” 

 

“Feck off. The only reason I’m out here is because of Lily.” She watched warily as Remus came closer, sniffing at her. Sirius growled softly when Remus licked the top of the lioness' head. She froze, unsure of there werewolf, but Remus had already moved on.

 

“Lily knows?” James whipped his head toward the dim light of the cottage. “Wait, how do you know?”

 

“I’m not an idjit,” the reply came with a swish of her long tail. She eyed Sirius’ form. “You make sense.”

 

“So do you.”

 

“Ahem,” James posed himself artistically against the round moon overhead. “And me?”

 

“Your horns are overcompensating.” 

 

James glared as best he could at her. “They're antlers, and we don’t need a babysitter. We’ve been doing this long enough.”

 

“I see,” Ripley rose regally from her sit, and stretched her length, yawning with a small roar at the end. “Be back by morning, stay close.” She began to trot away when Sirius joined her. 

 

“I’ll see you back.” He trotted alongside her until the edge of the yard surrounded by it’s stonewall. She shifted there, straightened her clothes, and looked down at the dog who in human form came up to her hip. She laid a hand on his head, dropped a kiss on his scratched snout.

 

“Thank you.” She said, and headed inside. Sirius waited for the door to close, for the light in her bedroom to turn on before he returned to his best friends. 

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