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    Sirius strolled into the kitchen, cocked his head at James who was seated at the table surrounded by piles of books. “Where’re the girls?”


    “Upstairs,” Prongs muttered, studying the cookbook in front of him. “Something about shaving…”


    The beer that Sirius had taken from the icebox paused inches from his lips, his eyes squinted. “Come again?”


    “Shaving,” James looked up, pushing his sliding glasses back up his nose. “Y’know…”


    “I do, yes,” he took a long pull of beer, and pursed his lips. “I’m gonna check.”


    “If you insist. Bloody Todd put me in charge of dinner,” James rose from his chair, pointed his wand at the stove to begin preheating. 


    “So, we’re all going to die?” Sirius quipped on his way by. 


    James threw a tea towel at his best friends back. “Shut up.”  He scowled and went back to the cook book. “How hard can Coq Au Vin be?” he muttered to himself, and began to prepare dinner.



    The second story of the cottage boasted six bedrooms  all together, three of which contained two single beds if not three. The master bedroom, claimed by James and Lily held an ensuite, and the other bedrooms shared one stingy bathroom. It was there that Sirius checked first. Nothing. His gray eyes slid down to the end of the hallway, the open door to James’ room all but beckoned him. Silently he made his way into the bedroom, nudged one of James’ shoes out of the way, the slob, and stopped. Lily and Ripley had squeezed onto a small make up bench in front of the vanity, and were staring down at the top of it. 


    “Now?” Lily asked, staring at the pregnancy test. Ripley glanced at her magical watch, shook her head. “Bloody hell.” Lily groaned, dropped her head on the polished wood table.


    “Fifteen seconds.” Ripley stiffened at the rustle of clothing behind her, met Sirius’ grey eyed gaze in the mirror. “Oh no.” 


    “It’s negative!” Lily all but sobbed the words in relief. She looked at Ripley in the mirror and froze, staring at Sirius with wide green eyes. “Sirius.”


    The man moved like lighting when he wanted to. Before Lily or Ripley could react, he was there, snatching the pregnancy test up. “What the bloody hell--”


    “It’s mine,” Ripley took it from him, her brown eyes hard. “Mine.” She repeated, nudged Lily with her elbow.


    “Er. Um. Right,” Lily rose now, brushed at her paisley dress, kept her eyes trained on the floor. “Ripley’s test.”


    “What kinda test?” 


    “A…” Ripley stuttered under his unwavering stare, she swallowed hard and forced out the word. “Pregnancy-”


    “Bullshit,” he said it so softly that Lily whimpered. “It’s not yours, Rip.”


    “How do you know that?” 


    “Because I know you,” he shifted his gaze to Lily, noting that she wouldn’t meet his eyes. “And that,” he pointed at his best mate's wife. “That is why she’s not a good liar.” 


    Lily lifted her emerald green gaze to him, stared. “It’s--” Her voice caught, wavered. “Mine, it’s mine,” her shoulders slumped forward and a sob ripped out. Sirius said nothing, only drew her into a tight hug. Ripley stepped away into the bathroom, tossed the test in the trash and piled on toilet paper to cover it. She heard Lily sniffle, and then give a watery laugh, before the door shut.


    “What did he who knows everything say?” Ripley asked as she washed her face with cool water in the sink. “Did he scold you for not being more careful? Did he preach about how he knows every bloody thing to do with the world?” She groped blindly for the hand towel, and had it pressed into her hand. “Thanks Lil.” She patted her face dry, opened her eyes and scowled at Sirius. 


    “Tell me more,” he commented with a wicked smirk. “I love hearing you shite all over me.”


    “And for good reason,” Ripley shoved the towel into his hands and brushed past him.


    “Was there anyone else?” He called after her. She froze in the now open doorway, her knuckles white as she gripped the frame. “Anyone in the Academy?” He moved across the room, the towel clenched tightly in his hands. “Since school?” 


    She turned slightly toward him, refusing to meet his eyes. “I would ask you the same,” she lifted her eyes now, holding his, unwavering. 


    He looked wounded for a moment, and then his face softened with a sigh. “Rip.”


    “No.” She said it simply. “All I wanted was you.” She walked away. 



    All I wanted was you. The words seemed to echo in his head as they sat down to what James called dinner. The potatoes were underdone, the chicken still raw, but the bread, bought at the market, was edible. Ripley had laughed, patted James shoulder as if it was no big thing, and began to make a breakfast spread. Lily grinned at her soon to be husband. “I’m not marrying you for your cooking, that’s for bloody sure.”


    “That’s fair,” James admitted with a shrug. “Moody?” 


    The Auror toasted him with his bottle of Guinness. “A fine feast James, pity it wasn’t edible.”


    “Good man,” muttered Sirius as he pointed his wand to the dishes in the sink where they began washing themselves. “Need help?” He leaned casually against the counter as Ripley manned three pans on the stovetop. The heat had flushed her cheeks pink, and sent her curls into frizz. 


    “I’ve got it,” she answered, flipping battered bread with an expert hand. “Unlike some of us I was taught to cook from the wee young age of ten.” 


    “Fuck off,” James said over his shoulder. “You’ll be catering the wedding then.”


    “I feel like that was meant to be an inquiry, sir,” Ripley began plating up fried potatoes, the bread, eggs, and sautéed mushrooms. 

    “Please?” this from Lily now. She accepted the plate of food from Sirius with a muttered thanks. “Rip.”


    “You’ll want Molly Prewett to do the cake,” Ripley served Moody and James at once, resting her hands on the backs of their mismatched chairs, leaning forward a little. “She’s much better at baking cakes.”


    “It’s Weasley now,” Sirius commented as he sat down and dug in, Ripley’s brows winged up. “She married Arthur while you were away.”


    “No shit,” Ripley grabbed her plate, and a beer from the icebox. “Bit rushed, t’isn’t it?”


    “We’re at war,”  Moody reached for the jam on the table as he spoke, spreading it on a piece of toast. “People do rash things at war.” 


    “No,” Lily poked at her food, her stomach rolling a little at the thought of a child, brushing it away. “Arthur and Molly have been together since their fifth year at Hogwarts, remarkably made for each other.” 


    “Pregnant too,” James added in. “Fairly recently.” Lily’s fork clattered to the table. Ripley aimed a kick at her shin. “All right, love?”


    “Never better,” she said quickly, looking at Ripley with wide eyes.


    “The mission,” the Auror began, having nothing more to go on. “Quick in and out, d’ya think?”


    “Should be,” Alastor answered, narrowing his eyes at her, she shot him a look. “Ah.” He cleared his throat. “James when you’re done we should go over some stuff.”


    “What kinda stuff?”


    “Just--stuff.” Alastor let the subject drop with a scowl.


    “Fighting?” James asked excitedly.


    “Sure.” Alastor shrugged. That seemed to appease Potter and the subject was shifted to things other than marriage and pregnancies. Ripley shared a worried look with Sirius over Lily’s head as they began to clear the table. 


    “Rip, did you see the garden out back?” Sirius asked suddenly.


    “No,” she drew the word out with furrowed brows. He jerked his head toward the rear windowed door in the kitchen. “But I’d love to,” she announced casually. They slipped outside, Sirius should have known he would lose her to the array of herbs and vegetables still holding on through the winter. He rolled his eyes as she went around muttering  to herself what they were and purposes.




    “Right,” she straightened from plucking rosemary for the morning potatoes. “What?”




    “Isn’t knocked up, we’re safe, everything's fine...we're fine, they're fine, you're fine, I'm bloody FINE.” 


    Sirius cocked his head to one side, waited a moment. “Are you done?”


    “Yes?” Ripley finished gathering her herbs, rose to her feet, brushing her hands off on her jeans. “She was scared, Sirius.”


    “She should have turned to James,” replied Sirius with a hard frown. Ripley pursed her lips, jerked a shoulder in a shrug, and walked toward the cottage. His hand shot out, gripped her forearm. “They’re getting married.”


    “And that automatically makes him in charge of her body, of her choices?” Ripley whirled back on him, brown eyes alight with anger. 


    “That’s not what--”


    “If she had been pregnant Sirius, if it had been positive, then what? What if she had wanted to get rid of it? T’isn’t James’ choice.” 


    “He’s part of the relationship.”


    “But it’s her body,” Ripley snarled the words out. “If a woman chooses to not carry a child during a war that’s her choice.”


    He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her. “I never said it wasn’t her choice, I said she should have told him.”


    “So, that he could tell her otherwise?”


    “D’ya think he would? Or would he want her to be happy, as he always has?” Sirius grabbed her by the biceps, stared into her eyes, searching. “What happened to you at the Academy?” 


    “Wha--nothing!” She jerked away from him, glared. “I’m speaking up for my best friend.”




    “Let it alone,” she ordered now, tossing her chin in the air. Sirius moved closer, eyes on hers. Gods. Had he ever wanted her as much as he did right now? Here in the snowy evening, with her cheeks flushed with anger, her eyes brighter than copper in the sun. 


    “Todd.” Moody spoke from the doorway, his voice gruff. “Floo message for you, from your da.”



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