Co-written by Lou whose character is Kartiair (unusual name isn't it?). Adapted from the best RPG that ever was "The Hogwarts Experience" (RIP)

Premise: Year Five. Justin Finch-Fletchley is the Hufflepuff Prefect. He and Kartiair Parker have been friends for many years. This year it has quietly budded into a romance that they both ache for, yet do not know how to handle nor persue. Previous scene was Michael (whose love interest is Kartiair, and who is continually scorned by her and detests 'perfect Prefect Justin') had been picking on/flirting with Kartiair and another boy (Robin) stepped in. A fight ensued. Justin sort of flipped out and fled leaving Kartiair feeling hurt and confused. Thus far the whole year has been a rollar-coaster such as this. The fight is the following chapter, for those interested.

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Classes were finally over, but the day seemed still only half through. Dinner was yet to be had, and detentions would then ensue. Dinner, Justin was apprehensious about. If Lunch was any indication of future Hufflepuff mealtimes, Justin thought he just might eat down in the kitchens from now on. That wouldn't fly well past Hermione, but it would make his life a hell of a lot easier.

He was sitting in one of the many beanbag chairs in the lowered center of the common room. His back was to the tapestry entryway and his pale face was turned skyward. Light brown hair splayed out behind him, legs sprawled out in front, his arms were flung about at his sides. He might have looked comfortable had he not looked so incredibly unhappy.

The frown that had been threatening for so long was now deeply creasing his face. Brown eyes stared up through the atrium dome at the furious sky above. The room was dark, lit only now and again by the angry flashes of lighting from the tempest above. Rivulets of water slid over the clear glass, making the world outside blurry.

It didn't particularly matter however. Despite the fact that he seemed to be watching the storm, Justin was really looking inside himself. In one hand he idly flipped his Prefect badge over and over, feeling the engraving and the metal edges.

This Prefectship was turning out to be more than he could handle. Obviously Professor Sprout had thought he could do it. He had thought so himself at the time. But he was still lost on how to go about it. What was expected? How was he supposed to get around being himself to do the job? He had been wearing the badge of honor for what? Three or four days now? It seemed like ages. It seemed like an eternity of blunderings.

Somehow, somewhere along the way here, he'd lost control. He wasn't in to having control of the house. That's not what he wanted. He cared about them. All of them. Even Michael he supposed. Why had he stopped acting like it? He'd lost control of himself. He'd lost control of his emotions, and so lost control of his actions as well. He had allowed emotions to drive him. He'd stopped thinking things through. He'd stopped letting his normal morals show him the way.

He'd jumbled his life up pretty horribly and he needed to straighten it out. First thing was first. He needed to speak with Kartiair. No more stuttering around. They needed to have it out. He had to know how to handle Michael to suit her. He had to know how to handle Robin. He had to know what it was she wanted. Not only to perform his duties, but to fulfill the emotions that were driving him at this point. He needed to know how to handle her.

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The day had passed in a confusing blur for Kartiair. Her emotions had played games with her all day. More than that Justin had treaded on her thoughts since lunch. He'd dived across the table to stop a fight because he was a prefect. Because he had to.

She had purposely skipped divination just to avoid them all. She didn't want to see Justin right now, not after he'd walked away the way he did. It was too much for her now, not after the day she was having. How could he have walked away without say anything? The question had reverberated in her mind all day. And she didn't want the answer because it was probably something she didn't want to hear.

She entered the common room silently, barely noticing anything as she made her way to the girls' dorms. Then out of the corner or her eye she saw Justin sitting in the dim common room. She froze for a moment, stopping dead in her tracks. What could she say to him now? There was nothing to say. And nothing he could say right then.

Biting her lip to stop from say anything, she turned away. Hoping she would go unnoticed.

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A particularly dazzling show of lightening forked its way over the dome of the atrium. Justin snapped his eyes shut, trying to blink away the white streak, then stopped all movement.

Someone else was in the room. It was an eerie feeling. He bolted up and looked wildly around the room. You'd think after living in a haunted castle something like that wouldn't bother a person, but he is muggle born after all.

There in the shadows, near the girls dormitory doors, she stood. He couldn't make out her face, only her body, statue still.

"Kartiair." he said softly. It was more in recognition than anything else. His lips met again softly after the statement was issued. It rolled out so freely, he couldn't have stopped it if he'd wanted to.

And now, here it was, presented to him on a silver platter. The opportunity over which he had spent the last how many minutes brooding. 'We need to talk.' His mind pushed him. Tell her! Tell her you need to talk.

No. ask her. He was returning to himself.

"Kartiair, I'm. I'm sorry about lunch." He didn't want to shout at her from across the room like this. He looked at the seats around him, then back to her. "Do you suppose we could talk?"

It was pleading yes. And it sounded so as well. And he wasn't ashamed of it. He'd walked right out on her when she'd been worried about him. He'd caused her a detention. She'd been so edgy lately. Mentally he was down on his knees.

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Kartiair stepped back when he looked up. She hadn't expected him to look up. The way her name sounded, the way he said it, from him it sounded like an endearment. Why couldn't he have been anywhere else in the castle? She couldn't walk away now. Even though he had.

Taking a step forward so that she wasn't entirely in the shadows, she nodded. He was ready to talk now, she wasn't sure she was ready to hear what he had to say. There was no way she could hear him say that he had to put himself in between Michael and Robin. She didn't want to hear the hypocritical statement.

Her hazel eyes remained trained on the floor. She didn't want to look at him now. She'd say things that she wasn't ready to say and things he might not want to hear.

"But what is there to talk about, Justin?" He'd already told her he'd had to and she knew why. Because he was a prefect. Even as she spoke her eyes never flickered up. Up was too painful and too. well tempting. The floor was safe right then. For one moment she thought of the ink smear, she self-consciously touched her chin. Where he had removed the ink.

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Justin watched eagerly as she took a step toward him. But she stopped, eyes focusing not on him but somewhere more southward. He sighed. It was a painful sound. She stood there, gazing at her feet, looking so forlorn. Had he really done that to her?

"But what is there to talk about, Justin?" The sound of her voice was like a dagger sunk into his chest. No, not a dagger a broadsword. He closed his eyes against it. When he reopened them she was still standing there. She hadn't accepted his offer to join him.

He stood up slowly. His badge lay forgotten, dropped to the floor beside where he'd sat. He walked to her, swiftly, crossing the distance in a few mere steps with his long powerful stride. The smoothness was as if he flew. All that consumed him was needing to have her near him. Needing to have her hear him out. Needing to know.

He came before her, strong hands embracing her arms.

"Kartiair." He said it again, this time more softly. A whisper issuing from his lips that might barely make it to her ears before dissipating into the deafening silence. He wanted her to look up at him, to respond. "I'm sorry."

The apology was unspecified at this point. She could take it however she wished. She could take it in response to anything she was upset about, or she could refuse it all together. Most of all it was a beginning. A start. He was trying to prove to her, though she already knew, that there was something to talk about.

If nothing else they had to discuss Michael. But much more than that at this point, far beyond his Prefectship, he wanted to discuss them.

He didn't know how she felt. He could only guess. Could suppose, from the little things. From his own feelings.

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The way Justin said her name almost made her look up. He had walked across the room with sudden and determined steps and he was standing before her, touching her arms. There had been a second of complete silence, then he'd said that he was sorry in such an apologetic tone that made her look up without thinking about it. For a moment her hazel eyes met his light brown ones.

He was sorry, but even if he could go back he probably would still dive across the table. That was just the way he was. He'd told her to stay out of the way for the same reason she wanted him to stay out of the middle. He was sorry that he'd upset her, but he couldn't apologize for being a prefect. "I know."

Her eyes shifted downward for a moment, it was too much. Then she noticed the absence of the prefect badge. For the moment she wasn't talking to prefect Justin, with that thought her eyes flickered upward.

"Do I make you feel the way you make me feel?" Kartiair asked without realizing that she'd spoken out loud until it was too late. But she didn't want to take it back, she wanted to know. She lifted her hand and brushed the stray bit of light brown hair off his eyes, something she'd wanted to do a dozen times but had never had the courage.

She let her hand drop back to her side, the contact was too intense. Her eyes, however, never moved off his. She couldn't have moved them again if she wanted to.

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Finally she looked up, their eyes meeting in the dim room. The storm raged above them; large raindrops singing a deep staccato on the glass dome, thunder its backup.

"I know." She replied after what seemed ages. The icy vice grip released its hold on his chest and he swallowed. Thankful not only for a reply, and not only for a physical response, but also for the acceptance.

Her gaze left his momentarily. Fluttering downward, then meeting his again.

"Do I make you feel the way you make me feel?" He didn't blush this time. Simply a mild warmth touched his cheeks, as a tender smile crept over his lips. Hazel eyes shone in the darkness, cast up at him. Her hand gently grazed his forehead, lighting the skin with fire, as she pushed aside locks of his hair.

"Yes." was his breathless reply. Leave it to Kartiair to beat him to the punch. To skip ahead, to get to the real point. All thought's of Michael and Robin slipped from his mind. They no longer mattered. It didn't matter if she didn't feel Michael's attentions were unduly directed at her. It mattered that Justin's attentions should be focused on her. It mattered that he now knew so.

A brilliant shock of lightening lit the room. As the whiteness receded, followed closely by a deafening growl of thunder, blond hair was tangled in a strong hand. Light brown hair brushing soft skin beside hazel eyes, powerful arm wound about small waste, as he'd pulled her close. Her lips yielding to his in a soft embrace. A kiss, but no less passionate for it's chastity.

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She had all but stopped breathing when he answered her. The yes resounded in her mind as she tried to absorb it, she'd thought he might feel the same way, but to have him say it- to know he understood it was unbelievable. The lightening couldn't have struck at a better moment. It lit his face for just a moment and she was glad that she had brushed the hair off his face, she could see his eyes and the sincerity in them perfectly.

Then his lips came down over hers. Kartiair tilted her head, accepting the kiss, accepting him with as much emotion as she could. He pulled her close to him by wrapping his hand around her waist. But right then she wanted to be closer. She placed her hand on the back of Justin's neck, her slender fingers ruffled a few tendrils of light brown hair.

Her every attention and thought was on Justin at that moment. She tried to think about the feel of his lips over hers, she wanted to remember it no matter what happened afterward. No one had ever kissed her like that before and she wasn't certain anyone else could. Not like Justin.

She broke this kiss off and leaned her forehead against his, not wanting to move back. She tried to catch her breath for a moment, obviously flushed. "No one's ever kissed me like that."

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The skin on the back of Justin's neck tingled with the electricity of her hand, fingers brushing against his scalp. Her lips were so pliable, melting into his own. Parting ever so slowly, foreheads coming to rest against each other, the two caught their breaths.

"No one's ever kissed me like that." It was almost a sigh the way she said it. His hand was still wound in her hair, the other resting at her waist. Frankly, he'd never kissed anyone like that either. Granted he'd kissed before, but not like that. An affectionate peck here, a stolen smooch there. He didn't want this to be one of those.

He hoped he hadn't frightened her by moving too quickly. The atmosphere, the silence, had driven him. He'd again let his emotions get the better of him. Yet she wasn't pulling away. He could feel her breath just grazing his neck. How long they remained like that he hadn't a clue.

Finally he brought a warm hand to her cheek. Taking her face into it, he lifted until he was again looking into her eyes. It had taken them long enough to get to this point. He'd liked her for some time now, a year or so maybe even longer. They'd come to a sort of agreement at this point, it seemed. Both never having really hinted at having feelings for the other, now they'd had it out, in so few words and so much feeling. She was so warm and soft under his hands. He didn't want to let her slip away.

"Never done it myself." he spoke softly, nearly forgetting what he was replying to, as it seemed to have been said years ago.

Another dazzling display of lightening broke him of his trance. Dinner was approaching, and they both had detentions to serve afterward. And there it was again, the guilt. His face fell fractionally; he closed his eyes against it before moving on.

"Not that I want to end the moment." His voice was still quiet, a low whisper against the storm above. "But what's say we head down to dinner?"

And he certainly didn't want to end the moment, but they couldn't very well stand there like that forever. Or could they? With the sky proclaiming its might, and the castle going about its own life around them. They had the room, the darkness, the moment, to themselves.

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They remained entangled, foreheads gently touching, supporting each other for several long minutes that passed too quickly. Slender fingers stayed on the back of his neck tracing small circles as his hands remained on her.

Then he took her face into his hand, lifting it up slightly, making her meet his eyes. Kartiair met his gaze easily, without so much as a faint blush. Finally he responded to what she said after what felt like both days and mere seconds. 'Never done it myself.' She smiled up at him, glad that he felt the same way, glad that he hadn't kissed anyone else like that.

Justin closed his eyes a moment later, his face falling ever so slightly. For a long and unbearable instant she was certain that he regretted the whole thing. She didn't want him to have those regrets because she didn't.

"Alright, let's go then," she said when he asked if they should go to dinner. Kartiair hesitated before slipping away from Justin. The loss of contact was very acute after those long minutes of being entwined. That was her only regret, the deprivation of touch. It pained her to think that he might be regretting a lot more than that. He might be regretting he ever looked up from his seat.

"Just promise you won't go diving over any tables again today." A pathetic attempt to make light of the whole thing, there was no way to make light of something that bore that much meaning to her and hopefully to him.

Things had changed a bit, but they remained the same in more ways. He was still Justin, still her friend. If that's where things stayed she'd always remember the kiss and the few breathless minutes they had been entwined in the dimly lit common room with the storm raging around them.

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She agreed to heading off to dinner and she slowly slid out of his arms, her face slipping like silk from his hand. His skin buzzed with the memory of the recent touch. Something in him had hoped she'd want not to. Hoped she'd choose to disagree and make him stay there with her, intertwined in the darkness. But they really ought to eat. It would be a long night.

'Just promise you won't go diving over any tables again today.' she sported. He grinned widely at her, invoked by the image of what he must have looking like flying over lunch like that. He managed to suppress it, and grasped her arm again. Turning her back to fully face him again.

"That's another thing that I wanted to say." his voice was sober. Not quite so romantically quiet as before, but still kind. "I don't really understand why, why you were so upset about that."

His sandy brown eyebrows knit together as he spoke. He should understand, but he couldn't bring himself to admit that the reason he thought it might be was probably the truth.

"I have to do my job, after all." Then he shook his head and looked away with a sigh. "Though sometimes I don't feel up to the task."

He looked back down at her again after a second of silence. It seemed as though the two were speaking with no sound. Trying to lip read without any inclination how.

"Promise me you'll stay out from between those two? I don't know what I'm going to do about them yet, but it'll be a lot easier if I don't have to worry about you in the process."

His eyes were silently pleading. The hand gently grasping her arm ached to pull her close again, and wrap her up against him. Why on earth couldn't they just stay there? He wondered to himself. Forgetting all reasoning of before.

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She'd started to leave, but he'd stopped her by gently pulling her back by her arm. A slight smile played across her face at the welcomed touch. For a moment she'd thought he'd changed his mind about going to dinner after all.

"How can you not understand?" she asked softly, the simile already fading from her face. How was it even possible for him not to understand after all this? More importantly she needed to know how to make it clear to him.

"I care about you," Kartiair explained softly. She reached up and touched his chin lightly with two fingers so that she had his complete attention. "And I don't want to watch you get hurt."

Her hazel eyes searched his face for a flicker of understanding. She'd wanted to say so much more, but she was afraid to tell him exactly how much she cared.

She forced herself to look away from him and to remove her hand from his face. She was afraid that looking at him, touching him would weaken her resolve. She couldn't promise him anything that he refused to promise her. "I'm just as capable of handling Michael and Robin as you are, love."

The last word fell from her lips so naturally that it scared her a little. She raised her face to his again and waited for a response to the statement, to the endearment, to everything.

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'I care about you' her soft voice replied, as she reached up and stoked his chin. His breath caught in his throat and he blinked. Their eyes had met again. She continued on, expressing the same thoughts toward him as he had for her. She had it backwards though; it was his duty to make sure that she wasn't hurt. More than just his Prefectship, he was the guy!

She turned away suddenly then, withdrawing her touch from his face. She had taken back her gaze and her hand; it left him feeling bereft. The words that followed were firm, but the only part that caught was the last. And then she returned to facing him. She seemed as though she expected some sort of rejection. How that was furthest from his thoughts!

A soft smile grew on his lips, and he bent down to place a tender kiss on her forehead. His lips lingered there, against her skin, momentarily; one hand again wound its fingers into her hair. He couldn't keep his hands out, it seemed. He bowed his head to speak into her ear. He couldn't stand the distance of before, he felt drawn toward her. The scent of her hair filled his nose.

"Let me see to them." He begged quietly. It was expected of him anyway. His free hand instinctively went to the spot where his badge should have been. But it was no longer there. He'd left it across the room, and he made a mental note to retrieve it . later. The same hand fell to Kartiair's, enfolding it warmly.

A resolution was needed here. The longer this moment between the two Hufflepuffs continued, the deeper Justin's dislike of Michael's behavior became. He needed to speak with the professor. He needed her help. She'd thrown this out to him and now he was drowning in it.

"I'll go to Professor Sprout tomorrow." He paused rolling over her valiant attitude toward the situation. He should have seen. Should have heard in the first place what she was saying. She didn't want him to take care of her. She wanted to stand up for herself. Well, she'd have to settle for his help, because he wasn't backing all the way down.

"Better yet." Her ear was just in view of his half open eye. Strands of blond hair tucked behind it, while the loose ones brushed his face. He leaned in closer, voice growing quieter. "We'll go together."

And he could resist no longer. Another kiss was bestowed upon her. This time soft warm lips taking in the sensitive skin of her earlobe. He listened for her reply as he toyed with it.

He couldn't believe himself, but he could neither resist. And she wasn't pulling away. She had reached up to him. The 'I care about you' echoed in his head.

Read the signs Justin. For god's sake, what more does she have to say to convince you before you're confident? he berated himself.

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She didn't realize that she had been holding her breath until he smiled. She had thought that she had made a terrible mistake for a moment. When he leaned down and kissed her lightly on the forehead she felt the tension release a little. Then he whispered in her ear, begging her to let him handle everything, and she almost nodded. Standing this close to Justin in the quiet and darkness was steadily weakening every ounce of resolve she had.

But she couldn't accept his help with something she could handle on her own. She couldn't let him handle everything. She'd take care of Michael on her own. Justin wouldn't be involved with it. He wouldn't have to get hurt.

She'd make Michael see reason and hopefully end whatever feud he and Robin had going on. The only flaw in her plan was that she'd have to talk to Michael alone. Not that great of an idea. Maybe she'd ask Hope to go with her. She certainly couldn't ask Robin or Justin.

He wanted to go see Professor Sprout alone, but the only result of that would be Michael getting chastised by the head of house. It wouldn't work for very long.

"Better yet- we'll go together." She was about to protest going to Professor Sprout at all when Justin's lips touched her ear. For a moment she lost the ability to form a coherent sentence, much less a protest. She sighed a little, she was tempted to just nod and kiss him back.

"And what exactly can we tell Professor Sprout? She's sure to have heard of Michael and Robin's fight already. There's nothing else to tell her." Kartiair said softly. She didn't want to tell the professor about Michael's attempts to get her attention. It was probably nothing. "It won't work. I'll talk to Michael."

A smile crossed her face; Justin had unfairly distracted her with his lips, now she could do the same. She lifted her hand and turned his face away from her ear and then she brought her lips over his. She kissed him slowly, then took one step closer so that there was no distance between them.

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She replied softly into his ear as he worked away at her. It was unfortunate that she didn't want to go to Professor Sprout. That much Justin knew had to be done. He should have gone directly to her instead of fleeing to the pitch. Jack flitted across his mind. It had been a good thing for him to show up when he did, but that didn't change the fact that he hadn't done his duty the way he now realized it should have been done.

It wasn't a matter of nothing else to tell the professor. There couldn't be an else unless she was informed in the first place. Perhaps she had heard about it. What would she think? He needed to know, he needed her opinion and guidance. She was the one who'd placed him in this position, and she was the one who had to help him do the job. It would have to work; she was the administration after all.

Justin didn't want to picture what Michael's temper could do to Kartiair alone. Perhaps, if his affections toward her were expressed in a different fashion than they were. Or maybe even if he hadn't physically attacked Robin already. Justin might have been able to give him the benefit of the doubt. But no. How could he take the chance that? Justin didn't want to face him either, however. Not without speaking to Sprout first. This was a guy he was going to have to co-operate with for the rest of the year. Pissing him off would not do well.

Justin's mental balances tipped as he added the weights: Michael, Kartiair, Hufflepuff, Quidditch, Sprout, Prefectship, the right thing (which WAS?) .

And now she made a move of her own. Distracting him from his train of thought. Though he had been doubting himself before, she now left no room for that. Technically there shouldn't have been much room previously, but self doubt will do that to a person. Her hand snaked up to bring him lip to lip with her once again. She had taken control right out of his hands in one swift stroke. Her warm mouth taking over his, she stepped closer then, bringing herself against him.

The sounds of the storm, the lightening, fell away from his observations. All that he was aware of was the softness of her lips, the sensation of taste buds driving across each other, her smell, how fragile she seemed in his arms.

He almost pulled away when he realized she'd just thought she'd convinced him to let her confront Michael alone. Second mental note, make some repairs to that.. later.

Later, and later, and later. Time slipped. The storm washed the evening clean. The students of Hogwarts ate their dinner. Justin and Kartiair remained, until that time as she had to leave for the doom that awaited her in the dungeons.