Chapter 29

21 Nov 1993

James was glad to wake up in his own bed instead of on a couch like Remus. To say Veronica had been unenthusiastic about Sirius Black staying with them was an understatement. There had been a grand old debate. Ultimately, she'd agreed with James' request, but she'd made a strong argument against it. She wasn't entirely wrong.

She'd pointed out they were still waiting on the court records, though they were tied up behind a wall of red tape. The Ministry refused to release them to Remus because, though he was officially helping to find Black as an advisor to the Aurors, he was technically just a school teachers. Likewise they'd been stonewalling Ambassador Sonne's requests on the grounds it was a purely internal matter.

Black happily pointed out, while cowering behind James and Remus as a dog, that such records didn't exists. James translated for everyone which took some of the wind out of Veronica's sails. From there they had been able to explain the plan to her.

In the end, Veronica accepted grudgingly, on the grounds Black stayed out of the apartment and away from Morgan. Remus still had to sleep on the couch, but that wasn't James' problem. Remus could figure that one out on his own.

With a yawn, James rolled out of bed, wrapped a towel around his waist, stripped off his shorts, and headed for the shower. He opened the door and came chest to chest with Susan Bones.

Her fist sailed through the air, committed to the knocking on the suddenly absent door, and smashed into James face. James stumbled back, dropping his shower kit, and reaching for his face with both hands

"Huh?" Susan asked, momentarily confused when her hand didn't meet wood. Then she saw James holding his face and realized what she had done. "Sorry I didn't mea-."

James felt a cool draft and wondered why she stopped mid-sentence. His nose wasn't bleeding, despite the hit, so he dropped his hands, intending to grasp his towel and pick up his shower kit. He noticed Susan was blushing with her hands raised to cover her eyes, but had spread her fingers to peek through them.

As his hand closed to ensure his towel was in place, it closed on not but air. 'Oh, don't tell me.'

James looked down and saw the towel pooled at his feet. He looked at Susan, the towel, Susan, the towel, and then at himself.

A second passed.

Then another.

James exploded into motion, yanking the towel off the floor and wrapping it around himself. He felt the blush spread from the roots of his hair to his chest. Susans was doing the same.

The silence stretched on. James shifted nervously as Susan continued to stare through her fingers at the towel. Slowly her eyes rose to his.

"So…" James said slowly, taking a step back. Once he was far enough inside his room, he slammed the door shut on her. He waited a second. He let out a sigh of relief when he heard Susan flee the scene. There was a ruffling on sheets and pillows behind him.

"What the fuck James! Why're you slamming the door?" Wayne's muffled voice asked, his face still buried in his pillows.

"Susan just saw me naked and punched me in the face." James said, rubbing a hand across where her fist landed.

"What, speak up? " Wayne said more clearly, having turned over to look at James.

"I said, Susan punched me and then saw me naked." James said. He elaborated when he caught Wayne's accusatory look. "I opened the door to go to the shower and literally ran into her. Then she punched me in the face. When I raised my hands to assess the damage I think my towel fell and she got an eyeful."

"Why'd she punch you before the full frontal?"

"I think she was about to knock." James said, pulling up the slipping towel and tightening it around his waist.

"Huh. Well don't go flashing any more of the girls. You might get a reputation. I'm going back to sleep. Wake me up when you get back in thirty." Wayne said, referring to James' habit of taking long showers.

"Yeah yeah." James said before, opening the door carefully and taking a look around the make sure the coast was clear. "Why was she here?" James muttered as he set off for his shower.

XxX

James luxuriated in the shower, singing softly to himself as he scrubbed and tarried under the warm water. Once he finally finished, James killed the water, shook most of it off, and got the rest with his towel.

Clean and dry, James returned to his room and woke Wayne. Wayne ducked out for his own shower and was back by the time James finished changing. Wayne threw on his own robes and the pair headed to the common room.

They were met by Heather as she was coming out of the girls dorms with a cat-got-the-canary grin on her face.

"Do you two want to know what I just heard?" She asked in a sing-song voice.

"Does it have anything to do with a free show?" Wayne asked, causing James to groan.

"Oh, so you do know about it. I wasn't sure. Well James, are you interested in the impression you made?" Heather asked, laughing as James groaned. He refused to look at her as he slipped into a chair. "Oh come on, it isn't like you're the one that ran away. You should hear what she was saying."

"Heather, please stop." James said, his voice breaking for the first time. Heather and Wayne stared at him for a moment then broke out laughing.

Heather stumbled over to a chair and collapsed into it unable to stop herself. "Oh my god. This is perfect."

"What's perfect, besides you?" Roger asked as he entered the room with Justin a step behind him.

"James' voice just broke, but that isn't the best part. The best part it is that it's Susan's fault." Heather said, smiling at Roger as he sat on the edge of the chair and slid an arm around her shoulders.

"No it isn't." James tried to say. His voice just squeaked, making him more flustered as everyone laughed. Into this environment of merriment, Megan Jones marched, ignoring everyone until she made it in front of James.

James looked up at her furious mien. Before he could ask what was wrong she slapped him across the face.

"Pervert." She said and turned to leave. Susan and Hannah came rushing up from girls side.

"Wait Meagan. You came into that late, it wasn't James'- Oh." Hannah said as she saw the scene unfolding in the room. Susan came to a stop behind Hannah and silence fell over the room.

It was Roger who broke the silence. "Well I'm hungry, who wants some sausage? What about you Susan, or did you already get enough earlier?"

Every eye turned to him. Then the wands came out and spells started flying. Roger ducked down behind Heather's chair, rolling out of the way. In the confusion, James decided to try and get a little bit of payback at Meagan for slapping him. He cast a stinging hex but missed, hitting Helga on her own was to breakfast instead. Helga glared as at his unexpected betrayal and pulled her wand.

A spell whizzed past his head from behind. James ducked and turned. Wayne shot him an apologetic smile, shrugged and cast again. The volume rose as the others kept casting louder and louder. The Hufflepuff common room devolved into an all out brawl. There wasn't a prefect insight to stop it.

More students started arriving from the dorms. The unlucky ones froze at the sight and got hit by an errant spell. The lucky ones were standing next to them. The smart ones yelled charge and dived right in- Wait that's the foolishly brave ones. When did Gryffindors get sorted into Hufflepuff?

The fight started to break down along class lines. The third years found themselves slowly being pushed together as arriving students were told the third years were the cause of the fighting. James grunted as a fourth year hit him with a banishing charm, sending him head over kettle across the floor. He was stopped when he slammed into a pair of shapely legs.

There was a feminine shout of surprise before she fell on top of him. James only had a second to process Susan falling on him before her elbow slammed right into his groin.

James let out a blood curdling scream. Everyone stopped and looked at the source. As one, every boy in the room raised a leg across their body and gave a sympathetic groan of pain.

XxX

A short time later, James shuffled along with the other Hufflepuff third-year boys to breakfast. His painful embrace with Susan brought the impromptu spell battle to an end. Well that and the Perfects all returning from their weekly early morning Sunday meeting, expertly planned to occur when their should be no problems in the dorms.

The fight in the morning and shared empathy over James' pain seemed to have erased the invisible lines that had been growing between them in the aftermath of James' and Susan's close encounter of the soul sucking kind.

"Do you need another numbing charm?" Zacharias asked as James slowed to a stop. James shook his head with a grimace on his face and sucked down a deep breath of air.

"No, just give me a second." James said pausing to focus through the pain. "You guys can go on ahead. Sure it hurts but I'm not crippled."

"Are you sure you don't want to go to Madam Pomfrey, just in case." Justin asked.

"God no!" James shouted. He winced as shouting brought a stab of pain. "Just no. Give me a minute and I will be good." He said softly.

"You said a second a moment ago." Wayne pointed out. James fixed him with a glare.

"Will you get going? I'm holding you up from breakfast, if I can't make it I'll work my way back and just eat in the kitchens. I think I remember where they are." James said. He appreciated their concern, but dammit he didn't need a bunch of other guys hanging around worrying about his balls.

Yes they hurt. They hurt terribly, but he wasn't going to remain in the common room where everyone could see they hurt and he wasn't going to go back to his room and admit that kind of weakness. It was breakfast time so dammit it all to heck he was going to get breakfast.

The young men of Hufflepuff shared a glance, clearly not willing to leave James behind. Then their stomachs rang out with hearty battle cries. A challenge to chefs everywhere to just try to sate the appetite of teenage boys.

"And the truth comes out. Go on. I'll catch up. Save me a space as far from Susan as you can." James said. His companions nodded reluctantly but left him all the same. Once he was behind them, their steps slowly sped up. They were really hungry.

James took a deep breath, shuffling onward. The pain was slowly dying down and the numbing charm Cedric applied when he helped James struggle to his feet was doing a wonderful job.

"James." A voice called out and the pain ramped back up to max. James turned his head slowly, using a hand against the wall to brace himself. He really hoped his nose and ears were wrong.

They weren't. Susan was standing there, a bit tense, her arms held close and shoulder hunched nervously. James whimpered and started hobbling away.

'What is she doing here? I thought all the girls went on ahead. We're supposed to be the last ones in the hall. The last ones because she crushed my nuts!' James thought as he tried to escape.

"James wait! I'm sorry. For the punch, the elbow, Meagan, everything that happened this morning." Susan said desperately. "I just needed to ask you something."

"Now?! After avoiding me all the time except Halloween night, now you need to ask me something? Was the physical abuse a necessary bit of ground work or was that for your own enjoyment?" James shot back hobbling away bowlegged.

Susan scowled and started walking after him. "I already said I was sorry, and I didn't avoid you all the time. Remember the Patronus lessons?"

"Oh right, the ones where, once you had the most basic materials, you went and hid in the corner away from me." James said. He spied a door up ahead. If he could get in there he'd be safe. Just a bit further.

Susan planted herself in James' path, just beyond the door, but closer to the handle than him. "Stop acting so offended. You know why, or have you forgotten what you are?" Susan hissed nervously. James glared at her. Then he reached down and closed his hand around his totem. She wanted to play the game then fine, he'd play the game.

"I haven't, and I was wrong." She said so softly James almost didn't hear her.

James released his hold on the totem in surprise. "What?"

"I said I was wrong. I need to ask you something but maybe we need to talk about more than just that." Susan said, pushing the door open. She couldn't hide the shaking of her hand as she reached to grasp the handle.

"No. I haven't forgotten how our last talk ended. Wait." James peeked inside the room. "This is the same storage room as last time. Nope. Not happening."

"It's about the dog. I need to know. Please." Susan said shakily. James tensed. He inhaled through his nose, taking time to examine the scent. Susan was nervous, he'd noticed that since she'd appeared behind him. Strongest was the sour tang of fear, but the strange melody of uncertainty, and the subtle notes of honesty were there too.

"I know I'm going to regret this." James said. "Ladies first."

Susan slipped into the room; James followed. She stopped, looking around. "Weren't there some old crates in here last time?"

James recalled his actions at the end of their last discussion in the room. Deciding it wasn't really something she needed to know he just shrugged and shut the door.

"No." He said as he frowned at the door. "Now, how does using the Silencing Charm on a doorway work again." He muttered.

"I'll get it. Silencio Potra." Susan said waving her wand with an extra 'T' tacked onto the end of her wand motion. The charm cast, she moved deeper into the room, leaving plenty of space between her and James. James stayed near the door. His day wasn't going well, and he wanted the option for a quick exit. He waited silently for Susan to start talking. The silence stretched on, James broke first.

"So you wanted to talk." James offered carefully.

"Yes. That's why I was outside your room this morning." Susan said. She played with her hair nervously. It was tied in a long ponytail, the end resting over her shoulder where she could reach it easily. She took a deep breath, gathering herself for the conversation.

"I heard a rumor that you returned from Hogsmeade yesterday with a dog in tow. From what I heard, the dog was found by some older girls, and one of them claimed it. You met them on the way back and told them it helped save you from the Dementors. You then offered to have Professor Lupin take responsibility for the dog so she could bring it into the school. Is that true?" She said. Her voice was almost clinical, but James could smell the anxiety behind that facade.

"I'm kinda interested in how you heard that rumor." James said. It had only been a few hours since they got back. He'd heard word traveled fast, even seen it a time or two, but this was pretty close to light speed in his opinion.

Susan grimaced, her hands clenching the end of her ponytail.. "Did you bring Sirius Black, a mass murdered, into Hogwarts? Tell me." She demanded fear leaking into her tone. James noticed her left leg was shaking too.

"No." James answered honestly. The man wasn't a mass murderer.

"No? So you didn't bring a dog into the castle, but Heidi heard from McAuley who heard from Selwyn, and Selwyn heard is straight from the Carrows." Susan babbled. Her hands tangled in her hair, fingers dancing wildly as she continued muttering to herself about the rumors she heard. James decided to throw her a bone.

"Oh no, I did bring a dog into the castle. I think Princess is technically Katie's but we are watching him for her."

"Princess?" Susan choked out. She shook the thought from her heard and refocused, ignoring the way her braid was coming apart. "So you did bring Sirius Black into the castle?"

"Yes." James said and then fought not to chuckle at the mixed emotions rising off Susan, the clearest being frustration. He lost the fight and winced as the movement drove the pain below his belt back to the forefront.

"But you just said- Which is it! Tell me James! If Sirius Black is in the castle I need to tell Auntie. He needs to be arrested." Susan begged.

"Then why ask me? If the rumor says there is a dog in the castle, the same dog which helped save me from dementors, saved you too don't forget, and I told you said dog was, in fact, Sirius Black who saved us last time we met in this room, why haven't you already told her?" James fired back at her. James watched Susan struggle for a moment before the tension and anxiety became to much for her and she broke.

"Because I can't! Not without you letting me. That's why I needed to talk to you. Last time, I promised not to say anything. I can't tell her Black is in the castle as a dog because you made me swear to keep everything we talked about a secret!" Susan yelled at him. James took a faltering step back and Susan kept going.

"I know things went bad between us then. I was scared. Hell I was terrified. I'd just gotten to relive my parents deaths over and over; all the while wondering if my soul would be drained out when you inevitably failed because what boy can hold off that many dementors forever? At the same time, I watched your body change. Terrified, their deaths ringing in my ears, I watched your body slowly change from the boy I knew into a monster. A monster that I've lived all my life believing wants to eat me and anyone I know. A monster that slinks around in human skin except the one night a month it is revealed for who it is." James made to interject but Susan kept going, letting it all out.

"Then what do you do, the very night I confront you about it, to make sure it wasn't some hallucination brought on by the dementors? You change with no moon. You snarl and growl and terrify me James. For a second, I thought I was going to die." Susan stopped to sniffle. Tears and snot ran down her face as she collapsed to the ground.

"Susan-"

"But then you just slumped back, changed back, and let me go. I was so scared. I'd kinda liked you you know. You made a terrible first impression with that fake name stuff, but then you appeared here and you were different from everyone else. In the first week, you get all of us targeted by the Twin Terrors of Gryffindor and you didn't do anything back. You had us thinking you were a bit of a pushover."

James shrugged. "I could smell the potions in the food and drink. The jinxes and hexes weren't that bad."

Susan hiccupped, trying to dry her tears with her hands. "Yes they were. Merlin you have the worst singing voice ever." James gave an indignant exclamation but Susan pressed on.

"I know now you were smelling it out. I figured that out after… After our last talk in this room, but at the time we wondered why you didn't do anything. Then you struck back in a way that stopped everything. Honestly I am surprised they didn't retaliate back for that."

James knew, it was because he and Katie agreed to their detente that afternoon. She'd let him know a week or two ago that the twins had been planning a terrible retribution, but she asked them to knock it off. That wasn't to say he'd gone unmolested, but now it was the same pranks anyone could walk into nothing worth writing home about.

"That opened a lot of eyes you know. The politics what they are, Hogwarts being what it is, everyone that matters had their eyes on you. Then you go and change Professor Binns that same day. You were a whirlwind of power and confidence. When you asked me to Hogsmeade of course I said yes."

James wondered where this was going. The abridged version of his short stay at Hogwarts was nice, and it was giving time for the ache in his groin to continue to dull, but what was the point. He was about to say something, but as he looked at Susan he realized she needed this. The fear and uncertainty so clear in her scent and posture was slowly fading. He closed his mouth and listened.

"It was a great date you know." She said somewhat wistfully her eyes with a far away look. "Almost storybook in a way."

She turned and looked at him, her eyes puffy and face streaked by the tears. James checked his pockets, and pulled out a scrap of paper with a few Tic-Tac-Toe games scribbled on it. Wondering why he was carrying that, but glad for it, James transfigured it into a handkerchief. It wasn't his best work, but it would do.

"Here." He was tossing it over to her. "Professor Binns will be glad to hear that. It was his advice I used to plan it." Susan eyes widened in surprise.

"Well that is something I ever expected to hear." She said, wiping her face clean. "Thanks."

"So…"

"Right, so I was going to let you kiss me at the end. I thought you were going to make a perfect first boyfriend, and you were going to be the perfect way to help us against the gits on the other side. You'd already antagonized Malfoy so I didn't think it would be that hard." James eyes narrowed. That sounded similar to a half-forgotten conversation with Remus. Susan continued on either not noticing or not caring.

"Then the rabbit, the dog, and the dementors happened. When I woke the next day in the hospital wing, I prayed what I saw was wrong because the truth terrified me. My Auntie and her allies voted for stronger laws against Werewolves time and again when it came up. So many harmed in the past by the likes of Greyback. Now it was possible the boy I had a crush on was one of those monsters. A monster going to class and sleeping just a few yards from where I was." Susan continued rambling. James just let her go. This was an eye opening experience in a few ways. He hadn't really cared what effect it all had on Susan, but maybe he should have.

"So I confronted you and we know how that went. Afterwards, I planned to stay well away from you. A Bones keeps their word though. I said I would keep your secret and the secret about Black. A secret about a mass murderer and traitor. The man responsible for another orphan, and I did. Not happily though. I planned to watch you closely, and see if the boy I had liked was just a disguise, a way to get closer to your prey." Susan said guilt creeping into her scent and voice.

"By the end of that first week, you had most of the second years hanging out with you willingly. At the same time we, the third years, were starting to drift apart. I was avoiding you, so Hannah joined in. Zacharias and Meagan did likewise because if I was avoiding you there must be a reason. Ernie is Zacharias' best friend, where one goes the other will follow. Justin has always been a bit on the outside so he drifted off as he is like to do. I think he was spending time with Dean Thomas in Gryffindor, playing footing balls or something like that."

"Then there was my trio of friends." James supplied.

"Yes, but it quickly grew didn't it. You had your trio, the second years, and soon thereafter a few fourth years. I watched, I was aware of the study sessions you were holding. The second years weren't keeping it secret and they talked about what happened. Your duel with Carrow was a topic of much discussion. The silent casting lessons you were giving. The fact Luna Lovegood, Merlin save you if you call her Looney, was there and apparently under your protection." Susan stopped. She looked at James as if expecting an answer.

"She was being bullied. I found her nearly freezing to death just outside the Great Hall the night we had our talk. I'll be completely honest with you Susan. I consider her one of mine,not that I know why. To learn she was being treated so badly flipped a switch." James explained, closing his eyes as he thought about it.

"It's good she has such a forgiving heart. She asked me to go easy on them. To be nice. That is why my retribution took so long. I would've just gotten names and repaid them the pain and suffering they caused her." James said.

"When you say yours… You mean like a pack? Is she-"

"No. She isn't, but for some reason I feel protective of her. I feel likewise for most of my friends to be honest." James said.

"Oh." Susan said. James was getting tired of the conversation and felt it was time to speed things along.

"So to finish the story for you. Halloween happened. We talked for the first time in a while that night. Then the Patronus practice, where you had to be near me. You watched closely and saw that I really am not a monster stuffed in a human skin suit but a normal teenage boy, if a bit of a furry from time to time. Now Black is in the castle and you are scared and confused and want me to let you tell your Auntie so they can hurry up and suck out his soul." James said.

"Well I wouldn't call you normal, but yes." Susan said. "James, he's the reason the Potters died and Harry disappeared. He's a terrible criminal and needs to be-

"He's innocent, was framed, and, so far as we know, never received a trial." James interjected, cutting her off.

Susan looked at James like he had grown an extra couple of heads. "You're lying." She whispered. James almost thought he could hear her world view cracking. "He was a traitor. He sold out the secret of the Potters and who knows how many others."

"Which raises an interesting question. How did anyone know he was the secret keeper much less that the Potters had gone into hiding behind a Fidelius?" James asked. Susan went quiet for a second and thought about it.

"I don't know." She admitted after a moment. James shifted his feet, the pain was mostly gone by now. Maybe it was just below the threshold for the numbing charm.

"So I've actually talk to him. Hell the whole reason we even came here was to answer that question." James said.

"What do you mean?" Susan asked.

"I really didn't want to come to Britain and our family isn't willing to split up. We tried to get Professor McGonagall out the door without agreeing to come here but a couple things happened. Next, we knew that question got brought up and Dad says he has to know how it became common knowledge Black was the secret keeper. If he was really the one spreading the word then it was possible Black and James Potter were playing a prank on the world. If that was the case, then an innocent man would have been in literal Hell for the past decade, so we came to find the truth." James said. Susan nodded, slowly starting to process what James told her.

"And you found out. That is why he is in the castle right now isn't it. That is what you talked to him about in Hogsmeade. The rumor says you were barking at him before you came up with a way for him to get into the school." Susan said the dots now connected.

"Bingo." James said. Susan stared at him for a moment.

"Spill." She ordered. James gave her a thoughtful look then shrugged.

"Nah. I don't think so, not yet anyway. Tell you what though, get me Sirius Black's trial records from your aunt and I might be willing to share." He said. Susan frowned and seemed to think it over. She wiped her face again and looked at the handkerchief uncertain what to do with it before storing it away in a pocket.

"Very well." She said standing and wiping her hands down her robes to make sure there were no wrinkles. "But I can't promise anything."

James nodded and opened the door. "Fair 'nough. Let me know what she says. I think it would probably be better to just hit up the kitchens at this point. Wanna join?" James asked.

XxX

23 Nov 1993

Sunday passed peaceful after his talk with Susan, and nothing of note happened Monday. Now James was on his way to Potions and looking forward to the long weekend he was going to get with the full moon coming up. He was walking alone, per the norm. Slytherins tended to move as a single group during classes, and the Gryffindors loathed the class so waited till the last moment to make their way into the dungeons.

James was glad for the solitude. He had been surprised Monday by how people outside his circle had been looking at him. The worst had been the Gryffindor girl Lavender who stared at him like a piece of meat, but he noticed it in every class to some degree.

'I really don't see how talking to dogs suddenly makes me the most popular guy in school.' James reached the closed classroom and took a seat against the wall. 'At least Neville won't be stupid, and the silence Snape insists on will work to our benefit today. I really need to find a way to talk to him about the Lily Potter Memorial stuff, or a way to bring it up without giving myself away.'

As James considered the puzzle he'd set himself, people started drifting towards the dungeons. James smelled them long before they reached him. Then he heard the chattering and stilted laughter. The first heads came into view with Malfoy lead the procession. James realized he'd been a bit unfair to the blonde, maybe. His first real interaction involved harming the blonde for lying, but he never realized just how well the moniker he gave would stick. 'Then again I think that had more to do with Ron using it every time he could then my own doing.'

"And there he is. The boy that talks to dogs." Malfoy said loudly. James met his eyes, wondering what Malfoy wanted. He noticed Hestia standing towards the back of the Slytherins with a resigned look on her face.

"So are the rumors true, can you talk to dogs?" Malfoy asked, mischief dancing in his eyes. Something was up. Ever since their first interaction Draco mostly avoided him.

"Last I checked. Seems you were pretty sure of that in the first place though." James said, pushing himself off the floor.

"I wonder if that makes your mum a bitch."

James blinked and his hand flew to his wand without him noticing. He was certain he heard that wrong. "What did you say?"

A self-satisfied smile grew on Malfoy's face. He looked at his fellows and revelled their approval. Then he opened his mouth again.

"I said, I wonder if you can talk to dogs because your mother is a bitch. Thus making you a son of a bitch, and that little sister of yours is a bitch too I su-" Malfoys head snapped to the right and something small and white came flying out.

James hissed as pain shot through his hand. He glanced down and saw blood leaking from his knuckles. He tried to open it and found the process far more painful than it should be. He then noticed most of the Slytherins backing away from him. Malfoy was sprawled on the floor, blood leaking from his lips as he held his jaw, crying.

"Bloody hell Lupin." A voice called out. James look and saw the Gryffindors coming down the hallway, Ron Weasley at their head. "What'd he say to make you lay him out like that?"

"Something about my mom." James said.

"He called your m-" Crabbe started to say only to be elbowed in the gut by Nott who quietly accused him of being an idiot. Malfoy continued whimpering on the floor, blood still leaking from his mouth as he held up a tooth and examined it.

'Wow, I knocked out a tooth. Damn!'

"Wow. You socked him hard enough to knock out a tooth? I guess that what the little ponce get for talking about your mum. Wish I'd done that." Ron asked, stopping next to him. James shrugged, then he remembered something Sirius had said.

"Hey Ron, do you have a pet rat?" James asked. Ron was about to reply when the door to the potions classroom opened and Professor Snape stepped out. He took one look at the scene and sneered.

"What is going on here?" He asked, sending shivers up the student's spines.

"Draco was just asking James a question when James punched him so hard a tooth came out." Goyle explained, not willing to meet Snape's eyes. Snape glared at James, his eyes catching the swelling of his hand and the contrast of blood around his knuckles against the darkening flesh. He looked down at Draco, still on the floor, his sobbing reduced to a whimper. He was still hold his jaw.

"It seems you have dislocated young Mister Malfoy's jaw. Have you anything to say in your defense Mister Lupin?"

James thought hard for a second then gave the best answer he could. "He said some very nasty things about my mom and was about to doing the same about my sister."

Snape's cold eyes bore into James. He felt like they were looking right into his soul. Finally, he looked away.

"Mister Crabbe, Mister Goyle, please escort Mister Malfoy to Madam Pomfrey and return to class. The rest of you in class now." Everyone moved to follow Professor Snape's orders. As James turned to enter the room Professor Snape spoke again. "Mister Lupin, you will remain behind at the end of class. There will be no further disruptions out of you. Understood?"

"Yessir." James mumbled as he entered the room. He cast the air filtering charm, took his normal seat, and waited for Neville to join him. He was very surprised when Hestia sat down beside him instead. He was about to question what was going on when he saw Tracey Davis guide a confused and nervous Neville to her work station. The other Gryffindors didn't look happy about it, but apparently his past potions performance prevented any of them from claiming him as a partner.

"Don't worry about Neville. They just wanted someone to talk to you. Even more now after what you did to Malfoy." Hestia said quietly. She had a smirk on her face as she prepared her work space beside him. James narrowed his eyebrows but kept his mouth shut.

Professor Snape closed the door behind him as he entered the classroom. "Today we will be brewing a tooth repair potion. Instructions are on the board and page one-thirty-six of your books. I know this will be a challenge for you lot, but do not make a mistake with steps six or ten. The consequences could be problematic for the rest of the class." Snape paused, his eyes sweeping over the class. If the slight change-up for brewing partners mattered to him he showed no sign. "Therefore I will be checking your potion before and after those steps. Signal me when you are ready. Do not proceed without my permission or detention and points lost will be the least of your worries."

With his monologue delivered, Professor Snape slipped behind his desk and began grading essays. James took a look over the instructions and paled. 'Orange, Red, Burgundy, Tangerine, all colors the potion was meant to turn. What kind of sick bastard designed this potion?' James thought as he prepared his ingredients. 'I hope Hestia is up to the task. That reminds me, she and Flora are twins. Why is she in third year when her twin is in fourth year?'

James started to ask his questions but she beat him to the punch. "Do you know what casual displays of power are Lupin?" She asked in a hushed voice, filling the cauldron with a pint of goats milk to start the potion off.

"Um, when someone does something that no one else does and makes it look easy? Hey, you're good checking all the colors right? My eyes never quite returned to normal after that encounter." James whispered back, trying to follow the change from his planned conversation.

"Yes Lupin, I can see the color red. Nevermind that your condition has never been reported in relation to Dementor exposure, but then much about you doesn't make sense." Hestia said softly. Her smirk only growing. James felt a slight shiver, but pushed it down.

"What are you talking about? Why ask about casual displays of power?" James asked as he began crushing a dragon's fang to prepare it to be ground for the potion. Hestia hummed quietly as she read over the instruction in her book. James noticed there were a few notes marked down in the edges of the book when he looked over as he waited for her to reply.

"Make sure the fang is down to a nice powered and pass me the gizzard stones, once I add these the potion should turn red." Hestia ordered, ignoring his question. James passed the stones and checked the fang. It looked ready to transfer to a mortar. He moved the fang over carefully, not wanting to waste any.

Hestia added the stones and stirred thrice for each one. James watched the white turn steadily browner and knew they were probably having the right effect. Once the stones were added Hestia finally answered his question.

"I'm talking about you James. You who, in our first week, caused the 'great' Draco Malfoy's ploy to get the half-giant fired to blow up in his face with an act of silent magic. Most impressive for a third year no one knows." Hestia said, not looking away from the cauldron.

"You who treated the whole castle to a most disturbing show when you struck back against the Weasleys. Though I must say it was in inspired revenge. Flora was more than happy to share the story of what led to that display." Hestia continued. She didn't see the concerned look on James face as she continued talking.

"You who changed History from naptime into an actual class. You who fought Dementors and won. You who created a study group and then beat my sister in a duel. No simple feat." Hestia said, a bit of anger seeping into her voice. She was silent for a moment. James was trying to figure out how to derail the conversation when she continued on, her voice just loud enough to start drawing the attention of their peers.

"You who the Headmaster tasked with teaching a spell most adult cannot cast, yet you managed to get a second year to cast perfectly. You who spoke to a dog in its own tongue like it was nothing. You who, most recently, struck the son of the most politically powerful man on the Traditionalist side of the Wizengamot hard enough to send him to the hospital. Not using your magic, but a simple fist, like a muggle." Hestia said gleefully. James saw something flash in her eye he was almost tempted to label madness. By now her volume had risen high enough that a good half of the glass was looking at them.

"Is there something you would like to share with the class Miss Carrow?" Snape asked from behind his desk, setting down the sheet of parchment he had been marking.

"No Professor Snape!" She answered easily, before glancing down to review the potion in her book. The class got over their interest in James and Hestia when neither spoke again immediately. The only sound coming from their table was the grinding of fang and chopping of milkroot. They moved through steps three and four of the potion quickly before James spoke.

"Most of those aren't as impressive as you make them sound, were accidents, or a good bit of someone else's work I got lucky with." James whispered to her.

"I wonder, are all boys such idiots?" She mumbled. James was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to hear that and kept quiet. He didn't fail to realize much of what she said was similar to what Susan had brought up two days prior. It wasn't instilling him with much confidence about whatever it was the they wanted to have her talk to him about.

"James, it doesn't matter what you think of those events. The simple fact is they were and are impressive." Hestia said as the potion bubbled and boiled.

"Fang next right?" James asked, hoping maybe he could keep the conversation focused on the assignment.

"Add it then stir thrice rightwards and once leftwards." Hestia said. James nodded. Around the classroom, groups ahead of them were already calling Professor Snape over. James added the fang slowly, spreading it around the gently simmering pot. As Hestia began stirring it in James called Professor Snape over.

He glanced at their potion. He took the stirring rod from Hestia's hand and checked the consistency before passing it back to her. "Acceptable, if only just. You may continue Miss Carrow. Do try not to let your brutish partner drag you down." He said before sweeping away to yell at Seamus and Dean as their potion started to boil over.

James grabbed a peppermint and added three springs to the potion. It started to congeal quickly. Hestia passed the stirring rod to James. He took it and kept stirring. The potion stopped thickening and settled into a cookie dough-like consistency.

"Okay, now we add Bubotuber pus and let it sit until it comes to a boil." Hestia said. James nodded his ascent, checking his own book, Hestia gagged as she drained two of the Bubotubers to get the required weight before scraping it into the potion. James removed the rod and cleaned it as he waited for the potion to come to a boil.

"You upset the status quo you see." Hestia said as they sat back onto their stools.

"Huh?"

"You upset the status quo. You changed things up around here. That isn't supposed to happen. Everything is set first year, it might change in sixth year after OWLs, but it typical doesn't unless something big happens. For example, Harry Potter not arriving and Dumbledore losing all his positions aside from Headmaster big. It isn't supposed to happen when a foreign exchange students shows up." Hestia elaborated, smiling sweetly at James.

"Why does it matter?" James asked as he realized this conversation was happening whether he wanted it to or not.

"You really don't get it do you?" Hestia asked, a note of surprise in her tone. James shook his head. Hestia giggled and patted him on the arm.

"Magical Britain can be broken into a couple different groups, but for the past decade or so it has been split between those that sided with the Dark Lord and those that opposed him." She began. Her voice was soft, and James almost felt like he was back in first grade. "Everything is a dance between the two. Because there wasn't a clear winner, the last war didn't end so much as peter out. Things were supposed to change in ninety-one when Harry Potter showed up a Hogwarts. At least that is what we all thought. Instead he didn't. Dumbledore's standing took a beating, but, rather than change things, it just entrenched the two sides further the past few years."

"So what?" James asked taking a peak at the potion. Still not boiling, though it did look to be thinning. 'Hurry up! Hurry up!'

"I'm getting there. I thought you like History?" Hestia replied.

"History sure. Battles, strategies, and moments of glory all leading to the that event that sticks with society for years, decades or centuries to come. Politics, not so much. British politics even less so." James admitted hoping maybe it would get her to stop. He felt like something was crawling across his back. Had she been like this over the weekend?

"So many people are going to be disappointed by that. Neville Longbottom for example. Miss Bones perhaps. The gregarious Terence Higgs too no doubt, but we are getting off topic. Dumbledore, for all his flaws was a man of compromise in the Wizengamot. He was willing to work to find common ground and try to bring the two sides together. Without him it is a deadlock, or nearly so. That finds its way to these grand hallowed halls." Hestia said sarcastically. James listened silently. He was doomed he decided. He was going to have to talk to Flora about her sister. Maybe.

"Hogwarts is the premier magical institution in Britain. Some say all of Europe, but it isn't without competition for that title. That means the children of the rich and powerful come here. They come carrying their parents politics to this castle and continue the Grand Game in classes, hallways, and dorms." Contempt dripped from her words, but Hestia showed no sign of stopping.

"The outside status quo is reflected as good little heirs and heiress of wealth and power learn to play the game of moving pawns, knights, warlocks, and attack dogs. Then someone comes along and tips the board." Hestia looked at James and patted his arm.

"That is you." She said giggling softly. "Now they all have to figure out how the rules have changed and which side you are on." Her hand stayed on his arm, gripping it softly.

James was not going to admit it, but in some small part of his mind he was getting scared. He tried to play it off as a joke. "Surely you're joking. I haven't played chess once since I got here."

"It's not a joke, no not at all. Some think you will side with the Traditionalists. Other think the Light- Since they opposed the Dark Lord so they must be Light right? -calls to your soul. Both want you on their side, but no one is willing to make that push right now. They each prefer to keep feeling you out, forgetting you will be gone in a few short months. Then the quo will change again, or will it." Hestia said a smirk on her features as she stared into his eyes.

The potion finally started to boil. James gave an internal shout for joy and jumped up. Hestia stood, finally letting go of him. 'Perhaps we can finish without anymore talking.'

They quickly continued working. There wasn't much time to talk during the next few steps. They reached step ten quickly. Again, Professor Snape did his rounds of the groups. A few were stopped and their potions vanished. Mostly Gryffindors, but the table of Parkinson and Bulstrode had apparently failed to meet his criteria as well. James was surprised the potion didn't freeze at the cold glare Professor Snape sent their way.

James and Hestia's potion passed though and they quickly finished the last few steps. As James looked at the finished product he couldn't help but feel like it was a joke.

"This is toothpaste." He said looking at the finished, to his eye, yellowish product.

"Of course, what did you expect a tooth strengthening potion to be?" Hestia said, bottling a portion of it to turn in. James opened his mouth to respond, but stopped when he realized he had nothing to say.

"Point taken." He mumbled.

"Good, I hope it isn't the only one."

"Oh?"

Hestia's voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper as she leaned in close to James. "I was supposed to try and talk to you during or after class today. I was asked by Nott, Greengrass, and a few others. Traditionalists. They want you to support them in something or other."

"Hence the unwarranted lesson on power and politics." James surmised.

"Hence that. Weird of them to ask me, do you know why?" Hestia said capping the bottle of toothpaste. James shook his head.

"You asked why I wasn't in the same year as my sister on the carriage, but Professor Lupin arrived before I could answer. Did you know the cutoff date for entry into a given year in Hogwarts is August thirty-first at eleven fifty-nine. My sister was born that day at eleven fifty-five." Hestia paused. "I was born September first at twelve ten."

"Huh, go figure. I hadn't thought about that possibility." James said.

"Yes, sadly no one else had either. For all of ten days, my parents and family thought I was a squib, and all accidental magic I might have displayed belonged to my sister." Hestia said her voice a warm whisper in his ear.

"Fortunately, Flora argued on my behalf and Father confronted Professor McGonagall about it. In the meantime however they, that is to say my dear wonderful family, debated whether to drown me, poison me, or just dump me off in the muggle world."

"Oookay. That seems bad." James said, feeling uncomfortable. Warm air washed over his ear as Hestia gave it a little titter at his reply.

"Oh it is quiet terrible, but it taught me a very valuable lesson: always pay attention to the little details. The small little things most people don't notice or forget about are the most important. Little details like your numerous absences. Like the fact you arrived late to the school year. Like the fact you talk to dogs. Like the fact you can't see red. Little things like the fact you eyes changed from that soulful green to something absolutely wild before you struck Malfoy." Hestia said. As she spoke her voice took on an almost playful quality and James heart dropped into his stomach.

"You want to know why it was weird of them to ask me?" James nodded numbly to her question.

"Take a walk with me after your little study sessions tonight and I'll tell you everything. Now bottle up some potion for yourself and make sure to use it. You wouldn't want dog breath now would you." Hestia whispered in his ear before planting a chaste kiss on his cheek. She patted the stunned James on the cheek before leaving to turn in their potion and go to her next class.

James collapsed onto his stool as Hestia turned in the potion. He felt like he had just been punched in the gut. He fought to keep his breathing under control. On the inside, he was screaming in his mind. 'She knows? She knows? She knows? Wait, has she told anyone? Will she tell anyone? Do I tell Dad? Do I warn Dad?'

The rest of the class trickled out until it was just James and Professor Snape in the room. Professor Snape closed the door before anyone from the next class could enter, and turned to James.

"Let's discuss why you felt the need to strike Mister Malfoy.

XxX


AN: Another Chapter down. It looks like my pace is going to be slowing down for the next little bit while I work on my masters and my day job picks up.

Feedback is welcome as always. Please let me know what you think of the second half of the chapter. It, like this whole chapter, wasn't what I had planned going into writing it. Intead it arose as a part of the writing process.

Anywho, until next time,

-Pentel Out