Kurama faded into the underbrush and moved smoothly through the Forest in the direction of the castle. He glanced at the sun as he broke free of the foliage's shadows and winced lightly. He was running late. Kurama quickened his steps and made it to the courtyard just as the Headmaster was beginning his speech, the four Head of Houses flanking him. With an ease that came from years of practice, Kurama slid through the throng of curious students to his friends.

"Where have you been?" Hermione hissed at him, "I've been worried sick!"

Kurama winced. He couldn't very well say that he had been with a group of demons, of various elements, who had no qualms about killing humans, no interest in saving humans, and who, incidentally, just happened to be the lot that took Blaise the day before. Oh, right. And that he had been 'taming' a wild, acid dripping, razor sharp, man eating plant. That would go over really well. So, instead, Kurama shushed her, feigning great interest in Dumbledore's words.

"…and as you all know, the seventh years have a special celebration for Hallowe'en. This year, as many of you have chosen to study Animagi in Transfiguration, your professors and I have decided to make it a Masque." Cheers erupted and Dumbledore smiled. Flitwick smiled. Sprout smiled. McGonagall smiled. Snape scowled.

He raised a hand for silence, then continued, "Those of you who are not, well, I'm sure you can find your own ways of creating a costume. The library shas a multitude of books, and Professors McGonagall and Flitwick have expressed their willingness to help students that request it. There will be a special Hogsmeade visit this coming weekend, for you to begin creating costumes, and seventh years will have the clearance to visit Hogsmeade three times during the week until the night of the Masquerade. It is up to you when and how you use them. Your Defense Against the Dark Arts professors will also be arriving in Hogsmeade this coming weekend. Dismissed."

The moment Dumbledore stepped back into the castle, the other Head of Houses following behind him, the courtyard exploded in a flurry of excited chattering and ideas. Kurama rested his chin in his hands and thought…this coming weekend….hmm. The timing was…good. As a matter of fact, it was spectacular.

Suddenly, the excited voices rose into panicked cries as a large shadow blocked out the sun. Kurama looked up and was met by the sight of a giant blue phoenix. "Puu?" he whispered to himself, amazed. The large bird opened his mouth and the student screamed as a bag fell. Kurama's eyes widened and he sent out a desperate mindcry/HIEI/ The bag must not be allowed to hit the floor—who knew what was in it?

/Relax, fox/ Hiei returned, amused. /I got it./ A black blur intercepted the bag as it reached the level of the third floor, and with a crooning cry, Puu wheeled above the castle and flew away, beating his massive wings. Hiei landed smoothly, and reached in. He took out what appeared to be a smooth glass ball about two inches wide in diameter. Hiei raised an eyebrow, shot a meaningful look at Kurama, and then darted back into the foliage. Kurama sighed. The only people he knew that would use those balls as a form of communication were Yomi and Mukuro. If Puu had delivered them, then that meant that Yusuke was involved. Well, Kurama supposed, he had been thinking about contacting the Lords of Makai anyways…though Mukuro was probably Not Pleased with him. Or Hiei. Kurama sighed again.

He walked away from the crowd, towards the lake, ignoring the shouts of indignation from behind him. He walked aimlessly, lost in his thoughts, until he suddenly met the ground with a surprised cry. "What are you doing, Ron?"

"Tackling you," came the cheerful reply.

"…I can see that. Why did you just tackle me?"

"Because you kept ignoring us!"

"And why didn't you just tap me on the shoulder?"

"Harry dear?" Ooh. Heavy sarcasm.

"Yes Hermione?"

"We did."

"Oh. …Oops?"

Hermione crossed her arms. "You are not getting away from me that easily." She glared. "Why have you been avoiding us lately?"

Kurama opened his eyes widely in false innocence and protested, "I haven't!" She rolled her eyes. "No, really! I've just had a lot on my mind lately."

"And you couldn't have shared it with us?" she snapped back, trying to mask the pleading tone of her voice. "You've changed, Harry, since Sirius—" Hermione stopped short, horrified.

"Died?" Kurama finished casually. Hermione nodded carefully, eyes wide. Kurama sighed from his place on the ground. "Ron? Get off of me!" Ron scrambled off quickly and moved to stand by Hermione, watching Kurama. He rose to a sitting position and stared at them. After a moment of silence, he closed his eyes. "I'm sorry," Kurama said softly, "but all will reveal itself in time. And the time is not yet right." He rose fluidly, and without looking at them, walked back towards the castle. As he passed them, he said once more, quietly, "I'm sorry."

Ron and Hermione didn't move, watching their friend get smaller into the distance. Hermione hand found Ron's, and they gripped each other tightly. "I'm scared, Ron. What's happened to him?"

"I don't know, Hermione. I don't know."