Hey everybody!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who reviewed the first couple of chapters. It really motivated me to keep writing and made me smile. Frequently. Keep it up!

Alice Dodgson – thank you so much for pointing out that wretch/retch error! I went back and reworked that bit a little. I honestly value constructive criticism – thanks! 

I think this is going to be my last update for a week or so. The thing is, I'm applying to college right now. So that's a helluva lot of writing in and of itself. Plus schoolwork in general… yeah, I'm pretty busy. I'd love to get to updating before then; I might, just don't be surprised if I don't. A week tops though. Scout's honor.

In order to make up for my future not updating, I present to you the longest chapter yet. I hope you like it, and please review it if you do. Please review it if you don't – just tell me precisely what about it sucks. And without further ado… enjoy!

The next four days at Hogwarts were a jumble of various activities. There were games of Exploding Snap; Melody grew so tired of Loretta always winning that she quit, leaving a spot in the game which Sirius filled; Sirius was terrible at Exploding Snap, so Loretta continued to win. Sirius then took to cheating. Loretta still won. Desperate to retain some shred of dignity, he challenged Loretta to games of Wizard's Chess. Sirius was better at this game because his particular chess-set was so violent, he strategized well just so he could see the violence that would ensue. With this being said, Loretta still managed to beat him a few times. Then, of course, there were the requisite games of Hide and Seek within the castle walls, much to Filch's chagrin. Neil and Eddy nearly always won these because they had managed to enlist the help of the castle ghosts who would rat out the hiding spots of all participants. The twins found it hilarious when, after they had found Melody, she offered to help them look for Sirius; she looked crestfallen when they told her he had already been found.

The one thing they hadn't done was have a decent snowball fight. While there was snow on the Hogwarts grounds, it wasn't the thick carpet necessary for excellent snow wars. It makes sense then, that one day, Loretta was eagerly shaken awake by Melody.

"Retta! Get up! It snowed a lot during the night and the boys are organizing a snowball fight and I really, really want to play but I don't want to be the only girl. Come on, get up!"

"Nehhhhhhhhhhhhh," grumbled Loretta, who was not a morning person. "What's the magic word?"

"NOW."

"Try again," Loretta murmured sleepily.

"Retta! I'll get the twins to hex you like they did last summer. It took you a while to get rid of that acne."

That got Loretta up.

Loretta was just putting on her earmuffs as she stepped off the stairwell's landing into the common room. She saw everyone there: Melody, Neil, Eddy, Sirius, Regulus, and Taylor (Regulus' friend).

"Right then," Sirius said. "So shall it be a family duel? The Blacks (and friend) versus the Bigbies?"

"YES!" cried the twins in harmony. Melody pouted, obviously disappointed that she could not be on Sirius' team. And Loretta was slightly worried. Her experience with Sirius in Exploding Snap had taught him that he was not afraid to bend the rules a bit. She was afraid what this would entail when snowballs were thrown into the mix.

The group went down to the grounds and established their headquarters, complete with a horde of snowballs each. Before the game officially started, the twins bombarded Regulus with snowballs, and Sirius retaliated – except that he aimed his at Loretta. From then on it was war.

After a solid hour of intense action, Loretta snuck away from the group. Her cheeks were rosy and her hair was damp and she was winded – she needed a break.

At that precise moment, she heard the snow crunch behind her. All in an instant, she whirled around, grabbed a handful of snow from the ground and, without looking for a target, threw her snow as hard as she could. Sure enough, Sirius was right behind her, stopped in mid-throw – he had been ready to catch Loretta from behind until her smattering of snow had struck him in the face. Now, however, the tables were turned. Sirius was the one stunned from the icy shock of snow, and Loretta was the one doubled over, giggling at the sight of Sirius sputtering out snow from his mouth in fits of laughter while holding a snowball aloft, poised for flight.

Between bouts of all-consuming laughter, Loretta managed to get out, "I got you! I got you!" As soon as she straightened herself up, Sirius let her have it. Grinning mischievously, he smushed the snowball directly onto her head. Loretta let out a piercing shriek as the cold water ran down her neck and over her head. Sirius, in an effort to spread the snowball's chill, moved his ice-cold hands slowly over her hair into a position where he was cupping her face. They both stopped laughing and gazed at each other for a few moments; then it happened without warning. In a single swoop, he lunged down towards her and urgently pulled her lips up to him. She was stunned; her arms went rigid at her side as she felt an electric jolt move from her lips to her toes and then up to her brain, making the roots of her damp hair tingle. As suddenly as he had pulled her face to him, he broke off the kiss.

As her eyes fluttered open, he smiled at her and told her in a dazed voice, "I got you after all." With a smile, she replied softly, " Sneaky bastard." And then---

"Sirius, pardon the interruption. Let me get this straight." Hermione was sitting cross-legged on the couch, listening intently to his story with her jaw dropped and with an odd glimmer in her eyes, as if she were trying to put puzzle pieces together mentally. "You just kissed this girl you had known for what, four days?"

"Yes, essentially."

Hermione was dumb-founded. She had had feelings for Ron since she hadn't known when – 3rd year? 2nd year? When he made fun of her in Charms 1st year? And she would never dream of kissing Ron out of the blue like that – or at least she hadn't up until now. The few times she kissed Viktor, it was far more deliberate. "Isn't that… I don't know – a bit quick?"

"I don't think so. Hermione, you have to consider a couple of things. First of all, I didn't (and still don't, I suppose, although I haven't been given the opportunity for a while) consider kissing to be that sacred. With that being said, I was head over heels for this girl, even though I had only spent a few days with her. That's the thing, though. My friends weren't around to distract me from her, so any time I had, I dedicated it to her. Normally my friends were around, so any girl became second priority, as cruel as that sounds."

"Sirius, when do you think you fell for her?" She was trying to pinpoint the date she started liking Ron and hoped that her friend, whom she suspected of having a great deal of knowledge about relationships, would be able to help her without explicitly asking for help.

"Oh, that's easy. When she told me I wasn't worthy of being called Mr. Black. I don't care about the name, don't get me wrong. Just, no girl had ever done that to me before – told me I wasn't worthy of something. I was used to girls flattering me, and she… didn't."

Hermione rolled her eyes. No wonder Sirius and James had been such good friends – they both had huge egos.

"What? It's true. Hermione, you know it's true," he said jokingly with a seductive eyebrow raise.

"I beg your pardon, I would not. Oh, Sirius, please. Stop that. You're being disgusting."

He let out a good laugh and muttered something only barely audible – something about "stick up her ass."

After a few moments, Hermione let her thoughts return to this kiss that had intrigued her, whether she wanted it to or not. "Sirius, if you laugh at me, I swear I will hex you so that your mother shrieks all day and night."

"Oooh, I love playing with fire. Continue."

"…. Was it a good kiss?"

Sirius laughed very loudly and Hermione's face once again resembled Professor McGonagall's. This quieted Sirius immediately.

"I'm sorry, Hermione. You've just got to understand that I find it really funny that you're so clever and thirsty for knowledge from books yet hesitant about asking questions about a topic that's interesting."

"Well maybe I wouldn't be so hesitant if you would just answer my question and not make me feel like a bloody lunatic."

"Fine, fine. Yes, to answer your question. It was an extraordinary kiss. Happy now?"

"I suppose."

They were silent for a few minutes. Sirius was obviously reliving his tale quickly in his mind. He would slightly break a smile and crease his eyebrows in frustration, then smile again. Eventually, a pained expression came over his face.

"Well?"

"Hmm?" Sirius snapped out of his fog.

"Aren't you going to continue? You still owe me from before, and I think it's fair to say that by laughing at my last question, you owe me more juicy Sirius-secrets."

"You are impossible to please, Hermione. Truly. I don't know, I'm SO TIRED tonight. Maybe this could wait until tomorrow night."

"Sirius Black! I will tell Molly Weasley that you've been tutoring Ron and Harry on how to get under Snape's skin, although I don't think they really need any help in that department."

With Hermione looking quite pleased with herself at her ultimatum, Sirius felt compelled to continue his story. He didn't mind, though. It was nice to talk about it – he hadn't spoken of it in so long. He had almost thought the dementors had sucked it out of him, but then he remembered that dementors only suck out happy memories. This story had come back to him piece by piece in quick mental flashes as he lived as a free man, though.

Regardless, Sirius continued. It's not like he was tired or anything anyways.