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Queen of the Night
Harry P. & Hermione G. & OC & Ron W. - Words: 903,546 - Rated: T - English - Adventure & Friendship - Chapters: 51 - Reviews: 113 - Updated: 20-04-2018 - Published: 10-12-2016 - by awalkerlifeforme (FFN)

In no time at all, Defense Against the Dark Arts had become most people's favorite class. Even after the Boggart debacle, he remained one of my favorite professors that we'd ever had. He was certainly my favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And that was for far more than the fact that our parents had been friendly. It was good to say that even the kids had since forgotten about my incident with the Boggart, considering that Professor Lupin had taught us so many other interesting things. Only Draco Malfoy and his gang of Slytherin's had anything bad to say about Professor Lupin.

"Look at the state of his robes. He dresses like our old house elf," Malfoy would say in a loud whisper as Professor Lupin would pass in the halls.

He had been cruder than usual over the past few weeks and I couldn't understand why. Maybe it was because Hagrid hadn't been fired yet. Ron's comment about Malfoy potentially liking me had caused a big stir with Harry, who was now a little more protective of me than normal. And it had caused me to watch my mouth around Malfoy a little more recently. He must have noticed, since he was no longer throwing insults around at me. It was almost strange, the way that we were managing to get along these days.

It also helped that whenever he started to go off on his tangent, I tried to remind myself that he would have been different had he been brought up around anyone other than Lucius Malfoy, who was an absolutely horrible human being. I also knew enough to know that he wasn't really a normal child. He was always trying to prove himself. At least no matter what I did, I had a family that loved me. He hadn't exactly been brought up in the best of circumstances, but that didn't change the fact that he had always been a real jerk about things. This year would be no different.

We were heading towards Defense Against the Dark Arts as a large group when he'd insulted Professor Lupin this time. I turned back to him and narrowed my gaze. "Incredible how money still doesn't buy class," I snarled, just loud enough for him to hear me.

Despite trying to hold it in, I'd been unable to do it. Malfoy whipped back towards me as the noise in the hallway dropped. "What was that, Nox?" Malfoy asked, ignoring the people who were watching.

"You heard me," I snapped.

Before Malfoy could say anything, Hermione grabbed my wrist and yanked me towards her. "Don't you want him to tell you what he knows about Black?" she hissed in my ear.

"Yes," I started, "but -"

"So play nice. Don't rise to his bait," Hermione warned.

And she was completely right. But that didn't mean that I wanted to admit it. "Whatever," I growled under my breath.

Unwilling to say anything more, I allowed Hermione to yank me away from Malfoy and towards our next class. In the meantime we passed back through the the Defense Against the Dark Arts hallway and I smiled at Professor Lupin as he passed. He gave me one in return, stopping to speak to a few other students. It was good considering that Malfoy always had something nasty to say about Professor Lupin. But no one else cared that Professor Lupin's robes were patched and frayed.

His next few lessons ended up being just as interesting as the first. After Boggarts, we went and studied Red Caps; they were nasty little goblin-like creatures that lurked wherever there had been bloodshed. We talked about their appearances in the dungeons of castles and the potholes of deserted battlefields, waiting to bludgeon those who had gotten lost. I'd even wondered if now we might have had some Red Caps in the dungeons or the Chamber of Secrets, considering what had happened to Harry and I there over the past two years. From Red Caps we had moved on to Kappas; they were creepy water-dwellers that looked like scaly monkeys, with webbed hands itching to strangle unwitting waders in their ponds. They reminded me a bit of Grindylow's.

Despite how amusing Defense Against the Dark Arts was this year, I only wished that I was as happy with some of my other classes. As interesting as Ancient Studies was, it also kept me very busy. It was like having another History of Magic class. Arithmancy was also rather fun. Hermione seemed to like it too, considering that she was so good with numbers. Professor Vector was very strict and loved homework, but it took a lot of work to be able to actually make good marks. So far Hermione and I were the top students in the class. We also had Study of Ancient Runes, which wasn't too difficult, but Professor Babbling gave a large amount of homework. Best was Music, which was very little homework, but I loved being able to sing without bothering anyone.

None of those were anywhere near as bad as the worst class that we had. Worst of all - as always - was Potions. Snape was in a particularly vindictive mood these days, and no one was in any doubt why. The story of the Boggart assuming Snape's shape, and the way that Neville had dressed it in his grandmother's clothes, had traveled through the school like wildfire. Snape didn't seem to find it funny, despite the fact that everyone else, including the Slytherin's, thought that it was funny. His eyes flashed menacingly at the very mention of Professor Lupin's name, and he was bullying Neville worse than ever.

Just like Harry, I was also growing to dread the hours that I spent in Professor Trelawney's stifling tower room, deciphering lopsided shapes and symbols, trying to ignore the way Professor Trelawney's enormous eyes filled with tears every time she looked at either one of us. I couldn't like Professor Trelawney, even though she was treated with respect that was bordering on reverence by many of the class. Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown had taken to haunting Professor Trelawney's tower room at lunch times, and always returned with annoyingly superior looks on their faces, as though they knew things the others didn't. They had also started using hushed voices whenever they spoke to Harry r me, as though we were on our deathbed. It had led to me not speaking to them much.

Nobody really liked Care of Magical Creatures. It was something that really was upsetting, considering how excited Hagrid had been once he'd first heard about becoming a teacher. Unfortunately Care of Magical Creatures had, after the action-packed first class, become extremely dull. Hagrid seemed to have lost his confidence after Buckbeak the Hippogriff had attacked Malfoy. We were now spending lesson after lesson learning how to look after flobberworms, which had to be some of the most boring creatures in existence. I hadn't even known that they were actual creatures until the second class.

Although I did vaguely remember Mom telling me a little bit about them. "Why would anyone bother looking after them?" Ron asked, after yet another hour of poking shredded lettuce down the flobberworms' throats.

"Because they are useful," I muttered.

Ron's head snapped towards me. "How?" he asked.

They were used mostly to thicken potions, since we did use them a fair amount now in Potions with Snape. I turned towards Ron and rolled my eyes. "Honestly, do you ever open your book?" I asked dully.

"That's what I have you for," Ron teased, nudging me.

I laughed under my breath and shoved him away from me. "That's what you'll say until you get a T on your O.W.L.'s because you couldn't copy Hermione and I," I said, watching my flobberworm sit still on the wooden pallet.

"I'll study!" Ron shouted.

"For two days prior to the exam doesn't count," I muttered.

Ron's face flushed slightly. "That's not what I do," he said under his breath.

"Yes, it is," Hermione and I said together, effectively ending the conversation.

As irritating as classes were becoming, at the start of October, Harry and I had something else to occupy ourselves. It was something so enjoyable it more than made up for my not-always satisfactory classes. The Quidditch season was approaching, and Oliver Wood, Captain of the Gryffindor team, called a meeting on Thursday evening to discuss tactics for the new season. It was something that had finally made a smile fall over my face. And it was good to get me outside to have some time to enjoy the gorgeous weather while we still had it.

In the meantime, Quidditch was the best sport in the world. There were seven people on a Quidditch team: three Chasers, whose job it was to score goals by putting the Quaffle (a red, soccer-sized ball) through one of the fifty-foot-high hoops at each end of the field; two Beaters, who were equipped with heavy bats to repel the Bludgers (two heavy black balls that zoomed around trying to attack the players); a Keeper, who defended the goal posts, and the Seeker, who had the hardest job of all, that of catching the Golden Snitch, a tiny, winged, walnut-sized ball, whose capture ended the game and earned the Seeker's team an extra one hundred and fifty points. There were also the alternates - which was my job.

Oliver Wood was a burly seventeen-year-old, now in his Seventh and final year at Hogwarts. He was one of the first friends that I'd made with someone that wasn't in my year, and I'd become quite fond of him over the past few years. It would be sad to no longer have him around after this year. We were all hoping that he would make his way onto a professional team. There was a quiet sort of desperation in his voice as he addressed his seven fellow team members in the chilly locker rooms on the edge of the darkening Quidditch Pitch.

Oliver was pacing back and forth in front of us. "This is our last chance - my last chance - to win the Quidditch Cup. I'll be leaving at the end of this year. I'll never get another shot at it. Gryffindor hasn't won for seven years now. Okay, so we've had the worst luck in the world - injuries - then the tournament getting called off last year." Oliver swallowed, as though the memory still brought a lump to his throat.

Honestly it made me feel a little bit bad that we had mostly lost the Quidditch Cup over the past two years because of Harry and me. The match had been called off in our First Year because Harry and I had missed it. We had been down in the dungeons defeating Quirrell and Voldemort and had been nearly fatally injured, ensuring that we'd missed the final game and our chance at the Cup. Even though we'd done it for a good reason, I did feel bad about losing what should have been an easy win. We hadn't been able to win it our Second Year either. The entire tournament had been called off due to the Basilisk attacks last year.

"But we also know we've got the best - ruddy - team - in - the - school," Oliver continued, punching a fist into his other hand, the old manic glint back in his eye. "We've got three superb Chasers."

Oliver pointed at Alicia Spinner, Angelina Johnson, and Katie Bell. They were our three main Chasers on the team. They had each been on the team at least one year before Harry and I had gotten on the team. Each one had been injured during at least one game that I'd played with them. Unfortunately for them, they'd been forced to sit out, but luckily for me, I'd been allowed to step in and had made some magnificent shots. It made me sure that once they were out in the real world after their own graduation, I'd be allowed to be a main Chaser.

"We've got two unbeatable Beaters," Oliver continued.

"Stop it, Oliver, you're embarrassing us," Fred and George said together, pretending to blush.

I snorted under my breath as Fred leaned forward, using my back as a prop. "And we've got a Seeker who has never failed to win us a match!" Oliver rumbled, glaring at Harry with a kind of furious pride. "We have an incredible alternate Chaser who's made goals no one else could."

My cheeks flushed of color. I didn't want him saying anything until we won the tournament this year. "Don't say that just yet," I mumbled nervously.

"And me," Oliver added as an afterthought.

He was always so focused on what the rest of us did, sometimes he forgot about what he was supposed to be doing. "We think you're very good too, Oliver," George added, earning a few chuckles.

"Spanking good Keeper," Fred said.

"You are pretty damn good," I agreed.

Oliver barely realized that we'd said anything. He gave a quick nod before continuing his pacing. "The point is, the Quidditch Cup should have had our name on it these last two years. Ever since Harry and Tara joined the team, I've thought the thing was in the bag. But we haven't got it, and this year's the last chance we'll get to finally see our name on the thing..." he trailed off sadly.

There was something so dejected in his voice that it even broke my heart. Oliver was the best Quidditch Captain that the entire school had. And I was speaking as even Cedric was the Captain of the Hufflepuff team. He had always been so good about getting us to practice all of the time and making sure that we were the best team in the school. The problem was that circumstances tended to make things bad for us. Oliver was speaking so dejectedly that even Fred and George looked sympathetic. It was what told me that we didn't have an option this year. We were going to win the Quidditch Cup this year.

"Oliver, this year's our year," Fred said.

"We'll do it, Oliver!" Angelina chirped.

"Definitely," Harry added.

"We've got it!" I said confidently.

Full of determination, our entire team started training sessions, three evenings a week. We were out more than any of the other teams. Slytherin was also training, as we were the first game of the season. Oliver had us out on the Quidditch Pitch for hours on end, but it was great to be back out there. Particularly because we were so excited to be back in the running for the Cup. The weather was getting colder and wetter, the nights darker, but no amount of mud, wind, or rain could tarnish my wonderful vision of finally winning the huge, silver Quidditch Cup. All I wanted was to get that Cup and rub it in Malfoy's face.

It also helped that now that we were in the season, the rest of the teams were training too. Even Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, who weren't playing yet. Cedric and I had talked about Quidditch a lot over the past few weeks as we drew closer to the first Quidditch game of the season. We were frequently teasing each other over how each one of us was determined to win the Cup this year. I was determined to win it for Oliver - who was in his last year - and Cedric was determined to win it for himself - to prove that he had what it took to be a Captain, considering that this was his first year. I was still determined that we would win. After all, Gryffindor hadn't failed to lose a match that Harry and I had played in and I intended to keep things that way.

Harry and I returned to the Gryffindor Common Room one evening after training, cold and stiff. We were both freezing from flying around the Quidditch Pitch. It was definitely colder than I had been thinking that it would be. My robes were dripping with rain and mud, but we had started perfecting our moves. I knew that there would be no doubt that we would beat Slytherin when the first game rolled around in a few weeks. I shivered, still draped in Fred's cloak, pleased with the way practice had gone. I pulled myself a little tighter into the cloak, glancing around the excited Common Room.

It was louder than it normally was. Harry and I walked over towards the fireplace to dry off. "What's happened?" Harry asked Ron and Hermione, who were sitting in two of the best chairs by the fireside and completing some star charts for Astronomy.

"Please don't tell me someone died," I said, sitting on the edge of Hermione's chair.

By the looks on their faces, I assumed that no one had died. "First Hogsmeade weekend. End of October. Halloween," Ron said, pointing at a notice that had been pulled up on the end of the battered bulletin board.

The cold momentarily forgotten, my lips turned upwards. Cedric was right about the first Hogsmeade weekend and now it meant that it was finally time for my first date with him. "Awesome! Just what I thought," I said excitedly.

"Excellent. I need to visit Zonko's. I'm nearly out of Stink Pellets," Fred said, walking over towards us. He had followed Harry and I through the portrait hole. He jammed himself onto the other end of the chair arm that I was sitting on. "Planing a romantic date?"

"Oh, shut up," I snapped, shoving him away from me. "Any chance you'll stop hanging that over my head?"

"No," Fred said quickly.

"Great," I groaned.

The two of us smiled at each other as Fred leaned over the chair and looped an arm over my shoulder. I smiled as his fingers worked their way into the wool of his cloak that he had long since donated to me. "Hey, Diggory's not a half-bad guy," he said.

My gaze turned up to him confusedly. I thought that he didn't like Cedric. I had thought that no one liked Cedric. "But?" I asked.

We were silent for a moment as Fred nodded at me, giving me a long stare. It was almost like he had something that he wanted to say. "Just be careful. And let us know if he gets a little too handsy," he said, nudging me.

Laughing under my breath, I smiled at him. "Sure thing. Thanks, Freddie," I said.

He nodded and pressed a quick kiss against the side of my head. He looked like he might say something else but decided better of it, instead getting up and leaving to go sit with Lee Jordan and George. In the meantime I crammed myself into the chair with Hermione, allowing a few Fifth Years to take the other seats. Harry threw himself into a chair beside Ron, his high spirits obviously ebbing away. He had been smiling and laughing all the way back from Quidditch practice. Now he looked like someone had stepped on his moment. Hermione seemed to read his mind.

Then again, we all knew what his problem was. "Harry, I'm sure you'll be able to go next time. They're bound to catch Black soon. He's been sighted once already," Hermione said, only a little reassuringly.

"Black's not fool enough to try anything in Hogsmeade. Ask McGonagall if you can go this time, Harry," Ron said. As much as I liked the idea, I had a feeling that Professor McGonagall would never allow it. "The next one might not be for ages -"

"Ron!" Hermione gasped. "Harry's supposed to stay in school -"

"He can't be the only Third Year left behind. Ask McGonagall, go on, Harry," Ron said.

"Yeah, I think I will," Harry said, making up his mind.

Smiling at him, despite knowing that it wouldn't work, I nodded along with the plan. At least they would try something. Hermione's gaze shifted towards me. "You shouldn't even be going, Tara," Hermione said determinedly.

"Too damn bad," I snapped, refusing to stay behind. "My parents signed my permission form -"

"Before they knew that Black had escaped," Hermione interrupted.

"I don't care! I'm going, damn it. It's a civilian area. If Black is there, he's hiding out. He's not fool enough to attack me out in the open. I'll be fine with everyone else out there," I argued.

"But still -"

"I'm going," I interrupted Hermione.

As much as I liked that Hermione cared enough for me to keep me safe, I really just wanted to enjoy a day in Hogsmeade. "Lay off of her, Hermione. She's right, she'll be fine. The two of you have to go," Ron said, motioning between Harry and me.

Harry frowned as I glanced back at him. "And we will," I said determinedly.

It really did bother me that Harry wasn't going to be able to go to Hogsmeade with us this time. I was hoping that at some point he would be able to go. Some point before next year. That would be far too long. Maybe I could get Fred and George to help him out without Hermione overhearing. She didn't want to hear about our breaking the rules. More than we already had. Hermione still opened her mouth to argue why we shouldn't go to Hogsmeade as it wasn't safe, but at that moment Crookshanks leapt lightly onto her lap. A large, dead spider was dangling from his mouth.

"Does he have to eat that in front of us?" Ron asked, scowling.

"As much as I love cats, Hermione, that's kind of gross," I said awkwardly.

There was just something strange about the cat. "Clever Crookshanks, did you catch that all by yourself?" Hermione cooed.

I'd always loved cats, they were some of my favorite animals around. But there was something far too weird about Crookshanks. Most of the time it seemed like the cat was a real human. It was just the way that he was always around and listening whenever we were saying something important. And the way that he seemed to really hate Ron. Crookshanks slowly chewed up the spider, his yellow eyes fixed insolently on Ron.

"Just keep him over there, that's all. I've got Scabbers asleep in my bag," Ron said irritably, going back to his own star chart.

Yawning softly, I dropped into the chair with Hermione. I was exhausted from the practice that we'd just come from, but I knew that I had some work that I really needed to do. But all I wanted was to drop into the fluffy four-poster that was right upstairs. I had already finished my Astronomy chart, but there were other assignments that I'd yet to finish. It was right about now that I was starting to wish that I hadn't taken all of the classes that I did. I pulled my bag towards myself, took out parchment, ink, and quill, and continued my work from earlier.

"You can copy mine, if you like," Ron said, labeling his last star with a flourish and shoving the chart toward Harry.

I glanced over at the chart and shook my head. "It's wrong," I said under my breath.

Ron's head snapped up. "You're not even good at Astronomy," he said.

"You're right, I'm not. But I am good enough to know that your chart is wrong, considering that mine is already done and I had it double-checked by an older student," I said, showing him my own chart.

Cedric and I had plans to meet up in the library once a week where we could check over each other's work. He was always good about correcting the mistakes that I made on my Astronomy charts. "Who? Diggory?" Ron asked sharply.

He wasn't wrong. "Well..." I muttered awkwardly.

Before I finally admitted that it was Cedric who had helped me with my star chart, Fred came over and plopped himself on the edge of the chair. "No, I helped," he said, before I could say anything.

My head snapped up towards him and I fought to keep my face steady. Ron looked shocked. "You did?" he asked blankly.

I couldn't understand why Fred had taken credit for it, but I appreciated it. Ron would listen to his brother far before he would listen to Cedric. "Of course. I'm not an absolute monster, after all," Fred said, leaning over and staring down at Ron's star charts. "You know that your chart is wrong?"

Ron's face went as red as his hair. "So I've heard," he muttered.

As Ron went to fixing his star chart, I glanced up to Fred. "Thanks," I said softly.

"Don't mention it. Now you owe me two," Fred teased.

"Great," I mumbled.

In the end, Ron and Harry went to copying my own star chart. I mostly let them have it because I knew that they would never manage to figure it out without me, considering that they wouldn't be allowed up in the Astronomy Tower. Hermione, who disapproved of copying, pursed her lips but didn't say anything. I was grateful for it. While we continued doing our homework, I noticed that Crookshanks was still staring unblinkingly at Ron, flicking the end of his bushy tail. He looked furious about something. Then, without warning, he pounced.

"Oi!" Ron roared, seizing his bag as Crookshanks sank four sets of claws deep inside it and began tearing ferociously. "Get off, you stupid animal!"

Despite knowing that one of the animals could have been seriously hurt, it was always kind of funny watching Ron and Hermione try to wrangle in Crookshanks and Scabbers. I was just curious why the two of them hated each other than much. It seemed to go way past a cat and rat, Tom and Jerry, kind of thing. Ron tried to pull the bag away from Crookshanks, but Crookshanks clung on, spitting and slashing. There was a good chance that one of them was going to get shredded to pieces from Crookshanks, who looked like he was going to die getting to Scabbers.

"Ron, don't hurt him!" Hermione squealed.

In the meantime, the whole common room was now watching the commotion. I sank back into my chair slightly, hoping that no one was looking at me. It was rather embarrassing that the two of them were always fighting and getting into it with each other. Now they were dragging two animals into it. Ron whirled the bag around, Crookshanks still clinging to it, and Scabbers came flying out of the top. Things only got worse from there.

"Catch that cat!" Ron yelled as Crookshanks freed himself from the remnants of the bag, sprang over the table, and chased after the terrified Scabbers.

The entire Common Room had erupted into laughter. "You've got to admit, they make good entertainment," I mumbled to Harry.

"That they do," he agreed, laughing under his breath.

Glancing back towards everyone else, I smiled at the scene. George made a lunge for Crookshanks but missed. The damn cat was fast. Scabbers streaked through twenty pairs of legs and shot beneath an old chest of drawers. Everyone was trying to catch them, but it was almost impossible. Crookshanks skidded to a halt, crouched low on his bandy legs, and started making furious swipes beneath it with his front paw. Ron and Hermione hurried over; Hermione grabbed Crookshanks around the middle and heaved him away; Ron threw himself onto his stomach and, with great difficulty, pulled Scabbers out by the tail.

"Look at him!" Ron shouted furiously to Hermione, dangling Scabbers in front of her. "He's skin and bone! You keep that cat away from him!"

"Crookshanks doesn't understand it's wrong! All cats chase rats, Ron!" Hermione yelled back, her voice shaking.

"There's something funny about that animal! It heard me say that Scabbers was in my bag!" Ron shouted, trying to shove a very squirmy Scabbers back into his pocket.

"Oh, what rubbish," Hermione said impatiently. "Crookshanks could smell him, Ron, how else d'you think -"

"That cat's got it in for Scabbers! And Scabbers was here first, and he's ill!" Ron shouted, ignoring the people all around us that were starting to giggle.

And that was when I started to get a little bit embarrassed. I didn't want them to keep shouting like that and drawing the attention of everyone else. "Oh, shut up! Both of you! Just take turns having your animals down here. Hermione, that cat is a nightmare. Ron, Scabbers is already old and ill," I drawled, ignoring the shocked looks of both Ron and Hermione.

They didn't look very happy that I had said that to them, but it was the truth. Crookshanks was a nasty little cat that had still been in the Magical Menagerie because it was a jerk. And Scabbers was so old that he shouldn't have even been alive anymore. We all knew that much. Hermione huffed and fell back into her spot on the chair, trying to get back to her homework. She obviously didn't want to talk anymore. She only wanted to comfort an irritably hissing Crookshanks. Ron looked like he might say something, thought better of it, and marched through the Common Room and out of sight up the stairs to the boys' dormitories.

Everyone watched him go silently. "That didn't go well," Harry muttered to me.

"I didn't expect that it would," I whispered back.

We fell into a comfortable silence after that. The three of us had better things to do than steam. We had work to be done. It was saying something that Ron never came back down that night. I didn't see him again until the next morning at breakfast. But Ron was still in a bad mood with Hermione next day. He barely talked to her all through Herbology, even though he, Harry, Hermione, and I were working together on the same Puffapod. It was a good thing that it was something that Ron understood so that he didn't have to ask Hermione for help, or even break the tense silence. All we were doing was pruning it.

"How's Scabbers?" Hermione asked timidly as we stripped fat pink pods from the plants and emptied the shining beans into a wooden pail.

Pruning Puffapods was incredibly boring but at least I didn't have to think about it too much. "He's hiding at the bottom of my bed, shaking," Ron said angrily, missing the pail and scattering beans over the greenhouse floor.

"Careful, Weasley, careful!" Professor Sprout cried as the beans burst into bloom before our eyes.

It was enough to make everyone laugh. Thankfully we were able to make it through the rest of the class without issue. Although it was very tense and very silent as Ron and Hermione were still furious with each other. We had Transfiguration next. It would be another rather demure class. We weren't do much of anything more than practicing turning teapots into tortoises. It was pretty obvious that most people were still having trouble with it, but I had perfected it a long time ago. Mom and Dad had always been oddly good with Transfiguration.

Harry, who had resolved to ask Professor McGonagall after the lesson whether he could go into Hogsmeade with the rest of us, joined the line outside the class trying to decide how he was going to argue his case. We had chatted softly about it during the walk back to the castle and I'd told him that he would have to settle with just doing it like a Band-Aid and asking at once without getting off topic. He was distracted, however, by a disturbance at the front of the line. I glanced up with him.

What could possibly be the problem now? We seemed to have always been having problems. Lavender Brown seemed to be crying towards the front of the pack of students. Parvati had her arm around her and was explaining something to Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were looking very serious. They were rarely seen not laughing so I knew that it had to be a big deal if the two of them suddenly looked serious.

"What's the matter, Lavender?" Hermione asked anxiously as we went to join the group.

"You okay?" I asked softly.

Parvati glanced over at us and frowned. "She got a letter from home this morning. It's her rabbit, Binky. He's been killed by a fox," Parvati whispered, trying not to let Lavender overhear.

"Oh. I'm sorry, Lavender," Hermione said.

Immediately I sighed and grabbed Lavender's hand. She drove me nuts sometimes but I did feel bad for her. "I used to have a rabbit, Lavender. I'm really sorry. I know what it's like to lose one," I said softly.

"I should have known!" Lavender yelled tragically. "You know what day it is?"

I barely knew what day of the week it was. I certainly didn't know the date. "Er -" Hermione said slowly.

At least someone else didn't know the date. "The sixteenth of October! 'That thing you're dreading, it will happen on the sixteenth of October!' Remember? She was right, she was right!" Lavender cried.

Everyone started exchanging looks. My stomach sank to the floor as I realized what had just happened. One of Professor Trelawney's predictions had just come true. Many of hers had already come true. Now I realized that they would start thinking that the prediction about Harry and I's fate would come true. And was there a chance that it would? Harry and I gave each other a lingering stare, both obviously thinking the same thing. The whole class had gathered around Lavender by now. Seamus shook his head seriously.

"It's gotta be a coincidence," I mumbled, sensing the eyes on me.

Hermione hesitated; then she said, "You - you were dreading Binky being killed by a fox?"

Hopefully things weren't as bad as they seemed. "Well, not necessarily by a fox," Lavender said, looking up at Hermione with streaming eyes, "but I was obviously dreading him dying, wasn't I?"

This was a good thing. Maybe it meant that Professor Trelawney had been wrong about her prediction and Lavender was just overreacting. "Oh." Hermione paused again. "Was Binky an old rabbit?" she asked.

"N - no! H - he was only a baby!" Lavender sobbed.

Hermione and I exchanged another look with each other. I knew that she was thinking the exact same thing that I was. It made no sense for Lavender to have been dreading the death of her baby rabbit. I hadn't started getting nervous for my own rabbit until he was pushing five years old. Maybe Lavender was just trying to fit the incident to the prediction because she was already scared of what Professor Trelawney had said. Parvati tightened her arm around Lavender's shoulders.

"But then, why would you dread him dying?" Hermione asked. I was glad that she did it before I did. Parvati glared at her. "Well, look at it logically." Hermione turned to the rest of the group. "I mean, Binky didn't even die today, did he? Lavender just got the news today." Lavender wailed loudly. "And she can't have been dreading it, because it's come as a real shock -"

"Don't mind Hermione, Lavender. She doesn't think other people's pets matter very much," Ron said loudly.

Hermione glared as I glanced at everyone. "But she's got a point," I said softly.

It was a good thing that Professor McGonagall opened the classroom door at that moment. Hermione and Ron were glaring daggers at each other, and when we all got into the classroom, they seated themselves on either side of Harry and me and didn't talk to each other for the whole class. Hermione was on my side and Ron was on Harry's others. As class drawled on Harry and I wrote back and forth about how he would bring it up to Professor McGonagall at the end of class. The bell finally rang at the end of the lesson but it was she who brought up the subject of Hogsmeade first.

"One moment, please!" Professor McGonagall called as our class made to leave. "As you're all in my House, you should hand Hogsmeade permission forms to me before Halloween. No form, no visiting the village, so don't forget!"

Neville put up his hand. "Please, Professor, I - I think I've lost -"

"Your grandmother sent yours to me directly, Longbottom. She seemed to think it was safer." There were a number of snorts from the other students. "Well, that's all, you may leave," Professor McGonagall said.

"Ask her now," Ron hissed at Harry.

"Oh, but -" Hermione began.

"Go for it, Harry," Ron said stubbornly.

He wasn't going to let Hermione get a word in. "Can't hurt. Give it a try," I told Harry, nudging him gently.

With that the four of us stumbled backwards and hung back against the wall to wait for him. We wanted to see what was going to happen. We wanted to make sure that Harry was going to get to go to Hogsmeade. With the constant death threats and whatnot he deserved to have a day of fun with the rest of us out in the village. Harry waited for the rest of the class to disappear, then, with a nudge from Ron and me, headed nervously for Professor McGonagall's desk.

"Yes, Potter?" Professor McGonagall asked.

Harry took a deep breath. "Professor, my aunt and uncle - er - forgot to sign my form," he said. Professor McGonagall looked over her square spectacles at him but didn't say anything. "So - er - d'you think it would be all right mean, will It be okay if I - if I go to Hogsmeade?"

Professor McGonagall looked down and began shuffling papers on her desk. "I'm afraid not, Potter. You heard what I said. No form, no visiting the village. That's the rule," she said. The three of us exchanged a sad look with each other.

"But - Professor, my aunt and uncle - you know, they're Muggles, they don't really understand about - about Hogwarts forms and stuff," Harry said, while we egged him on with vigorous nods. "If you said I could go -"

"But I don't say so," Professor McGonagall said, standing up and piling her papers neatly into a drawer. "The form clearly states that the parent or guardian must give permission." She turned to look at him with an odd expression on her face. Was it pity? That's what it looked like. "I'm sorry, Potter, but that's my final word. You had better hurry, or you'll be late for your next lesson."

There was nothing that could be done at that point. As we left Ron called Professor McGonagall a lot of names that greatly annoyed Hermione. Even I thought that he was getting a bit excessive. Rules were rules and we had already gotten away with breaking a large number of them. Hermione assumed an 'all-for-the-best' expression that ended up making Ron even angrier. I rolled my eyes and pulled out a pad to draw on instead. Harry had to endure everyone in the class talking loudly and happily about what they were going to do first once they got into Hogsmeade.

"There's always the feast. You know, the Halloween feast, in the evening," Ron said, in an attempt to cheer up Harry.

"Yeah, great," Harry said gloomily.

"I'm so sorry, Harry," I said, grabbing his shoulder.

"It's alright."

That was when I realized that there was a way to get Harry into Hogsmeade. "You know, there is that secret passage that Cedric showed me. I could show it to you and you could meet us out there," I said happily.

Harry's lips turned up in an excitable smile. We had both almost forgotten about the hidden pathways in Hogwarts that would bring him out to Hogsmeade. "That's a terrible idea!" Hermione said, making Ron and me scowl at her. "And what if there's a Dementor in the passage?"

"There won't be. It connects straight from Hogwarts to Honeydukes. Dumbledore would never let a Dementor in there," I said brightly.

"Either way, that's breaking the rules," Hermione said.

"You didn't seem to mind doing it last year," I snapped.

"That was for a good cause!" Hermione defended.

"So is this!" I said.

Harry placed a hand on my shoulder and pushed the two of us away from each other. "It's alright, Tara, honestly. I'll be fine. Maybe I'll get to go at some point," Harry said sadly.

That was unfortunately all that we could do with Harry unwilling to break the rules. The Halloween feast was always good, but it would taste a lot better if he was coming to it after a day in Hogsmeade with everyone else. All day Harry moped around sadly. Dean, who was good with a quill, had offered to forge Vermin's signature on the form, but as Harry had already told Professor McGonagall he hadn't had it signed, that was no good. Ron halfheartedly suggested the Invisibility Cloak, but Hermione stamped on that one, reminding Ron what Dumbledore had told them about the Dementors being able to see through them. Percy had what were possibly the least helpful words of comfort.

"They make a fuss about Hogsmeade, but I assure you, Harry, it's not all it's cracked up to be," he said seriously. "All right, the sweetshop's rather good, and Zonko's Joke Shop's frankly dangerous, and yes, the Shrieking Shack's always worth a visit, but really, Harry, apart from that, you're not missing anything."

Harry looked even sadder than before. "You're completely useless, Percy," I said.

He glared at me but otherwise ignored my comment. I spent the rest of the night doing anything possible to make Harry feel a little better about everything that had happened. I was trying to convince him that he would eventually get out to Hogsmeade but he still looked no happier. Eventually we had gone to bed with me feeling very guilty over what had happened to Harry. He definitely wouldn't be able to go this year unless we could figure out another way to bend the rules that was actually safe.

In the coming days my birthday came and went. It was mostly a slow day. We had classes but the weather was nice. So we were able to go out and get some time in to play soccer with each other. Thankfully Oliver didn't really want to practice on the player's birthdays. We all had a good day together but we didn't make much of a fuss over my birthday. Not the way that we had the past two years. It was mostly because we would be out in Hogsmeade in a matter of days and we would be able to have fun out there together.

Our little group would have plenty of fun once we were at Hogsmeade. Although I wasn't really sure that we would actually do anything together during the Hogsmeade visit. Instead I was going to be out on a date with Cedric during the trip. The thought was the one thing that managed to keep me happy while Harry was still very downtrodden about being unable to go with us. The morning of my birthday the two of us had ran straight into each other while we had been attempting to go to our classes after breakfast.

"Happy birthday, stranger," Cedric said, embracing me in a hug.

"Thank you," I said happily, stepping back and crossing my arms over my chest. "What? No present?"

Cedric laughed and shook his head. "You didn't get me one," he teased.

Nudging him softly, the two of us set off down the hallway. "I already promised that I'd get you something when we were out in Hogsmeade," I said.

"Exactly," Cedric teased, flicking me on the nose.

"So I'll meet you out on the carriages beforehand?" I asked.

"Sure. We can ride over together."

"Gonna take me to Madam Puddifoot's again?"

Cedric blanched slightly as he turned to me. He looked sickened at the thought of our first failed semi-date. "Absolutely not. I don't think that Madam Puddifoot ever wants to see you in her shop again," he told me.

"The feeling is mutual," I said.

Cedric smiled at me as the two of us headed off towards our first classes. "I've got a whole plan," Cedric said.

"A plan, huh?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Gonna tell me about it?"

Cedric laughed as if it was the funniest thing that he had ever heard. My eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "Of course not. That's what makes it a surprise," Cedric teased.

"I'm not overly fond of surprises," I said.

There were a number of surprises that had happened to me. The stupid boxes - that thankfully I hadn't gotten in a long time - the Sorcerer's Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, and now whatever was coming with Sirius Black. No. Unfortunately I'd always had a really bad time with surprises. And I had a funny feeling that I was going to continue having a really bad time with surprises for the rest of my life. It was just part of my charm. Surprises that mostly ended up being almost deadly.

"I think that you'll like this one," Cedric said.

"I suppose that I'll just have to trust you," I said, narrowing my eyes at him.

He grinned at me. "Yes. You will. And, honestly, when has trusting me ever led you astray?" Cedric asked.

Had his advice ever led me astray? I couldn't remember a time. "Never, to be fair," I said brightly.

We both smiled at each other. The two of us laughed as Cedric stopped outside of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. "I'll meet you out by the carriages when it's time to go, alright?" Cedric asked. I nodded brightly. Finally. My first real date. "Hey!" I turned back to him. "Try not to find someone that makes you a better offer, yeah?"

Trying to play it up a little, I smiled. "I already got the best offer." I was very pleased to see that, for once, Cedric was the one that blushed. "Turned him down because I already made a promise to someone else," I added with a teasing smile.

Cedric laughed heartily at me. I was glad to see that I hadn't hurt his feeling. "Cute," Cedric said, still laughing.

"Glad you finally recognized it," I said brightly.

"See you later, Tara," Cedric said.

"See you on Halloween," I said.

Unfortunately my date had not been as secretive - as much as I would have loved for it to be - as I had thought that it would be. Someone must have overheard Cedric and me talking one time. Either that, or one of my bratty friends had said something. Because news of our upcoming date had spread like wildfire throughout the school. It led to the two of us not being able to talk in the following weeks. Neither one of us were fond of the looks that we were getting. I noticed that certain people were now reacting to me a little differently since they had heard about my upcoming date.

Sometimes it seemed like the entire school was more excited for it than I was. Perhaps they all wanted to see what was going on between the two of us. When we, ourselves, didn't really even know what we were. Hermione didn't say much, because she knew how awkward I felt about everything. Fred and George hadn't stopped making kissy noises once in the past few weeks. Lavender, Parvati, and Fay all wanted me to tell them all about the date once it was over. As did the Quidditch team, although Oliver was just hoping that I would be able to distract Cedric from the Hufflepuff team. Ron and Harry were not happy about the date. Ron had tried multiple times to get me to come with him and Hermione.

But it wasn't going to work. I was going to go on my date and I was going to enjoy myself. Although there were certain people that seemed hellbent to change that. Namely Draco Malfoy and Cho Chang. Neither one of them had liked the new stage of the relationship that Cedric and I had found ourselves in. Cho Chang was frequently shooting me nasty glares and occasionally making comments with her friends about how 'no self-respecting English man would want a miserable American.'

That was just the way that Cho Chang felt about me. And she made sure that everyone else knew about the way that she felt about me. Even better was the way that Draco Malfoy had been acting lately. He seemed to hate me more than usual. He thought that it was pathetic. There were a number of comments about how stupid Gryffindor's and Hufflepuff's were. And he now seemed to be having a good time talking about everything that I lacked. Charisma, intelligence, and beauty - all of which normally would have made me a very unpopular date. Thankfully Cedric ignored the rumors.

Although the more that Malfoy insulted me, the more that I thought on Ron's words from last month. Ron had mentioned that he thought that Malfoy was starting to become a little fond of me. But I couldn't believe that. We might have been friendly at first, and had a few nice moments ever since, but we were mostly enemies. But... Was there a chance that Malfoy liked me? I knew that he had been a little more hostile towards me lately, and it was only after news of my date spread.

On Halloween morning, nearly a month after Cedric had originally asked me on a date, I awoke with everyone else and got ready for my first official date. I made sure to wear everything that I had that was the nice. My white winter coat, deep blue shirt, and a pair of tighter jeans. Once I was sure that I had everything together and ready to leave, I headed out of the dorms, went down to breakfast with a smile, but quickly noticed Harry. He looked as though he was feeling thoroughly depressed. He was weakly doing his best to act normally.

"We'll bring you lots of sweets back from Honeydukes," Hermione said, looking desperately sorry for him.

"Yeah, loads," Ron said.

He and Hermione had finally forgotten their squabble about Crookshanks in the face of Harry's difficulties. They looked happy for now, but I knew that it would only be a matter of time before they were at each other's throats again. Perhaps in a few weeks, once the Hogsmeade weekends were forgotten about.

"I'll get you something while I'm out," I promised Harry.

"Don't worry about me," Harry said, probably in what he hoped was, an offhand voice, "I'll see you at the feast. Have a good time."

But it really wasn't an offhand voice at all. I was about to say something to Harry when a hand fell on my shoulder. I jumped slightly and turned back to smile at Cedric. "Ready to go?" Cedric asked.

"Just a second," I said.

He nodded at me and I smiled, darting back over to where Harry was standing with Hermione and Ron. Harry glanced up at me and then looked back at Cedric. "Still spending the day with him?" Harry asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Have fun out there," Harry said, smiling weakly.

That was enough to stun me. "What?" I asked dumbly.

He hadn't wanted me to go on this date at all for weeks. Now he was giving me his blessing. Harry smiled at me. "You're my best friend, Tara. You're more than that. You're my sister." I smiled at him. "But you're fourteen. You're not a baby anymore and I can't keep treating you like one. So go out there and have a good time," Harry said.

Slowly I brought him into a hug. "Thanks, Harry. That means a lot," I said softly.

"I know," Harry said.

"I didn't want to go out there alone with him and have you not okay with it," I admitted.

Harry smiled sideways at me. "I don't love it, but there's nothing that I can do to stop you, and Diggory's a nice enough guy," Harry said.

It made me snort. I knew that he still didn't really like that I was going out with Cedric. "After all, it'll let the two of them have their first date together," I teased, motioning over to Ron and Hermione.

Harry laughed loudly at me. "If they don't kill each other first," Harry said, making me smile. "Have fun, Tara. See you later."

"See you later. I'll bring you back loads of stuff," I promised Harry, grabbing his arm as I walked by.

"Thanks. Hey, I mean it. Let me know if he gets out of line," Harry said.

The unfortunate thing was that Harry was about a third of Cedric's size. While Harry was lean and rather small in stature, Cedric was tall and built like a wall. "Sure thing, tough guy," I teased, patting Harry on the arm.

"And don't kiss him!" Harry called after me.

"Harry!"

"I mean it!"

"See you!"

As I darted off, Harry looked after me and smiled. I was heading back over to where Cedric was waiting for me with the rest of the students that were heading to Hogsmeade. Harry accompanied us all the way up to the entrance hall, where Filch, the caretaker, was standing inside the front doors, checking off names against a long list, peering suspiciously into every face, and making sure that no one was sneaking out who shouldn't be going. I noticed that he gave me a long scowl as I walked past. We would always hate each other.

"See you guys later!" I called off to Ron and Hermione as I walked past. "Maybe we'll meet up in the Three Broomsticks before heading back?"

They both smiled. "Sure. Make sure that you don't leave his side," Hermione said.

My smile fell. "I know," I groaned.

"And keep an adult within shouting distance," Hermione added.

"I know."

"Don't forget you have your wand too. You can do emergency magic, just in case."

"I know."

Ron shoved Hermione off to the side. "She's gets it, Hermione. Come on," Ron said, tugging Hermione with him. "Have fun on your stupid date. Don't kiss him!"

Quickly I whipped back around to where Ron and Hermione were still standing. "People say that Harry and I should be brother and sister, it's the two of you that need to be brothers. Kissing him... honestly," I muttered awkwardly, walking away.

As I walked over towards where Cedric was standing near the carriages were, someone's shout stopped me. "Staying here, Potter?" Malfoy shouted, as he was standing in line with Crabbe and Goyle. "Scared of passing the Dementors?"

"Like I said before, money doesn't buy class," I said, walking by.

"Enjoy your date, Nox. It'll be the last one that you ever get," Malfoy called after me.

I turned back and saw Malfoy was standing with his arms crossed over his chest. "That so?" I asked.

Malfoy slowly walked up to me. "The second he realizes that you're not at all what you appear to be," he said.

My eyebrow quirked. "And what's that?" I asked.

"Low rent, tasteless, weak, annoying, stupid... Need I go on?" Malfoy asked.

My jaw set. That was completely rude and uncalled for. "You're talking about me never getting another date. Why am I going out to Hogsmeade with one of the most popular guys in Hogwarts, while you're going out alone, only with your two cronies who are too stupid to act on their own, as company?" I asked, earning a long silence. "Enjoy the day, Malfoy."

And so I turned, without giving him a chance to tell me anything else. By the time that I finally made it back to Cedric I realized that he was watching me closely. "What was that about?" Cedric asked, looking back where Malfoy was standing and glaring at me.

"Nothing. Malfoy being himself," I said, waving him off.

"You okay?" Cedric asked.

"Fine. Just ready to get out of here."

Cedric nodded. "Alright. Shall we?" he asked, motioning towards the carriages.

"We shall," I said brightly.

So the two of us headed over towards our carriage. I was hoping that we would all be able to fit in one without anyone else. Not that I didn't love many other Hogwarts students, I just wanted it to be the two of us today. Cedric placed his hand on my back and gently pushed me along. I smiled as we took one at the back of the line for ourselves. But I was well aware that a number of whispers followed us as we climbed in together, Cedric letting me get in first, thankfully leaving it as only the two of us.

"Now I know how Harry feels," I muttered.

"What's that?" Cedric asked, turning to me.

"Everyone is whispering and pointing," I said, pointing out of the window. "It feels like we're in a fish bowl."

Cedric turned towards me, smiling. "Well you do have something in your teeth," he told me.

My jaw dropped and I lost a little bit of color in my face. That was embarrassing. "What?" I asked, horrified.

Cedric snorted under his breath and laid a hand on my knee. "I'm kidding. I'm just kidding," he said, gently patting me.

Laughing under my breath, I leaned back and kicked him in the shin. "You're such a jerk," I said loudly.

We both laughed as I tucked back into the seat slightly, closing my mouth and running my tongue over my teeth, just to make sure. "They're all just jealous that I got you to come to Hogsmeade with me," Cedric said, leaning back and looking out the window.

Snorting under my breath, I shook my head at him. They were not jealous of him. They were jealous of me. "Right... I think they're all wondering how stupid you have to be to come to Hogsmeade with me," I said.

"I don't care what they think. You're crazy but you're fun."

"Thanks," I said, smiling. We sat in silence for a few moments as I saw the rooftops and chimneys of Hogsmeade rising in the distance. "So now will you tell me where we're going?"

Cedric looked back over at me. "No," he said.

"Why not?" I asked irritably.

"Because it's a surprise."

"Are we at least going to the stores?"

Cedric grinned at me. "You don't leave much to the imagination, do you?" he asked.

"Surprises in my life tend not to work out too well."

"This one will. I promise."

Now was that the truth? Promises and surprises never worked out in my favor. Maybe some small ones, but certainly not anything that happened to me. "I'll hold you to that," I said, frowning at him.

Cedric stood from his side of the carriage to move onto mine. I smiled when he looped an arm over my shoulders. "You do tend to have a number of troubles surrounding you. You're quite the troublemaker," Cedric teased, tightening his arm over me slightly.

"Do you not have enough room for trouble in your life?" I asked slowly.

"Just the trouble that you bring," Cedric said, looking down at me.

My chin turned up so that I could look at him and I blushed madly. "I'm not that much of a troublemaker," I said awkwardly, looking away from him.

You're on a date with him! Get over it and flirt with him! "Yes, you are," Cedric said.

"Yet you're here," I teased.

"Shows just how good my judgement is," Cedric shot back with.

"Now that was uncalled for," I said, pretending to be offended.

Cedric laughed and shoved me slightly. "That was plenty called for!" Cedric barked. I scoffed and leaned back in my seat a little more, shoving his arm off of my shoulder. "Need I remind you of the letter that you wrote, telling me that you knew where the Chamber of Secrets was and you were going to go battle a Basilisk to save Ginny Weasley from You-Know-Who, without telling me where it was."

To be fair to him, that really was a mistake on my part. I couldn't believe that I had done something like that to him. It wasn't very wise on my part. "And we all came out of it alive," I said, grinning at him. "See? It all worked out."

"You're still insane," Cedric said.

"It's all a part of my charm," I teased.

We both smiled at each other as the carriages came to a stop. I glanced out the window to see that we had finally arrived at Hogsmeade. I smiled at the sight. It was decorated for Halloween. "Here we are," Cedric said.

"It's just as gorgeous as it was the first time I saw it," I muttered, smiling at the sight.

"Come on," Cedric said.

He pushed open the door and climbed out of the carriage. He turned back and held out a hand for me to jump out. I grabbed his and allowed him to pull me from the slightly lifted carriage. That was much better than me falling out face-first. I blushed slightly as his hands lingered on my waist to help me out. The two of us started walking through the hoards of Hogwarts students and I blushed again. They were all staring at us. For a while I thought that Cedric would release my hand but instead we walked together with him intertwining our fingers.

There had to have been a permanent blush forming on my face. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't calm it down. Even with the cold weather in Hogsmeade. The two of us enjoyed our date together for a while. We didn't do much for the first hour or so that we were walking back and forth through the streets but we talked about classes, our friends, families, and everything else that we could think of. He bought us a hot Butterbeer to share in the meantime. There was a lightness in me that I hadn't felt in a long time.

In fact I wasn't sure that I could ever remember feeling as light as I did right now. It was something that I hadn't been so grateful for in a long time. Eventually we headed into Dervish and Banges. We had come here for my birthday last year but we hadn't gotten much of a chance to actually look through it beforehand. We stared at a pair of Spectrespecs - which I wasn't quite sure what they did - Omnioculars - which were rather fun to have during the Quidditch matches - and a Quick-Quotes Quill - which I wanted for classes.

Eventually we passed through the section of the store that held the different Sneakoscope brands. "A Sneakoscope. Ron bought one for Harry but we're pretty sure that it doesn't work," I said slowly, picking it up and looking at it.

"Does it work?" Cedric asked curiously.

"Sometimes but it only lights up at weird times. No one abnormal is ever around. Although one time Fred and George were putting beetle eyes in Percy's tea," I said slowly.

Cedric snorted under his breath. "Sounds like the twins," he said. I nodded my agreement. "There are lots of ones that don't work. Tourist junk."

He was right about that much. The two of us continued to march through the aisles in Dervish and Banges before I found something else that caught my attention. "Huh... A Bludger weighs a hundred and forty-nine pounds," I said curiously.

"Took one straight to the collarbone and kept going," Cedric said, walking up behind me.

Turning to him, finding us almost pressed together, I grinned up at him. "I'm a hell of a player. I'll be expecting you to make some pretty spectacular moves this season, Quidditch Captain," I teased, poking him in the chest.

"You Gryffindor's better watch out. We've got some great new moves," Cedric said.

"Wanna share?" I asked sweetly.

Cedric snorted under his breath and leaned over. He flicked me on the nose and I laughed, batting him away. "You're not that slick," Cedric said, pushing me back into the shelf. "Come on. There's something else that I wanted to show you."

"Okay."

So the two of us walked over and headed out towards the next shop. We were walking together in silence for a little while and I tucked myself into my coat. I always forgot just how cold it was in Scotland except in the middle of summer. The two of us headed over towards Dominic Maestro's Music Shop - one of the places that he had brought me last year. We walked inside and stood by the fire hearth for a minute. Which was nice, considering that it was freezing. I spotted a number of students from my music class.

I glanced over to Cedric and smiled. "Why are we here?" I asked curiously.

As far as I knew, Cedric wasn't much for being musically inclined. But he did know that I was. "Come with me," he said.

So I nodded and walked with him. The two of us walked back into one of the studios in the back of the shop. It was rather nice to be in one of them. Everything was top-of-the-line. There were instruments that were charmed all throughout the room. I noticed that most of them were charmed so that they could pick up a tune once you started playing or singing. Cedric must have booked the room so that we could use it for a little while. All of the things in here were much nicer than they were back at Hogwarts, where everything was used and old.

"You're going to sing for me?" I asked teasingly, turning back to Cedric.

"The opposite," Cedric said, motioning to a chair in the middle of the room.

My jaw nearly dropped. I'd never sang for anyone before. Only my parents and a few friends. So I laughed and walked away from the center of the room. "I don't think so," I said, giggling softly.

Cedric grabbed my hand and pulled me back to the center of the back room. "Come on. Please. I want to hear," Cedric said.

He grabbed my hand and pulled me back to the chair, seating us back on it. "I..." I said slowly, trailing off when I realized that I didn't have much of an argument left. "Don't laugh."

"You have my word," Cedric promised.

The music started on a slow and low pace. I assumed that it could tell the kind of song that I wanted to sing. The guitar, violin, and piano all immediately picked up the tune while I waited before starting the song in mezzo-soprano.

"Kiss me too fiercely
Hold me too tight
I need help believing
You're with me tonight.

"My wildest dreamings
Could not foresee
Lying beside you
With you wanting me

"Just for this moment
As long as you're mine
I've lost all resistance
And crossed some borderline

"And if it turns out
It's over too fast
I'll make every last moment last
As long as you're mine

"And though I may know
I don't care
Just for this moment
As long as you're mine

"Come be how you want to
And see how bright we shine
Borrow the moonlight
Until it is through

"And know I'll be here
Holding you
As long as you're mine."

Cedric was silent for a moment as the piano faded out. I blushed and looked down at my lap. He reached over and grabbed my hand. "That's really pretty. You have a wonderful voice," Cedric said.

"Thank you. It's meant to be a duet," I said slowly.

"Did you write that?" he asked.

Snorting under my breath, I shook my head. "No way. It's from a Muggle musical," I explained. Cedric grinned at me. "I sing. I'm not creative enough to write songs like that."

"Either way, you sounded fantastic," he said.

My blush only increased. I hadn't thought that I was that good. I'd always thought that I was just average. Maybe one day I would have to perform in my music class. "Thanks. Are you done with embarrassing me?" I asked sharply.

"Never."

To almost prove his point, Cedric pulled out something from his pocket. It was a little vial of something that he had placed on a chord that looked like it could act as a necklace. "What is that?" I asked curiously.

"Your voice." My eyebrow quirked. What the hell was that supposed to mean? "I know that I'll never get you to sing that again, so I decided to take matters into my own hands," he said, showing me the vial again.

Of course. It was his own little recording of my voice. "You're terrible!" I barked.

Cedric grinned and tucked the necklace into his shirt. "I'll never show anyone else. You have my word," Cedric promised.

"I'll kill you if you do," I said seriously.

"I trust that you will. Come on."

So the two of us made our way out of the building. Which was good for me, because now people were starting to quietly question what Cedric and I were doing in the studio together, since you couldn't see in front the outside. As we walked out, I tried to snatch the vial from his neck - wishing that I hadn't been stupid enough to fall for his trick - but Cedric saw me coming. He merely wrapped an arm over my shoulders and dragged me out with him. Together we headed towards Gladrag's Wizardwear.

As we walked into the store, Cedric glanced over at me. "I'm going to find you a present," he said, grinning wickedly.

"Wonderful," I said brightly.

The two of us walked in between the shelves that were set up all over the place. The store was hard enough to navigate as we walked through. I found a rather funny sweater that shrunk on the wearer that I liked. Cedric thought it was a bad idea that I have something like that. In retrospective, he was right. We found watches that always told you the wrong time to mess you up, shoes that forced you to walk faster to actually be on time, eye masks that would actually put you to sleep, and self-cleaning shoes. Finally Cedric settled on what he wanted.

"This one!" he cheered happily, showing it to me.

It looked like a normal golden locket. "A necklace? How normal," I said.

"Take a look."

That was when I realized that it wasn't just a normal locket. Of course it wasn't. We were in a magical store. Cedric showed me the locket as he popped it open, sliding his thumb over the catch. It was a locket that actually changed between my favorite memories as it managed to read my mind, or something of the sorts. It showed a picture of me meeting Cedric over two years ago, our embrace after my encounter with the Sorcerer's Stone, and our hug after the Chamber of Secrets. Finally it settled on showing a picture of the two of us playing Quidditch over the summer.

"Like it?" Cedric asked.

He turned back and hooked it over my neck. I was smiling brightly as it laid a few inches underneath my collarbone. "Love it," I said, fingering the golden locket.

"Good," Cedric said. We walked over to the cashier, Cedric paid for the necklace, and we walked back out into the streets. I was shivering a little bit from the cold air that was blasting through the streets of Hogsmeade. I shivered slightly, running my hands over my arms. "Are you cold?"

"A little bit," I admitted.

"Here," Cedric said.

He pulled his coat off of his shoulders and moved to place it over me. I stepped back and shook my head. "No. It's yours," I said quietly.

"You're cold. Take it. I insist," Cedric said.

"Thank you."

Once more I blushed as Cedric slipped the coat off of himself and slung it over my shoulders. It still had all of the heat from his body and I smiled. It was extremely comfortable. The two of us headed back through the streets as he threaded our fingers back together. I smiled and walked pressed up against him, kicking through the snow. I noticed that many of our fellow Hogwarts students were watching and muttering under their breath about us. I could see them all pointing and whispering curiously. I sighed irritably and continued walking.

"Don't worry about them," Cedric said softly, pulling me into him.

"They keep talking about... us," I muttered awkwardly, unsure of what to call us in front of Cedric.

"Let them."

"They're going to think that you're insane for coming out with me," I pointed out.

He was one of the most popular people in Hogwarts. People would think that he was insane for coming out on a date with me. Plenty of people thought that I was good to be friends with, but they didn't want to date me. They wanted to be able to run from the girl that had a strange connection with Voldemort, had a knack for getting hundreds of points taken away at once, was a Parselmouth, and now had Sirius Black - a convicted murderer - after her. Dating me was definitely not the wisest of choices.

Cedric smiled down at me. "I don't care. I'm happy to be out here with you," he said.

The smile that fell over my face was rather embarrassing. Everyone knew that I had a crush on Cedric, but at least now he knew too. And I was about one hundred percent positive that he had a crush on me. At least that awkward part of our relationship was over. But now came navigating this new part of the relationship. The two of us headed over to the Hogsmeade Post Office and I smiled as we played with some of the owls. Somehow Dai and Rusty must have known that we were there because they came over and flitted around us for a few minutes before affectionately nipping at our fingers and flying off again.

Finally we headed back out into the snow. We headed over towards my favorite store in Hogsmeade afterwards. Or one of my favorites. The whole alley was incredible. We walked into Honeydukes and squished ourselves into the throng of people that were trying to move around. There was a massive amount of Hogwarts students walking in and out of the store. The two of us had to drop hands just so that we could walk through and take a look around the store. We were over by the window when I noticed something.

"Check it out," I told Cedric, poking at his shoulder. He glanced up and looked at the sign that I was motioning to.

By Order of the Ministry of Magic

Customers are reminded that until further notice, Dementors will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade every night after sundown. This measure has been put in place for the safety of Hogsmeade residents and will be lifted upon the recapture of Sirius Black. It is therefore advisable that you complete your shopping well before nightfall.

When Cedric had finished reading over the notice he shook his head and looked over at me. "Filch was saying that we'd have to be back earlier than usualbecause of the shops closing earlier than normal," Cedric told me.

When had he said that? I must not have been listening. "That's too bad," I muttered under my breath.

Together we walked through the store and managed to get ourselves massive amounts of candy. It seemed that everyone in the store was trying to get themselves food and whatnot until the next appearance of a Hogsmeade day. Cedric and I both ended up checking out with a fair bit. It turned out that I had even more than he did. Even though a lot of the candy was for Harry, I knew that I would end up eating most of it. And the Sugar Quills were all for me. Mostly something to keep me occupied when things got bad - which I knew that they would.

Cedric was waiting for me at the door as I paid for my things. He looked down at my bag and laughed. "How do you not weigh a thousand pounds?" he asked curiously.

Snorting under my breath, I shrugged my shoulders. "I suppose that I'm lucky. And I play a lot of Quidditch," I said, pulling out a Sugar Quill.

"You're addicted to those things," Cedric pointed out.

"It's kind of a problem. Chocolate Frog?" I offered, pulling one out of my bag.

"Absolutely. And that's why I got you these," Cedric said, pulling out a bundle of Sugar Quills.

I laughed loudly and pulled him into a hug. "You're the best!" I cheered.

"Glad that you've finally recognized that."

We both laughed as we started our trek a little further out into Hogsmeade and away from the hustle and bustle of the main street. We headed back into the snow and I shivered, freezing from the awful weather. As we walked I spotted the ridiculous little tea shop in the back of the street. There were a number of boys that were being dragged in by their dates and they looked horrified. I noticed that a number of them were looking after me longingly. Probably because they could tell that I was on my way anywhere but the little shot.

"No Madam Puddifoot's this time?" I asked teasingly, motioning over to the little pink store.

Cedric glanced over and laughed, pushing me past. "We can go by and see how long it takes you to get the two of us kicked out?" Cedric offered.

It really wouldn't take me very long to get kicked out. Madam Puddifoot had barely wanted us there in the first place when we had been there last year. So we passed the store, the two of us laughing loudly. I noticed that a few girls with their dates were glaring as us as we passed. Or more appropriately, me. It was exactly the way that I had expected. None of them wanted to see me on a date with Cedric Diggory. They all wanted to be in my place. It did make me smile that they weren't. Instead the two of us went out to the Shrieking Shack.

There was no one else out there. "Romantic," I teased, as we walked up to the abandoned shack.

"I figured that you'd like it," Cedric said.

"You figured right." We walked past the fences and I stared at the building. How the hell were we supposed to get in? How did anyone get in? Or was it only ghouls and ghosts who could float through walls? "No way to get in?" I finally asked Cedric.

He shook his head at me as we walked up and down the fence. "Nope. No doors or windows. Supposedly the most haunted building in all of Britain. Shrieks and screams at all hours of the night. We have no idea why it's here or who built it," Cedric said, making me laugh.

"Creepy," I said.

"You want me to hold your hand?" Cedric asked teasingly.

"Oh, shut up," I snapped, shoving him off to the side. Cedric laughed and wrapped an arm over my shoulder. "Why don't you go inside, tough guy?"

He laughed as I started nudging him in the chest. "Oh, I'm far too scared to go in there," Cedric said, patting himself on the chest.

We both laughed as Cedric grabbed me over the shoulder and started dragging me with him through the snow. We laughed and chatted as we walked back and forth. It had been a long time since I'd felt so happy and carefree. I wasn't thinking about any of the troubles that normally started to plague me. We headed back to the center of Hogsmeade and pushed our way through the throng of people. It was rather hard - seeing as it was so crowded - but I liked being out with him. We headed into another store called Spintwitches Sporting Needs. It was extremely crowded.

Right in the window was the Firebolt on display. It took us almost ten minutes to make it up to the display. I put my hand on the broom and sighed deeply. "One day, darling," I said longingly.

Cedric laughed and took his place behind me. "Does your dad have the Firebolt yet?" he asked curiously.

Turning back towards him, I nodded, the two of us moving closer towards the back of the store to let the others take a look at the Firebolt. "He gets it next week. Already told me that he was planning on going back to the States to fly around the Stars Quidditch Pitch to get some miles in on it," I said sadly, staring wistfully after the new broom.

"Jealous?" Cedric asked teasingly.

There was never something that I was more jealous of. Particularly because I knew that Dad wouldn't even let me use it. Just like when he had first gotten the Nimbus 2000. He had made me wait months before letting me try it out. "Extremely. I don't think that Dad will even let me touch it," I said despairingly.

"Think he'll let me touch it?" Cedric asked.

"I think he'd sooner blast off your hand," I teased.

We both laughed as Cedric looped an arm over my shoulder, picking up the price tag. It was over three hundred Galleons. We both scoffed and laughed. There was no way that either one of us had that much money. I could beg and plead with Mom and Dad all that I wanted; they were never going to let me get something that expensive. No grades, good behavior, or seeing them as much as possible would do the right things for me. I would just have to wait until it came down in price.

"I thought so," Cedric said, walking us slightly away from the broom, since there were others who wanted to see it. "You know, even if you have a Firebolt, you still won't win our match in a few months."

"You lost last year, you'll lose this year, and you'll lose every year subsequently," I snapped playfully.

There was no way that he was beating us. Not now that he was the captain. I knew that he would never let me live it down. "Don't be so cocky. You're going to lose eventually," Cedric said.

"You know that I haven't lost a single Quidditch match since I've been on the Gryffindor team?" I asked.

Cedric nodded, looking a little proud. "I know. You'll have to keep that going," Cedric said.

"I intend to."

"Just make sure you beat Slytherin next month, yeah?"

"I'd rather eat my foot than lose to them," I said seriously.

"Keep it that way," Cedric said.

We both laughed as we left the shop. There was no way that I would ever let Slytherin beat us. I hated them more than anything, strictly because Malfoy was on their team and was so big-headed about everything else. We walked into Tomes and Scrolls, the bookstore in Hogsmeade. It was one of my favorite places in Hogsmeade. I loved the smell of parchment and the warm fireplace that oozed golden light all throughout the stone front of the store. We walked in and picked up some of out favorite books from childhood to show to each other.

There were a number of squashy chairs in Tomes and Scrolls - just like in the Gryffindor Common Room - that we sat in. Although there was only one chair left, so we had to squeeze into it together. It ended up being a little cute. He sat down in the chair and I fell sideways over his lap so that we could show each other our books and sip on some coffee, which I teased him over. He had never actually tried coffee before so I quite enjoyed watching him complain over the bitterness of the drink while I complained over all of the sugar that he put in his tea.

Our tastes in books were a little more similar than our taste of drinks. We both ended up loving The Tales of Beedle the Bard, as most Wizarding World children did. His favorite story was The Tale of the Three Brothers. My favorite had always been the Fountain of Fair Fortune, which Cedric had laughed at, since it was a little bit of a girly story and I wasn't exactly a girly type of person. But I maintained that it was the most entertaining of the stories, although I was partial to his favorite, too. After a few hours we finally put the book down and simply sat in the chair, chatting back and forth.

But I was well aware that a number of people were watching the two of us gradually get closer and closer. Cedric seemed to notice my discomfort. "Want to go to Zonko's?" he offered.

"Sure!"

That was another place that I had been looking forward to going. Cedric helped me up out of the chair before following me out. I was glad to get away from some of the scathing glares that were being sent my way by students who were in chairs of their own. We headed back onto the snow-lined streets and headed out towards Zonko's Joke Shop, where students were pouring out onto the street. It was very busy. Cedric briefly left to go and grab something - a birthday present for one of his friends in Hufflepuff - as I went to looking through the shelves to get something for Harry.

"Having a good date?"

Jumping at the sudden noise, I whirled around to see that Fred Weasley was standing over me and grinning. He had one arm on each side of me. "Merlin!" I barked, placing a hand over my chest. "You scared me."

"Everyone is talking about it," George added, stepping onto my other side.

"No they aren't," I hissed.

But they were. I knew that they were. My face was burning as I realized that people had been watching us all day, something that I was really embarrassed about. "Just look around," Fred said, pointing to the people standing around us.

"Are they really?" I asked, blushing madly.

"They are," George said.

Well that was incredibly embarrassing. "If you're planning on kissing him at any point, you may want to make sure that you're not anywhere near any other students," Fred advised.

"Freddie!" I barked. Both he and George laughed. I placed my hand on their arms and shoved them away from me. "Goodbye, boys. Go bother someone else."

"Don't be cruel, Tara, we're leaving," George said, ruffling my hair as he passed.

I swatted his arm away and turned back to glare at Fred, who hadn't moved yet. "Don't you have someone else to bother?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Probably. But I choose you," Fred teased.

He teasingly placed a hand under my chin and shook it around. I rolled my eyes and shoved him away from me, laughing under my breath. He was a pain in the ass but I really did enjoy having the twins around. I walked off to the side and picked up a few things that I thought that Harry might like. I knew that Ron and Hermione would get him some things, too, but I wanted him to feel like he had gotten to come today. So I picked up a few things before heading to the cashier, paying, and waiting for Cedric to make his purchases.

"What's that?" Cedric asked, pointing to my top package as he got over to me.

"Fanged Frisbee. I thought that Harry might like it," I said.

"That was nice of you."

"Honestly I think that it might be good for him to set the thing after his cousin, Dudley."

We both laughed loudly. I knew that Harry would love it. And we would have a lot of fun watching Dudley run through the yard in fear from the Fanged Frisbee. "Want to go get a hot Butterbeer?" Cedric offered as we walked out into the street.

"I'd love that," I said happily.

The two of us walked out of the store as Cedric threw an arm over my shoulder. I smiled as we started walking through the streets again. I was gently kicking the snow around as we walked towards the Three Broomsticks Inn. The whispers were still following us as we walked and I found myself to be a little embarrassed. There were so many Hogwarts students hanging around and Cedric was one of the most popular people in Hogwarts. And I was the freak who could talk to snakes and had a strange connection to Voldemort. We were a strange mix.

He would have been better off with someone a lot prettier and with a lot less of a complicated life. But, for some reason, he seemed to have picked me. Which I couldn't understand for the life of me, but I wasn't going to complain. We walked into the Three Broomsticks and I immediately stopped dead in my tracks. It was jam-packed with people who were mostly Hogwarts aged. Cedric managed to find us a table in the far corner, away from everyone else. The inn was very warm, crowded, and a bit smoky, but clean and welcoming. And a mirror behind the bar showed everyone.

"It looks so dark," I commented, sipping on the hot Butterbeer.

"It's darker than normal with the presence of Dementors in the area," Cedric explained.

A little shiver shot down my spine. Cedric noticed as he scooted a little closer to me and threw an arm over my shoulder. "That's awful," I muttered, letting Cedric pull me into him.

The thought of still having the Dementors in the area was sending a nasty chill all over my body. I hated them. "At least we were able to come out. I was going a little stir-crazy in the castle," Cedric said, laughing and running his hand through his hair.

"Because of your O.W.L.s?" I asked curiously.

"Yes. They're driving me insane," Cedric groaned.

Obviously he was very sick of all of the studying that he had to do for his exams. I could only imagine how I would manage in two years. "Well if you ever need to get away, you're more than welcome to come hunt me down. I could always use a break from my crazy life," I said, waving my hand flippantly around me.

"Being the best friend of Harry Potter must have a number of strings attached," Cedric said, making me laugh.

"It does," I said, remembering our time in both the Chamber of Secrets and the dungeons in our First Year. Both his fault. "But I don't mind it. He means the world to me. As crazy as he makes me and angry as I get at him, I am happy to have him in my life."

"You two are pretty close," Cedric said.

"Yeah. We are," I said.

"He's always seemed to like you," Cedric said.

My gaze snapped to him. Was he trying to insinuate that Harry liked me? Gross. "Well, I mean, yeah. We like each other. But it's nothing more than being best friends. When I was younger I asked my parents if we could adopt him." Cedric laughed softly. "We're nothing more than that. Never will be. We can't be. That would be... disgusting. He's like my brother," I said, making it a point to explain exactly what Harry meant to me.

"That's good to hear," Cedric said.

That didn't make much sense to me. "Good?" I asked blankly.

"Well... yeah. You know," Cedric muttered, looking a little awkward.

Of course. He wanted me to be friends with Harry and nothing more. Because, at least I thought, Cedric was interested in me. "I think I know," I muttered, taking a long sip of my hot Butterbeer. "Let me know if you ever want to take a break from studying."

Cedric glanced up at me with a grateful smile, probably happy that I had changed the subject. "You gonna entertain me?" he teased.

"Sure. I'll do back flips," I said.

Cedric raised one of his eyebrows. "Can you actually do a back flip?" he asked.

To be fair, I'd never actually tried to do a back flip before, but I could imagine that it wouldn't work out very well. "No. So if I do it and break something, I'm counting on you bringing me to the hospital wing," I teased, nudging him in the chest.

"I'll always take care of you," Cedric promised.

Stop blushing, you fool! "Aren't you sweet?" I teased, grabbing his chin and shaking his head.

Cedric laughed under his breath and pulled away from me. "The sweetest. After all, I did all of this for you," he said, motioning around us.

I turned back and rolled my eyes. "Oh, please. All you did was bring me around Hogsmeade," I said.

"And are you not having a wonderful time?" Cedric asked.

"No, I am. And I really do like the necklace," I said, twisting the necklace around in my fingers.

"I'm glad that you like it," Cedric said happily.

And I really did like it. It was one of the nicest presents that anyone had ever gotten for me before. But there was something that I wanted to see. "You wear it for a minute," I said determinedly.

"For?" Cedric asked.

"I want to see what your favorite memory is," I said.

Cedric laughed and nodded. "Okay," he said, moving towards me.

He reached around and pulled off the necklace to place it around his own throat. Then he opened it and showed me. I realized with a little start what it was. We were back in the middle of last year, the two of us sitting by the Black Lake, before everything had started happening. It was the moment from the photo frame that Cedric had given me for Christmas when I'd been upset about the Heir of Slytherin stuff. I was in the middle of a laugh and he was looking at me with a bright smile. I realized that the look he was giving me in the picture was the same one he was giving me now.

"Oh..." I mumbled, realizing that it was one of his favorite memories. Just like how my favorite memories were with him, his favorite memories were of me. "Yeah. That was a good day."

"It was," Cedric agreed.

"There's always something to smile about," I said, throwing his words back in his face.

"You'd do well to remember that," Cedric pointed out.

And he was very right about that. It was something that I needed to remember. "I try," I muttered.

Right now I had my something to be happy about. The fact that, even with everything that was happening, I could still manage to find a way to be happy. With nothing else bothering me. It was the first time in a long time that I could remember being happy and having not a care in the world. After a while I curled up into his side and glanced around as we chatted. I spotted Ron had Hermione in the middle of the inn and I smiled at them. Hermione gave me a thumbs up and smiled brightly, but Ron looked furious that Cedric had his arm around me and I was pressed against him.

About an hour passed before we finished our drinks and Cedric smiled at me. "Ready to go?" he asked.

"I think I am."

People were starting to stare again and I could hear the whispers rising over the rest of the crowd. Their comments were not anything else that I wanted to hear. So I got up and walked outside with him. We headed back out into the snow-covered stone path and headed out towards the woods, which was exactly where I wanted to be. Somewhere far away from everyone else for a chance to talk before it was time to head back to Hogwarts. As we walked I reached out and interlaced my fingers with his, letting Cedric know that I felt the same way. I noticed his lips pull upwards into a smile.

We were tripping through the tall piles of snowbanks and I laughed as we were barely able to pull ourselves over one. "Good place for a snowball fight," I said, kicking a large pile of snow.

"Well, if it's a snowball fight you want..." Cedric trailed off.

He jumped up and pulled away from me, grabbing a handful of snow, and throwing it straight into my face. I laughed and tried to sprint off, but Cedric grabbed me around the waist and pressed the snow into my hair. We were trying desperately to get away from each other. I was laughing as he chased after me. I wished that I was a little bit faster, but somehow Cedric was faster than me.

"Stop!" I shouted, still laughing.

"Sore loser!" Cedric teased.

The two of us laughed and I shrieked loudly as I sprinted off to collect some more snow. All I wanted to do was beat him in the snow fight. I knew that I could show him up. For a long while we threw snowballs back and forth, whacking each other in the face, back, chest, and legs. A few times I had swallowed some snow because I'd gotten a snowball straight to the face. I laughed as I dashed away from Cedric, but I was too slow. Cedric darted over to me and tackled me from behind and sent ups both sprawling into the snow. I laughed again as we spun across the snow together.

It was freezing but it was also the most fun I'd had in a long time. We were pressed together, with Cedric leaning over me. I knew that he was keeping himself supported over me so that he didn't crush me under his weight. My face started to heat up slightly as he gently wiped my hair out of my face. I was sure that we were about to kiss as he wrapped a lock of my hair around his finger and started leaning into me. But everything stopped when his eyes briefly darted down to my chest. I bristled slightly but quickly realized that he was only grabbing for my necklace.

Why? He'd already seen it. But that was when I realized. "What the hell is this?" Cedric asked angrily, pulling the Time-Turner out of my shirt.

"Nothing!" I said, grabbing the necklace back and trying to tuck it into my shirt again. "Just a necklace that my parents bought me."

"Sure it is," Cedric scoffed, slapping my hand away and grabbing the necklace again. He looked it over closely. "I've seen this before. Dad showed me pictures. Tara, this is a Time-Turner. Isn't it?"

He sounded very angry as we both sat up. "Well, you see -"

"These are illegal!" Cedric interrupted, yelling at me by now. "You're not just breaking Hogwarts rules this time, you're breaking the law. Are you insane? Messing with time is dangerous."

"If you'd let me talk -"

"How did you even get this?" Cedric interrupted again.

"I actually got it from -"

"You're actually going to make me lose my mind -"

"Cedric Diggory, shut your mouth for three seconds so I can explain!" I shouted, sick of being spoken over. He looked very surprised as he silenced himself. "Thank you. This Time-Turner was given to me completely legally. You wondered how I got from class to class when those classes are happening at the same time? This is how. Hermione and I share it. Professor McGonagall entrusted it with us because she knew that we were trustworthy. I just happen to have it right now. We use it to go to all of our classes. She made us swear that we wouldn't show anyone, not even Ron or Harry. I know how dangerous it is to have one of these. Please, Cedric, you can't tell anyone. We got special permission to use this from the Ministry of Magic as long as no one found out about it. You aren't supposed to know."

Cedric sat in silence for a few moments, still looking very surprised. He took the Time-Turner in his hand and looked it over closely. "So - So you have this legally?" he asked, sounding surprised.

"Is that so hard to believe?" I asked sharply.

"A little," Cedric admitted.

Was it really that surprising? I didn't think that it was. But maybe it was. "It's been working well enough for us this semester. I just need you to swear to me that you won't say anything. I've been so careful up until now," I said seriously.

It was the first time that I had ever been serious like that in front of him. But I could be arrested for using a Time-Turner. Even though it was legal for me to have it, I was going to be in serious trouble if the Ministry found out that someone else had discovered it. I didn't need to be expelled from Hogwarts, sentenced to time in Azkaban, or have my wand snapped.

"You have my word," Cedric promised, helping me back to my feet. I smiled gratefully at him. "I knew that I was seeing you on opposite ends of the castle faster than humanly possible."

"You're seeing both versions of me as I get done everything that I need to get done," I said.

"That's actually pretty cool," Cedric said.

"Thank you. And thanks for not saying anything," I said gratefully.

Cedric grinned at me again. We both knew that him keeping this a secret was extremely important. "Not a problem. You're too pretty to rot in an Azkaban cell," Cedric teased, pressing a hand under my chin.

"Thanks," I laughed, pulling away from him.

"Come on now! All Hogwarts students are to head back to the castle immediately," Hagrid called off in the distance.

No way. There was no way that my day could be over already. I'd been having so much fun. "It can't be time already," I said sadly, leaning onto Cedric's shoulder and frowning.

"Unfortunately I believe that it is," Cedric said.

"Time flies when you're having fun," I said.

"So you had a good day?" Cedric asked.

It was the best damn time I've had in a long time, but I wish that you would kiss me already! "Believe it or not, I did. Thanks for taking me out here," I said, convincing myself not to say what I really wanted to.

"I was glad too. Are you riding back with your friends?" Cedric asked as we started walking towards the carriages.

"That eager to get rid of me?" I teased.

Cedric laughed as we continued to walk, even though I would much rather hide in one of the shops and live out here for the next few weeks. "Of course not. I'm sure that they're waiting to ask you about what happened today just the same way that my friends will," Cedric pointed out.

That was very true. Within a matter of hours everyone would be talking about what we had been doing on our date here, not that either one of us would tell them anything. Not that anything that serious had happened between us anyways. "They're not getting anything out of me," I said.

"Same here," Cedric agreed.

Before I could walk over to the carriage I remembered that I still had something of his. "Oh, let me give you your jacket back," I said, starting to slip out of Cedric's jacket.

He placed an arm on my shoulder to keep me from moving anymore. "Keep it. It looks better on you," Cedric said.

He was smiling at me and I laughed softly. Slowly I tightened the jacket and pulled it back onto my shoulders. "You keep letting me take your clothes and you're going to run out," I teased, remembering his scarf that I already had.

"Like I said, it looks better on you," Cedric said..

The blush on my face increased tenfold as Cedric walked towards me and stood in front of me. He grabbed the lapels of the jacket and and gently pulled it a little bit tighter around me. I stupidly blushed again. All he was doing was tightening the jacket because he knew that I was cold. There was nothing else. But maybe that wasn't the truth. Maybe there was something a little more than that. We stared at each other for a moment and I realized that he wasn't walking away from me. He was just standing in front of me and staring at me.

The look in his eyes was piercing. I gave him a slightly awkward smile as I debated on what I could go with; sarcasm or something sweet. But I never got the chance. Because Cedric thread our fingers together and started leaning in towards me. What is he doing? He's actually going to kiss me! Cedric Diggory is going to kiss me! Act on it, you idiot! So this time I leaned in towards him and neither one of us pulled back. Cedric still had his hands on the jacket as he tugged me to stand flush against him and placed a hand underneath my chin.

He tilted my head up slightly so that I could look at him. He gave me a final smile before slipping his eyes closed. My hands were shaking slightly as I placed them at Cedric's wrists. Whether it was to steady them or keep him from moving, I wasn't quite sure. Cedric pulled my head up and dropped his own as my eyes fluttered closed. And, just a second later, our lips very gently brushed each others. My heart skipped a beat as he pulled back. We smiled at each other and I giggled somewhat hysterically before he pulled me back. Our lips met in another gentle kiss and I felt his hand tighten slightly.

We were about to share a real kiss. My first real kiss. But just as he was about to deepen the kiss, a shout echoed across the field. "All Hogwarts students, back to the carriages!" Hagrid shouted.

The two of us both jumped back from each other. That definitely wasn't something that I had been expecting. And right before I'd had my real first kiss! Not the little brush of our lips and not the stupid kiss that I had exchanged with Malfoy while I had been pretending to be Parkinson. Maybe I could have come back and kissed him for real, but the moment had passed. So we both laughed and straightened ourselves out. Perhaps one day we would really get there. For now, it was a step in the right direction. Slowly we turned back to the carriages, both laughing and smiling.

"Of course," I muttered, running my hands through my hair.

"One day we won't be interrupted," Cedric said.

"Today is not that day," I said.

"No. It isn't," Cedric said.

"Tara! Let's go! We've got stuff for Harry," Ron shouted from one of the carriages.

"Ron!" Hermione barked at him.

Cedric and I turned to each other and started to laugh. Of course they were going to interrupt me. Well, Ron was. Hermione wanted us to have our moment, even though it already passed. "I think that's my cue," I said, looking back at Cedric.

"Ced! Come on!" a boy about Cedric's age in a Hufflepuff scarf shouted.

"And there's mine," Cedric said, turning back to me. "I had fun today, Tara."

"Me, too," I said.

"See you at the feast."

"See you."

We smiled at each other. I knew that we were both debating on moving in for a kiss. But it wasn't the right time. Everyone was watching us right now and I didn't want my first real kiss to be in front of an audience. No. I would have to wait just a little while longer. Maybe next year... Cedric moved forward and pressed a kiss against my cheek. I blushed brilliantly as we exchanged a quick hug and headed back to our respective carriages. I jammed my way in between Ron and Hermione and grunted, kicking my feet up in between them.

"Isn't that his?" Ron asked, pointing at the coat.

"Hello, Ronald. I had a nice day, too. Thank you for asking," I said.

"What happened?" Ron asked, ignoring me.

"I had a wonderful time," I said happily.

"Did he kiss you?" Ron asked sharply.

Well, he would have, if Hagrid didn't shout at everyone getting back to the carriages. "Stop!" I barked, feeling very embarrassed. I didn't want to think about it right now, in case I accidentally let it spill. Then everyone at school would know within a matter of days, and that would be a nightmare. "Even if he did, I wouldn't tell you."

"So he did?" Ron asked.

"No!" I shouted.

"Good," Ron grunted.

"So I can trust that you'll tell Harry that we didn't kiss each other?" I asked sharply.

"Of course," Ron said.

Hermione was rolling her eyes. "Honestly, Ron," she groaned.

"So where did you guys go?" I asked curiously, wanting to change the subject.

The three of us leaned back in our chairs as we headed back towards Hogwarts. As good of a day as I had had, I was excited to get back and see how Harry had managed to spend his day. We ended up spending the ride back telling each other all about our days. They had gone to the same places that Cedric and I had gone and - as expected - Ron had thought that we were sitting too close together at the Three Broomsticks. I had then gone to teasing them about how close they were sitting and that had easily shut them up.

Eventually we arrived back at Hogwarts and headed straight up towards the staircases. I briefly caught Cedric's eye and blushed as I headed upstairs towards Gryffindor Tower. At this point I just wanted to make sure that Harry wasn't too depressed. We did still have the feast, anyways. As we headed upstairs, Ron and Dean started chatting back and forth with each other. I took the time to grab Hermione and pull her off to the side to tell her everything that had happened. She was thrilled about the almost-kiss and swore not to say anything to the boys.

"There you go. We got as much as we could carry," Ron said.

The three of us walked into the Common Room and headed straight over to where Harry was sitting on the couch. He looked very bored, a little bothered about something, and slightly jealous. But we changed all of that when the shower of brilliantly colored sweets fell into Harry's lap and I tossed the Fanged Frisbee on top. It was now dusk and the Halloween feast would be coming soon. Ron, Hermione, and I were pink-faced from the cold wind and trying very hard not to look as though we'd had the time of our lives.

"Thanks," Harry said, picking up a packet of tiny black Pepper Imps. "What's Hogsmeade like? Where did you go?"

For a moment we hesitated on saying where we had gone. Because it wasn't really a great idea to tell him. We didn't want to make him anymore put out but we both knew that it was the right idea to tell him. And so we did. We told him everywhere that we went. Although they had been asking about all of our days, I let them talk. They had ended up going to Dervish and Banges, Zonko's Joke Shop, into the Three Broomsticks for foaming mugs of hot Butterbeer - the one place I had seen them - and many places besides.

"The post office, Harry! About two hundred owls, all sitting on shelves, all color-coded depending on how fast you want your letter to get there!" Hermione chattered excitedly.

"Honeydukes has got a new kind of fudge; they were giving out free samples, there's a bit, look -" Ron started before Hermione spoke over him.

"We think we saw an ogre, honestly, they get all sorts at the Three Broomsticks -"

"Wish we could have brought you some Butterbeer, really warms you up -"

"Neither one of you are helping," I interrupted.

They both looked a little abashed as Harry smiled and pushed me back. I didn't want to be cruel to them, but they weren't helping Harry get over not being able to go to Hogsmeade. "How was your date?" Harry asked.

"It was good," I said simply.

"That's it?" Harry asked, surprised.

There was no way that I was speaking anything more about it - unless it was to Hermione - until other people stopped talking about it. "Until the rumors die down and I know that you won't go blabbing about what happened, I'm not saying anything more than that," I snapped.

"Do you know?" Harry asked Hermione.

"Of course," Hermione scoffed.

Harry's jaw dropped. "That's not fair! You've known me longer," he huffed.

"I don't know either, and we've been friends longer," Ron reasoned.

"I know. But Hermione's a girl," I pointed out.

There were certain things that they didn't need to know. And right now I wanted to talk to them about anything but my date. Right now I just wanted to change the subject. Thankfully Hermione took my cue. "What did you do? Did you get any work done?" Hermione asked, looking anxious.

"No," Harry said. "Lupin made me a cup of tea in his office. And then Snape came in..."

He proceeded to tell us about how Professor Lupin invited Harry for tea in his office. He apparently asked why he was not given the chance to fight the Boggart. Professor Lupin didn't want Voldemort to appear in the classroom. Which was very wise, although we didn't expect that I would have a Boggart turn into Voldemort. They had evidently been interrupted by Snape, who had a steaming goblet, that Professor Lupin promptly drank. Harry was worried that Snape was poisoning Professor Lupin to get his teaching position, but Professor Lupin was unheeded. Ron's mouth fell open.

"Lupin drank it? Is he mad?" Ron asked.

Hermione checked her watch. "We'd better go down, you know, the feast will be starting in five minutes," she said.

Which was fine by me, considering that I was really hungry. I didn't get much of a chance to eat anything other than the bit of candy and some other things that I had gotten a chance to much on while I had been out in Hogsmeade. In the meantime I had been really waiting to eat at the feast, which always had the best food. I quickly went upstairs and changed - putting Cedric's coat over the back of my chair - and headed back down to the Common Room. Then we hurried through the portrait hole and into the crowd. They were still discussing Snape.

"But if he - you know," Hermione dropped her voice, glancing nervously around, "if he was trying to - to poison Lupin - he wouldn't have done it in front of Harry."

"Yeah, maybe," Harry said as we reached the entrance hall and crossed into the Great Hall.

"You're all morons," I snapped, earning strange looks. "Snape is the same age as our parents. I told you all that my parents and Professor Lupin were in school together. That would make them all the same age. Whatever it is that Snape doesn't like about him, it's an old school rivalry, nothing more. The same reason that he doesn't like Harry because of James and he doesn't like me because of my father. Did it never occur to any of you that Snape is the Potions Master of the school? Just looking at Professor Lupin, you should know that he's sick. Whatever Snape gave him was probably the antidote that Dumbledore asked him to make. Snape is loyal to Dumbledore and Dumbledore is loyal to Professor Lupin. The only thing there is a strange illness and a hatred from childhood carried over into adulthood."

They were all staring at me like I'd lost my mind. But I didn't care. I was right. Snape was a giant jerk but he wasn't a murderous criminal. Hermione shifted anxiously on her feet. "She makes a point..." Hermione muttered, trailing off.

"And you're supposed to be the smart one," I huffed.

"You're far too observant for someone normal," Ron pointed out.

"Thanks," I said, smiling brightly. "Plus there's the fact that every time that you all think that something's happened, you're always wrong. It wasn't Snape who was after the Sorcerer's Stone, it wasn't Hagrid who opened the Chamber of Secrets, and Malfoy wasn't the Heir of Slytherin. If any of you would ever listen to me, these problems we have would be solved much earlier."

The four of us laughed as we headed towards the Gryffindor table. "You're like Sherlock Holmes. You make these grand assumptions out of nothing," Hermione pointed out, making me laugh.

"Who's Sherlock Holmes?" Ron asked.

Harry, Hermione, and I all exchanged looks. "I'm buying you a Muggle library card for Christmas," I told Ron blandly.

The three others laughed as Ron gave me a sidelong look. I couldn't believe that he didn't know who Sherlock Holmes was. I thought that everyone knew who Sherlock Holmes was. As we walked into the Great Hall I smiled. The Great Hall was been decorated with hundreds and hundreds of candle-filled pumpkins, a cloud of fluttering live bats, and many flaming orange streamers, which were swimming lazily across the stormy ceiling like brilliant water-snakes. It was gorgeous, just the way that it always was.

The food was delicious, as always; even Hermione, Ron, and me, who were all relatively full to bursting with Honeydukes sweets, managed second helpings of everything. Harry kept glancing at the staff table. I rolled my eyes at him, knowing that he was watching to see anything strange. Professor Lupin looked cheerful and as well as he ever did; he was talking animatedly to Professor Flitwick. I moved my eyes along the table, to the place where Snape sat. The only thing that I could tell was that Snape's eyes did seem to be flickering toward Professor Lupin more often than was natural.

The feast finished with an entertainment provided by the Hogwarts ghosts. It seemed to be something new this year. I hadn't seen them ever do something like that before. Of course, the last two years we had missed most of the feast. I had missed the end during my First Year because of the troll and Hermione incident, and during the Second Year we had been at the Deathday party. The ghosts popped out of the walls and tables to do a bit of formation gliding; Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, had a great success with a reenactment of his own botched beheading.

It had earned a long round of applause. While we were all eating the rest of the dessert - particularly where I got the chance to have some chocolate cake - I noticed that people were starting to look at me again. I rolled my eyes and dug a little further into my cake. I really didn't want to hear them all talking about my date. I knew that they were. I could hear them all talking about my date with Cedric earlier, which was very embarrassing for me. It didn't help that each time that I looked over at Cedric I would catch his eye and blush as he winked at me.

It had been such a pleasant evening that my good mood couldn't even be spoiled by Malfoy, who shouted through the crowd as they all left the hall, "The Dementors send their love, Potter!"

"When do you think he'll get a new joke?" I asked irritably.

"Never," Ron said.

Which, unfortunately, was likely the truth. It was incredibly annoying that Malfoy was still talking about the Dementor attack. The good thing was that the only people who were still laughing about it were the Slytherin's. Everyone else seemed bored about the whole thing. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and I followed the rest of the Gryffindor's along the usual path to Gryffindor Tower, but when we reached the corridor that ended with the portrait of the Fat Lady, we found it jammed with students.

"Why isn't anyone going in?" Ron asked curiously.

For a moment I peered over the heads in front of me. The portrait seemed to be closed. The portrait was never close. "Let me through, please," Percy's voice echoed as he walked by, coming bustling importantly through the crowd. "What's the holdup here? You can't all have forgotten the password - excuse me, I'm Head Boy -"

And then a silence fell over the crowd, from the front first, so that a chill seemed to spread down the corridor. My heart lodged itself in my throat. Whatever had just happened wasn't very good. The silence wasn't good at all. There was never any silence around the castle that was good. It meant that something bad was happening. And I had known that something bad was coming. I'd been feeling it in my bones for a few weeks. Then I heard Percy speak again, in a suddenly sharp voice.

"Somebody get Professor Dumbledore. Quick."

"What happened?" I asked Percy as he came back towards us.

But he ignored me. People's heads turned; those at the back were standing on tiptoe. "What's going on?" Ginny asked, who had just arrived.

If only we actually knew what was going on. But none of us knew what was going on. All I knew was that, if Professor Dumbledore was coming, it meant that nothing good was happening. Professor Dumbledore only came whenever there was a big problem. A moment later, Professor Dumbledore was there, sweeping toward the portrait in hurried movements; the Gryffindor's squeezed together to let him through, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and I moved closer to see what the trouble was.

"Oh, my..." Hermione grabbed Harry's arm.

That was when I realized what the problem was. "Merlin... That's not someone's idea of a sick joke," I whispered.

"So what is it?" Harry asked confusedly.

"Haven't the faintest," I muttered.

And I really didn't. I didn't have the slightest clue what was happening right now. All I knew was that something dangerous was happening in the castle. The Fat Lady had vanished from her portrait, which had been slashed so viciously that strips of canvas were now littering the floor; great chunks of it had been torn away completely. I couldn't see where the Fat Lady had gone. Dumbledore took one quick look at the ruined painting and turned, his eyes somber, to see Professors McGonagall, Lupin, and Snape hurrying toward him.

"We need to find her. Professor McGonagall, please go to Mr. Filch at once and tell him to search every painting in the castle for the Fat Lady," Dumbledore said.

"You'll be lucky!" a cackling voice cried.

Everyone turned back to see who had appeared. I rolled my eyes. It was one of my least favorite people, ghosts, animals, or anything else in Hogwarts. It was Peeves the Poltergeist, bobbing over the crowd and looking delighted, as he always did, at the sight of wreckage or worry. Was this something that he had done? I couldn't imagine him going this far.

"What do you mean, Peeves?" Dumbledore asked calmly.

To my surprise, Peeves's grin faded a little. It wasn't just because Dumbledore was asking about something. It was because whatever had happened was scaring even Peeves. And that wasn't a good thing. As usual, Peeves didn't dare taunt Dumbledore. Instead he adopted an oily voice that was no better than his normal cackle.

"Ashamed, Your Headship, sir. Doesn't want to be seen. She's a horrible mess. Saw her running through the landscape up on the fourth floor, sir, dodging between the trees. Crying something dreadful," Peeves said happily. "Poor thing," he added unconvincingly.

"Did she say who did it?" Dumbledore asked quietly.

"Oh yes, Professorhead," Peeves said, with the air of one cradling a large bombshell in his arms. "He got very angry when she wouldn't let him in, you see." Peeves flipped over and grinned at Dumbledore from between his own legs. "Nasty temper he's got, that Sirius Black."

A/N: Next time... In the wake of Sirius Black's appearance in Hogwarts, the school returns to normal as the first Quidditch match approaches; meanwhile Tara makes a startling discovery about Professor Lupin. If you recognized the song, it is from the Broadway musical, Wicked. I know that Wicked wouldn't have been around yet, so we're going to pretend. Also, I'm sorry about how long the update took! I got a little distracted and I'm back at college now. But I'm working on it. Thanks for the follows and favorites! Please review! Until next time -A

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