Author's Notes: Written for The Unknowable Room'sScrivenshaft V Challenge: "Had I But Known...". Another piece of pure L/J fluff. I'm good for nothing else. ;) Thanks go to Forsakenphoenix, my beta for this story, and Aidan, who seemed to find it hilariously funny and interestingly convenient when his girlfriend caught a case of laryngitis, and thus, unconsciously served as a source of inspiration. Hope you all enjoy! -Bee
Had I but known that Quidditch could lead this, Lily thought to herself bitterly, I never would have gone to that bleeding match.
Sitting down at the Gryffindor table for breakfast early that January morning, Lily stared moodily down at her uneaten waffles as this thought sprang to mind. All around her, Lily's friends and classmates were eating, laughing, and talking—none of which Lily could currently participate in. Had the circumstances been different, Lily would've gladly joined in her mates' chatting and gossiping, and was certain that at least half of her morning meal would've been devoured by now. However, Lily's circumstances this particular morning were not that of a normal day. No, for as a direct result of the rather grueling Quidditch match that had taken place the day before, Lily Evans had suddenly acquired herself a nice case of self-inflicted laryngitis.
It was official. She bloody well hated Quidditch.
But when she thought about this critically (mind you, easily ignoring the fact that her ailment contained the words 'self-inflicted'), Lily could grudgingly admit that perhaps it wasn't all the sport in general's fault that she could no longer speak, as much as it was those involved in it. In fact, there were a whole slew of names Lily could quite easily blame her current state of health on. It wasn't, after all, her fault that she had been yelling, screaming, and hollering like a madwoman the afternoon before as she watched the Gryffindor team being unfairly slaughtered by those Slytherin prats. It truly wasn't. If the game had just been played clean, Lily and the rest of her housemates wouldn't have felt the need to scream their objections so often...or so loudly. And if the injuries involved in the game hadn't affected her so personally, she wouldn't have felt the need to be heard above all the rest, either. So really, this whole thing wasn't at all her fault. It was simply everyone else's. She, however, was the one currently paying for it.
Sighing miserably into her hand, her elbow propped up on the table, Lily once again began to mentally go through the list of all the people she could blame for her inability to speak this morning. It was something she had done several times since she'd woken up an hour or so before, coughing and sputtering, her voice croaking and barely above a whisper. It didn't really do anything, she supposed, her mentally killing off each and every person on her list, but it made her feel better.
First and foremost, Lily started, the list already forming in her head, was every single one of those bloody Slytherin prats who played for the Quidditch team. Every single one of them from the tiny third-year they called Avery, to that git-of-a-captain, Evan Rosier (but especially him, Lily added to herself, recalling a specific event from yesterday that involved Mr. Rosier and a certain someone else, which had invoked quite a bit of outrage from her). The entire team hadn't scored a single point without some foul or misdemeanor involved. More than half of these infractions had gone unpunished as well, which of course led Lily to the next name on her list: Madame Hooch. Lily had never before held anything against the woman. In her experience, Madame Hooch was always fair, civil and just. However, either yesterday was just an off day, or there were just one too many fouls for her to keep track of, because Slytherin got away with most of their dirty tricks under the young woman's usually watchful eyes.
The list went on and on like that, ranging from her stupid mates who had somehow convinced her to go, to her parents, whose fault this inadvertently was just by having her, and all the way down to the Minister of Magic himself, for not outlawing the game in the first place. But these were all petty excuses, Lily knew—her mates, her parents, the Minister—they were all just scapegoats. Deep down inside (and at the very top of her list, bypassing even the Slytherin prats) Lily knew that there was really only one person responsible for her self-inflicted laryngitis.
James bloody Potter.
Oh, how she loathed the man. How she wished she could just place her hands around his stupid neck and squeeze until there was absolutely nothing left. How she wished...how she wished...
...how she wished she wasn't so utterly infatuated with the bloke.
It was all his fault, really, just as her laryngitis was his fault as well. He was just so...so... James that it was only a matter of time before she started fancying him something horrid. Truth be told, Lily had been completely dreading working with him when she'd found out that James had been appointed Head Boy (with his track record, however, how he'd managed this feat was still a mystery to her) to her Head Girl. But working with James Potter was not at all as she expected it to be. Instead of arrogant laziness, she found humorous diligence, and where she was expecting to be constantly dodging his latest pathetic attempts to get her on a date, she instead found herself hoping that he would just get around to doing it once. Lily supposed that after being rejected by her for so long, it made sense for James not to believe she was finally coming around, even though she'd accidentally slip up sometimes, making her intentions so blatantly obvious it made her wince. Still, she preferred his obliviousness. She was still hoping that she'd wake up one day and the feelings would be gone. Fancying James Potter, after all, was just not part of the plan.
But it seemed as if she may be making it her plan by continuously doing stupid things like going to Quidditch matches and yelling her arse off every time another player merely bumped into him the wrong way—or in Evan Rosier's case, nearly knocking him off his broom and sending him to a certain death. Lily could still remember the ice cold fear that had sprang up inside of her the second she saw James grappling for control high in the air after Rosier had sent both Bludgers James's way, and then to add insult to injury, had flown straight into James while he was still trying to stay atop his broom. Only when Lily saw that James was once more steady on his broom—injured and bleeding from a cut on his forehead, but steady—was she able to breathe again. Breathing came none too quickly, however, for the second Lily was able to register what had just happened, she was up on her feet screaming along with the rest of her housemates for Madame Hooch to call something. However, the young referee had been too busy keeping watch of the Quaffle that had been in play on the other side of the pitch to notice the extreme foul play that had occurred, and as such, couldn't call anything.
The match had ended a half-an-hour or so later, with the Slytherin Seeker catching the snitch and winning it for his team 310-120. With half her team now injured, and her captain and star player fairing the worst, the only person who was perhaps as upset as Lily had been was Professor McGonagall, who had tried to appeal to the Headmaster about not counting the unfair game. This, however, was to no avail, for as brutal and backhanded as the Slytherin tactics were, they were all in tune with the rules of Quidditch. Professor McGonagall had been more than a little furious about this, and hadn't even stopped Sirius when she saw him striding across the pitch after the game towards Evan Rosier, a murderous look in his eye. Lily had more sense than that, however, and had followed Sirius over to where Rosier was celebrating with his mates. It took all her strength and then some to pull Sirius off the Slytherin captain. When she finally managed to do so, she, Sirius and Rosier, were all gasping for breath.
"Bloody wanker!" Evan swore, glaring furiously at Sirius. "Wait until next time, Black! You just wait! Next time, I'll kill him! Potter won't be so lucky with his fumbling next time!"
That's when Lily punched him.
Later she'd found out that she'd broken his nose, as well.
McGonagall hadn't given her detention.
This was her punishment, Lily finally concluded, sighing as she gently pushed her food away. Not that Rosier hadn't deserved it—he should have gotten worse, and would have, if not from her than from Sirius or Remus or Peter, all of whom were standing behind her at that point, but McGonagall had put an end to the fighting as soon as she saw Lily deck the Slytherin captain.
Lily wouldn't say it was the proudest moment of her life, but it was up there.
"Lily, are you leaving?"
Lily's head snapped over to where her mates were seated all around her. Rosie Bell was looking questioningly at her, and it was then that Lily realised that she'd risen from her seat.
"I'm not really hungry, I suppose—"
Rosie's laughter cut Lily off. "Good gracious, Lil, I can't hear you at all!"
Lily let out a huff of frustration. This is what had been happening all morning. It may not be her fault that all she seemed to be able to do was mumble and croak, but it certainly was her fault for constantly forgetting this fact.
"I heard what she said," came the giggling reply from Emmeline Vance, Lily's best mate and most vicious teaser. "I do believe she said something along the lines of visiting the Hospital Wing so that she could snog James back to health—"
"Hmph!" Lily cried, not even attempting to try speaking again, and instead having to content herself with making angry noises and glaring fiercely. Lily's mates all burst out laughing.
"It's. Not. Funny," she croaked, punctuating each word as loudly as she could.
"Oh, sure it is," Emmeline replied, smiling good-naturedly. "Just go, Lily. I'm sure James has a few words to say to you anyway, after hearing that you broke Evan Rosier's nose in his defense."
Lily's head snapped up in surprise. "Who told him?"
"Who told him?"
"Oh," Emmeline said, this time understanding. "Well, everyone, I suppose. Must have seen Rosier come in with a bloodied nose and asked who did it. He knew when we went up to visit him last night, anyway. He asked where you were, as well. I told him you were sleeping."
Lily held back a groan, already feeling her face grow red with embarrassment. Well, that was just great, wasn't it? She hadn't wanted him to know. He'd know for sure that she fancied him now. There was no hiding it. She'd as good as dug her own grave. Unless...
Unless she could convince him otherwise.
Lily turned on her heel, ready to leave and do just that. Rosie's voice stopped her.
"Where are you going now?"
"Hospital Wing," Lily called over her shoulder. Emmeline's whoop of delight—an indication that they had indeed heard her this time—was the last thing Lily heard before she sailed out the Great Hall's doors.
When she reached the Hospital Wing a few minutes later, Lily stopped just before she opened the door, giving herself a minute to compose herself. She took a deep breath, calming her thumping heart. This is nothing, she told herself firmly, I don't want to fancy him in the first place. Telling him I don't will just be the first step in my recovery. It's just an infatuation. It will pass.
She repeated this mantra several times in her head before she felt confident enough to open the door. Pushing it open slowly, Lily stepped into the room, closing the door quietly behind her as her eyes squinted with adjustment at the bright white colour of the room. Lily could count the number of times she'd been to the Hospital Wing on one hand, and wasn't exactly certain whether Madame Pomfrey would tell her off for visiting so early, but she supposed this couldn't wait. The longer James thought (or rather 'knew', as 'thought' somehow implied that it was untrue) that she fancied him, the harder it would be to convince him otherwise. She'd deal with making her lies true later. For right now, she needed to find James.
However, much to Lily's confusion, as she strolled further into the large wing, it was to find all of the many white-sheeted beds empty. The entire Hospital Wing seemed void of all people. Not even the ever-present house elves that helped Madame Pomfrey with her patients were there. Where was everyone?
A sound of a door opening and closing to her left caught Lily's attention, as she expected to see Madame Pomfrey or one of the house elves enter the room. She could question them about James's whereabouts.
But it wasn't Madame Pomfrey. It wasn't the House Elves, either.
It was James.
James, without his shirt on.
Lily held back a groan.
Well, so much for giving up the infatuation.
"Lily." His voice was surprised, though not embarrassed. He didn't seem to be the least bit affected by the fact that he was standing there shirtless, while she was standing there gawking at him. "You came."
Lily couldn't answer, and not because she had finally remembered she had laryngitis. He was hard all over, the muscles in his chest and arms all sculpted to perfection. He had a bandage wrapped tightly around his right shoulder, and ugly looking bruises scattered along his abdomen, but the sight of him still had Lily with a loss of breath. The cut she had noticed on his head the day before must have been healed, for there was no sign of it under the dark, messy mass of his fringe. He stared at her curiously, his hazel eyes regarding her quizzically through his glasses. Her heart began to thump furiously inside her chest, so loud that she could hear it ringing in her ears. She cursed her hormones for doing this to her. She knew he was attractive—she'd always known he was attractive, with or without a shirt. The bloke was in pain, for Merlin's sake, and all she could do was stand there and ogle him!
"Er—uh, yeah, hi," Lily mumbled, finally finding her voice with difficulty. "How are you—"
"What? Why are you talking like that?" James interrupted, taking a few steps closer as if he knew he'd have to be that close to hear her reply. The slowly decreasing distance between them had Lily's heart beating even faster. It was so loud, James surely heard it as well. She had to concentrate. Concentrate on the task at hand. It was just James without a shirt. She was Lily Evans! She could handle that!
He took another step closer.
She couldn't handle that.
"Self-inflicted laryngitis," Lily answered quickly, her mumbled croak still soft, but loud enough for James to hear.
"Self-inflicted laryngitis?" James repeated, and for some reason, a small smile grew on his face. "From yesterday?"
Lily nodded, wondering why this seemed to be a smiling matter. Didn't he care that she couldn't speak? Did he have no sympathy?
James's smile grew.
"Screaming a bit, then, were you?" he asked, his eyes sparkling mischievously.
"You can say that," Lily croaked out, turning a deep shade of scarlet. Could she be any more obvious? Wasn't she here to convince him that she didn't fancy him? Where had that plan gone? Out the window like James's shirt apparently had?
"And did you acquire laryngitis before or after you broke Evan Rosier's nose?"
Lily was so red, she knew it was only a matter of time before you could no longer tell where her hair ended and her face began. Why did she have to be such an idiot? Why couldn't she just've let someone else take care of Rosier? Had it honestly been necessary for her to get involved?
"Where is everyone?" Lily asked, ignoring the question about Evan. James smiled at this, but answered her question nevertheless.
"None of the others had to stay the night," he explained, referring of course to the various other players of his team that had also obtained injuries, and apparently Evan Rosier as well. "Madame Pomfrey and her elves went down to the grounds a few minutes ago. Some second-year was playing around the Whomping Willow. Stupid prat."
Lily registered this fact with a nod. They were...alone.
"Are you feeling all right?" Lily asked, trying to ignore this increasingly horrifying reality. They were alone. Alone.
"What'd you say?"
Lily held back a groan as he took another step closer to her. He was getting too close. Far too close. Would he notice if she took a step back?
"I asked if you were feeling all right," Lily repeated, this time louder, but equally as mumbling. James must have caught the meaning of her question however, because he nodded.
"Fine," he told her, shrugging his good shoulder. "It's really not as bad as it looks. The worst part was that bloody headache I had after one of Rosier's Bludgers knocked my head, but Madame Pomfrey gave me a potion for that upfront. Merlin, I wish I could have been there, though."
"Been where?" Lily asked.
"Down on the pitch, to see you level Rosier," James answered with another grin. "I hear you have quite the right hook, there, Evans."
Lily crossed her arms over her chest. Had it been possible for her blush to intensify, it had. "You know, I would really appreciate it if you would just stop bringing that up because let me tell you—"
James laughter cut off her tirade. He took another step closer. "I can't hear a goddamn word you're saying," he laughed, shaking his head. "Quit mumbling and speak up, will you?"
He was teasing her, she knew, but he was also taking yet another step closer to her and Lily panicked. Instinctively, she took a step back. James noticed, and cocked an eyebrow. Lily didn't say anything in response. They remained silent. All was quiet except for the frantic beating of Lily's heart.
"Why'd you do it?"
Lily's heart stopped. He stepped forward. She stepped back.
"Do what?" she croaked, though she knew perfectly well what he was talking about.
"He said he was going to kill me," James continued matter-of-factly, ignoring Lily faux-ignorance. His feet moved again. So did hers. "Is that why you did it, Lily? Didn't want me to die?"
The word wanted to come. Lily swallowed it back down. James took another step closer. She retreated, but found her back flat against a wall. There was nowhere else to go. If he stepped forward, she couldn't step back.
She didn't know what to think about that.
"I'm going to kiss you, Lily."
A shock swept through her. He was going...he was going to...no. He couldn't. Lily shook her head frantically. James's hand crept up along her arm, over her neck and rested on her cheek, stopping the shaking.
"You can't," Lily finally forced out, though in a voice so quiet, she wasn't sure James had heard. He apparently had, because he answered.
"Because...because you'll catch it!" Lily cried, noticing only after she said it how ridiculous that sounded. James smiled.
"Catch your self-inflicted laryngitis?" James teased her, gently lifting his hand away from her cheek so that he could push a strand of her hair behind her ear. Lily couldn't breathe. He couldn't kiss her. He just couldn't. Oh, but how she wanted him to! His face was so close to hers. If she just moved up a tad bit, pushed a little closer, his lips would be on hers. But she couldn't! She didn't want to fancy James Potter! She didn't want him to fancy her! It wasn't in the plan!
She didn't know what to do. So many doubts were flying through her head, she couldn't sort them all out. She should kiss him—no, she couldn't! But he was so perfect—no, he wasn't! If she just put her hands up, she could feel his skin...Lily groaned. Her head began to throb.
James's head, however, was beginning to lower, and Lily was so frantic that she did the only thing she could do. Literally.
"James, please don't. You don't want to! You just think you do because I punched Evan Rosier and...just don't, James! You'll hate it! I'll be awful! Just...just..."
She couldn't finish her sentence. He was but a whisper away. Any movement would place his lips on hers. Lily was frozen.
"I have no idea what the bleeding hell you were just mumbling about," James whispered to her, his breath already mingling with hers, "but I could bloody well care less."
Then he dropped his mouth onto hers.
It took Lily all of one second to begin kissing him back.
It was better than she'd imagined, so much more than she'd expected. His kisses were soft, but insistent at the same time, pressuring her lips and slanting over them repeatedly, instantly setting Lily's insides on fire. His hands were everywhere—on her face, in her hair, on her waist. Lily gripped her arms around his neck and clung there, certain that if she let go, she would fall straight to the floor. She could feel his tongue running across her bottom lip as the kiss deepened, and Lily automatically opened her mouth upon his, not minding the intrusion in the least. He tasted like chocolate and medicine, a mixture that Lily found intoxicating, if only for that moment. She pressed herself against him harder, a groan escaping as his kisses became more impatient. Lily held on to him for dear life.
They finally broke apart when the need to breathe became imperative. The second his mouth left hers, Lily's heart dropped, a certain sense of loss settling over her. She stared at him, never loosening her grip around his neck. His eyes bored down on her, the colour much darker than Lily had ever seen. His breathing was rugged, and came out in small huffs against her face. Lily bit her bottom lip, uncertain what to do now.
"James, I don't know what—"
"Are you mumbling again?"
Lily let out what could only be classified as a croaking laugh. "Yes, well, you know what they say," she muttered, her voice raspy from more than just laryngitis now. "When in doubt...mumble."
James let out a husky laugh of his own. "Good lesson," he said, his hand gently stroking her cheek again. "If I'd known that all it would take to get you to kiss me like that was some mumbling, I would've infected you with laryngitis ages ago."
"Yeah," Lily answered quietly. "Me too."
And Lily found that she meant it.
There were few things in life that Lily Evans regretted, but waiting so long to kiss James Potter was by far one of them. Mumbling, she figured, really was the answer. She just wished she'd figured that out sooner.
When in doubt…mumble. She'd have to remember that one.
But she couldn't change anything now. She had no time machines to send her back to correct her mistake. Time lost was time lost, and so as not to waste any more of it, Lily pulled James back down again, pushing her lips to his and mumbling all the while.