James Potter stared blankly at the O.W.L test that was currently staring him down. Ruffling his shaggy, jet black hair with his fingers, he sighed. He had more important things on his mind then this stupid O.W.L. When was he ever going to use herbology in his life anyway? He glanced up, an idea materializing in his mind. Catching Sirius' eye from two rows over, he winked. Sirius grinned back, but not wishing to look suspicious, returned to his test. James strode confidently to the front of the Great Hall where the frumpy professor who was proctoring the exam was seated, looking as though she were about to fall asleep.She glanced up at him over her glasses and asked "What is it?" He smiled in the same way as he often did to the girls who hung onto his every word and explained why he needed to be excused. Her eyes widened as he whispered into her ear. She looked alarmed and embarassed, but that didn't stop her from asking him to repeat himself over again, to assure that she had heard correctly. He spoke louder, in a tone that he was sure even those with bad hearing would be able to take note of. "It seems I'm getting a rash on my…" She intercepted him there and said "Oh. Very well, Mr.Potter. But don't expect this favor again." He walked out of the Great Hall, relieved that he would not be made to finish the exam, and also struggling to keep a straight face. "She must think I have an STD," he concluded, hysterical. And now he had an entire afternoon off to show for it.
As he left the Great Hall through the enormous double doors, he came across a short girl among two of her friends, relaxing under a huge oak tree that had moss crawling up its side like a gnarled old sweater. As he took a closer look he noticed that the short girl was holding her nose and whispering something or other. They looked to be fifth years just like him, so he decided to approach them.
"Hello, ladies," he declared in a cocky tone. The short one waved offhandedly and continued whispering what James heard as "watermelon." The friend to her right side chose that moment to explain. "She feels like she has to sneeze." He laughed "Oh?" The trio nodded solemnly, as if this was a very serious matter. After a closer look, he noticed that the short one was not, in fact, height deprived, but that she was merely slouching and that the three were all of the same height. The "short one" had dark, flippy hair, many freckles and brown eyes. The one to her right was equipped with lighter brown hair, brown eyes and an inclination to stumble over her words. The friend to the left seemed the most goofy had dark chin length hair with a reddish tint and also had brown eyes. "I'm James. James Potter." He offered, praying that they would offer their names in return so that he did not have to continue referring to them as "the short one" or whatever. The one to the left of "the short one" did so just then. " I'm Catsy Corsini," she said, pointing to herself. "The one sneezing is Ally Strang, and next to her is Rosie DeRienzo," she continued, pointing to each as she went along. "Aha," he said, smiling, "It's a pleasure to meet the three of you." Ally smiled, before sneezing explosively. "CRAP," she bellowed, drawing attention from everyone around them. Catsy and Rosie giggled. Their friend was often ridiculous and obnoxious without realizing it. James pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and offered it to her. She thanked him, and rubbed her nose with it, embarassed slightly. "The watermelon thing is a lie, guys," she told her friends, drawing more giggles. Just then Remus and Sirius plodded toward them. After more introductions, a congratulations from Sirius on James' performance in the Great Hall and a scolding from Remus on the same event James and his friends extricated themselves from the conversation with a few warm goodbyes. As they walked away, Ally couldn't help but smile at her friends. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" she asked Rosie and Catsy turned toward her. "Goats?" Catsy suggested "Transfiguration?" Rosie offered, mispronouncing the last syllable. Ally laughed, "Never mind."
That night, Ally sat up in bed as the hour grew later and later. The floor immediately surrounding her was littered with notes she had begun to study and then grown bored of and her comforter, which she had kicked off of her bed in her frustrated, insomniatic mood. She knew she'd regret not sleeping tomorrow, but couldn't shake the impulse to tell someone what she'd been thinking of earlier in the day. Although she couldn't readily tell Catsy at the moment, since she was in her Gryffindor dormitory where she belonged, she could easily tell Rosie who slept in the bed next to hers. By some miracle five years ago, they'd both ended up in Ravenclaw. Glancing over at Rosie, who was mumbling something about "whores" in her sleep, Ally summoned a cup of coffee as a peace offering and crept surreptitiously toward Rosie's bed.