Sniff. Ick. Blow. Blech.
Lily wadded up the used tissue with a disgusted look on her face and tossed it into the wastebasket. She then pulled her Potions textbook back onto her lap to continue reading on the Befuddlement Draught, the potion that Slughorn had been instructing the class on for the past few days. But no sooner did she reach step three in the procedure (Grind up one cup of scurvy grass and sprinkle finger-fulls into the potion at ten second intervals) before her eyes started watering and blinking away the hurtful, bright whiteness that seemed to rebound off the pages.
"Ugh." She pushed it aside and turned over, burying her head in the pillow and welcoming the soothing darkness with a muffled sigh of relief. The blankets of her four-poster were so warm and comfortable, and she was so, so sleepy… Perhaps just a little nap wouldn't hurt…
"Let's not wake her."
"She'll want her work though."
"But look at the size of that pile of tissues! She must've been miserable, coughing and sneezing all day, poor thing. Let her sleep and we can give her the work after dinner…"
Scrunching her eyes and attempting to force herself out of her slumber, Lily said, muffled through her blankets and barely audible, "Don't bother. I'm getting up…"
"Sorry, Lily," Mary told her apologetically as she drowsily opened one eye to peer at her friends in the mercifully darkened room.
The girl beside Mary elbowed her. "I told you to let her sleep!"
"No, it's okay, Alice. It wasn't Mary's fault," Lily cut in.
Mary shot her a smile and then hastily started to dig through her bag, saying, "We got your work for you. I wrote down the assignments here, and Alice copied down some extra notes for you."
Lily grinned, looking down at the sheets of parchment that Mary was setting on the comforter and marveling at her luck of having such good friends. "Thanks guys. I really appreciate it."
"No problem," Alice told her brightly. "Want us to bring something to eat back from the Great Hall for you?"
"Oh, is it lunch already?"
"No… Didn't you hear me?" Alice asked. "I was just saying that Mary and I were about to go to dinner."
"WHAT?" Lily furiously shoved her blankets off and sprang out of bed. "I can't believe this! You let me sleep all day?" She continued her rant, running around in search of her bag and all the things she'd need to finish her homework. "I have so much to do before tomorrow! Slughorn's got that essay about the Befuddlement Draught due, and those questions that Flitwick gave us for Charms, and on top of it all, McGonagall's given us a new spell to learn, and—"
"Lily, calm down!"
"Yeah, we'll help you with the work," Alice offered. "Let's all go to dinner and then we'll start after."
"No, no," Lily replied, shaking her head as she searched frantically, looking for her bloody Transfiguration book! Where in the hell could it have gotten to? "I've really got to get started now."
"Lily, calm down," Mary repeated. "The Professors will understand what with you being sick and everything. Slughorn and McGonagall love you and know you're a good student. They'll work it out with you."
"I don't fancy going down there like this, anyways," she insisted. "I would hate to get anybody else sick. Really, you two go on ahead. Bring me back something, will you?"
"Of course," said Alice softly. She and Mary looked at her a moment longer, worriedly, of course, but then they decided it was best not to argue and left just as Lily let out a triumphant cry when she found her Transfiguration book in the wastebasket, of all places.
The common room was at the height of its capacity by the time nine-thirty rolled around that evening. People were all over the place, talking, laughing, and shouting. The noise was barely tolerable, and coupled with no luck with the rest of her homework, it produced a downright miserable atmosphere for Lily. Not to mention the fact that she was still having to blow her nose so often that it was red and raw.
Thankfully she had already finished her Potions essay, the Charms questions, and had even studied the notes Alice wrote for the History of Magic lesson that day, but still had Transfiguration left. And it had to be Transfiguration. It wasn't that she was terrible in that class or anything. She just wasn't as…gifted in that one as, say, Potions, her best subject. But every girl had her weak spot, right?
Mary and Alice had both offered to help her out with the new spell since they'd both gotten a hang of it in class, but Lily politely declined. She had already gone that route once before and, to say the least, they weren't the best tutors in the world, bless their hearts…
Lily sighed when she failed to perform the Duro spell for the umpteenth time. Why was this happening? She looked down at the notes Alice wrote for her in small, delicate writing. The procedure was all there, perfectly detailed, and even with the theory in tow! (Lily used to think she was the only one who ever even paid attention when McGonagall was lecturing on the theory!) So what was missing?
She sat back in her armchair and stared at the notes, hoping that some hidden and obvious secret might make itself known to her. But the only thing that made itself known to her was her own exhaustion, represented by a loud yawn. Why was it that when she needed to get things done the most, she couldn't?
It was annoying, it truly was. Even with a runny nose she'd have still gone to class! If only it wasn't for that blasted fever and Alice's tendency to be so anal about hygiene… Lily hated missing class and having to rely on someone else's notes. It made her feel like she was doomed to fall so behind that she might fail… And this was certainly not the time for her to let that happen! Not with their N.E.W.T.s coming up so quickly. No, she would just have to buckle down and do the spell. Somehow.
Incarcifors – spell used to detain an opponent by transfiguring a nearby object to life.
When casting the Incarcifors spell, one must swirl his or her—one must swirl his or her wand counter-clockwise—one must swirl his or her wand—his or her wand…
More poking. This time, vaguely aware of the prodding, Lily batted at the source of the discomfort with her hand, mumbling more barely audible sounds as she sleepily shifted in her chair.
"Lily, wake up."
This time Lily shot up at the sound of the urgent voice.
"'m up, I'm up!" she insisted, looking around sleepily. Alice and Mary were both standing before her, with looks on their faces that said, I just don't know about her anymore.
"Come on, Lil," Mary said. "It's late. You should really go up to the dormitory and get some sleep. I am sure that McGonagall will understand about the homework."
But all she heard was, "It's late." Glancing at the clock, Lily found the time ten past eleven and swore under her breath. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she determinedly shook her head again. "No," she muttered with an exhausted sigh. "I really need to finish this. We've got our N.E.W.T.s in a few months and I really can't get behind—they only give so many spots out to new graduates at the Auror academy."
"Oh, Lily, I'm sure this won't set you back that much," Alice told her. "We can help you get it tomorrow during our free period?"
She shook her head again. "That's okay. Really, I won't be here too much longer."
They shared a look.
"Well, all right," Mary finally said.
"Good night," Alice added as they both began walking towards the stairs.
"Night," Lily called after them as she stifled a yawn.
When they were out of sight, she shook her head, adjusted herself so that she was sitting quite rigidly, and gathered her papers into a pile after she'd scattered them during her nap.
At least the common room was quieter. She looked around at the few people remaining and her eyes rested on someone staring at her from across the room.
Bugger, it was him.
Scowling, she looked down at her notes and forced herself to concentrate on reading them.
Incarcifors – spell used to detain an opponent by transfiguring a nearby object to life.
When casting the Incarcifors spell, one must swirl his or her wand counter-clockwise once and then give it a quick jab forward.
To reverse the spell, the castor must swirl his or her wand clockwise twice and lower his or her wand with a flick.
When casting the Incarcifors spell, one must swirl his or her wand—Wait a second. Hadn't she just read that? Her eyes skimmed the lines and she groaned when she realized she'd zoned out, reading the notes without really reading them. It was bad enough that she was only reading the instructions.
She reluctantly read the lines over and repeated the specific instructions under her breath before looking at the chess pieces that Alice had loaned her to practice with.
"Incarcifors!" she said, swirling and jabbing her wand as it had said to.
She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and stared at the pieces for a minute, concentrating.
Surprised by the sudden volume in her voice, Lily jumped and looked around the room, hoping nobody heard her yelling at two innocent chess pieces. Thankfully, she didn't see anybody.
She was just raising her wand to try again (she really hoped it would work this time—she wasn't sure how much longer her patience might last) when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She whipped around and, upon seeing who her visitor was, scowled again.
"You look like you need help," he said, running his hands through his blasted hair as always. He also looked like he was trying to suppress a grin, something which did not lighten her mood.
"Well, I don't."
He raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure? You know, I was the first in the class to get it today."
"Well done, Potter," she muttered as she turned back around in her chair. "I'm sure your parents are very proud."
Hoping he might take this as a sign that she did not, under any circumstances, want to speak with him, she raised her wand and attempted the spell again.
A clucking noise behind her caused her to turn and check—and sure enough, there he was. He clucked his tongue again and shook his head. "You sure you're doing it right, Evans?"
She shot him a dirty look and whipped back around in her seat. Faugh. As if she needed his help.
However, after another defeat...and then another, she lowered her wand and stared at the notes, wanting to face neither the fact that she really was struggling with the spell nor that the idea of Potter helping her was starting to not sound too horrible after all.
But she wasn't going to tell him that.
"Can I help you?" he finally asked again, though this time in a softer voice. Her cheeks tinged with embarrassment—his sudden seriousness showed that even he knew she was having a difficult time.
"I suppose," she said, in a strained voice.
He knelt down beside her chair, the top of his head reaching just above her shoulder.
"Okay," he said, "Firstly, you're moving your wand far too fast and haphazardly—" She twitched when he hesitantly put his hand over the one she held around her wand. "—Sorry," he muttered.
She smirked, unable to help it. "You're not sorry," she accused in an undertone.
From the corner of her eye, she saw him start to smirk as well. "Not entirely," he replied. "Now move it really gently, almost like you're creating the force of life or something and pushing it towards the piece," he described as he guided her hand through it.
"Now you try," he suggested, letting go of her hand.
"Incarcifors!" She did it just as he'd shown her, but still nothing happened.
She slumped in her chair. "Either you're just yanking my wand or I am truly awful at this."
"No, no, you can do it. Really. Emphasize the "r" sound at the beginning. And jab your wand on 'fors.'"
She nodded—he was good at transfiguration, after all—and decided to try again.
"But we'll talk more about the yanking your wand thing later," he added under his breath.
She rolled her eyes, though she couldn't help the giggle that escaped. He grinned.
After she regained her composure, she raised her wand once more. "Incarcifors!"
To her utter bewilderment, the chess piece at which she'd aimed immediately came to life and pounced on the other, tackling it to the ground.
She raised her eyebrows and shifted to face him. "Thanks."
He turned, settling his elbow on the arm of her chair and leaning his head on his hand. Flashing her a smile, he said, "Any time, Miss Evans."
She twitched again as a tingling sensation shot through her, starting at her arms and heading off in all directions after that.
Without meaning to, she leaned her arm on the chair and settled her chin on the palm of her hand, just as he had, and stared at him for a few moments before she realized what, exactly, was happening. When it registered that she was practically having a moment with him, she shot up, accidentally whacking her elbow on the chair, and swinging her leg into a leg of the table.
Groaning, she turned her head to glare at him as she rubbed her shin. "I'm glad you find it amusing. That hurt, you know."
He stifled his chuckles until he regained control over himself. "I'm—er—sure it did. How, exactly, did that happen again? I'm quite lost on the connection between you staring at me and then spastically injuring yourself."
Damn. He had noticed.
"I wasn't staring," she quickly corrected. "I'm just really tired. I have no idea what I'm doing half the time when I'm like this. Really. Besides, even if I was staring, that means nothing along the lines of whatever you're thinking. Don't flatter yourself so much, for Merlin's sake, Potter. Not everybody goes around staring at you because you're some wonderful Adonis or—or something. I can just look in whatever direction I want, can't I? You don't even know—I may have been looking past you, over at the—"
He took his lips off hers and she could feel his smirk. "You really talk far too much, you know that, Evans?" And then he kissed her again, gently pressing his lips on her own as his fingers held her chin.
She responded practically on instinct and remained just as surprised when he leaned away from her as she had been when he'd first kissed her.
"—Over—over at the—er—curtains," she said, determinedly looking past his shoulder, at the floor. "They're very nice. Long, red, and—and soft—well, not—not soft, per se, but soft enough, I suppose. They feel nice, I'm sure. Er, sort-of nice I guess. Just a bit."
She glanced at him and found him staring at her, smirking.
She whipped her eyes back onto the floor. "And the carpet! Just look at it. I tell you, these House Elves do a really fantastic job. They ought to be paid or something. Honestly, have you ever seen a spot on that floor? I sure haven't. I should really do something to thank them for such wonderful sanitation. I really—"
"Goodnight, Evans," he interrupted with a chuckle. He stood up, but before he left, he bent down and pressed a kiss onto her cheek. Then his lips lingered on her face and moved to place another soft kiss at the corner of her lips. And then he was off.
After a few moments, she whipped around to see him disappearing at the top of the staircase to the boys' dormitories. After he was gone, she stared, wide-eyed at the fireplace.
Lily finally got some sleep and felt quite a bit better in the morning, despite her late night. She still had the sniffles, but was otherwise perfectly well.
Well. She was healthy and everything, but her mind was in a frenzy. She finally came to the absurd conclusion that, in her mindless stupor between awake and asleep, she had allowed James Potter to kiss her. Multiple times.
She fretted over it as she readied herself for lessons and went down to breakfast with Alice and Mary.
When she arrived, her stomach did some weird sort of move between a jump and a squirm. Potter and his friends were sitting close to the spots where the three of them usually sat.
She could feel his eyes on her as she sat down and she kept her own gaze downward.
It was only a bit of kissing. Nothing else. If anything, she might keep him around for the tutoring. It could come in handy, after all. But past that, there was nothing! Psh! Obviously it had just been a one-time fluke sort of thing. Obviously.
After a few minutes, someone sneezed and she had a pretty good idea who. Sure enough, when she looked up, Potter was sporting a pink nose and gave her a bleary-eyed smile that could still knock the socks off most girls.
Briefly entertaining thoughts of how he could have possibly gotten sick, she blushed and looked away again.
Damn that Potter, she couldn't help thinking as she supressed her laughter behind a grin that was ever-growing. He just had a way of creeping up on someone when they least suspected it. Like some kind of sickness.
A/N: A little something else that I happened to find in my documents! I decided to dress it up a bit and post it. Hope you all liked it! :)