The next morning found Albus Dumbledore personally making his way towards the dungeons, where the seventh years were having a Potions lesson. He had given Madam Pomfrey’s proposition much thought and every time he thought about it, the whole idea made more and more sense. Indeed, since the matron was at such a loss for what to do, it seemed Severus Snape was James Potters’ only hope of getting better. If the task before him had not been such an unpleasant one, the headmaster might actually have cracked a smile at the irony of the situation.
He hesitated only for a moment outside the classroom before entering; “Horace, excuse the interruption, I have an urgent matter to discuss with Mr. Snape; could he be excused from the lesson?”
Horace Slughorn nodded, looking slightly puzzled; his confusion however was no match for Severus’, who had followed the headmaster without a word, all the way back to the seclusion of the Heads office. When they reached it, the older man motioned for his student to take a seat, before resuming his position behind the desk.
The grave expression on his professor’s usually calm face scared Severus; what on earth could have happened to make the man look so serious? The headmaster’s next words were the last thing Severus expected to hear; “I require your assistance in a very grave matter, Mr. Snape!”
Breaking out of a stunned reverie, Severus responded politely; “How may I be of service, Sir?” Dumbledore sighed; the unsuspecting boy would definitely not be in such a helpful mood once he was actually informed of the problem. All of Hogwarts was aware of how much Severus and James hated each other. Suddenly the hopelessness of what he was about to do hit him in full force.
Forcing himself to remain calm the professor met Snape’s curious gaze; “Well Mr. Snape, it would seem that Miss Evans had another argument with Mr. Potter at some point last week. Now, that in itself is nothing new, but it seems that this particular fight, affected Mr. Potter deeply; he went outdoors in the rain on the night before last and is currently residing in the hospital wing, with the flu and a fever.
Madam Pomfrey has confirmed his ailment; however recent events have proven that he allergic to the normal fever Potion. That brings me to my request; as you know, you have been promised a position as the school’s Potions master, once you have graduated. But now, I ask this of you; would you consider making a different fever reducer for Mr. Potter?”
Severus’ response, though not immediate, was extremely predictable, when it sank in what his headmaster was asking of him, he leapt to his feet, the fury blazing in his eyes; “WHAT! Headmaster, you can’t be serious, this is Potter we’re talking about, after all! You do know of our mutual hatred, right sir?”
Dumbledore held back another sigh with difficulty; “I am well aware of that Mr. Snape, however as Madam Pomfrey has no solution to this problem, you may well be Mr. Potter’s only hope! It was her idea to suggest this to you in the first place, you know.”
There was an awkward silence, which was broken in the most disturbing way possible; as Madam Pomfrey’s head suddenly emerged in the fireplace. “Oh Albus, thank heavens you’re in the office, Potter has taken a turn for the worse! We must act soon, if anything is to be done, I see Mr. Snape is with you; have you asked him?”
The headmaster responded with forced calm; “Yes I have Poppy, and as I foretold, he disagrees most strongly with the whole idea!”
The matron looked shocked for a moment, before recovering herself and turning to Snape; “Well Mr. Snape, it would seem you have your mind set on not helping Potter, however I would like to try and impress upon you, the severity of the situation! Please Floo to the hospital wing, I’ll be waiting!”
It was now lunchtime and Lily had finally worked up the courage to go to the hospital wing. All morning, the one thing on her mind had been how James would react to seeing her. Since she hadn’t seen him since Sirius forced her to accompany him two days ago, she was unsure what to expect. Ideally she had wanted Sirius to come with her today as well, but of course the idiot had to get himself a detention at this precise time! As a result, she was forced to make her way to the infirmary alone.
She reached the hospital wing in what seemed like no time, all the while trying to convince herself that there wasn’t anything to be nervous about, it was Potter for pity’s sake! But she couldn’t shake the fear that he would hate her from the back of her mind. After trying to calm her nerves with what Alice had told her the previous night; “The James Potter I know could never hate you!” Lily entered the infirmary with a nervous gulp.
Her nerves vanished instantly at the sight before her; Madam Pomfrey was standing with her back to the ward entrance, arguing with someone, although Lily couldn’t make out the other person, she would know that voice anywhere. Her ex- best friend, Severus Snape, was arguing heatedly with the infuriated Healer. Luckily, he hadn’t seen her yet and planning to keep it that way; Lily retreated into the shadows where she could eavesdrop without being seen.
Snippets of the conversation drifted across to Lily, and one thing that the Healer said stood out to her in particular; “Earlier on it was just a suggestion Mr. Snape, but now Potter’s survival may well depend upon your cooperation!”
That simple sentence caused Lily’s heart to skip a beat, deciding the time had come to make her presence known, she moved tentatively towards the arguing couple. The matron still had her back turned, so Severus spotted her approaching first. He stopped arguing with the Healer and stood there gaping stupidly at her. Forcing himself to look away from the girl he still loved; he bitterly told Madam Pomfrey; “Alright fine, I’ll do what I can to help!” Then he stormed out of the infirmary without another word.
The Healer was stunned, what on earth had made the stubborn boy change his mind? Only when she turned and saw Lily standing there did she understand his reasoning. Even she was aware that Lily Evans was the only person in the school for whom Snape would do absolutely anything. She was brought out of her reverie by Lily’s voice; it sounded timid and scared.
“Madam Pomfrey, how is James doing?”
The matron shook her head gravely; “He’s not well at all I’m afraid, Miss Evans! His hallucinations have now led him to firmly believe I am his mother; also he hasn’t been able to keep any nourishment down in the past three days, which is the smallest part of the problem. It is however a serious matter, that he’s allergic to the normal Fever potion, that is why I requested Severus Snape to attempt brewing an alternative. “
Lily nodded absently, that would explain Snape’s fury; he really did hate every fiber of James Potters’ being! As hard as she tried to banish it, as she stood there Lily couldn’t help but see Snape’s face swimming before her eyes, every inch of it contorted in hatred and fury. After taking one last look at James’ sleeping form, she made up her mind and set off in search of Severus Snape.
Severus bolted from the infirmary as soon as he saw her, ever since the incident in fifth year they had been on less than friendly terms. Potter’s hatred of him had also seemed to intensify that day, yet now Madam Pomfrey expected him, Snape, to help precious Potter; the very idea was laughable! If only he hadn’t looked up, then he wouldn’t have seen the fear and concern in Lily’s eyes.
That was what melted his resolve not to help Potter; now he was doing it only to give Lily peace of mind. Did this mean that a part of him still cared about her? The answer was clear; he cared about her feelings more than a little bit; no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise.
Severus was brought out of his bitter musings by someone calling his name; “Sev, please wait!” He stopped short, he had heard that voice in his dreams most nights since fifth year, but was it real this time? Hardly daring to breathe, he turned around; sure enough Lily was hurtling towards him, her beautiful red hair flying in all directions, due to the break-neck speed at which she was running.
When she realized he had actually stopped, she skidded to a halt in front of him, gasping for breath as she did so. When she recovered, she looked him directly in the eye, causing his heart to give a painful twinge; her gorgeous eyes which had always held him spellbound, were pleading silently with him.
He tried to say something, but his throat felt like it had constricted. He knew perfectly well what she wanted him to do, but putting aside his major grudge against Potter was another matter all together. Finally, he looked away from the emerald depths of her mesmerizing eyes and mumbled; “I’m doing this only for you Lily, I love you!”
If she was shocked by his confession, she didn’t show it. For a moment she seemed to struggle internally with her feelings; then she shot him a grateful smile, which he mentally recorded as the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
While he knew perfectly well, that he’d ruined their friendship beyond repair two years previously, at that moment in time, Lily’s gratitude meant more to him than anything in the world and if brewing a potion for James Potter was what it took for Lily to show him any sign of affection; then that was what he’d do! Admittedly, he’d be sorely tempted to poison the stupid potion, but he wouldn’t do that, because he wanted Lily to be happy and she seemed to feel her happiness now lay with Potter.
Meanwhile, back in the hospital wing, James was awake once more. Of course with the effect his temperature was having on him, there was no longer much difference between sleeping and waking, but this time he actually had a vague memory of what had happened in the infirmary since he had last been conscious.
Nonetheless, wanting to confirm his suspicions, James confronted the matron when she next came to check on him; “Madam Pomfrey, was Snape here earlier?”
The Healer did not answer immediately; she was momentarily numbed by the relief that he had recognized her at least. When she snapped out of it, he was staring curiously at her; “Yes, he was in fact,” she responded at last.
She frowned disapprovingly at his furious scowl; “Honestly Potter, stop acting so immature. It was with extreme difficulty that I convinced him to help you and I will not let you jeopardize your own health because of a trivial schoolboy grudge! Are we understood?”
He nodded, though still scowling; Madam Pomfrey knew it wasn’t good for him to be worked up so she cast her mind about, in search of a soothing topic. Before long, the perfect thing came to mind. Grinning in a sly way that no one would have expected possible of Poppy Pomfrey, she said; “And so was Miss Evans.”
The reaction was immediate; James’ eyes lit up and he only managed to stutter; “W-What? Are you serious, Madam Pomfrey?” She laughed at how flustered he became at the mere mention of Lily; “Yes Potter, I promise you I’m completely serious!”
After that, the goofy, lopsided grin refused to leave his face; “Lily, oh wow Lily,” he whispered to himself, completely awe-struck.
As if to turn the daydreams of his one and only love into a reality, Sirius walked in at that moment, also grinning broadly. “Oh good Prongs, you’re awake! I hope you’re feeling better, because I’ve got a surprise for you that will require full consciousness.”
Madam Pomfrey bustled into the room just then; she smiled at Sirius and he winked conspicuously, which was what really aroused James’ suspicions. What could Sirius possibly have planned which the staid matron had agreed to? Thoroughly confused now, he turned, looked skeptically at his best friend and said; “I feel fine Padfoot, the bigger question is; what the hell is going on here?”
Sirius merely smirked and walked out of the hospital wing ignoring James’ indignant cries; “Hey! Come back here Padfoot, where do you think you’re going?” Seconds later, his voice cracked and he was overcome by a coughing fit.
Conjuring a glass of water out of nowhere, the matron handed it to him and said sternly; “Potter, if I’ve told you once then I’ve told you a hundred times. Stop getting so worked up, it’s not good for your health!”
James glared at her while he downed the entire glass of water, then he whined; “But Madam Pomfrey, you have no idea what Sirius is like, tempting someone with a so called surprise and then leaving them hanging, it’s just wrong!”
“I can vouch for the fact that he actually has honest intentions this time,” she declared firmly before pushing him back against his fluffy pillows and adding; “But he won’t be back for a while, so for now I want you to rest and don’t argue!” Sulkily James gave in to her wishes and leaned back, pouting in a comical manner.
Sirius meanwhile had run back to the common room as quickly as possible; he was truly proud of himself. It turned out Lily had just needed a little encouragement from him, in order to overcome her fear of visiting James. He sympathized with the girl for getting all her guts together once, only to walk in on such an ugly argument, but he was glad she had agreed to make a surprise appearance for James now.
In his excitement and haste he tumbled through the portrait hole, straight into Lily who’d been waiting on the other side. She got to her feet with a groan, rubbing her hip which had hit the stone floor when she fell. “Can’t you watch where you’re going Black,” she snapped irritably.
But Sirius wasn’t listening, at the sight of her he said impatiently; “Come on Lil, I’ve talked to James already, he’s waiting!”
In a split second, Lily’s expression went from annoyed to fearful; “You couldn’t have given me a better warning I suppose?” she asked bitterly.
He simply shook his head; “No I couldn’t have, stop acting so silly Evans! You know, all I said to him was that I had a surprise for him and then I left, straight away. He won’t figure out the plan don’t worry.”
Lily smiled in spite of herself; “You know Sirius, sometimes I think you don’t give your friend enough credit! He’s no fool, I’m sure he knows by now that I’m the surprise.”
Sirius rolled his eyes; “I’m telling you Lily, the only way he’ll find out before you actually materialize in front of him, is if Madam Pomfrey tells him about the plan, now let’s go please!”
“Fine,” she said, somewhat reluctantly and he grabbed her arm and dragged her through the portrait hole.
She pulled out of his grasp at once; “I am capable of walking by myself, Black!” Reluctantly he kept his hands off her and merely urged her to move faster. All too soon in Lily’s opinion, they reached the hospital wing; Sirius shot her one last encouraging smile, before pushing the doors open.
The first thing they saw was the very aggravated matron, who was trying and failing to make James keep calm. “Potter, will you please relax, he’ll come soon, but you’re getting over-excited and that will make the fever worse again!”
“Wait here,” Sirius told Lily in an undertone, before moving into James’ line of vision. “Hey Prongs, the fun has arrived!”
Even from where she stood, Lily clearly heard a snarl which was followed by James’ voice; “Fun my foot, would you care to explain why you disappeared like that Sirius Orion Black?”
Sirius merely chuckled; “Oh Prongsie, I’m betting with you right now, you won’t be angry once you see your fabulous surprise.”
Then came the words Lily had been dreading; “Miss Surprise, that’s your cue.” With a nervous gulp, she too left the safety of the shadows and stopped at a safe distance from James’ bed.
The latter rubbed his eyes disbelievingly and mumbled something that sounded like; “I have got to be hallucinating again, this is too amazing to be real!”
He looked at Sirius pleadingly, in a way that said; “Bring me back to reality mate, this is so perfect it isn’t fair.”
But Sirius just grinned and said; “I solemnly swear that you are not hallucinating at this moment in time Prongs.”
Lily knew she had to move closer in order to convince James that he wasn’t dreaming. Slowly she approached the bed and said gently; “This isn’t a dream James, I promise you I’m really here.”
Gradually he met her gaze and she felt her heart break at the amount of pain reflected in his eyes. Slowly, as if it was a struggle to get the words out, he said; “But Lily, why would you come up here? You hate me.”
She looked pained for a moment; she couldn’t deny that she had said she hated him in anger at the Quidditch party, but the fact was; she hadn’t meant a word of what she had yelled at him that night.
“I know you probably won’t believe this, but I didn’t mean what I said that day at the party. I’m really sorry for what I said,” she said quietly, unable to meet his gaze now. An awkward silence followed, because apparently he couldn’t look at her either. What seemed like an eternity later, she decided enough was enough and reached for his hand, having sat down beside him on the bed.
“Hey it took a lot of nerve for me to come up here, can you at least look at me, Jamie?” she asked teasingly, even as she wondered why on earth she had just called him by a nickname which was kind of cute, but which she highly doubted anyone had used on him before.
If only she had turned around, she would have seen Sirius shaking his head violently at that simple sentence. She found out the hard way, that that particular nickname evidently had deeper meaning to James. The instant she finished her sentence, he gasped and moaned; “Ah no, please not Jamie! Call me anything you like except Jamie, I beg of you!”
Before she could do more than wonder why a simple name got him so worked up, he turned away again and buried his head in his pillow, so that muffled sobs were all she could hear. She gaped and turned helplessly to Sirius, asking him with her eyes only, what she had done wrong. He gestured mutely at the door, indicating he would explain once they were safely outside, apparently he felt speechless while in the same room as his upset best friend.
Luckily, Madam Pomfrey arrived on the scene at that moment, so they could leave, knowing that James was in safe hands.