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Foul Play by Aetherwyn
Chapter 3 : Of Banshees and Scrofungulus
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 24


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Disclaimer: I don’t own stuff J.K. Rowling made. Or other things I might reference. Which is why I’m poor.

 





 

Chapter Three



Of Banshees and Scrofungulus

 

"So, you just add the ginger roots, and stir -- slowly -- three times counter clockwise, and... For the love of Merlin, Potter, what are you doing?" I sighed, snapping the Potions book shut with all remnants of my patience.

James Potter was staring at me with a look of utmost concentration on his face, just like he had been for the PAST FIFTEEN MINUTES. Staring. Incessantly. I don’t even think he blinked.

Unless I had a drooble of pumpkin pie on my chin (which I most certainly did not; I oh-so-subtly checked my reflection in the cauldron, and I was definitely drooble-free), there was no excuse to just stare like that. Still, for whatever reason, his eyes were focused intently, and damn it, he was wearing that typical, insufferable smirk of his that made it impossible to tell what he was actually thinking.

Probably something vulgar. Or how he likes to steal newborns and eat them for breakfast. Who knows.

Either way, staring is rude. But I guess when you're the son of the savior to all mankind and one of the best Quidditch players in Britain, no one really cares about that sort of thing.

And yet everyone still wonders why I hate people.

"Hold still, hold still. Stop talking," he said quietly, still staring. His face was only about a foot away from mine, and I could almost see my reflection in his dark brown eyes.

I resisted the urge to shove my quill in them.

“I’ll hold still if you tell me what the hell you’re doing,” I scowled, sending over one of my high-voltage fear-inducing glares his way. Like I was ever going to listen to anything he told me. That would be a recipe for disaster if I’d ever heard one, Merlin’s bloody beard.

He sighed, like I was the one who was being difficult. Git. "I'm trying to count your freckles. Right now I’m at one hundred an--”

Oh, Rowena.

"POTTER!" I shouted, letting out a strangled noise vaguely resembling the mating call of a hippogriff in heat.

He smiled up at me innocently, a laugh hovering at the corners of his lips. Yeah, innocent my arse. “Yes, Cartwright?”

I gritted my teeth, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “Nothing,” I finally said, voice tight. No way was I going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me lose it completely. Wanker. “Can you please just focus? I’ve still got a lot to do tonight, and it’s getting late.”

His dimples flashed. “Your wish is my command, darling.”

... Really, though?

My knuckles turned white as I clutched the edges of the table, wishing I could be bashing him with a beater’s bat instead.

“Thanks,” I smiled tightly.

“Oh, sure, no problem,” he grinned again, obviously enjoying my discomfort.

Arse.

I took another deep breath. “So, like I was saying, you just stir three times --”

“Counterclockwise, I know. And then you add the unicorn horn, stir three times clockwise, and if you didn’t fuck it up, it should be ‘lilac.’ Whatever the hell color that is,” he said, shrugging.

I blinked.

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not an idiot, Cartwright. You went over this earlier. I remember.”

“Could have fooled me,” I muttered, even though I knew he wasn’t. Louder, I added, “If you’ve understood that tonight, that should be -- be --” I sneezed into my elbow, once, twice, three times.

Merlin, I hate sneezes. They tickle my nose.

Potter raised his eyebrows. “Gesundheit,” he grinned, running his hand through his hair.

“That should be sufficient,” I finished, ignoring him.

“Ahh, Cartwright, trying to get rid of me already?” he said, pouting dramatically. “You wound me deeply.”

“Somehow I think you’ll make it,” I said dryly, cleaning up the table and putting my books away.

“How could you doubt me so?!” He gasped, placing his hand over his heart and sighing heavily.

I rolled my eyes and headed for the door, perfectly happy to ignore him forever and ever and ever.

Alas, the fates hate me.

Potter jogged to catch up with me, throwing an arm over my shoulders.

… his arm. On my shoulders. A heavy, and warm, and rather well muscled, actually strike that, no it’s not, not at all, scrawny arm, such a scrawny arm, but most importantly, it’s ON MY SHOULDERS. TOUCHING ME.

I DO NOT LIKE TO BE TOUCHED.

“We’ve got to head up to the seventh floor, Cartwright, so we might as well go together. It’s stupid to walk ten paces behind each other the whole way.” He said, playing with my hair. I swallowed, trying to keep my heart from flying up in my chest and hitting my esophagus. That could get messy.

“Potter, I know that you’re an absolute prick who thinks he owns the world because your mummy and daddy just so happened to save it, and that said world would be much better off without you in it, but if you want to make it up to your common room alive,” I snapped, voice frosty. “I suggest that you remove your arm from my shoulders and respect my personal space. Now.”

He was silent a moment before he shrugged, removing his arm. “Sure thing, love.”

He was quiet the rest of the way back.

I think it was the silence that got to me. Or maybe it was the way he avoided looking at me. Either way, I frowned, feeling an uncomfortable squeeze in my chest.

Oh, Merlin. Oh, no. This couldn’t be right.

I was feeling guilty.

Damn it.

I glanced away from him, scratching the back of my head. I looked at the ground. The stones were not helpful. I looked at the ceiling. It did not have any answers. I looked at a portrait of a wizened old man on my right. He just shook his head at me.

THANK YOU OLD MAN, I KNOW I HAVE NO HEART.

It was still quiet.

A group of Slytherin second years passed us on the stairwell, giggling madly. When they left, it seemed even quieter.

DAMN. IT.

I drummed my fingers on the side of my robes and risked a glance at Potter. He still seemed a little down.

Not like it was a big deal. Everyone has down moments, right?

I frowned again.

I bit my lip.

THIS WAS SO UNCOMFORTABLE FEELING.

After what seemed like hours of walking in painful silence, we made it to the seventh floor. He had to go left. I had to go right.

He went left. I went right.

He turned out of sight.

My forehead started to hurt from frowning so much.

Well, it was probably for the best, anyway. He probably wasn’t even in a bad mood because of me. Lots of things could have happened in that.. short.. time period.. between our argument and his brooding.. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t said worse to him...

Anyway, I was almost at the Ravenclaw tower. It didn’t matter anymore.. I could just.. say sorry later. Or never. Never’s better. It’s not like it was even my fault! Right? Right.



Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Yeah, that’s right. I turned around and started sprinting after Potter. The portraits chortled at me. I flipped them my very own Head Girl Finger ™ to be polite.

“POTTER!” I shouted once I could see him, standing right in front of the Gryffindor Common Room entrance. Bloody hell, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d actually missed him. All that wasted dignity for nothing. “Potter,” I said again once I was next to him, catching my breath.

He turned and couldn’t even keep the blatant surprise off of his face.

Gee, thanks.

“Cartwright? Is something wrong? Are you okay?” He asked quickly, concern marring his features as his eyes flitted all over me, checking for injuries.

Damn. Way to make me feel worse.

“No, I, uh.. I’m fine.” I mumbled, staring at my right shoe. It was very interesting, all black and shiny and so much better than the left shoe and oh my god this is so awkward. Damn my guilty conscience.

He stared at me, clearly unsure as to what I was doing.

Yeah, Potter. You and me both.

I took a deep breath. “Look, I.. I.. I’m... sorry.. for flipping out on you earlier.” I couldn’t look at him. Oh my Merlin. My face felt hotter than the sun. “It was.. bitchy, and you didn’t deserve it. And I also kind of wanted to thank you for bringing me dinner. I don’t know how you even knew that I’d skip, but it was really.. uh.. nice of you....” I shifted back and forth on my feet.

He didn’t say anything.

Swallowing my pride, I glanced up at his face.

His smile was smaller than usual; his lips were closed, his dimples weren’t even that pronounced. But when I met his eyes, my heart skipped a beat. I’d never seen that expression on his face before. Ever. He tended to be smirking around me, or yelling, but.. but.. this..

I looked away quickly, feeling really exposed. Too exposed. This was dangerous territory. I needed to get out of here.

He seemed to notice. “Thanks, Cartwright,” he finally said. “I’m sorry for provoking you, too.”

“Nah,” I shrugged, staring at a dot to the left of his head. “Don’t worry about it. It was all me. I had no right to say that to you.”

His shoulders lifted and dropped. “You were just saying what you think about me. It’s not like you can help it if it happens to be negative.”

Another special-order arrow of guilt to my gut.

“No,” I said, quietly. “I don’t really think that. You may be annoying, but you’re not that bad.”

He then smiled that smile at me. You know the one. The one that makes you feel like you’re the only two people in the world, like nothing else matters.

I gulped.

“You’re not so bad yourself, Cartwright.” His tone was light. “Now, hurry up and get back to your little eagle’s nest. I know you’ve got a lot to do tonight, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, thanks for coming all the way over here to apologize.”

Oh, bloody hell. Don’t remind me.

“Uh.. yeah... sure. No problem,” I smiled weakly at him, and he smiled sincerely back. “See ya.”

“Good night, Cartwright,” he said, and with a word to the Fat Lady, disappeared into his common room.

I stood frozen in the corridor for a moment, reality finally settling in.

… what the hell did I just do?

 

 

 

**********

 

 

 

“What the hell was I thinking?” I moaned, head dropping with a thud onto the oaken table. Dom looked worriedly at me and attacked me with a ferocious bear hug that almost cut off my oxygen supply. Briar just laughed.

“I think you’re a masochist, Loles,” she said, matter-of-fact. “Otherwise you’d never take so many fucking N.E.W.T.s. You’re bats. Actually, now that I think about it, it explains a lot.”

“Be nice,” Dom reprimanded sternly, ever the mother figure. Turning to me, she asked, “How much sleep did you get last night, Lola?”

“Uh...” I groaned, nuzzling down into my arms. Why is it always so bright in the great hall? “I don’t know. Pretty late. Nothing too crazy, though.”

I got forty-five minutes of sleep. Again.

… it’s best not to let Dom worry about these things.

“Right,” Briar said. She and Dom looked at each other.

“Don’t worry, guys. I’ve been brewing some rejuvenating potion for myself. It helps a lot.” I smiled encouragingly at them.

“I know you’re a potions whizz, Lola, but even you should know they don’t cure everything. You have to get rest every now and then or you’ll run yourself dry.” Dom said, blue eyes bright with concern. I smiled at her and ruffled her hair, a habit I picked up from Adam. I’m pretty sure she’s the only person I’m ever openly affectionate to, she’s just that sweet.

“I love you, Dominique Weasley. Thanks for worrying about me. I promise I’ll get sleep tonight.” Lies, lies. But I don’t want to make her worry even more.

It’s not like I can help getting so little sleep, really ("I can sleep when I'm dead" is currently my unofficial motto). I just have so much going on right now, it’s just so.. inconvenient. I mean, with Head Girl duties I’m up patrolling every night and organizing school events and prefects meetings; and then as Quidditch Captain I’m up late coming up with new plays, reviewing all the other teams’ stats and techniques, leading practices for the team, and practicing on my own separately, too; and then with all my N.E.W.T.s classes (everything offered but Care of Magical Creatures and Divination), I’m just... tired. Very tired.

I don’t mean to complain. I really don’t. I’m happy with my life. I would be upset if I didn’t have these things going on.

But still, it gets...

“Hey, guys.” Adam grinned, plopping down next to us. He’s a morning person. I wish he’d die. “You look like hell, Loles. Late night?”

I glared wordlessly at him, but four my sneezes kind of ruined the dramatic effect. Bullocks.

“Don’t pick on her, Adam,” Dom protested, poking him in the stomach in punishment (he’s notoriously ticklish) and turning to me again. “Sneezing again? Are you sure you’re not coming down sick?”

I shook my head. “It’s just a side effect of the potion I’m using, no big deal.”

She frowned again, and feeling bad, I changed the subject.

“So, uh... how’d --”

“Oh, bloody hell!” Briar said, her voice gratingly loud. I bet she was doing it on purpose. She’s mean. I put a moulding spell on her doughnut when she wasn’t looking. “I forgot to ask you how your date with Potter went last night.” I saw Adam stiffen in front of me, and almost said something, but my newfound hatred for Briar distracted me. “Did he admit his love for you yet?”

She laughed at my expression.

I hadn’t told Briar or Dom about the argument I had with Potter... or the fact that I’d actually apologized to him. They would have had a field day. Not something I ever want to have to deal with.

Ever.

“Don’t call it a date. And anyway, it was nothing new,” I said, shrugging nonchalantly. “Potter was an arse, he didn’t really need my help, etcetera, etcetera.”

Dom sighed, leaning on Adam’s shoulder and looking over at the Gryffindor table, even though Potter wasn’t there. “He’s really not that bad, Lola. I don’t know why you force yourself to hate him so much.”

“I don’t!” I protested. And, honestly, I really don't hate him, even if I say I do sometimes. He just... gets under my skin, and enjoys doing it. I'm sorry, but why would I want some arrogant bastard like that as a friend? “Come on, he acts like such a pretentious arse around me.”

“She’s got a point,” Adam said. I beamed at him. Good ole Adam, I can always count on him to take my side.

He looked taken aback by the glares Dom and Briar sent him. “What?! It’s true.”

“Maybe it used to be,” Dom said, picking her head off his shoulder in some sort of Anti-Adam Protest. “But he hasn’t been like that for a few years now.”

“He insults her all the time!” he continued heatedly.

“Yeah!” I put in, a bit lamely in comparison.

“Not in a mean way. He just wants her attention,” Briar said. She took another bite of her now-mouldy doughnut and spat it out all over the table.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” The underclassmen sitting a few seats down from us turned and stared, wide-eyed. I couldn’t stop laughing. “Fuck you, Lola.”

But she was laughing, too.

Adam chuckled. “Oh, do you remember that time Lola...”

I tuned them out, pleased with my own victory. Operation: Change of Topic was a success.

Not that it mattered, anyway. The bell rang a few minutes later, signaling the start of classes. I groaned. “I don’t want to go to Ancient Runes. Trade places with me, anyone?”

They chuckled at my misfortune.

Bitches.

 

**********

 

Later that day, I headed to the library. I’ve always been a fan of the musty old smell and vaulted ceilings, but I’d been spending a particular amount of time in here the past few years. One would think that the Ravenclaw Common Room would be quiet, with most students studying, or something, but.. no. Not at all.

Ravenclaw stereotypes are so far off the mark.

I opened up the doors to my favorite room in the building, breathing in deeply. Books just smell so, so good.

Judge all you want.

My usual table was by one of the windows, in a comfortable corner no one ever really goes to since it’s far away from the books most underclassmen tend to browse through. When I came up to the usually-deserted table, however, I noticed someone sitting there. My face broke out into a grin.

“Little Davies!” I greeted, plopping down in the seat across from the one occupied by Benjamin Davies, Adam’s little brother. “What’s up?”

Ben Davies is a sixth year Ravenclaw, but extremely different from his brother in most other aspects. Where Adam is outgoing almost to a fault, and on good terms with everyone, Ben is... a little colder, awkward, and hard to get along with. I don’t know why people get put off as much as they do, though; he really is a great guy underneath everything. He’s just shy.

He jumped a little at my voice. “Oh, hey, Lola,” he said once he looked up, smiling crookedly.

“What’s got you so absorbed?” I asked, peering over at his parchment. “Oh, Divination? Lameee.”

Man, I hated that class.

He rolled his eyes. “You should have continued taking it after your O.W.L. Trelawney doesn’t do the course justice; it’s actually pretty fascinating stuff when Firenze teaches.”

“Okay, whatever you say,” I grinned, before sneezing a few times. “Bloody ‘effin hell, if I sneeze one more time I’m going to … to... err, well, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it will be impulsive and therefore stupid.”

Ben furrowed his brow. “Are you sick?”

Merlin, I did not want to get into this again.

“Nah, it’s just this side effect of this potion I’m taking,” I shrugged.

He turned serious, then, and his face searched mine. “You look like shit,” he said. It was the same thing his brother said to me earlier, but... when Ben said it, it wasn’t a joke. Fan-bloody-tastic.

“Thanks, Ben,” I quipped, rolling my eyes. “You’re so sweet. Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

His face was unmoved. “Don’t try to change the subject, Lola. You really need to get more rest. Don’t neglect your health like that.”

Did I mention that Ben wants to be a healer? Yeah. It has its downsides.

“Okay, dad,” I said before I could stop myself.

He turned faintly red and stared down at his paper, and I felt bad. Ben’s the kind of guy you can’t tease too much; he takes it a little seriously, doesn’t have any self-confidence.

“I’m just kidding, little Davies. Don’t worry about it.” He smiled at me, then, and went back to his work without saying anything. The two of us are like that; we study a lot together like this, so we’ve sort of developed a friendship that doesn’t need words. Simple, quiet understanding. It's nice.

I unpacked all my notes and sighed lightly, starting with my routine: I work through them alphabetically, so I begin with Ancient Runes and finish with Transfiguration. Still, something was bugging me, so I put down my notes and looked up at Ben.

“Hey, uh..” I sneezed again. Ben looked up. “Have you noticed anything off with Adam lately?”

He looked confused. “Er... no, not really. Why, what’s up?”

I bit my lip. “I don’t know, he just seems... weird. Whenever any of us mention Potter -- the arsewipe Potter, that is, not Al or Lily -- he just kind of.. stiffens.. and gets this really odd expression on his face like he’s constipated, or something. I mean, Adam’s not really good at hiding what he’s feeling, so...” I sneezed. Again. Seriously, I was going to get kicked out of the library if I kept this up. They’re so loud.

Ben gazed into the rows of books, thinking.

He looked like a Grecian statue. I was impressed.

“I can’t think of anything,” he said. But once the words were out of his mouth, I could tell they were a lie.

Davies boys really can’t lie for shit.

Still, if he didn’t want to say anything, he had to have a reason, and I had to respect that. “Oh, okay!” I said brightly. “Just let me know if you figure anything out, okay? I’m worried about him. It’s not like him.”

Ben smiled up at me, content that I believed him. “Sure, no problem.”

We got back to work.

 

 


**********

 

 



Damn it.

My eyes refused to open. It felt like there was paste gluing them shut.

I heard some muffled noises in the background. I would have told the noises to shut up, but I couldn’t really talk. My mouth was shut, too.

Oh, my Merlin. I’m not dead, am I? I AM TOO YOUNG TO DIE.

Suddenly, I felt a jet of water splash on my face, and I shot out of my bed like it was crawling with cockroaches. “WHAT THE BLOODY HELL --”

“It’s about time you got up,” Briar drawled, twirling her wand around for dramatic effect. “You’re going to be late if you don’t hurry your arse up.”

I groaned.

Last week Adam forced me to call off my morning practices with him. I normally would have argued with him (and gotten my way, quite frankly), but (a) two practices a day were killing me, and (b) since we’re getting further into the school year, I’ve had more work from all my classes; even when cutting out a Quidditch practice, I’m still only getting an hour or less of sleep per night, sometimes no sleep at all.

Thus, no more morning practices. I’m still not used to getting up at seven.

Dom walked in from the bathroom, brushing her already perfect blond hair. She shook her head at me. “I wanted to let you sleep, but Briar figured you would have killed us if you missed your classes, so...”

I rushed into the bathroom, casting them a quick, grateful grin. “No, guys, you have no idea how much I appreciate this.”

“All right, well... we’re off to Care of Magical Creatures, okay?”

“Yarggh, shuure,” I gargled, in the process of brushing my teeth. “Baaaaii.”

They left.

I didn’t remind them that, technically speaking, this is one of my free periods. I knew they’d order me to go back to sleep. But unfortunately for me, it’s not truly a “free period”; since I had to miss our appointment in the Dungeons last Tuesday because I was so busy with schoolwork (and since I found out last week that Potter’s got a free period right now, too) Gwen told us to make it up.. now.

I am overjoyed with happiness, can’t you tell?

Ugh.

I sighed, glancing at my clock. Almost late. Fan-freaking-tastic.

Well, at least I don’t care if Potter sees me looking like a pile of dung. Pulling on some sweats over my pajamas, I hauled arse to the empty classroom we’d decided to meet in, without even looking in a mirror once.

So, uh.. Lookin’ a little rough, I imagine.

Potter didn’t look up when I entered the classroom. “Always a pleasure, Cartwright.”

I don’t know what I expected, really, since it was the first time I’d spoken to him since I apologized. Still, I was relieved he didn’t think things had.. changed at all. No air kisses to speak of.

“Morning,” I grumbled, plopping down on the chair next to him. My head felt a little woozy at the sudden movement, and I placed my hands on the table to steady myself.

Potter looked up, curious. “Hey, are you --- “ He broke off and, unabashedly, laughed his arse off. “Holy Harpies, Cartwright, you look like you got run over by a hippogriff!”

Okay, okay, I get it.

“Thanks,” I grumbled, rubbing my temples. My head hurt. It hurt it hurt it hurt. “I got up late. Are you going to make me feel like dung all morning, or can we just cut to the chase?”

He stopped laughing. “Seriously, Cartwright, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” I said, flatly.

It seriously fucking hurt, what the hell what the hell what the hell. Owww.

“Lola, I don’t think --”

“I’m fine, Potter. Drop it.”

I didn’t even notice that he called me by my first name.

He stared at me for several moments before sighing. Reaching to his feet, he picked up another basket similar to the one he’d gotten me the first time I tutored him, but smaller. “Here,” he said, sliding it towards me. “Breakfast. Eat.”

I opened my mouth to say a very surprised thank you (getting me food once is one thing.. getting it twice is habit, and I was a bit disconcerted) when something clicked.

Eat.. eat.. oh, eat.

I’d forgotten.

I grabbed my bag, shuffling through it until I found the compartment: the tiny flask containing my anti-exhaustion rejuvenating potion. I immediately opened the flask and took a long swag, not even offering Potter an explanation. Tears almost sprang to my eyes -- almost, but not quite -- when my piercing headache faded to a dull thrum in my temples.

I sighed.

“It’s a rejuvenating potion I’ve been making for myself,” I finally said. I cast him a tired smile. “Thanks for the breakfast, Potter. You didn’t have to bring me food again.” I peeked into the basket, and found, yet again, that he’d somehow gotten all my favorites. I bet Dom and Briar had squealed, those nefarious little attempted-matchmakers. It’s not like I didn’t see what they were up to.

Rolling my eyes again, I went to go grab one of the biscuits, when my vision suddenly swarmed.

What the --

My sense of balance vanished, and I felt terrified for a moment as I felt myself -- felt, but almost like I was watching from afar and couldn’t stop it -- falling from my chair onto the floor.

Black dots swam in front of my eyes, but I knew the impact hadn’t come. I felt someone holding me, Potter, I guess (damn, that would be humiliating later), and I looked up at him, but I could only see a vague outline before I faded into black completely.

 

 

 

**********

 

 

 

It smelled gross.

Also, it tasted gross.

IT TASTED REALLY FUCKING GROSS WHAT IS GOING ON.

I opened my eyes. I immediately wished I hadn’t.

There was a fucking banshee looming over me. A banshee.

WHAT.

“...!” I screamed. Except since there was this disgusting Merlin-knows-what liquid death being stuffed down my throat by said banshee, the scream was more like a choke.

“Oh, dear,” the banshee tsked, as if commenting on the weather. Happy weather. Like rainbows and 19.4 degrees Celsius weather. The good stuff. The kind you should skip around in with the theme from A Summer Place playing in the background.

“...” I gurgled in terror.

“I know it tastes like feet, dear, but you’ve got to swallow. You’re turning purple,” the banshee said.

I swallowed.

“What -- what-- where --” I panicked. My vision was still sort of spinning, and except for the banshee, I had no idea where I was. What had I even been doing before... before...

“Calm down, Miss Cartwright. It’s fine. You’re in the hospital wing right now. It seems like you fell unconscious earlier.” The dots swimming in my eyes seemed to fade as she continued talking, and, sure enough, the banshee was no banshee at all, but... the Hogwarts nurse, Madame Strudwick.

Well. It’s probably a common mistake.

… I made a quick mental apology.

“Oh, err... thank you.” I mumbled, turning a bit red. What had I been doing? What time was it? Was it the middle of the day? Sweet circe, I had classes. I had Quidditch.

I seriously did not have time for this.

Of course, once I tried to get up out of the bed, the pleasant smile on Madame Strudwick’s face turned into a hard, flat line. “Easy there, sweetie. You’ve been out for a while -- you need your rest. You did some serious damage to your body by relying on that potion to carry you through the school year. You should have known it’s only good in moderation,” she tutted, walking briskly across the Hospital Wing to the shelves by her office. “It wouldn’t have been quite so bad, of course, but coupled with a case of Scrofungulus, your body couldn’t handle the stress and simply... shut down.”

But her speech fell on deaf ears.

“Uh... how long is ‘a while,’ exactly?” I asked, dreading the answer. Maybe only a few hours. I could deal with a few hours. As long as I could make it to Quidditch practice, everything would be fine. I couldn’t afford to miss one of those -- our Quidditch match against Hufflepuff was coming up in less than two weeks.

“Four days,” she sighed, grabbing some sort of pot and coming back over to me.

Four days.

Four days of... of... lying around in the Hospital Wing.

Four days of missed classes. Four days of missed Quidditch practices. Four days of... of..

Oh, bloody hell. I was going to be sick.

I leaned over the bed railing and was about to spew the contents of my stomach onto the floor -- which, judging from the fact that I’d been out of it for FOUR FUCKING DAYS, was presumably nothing but health potions and my sanity -- but Madame Strudwick was there, holding the pot under my mouth.

My puke was purple.

Oh, ew.

I gagged.

“That’s it, that’s it,” Strudwick said soothingly, rubbing my back. “Get it all out. It should over soon. Nasty side effect of the potion I just gave you. Helps clear out the bug.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. Oh, Rowena, it hurt.

“Shh... shh.. that’s it, you’ll be fine. It’ll be over soon.” She smiled kindly at me, and I briefly wondered if that’s what mothers were supposed to be like. How they were supposed to smile at their sick kid.

Like my mum would ever hold my hair back as I hurled. She usually just walked away, ordering me to clean it up when I was done.

Which, you know, was great. Especially for a kid who can’t use magic outside of Hogwarts.

Real sweet, my mum.

“See? All over. That should take care of the Scrofungulus, at least.” She patted my back. “Scourgify.”

Wait, what? Scrofungulus? I was sick?

… well, I guess that would explain the sneezing, then. Oops.

“Here’s some water,” Strudwick continued, giving me a small glass. “You can use it to wash out the taste and stomach acid.”

I took it gratefully, swished it around my mouth, and swallowed. The burning in my throat eased up a bit, and I fell back into my pillows in relief.

Only to start panicking all over again.

Four days.

“So, uh, when can I get out of here? Soon, right? You said that should have taken care of the Scrofungulus.” I flashed her my Head Girl Grin ™ just in case she needed to be convinced of my bountiful health and vitality and charm.

She rolled her eyes and pulled the bed covers back over me. “Nice try, Miss Cartwright. You need to stay here for a few more days.”

Say what.

“Like I said, you exhausted your body to the point of collapsing. You’ll never be able to fully heal your sleep debt, of course, but that doesn’t mean that you can just get back to work -- you need rest. Lots of it.”

Oh, no. Nonononononono. No.

This could not be happening. I couldn’t do this. I had to --

“But, Madame Strudwick,” I protested politely, beam still in place. I pinched my cheeks when she wasn’t looking to try and bring color to them, since, judging from the way I felt, they were about as pale as the stark white bedsheets I was currently wrapped in. “I really do feel fine -- I heal a lot faster than most people.” Not exactly true, but the lies were necessary. I turned up the intensity of my rather dazzling smile. “Of course, I think most of my remarkable progress can be attributed to your talents, Madame Strudwick.”

Ah, that is some quality hippogriff dung.

But I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

She snorted.

SNORTED.

“Nothing you say will get you out of here early, Cartwright.” she laughed, dismissing me completely. She shook her head. “Merlin, you two are perfect for each other.”

Err, what?

I must have accidentally dropped my Head Girl Grin ™ and given her an expression equally as befuddled as I felt, because she elaborated, “You and James Potter. He tries to schmooze me into getting out of here early all the time, too.” She chuckled again.

Oh, bloody hell. Not her too.

Just avada kedavra me now.

“Though I must say, when he carried you in here on Thursday, it was the most emotional I’d ever seen the poor boy. He was nearly beside himself with worry -- he wouldn’t even leave your side until Headmistress McGonagall came down and forced him to go to class, and he’s been here every spare minute he gets. He’s the one who conjured those flowers for you on the table there.” She motioned to a bouquet of orange roses and some kind of lily on my right. “That’s one sweet boyfriend you’ve found yourself.” Strudwick winked conspiratorially at me.

I felt like I was going to be sick again.

“Uh, no -- he’s not my boyfriend,” I corrected hastily, my cheeks flaming. Oh, bloody hell. I hate my life.

“Huh? Oh, I get it -- you don’t want everyone to know. Quidditch rivalry, and all. But don't worry, sweetheart. I’ll keep it a secret.” She winked again. “But for now, I need you to stay here and get some rest. I’m sure he’ll come visit again soon, don’t worry.”

And she bustled off into her office before I could even get in another word of protest.

I promptly turned over and shouted muffled expletives into my pillow.

Seriously?

SERIOUSLY?

WHY DO THESE THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME?

WHAT DO THE FATES HAVE AGAINST ME?

I glared at the bouquet. The rather pretty bouquet that I definitely did not like. I hated it so much. It was really, really pretty. So ugly. Stupid flowers. Stupid Potter. Stupid Strudwick.

Before I knew it, I was up again and holding the vase in my hands, breathing in.

They were so beautiful.

“Like my flowers, Cartwright?”

I was so horrified that I almost dropped them on the floor.

James Potter was leaning against the door to the hospital wing, presumably trying to channel some swag. I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t fight off the guilty, telltale blush that seemed permanently attached to my cheeks.

Well, when cornered, always resort to Quidditch 101: the best defense is a good offense.

“I heard you nearly wet yourself when I went under, Potter.” I grinned, trying to come across the right expression for ‘smug.’ My face felt stiff. “That worried about me?”

He walked forward. His eyes were darker than usual. “Yeah. I was,” he said. His voice was serious. Too serious. It was only when he sat at the edge of my bed and I could see him clearly that I realized that his eyes weren’t dark -- they were just surrounded by huge, dark circles.

I swallowed.

“Well, no big deal,” I said, laughing awkwardly. What the hell was wrong with me? With him? “I’m fine, see? So you don’t have to try so hard to be nice.”

He still stared at me, so intensely I felt my skin crawling from the heat of his gaze.

“I’m fine,” I repeated again, looking down at my hands. I could see the blue veins through my skin.

Holy hippogriff, I was pale. That couldn’t be good.

“You are going to kill me some day, Cartwright,” he finally said, running his hand through his hair.

I looked up in annoyance to say, ‘Yeah, on the Quidditch Pitch,’ but the expression on his face froze me in place.

What... what...

He needed to stop. To stop staring at me like that.

He finally cracked a smile, a small one. Humorless. “Do you have any idea how fucking terrified I was? To see you just collapse in front of me...” He broke off, frustrated. I didn’t dare to move. I couldn’t. “Cartwright, you’ve got to take better care of yourself. You have no idea how worried -- how worried your friends were. They care about you. You should have relied on them more, shouldn’t have worked yourself to death like that -- you could have seriously gotten hurt!” His eyes were dark, stormy, furious. 

I felt like a child in the wake of his anger, felt my throat constrict. I couldn’t look at him.

“I’m...” I said quietly, voice weak. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.” 

I heard him sigh, and I looked up. Just like that, his anger seemed to visibly be melting away from his face, and this time it was a tired smile that took its place.

“Bloody hell, you gave us a scare.” He shook his head and reached out to ruffle my hair, which -- oh jeez -- was probably greasy. Four days without a shower. Fantastic.

He didn’t seem to notice.

We sat there in silence for a few moments, and, uncomfortable, I wracked my brain for some small talk.

“What time is it?” I finally asked, glancing out the windows. Either early morning or late evening, it was hard to tell.

“Dinner just ended,” he answered, and a true grin stretched across his face for the first time. “And since I figured you might be getting up sometime soon, I decided to keep up my tradition.” And with a flourish, he produced a clear container filled with... chicken legs.

Thank Merlin. I was contemplating eating my bedpost, I was so hungry.

“Uh... thanks,” I said, smiling up at him. It was kind of hard to be mean to a guy who brought you chicken legs.

He seemed taken aback.

“You know, I’m almost insulted. I am not that much of a bint,” I muttered, staring down at the chicken, feeling exposed, face red.

Again.

I hate freckly complexions.

He grinned at me, not missing a beat. “‘Course not, Cartwright. You’re about as sweet as a Falmouth Falcon.”

“Oh, gee, thanks. I’m so flattered,” I answered dryly, rolling my eyes and taking a bite of the chicken to distract myself from his unwavering scrutiny. “So...” I said after a bite, deciding to broach a subject that had been bothering me ever since Strudwick had brought it up. “You... carried me in here.. when I fell?”

Which I would never, ever be able to live down if anyone other than Strudwick found out about it.

Namely, Dom and Briar.

DEAR WIZARD GODS, I BEG YOU, TAKE PITY ON ME FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE.

Potter finally glanced away from my face, and I relaxed for a moment, until -- wait -- no -- was that.. was he.. blushing? HOLY SHIT, HE WAS BLUSHING. RIGHT? RIGHT?! “Err,” he mumbled.

“You know,” I teased, not being able to help myself, “you could have just levitated me, genius.”

But I should have known that James Sirius Potter never stays down for long.

“Ah, and miss a chance to cop a feel? Never,” he leered, grinning cheekily at me.

Now it was my turn for my face to turn as red as a thousand suns.

“What?! You.. you... pervert!” I accused, scandalized.

I felt violated.

Very, very violated.

Potter, of course, found my insistence on placing my arms protectively over my chest to be fuel for his games, and began waggling his eyebrows at me suggestively.

“Don’t worry, Cartwright -- you’ve got a great pair,” he laughed, dodging out of the way of my conveniently wayward pillow.

“POTTER!”

“Of eyes, that is. Green like... celery. What, what did you think I was talking about? Get your mind out of the gutter, Cartwright, Merlin!” He mock-scolded, his dark eyes bright with mirth.

Where was my wand? I WAS GOING TO HEX HIM UNTIL HE WAS OOZING PUS FROM ALL OF HIS PORES.

“Oh, no you don’t,” he said when I made a move to grab for my wand, having noticed it resting beside the bouquet. He lunged at me as my hand was mere inches from my wand, and pushed it away -- right into the bouquet.

It was flying off the table in less than a second. My mouth dropped open in horror, and before I knew it, I was using every ounce of strength left in my body to spring out of the bed and grab the vase right before it hit the ground, collapsing on the stones with an uncomfortable thud.

Ugh.

That kind of hurt.

“And an amaaaaaazing save by the Ravenclaw keeper, Lola Cartwright!” I laughed, sprawling out on the floor, trying to catch my breath.

I caught Potter’s eye, who was standing above me with his arms crossed over his chest. “You know, you could have just reparo-ed it, genius,” he said, echoing my own words from earlier.

“Maybe,” I agreed lightly. “But I didn’t want the flowers to get crushed.”

I paused. He stared.

“... they’re.. really lovely. Thank you for them,” I mumbled, not moving my gaze from the flowers.

He ran his hand through his hair, grinning down at me. “No problem. I figured you might need something to cheer you up. Now come on,” he said, reaching out a hand to me. “Let’s get you back in bed before Strudwick comes in here in a rampage. She goes crazy if her patients aren’t being properly cared for.”

I hesitated. This was... he was... I mean.. physical contact with other human beings isn’t exactly my thing. Especially with James Potter.

Especially with him.

I took a deep breath, and grabbed hold of his hand.

It wrapped around mine almost gingerly at first, but then squeezed it. It was.. so warm, and so much bigger than mine. He hoisted me to my feet, and, accidentally not letting go of my hand soon enough, dragged me into his chest with the flowers.

I felt... small.

I backed away quickly, cheeks flaming. “Well, thanks.”

He smiled at me, but his eyes were serious, too serious. “Anytime.”

I looked away, pretending to perfect the positioning of the vase on my table, and climbed back into my bed.

I needed to say something.

Anything.

“So, uh, have you seen Dom or Briar? I’d really love to see them. And Adam. I mean --” And then it all came back with a rush.

How the hell did I forget about it for so long?

“Oh, bloody hell. I need to figure out what’s going on with Quidditch practices -- I mean, Hufflepuff -- and my homework -- oh Merlin, four days worth of homework and notes I’ve missed -- and -- “

Potter cut me off, placing his hands on my shoulders and shaking me gently. I froze. “Cartwright, calm down. Calm down.” He took his hands off, and I felt burned. “Everyone’s got you covered -- we all organized it so that there’s someone taking notes for you in all of your classes. You haven’t missed anything. And Adam and Briar have apparently been taking care of your practices, and though they wouldn’t tell me much, they said they’ve just been going according to your planning book.”

Oh, good. Good. They found it.

… wait a minute. How did they find it, exactly? It’s supposed to be hidden from everyone.

Bullocks.

“So relax,” he continued, twirling a strand of my hair through his fingers playfully. “You have nothing to worry about. Just take these few days to rest up, and you’ll be back into the swing of things before you know it.” He paused for a moment, and then bent down and flicked me on the nose.

“What was that for?!” I said, surprised, covering my nose and glaring at him.

“For wrinkling your brow like that. Stop worrying.” He laughed at my expression. “I mean it. Or, how about this -- I dare you to stop worrying.”

My eyes narrowed.

I’ve never been able to turn down a good dare.

“Fine,” I said automatically. “You’re on.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I don’t actually think you can do it -- stop worrying about your responsibilities for a few days and just rest up.“

“Yes I can!” I protested, trying not to sound too defensive.

“Oh, really?” He said lightly, grinning at me. “Then I’ll be checking up on you for the next few days to make sure that you’re following directions.”

“Fine!” I said heatedly. “Check up on me 24/7, I don’t care -- I’ll always be peaceful and serene and healing properly. I’ll win.”

“Sure, whatever you say, Cartwright,” he smirked.

Bastard.

“Now, get to sleep, love.” I opened my mouth to rip into him for the endearment, but he continued, “Oh, I don’t think so -- peacefully healing, remember?”

I shut my mouth.

“Now, get some shut eye, darling. I’ll let your friends know you’re awake now -- but I’ll be back whenever you least expect it. All the time. So you better be following my rules.”

I’m going to kill him.

“Of course!” I beamed at him, falling back into my pillows.

He smirked again, pulled my blankets up to my chin, and kissed me gently on the forehead.

KISSED. FOREHEAD. MINE.

“Sweet dreams, Cartwright,” he laughed, walking out of the Hospital Wing whistling, hands in his pockets.

DEAD. FUCKING. MAN. WALKING.

“Like I said,” I heard Strudwick call from her office, “I won’t tell anyone, dear!”

“Bloody hell,” I moaned, curling up into the fetal position under the covers. My hand drifted to my forehead unconsciously, and I stared at the bouquet on my bedside table.

I felt like I was on fire from head to toe.

Hippogriff dung.

 

 












 


A/N: So.. I’m back? XD Please forgive me if I’m a little rusty, or it it’s not as funny as usual! It’s been... oh, man, over a year since I updated this. And it’s only the third chapter! *coughs* But I’m so, so, so sorry. I haven’t had time to write AT ALL lately . But I promised I wouldn’t give up on this story, so even if it takes me til I’m 90, I’m going to finish. :P


Agh... I give up trying to work with this chapter text editor. It's messed up the spacing and bolding and centering and... I don't even know what. I give up. XD So sorry if it's a little annoying! Anyway, I tried to make it a longer chapter to appease those of you who’ve waited for me for over a year. It might not be that exciting, though; I’m still trying to set the story up for what’s to come in later chapters. :3

ANYWAY. Pleaseee tell me what you think! Is there any big difference between the first two chapters and this one, or do they flow well? Also, how are you liking it? Favorite character? Favorite quote? I really love feedback, because it helps me stay (a) motivated and (b) focused on things that concern or interest you. So please review; I’ll really appreciate it!

Thanks guys, new and old readers both. :)
 



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