The next day was the groups’ first official day as sixth year Hogwarts students. Lessons began straight away after receiving their timetables. Marion and Lily sat together at the front of Potions class, books out and quills ready as Professor Slughorn entered the room. They were geniuses at potions, not only for the reason that Slughorn loved them more than any other students he’d had. The small man rolled in with the usual spring in his step and a smile on his slightly wizened face. His tattered and patched robes pillowed out from his plump frame as he trotted along. He stepped into the middle of the room and addressed the whole class with his croaky voice.
“Welcome back, welcome back. It’s good to see you all back again.” He grinned distractedly, fumbling in his pockets as if he was looking for something. Patting the front of his robes, he stopped his rummaging, seemingly content that he could feel whatever he was looking for underneath. “Today we are going to head straight into the practical work. I trust that at least some of you have read through the potions book for this year? Yes? Good, good. Well today we will be working on the Draught of Living Death so please turn to the appropriate page and begin your practical.”
No sooner had the Professor finished his sentence, Lily and Marion shot out of their seats and began what they referred to as ‘speed-brewing’. As Lily set up the equipment, Marion gathered the ingredients and they both concocted together with such speed, they were done before most of the other groups were even halfway into it. This was routine for them. No one could ever match them in this respect. Even Slughorn was impressed with his two prize students and he dropped a leaf into their cauldron to test it. No sooner had the object touched the surface of the liquid, it dissolved and crumpled until there was nothing there.
“Merlin’s beard!” cried the aging Professor as if it were the first time Lily and Marion had ever got anything perfect. “This is impeccable! Thirty points to Gryffindor!” He was still in a daze and muttering happily to himself as he walked off after he had instructed Lily and Marion to spend the rest of the lesson instructing the others on how to make their potions. Marion huffed and looked over at Lily.
“For God’s sake!” she exasperated. “After all that he doesn’t even let us have the rest of the lesson off! Absolutely bloody ridiculous.”
“Jesus, Marion, we only just got here!” Lily laughed. “Are you really that lazy?” Marion pulled a face.
“Well some of us don’t get off on living and breathing schoolwork.” She sniped. Lily raised an amused eyebrow.
“You do just as well in classes as I do, you know.” She retorted.
“Yeah well that may be but I don’t spend my life with my head in a book.” Marion said as she playfully poked Lily’s side. She then spotted David Berkeley over her shoulder absent-mindedly flicking balls of scrunched up paper at his cauldron. His friend, who sat next to him, seemed to be judging him on how close each one got to falling in. Lily followed her gaze and rolled her eyes at what she was looking at. Typical Marion; she bounces back quicker than a house elf when you mention clothes.
“Go on then.” she nodded towards the two boys. “I’ll help people, you go and entertain yourself. I guess that’s what you do best.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Marion said, giving Lily a quick hug and rushing over to where David sat. Lily looked over her shoulder at her friend, sighing in amusement as she saw her twiddle her hair between her fingers flirtatiously, sitting on the table and leaning over the cauldron to when showing him what to do. Marion looked like she was enjoying herself profusely. She was used to the attention men gave her, and was not complaining one bit as David and his friend regarded her ample chest, then exchanged approving looks. Lily herself would have felt horribly violated at that sort of gesture, but she wasn’t one for blatant flirting. James Potter had been pestering her enough to ruin that for her. With one last roll of her eyes in her friend’s direction, she walked over to two girls whose cauldron was billowing black steam.
Sirius Black, who was bored out of his mind, was occupying his time scribbling onto pieces of parchment before folding them into aeroplanes and sending them shooting in all directions of the room. He let James struggle with the work seeing as Lily was now helping the idiots and he was soon going to need to wave her over. Throwing yet another parchment aeroplane, it landed in front of Marion, who was still sitting on the table in front of David Berkeley. He rolled his eyes at how obvious she was when she was flirting. She was relentless… but then again most of the girls that showed him any attention were pretty relentless too. But this was different. She had just been dumped to the point of beating up the guy and now she was flinging herself at the first person to show a spec of interest. Unbelievable! Sure she was beautiful and smart and funny and sporty and tough but-
Sirius snapped out of his daze and looked up, his eyes widening in shock. Marion had walked over to him and James while he had been staring at her. He hoped she hadn’t noticed because that meant she would think he liked her and that was an open opportunity for piss-taking. In front of him she was holing up an unravelled aeroplane, which held a moving scribble of a wolf howling at the moon. Although with his artistic skill, it could easily have been mistaken for an aardvark trying to snort a giant balloon.
“I take it this belongs to you?” Marion queried with a raised eyebrow. When Sirius looked at her blankly, not saying anything, she screwed it up nonchalantly and threw it away. She then huffed out and annoyed sigh and placed a hand on her hip, the other pointing at their cauldron. “You look like you and James could use some help.” She said.
She wasn’t entirely wrong. Whatever mixture he and James had managed to concoct, it didn’t look too good that it was green and seemed to be breathing. Sirius nodded his head slowly with a less-than-bothered grunt as Marion looked at him with a strange look. At first he wondered why she was so interested in him, and then he realised she was looking past him. Turning around he couldn’t help but let slip a smile at what he saw.
“It seems James has abandoned you to go and harass Lily so if you just stay quiet I can sort out this mess you’ve made.” Marion sighed as she headed off to the store cupboard. Sirius continued to watch his friend. Sure enough, there was James trying the same old material on Lily, who looked completely nauseated as usual. A chuckle administered from his throat as Marion returned with a bundle of ingredients that Sirius didn’t even recognise, let alone know he needed for this potion. He sat in the same spot, not thinking to offer his seat to Marion who was doing all the work, and watched his friends’ failing attempts to make Lily fall for him with much amusement.
Then, he caught a whiff of something. Something pleasant. His animagus form had given him a keen sense of smell, but it was still faint. His eyes rose in the direction of the smell, and they widened in surprise. Marion’s neck was less than two inches from his nose as she leaned over the table to add things to the cauldron. It then became obvious that she was the source of the pleasant smell. The sweet odour was emanating from her neck. He couldn’t help but breathe it in. He wondered what it was that made her smell like that. Without entirely thinking it through – true to form – he let his thoughts slip out without entirely meaning to.
“You smell nice.” He mumbled.
By the time he realised what an idiot he sounded like, he squeezed his eyes shut, hoping she hadn’t heard him. Marion looked at him, a little distracted from her work and not knowing whether or not she had heard him correctly.
“Erm, wh-what was that?” she asked, not sure whether to be offended or flattered. There was no point in lying now. He was pretty sure she heard him and he had no idea how he would be able to cover this one up.
“I er… I said you smell nice. Like – I mean it’s okay. You don’t smell bad or anything. Must be your perfume or something.” He murmured. Marion’s brow wrinkled in confusion.
“I’m um… not wearing any perfume.” Marion’s said awkwardly, pretending that it hadn’t happened and returning her focus to the cauldron. Embarrassment flooded his cheeks red. He hoped with all his might that she was the only one to have heard him, because at the very least it looked like she was going to forget about it. He shrunk back into his seat as Marion continued concocting.
Sirius was kicking himself internally. He had given her the upper hand and new material to use against him. Kissing him on the cheek was nothing compared to him sniffing her neck and telling her she smelt nice. What an absolute idiot! As his eyes darted across the room to find James again, desperate to find someone who was doing worse than him, he was horrified to see him smirking back at him looking back at him. Sirius wanted nothing more than to punch him until he resembled a hob-goblin, but for now a scowl would do. He knew that he had witnessed the encounter and probably couldn’t wait to tease him about it later. He was probably already thinking about telling Peter and Remus.
He was right. After Potions was over, Remus dragged them all to the library to study, and slotted them into a table at the very back. Hiding their conversation behind large, hard-cover books, James was barely able to contain himself as he explain to the other two what had happened, and began the tease-fest as Sirius looked at the floor, bracing himself for the worst. He didn’t want to look up at his friend’s smug little faces.
“Mate, do we even need to tell you how bloody thick you are?” James laughed, causing the others to snigger quietly, not wanting to draw attention to themselves.
“I know, I know.” Sirius mumbled. Peter wheezed as he tried to keep back bellowing fits, Remus hushed him.
“’You smell nice’? Good one, Padfoot. You do realise that she’s never gonna let you forget that.” he continued, his worn face cracking into a wide grin. Sirius just nodded angrily, not making eye contact with any of them.
“How can I possibly not realise that? She’s never let me forget about anything like this before.” He huffed moodily.
“Mate, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think there’s been anything like this before! You have made a right tit out of yourself!” James joked again. A fresh round of chuckles arose.
“Oh, leave me alone!” Sirius groaned, though he knew nothing he could say would shut them up. He buried his face in his hands in an attempt to block them out.
“Well at least now you can admit it.” Peter put in. Sirius’ head snapped up.
“Admit what?” he inquired. All the others’ grins faltered.
“C’mon, mate.” James said. “It couldn’t be more obvious now.”
“What couldn’t?” Sirius asked again.
“Oh, my God.” Remus muttered shaking his head in disapproval as if the answer was as plain as the nose on his face. Sirius was getting really wound up now.
“WHAT?” Sirius burst out angrily. After being shushed by the other inhabitants of the library, James cleared things up.
“Look, it’s obvious you fancy her.” He said. “If she wasn’t already clued up by that show you pulled off in Cali, she probably is now.”
“Wh – you think? You honestly… erm – er n-no.” Was all Sirius could get out at first. After seeing the smug looks again grace the faces of his friends, he found his tongue. He leant in and whispered harshly at them.
“I do NOT fancy Marion Preston. There are a thousand girls out there I’d rather have who actually like me. And if you still don’t believe me, I’m going to have to prove it.”
“Prove it by doing what?” Peter asked. Sirius smirked in satisfaction. Remus was now on red alert. That look never boded well for any of them.
“No. No pranks, Padfoot.” he warned. Sirius sat back, shook his head and opened his arms in mock apology.
“It looks like it’s the only way, Moony old pal.” He said, grinning. “Not my fault you can’t take my word for it.”
“She’ll only retaliate; she’s Marion for Gods’ sake! Is there a worse resolution to this any of you can come up with?” Remus cautioned again, but this time he was completely unacknowledged.
“So, Moony. You’re Preston’s friend. What’s her… least favourite colour?” he quizzed, a plan slowly forming in the back of his mind. Remus shook his head furiously.
“Nope, like you said, I’m her friend. I’m not giving you anything.” He told him superiorly. He was not going to fan this fire.
“Fine,” Sirius continued, crossing his arms across his chest and smiling arrogantly, “I’ll just have to ask James. He’s known her since before she even started Hogwarts and he likes me more so there!” he finished like a child. He turned to James, who was more than willing to divulge the information. He wanted to see what would happen.
“It’s bubble-gum pink. She hates it. Worst colour in the world to her. It’s the colour of all the dresses her mum made her wear to our garden parties. We used to rip them up and get them covered in mud during parties to annoy her –” Sirius cut him off.
“I asked for the colour, not a back story, Prongsie.” He chuckled, causing James and Peter to laugh also. “So you lot think I fancy Preston? Fine. We’ll see what’s what tomorrow.” He said proudly. With that, he got up and strode out of the library with his head held high, leaving his friends at the table.
“Why do you have to always have to pour gasoline over the Mirius fire?” Remus remarked to James. He wrinkled his nose.
“Mirius?” he questioned.
“Marion and Sirius. Mirius. I get bored of saying it so I made it shorter, is that a crime? Anyway don’t change the subject!” Remus snapped.
“Come on, they do this all the time. How bad could it possibly be?” James said, catching himself at the end of his words as if realising suddenly what a mistake he’d made. Remus gave an ‘I told you so’ look.
“Yeah. Famous last words.” He said grimly.