Most of the Hogwarts students are outside, enjoying one of the last days of warm weather. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon that Nautica is loathe to miss. She stares longingly at the lounging students who are currently tipping their heads back to soak in the rays of sun. Having just finished dressing after a long fitful sleep in the Hospital Wing, she is more than ready to head out to enjoy a nice lounge. But, she can't keep last night from her thoughts.
James had been quite close to kissing her. Hell, she'd been close to kissing him. On some level, she wished that she had. Just to know what it was like, but she's glad that she hadn't. He probably could read her so easily in how much she already fancies him, but to act on it? That was another thing. The mental image of his form crying over her cold corpse keeps those kinds of thoughts away. There was no use to even kind of consider dating someone right now.
And along with that incident, of course, she had told her team about her condition. It'd be completely surprising if they hadn't told their own friends, and those friends hadn't told others. Given that it's been nearly twenty-four hours since she spilled the beans, she wouldn't be surprised if the entire bloody school knew.
Sighing, knowing there's no use in being a coward, she runs a finger through the thick tangles and raises her chin. "Pretend like it's right before a Quidditch game," She mutters to herself, gathering all the courage she can and steps out onto Hogwarts' sprawling lawn. For a moment, as she ambles past groups of teenagers milling about, she thinks that maybe the news hadn't actually spread and that she had been overreacting. But it's as she passes a group of sixth year Hufflepuffs that she sees their nervous reactions at the sight of her.
One guy even whispered something to one of the girl's ears. Feeling her cheeks heat up, she continues on. Hoping that she'll find either Tess or Santiago soon. Right now, she feels like a walking exhibit for the other students. It's as she draws nearer to the lake that she finally spots a more familiar face.
And of bloody course, it's James.
He is laying on a white and red checkered picnic basket, Freddie and Jeremiah beside him. They are laughing hysterically, probably at something that's not even funny. As Nautica catches sight of him joking around, that she sees a more carefree (not in a prankster or ornery way) James. He isn't making a scene out of the someone's expense, he's just being a regular guy with his mates.
Tugging on strands of her hair, she continues past him. Her heart thudding away loudly in her chest. She half expects to hear him call after her, but he doesn't. Disappointment grows rapidly in the very pit of her stomache as she realizes that she had wanted him to. Dark thoughts instantly cloud her mind.
See, he heard about your illness and wants nothing from a sick girl.
Who would want broken merchandise?
"Nautica!" Tess' voice rings out amongst the crowds, drawing Nautica to an oak tree. Both of her and Santiago are sitting cross-legged on the ground, leaning on each other for support. They wave her over, their eyes roaming over her, as though checking to see if she had changed must since last night. "How are you feeling?" Nautica shrugs as she takes a seat beside them, her gaze focused on the Black Lake.
Many a sixth year stand before it's waters, pointing and shoving eachother playfully. Probably daring eachother to take the leap. Of course, they'd be stupid to try it. Mermaids, kelpies, and the giant squid reside in there. Who knows what would happen to them?
"I'm glad you've decided to join us," Santiago says, his dark eyes squinting in the blazing sun. She smiles in return, leaning her own head against the oak. It feels good to have it's warmth pushing away the chill she's had since hearing the news. For the first time in awhile, her head is clear of any aches and her bones don't seem to hurt as much. Maybe, with the weight of her secret off her chest, she'll feel better all around.
"Is it true?" Dennis Robards sidles up to the group, breaking Nautica from her reverie. He is the Captain of the Hufflepuff team and has been Nautica's potions partner since year three. He is a tall, lean guy with short blonde hair and wide baby blue eyes. He's always had a bit of a crush on her, something she had chosen to pretend not to notice. Looking at him now, she wanders what would have happened had she decided to see where it'd go. "Are you really sick?"
"It's really none of your bloody business," Santiago says sharply, his tone ringing with warning. He has always been her protecter, sometimes it wasn't needed though. Patting him on the shoulder, she smiles wanly at Dennis.
"It's true," She says, sighing as she her fingers deftly tug on her wild mane. "Why do you think I resigned as Captain in the first place?" Dennis turns red, knowing he had never bothered to ask her.
"Guess I should've known," He admits, kneeling down before her. His arms wrap around her before she can dare to blink. "I'm sorry, love. It's a shit thing. My Mum died of a Muggle cancer five years ago." She blinks away rapidly growing tears, touched by his reaction. She had forgotten about Dennis' mum. And now she feels like right crap about not thinking about how this news would effect him. Sure, they'd never been close like her and Santiago, but he had always been a decent friend and competitor. Pulling away, he stands back up, ruffling his hair in embarrassment. "Well, I'll let you be. But just know, if you ever need someone to talk to-"
"I'll come straight to you," She smiles, watching him head off towards his friends. It's as she glances around that she sees James staring at her. His eyes are narrowed as they seem to be reading her very soul. Startled by it, she turns away quickly. Knowing that he does indeed know of her illness. And he probably has no idea what to say. Just like the rest of the lot.
"Why is James Potter staring at you?" Tess breaks the silence that comes over the friends as Dennis left. Rolling her eyes, Nautica pulls at the grass beside her with a heavy heart. He is probably staring at her because he now sees her as breakable.
"I wouldn't read into it too much," Nautica says grumpily, ignoring the ball of nerves growing rapidly in her stomach. "He stares at people all the time, the freak." Her words, though reminiscent of her old persona, seems to work to abate Tess, but it has the opposite effect on Santiago. He gazes at her questioningly, knowing that there's more to it than she's letting on.
The three of them stay until the last of the sun falls beneath the horizon, casting shadows on the grounds. Standing, still staring wistfully at where it's disappeared, they head with a majority of the school back into the castle. In front of them, she spots James walking with Freddie and Jeremiah.
"I have to use the loo," She says to her friends just before they reach the Great Hall. "I'll meet you at the table."
"I can go with you-"
"No, I'll be fine," She waves away Tess and heads for the bathroom, the chill returning to her bones. Pulling her cardigan tighter, as though it'll work, she hurries to use the restroom. It's as she's leaving that she catches sight of James leaning against a wall with his hands shoved deep into his pockets. He doesn't see her at first, he is too busy staring at the floor he is scuffing with his sneakers.
Her heart in her throat, she starts to head past him, unsure of what to say. Instead, he seems to have other ideas. His hand reaches for her, catching her by her wrist before she can keep going. His grasp is gentle, as though afraid he'll break her if he held on too tight. "What?" Her voice is throaty as she turns her eyes to meet his.
"Why didn't you tell me?" His words are quiet, his face full of unmasked concern. Seeing it, riles her up, makes her want to smack it off of him.
"Because we were friends before this?" She gestures madly with her one free hand, anger building quickly inside of her. "I'm sorry, I didn't think I had to tell everyone about what's happening with me. Especially you, James Potter. The biggest prat in the entire school." He lets go of her, as though her words literally stung him.
"Well, if I would've known, I wouldn't have tried to kiss you -"
"Oh that's fucking brilliant," She says, tears welling in her eyes as she takes a step from him. "Glad to know I was right. Who wants the girl with the terminal illness? Who could drop dead at the drop of a hat? Thank you, thank you so much for making that clear."
"That's not what I meant," He says, anger beginning to show in his voice. "What I meant was that I wouldn't have gone about it that way. I already knew you were different,
Pheonix. But I would've been better if I'd known about this." His words do nothing to calm her, if anything, they piss her off more.
"I don't need the pity, Merlin knows I carry enough around for myself," Her words are bitter and she feels like she's overreacting, but she can't help it. Just being around him is setting her on edge. "Look, don't worry about me. Don't talk to me. I'm a big girl and I don't need you sticking your nose where you don't belong."
"And if I want to belong?"
She gives a shake of her head, her hair swinging around wildly at the ferocity of it. "You don't want to," She says, feeling completely caught off guard by him. "You may think that you do, but you don't. You'd be better off with someone whose whole and got their entire life ahead of them."
"And if I don't want that?"
With a grace that neither of her parents endowed her with, Nautica leaves him standing there in front of the girl's loo with an incredulous expression on his stupidly handsome face. How dare he assume she'd want him there to begin with? So what, she had thought about it briefly? So what if she had some sort of teenage crush on him? So the fuck what? He didn't belong with her and her lousy family and her sickness.
When she takes her seat at her table, Santiago and Tess lean toward her with curiosity. She gives a shake of her head, not wanting to speak about it, ever. Sighing, they both decide to let it go, that is until both sets of eyes lay on James, who is slouching into the Great Hall with slumped shoulders.
"There's something going on there," Tess says matter of factly. "I won't ask, don't worry." She says quickly, seeing the murderous look on Nautica's face. "But I just want to say, we've all seen Potter go after a lot of girls. And I mean a lot. But, I've never seen him get worked up about one." Sinking further into denial, she grabs a chicken wing from a platter and takes a hasty bite from it.
She didn't want anything to do with Potter. That was now for certain.
James stares over at Nautica from across the Great Hall. He knows he should look away. He probably looks like a madman, staring as he is, but he can't take his eyes off of her. Her wild black hair is hard to miss.
"Have you told her how you feel?" Freddie inquires, through a mouthful of duck. Groaning, James lays his head on the table. "I'm serious. Sometimes, just being honest really works."
"I don't get why you're so worked up over her anyway," Jeremiah speaks up, glancing at her. "She's been after us since she's been made Prefect. Hates all three of us with a bloody passion. I don't get the infatuation." James sighs, unsure of what to say for a moment.
"You know I've had a thing for her since fourth year-"
"When she dunked your head into that toilet?" Freddie asks with a fond laugh. "That was hilarious. She was so pissed off at you for accidentally hexing Vasquez." James manages a smile as he raises his head once more to stare at her. Her grey eyes had reeled him in that day. The anger and ferociousness in them.
She had spirit, that was for sure. And he had thought that maybe she felt the same way last night in the Hospital Wing, but he'd obviously been wrong. The way she had just spoken to him had knocked him down a notch. No, not a notch. That'd be too nice. She had practically chopped off his manhood. She hated him now more than she ever seemed to before.
"I'm serious though," Freddie says, bringing James back from his brooding. "Tell her how you feel. How you've felt. I bet she thinks you see her as just another slag. You have to be real with her if you want her to see you as anything but a prat." Since when did Freddie become so good with the advice? "I mean, if her being sick doesn't bother you."
"If anything, it makes want to be there for her more," James says quietly, noting the way she doesn't seem to sit as tall as she had before. How had he not noticed the change in her?