Chapter 10 : Potions
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“What is?” he asked.
They’d barely been back a week, and winter had really begun in full force. Lily had begun to curse the day she’d signed up for N.E.W.T.s in Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures, and had taken to resenting the hell out of her yearmates who were able to remain within the warmth of the castle all day.
“Our parents,” she said, readjusting her scarf. “Mine didn’t want the two of us unsupervised at all, and his didn’t even blink when we disappeared into his room for hours.”
Sirius snorted. “Hours, huh?” Lily elbowed him, and he grinned. “Well, honestly, Lily, what do you expect?” She shook her head uncomprehendingly, and he elaborated. “Your parents are worried about your virtue. James’s parents know that he has no virtues, because he’s an idiot.”
A few weeks ago, Lily probably would have felt a stab of insecurity at that, but at this point, James had thoroughly convinced her of his undying affection, and she was able to take it for the joke that it was. “That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about,” she said lightly, and Sirius shrugged.
“And he’s my best mate. That doesn’t mean he’s not an idiot.” He’d only just finished speaking when one of the players scored a particularly impressive goal, and Sirius groaned. “Great,” he muttered as the figure’s hand leapt to the back of his head. Lily waved up at James when he looked down at them, and he made a heart with his hands before getting back to practice.
“I think it’s sweet,” she said. A warm glow filled her whenever James scored and dedicated it to her, and it didn’t seem to be losing its appeal, despite it being a fairly frequent occurrence.
James emerged from the locker room shortly after practice had ended. He immediately slipped an arm around Lily’s waist and kissed her cheek. “Thanks for coming,” he said. “I know it’s cold out.”
“You’re welcome,” Sirius said dryly from behind him, and James grinned.
“Sorry,” he said cheerfully. “You know I always appreciate the support of all of my fans, not just the pretty ones.”
Lily knew exactly what was coming, so she slipped away from James just before Sirius lunged forward to drop a handful of snow on James’s head. “I’m plenty pretty,” he said as James tried to brush the snow off his face.
“You’re beautiful,” James said sarcastically, and after making sure that Sirius didn’t have another handful of snow waiting, Lily stepped over to help James brush the snow away. “Thanks,” he said to Lily, and she smiled. “No, seriously, Sirius,” he added as they started to walk back up to the castle. “Thanks for coming. I know you probably find it boring, but the support is nice to have right now.”
James had received word earlier in the week that an old friend of his mother’s was in St. Mungo’s. There didn’t seem to have been anything suspicious or malicious behind it – from what the Healers could tell, she’d simply gotten confused about how much of a routine potion she was taking to fight a cold. However, because of her age, the purportedly innocent mix-up was a lot more serious than it would have been for someone younger, and it wasn’t clear when she was going to be able to leave St. Mungo’s – or, from what Lily had gathered, whether she’d be able to leave it at all.
James apparently didn’t know her all that well, but it was still jarring for him to think about her in such a serious state. Moreover, Lily had gathered that the incident had reminded James of just how old his parents really were and how much time they probably didn’t have left.
He’d also learned that he was failing Potions two days ago, which had not improved his disposition.
She glanced over at Sirius, whose face had softened a little. “Not a problem,” he said, clapping James on the back. “What are friends for?”
James looked up at the darkening sky. “Dunno,” he said. “But I’m lucky to have you.” He hugged Lily a little closer to him, and she reached up to squeeze the hand he had resting on her waist.
“Yeah, you are,” Sirius agreed, and Lily held back a giggle. “Any plans for the evening?” He nudged James. “Should I be telling people that the seventh year boys’ dormitory has been infested by owls or toads or something?”
James considered that for a minute, but before he could respond, Lily said smoothly, “Well, since we both came out and sat in the cold for a few hours, it doesn’t seem very fair to me if James ditches you.”
James looked a little offended. “I wasn’t going to,” he protested. Lily wasn’t sure she believed him, and from the look on Sirius’s face, neither was he. “I wasn’t,” James repeated. “I was going to ask you both if you wanted to play cards or something upstairs.”
“Depends,” Sirius said. “Is ‘cards’ a euphemism for fireworks or something fun?”
“Oh, shut up.”
When they got back to the castle, James headed off to take a bath and Sirius disappeared. Lily knew from experience that whenever one of the boys disappeared, they had a tendency to reappear anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours later with a great deal of food in tow. She’d long since decided not to ask – it was almost certainly breaking the rules, and she thought that she was probably better off not knowing.
It wasn’t even dinnertime yet, so rather than wait awkwardly in the common room for James or Sirius to come back, she decided to make her way down to the dungeons to talk to Slughorn. He was usually more than willing to make time for her, and she wanted to ask him if he would let her use the Potions dungeon tomorrow. James might not be a genius at Potions, but she refused to let him fail it, especially since he’d only signed up for it in the first place because she was taking it.
Sure enough, when she reached Slughorn’s office door, it was ajar, and she could hear him talking to someone inside. She knocked once.
“Yes?” Slughorn called, and she slipped inside. “Oh, Ms. Evans! What a lovely surprise!”
“Professor, I-” Lily started, but stopped as soon as she saw who Slughorn had been talking to. “I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she said stiffly. “I can come back.”
“Oh, nonsense,” Slughorn said cheerfully. “Is there something you need?”
She hesitated. Severus appeared to be intent on studying his shoes, but she knew he was listening to every word she was saying. However, she didn’t much fancy coming back down here later, and Slughorn might not be available then.
“I was wondering if you would mind me using the Potions classroom tomorrow,” she said. “A couple of my friends and I wanted to practise a few Potions that we’re not quite sure we’ve got right.”
She felt fairly satisfied with that request; it wasn’t a lie, but it didn’t give away information that she’d rather be kept private, especially from the likes of Severus.
“Well, I’m sure you have them quite right,” Slughorn said, and she smiled despite herself. “But feel free to use it.”
“Thank you, Professor,” she said. “Have a good evening.” As she left the room, she heard Severus muttering something to Slughorn. She sped up, hoping to avoid him, but he caught up to her before she’d turned the corner.
“Your loser boyfriend finally actually failing Potions?” Severus asked nastily, and she sighed inwardly.
“Leave me alone, Severus.” She’d learned that arguing with him or denying anything only tended to make the interaction go on longer. If she refused to answer his questions, he tended to leave her alone.
That did not appear to be the case today, unfortunately. “I knew he was an idiot,” Severus said scathingly. “I was honestly surprised that he managed to pass his O.W.L. in the first place.” Lily had to remind herself that she was Head Girl to stop from hitting him; James might not be the best at Potions, but he wasn’t the worst by a long shot, and she was proud of him for struggling through it.
“James is brilliant,” she said through clenched teeth.
Severus gave a humourless snort. “Sure he is,” he said dismissively. “That’s why he’s failing Potions.”
Lily stopped dead. At this point, she was having a very hard time remember why she’d ever been friends with Severus in the first place. “Jealous?” she asked coolly.
She was rewarded by a faint tinge of pink that appeared on Severus’s cheeks. “Of what?” The dismissive air he’d worn before now was gone, and while he was still trying to act like he didn’t care, Lily knew that she had him.
“Oh, I dunno.” She crossed her arms. “It seems to me that there’s a lot to be jealous of, but maybe I’m biased, being in love with him and all.”
He blanched with disgust. “What happened to you?” he snapped. “The Lily I knew never would have given James Potter the time of day.”
“Maybe you didn’t know me as well as you thought you did,” she said. She knew she would probably regret what she was about to say, but right now, she’d spent about a week worrying quite a lot about James. She was feeling very protective of him, and not at all in the mood to hear anyone trying to tear him down. “And given that this Lily is sleeping with him, maybe you ought to let the Lily you thought you knew go.”
If he’d looked disgusted before, that was nothing to how he looked now. “You’re what?”
“That’s what adults do when they’re in love, Sev,” she said scathingly.
She could understand why he’d tried to get her to forgive him after the incident at the lake in their fifth year. She hadn’t felt that she could, but she didn’t fault him for trying. However, the way he’d been trying to break her and James up since September – through snide little comments, through his friends trying to intimidate James into breaking it off with the ‘Mudblood,’ and occasionally through confronting her himself – left her absolutely disgusted. If he actually cared about her, he’d want her to be happy, not try to wrench away one of the best things that had ever happened to her.
“How can you say that you’re in love with that?” He swallowed hard and hesitated before saying, “It’s not like he’s the only person that cares about you.” Something in his eyes made her feel like there was some subtext to his statement, but she was drawing a blank.
She didn’t really understand what he was trying to say, and she didn’t really want to, either. “Well, he makes me happy,” she said. “So leave us alone, and tell your stupid friends to do the same.”
Severus just stared at her for a moment. “How?” he asked, his voice cracking. “How the hell did you end up with James Potter?”
There was so much raw pain packed into that question that for a moment, she felt sympathetic.
But only for a moment.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “But I’m happy I did.” He didn’t seem to have anything more to say, so she turned and walked away. He didn’t try to stop her.
She really didn’t know how she’d ended up with James. She’d found herself feeling attracted to him even back in their fifth year, but he’d been so thoroughly obnoxious and arrogant that she hadn’t even considered going out with him. She’d figured that there was a decent human being hidden in there somewhere, but she hadn’t been at all inclined to wade through all of his nonsense to find it.
Now he’d shed enough of it that what was left was more endearing than anything, and she was quite happy to be his girlfriend – though she suspected that it never could have happened if he hadn’t been so persistent about it.
As she climbed the stairs that would eventually lead her back up to Gryffindor tower, she thought back to her Christmas present. He’d put so much effort into it; Sirius had let it slip that James had spent a lot of time searching for the book he’d given her and paid a substantial amount of money for it. Once she’d gotten past feeling awkward about the absurd amount of galleons he’d spent on her, she’d felt touched that he went to so much trouble. It wasn’t really about the galleons – it was about what the effort said about how much he valued her.
She felt like the time they’d spent together over the Christmas holiday had really brought them closer together as a couple in general, even with the unpleasantness with Vernon. She was more sure than ever that James was the right person for her, and she wasn’t going to stand for anyone trying to sabotage their relationship.
She bumped into James just inside the portrait hole. “Where’ve you been?” he asked curiously. Lily put her arms around his neck and leaned up to kiss him.
When they parted, she smiled. “I reserved the Potions classroom for tomorrow,” she told him. “You’re going to pass Potions if it kills me.”
He made a face. “Ugh.” His arms encircled her, and after a moment, he said softly, “Thanks.”
She kissed him again. “I love you,” she told him, reaching up to run her fingers through his hair. “Let’s go upstairs.”
She took his hand and led him toward the staircase. As they started to climb, he said, “I love you, too.”
She glanced back and smiled at him. “I know. It’s convenient, isn’t it?”
His laugh rang out as she opened the door to the seventh-year boys’ dormitory.
A/N: Hey! Long time no see!
Sorry it's taken me so long to update this, but hopefully it was worth the wait. I wasn't sure about including another confrontation with Severus, but it did seem to fit. I hope it worked for you. :)
If anyone is interested, I wrote a one-shot called "The Thing With Feathers" about how James's parents met.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!
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