The taste of the potion is bitter and tastes like bogies. Nautica wrinkles her nose, her whole body grimacing from it. Placing the bottle on the desk that the ancient Madam Pomfrey is currently occupying, she takes a deep breathe to calm her stomache. This was only the second dose. Five and a half more months of this, unless the cancerous mass inside of her decides to ignore it. Then surgery it is. 











"I know, deary," Madam Pomfrey says with a sigh, wiping a stray whisp of gray hair from her forehead. "I know this cannot be easy for you and you know if you ever feel overworked, you are more than welcome in my infirmary." It's as her sentence finishes that a shout, muffled by the wooden door currently closed, rings from outside. Her brows raising in consternation, she hurries as fast her old legs will take her; her wand out, making the door fly open. "For heaven's sakes, James!" Curious, Nautica steps out of the office to see none other than James Potter being half carried in by two of his teammates. Freddie and a guy by the name of Edward Johnson. They are all three in their practice kits, and muddied. Glancing out the window, Nautica watches the rain hitting the window panes like tiny bullets. James has to be crazy to be out flying in this sort of weather. 









"He was hit in the head by a bludger," Freddie glares at Edward accusingly, the boy looks scared in response. His squinty features more pronounced by the fear.











"Idiotic boys-" Madam Pomfrey mutters under her breath, ushering the boys to lay James on an empty cot. They do so, grimacing. "Out playing Quidditch in this weather-" She shoos them from their Captain, her wand hovering over James' body, running diagnostics. "Freddie, you best clean up that mud trailing my hospital wing."










"Yes Madam Pomfrey," Freddie says quickly, pulling his own wand out. It isn't until after the mess is completely cleaned that he notices Nautica standing awkwardly by the open door. He doesn't say a word for a moment, glancing over to check on James who is now sporting a white gauze wrapped around his head, and comes over to her. "Pheonix, what brings you here today?" 








"Oh, you know," She says timidly, running her thin fingers through her thick mass of hair. "Just interested in hearing more about the art of healing." The lie isn't really a lie, so she's not really lying, right? He nods, sighing. "Is James going to be okay?" The question slips from her mouth before she can think about it.










"Yeah, he's got a thick skull," Freddie says with a smile that doesn't reach his eyes as he stares at his cousin. "Why do you care Pheonix? Beginning to grow attached to Jamie and I?" 







"Why do you keep asking?" Nautica asks, crossing her arms over her chest. Madam Pomfrey is now pouring pain potion down James' throat. She cringes, knowing that when the pain potion wears off and James wakes up, he'll be in the worse kind of pain. From the door of the hospital wing, the sound of people shouting permeates the room. "Sounds like the rest of the team has arrived..."










"You're right," Freddie says, giving her a nod as he strides toward the corridor. She can't help but notice that he doesn't answer her question. A wave of dizziness overcomes her as she makes to follow him out of the room. Trying to breathe through it, she hobbles to an empty bed, her steps feeling like lead. She vaguely hears someone calling her name, but she ignores it; her body folding like a house of cards. Closing her eyes, trying to push past the bile rising in her throat, her hands clench at the bedsheets. 








"In the bucket, darling," Madam Pomfrey's kind voice comes into focus. Following the sound of it, Nautica empties her stomach as cold sweat begins to pour from her body. Shakily, she rolls over onto her back as Pomfrey pulls a blanket over her. "You'll stay here tonight." Nodding wearily, sleepiness falls over her as her stomach finally settles.



















"Pheonix, you awake?" A male voice wakes Nautica up from a sound sleep. Shuffling confusedly, she wanders where she is for a second before she realizes she had had an episode in the hospital wing. "Psst, Pheonix?" 








"What?" She sits up, rubbing at her aching head, wandering who is calling for her. Glancing around, she sees James also upright in his own bed. The gauze is still wrapped tightly around is head, it's almost comical. The rest of the wing is empty, the lamps are low and Madam Pomfrey's quarters are closed. 







"What are you in here for?" For a second, she wants to punch him in the face for waking her from a perfectly good sleep. But instead, she sighs and slumps forward with her face in her hands.








"Could you not ask me in the morning?" 








"I have a hard time sleeping at night," His answering smile is lopsided, sheepish. She doesn't say a word for a moment, trying to put together her frazzled thoughts. She has never been much of a morning person, and being woken up in the middle of the night isn't better either. "So?" His persistence catches her off guard as she peers at him through narrowed eyes. 










"Why are you here?" 








"Bludger to the head," He taps his head with a frown. "Wasn't paying attention. Really, it was my fault." His admittance to something surprises her. Nautica had never thought him to take responsibility for his own actions. "Hey, Pheonix?"








"Yes, Potter?'






"Did you like the McGonagall statue?" The serious of his tone makes her snort. Was he


really so concerned about what her or anyone else thought of some stupid prank? Shrugging, she lays back in her bed, rolling over onto her side with her back facing him. "Come on, Nautica..." The use of her first name makes her tense. When did they become on first name terms? She had not been notified of the change. "I can't sleep, my head is pounding like a bitch." 










"Rattle something in there, huh?" She bites out, squeezing her eyes shut. Would he just stop talking? She wanted to be well enough to go back to class in the morning. "Not that there's much to rattle." 




















For a moment, there is nothing but silence to fill the room. And as much as Nautica wants to fall back into sleep, she can't. Thanks to James, she'll be up the rest of the night. "Why do you do all those pranks?" The words fall out of her mouth as she rolls over to face him again. It's hard to truly see his face between the distance and lighting, but the smile that lights up his face is hard to miss. 












"I don't know," He shrugs, "It's what my grandfather did. What my Uncle George and Uncle Fred did. I just kind of followed by example." The honesty of his words hit her hard as she laid there. She had been expecting some sort of joking remark. "Why do you hate me so much?" The question is asked in a light tone, but he can't hide the bitterness behind that. She sits up slowly, her eyebrows scrunched thoughtfully.










"Why do you think I hate you?"










"Wouldn't you?" He inquires, his hands picking at his blanket. "I've never heard you call me by my first name. And you always seem out to get me. Is it because I'm a better Captain than you?" At the last part, there is a bit of amusement mixed in. 











She chuckles, rolling her eyes. "You wish, Potter." As to the rest of what he said, she has no answer. Maybe he's right. Maybe she does hate him. She had never really thought about it before. "Besides, I'm not Captain anymore...." She lets these words tumble out. "I thought the entire school would know by now." Her words are bitter. 











"I figured it was all rubbish," He says, a look of confusion on his face. "So you... you left the team? Why?" 











"None of your business," She retorts snappily, leaning her head on the headboard. 












"Sorry, I'm just trying to understand," He holds his hands up apologetically. "You really do have a good team and you were a great Captain. I'm just trying to figure out why you would give that up." 









"It's not for you to figure out, Potter," She grumbles, wishing she could just go back to sleep. This conversation wasn't one she wanted to be having. If she hadn't told her friends, why on earth would she tell James Potter? He would probably have a good laugh with his mates, but did she really think so ill of him? That he would laugh about something as serious as her health? "Look, it's not a big deal." Lie. "I'll be fine." Lie.















She's not sure if she's trying to convince him or her. The feeling creates a ball of nerves in the bottom of her stomach. "I'm going to bed now." Having had enough of this conversation, she pulls the blanket over her shoulders, closing her eyes. 














"Good night, Pheonix."
















Her tears come out almost like rivers as she stares at her pillow. It's been three days since the Hospital Wing visit. It's been three days of running to the loo to vomit and barely eating. Three days of second glances and questions. Santiago is slowly wearing her resolve down. She's already lost weight and feels absolutely miserable, but had been handling it. But now.... now that has gone completely. 











Sobbing quietly, she picks up the chunks of her hair that had come out during the night. Her thick curls fill her fist as her shoulders shake. Healer Ressin had said the hair loss would be at a minimum, but this... this doesn't look like a minimum. Biting the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming, she climbs out of her four poster bed. The other girls in her Dorm are all sound asleep, Tessla's snoring filling the room. 










With shaky legs, she carries the hair to the loo and flushes it down the toilet. The pain and fear rally together in her chest as she watches it disappear into the depths of Hogwarts plumbing system. Turning, she stares into the mirror, unsure of the person she is staring at. Her normally wild hair is limp on her shoulders, her eyes are glazed and there are circles aroudn them. Her already thin frame has shrunk even further. She looks like a ghost of the person she had been. Yanking a towel from the rack, she douses it in cold water and scrubs the tears from her face, unable to see them any further. 









Crying is weakness. She needs to be strong. It isn't until her skin is a bright red from the rubbing that she throws the towel to the ground and glares at herself. "Pull yourself together, Nautica," She mutters darkly, "It's going to go away. You're going to get better. You will get through this." Despite her words, a sort of darkness begins to grow inside of her, making her hands clench the edges of the sink. She feels so alone and hopeless. "Stop it..." She groans, closing her eyes as tears begin to slip again from her eyes. 














"Nautica, are you in there?" Amy Ness' voice calls through the closed door. "Are you almost done? I need to shower." 










"I'll be out in a minute," She calls, breathing in slowly through her nose. One of her hands reaching up to wipe away the errant tears. Giving herself one last glower, she opens the door to let Amy in and heads to her bed to get dressed for the day. Glancing at the pillow that still has a few stray strands of her hair, her mood darkens considerably, if that was even possible. 











"Nautica?" Tessla is sitting up in her bed, her auburn hair rumbled from sleep. Her eyes are half open as she stares at her housemate. "Is everything okay?" Nautica nods, slipping on her uniform and grabs a ponytail holder to pull her hair back. "L-look, if you ever need to talk, I hope you feel comfortable enough to come to me. We've been friends for years, and I hope that you trust me." The poor girl is rambling, unsure of what to say to a teammate. A girl who had been strong for the last seven years. 









"Thank you," Nautica smiles at her, touched by her offer. But she refuses to say a word. Because how could she admit she's weak? 











Yanking a sweater over her uniform, she grabs her satchel and heads down to the common room. Waiting for her is Santiago with a small smile on his face. It slips the second he lays eyes on his friend. "You okay?" He inquires for the upteenth time, wishing she'd just tell him what's going on. 










"I'm great," She smiles forcibly, motioning for him to follow her. They head down to breakfast together. "I talked to Professor Slughorn about possibly doing an extra credit potion." 










"Oh really?" Santiago says with interest. "What kind of potion are you thinking of doing?" 









Before she can even open her mouth to answer, a large vat of blue liquid falls from the ceiling, draping both students in it. For a moment, all she sees is blue, as her hands wipe furiously at it. 










"UGH!" Santiago yells beside her, but she can't see him to know how badly he had got hit with whatever this was. Finally managing to remove the gunk from her eyes, she glares at the shocked face that is James Potter. Beside him, Jeremiah Finnegan is laughing uproariously, but Freddie looks almost as shocked as his cousin. 












"JAMES BLOODY POTTER!" So angry, that her vision has turned red, Nautica yanks her wand from her robes. "WHY WOULD YOU THINK THIS WAS FUNNY? -WAS THIS YOU GETTING BACK AT ME FOR TAKING AWAY POINTS? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?" She is on the verge of hysterical as she stomps toward him, leaving blue footprints on the ground behind her. "I SHOULD HEX YOU INTO NEXT WEEK! HOW COULD SOMEONE BE SO CRUEL?" She is gasping now as wave after wave of emotion hits her. 










James doesn't say anything, he is staring at her with a gaping mouth. 










"What is the meaning of this?" Professor Aloa, the Muggle Studies teacher appears out of thin air, her eyes taking in the scene before her. "What did you DO?" She stares at the trio of troublemakers with anger. Of course, all the Professors know of Nautica's predicament and this was uncalled for. 












"It-it was-" Freddie splutters, unsure of what to say. "It wasn't suppose to be her!" 














"I-I'm sorry Nautica," James manages to choke out as the Professor leads them away after vanishing the blue liquid from both Nautica and Santiago. Whatever James had been expecting her reaction to be, it wasn't that. Never before had he seen her so unhinged and raw. 










Seeing that had given him guilt for the first time over a prank he had pulled.







I hope you all enjoyed:) 

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