No Competition Whatsoever
The first step into the dormitory is like a breath of long awaited fresh air. “Blimey, am I glad to be outta there,” I sigh in relief. I felt like I was bloody drowning in that cesspool of gossipers.
Lily laughs as she rummages through her trunk to get out her nightgown, her voice echoing in the space. “Yeah, tell me about it. I honestly thought they were going to murder you back there.” After a few moments of silence, she finally emerges and throws her pajamas onto her bed. “Oh yeah, I forgot to ask before. You all right then?” Lily calls out across the room to me as she starts taking off her socks.
“Huh?” my muffled voice floats out of my own trunk.
“From the duel, I mean.”
I pull my head out from my humongous trunk with my 'T-shirt and sweats' night clothes in my hands. “Oh. Yeah, I'm fine. Just a minor concussion is all.”
Lily climbs into her bed and pulls the crimson curtains across the length of it. “Sorry I couldn't be there,” she says apologetically, “Ugh, excellent time to have Muggle Studies, really.”
“Don't worry 'bout it!” I insist, “I had Remus with me.” Yeah, that guy would be more than enough company even on a deserted island. He's like an mass of peculiar…ness. Is that even a word.
“Hmm,” Lily muses, “Speaking of which, I didn't see him in the Common Room before. Did he go to bed early or something? I could've sworn I saw you come in with him.”
“Uhhh,” I reply intelligently. So, he really wasn't there? Just thinking back to what happened outside the portrait hole made me feel kind of uncomfortable. Was I just imagining it, or was he really joking? “Yeah, I guess he was just tired,” I decide to finish lamely, my face still heating despite myself.
“The dueling was pretty funny though,” Lily calls out from behind her curtains, “The most dangerous spell James used on me was Wingardium Leviosa. I mean, honestly, levitating a cushion and hurling it at me at three miles per hour is really gonna hurt.”
I snort at the mental image of James carefully bumping a cushion into Lily and then asking if she’s okay. “Wow, sounds like you really like him, huh?” I comment with a grin on my face. I bet she’s turning beet red under her sheets.
“What, no! Why?” exclaims Lily, a little bit too quickly to be considered legitimate denial. Judging by her reaction, she's probably glowing red in the dark.
I shrug, chuckling to myself. “Well, you're talking about him in that voice that girls use when they're talking about a really cute kitten or something. So, you probably think he's cute, which means you really, really, really, really like him. Am I right or am I right?”
“I don't… really, really, really, re…ally…” Lily mumbles sleepily.
I sigh in reply, rather tired myself. “You have it easy, Lil. You like James and he likes you. It’s cute. It’s simple. Me? My love life is a mess right now, not to mention virtually non-existent. I mean, how can I even be engaged when I can’t say I’ve ever properly fancied anyone before?”
“Lily?” I call out, sitting up in bed, “Oi, fat load of help you are!”
But before I can say anymore, I hear a light snoring from behind her curtains. Snoring? Man, this girl sleeps through anything. The sound makes me smile as I fall back on my pillows with my arms behind my head.
Honestly, though… how the bloody hell am I going to handle the rest of this year?
“You two should totally sit together!”
“No, we should NOT totally sit together! We shouldn't totally do anything! Wait—ow, stop pushing!”
“Yeah, fiancés? You guys should have a room together! The same table should be nothing!”
“Like hell I'm gonna sit with her, you gits!”
This is so not how I was gonna handle it. Tuesday morning. Potions class. And the whole entire class is trying to push me and Sirius together. Needless to say, it is extremely uncomfortable.
“Ow! Sirius, get your hand off my—”
“Crap! OW! Some idiot kicked my shin!”
“Wait, don't fall over—ack!”
And just like I told him not to, Sirius practically falls on top of me on the table. Almost instantly, the whole class goes silent and a couple of guys even wolf-whistle. Just brilliant.
“Oh, shove it, you git!” I heave Sirius off of me unceremoniously and yell exasperatedly, “And shut up! Why are you lot so immature?”
Sirius stands up properly, brushing the dust off his cloak as the crowd's shocked faces slowly turn into a ripple of sniggers. At the sound, he looks up from his clothes and then yells in irritation, “Oh, shut it, will you?”
Evidently, Sirius' irritation only served to augment the crowd's dispersed laughter.
But it doesn't last a few seconds because then a loud noise fills the room. “Alright now! Everyone settle down, settle down!” Professor Slughorn strides into the room clapping his hands loudly and everyone finally moves to their seats.
I end up sitting in the very front with Lily… at the table right next to Sirius and James. Reason being that this was about the farthest those Sirius-and-Cecilia-Forever freaks would let me get from that playboy. But the even more awkward seating was Remus and Peter at the table right behind me. Remus acted the same as he usually did this morning, but something felt… different. Argh, there I go again, imagining things.
“Good afternoon class!” says Professor Slughorn excitedly, “Today, we will be brewing a Shrinking Potion! Oh, I know, it must sound very boring to you all, but let's see how much fun you will have when I announce that there will be a prize for who finishes the fastest!”
Everyone seemed to straighten up in their seats. Wow, does this professor do this often? Weird. Come to think of it, all the teachers at this school seem a bit odd. I thought they would be a little more strict, but hell if I'm going to complain about it.
“The two students that finish first will be awarded fifty points! Second, thirty! And third, ten!” the professor announces, bouncing on the balls of his feet, “The ingredients are in the cupboard as usual, the directions on the board, and… well, you talented little fifth years know the drill!” He smiles broadly at us before raising a pudgy hand into the air. “Ready…? Set? GO!”
The professor brings his hand down and immediately, I hear dozens of chairs screech across the floor as students rapidly run towards the cupboards, eager for those house points.
Despite the allure of the reward and the excitement around us, Sirius decides to turn to me with that signature smirk on his face instead of running for ingredients himself. “A contest, eh? You think you can beat me in making a simple little Shrinking Potion?”
“Simple?” I repeat with raised eyebrows, “I do recall Professor Slughorn putting us in partners primarily because the potion is so difficult to make.”
“Difficult?” Sirius laughs and nudges James in the ribs. “Did you hear that? She called it difficult.”
“Seriously?” James says with a snigger and then turns to me and Lily with a pompous scoff. “Looks like the fifty points will be ours with no competition whatso…e…ver…” Upon spotting Lily's menacing glare, James's voice reduces to a pathetic mumbling. Oh, the things men do when confronting the girls they love. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.
I watch Sirius and James strut up to the cupboard to grab their ingredients and then turn to Lily with a wicked grin. “Those guys have no idea what they've gotten themselves into!”
Lily looks at me puzzled. “Why? The Shrinking Potion is pretty complicated and Sirius and James are top of the class. Well… second to Severus, I suppose, but no one ever seems to count him,” she adds in a low voice.
Top of the class, eh? That's a laugh. If they're geniuses, then what am I? The Potion God?! Please, I can make a Polyjuice Potion with my eyes closed. This is nothing!
I grin at her impishly. “I made this at least five times when I was home schooled. I have a few tricks up my sleeves!”
“Then those fifty points are ours!” Lily gives me a high five and we run up to gather the ingredients.
Well, well, Sirius. You wanna mess with me? You wish! I'm gonna show you up like you never been showed… up before…? That was lame. I’m gonna get to work.
But before I knew it, time had practically flown by. It's forty-five minutes into the class and Sirius and I are still tied at the exact same step of the very elaborate directions Professor Slughorn gave us. (And I'm not exaggerating when I say elaborate. Honestly, he could really skip two or three of those.)
I sneak a glance at Sirius' cauldron and, to my dismay, notice that both of our potions are simultaneously turning the proper shade of seafoam green.
The rest of the class, on the other hand, was failing horribly. This statement not counting Remus, of course, who was only a step behind us, though his potion-making skills were no doubt hindered by the extremely clumsy Peter.
“'Cut the shrivelfig root into sixteen equal pieces and slowly sprinkle into cauldron while stirring clockwise,'“ Lily recites from the board as I cut the root dexterously. “Well, that’s it then! We're almost done!” she says excitedly as she scoops up the strips of shrivelfig and moves to toss it into our steaming cauldron.
Heh, now would be the perfect time to show off a trick or two...
“Wait up,” I grab Lily's wrist hastily, “Watch this.” I take the stirring rod from her hands and motion for her to sprinkle in the shrivelfig root. Instead of stirring clockwise however, I start stirring counter-clockwise and the potion almost immediately turns the dark shade of crimson shown in the last step of the directions.
“WOW!” Lily yelps so loudly that Sirius and James actually turn their focus away from their potion to look at ours.
And just as I hoped, both of their jaws drop in utter shock. “What the bloody hell?” Sirius exclaims, gaping at the color of our now finished Shrinking Potion. “Weren't you on the same step we were—”
“—just a second ago?” James finishes with an identical look of amazement on his face.
“Now, just some Hallebery leaves for fragrance…” I toss in some crushed leaves in the manner of a chef in a five-star restaurant. “And voila!” Yeah, that’s right. They don’t teach that at public schools! (Then again, they don’t teach a flair for the over-dramatic either.)
Lily starts clapping excitedly. “Blimey, we're done!”
Upon seeing my final act, Professor Slughorn rushes towards our potion to examine the resultant brew. “Merlin's beard!” he declares ecstatically as he takes a whiff of our potion, “It even smells marvelous! How on earth did you two girls finish so fast?”
“Yeah, seriously…” Sirius mutters under his breath.
I just grin at the professor.
Some tricks are better left untold! Well, truthfully, it's not much of a trick. I sort of came across it by accident last year. It was stupid, really. I was supposed to stir it clockwise, but in all my absent-mindedness, I stirred it the other way unintentionally and… well, this is what I got. Yes, I know it's dumb, but if famous wizards never made mistakes, then we wouldn't have so many bloody spells in the world.
Professor Slughorn claps his hands together happily. “Well, I say! This has got to be the fastest I've ever seen anyone make a Shrinking Potion. I award Gryffindor fifty points!”
I punch my fist into the air victoriously. “YES!” Then I turn to Sirius with a smug look on my face. “What was it you guys said before? Oh, yeah, I remember now. Looks like the fifty points will be ours with no competition whatsoever.”
Sirius takes a step forward, fuming. “Say that one more time and I’ll hex you so hard you’ll—ow! What?” He turns his head to James, who had smacked him across the back.
“Hey, we're done too, mate!” James interrupts quickly, gesturing towards their own crimson shrinking potion.
“Well, speak of the devil, so are we,” a voice says loudly behind me.
I turn my head to see Remus waving his hand to get Professor Slughorn's attention.
Our gazes connect for a split second and I immediately look away. Stupidy stupid stupid. I mentally kick myself for avoiding eye contact. I’m pretty sure I’m the one who’s making things awkward now. Nothing even happened between us! Am I so terrible with social interactions that I can’t take a joke—huh?
My thoughts are abruptly interrupted as I lock eyes with a Slytherin girl with long, silky blonde hair in the back row. Wow, she's rather pretty… except for the fact that she's glaring at me. Uh oh, is this a Sirius Black thing again? Because she looks like she’s literally intending to murder me.
“Well, I say!” Professor Slughorn's loud remark brings my attention back to the front. “Fifty, thirty and ten points all awarded to Gryffindor! I don't think I've ever seen a more promising group of students in all my years of teaching! Well done, indeed!”