Warning: Lots of snot
Fandom: Harry Potter, Marauders Era
Spilers: Books 1-6, just to be safe
Disclaimer: I asked for the world of Harry Potter for Christmas this year-it didn't come, so it still belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Author's Notes: Merry Christmas everyone!
James shook his head through the thick fog of sleep still heavily wrapped around him.
"James!" Sirius said impatiently; "Come on, it's your big day!"
However much shaking and shouting Sirius was planning on doing was not going to wake James up though. Instead, an awakening tickling sensation in James's nose came to Sirius's aid.
"Go ‘way..." James muttered thickly rubbing viciously at his nose, but when the tickle blossomed he turned away into his pillow; "Heh-hah-hhhhh-Shhhhh!" He withdrew his head and groggily shook the cobwebs from it sniffling lightly all the while.
"Uh oh," Remus observed quietly coming over to James's bed.
Sirius didn't hear him though; "Come on, you don't want to stand Lily up, do you?"
James shook his head some more peering blearily up at his best friend; "Wha...?*sniff*...hehhh..."
"Actually, Padfoot," Remus began, but James cut him off.
"Hahhhhh-IIIIIIShoo! Ih-Kishoo!" James sniffed strongly, a picture of pure misery spreading over his face when he realized his nose still tickled and was stuffed.
"Prongs doesn't look like he's about to go anywhere." Remus finished tossing James a box of Kleenex.
James nodded and slowly arranged the tissues to blow his nose despondently. When he was finished he agreed with Remus; "Yeah, I don't think I'll be getting up today. You can go play cards with Remus and Peter. They're not that bad to play with."
Sirius looked from Remus to James bewildered; "Aren't you guys forgetting something? It's a Hogsmeade weekend and..."
James interrupted him; "That's even better! You can go with Remus and Peter to Hogsmeade. That's always fun. You don't need me to go with you to have fun there. Could you pick me up some more dungbombs though? I'm a little low."
Remus was nodding sensibly throughout James's little address, but Sirius was still looking at them in disbelief.
"But what about Lily?" he interjected incredulously. Remus scowled at Sirius and shushed him angrily, but the damage had been done.
"Lily? Wha...?" James asked confused while scrubbing at his itchy nose.
"Sirius!" Remus reprimanded; "Can't you see he just wants to lie in bed feeling miserable all day. He doesn't need to be going out on a date. We can just tell Lily..."
It clicked then.
"Lily!" James gasped frantically; "Ohhhh, what am I going to do? I probably look horrible, and I...I...hahhh...hehhhh...H'IIIIIIIShoo!" He moaned now and buried his head into his pillow sniffling madly.
"Look, James," Remus started soothingly; "You don't have to worry about anything. We'll just tell Lily that you're..."
"No!" James protested wildly, shooting up out of bed and grasping Remus's wrist in a desperate plea; "Please, it's taken me ages to get her to say yes."
"I'm sure she'll reschedule." Remus replied logically, but Sirius snorted and James shook his head insistently.
"No," James responded persistently with wide eyes; "I can't cancel. She said she was giving me this one chance...one chance! I can't cancel."
"Oh, well, but I'm sure she'd under..." Remus reasoned, but James was already disagreeing.
"No." James repeated stubbornly.
Sirius clapped Remus on the back; "Well, you heard the bloke, Moony. Now, come and help me make James look respectable in the next fifteen minutes."
Remus didn't like it, but he sighed and followed Sirius to the showers.
Seventeen minutes later, James was racing and puffing down the stairs to the common room to meet Lily. She was, of course, already there looking dazzling, but a bit cross at James's lateness.
"You couldn't be on time for once?" she asked chidingly, holding out an inviting hand as James came to a pathetic stop in front of her coughing and wheezing.
James ignored her hand though, and instead there was a moment of silence in which James tried to catch his breath as fast as was possible. Then with trying effort he attempted to bravely act like his usual self, so replied finally; "It's what makes you love me." The effect was ruined though by the now quiet wheezing.
Lily quirked an eyebrow and with a flash of disappointment dropped her hand, as they had started walking towards the carriages that would take them to Hogsmeade and James still hadn't responded to her offered hand; "Are you wheezing?"
James swallowed uncomfortably and tried to breathe a little bit quieter while he held the portrait open for her; "Wheezing? No, I think that's just the stairs-Sirius, Remus, and Peter said they were coming down soon."
"The stairs are stone, James." Lily pointed out.
"Oh," James flushed; "Well, I did leave out my Giggle Jiggle Pickle™."
Lily laughed gaily and small dimples made their presence known on Lily's smooth, pale cheek; "You have one of those?!"
James grinned; "It's cute."
"They are not. They're all green...and slimy...and giggle all the time."
"No, I meant you." James said smoothly smothering a cough into his sleeve discretely and casually rubbing his nose. His appearance was decent-thanks to a brilliant glamour charm cast by Remus, but the other symptoms were ones James would have to wrestle with if he didn't want Lily cottoning on.
Lily giggled and blushed prettily.
James held open the door of the carriage courteously for Lily. While she was busy climbing in James quickly twisted behind the door with a quick half stifled sneeze; "H'IIxnsh!"
"James?" Lily called questioningly.
James's eyes widened with dread at the thought of Lily getting suspicious of him; "Er...yeah?"
"You coming?" she asked, and James heaved a sigh of relief.
"Yeah, of course," he replied breathlessly before launching himself inside with a quick sniffle.
Lily smiled at him and patted the empty space next to her, but James pretended he didn't catch that and sat in the seat opposite. She appeared briefly disappointed like with the hand holding, but didn't say anything.
"So..." James said rubbing the back of neck awkwardly.
"So," Lily repeated.
"Right, so here we are." James said lamely flushing at his poor conversational skills, and "accidentally" running his fingers under his nose.
Lily chortled; "My, I never thought I'd see the day James Potter was embarrassed, nor the day James Potter couldn't talk to a girl."
James turned a deeper color of red with an apologetic grin quirking the sides of his mouth; "Sorry."
"Well," Lily teased; "Now, I do believe in miracles-I just heard James Potter apologize for being embarrassed that he couldn't talk to a girl."
James would have playfully rebutted her remark, but a sudden, sharp prickling in his nasal passages was occupying his mind. He still tried to reply anyways; "You...hehhhh...ca-can't tehhhh...tell...ahhh!-any...wh-whh..."
James knew he looked terribly unattractive right now. His mouth was dropped open in anticipation, face scrunched up, and nose twitching. Lily probably couldn't even understand him. He sat gasping with the agony of an impending sneeze when just as suddenly as it had appeared it was evanescent.
He relaxed his face, closed his mouth, and abruptly doubled over in a completely silent sneeze except for a quick, initiative gasp of air. James sniffed softly and rubbed his still itchy nose, before he shook his head and sat back up reddening with deep seated embarrassment.
Lily was staring at him; "What was that?"
"Er..." James replied eloquently rubbing again at his nose in what he hoped to be a casual manner and then tried again; "Er..."
Lily laughed and James hoped that, even though he wasn't laughing, it was with him.
"You're really quite something today, James." she explained still laughing lightly; "Wheezing, witty comments, making funny faces..." She broke off to laugh breathlessly again, as if to accentuate her point.
James chuckled weakly even though he didn't understand what she was laughing at.
Luckily, they were coming to a halt at the station, and Lily seemed eager to get out and start their date. James was counting his lucky stars that Lily left the carriage and he could sneeze in privacy.
"Hehhhh-ehhh-hahhhh-hhh-IIIIIIIIIShoo! Hh'IIIShoo! H'Kishoo!"
"James?" Lily queried from outside; "James?"
James's eyes grew big from behind his cupped hand; "Yeah, er...hag od!"
James cursed lightly under his breath and then tried to snort and wipe back the runs before Lily came to investigate.
"Could you...*sniff* *SNIFF*...wait a second!"
He was getting worse. It was becoming a struggle to pronounce his ‘n's and ‘m's, yet he optimistically rooted around in his pockets for the Kleenex Remus had hid somewhere on his person. Upon finding them he flattened and pressed them quickly to his face for a quick, hopefully quiet blow.
James was just searching around for somewhere he could put the contaminated tissues when Lily peered into the carriage.
"Are you coming?" she said with impatient askance, but not unkindly.
"Er...yeah," James responded; "I just need to...to..."
"To what?" Lily piped up; "Fluff the cushions for the next people?"
James smiled albeit weakly; "No, just...I was wondering if there was a rubbish bin around somewhere?"
Lily smiled back; "You're sweet. Have you been picking up other people's rubbish?"
It was too good a cover to abandon; "Er, yeah." James marginally opened his hand to show her.
"Ew," Lily said; "You are too charitable. I don't know if I could go around picking up other people's dirty tissues."
James smiled distantly at her as they climbed out of the carriage together; "Thanks,"
"You truly are something today." Lily told him again, but grinned solemnly and pointed out a small metal rubbish bin standing by a pillar in the station.
"So where do you want to go?" James asked Lily after he disposed of his tissues.
Lily offered her elbow for him to take, but James overlooked it saying; "Oh, look at that! Zonko's has a new kind of dungbomb!"
Lily chortled softly at this, but James could detect another note of disappointment at his ignorance; "You go check that out while I visit Flourish & Blotts."
James nodded shortly and shuffled away quickly before Lily could say anything else.
Zonko's was always filled with strange mists, smells, and flashes. Today, however, they didn't have the comfort they usually had. Instead of sending a wave delight and adventure caressing his senses they invaded his senses. They stole his breath and confused his foggy mind.
"Hahhh...hehhhh...ehhhhh...hhhhhhhhh...IIIIIIIIIIIIISHOO! Hhh'IIIIIIIShoo! H'IIIIShhh!" James snuffled deeply into his rapidly dampening sleeve. He could feel people looking at him. His cheeks slowly fused with a ruddy color, and yet he could feel another flurry of sneezes hovering.
"James!" Sirius exclaimed jovially; "Stop making such a prat out of yourself and come check out these Corks!"
"C-Corks?" James stuttered, still recovering.
"Yeah," Sirius said motioning him over and then reading the label with great gusto; "Blastoff Corks: Brilliant accuracy for hitting people when the bottle is opened!"
"Forget about becoming an Auror, Sirius," Remus grinned; "You should become an advertiser."
Sirius returned the grin eagerly; "You think so? Listen to this: Love is in the air! A sure-fire way to romance your loved one! Don't wait to purchase our new pink dungbombs!"
Peter laughed outrageously and Remus chuckled while still grinning. James on the other hand turned away to sneeze as a gust of sparkly, purple clouds from a biting teapot set drifted their way.
"Heh...HEH...hihhh...ihhh...ehhhhh...HH'IIIIIIIIIIIIISsshh! IIIIIIIKhhh! Hihhh...huhhh...hehhh...uhhh...ihhhhh...hhh..." James grunted and scrubbed violently at his nose.
"James," Peter piped up; "Are you ill?"
There was a moment of strange, strained silence in which James continued to absently struggle with his flaring nose, and Sirius and Remus stared at Peter.
James's nose predictably, or unpredictably, depending on who you were, broke the silence; "Huh...hih...iiiihhhh...ih...ih...ih...HHIIIIIIHHHHH..."
A sudden flash of white, blue light enveloped the store; "...IIIIIIIIIIIIIIISHHHHOOOOO!!! HHH'IIIIIIIIIIIISSSHOO!! Hehhhh..."
"...were you this morning?"
Once he'd started he couldn't seem to stop. Remus seemed to realize this and grasped his arm firmly but gently and tugged him out the door. Sirius and Peter trailed behind them a bit puzzled to the alcove Remus had selected outside Zonko's.
At first the fresh air didn't seem to help.
"IIIIIIISHOOO! Hihhh'SHOO! IH...IH...IH...IIIIIIIIIHSHHhhh!"
However, before long the fresh air had permeated through the tissues James had clamped to his face and congested, irritated air passages. James coughed as the tickling subsided and sneezing slowed to a crawl. He needed some fresh tissues.
Luckily for James, Remus seemed to realize his need, and dug around in his deep robe pocket eventually extracting a few crumpled tissues. James took them gratefully, and not allowing his friends to see the state of his nose, blew into them with relief. However, he knew he was in trouble when he found it getting increasingly harder to clear his nose.
As James was jamming his used tissues into a nearby rubbish bin, another blast of white blue lit up Zonko's windows and area around the door. James immediately doubled over with a sneeze. However, he was just straightening up when a group of boys exited, outing a mottled cloud with a whiff of explosives.
"Huhhh...uhhh...Hhh'IIIIISHoo! IIIIIIIIISHOO! HHH'IIIIIISsshoo!" James sniffled dreadfully into his sleeve. He was already desperate for more tissues.
Instead of turning around, James made a disgusting slurping sound and snuffled deeper into his rapidly dampening sleeve; "Hhhhhhh...hhhehhhh...IIIIIIIIHHShoo!"
Remus gazed disapprovingly at the hunched over back of James Potter, and winced at the dreadful slurping noises emanating from his friend; "Have a tissue?" He offered several more to James's cause. James, however, didn't see them.
Therefore he was reduced to slurping hastily again; "Wha...?"
Remus rolled his eyes and grasped James's upper arm to turn him around; "What are you doing? Come on, we're your friends. We've shared a dorm with you for almost seven years, you prat. How bad can you look?"
James sniffed and took a swipe at his nose his eyes on the ground.
"My God, James," Sirius exclaimed; "It's like you have...have a boogie farm!"
No one quite knew what to say to such a strong statement. Finally, Remus broke it; "Well, here, James. I'm afraid I didn't take very many but hopefully these will help." He handed over the aforementioned, but temporarily forgotten, wrinkled tissues and James took them thankfully.
"I wonder if you couldn't put a Glamour Charm on James's produce." Sirius pondered aloud stroking his chin thoughtfully and sending an x-raying stare over his best friend; "You look alright otherwise, James."
"Except for the farm." Peter chimed.
"Yes, except for the farm." Sirius agreed.
James sniffled self-consciously as his friends eyed him hungrily, searching for answers to help him out of this terrible mess.
"Well, I think you could apply another Glamour Charm anyways, Moony because-on second thought-his nose seems a little red." Sirius concluded.
"Hey!" James protested putting a hand over his nose; "It doesn't look that bad!"
"I don't think you're in a position to argue, Prongs," Sirius replied.
It took them nine minutes to slather James in Glamour Charms, before setting him off to find Lily in Flourish and Blotts. A musty smell of dust ridden air tore immediately into James's sinuses when he entered however.
"Hapt'IIIIIIIIISSSSHOOOO!" James sneezed forcefully. He felt for the doorknob behind him. His fingers were scrabbling hurriedly over the brass knob when a familiar voice called his name.
"James," the voice repeated; "James, over here!"
Although James couldn't see the person behind the voice his mind wonderfully could. He'd fantasized about it for countless years, except usually he was in a much better position than this.
"Hhhhh'IIXXSTTT! IKSTTT! H'SSSTT!"
He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he really didn't care for Flourish and Blotts on a day when he didn't have a whopper of a blossoming head cold and with that attribute he couldn't seem to handle the musty, stifling air. James was just about to flee when the other hand won out.
It was all because of her, bloody hell, everything was. By one more glorious cry of his name he was drawn to her like she was a god and he, a worshipper.
She had a huge stack of books weighing her arms down. It made her look real good, but James, being the ever thoughtful and caring wizard he was, quickly offered to take the stack. Lily was overjoyed and quickly transferred the hefty load into his timidly outstretched arms. James staggered and struggled to gain back his lost breath as the thick tombs hit his chest. However, more importantly than that his nose twitched at the coating of dust that flew into his face. His face grimaced and his eyes closed expectantly.
"Are you okay?"
James wished Lily's pile had had a few more books on it to hide his face. After all, what was a few more when it was already up to his chin? "Ishknnnkhtt!"
James's head swam momentarily from the pressure of carrying all those books and stifling a sneeze. He'd never been very good at multitasking; that was always Mooney's job. The worst part was that he could feel his nose running heavily.
"Umb..." James stammered as he could feel his face slowly turning rosy; "I'll just pay for these. Do you want anythig else?"
He could feel Lily's critical gaze roving over him and James tried to sniffle quietly, but she finally said; "I'll just be a moment."
James didn't hesitate. This small gift was gold. He ran awkwardly to the free cashier as fast as the huge stack of books would allow, but on the way tripped and fell flat on his face.
Lily was looking deep into his eyes. She seemed to be trying to read his soul when suddenly she was leaning in and James tilted his head in preparation. Their parted mouths collided messily, and kept going forward so that their lips and tongues smeared wet trails down each other's cheek.
Spluttering, Lily withdrew her deliciously warm mouth from his cheek.
James groaned pitifully.
"James, James!" Lily chanted frantically, shaking his floppy body so that he wiggled like a tall plate of jello; "Are you alright? Are you alright?"
He moaned in response, cracking his eyes open in a squint. A brilliantly bright ray of sunshine from the window over the counter hit them and James was forced to quickly shut his eyes again as his breath hitched on its own accord.
The ruins of the stack of books prevented James from twisting away from Lily's anxious face, so he clamped a fistful of the sleeve of his robes to his nose.
Lily twittered down at his screwed up face. "I could have taken some of that pile you prat." She told him softly.
James inwardly rolled his eyes (now she offers) and snuffled as quietly as he could into his sleeve. However, unfortunately, James had picked a girl with superb hearing.
"Do you need a tissue?" Lily asked him.
"Umb..." James snuffled awkwardly; "Doh..."
She gave him an odd look and pushed a small package of Kleenex into his hand. "Have them anyways," she said firmly, but then she smiled and got up, offering him a hand up.
James ignored her hand and rolled over into several sharp book ends; "Bloody hell, ouch!" and so after several rough starts James got to his feet. By that time Lily had already gathered up half the books. James hurriedly bent and haphazardly scooped the rest up. He cursed when he straightened and saw the free cashier was no longer free. Then he realized who was at the cashier.
"Sirius?!" James exclaimed incredulously. His best friend was even more notoriously known for never opening a book than James. "Wha-What are you d-doing here?" He hated the way he stuttered from his surprise.
"Oh, you know," Sirius replied airily; "I thought I should get a head start on my Christmas shopping list."
"I thought you didn't believe in giving books?" James said; "Something about them being a professor's gift...?"
Sirius snorted; "I had a good point, didn't I?"
James still couldn't quite wrap his head around Sirius's sudden and most strange appearance in Flourish and Blotts, a place where millions of books lived. Once he'd tried to argue with McGonagall that he was allergic to books and this was why he hadn't read the assigned book yet. McGonagall had set him up for two days detention with Mr. Pringle, the Groundskeeper.
The chime of the register woke James from his nostalgia. He waved Sirius goodbye and paid for Lily's many books. Lily held her hand out for his as they departed the bookshop, but James filled his hands by switching one of the two bags of books into his free hand.
Out of the corner of his eye James watched her face fall, and with her face, his heart. However, the sight of the well-known and loved pub, The Three Broomsticks, brought a weak smile to her face.
"James, you want to go to for a Butterbeer?" she asked a tad desperately.
He melted immediately; "Yeah, sure, whatever you want to do." He wasn't being a very good date.
She gazed a bit doubtfully at him, specifically his hand, but suddenly smiled. Before he could voice a query, she seized his hand, dragging him at a half run to the pub. They must have looked ridiculous with their bags, scarves, and coats flying everywhere through the snow they were kicking up. Nonetheless, they swept through the door breathless, rosy cheeked, and grinning.
Then James remembered about the germs crawling from his hand onto her delicate one, but she still held on.
"Erm," James squirmed uncomfortably as they wound their way through the crowds to the counter; "you should-that is we should-probably..." The bloody tickles were back, probably from the quick change in temperatures, which were already causing his nose to run. He finally freed his hand from hers and cautiously brought it up to his face. "Probably...pro-prob-bab...ly...Hhhhh'Inxsht! Uhhh...we should probably wash our hands before we sit down."
Lily laughed; "Well, clearly you should."
James could feel a heat that had nothing to do with the warmer temperatures inside the pub crawling over his cheeks.
Lily grinned, but soon her attention was needed by the bartender who was ready for her now. While she ordered James slouched to the loo to tend to his nose.
When he returned Lily was nursing a Giant-sized Butterbeer (Do you have a bottomless pit for a stomach? Tired of Butterbeer not hitting all the spots in your huge belly? Try our Giant-sized Butterbeer!). The glass was as tall as her nose, so that she had to raise herself slightly out of her chair to get a sip. It left a daub of foam on the tip of her nose as she drank.
James thought it was the mesmerizing thing he'd ever seen. It made him crave to kiss the foam away. He imagined it would be sweet in both ways, full of calories and meaning.
A sudden plume of smoke danced under his nose irritating his increasingly sensitive passages and making his nose twitch comically. The sneeze barreled out of him before he could even think about really putting a stop to it: "IIIIIISSSHOO!"
Lily turned, the foam still coating her nose; "Already contaminating your hands, Mr. I-Clean-My-Hands-Before-I-Sit-Down."
James struggled against the rising color in his cheeks and the urge to sneeze again. In the end, the sneezing won out; "Ehhh...hehhh...HHH'IIIISSKnnxtt! Hehhh'IIISSSKkttt!" He tried anxiously to stifle them, but they come out loudly awkward instead. "Hh'IIIIIIIIIIIIISHHHHH!"
"Come sit down, James," Lily said when he finished. James didn't really have much of a choice because she was already unscrewing the lid from his bottle of Butterbeer she'd ordered for him.
"How'd you know I *sniff, sniff* like my Butterbeer in the *sniff* bottle?" James inquired when he sat. It was indeed the way James preferred his Butterbeer. Everything just tasted better in a bottle.
Lily shrugged giving away no secrets; "I just figured you'd be a bottle type person, you know?"
James didn't but he didn't bother trying to get her to further her explanation when it was already as confusing as it was. He rubbed his nose. The strong aroma of pipe and cigar smoke always had bothered him a bit, but for his current state of discomfort in his nose it was nearly unbearable. It all swirled around his head teasing his nose.
"It's very smoky in here today, isn't it?" James commented trying to bat away some of the smoke from his head.
However, Lily was drinking again and couldn't answer right away. Once she drew away she reached out for James's hand, but again James refused-fiddling with his bottle lamely-to let her hold one of his contaminated appendages. He didn't know quite why he was so meticulous about this except he couldn't bare the idea of getting her sick. She wouldn't ever want to go out with him ever again after that.
Although, she still hadn't washed her hands from touching his before. It gave James a sudden image of her super sized mug teeming with little, evil, green and red bugs. Their beady, tiny eyes were laughing mirthlessly at him as they plunged into the foamy, creamy depths of Lily's drink. James shuddered which continued into a sneeze; "Hihh'IIIIIIIIIIIHHShoo! Ihhh'KIIIIIIISHoo!"
When he recovered and shook the fuzziness crowding into his head away Lily was staring almost hypnotized into her drink sipping occasionally but not really diving into it the way she had before. She bore an almost sad expression as she looked into outer space via her Giant mug.
James cleared his throat uncomfortably; "Lily?"
Lily didn't immediately reply-just took a long pull off her Butterbeer. When she finally looked up it was square into his eyes. James thought his retinas must be melted into his eye by the intensity of her gaze.
"I want you to tell me the truth." Lily began reaching determinedly for his hand across the scrubbed, wooden table. James, however, jerked back stiffly and only just saved himself from crashing to the floor like an utmost fool.
Lily's eyes blazed into high gear and her mouth went impossibly thin; "James Potter! What is going on? Do any of these years of asking me out have any meaning to you at all?"
Of course, those aforementioned attributes were nothing like her voice, which not only gathered up an audience from the pub who smirked at him, but assailed James in the way only Lily could make him feel. She'd always yelled and shouted at him for his shady deeds, but this was something entirely new.
"I-I..." He stuttered wholly taken aback; "I d-don't know wh-what you're talking about." James winced at the pitch his voice had adopted-it was the voice of a boy who'd just been kneed.
"Are we on a date or not, James?!" Lily hissed loudly, but not as loudly as before so that their audience went back to their respective drinks and meals.
"W-we-ll..." James said dragging it out to buy time, but soon the smoke that was encircling his head had gotten to him again; "Hehh...H'IIIshoo! Hih'IIIIISHHHoo!"
He sniffled into his sleeve copiously; "Ergh, bloody smboke!"
Lily grunted. "Is there anything that doesn't bother you, James?"
"Yes!" James protested immediately, but quickly broke off to cough.
Lily raised an eyebrow at him; "Those didn't sound too healthy."
That brought James back to the original question. "Err...yes, well, when I woke up this morning I had a slight tickle in my nose and..."
"Oh, so you thought you'd go all macho on me?" Lily interjected with a hint of...impishness? "Is this why you've been acting strange?"
James was baffled, but answered regardless; "I just didn't want you to get sick."
Lily blew out her breath making her bangs flutter around her face like angel wings. "You could have canceled." She pointed out breathlessly laughing a little; "It would have saved you from getting all cold and wet, bruising your buttocks..."
"You said you'd give me one chance. I didn't want to blow it." James replied simply.
"You almost did," Lily told him bluntly; "Canceling would have saved you from looking like a fool."
James took one look at her playful, but straight face and started chuckling. Lily wasted no time in joining him.
Slowly, ever so slowly, their laughter ceased. However, they were still smiling when they began to lean in over the table; at first breathlessly, then with no breath.
James could see Lily's glossy, rosy lips shimmering within his reach. Her eyes were already blissfully closed and James's began to when they suddenly tensed into a squint. His nose prickled intensely and his mouth dropped open.
And waited some more.
And some more.
Finally she opened her eyes appearing disgruntled and spluttering; "I thought all blokes liked it when birds gave them a first kiss on their first date...oh."
James remained posed to unleash a flurry of vicious sneezes, but they were stuck. A tendril of smoke stroked the underside of his nose.
"Wha...?" James began for smoke most certainly did not stroke noses, but suddenly the sneezes were ready for him; "Hih'IIIIIIIIIIIISHHHHH! IIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSHHH! Hhh'IIIIIIIIIIShooo! Huhhh...hihhhehhhhh-HHH'IIIIIIIIIIIIIISSHEHH!"...
Suddenly his head was swimming with congestion, tickles, and sneezes. He was wheezing and coughing around sneezes. His vision was blurring and growing dark...
"Lily...please, I didn't mean to kiss you bad...let me try again." James pleaded desperately. He grabbed her sleeve urgently and tried to bring her to him, but she twisted away furiously and backhanded him on the other cheek.
Love is a fickle friend.
"Bloody hell..." James moaned reaching up to rub his head and then his runny nose; "Bloody heh...he-ll...Hh'IIIIIIIISSSHoo!"
James moaned and cursed a bit more rolling pathetically around on the floor.
"He's awake." Someone said.
"He's awake!" they said a bit louder.
"HE'S BLOODY AWAKE!"
The growl in the voice was unmistakable: Remus. James cracked open an eye confirming this. Then he groaned some more because of the light. Remus offered him a box of tissues as the rest of his friends and Lily crowded round. Lily's cheeks were rosy and she was sporting a scratch on her wrist, but Sirius had a suspiciously large, red handprint across his face.
"What's goig od?" James asked before blowing his nose. Everybody cringed.
"Yuck, James!" Sirius said; "You shouldn't do that around people eating..."
"Your so called best friend caused you to faint!" Lily replied rather shrilly, turning a brighter shade of red.
Sirius matched her.
"I did not faint!" James protested immediately, for fainting wasn't manly and certainly wasn't something one did on a first date if they wanted another.
"I told you he would say he didn't!" Sirius crowed in triumph.
"He doesn't know what he's talking about." Lily retorted furiously.
Meanwhile, Remus crouched down closer to James; "Do you hurt anywhere?"
"No," James said immediately without much care. The argument was much more interesting.
"Maybe she's right, Sirius," Peter piped up; "He hit the floor pretty hard."
Sirius growled dangerously at Peter, who squeaked and hid behind Lily.
"You terrify your friends?!" Lily shouted incredulously; "First you knock out my boyfriend (from the floor James swelled with pride and warm fuzzy feelings) then you petrify Peter..."
"Are you sure?" Remus said; "Your head doesn't hurt? You don't feel nauseous?"
"You're going to make me nauseous, if you keep this up." James hissed; "I want to find out what happened."
Lily let out a cry of impatient rage; "What kind of a friend makes his friend have an allergic reaction and threatens another!"
"A good one," Sirius spat; "One who can see his friend is failing fast and needs help."
"Sirius you prat!" James yelped with wide eyes from the floor and attempted to leap to his feet, but Remus caught him and held him back; "Remus, not now, let me go! I want to pummel my good friend here!"
"And I want to find out if you have a concussion." Remus argued; "Now, do you or don't you have a headache?"
James sighed deeply. Sirius and Lily had retreated behind a curtain of people to another corner of The Three Broomsticks. Seeing as there was no other choice and he was crafting a very annoyed werewolf, which nobody likes, James replied firmly and tad sharply; "Remus, I am truly fine. I don't have a headache and I am most certainly not...not...nau...Hh'IIIIIIIIIIIIIISHHH! H'IIIIIIIIIIIShoo!"
"Bless you," Remus chirped.
James moaned; "I'm fine Remus. I don't know why you all think I'm going to faint or have a concussion! I am perfectly fine."
James's resolute face lasted for another second before it twisted into a sneeze. He sniffled rather pathetically after.
Finally Remus let up; "Okay, okay, it's your funeral, not mine."
"Good," James said then added with a broad grin; "The world needs you more than me."
Remus smiled back shaking his head; "Well, now I know you're going to die-you just complimented me on something other than a brilliant prank."
They smiled at each other for a moment, before Lily parted the crowd with Sirius in tow. James was astonished to see no more red handprints tattooed across Sirius's face, and although Lily's face was hard, she didn't seem to have any more to say.
After hauling James to his feet Lily removed her scarf and twisted it around his neck snugly. She added her hat into the mix too, jamming it on over top of James's. Then she threw her arm around him and drew him close. James put his arm around her too.
"I'll keep you warm." She breathed into his ear as she pressed a kiss to his temple and they departed The Three Broomsticks for the carriages back to Hogwarts, Lily singing softly in his ear.
A few carriages were available for students who wanted to go back earlier. Lily selected a carriage for only themselves. Then she seated him beside her still clutching him close.
James didn't have any qualms over this of course, but he did want some answers. "Lily, what were my friends up to?"
Lily laughed; "You have me to yourself but you want to talk about your friends?"
At James's serious look Lily responded; "I cut them a deal. I get you to myself for this evening and they explain themselves to you tonight."
James almost protested, but the undercurrent of the response eventually hit him and a slow, satisfied grin spread itself across his face. "I like the way you do business." He merely replied, but a sudden sneeze reminded James why he had been avoiding intimacy with Lily that day.
"Umb," James snuffled into his sleeve apologetically; "Lily? I don't know if I can give you your end of the deal. I mean, I'm ill, and I really don't want to get you ill too.
"Look, James," Lily said soberly; "We've come this far and I don't care about your germs. I'm on a date with you. I imagine there will come a time when I'm ill and I'll make you ill too. What are you going to do when that happens? Hunt me down and sneeze on me?"
James chuckled weakly and relaxed a bit releasing a tickle in his nose that had been plaguing him; "Hihh'IIIIIIIIIISHHOO! Hehhh'IIIIIIIIIIIIIIHSSShoo!" They laughed a bit at that, and when they had settled again Lily continued.
"Besides," Lily added daringly; "Everyone knows you're contagious before it sets in."
"Really?" James asked his eyes big and round behind his glasses shimmering with newfound hope.
"Well, I heard that." Lily confessed with a wicked smirk.
Hardly daring to do so, but at the same time desperately needing to reassure himself that Lily was not a mirage, James slowly twisted to her. One brush of skin following her beautiful blood red hair and he cupped it, lunging at her mouth quickly and remaining attached for the rest of the journey.
Lily and James endured a very happy three hours together, and it seemed all too soon that the other part of Lily's bargain was to be performed. She dropped him off at the foot of the stairs with a chaste kiss and flounced off smiling widely.
James himself was grinning broadly when he opened the door to his dorm. Lily had softened him remarkably in the hours they had spent together, and James no longer had the strong desire to use his best friend as a punching bag. It was a wonder what miracles Lily could perform on him given several years.
He found his friends huddled together arguing heatedly.
"I told you guys it was stupid idea." Remus growled.
"You didn't stop us." Sirius pointed out petulantly; "I don't see why I should have to explain. I hardly did a thing!"
"Somehow," James interrupted, jumping into the row; "I doubt that, Padfoot."
"James!" Sirius gasped; "You shouldn't sneak up on a bloke like that."
"He's been here for two minutes." Peter said, known for his well trained eyes.
James clapped Peter on the back, but when he spoke he directed it to his other friend; "Now, Padfoot, out with it."
Sirius spluttered; "B-but it wasn't just me!"
"Padfoot..." James warned some of his old hardness materializing in his voice; "Just tell me."
"Fine, fine," Sirius glared at Remus and Peter; "Lily was right, we did make you sneeze a bit more than was needed."
James rolled his eyes; "I got that part."
Sirius grumbled some more, but a well aimed glare accompanied by a growl kept him going; "After seeing you in such rough shape in Zonko's we figured you needed some help, so we followed you..."
"That's why you were in Flourish and Blotts!" James exclaimed finally piecing more of the puzzle together. It was with great relief too, as James had been worrying that Sirius had gone insane since he'd seen his friend in the book shop. "But what were you doing exactly?" James inquired curiously.
"Well, that was just a test run," Sirius began a bit more enthusiastically.
However, at the same time Remus muttered; "I told you James would think it strange."
"Anyways," Sirius said loudly brushing Remus's comment aside; "We tripped you up so we could-"
"Wait! It was you who made me fall flat on my face and make a prat out of myself?" James interrupted angrily starting to wave his fists.
"No, you don't need help with that, James." Sirius responded instantly, but as soon as it was out of his mouth he clapped a hand to it with wide eyes.
"Sirius..." James rumbled menacingly reaching for his wand just for dramatics.
"No!" Sirius interjected in an honest hurry; "No! James! It wasn't like that! We wanted to see if Lily really liked you or not. Otherwise we would have done something different."
James gave them Sirius a puzzled look; "What do you mean ‘something different'?"
"We needed to see if Lily had any...any..." Sirius started; "Moony, what was that word again?"
"Compassion?" Remus offered.
"Yes, compassion." Sirius said thankfully.
"Why would Lily need this...compassion, as you say it?" James asked then turned away with a sneeze; "H'IIIIIIIIIISHoo!"
"Moony?" Sirius begged turning puppy eyes on his friend.
Remus sighed but consented; "Sirius had this idea to get Lily to take care of you,"
"Which she clearly did," Sirius pointed out smugly, even under Remus's withering glare and snarl: "Could you not interrupt while I'm doing your dirty work, please?"
That settled, Remus continued on. "Thank you, first, we needed to know if she really cared about you in order to do so. Thus, Sirius volunteered himself to go after you into Flourish and Blotts, and before we could stop him he was tripping you. However," Remus added reluctantly; "It did its job and we could see Lily helped you back to your feet and gathered the books that you dropped, so we decided to continue with Plan A."
"And Plan A is?" James asked a bit insolently.
"We told you it: Lily taking care of you." Remus reminded
"Plan B was that we were going to kidnap and smuggle you back to Hogwarts and strap you to your bed with tubes of gallons of orange juice going down your throat." Peter piped up cheerfully.
James's eyes widened as Sirius snickered to Peter mischievously; "There's still time for that my friend."
Remus was having none of that; "That sounds like medieval water torture with orange juice. Now, everybody stop interrupting!
A moment of silence ensued in the wake of the annoyed werewolf.
Remus continued, shooting warning glares at his friends; "Right, so we followed you to The Three Broomsticks. We could see you were having a bit of fun, but there was a wall up between you two because you were confusing her. Thus, we needed to help you explain to her your distance. Sirius, of course, was it a little too obvious in his excitement over his successes, and went too far." Remus finished with an elbow to Sirius's ribs.
"Ouch!" Sirius protested instantly; "What was that-Oh." His eyes went wide with realization; "Yes, I'm sorry James. Will you ever forgive me?" The question was asked with Sirius's dramatic voice.
"Well..." James drawled, pretending to be really thinking hard about it; "I asked her out on another date... She said yes, so, since you haven't killed my love life, I'll forgive you for making me look so bad...Hihh'IIIIIIIIHHShoo!" The sneeze was unexpected and free. James appeared abashed while he rubbed his nose.
However, his friends all laughed at James's expression. Remus handed James a couple of tissues and Sirius and Peter pushed him into his bed. They turned the lights out and James's snores quickly filled the room.
"Say cheeeeese!" Sirius sang.
Peter looked around hopefully; "Cheese?"
In Lily's arms baby Harry gurgled and laughed.
"You're not holding the camera right." Remus said loudly above the noise; "Lily's head isn't in the picture. Move to the right. There, now say cheese!"
Maybe love isn't such a fickle friend.
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