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Signum Vitalis

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"Have either of you practiced this spell by yourselves?" Hermione asked of the two young men once everyone and settled into their spots. Daryn nodded and John shook his head. "Er… okay. How comfortable do you feel with it, Daryn?"

"Well, I've only practiced it on my little sister's familiar but it seemed to work on it."

"On your sister's familiar?" John snorted.

"Oh, I see you've volunteered to be my first human subject?" Daryn countered.

"Ah-hem."

Hermione looked up to see Professor Greythorn with a cage of mice.

"Which group is this?" asked the professor.

"Alpha-Lambda," Hermione answered helpfully.

"I see, here are the mice you will practice on before any spells on human subjects are attempted."

Hermione glanced at Daryn but his face was impassive. The professor opened the cage and distributed a mouse to each of the group members.

"I will demonstrate the spell, and each of you will attempt to copy me." Professor Greythorn pointed her wand at Hermione's mouse and with a quiver and a flick of her wand she pronounced "Sig-noom vee-tal-iss" the s hissing between her teeth. It didn't sound very comforting.

"Well?" Professor Greythorn asked. "Questions?"

"Does the s have to be hard during the pronunciation?" Hermione asked.

The professor looked down at her nose at Hermione and huffed, "Not that I know of. You can use your practice time to discover the answer. Well, go on." The professor gestured to Hermione.

Hermione took that as a cue to practice and so she turned and focused on her mouse. Holding her wand trained on the small target of the mouse's head, she tried to mimic the professor's wand and voice. "Signum vitalis!" She saw a yellow-green glow around the mouse's head which quickly faded.

"I see a green colour but humans should be in the blue toned range. I assume animals have different normal colour ranges than humans," Hermione turned to the professor.

"Correct," the professor promptly turned her eyes on the others. "Go ahead."

Daryn and Malfoy both performed the spell with very little comment from the professor. Shandra forgot the quiver of the wand the first time, but she grasped it on the second try. However, John was still struggling with the pronunciation after a few tries.

"Help him," Professor Greythorn instructed briefly and moved onto the next group.

Hermione turned to John who shrugged with an ingratiating smile.

"You've almost got it right," Hermione encouraged. "You just need to pronounce signum with an -oom instead of an -um."

"Or you could sing it, like this sig-nOM vi-TAL-is." Daryn added, singing the spell in a clear tenor.

"Y-you could," agreed Hermione.

"Using a tune always helps me remember how to the pronounce a spell. It saved my butt in cram school," Daryn explained.

John laughed dryly, "Okay, -om not -um. Sig-nOM vi-TAL-iss." He copied Daryn's tune but his singing was breathy and a tad strained.

Hermione ignored this and smiled encouragingly.

John turned to his desk, but his mouse had disappeared.

"Accio John's mouse." Hermione said and the mouse flew towards her from under one of the desks. Once John's mouse and been returned, he proceeded to practice the spell using the sing-song tone.

He blinked. "I saw something," he said cheerfully. "Now I can practice-" he turned towards Hermione with his wand raised and Hermione automatically raised her own.

"Er, not yet," she interrupted quickly. John quirked his eyebrow and Hermione explained further. "You need to get your wand-work down a little better before I let you point a wand at me," she added a smile to hopefully soften the blow.

She watched his face flash through two consecutive expressions before he smiled and turned to the mouse again.

"Here, I'll show you," Daryn offered. He proceeded to explain the wand movements more in depth and Hermione glanced up to see how the other two in their group were doing. She was surprised to see that Shandra was already practicing on Malfoy, her wand pointed directly at his forehead. When she looked closer, she saw Malfoy's wand resting in his hand, hidden under the table. That seemed a lot more accurate. They switched then, with Draco openly pointing his wand at the girl's head. Hermione watched, fascinated by how relaxed Shandra seemed to be under his wand. Malfoy's eyes flicked over in her direction and Hermione quickly re-focused on what Daryn was saying.

"Here, I'll show you on Hermione."

"Woah, what?" she asked, panicked. "Let me see you do it on the mouse one more time to make sure everything is okay."

"Wow, Hermione," John said jokingly. "You don't seem very comfortable on the receiving end of a wand. I wonder if its because you're-"

"There's nothing wrong with wanting to be safe," Hermione cut in. A flash of realization lit Daryn's brown eyes.

"Don't worry," he assured. "Watch, I've got it down." He executed a perfect spell on his mouse.

"Okay. You do have it down," Hermione agreed reluctantly but still felt her breathing hitch as he pointed his wand towards her. Nobody had had to point a wand at her for a long time and she hadn't realized until just now that it would affect her so strongly. Too many times she had been staring down a malicious wand point. Too many times to try to block all of them out of her brain. Don't think about it, don't think about it, she chanted to herself. Deciding to follow Malfoy's suite, she gripped her wand in a way easy to throw a 'protego' from.

"Don't worry," Daryn repeated, with a hint of the tone you used on small animals or scared children. She wished he would just get it over with. He was taking long enough as it was, and her mind was slowing things down on top of it. Her breathing became a little ragged as her control slipped and she knew her heart was beating too fast. She watched Daryn's wand bob and trace in a perfect arc as he sang in his beautiful voice, "Signum vitalis!"

Her head buzzed in a foreign way, but the sensation quickly lifted. She did a mental inventory as discretely as possible. Everything seemed fine. He had only done the one spell, which had seemed to have gone perfectly.

"Huh," Daryn muttered, leaning over their textbook. He pointed to one of the hues and said, "I'm pretty sure this was the color I saw. It says that this is a little high for a human of your size. I wonder if I did it correctly?"

"Oh, I'm pretty sure you did," Hermione said as offhandedly as possible. They exchanged another look and Hermione wondered exactly what he was thinking and how much he guessed. He's probably a good person, she tried to reassure herself. You've seen both of his forearms, he's not a Death Eater. "There was this buzz in my head when you cast the spell," she continued, trying to distract herself. "I was thinking it could be I felt the disruption of the nerve impulses when your spell hit them. I wonder if that has anything to do with the colors? Maybe the sodium or potassium trigger part of the colors?" Really, now, she was just throwing out random things to block out her thoughts.

"You mean I have to memorize what all these colors mean?" John asked with a laugh. "I didn't sign up to be an interior decorator."

"Being a healer requires finesse just like any other artist. Only for a healer, the orchestra is the the body and each of the systems sings in a different instrument's voice."

"Uh, huh. Sure," John said, quirking his eyebrow. It seemed like Daryn was a frustrated musician. Good, music was safe. She imagined Daryn sitting and playing a violin with the sunlight golden on his dark brown skin. Safe, sunlight, happy. She held onto the image with a fiery will and started to get a headache from her clenched jaw.

"Well I'm going to see how those two are doing," John said and got up to wander over to Shandra and Draco. He started chatting and Hermione turned and looked back at Daryn.

"I guess its my turn?" she asked, falsely cheery.


AN: Hopefully this doesn't feel like a filler chapter. I got excited about the spells and stuff and before I realized it I had taken a whole chapter on the lab class. Do you guys find it boring or is it okay? I would love the feedback. And... this story just hit over 10,000 words. Kinda exciting :) Many thanks! (and of course to my lovely beta) Cheers!