Lockhart's idea of a morale-booster became clear at breakfast time on February fourteenth.

                "Oh…my…God," breathed Buffy as she sneaked into the Great Hall, ten minutes late and now regretting getting out of bed at all.

                The walls were all covered with grossly pink flowers. Heart-shaped confetti was falling from a pale blue ceiling. Buffy felt as if she'd fallen headfirst into a bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

                At the staff table was Lockhart himself, pretty in pink enough robes to make Alice, The, sick to her stomach. He was on his feet and waving for silence from the students. Of course, the only remaining empty seat was next to him. That would teach her for being chronically late to breakfast.

                The expression on Snape's face nearly made up for it, though.

                "I knew you'd come, love," Lockhart cooed at her as she sat, reluctantly, next to him, and then turned back to the Hall. "Happy Valentine's Day!" Buffy winced, patted her pockets down for aspirin. That Firewhiskey was a bitch in the morning. "And may I thank the forty-six people who have so far sent me cards! Yes, I have taken the liberty of arranging this little surprise for you all—and it doesn't end here!"

                A Fyarl demon, Buffy was praying, a big, nasty Fyarl demon with a hangover. With those pink robes, Lockhart would be the first to go…

                Lockhart clapped his hands. The doors of the entrance hall opened and in came marching twelve dwarfs. Each was wearing a large diaper, sandals, and gold wings, and was carrying a harp. None of them looked happy to be there, much less was whistling.

                Buffy stared.

                "My friendly, card-carrying cupids!" Lockhart's teeth could have driven the entire deer population of the American Northeast to extinction. He turned aside to Buffy, wearing that expression he thought was so irresistible. "Didn't I say I had a treat for you?"

                Every eye at the table fixed on Buffy. She couldn't think of a thing to say, except maybe "Off with his head!" Mr. Dumbo was smiling brightly and looking interested, the mean bastard.

                "They will be roving around the school today," Lockhart was saying, "delivering your valentines! And the fun doesn't stop here! I'm sure my colleagues will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion! Why not ask Professor Snape to show you how to whip up a Love Potion! While you're at it, Professor Flitwick knows more about Entrancing Enchantments than any wizard I've ever met, the sly old dog! And for you boys, don't you all go drowning Professor Summers in valentines, now—we have rules about that sort of thing!"

                Poor Flitty buried his face in his hands, turning red up to the tips of his ears. Snape was going to spontaneously combust any second.

                Lockhart dropped back into his seat, flashing those whites. "A splendid day for a bit of romance, wouldn't you say?"

                "Look, scones," said Buffy, and picked one up. It was dusted with pink sugar. She dropped it again.

                "You could have dressed a bit more festively, Professor Summers—St. Patrick's isn't for quite a bit! Not to say you don't look, um, stunning as usual, my dear."

                Buffy looked down at the dark green robes she had on, which were kind of wrinkled, and…too big. Her nose picked up the scent of men's cologne, of hot sand. Ah ha. These were not her robes. (More important question: what the hell had he gone back to work in, then?) She hadn't been looking at what she was throwing on, being in such a hurry. Buffy started to grin, remembering specifically why she'd slept in that morning. He'd definitely been late getting back to Cairo—and she'd had to kick him out of bed in the first place.

                "And that reminds me, Professor. I was just wondering if you'd like to join me tonight at—"

                "Look, scones." The pink sugar really wasn't so bad.

                Lockhart smiled, looking as if he had a tick—trying to look seductive, Buffy realized with some horror. "Ah, you know what they say, Professor." He leaned in very intimately, unaware that he was perilously close to getting a fork in the eye.

                "Nooo," Buffy said coyly, noticing the majority of eyes in the Great Hall on her and Lockhart. "I don't, actually, Professor." She opened her eyes very wide.

                "The quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach," purred Lockhart. Oh, God, he was going for a kiss.

                "No, it's not," Buffy said, and looked him right in the eye an inch away. "It's through his chest. With an axe."

                Fifty years from now, she was going to be telling her grandchildren about that look on his face.

                "Ah," he said, and sat back. His arm was no longer on the back of her chair. "Ah. Um. Well. I really should be going, so much to do…" He smiled weakly at her. She very deliberately stabbed her toast with her fork, keeping eye contact all the while. "Ah. Um. Well. Excuse me, then, I must be off, uh…classes to prepare for, you know, ha, ha. Ha."

                He ran from the Great Hall as if his robes had just caught fire.

                Buffy calmly sipped her orange juice. Next to her, Flitty giggled so hard he fell off his pile of cushions. Mickey herself cracked a smile.

                "My," said Mr. Dumbo, and stopped there. Stifled laughter was drifting up and down the Great Hall. At the Gryff's table, Seamus was turning bright red trying not to break into hysterical giggles.

                "Disgustingly inappropriate," Snape growled, although it lacked any real feeling.

                "Speaking of inappropriate," said Buffy, leaning forward on her elbows, trying to look as mussed as possible. "I had a great time last night, Sev. We should try that again, soon. I mean, I didn't know you were so bendy." She blew him a kiss.

                It really was interesting, the way he could turn purple with his entire body like that. Mickey was choking on a piece of toast. Mr. Dumbo's eyebrows were about to go through the roof. Let the old scandalmongers digest this.

                "Gotta go," Buffy said brightly, standing up. "I need to get to class before the monsters toilet paper the place or something. Bye, guys, see you at lunch."

                For the first time in her life, Buffy left behind the stunned silence of the breakfast table with a sense of really having accomplished something.

                The good mood lasted until the first dwarf.