Is This Love?

Chapter 1: Metamorphosis

[-×-]

"Blimey! Alice! Whatever happened to the pigtails? And the glasses? A – and - ?"

Sixteen-year-old Alice Meiden scowled at her friend, flipping her long, shiny chestnut hair over her shoulder.

"What?" the Ravenclaw Prefect demanded. "Can't I not look like a geek if I feel like it?"

"Yes, but – " Alice's friend Bertha babbled "such a change!"

Alice couldn't help but allow herself a small, humourless smile. The last two months had been ones of total alteration. Indeed, Alice had gone all-out, from purchasing everything from a set of contact lenses to a new wardrobe. The former Alice had vanished: the overstudious, fat, pimply teenage girl with the thick glasses and dorky braces and two thick pigtails protruding from her ears…

Instead, the girl that stood in front of Bertha Jorkins was a complete change. The braces were gone, leaving a perfect, white bite. The acne was gone, leaving her face glowing and blemish-free, and the new, fashionable robes clung moderately to her now slender, and graceful form. Even the glasses were gone, revealing her almond shaped eyes to be a violent shade of green – not an emerald green, like the Evans girl in the year below her – but a bright shade close to neon, which accentuated her shiny, silky chestnut hair, so different from the wild frizzy locks she had kept shut in two thick braids.

One thing was similar – the scowl. The Meiden scowl. Whatever had changed about Alice's appearance – her temper certainly hadn't. Bertha inwardly sighed. That was good. Change was good, but only so much…

"So," Alice said coldly, her voice cutting across Bertha's thoughts. "Shall we get a compartment, or do you propose to share one with – say – Lucius Malfoy?"

Bertha shuddered. "That's the very last thing I want, Alice." Her face brightened. "Let's go in there – I just saw Frank go in there – you know – Frank Longbottom? The hottest of the hot in Hogwarts?"

Alice rolled her eyes. "Whatever." Quite frankly, she was thoroughly tired of Bertha's all-play-no-work attitude, but she wasn't about to complain. Frank Longbottom was someone whose company didn't hurt to keep.

Unlike certain people she'd like to mention, she thought irritably, as she lugged her heavy, book-filled trunk through a compartment filled with very – let's say – amorous couples. Gits. When would Hogwarts students ever learn about their priorities?

Alice paused, wiping her brow with a hand. She knew she shouldn't have packed so many differently styled robes – it weighed her trunk down so much, in addition to the usual library she kept in there –

"Here, let me give you a hand there," a male voice said behind her, as another hand closed around hers.

Alice's eyes widened as she turned around. Frank Longbottom was standing behind her, smiling at her.

"There we go," he said, lifting her trunk easily and lifting it into the baggage compartment, not noticing her scrutiny.

"Thank you, I suppose," Alice said stiffly. Her thoughts were running wildly in another direction: since when has Frank Longbottom been this good-looking?

"Not a problem – " his eyes registered on Alice's face for the first time. "Bloody hell! Is that you, Meiden?"

Alice felt slightly irritated. "Yes it's me, the insane, psychotic geekazoid freak. What did you think I was, an exchange student?"

"You're looking excellent. You look beautiful," he said softly, his hazel eyes examining her face.

"Er – thanks," Alice said, uncomfortable in his scrutiny, a pink flush creeping onto her cheeks.

"Come sit," Frank said, indicating an empty seat across from him. "I daresay you know pretty much everyone here – that's Arthur Weasley, and there's Molly Prewett – nicest people you'll ever meet. And Molly's younger brother, Gabian, as well as Lily Evans, only the cleverest witch of her year – I think you know her."

"Oh yes," Alice smiled. "Only five nights of revision with the Slytherins is enough to make anyone remember your name. Isn't that right, Lily?"

The fifth-year Gryffindor Prefect smiled. "I'd never have survived it. Pity Newt took so many points of for hexing that Nott character – he was a real pain."

Arthur Weasley laughed. "Tell me about that one, Evans, I don't think I've heard it."

Lily looked at Alice, and they both rolled their eyes. "As a result for hexing that git Potter, McGonagall put me on detention – and it was to help Alice with the load of failing second-year Slytherins Newt couldn't fit into his schedule to give remedial Potions lessons to."

"What a nightmare," Alice continued. "Twelve stinking Slytherin second-year brats in remedial Potions – try to explain the principles of Swelling Solutions to a bunch of sadistic prats who're flinging dried lacewings at you."

Frank burst out laughing. Alice and Lily bristled.

"What?" Lily demanded.

"Nothing," Frank said, recovering from his laughing fit. "Well," he conceded after receiving a scowl from Alice, "just the thought of second-years throwing lacewings at you to the point where you hex them back. That's all."

Alice rolled her eyes, her scowl fixed. "Well, of all the immature berks," she muttered to herself.

"Hey Meiden," Frank said, his eyes lighting up, "don't take it personally."

"Fat chance," Bertha scoffed. "Alice takes everything personally. You don't take it too personally, Frank – Alice is touchier than a septic boil."

"Many thanks for your analogies," Alice muttered. "I thank myself for finding the most supportive friends."

The door to the compartment opened, and a group of four girls walked in. They were chattering loudly between bites of Pumpkin Pasties, and laughing exaggeratedly in a way that Alice found very annoying. Apparently, so did Molly Prewett.

"Girls, if it may not be too much to ask, could you please keep it down?" she said, in a polite tone. Kind Molly, courteous Molly, gentle Molly –

"Sorry, Molly," one of the girls said. She was another Ravenclaw sixth-year whom Alice knew quite well. The girl turned around and giggled after saying Molly's name.

"Really, Mafalda, Molly's name is not that funny, you know," Bertha broke in sharply, raising her eyebrows.

The girl, Mafalda Hopkirk, turned to Frank.

"Hello, Frank," she said in a simpering voice that gave Alice a headache.

He smiled at her. "Hello, Hopkirk."

Mafalda twirled a lock of brunette hair around her finger.

"Mind if I sit here? I thought I might enjoy some peace since that Meiden's not to be seen anywhere –"

"Good day, Mafalda."

Mafalda stiffened and turned around, her eyes widening when she saw Alice.

"Bloody hell!" she cried, her blue eyes widening. "Is this a transfer student?"

"Hardly." Alice gave Mafalda a chilling smile. "It's only that Meiden you were talking about not too long ago. How kind of you to forget me so quickly – pity you can't disappear that fast."

It took a minute for Mafalda to process all this.

"Meiden!" she stuttered. "You – you're different!"

"Yes," Alice replied calmly. "I couldn't forsake all the males at Hogwarts to end up going out with you, Mafalda. Now that would be unfair…to the males, of course."

A muscle was going in Mafalda's neck.

"Erm…I'm sorry, Mafalda, but I'm afraid the last four seats here are for Potter, Black, Lupin and Pettigrew…I promised them I'd save them a seat here," Frank said. Lily stiffened immediately.

Mafalda looked even angrier than before, and motioned to her three best friends to follow her. They left as quickly as they came.

Frank let out a sigh as they left.

"Who in the name of arse let those into Hogwarts?" Alice said, seething. "And how did that – that thing end up in Ravenclaw?"

"Well, if you must admit, Mafalda Hopkirk and her cronies are pretty clever when it comes to schoolwork," Arthur said, shaking his head. "But I wish they'd act a bit more clever when it comes to walking around the real world."

"And I wish they'd spend more time on etiquette rather than makeup," Alice continued coldly. "I really don't see the need for that kind of trash. All it does is make your skin age prematurely."

The door to the compartment opened again, this time, four fifth-year boys hopped into the compartment (Lily groaned and buried her face in her hands).

"Hullo everyone!" James Potter announced. "Thanks for saving us a seat, Frank."

Frank waved a hand amiably. "Good day to you too, Potter."

"That's it?" Sirius Black announced in a mock pout. "James gets everything, and Remus, Peter and I are just background, is that it, then?"

Frank laughed again. "Fine then. Best wishes for all of you. Now quit pouting and grab a seat."

There was a mad rush, and Lily grabbed a magazine and covered her face with it, as James Potter slid into the seat next to her.

"Thanks, Frank, for the great seat!" he said loudly. "Great view from here!"

Alice could see the top of Lily's forehead flushing.

"Hey, gorgeous," James said to Lily, a cocky grin sliding onto his face.

Lily ignored him. James tried again.

"You're looking really great, Evans."

Lily threw down her magazine, and faced Remus, who was sitting opposite her. "Hello, Remus," she said, pointedly ignoring James.

Remus smiled back at Lily, and James' open-mouthed outrage. "I see you've been made Prefect."

"You too," Lily nodded, before consulting her wristwatch. "We have to go to the Prefect compartment soon." She looked at Alice. "Do you have to come?"

Alice nodded. "Yup. We need instruction from our –" she looked to Arthur and Molly, "new Head Girl and Head Boy."

"So, Molly," Frank said conversationally, "what are you going to make us do?"

Molly shrugged. "If you use that tone with me, I'll make you scrub out the Entrance Hall with Peeves."

[-×-]

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belong to the one-and-only J.K. Rowling.