Hello all. Yes, I moved this story here. We're aiming for 50 stories on our account this year, and perhaps we can reach that... if not, we've always got our other stories that we aim to finish by the end of the year, we promise. --Missie and Lain
"I come to you with a business proposition."
Sirius Black laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back in Professor McGonagall's chair. It was ten o'clock in the evening and the Transfiguration classroom had been locked and dark until a few moments ago. Now, the door was jimmied and a soft light from a candle cast an eerie, if not frightening, glow across the seventh year's face. "Miss McCoy," he drawled, his face slowly breaking into a grin. Alice found herself slightly frightened. "You come to us-" he motioned to Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, each standing on either side of the chair like bodyguards. If wouldn't have been so comical if they had looked like actual bodyguards instead of awkward and gangly seventeen year old boys. "- as the best friend of the girl with our other good friend's bits in a vice. As far as we have seen, she shows no interest in the aforementioned friend and despises the guts of we who stand before you." He changed positions, putting his elbows on the desk and folding his hands while leaning forward. "Please, inform us of your proposition."
Alice shifted in her hard seat, uncrossing and recrossing her legs nervously. This was like a Muggle mafia movie gone bad. "Allow me to speak hypothetically here, to avoid embarrassing any involved parties."
Sirius motioned to his right, and after conferring with Remus for longer than Alice felt was necessary, he motioned for her to continue. "Let's just say," she began, "that there's this person who is hopelessly…" she paused, racking her brain for the right word, "fixated. Yes, fixated, on another person of the fairer sex. This person goes to great, and more often than not, painful lengths to impress the other person. Said person of the fairer sex crushes these great and painful lengths, and in an almost stupid display of determination, said person comes back with even greater and more painful lengths, only to have those lengths crushed again. Now let us assume that the unspecified companions of these two persons meet in utmost secret and confidence, to 'help' this poor person win the person of the fairer sex. Do you understand what I'm trying to say here?"
"You lost us at 'great and painful lengths'."
She sighed and shook her head. "If I was to help persuade Lily that maybe James isn't as horrible as she publicly and adamantly proclaims, would you stop with the dung bombs in the girls' lavatories?"
"Give us a minute to discuss the attributes of this deal." Sirius rose and the three walked to the corner of the room. Several not-so-discreet glances and loud whispers later, they returned. "We have decided," Sirius informed her, a smirk permanently staining the corners of his lips, "that there may be a ceasefire of dung bombs while this plan is in action, but if it fails, a heavier assault will be launched to make up for lost time. If it succeeds, however, a treaty may be in consideration."
Alice pretended to weigh the options. She realized just her presence in the same room as these three was probably worthy of beheading in Lily's opinion, but she couldn't sit and watch James Potter throw himself at her feet. One, she liked her breakfast in her stomach, and two, any boy that persistent is either off his rocker mad or desperately in love. She hoped it was the latter of the two. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful business."
Sirius grinned and scribbled something on a scrap of paper. He held it out to Alice. "My card," he told her, winking. "Just in case."
Alice took the paper and pocketed it, positive she would never need it. She rose. "Well, I thank you. Please don't darken my door unless it is a dire emergency. And if you have any questions, please, hesitate to ask." She walked to the door and opened it, and disappeared into the dark hallway.
"Moony, state the day and the exact time."
Remus pulled out a scuffed gold pocket watch. "Quarter past ten, October first."
Sirius swiveled the chair around to face them. "Let it be known that Alice McCoy joined the ranks of the Marauders on this unholy day, October first at approximately a quarter past ten. Now, we must inform Prongs of the news."
James Potter was rudely awakened by a loud voice in dangerous proximity to his ear. He rolled off the couch and onto the floor. Three blurry circles were hovering above him, and it was then he realized his glasses had fallen off. "Can't see--"
He shrieked as his glasses were shoved on his face and shoved onto his nose. He was hauled unceremoniously to his feet before being pushed back down on the couch. "What in bloody hell?"
"Mate," Sirius Black howled, plopping right on James' lap. "The one and only Alice McCoy has taken pity on your hopeless cause and has decided to help move things along."
"Get off me you poof," James growled, pushing Sirius into the spot next to him. "Now what's this about McCoy?"
"She has taken pity on your cause!" Sirius shouted, grabbing James by the shoulders and shaking him so hard his head snapped back and forth. "You are no longer completely hopeless!"
When the shaking stopped and James could see straight again, he turned to Remus. "What is he babbling about?"
Remus sat down on the other side of James and patted his shoulder. "Alice has decided that you've made a big enough fool of yourself and she's going to try to help you get Lily."
James' mouth fell. "Alice. Alice McCoy. Evan's best friend ever. She wants to help me, James Potter. Evan's sworn nemesis. I though she hated me."
"She thinks you are an embarrassment to humankind," Peter reminded him. "That doesn't necessarily mean she hates you."
"Oh, no doubt she hates you," Sirius told him. "She just thinks that the lengths you go to get to Miss Evans are great and painful. She's just trying to rid the world of the pain."
"Alice McCoy," James whispered. "Alice McCoy has faith in me. Oh, the possibilities are endless…"
"But she named a price, no more dung bombs in the girls' loos."
James stood. "ANYTHING! GIVE HER ANYTHING!"
"We agreed and the plan is set. All you have to do what we say, when we say it, no questions asked."
At that very moment Alice came through the doors. James flung himself at her feet, bowing down. "I am not worthy! You are truly a goddess among women, to waste your time on me, for I am not fit to lick the ground you tread upon."
Alice jumped when he first flew at her, but by the time he was done she was rolling her eyes. "Get up Potter, groveling is unbecoming."
James jumped to his feet. "Yes ma'am."
Alice hitched her bag further up on her shoulder and smiled at him. "Tomorrow, you will say hello to Lily at breakfast. That is all you will say, no matter how many times you see her. At lunch, you will ask to borrow notes from me, giving you a reason to come into close contact with her. You will not, however, touch, leer, stare, et cetera at Lily until you make brief, and by brief I mean no longer than three seconds, eye contact with her. You say 'Hullo Lily,' and then you leave. By leave I mean you go far, far away and you do not even look in her direction. Do you understand so far?"
"Say hello, go far, far away, don't look or you will burn me, yes. I have it. Go on."
Alice rolled her eyes, but continued. "Then, when we are all in the Common room, you will not do anything stupid and/or offensive. You will not look in Lily's direction. You will not even breathe loudly. I will call you over and you will bring my notes and you won't say anything to Lily unless provoked, to which you will say nothing that even remotely resembles 'have my children'. You will shrug and smile and keep your mouth shut. You will go away, and hopefully Lily will realize you aren't a complete idiot."
"Keep mouth shut, smile, not a complete idiot. Got it."
She sighed. "I'm going to bed. If you see Lily in the Head Dorms, don't say anything, don't do anything, don't even breathe. And I mean it, if you screw this up on your own, that's not my fault. I will do everything possible to help you, and I really do want this to work."
Alice brushed past him and began up the stairs. A troubling feeling began brewing in the pit of her stomach. I think I just sold my soul to the devil. She thought about it for a moment before correcting herself. Devils.
Alice loaded her plate full of eggs. If there was one thing she loved about Hogwarts, it was undoubtedly the food. Her mother, bless her heart, couldn't cook to save her life and Alice had inherited those cooking skills, so a good, homemade meal at home was out of the question. The eggs were sinfully delicious, but they were dirt compared to the pies served at dinner.
She stabbed a piece of sausage with her fork and managed to scoop some eggs on her fork. Before she could get it in her mouth, however, someone hit her and the fork went flying. "Holy moldy cheese!" she gasped, "My eggs…"
"Sorry," Lily said, shoving her stuffed bag under the table. "I think this thing has a mind of it's own."
"It's okay." Another fork appeared and Alice picked it up. After loading it with eggs, she brought it to her mouth. A sudden jab in the side sent the eggs flying back to her plate. "Ow! What in Godric's bloody name is it now?" she snapped.
"Potter's coming," Lily growled. "I'm sorry about your eggs."
"Morning Evans, McCoy," James said cheerfully, sending a discreet wink to Alice. She wrinkled her nose and glared at him. Don't be stupid Potter… "Hope your day turns out well." Alice's stomach unclenched when he finally walked away and sat further down the table with his friends. She picked up her fork and captured the elusive eggs again.
Lily's head whipped around so fast her hair hit the eggs and sent them flying in Alice's eyes. "Bugger it to hell!" Alice shouted, throwing her fork down. "Why in Merlin's name can't I enjoy some bleeding eggs?"
"Alice, you shouldn't swear so." Lily was always correcting her. "But did you just see what happened?"
"Yes, your hair sent my eggs into my eyes. Cut your hair, it could indirectly blind somebody."
"Oh would you stop it with the eggs already?" Lily hissed. "Did you see what happened with Potter?"
"Exactly!" Lily said a louder than necessary. "Usually he makes a pass at me, but he didn't do anything!"
Alice suppressed a smile. "Isn't that what you want?" she asked, trying to sound innocent. She took a piece of toast and buttered it. Maybe the eggs would stay put if they were trapped between two pieces of wheat-y goodness…
Lily didn't respond, and Alice finally managed to scoop her eggs into the toast sandwich. She was just about to take a bite when Dumbledore stood. "Attention!"
Alice jumped at the sound of his voice and her toast sandwich flew in the air before landing in her lap. She let her head fall onto the table and she hit it several times against the hard wood. Damned toast… damned eggs… damned breakfast…
Dumbledore cleared his throat and Alice looked up. He seemed to be staring right at her, and she blushed a bit before shrinking down in her seat. "Now that I have your complete attention," Dumbledore said, his eyes finally leaving Alice, "I am pleased to announce Professor Davis's wife delivered two bouncing baby boys yesterday evening. I am told their names are Charles and Henry, and I am also told that Professor Davis will not be returning until April." A collective groan rustled through the assembly. Professor Davis was a forgetful man, and often forgot to assign homework. Dumbledore held his hand and the crowd stilled. "The Ministry sent over a replacement as soon as we received the news. I would like you to all welcome your temporary Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Frank Longbottom." The crowd burst into applause.
Frank, if memory served Alice correctly, graduated two years ago. He had been Head Boy, top of his class and very well liked. In her fourth year, she had an teensy weensy crush on him, but by the time she had reached fifth year, she had been totally and completely over it. Well, sort of over it… She didn't understand why he had come back to teach, considering he wasn't even twenty yet. "Isn't there an age requirement for teaching?" she asked Lily. The applause was dying down, and she could finally hear herself think again.
"Well, what I heard was that the Ministry needed all their experienced Aurors going after You-Know-Who, and it was either this or a desk job."
Alice nodded and picked her dejected toast sandwich up off her lap. "Curse you," she mumbled, tossing it on her plate.
Lily scooped eggs onto her fork and held it out for Alice. "Here, since my hair killed your eggs, you may have some of mine."
Alice shook her head sadly. "Alas, it seems today is not an egg day. I'll have to settle for toast and juice. And maybe some sausage. And bacon, there needs to be bacon…"
Lily shook her head and put her fork in her mouth. "Mhmm… great eggs."
Alice picked up her bag. "Some friend you are," she huffed. She took exactly two steps before turning around and grabbing a fork. She took a huge scoop of the eggs on Lily's plate and shoved them in her mouth so fast they didn't have time to drop. "Mmmmh… fabulous eggs."
The Defense classroom buzzed. Frank Longbottom stood at the front, looking utterly lost. Alice twirled her quill in her fingers, occasionally tapping it against the blank parchment in front of her. There were at least a thousand ink dots on it, and the more she twirled, the redder in the face Lily Evans became. When Alice went to tap it again, Lily grabbed her wrist. "You have no idea how annoying that is," she hissed.
Alice stared at Lily's furious face. Boy was she touchy today… "Um, I'm sorry?"
Lily let go and stared at the front of the room. "I wish he would start already. All this noise is killing my head."
Alice stared at Frank. He hadn't changed look wise since he was sixteen, and of all people Alice would know. She used to stare at him when he sat with his friends in the Common Room, and the more she thought about it, the more she blushed. "Alice, are you all right?"
Alice whipped her head around so fast she was positive she had whiplash. "Um- yes- I mean- why?"
"You're flushed," Lily told her, putting her hand on Alice's forehead. Lily's hands were ice cold.
"Just thinking," Alice replied. Lily didn't take her hands off her face right away, and Alice jerked away. "Woman, your hands are freezing."
Before Lily could retort, Frank spoke. "Okay, okay. I know I suck at this job but I can at least pretend I know what I'm doing. Settle down and pull out your books. Evans," he shouted, pointing at Lily. "Pray tell, what chapter are we on?"
"Chapter 13, page 324, third paragraph," Lily replied without hesitation. Alice could tell by the tone of her voice she'd been waiting for that question for an awfully long time.
"You heard her!" Frank turned to the class. "You wouldn't, on the off chance, happen to know what sentence we're on, would you?"
"Halfway through six."
The whole class stared at her. "Bravo, Evans, bravo," Sirius told her. He stood and began clapping.
"Take a seat Black," Frank told him. "I know you're dying for that 500th detention, but I won't be the one giving it to you."
Sirius sat down, the wide grin not leaving his face. Alice turned to her book, and began reading. The entire room was silent, except for the occasional page turning. Alice began to fidget; she hated quietness. She drummed her fingers against the desk, tapped her foot against the floor, flicked the edges of the pages in her book, anything to disrupt the stillness of the room.
"Miss McCoy, might I recommend reading instead of trying to form your own band?"
Alice's head snapped up and she stopped fidgeting. "Sorry Professor."
She tried her hardest to stay quiet, but it was as if her fingers took on a life of their own. She dug them into her thigh, trying to keep quiet. She bit her lip, curled her legs around the legs of her chair and gripped the desk with her other hand. She couldn't concentrate on the words in front of her; she was too busy trying not to fidget.
"You haven't turned the page yet," Lily whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
"I can't stop fidgeting," Alice replied. "I'm about to bite my lip off from the effort." Lily reached over and turned the page for her. "But I wasn't done with that one," Alice whined.
"You have to at least pretend you're doing something."
Alice couldn't remember a time when she was so grateful for the end of a class. Five deep nail marks appeared on her thigh, just below her skirt line, and when she stood she realized it was still visible. She groaned and gathered her books, walking out of the class with Lily. "Second class, and already I can't wait til lunch."
"I love food."
Lily looked across the table at Alice, who was currently chewing on a sandwich. "I love it more than I love the socks you bought me last Christmas. I love it more than parties, I love it more than silk sheets, I love it more than my cat, I love it more than my room. I love food."
"Alice, you are disgusting. Chew with your mouth closed."
Alice took another bite. "Ahh, cheese."
Lily opened a book and propped it up on the table. "I love books. I love them more than I love the blanket you bought me for Christmas last year. I love it more than you chewing with you mouth closed. I love them more than Potter leaving me alone, I love them more than you love food. Ah, I love books."
Alice put down her sandwich. "Way to ruin the moment. My sandwich and I will be parting ways with you and your books, being as you obviously love them more than me."
"Alice," Lily said seriously. "I'm cheating on you. With my Transfiguration textbook."
"Ahh, the betrayal. Oh well, I have my sandwich to heal my wounds. Just remember, that book isn't going to keep you warm on a cold night."
"And you remember your sandwich will never have the opportunity because you will eat it."
Out of the corner of her eye, Alice saw James. "Potter," she said coolly, raising her eyebrows.
"I was wondering if I could borrow your Transfiguration notes," he told her. "Of course, it's okay if I can't. I can just copy Remus'."
"Or just pay attention," Lily piped up, moving her book to her lap. "Paying attention would be more beneficial."
"Hullo Evans," James said, giving Alice a quick wink. Oh bollocks… stick to the plan Potter. "Evans, I was wondering if you could clear something up for me. When she was teaching us to transform the fruits into life-size dolls, was it a clockwise wand rotation or a counter-clockwise wand rotation?"
"Counter-clock wise," she replied automatically, not bothering to look up from her book. "Three of them. You were doing it perfectly in class, I don't know why it's become a problem now."
The smile from James' face fell, but Alice couldn't help but allow a small grin. She's onto you, watch your step. "I forgot," James said lamely, his confidence deflated.
Alice handed him the notes. "This is why we have a plan," she told him through gritted teeth. He nodded and turned away. The mental picture of a dog with it's tail between it's legs flashed through her mind. "It's sad," she thought aloud.
"We've had this conversation a thousand times--"
"He tries so hard, the poor boy. It a wonder he hasn't crawled under his bed from pure embarrassment, shriveled up and died."
"And why do I think that would be a blessing to all humankind?"
Alice took another sandwich and bit into it. "He does care, Lily. He wouldn't be putting himself through all this if something wasn't there."
Lily closed her book and sighed. "Alice, he's James-bleeding-Potter. There is no rhyme or reason to anything he does. He's probably just upset that he's not the center of my world like he is everyone else's. If he really cared, he'd just give up and move on."
Alice gave up. There was no reasoning with Lily when she was upset like this. "I have to get to Divintation, have fun in Runes." She took another sandwich, just in case.
Lily waved, but Alice didn't see it. She reached the door and pushed them open, surprised to see no one in the halls. Usually there was a couple snogging behind the horse, but no one was there, which Alice found comforting. She hated couples who had nothing better to do than flaunt their snogging skills in public places.
She rounded a corner, head down, and ran into someone. "Ooof!" the someone exclaimed as he fell on top of her.
Her head bounced off the stone floor. "Oww," she moaned. "Bloody rats."
The someone stood up, and even though Alice was looking at him, her vision was so fuzzy she couldn't tell whom it was. She felt herself being pulled up by her arms as her head throbbed. There was a hand on the back of her neck, stabilizing her head as it flopped forward. She felt like there was cotton in her mouth, and she opened and closed it like a dying fish. "Did you bite your tongue?"
She realized there was blood on her chin. "I fink so," she said, feeling like her head weighed a ton. It flopped forward miserably, every motion making it throb harder. The someone lifted her chin and held her head in place, which she was grateful for. She tried to tell the Someone so, but a blob of blood oozed out her mouth instead. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, trying to keep her mouth as closed as possible.
"It's my fault, I ran into you."
She recognized that voice. She opened her eyes but the light made her squint. She could barely make out short brown hair and a big nose. Or at least she thought it was big. "It hurts."
"Don't fall asleep on me, you might have a concussion."
Who's voice was that? She couldn't place it, but she knew it was familiar… "McCoy, stay with me."
McCoy… he says it like 'Mac Oy' Mac oy… mac oy… macaroni. Macaroni… There were two hands under her jaw, holding her head still. The pounding was killing her. "Macaroni," she mumbled.
"I want you to count to one hundred," the Someone told her. "C'mon McCoy, you can do it."
She felt an arm slide under her knees and as the other hand left her face her head lobbed forward. "One," she began. She was floating… "Four."
"Five," said the Someone.
She was floating. On a cloud. A cloud made of whipped cream. "Whizzed cream," she said, her chin touching her chest. "Ten."
"Eighteen, twenty four… forty two, thirty one… sixty."
"Keep going," the Someone told her. "We're almost there."
"Cheesed cake, barberries…"
"Poppy! Poppy, I think she has a concussion."
Alice felt her cloud dissolve into a poppy seed muffin. "Muffin," she mumbled.
"What happened?" a different voice asked. It was shrill and high and the intensity of it made Alice brain thud. Alice moaned.
The Someone's voice came back. "We bumped into each other. She fell and hit her head. Her mouth's bleeding like she bit her tongue. I think she's got a concussion."
Alice could hear the different voice tell the Someone to shoo and go teach his class. "Mr. Longbottom, I will let you know when she can be seen. I'm sure you'll want to apologize."
Longbottom… bottom long… button long… long button… Soon it hurt to think. "Miss McCoy, I am going to give you a potion," the different voice said. "This will clear up the fuzziness." Fuzzy… furry… furry bunny… bunnies furries…
A thick liquid went down her throat, and in a few moments her incoherent thoughts stopped. She blinked. "Madame Pompfrey?"
The older woman nodded. "Do you know where you are?"
Alice sat up quickly, but her head began to pound again. She pulled her knees to her chest and put her face in her hands. "The Hospital Wing," she groaned. "Make the pounding stop."
She raised her head long enough for a vial to be pressed to her lips and poured into her mouth. After a few moments, she could hear her own thoughts. "It's gone."
The older woman nodded. "Whenever you feel up to going to class, you may leave. The first person took care of the concussion. You're just lucky Mr. Longbottom didn't split your skull." She turned around and left, giving Alice time to gather herself.
Alice slowly took the pillow from behind her and put it over her face. She then screamed as loud as she could until she ran out of breath.