A/N: Happy Valentine's Day! This is my attempt at a story for the holiday, but I'm so swamped with schoolwork I don't know how it turned out. Oh well. Read at your own risk!
"Dead fish, dead fish!" my roommate cried, landing on me and proceeding to flop around like a fish out of water. "Happy Guillotine Day, Lily!"
Of all the ways to wake up on February 14th, this was never on my list. "Gerroff me, Alice," I grumbled, attempting to pull the now mussed sheets over my head, but dear Alice had other plans.
"Get up, silly, we have classes today, and you made me promise to wake you up early!" she cried cheerfully, ripping off my covers and tossing them onto the floor.
"Alice!" I exclaimed, sitting up. "I hate it when you unmake my bed and you know it!" I glared at her, grabbing the missing coverlet off the floor. "And why did I make you promise to wake me up early? That's just about the dumbest idea ever and I would never in a million years have suggested it."
"Well, you did, because you'd rather have an early breakfast than be in the Great Hall when James Potter arrives, so we're off to eat at six o'clock! That gives you twenty minutes to get ready for the day. Chop chop!"
Twenty minutes! It was barely after 5:30 in the morning, then! Of all the insane—
"ALICE! CLASSES DON'T EVEN START UNTIL NINE! I DON'T NEED THREE HOURS—" my lovely little tirade was put to an end when Emmeline threw a pillow at me.
"Shaddup," she growled. "Some of us are still sleeping."
I gave Alice a look. Emmeline had a ruddy brilliant point. Alice shrugged and literally dragged me out of bed and to the bathroom. Curse my non-existent early morning reflexes.
Twenty minutes later I did indeed find myself in the Great Hall, eggs sitting on the plate in front of me. Pushing my plate aside I laid my head on the table. Hopefully Alice wouldn't notice and I'd be able to sleep until first class.
Unfortunately, being the only two people in the Great Hall meant I had my dear best friend's undivided attention. "Lily, there's no point in being grumpy about your own instructions. If you'd just give in to James Potter or hex him so badly he could never return to human civilisation, we wouldn't have to go through this every year. Since you refuse to do either on account of hating his guts yet not hating them quite enough, you must suffer through this. Now buck up and smile or I'm going to rub those eggs in your hair."
I hate best friends when they're absolutely right. "Fine," I retorted, "then you have to listen to me complain about Potter and speculate about how he will ruin Valentine's Day yet again."
"Guillotine Day," Alice reminded me.
"Yes, Guillotine Day!" I crowed. "And how did we decide on that name?"
"St. Valentine died on February 14th by the guillotine, and since we are technically celebrating his death you and I rechristened the holiday."
"Yes, yes, that too," I waved my hand impatiently, "but more importantly because James ruddy Potter likes to chop my day into itty bitty pieces and sit back languidly with that stupid smirk on his face as I bloody well bleed all over the place in attempt not to have a hernia."
I stabbed my fork viciously into the eggs in front of me. I wanted something to die and I wanted it to die right now. It's not fair that other girls can enjoy this romantic holiday; they can sit around and be showered with cards and candy and adoration from any passing boy and they can go on dates and snog anybody they bloody well please, but if any bloke so much as THINKS my name, James effing Potter is there within a second, a nasty curse and legitimate death threat ready to roll off his tongue if they don't take back said thought.
It's bloody frustrating.
"Well hey, at least somebody notices you," Alice said, suddenly dejected. She picked at her own eggs, gloom settling in over her face. "It's a miracle when anybody knows little Alice Johnson's name, let alone acknowledges the fact that she might be a girl with her own set of raging teenage hormones."
"If you want, you can have Potter and I'll take your loneliness."
"But as your best mate, why would I want to take your suffering away from you? What kind of person would I be then?"
"One with a boy."
"Ouch. That's vicious. And yet it proves my point that you technically have a boy."
I slung an arm around her shoulders and rested my head against hers. "We're just two lonely girls celebrating the death of a martyred saint. Surely there're a pair of decent blokes out there somewhere for the two of us."
Alice gave me a skeptical look. "Have you been sniffing chalk dust again, Lily?"
"Again!" I exclaimed, horrified. "You make it sound like there was a first time!"
"So you have been sniffing chalk dust!"
"I have not!" I pulled my arm back and crossed it over my chest. "Bollocks, Alice. Just trying to make a girl feel better."
"But admit I have a point, Lily. No boy will ever notice me. And since we'll never know if a boy other than James fancies you, we can pretend that every bloke out there is salivating over your gorgeous red hair and lovely green eyes."
"And why would I pretend such a depressing thing? All it will lead to is me waking up with Potter looming over my shoulder."
Silence reigned, but Alice had me thinking. Prince Charming could be right around the corner and I'd never know because Potter was too besotted with me to let him through. I was a damsel in distress, and Potter was the ultimate dragon—no knight would ever pass him. They'd be burnt to a crisp before I even knew there was a possibility of rescue.
Merlin I had a horrible life. Whoever said coming to Hogwarts would be good for me? If I attended regular school my sister probably wouldn't hate me and I would have a boyfriend! Although knowing my luck, Potter would turn out to be a muggle, too, and then I'd still have to deal with him. And poor Alice would be left alone with no one to commiserate with over her own lack of a boy. Well, she had other friends, but I was downplaying them in an effort to assert my best friend status. I was more important!
Neither one of us were particularly hungry anymore, so we abandoned the Great Hall in search of the Library. The Common Room had no appeal as Potter would have to wake up and come downstairs eventually, and if I was in my dorm he would somehow know and wait for me, and I in turn would have to come downstairs eventually because skipping class was against my Code of Conduct (as was dating Potter, speaking to Black, and associating with anything that could bite my hand off while I blinked). That left the Library, which thankfully was open at such an unearthly hour.
To my surprise, Remus Lupin was sitting in the Library, reading a book. He was the only friend of Potter's that I could put up with, and quite frankly I was curious as to why he was awake.
"Hey, Remus," I said, sliding in to sit beside my fellow prefect. "What in the world are you doing awake at an hour when no human creature with half a brain would be up?"
"Oh whine a little more, why don't you?" Alice said peevishly. "Might I remind you it was your idea?"
I stuck my tongue out.
"It's Valentine's Day," Remus said, setting his book down to smile at us. Merlin but he was cute. And smart. Too bad he was a crony of Potter's and the chances of us being more than Prefect Buddies were none.
"Guillotine Day," Alice corrected. Remus raised an eyebrow. "But your point is?"
"I have no desire to be mobbed."
"Ah," I said. "Potter's and Black's little girlfriends."
"What have they got that I don't?" Alice grumbled.
"You want to be mobbed by girls?" Remus asked.
Alice's ears turned pink. "Merlin, no! That's not—oh never mind. Why do I even bother trying? Lily, I'm going to die today and I want you to throw my body in the Great Lake."
I stared at her for a moment before turning to Remus. "Do your friends ever speak of dying and the many ways you can dispose of their bodies?"
"Sirius is writing a book on it. Christmas present, he says."
Well, at least I'm not the only one who suffers through morbidity.
Silence reigned again; Remus returned to his book and Alice buried her head in her hands. I opted for staring at my hands as I blundered through thoughts. Why did Valentine's Day have to be such a big deal? If it was a minor holiday that almost nobody celebrated, then maybe I could have peace of mind every year. Then again, even if it was a minor holiday I'm sure Potter the Pompous would make a big deal out of it. He was amazingly good at blowing things out of proportion in an attempt to get my attention or shower me with lavish things. I hated it. Did I look like the kind of girl interested in gifts and presents? Granted, they are nice to receive, but dashed annoying when the git sending them expects something (anything) in return.
I really wish he would just leave me alone. He wasn't going to get anywhere, ever, and I wanted to go on a date before I died. My biggest fear since about fourth year was that Potter would stalk me after Hogwarts until I finally gave in or died by starvation in an attempt to hide from him. I would never find me a bloke at this rate, let alone get married. Perhaps aiming to replace McGonagall as oldest old maid ever was actually a good idea, since it seemed to be the only direction my life was headed.
I sighed. Ah, the dramas of a teenaged witch's life. I am so pathetic.
"If you start sighing you'll start yawning and then you'll fall asleep," Alice mumbled, her head still buried.
"And stop thinking of what your life would be like without Potter in it. You're depressing me and I can't even hear your thoughts!"
Remus looked up at me over the top of his book at Alice's comment, and I blushed. Bleeding arrogant toerag. I just knew he'd tell Potter I was thinking about him and then the prat would blow it out of proportion (just like everything else) and then I'd be stuck in embarrassment land for the next three weeks (years) while Potter paraded around that little fact.
The Giant Squid really just needed to eat me.
As in right now.
I kicked Alice. "Ow!" she hollered, lifting her head up. "You're a dirty little vixen, I'll have you know."
"Thanks for the affirmation," I replied dryly.
Alice put her head back down, but Remus did not return to his book. I refused to meet his gaze because nothing he had to say could be good for me.
"You know, Lily, you really can't hide from James," Remus said, lowering his book to look fully at me. I still refused to meet his gaze. "That boy is incredible at finding whoever whenever wherever."
"Of all the people in the world, I do not need you to tell me that," I groused. "I am all too aware of his stalker-like tendencies."
Remus suddenly grinned. "Actually, you have no idea."
That scared me.
Alice, however, found it insanely funny and burst into giggles. Annoyingly girlish giggles. Since that's pretty much what giggles are.
I slammed my head on the library table (which hurts, by the way—I would never, ever, ever recommend it) and moaned. My moan grew in size when a voice cried out, "Ma-hoony! There you are!"
"I've been found," Remus said quietly. "Sorry, girls."
Alice giggled again. "Fine by me."
"If Potter's with Black I'm going to kick you, Remus."
A hand found itself a home on my shoulder and the voice I loathed, dreaded, and feared spoke in my ear: "I'm here, Evans, but I wouldn't kick Moony if I were you. He bites."
Black, for whatever reason, found this insanely funny. For that matter, Remus choked back his own laugh. Boys. I will never figure them out.
"Moony, we've been looking all over for you!" Black exclaimed. "You're going to miss V-day if you hide out in the library! Come, the Great Hall awaits us. Peter's already there making sure there's enough room on the bench for our gorgeous backsides. Wouldn't want all the presents to take up sitting space. A growing boy needs to eat!"
Potter's hand was still on my shoulder, a fact I was painfully aware of. Even worse, I could feel depression rolling off Alice from Black's comment. Poor girl. If I could find her the perfect bloke I would do so in a heartbeat, because if anybody deserved him it was Alice (although I came in at a close second). I peeled my head off the table so I could stretch an arm out to her and comfortingly rub the arm that cradled her head. She gave me a gentle smile in return; I wanted to hug her more than anything at that moment.
Too bad boys have to exist. "Aw, are you two having a friend moment?" Potter asked. I wanted to take a great, big, rusty spoon and eviscerate him. I really did.
"Merlin, James, you really are a prat!" Alice exclaimed, sitting up. "Lily and I are busy commiserating with each other and you just had to go and ruin the moment! Bugger off and leave her alone, please. No means no, regardless of the date. And don't even think of pointing out she didn't say no! She will! So just sod off!"
God bless friends.
And God bless the removal of an annoying boy's hand. And God bless—
Merlin, but I've never seen a boy walk out of a library looking so incredibly dejected.
Aw, now I'm feeling guilty.
"Evans, Johnson," Black said coolly, "no wonder you don't have dates on this the most romantic of days. You both have hearts of ice."
Alice picked up Remus' book and chucked it at Black's head, her face red and tears in her eyes. "You can sod off, too, Black! Just because we aren't all gods of Olympus does not make us heartless and probably speaks more for our credibility! Now—now—just get out of here so I can cry in peace!"
Remus and Black silently left the library and I hurried to the other side of the table, grabbing Alice in a hug. "Oh Lily, I'm a horrible person!" she wailed. "Black's right—there's a reason why no boy is interested in me!"
"Sh, Alice, sh, it's not true, Black is just a bleeding wanker who wouldn't know up from down if he had a map." I rocked her back and forth, feeling like a slug myself. I would have said something similar if she hadn't, and the only reason she opened her mouth in the first place is because she knows how I feel about Potter. Ultimately this was all my fault, and I felt like the wretched person I always told James he was. It's not nice, knowing you are what you hate.
We sat there for another half hour, letting the tears dry. When Alice was composed enough to leave, she asked, "Can we find them? I need to apologise."
I nodded and lead the way to the Great Hall, undoubtedly where the boys would be. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. They say no good deed goes unpunished, right? All Alice did was stick up for me and now we're off to be humiliated. I was so nervous. If the boys even listened to us—and who's to say they would?—they'd probably turn it into some big joke and laugh at our expense. I hate being laughed at. To me, it's the ultimate proof that I'm not perfect, a fact that is true yet I try so desperately to hide. If I were perfect I would never do anything that would be laughed at, yet if I were truly perfect I would be able to handle being laughed at. It was one big circle I hated because no matter how you looked at it I came out on the bottom.
We paused at the doors and let our eyes find the boys at the Gryffindor table. They were laughing, already surrounded by a small pile of sweets. I felt a burning behind my eyes, but I blinked back the would-be tears. I was not jealous of Potter and Black. I was not. I refused to be. I didn't need the entire school to love me—I had Alice, and her love was worth more than all of them put together.
Too bad my inner me didn't like to listen.
"Come on, let's just get this over and done with," Alice said softly, pushing off the doorframe and leading the way. I trailed behind her, fearing this confrontation.
"James? Sirius?" Alice asked uncertainly. They paused mid-laughter and, along with Remus and Peter, looked up at her. "I'm sorry. I said some uncalled for things, and regardless of the truth of them I shouldn't have been so rude." We turned to leave, but Black stopped us.
"Eh, if you can apologise, I can, too. Sorry I called you two heartless."
Potter looked scandalised. "You did what?" he yelped. "Padfoot! What in the ruddy blazes happened to Operation Do Nothing Stupid?"
"You ruined that one by waking up," Remus said, sipping his orange juice.
I ogled the boys. Wait, had they just accepted the apology and proceeded to act like nothing happened? And then mentioned Potter actually had intentions of doing nothing stupid today?
"Evans, what are you doing?" Potter asked me.
"Checking to see if the Slytherins are wearing Gryffindor colours because I can barely believe what just happened."
"Er—you mean the utter lack of ridicule?"
I just kind of stared dumbstruck.
"I'll take that as a yes."
I stared a bit more.
"Well, Evans, I figure it's a tradeoff—I don't act like a prat this year, and next year, just in time for our last year, you whisper sweet nothings to me."
I knew it. He was a toerag.
"I'll see you in Transfiguration!" he yelled after me.
Alice started giggling once we got into the Entrance Hall. "You know, Lily, I think James might actually have a shot at next year." I gave her a withering glare. "Mark my words, dearie—this time next year you'll have a boyfriend and then you will have to find me one."
I gave her the nastiest glare I could managed and stormed off.
Once I was out of eyesight I let a small smile grace my lips. Alice did have a point—for the first time ever it looked like Potter might have a chance.
An infinitesimally small chance, but he had a talent for exploiting the nearly nonexistent.
Oh Merlin, I just all but gave him permission.
I slumped to the floor and buried my head in my hands. Potter had already done the impossible and breakfast wasn't even over yet. Alice was right. I could already feel next year looming over my head…