Author's Notes: Here is some supreme Valentine's cheer for all of you. This was originally supposed to be an entry in Phoenix Song's Valentine's Day Competition, but due to some technical difficulties, it didn't quite make it to them. So now it is simply here for your enjoying pleasure. It's silly, fluffy, kind of pointless, but hey, that's the best kind of stuff, isn't it? P Mucho, mucho kudos-thanks to Nat for her insanely speedy betaing skills. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
A Puddifoot's Valentine's Date
"You want to take her where?"
The blatant outrage filled the room like helium gas fills a balloon. Lying tiredly on his bed, Quidditch Through the Ages propped open on his chest, James Potter glared at his best mate as he carefully closed his book and sat up, anticipating the explosion.
"I don't have a choice, Padfoot," James tried to explain, running a hand through his already messy, raven hair. "It's Valentine's Day. The girl expects it. I have to take her there."
"And do what?" Sirius demanded, not even bothering to hide the disgust from his face or from his voice. He stood in front of James, arms akimbo, scowling darkly. "Throw your dignity away? Be attacked by deranged cherubs? Eat stale biscuits and spend the entire time pretending you give a damn about the lace curtains and the frilly tablecloths? We made a pact, James—a pact to never set foot in that place. Don't you have any pride, man?"
"It's just a tea shop, Pads," Remus Lupin pointed out flatly, glancing up from the Potions essay he was in the midst of writing on his own bed. When Sirius's glare turned onto him, Remus merely rolled his eyes. "And James is right. Lily's a girl. They expect this sort of thing."
"So?" Sirius cried. "It's not just their holiday, is it? He has to sit through the entire affair as well. Who says Evans gets to rule the world? Why the hell does he have to follow her dictates?"
"Because she's my girlfriend," James shot back, now glaring at Sirius. He shook his head and sighed when Sirius still refused to budge on his point. "You know what, Pads," James started tiredly, shaking his head again. "Sometimes a bloke's just got to put his own neck out on the line to make someone else happy, all right? Relationships are about sacrifices. Compromises. You can't always get what you want."
"Oh, yeah?" Sirius countered, crossing his arms firmly over his chest. "Well, what's Evans had to sacrifice, then?"
"She has to put up with you, doesn't she?"
"Nice," Remus chuckled. James grinned. Sirius glared.
"Fine," he shouted, throwing his hands up in defeat. "Just bloody fine. If you want to go debase yourself at that...that...that pit of hell, then who am I to stop you? Who am I, as your best mate, to say that you're acting like a bloody dog on a leash? That's just fine. You have fun with your bloody girlfriend in her bloody teashop. But let me tell you something, Prongs...when you come back, haunted by the images that place has forever imprinted in your mush of a brain, don't you come crying to me when you have nightmares. Don't even think about it!"
And with that last threat, Sirius stomped out of the dormitory, slamming the door on his way out.
The dormitory remained silent for a few moments, before Remus carefully called out, "Hey, Prongs?"
"Yeah?" James said.
"You can come crying to me when you have nightmares."
"James, are you sure about this?"
The wind whistled around his ears as James stood just outside the doors of the small tea shop on the busy Hogsmeade street, Lily's hand encased firmly in his own. Ignoring yet another one of his girlfriend's endless amount of questions about their present location, James heaved a great mental sigh, put a large fake smile upon his face for her sake, and prepared himself for the insane amount of torture he was no doubt about to put himself through, all for the sake of one girl.
Despite what he'd implied to Sirius the previous day, James wasn't exactly happy about having to put his own neck on the line just for Lily. For his entire Hogwarts career—through all the girls he had dated, both long-term and short—James had somehow always managed to dodge the ever-grasping claws of Madam Puddifoot's famous tea shop—or, as he and the lads had come to call it, Madam Pillock's Shop for the Whipped and Wasted. Sirius had been right about one thing—it seriously wounded a man's pride to say he'd ever set foot in the frilly, girlish, annoying little shop located just off Hogsmeade's High Street. But today was Valentine's Day, and this was, after all, Lily Evans. James supposed that's what made the difference.
He'd been dating Lily for close to three months now, and though he hated to admit it, 'whipped and wasted' was a phrase that could apply to him rather well nowadays. It was a mockery of everything he thought he'd believed in, but James couldn't seem to care. He slowly found that he didn't mind being whipped or wasted by Lily. In all his wildest dreams—and trust him, there had been many—he had never imagined anything quite like what dating Lily Evans actually was.
Utterly and completely perfect.
And this day was going to be no less. He had planned it out in his head, right to the very last miserable detail. Lily had always been rather reserved when it came to talking about her feelings—it had taken the girl a handful of tense months to finally admit to the fact that she fancied him, then a few more weeks to finally coax her into going out with him—but maybe this might change that. He didn't need much. Just a bit of reassurance that let him know that he wasn't the only one relishing in their relationship. Just a bit more than her usual smiles and kisses that could tell him she really trusted him...really cared.
And if he had to sit through a couple hours of being the Pillock's whipped and wasted to get to that point...well, he'd do it.
For the both of them.
"We can just go to the Three Broomsticks," the girl in question protested for what had to be the thousandth time since they had left Hogwarts earlier that morning, jostling James out of his thoughts. "Really," Lily said, pulling at James's hand, turning him to face her. "We don't have to go in there, James."
Wrapped up in her black cloak, her deep red hair waving about her slightly flushed face, James watched as Lily gave him a rather earnest look, but he wasn't buying it, not even for a second.
He knew what this was—a test. Lily was testing him. She was giving him the option of running away, of taking the easy way out and bringing her to the Three Broomsticks instead of forcing himself to endure the pain of Puddifoot's. But if nothing else, James prided himself on being a rather intelligent bloke. He wasn't stupid enough to actually believe that Lily wanted to go to the Three Broomsticks—she didn't. She wanted to stay right where she was, smelling the heavy perfume and listening to the nauseating music that was already evident outside of the tea shop. She was simply testing if he was man enough—or mad enough—to stay there as well.
James was a man.
Yes, a slightly cross, slightly nauseated, slightly miserable man, but a man nonetheless.
He wasn't falling for her tricks.
"We're staying here," he insisted for the hundredth time, though he wasn't sure who he was trying to convince now, Lily or himself. When Lily looked like she was about to begin protesting again, James quickly swallowed her arguments with his mouth, leaning down and capturing her lips with his. "Come on," he said, and tugged on Lily's hand after pulling away. "Let's get inside."
"Yeah, all right," his girlfriend muttered, and followed him into the building.
The heavy perfumed smell was even more poignant from the inside, James discovered, as he quickly tried to ignore the nauseous feeling rumbling in the pit of his stomach the second he and Lily had entered the stuffy tea shop. Blinking furiously at the onslaught of frilly bright pink that instantly met his eyes, James quickly reminded himself that he was making his girlfriend very happy by being here and that was that.
Had he bothered to look over his shoulder at that moment, he would have seen he wasn't the only one looking a bit nauseated. Lily winced and squeezed her boyfriend's hand.
"There's a free table over there," James said, nodding towards the only table he could see that was presently unoccupied. It was situated right in front of the shop's front windows, and James couldn't help but think that the rest of the 'whipped and wasted' blokes presently making mushy eyes at their birds all around him had each passed over that particular table to save themselves whatever dignity they had left. Since entering the tea shop moments before, however, James was rather sure that any ounce of dignity he had ever once possessed was now gone, so he tried not to mind that he'd be flaunting his downfall in front of every Hogsmeade shopper that was currently walking down this street.
"Wait, let me get that for you." James quickly rushed to one side of the table, pulling out the chair and pushing it in after Lily had taken a seat.
"Thanks," she said, smiling at him as James took his own seat across from her. James forced a smile back.
"What can I get you, m'dears?" said Madam Puddifoot, a rather young woman with short dark hair and a sickeningly sweet smile. James tried to smile back at her, but he was sure it came out as more of a grimace.
"Uh, coffee," he answered. "Black. Lil?"
"Just some tea, please," Lily answered quickly, smiling at the proprietor as well. With a slight hum of consent, Madam Puddifoot jotted their orders down upon her pad, then quickly conjured up a plate of biscuits, which she then set down on the lacy table between them before hastily sauntering away. Left alone once more, James cleared his throat awkwardly, trying not to focus on the cherub—so Sirius hadn't been making that up. There really were deranged cherubs flying about the place!—he'd just seen dump a load of confetti on an unprepared snogging couple, and instead looked towards Lily.
She was wearing that green jumper, he noticed, the one he'd always thought looked particularly well on her. He hadn't noticed before since she'd been wearing her cloak and scarf, but now in the decidedly pink-hued light of Madam Puddifoot's, James was able to appreciate for the first time that morning what a particularly gorgeous girlfriend he had.
It was a comforting thought, even in the midst of torture.
"So, did you finish that Transfiguration essay?" James asked slowly, watching as Lily glanced leisurely around the tea shop, trying not to fidget on his uncomfortable seat too much.
"What?" Lily asked, her eyes darting back to his. James repeated the question. "Oh. Er…no, I haven't. I was meaning to...I mean, I wanted to...well, I was wondering if you'd give me some help with it later, actually. I don't know, I just can't seem to get it right for some reason."
"Wait a second," James said, a grin slowly spreading across his face. "Why, Lily Evans...are you asking me for help?"
His girlfriend instantly grew red.
"Oh, shut it," she muttered, grabbing a biscuit off the plate between them and tossing it at him. James caught it easily, grinning at his girlfriend's embarrassment. "See?" she cried, crossing her arms over her chest. "This is why I never ask you to help me with anything. You're always so smug about it."
She was trying to sound annoyed, but James knew simply from the small smile she couldn't keep off her face that she was anything but. "You think I'm smug?" he cried indignantly, taking a bite out of the biscuit Lily had thrown at him. A piece broke off in his mouth with a rather large crack, nearly breaking James's teeth in the process. He tried not to wince as he attempted to chew the stale biscuit. "Need I remind you, love, of a certain incident last week when I, the ever confused bloke, asked someone for a little help on some extremely difficult Charms work, and that someone just happened to gloat about it for the rest of the night?"
"I wasn't gloating," Lily insisted with a careless shrug. She too reached for a biscuit and James really did wince as he saw her attempt to take a bite. It took her a few tries, but she finally managed to hack a piece off. Chewing for a long while, Lily was finally able to continue, "You just get offended very easily."
James laughed and rolled his eyes, shaking his head as Madam Puddifoot shuffled over with their drinks. Both James and Lily thanked her as she placed the drinks in front of them. She scurried away without a 'you're welcome'.
James took a sip of his coffee, then instantly began to choke as a slightly familiar taste mingled in with the strong brew.
The crazed woman had put peppermint in his coffee!
"Are you all right?" Lily asked, her eyes instantly filled with concern. James nodded, still choking a bit.
"Yeah," he muttered hoarsely. "Yeah, uh, fine. Great. Just, er, went down the wrong way."
"Yeah. Sure," he lied.
What he was sure about was the fact that he would have given his left leg and right foot to be anywhere but where he was.
Lily had better appreciate this, he thought miserably to himself. He refused to take another sip of his tainted coffee. The table was quiet for a few moments as Lily continued to sip her tea and James did a mental pout. Wanting to do something with his hands, James grabbed another biscuit off the plate and started to gnaw at it with his teeth. Across from him, he heard Lily sigh.
"We can still leave, you know," she said quietly. "We don't have to stay. We can go—"
"We're not going anywhere."
"I'm fine," James bit out. He realised what an arse he was being the second after he saw Lily look down and frown into her tea. Mentally, he gave himself a good kick in the bum. Lily didn't deserve this. Yes, she was putting him through hell, but it wasn't intentionally.
Or, at least, he hoped it wasn't.
"Hey," he said, sliding his chair over closer to hers, rather blocking the already small space between the tables in which Madame Puddifoot used to get around, but not caring. He reached out to her when she still refused to look up at him. He leaned over, dropped a kiss on her temple. "Sorry," he muttered. "I'm being an arse."
"No, you're not," Lily finally answered, dropping her head down upon his shoulder, snuggling into him with a soft sigh. "It's not your fault. I know you don't want to be here, James. And I—"
"I know," James murmured. "You just want your perfect Puddifoot's Valentine's Day, right? And I'm the prick-of-a-boyfriend who's ruining it for you."
"No, that's not it at all," Lily instantly insisted, lifting her head from his shoulder, bringing her hand down upon the table and accidentally knocking her empty cup of tea to the floor. "I really—oh, bugger. Let me get that—"
"No, don't worry. I'll get it."
Looking back on it now, James could easily pinpoint the precise moment when he realized he should have just let Lily get her own damn cup off of the floor. But being the gentleman that he undoubtedly is, James didn't realize that by getting down on the floor to pick up the tea cup that had rolled peculiarly far to the other side of the table, he would set off a running circle of chaos like he inevitably ended up doing.
Really, it hadn't been his fault.
He had felt his foot catch on his chair when he was down on his knees, reaching for the fallen tea cup, but James hadn't thought much of it until he heard the resounding thump of the chair falling to the ground. It happened almost in slow motion then, as James saw from his spot still under the table, the fallen chair that would land unfortunately enough, right in the path of Madam Puddifoot herself, who was making her way towards a large group of tables across the room, a tray filled with tea and coffee and biscuits and scones resting unsteadily on her right hand. James had tried to stop it, really he had. Both he and Lily had shouted out warnings from their respective places above and below the table, but Madam Puddifoot had heard their calls too late, and James soon found that he wasn't the only one sprawled on the tea room's floor.
It was really one accident after the next after that.
The tray Madam Puddifoot had been carrying flew from her hands as the woman came crashing down on the floor on top of the fallen chair. James heard the screams and was later told by Lily that an unsuspecting pair of snoggers had been sloshed with the hot tea and coffee, causing enough of a ruckus to scare the poor flying cherubs, who were all instantly startled into dropping their loads of confetti all over the place, making the already festive tea shop into a mess of pink and red blur. Swearing quite furiously and with murder in her eyes, Madam Puddifoot attempted to rise from her fallen position, but only managed to trip again, bringing not one, but two—James and Lily's included—tables down with her. The resounding crash was the only sound heard before the entire shop went silent.
Still on his hands in knees, right in the middle of the destruction, James never felt so bloody conspicuous in all his life.
The fallen tea cup lay innocently a few centimeters in front of him.
He glared at it.
"Um, maybe we'd better go," Lily whispered into his ear, now down on his level as well. Her eyes were scanning the room around her, the destruction they'd caused, and Madame Puddifoot, who was wobbling to her feet with a decidedly redder face. Lily swallowed hard and pulled at James's arm. James gulped and nodded.
Dropping a few galleons on Lily's chair—the only piece of upright furniture within a one meter radius—James quickly grabbed Lily's hand and all but ran out of the tea shop. He didn't notice the charms Lily was quietly murmuring as they left, which were already righting the mess they had made. He didn't look back.
Neither of them burst out laughing until they were far, far away from the scene of the crime.
"D-did you—d-did you see her face?" Lily cried, her laughter making her stumble over her words. She fell into James's arms, her entire body shaking with mirth.
"I thought she was going to murder me!" James shouted, shaking his head and laughing all the while. "There was bloody confetti everywhere."
This seemed to set the pair off again and they each burst out into a new peal of laughter, leaning against each other for support as they stumbled down the streets of Hogsmeade, getting more than a few odd glances.
It wasn't until they had nearly reached Gladrags that either of them managed to regain any semblance of normality. Still burrowed into James's side, Lily's laughter finally seemed to die out as the pair slowly made their way down the High Street. Letting out another small laugh, Lily looked up into James's face, her cheeks flushed and her green eyes twinkling merrily. "So," she said, throwing him a cheeky grin. "The Three Broomsticks, then? See what destruction we can cause there?"
It was then that James realized that he had really blotched the day up.
"I'm sorry, Lil," he said, somber now for the first time in quite a while. Lily looked up at him, her still dancing eyes regarding him questioningly.
"Sorry for what?" she asked.
"For ruining your Puddifoot's Valentine's date," he answered quietly, looking guilty. "I know this is the sort of thing you girls dream about, and I had to go and muck it all up—more than muck it up, really. I nearly tore the place to shreds!—and now you've had a terrible time and you'll probably never be able to show your face in there again and—"
"James! James, stop." Lily placed her hand quickly over James's mouth, stopping the on flow of apologies. "Listen to me," she said, her face very close to his, slowly removing her hand from his mouth. "I don't care about Puddifoot's."
"Listen," Lily repeated emphatically, cutting him off again. "I don't care about Puddifoot's—no, don't shake your head at me, I said I don't. I would have been just as happy at the Three Broomsticks from the very beginning and I told you that."
James regarded her skeptically, but refused to comment, knowing Lily would just tell him to listen again. She couldn't possibly be telling the truth—she was a girl. Girls loved Puddifoot's. Of course she wanted to go there!
"Don't give me that look," she chided, throwing him a look of her own. "I'm completely serious. I didn't even want to be at Puddifoot's. The place is an endless sea of frills and lace that, frankly, I'd rather do without while I'm eating my lunch, yeah?"
James finally seemed to realize that she was telling the truth.
His mouth all but hung open.
"Wait a second," he said, his eyes narrowing. "Do you mean to tell me that this whole thing…you…you didn't even want to go to Puddifoot's? But it's Valentine's Day!" he cried helplessly. "And you…it's…"
"You really don't get it, do you?" Lily murmured, shaking her head as a tiny wisp of a smile began to settle on her face. She looked up at him, her hand gently coming up to rest upon James's cheek. James reached up and covered his hand with hers.
"I suppose not," he muttered. Lily let out a laugh.
"Merlin, James, don't you see? It was never about where we were going, what we were doing. I only…" She trailed away, her eyes falling slowly from his as she gently bit at her bottom lip. She looked up at him again, and when she spoke once more, her voice had an odd hitch in it. "I only…wanted to be with you."
James's heart stopped in his chest. "What?" he said.
Lily looked away. "Please don't make me say it again," she whispered. "You heard what I said. I didn't have any Madam Puddifoot's dream date planned, James. I only…I just didn't."
James didn't know what to say. She'd only wanted to be with him? The mere thought of it had his throat tightening uncomfortably. Why hadn't she said something earlier—no, that wasn't fair. She had said something earlier, he just hadn't listened. He was so sure she was just testing him—testing his affections, testing his ability to deal with the torture the female species could inflict upon a guy…
But she hadn't.
She'd only wanted to be with him.
The desire to touch her became all too much at that point. James snatched her into his arms, ravishing her mouth with his right then and there in the middle of the crowded Hogsmeade street. Lily made a small sound in the back of her throat, from surprise or from pleasure, James didn't know, but he imagined it was a bit of both. More that moment than any other, James couldn't get enough of her. He kissed her with everything he was worth, and then some more, and still he felt it wasn't enough. It was little more than a miracle when he finally managed to pry his mouth from hers, looking down into her shocked, but shining eyes. He kissed her again, just for good measure.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Lily," he whispered.
"Happy Valentine's Day, James."
And damn Madam Puddifoot's to hell, James thought.
Then he kissed his girlfriend again.