Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Tachibana Higuchi. Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom belong to J.K. Rowling. The rest is mine.

Author's Note: This story came to me when I was re-reading my only chaptered SumireKoko story, When the Clock Strikes Twelve. It was mostly the style. The style I used last year kind of struck me when I read it again. It's simple and effortless. This is going to be a very, very simple Friendship story, very different from The Bookworm and the Beast. These are short chapters compared to TBATB. Enjoy and as ever, let me know what you think. :)

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Falling for her was the easiest thing he'd ever done.

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Chapter One

A true friend is someone you can disagree with and still remain friends. For if not, they weren't true friends in the first place.
-Sandy Ratliff

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It wasn't the first time he saw her.

The familiarity of her brown hair and eyes…the dainty nose, full lips and soft, pink cheeks all triggered some distant memory that he couldn't seem to grasp. It floated at the back of his mind like a butterfly, just barely eluded his fingertips, and it was enough to make the point between his eyebrows start to ache. He couldn't remember where he saw her. It didn't matter, but there was that nagging feeling at the back of his mind that felt like an itch he couldn't get rid of until it was scratched.

Natsume shook his head to dispel his thoughts and strode purposefully toward her table. Once he stopped in front of her, he indicated the empty chair across from her with a tilt of his head and with her affirmative smile, he deposited his books onto the table top and dropped into the empty seat.

He sighed.

Thursdays were never this packed.

Why was the library such a coveted spot now? Teachers were sending home assignments and projects, sure, but nobody ever did their homework until two days before Christmas break and nobody studied for tests nowadays. Finding his usual library table taken by some arrogant junior had put his temper at a high by the end of the school day. Now he had to share a table with somebody?

Unbelievable.

Pulling out the black pen from his pocket, he tapped it on the table once before flipping his chemistry textbook open and beginning to read. He didn't understand why every chemistry teacher decided to do a four month review of the past year, but he wasn't complaining. The material was simple, even a slug could understand it. He skimmed through the thirty pages with ease and leaned back with an exhale.

He wondered what he could do for the next hour until Aoi's dance class ended when there was a soft giggle from the brunette. His eyes immediately jerked up to meet her amused brown ones. He resisted the urge to roll his own.

Great

Of course the only open seat at the library was beside one of those annoying, giggly fangirls.

She looked down with a barely-there smirk on her lips. "The library assistant keeps staring at you." Her voice was soft with a sharp edge of amusement and it took Natsume a second to realize she was talking to him.

He furrowed his brow. "Excuse me?"

She looked up and looked slyly to the left before scratching her neck with the end of her pencil. "Over by the check-out counter," she murmured with a laugh in her throat. Her attempt at being subtle was poor at best. "In the green vest. I swear, every ten seconds at least. It's distracting me."

He wasn't unfamiliar with female attention but curiosity won out and he leaned back into his chair in a faux-stretch to look over. She wasn't looking at him, but he recognized Sumire Shouda. He leaned back over the table to scoff. "She used to have a club dedicated to me."

At this, the girl snorted and raised a dubious eyebrow, clearly disbelieving. When she leaned over to speak, he was briefly distracted by how long her eyelashes were. "I may not be smart but I'm not stupid either," she said dryly, flicking through the pages of her math book. He noticed she was doing math two levels lower than he was. Must be a sophomore, he thought. She looks young enough. "But go ahead…what was the club about? Are you Mr. Students' Council President or the resident jock or what? Or maybe you're some hotshot musical star in the school?"

She's never seen me before?

Alice Academy wasn't that big.

He hid his surprise well, but his lack of response made her look up with a curious look to her eyes. "What?" she asked, half distracted with her work. "I'm right, aren't I? Still so weird though. What goes on in a club like that anyway? Is it like worship or something? Or do they do your campaign work like Ms. Universe?" Before he could answer, she leaned back thoughtfully. "There was a guy in my old school named Reo Mouri who had a club because he was apparently this amazing singer so they kind of screamed and made posters and stuff. So when he sang around our town or ended up getting a gig up here in Tokyo, the club would follow him around." She twirled her pencil around her finger before she looked over at him again. "Honestly, though, he gave me the heebie jeebies. He looked kind of obsessive. I wouldn't be surprised if he had a shrine of roosters in his bedroom."

She looked completely serious.

Natsume didn't know what to make of her. A shrine of roosters? Who was this girl?

It surprised him when he felt a laugh in his throat. "You're new here," he answered instead, watching as she flicked her hair out of her eyes with her pencil.

She tapped her pencil against her lip. "Nope, not really. I've been here since the end of September."

"You've been here for almost two months," Natsume said lowly, realizing they'd been talking rather indulgently in the library. "That would constitute you being new here."

She smiled with a shrug. "It's a matter of perception. I'm new compared to you but I'm not as new as Luna Koizumi."

He frowned. "Who?"

"Exactly." The girl shook her head with a grin, smiling in a way that made him think she was telling a joke in her head. She closed her math book lightly before she folded her arms on the table top and peered at him with an easy grin. She stuck out her hand after a moment. "I'm Mikan Sakura… in eleventh year."

She's the same age as me.

He looked at her hand and frowned. Who did that nowadays anyway? But he took it and marvelled quietly about how small and soft she was. It took a moment for his brain to catch up to him, but once it had, the words were out of his mouth before he could think about it. "You're doing tenth grade math."

Her mouth dropped open and a flush inched up her cheeks before she cried defensively, "Hey! Don't go all holier-than-thou on me! Math isn't my strongest subject! I'm sure you've got something you're bad at too!"

There were hisses from around the library and the girl immediately ducked down like she was trying to become one with the table. Natsume looked at her in amusement and she returned the look with an almighty glare. "We have to be quiet," she whispered, eyes wide with embarrassment.

He looked at her calmly. "No shit, Sherlock."

She scowled at him with eyes still burning with ire. She looked around her before she turned back to him with determination. In a soft, quiet voice, she muttered, "You're not very polite, are you?"

The smirk came easily. "You're not very bright, are you?"

She leaned back with her jaw clenched before she flipped her book open with an exaggerated motion and pretended to concentrate intensively on her math. She didn't fool anyone and it wasn't long until she peeked up at him and scowled. "Don't you have some work you have to do?" she grated in a whisper.

"Unlike you, I'm doing well in school."

"So you're a keener," her brown eyes twinkled. She leaned onto the table and smirked. "Does that bad attitude drive away all of your friends? Do you just like to hang out at the library for fun?" She tilted her head to the side, a charming grin still on her face. "I guess I can kind of see that. Do you have some glasses? Maybe a handkerchief in your pocket? I think that would complete the nerd look better. You'd make a wonderful Harry Potter."

His temper flared at that and her solemn expression cracked into a grin. "I'm sorry, did I hurt your feelings? Would you rather be Neville Longbottom?" Her eyes widened a fraction before she looked at him earnestly, leaning forward with wide eyes. "Please tell me you've read the Harry Potter books. Because if you haven't, not only would you have no idea what I'm talking about, but I would have to demote you from almost-acquaintance to forever-stranger."

His lips lifted into a wry smile. "Are you usually this hyper?"

She looked down and bit on her lip. It surprised him how shy she had just turned. One minute she was spouting insults at him and the next she was as shy as a kitten. She blinked up at him and murmured apologetically, "I'm usually not like this. I didn't have time to pack a healthy lunch and probably snarfed down five chocolate granola bars between classes."

Whatever he had expected, it was not that.

The laugh stuck in his throat escaped and she reddened heatedly. "Hey! It's true! Don't laugh at me!"

He pressed a hand to his eyes to block the image of her so clearly infuriated and calmed his heartbeat, waiting as the chuckles died in his stomach. This girl was just too funny. With a smirk on his lips, he glanced back up at her only to find she was waiting with an eyebrow arched, unimpressed. "Are you done?" She had a laugh in her voice but her expression was completely straight.

He nodded faux-solemnly and she rolled her eyes. "Boys," she muttered under her breath. She looked up at him once before she brightened again. "What grade are you in?"

He debated on whether or not he would deem that with a response, but the curious glint in her eyes made the answer tumble from his lips without permission from his brain. "Eleventh year."

He didn't have time to dwell on his mouth's disobedience because a second later, she popped up from her chair and moved jerkily to pull the phone out of her pocket. She winced before she quickly started to gather her things and pop them in her bag. Reflexively, Natsume did the same.

"Sorry, gotta run," she whispered, holding her battered phone up with a dopey grin. "Nice talking to you!"

She was gone before he could understand what had happened. By the time he realized his books were under his arm, ready to go, and that almost an hour had passed since he started talking to her, a thought hit him.

She still doesn't know my name.


Note: As you can tell, this is AU. I picture this as something I would love to happen if they hadn't had Alices and met under different circumstances so you'll see a lot of parallels with the manga. Hopefully. If I'm doing this right. ;D

BTW, Gakuen Alice Reader's Choice Awards 2010 nominations are starting right now. I didn't write much in 2010, but check out the stories that are being nominated right now and give them a read. Make sure your favourite stories from 2010 are up there. That's kind of the point of GARCAs and a lot of stories that don't get many reviews don't receive enough mention and this is just one way to do that.

My Hopeless Romantic