Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. J.K. Rowling does, however.
Summary: Severus discovers a book that could possibly assist in his quest to catch Lily's special attention.
A/N: This is a revised version of the story. After reading through it one night, I decided there were many things that needed to be fixed and spruced up. I altered many things in order to flesh out the characters and storyline. I hope this version reads more like a cohesive story than a rough draft. Enjoy!
Lily and Severus huddled over open books and sprawled parchment in a remote corner of the library. It was a crisp winter afternoon and although the sun shone brightly, a bitter wind whistled through the castle. The students of Hogwarts were bundled in hats, coats, and scarves as they scurried to class.
The candle-lit fixtures overhead flickered. A trio of silvery-white ghosts glided through the wall of the library, singing a Christmas carol in a hushed, haunted melody. Lily yawned, prompting her study partner to peek up from his notes. She was daydreaming again, as she was often wont to do. Her chin was cradled delicately in one hand, her emerald eyes glazed over in thought, and her nose upturned to the multi-colored sunlight streaming in through the tall stained-glass windows. A pair of dark eyes drank in her pale skin and gleaming red hair furtively, longing to read her mind. His gaze fell upon his untidy scrawl once more when her eyes suddenly met his, having felt the weight of his gaze on her skin.
"Bored?" he queried lightly, attempting to alleviate his embarrassment.
She raised her shoulders and stretched her arms across the table, like a graceful, green-eyed tabby.
"Yes," she sighed. "I think I'm going blind from reading in this dim light. Shall we take a break?"
He smirked, half concentrated on reviewing his notes, before stowing them away in the pages of a textbook.
"Alright," he nodded. "Let me put these away, first," he gestured to the books piled beside him on the table.
Lily began collecting her belongings, as Severus gathered up his mountain of books and disappeared down one of the aisles. He knew instinctively where to return them for he'd poured over them countless times. One could say the library was like a sanctuary to Severus, although he much rather preferred the variety of selection in Knockturn Alley. The best and most informative books on Dark Magic at Hogwarts was in the Restricted Section, but there were only so many teacher's notes he could use to gain access to the information he desired most without looking suspicious. The staff and majority of students at Hogwarts had a rather annoying stigma against anyone who experimented with magic. Severus had paid dearly for his curiosity many times, although he would admit that his intentions hadn't always been entirely pristine.
As Severus shifted the books into their proper places, he sighed and caressed their ancient spines reverently, his fingers long and oddly graceful.
He couldn't adequately explain what happened next. It was as if one of the books had winked at him, strange as it might sound. He turned his head quickly, startled. There amongst the dark and threadbare volumes on werewolves, vampires, and giants was a garishly pink book littered with gold cursive. He plucked the thin book from the shelf and flipped it over.
Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches, the cover read.
The tentative silence was broken by his snort of derision.
What a load of rubbish!
However, curiosity got the better of him and Severus opened it slowly, as if a giant, man-eating spider would burst forth from the pages. He scanned the aisle at either end to make sure he was completely alone before lowering his eyes to peruse the introduction.
"This 10th anniversary edition of the highly-acclaimed 'Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches' will equip any young wizard with the necessary tools to win the heart of his dream witch. Come with us on this journey, as we explore the mystery that is the female mind. After all, what any woman truly wants is for a man to understand and satisfy her deepest desires."
"Severus Snape!" a voice hissed.
For a moment, he thought Lily stood behind him, but found himself to be alone upon whirling around to face her.
"Where are you?" she inquired from beyond the narrow aisle.
His body relaxed as he let out a deep sigh, and he quickly discarded the pink abomination on the nearest shelf. When Lily rounded the corner, Severus was leaning on the bookshelf with his hands clasped behind his back. He raised his dark eyebrows, feigning innocence.
"Did you get lost back here?" she asked, her eyes twinkling in amusement.
"No," he said, his tone more clipped than he intended it to sound. "I was just… thinking."
"Thinking," she echoed, regarding him shrewdly.
He looked like a guilty, flustered child and she had no idea what he could be up to. Secretly, she worried he was getting involved in stuff he shouldn't again and she considered voicing this fear… but then she remembered how sullen and broken he had looked the day he came to her house last summer, after she had pointedly ignored his letters of apology for weeks.
"I will do anything," he had pleaded. "You're the most important person in my life. I've been a horrible friend, I know, but I promise to make things right. Give us a chance to talk and figure out where to go from here, you and me."
"Alright, whatever you say," she shrugged, choosing to drop the subject. "C'mon," she said, grabbing his hand, "let's go grab a bite to eat. I'm starved!"
He trailed after her wordlessly, preoccupied with thoughts of his narrow escape and the ugly pink book resting on the shelf behind him. The appearance of it unsettled him – not because of the corny title and shoddy writing – but because it forced him to acknowledge something he'd been struggling with for years: the fact that he was in love with his best friend.
Severus sat uncomfortably beside Lily at the Gryffindor table with his shoulders rounded and customary scowl in place. Since they reconciled over the summer, it had been part of their agreement to show more tolerance for each other's house and differing opinions, generally speaking. If they were going to remain friends, it was important to acknowledge what they didn't see eye-to-eye on, so their weaknesses could become strengths.
They called it 'Inter-House Magical Cooperation.'
However, their treaty came with a few drawbacks, to say the least. After declaring his loyalty to Lily, Severus's future Death Eater friends regarded him as a blood traitor, while Lily's fellow Gryffindors viewed her as delusional for believing Severus was capable of turning over a new leaf. It was all very complicated.
Severus watched in awe as Lily polished off her fourth helping of treacle tart.
"Remind me to warn the kitchen elves next time we eat," he commented wryly. "I'm sure they'll appreciate me for it."
"Oh, sod off," she snapped before cramming the last bite in her mouth.
She swooned at the taste.
"I've been craving this all week, so don't ruin the moment," she added.
He smirked. "I doubt anything could come between you and licking your plate clean."
She stuck her tongue out at him and shimmied in her seat. He grinned crookedly at the spectacle she was making of herself, but it quickly faltered when he glanced the other way and recognized a tall, dark-haired girl strutting their way.
"Brace yourself," he whispered to Lily. "The Frilly Overlord is fast approaching."
Lily nearly choked on her treacle tart. Severus stood corrected – alas, the only thing that could come between Lily and food was Iris Birmingham, the Ravenclaw girl who halted beside them with an air of gloating pleasure. 'Frilly Overlord' was a favorite among the many nicknames they'd fashioned for her in the past, although Severus's all-time favorite had to be something that rhymed with 'witch.'
Iris Birmingham was one of the few people Severus knew Lily despised with a burning passion. Over the years, Iris had made it her goal to one-up Lily at every turn. Normally, Lily enjoyed the friendly competition and would always rise to the challenge, but Iris was an exception. Severus figured she was jealous of Lily and had nothing better to preoccupy her time with.
"Hello, Lily," she greeted with a cold smile.
She wrinkled her nose as her cool, blue eyes fell upon Severus. He curled his lip in response.
Lily cleared her throat. "Hello," she greeted briskly. "Can I help you?"
Iris tossed her head and the graceful movement sent her long black hair rippling down her back.
"I simply came to relay the most wonderful news," she clapped her hands softly. "Remember last week how we discussed finding dates for Slughorn's Christmas party? Well, Angus Dean finally plucked up the courage and asked me last night. Isn't that wonderful?"
The Ravenclaw smiled mirthlessly at the wounded expression on Lily's face. She faltered for only a moment, but Severus saw it for what it was and it made his heart sink.
"Wow, Iris," Lily nodded, her lips twitching. "That's splendid. I'm very happy for you…"
Iris bowed her head in what Severus thought to be a gracious yet highly self-satisfied manner.
"I had a feeling you would be thrilled," she said. "I know you had your little heart set on Dean asking you but as it turns out, he fancies me and well—as they say: life carries on."
Severus glared intensely at the Ravenclaw girl, sorely tempted to hex the gloating expression from her face. He wouldn't mind doing the same to Angus Dean, simply for sparking Lily's interest. It was obvious Lily was struggling to maintain her composure and he realized that, despite his stunned jealousy, defending her was his top priority.
"What poor, mindless bloke would want to go to Slughorn's party with you?" he sneered.
Iris rounded on him, her mask of charm and beauty melting to reveal her infinitely more grotesque self – her true self.
"That's rich, coming from you," she spat, eyeing him up and down. "Tattered robe, greasy hair, gray underpants—believe me, you're the last boy any self-respecting girl would consider worthy enough of her time, and secondly—."
"Actually," Lily interrupted, rediscovering her voice. "Severus and I are going to Slughorn's party together. Isn't that right, Sev?"
He stared at her, dumbfounded.
"Yeah," he nodded, his eyes narrowing and thin mouth curling into a smirk as a seed took root in his mind. "That's right. I asked you yesterday after you turned Angus down—for the third time, I might add."
Lily's eyes glittered strangely, though she didn't protest to the web he was beginning to spin. He glanced sidelong at Iris whose blue eyes darted from one to the other.
"You see," he continued, "Angus Dean had pursued Lily countless times before it ever occurred to him to ask you. In fact, the only reason he asked you was because Lily suggested it. I suppose it was all for the best, since you got what you wanted in the end—like they say: beggars can't be choosers."
He stood abruptly, causing Iris to stumble backwards. He stared down his hooked nose at her and sneered.
"C'mon, Lily," he said, brushing past the gaping Ravenclaw girl.
Lily glanced quickly over her shoulder at the stunned expression on Iris's face, as she made to follow Severus. She grinned a little, in spite of herself.
"Sev, that was so wonderful and yet horrible, at the same time!" Lily exclaimed breathlessly for the sixth time since their departure from the Great Hall. "I can't believe you —how can I ever thank you enough for—do you think we should go back to apologize?"
Severus snorted, opening his mouth to deliver a disparaging remark.
"But how could I apologize?" she reasoned, cutting him off. "She deserved it! But still…"
Their trek led them to the courtyard. The sky was gray, the ground was covered in gleaming snow, and their hot breath was visible in the frigid air. Severus braced a pillar and cleared his throat, suddenly shy.
"I assume I have a date to Slughorn's party?" he asked, regarding Lily shrewdly, inwardly cringing at the way his voice cracked.
Lily's bright eyes were wide and unblinking. His question had jolted her from the throes of her verbal tirade.
"Obviously," she rolled her eyes playfully and grinned from ear-to-ear. "Who else would I go with? We are an inseparable team."
Severus was immediately endeared by her sentiment and the slight gap in her two front teeth, but he couldn't help feeling petulant over Lily's supposed interest in Angus Dean – a brawny, seventh-year, Quidditch captain, no less! There were many things he wanted to do to the Hufflepuff boy in that moment, but he would be forced to content himself with something harmless, like showing him his middle finger.
Severus stuffed his frozen hands deep inside his coat pockets and scuffed the wet ground with the toe of his boot.
"I can't believe you fancy Angus Dean," he said bitterly, not daring to look up.
"I don't fancy him that much," Lily replied defensively, crossing her arms. "Why should it matter to you, anyway?"
"I'm your best friend," Severus huffed. "You're supposed to tell me everything."
"What was I supposed to do?" She flung her arms in the air. "You have something nasty to say about every bloke I mention. It's easier to keep my business to myself after being put down so many times."
"I never intend to put you down," Severus scoffed. "I just try to be realistic. None of the boys you're interested in are right for you."
"Oh?" Lily raised an eyebrow. "Enlighten me, then. Who is right for me, since you're so knowledgeable in such matters?"
Severus rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, looking exasperated.
"Well," he began importantly, "I picture you with someone intelligent and gifted. More on the bookish side, perhaps. Not so much an athletic type, which you usually tend to go for."
"What, like Remus Lupin?" Lily suggested.
Severus's face contorted. "Hardly. No offense, but he's sort of a nutter and he's complete shit at Potions."
"Oh," Lily tapped her chin thoughtfully, a teasing gleam in her eye, "then my type is more like you then, eh?"
Severus looked horrified.
"No," he muttered vehemently, thankful the cold masked his reddening face, "I'm not even interested in girls. I mean," he backtracked at once, "they're nice and all, but I only care about school right now."
Lily's eyebrows had traveled up into her hairline. Her cheeks were looking a tad pink, but there was no knowing if it was from the heat in her face or the chill in the air. Either way, she evidently decided it was best to dispel the tension lingering between them.
"I wasn't even that interested in Angus Dean," she said, "especially after learning he asked Iris Birmingham to the party. She's gorgeous and all, but any bloke who fraternizes with her is only after one thing. How else would they be able to put up with her? Besides, I'm glad to be going with you instead."
Well, I'm happy to be a solid Plan B, Severus thought glumly as Lily wound her arm through his. She smiled fondly up at him.
"Thanks for sticking up for me today, Sev. I'll never forget the look on Iris's face when we left. She looked like one great, stupid fish. Come, my slippery friend," she beckoned, "let's move somewhere warm before I freeze my nose off."
Friend. Would he ever escape that word? Could he ever be classified as something more? Hiding his feelings from her was beginning to drive him mad. A sudden thought occurred to him and ludicrous as it was, it was sorely tempting to give a try.
The moment he exchanged goodbyes with Lily, he returned to the library and found the pink book where he'd left it. He carried it to the front desk where Madame Pince sat leafing through recently used books for possible damage. She examined Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches in the dim light and cocked a thin eyebrow, regarding him shrewdly over the rim of her spectacles. He glared in return and yanked the book from her grasp, as soon as it was possible to leave. When he returned to his dormitory, he was pleased to find himself alone. He took one last, hopeful look at the book before stuffing it under his mattress, completely out of sight.