Over the next few days, Electra largely appeared to return to her usual self – bubbly, flirtatious, and almost annoyingly self-confident. As far as I could tell, only those of us who knew her best could see the minute strains in her facade, as she came to terms with the perplexing betrayal that my cousin had carried out against her. Thankfully, her forgiveness of us – for our previous lack of insight into her charming change in personality – did seem to be entirely genuine.
Having settled back into our usual routine, we were once again seated at our favourite table in the common room, hurriedly attempting to finish our homework for the next morning’s class. Hugo, now an almost constant fourth to our little group, was idly flicking through the newest Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes catalogue.
“What’s the second thing that makes cross-species switches easier again? I know the first one is similar sounding names, but then I think I got distracted.” Electra said with a furrowed brow.
“By Aiden, perchance?” I shook my head, bemused by Electra’s flirtatious antics. “The other one’s similar appearances – y’know, like the snails to yoyo’s spell we did last week.”
“Thanks.” She quickly scribbled a couple of lines, before putting her quill back down. “In answer to your other comment, there’s nothing going on between me and Aiden. I mean, he’s cute and all, but I learnt my lesson with him in second-year.”
“Didn’t we all?” sighed Chelsea with mock nostalgia.
“You did?” Hugo queried nervously, suddenly alert and half rising from his seat as he scanned the room for his potential rival. Chelsea laughed.
“Don’t be absurd! We went on one date, and he hiccupped when he tried to kiss me, before accidentally standing on my foot. I’m pretty sure I’m over him.”
Hugo sat back down looking relieved, but pulled Chelsea onto his lap nonetheless. Electra, however, was now eying me sceptically.
“Actually, we didn’t all learn that particular lesson, did we now? And you certainly seemed quick to notice my flirting with him ... you’re not into Aiden, are you Lils?”
An uncontrollable snort of laughter escaped me, causing several heads from nearby tables to turn, including the wizard in question. Composing myself, I waited for the audience to return to their own conversations, before replying:
“Hardly! Whatever gave you that idea?”
Electra seemed somewhat convinced by the obvious sincerity of my reaction; her eyes had lost most of their suspicion as she answered:
“I don’t know ... you just seem awfully quiet these days, and you do spend a lot of time with Aiden. Plus, there was that whole thing where he took you to the hospital wing and looked after you.”
“We’re just friends, trust me. You know I can’t lie without turning beetroot.”
“Hmm, I still think you’re hiding something.”
True to form, my cheeks began their usual colouration, but luckily Electra’s attention was diverted by two new shadows falling across the table.
“Hey Lex,” Aiden said, Rodolphus Jones standing beside him. In terms of popularity with the females in our year, Rodolphus was second only to Aiden, being the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ to Aiden’s blue-eyed blond. Unsurprisingly Electra looked somewhat flattered by their twin looks of interest, as Aiden continued:
“My friend here needs your help with deciding something. Any chance you could come and help us out?”
Electra checked my expression quickly, and then shrugged.
“Sure. Lils, you want to come too?” she smirked as she noted Aiden’s positive reaction to this suggestion, but I shook my head.
“Sorry, but I really want to get this finished.” I replied, gesturing to my already substantial essay. “Have fun!”
With a final searching look, she got up and left with her new admirers.
“So, she’s putting on a pretty good act.” Hugo commented once they were out of earshot.
“And there was me thinking that we were the only two to see through it.” I responded with surprise. “You’re right though; I just wish she didn’t feel the need to do it with us.”
“Well, it’s a welcome break from Louis’ attitude. He’s in full-on mope mode, particularly now Electra’s made the transition from stalker to flirt.”
“Louis’ moping?” I queried, momentarily concerned for my exiled cousin, “well, I guess he should have thought about the consequences before acting like such a ...”
“I know how you two feel about him,” Hugo interrupted, as Chelsea nodded to my evaluation, “but I really think he’s innocent. Only problem is getting the two of them together long enough for him to convince her of that.”
“Please tell me you’re not still plotting something, sweetie.” Chelsea pleaded. Hugo had the grace to look sheepish, as he surreptitiously slid his magazine off the table and towards his bag.
“Well, I was just thinking, if they could just be forced to remember how good they were together, how much they still like each other...”
Suspicions mounting, I quickly charmed the magazine out of his bag, and scanned the current page.
“Hugo Arthur Weasley!” I exclaimed as I read one item description in particular, “Did you learn nothing from Louis’ idiocy? A ‘Quick-Fix Cupid’ is not the way to get them back together – it’d just make Lexi feel even more manipulated.”
“No, but that’s the point – they don’t make people feel anything new, just cause them to act on the feelings they do have.” Seeing our stony expressions, he quickly changed tack, “I was actually leaning more towards the ‘Venetian Veritaserum Truffles’ – so they’re both forced to say what they really feel – surely that couldn’t hurt?”
“Great idea, except that they’d be saying it to everyone but each other.” I pointed out, rapidly reaching the end of my patience. “You’d still have to get them in the same room, doofus. Seriously, there are some things that magic just can’t fix.”
Seeing that he was outnumbered, Hugo raised his hands in defeat and said “OK guys, no interfering.”
Now if only I could believe him, I thought uneasily, as he folded down the corner of the page, before catching my gaze and hastily putting the magazine away.
The next morning started like any other typical Tuesday. I’d always found this morning’s lessons – Defence Against Dark Arts followed by double Transfiguration – needed a particularly high level of concentration, as I tried both to take in the increasingly complex theory, and hide my aptitude at the substantial practical aspects. On this particular Tuesday, my attention was to be stretched even further than usual, as I found out on our way between classes.
“So, Lils, what’s the plan for tomorrow evening?” Electra whispered as we sat down, cautious of McGonagall’s stern gaze.
Once I was certain our Headmistress’ attention was elsewhere, I replied, feigning indifference, “None, yet. Probably just get some studying done in the library.” You don’t want to join me, you don’t want to join me, I silently pleaded.
“On Valentine’s Day? Seriously, Lils, this whole ‘studious’ bit is getting old fast. I was thinking we could have a girl’s night, like your birthday.”
A pointed “Huh, hmm” from the front ended our conversation for a few minutes, while McGonagall explained the plan for the day’s lesson. We were going to be attempting to turn guinea fowl into guinea pigs, so she directed us to the relevant chapter of our books while Aiden was put in charge of handing out the bemused-looking birds.
Once the class had got into the assigned task, Electra turned back to our conversation.
“So, girl’s night... what do you think?”
“You don’t have any other plans?” I questioned hopefully, “Rodi? Aiden? Any of the other admirers that avidly follow your every step?”
Electra sighed, sounding somewhat resigned. “Honestly, I just can’t be bothered – boys are so much effort, and you can’t trust them as far as you can hex them!”
“Well...” I started to respond, before becoming aware of a dark shadow over our table and a general hush in the room. Looking up, I found myself confronted by a most unimpressed teacher. Crap, I thought, trying to come up with a convincing reason for our lack of activity, how much can one girl lie?
“Miss Potter. This is a classroom, not a coffee shop. Fowl to pig, now!”
Relieved, I quickly did as she asked. The hush over the room increased, before someone eventually called out:
“Lils, you’re supposed to be making a guinea-pig, not an actual pig!”
I blushed instantly, realising my error, and quickly recast the spell. The resulting rodent took one look at the numerous stares, and buried itself in my robes.
“That’s... some impressive spell work,” McGonagall eventually acknowledged, eyeing me curiously, “but perhaps we should just stick to the assigned tasks for the time being.”
With a short nod, she turned back to the class in general, and left me to regain my composure. Gratefully, I hid myself in my textbook, as the class got back to their own work. Still, I couldn’t help overhearing the whispered conversations around me.
“I thought it was supposed to be really hard to make those kinds of switches?”
“Did you see how quickly she corrected it?”
“Was Lily always good at transfiguration?”
While a small part of me was desperately screaming that I should claim ignorance of what I’d done, and pretend it was some kind of freak accident, it was surprisingly easy to ignore. Maybe shattering some people’s expectations isn’t so bad after all.
Over the next twenty-four hours things slowly returned to normal, and as our now standard foursome sat down to breakfast the next morning, it seemed that the events of the transfiguration lesson had been all but forgotten. Phew!
“So, Lils, about tonight...” Electra started. Crap, maybe not everything was forgotten. Thankfully, I was saved from responding by the arrival of the post.
“Ooh, truffles!” Chelsea exclaimed, as an enormous box of chocolates was delivered by a pair of exhausted tawny owls, “Hugo, you shouldn’t have!”
As the happy couple continued their Valentine’s Day celebrations, I turned to commiserate with Electra, only to find her staring through her breakfast, distractedly pushing some eggs around her plate. This too was interrupted, however, by yet more post.
Picking up the envelope from amongst her remaining food, she opened it and quickly read the enclosed card. Unlike me, Electra’s pale complexion didn’t telegraph her every emotion, but the small smile spreading across her face let me know that the mystery card’s contents were being appreciated.
“Secret admirer, or do I know the lucky guy?” I queried, pleased to see a real smile for the first time in a while.
“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing. By the way, you have fun studying tonight; I’m sure I’ll find some way to occupy myself.”
I’m sure you already have, I thought, pleased for the both of us. So pleased, in fact, that I didn’t stop to check how Electra’s post was being interpreted other people in our group...like Hugo.
The rest of the day passed in a similar fashion, with new couples popping up every few metres. Normally, I found this particular holiday somewhat depressing, what with my status as the world’s most innocent and over-protected girl-child. On this occasion however, I was somewhat otherwise preoccupied.
What am I going to wear? Is it going to be awkward, given the date and all? Did he just agree to this to humour me? All these questions buzzed incessantly around my head, as I considered my impending rendezvous with a certain blond-haired Slytherin. However, none of these came close to being the most pressing question of all; Does he like me too? It seemed impossible that he might, and yet there was something indefinable in the way we had been acting over the past few meetings that gave me cause to hope.
Both Chelsea and Electra had disappeared shortly after dinner, leaving me nervous but unaccompanied as I approached the West Tower. Entering the room, I realised that Scorpius had once again beaten me there, and he had brought something with him.
“Hi, Lily,” he greeted me warmly, a broad smile lighting up his normally serious face. “Um... these are for you.”
He handed me the large parcel, which turned out to be an expensive selection of my favourites from Honeydukes. I looked up, scrutinising his expression for a clue as to the gift’s meaning.
“I...these are... you didn’t have to do this.” I stumbled for the right way to thank him without presuming more than I should.
“Well, I did eat a ton of your own supply last time, so it seemed only fair to repay you. Besides, it’s Valentine’s Day.” His voice trailed off at the last few words, and so I pretended not to have heard, despite feeling ridiculously pleased by the implication.
Initial stiltedness over, we got down to the important work of the evening – the final patronus practice before the main event, which would happen this Sunday when Scorpius went to visit his grandfather in Azkaban. However, it quickly became apparent that extensive practice was going to be unnecessary, as Scorpius fired one silver Augurey after another at the now trembling boggart.
Satisfied that he would be able to handle himself over the weekend, the evening slowly progressed into a simple chat, as we sat side-by-side and worked our way through one of the many confectionary boxes. We had covered every topic from his love of history and the famous ancestors that inspired it, to my recent foray into magical excellence, and the complicated dating situation of my two best friends. During the last few meet-ups, I had become ever-more accepting of both our unconventional camaraderie and my growing affections. Still, the increasing depth of both that seemed to be forming managed to surprise me.
So did the time, as I suddenly noticed the unusual quietness of the owlery above us, and realised it was gone ten o’clock. After I mentioned this, Scorpius quickly got himself up from our impromptu picnic spot, and offered me a hand up. After accepting it, I went to start cleaning up the scattered wrappers, but Scorpius interrupted my actions, saying:
“Leave that to me, you’d better get back to the Gryffindor tower before you’re found out after curfew.”
But I don’t want to go! Out loud, I replied more reasonably, “Thanks. So, I guess this is good luck and good bye?” Please don’t let it be goodbye.
Scorpius simply looked at me in response, as though he too didn’t know how to end the evening. Our gazes still locked, my hand found the doorknob, and slowly opened the door. It opened with a jolt, as something fat and pink whizzed into the room. Looking up, I gasped as I saw a bow and arrow pointing directly at me, aimed by some fat floating baby. Scorpius too saw the imminent if bizarre danger, and quickly stepped in front of me as the creature fired.
I felt an odd tension in my chest, as something passed through my body. Almost instantly, my senses became blurred and distorted, almost everything in the room falling out of focus. Only one person remained crystal clear, and as he turned to me it seemed as though the rest of the world had utterly vanished. My breathing became laboured, as my heart rate sped and my skin tingled. Almost against my will, my hand went to caress the blond vision in front of me, thankfully being matched by his own actions. As his skin touched mine, a fire seemed to erupt within my chest, simultaneously stoked and cooled by his ever more certain actions. A small part of my brain was dimly trying to tell me ... something, but then his lips met mine, and with that all rational thought was gone.
An unknown amount of time passed, as I lost myself in his arms. Vaguely, I heard someone yelling, and saw a shower of sparks. With it, I felt my senses return to me. As the overwhelming enchantment slowly lifted from my senses, I became aware of three things. One: I had my back against a wall. Two: I had my front (including lips) against Scorpius’; and three: we had an audience.
My eldest brother James was staring at the two of us with a look of utter horror and disgust. At his feet, the “Quick-Fix Cupid” was unmoving, and shrinking back to the inert, miniaturised form that they were sold in. Instinctively, I attempted to push Scorpius away from me, but his arms, still tightly wrapped around my torso, made it impossible. As though personally insulted by this, James immediate pointed his wand at the distracted Slytherin.
“Stupefy!” he roared. Still numb, I simply watched as Scorpius dropped to the floor.
“WHAT do you think you’re doing?!” James snarled at me, grabbing my arm and pulling me away from the unconscious body.
“It... I... I think it was that cupid thingy” I said desperately, embarrassment, fear and worry all competing to overwhelm me.
“I know that; I’ve been after it ever since Hugo lost control an hour ago. I meant, what are you doing, ALONE, with HIM? What’s wrong with you? Haven’t I always told you to stay away from people like him?!”
Slowly, I felt my earlier emotions easing off, replaced by an indignant fury.
“What am I doing? What are you doing! You just stunned an innocent guy for being caught in someone else’s enchantment? What right do you have to yell at me?!”
James jerked back, as if by the very force of my words alone. I had never spoken this way to the self-appointed head of our family, and I could see his shock as I attempted to stand up for myself for the first time. Recovering himself a little, he responded more calmly:
“Scorpius is hardly an innocent guy. Now, you’re going to come with me, and we’re going to have a little talk about what you were doing in the West Tower at almost half past ten at night, with only Malfoy for company.”
I felt him attempting to pull me along again, his superior strength overcoming my resistance, and so angrily I used the only defence I had. Relashio, I thought, casting the spell to release me non-verbally. He was instantly flung backwards a few paces, stumbling over a chair leg.
“How about you go and take that” I pointed at the tiny cupid figurine on the floor, “back to my idiotic cousin. I’ll be up when I’ve made sure you haven’t caused any permanent damage.”
My brother stared at me in shock for a few moments, before reluctantly leaning over to pick up the item.
“Don’t make me come back for you,” was all he responded with, as he unwillingly turned and walked away.
The moment he was out of sight I rushed over to Scorpius’ prone form, crouching down to check his breathing, and that he hadn’t been hurt in the fall. Reassured that he wasn’t any more seriously affected than he seemed, I rolled back on my heels, debating what to do next. I should wake him up, I told myself, it wouldn’t be right to just leave him here. I kept trying to bring myself to behave responsibly, but couldn’t quite ignore the problem that such actions would produce: What on Earth would I say to him? The very concept of trying to explain what had just happened to us, and what it might mean, threatened to overwhelm me as completely as the enchantment itself.
For several long moments, I fought with myself over what to do, and in my distraction, I barely even noticed as he began to stir. It was only his gentle sigh that brought crashing back to reality, goading me to action. Panicking, I charmed my stuff together and fled back to the safety of the common room, choosing to face anything but him.
A.N. Chapter now edited, post-beta'ing, so hopefully it will be mistake free. Thanks to everyone whose added this to their favourites; please leave me a line letting me know why you like it, what you find funny, or simply to let me know you're still reading!