Alice Longbottom was in a whole lot of trouble, and everyone knew it.
"But Dad.." the whine was repeated several more times, but still Neville Longbottom paid no attention whatsoever towards it. Alice trailed behind him, knowing in her heart of hearts that it was hopeless. "But Dad.." Lily Potter pulled on her sleeve, pulling a face at her friend.
"Alice, leave Neville alone," she sighed, shaking her head. "Weíve still got that Transfig assignment for Professor Bridge, remember?" Alice glowered at her.
"Since when have you become such a goody-good, Lils?" Lily turned red and shut her mouth, eyes narrowing at Alice. "Exactly. You can go start on the assignment if you want, but I need to talk to Dad." Lily sighed once more.
"Oh, alright, but donít say I didnít warn you.." She let that sentence trail off as she walked away, and both Alice and her father pretended not to notice the many pairs of eyes following her. It was best not to speak about it.
"Dad," Alice tried one more time. "Please. I promise I wonít get into anymore trouble." Professor Longbottom finally frowned, turning to look at his daughter. Alice had her motherís eyes, and a combination of her parentsí hair, making it a wispy light brown shade that she hated. She had cut it up to her shoulders last year, and wore it in a ponytail often.
"Alice.." He didnít know what to say to her, to lessen the blow. "You have to understand, thatís what you told me last time, too. Donít you remember what happened?" Alice looked at the ground, dejected.
"No one got hurt," she reminded him. "Just.."
"Severely embarrassed?" he finished for her. "Ali, honey, I know itís hard for you.." Alice sniffled sadly, turning away from him.
"Fine," she mumbled. "Fine. Iíll leave you alone. Iíve got an assignment due on Monday anyway.." However, Professor Longbottom couldnít bear to see his only daughter so upset by just one little thing. He inhaled deeply, wondering if he was going to regret his decision.
"Oh, Alice, you do my head in sometimes.. but okay. Your detention is rescheduled to Monday afternoon, you understand? Donít miss it again. Donít make me regret giving in." Aliceís face lit up in sheer delight, and she wrapped her arms around him.
"Oh, thank you, thank you! I promise you wonít regret it, I really, really do." It didnít matter what she promised, he regretted it already.
The tinkling silvery voice was the one that greeted Alice when she finally reached the Ravenclaw Common Room.
"What is lighter than air, and yet a million men can't lift it?" The bronze eagle knocker asked, and Aliceís eyes widened in surprise and a bit of disappointment. She had been hoping for a harder one.
"A bubble," she informed it, and the door swung open, revealing Lily in the centre, working diligently on the Transfiguration assignment due tomorrow. Many people were surprised when the youngest of the Wotter Clan was sorted into Ravenclaw. Alice wasnít. Lily was witty, independent, extraordinarily clever and the biggest procrastinator she had ever met in her entire life.
"Alice!" Lilyís grin stretched from ear-to-ear as she stood up to greet her best friend. "What did your Dad say?"
"Oh, he said yes," Alice answered nonchalantly, as if it didnít matter a bit what her father thought. Lilyís eyes widened, and her face paled drastically. Alice raised an eyebrow innocently.
"Alice, youíre my best friend and I love you, but please say youíre kidding!" Alice bit her lip to hide her laugh, looking down at the ground, and Lily sighed wearily. "Oh, Alice, youíll be the death of me someday - do I really have any choice in the matter?"
"Nope!" Alice said cheerfully, grabbing her friend by the hand and dragging her back out their Common Room. "Come on, Lils! Whereís your sense of fun gone?"
"Back with my Transfiguration homework," Lily deadpanned and Alice rolled her eyes at the redhead fondly. This was typical to how the two girls usually reacted when Alice had done something Ďbadí - Lily would protest, moan and groan but still go along with it, and Alice would do her best, and succeed, to drag Lily into it. Alice was the sole reason Lily had so many detentions, but even without her the redhead was a little too cheeky for her own good.
Lily trailed after Alice, defeated, as the other girl cheerfully went along the corridor, whistling at her good fortune. Not one person who passed the pair had the mind to ask what on earth was going on - the students of Hogwarts were too used to the strange minds of people like Lily and Alice. So when Alice froze in her delight of having escaped the clutches of detention, Lily had no idea what to think.
"Erm, Alice..?" The end of Lilyís statement was met with a harsh "Shh!" from her best friend, and Lily clamped her mouth shut with a "Hmph!" She hated it when Alice did things like this, stop for no reason at all and expect her to know that reason.
"Look!" Alice hissed eventually, and Lilyís jaw dropped. Now, the tension and wait was worth it.
"Heís gorgeous," she whispered back to Alice in awe. Even the dingy light of the corridor made his hair shine like spun gold, and warm eyes twinkled with laughter. He was a whole inch taller than the man he was standing next to - and the man was a full-grown adult - and yet was listening attentively to an older man who was nattering on and on and on about who-knows-what.
"I know, right?" Alice whispered, eyes wide with wonder. How could anyone that handsome work for old people? Or, at least, thatís how she saw it in her fifteen-year-old brain. "What do you think heís doing here?"
"What do you think youíre doing here?" another voice interrupted, male, this time, with a tinge of amusement but mostly disapproval. "Spying on the Ministry workers?" Alice and Lily whipped around to meet two pairs of eyes - one bright green, with raised eyebrows to match, and one hazel-brown, lit up with laughter.
"Hey, Sophia," Lily said, acknowledging the girl first. "Finally dating someone, yet?" Sophia Clarke raised an eyebrow so that the expression on her face was eerily identical to her companion.
"And who, pray tell, would I be dating, Lily?" she asked sweetly, and Alice decided to pipe in with her own thoughts.
"Al or Reese," she said cheekily, shrugging innocently when Albus Potter glared at her for even bringing him up. "Take your pick." Sophiaís mouth clamped shut, but still she rolled her eyes. Lily and Alice had been trying for years to set her up with at least one of the two, and now that they were almost leaving pretty much the whole school had gotten in on it.
"Anyway -" Sophia continued, nudging Albus with her elbow and nodding over at the small group of men in a circle, the blonde one that the two younger girls had been admiring in particular. "Can you really blame them, Al? Heís fit." Albus rolled his eyes at her, frowning, and Lily and Alice high-fived quietly while the pair are occupied.
"Well, youíre going to need a whole lot more than -" His eyes scanned the girls, and Sophia gave an indignant Ďhmph!í, and Albus cleared his throat. "Well, if you want his attention, youíre going to need something big."
"Yeah," Sophia agreed, frowning at her friend, probably wondering what he was up to. Alice and Lily were wondering the same thing, too. "Something massive - like, like, um.." She glanced at Albus for help, and he chuckled at his own thoughts.
"Like making it rain or snow or hail or something inside the Great Hall!" he offered, laughing. Sophia grinned, and joined in with the bizarre suggestions to get the Ministry workerís attention.
"Or start a food fight! Now that would be a sight."
"Or you could use a stink bomb!"
"Seriously, Al, that would stink. I prefer the Self-Exploding Slime Balls, you know, the new ones from your uncleís shop?"
"That reminds me - give them a box of chocolates with Howlers!"
"Iíd hate to be your poor visitors from the Ministry - although, if you placed a charm on the door which makes all of their trousers disappear - every single one of them, too, even the old ones -"
"Moving on, Soph. Wait, got one! Lure them into Moaning Myrtleís bathroom!"
"You sound like youíve got experience. Enchant a suit of armour to follow them, maybe?"
"Or use a love potion and make them fall in love with Evora or Longbottom or each other!"
"Okay, okay, we get it," Lily interrupted, pouting. It was obvious to Lily and Alice that Albus and Sophia were teasing them with their crush on the young Ministry visitor, even though Sophia was fond of him, too. "Thereís no way in hell he would ever even look at us." Albus tapped her on the nose, winking.
"And you better remember that, Lils. Címon, Soph, weíve had enough Ďbonding timeí with my little sis and her friend." Lily yelled after him.
"Iím not little!" She turned back to Alice, frowning, probably to tell the other girl why her brother was so annoying and how could he drag poor Sophia to the dark side, but the look on Aliceís face stopped her.
"Alice?" Lily asked, fearing for her academic life and sanity. Aliceís plans were only known to be crazy and impossible, not worth while, fool-proof or detention-free. She had a right to worried. Alice looked back at her with a wicked smile on her face and a gleam in her eye.
"Lily, Iíve got a plan."
"This is mad, this is mad, this is mad," Lily chanted to herself again and again as she watched Alice unwrap the cough potion, severely grating on the other girlís nerves.
"It is not mad," Alice said crossly. "A seventh year suggested it, didnít he?" Lily wrung her hands in despair.
"That seventh year was my brother!" she cried hysterically, and Alice rolled her eyes while shushing her hastily. They had to be quiet, that much she knew. She held up the shining red bottle to the light, examining the label with an air of suspicion. "Five minute delivery. Lily, you donít think -"
"Come on, Alice, Fred and Uncle George are family," Lily said immediately, dismissing the mere thought of it. "But, I must warn you, even though this Heartbreak Teardrops bottle is the strongest of the WonderWitch line - and thatís a guarantee, by the way - it wonít be as strong as say, Amortentia." Alice waved her hand airily.
"We donít want Amortentia - and youíre good at Potions. You can make it at least a little bit stronger, right?" Lily frowned, obviously wondering if she should really use her just-a-little-bit-above-average skills at Potions to participate in this. But Alice was her friend, and she really did like that boy - man - whatever.
"Right," she said a little weakly, in Aliceís opinion. "Give me that bottle, Iíve warmed up a cauldron already - oh, and I think thereís some Strengthening Solution in my bag. I almost got caught nicking that thing from Professor Abbeyís stores." As Alice handed her the two bottles, she was glad they had decided to remake the potion - well, in a way, at least - in one of the abandoned Potions classrooms, and not in the dungeons.
"Isnít Strengthening Solution for humans?" she inquired a little nervously as she watched Lily pour it in the cauldron. The redhead frowned, thinking about it.
"Well, it is," she agreed, stirring it. "But so is this love potion, and itís the only thing I could think of - and anyway, I went to too much trouble nicking it, and itís already mixed in. Too late, now." Alice frowned some more, but she trusted Lilyís Potion skills. They would get that Ministry workerís attention even if it killed them.
"Alice, do you mind not breathing down my neck?" Lily snapped finally, breaking the awkward silence that had settled. Her nerves were getting to her, and Alice knew that, but still she huffed indignantly.
"Well, excuse me for being curious -" Her worst fears were confirmed when a shadow - no, multiple shadows - passed the door, and the footsteps and shadows just magnified her fear. "Lily! Red alert, red alert! Duck down, now!"
"But the potion -" Lily protested weakly, half-wanting to get caught so they didnít have to go through with this, but Alice was insistent and pulled her down despite her protests. They held their breaths, hoping against hope that the smoke coming from the still steaming wouldnít be seen, hoping that the Ministry workers wouldnít come in here to discuss something in private. It seemed like they had been crouched under that table for an age before the last footsteps finally faded.
"That was close," Alice said, once she caught her breath. Lily nodded.
"That was too close. It isnít safe here. We need to go somewhere else." Alice leaned over the now bubbling cauldron, and then her eyes shot back up to Lily.
"Isnít it finished, yet?" Lily hesitated. It was pretty much done, but now they were supposed to let it simmer for a bit before bottling it - she was thinking they might have to let it simmer for a bit longer, since the smoke coming from it only a couple of minutes ago might have altered it somehow, but Alice would have found a way to persuade her, so she agreed.
"Yeah, Iíll just bottle it now." Lily put the stopper in, and held the bottle up to the light again. Still bubbles like the ones in honey were the first things that caught her eye, and she wondered if it was supposed to do that. "Alice.. " Alice turned back to her, in the middle of going back across the room to open the door. A random cauldron in an empty Potions classroom wouldnít be noticed - it was abandoned, after all.
"Yeah?" Lily hesitated again, and she hated herself for it. She shook her head, dismissing it.
"Nothing, nothing. We better go, or we wonít make it down to the Kitchens in time." Alice eyed her friend curiously. When Lily noticed something, it was usually something significant, but if she dismissed it then maybe it was okay. Maybe. Just maybe.
At first, there was just the clink of forks and spoons and knives against plates, the low hum of chatter in the background, and the occasional burst of laughter. And then came the swooning.
"Oh, Tilly, my love for you shines brighter than the brightest stars!" the eldest one crooned, to none other than the Headmistress. "Nothing in the world could make it shine brighter!"
"Stars are balls of gas!" Lily hissed, frowning, and Alice rolled her eyes at her.
"Well, they still give off light, donít they?"
"Thatís not romantic!"
"Come away with me, dear Filly!" the shortest whispered loudly to Flitwick. "Letís bathe in roses with candles and eat chocolate together! And then we can watch the stars under the shade of the elm trees, and you can do what you do best." Accompanied with a wiggling of the eyebrows, it made the two girls shudder.
"Let me help you with your food, Nev," the tallest said to Longbottom, grabbing the spoon, licking from it himself, and then putting it back onto the plate. Alice turned a little green in the face.
"Ooh-er, Maddie!" None other than Adonis - Alice, a Greek Mythology lover, had dubbed him this, much to Lilyís displeasure - was cooing lightly to Professor Bridge, also one of the youngest of the current staff. "Letís run away, together, living away from the harshness of the world! These pesky children are doing nothing for your beauty!"
"Excuse me?" she squawked indignantly. But that was just the start of it.
"Mathias, oh, Mathias!" One of the Ministry workers was down on his knees in front of the other. "Marry me, my love? Iíll take you away from your worst nightmares!"
"Iím in love with Julius!" the one named Mathias said firmly, taking another by the hand and planting a kiss upon it. "And thereís nothing even Merlin could do that will change my mind!"
"What is the meaning of this?" Professor Knight of Ancient Runes rose from the table, fire in her eyes as she tried to look for the culprit, scanning over the House tables.
"Evora!" Filch burst through the doors, past the tables with the slack-jawed and some guffawing students. "Lookie here what I found! A cauldron in an empty classroom!" Aliceís eyes went wide, and they shot to Lily accusingly. Of course she would forget to take the cauldron. Of course she would. Lilyís face burned red. Filch proudly turned the cauldron upside-down, and inscribed on the bottom in neat, flowing letters easily recognisable were Lily L. Potter. Wide eyes, some filled with admiration, some with curiousity, some accompanied by raised eyebrows shot to Lily instantly.
"Longbottom, Potter, detention," Headmistress Evora said calmly, all the while fending off her potential suitor. "For the rest of the month. Pulling a stunt like this! Did you even bother thinking about how this will reflect on the school, and the Ministry?" Lily and Aliceís mouths were clamped shut. There was no evidence of Alice helping Lily, but it was obvious Lily couldnít have done this on her own.
"Professor, it wasnít just them," a voice piped up, and at the Hufflepuff table, Sophia stood, but not before shooting Alice and Lily an exasperated. "I gave them the idea." A snort from Albus at the Slytherin table interrupted her.
"Please, Soph. We both gave them the idea." Evora shook her head with a sigh.
"Well, then! Dorms, all of you. Twenty points each from your respective houses." With a last shake of her head, as the doors shut behind the four of them, the last thing Alice heard was "Iím getting too old for this job."
Alice pouted at the line that she was supposed to write, but she was the only one. Sophia, Albus and Lily just got on with it.
I am not allowed out of my dorm when visitors from the Ministry are here.
A/N: Bah! Those last lines! Anyways, this was for Rylan (LiveLarge or Live Life Large), for her challenge. Sorry for taking so long, dear! Hope you guys liked it, and reviews are extremely appreciated! :)