First time

St Valentine's Day

Chapter 19

St. Valentine’s Day

If she’d ever had a worse start to a new semester, Elizabeth definitely didn’t remember it, for the amount of unpleasant things she had to face this time, right after she got back to Hogwarts, was undoubtedly enough to last her for the rest of her life, and provided there was such a thing, even her after-life. Not only was she called into Filch’s office immediately upon her arrival to arrange the time of her detention (and made to clean all the girls’ bathrooms in the castle a couple of days later as a result), but even Snape’s behaviour towards her seemed to have changed for the worse. Even when her potion turned out to be absolutely perfect, making Hermione’s and Draco’s products look almost like something Neville would produce compared to it, was he somehow able to find at least one little thing that was wrong with it, even when she considered her essay to be good enough to rival even the work of Voldemort himself did he manage to discover something in it to prevent her from getting full marks (even if it was just a V that, with a bit of imagination, happened to look like an R) ... it was all the same to him, as long as he had a reason to make the Ravenclaw girl feel bad. And although she would rather date Malfoy than to admit it in front of him, his scornful remarks really did have the desired effect, causing Elizabeth to become more and more frustrated as the time went by.

She had no clue as to what had made Snape begin to treat her in such a way so suddenly (not that he had been nice to her before, but compared to his current behaviour, she was almost beginning to believe that he had been polite), but she could easily guess.

The dance.

She was pretty sure it had all started not long after that memorable Christmas Eve, and that if it hadn’t been for her suicidal idea of asking Snape to dance, he would never have begun to act the way he had. And as much as what she had done had pleased her before, she was beginning to strongly regret it now. But then again, Snape couldn’t really stay mad at her forever – right?

Wrong. More than a month had passed, and if anything had changed, then his behaviour towards her had become even worse.

‘If that’s still possible,’ Elizabeth thought glumly as she made her way from Potions one day, Snape’s latest insults still fresh in her mind. ‘What’s his problem, anyway? Is one stupid dance such a crime in his eyes that he can never forgive me for it? Or is it more the fact that the whole school knows about it that’s bugging him? Or maybe-’

But at that point, her thoughts were disrupted by Hermione, who was until then walking silently beside her, and who now asked: “Elizabeth, do you think you could find some time in the evening to give me a hand with my Valentine to Neville? I’ve never done anything like it before, you see, and so I’m a bit unsure about-”

“Valentine?” asked Elizabeth, surprised. “Isn’t it a bit early for that? I thought it was only the day after tomorrow, or did I get the dates mixed up again?”

“No,” smiled Hermione, “I just don’t want to leave it until the last minute. What if we got some unexpected homework and I didn’t have time to do it tomorrow?”

Now it was Elizabeth’s turn to smile. “Trust Hermione to have even a Valentine’s card ready in advance,” she declared. “It’s not an essay, you know. But seriously, I don’t think I’m the right person to help you. I’ve never sent anyone a Valentine, either. Why don’t you go and ask those two girls you share a dormitory with, Parvati and Lavender? They look like the Valentine types, only I suspect that their cards go to a different boy every year.”

Hermione shuddered. “Oh please, not them. I’m sure they’d be more than willing to help me, but I don’t even want to think about the stuff they’d advise me to write. No, I think that you will do just fine.”

“Yeeaah, maybe you’re right,” drawled Elizabeth, a sudden idea infiltrating her brain and looking like it wasn’t prepared to leave any time soon. “I’ve decided that I also want to write a Valentine to somebody, so you can help me with that when we finish yours.”

Hermione threw her a knowing look. “Anonymously, I suppose?”

“Of course.”


Dinner wasn’t even over and already the two girls had disappeared into the library to work on their cards, while Jane, who was about as keen on Valentine as she was on writing her essays, left for Ravenclaw Tower to do some rare studying.

The first five minutes passed in relative silence: after finding a table at the very back of the library, not far from the Restricted Section, and taking a seat, Hermione proceeded to thoughtfully chew on her quill and stare at the blank card lying on the table in front of her, while Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and began to ponder over what she could possibly write to let Snape know just how much somebody loved him without giving him the slightest reason to suspect it was her.

“I don’t know how to begin,” the Gryffindor announced finally. “Dear Neville seems like something one would use in a regular letter, and if I write simply darling ... that sounds rather corny, don’t you think?”

“I thought you always knew everything, Hermione,” said Elizabeth teasingly, allowing herself an amused smile as her friend rolled her eyes. “But anyway ... don’t you have some special pet name for him? Something you use only when the two of you are alone?”

Hermione looked disgusted. “No.”

“How about leaving out the ‘dear’ then, and writing only Neville? And afterwards continuing with something like: ‘It’s quite a paradox that your joining of the Death Eaters has actually indirectly brought the two of us to where we are today, because I’m sure that otherwise I’d never have discovered how wonderful a person you really are...”

“Elizabeth, you’re a genius!” exclaimed Hermione and, with a rather amused smile, added: “It almost seems like you’ve been watching some soap operas over the holidays, because I simply can’t believe that sentence to be entirely your own idea.”

“Well, I was bored,” admitted Elizabeth, looking somewhat ashamed. “And I thought it’d help me get my mind off Snape ... but really it only made things worse. All those stupid kissing couples actually caused me to think about him even more, because I immediately started imagining what it’d be like to-”

“Um ... I think I get your point,” said Hermione quickly. “Now, let’s get back to the card, shall we?”

Half an hour later, Neville’s Valentine was successfully finished, and while Hermione kept reading and re-reading it to make sure it was really good enough to be sent, Elizabeth pulled out the enchanted parchment she’d been given last Christmas to finally start working on her letter for Snape. She had it all planned out already: she’d put her Valentine into one of the Howler-like pink envelopes she’d received with the parchment, ensuring Snape’d read it as soon as it was delivered; give the envelope to one of the Valentine dwarfs ... and then just wait to see Snape’s reaction when the said dwarf would suddenly burst into Potions (which, conveniently enough, Elizabeth happened to have that day), carrying a Valentine’s letter for him. There was only one slight problem: persuading the dwarf to put aside his fear of the Potions master and actually dare to give him the letter during one of his lessons, since the fact that Snape was usually absolutely beside himself when faced with anything even slightly resembling Valentine was, very unfortunately, known only too well. Hermione said that he had even turned one of the dwarfs into a spider once, giving Ron, who was probably meant to be the recipient of the card that the dwarf had been carrying, the scare of his life when the creature had suddenly changed direction and decided to head straight for his table.

Well, there was actually one other problem: what to write?

Fortunately, though, this problem didn’t last long, for as soon as Elizabeth’s quill touched the parchment, causing it to immediately become covered by the already familiar pink hearts, the words simply flowed out onto the paper without her even trying.

Dear Professor,

(she wrote)

I know you believe that there’s no one in the entire world who cares about you, nobody who would shed a tear if anything happened to you, not a single soul that would be silly enough to actually become your friend, but I assure you that this is as far from the truth as fire is from becoming water. Because I know for a fact that there’s at least one person who’d give their life for you if necessary, who would never let you down, who’d treasure even the slightest display of affection from your side like a precious jewel ... and do you know why?

Unbelievable as it may seem to you, it is because they love you.

Yes, Professor, I love you with all my heart, and although I wish my identity to remain hidden, as I’m definitely not naive enough to think that my love could ever be returned, I just want you to remember that fact whenever it seems like the whole world has gone against you and you feel as if there’s nobody who’s on your side to stand up for you.

I will always be on your side, just as I will always love you.

Yours,

XX

Elizabeth finished and looked over the paper once more. Didn’t she make it come out a little too gloomy? Wasn’t it perhaps a bit too long? And lastly (and also most importantly), couldn’t Snape somehow tell who had written it?

“Hermione?” she said finally. “Could you please-”

But her friend never let her finish. “Snape’s coming!” she whispered anxiously, casting a worried look somewhere over Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Hide it, quick!”

Elizabeth didn’t have to be told twice, managing to safely dispose of the incriminating Valentine in a matter of milliseconds. Snape, however, with his incredible ability to spot trouble even when it wasn’t there, immediately noticed something odd in both of the girls’ behaviour, and decided to come over and investigate.

“Well, well, well,” he said when he reached them, his searching gaze instantly falling upon Hermione’s card which the girl had foolishly left lying on the table, having had (unlike Elizabeth) no particular reason to hide it. “Writing Valentines in the library, are we?”

And, with a malevolent glint in his eye, he picked the card up and began to read it.

Aloud.

Elizabeth looked ready to kill. Professor or not, Snape had no right to read other people’s correspondence! Should she tell him something? Or should she just stay quiet this time, having already lost Ravenclaw enough points by her previous arguments with him to last her a lifetime?

She glanced at Hermione, but the Gryffindor was simply staring at her hands, her lips forming a very thin line and her cheeks looking like they were on fire. Obviously no chance of a protest from her side, either.

But before she’d had a chance to make up her mind, it was too late: Snape had already managed to finish reading the card anyway.

“How very touching,” he sneered, placing the Valentine back on the table with a look of disgust. “The library, however, is intended for studying only, which means you both lose your houses five points.”

“I’ve never heard of that rule,” muttered Elizabeth, throwing Snape hateful looks as he walked away. “You are supposed to study in the library, that’s true, but nobody can really do anything to you if you do something else ... as long as you keep quiet.”

“Obviously, Snape doesn’t care about any of that,” said Hermione quietly. “If he wants to take points away, he will ... whatever the reason for that might be.”

“Yes, and it seems like I’m his target number one these days,” sighed Elizabeth. “Luckily I’ve managed to write that letter before he came, because at this moment, the only words that come to my mind when I think of him are the exact opposite of what one would normally expect in a Valentine. I’m not even sure if I want to send it any more.”

But, like many times before, Elizabeth soon forgot all about Snape’s unfairness, and so when 14th February eventually arrived, she was back again to being just as eager, if not more, to send her Valentine as she had been to start off with. That’s why she paid absolutely no attention to anything around her when she and Jane had entered the Great Hall that morning, her only interest being to catch some less sour-looking dwarf whom she could give the necessary instructions to.

After spending about ten minutes glancing in all directions (instead of attending to her breakfast, which was steadily getting colder), she finally spotted a free dwarf not too far away, who, to her immense delight, even seemed happy to oblige when she had beckoned him to come over. When the creature eventually arrived at her seat, however, giving Elizabeth a chance to take a better look at it, the girl was surprised to see that it actually wasn’t a dwarf ... but a house-elf, although the Valentine costume with golden wings that he was wearing made it a little hard to make out at first.

“What can Dobby do for you, miss?” the elf asked, staring at her expectantly with his great green eyes.

“Dobby?” said Elizabeth, suddenly remembering what Hermione had once told her about him. “Aren’t you the one who used to serve the Malfoys?”

“Yes, miss, that’s right,” Dobby confirmed, shuddering. “But now Dobby is free.”

“And I’ve heard that you even get paid,” smiled Elizabeth. “So what made you decide that you want to be a Valentine messenger today?”

“Dobby had always wanted to try it, miss. He never understood why the dwarfs didn’t enjoy it. Dobby enjoys it very much, and so does his friend, Winky.”

And he jerked his head in the direction of another house-elf, also dressed in a Valentine costume, who had just delivered a letter to Jane.

‘Well, I’m not sure you’ll enjoy it as much after delivering my Valentine,’ Elizabeth thought somewhat guiltily, but aloud she said: “All right, Dobby, I’ve got a job for you. Could you please give this letter,” she fished the Valentine for Snape out of her bag and handed it to him, “to Professor Snape? But not now; would it be possible to deliver it to him during class? During the third lesson of the day, to be more precise?”

“Yes, miss,” beamed Dobby, looking surprisingly calm ... almost as if a Valentine for Snape counted as an everyday occurrence to him. “Anything else you’ll be needing, miss?”

“No, Dobby, that will be all. Thank you.”

The house-elf only bowed, and then scurried away to join Winky at the Gryffindor table, where his friend was just greeting an incoming Harry and Ron.

“Elizabeth?”

“What?” Elizabeth turned around to see who was calling her, only to see Jane staring at her with an incredulous expression on her face, the letter Winky had brought her still in her hand.

“I got a Valentine,” she said absently.

“Well, I can see that, but who from?”

Jane swallowed. “Justin. What am I supposed to do, Elizabeth?”

“Well, that sort of depends on what the letter says. Can I read it?”

Jane hesitated, but eventually handed the letter over with an apologetic smile. “It’s a bit ... oh, well, you’ll see.”

Elizabeth nodded apprehensively, took the Valentine from her friend’s outstretched hand, and began to read.

Dear Jane,

I’m not very good with words, so I’ll just say what I have to straight away, despite the fact that it might sound stupid.

You see, I think I’ve fallen in love with you. I know it would’ve been better if I had told you this personally, but I just couldn’t bring myself to.

Please tell me: do I have any hope?

Yours forever,

Justin

“What did you mean by that ‘It’s a bit...’ thing?” Elizabeth asked as she gave the letter back to Jane. “I think it’s very sweet.”

“Really?” Jane looked clearly relieved. “I just thought that maybe you’d say it’s ... oh, never mind. The main thing is: what should I do now?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “How would I know? Maybe if you told me how you feel about him...”

“Well, I think he’s cute,” said Jane thoughtfully. “And sweet. And I like talking to him, even though he’s a bit shy. But ... I don’t think I love him.”

“You can still give him a chance, though, can’t you? Maybe you just need to spend more time with him to get to know him better.”

“Maybe. I think I’ll just have a talk to him during Charms and see what happens.”

“Good idea,” said Elizabeth, taking a huge bite of her already cold toast. “And don’t forget to tell me how it went.”

Jane simply nodded and, with a quiet sigh, turned her attention back to her letter, leaving Elizabeth to finally take a proper look at the Hall’s Valentine decorations as she ate.

Ever since Lockhart had come up with the idea of organizing a Valentine in their second year, the celebration of this day had become an eagerly awaited annual event at Hogwarts, mainly thanks to its fun-loving Headmaster who was completely obsessed with thinking up new ways of improving the school’s Valentine look every year. That’s why the Great Hall was now even more pink-looking than it had been during any of the previous years: the enchanted ceiling didn’t reflect the sky outside any more, but was instead covered with fluffy pink clouds in the shape of hearts, the tables were lain with pink table cloth, the candles that lit the Hall were pink, the floor was pink, the walls were red and pink ... and to top it all off, there was the somewhat hard-to-miss figure of the Headmaster himself, who was wearing robes and a hat of the same lurid pink colour, as well as heart-shaped spectacles instead of his usual half-moon ones.

All in all, it was making even Elizabeth, who was usually quite happy to join the Valentine spirit, feel a little sick. Not to mention Snape, who, Elizabeth noticed amusedly, was looking like he would soon forget that he was no longer a Death Eater and use a mass ‘Avada Kedavra’ on all the Valentine-crazed people who were currently filling the Hall, Dumbledore included.


Transfiguration and Charms, the first two lessons of Elizabeth’s timetable, seemed to last forever that day, but then again, that is quite usual when somebody’s looking forward to something a little too much. Therefore, with her mind mostly on the upcoming Potions class, it was really no wonder that there were only two things that the Ravenclaw had managed to take in that morning: one being that Professor McGonagall had nearly fainted when she discovered that even her classroom had been turned into some sort of ‘pink monstrosity’, the other that Justin had invited Jane for lunch to Hogsmeade and she had eventually agreed.

Finally, though, the time to go to Snape’s class had arrived, and before long, Elizabeth was standing outside the classroom door, only half-listening to what Hermione was telling her, and therefore not really managing to catch much before Snape had decided to finally let them in: perhaps only that Neville had indeed liked the Valentine that the Gryffindor had sent him, and that he had written her one too.

Elizabeth half-expected even the dungeon classroom to bear at least some small signs of the Valentine madness that was raging all throughout the castle, but there were none: the room looked exactly the same as it always did, or, if that were still possible, perhaps even darker and gloomier. Seemingly even Dumbledore wasn’t brave (or crazy) enough to try and give Snape’s sanctuary a Valentine look.

Unsurprisingly, Snape himself looked absolutely murderous that lesson, and ready to start taking off points or handing out detentions for pretty much anything that happened to catch his eye, making even a timed bomb appear like a harmless little toy compared to him. Elizabeth, however, exceptionally didn’t pay him as much attention as she usually did, concentrating more on the door and trying to hypnotize it to finally open than on anything else. What was taking Dobby so long? Was it possible that he had somehow managed to forget what he was supposed to do? Or, even worse, that he had actually decided to chicken out in the end, finally realizing what Snape could do to him?

“Miss Woodhouse, would you kindly repeat what I’ve said just now?” said a frightfully familiar voice, causing all of Elizabeth’s previous thoughts to suddenly become frighteningly unimportant. She didn’t even have to glance up to see who it was, but she did anyway, only to find Snape eyeing her with a very fake-looking expectant expression on his thin face, evidently put on to at least slightly disguise the fact that he already knew what her answer would be beforehand.

Stupid girl! How many times had she told herself to ensure that she didn’t get lost in thought during Snape’s lessons? Countless times, that was for sure ... but obviously with no result.

There was nothing to be done about it now, however, so she just settled for the popular and well-tried procedure in such a situation: lowering her gaze, slowly shaking her head ... and hoping for Snape to leave her alone.

Which, unfortunately, he didn’t.

“Tsk, tsk, Miss Woodhouse – not paying attention as usual,” he said maliciously. “I think you should start-”

To her great relief, Elizabeth never got to hear exactly what nasty remark Snape had prepared for her this time, because at that moment, the door finally flew open and in marched Dobby the house-elf, causing the man to leave the sentence unfinished so that he could turn to see who had dared to interrupt his lesson.

Dobby seemed to completely ignore Snape’s angry gaze, however, boldly walking up straight to his desk and handing him the already familiar pink envelope.

“Dobby’s brought sir a Valentine,” he said brightly. “And if Dobby may give sir some advice-”

“There’ll be no need for that,” said Snape testily, having already begun to undo the seal. “I know perfectly well what it is.”

Dobby only shrugged and, with a loud crack, vanished out of sight. Snape, meanwhile, had finished opening the letter, and was now listening to the message it contained with an expression that was completely impossible to read. Elizabeth just hoped that he wouldn’t recognize her voice, because even though she was quite certain that she had disguised it (as well as her handwriting, for that matter) well enough, there was still a chance that something could go wrong. This was Snape she was dealing with, after all, the man whom many students suspected of being able to read minds, and therefore anything was possible.

As if somebody had pressed the ‘mute’ button, the class had gone absolutely silent when the letter had started speaking, and was desperately trying to catch every word that was being said. Snape receiving a Valentine was definitely not an everyday occurrence, after all.

After what seemed like ages to Elizabeth, the letter had finally finished reciting its message, folded itself back up, and remained lying motionlessly on Snape’s desk. Snape, however, seemed completely unmoved by its content, and was just about to resume teaching without even the slightest reference to what he’d just been forced to hear when Draco, apparently unable to restrain himself, suddenly asked: “Sir, have you got any idea who the letter was from?”

“No, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape replied coldly, and Elizabeth was suddenly sure that had the question come from a different student, Snape would’ve given them detention straight away ... instead of a decent answer. But since Draco had always been able to get away with absolutely everything... “I’d say it is quite evident that it was merely a poor attempt at a joke. And as soon as I find out who the joker is, I shall make sure that they’re expelled.”

‘No, no, no!’ Elizabeth thought frustratedly. ‘It was not a joke! How could he possibly think that after all the feeling I’ve put into that letter? But then again, what did I expect? Even if the Valentine had affected him in any way, he’d never admit it, least of all in front of a class.’

Thankfully, Draco hadn’t had his last word yet. “But sir?” he said, completely ignoring Snape’s discouraging tone. “What if it wasn’t a joke? It sure sounded pretty genuine to me.”

Poor Draco. That made it sound almost like he himself was the author of the letter, and, for the first time in her life, Elizabeth couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him.

“What do you mean, Mr. Malfoy?” Snape asked suspiciously. “Do you know who the author is?”

“N ... no, sir,” stammered Draco. “I just thought that maybe somebody-”

Snape, however, quickly cut him off, obviously anticipating what Draco was about to say and feeling the need to prevent it. “Enough, Mr. Malfoy,” he snarled. “One more word about that blasted Valentine and I shall have you put in detention for the rest of the month.”

‘Now, that would be a first,’ Elizabeth thought amusedly, her previous sympathy for the boy vanishing as abruptly as it had come with the vision of him finally getting punished for once. ‘Come on, Malfoy, keep it up!’

But evidently even Draco had finally noticed that Snape wasn’t quite his usual self that day, and chose to remain silent for the rest of the lesson.

‘Well, so much for my Valentine,’ sighed Elizabeth, quickly turning her attention back to Snape who had meanwhile returned to his lecture about the properties of moonstone. For there was absolutely no way she’d allow him to catch her off guard once more, the one time at the beginning of the lesson being enough to last her for at least another month. But ... hang on! Now that she thought about it – how come he didn’t take any points off her? Was it possible that he had forgotten? No, that was improbable, since she knew only too well that Snape had so far never failed to deduct points from a house that was not his own when he’d had the chance, and the fact that she was the one whom he was supposed to punish this time only made it an added bonus for him. Maybe he was just waiting for the end of the lesson then, simply to produce a more dramatic effect.

But no: the bell rang, the students began to slowly file out of the classroom, and still Snape hadn’t said a thing about Elizabeth’s punishment; he simply stood impassively by his desk, gazing into empty space, apparently deep in thought. Maybe it was this that had inspired Elizabeth with a sudden idea, she didn’t really know, but the fact was, that she was now quite certain as to why Snape hadn’t taken those points off her.

Her Valentine.

There was simply no other explanation for his sudden forgetfulness, meaning the letter must have affected him a lot more than he was letting on. But if that was the case, then he was bound to give the matter at least some thought, which could eventually lead him to the conclusion that the letter was, in fact, meant sincerely, and definitely not as a joke. Which, under the circumstances, was just enough to keep Elizabeth happy.
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