Author’s Note: For anyone who has
ever been smitten. Happy Valentine’s Day! And a big box of Belgian chocolate
pralines and a tankard of Beauxbatons’s best Brandy Alexander to Emma Dalrymple
for being such a meticulous beta and a wonderful audience!
No Girl In the
(or, Say Anything)
A.L. de Sauveterre
In the end, he decided he would blame James. Of course it was bloody
Potter’s fault. Why else in Merlin’s name would he be sitting out here in
the middle of a sodding blizzard, crouched like a vagabond hunchback
behind the last of the greenhouses after sundown? The bracing wind lashed
across Remus Lupin’s freshly-shaved face, stinging more than Padfoot’s Old
Ogden’s Aftershave. Squinting in the darkness, and keeping his eye trained
on the dimly lit entrance to Professor Nasturtia’s office, he rubbed a hand
contemplatively over his chin. At least he assumed it was his hand. Remus
had to look down for confirmation. His fingers had gone numb a long time
Even in this weather—fit for neither man nor beast,
he chided himself—a simple Warming Charm wouldn’t work. The wind had blown
out all his portable flames and, frankly, Remus was no longer sure she was
worth it. Glancing down at his cloak, he saw the tip of his wand, covered
in fresh icicles. Oh, bugger! Yes, he was certain—no girl—
”—in the… world can
possss’bly compare,” finished Remus definitively, tremulously toasting
with the remains of his fifth butterbeer. Zonko’s had announced its semi-annual
Prankster Price Slash and the Three Broomsticks was predictably empty that
“And what girl would that be, now?” Sirius approached the table with their
four drinks in tow. The tankards danced lazily in the air, swaying to the
beat of Rosmerta’s rented jukebox.
“Show off!” said Peter, picking a brimming pint out of the air.
James raked a hand through his unruly black hair, throwing Remus a concerned
glance. “Remus means Esmerelda Plofufnik.”
At the name, Remus’s eyes glazed over and a silly, twisted grin wound its
leisurely way across his face. His head wagged in inebriated exaggeration
until his nose barely dodged the double espresso Sirius had pushed at him.
“Drink,” he ordered. Sirius let out a low whistle, sliding into the booth. “Who
knew even with all that wolf blood in his veins, he wouldn’t be able to hold
his liquor any better than Red Riding Hood’s Gran? Eh, Moony?” He turned
to James. “Does he mean that fifth year in Ravenclaw? The one with the”—with
a quick reflex, his hand shot out to slap Peter’s hand, dangerously close
to the shortbread on Remus’s saucer—“the one with the really impressive…” Sirius
made unmistakable curvy motions in the air. “You know,… those?”
“’Ey, Sliriuth!” Remus’s head bobbed around to him in slow motion, his eyes
blinking indignantly, if not focused. “Shhees no’l like dat!”
If Remus hadn’t been so sloshed, he might have hit Padfoot. If it hadn’t
been for his current motor skills problem.
“Has he asked her out, finally?” Sirius raised his eyebrows, intrigued.
“No.” James smiled at Remus, shaking his head. “But he will.”
Remus’s eyes, half-lidded, blinked. He was most certainly lucid. Funny,
he thought they’d said he was going to ask Esmerelda Plofufnik out. On a
date. Esmerelda Plofufnik, Ravenclaw’s raven-haired goddess who spent all
her waking moments in the library. Except for the summer she joined the
school at that lake… in one of those Muggle swimsuits. He sighed. Esmerelda
who’d turned down every guy in the school for the Yule Ball—even Sirius. Esmerelda
“Doesn’t she have some kind of special lab status with Snape?” asked Peter
thoughtfully, munching a pilfered shortbread biscuit.
“They’re… wab p’tners,” hiccoughed Remus.
“Lab partners,” translated James. “And Snape fancies her, I’m sure.”
Sirius snorted. “Who doesn’t?” He tipped back the last of his pint. “So
what’s Remus blithering on about, then?”
“Ssheeel ne’er go outwimee.”
“Well,” reflected Sirius, resting his chin in his hand, “she spurned my advances.
That could work in your favour.”
Remus, through the haze, blinked at him hopefully. “I’ will? How?”
“Clearly, she’s got no taste,” Sirius said, grinning. “So you’re a shoe-in.”
Remus somehow missed Sirius with his elbow, hitting the bench instead. “Ow!” He
sobered up after that, rubbing his arm and repeating a few of Sirius’s own
brand of swearwords, laughing derisively. “I wouldn’ even know what t’ say.
‘Never talk’d to 'er b’fore.”
“Easy peasy, Moony!” Sirius cried confidently, setting down his pint. “Just
say something interesting. She’s bookish, right? Well… I don’t know… um…
okay, okay, I’ve got it. Tell her some bizzare, little known fact. Smart
girls really dig that. She’ll think you’re intelligent and interesting.”
“I am,” insisted Remus groggily. “I am indigent and wrestling.”
James and Peter snorted into their pint glasses. Sirius’s mouth twitched
with pent-up laughter.
He blinked blearily at them. “Wha—?”
“Nothing, Moony. Look, um… I don’t know. Tell her something like… uh… okay,
I’ve got it.” His eyes flashed excitedly. “Tell her this: that there’s
an island off the coast of southern Iona where fourteen percent of all the
female seagulls are gay.”
Peter spat into his glass. James chuckled, tossing a crumpled napkin at
“That’ll never work, you sod!”
Sirius’s hands went up defensively. “All right, all right.” He chuckled. “We
can think of a better line. James! What’s the first thing you said to Lily?”
James blushed, shifting in his seat. “Erm… I said, ‘Did you know that men
with hairy chests are more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver than men
without hair on their chests?’”
“Liar!” Sirius flung the napkin at James’s head.
Potter laughed, nodding. “No, I did. I did!”
“That’s pitiful!” cried Sirius. “Who fed you that rubbish?”
“Well, you see? It worked.”
Remus waved his unsteady hand in front of them. “Wai—wai—wait. Hang on
a sec. So… whaddo I say?”
Remus shivered, repeating to himself. No girl is worth this. Frostbite
and the loss of limbs. No girl. Especially one who you can’t get alone
for two seconds unless it’s between the greenhouse and the castle. In the
dark. In the middle of a sodding snow storm. Dammit, I can’t feel
my nose. No gi—
Suddenly the greenhouse door swung open ahead of him and he saw a slender
leg and a small foot step gingerly out from the threshold. Frostbite be damned,
he sprang up.
Only to pitch head first into a snowdrift. “Urrrgh!!”
Suddenly came a voice in his ear. (At least that was still working.)
“Are you all right?”
Remus twisted in the snow, not caring about the chemical explanations for
the abrupt rise in his facial temperature. Bending toward him above his
head was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. Jet black waves peeking out
from underneath a woolly witch’s cap, round, long-lashed brown eyes and a
small red mouth. Lips. And the fitted winter cloak that hugged her—
She was shaking her head, eyeing him quizzically as her arms hooked underneath
his, helping him to his feet. He marvelled at how he could possibly be sweating
in his lightweight cloak and in these temperatures.
“Hi. I’m Esmerelda,” she said, brushing the fringe from her eyes. “Esmerelda
He brushed himself off and… blushed. She was looking at him strangely. But
this was his chance. He had to say something. Anything. And say it now. Before
she walked away. Even if it was straight off the top of his head. Or
she may never speak to me again. Remus couldn’t help it.
Then he heard his own voice, like a strange, faraway echo in some lunatic
“Did you know,” he said brightly, “that there’s an island off the southern
coast of Iona where fourteen percent of all the female seagulls are gay?”
and Sirius’s fantastic facts are shamelessly pinched
and paraphrased from Ellen Conford’s unforgettable opus, Seven Days
to a Brand New Me, which is highly recommended for anyone fearless
enough to laugh out loud while reading in public places. J