"I thought you said this wasn't a date,"
"It's not a date."
"We're sitting in a booth at Madame Puddifoot's. That we're even here says that we're on a date."
"Do you want this to be a date?"
"I want to not be partnered with you in the first place."
Lily and Lorcan glared at one another from opposite sides of the table. In spite of their mothers being close friends, Lily and Lorcan had never gotten along very well. It probably had something to him taking a pair of scissors to her hair when they were five. Or maybe that time when they were seven and Lily pushed him down the tallest hill in between the Burrow and the Lovegoods' Tower and into a pricker bush. Or perhaps when Lorcan stole Lily's diary and gave it to her cousins Fred and Louis (which resulted in a month of all-around unpleasantness, including Grams punishing her for several pranks she thought she'd gotten away with.
There was also that time two weeks ago when Lily punched Lorcan so hard that his jaw was nearly unhinged, but he shouldn't have started those unkind rumors first.
Lorcan sighed. "Look, I'm not happy about it either, but we have to work together, so get over it."
"But I don't understand why we have to work together here," Lily protested. Madame Puddifoot's was grotesque, in Lily's opinion. Someone like Roxanne or Rose might find these girly cafes cute or whatever, but Lily just felt overall uncomfortable. The paper streamers hanging from the ceiling, the floating flower petals, the paper doilies with the girlish china and fruit-flavored tea. None of this was Lily's style.
"Well… you know Candice Keaton?"
"What about her?"
"She's been hinting that she want to go to Hogsmeade with me."
"I told her that I already had a date."
Lily stared at him.
"Nothing says date like Madame Puddifoot's."
Lily kicked Lorcan beneath the booth. Hard.
"I told you this is not a date, Lorcan Lucas Scamander. It's not a real date, it's not a play date, it's not a fake date, it's not even a study date! I refuse to be linked to you, let alone romantically."
"So does this mean we're failing Arithmancy this semester?" Lorcan asked, still grimacing in pain. Lily rolled her eyes and sat back down, frustrated.
"I hate you."
"The feeling's mutual."
The pair stared at one another for several moments, at a loss for where to go from here.
"So… spell crafting?"
"What does Candice Keaton even see in you?" Lily wondered instead of answering the question. "She's definitely out of your league."
"What do you mean, Candice is out of my league?" gasped Lorcan. "We're pretty evenly matched, league-wise."
"I mean, Candice Keaton is pretty and curvy and actually intelligent. She can have any guy she wants and she chooses you. What the hell?" Lily frowned and cut Lorcan off when he opened his mouth to respond. "Why are you dodging dates with her anyway? Any guy would be excited to go out with her. Simon won't shut up about how much he likes her."
"I just am," Lorcan shifted uncomfortably. "I don't really like her that much anyway. She's not that great."
"She's not that great." Lily deadpanned. "What… what planet are you on? I don't even like girls, and I would go for Candice Keaton if she wanted me."
"Well you do that then," said Lorcan. "I'll even cheer you on." Lily studied Lorcan for a long moment, curious. Lorcan wasn't normally a nervous sort of person, both he and his twin Lysander were obnoxiously confident to the point of arrogance. That he was avoiding a date with one of the most sought-after girls at Hogwarts, that he was behaving so… uncharacteristically, really, Lily couldn't help but grow a little concerned.
"Wait… do you have someone you like?" Lily guessed. Seeing Lorcan's cornered-by-a-centaur expression, she pressed on. "Oh, Merlin, please tell me you don't actually like me of all people, I told you this is not a date and I meant it! I can't believe Aunt Angie was right about boys bullying girls they like… Why are you laughing?"
"Because you're so vain as to think you actually have a chance with me. Talk about playing in the wrong league!"
"Oi! We're not even playing the same game, that's how far out of my league you are!" argued Lily. Damned Scamander cockiness.
"You're right about that, Potter." said Lorcan, getting himself back under control. "Two completely different games indeed."
"So who do you like?"
"None of your business."
"We aren't even friends, why should I tell you?"
"Because I don't care about my grades," said Lily. "And I won't do any work at all on this project until you do."
Lorcan sighed, throwing himself back in his seat. Lily could see him struggling with grades versus secrecy. He was in the top five percent of their class and probably wanted to stay that way. He could also probably do all of the work himself and still get a passing grade but not the one he wanted. Lorcan didn't need Lily, but he wanted her, for their project anyway.
"I'll tell you when we get our O."
"I want it in writing." Lily countered.