Author's Note: I'm finishing up a multi-chapter at the moment and I'll be posting the first chapter on April 26th (as part of my new approach – finishing every chapter before I post the first one). In between working on that, I took a break and wrote this ridiculous little one-shot. Because I'm way behind the times and have only just discovered Ed Sheeran, I listened to Thinking Out Loud on repeat while I wrote this, which has no bearing on the story (except for one moment) but it's important that I let everyone know just how good that song is.
This little piece of silliness is dedicated to two brilliant people. Firstly, to Katie, who asked for a modern AU neighbours fic, and gave me a pretty hilarious list of prompt sentences. Secondly, to Kristina, who told me that only boring stories begin with a character waking up and inspired me to change that for her, and to whom credit must be given for some of the dialogue (and, of course, Algernon). It goes without saying that Algernon is the only remotely magical being in this AU.
Cat in a Fifth Floor Flat
James Potter woke up in the morning feeling utterly betrayed.
"Not now, Algernon," he said to his cat, who was perched atop his spare pillow, not looking for his attention at all. As he swung his legs out of bed and put his glasses on, he remembered what day it was, and dashed to his window.
Outside on the street, the movers had already arrived and parked up outside the building. Remus was there, of course, helping them load all his worldly possessions into the back of the van. When he and the movers lifted his piano, James scowled and pulled his curtains closed, torn between worry – should Remus really be lifting heavy objects with his condition? – and righteous anger – serves him right, leaving his mates like that!
Righteous anger won out – momentarily. "Algernon, fetch me my phone!"
Algernon swished his ginger tail and stared at James with his large, indifferent eyes.
"Fine, then," he said, returning to his bed and retrieving his phone from the bedside table. He sat on the edge of his mattress and typed out a message to Remus.
Can't believe you're leaving. How could you do this to us? Ultimate betrayal etc.
Also should you be lifting pianos?
It didn't take long before Remus replied.
Don't worry, I was only pretending to lift it, and I'll still come back and visit.
Algernon's tail kept swishing in front of the phone. James knew he was doing it deliberately, but it suited him to be thoroughly miserable at that moment, so he didn't move it out of the way.
But not every day. Only some days. What happens when we forget to pay the WiFi bill and we need to stream high-quality television instantly? Ask the new neighbours for their password?
What you do is this – pay your WiFi bill on time. You've got more than enough money.
I refuse to accept this. And I'm putting my foot down. You can't leave or I'll go on hunger strike, effective immediately.
The new neighbours already have the keys. It's done. The war is over.
"The war is never over," said James aloud, tossing his phone on the bed with a resolute nod. "Right, Algernon. The hunger strike begins now."
Thirty minutes later, James was eating a bacon sandwich in the kitchen when Sirius walked in, hair damp from the shower, and made a beeline for the fridge.
"Morning," said James, through a mouthful of bread.
Sirius grunted in response and disappeared behind the fridge door. He reappeared moments later carrying a carton of milk in one hand and a yogurt in the other, with a slice of ham hanging from his mouth. He tossed his head back, wolfed it down like a dog and licked his lips. "Has he left, then?"
"Yeah," said James sadly. "I watched him go from my window."
"It's all Pete's fault," said Sirius darkly. He joined James at the breakfast bar and slammed the carton of milk down in front of him like a pro-wrestler grappling with an opponent. "What the fuck was he thinking?"
"Moving in with Yoko fucking Ono."
"And her lipstick teeth."
"Condoms falling out of her handbag."
"They were all for show, Peter does not wear Magnum XLs."
"And look at poor old Moony, forced to move away," said James, with a wistful sigh. "When he loves us so much."
"I dunno why he didn't just let you help."
James took another large, comforting bite of his sandwich. "You know Moony," he said thickly. "Too proud. He said he wouldn't take my money when he can earn his own way. I even offered to rent Pete's room as a bachelor pad for Algernon," he swallowed. "But he said that was weird."
"It is a bit weird. Imagine if his students found out that his flatmate was a cat."
"Better than a rat like Peter," said James glumly.
Originally, he and Sirius had planned to seek revenge on Peter for moving in with his cruel, demanding girlfriend, Helena Hodge, and leaving Remus to pay for a flat that he couldn't afford alone. Their scheme was scuppered when Remus walked in on them plotting to leave a goat – that they intended to borrow from a nearby petting zoo – in Helena's scrupulously clean living room, and intervened on Peter's behalf.
Remus hadn't ruined all their fun, however. James had flagrantly disregarded Helena's instruction to place a coaster beneath his drink during his last visit, responding only with an enigmatic smile when she questioned his capacity to understand the English language.
"So, when are the new neighbours moving in?" said Sirius, in a tone which suggested that Ted Bundy and Nigel Farage would shortly be taking residence in the flat next door.
"Moony says they have the keys already."
"Any day now, then."
"Maybe even today."
"Does that give us time for a scheme?"
"Maybe not a scheme," said James thoughtfully. "We could squeeze in some light plotting, or perhaps a shenanigan or two?"
"That sounds like a plan."
"They're asking for it, really, invading such a sacred space."
"We'd actually be worse people if we didn't protect it from contamination."
James grinned, and leaned towards his best mate. "What do you have in mind?"
"This is going to sound really strange, but I'm sure that cat is staring at you," said Mary.
"Where?" said Lily Evans, and looked over her shoulder. "I don't see a cat?"
Lily shifted the box in her arms to her hips and looked at her feet. There, gazing inquisitively up at her, was a large, fluffy ginger cat with big green eyes.
"I see," she said. "Hello."
The cat responded to her greeting by cocking his head to the side and placing his paw on the toe of her scruffy old trainer.
Mary pulled a face over the top of her own box and took a quick scan of the lobby. "How did a cat get in here?"
"No idea, but he's certainly not shy," said Lily. She set her box on the floor and bent down on her haunches, holding a hand out for the cat, who immediately snuggled into her outstretched fingers. "Maybe he lives here."
"The sign says there are no pets allowed. Perhaps it's a stray?"
"Can't be, he's got a collar." Lily slipped her hand beneath the cat's fluffy chin and gave it a quick scratch before lifting the little silver tag that was half-buried beneath his fur. "Algernon."
"Algernon," Lily repeated. "That's his name."
"How can you tell it's a he?"
"You just can. Look at the size of him, for one. And have you ever heard of a girl named Algernon?"
"I think it's a pretty stupid name, either way."
Algernon turned his head and hissed violently at Mary just as Lily said, "Oi! Be nice! I think I've just made my first friend in the building."
"What? A cat with an affinity for his fellow green-eyed gingers?"
"Your human must have good taste," Lily enthused, smiling at Algernon, who had resumed his adoration of her.
"Or the rescue centre was fresh out of better breeds."
"Don't mind her, she's such a dog person. I'm Lily, by the way."
"And I'm waiting to go upstairs," said Mary. "Come on, get up. You can play with your new friend after you help me haul these boxes up to the fifth floor."
Algernon suddenly dashed away as if he'd been struck by lightning – so fast that Lily almost lost her balance – and disappeared up the staircase.
"Er," said Mary.
"You must have said something to upset him."
"I don't know," said Lily airily, rising to her feet with her box in her hands. "But I'm sure I can get him to tell me."
James and Sirius stood together on their balcony, a small strip of cement and brick that jutted out from the living room and made the building look very fancy to passers-by on the street. The beauty of this balcony was that only two metres of space lay between it and the balcony formerly occupied by Remus and Peter, soon to be occupied by less worthy fellows – meaning, obviously, that items could be thrown from one to the other with ease.
The plan – and admittedly, it was a rather inelegant plan – was to throw a stink bomb at their neighbours when they opened the balcony door. Originally, they had decided to reuse the goat plan, but realised they had no time when James went into his bedroom and heard sounds of movement from the flat next door, thanks to paper thin walls, and the fact that he'd been listening through a glass tumbler. Luckily, Sirius found a stash of stink bombs – a token of their halcyon school days – in his bedroom, and all was well.
They had already been waiting for thirty minutes, but it didn't matter. People who moved into new flats with balconies always opened the balcony door and stepped outside as soon as they could; it was a rite of passage.
"What if they see us?" he said, struck by this sudden thought.
Sirius shrugged. "Why would they see us?"
"Because I left my cloak of invisibility in my secret lair," said James flatly. "Because we're standing right here!"
"So, we'll duck. They'll be too freaked out by the stink to check."
This sounded like flawed logic to James, and he was about to open his mouth and say it when the balcony door slid open and he heard a voice, a woman with a soft Australian accent, say, "I'm just taking a look from the balcony."
"Do it," Sirius hissed, and pushed hard on the small of his back. On the other balcony, a dark-haired woman stepped out, arms wrapped around her chest, facing away from them. James held out his hand, on the palm of which sat a tiny, harmless-looking plastic vial of green liquid, opened his fingers, and…
Algernon came out of nowhere and barrelled into his legs, throwing him off balance. He cried out in terror and grabbed Sirius' long, luscious hair to keep himself from falling into the street. Luckily, the balcony wall was high enough to save him from plummeting to his death, but the stink bomb was not so lucky. It slipped through his open fingers and fell to the ground, several storeys below.
"My fucking hair!" Sirius cried out, and shoved James away from him, gripping his head.
"I was saving myself!" James hotly retorted, then realised that the dark-haired woman was staring at them with a look of absolute bewilderment. Algernon, the little bugger, had disappeared.
"What are you—" she began.
"Welcome to the building!" James trilled. He grabbed Sirius by the arm and dragged him back inside.
Lily's first twenty-four hours in her new flat were uneventful until she woke up the next morning and found a bacon sandwich outside her bedroom door, wrapped in wax paper.
"Mary?" she called out, after picking it up and padding into the kitchen, but her friend had already left for work at the dental practice. She assumed that Mary had made it for her as a little housewarming present and, cheered by her friend's kindness, scoffed it with a cup of tea before getting ready for work.
James was having a terrible day.
He had made himself a bacon sandwich that morning and wrapped it in wax paper to take to work, but Sirius had swiped it while he was in the shower. To make matters worse, when confronted about it that evening, Sirius lied, claiming to have done no such thing.
To be betrayed by Peter and Remus was bad enough, but betrayal at the hand of his best friend was insurmountable. Sirius left the flat in a dark mood in the evening, leaving James out of sorts and gloomy. He had just poured himself a drink and was consoling himself with the soothing sounds of Michael Bublé when there was a knock on his door – obviously, Sirius had forgotten his key again.
He opened the door to find a green-eyed, red-headed goddess on the other side.
"Hiya," she said. "It's James, isn't it?"
She knew his name! What kind of dream had this model of womanly perfection stepped out of? James quickly scanned his brain for a smooth, debonair reply. "Er – yeah." He failed. "Can I help you?"
"It's you I'm looking for, actually."
His mind went into meltdown mode as he attempted to process this information. This happened all the time, didn't it? Beautiful girls just turned up on the doorsteps of blokes like him and just happened to be looking for a bloke just like him. This definitely happened all the time. On Pornhub.
"I should explain," she said quickly, and started digging around in her jeans' pocket. "I found this on my balcony."
She produced a wallet – his wallet – from her pocket and held it out to him, flipped open, displaying his ID card.
"It's the oddest thing," she continued. "Because I had a cup of tea on the balcony before work and I'm sure it wasn't out there this morning, but there it was when I got back just now."
"I – that's…" He'd had his wallet that morning, he was sure of it.
"I assumed you must have left it there the last time you saw Remus."
"I – what?" His brain snapped back into action. "You know Remus?"
"Yeah!" she said brightly, and sent a stunning smile in his direction. "We went to uni together. He told me about the flat when the agency put it up for let so Mary – that's my flatmate – Mary and I could get first refusal. He's told me a lot of lovely things about you, actually."
Bless Remus, James thought. He cleared his throat and carefully ruffled his hair, which didn't need help in looking windswept. "That's – he has?"
"You are James Potter, right?" she said, and narrowed her eyes, though her upturned lips told him that she wasn't being serious. "Or is there a second cute bloke in the building I should be looking for?"
"Nope," he said quickly, and took the wallet from her outstretched hand. "Only me. Definitely no other cute blokes around here."
"That's good. You've just saved me from a hell of a search."
"Is searching around for cute blokes a housewarming habit of yours?"
"Oh, definitely," she said emphatically. "But look at that – I found you on my first try!"
It was amazing, what she was doing for that grey sweater and jeans combination – it would have looked commonplace on anyone else. And her hair was so… long, almost to her elbows, and wavy, and it looked so soft… and she was watching him expectantly, waiting for a response. It occurred to James just then that it must have seemed – to her – that he had thrown his wallet into her balcony just to get her attention, and that his punch-drunk expression wasn't helping. He tried his hand at a cheeky grin and just about pulled it off.
"Well, feel free to search for me whenever you like, er—"
"Lily," she said, and held out her hand for him to shake. "Lily Evans."
"Alright, Evans," he said, and took her hand eagerly. "Thanks for bringing back my wallet, I promise that I, er… it won't wind up there again. Probably my housemate's idea of a joke."
"Okay," she said, with a laugh. "I'll see you around, Potter."
"Bye," he said, and almost fell out of his door leaning over to watch her walk away.
Mary was relaxing on the sofa when Lily returned to the flat, cradling a bottle of wine in her lap and watching the door expectantly.
"I know we said we'd unpack the last of our stuff," she said, and indicated to the wine glasses on the coffee table. "But let's get drunk and watch a film instead."
"On a Monday night?" said Lily, with a raised eyebrow. "Yeah, okay."
She sat down next to her friend and busied herself with the wine. Mary, meanwhile, opened Netflix on her games console and started to scroll through their options.
"Wait," said Lily, frozen in the act of pouring. "The internet guy isn't coming until Wednesday, how did you—"
"Remus gave me next door's WiFi password," Mary replied. "He says they used to mooch off him all the time so it's fine. And speaking of…" She lowered her controller and fixed Lily with a determined stare. "How was next door? Fitter than the picture or what?"
Lily may have insisted that she be the one to return James Potter's wallet on account of his driving licence photograph. A smile tugged on the corners of her lips, and she was surprised to find herself blushing. "Much fitter."
"Ooh la. How fit?"
"Fit enough that I outright flirted with him."
"You saucy minx."
"I know, right? Something just came over me."
"Not him, I hope, it's only been a day."
"Oi!" Lily elbowed Mary in the ribs, then sank back into the sofa cushions. "The only thing was – he was a bit gormless. Like, a fish out of water type thing."
"But I dunno, maybe he was just tired."
"He and his mate were being pretty weird on the balcony yesterday," said Mary, returning to her Netflix perusal. "Wrestling or something like that."
"And he was listening to Michael Bublé."
Mary snorted into her wine. "You always like the weird ones."
When James' wallet wound up in Lily's flat for a second time, he almost got arrested for it.
Another knock on his door – more like a thump this time – sent him racing to answer it in the hopes that she would be standing on the other side, and lo and behold, there she was, looking stunning in a leather jacket and a red lace dress. Unfortunately, she wasn't alone, and she also appeared to be utterly furious.
"How did you get this into my bathroom, Potter?!" she spat, as soon as he turned the latch and started opening the door. The wallet was shoved unceremoniously in his face. "Have you been inside our flat?"
"What? No!" he yelped, completely stunned. "I've never—"
"He probably has a key," said Lily's backup, her dark-haired housemate. Her eyes were narrowed, disgust twisting her pretty features. Unlike Lily, who was slightly screechy, her voice was low and deadly. "I bet he had a spare cut when Remus lived there, and he never gave it back."
"That's not –" Technically, that was true, but James hadn't seen that key in months. "I wouldn't—"
"Do you think it's okay to sneak around other people's homes?" Lily cried, and threw the wallet like a grenade in a burst of anger. He ducked; it went sailing by his head and he heard a crash, followed by a loud bark of laughter from Sirius. "Do you have any idea how illegal that is?!"
"I knew he looked suspicious, you know, when I saw him on the balcony that time," said Lily's friend. "Now we know why – because he's a creepy fucking stalker!"
Lily's eyes flashed angrily. "Is that how you got in? Did you hop across the balconies and creep into my home and leave a – a fucking bacon sandwich outside my bedroom door?"
"Wait, what?!" James cried, suddenly scandalised beyond belief. "You ate my bacon sandwich?"
"Looks like somebody owes me an apology," called Sirius from the living room.
"Well, I thought Mary had made it for me but—"
"I thought you'd taken it!" James spun around and pointed at Sirius, who was on his knees, picking up the remains of a shattered glass tankard. "It was on the counter and I went for a shower and it went missing!" He turned back to Lily and her friend. "Listen, when did you eat that sandwich?"
"Just humour me. Was it the day after you moved in?"
"Yes, which you'd remember, since you—"
"I remember because somebody stole my sandwich!" James cried, aghast. Clearly, the building was haunted by the ghost of a vengeful vegan. "I didn't – it wasn't – look, you're very pre— you're very nice, but I would never in a million years make a bacon sandwich and not eat it myself. And I haven't been in your flat since before Remus moved out, I swear. I swear! On my Mum's grave!"
Lily's mouth was open to retort, but she closed it. A look of confusion crossed her face. "Then, how…"
Suddenly, Algernon appeared on the scene with James' wallet in his mouth. He dropped it at Lily's feet, looked up at her, looked at James, and started washing himself.
Lily blinked down at him. "Algernon?"
James blinked at her. "You know Algernon?"
Algernon paused in licking his own leg to throw James a look of deep exasperation.
"Yes," said Lily, her voice strained. "I met him on the day we moved in. He's been coming into the flat every day, through the window – it's been hot – and I feed him treats."
"She feeds you treats, does she?" said James to Algernon, feeling bizarrely jealous. He nudged his cat with his toe. "No wonder you're getting fat."
"Is he yours?"
"Yeah, he's my best mate."
"Second best mate!" called Sirius.
"Second best mate," James amended.
"But I thought this building didn't allow pets?" said Lily's housemate.
"Er," said James, and scratched the back of his neck. "Yeah, it doesn't."
"Oh, Algernon," Lily sighed. She bent down and scooped him up in her arms, where he burrowed happily. "Have you been bringing James' things into our flat?"
For the second time in ten minutes, James was shocked, scandalised and jealous. Algernon rarely allowed himself to be picked up – in fact, he only ever seemed to be affectionate when James bent over backwards to earn that affection, and James was easily his favourite person in the world. He tolerated Remus, Sirius and Peter and openly disliked everyone else. Yet here he was, sitting pretty in the arms of the new neighbour!
"I can't believe he brought you a bacon sandwich," he said gloomily. "I've been trying to train him to do that for years, but he just scratches me."
"He brought you haggis once," said Sirius.
"Oh yeah," said James. "Still don't know where he got that from."
"So the cat's been your creepy stalker this whole time?" said Lily's flatmate. "You're getting ginger hairs all over your dress, by the way."
"Look at me, Mary," said Lily, turning to face her friend, Algernon cuddled against her cheek. "I'm not exactly short on ginger hair myself, am I? I'm sure I've left enough of my own on this dress."
"Ginger hair is the best kind of hair," said James, temporarily possessed by some madness. But instead of punching him hard, and in the face, Lily smiled.
"You know what, Algernon? I like your human," said she said, although she was looking at James. "I'm so sorry for coming over here and yelling at you."
"And for breaking your glass! I'll buy you a new one!"
"No, it's fine, it was cheap, don't worry."
"Oh, no, I feel shit, honestly, what can I do-"
"I'm sure you can appreciate how it looked to us at first," said the flatmate, who seemed unhappy to have been robbed of a reasonable excuse for anger.
"I can," James heartily assented. "I'm sorry that my cat is… nuts. I'll keep him from going over there from now on."
"Oh, no, he can come whenever. It's fine, really. Maybe leave your owner's wallet at home next time, mate?" said Lily to Algernon. "Oh, this is Mary, by the way. Mary MacDonald."
Her flatmate gave him a silent wave.
"Ah, MacDonald," said James, his brain rattling uselessly in his head. "Of the unsuccessful farm, or the successful fast food franchise?"
Mary raised an extremely unimpressed eyebrow but Lily, miraculously, started to laugh.
"What do you mean, unsuccessful?" she said, laughing as she spoke.
"He only had one of everything."
She laughed harder.
"Well, it's true," James persisted. "How long can you reasonably expect a farm to keep going with one pig, one sheep, one cow…"
"I don't know," Lily sighed, still giggling, and shifted Algernon in her arms. "Maybe he didn't know what he was doing? He was Old MacDonald."
"The mind was going, clearly."
"He never should have been allowed to buy it."
"What an irresponsible family, letting grandad run amok on the farm with only one goat."
"So it's all Mary's fault, really."
"As much as I love being blamed for the downfall of a fake farm," said Mary loudly. "Lily, I'm going to order us an Uber, I'll be downstairs. It was… weird meeting you," she said to James.
"Oh, right," said Lily, as Mary stalked off. She set Algernon down and he ran back into the flat without giving James so much as a backwards glance. "We've got an engagement party to go to – my friend and her boyfriend, Remus might have mentioned – I'm really sorry again, honestly…"
"It's alright," said James, and waved it away. "Have a nice time."
"I'll try, as long as I don't get too drunk and stupid."
"Yeah," he agreed. "Don't go doing anything like… dyeing your hair."
"I definitely won't," she promised, and smiled in a rather coy way. "As long as you don't shave yours."
"It's a deal," he said, and grinned back.
From then on, Algernon's penchant for larceny became a near-daily tradition. Small items – a sock, a lollipop, a television remote control – kept disappearing from James' flat and ending up in Lily's. She and James devised a system of passing the items back across their balconies before bed, which was repeated so often that it eventually became a nighttime ritual. Sometimes they'd chat for a minute before turning in for the night, and sometimes they'd talk for half an hour. Lily learned that she and James had been born two months apart in the same year. She learned that he worked as an instructor at the local gym, but that he preferred to tell people he was a superhero and really wanted to be a professional chef. She told him about her job at the BBC, and her aspirations to move up in drama development, and about her cruel, overbearing sister. He made her laugh, loudly and often. They shared stories about Remus and shamelessly abused him for neglecting to introduce them before.
Eventually, she grew used to seeing James Potter's handsome, cheerful brown face every night before she went to bed, and after a month, she could admit to herself that she missed him, on the rare evenings that Algernon didn't indulge in a bout of thievery.
So when his wallet turned up in her flat for a third time, one Saturday night six weeks after she and Mary had moved in, Lily decided to just go with it.
"I thought we could change things up a little," she said to James when he opened his door, and held up a plastic carrier bag. "Can I come in?"
"Er.. yeah, definitely," said James, and stepped back to let her in. "What's that you've got there?"
"I come bearing gifts," she said, then cocked her head to the side. "Are you listening to Ed Sheeran?"
"Yeah," he said, and ran a hand through his hair. "Sirius hates him, but he's out at an exhibition of depressing Russian literature with some girl, so…"
"This is much better than Bublé." She held out the bag and he took it from her outstretched fingers, skin brushing against skin. She felt quite warm. "Here you go."
"What's this?" James rummaged in the bag. "A bottle of wine and… "
"Surprise!" Lily trilled, as James unwrapped the bacon sandwich. "I felt so guilty about eating yours all those weeks ago, and since Algernon refuses to fetch them for you, I thought I'd make one."
James gazed reverently at the treat she had brought him. "You," he said. "Are the greatest woman who ever lived."
"Are you talking to me, or the sandwich?"
"A bit of both, to be honest." He raised his eyes to hers and grinned widely. "Follow me, I'll get us glasses."
Lily did as he bade her and followed him into the kitchen, where he set the sandwich and the wine down on the counter, and rummaged in one of the cupboards.
"Where's Mary tonight?" he asked, wine glasses in hand.
"Out on a date."
"Not with Sirius, I hope."
"God, no!" Lily made a face. "He's not her type, and she's had a boyfriend for years."
"That's nice. For her, I mean." He set the glasses down next to the bottle. "And, er… what about you?"
His jet-black hair looked especially wild today, as if he'd stuck a fork in a socket before he opened the door.
"Oh," she said, and blushed. "No. No – which is a good thing, because if I did have a boyfriend, I wouldn't be able to bring you bacon sandwiches on a Saturday night, would I?"
"You'd rather be with me on a Saturday night – feeding me bacon sandwiches – than out on a nice date with someone who doesn't have a mad, kleptomaniac cat?"
"Yeah, but would they have that great hair? Besides," she added, with an exaggerated sigh. "That mad kleptomaniac has run away with my heart."
"And my boxers."
She laughed. "They were a treat to wake up to."
"Thanks for returning them freshly washed, by the way."
At some point, she and James had moved closer to one another, now merely a foot apart, and she suddenly became aware of it, and of something else in the air – something she'd heard talk about, and rolled her eyes at, because it was such a cliché and clichés were stupid, and yet here she was, feeling it anyway.
"So," she said, looking anywhere but at him.
"So," he said.
"What do you want to do? I mean, aside from getting drunk off Mary's favourite wine." Mary would definitely, definitely kill her for taking that wine, but some sacrifices were worth making.
He shrugged. "We could watch a film?"
"Yes, we could. Do you have Netflix? I – Mary has Netflix, but I know her login details, so if you don't have it I can – oh!"
She hadn't seen Algernon enter the room, but suddenly he was behind her, and pushing hard against the back of her legs. She tried to move away without accidentally trampling on his tail, stumbled forwards and ended up…
… right in James Potter's arms, of course.
"You know what?" said Lily. "I've just realised something."
"Hmm?" said James, pressing a warm, sleepy kiss to her bare shoulder. "That I'm the greatest boyfriend ever?"
She snorted. "No."
"I can let go any time I want."
"Don't you dare," she warned. "I meant – of course you're the greatest boyfriend ever –"
He kissed her shoulder twice more.
"—but I was actually talking about Algernon."
"Yeah?" James raised himself up on one elbow so that he was leaning over her in the bed, one arm still wrapped securely around her waist. She twisted onto her back and blinked up at him, face flushed, hair a mess, perfectly beautiful anyway. "What about him?"
"It's just," she began, frowning. "Has he stolen anything from you since we started dating?"
He rubbed his eyes beneath his glasses. "Er.. no, I don't think so. The last time was months ago, that night you—"
"Brought over that sandwich," Lily finished.
They both looked at Algernon, who was sitting on Lily's dresser, one paw casually toying with the Christmas lights she had hung around her mirror. He turned his head to regard them coolly with his all-knowing eyes, then flicked his tail once as if to say, took you long enough, which - after preventing James from throwing the stink bomb, buttering Lily up and pushing them together at every possibly opportunity - any reasonable person was bound to agree with.
"James," Lily whispered.
"I think our cat is shipping us."