A/N: got this idea from a news story and then this happened hehe. For petalstofish :)
It all starts with an unreasonably un-British heat wave in what's supposed to be 'late spring.' And really, they try to be 'stiff upper lip' and all, but sweaty ankles in mid March are just a completely unreasonable state of affairs. So, being the spunky teen he is, James pens a strongly worded letter to the headmaster – who looks entirely too comfortable to not have a tiny flock of fans beneath his academic robes – that includes lots of phrases like 'human rights' and 'student welfare' and 'modernizing society.' Remus convinces him to delete the part that accuses them of being backward, stuck up, priss-pots, but he still holds it was the strongest passage. And yet, part of him knows if Sirius agreed, Remus was perhaps in the right.
And still, despite his rousing verbiage and convincing arguments, Headmaster Dumbledore soon notifies him that the Board did not in fact agree with his position and wanted to uphold the 'long and hallowed tradition' of boys sweating their arses off in uniform trousers and likely ending up with heatstroke before summer hols. Or something to that effect.
The idea hits like a flash the Friday after their disappointing news while they're lazing around in the shady grove behind the ancient looking school, spritzing each other with chilled water and seeing who's face melts ice fastest. Sirius has just claimed victory for the third time when Peter sits bolt upright, face flush and eyes mischievous, "They want tradition and rules, eh?"
Which is how the four boys end up in their artfully messed dorm, pouring over James' leather-bound Hogwarts Academy Rules and Regulations Handbook that had disappeared beneath extraneous papers and books nearly the moment first year James had received it. Remus quirks a brow when the spine cracks like new, and James simply shrugs, "I prefer the rules I break to be a surprise."
After accepting a high-five from Sirius, they quickly flip to the section on 'appropriate dress' and scour the paragraphs for a loophole, but Peter simply skims the page and sits back, looking entirely too smug as he grins. "Just as I thought, lads. We've got our way out."
It's nearly a fortnight before their plan can even commence past the planning stage, but finally they're on the train home for Easter hols, having sweated out the last fortnight in the increasingly muggy hallways and classrooms and getting detention for trying to sleep in a tent because air circulation, and their plan can begin to unfold. Sirius' shirt is almost entirely unbuttoned as he tosses the rubber ball he'd bought their last weekend trip toward James' head. "Y'really think Mum Potter'll go for it?"
He manages to catch the projectile with expert precision despite the fact that his nose is buried in the weekly crossword, having lived too many years with Sirius to expect nonviolence to last more than the first quarter of the trip home. "'Course she will. Mum's all about sticking it to the man."
Remus snuffs sleepily from where his head is pillowed on Peter's stomach, who's about three quarters of a centimeter away from sucking his thumb – and James debates the pros and cons of making this permanent blackmail material for the duo until he decides sitting comfortably and letting an afternoon of ribbing be the end of it is enough. It's not like the four of them don't embarrass themselves on the regular. And Remus never sleeps and Peter's always a bit sad, though they both hide it most of the time. Also Remus still has that video of James reciting poetry in the loo so perhaps no picture is best.
The rest of the trip home passes relatively un-notably, only requiring James to talk Sirius out of climbing on top of the train car one time – which is a record – and the boys are clambering off the train in a tangle of limbs when James stumbles into someone and nearly sends them both sprawling.
"Alright there, Potter?"
Somehow he feels even more gawky than usual as Lily Evans' bright green eyes sweep over his rumpled form, lingering on his face for a moment before she reaches forward and rights his crooked glasses. And if he shudders at the gentle brush of her fingertips on his cheek, who's going to bring it up?
He's only just managed to have the thought when his internal – and rhetorical – question is answered by none other than Lily Evans, with her glossy hair and sunshine smile. "Got a chill? Blimey, not sure how you would in this weather."
And then she's off, patting his shoulder companionably and trotting toward her waiting family. James somehow finds the ability to raise his hand in an awkward wave and Sirius lets his forehead drop to Remus' shoulder dejectedly, "Our boy is such a mess. Waving when she's practically in Cokeworth already."
Peter sniggers, "Surprised he managed it before the end of Easter hols."
"Next year," Remus chuckles, but sends James a sympathetic smile.
"You're all uninvited," James nearly shouts as he tromps toward the exit, only getting the desired distress from Peter. Always such a reliable lad. Still, he loses even him when Sirius throws his arms around Remus and Peter's shoulders, "Don't worry mates, Mum Potter likes me best, so you'll be my guests."
Despite James' threats, the four boys end up jammed in the Potter's new-smelling car with only one fight that results in a threatening glare from Mr. Potter and Remus getting to ride in the front.
Over supper that evening, after much jabbing, kicking, and silent threatening, Peter draws the short straw and broaches the subject with Mr. and Mrs. Potter. "Rather horrid weather lately, yeah?"
Mrs. Potter nods, "My geraniums are quite put out."
Peter chews his lip for a moment, blinking slowly before his watery blue eyes light, "So've the boys been – at school, I mean – us four – we have – James?"
Remus' lip quivers but he manages to fight the laughter trembling up his throat, mostly because of the throbbing pain of James' repeated kicks to his shin.
Sirius, looking quite above it all as he butters his roll artfully, drawls, "James has quite the idea – don't you James?"
After grumbling something about 'bloody useless tossers,' James straightens in his chair, mussing his hair nervously before he blurts, "We need to make a trip to Malkin's."
This draws twin groans from his parents, and Mrs. Potter goes so far as to lob a half eaten dinner roll at her son's head. "James Ignotus! Really, how many uniforms are you going to roast before you graduate?"
Mentally planning his revenge for the three boys currently giggling – yes giggling – at his middle name, James lets his best 'avoiding detention' grin slip on his face and turns to his mother, eyes wide, "Mum, my uniforms are all quite alright. In fact school has all together been fabulous this semester. Aside from the very real possibility that I will die of a heat stroke before exams."
She frowns, "I did notice your laundry smelled like the dead."
Seeing the opportunity for what it is, James plows ahead, "So I did what you always say, I went to the highest authority and pleaded my case with as much eloquence as I could muster."
Sirius nods, "He was quite eloquent Mum, you'd've been proud."
Bolstered by Sirius' endorsement, James continues, "And Headmaster Dumbledore was convinced, but the Board – " Mrs. Potter growls at the mention and James knows he's going to win this one, "said shorts are 'unbecoming to upper class boys."
"So we pulled out the student manual, and we figure the language is vague enough that we can wear skirts and technically not break the rules," he explains further.
Mr. Potter's full on scowling as he begins clearing the dishes. "I've seen Lucius Malfoy in shorts that made me want to gouge my eyes out. When do you boys need the car?"
They go the next afternoon because Sirius argues they need to have a couple meals in them otherwise they'll buy a size too small, James driving, Sirius in the passenger seat because the radio keeps him occupied enough that he won't put them in mortal danger, and Remus and Peter slumped in the back seat. Sirius flicks through the stations haphazardly before settling on some station playing grungy rock and perching his feet on the dashboard, "I think I'll be gorgeous in plaid."
"Lucky for the girls we've already had the spring formal," Remus drawls.
"Too right you are."
Madame Malkin gives them a searching glance as if waiting for the punch line, but complies easily enough with Sirius' flirtations and Remus' dry humor, and helps the boys find their sizes. It's only as they're leaving the store, bags in hand, that things take a surprising turn. For the second time – twice too many – James stumbles into Lily Evans, this time actually ending up sprawled at her feet, wishing to be swallowed by the cobblestones beneath his face.
"I know she's fit James but this is extreme," Sirius chuckles, helping James up from the ground. Lily's cheeks are sun kissed and freckled, green eyes alight with humor as she brushes the dirt from his t-shirt. "Lovely to see you too Potter."
James ruffles his hair and offers a self-deprecating grin. "You just swept me off my feet I suppose."
"I do have a way with people," Lily answers lightly, "What are you four up to?"
For a group that tends to be in trouble more than they aren't, the resulting chorus of nothings is particularly suspicious and earns a suspicious once over from Lily. Seeing her pick up the scent of mischief, James finds himself throwing an arm around her shoulders and dragging her away from Malkins, where the nosy purveyor is snooping from behind her ever-polished windows. "Just a day out and about. What are you up to?"
Lily shrugs but doesn't question the arm around her shoulders, so James keeps it there and begs anyone who's listening to temporarily halt the effectiveness of his sweat glands. Her auburn ponytail tickles his neck as she sighs, "I was out shopping with Petunia – my sister you know – but her boyfriend turned up. The desire for me to make myself scarce was the first thing the three of us ever agreed on."
Peter laughs from Lily's other side, "Is he really that much of a bore?"
"It's like watching my sister snog a broom," she pauses and looks thoughtful, finger tapping her chin, "except brooms have more personality."
Sirius comes up between them, hooking his arms around James and Lily's shoulders, "We were about to get some ice cream. You in Evans?"
They manage to make their way to Fortescue's in one piece and order in a relatively organized fashion – basically James is on cloud nine because Lily Evans is here, laughing with his friends, and he's only embarrassed himself once. But she seemed to like it so everything works out. Until it doesn't.
After Florean has handed over their sundaes, his three ex best mates wrangle all the chairs in their vicinity and splay themselves across them in the style of a Renaissance painting and Sirius drops his head back dramatically. "Too bad, looks like the only place left is that cozy booth." And in case James or Lily managed to miss his meaning, Sirius wriggles his brows. At least Peter looks a little sorry when James glares daggers at the trio.
Yet, Lily doesn't seem too put off, just grabs James' elbow and slides in across from him in the corner booth. "So, come here often?"
James chokes on a peanut and Lily grins.
"I'm glad you enjoy my pain."
"If I showed sympathy every time I'd have premature frown lines, James dear."
His brain kind of half shorts out when she calls him dear, even if it is a bit sarcastic, but he manages to get his mouth working enough to make conversation and they talk about anything and everything until the sun's slipping behind the building, sky painted in rich jewel tones.
Lily's mid rant about their maths instructor when she cuts off abruptly, "I think your friends are staring."
James blinks dumbly for a moment before he catches her topic change, then twists suddenly, only to find the trio studiously not looking. He turns back to Lily, who's stifling a smile, "Sorry they're a bunch of – "
She rolls her eyes but pats his hand kindly, "They're sweet in their own – way."
James just looks at her hand, since she hasn't pulled it away, and then at her face, finding her smiling encouragingly. "Lily I – "
Whatever he was going to say, it never happens, because a rather horsey looking blond storms over, arms folded. "I have a date."
"Bully for you," Lily grumbles, her hand clenching around his.
Petunia quirks her brow imperiously at Lily and snarls at Sirius proffered hand before sweeping from the shop, only pausing at the door to gesture to her watch angrily. Sirius blows her a kiss and she nearly screams.
"Well, that's my ride lads," Lily sighs, thumb rubbing James' hand absentmindedly. She turns toward him, a bit hesitant. "Maybe we could get together again before break ends?"
James' eyes widen behind his round glasses and Lily gives him a small smile before scribbling her number across a clean napkin and pressing it against his chest and vanishing out the door, all four boys gaping behind her.
Later that night, after supper, they snatch some of Mr. Potter's whiskey – he narrows his eyes but lets them pass – and lounge about in James' room in their newly acquired skirts. Sirius seems particularly invested in his, modeling it shirtless in front of the long mirror on James' wardrobe. "Mine is entirely too long, it's unbecoming."
From the window seat, Remus lobs the whiskey cap at Sirius, going wide by half a foot. "Sirius no one cares."
Sirius rubs his stubbled chin, "Well I'd wager they can be shorter – you know who would know?"
James drops his football. "No."
"She gave me her number not you – you – wanker."
"He was there too," Peter pipes up from the floor, and if the spiteful look in his eye is anything to go by, James can bet the treachery is largely because he swiped the last slice of treacle tart at dinner.
Moving entirely too quickly for someone who claims 'lack of athletic ability' as his reason for not going out for football, Sirius snatches the Lily napkin from James' nightstand and the phone is ringing before James reaches the wanker.
By the time someone answers, James is on Sirius' back like a koala, grabbing for the phone desperately. "Evening Evans. This is Sirius Black," Sirius pauses, "Oh, this must be Petunia. We exchanged heated glances at the ice cream parlor this afternoon," he gives Remus a thumbs up and switches hands as James makes another grab, "Is your sister around?"
James freezes when he hears Lily's on the line, can hear her confusion, and hopefully a little bit of laughter as she answers, "Evening Black. Didn't know we were so close. How can I be of assistance?"
"How short can girls make their skirts without getting written up?"
Lily coughs and starts to answer, but James has finally managed to wrench the receiver away, "Sorry Evans, we'll talk soon, yeah?"
But they don't. James is too riddled with embarrassment to even think about gathering up the courage to call in the span of a week – half of which is spent actively giving Sirius the cold shoulder. And then they're back at school, and if James' spirits lift along with Sirius' skirt as a particularly strong back draft gusts through Hogsmeade Station, who could blame him. Still, the surrounding students share a good laugh, and a few girls send Sirius the type of flirtatious glances he's continually oblivious to.
Luckily, or unluckily for him, James doesn't see Lily on the train at all. Which is at least in part because of the pats on the back he's received from a number of classmates, either catching on to the whole 'hot as hell we need to deal' motivation or assuming they're making some sort of gender equality statement. Either way, he's alright enough that the occasional jeers from sweaty jerks don't make much of an impact.
In the end, Lily spots him first, once they're all herding toward the Great Hall for dinner. He's just about to slip in behind the other three boys when a playful voice calls out, "Fetching knees you've got there, Potter"
James' heart thuds and he feels the heat rush to his face as he turns, ruffling his hair, "Back at you Evans."
She's close – entirely too close, and yet not close enough. But her eyes are crackling and her teeth are glinting in the low light. "Really? Kinda thought you gave me and my knees the brush off."
Spluttering, James grabs her forearms, as if he's afraid she'll float away. "No! I just – Sirius called and I was embarrassed and then – "
And then Lily kisses him.
He stumbles a bit, half with the force of her kiss because wow and half because Lily Evans is kissing James Potter and she started it. But he catches on soon enough and his arms are banding around her waist and her lips parts under his. After some giggling and maneuvering, they end up nestled in a secluded alcove off the main hall and James is pressed into the wall, stone digging into his back almost painfully but he can't seem to care when one of Lily's hands is in his hair and her nails are scritching at his scalp just a bit while her other hand is rubbing random shapes into his lower back.
Then it drops just below his waistline, and James nearly dies, so he pulls away, grinning cheekily, lips red and cheeks flushed, "No hands up my skirt until at least the third date, Evans."