A/N: this is a gift for petals-to-fish 3 3 (she's on tumblr and FF)
This will probably not make too much sense if you haven't read perpetuus, but how much context do you need for fluff? Seriously though, I would definitely recommend reading that one first bc otherwise there are going to be a few questions hehe
The months after James and Lily's final defeat of Riddle are a mix of recovery, boredom, academic discussion, and snogging, in varying degrees, depending on which of the foursome you ask.
At some point, James decides his first foray into life in a new century would be learning the modern cooking arts, aided by a broad volume on 'women in the home' he found during a jaunt into town with Remus. He's prodding the chicken in the oven curiously when Lily pads into the kitchen, toe-pinching boots and scratchy tights forgone in the lazy company she keeps.
Still, her hair is always groomed, either in graceful braids looping around her head or long and glistening in the sunlight, depending on her planned activities for the day, which includes considering how wild she wants to drive James. Bare toes skipping across the polished wood floor, Lily manages to catch James unawares as he straightens from his examination of their dinner.
James stutters in his movements for a moment, but quickly pulls her arms around his waist, knitting their fingers together, and sighs, warm and rumbling against her chest. "Sirius, I didn't know you felt this way."
Pinching his middle, Lily pulls back as James closes the oven door with a careful smack. Expertly, Lily pushes herself onto the stretch of workspace relatively free of flour and watches as James consults the recipe again, squinting at the unfamiliar letters he's been learning with shocking ease. Legs kicking out in random circles, Lily leans back on her palms. "Are you squinting because you're confused or because you can't see?"
"I'm not blind Lily, I see you right in front of me," James drawls with entirely too much sass, "Red hair, bare toes, bright green eyes like a doe."
He can probably see the flush on her cheeks too, but Lily brushes past it and blinks coquettishly, shooing James back and raising her hand somewhere near her head. "Yes, but can you see how many fingers I've raised?"
"Four?" he tries with forced confidence.
"None James. I've raised none," Lily sighs, sliding down from the counter and striding forward until her clenched fist is held in front of his face, "We're going to the optometrist."
Her hands find the sides of his face; cheeks rough with a few days' stubble, and tug down until his nose is pressed against hers. "You can't see for shit, m'dear."
James blinks slowly, once, twice, his dark lashes curling against his honeyed skin. "Is that right?"
A nod, and his breath fans across her cheekbone. Then her hands are in his hair, dark loops curling wildly between her fingers as she presses her lips to his, soft and questioning. James sighs against her mouth, deepening the kiss, arms banding around her waist, firm but gentle. They break apart, just a breath and Lily almost moans at the loss of contact. "You don't need to keep walking around like you're blind for me to kiss you James."
"I'm not sure I want to add another item to my daily dressing. This century is already entirely too accessorized," James murmurs, nuzzling at her jawline, "What's the motivation?"
He kisses her, confident and seeking and Lily nearly forgets their conversation when James nimble fingers work the combs from her hair and they fall with a clatter to the tabletop. Still, she manages to pick the thread back up, despite James' pleasing ministrations. "The – ah – motivation is better," James has worked his way back to her mouth by now, and she's temporarily delayed, "quality of life."
Pulling away, James smirks, his face flushed and his eyes blown wide and glassy. "My 'quality of life' is pretty fantastic at the moment, Lily."
Still, Lily manages to strong arm James into getting his eyes examined the next time Sirius is taking a trip into town for supplies and a nip at the local tavern. And although her intent is to accompany him on his jaunt, the small bookshop on the corner beckons and James shoos her away, blinking at her with humorous impatience, "I think being multiple centuries old counts as being an adult, dear."
Sirius barks a laugh, throwing one arm around James' neck, "I'll take care of the old man while he gets his glasses, Evans, don't you worry."
Which, despite her general inability to be 'hands off' about pretty much anything, does manage to set her mind at ease enough that she gets utterly lost in the surprisingly vast collection of books for the next three quarters of an hour. In fact, she gets so caught up that she doesn't realize she's being snuck up on until James' hands are hovering over her eyes.
With a yelp, Lily jumps, nearly dropping the tome in her hand, which earns a questioning look from the shopkeeper. Gently, she places the book back on the shelf and turns toward James, scowling with a reproof ready on her lips – one she instantly forgets when she finds him grinning at her boyishly from behind wire rimmed spectacles.
Mouth going dry, Lily's jaw works soundlessly until Sirius strides over and ruffles James' perpetually messy hair. "Grandpa over here is practically blind apparently."
Sirius' arm drops to wrap around James' neck while he addresses Lily, "This man needed bifocals."
He pauses, expectant, but Lily still hasn't managed much beyond an answering grunt, too caught up in the glint of gold around James' hazel eyes. Lucky for her, James has been distracted enough by Sirius' teasing that he hasn't yet picked up on her complete befuddlement. And somehow, by the time his gaze turns to her, Lily's managed to get herself largely under control and goes about paying for her selections. "So Sirius was a good nanny?"
James laughs. "Except for the half hour when he left me. Could've wandered into buggy traffic and died."
Sirius flicks his nose. "Don't be melodramatic."
"Right, that's his job," Lily drawls, tucking her hand into the crook of James' arm and steering them toward home. Ever the gentleman, James holds his arm out for her parcels and Lily hands them over, arms stiff after cradling book after book for the last hour.
As they leave the boundaries of town, the road turns grassy, trampled down muddy from foot traffic with wider ruts from wagon wheels. The sun's bright, but partially tucked behind the clouds, so Lily lets her head drop back, free hand holding her wide brimmed hat in place. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees James wriggle his nose in a failed attempt to tick his glasses up his tanned nose.
Grinning – fresh air and James bringing lightness to her chest she's still not used to – Lily uses a single finger to push his frames up to their rightful place. "Not quite used to them, eh?"
James shrugs, adjusting Lily's books under his arm. "I guess it'll take time. I do look rather – "
"Swotty?" Sirius puts in from behind, barely glancing up to flash a smile before he's back invested in his correspondence.
When Lily turns to James, he's already tilted his face toward her, and it feels like that first time she saw him – tall, broad, and everything about him warm and inviting. There's a glint in his eye she can't quite place, but the openness of his expression has her speaking before she can reconsider. "Well I think you look dashing."
His lips quirk, eyes bright and freckles winking at her like constellations spread across his cheeks, and it's such a sight, Lily can't even bring herself to glare when Sirius snorts. James rolls his eyes, commiserating, and Lily's considering telling Sirius to go on ahead and drag James off somewhere private, when Remus shouts from the front porch, "Who wants steak and kidney pie?"
And despite her other inclinations Lily's stomach gives a loud grumble at the mention of a hot meal and she's forced to leave aside less vital desires for the moment. Still, James' hand steady and sure at the small of her back gives her pause, and combined with the private side-glance he sends her way, nearly drives her to insanity.
But despite her divided interests, supper turns out to be a relaxing and enjoyable affair, sprawled across the outdoor furniture as the sun lingers above the horizon, giving up its last rays before it leaves the countryside to the blue haze of the moon. Together, they manage to completely demolish Remus' impeccably done pie and three quarters of the colorful trifle he'd prepared for dessert by the time the sky's gone dark.
As the stars glitter to light the night, they work together, tidying up with relative ease with the responsibilities divided between the four of them. By the time they've finished, Sirius sets off for the study for more 'personal correspondence' – which Lily thinks might just consist of naughty jokes submitted to gentlemen's magazines – and Remus goes back to his latest self-assigned research project on the mystical properties of ancient monoliths.
James seems content to putter about in the living areas of the manor but Lily can't help being drawn to the outdoors, so she ambles through the swaying grasses toward Sirius' pride and joy – a slightly moth eaten hammock he dug up in the shed and spent an entire afternoon hanging from two wide oaks in the yard.
Having spent most of her adult life in cities, Lily still wonders at the sights, sounds, and smells of the countryside at night, dark but welcoming rather than nerve-wracking. The random croaks, chirps, and birdcalls pierce the night in an irregular but increasingly familiar pattern – not quite predictable in sequence, but the players remain the same each evening.
She's just slipped into the swaying hammock, boots abandoned in the waxy grass, when footsteps break the gentle symphony of the night, and James' heady scent – warm and woodsy – drifts over the soft breeze.
Still, her quite repose isn't interrupted, although her senses are on high alert at his nearness so when he gently brushes the back of his fingers against her jawline, she's mostly not surprised, despite her closed eyes. "Fancy meeting you here, James."
His chuckle is a low rumble and Lily cracks one eye open, almost instantly regretting it. In his post-supper relaxation, James has abandoned most attempts at appearing the civilized gentleman. Shirt untucked and half unbuttoned, boots and socks lost in some unknown corner of the manor, and hair a hurricane, his only real gentlemanly appearance is the coppery pair of glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. Which – for the sake of Lily's sanity – really should have been forgone.
And yet, she manages to maintain some sort of forced aloofness, letting her eyes drift closed again as he stands, hands loose at his sides as the night sinks in around him.
He's silent long enough that she almost wonders if he's loped off to some other part of the expansive property, but she's too terribly aware of everything about him to ever seriously consider the idea, his comforting presence the new normal she's come to expect and know better than she knows her own name. But when he finally speaks, low and gravely, she's still caught off guard. "Room for one more?"
Wordlessly, and with the expected amount of clumsiness usually experienced when doing such things, Lily shifts in the glorified canvas sack until there's nearly enough room to fit another grown adult. And miraculously – though not unexpectedly – James manages to slip into the open space with graceful, almost balletic movement. It takes some finagling, and a few strands yanked free of Lily's scalp, but they manage to lie side by side, with Lily's head pillowed on James broad chest and his arm around her shoulders.
As his heart thrums steadily beneath her ear, somewhat elevated in tempo from his exertions surely, Lily attempts to regulate her breathing, which has become rather labored since James' increased nearness. Once again, she counts her blessings that the dim lighting and James' poor vantage point will keep her flushed cheeks from discovery.
Eventually though, her comfort level settles to the normal cozy feeling she gets around James, that innate knowing that she's safe and cared for by this man that in actuality shouldn't even exist anymore. As her thoughts drift, so do her hands – fingers breaching the parted halves of his shirt and drawing random shapes on his tanned chest.
She doesn't even consciously realize her actions until she notices James' lungs are no longer expanding and contracting with air. Her movements stutter to a halt and she props herself up on one elbow and tosses her ever-loosening plait back over her shoulders. "Everything alright up there?"
"Certainly," James manages to grind out, somewhat strangled. And it's that look in his eye – unsure but so willing – that gives Lily the courage to push the boundaries of the carefully constructed guidelines for young ladies engaging in romantic entanglements. Not that she's been anything close to proper since she met Sirius all those months ago. Nonetheless, she leans closer, so their noses brush. "Anything I can do to make things more alright?"
James raises one hand so it knits through her auburn waves, thumb caressing her cheek. "Honestly, my mind's gone blank."
She leans closer, "So sorry to," her lips brush his, "hear that," their breaths mix, "How can I comfort y – "
And before she can finish her sentence, James surges forward, mouth warm and seeking against hers as he tugs her closer, hands strong and sure at her waist. After the first rush, he gentles, letting his grip loosen, glasses gone comically crooked and slightly fogged. As he pulls back, Lily chases his lips, frowning at the undesirable interruption. "I wasn't finished with you."
"I'm trying to be a gentleman," James sighs, flopping onto his back and sending the hammock swaying, "at least partially," he amends as Lily quirks a brow and eyes his half exposed chest and their fairly compromising position.
When he tries to pull further away, Lily grabs his wrinkled collar and levels him with a glare most would blanche at, but apparently millennia old warriors are immune, if his smirk is anything to go by. Still, she furrows her brow further and grumbles, "I'm telling you to not be a gentleman – at least in this instance."
James flushes when her fingers trip over his exposed chest, light and tickling. "I want you – "
"Well feeling's mutual," Lily grins, kissing his jaw.
She succeeds in distracting him for a few minutes, until their adjusting rocks the hammock too much and tip it enough to the side that James falls to the ground and drags Lily after him, luckily ending with her pillowed across his front.
They dissolve into laughter, Lily's forehead dropping against his collarbone as they gradually quiet, the night calm around them.
Neither is eager to eliminate the closeness, so they lay beneath the rocking hammock, Lily's head tucked under James' chin while his fingers weave through her hair. His deep breath expands his lungs, lifting her head along with his ribs, the exhale carding across the crown of her head. "I – I know we've already been less than appropriate. And certainly polite society wouldn't look kindly on you living with three men you're not related to, but at least I know that we haven't done anything more."
Lily's elbows fall to the sides of his ribcage as she glares. "Well I wasn't going to ravish you in a hammock James."
Blush deepening, James stammers out, "No! Not – I wasn't – I just want to – blast – "
Blinking rapidly, Lily's mind works at a brisk pace as James' distress inhibits his translation skills and Lily comes to an alternate explanation. "You – was I pressuring you?" she scrambles back on her hands, putting space between them, "You've just come back, of course you don't want to get all mixed up with some pushy – "
Desperate, James vaults upright and holds her face between his palms, firm but gentle. "Lily, Lily darling," he pauses as her gaze finally returns to his, eyes watery. After a moment, he swipes a stray tear from her cheek and smiles small. "I love you. Want to be with you – permanently," her lips tilt up at the corners as her cheeks redden and James continues, "I want to wait so you can never think I asked to marry you because I felt I had an obligation."
"Well you sort of are obligated to me, considering my integral role in your triumphant return," Lily laughs, sniffing.
James reaches across the distance between them, cupping her jaw with his palm. "Forever grateful and hopelessly in love, I'd say."
"They don't make men like you anymore, eh?"
"What, charming and eloquent?"
Lily grins, "I was going to say soppy and dramatic, but that works too," she pauses at James' affronted scoff, "By the by, did I miss this alleged marriage proposal that isn't motivated by obligation? I reckon I'd remember my first one."
Leaning up on his knees, James pulls Lily to mirror him and presses his smile against hers, deepening it almost immediately so Lily's mind nearly goes blank, and she's mostly lost the string of their conversation when James pulls back, just enough that his lips brush hers when he whispers, "That was more like a warning – or a proposal proposal."
Letting her hands slide around his neck, Lily leans forward until her mouth rests against his ear, his wild curls tickling her nose, and murmurs, "I have a proposal of my own."
James' chuckle rumbles through his chest as he nuzzles her hair, earning a sigh and then a surprised yelp from Lily. As she pulls away, hands flying to the crown of her head, James' glasses go with her and he squints into the darkness. "Bloody glasses, going to drive me bonkers before the week's out," he groans, "Maybe more harm than good, at that."
Spectacles still dangling from her hair, Lily looks up quickly, abandoning her task. "No! You shouldn't – it's. You can't stop wearing them."
Leaning forward, James squints and attempts to work the slim metal free. "Concerned for my well being?"
Lily clears her throat nervously, her nose pressed against his shirt as he works, and nearly squeaks out, "Yes! Exactly."
"Really," James drawls, brow quirked, even as he continues his task, finally freeing his frames successfully.
"Of course! Why else would I care?" Lily answers shortly and more convincingly than previously as she pulls away, but her rising blush calls her truthfulness into question and despite the dim lighting, James doesn't miss her colored cheeks.
"Perhaps you think I look devastatingly handsome," Lily scoffs and James ignores her, "and can't bear the thought of me without my new accessory."
"Well I never."
"You think I'm dashing and you love my glasses," James teases, standing and offering his hand to Lily.
Lily stands and they begin the walk toward the house, hands swinging between them, "Shut your mouth."
James pulls her against his chest and leans against one of the smaller saplings and murmurs, "Or what?"
"I can be pretty persuasive when I put my mind to it," Lily answers, straightening his spectacles while her forearms rest against his chest.
Humming, quiet, James takes her lips with his, warm and heady, the kiss sending her pulse thrumming. When she pulls back, breathless, Lily can't help the chuckle that rises in her throat. "You're pretty proficient in romance for a former statue."
"Over two thousand years of experience," James says with heavy cheek, trailing off meaningfully so Lily shoves his shoulder, grabbing her abandoned boots with her free hand.
"You'd better not have two thousand years worth of experience, sir."
He kisses her forehead, short and sweet, before pulling her into the living room, lit with a welcoming golden glow from scattered lamps. After getting a small fire going, James settles in on the dainty couch, pulling Lily close. "In all honesty, I've not got much experience at all. Spent most of my life with too much responsibility hanging over my head to really consider any…carnal interests."
Twisting, Lily tilts her head toward him, a playful glint in her eye, "So I pique your 'carnal interests' do I?"
Lily grins and twists so she can rest her feet on his lap and James glances at them with faux distress before picking stray grass and leaves from the soles. After wriggling her toes playfully, Lily's smile fades into a contented expression, silence falling between them apart from the crackling fire. Despite his completed task, James' hands rest on Lily's exposed ankles, his thumbs rubbing small circles as they each drift off on their own thoughts.
"I never really did either," Lily says after a time, voice soft.
James blinks, a little sleepy, "Sorry, I've not kept up with your thoughts."
Sighing, Lily drops her head against the plush cushions that back the couch. "I've not been one to get much chance in the 'carnal interests' department, either."
"How presumptuous would it be to say we could learn together?" James asks, a hesitant smirk tilting his lips.
An answering smile rises on Lily's face. "Very," she pauses for drama and waits just long enough that James nearly thinks he's gone too far, "But I've never been a fan of overdone standards of propriety," she puts on an exaggerated posh expression as her voice rises a few octaves, "Oh dear the girls these days – white stockings after St Crispin's Day – how inappropriate."
James's laugh rises loud and strong before he recalls the hour and quiets, eyes still wrinkled with joy as Lily's hand finds his. "I honestly did mean what I said, Lily. About us."
Her gaze doesn't waver so James assumes this is an invitation to continue. "The timeline for us is really entirely up to you. I'd have married you the moment you bested me with your sword that afternoon."
"I would've said yes to pretty much anything you asked the after the day you massaged my neck in the library," Lily answers, light, but her gaze is warm and steady.
The moment settles into a not unpleasant heaviness, unbroken until James clears his throat and lets his eyes drop to his lap. "Forgive me – I – forgive an old man," Lily's lips quirk as James breathes out a steadying breath, "If I've misunderstood this – Are you genuinely saying I can – "
"Are you going to propose soon, dearest? Not all of us have thousand year lifetimes."
James narrows his eyes, playful for a moment, but his face soon melts into that strong look of determination like she'd really seen only once, that day with Riddle. "Will you?"
"Will I what?" Lily asks, resorting to cheek to disguise her thudding heartbeat.
His expression turns from teasing indignation to something almost child-like in its innocence, and he looks at her with more love than she'd ever thought possible. "Marry me, Evans?"
Lily surges forward, knocking James back against the tufted arm of settee and murmurs a private 'yes' against his lips. It's not much later when they've settled comfortably with each other – watching the fire burn as James fiddles with the sparkling ring he'd seemingly pulled out of nowhere and slipped onto Lily's finger – that Sirius saunters in, taking in the tableau and lets out a groan. "Oi! Remus! They're going to be insufferable now."
It's over a celebratory supper specially prepared by James the following evening – with an assist from his sous chef Remus – that Sirius finally sheds some light on his recent secretive behavior. "You're not going to be one of those husbands who only wants a home-maker wife, right?"
James simply looks affronted while Lily scoffs around a forkful of roast, "I certainly hope not. Or this will be the shortest engagement in history."
Ignoring Remus' eye roll, Sirius straightens up in his seat. "Excellent. Then I've got a job for you," he takes a bite out of his roll, "for all of us really."
Each of them pause over their dinners, Remus' hands hovering comically over the roast, until he finally gest his head together. "What kind of job?"
As Lily and James nod, Sirius grins triumphantly, knowing he's already won. "What do you know about ancient Sweden?"
A/N 2: as you can see, I left room for a continuation of this bit, so let me know what you're thinking!