Chapter One: Strawberry Jam and Men in Drag
"So, I met this girl today, right?" Sirius Black said to his best friend over drinks at the Three Broomsticks.
"I don't know," James replied, taking the olives out of his martini and popping them into his mouth. "Did you? I wasn't there."
Sirius ignored him. "Her name is Marielle, and she's completely gorgeous."
"Mmm," James muttered, looking far more interested in his drink than in Sirius's newest conquest.
"Only thing is," Sirius continued, acting almost as though James wasn't there at all, "she won't go out with me until her friend has a date." He let this sentence hang in the air as he glanced meaningfully at his friend.
James looked up jerkily from his drink and scoffed. "I will not go out with some girl I've never met and probably won't like just so you can get some."
Sirius sighed exasperatedly. "It's not only about getting some, James; get your mind out of the gutter. Marielle," he declared dramatically, putting a hand over his heart and closing his eyes, "is the love of my life."
James snorted. "Just like Allison, Jennifer, Caroline, Isabelle, Sarah, Megan, Tiffany--"
"Necessary casualties," Sirius said, waving a hand impatiently. "Marielle is the only girl for me. Anyway, the girl's name is Lily. Redhead, freckles, killer legs--"
James interrupted this time. "Have you actually met this girl?"
Sirius recoiled. "Well, not yet. You haven't agreed to go out with her yet."
"How do you even know she actually has all of those attributes? Or that she's even a girl? 'Lily' actually sounds like the name of a drag queen."
Sirius made a face. "Stop being cynical. I assure you, she's a girl. Marielle would never lie to me. C'mon, James. Be a friend."
James sighed. "Fine. One date. But don't expect me to marry this girl."
"James?" Lily asked skeptically. "His name is James?"
Marielle sniffed. "What's wrong with 'James'?"
"Well," Lily said, "it's not a very masculine name, is it? When I think of 'James', I think of strawberry jam. Strawberry jam is not exactly something I'd trust to save me from wolves or wild geese."
"First of all," Marielle said, "you need to stop analyzing people's names. Second of all, I think 'James' is a very nice name. I would name my son 'James'. Third, didn't you say your last boyfriend's name reminded you of…?"
"Apples," Lily replied, almost wistfully. "But this isn't about Michael. Why did you even volunteer me for this? I don't need to date. I'm doing fine in that department, thank you."
"Lily, you broke up with Michael six months ago and you haven't been on a date since."
"I don't want to date. I especially don't want to date someone with the name James."
Marielle sighed. "What name is acceptable, then?"
Lily scrunched up her nose. "What about Benjamin? Or Clarence? Or--" She deepened her voice-- "Derek."
"Whatever," Marielle said impatiently. "Will you go on the date?"
Lily stared at her friend for a bit, then sighed. "Okay," she said reluctantly. "One date."
Sirius stood in the bathroom mirror, applying liberal amounts of gel to his wet hair. "Are you ready to meet your beautiful date, James?" he asked James, who was sitting on the closed toilet seat and looking sullen, very cheerfully.
"If she's a drag queen I won't come out of the house. You can tell her I came down with the bubonic plague."
"Didn't that die out in, like, the 1600s?"
James did not look fazed. "Just because it's not as widespread as it used to be doesn't mean it's not around. The bubonic plague is like the wind…"
"Of course it is. I'm telling you, James, it'll be great. You and Lily will hit it off, and even if you don't, it'll…" Sirius trailed off, grinning.
James straightened. "It'll what?"
Sirius replaced his gel in the medicine cabinet above the sink. "Absolutely nothing." He left the bathroom, James following closely.
The doorbell rang. "There's the girls!" Sirius announced, dashing towards the door. James, who was admittedly quicker, made it there before him.
The two stood in front of the door, Sirius smiling cheekily. "Well, don't let me stop you, James. You're obviously more eager to meet her than you've been telling me."
Sighing, James opened the door.
Standing on the front porch was Marielle, wearing a clingy hot pink dress, a black shawl, and too much makeup. "Hullo," she said cheerfully. "You must be James, lovely to meet you. Lily's standing by the car, she's being stubborn. Don't mention strawberry jam or apples. Where's Sirius?"
She said this all very fast, and the comment about strawberry jam and apples threw James off a little. However, Sirius pushed James out of the way and proceeded to throw his arms around Marielle, who promptly squealed in delight. Rolling his eyes, James pushed past the chattering two and started walking towards Marielle's gold convertible, where a redheaded girl was leaning against the passenger seat door, her back to him.
James reached her and tapped her shoulder. "Hi," he said.
The girl, who was presumable named Lily, lifted her eyes to him and bit her lip. "Hi," she said, not taking her eyes off of his.
"I'm--" James began.
"James," Lily said, smiling. "I'm--"
"Lily," James finished for her.
Lily was not bad looking, James noted. Her hair--red, naturally or from a bottle? He'd have to ask or it would drive him insane-- was pulled back in a black elastic that looked as though it had seen better days. She wore a short blue dress and had selected large white earrings and a matching bracelet. And her eyes--a green that actually looked green, without a tinge of brown or blue or any other color-- looked over James as he looked over her. A slight blush rose to Lily's cheeks (dusted with freckles--how quaint) as she realized that he was checking her out. James felt his own face grow warmer.
She grinned a little nervously, and it was infectious: he grinned back. "Nice to meet you," Lily said, extending a hand. He shook it, and for once didn't analyze how firm the handshake was or how the girl's hand felt in his. He didn't look at or think of anything but her eyes. That green completely amazed him. He had never seen anyone, even in passing, who had eyes anything like Lily's. "Sorry to force you into this," she said breezily. "I didn't exactly want in, either. I'm not that desperate."
"That's okay," James replied. "I kind of am."
She smiled at him again, and he returned it.
Sirius and Marielle were at the car now, watching this exchange. "Can we go?" Sirius asked.
James quickly took his eyes off of Lily's, almost guiltily, and said, "Yeah."
"I was always doing things that didn't seem…well, as my sister would put it, normal," Lily told James over her soup. "But, of course, I didn't know I was a witch 'till I was eleven, when the letter came."
"What House were you in?"
Lily took a sip of her water. "Ravenclaw. I briefly remember you--you were Head Boy when I was Head Girl, remember? And I used to go to the Quidditch games and things like that, so I saw you play."
"But we were never chummy," James added.
Lily nodded her head at him as she continued to drink her water. "Exactly."
They continued this discussion, talking about who they still knew from school. Sirius and Marielle watched the two, chattering and carrying on as if they'd been friends for ages. Sirius met Marielle's eyes over the table.
"Did you expect them to hit it off like this?" he asked quietly, so that James and Lily would keep talking.
Marielle's eyebrows were raised in perplexity. "Absolutely not," she said wondrously. "I thought they'd be making forced, polite, blind date conversation. But…" She trailed off and shook her head in amazement. "Well, look at them. If they don't end up making out, they'll at least be friends."
Sirius nodded, not having anything else to add to Marielle's comments. The two of them didn't say much after that, preferring instead to watch James and Lily, who had passed the subject of school and had swiftly moved on to the topic of past significant others.
"What was your longest relationship?" Lily asked James.
"A year. Turns out she'd been sleeping with some guy for about half that time, however, and when I found out, she didn't seem to understand why I was throwing her out of my flat."
"She lived with you?"
James smiled. "She was my roommate first." He didn't elaborate.
"So what's yours?"
"My longest relationship?" Lily asked rhetorically. "A year and four months." She sighed. "Actually, I just broke up with him six months ago."
"Can I ask why?"
She smiled slightly. "I think you just did. Well…" Lily stared down at her soup and stirred it with her spoon, clockwise first then counterclockwise. "He said he never wanted to marry me."
"Oh," James said, feeling a little uncomfortable as most twenty-year-old men always do when marriage is brought up. "One of those guys who wants to stay a bachelor their entire lives?"
Lily glanced up at him, meeting his eyes. "No," she said, very softly. "He just…never wanted to marry me. Said I wasn't…I wasn't the kind of girl he pictured himself marrying."
James registered this as possibly the worst breakup story he had ever heard. "That sounds…"
"Horrible? It was. Which is why I would really like to steer clear of the subject, if you don't mind."
James lifted his hands, his palms facing her. "I don't mind at all. I'm a little wary of my ex-girlfriends, as well."
Lily smirked, an act that made James slightly anxious.
"What?" he asked her, a little alarmed.
Lily shook her head, still smirking. "How many ex-girlfriends do you have?"
James stopped eating. "Why?" he said suspiciously.
She shrugged, looking highly amused. "Well, you just seem like you're very experienced when it comes to the topic of women. I figured you'd have to have been with quite a few to know oh-so-much."
James couldn't tell if she was jerking him around or if she was really serious. "Well, I've only had six girlfriends…"
"A fair number," Lily said calmly. "Can you remember their names?"
He was a little surprised at how forward she was being with him, but he really didn't mind. "Well," James said, beginning to think, "there was Raquel, when I was fourteen. That didn't last long, of course. Then there was…Amelia, when I was sixteen. Wendy, also when I was sixteen…Hannah, we were both seventeen…Then Chloe, just before I was eighteen…and then just Sheryl, the one I was telling about."
Lily smiled. "You can recount their names. I'm impressed."
"What about you? All of your boyfriends?"
"There have only been three," Lily told him. "None that would interest you, I'm afraid."
"Well, I just spent all that time giving you my illustrious dating history. You can at least do the same."
Lily smiled again, and she seemed to be thinking about it. "All right," she said finally. "There was Joey, when I was fifteen. That only lasted a month and a half before he set his sights on one of his sister's friends. She was twenty-three and, needless to say, he didn't have a chance, but I very much enjoyed reveling in his rejection, which was very publicized thanks to the Howler he received from his sister telling him how much of a pretentious prick he was. Casey, when I was sev--no eighteen. That lasted six months, until I decided that I didn't want to be tied down to a man who still acted as though he were twelve for the rest of my life. And then there was Michael, and you know how that turned out."
"You get detailed," James commented.
"Yes, well, women tend to remember little things more than men. Anniversaries, birthdays, and such."
"Well, that's not very fair, is it? That's a stereotype."
Lily seemed very amused with James's indignant replies. "So if I told you my birthday now, you'd remember it and send me a birthday present?"
"If it would illustrate my point. Fire away."
"My birthday is December eighth," Lily told him, smirking. It was March. "And I expect a gift from you now, James Potter. I don't much care for gold, but I do like diamonds."
"Well, on December eighth you can expect a present, though I'm not promising diamonds of any sort. Let's make this interesting."
Lily lifted an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Fifty Galleons says that I remember your birthday."
"One hundred," Lily said, her eyes flashing mischievously.
"You drive a hard bargain," James declared, grinning at her. "But I accept." He extended his hand to her over the table and she shook it.
"Can I have that in blood?" Lily asked him, keeping his hand in hers in the air.
"We'll see." James dropped Lily's hand.
Marielle pulled up to Sirius's flat, where James was staying for the night. Lily and Marielle followed the two out of the car to say their goodbyes.
"So," Lily said to James, smiling a little. "Can I expect an owl from you?"
"Sure," James replied.
"Is that sincere, or are you just telling me that so I won't break down and cry in front of your building?"
"You'll just have to see, won't you?" James grinned at her, showing her that he was joking.
"I suppose it would be inappropriate to kiss you," Lily said.
"It would," James agreed.
"So will a hug suffice?"
"It would," James repeated, pulling Lily to him and holding her there for a few moments. Her hair smelled faintly like some kind of fruit that he couldn't name right off the bat.
Marielle and Lily went back to the car, Marielle walking backwards and waving at Sirius, somewhat seductively. Lily pulled her friend into the car, then walked to her own side, which was facing the building. She stood at the door for maybe three seconds, smiled at James and Sirius, then got into the car.
"You and Lily were getting awfully buddy-buddy," Sirius commented as he went up to his flat, James trailing behind him.
"So," Sirius said, "are you going to go out with her again?"
"I don't think Lily and I have romantic potential, if that's what you mean," James told his friend. "If anything, we'll just be good friends."
"You were flirting pretty hard for someone aiming to be 'good friends'."
James was taken aback. "I wasn't flirting," he said.
"Of course you weren't."
"You and James got on nicely," Marielle said to Lily on the way to her house.
Lily shrugged noncommittally. "I like him," she said.
"Ooh," Marielle said, giggling slightly. "Husband material?"
Lily shook her head. "I don't think so. Friend material, but not husband. He's a nice guy."
"That's it?" Marielle prodded, disappointed.
"As far as I know." Lily stared out the window, signifying that she wasn't going to give Marielle the answer she clearly wanted.
Marielle sighed, a little bit frustrated. "I just wish you'd give him a chance."
Lily looked up, startled. "I am giving him a chance. Just…in a purely platonic sense. Guys and girls can be friends without all this pent up sexual tension or whatever."
Marielle sighed again, loudly and deliberately. "Fine, Lily," she said.
Disclaimer:All characters you recognize belong to J.K.R, not to me.