"What in the world has been the matter with you?" Emmeline asked as they walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Lily was slightly started by the question. "What do you mean?"

Emmeline glared and sighed dramatically. "Listen Lily, I know I've been studying in the library a lot lately, but I have seen you meals and I have heard the rumors. Why on God's green earth are you spending so much time with Potter?"

Lily had the decency to blush. "He's been helping me study," she said defensively, which wasn't completely a lie.

"That's what the rumors are. The question is why?" Emmeline pressed. "It's not like you're incapable of studying alone."

"I just study better with him," Lily said, surprised to find it was true. "I don't get so stressed out about whether or not I know the material. It helps me calm down."

"Well good. Heaven knows you needed to," Emmeline said assuredly. Lily was slightly shocked and hurt, but she covered it quickly. After a moment, Emmeline said in a slightly accusatory tone, "But you do hate Potter, right? He's still an arrogant twit? You haven't forgotten that part either?"

"Of course!" Lily replied defensively. "…you know, in theory."

Emmeline stopped dead in her tracks. "What?" she asked flatly.

"Well, it's just that I've never really hated him so much as he's just annoying to a degree of insanity, and most of my aggression towards him is just so he doesn't get the wrong idea about where we stand with one another. In theory I hate him, but in practice…"

"So the rumors are true!"

"What rumors?" Lily would be lying if she said she wasn't desperate to find out what all the whispering was about whenever she walked down the halls with Potter.

"You're in love with him!"

"What?! Of course not! Don't be ridiculous!" Blackmailed snogging was not the same as love, her mind exclaimed sharply though she did not dare say it aloud.

Emmeline gave her a long look. "Fine. Let's just drop the subject, alright?" she said as they entered the hall. Emmeline sat down at their normal seating, and looked up to see Lily glancing down the table at James. "What?" Emmeline asked sharply.

"I …I promised Potter I'd sit with him this morning," Lily said painfully. Emmeline looked like she had been slapped in the face. "I'm sorry," Lily said.

Emmeline's face turned to stone. "Go then," she said through gritted teeth. Reluctantly she did.

James smiled as she sat down next to him angrily. "Morning," he said. She just glared. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked.

"That depends. The average person with any sort of morals would constitute blackmail as wrong, but you've always prided yourself on the fact that you're anything but average Potter, so I guess the answer to your question is no."

James glanced down the table and saw Emmeline's death glare. "Go sit with your friend," he said.

She glared at him, her chin trembling as she held back tears. "I can't. I need my Arithmancy notes."

He sighed. "Go. I'll give them back to you tonight. All of them. I don't think I can help you study for it anyway."

"Why? What do I have to give you in return?" she said defensively.

He shook his head. "Nothing. Now go, before Emmeline's evil glare pieces a hole through my thick skull."

Reluctantly she stood and then went back over to Emmeline. He watched as she tried to casually pass it off. He went back to his food, but he had lost his appetite. He left, sighing as he made his way back to the common room, his hands running through his hair. Lily was driving him up the wall. He had thought this whole blackmailing thing was going to be a good idea, that it was going to help her see that he genuinely cared about her, but all it had done was confirm her suspicions that he was a toerag. He went up to his dorm and made sure the others had left before drawing back the hangings on his four poster. He pulled back the drapery on the canopy of his bed, Lily's remaining books and notes (along with other hidden items) held in place balanced on the support beams. He pulled them out and gathered them together, organizing them by subject. All he had left was Arithmancy, Charms and Transfiguration, and his lips tingled at just the memory of their other subjects. Pushing those thoughts from his mind, he gathered his own things for class in his bag before heading up to the Owlery.

"Hey Artemis," he crooned to his bird as he stroked her feathers. "I'm not allowed in the girl's dorms, but I'm sure you are. I need you to put all of these on Lily's bed alright? I know it's heavy, but it's not far. Can you do that for me?" The owl blinked her large round eyes as though scoffing at him, before primly nipping his finger affectionately. James tied everything together securely before Artemis grabbed the parcel in her talons and took flight as though it was weightless. He grinned at his bird proudly, before sighing. Well, at least he'd be getting more sleep if he wasn't staying up into the wee hours of the morning snogging and being snogged senseless, he thought dismally.

Lily looked all over the common room for James that evening, but didn't see him anywhere. Resigned to her fate, she sat down and waited…and waited…and waited. Almost an hour past curfew Emmeline came down to the common room. "Lily, there you are. Can I borrow some ink? I've seemed to run out." Lily looked startled, but nodded. "Are you alright? What are you still doing down here? Falling asleep with your eyes open love? Come to bed already."

Lily, in a daze, followed. She got ready for bed automatically after giving Emmeline more ink, confusion still scatterbrained in her mind. She pulled back the hangings on her bed. A neat little package of the rest of her notes was perfectly bundled there. She was utterly shocked. Who had found her things and how did they put them there? Certainly James hadn't done it because boys couldn't go into the girl's dormitory, which also brought up more confusion about just where James had been that evening. She was too angry and frustrated to sleep. After she was sure Emmeline was asleep, she put on her dressing gown and as quietly and quickly as possible made her way to the seventh year boys dormitory.

She threw open the curtains on James's bed and scowled at his still sleeping form. He looked strange and peaceful without his glasses and defenses. She wanted to hex him.

How he could sleep with the other three boys snoring so loudly she wasn't sure, but she bent close to him before whispering his name as sharply and loudly as she dared. There was no response. She leaned over, whispered his name again and nudged him. He scrunched up his face and groaned. "What Sirius? I was having a good dream about Evans."

For a moment, she stood in shock. For a moment. She placed a silencing charm on him before smacking him hard across the face. "Ow!" she saw him mouth in surprise, before sitting up and putting on his glasses. When he finally looked at her the anger slipped from his face and he blushed guiltily. "Sorry," he mouthed, realizing that she had charmed him. He frowned, grabbed her arm and pulled her onto his bed, closing the hangings around her. He pointed to his mouth sharply and she performed the countercurse. He pulled out his wand from under his pillow and placed his own silencing charm on the bed so they wouldn't wake his roommates.

"What in the bloody hell are you doing here? I know you're Head Girl, but I highly doubt that gives you the right to—"

"Like you're in any position to lecture me on what's right and wrong, especially in the Head capacity!" she declared. He shut his mouth. She had a pretty good point, and he knew that when she was angry it was better to let her vent all of her frustration before attempting to get a word in.

"Why weren't you in the common room tonight?" she demanded. "Do you know how long I waited there, looking like an idiot?"

"But I told you I can't help you study and that I'd give you the rest back. Remember? We talked about this at breakfast. Didn't you get it? It should all be on your bed," he said, suddenly worried that it had somehow gotten lost. She'd absolutely murder him if it was.

"I…you put them there? But…how?" she asked, so lost.

"I had my owl fly them in. Why? You didn't think someone stole them from me to return to you, did you?"

"I didn't know what to think, but that was definitely more of an option than you giving them back to me," she said bluntly. He frowned and sighed. "Why did you give them back?" she asked.

"Because it's what I should have done in the first place. Listen, I'm sorry. Sorry about this whole thing, alright? You were just stressed out that day and I was too. It was horrible of me, and if you never want to talk to me again, I understand. When I saw you with Emmeline today, I realized just how unfair it was. I can't force you into liking me, and I certainly wouldn't take you away from your friends. A much as I enjoy being with you, this past week wasn't real. I was just toying with you, and I'm sorry if I hurt you."

Lily looked away. He didn't mean any of it, the stupid horrible git. It suddenly hit her that she was in James's bed and it was the middle of the night. All she could think about was what it would be like to kiss him right then, along with a painful ache in her chest at the thought that she would never find out. "So it's over then?" she asked in a small voice she barely recognized as her own.

"Yeah. We're over," he said, and she didn't know why hot tears came into her eyes. It wasn't like this was real. It wasn't like he was rejecting her. He was unbinding her from their agreement. She should be happy…but she wasn't.

"Then I guess I'll see you tomorrow," she said, finally looking him in the eye. Their gazes caught, and after a moment he seemed to lean into her, his hand coming up to her face as though to kiss her, but he caught himself and looked away.

"You better go," he said harshly. She scampered out of his bed, feeling like a fool.

She couldn't focus on anything! Every time she looked at her papers, the letters blurred together and she would read a paragraph three times before realizing she hadn't understood a word. Her books were just as bad, and half of her practice spells had things exploding. Even worse, her insomnia had returned and she had barely been able to toss and turn in bed for an hour every night before getting up to get ready for class. She always felt sick whenever she saw food, her stomach tied in knots with nervous tension. She was going to fail. She was going to fail everything.

It just wouldn't do at all, and it was all Potter's fault. And he just sat there with his friends, having a good time, occasionally opening a book to review, and never looking her way. So it was only natural really, what she did. Everyone has their own breaking points, and she had reached hers. The night before the first NEWTs when he strolled into the common room with his friends after coming back from dinner, she grabbed his tie taking pleasant satisfaction in the strangled noise he made and dragged him back out the portrait hole.

She listened to him struggle with words, demanding what in the world she thought she was doing as she dragged him to the North Tower Balcony, but the truth was that she had four thousand thoughts in her head right at that moment, all demanding attention, and this was the only thing she could think to do to get them to stop. So she finally came to a halt, pushed him against the wall, sighed, and kissed him.

He seemed completely at a loss as to what to do, which was rather disappointing after their previous encounters had left her utterly boneless. She pulled back after a moment. He blinked at her several times as though he did not recognize her.

"Evans, did one of your practice spells backfire again?" he asked.

"No," she said sharply.

"Well then what are you doing?" She glared at him.

"Do I have to spell it out for you James? I thought I was kissing you, though you weren't being a very appreciative recipient," she snapped.

"No," he said, his own tempter rising. "I got what you were doing. I think I know by now what it feels like when you attack a bloke, but the question I meant to ask was why?"

At this, whatever determined energy she got from her anger and frustration fell away. She felt positively shy, and her hands fell away from him and began to anxiously play with the hem of her robe. "I just…I can't sleep and I can't eat and I feel like I'm going to be sick all of the time and I have these thoughts going a kilometer a minute through my brain and they won't shut up and I can't concentrate…but I could when I was with you. Things were simpler. Things just…fell into place. I guess I figured that if you didn't mind blackmailing me into kissing you, that you wouldn't object to me doing it willingly. I guess I was wrong."

"Lily," he said, and his hands came to hold her arms as he tilted his head to catch her gaze. "You know that I like you, love. I stopped this whole thing because I didn't want you thinking that just snogging was all I wanted out of you. I like making you laugh, and I like studying with you, and I like making you relax. I can't just go back to only snogging with you. As incredible as it is, it isn't enough."

"So what then? You want to hold my hand? You want to tell people we're going steady? You want to get married and have babies?" she said sarcastically.

"No," he said. "I just want to spend time with you. In a few days, we're going to graduate. I've spent the better part of my Hogwarts career envisioning what it would be like to be with you. It's a break coming up here pretty quick. It's a time for new beginnings, and that beginning is either that we're together or that we'll never see each other again."

She looked at his chest for a long time before looking back in his eyes. "I don't have to pretend to think you're wonderful, do I?"

He grinned. "No," he said with a laugh. She pushed himself against him.

"So what were you dreaming about last night then?" she asked coyly, her fingertips playing with the top of his tie. She felt his hand weave itself through her hair softly, and her eyes met his at the comforting gesture. He was grinning like mad.

"We were at the final feast, and I had to give a speech. You were standing next to me, waiting to do yours. I said, 'Seven years, and what have I accomplished?', and then I turned to you and we started snogging in front of the whole school. It was a rather inspiring, I must say," he said laughing.

"You're dreadful," she said, biting back a smile.

"I don't know. I'd think it'd go over pretty well," he said feigning seriousness. She smiled softly.

"We should practice then, if we're going to have an audience," she whispered.

"Mmm…" was all he managed before her lips found her and he showed her what he meant when he said he had wanted more.

AN: this is complete. Might add a mini epilogue if ya'll think it needs it. Otherwise I hope you enjoyed my little side-fluff ficlet, and I hope you review!