Habit

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What he did was habit. It was a natural thing that was most definitely not natural, but was simply considered and eventually became natural over time. It was a habit that just about everyone was aware of, but no one ever talked about. Or at least not in public. Or within the hearing range of James Potter.

It wasn't what a bloke with a stupid crush or a simple fancy would normally do. Sirius often said that it was something the likes of a stalker would do. James would scowl, but would secretly agree anyway.

Not that he was stalking her. He wasn't. All he did was hang about whenever she had a date. He wasn't stalking; he just happened to run into her all the time. It wasn't stalking at all. Besides, Lily knew he was there. To be a stalker, he'd have to have been stealthy and surreptitious. James never tried to be surreptitious; he didn't need to be. If anything, he tried to be as loud and as animated as he possibly could. He didn't want to not be seen. He wanted Lily to know that he was there. Always there.

In return, Lily Evans would walked purposely up to him after every date, hiss at him to bugger off, get a life, and leave her alone. In some cases, when James got too loud and disruptive, she would throw something at him. James, in return, would smile at her and give her either a nod or a shake of his head, usually to let her know what he thought of her date. Naturally, the nod had never been used, and doubtless, it probably never will be.

Remus always told James that he should just stop and leave her be. Something about a privacy of some sort. He'd never listened, of course. Although he knew he should indeed stop, he didn't. He never did stop simply because he can't.

Truth was, he hated seeing her out on dates with someone who was anyone but himself. He never could stand it, but he still stuck around and watched all the dating episodes as if they were some kind of spectator sport that he hated and only put up with for the cheerleaders. It was like that, in a way. Only Lily was never a cheerleader. No, she was definitely not the stereotypical cheerleader type.

That would've been too easy.

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It was February of their sixth year then. James' temper was particularly short those days. This, of course, had nothing to do with Lily already having a date for Valentine's Day. He was used to it. Valentine's Day (plus) Lily with a date who is not James (equals) tradition. It did, however, have everything to do with who she was going to Hogsmeade with.

Amos Diggory was a bastard, to put it nicely. James could've sworn he was the most infuriating Hufflepuff in the history of Hogwarts. And that was putting it lightly, because Hufflepuffs were generally the nice, quiet ones, who seldom caused any trouble. Amos was the drawback of Hufflepuff house. He was the smelly armpit of the clique, the stupid stain that won't go away, the downward spiral that brought them all crashing down. The Marauders knew this well enough and stood by it (although Remus once mentioned that all their loathing was make-believe and petty), but what had always boggled them—most especially James and Sirius—was why everyone else adored Diggory and his stupid smarty-arse antics. For crying out loud, the wanker said things like 'Bob's your uncle' and 'Kiss me, I'm English'. How dare he sully and tarnish the proverb that was only partially tolerable when uttered by those of Irish descent?

There was something wrong with Amos Diggory. He was a freak in disguise. James knew he had to do something about it, and the date with Lily was the perfect opportunity.

Nonetheless, it still made him angry. How—just how could Lily have agreed to a date with him, of all people. It was just… unthinkable.

But, yes, he did do something about it. Unfortunately, that day proved to be the end of his believed mission in life. February 14 of 1976 had then attested itself as the dawn of James Potter's retirement. That day, he walked out of the Three Broomsticks, head hung low, a prominent scowl pasted on his face, with Lily's sharp whispers ringing in his ears.

"For once in your life, Potter, can't you just find a girl—any girl at all—who you can go out and actually be with so you can stop following me around all the bloody time. This has been going on for such a long time now. I'm sick of it. Sick of seeing you everywhere I turn. You've successfully made my privacy nonexistent. You can stop ruining my life now. Just… leave me alone."

That was when he walked out.

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There had been two Hogsmeade visits since the one on Valentine's Day. Lily had not gone on both. She had undoubtedly stayed at the library either to do some revising or to read books. Normally James would have stayed behind, too, so he could lurk around the library and watch her, but he didn't then.

Now it was the middle of May, and there was another Hogsmeade visit. Lily had a date. James had always found it slightly irksome that Lily could say yes to almost anyone who asked her out for a quick rendezvous in the village, while he had always been turned down. Somehow, to make himself feel better, James had learned to make himself believe that Lily did this intentionally to make him writhe and twitch in agony, simply because she was sadistic and she liked seeing the love of her life go red in the face with jealousy.

She was cruel, but for some reason, he loved her.

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He was standing in the Smelly Section, stocking up on dungbombs, when she strolled in and casually stood beside him, looking around for nothing in particular. He had blinked at least 50 times, and yet the apparition still hadn't vanished, so he figured she was the real thing.

"Evans, aren't you a little out of place here?"

"What d'you mean?"

"Well… did you even read the sign outside?"

"Why, is there something there that says I'm banned from this store?"

"Nooo… just that the sign said, well, you know… Zonko's."

"And what's wrong with me browsing inside Zonko's?"

"Nothing! Nothing."

"Good, because I could have a little brother, you know? Whose birthday is coming up."

"You don't have a little brother. You have an older sister named Petunia."

She glared at him.

"A cousin, then."

"Right. So how was the date?"

"You wouldn't know, would you? Because you weren't there."

"And that's why I'm asking you."

"Whatever."

James silently marveled at how odd their conversation was turning out.

"Well, if you're this grumpy, it must've been bad. Look! You're even running to the headquarters of pranks and all things un-prefect-esque… and… and dungbombs for—I'm assuming—a laugh. It must've been horrible."

She ignored him.

"Why weren't you there?"

"I just wasn't."

"Potter, why weren't you there?"

"Evans, you told me not to go."

"So you didn't?"

"So I didn't."

"But I've always told you not to go!"

"Yes, but last time you, well, I just… look, I didn't want to go as far as ruining your life, Evans. And I never meant to make your privacy nonexistent. I hadn't realized I was doing that."

"Potter, that's what I do. I tell you to leave me alone, and you don't listen to me. That's how it's always been. You know I just said that to keep in character!"

"You did?"

"No, I didn't."

"But you just said so."

"Uh… no, I didn't."

They stood there for a while, staring at the dungbombs in front of them.

"So you actually want me to be there?"

"No."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

"No."

"What?"

"I mean no. When I said yes, I meant no."

James took a couple of seconds to figure out what she meant. He almost snorted at the hilarity of it when he finally did.

"Evans, did you come in here just to see me?"

"No, I'm here to look at dungbombs. Because I've never seen them up close, and I need to know what they actually look like so I can identify and confiscate them."

James grinned.

"You're cute."

"Shut up."

"You mean thank you?"

"No."

"Okay."

"So next time, you, uh, shouldn't be there."

"Gotcha."

"Do realize that I don't want you there."

"Naturally."

"Right. I'm gonna go now."

"Alright. Be careful on your way out."

She took one last look at the dungbombs and walked up to the door.

"Hey, Evans!"

"What?"

"I'm getting to you, aren't I?"

She rolled her eyes.

He smiled.

"That's what I thought."

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All Hogsmeade visits after that were just like the normal ones. Lily dated; James watched. The only time he stopped—permanently, too—was sometime in the middle of 7th year. It was when he realized that it was both impossible and inane to spy on one's own dates.


A/N I should be procrastinating for school right now, but I found it boring, so I just went ahead and wrote this. Review, my lovelies!