On the morning of her birthday, Lily Evans was awakened not by her usual awakening charm, but by a rather loud "Happy Birthday!"
She groaned and rolled over, but it was too late. Her roommates had seen that she was awake and pounced on the opportunity to wish her happy birthday, literally. All three of them climbed onto the four-poster bed and poked and prodded Lily while she mumbled and tried to hide under the covers. Finally she resigned to the fact that they weren't going to leave her alone and climbed out of bed, her bare feet hitting the cold hardwood causing her to shudder.
"Here, open mine first!" Anna said, positively bouncing on the bed. She thrust her gift into Lily's open hands. She was quickly followed by Jean and Carolyn.
Lily opened her presents meticulously, unwrapping each carefully, saving every piece of paper and ribbon for later. The other girls groaned and shouted at her to just open them already, but she continued to pick them apart carefully. When she was done, she laid her gifts out on her bed: Socks and a new quill set from her parents, a muggle record from Anna, Chocolate Frogs and a photo album from Jean, and a subscription to Witch Weekly from Carolyn. Somehow she felt something was missing. It was then that she noticed she didn't have anything from James Potter.
Usually James played some stupid prank on her first thing in the morning. Last year it had been transfiguring her Charms book into a kitten. The spell wore off after the day was over, but unfortunately not before her Charms test. The year before had been fireworks in the Great Hall. He would have been suspended if Professor McGonagall had been able to obtain any evidence, but conveniently the fireworks dissolved after they were finished exploding.
Yes, that was James Potter, Lily thought with an inward sigh. Full of eagerness and zest. There were times when she was drifting off to sleep that she almost admired that quality in him, but in the morning light things were much more black and white and she reverted back to her familiar dislike. Well, perhaps dislike is too strong, she reasoned. It was more that he irritated her more than anything in the world. He had this way of getting under her skin that no one else did. She was thinking of him while she dressed in her black robes (and new socks), and silently berated herself for thinking of him on her birthday. This was supposed to be her day, not a day for James Potter to ruin.
She went down the breakfast slightly anxious. When Anna questioned why she was so jumpy, she blamed it on the test they had later that week. When Carolyn asked who she was looking for at the breakfast table, she lied and said that she needed notes from Remus. When the boys finally came down to breakfast, though, James barely looked at her except to give her a quick smile.
She ate her breakfast indignantly. It was so like James Potter to get her hopes up for a birthday gift only to be let down. No, that wasn't entirely true. Actually, James had never let her down. He always asked her out at every opportune moment and always brought her back something from Honeyduke's when he visited. When she was sick with the flu last year, he had even visited and brought her notes from the classes she had missed, even the ones that he didn't have. She stared at her eggs with alarm. She had come to a staggering realization. Despite all his pranks, despite all his ego and despite his seeming immaturity, James Potter was a good person. Better than good, actually. He had never let her down once.
The problem was, as soon as he did something nice, he inevitably ruined it by doing something equally stupid. For instance, he had transfigured her a kitten from her Charms book, but he had done it the day of her Charms test. Or, he had once brought her back candy made with nuts without realizing her allergy. She had had to be rushed to the hospital wing immediately after tasting it.
She sighed softly to herself as she pushed her eggs around her plate. This was supposed to be her birthday. So, why couldn't she stop thinking about the goofy brunette down the table?
"You okay?" Remus asked softly from across the table. It took Lily a moment before she realized he was speaking to her.
"Oh, yeah," she said quickly with a forced smile.
"Happy Birthday," he said with a smile.
"Thank you." She returned his smile warmly.
Remus caught her glancing down at James and smiled slightly, studying her with his hazel eyes.
"He hasn't forgotten," Remus said in a low voice, leaning across the table towards Lily.
"Oh, I know," Lily said, and then added quickly, "Who hasn't forgotten what?"
Remus chuckled lightly. "James. Your birthday. I noticed you looking at him, just now," Remus said, motioning towards James with his fork. Lily looked at James quickly, but he was engrossed in a conversation with Peter across from him and didn't look up. She felt the heat rising in her face.
"Well, it's just that every other year...," Lily trailed off. She didn't want to admit that she perhaps missed James' attention. He hadn't said much to her in the past couple weeks, actually. He seemed to always be with Peter, and Remus seemed to always be with Sirius. Now that she thought about it, Lily found it odd that the four of them no longer were together all the time. She glanced up at Remus and found his eyes had shifted from her to Sirius on his left. She watched as Sirius and Remus exchanged smiles and a seed of curiosity transplanted itself in her mind.
"Don't worry," Remus assured her, having turned back to her after his brief eye contact with Sirius.
"I'm not worried!" Lily exclaimed, causing most of the table to turn towards her. She reddened and lowered herself in her seat.
"Alright, Evans?" James called from down the table.
She nodded and put her head down, wishing that the day would just end already.
Six hours later, she got her wish as the last class, Potions, let out. She followed the other Gryffindors and Slytherins out of the dungeon and up the stairs. She heard someone hurrying up the stairs behind her, bumping into people as he went. Just as she was about to turn around to see who it was, he appeared beside her.
"Happy Birthday," he said, grinning.
She couldn't help but smile back. "Thank you."
"Are you busy later?" he asked. A hand raised, presumably to ruffle his hair but he stopped it with conscious effort and ended up rubbing the back of his neck.
"I might be," Lily replied in what she hoped was a mysterious and elusive manner.
"Oh, okay," James shrugged, mistaking her answer for the familiar rejection. He started to turn the opposite way down the corridor when Lily grabbed his sleeve.
"I'm not busy," she said honestly.
"Can you meet me at the Astronomy Tower at eight? I have...um...something I want to give you, for your birthday," James said, stumbling over his words. "It's not much, but, uh..."
"Eight is fine," Lily interrupted with a smile. She sometimes wondered how he was one of the smartest students in the school. He usually had difficulty putting together sentences in her presence.
"Okay, good!" He gave her that lopsided grin that she loved to hate and bounded off down the corridor. Lily headed in the opposite direction towards the library, still smiling to herself.
As she was turning the corner towards the library, she came upon an unexpected sight. Sirius and Remus were standing across from each other in the corridor. That wasn't the unexpected part. The unexpected part was that Sirius had intertwined Remus' fingers in his own and was kissing the tips of them. Lily backed out around the corner as quickly as she had turned it and counted to ten slowly. She then proceeded to cough before she came around the corner in what she hoped was a casual manner. Sure enough, Sirius and Remus were no longer holding hands but were instead talking in a casual manner both with arms folded.
"Why Sirius," Lily teased, "I never thought I'd see you so close to a library."
Sirius grinned at her. "There are certain things that occasionally motivate me to enter the library," he said, his eyes flickering over to Remus and back to her face.
"I don't suppose those certain things are books?"
Sirius shook his head. "What have books ever done for me?"
Remus opened his mouth as if to answer, and then shut it again, realizing it was a losing battle. He rolled his eyes at Lily before strolling back down the corridor, Sirius at his heels. Lily smiled quietly to herself as she entered the library. Sirius and Remus. Interesting.
"Everything's set," Remus told James a few hours later after returning to the Gryffindor Common Room from the Astronomy Tower.
"Thanks." James face broke into a relieved smile.
"Don't mention it," Remus shrugged. "Good luck."
James sighed and mussed his hair with his free hand. The other hand was carrying the card for one Lily Evans.
Remus patted him on the back and watched him leave the common room.
"Do you think he can pull it off?" Sirius asked from the couch.
Remus considered it. "I think he just might."
At eight o'clock, Lily Evans left her room. At eight ten she ascended the Astronomy Tower stairs. At eight thirteen she arrived at her destination and looked around for James Potter.
She spotted him sitting on a parapet, fiddling with something nervously in his hands. He stood when she approached.
"I thought you weren't going to come," he said, relief clear on his face.
"I just didn't want to appear overly anxious."
"So, you're anxious?" James asked with a smile.
"No, that's why I'm fifteen minutes late," Lily said irritably.
"Thirteen minutes," James contradicted. Lily just looked at him.
"So, what is this birthday present you wanted to give me?" Lily asked.
James handed her the paper he was fiddling with and watched as Lily sat down to open it. A smile spread across her face as she read it. When she looked up, James was startled to see her eyes were watery.
"Good Godric, Evans, don't cry. It's not that bad, is it?" James asked, startled at her sudden show of emotion.
Lily shook her head and gave a shaky laugh. "It's just the best present I've ever received, that's all. No one has ever made me anything before. Thank you."
She stood and looked at him shyly for a moment before reaching out and giving him a quick hug. When she pulled away, she was surprised to see James blushing. James never blushed. She smiled to herself and started walking towards the spiral stairs leading downwards.
"Wait, where are you going?" James called.
Lily turned around. "I was going back to Gryffindor Tower."
"But there's more."
"More?" Lily asked, her eyebrows raised. Her mind didn't dare think of what more could possibly entail.
"Yeah," James nodded. "Just wait for a bit."
"Okay," Lily agreed. She didn't have anything that she needed to do, it was just that she didn't want to be stuck in a potentially awkward situation with James Potter of all people.
They sat on the side of the tower together in silence at first. Then, uncomfortable with the silence, Lily tried to think of things to talk about. It was then that her mind wandered back to what she had seen in the corridor earlier.
"So, Remus and Sirius seem pretty close these days," Lily said in what she hoped was a casual manner.
James turned his head sharply towards her.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Calm down, Potter. I only meant that they seem to be spending a lot of time together."
James shrugged. "I suppose."
"You and Sirius have a row or something?" Lily asked. Even though she knew why Sirius was spending so much time with Remus, she didn't know if James knew or if he would want her to know.
"No, we didn't have a row. They just get along well."
"Oh," Lily said quietly.
There was a moment of silence before James spoke again, his tone cautious.
"What did you see?"
"What do you mean?" Lily asked quickly.
"I mean that you must have seen something to bring up Sirius and Remus. You saw them together, didn't you?"
"Listen, you can't tell anyone," James said earnestly.
"I won't. I promise," Lily added.
James looked up in the sky idly and then jumped to his feet. He grabbed Lily's hand and pulled her to her feet before she could ask what was going on.
"Come on," James said, pulling her towards a telescope.
"What is it?" Lily asked. James pointed to the sky. There were bright flashes of light across the night sky.
"It's the Lyriad meteor shower," James told her. "It happened to fall on your birthday this year so I thought you might want to see it."
He motioned for her to look through the lens. She looked through and sure enough, the bright flashes of light were meteors. She gazed in awe at the white streaks that littered the dark sky. It was breathtaking.
As she looked through the telescope, she felt overwhelmed at this genuine kindness displayed by James. It wasn't meant to happen like this. He was supposed to be some stupid boy who played stupid pranks. He wasn't supposed to be this considerate, wonderful boy. Her head was spinning all of a sudden, and she pulled away from the telescope.
"You okay?" James asked as Lily swayed slightly. She nodded with a smile.
"Just dizzy," she told him. He put his hands on her forearms from where he stood behind her to prevent her from falling over. She heard herself laugh.
"What's so funny?" James asked, his eyes full of amusement.
Lily answered with her back still to him, looking up at the sky. "It's so beautiful. It makes me giddy."
"I know the feeling," James murmured and Lily felt a chill go down her spine when she realized that he wasn't talking about the meteor shower. He dropped his hands to his sides and went around her to look through the telescope.
"Yeah, it's amazing," he agreed. He pulled back from the telescope and turned towards her.
"Remus set up the telescope earlier," he admitted suddenly. "I didn't want to mess it up."
Lily smiled at him. "I hope Remus didn't make the card too?"
"Oh no. That was all me. All my artistic talent pooled into that one piece of construction paper," James said with a grin.
"Well, I like it," Lily declared. She grinned at him, a rare occurrence, and James swelled with pride.
"Happy Birthday Lily," he said with that lopsided grin that she loved.
"Thank you," Lily said softly, realizing that he had called her by her first name. She sensed something was changing between them, and while it sent tingles through her being it was also starting to scare her.
"I better go," she said suddenly.
"All right," James nodded.
"You coming?" she asked when she started to walk away. James shook his head.
"I'm just going to stay here for a bit."
"Well, all right," Lily said uncertainly. She felt like she had done something wrong, and then felt angry. What had he expected? For her to just kiss him? Sleep with him? She knew what students used the Astronomy Tower for. She had even experienced those 'extra-curricular' activities on a few occasions in her six years at Hogwarts. She changed her mind and walked over to him.
"Did you just take me up here so I would make out with you?" she demanded. James turned around, startled.
"What? No! No, that wasn't it at all," he insisted. He then gave a little laugh and she looked at him, wondering exactly what was so funny.
"You know," he mused, "After getting rejected so many times, you would think that I would get used to it, that it would get easier. It doesn't get easier," he admitted, "But I've had enough experience with it that I would never hope, except in my wildest dreams, that you would make out with me right now. I didn't mean to get you that impression, Lily. I just really wanted to make your birthday special."
"Okay," Lily said and she believed him. And it was because she believed him that she did the unexpected; She leaned over and kissed him. She pulled away quickly, the weight of her actions sinking in.
They stood, after, facing each other, both of them filled with panic. Neither expected that to happen. Lily waited for James to make some wise-crack comment, but he didn't. Instead he reached out and touched her red hair tentatively, near her neck. Lily became painfully aware of the silence that surrounded them. The only sound was their breathing, slow and steady, and the echoing bird calls from the forest below. She felt her heart pounding as he slowly moved his hand to behind her neck and pulled her gently towards him.
She froze, staring into his brown eyes. All she seemed capable of doing was breathing, and even that was taking some effort at the moment. He bent his neck slightly and touched his lips to hers gently. She closed her eyes and felt herself kiss back, as if by some instinct that she had acquired at birth. He kissed her again, just slowly and gently as if savouring her. It was on the third kiss that she came to her senses and moved her hand from her side to his neck. She ran her thumb along his jaw, feeling the slight stubble there. Slow, soft kisses turned into deep and more passionate kisses until they pulled away, both out of breath.
"I suppose I must be dreaming," James breathed. Lily reached out and pinched him with a slight smile. James jumped and rubbed the skin there.
"No, you're not dreaming," Lily confirmed. "But it is probably nine and we should get going."
James looked like he was going to argue but then nodded and followed her down the stairs. They didn't speak, but it wasn't the awkward silence as before. Instead it was contemplative as both turned the nights events over in their minds. When they reached Gryffindor Tower they exchanged secretive glances before slipping in through the portrait.
Sirius and Remus were playing wizard chess and glanced up when James and Lily arrived. They looked at James questioningly but his face remained blank.
"Good night, Lily," he said as she ascended the stairs to the girls dormitory.
"Good night, Po – James," she replied and was soon out of sight.
"So?" Sirius asked, jumping to his feet and upsetting the chess board. There were muffled shouts as the chess pieces fell off the board and onto the floor.
James smiled at the two of them in such a way that they knew immediately what had happened.
"So, it worked?" Remus said, disbelief seeping into his voice.
James nodded. "You're looking at the man who just kissed Lily Evans."
Sirius snorted. "You're hardly a man, Prongs. You still sleep with that bear in your bed."
"Hey! Leave Binky out of this!" James said defensively while Remus fell out of his chair laughing and his head with a thud on the floor. A soft groan was issued from his lips.
"All right, all right. So you kissed Evans," Sirius resigned. "Well done."
He patted James on the back before kneeling down to pick up the chess pieces and Remus who was still on the floor chuckling
James felt a rush of exhilaration when he realized that he had accomplished what he had been trying to accomplish every since he saw Lily for the first time on the Hogwarts Express in their first year. He suddenly felt like he had all the energy in the world. There was no way he was going to be able to get to sleep like this.
"You want to go for a run?" he asked Sirius. Sirius looked up at him, a grin spreading on his face. He nodded eagerly while he put the chess pieces away. Remus looked at the two of them warily.
"I think I'm going to bed," he said. "You two have fun. Be careful."
James scoffed. "We're always careful, Moony!"
Remus opened his mouth, as if to argue, but instead he just nodded.
"Good night," Sirius said and felt an ache when he realized that he didn't have the luxury of kissing Remus goodnight with four other Gryffindors in the common room.
Remus gave them a wave and started up the stairs.
"Let me grab my coat," Sirius said to James a moment later and hurried up the stairs after Remus. James smiled to himself, knowing all too well that it was the middle of April and no coat was required. Not to mention as soon as they got outside they would transform into their Animagus forms anyway. Nonetheless, he didn't say a word as Sirius took the stairs two at a time.
"Remus!" he whispered urgently when he burst in the door.
Remus turned from where he was unbuttoning his robes. He looked at Sirius expectantly.
Sirius grinned and crossed the room. "I just wanted to say good night."
"You already did," Remus pointed out, but his eyes sparkled with amusement.
Sirius opened his mouth to say something, and then, changing plans, closed it and abruptly kissed Remus firmly on the lips.
Remus smiled under the kiss and wrapped his arms around Sirius.
"Good night," he whispered after they had broken apart. "Now go downstairs. James is waiting."
Sirius nodded and kissed Remus quickly again before bounding out the door, forgetting completely about his jacket. Remus chuckled as he finished getting undressed.
"Where's your jacket?" James asked Sirius.
"Bugger the jacket," Sirius said abruptly and James burst into a fit of laughter when he realized his earlier suspicions were correct. He swung an arm around Sirius and they left the common room, disregarding curfew, and probably a dozen other school rules. Some things were just more important.