She clutched her side in a stitch, glad his back was rumbling against hers so she didn't fall further to the floor. After a moment, she quieted, as did he, and her finger made idle patterns in the carpet.
"Alright," she said softly, "what about in first year? When you wrote 'for a good time, owl Lily Evans' on the Quidditch Pitch in the final game? I was getting horribly obscene letters all summer. I was rather traumatized."
He let out a laugh of triumph. "I had forgotten about that," he cried, but sensing her frustrated discomfort, continued on in more serious tones. "Well at first I had only written your name, and then had planned to ask you to go out with me…but when I looked up into the stands to make sure I had your attention, all of your friends were looking down at me like I was such an idiot, and you had this prudish look on your face like what I was doing was so immature. It had taken me weeks to learn how to do that spell right, and I just…I dunno…if it helps any, most of those letters were from Sirius and I anyway…"
"For the record, where did you find a graffiti spell?" she asked, unable to hide the curiousness from her voice.
"In Flourish & Blotts before term started in this really great book about party decorations. I figured it would come in handy."
She bit back a smile. James Potter could always be seen in bookstores, buying loads more books than most would deem healthy, but the content should never be taken at face value when his eyes were memorizing the pages. It was too bad it took his indulgent parents so long to understand this. Approximately six years of terror on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be precise.
"Okay then, what about in fifth year when you dyed my hair green in herbology?" she asked.
"Technically, that was also not my fault," he said. He could hear the amusement in her voice when she made a disbelieving sound.
Very slowly, looking straight ahead and trying not to blush, he slid one of his hands slowly back until it hit the one she had left casually at her side. His fingers began to lightly stroke hers and he felt her stiffen in response.
"It isn't my fault your hair is such a distracting shade of red. I dyed it green because Professor Fownes said that if I was caught daydreaming again, which really was just me staring at you, that I'd have detention that night, which was a full moon. I couldn't obviously get detention, so I took away the distraction."
She laughed. "Do you remember Emmeline's face?"
He laughed as well. "She just kept screaming and pointing at your head. From her angle, with the green plants right behind you, she thought all of your hair had fallen out and you had gone bald."
"And you ended up with detention for three days instead of just that night," she said.
"Yeah, it was alright though. That was the reason Sirius hexed the whole Slytherin table into musical theatre. Never knew Iverson was a soprano," he said.
"By that point you'd think they'd give you separate detentions."
"Oh they did. We just had ways around that. Speaking of which, you know that mirror you caught me talking to on occasion in fourth year?"
"Don't tell me: another Marauder artifact?"
"Two way mirrors. It killed me having you think I was talking to my reflection, but Sirius would have done worse if I had said anything. We knew you'd be a shoe-in for prefect the following year, and it had taken us ages to find a set."
"Only you two would know to look," she said wryly.
"Alright," he said defensively. "My turn then. Why did you blow me off at the end of fourth year when I asked if I could write to you? I hadn't drawn a crowd that time, and none of our friends were around, and if memory serves correct, I think I was rather sure I was very polite about it."
"You did stutter a lot without all the extra attention on us I recall," she teased and he rolled his eyes though she couldn't see.
"Oh sure, stake a knife in old wounds," he bit back playfully and she laughed. "I'm serious. Why did you have to tell me that my words weren't worth the paper and ink they would be written with? Why did you always have to come up with such creative ways of cutting me down?"
She was silent for a long time. Part of her wanted to bitterly tell him that pots shouldn't call kettles black, but she knew that she had been much more vicious than he had at times.
"I don't know if I can explain it to you James. You can't look at yourself from another person's perspective," she whispered.
"Try anyway. Tell me what I was like that made you that way."
"You weren't serious about anything James!" she said exasperated. "So why would I have thought you were ever serious about me?"
"You were the one thing I was serious about. Everything else…none of it really mattered because none of it was ever good enough to get me recognition from you. I used to think that if I was just smart enough or talented enough or funny enough…"
"No. I mean it. For as far back as I can remember my parents have wanted me to grow up. I guess that's why I've always been so dead-set against it. But growing up for you?" He shook his head.
"I was just this nerdy kid with messy hair and glasses. I broke more bones that first summer holiday practicing moves to make it on the team than I did in my entire seven years of school. I read endlessly dull books on the most inane subjects for class just so it meant I could make snide comments about how I thought that everyone knew those things and make you see how intelligent I was. I'd go without sleep for a week if it meant we'd come up with a genius prank with just enough flare that everyone would know we had done it and just enough generality that it couldn't be officially pinned on us.
"Sometimes I look back on all of that and think about how I was such an idiot, but then I think about how now isn't any better. I'm no closer to proving that I'm not really a prat."
"Well…" Lily said after a moment, "You have stopped dating Hufflepuffs…"
James did not realize that this was such a touchy subject for Lily and thus began laughing. "That's the thing about quitting something you never started," he gasped out, "it's much easier to do than quitting something you actually did do."
"What?" Lily asked startled, not quite believing what she was hearing. "You mean to tell me that since fourth year and Emmeline Vance, you've never dated anyone?"
"I didn't even date Emmeline Vance in fourth year!" he said.
"That's preposterous," she said huffily, and withdrew her hand from his. Finally understanding it was a seriously sore point for her, he too became serious.
"Well it's the truth. I wasn't even at Hogsmeade that day. I was with my mates in the Slytherin common room trying to redecorate a bit, but when everyone got back it was rather obvious that we had been the culprits. Until suddenly, Emmeline spread this rumor that she and I had gone to Hogsmeade together. Well, at the time, I didn't know why she had done it, because surely she couldn't have known she was covering for us. It turns out she had made a bet that she could get me on a date, and when she hadn't been able to find me anywhere, she bluffed, hoping that no one else had seen me either."
"Oh," Lily said quietly.
"Over the years, girls have claimed they were on dates or snogging with me, and it always made you so angry. I thought maybe it was making you jealous. Whenever one of the guys heard about a new one, they'd just encourage it. We all did that sort of thing for each other. We were such idiots. I think Sirius was the only one of us actually snogging anyone, and Remus may have actually been on a date or two, but most of our reputations are complete bollocks."
Lily took her hand and placed it on James's again. He turned his palm up and she laced her fingers in his.
"So now you know all my secrets," he said. "Even the embarrassing ones."
"I still can't believe you're an animangi, or you have a map of the school, or you have an invisibility cloak!"
He grinned. "I'll take you in it sometime if you'd like. Down to the kitchens or somewhere."
She couldn't help the smile. "How about right now?" she asked softly.
"We're on duty," he said, looking around the empty North Tower Balcony. "We're supposed to be catching students out of bed."
"And a bang-up job we're doing, wouldn't you say? They're so afraid of being caught by you they don't even come out anymore," she teased.
"What? That isn't true," he protested.
"Ever since you caught those two sixth years behind greenhouse 4 who both had invisibility charms placed over them, no one wants to be out when you're on duty. They know you know every secret spot in the school," she teased.
"For the record, that was an accident, and you can be invisible all you want but you're still going to be suspect if you're making loud moans every three seconds," he said bitterly, trying not to think about how awkward that had been.
She laughed. "So are we going then?" she asked, and squeezed his hand. His closed his eyes tight. What was she trying to do to him? He was trying to play by the rules. He was trying to be a good Head Boy as much as it killed him, and here she was deliberately bating him. There was no way he was going to fall for it!
"Fine, but if we get caught, I'm blaming it on you," he said, and opened his eyes. Funny how that wasn't what he had meant to say.
He stood up and began to sneak off. She laughed. "You're Head boy now, you don't have to sneak around like that."
He grinned and blushed. "I knew that," he said. "Force of habit is all."
"Uh huh," she said, and he winked at her before dragging her back to their common room. He grabbed his cloak without arousing too much suspicion from his dorm mates and met her back outside the portrait hole.
He snuck up behind her under the cloak and tossed it over her head. She gasped, clearly startled, and backed up into him. He laughed in her ear.
"Ready?" he asked. She stepped forward and nodded.
"How do the four of you move in here? It's not so bad with just the two of us, but managing to not trip or run into each other must be impossible," she whispered.
"It's murder now that we've grown so much, but we don't generally use it all at once anymore. Besides, we've had years of practice. None of us can sneak up on each other without the other knowing. We've built up this sixth sense when it comes to each other's movements."
She noticed that he seemed completely in tune with the way she moved as well. "You seem to adapt well to anyone's movements," she said.
He was silent a moment, before lacing his fingers in hers and whispering, "Nah, it's just I've spent years watching your backside."
She seemed startled by his words and didn't know what to say. This seemed to be the desired affect because he laughed lightly. He pulled her to a stop and threw the cloak off.
"James, what are you--?"
"Dance with me," he said, pulling her hands into position and began grand sweeping movements of an elegant waltz. She followed, completely taken off guard and struggling to keep up.
"Stop trying to lead and stop watching your feet," he laughed. "I promise I know what I'm doing."
She looked up. She had never danced with anyone before like this, and so had no idea what to do. There was no music to count the time. His hands guided her along, his eyes demanding her submission to his whim, and together they danced around the wide hallway.
She could not stop smiling as he twirled her about and she let out gasping laughs as he dipped her this way and that, terrified he might drop her and sure he wouldn't.
He was just bowing to her to end the dance as she stepped back and curtsied when they heard a pair of hands clapping behind them. Startled, they turned, and she remembered his words about blaming her as she looked into the eyes of the Headmaster.
"Lily," he greeted. "Lovely evening, isn't it?"
"Hello Professor. Yes, it is," she said awkwardly, expecting rebuke.
"James, you're getting sloppy," the old man said in what seemed to be a slightly teasing tone.
"Oh come on, Professor," James protested. "We were doing rounds, I swear. Only it was so boring up there and we needed to stretch our legs a bit."
"By ballroom dancing in the corridor leading to the kitchens with your Invisibility Cloak tossed on the floor?" Dumbledore asked, sounding very highly amused.
"Er, well, about that…" James said, his hand reaching up to scratch at the back of his head, a tell tale sign that he knew he was caught.
"It's a good thing all the teachers are at a staff meeting right now or you might be in trouble, and it just wouldn't do to have our two Head students in detention, now would it?" Dumbledore politely enquired.
James grinned and dropped his hand. "No sir, it wouldn't. Which is why the Head Girl and I are on our way back to our common room after investigating a reported disturbance down this way."
"I see," Dumbledore said, before nodding to each of them. "Good night, then, Mr. Potter, Miss Evans."
"Good night, sir," they both replied, before James picked up his cloak and they headed back.
"Dumbledore knows about your cloak?" she asked.
"Oh that? Yeah. He can see through them actually. Rather unfair actually, but it's made us extra cautious."
"Does he know about…you know, you going to see Remus?" she probed softly.
"No," James said. "I want to tell him. So many times I've thought about it. We all have. But there's just so much to risk. It's bigger than all of us now. Somehow it got out of control…at the end of sixth year, which is why we calmed down so much. Dumbledore knows that much at least, but that night, that was the worst night of my life."
"And what about the best?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood. "What was the best day or night of your life?"
"Honestly?" he asked, and she nodded. "Tonight," he said. "Getting to tell you the truth about everything. Letting you know that I'm not such a prat, and that I did have reasons for the things I did, even if they were stupid reasons."
"James," she whispered. He laughed it off awkwardly and began to turn away, but she grabbed his hand.
He turned back to her, closer than she thought he would and she looked down at her hands holding his arm. "Let's be friends James," she whispered.
"Don't," he said darkly, almost cutting off her words. "Just don't Lily."
"Don't what?" she demanded softly.
"Don't ask that of me," he growled. "Don't pretend like it would be anything but a false pretense. Don't put more false pretenses between us when we've finally been honest. I can't be your friend."
"Why?" she breathed, and he made an exasperated noise before stepping forward, causing her to stumble back into the wall in surprise. He shook his head at her in disbelief before leaning his face right up to hers.
"If you don't know why," he said silkily, watching her cheeks flush and her eyes widen in surprise, "after everything that's been building between us this past year..."
But then he was staring at her lips and he couldn't really remember what his point was. "Ask me to kiss you," he whispered and he saw her tremble. "And I'll show you why we can't be friends."
"James…I can't ask you that…" He grunted softly, angry and amused.
"Then don't ask, and let me kiss you anyway," he said, and before she could protest, he wove his hand through her hair and pressed his lips against hers. She stood absolutely still as he softly began moving his lips over hers, lazily making chaste warm kisses with her lips. Not friends, he thought, never friends.
Her lips opened slightly and her head tilted a fraction, and he began to pull back, only to find her leaning into him as he moved. He pushed his lips against hers again, but she still didn't respond, and so he softly pulled away only to come back to kiss her several times.
He lingered finally, not moving at all other than to breathe in harmony with her, his eyes closed tight as he savored the feeling of it. She began to slide her lips against his, softly, tentatively, but for a moment he couldn't respond. It was though he could hear her in his mind, begging him softly not to stop. It began to build, had started out languid, but slipped quickly out of control. She opened her mouth just a little too long and his tongue slid in, tasting and tentatively searching out her own. He liked how she tasted: wet and warm and sweet. He could feel her breathing as she clutched him tighter to her. Her chest rubbed against him with each heave as his tongue rolled and massaged hers.
"What in the devil is going on here?" McGonagall's voice cried shrilly.
They startled apart immediately, both beginning to speak at once.
"Oh Merlin, uh, well, the thing is that—"
"Professor! I can explain—"
Insane laughter met their ears, and their eyes focused on one Sirius Black, who was literally rolling on the floor with tears in his eyes.
"That was not funny," James declared, but his lips twitched as he said it. Lily made a huffing sound beside him.
"Sirius, I told you I was going to be patrolling tonight. Why are you out? You know I have to dock you points!" But, seeing that Sirius wasn't going to be up any time soon, he slipped his hand in Lily's and pulled her away.
"Where are we going?" she asked as they took a corridor leading away from the tower.
"Back to the North Tower Balcony, where we're suppose to be," he said.
They made the rest of the journey silently, and when they entered, Lily let go of his hand and quickly made the rounds about the room, checking for out of bed students. Finding none, she turned back to him.
"What happens now?" she asked.
"Now?" he asked slightly drowsy. "Now the truth comes out."
"And what is the truth?"
"Do you still want to be friends?"
"You said we couldn't be," she said slowly, looking at him strangely.
"That's not what I'm asking," he said sharply. "I'm asking what you want."
"You've never seemed to care about that before," she whispered. There was a long silence between them.
"Are you saying then, that is shouldn't matter now? Because if it doesn't, I'll just as soon put you up against that wall behind you, or any in this castle for that matter, and snog you senseless."
"Don't be crude," she admonished softly, because she didn't know how else to react to how serious he was. He stepped up close to her and true to form, she didn't back down.
"I'm not being crude, I'm being honest."
"Well the way you put it was crude. You could have phrased it differently. It wasn't just some hallway snog show for your friends to me! It wasn't just some kiss in a long history of—"
"It wasn't for me either! In case we haven't already established this, that was my first kiss, from the only girl I've ever wanted to kiss, and if it was a bit unromantic, well then sod it all because I've been waiting for that one bloody kiss for going on seven years now since I figured out what kissing a girl actually entails and mmmrrpph."
He was abruptly cut off. He blinked as she pulled away. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "That was a tactless way of saying it was my first kiss too."
"Oh," he said, not moving his hands from where they had cradled the small of her back to hold her close. "Well then I forgive you."
He bit his lip, and looked nervous. "What?" she asked.
"I'm going to do something, but I don't know what your reaction is going to be," he said.
She looked wary, but he sighed, and pulled her a little closer. She tensed, but he only rushed in one quick word, "Willyougooutwithme?"
She grinned a beautifully wicked smile and laughed a little joyous noise. "Now was that so hard?"
"What?" he choked.
"All this time, all I've wanted was for you to stop being such a prat and instead of making a show of it, take me somewhere quiet and private, kiss me senseless and ask me sincerely if I'd be with you. It's really not that much to ask for, considering most girls' ideas of how they want it to go, but for some reason, it's taken you six years to finally get it right."
"You're horrible," he said in a tone that clearly said he could not believe what she had just said.
"Yes," she said.
He gulped. "On which account?"
They did not return to the common room that evening until much later than their patrol required.
AN: mucho thanks to syamee and Nathan for their hilarious and fast beta help! Everyone who reviews get a chocolate cream pie with coconut! (I've gotten a little burned out on the cookies, and syamee is going to help me bake!…well, mix up instant pudding mix, but you get the idea…).