A/N: I must admit, I was very excited before writing this lat chapter. Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing and whatnot throughout this whole thing. Ah! I'm so happy! I hope you all enjoy this last chapter as much as I enjoyed scheming it and putting it together!
Disclaimer: I own nothing… especially not Harry Potter.
Way Ten: If all else fails, grovel.
Groveling was not something that James wanted to do. Groveling showed desperation, anger, and weakness. James did not like being weak, and nor did he like being annoying. However, since James realized that he had been relatively annoying throughout this entire "10 Ways" ordeal, he knew one last bit of annoyance wouldn't kill anyone. At least James hoped not.
Remus wasn't speaking to James still, but James hoped that they could make up before the full moon. James hated to think of Remus having to undergo the transformation without him there to help. Sirius noticed James's anxiety, and did what he could to encourage his friend.
"Don't worry Prongs! You'll be fine. Women always give in to groveling!"
James glared at Sirius as they strolled down the corridor.
"Somehow, you've said that before with all the other steps," James said with a hint of bitterness, "I'm starting to think that you don't know anything about women."
"Are you kidding?" Sirius scoffed, pausing to send a rude gesture to Regulus as he walked by, "I know everything about women!"
"Yeah, right," James said, "I just can't wait till this is over. I want to be with her so bad that it hurts, Padfoot. I don't wanna fail."
"You won't, James, trust me," Sirius replied confidently.
That night, James found that he just could not sleep. He tossed and turned, and finally sat up in his four-poster. A trip to the kitchens seemed to be in order. Yes, that seemed to be the right thing to do.
He swung his legs out of the bed and stoop up gingerly, throwing a bathrobe on over his pajamas and fastening his Head Boy badge to his chest. Technically, the Head Boy was allowed to patrol whenever he wanted, so he was safe with that excuse. James pushed open the portrait, but as he stepped out into the deserted corridor, he decided he wasn't hungry anymore.
"What I could really use," James muttered to himself, "Is some fresh air."
He headed out for the grounds. When James laid a hand on the door, he found that it opened easily and soundlessly. This was strange to James, because Filch always locked the doors before retiring for the night. Now very curious, James stepped outside, trying to make as little noise as possible. He walked down towards the lake and almost gave a shout as he saw someone moving. It was Lily, walking along in her pajamas and a bathrobe.
"What the –" James breathed, and quickly ducked behind the nearest wall.
He poked his head out from under cover and watched as Lily walked down the grounds (looking rather depressed all the while) and sat down on the edge of the lake. James contemplated the idea of going out and talking to Lily, but figured that she might not want to talk to any people at the moment.
That's it! She doesn't want to talk to any people
James looked around to make sure that nobody else was around, and then transformed into his animagus. James, as a stag, trotted over to where Lily was sitting by that lake, staring across at the icy depths. He nuzzled her hand and she jumped.
"What – oh! Why hello, little guy."
James inwardly scoffed – he was anything but little; he was practically a ten-point buck, for crying out loud! He watched as Lily sighed and he nuzzled her hand again with the tip of his nose. She looked back down at him, smiling.
"I wish I was a stag sometimes," Lily sighed, turning her gaze back towards the lake, "Life would be so much easier. No problems, no work, no lists…"
James, who had been relishing that Lily had called him a 'stag' and not a 'reindeer', snapped out of his reverie at the word 'list'. James settled down next to Lily, tucking his legs underneath himself, curious about where this monologue was going to end up.
"Oh well," Lily continued, plucking up a blade of grass and breaking it in half, "Tomorrow's judgment day, I guess. Sirius reckons James'll pull the last step tomorrow. I really hate to see him grovel, but he's really come so far…"
If James had been human, his jaw would have dropped. So, Lily knew? That really didn't make sense to James. And Sirius knew that Lily knew, and he hadn't told his best friend? James felt a tad bit angry at this.
James got up and scampered out of sight. He transformed back into himself, panting and confused about the information that he had just sustained. James felt betrayed and slightly angry and he knew one thing for sure: Tomorrow, he would not be groveling – not to anyone.
The atmosphere of the next morning was full of intensity. James refused to speak to Sirius at all that morning, and Sirius seemed to think it was merely because James was nervous, but it wasn't so. James proceeded to ignore everyone up until break, when people rushed outside to have a breather before going to lunch. Sirius, Remus, and Peter were nowhere to be found, but James didn't really give a care. James watched as Lily walked out the door, waited for about two minutes, and then strode outside, too.
James stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked around, searching for Lily. He found her standing by herself under the beech tree with a book in her hands, reading. James set his jaw, clenched his fists, and walked up to Lily. When Lily saw him, she couldn't help but let her face show some of her fear. James stopped in front of her, breathing slowly, and Lily quickly stuffed her book into her bag and put her bag on the ground.
"You probably think I'm coming here to grovel for your love, Lily Evans," James said, struggling to keep his voice steady, "But I'm not. I'm not going to grovel or beg or plead with you, because I know you know what's going on."
Lily stared, her mouth slightly agape and her hair blowing in front of her face. She hastily pushed her red hair behind her ear, apparently listening intently
"Now I'm going to say this once and you can take it or leave it, and if you leave it, I'll never ask you again." James took a deep breath. "Lily Evans, I am infatuated with you. I am in love with you. I have loved you for a long time and I've had to let you repeatedly push me away. I've written horrible poems for you and I've stooped to a low level for you. If you try to love me back, I will treat you fairly and devotedly."
Lily, to James's utmost surprise, smiled. James suddenly felt someone thump him on the back and he turned to see Sirius, Remus, and Peter all standing there, grinning from ear to ear.
"Congratulations, James Potter, you have passed the test," Sirius said, clapping James on the shoulder.
Now James stared.
"Test?" He asked in disbelief.
"Test," Lily confirmed. "I know ninety-nine percent of the story, but I can't explain it half as well as someone else here. Take it away, Sirius."
Sirius stepped forward and put an arm around James's shoulder.
"Prongs, my best friend, I've watched you suffer for this girl time and time again, and I decided I'd had enough. So, I went to the charming and beautiful Lily Evans and told her your situation. Apparently, she was nursing a small thing for you, but your reputation of going through women was not appealing, to say the least. Though I assured her time and time again that you were in 'love', she wanted to be sure. So, one fine day, I wrote up a list of the most ridiculous things that would show just how far you would go for her."
"It was hard," Remus interjected, "I had to pretend to be upset with you for weeks; we had to make it believable."
James turned, speechless, to Remus.
"You mean, you're not really mad? You were pretending? You knew about all of this?"
Remus smiled warmly.
"Yes. And Peter here had to stay out of the way, lest he mess it up."
Peter grinned sheepishly, though he looked pleased with himself for having kept quiet.
"Anyway, this whole thing was a mess at one point," Sirius said, "When you suspected me of liking Lily. There was no Arithmacy project, to tell you the truth – I made that up on the spot; one day, we had to edit the list a bit and revise Step Eight. And then you walked in on us in the common room. Then I got you to drink that Instant Sickness potion to buy me more time, but I mixed it with the remedy to make you feel better sooner. And then you saw me with the bottle and I had to pretend to take a sip so you wouldn't suspect me of doing anything wrong."
"Do you mean," James said slowly, racking his memory, "that that black bottle – it wasn't burping serum?"
"Nope," Sirius said, "And in all actuality, you had reason to be suspicious; Lily and I became friends during this whole ordeal. Isn't that right, Evans?"
Lily, who seemed to have a grin stuck on her face (as well as a blush), rolled her eyes and punched Sirius lightly in the shoulder. Suddenly, everything made sense to James. From the strange behavior coming from Sirius and Lily, to Snape threatening to tell James what was going on, it all made sense. It was just a big setup.
"S-so –," James stammered, "So it was all just a big setup? Everything?"
"Well no, not everything," Peter said, "Some things didn't go quite as we had planned."
"And most of my reactions to your actions were – natural," Lily said modestly.
"Don't forget that potion fiasco," Remus said tersely, looking slightly stressed.
Sirius groaned and put a hand over his eyes.
"Ah yes," Sirius said, "Well, that was a bit of a fiasco, wasn't it? Well, James, remember that whole potion thing?"
James nodded – he wasn't going to forget it any time soon.
"Yes, well, since Lily knew about that already, she knew not to drink the potion."
Sirius gave Lily and look and she blushed crimson.
"So," Lily said sheepishly, "When I woke up, I just drank Estella's water – I really hate getting out of bed and she never drank her water anyway. Heck, I didn't even know why she bothered putting it there. So, since I figured Estella would find it odd that I drank her water, I switched glasses with her."
"And then, of course, the one day that Estella wakes up and needs water happens to be the day that the water is contaminated," Remus finished in exasperation, shaking his head. "We were all surprised, naturally, but Lily was a brilliant actress and played it out well enough."
"So there you have it, James," Sirius concluded, "The whole story. And now, we've reached the not-so-bitter end. Lily, if you would?"
Lily stepped forward, looking extremely nervous. She grinned in an embarrassed sort of way.
"James," She said quietly, "If you don't hate me for treating you so badly in the last few weeks, would you possibly find it in your heart to be with me?"
James suddenly felt as if he could fly. He stared, mouth open, at Lily for a full five seconds before he said his reply.
"More than anything," James said, "I would love to be with you."
James made as if he was going to kiss Lily, but he suddenly pulled back.
"You said before if I ever touched you again, you'd report me," James said sheepishly.
Lily laughed out loud at this and touched the side of James's face with her hand.
"Allow me, then," Lily said, and before James knew it, she was kissing him.
And James knew, as he was kissing the woman of his dreams, that some things just couldn't bring two people together like best friends, humiliation, and a list. More specifically, a list of Ten Ways to Get a Girl.
A/N: And there you have it! Eleven chapters, embarrassing moments, stupid rules and a setup. I'm sorry if you don't like my ending, but I do and I'm not changing it for anybody. Thanks to everyone for following this story through – some of you from day one!