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The Last Petal

She makes him pick off innocent daisy petals.

The first time he does it is at the Great Lake one lazy Sunday afternoon, only fully aware until he is left with the remains of the bare stalk in between his fingers. It was a subconscious act, he'd concluded, one of those unexplained little habits. It was barely until he realized while staring at his dormitory ceiling, thinking of how he'd finally win her round tomorrow, he'd been chanting the same words in his head, after each petal fell to the grass in a pile of optimism and equal hopelessness: "She loves me, she loves me not."

The 'she' being he was referring to, of course, one Lily Evans.

James has always been embarrassed by such a habit. It was so… feminine, to say the least. Picking flowers with the accompanied "love me, love me not" mantra had always been associated with love-sick females.

The other Marauders watched him pick the daisy petals many times. It had become an almost ritual, when they sit on the grass of Hogwarts Grounds, picking out diverse animal shaped clouds in the sky, for James to pluck petals while he chatted. To them it was just one of those things you did when you were bored, like pulling strands of grass or wiggling your toes.

Remus knew the true reason behind what James was doing. Flower petals were individually picked for a reason. No-one could look so intense or deep in thought while picking at a weed.

James hates the fact he gets the latter every time, the bitter "she loves me not". The last single petal is a pessimistic reminder that he and Lily will never be together. He hates how he puts so much anticipation and hope in a stupid flower, only to find himself being crushed by something he can step on with his trainer. What do flower petals know? They can't determine another's feelings.

…Except he finds himself believing it more and more, every day. If the "she loves me not" weren't true, wouldn't he have got a "she loves me" at least once? Too many love refusals were a bad sign, too much of a coincidental pattern. As pathetic as it sounded, he felt as though the flower petals were telling sheer truth.

She does not love him, despite the fact that he feels ill without her. It's like an unsettling stomach bug that doesn't go away. Countless times he had watched her retreating back, the bitter words of "she loves you not" scarring his brain.

However, he continues to pick the flower petals, because they've all he's really got. For a glimpse of a second, there's some hope, he just doesn't dwell on the despair for too long; despair weakens you.

He swears when he finally courts Lily Evans, he'll stop picking innocent flower petals.

Except he doesn't, because, of all people, James Potter is unsure. Someone of usual confidence shouldn't feel an ounce of uncertainty, yet he does, because Lily Evans loving him is a former fixation of dreams. He'd never expected it to actually come true; the flower petals showed him that.

When Lily first tells him she loves him, it feels surreal. He hadn't even told her he loved her first, like it happens in the romance novels. He'd always expected to say it first; he chased her, after all.

"Honestly James," Lily rustles hands in the pockets of James' robe she is currently wearing. It had been colder today than she'd expected when she'd suggested sitting by the Great Lake. Though, if truth be told, she'd forgotten her school robes on purpose just so she could wear his. Wearing his clothes felt better than wearing hers. "What have you got in these pockets?" She plucks out an old Hogsmeade chocolate wrapper and scrunches her nose. "Isn't this the chocolate wrapper I stuffed in your pocket the other day?"

"Yeah," James confirms, sitting cross-legged in front of her. Though compelled to stare at her like he always does, his attention is more focused on the daisy he's taking apart in his worn fingers (perhaps worn from picking one too many "loves me not" petals). "It's amazing the little things you leave me with, especially in my pockets. Lip balm, loose change. And in this case, rubbish, because you're too lazy to put it in the bin and too ethical to litter."

"You love my morality, Mr. Potter."

"Nah, I would've dumped you ages ago if you weren't such a good kisser," he says, and Lily knows he's joking because he makes a lopsided grin afterwards and sticks out his tongue a little.

"Why didn't you chuck this out anyway?" Lily continues, examining the wrapper.

James shrugs, "I am like you, oh lazy ethical one." Truthfully, he likes to keep the pointless objects she leaves in his pockets. He laughs and smiles when he discovers rubbish days later, not knowing when or how they'd gotten there in the first place. He quite likes carrying a bit of her around in his pocket.

Lily studies James picking the daisy petals, her head cocking to one side curiously. He puts so much concentration into it, as though it's a mathematics problem. Whenever each final petal falls, he looks more despondent and disappointed, she notices.

"Hey," she says softly, shuffling closer towards him on bent knees. She closes her hands over his as he still picks off petals. "You've been plucking daises for the past half an hour. As a being of general goodness, I think you should stop destroying so many flowers." There are so many petals discarded on the grass that some dance whirlwinds in the air of the soft breeze.

With a determined stare, James responds, "Just this last one." With four petals left on the stalk, he automatically knows what the outcome will be, but does it anyway. 'She loves me not,' flickers in his head, as the last petal drops. He's quickly hit with a tinge of disappointment, noticeably stricken across his face.

"Why so troubled?" Lily asks innocently.

James sighs sadly, but makes a small smile at her. Her innocent gaze amuses him. "You know—well, obviously you don't know, but I've always done this," he gestures to the discarded flower petals. "Kind of womanly, eh?"

"Your somewhat feminine fixation of picking flowers is rather attractive, Mr. Potter," Lily grins.

"I always get the same answer," James says in a hollow tone, shying away from her gaze. Lily's smile falls, concerned about James' behaviour.

"And what petal do you get?" she asks solemnly, already knowing the answer.

"The latter."

Lily swallows. "And who is the 'she'?"

"Who else would it be? My mother?" James chuckles as an attempt to lighten the mood, but it's undoubtedly not genuine.

Lily chooses her next words carefully. "I've always hated the 'loves me, loves me not' flower petal idea," she says offhandedly, pulling out strands of grass. "Such a ridiculous pastime made by the infatuated or the foolish who determine a person's belief through a common weed, especially relying on something so unreliable that has half a chance of turning out bad—"

"Then why do I always get the latter?" James asks, looking uneasy.

Lily quickly thinks of an explanation, "Because the flowers hate you for murdering so many of their offspring."

James had expected a serious answer. "Har har," he responds dryly. Lily plucks up a daisy with her delicate fingers, grinning at the thought of a sudden idea.

"You know what mantra I think you should chant when you pick off flower petals?" she asks.

James' smile curls to one side a little, wondering what she's up to. "What?"

Picking off a daisy petal, looking smitten, she declares "she loves me!" in a rather dramatic fashion, before launching a kiss on his nose. James still looks wonderfully suspicious, expecting a "she loves me not" afterwards, and is surprised when Lily declares, yet again, "she loves me!" rather loud and embarrassingly, before kissing his nose once more. By the third avowal of "she loves me", James sees through her plan, making his self more comfortable in the grass, and conveniently moving his nose upwards so Lily can kiss his lips instead, after each petal is plucked and floats gently to the ground, only to be swept up by the wind seconds later.

Soon, a large patch of grass is completely devoid of daises.

James decides this version of "loves me, loves me not" is much more enjoyable, and in future, only picks the flower petals when Lily can supervise him on chanting the right mantra, and is also present for the in-between kisses.