Disclaimer: I own nothing

A/n: I wrote this a while ago as a response of a challenge on LiveJournal to my lovely friend Sarah, on writing a relatively readable story about a spontaneous ball. It pokes a little fun at Mary Sues and out-of-the-blue balls in some fanfics. If you enjoy, please review.

Starting anew

James Potter hates balls. Not his balls, of course –that would be simply ridiculous— but balls involving dancing and asking girls out and basically making every male in Hogwarts Castle look like a tit and an arse and other uncouth words to describe the male species on a fruitless number of occasions.

He's worried. He's worried about the ball and he shouldn't be worried about the ball because it's just a ball and dancing and asking girls out and—Oh God, he wants to take off his shoe and vomit in it.

"I don't know what you're so worried about, mate," his fellow Marauder, Sirius Black, notices his agitated state with some amusement, but just as much concern.

"But why do we have to have a ball?" James asks the question as though he's simply asking why the sky is blue. He pulls at his hair and repeatedly knocks it on one of the common room arm chairs. "A ball now, so out of the blue? MY PARENTS DID NOT PREPARE ME FOR THIS."

"Its dark times, James," Remus Lupin tells him, looking older than he really is - both in verbal communication and appearance. "The wizarding world will do anything to distract us from the fact that there is a dark wizard out there, corrupting minds and murdering innocent people."

"Couldn't they have just handed out cakes to cheer everyone up?" James suggests, on a point of hysteria. "I mean, I considerably cheer up after having cake, don't you?"

"Cake could destroy us all if it wanted to," Peter Pettigrew adds helpfully, with a faraway expression.

Sirius nods in agreement, "Particularly chocolate gateau."

Remus says nothing, and silently wonders how 'dark times' links to the hypothesis of cake taking over the world, and comes to the conclusion that he is simply not zany enough to comprehend.

"I don't think I can face up to the humiliation of asking a girl out," James says, keeping to the subject of The Ball which is quickly titled to The Ball of Doom and Nothing Good Will Come Of it. "It's settled," he holds a determined stare, "I'm going without a date."

Sirius looks simply horrified at the idea, and prods James in the chest. "No you're bloody not," he tells him. "You have to go with a date, and particularly a good-looking one. You're a Marauder. We have to go to out stage everyone because we're simply adored by hormone-filled teenage girls." Though James thinks Sirius is saying this in jest; he can't help but feel there is a somewhat serious tone behind his words. "Prongs, why are you so nervous about this ball thing?" he asks again. "I don't get it. I know you haven't dated a lot of girls due to the fact that you seem to be FIXATED on a particular one," slight tired annoyance is shown across Sirius' face at this statement, "But you're pretty unruffled with the girls, right?" James shrugs lamely. "So, who've you got your eye on asking?"

Immediately, James cringes.

"Oh no," a disgruntled look falls upon Sirius' face, "Please say you're not going to ask out her—"

"What's the worst that could happen?" James asks, with hopeful eyes.

"She could say—and I think the words 'almost certainly say' are much more appropriate here, Prongs— the answer 'no' and break your little stag heart for the hundredth time."

"Possibly," James agrees with Sirius, and strokes his chin for added handsome effect. "Possibly...yes, possibly..." He continues to repeat the word 'possibly' as though if he says it enough times it will disappear into the air of nothingness and be replaced with the word 'improbably'.

"She might not say no," Remus says, shooting James an encouraged look, which he gratefully returns.

"Don't get his hopes up, Moony," Sirius says, and quickly notices the slightly annoyed look upon James' face, and walks over to him, clapping him warmly on the back. "I'm not trying to be a prick here Prongs; I'm just worried about you. I'm sick of seeing that girl suck the life out of you every time she says no, leaving us to pick up the pieces of your pride and self-importance."

James sighs sadly, again for handsome effect.

"Don't ask her Prongs," Sirius tells him with a firm look, "She's guaranteed to turn you down."

"Alright," James gives in. "I won't ask her."

Except he does anyway, and he wants to pull off his shoe and vomit in it.

"Youballme?"

Lily Evans cannot control the knotting of her brow as she stares at James Potter, trying to decipher the incoherent question –is it even a question, she wonders, but it sounds rather enquiring— he has just mumbled.

"I beg your pardon?"

James can physically feel his face burning from neck to forehead. Knowing that only feigned smoothness will get him past this particularly humiliating experience, he says, rather suavely, "You. Me. Ball. Together?"

Lily realizes James is so adorably tongue-tied that he can't form a complete sentence. Swallowing, she answers, "No."

"Youballme?"

"I thought we'd just established this James: I'm not going to the ball with you."

All he can do is stare despondently. "Sorry….I-…I thought I misheard you…." With slumped shoulders, he drags his feet back to the common room, leaving Lily to subside against one of the shelves of the library and regret her decision.

Later, Sirius finds James in the sixth year boys' dormitory, shoveling chocolate into his mouth. He notices the chocolate is from Remus, who is sitting on his bed next to him, occasionally adding comforting comments of hopeless hope and fatigued flattery.

Sirius asks the simple question of, "What are you doing, Prongs?"

James answers, just as simply, "I'm going to become fat."

"Yes. Yes you are, especially when you're attempting to get that many chocolates in your mouth at the same time," Sirius comments. James starts violently choking after one too many chocolate frogs endeavor down his esophagus, and Remus pats him on the back.

"I'm going to become fat," James repeats, once recovered, and carries on, "so Evans will go out with me, in pity, and have my babies."

"Lovely mental images there," Sirius remarks with an involuntary shudder. "Prongs, this is normally too low of me to suggest, but I'm just going to pathetically propose it anyway: ask another fit bird to go the ball with you instead, to make Evans jealous."

"When you speak of a 'bird' you mean a girl, don't you?" Remus queries, smiling amusedly to himself, "Because I've heard ostriches are rather bad dancers."

"You kill me Moony, you really do," Sirius replies dryly, though a hint of smile threatens to creep up. He snatches the chocolate from James, just as the boy leaps to the bathroom, looking green in the face.

James asks another girl to the ball, the prettiest in the castle. Her name is something exotic—perhaps a colour like 'Amethyst' or 'Violet', he tries to remember—but all the while, he thinks of Lily Evans, and how much this plan is going to work because Lily will see him dancing with the prettiest girl with the bizarre name and become insanely jealous, then shag him senseless on the dance floor.

On the night of the ball, he dresses courteously in dress robes that claim to make girls faint at the sight. Naturally, they don't, because that would be a clear sign that there is something wrong with their health and have abnormalities with their heartbeat. However, as he steps into the Great Hall with the prettiest girl with the bizarre name latched on to his arm, heads turn and he grins because Lily Evans is probably seething with jealousy.

When he dances with the girl, it feels like it's been rehearsed. They move rhythmically to the music, she spins and he turns and nothing is done in mistake or out of place. It's perfect. And all the while, James puts on a feigned elated expression with the company of his date because he knows Lily Evans is watching him.

Except she isn't, because she doesn't turn up.

All night, James searches the Great Hall for her, yet she's nowhere to be seen. The prettiest girl with the bizarre name gets angry when James suddenly becomes cold, refusing to dance anymore, and wants to sulk in the corner in a dignified fashion. The girl leaves him to dance with other handsome boys, not worthy to be named because the only boys' names that will be mentioned are the Marauders.

"Would you like to dance?"

James perks suddenly at the high-pitched voice, but can feel himself internally die of disappointment when discovering a certain individual, who's fluttering his eyelashes frivolously.

"Bugger off, Padfoot."

Sirius rolls his eyes at such a response. "Cheer up, stag boy," he says, and adds the familiar phrase, "it might never happen."

"But it already has," James grumbles. He snatches the goblet of pumpkin juice from Sirius' hand and downs it in one.

"So what if she isn't here, Prongs?"

James looks at Sirius with an incompressible expression. "I only came to this sodding ball to make her jealous! And she can't even see my wasted attempts!"

Sirius really can't bear to see his friend –like a brother, he claims— looking so miserable. Biting back from teasing, he says, "Evans is probably in the common room sulking in a dignified manner." When James makes no means of response, Sirius adds, "Go see her." James looks uncertain. "Go on, I'll hold the fort. Your presence won't be missed."

"That's nice of you to say," James comments, on the part of not being pined for.

"I know," Sirius grins, pulling him to his feet. "Good luck, stag boy," he tells James, patting him on the shoulder. All of a sudden, Sirius spots something on the other side of the Great Hall. "Excuse me Prongs, I have to go disturb Moony's rather attractive date with accounts of our apparent sexual tension. Ta-ta."

Laughing, James shakes his head after Sirius, watching him dart off. With a sigh, he leaves the Great Hall, music and the rest of the school population behind, making his way to Gryffindor Tower. Once reaching Gryffindor surroundings and stepping through the portrait hole, he discovers Lily sitting in front of the common room fire, dressed in muggle clothes, reading a book.

James reacts in the calmest way possible.

"What the hell, Lily!"

At such an exuberant shout, she nearly flings the book in the air as she clutches her chest. "Don't scare me like that!" she scolds him.

"What the hell, Lily!" James repeats wildly. "You're not supposed to be in the common room; you're supposed to be in the ball, being jealous and watching me dance with—bloody hell, what is her name again? Turquoise or something or other…"

Lily ignores the part of being jealous for many reasons. "I don't like balls, Potter," she declares, ignoring the fact that what she had said could be taken as a sexual innuendo. "They're a complete waste of time."

I'm beginning to think pursuing you is a waste of time, James adds as an afterthought. "Lily, you can't hate balls, you're a girl," he tells her instead.

"Just because I am a girl doesn't mean I have to follow the crowd, giggle incessantly, and dress up in girly uncomfortable dress robes while plastering myself with so much make-up my pores cannot breathe." Glowering at James, Lily recognizes a rather conceited expression on James' features, something she does not like.

"You can't dance, can you?" James says with widening eyes.

Lily scoffs, "I'll have you find that I can." She folds her arms and turns away.

"So can I," James enlightens, brushing his chest arrogantly.

"My father taught me when I was younger," Lily carries on, "and I'm quite experienced in ballroom dancing—"

A snort escapes James' mouth, interrupting her. "Whatever."

"I am!" Lily protests angrily, rising in her seat.

"Fine, then," James smiles wickedly, "Prove it."

"What do you mean?"

"Dance with me in the Great Hall," he says simply.

Lily laughs absurdly, "James, I'm not dressed."

"Then get dressed," he proposes.

Lily scowls at him. "No," she says stubbornly, "I don't want to!"

"Oh," James spins round, hiding a grin, "I suppose you can't dance after all—"

"I told you," Lily says through gritted teeth, "I can."

"Then do it."

"Fine," Lily snaps, "I will."

"W-w-what?" James hadn't expected that quick answer. Before James can understand what's happening, Lily grabs him by the dress robe collar, cutting off blood circulation, and storms through the portrait hole.

In the Great Hall, people are staring at her due to her casual attire, but frankly Lily does not care – all she cares about is proving James Potter a point. She's vaguely aware of Professor McGonagall eyeing her, ready for a rebuke about her jeans and rather manky shirt, but spotting her in such close company of James; she does nothing but watch with curiosity.

"I'm a much better dancer than you, James Potter," Lily asserts, walking in line with James as they make for dance floor.

"And those are your last words before you died due to my shindig dexterity and swinging hips of excellence."

Once they finally make it to a clear part of the Great Hall, slow music springs out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, they realize there must be some sort of conspiracy for a fast song to suddenly shoot into a leisurely rhythm the second they step up to dance.

Unsurprisingly, Lily doesn't want to be here. She realizes just how irrational she was thinking of the idea of proving James wrong because she'll have to dance with James Potter and dancing involves touching one another and Lily wants to pull off one of her smelly trainers and vomit in it. James looks just as uncomfortable.

As they awkwardly step up to another, James inelegantly places his hand on her hip as though holding a spider, and Lily takes his other hand, flushing.

It's the most terrible dance they've ever experienced. In fact, it goes down in the records of being the worst dance ever witnessed in the wizarding world. Others can't help but cringe as they watch.

All dancing skills James and Lily have learnt go out the window. It isn't the perfect dance from fairy tales, especially when they can't look each other in the eye without heating in the face, stepping on each others toes, getting the rhythm of the music completely wrong - and at one point, James physically knocks Lily to the ground with one of his overenthusiastic hip shakes.

Yet, they muster on, until the song finally ends and they dart off the dance floor and sag into a couple of chairs.

James silently sips his pumpkin juice. Watching Lily out of the corner of his eye, he finds she holds a confused expression. "I thought you were a good dancer," he says.

"I thought I was too," Lily replies carefully. "What about you?"

"I'm sorry my swinging hips of excellence nearly killed you."

Lily really doesn't want to laugh, but she just has to make a small chortle. Before long, she's doubling in laughter at the image of herself being pushed to the ground by James Potter's hip of energy, and James can't help but join in, snorting into his pumpkin juice. The longer they laugh, the more funny it comes, and shortly everyone is staring at them as they laugh hysterically at something they aren't aware of.

Smiling, James hands her a goblet of pumpkin juice to help her sore throat from such laughter. Lily takes it gratefully.

James finds something odd. There are noticeably much more good-looking girls in the room in stunning dress robes, yet all he can do is look at the adorable red head girl in the manky shirt, jeans and smelly trainers. Looking at her, he remembers all the bad memories of the past. Her much heated shouting aimed in his direction, his constant need to catch her attention in the worst ways possible—hurting others—asking her out continuously to the point of overbearing annoyance. He wants to start anew.

"Can we start again?" James asks. Lily looks at him strangely as he brings out his hand, ready for her to shake. "James Potter," he greets her politely, as though meeting her for the first time on the platform 9 and ¾.

Looking suddenly coy, Lily nods courteously, "Lily Evans," shaking his hand.

At once, he falls in love with her all over again, all the while hoping she does back (preferably soon, and preferably not under the influence of spiked pumpkin juice).