Of all the things Lily had done in her life, this had to be the most embarrassing, and that included the time she accidentally walked in on that woman on the loo in London.
She had skipped class.
It was a serious offense! She couldn't believe they hadn't tracked her down by now and chucked her in Azkaban. It was no less than she deserved. In fact, it was probably far less than she deserved. She deserved a Dementor's Kiss, that's what she deserved! And with her luck, Potter and Black and their cronies would find out and tell the whole school and then they'd all know that the Head Girl skipped class.
The future humiliation was almost too much to bear.
ESPECIALLY future humiliation at the hands of James Potter. Didn't he torment her enough? Wasn't last night enough to last a life time? Oh Merlin, last night. Lily's face burned red. James had caught her wearing his shirt. She would never live that down, either. Perhaps if she just died right here, in the middle of the corridor, then she wouldn't have to deal with anything—no humiliation, no Dementor's Kiss, no utter shame at skipping class.
But that would defeat the purpose of being in the corridor in the first place, wouldn't it? Lily sighed, utterly defeated. She couldn't die before she found Professor McGonagall and apologized with all the Gryffindor gusto she could scrape together. She at least had to do that much. Then she could die tragically in the middle of the corridor.
But, well, honestly, skipping class wasn't her fault! It was Potter's! If he wasn't in her Advanced Transfiguration class, she wouldn't have had to skip class to avoid seeing him. And if he hadn't seen her wearing his shirt last night, she wouldn't have had to avoid him. And if his shirts weren't so comfy, she wouldn't have had to steal them. And if he hadn't been plaguing her mind at night, preventing sleep, she wouldn't have had to steal them for restful sleep in the first place! It was all Potter's fault!
Oh Merlin, had he really caught her wearing one last night?
Lily looked up the corridor and down the corridor. She didn't see anybody coming to tote her to Azkaban. That meant she would most likely have to face Potter again. What was she going to say? Oh, sorry, I mistook your shirt for mine? Common mistake, really, since you're TWICE MY SIZE! She mentally cringed. How had she managed to make Head Girl with a mind like this? For that matter, how had Potter managed to make Head Boy when the only think he could think about was his libido? He probably fantasized about kissing her. Not that that would be so bad, actually. He looked like he would be a really good kisser, and probably knew just what to do with his ha—
STOP IT. IT'S THOUGHTS LIKE THESE THAT GOT YOU INTO THIS SITUATION IN THE FIRST PLACE, EVANS. CONTROL. BREATHE. RUN LIKE MAD AND FACE MCGONAGALL BEFORE YOU DIE OF EMBARASSMENT.
Speaking (or rather thinking) of dying of embarrassment… There was James Harold Potter, just rounding the corner to enter her corridor. Lily did a quick reconnaissance mission to realize she had nowhere to run. Well fine. Maybe if she walked normally and held her head high James wouldn't notice she was there. Perhaps just this once his EEEITSLILY! radar would not function and they could pass in the hall like a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff just out for a stroll instead of two Gryffindors mad about each other.
Lily nearly choked on her tongue. Mad about each other? She needed help. Sirius help.
SERIOUS HELP! NOT SIRIUS HELP! She did not just think that. Merlin's beard, she was losing it. Darn that Potter and his intoxicating—
"All right, Evans?" he asked in his deep, suave, I'm-trying-to-impress-you-please-please-please-PLEASE-go-out-with-me voice.
Composure. You can do this, Lily. You're Head Girl. Keep calm, mate. You'll best this situation and then laugh with Alice over it.
"Fine, Potter. Need something?" she asked with a raised brow. So far, so good.
"Naw, but you do," he said, a grin lighting his face. He looked cute like that. Er…Well, he did. There was no harm in stating the truth! Well, no harm as long as she kept it in her head. Merlin, if she said that out loud…Lily'd rather have a repeat of the Shirt Incident. "You missed class this morning, Head Girl, so I brought you the work you missed."
He was being kind…caring…and taking over Alice's job. That was a big no-no. "You're replacing Alice as my homework retriever. That is unacceptable, Potter."
"And wearing my shirt is acceptable?" he shot back. Prat.
"What shirt?" Lily asked airily, deciding to pretend last night never happened.
James frowned. "Uh, the one you were wearing last night? White? Button-up? Has my initials sewn on the collar?"
Yeah, and it was pretty blue thread, too. She wondered if he knew how to embroider…No, it was probably Mrs. Potter's doing. Would she teach her how to embroider like that? Then she could label all of James' clothes! Unless a House Elf did it. Curses. Those things were creepy, what with their willingness to serve and funky, squashed bodies; Lily would not be asking one of them for embroidery lessons anytime soon, as in ever.
"Er…Evans? Shirts? Hello? You just zoned out on me."
Lily's face burned again. A burning face was not conducive to remaining calm and collected in the face of James Potter, Head Boy Extraordinaire. Oh great, now she was adding adjectives to his title. What was next? Hot? Sexy? Delectable? Scrummy?
Time to attempt to save face, eh? …Key word being attempt. "I will have you know, James, that I know exactly what you are talking about, but to save my dignity I am pretending it never happened and if you ever bring it up again I will happily knee you in the groin."
Somehow those words did not have the desired effect as James' face lit up like a Christmas tree. "You just called me James!" he exclaimed, his grin spreading. "James! You! Lily! AHAHAHAHA! I can die happy now!"
"It—it doesn't mean anything, J-P-Potter," she stammered. Great. That would really convince him.
His grin widened, if that was even sodding possible. "Sure, Lily. Well, here's your homework. I'd best be heading towards Divination, useless though it is. See you."
Lily gawked, her Transfiguration work clutched firmly in her hands. He was—he was—he was just walking away from her! Just like that! As if she and their entire interaction meant nothing to him.
"James Harold Potter, you cannot just walk away from me like it's a jolly Sunday stroll through Buckingham Palace!" she cried out. Oh great. Go and sound desperate, Lily. That will get him off your back. Because that's what you want. James off your back. Absolutely.
James, however, ignored her completely. He just kept walking like he was the bloody Headmaster and owned the castle.
"James!" she yelled. "You get your arse back here, you—you—you—bloody—prattish—toerag of a squid!"
He gave her a little backwards wave as he rounded the corner.
Her world came crashing down. Her secret fear was that he really didn't care about her after all and just enjoyed the challenge she presented, and here he was proving her secret fear true. Just as she started to show an interest he dropped her like a blast-ended skrewt.
A sniffle escaped, then a sob. She clamped her hand over her mouth. She would not cry over a boy. She would not. She would not. Especially not over James Potter, arrogant prick that he was.
Oh, who was she kidding? What she really needed was Alice's shoulder to simultaneously complain and cry on and a massive amount of chocolate for the after-tears.
Holding back the tears until she reached the Head Tower, Lily decided to skip the rest of the day. Sometimes school just wasn't worth it.
How pathetic. One little bruise from love and her life was at an end. Well, she'd never again take house points from a girl she found crying after hours because her stupid boyfriend dumped her. No, Lily would console those poor girls and solemnly swear to hex their exes into the next century.
Entering the Head Tower, Lily just about dropped her Transfiguration work when she saw James Bloody Potter sitting on the sofa. She glared at him through her watery eyes. "What are you doing here?" she snapped.
He looked up. "Waiting for you—are you crying?" Panic overtook James' face. "Cry! Don't cry! AHH! Tears are bad! Please don't, Lily! I'll eat a hundred of Hagrid's treacle tarts if you won't cry! Oh mighty Merlin hear my plea, PLEASE don't cry!"
His outburst shocked her into not crying, although for the life of her she couldn't figure out why he'd care so much. Maybe it was just the Male Thing—she had yet to meet a boy who could handle tears.
James launched himself off the couch and knelt before her, his hands clasped together, and he begged. "Please don't cry!"
He looked adorable, pleading with his big, hazel eyes and worry written across his face. Well maybe he did care after all and had just been playing hard to get back in the corridor. Lily's heart melted, completely and utterly. If she died right then and there and an autopsy was performed, where a heart had once been they'd just find a puddle of goo. But that didn't mean she couldn't use her tears to her advantage. Wasn't it Lord Byron who said tears were a woman's spears, or something like that?
"You just left me standing there all alone," she said in a small voice, letting her eyes water. "I thought you didn't care."
James was up in a flash, hugging her close to him. "I could never not care about you, Lily," he said fiercely. "Never. I care about you too much."
Wow he was easy to manipulate.
Mmm…his arms were even better than his shirts. She could get used to this. Imagine cuddling up to James Potter every night in the Head Tower before the fire, doing homework and generally being in a permanent state of euphoria.
"Lily? You're not still crying, are you? Because Alice promised to hurt me if I made you cry, so I have a double reason to keep you from crying."
Lily pulled back out of his arms, narrowing her eyes. "Wait, you only want me to not cry so Alice won't hurt you?"
"What? No! I said I had double reason to keep you from crying! I don't want Alice to inflict pain upon my person, but more importantly I never want to see tears spill from your gorgeous eyes, especially if I'm the prat that caused them!"
It was a nice save. He could do better, but for a first nice save, it would do. Lily pouted just a wee bit as James wiped her tears away, doing her best to keep her green eyes soulful and upset. He had, after all, made her cry, and he needed to make it up to her. Hmm, this wouldn't be a bad way to get her first kiss from him—
Lily stopped dead (not that she was moving much, but now all bodily functions had stopped save her heart beating as that was rather vital to remaining alive). What was she doing? This was Potter! Yes, he had nice comforting arms and yes, his shirts smelled wonderful and yes, he was being a dear at the moment, but Merlin, this was Potter! First kiss? Had she gone nuts?
"Lily?" he asked cautiously. "Are you…are you all right?"
She shook her head. "No." She shook it again. "No. No, I'm not all right! Merlin, what am I doing?" she pulled out of his arms and took several steps backwards. "I can't—we can't be—I can't do this." Panic started rising and Lily feared she might vomit. "You, you're James Potter, and I, I'm Lily Evans! What would people think? What would our friends think? What do I think? Great Merlin, what would my parents think?"
"No," she cut him off, not looking into his face. She couldn't look at his beautiful hazel eyes. She'd drown. "Don't say anything, James."
"Don't say anything? How can I not say something, Lily?" he exploded. "I've been crazy about you for years and you always, always reject me! Well now things are finally looking up for me and I am not going to let this opportunity pass me by and say nothing!"
"No, no, it's all a mistake, this is wrong, I don't feel—"
"Lily, you stole my effing shirt. You slept in it." He paused for a moment, then gave her a strange look. "You bloody well lied to me about it, too!"
"I beg your pardon?" she said coldly. "I am not a liar, James Potter." And if he dared insinuate she was, she'd introduce him to her aranea hex.
"Oh yes you are." Lily reached for her wand. "I asked you about my shirts at breakfast the other day and you said…er, well, you said…"
"Nothing. I specifically said nothing so that I wouldn't be lying."
"You simply misdirected me with your silence."
"…But I didn't lie."
"Semantics. It's the same thing. But the point is you like me! You have to!"
"I don't 'have to' anything."
"Yes you do, Lily. You have to like me, or else stealing my clothes doesn't make sense. You have to like me, else sleeping in my clothes doesn't make any sense. You have to like me or else coming in here crying at my supposed insensitivity doesn't make sense!" He added quietly, "You have to like me or else I don't think I can go on."
The tears were back again (had they ever really left?), but this time self-inflicted. Lily really was a horrible person. How dare she be upset at him when she'd been making him upset for years? "I don't understand why you like me," she said thickly, wishing desperately for a tissue, "when all I've ever been is to awful to you. You, of all people, deserve better than me."
"But I don't want better than you!" he cried, throwing his hands up. "I want you, Lily. I want you." Lily cried harder. James came closer to her and enveloped her in his arms again—Lily didn't protest. She leaned against him and let him hold her as she cried. She was, in the tiniest part of her heart, glad that he liked her anyway, despite her tendency to be herself (in other words, a cold-hearted, insult-flinging, hypocritical Head Girl. He really must be batty to see anything of worth in her).
If Lily was willing to admit it to herself, and she was willing to admit anything to herself during this moment of weakness, the real reason she had stolen his shirts was because she feared in her heart of hearts that one day he'd open his eyes and realize she wasn't worth pursuing and his lifeless garments would be the closest she would ever get to him.
Now, however… The tiniest spark of hope sprang alive inside of Lily.
James pulled back and cupped her face in his hands, despite the tears still pouring from her eyes. She must have looked rather scary; points to him for being able to look her in the (most likely bloodshot) eyes and not look away. "Lily Evans," he asked, never breaking eye contact. It was the most intense gaze Lily had ever been forced to hold. "Lily Evans," he said again, "will you go out with me?"
It was completely expected, yet completely unexpected at the same time. Lily was torn between crying tears of joy and drying up her tear ducts. She did some funky mixture of the two which caused James to laugh (the prat) and offer her a handkerchief to blow her snotty nose.
After cleaning out her nose, Lily asked, "You keep a handkerchief on you?"
He blushed adorably. "Er, well, yeah…"
Lily gave him a watery smile, her eyes shining brightly. "Do you really mean it? You really want me to go out with you? Because if this ends up just being a big hoax or you drop me flat in the next two weeks, I will sic Alice on you, and when she's through I'll have recovered emotionally enough to assault you myself and you will never, ever play Quidditch again. Or have use of your right eye."
He gave a gentle laugh. "This is for real, Lily…" and he leaned forward and kissed her.
Lily's head exploded. Literally. The scalp flew off and hair dropped everywhere and little bits of brain matter decorated the Head Tower for future generations. Her lips, meanwhile, were having the time of their lives.
Oh Merlin, she would never kiss anybody else ever again, for as long as they both would live. Nothing else would even begin to compare. No other boy could ever measure up.
He pulled back, his eyes twinkling merrily at her. Lily gave him a bit of a wide eyed look, the only warning he received before she pounced on him and claimed his lips with her own kiss…es… Planting the British flag throughout the world held nothing on planting kisses on James Potter. Nothing. (And she would know because she totally had planted flags…)
"Good thing—I skipped—Divination," James gasped out between kisses.
Lily froze, still melded to James, her eyes wide and heart suddenly pounding for a new reason.
Great galloping grindylows, she was skipping Ancient Runes, her second class of the day!
"Oh Merlin, I have to get to class!" she wailed, pulling back and looking around wildly for her bag. "I'll get a Dementor's Kiss for sure for skipping two classes!" She turned back around to James and hit him in the arm. "You're a bad influence! I knew there was a reason why I avoided you!"
James caught her arm, giving her an easy smile. She about turned to jelly. "Lily, by the time you find your bag and make it to class, it will be so far into the class that your professor will wonder what you've been up to, especially when he sees you arrive with me at your side—because I would walk you to your class—and with your hair all mussed and tear streaks on your cheeks. Why don't we just stay here until the end of the period and then make it to Charms together?"
"Because that would signify the end of the universe."
He pulled her down beside him on the couch. "And what better way to spend the end of the universe than with me?" he asked, full of his usual arrogance. Lily did not get a chance to tell him off, however, as she suddenly became otherwise occupied.
Okay, maybe she could skip one more class. But that was it! Then she'd return back to class and continue on with life as if nothing happened, except with James Potter at her side. Life was looking pretty good.
And she was so keeping his shirts.
A/N: My eternal apologies for taking forever and a day to post this, with especial apologies to Shaurya who mentioned my taking a month and a half is no good. This is why I don't write chapter stories—I'd never update and my readers would murder me. Thanks to all you wonderful reviewers who've read the four story shirt saga (and trust me, I know who you are—I get all excited when I see repeat names on the reviews. Absolutely makes my heart smile). And feel special that I posted this today because it is my birthday, and in true Hobbit fashion (even though I'd so be an Elf) I'm giving a gift on my birthday to others. So happy birthday me, happy mother's day to mums, and happy reading to you all! (Even though this installment is probably my least favourite. I liked Impending Doom best.)