A finale that's over 1,000 words – my last parting gift. As I've said before, things happened on Wednesday that prevented me from posting until now, but I've come back and finished like I said I would, on the last day before the A.H. (After Harry) Era begins. Thank you guys for all of your support and reviews, they've been amazing and I love you all for it. The thought that this has lasted more than a year – and has survived through so many changes in my life – is almost crazy to think about and yet rewarding. It's without a doubt my largest fan fiction undertaking to date, and I hope you all enjoyed it. Keep a lookout for Post-DH fics to start popping up on my author page in August (a respectable waiting period, I think) and possibly more LJ fics, especially around the holidays! Thank you so much, it's been great.
It was the end of June before any notable events transpired in the life of James Potter. He worked five days out of the week in Hogsmeade, most of his shifts spent causing mild mayhem with Sirius Black (much to female customers' delights), and spent the other two days either taking full advantage of his employee discount or relaxing with the rest of the Marauders at Remus' mum's house. There had been one meeting of the Order of the Phoenix, the first official one, since school had been released, and it was there he had gotten his first fleeting glimpse of Lily Evans, although she ignored him. She had gone with Alice Horowitz and Frank Longbottom, the latter two of who had been sporting rings and seeming positively beside themselves with giddiness. Besides the teens he had attended Hogwarts with, James had only recognized the other wizards from news or notable deeds, if he recognized them at all.
The present afternoon, however, held no such clandestine meetings or fearful discussions. The sun shone brightly and the temperatures were sweltering outside, and while James was working one of the few shifts he was assigned without Sirius by his side, he had had the good fortune to spend the majority of the afternoon thus far in the cool stockroom, supposedly taking inventory. Instead he had fashioned a makeshift stool out of a hefty cardboard box and was leaning against a wall in the corner, his eyes closed and half asleep. The door to the interior of the shop was ajar, and he had been listening to the bloke working the register – the rather clumsy and incompetent Davey Gudgeon, whom James still resented for his failed attempt to get past the Whomping Willow – taking orders and dealing with difficult customers, roasting in the warm June heat.
It was through this eavesdropping that James had managed to hear a familiar voice floating through the door and infiltrating the stockroom.
"Yes, I understand that I didn't purchase the frame here, that's precisely what I've been trying to tell you, Davey!" She sounded exasperated, but Davey's drawling reply showed no signs of picking up on the frustration.
"Well then why've you brought it here, Miss Evans?"
"For the third time, I need you to give it to Potter!"
Davey, who had graduated a year ahead of them, had not been witness to the debacle that had Lily and James had become in their last month at Hogwarts, something that James found himself to be profoundly thankful for as Gudgeon struggled with Lily's unusual request.
"Well why would you want me to do that?"
Lily let out an audible sigh.
"It doesn't matter why! Merlin's beard, all I'm asking you to do is – "
"Can I help you?"
A door to Gudgeon's right had opened and out had stepped James Potter, his glasses slightly frosted from the cold.
"'Ello, James," Lily muttered.
"I can't help but think that I heard my name."
Lily nodded awkwardly. It was the first time they'd had one-on-one contact since the Hogwarts Express, and as pleased as James was, Lily seemed decidedly uncomfortable with the whole encounter.
"A word. Outside?"
James smiled and nodded. He patted on the counter and turned to the bemused Davey. "Man the desk? Good bloke, good bloke." He followed Lily out without another word.
Once they had stepped outside, Lily pulled James to the right and into an alley, one of the few areas of Hogsmeade that was not crowded with witches and wizards looking to enjoy the weather. "I, erm, thought that you weren't going to come, once the first week passed. And then you ignored me at the meeting and I was sure – "
"James, stuff it."
His eyes widened in visible shock as he stared at her, confounded. Whatever greeting he had expected from the girl who had just tried to hard to get a hold of him inside the shop, it certainly hadn't been the salutation he received. "Wha…?"
"Please don't interrupt me, because I need to say what I'm about to say, alright? – no, that was a rhetorical question, don't answer. I read the letters. Every single one, from the first of September to the tenth of June, and… and…"
She glowered at him before continuing. "James Potter, you are an arrogant, pompous, idiotic, ridiculously good-looking toerag." She said this all in one breath, and when she'd finished, James couldn't help but feel it was all very disappointing. He should've known it'd be silly to get his hopes up.
"Ah." He turned around and had walked three steps before her voice filled the alleyway again.
"But in spite of that – in spite of your bullying, and your horrid 'pranks', and your ludicrous and unfounded self-obsession – you are a good person." James froze in his steps, waiting for her to contradict herself or to say something that would reaffirm his suspicions that, yes, he had imagined the statement when he began to hear familiar words. "'I'm worried about you, Lily, and I hope that counts for something…' 'I don't know how to be there for you. And it's frustrating, yes, but you know that I've been trying…' '…at least you'll know by the gigantic stack of letters that I was serious about you all along, even when you doubted me…'" She looked in his direction; he had yet to face her, but she could see that his head was hanging and turned so that she appeared in his peripheral vision. "Were these really all you?"
He turned around toward her, his hands in his pockets. "Every word."
She nodded. "Maybe I was wrong about you."
"Yeah, I reckon you were."
She grimaced. "Friends?"
"You know I don't want that."
"Oh. I thought…"
"Dinner, tomorrow night. I'll make reservations." He walked towards her, his hazel eyes boring into her green ones. "What do you say?"
Without breaking their gaze, she slipped her hands into his and nodded.
People three villages over swore they heard James' triumphant shouts.