Author's Notes: Never let anyone tell you that writing drunk people isn't a hoot. I'm doing a lot of it recently (wink), and trust me, it's too much fun. Here's some Christmas cheer from the Unknowable Room's Christmas Fic Exchange. It was written for Julia, and I hope she enjoyed it. Thanks for this go to Christmas drinking and Lisa Kleypas, for some much-need drunk inspiration. Enjoy! )
The Six Degrees of Drunkenness
There was indeed such a thing as too much Christmas cheer.
Stomping through the holly-infested Hogwarts halls, gritting her teeth at the sound of hummed Christmas carols and shouts of 'Happy Christmas' at consistent two second intervals, Lily Evans fought back the urge to turn herself into a right Christmas grouch as she made her way back to her dormitory. She liked to believe that it wasn't too late to save herself from the ever-looming Scrooge complex that quickly seemed to be coming down upon her, but as she passed another group of laughing first years, wailing their own rendition of 'Good King Wenceslas' in something that couldn't be considered on-key if their lives depended on it, Lily had her doubts.
She was a Scrooge, all right.
A miserable, grumpy Scrooge.
But it wasn't her fault she had turned into such a grouch. She didn't want to be there. It was as simple as that. It was Christmas, and she should be at home with her family as she had been every other year. But this year had been different. This year, she had a new member of her family—her sister's husband, Vernon. And while Lily's parents may have been tickled pink at Vernon's 'generous' gift of a Caribbean Christmas getaway, Lily would have been damned if she were forced to ship herself off to some hot, worthless island with her prat sister and her prat brother-in-law for days on end. She would rather stay by herself in this stupid, drafty, Christmas-filled castle. Even being forced to endure the madness that ensued at Hogwarts during the hols was better than going home this year.
Or so she had thought, anyway.
Lily sighed, pushing a stray lock of red hair out of her face as she reached the entrance to the Head dorms. She was in a rotten mood. Perhaps it would just be better if she went off to her room and got some sleep. She didn't know how much more Christmas cheer she could stand and she didn't want to think about the casualties she would leave in her wake of Christmas despair if she continued jaunting around the castle. Yes, sleep was a good idea. With that thought in mind, she clamored into the Head dorms...
...and was promptly hit with the poignant smell of extremely strong alcohol.
That was it.
The last straw.
"What the bloody hell do the lot of you think you're doing?!"
Jumping up at the sound of her angry cries, not even bothering to attempt to hide anything they were just doing, the lot in question sat lounged around the Head common room, lying on the floor and sprawled about the couches, a half-empty bottle of Firewhisky and four empty mugs conspicuously settled on the table between them. Not at all fazed after the initial shock of her entrance, they all settled back into their seats and smiled pleasantly up at her.
No, not pleasantly, Lily corrected herself crossly. Drunkenly. Drunkenly smiling.
She was going to kill someone.
"Evans!" Sirius Black shouted, throwing a wobbly hand up in greeting as he lay draped upon her couch, his messy black hair in disarray and his cheeks a telling red colour. "Come t'join the party?"
"Out!" Lily cried, stamping her foot and pointing furiously in the direction of the door. "All of you stupid, idiotic, moronic drunks, out, out, out!"
"Calm down, Lily!" Rising up from his seat on the couch opposite Sirius, Lily felt herself boil up even more as James Potter—the bloke who was supposed to be Head Boy—pushed an unsteady hand through his mess of dark hair and smiled at her as if he hadn't a care in the world. Lily wanted to strangle him. "Merlin, woman, it's Christmas! Loosen up!"
"Oh, don't you 'loosen up' me, James Potter!" Lily snapped, striding up to him with fire burning in her eyes. She couldn't believe this. James—her James—well, not her James, per say, but...he...the audacity! "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing? Are you absolutely mad? What if McGonagall came in here? What if someone sees? My god, you wouldn't even notice you're so bleeding drunk—"
"Would you stop your yammering?" Sirius groaned, shooting Lily an exasperated look. "Of course he'd notice. We've barely reached two, Evans."
"Speak for yourself," Remus Lupin muttered from his place on the floor, his grey eyes more than a bit glazed over. Lily tried not to be too disappointed in the fact that the rest of them had apparently corrupted the normally level-headed Remus into their holiday merrymaking. "I'd say that last glass pushed me up t'three."
"I've cracked four," Peter Pettigrew insisted, his blonde head bobbling up and down.
"Two? Three Four?" Lily threw her hands up in frustration. "What the bloody hell do numbers have to do with this?"
"On the scale, Evans," Sirius explained in a very bored voice, grabbing his empty mug off the coffee table and playing with it in his hands. "You know, the six degrees of drunkenness? Merlin, Evans, we've barley even begun! Grab your wand out of your arse, take a seat and have a glass!"
"Six degrees of drunkenness?" Lily shot her disgusted look at James. "You morons have a scale for this?"
"It's not our scale," Peter explained matter-of-factly. "It's everyone's. Don't tell me you've never heard of the scale?"
"Doesn't surprise me," Sirius muttered, now trying to get at the remaining few drops of alcohol in his empty mug by turning it upside down on his face. "Bet you've never even reached one, Evans."
Lily gritted her teeth. She didn't know what 'one' was, but even if she did, she had a sneaking suspicion that Sirius was correct. She didn't know why that should bother her, but it did. She looked towards James again, the anger in the pit of her stomach starting to disintegrate at the rather disheartening thought. What sort of teenager was she?
"Leave her alone," James muttered, shooting a backwards look at his mates. He turned back to Lily, his eyes shining behind his glasses. Lily took a deep breath and mustered out a hard look. He sighed. "Sorry," he murmured quietly, looking a bit too serious for such a drunken bloke. "Didn't know it'd bother you s'much."
"Well, it does," Lily replied crossly, folding her arms over her chest. She paused for a moment, biting at her lower lip before her curiosity got the better of her. "What's one?" she asked.
The boys all let out drunken laughs. If she weren't in such a foul mood, Lily might've managed to smile, as well.
"'Slightly flighty'," James answered, giving her a grin. "Two is 'growing loopy'."
"Growing loopy?" Lily repeated skeptically, her eyebrows raised. "And I'm supposed to believe you're only at two?"
James grinned and shrugged. "I might be heading towards three," he admitted sheepishly.
"What's three?" she asked.
"One drink too many!" Peter called, grinning foolishly.
Lily snorted. "Oh, yes," she remarked idly, looking at James. "You've reached three, all right."
"I'd say four," Remus added, throwing her a lopsided smile. "'Rather arseholed'," he announced proudly.
"Shuddup," James muttered, but he turned a bit too quickly on his heel and started wobbling. Lily grabbed his arm to keep him from falling, and he quickly jumped at the opportunity and threw both arms around her, his eyes twinkling mischievously as she glared up at him. "Thanks," he said, and didn't let go.
"What's five ag'n, Padfoot?" he called out to Sirius, ignoring Lily's pleas to let her loose.
Sirius seemed to consider this for a moment, still attempting to get at the last few drops in his mug. "I believe that would be 'completely guttered', w'ldn't it?" he replied carefully, still shaking the mug in front of his face. From her place in James's arms, Lily didn't feel it necessary to remind the idiot that there was still a half-bottle of Firewhisky right there on the table next to him. She continued trying to shimmy her way out of James's embrace, but the bloody boy held fast. A bloke that drunk shouldn't have had such a firm grip.
"Will you just let me—"
"Six is my favourite," James informed her, completely ignoring her every plea and attempt to extract herself from him. He gave a gusty laugh as Lily began forcing her elbows into his rock-hard stomach. When several more attempts at freedom ended in failure, Lily gave an exasperated sigh and glared up her captor, ignoring her every tingling sense at the way he was looking down at her.
"If I let you tell me number six," she bit off tiredly, sticking him with a glare, "will you bloody well let me go?"
Lily heard a loud snort come from behind James's shoulder before she heard in Sirius's delightfully flat tone, "Yeah, fat chance at that."
Lily was quite sorry to have to agree with him.
"I need you to hold me up," James insisted, trying his best to look as innocent as possible. Lily scowled.
"You most certainly do not—"
"Gone with the wind," James whispered, his mouth incredibly close to her ear. Lily stiffened as his breath mingled near her face.
"What?" she murmured, swallowing hard. She refused to look at him, but she knew he was smiling anyway.
"Number six," he told her. "Is 'gone with the wind'."
"How literary," Lily muttered, and she could feel herself growing red. James's chuckles rumbled against her ear. Suddenly, it was just all too much. Lily began struggling in earnest and she didn't know whether James had finally decided to give up his game or if he had actually realised that she could no longer be so close to him, but either way, she felt his arms release her slowly and she let out a long, relieved breath.
"You're a stub'rn bird, Evans," he mumbled, shaking his head. "A very stub'rn bird."
Lily watched him walk away from her with a slight thump of her heart, but she ignored it as she always did because now just wasn't the time to be dealing with whatever it was that her body seemed to be insisting.
It was wrong, anyway. What do bodies know?
"Y'know what I think, Evans?" Sirius called, finally giving up on his idiotic antics with his mug. "I think that you need a drink."
"I think you need a Sobering Charm, Black."
"Maybe," Sirius replied, ginning widely, "but you still need a drink. Get in the Christmas spirit, would'ya?"
At the reminder of her sorry lack of such a spirit, Lily began to scowl, remembering just what had brought her back to her rooms and just what her original intent had been. Sleep. That's all she had wanted. Instead, she'd found a whole round of drunken loons that she had to deal with.
Well, she just wasn't going to put up with it any more.
If she was going to be a Scrooge, well then dammit, she was going to play her part well!
"If the lot of you insist on continuing on in your drunken stupors," Lily snapped, crossing her arms across her chest, her agitation returning full-force, "then I suggest you do it in your own dormitory, because I'm not dealing with it."
"But this is my dormitory," James slowly pointed out. Lily shot him a glare.
"Not when you're 'gone with the wind', it isn't!"
"He's not a six," Sirius argued, shooting Lily a disgusted look. "Honestly, Evans. You're complete rubbish at this, y'know?"
"Go!" Lily shouted. "Out!"
"Fine," Sirius grumbled, throwing her another look. He wobbly struggled to his feet alongside Remus and Peter, who were both making their way towards the door. "Don't get yer goddamned knickers in a twist."
Lily ignored their continued mutterings as the group stumbled out of the common room, laughing along as they staggered into walls and into each other. A slight pinch went off in Lily's chest as she watched the boys, so carefree and happy. Why couldn't she be like that? Why did she always stop herself from doing those things that every other girl her age would do? Why couldn't she have just taken a seat right there on the floor with these blokes and shoveled down a couple of glasses? It's not as if it could harm her, much as she liked to tell the others it could. Why didn't she just join the lot of them in their fun?
Why didn't she just stay in James's arms when she had the chance?
Merlin, she really did have a wand up her arse, didn't she?
Lily was too busy mulling over these rather discouraging realizations about herself to notice that James hadn't heeded her suggestion to leave along with the rest of his mates. She jumped, emerald eyes opening wide when she felt his hand drop gently down on her shoulder. She whirled around to face him, only to find him glazing down at her with the oddest of expressions. Then, quite simply, he leaned over and dropped a quick kiss against her forehead.
"Quit worrying," he said, his slightly-glazed eyes boring into hers, the hazel looking more brown than green today. "You're going drive y'self mad."
"I know," she muttered, then turned away, her eyes falling to the floor.
James sighed, and even though she once again refused to look at him, Lily knew that this time, he wasn't smiling. Without another word, he followed his mates out into the corridor.
Lily felt her stomach clench into knots as the sounds of merry male voices singing carols drifted away down the corridor. Finally pulling her eyes from the point on the floor where they had been firmly stuck since James's departure, Lily heaved a sigh, lifting her head until her eyes fell onto the abandoned bottle of Firewhisky that still sat upon the coffee table. Lily felt her feet move over to the couch Sirius had just vacated, and she fell down onto it with a slight oomph.
Lifting the bottle, Lily examined it closely and gently swirled the liquid around. She sighed again, eyeing the bottle critically. Then, without thinking too much into what she was doing, Lily grabbed one of the stray mugs off the table and filled it up halfway.
Let's just see if I can't get to number one, she thought bitterly, closing her eyes and lifting the mug to her lips. Let's just see.
She drowned the glass in one, quick gulp.
James couldn't remember how many Sobering Charms he'd managed to perform on himself, but from the way his head was pounding, he figured it had been quite a few.
He walked along the corridors, his beaten-up trainers dragging along the stone floors, his wand poking out of his robes as he stuck his hands deep inside his pockets. He hadn't felt much like drinking after he and the boys had left the Heads common room, though Merlin only knows he probably could have used it. He wouldn't have minded drowning out his sorrows in the remaining Firewhisky, but that was before they had realised that they'd left it in the common room, and the only thing Sirius had had up in the dorms was some old scotch from who-knows-when and James didn't really feel much like indulging in it with the rest of them.
Merlin, the bloody girl drove him mad.
Who did she think she was kidding? James thought grimly as his pace just barley sped up. Who did she goddamned think she was kidding?
James was sick of it, all of it. He had been chasing after Lily Evans since his bloody fifth-year and it was about damned time the girl got around to admitting she fancied him, as well. Because James knew she did. For all her brilliance, Lily was no actress. He barely had to touch her before the girl went tight as a string. He knew the way she looked at him. He knew it all. And she knew it, as well.
It was enough to drive a bloke to an early grave.
James strode down the corridors, finding his strides getting faster and heavier. He had had enough. It was time to get this out in the open, whether she damned well wanted to or not. Didn't she see it? How could it not be driving her as mad as it was driving him? They'd been dancing around each other for months, and before this, James had always been fine with sitting back and waiting for Lily to tire out and give in. But there came a point when there was only so much one bloke could take, and James Potter had reached his limit. His fists clenched into tight balls in his pockets and his pace quickened.
With this new vigor, James managed to reach the Head dormitories in a matter of minutes, but that had been all it had taken to get him worked up into quite a state. With the entrance in sight, James's stride evolved into a near-run. He managed to slow himself down just before he entered the room, though it pained him significantly.
What was that?
James strained to listen, only to discover that the sound—whatever it was—was most definitely coming from the Head dorms. His brow furrowed curiously, slight alarm bells going off in his head. He quickly covered the remaining distance between him and the common room and hastily gave the password to get in.
The door flew open, and James just nearly missed being whacked down by a book that came sailing through the air right past his ear.
James's mouth nearly fell open.
What the bloody hell is she doing?
The place was a mess. Every which way he turned, books of various different shapes and sizes scattered the floor and the furniture. Taking another cautious step into the room, James just barely managed to dodge another launched projectile before his eyes finally came to rest upon a very familiar form standing towards the back of the common room. He stopped in his tracks.
Lily stood before one of their many bookcases, scanning the now half-empty rows of tomes with hasty scrutiny. She was grabbing any number of books off the shelves and was quickly examining each one with a puzzled frown before she carelessly tossed them over her shoulder. She seemed strange, somehow, as if she were...James couldn't describe it. She didn't look ill exactly, but she looked rather...
Oh, Merlin, no.
He turned to his right and groaned.
There, sitting right on the coffee table where they had left it not two hours before, was the bottle of Firewhisky.
Toppled over and empty.
At the sound of his distress, Lily turned about, and James was once more faced with reality as he took in her bright, rosy cheeks and her glassy-eyed gaze.
She was drunk.
Totally, completely, number six, gone with the wind, staggering drunk.
"Oh, it's you," she muttered, gazing at him for only a second before turning back to the bookshelves. Her words were slightly slurred as she babbled on mindlessly. "We have utter crap in here, you know. I can't seem to find anythin'...Words of Wisdom: Incantations through the Years? Who would read that?...can't find anythin' the least bit interesting..."
James nearly laughed. Good god, Lily Evans was drunk. He'd come to have it out with her, and irony of all irony, the girl was bleeding drunk! Of all the stupid, hypocritical things...
James quickly dodged Words of Wisdom: Incantations through the Years as it predictably flew in his direction and continued to make his way towards Lily. When he finally managed to reach her through the endless storm of hardcovers and paperbacks, he grabbed her shoulders and whirled her around to face him. Books still in hand, she stared up at him blankly.
"What?" she asked.
"What?" James laughed, grinning foolishly down at her confused face. "What? Lily, are you absolutely mad? What have you done to yourself?"
"I'm lookin' for a book t'read," she answered with a slight hiccup. She dropped the ones presently in her hands, just barely missing crushing James's foot, and spun around to the shelves once more. "They're crap," she told him, sounding disappointed. "All these books are such crap."
"You picked them out," James couldn't help but point out innocently, though he didn't think Lily could fully comprehend the irony of that in her present state. Quite predictably, she blinked up at him owlishly.
"Did I?" she asked, her eyebrows furrowing. She grabbed another book off the shelf—One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore—and promptly looked disgusted. "Are you sure?"
"You think I'd read that?"
Lily nibbled her bottom lip, then turned and tossed the book over both their shoulders. James winced as he heard a crash. "No," she answered quietly. "No, I really don't think you would."
James expected her to continue on in her pursuit of an interesting book—though if she expected to find one in there, he knew she was sorely mistaken—but instead she just stood there, her back to him, her face downcast. He watched her for a few moments, unsure of what she'd do next. Suddenly, she whipped around, turning to face him.
"Know what?" she asked, biting her lip once again. James grinned.
"What?" he asked.
"I'm so sick of this," she muttered, looking him straight in the eye. "I am so sick of allllll of this I'm so sick of being me. So, so, so, so sick. D'you ever look in t'mirror and just think, 'Merlin, I wish I were someone else?'. D'you?"
She looked so genuinely upset about the whole thing that James couldn't help but place a comforting arm on her shoulder. Gently, he kissed her on the forehead, just as he had done before he'd left. She stared up at him, her green eyes wide. Then they began to narrow.
"Don't do that," she snapped, glaring up at him. "Just don't...I can't think when you...bugger. Bugger, bugger, bugger."
Then, to James's complete astonishment, she leaned up on her tiptoes, grabbed the back of his neck and pushed his lips down to hers.
At first he was too shocked to do anything but just stand there and let Lily—Lily Evans. His Lily—kiss him, but after a moment, he came back into himself and his reaction was almost instantaneous. He wrapped his arms around her, pushing her body against the now nearly-empty bookcase as he quickly moved his mouth over hers, matching her furious pace. She tasted like spice and Firewhisky and something else he couldn't name, but he didn't care as long as he could keep tasting it. Instinctively, he deepened the kiss, sweeping his tongue in her mouth as she clung to him helplessly, making small sounds in the back of her throat that drove him mad.
This was what he had been waiting for.
This is what he knew would be worth it.
What was he doing?!
James managed to pry his mouth away from hers, though it took an unbelievably large amount of effort to do so. Looking down at her, James wasn't sure who was more disappointed, him or Lily. She tried to kiss him again, but he quickly shook his head.
"You're drunk," he told her softly, running his hands through her fiery hair. "Not the time to be doing this, all right?"
"You don't want to snog me?" Lily asked, somewhat pitifully. James nearly groaned as he shook his head.
"You know I want to snog you, Evans. But now's just not the time." Gently, he forced himself to drop his arms from around her—so much harder to do than it had been earlier that day—and carefully took a few steps back, not trusting himself. "We have to get you up to bed," he said, already wanting to hold her again. "We'll talk about this tomorrow—you're going to have one bloody hangover, Evans. Let's just—"
"No!" Lily cried quickly, hastily covering the carefully placed distance James had just put between them. "I don't want to go to bed," she insisted. "I...I..." She seemed to think for a moment, holding on to the front of his robes to keep him in place, nibbling at her bottom lip once more. Finally, she seemed to decide. "I want to go to Hogsmeade," she said.
"Yes, now," Lily repeated, letting go of his robes and stumbling her way over towards the stairs that led to her bedroom. "I'll just go get my cloak and then we'll—"
"Lily. No, Lily, wait, stop. We can't go to Hogsmeade."
"Well, why not?" Lily asked, pivoting on the stairs and nearly tumbling down them in the process. James rushed over to steady her and she shot him an annoyed look. "Why can't we go?" she asked again. "You know how to sneak in, don't you?"
"It doesn't matter—"
"Yes!" James cried, throwing her a look. "But just because we can get there doesn't mean—"
"You know what?" Lily finally said, turning on her heel in a huff. "I can get there by myself. I know about that passageway behind Gregory the Smarmy. If you don't want t'come, fine. I'll just go by myself!"
"Lily! Christ, Lily! Get back down here!"
But she wouldn't listen.
And James suddenly realised that however more funny and inhibited, drunk Lily was still as much of a pain-in-the-arse as sober Lily was.
He was a dead man.
He couldn't quite remember how they managed to get all the way down to Hogsmeade—especially as he'd only managed to shoot Lily with one good Sobering Charm before she realized what he was up to and snatched his wand from him—but one way or another, James found himself stumbling through the snowy city alongside an unnaturally talkative Lily just a pitiful half-hour after he'd found her cleaning out the bookshelves in the Head dorms.
Merlin, he was whipped.
"I love Hogsmeade," Lily babbled, laughing as she clutched his arm in a firm grip, which, had her main purpose not been to keep herself from falling to the ground, James probably wouldn't have minded in the least. "Don't you love Hogsmeade?"
"Yes. Lovely. It's smashing." James shot her a look. "Can we go back to the castle now?"
"'Cause I have t'buy something," Lily replied idly, her wide eyes scanning the different holiday-decorated stores as if this were the first time she'd ever seen them. James glanced down at her curiously, then realised that perhaps this was the first time she'd seen Hogsmeade during Christmas. He couldn't ever remember Lily staying at Hogwarts over hols before. Perhaps she'd only witnessed this through the carriages that took her to the station. Hogsmeade was a sight to see at Christmas. James could only imagine it's fascination through the eyes of a degree-six, drunk girl.
"What do you have to buy?" he asked, attempting to draw Lily's attention away from the red and green lights surrounding Dervish & Banges for just a moment. "Lily? Lily, are you listening?"
"A gnome," Lily answered, somewhat wistfully. "A garden gnome. D'you reckon I can find one?"
"I've never had one," Lily went on, stumbling slightly over herself. James held back his laughter as he steadied her back onto her feet. Merlin, this girl was priceless. "Really. They don't have that sort of thing in the Muggle World. And I think my mum might like one."
"Do you know what garden gnomes are, Lily?"
She shot him a dirty look. "Of course, I know what they are. I just said I was going t'buy one, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but you don't...you don't..." James tried to find the words, but nothing came. How in the hell are you supposed to explain to a drunk girl that garden gnomes aren't pets? "They bite, Lily," he finally sputtered out, throwing his hands up into a shrug. Lily's green eyes opened wide. A small smile crept onto James's face despite his every attempt to keep his amusement hidden.
"They do not," she muttered in shock.
"Sadly, they do."
Lily seemed genuinely baffled by that. "Are you sure?" she asked, her eyes narrowing.
"I'm sure," James replied, not able to hold back his laughter any longer. He chuckled over her crestfallen features and carefully wrapped the arm she was clutching so tightly around her back in a comforting manner. "Don't fret too much over it, love. They're just miserable, old garden gnomes."
"But that's just it," Lily said, biting down on her lip and looking up at him questioningly. "I thought they were nice ol' buggers. Don't they look nice?"
"Are you sure?"
James let out another laugh. "Christ, woman! Yes, I'm sure!"
Lily sighed heavily. "Well, that's disappointing. I really wanted a garden gnome."
She was the only one, James knew, who ever actually had.
Or perhaps that was just the alcohol speaking.
"Let's do something mad, all right? Let's do something...crazy."
James grinned. "What did you have in mind?" he asked.
Lily shrugged. "Dunno," she admitted slowly, leaning her head against his shoulder as they continued to walk. Her eyes fluttered closed. "You know more than I do."
James saw his opening, and took it.
"You don't look like you're up for much of anything right now, much less something crazy," he pointed out gently, hoping to Merlin that she agreed and let him take her back up to the castle to sleep off the rest of her drunken stupor. "How about we take a rain check? Do something crazy tomorrow?"
Lily shook her head. "Can't," she mumbled. "I won't do it tomorrow."
"Because I won't be drunk tomorrow," she replied matter-of-factly.
"That doesn't mean you can't do something crazy," James assured her. "You don't have to be drunk to have some fun sometimes, Evans."
"But I do," Lily insisted, lifting her head up from his shoulder and looking him straight in the eyes. "You just don't get it," she said. "I'm...I'm not like you. I can't just go'n do things I shouldn't do. Sometimes I wish I could, but..."
"But what?" James prodded, nudging her gently. "What's stopping you?"
Lily sighed, shaking her head again. "Wish I knew," she muttered, looking defeated. Her eyes darted up to his. She blinked a few times. "Wish I knew," she said again, then dropped her head back onto his shoulder. James grabbed her gloved hand in his and they continued to walk down the snowy street. Lily didn't pull away.
They walked on in silence as they began to reach the end of the main road, coming towards the Shrieking Shack and The Three Broomsticks. From her place still resting on his shoulder, Lily continued to scan the village, laughing delightedly at the enchanted candles floating in the trees and the holiday shoppers running in and out of the shops. It was hard not to get caught up in her laughter or her mindless chatter, despite the fact that James had the distinct impression that had she not stumbled over 'one drink too many', the snow falling on her nose or the pixie fairies singing carols in front of Honeydukes wouldn't have been so vastly entertaining.
"Oh, James, look at that."
James's eyes darted up from where they had stayed rested on her, following Lily's pointed finger. Expecting some sort of elaborate Christmas ornament, or perhaps one of the caroling trees the Hogsmeade residents charm every so often to sing, James let out a loud laugh when he instead realised that what had caught Lily's attention so avidly hadn't been anything even remotely festive, but rather the giant, glittering neon arrow that Madam Rosmerta had recently put up outside The Three Broomsticks.
"Oh, look at it!" Lily breathed, smiling radiantly. "Look how it glitters against the snow."
"It's an arrow," James said flatly, shaking his head. Lily shot him a look, but then quickly redirected her gaze back to the glittering arrow. Taking a few stumbling steps forward, she tugged at his hand.
"Come on," she said, already making her way down the street, dragging him along. "Let's get a butterbeer."
"That's the last thing you need," James said, trying to rein her back in. "You get even a smidgen more alcohol in your system and I'm going to be carrying you back to the castle."
"You will not," Lily scoffed, her eyes stuck on the arrow still. "Come on! It'll be fun."
"Lily, I really don't think…" James stopped, an idea suddenly popping into his head. A small smirk crept up onto his face. "You know what," he said, stepping into the lead. "You're right. Let's go to The Three Broomsticks."
Lily looked elated at his change of plans, shooting him a wide grin and nodding, rushing ahead through the snow. James shook his head, the wisps of a plan beginning to form in his mind.
He knew more than anyone really should about Madam Rosmerta's famous Sobering Butterbeer. One sip of that stuff and you could drop from a six to a negative three in 3.2 seconds, with more than a bit of a trip along the way. James winced mentally, thinking of the significant amount of time Lily was inevitably going to be spending in her loo as a result of her spontaneous drinking spree, but that couldn't be helped. Better to get it over with quickly then to let it drag on, after all. And what better way to get that going—and get the both of them back up to the castle—than Rosmerta's very own brew?
The Christmas bells jingled as James led Lily through the front door of The Three Broomsticks, guiding her through the busy crowds and finding a booth located near the back of the pub. He watched as she quickly slid into one seat, her eyes locked not on the merrymaking going on inside of the pub, but on something outside of the window. James turned, only to find himself nearly face-to-face with the very same giant, green, glittering arrow that had drove them in here in the first place. He nearly groaned.
"Stay here," he told Lily, dropping his scarf down on the opposite seat so that no one would get the impression that they could sit down and start making conversation with the barely-aware-of-her-senses Lily. "I'll be right back. I'm going to get the butterbeers, all right?"
"Yeah, all right," Lily muttered absently, her eyes still glued on the arrow outside the window. She smiled mindlessly as she watched it glisten in the snow. James rolled his eyes and turned around, making his way towards the bar.
He had to bump and prod at a few people drunker than even Lily before he finally managed to reach the bar. Down a little ways, Madam Rosmerta was loudly chatting with some older blokes, laughing along at some joke one of them had just told. She turned her head and spotted James, and he signaled her over with a quick wave of his hand.
"Well, if it isn't one of my favorite men," she called with a grin, greeting James with a quick kiss upon his cheek. "Merry Christmas to you, James Potter. And where would the rest of your lot be? Sitting their lazy arses down in one of my booths and forcing you to get the drinks, no doubt, eh?"
James grinned. "Not today," he told her, shaking his head. "Actually, I've got a bit of a favor to ask of you, love."
"A favor?" Rosmerta lifted her eyebrows. "What trouble are you stirring up this time?"
"No trouble," James insisted, holding his hands up innocently. "I was just wondering if you'd mind brewing me up a bit of your Sobering Butterbeer. For my mate, you see."
"Your mate, eh?" Rosmerta asked, eyeing him skeptically. "And where would this mate be?"
James crooked his thumb over at the booth in the corner where he had just stashed Lily. Glancing over together, Rosmerta let out a loud laugh as she watched a still utterly transfixed Lily practically pressing her nose against the window glass in her attempts to stare at the green arrow.
"Oh, dear," she giggled, wincing slightly. "What's she at? Four?"
"She was past five an hour ago," James confessed with a shrug. "But I hit her with a Sobering Charm before she could notice what I was doing, so I'd say she might be heading down that way."
"It's going to be a long night for that one," Rosmerta predicted with a grin. "You watch over the poor dear, won't you, love? I haven't seen that girl drink more than a glass of butterbeer in all her time here."
"I think she was better off that way," James muttered, taking another glance back at the girl in question. He chatted some more with Rosmerta as she quickly fixed up his drinks, and threw her a wink as she handed them over and he started to make his way back towards Lily. Reaching the table, she was—quite predictably—still glued to the window.
"How do you think they get it to shine like that?" she asked, barely sparing him a glance. "It can't be electricity—that's Muggle—but what else lights up like that?"
"Magic," James reminded her flatly, placing the mugs down on the table. He pulled at the back of her cloak and she nearly fell over. "Sit down and drink your butterbeer. It will make you feel better."
"I don't feel badly, though."
"You will," James muttered under his breath. Then to Lily he said, "Just drink it, love."
Lily grumbled a bit about bossy Head Boys before settling herself in her seat and grabbing the mug that James had deliberately set before her. Taking a sip of his own butterbeer, James watched as Lily carefully brought the tainted drink to her lips and took a small taste.
James sighed in relief.
She was never, never drinking again.
Her head was pounding—no, not pounding. Radiating. Radiating a constant pulse of pain throughout her entire system that was making her want to crawl back inside of her bed and never ever come out. Except life wasn't as simple as that. No, life was naturally far more complicated. Because the fact of the matter was, Lily wasn't even in her bed.
She was in the loo.
On the floor.
Wallowing in her own misery.
Lily groaned, rolling up out of her pathetic lying position on the cold loo floor, using her now well-worn toilet as an anchor to keep herself steady. She ran a weary hand through the infuriating knots in her messy hair, wincing disgustedly at the rotten taste that strayed in her mouth. She rubbed at her eyes, blinking furiously as her vision came in and out of focus. Sitting there alone in her wretchedness for a few minutes, she somehow—though she wasn't quite sure how—managed to stagger to her feet.
Merlin, what was wrong with her?
Lily groaned again, this time louder, and stumbled over to the closed loo door and began fumbling with the stupid doorknob. What in the bleeding hell was wrong with her? What in Merlin's name would possess her of all people to get down-right, pissed and drunk? She never did things like this. Never. She was the logical one, the rational one. And logical people, they just don't drink entire half-bottles of Firewhisky by themselves. Lily let out a moan, finally managing to pry the door open with her clumsy hands. She stumbled out of the loo, rubbing at her aching head as she struggled to remember just what she had been doing before she somehow ended up face-down on the floor in her loo, smelling like vomit.
"Evening, sunshine. Feeling better?"
Lily's head snapped up, her head positively throbbing from the quick motion as she blankly regarded the handsome, smiling face that stared up at her from the big, red couch in the middle of the common room. And suddenly, it all started to come back.
Lily groaned very loudly, quickly getting very sick of the pitiful sounds she was consistently making, but not being able to stop herself from doing otherwise. Stumbling over the various amount of books that littered the floor—books, Lily thought with another groan. That had been her, hadn't it?—she clenched her eyes shut and fell down onto the couch next to James, curling herself up into a pathetic, little ball on the far right side of the sofa. From her left, she heard James's deep chuckle.
"Shut up," she wailed, burying her face into the red cushions. "Shuddup, shuddup, shuddup."
"I told you it was going to be bad," James insisted, laughing softly. Lily felt his hand fall down upon her back and she scowled into the couch cushions. "I had Sirius bring over some spare Hangover Potion if you want it."
"Will I still feel like utter shit?"
"More or less," James confessed, his hand now moving slowly up and down her back in a soothing motion. Lily shivered slightly at his touch. "But take it anyway. Mentally, you'll think you're improving. Hold on, I'll just go—"
"No, wait." Lily unburied herself from the cushions slightly, peeking her eyes out over the arm that lay sprawled across her face. "Don't move."
"Because I said so. Just don't move."
James rolled his eyes, but did as he was told. He watched, silent and frozen, as Lily began to uncoil herself from the ball she had wrapped herself in. Aching and whimpering, she grabbed at the blanket they kept thrown across the back of the sofa and quickly burrowed herself into that, wrapping it securely around her shoulders as she propped herself up against the sofa's arm rest. Taking a deep breath, she regarded James seriously.
"Did I do anything stupid?" she asked, pursing her lips into a tight, straight line. James looked a bit shocked at her question and remained silent for a few moments. Lily immediately began dreading the worst.
"You were drunk," he finally answered, shrugging slightly. "Define stupid."
"Did I embarrass myself ridiculously?" Lily questioned, grasping at the bits and pieces she could remember from the last few hours. "Did I hurt myself in any way—did I hurt someone else in any way? Did I—"
"You were fine," James interrupted, cutting off her endless tirade. "You didn't do anything. I was with you the entire time—well, I mean, most of the time anyway. I wasn't there for this"—he motioned to the disastrous mess of books around the room—"and you threw your shoe at me when I tried to help you in the loo, but I managed to get your hair back before you turned violent."
That sounded about right.
Lily remembered the shoe bit. And the loo. And…
"Oh my god," Lily groaned, suddenly remembering. "You...your shoes, James. What about your shoes?"
James winced, rubbing at the back of his neck. "They've seen better days," he told her honestly. Lily closed her eyes and wished to be dead. James let out a laugh at her horrified expression. "You only managed to get the left one," he tried helpfully, throwing her a small smile. "And only a bit, so don't worry about it."
"I vomited on your trainers and you are telling me not to worry about it?!"
"One trainer," he corrected pointedly, nodding his head. "And it's all sanitary now. They were really due for a good cleaning, anyway. It was good luck, I swear."
"Good luck? Good luck?" Lily never felt so much like crying in her entire life. "What else did I do?" she demanded, looking desperate. "What else can't I remember? Don't I want to remember?"
"Nothing," James told her again. "I swear, you didn't do—"
"I think I'm going to be sick."
And with that, she dashed back into the loo once again, slamming the door behind her.
When Lily came back out of the loo a good forty minutes later, she looked much more composed and much more herself. James carefully set down the book he'd been reading—Beating the Bludgers—A Study of Defensive Strategies in Quidditch. Who knew they'd had that under all those trash books?—and watched as she slowly made her way back to the sofa, her hair wet and her body wrapped tightly in her dressing robe. She tucked her feet underneath her and threw him a look.
"I've brushed my teeth nearly twenty times now," she told him seriously, "and I still taste vomit."
James grinned, shaking his head as she pulled a bitter face and began moving her mouth around, acting as if she could swish the taste out of her mouth simply by shifting it about.
"It'll go away," he told her, trying to look as sympathetic as possible. "Did you take that potion I left in there?"
"Yeah," Lily nodded. "And I took a shower, as well."
James smirked. "I can see that."
Lily threw him an annoyed look, just one more bit of proof that drunken Lily was gone and his Lily was back. She settled herself against the arm of the couch again, shifting slightly. Then, with a gentle sigh, she regarded him carefully. "I remembered a few more things while I was in the shower," she told him softly, twirling a lock of damp red hair in between her fingers. "Or perhaps I imagined them, I don't know."
"Like what?" James asked, feeling his lips twitch. "I can tell you. I was there."
Lily sighed again, still twirling that same bit of hair in her fingers, slowly driving James mad. Crazy as it was, he could still feel that hair flowing through his fingers from when Lily had kissed him earlier that afternoon. Merlin only knew when he'd have a chance at that again. Probably the next time she got drunk—if she ever got drunk.
"I remember Hogsmeade," Lily started, jarring James from his thoughts. "We went there, didn't we?"
James nodded. Lily looked relieved.
"Okay, good. Then I wasn't imagining things." She pursed her lips a bit, seeming to be trying to remember what else had gone on that day. "I remember…it was snowing. And it got on my nose. Did that happen?"
James nodded again. "You found that hilariously funny," he deliberately pointed out, smiling mischievously. "Giggled up a storm about that one, you did."
"Oh no, I'm one of those drunks?" Lily moaned, wrinkling her nose in distaste. "Tell me you wanted to sock me at the end of ten minutes. Was I giggling uncontrollably?"
"Most of the time," James admitted. "But it wasn't terrible. Believe it or not, you were actually quite endearing like that, Evans."
"Endearing?" Lily laughed, cocking an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose that's good to know." She seemed to think on that for a few moments, smiling slightly to herself as she stared down at her hands in her lap. "Do you know what else I remember? Though this is probably some sort of figment of my drunken hallucinations."
"A green arrow," she said, and James instantly burst out laughing. "A giant, glittering, neon green arrow—what? What's with that? Potter, why are you laughing?"
"You're mad," was all he could manage to say, clutching at his aching stomach in pure glee. "Did anyone ever tell you that, Evans? Mad."
"So then I didn't imagine that?" Lily asked, shocked. "Where the bloody hell was there a giant green arrow? James? James, stop laughing and tell me what you're on about!"
"Outside The Three Broomsticks," James finally explained, still laughing. "You couldn't keep your eyes off the bloody thing. Had your nose practically smashed against the window to see it when we went inside."
Lily threw him an annoyed look. "I thought you said I didn't make a fool out of myself?"
James was too busy laughing to respond.
"What else do you remember?" he managed to ask a few seconds later, when he was finally able to compose himself.
Lily bit her bottom lip. "Just one more thing," she answered, her voice oddly quiet.
James beamed, his hazel eyes shining behind his glasses. "What?" he asked, just as Lily was about to open her mouth. "Garden gnomes?"
"No, actually—wait, garden gnomes? What about garden gnomes?"
"You wanted to buy one," James told her cheerfully, grinning from ear to ear. "For your mum. They don't have them in the Muggle World, you know," he teased.
Lily buried her face in her hands, letting out a loud moan. James started laughing again, shaking his head as Lily continued to groan.
"I am never getting drunk ever again," she insisted, peeking her eyes out from underneath her hands. "Ever. Did you have to put up with that kind of rubbish all day?"
"Not all day," James replied, giving a shrug. "But I have to admit, you were rather talkative." Lily groaned again. James chuckled again. "But if it wasn't the gnomes you remembered," he continued on with a smile a few seconds later, "then what was it?"
James froze, the smiling instantly dropping from his face. "What did you just say?"
"I remember kissing you," Lily repeated quickly, and James deliberately noticed her cheeks had turned an alarming shade of red. "Or at least…I did kiss you, didn't I? I mean, I didn't dream it up? I couldn't have. I remember. It was over by the bookcase—I know I did…right?"
James couldn't manage to answer her right away. Shit, he thought, fighting the urge to hit something. Of all the things for her to remember, she just had to remember kissing him, didn't she? James very nearly let out a groan of his own. If he told Lily the truth—that she had indeed snogged him—would she get cross? Would she get angry with him for letting her do it? Or would she finally give up the charade she insisted on playing and go on and snog him again? James prayed for the ladder, but was thinking more the former. Life would naturally be that cruel.
His head shot up, his eyes darting to Lily as he took in her worried and embarrassed features. Slowly, hesitantly, James nodded. "Yeah," he muttered hoarsely. "Yeah, I suppose you did. But it wasn't anything serious!" he added swiftly, holding up his hands innocently. "Honestly. I would have stopped you more quickly, but you sort of shocked me for a second there and I'm only male, after all—"
"James? James, stop, it doesn't matter!" Lily grabbed his arm, and James somehow managed to shut his babbling trap. "Really," she insisted again. "It doesn't matter. The truth of the matter is…" She paused, biting her lip as she let out a gentle sigh. Her eyes slowly drifted back to his, an odd sort of light reflecting in the green. "The fact of the matter is," she said again, her voice very quiet. "Well...I should have done it a long time ago."
James very nearly jumped out of his seat. "Sorry?" he asked.
Lily blushed even redder. "I should have done it a long time ago," she repeated, shrugging her shoulders. "I wanted to—you know I wanted to. I just…didn't know how to deal with it all, I s'ppse. I mean, you're you and I'm…me." She stopped and shook her head, tearing her eyes from his. "I'm sure that doesn't make any sense."
"No," James interrupted quickly, placing a finger under her chin and lifting it so that she was looking at him again. "No, it makes perfect sense."
But James wasn't giving her any time to talk herself out of this one. He was there, she was there—sober, Thank Merlin—and she'd all but told him she wanted him to snog her again, so James swiftly did just that before Lily started thinking too much.
And then neither one of them was thinking very much after that.
Several heated minutes later—during which time James somehow managed to pin Lily against the couch, his hands resting not-so-politely upon her hitched-up dressing down, hers buried in his hair, both breathing rather ruggedly—James finally managed to pull his lips away from hers, staring down at her flushed face and shining green eyes before he lost any sort of words he might have wanted to say and instead started snogging her again, just because he could. Lily didn't seem to mind, and returned the sentiment enthusiastically, until a few minutes later, when she started pulling away.
"James—no, wait, James, stop that for a moment, will you?"
"What?" James practically snapped, throwing her an aggravated look for interrupting what he had just recently deemed the best snogging session of his entire life, glaring at her hands that were trying to keep at least a semblance of space between them. At his frustrated face, Lily grinned slightly.
"I have a question for you," she told him innocently, carefully running her fingers through his thick hair. James nearly sobbed at the effort it took not to physically maul her right then and there.
"What's your question?" he asked tightly.
Lily grinned again, a mischievous light of her own shining in her eyes.
"Would you say I was 'completely guttered'," she asked, "or 'gone with the wind'?"
James let out a hoot of laughter, completely ignoring her question, choosing to continue snogging her instead. Lily, for her part, didn't seem to mind all that much.
And for that, James thought, all he could say was…it was about damn time.