Disclaimer: I don't own it.
Summary: Lily falls in love with James one sense at a time.
The Five Senses of Lily Evans
She would never forget the moment when she first saw the real James Potter, the man behind the arrogant, conceited act he liked to put on. The day had started out normally enough; she was the same "overachiever" (as Sirius later called her, albeit affectionately) as she always was, raising her hand to answer every question her teachers asked and getting top marks all her homework assignments for the day. There was nothing to point out that, within hours, Lily's entire life would change.
She had planned on spending her free period in the library that day, but, shortly after entering it, she realized she had left one of the textbooks she needed back in her dormitory. Since part of her homework required reading two chapters of The Dark Arts Outsmarted, Lily had no choice but to make her way back to Gryffindor Tower.
The Gryffindor Common Room was nearly empty when she entered, and her gaze swept over the area carelessly. So carelessly, in fact, that Lily didn't process what she had seen until she was halfway up the stairs to the girls' dormitories.
Completely forgetting about the library, Lily quickly hurried back down the stairs and positively gaped. In the corner of the room, James sat with a short, scrawny boy who looked too young to even be a first year. James was patiently pointing certain lines out in the first year's textbook, and when the boy expressed confusion about what James had said and asked a few questions, James—instead of mocking the boy or conveying annoyance at the boy's slower grasp of the knowledge, as Lily would have expected him to do—smiled kindly and explained the concept all over again.
She wasn't quite sure how long she stood there, watching James encourage and help the young boy, watching James act in a way she had never imagined possible. Eventually, however, she remembered why she had returned to Gryffindor Tower, and she forced herself to walk up the stairs to her dormitory.
Her copy of The Dark Arts Outsmarted lay in the same spot where she always put it, yet she couldn't shake off the feeling that it wasn't in its usual spot. The more she thought about it, the more she felt like nothing at all was where it should be. And, to make matters worse, Lily actually liked that feeling.
Even Lily could appreciate the irony of her situation. Only two days ago, she had hated James Potter's ability to ramble on non-stop about even the most mundane matters; today, however, his deep, resounding voice sent a warm, tingling sensation throughout her entire body, making it impossible for her not to pay attention to his words.
"Evans, you know what this reminds me of?" James asked, suddenly breaking off from his previous monologue.
"What do you mean by 'this?'" Lily asked, trying to hide her disappointment. She, as embarrassed as she was to admit it, actually wanted to know the ending to James' story—did he get his socks back, or not?
"You, me, minding our own business as we do our Head duties," James explained. "It reminds of the time me and Sirius went to lunch at a Muggle restaurant."
"You two went to a Muggle restaurant?" Lily repeated, surprised. "Were your parents at least with you, to keep you two out of trouble?"
"My parents? Of course not! They were gone for day visiting some friends, or else we never would've been allowed to go." James grinned mischievously. "So, anyway, this was about a week before school started again, and Sirius and I wanted to relax and enjoy ourselves, you know?"
"Because you always work sohard here," Lily couldn't help but add. James, thankfully, didn't seem offended.
"So we're at some dirty, cramped restaurant, keeping to ourselves and not causing any trouble—you'd be so proud of us, Evans, we were acting like real, bonafide Muggles—" Lily doubted this was true, "when the woman next to us starts to scream at the top of her lungs. And I'm thinking, I've never seen anyone else throw such a spectacular tantrum as this woman, especially in public. Even Sirius was awed, and he's seen quite a few tantrums in his life—he's even had a few himself, but don't tell him I said that."
"I won't, I promise," Lily said with a laugh. "What happened next?"
"The woman starts to whip her utensils, plate, and glass—full of wine, mind you—at her boyfriend, and when the manager and a few waiters try to calm her down, she starts throwing things at them, too. Then, for no apparent reason at all, she turns on the two of us. 'This is all your fault,' she yells, and I'm just staring at her as if she's gone completely bonkers. I mean, I don't even know what she's talking about, so how could it be my fault?"
James paused, and Lily, getting impatient, asked, "So what was wrong with her? Did you two unintentionally do something to set her off?"
"Oh, it turned out that she had recently been sprung from some insane asylum by her boyfriend," James answered, shrugging. "Anything could've set her off."
"Oh." James stared at her oddly for a moment, causing Lily to ask nervously, "What?"
"You actually liked my story?"
Lily shrugged. "It was okay." Much better than okay, actually, but Lily figured James didn't need to know that. Then again, she wasn't a very fair judge; the tingly feeling within her body made her love any story James told. "Stop looking at me like that."
"Sorry, it's just… I always got the feeling that you were only half-listening to me—if you were even listening to me at all—whenever I told stories. But, you actually stopped working to listen to me just now."
And so she had, Lily noticed, amazed.
Lily was, by now, used to the fact that James would inevitably choose a seat within a ten foot radius of Lily's in every they shared class. Entirely new, however, was the fact that Lily had actually started to notice James in these classes. And, after noticing him, Lily wondered how she ever could have ignored James before. He constantly whispered to his friends, he laughed so loudly that the teachers often glared, and, most distracting of all for Lily, he smelled incredibly good.
So, for the first time in her life, Lily failed to pay attention during a class. Instead, she tried to determine just what made James smell so appealing. The task was harder than she thought it would be, to tell the truth, as she could only use her nose—asking James was out of the question.
Peppermint. She finally picked out a the scent of peppermint, though it took more than ten minutes of sniffing to do so. She was reminded instantly of Christmas, though Christmas was still over a month away.
Pine trees. The scent of pine trees clung to him as if he had only recently wandered through the Forbidden Forest—which, Lily realized, he probably had. James never set much store by the rules; on the contrary, James liked to purposely disobey them. As there was a rule forbidding entry into the Forbidden Forest, James likely had entered the it.
Laundry Detergent. Lily wasn't quite sure how this one worked out, as James had never seemed the type to do his own laundry; she had always assumed Remus washed all the Marauders' clothes. Yet, the more she sniffed at the air, the more confident Lily became that what she was attempting to identity was, indeed, laundry detergent.
There was something else, too, something Lily couldn't determine no matter how hard she wracked her brain for an answer. This something, she knew, was a necessary part of James' aroma, though that didn't help her discover what it was.
She became so distracted with trying to determine the last scent that she answered question after question wrong, causing her teacher to gaze the star pupil with evident confusion. Honestly, though how could they expect her to concentrate when James smelt so utterly fantastic?
Lily was almost as amazed as James was when she agreed to sit next to him during the Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw quidditch match. When her mouth had opened, she fully intended to say no to James' offer, yet her rejection got lost somewhere in her through and turned into acceptance.
Yet, sitting with James and his friends didn't turn out to be too horrible, Lily had to admit. Sure, they were a little too fanatical about quidditch for her to completely fit in—Lily's quidditch knowledge was limited to a basic idea of what the balls and players did—but she did find herself laughing quite a few times.
After a Ravenclaw Chaser scored a third goal, however, Lily could no longer even attempt to understand the game. Her hand, when she had reached up to put a flyaway lock of auburn hair behind her ear, had accidentally brushed against James' arm, and the minute her skin touched his, Lily felt as if fire was racing through every one of her veins. She became hyperaware of every muscle in her body, and of just how close to her James was sitting. If she leaned less than an inch to her right, her shoulders would touch his…
No, she couldn't do it. The very thought of bumping her shoulder into James' made her feel sick—not from disgust, surprisingly, but from fear. Logically, Lily knew James would probably die of happiness if she did what her body was aching to do, but Lily wasn't capable of logical thought at the moment. All she could think about was how much she wanted to cross that invisible line she had long ago set up between James and herself, but how afraid she was to do so.
Though she had read nearly all of Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland, Lily still couldn't see what all the fuss was about; the game was too complicated, too dangerous, and, often times, too long to keep her interested. She wanted to understand James better—he was all she could think about, lately—but the more she read about the sport, the more confused she became about why anyone would like it.
Of course, actually asking James was out of the question, since she hadn't quite gotten around to admitting her feeling for him yet. Nor, to be honest, did Lily think she ever would. No, she would likely keep these feelings buried deep inside in the hope that they might just one day disappear.
However, Lily soon learned she wasn't as sneaky as she thought she was. In the Gryffindor Common Room, as she quickly read page after page in her quidditch book, James suddenly asked her, "What are you doing, Lily?"
Ignoring the flip the her stomach did when she heard how softly and carefully James said her name, as though he cherished saying it, Lily lifted her green-eyed gaze to meet his. James, she noticed, was eyeing her very oddly. "Reading," Lily answered slowly.
"I know that," James said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I was referring to what your reading. Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland? Not exactly your type of book, is it?"
"Why does everyone assume that I don't like quidditch?" Lily tried to snap, but her words lacked force. After all, it was rather hard to be indignant when her cheeks were burning with embarrassment. This was one of the many curses of pale skin, her equally fair-skinned mother had once told her.
"Er, because you don't like quidditch," James pointed out reasonably. "You told me so yourself."
"Right, well, I thought I'd give it another chance." Lily shrugged.
"But why?" James asked.
Instead of lying, Lily decided to tell James the truth. "Everyone likes quidditch, so I'm obviously missing something, right?" Okay, so it wasn't the entire truth, but it was close enough that she at least didn't feel like she had lied.
"A lot of people like dancing, but you didn't feel the need to study that topic."
Without meaning to, Lily instantly replied, "But you don't like dancing." She clasped her hands over her mouth, wishing she could take those words back and shove them down her throat, wishing the floor would open beneath her and swallow her whole.
"You like me," James said, awed, as if he couldn't quite believe what he had heard. He ran a hand through his messy black hair—a habit which she no longer hated, Lily noticed—as a big, excited grin spread across his face.
Lily's face, which had previously been white with horror, suddenly turned bright red. "I… I…" No matter how hard she tried to speak, no other word would come out of her throat.
"You! Lily Evans!" James exclaimed. "Like me! James Potter!"
After another moment, Lily finally found her voice. "Wow, Tarzan, nothing slips past you, does it?" she asked in a weak attempt to be flippant.
James' grin grew even wider. "You're not disagreeing with me," he pointed out. "That means you really do like me." For another few moments, James just beamed at Lily, until finally Lily took a chance.
"Are you going to kiss me or not, James?"
She barely had time to utter her question before James captured her lips with his own. She melted into James' arms, weak in the knees, and her heart started to beat faster than it ever had before. After what felt like both a second and an eternity at the same time, the two finally broke apart. Leaning her forehead against his, Lily breathlessly told James, "You taste like cinnamon."