Disclaimer: Not mine.
She didn't know why she was here, to be entirely honest.
The annual Christmas Ball had never been a great source of excitement for Lily Evans, unlike the rest of students at Hogwarts. Sure, it was fun picking out a nice dress in Hogsmeade with her friends, but when it came to the Ball itself? It was more trouble than it was worth, in her opinion.
The food was nothing special, she maintained. Nothing that she couldn't find at a regular meal at Hogwarts.
The music was okay. All the other girls positively swooned over the nameless stranger portrayed Celestia Warbeck's hit song, "Wandering Wizard," but she'd take muggle bands like The Beatles any day.
And then the dance partner… thing. She didn't like that at all.
It was just… so… awkward.
Her close guy friends all always had girlfriends, so the only boys that would ask her were more "acquaintances" than actual friends. During her first couple years at Hogwarts, she'd been fine with that. But she'd soon come to realize that spending the night with someone and having absolutely nothing to talk about with was far from enjoyable. She'd never been able to look Arnold Patil straight in the eye again after they'd spent an entire five hours in awkward silence in 3rd year. The last few years she'd had boyfriends during Christmas, so the ball had been… tolerable.
But this year…
After turning down a record four dates, Lily had forcefully maintained that she was not, under any circumstances, going to the Christmas Ball.
Not that that had lasted long.
Please, Lily? It'll be fun, just the two of us girls. And you know you like Celestia Warbeck.
So she'd been nice. She'd been a good friend. She aimed a kick at a rosebush as Marlene's empty words echoed through her head. Lily and Marlene had both been dateless up until five days ago, when that stupid McKinnon boy had nervously asked Marlene to the ball.
Lily scowled moodily. Marlene Jackson and Jerald McKinnon? They'd never last.
Dateless and ditched, Lily had tentatively agreed to go with a certain seventh year boy, constantly repeating that they were going "just as friends" and that she would sooner "don a snorkel and snog the giant squid" than dance with him.
He wasn't even her date, really. They were just two dateless people that had agreed to keep each other company at the ball.
She aimed another, rather more forceful kick at the same rosebush, pretending it was James Potter.
Stupid git. He was driving her crazy.
She didn't have enough fingers, and toes even, to count the number of times she'd spent a sleepless night thinking about him.
He was just so frustrating! She'd been planning on spending the year easily hating him as she had for the other six years she'd known him. Instead, she was now forced to constantly watch herself, trying not to reveal that he was, in fact, an okay guy. That she didn't mind him. That she might actually like him. That she might actually fancy him.
She kicked the bush again.
Why?! Why did he have to change? Why did he suddenly have to become mature, intelligent, polite, and the Head Boy? Lily couldn't even find one thing wrong with him anymore! She'd spent an entire five nights trying to find something, but there was nothing! Nothing! He was perfect, he was funny, he was smart, he was amazing, he was… so… so… so goddamn frustrating.
And there she was, hiding her feelings from him and feeling like a complete idiot. Who had created such an awful punishment? Why did she need to be hopelessly infatuated with the guy she'd been turning down for the past three years of her life?
He hadn't even asked her out once that year. If he had, she promised herself, she would say yes. But if he wasn't going to admit his feelings, she wasn't going to either.
She stubbornly maintained that her furious glare was not what had made James add "you know, just as friends" after he asked her to the ball.
He simply didn't fancy her anymore. She was sure of it.
She'd spent the Christmas Ball supper maintaining a stony silence, though she was not completely sure that she had managed to entirely hide her laughter sometimes. After all, James and his friends could be rather funny. Remus was witty, Sirius was goofy, and even Peter had a certain charm to him. And James was… everything. And more. Cute, maybe. Charming, even.
Which had made her even angrier. Why did he have to be so perfect?
She kicked the rosebush again, noticing that it was looking rather worse for wear after all her forceful brutality.
Dinner had ended with Sirius, Remus, Peter, and their dates going off to dance, leaving Lily and James sitting alone at the table. They'd made small talk. She'd actually laughed and unfolded her arms from their death grip, and things were starting to look promising, until a gaggle of giggling girls had made their way over to James, smiling and batting their eyelashes.
And James had smiled back.
The stupid git. Smiled. Back.
If only he'd just ignored them, or told them to clear off, for Merlin's sake! Instead he smiled at them, like he'd wanted them there! Well, he could go cuddle up with them if it was so important to him.
The rosebush bobbed back and forth as she kicked it again.
She knew she was being ridiculous, that James was just being his usually friendly self and had been about to refuse their offer to dance. But somehow it was oddly satisfying, seeing the hurt, confused look on his face as she stormed from the Great Hall.
But as she sat alone on next to her battered rosebush, she was starting to regret her rather rash decision.
She'd traipsed outside, fully ready to take a vigorous walk/jog around the lake (in heels; it would have been quite a great feat) only to find herself lost among a forest of tall and thick rosebushes that had clearly been set up to allow privacy for couples coming out of the Christmas Ball for some "fresh air." She'd thrown herself down on a bench several rosebushes from the edge of this jungle, giving her a clear view of the castle's main doors, but hiding her from everyone else quite successfully.
Stupid Potter. She really, really didn't want him to see her walking back inside (though he'd probably be too entangled with some girl to notice her, she thought gloomily), so she'd resigned herself to sitting on the cold, hard bench. Probably for several more days, just in case Potter and his "friend" decided to spend the night out on the grounds doing who-knows-what.
Alright, scratch that. She was not sitting in this rosebush forest all night just to hear the sound effects of Potter and some skank, whatever those noises may be.
She aimed another kick at the rosebush. Finding it quite satisfying to imagine it was a certain delicate body part of Potter's, she continued her kicking in a rather vicious way.
"—Prongs," a voice echoed from the front door. Lily stopped her beating of the rose bush. Most of the couples she'd seen so far had just run into the rose bushes; what kind of loser would linger to chat when they could be snogging in a prickly jungle of roses? "She'll come around eventually."
"Yeah." Lily's heart skipped several thousand beats as she heard James's voice. "I just don't know what I did, you know?"
"I know, mate, she's out of order sometimes," said Sirius. "Moony reckons she's just nervous about her feelings for you, though—I think he's right. Things are different this year, I've noticed."
They were talking about her, weren't they?
"Yeah, she doesn't seem to hate my guts as much, eh?" said James, with a sort of hollow chuckle. "Just some of the major organs."
Sirius laughed. "Well, just give it some time. She'll come around."
"Yeah, yeah," said James moodily. "Thanks, Pads. You go ahead and get back to Sienna; I don't mean to interrupt you guys."
"Nah, not a problem, mate," said Sirius, smiling. "You're welcome to hang out with us, if you like."
"I think I might just call it a night –take a walk around the lake and head up, but thanks anyway. Tell Sienna I said goodnight."
Sirius smiled, clapped James on the shoulder and headed back inside. Looking up at the moon miserably, James put his hands in his pockets and let out a loud sort of sigh.
Ten yards away, Lily sighed to herself, too. She was an idiot. A great, big fat idiot. Why couldn't she just admit that she liked him?
Or why couldn't he just admit that he liked her?
She kicked the rosebush again, not sure if she was angrier at herself or James. Still, kicking the bush was quite satisfying.
Kick. Kick. Kick. She vaguely wondered if James could see the bush moving, and that was why he was looking over in her direction, but she didn't care. Kick. Kick. He was walking over to the lake now. If she wanted to, she could run out of her pathetic hiding spot and tell him she fancied him like mad and that she was sorry and that he was a git and… Kick. Kick. Ki—
There was a loud crack, a crash, and Lily realized that she was now kicking thin air. Stupid rose bushes that look sturdy but aren't.
Lily looked over, realizing that James had paused at the sound of the crash, and was now craning his neck to see what had happened.
"What do you want?" she said, a little more brutally than she had intended.
James grinned. "Such a charmer, aren't you, Lily?"
Lily watched as he struggled through the bushes towards her, the thorns catching on his clothes. Rolling her eyes, she pointed her wand towards the fallen, traitorous rosebush, muttering "Reparo."
Finally disentangling himself from the rosebushes, he sat himself on the bench next to Lily.
"Would you mind doing that again?" said Lily. James quirked an eyebrow. "I was sort of enjoying watching you struggle through the rosebushes."
James laughed. Lily flashed a reluctant grin.
"You've got a nice smile," James said. Lily blushed and broke eye contact, pretending to be interested in the shrubbery. They sat in silence for a moment.
"So this is where you've been hiding," James said quietly.
"Wha—" said Lily, caught off guard. "I wasn't hiding—"
"You didn't have to agree to come to the ball with me, you know. I just thought it might be fun."
"No, no, I wanted to come," said Lily shamefacedly.
James gave her a half-smile. "Alright. I just wanted to make sure—I didn't want you to feel like I was forcing you to come with me or anything." Lily grinned.
"We all know you're getting good at the Imperius Curse, James," Lily said jokingly.
James's grin widened. "Well, you know, I didn't become Head Boy by Dumbledore's choice, if you know what I mean… Or Quidditch Captain either, for that matter…"
Lily laughed. It was suddenly much easier interacting with James… It seemed like they had reached a sort of understanding, that James finally knew she didn't completely loathe him. She hadn't really admitted anything, but all of the sudden fancying him seemed… okay. Like he wouldn't die of shock if she flirted with him a little.
"This is sort of a ridiculous place," said James, looking around. "This… this…"
"Rosebush Jungle," prompted Lily helpfully. James gave her an incredulous look. "Well, it needs a name, doesn't it?"
James laughed, scratching his head and messing up his dark hair even more. "Yeah, I can see Amos Diggory now—'Me and Ella were going at it in the Rosebush Jungle, we were.'"
Lily and James laughed.
Suddenly realizing how cold she was, Lily shivered.
"We can go back inside, if you want," offered James.
"Nah," said Lily, wrinkling her nose, "I don't much fancy Celestia Warbeck."
James laughed. "Here, at least let me—" He looked down at himself, evidently just realizing that he wasn't wearing a jacket. "Well…" He paused, and then began unbuttoning his shirt.
"James!" said Lily. "It's fine, I'll be okay—"
"No, it's alright," James assured her, pulling off his shirt. "Look."
Lily, who had been pointedly looking up at the sky—seeing James shirtless probably wouldn't do anything for her already furiously pounding heart—glanced at James, realizing that he had been wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt underneath his white dress shirt.
"You're unbelievable," said Lily, laughing, as James helped her into his shirt.
"Oh, come on, I couldn't leave my Beatles shirt behind," said James, grinning.
Lily raised an eyebrow. "You listen to the Beatles? They're a muggle band!"
"So? Or did you picture me rocking out to Celestia Warbeck?" James grinned, strumming an air guitar and banging his head.
Lily smiled, shaking her head. "You're ridiculous."
James smiled back at her, looking into her eyes so deeply that she laughed nervously and looked away from him. Glancing back, she saw James's eyebrows do a sort of wiggle. Raising her eyebrows and smiling, she looked away again.
"You fancy me," said James, nudging her shoulder playfully.
Heart beating a mad tattoo against her ribcage, Lily opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again, apparently at a loss of what to say.
"Admit it," said James, cocking his head adorably and wearing a blatant half-smirk.
"I—I do not!" said Lily, not sounding nearly as insulted or truthful as the situation warranted.
James raised his eyebrows playfully. Lily narrowed her eyes, still smiling, and glanced down at her lap again. Looking up, she realized how close her and James's faces seemed to have become. Allowing personal space had never been one of James Potter's many talents.
She waited for him to break the silence. When he didn't, words she didn't approve of started tumbling awkwardly out of her mouth. "Well—alright, say I did fancy you, what did you expect me to do once you accused me of fancying you? Start snogging the pants off you like some crazed maniac—?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," said James, and before Lily knew what was happening, he had swooped down and dropped his mouth right onto hers.
Surely her heart had beaten itself out of her chest and that was why this felt so unreal. One warm hand cupped her cheek gently, pushing a lock of her dark red hair out of the way, while his other arm rested firmly against her hip, hand tracing distracted circles against her back. His lips moved skillfully against hers, and before she knew it his hot mouth was open to hers as a wave of electricity shot through her body.
They broke apart, gasping for air, as Lily wildly pulled away. James grabbed her in a rough, but somehow gentle way (was that possible?) pulling her to him with one arm around her waist and a hand on her knee. He exhaled heavily, resting his forehead softly against hers. His hazel eyes met her green ones with such intensity, she felt her heart trying to leap from her ribcage again.
Reaching up, Lily ran her thumb over a scar on James's bottom lip. His jaw tensed slightly, and she smiled, realizing the effect that she had on him.
A wolf whistle came from not too far away. Looking around, Lily saw Sirius Black, shirt slightly unbuttoned, clutching the hand of a pretty Ravenclaw girl and wearing a wide smirk. "Come on, Sienna, let's give them some privacy…"
James rolled his eyes and Sirius's retreating back. "Git. Don't worry, I'll get him later," he assured Lily, nodding his head towards where Sirius had disappeared.
James smiled, letting his arm drop from her waist. "So," he said, placing his hands on his knees and leaning forward, looking back at Lily. She shrugged a shoulder. James leaned back so their sides were pressed together, as Lily dropped her head on his shoulder. He snatched up her hand, lacing his fingers with hers, and dropping their intertwined hands onto his lap.
"You know you're my girlfriend now, yeah?"
Lily gave a mock sigh. "I suppose," she said in a resigned sort of voice.
She felt, rather than saw, James smile. "Don't sound so cheerful, I'll think you're not serious."
They sat there peacefully for a while, until the grounds suddenly got darker. Lily raised her head, looking towards the castle.
"Looks like the ball's ended," said James, also looking towards the doors. Couples were starting to emerge from the rosebushes, giggling and making their way up to the castle.
"I guess we'd better get going?" said Lily dispassionately.
She looked back at James, whose head was tilted sideways, an expression of thoughtfulness gracing his handsome features. "You know, I'm not sure I want to. It's sort of grown on me, this Rosebush Jungle."
Lily laughed. "I know what you mean. It's got its own kind of charm."
"Are you sure it's the jungle that's charming? It might just be me," said James, wiggling his eyebrows again.
"No, I don't think so," said Lily thoughtfully.
James pretended to look insulted. "Well, then, if you'd rather go kiss the rosebush, don't let me stop you—"
James's lips found Lily's again, as she silently thanked the stupid, crashing, cracking, traitorous rosebush, along with the Christmas Ball and the Rosebush Jungle.
a/n: review, yeah?