A/N: in a desperate way to woo readers or reviewers (both, hopefully): PLEASE READ!
Also, to answer one of my first reviewers queries - "Annna" - (thanks for commenting by the way!) they are falling through the barrier at the end.
Disclaimer: I would love to be richer than the queen, but there, that's life...
Kings Cross Station
As platform ten approached, Lily recognised James Potter leaning against the linking barrier. Sirius Black and Remus Lupin stood with him while Peter Pettigrew struggled to shoulder his way between.
'Oh, dear Merlin...' Lupin said faintly, looking slightly nauseous.
'Dumbledore's lost it.' said Sirius understatedly.
Minutes passed and Remus was the first to recover, though his cheeks still seemed to host an unusual shade of green, 'Ah, well, you know what they say - "you can't compete with age".'
'Thank you, Padfoot.'
'Who are "they" anyway?'
'Xenophilius Lovegood said they were behind the conspiracy of the "Wart Faced Bonbons"...' Piped Peter, his voice muffled from behind James' shoulder.
'My fingers hurt from gesticulating all these quotations...'
Sirius was perplexed. 'Testicl- what?'
'Hey!' said James indignantly, realising that his friends had been insulting him minutes before. Yes, his outburst was slightly overdue.
The boys strategically avoided his eyes.
'I've earned this!' James said defensively, thrusting the badge from his pocket into their faces, walloping Peter on the forehead. Nobody seemed to notice.
Sirius smirked and let off a hacking cough that sounded peculiarly like 'slacker' which earned him a smack on the back of his head.
'Prat.' he offered in kind explanation, 'I meant, I've earned this! The chance to prove to her… '
As he turned to Lily, he felt her eyes watching him closely. She swiftly spun around as he looked up. James noticed the side of her cheek flaming.
'James!' whispered Sirius, steering him through the barrier, "Stop ogling at her!" As they emerged on the other side, James whooped gleefully, "I could've sworn she was looking at me!" Sirius shook his head.
James shot another glance at the opposite carriage, consisting of Lily and a few other friends. He nudged Sirius (who was overwhelmed with a large group of girls) and addressed the girls delicately, 'OI! Clear off, we're leaving.' Sirius, who, sorry to depart, followed James moodily into the next carriage, taking care to mutter darkly (nonetheless audibly) under his breath.
'Hold on, the changing rooms were back over– hey! Where are you going?'
'Just wait…' muttered James; his eyes fixed on Lily - his hand immediately disrupting his hair.
Sirius frowned and followed James' gaze. Comprehending, his expression cleared and he turned to James, making an appreciative noise and wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Alice withdrew from the conversation and gaped at the door in. She pointed at the door. Then at Lily. Then at the door. Then at Lily once more. This was getting confusing. Lily peered through the tinted glass to see two tall figures, one with recognisably unkempt hair. Lily inhaled sharply, understanding.
James opened the door and stopped short in front of it while Sirius busied himself at the passing lunch trolley. Alice, in an attempt to make herself scarce, picked up an old textbook lying on the bench. She held it upside down flipping the pages swiftly, all the while watching Lily and James attentively.
James put a hand to the back of his neck and faced Lily.
'Hi.' he said nervously.
She smiled at him in response.
'How was your break?' They voiced in unison.
James cleared his throat uncomfortably while Lily let off a weak laugh.
James opened his mouth and then closed it.
'I got made Head Boy.' He blurted out confusedly.
Lily laughed and shook her head in amusement. Composing her expression into one of deep solemnity, she commented 'I see.' A smile tugging traitorously at the corners of her mouth, 'And I got made the least gullible student at Hogwarts.' She said laughing.
Bent double, she fell off her seat. She merely laughed harder, clutching James' trouser leg in a half hearted attempt to lift herself back up from the ground.
'Sorry?' he asked vaguely. James was mislead into thinking (or simply, he was very desperate to believe) he had deeply impressed her with an astonishingly witty joke and her head was bowed at his feet because she had suddenly seen sense and discovered him the most exquisite male she had ever come across. Of couse, he was perfectly entitled to be a little pleased with himself. However, his smug appearance made Lucius Malfoy seem modest.
'And look! You're still playing the part!' She said, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.
Sadly, James abandoned his reverie and finally understood what she hadn't. 'Er. Yeah, see, the thing is… I'm not kidding.'
''Course not.' She said with a secretive wink.
'Oh, James,' she said affectionately.
'Lily, I'm serious!'
'No you're not.'
'Yes, I am.'
'No!' Lily exclaimed crossly. 'Merlin! I've never known you to be so… persistent!'
Sirius, who had been observing the pair for the past several minutes and having registered James' uneasiness with amusement, interrupted, 'What do you call the time when he camped at the foot of the girls' staircase in fifth year, then?'
'Good point.' Lily said, crossing her arms while James's cheeks developed a pink tinge.
'Look, Lily, here - I'll show you-' James spoke while emptying out his pockets. Lily watched in mingled disgust and amusement as an assortment of wrappers, a half eaten chocolate frog, a few silver coins, a knut, a carefully sealed bag filled with brown pellets that suspiciously looked like Doxy droppings, a smooth handled mirror and a blank square of parchment that looked oddly innocent among the rest. At the top of the pile lay a sparkling badge almost identical to Lily's but with the letters "HB".
'Ha!' he said raising it in the air in triumph.
'Pfft. You stole it from Remus.' Lily retorted easily.
'I can't believe you!' James said injuredly.
'Lily, it's his!' hissed Alice impatiently from her place in the corner. Remus entered the compartment and looked in interest at the book in her hands, 'A study of Hogwarts prefect and their later careers? Good choice, Alice!' Both girls disregarded him, James couldn't blame them, the boy's reading habits were odd. Lily looked torn between the both of them. Then the reality settled in on her. 'I...I, er, am going to be working with you? This year?' she asked in a small voice, looking James in the eye. He nodded, relieved. She cleared her throat but her voice remained at a painfully high frequency, 'All year?'
He nodded slowly this time, looking at Sirius for some comfort. Sirius had his fist in his mouth and still seemed to be having trouble stifling his laughter, breaking the tense silence with an excessive snort.
'Oh. Oh! That's great!' Lily said, looking shell shocked, her eyes watering slightly from the prolonged period taken without blinking.
James, however, was oblivious to her odd behaviour and grinned.
'Yeah - I thought so, too. So, shall we go then?' without concern for an answer, he hoisted her up from her seat effortlessly.
'Where?' Lily asked faintly.
'Prefect meeting. We're running it.'
'Sure.' she said looking bewildered, nodding her head a bit too vigorously.
Lily had still not gained her composure as James began the meeting and instead took to observing James. How his jaw tensed when a particularly nosy prefect asked him a particularly nosy question and how he resorted to hand gestures when he had trouble conveying his point and how his eyes seemed to get softer when his gaze turned to her and...
'Lily? Lily, are you with me?'
'Yeah.' she said distractedly.
'So what do you think of it, then?' he said smirking, crossing his arms.
'I agree…?' she said uncertainly.
'Great!' said James brightly. 'So, we'll be seeing each other tomorrow evening?'
'For what?' Lily demanded. 'I'm not dating you.' It was just a reflex. She knew she hadn't meant it. Thinking back, she was sure he hadn't meant it.
His face hardened. There was no trace of amusement etched into his features and she was surprised at the difference it made. She found herself evading the searching look in his eyes. He spoke in a hollow sort of voice, 'Our patrolling duties, Lily. Tomorrow night.'
Suddenly the room seemed very hot. Lily looked to the crowd in front of her. Some were looking pointedly at their shoes, others were scrutinising their fingernails with feigned interest, however, a group of fifth years were chatting animatedly among themselves and pausing to shoot furtive glances towards the two at the front while several boys at the back were swapping coins rapidly, apparently involved in a sort of betting scheme - receiving Lily's mortification and James' soreness as a profitable opportunity.
'Um, yes, er, everyone - you can leave,' said Lily anxiously, eyeing some reluctant girls, she added, 'all of you.' As she turned to leave, James caught her wrist. Lily spun around to face him but he did not release his hold on her.
'I haven't asked you out in six months.' stated James tonelessly, his eyes boring into hers.
Lily made a small sound and he relaxed his grip on her, drawing small circles on the back of her hands with his thumbs.
'Did you know that?' He asked.
She jerked her head to the side in a non-committal motion.
'I haven't asked you out in six months,' he repeated, his eyes still fixed on hers, his thumbs retreating to the underside of her hands, 'And I don't plan to,' He paused, his hands beneath hers, 'So. Next time when you feel distracted by me… attracted to me…' He released her hands and shook his head slightly.
'See you, Lily.' he said abruptly and walked away.
As Hogwarts drew nearer, Lily felt an acute sense of nostalgia as she realised it was the last time she would be approaching the castle from such a distance, the last year Peeves would devise vulgar sonnets involving herself, Potter and a can of whipped cream, her last year of Slughorn marvelling at her potion abilities or sending Flitwick flying across the room with a poorly controlled charm. The last chance she had of being with James.
Lily jumped in her seat. When had this happened? When had her mind developed a mind of its own? Why wasn't she concerned about how alarmingly incoherent her last thought just sounded? When had thoughts developed sounds? Dear Merlin, if thoughts had sounds, then James Potter would know she fancied him! She fancied him? Why hadn't her mind bothered to consult her on this matter? Why had she been left behind? Now she thought about it, she did remember it being particularly evasive that one day…
Across from Lily sat Alice who was looking at her tentatively. Alice kept quiet and focused on Lily's disjointed mutterings, picking up on the occasional 'mind', 'traitor' and 'excluded'. Then Lily turned to her looking unnervingly sombre, 'Alice,' she spoke in a low, fearful voice, 'can you…can you…hear my thoughts?' Alice's eyebrows knitted together in confusion and Lily went on, her voice brimming with anger, 'Did they, by any chance, mention that I have, most unfortunately,' here her voice dripped with sarcasm and her right eye twitched violently, 'not come to the same conclusions?' She shook her fist menacingly, all the while her eyes moved around the room suspiciously.
Alice stared at Lily blankly for a second, smiled uncertainly and turned around towards the window once more.
In the Great Hall, Lily watched The Sorting with a somewhat vacant air; her mind seemed to be elsewhere. "Three-seats-across" elsewhere. Where a certain messy haired boy with hazel eyes and glasses that she found endearing instead of repulsive (a fact that incensed her) was sitting casually back in his seat, his elbow set upon the table, one hand supporting his head.
'Rosier, Evan!' She looked vaguely at a slim boy.
'Slytherin!' The Hat called after a moment's silence. The boy's face lit up in smug satisfaction.
Lily turned back to James who, along with Sirius, was watching the boy with slight suspicion. He gave a non-committal shrug towards James which was returned by a slight tilt of the head. Lily narrowed her eyes ad Alice distinctly heard her mutter knowledgably, 'Non-verbal Marauder communication…' then, 'tossers. Can't come to a mutual agreement out loud.' Her eyes bore into James' back and he seemed to have noticed this, turning around briefly to meet her eyes. He did not smile, just looked at her with a slightly weary expression. She swallowed and felt strangely heavy, subdued. Not noticing the fresh bubble of laughter and chat as the food appeared in front of her, she sat with her eyes fixed on the backside of James' seat.
Once the empty golden plates and goblets disappeared, after Dumbledore had advised them not to sleep on their stomachs after such a feast, after the students filed off systematically towards their common rooms and dormitories, James waited for Lily at the entrance. He was leaning against a wall with his hands deep in his pockets; his eyes skimmed her figure - almost imperceptibly - perhaps in recognition of any signs of remorse from her part. She walked deliberately towards him and stopped so close to him that their feet were almost touching. Almost.
He slowly lifted himself off the wall, not sure what to expect. And then Lily did something that neither of them could have suspected.
She took a hand and placed it on the side of his face, her fingers resting beside the rim of his glasses. She leaned forward and put her arms at the back of his head and placed her cheek beside his. He stood still and his eyes closed involuntarily. 'I'm sorry.' She said softly, her breath tickling his ear. He noticeably relaxed and looked down at the top of her head, placing his hands on the small of her back. His lips pressed lightly into her hair and she smiled steadily up at him.
For a split second Lily continued to look content and be content looking at the flecks of green in his eyes and his smooth skin and feeling the warmth he radiated. Then, she pulled out of the embrace, pushing him away from her hastily. It was just a reflex. She knew she hadn't meant it.
He raked a hand through his hair and nodded vaguely in her direction before turning and walking away.
Lily stood, rooted to the spot. Her voice called out for him but the plea was so soft she didn't expect a response. She walked in the direction he had left, splitting into a run. As she pivoted around a pillar she had never seen before, she collided with a hard surface:
James steadied her by her shoulders but released her promptly.
Lily snapped her head around to face him so hurriedly that it was painful. Rubbing her neck with a groan, she implored, 'James! I'm so sorry! It's just second nature for me to curse your hand off at any opportunity of contact. It's like when I threaten to disembowel you when you touch your hair - It's all friendly, you know that, don't you?' She looked determined. Determinedly insane. Red locks escaped the knot at the back of her head, her school shirt had escaped from her skirt and her eyes were glistening and tears began to fall fast down her face.
'Lily. Please, don't cry. I swear, I'll…er… be very sad if you do… I mean; you already have started to, but-'
'I don't want you to b-be sad…' said Lily miserably through tears.
'Lily?' he implored cautiously, 'Would I be in any danger if I hugged you?'
'Probably.' she said despondently. He sighed. She brushed the back of her hands against her eyes and wiped away any trace of moisture. She looked up at him, 'I want you to, though.' And then his arms were around her. She squeezed her eyes shut and inhaled him, James - an intoxicating mixture of the woody smell of a broomstick handle, freshly mown grass and the clean boy scent he seemed to exude. She buried her head into the crisp cotton of his shirt, the cool silk of his tie pressed against her hot, red cheeks.
Someone cleared their throat behind them. The two broke apart. Professor Dumbledore stood at the end of the hallway, eyes twinkling. Lily turned faintly pink.
'Ah, just the two I was looking for!' he exclaimed brightly, either oblivious to Lily's embarrassment or amused by James' triumphant grin. 'Forgive me, it slipped my mind earlier, what with being in such close proximity to fine food - I must show you to your sleeping quarters.'
'Yes, Miss Evans?'
'It might seem a little presumptuous for me to say, but, er, James and I can surely reach our dormitories safely-' she broke of, aware of the knowing looks Dumbledore and James were exchanging. If it was possible, James' smirk grew even wider. She narrowed her eyes.
'I am referring to your new sleeping quarters.'
'So, shall we go ahead?'
James placed a hand on her shoulder. She swatted it away. It was just a reflex. She knew she hadn't meant - oh, sod it; she couldn't be buggered about that now. What in Merlin's name was Dumbledore talking about?
James sighed and said patiently, 'The Heads' Dorm, Lily.' smiling, he continued, 'Our Dorm.'
'We'll be sleeping there. Together.' He slung an arm around her shoulders. Should he really be getting so much enjoyment out of this? Should she be getting so much enjoyment out of this?
'In separate rooms of course, Mr Potter.' corrected Dumbledore, his mouth twitching. James' grin didn't taper.
'I'm assuming, Miss Evans will regain the ability to close her mouth soon?' She snapped her mouth shut, which had been dangling dangerously low in her attempt at "refined" incredulity.
'Marvellous. Let us proceed, then.'
Lily was aware that James' arm had shifted to her waist, which, naturally, made them walk closer together. She could have easily shrugged it off. But she didn't.
James winked at the woman in the Portrait of the Fat Lady as they passed; who bit her lip and put her hand to her mouth, giggling elatedly. Typical, Lily thought - frowning, even the portraits found him dishy. She groaned, apparently, James Potter had tarnished her vocabulary considerably. Dishy? She thought in disgust with an expression appropriate of someone who had been forced to inhale dung.
Dumbledore stopped abruptly at the pillar Lily had discovered a half hour ago, 'You'll find this is very much like the barrier at Kings Cross. Similar enchantments - although this will only be visible to the pair of you. I must be going, I have an appointment at the Hog's head in,' he looked down at his watch, which consisted of several shooting stars and various moons, 'Three minutes.' And with surprising speed, jumped on a moving staircase, waving the heads goodbye when he reached the floor below.
Lily gave James a sidelong glance, he gestured for her to go forward. He looked apprehensive, 'Ladies first!' he tittered nervously. She rolled her eyes and took his hand and tugged him into the pillar. It seemed that she had tugged a little too hard:
'No, James -!'
'That's my leg!'
'At least you know where yours is!'
'Could you, possibly, get off me?
'Oh, Lily, if it were only that easy…'
'James! You're such a, a - oh, bugger, come here, you twit-'
She didn't know exactly what propelled her to tug him forward by the collar and kiss him. He moved his arms to her waist. Her fingers sought his chest. It was just a reflex. But she knew she had meant it.
Reviews make me feel warm on the inside. There you go - my attempt at subtlety. Attempt being the operative word. Oh, whatever - PLEASE review! I love feedback.
Reviews make me feel warm on the inside. There you go - my attempt at subtlety. Attempt being the operative word. Oh, whatever - PLEASE review! I love feedback.