Disclaimer: The characters and setting belong to JKR. I just play with her ideas!
This was written for the Tales of Slings, Arrows, and Outrageous Fortune challenge on the Red and the Wolf community on Livejournal.
They say, best men are moulded out of faults,
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad.
- Measure for Measure, V:I
"Oh come on, Evans – you wouldn't have it any other way, and you know it!"
"That's where you're wrong, Potter – I won't have you at all!"
Whatever this is, there's one thing she's certain it isn't, and that's love at first sight.
She hates that he's so cocky; that he can stand so tall and proud against the chaos unfolding around him, and say such shameless things. Clearly, he's labouring under the impression that his faults are somehow charming; clearly, she's determined to prove him wrong.
He strides closer to her now, sliding two fingers beneath her chin to guide her head upwards. So it's come to this – forced confrontation. His touch, however, is surprisingly gentle; the look in his eyes, she discovers, shockingly tender. This is not the James Potter she knows, and even the sound of his familiar voice – tone quietly determined – seems to confirm this.
"One day," he sighs, and that is all.
It is enough; it confirms exactly what she's been suspecting all year. She, Lily Evans, is starting to understand that she doesn't know James Potter at all.
Certainly, she can count his faults from memory; ticking them off finger by finger, toe by toe. Probably, she'd need to borrow some additional digits for such an ambitious task; but somehow, the sum of his faults defy her, and she is startled to discover his mystery is even just a little bit alluring.
She's taken to watching him in the common room, now, unable to deny (even to herself) that her curiousity has been piqued. And what she's observed has been nothing if not educational: apparently James Potter is a very different person when he thinks no one is watching.
She's seen a genuine affection in his eyes when he smiles at the boys; a crease appears in the middle of his forehead every time he reads his Quidditch Monthly magazine; she's noticed the tight-knit muscles at his shoulders – always so upright and tense! – relax into a slouch as he pours leisurely over his textbooks. This comes as an extra shock, because never before has Lily considered it possible that James Potter works as hard at his studies as she does.
She watches him revel in the aftermath of another successful prank; but this time, things are different. She is seeing him with new eyes, appraising his handiwork with new understanding. For James, anarchy is reassuring; it seems to confirm that the world is a little more real, and the people in it a little more human than they'd like everyone to believe.
His mischief isn't malicious, anymore, and it is now that she wonders whether it ever was.
Small pieces of debris, the result of several minor explosions, are scattered across the corridor. She steps over them absently, unable to restrain her rolling eyes.
She feels his gaze, and freezes. Even though she half-expects it now, it still unsettles her. She steels himself to meet his eyes; it won't do for him to see her off-balance.
He's been watching her the whole time, measuring her reaction as always, and they both know it. Their eyes meet with a flash of this understanding, but instead of his usual brash remark, there is silence.
She holds his gaze steadily and he can't mask his surprise, which is good, because she can't hide hers either.
They're even, then, staring at each other as though no one else is present in the crowded little corridor.
Then, James does something even stranger than the usual; he offers her a shy little smile.
"I know you've been watching me."
She jumps, clutching the book she's been perusing to her chest. The rows of shelves are deserted but for them, and yet somehow, he's managed to appear before her without a single noise.
"Noticed anything…. Different?" he persists. He sounds hopeful.
Unable to resist, she raises her head to offer a defiant grin.
"No, not really, Potter."
There's a question in his eyes she's not ready to answer yet - well, not until she's taunted him a bit first. Fair's fair, after all.
His expression changes though: he's missed the flash of amusement, and he quickly averts his own gaze, mouth drooping. His hand jumps with a nervous twitch toward his head, and she winces as his fingers tug too roughly at his messy crop of black hair.
Much to her surprise, she finds it disheartening to see him back down so quickly.
He turns to leave.
"Potter, wait." The words escape her mouth impulsively, and something flickers across his face; is it irony? Certainly, she supposes he never expected her to be the one in pursuit.
He rounds his shoulders, addresses her socks firmly. "Look, Lily – I thought that maybe… I tried to change, but that obviously hasn't happened, not according to you, anyway – so…. So… that's it, isn't it? Enough. I suppose I'll have to… concede defeat? But I want you to know…. That I did try. I tried for you. Not that-"
"Shut up, Potter, you dolt. Has it ever occurred to you that you don't need to change?" It's all coming out in a rush, now; pure babble, which on one level she minds a lot, but on another, not at all. After all, it rather needs to be said; everything, it seems, has been leading to this conversation. "I mean – Merlin, James, you have flaws. Huge faults, and I couldn't cope with them before because I'm such a stupid perfectionist… but the funny thing is, I've been thinking lately that your faults make you who you are… and that I quite like who you are."
He seems stumped at this one, and seemingly for something to do, scratches his arm absently. "I… er…. Are you feeling OK?"
Lily nods; she can feel the words swelling inside her, and compulsively she blurts them out-
"James, I'm trying to tell you I've changed my mind."
His eyes widen, and he stuffs his hands into his pockets, giving a long, slow nod.
"Riiight… er – great?"
Lily blinks. Great? She's never heard anything so anticlimactic in her life. Great? With growing mortification, Lily assesses her options.
She doesn't dare turn back, but she doesn't need to – there are no footsteps behind her, and he clearly hasn't called out-
She'll never be able to meet his eyes again, she realizes miserably. It's a pity because they're such a lovely colour – like melted Honeyduke's Best chocolate.
His eyes make her want to melt.
She stifles a despairing little giggle, resigned to the fact she's breaking down in the middle of an empty hallway.
After all she's put him through, it's probably no less than she deserves. He's always loved a bit of anarchy.
He's waiting for her by the portrait hole. His hair is mussed, as though he's just been running, and his forehead crinkled with worry, but from his posture on the balustrades it's clear he's been there for some time.
She averts her eyes quickly, tugging at her hair. She's probably never looked worse in her life – so of course he's there waiting for her. What does her mother call it? Murphy's Law. Things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance. It occurs to her now that it's the sort of idea James Potter would probably appreciate.
"Thank – I was worr- just about to come look-" The words are tumbling out of his mouth, but she can't comprehend them. His shoes are very scuffed, she observes suddenly. Fascinating….
They eye each other for a moment, clumsily – Lily examining the toes of his shoes, and James staring hopelessly at her tousled hair. Just as Lily is beginning to succumb to an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, he makes a wild grab for her hand, as though he's worried she'll rush off again.
He's blocking the Portrait hole anyway, so really he needn't have worried; the Fat Lady raises an eyebrow at her from behind his back.
"I really do mean it, Lily," he says finally, but she has no idea what he's talking about. "It is… great. Fantastic, really – best thing I've heard all year."
He says this, and squeezes her hand, and slowly she begins to think that perhaps she can bear facing him after all. He offers another shy little smile.
"And – and-" his voice is slightly higher than usual now, and oddly strained. "And, I'm sorry."
"Sorry?" She feels too incredulous to be embarrassed anymore, and meets his eyes directly. "Sorry for what?"
To her utter confusion, he both shrugs and grins. "Well – this."
He cocks his head meaningfully, still grinning, and tugs her forward, towards him. Then, quickly, he bends down and presses his lips to hers.
And Lily decides on the spur of the moment that Murphy's Law needs a revision…
Things will go right in any given situation, if you give them a chance.
As first kisses go, it isn't particularly special. Hogwarts remains firmly beneath their feet, and although a deathly silence falls over the nearby portraits-
James pulls away, smiling.
Lily smiles back, confused.
"That was actually a lot easier that I thought," he confides in a rush, so relieved that she's once again shocked and a little insulted. "I mean –"
Merlin, it must be written all over her face….
"I mean, it took quite a bit to pluck up the courage to do that, and in the end…. I've been standing here talking myself into it for a good half hour, I'll have you know!"
He suddenly seems to understand that she's not exactly…. distressed… just shocked. A hand brushes her cheek fondly. She feels the heat rise in her skin.
"And… and all that seems a little silly now," he adds quietly, shooting her another smile.
"Hmmm," he agrees.
Perhaps love at first sight is overrated.
She'd recognize his voice anywhere. She loves the way he says her name, always ending in a little smile and an unconscious duck of his head. There's just something about him that makes it so… intimate.
He takes this as an invitation to sit. They're in the common room, this time; it's really quite late, and glancing around suddenly, Lily realizes they're the only two left.
"Lily…?" he starts again, after a moment's silence. "You know…. I've been thinking…. You know how you said I didn't need to change, and that you'd changed your mind instead?"
"Yes?" she prompts, perhaps a little too quickly, but her heart's beating at what seems an abnormal rate, and they haven't been alone since that - conversation - outside the portrait hole- has it been hours or days?
He's smiling with relief, and it's almost funny that they both feel so tentative together, after everything they've been through.
"Lily, I was just… er… wondering if I did the right thing, yeah?"
It comes as a surprise that he's seeking her confirmation now; especially since she's always seen him as the most self-assured person she's had the misfortune to meet (although perhaps that entire concept requires a bit of a rethink).
"Yeah," Lily echoes softly. The warmth is rising in her cheeks yet again, and she ducks her head, embarrassed. "Yeah, I think you did."
He flashes her a shy grin, "I did?" and leans closer without waiting for a reply.
She leans closer too – thinks with an inward groan that she's very close to drowning in those chocolate eyes of his – and smiles. "Yeah…"
And they have another try at it; this time, she finds he's surer, more relaxed; in fact, she can feel him fighting a smile.
"Sorry for being such an idiot, before."
This statement seems to encompass the past six-and-a-bit years of their acquaintance.
Lily finds it hard to resist her lips tugging into a smile. They want another kiss; so does she.
"That's all right," she applies affably, leaning forward again. "I wouldn't have you any other way."
Note: So… I'm struggling to write I Solemnly Swear, and have come to the heart-breaking decision to take it down until I can find the time to revise it. In the meantime, here's this, which was written perhaps to prove to myself that I still could.
I hope you like it, and reviews (constructive criticism, appreciations, flames) are most welcome and will be deeply appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read, and please do take the time to leave some feedback!