James Potter threw his quill down on the table, and pushed his chair back from the table. He surveyed the table: stacks of parchments, several quills, and Lily Evans straight across from him, writing furiously on piece of parchment, her nose almost touching it.
"Evans?" He asked. There was no reply. "Evans?" He asked again, louder.
Lily jumped, startled. "Yeah?"
"It's no good, Evans. We've been at it for nearly three hours."
"We're almost done."
James scoffed, "Almost? This is terrible! I had no idea that scheduling Prefect patrols would be so tedious. We've got to take a break."
"But we're almost…"
"No," James interrupted, "We're not almost done. I'm taking a break." He stood up, "Do you want to come?"
Lily looked at him, frustrated, but before she could reply, James said, "It's not a date, Evans. It's a you, Head Girl, taking a short break to stretch your legs and clear your mind with me, Head Boy." When she didn't respond immediately, he smiled and said, "It's very non-threatening."
Lily debated internally. Finally, she said, "I'll think about it."
James sighed, "You think, Lily. I'm going." He turned, and walked out of the common room.
James was staring at the water when he heard footsteps behind him. He turned, and was surprised to see Lily walking towards him. "Hey," she said, "I thought about it." She smiled at him, "It was a good idea."
"Hey," James replied, "How did you know where I was? I usually sit by the tree." James was a good deal away from the trees, leaning against a large group of boulders that extended directly into the lake.
"I know." Lily said. She looked him directly in the eyes, and somehow, James knew exactly what she was thinking: the time two years ago when he had been teasing Severus Snape and Snape had called her a mudblood.
As Lily sat down, James couldn't help himself. He had to ask. "Snape is your best mate, isn't he?"
Lily smiled faintly. "He was. Before." James didn't have to ask before what. He knew.
"Really?" James asked incredously, "Snape?"
"His name is Severus," Lily's eyes flashed dangerously, "And yes, he was my best mate." She quieted down for a moment, "He was the one who told me what I was, that I was a witch. He knew everything about Hogwarts, and I knew nothing."
James observed Lily and nodded thoughtfully. Lily knew a completely different Severus than the one James knew. The only time James had ever felt friendly towards Snape had been the beginning of their sixth year. Lily had been dating Robert "Oh-call-me-Bobby" Goodfellow from Ravenclaw. It had driven James crazy with envy and longing. He'd watched them hold hands in the hallway and study together in the library. And when they disappeared together on Friday nights, it was all James could do to not follow to make sure Bobby did nothing but point out star constellations.
And James wasn't alone. He noticed Snape watched the two of them together, often with a look on his face that James felt on his own face. He'd even planned going to Snape and suggesting they wage a two-front war against Goodfellow, but Sirius had advised against it. "Not Snape, mate," he'd pleaded, 'If you heard Reg talk about him..." Sirius had stopped, seeing James' determination. "Give me a week, Prongs. If I can't get them to break up in a week, we'll talk to Snivellus." Two days later, Lily had broken up with Bobby. James never asked Sirius how he had accomplished it—he honestly didn't want to know. He was just impressed that it only took two days. Sirius obviously had connections that even James didn't know about. Mostly he was relieved that he didn't have to see Evans holding Goodfellow's hand.
"He fancies you, you know."
Lily smiled, gazing over the water. "He said the same thing about you once."
There was a pause. "Did he really?" James coughed slightly. He would never deny his feelings for Lily Evans if asked, but to have Lily herself broaching the topic made James nervous.
Lily turned to face him. "Yes. He did." She looked at him, "Aren't you going to say anything? Tell me how he was wrong? That after years of rejection, you've moved on?"
James gazed into Lily's bright green eyes. Finally he spoke softly, "He wasn't wrong."
"Hmm." Lily murmured, turning her eyes back to the water, "Is that why you've never had a girlfriend?"
"I've had girlfriends," James tried to defend himself, "There was…" His voice trailed off. Lily was right. He'd never had a girlfriend. At least a girlfriend who lasted more than a day or two.
"Is that why you didn't have a date to the Ball last year?"
James nodded morosely, "Yeah. After you said 'no', I didn't feel like asking anyone else." He laughed half-heartedly, "I can't believe we're talking about this."
"You broke a lot of girls' hearts that night, showing up by yourself."
"There's only one girl's heart I care about." James said bravely.
"You know, James," Lily cleared her throat awkwardly, "I don't feel that way about you."
He rolled his eyes, "Yes, Lily, I am aware that you don't care for me. Or even like me much, either. Several years of your refusals to go out with me have tattooed that across my forehead: Lily Evans does not like me." James snuck a look at Lily. Her eyes were still on the lake, but her face was flushed with embarrassment.
"But now that we're working together…"
James cut her off, "Evans, I swear I will be nothing but professional." He felt his heart twinge, but he silenced it.
Lily looked at him, the relief evident in her face, "Really?"
"On my honor as a marauder." James swore.
Lily's relief turned to a look of confusion, "A what?"
James sighed. He knew so much about Lily, and she knew nothing about him. "Never mind. I promise. I'll be professional."
In quiet frustration, James' picked a handful of pebbles up and threw them into the water. He watched the ripples as he contemplated sadly his conversation with Lily. In his imagination, this conversation had ended with passionate kissing and declarations of love. He threw another handful of pebbles into the lake. Like so many things this summer, he was learning that things didn't always go the way you expect them to.
"James," Lily asked softly, "What happened to your father?"
"He…" James hesitated, "Died. He had a heart attack."
There was a sharp intake of breath from Lily, but she didn't say anything.
After a moment he continued, "I know Head Boy's not my gig. I was shocked when the letter came. I mean, me? James Potter? Head Boy? After all the stunts I've pulled? But it came the day after the funeral, and my mum was so chuffed—the first time I'd seen her smile in days—that I wanted to do it for her, if it made her happy." James threw another handful of pebbles into the lake, and stood up. He offered Lily his hand, "Well, should we finish off those Prefects' patrols?"
Lily accepted his hand, and stood, looking him in the eye. "I'm sorry, James." She said quietly.
James nodded, "Thanks." He picked up another handful of pebbles and showed them to her. "The funny thing about people we care about and lose," he tossed the pebbles into the water, and he and Lily watched them disappear, "Is that their influences continues for a long time." He gestured towards the ripples that were spreading from the pebbles across the lake.
Their eyes met, and they knew he was speaking of both his father and Snape. Eventually, Lily dropped her gaze, and James turned back to the castle. Before she followed him, Lily stooped down, picked up a small pebble and put it into the pocket of her robes.