Arriving in the nearly deserted hallway (many of the other students were taking advantage of the unseasonably decent winter weather), Lily paused long enough to catch her breath, reaching a hand out toward the stone wall and leaning against it

Chapter Two:

"I Tried Not to Hurt You"

Was it something I said, or something I did?

Did my words not come out right?

Though I tried not to hurt you,

Though I tried…

But I guess that's why they say

Every rose has its thorn. – Poison

Arriving in the nearly deserted hallway (many of the other students were taking advantage of the unseasonably decent winter weather), Lily paused long enough to catch her breath, reaching a hand out toward the stone wall and leaning against it.

"Everything would have been great if you hadn't cried, you twit," she muttered angrily to herself, annoyed now that her random bout of crying had ended. "Bloody girls and our bloody stupid emotions."

Resolving to not think about James Potter for the rest of the evening – or, at the very least, through dinner – she turned down the corridor towards the Great Hall, hoping that since the dinner hour had just begun she could eat in "peace," with only her Potter-filled thoughts to keep her company.

Well that worked well, she thought a half an hour later as she made her way back to Gryffindor Tower. The only thoughts that had run through her mind the entire time she was eating had, naturally, centered on James and their emotional (on her part, anyway) encounter in the library. What had she been thinking? She'd seriously been considering not only admitting to James Potter himself that he wasn't the cocky bastard she'd always claimed him to be, but also asking him out?! As if the previous six years of embarrassingly public torture hadn't happened? No wonder she'd burst into tears like an idiot; all of that pent-up aggression had been building for too long. That's all it had been, anger, masking itself as love.

Right?

"No, of course not. You actually love the prick, though Merlin even knows why."

"Got something to share with the class, Lily?"

Startled, Lily's eyes flitted across the common room, which she had thought was deserted, save for two small first years huddled in a corner working diligently on an assignment. Her gaze landed on her friend Evelyn, who sat in front of the fireplace, a book open on her lap. Lily gulped, already feeling a blush spreading across her cheeks. Evelyn was the only person in the world, besides her mum, from whom Lily could hide absolutely nothing, especially when that "nothing" happened to be one James Potter.

Knowing that Evelyn would extract the truth from her eventually, and probably by physically painful means if necessary, Lily sighed and approached her, sinking into the armchair across from the one Evelyn occupied.

"I talked to James just now, in the library," she began. "Er, rather I started talking to James."

Evelyn's warm brown eyes bored into Lily's bright green ones. "What happened?"

"Well, um, see, I was about to tell him about… Well, you know that there's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up soon, and I was going to as—ask him to go with…with me."

"Like a date," Evelyn surmised. "I have to say, Lil, it's taken you long enough to admit to yourself that you fancy that boy. I was honestly thinking that it was never going to happen."

Lily blushed an even deeper shade of crimson. "Yes, well, it didn't go so well, all right? I—I, um, started crying." Hearing the words spoken out loud made the event seem yet another degree more mortifying, and Lily hid her face in her hands.

"You started crying?" The shock was evident in Evelyn's voice. "But—but you never cry!" she sputtered. "In fourth year, when Matilda snuck that Muggle romance book into her trunk and read it out loud, you laughed at the rest of us while we were scrambling to wipe our eyes. Last year, when you and James were decorating the Great Hall and he was goading you about something or another, and you slipped and fell off the ladder, you didn't cry at all. Even after James caught you and started making remarks about the 'flimsy frames of the female,' and your face turned so red I thought your head was going to pop off. You even—"

"Thanks, Evy, for that welcome perspective on my suspicious lack of grotesque displays of emotion," Lily cut in, mostly because she didn't want to hear how many more of Evelyn's examples included James. If only her friend knew the number of nights she'd sadly cast a Silencing Charm around her bed so that no one could hear her crying.

Evelyn blushed. "Sorry, Lil. I just meant that it's…unusual for you to cry. Especially in front of James of all people." She paused. "If I may ask, why did you start crying?"

Lily sighed, leaning on her knees and placing her chin her right hand. "I have no idea. One minute I was standing there, about to ask him to Hogsmeade, and he's standing there looking at me…really looking at me…and—and calling me Lily, not Evans. And then the next thing I know, he's backing away, looking like I'd suddenly grown an extra head, and I have tears running down my face!"

"What did you do?"

"What do you think I did? I ran away, as fast as I could!"

Evelyn winced. "What?" Lily asked suspiciously.

"Did—did he try to follow you, at least?" Eveyln asked.

"I suppose so, maybe. He was calling after me, but Madame Pince grabbed him just as I ran out, so…" Lily trailed off. "Why?"

"Oh, Lil, you probably scared the boy half to death! He's probably wandering around this castle, searching for you, wondering what in the world he did to you."

Lily snorted. "The day I see James Potter worried about hurting someone's feelings—"

"Not 'someone,' Lily. You. Your feelings," Evelyn spoke quietly, seriously. "You can't honestly say that you haven't noticed that—that…"

"That what?" Lily asked, her heartbeat speeding up. She swallowed hard, but excited and terrified to hear the end of Evelyn's sentence.

Her friend turned to face her directly, eyes wide open. "That you, Lily Evans, are the person whose feelings have always mattered to James, more than any other person, except for those friends of his. And to be honest, if it came down to saving them or you, I really don't know that he wouldn't ultimately choose you."

Hearing the words, the ones that she had only dreamed of in my mind, gave Lily what she feared was the early stages of a heart attack. She took a deep steadying breath. "Evy," she whispered in astonishment, "You—you can't be serious. I…James…us…" She ran a hand through her hair, chuckling nervously. "I have absolutely no idea what I'm saying."

Evelyn smiled gently, reaching over and laying a hand on Lily's knee. "I can understand the shock. This has been a long time coming, I see. But it really isn't a big deal, you must know that."

"Why?" Just as quickly as it had appeared, the momentary ethereal shock faded to anxiety. "Why isn't a big deal?" Lily stammered. "How—how am I supposed to know that James would have reacted positively? You can talk as long as you want about how you think he feels, but you aren't James, you don't—"

"Lily—"

"No, you—you don't know for certain. He's…he's a good person, Evy. I mean, yes, he's a right bastard most of the time, but that's just for show. He really is a decent human, so that might just mean—"

"Lily."

She stopped talking. "Do you really think he—he loves…me?" she asked softly.

Evelyn nodded. "I really think he does."

Lily sat back against the oversize chair. She let out another deep breath. "Wow," she observed, more to herself than to Evelyn. She giggled. "Can you imagine? Potter and Evans, together? The school won't know what hit them."

Evelyn laughed with her. "Actually, Lil, I think they will know what's hit them. It isn't just me who's been seeing this coming for years now."

Lily's eyebrows drew together. "Who else…?"

"Well, James's friends, obviously, they've taken the mickey out of him loads of times, usually in public, though they do courteously wait for you to leave the room before doing so. Our dorm mates, of course, after they think you and I are asleep. Personally, I think they're hoping that you will decide you don't like James so that one of them can pounce on him. Oh, and then, the teachers."

Lily's eyes nearly bugged out of her head. Evelyn stuck her tongue in her cheek to keep from laughing out loud. "The teachers?!" Lily gasped, her voice coming out as a squeak. A blush flooded her cheeks. "Oh, Merlin! I can only imagine."

"It's not all of them," Evelyn assured her. "Mostly just Professor McGonagall, but that's to be expected, as she's Head of Gryffindor House, she sees us outside class more often. And I could swear that I've heard Professor Dumbledore muttering about it with her on the way to the Great Hall. But my ears and eyes could have deceived me."

"Ohh," Lily groaned, covering her face with her hands. Peeking through the cracks in her fingers, she saw Evelyn trying, not at all successfully, not to laugh. "You are enjoying this way too much."

"Yes, yes I am," Evelyn grinned. "But Lily, seriously, you should go find him. Talk to him. At the very least, assure him that you aren't planning his imminent death. Knowing James, he's got the Marauders planning an all-night vigil on his behalf, in case you come to his room in the dead of night to hex off one of his appendages. Preferably not the one that he likes the—"

"Got it, Evy," Lily rushed in, cursing herself as yet another blush stained her cheeks thinking of the certain appendage to which Evelyn had been referring. She stood up, effectively ending their conversation.

"I'll…I'll just go looking for him. No harm in that, right? If anything, I can say that we need to plan out next week's prefect rounds schedule. He can't very well argue with business, can he?"

"With you, my dear, James can argue about anything." Seeing Lily's horrified look, Evelyn jumped to her feet, grabbing the stunned Lily into a hug. "But you will be fine!"

Lily smiled weakly before turning back towards the dark staircase that led to the private Head Girl and Head Boy bed chambers. She'd seen a flash of James's robes flying up the stairs out of the corner of her eye earlier, but not wanting to arouse Evelyn's suspicions further, she had refrained from saying anything. Evelyn, however, seemed to already know, and smiled warmly at her, silently mouthing, "Go." Lily nodded resolutely.

You can do this, she told herself, It's just James. You've already cried in front of the prat, so what else is left, really, besides to snog him? Lily felt warmth spreading inside her as the images that particular thought invoked spread through her mind and body. And what an incredible kisser he probably is. Cocky, to be sure, like he is with the rest of his life, but all that means is that he'll be quite good at it.

"Oh, bloody hell, Evans, you're in trouble," she muttered out loud. "It's bad enough that you've fallen in love with the bastard. You don't need to go 'round denouncing all of his flaws."

Trying to shake herself out of her stupor, she made her way up the stairs subconsciously, only realizing where she was when she found herself standing outside James's door. She paused, wondering what he did with himself when he was in there alone…and then proceeded to shudder as one particularly dirty thought crossed her mind. Not that, anything but that.

How was she going to go about doing this? Should she just knock on the door and when James answered, simply start out with: "Remember before, in the library, when I ran away abruptly crying? Well, you see, you surprised me by acting, well, considerate, because I was just about to ask you out and/or tell you that I, for reasons that I myself am still trying to work through, have fallen in love with you. So…how about it?"

Lily shook her head, a wry smirk crossing her face as she imagined James's reaction to such a speech. There would be a James Potter-shaped indentation in the stone wall of his room before she could blink. Best to start out slow, but just get it over with. Still not quite able to believe that after seven years, she was actually about to do this, Lily took a deep breath and raised a hand to knock. Before she could, however, the door opened to reveal a stunned-looking James Potter. All of Lily's carefully planned words flew out of head as she honestly felt her heart skip a beat.

James's jaw had dropped open. "Lily?"

He sounded so honestly surprised that Lily blushed and giggled. Like a GIRL, she thought, annoyed with herself on some distant level. "Um…hello." She stopped with that, though, and an awkward silence overtook them once again.

"Er, can I help you with something?" James asked finally, apparently at as much a loss for something more profound to say as Lily was.

"How—how are you doing?" she stammered nervously.

James shifted his weight to one leg, cocking one hand on his hip. "I'm fine, thanks. A bit confused…"

Lily bowed her head. "Yes, my fault, I'm afraid. I, well, I've come to apologize for my earlier behavior. I—I didn't mean to just run off like that."

James smiled. "Really? Because with the way you ignored my attempts to follow you, I'd have to say that you were pretty deadest in that decision."

This was better. This was more like the old James and Lily. She breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wasn't going to be as embarrassing as she'd originally thought.

"Well, yes," she allowed, "But it wasn't really your fault. You were just being…sweet."

James's other hand, which had been resting on the door frame, abruptly dropped and, losing his balance, he stumbled briefly before catching himself. He stared at her in such a way that Lily wanted to brush a hand across her face, afraid that she had crumbs or a smudge on her cheeks.

"I made you cry and you're saying that I was sweet? In the first place, I can't ever recall having made you cry, and when I do upset you, you usually try to hex me. And now all of a sudden I'm sweet?"

Lily opened her mouth to respond, shut it, and then opened it again. "Can I come in?"

"Oh, sure, because I couldn't have been going anywhere important."

"Oh." She looked away, admonished. "I'm sorry, I forgot that you—"

"I'm kidding, Evans. I was just going to nip down to the kitchens."

"But—but supper ended an hour ago."

"Evans, when has the possibility of breaking a rule ever stopped me?"

She nodded in acquiescence. "True." She gestured into James's room. "So, um, can I?"

James jumped. If Lily hadn't been so nervous, she would have laughed herself silly over the picture of James Potter being uncomfortable in his own skin. "Oh, uh, of course." He held the door open and allowed her to pass through.

Lily had never been in his room before. There was a small common room area that linked her bedroom to James's, so whenever the two of them needed to be alone to plan prefect duties or whatnot, they just met there, or in the Great Hall for breakfast. Now in his private quarters for the first time, she took a good, long look around. His room was most assuredly a boy's room. Clothes, shoes, papers, and various odds and ends covered the floor. His cloak was tossed haphazardly over his desk chair. He'd obviously made an effort to make his bed (Lily reluctantly gave him points for that), but was mussed. She noticed that on the wall beside his bed hung two photos, one of James and two people who looked like they could be his parents, and one of James and Sirius in swim trunks standing on a dock somewhere. Sirius must spend his summer holiday with him, she thought, feeling a burst of love for the boy standing awkwardly next to her. She turned her gaze to him, not caring that she was likely wearing her heart in her eyes.

James evidently noticed something different about her because he moved in front of her and looked directly into her eyes. "Lily? Is there something—"

"James, will you go out with me?"

As soon as the words were out, Lily clapped a hand over her mouth with a shocked gasp. James appeared just as surprised as she felt. He simply stared at her, unblinking. "Do—did—why –really?" he stammered.

Realizing that she couldn't back out now, Lily just allowed the blush to spread up her neck and into her face. She shrugged sheepishly. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about this afternoon," she said quietly. "I—I was going to ask you to the next Hogsmeade weekend, only you were so…different. You were being so nice to me, and, well, I suppose it surprised me." She smiled softly at him. "And not necessarily in a bad way, either." She took a deep breath. "I—I guess what I'm trying to say here, James, is that I want us to be more than friends. And…" Going for broke here, she thought. "I'm in love with you. If that makes a difference."

Lily took a deep breath, proud of herself. She looked back up at James. He still had the same expression on his face, a vacant, unwavering stare. He'd closed his mouth, she noticed gratefully, but other than that, he showed no evidence of even having heard her speech, let alone reacted to it. A sudden rush of terror shocked her system. Oh my god…what if he doesn't feel the same way? Evelyn had been so convincing that Lily had seriously not stopped to think about the possibility that James didn't want to be with her. What does Evelyn know, really? She's not James, is she?! Oh, holy hell.

"Right then," Lily murmured in defeat, swallowing over the lump in her throat. Blinking against the tears forming in her eyes, she turned around, practically running toward the door. "I'll just…go. And, um, don't worry about this, we can pretend that it—it…never happened." The last two words came out in a hoarse whisper as the tears that she had been fighting back rushed out. She ran the last few feet to the door, and, wrenching it open, fled James's room.

In the hallway, she frantically put one hand to her heaving chest, another on the wall to brace herself. Her knees didn't seem to be functioning properly and she was afraid that soon they'd crumble beneath her. She couldn't decide if she was having trouble breathing because she was crying, because she was hyperventilating, or possibly a combination of both. Regardless, the only sounds that echoed in the hallway were her occasional hiccups and her breathing coming out in short, harsh gasps.

I cannot believe I ever thought that that was a good idea. What did d I think was going to happen? That James would just grab me and kiss me? Honestly?

Lily took a deep breath, which seemed to calm her nerves a bit, and her breathing returned to normal. She started to raise a hand to wipe her face, but was suddenly jerked backward as someone grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the wall. She caught a brief glimpse of James Potter's glowing hazel eyes before his mouth was upon hers. Lily gasped into his mouth, but quickly remembered to breathe through her nose and frantically kissed him back, afraid that he would misread her initial shock for disgust. And she was most assuredly not disgusted. James Potter kissed like he did everything else, just as she'd thought. A bit cocky, yet there was also a nervous, boyish quality to the kiss, in the way he clutched her hand in a tight, sweaty grip. His other hand, which had come to rest at her waist, was shaking a bit and he kept moving it, as if unsure where Lily would allow him to put it.

And his lips…the lips that Lily had spent years staring at. Those lips that had argued with her, infuriated her, saddened her, made her laugh, were now kissing her like these were their last moments on earth, and Merlin, what a way to go out. Lily pulled her hand out of James's and moved both her arms around his neck, brushing his blazing hot ears as she did so. James seemed to take this as a sign of acceptance because suddenly his hands were on her back beneath her shirt, sliding up and down and creating the most wonderful friction. Lily wanted the kiss to last until she died, and just when she was starting to think that she really had died and this was what heaven was to her – kissing James Potter – James pulled his mouth off of hers. Lily abruptly dropped her arms from around his neck, staring at him in surprise.

"Lily," he breathed out, "What the bloody fuck was that?"

His tone was one of shock and awe, but his eyes were still darkened with desire, and Lily felt a rush of warmth flood through her entire body. She giggled like a young girl. "Um, you kissed me?" she offered lamely. "So I think that I should be asking you what the bloody fuck—oomph…"

James had pulled her to him again, and this kiss wasn't gentle, there wasn't a loving hint of exploration and tenderness. This kiss was rough, the culmination of seven years of bickering, competition, and a tension-filled friendship. James's tongue skirted around the edges of Lily's lip and she opened her mouth with a gasp. James growled at the back of his throat, pulling her closer until there was literally no space left between them besides their layers of clothes. Clothes that, in Lily's opinion, were becoming increasingly annoying.

Again, James ruined the moment by drawing away quickly. He still held her waist gently with his hands, and the only sounds that filled the corridor were their harsh breathing.

Lily's eyes were wide as she stared at the boy – no, man – in front of her. "What—what did I do?" she stumbled.

James blushed. Again. How many times was that over the past few hours that she had caused the arrogant James Potter to blush? "Um, you said 'fuck,'" he replied sheepishly.

Lily raised an eyebrow. James's blush seemed to intensify and he nervously ran a finger through his messy black hair and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Lily was proud to observe that they had nearly slipped off his face during their…erm, snog session.

"You've heard me use language like that before."

"And every time you have, I've wanted to grab you and kiss you until you couldn't remember your own name."

That, neither one of them had been expecting. James looked as surprised as she felt by his statement, but he didn't retract his words. Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest, as if daring her to defy him. "You heard me," she could almost hear him thinking as she peered at him.

"Well," she coughed indelicately, "You certainly accomplished that goal." She grinned as the defiance on James's face was wiped clean and replaced with that same look of utter astonishment that Lily was beginning to realize was somehow reserved only for things that she said. "I mean, I remember my name now, of course, but there were moments…" She trailed off, shrugging shyly.

James stepped closer to her. "Yeah?" he asked huskily. His tone made Lily shiver.

She bit her lip, enjoying the way that James's gaze followed her teeth and then centered on her own gaze with that same, smoldering gaze of desire that she'd seen right before he had kissed her.

"I—I did say that I loved you, right?" she whispered.

He nodded, their eyes still transfixed on each other's. "Did I mention that I'm in love with you, too?"

Lily shook her head. James moved even closer, reaching towards her face and lovingly stroking the side of her face with the back of his hand. "I love you, Lily Evans," he said against her ear, making her shiver, both from the sensation of his breath against her face and the words he spoke. "I know I've been a right foul git about showing it over the years, but it's there, always has been. I just needed to figure out the right way to tell you."

Lily smiled gently, reaching up to kiss his cheek. "And you did, without your friends and the entire student body present." James blushed again (she was really going to like being able to do that to him).

They kissed once more. "I think this is the beginning a beautiful friendship," James said with a grin.

Lily pulled back. "Friendship?"

James merely chuckled and tweaked her nose. "I make jokes, Evans, remember?"

"How could I forget? It's what makes you you."