A/N: Sorry for the wait, but without further delay, here is chapter two. It's quite a bit shorter, and I apologize for that, but don't worry, the longer chapters are coming. If you're reading this, please review, in case you hadn't noticed I don't have many reviews at the moment, and I want to know what people think. Thanks!
Chapter Two: Mere Civility
"Excuse me, but Dungbombs are banned items here," said Lily that night in the Common Room, exasperated. She snatched the item away from a sullen second-year who had been showing it to his friends. "Where did you get this?"
He said nothing, but she saw his eyes dart across the room to where Sirius and James were sprawled on an armchair and on the floor, respectively, their heads together in deep conversation. Furious, Lily crossed the room and put her hand on her hip, waiting for them to acknowledge her.
James looked up first. "What's up?" he asked, quite meekly, she thought.
Lily held up the appropriated item. "You two are already selling banned items to the younger kids again, aren't you?"
Sirius grinned and held his hands up innocently. "You can't punish us if you don't have proof."
"I can go right back over there and ask the poor, innocent second-year that you're trying to corrupt who gave him—"
"You wouldn't, Evans," said Sirius. "Leave the kid alone, he's just having fun. He can't go to Hogsmeade yet and buy all this cool stuff—"
"—'cool stuff' that happens to also be against the rules," Lily finished for him. "It's all fun and games until he gets caught by Filch and given some awful detention. I've learned by now that I can't stop you from getting into trouble, Black, but I'm not going to stand by and watch while you corrupt small children," she added, with a pointed look at James.
Sirius looked from Lily to James, wondering if James would back him up or take sides with Lily. When James shook his head apologetically, Sirius turned to Lily and acquiesced. "All right, Evans, have it your way. Just let the kid off without detention; he was just wanting a bit of fun."
"I should give you detention for giving it to him," she reminded him. "But it's the first day back, so I'm letting you off. And you," she said coldly to James, "need to go check on the new prefects who are still out in the hall, patrolling. You forgot to tell them they could come in an hour ago."
"James, mate, don't let her push you around," said Sirius in disbelief as James rose to his feet, but James shook his head.
"She's right," he said ruefully, and went out without a single noise of complaint. Lily and Sirius both stared after him, slightly surprised.
"You haven't Confunded him, have you, Evans?" said Sirius, a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. "Because you ought to give yourself detention for that."
"Oh, shut up."
Classes began the next day, and Lily experienced the usual combination of trepidation and excitement at the beginning of another year at Hogwarts, only this time the feeling was mingled with one of regret, that this would be her final year at school. Some of the other students in her year who were feeling equally nostalgic kept remarking that their final year should be their best year, and that it was time to put any old grudges and judgments aside and try to start anew. As much as Lily tried to see the benefits of this, she felt that in some cases, it was impossible.
"Some people," Lily said stubbornly to her friend Mary, "simply never change."
In response, Mary raised an eyebrow. "Or maybe you just can't see it?"
Lily refused to believe that. Six years she had known James Potter. Six years, during which she had learned to loathe his arrogance, his stubborn persistence, his refusal to see how conceited he was. If someone hadn't changed in six years, it made no sense for them to change over a summer.
Unfortunately, just as she had predicted, Lily saw quite a lot of James in their first few weeks back. Their Head Boy and Head Girl duties often coincided; particularly, much to her dismay, when it came to midnight rounds.
"You know, Potter, I can finish this floor on my own," she told him one night after several long minutes of awkward silence.
"I'm sure you probably could, but you won't enjoy having to check the boys' bathrooms for stragglers, now will you?"
Lily gave a short little laugh. "Thanks for being a gentleman, but it isn't impressing me."
"Maybe that's not all I'm trying to do."
They walked stiffly side-by-side, their wand-lights held ahead to check the hallway. Lily stifled a laugh at how absurd the situation was, the friction and tension present in every conversation they had. She looked sideways at James, noting the thoughtful expression on his face. Thoughtfulness on James never boded well.
She heard him take a deep breath. "Evans—"
"Potter," she answered.
James sighed. "Why do you always have to do that?"
"Do what?" Lily concentrated on the hallway stretching ahead of her, purposefully avoiding James' eyes.
"Cut me off before I have a chance to say what I'm trying to say?"
"I didn't cut you off. I was answering in kind."
"Look, I know you can't stand me. That's obvious to anyone." Lily agreed with a nod of her head. "But why make things harder than they have to be? There's no way to avoid being together so much. So why not just try to accept it, and make the best of it?"
"What exactly are you proposing?" Lily narrowed her eyes slightly, suspicious.
James spread his hands. "I am proposing mere civility, Evans."
He cleared his throat. "Well, take this, for example. I walk past you in the hallway on the way to class and say hello. You might just say hello back to me once in a while, instead of ignoring me like I'm some kind of idiot. You can sit by me in the Great Hall sometimes—I promise I don't bite. And instead of this stony silence when we have to do rounds or meetings together, maybe we can have a conversation. A friendly conversation." He smiled a little, thinking he was being amusing.
Lily didn't answer, only kept walking.
"You can't ignore me forever, you know," said James, undaunted.
"I beg to differ." Lily quickened her stride to get away from him.
"Come on, Evans." He matched her pace, trotting alongside her. "Why so cruel? I'm not really that bad, am I? Tell me. Why do you still hate me so much?"
"Should I have stopped?"
James laughed to disguise the discouragement he felt. "Well, since you're asking me—yes."
"Then you'd better convince me of it."
Lily halted suddenly in her tracks and met James' gaze evenly, her green eyes blazing. He stopped beside her, searching her face for some trace of sympathy. Lit by pale wand-light, Lily's face was unreadable, her every familiar feature set in an expression he had seen many times before but couldn't quite interpret.
"Stop looking at me like that," Lily said quietly, causing James to jump.
"Like—like what?" he asked, his throat dry.
"Like you've got a right to look at me that way." Her voice was soft yet deliberate.
James moved toward her, heart in his throat, willing himself not to mess up this time. "Lily—please…" He took another hesitant step toward her. What was he going to say? How in Merlin's name was he supposed to convince her of anything when she was looking at him so attentively, distracting him? He could hardly think straight…
Lily looked away first, made uncomfortable by her own confused thoughts. She knew exactly what the strange look on James' face meant—he was thinking about kissing her. Thinking intently about kissing her. She always hated it when he did that, because what was she supposed to do? Impatiently, Lily turned back to James, but before she could say anything, there was an interruption.
"Students in the halls past curfew!" came the vicious, gleeful voice of Filch as he thundered around the corner, shining a blinding light at James and Lily. "Students caught!"
"I'm Head Girl," Lily said coldly, and pointed to James. "He's Head Boy. We're doing midnight rounds, so you can leave us alone."
Filch squinted indignantly at the badges visible on the front of their robes and then shuffled away reluctantly, still muttering to himself. Lily turned back to James with an exasperated expression on her face.
"Go on back, Potter. I'll finish up myself."
James gave up. With a sigh, he turned around and began walking back to Gryffindor Tower, his shoulders slumped in defeat, not looking back over his shoulder once.