Disclaimer: HARRY POTTER © and all related are the property of J.K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
It is late August when they bump into each other.
Her shopping bags fly in every direction; he manages to catch her arm before she joins them on the ground. A hot flush blossoms up her cheeks, her words stumbling over themselves to escape her mouth. They don't make much sense. The boy doesn't seem to notice – the girl has grown even prettier during the time he'd not seen her. She gestures awkwardly to the mess of bags on the cobblestone road; he laughs, as nervous as she is, and leans over to help her gather them up.
They make stilted conversation as he slides shiny, hard-covered books back into their parcels; she nearly drops her jar of butterfly wings when he says her new haircut suits her. She mumbles a reply, a tangle of compliments regarding how tall and tan he looks. Her face wrinkles in distaste when she realizes how silly and star-stricken she comes off, remembering the burnished badge she'd received a week ago, along with a parchment letter detailing duties and characteristics she doubts she has.
After all, Head Girls do not stutter or make inane comments.
The boy notices her moment of self-hatred. Bothered by this flash of annoyance, as he is the sort of person who rarely engages in any kind of self-flagellation, he voices his personal belief that she is the most brilliant girl he's ever come across in his seventeen years of existence. Barring his mother of course, he is quick to admit.
For a brief moment, he wonders if he'd said the wrong thing. The girl's face turns pink, the shade it often turns whenever the boy's comments irritate her, and her lips part in preparation -
- but then she laughs, her head tilted back and the corners of her mouth stretched upwards, before she looks back at the boy and tells him he's awfully persistent. The way she says it implies that, perhaps, she does not find this to be a horrible trait overall. This heartens the boy greatly.
After another minute or so, once the girl's laugh drains away, she glances up at the boy from underneath long, ginger-coloured lashes. For some reason, she finds, he is much more likeable after two months of absence. As the old adage goes, her mother will later say, once the girl comes home with giggles and confessions to make, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Not willing to let him wander away, surprised at her own interest in this boy who she hasn't interacted with since a train ride months ago, she inquires as to where his other half lurks. He catches on immediately (another trait she appreciates, after a lifetime spent with an older sister who could never really understand.)
He chatters on about that Black boy, the one she's never liked despite his good looks and charisma, and how he's moving into his new flat. Apparently, the boy mostly wants to shirk the best friend duties of lugging large furniture up narrow staircases, so he claimed Head Boy responsibilities and escaped having his back broken.
She blinks. Something does not fit into that sentence. Perhaps her brain neurons misfired a moment ago, she says, but had he just admitted to being the other half to her Headship? The boy notices her distress, probably revels in it if his grin is anything to go by, and offers an indifferent shrug as an explanation.
A few things meander through her thoughts – most of them centring on the belief that the Headmaster, old and accomplished as he is, has possibly lost all intelligent capabilities. She considers the idea of the boy lying – the most comforting one, really, since leopards don't change their spots or something like that – but the boy's proud smile quickly shoves the hope off a cliff.
For a moment, the girl entertains the idea of blowing up in the boy's face. She imagines opening up her metaphorical Pandora's Box, allowing all the repressed anger she'd felt over the summer to explode all over this ridiculously lucky boy, who does nothing but achieve everything.
She pales in comparison.
Despite her so-called popularity and excellent grades, she feels like such a tremendous fake. Oh, she's never claimed to be a saint – there have been malicious things she's done, selfish and hurtful and nothing like the reputation she maintains – but she'd never have the immorality of murderers or other unsavoury members of society. But, nonetheless, she's always been a bit of a liar with a cruel streak that occasionally alarms her.
Compared to the boy who people seem to genuinely like, despite his numerous flaws, she knows she doesn't measure up.
She sometimes feels as if others only tolerate her, secretly coughing rude things into their hands and rolling their eyes whenever her back's turned. That doesn't happen to the boy; she knows this because she makes sure to look. He maintains the top marks in the year without trying; she spends nights buried underneath old parchment and dusty tomes, only to come in third or fourth in the class. He captains their House team; she fell off her broomstick the moment she slid on. Girls tend to flutter prettily whenever he passes by; the only people that send her smouldering looks are the odd fourth year and Severus Snape, neither of whom she's particularly interested in.
Lily, the boy says.
It startles her. She's never heard her first name on his tongue before; it sounds pleasant, like it fits.
Have you ever been to France, the boy continues, once he realizes he's caught her attention.
She shakes her head, confused by the sudden shift in conversation. She wonders if she's missed an entire segment of dialogue somehow, perhaps tuning out his tendency to babble on about nonsense once she'd deemed it as such.
But then he extends a hand, a glitter in his eyes that she's learned to read over the years she's known him; it always precedes an explosion of fireworks or another misguided attempt at "improving" the members of the Slytherin House. She suspects that, over the years, most of that House has experienced life as various mammals, amphibians, and both genders (or some sort of hybrid of all of the above). It's the suggestion of mischief, of a plan that is decidedly unwise and potentially dangerous, but it excites a small, hidden part of the girl nonetheless.
She suspects this is her purely Gryffindor side, the one she tries to muffle with stern looks and disapproving words; because, really, she's just as bad as the rest of them. So perhaps that's why she accepts his hand, momentarily stunned at how warm and large it is, and doesn't ask why he's removing his wand from the back pocket of his jeans.
Do you want to see France, Lily? He asks, every inch of his body daring her to say no.
She knows what's expected of her. It's so well-practiced she could do it in her sleep; a jerk of her arm, the light slap of her pale hand across his cheek, and words that mostly follow the mould of 'in your dreams, Potter.' To which he'd reply with an insouciant wink and a reply that would border on indecent innuendo.
But, the other half of her argues (the devil sitting on one shoulder in every cartoon depiction), isn't she a Gryffindor? And it's true, isn't it, that Gryffindors are always the ones to break traditions first? Slytherins worship tradition; Ravenclaws admire it; and Hufflepuffs always, always follow it.
Perhaps it's an early onset of dementia, but the girl suddenly wants to flout all those self-imposed rules and societal prejudices and take this strange, silly boy's hand and go off to France. Maybe that's not what others expect of her, but it's what she's always wanted to experience. She's always wanted to shock people.
So, with a tiny smirk that seems to daze the boy, she squeezes his hand and says, Surprise me, Potter.
And he laughs in that loose, comfortable way of his – half overconfidence and half sheer magnetism – and tells her to hold on tightly and shut her eyes. She does, trusting him for the first time in years. Maybe it's a bad idea, a childish urge to throw common sense out the window, but she's seventeen and ridiculously bored with the walls she built around herself. Perhaps she should've done this sooner, possibly with someone different from a boy she's claimed to loathe for several years, but here's her moment and she'd hate to let it pass by without leaving a mark.
Then there's a strange jerk in her navel and a sudden headache and the ground is softer than moments ago.
When the girl opens her eyes, all she can see is white sand and turquoise water.
It is the first time she's been outside Surrey (barring her months spent at school, of course) and, for a brief moment, she wonders if she's gone blind. France, the girl decides, is worth a few minutes of holding hands with the boy. She breathes in salty air and thick sunshine, filling her lungs with the sharp, exciting scent of risk-taking. The heat permeates through her jeans and cotton blouse, but she finds she doesn't really mind. It's nice not being cold all the time.
Evans, and it's back to surnames (although without the usual barbed linings), D'you want to go swimming?
Before she can respond, the boy's already shucking off his t-shirt and unbuckling his belt. For a second, she considers turning away and blushing red – making some acid-tainted remark about how she'd never strip around him, not for all the money in the world – but that reckless Gryffindor side of her decides to peel her own top off, shimmying out of her jeans before modesty can kick in and remind her of who she's supposed to be (anything but this).
I'll race you, she yells, kicking off her sandals as she bolts down the stretch of beach. The boy's surprised laugh follows her, before he starts running after her (she pretends to not have noticed the way his face had flushed when she had slipped out of her clothes).
He outruns her easily, of course, but slows when he reaches the water and loiters until she catches up. She rolls her eyes at him, giving the water an appraising look before grabbing the boy's wrist and yanking him in with her. They stumble, bumping hips as he tries to drag her fully into the water and she attempts a half-hearted drowning. He splutters once he surfaces, water droplets glistening on his long, thick lashes. She bites her lip to abstain from jumping him; his eyes drift downwards.
You know, he says conversationally, I never thought I'd live to see Lily Evans in her knickers.
It's strange, the girl decides, how she's never really interacted with this boy before. Oh, there have been heated disputes and the occasional heavy object flung at the other individual, but she's never once considered the idea that she'd one day be swimming in her underwear with him. It's implausible and bizarre and completely out-of-character, but she finds that she doesn't mind all that much.
I'm suffering from a momentary bout of madness, she informs him, so I'd enjoy it while it lasts.
Don't worry, he smiles and something in the pit of her stomach burns, I am.
And maybe she'll kiss him today, propel herself slightly forward and capture those reddish lips, and maybe she'll just give him a teasing smile and save the moment for another time. Because really, the girl realizes as the boy splashes water at her cheek playfully and grins at her mock-outraged look, she has all the time in the world to decide.
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