His fingers unfurl slowly against her neck as he kisses her. It's not quite softly, yet not quite insistent enough to deserve any other word, and she hadn't expected it to be like this at all. She hadn't expected that he'd make her heart pound and her blood hum with the quietest of gestures, that his lips would tease gently and send shivers right into her stomach. She hadn't expected that he had it within his capabilities to be, of all things, restrained, that the sense of what he was holding back would be the thing that drove her craziest.

But hell, she's always liked surprises, and this thing with James Potter has been nothing if not full of those. She'd thought, once she said yes, that he'd crow, show her off, be exponentially cockier than he ever had been before, but –

His friends had teased him over breakfast, the day after everything changed, and he'd been almost bashful, which was something she never thought she'd live to see. She'd thought he'd take her somewhere fancy, show up in the common room with armfuls of flowers she'd have to scold him for, but no. He'd taken her for a walk around the lake at sunset, made it nearly all the way round before he'd tentatively taken her hand, and then offered her a game of chess in the common room, wincing in apology every time one of his pieces bludgeoned one of hers to death.

Not what she'd expected, but –

She shifts back a little, swallows, meets his eye, and as the firelight flickers over his face he looks –


He smiles, which really only adds to the effect. She smiles too, can't help it, thinks that she should mark this moment with a word. The only one she can think of though is wow, and if there's any word guaranteed to make James Potter exponentially cockier, it's that one.

She laughs at the thought, and even though his smile barely wavers, his eyebrows twist up in genuine concern. "What?" he says, his voice a little tight with amusement his eyes say he hopes he's not wrong to let out.

"Nothing," she says, shaking her head. "I was just thinking."

"Can I ask what?"

His eyes are curious more than worried, and his fingers drift away, no less distracting when they settle on her wrist than they were on her neck. She looks down, watches as he laces their fingers together, likes the way their hands look, settled on her leg. Suddenly, there's only one thought in her head, and she leans in closer, can't keep her own curiosity out of her expression. "Is this – I mean you must have thought about it – is this how you pictured it?"

The briefest flicker of a smirk crosses his face as he realises what she's getting at, and then he sniggers. "No," he says. "Not at all, actually." She laughs again, because it's another surprise, how honest he is, and he squeezes her fingers, making her amusement dwindle to a smile as instantaneously she doesn't have the breath for anything more. "It's better, though," he adds quietly, meeting her eye.

"It is."

He lets a perfect moment pass, nothing but shimmering firelight and smiling, and then the smirk that's been threatening finally breaks out on his lips, in his gaze. To her slight chagrin, she finds it adorable. "So you did picture this, then?" he says, and she rolls her eyes, lets out a soft amused sigh.

"You know I did."

He smiles briefly, leans in, and her breath catches in expectation. "I didn't," he says, words brushing her lips. "That's what makes this better."

This time, his kiss is a little bit less restrained, and she gets the briefest taste of everything he feels. It's –

Not at all surprising, when she thinks about it. And that's the most surprising thing of all, that for all the newness of this, there's something timeless in it too, as if this was always there, just below the surface, waiting to be found.