Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the amazingly talented J.K Rowling. I'm only borrowing the characters and world that she has so brilliantly created.

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"The Plan," a one-shot by PenguinBuddy

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The Great Hall was nearly empty as Lily and her best friends Emmeline and Alice took seats at the far end of the Gryffindor table. It was still early, and most students hadn't yet dragged themselves out of bed in search of nourishment.

"How long is your essay for McGonagall?" Emmeline asked the other two girls as she reached for a muffin.

"Three rolls of parchment," Lily said with a stifled yawn as she added a crumpet to her own plate. Missing the stunned looks of her friends, she reached over and selected a banana from the bowl of fruit resting in the center of the table. "Pass me that orange juice, will you?"

Alice shook her head ruefully, even as she handed Lily the pitcher of juice. "And here I thought I had gone above and beyond with two rolls of parchment."

"I'm not even going to say how much I did or did not write," Emmeline groaned. "She said that there was no set length."

There was a small commotion in the entryway as James Potter and Sirius Black traded insults with two members of the Slytherin Quidditch team. Gryffindor had properly trounced Slytherin in the match last Saturday, which meant that the majority of the Slytherins were being extra nasty and spiteful to make up for their loss on the pitch. For a moment, it looked as though things would come to blows as James and Macnair sized each other up. Then, suddenly, James turned on his heel and walked away from the scowling Slytherin.

"Did you see that?" Emmeline whispered, even though James and Sirius were far out of hearing range. "I thought Potter was going to deck Macnair."

Lily found herself watching James as he and Sirius took seats across from Remus and Peter, who had arrived for breakfast just minutes before. If Lily was to be honest with herself, she had been doing rather a lot of staring at James Potter over the course of the last few months.

Lily supposed that it was only inevitable that she would eventually fancy him. Of course, she had always found James attractive. She would have to have been blind not to notice him on a physical level; it was just that she had never cared for him on a personal level.

But he had grown up over the last couple of years. Merlin knew he was still one of the most stubborn people to walk the earth, but he had learned to channel the mass quantities of energy he possessed into activities other than mischief and tormenting other students. The arrogance of his younger years had mellowed into confidence, and Lily found the result was not all-together unpleasing.

Working together as Head Students had shown her that she enjoyed being friends with James. The problem was, she no longer wanted to be just friends, and it was entirely his fault. If only he hadn't been such an effective leader, if only he hadn't learned how to handle responsibility, if only his eyes hadn't glinted mischievously behind his glasses all the time….

The problem with fancying him, of course, was not knowing whether or not he fancied her back. After all, how was a girl to tell? In the past, he had pestered her mercilessly, attempted to flirt with her, and generally made himself as much of a nuisance as humanly possible. Now that he had grown up, however, he no longer did these things. If he still fancied her, she had no obvious way of knowing. She hadn't been able to catch him staring at her, and although sometimes she thought that maybe he was flirting with her, it could also simply have been friendly teasing or banter.

What she needed, she thought, was a way to find out if he still fancied her, and to let him know that she was interested in him.

"Lily?"

Lily jerked out of her reverie to find her two best friends staring at her with knowing looks.

"I - I…" she stammered, searching in vain for some kind of excuse for why she might have been looking in James's general direction.

Emmeline, however, saved her the trouble. "Don't even bother to try denying that you were staring at James." Lily could practically hear the smirk in her friend's voice.

Lily busied herself with spreading strawberry jam on her crumpet. "So what if I was?" she replied loftily.

"Why don't you just ask the bloke out?" Emmeline bluntly questioned. "It's clear you fancy the boy to death."

When Lily gave no answer but to stuff a large piece of crumpet into her mouth, even the typically patient Alice became exasperated.

"Lily, this is getting ridiculous. It's painfully obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes in their head that you fancy the bloke. Look, there's a Hogsmeade trip next weekend, why not ask him to go with you?"

Swallowing, Lily sighed heavily and gave up her feeble attempt at ignorance. "I might if I thought he would say yes and not laugh in my face about the whole matter."

There. She had said it. She hoped her friends were happy.

"What makes you think he would laugh at you?" Alice asked, genuine concern flooding her features at Lily's statement.

"James has been a great mate, but what if friendship is the extent of his feelings for me?" She cast a quick glance down the table at James and his friends who were laughing and gesturing wildly, obviously in the midst of some great joke. "After all, there's only so many times a bloke is willing to be rejected before he gives up. I mean, I know he never asked me out that many times, but he was always paying me compliments and dropping hints about how we would be perfect together, and I just brushed every comment aside as if it were nothing. If he knew now how much I…." She broke off, unable to continue the thought.

"James wouldn't do that, Lily," Alice said, patting her gently on the back. "He's grown up. You know he has."

"Besides," Emmeline piped up, helpfully, "anyone with the least bit of common sense can tell that he still fancies you something rotten."

Lily laughed wryly, not convinced that James still harbored any sort of romantic feelings towards her any longer.

"I think that he's content simply to be friends," she told her friends, sadly. "I had my chance. And now it's gone."

"Why not test him?" Emmeline asked suddenly, as inspiration struck her. "You know, just drop a few small hints, flirt with him a bit, and see how he reacts."

"That's brilliant!" Alice exclaimed, her eyes lighting up. "You could sit by him in class and brush arms, things like that!"

Well, Lily thought to herself, she had wanted a way to find out if James was still interested in her or not. Here was a possible way to find out. She might as well take the opportunity. What did she have to lose, really?

L … J

"There he is," Emmeline whispered to Lily as they peeped around the corner just south of the Transfiguration classroom. James was striding towards them, his rucksack slung across his back in a carefree manner. Alice and Frank had obviously been successful in detaining his friends in order to give her time to speak to James on his own without interference.

Lily felt her breath catch slightly in her chest at the sight of him. Merlin, but he was handsome, a small smile playing on the corner of his lips and his black hair looking windswept.

"Get going," Emmeline commanded, jerking Lily out of her thoughts and giving her a small shove in the direction of the classroom. "And good luck!" she hissed.

Lily's feet felt a bit leaden as she walked to the door of the Transfiguration room. Pull yourself together, she told herself harshly. It's just James. Are you a Gryffindor or not?

Rallying her courage, Lily stepped into the room and boldly made her way towards where James was sitting at a desk towards the back of the classroom.

"Hello, James," Lily said as she slipped into the empty seat next to him. He glanced sharply at her, obviously surprised that she was choosing to sit next to him during class. She felt more than a tad self conscious, but it had to be done if she was ever going to find out if he still fancied her.

"Hullo," he greeted her cheerfully. His eyes were scanning the room, looking for her friends. She felt his eyes on her briefly as his mind worked to try and figure out why she might have chosen to sit next to him. Whatever conclusion he came to, he betrayed none of his feelings.

When he said nothing further to her, she realized that she was going to have to do all of the work. She pretended to search through her rucksack before giving him what she hoped was a sheepish, yet coy smile. "I've forgotten all of my quills in the dorm, could I borrow one of yours?"

"Of course," he replied at once, but Lily could read the underlying confusion in his eyes. It was a rare occasion when she wasn't prepared for class. And now she was reduced to pretending all for the sake of a boy. Pathetic.

"Looks like I've forgotten my ink as well," she internally cringed as the words flowed forth from her lips. "Do you think I could share your ink well just for this class?"

This time it took him longer to respond and she was sure that he was internally puzzling over her strange behavior.

"Yeah," He shoved his ink well from his right side, to rest in the middle space between their books. "It's a bit odd, isn't it? You not being prepared."

"Oy! Evans!" Lily's heart nearly stopped at the sound of Sirius Black's voice ringing out over the voices of the other students. She hadn't even given a thought to her plan after this point. What in the name of Godric Gryffindor was she supposed to tell James's mates? She couldn't very well tell them the truth, now could she?

"Yes, Sirius?" she asked, trying her best to keep a neutral expression and suppress her desire to crawl under the desk.

Sirius leaned against her desk in a casual manner, brushing his dark hair out of his grey eyes and giving her what he obviously considered a winning smile. Remus and Peter were standing behind him, looks of amusement clearly written all over their faces.

"I was just curious what you were doing in my seat," Sirius stated, his eyes watching her face intently. "You usually sit with Alice and Emmeline, no? What's so interesting over on this side of the room? Couldn't be the Head Boy here, could it?"

"You know, just looking for a change of scenery," she replied, somehow managing to keep her voice steady. Maybe she even sounded convincing.

Sirius's eyes flickered to James briefly, and he gave his best mate a quick wink. "Yeah, I guess you would enjoy the…ahm…scenery, wouldn't you, Lily?"

Peter coughed loudly. Remus smiled quickly, before faking a wide yawn and raising his hand to cover the lower portion of his face.

"Take a seat," Professor McGonagall instructed and the loud chatter of students hushed immediately as she strode to the front of the classroom, thus saving Lily from attempting to make up an answer and embarrassing herself further.

"Good morning class," McGonagall announced, looking to her attendance charts. Glancing around the room, she ticked off names as she spotted each student. When she glanced to the place where Lily normally sat, she looked up in confusion.

"Is Miss Evans ill today?" she asked, concern lacing her voice.

It was only natural of McGonagall to ask after her, Lily supposed. She never missed class unless she was feeling unwell, and she always sat with Alice and Emmeline. Next to James Potter was the last place most people were likely to look for her.

"She's right here," James supplied cheerfully, waving his hand in the air a bit to catch McGonagall's attention.

At his words, nearly the entire class turned to look at her sitting next to James Potter. Alice and Emmeline had identical knowing smirks on their faces. If she hadn't had nearly an entire room full of people looking directly at her, she would have scowled at the two girls who were supposed to be her best mates. Maybe even hexed them.

As McGonagall turned to see her sitting next to James Potter, something flickered in her steely eyes that looked suspiciously like amusement. Since there were a number of vacant seats, it was obvious that Lily had chosen to sit by James. Lily mentally cringed as she imagined what thoughts must have been running through McGonagall's mind.

"Good to see our Head Boy and Head Girl getting along so well," McGonagall casually commented. Yet behind the casual tone of her voice there lay something else that distinctly sounded like a smile.

Lily felt the heat rise to her cheeks. She was still internally fretting over the professor's comments when McGonagall began the lecture.

With class now under way, Lily began the second phase of her grand scheme. As she saw James reach his hand out to ink his quill, she too, reached for the inkpot now resting between the pair of them. Their hands brushed briefly, then James pulled his own hand back.

"Sorry," he whispered with a slight grin. "You go ahead."

"No, it's all right. It's your inkpot," she insisted, batting her eyelashes once for good measure.

He shrugged, dipped his quill into the ink and began to write down what McGonagall was saying about human transfiguration. Lily subtly watched him for a moment, then dipped her own quill into the pot and began taking notes.

Throughout the lesson, Lily made sure that their hands brushed several more times, though she tried not to do it too many times. She didn't want to be ridiculously overt, after all.

As class ended, he rose from his seat, shoved his school supplies into his rucksack, and slung it over his shoulder, obviously intending to join his mates. Lily was momentarily panicked by this turn of events. He wasn't supposed to leave without her. They were supposed to leave class at the same time and then walk to their next class together. She was supposed to strike up a conversation with him, not let him leave without actually having had a conversation with him.

Out of desperation, she grasped his hand. He stopped dead in his tracks and quickly glanced to their clasped hands. Puzzlement was obvious in his hazel eyes as he looked into her face.

"I….uh…." Lily stammered, her face growing beet red with embarrassment. She relinquished his hand with a sharp feeling of loss. "I just wanted to say thanks for lending me the parchment and letting me share your ink."

He must have been holding his breath, because he let out a long sigh. At once he composed himself. "No problem. Just don't make a habit of it," he added cheekily. "So, what did you think of the reading for Charms?"

"I thought it was fascinating," she replied, carefully placing her textbook and notes into her own rucksack. "Healing charms are such an interesting field of study."

And just like that they were having a discussion as they walked towards the Charms classroom together.

James nodded in agreement with her statement. "If I want to become an Auror someday,

I'll need to have a good knowledge of healing charms. They're dead useful in the field."

"Coming from a muggle home, I find the idea of healing charms terribly helpful. I mean, of course for a lot of injuries or sicknesses a person should still go to the hospital, but there's so much that can be done right at home."

"Thanks," she told him as he held a tapestry aside for her so that she could pass through the door located behind it.

James smiled with an air of reminiscence. "My mum is a dab hand at healing charms, so when I was younger and injured myself playing outside, she patched me up. I gave her quite a lot of practice."

They seemed to be getting along so well that Lily smiled. Maybe her plan wasn't going so horribly after all.

"What's that smile for?" he asked, a grin of his own gracing his handsome features.

Lily shrugged slightly and looked up at James with the hint of a smile. "Oh, nothing."

"Hm…"James pretended to think. "Nothing…that sounds awfully suspicious."

She felt her cheeks grow a bit warm and knew that she was blushing again, but she ignored this. "I was just imaging your mum having to patch you up after falling out of trees and off your broomstick," Lily lied casually.

"Falling off of my broom?" James cried. "I haven't fallen off my broom since I was seven!"

"Oh really?" Lily laughed at his indignant tone. "What about last year during the second match against Slytherin? Weren't you in the hospital wing for a few days because of a concussion that was a result of you falling off your broom?"

James waved his hand in the air dismissively. "That was different! I had two bludgers knock me off. Falling off and being knocked offare two completely different things."

Lily grinned, amused by his words. "Oh, yes, I see. They're very different."

"I'm glad you agree with me," James replied simply with a small smirk. There was a brief pause, then, "I didn't know you paid that much attention at Quidditch matches to remember that particular incident."

"Oh, I enjoy the game well enough. The rules make absolutely no sense, but there's nothing like it in the muggle world, so it's always been a bit fantastic to me in that respect," Lily explained. A sudden thought occurred to her, and she continued a bit coyly, "Of course, when there's good-looking blokes playing, it's even more appealing to watch."

James' eyebrows raised in surprise at her statement. Curiosity was also evident in his expression, and Lily waited for him to take the bait.

"Good-looking blokes, eh?" he asked in a very nonchalant manner. "Do you have anyone particular in mind? Or are all us Quidditch playing blokes equally devastatingly attractive?"

'Oh, you know," Lily shyly responded as she lightly brushed against him.

Or at least, that was the plan. While Lily had intended to give James a light and playful nudge with her elbow, she had been a tad nervous and instead ended up forcefully pushing him into a suit of armor.

"Oy!" he cried as he stumbled into the armor. The armor made a great deal of clanking and scraping noises as he grabbed a hold to steady himself.

Lily stared in open-mouthed horror as the suit of armor, which was none to steady, proceeded to collapse as James tried to right himself. Rushing over, she knelt by his side where he lay underneath a pile of armor.

"Oh, James, I'm so sorry!" she cried fretfully, reaching down and shifting some of the large metal pieces off of him. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine. Just give me a hand up," James said, extending his hand to her.

Lily obliged, feeling her spine tingle as his large, Quidditch-roughened hand slide into her own smaller one. She could get used to this sensation of her hand in his.

"Thanks," he said. There was an awkward pause in which the two stood in the corridor holding hands, unaware that the other students making their way to class were watching the exchange with looks of open interest.

Finally realizing that they had an audience, Lily reluctantly pulled her hand out of James's grasp. Looking into his eyes, she felt her heart quicken. He was staring into her own eyes with a mischievous yet gentle smile on his face.

Suddenly, a splash of red on his forehead caught her eye.

"You're bleeding," she breathed, pointing to his face. Mortification rippled through her as she realized that she had injured James while attempting to flirt with him.

"Must have been a sharp edge," James commented nonchalantly, reaching into his back pocket for a handkerchief.

Lily gently tugged the handkerchief out of his grasp. "Let me," Reaching up, she dabbed at his wound lightly. "Too bad we haven't practiced those healing charms yet, eh? But at least it's shallow. It should stop bleeding in just a moment. I'm so sorry."

His skin was very warm against her hand and his face was flushed. He was blushing, she realized with a slight jolt. It was no doubt because he had made a fool of himself in front of an entire hallway of people.

"I-I think I'll - go up to this hospital wing and get a pepper-up potion," James stammered, stumbling a bit as he moved away from her touch. "I knocked my head a bit when I fell…you go on to class, I wouldn't want you to be late. I'll catch you up."

"All right then," she said, forcing herself to smile in spite of the way her heart was plummeting. "I hope you feel better…and I'm sorry."

"Stop saying you're sorry," he told her, his eyes hard. "I've gotten worse injuries than a little scratch."

Lily suspected that he didn't need to go to see Madam Pomfrey at all, but was using that as an excuse to leave her presence. The thought made her feel as though there were stones piled in the bottom of her stomach. She turned and continued on her way to class, not even noticing that he was walking in the opposite direction from the hospital wing.

James slid into a seat in the back ten minutes after the start of class and took a seat next to Remus. She had been watching for him and was relived to see that she hadn't accidentally caused him any serious harm when she had pushed him over. Their eyes met briefly before she tore her gaze away to focus at the front of the classroom.

Periodically throughout the class, she felt as though someone was looking at her. She only looked back once, and was disappointed to see that it was Sirius who was watching her so intently. He arched an eyebrow at her, then ever so subtly nodded his head toward James. Lily quickly returned to her note taking, her face flaming and her heart racing.

L … J

"I don't get it, Alice! He hasn't even seemed to notice that I'm trying to flirt with him!" Lily cried in exasperation. "The only person who's noticed anything is Sirius Black which is not what I wanted at all."

It was lunchtime and Lily, Alice, and Emmeline were once again in the Great Hall. James and his friends, however, were nowhere to be seen. After the incident with the armor, Lily couldn't help but feel slightly relieved by his absence.

"Maybe Sirius will nudge James in the right direction. Clue him in," Alice offered hopefully.

"I don't want it to come from Sirius," Lily insisted, miserably stabbing at her shepherd's pie with her fork.

"Well, maybe you aren't being obvious enough," Emmeline suggested as she re-read through her Potions assignment searching for grammatical errors. "After all, he's used to rejection from you. Maybe your sudden interest has caught him off-guard."

"Perhaps," Lily sighed, mulling over the mornings' events in her mind.

How could he have failed to miss every subtle and not-so-subtle indicator that she had given him? She had taken advantage of every situation that fate had provided for her, but to no avail. Was James Potter completely blind? Or worse, was he trying to discreetly tell her that he no longer fancied her?

"What if you ignore him for a bit?" Emmeline said, rolling up her parchment and placing it carefully inside of her rucksack.

Lily stared blankly at her friend for a moment. "How is that going to help me at all?" she finally asked. "He won't have clue what's going on."

"Exactly! You've spent all morning with him. So now this afternoon, subtly avoid talking with him. It will confuse him, and he'll be curious and thinking about you."

"He'll think I'm out of my mind," Lily groaned, reaching for her goblet of pumpkin juice. "But I might as well try it. What have I got to lose at this point? I'm sure he already thinks I'm insane."

Glancing at her wristwatch, Lily saw that History of Magic would be beginning in less than ten minutes. Getting to her feet, she grabbed her rucksack and slung the strap over her shoulder.

The three girls made their way out of the Great Hall discussing all of the things that they would rather do than go to History of Magic (amputate own hand, walk down Knockturn Alley, kiss Slughorn). As they neared Binns's classroom, Lily spotted James and his friends waiting outside the door, leaning up against the corridor walls. When James smiled at her, she pretended as though she hadn't seen and continued talking with Alice and Emmeline.

As the previous class filed out, and they began making their way into the room, out of the corner of her eye, Lily noticed James making his way towards her. Fortunately, Emmeline seemed to notice this as well and stepped in front of him, blocking access to her. The three girls took seats near the front, with Lily comfortably settled between Alice and Emmeline.

Alice glanced over her shoulder on the pretense of waving to Frank, then subtly leaned towards Lily and whispered, "I think it's working. He's staring at the back of your head."

But as the day progressed, Lily began to wonder if maybe Alice had been mistaken. James seemed no more inclined to talk to her than he seemed inclined to be friends with any of the members of Slytherin House. Before Potions was the last time that he had attempted to talk to her all day. When classes had finished, she wearily walked with her mates back to Gryffindor Tower, thoroughly convinced that James Potter no longer fancied her in the least.

L … J

"Ready?"

Lily looked up to find James standing over her. She had been working on her homework at a table in the common room, but a quick glance at the clock on the fireplace mantle told her that it was time for rounds. She had completely forgotten that she had to perform rounds with James tonight as a part of their Head duties.

"Just let me put this stuff in my dorm, and I'll be right down," Lily replied. Her heart was racing as she climbed the stairs to the seventh year girl's dormitory.

"I'll be here," he called helpfully at her quickly retreating back.

"I have to do rounds with James!" she cried as she flung the door open. "I completely forgot about rounds! How could I be so stupid? I'm the one who schedules them!"

"But, Lily, that's perfect!" Alice smiled brightly from her place on her bed. There were textbooks and parchment strewn out all over her duvet.

"Perfect?" Lily sarcastically echoed, as she none too carefully dumped her books and supplies on her nightstand. "I couldn't think of a word less suited to this situation if I tried!"

"Oh, come off it, Lily," Emmeline said as she emerged from under her bed holding a dusty textbook and a solitary black sock. "Now is your chance to talk to him properly."

"I've just spent the entire afternoon avoiding speaking to him," Lily reasoned, her mind spinning and heart hammering in her ribcage. She flopped facedown onto her four-poster bed and pounded her fists into her pillow once for good measure.

"You're being overly dramatic," Alice stated calmly, getting off her bed and coming over to Lily's side.

"Am not," was Lily's muffled reply.

Well, maybe she was just a little, but she didn't care. She needed to let out some of the frustration that she had been feeling all day. Why did the boy have to be so bloody confusing? Why couldn't this whole situation just be simple?

Emmeline sat down on the other side of Lily and patted her gently on the back in a motherly fashion. "Just pretend as though this has been a normal day. Don't act as though you've been avoiding him. You can do this. You are a Gryffindor after all."

A knock on the door made all three girls jump. The door creaked opened slowly and a third year girl with curly brown hair peered shyly around the door.

"Sorry, but James Potter is looking for Lily….is she all right?" she asked as she spotted Lily sprawled facedown on her bed.

"She's fine," Emmeline and Alice intoned dryly at the same time.

"She'll be right down," Emmeline added with a wave of dismissal.

The girl nodded and shut the door, leaving the three seventh year girls huddled on Lily's bed in silence.

Lily fisted her hands in her sheets, took several, deep calming breaths, and then sat up.

"Do I have to?" she whispered even as she slid off the bed and stood up. Stalling, she pretended to brush off the front of her robes and fix her hair.

"Where's your Gryffindor courage?" Alice demanded with raised eyebrows.

"Get down there and get your man," Emmeline laughed, shoving Lily towards the door.

"He isn't mine," Lily protested vehemently as she opened the door. "He doesn't fancy me."

Alice smiled gently. "You'll never know if you don't talk to him, Lily."

The last thing Lily saw before she shut the door, was the faces of her friends, their encouraging smiles beaming up at her. The sight gave her strength, and she proceeded down the stairway with her spirits considerably lifted.

James stood at the bottom of the stairs, a worried expression lining his face.

"Are you feeling okay?" he quickly asked the moment she was in sight. "Aishling said you were laying on your bed and that your friends were huddled over you like you were ill. If you're ill, I can patrol alone or bribe Remus into helping me –"

"James, I'm not ill," Lily cut across him, effectively ending his rambling. "I was just… just frustrated about something. Ready to go?"

A look of relief passed across his face, giving Lily a shred of hope that maybe all wasn't lost. Even if he didn't fancy her, it was clear that she enjoyed her company as a friend. Being mates would be better than nothing, she supposed.

They kept up a steady stream of conversation throughout their patrols. Before Lily knew it, their allotted patrolling time had come to an end, and the pair began slowly making their way back to Gryffindor Tower.

"You've been acting a bit off today," James commented lightly after a pause in their conversation. "Everything all right?"

"I've been acting off?" Lily echoed, thinking of James's strange behavior. "That's a bit rich, coming form you. You ignored me all afternoon, even when I tried talking to you on the way to Defense."

Her heart stung at the memory of how he had ignored her as she called his name down the nearly empty corridor.

"You ignored me first," James retorted, his voice steady, but his face betraying his frustration. "Have I done something to make you cross? Is everything all right?"

A coy and vague reply was on the tip of Lily's tongue when a thought struck her like a bolt of lightning. Instead of trying to make him profess his feelings for her, why shouldn't she tell him how she felt? After all, it would only be fair. He had risked his own heart many times, now she should do the same.

Hadn't she been wishing that this entire ordeal could be simple? Well, it would be if she stopped playing games and just told the bloke how she felt!

He was watching her somewhat warily, waiting for a response.

"No, everything's not all right," she told him honestly. "I have this problem, actually."

"Oh?" He stopped and faced her, worry clouding his warm hazel eyes. "What is it? Do you want to talk about it?"

"The thing is… you're the problem."

"Me?" he yelped, blatantly surprised. His bright eyes regarded her with confusion and something else that looked very much like hurt. He ran both of his hands exasperatedly through his jet black hair making it even more unruly than it had been before and sighed loudly in exasperation.

"Look, Lily, you're the one who's been acting mental all day, not me. Things were fine between us – we were working together as Head Boy and Head Girl without so much as one argument, we were talking, laughing,….I thought….I thought we were friends…." He trailed off, the hurt now clearly evident in his voice and on his face.

"We are friends!" Lily cried, worried that she had created a rift between them that might never be properly repaired. "We are…."

She paused, then met his eyes. Summoning her courage, she continued. "But the thing is, James, I fancy you. And maybe that sounds completely mad after everything that's happened between us… but it's true. I think you're brave and loyal, and funny and brilliant. You're a natural leader, and you can inspire people. And I've never told anyone else this, but the truth is, that I admire you."

As she had spoken, James's face had contorted from a look of confusion and hurt to one of pure shock. "Lily…." He began, but she held up a hand cutting him off.

"No, you have to let me say this," she pleaded with him. She had to take this opportunity to put things right and to let him know how she felt. "Being your friend has been wonderful, but I would rather be more. And if you don't want that, I understand. I just thought that you should know how I felt. I needed to tell you once."

Her heart was racing and her breathing was slightly uneven, but nonetheless she held her head high and waited for him to say something. When he spoke, it was not the words that she was expecting.

"Well, it's good to know I wasn't imagining everything. I thought I was going mental there for a while." He looked at her, a sheepish look crossing his face as he slowly broke into a wide grin.

"Y-you mean….you knew?" Lily felt all of the blood drain from her face. "All bloody day?"

"Of course," he replied with confidence. "Now don't take this wrong," he held up his hands in front of him. "But you're not exactly the best actress in the world. It's been rather obvious how you feltsince the start of term. Then today you purposefully set out to talk to me, flirted with me, and then purposefully ignored me. Your mates were acting odd and my mates were acting odd, and the only thing that made any sort of sense was that you had finally decided to let me know that you thought I was a decent bloke."

"B-but…" Lily stammered, still floored by this newest revelation. Everything she thought she had known five minutes ago had been ripped away and replaced with utter confusion.

"Why didn't I just do something about it earlier?" His eyes were sparkling behind his glasses, making Lily feel rather weak in the knees. Not that she hadn't already been feeling a bit as though she had been hit by a particularly strong confundus charm. James rather had that effect upon her.

"Well…yes," she replied weekly.

"I wanted to make you say it," he replied easily, shoving his hands into the pockets of his robes. "I reckoned that if you were able to work up the courage to tell me that you fancied me, you would really mean it. And…well, I wanted you to be sincere. Because I care about you…I always have." I

dentical spots of red appeared on his cheeks at this last admission, but he maintained eye contact with her.

Lily felt any vestiges of annoyance leave her the moment the words left his mouth and she felt the corners of her mouth twitch upwards into a broad smile. If he wanted her to be sincere, that must mean that he did still fancy her!

"I did mean it," Her voice sounded breathless and she took pleasure in the way James swallowed heavily.

He smiled brightly and reached up to brush the backs of his fingers gently over her still-warm cheeks. Hope was shining in his face.

"Good," he replied simply, giving her a roguish gin. "Now, don't you have something to ask me?"

"Ask you?" Lily repeated, confused by this turn in the conversation.

James looked as though he was resisting the urge to roll his eyes. "Come on, Lily. You've gotten this far, just ask me to Hogsmeade already."

Lily tucked a loose strand a hair behind her ear, fidgeting. "Wait…you want me to ask you?"

"Is that a problem?" James asked, a frown slowly taking the place of his smile. His fingers fell away from her face, leaving her skin cold without his warm touch.

Lily's mind whirred with the events of the day. Her plan was already in complete and utter shambles, but why couldn't he just do this one part?

"But…the plan…you're supposed to ask me out!" Lily protested. Even to her own ears, the statement sounded weak.

"Plan?" Unbridled curiosity filled his deep voice and his eyes sparked with interest. "Lily, do you mean to tell me that this whole day you actually had a plan? That everything you did today was premeditated? That it was supposed to make sense?"

He sounded incredulous, for which Lily could hardly blame the poor bloke. After all, it had been a completely mad day.

"More or less," she offered with a shrug, looking up at him through her eyelashes shyly. "I mean, quite a bit was improvised, but the basic idea behind the whole plan was always there. It wasn't much of a plan, to be honest. It all started at breakfast, when my mates were trying to convince me that you still fancied me," she was aware that was babbling, but she couldn't keep the words from spewing forth from her lips.

"I wanted you too – fancy me that is – but I didn't think you did. So Alice and Emmeline helped me think of ways to get you on your own so I could talk to you and, you know, flirt with you. Then we changed tactics halfway through the day and I ignored you so that you would notice me – mad if you ask me, but it was their idea. Then we had rounds, which I had stupidly forgotten about. And then I decided to take a chance and tell you how I felt."

He opened his mouth as if to speak, but then shut it when words uncharacteristically failed him. He was positively adorable when he looked so bewildered.

"It's completely mental, yeah?" Lily said, wringing her hands.

James nodded in agreement, looking very much as if he wanted to laugh. "I would say mental is an understatement. I'd like to clear a few things up, though."

"That's fair," Lily acknowledged.

"Did you plan to push me into that suit of armor?"

Lily felt her face grow warm as she remembered that particular incident. "Merlin, no!" she cried, burying her face in her hands. "That was absolutely unplanned and it was completely mortifying. And then you ran off to the Hospital Wing, and I was worried –"

"I didn't go to the Hospital Wing."

This admission caused Lily to lift her face from its resting place in her hands. "You didn't?"

He shoved his hands in his pockets and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Nah, I just went to wash the blood off my face. Your tactics were confusing me, and I wanted to think. Not that I came to any conclusions."

"What were your other questions?" Lily prompted hesitantly. She found the conversation more than a little embarrassing, but figured that after all of her failed attempts at subtly some straight honesty couldn't hurt anything.

"That conversation we had about the Quidditch match where I was knocked off my broom - did you remember that on your own or did someone tell you about it?"

It seemed like an innocent question, yet Lily understood what he was truly asking.

"Our conversations today have all been real. I didn't plan what I was going to say," Lily told him softly. "Just because I haven't always particularly liked aspects of your personality in the past doesn't mean that I wasn't attracted to you – so maybe I was paying rather close attention at that match. And I was telling the truth when I told you that I enjoyed Quidditch."

The left side corner of his mouth twitched upwards in a lopsided grin. "So the point of this plan was…?"

"The ultimate goal was to find out if you still fancied me or not. It's a little vague after that, but in my mind, you were supposed to give me a blatant sign, and then I would send you subtle clues that you would understand. Then you would ask me to Hogsmeade."

"That's not quite how it happened," James observed with a cheeky grin.

"No…I never got my blatant sign and I didn't think you understood what I was so poorly trying to attempt, so in the end, I decided that I was just going to go for it and tell you how I felt. After all, in past years you told me all the time how you felt about me, so I - I decided that if you could manage it, so could I."

James shook his head and smirked. "One more question."

He stepped closer to her, closer than he had ever been before. Closer than they had been that very afternoon as she wiped the blood off of his forehead. They were so close that she could see a very faint dusting of freckles scattered sparingly across his face. So close that their breaths mingled.

"Yes?" she breathed, sliding her hand lightly up his arm to curve around his shoulder. She brushed her fingers against the hair on the nape of his neck and he gasped lightly. He tilted his head slightly and leaned almost imperceptibly towards her. Lily felt her heart beat in anxious anticipation, sure of what was about to happen.

"Can I kiss you?"

"I'm not in the habit of snogging blokes I'm not going out with in the corridors after hours," she told him loftily. "So first, I have a question for you."

James's face formed itself into a definite smirk and it was all Lily could do not to throw herself at him and beg him to kiss her senseless.

"Will you go to Hogsmeade with me this weekend?"

"Merlin, yes," he whispered and Lily closed the remaining gap between them.

His lips were a bit chapped, no doubt from the wind at the last Quidditch match, but Lily hardly noticed or cared. All that mattered was the way in which he had eagerly responded as she had pressed her mouth to his. She felt a tingle run up her spine as James ran a hand through her auburn hair, tangling the ends a bit. After a long moment more, the two slowly broke apart.

James took his hands from her hair, something Lily almost protested, except that he took her hands in his and entwined their fingers. His hazel eyes were dark in a way she had never seen them look before as he regarded her, and she felt her stomach flip pleasantly.

He leaned in slowly and placed a light kiss on her lips. James pulled back so that they were looking each other in the eyes once again. "I guess your mad plan worked after all. Except there was one flaw."

"Oh?" Lily cocked her head to the side. "And what was that?"

James paused for dramatic effect, then said, "This isn't a Hogsmeade trip weekend. It's next weekend."

Lily realized with a jolt that he was right – Alice had told her the trip was next weekend, she had simply forgotten. She was about to amend her words, but James spoke before she could get the chance.

"Don't worry, love. I've got a plan."

And with that, he leaned down to kiss her again.


The End

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