Chapter Five

The ball

Finally the eighteenth came. Since it was a Saturday and there were no classes, everybody, especially the girls, seemed to be locked up in their rooms getting ready. James sat in the common room with Sirius. Peter and Remus had disappeared the night before, and both of them knew that Peter must be going through a hard time trying to deal with Remus alone. He was probably telling Peter to go away at that very moment, afraid of what he might do to a poor defenseless rat.

"But its okay," said Sirius, " 'cause I have the map on me, so we'll be able to see if Peter needs any trouble."

"Be careful with that! Filch is always prowling the halls. If we get caught with it, he'll take it for sure. We already lost the sphere that told you the exact location of any person inside of Hogwarts."

"That was so handy. No need to look through the map. Sometimes it can take ages to find the person you're looking for."

"Tell me about it," said James, sighing.

"Man, this place is like woman free land. I swear, every single girl is getting ready, and the ball doesn't start for another three hours!"

"It's so much easier to be a dude," said James.

"Yeah," said Sirius, and they high fived.

"You guys not getting ready for the ball?" asked Alice, sitting beside them on the couch.

"Uh, Alice? We're dudes. We don't—" Sirius stopped and stared at Alice, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. "What did you do to your hair?"

Alice's normally straight long hair was curled into ringlets, with little flower clips all over. But that wasn't the only thing that had changed about Alice. She was wearing make-up for probably the first time ever, and a hoop earring hung from each ear. She looked . . . well, like a girl.

"Alice, you look amazing!" said James. Alice smiled.

"Why, thank you," she said, blushing.

"Damn girl, you clean up real good," said Sirius. "Frank's definitely gonna kiss you tonight!"

"You think?" gushed Alice. "God, you know, I wasn't sure, but now that you mention it . . . Yeah, maybe he will!"

"You know, Alice, I would love to talk about you and Frank but I need you to check on Lily and make sure she's coming," said James. "It's kind of really important."

"Fine," said Alice, chuckling. She stood up and walked towards the girls' stairway and Sirius called out.

"Do we get a sneak peek of the dress?"

"You'll just have to wait like everybody else," joked Alice and she ran up the stairs. Sirius and James exchanged a look and grinned.

"Man, if all the girls look as good as Alice then I'm not going to mind hooking up with one or two," said Sirius.

"Don't do two. That never ends well. Remember that dance club in Surrey?"

"Oh, yeah. Okay, well, maybe just one."

"Just make sure those ones aren't Alice or Lily," said James. Sirius bit his lip.

"I dunno. I'm feeling kind of attracted to Alice suddenly."

"No," said James firmly. "Alice is our friend and she really likes Longbottom. Please don't ruin this for her."

"Fine. But she can do much better than Longbottom," said Sirius bitterly. James chuckled and shook his head.

"Alright, so now what?" he asked.

"Now," said Sirius, sighing, "we wait."

James had never seen the great hall so decked out in his seven years at Hogwarts. Fall was obviously the theme of the ball, with large trees everywhere that were shedding their leaves one by one. The floor had been enchanted so that it looked like grass, giving the whole ball and outdoorsy feel to it, and in one corner of the great hall it was raining. James remembered how Alice had once told him that almost every girl dreams of getting kissed in the rain. Maybe that was a way he could seduce Lily, if Sirius's plan didn't work. The two seventeen year olds bought their tickets and then went to sit down at one of the many picnic tables that had been spread out around the hall.

The whole place honestly looked like they were all just on a school wide picnic. Except there was music blasting from all four corners of the room. As soon as they sat down, their table filled with sandwiches, crisps and cans of Coke. James opened a can and drank the whole thing without taking a breath. Sirius watched him and raised an eyebrow. James shrugged and threw the can in a nearby trashcan.

He looked at the entrance and saw Alice and Longbottom walking in, and his jaw almost dropped. She was wearing a short, pink frilly dress that looked like it was made out of silk, with a little red stripe going across her waist that ended in a small bow. Her shoes coordinated with her outfit perfectly ('Dude, what are you, gay?' had said Sirius after James mentioned this) and her hair just complimented the whole thing. She honestly looked amazing. But she was nothing compared to who walked in right behind her, looking a bit like a third wheel.

Lily Evans wore her red hair tied up in a bun, except for three or four ringlets of hair strands that framed her face. She wore a light blue dress that hugged her waist and ended just under her knees. It was quite plain, not frilly like Alice's, and her shoes were just simple blue flats. Even though Alice was far more dressed up than Lily was, she didn't even come close in James's eyes.

"I'm going in," said James, standing up. Sirius pulled him back down.

"No, you'll ruin the whole thing," he whispered. James nodded and straightened out the collar on his tux. He waited for a few seconds and then pretended to see Alice for the first time and waved her over. Alice waved back and dragged Longbottom and Lily along with her.

"Hey guys! Wow, you look great," she said, smiling.

"Not as great as you," said Sirius and James elbowed him.

"What?" mumbled Sirius.

"Not now," replied James.

"So, what do you guys think?" asked Longbottom.

"It's great, why?" said Sirius.

"Frank was on the decorating committee," said Alice, giggling.

"Gay," said Sirius between coughs.

"Shut up," whispered James.

"She can do so much better."

"Sirius."

"Hey, James," said Margaret Doherty, a sixth year Hufflepuff, smiling at James and fiddling with a strand of her blonde hair. James knew that Sirius had set up this girl to come and ask James to dance, but he hadn't expected her to be so hot. Lily would definitely get jealous.

"Oh, hey Margaret," said James causally.

"Wow, you look great," gushed Margaret, and James raised an eyebrow.

"Well, so do you," he said.

"Hey, do you wanna . . . maybe, I dunno, dance or something?"

James glanced at Lily. Her face was beet red and she looked kind of angry. James smirked.

"I'd love to," he said, and he followed Margaret onto the dance floor, which was basically anywhere where there was no picnic tables. He quickly found himself apologizing for stepping on her feet, and soon he found himself apologizing again. Margaret just laughed and said she was fine, but after the third time he could tell she was getting annoyed. Thankfully, a miracle happened.

"Excuse me, could I cut in?" asked Lily, glaring at Margaret. Margaret shrugged and started dancing alone. Lily put one hand in James's and the other on his shoulder while he placed his second hand on her waist.

"So, I thought you wanted to bring me to this dance," said Lily after a few seconds of silence.

"I thought you didn't wanna come with me. You rejected me, remember?"

"Yeah, well that was because you were being stupid and annoying," said Lily, rolling her eyes.

"That's just me," said James, winking. He glanced over Lily's shoulder and saw Alice and Frank dancing together. Alice gave James a quick thumbs up and James grinned at her.

"Yeah, I've come to realize that over the past seven years," said Lily. James smirked at her.

"Have you? And how exactly is that?"

"Uh, by talking to you, by observing you, by—"

"Observing me?" asked James, pretending to be confused. "Now, why on earth would you observe me?"

"I only did it once, and it was in fourth year, after the first time you asked me out. I wanted to see how you acted around different people, so I observed you. It really bothered me how you treated Severus. That's why I rejected you."

She bit her lip. James could tell she hadn't wanted to tell him that. James thought about it for a second and then realized that it made sense. It wasn't that Lily didn't like him, she actually probably did, but Snape was her best friend, and if he dated Lily, he kind of had to date Snape too. Which was a weird thought.

"So, if I asked you out again right now, what would you say?"

"Right now? At this very instant? Hmm . . . I would probably say no."

James stopped dancing. Lily looked at him confused.

"Okay, really? Seriously, you would still reject me?"

"Uh yeah, I would. After you beat Severus to a pulp and then screamed at me for no reason, yeah I would reject you," said Lily putting her hands on your hips.

"You know, you have got to be the most fickle girl I have ever met. Why am I never good enough for you? I mean, it's either I've said something wrong, or I've done something wrong, or I'm friends with the wrong people. Honestly, when will you just . . ." His voice trailed off.

"When will I just what?" asked Lily, who was starting to look annoyed.

"Never mind," mumbled James.

"No, I wanna hear this. When will I just what?"

"When will you just admit that you like the fact that I'm not perfect!" said James, not able to hold back his anger anymore. Lily stared at him, a bit stunned.

"Excuse me?" she said.

"Look, okay, I know that I don't always say the right things, and I know that I get in trouble a lot, but look Lily, that's just the way I am! And you know that! I know that you know that! But I also know that you still like me, and I think that scares you."

"I still— Hold on a second, you think I like you?"

"I know you like me," said James, exaggerating the sentence with his hands.

"Well, you sure are wrong there. Maybe I did, for like, a split second but . . ."

"A split second? Lily, you got in a fight with Snape over the summer over this!"

"How—"

"I'm not as stupid as you seem to think I am," he yelled.

"Oh really? Who thought that I rejected you in fourth year because I thought your hair was dumb? Who thought that I didn't wanna be your partner in potions in sixth year because I felt that your inability to make good potions would ruin my complexion? Who thought that I was ignoring him because he got in a fight with someone that I haven't spoken too in over a month!"

"Okay, okay, time out. You liked me in fourth year already?"

"DUH! Hello! I was so stoked when you asked me out that I screamed for about ten minutes! But as soon as I told Severus about it, he told me some of the things you did to him, and it felt wrong to date you after my best friend had told me how much he hated you." She paused for a second, looking at the ground. "Severus was the only thing that kept me from snogging you to infinity and beyond."

"No, okay, I won't accept that excuse, because you and Snape haven't been speaking for a while, and you still haven't done anything! You know, you could have, like, asked me to go for a walk or if I needed help with my homework or something!"

"Well, sorry James, but I was a little bit in shock about finding out that my best friend is a werewolf!" she screamed. James looked around alarmed, but luckily the music was so loud and so was the talking that nobody seemed to have noticed.

"You know what? Just forget it," said Lily and she started walking away. James started to follow her, but then he noticed that Sirius was making out with a girl in a pink frilly dress over in the other corner of the great hall and a sudden sense of dread filled him.

"Oh, come on!" he screamed at the enchanted ceiling. Then he turned around and went to save Alice from doing something she would definitely regret.

"Sirius!" called James. Sirius looked up and his eyes widened in a way that James had come to realize over the years that meant 'Oh crap'. He quickly pulled away from Alice, and smiled at James awkwardly.

"Hey buddy," he said, biting his lip.

"You just . . . you don't listen to anyone, do you? You just do whatever you want! You don't think about anybody other than yourself," yelled James. Alice touched his wrist.

"James, calm down."

"No, I will not calm down. I'm past the point of calming down! The love of my life has just rejected me for no reason whatsoever, we just got in a huge fight, and now my best friend is making out with someone else's date and that someone else's date happens to be a good friend of mine that I specifically told him not to hook up with tonight and you're telling me to calm down!"

Alice stared at James, obviously hurt by his outburst. She took a deep breath.

"James . . ."

"No, don't James me, okay? You and Lily, you're exactly the same, do you know that? You know, you go after one guy for the longest time, but then as soon as you get him, you trade him in for something else. You've been going on about Longbottom for ages and now he finally asks you out and you end up making out with Sirius, someone you told me not long ago that you would not snog for a bazillion sickles! Nothing's good enough for you, is it? You can't just stay with the guy you want because he's just going to make you happy forever, and God forbid that from happening!" James took a deep breath when he finished yelling. Sirius was looking at the ground and Alice had tears in her eyes.

"Frank asked me on a bet, James. He bet his friends he could get a date before the tenth, and I was just the first girl to say yes. He asked thirteen girls before me." She swallowed. "So don't give me this self-righteous spiel about how nothing's good enough for me." She looked into his eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Because, do you know what? Frank was good enough for me! He was! But he didn't want me, James. He wanted some collector muggle coin and a stamp, and Sirius wanted me. And I know that Sirius just wants to make out with me and then act like it never happened, because that's just Sirius, but tonight, I'm fine with that! Because tonight, my heart feels like it's been ripped in half. And when that happens, James, it's really nice to know that there's someone out there who wants you."

James stared at her for a few seconds, and then Alice ran off through the crowd. Sirius glared at him.

"You know, James, normally I wouldn't say this, because normally you're the one saying this to me, but there's dumb, and there's really dumb. That, James, what you just said to Alice, that was really dumb," and with that Sirius ran after Alice. James groaned. He knew Sirius was right, and he felt bad about what had happened with Alice, but he would fix that later. First he needed to clarify something, something he should have clarified years ago.

James found Lily sitting alone at a picnic table near the rainy area. Several couples were under the rain, some dancing, some kissing and some who were just necking it. James sat down beside her, and she glared at him.

"What do you want?" she asked. James sighed.

"I want to know if you like me or not," said James. "Because if you can tell me right now, without lying, looking into my eyes and swearing that you will be honest with me that you don't like me, I swear I will leave you alone."

Lily looked at him, tears welling in her eyes. He was really getting kind of tired of girls crying at his expense. It didn't make him feel really good.

"I can't say that, James," said Lily, sounding surprisingly calm. "You know I can't."

"So why do you keep running away from me?" asked James. Lily looked at the ground.

"Because I'm scared James. Scared that I'm not good enough for you."

"Not good enough for me? Lily, you're the only one for me! You know that! I know you do."

Lily looked up at him, one tear trickling down her cheek. James wiped it away with his thumb, and then cupped her face with his hands.

"Lily, I get that you're scared. But you don't have to be. You know that my heart has belonged to you since the day you walked into my compartment on the train and demanded that Sirius give Snape his Rememberal back."

Lily laughed. "Oh my God, you remember that," she said.

"Of course I do! I remember every word you've ever said to me."

Lily looked into his eyes, and James felt that it was the right time. Not in fourth year, not in sixth year, but just then. Right at the beginning of their last year of Hogwarts. He leaned in and kissed her, and it was perfect. The way he had always imagined it would be. Lily smiled at him and kissed him again. He knew that he would eventually have to beg Alice and Sirius for forgiveness, take back every stupid thing he had ever said to Lily, apologize for ditching Remus and Peter when Remus was a werewolf, and convince Frank Longbottom that he had made a huge mistake in letting Alice go, but at that particular moment, none of that mattered. He would resolve all of it when it came, but for now, he would just enjoy that perfect moment.

A/N thank you for reading and reviewing and subsribing! Means a lot to me (: hope you enjoyed!