Disclaimer: Of course, I don't own anything. Duh.


Many Happy Returns

He had innocently been walking down the corridor, minding his own business. Walking towards the Gryffindor common room, wand out of sight, completely in uniform; the only even slightly unruly thing about him was his rebellious hair, which quite frankly couldn't be helped. So unsuspecting...

"James Potter!" A loud, shrill voice rang out, and the young man in question winced. Rather than turning around, however, he gulped and sped up, cursing the fact that all of the annoying first years who almost always tittered around in uncertain little packs were only absent when he actually wanted them around. The hallway was regrettably devoid of witnesses at this particular moment, however; and James, for the first time in a long time, felt a pang of nervousness in the pit of his stomach.

"Potter," the voice called again, sounding closer and more annoyed than before. "I know you can hear me. Stop, already!"

He took a few more faltering steps, and came to an uncertain stop. He took a deep breath, collecting himself. "Lily," James said cheerfully, turning around abruptly. "Sorry, I didn't hear you. Did you call me?"

The short red head was some distance behind him, and it took her several seconds to catch up. When she finally reached him she was pink in the face and panting slightly. "Merlin, James, I've been chasing for five minutes," Lily said, her hands on her hips as she tried to regain composure.

"Er, really?" He tried to look casual, but failed miserably when he noticed the colorful package poking out of her bag. His heart was banging around in his chest. "I didn't notice." She scowled, and his hands began to sweat. He ran them through his hair out of habit, before dropping them quickly at his sides when her eyes followed the gesture. "What's, er, what seems to be the problem?"

"It's my birthday," Lily said flatly, crossing her arms over her chest suspiciously.

James feigned surprise, trying to quell the impulse to run away. "Ahm, is it? Wow, that's, that's," he coughed spastically, trying to cover the way his voice had just cracked, "er...happy birthday! Many, um, happy returns! On this, the day of your birth." He tried to smile charmingly, but it felt more like a grimace, and Lily raised her eyebrows in what seemed to be surprise.

"So you forgot?" she asked, and if he detected the vaguest disappointment he shrugged it off immediately as a whim of his imagination.

He nodded hesitantly. "Er, sorry?"

Lily turned her eyes to the ground and shrugged, and this time the disappointment was harder to dismiss. "Don't be," she said, eyes still down, "it's not like I didn't give you reason to." They both flushed at this as they recalled the events of this day, one year ago, which had resulted in a large red handprint on James' cheek that took hours to fade completely, and an awkwardness between them that seemed, at times, ever increasing.

James laughed softly. Her eyes darted up to his face, and he swore he could see something like shame lingering there. He smiled at her reassuringly. "I probably deserved it, in the grand scheme of things," he told her, provoking a smile. She was so beautiful when she smiled, and his heart resumed its erratic beating.

"Maybe," she agreed; then the corners of her lips turned down. "Maybe not."

He remembered the simple gift he had so painstakingly chosen the year before-a lovely music box that played a soft, sweet tune that had reminded him so ineffably of Lily, and a plain white card that said, 'Love, James.' He remembered the hope that had accompanied it, and the disappointment (heartbreak?) that followed when she threw it in the trash and slapped him across the face when he asked what the problem was.

"You," she had said simply, before turning and walking away.

James shook his head, as if to shake the memory from his head, and grinned at her. "Oh, I definitely deserved it," he told her, motioning for her to join him as he resumed walking. Somewhat to his surprise, she fell into step beside him; he noticed, as they made their way down the corridor, that those blasted first years had suddenly reappeared, now that his untimely death seemed to have been postponed.

Lily looked up at him curiously. "For what?" she asked, amusement making its way into her voice.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno, any number of reasons, I suppose. I'm sure McGonagall could write you a list."

She laughed genuinely, and he felt the awkwardness begin to pass. They walked down the halls, casually conversing, before he gathered up his courage. "So, er, Lily," he began slowly. "Why were you running after me?"

It took him a moment to realize she had stopped walking as soon as the question left his mouth, and he had to turn around and walk back to her. It was Lily who appeared to be flustered this time. She bit her lip, and began to play absently with the hem of her shirt. "Oh, that," she said, and her eyes began darting around, landing on anything but him. "Well, I thought that you left me a present again," she blurted, pulling the brightly wrapped box out of her bag. James stiffened.

"Why would you think that?" he asked, his tone solemn.

Lily's cheeks blushed a bright pink, and something like hope or indigestion stirred in the pit of his stomach. "Well, you know," he noticed that she was stumbling slightly over her words, "It wasn't signed, and it just seemed like...such a James Potter thing to do."

"But after last year-"

"I know," she interrupted, and this time the flush spread to her ears and neck. "I know that it would be a terribly stupid thing for you to do, after they way I acted last year, but you've always had a knack for being stupid at just the right times, and I hoped-"

"You hoped?" James ignored the insult, focusing instead on the way her hands seemed to be trembling.

"I thought," she corrected hastily, "I thought that maybe you had forgiven me and had...I dunno..." The blush deepened to a rosy red, and her eyes looked once more into his before darting back to the floor. "Maybedecidedtotryagain." The words came out jumbled and rushed, but James understood them as clearly as if Lily came with subtitles.

"Lily," he said very seriously, "I didn't send you that present. In fact, I didn't get you any present at all."

She nodded, and swallowed heavily, stuffing the present carelessly back in her bag. "Of course," she said. "Right." She sniffled lightly, and James realized with horror that she was trying not to cry. She looked back up at him and smiled weakly. "Well, I just wanted to...to clear that up," she said, valiantly attempting cheerfulness. "But now I need to go, my friends are waiting, and...yeah." Letting out a deep breath, Lily began to walk away rather hurriedly.

He stood there for a moment, dumbfounded. And then,

"Wait!" James ran after her and she turned around quickly, breathlessly, expectantly. He caught up to her, and said softly, "Happy birthday, Lily." She stared up at him, her eyes looking so, so green; when she didn't say anything he began to wonder if he had misunderstood. "Er, many happy re-"

She cut him off swiftly, pressing her soft lips against his. He hesitated, shocked, but before she could pull away he began to respond enthusiastically, unable to believe his luck. Her arms dropped the bag with the gift in it, choosing instead to wrap around him, and he ran his fingers through her bright red hair. They parted after what seemed like an eternity, and his gently kissed her cheeks, her nose, her eyelids. She rested her head against his chest, and he was sure she could hear his heart pounding.

"I'm sorry I didn't get you a present," he whispered a few moments later, stroking her hair. "Maybe I can-" She shook her head, and mumbled something the he couldn't quite hear. James wrinkled his forehead, certain he had misunderstood. "Sorry, what was that?"

She took a step away from him, and he immediately regretted speaking at all, if it meant ruining the moment. She was flushed again, look adorably ruffled. "I said I'm glad you didn't," she said, clearly not liking to admit it despite their previous coziness. He grinned and grabbed her hand.

"Go out with me?" he asked impetuously, and the grin on her face was answer enough for him.

Down the corridor, crouching under an invisibility cloak, a smug Remus elbowed Sirius in the ribs. "Told you sending her that present would work. Five Galleons, please."

Sirius scowled. "I thought you were supposed to be the good one in our lot," he grumbled, grudgingly handing over the coins to his friend.

As the couple walked away from the two friends, hands firmly clasped, Remus merely grinned. "I'd consider that a good deed, wouldn't you?"

Fin.


Just a short, kind of pointless oneshot that might not be properly developed and I'm not even sure I really like. But oh, well.

Thoughts?

And, why do I write about birthdays so much? Hm.