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.
"Exploded Cauldrons and Realizations"
The clock above the fireplace mantel in the Gryffindor Common Room chimed seven o'clock and Lily Evans sighed with poorly concealed frustration. She had been sitting at one of the tables in the Common Room with her friend, Mary, since dinner waiting for her boyfriend to return from cleaning Slughorn's dungeon classroom.
Lily had known since the first day of First Year that James Potter had a taste for flouting authority and breaking the rules. She had long ago accepted that his penchant for mischief was an integral part of him, and somehow along the course of their time at Hogwarts this trait had become endearing to her.
She liked her boyfriend just as he was, pratish antics and all, but when he ruined the best potion that she had ever brewed, there had to be consequences. She simply couldn't let him get away with such atrocities. That potion had taken her and Mary nearly the entire lesson to perfect, and he and Black had completely ruined it in less than ten seconds.
It had all started that afternoon during double Potions, the last class of the afternoon. The weather had finally begun to warm, and the grass was starting to return to a lovely shade of green. The seventh year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs had been working on a particularly difficult Potion for over an hour and a half, thinking longingly of the pleasant weather awaiting them outside once they were finished.
She and Mary had just finished their intricate potion when suddenly from the table in front of then came an explosion loud enough to shake the entire room. Students had screamed and ducked under the desks as the contents of the cauldron shot into the air and then began to rain down, spattering everything in the room with bright orange liquid.
Having been standing only one table away from the exploding cauldron, Lily hadn't had time to take cover under her desk. The orange potion had been splattered all over her face, hair, and robes. Unfortunately, Mary had suffered a more direct hit and consequently had much more of the potion on her face.
Over the sounds of potion dripping from the ceiling and students talking loudly, laughter echoed against the stonewalls of the dungeon. She would have known that unmistakable laughter anywhere: James Potter and Sirius Black.
Instead of brewing a swelling remedy like the rest of the class, James and Sirius had apparently spent the entire lesson instead concocting a cheering solution. Not just any cheering solution, mind, but an extremely intensified one. And if that alone wasn't enough, they had used a generous handful of Fillibuster's firecrackers to trigger the explosion, therefore insuring that entire classroom, Professor Slughorn included, had been thoroughly doused with the potion.
The high intensity of the cheering solution had meant that it was able to work by skin contact alone, meaning that within a minute of the cauldron explosion, every person in the dungeon room was doubled over in uncontrollable laughter. Mary had been cackling like a mad hen, Slughorn had been holding a hand to his ample stomach, and James and Sirius had literally been laying on the floor of the dungeon in spasms of laughter.
Even after Professor Slughorn had administered the antidote to all of the students, many of the students had continued to laugh from the sheer ridiculousness of the entire scene. Everyone and everything in the room was spattered with the vibrant orange color of the potion. Potion was still dripping slowly from the ceiling with a slight plinking sound.
Sitting there, staring at her long forgotten essay, Lily thought back to how she had felt after she had received the antidote. For the sake of her ribs, she had been glad to stop laughing, but she had also found herself missing the joy that she had felt when overcome with peals of laughter. Lily couldn't remember the last time that she had laughed so long or so hard or in such a carefree manner.
And all at once, it struck Lily why those two complete prats had blown up a cauldron of cheering solution.
They weren't prats at all. All right, yes, they were, but they were brilliant prats.
By intensifying the cheering solution and using such a large number of firecrackers, they had ensured that the entire classroom would be affected. They had wanted everyone to laugh and enjoy themselves.
The last two weeks had been particularly miserable around Hogwarts, with every edition of the Daily Prophet filled with more news of disappearances and deaths. But for a short time that afternoon, all of that had been forgotten as they simply laughed.
Glancing up at the clock once again, Lily saw that only five minutes had passed since she had last checked the time.
Sighing heavily in frustration, she threw down her quill and leaned back in her seat.
"Oh, are you finally going to stop pretending to write that essay?" Mary inquired pleasantly from across the table.
"Why isn't he back yet, Mary?" Lily cried, leaning forward until her forehead thumped against the wooden table.
"Because Slughorn has him and Black cleaning the classroom from top to bottom without magic, that's why."
Lily knew that Mary was right – scrubbing the classroom would take positively ages – but a small part of her worried that James had used his invisibility cloak to retreat to the boys' dormitory without having to see her. She knew that he had seen her crestfallen expression as she stared at the wreckage of her perfect potion.
She had been cross at the time; she wasn't denying that. As she had left Potions with Mary, she had even shot him a look of displeasure, raised eyebrow and all. He had given her a guilty grin and a small wave, which at the time, had only served to anger her further. Lily had spent the reminder of the afternoon and all through dinner stewing about her ruined potion and plotting a verbal lashing for her boyfriend and his best mate.
But now that she had realized why he and Sirius had done what they had, she couldn't be cross any longer. He hadn't set out to ruin her perfect potion, or even to irritate anyone. He had done it to make everyone laugh. And, really, how was a girl supposed to be angry about that?
"I hope you're not going to be too hard on poor James," Mary said, nibbling on the end of a sugar quill. "He and Black were just being cheeky prats and having a bit of laugh."
Before Lily could make an answer, the portrait hole swung open and the boy who hadn't left Lily's thoughts for a second all afternoon and evening stepped into view.
Lily quickly stood up and began to move towards him, her mind rapidly whirling with all that she might say to him.
"Don't be too harsh!" Mary called after her in a loud whisper.
James looked up and scanned the Common Room, clearly searching for her. Their eyes met from across the room and she watched as a flash of guilt flitted across his face as he looked into her eyes.
He looked a bit worse for wear after his time spent scrubbing the Potions classroom. The sleeves of his white collared shirt were rolled up to the elbows and the shirt itself was covered in orange splotches and dirt. His tie was stuffed into one of his pockets, his robes had been shoved into his rucksack, his hair was standing completely on end, and there was grime smeared across his forehead and left cheek.
Despite the fact that he looked rather a mess, Lily found that James had never looked more attractive to her than he did at that moment. She felt overcome by a sudden intense desire to throw herself into his arms and snog him within an inch of his life.
"Liven up and give the bloke a break, Evans," Sirius called loudly as he dramatically threw himself into one of the overstuffed armchairs resting in front of the fire. From the chair next to him, Remus Lupin gave Sirius a pointed and disapproving glare.
As she approached, James hastily sought to apologize. "I'm sorry, all right? I know it was stupid, but it was just for a laugh, really. It's nothing to be cross over, Lily."
James was adorable when he was stuck between apologizing and being defensive about his actions. He was holding out his hands in front of himself in a slightly defensive position, yet his hazel eyes burned with barely contained mirth. She could tell that he wanted so desperately to smile, but that he thought it would make her even more cross.
"I love you," she told him, her teeth pulling at her bottom lip out of nervousness.
"It was only a cheering solution, and –" He stopped abruptly, mouth hanging open in shock, as her words registered properly in his mind.
She didn't give him a chance to respond, merely reached forward, pulled his face close to hers, and pressed her mouth firmly against his.
James responded instantaneously, wrapping his arms tightly around her and pulling her flush up against him as he slid his lips expertly over hers. Her hands threaded through his already incredibly untidy hair and she kissed him with purpose, with everything that she had within her. He returned her passion with equal fervor and she sighed happily into the kiss.
There was nothing better than kissing James Potter. Nothing.
It was only when Sirius let out a startlingly loud wolf whistle that she remembered that they were not alone, but rather in the middle of the very crowded Common Room. The same thing seemed to have occurred to James, and they pulled away from each other slightly. She felt her face grow red with embarrassment but kept her arms firmly around James, unwilling to let him go.
She took a deep breath and raised her face to look into his shining hazel eyes.
"I don't care that you blew up your cauldron and I don't care that you ruined the best potion I've ever brewed. I know why you did it, and I think you're magnificent."
Ignoring the loud chatter and giggles so clearly directed at the pair of them that was filling the Common Room, James grinned widely at her.
"You love me."
"I do," Lily admitted, her heart beating madly in her chest. "Rather a lot."
"Good," he told her firmly, staring at her with an intensity that she had never seen before. "Because I love you too. Always have."
He paused, taking in her ridiculously wide grin and bright eyes.
"You know," he chuckled, "If I had known this was the sort of reaction I would get, I would have blown up a potion ages ago!"