A/N: All right, kids, it's my first L/J one shot! Yay! Enjoy :)
The first time he asked her out was at the end of fourth year. Until then, all he'd done was tease her—about her hair, her skinny legs, her freckles, the way she was always in the library, how she couldn't fly to save her life . . . the list went on and on. She hated it, and therefore she hated him. So, when he asked one day after potions if she'd like to go to Hogsmeade with him that weekend, the answer came easily.
That was it. Just the one word, before she spun around and continued walking.
"Come on, Evans, you didn't even think about it!" James protested, hurrying after her.
"That's because it didn't require thought, Potter," she retorted. "There is no conceivable reason why I would want to spend an entire day alone with you."
"It could be fun—" James started.
"No, it really couldn't," Lily snapped. "Honestly, I don't see why you'd expect me to agree to go out with you—you do nothing but torment me all day."
"Aw, you know I don't mean any of it, Evans."
"Right," Lily said sardonically. "And tell me, are you on last-name terms with all your girlfriends?"
"Only the pretty ones," James answered with a cheeky grin. "So, what d'you say?"
And thus it began. James, who had never in his life been told he couldn't have something, became determined to get a yes from Lily. He figured if he couldn't win her over with his charm (unlikely, in his opinion), at the very least he'd wear her down with his persistence. But James had vastly underestimated his opponent. Over the next year, she turned down exactly eighty-three date proposals from him. He bought her flowers, he wrote her poems—upon reflection, he probably shouldn't have compared her hair to a dragon's breath—and gave her chocolates, all the cliché things girls were supposed to fall for. He even rallied the help of a few Ravenclaws to hold up a huge banner asking Lily out at a Quidditch match, and nearly got his ears hexed off for his efforts.
"I thought for sure you'd say yes to that one."
"When you put it up for the entire school to see? Gee, I wonder why I wasn't falling at your feet afterwards!"
"Yes, I was rather wondering that myself," James replied pleasantly.
"Because it was embarrassing, Potter! Merlin, you have no idea how to ask a girl out, do you?"
"I've discovered several ways not to do it, thanks to your kind instruction."
"You're welcome," Lily replied dryly.
"Don't you like me even a little, Evans?" James wheedled.
"No, I don't, actually. Hard as that may be to believe."
"I think you're just in denial."
"I think you're about to get hexed again."
James ran a hand distractedly through his hair. "All right, fine. Tell me what it would take for you to go out with me."
Then came the day that he went too far.
"Leave him alone!"
"I will if you go out with me, Evans. Go on . . . Go out with me, and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."
For the first time, Lily hesitated for the briefest of moments. But James had time only to blink in surprise before she bit out, "I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid."
Rejected again. James flipped Snape upside down in midair to vent his frustration, and he could have sworn Lily's lips twitched slightly. Then she was shouting at him to reverse the curse, and Snape fell to the ground, and then he said it. And James could have killed him, but Lily had renewed her yelling, and it distracted him.
"I don't was you to make him apologize; you're as bad as he is!"
James gaped at her. "What?" he finally managed, voice cracking slightly on the word. "I'd never call you a . . . you-know-what!"
"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can—I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me sick." And then she was walking away from him. Again.
"Evans! Hey, wait!" But she didn't turn around.
You're as bad as he is . . . You make me sick . . . The words played on a constant loop in his mind for the rest of the day. Of course, outwardly, he acted like it was no big deal, just another one of their stupid rows, and he'd be back to asking her out the next day as if nothing had changed.
When he found her crying down an empty corridor after charms—completely by accident; he'd been on his way to investigate a new secret passage Sirius claimed to have discovered—his first instinct was to turn right around and pretend he hadn't seen her. But something froze his feet in place; Lily eventually sensed his presence and looked up, and James knew he'd be the biggest prat in the world if he walked away then.
Of course, he expected her to demand that he leave immediately, so when Lily simply stared at him without speaking, James didn't really know how to respond. "Er . . ." he started, shifting awkwardly. He raised a hand to ruffle his hair, but caught himself just in time and gestured behind him to cover the movement. "Should I just . . . go?"
"Right. Well, that clears things up, then."
"I don't care, Potter," Lily said, obviously making an effort to sound callous, though her voice was still shaky with tears. "Stay, go, jump out a window . . ."
James walked over beside her and glanced through the tall window above her head, frowning in consideration. "Hmm, it'd be a bit of a fall. And I'd hate to risk messing up my devilishly handsome face." He grinned down at Lily, but she was staring straight ahead at the opposite wall.
"Right," James muttered again. He dropped down to sit beside her, legs bent and arms draped casually over his knees. "I suppose this one isn't going to just come to a mutually unspoken end, is it?"
Lily turned her head to frown at him. "What are you talking about, Potter?"
"You know, I tease you, you insult my intelligence or my hair, we fight, you tell me to go crawl into a hole and die, and then after a couple days everything sort of quiets down until the cycle starts over again."
"I have never told you to crawl into a hole and die," Lily protested.
"You did just tell me to jump out of a window," James pointed out.
"I wasn't—that's not—Merlin, I don't know why I bother trying to talk to you."
"Ah, but if you never spoke to me, we wouldn't be able to have these moments together."
Lily rolled her eyes and went back to staring at the wall. Normally, she'd have pulled her wand on him ages ago, and it unsettled James to see her like this, all the fight drained out of her. It didn't make sense, because really, why should she be trying to talk to him right now? She should be telling him to jump out a window; hell, she should be the one to push him!
He let out a long sigh, knowing fate had been kind in giving him more chances than he deserved, but that his luck wouldn't last forever. "Look, Evans, I'm an idiot," he started, and Lily looked up in some surprise. James raised an eyebrow. "Don't tell me that comes as a shock?"
"No, I just never thought you'd admit to it," she replied, the left corner of her mouth tilting up ever so slightly. Lowering her gaze again, Lily picked at a loose thread on her robes. Finally, she said quietly, "I'm an idiot, too." She chanced a look at James, and he found himself, for the first time, at a loss for words.
"Well," he said eventually, just to fill the silence, "guess I might not be so terrible for you after all, eh? I mean, I'm sure the giant squid isn't an idiot, and how fun would that be?"
Lily's head snapped up, and James immediately wished he could take the words back, though he didn't know why that, of all the things he'd said so far, had set her off.
Scrambling to her feet, Lily glared down at him. "You're an insensitive git, you know that, Potter?"
For the second time that day, James watched her stalk angrily away.
Lily spent the first two weeks of sixth year pretending that he didn't exist. James couldn't help noticing she was giving Snape the same treatment, though the thought wasn't exactly comforting.
Then came the auspicious day they were partnered together in potions. Lily sat down on the bench as far from him as possible, threw him one dark, warning look, and started organizing the ingredients they'd need for the Pepperup Potion they had to brew.
"Morning," James said, making a valiant effort at normalcy.
Lily said nothing.
"So, that's how it's going to be now, hmm?" No reply. "All right, Evans, you have left me with no choice." That got her attention, and she shot him an apprehensive look. "I'll simply have to invent your side of the conversation."
Lily let out a frustrated sigh. "Merlin, Potter, can't you just—"
"Good morning, Potter," James interrupted, adopting a falsely high voice. "Funny that Slughorn would pair us up like this, isn't it?
"You mean with the high probability that we'll start screaming at each other and inevitably blow something up? Yes, he's a brave man, indeed.
"Well, I suppose he's relying on our combined brilliance at potions to get us through." James glanced over to see that Lily was staring determinedly at her chopped newt tails, carefully separating them by length. He grinned and continued in his normal voice, "Evans, you know that's the first time you've complimented me on my superior intelligence.
"Really? Well, that's just not on, is it?" Lily's lips were now pressed into a thin, trembling line, as though she was holding in a laugh with great difficulty. "Your wit and cleverness is a thing to be admired—celebrated, even.
"You're rather wonderful yourself, Evans.
"Oh, stop, you're just saying that—"
"Stop!" the real Lily commanded, laughter finally bursting past her restraining lips. James smirked triumphantly at her. "For Merlin's sake, if that's what you're going to do the entire lesson, I'll talk to you!"
"Knew you'd have to give in to my charms eventually."
"That was hardly charming—my voice sounds nothing like that."
"Well, it's not the easiest thing for a bloke to imitate a bird's voice; at least appreciate the effort, Evans."
"And I would never flirt with you," Lily continued, ignoring James's comment.
"Why, though? I think we'd be pretty excellent at it, seeing how well we fight together."
Lily narrowed her eyes at him, but her expression was more careful than admonishing. "Watch it, Potter. I just agreed to speak to you again, but I could easily explode this potion in your face and have absolutely no misgivings about it."
"It seems Slughorn's fears are justified after all."
After that day, James and Lily formed a tentative friendship, one that grew slowly but surely over the next year. They still fought, somewhat of an inevitability with two tempers as short as theirs. But wands had been removed from the equation, so their rows usually resolved themselves with far less mess and spectacle.
Late one night, James found himself nearly alone with Lily in the common room. He'd had Quidditch practice and she'd had a prefect's meeting, which meant both were left working on homework long after most Gryffindors had surrendered to sleep.
James finished first, but he didn't leave immediately. He knew what kept him there, and after a brief but intense inner battle, he spoke up. "Er, Lily?"
She glanced up with a frown, puzzled both at the use of her first name and his slightly nervous tone.
"I, er . . . so, Saturday is a—"
"Potter, you're not thinking about asking me out again, are you?"
James blinked. "Well, now that you've said that, I'm not."
Lily winced. "Sorry."
Though he knew what the answer would be, James couldn't help asking, "Hypothetically, would you have said yes?"
Lily watched him for a long moment, and James fought the urge to look away. His palms started to sweat, and he wiped them subtly on the outside of his trousers. When Lily finally answered, her tone was apologetic. "No."
One word, with no explanation, no apology, no 'maybe another time'—though whether anyone would actually say that in response to such a question, James wasn't sure. Just like the first time he'd asked her, that simple 'no' was all he got in return.
And so it ended. Right then, James decided never to ask again. He'd been told he couldn't have what he wanted, but this time he'd have to live with it.
"Merlin, Potter, are you deaf?"
James finally looks up into a very exasperated Lily's face. "Er, sorry," he says, folding up the strategy map he'd been pouring over. "Quidditch tomorrow, and I've got to . . ." he attempts to explain, but trails off when he sees Lily isn't listening. "Look, if this is about the patrol schedules, I told you I'd get them done by—"
"No, no, it's not about that," Lily says, waving him off. "Honestly, do you think I'm that strict of a Head Girl?"
"Yes," James answers swiftly, and grins when Lily glares at him.
"Question for you," she says bluntly, then pauses.
James waits expectantly. "Yes?" he finally prompts.
Lily chews her bottom lip for a moment. "Look, you should know this isn't easy for me."
"Er, all right?"
Lily closes her eyes for a moment, sighs, and opens them again. James is a bit worried by now. "What are you doing Saturday?"
"Well, it's Hogsmeade."
James's expression suddenly turns suspicious. "Wait, you're not thinking of calling a prefect's meeting on a Saturday again, are you? Because I know it guarantees that no one's got other obligations, but come on, Lil, it's Hogsmeade. If we try to take that away, we'll have a mutiny on our hands—"
"No! I'm fully aware that was a complete disaster last time, and a mistake I'm not likely to repeat, especially after Fenwick pulled that stunt with the toast the next morning—but that's not what I came here to talk about!" she interrupts herself, flailing her hands in frustration. "I was wondering—" She stops, then with the air of wanting to get it over with quickly, rushes on, "I was wondering if you wanted to go with me."
Silence. James tries to say something, and fails. He takes a breath, opens his mouth, and closes it again. Opens it a third time—
"Bloody hell, Potter, will you stop imitating a dying fish and say something?"
"You want to go with me? To Hogsmeade?"
"No, down to the dungeons for a quick shag. Yes, of course, to Hogsmeade!"
James smirks. "Well, I'd be open to either, really."
Lily glares at him. "Do not make me regret this, Potter."
"All right, all right—Hogsmeade it is. But tell me, are you on a last name basis with all your boyfriends?"
Lily raises her eyebrows, then grins mischievously. "I guess I am."
A/N: I know the tense switch at the end seems a little weird, but I sort of pictured the rest of the story as setting up that last scene, so...idk, it just felt right to put it in present tense for some reason! Anyway, thanks for reading! Oh, and the title comes from Aretha Franklin's "Respect" :)