A/N: This was inspired by the quote below. Send bouquets to my glorious beta, ObsidianEmbrace. Enjoy!
"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
– Mark Twain
As the northern sky shrugged off the frost, James Potter shrugged off the old dream.
He was done with it. He had wanted and waited for as long as his pride would allow, but six years had proven the measure of his patience. And he wouldn't wallow, either, no matter how easy it would be to slip-slide into self-pity.
No; James was determined to move on immediately. To hell with her. There was no room for despair when resolve shone green in the new-leaved trees. His face was bronzed by it.
He had woken that morning into the first spring day of his seventh year at Hogwarts, and he had known immediately that anything, anything today was possible. Anything save the thing he had wanted most (though this was nothing new to James, certainly not since the night before, and he drew a steely breath from the fact).
He had woken, and he had turned a corner. He'd left winter behind. Yesterday he had known exactly what he wanted; today he knew that it was better to walk blind. But James wasn't one to walk when he could stride, and so he did. And he did it in a style befitting a Marauder, befitting the Head Boy badge pinned crookedly to the underside of his innermost robe pocket.
Pride sprouted in thick tufts on the school grounds, thwarting the groundskeeper's best efforts with relish.
Last night had marked the forty-second consecutive time that James had been rejected by his objet d'amour, a rather wonderful (and devastating) witch by the name of Lily Evans. Forty-two turned out to be one time too many. James' pride had received a mortal blow, his desperate hopes dashed to pieces.
So he was moving on, aching heart pinned right beneath the badge. He had put his mind to pushing forward.
Farewell, barren bleakness. Let the sun shine coldly in.
He sucked in a lungful of spring-fresh air and flung a mulish smile at his surroundings. He added a dash of swagger to his step. Cockiness fitted him like a Chaser's glove. To hell with the rest; he'd missed this. Whatever this was. Whatever it was that was making his pulse dance back into life after an age of dreary hibernation.
James Potter strode on with purpose, and he wasn't much fussed to discover just what that purpose might be.
Somewhere along the way, he bent and retrieved a brush of twigs from the ground. When he straightened, it was to find that Sirius Black had fallen into step beside him. Scraping the branch along the castle wall, James didn't offer a greeting, and Sirius responded in kind. They'd given up on that sort of thing halfway through their first week of acquaintance. No time for pleasantries when there was mischief to be managed – and they'd always managed it somehow, them and their mates.
The only way, therefore, in which James acknowledged the sudden appearance of his best mate was to give him a lazy thwack on the shins with his castle-brushing branch. Sirius made a grab for it and missed – he'd never been a match for James' famous reflexes – and so settled for smacking him upside the head.
James roared and took up this invitation for a tussle, ignoring the small flock of Hufflepuff second years to their left, ignoring his precariously pinned Head Boy badge, ignoring the fact that seventh years were considered too old to engage in schoolboy fisticuffs by the towering majority of his professors.
What did they know? It was spring, and James was raring to go, to act, to strike a blow –
"You're back," Sirius panted, stating it like the fact it was, a smile brushed wide across his handsome face. He pushed back and straightened into something of his usual haughty posture, but eagerness was etched into the lines of his body.
James stretched out his shoulders and conceded the point: "Yeah."
"Took you long enough."
Sirius snorted and socked him in the shoulder, and James took it with good grace. That was the length and breadth of their conversation. There was nothing left to be said. Better to part ways at Greenhouse Five with a final affectionate shove than waste time nattering like a pair of girls.
That was the best thing about Sirius. He knew James so thoroughly that apologies could be read in the space of an exhalation, a dent in the shoulders, a thwack of the shins. He knew James better than James knew himself, infuriating as that often was. And he forgave James the woefulness of the last few months without needing excuses.
All was forgiven and forgotten and as it should be; James brimmed with the almost-rightness of it all.
He walked straight into Evans without seeing her.
The Head Girl went down in a scarlet tangle. Steeling himself with his newfound resolve, James headed in after her.
He offered his arm. Evans latched on immediately, automatically, and heaved herself upright in a decidedly graceless manner. She cursed, then apologised, then glanced at the face of her rescuer and cursed anew. Courteously silent, James made sure she was steady before stepping back a safe distance and sharply suppressing a thousand inappropriate overtures. His heart was making enough noise to drown out a conversation in any case. It was lucky then that Evans had gone quiet in the wake of all that cursing.
James stood there and waited for the wash of righteous fury, unable to prevent the reflexive clenching of his fists by his side. He hadn't seen Evans since – oh, since he'd realised that an era had ended, that the wind had changed in the name of freedom; namely, since last night.
He wondered if Evans realised that anything had changed between them. He wondered if his pride and resolve shone hard and golden in his eyes. He wondered if she'd be able to see this through the barrier of his spectacles. He almost longed for her to see it.
His heart raced; his eyes burned; Evans opened her mouth.
"I – "
Suddenly, he couldn't stand to hear her speak. "Best be watching your step, Evans."
"Wh – what?"
"Lots of Hufflepuffs and Head Boys about in these parts. Wouldn't want to walk into any more of them, would we?" He couldn't take it. He had to get away. His heart was pounding, slamming against the walls of his chest as if trying to escape.
"No. Idiot. But – "
James exhaled through his teeth, keeping the panic internal, and launched a full-bodied smile at the one lost-looking person who possessed the capacity to break him down entirely. "No need to apologise. It's just one of those days. One of those days," he repeated, nauseous and miserable and widening his grin.
He stepped back. He could not allow himself to fall back into old habits. He tore his eyes away from probing green and busied himself with the summoning of spilled schoolbooks.
"Look, Potter I was hoping to – to talk to you. About last night."
James sucked in a breath before he could stop himself, and Evans paused, looking uncharacteristically distressed. She took a deep breath herself and continued.
"Listen, I didn't – "
"Forget it," was all he said before he spun on his heel and made off. The grass seemed strangely flatter from this side of the grounds, and the sun stung hard in his eyes. The new-day feeling was still there, the resolve with it, but the swagger had abandoned his stride somewhere back near Greenhouse Three.
James sighed and plunged his hands into his pockets. He was awake and full of want, full of drive and full of purpose, but he had absolutely no clue what that purpose was driving him towards. All he knew was that he needed it, and to reach it, he had to stopper his lifelong devotion to Lily Evans.
He'd told Sirius he was back, and he was. He just didn't know where he was going.
"Just had words with the Head Girl, Prongs," he said, hours later, the moment James opened the dormitory door. "Said you were acting all funny this morning. Don't know why she came to me about it, but that's girls for you."
"She didn't go to you, did she?" interjected Remus, his voice rather muffled through the closed curtains around his four-poster. "She came to me, and our darling Padfoot started in on her the minute she'd come within range."
Wounded to his core – "my very core, Moony!" – Sirius turned earnest eyes on James and denied everything.
"I'm not acting 'all funny', I just… I needed a change, and I'm making it," James interrupted, squeezing Peter on the shoulder in greeting as he moved into the room. "Let's drop the subject of Evans for a good few years, all right? Or forever. No questions asked."
James collapsed onto his bed, a strange sort of frustration gripping into his midsection. It wasn't that his mates were interfering, it wasn't even all this talk about the girl he was trying to forget; it was the sense that he was blind to something obvious. While grateful to be moving on in any direction at all, James couldn't help but wonder if he had already taken a wrong turn.
He wished again that he knew what to do with all his spring-born energy.
Remus knew. (He always did.)
The curtains around his bed tore unceremoniously open to reveal an expression of such exasperation that it was nearing a scowl. "You'll withdraw that last statement if you know what's good for you," Remus growled, making the others stare. "We have spent too long – too long – on your imaginary bloody romance to allow you to give it up now."
"You know, he's right," said Peter, even as James flung an arm over his eyes with a groan. "Marauders don't give up, do they, Sirius?"
"Never so long as they shall live," Sirius confirmed, much to James' disgust. "Till death do us throw in the towel. You don't mean what you're saying, Prongs. You've been heading Evans-ward ever since you first saw her."
"And speaking of Lily…" Remus said pointedly, but James had had enough. Suddenly angry, he swung himself back to his feet and glared at the three of them.
"I'm over her, all right? So leave it. Just – just leave it, will you? Last night was the last time, the last, and I can't – I won't – talk about it."
Peter started to say something, but Sirius and Remus had shaken their heads violently before any words could spill out. Somehow this only made James angrier, more upset at his mates, the people who were supposed to know him better than anyone in the world. Couldn't they see he was determined to move on? Couldn't they tell he was over Evans, that he wanted more from life than a series of rejections and a terminally wounded pride?
He scowled down at their open mouths and knew the morning's resolve had just about deserted him. He could already feel himself drifting back into grey-cloud despondency.
"Head duties," he said shortly, and left without another word.
He didn't make it far. He barely made it back outside.
He strode on.
"Stop, will you?"
He spun on his heel. It was the shock of it more than anything. He could hardly believe what he'd heard.
Evans skidded to a halt, looking almost as surprised as he felt. They stared at each other until Evans ducked her head, and then James alone was left staring. He'd never heard her use his first name before. Not even as Head Girl. Not even in the presence of Dumbledore's quiet disapproval.
And just like that, in the space of a single syllable, James felt all his ire retract to a simple ache in his chest. Defeated, he steered his eyes from Evans and felt winter heave out one last gasp of frost.
His voice was rough as he managed the words: "What do you want?"
Evans paused, and then raised her head in a brilliant spectrum of sun-polished reds. Her eyes were as spirited as the new season grass. She looked determined, driven – too beautiful to bear.
James groaned quietly and had almost summoned the will to turn away when Evans gave her answer. She was direct. She didn't use words. Her hand was pressed flat against his chest before he could even blink, and the next moment James found himself wheeling back against the cold stone castle wall.
He gaped at the sight of pure purpose on Evans' face. His skin prickled at the coolness of the stone at his back and the cast of the shade. It made a delicious contrast to the hot press of lips on his when they came.
By the time Evans pulled back, James had almost started to believe that he was being kissed. By her. By her.
"That's what you want?" His voice was even rougher than before, but James found he couldn't quite bring himself to care.
She didn't even blush. "That's what I want."
"What about last night?"
"Didn't know what I wanted. Not until this morning. Not until… until…"
The sky cracked open and drenched James with dizzying, light-headed warmth. "You finally saw the light." He could have leapt over the moon, or the castle at least. All the bravado, the cockiness, the swagger, all of it was coming back in a flood, and it was warm and effortless, and James took sudden pleasure from the irritated twist of Evans' mouth. "Not until I knocked you off your feet," he crowed, pushing off from the castle wall.
Blushing now for all she was worth, Evans tried to shove him into silence, but she'd somewhat lost the element of surprise. Beaming, James took her by the arms and pulled her flush against him. She stopped struggling immediately.
"Always knew you'd come around," he said slowly, tasting the truth of it in the crispness of the air. He caught her eyes and kept them locked to his. "Only I forgot for a few hours this morning."
"S'long as you mind not to do it again," Evans muttered, but she offered a shy, rueful sort of smile that James returned twofold. And then he leaned down and caught her mouth like he'd planned it from the first, and he wouldn't have stopped, not ever, if Evans hadn't slapped at a wandering hand and ducked, smirking, from his arms.
"Remus said he had to see me," she called from a safe distance, ignoring all groans and protestations. James watched her retreat into the golden afternoon until she was out of sight. He leaned his head back against the wall, shut his eyes to the shade and sucked in a glorious lungful of spring air. He could hardly believe what had just happened. The old dream had slammed right through to reality.
"It's called spring fever, mate," said a voice from beside him, and James cracked open an eye to find Sirius leaning against the wall like he belonged there.
"This thing that's got you off your trolley and up a tree. That's the name of it."
James smiled and shook his head. "She called me James, Padfoot."
"Madness. Like I said."
"She kissed me."
"Someone owl the matron."
"I've got to stop her talking to Moony and remembering that I'm a prat."
Without another word, Sirius produced the Marauder's Map from deep in his robes, and James snatched it, grinning. His heart pressing hot against his ribs, he started off across the lawn.
He walked with purpose.