Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. They all belong to Ms. JK Rowling.
Lily liked to stalk him. It was one of her biggest secrets.
After the "incident," the one she wished had never happened, she began to stalk Severus Snape like never before. She missed him. She missed him so, so much. She knew she'd done the right thing by telling him goodbye, but that didn't stop the loneliness.
She'd follow him after Potion's class, when he went to courtyard.
She'd watch him during the Quidditch games, instead of watch the actual matches, and then she'd follow him afterwards.
She'd stare at the back of his head during Charms.
Nobody knew, though her friends did notice a change in her. Gone was the carefree, high-spirited girl they grew up with.
But who could blame her? She'd just lost both of her parents to Voldemort, she'd lost her best friend, and her sister had cut off all ties with the little "freak."
So Lily, like the teenage girl she was, isolated herself and refuted helping hand after helping hand from all of her friends. She needed time, she told herself. But how much?
And at night, the tears came. The silent tears of the lost feeling you get in adolescence, at the ripe age of 16. The depression, the existentialism, the loneliness. Lily sat through it all.
Watching Snape might have helped her, if she hadn't had to suffer watching him turn into a person as dark and cruel as his friends. A death eater. That was all he was. And Lily could do, would do nothing about it. She'd already tried once, and that was enough. They had changed.
Severus was unhappy as well, but this was a familiar feeling. The only time he'd ever really been happy was when he'd been with her. Before, not so much. And now... it was worse.
He often sat alone in courtyards, doing nothing. He'd cry sometimes, but only in private, never in front of his friends. He picked lily petals from the lake bed and threw them into the lake at night. He stared at constellations. He invented spells and potions. He drowned himself in his work and refused to think of that worst poison of all- love. Lily.
She often wondered if he missed her. He often wondered if she thought of him. And this was the way things were.
Now, stalking might have seemed like something Severus would do (he had done it once, long ago) but he couldn't bear to look at Lily's face. The guilt was too overwhelming. Besides, he had his pride to take care of- it hadn't been his fault, not all his fault- there was another, more arrogant black-haired boy who held the blame as well.
Little did Lily know that James's constant pursuit of Lily hadn't abruptly stopped. It had simply... quieted. Maybe sixth year was the time when kids became sneaky and curious, because James was stalking Lily. And he noticed her stalking Severus.
It killed him to watch her follow him around like a lost puppy. It also confused him. Did she miss him? If so, why? There was nothing to miss in that foul, greasy-haired git. The filthy death eater.
So James, who had just recently been introduced to the concepts of kindness and maturity, decided to help her out. If stalking the biased prat helped Lily, then he'd do everything and anything he could to make it easier.
"Evans!" called James. "Oi, Evans!"
Lily whipped her head around. It couldn't have started again! She'd really been enjoying those two months of peace. Well, not exactly enjoying, but... she didn't know. It was just.. odd, to hear that persistent voice calling her name again.
"Yes?" she asked, stopping mid-step, fidgeting. It was a Saturday, and Sev always spent his Saturdays at the library.
"I- I wanted to talk to you. In private?" said James.
Private? Lily was confused. Usually his conquests were public, loud, and obnoxious. Why private? She shrugged, not curious enough to find out.
"I can't. I was planning to go somewhere, I'm on a schedule, you see," she said, turning away from him.
"No, wait!" said James, catching her hand. He quickly let go when it stiffened. She turned around, annoyed, and he continued, dropping his voice to a low whisper. "Listen, Evans, I know where you're going. You're going to the library to watch Snivel- I mean, Snape."
Lily's mind went blank. He knew. About Snape. How, she had no idea. She'd been foolproof.
James watched her eyes widen and her cheeks turn red in panic and embarrassment.
"I-that's not true!" she said indignantly. But there was no denying it. James knew, and her expression confirmed it. Lily snatched his sleeve and dragged him to an empty classroom.
When she turned around to finally face him, he was smiling, his cheeks pink. It caught her off guard and she stared at him, wondering how she'd never noticed how big his smile was. She shook her head and flopped down into a chair. James knew everything. This was bad. She buried her face in her hands to think.
"Lily!" James cried, worry tinging his voice. "I'm sorry, I didn't want you to cry, I really am sorry, I just-"
"What?" he asked, caught off guard.
"Explain how you found out."
James's face turned bright red and he began to fidget with his fingers. "I-well, I mean, there's no excuse for it, I mean, I just-" he sighed. "I was following you."
There was a pause, then Lily shook her head.
"But that can't be true. I'd know. I've been using the Disillusionment Charm, and a Cloak of Invisibility- a cheap one, admittedly. I've even confunded the people who seemed suspicious!" she said, not even bothering to look ashamed. James beamed at her.
"Well- this is why I wanted to talk to you," he said. "I have this thing, you see, that allows me to see exactly where everyone in Hogwarts is. And, you know, I see a ton of stuff. Everything, actually. It's a map. This one time, I saw Sirius and Marlene's dots on the map basically on top of each other."
There was shocked silence as James realized what he had just blurted out. Then Lily burst out into laughter.
"That's so creepy! You're a stalker! I mean, I thought I was bad, but you! You follow the entire school-" she wiped a tear from her eye and laughed silently, clutching at her stomach.
James's face turned red. "It's not creepy! I can prevent stuff! You know other than Sirius shagging every girl in school, but it's not that bad, I mean, it's not like I can see what they're doing, it's just- no, it's really not creepy, trust me!" but despite his protests, Lily continued to laugh, and she toppled to the side and James' face too broke into a grin.
"I'm not creepy!" James said weakly when the two were collapsed on the floor and gasping for air. Then there was silence, broken only by a few giggles here and there, as they sat there just smiling at the absurdity of it all. It wasn't even that funny. But sometimes, everything seemed ridiculous. Especially, especially when you were unhappy.
"It feels good to laugh," said Lily abruptly. She sighed. "I gotta go. Don't think this changes anything. You're still a toerag, and I still don't like you."
Something in James plummeted. "You know, that thing with Snape didn't just affect you. Moony- sorry, Remus, you know him? He stopped talking to Sirius and me for a month. And- I stopped picking on him, if you haven't noticed. I've stopped picking on anyone," he said, ending on a quiet note. Then his expression changed and his voice rose again. "Why do you miss him, anyways? You know what he is."
Lily looked down at her lap. She didn't owe James, of all people, any explanations. But then she looked back up, and his face was still red from laughing, but his eyes were concerned, and angry, and sad, and somehow she felt like she was looking through a mirror. And the words tumbled from her mouth, before she could stop them. "He's the only thing I have left," she said. "My parents died. My friends, they don't understand, well, they might, but I just don't want to talk to them anymore. And my sister, she hates me."
James listened without a word, and when she her voice caught on the word hate, he took her hand and squeezed it.
She looked at him, and her left eye glistened with the hint of a tear. "I've known Severus forever, James. He is- to me, he is Hogwarts. He's the one who brought me to where I am today. He's the one who made me. It's hard to just let go, and I almost think it's impossible. But I can't go and apologize. I- I won't apologize! There's no reason for me to. He did something wrong, so wrong, and- and he needs to be punished, right? For his own good! I- I just don't know what to do, and following him, I guess it comforts me, I really don't know... Is it so wrong to follow him? Is it really so wrong?"
And she looked at him so intently that he forgot how to speak. The tear, teetering on an eyelash, finally spilled over, and Lily snatched her hand away and wiped it off immediately, as if ashamed to have shown any emotion at all. "I'm sorry," she said, and began to stand up. "I shouldn't have- I really should go."
James stared after her. What he liked so much about Lily, he had no idea. Maybe it was her carefree attitude, or the way she lit up a room. Maybe it was just that everything about her screamed "good." But whatever the reason, James hated to see her like this, all because of a slimy Slytherin git, and- well... him.
"Wait, Evans," he called. She turned. "It's not wrong at all. But you've gotta stop," he said evenly.
Then he smiled at her, and this time, it was Lily who forgot how to speak. There was no arrogance in his smile, for the first time. No teenage-boy charm. No flirting. No goofing. No stupidity, no annoyance, no confidence, no nothing. It was just a smile, and it was so beautiful and Lily felt so grateful. As if she'd been waiting to see that smile for a long, long time. A real smile.
Something had changed. Not only in James, who didn't seem like the arrogant jackass she knew, but in her as well. Unexpectedly, she imagined them as friends... the thought didn't seem so ridiculous now.
"Thank you, Potter," she said, and she meant it. "And I'm really sorry for all this... you probably had other plans."
Yeah, James thought. Stalking you.
He grinned. "Is Evans apologizing to the toerag of Gryffindor?" he said, faking a pompous voice.
Oh lord, Lily thought. It's back.
But she laughed despite herself. "Yeah, I guess I am." There was a pause. Then- "Friends?" she asked finally, holding out her hand.
James smiled again, and the sight filled Lily with an odd sensation in her stomach. "Friends. And I'm sorry, too, Evans. For annoying you and Snape."
"It's okay. Just promise me you won't ask me out again. I was enjoying the peace."
James frowned and squinted, as if considering her request. "No guarantees," he said finally, with a very boyish laugh.
Lily, unable to suppress a laugh, punched his shoulder and stood up to leave.
"Wait! Don't forget the map. You can borrow it," said James, also standing up.
"Er..." Lily looked at it and hesitated. "I don't think I'll be needing it. I'm gonna try to stop. It hasn't really been helping, you know, stalking him and all."
James smiled a genuine smile. "Good for you, Evans."
"Lily. You can call me Lily."