He turned at the sound of his name, surprised to find that it was she who uttered it. She never called him 'James.' It was always 'Potter'—whether in anger, exasperation, or that carefully indifferent way that made his insides twist with disappointment—it was always Potter, never James.
And lately, it hadn't been anything at all. They hadn't spoken a word to each other for the final week of term the previous year. He hadn't seen her over the summer—but that was nothing new. Still, her absence had nagged at him in a way it never had before. And when he'd tried to greet her on the platform on the first of September, she'd glared fiercely at him before walking away without a word.
He deserved it, of course. It wasn't that he was trying to make excuses for himself, because he'd seen at last that there were none to be made. There never had been, and the realization kept James up many late nights as he strove to think of a solution that seemed increasingly unlikely to ever present itself.
James used to think that every problem had a fix, a way to return things to the way they'd been before. It was a naïve idea, of course. Nothing could reverse death, the thought James couldn't shake every year on the anniversary of his father's passing. Nothing could stop the war boiling under the surface of every murder and mysterious disappearance that summer. Nothing could undo the subtle shift in Remus and Sirius's friendship, the wedge that had pushed between them the day Sirius had told Snape how to get past the Whomping Willow.
And lately, he'd begun to accept the painful reality that fracture between him and Lily, the hole in whatever mad, confusing, twisted semblance of a friendship they'd had, belonged in the growing list of things he couldn't mend.
There it was again. His name; this time, spoken with a hint of uncertainty. Shaking himself out of his brooding thoughts, James replied, "What is it, Evans?" His tone was clipped, and the subtle emphasis he placed on her surname made Lily flinch.
"I…well, I overheard you talking to Flitwick about your term paper, and—"
"I switched topics, if that's what you're after. You can have mine if you want—couldn't find much of anything on it, anyway."
"No, I think you should do it—it was a really good idea," Lily insisted. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I found some books that might help you."
She held out the thick volumes to him, and James's brows knitted together as he stared from the books to Lily uncomprehendingly.
"Look, these aren't exactly light, so could you—" Lily began, a familiar hint of annoyance creeping back into her voice.
"Oh, right—sorry," James said, relieving her of the burden. Glancing at the titles, he saw that they were, indeed, exactly what he'd been looking for. "Er…thanks."
She nodded, and they stood there for several long seconds; Lily seemed to be searching for something to say, while James tried desperately to understand why her attitude towards him had shifted so abruptly.
"Look, Evans…" he began eventually, though he had no immediate plans for the direction of those opening words, and was glad when she interrupted him.
"I don't think you should give up." The words tumbled from her, as though she wasn't quite sure she wanted to be saying them. "I mean, Charms is a difficult subject, but that doesn't mean you can't work it out. And I know you're—you're determined, and a hard worker, so just…don't get discouraged, yet. Things'll work out eventually."
James stared, suddenly getting the feeling they weren't just talking about his paper anymore. A smile grew slowly across his as Lily fell silent, and with a nod, he said, "Right. I'll keep that in mind, Lily."
As her lips tilted upwards involuntarily at his use of her first name, James thought that perhaps things weren't so hopeless, after all.
A/N: All my James drabbles always turn into angst-fests...oh well ;) At least this one has a happy ending.