A/N: Love it? Hate it? Let me know.
It was Summer - mid-Summer - and the first Summer in a long time that the Marauders and the rest of their year wouldn't be returning to Hogwarts on a scarlet steam engine. James didn't particularly like that feeling; almost as if he was missing out on something - possibly his childhood. The real world was calling for them, though, and he had Lily, so he really wasn't one to complain. Granted, he had been hit with some pretty hard nostalgia. But the Order meetings were better than any school reunion he could imagine, so he was content.
He and Lily had just been dozing in the heat of the Muggle world - a world that Lily was very familiar with and wanted to share. She'd even taken him to an ice cream parlor, and was currently gloating that she could do something that he couldn't.
"Ha! Third one in a row. I still don't believe that you can't tie a cherry stem in your mouth. Such a trivial thing to stump young Mister Potter. The Mister James Potter, in fact."
"Yes, brag all you want Miss Evans," James replied in exasperation. Then, in forgetting his faux anger, he questioned, "How exactly did you say you do it?"
"Like so," Lily answered, popping a fourth cherry in her mouth - which emerged as a single knot. James ran a hand through his hair. "You know," Lily said with an air of smugness, as James attempted the challenge once more. "I was told that if a boy couldn't tie a cherry stem in his mouth, it meant that he was a bad kisser."
James refused to let his mouth fall open (for fear that it would reveal his untied stem), but he gave Lily a look that clearly stated, "Really?"
"I guess Tuney was wrong." she sighed, tucking her hair behind her ear and settling herself on their bench.
"Hey," James said, "Hey, what's that over there?"
"What is it?" Lily asked, turning to look where James had pointed. Quickly, James grabbed the stem from his mouth and tied it, putting it back just as Lily righted herself.
"I did it!" he cheered, showing her the knot, and smiling inwardly as she gazed at it.
"I guess I stand corrected." Lily said, eating a scoop of ice cream that was mostly melted. "To be honest, that took me weeks and weeks of practice to really nail it. You're simply bad at nothing, aren't you?"
Clearing his throat, James coughed out a, "Well, I wouldn't say that."
"Oh, because you've always been so humble," Lily replied, putting James's arm around her and snuggling into his chest.
"I consider myself to be a changed man." he said, kissing the top of Lily's head. "No longer a schoolboy, instead a big, bad Auror-in-training."
"Things are going to change now, aren't they?" Lily asked, looking up at her boyfriend, and looking like an angel as the breeze ruffled her hair and his.
"But, things don't always have to change," James said, feeling that same sharp pain in his stomach that told him he wasn't ready for this.
"Come on, love, just our next great adventure together. Here, tie another one."
James put the cherry in his mouth, without really noting his actions. "So, uh, do you want to... get married or something?" he asked.
"James?" Lily asked in shock, though looking far from convinced. "Are you proposing to me?"
"What? No." James responded, glancing down at the girl in his arms, and feeling butterflies unsettling in his stomach. "My proposal will be much more... grand." He swallowed hard.
"You are." she gasped. "James Potter, you're proposing to me and you're not even on one knee!"
James felt his face break in a goofy smile. "Let's bend the traditional barriers 'til they break, chickadee."
"I hate when you call me that." Lily muttered, but then she was smiling up at him too. "Okay. Bleeding hell. Let's do it. Let's get married."
"Attagirl!" James laughed, pressing kisses all over Lily's face, but deciding to leave her lips untouched. "Oh! And..." he stuck out his tongue, which he hadn't even known had held a tied cherry stem. "I guess we'll really be tying the knot."