DISCLAIMER: If you recognize it, I don't own it. Cover art by anxiouspineapples.
For God's sake, dear
Just say yes, just say there's nothing holding you back
It's not a test, nor a trick of the mind, only love
Just say yes, 'cause I'm aching and I know you are too
For the touch of your warm skin, as I breathe you in
I can feel your heart beat through my shirt
This was all I wanted, all I want, it's all I want
Just say yes…
– Snow Patrol –
First Year: Awkward Conversations
"Mind if I sit here?"
Lily looked up from unpacking her schoolbag, blinking a bit in surprise when her eyes fell on James Potter. He shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot when she didn't say anything and said, "It's just… everywhere else is full, so…"
Lily's eyes glanced around the classroom to see that James Potter was quite right – the seat next to her was the only one available. His friends sat at the table behind her, joking and laughing amongst themselves while James waited for her permission to sit down. She didn't particularly like him; he was mean to Severus, had been since that first train ride to Hogwarts just a week ago.
But Lily Evans wasn't mean, no matter how much someone might deserve it, so she moved her Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1 out of his way and said, "Yeah, sure you can sit here."
James offered her a tentative smile. He wondered vaguely if she really wanted him there but it didn't bother him that much, really, so he took the seat with a "Thanks" and turned around to talk to his friends.
When Professor McGonagall walked in and instructed them to take out quill and parchment for that morning's lecture, James turned back around in his seat, rifled through his bag, and muttered, "Bugger." In his haste to get to breakfast, he hadn't packed his bag properly and he'd left his quill behind.
Out of the corner of her eye, Lily saw James digging uselessly through his bag. His parchment was already flattened out on the table in front of him, so she supposed he was short a quill. She took an extra one from her bag and slid it across the wooden surface of the desk until it sat at his elbow. He looked around at her, blinking much as she had when he'd asked if he could sit there, then looked down at the quill. He picked it up with another muttered "Thanks," feeling a little embarrassed that she'd seen through his distress so easily.
Lily nodded. "Yeah, no problem," she said, and she dipped her own quill into a bottle of ink and prepared to take notes.
Second Year: The Reluctant Essay
James wandered around the library, pitiful Charms essay in hand, looking for Lily. He knew they didn't get along terribly well, seeing as she was friends with that odd little Snivellus, but he also knew she was best in the year at Charms. It wasn't that he was pants at it or anything, James told himself, but he could use a nudge in the right direction. His mother had been a bit disappointed with his Charms marks from last term and James didn't like to do that to his mother, so here he was.
And there she was. James spotted Lily Evans sitting behind a bookshelf; of course Snivellus was at the table with her, but James figured he could deal with that just fine if he had to, even without Sirius there, too.
"Hey, Evans," James said, ignoring Snape, who scowled at him. "Have you finished the Charms essay?"
"Just did." Lily set her parchment aside and looked up at him. "Did you need some help with it or something?"
"If you don't mind, yeah," James said, and Snape snorted derisively. James glanced at him. "Something funny?"
"Nothing," Snape said far too innocently. "Just can't manage to get your work done on your own? Thought you were supposed to be smart, Potter…"
"Shut it, both of you," Lily said, cutting off James's retort. She took the essay from him and said, "Sure I'll help you with this; it'll only take a few minutes."
Lily looked the essay over, marking things here and there, double-checking facts in her book, and marking some more. Snape kept his eyes on his homework, occasionally shooting Lily an annoyed glance and James a deplorable one. James stared at Lily's hands, jaw clenched, praying every second that she was nearly done so he could get away from Snivellus and this essay and go find his mates…
"There," Lily said fifteen agonizing minutes later, her eyes scanning the changes she'd made to make sure they were spot-on. Lily Evans was nothing if not thorough."That should do it, then, just copy this down and you'll be fine."
James smiled at her, appreciative of her help and grateful that he didn't have to sit there anymore. "Thanks, Evans. I owe you one," he said, meaning it. And just to annoy Snivellus, James mussed up Lily's hair a bit – Blimey, she's got soft hair, remarked a voice in his head. Pretty, too… "See you later, then."
When James was out of sight and earshot, Snape looked across the table at Lily and asked, "So what's that about, then?"
"Hmm?" Lily didn't look up from the book she was reading. "What's what about, Sev?"
"You and Potter."
That made Lily look up, and one of her eyebrows cocked a little as well. "What are you on about, me and Potter? I was just helping him with his Charms."
"Are you friends or something?" Snape wanted to know, an unpleasant flash of jealousy flaring in his stomach. It almost wouldn't surprise him if she said yes – they were both in Gryffindor, both oddly frenzied about Quidditch, both rather well-off in their lives outside of school, both well-liked (Merlin knew why anybody gave a shite about Potter, but there you have it). Still, though, Snape crossed his fingers that she'd say no and mean it.
Figuring this conversation wasn't going much of anywhere, Lily went back to her book. "No, Sev," she said. She licked her fingertip and turned the page. "I'm not friends with James Potter."
Third Year: Lily Evans Is Better Than You
It was James's first year playing Quidditch for Gryffindor, and he'd just helped secure the first win of the season. The first spectacular win of the season, if you asked any of the Gryffindor supporters (Ravenclaw was inclined to disagree, since they'd been beaten so severely they were convinced the red-and-golds had found a way to cheat).
"I didn't know you could play like that," said Peter, clearly impressed. "Six goals in one match? Wicked stuff, mate."
James grinned and shrugged a little, failing in his attempt at modesty as he messed up his hair some more. "It was good, wasn't it?" he agreed, looking around at his friends as they lounged in their dormitory. "You see the look on that Aubrey bloke's face when I feinted left like that? Idiot."
Peter and Sirius laughed, and Remus had a small smile on his face as he shook his head, exasperated but amused.
There was a knock on the door then and a voice on the other side called, "Everybody decent in there?"
"Yes," Remus said just as Sirius shouted back, "Barely!"
James and Peter were still chuckling at Sirius when the door opened and Lily Evans walked in, a book tucked under her arm and her wand twisted up in her long red hair. James quit laughing and started messing up his hair again. He didn't know why, really; he was too busy being good at Quidditch and Transfiguration to worry about if he was good with girls, too. But then, Lily Evans was the first girl that made him think Wow and his stomach do funny things. Not that he'd tell that to anyone, of course, but all the same he was quite glad that she was friends with Remus. It was just too bad that she was friends with Snivellus, too.
"Hi," Lily said brightly, looking around the room before heading towards Remus's bed. "I finished your book, so I thought I'd bring it up to you."
"Thanks, Lil." Remus took the book from her. "Did you like it?"
"I did, very much," Lily said. "And I meant to tell you, Dad's been writing to me about the new companion – Sarah Jane Smith, he says she's absolutely wicked, best yet, so that's something to look forward to, huh?"
James, Sirius, and Peter all exchanged what-the-bloody-hell-are-they-talking-about? looks, and Lily noticed. She glanced at Remus and then back at the others and she said, "Don't you watch Doctor Who? I know we can't at school, but there's re-runs on telly during the summer holidays."
The others just blinked at her.
"Doctor what now?" Peter asked.
"I don't understand the question," Sirius said.
"What's a telly?" James wanted to know.
"I –" Lily was about to explain, but after another look with Remus she figured it was too much of a lost cause. "Never mind. Anyway, Remus, thanks again for the book. I'll see you lot around, then."
She was crossing the room when James, wanting for some reason to redeem himself from that bout of ignorance, said, "Evans, you catch the match this morning?"
Lily turned to meet his eye. "Yeah, of course I did. Can't miss Quidditch, can you?"
James grinned; no wonder this girl made him go Wow. "See that feint I pulled on Aubrey, then?"
"I did, yeah," Lily said, "which means I also saw how obvious that feint was. Might want to work on that, Potter; Aubrey's a twit, and that's not going to fool someone with half a brain."
The other Marauders laughed at the shocked expression on James's face, his eyes wide and his jaw a little bit slack, clearly lost for an appropriate response. Lily merely shrugged and said, "Sorry, I just thought you ought to know."
Sirius leaned over to poke his friend. "Think you broke him, Evans."
"That feint wasn't obvious," James protested suddenly, getting his head back on straight when the sharp tip of Sirius's quill pierced his arm.
Lily laughed a little bit. "Yeah, hate to break it to you, Potter, but it was."
"Oh, and I s'pose you could do better?" he challenged dubiously.
"Yeah, sure thing," she said, and her sarcasm wasn't lost on any of them, least of all James. "But then, I'm not the one who's got to, now, am I?"
And with that, Lily turned and left the dormitory, shutting the door behind her with a snap and disappearing with a few echoing footsteps down the staircase.
James took a moment to collect himself from the odd combination of indignation and weird stomach feelings and Wows, and then, deciding he'd like to know a little more about this I'm-better-than-you Lily Evans, he turned to Remus.
"I repeat Peter's question," he said to his Muggle-savvy friend. "Doctor what now?"
Fourth Year: Metaphors and Other Wordplay
Lily was headed back to Gryffindor tower from the library, a teetering pile of books in her arms. She was determined to get into a good study mentality and keep it for when she had O.W.L.s next year; if she did well in these exams, she felt she'd garner a reasonable amount of confidence to succeed in the make-or-break ones she'd be taking in a year's time, too.
She was halfway down the Fat Lady's corridor when she heard what sounded like a stampede behind her. She looked over her shoulder in time to see Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew rounding the corner, charging down the corridor, laughing, Remus Lupin on their heels.
"Give it back!" he shouted at his friends, who were waving a bunch of parchment tauntingly over their heads as they ran. "Those are my notes, you stupid blighters, I need to study!"
"Gotta catch us first, don't you?" Sirius yelled over his shoulder, too distracted by his excellent sense of humor to stop himself from running into Lily. The books fell out of her arms, scattering over the floor, and she sighed heavily before kneeling down to gather them back up.
"Whoops, sorry, Evans," Sirius said, only half-sincere as he and Peter ran past her before Remus could catch up.
"Do you need help, Lil?" Remus asked, slowing his gait to a jog as he approached.
Lily shook her head; she could tell that Remus wanted to help, but more than that he wanted to get his notes back and jinx his mates until their feet were tap-dancing and their ears whistling and maybe until they sprouted tentacles, too.
"No, thanks, though, Remus," she said, meaning it, and after an apologetic smile, Remus sped up and continued on his way to rescue that term's supply of notes.
Lily was still collecting her fallen books when she heard more footsteps echoing along the stone walls and floor of the corridor. They stopped when they reached her, and Lily looked over in time to see James Potter bending down next to her, reaching out to fetch a book she'd missed.
"Hey, Evans," he said. "Did you happen to see my idiot mates come charging down here? Reckon it was one of them that made this mess."
"Yeah," Lily said, taking the book he handed her. "Surprised you weren't chasing after them."
James shrugged. "There's only one person I really chase, you know," he said conversationally, "but I s'pose that's in more of a – what'd you call it? – metaphorical sense."
"Right." Lily colored a bit, all too sure that she knew what he was talking about. After all, he'd asked her out at least a dozen times that year, relentlessly, and it seemed to her very much like a game of tag. Or hide-and-seek, perhaps, if she had the foresight to duck under a tapestry or behind a tree or something to avoid his propositions.
But Lily chose not to comment on that. Instead, she simply picked up her newly reclaimed pile of books and stood. "Well. Thanks for your help, then."
"Anytime." James fell into step beside her as they closed the distance between themselves and the Fat Lady. "So there's Hogsmeade this weekend."
"Yeah, sure is," Lily said, wishing the portrait hole was closer.
"Wanna go with me?"
"Sorry, Potter," Lily said, gesturing a bit with her pile of books, "I've got a lot of studying to do."
Naturally, though, James was hardly deterred by her brush-off. "If you didn't have to study, then, would you?" he asked. "Hypothetically speaking, then, of course?"
"I don't –"
"You know what, don't answer that," James interrupted her and looked at the Fat Lady to give the password. "Fugo vestri somnium. Blimey, that's a mouthful, isn't it? Anyway, Evans…" James moved aside to let Lily into the common room first. "I reckon I'll pretend that hypothetical you'd go out with hypothetical me if the real you didn't have exams to study for. That all right with you?"
"I'm not sure it makes much sense," Lily said, "but sure, Potter, whatever you like."
She'd reached the foot of the girls' staircase and kept her eyes on the steps, so she didn't manage to catch James's grin.
Fifth Year: Little Big Blue Boxes
Lily swiped a hand over one damp eye and kept her gaze locked on the window she was sitting next to. "Something you want, Potter?"
"I dunno." James settled into the seat next to her on the couch in the corner of the common room, not really sure what he was doing there. "Macdonald said something about you talking to Snivellus – Snape – outside, and I just – I wanted to see if you were all right, I guess."
"Fine." Lily wiped her eyes dry and turned to stare at the table in front of her; her neck had been cramping up from sitting too long at a right angle. "I mean, let's run through the events of the day, shall we? You're a smarmy git, Severus's a shoddy mate, and I'm a filthy little Mudblood, so I reckon fine just about covers it."
James's jaw twitched. "Don't call yourself that. You're not –"
"Oh, yes I am." Lily waved away the notion of political correctness. "That's the point, that's why Severus's not my friend anymore. I was stupid to think it was never going to happen. I mean, you should've seen the way he used to talk to my sister – Muggles, Muggle-borns, it's all the same to them, isn't it? It's all dirty blood."
"Come on, Evans –"
"You know what, I don't know why I'm talking to you about this." Lily turned to meet his eye then, and she noticed he looked agitated and guilty and completely unsure of himself. Good. "Is there something I can do for you or are you just here to rub it in?"
"Rub what in?" James demanded, trying and failing to keep his temper in check. He knew she was upset and maybe he deserved to be snapped at, but for Merlin's sake, it wasn't like he'd threatened Snivellus with de-pantsing if the slimy git didn't call her a nasty name. "Do you think I'm happy that that jumped-up little snake said what he did? Do you think that's what I wanted?"
"Hell if I know what you want, Potter, unless it's to drive me up-the-bloody-fucking-wall mad –"
"Well, I'm not happy and that's not what I wanted and I don't mean to make you so angry with me," James cut across her. "I'm not going to apologize for what I did to Snivellus; hating each other is just what we do, it doesn't matter. But I am sorry that you got caught up in the middle of it this time because now it does matter and it's just… it's bollocks, Evans, and I'm sorry that you feel so rotten about it."
Lily was quiet and they were both seething a little bit then. They both knew they were right, and they knew the other one was right, too, and they weren't sure what to do with these bits of semi-rightness. They were too sensible to pretend that it was just their way or no way, and too annoyed with each other to allow any concessions. Their slope was about as slippery as ever, and then James decided to go about climbing it in the most uncouth way possible.
"You looked right pretty when you were shouting at me earlier, you know."
"Oh, sod off."
Okay, well, at least they weren't sitting in silence anymore, and James felt that was as a good a way as any to change the subject to something that might make her feel better.
"So third year, right," he clumsily segued, and Lily looked at him again, eyebrows lifted a fraction of an inch. "Remember when you told me that Aubrey was a twit and I had a lousy feint?"
"Sure." Lily had held the conversation close to her heart, reveling every so often in the memory of the first time she insulted James Potter. It was good for alleviating stress. "What about it?"
"You and Moony – Remus, you know – you were going on about some Muggle thing that the rest of us didn't get," James said. "I was curious, so when I went home that summer me and Dad figured out the telly thing – blew one up on accident, actually, but I don't think Mum knows so don't tell her – anyway..."
James was digging in one of his pockets now, and Lily's eyebrows rose a little bit higher as she tried to figure out where he was going with this.
"So I watched a bit of that Doctor thing," James continued. "Never got to Sarah Jane Smith, though. How'd you end up liking her?"
"Very much. Potter, what are you doing?"
"Looking for something," he said uselessly. "Hold on – right, got it – so I made this for you. Took awhile, mind, messed it up a few times and I lost it and the cat stole it once or twice and sometimes I forgot about it, but there you go."
James dropped the thing he'd extracted from his pocket into Lily's lap. It was a tiny model of the TARDIS. It was a little sloppy, the edges were uneven and the paint was smudged in places, but Lily thought it was rather charming that way. And when she opened it, sure enough, it was –
"Bigger on the inside," she said, mostly to herself, unable to stop the smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Yeah," James said lamely. "I almost figure, well, the bloke who came up with the show must at least be a Squib, right? Wizards have been able to do that sort of thing – bigger on the inside – for ages, way before Muggles came up with telly."
Lily didn't say anything. She just stared at the little blue box in her hand and wondered what on earth James Potter was playing at. One minute he's being obnoxious, and a few hours later he's being unbearably sweet for no reason at all. How was she supposed to place him if he kept giving her this kind of whiplash?
"James, why did you do this?"
"Uh…" James's hand went to his hair. That was the first time she'd called him by his given name; he wondered if that meant something, and he hoped it did. "Well, as I said, I remember back in third year when –"
"No." Lily shook her head and looked up to meet his eye. He saw that the green of hers was unnaturally bright, and for some reason that made him feel worse than he had that afternoon when she'd stormed away from him after the Snivellus incident. "Just because you remember that I like something, that doesn't mean – you don't have to do this sort of thing for me."
"I know that." James realized he was clutching at his hair rather than just messing it up, so he released it and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "And you know better than anyone that I don't have to do half the things I do. I mean, you made that rather clear this afternoon, didn't you?"
"Yes, but –"
"Well, sometimes I do nice things, too," James went on, not caring to hear Lily's argument when all he was trying to do was make her happy. "Sometimes I want to do nice things. I'm not just some stupid bully."
There was an uncomfortable silence then, broken when Lily swallowed and said, "I know that."
James scuffed the toe of his shoe against the carpet. "Do you?"
"Yes," Lily said, a little more fiercely than she'd intended. "That's why it bothers me so much when you act that way – because it's not really who you are but for some reason you think it's funny enough to make people like you, and I don't – I mean –" Lily struggled to find the words and she looked back at the little police box in her hands. "James, I'd like you much more often if you acted how you really are. Bullying toerags don't give girls little-big-blue-boxes just because they remember something she said two years ago. Bullying toerags don't remember what a girl said two years ago at all."
Lily took a breath and met his gaze again. "So yeah, I know that's not who you really are; I just wish you'd let everyone else know it, too."
James wasn't quite sure what to say to that. He didn't hex people so everyone else would like him; he just did it for a laugh, nobody ever got hurt… Except for Evans, said an unbidden voice that had floated to the forefront of his mind. Well, that was an unpleasant truth if he'd ever heard one.
"I'm sorry" was the only thing he could come up with, and he wasn't sure what good it would do.
"Yeah." Lily's fingertips were tracing over a chip in the paint. "I know. Anyway… Thank you, for this, it's quite – quite the gesture."
"Er… how d'you mean?"
Lily shrugged. "Two years ago I made some vague comment to Remus about Muggle science-fiction, and it somehow mattered enough to you to do this for me. After a day like today, well, it's just nice, that's all, even if I am still cross with you."
James tried to work out what that meant and wondered if he was looking too much into it. "Does that mean we're friends, then?" he tried.
"Maybe?" Lily thought about it. She looked at James, right in the eye, and something in those swirls of honey-caramel-jade was a glint of hope or maybe a little bit of desperation. She knew he was sorry – not for Severus, but for what it had done to her, and she was still angry with him, yes, but it was an anger she thought she'd get over. Because the point was that James was sorry, sorry because even though he and Snape had pulled wands on each other, she was the one who'd gotten hurt. And James hadn't hurt her; Lily wasn't sure that he could.
"Yes," she said after another moment, "yeah, we're friends. Just not right now, not tonight. We can try tomorrow, maybe the next day, if you'd like."
James nodded. "Yeah, okay," he said, hardly able to believe that this was how his day was ending. "Whenever you want."
Lily mirrored his nod and once again concentrated on the blue box in her hands, bigger on the inside, the essence of time and relative dimension cradled right there in her palm, and she thought that perhaps there was some metaphorical resonance to this moment.
"So…" James's voice was a little uncertain. "Does this mean I get to call you Lily now?"
She smiled a bit and hoped he didn't notice. "Maybe tomorrow, Potter," she told him. "Or perhaps the day after that."
Sixth Year: Save the Caterpillars
Lily looked around in time to see James bounding down the staircase towards her. He caught her hands in one fluid motion and spun them both around in rapid circles, grinning like a madman. This wasn't anything new; she'd been friends with James for awhile now, and he was prone to these outbursts of energy and giddiness and he always found a way to bring Lily into it, and she found that she enjoyed it just as much as he did.
"Brilliant, I mean it," he said, and Lily found herself getting rather dizzy from the spinning and the feel of James's skin against hers (although this feeling was a rather new development that she wasn't sure what to do with yet).
"Yes, I'm aware," Lily said on a laugh. "Would you mind being a bit more specific, though, seeing as my brilliance really knows no bounds and I can't possibly keep it all straight?"
"Ah!" James tugged at her hands, wrapping his arms around her waist and lifting her off the ground with another spin. "For one thing, you're an awfully naughty prefect, mouthing off to Filch like that –"
"Oh, that." Lily should have known that her troublemaking was why James Potter was so over-the-moon. "Well, to be fair, it really wasn't my fault; sometimes it rains, you see, so I can't be helped if I'm tracking mud into the castle –"
James laughed. "Now I know that's much more polite than what you said to Filch –"
"Naturally." Lily's vision was spinning unpleasantly. "James, put me down before I get sick and Filch gives me another detention, yeah?"
"Sorry." James set her back on her feet, still grinning broadly. "Speaking of detention, then, how'd you manage to get out? Sirius said you turned Filch into a cockroach before he managed to shackle your ankles."
Lily rolled her eyes. "Yeah, that's it," she said, a hint of sarcasm touching her voice before she shook her head. "Sirius must've been daydreaming when I was telling him and Remus about it. I served the detention and then some – I reckon Filch forgot I was in the dungeons or maybe he thought I deserved a little more time. Anyway…"
Lily waved a dismissive hand. "I kept my wand up my sleeve so when the hour was up and the blood was in all the wrong places in my body – hanging students upside-down, I ask you – so I turned the shackles into caterpillars and I sort of… left them on a windowsill somewhere. I told them to Run, little caterpillars, run –"
"Aw, you saved the caterpillars."
"– and now Filch doesn't have any shackles," Lily finished, smiling at James's smile and the way his eyes twinkled behind his glasses and now she was sure she was blushing and that was no good…
It didn't help, either, when James grabbed her face and his was only about two inches away and he said, in tones of all seriousness, "I love you."
Lily's heart slammed in her ribcage, pounded in her throat, skittered around every corner of her body, but she forced herself to laugh despite the definite pink blush she could see on her nose, and she said, "Yeah, I know."
"No, really." The callused undersides of James's hands were rough against the smooth skin of Lily's face, and he wondered how on earth she'd gotten her skin to feel like that and then he wondered some more about what it would feel like against his mouth, if he were to just lean forward and run his lips over every last inch of her. But even though there was a nice stone wall behind her that he could just push her up against, James refrained and pretended to be cavalier.
"Seriously, Evans," he went on as his pulse twitched erratically and he moved his hands to clutch at her arms because that was a little less distracting. "You have no idea how many times I've been strung up by my ankles. Bloody tiresome. And now you've escaped and saved the caterpillars and I. Love. You."
"Yeah, you mentioned that." Lily swallowed, hard, and James noticed, and they both realized how close they were, so close that the material of their shirts brushed, so close that their breath fluttered across the other's lips every time they talked, so close that it would take half a step and then those lips would be more like one set instead of two and that would certainly be something to love…
"Hey, Lily?" James found that his mouth was horribly dry and he was rubbing her arms.
"Yeah, James?" Lily found that hers was quite the same and there were tingles shooting across her skin wherever he touched.
"Right, so, this is – completely hypothetical, of course –" James was suddenly struck by a memory of his idiot fourteen-year-old self, babbling about metaphors and hypotheticals and all that rubbish, and it wasn't exactly helpful – "but how d'you feel about first kisses in the entrance hall? Not romantic enough, it'll do, it's the most sweep-you-off-your-feet gesture in the history of the world, or is it some gray area in between all that?"
Lily felt her face heat up; this was more than the usual James Potter-induced blush, this was the James-Potter-is-about-to-kiss-you-and-you're-going-to-let-him-aren't-you? blush, and it was completely new territory.
"Well, er –" Just grab his tie and snog him, idiot – "I reckon it'd be one of those gray areas, yeah."
"Right." James wasn't sure if that was a go-for-it, or a go-for-it-and-I'll-hex-you, but he didn't have too much time to ponder it before Lily was absolving his worries.
"But I mean, I won't know 'til I try, yeah?" she said, throwing all caution to the winds. Sod it all. "So…"
James's eyes lit up. Lily Evans was going to let him kiss her? Seriously? Oh, wicked…
"So." James slid his hands from Lily's arms down to her waist, fingers clutching at the curve there and he nudged her closer, and Lily's hands slid up his chest to rest at his shoulders. She stood on her toes and he dipped his head and both their eyes were just about shut and they were so close now and –
James groaned at the unmistakable sound of his mates ruining his life. He looked over his shoulder to scowl at Sirius, who was leaning against the banister of the marble staircase and looking far too pleased about something. Ruddy little berk always did like to piss me off… "Can I help you, Padfoot?"
Sirius grinned wolfishly, effectively shattering that innocent demeanor. "Whatcha doin'?"
Remus smacked him upside the head. Peter was covering his eyes with one hand and shaking his head, not terribly eager to witness James's retaliation.
"Currently?" James pretended to think about it. "Plotting your slow and tortuous death."
"I'm thinking something with a cheese grater," Lily put in helpfully. She stepped out of James's arms, feeling a bit foolish standing there like that in front of his friends. "That combined with a vat of lemon juice ought to do the trick."
Sirius barked out a laugh. "Evans, you've got an even better scowl than Prongs does. I can feel the darts shooting out of your eyes."
"Hmm." Lily pressed her lips together, rubbing a little, and James swore to himself that he'd curse Sirius into oblivion the first chance he got. "Are they having an adverse effect on, say, any vital organs? Heart, lungs, brain, I'm not picky, really…"
"All right, all right." Sirius lifted his hands in surrender. "I can take a hint. Come on, Moony, Wormtail, let's leave Prongs and Evans to it – in the middle of the entrance hall, where any innocent passersby could happen to stumble by –"
Remus rolled his eyes. "Innocent passersby tend to keep their mouths shut."
"Shut up, Moony," Sirius said, and after an apologetic look from Remus and a wave from Peter, the three of them continued on their way down to the kitchens for an evening butterbeer.
James sighed heavily and rumpled his hair. Lily felt a bit of a pang in her gut as her fingers itched to follow that path through those messy black tresses. But the moment, it seemed, had passed, and now it was a little bit strange and she had rounds, anyway.
"Well." Lily smiled at him, and she hoped it was a this-is-rubbish-but-let's-try-again-later sort of smile that he'd recognize. "I've got rounds, so…"
"Yeah, okay." James nodded. He was going to kill that sad excuse for a best mate.
Making a hasty decision, Lily got on her toes again and pressed a kiss to his cheek, right at the corner of his mouth so that her lips brushed his lips and James's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Well, this was something, at least…
"See you, Potter," Lily said with a little half-grin, hopping a bit on the balls of her feet as she walked away.
"Yeah." James touched the corner of his mouth and he was sure that tingle would never go away. "See you, Evans. Hey – hey, Evans!"
Halfway down the corridor, Lily looked over her shoulder. "Yeah?"
"Can I get a rain-check on that gray area, then?"
Lily laughed. "Yeah," she said, nodding and continuing her way down the dimly lit passageway, "you got it, Potter."
Seventh Year: Pheromones that Smell Like Strawberries
It was September, Lily was in the library, and James was going to ask her out.
It wasn't a very original plan, James had to admit as he poked his head around various shelves and peeped over tops of books, but why tamper with a trusty formula? Not that it had ever worked before, he reminded himself, but he was sure this time would be different. They were friends, they'd written to each other over the summer, she was going to let him kiss her only a few months ago, for crying out loud. Not to mention that James was sure that he'd been appointed Head Boy because he had at least some sense of responsibility, and Lily liked that, didn't she? That had to add up to her fancying him, didn't it? At least enough for one sodding date…
James found her at the far wall, tucked in a corner behind a bookshelf, next to a window she'd cracked open to let in the cool autumn air. She had a book open on the table in front of her, but it seemed to lay forgotten. She had her elbow propped up next to it, chin in her hand, eyes out the window. Her hair was up in a loose knot at the base of her neck, her tie was undone, and her trousers looked a little too long for her. James reckoned she was about as close to perfect as anybody could get.
"Tsk-tsk," he tutted disapprovingly, making her jump a little and turn to face him. "Daydreaming, are we? Bad Head Girl."
Lily smiled as James hopped up on the tabletop next to her; he was so tall that his legs didn't even swing, but rather his feet stayed firmly planted on the floor.
"Bet you wouldn't be saying that if you knew what I was daydreaming about," Lily remarked, smirking a bit when she saw the faint pink tinge creeping up James's neck. "Or, well, maybe you would. Depends on the context of the word 'bad,' I suppose."
"That right?" Despite his blush, James was intrigued – very much so. He leaned forward a bit before realizing that was a bad idea; Lily Evans smelled much too wonderful, and he couldn't have his brain clogged up with pheromones-that-smelled-like-strawberries when he was trying to be smooth and debonair and whatever else it was that girls liked when they were about to be swept off their feet. "Why don't you tell me about it, then, and I'll make that call myself?"
"Not on your life, Potter." Lily tweaked his chin affectionately, and her pulse skittered about gleefully when her fingertips met his stubble. Well, that was a bit too close to her daydream for comfort, now, wasn't it? Granted, that stubble had been scratching other areas of her skin, but still…
James caught her hand before she could drop it back into her lap. "Go on, Evans," he said, turning her palm up and tracing the lines there with one callused fingertip. "Tell me about your dirty daytime fantasies starring James Potter. Really, I think it's only fair that I know since I'm the one you're ravishing for hours on end."
Lily laughed, her fingers pleasantly twitching as James touched her. "What makes you so sure they're about you? Bit cocky, don't you think?"
"I dunno, Evans," James said, keeping his eyes on her hand in his; it looked nice there. "You should know, shouldn't you?"
"Oh, clever you," Lily teased, smacking him with her free hand, but then James caught that one, too. "You're such a boy, you know that? A girl would never spit out such basic double entendres."
James looked at her, honey-caramel to shocking green, four eyes lighting up like amorous Christmas trees, and he asked, "Is that because girls keep all the dirty jokes to themselves?"
"How completely rude. Barbaric, really."
"Said the bloke who just made a joke about his crotch," Lily scoffed.
James feigned a sort of shocked offense. "That was exceedingly unladylike of you, Lily I-Hoard-My-Sexual-Fantasies Evans."
"It was not, James I-Project-My-Dirty-Jokes-Onto-Innocent-Bystanders Potter."
"Not as clever as mine, but all right," James allowed. "Evans, would you quit playing with my tie?"
"Give me back my hands, then; I get antsy."
"I most certainly will not, since you insist on using them as weapons against me."
Struck with a sudden idea involving his tie, her hands, and the daydream he'd interrupted so he owed her one, anyway, Lily said, "Give them back and I'll tell you what I was thinking about."
James shot her a suspicious look. "Quite the change of tune," he said slowly, mulling over her possible motives and wondering when he'd be able to slip in an appropriate pick-up line. "I don't trust you."
"Oh, come on." Lily pouted up at him. "Please?"
Something about the turn of her lips and the promise in her eyes and the feel of her skin against his… James shook his head vigorously. "Gah! Evans, don't look at me like that – oh, fine, take your sodding hands." He released her and caught her smug little smirk. "You're a rotten cheat, by the way; feminine wiles are forbidden ammunition."
"So sorry," Lily said, not sounding sorry at all. She flexed her fingers a bit for no real reason. "I suppose you'd like me to tell you what I was thinking about, then?"
"That was the deal, yes," James said, "although I wouldn't be surprised if you backed out, saucy little minx that you are –"
"Spiffing power of deduction you've got there, Potter." Lily began toying with his tie again. "In fact, I'm really not going to tell you a thing."
"Damn it, Evans, next time I'm making you sign a blood contract," James said, growing ever more suspicious as her fingers wrapped their way around his tie.
But Lily was hardly listening. "No," she said on a sigh, "I think it would be much more conducive to show you."
James's heart shot up with his eyebrows. "What –"
The question died between his mouth and Lily's, as she gave his tie one great tug, pulling him down until their lips collided. James's senses exploded like dynamite on a strawberry-pheromone match, and Lily's fingers followed that well-worn path through James's eternally tousled tresses.
Lily's skin was as soft as he'd remembered during that almost-kiss months ago, the almost-kiss that had nudged James over the precipice between She loves me and She loves me not, and he'd decided that she loved him just fine. Real-life James's stubble felt so much better scratching against her skin than Daydream James, and Lily thought that had something to do with the real-versus-not real element of it all.
She tasted like cinnamon gum and he tasted like that morning's toothpaste, and their tastebuds crashed and collided and tumbled about together when their mouths opened and their tongues slipped over and inside. Sighs were exchanged between lips, hands knotted in hair, arms wound around waists. Lily wasn't sure when she'd decided to get up from her chair and between James's legs, but there she was, tugging at his belt loops to bring him closer. One of his hands was at the back of her neck, re-angling the kiss, deepening it, prolonging it.
They both found that it was quite true that nobody saw fireworks – they felt them, smoking, crackling, shuddering, whistling yes-yes-yes-finally, bursting through the tips of their fingers and toes, in deep dark corners of their bodies, zooming and shattering over their skin-on-skin contact. Everything was teeth and tongues and strawberry pheromones, cinnamon gum and that morning's toothpaste, stubble and calluses and smooth skin, red hair and ponytails, loosened ties and innuendos, fireworks and firecrackers, sparklers and snapdragons. It was yes, everything was yes, and it was all worth the wait.
When they broke apart, James's eyebrows were still up and his eyes were still shut and he heard Lily whisper, her breath just as short as his, "See, I told you that was much more conducive, now, didn't I?"
"Right." James nodded once, furtively, took a breath and opened his eyes to see that pair of green ones sparkling cheekily at him. "Lily Evans is better than me. I got it, love."
"I suppose it's the feminine wiles."
"You know, I reckon I like your feminine wiles."
Lily smirked and adjusted James's shirt collar, and he thought she looked about as smug as he felt. That was good, then, that meant she'd felt the fireworks, too – the crackling and the whooshing and the bone-shattering explosion and all that. He'd had a fleeting moment of wondering whether that had been the pheromones that smelled like strawberries, but he'd been a bit distracted, honestly…
"I came in here for a reason," James said while Lily did up his tie again.
"Yeah?" Lily paused to press her lips to his. Neither of them thought they'd get used to that, but it was a good sort of not-getting-used-to, the kind that kept your heart rate up and your pulse erratic. "What's that?"
"Right." James cleared his throat. What was with him and that word when it came to kissing Lily Evans? Merlin, he was a stupid tosser… He took her by the arms and leaned back a little to look at her properly; Lily took the hint and stepped back just a bit so they could both get a clear view.
James rumpled up his hair – Lily knew he was going to do that – and then he pointed at his eyes and pointed at her eyes and he said, "Look at me, Right here. No blinking."
Lily tried not to laugh and did what she was told. "Very serious, Mr. Potter," she said, adopting a tone of faux-prudence.
"Most serious," James agreed with a solemn nod. "Life-or-death serious, really, since you're pretty life-or-death serious to me. It's like I might as well be one of the fugitives of the save-the-caterpillars movement."
The teasing seriousness on Lily's face fell away and she thought her knees might buckle and she felt like a right idiot for – for swooning, blech. "God damn it, James."
"Sorry, Evans." He shot her that cocky little grin and mussed up his hair again. "So. Go out with me, then?"
Lily met him half-smile for half-smile and – feeling those fireworks crackling, whistling yes-yes-yes-finally once more – she said, "Yeah, okay."
A/N: Some things!
–The password I used for the Fourth Year installment – fugo vestri somnium – is Latin for "Chase your dreams." I got the translation online, so I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I rather liked the idea of it, in any case.
–Any repetition you noticed throughout the story was very likely intentional – for the symbolic resonance and all that, you know.
–An excess of hyphenated words just 'cause.
–Caterpillars are cool.
–Lily will always, always be a Whovian.
–Thought about adding a proposal scene – HOWEVER, I already wrote one for "Dangerous Crowds" (Part 2 of the three-part "All Right, Evans?" series), and I dunno, I just want to keep the proposal to the ARE series because I'm quite fond of the way it panned out there, not sure I could top it.
I think that's all I wanted to say, so now it's your turn – thoughts, feels? Review! :) –K.