"…see James Potter at Quidditch practice today? He was all shirtless and sweaty and, let me tell you, the boy is fit."
Lily Evans looks up from her Arithmancy essay just long enough to shoot an annoyed glare at the table next to her where two girls had just sat down. They're not even bothering to keep their voices down, even though they're in the library and this type of gossip is far from appropriate.
"As fit as Sirius Black?" A short, freckly girl with mousy brown hair and a rather unfortunate lisp asks, staring wide-eyed at her blond friend. Lily vaguely recognizes them as fourth years from her own house, Gryffindor.
"Black is gorgeous, but his is all in the face. Potter's got a nice face and one hell of a body as well. He's all rippling muscles and…"
Lily grits her teeth and glares at her Arithmancy notes. Not only are these girls disturbing the peace and quiet of the library, which is supposed to be her sanctuary, but they're doing it by talking about the bane of her existence. Stupid Potter with his perpetually messy hair (which she suspects he tries to make messy every morning when he wakes up), and his bright hazel eyes, and his stupid exceptional height, and that cocky, confident smile that Lily wishes didn't make her heart skip a beat (but it does and she hates it and loves it at the same time).
The two girls begin giggling maddeningly and Lily wishes she could do something to shut them up because this Arithmancy essay is rather important and due tomorrow and if they would just shut up, she wouldn't have to think about stupid Potter and her stupid fluttery feelings for him and she could finish the essay. Just as she remembers that she actually can do something to shut them up, – she is a Prefect, after all – she hears a familiar series of maddening sniggers and looks to her left to see that the Marauders are all sat at the table to the right of hers and can obviously hear every word that these infuriating fourth years are saying.
Sirius Black is laughing madly, though Lily would have thought he would be offended, since apparently Potter is, on the whole, fitter than he is, but the dangerously beautiful boy is lounging lazily in the chair next to Potter, nudging his shoulder suggestively. His long black hair falls into his grey eyes, but he ignores it and continues prodding at his best mate. Remus Lupin, her fellow Gryffindor Prefect, is also chuckling, though when the tall, perpetually ragged-looking boy catches Lily's disapproving glare, he does look a bit chagrined. Peter Pettigrew, the most out-of-place of the four so-called Marauders, a short, thin, twitchy boy with mousy brown hair and nervous, watery eyes, leans across the table and mutters something that makes Sirius let out a bark of laughter. Remus lets loose a loud, surprised laugh, shooting a furtive, apologetic glance in Lily's direction, and Peter sits back in his chair, looking rather pleased with himself.
Potter, Lily is shocked to see, doesn't join in on his friends' laughter. Instead, he does his best to ignore Black's incessant prodding, staring determinedly down at his mostly-blank parchment – Lily wonders if he is also trying in vain to finish his Arithmancy essay. When Remus leans in and whispers something to him, Potter's head shoots up and his eyes immediately meet hers. Lily is surprised by the apology she finds there, but more so by his embarrassment-reddened face. Her heart flutters, but then she scowls when the girls to her left give a particularly shrill shriek of laughter and she starts to stand, intent on going over to their table and setting them with lines, or giving them detention. Hell, she'll even dock points from her own house if it gets them to sod off.
She's stopped, however, by the dull thud of a book being slammed shut and the rustle of parchment, the screech of the wooden legs of a chair scraping the stone floor as someone stands quickly. Then Potter goes brushing past her, his head ducked so his messy hair flops down over his forehead, as he exits the library in a bit of a hurry.
The girls to her left sigh and shake their heads, disappointed, but they fall silent and pull out textbooks, so Lily isn't too fussed with them anymore. To her right, she hears a deep sigh and she looks over to see Black shaking his head morosely, his eyes trained on the library doors.
"He's hopeless," he says in his usual lazy, yet somehow alluring way. Remus shakes his head across from him and Peter frowns, looking disappointed.
How curious, Lily thinks, that these three sixteen-year-old boys look just as put-out by Potter's reaction as the two fourteen-year-old girls to her left.
The name of the fourth year from the library, the one who decided that Potter is the fittest boy in school, is Emily Persimmons. Lily only knows this because, rather late one evening, this Emily Persimmons sits herself on the arm of the chair Potter occupies in front of the fire in the common room, a chair that is rather nearby and perfectly visible from Lily's preferred couch, and introduces herself in a carrying voice.
Potter shifts uncomfortably when she reaches out to try to touch his hair and, in a move that he manages so quickly due to, Lily assumes, his years of Quidditch training, grabs her hand in his and shakes it quickly. He releases her after barely a second and she lets her hand drop.
"Er, right," Potter says, glancing around for help, but his friends are all laughing silently and he scowls at them briefly before looking back up at Emily warily. "Nice to meet you."
"Yes, isn't it?" Persimmons tosses her head in what Lily thinks is supposed to be either an alluring or a confident move, and looks at him coyly. "Anyway. James. Tomorrow is Hogsmeade."
"Er, yes. It is." He sends another quick glare at his friends who are behaving like loons at Persimmons's back. Black and Remus are actually on the ground rolling in silent laughter and Peter is perched delightedly on the edge of the couch next to Potter's chair, his eyes lit up in interest as if he's taking notes on how to act around a girl, not that Potter is doing anything that anyone should even bother trying to duplicate.
"Are you going? Because I am, and I was wondering if you'd like to go with me." Persimmons looks around smugly, and Lily is startled when the younger girls looks right at her and sends her a haughty look, as if she's just managed to steal Lily's man.
Have at him, Lily thinks, shrugging blandly before looking down at her homework. She suspects it'll be nothing short of sweet, sweet relief to have Potter off her back. Not that he's been much of a bother to her lately, she realizes. Last year, he asked her out every day, without fail. This year, he's only asked her out a few times and the school year is winding down.
"I don't think so, no," Potter says quickly and Lily looks up to see that he's running his hand through his hair uncomfortably. "I'm sorry," he adds hurriedly when Persimmons's eyes widen and her smug look drops.
"Are you serious?" Persimmons practically shrieks, jumping off of the arm of Potter's chair, for which he looks grateful, even as he winces at her pitch.
"'Fraid not, love," Black says immediately, rolling over away from Remus and coming to rest at Potter's feet, propping himself up on one elbow and raising an eyebrow at Persimmons. "That would be me."
"Why not?" Her voice shrill and loud again, Persimmons completely ignores Black, who looks astounded to have been overlooked by a female.
Lily notices that Persimmons and Potter have a bit of an audience now, and she doesn't think it's escaped Potter's notice either, since he keeps glancing around. She doesn't know why the attention makes him uncomfortable all of a sudden, since he's always seemed to crave any sort of attention he could get his hands on.
"I'm just not… interested," Potter says carefully. "I'm sorry."
"You really are an arrogant arse, aren't you?" Persimmons spits. Lily doesn't think that's particularly fair of her. While Lily herself has called Potter arrogant at least a thousand times since she's known him, she's always had good reason, but his rejection was neither arrogant nor rude.
Persimmons stalks off towards the girls' dormitory and Black howls with laughter. Potter prods him gently in the side with his foot and Black obediently goes rolling back over to Remus, who is chuckling quietly. Potter gets to his feet and heads for the portrait hole without another word, but not before he meets Lily's eyes and she spots a flash of hurt (and is that regret?) there.
Odd. What's she supposed to have done to upset him? Lily shrugs as the portrait hole closes behind him, and turns back to her homework.
"James! Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Lily rolls her eyes when Persimmons and her freckly little friend come bounding into the Great Hall and come to a halt right behind Potter, who is seated a few seats to the left of and across from Lily.
"Okay," Potter says warily, turning halfway in his seat. This is not the first time Persimmons has cornered him since she sat herself on the arm of his chair and asked him out. She comes running up to him every chance she gets and asks him out, berating him each and every time he turns her down. "What is it?"
"Would you like to go for a walk with me tonight? I heard there's going to be a meteor shower!" Persimmons bats her blond eyelashes at Potter, who sighs and shakes his head.
"Can't, sorry. I've got detention." He turns back to face forward and Lily doesn't miss the significant look he exchanges with Black across the table.
"You always have detention." Persimmons pouts at his back.
"Such is the life of a Marauder," Potter says lightly, though Lily sees him rolling his eyes as he stirs his porridge.
"Maybe some other time," she says.
Potter gives a noncommittal grunt and jerks a shoulder upward. Persimmons obviously takes this as an agreement because she beams at her friend and goes skipping away.
Not an hour later, Lily is pulling out her books for Transfiguration when Potter suddenly lets loose a loud, "Bloody fuckin' hell, Sirius!" seconds after Professor McGonagall steps into the classroom.
"Mr. Potter!" Professor McGonagall exclaims at once, scandalized. "Do watch your tongue in my class, won't you?"
"Of course, Minerva. How exceptionally uncouth of me," James says immediately.
Professor McGonagall sighs at the use of her first name. "Detention, Potter. Tonight. My office. I daresay you know the way."
Lily is sitting out by the lake with her friends Hestia Jones and Marlene McKinnon – they're talking about boys and life and their plans for after Hogwarts, but not giggling, thank you very much, they're far more civilized than all that – when her eyes find a familiar head of unkempt black hair heading for a nearby tree.
Potter sits down with a heavy sigh and pulls out a rather large textbook, cracking it open and beginning to read. She watches him for a moment as he studies and notices for the first time that his eyes squint down at the pages in front of him even through his glasses. She wonders if his vision is really that poor. For some reason, she had always thought that he was under the impression that the glasses made him look cool but didn't actually need them to see.
Lily rolls her eyes at the shrill giggle that accompanies the excited exhalation even as Potter's shoulders stiffen. He looks up slowly, dread and annoyance written clearly all over his face.
"I'm studying, Emily," he says wearily.
"I don't know why; you're so naturally clever." Persimmons simpers at him and Lily feels an odd flutter of anger in her chest. James grunts and looks pointedly down at his textbooks, but Persimmons ignores the blatant dismissal and seats herself right next to him, so close that their thighs and shoulders brush.
"Emily." It's an annoyed sigh, and Potter doesn't even look up from his book.
"I just wanted to know if you had any plans for this weekend." Persimmons bats her eyes at him, but Potter still doesn't look up at her.
"Oh, really? What?"
Lily rolls her eyes.
She smirks. Marauder business? He really couldn't come up with anything better than that? Well, she thinks, it's actually probably true, the trouble-making git.
"Oh." Persimmons twirls her hair around one finger.
"Yeah." The blond twit pouts when James still doesn't look up at her.
"Because I was just wondering if-"
"I'm afraid not."
Lily almost laughs out loud. Almost. Potter got that one from her, she knows. She can't count how many times she has turned him down before he has even managed to finish asking her out.
"What?" Persimmons's hands drop to her lap and she gapes at Potter, who sighs and looks up at her.
"I don't want to go out with you." He doesn't look apologetic and he doesn't even bother to make up a reason for not being interested anymore.
"Well, you're a right smug bastard, aren't you, Potter?" Persimmons sputters, jumping to her feet and glaring down at Potter, hands on her hips. "I was just trying to make polite conversation!"
"With someone clearly trying to study, who wants nothing to do with you?" Potter raises an eyebrow – the git, Lily's been trying to teach herself how to do that trick for years now, ever since the first time he looked at her with one arched brow – and nods sarcastically.
"You're an arse!" Persimmons shouts, stomping her foot.
"Yes. And you don't know how to take rejection." Potter shrugs and looks back to his book. "Both things that we should work on. Separately."
Persimmons gives an angry shriek, not embarrassed in the slightest by the audience she's gathered, and stomps away to her friends, who sit a few meters away.
Lily smirks and shakes her head, finally turning back to Hestia and Marlene, who are both watching her with some interest.
"Why were you watching James Potter?" Hestia demands quietly.
"Do you fancy him?" Marlene asks immediately afterwards.
"Oh, I bet she does!" Hestia says before Lily has a chance to arm herself with her usual scorn whenever a possible romance between herself and Potter is mentioned.
"I knew it would happen eventually!" Marlene grins, nodding smartly at Hestia, who laughs.
"No! No, I don't fancy him," Lily hisses, glancing around furtively before fixing her friends with harsh glares. "I don't fancy anyone!"
"Sure," Marlene says sarcastically. "Then why were you staring at him and Emily?"
"Because…" Lily falters for a moment. Why was she watching him? And why has she been watching him more and more all year? She can't come up with an honest answer, so she invents wildly. "Because I think it's all very amusing!"
"Amusing?" Hestia gives her head a bemused shake. "Amusing how?"
"Yes, amusing!" Lily insists, her heart thrumming wildly. "He's finally getting a taste of his own medicine!"
Hestia and Marlene both snort, clearly not believing her, but they drop it, and Lily looks around once again, just thankful that nobody appears to have overheard their conversation. Honestly, though, the nerve of those two. To suggest that she, Lily Evans, fancies James Potter? They must be out of their minds.
Several minutes later, a shadow falls over Lily, who has shifted from a seated position and is now lying down between her two friends, trying to tune out the sound of them bickering over who has snogged the fitter boy.
Lily's eyes snap open and she raises herself onto her elbows to face the person standing over her.
"I wanted to say something." He clears his throat and starts to lift his hand to ruffle his hair. He catches himself a split second before his hand makes contact and his arm drops lamely to his side. He raises his voice so that it carries easily to the several groups surrounding them.
"If I have been half as abrasive, annoying, and outright rude to you as certain people have been to me lately, I want to apologize most sincerely. Honestly, my intention has never been to make you uncomfortable or to infuriate you, though I know I've done both and I know I've not won any favor with you over the years with my persistent nagging." He pauses for a moment and swallows harshly. Lily knows that what he's about to say is going to be hard on him, though she has no idea what it is. "I only hope that others can learn from my mistakes and back off when they're obviously unwanted."
Lily gapes at him. Potter clears his throat again and this time, she knows it's unintentional when he drags his hand through his hair.
"So, this is it. I'm giving up. I'll never ask you out again." James nods decisively and turns to go, then pauses and looks back at her, lowering his voice again so that only Lily and her friends can hear. "I'm really sorry. Six years of unwanted attention. Must have been hell."
When James turns on his heel and walks back to the castle, Lily isn't the only one who watches him go. Every single person who decided to spend a lazy afternoon by the lake watches James walk away, wide-eyed and jaw-dropped.
"What the hell was that?" Marlene breathes in Lily's left ear.
She shakes her head, dumbfounded, but suspects that James may have been eavesdropping on their earlier conversation just as she had been eavesdropping on his.
Not a week later, James (when did he stop being Potter and become James?) leads the Gryffindor Quidditch team to victory in the last match of the season and they win the Tournament. Black, of course, throws a raging party that Lily doesn't have the heart to put an end to, even if she should. She is, after all, happy that they won, and she doesn't really see the harm in a bit of fun, even if there is alcohol involved.
An hour later, she's regretting her decision to allow Black to throw the party in the common room. There's a splitting pain in her head and she's overheated thanks to the sheer number of people dancing and running around the relatively small common room. She should just go up to her dormitory, where she can open a window and lean her head out and breathe in the night air.
But what's a window when she can just go outside? It's not yet curfew. She's got another hour before she'll be breaking school rule, so she slips out of the portrait hole and begins walking. At first, she thinks to go to the Black Lake, but Gryffindor Tower is on the seventh floor and the Black Lake, obviously, is on the ground floor so very far away, so she goes up instead and finds herself in the Owlery.
When she steps into the musty Owlery, she stops short when she realizes there's already someone there. Apparently, she isn't the only one who decided to seek fresh air tonight.
"James?" She recognizes that tall frame, those broad shoulders, that impossibly messy hair.
He wheels around, his arms flying disjointedly around him. "Lily!" He stumbles over nothing, and she realizes he's completely sodding drunk. Already, and the party's barely been on for an hour!
"James, you're drunk." She sighs, and tries to tamper down on the disapproval she feels raging through her.
"No," he says quickly, then begins leaning slightly to the right. He overcorrects to the left and sends himself falling hard against the stone wall. A few owls take flight and settle high in the rafters as James chuckles and rubs his sore shoulder, embarrassed. "Okay, maybe a bit."
"You should go inside." Lily steps closer to him, intending to… what? She doesn't know what she would do closer to him, so she stops abruptly, still several feet away, and just looks at him.
"Nah, it's a nice night." James turns back to the window he was staring out of when she found him. "I wanted to send a letter to my parents."
"Oh." Lily looks at his empty hands. "Did you send it?"
"Yeah. Probably shouldn't have. They'll know I was drunk when I wrote it." He shrugs and sighs. "Oh well. I just wanted to let them know I was thinking of them."
"Were you?" She steps closer and finds herself standing next to him, looking out the same window.
"Yeah. They're old." He looks at her and shrugs.
"Oh." She doesn't know what to say to that.
"Like, really old." James looks back out the window with a worried sigh.
"Okay." He smells good, damn it. Why does he smell so good? Wasn't he just playing Quidditch? He has no right to smell so good after playing Quidditch, even if he did shower right after. He shouldn't smell so good.
"They had no business having a kid at their age, honestly. Don't know how it happened." He's still talking about his parents, Lily realizes with a start. She's thinking about how wonderful he smells and he's worrying about an actually problematic situation. How the tables have turned. "It's a bit of a mystery even to the Healers. I'm a miracle, apparently." He snorts and shakes his head.
"They must love you a lot." It seems like an appropriate thing to say in this situation, Lily thinks.
"Sure. Never thought they'd be able to have a kid, so they spoiled me rotten. Surely you didn't miss that detail." James laughs derisively and she realizes he's putting himself down. She doesn't know what to say, so she says nothing, just standing there with him.
After a while, James groans and whirls around, pressing his back to the stone wall and sliding down until he's sitting on the ground. Lily winces, thinking of the owl droppings that he must be sitting in, but James doesn't seem to care.
"I really am sorry," he says, nodding sloppily as he looks up at her with wide, sad eyes. "I am."
She has no idea what he's talking about, so she just stares at him blankly for a moment before deciding to hell with it, and sits down close to him. Owl droppings surely wash out of clothes. James clearly needs someone to commiserate with right now.
"It must have been truly awful for you." She still doesn't know what he means, so she just watches him as he lowers his head into his hands and tugs as his hair. "I didn't realize how off-putting it is, to be asked out constantly by someone you've absolutely no interest in."
"Stupid, huh? Should be obvious. You turned me down enough times, hexed me half the time. I should have gotten the point."
"I'm sorry." How many times is he going to say that? It's starting to get annoying.
"James, it's fine," she says.
"No, it's not. It's harassment." James nods decisively. "That's what it is, and it's wrong, and I'm sorry."
"I forgive you." What else can she say? She honestly isn't upset with him about it anymore.
James groans and shakes his head. "You shouldn't."
They're silent for a while, mainly because Lily doesn't know what to say to that. It's odd that James is suddenly so condemning of himself just for asking her out so often. "Is Persimmons still pestering you?"
"Huh?" James stares at her blankly for a minute before it clicks. "Oh, Emily? Nah, she finally got the point and backed off. I think. It's only been a week, hasn't it?"
"Oh." James shrugs. "Well, maybe she'll try again. I'd deserve it."
"James." She's getting tired of this self-deprecating crap. It's so not James Potter.
"I just… Merlin, I love you so much, you know?" His head hits the stone behind him with a painful-sounding thunk.
"W-what?!" Lily chokes on air and turns to stare at him with wide, shocked eyes.
"Yeah. I do." He nods again, and sighs. "I guess that's why I didn't want to see it."
"You love me?"
"Yes," he says slowly, narrowing his eyes at her like he's confused. "I thought it was obvious."
"No! I thought you just wanted to annoy me!" She is aware that her voice is shrill right now and she is probably bringing Persimmons to his mind, because she reminds herself of her at the moment, but she can't think about that now. "And then I thought maybe you fancied me, but love? I never considered that!"
"Well, I do." James rolls his head to the side so that he's facing forward, then tilts back so he's staring up at the owls in the rafters. "Both. Fancy and love."
"Why do you love me?"
"Because…" She sputters about for a moment, tossing about for some reason. All she can really think of is that she didn't think James Potter was capable of falling in love, and she doesn't think that's something he wants to hear. "Because you're a pure-blood! Aren't you supposed to care that I'm a mudblood?"
"Don't say that!" he exclaims immediately, rolling his head to glare at her.
"What?" She blinks.
"That word!" James doesn't let up on his glare. "You know what."
"Why does it offend you?" Lily demands. "You're pure-blood!"
"Because it's all such bullshit, you know? This blood purity! It's complete crap! And totally contrived. There's not a single pure-blood left, I'd bet. Everyone's got a Muggle in their ancestry somewhere, I'd put money on it."
"Oh." She isn't sure that's a complete explanation of why the term offends him so much, but she reminds herself that he's drunk and she's lucky he's making as much sense as he is. Besides, since he's apparently under the impression that he loves her, she can guess that his real reason for hating the word has more to do with her than anything else.
"Besides, you're the prettiest, smartest, most terrifyingly talented witch Hogwarts has seen in a long time, you know? How could you be anything less than me?" He just looks at her for a moment and Lily thinks he might actually be waiting for her to answer him, but then she realizes he's just waiting for more words to come to him. "You're so, so much more. And I'd bet it's because of your blood and not in spite of it."
"Is it?" She's vaguely amused, but mostly still shocked that James Potter is in love with her.
"Sure. If you had been raised in this world, you wouldn't work half as hard as you do because this would all be nothing new to you. You wouldn't be able to do half the amazing things you can do."
She isn't entirely sure that's the truth. "You do some pretty amazing magic, too."
"Yeah, but that's all Marauder stuff. Trouble-making. Nothing important," James says dismissively. "Not like studying stuff."
Lily gapes at him. "You're by far the best in the school at Transfiguration! Even McGonagall says you're better than she was at N.E.W.T. level! That's 'studying stuff.'"
"Eh." James waves a dismissive hand in the air in front of his face. "That's one subject. You're brilliant at everything. Slughorn's always on about how wonderful you are at Potions, and Flitwick raves about your charmwork and you're only right after Remus in Defense Against the Dark Arts, you know."
"I have it on good authority that you received nine O.W.L.s, James, and not one less than 'Exceeds Expectations.' That's pretty brilliant, you know."
"Yeah, well…" He stops and turns to look at her. "How d'you know all that?"
"Well, I…" she pauses. How does she know James's O.W.L. scores? She honestly doesn't know where she had heard it. "I… Well, I expect you were probably bragging about it at some point."
James looks at her suspiciously for a moment, then shrugs. "Yeah, probably. Expect nothing less from an arrogant toerag like me."
"Oh, James." Lily sighs and drags a hand through her hair. When she realizes what she's doing, that she's apparently picked up a habit from James, she drops her hand, mortified, and doesn't look up at him. "You're not so bad anymore."
"I'm not?" He's watching her; she can feel his eyes on the side of her face, but she can't meet his eyes.
"No, you're not." She gives a halfhearted shrug. "You've… matured somewhat."
"Yeah, well, I am seventeen. Officially a man and all, figured I should grow up some." It's a pretty lame attempt at a joke, but he's drunk and she really shouldn't expect too much of him. She's really just thankful that he realized she was feeling awkward and tried to lighten the mood.
"Really, though," he says on a sigh. "I meant what I said."
"What? That you love me?" Her heart flutters annoyingly in her chest on the word love and she rolls her eyes, drawing her knees up to her chest.
"No." He shakes his head; she sees it out of the corner of her eye. "Wait, yes. Bollocks. I do." He clears his throat. "But I was talking about out by the lake. I won't be bothering you anymore."
Oh. He means he won't be asking her out. She finally looks up at him and their eyes meet and her heart does that awkward, annoying fluttering thing again. She just barely manages to nod. "Right."
They sit there in silence for a few more minutes and Lily becomes acutely aware of the fact that her shoulder is touching James's and, if she were to let her legs stretch out, their legs would probably match up as well. Well, she would brush against his leg the length of her leg. His legs are just so damn long. She never noticed that before, but it makes sense. He's tall, after all. Really tall, because it's not as if his torso is short or anything. No, that's rather long as well. And full and thick and broad and, oh God, she's turning into Emily Persimmons.
"We should probably head back," James says at length. "Curfew."
"Right, yes. Curfew." She nearly forgot that she was on limited time here and, as a Prefect, she can't well stay out past curfew.
James struggles to his feet. He wobbles a little, but still holds his hand down to help her up. When she slides her hand into his, she feels a jolt that almost has her pulling back in shock, but James's hand closes around hers and he's suddenly very steady on his feet when he pulls her up to her full height.
Once they're both righted, he lets go of her hand and Lily does a pretty good job of almost convincing herself that it isn't disappointment that floods her. They walk slowly, due to James's unsteadiness, and silently, due to the fact that there really isn't much else to say, is there? Except there's so much to say.
"You're not," she blurts out when they're in front of the Fat Lady.
"Hmm?" James asks, turning to her with a perplexed and fuzzy smile.
"Out by the lake last week you said… Well, you said you were sorry if you were half as bad as Persimmons has been to you." Lily blushes and ducks her head. "You weren't."
"I mean, you were annoying, all right?" she is quick to say, looking up to find James leaning against a very disgruntled Fat Lady. "Don't get me wrong. I was always very annoyed with you. But you weren't at all like her. You didn't… yell at me when I didn't want to go out with you, right? You were obviously not happy about it, but you didn't… you didn't throw insults and accusations. You just let it drop."
"Until the next time."
"Yes, there was always a next time." Lily rolls her eyes with a fond smile. "The persistence is really the only way the two situations are alike."
"Well, there's that, at least." James sighs and smiles bleakly at her. "I didn't make you feel like crap for not liking me back. That's good. I'm glad."
He's unhappy again, but he's also being sincere, she can tell. He's thankful that he didn't make her feel bad for turning him down repeatedly, but he is feeling bad for having been turned down repeatedly. She wants to say something, but what? You can keep asking me out, I don't mind. I actually, deep down, kind of like it. But is that true?
Maybe it's not the being asked out that she's starting to like, Lily realizes. It's just James. Oh, bloody Merlin. She's starting to fancy James Potter. She could hex herself!
"Are we just going to stand here all day, or are you going to give the password?" the Fat Lady says, rather annoyed.
James jumps away from her and nearly topples over in his drunken state, but Lily steadies him. "Sorry, I didn't realize…" he says, then stops when the Fat Lady only glares at him. "Er, dittany."
"Thank you," the Fat Lady says tersely, and swings open.
"After you," James says, and Lily smiles thinly, stepping through the portrait hole and back into the heat of the crowded, noisy common room.
James nods at her when she turns to see him standing right behind her, the portrait swinging shut at his back. She is once again struck by the urge to say something, but James beats her to it. "See you around."
And then he disappears into the crowd.
Lily can't even pretend she isn't disappointed this time.
James Potter is made Head Boy to her Head Girl and, while Lily is shocked, she is also secretly thrilled. She fancies him; she came to terms with it over the summer, and now she admits it proudly. To herself, that is. And sort of begrudgingly to Marlene and Hestia, who both smirk at her as if it was no secret. But they're the only three who know.
Lily and James spend almost all of their free time together this year and while they both explain it away as Head duty, they usually don't discuss anything of importance. They're friends. They talk, and they walk, and they joke with each other, and they smile and stare at each other a lot. And James, true to his word, never asks her out.
She has been dropping hints for weeks that she wants him to, really. Short of coming right out and saying, "James Potter, I want you to ask me out," she has done everything she can think of.
She has brought up the impending Hogsmeade weekend in casual conversation at least a dozen times and made it clear that she doesn't have a date and even hinted that she might like one. But he still doesn't ask her. She thinks he might have cottoned on to her scheme about the fourth time she asked him point blank if he had a date, but he remains firm in his resolve not to ask her out again.
On one of their first late-night rounds together, James mentioned that he liked her hair down. Lily always wears her hair down when he's around. She knows that he notices because he always smiles almost shyly at her after looking at her hair.
She's even started, at Marlene's insistence, touching him at times when it isn't strictly necessary. Like when he says something funny, she laughs at him and places a hand on his arm. Or when they're walking together in the corridors, either on the way to class or doing rounds, she'll step close to him so that the backs of their hands brush. She knows he wants to hold her hand when she does this because she can feel him flexing his fingers against her. But he never does.
So she's decided to take matters into her own hands tonight. They meet in the Gryffindor common room a few minutes before they're supposed to be doing their late-night rounds and they head out together. Wandering aimlessly with no set destination in mind, they find themselves heading in the general direction of the Great Hall.
"James…" Her voice cracks nervously and she blushes, then clears her throat hoping to hide it.
"Yes?" he asks when she doesn't continue.
"Er, right." She sighs and shakes her head, stopping and turning to look at him. James stops as well, facing her. He raises an eyebrow and she scowls at him; the git knows she's jealous of that ability. "James Potter, I want you to ask me to Hogsmeade."
There, she did it. She lets out a deep breath, glad to have it off her chest.
"Lily Evans." James smirks at her, clearly mocking her for her use of his full name, but she doesn't care. This is it. He's going to ask her out, and she's finally going to say yes. "I can't do that."
"What did you say?" she demands.
"I can't ask you to go to Hogsmeade with me."
"But why?" Her heart is pounding in her chest and she's afraid it's about to jump straight out of her body. She also may cry, but she won't allow herself to think about that. "I thought you didn't have a date."
"I don't!" he says quickly. He reaches out and takes her hand. "I just can't ask you. I want to, but I can't."
"But why?" She's whining and sure she'll be humiliated about it later, but she doesn't care at the moment.
"Because I promised I wouldn't." He says it like it's obvious and she supposes it is, but she thinks it's a stupid reason.
"But I want you to," she says, eyes wide and pleading. "Surely it doesn't matter that you made a promise when I ask you to break that promise?"
"I made that promise repeatedly, though–"
"Only because you were drunk," she grumbles.
" –and I made it in front of a lot of people." James continues as if she hadn't interrupted him. He shrugs. "I don't break my promises. I'm sorry."
"But… but that's… not fair!"
"Because I want to go out with you and now you won't ask me!"
"Lily, I've asked you out hundreds of times and been turned down every time."
"I know. Is this some kind of stupid punishment for me not liking you before? If so, that's stupid and I'm sorry, okay?" She stomps off down the corridor, aware that she's making a bit of a racket, but, well, she doesn't care about much of anything tonight, does she?
"No, no, it's not that!" James catches up to her quickly with his stupid long legs. He's smiling when he grabs her hand and pulls her around to face him. "I just meant… You do realize that you can ask me out, don't you?"
"I've never asked anyone out before, though," Lily admits quietly.
"So?" James shrugs. "Not surprising. You've literally been asked out nearly a thousand times. Surely you've picked up something?"
"Those were all failures, though!" Lily pouts.
"Yeah, I know. Trust me, I remember." James laughs. "But some of my attempts were quite good, weren't they? If you didn't hate me, you would have said yes, right?"
"Maybe one or two." Lily smirks when they reach the Great Hall. It's dark inside, but the doors are open. She bites her lip and darts inside.
"Lily? What are you doing?" James hisses, following her in. His eyesight really is quite poor, and it's impossibly dark, so he squints around blindly. "We're not supposed to be in here."
"Oh, come on. You may be Head Boy, but you're still a Marauder, are you not?" Lily asks, popping up next to him.
James jumps at her sudden appearance, but grins at her. "Yeah, screw the rules," he says, the tension in his shoulders disappearing immediately as he climbs up to sit on top the Gryffindor table.
"No, no, you have to sit," Lily grabs him and pulls him down so that he's sitting on the bench, then she makes him turn so that he's facing the center of the table, "here."
"What are you doing?" he asks.
"A dramatic reenactment," Lily tells him, then clambers up so that she's standing on top of the table right in front of him.
James grins immediately. "Oh, right. I remember. The very first time."
"Hush, now. It's not your line," Lily says sternly, then takes a deep breath and raises her voice as if the Great Hall were full of students making a great din. "James Potter…"
"Shh." James giggles. He actually giggles, and Lily grins down at him. "I may not really care about the rules, but we still shouldn't be shouting. McGonagall will kill us if she finds us."
"We're on duty." Lily shrugs. "It would be fine."
"Head duty does not include sneaking into the Great Hall in the middle of the night, Evans," James points out.
"True. Fine, I'll be quiet." Lily laughs quietly, then clears her throat and speaks in a voice barely above a whisper.
"James Potter," she says. "I fancy you. Your stare is so disarming you don't even have to use Expelliarmus." James starts laughing hysterically here. "You're the fittest boy in our year and it would be my immense pleasure to escort you to Hogsmeade this weekend."
"Blimey, I was really bad at that when I was thirteen, wasn't I?" He shakes his head and covers his face with his hands.
"Yes, you were," Lily says, sitting cross-legged in front of him. She takes his hand away from his face and bites her lip, looking him full in the face. "It's your line."
"Yes." He grins at her. "Lily, Evans, I would love to go to Hogsmeade with you this weekend."
"Brill." Lily beams at him. Her cheeks are red, but she's elated. "That's not the right line, but I like it better than the original."
They both want to stay in the Great Hall and lie down on the long tables staring up at the stars twinkling on the ceiling bewitched to look like the night sky, but after a moment, Lily sighs and slides off the table.
"We should probably get back to our rounds," she says.
James nods and stands next to her, and he takes her hand and holds it the rest of the night as they aimlessly roam the castle. They don't talk again until they're outside Gryffindor Tower.
"You know," James says, stopping a few feet away from the Fat Lady, "you got lucky."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I asked you out over eight hundred times and was turned down every time." James sighs and shakes his head. "You ask me out once, and get a yes. It's very lucky."
"Please. I've been practically asking you out all year and you know it." Lily rolls her eyes.
"Doesn't count. You never actually said the words," James says.
"Well. I suppose I should thank you, then," she says, taking half a step closer to him. "You know, for not being spiteful and making me suffer through eight hundred rejections."
"I suppose you probably should." James grins and slips an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. He's so warm and he still smells so, so good and his face is so close to hers and his lips look really, really soft and then his mouth is on hers and he is all of her senses.
He tastes so good, like cinnamon and apples and mint and something else that is just distinctly James. And he smells like leather and soap and ink and a little bit like mischief; she doesn't know how else to describe it. And there's the warmth, the impossible warmth, and the soft-hardness and the incredible strength, but a gentleness that she just knew would be there as his fingers clutch at her sides and pull her closer. And he makes these little gasping-groaning noises that sound a bit like stunned, happy disbelief. And she can't help herself from opening her eyes and stealing a peak at him to see what he looks like right now, in this very moment, and he is absolutely beautiful with his eyes shut and concentrating solely on her, and he really deserves the same treatment, so she snaps her eyes shut tight and tightens her grip on his waist and presses herself impossibly closer and loses herself in him.
They're both breathing heavily when they pull apart and James presses his forehead against hers. Lily's pretty sure his back must be killing him because he is significantly taller than her even when she's standing on the very, very tips of her toes. But he doesn't seem to mind, so Lily doesn't mind either.
"You're welcome," James whispers after a moment.
"That was a brill thank you, so I figured I'd better let you know." He shrugs, then smiles, then kisses her again and Lily sighs and melts against him and she thinks she may be in love with him.
And it's beautiful and it's wonderful and she loves him, so she tells him so. He laughs and she thinks he may want to cry from sweet, sweet relief, but he just kisses her again and they should really go inside the common room, but neither of them cares.
They're Head Boy and Head Girl, and neither of them cares that it is several hours past curfew and they are no longer on duty and they are breaking school rules because they are in love and this moment is perfect.
So this is the first Harry Potter fic I've ever posted. But I've been working on the first draft of a really really long (it's up to 106K now) multi-chapter Jily fic for the past month now and I decided I needed a break, so I wrote up this little one-shot here. I did it in the space of a few hours and I didn't really go through and edit it because, honestly, I'm tired and I wanted to post it before I go to sleep. My point is, I'm sorry if there are any errors, which there probably are. I hope none of them are too glaring.
Thanks for reading! If you feel so inclined, drop me a review and let me know what you think! :)