Author's Note: Thanks to Stefanie and Katie for a quick beta job on this! And thank you to everyone on Tumblr who replied to my post about Marauder coffee preferences.
Textbooks, Time Scarves, and Tea
He's there the first time she visits the coffee shop.
She nearly doesn't go back because of it.
But Sev pleads for her to come make his job bearable, and it is a nice coffee shop—used to be a pub, now converted with copper machines instead of taps, but the rest of the décor's the same—and Lily comes back to keep him company on Friday night.
It's a mistake.
James wasn't scheduled to work, but someone fell ill, and he breaks into a smile when she walks in with her backpack slung around her shoulders.
He hangs back as long as Sev is around, but then Sev's got to go clean the loo, and as soon as he leaves, Lily's textbook is snatched away.
"Coursework on a Friday?" James slams the book shut and reads the cover, leaning back against the far counter. "Heard they're making a movie of this book – think it'll be any good?"
"D'you mind?" She sticks her hand out, palm up and waiting.
He hugs her book to his chest. "D'you ever take a night off?"
"D'you fancy one with me?"
"Didn't I tell you I'd rather date a Dalek?"
"You did, and that's why I had to ask again." He gives her a winning smile. "I love David Tennant. Who's your favorite?"
She stands up and leans across the bar, carefully avoiding trailing her scarf in her tea. "If you think I won't come around and take it from you, you are sorely mistaken."
He takes a couple deft steps to the side. "Tell me your favorite Doctor and you can have it back."
He's grinning like an idiot, so perfectly pleased with himself, thinking this is the perfect ploy. But the joke's on him because she's got other things to do, and she doesn't owe him anything.
She pulls out her biology text and holds on tight, making a show of ignoring him.
"Aw, come on," he says in that posh accent, hovering in front of her again. "I'm just lonely. Your mate loathes me – who am I supposed to talk to?"
"I don't bloody care," she mutters, and she wasn't going to say anything, but she glances up at him—quickly, barely at all—and he's looking properly pathetic now, hazel eyes earnest behind his glasses.
Besides Lily, only a couple other students sit hunched over laptops by the front window, both of them apparently taking social media breaks from their lessons.
"Baker," she says, and leans over her book to avoid looking at him.
He drops her calculus book on the counter next to her. "See? Look, we just had a bit of pleasant conversation, there."
Lily makes a noncommittal noise and rereads the same line in the text for the fifth time.
James backs off when Sev returns, but then Sev says something under his breath about Lily becoming a doctor someday, unlike certain other delinquents.
But it doesn't bother James. Instead he lights up. "Doctor, eh?"
Lily buries her head in her book.
The third time she goes, James has traded shifts and neglected to tell Sev.
When Lily arrives, Sev's in the back checking inventory, and some bloke wearing an old leather jacket is standing on the customer side of the till, black hair falling elegantly to his chin.
"Hullo." James smiles as Lily takes her usual seat. "This is Sirius."
"And I'm apathetic," she says, rummaging around in her backpack. Then she looks up at Sirius. "That's only half a joke. I really don't care who you are."
"He's my best mate," James says proudly.
Lily rolls her eyes and opens her textbook.
"So you're the Friday night ginger?" Sirius says, leaning one arm on the counter.
She gives James a patronizing look. "Friday night ginger?"
James's cheeks have turned a rosy red and he folds his arms over his chest. "Oh, I'll play it cool," he mutters. "Never a word out of me."
"It slipped out," Sirius says. "Now fetch me a coffee."
"I don't fetch coffee at all, much less for liars."
"Then fine, brew me a coffee," Sirius says, holding up a few quid, "or whatever it is you do around here."
James glares at him, tosses his payment in the till, and turns to pump a cup of light roast. He sticks his hand to the side without looking, and Sirius wordlessly hands him a silver hipflask. While James doctors up a black coffee, Sirius drops a fiver in one of the tip jars, and James's shoulders tense.
"I heard that," James snaps.
James shoves the coffee and hipflask at Sirius, jerking his head at the jars. One jar has a sticky note labeled Tennant, the other Smith, and an added coffee mug reads Eccleston.
"Take it back."
Sirius takes his coffee and pockets his booze. "You've lost me."
James grabs the fiver and holds it out. "Take it. I don't want it."
"James," Sirius says tightly, and he looks like he's going to say something more, but he doesn't.
They stare at each other mulishly, until Sirius snatches the fiver out of James's hand and crumples it into his jacket pocket.
"I'm supposed to be the proud one," Sirius says under his breath. He sits down next to Lily and she realizes she's been staring the whole time.
She turns her shoulder in, slightly away from him, and forces herself to reread the problem she left off on.
"James is being stubborn," Sirius tells her.
"I promise you," she says, "I can be much more stubborn about not caring."
But she looks up despite her best efforts. James has disappeared to the other end of the bar to angrily clean the espresso machine, and Sirius is holding out the fiver to her under the counter.
"Slip it in when I'm gone, yeah?" he says.
Lily eyes him curiously, but after a moment she takes it. "All right."
"Ta." He pulls a worn paperback out of his back pocket and flattens it open on the bar, sipping his coffee.
The calm lasts until Sev comes back to talk to Lily, shooting the occasional dirty look at Sirius, who doesn't stick around for long.
Later, when James and Sev aren't looking, she drops the fiver in the Eccleston jar.
The fourth time she goes, Lily is all set up with her calculus homework across the bar when James bothers to tell her that Sev called out sick.
Lily calls him immediately, and he's tremendously apologetic about it, but he doesn't sound properly ill. That doesn't mean he's not, of course. She tells him to feel better and drops her mobile in her bag, then stares at it, mouth pulled to one side.
"Just me tonight," James says. And he almost sounds sorry about it, but Lily must be imagining it.
But then he presents her with a cup of tea, bitter the way she likes it, and maybe he's all right, really. He leaves her alone, instead making the customers laugh, tidying up around the place, and refreshing Lily's tea as needed.
She gets stuck on a particularly thorny problem and wants a break, but Sev's not there, and she's going to regret this later, she really is.
"What course are you in?" she asks him.
He looks up from the sink he's washing. "Er, nothing."
"Oh. Sorry, I just assumed—"
"Nah, it's fine. I'm about the right age and all, working in a coffee shop. Natural conclusion to make."
"Just, er, working here, then?"
"I work a few hours at that Italian place 'round the corner every now and then, but mostly here."
Even her calculus problem is beginning to sound appealing at this point.
"But you," he says, washing the suds off his hands, "a doctor, eh? What kind?"
"Oh, I dunno yet. Haven't made up my mind."
"I thought you were going to say time," he confesses.
She laughs before she remembers she doesn't want to.
"I've got the wrong scarf," she says, flicking the tail of her yellow pashmina. "My time scarf's at the dry cleaners."
He nods. "It's the biggest drawback to time scarves, the dry clean only bit."
"Makes me question my purchase, but then there's all of time and space to explore, so it's worth it."
He grins. "Need some more tea?"
"Yes," she says. "Please."
The weeks fly by and James is there every Friday save one. Sometimes Lily peers in the window when she walks by on her way to class, and he's there more often than not.
"He's always trying to pick up more shifts," Sev tells her. "Arrogant, selfish twat. The rest of us need hours, too. Do you know he persists in shooting straw wrappers at me? Like a child."
Lily nods sympathetically, and definitely doesn't laugh on the inside because Sev probably got hilariously outraged about it.
And then the complaints about James cease because Sev quits on the spot one day, hurling his tea towel to the ground and storming out over something or other. He comes back to their flat in a rage that night, cursing James Potter and Sirius Black and the manager, a diminutive man Lily met once and really liked quite a lot.
Maybe she's not sympathetic enough, though, because he leaves to see his other mates. He doesn't say as much, but she knows.
It's Friday and she needs to study, but she'll never manage at home at this rate.
And so she goes to the quiet, cozily-lit coffee shop.
James is there, of course, with some other woman Sev loathed. She seems decent enough, quiet and heavily-tattooed, and leaves Lily alone after making her a tea.
"Er," James says when she settles in. "I don't know if you know…Severus quit…."
"Oh. Okay. Good."
And maybe he's perking up a little at hearing that, but Lily definitely doesn't blush, and instead throws herself into her chemistry problem set.
James is actually fairly distant tonight, not bothering her too much, but he does seem to linger within chatting distance.
And she takes pity on him.
"What did you think of Saturday's episode?" she asks without looking up.
"Rubbish," he answers immediately.
She grins at him.
"You're getting through your work quickly tonight," he says.
She arches an eyebrow. "Paying attention?"
"Hard to ignore the rustling of the pages."
"It's chemistry night."
"Is that the rustling of finishing your work or skipping ones you don't know?"
"The former, I assure you."
"Ah, good. I'm not going to be loads of help with that, you see."
"Just as well – I've got it covered. It's my favorite subject."
He's listening intently, and it's hard not to get caught up when she starts explaining bonds to him, and he's asking good questions—interesting questions, similar to the ones she's asked—and then he picks up her book.
She shows him the relevant diagrams and her homework and he's getting it. She never has to tell him anything twice. He points at one of her finished problems and seems to understand, at a basic level, how she got through it.
She looks up at him, and maybe her eyes widen a little. "Exactly."
"Aw, look at you," he teases, dropping her problem set back in front of her. "You thought I was some idiot barista, didn't you?"
"You thought I couldn't get into uni."
"I never thought that," she says. "Really."
He smiles and starts the closing procedures for the coffee shop. All the other customers have left, and it's tattoo girl and James and Lily, and he's still asking questions even while cleaning. She answers with what she knows, and what she can look up on her smartphone.
The curious thing is he's not pulling. He's simply interested, and maybe a bit because she is, but still.
Posh accent, brilliant.
Barista and part-time server.
Very curious, indeed.
And then it's just tradition. Him and her textbooks and tea.
A tradition she neglects to mention to Severus, of course, but he's so busy with those people that he doesn't notice. It gives him an excuse to wander off himself.
Some nights James drinks sugary tea. Other nights it's coffee, black. Sirius comes back one night and offers him his flask, but James declines, and Sirius shrugs.
Another bloke joins them, this one shorter and sandy-haired with kind eyes. He places his backpack onto the chair next to Lily, breathing a little heavily, a few snowflakes melting in his hair.
"Remus," he says, offering out a hand. There's a faint bluish tint to his skin.
"Lily," she says.
Remus is another good mate of theirs—tea tonight, he says—and Sirius and James keep a careful eye on him all night. He does look a bit peaky, and when he pulls out his own stack of textbooks, they both scold him for walking around with that much weight on his back.
Sirius keeps James company while he cleans the front windows, arguing without rancor about something or other, and Lily quickly finds that Remus's mild demeanor hides a wicked sense of dry humor, remarks delivered in an accent closer to hers than his mates'. When she subtly pries about James's background, he gives sly answers that don't really answer her questions at all.
It's appropriate, then, that he's at university for law.
"And what course is Sirius in?" she asks.
That, apparently, is within bounds.
"Philosophy. Although I wouldn't say he's in university for it so much as to be a nuisance to the poor professors on the days he bothers to show up for class."
Lily glances over to Sirius, hands in the air as he makes some grand point, and smiles at Remus.
"But I get the sense he and James," she says mournfully, "don't need to go to class, do they?"
"Miserable bastards," Remus agrees.
Neither of them get much work done, too caught up talking about classes and politics and local gossip, but it's a nice break.
"You should join us some night," he says when she packs up her things. "We have drinks at our flat after James gets off work on Fridays."
Lily eyes James, putting away dishes at the far end of the counter, and hides a smile.
"Maybe," she says.
But the next week she's walking down the street with them after close, and it's just as well because Sev was trying to get her out of the flat, presumably so he could have his mates over.
James's flat isn't huge, but it's a sight bigger than Lily's, and unlike her damp cave, his is rich with windows and plants. Where she's got hand-me-downs and thrift shop finds, they've leather sofas and an enormous, fancy television.
"Remus remembers to water the plants," James confesses.
James wouldn't be able to afford this on a barista's salary. If it weren't for his frantic work schedule, she'd suspect his parents had a hand in it.
Unless he just really loves coffee, but that doesn't ring true, either.
One of their other mates is already waiting for them inside, although he claims to live on his own.
"Not on your own," Sirius says. "Your parents pay for it."
Peter bites his lip and nods.
While Sirius mixes drinks from a vast array of liquors from a sprawling bar, Lily strolls along a wall with photos tacked to it. One of the four of them standing in front of a school, and a very well-known one, at that. One of them in a pub, clearly pissed out of their minds, James wearing a pair of felt Christmas antlers. One from the sidelines while James and Sirius play football. One slightly blurry close-up of Remus's arse.
And, a bit separate from the others, one of them with an older couple, unmistakably James's parents.
A hand skims over her shoulder and she turns. It's just James, though, mouth downturned.
She's not used to seeing him without a maroon apron over his white button-up—untucked, of course, a bit wrinkled after work—and black skinny jeans.
"That was the day they finished renovating a wing of the orphanage," he says. "They named it after my parents, of course."
"Dad went not long after, and Mum earlier this year…."
His eyes meet hers and this—this is someone who understands what it's like, to be so young and parentless, to be so young and lost.
She slides a hand over his shoulder, drawing him into a brief hug. He smiles in thanks.
"Less hugging, more drinking," Sirius calls.
They oblige him.
Several hours later, Peter is passed out in a chair, Sirius is giving a tirade to Remus about police brutality, and James and Lily are on the sofa together. They've both brought their feet up, sitting sideways to face each other and leaning back against the armrests.
"Did you always want to be a doctor?" he asks, a sloppy grin on his face.
"No. That was…more recent. Did you always want to be a barista?"
"Lifelong ambition, it's true." He tips his beer at her. "But doctor. That's a nice, useful job to have."
"I'm not one yet, sadly. Wish I did have a time scarf so I could jump through all these years of school." She brushes her fingers through her hair, flipping it over her shoulder. Somehow it's got really warm in the room. "What about you?"
"When I was a kid," he says thoughtfully, "I wanted to be a copper. But my parents…it was out of the question."
"But now you're an adult."
"And they're both dead, so it shouldn't really matter, should it?"
He looks a little wild when he says it, like he can't believe it's true that it does, like he can't believe that they're gone.
"Do you still want to be a copper?" she asks.
A dark look passes over his face. "No. I don't."
Sev demands to know where she was in the morning, and she brushes him off because her head is pounding. She tries to step around him to go crawl into bed, but he cuts off her path, eyes narrowing.
"You were there, weren't you?"
"Oh, yes," she says scathingly, "I was there. I was in an unspecified location whose whereabouts can't possibly be shared."
"You were at the coffee shop. Don't deny it."
"So what if I was? I'm allowed to go where I please."
Sev hugs his arm over his chest, covering some logo she doesn't recognize on his black t-shirt. "He—he fancies you, Lily."
"No. Really? Oh, Severus, catch me, I'm swooning. I'm so faint hearted and innocent, I'd never suspect a man of fancying me."
"No, I mean, of course he fancies you – but he's a pompous prat!"
"He's from money, yeah—"
"Not anymore," Sev says, a bit gleefully.
"His parents gave it all away. Probably because they realized what a fool they'd be leaving their money to otherwise."
Her eyes narrow. "How do you know that?"
He doesn't answer, even after she tries to goad him into it, and soon she shoves him aside to storm into her room, slamming the door shut behind her.
Either she and James exchanged numbers on Friday, or he or one of his mates surreptitiously nabbed her phone when she wasn't looking, but either way she starts getting texts from Time Lord James.
hope you're not too hungover
can't sleep, sirius snoring. entertain me
coming by on friday?
i hope you're coming. work's such a bore when you're not there
no one else cleans the espresso machine properly
it's not even that hard
i am king of the espresso machine, is what that means
just asked. flitwick won't let me put that on my namebadge
i am so offended
i'll bring you some of the bolognese from the italian place if you come on friday
have built a house of cards, you are not here to savor it
With the last one he sends a photo with some colorful filter applied to it. But he has, in fact, made a very impressive house of cards on the bar.
It's not enough to goad her into a reply, though. At least, not yet.
i will teach you how to build a house of cards if you come on Friday
i am an expert card-house-building coach
i'm working on my certificate in it at uni. it's top secret so don't tell anyone
this is lily, right? i found the number in my phone
my mates put you in as friday night ginger
but they're also prats and this might be someone else oh god i'm so sorry
i'll stop bothering you. apologies
She smiles and writes back.
This is Friday Night Ginger. Lovely house of cards.
you minx. please tell me you'll visit on friday
whenever is fine
She receives another photo, this one of his schedule scrawled on a napkin. She replies with a photo of her biology chapter notes, and he sends back a picture of himself with pleading doe-eyes.
It's only Tuesday but she packs up her things and steps into the living room.
Sev is at the door to the flat, talking quietly to some woman in the corridor with long, straggly black hair and hooded eyes. He spins around when he hears Lily approaching, eyes wide with guilt.
He starts stammering something but Lily doesn't even look at him as she walks past. The other woman flicks her eyes up and down Lily as she passes, and sniffs.
Sev can befriend whomever he likes. Lily isn't ashamed of who she is. She just wishes he could say the same.
She swings by the coffee shop again on Thursday unannounced. She doesn't unpack her things—class awaits her—but it was worth getting up early to savor the way his face lights up when she walks in the door.
He grins as he fixes her a tea. "I'm irresistible, I know."
"I'm only here for the tea," she says loftily.
"And the charm. You come for the tea but stay for the charm."
"And Doctor Who." She nods at the two tip jars today, which are currently battling over which are scarier, Daleks or Cybermen.
He hands her the tea and leans forward, forearms on the bar. "These classic Who DVDs keep appearing in the flat."
"Nah, it's Sirius. He says he's expanding his collection but he hates Doctor Who."
"But he loves you."
"Right. So. Do you. Er. Want to come over and watch them with me?"
He's wearing an adorable, vulnerable, hopeful smile, one she can't say no to.
"All right," she says.
They're interrupted by a young woman holding a bright red flyer. "Can I put this up on the board?" she asks James.
He takes the paper from her and skims it over. "I've got to get everything approved by the manager, but I'll give it to him."
"Thanks." She adjusts her messenger bag and heads back out the door.
As soon as she's out of view, James crumples up the flyer, scowling, and drops it in the bin.
"Pricks," he mutters.
"What was it for?" Lily cranes her neck, but she can only see a corner of the paper sticking out.
"Some fucking right-wing rally, with their blame the immigrants, return England to the English rot."
"That's their logo?"
He glances down and nods. "Yeah, why?"
"No reason," Lily says, but a violent fury is building up inside her. She can't take it out on James, though. This anger isn't for him, isn't caused by him.
He's just the messenger of news she should've recognized long ago.
"So," he says slowly, "I'll see you tonight?"
She breaks out of her reverie. "Yeah," she says, and starts heading out.
"It's a date," he says, trying the words out in his mouth.
She turns to push the door open, and looks back to smile at him. "Yeah. It is."
She bursts through the door to their flat that evening to find Sev doing his chemistry work on their cramped kitchen table.
"How's James?" he says, coolly glancing up at her.
"Lovely, thanks," she snaps, and drops her bag on the ground. "How are your racist friends?"
"They're not racist—"
But he's wearing that shirt again, and the rally was this afternoon, and he was there. She stopped by between classes, and she didn't see him but she heard them, vile hatred spewed out to a cheering crowd.
"I know what your shirt means, you twat," she says. "You said you weren't a part of them, but you're wearing that shirt—"
He jumps to his feet and holds out a hand. "Lily, it's not like that—"
"If they had their way, I wouldn't be here."
"It's not about you, it's about our country—"
"And immigrants are a part of it!"
"It's just trying to put some reasonable limits—"
"You liked my mum, didn't you? She took care of you plenty of times and now you want her to have never come here at all!"
"But she was just Irish—"
"Oh, so that's fucking okay, because she was white?"
"No, no, Lily, I'm not explaining this well, you should talk to—"
"I don't want to talk to any of your fucking friends, Severus. I want you out."
"Out of this flat."
"It's my flat, too, I'm on the lease—"
"Then fine! I'll go."
She grabs her bag and marches into her room, eyes filling with tears as she hauls out her battered suitcase.
"Lily, don't go, please." He doesn't step foot into her room, though, just lingers in the doorway looking anxious.
"I can't live with someone who's a part of that group. Who'd wear their fucking shirt like it's some band."
She yanks open her drawers and tosses some of her clothes into her suitcase.
"Where will you go?" he tries. "You've nowhere to stay—"
"As a matter of fact," she says, whirling on him, smiling savagely, "I've a date with James Potter tonight."
A look of utter revulsion contorts his face, and she revels in it.
"Lily," he says as he follows her into the loo.
She grabs what she needs for a few days, hurls them into her suitcase, and zips it up.
"Don't go," he says one last time.
But she only sniffs, holds her chin high, and leaves.
Sirius answers the door and gapes a bit. "James, you didn't ask her to move in, did you? I told you that was premature—"
"What?" James's head peaks over Sirius's shoulder. "Lily, what happened?"
"It's Severus," she says, and she's still fucking crying. "He's in that fucking racist group and I can't live with him right now."
James shoves Sirius aside, who shoots him an annoyed look for it, and grabs Lily's suitcase.
"Can I stay here tonight?" she asks as she steps inside.
"It's Sirius's flat—"
"'Course," Sirius says. But he looks uncomfortably at James, who's now hugging a crying Lily, and steps toward the door. "I'll, er, be back late."
James settles her on the couch and fetches her a tea. "D'you want some whiskey in it? Sirius has some really good selections."
"No, tea's perfect, thanks."
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah," she says, swiping away the last of her tears. "I'm grand. I will be. I didn't—I was being stupid, thinking he wasn't really…."
"He used to say things at work…." He looks down. "I wondered why you were friends."
"We grew up together, and I think he's a bit swept up in it, but you can't—you don't fall into those sort of groups without believing that shit, at least a little."
"He didn't seem like an idiot, generally."
"He's brilliant at some things. But he's…himself."
James nods. "Fancy a Chinese and some Doctor Who to make you feel better?"
"Yeah." She manages a smile. "That'd be lovely."
The food comes and she insists on paying—she's put him out, and all—and he pops in the DVD. Old Who is so ridiculous, so wonderfully mockable. James's commentary has her in stitches, but she can hold her own, too. The costumes, the set, the dialogue – no topic is safe from them.
And even though she's just effectively made herself homeless and isn't swimming in money and she has no job, things seem fine, right then. James is warm next to her, the smell of leftover Kung Pao chicken lingering in the room, some fabulous whiskey on the rocks for dessert.
James makes it seem like everything will be all right.
Sirius hasn't come back yet and Remus is visiting his parents for a long weekend, and she could—
While the Doctor gets himself stuck in an air vent or something, a problem which will probably last at least an episode, she turns to James. He turns to look back at her, grinning and ready to make some new remark about this change in the Doctor's situation, and she kisses him. He's quick on the draw and starts matching her movement for movement, hands tangling in her hair. She kneels up on the sofa, and he turns sideways, and then she's on top of him, snogging him wholeheartedly while he leans back against a pillow.
"You don't owe me this," he manages between kisses.
"That's not why," she says, and kisses him again.
She loses herself in his lips and his hair and his hands until the episode runs out and the DVD starts looping on the main screen. James gropes around with one hand for the remote and shuts it off, then turns back to her with a sly grin.
"You going to show me my sleeping quarters?" she says.
He looks hesitant, and she knows why, so she kisses him again.
"This is about you, James," she says. "Nothing else."
"Not just me." He leans up to kiss her nose. "You, too, you know."
He takes her by the hand and walks her down the corridor, casting little smiles her way.
There's not much to his room, just a mattress on the floor with rumpled sheets, an IKEA dresser in the corner, and posters of rock bands pinned to the walls.
With so little to distract from it, her eyes are immediately drawn to the unopened condom packet sitting prominently on top of James's sheets.
"Ohmygod." He leaps forward and snatches it up. "Sorry. Sirius is—he left it as a joke, he didn't know you'd be staying and—"
But she can't even hear him over her own laughter.
He kisses her through a laugh, and she kisses him back and pushes him onto the bed.
And it's just fun, being around James, being with James. It's not like some of the other blokes she's been with, where it's a bit nerve-wracking, trying to impress, trying to please. With James it's all laughs and pleasant groans and words murmured against skin. At one point she loses her balance and collapses on top of him, and they grin at each other and try it again.
She's never believed in anything like magic, but this feels like it, a warmth curling through her, making her feel like she could fly.
Eventually they hear Sirius stomping around and they giggle madly over the whole situation before finally drifting off.
In the morning she darts out to use the loo wearing one of James's white button-ups, but she freezes in the corridor: Sirius is at the other end, one of his eyebrows slowly arching upward.
"I forgot pajamas," she explains.
"Mhmmm," he says, and steps back into his room.
She feels the heat radiating off her cheeks and practically leaps into the loo.
When she runs back to James's room, her suitcase has appeared inside. Small mercies from Sirius Black.
James is still passed out, sprawled across the bed in her absence, with no sign of waking up anytime soon. She'd curl up with him, but her stomach's growling, and she regretfully removes James's shirt and dons one of her own.
Properly dressed, she makes her way out into the kitchen to find Sirius with a stack of take-out boxes.
"Thought you two'd be hungry," he says, peeling back the foil on a carton of scrambled eggs.
She pulls up a barstool and helps herself to some delicious bacon. Sirius pulls up next to her and speaks without ever properly looking at her.
"You can stay a while, if you like. And if James doesn't mind."
"I'm going to go looking for a place today."
"I was disowned," he says, as though this ends the discussion. "My family's in that same fucking group. I had nothing and James's parents took me in, and then my uncle died and left me a fortune."
"Oh. Well, I appreciate your generosity. I know James does, too."
And she desperately wants to ask where James's money is, but she can't. It's too rude.
She doesn't have to.
"James's parents were brilliant in every way." He picks apart a piece of bacon. "His mum got a bit senile at the end and it was—well, it was fucking awful. And James was supposed to get everything, but this bloody man who works for the orphanage somehow swindled her out of it, at the end."
"If she was senile, wouldn't anything like that look really suspicious? Like illegal suspicious?"
"They were keeping it quiet that her mind was going, and she was never—he was bloody clever about it. We've had a hell of a time proving it, though, and James eventually made us give up."
"That's so…I don't even know what to say."
"Yeah. And guess who that fucking prick supports politically?"
"No," Lily breathes.
"Got it in one. So stay, if it keeps you away from those fuckers."
Lily nabs a piece of buttered toast out of another container. "My mum was an immigrant. She came here to work."
"'Course she did. And they hate her for it, so fuck them."
"Yeah." She smiles. "Fuck them."
James has half woken up by the time she slips back into his room with a plate of food and a cup of black coffee.
"Cheers," he says groggily, and pushes himself up into a sitting position.
He lost his shirt at some point, and she resists the urge to reach out and run a hand up his chest. Instead she hands him her offerings and sits on top of the sheets.
"Courtesy of your flatmate."
"He hates cooking." He sips his coffee. "I don't have time and Remus can only manage so often."
"He told me about…your mum. And the money."
James grimaces. "I s'pose you had to know sooner or later. You've fallen into bed with a penniless rich boy."
"Just as well since I wasn't expecting to get paid."
He raises his coffee cup at her. "I only offer tips in the form of outstanding tea. And card house lessons."
"I've no problem with this." She scooches to sit next to him. "I really don't care, you know. About any of it. But for you…is there really no way of getting it all back?"
"Riddle…he's such a sly bastard, and I looked into it, and I don't think so." He smiles sadly. "It's not even about the money, really. I mean, a bit, but mostly—I don't want him to have it. I wouldn't have minded nearly as much if it had been for the orphanage, but I'm pretty confident he's somehow funneling it away."
"Me too. Mostly I wish how he found out my mum's mind was going. Nobody knew except us and the nurse, and I checked her out, and I really don't think she did it."
Lily presses a kiss against his lips, a slow, apologetic one. He tastes like morning and coffee, and she ruffles up his deliciously tousled hair with one hand. "I'd get it back for you if I could."
"Sure you would, gold digger." James grins at her. "I really fancy you, you know."
"I rather guessed as much. But that's all right." She strokes his hair, this time fondly. "I really fancy you, too."
From there it's a whirlwind of searching for a flat and finding how to get to class from their place and putting off getting her things. But she's running out of pants and after a few days she has to go back.
James offers help from himself and Sirius, who looks rather put out about it, but Lily doesn't take them. They'd only incite Severus. Instead she takes Remus and Peter to the flat during Sev's chemistry class.
Except apparently he's skiving off, fiddling with some bizarre looking machine on the coffee table.
He's on his feet when she walks in, looking guilty.
"Lily," he says.
She doesn't acknowledge him, walking straight through to her room, Remus and Peter at her heels. Sev pleads with her the whole time it takes them to gather up her things. Remus isn't allowed to carry heavy objects—apparently he's some heart problems—but she and Peter heave her mattress down and on top of Remus's tiny Volkswagen, and Remus carries a couple bags of clothes.
A lot of the furniture she has to leave behind – she's nowhere to put it yet, and even if she did, she bought them with Sev, and only has claim to half of them.
As her room empties out, and she takes the ficus plant in the corner, he grows angry, losing control of his temper as he always does – it's just never been with her, before.
He's got such a tongue on him, such a quick, vicious wit, and by the time she pulls the car door shut, she's crying.
James is waiting for her when they get back. He pulls her into his arms and strokes her hair while Sirius and Peter prop her mattress up against James's wall.
"He was all I had left," she whispers to James.
"It's okay," he says. "It's okay."
And it was supposed to be temporary, but she ends up living with the boys for a week, and then two, and she has been looking—in earnest—but she hasn't been able to get off her other lease yet and so she can't afford anywhere else.
She pays for a lot of the take-out food that comes their way, which Sirius doesn't like but tolerates.
And she and James…they just fall together. Into a relationship, into friendship, into bed. Or the sofa but just that once because Remus's poor heart never needs to suffer through that again.
There's less talk of her moving out. They layer her mattress on top of James's and she buys them nice maroon sheets.
There are long hours at the coffee shop, of her studying, of him working, of them talking.
One early morning, when the light's more of an implication than a fact, she hovers over him in bed, ready to kiss him. He slips a hand up to take out her clip, and her hair tumbles down around her face, tickling his nose.
She lays down with her face on his chest and murmurs into his skin, "I don't know what I'm doing."
"Neither do I," he says.
And she thinks, for the first time, that she loves him.
Once they've settled that she's not going anywhere, once they've caught their breath, she starts wondering, again.
"Why d'you work in the coffeeshop?" she asks over dinner. Remus and Sirius have conveniently vacated the flat for them, leaving Lily and James with a Chinese at the kitchen table.
"Money?" he says, confused.
"But you could've gone to uni without your parents' money."
"Oh. Well." He smiles without humor. "I didn't know what I wanted to do, so it seemed like a bit of a waste."
"Do you know now?"
He looks to the side.
"James," she says. "Tell me."
"I will if you tell me why you want to be a doctor."
And she realizes the enormity of the question she's asked – she doesn't really want to say it either. Turning the words into something spoken makes it seem too big, too ridiculous. It only ever sounded reasonable and safe inside her head.
But this is James, and he's so optimistic despite everything, and she says: "I thought...I thought I might go join Doctors Without Borders."
"That's brilliant," he says immediately, smiling.
"Everyone says they want to do that, though—"
"But you'll make it. I know you will."
"Maybe," she says.
It's the first time she's told anyone and it's so silly, to find his words so tremendously comforting; they're just platitudes, really, but they're not. Not from him. He really does think she can do it, and she wants to give him that same emotional salve.
"What are you going to do, then?" she asks.
"This was a trade, remember."
James pokes his chopsticks in his rice. "I work in a coffee shop but I want to be a writer," he mumbles.
"You cliché!" she blurts out.
A blush steals across his face. "Sorry."
"Oh, no, James. Sorry, I'm an idiot. It's just—that's wonderful."
"Being a doctor is something important, and even being a policeman would be better—"
"Writing affects people deeply. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"I don't do poetry or anything, I like—I like writing about problems. And people. And, well, things like that."
"That's really fantastic. We need people to do that."
"Do you…d'you want to read something?"
"Yes," she says, and she spends the two minutes of him disappearing into their room terrified because what if it's awful or cheesy, she'd never be able to lie to him about it—
But, of course, it's brilliant.
His article on city homelessness makes her laugh within the first paragraph, and she glances up to catch a vulnerable look on his face while he busies himself with the kettle.
She devours the whole article and comes away inspired about what the city and the people should do about it.
He's hovering in the kitchen, back to her, and she closes the distance between them and hugs him from behind.
"That was amazing, James," she says, letting go.
He turns around, beaming. "Really?"
She nods and gives him a chaste kiss, her hand lingering on his chest.
"I want...I want to write," he confesses. "About problems like that. And then convince all my parents' old friends to give me loads of money to go fix things."
She laughs. "Sounds like a brilliant plan to me."
"I hope so, anyway."
"You know," she says quietly, leaning in against him, "there are loads problems where Doctors Without Borders go."
His smile stretches across his face, and he picks her up and twirls her around.
"That's life all sorted then," he says, setting her back on the ground while she laughs giddily. "Glad we got that out of the way."
"I say we celebrate by banging on the sofa."
"I've never heard anyone actually call it banging before. Who even says that around here? "
"I do. And I insist that we bang on the sofa right now, in fact. Remus isn't around."
"That's so unhygienic, but all right. You win, Doctor Evans."
And she thinks of something that makes her shove him over to the sofa and snog him senseless.
Because, of course, it's seeming more and more like that she won't be Doctor Evans.
It's not always perfect and not always fun between them, but they make up for the rough spots in spades. She works frantically at her classes and makes a point of knowing where those awful rallies will be so she can avoid them. Sev texts her until she blocks his number. James gets promoted at work and snags an internship at the local paper.
And soon it's not the four boys and her, it's the five of them. Together. Figuring out life.
And maybe all their dreams won't come true exactly as they planned them one day in a kitchen. Things go awry—Remus ends up hospitalized for a week, Peter grows a bit distant sometimes, Sirius runs into his parents—but that's half the fun of life, she thinks.
They'll figure it out together.