Merlin's Sculpted Butt Cheeks
It became a routine for James and Lily to meet in the Gryffindor common room at midnight each night to review James's conduct that day and classify it as good, neutral, or bad.
Lily found that when his wit wasn't directed towards making her life as miserable as he could he was quite funny. He argued impassionedly for the deeds that he considered good and she often found herself laughing and agreeing with him, which was certainly a novel experience.
On Saturday night, looking at him as they sat in the beanbag chairs that had become their regular meeting place for behavioral reviews, she realized that she could sort of see, in a totally objective and detached kind of way, what girls like Mary McDonald were always going on about with him. Although his hair was a bit of a mess, it was thick and healthy-looking, and he had glasses but they accentuated his nice hazel eyes and sort of drew attention to his eyebrows which weren't bad either, and his lips were—nope. Lily cut herself off right there. It was too weird to look at him that way. James had the maturity level of a toddler. He still needed a rewards system in order to incentivize him not to be a total pain in her neck, for Merlin's sake.
"Do I have food on my face or something?" James's voice interrupted Lily's internal monologue. He ruffled his hair nervously in the way she used to find hideously annoying but which today didn't seem to bother her as much.
"Why would you have food on your face at midnight? Did you go to the kitchens tonight? I think that might bump you down to neutral for the day," she teased him to distract from the fact that she'd been staring at him in silence for almost a full minute.
"What? No way! Going to the kitchens doesn't bother anyone. The house elves love me, Sirius told me they've been asking about me since I haven't been in a while."
"Hmm. If you say so," she acquiesced, pleased he hadn't pushed harder about her staring.
"So if today was good and not neutral, that brings me to three reward hours tomorrow. Four good days, one neutral, and one bad. Shall we meet here at, say, one o'clock? And don't eat lunch beforehand-I have a plan." James looked absolutely thrilled at the prospect of three hours of receiving Lily's undivided attention. This was going to be even better than any of her rants had ever been.
"Okay," Lily agreed, feeling a nervous flutter in her stomach again at the thought. "You'd better be good all morning—wouldn't want to lose all your rewards at the last minute."
James looked horrified at the mere thought and resolved to shut himself in his room for the entirety of Sunday morning so as to avoid any inadvertent bad behavior.
Ten minutes to one o'clock on Sunday found James pacing in front of the beanbags.
"What if she decides not to come after all? What if I screwed up this morning without realizing it and I lose all my hours? Padfoot, what if—"
"Kindly shut up, Prongs. Lily will be down any minute, Hestia said she's upstairs changing or curling her hair or whatever it is females do when they're alone."
"But Sirius, this is my chance. I know it. I have three hours today to show her I can avoid being a prat and keep this thing going. Do you realize she's spoken to me more in the last week than in all six of our years at Hogwarts put together?"
"In the name of Merlin's sculpted left butt cheek and his equally sculpted right butt cheek, will you please calm down? You're not going to do yourself any favors by scaring her off when she comes downstairs."
James obeyed and sat down on a beanbag chair, jiggling his leg with nerves. It was odd how meeting up with Lily every night in this very spot could feel so comfortable and normal and today's upcoming three-hour reward for good behavior was filling him with anxiety.
Upstairs in her dormitory, Lily checked her appearance in the mirror and smoothed her already wrinkle-free skirt over her thighs again. Merlin, what was she doing? Today was just James's reward for acting like a normal person for most of the week. She took one last deep breath, tucked her wand into a pocket along the waistband of her skirt, and walked down the steps to face the prospect of an afternoon with James Potter.
James was restraining himself (a new experience this week) from making a comment to Lily about this being a date. Merlin knew it was hard. His heart was screaming at him to maximize the time today and plan something romantic, try to finally win her over now that she'd seen another side of him. However, his head was afraid that if he scared her off today during reward time she would put a stop to all of it. Their contract had given her an "escape clause" in which every Sunday night she would decide if the rewards system would continue the next week. Lily had insisted on it, because with exams coming up she didn't want to be forced to deal with him if she got too busy "or if you revert back entirely." James took the "back" as encouragement—she was certainly aware that this past week he'd been different.
He just didn't think he could take it if he lost the newfound camaraderie they had been sharing. He'd thought that having her shriek at him was the best life got, but it was absolutely nothing to having her laugh with him. That way, he received the attention he craved from her, didn't get detention, and she seemed overall much more fond of the experience. So he couldn't bugger this up today.
"James?" Lily asked him. He felt a shiver go through his body when she said his first name but didn't let it show. It would probably creep her out. But maybe he could start calling her Lily instead of Evans?
"Yeah, sorry. I was just out of it for a minute there! Are you ready for three hours of enjoyment and amusement with James Potter?" he chickened out from using her first name.
"It'll be enough for me if I don't horribly regret every decision that led me here in three hours," Lily responded with a slight smile.
"You won't, Lily, I swear! Just tell me indoors or outdoors and get ready for a totally non-onerous afternoon." James congratulated himself on managing to call her Lily without any immediate consequences.
"Wow, onerous is a big word, James!" Lily teased. "Um, outside, I guess," she said, looking out the window at the clear May weather.
As they walked down from the tower and out of the castle, Lily noticed they were getting curious stares from every non-Gryffindor they encountered. She remembered with a start that all of their meetings had taken place in the common room and word may not have spread to all of the houses that the former enemies were now on friendly terms.
She spotted Mary McDonald with her housemate Emmeline Vance, and Lily's potions partner questioned her with her eyes to make sure James wasn't holding her against her will. Lily sent Mary a reassuring smile in response and the Hufflepuffs walked away, heads together and whispering furiously. Lily couldn't seem to bring herself to care about the gossip that would surely be spreading faster than Fiendfyre through the school when she glanced at James beside her.