Positive Reinforcement

Merlin's Impressive Derriere

As they walked towards the Black Lake, the lingering remnants of awkwardness between James and Lily dissolved until they were sharing the easy rapport they had created every night in the common room.

Lily realized they were passing by the section of shore that she had assumed was their destination. Friends and couples dotted the hillside enjoying the sun, studying, talking, or eating. She saw one auburn-haired Ravenclaw girl kissing her glasses-wearing boyfriend and her stomach gave an odd half flip. If she squinted, they almost bore a resemblance to her and James.

"So where are we headed, James?" she asked to distract herself from the other couple, who were still going strong.

"I have a spot," he responded mysteriously.

He was taking her to a clearing on a hill above the lake, a place the Marauders had discovered on a full moon in fifth year, but he couldn't tell her that. Besides, it would leave her wondering how he had found a secret place in a school where quiet and privacy were relative rarities. He couldn't wait for Lily to see what he had set up there.

As they crested another hill, Lily spotted what was waiting for them and smiled at the sight of a blue blanket, a few white cushions, and a covered straw picnic basket. Against the backdrop of the lake, it made an idyllic picture and Lily could hardly believe that James had created this when a month earlier all of his energy had gone to making mischief and mayhem. The effectiveness of her training regimen absolutely boggled the mind.

They reached the blanket and settled down. Lily felt a slight twinge of disappointment when he sat at a respectable distance from her, although he offered her all of the cushions. Now that he was nearing…tolerable, he had stopped with the insane attempts to romance her. She couldn't believe she was feeling slightly nostalgic for the antics that had driven her mad for so long.

"Alright!" James said, pulling the basket towards them. "Are you ready?"

Lily leaned forward as he opened the basket with a dramatic flourish, expecting to see some of the normal lunch fare from the Great Hall. Instead, her nose registered a smell that brought her back to her childhood and to summers in the Muggle world in an instant and a moment later her eyes confirmed the truth.

She looked up at James and incredulously said, "Pizza?"

"Yeah! Did I get it right?" James asked eagerly.

"How do you even know what pizza is?"

"Well, I heard you talking about it one time last year, with Mary I think, and you seemed pretty excited about the concept so I wanted to figure out what it was. I tried to look it up in the library for a while, except I thought it was spelled P-E-E-T-S-A so I couldn't find anything in there. Eventually Remus figured out what I was talking about and he told me it was a popular Muggle food, you remember his mum's a Muggle, so he's had it before with her. Then I kinda forgot about it for a while then but this week I started thinking about what we should do today, and I thought it would be good to get something we don't eat every day here. So I've been working with the house elves and Moony to get the recipe right. The elves were really eager to learn something new and they've started talking about putting it in the Great Hall, actually. Sirius and Pete tried a lot of the attempts too and they're both crazy about it. Padfoot talked about Merlin's statuesque bottom or whatever for a solid ten minutes when we tried this recipe yesterday and Moony gave it the thumbs-up so I figured this was the one! Remember when I asked you in the common room if I had food on my face? I actually had been to the kitchens earlier tasting the pizza and I was paranoid you'd figure it out before I could surprise you."

Lily stared at him in disbelief and shook her head but picked up a slice of pizza. It was incredible what he could do when he devoted his energy to making her happy instead of making her angry. James grinned at her and did the same.


Two and a half hours later, they were still talking and laughing. Lily, blushing, was telling him about a prank she'd pulled on Marlene in first year. Marlene was a pureblood and had been a little snobby towards Lily at first until Lily had used regular Muggle superglue to attach all of Marlene's shoes to the wall of their dormitory. Marlene had been forced to swallow her pride and ask Lily for help, and since then there had been respect and friendship between the girls.

"I knew there was a reason I liked you," James chuckled and lay back on the blanket. He looked surprised when Lily flopped down and did the same.

He rolled onto his side to face her and she turned her head to look at him. Lily's stomach tightened in nervousness as James finally stopped giggling at the idea of her pulling a prank on someone.

His face turned more serious and he reached out a hand towards her. Her heart stopped for a moment, thinking he was going to brush her cheek.

Instead, he just tugged the end of her braid lightly. James thought it was his favorite hairstyle on her, remembering how she looked with wisps escaping from a long plait when she reprimanded him for jinxing the showerheads in the Slytherin girls' lavatory to turn their skin green in fourth year. He could tell her heart hadn't really been in that one, especially since he'd seen her fighting a smile earlier at Narcissa Black's anguished screeching.

Lily started turning a deep pink when he touched her hair. James panicked, thinking he had upset the delicate balance that existed between them by overstepping the boundaries.

"Are you mad? Sorry I pulled your hair. The color of your face's nearing a six on the Lily Evans Rage Scale—" he started to say.

"You have a Rage Scale for me based on the shade of my face? Wait, never mind, I doubt I want to know about it. No, James, you prat, I'm not angry. You did very well all week and you did a really good job today too."

James studied her face, looking at the color lingering in her cheeks. The shade seemed to merit a four on the Rage Scale, but her expression was totally different, almost hopeful? A beautiful possibility occurred to James, and he screwed up all of his Gryffindor courage to pursue it.

"A good job today, you say? Good enough to merit a little more rewarding, perhaps?" James asked cheekily.

Lily's eyes flickered to his mouth briefly but she gave her best noncommittal hum.

The look in James's eyes changed to something both determined and vulnerable and he scooted towards her on the blanket, twisting his neck to press his lips to hers. The angle was awkward and the flavor slightly resembled pizza but the kiss was almost unbearably sweet and it felt right and Lily felt the weird ball of nerves that had been growing in her stomach all week melt and turn into a kind of heat that made it seem natural to card her fingertips lightly through the dark hair at his temple to the nape of his neck and pull his head a little bit closer as she opened her lips under his—

And then Sirius Black's voice broke through the moment and wrenched them apart.

"Kids, that was more beautiful than Merlin's impressive derrière and so very long in coming. You know, I really feel like I had a hand in all of this—"

James cut him off with a groan. "Scram, Padfoot. I'm busy being absolutely, perfectly, deliriously happy and your ugly mug is really ruining the scenery and the mood."

"Well excuse the hell out of me for being curious about the outcome of today's bloody 'reward session.' If that's not the most suggestive thing I've ever heard you come up with…how can you think 'reward session' and not have your mind go there? Knew this was going to happen," Sirius was muttering but he departed with a saucy wink at the pair.

In the silence that followed, Lily started to panic internally. What the hell had she done? What if they had ruined their tentative friendship? What if he reverted back to the immature prat he'd always been? Oh Merlin, what if she was a bad kisser and he didn't like her anymore?

James was panicking even worse than Lily was. He'd really messed that up. He didn't even ask before he kissed her! Lily had been turning him down for years and he had gone and kissed her when she didn't say he could. She was going to use the escape clause and get rid of the behavior system, and he wouldn't even be able to talk to her as a friend like he had been for the last beautiful week. He could kill Padfoot for interrupting the best moment of his life and bringing him back to reality. James suddenly realized they had been silent for too long and said the first thing that popped into his head.

"I can't believe it was only a bit over a month ago you jabbing me in the chest was the high point of my existence."

"I can't believe it took me almost six years to figure out that you enjoyed being scolded."

"Only by you, love."

This time, it was Lily who leaned across the gap to kiss him and silenced the last of their worries. She scooted her whole body over to his after a moment, aligning her head with his shoulder and burying her face there to avoid looking at him as she said the next part.

"Well, after all this effort to train you, I can hardly let someone else enjoy the fruits of my labor," she muttered.

"Very true," James agreed, mouth pressed the top of her head, pretending that his heart wasn't about to beat out of his chest and take flight at her words. He wondered if she could feel its acceleration. "Although I think maybe we should work out a new rewards system."

"Yeah?" Lily tilted her head back and braved a look at his face. She read unmitigated adoration in his expression and joy and heat in his eyes. "And how are you thinking you ought to be rewarded for good behavior from now on?"

"I'm sure I'll come up with something," James replied with a wicked grin as he pulled her face to his again, with no plans to let go anytime soon.

"The wonders of positive reinforcement…" Lily murmured into the kiss with an unstoppable smile curving her lips upward.



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