N.E.W.T level Transfiguration was hard.
It wasn't one of Lily's best subjects, so she worked hard at it to get good marks.
But it was difficult when she was distracted.
For Lily, it was even worse than usual, because her distraction was not a something, but a someone.
Lily had escaped the many noises and distractions of the Gryffindor Common Room, and resided in the Heads' Common Room. It was just her luck that she faced an even bigger distraction.
Her distraction went by the name of James Potter. He had settled down on the comfiest armchair near the fireplace. It also happened to be situated directly opposite the table Lily was working at.
James had come back freshly showered and changed after his Quidditch practice, greeted her with a 'Hey, Evans' and started to read 'A Chaser's Ultimate Guide to Scoring Penalty Shots'. The pair of them had been in silence ever since.
Lily would never admit it, but she had been sneaking her fair share of glances at James. But really, it wasn't her fault that her stomach flipped every time she looked at him. Every now and then he would ruffle his already messy, slightly damp hair, and Merlin, he looked good.
Lily smothered that thought, making a tiny noise of annoyance. It caused James to look up and shoot a lopsided smile at her. Lily was positive she nearly melted, but managed to respond with a wobbly smile. She looked back down, forcing herself not to whack her head repeatedly on the table. She used to despise that smile, and the 'hands-running-through-hair' habit! That boy was going to the death of her. Not to mention the top two buttons of his shirt, which were undone, exposing a bit of his drool-worthy chest.
But, it wasn't just his looks. After being forced to work with him outside of class, she started to see a mature, loyal and different side of James. They had gotten to know each other more than ever and any past impressions were quickly discarded. Nowadays, she seemed to find every small thing he did attractive; the way he loosened his tie at the end of the day, his laugh, how he listened to her attentively when she was talking, the way his eyes lit up when he talked about something he was passionate about.
"Evans, are you going to work on that until midnight?" His voice jolted her out of deep thought.
"Well, Potter, some of us actually want to get ahead of our work and avoid the stress later. Maybe you should try it sometime?” Lily didn't add that since he had come into the room, she hadn't written more than a small paragraph.
James closed his book and put a hand to his chin in mock thought. "Nah, it's far too hard to break the habit of leaving work until the last minute."
Lily shook her head, but a small smile was on her lips. They considered each other friends now, despite their rocky relationship in the past. How exactly it had happened, nobody knew. But after all, Lily mused, people do change.
"Hey Evans, why don’t you stop working for this evening and relax?"
"No can do, Potter," Lily replied.
"Fine. Five sugar quills in exchange for not doing any work for the rest of the day?" How he knew Sugar quills were her favourite candy, Lily still did not know. She was a sucker for them, but she had a competitive streak, so she wasn't giving up that easily.
"Bribery won't work, Potter!" she said in a singsong voice.
"What if I give you my essay, so you can copy off me?" James suggested. Lily gave him a look.
"Okay, okay, I haven't done it, but you're going to look like a banshee in the morning if you carry on like this," James said matter-of-factly.
"Wow, thanks James..." Lily muttered. There was a pause in which Lily thought he had given up.
"Alright, I dare you to stop working relax for the rest of the evening."
James had played his trump card. Unfortunately for Lily, it was a very good card. Due to her said competitive streak, she could never back down from a dare. She couldn't count how many times people had used it against her. Only her friends knew about that weakness, so once she considered the Marauders her friends, it got a whole lot more dangerous.
"Well played..." Lily sighed as she cleared away her books. James let out a whoop in triumph, causing her to shake her head despairingly.
"It's a miracle: Lily Evans actually agreed to-"
"Shout a bit louder, I don’t think they can hear you in China" Lily interrupted dryly. He smiled brightly in response, motioning her to sit down.
"Wanna play a game?" James asked, jumping in his armchair like an over-excited child.
"What type of game?" Lily said cautiously, once she was settled down on the sofa.
"It's called hangman. It's a muggle game."
Lily gave James a look. He looked down and turned a bit pink as he realised Lily was a Muggleborn and had probably played it more than him.
"And how do you know about hangman, then?" As always, Lily's curiosity got the better of her.
"Ah." James turned a bit pinker "You see, one-day Pa- Sirius got bored and kept annoying Remus. So Remus taught him this muggle game. Sirius claims that he only plays it so he can write rude words for Remus to find, but the rest of us think he's only doing it to learn really long and fancy words."
Lily smiled, “Okay, let’s play.”
James laid out the rules for Lily "The winner is the first to reach the score of five rounds. To win a round you need more than two points. There are four words per round, two for each player, and each word is worth one point. To win a point, you must either guess the word of the other person correctly before you die, or you write such an amazing word, the other person gives up and stops guessing. Simple! I have plenty of words up my sleeve that you’ll never get, so prepare to lose, Evans."
"You're forgetting who you're up against, though" Lily smirked.
"Ah, but you're forgetting that I’m friends with Remus. So my victory is almost confirmed."
"Oh really. Want to find out for sure?" Lily asked leaning closer to James.
"You bet I do," James replied, leaning closer as well. Holy Hippogriffs, were they flirting? Lily's stomach felt like it had been hit with a Wobbling Jinx and her heart was pattering. She moved back, feeling her cheeks become hot as she blushed profusely.
“Game on,” Lily said, and the Hangman contest began.
They were at four rounds each when the clock chimed ten in the Heads' common room. It was a battle, a battle of words. There had been a few mishaps during the game. They had banned spells in written form on their game, because one of Lily's words were 'Aguamenti', and when James correctly guessed the word, he had been waving his wand absentmindedly and nearly flooded the room. It was those times when Lily had to restrain herself from hexing James to Saturn.
It was James' turn and he surprised her by writing two words. The first word was two letters and the second had four.
"Oh, so you're playing that way..." muttered Lily, deep in thought. Small words were sometimes the hardest; there were more letters to choose from and a bigger chance of getting hung. Lily went the practical way and started with the vowels.
"E?" Bingo! Now the word looked like:
_ E _ _ _ E
There were only certain consonants that went with 'e'. Le, Be, Me, He. Wait - He! Convinced, it was the first letter was 'H' she confirmed with James.
But her only response was smirk and a line drawn across for the beam of wood the man would hang from. There were only two other combinations. It wouldn't make sense if the short sentence began with 'Me'. So Lily turned to the other option. The letter 'B'. Which proved to be correct:
BE _ _ _ E
"Nah. Wrong again!" sang James.
BE _ I _ E
What would the world be? At this rate James would probably win the whole thing. It could be 'tide', 'ride, 'pride' – No, that was five letters- 'fine', 'nine', 'line', 'mine', 'pine'. Then Lily's breath hitched. It couldn't be. He couldn't have written that. It was impossible. He'd given up on her ages ago. She sank back into the sofa.
"Yeah..." Lily said breathlessly. She swung her hair round to cover her face as she pretended to act defeated. She could almost hear James grinning as he added another line to the tally of his points.
"Uh, we're running out of parchment. I'll be right back with more..." Feeling flustered, Lily hastily rose and went to her dormitory to fetch more parchment, her thoughts dwelling on the words James had come up with.
The moment Lily disappeared around the corner, James' grin fell. He muffled his groan with his hands. He didn't know what came over him, to make him write 'Be Mine' for the hangman game. It was so cheesy. Hell, it was the epitome of cheesy. Thank Merlin she hadn't figured it out.
Cursing his stupidity for writing that, he gathered up the many pieces of used parchment and put it to one side. While filling the ink pot using magic, he began to daydream. He'd been intrigued by Lily from the time she entered their compartment on their first train to Hogwarts. He'd wondered why anyone would want to be friends with Snape. She had always been the odd one out. She had always been that girl with the pretty green eyes and the long red hair.
It was only in third year he had worked up the courage to ask her to go to Hogsmeade with him. Much to his chagrin, she had refused. He suspected that it was the fact that he had shouted the offer down the corridor in front of their whole class. He had been infatuated with her ever since. And he still was, to be honest.
Fifth year was a turning point, after the 'incident'. Sixth year was civil conversations with Lily. There had been the odd time he'd ask her out (with the usual answer: 'No.') but he had matured a lot more, according to teachers, friends and his parents. But this year had been very surprising. To go from acquaintance, to enemy (or crush, in James' eyes), to tolerated house member then close friend, it was a miracle.
He didn’t know when his infatuation had become love. But one thing he was always told about himself, was that when he was set upon something - or someone - he would never change his mind. James had said he’d gotten over her in sixth year, but deep down, he knew that he would always, always love her. Lily Evans would always be the apple of his eye.
"Hey. Sickle for your thoughts?" A breathless voice called out. Lily was at the foot of the stairs to her dorm, clutching a stack of parchment, her cheeks rosy from running down the stairs in a hurry.
"Eh, nothing really," he replied "Just thinking up a really good word which would baffle you so much you couldn't think straight," James added cheekily. But kissing you senseless would work as well, he thought ruefully. He saw her roll her eyes in amusement and sighed inwardly. It would've felt a tiny bit better if she said he was friend-zoned now, rather than the painful process of hoping, trying and failing to become the object of her affections.
"Ready to be defeated?" Lily asked him, a glint in her eye. An odd look passed through her face, but it went as soon as it had come, so he didn't have any clue to what it was. James looked down at the dashes he had to fill in to discover Lily's word.
"Ah. Four letters." James said, looking at the word with dismay. "You, Miss Evans, are a very clever witch"
"I do try," Lily said with a superior air, smiling playfully as she flipped her hair. But James couldn't help agreeing fervently. She was amazing.
James started guessing "E?"
Lily wrote a neat capital 'A' on the third dash.
_ _ A _
James looked at the word, his mind whirring. Could there be more vowels in this word?
Lily tutted in response, drawing another line: the platform.
An O appeared on the first dash:
O _ A _
An ‘O’ and an ‘A’? How in the name of Merlin’s pants was he going to figure out what this word was?
"C?" James gulped. The man now had a head.
"…Y?" James guessed hesitantly. He celebrated with a whoop.
O _ A Y
"Uh... R... P... D... F?"
James looked at the man. It was now missing an arm, two eyes, a nose and a mouth.
The other arm was drawn.
A dot resembling an eye appeared on the face.
A straight line for a nose appeared on the face. There was just the mouth left. He only had one more chance.
"K?" He would get hung. There was no chance of Lily writing such a different word as... James' train of thought trailed away as he saw Lily lean forward to write on the parchment.
The word 'OKAY' seemed to glow on the parchment as he stared at the word in disbelief.
So he had guessed correctly! But why would she write…oh! He looked at the stack of used papers on the side and placed a particular piece of parchment on the table in front of them. From behind him, Lily murmured an incantation. Elegant script slowly filled in the missing blanks of James' last word. It all fit together.
James gaped at the papers. Wordlessly, he turned to Lily, who was scarlet faced. He opened his mouth, trying to say something. After failing to voice his thoughts, he resorted to closing it again.
Lily looked up. "James-" She stopped when she saw the look in James' eye.
"Lily." He said her name carefully, as if it was as delicate as glass. "Do...do you mean that? For real?"
She opened her mouth to answer but James powered on. "Of course you didn't. You wouldn't. Merlin, what was I thinking? I shouldn't have written that. I shouldn't have ruined it. You probably-"
And right there and then, she kissed him.
Lily wasn't sure how exactly it had happened. She could've sworn that she was quite the distance away from James. But somehow, before her brain could comprehend what she was doing, she was kissing him, capturing the rest of his speech in her mouth.
It was only after James had started to kiss her back, she slowly began to realise what she was doing. Then, almost as quickly as it began, she finished it, pulling back away from his lips.
Lily gasped, clapping her hand to her mouth. The sheer truth of what she had done had hit her like a bowling ball. She had just kissed James Potter – and enjoyed it.
He stared at her, completely flabbergasted. When Lily tentatively met his eye, he began to smile. A dazzling, 'in cloud nine' smile. He opened his mouth to speak but before a sound came out of his mouth, Lily pressed her hand against it, cutting him off.
"I only wanted you to shut up! Really!" Lily protested. But the small smile that graced her face said something different. It seemed like James noticed that smile, because his eyes shined in amusement. Lily bit her lip to stop herself from laughing. Her hand was still preventing him from speaking. Unfortunately, she didn't realise what would happen next.
James burst out laughing at the sight of Lily's face: he had licked her hand while it was covering his mouth. As expected, her immediate reaction was to pull her hand back, disgusted.
"Argh! You prat!" Lily wiped her hand on his arm, ridding it of James' saliva. He was still laughing at her expense, so Lily promptly pushed him over on the couch. But the act backfired when he pulled her with him when he fell back. Their faces ended up inched away from each other.
"Hi." Lily said softly
"Hey," James whispered.
"You know, you should really-"
"Shut you up. I know." And with that cheeky note, James lent forward and pressed his lips to hers.
One of his hands was buried in her loose hair. The other rested gently on her hip. It felt as though the heat from his hands were burning through the fabric of her shirt and on to her skin. Lily was putty in his arms. Her fingers threaded through his hair as the kiss deepened. Merlin and Agrippa, the rumours were true. James Potter was fantastic in the kissing department. They broke apart, both breathing heavily. His peppermint breath fanned across her face. James moved to the side letting Lily lie down with her head on his chest. Both smiling, they simply enjoyed the presence of being with each other
James was the first one to break the peaceful silence. "You know what?" His voice seemed very loud in the otherwise silent Heads' Common Room. Lily turned to face him with a questioning look on her face. She smiled as she noticed that the messy-haired, bespectacled boy beside her was playing with some loose curls of her hair.
"I think I won the game."
"Oh, shut up!"
For the third time that evening, his lips met hers. 'Shut up' was officially her new favourite phrase.