If there was one thing James Potter knew, it was that Lily Evans would be the death of him.
He and the Marauders had been discouraged when they found out they couldn’t participate in the Triwizard Tournament, but James quickly perked up when he heard about a dance. In the tradition of the Triwizard Tournament, the Yule ball was in a week, but he was dateless. He'd asked Evans not once, not twice, but five times, yet she continued to turn him down. Each offer was more over the top and crazy than the last, but she still managed to refuse him every time.
James started by buying her a dozen roses. Then he kicked it up a notch by leaving balloons that spelled out the words "Yule Ball?” in her dorm. He had the Gryffindor Quidditch team write out the proposal in the sky, and he even wrote and preformed an original song for her (okay, maybe she was right to turn him down that time. His singing was pretty bad). Although he expected nothing else from his fiery girl, James was a bit taken aback when—after his song declared his undying love for her—she smashed his guitar (well, actually it had been Sirius's. Sirius refused to speak to James for two hours. As soon as James offered to buy him a better guitar, the two were mates again and Sirius began browsing through catalogues).
James slumped down in his usual spot in the Gryffindor common room. He used to feel at peace in the oversized, plush burgundy chair; but lately, James found it hard to focus on anything but Lily.
However, when the loud, bumbling mess that was his best friend stumbled through the portal, James's solitude was shattered.
"Hey, Jamesy! You up for a quick Quidditch scrimmage? Some Ravenclaws said they might show." Sirius wagged his eyebrows. "Including Marene. I'd let her catch my snitch any day."
James rolled his eyes. "You'd let any girl with a pulse do that."
Sirius shrugged. He leaned up against the fireplace, his signature smirk firmly in place. He looked every inch of the bad boy all the girls in Hogwarts made him out to be. "Maybe. But there's something about Marene. She won't give in easily. She's a challenge. I like it." He brushed his charcoal hair out of his eyes. "And speaking of difficult women, what did Evans have to say about the doves?"
"I don't think she liked them." James frowned, shoving his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. "One pooped on her ancient runes scroll."
Sirius snickered. "I would have given anything to see that. But tough break."
"I just don't understand how she could possibly hate me so much!" James exclaimed. "I mean, I'm smart, I'm funny, I'm obviously impeccably handsome...."
"Maybe it has something to do with your continuous teasing since she stepped off the Hogwarts Express," Sirius suggested.
James sighed. "I guess so. But you think a girl would take a hint! I mean, aren't little boys supposed to tease the girls they like?"
"I've learned throughout the years that girls respond much better to compliments and coaxing." Sirius gave him a wink. "Maybe you should take some tips from me."
James frowned. As if he needed dating advice from Sirius. "I think I'd rather be rejected." James sighed heavily. "How hard can it be to ask her out? Would she really rather go dateless than with me?" James really didn't want to know the answer to that.
Sirius glanced away. "No, of course she would want to go with you."
To anyone else, that statement would be assuring. Convincing. But James wasn't just anyone; Sirius was his best friend. James recognized the tense muscle in his mate's jaw, the way he wouldn't look at him...Sirius had a secret.
"Tell me." James ordered. "Seriously, Sirius," (James couldn't resist), "whatever it is, I can handle it."
Sirius's grey eyes snapped back to meet James's. "Can you really? I don't know if you want to hear this."
How bad could the secret really be? What, was Lily actually a man or something? Oh, Merlin...maybe he really couldn't handle this. "I’d rather hear it from you than anyone else."
Sirius nodded. All traces of teasing or laughter were gone. "Okay. James—"
"LILY EVANS IS GOING TO THE YULE BALL WITH HARRISON BONES!" Peter Pettigrew screamed as he burst through the door.
James whipped his head around at the portal. His best friend stopped short at James's expression. Peter's sweaty blond curls were pasted to his head. He panted a bit, then looked up at James and repeated, "Lily Evans is going to the Yule Ball with Harrison Bones," then collapsed on the ground.
Sirius sprang into action, helping Peter into a chair across from James. "Did you have to blurt that out?" He hissed.
Peter gulped, his eyes wide. "Was I not supposed to tell James? I thought he might want to know."
James rose from his chair. "Is that what you were going to tell me, Sirius?"
Sirius brushed his hair out of his eyes. "With a little more tact, yes."
James's stomach churned. Lily—his Lily—was going with the stuck-up, handsy player Harrison Bones? The same girl who turned him down six times? "How could she do this to me?"
"How could who do what to you?" Remus descended down the staircase from the boys' dorms, clutching a thick book and some parchment.
"Lily Evans is going to the Yule Ball with Harrison Bones!" Peter blurted out.
Remus's jaw fell open. His eyes bugged out. "That guy has dated three different girls in the last week! What are his intentions with Lily?" He immediately glanced over at a sulking James. "Are you alright, mate?"
"No." James grumbled. "No I'm not."
With that, he rose from his chair and walked out of the common room.
James Potter was on a rampage. He stalked down the hall, hands clenched into fists, hair standing on end. First-years leapt out of his way. Some of his fellow fourth-years attempted to greet him; every one was met with an icy glare and silence.
He didn't stop until he spotted a flash of red through the library windows. James stomped through the door, strode across the room, and slammed his fists down on one of the study tables. To be specific, the study table Lily Evans sat at.
She jumped in surprise, pausing in her book to meet his gaze. For a second, James softened at her emerald eyes trained on him, but he remembered her betrayal and hissed, "how could you possibly do this to me?"
To her credit, Evans remained cool. She lazily yawned. Shutting her book, she folded her arms over her chest and said, "What have I done to you now?"
James noticed some of the other students staring at him. Including Madam Pince. He quickly sat down across from Lily and said, "You know what you did."
"Obviously I don't." She countered. "Now if you'll excuse me, I don't have time for your delusional rants today. I need to finish this book."
"You're going to the Yule ball with Harrison Bones."
"So?" She arched an eyebrow.
Merlin, she was infuriating! James raked a hand through his unruly hair. "Look, I asked you out six times—each in a better way than the last. And you turned me down every time. Why didn't you just tell me you were going with Harrison? Why did you leave me to believe you just didn't want to go with me?"
Lily froze. Her cold mask faltered for a second, and he caught a glimpse of....was that guilt in her eyes? She bit her lower lip. Gah, that was his undoing! Why did she have to be so adorable?
"James," she breathed out the word, and he got chills. It was the first time she ever called him by his proper name, not just "Potter." "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. It’s just that Harrison asked me first, and then you did, and you were so excited...I just couldn't...." She sighed. "I didn't think you would ask me six times!"
Oh. So she didn't hate him. Interesting. That made him feel a little better, but he still felt crushed when he thought about her dancing the night away with Bones.
"So you're going with Bones then?"
"Yes, I'm going with Harrison." Lily rose out of her chair and collected her books. "Now, if you don't have any more further nonsense to harass me over, I'm going to my dorm."
"Wait!" James called.
"Shh! Silence in the library!" Madam Pince warned.
James looked back at Lily, his eyes pining her in place. He lowered his voice to say, "Do you like him?"
Lily made a face. "That's awfully impertinent, Potter."
"Just answer the question, Evans."
"Maybe," his stomach dropped, "maybe not. That's for me to know and you to never find out." With that, she shoved her books in her satchel and walked to the enormous double doors.
James sprinted ahead of her, holding the door open so she could exit. Lily barely acknowledged him.
"I hope you have a good time with Harrison." He said softly.
For the first time that day, she smiled at him. A true Lily smile. He felt his shattered heart mend a little. "Thank you...James. That's very nice of you." She walked out of the library towards the Gryffindor tower, but James paused. A devious and wicked plan began forming in his mind. Something that could be the key to his happiness.
Something he would need his best friends’ help with.