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Chapter 3: Of Trying Chance
James looked above the heads of his fellow classmates, searching the crowd for the familiar shock of red hair. He and Lily had found suitable writing replacements, and James had even picked out a new set of cutting utensils to use in Potions. They had then made their way to the popular sweets shop, and were heading to the cash to pay when Lily had ducked out of sight back into the crowd.
James stood awkwardly by the door, his purchases tucked under his arm. He wasn’t used to standing in the village on his own, least of all on a date. He looked out the window and caught a glimpse of his three friends exiting the joke shop with their arms loaded with treasures.
“Sorry about that!” Lily gasped. “I forgot something, and then had to fight my way back out.” She then caught James’ directional glance out the window. “Here, hold my bag for me? Why don’t you wait outside while I pay for this, and I’ll catch up with you in a minute?”
James smiled. “You sure you don’t mind?”
Lily rolled her eyes with a grin. “I’m not an infant, James; I don’t need 24 hour supervision. Besides, its stuffy enough in here as it is, so one less person might help clear that up.”
Chuckling at Lily, James opened the door and hollered to his friends. “Oi! Hope you gits thought of me when you went into Zonko’s!”
Sirius looked up with a grin. “First rule of a Marauder: never leave a fellow rule-breaker empty handed. How’s the… erm… date going?” he asked, looking around in confusion.
“Excellent,” James beamed, puffing out his chest.
“Really?” Sirius quirked an eyebrow, looking around again. Then, to the empty space beside James, he spoke, “hello, Lily, lovely to see you today. Is my dear Prongsie here being a gentleman? What’s that you say? He groped you in public—20 times??? Naughty, naughty James!”
“Sod off, Padfoot,” James shoved him with a smirk. “She’s in the sweets shop.”
“Actually going well, then?” Remus asked.
James nodded with an excited grin.
“Good for you,” Remus patted him on the shoulder. “Here she comes, mate.”
James turned to see Lily walking unsurely towards them. “Sorry about that, you saw how busy it was in there. Hello Remus; Peter; Sirius,” she nodded to each of them. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”
“Quite,” Remus replied with a smile, followed by Peter and then Sirius.
“Er… right.” Lily responded. “So… what are you three up to? Not causing too much trouble, I hope?”
“Oh, of course not, Evans,” Sirius smirked. “Wherever would you come up with an accusation like that?”
Lily tilted her head and smiled sweetly back at him. “Would you really like me to answer that?”
“Not to worry, Lily,” Remus stepped in, catching on to James’ head nods, which suggested they carry on with their way. “I know how to keep these two in line… for the most part. But I suppose we should be on our way, people to see, things to do, and whatnot. Right boys?”
Sirius grinned wickedly. “More like things to see and people to do…” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Lily made a show of rolling her eyes to hide her discomfort of his provocative allusions, while James glared daggers at Sirius.
Remus cleared his throat. “Yes, well, either way... bag tag!” With that, he punched Sirius in the groin, before waving goodbye to James and Lily and taking off towards the school at a run.
Sirius’ face turned green as he bent over double. He took in a few hollow gasps before semi-straightening up. Placing a hand on James’ shoulder to steady himself, he drew in a ragged breath and gulped, “I’ve got a git to pummel. Excuse me.” He then hobbled off after Remus.
Peter shrugged, “I suppose I should make sure Sirius doesn’t kill him…” before grinning and tearing off after the other two.
After a moment of watching their progression back to the castle, Lily chuckled and then cleared her throat. “Bag tag?”
Shifting uncomfortably, James chortled, “it’s a… game—totally immature and unimportant.”
Lily smiled at him, and then glanced back towards the castle. “Well…I suppose we should get back? It’s usually a good idea to have one of the Head’s back in time for the feast.”
“Yeah, suppose you’re right,” James conceded, a sad smile on his face.
They started to walk the path slowly, James turning introspective and Lily curious.
“You’re very… controlled today,” she finally expressed, looking at him sideways.
He sent her an enquiring sideways glance back. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve just been… how to put it… well, normal, actually.”
James chuckled. “As opposed to the raving lunatic I usually am?”
Lily smiled back. “Well, yes. Another thing Alice was right about, by the way.” James grinned. “It just seems like you’re normally so preoccupied with impressing everyone that you can’t just be, you know?” She turned to him then, an apologetic look in her eyes. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me to say!”
“Fairly astute assessment though,” he bowed his head to her. “Believe it or not, Lily, we aren’t all as confident and self-assured as people think we are.”
Lily chewed that statement over for a moment. “I suppose that makes sense, although I would find it more plausible to be shy and reserved than exuberant and obnoxious if a small supply of confidence was to blame.”
Lily shrugged apologetically once again.
“I guess, for some people, when they are around… certain other people, it’s just easier to put on an act. That way, if said people reject the outward behaviour, the person can still remain intact, because it wasn’t who they really are that was rejected.”
“True,” Lily pondered, “but then how will they know if people like them for the right reasons or not?”
James scratched his chin for a moment. “It’s got to be easier to like a normal person if you like the obnoxious one, doesn’t it?”
Lily cracked a grin. “I guess… but that way could close a lot of potential opportunities on the way, if some people were unable to look passed the obnoxious.”
James stumbled. “Oh.”
“Hypothetically speaking, however,” Lily continued, “it might also be possible that certain people might change their minds about other people, once they were able to see who they really are, and might, in fact, like that small glimpse of who that person is better than anyone would have dared to guess.”
James considered this for a short while, trying to decide if he had heard what he thought he had. “So…?”
Lily rolled her eyes and chuckled. “So don’t think you’re such an ass is what I’m saying. A little slower than I’d though, though .” She shoved him lightly with her elbow.
A shocked look crossed James’ face. “Oh,” he replied again, this time with a grin. “Could be because I forgot to take my daily dose of ass this morning.”
Lily burst out laughing. “Yeah, I guess that must be it.”
A companionable silence followed as they wound their way closer and closer to the school. James started steering the pair of them around the greenhouses to prolong the inevitable end of their date; Lily shook her head with a grin but followed his lead nonetheless.
“I almost forgot!” Lily said suddenly, pulling something from her Honeydukes bag. “I got this for you—for the Butterbeer,” she explained, holding a chocolate frog out to him on the palm of her hand.
Quirking a grin, James took the proffered sweet from her with a brush of his hand. “Thanks.”
Lily grinned back in response.
James pocketed the frog, grinning contentedly to himself for a moment.
They fell into another silence, nearing the lake.
James headed towards the trees, looking for a small amount of privacy to end his last remaining moments with Lily. He put both hands in his pockets, feeling the frog box in one, and began to prepare himself for what he wanted to say. “Can I ask you something, Lily?” he finally broke the silence.
“We’re already on a date, James,” she replied cheekily.
“That wasn’t what I was going to ask,” he stopped by a large shady Willow tree, letting the bags he was carrying drop to the grass.
Lily stopped walking likewise, nearly swallowing her tongue at the sight of the intensity in his eyes. “Alright,” she whispered.
“How come… can’t we just… why couldn’t we work Lily?” His eyes had taken on a pleading edge. “I know I’m not perfect, and you deserve nothing short of perfection, but I would be so good to you.”
Lily gulped. She had been expecting some variation of this conversation since she had agreed to the date. What she hadn’t been expecting, however, was the heat it brought to her face and the giddy feeling that rumbled in her stomach because of it. “Erm…,” she replied in a whisper, sinking back into the tree. “I… I’m not sure, actually.”
James moved closer to her, leaning into the tree with a hand on either side of Lily’s shoulders. “Can I try to sway your decision in my favour, then?”
His voice had taken on a husky tone that made Lily’s heart beat ascend to an almost painful level. Her eyes flickered from his eyes to his lips, and she gulped before licking her own. She nodded her head.
James leaned in maddeningly slowly, gauging her reaction every millimetre of the way. Finally, finally, his lips met hers. He leaned in closer; she melted into him.
When at last they broke apart, they were each breathing heavily, their pulses seeming to hammer in unison.
His forehead still leaning against Lily’s, James panted, “so?”
Not yet opening her eyes, Lily tried to take a steadying breath. “So… I think you are amazingly self-assured of your own powers of persuasion.”
Scoffing, James chuckled and kissed her cheek. “Maybe I need to try again?”
Pulling back slightly with a grin on her face, Lily replied, “maybe later. Right now we’ve got a dinner feast to attend.”
James sighed but let her squeeze by him. He bent to grab the bags at his feet when a smirk lit up his features. He waited for her to gain a few more paces distance between them before he called to her. “Hey, Lily!”
She paused and turned around.
James’ smirk grew as he held up the school supplies bag she had asked him to carry earlier.
Rolling her eyes and letting out a sighed, Lily grinned widely as she walked towards him to retrieve her bag. “Anything else?” she enquired, reaching out for her bag.
James held the bag behind his back, coaxing her closer. She huffed and jokingly crossed her arms, before giving in and reaching around him. When she did, James pecked her cheek. “Just one more thing. Can I walk you to dinner tonight?” He sent her a charming smile.
Shaking her head, Lily replied with a chuckle. “Fine. One hour—don’t be late.”
James nodded with a knowing grin.
Lily paused, biting her lower lip. “Don’t presume this means I’m going to immediately fall in love with you, or jump right into bed with you tonight.”
He laughed. “Hadn’t even crossed my mind, actually. Although now you’ve got me thinking that far ahead…”
Lily shook her head and turned towards the castle once again before he could catch the wide smile stretching across her face. “I’ll see you later.”
“I’ll be thinking of you until then!” James called with a proud grin.
“Sooo funny!” She replied with a chuckle, heading back to the castle.