Chapter 1 : Let Me Count the Ways
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Let me Count the Ways…
Furious, Lily Evans pushed the boy away, sending him flying backwards into a desk. He laughed softly, running his fingers through his hair and smiling widely at her, revealing perfect teeth.
“You think just because you’re the James Potter you can kiss whoever you please?” Lily said in a low voice, her heart pounding in her ears. She rubbed a hand across her mouth in a childish manner, trying desperately to relieve herself of the touch of his lips. Her green eyes were cold, fixed firmly on the boy now lounging against the wall in front of her. James Potter. Her curse, put on this earth to drive her mad. His messy black hair hung in his eyes, his glasses were slightly askew on his straight nose, and he had a cheeky grin plastered on his face. He looked pretty pleased with himself.
“Don’t be like that, Evans,” he drawled seductively, giving her a wink.
Lily scowled, anger boiling through her veins like fire, her fingers flying unwittingly to her lips. How she ended up in these situations with James Potter she never knew, especially when she went to great lengths to avoid him all together. Somehow, he always managed to catch her alone, when her guard was down. Tonight was no different. Lily had been on her way to the library to study. Exams were approaching, and she was determined to do well, to prove to all those haughty Slytherins that Muggle-born or not, she knew what she was doing.
With her arms full, Lily had no means to defend herself from James. His long arms had gone around her, pulling her into an empty classroom, ignoring her cry of shock. Without giving her a second to think about what was going on, he had kissed her, pressing her against the wall, his lips crashing down on hers. Stunned, Lily had stood prostate in his arms, allowing him to kiss her sweetly and passionately, until, mortified beyond belief, she pushed him away, books, quills and parchment falling in a heap on the floor between them.
They had stood and stared at one another, both panting slightly, James with a faraway look in his eyes, Lily positively seething with rage. She pushed him, hard, in the chest, opening up the distance between them, watching with satisfaction as he stumbled into a desk. James held up his hands in mock defense, retreating to the other side of the room, leaning casually against the wall, smiling at her.
Lily sighed, running a hand through her long red hair. He was impossible! Every time she turned around, there he was, looking at her with a dreamy expression. Some of her friends were jealous. James Potter was by no means unattractive, she had to admit that, but he was such an annoying prat. She neither wanted nor welcomed his attentions, telling her friends repeatedly that they were welcome to the overconfident bastard. Somehow, though, Potter never got the message, no matter how blunt and rude she was to him. He was insulting, with more arrogance than a single person should be allowed to possess, Pure Blood or not. He floated about Hogwarts like a King, and Lily scowled, recalling the many times she had witnessed James hex other students, particularly Slytherins, just because he could. Now Dumbledore had made him Head Boy, and she had to put up with him trailing after her all year! Lily had decided, when she found out, that she would not let his childish behavior stop her doing her Head duties, so she very reluctantly fronted up for rounds every evening with James, managing to patrol Hogwarts without having to talk any more than necessary to him.
On the other side of the room, James examined his fingernails, waiting patiently. Lily bent and collected her belongings, a long-suffering look on her face, sneaking a glance at James. His robes were unbuttoned, and underneath he wore a pair of Muggle jeans and a plain white Hogwarts shirt with the top three buttons undone. Lily caught a glimpse of the smooth creamy skin of his chest, and she felt herself blush, recalling how strong and powerful his body had felt when he pressed against her. She shook her head, pushing all thoughts of James Potter’s chest, soft lips and strong arms out of her mind. Lily wanted nothing more than to be far, far away from the handsome seventh year. With her books tucked under her arm, she headed quickly for the door. James jumped in front of her, blocking her exit with his tall, lean body, his hazel eyes dancing.
“Get out of my way,” Lily snapped furiously, pushing at him. He laughed.
“Why do you want to leave? You loved every minute of our kiss,” James said softly, reaching up a strong hand to stroke her cheek. Lily batted him away, taking a step backwards, trying to ignore the fluttering in her stomach when he touched her.
“Loved it? You disgust me,” she snarled angrily.
“Ouch! Evans, you hurt my feelings with your waspish tone,” James laughed. “Such a scornful tongue for such a pretty girl,” he added with a wink. “Come and kiss me.”
Lily scowled, and he raised his eyebrows.
“I won’t bite,” he said.
“But I will,” she shot back, folding her arms over her chest.
“I love it when you get mad. Your face goes pink, and your eyes light up. Did you know your hair even stands on end? Why won’t you kiss me again?” James asked with a grin.
“Because I loathe you,” Lily replied venomously.
Chest heaving, she watched James closely, wondering what he would say this time. It was almost on a daily basis that she told him she hated him, and he would always smile in response, telling her he knew she really loved him, before asking her out again. This time, his answer shocked her.
“I’m going to marry you, Lily Evans,” he said seriously, never taking his eyes from her face. Lily felt the blood drain from her head into her shoes, the books in her arms tumbling to the floor once more.
“What did you say?” she whispered.
James took a step towards her, and Lily felt a little thrill dance up her spine.
“I said I’m going to marry you,” he repeated, his voice low and husky, coming even closer to her. Lily closed her eyes, her head swimming. Of all the things he could say to her…
She breathed deeply, inhaling the intoxicating scent of him, feeling drunk and not at all like herself. James ran his fingers through her thick red hair, his hand sliding gently along her neck, coming to rest on her shoulder. Her eyes still closed, Lily sensed him bend his head, preparing to kiss her again. Something rebelled in her stomach, and she stepped away, opening her eyes and pushing his hand from her shoulder, her body burning.
“Never in a million years!” she hissed at him, watching his features twist in confusion, before settling into the blasé expression he wore so often. He shrugged.
“I know you’re secretly in love with me, Evans,” he said with a laugh.
“You are so …” Lily began, fuming.
“Fetching? Handsome? Adorable?” James supplied, stepping closer to her again.
“Supercilious,” Lily snarled, pushing past him and heading for the door once more, but he reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her back around to face him.
James laughed softly. “I don’t know why you deny it. You’re only hurting yourself you know.”
“I don’t deny myself anything,” Lily snapped.
“Then admit you care about me,” James replied.
“Understand this James Potter – I do not care about you, and I will never speak to you again after … after… what you did to me, let alone marry you! Now get out of my way!” Lily raged, her fists clenched by her sides.
“What’s your problem anyway? I’m not a bad bloke. Ask anyone. Heck, any girl would be happy to have me,” James replied with earnest arrogance, sitting down gracefully on the nearest desk.
Merlin, Lily thought, he actually believes this garbage about himself? She had heard the whispers and giggles from girls across the school as James and his friends, Sirius, Peter and Remus, walked through the halls. James and Sirius were always at the head, strutting about as if they owned the place, their robes swinging, Peter and Remus wandering after them. Peter always looked pleased to be in such esteemed company, whereas Remus always appeared slightly mortified by the female attention. Lily rarely ever attended a Quidditch match, but those she did were full of adoring girls, staring dreamily at James Potter as he flew around showing off on his broom. Lily sighed, feeling tired and worn out.
“Then why don’t you get lost and go hassle someone else?” she snapped, frustrated to the very core. She was meant to be studying, not standing trapped in a room with James Potter. “Potter, I don’t want anything to do with you.”
“That’s too bad, because I want everything to do with you,” James said with a grin. Lily threw her hands in the air, glaring at him.
James tipped his head to one side, studying her critically, his eyes moving over every inch of her. “You know, I’m beginning to understand why you’ve never had a boyfriend, Evans.”
Lily snorted. “What do you know about my love life?”
“Nothing, only what people say,” he replied, sitting down on a desk.
“Oh, and what’s that?” she asked, not really caring for the answer.
“Well,” James began, looking her in the eye. “They say that you are somewhat …”
“Cold?” Lily repeated flatly.
“Hey, you’re not exactly the warmest person darling,” James laughed, and Lily scowled, feeling her anger deepen. Who said that? He must be making it up. People didn’t think she was cold. Her teachers were always telling her she was so intelligent. Her friends always said she was fun to be around. She shook her head, not wanting him to see her ruffled.
“Hmmm…let’s see, what did that Ravenclaw guy say …oh yeah. Tempestuous,” James said with a grin.
“That’s a bid word Potter. Are you sure you know what it means?” Lily sneered, but James ignored her insult.
“Difficult. They say you’re difficult. No one wants to date you,” he said, shaking his head in mock sadness.
Lily tossed her hair. “That’s fine with me,” she lied, feeling somewhat stung. Was he telling the truth? She knew she could be a little hard on boys sometimes, but it wasn’t as she went out her way to be frosty. She was not at Hogwarts to find a boyfriend. She was there to learn to be the best witch she could.
“Me, on the other hand…I like a challenge,” James said, jumping off the desk and coming towards her again. He winked at her, reaching for her with his Quidditch reflexes, pulling her in close until their noses were almost touching.
“Get away from me,” Lily growled, feeling her knees go weak at the sight of his eyes staring down at her, filled with love and passion.
“Don’t deny how you feel, Evans,” he whispered, his breath warm and strangely comforting on her face. She shook her head.
“I’m not. I know exactly how I feel about you, Potter,” Lily retorted. “You’re arrogant, cocky, egotistical, a total show-off, you goof around in class, you take nothing seriously, you’re a spoilt brat, a jerk…”
“And you’re beautiful, talented, and totally hot for me,” James replied swiftly, cutting her off. Lily laughed scornfully.
“Just keep telling yourself that, because you are never going to hear it from me,” she said bitterly.
“Liar,” James whispered, kissing her quickly on the mouth, before jumping away, easily avoiding her palm. Lily scowled again as her hand connected with nothing but air, throwing James the dirtiest look she could muster.
“You make me sick, James Potter!”
James held his hand over his heart dramatically. “Such loving words, Evans. You really know how to make a guy feel special.”
“Ahhhhhh!” Lily heard herself scream, the anger, confusion and frustration inside her spewing from her lips. James stepped back a fraction, his eyes wide. “Just leave me alone!” Lily screeched at him, stamping her foot. She took a deep breath, feeling strangely close to tears. When he had kissed her earlier, she had felt that perhaps she had been wrong about him, that underneath the conceited shell of a boy lay a man, someone who honestly cared for her. His insensitivity appalled her. Why wouldn’t he just leave her alone?
“This is just a game to you, isn’t it, Potter? You don’t really care about me at all, do you?” Lily found herself asking, sinking down onto a desk, her chest tight. She felt ill, her stomach in knots, her head spinning. She’d come back to Hogwarts that year harboring the hope that James Potter may have grown up over the break, that maybe, for once, he was not going to act like such a jerk when she was around. She wasn’t sure how much more of his ludicrous behavior she could take. Secretly, she did like him. As much as she had tried to ignore it, she knew she cared what he thought, what he truly thought, not the crap he spouted whenever he saw her.
James was a brilliant student, and Lily had to acknowledge she admired his intelligence. Yet, something about him drove her totally mad. He was so cocky and sure of himself, totally unattractive traits in Lily’s mind. He was popular and so many of the younger boys looked up to him, but he seemed to accept this as a rule, never questioning their awe with a conceitedness that exasperated Lily. Even the teachers liked him, always smiling and laughing at his jokes and antics, even when he broke every rule in the book. She knew he was not a bad person. He loved his friends, and Lily was one of the few people who knew the extent James, Sirius and Peter had gone to in order to help Remus. He was loyal and respecting of his companions, but a total jerk and a bully to everyone else. He was a total enigma, and she continually found herself pondering over the mystery of James Potter until her head hurt. Lily had tried her hardest to disregard him over the years, but he was always there, his face, his stupid trademark grin and beautiful eyes, plastered into her skull, confusing and vexing her.
Lily raised her head, looking him in the eye.
“I hate you,” she whispered softly, feeling tears prick her eyelids again. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
Lily watched a sorrowful look cross James’ features. He came slowly towards her, sitting himself down beside her. She swallowed in apprehension, her body tensing, waiting for him to grab at her again. Her fingers flexed, and she readied herself to pull out her wand and hex him if he tried to touch her.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly, his hands linked together in his lap, his eyes downcast. “I didn’t mean to upset you, Evans. I know you don’t like me.”
“Then why?” Lily asked. “Why do you have to take such pleasure in tormenting me?”
James sighed, running a hand through his dark hair, messing it up worse than usual. “I cannot help it. I don’t mean to annoy you, truly, I don’t, but I can’t stay away from you. Any attention from you is better than none at all, even if it is the wrong kind. I’m not lying when I say I love you,” he muttered, not looking at her.
Lily stared. This meek, apologetic creature beside her could not be James Potter. She had never, in over six years, heard him speak with such sincerity, or gentleness. Every word that usually escaped his lips was either dripping in sarcasm or false sweetness. Lily snuck another glance at him. All the playfulness had left his face, the cheeky expression he usually wore replaced with gravity. She sighed. Either he was being truthful, or he was a fantastic actor.
“What do you want from me, Potter? Answer me truthfully please, or I swear, I will never speak to you again,” Lily said softly, her eyes on his face. James raised his head slowly, and she searched his face for any sign of amusement. His eyes were serious as he gazed at her, and Lily felt herself begin to blush under his scrutiny. Her whole body felt warm as she looked into his eyes, feeling lost. His intensity was beginning to frighten her, and Lily almost wished he’d laugh, or say something stupid. She was so accustomed to James Potter the clown she found his sudden solemnity difficult to comprehend.
Lily jumped as James brushed a strand of hair from her face, his fingers leaving a scorching trail where they traced along her cheek. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, before reaching up and taking his hand gently, lifting it away from her face with a small sigh of regret.
“Answer the question, James,” she said quietly, using his first name, hoping it would help highlight how serious she was. The small voice in the back of her mind, that same voice that told her to study, to do her homework, to stay away from James Potter, was screaming at her to walk away, but Lily ignored it, needing to hear his answer, not fully understanding why it was important to her.
He sighed dejectedly. “You. I want you. I always have,” he whispered, squeezing her hand, and Lily felt her breath catch in her throat. “But you have made it clear you don’t feel anything but contempt for me, so what am I supposed to do? I tease you, I make jokes about you, but it’s the only way I can cope with your rejection.”
His eyes were sad, the hazel dulled and flat, and Lily felt a strange twisting in her stomach. However much she disliked him, she didn’t want to hurt him. “James,” she began in a small voice, but he cut her off, a slight smile on his lips.
“You don’t have to say anything, Lily,” he said gently, releasing her hand and standing up. “I understand. I’ll leave you alone.”
Lily opened her mouth, wanting so much to tell him to stay, but she couldn’t, not without thinking about it first. She didn’t know for sure what she felt for James Potter, or what she wanted from him, and she was relieved he had not asked her. Lily watched James’ retreating back, a small pang of regret stabbing her in the heart. The tall, dark-haired boy paused before he opened the door, turning to glance at her over his shoulder. Hazel eyes met green, and Lily bit her lip, her fingers curling under the edge of the desk to stop herself flying across the room into his arms. James flashed her a quick grin.
“Goodnight, Evans,” he said smoothly, opening the door and disappearing without another word.
Lily let her head drop into her hands. What was wrong with her? Her friends would think she was totally mental, letting James Potter walk away from her after professing his love. Lily felt herself grow warm as she remembered his words. Her heart beat rapidly in her ears, the blood pounding in her temples, and she felt dizzy. With a great sigh, Lily jumped off the desk and began to pace the room.
James Potter. Why did he have to be so bloody charming, so smart, so gorgeous and so … so in love with her! Lily scowled at the closed door. For once, she had no idea what to do next. Should she go after him? Should she forget the whole thing? Her fingers wandered to her lips, remembering his kiss, the way their lips fit together flawlessly, the way their bodies melted against each other, infused and perfectly blended. Lily shook her head. No. She stopped pacing. She had no time for James Potter. No time to let herself fall in love. Exams were around the corner…her parents expected her to do well…her teachers expected her to do well. If she filled up her time with James, then …
“Merlin Lily, you sound like an old woman,” she muttered to herself, and resumed her pacing, her footsteps echoing sharply off the cold floor. “Okay, exams are important, but are they as important as being happy?”
With a sigh, Lily stopped pacing again, her head swimming, her thoughts threatening to drown her. Would being with James make her happy? He drove her insane with his pranks and his games, his immaturity and his arrogance. But she knew that deep down, that was not all he was. He had just revealed a sweeter and more sensitive side to himself; a side she had not known existed. Lily closed her eyes. She knew that any relationship she entered into with James would not be something to be taken lightly. He was intense about his feelings for her, and she wondered if she had the tenacity to love him as much as he claimed to love her.
She also wondered that now he had confessed his true feelings, would he leave her alone as he said he would? Would the remarks, the teasing, and the constant declarations of affection cease? Lily sighed again, tugging at her hair in annoyance. Would she truly be happy if he stopped harassing her? She was so used to it, after so many years. To not have James staring at her, throwing things at her in class, tormenting her in the halls, showing off in her presence, would be like…
“Not breathing,” she finished aloud. Lily felt her eyes widen, the words sounding truer and more obvious as she said them. Without another thought, Lily flung open the door and ran from the room, her books lying forgotten on the floor of the empty classroom.
Out in the halls, she paused. Where would he have gone? Lily cursed, stamping her foot. Now would be a good time to have her hands on that stupid Marauder’s Map. She closed her eyes, feeling close to tears again. She had to find him. Swallowing her nerves, Lily headed for the Griffyndor Common Room, reasoning that James was most likely with Sirius or Remus. She ran up to the Fat Lady, almost screaming the password, before tumbling inside. The Common Room was empty, save for a lone figure sitting in front of the fire, his blonde head bent over a book. Remus turned to look at her, his face lighting up, his lips curling into a smile.
“Lily, how are…” he began.
“Have you seen James?” she blurted, watching Remus’ eyes widen. She never called him ‘James’. It was always ‘Potter’ or ‘the jerk’.
Remus nodded, a small frown playing on his features. “He went out with Sirius,” he answered softly.
“Where?” Lily asked, almost dancing on the spot in anticipation.
“Are you alright, Lily?” Remus asked, concern in his soft voice.
Lily nodded quickly. “Fine, Remus. I just need to find James. Please, tell me where he is,” she begged.
“I think they went to the Heads’ Common Room. James came in here in a fluster, grabbed Sirius and …”
Lily didn’t wait for him to finish. She tore back through the portrait hole, sprinting down the hall towards her room. A desperate need had risen in her heart, and she didn’t care how much noise she was making running through the deserted halls late at night. Lily reached her portrait hole panting and sweating slightly. She took a deep breath, not pausing to chat with Sir Bentley, spitting out the password, begging him to hurry.
James and Sirius were sitting side by side on the couch in front of the fire, the flames throwing their profiles into strange and elaborate shadows that danced over the walls. Sirius had his hand on James’ shoulder in a comforting gesture, while James sat with his head in his hands. Sirius looked up as she entered, his face dark and troubled.
“Evans,” he said softly, and Lily saw James raise his head stiffly, but he did not turn around.
“Hello Sirius,” Lily answered politely, coming down the short flight of stairs until she was standing behind the couch. Sirius looked at her, a small frown on his handsome face. He pushed his hair out of his eyes.
“What have you done to my boy, Evans?” he asked. Underneath his light words, Lily could sense the concern for his friend.
“Sirius, could you leave please? I need to talk to James,” Lily replied bluntly, not wanting to engage in a battle of wits with Sirius Black. She saw his eyes shift to James, who nodded briefly. Sirius squeezed his friend’s shoulder, before climbing to his feet and straightening his robes. He shot Lily a warning glance.
“Don’t be too rough on him, Lily,” he said gently, and she nodded, her insides a total mess. She thought she might be sick, and swallowed nervously. Sirius nodded to her as he left. Lily heard the portrait swing shut, and she sighed. James was staring into the fire, sitting back in the couch, his body tense. Lily walked slowly around the couch, her eyes on James, who had not raised his head or even acknowledged her presence. Gingerly, she sat beside him, keeping a little distance between them, although her whole body screamed to be closer to him. Lily took a deep breath, feeling her legs turn to jelly, and was glad she was sitting down.
“Did you mean it?” she asked softly, and James shifted his gaze to her face. She could see the flames reflected in his glasses, his face cast in a soft orange glow. His eyes were gloomy, his lips down turned. He looked miserable, but attempted a half-smile.
“Every word,” he replied quietly, pinning her to the couch with his expressive eyes.
Lily held his gaze, her heart beating double-time. Inside, she was slowly falling apart, dissolving in his eyes, in his smell, his presence. She put on a calm face. “James Potter, if you break my heart, your life will not be worth living.”
She watched as his face split into a broad grin, his eyes immediately lighting up. James lifted his arm, and with a smile, Lily slid closer to him, feeling his arm settle around her shoulders with a comforting weight. He kissed the top of her head, and she turned to look at him, closing her eyes when his fingers found their way into her hair, pushing it back from her face. James let his hand rest on her cheek, and Lily felt herself melt inside as he kissed her tenderly.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he murmured against her lips.