"Please, just listen, Lily!" he yelled down the corridor. She sighed heavily and turned around, an annoyed expression on her face.
She waited for him to jog to her.
"You have to listen to me, for once," he replied, breathless.
"Every time I listen to you, I end up angry and hurt," Lily protested. He pouted, got down on one knee and clasped his hands together. "Oh, all right!" she surrendered.
James jumped and said, "Follow me." Lily was surprised he didn't grab her hand and drag her along, but she wouldn't complain. It was a nice treat to be allowed to walk for herself.
When he came to an abrupt stop, Lily looked around, a little confused. It was a corridor… with no one else. A light bulb went off inside her head.
"Before you begin, James," Lily said hurriedly, choking a little as she hurried to get the words to come out, "I've got something to say."
"So say it."
"Forgive me for being honest, but if you're just trying to convince me to go out with you, you're wasting your time."
"Why's that?" he asked, cocking his head to the left.
"Because… Because I'm not like everyone else."
"I know that, Lily Evans," James said, laughing and smiling secretively. "And I think you're mistaken. You think I just want to win, to prove to someone or something that I can make anyone fall at their feet for me. But, dear, you're wrong. This isn't a joke, a bet, a humiliating prank. I mean this; I really do like you."
"You must be crazy," Lily replied, shaking her head rapidly, splaying her hair in a dash across the gray expanse of stone. "What do you think I am?"
He said it so flatly, so straight-faced, Lily couldn't help but believe him. Maybe, maybe…
"You're smart, Lily. You're funny and passionate and a little insane, but you've missed something with all that intelligence in your way. You've missed something really important," James continued.
"Oh, yeah?" she challenged. "What could I have possibly missed?"
"Please, Lily, just listen to me for once. No sarcasm."
"You'd better have something worthwhile to say," she retorted.
"I really do like you, Lily," he said urgently. "No, I'm serious," he pushed when she snorted. "I really do. I'd even dare say I've fallen in love with you."
"How?" she asked quietly, looking away. "You don't even know me."
"I know you just as well as you know me," he replied, shrugging. "You know, for instance, that I'm not the same jerk I used to be, just a new one. That my favorite color is blue and I love wintertime. You know I'm afraid that the suits of armor will come alive and attack us when we patrol. You know me as well as I know you."
"And what do you know about me?" Lily asked gently, hardly daring believe him. It was true, she did know those things about James. Little bits and pieces that made him up, tossed at her during patrols at night and as they worked on homework late at night. Parts of his soul, she realized.
"You want nothing more than a good cup of tea and a warm place to read your books. You hate the winter, especially snowball fights, but you love your winter cap. You hate patrolling the darker corridors, because you're scared the Slytherins will finally gain enough gall to get you at your most vulnerable. You're worried because you don't know what you want to do after Hogwarts, and you feel like all the studying may have been useless."
Lily smiled slightly. "I'm surprised you retained all that, when you were half asleep."
"I remember every word you've ever said," James replied seriously.
"I think that's taking things a little too far," Lily joked.
"Now you're just being mean," James replied, obviously put out.
"Oh, James," Lily whispered. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I was kidding." She searched his face earnestly for signs of forgiveness.
"Since when have you cared about hurting me?" James asked.
"Since you seemed to have caught the message," Lily replied. An uncomfortable silence followed, which she interrupted by asking, "Didn't you have something to say to me?"
"I did, and I said it," James replied. "Now I'm just waiting for your reaction."
He laughed bitterly, and ran a hand through his hair. "But I think I've already got it," he muttered.
James turned around, without another word. Lily stood in the corridor, staring bleakly after him. Anything could have happened, anything at all. And yet nothing seemed to. Why not?
"Because I was afraid," Lily whispered to herself. Admittedly, she had been in a bit of bad mood when he showed up, asking for a moment of her time. He always managed to find her when she was upset, but he also could put her into a better mood.
Lily stood there, biting her lip and wringing her hands. She hardly noticed when James turned around, but hardly noticed is still noticing. She looked up at him after a moment, and he raised a hand. It dawned on her he was saying goodbye.
It couldn't be goodbye, not now. Not so close. She had been callous toward him to keep him from hurting her; how was she supposed to know he really had feelings for her? Lily had thought of James romantically for nearly the whole term, but she hadn't wanted him to find out. But now, if she kept to herself, it would be the end, before it had even begun.
She realized she held all the cards. It was up to her to decide, but he wouldn't wait forever for that decision. So, instead of doing what she would have done a year ago, she motioned for him to come back.
She saw him laugh, his head tilted slightly back. She smiled a little, and the smile grew the closer he came.
"Yes?" he asked, slightly breathless. Lily moved two steps closer to him, leaving barely enough room for a quill between them.
"Would you like your reaction?" she asked quietly, staring up into his hazel eyes.
He nodded gently. He gulped once, Lily noted.
Lily closed the distance, standing slightly on her toes to kiss him on the lips. She felt his sharp intake of breath and was about to pull away when he placed a hand on the back of her neck and an arm around her waist. She laughed and lost herself for a moment, tangling her hand in his messy hair.
"Was this the reaction you wanted?" she asked, her forehead against his.
"Nah," he joked. "This is better."
She laughed and wrapped herself around him again.
Author's Note: Just a quick disclaimer. Yes, this has the same title as the song by Dashboard Confessional, but this story was not based on that song. I really just like its title.