Going back to Hogwarts had been less awkward than Lily thought. Once she resigned herself to the notion that she and Potter shared a lot of friends, and thus plainly ignoring him until they could graduate was ridiculous, she found it easier to accept his presence. Plus, the two were sharing the Head position, so they spent a lot of time together working on the assignments Dumbledore gave them. What they could split up, they did, but some things did require both of them at the same time.
Their relationship quickly evolved into one of careful, yet friendly camaraderie. Jenna, Lily was forced to admit, was a decently acceptable addition into James’s, and therefore her, life. Until, that is, Lily was making her rounds around the corridors after hours and heard the undeniable sounds of snogging coming from one of the corner closets. Being in a foul mood, as she and James had just finished one of their— albeit rarer— bickerings, she threw the door open with force, prepared to lash out at whoever was inside.
And instantly, Lily knew she had found her next headache. The boy was some Ravenclaw she vaguely remembered seeing around school, but the girl, caught with her hands twined around the boy’s neck, was undeniably Jenna. “Lily!” the girl gasped. “Look, I can explain… Roger and I… erm…got lost in-“
Her words were silenced by the sharp crack that echoed in the tiny closet. A red handprint, courtesy of Lily, throbbed on Jenna’s face. “You’re going to tell him,” Lily spoke lowly and clearly. “And you’re going to tell him now. 70 points from Hufflepuff.”
The news of Jenna’s cheating hurt James much less than he expected. He had only been seeing the girl for about two months, and truth be told, he hadn’t let himself get terribly attached to her. And now, he was free to focus on other things. Like school. And his Head duties. And not thinking about Lily Evans.
"You didn't have to curse him, Potter! He was just trying to kiss me! That's what happens at the end of a date!"
"You know, you're not acting very grateful right now, Evans."
"Grateful?! Why, pray tell, should I be grateful!" Lily was beginning to get worked up enough to literally see red, and it was all aimed directly at the insolent boy in front of her. "You RUINED my DATE!"
"He's a sleazeball, Lily! Honestly, why can't you see that?" Now James was beginning to get slightly angry. "The entire time you were lingering outside of the portrait, I don't think he looked up to your face more than three times!"
Lily clenched her fists and took a step closer to her current nemesis. "You were WATCHING? Why couldn't you just leave us ALONE?"
"Because I didn't want him to kiss you!" James blurted out. "He's… he's not right for you!"
"Then who is? You?" Lily asked sarcastically.
The simple, one word answer took Lily by surprise. Did Potter just say yes? Then relief flooded her. "Oh, you're joking. This is not the time to be joking, Potter."
But James wasn't acting like he was joking. He wasn't towering over her in fury anymore, though he did take a step forward to gently grasp her hand. Head reeling, Lily absently let him. "You know there's… something between us. I know you feel it too. Chemistry, passion, whatever you want to call it. Don't just dismiss that."
"Potter, I…" Lily felt herself being sucked in by his warm, swirling hazel eyes. It would be so easy to just give in to those eyes, to just give in to her pounding heart. "...I have no idea what you're talking about." She pulled her hand back, looked at him coldly, and turned away. Not again. She was not going to fall for James Potter again.
Her progress back to her dorm was halted by a firm grasp on her elbow. James twirled her back to face him and pressed her lightly against the brick of the warm fireplace. "Liar."
Indignant, and refusing to meet his eyes, she responded, "What did you call me, Potter?"
"I called you a liar, Evans. Why do you have to make everything so bloody difficult?"
And then he kissed her.
It was the slowest, yet most intensely real kiss Lily had ever experienced. She'd heard that during kisses like these, the mind goes blank and just basks in supreme pleasure. But that was a lie. Her brain was instead pushed into overdrive, sensitive to every crackle of the dying fire, every breath she managed to steal, every strand of hair that got in the way until James brushed it aside, keeping his hand cupping her head with his thumb stroking her jaw. She forced herself to open her eyes just a tad, to be assured that this was really happening, and what she saw nearly made her legs give out. The expression on James's face was so sincere, so pure, and so honest that her heart actually hurt as all the ice she had built up against him was melted in an instant, and then she knew. This was perfect. This was right
Lily felt an overwhelming urge to share with him her revelation. "James," she whispered.
James opened his eyes and took a step back, looking slightly distraught. "Lily, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to; I was just… Merlin, I'm an idiot." He took a few more steps backwards, and then turned to the stairs.
Lily was quite put out, and followed him over to the other side of the room. "Don't go.”
The look on James's face as he turned back around was one of surprise. "Oh?" And then that cocky smirk that Lily hated so much appeared as he stepped closer to hold her once more. "Ooohhh."
"You're insufferable," Lily informed him as she tilted her head up.
"I know," said James. "But you like it."
"Yeah, maybe." And then because he wasn't acting fast enough, she kissed him. Because really, she wasn't finished yet.
And she didn't think she'd be finished for a long time.
Dating James Potter was certainly not what Lily had expected. Yes, they still fought occasionally, but the boy was undeniably sweet. When she came down with the flu, even though they were in the midst of fight about whether zebras were white with black stripes or black with white stripes that had escalated to a shouting match, James had literal buckets of soup sent up to her room by the House Elves he had befriended over the years.
And it was an adventure too. On their very first date, James took her through a secret passage to Hogsmeade, where he dared her to go touch the Shrieking Shack at midnight. Though not normally easily scared, Lily could only make it about three-quarters of the way across the lawn. James, of course, had run straight up to the building with that cocky smirk of his, and had only not gone into the actual building because of Lily’s frightened pleas.
It was almost scary, how easy it was for them to fall into a rhythm of dating. Lily thought nothing of fetching a blanket to cover him when James fell asleep by the fireplace. But Lily knew that things had progressed far between the two of them the night they were working on creating the second semester’s prefect rounds schedule. Seeing the snow falling outside the window made the couch warmed by the fire even cozier, and it was hard for Lily to resist James’s playful pokes and attempts to… distract her from their duties. After the first hour, though, he had given up trying and was instead sprawled across the couch behind her, very obviously fighting sleep after having had a grueling Quidditch match just hours before.
Sighing, Lily dragged a blanket across him and turned again to her work, realizing that she would be on her own for this one.
Then, chills ran up her spine as James’s hand grazed her back. She turned to face him, meeting his drowsy yet contented eyes. “Hey, Lily?”
“You know I love you, right?” It was not only the words that made Lily blush, it was certainty in his voice as he spoke them. As if he was just stating a fact, and wanted to make sure she was aware of it. Slowly, she nodded.
James smiled at her. “Good.” And with that, he adjusted his arm to cradle his head more comfortably and closed his eyes. Lily remained where she was, surprised that she was not shocked to realize that she loved him back.
Though war was raging outside of Hogwarts, graduation was still a happy affair. Lily was ecstatic to see the elder Potters again (and his parents, James noted with joy, were just as enthused to see Lily once more).
The reception following the ceremony was boisterously loud and celebratory. Alice proudly showed her new ring to Mrs. Longbottom, who, as it turned out, had a beautiful smile. Peter sat on the couch with his arm around Emily, sharing Hogwarts stories with Remus and his mum. For once, Sirius had lost his easy-going demeanor as he stood before Alex’s parents, holding her hand as she smiled up alternatively at him and her father, who was eying Sirius with borderline skepticism. The Suertes eventually were called away to speak with some of their Ministry friends.
“Come on Sirius, let’s go walk by the lake.”
“Not just yet, Alex. We spent some time with your parents; let’s go see mine for a bit.” Sirius began tugging Alex to the other corner of the room, as she protested with confusion.
“Your parents came, Sirius? I didn’t even think you invited- oh.”
Sirius stopped in front of Mrs. Potter, who turned to the two of them with a delighted smile and immediately gathered them into a hug.
“Ah, there you are, my boy,” Mr. Potter said as he clapped Sirius on the back. “You know, the Missus and I were afraid this day would never come. We were sure that one of you boys would be expelled before the end. Yet here we are! And we could not be prouder.”
“Wow Dad, glad to know you had so much faith in us,” drawled James with a stony face as he approached his family, Lily at his side.
“Well, maybe we would have had more faith if your mother and I hadn’t received more than ten letters from the school in your first year at Hogwarts detailing your various malfeasances, with slight undertones of criticism for our parenting.”
At this, James had to laugh, and he hugged his mother one more time before tugging Lily off to the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so the pair decided to lay down by the shore and watch their former classmates milling about.
“It’s weird to think about, isn’t it? That we’re done with Hogwarts. We’re adults now.” Lily turned so she was face-to-face with James. “What do you think life’s going to be like now?”
“I’ve been thinking, and quite honestly, I’ve got enough in the bank from my grandparents that I don’t really need to get a normal, paying job. And it would feel almost wrong to get one. And I don’t mean to sound conceited, but I really am quite good at dueling and such. I’ve heard that Dumbledore is involved in a small resistance movement against Voldemort; one that’s not connected to the Ministry. That’s where I feel I need to be.”
“I’ve heard whispers of that too. And I see your point; with the world the way it is right now, I can’t justify doing anything with my life other than trying to rectify it.”
James’s grip on her tightened as he turned away to look at the sky. “Lily, when you try to imagine the future, what do you see?”
“What do you mean?” Lily asked, trying to read his face.
James swallowed nervously. “What I mean is… when I try to imagine the future… all I see is you. Just you, Lily.” With this, he turned his face back to her. “Do you… do you see me?”
Their faces were so close that the tips of their noses were barely touching. Flustered, Lily had to take a moment to catch her breath, but then whispered, “Yes. Always.”
James’s whole face lit up as he laughed for sheer joy, grasped her closer, and kissed her soundly on the lips. He released her after a moment’s time and stroked her cheek. “Good,” he whispered. “Because I got something for you.” Without breaking eye contact, James reached into his pocket and pulled out a square, black box.
Startled, Lily placed her hand on his chest and pushed herself up into a sitting position. “James Potter, this had better not be one of your pranks or I swear I will sic Alex on you.”
Laughing again, James flipped open the lid of the box to reveal a simple yet flawless diamond ring. Its stone, beset by two smaller diamonds, flashed in the sunlight as Lily stared at it, mesmerized. “So, what do you think? You want to spend the rest of your life with me, Lily Evans?”
Slowly, Lily returned his smile. “Call me crazy, but I think I do, James Potter.”
Author's Note: So that's it. The end of Hogwarts. It's been a great couple of years and I have loved writing this and trying to bring more depth to characters who deserved it. It's been one heck of a ride, and I hope you've enjoyed this as much as I have. I may come back and do one last mega-chapter later, but for now, goodbye!