Lily was still running around half-dressed –trying to find out how her favourite blouse had disappeared just by letting Sirius use her washing machine- when she heard a door close and someone opening the fridge.
“Sirius?” Lily yelled from inside her bathroom. No reaction. It had to be Sirius; he was the only one with another key to her apartment. “Sirius! What did you do to my white blouse? I need it, ‘cause James’ll be here any...”
Lily froze when she reached the kitchen, finding Sirius there –as she had expected. But he was not alone.
“...second,” Lily whispered, finishing her question as James smiled sheepishly, trying not to stare at the red bra Lily was wearing. But when his eyes wandered once again to her chest, Lily realised she was standing half-naked in front of the bloke she would try to impress that night.
“Relax, Lily, it’s not like we’ve never seen that before,” Sirius joked, yet nobody laughed. Lily’s face turned only redder, as her anger flared.
“I’ll be right back,” she said through clenched teeth, while –with a lot of strange head movements- she tried to let Sirius know that she wanted to talk to him in private. He followed her.
“What were you thinking? Just letting James in without telling me? You don’t own this place, you know!” Lily raged, when she had closed her bedroom door behind her. Sirius wanted to protest, but Lily wouldn’t let him. “But more importantly, where is that white blouse you supposedly washed last week?”
Sirius seemed to be more comfortable with Lily screaming at him, than with answering this question. He scratched the back of his neck, while he looked apologetically at the redhead.
“I did wash it! I mean it’s clean!” He said, while backing away from Lily slowly. He stopped when he bumped into Lily’s closet. “You see, I washed it together with my red sweater... You know the one with the black cat on it? The one you like so much...?”
“Sirius,” Lily glared at him threateningly. He was stalling, and she didn’t have the patience to listen to his nonsense, but at the same time she dreaded what he was going to say, already suspecting the worst.
“I’m so sorry, Lily,” Sirius said as he opened the middle drawer of her closet. “The red and white together...”
“PINK? Do I look good with pink, Sirius?” Lily yelled at him as he pulled out the blouse that had once been white. As Sirius opened his mouth to answer, Lily spoke quickly. “Don’t you dare say yes! I am going to kill you, Sirius. Unfortunately, I have a date with James “I’ve-already-seen-you-naked” Potter right now, so I’ll have to postpone your murder for later tonight.”
Sirius eyes widened, and Lily smiled in satisfaction as she put on a blue, long-sleeved t-shirt. She loved how frightened Sirius got when she was using her calm, low, threatening voice on him. It made him take her threats seriously. Lily would never really hurt Sirius of course.
“Why are you even here?” Lily asked snappily, as she checked her outfit in the mirror.
“I, being the kind person that I am, came here to babysit Sammy, so you can go have a date with James “ex-boyfriend” Potter,” Sirius explained smugly. Lily’s anger died down when he said this.
“Thanks. I didn’t really think about that,” Lily said softly.
“Yeah well, you’re not the one with a kid. Why would you think about something like that?” Sirius said plainly, shrugging as he handed Lily her shoes.
You’re not the one with a kid. Lily thought. I could’ve been, if James hadn’t broken up with me and cut me out of his life... Is that what you wanted?
“So, she’s here now?” Lily asked, pulling herself out of her own thoughts. “I didn’t see her in the kitchen.”
“She was hiding behind the fridge. I guess seeing you half-naked scared her... poor kid,” Sirius said jokingly. Lily stuck out her tongue and Sirius winked back at her as he left her room.
Lily checked herself one last time in the mirror before joining the rest.
“You don’t have to stay in the kitchen, you know,” Lily said friendly when she noticed James hadn’t moved from his spot.
“I think we should get going if we don’t want to be late,” James said, pointing at the clock which read 6:45 pm.
“Oh, that clock’s 10 minutes early," Lily explained. “Plus, I would like to see the wonderful Sammy again, if she would stop hiding from me.”
A small, bubbly face popped up from behind James’ chair. Lily smiled involuntarily at her face. The dimples in her cheeks seemed cuter than ever, while the red ribbon in her black hair made her look like a little doll.
“Hello, Lily,” she said shyly.
“Hey, Sammy. Are you going to stay with Sirius tonight?” Lily asked kindly. Sammy nodded excitedly, but kept clinging to James’ arm, clearly not yet accustomed to the new environment. “Come, I’ve got some movies you could watch on the telly.”
Sammy seemed very eager to do this as she took Lily’s hand, not at all unfamiliar with the term ‘telly’. It was surprising how much James lived like a muggle, considering the fact that he had grown up in a wizarding family.
“I wanna watch Peter Pan!” Sirius yelled, following Lily and Sammy into the sitting room. Sammy laughed as Sirius flew past her to the cabinet filled with animated Disney classics. Lily had grown up with these movies, and secretly liked to watch them again even at her age. She should have known from the beginning that Sirius would love them as well.
Sammy ran after him excitedly. Lily smiled as she watched Sirius take the toddler in his arms.
Finally someone with the same maturity-level to play with, Lily thought laughingly.
“He’s really good with her,” James said, surprising Lily. She hadn’t noticed him next to her. Lily nodded. “Are you ready to leave? It’s better to disappear while Sammy doesn’t notice I’m leaving, otherwise she can get a little difficult.”
“Let me just get my coat,” Lily said.
Suddenly, she wished she could stay home with Sirius and Sammy, watching Peter Pan and worrying about nothing at all. Going out with James was... wonderful as well as frightening.
What if the unresolved issues would ruin the night? Make things really awkward between them, or worse make them hate each other again? Maybe it was better to avoid alone time with James?
Too late for that now, Lily thought. She took a deep breath before reappearing in the entrance hall, where James was waiting. She faked a smile and headed out the door.
“I didn’t really know what the occasion was, so I brought a bottle of wine,” James said as they walked to the apparating spot near Lily’s apartment.
“Oh, you shouldn’t have! There’s no special occasion, just dinner. Been a while since we’ve all been together,” Lily explained.
The rest of their journey to Ian Evans’ house passed in silence. Lily wondered whether she was the one creating this tension, but then she realised that James hadn’t tried anything either. He kept his distance and didn't really show any interest.
They were both very aware of how different this was compared to their coincidental talks now and then. This was spending the whole evening together, and it somehow had to be perfect... They were James and Lily! It had to live up to how perfect they were at Hogwarts. But had it been perfect?
“James,” Lily said, as he was about to knock on the door. “This is weird. I expected things to go as smoothly as ever, because... well, that’s how it always went between us. But there are just too much conflicted feelings to make this comfortable.”
“What are you trying to say, Lily?” James said.
“I’m giving you an excuse to get out of this dinner. I mean, I’m giving myself an excuse too. I don’t want to fuss over how wrong things are between us, when Petunia is constantly telling me how wrong the rest of my life already is. We can do this some other time. My dad’ll understand,” Lily said.
She had dreaded being in the same room as her sister, but her date with James had made that dread disappear somehow. But now, she was dreading the date as well, and it was all too much for one night.
“Lily, things will keep being weird between us, until they’re not anymore. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re having dinner with your family, or whether we’re in a bar, or having a picnic. As long as we keep avoiding each other, things will be weird,” James said, clearly not dreading this date as much as Lily had thought from his uneasy behaviour.
“Then why are you being so distant?” Lily asked. James chuckled.
“I thought you might want a friend during this dinner, rather than a flirting date. I was trying to be your friend, which obviously wasn’t done properly,” he said, still chuckling. “I’m saving my seductive charms for later tonight.”
Lily laughed as his explanation eased the tension a bit.
“Why, James Potter, you are as charming as ever,” Lily said, making him smile beautifully.
This was it, that easiness, those little flirtations, that was what James was to her. He made her feel beautiful and fun to be with.
“Ready?” He asked, putting his hand on the small of her back. Lily was glad to feel it still sent shivers up her spine. Things between them hadn’t changed that much.
Lily didn’t answer him but just knocked on the door, not knowing whether she was ready for anything that would happen that night.
Lily poured herself another glass of wine. She had lost count of how many she had had already but that didn’t matter, she needed something to keep her mouth busy so she wouldn’t shout at Petunia to shut up.
Just when James had promised to be her friend and help her through this dinner, Lily’s father had had the brilliant idea of sitting in between Lily and James. Her perfect plan of talking to James the entire night dissolved as soon as it had been created.
This put her in between her father and her sister, while James sat across of her with Vernon Dursley yelling in his ear about his new job at a drill factory, called Grunnings.
How that boy chooses to suffer just to go on a date with me, Lily thought. It’s sort of sweet.
James smiled at her as he watched her take a big gulp of wine. She raised her eyebrows, challenging him to make a comment on her drinking. He didn’t, but her father did.
“Lily dear, would you mind sharing that bottle of wine?” Ian said mockingly. Lily looked at her father with a small smile before pouring him a glass of wine as well. She gave James an extra dosage knowing he would need it, and when she was about to fill Petunia’s glass, the latter stopped her, saying she didn’t like this wine.
First Lily thought Petunia was just being snotty, but then she noticed her glass was still clean. How could she know whether she liked the wine, when she hadn’t tried it yet?
“You must visit! It is such a wonderful place, although the back garden could use some work. But the neighbours are so nice and decent!” Petunia went on about the new house she and Vernon had bought in Little Whinging.
While Vernon confirmed his wife’s claims about the perfection of their new abode, Lily grew more depressed than ever. The wine was not working.
You see, up ‘till that point Lily had been the only one able to support herself and afford a place of her own because of her job. Vernon had been unemployed until a couple of months ago, and Petunia hadn’t been able to afford anything apart from her expensive wardrobe with the wage she got working as a secretary. So, they had lived with Vernon’s parents before the wedding, something that drove Petunia up the wall, and something Lily rejoiced at.
Now, that advantage was gone too, and Petunia couldn’t cease the gloating.
“Well, I’m very glad both my daughters are such successes in life,” Ian said, giving Lily’s hand a squeeze. Lily knew her father was very proud of her career as a healer. “I don’t have any dessert, but something tells me Petunia has taken care of that.”
Of course, Petunia had brought dessert, as she always did. This time it was blueberry cheesecake, which she had only recently learned to bake in the baking classes she went to every Wednesday.
“But before we can start, Vernon and I have an announcement to make,” Petunia said, beaming at her father and taking Vernon’s hand in her own. Lily once again brought her glass of wine to her lips, trying the hide her smile as she watched Vernon drool over his piece of cheesecake instead of listening to his wife. “I’m pregnant.”
Lily’s smile disappeared as her mouth fell open in surprise. She could see Petunia’s judgemental eyes fall on her sister as she gloated on being the first to give Ian Evans a grandchild. Lily knew how much that meant to her father.
Somehow her fingers had stopped working as well, when she suddenly felt her glass of wine collide with her lap and after that with the floor. There was red wine everywhere, and it started to seep through the fabric of Lily’s t-shirt, making contact with her skin.
Lily sighed deeply and closed her eyes for a moment. This had to be the worst night ever.
“Did you see how she reacted when I pulled out my wand?” Lily complained as she walked into her old bedroom. “I mean, it’s like she’s still twelve years old! I just wanted to help, not hex the living daylight out of her –although, that would have been satisfying!”
“Satisfying to you maybe, but think of your father. He’s so happy to see you all together,” James said as he followed her in, closing the door behind him.
They had gone upstairs to find something else Lily could wear from her old closet. Not that she needed to find something else –she had already used a cleaning spell on her t-shirt- but Petunia was all about normalcy, so James had coaxed Lily into pretending to be normal (according to Petunia’s standards).
“And did you hear the excuse she had for not making me godmother?” Lily continued her rant. “Margaret is Vernon’s older and only sister... You understand, right? Ugh! As if I want to be guardian of something produced by that man’s semen!”
James laughed, while Lily pulled out a warm sweater. It was the only decent thing still in there, and it would come in handy when it’d get colder later that night.
“Ian got to be Godfather,” James said gently. Lily nodded, while she took off her ‘supposedly’ stained t-shirt and put on the sweater.
“Turn around,” Lily said laughingly, when James just kept staring at her.
“Relax Lily, it’s not like I’ve never seen that before,” James said, mimicking Sirius. Lily laughed and threw her t-shirt at him. “So, Sirius has seen you naked before...”
Lily tried to hide her smile when she heard this. He was jealous? And of Sirius, for crying out loud!
“Well, don’t think we run around naked, but yeah we’ve gotten fairly comfortable around each other,” Lily explained. James nodded slowly.
“Have you two ever...?” James asked, blushing furiously. Lily laughed.
“No, it’s not like that! We’re just friends, and thinking about anything more than that just creeps me out,” Lily said laughingly. James still kept quiet. “James, believe me when I say that I don’t see Sirius like that. He’s like a... pet, like a dog! No pun intended. He’s just made to be everybody’s best friend.”
James chuckled lightly at that statement. Were they best friends again? Lily thought.
“We should probably get back downstairs. You haven’t congratulated the happy couple,” James said, pushing her towards the door gently.
“Please, don’t make me!” Lily whined like a child. James laughed.
“Oh yes, I’m here to make you be nice to your sister,” James said, truly forcing her down the staircase.
“So, when are you two getting married?” Petunia asked bluntly. Lily blushed.
“Petunia,” she said softly.
“We’re not even together right now, so I don’t think that’ll be coming on soon,” James answered confidently.
“Oh, that’s a pity. It’s so wonderful to run your own household and start a family,” Petunia said dreamily. Lily rolled her eyes.
The evening was coming to a close, much to Petunia’s disappointment. After another thirty minutes of too friendly goodbyes, Lily and James were out the door walking towards the old garden shed so they could disapparate safely.
“Where are we going?” Lily asked when they apparated back to the apparating spot near her apartment.
“I decided to stay close to home, so I checked out your neighbourhood. There’s a nice bar just two miles away from your apartment,” James explained, taking her hand and pulling her along excitedly.
“I know. I go there sometimes with my colleagues after work,” Lily said, getting excited by James good mood.
James gallantly opened the door for her and ordered some drinks.
They played some pool, something neither Lily nor James really was good at, so Lily decided to dance, feeling the alcohol give her more courage.
“Come on!” Lily pulled his arm, trying to get him onto the tiny dance floor.
“Nobody’s dancing!” James yelled back. The music had been turned up.
“That’s because they’re waiting for us to go first,” Lily said, shrugging. James grinned at her and gave in to her pleas.
“Why do you insist on embarrassing me?” James whined as he awkwardly stood opposite of Lily.
“Your dancing skills are not bad. You just have to be more confident,” Lily said, taking both his hands in hers and swaying to the music. “I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to say that to you, Mr. Confidence.”
James grinned at the redhead before him and tried to copy her steps. Seeing him struggle was almost as endearing as knowing he would do anything Lily asked him right now.
Fortunately for James, the next song was a slower one, which meant more couples joined them in the middle of the bar. This time James didn’t hesitate to dance with Lily, taking her into his arms carefully.
“You know perfectly well that you’ve always made me nervous, Lily Evans,” James whispered in her ear, as a reaction to her last comment. Lily blushed slightly, while putting both her arms around his neck.
“What about now?” Lily asked softly. James chuckled.
“Shaking in my boots,” he joked and Lily punched him playfully.
How this way of flirting still felt so normal after two years of avoidance, was a bit surreal, but Lily liked to enjoy it as long as possible. This was how it always went; either flirting or fighting.
But he had been her friend tonight... Maybe things would be different this time.
“I am very glad I can be something other than just your friend right now,” James whispered as if he had read her mind. His hand rested in her neck after tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
Lily froze as her mind filled itself with flashbacks upon seeing his face so close, his eyes flicking from her eyes to her lips and back. She had seen that look so many times. He was going to kiss her, but all she could do was think back to the previous times he had kissed her, and it hurt. She knew she was going to pull away if he came any closer, but she hoped he wouldn’t so she didn’t have to hurt his feelings.
“Lily!” A male voice yelled, pulling them both out of their intense stare.
It had been Edmund, who had just entered the bar with Charles.
“Edmund! Chuck!” Lily yelled back at them, waving them over. She was extremely happy to see them. With them around, James wouldn’t try to kiss her again.
“Hey Lil, just finished our shift,” Chuck said when Lily hugged him. “And who is this handsome fellow?”
“James Potter,” Lily said. “Meet Edmund Skym and Charles Bolitho.”
“Nice to meet you,” James said, shaking their hand.
“Eli came as well. He’s standing by the bar,” Edmund whispered into Lily’s ear when James didn’t notice.
Lily tried to get a glimpse of where Eli was standing when suddenly she found him staring right back at her with those sad, jealous eyes.
“Looks like I’ve got some competition,” James said, noticing Eli’s stare as well. Chuck laughed.
“That pathetic puppy? He’s no competition, mate! Although Lily did shag him...” Chuck said bluntly.
“Chuck! Shut up!” Lily said embarrassedly.
“What? You did, didn’t you? This poor chap should know what he’s getting into. Dopey over there is Eli, our colleague, who has been madly in love with Lily since the day they met –although, I never stopped believing he’s gay... Anyway, Lily got drunk on his birthday party and had pity-sex with him!” Chuck said laughingly. Lily was blushing furiously, trying to stop him from talking to James, who was far too amused by hearing this story. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a pretty blonde over there begging me to buy her a drink.”
And so Chuck disappeared into the crowd.
“I was drunk, it was a mistake. I chose to just forget about it but these nice guys won’t let me,” Lily explained, still scarlet in the face.
“Well, leading him on before crushing his heart again and again...” Edmund started to explain, but Lily gave him a stern look, which said: ‘Don’t make me look bad!’.
“I mean, giving into Eli’s desperate chase is the only fault you have, so we’re bound to use it against you,” Edmund said, smiling sweetly at Lily. She smiled back at him gratefully. “I’ll see you two around.”
Edmund left after this, not wanting to feel like a third wheel, and so Lily and James were once again alone.
“So a man, desperately chasing you, is one of your weaknesses?” James asked suggestively, standing closer again. She couldn’t really blame him, the music was getting pretty loud.
“There’s a difference between desperate men chasing me and men who chase me desperately...” Lily replied confidently. James laughed. “And if I recall correctly, Edmund said that was my only fault and not one of them...”
“And if I recall correctly, I’ve known you longer than Edmund has. So yes, I’m fairly certain you’ve got more than one flaw in your cute, little personality.”
“Why, James, do elaborate!” Lily said laughingly, taking another sip of her drink.
“Oh no, I shan’t ! For this evening revolves solely around pleasing the young lady, who has captured my affection once more,” James replied smoothly, taking her hand in his and kissing it tenderly. Lily laughed and slapped his hand away playfully.
When their drinks were finished, they decided to leave, as the music was now making it impossible to talk without shouting. They had said their goodbyes to Charles, Edmund and even Eli, who was very wary of James.
“Your colleagues seem nice. I like them,” James said, as they reached Lily’s front door.
“Yeah, they’re what make St. Mungo’s bearable. I mean, I love the healer training, but how those stuck-up older healers can treat you sometimes...” Lily explained, searching for her keys.
Just when she had found them, James put his hand on hers, stopping her.
“Did you have a nice time?” He asked. Lily nodded, not sure what he was doing. “I did too. I’m glad you decided to say yes.”
“Why are you saying goodbye? I mean, you still have to come in, don’t you?” Lily asked awkwardly.
“Yeah, but Sirius’ll be in there and you know how painfully obvious he can be,” James said, chuckling.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. He probably fell asleep before Sammy did, and once he’s asleep...” Lily started to explain, taking out her keys.
But before she could insert it in the lock, James had taken her head between his hands and kissed her. It was so out of the blue that Lily could not over-analyse it before it happened, and her instincts told her she liked the touch of his lips, the warmth of both his hands on her face, the softness with which he kissed her.
And then it was over. Before she had had any coherent thought, James Potter was standing before her just like he had before, although a bit more flustered.
Hastily, Lily opened the door of her apartment, trying to hide her scarlet face, still not thinking coherently.
A/N: Dilemma; is it third wheel or fifth wheel? :D