Lily Evans had no idea why she was in Diagon Alley today.
As she watched the hustle and bustle of the witches and wizards taking advantage of the Boxing Day sales, she felt oddly estranged from all of them, feeling very alone in the crowd. She hadn't even asked Mary if she wanted to come with her. Lily had had an odd feeling come over her this holiday, as if every time she wrote someone she would be bothering them, so she'd barely written anybody at all, except to send Christmas cards to Mary, Remus, Sirius, Maddie, Peter, and James.
James Potter. Why did she keep thinking of James Potter?
He wasn't even good looking,
she reminded herself for the hundredth time as she peered into a shop window. His hair was perpetually untidy and stuck up stupidly in the back, and he always had that cocky grin slathered across his face...
Well, no, not always. He'd definitely cut down on the cocky grin in the past couple months. He'd cut down on a lot of the things that had driven her crazy in the past, and she'd gained utmost respect for him when she found out that he'd been keeping Remus' secret.
Lily couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt every time she thought his name. She'd been so stupid, thinking he was in love with her, and she'd acted so unfairly toward him when he said he wouldn't go out with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid! He'd obviously
been hiding something. Lily always knew when Remus was hiding something, he was such a terrible liar. She'd just been too thick to realize what it was.
Still, he could have told me,
Lily thought bitterly, putting her hands in her pockets and looking at her feet as she walked. He knows I would have kept it a secret... doesn't he? Or perhaps he didn't tell me because he knew I liked him and didn't want to break my heart. Or perhaps--
Lily had run smack into somebody, knocking a large stack of parcels from the person's arms.
"I'm so sorry!" she gasped, immediately bending to help the person pick up their packages. "I didn't see--" Lily stopped abruptly, however, because she had just locked eyes with the person as he also bent to pick up his belongings.
"Hey, Evans," said James Potter, smiling tentatively at her. "Do you always walk around with your eyes shut?"
"My eyes weren't shut!" protested Lily, handing James a dropped parcel with a little more force than was necessary. "I was just... preoccupied."
"Everything alright?" James asked as they straightened up. There was something funny about his eyes, a look she'd never seen in them before. What was it? Curiosity? Concern?
"I'm fine," lied Lily, pursing her lips and looking away from his face. She cast around for a subject to draw attention off her own issues. "What's with all the packages? Christmas was yesterday, didn't you get the memo?"
"Hilarious," said James, rolling his eyes, "but I'm helping my mum with her bargain-searching. I got roped into the lovely job of box-carrier. Now I know why dad was so keen to shovel the walkway without magic this morning. And Sirius is having a lie-in, the lazy little sod."
"Sirius is staying with you?" Lily asked, cocking her head to one side. "Why?"
"Some problems back at his place," said James. "He's with me now until further notice."
"I'm glad he's alright," said Lily, and was surprised that she genuinely meant it. In the past few weeks she'd grown rather... attached to the group. She didn't quite know why. If you'd asked her what she thought of James and his friends a year ago, she wouldn't have had a good word to say about them (minus Remus, of course).
Which reminded her...
"Have you heard from Remus at all, by chance?" Lily asked. "He hasn't responded to any of my letters... it's not like him, you know?"
"Not a dicky bird," said James, his forehead creasing with worry. "Peter hasn't gotten through to him either. It's even more concerning now, though. Knowing that he hasn't responded to you, I mean. I'm sure he's alright though. He's a tough bloke. Been through a lot, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah," Lily said, biting her lip. "I still can't believe he never told me though."
James looked suddenly startled. "Told you what?"
"Told me that he's gay," said Lily. James seemed to relax somewhat, then tensed up again. Lily furrowed her brow. "What?"
"Who told you that?"
"You did, James."
"I did not!"
"You were drugged up on potions in the Hospital Wing!"
James looked utterly bemused. "I don't remember anything of the sort."
"Well of course you don't," said Lily, rolling her eyes. "But yes, you told me everything. I just wish he'd been the one to say it."
There was a troubled silence, broken only by the sounds of wizards searching for bargains.
"Tell you what," said James, breaking into a sudden grin. "I'll go drop these off with mum, and we'll go have a drink. No, don't look at me like that," he added hurriedly, seeing Lily was about to object, "I'm not hitting on you, promise. At least I'm not trying to, at any rate, which should be good enough for you. I promise not to make any unwanted advances or anything like that. We're friends today, alright?"
Lily looked carefully at him. He was smiling, but it wasn't the annoying, arrogant smile she had come to hate in the years she'd known him. It was a different smile, a more natural one, and somewhere in the back of her mind she had to admit she liked it a lot.
Suddenly, something down at the end of the alley distracted her from James' new smile. It was a very pale face with a hooked nose, surrounded by long, black hair. The face hadn't seen her yet, but she definitely didn't want it to. And it was coming this way.
"And at any rate," added James, taking her sudden silence for indecisiveness, "I still haven't got you a Christmas present."
"Oh, alright then," said Lily, not taking her eyes off the figure in the distance. "But just for a little while."
It was actually quite fun, hanging out with James, though Lily had trouble even admitting it to herself later. She found herself laughing at all of his jokes, not because they were any funnier than usual, but because she'd allowed herself to. They spent a great deal of time in Dervish & Banges, musing over the section of "mystery items" that the shop had collected over the years. In Flourish & Blotts, Lily learned that James shared her love for Kurt Vonnegut, and they had a lengthy discussion on the satirical nature of The Sirens of Titan
, which continued even after they'd left the shop and ordered ice creams at Fortescue's.
"I should have gotten the strawberry peanut butter," remarked James as he helped himself to another spoonful of Lily's sundae. "It's way better than mine."
"I said one bite, not all of it!" laughed Lily, swatting him with a napkin.
"Oi! I paid for it, didn't I?"
"Well I told you not to," said Lily primly, plucking a blueberry from the top of James' ice cream and eating it delicately. James made a face at her, and she giggled.
"Your teeth are blue!" James shouted for the world to hear. "Lily Evans has blue teeth!"
"They are not!" Lily protested, covering her mouth. James attempted to pry her hand away, cackling.
"C'mon, Evans, let me see..."
"No! James! Argh, gerroff."
"Blue teeth Evans!"
"Yours are bluer!"
"Give me a big smile!"
They stopped their banter instantly, both having realized at the same moment that their faces were inches from each other. Lily looked into James' eyes. Her breath caught in her throat...
James pulled back abruptly.
"Sorry," he said, turning back to his blueberry sherbert.
"James," Lily began, not quite sure what she was going to say.
"I said I wouldn't, so I won't," James said firmly, eyes on her once again. He looked resolute. She nodded.
Lily found her emotions very complicated as she took another bite of her ice cream. Was she glad that James had kept his word, or was she... disappointed?
GUYS. I'M BACK.
I went on a year-long hiatus. But I'm back. I doubt anyone is here from the Olden Days, but if you are, I absolutely love you for not giving up on me. I gave up on me for a while there, at least for this story.
And if you didn't know me before my big long break: Hi! I'm Jess. This story did not come first, so read "Moony Eyes" for context if you don't get what's going on.
Thanks so much for reading!