January of Seventh Year
The Potions classroom was filled with a haze of smoke, most of it in varying shades of blue, although there was a plume of deep orange coming from the cauldron of a nervous looking Slytherin. Lily Evan’s cauldron, however, was issuing a steady stream of smoke that could only be described as perfect. It billowed lazily, swirling in elegant spirals, a blue of the deepest shade and it was far superior to the smoke of any of the other students in the classroom, save Severus Snape.
Lily, however, was not taking the time to marvel at the perfection that was the Blood Thinning Brew she had expertly brewed. Instead, her eyes were trained on the back of the head of the boy that sat one table up and one to the left of her own. A soft smile had appeared unawares on her face as she idly stirred her beautiful potion.
“Your obvious is showing,” came a voice to her right, making Lily jump.
She turned to glare at Remus Lupin, her potions partner for the day. He was currently smirking at Lily, I knowing look in his eyes as he glanced between the redheaded girl and the previous object of her scrutiny.
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Lily responded in a lofty tone. But, of course, she did know. However, when one finds themselves in a state of denial, they tend to… well, deny things. And in addition to her rather exemplary potion-brewing, Lily had also become rather an expert on refusing to see what was right in front of her.
“Is that so?” Remus asked teasingly. “Are you trying to tell me that you weren’t just staring at one James Potter?”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you,” Lily replied, though her cheeks flushed tellingly. Not for the first time, Lily silently cursed her pale skin and redheaded genes for making her blushes so visible.
“Why don’t I believe you?” Despite the dark, weary circles under them, his eyes were bright with mirth.
“Stuff it, Lupin,” Lily said. She glanced critically at his cauldron for a moment. “And add some more lacewing flies to that. Your potion is too thin.”
Not quite able to help herself, Lily found her eyes drawn once more to the head of rumpled black hair. At that moment, though, the head turned around and Lily found herself looking into the eyes of James Potter. He grinned at her impishly, a dimple popping into view in his left cheek. Lily quickly averted her gaze, ducking to hide her face, but not before James caught site of the blood that was rushing to her cheeks once more.
“Subtle,” Remus muttered to her.
Lily whipped her head around to glare at the boy sitting next to her. “Do you mind?” she hissed.
“Could you just be honest with me for a moment, Lily?” he asked. “Do you fancy James?”
Lily raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me, Remus, but are you or are you not one of James’ best mates? What on earth makes you think I’d talk to you about this?”
“I was under the impression that you and I were friends as well,” Remus responded mildly.
“Well… we are, but-“
“I won’t tell James anything you say,” Remus interrupted. “Whether it’s positive or negative, I won’t tell him.”
“Are you kidding? I’m not getting involved in whatever complicated relationship you and James have. You two can figure that out on your own. But I do care about both of you, so I just want to make sure you don’t get hurt.”
Lily nodded slowly. “I… okay. Um.”
“Well?” Remus gave her a searching look. “Do you fancy him?”
“Er, well, the thing is, that, uh, it’s kind of complicated, okay?” Lily said, beginning to grow flustered. Her eyes had grown bright and her hands were quivering. Though she had avoided answering the question, her physical reaction was all that Remus had needed.
“You do!” he exclaimed, his eyebrows disappearing below the fringe of hair hanging over his forehead. “You fancy him.”
“I.. well, yeah, fine. I do. I have for a while.”
“A while?” Remus’s gaze sharpened. “How long is a while?”
A rather sheepish expression crossed Lily’s face. She bit her lip hesitantly. “Uh, that would be the complicated part.”
Remus’s face grew stern. “Lily. How long?”
“Er, I’m not exactly sure when it started, for sure,” she started, her voice brisk and fearful, “but I didn’t realize I fancied him until sometime in… fihyer.”
The words blurred together at the end of the sentence, Lily speaking as quickly as she could. Remus frowned at her, not amused. “Come again?”
“Fifth year,” Lily breathed in a miniscule voice, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on her potion, which had started to boil.
“What?” Remus cried loudly, shock permeating his voice. He jumped to his feet, his surprise apparently rendering him unable to sit still. The entire class turned to look at him except Lily, who just kept stirring her potion determinedly. James Potter gave his friend a questioning look, which Remus ignored. He was still staring at Lily with disbelief.
Catching wind of the attention he’d drawn, Remus quickly made up an excuse about Lily making corrections to his potions – one which no one seemed to buy, but as they didn’t particularly care, all the students returned to their own brewing. Remus sat once more, gazing wide-eyed at Lily.
“You could try being a little bit more discreet,” Lily said to him through clenched teeth. She could feel the eyes of a certain someone trained on her and, needless to say, it was putting her on edge.
“Perhaps you should give me lessons,” Remus retorted. “You must be great at concealing things since you’ve liked James for two years and never let him know. Do you have any idea what that would mean to him?”
“I thought you weren’t getting involved,” Lily snapped. “Watch your potion. It’s boiling too quickly.”
“You could put Slughorn out of a job,” Remus said. “And I’m just trying to sort this out in my head. If you’ve fancied James all this time, why did you turn him down every time he’d ask you out?”
“Just because I fancy him doesn’t mean I want to date him,” Lily replied. “I meant what I said back in fifth year. James really was an arrogant toe-rag. He had good qualities, yes, and I liked those a lot. But there was no way I was going to put up with the ego.”
“But… but… we all thought you hated him!” Remus spluttered. Lily just gave him a disparaging look.
“I never hated James. I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan of him when we first met, but he was never a bad guy. We did get along sometimes.”
“I guess, but after hearing the phrase ‘big-headed prat’ tossed around a lot, people tend to forget about those times,” Remus pointed out.
“Right,” Lily muttered, face still unnaturally pink. “Well, now you know. So we don’t have to talk about it and can move on with our lives.”
“Just wait one second,” Remus said, eyes narrowing. “Are you ever planning on telling James any of this? I think we can both agree that the arrogance problem is pretty much moot at this point.”
“Oh, gosh, look at my wrist, I have to go,” Lily said hastily, pulling back the sleeve on her black school robes to check a watch that wasn’t there. “It’s been a really nice chat, there Remus my friend, but you know, place to see, people to go – or, er, I mean –“
Remus shot his hand out to grab Lily’s arm as she rose from her seat in what would have been a desperate bid to flee the classroom. “Avoiding something?” he asked dryly.
“Can’t you just let it be?” Lily pleaded. “Really, Remus, I’m very happy in my state of denial. Can’t you just leave me there?”
Remus began to smirk, the left corner of his mouth rising slowly, but before he had a chance to speak, a different voice cut in. “Now, now, what’s with all the chitter chatter over here?”
Professor Slughorn had waddled over from his place at the front of the classroom to stand in front of Remus and Lily’s table. His shiny, bald head was glistening slightly with sweat from the heat of the fires in the classroom. He glanced downward at the two cauldrons sitting before him and a delighted smile crossed his face.
“Oh ho! Well Mr. Lupin, this is one finely brewed potion you have here. Would I be correct in guessing you were given a few pointers from your lovely partner?” Slughorn then examined Lily’s potion, grinning ever brighter. “Perfect potion, Lily m’dear. But of course, I’d be shocked if it wasn’t.”
“Cheers, Professor,” Lily replied.
As Slughorn moved on to examine the potions brewed by the rest of the class, Lily began packing up her things, actively avoiding making eye contact with Remus. As she quickly moved to return some excess ingredients to the potions cupboard, she ran into something distinctly solid. A gnawing feeling of dread filling her stomach, Lily raised her head and was dismayed to find James looking down at her.
“Where’s the fire, Evans?” he asked her, left eyebrow quirked in amusement.
Lily, for her part, completely froze. She could feel her face practically searing with heat and wondered if she’d ever stopped blushing since Remus had called her out on her staring. There was so much blood in her face, Lily was ruefully surprised that she even had any feeling in the rest of her body. Though there was a faint tingling feeling in her extremities…
“Are you okay?” James asked next, concern now creeping into his features. Belatedly, Lily realized that she was gawking at him, her mouth agape.
Shutting it with a snap, Lily nodded hurriedly. “Oh, I’m fine. Really, I am. It’s just… a bit warm in here. That’s all. I’m just really hot.”
“All right,” James said slowly, clearly not quite buying the excuse. Shrugging it off, though, he then gave Lily a quick once-over, a familiar mischievous twinkle appearing in his eyes. “Perhaps you’re overheating. The best option would probably be to remove a layer or two of those clothes. I could help you, if you want.”
James’s offer was accompanied by a wink and a devious smirk, leaving no confusion as to what he was insinuating. The back of Lily’s neck and knees prickled with heat.
What on earth is wrong with me? She wondered. She’d been harboring a secret crush on James for a while now and she’s never responded like this before. She was friends with him now. He’d matured, and she had as well, and now the two were getting along swimmingly. Adding in un-platonic feelings now would just mess things up.
“Are you sure you’re all right, Lily?” James asked, when she once again failed to give a verbal response. “Your face is redder than your hair. Are you ill or something? Do you need me to take you to the Hospital Wing?”
James’s hand lifted and reached towards her forehead to feel her skin for signs of fever. This, finally, made Lily snap into action. “I have to go feed my cat!” she cried, springing away from James as though he had the plague.
“You don’t have a cat,” James pointed out, wrinkling his brow.
“You can’t prove that!”
With that slightly hysterical declaration, Lily sprinted from the room, stumbling over her own feet as she swiftly ran out the door, leaving behind her bag, potion supplies, and a very bewildered James.
Sorry there wasn't much James is this one. Don't worry, he'll be back in full next time!
Story and chapter titles from the song "In My Life" by The Beatles.