Chapter 1 : Not Quite Shakespeare
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"Lily, I think I'm in love with you."
The answering words hitched in her throat. Love. It was a small word with weighty implications. It was something that belonged in romance novels and tragic plays by Shakespeare. Not in her life. Not here, on the bottom steps of the Gryffindor girls' staircase. Not now, even though this night marked nine months since she had started dating James Potter.
"Thanks," she replied breathily, hastily adding a small smile to her lackluster response.
James stared at her, clearly having expected a different response, but eventually he smiled back. "Right. Good night, Lily."
She let out a small sigh of relief. "Good night, James."
The next day he spotted her in the library. She was curled up on her favorite armchair, the lumpy one with stuffing practically coming out at the seams. In their fifth year, Madam Pince excitedly announced the arrival of new furniture, but Lily outright demanded that her favorite armchair stay. Madam Pince was taken aback by the request, but after several heated negotiations they eventually reached an agreement. She would let her keep the chair under one condition; it had to be moved to the History of Magic section in the very back of the library. Lily happily agreed as long as it meant she could keep the chair. Lily was certainly stubborn and definitely not a fan of change.
"Hey, Lil," he called out in a slightly louder than necessary voice, "what are you reading?"
She looked up from her book. "Hmm? Oh, Romeo and Juliet," she replied, placing the open book on the arm of her chair to keep her place.
James scratched his head. "Never heard of it."
"What?" Lily exclaimed, "How on earth have you never heard of Romeo and Juliet?"
"It's a Muggle book, right?" he asked, glancing at the motionless couple on the book's cover. "I grew up in the Wizarding World, Lil, you know that," he responded with an unconcerned shrug.
"Right, of course," she replied absently, "but really? You've never heard of Romeo and Juliet?"
James chuckled at her amazement. "I can honestly say I've never heard of it," he said while crouching down into a sitting position, "so I guess you'll just have to tell me." He sat cross-legged in front of the chair like a child waiting to hear the teacher tell a story.
Lily rolled her eyes at her boyfriend's sitting position and pondered how best to start. "Well, basically, Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight, but they're from rivaling families. And, umm, a bunch of other stuff happens in the middle, but in the end Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear dead, but Romeo thinks she's actually dead and decides to kill himself. Then, she kills herself, too, because being dead would be better than not being together?" she finished unsurely.
James assumed she was joking, but when she neglected to add anything else to her brief summary he remarked, "Wait, seriously? That sounds absolutely barmy. Why would they commit suicide? And couldn't he have just used a potion detection spell to check if she was actually dead? And—"
Grabbing James' arm, she stopped him mid-rant with an amused giggle. "Fine, yes, I suppose it is kind of crazy, but it's sort of romantic, too? I don't know. I did a horrible job of explaining it, but the playwright is amazing! His name is William Shakespeare. He wrote almost 40 plays and they're all fantastic. I love Shakespeare! I could talk about his plays for hours."
James drowned out most of her speech after that. She loved him. What was that supposed to mean? Who was this Shakespeare guy anyway?
"Well, he's basically an intellectual badass," Lily ended with a laugh.
"I'm intellectual," James muttered under his breath, "and probably way more badass than this guy."
"Sorry, what did you say?"
"He can't be that great," James blurted, "I bet I could write a better play than him."
She quirked an eyebrow at this, oblivious to how frustrated he had become. "I've edited your essays before, hun, and they're not quite Shakespeare."
Instead of laughing, James rose from his sitting position and faced Lily with a defiant stare reminiscent of their fifth year arguments. "What do you love so much about bloody Shakespeare anyhow?" James shouted. Shocked by his reaction, Lily instinctively rose from her seat to join in on the yelling match. Before she could utter one syllable, he surprised her again. Running a disgruntled hand through his hair, he spoke in a low voice and asked, "Do you wish you were dating him instead of me?"
"W-wait, what?" Lily stuttered confusedly, all the fight draining out of her. James said nothing, instead choosing to frown at the floor. In his silence, Lily attempted to piece together what had just happened.
Suddenly, she realized. Placing a placating hand on James' arm, she started to giggle uncontrollably. He was jealous. Of Shakespeare.
James stared at her, a puzzled expression gracing his previously frustrated features. In a rare pause, Lily remarked, "You do know Shakespeare has been dead for like 400 years, right?" before giggling again.
Lily laughed again and this time James joined in, even if it was at his own expense. "Sorry, Lil, I'm clearly an idiot."
An idiot she loved.
It was a seemingly random moment, but she just knew. It was nothing like Romeo and Juliet, but maybe it wasn't supposed to be. They may have died for love, but she felt alive when she was with him. He was passionate and funny and smart and kind and loyal and he loved her. And she loved him, too.
Laughing into his shirt, she pulled on his collar to redirect his line of vision. "James?"
"Lily?" he responded playfully, twirling one of her bright red curls around his finger.
Without pause, "I think I'm in love with you."
"What?" He dropped the hair he had been holding.
Lily stepped closer, letting her body meet his. Her lips centimeters from his face, she glanced up and repeated herself, slowly this time, "I love you."
No longer hesitant, James kissed her, closing the miniscule gap between them. His kiss forced her out of her standing position as he leaned her against the armchair. Returning the kiss, she wrapped her arms around him. The book tumbled off of the armrest, a small casualty in the war for love. Shakespeare could wait.