Chapter 1 : Reality
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Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
:: :: ::
All good things come to those who wait.
Well, that was what Remus had told him earlier, at least, spouting off the English proverb in an attempt to placate an impossibly impatient James Potter as he glared daggers at the too-slow second hand on his bedside clock. James repeated the saying to himself before reluctantly tearing his eyes away, deciding that perhaps his friend was right and all good things would come to those who have waited.
And James Potter had done his fair share of waiting.
Of course, Remus also said things like the bread always falls buttered side down; something James and Sirius had wasted no time in proving untrue the following morning (much to the dismay of every toast-loving Gryffindor and an exasperated Professor McGonagall). Surely his wise friend couldn't be wrong about both sayings though, could he? No, good things would come, of this he was sure.
And so James made his way eagerly down to the entrance hall, his footfalls echoing throughout the otherwise empty corridor in unison with the words that echoed throughout his sufficiently burdened mind:
Good things would come.
The thought, meant to be reassuring, made his stomach knot uncomfortably instead, and his fingers twitched with anticipatory anxiety the closer he grew to his destination. Every cell in his body was screaming for him to stop fighting his instincts and allow an eager hand to run rampant through his (for once) tamed hair. He had sworn, however, that under no circumstance would he allow himself to indulge in the consolatory compulsion today. James knew all too well of her strong aversion to the act and he was not so foolish as to take such a senseless misstep; not when the thin wire of chance he was walking on was already so feeble.
There was, quite simply, no room for error.
James rounded a corner.
"Well look who decided to show up."
Lily uncrossed her arms, pushing herself away from the pillar she'd been leaning casually against, giving James a rather lopsided... was that a grin or a grimace? Playful teasing or impatience? Try as he might, he'd never quite mastered the ability to accurately read Lily. He squirmed under her gaze.
"Er... You haven't been waiting long, have you? I'm five minutes early."
"No, you're ten minutes late."
"But... it's five til noon, Evans..."
"And we were meant to meet at quarter to, Potter," she insisted. Though the glint in her eye was challenging, she didn't seem genuinely upset. Still, James couldn't help himself from feeling that though the date had yet to even begin, he'd already mucked up. He ran a troubled hand through his hair.
Well, that didn't last long.
Needless to say, events thus far were not quite unfolding as he'd anticipated, but he reassured himself with the knowledge that the start of most dates were usually rough. He was certain that, soon enough, a natural rapport would settle between them and all would be well.
As they began their walk to Hogsmeade, the bit of tension caused by their bickering dissipated, replaced instead with rather uncomfortable attempts at casual chitchat. James brought up Quidditch practice while Lily spoke of potions, but neither subject got them far, and so sprung up the ever reliable topic of weather.
"Looks like it might rain," said Lily.
"I think it'll hold off," said James.
Though it was only a light sprinkle that showered upon them moments later, they still had a ways to go before they'd reach Hogsmeade for cover. In a meager effort to battle the elements, both attempted to transfigure a couple of stray sticks into working umbrella's, but relented when the closest either got was what looked like a deformed candy cane vomiting a rotten banana peel. They picked up their pace, but were otherwise beyond help.
James was almost grateful that their brisk pace was keeping them both short of breath, for at least now they had an excuse as to why there was no conversation. Once the Village came into view, however, Lily spoke up again.
"Is there a plan, then, for today?"
"Yes," James answered promptly. "And it starts with lunch, so long as you're hungry."
She was, and so they made their way to a tea shop that had come highly recommended to him by a number of girls he'd pestered about what their dream date in Hogsmeade might entail. Words like classy, sophisticated and romantic had been passed around about this cafe, and as the words reverberated in his head, he couldn't help but feel that the date would turn around once they were seated inside.
He immediately decided upon entry, however, that he had been severely, severely misinformed. Instead of the high-backed chairs and crackling fireplace he'd imagined, Madame Puddifoot's looked less like an adult establishment and more like a particularly flamboyant unicorn's happy place.
"Wow," Lily said.
"Do you like it?" James asked tentatively, trying to ignore the assault of color that was the light pinks and purples and yellows all around him.
"Uh... It's very... pastel," she concluded weakly.
"That it is," James agreed. "Er, would you like to go somewhere else, then?"
"Oh, uh... it's really not so bad. I mean, it's warm and dry, at least, right? Don't really fancy another walk in rain just yet. We'll be fine," she decided before adding, "so long as there's room for us, that is..."
The place was just about packed to capacity, as far as James could tell, but he approached the hostess anyway, who told them it would be no more than a five minute wait.
Twenty minutes later they were finally seated at a too-small table with wobbly chairs, encompassed by a plethora of strangers. It was in this spot that James Potter came to learn many a new thing, including Lily's nonexistent sweet-tooth, exactly how she took her tea, and that if you have to sneeze while surrounded on all sides, somebody was going to get caught in the crossfires.
"Six," Lily announced suddenly.
"I'm counting," she supplied without further explanation, until James raised a quizzical eyebrow, prompting her to continue. "Six times now you've brought your hand up to your face, held it there briefly, and returned it to the table for a bit of compulsive twitching."
"Oh," he replied stupidly. "Right. Sorry, it's just... trying to break a bad habit."
She smiled knowingly at him, but left it at that.
When they'd given up on their food and James had finished paying the bill, they found themselves back out on the chilly streets of Hogsmeade. The rain, at least, had stopped and so they meandered easily about, window-shopping until they found themselves in front of a quaint little shop called Wiseacres.
The opening of the door caused a tarnished old bell to ring out dully, announcing their presence in the otherwise abandoned room.
"I've something to show you," James announced, leading her to the counter. He rang a second bell and Mr. Wiseacre himself was soon hobbling over to assist them.
"Who're you, lad? What can I do you for?"
After a rather lengthy conversation, in which James reminded Mr. Wiseacre who he was, the old man placed a package before James, who quickly slid it over to Lily, encouraging her to her open it with a quiet 'for you.'
Careful hands unfolded the box and steady fingers pulled it out slowly. A perfectly crafted chestnut base held the glass sphere resting on top with both a firm and delicate embrace; a miniature version of Hogsmeade displayed within. She tilted the globe and watched soft snowflakes float prettily downward as she righted it. 'Try it again,' James whispered, and the snow melted away as she did, only to be replaced by a budding springtime. Again and the season became a summer's day, showering the tiny town with a floury of soft flowers. Autumn leaves fell next in colors more vibrant than she'd ever seen in real life, until the final rotation brought them back to winter. And while her eyes stayed trained on the details of the globe, James couldn't help but to watch her instead, captivated by the way her eyes lit up with renewed wonder at each change. And for that one single second, he felt he hadn't completely ruined everything.
Moments later, however, reality came swinging back in to inform one James Potter of the fact that his wallet had gone missing. Lily immediately offered to pay for the treasure herself, but he insisted that under no circumstance would she be allowed to buy her own gift - except where the bloody hell had his wallet gotten off to? When Lily asked why they couldn't simply summon it back, he mumbled something about anti-theft precautions rendering useless any such charm.
They each put up a fight, but there could only be one winner.
Lily. Of course, Lily. Lily would always win.
James grabbed the bag for her, knowing it was the least he could do, and they shuffled out of the shop once their debts had been settled.
If anything, James could say that today had been a highly educational experience. For instance, he'd learned that if you reserve a horse-drawn carriage, but show up twenty minutes late for its scheduled departure, it will leave without you. Or, if you drop your wallet onto similarly-colored pavement, it's nearly impossible to find. Or, that if you move something valuable from a functioning pocket to a ripped one, you're probably an idiot.
He took comfort in the idea that at least things couldn't possibly get any worse.
Of course, as soon as the thought finished, the cosmic forces of the universe placed an impossibly slippery section of mud beneath his unsuspecting trainer. His balance, immediately compromised, sent James' arms flailing about wildly in search of steadiness, but with the wheels already set into motion, he was destined to lose the battle, crashing hard into the soggy earth.
It was the shattering of glass, however, that took his breath away.
For James, time stood still; Lily's reassuring voice no more than a distant echo as it weakly told him over and over again that it was fine, it didn't matter. It wasn't until she was crouched down low beside him with a firm hand on his cheek, demanding forcefully that he snap out of it already, that time began moving again.
"Come on, now, up you get," she ordered, offering her hand.
"I'll get you muddy," James insisted.
"It's fine. Get me muddy."
Back on his feet, James retrieved his wand and vanished all remnants of the fragmented snow globe while Lily wiped mud onto her jeans. Silently, they turned together to continue the trek home.
Tired and discouraged, James walked beside Lily wordlessly. It wasn't until they were standing before the entrance to Hogwarts that James opened his mouth to speak again, but the effort proved futile and he remained quiet.
He could feel her watching him expectantly, and whether it was pity or impatience that caused her to take the lead, he would never know for sure.
"Well, this has been, er..." she began, pausing to consider her words.
"...Obscurely charming?" James provided hopefully.
"I was going to say sufficiently unconventional, with just a dash of catastrophic," she countered; the ghost of a grin dancing on her lips.
"Blimey," he said, bringing his chin to his chest and chuckling a bit at the surreality of it all. How - how - had everything gone so terribly wrong?
When he dared lift his head to look at her again, the expression on his face was one of profound resignation. His eyes, however, still held a certain brightness, an almost pleading openness, nearly innocent in its nature. "Just so you know," he began softly, desperately hoping for a bit of undeserved understanding from her, "that was not how this date was meant to go. Not at all."
"You don't say," Lily deadpanned.
James exhaled slowly in a decidedly defeated way and, having finally given up any hope at redemption, ran an anxious hand through his sopping hair until it came to rest firmly on the back of his neck. "I've completely blown it, haven't I?" he mumbled, disheartened. Still, he forced himself to meet her gaze with a strained smile; an act he decided was rather courageous in itself given the dire circumstances preceding it.
Lily sighed, lowering her eyes to the ground, and used the tip of her right shoe to absentmindedly roll a pebble from side to side, surely in an effort to delay her response. After a moment, she quelled her fidgeting and kicked the small rock away, her narrowed eyes following its progression until it stilled. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, she was laughing; light and amused and genuine in its delivery.
Taking the smallest of steps forward, not yet breaking her downward gaze, she gave a slow, disbelieving shake of her head. Only then did she finally look up, her eyes reconnecting with James' as she sort of half-smiled at him and said, "You're an idiot, James Potter."
He hadn't had time to so much as breathe the words in before Lily's right hand was resting gently over his heart, the other on his shoulder for balance as she lifted up onto her tip-toes and pressed a modest kiss upon his unsuspecting lips.
Countless times had James imagined exactly what this moment might be like, but never once had he considered the possibility of being shocked into an unresponsive stupor.
She pulled away from him lazily, allowing herself to linger as she smiled up at him through long lashes and flyaway strands of rain-soaked hair. James did his best to function in even the most miniscule of ways, but found that he could do no more than stare unabashedly back, his eyes almost impossibly wide with shock. All too soon, her hands fell from his chest and shoulder as she took a few steps back, a pleased smile still tugging at her lips. She let out a final laugh and then, without another word, walked away.
And though it was over before James even realized it had begun, the reality still remained unchanged. Lily had kissed him. Good things had come.
In the years that would follow this rather remarkable event, James Potter would often find himself reflecting back on this day with the same wonderment he'd felt the very first time through it. With each and every occurrence, he would relive the disastrous date and try (unsuccessfully) to place his finger on the moment when pathetic had turned to charming; when pity had turned to affection. But at the end of each memory, when he inevitably admitted defeat, he always ended up deciding that perhaps it didn't really matter at all.
He was Lily's. She was his. Everything was perfect.
Author's Note: Pfft. Murphy. What did that guy know, anyway? ;)
This story was written for the Speed-Dating competition on the forums and is a companion piece/sequel to Singularity's Yhprum's Law. Though both can stand alone as one-shots, they intermingle rather seamlessly. So if you enjoyed this story, please make sure to drop by her page as well; I'm certain you'll find her fic even more enjoyable, as she's a phenomenally gifted writer. A special thank you to her as well for all of her time, communication, inspiration, hard-work, and keen editing eyes. You rock, Jen.
Please review if you've a free moment. :)
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