Chapter 1 : The Three Broomsticks
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Something was off with James. Lily only had to glance at him to see it, but she didn’t ask. Instead, she just said hello and kissed him on the cheek, letting him lead her to their usual booth at the Three Broomsticks. The place was packed as always. Lily was learning to like the crowd atmosphere for James’ sake; he thrived on the noise and activity of it all. Lily was more accustomed to peace and silence, but she liked James’ protective hand on her back, guiding her through the bedlam.
He grinned at her in the usual way as they sat down, but Lily could see that his hands were fidgeting under the table. Yes, something was most definitely up.
“So,” she said sweetly, reaching across the table for his hand, “are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or will I have to figure it out myself?”
He gave her a strange look, like he didn’t know what she was talking about. Lily knew better. She’d come to know James Potter very well over the past few months, better than she ever would have expected. She knew how to recognize shifts in his bravado, little moments in which he would let himself appear less than Gryffindor’s golden boy.
The first time he’d asked her out for real (the time he’d really thought she might say yes), he never ran his fingers through his hair once. He’d shifted from foot to foot and mumbled. He had avoided her eyes instead of looking bravely into them, and that was when Lily knew they’d had a real shot. Those glimpses past his façade showed her that James Potter was more than he appeared.
Across their table at the current moment, Lily saw the same hesitation in those familiar brown eyes—brown with flecks of everything else. They were kaleidoscopes when the sun hit them just right. She sighed. James was definitely a fox; there was no denying that. She hoped he didn’t see quite how much she liked looking at him, or he’d never let her hear the end of it.
“There’s nothing wrong,” James finally replied, reaching up to squeeze her hand. “I’m just…thinking.”
“You’re just thinking?” Lily couldn’t help but laugh. James balled up a napkin and tossed it at her.
“Hey! It happens sometimes,” he retorted, sounding a little more like his old self. Lily was glad to hear it, but she wasn’t about to let her suspicions drop.
“All right, I’m sorry. But are you sure—“
She was cut off by James’ glass knocking against the table, sloshing butterbeer into his lap. He jumped up and bit back a curse, trying to siphon the frothy liquid off his shirt with his wand. She would have teased him about his beet-red face, but it clearly wasn’t the right time.
“What happened?” Lily asked. Something didn’t add up. James’ hands hadn’t been anywhere near the glass. And he was glancing around over his shoulders wildly, like he expected a troll to jump out from behind the bar.
Lily’s eyes narrowed. Her instincts were screaming, but she couldn’t put her finger on what the issue was.
“Sorry, I guess I’m just…struggling today,” he explained breathlessly, sitting back down. Lily waved his apology away with her hand. “What were we saying?”
“We weren’t saying anything, really,” Lily said with a smile. “I was trying to get you to tell me what’s going on with you, but I never got very far.”
“Oh right.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess I’m just…thinking about you? About how great the past few months have been. I always hoped it would be like this.” He flashed her a trademark James Potter smile, the kind that you felt all the way to the pit of your stomach. Lily used to take pride in the fact that she seemed to be immune to the butterflies. Other girls might succumb to his charm, but not her. Now that they were dating, however, she could safely say that that wasn’t the case.
“Smooth,” she said, hanging onto her composure. “But I don’t buy it. Come on, let’s go outside and talk. It’s too beautiful to be indoors anyway.”
“Great idea,” he said, practically leaping from his chair. Lily got to her feet to follow him, only to hear another curse escape James—this time, not so muffled.
She looked up to see him dart ahead of her, frantically pushing past people to get by. It only took a moment for her to see why. Darting just out of James’s reach was his ever-present Snitch. He usually kept it well under control (a slightly obnoxious show of his eye for Quidditch), but today it was zooming around the tavern quicker than James could move. Lily winced as he stepped on a girl’s toe and elbowed her date in the face, but he still couldn’t quite get his hands on the Snitch. Looking thoroughly miserable, he came back to Lily, taking her hand and moving outside.
She took a moment to enjoy the open space, turning in a little circle. And right then, mid-spin, she picked up something in the corner of her vision. It was just for an instant, and she was amazed that she even saw it. Disembodied and floating, it was plain as day—a frayed sleeve.
Lily fought back a giggle. Remus suspiciously hiding, James being extra clumsy and nervous…it couldn’t be a coincidence. And if Remus was behind these little incidents, it was certain he wasn’t acting alone. Poor James—it was tough to come out looking good when the Marauders decided to sabotage you. And James wasn’t usually on the receiving end of their pranks.
“Accio!” James shouted, fed up. The Snitch came whizzing out an open window toward them, nearly upending several glasses. It hovered near James’s head, coming close enough to tap his skull and then dart away before he could catch it. Lily could have sworn she heard snickering coming from just over James’s shoulder.
“All right, you lot,” Lily called to the empty air around them, drawing a startled look from James. “Don’t you think you’ve tormented him enough?”
A Sirius-sounding snort told her that wasn’t likely. The Snitch knocked into James’ head yet again, and he let out a strangled groan.
“Fine,” he burst out, raising his hands beseechingly to the heavens. “I’ll do it. Lily, will you please be my girlfriend? Because my idiot friends won’t leave us alone until you say yes.”
His peeked sheepishly at her from under his mop of hair, waiting on pins and needles for her answer. And as for Lily, the butterflies were back, and she didn’t even bother hiding it this time. Instead, she leaped forward and grabbed him around the neck, planting a kiss on him that drew stares and wolf whistles from passerby. When she pulled back, he looked down at her with a stupidly adorable smile on his face, glasses askew.
“Why on earth were you worried? Did you really think I’d say no?”
“Well, you’ve never made it easy on me, Lils,” he said, settling his arms more comfortably around her waist.
“Fair enough,” she said with a wink. “But I’ll give you a break this time.”
“Thank God,” shouted Sirius’ voice, and the three materialized in front of them. “We were running out of ideas.” James threw a punch and Sirius dodged, his expression a little too gleeful.
“How’d you know it was us, Lily?” Peter asked.
“Let’s just say if you want the cloak to work, you should really keep all your limbs underneath it.” She gave Remus a pointed look, and he shrugged sheepishly.
“We had a deal,” Sirius explained. “The longer Potter waited to man up and make it official with you, the stupider we’d make him look.”
“Well, mission accomplished,” James grumbled. Lily had to laugh.
“Don’t worry about it,” she reassured him, placing another kiss on his lips (and ignoring Sirius’s shout of “Atta boy!” behind them.) “It just means we’ll always remember this.”
“See, Potter, we did you a favor!” Sirius laughed, but Lily and James were already walking on. James waved a careless hand at his friends, then put his arm around his shoulders.
Girlfriend. A year ago Lily would have laughed at the thought. But today, with James Potter at her side, she found that she liked the sound of it.
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