"I won!" Lily grinned in triumph and considered making a victory lap around the common room, but decided that would have grievous implications on her health, as James would probably throttle her. He was such a bad loser. Of course, it didn't help that she would rub his nose in his loss each time she won. And she always won.
James, meanwhile, was having considerably unhappier thoughts. His brow was furrowed in concentration and he pursed his lips thoughtfully, as he studied the chessboard. He knew she had won yet again, but he refused to give in so easily. There had to be a way to beat her, a loophole, something she'd missed...
As he came to the conclusion that he had lost for the sixth time in a row, he considered his options: he could become angry and storm off in a huff; demand a rematch and be crucified once more; or accuse her of cheating and get his own back. It was an easy choice.
Lily sniffed the air with feigned pomposity and jokingly raised her eyebrows at his dopey grin. "How dare you?! You are, my man, simply outmatched and you cannot admit that I am better than you!"
James lunged out of his seat at her, but she evaded his grasp with a giggle and was chased across the common room, scattering chairs and chess pieces. They dodged around furniture and hid behind people, oblivious to the withering glares they were receiving. James grabbed her around the waist and wrestled her to the floor, using the Art of Tickling to gain an advantage. When he decided that she had suffered enough (translation: when he decided that he didn't have any energy left to pin her down and tickle her mercilessly anymore) he called a truce.
They sat, side by side, breathless yet still unable to control their hysterics each time they met each other's eyes.
"Well, my good fellow-" Her chin went up in the air and she swallowed a giggle. "- You are a very very very bad loser!"
James cocked his head as if pondering her statement, a thoughtful look on his face. "But you have forgotten one very important thing, fair lady!" He broke into a grin. "You are a very very very bad winner!"
Lily giggled and hit him playfully. "What does that mean?"
He just smiled his dopey smile and shrugged at her. "How should I know?"
Sirius paused in aiming his dirty socks into the sleeping Peter's open mouth, and raised an eyebrow at his best friend. "You and Evans. What's going on? You kiss her yet?"
That got his attention. James's head shot up in surprise and he stared at Sirius as though he'd just suggested they dress in drag and do the cancan at the next school Ball. "What are you going on about? You know perfectly well that Evans is just a mate." He glanced at Sirius nonchalantly but nevertheless his friend could recognise the hope in James's eyes as he said, "Why? Did she say anything about me?"
Sirius finally managed a perfect throw into Peter's open goal and after a shout of "He shoots, he scores!" and a quick victory lap, he turned his attention back to James. "I just thought that if you didn't make a move, I might," he said with a shrug and watched the reaction out of the corner of his eye. James went red and clenched his fists, a sure and obvious sign that one thing he didn't want was Sirius going out with Lily.
"She wouldn't go out with you! No way in Hell! You’re not her type." James knew that he was clutching at straws but had no idea why. He didn't care. Obviously. Of course, he should just let Sirius go for it, since he didn't want her, but for some unknown reason he knew that he couldn't let him go out with her. James had the horribly embarrassingly terrifying feeling that it would break his heart.
"What is her type, then?" Sirius, of course, had no intention at all of asking Lily out. It was just Stage One of The Plan. He liked to call it Operation: Get-James-To-Admit-To-Fancying-Lily-Then-Ask-Her-Out-Successfully-While-Simultaneously-Making-Sirius-Look-Fantastic. It had a nice ring to it.
Stage One was to make James jealous. Stage Two was to ruffle and goad him into admitting he liked the girl. Stage Three was to convince James that she liked him back, therefore enabling him to have the guts to ask her out. Stage Four was to have a celebratory drink and cheer the happy bride and groom! However, life did not always go according to Sirius' plans.
"Evans likes...God, I don't know! But I know that YOU are not what she likes. She can't do." James pushed a hand through his hair and frowned into the fireplace as he thought out loud. "She needs someone who she can...laugh with. Laughter is always important. If you can't laugh together once in a while, what's the point in it?"
Sirius sat up straight, grinned and ticked off one finger. "Yep. I am able to laugh. I am the King of Laughter, I am the Earl of Chuckling, the Duke of Giggling, the Count of Sniggering-"
James held up a hand. "Stop; I get the message."
"Good. I was running out of alternatives there." Sirius grinned.
James continued his list, now consciously trying to think up personality traits that Sirius didn't possess. "She needs someone who's secure, who can protect her and keep her safe. I mean we’ve all got the scars to prove that she can take care of herself, but I know she still wants to have someone to stand by her and treat her as an equal. Someone who wants to protect her."
James raised an eyebrow, surprised at this response. "Yep?"
Sirius smiled smugly. "Yeah. I can protect her. I'm a big, strong man, aren't I?"
James frowned. He had the feeling that Sirius had missed the point he'd been trying to make about how she needed a partner to stand with, not a bodyguard. "She needs someone who's romantic. You know, moonlight and roses, not just a quickie in the broom cupboard."
"Right, if you say so. She also needs someone who's clever enough to keep up with her. She's quick, and if you aren't smart enough, or mature enough to hold a conversation with her that doesn't involve knickers, bodily fluids or how Snape looks like a girl, then she'll crucify you." James knew that Sirius would never give up his favourite topics of conversation for a girl and grinned triumphantly.
"Yes. I can handle that."
"What? You're taking the piss now!" He was outraged that Sirius could ever claim that he was capable of carrying out an intelligent conversation with a girl when he blatantly couldn't and they both knew it.
"I said 'yes'." Sirius was enjoying this now.
"Whatever. What I'm trying to tell you is that Evans needs something more than you and the rest of the idiots in this school can give her." James was desperate now without knowing why. All he did know was that even though Sirius was like a brother to him, he wasn't right for Lily.
"What? What can't I give her?" Sirius knew he was on the brink of completing Stage Two and smiled encouragingly.
James sighed and sat down on his bed with a resigned 'thump'. "She needs love. She's too special for anything less. She needs magic and passion and fire. She's destined for something more than we know- I can tell. Lily is one of those people who have a spark and she deserves nothing less than that spark in a partner."
To James' frustration and utter astonishment Sirius burst out laughing. No, not just laughing. He burst into loud guffaws and pointed at him, tears of mirth rolling down his cheeks.
Eventually, he calmed down when he realised that James was on the brink of punching him. "You are so funny! Sorry, mate, but you sound like such a girl! You said 'partner'!" Sirius collapsed into giggles once again.
James was still confounded. "What's so hilarious?"
"Oh, Jamesy boy, you don't even know! What's so hilarious is that it's so bloody obvious to all and sundry, you practically profess your love and yet still have no idea what you've said!" Sirius tried to keep a straight face as his best friend glared at him and failed dismally.
"I never said that I loved her! We're not talking about me and Evans, anyway; we're talking about you!" He had gone bright red with embarrassment, and he stuffed his hands in his pockets to stop himself from throttling Sirius for saying such mortifying things.
However, his friend simply slapped him on the back and grinned. "Ah, but we were talking about you and Evans. What was that you said?" Sirius scratched his head, sat next to James on his bed and ticked off his fingers, one by one. "You need to laugh together. Well, that one was confirmed this evening, I believe, when you and the lovely Lily were spotted rolling around on the floor cavorting and giggling."
James opened his mouth to protest but Sirius held up a hand resolutely. "Secondly, you said she needs an equal who understands her. The fact that you know that in the first place says it all. You've thought about it before. Don't try and deny it because it's so obvious!" James wasn't about to deny it. He admitted that he had considered how good it'd feel if she picked him, of all people, to trust and keep her safe, but he’d never seriously entertained the idea.
"Thirdly, the romance factor; you may refuse to accept this, but the unfortunate 'magic, passion, fire' speech tells me that you have more romance in you than either of us would like to admit." James cringed and did try to deny that accusation but was silenced by a look from Sirius, who he knew must've been as uncomfortable as he was with discussing such girly things as...'love' and 'passion'.
"Fourthly, the conversation thing; I know you don't make a habit of it, but you have got enough restraint in you to be able to resist any fart jokes for the length of a little chat; for which you have my respect because I know how hard it is." They nodded at each other in agreement, both knowing how irresistible it was to just be normal disgusting boys all the time.
"Fifthly, and finally, we come to the 'spark' part. I'm not going to get all emotional and girly or anything, and at the risk of sounding like a complete poof, you’ve got a spark too. Me, I'm just destined to be the devilishly handsome sidekick." Sirius flashed a cocky grin. "But you are the main protagonist of this production. Understand? You are King Arthur. Robin Hood. The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jesus Chr- nah, you're not that good." When James began to laugh, he backtracked to his original message. "Maybe, I got a bit carried away there, but do you get the point?" Sirius stared straight at his friend, serious for once, hoping that he wouldn't have to repeat himself because he'd actually forgotten the point he was trying to make.
"What?" Unfortunately, James was having a slow day and didn't immediately grasp what he was going on about. "I'm simultaneously a historical figure, a legendary thief, a rogue, and the saviour of mankind?"
"God!" Sirius slapped his head in frustration.
"No, actually, according to you, I'm Jesus, not God."
Now Sirius realised that he had to be frank. "Look- you’ve got it too. Lily is special, but so are you, mate. You belong together." He studied his bare feet in embarrassment, while James stared at him with astonishment.
"You know, Padfoot..." He slowly smiled. "Sometimes, you talk the biggest load of crap I've ever heard!"
As soon as Sirius met his friend's eyes he began to laugh too, and punched him on the arm, in a brotherly way.
James continued to laugh and punched back. "I love you, mate."
In the midst of their giggles Sirius managed to reply, "I love you, too."
They simultaneously ceased laughing, jumped away, and eyed each other suspiciously. In purely male embarrassment, they both shrugged and grunted, "Yeah, whatever."
A minute or so later, when they had both marginally recovered from that mortifying moment and were going about their business getting ready for bed, Sirius gruffly asked, "You going to tell her, then?"
James shrugged and replied roughly, as he climbed into bed, "Dunno. Probably. Maybe. Dunno."
"Oh. You know, James, I really do love you."
James took in the image of a grinning Sirius and laughingly threw a pillow at him, the tension well and truly broken. "I know you do, you big poof, but I’d better not find you crawling into bed with me tonight!"