"Sirius, are you paying attention? I just said 'I’ve won'. It's your cue to start wailing in defeat."
He tore his gaze away from where James was sidling up to Lily and finally took in the battlefield that was the chess board in front of him. "Have I lost already?"
Remus just grinned in triumph and replied "Set a new record, my friend. You must just have a natural talent for being crap at wizards' chess. I mean, I've never known someone to lose in three moves before."
Sirius frowned, now distracted from the scene that had begun to play out across the room. He was sure that Remus had cheated. In fact, he would be suspicious if he hadn't; any true Marauder would obviously cheat if the opportunity presented itself- how else would they win anything?
While Sirius was adamantly insisting that Remus was a big fat cheat, James was having troubles of his own. Evans.
"I swear; I'm not going to prank you! For crying out loud, will you stop being so bloody paranoid and talk to me!" James had decided, after what seemed like months of torturing himself about it, to tell Lily about what Sirius had pried out of him. However, she wasn't making it easy, as she fervently accused him of just setting up a prank on her. When had she got so suspicious of his motives?
"You swear? You swear! I've heard you swear a million times about a million things that you never kept your promises about. Can you tell me what makes this time any different?" she challenged, and sat back in her armchair with a determined glint in her eyes.
"I not only swear, but I swear on my broomstick and my oh-so-admired natural charm and wit that I am not about to prank you," he said with a smile, a wink, and a helpful dash of the aforementioned charm and wit.
She sighed and looked at him with resignation. That was when he knew he'd won the first battle. He had no time, however, for even a quick cheer of triumph.
"You’ve got five minutes."
James had just opened his mouth to speak when she raised a hand and interrupted him. "Before you start you should be warned-" She smiled menacingly, making James immediately wary. "If you do prank me then I'll take twenty points from Gryffindor and you'll be in detention faster than you can say 'Five hours cleaning Filch's lavatory.'"
He gulped, then eventually gathered his nerves together enough to begin. "Right…erm, well, really, what I wanted to say is, right, about you. And me…what I'm meaning to say is it's something I've been thinking about and I…just wanted to let you know," he finished, lamely.
He didn't know what to say. He liked to think he had the soul of a poet and right at that second his articulacy and romantic spirit needed to produce some enchanting words to capture her heart. They got stage fright. They ran away like cowards from the pressure of the situation and went to hide under a table until all the drama was over and done with. Instead he had to manage with his mental constipation and talk about what he knew.
"It's like wizards' chess. Yeah, I'm like the knight and I've just taken your bishop…" At her blank look he decided to switch metaphors. "I know what it's like! In the Goblin Rebellion of 1612 that Goblin Zrok Bigstalker was like me and you're that Mog Greatstink…" he trailed off as he realised that no girl would feel flattered at being compared to a Goblin and with what he wanted to tell her he was best off keeping on her good side. But still he had no idea what he should say. "Er… you know, we've been good friends for ages now and… something happened the other night to make me think- no, not really think- realise… It was Sirius who said-" He was just reaching the main point when she interrupted him.
"Sirius said?" she reiterated with a grimace and sat back in her armchair.
"Well, yeah, Sirius told me-"
"I can't believe you." Her voice was quiet but full of hurt and anger, which was, in James' experience, a lethal combination. He was dumbfounded- why was she acting this way before he'd said the potentially upsetting part?
"What are you going on about? I haven't finished-"
She stopped him with a glare. "I don't need to hear the rest. I know what this is all leading up to. Did you seriously think that I was thick enough to fall for it?" she spat at him, obviously disgusted.
"But you don't know what I was going to say-" James was growing more desperate by the second. How in Hell could he tell the girl that he had a thing for her if she was adamantly insisting that she knew exactly what he was going to say and that he was horrible for saying it?
"I know exactly what you're going to say and you're horrible for saying it." She leaned forward and looked him in the eye with a wry, knowing smile. "'We've been friends for seven years and it’s been great but just recently I've wanted more. I wake up in the morning and all I see is you. You're the only one for me, blah, blah, blah.'"
James heart stopped in shock then shuddered to life again as he realised that she was not only right but she had articulated what he could not. God, he was pathetic.
"What did you expect me to say after hearing that? 'Oh, I love you too!' and then you and that prat would laugh yourselves silly!" she said bitterly and at his expression laughed derisively. "Don't look so shocked! You might have thought your plan was perfect but I'm not stupid- I know something's wrong when Sirius tries to have what he calls a 'serious conversation' with me. Priming me for the main event, or what?" She glanced over the where Sirius was avidly watching the scene unfold, shovelling chocolate frogs into his mouth. He had the grace to go red when they both turned to glare at him.
"Padfoot hasn’t had anything to do with this." Almost, he silently added.
As she sneered disbelievingly James had an Epiphany. Well, not really an Epiphany, more of a moment of clarity. He saw her glaring threateningly at him and realised that he was letting her rant at him and wasn't attempting to protest, moan or even enrage her further. What was wrong with him? Okay, he was sort of in love with her but why should that change who he was? Normally, James wouldn't just cower at her explosion; he would face up to her. She didn't scare him. Much. He was normally courageous in these situations, whether Lily Evans was involved or not. He was a Gryffindor! He was supposed to be daring and brave! He had to be.
So he kissed her. Yes, he was an idiot, but he was also a Gryffindor and he had to do it if only for his Gryffindor pride. Or so he tried to tell himself. It couldn't possibly be because he wasn't only an idiot; he was an idiot in love. Of course not.
He quickly pulled her to him and covered her shocked lips with his. A warm tingling sensation rushed through his body at her touch, a heady mixture of adrenaline and pure lust, and he was sure she felt it too. After all, despite all her anger and apparent hostility towards him, to James' delight, she had melted into his arms. Who could resist?
Apparently, she could. She yanked away from him as suddenly as he had pounced and simply stared at him in utter and complete disbelief.
"I really do like you," James said simply, "a lot." He just hoped that she would sense his honesty and take him seriously for once. It was all he could do.
He didn't see her fist clenching at her side. Or even when she raised her arm and lowered her shoulder to steady herself. But he did see it as it came sailing towards his face.
He blinked and the next thing he knew he had tumbled backwards, knocking over an armchair, and was sprawled across the floor with a strange ache around his left eye. Lily loomed over him, a grimace on her face as she massaged her, now sore, knuckles. "I really do hate stupid boys. A lot."
Sirius, who had been watching the whole episode eagerly, saw the lightening punch that had floored James and jumped to his feet in delight (it had been a very dramatic new twist in his favourite real-life soap opera). In his excitement he knocked the chessboard flying into Remus' face, but he didn't care- finally, there was action on the Lily/James front. Rejoice; it's time for celebrations!
That was when he realised that, except for James' groans and muttering, all had gone quiet in the common room. He slowly surveyed everyone until his gaze came to rest on his 'friend' Lupin. "YOU!!"
Remus had a look of 'deer-caught-in-headlights' about him. He was frozen to the spot, his hand still holding the extra chess pieces that had been hidden beneath the table before it had unexpectedly been upturned. Busted.
However, Sirius, unpredictable as ever, began a revised version of his victory dance. "I was right! I was right! I'm not a complete and total loser! Remus cheated!" he sang in pure exultation and skipped around the room happily until he tripped over something big and heavy and nearly broke his neck.
Everyone in the room was watching the kerfuffle and, disappointed as most were that Sirius hadn't actually broken his neck and ceased his godawful singing, they innocently turned back to what they were doing before Potter could maim them. Gossip was rife.
James grunted in pain at where Sirius had run into him and glared in a deadly threat, "Padfoot, you're a complete tosser!