Lily Evans was leaving Hogwarts for the last time. She had already said good-bye to the building, the people, and the emotions. Now all she had to do was convince herself to let go.
The Hogwarts Express rumbled down the tracks at a speed that seemed faster than it ever had before. The train was carrying her away from Hogwarts, away from classes, away from what her life had been for seven years. Also, for the first time in seven years, she was in a car by herself. The Marauders were off pulling one last joke in some other compartment, and her female friends were with their significant others.
Just when she was thinking about abandoning the compartment, the door slid open, and a very energetic sixth-year named Meghan entered. "Hey, Lily! I didn't know you were in here! You look kind of bored."
"Well, there's not much to do in here."
"Waiting for James, are you?"
"Yes, I suppose you could say that," Lily said uncomfortably. She still hadn't quite gotten used to everyone knowing the nature of her and James's relationship. It seemed very new to her, in any case.
"You can borrow my Witch Weekly magazine," Meghan suggested enthusiastically. "It's got the most fantastic quiz in there this month. My roommates and I nearly died when we took it, and the results are so telling… and so true!"
"All right…" Lily said cautiously. "That sounds kind of fun."
"You're alone in here, so that's good. It probably wouldn't be the best idea to take it when James is around."
"What do you mean by that?" Lily questioned sharply.
"You'll know when you take the quiz," Meghan sang out as she left the compartment.
That was weird, Lily thought and brushed her fingers over the cover of the magazine. Velda Vonderschit, a famous magical model, graced the cover this week. Well, if I shouldn't take it when James around, then maybe I should wait.…
Several moments passed in silence while Lily stared at the magazine, fighting an internal battle. In the end, will power lost, and curiosity took its opportunity to kill the cat.
She opened up the cover to flip through the magazine, telling herself that she was just going to read through a few of the articles to pass the time. She really shouldn't be reading magazines like this in a time of war, she told herself sternly, but she still managed to feel suitably awed by a pair of shoes in the fourth article. Quickly, she lost all track of time and surroundings, becoming absorbed by the magazine. One or two comments by the editors made her laugh aloud, and she looked up to make sure that no one had heard her.
Then, on page 96, she came across a headline that read…
How Experienced Are YOU? Witch Weekly finds out, as we ask you…
Have you ever…?
A little voice inside of her head screamed at her to close the magazine, or at least move on to the next article, but she couldn't stop herself. She had a steady boyfriend now. Certainly she no longer considered herself "pure." It was time to see how she stacked up against other girls.
Just for curiosity's sake,she told herself, and read the very first question.
1.Have you ever gone all the way?
a. Me? No! Ugh.
b. What do you mean by, "all the way"? I don't understand….
c. Of course!
d. All the way and then some…
She blushed, but Lily Evans never did anything halfway, so she was going to take this quiz….
"You are insane, James Potter. Completely and utterly insane…" She was pressed up against the wall of a broom closet, with her skirt up around her thighs, and she was enjoying it. If she had been capable of thinking, she probably would have protested, but as it was, James's lips were around her calf region, and she couldn't formulate a sentence with an original thought.
"You told me that, love," he whispered as he kissed the fold of her skin in the back of her kneecap. "Several times already today." His hands drifted up, grabbing a hold of her bottom with a fierce pressure.
"We're supposed to be setting a – oh, yes – example, James…."
James stopped momentarily and looked up to grin at her. "I don't think any of the younger boys need an example in this sort of thing, Lily-my-love. They find quite enough ways to do it themselves."
Something in Lily told her that she should protest that remark, but she couldn't. In fact, she couldn't do much of anything except open her mouth and…
"Yes," she muttered and circled the c option, because she wasn't sure what "and then some" was supposed to mean.
"Moving on to question two…"
2.How do you like your kisses?
c. Tender and sweet
d. Why kiss when you can just shag?
Interesting question,she thought to herself as her quill poised itself over…
"James… I… I'm so angry right now I can't even talk to you."
"Lily, I swear, I won't let Sirius do that to you again. I didn't know he was going to! Honestly. He's just been really juvenile this year, and…"
"Well, if he thinks I'm going to let him just run all over me this year and treat me like some sort of… object… then he's got another thing coming!"
"You're gorgeous when you're angry. Has anyone ever told you that?"
"Not the best timing, James," Lily snapped. "I'm not really in the mood to snog, all right? I'm in the mood to kick somebody's head in."
To his credit, James did not laugh out loud at that statement. "No, really. I think your hair gets even more red when you're furious."
"James…" Trying to stay mad was becoming very difficult. Lily wanted to rage at Sirius a bit more, so she stomped her foot on the floor. "Be serious."
"I am being serious. It really is a fantastic sight."
Deciding that the best tactic would be just to ignore him, Lily soldiered on. "That rude, inconsiderate, pungent-smelling, foul-mouthed…"
James took two steps forward and covered her lips with his finger. "Shh."
Lily shook her head furiously and bit his skin. "Lewd-brained, slow-witted…"
With a quickness that constantly surprised her, James crossed the distance between them again and pressed his lips to hers. In an instant, the kiss turned gentle. Mindlessly, Lily parted her lips for him, immediately distracted from everything she had been saying beforehand.
His hands reached up to frame her face as her arms wrapped around his waist. They sunk to the rug in front of the common room fire, and James's hand traveled up her leg….
"Okay, so an 'all of the above' option would be nice," Lily muttered and added it in. "There. What sort of quiz is this without an 'all of the above' option?" With a flourish, she circled her handwritten 'e' and moved on to question three.
3.Have you ever bitten your partner during passion?
"I don't know about 'during passion'," she mused aloud while she chewed the end of her quill. "There was that time…"
The armchair in front of the fire in the common room was warm and cozy, and so Lily found it very easy to drift off into sleep with her book open in her lap. She was supposed to be waiting for James, but she couldn't keep her eyes open. He'd gone down to the library to get a book they both needed to finish a Transfiguration paper.
She was floating on a cloud somewhere, away from England. It was warm and sunny. Salt hung in the air. The air kissed her lips, caressed her neck….
As her eyelashes fluttered open, she realized that the air wasn't kissing her, it was James. His face slowly came in to focus, his beautiful brown eyes regarding hers very seriously.
"Wake up," he whispered.
Her hand moved to cup his cheek softly. "I am up."
"Why are you so tired?"
Lily shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I've just been studying a lot… staying up late, that sort of thing."
"Perhaps what you need is a little… distraction…." As his hand drifted down, Lily slapped it firmly.
"We're supposed to be doing homework, if you'll recall."
"Well, I, for one, am feeling very much at home, and if you want to term kissing you senseless as 'work', I suppose we could do that, although…"
Suddenly inspired, Lily grabbed a hold of his shirt and tugged his mouth down to hers. Just as he was getting distracted, she chewed on his lower lip… hard.
"Finish the essay first."
"Ouch…" James complained, but seeing the look in her eyes, he decided it wasn't worth an argument. "All right. As long as you promise me some first-class snogging when we're done."
"I guess you could count that as 'during passion'," Lily said to herself and circled "yes". "Now, for question four."
4.Your ideal lover is…
a. Tall, dark and handsome
b. Long and lean, but toned.
c. Anything that moves
d. Anything in a Quidditch uniform… Rowr.
Lily couldn't help it. She laughed aloud. Of all the ridiculous questions…
The sea of red scarves and black cloaks suddenly went mad. James Potter had just scored another goal for Gryffindor. Butterbeers went flying, hugs and kisses were exchanged between total strangers, and the biting chill of the wind no longer seemed like such an issue. As James circled around the pitch in his customary lap, he turned and looked straight at her.
His eyes, she thought with the dreaminess of the young in love, could be so many different things – full of humor, joy, bitterness…. But now, they were gazing directly at her, full of the sharpness of the game. Here, she knew, he felt he was in his element, with a game that he knew from constant exposure as well as instinctual talent. It was, she thought romantically, the look of a seasoned warrior.
"Damn, girl," whispered Meghan to Deidre, who was standing next to her. "Did you just see James Potter look over here? Hmm. He's got the kind of buns I'd like to spread butter on, if you know what I mean…."
Lily blushed furiously, but then caught herself unwittingly agreeing with her friend.
"Butter," she mused, just loud enough so the two girls could hear her. "There's something I'd never thought of."
Too quick to be embarrassed, Meghan nodded. "And jam, girl. Don't forget the jam."
"Well, it's not quite anything in a Quidditch uniform, but it'll have to work," Lily mumbled and hastily circled "d", not allowing the memory to go any further.
5.When scouting locations for snogging opportunities, the best places usually are:
a. Well lit. Nothing turns me on more than everything being exposed.
b. Flickering light. Candles, lanterns, that sort of thing. Everything's more romantic in a half-lit haze.
c. Wherever's convenient. I'm up for anything.
d. Dungeons. Whips, chains, that sort of thing.
"Dungeons? What's romantic about a… Oh, yeah…"
"James, you said you needed help studying for your Potions exam," Lily protested weakly very late one night.
"I do need help, but I think Sirius has got that covered for now," James said with a grin, tugging once on her hand to coax her into following him a bit further down the stars.
"Well, if we're not studying, what are we doing down here?"
"We're checking out the real estate," James muttered, suddenly pulling her close and throwing an arm around her shoulder.
"Well, we've got to look for a place sometime."
Lily was unable to help herself. She giggled. "I seriously doubt we're going to find anything in the Potions dungeon."
"No, I imagine we'd find something, but under normal circumstances, probably nothing that we'd want in our first house. Under normal circumstances."
"But…" Lily said, drawing the word out, willing to play along.
"But I am no ordinary man, and these are no ordinary circumstances."
"James, what have you done?"
His grin was instant and cocky. "Lumos."
The room they were in suddenly came to life. In the middle there was a table, carefully set for two with wineglasses and fine china. An old Muggle-style projector screen sat directly across from the table. A soft word from James flickered the lights down, and two candles on the table lit up.
Without a word, the house-elves James must have been employing magically whisked steaming pasta onto their plates without ever making an appearance.
Unbidden, tears welled up in her eyes. "James, this is… This must have been…"
"I've been thinking about this for a long time. Projectos."
As James happily settled down to a meal, she watched in awe as an image of a woman flickered onto the screen.
"Good evening Mr. Potter, Ms. Evans. My name is Georgia Dunst, a wizarding Real Estate Agent with Medieval Castles and More. It is a pleasure to work with you. Mr. Potter has informed me of some of the wishes you have for your first home together, as well as your budget, and I've taken the liberty of assessing some properties for you. If you'll follow me, you can see them now." With a gesture of her hand, she led them through several properties, pointing out pros and cons, sometimes viciously.
"Georgia is nothing if not honest," James said with a smile. "I think that has something to do with her being an American."
Then came the moment. A sweet little house about to tumble over seated on top of a hill in a sleepy little town appeared on the screen.
"It makes me think of gingerbread," Lily muttered, "and holiday parties and family."
James nodded. "I had a feeling you would like this one."
"Not like," Lily said with a smile and a toss of her head. "Love. I can just see us bringing home our first baby to that house. Can't you?"
James smiled brilliantly. "I couldn't before just now…. Or I guess it had never occurred to me, but yes, I see it. I really see it."
"Then it's ours, isn't it?"
James nodded. "It's ours."
With a whoop more appropriate for a pagan entering battle, she leaped around the table and jumped in his lap.
"I'm so happy," she whispered in his ear and stroked his hair. "So very happy."
James chuckled as he ran his hands over her back. "Me too."
"I guess the end result of that was…" Lily muttered to herself, chewing on the edge of her pencil as she pondered her answer.
"We're done with school, Lils. No more quizzes that require deep thought."
"James!" Lily squeaked, turning a bright shade of pink. "You scared me. Sneaking up on me like that wasn't very nice."
"You must be pretty embarrassed if the only insult you can come up with was 'wasn't very nice'. What are you plotting?"
"Nothing, that is to say, I'm doing nothing."
"Now I've got to know!"
"JAMES!" With a shout, she dove to protect the notebook, and her sensitive stomach, from his probing and tickling fingers. However, she was no match for his deft Chaser's hands and eventually she had to surrender the magazine.
"Witch Weekly asks…" James suddenly also turned a bright red. "Lils, is this your magazine?"
"Um, nope. Well, sort of. Meghan gave it to me."
"It's just that you've made notes, see, here in the margins…."
Lily began to laugh. "Don't worry, no one will ever see this. I just wanted to be able to track my results better."
"What were your results?"
"I dunno. I never got to find out. Someone interrupted me at the very end," Lily said, very sweetly. "But I imagine," she continued as she stood to wrap her arms around him, "that they would say I was a very happy, satisfied, and experienced woman."
"Thank Merlin," James whispered and bent his head for one very mind-blowing kiss.
A/N: Very special thank-yous go out to Daily Prophet Reporting, an old friend who knows more about modifiers, commas, colons, ellipses and grammar than I care to think about. Not mention the fun job he has of reminding me of that pesky little thing called "canon". Funny how that mucks things up. Cheers to you for making this story much more "readable". Also, thanks to Kat Morning for the initial beta and promising me it wasn't shite. I've not abandoned "With All My Love". A new chapter will be coming soon! Thanks everyone.