James Potter was snapping a box shut when Sirius Black and Remus Lupin came strutting into the dormitory, tossing a Quaffle back and forth between them as they bickered.
“You did bloody so look at her, Padfoot. She all but tripped over her own two feet because you were staring at her so hard out there by the Fat Lady,” Remus muttered, catching the Quaffle with a loud thwack against his hands, looking rather put-out at the moment. James looked up from the box, his eyes going back and forth between his two friends curiously.
Sirius was smirking at Remus with that trademark grin of his, catching the Quaffle again when it was lobbed back at him. “Oi, mate, come on. It’s not my fault that all the birds in this place want a piece of some Black magic.” He waggled his brows in a very lothario-istic manner, and James thought that Remus might, just might, snarl at him.
“What’re you two sods arguing about now? The latest girl in the saga of Padfoot’s path of destruction?” James asked, waving his wand over a long, thin box, watching a shiny silver ribbon tie itself into a rather lovely bow. He was putting the final touches on Lily’s Valentine’s Day gifts.
Remus just grunted and walked away from Sirius. Sirius, however, grinned an infuriating grin and dumped the Quaffle in the middle of his bed. “Destruction. Yessss. I like it. Sirius Black, destroyer of hearts, destructor of ladies’ innocence all over Hogwarts.” He chuckled lowly, shaking back his fringe so that his fathomless grey eyes pierced Remus. “And Camille Miratemp is next on my path, Moony. Best watch out.” He extended his arms and cracked his knuckles; James saw Remus’ eyes flare, and his hand inch towards his wand.
James just laughed. This was usual everyday fodder lately, what with Valentine’s Day drawing near. Remus had a serious crush on Camille Miratemp, and Sirius knew it. And, well, Sirius wouldn’t be Sirius if he didn’t take it upon himself to make Moony miserable enough to get up off his bony arse and do something about it before the next full moon. Sirius meant well, but he had a hell of a way of pushing a bloke to get a move on.
“You two can hex each other until you’ve both got purple hair and boils full of bubotuber puss for all I care. I’ve got things to do.” He fastened his Head Boy badge to his robes and began gathering up all the packages on his desk, shrinking them to fit into his pockets.
James’ movements caught Sirius’ and Remus’ attention as they stopped snipping at one another and moved onto him.
“Uh, Prongs, mate, just what in the name of Merlin are you up to?” asked Sirius, shoving his fingers through his longish, dark hair in a movement very reminiscent of James himself.
“Looks like you’re packing to go off to war,” replied Remus, who instantly cringed at his choice of words. War was looming in the horizon these days and weighing on all of them rather heavily.
“These,” replied James, pushing the last gift into his robe pocket, “are gifts for Lily for Valentine’s Day. I have a little, uh, hiding … to do … with them.” His hazel eyes lit up like Christmas trees as he reached for tiny pieces of folded parchment and tucked those away as well.
Sirius and Remus looked at him as if he’d finally gone completely round the twist; Sirius leaning in to Moony, whispering in a loud, conspiring voice, “I reckon Prongs has lost it, Moony. Evans has finally sent him over the edge.” Remus tried to hide a chuckle, attempting to look very grave as he looked over at the quite-obviously excited James.
“Oh, sod off, you two,” James grumbled. “Just because I plan on asking Lily to marry me in a few days in the Room of Requirement doesn’t mean I’ve lost my bloody mind.”
Shite. There it was. It just slipped out of his mouth without even a second thought. Bloody hell. James took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers before looking over at his two best friends with a sheepish look on his face, trying to gauge their reactions. He had to put his glasses back on to do it.
Remus, Merlin love him, was staring. Mouth open as if he were catching lacewing flies … staring. Dumbstruck. Sirius, on the other hand, was gaping, his mouth working like a fish as he struggled to find some words. James obviously had taken them both by surprise.
It was Sirius who found his voice first.
“You want to take her where?” Sirius asked incredulously. “And do what?”
“You’re not deaf, Padfoot. You’ve got a bloody dog’s hearing, for Merlin’s sake. I’m asking Lily to marry me in the Room of Requirement on Valentine’s Day.” James stood his ground. Yeah, so what if his heart was beating like a Hippogriff gone wild because he wanted the approval and support of his two best friends? Even if he didn’t get it … it wouldn’t stop him from doing what he wanted to do.
“Prongs! Oi! What are you thinking!? Have you gone utterly mad? You’re bloody seventeen years old for the love of Merlin! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to be with Evans! What the hell do you want to tie yourself down for now? Give it a few years, mate!” Sirius kept going, apparently on a roll … a very nervous one at that. “We’ll be out of here in a few months, we’ll get a place together. Hell, you and Evans can get a place together, live in sin; you don’t need to get bloody married!”
James just stood there while Sirius had his tirade. He was calm in the face of his friend’s obvious fear. Sirius didn’t understand, couldn’t understand. He’d never had a good home life, never had good parents, didn’t know what a good marriage was. James did. Bless his family, he did. And damn it all to hell and back again, he’d have that with Lily.
“Padfoot, listen. There’s a war. A bloody bad one. We might not have our whole lives ahead of us for much longer. And I’m not going to waste one single minute wondering on the what-ifs. I’m doing this, with or without your approval.” It cost James to say that to Sirius, cost him more than anyone realised. As close as he was to the Marauders, everyone knew that James and Sirius had a bond that no one could come close to. They were brothers.
Remus’ voice broke the strained silence. “Prongs is right, Padfoot. There’s no sense waiting with this war breathing down our necks,” he said. “Prongs, congratulations.” There was a grin on his face and in his eyes. James knew that it was an honest reaction. Leave it to Moony to put things in perspective with just a handful of words.
“Thanks, Moony.” James grinned at his friend before turning his gaze back to Sirius.
Sirius just stared at James for what seemed like an eternity before he held out his hand. “Suppose you could’ve done worse than Evans, mate. I mean, at least she’s not,” he paused, grinning evilly, turning his head around to stare at Remus, “Camille Miratemp.”
Remus’ eyes narrowed dangerously, and James laughed, closing Sirius’ hand in his. Things were going to be all right. “Merlin, you two are wicked.” He released Sirius’ hand and headed to the door, pulling it open as he heard his two friends go at it again behind him … and damn near walked into Peter Pettigrew.
“Oi! Wormtail! Do me a favour? Make sure these two don’t murder each other whilst I’m gone, yeah?”
Whistling, he slapped Peter on the shoulder and bounded down the steps, leaving a very confused, very worried Peter in his wake.
Three days later, Lily Evans was sitting at dinner with her friends. Her mind was very obviously not on her food, seeing as how all she was doing was pushing it around her plate rather than actually putting any in her mouth. It was Valentine’s Day, and not only had she not got anything from James, she hadn’t even seen him, not once. So much for that whole “I love you” nonsense. Apparently he’d been lying.
She wasn’t paying attention to her surroundings; else she’d have been the first to see the large, tawny owl flying through the window overhead. Instead, it was her friend, Marjorie, who pulled her out of her private reverie.
“Hey, Lils, isn’t that James’ owl?” Marjorie asked, pointing upwards at the owl slowly descending to their table.
“Yeah, it is,” Lily replied, her brow furrowing as she put down her fork, watching Winston land delicately in front of her, a small piece of parchment held in his beak. “Hey, boy, what have you got there, hmm?”
She took the piece of parchment from him and offered him a piece of her bread, seeing as she didn’t have any owl treats handy. He nipped it from her fingers gently, and she opened the parchment.
Tonight on rounds, I must be found. I’m rather cute, I can’t be missed; look in the place where we first kissed.
She made a very strange face before showing the parchment to Marjorie. “It’s got to be from James, doesn’t it? But what in the name of Merlin is he playing at?” She was more than confused, and she was still hurt that this was the first she’d heard from him all day … and in the form of a silly little rhyming riddle, no less.
“Oh, come on, Lils. It sounds like a treasure hunt! It could be fun,” her friend replied, passing the parchment back to Lily.
“Yeah, maybe.” Lily tucked the parchment into the pocket of her robes and decided to forget about it until rounds. She’d done enough worrying and wondering over James Potter today.
When it was time for rounds, Lily waited for James near the portrait hole of the Gryffindor common room as she always did, but to no avail. Five, ten, fifteen minutes later, it was apparent that he wasn’t going to show up. Muttering to herself, her cheeks flaming bright enough to match her crimson hair, she shoved the portrait hole open and stormed through it, cursing him under her breath the entire time.
She could swear she heard Sirius, Remus and even little Peter laughing at her as she left.
She’d deal with them later. Sods.
She went on her rounds, managing to escort no less than seven snogging couples back to their common rooms on this late Valentine’s night; she was sure she’d missed more than those seven, but, she was alone on rounds. Bloody James. Even Peeves wasn’t helping her out tonight as he usually would; seemed the poltergeist had a soft spot for romance one night a year.
She was on her way back to the common room when she remembered the parchment in her pocket. With a heavy sigh, she pulled it out again, reading it by the light of the torches in the corridor.
Tonight on rounds, I must be found. I’m rather cute, I can’t be missed; look in the place where we first kissed.
She chewed her lower lip whilst she considered the riddle. Should she? Should she follow it, try to figure it out? Maybe James had something planned for her and wasn’t just being an insufferable, inconsiderate prat of a boyfriend after all. She sighed again, rubbing a hand over her cheek. What the hell. She’d do it … and if there wasn’t a box of chocolates and flowers waiting for her at the end of this, he would spend the rest of the month looking like a Mooncalf.
Feeling a little lighter inside, she headed down one corridor, then another, turning down another until she finally found the corridor where she and James had shared their first kiss on that revealing night of truths. She took a deep breath and looked around, trying to figure out what she was looking for.
“Ok, James, what did you do?” she muttered, eyes scanning the walls and floor. That’s when she spotted it, hidden in a dark corner … a tiny package tied with a lovely red bow. Squealing softly, she raced to it and picked it up, ripping it open to find a darling little teddy bear inside.
“Oh James!” She went all soft and squishy inside as she cuddled the bear, pulling the piece of parchment the bear held out and opening it to read.
You’ve done very well, now time for your task. To find your second gift, you have but to ask … where does your beloved spend most of his time? Tickle the pear, you won’t need this rhyme.
Tickle the pear … tickle the pear. Why did that sound so familiar to her? He’d told her about tickling the pear on … on … something. The library? No … he and the rest of the boys avoided the library as much as possible; it wouldn’t be in there. The hospital wing? True, James spent enough time there with Black, Lupin and Pettigrew, but why would he send her to the hospital wing in the middle of the night when there were other students there? Come on, Lily, think, think!The kitchens! Tickle the pear!
“The painting!” she exclaimed in hushed tones, crumpling up the note and shoving it in her pocket whilst clinging to the teddy bear and rushing down the corridor towards the kitchens.
Down, down, down she went, below the Great Hall, down the stone staircase that led to both the Hufflepuff common room and the kitchens. She was puffing pretty darn good by the time she came to the painting, half-bent over, hair hiding her face, her hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath.
“I’m … going … to get you … for this … Potter,” she huffed to herself, half-laughing, half-serious. When she could breathe normally again, she stood and reached for the pear on the painting of the bowl of fruit and tickled it. The pear giggled with glee and turned into a shiny door handle. With a grin, Lily tugged on it and stepped into the hustle and bustle of the kitchens.
The house elves were hard at work, half of them cleaning up for the night, the other half setting up for tomorrow’s breakfast. She was immediately accosted by what she thought was a female elf, wearing a tattered pillowcase and carrying a long, wide, flat box with a big purple bow.
“Is you being Miss Lily?” the elf inquired in its high, squeaky voice.
Lily was instantly charmed. She folded her hands in front of her, the teddy bear tucked in the crook of her arm, and smiled down at the ugly, yet rather cute, elf. “I am.”
“Then this is being for you, Miss Lily. You be having a Happy Valentine’s Day!” The elf held out the package to Lily, and when Lily took it from her, she bowed low and turned to scamper back to join her elf-mates in their duties.
Lily was positively giddy. Marjorie had been right; this was fun! She virtually tore into the ribbon and paper covering the box, making a little sound of delight when she saw what was inside. An assortment of sweets peeked back at her … Chocolate Frogs, Fizzing Whizbees, sugar quills, even some Chocoballs, her absolute favourites.
“James, you’re so making up for ignoring me today, you prat,” she said lovingly, sliding the lid back on the box and putting the teddy bear in her pocket so she had hands enough to carry the box. As she was turning to leave the kitchens, she noticed the note taped to the bottom of the box of sweets.
Sweets for my sweet, chocolate for my lady, time for your third clue … it might make you a bit crazy. Go to where you can see for miles, to practise your ways and feminine wiles.
What in the bloody buggering hell was that all about? See for miles, feminine wiles? Has he gone off his trolley? Lily scrunched up her nose and wandered out of the kitchens, the painting swinging shut behind her. She knew she had to move fast and she shrank her gifts and tucked them away so that Mr. Pringle wouldn’t catch her and call her bluff if she claimed she was doing extended rounds for Valentine’s Day; which, of course, would be her alibi.
She began to wander the corridors, trying to think logically on the clue. See for miles, see for miles, she thought to herself. Where in all of Hogwarts could she see for miles? It had to be on some tower, or somewhere on the grounds. She certainly couldn’t see for miles inside the castle.
A tower … a tower … it had to be a tower.
“Oh Lily, you idiot! The Astronomy Tower!” She laughed out loud as she took off at a run for the Astronomy Tower, remembering the last time she and James were up there alone – she had been modeling her new scarf for him, acting like a runway model – ways and feminine wiles indeed!
She reached the Astronomy Tower at a bit of a run, her face a mask of smiles and happiness as she bounded up the stairs, bursting out into the frigid February air. She immediately shivered, wrapping her arms about herself. Her robes certainly weren’t barrier enough against the wind whipping around the turrets of the castle.
“You couldn’t have picked a warmer spot?” she muttered to herself as she began scanning the nooks and crannies of the tower for her next gift. Even in the cold, she was feeling the warmth of excitement. When she finally spotted it, a long, thin box tied with a silver ribbon, she squealed, grabbing it up and untying it quickly. Inside was a single red rose, along with what appeared to be her final note.
You’ve found your rose, the game’s almost done; now you must find the most handsome one. (And if you say that’s Sirius, that’s it, we’re over!) Go to the room that’s required, you know the way, I’ve shown you before. There you’ll find the one you desire, and he’ll show you how to open the door.
She found herself laughing as she rubbed the velvety soft petals of the rose over her cheeks and lips, lifting it to her nose to smell … leave it to James to make a crack about Sirius in the middle of the most romantic thing he’s ever done. She knew exactly where she had to go this time. Shrinking the box the rose was in, she tucked it into her pocket along with all of her notes, and left the tower. She needed to go to the Room of Requirement.
She worked her way down from the Astronomy Tower to the seventh floor of the castle, moving a little slower this time, savouring the feeling that flowed through her: love. She toyed with the petals of the rose, gently passing them over her lips, the smile never once leaving her face. Oi, how she loved that nutter. Who ever would have thought it possible? Lily Evans, the consummate good girl, falling for James Potter, the impossible bad boy? Well, here she was, living proof of it. Sometimes, the bad boys are worth the fall.
She reached the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, but James was nowhere to be seen. Could he be hiding? Around the corner maybe? She started tiptoeing … calling out for him in a whispered voice.
The tap to her shoulder scared the wits out of her, and she nearly screamed, would have if a disembodied hand hadn’t clamped itself around her mouth. She recognised that hand instantly, and calmed … but still. Damn James and his sodding Invisibility Cloak anyhow!
When the hand around her mouth let her free, she immediately started in on him. “You scared the life out of me, Potter! You couldn’t have let me know you were there first?”
She turned around, intent on berating him a little more just for the fun of it, but she ended up dissolving into a fit of giggles. There he was, just his head, seemingly floating in the middle of the corridor. He looked bloody adorable, too; his hair all mussed, glasses askew on those beautiful hazel eyes … Merlin how she loved him.
“What fun would that have been, Lily?” James grinned, tipping his head towards the tapestry. “You ready for your final gift?”
That softened her, turned her into a puddle of goo. There was more, still, after such a fun and lovely night of gifts and laughter and thoughtfulness. She smiled a pretty smile and nodded, almost shyly.
He grinned at her again, holding up one finger that appeared out of nowhere. “Then just hang on one minute.”
As Lily watched, James began to pace back and forth in front of wall opposite the tapestry, appearing to be concentrating on something extremely hard. All of a sudden a door appeared, and he swung it open with a flourish, removing the Invisibility Cloak and holding the door open for her.
“After you, m’lady.”
She was utterly charmed. Smiling, she stepped past him, and into the room.
The Room of Requirement looked bloody perfect! It looked like a trattoria in Italy at night, with twinkling lights up high and warm candle glow down low, greenery blooming in every corner, and flowing, romantic music playing in the background. In the centre of the room there was a single table with two chairs, two tall candles floating just above the tabletop, a pitcher of pumpkin juice and two goblets, and a tray of endless sweets and pastries.
James couldn’t have planned it better himself if he bloody well tried. He sodding loved this room.
When Lily entered, he watched her eyes go wide and round with delight and shock, and his heart tripped up. He was really about to do it … really about to ask this girl of his dreams to marry him. Right here, in a hidden room on the castle grounds of Hogwarts. Suddenly his mouth was dry and his hands were sweaty and his tongue felt as if it weighed a tonne.
“Ah, uhh … do you want some uhh, pumpkin juice?” he stammered, heat filling his cheeks as his hand went up into his hair, mussing it in that way that he was famous for.
She turned and looked at him, giving him one of those smiles that he melted for each time, and nodded her head. “I’d love some, James.”
He skirted her as she stood there, tossing his Invisibility Cloak unceremoniously on the floor out of the way, and went to the lone table in the centre of the room. His hands shook as he poured two goblets of pumpkin juice, swallowing past the lump in his throat, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down.
It’s Lily, for Merlin’s sake, Potter. Snap out of it. You’re not trying to catch her anymore, chase her down and make her love you. She already loves you, you prat. Stop this nutty nervous behaviour and just be yourself.
He visibly shook his head to clear his thoughts and turned to Lily again, passing her the glass of pumpkin juice. He tapped his goblet to hers in a toast. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Lily.”
Her smile was like sunshine in the darkened room, and James felt his confidence return again. He was James-bloody-Potter, Quidditch star … most popular bloke in their year (next to Sirius maybe) … he could do this.
“Why don’t you come sit down, Lily? We’ll enjoy what the room gave us. It is Valentine’s Day, you know.” He chuckled at her, pulling out her chair in a most gallant fashion.
“Why, James, I do believe that you’ve grown a romantic side since I last saw you,” Lily joked, sitting in the ornate little chair as James pushed it in for her. “Which, by the way, reminds me. Considering I hadn’t seen you since yesterday, I was gearing up for a right good row with you, Potter. I’d thought you’d forgotten all about me today.”
She at least had the grace to look a little sheepish when she said that, he thought, grinning over at her as he took his own seat. He reached out, tucked a lock of her flaming crimson hair behind her ear. “Come on, Lils, do you honestly reckon I could forget you on any given day, much less today?”
She blushed a bit, a beautiful contrast to her hair. Secretly, he wished she’d do it more often; that he could make her do it more often. “You know how it is with girls, James. We’re a fickle sort.” She laughed softly, taking a sip of her pumpkin juice.
He looked at her, really looked at her. Her hair, her skin, that smattering of freckles across her nose … those eyes. Merlin, a man could drown in that sea of green and never want to come out again. It caught him by the throat, everything he felt for her. He couldn’t wait. Everything he’d planned, every seduction, every flowery word and promise, just flew out the window.
“Marry me, Lily.”
He watched her face as she processed the words he’d just uttered. Confusion. Shock. Disbelief. Wide-eyed, blinking, paranoia.
“James?” she whispered, the hand holding the goblet of pumpkin juice beginning to tremble.
“Oh, bollocks,” he muttered, knowing he shouldn’t have just blurted it out like that. He took the goblet from her, set it on the table, took her hands in his.
“Lily, listen to me. I love you. You know I love you. Bloody hell, I’ve loved you from the moment I saw you on the train, and you turned up your nose at me and my mates. And I’m going to love you until the day I die.” He paused, drawing in a deep breath, never once looking away from her eyes. “I want to spend my life with you, Lils; wake up with you in the morning, go to bed with you at night. I want to have a family with you, a home. Something good to come home to.”
His eyes took on a serious light as he rubbed her hands in between his own, watching every single emotion that ran over her face. He continued. “Lils, there’s a war coming. You know it and I know it, even if the rest of the sods in this school don’t want to admit it. I don’t want to go into this war wondering about what could’ve been, or what we might’ve missed out on. The future is … uncertain, Lily.” He stopped, leaned in closer to her. “But how I feel for you isn’t. I love you, Lily Evans, and I want to marry you.”
Lily’s face was a myriad of expressions and emotions, it seemed, running the gamut from loving to astonished and back again. Crystalline tears slipped down her face, and before James knew it, her small hand had reached out to cup his roughened cheek, her voice seeming so small in the cavernous room.
“James. Oh, James. I love you so much. How could you ever think that I wouldn’t want to marry you?” her voice echoed, her fingers caressing his face. Her eyes, Merlin, her eyes, seemed to glow as bright as diamonds in the candlelight. He wanted to capture this moment, that look, forever.
His heart was pounding like the Hogwarts Express chugging through King’s Cross, knowing the smile on his face was threatening to split it in two as he reached into his pocket for the final gift he had for her. He cracked the lid on the box from Madam Melinda’s Beautiful, Best, Brilliant Baubles, and watched as Lily’s mouth formed a little ‘o’ as she gasped.
The ring was something he’d had made especially for her. No plain old clear diamond would have done his Lily justice, no. His Lily needed something beautiful, stunning, elegant. The ring was set in the richest of golds, two emeralds that rivalled her eyes surrounding a canary yellow diamond. He lifted the ring out of the box and took her hand in his.
“Lily Evans, I promise that I’m going to love you forever, and I will do everything in my power to make you the happiest woman alive.”
With that he slid the ring home on her finger, grinning when it fit absolutely perfectly. She looked from the ring to him, from him to the ring and back again, tears now streaming down her porcelain cheeks as she threw her arms around him, her mouth finding his in the most passionate of loving kisses he’d ever known.
When they both broke free from the kiss, he pressed his forehead to hers, a smirk suddenly taking his lips as he looked at her.
“What?” she asked in that wary, uppity tone that he loved so much.
“You do realise, Lils,” he began, barely suppressing a laugh, “that by marrying me, you’re also marrying Padfoot and Moony and Wormtail too, right?”
Her eyes widened for a moment as realisation dawned on her face … realisation followed by resignation. And then, Lily Evans did something that any self-respecting Head Girl would never do.
James just laughed. If he could make Hogwarts’ Head Girl curse at him whilst she was wearing his ring of betrothal, then his life was pretty bloody good. Pretty bloody good indeed.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
A/N: My many thanks to my beta, who worked on this really darn quickly. She knows who she is, and she rocks! J