"Aw, come on, Prongs, do it!" moaned Sirius Black.
"Please," added Remus Lupin, who was sitting with one foot hanging off the bed and a book in his hand. "You've been jittery all day."
"Yeah, Prongs," continued Peter Pettigrew. "It's really rather distracting."
James Potter stopped his nervous pacing to scowl at his friends.
"I'll make a fool of myself!" he muttered, throwing his hands up into the air.
"So?" countered Sirius. James glared.
"Sirius has got a point, James," said Remus reasonably. "If she says no, then you're not losing anything."
Distractedly, James ran a hand through his messy hair. "But then she'll hate me forever!"
Peter rolled his eyes.
Remus cast a slight look of admonition in Peter's general direction, and replied to James, "Come on, Prongs, Lily's a nice enough girl, she won't hate you."
"How do you know?" James scowled. "Of course she'll hate me. She'll turn all her friends against me, and all the girls in the school will hate me." He ran a hand through his hair again.
"I need to be alone," he said, distraught. Then he stalked out of the dormitory door, presumably to exit the common room, where he would be free to fret without listening to annoying uplifting comments from his friends.
"James Potter, Drama King Extraordinaire," mumbled Peter.
Remus snorted and nodded his head in agreement.
Sirius had a mischievous, amused glint in his eyes.
"He has got it bad, hasn't he?"
Lily Evans was not a morning person.
Her bright green eyes, momentarily clouded with sleep, glared at Cassie Bentley, who was cheerfully sitting down to eat breakfast. Lily shook her dark red hair at her best friend, attempting to hit her in the face.
"Stop being cheerful," Lily ordered.
Cassie just smirked as Hestia Jones, Lily's other best friend, sat down next to her and started eating.
Breakfast at Hogwarts during the Easter holiday was an informal affair. Students arrived at about nine o'clock to sleepily slop food onto their plates and then drag themselves back to beds to either go to sleep or annoy their friends who were attempting to sleep.
"What's up for today?" Hestia asked in a bored voice.
"I think we're allowed to visit Hogsmeade," Cassie said.
Lily immediately brightened up.
"And we can just hang around the castle the rest of the day," Cassie finished. "We probably have some homework to do."
"How stimulating," said Lily dryly.
There was a general commotion at the fifth-year side of the Gryffindor table as James Potter and his friends entered. The girls briefly greeted their fellow Gryffindors and busily went back to consuming their food.
At the idea of "hanging around the castle" for one more day, Lily's scowling mode had returned.
"Oh, brighten up, Lily," grinned Hestia.
Lily gave Hestia an even more determined scowl.
Cassie swallowed her remaining breakfast and chugged down her milk.
"Okay, I'm done. Let's head back."
"Not everyone can eat three plates' worth of food in five minutes, Cassie," sighed Lily, picking at her food.
"Especially when the food isn't being transported to their mouths," said Cassie pointedly. She and Hestia snorted.
"Come on," said Cassie ten minutes later.
The scowl that had diminished somewhat came back full force. "Why do you want us to get finished with breakfast so quickly anyway? Can't wait to hang around the castle or something?"
"No," Hestia answered for her. "It's because it's common knowledge that you consider morning to be over right after you've had your breakfast. We want you to stop scowling."
Lily- as if it needed to be said- scowled.
A few minutes later, as Hestia and Lily were finally finishing up, Sirius walked over to them.
"Hey," he said casually, then grinned over his shoulder. Lily saw James frantically poking Sirius and glaring at him. "Shut up," he mouthed.
"Yes?" asked Lily irritably.
"James here wants to ask you something, Lily," said Sirius in a far too informative tone.
In the background, James could be seen pounding his head on a chair.
Lily looked over at him. "Yes?"
Sirius gave James a supposed-to-be-but-not-really encouraging glance before bouncing back next to Remus and Peter, who eyed him doubtfully.
"Well…" James started nervously.
"Spit it out, James," said Lily testily.
"Aargh!" James yelled in frustration. "Never mind. I will KILL Sirius."
Lily glared at his retreating back. "I hate it when people do that!"
This did not seem to comfort James. He did, however, stalk back to his friends and throw a halfhearted punch in the general direction of Sirius.
Lily ate the last bite of breakfast grouchily. "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it when people do that," she chanted. She swallowed, and immediately grinned.
"So," she chirped. "When's the Hogsmeade trip start?"
The other two girls rolled their eyes.
"Sirius, you blockhead!" James snapped as they made their way up to the common room after breakfast.
"What?" asked Sirius innocently as he sat down on one of the squashy vermilion chairs near the fire.
James plopped down on another chair angrily and leaned forward. Remus and Peter watched in amusement as Sirius stared with some apprehension. James hissed, "You stupid mutt, it's common knowledge to all of Hogwarts, or at least Gryffindor, that Lily Evans hates the world in the morning! Or at least, it's common knowledge to everyone that isn't a duncebucket!"
Sirius stared at James for a moment, seemingly searching for what to say. Finally, his face split into a grin. "Duncebucket?" he asked, beginning to chuckle. Behind him, Remus was grinning and Peter snorted.
"Shut up," grumbled James, trying hard to ignore his snickering friends.
"Snappy, Prongs," choked out Sirius before falling off his chair (which Remus immediately stole) and rolling on the floor with laughter.
James just scowled and jumped up out of his chair. "Let's just go to Hogsmeade, okay?"
"Sure, Prongs," said Sirius. "We'll do whatever you say, as opposed to thinking for ourselves. After all, we are…"
Here he paused dramatically.
He was immediately convulsed with laughter again. James kicked him.
"What's this 'we' business?" Remus demanded. "James said you were a ‘duncebucket', not us." He motioned to himself and Peter.
Sirius just stuck his tongue out at Remus and hopped up, laughing fit forgotten.
"Aw, come on, I didn't mean to ruin that, Prongs," pleaded Sirius.
"Sure," said James, whose expression bore an uncanny resemblance to Lily's during breakfast.
"No, really," he said convincingly, and gave James puppy dog eyes.
James rolled his eyes. "Fine, Padfoot," he said. "But if you try anything like that again, I will slit your throat."
"I'd like to see you try," replied Sirius cheerfully. "On to Hogsmeade, then, good Marauders!"
"Let's go to Zonko's now!" Cassie suggested.
"But what about Honeydukes?" asked Lily.
Cassie rolled her eyes. "We can get sweets last, Lily. Come on," she urged.
With one last regretful look at the window full of sugar quills, Lily complied, following Cassie and Hestia.
The bell rang as the three girls stepped into the shop and looked around. "Did you restock on dungbombs?" asked Hestia in a hopeful voice to the individual she presumed to be the shop owner—a fellow whose back was presently turned to her.
"Nope!" said a very familiar voice, and Sirius Black turned around, looking extremely stupid in an oversized Oxford shirt that had Zonko's Joke Shop on the left pocket.
Hestia jumped. "Sirius!" she snapped. "What are you doing behind the counter?"
Sirius looked at her as if she was quite daft. "Selling," he stated blankly. Then he added, "You duncebucket," and proceeded to burst into peals of laughter.
James came out from the storeroom. "Shut up, you," he ordered.
Remus popped up from behind the counter and slapped Sirius on the back of the head. "Drop it."
Peter popped up on Remus's other side and said cheerfully, "How may I help you ladies today?"
"You can tell us when you got hired-" Lily started.
"What is going on here?" demanded a voice.
Peter winced. "Uh-oh."
A man wholooked more like a shop owner than any of the Marauders entered through the door. Sirius turned to him cheerfully, despite the protests of Peter and the pulling of his shirt by Remus. James, on the other hand was urging him on.
"How may I help you, sir?" asked Sirius.
"Who the hell are you?"
Sirius raised his eyebrows. "I work here, sir."
"Sirius, you complete idiot," moaned a very wet Cassie. "You are never supposed to make the owner of a joke shop angry, for Merlin's sake!"
"I think the manager went too far with the magical water balloons," stated an equally wet Remus.
"Enchanting them to follow us was a bit overdoing it, yes," agreed James sarcastically, wringing out his robes.
"And of course," groused Lily, who was wringing out her hair,"you got us involved."
"A pleasure, Lily darling," Sirius smirked, bowing as he finished squeezing out his soaked Zonko's shirt.
"Hush, Black," grumbled Lily as they all walked into Honeydukes and started browsing.
Lily immediately headed to the section where they kept the sugar quills, at the far back of the store. She was just picking out the best ones and adding them to her bag when someone came up behind her.
"Hi, James," she said absentmindedly, and began looking at prices.
"Hi," replied James. Then he just stood there.
Lily finished counting out her money and turned around to look somewhere else when she bumped into James again.
"Oh, sorry," she grinned apologetically. "I thought you'd left."
He waved away her apology. "Well, actually, I wanted to ask you something."
"Oh, what you wanted to ask me this morning? I'm sorry I was so snappy, but-"
"- you hate mornings, I know."
"Anyway, what was it you wanted to ask me?"
James fidgeted, and to Lily's utter surprise, his face turned red, something that never happened to James Potter.
"Willyoucomeonapicnicwithme?" he mumbled.
"Excuse me?" Lily thought someone must have enchanted him to speak in Gobbledegook.
"Will you come on a picnic with me?" This time his words were coherent, if no louder.
"Oh! Um…" Lily was surprised by his question, but even more surprised to realize that she was delighted he'd asked. She noticed him looking downcast, and realized that she must look reluctant.
"I'd love to, James," she said, and smiled at him.
James felt as if he would collapse. Whether it was from relief that he had finally done it, delight in the fact that she had actually said yes, or her dazzling smile that very clearly reached her eyes, he wasn't sure. He smiled himself, and Lily noticed how it lit up his whole face.
"Yeah, well," he said. "Thanks."
"Yeah," she replied. "D'you want to have it tomorrow?"
"Oh…sure," he said, still grinning like an idiot. "Want to get some more candy?"
"I'd be delighted," was the exaggerated reply from Lily, and the two moved on to the Blood-Flavored lollipops.
"Wonder how Sirius'd like one of those…"
Lily stood in front of the full-length mirror in her dorm, checking to make sure she looked okay as she braided her hair.
She had chosen Muggle clothing, and was wearing jeans and a peasant top that was a very pretty shade of crimson in a soft, silk-like materialwith bell sleeves that fluttered rather nicely. Her hair was pulled back in a braid, and a few pieces of fine hair not long enough to be pulled back framed her face.
Lily glanced into the mirror again and brushed the hair around her face nervously, then mentally slapped herself.
'What am I so worked up over? This is just a friendly picnic with one of my friends.'
Convincing herself that this was a very casual get-together was not working. She straightened her braid just as Hestia walked in.
"Where are you going?" she asked, doing a double take.
"On a picnic," Lily replied distractedly. "Do I look okay?"
"Great," Hestia assured her. "With James?"
"How did you know?" asked Lily in astonishment.
Hestia smiled. "Well, for one thing, James has not been able to stop staring at you all day."
"Really?" asked Lily, and she felt her face turn red. Then she surprised herself again by feeling strangely pleased at the fact that James couldn't keep his eyes off her.
Hestia nodded her head in affirmation. "And also, you've been quite distracted since Hogsmeade yesterday. If I remember correctly, you and James were browsing together in Honeydukes?" She looked at Lily questioningly.
Lily sat down on the bed next to Hestia. "Mmm…yes, he asked me when I was looking at sugar quills," she confessed.
"Ah," Hestia said with an encouraging sort of smile.Hestia always knew what to say or do when someone just wanted to talk about something serious. "How romantic. Well, go on, then," she said, giving Lily a little nudge off the bed.
Lily sighed and jumped up, looked at herself in the mirror again, and headed outside.
James was already sitting by the lake, looking quite a bit nervous. As he saw Lily exit the castle and scan the grounds, he stood up and waved a little, signaling for her to come over. She complied.
As she sat on the picnic cloth alongside the oak tree that grew near the shore of the lake, she looked in awe at the spread.
The weather could not have been more beautiful. The sky was as blue as a sky could get, and a wild Scottish wind whistled through the leaves of the oak behind them and played with the water in the lake right beside them. The grass was at the height of greenness due to the spring weather, and was swept into a dance as the wind blew it.
Besides the nearly empty basket with only a few sandwiches strewn at the bottom, the tablecloth was covered with food. There were four bottles of butterbeer on the cloth, and bowls and plates full of food. Among them were strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, three different kinds of pie, trifle, chocolate cake, and a variety of other foods that she and James could not possible eat alone.
"James!" she exclaimed. "How did you get all this food?"
"Oh," James flashed a smile that might have been suave had it not been for his nervousness. "Old Marauder trick."
Lily's mind clicked. "You mean you nicked it all from the kitchens?"
James grinned a little ruefully. "Well, yeah," he said, a little surprised at how easy it was to talk to Lily. He opened the picnic basket.
Lily took a plate and popped a strawberry into her mouth. "We shall."
"And that's how I became friends with Sirius."
Lily laughed. "Because you got caught playing pranks together when you were three-years-old in the middle of a Ministry building? That's priceless!"
She doubled over laughing again. "How did you meet Remus and Peter?"
"Sirius and I met Remus in Diagon Alley, when he was arguing with Snape and Rosier, and we joined in." James chuckled. "Let me tell you now, Remus Lupin is definitely someone you'd want on your side in an argument."
"And Peter?" she pressed.
"Oh, that was Sirius's fault," said James teasingly.
"James!" Lily reproached, though she chuckled. "That's cruel!"
"I was just kidding," he defended. "But Sirius's stupid owl hyperventilated right before the train left. Hit Peter in the head, poor bloke."
"So you met one of your best friends because you got in trouble together, the other because you were in an argument, and the other because Sirius's owl tried to murder him?"
"Sounds about right."
"And it fits you perfectly!"
"Was that an insult?"
"I don't know, you decide," said Lily teasingly, as she drank the last sip of butterbeer.
"Sorry that's all we have," James apologized, "but Sirius nicked my butterbeer after I bought it from Hogsmeade. He's probably as drunk as a house-elf now, considering the amount he took."
"When did you get it in the first place?"
"A few weeks ago," he said promptly. "In Hogsmeade."
Lily raised her eyebrows. "How? Besides the visit we had yesterday, we haven't had one in ages."
"Please!" Lily pleaded. "I won't tell!"
"Okay," said James, surprised that he was agreeing, but completely comfortable with it nonetheless. "Sirius, Remus, Pete, and I found a passage to Hogsmeade from the castle. We sneak down there a lot."
"How on earth do you sneak there without getting caught?"
"Umm…well, I kind of own an Invisibility Cloak."
Lily stared at him with her mouth open. "You definitely need to show this to me!" she exclaimed in surprise. "If you don't mind, that is," she added quickly.
"As long as you don't tell, no," James answered casually, stretching out on the grass.
"I won't," she promised.
James looked at her, and in the manner of a person who was infatuated with someone, distractedly popped an unusually large and firm blueberry into his mouth and promptly choked.
After Lily struck him hard on the back a couple of times, James recovered and smiled ruefully.
"That wasn't clever."
"No," replied Lily semi-sarcastically, "No, I wouldn't call trying to kill yourself particularly clever."
"Was that an insult?" James said for the second time.
"I don't know, you decide," said Lily, flashing him a smile.
"You're really pretty, Lily," said James without thinking. He immediately mentally slapped himself and turned a rather Gryffindor-esque shade of red.
Lily was surprised (for the second time in two days) to find herself uncommonly pleased with something James had said. She blushed. "Um…"
James laughed. "You need to learn how to accept a compliment."
"Okay," she grinned. "Fine. Thank you."
"There," he smiled. "That wasn't so hard, now was it?"
"Let's try it again," laughed Lily. "You're an excellent Chaser."
"You're a fabulous Seeker," he returned.
When she glared at him, he defended himself. "You can accept a compliment with another one!"
"Fine. Um…you're a really great friend."
"And you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."
"Hey! It doesn't count unless you're sincere!" Lily protested.
James leaned over, and spoke in a softer voice. "Who says I wasn't being sincere?"
Lily's heart was beating so loudly that she was sure Hagrid could hear it on the other side of the lake, and her stomach was twisting like anything. Though those Hufflepuffs in her Divination class may be feather-brained and giggly, they were right about one thing–James Potter, Quidditch King Extraordinaire, was just about as charming as everyone said he was.
She didn't have time to point this out, though, before he had leaned over a bit more.
And James and Lily's lips touched.
He was a little surprised. Lily kissed tentatively, shyly, as if almost afraid she wasn't doing it right, but determined nonetheless, as if she really wanted to. James found that he didn't want to break the soft kiss. He wrapped his arms around her neck as they sat in the grass next to each other, and she did the same. He felt her tongue lightly trace his top lip, and he held her even closer.
They both heard a soft click sound, unmistakably a camera, and they were abruptly tugged from their embrace abruptly. The two looked around frantically, but saw no one.
"Look!" Lily pointed to the grass. Distinctly foot-sized patches of grass were being crushed, making a path back to the castle, and they heard the sound of someone running.
"Stupid dog," growled James, sounding disturbingly like one.
"He stole your Invisibility Cloak," Lily groaned.
They sat there for a moment, thoroughly embarrassed and despondent.
"Should we go after him?" James halfheartedly asked after a moment. He looked at Lily, and as hazel eyesmet green, he thought he had never seen anything more beautiful. Loose, fine strands of dark red hair framed her face with unintentional perfection. The rest of her long auburn hair was drawn back into a waist-length braid that was draped over her shoulder. Her face was happier than he'd ever seen a face to be, and her green eyes sparkled.
As he stared at her, she also stared at him, and was thinking that she had never felt like this before. His hazel eyes were shining bright with happiness, and his messy raven-black hair was - oh, she didn't know! - just wonderful, no matter that it looked like James had never touched it with a brush.
"Should we go after him?" James asked again.
Lily cocked her head sideways. A mischievous smile appeared on her face, and James felt himself melt. "No," she whispered, and their lips met again.
Somewhere in the distance, the wind blew, and a hyper Sirius Black snapped another picture. The couple heard the flashes of film in their subconscious, but it registered with neither of them.
The height of April was perhaps one of the most beautiful times of the year in Scotland. A majestic stone castle rose up from the grass of the Scottish highlands, and the soft wind blew at the flags posted from the turrets. The beautiful, clear water of the lakelapped up at the grass at the banks. Somewhere in the middle of the lake, a giant squid lazily waved one of its tentacles above the water, letting it bathe in the wind and sun. A round, thatched hut stood on one side of the lake, surrounded by a pumpkin garden and an assortment of odd plants. On the other side of the lake was an old, wise oak tree, and its ancient branches and leaves offered shade during sunny days. Birds soared overhead, their wings silhouetted against the sky as they circled the lake. Mountains rose out of the hills, and the wind blew against the impermeable rock, singing as it hit the stone and bounced back. A gravel and mud path led to a village half a mile away, surrounded by grass and wildflowers.
And on that breezy day next to a lake, in front of a tree, near a Scottish mountainside, Lily Evans and James Potter fell in love.
A/N—Many thanks to Caroline, my lovely PS.net beta, and to the world in general, just because I'm so happy to have been accepted as an author at Phoenix Song!