A/N: Good news! There's an extra chapter! This chapter was going to be a completely separate one-shot until I realized how perfectly it fits here, which is also amazing because I was really struggling writing the other chapter. At least one more chapter, if not more, will join ranks to play off this chapter, so keep watch on the numbers on my author's page if you're curious.
Enjoy the chapter and please leave a review!
Disclaimer: I dreamt so last night, but cold, cruel reality informs me otherwise.
Lily felt her breath quicken as she started down the girls' stairs. Just last night, she had agreed to date James and the idea still left her feeling giddy. She had taken a little extra time getting ready this morning and her roommates had voiced questions she had left hanging empty. She had never considered how this would feel, but now she experienced it, she felt happy and nervous.
James had to be going out of his mind waiting at the bottom for her, but her feet were frozen on the third step down. Her mind was racing with the possibilities of today. What would her friends say? His friends? The other students, the teachers? She had spent so many years denying him, what would it say about her now?
She knew it was silly to be worried about others' opinions, but she couldn't seem to help it. Lily knew she was smart, funny, kind, and good-looking, and before she had never needed anyone else to tell her so. Suddenly, she needed the reassurance that dating James did not make her a bad person because she turned on her younger self's ideals.
Lily didn't know if she could say it aloud, but she was embarrassed. Deep down, she would rather ask James to keep this a secret than let him show the world. She knew that was wrong, but it clouded her vision a little.
She took a few deep breaths and made a list of the best possible outcomes of the day. One, she would get to be with James. Two steps down. Two, she had a completed Charms essay to turn in, thanks to Sirius. Two more steps. Three, she didn't have patrols tonight, so she could complete the rest of her homework. Another two steps. Four, she would get to have cauldron cakes, her favorite dessert, at dinner tonight because James had asked the house elves for her last night. The steps were coming easier now; she had almost reached the bottom. Five, she could see James' shoes and it looked like he had cleaned them. She touched down to the bottom and grinned when she got a look at his hair.
"Did you try to fix that mess?" she asked teasingly, walking right up to him and patting his head.
He tucked an arm around her as he smiled sheepishly. "Didn't work."
"No, it didn't. In fact, I think it's worse!"
He kissed her softly, a million words replaced in a moment. When Lily's stomach grumbled, she pulled back reluctantly. "I guess we should go eat," she said softly, watching his eyes. Something quiet happened in them and he pulled his arms away from her, digging his wand out of his robe.
With a quick flourish, flowers sprouted from his wand. "Oh, James! How did you know daffodils are my favorite?"
He shrugged, and took her hand again. "Lucky guess?"
Lily, not wanting to ruin the surprise, just shook her head and led the pair from the common room. As the Fat Lady closed the portrait hole, she called, "You look very nice together, dears."
Lily felt her cheeks burn brightly as James laughed and thanked the portrait. This was nerve wracking for her, an experience she hadn't anticipated. Being Head Girl, she received a fair amount of attention on a day-to-day basis, but this sort of attention, with her as a focus in a relationship, had never really happened to her. And this relationship had to be one of the biggest to grace Hogwarts halls in years.
Sucking in another deep breath, Lily asked herself what was the worst that could happen. It turned out to be a very bad idea, as endless scenarios bombarded her head.
Maybe all of the students would throw food at her or cast all sorts of horrid spells at her all at once. What if they stared and whispered, pointing fingers? What if they taunted her? What if they laughed?
She didn't know what she thought the worse outcome could be, but she knew that her fears mounted with every step they took. Her heartbeat quickened and her palms started to sweat.
Lily Evans decidedly did not date James Potter. What had happened to her? She once held that to be one of the few beliefs which would never change. She couldn't stand cruel people, she had no patience with smart, lazy people, she would never date James Potter, and she could never betray a friend. Had anything happened to her other foundations of Hogwarts life?
Had she been bewitched? Had James done something to her? Was he merely pretending around her and the second she was out of his line of vision, he behaved the like horrid fourth year she had vowed to never become involved with?
It didn't seem fair to be putting a lot of this pressure on James. He was responsible and he really had changed. Lily knew the war put a lot of pressures on his family as his parents were retired Aurors and the Ministry needed all the help they could get. He wanted to be an Auror, too, and that required top marks on his N.E.W.T.s. He cared about people and remained fiercely loyal to those people, even when they had wronged him. Lily had really grown to care about him this year.
So why did she feel so awful about this situation? Why was she so nervous and afraid for the reactions and comments of her friends and peers? It didn't seem normal or right, at least not for her.
"Lily, are you okay?"
It dawned on Lily they had stopped at the top of the Entrance Hall stairs. James peered at her through his dirty glasses, concern evident on his face. Lily smiled a little reluctantly and whispered, "Scourgify" to the glasses.
"Thanks, Lils," he said, a bemused expression on his face, "but don't expect me to believe dirty glasses bothered you so much. Lily, you look like an acromantula is on your tail, or waiting for you at the end. What's wrong?"
"I guess I'm just a little nervous, is all," she admitted.
He laughed a little incredulously. "For what?"
"I just—I'm afraid of what they'll say," she whispered, transferring her gaze to their intertwined fingers. "I don't want them to think badly of me."
With his finger, James gently raised her chin, bringing her eyes to his. "Lily, no one in the whole world could think badly of you for anything, especially if they know you."
She sighed; maybe he didn't know what she meant. "Just—James, it's well-known I wanted nothing to do with you for years. And then, last week, I completely ran out on you in front of the whole school! Changing my mind like this makes me look like I can't hold to my own."
Confusion held his face for a moment, and a little hurt, but then he said, "Lily, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. If you want to take it back now, no one knows. We could pretend this never happened, if that's what you want." He made as if to go back to Gryffindor Tower, but Lily dragged him down the stairs to contradict what he said.
"No! Godric, no, James! Are you listening? I don't want to care, but I can't seem to help it!" She pulled her hand away a little roughly and crossed her arms as she turned away. "I'm just used to a certain kind of attention and I'm not okay with the kind I'm about to get."
James remained silent for a moment that stretched out so far, Lily thought he had left. She spun back around, afraid he meant it was over, already, but he still stood here. A pool of emotions ran around in circles over his face, but he brought his eyes back down to hers.
"I hadn't realized," he said quietly. "I'm sorry."
Lily just smiled, unable to believe the boyfriend she had. "You're unbelievable, you know." She gave him a quick kiss and extended her hand.
"It's gonna be okay, Lily," he whispered, squeezing her hand lightly. "Just hold my hand."
James pushed open the doors and Lily closed her eyes for one final moment of uncertain peace. When she opened them, she could not have guessed what would be on the other side.