It lays there taunting me. The gorgeous emerald ribbon sparkles in the sunlight and almost blinds me as I gaze across the room at it. The wrapping paper that contains the present seems to tighten around the object the more I look and each time I blink, I'm frightened that it'll disappear before my very eyes.
This'll just be another plan, another way to taunt me, another sly way of trying to make me surrender. Does he honestly think this time will be any different from the others?
James Potter has done this every year since we met. He has offered me the exchange of a present - he has never mentioned what it actually is - for a guaranteed partner at the Christmas ball. The partner being himself and the present being from him to me.
I've refused every year and now I'm in sixth year, James has this strange idea that this it. The year I'll say yes. The year I'll finally accept his proposal (not a marriage proposal, of course!) and the year I'll get to open the present I've waited so many years to see.
However, James has no clue about the latter and he never will.
"Are you sure? You don't even want to touch it? Doesn't it look so tempting. . .just. . .sitting there, Evans?" James teases me, fiddling with the bow that is neatly sat upon the top of the present. "If I just happened to walk out of the room for, oh, say, two minutes. . .would you take a sneaky peek? Just to see what you've been missing all these years?"
"Potter, I'd much rather lick a toad than know what is inside that," I sneer nastily at James.
"Well, you never know, Evans, that toad you lick may just turn into a handsome prince," James replies. "Although, you must know whether that happens or not, right? Because I know you kissed John Summers at the end of last year and he isn't exactly the most handsome of fellas, if you catch my drift." James walks slightly further away from me, as if repulsed.
"That makes no sense whatsoever, Potter. If I'd kissed him, he'd be good looking now -"
"Ouch, that's nasty, Lily!" James butts in, a grin from ear to ear. "You basically just admitted that John looks like a toad! Merlin, a good personality must be the only thing you look for in a man, because otherwise John would've had no chance."
"And it's obviously why I've never been keen on you, then, isn't it, Potter?"
We're standing in a corner of the common room, ten feet away from each other, the ghastly present situated in the centre of us. I'm so glad that the room is deserted. If the other Marauders were here, James would be a whole lot worse and I'd have probably hexed him well before now. It's not that the others are a bad influence - individually, they are all absolutely lovely, if not rather cheeky - but they bring out the worst in James.
"I'll choose to take that a compliment, Lils," James states, his cheeks beginning to glow scarlet.
If it were not for that tell-tale sign, I'd have never know that my comment hurt or embarrassed him at all. When I insult James, he never flutters an eyelid. He won't even raise an eyebrow in response.
The silence is probably much worse and that's why he never says a word. He knows I understand his logic and remains quiet to ensure I feel the pang of pain he feels when I attack him.
"Don't call me Lils, James. You know I hate it." I reply softly, trying to say as little as I can.
I'm so caught up in trying to secretly apologise to James, that I forget to call him by his surname. Crap.
"I see. I can't dub you anything, Lily, but it's alright for you to call me by my forename?" James is joking, but it is still incredibly embarrassing for me to have said his first name out loud.
"I - does it really matter, Potter?"
"Oh, right, straight back to surnames again. Awfully sorry about using yours just then." James straightens his back and attempts a grin, but I can tell it's just a weak smile. "Anyway, you've still not answered my question. Will you go to the Christmas ball with me if I let you open the present?"
"I - I don't know, Potter." I falter, looking to the floor.
"That's better than ever before." James pauses. "You usually say no straight away." I can hear his breathing quicken. "I - when will you tell me your final decision?"
I sigh and scan my brain. I stall for time.
"I have no idea." I'm still thinking of why I didn't refuse his offer. Or why I didn't say yes. I don't think as I answer. "Tomorrow?"
"Sure." James looks so happy, I don't know what to say. This all seems like one big joke - I'm just not sure who the prankster is anymore. Me or him? "I'll see you later, then? At - at dinner, yeah?"
Which translates into 'no, I'll be in the library hiding from you', but I don't tell James that.
"Alright, I'll see - see you." James finally gasps, as he jogs out of the common room speedily, wishing the Fat Lady a very merry Christmas as he exits.