Written for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Challenges and Assignments) for the History of magic assignment. The task was to write a story about a first (you were given a list). I picked the 'first time falling/realizing you're in love. For the extra prompts, I'm using Lily/James. Cliché, I know, but I couldn't resist haha.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

Falling to Pieces

The flames licked at the stone fireplace greedily; there was no doubt to be had that at the first opportunity they'd gladly escape their prison, no questions asked. She could kind of understand that, she guessed. No matter how much she loved Hogwarts, she couldn't deny that as of late it had more so become a cage. A beautiful, cozy cage, but a cage nonetheless. A frown marred her features before she pulled herself away from such thoughts. There was no use to be found in dwelling upon such things.

A slight creaking sound invaded the stillness as the portrait moved. Lily had no reason to worry, given how well-hidden she was, but she still couldn't help the way her heart jolted. It was a silly reaction; the absolute worst possibility was of it being Professor McGonagall, though what the woman might be doing in the Gryffindor common room was beyond her.

Quickly peeking around the alcove concealing her presence, she caught a glimpse of messy dark hair and glasses. "Now," she murmured softly. "What might James Potter be doing, to be out so late?"

Regret filled her senses as he whirled around to face her. His sudden appearance may have sped up her heart, but the look on his face brought it screeching to a halt. He wasn't crying, not really, but he seemed to not be very far from it. Clearly he'd wanted to quietly make his way to his dorm, to be unhappy in private, but she'd ruined that fantasy.

A moment's hesitation. "Evans." A charismatic grin fixed itself into place, looking horridly inappropriate given his previous demeanor. "Oh, you know, the oh so exciting life of mine just never stops; I'm afraid I've grown rather used to being up at all hours."

"Really, now?" She would play along. It wasn't any of her business, after all. "So, who's the newest unfortunate victim of pranks?" Both of them ignored the fact that his three closest friends were absent.

They also ignored the awfully hollow chuckle he gave. "You'll just have to wait and see, Evans. Can't ruin all the fun, eh?"

"You're lucky I'm not on duty, Potter. It is after all a prefect's responsibility to keep all students in check. At all times." A brief bought of silence followed, before she tentatively broke it once more. "It's… also a prefect's responsibility to be there for his or her fellow students. At all times."

Hazel eyes studied her carefully. James Potter had never been one to wield caution, but now he seemed much more hesitant. "Noted." His tone was somehow both light and heavy, a dissonance that – despite all logic – somehow worked. Then again, he'd never exactly been one to care about reason; it was almost like it didn't apply to the teenager. "I'll be sure to tell any crying first years I come across."

Lily nodded, covering her disappointment. She had no right to be upset. "You do that. I'll have to take points from you if you don't."

He laughed. A genuine, free-spirited laugh. "You're not too bad, Evans. Turns out you do have a sense of humor, despite all previous investigations."

"Well, considering that your 'previous investigations' involved bullying someone who was a close friend of mine, I'm not surprised you didn't find any humor." Against her will, the words were lacking in any true malice.

James nodded, averting his gaze. "Yeah… sorry about that, by the way." Something strange filtered through her shock, but she refocused in on what he was saying. "I was a stupid fifteen-year-old who, well, got jealous. I was childish, and, because of it, you lost a friend that day. Sorry."

"Hmm. Don't be; he wasn't a true friend. They say that in moments of anger one's true thoughts are revealed. Well, that and drunkenness, but that's beside the point. You didn't force him to do what he did. It was of his own free will. You may have been a catalyst, but I don't think you're a seer. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong." She smiled at him.

A certain air of peace slipped into the room. Closing her eyes, Lily almost wished that she could remain here forever, where it was so much simpler. Out there, chaos and war raged. But in here, the closest thing to that was the fire with its eternal struggle for freedom.

It was perfect. Until it wasn't. "So what are you doing up so late?" And suddenly the tables had turned and she found that she did not like it one bit. Not one bit.

"Uh… it isn't exactly any of your business, now is it?" She felt like a deer in the headlights and she just wanted nothing more than for the car (or, in this case, the conversation) to turn around and go back in the opposite direction. For no real reason than to further increase her discomfort, she could feel her face heat up and was really grateful that it was nighttime. Why wouldn't he just leave already?

It was all completely irrational, and she knew that. She just couldn't find the ability to care at the moment. "Well, considering that you're the one who interrupted my formerly pleasant night and interrogating me, shouldn't I get the same privilege?"

He would have had a point, except for one little problem. "It isn't like I forced you to talk to me. You could have just walked right up those stairs and ignored me."

"You're right, I could have. I still could." The words were playful, but she didn't find them to be. Right now, she just wanted nothing more than to be alone. It was all confusing, too confusing, and it was stressing her out.

She couldn't have prevented what came next even if she'd tried. "Then why don't you?"

This wasn't her. She wasn't spastic, or nervous, or frazzled, or anything. Especially not when it came to James Potter. The moment the words had tumbled from her lips she felt piercing regret and frustration. That wasn't what she'd meant to say, what she'd wanted to say. But it was too late.

Lily stared as he just stood there. He didn't react, not really. They were just locked in a kind of staring contest, except this was one of the evil ones that weren't fun and just kept you trapped in an eternally awkward state.

Until he nodded, having made his mind up about something. Whatever it was, it was lost on her. "Okay. Yeah. I'll do that. Night, Evans."

Then he was gone, and she could have pulled her hair out. She might have, too, if the area hadn't seemed to randomly go dark. A quick inspection led her to a very simple conclusion. The fire had gone out.

And so had hers, leaving her with a clear mind for the first time in what felt like years.

Okay, super unclear oneshot for the win, right? I really hope it was obvious enough… I don't know though… Basically Lily's troubled (which is why she's up so late in the common room in the first place) because she's been developing a crush on James for the past however-many weeks. Except she doesn't quite realize it, and has been passing it off as stress. The fire kind of symbolizes her internal struggle with that. When it goes out, her struggle goes away. Hopefully that wasn't too much of a mess :)

Word Count: 1,153