Lily Evans had only been working at Petunia's bakery for a week, and she was already strongly considering rolling her sister in almond flour and stuffing her in the oven with the other tarts.
With only one year left at Hogwarts, Lily had known she needed to spend her summer holidays making money. When Petunia sweetly offered to get her a job at the bakery where she was a junior manager, Lily jumped at the chance. A job and an olive branch from Tuney all at once? Almost too good to be true.
It was, in fact, not true.
Almost as soon as Lily started working at Me, Myself and Pie, it became clear that Tuney had hired her exclusively in order to torment her. She consistently gave Lily the worst shifts and the crappiest jobs (literally—Lily had been on bathroom duty five out of seven days). She refused to teach Lily how to work the cash register ("Why don't you use magic, if you're so bloody special?") and then screamed at her in front of a line of customers when she gave someone the wrong change. Once, she shoved Lily from behind just as Lily approached the bakery's owner with a tray of samples. He, his shirt and pie did not get along as well as the store's name suggested.
Lily had complained vociferously to her mates, and they were sympathetic. Petunia had banned "any of the other freaks" from the bakery, however, and their advice from afar left something to be desired.
"Do a Polyjuice body swap, and then you can boss her around," Mary Macdonald suggested.
"Set the place on fire while she's doing a poo and then rescue her so she owes you her life," Marlene McKinnon tried.
Least helpful of all was Remus Lupin's mild "Quit, and get another job."
"You didn't see Mum!" Lily wailed. "She's so pleased that she thinks we're getting on. I can't disappoint her like that."
And so it came to pass that Petunia polished her toenails while Lily polished the floors and daydreamed about James Potter.
This James Potter was not the cocky little shit of yesteryear. Over the last eight months, Potter had turned from a person about whom "arrogant toerag" was a generous understatement into a brave, funny, gorgeous, charming witch-magnet who oozed fun from every pore.
Lily and James were mates now, very good mates who had inside jokes and played with each other's hair and curled up on the sofa together for long late-night talks just the two of them. Very, very good mates. And if Lily occasionally—or not so occasionally—wanted to snog the face off her very, very good mate, well, that was just the price he paid for being so bloody attractive.
He flirted with her constantly.
She knew that, she wasn't dense. But he'd always flirted with her, long before they were friends, long before she could believe he'd wanted anything more than a one-night conquest. She wanted, desperately, to believe there was something more there, and sometimes she thought there was, but she simply couldn't bring herself to ask. Lily, who had once faced off against three Death Eater-to-be Slytherins in an empty hallway and won, found that all that courage fluttered right out the window when it came to James Potter.
Nothing wrong with dreaming, though. She was in the middle of a particularly scandalous one where he knocked every pastry to the ground with a sweep of his arm, ripped off her apron, and took her roughly atop the cash machine, when the bakery's little bell jangled and Lily's head jerked up.
"Why, it's the world's most gorgeous ginger bread girl!"
Lily blinked, then blinked again. He was still there. James Potter, here, in the flesh, in her tiny Muggle bakery in podunk Cokeworth.
And what spectacular flesh it was.
He was all sharp angles and constant motion, was James Potter. Tall and lean, with long arms—long, muscular arms. When had that happened?—that danced in the air when he spoke. Strong jaw, wild windswept hair, silver specs that glinted against his brown face. He stopped only a meter from her counter, hands in pockets, tipping very slightly forward on his toes and grinning at her like he'd never seen anything so fantastic in his life.
"Who ratted me out?" Lily cried heatedly, as soon as she could breathe. She'd had no intention of telling pureblood bazillionaire James Potter that she was toiling away her summer for three quid an hour, and she certainly hadn't meant him to walk in on her in violently purple uniform with flour in her hair.
"Oi, what've you got against rats?" Sirius Black said, and she realized, for the first time, that Sirius Black was here too.
"Yeah, Pete's a lovely bloke," James said, eyes sparkling.
"If anything, you were wolfed out..."
"Remus!" Bloody hell, she should have known.
"Well," James said, airily dismissing this massive betrayal with a wave of his hand, "don't I get a hug, Evans?"
Unable to hide her grin, she slid out from behind the counter and ran over to them. She hugged Sirius first because, well, it was a much less stressful proposition, frankly. Almost before Sirius released her, James had swept her into his arms and lifted her clear off her feet, swinging her in a circle. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she buried her face in him, in that indefinable James Potter musk that she'd missed so badly.
When he let her down, one arm stayed wrapped tightly around her shoulders. Feeling warm and brave in his embrace, she let her own arm drift down to rest around his waist.
"What are you doing here?" she asked eagerly, but no sooner had James opened his mouth than Petunia, like a Dementor enticed by any room with joy to suck out of it, burst out of the kitchen.
"What are you doing here?" The older Evans sister asked, with a markedly different inflection. She'd never met the boys, but she wasn't stupid.
James and Lily jumped away from each other like children caught red-handed.
"Manager Petunia Evans," said James, peering at her sister's name-badge instead of answering her question. A slow smirk started to spread across his face.
"Ah," said Sirius.
"I see," said James. Lily glanced apprehensively between the two boys, both of whom now looked like Christmas had come early. Remus had mentioned Petunia, then.
"Are you going to buy something?" Tuney snapped, giving the boys a disapproving once-over. Lily blushed at her sister's rudeness, but Sirius and James seemed totally unperturbed.
"Now that you finally showed up, we will," Sirius sniffed pretentiously, gesturing to the cash register Lily had left unmanned in order to greet them. "I figured we'd be waiting all day."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "Pardon you, if you'd asked—"
"Yeah, appalling service in this place." James interrupted, grinning, and flicked Lily's nose. She stuck her tongue out at him, secretly thrilled.
"One might even say mismanaged," said Sirius.
Petunia scowled, looking between them. "No, it's—Is this some sort of joke? You're the freakshow's friends, aren't you?"
Sirius's left eyebrow flickered a fraction, and James's jaw tightened a millimeter. Other than that, however, they completely ignored the question. If Lily didn't know them so well, she might've thought they hadn't heard at all.
"It's very clean, though," Sirius observed, as if Petunia had not spoken.
"Extraordinarily clean," James agreed.
"That'll be Ginger's doing?" Sirius asked disingenuously. Both boys knew damn well that anything Lily touched turned to mess. James sometimes called her Mish-Mash Midas.
"Mine!" Petunia snapped, puffing up snottily. "Lily's a slob."
"Wow," James said. "Impressive. You cleaned these shiny, shiny counters yourself?"
"You must hate mess," said Sirius pensively.
"I bet it really gets your goat." The boys glanced at each other with identical, dangerous grins, and Lily suddenly had a premonition about where this was headed. She tried desperately to catch James' eye to warn him off whatever they were plotting, but he was determinedly not looking at her.
"Like most people, I dislike filth," Petunia sneered pointedly, looking like she'd quite like to vacuum up the boys in front of her and toss them in the bin.
"Is that right?" Sirius asked, sounding bored. "Well, I got to bounce!" He punched James' shoulder lightly in farewell and turned to leave. "Nice to meet you, Red. Blondie...it's been real. Pip, pip, cheerio and all that!" and out he went. Lily, baffled, whipped around to stare at James. He was now bouncing gleefully on the balls of his feet and wearing a crooked grin that screamed 'shenanigans are afoot'.
"You're not fooling me with 'nice to meet you'," Petunia snapped, "I know you know each other. I know you're all from that—that Hoggy place, and I don't want you—"
"Right, I'll have your jammiest thing," James told Petunia abruptly, cutting her off.
"I'm not the server!" Petunia squawked, outraged. "Lily, get him a pastry."
"No can do. I'm having her too," James said, twisting a lock of Lily's hair between his fingers.
"Oh, you're having me?" her eyebrows shot up skeptically. She felt giddy. "Like a pastry?"
"You are a ginger bread girl, what else am I supposed to do with you?"
"I knew you'd bring that pun back up if I didn't acknowledge it."
"It's an excellent pun! It deserved acknowledgment."
"I bet that pun is the only reason you even came to visit me."
He grinned and tugged the strand of hair he was playing with. "You caught me."
"I bet you spent hours brainstorming for it." She screwed up her face in pretended concentration and dropped her voice an octave to imitate his. "Sometimes I call her Tomato...tomato paste...Tomato Pastry..." James laughed delightedly, and a burst of warmth filled her chest.
"Listen here!" Petunia interrupted loudly.
"Didn't I already ask for your jammiest thing?" James, even louder, still looking at Lily. "I've been waiting a while, now...don't make me complain to—"
"Fine!" Petunia all-but-snarled, grabbing a jam-filled donut out of the display case and slamming it on the counter. With one last smile and a wink that turned her stomach inside out, James finally turned away from Lily. He grabbed the donut off the counter, squeezing so hard that the jam popped out and splattered his hands.
Petunia's eyes narrowed. Lily snorted.
One giant jammy glob hung suspended from his palm… wavered… wobbled… then plonked onto the floor.
Petunia squeaked. Lily hid her grin behind her hand.
"Oops," James said gleefully. He took a massive bite, smearing more jam all over his cheeks, then plonked the desiccated pastry remains on the shiny, shiny counter.
Petunia whimpered. Lily did not laugh. She didn't.
"Wow, that's good!" James declared. "A donut like that deserves a celebration. C'mere, you big lug!" And with that, he reached across the counter and yanked the immaculately neat Petunia into his jammy embrace. "I'm a hugger!" he all-but-yelled into her hair, spattering it with strawberry as he did so.
Petunia shrieked in impotent rage, and Lily sputtered and stuffed a fist into her own mouth, and then—
"Padfoot!" James yelled happily, and ran to open the door. In charged a giant black dog—Sirius, Lily knew—coated from head to foot in mud. In two bounds, the dog crossed the shop and leaped onto its hind legs, its front paws landing on Petunia, who now looked about ready to pass out.
"That's not very friendly, Padfoot," James deadpanned to a flabbergasted Petunia, "You haven't been bathed since the dung heap!"
This was too much for both sisters.
The roar of laughter Lily had valiantly resisted finally burst out of her, and she bent over at the waist, slapping her knee and cackling. Petunia, meanwhile, shoved the dog off her and bellowed, "OUT! OUT! Take your filthy mutt and GET OUT OF MY SHOP!"
She grabbed a mop and swung it before her like a sword, chasing a guffawing James and tail-wagging Sirius out the door. Lily leaned helplessly against the counter, almost in tears from laughter.
When Petunia had finally forced them out the door, she rounded on her sister. "What did I tell you about bringing your freak friends here?" she hissed.
"That as a conscientious business manager during a difficult economic period, you welcome all customers?"
"I said keep them the hell away if you want to keep this job, Lily!"
"Look, Tune, I didn't invite them! I didn't even tell them I work here, they just—"
"Get rid of them, or I swear to God I will fire you here and now."
"Did you miss the part where you assaulted them? They're gone."
But gone they were not. The two boys (Sirius was human again) were right outside the shop, in fact, looking extremely pleased with themselves. They were also square dancing and periodically breaking off to bend over and twerk.
"In their defense," Lily said through another peal of laughter, "They think that's a traditional Mugg-er, non-magic person dance."
"And why the hell," said Petunia through gritted teeth, "do they think that?"
"Perhaps because that's what I said when I taught it to them?"
What an incredible night that had been, all of them absolutely sloshed just before Easter hols. Exhausted from dancing the night away to the Weird Sisters, the sixth-year Gryffindors had flopped onto the couches of the common room. All but the indomitable James Potter, infinitely, eternally energetic. "Lily, Lily, Lilyyyyyy, teach me a Muggle dance, Lillllllyyyyyyyy—" " Fine, fine, if it'll shut you up! So the first rule of the traditional Irish jig is 'face down, booty up'..."
"Get rid of them," Petunia said coldly, "or you can bloody well find another job. Maybe you freaks could all go together. I bet a circus would take you. Or perhaps a zoo."
Maybe Azkaban would take you, Lily thought, but did not say.
"Fine," she said instead, "I'll 'get rid' of my friends who traveled miles and miles to see me and would've bought things from us if you hadn't been abusive from the moment you met them." Lily stomped to the door and flung it open, only to discover that the "traditional Muggle jig" was accompanied by a song:
"Come to Lily's stall!
We swear you'll have a ball!
She's the prettiest one, she's tons of fun,
When you look at her you'll be enthralled!"
Merlin, she liked him so much.
"This band needs a drummer," she informed their two waggling bottoms, and James leaped up and spun to face her.
"Are you offering?" he asked.
"Only advice. This one" —she pointed to Sirius— "couldn't keep rhythm if you were punching him in the face with every beat."
"Are you offering that?" Lily laughed.
"Hope so," said Sirius, and winked, straightening up as well. "After your sister and that mop..." He waggled his eyebrows. "Turns out I like a little violence in my Evans women." James shoved him, and Sirius laughed. "I said women, Potter. Beat me up all you like, you're not getting this bod."
James shook his head and grinned at Lily. She grinned back, goofy-happy, light-headed. I don't want to get rid of you, she thought. I want you. I want this, forever.
"I have to kick you out," she said instead. "Tuney will fire me."
"Oh, no," Sirius deadpanned.
"Lose this gig?" James widened his eyes theatrically.
"Whatever would you do?"
"Just because money doesn't mean anything to either of you— "
"But we're helpful!" James protested. "We're getting you customers! That's what our song is for."
Lily snorted. "Your 'song' is an insult to music everywhere, and your dance is—"
"A traditional Muggle jig!" both boys yelled together. James jumped forward, stuck his hand through her arm, and pulled her into a square-dance with him.
"Come to Lily's shop!" he sang out, "To watch her bop, bop, bop! She's the prettiest one, she's tons of fun...When she twerks, you won't want her to stop!"
"That doesn't scan at all," she gasped through peals of laughter, trying—well, pretending to try—to pull out of his arms.
"It does if you sing it fast enough!" he declared, and sped up their square-dancing so much that she stumbled. But he didn't let her fall. He'd never let her fall. James wrapped his other arm around her too and swung her up into the air, her back pressed to his broad, firm chest. She gasped with blissful laughter.
"Put me down!" she squealed, smacking at his hands and hoping he never, ever obeyed.
Tragically, he did as she asked and stepped away. "Come on, ditch this gig. Your sister's a—I mean—you can find another job. Come with me, Evans."
"With you? I mean, just you, not…?" she glanced uncertainly at Sirius. James blinked as if he'd forgotten his mate was there. He looked at Sirius and again, they seemed to have an entire conversation with just their eyes.
"Oh, yeah," Sirius finally said, rolling his eyes but smirking, too. "I've got some, er, business to attend to, somewhere that's...else. Very important. Fiduciaries. Galleons. Heir stuff, you know." He started to back away.
"Oh. So—James, do you mean…" hope and confusion strangled her voice. He'd come all this way...but he'd brought Sirius...but he'd just made Sirius leave, she was sure of it...but he hadn't asked her out in more than a year, not since...but 'the world's most gorgeous,'...'she's the prettiest one'...' I'm having her '... "as, like, a date?" the last word came out on a tiny, terrified squeak, voice rising as high as her heart.
"I—date—NO!" James yelped, and punched her in the face, or didn't, but might as well have. Her heart dropped out of the stratosphere, crashed through her body, and dove into the ground. "Not—I don't—I just meant—" he fumbled for words, and Sirius grabbed his arm with one hand and clapped him very hard on the back with the other.
"Prongs seems to have malfunctioned," he told Lily lightly. "You hop to it with the pastries, I'm just going to go tighten a few screws, pour some oil in some unmentionable places. Been a pleasure, as always, Evans." Sirius steered him away by force, James's mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out.
Lily stood rooted to the spot, rather unsure if she would ever be able to move again. Ten seconds ago, she'd been happier than she could remember feeling in years. Right now, she very much wanted to cry.
Please, please review! I'm working on the next (and final) chapter from James's perspective, and reader response honestly makes it SO much easier.
I'm also looking for a Beta for this story and others! I'd love to read and edit someone else's stuff too so it could definitely be a two-way deal. I just know I need an editor to do my best work. Please PM me! :)
PS - the next chapter is coming out...a lot hornier than expected. review and LMK if that's something you actually want lol