cross-posted from AO3.

You know how this story goes:

Boy likes Girl. Girl hates Boy's guts, which is understandable and nothing less than he deserves. Except sometimes she actually doesn't hate his guts, but the precedent has already been set and Boy has no reason to consider that Girl has the capacity to like him.

So, Boy and Girl become friends. Girl finds out that while she hates his guts, she does like him. A little more than she should. But again, there is that Precedent, and she can be annoyingly prideful about it and refuses to make this easy for everyone.

No, no. Instead, we get something significantly not easy.


We're going to say this starts with a love potion.

This starts with a love potion.

Now, James Potter dropped Potions the moment he could, much to his Potions Master father's dismay. (Fleamont is proud of his son regardless. It just happens to be a running joke.) James argues that years of coating people's cauldrons with Bulbadox powder would reasonably dissuade Professor Slughorn from letting him in.

That excuse falls apart in light of one Sirius Black who possesses the exact same track record for Bulbadox powder-related shenanigans and is still part of the Potions NEWT class. However, Sirius also possesses an ambition to become an Auror, which is something he and James don't exactly share.

So, James Potter did not take Potions because he did not want or need to take Potions. Transfiguration is Where It's At anyway.

Where we are at—is the Seventh Year Boys' Dormitory in the Gryffindor Tower, where James' lack of continued Potions study is just about to blow up in his face.

"Prongs, you will not believe what I just did," Sirius announces as he enters the room, immediately collapsing onto his bed. Half his torso seems to be missing.

James looks up. "Not hard to believe you borrowed my cloak, actually."

The Marauders, but mostly Sirius, have adopted somewhat of a What's Mine is Yours attitude around James' invisibility cloak—and only the invisibility cloak. They're pretty respectful about personal property otherwise.

Sirius pulls himself up by his bedpost, grinning widely. "Right into her tea and none the wiser. Cloak's stellar. She never even saw me."

"That's how invis—" James sits up straighter, his spine twisting with a sudden and creeping sense of unease. He hasn't exactly been worried about another one of Sirius' pranks in over a year. That One was particularly bad anyway and surely Sirius knows not to do anything on the same scale again, right?

Slowly, he turns toward Sirius. "What did you put in whose tea? Who never saw you?"

"Evans, obviously." The response is teasing, playful, friendly even. Like, Obviously, who else would Sirius want to secretly dose with a potion? It's simply got to be Lily Evans. "I put a potion in her tea so she'll fall in love with you."

"You did what."

Sirius hooks one arm around the bedpost, swivelling around like an exotic pole dancer or whatever it is he thinks he's doing. He explains. "I couldn't brew the potion designed for a specific person, didn't have enough time. Plus, Slug gets testy when certain ingredients go missing too much, too fast. Evans got the kind for… first person she sees after she drinks it. And I just put it in, so you better get before she falls in love with Macdonald or Snivellus—you never know if he's camping outside the portrait hole again, the git—"

Sirius continues listing bad scenarios in which Lily falls in love with people who are not James, except James isn't really listening anymore; he stopped doing so about four sentences ago.

A few dozen different words bottleneck on their way out of his head, which leads him to make this confused and senseless spluttering noise with his mouth. He doesn't exactly know what he was planning to say. Sirius assumes that it was a thank you, and not an impression of the time they Transfigured mouths onto teakettles back in fifth year, which sounds much closer comparatively.

Without letting go of the bedpost, he reaches out to ruffle James' hair. "You're so welcome for this, mate. This is going to be a fun time!" Satisfied now that he's told James the news, Sirius pulls on his curtains and disappears behind them, not to be spoken to again.

There are roughly three things going on that James does not have the power to stop:

First, the looping in the back of his skull that goes do not kill Sirius, do not kill Sirius, do not kill Sirius, said with such an increasing tone of urgency that he can't manage to make a decent rhythm and beat out of its repetition;

Second, the urge to grab Sirius Black by his collar and throttle him for all he is worth because Are You Serious and Why Did You Do That, which are not usually questions James bothers to ask where Sirius is concerned; and

Third, the thought Lily could potentially actually have a love potion in her tea right now and could potentially but not actually fall in love with people who are not James right now (not that is a major concern for him, though it will still suck). Being drugged with a love potion is objectively Not Great so, yeah. Not great.

Which is maybe why James finally gets up from his bed and runs, because that there is something he can stop.

"EVANS," he yells, slamming past corners and jumping down the stairs four steps at a time, bless his athletic nature. "LILY, DON'T DRINK IT!"

He bursts into the common room because he can't afford to lose momentum now, almost bowling over some poor fourth year who just happened to be in his way. And there's Lily sitting at the couch with Mary, a cup of tea halfway to her lips. He skids to a stop in front of her, rips the cup out of her hands and tosses it out the window like it's a Quaffle and he's planning on winning the Quidditch cup again.

"Did you drink it?" he turns to her with a panicked expression. His hands land on both sides of her face, pulling her close for inspection, in a way that he normally wouldn't be able to handle if not for the situation at hand.

"Um," she says, eyes wide as she looks up at him, but does not answer. It may be difficult since he's holding her face like that.

Mary's face is affectless as she sets her teacup down on the side table. "Yes," she says mildly, "she just did. At least before it flew out the window."

James goes from Reasonably Urgent to Downright Horrified, looking back down at Lily. "How are you feeling?"

"Confused?" Lily says. She should be. That's a perfectly normal reaction to all of… this.

He finally lets her go and she leans back into the couch, still openly staring at him, watching his chest heave because he just ran down the height of Gryffindor Tower and grabbed her face, and… woah, Lily doesn't look at James like that.

That's not right. That's not allowed.

Oh no. Oh no, no no nonono, bad. That's bad. That's what he was afraid of.

Lily shouldn't be doing that. She should be doing that thing where she rolls her eyes at him like, I Was Having A Good Time With A Nice Cup Of Undrugged Tea Before You Threw It Out Of The Window, Just Like Our Friendship, Potter. Alas, that's not the thing she does.

She tilts her head to the side, eyes all curious and concerned. "Potter, are you okay?"

Mary carefully eyes the cup that she hasn't touched since she heard 'DON'T DRINK IT' echoing from the stairwell. "Did you put something in the tea?"

James chokes. "What, nooo, of course not. That sounds terrible." He enunciates meaningfully on the off-chance that any Animagi in possession of borrowed invisibility cloaks may be around to hear. "Really, just, wow, Macdonald. What gave you that awful idea? Anyone who did put anything in the tea would realise it was a mistake almost immediately anyway and undo… whatever the thing in the tea would do."

"I think Sir put something in the tea," Mary determines correctly.

Lily looks alarmed. "Like what? Spit?"

"Spit's tame. It could be laxatives, and I wouldn't rule out poison either—something non-lethal, a mild paralytic," Mary muses. "Would be worse if it's anyone else but Sirius." Lily grimaces.

James chuckles awkwardly, running a hand through his hair even though he knows Lily hates that—not that that's going to be a problem this time. He hears himself say, "Maybe he didn't put anything in your drink. Maybe no one did. Just a prank and it's on me. Ha-ha. Yeah. It's all good. Let's not worry about it."

He quickly backs out of the common room, and points finger-guns at them because he knows not how to make this conversation better. Lily smiles at him, and that just makes it worse.

Mary shrugs this away and turns to Lily. "Hey, think you can summon that cup from in here?"

Alright so. His best friend/brother spiked Lily's tea with a love potion to make her fall in love with him. And he did that… as a joke? To help him? James struggles to land on a motive. The only thing he's really sure about is that this is a mess.

Fleamont Potter usually welcomes it when his cauldron explodes. A Gryffindor through and through, who believes there's no better way to learn how you've made a mistake. This isn't exactly his preferred flavour of things-that-will-blow-up-in-your-face though. Seems James has finally found something that will disappoint his father.

"Padfoot," James hisses when he gets back to the dorm, knocking furiously before bursting in, wanting to shout but not wanting to involve anyone else besides the guilty party. "Pads, this is not—that was not okay. You've got to have an antidote."

He steps into the threshold with determination beating loud in his chest that Things Will Be Fixed Promptly. He swipes the four-poster curtains with the same bold determination only to find the bed empty. And the cloak is gone too, so there's that question answered.

He sits back down on his bed and puts his face in his hands. That seems like the appropriate thing to do. He stays like that for a while, until there's a knock on the door.

"Decent," he calls out immediately. It's a habit he and the boys have built up out of necessity, because there's only so many times you can barge in on a teenage boy dancing around to Bowie in various states of undress before you decide always knocking is just the Safer Thing To Do.

It's not one of the boys, but rather Lily on the other side of the door. She looks hesitant as she makes her way inside. "James?"

Woah, that's not the way Lily Evans says his name. There's something in the way she says it, a touch he can feel over every inch of his skin. His name isn't supposed to stretch like that. It isn't supposed to sound like that, least of all from her. He sits up straight and stares at her wide-eyed, belated in giving her a tense smile.

She leans her back against Sirius' bedpost, hands locked behind her. "You were pretty rattled down there so I thought I'd check on you. You alright?"

"I'm great," he says, register too low. He feels like he swallowed a Chocolate Frog whole, which is something he did actually do last summer. Peter has the pictures to prove it. He clears his throat to force the frog to pick a direction. It doesn't. "I'm fantastic, really. Why would anything be wrong at all?"

"Yes, I definitely believe you," Lily jokes, looking at him while his heart trips up in his chest. Here is Lily Evans paying attention to him and being nice, which admittedly she already does because she's a good friend and the two of them are friends. Maybe that means she's alright? Maybe the potion sank down to the bottom of her cup, or maybe she only got to drink it before Sirius snuck around in all his invisible glory and tampered with it.

That would be great, he decides. It means he's got nothing to feel bad about, besides the usual Pining For Your Friend And Co-Head, which is nothing new to him. That's a feel bad he knows how to handle. He'll put this scare behind him and it's back to normal days of stopping himself from wanting to lean in and kiss Lily Evans who is his friend, because ultimately that's a lot better than anything that has to do with Lily Evans who is enchanted into being in love with him.

She pushes off from the bedpost and sits next to him on the bed, placing a hand on his shoulder and leaning in close to give him a serious look. "You're really rubbish at lying, Potter. I want you to know that."

He nods numbly, bouncing the heart in his throat (which, as revealed, was not a metaphorical Chocolate Frog) back down to somewhere normal, like maybe his chest. That's where it should be, right? Why isn't it there? His heart beats because she's close enough that he can count her eyelashes, see the folds of green in her irises. Why is she so close? Why is she there?

She laughs at his non-response, defusing the tension somewhat. Except her hand is a hot iron on his shoulder and she's so much warmer than he is for some reason. "If you're worried… Mary and I had Professor Slughorn check the tea, and the cup you tossed—great throw, by the way. He couldn't find a trace of anything. We weren't poisoned. Tell Black he'll have to try harder."

Or not try ever again. That sounds ideal. Just another thing for James to add on to the List of Conversations to be Had at the Future Sirius Black Intervention, Date Pending: magically drugging people with love potions as a joke. That goes right next to the part for telling people about werewolves transforming off-campus as a joke.

"That's good to hear," he squeaks, making a good fool of himself the way he usually does where Lily is involved, but it's tense and he can't even make himself laugh about it because Oh Yes, The Love Potion. He pulls his face into a tight grimace. "I'd hate to have you die on me now that we're friends."

Lily worries her bottom lip between her teeth, instead of laughing like he'd expected. Paying attention to that was a horrible decision and the buyer's remorse hits him quickly. James sharply looks back up at her eyes so he can get away from thinking about her lips between her teeth.

"Yeah. It would be real unfortunate," she says. Her eyes light up, though, almost deviously. "Do you want to help me get back at Sirius? I'm thinking something explosive at Double Potions tomorrow. Or maybe stinky. What do you think?"

He looks at her again like she's just asked if she could kill his cat, which isn't what she did. She actually asked if he'd like to help her play a prank on Sirius. It's the fact—not the question—that leads him to look so stupefied.

Just, okay. Wow.

"Relax, Potter," Lily scoffs at his expression. "I know where your loyalties lie. Just, do me a favour and don't tell him I'm on to him. It can be our secret." She leaves with a soft smile over her shoulder like she's never given him before.

The moment the door closes, he collapses onto the bed, digging fingernails into his palm. His face is warm and his heart is aching, and it's all in a very awful way. He pulls the mirror from his nightstand drawer. "Padfoot, you are so dead to me."

She's definitely enchanted.

James has always paid a lot of attention to Lily Evans; the things she does, the things she says.

Now, he's keenly aware of her. He reads into every little thing, trying to gauge how badly she's got it, if it's fading, if she's realised something's up, if they'll still be friends when all of this is over.

Because it has to end at some point, doesn't it?

(Sound logic would suggest actually studying up on various love potions and how they work. Unfortunately, this means time spent on not watching Lily, so that's a plan that never would have made it to consideration, if he even thought of it.)

So, James notices things. These Things are Subtle, so much so that he probably would not have noticed if he wasn't looking.

He notices how she leans towards him when they're working together on prefect schedules. He notices how she responds to his jokes with laughs and smiles and only the fondest of eyerolls. He even notices when their eyes meet in class and she has to look away like she's just been caught looking at him.

And she has. Because she looks at him a lot, thank you very much.

Or Not-Thank You. A shower of ungratefulness. Ingratitude all the way down. James is not thankful for this. This is horrible.

She doesn't look at him the way she looks at Marlene or Remus. She looks at him different. Like they're in a fairy tale and she's the pretty princess and instead of being the villain, he's actually the knight. That's how she looks at him.

James learns what Lily Evans is like when she's in love. There are no beautiful confessions or dramatic acts, but it's there: love. It permeates every interaction they have, as if she loves him like it's something easy and matter of fact. And he—feels like he's going insane.

Lily Evans loves him, and it doesn't even count. It isn't even real. It's a trick, and not a funny one. James doesn't want it this way. He doesn't want it at all, if it isn't freely given.

When he pesters Sirius to fix it, he's only met with insistence of innocence. Sirius even brings up that fluke of a test Slughorn did. "If he said there was nothing, there was nothing," but even Sirius must know how untrustworthy he sounds.

James gets verification from the Potions Professor himself ("I can assure you, my boy, Miss Evans and Miss McIntosh were not in any danger that afternoon"), and he nets Gryffindor five house points for gallant concern for his fellow classmates, as befitting the Head Boy. Still, a bust and not worth the visit to the dungeons.

"Something on your mind, Prongs?" Remus catches him before a prefect meeting after a few days gone.

"I'm fine," he shrugs. "Just thinking about Evans."

Remus nods, judgmental in the way that only Remus can be, where he doesn't condemn you but he's definitely still judging you. "When are you not?"

"Not like that, you loon," James swats at his arm. "I'm just thinking that… she's not all right in the head."


"And also not like that." He runs his hand through his hair as though the motion is enough to unscramble whatever is going on inside his head. "She's just, she's been acting in a way she's not supposed to—that she normally wouldn't want to."

"…You think she's Imperiused or something?" Remus merely arches an eyebrow.

James shrugs again. "That's the extreme of it, but sort of, yeah."

"I don't know. She seems fine to me."

Yes, well, Remus hasn't been paying as close attention to her as James has. "Trust me, Moony, she's different," he argues. "I would've noticed if she were acting like this before."

Remus looks at him with curious eyes, brows raised, but he says nothing further and the topic is dropped.

Here's the thing though: James can't stop thinking about it.

It: Lily Evans Is In Love With Him. Also It: Lily Evans Is Under A Love Potion.

James can't stop fixating on It.

He thinks about it when Lily corners him in the library to help her with Transfiguration, and because he can't say no or stay away, James Throws Himself Into It. See, no one does Transfiguration like James Potter! His essay comes back with more typos than Professor McGonagall is fine with ignoring, but that's fine. They're fine.

He thinks about it when he elects to actually do his Head Boy duties for the next Hogsmeade weekend, because sometimes it looks like Lily might ask him to go out with her. He's still not 100% on the Being Able to Say No to Her front, so yeah! That's not happening! No plans for Hogsmeade, busy, sorry.

Of course, the Responsibility of it all really does something for Lily, so 'nothing happens' is a bit of a non-starter.

On Tuesday, Gryffindor loses a friendly with Ravenclaw, because the team captain sees Lily Evans in the stands and promptly begins to lose his mind ("Potter, I swear, if you're throwing on purpose my next Bludger is meeting your head"). The Ravenclaw captain drops him into the lake when it's over, no less than what a loser of his quality deserves.

He's a good sport as long as his team doesn't mind when he pulls them into the water with him. He's halfway through taking off his robes, poised to drag his Chasers down by their ankles, when he remembers that Lily's watching on the shore. James stops himself before he does something bad, letting heavy and wet robes fall back to cling on his skin. He instead specifically punishes Sirius into the lake, and unlike James, Sirius happens to have no such qualms about stripping down in front of Lily Evans.

It's still a fun afternoon, especially after the water starts to hang off his eyelashes and blur his vision so he can't see further than a few feet. And now he's not thinking about It, and he's not really thinking at all. It's an effective mechanic, not thinking. It only occurs to him to dry off with magic when McGonagall does it for him, levelling a critical stare when she sees him marching back to the castle dripping wet.

Days continue to pass where Absolutely Nothing of Interest happens. James thinks about It less, focusing on school, on his friends, on his duties. Things that are not That Which We Have Buried Deep Into Our Minds.

Because by now, the potion should have faded away. Question mark? (Unless Sirius Black has been hiding some serious potion prodigy talents that were only unlocked once James was removed from the classroom.)

It's been two weeks, and things are Back to Normal—or whatever constitutes as Normal with them. So this of course is when things hit Critical Mass. Terminal Velocity. The Turning Point. The Point of No Return. High Noon, If We Were In A Western.

We've reached that point.

This year's DADA professor is slightly off her rocker, if one must be honest. This becomes most apparent after Sirius' robes get melted off from touching the slimy swamp thing that Professor Denby brought into class; the origins of which James can only assume to be the literal depths of hell (and/or Australia).

"Incendio," Marlene says intently, and the thing howls as it starts to steam and boil, its slick surface bubbling up and releasing noxious fumes that make James sway and stagger when he accidentally breathes it in.

Remus is on him in a second, tossing a Bubblehead charm his way. "You need to get to the Hospital Wing," he suggests. "I've read about these things before."

James offers him a woozy thumbs up. "No idea what you're talking about. I'm fantastic."

He's actually pretty sure he's about to fall down, but then Lily shows up out of nowhere and slides under his arm to hold him up. Anything Remus wants to say evaporates when he sees her, and he moves on to the next problem in the room: the ooze can spit acid and Peter just found out first-hand.

Whatever. James has his own problems right now. Lily slides a potion vial into his hand, and he tenses where their fingers meet, wincing. And That's It.

It: A Startling Reminder Of Something He Should Not Have Forgotten.

"Wiggenweld," she tells him, but that's not the potion on his mind. Lily's fingers curl loosely over the bottle, and she expertly masks how much it might affect her that he flinched the way he did. It's just a little flash in her eyes, no longer than a split second, but James still notices. He wonders what she thinks.

The familiar taste of love and guilt sparks through his chest as he takes the offered potion. "Yeah, uh huh, thanks," he says in a single breath, trying to look back at the fight so he doesn't have to look at her.

Sirius has started throwing fireworks at the black ooze—Merlin knows where he got those—and it seems to be working. Professor Denby yells out points for every bit of slime that gets blasted off. It might just be enough to off-set him for the rest of the year.

Lily stays close, keeps James steady on his feet, letting him lean on her. She's still in love with him. It's fake. He throws a Blasting Curse almost recklessly at the creature, desperate to fill his head with thoughts that aren't Lily's eyes and the way they're looking at him. She stays and fights at his side.

After all that, he still has to go to the Hospital Wing. Despite his internal crisis (which is not the same as whatever is going on in his lungs thanks to that ooze) and also despite the fact that Peter clearly needs it more than him.

Remus says this is non-negotiable, and also This Is Not An Either-Or, You Both Need Healing, And Sirius Needs New Robes, Now Hurry Before Peter's Face Melts Off.

Lily has the good fortune to be the one to bring them to the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey deals with James quickly, a muttered charm that clears up his airways and rights his head. It still feels light though, still difficult to breathe.

That would be because Lily is watching him again.

It's a different kind of watching this time. Something has changed. Like they've crossed some event horizon in the space between the DADA classroom and here, and this bizarre relationship of theirs has been caught in the gravity, spit out in some other universe where it's been made entirely new.

James realises she isn't watching him but scrutinising him. He's no longer a work of art to marvel at, but an equation for her to study. She looks at him like she's trying to figure him out, or maybe she looks at him because she already has. From the corner of his eye, she takes a shuddering breath, and he thinks she's about to say his name again, Like That, In That Way, to make the sound settle in his gut.

Instead, she says, quietly and in defeat: "Oh." But whatever it is that she's realised, it's not It. It's a momentary lapse of something. Maybe the real Lily peeking through the enchantment. Merlin, he wishes. Because when their eyes meet again, though she doesn't look away this time, he can still recognise it: the glazed look in her eyes and the lopsided expression. She's still in love with him.

Something's changed, but nothing's fixed.

They have patrol together exactly six hours later.

James makes sure to keep a good two, three feet between them in a little canyon that Lily keeps crossing because she can. She blames the divide on the length of his legs, like it's something she's willing to put up with. Like she will walk twice as many steps to be at his side, because walking faster than her is just something he can't help. Imagine loving someone that much.

The torches on the wall flicker softly, and it all feels way too peaceful. It's Quiet. Intimate. Precisely the atmosphere James wants to not be in, if the world is to continue for him the way that it does.

On good nights like this, patrols tend to be a mindless activity. So James doesn't realise Lily's hand is on his arm until it's Actually There. He jolts, turning to look at her, his cheeks hot and eyes wide. She looks at him like she's fighting to keep looking at him, like her next instinct is to turn away because she just got caught trying to hold his hand. She was.

He can't even tell himself it was an accident. The potion. Her face. The way she tilts her head up to look at him. It's too deliberate now, bold and not bashful. "James," she says, because she never does. She says his name like they do in those Muggle novels she reads that Mary doesn't, because Mary prefers her Stephen Kings to Lily's classics and James knows that because he asked.

Lily says his name, breathes it really, and then she has her hand curled into his hair and she's kissing him. And she's Actively kissing him. Not like how Friends do, or even like how Good Nephews do—all light on great aunt Dorea's cheek. Lily is kissing him like how People Under the Influence of Love Potions do, like she thinks she means it.

It lasts maybe three-world shattering seconds, or longer, or shorter. Time is like soup right now. They're not even kissing by the end, just sharing the same air. And then she's drawing back to look at him, immediately losing that battle to keep her eyes on his face.

His lips tingle and he's got other things working themselves out inside him. Or maybe not so much working themselves out, but rather setting themselves on fire and making it feel difficult to breathe. She looks at him nervously, even hopefully. "James—"

He rips his hand away from hers, like that alone will give him air and make this stop, and her expression crumples. "Oh my god," she stammers, fumbles, tries to step away. He feels like he just got the breath punched out of him.

"Wait, Lily." He grabs her shoulder, keeping her close and not letting her go, and hey, stop it, don't make everything worse. "You don't understand. I'm not, you're not—"

She shakes her head deliberately and dizzyingly, but still smiles at him. It's this painful smile that's friendly and slightly sheepish and very fake. "It's okay," she says firmly, with her voice shaky and this feels awful in his chest. "You don't have to apologise. I just thought… the way you… I shouldn't have done that, James. I'm so sorry."

"You don't apologise," he counters, runs his free hand down his face, displacing his glasses so they land back down crooked on his nose. "Don't–don't apologise. Don't. This isn't your fault."

Lily still laughs though there's nothing particularly funny. "Yes, it is."

"No, you're not supposed to be the one getting rejected." He tugs at his hair despairingly. "I'm sorry. You shouldn't—I shouldn't have put you in that position. I'm the one who should be apologising. That's my lot, not yours. I'm the one who loves you, and you… don't. You're not really in love with me."

She gapes at him a little, and he can't quite read her face. After a moment of staring at him, she says, "I am though." Hearing her admit it is crueller than he thought it would be. James has done a lot of shit in his life to deserve that, true, but still. It hurts bad.

"You're not," he informs her. Because if she can be bold enough to act on what she thinks she feels, he can at least tell her the truth. "You just think that. I'm sorry. Sirius gave you a love potion because sometimes I think he truly has no idea when something is funny or not. You're under a love potion, Lil."

His chest twinges as he tries to explain it, but he ignores it the way he always does. Instead of accepting this explanation, Lily steps closer. She reaches up to fix his glasses then locks her hands at the back of his neck and blinks up at him, and that—he can't ignore that.

"Is that why you threw out my tea like a madman? You really are the dumbest boy in school." He scowls and for some reason, this makes Lily laugh. "James, I've fancied you a lot longer than just two weeks ago."

He frowns. "No, you haven't." He would have noticed, definitely. It's not like it was difficult to find the signs. "The potion made you fall in love with me."

"Love potions don't work like that. They won't even last more than a few hours without regular doses. But it is comforting to know you never researched how love potions work." Her fingers drum on the space between his shoulders. He can feel so much as hear her say, "I actually do love you. I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure. No potion required."

That's about when James remembers to start breathing. He feels his heart despite everything, thundering in his chest. "What?" he asks, mind blank.

Her wrists flex, and now she's toying with the hair on his nape. "If I had to guess," her nose scrunches. "Sirius lied to you to mess with me. He really does have bad taste in pranks. We're going to have to get back at him, you realise—"

"What?" he repeats, though he's not asking for an answer. He just needs more time to process.

There's no love potion. So— those tender looks, the warm smiles, saying his name like she means it. Like she means him, which she does, and whatever that means. His face crinkles in confusion, in thought. Meanwhile, her hands run down from his neck to his arms and down to his hands, which she places at her sides.

She smiles at him, and he's still not entirely sure what he's supposed to do about that, so he just keeps his hands on her waist, holding her. "James, I am genuinely, truly, in real actual love with you. Now, if that's something you're interested in reciprocating—"

James does the one thing that actually seems right in the moment: he latches his mouth on to hers to get her to stop talking. She's already said enough. Now she's kissing him again, and he's kissing her too, and they're equals in that, fitting together the way all the pieces of the past two weeks fit together, into something that makes sense.

It's lazy, how she kisses him, and it's weird that anything about Lily Evans could ever possibly be lazy. It can't be, then. Not lazy. More… exploratory. Something languid and thorough, something that promises them all the time in the world.

It's eager, how he kisses her. All fingers in hair and bodies pressed up against each other, always connected at some point, at some second. He pulls her so close he lifts her off her feet, and she laughs.

So: they kiss. They kiss, then they kissed, and now they are kissing. Something the both of them do. Words cannot accommodate the kissing and the pulling and the holding at play, could never describe what it is to be living human beings with lips and tongues and hands.

And it's like how all this started in the first place: she looks at him and she smiles at him and she says his name, and he likes that. He likes the way she says his name. He likes the way she makes it stretch and sound, and he'd like to hear her say it all the time into some distant future that he has yet to fully see.

Later, when patrol is over and Lily follows him all the way to the boys' dormitory because she hasn't been able to make herself stop touching him yet and they have to stop kissing against the door to actually use it, he's smiling too.

Lily is asleep in his arms and she loves him, and his best friend is a little shit and he loves him, and the night is cool and clear and beautiful. He can't stop smiling, even if no one can see it when he's got his face pressed up against Lily's hair.