Finding Sand in the Sahara

Summary: The real reason you don't want to be with me," James said, "is that you don't want to admit that you can't find anyone better than me." Lily could just let James's stupid little comment go. But why let him have the last word when it's as easy as finding sand in the Sahara to prove him wrong?

Notes: You may have noticed that this is not, in fact, TDA. This is…new. This is different. This is something that doesn't make me want to kill myself at the very thought of it.

Please don't eat me.

One: A Theory

"Evans, I have a theory."

Usually, Lily could sense James Potter's arrival. His very appearance in a room tended to make her sort of nauseous and filled her with an urge to scratch out her own eyes, although that was probably just his overpoweringly expensive aftershave and/or boorish comments. So when he said this in her ear and she nearly jumped in surprise, she wondered if she was getting ill.

Determined not to seem ruffled, Lily kept her attention focused on her book. "I'm not even a little interested," she told him tightly.

James seemed to view the fact that she had responded at all as an invitation to join her, so he vaulted himself over the back of she sofa she was sitting on to do so. He sat cross-legged on the plush velvet cushion at the opposite end of the sofa and clasped his hands in his lap. "I think you would be," he contradicted in a singsong voice.

"The very sound of your voice," Lily said in a tone as flat as a pane of glass, "fills me with the insatiable desire to thrust a stake through my heart."

"Funny you should say that," James replied, "as my theory has something to do with that."

Lily surveyed him over the top of her book, her eyebrows raised. "Your theory deals with stabbing me?"

The tiniest bit of color rose to the apples of James's cheeks and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Well, no," he said. "I think you misunderstand me."

"All right," she said in response, raising her book again. "I concur. Let's leave it at that, shall we?"

James reached over and pried the book from her hands. "We can't," he told her. "My theory is much too important for that."

Lily glowered at him. "I doubt," she said icily, "that anything you have to say could hold my interest for…any amount of time, really. I'd thank you to return my book to me." She held out a hand expectantly.

James did not comply with her request, choosing instead to turn the book over so as to read the cover. "Gloria Steinem?" he asked. "Who's she, then?" He peered at her from behind his glasses with a vaguely curious expression on his face.

It did not surprise Lily in the slightest that he didn't know who Gloria Steinem was. "Someone you could do well to learn from," Lily replied, leaning over to snatch the publication from him. She thumbed through the book and, having found her page, held it up so it blocked his face from her line of vision.

Her desperate attempt to shun him went, as they nearly always did, without notice. "Oh, yeah?" James asked. "Why's that?"

"I'm not going to dignify that question with an answer," Lily said coolly. "Go away."


She had expected this answer (two years of being harassed by James Potter had led her to always expect the worst) but it was still unwelcome and cringe inducing. As if to further the point that he was not to leave her to her own devices, James stretched out his legs. Said appendages were quite long (as he was a tall, gangly sort of boy) and it took him a while to unfurl them completely. This process was slowed down considerably by James's apparent desire to feel her up with his foot—he slid it all along her leg. Repulsed and red-faced, Lily leapt up from her seat, clutching her book tightly in her hand.

James continued speaking. "You've piqued my interest." It was as if he had not even noticed that his proximity to her had incited such feelings of repugnance—or maybe he was just used to it. "Who is this Gloria Steinem and how—or what—could I learn from her?"

Lily felt a migraine coming on. Her encounters with James usually yielded these cute little tingles. "I'm going up to my room," she announced, leaning down to pick up the book bag she'd flung onto the floor upon entering the room some forty-five minutes before, "where I know you can't bother me. I don't know why I ever leave there anyway." She slung the bag over her shoulder and started to leave.

James was not about to let her get off so lucky. "And so we come again to my theory," he chirped. "You are the undisputed master of the segue, Evans. I envy your talents, truly."

It occurred to her, as it had countless times before, that even if she won this conflict he would continue to bother her with mentions of this 'theory' of his (which was probably nothing more than some crude little joke) until he either humiliated her with it in public or she killed him.

Sighing resignedly, she lowered the book bag a little and slowly pivoted to face him. "Fine," she said dully. "Out with it, then."

There was no hiding James's elation at this sudden turn of events. He smiled arrogantly (which, Lily was fairly certain, was the only way he knew how to smile—she'd never seen him with a smile on his face that didn't seem a little supercilious) and put his arms behind his head. "Out with what, exactly?" he practically sang.

She was not amused. "You have four seconds," Lily intoned dimly.

James sat up quickly, tucking his legs under him and putting on an expression that suggested he was all business now. "All right," he said, pointing to her for no real reason other than to emphasize his words, "you know how I am desperately in love with you?"

She simply glared, folding her arms over her chest impatiently.

"And you know how you like to play hard to get?" This was clearly the wrong thing to say, as Lily's face contorted into a look of barely subdued anger and outrage. James tried to rectify the situation by adding, "Not that I don't love that. I cannot stress enough how fiercely attractive and effective in keeping my attention it is."

This noble attempt failed to pacify her. "I am not playing hard to get," Lily hissed through clenched teeth. "I already hit you in the mouth for saying that; how much more clearly can I put it?"

"That was a beautiful swing, by the way," James grinned. "My gums bled every time I brushed my teeth for two weeks. Who taught you to hit like that?"

"If you think I'm going to participate in your attempt at friendly conversation, you are sorely mistaken."

"Right, no, I didn't expect that. What I'm getting at is that I have a new theory as to why you so stubbornly refuse to go out with me."

Lily rubbed her forehead and pushed her overgrown fringe out of her eyes. "So you keep saying. Speed it up, Babble Boy."

"The real reason you don't want to be with me," James said, "is that you don't want to admit that you can't find anyone better than me."

Lily raised her eyebrows. "Is that it?" she asked.

"Yes," he nodded. "That is why. Now, I'm willing to help you out here. I would be more than happy to show you—through detailed lists as well as live demonstrations—that the entire male population of Hogwarts is inferior to me in one way or the other. Before you yell at me for being pretentious," he added quickly, as Lily's mouth had just opened and her eyebrows had knitted together in what was clearly the beginning of a rant, "I don't mean inferior as in I'm better than them in all areas. I just mean inferior as in they couldn't, er—they c-couldn't…love you like—like I could." James sucked in a sharp breath and swallowed before continuing in a much softer tone, "If you would let me, that is."

It was quite obviously an act.

This wasn't the first time Lily had seen James in action. She'd looked on as he smoothly lied to teachers about some stupid prank he and his equally stupid friends had pulled with an earnest tone of voice and a winning smile—and saw his hard work get rewarded with a veritable "get out of jail free" card (and, in one incredibly frustrating instance, tangible House points). She'd watched him put on fantastically dramatic performances in front of the Prefects at meetings (the two of them were, most unfortunately, Head Boy and Girl and presided over said meetings) to swing the vote in his direction. She'd participated in…debates with him where he'd come up with clever responses to her harsh comments so quickly that she sometimes had difficulty keeping up with him (not that she would ever give him the satisfaction of admitting it).

James Potter was a brilliant improviser; she had to give him that. It wasn't that she didn't think he was bright or quick enough to come up with something like that off of the top of his head—that wasn't her issue with what he'd said at all. Her issue with it was that he probably couldn't have come up with it if he really meant it.

That was what was wrong with everything that came out of James's mouth, but especially where she was concerned—she knew he didn't mean any of it. Lily was absolutely positive that all of this—the stalking, the amorous declarations, the obnoxious Valentines—was some elaborate game he'd constructed to pull her off the pedestal she'd worked so ardently to put herself on. She was Head Girl now, not to mention Head of the Charms Club and third in her class. She'd killed herself doing all that to prove that she was just as good as all these other Hogwarts kids—especially those kids to whom magic came fairly easy because they'd been around it all their lives.

And Lily was not about to sit back and let James Potter, who exemplified those types of kids, make her vulnerable, allow him to tarnish her spotless reputation simply so he could be more popular or whatever it was he was after. He'd have to be certifiably insane to expect that to transpire just because he happened to have a fantastic smile and a charming disposition.

"Potter," Lily said, almost saccharinely, "my reasons for not dating you have not changed. I still think you're a condescending pillock. I still think you're immature and selfish and almost completely incapable of empathy. I still think you're spoiled and shallow and in desperate need of a haircut. I'm positively baffled as to why you think I owe you any further explanation than that."

James, always quick with an answer, calmly replied, "Because I don't think you really believe in any of that."

Lily scoffed. "Oh, right," she said. "I forgot about your little delusions. You still think I'm secretly in love with you, don't you?"

"To a degree, yeah," he shrugged.

She smiled ironically. "And you can't believe that you're pretentious." She adjusted her book bag and started up the stairs.

"No, I know I'm pretentious," James called after her retreating back, determined, as he always was, to be the victor in their ongoing battle for the last word. "I just don't think it's as much of a problem for you as you pretend it is."

It was only after noticing that an hour had passed between the time Lily had turned the page and the time she finished the same one that it occurred to her that she wasn't paying attention.

And that James Potter's voice was still playing in her head.

More than slightly frustrated, Lily lowered her book and closed her eyes, reluctantly succumbing to what was undoubtedly going to keep her awake for at least another hour or two whether she fought it or not.

"The real reason you don't want to be with me is that you don't want to admit that you can't find anyone better than me."

All right, there was that to start with.

Finding a more suitable boyfriend than James Potter was like looking for snow in Siberia: it wasn't hard. Really, Lily thought, what qualities would be necessary in a suitor for her to choose them over him?

There weren't that many. He would just have to have a modicum of sanity and an ability to speak without a touch of sexual innuendo.

It was with that that Lily's eyes practically flew open.

"This is it," she whispered to herself, touching her fingers to her bottom lip to feel the slow, vaguely crazed smile that was spreading there. "This is it!"

This is the way to get rid of James Potter, she thought, her head throbbing with the delicious idea of being able to walk the halls without the constant fear of sexual harassment hanging over her. Prove him wrong. Show him that I don't want to be with him because of him, not because of—all I have to do is…

Lily pushed back the curtains that hung from the canopy above her bed and stumbled clumsily to her desk, where she'd left a copy of the scheduled Hogsmeade weekends for the year. She put her finger at the top of the list and scanned down until she reached the date of the next weekend—

Saturday, 21 January.

Just to make sure, she glanced up at the calendar that hung above her desk.

Today was the third of January.

Eighteen days to find a date?

Lily bit her lip and grinned, reaching for the quill she kept by the calendar for this specific purpose. After hardly a moment's hesitation, she circled the twenty-first four times and set the quill down.

This was going to be cake.

A.N: So it's new and it's different, but I think it can go in interesting places.

If you want to know about TDA, read my profile.

I don't know how often I'll update this or anything else. I'm hoping for "fairly often", but I promise nothing.

I really, really hope you liked this. Mind telling me if you did? That'd be…fantasmical.