1. Playing dead
Lily doesn't know what happens to boys between the time they stop trying to put newt eyes down your shirt and start trying to get into your knickers, but she wishes it would just stop. On the one hand there's Severus acting weird whenever someone mentions a Hogsmeade weekend, and on the other hand there's James Potter.
The moonstruck way Potter is gazing at her now is enough to make Lily nostalgic for the days of endless pranks. At least having newt eyes tipped down her neck motivated her to get really, really good at cleaning charms, whereas Potter's blushing and staring is just embarrassing. No, strike that -- the constant nudges and whispering from his friends elevate it from embarrassing to mortifying.
"Shut it, Pads, she's right over there!" Potter hisses, and Lily rolls her eyes.
"Ask her out," Black advises, in the cocky tone that makes Lily want to kick him. "Or shall I ask her for you?"
"Don't you dare," Potter says warningly, and for once Lily agrees with him.
Just ignore him, Lily tells herself, gritting her teeth and keeping her eyes fixed on the textbook. Playing dead works with grizzly bears, doesn't it? Potter and Black have all the manners of a wild animal, so logically it should be effective.
"D'you want to go out with--"
"I'm going to kill you!" Potter declares, and Lily hears their scuffling recede into the distance as Potter drags his friends away.
"You know how you asked me to warn you if James Potter was coming?" Alice says conversationally.
They're sitting by the edge of the lake on a sunny afternoon, sharing one of those peaceful moments that are all-too-rare at Hogwarts. Above them, the tree branches sway in the breeze, casting dappled shadows over Lily's skin. Her feet are trailing in the water, and there's a pleasant tickling sensation on her soles that might just be water-weed, or might be the giant squid. Perhaps the squid has a secret fondness for giving pedicures?
"Lil," Alice says, more loudly, and Lily looks up.
"Potter," repeats Alice, wafting her hand at a dragonfly that seems to be trying to settle on her nose. "He's heading this way."
Lily throws herself down onto the grass, and crawls forwards until she can see the crest of the hill. Damn it, Potter is coming! His whole stupid gang is coming.
It's been a long week, and her patience with Potter and his idiot friends is whittled down to the bone. If they say anything to her at this point, then Lily won't be responsible for her actions.
Lily's wand is in her pocket, pressing against her hip, and for a moment she's sorely tempted to jinx all four of them. If you do, they'll only take it out on Severus, interjects the voice of common sense, and Lily sighs.
She crawls back towards the water's edge, ducks behind a patch of long reeds, and casts a Disillusionment charm to be safe.
"Telling him to get lost might be easier," says Alice, and Lily shushes her into silence. Neither of them speak again until Potter and his gang are out of sight.
3. Lie like a rug
"Evans! Hey, Evans!"
Lily quickens her pace, and she's only a few steps from the Potions classroom when Potter skids to a stop in front of her.
"D'youwannagoHogsmeadewimme?" he says.
Potter's cheeks are already flushed from running, but they seem to go even redder.
"Do you want to go to Hogsmeade with me?" he repeats, and there's a nervousness in his tone that might inspire pity if it wasn't for the fact that he's been stalking her for a week.
"I can't," Lily says, because the alternative seems to be Potter dogging her steps for the rest of her natural life, and -- given how the Bloody Baron drifts after the Grey Lady -- possibly beyond.
"Why not?" Potter demands.
"Because..." Lily searches around wildly for a reason, any reason, and hits upon one, "I'm going with someone else."
Potter's eyes narrow behind his glasses. "Who?"
"It's none of your business," Lily tells him, raising her chin.
"Is it Snivellus?"
"Don't call him that!"
Potter frowns at her for a long moment, and then stomps away.
The next day, when she finds Potter jinxing Severus from behind a coat of armour on the fourth floor, Lily wishes she'd thought of a different excuse.
4. Polite rejection
"Boys aren't very good at communicating," her mum had said, when Lily recounted her problems with Potter. "Just tell him you're not interested, as clearly as you can. And try to be polite about it."
Obviously her mum had never encountered a situation like this. With Severus wandless, choking on a mouthful of soap, and surrounded by Potter's gang, politeness is the very last thing on her mind.
"You think you're funny, but you're just an arrogant, bullying toerag, Potter," Lily says icily. "Leave him alone!"
"I will if you go out with me, Evans," Potter shoots back. "Go on...go out with me and I'll never lay a wand on old Snivelly again."
"I wouldn't go out with you if it was a choice between you and the giant squid!" she retorts.
Okay, not exactly polite, but surely she wins points for clarity?
Behind Potter, Severus is crawling towards his wand, and Lily wonders if she can distract Potter's friends for long enough that he'll get it. The next moment there's a flash, spells whoosh past her, Severus is dangling in mid-air from one ankle, and mum's advice leaves her head entirely.
"I'm just asking for one chance," says Potter, blocking the stairs to the Gryffindor girls' dormitories.
"Get out of the way."
"Spend one afternoon with me. An hour, even," Potter asks, his voice almost pleading.
"I'm tired, and I'd like to go to bed. Alone."
They're the only people left in the common room, so at least there aren't any witnesses if she hexes him. Of course, that means there aren't any witnesses to Potter's continued harassment either, so she would have to explain to McGonagall why she hexed him.
"I know you think I'm an idiot, or whatever, but I'm a decent guy."
"There'd be more chance of me believing that if you stopped attacking my friends," Lily snaps.
Potter frowns, and runs his hand through his hair.
"It's no secret that I don't like him," he says, after a moment. "You know he's involved in the Dark Arts. I'm amazed you call him a friend after what he said to you."
"And I'm amazed you're still asking, given that I told you I'd rather date the giant squid."
Potter sighs, and takes off his glasses. He looks different without them -- simultaneously more serious and more vulnerable. She watches him attempt to clean them with his robes, which seems to be having the effect of spreading a single smudge into a smear across the entire lens.
"Just one date," he says, sliding the glasses back on. "Give me one chance, and if you hate it then I promise I'll stop asking."
Lily purses her lips.
"I'll think about it," she replies, and when Potter smiles she takes advantage of the moment by squeezing past him to hurry up the stairs.
After Potter's ambush on the stairs, she manages to avoid him for a whole week. There's nothing dignified about the way she flees at the sound of his and Black's voices, or the way she's hiding in the darkest corner of the library, but then there's nothing dignified about Potter's pursuit of her. His ridiculous behaviour has driven her to this.
"Hey," says a quiet voice, and she turns to see Remus Lupin.
"James thinks you're avoiding him," Remus says, taking a seat at her table.
"I am avoiding him."
"I don't blame you," Remus says, picking up a spare piece of parchment and absentmindedly folding it into the beginnings of a large origami crane, or possibly a small hat. "But I don't think it'll work."
"What does he see in me anyway?" she says, watching Remus press down a crease. "Surely he should be going out with some Pureblood?"
"You want me to tell James he should proposition somebody more traditionally appropriate?" Remus says, his skeptical tone making it clear how ridiculous that idea is.
"Fine, not a Pureblood, then. But can't you encourage him to pursue someone who likes him?"
"Do you really dislike him?" Remus asks mildly, neatly folding over the corner of the parchment.
Remus glances up, his eyes calm and assessing, and Lily finds herself blushing.
"I do! He's arrogant, and annoying, and a bully, and totally conceited--"
"I think conceited is a synonym for arrogant," says Remus calmly, making a final fold that transforms her parchment into a paper airplane.
"Persuade him to go out with someone other than me," she insists, as Remus hands her the plane.
"I can try, but I don't have a great record of talking James out of things."
The cautionary tone in his voice adds an unspoken if you're sure that's what you want, but Lily ignores it.
She leans over to the open window, tosses the plane out, and watches it flutter down to the courtyard below.
7. Kamikaze attack
Remus' efforts -- if he makes any, and Lily has her doubts about that -- are unsuccessful. Potter continues following her around the castle, and if anything his entreaties become more frequent.
"Ah, but if only Evans would go out with me I'm sure McGonagall would give us less homework," he pronounced on Tuesday, to a chorus of groans.
"The problem with you, Pads, is that you've got no style. Unlike Evans here..." he began on Wednesday, before Alice spelled him into silence.
It's become a war of attrition, and it's doing Lily's head in. A situation like this is bound to make anyone's behaviour a little erratic.
"You're looking beautiful as ever this morning, Evans," Potter announces during the walk to Herbology on Thursday morning, and Lily's patience snaps.
"Just -- just shut up!" she shouts.
Potter opens his mouth to reply, and the only thing she can think of is to grab him and kiss him hard, right on the mouth.
She feels Potter freeze in shock, has time to think what am I doing? and then Potter's lips part and they're really, actually kissing. She's kissing James Potter!
Potter's tongue slides against hers, and Lily presses into him, wondering who gave her hand permission to slide under his shirt like that. Then, as Potter's arm curls around her waist, Lily lets out a little moan and stops thinking entirely.
In the lake nearby, the giant squid blinks thoughtfully.
The squid has observed a lot of strange human behaviour over the years, but this scene is odd even by the unique standards of Hogwarts. Was the female not serious when she claimed to prefer it over this male? Were her protestations all some bizarre mammalian mating ritual? Perhaps the mysteries of human attraction defied cephalopod logic.
Two decades later, when the giant squid's affections fix on a quiet, young herbologist, it applies the lessons learned from watching the courtship of Lily Evans and James Potter. If the herbologist knew this he'd probably say that James Potter had a lot to answer for.