It is a result of spring, really, but Alice can't help but feel it's time for something new.
She sits in Charms, mind for once wandering far away from spells. The sun is strong today, and she has to cover her eyes to see anything at all. The lesson's noisy. Alice quite likes sharing a class with Gryffindors really, injects a little more excitement into the proceedings. Much as she loves Ravenclaw, they can be a little over-serious at times. There's a particularly loud squawk from somewhere, and she whirls around.
James Potter appears to have grown a pineapple on his head. His friend Sirius is doubled over laughing, and their two co-conspirators, Remus and Peter, have crowded over from the next table, cackling. Flitwick come over, and Alice can tell he's trying not to laugh too.
"Sirius!" James is shrieking. "Get this fruit off me!"
"But darling, it's so fetching. Really brings out your eyes." Sirius is almost breathless with laughter.
With an evil glint in his eye, James hexes Sirius, who starts manically tap-dancing. Anarchy erupts. Peter teams up with James, sending a sneaky spell Sirius' way that gets him trilling like a songbird. Remus has created an impromptu scoreboard, which Sirius soon leads by managing to recover his former state and send Peter and James crashing towards each other with a swift Jelly-Legs Jinx.
Alice laughs delightedly along with the rest of the class, aside from a couple that look decidedly disapproving.
"Boys!" Flitwick shouts shrilly. "That's quick enough now. Come on, settle down, settle down." He flicks his wand, and all traces of pineapple vanish.
"Sorry, sir," James says hastily, exchanging a grin with Sirius, then performs a perfect Summoning Charm. Flitwick glows.
James leans back in his chair, satisfied. He glances around the room, and notices Alice watching him. He winks, and Alice looks down at her table hastily, embarrassed.
When she goes back to the common room before dinner, there's a happy buzz in the tower. A Hogsmeade weekend is coming up, and Alice is pleased. She's in need of some new quills, and wouldn't say no to a trip to Honeydukes either.
That evening, and she can hear James and his crew's cackles from across the room. They're even entertaining seventh years, seemingly having the whole of their house under their thumb. She's sure their talents could be used to better ends than cheap jokes, but Alice can't help feeling that in honesty their way of passing the time is as good as any.
She slips out after them at dinner, on her way to the library but also listening to their conversation, to the way that Sirius has a comeback for every occasion, Remus' light tones that conceal a decidedly wicked streak, Peter's constant dirty jokes, and James. James, who seems to hold them all together, and makes the four of them tick along. A conspiratorial grin at Sirius, praise for Remus' latest idea, a quip at Peter's expense, and Alice is beginning to realise that it's not just Quidditch that makes half the school seemingly flock around him.
"All right there, Alice?" he asks suddenly, looking behind him.
She's only thrown for a second. "Got a History of Magic essay to finish, kill me now."
He's slowed down now, turning around properly, and grimaces sympathetically. "Hey, are you going to Hogsmeade this weekend?"
She nods. "Nothing better to do." She pauses, suddenly slightly confused about where this is going.
But James just grins. "Good! See you there." He strolls off, catching up with the others. Sirius raises an eyebrow at him before they disappear around the corner, and Alice frowns for a moment, before shrugging and returning back to her tower.
Over the next few days, she seems to be running into James everywhere, sometimes with his friends and sometimes without. It's getting a bit ridiculous, truth be told. In corridors, out in the grounds, and even at training, where he sits in the Quidditch stands and no one notices him until halfway through. He laughingly claims to be stealing tactics, and hastily runs away before he gets hexed by the Ravenclaw Beaters, and Alice stares after him in amazement.
There's a riot of flowers blooming on Saturday, and Alice gets ready to head into Hogsmeade feeling very chirpy indeed. Spring has undeniably sprung, and everyone's in a good mood because of it. As soon as she steps out into the grounds with the rest of her year she can hear birds twittering away from the Forest, which even has the grace to look a bit less daunting than usual.
She buys her quills, both writing and sugar variety, and then decides that really it's far too nice to stay inside shops on a day like this. She gets a lemonade and sits on a bench outside the Three Broomsticks, enjoying watching the world go by. Really, she shouldn't be surprised when James turns up again.
"Like a bad Knut, you are," she remarks as he sits himself down next to her.
"Always showing up?" James shrugs. "I like to get around."
Alice just smiles and sips her drink. "I don't care if you stole all of our tactics, you know, you're still getting thrashed next week."
James gave her a look. "Really? We'll see about that. Haven't lost a match this year."
"Only because you haven't played us this year," she replies airily.
James grins. They sit in companionable silence for a moment, watching the Third Years try and push each other towards the Shrieking Shack. Alice laughs, feeling superior to them. "Shack never scared me," she says.
Just for an instant, there's a faraway look on James' face, and it piques Alice's interest. He laughs lightly. "No, me neither. Stupid, really." The expression is long gone now, and Alice files that wondering away for another time.
"Where's Sirius and the others?" she asks.
James shrugs. "No idea. Meeting them at Zonko's in a bit."
"What do you want, James?" Alice doesn't mean to snap, but there is something slightly odd going on here.
James turns to look straight at her, thoughtful. "Well, you've been following me around all week."
Alice starts spluttering. "I have not! You keep bumping into me!"
"Yeah, but you started it. And so I started thinking – wondering, really." There's a definite change in James' tone now, and Alice feels a shiver running down her arm, not unpleasant by any means.
James starts smiling, slow and Alice really ought to notice how much of a cocky bastard he is, but she doesn't. "Well, for instance, what would happen if I kissed you?" He pauses, and Alice feels her insides wobble a bit. Again, this is not unpleasant. "What would happen, do you think?" he continues.
She really ought to say something more intelligent than "I don't know," but it's true. Her mind's not that many steps ahead of the game at the moment.
James laughs suddenly. "Makes two of us, then."
And then his hand is on her arm and she's suddenly intensely aware of just how close he's sitting. She catches a sudden flicker of nerves at the back of eyes, and that's really what does it. His mouth finds hers, her fingers curl around the back of his neck, and Alice is really quite surprised that he's not trying to cop a feel, or slip her some tongue, or anything of the sort.
She breaks away slowly. There's a slightly hazy moment, and James seems a little soft around the edges too. Then she smiles, unsure what to say.
"Well, there you are then," James says, regaining himself.
Alice raises an eyebrow. "That all?"
"D'you want it to be?" James answers quickly.
Alice blushes suddenly. James is looking at her with an expression she's really not used to.
He shrugs casually. "I just thought- could be fun."
Alice thinks about what her friends will say, about the jokes her team mates are going to make, then she thinks about how this boy really is quite fascinating, and the only response Alice knows to that feeling is to engage in further study.
"Alright then," she says before she changes her mind. "Why not?"
Because it's spring and he really is quite good-looking even if he does have stupid hair, and Alice hasto admit he's nice, and makes her laugh. He's grinning and kissing her again, and she hears an ill-concealed wolf whistle that sounds alarmingly like Sirius, but even in her embarrassment she decides not to care. There's blossom on a tree above them, and by the time it falls he'll probably have moved onto other things – James is hardly renowned for his consistency – but Alice doesn't feel this matters. It's something new, and why not indeed.