Just a quick thank you to Valagen, Genesse, and Mysterious Muggle, who all beta-ed; and to MysticBlueside and Pineapple Queen, whose input is always helpful!
Prologue: Smooth, Clever, and Rico Suave
"James Potter, I don't think I'll ever speak to you again."
When Lily Evans had said that on the second day of her first year at Hogwarts,
James Potter hadn't really believed her. To be sure, he tried talking to her the very next day.
"So, Lily Evans, right? How are you?" he had asked. He had been with two of his new friends, named Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. James never could remember where'd they'd been heading, but that really wasn't the point of the anecdote.
Instead of answering, Lily Evans had passed them with her books hugged to her chest and her nose in the air. "Bloody hell," said Peter, cursing in such a way that
James knew it was new to him, "she really doesn't like you, does she?"
James shook his head with a smile. "Nah, I think she does. Hey, you two go on. I'll catch up later. I want to talk to her."
Whatever James had done or said (he didn't remember that either; it was very likely something very stupid, and there were too many of those incidents in his life to remember any of the really early ones), it hadn't worked, and Lily kept right on ignoring him.
And that's how it had begun: the great chronicle of the odd and unconventional relationship between James and Lily. For James, it was love--or very extreme degrees of like--at first sight, and for Lily... well, it was mostly irritation.
Although he continued trying to get her attention from that day on, James hadn't actually started asking her out until about the end of fourth year. That's when his overactive male hormones kicked in and began screaming very loudly, "PRETTY REDHEAD GIRL. MUST GO TALK TO HER NOW," and James had answered the call valiantly (although this wasn't the word most people would use).
He answered the call every day. At least once.
His friends watched his futile attempts, and usually their conversation included
Sirius making such a comment as, "Well, the man's got spunk, can't deny that."
To which Remus would reply: "That's not spunk, Sirius. That's obsession." And Sirius would nod his head, for once unable to think of anything witty to say (anything that had anything to do with the topic at hand, anyway).
And both were right. James had a lot of spunk and determination--so much that one might wonder why he wasn't sorted into Hufflepuff like the rest of those spunky and determined people. But then perhaps James was a true Gryffindor after all. It takes real courage and bravery, after all, to show your face in polite society when you have been punched by Lily James, with the black eye to show for it.
Also, James was clever. Oh, yes, clever and smooth and rico suave. Clever and smooth and rico suave men always had a plan, and James always had a plan, therefore what could he be but clever and smooth and rico suave? (James wasn’t sure what “rico suave” meant, exactly, but it seemed to describe him perfectly.)
At first, his plans were rather useless and pathetic, and usually involved James springing on Lily "unexpectedly" and asking in a rather obnoxious tone if Lily would go out with him, to which Lily retorted no, in very creative ways (for example, January of fifth year--"Yes, James, I will go out with you, the day a flying puffskein makes its way out of Sirius Black's bum in the middle of the night." James had replied to this with "Well, actually, a case can be made for that," and Lily had responded with a very vicious Hyperactivity Hex. James didn't turn any homework in for days).
These queries got rather more violent near the middle of fifth year, and were often so entertaining that Sirius sometimes made invitations for students to see James' next endeavor: Come one, come all to the fortieth anniversary of the first formal invitation (this year, because we've altogether lost count) from James Potter to Lily Evans! There will be laughs! Tears! BYOB! When he got the opportunity, James usually got hold of these and burned them in the Gryffindor common room fire.
One of these most memorable times, in the middle of sixth year, went like so:
James had been sitting with his friends for the last hour or so. In theory, they were all working on homework. In reality, Remus was working on homework, while Sirius was making a captive bee change colors from yellow and black to scarlet and gold as Peter was trying to vanish his snail, and James was psyching himself up. When he stood, his friends all looked at him, Sirius's bee flew away far as it could in its time of freedom. Peter's snail tried to follow, though unfortunately with its lack of wings or any general qualities which could help with escape, made it about three centimeters away before Peter caught him.
"Prongs--you're not--?" began Remus.
James headed straight for Lily.
"He is," said Peter.
"I wish I had some popcorn," finished Sirius.
Lily was also working on her homework. James noticed how Remus-y it was of her to be doing her homework. Then James realized how totally stupid his brain was, and instead of turning the stupid part off, he had apparently turned the smart part off (the rather smaller part, Lily might have commented), and the following conversation ensued:
"Hello, Evans." Evans? He asked himself. How stupid of him! She had a first name, for God's sake, why didn't he ever use it? He chided the smaller, smarter part of his brain for not telling him so, but it never got the message. He wasn't yet conscious of the fact that any intelligence he possessed was temporarily out of order.
"I'm working on my homework, Potter."
"I see that."
"Who would have thought?"
Playful banter, said Mr. Stupid Part of James's Brain. That's a good sign.
Mr. Stupid never really got sarcasm, and so neither did James, at least not when Mr. Smart wasn't there to take over.
"Who would have?" he agreed.
"Not me," said Lily, staring at James suddenly with confusion. Where was the usual sarcastic reply? Why hadn't he asked her out yet?
She sighed. "What do you want, Potter?"
James blinked. "You mean you don't know?" CLEVER! SMOOTH! RICO SUAVE! encouraged Mr. Stupid. James didn't seem to hear it, though, so his brain called louder, FEEL THE CLEVER. BE THE SMOOTH. DATE THE RICO SUAVE, which James took as sort of gross, because he had never met a rico suave girl, and he wasn't into boys like that.
"Go away, Potter."
CLEVER. "I was, er, wondering, Evans…" SMOOTH. CLEVER. "Could you--" SMOOTH, CLEVER, AND RICO SUAVE. HELLO, ARE YOU GETTING THIS, YOU IDIOTIC BOY? IS IT GETTING THROUGH YOUR THICK SKULL? Either Mr. Smart had turned on as emergency back-up, or Mr. Stupid was fond of degrading himself.
"You won't even--"
Lily put down her quill calmly, her patience obviously quite tried as James continued to be stupider than usual (which was saying something, surely), and said, "No, no, no, a million times plus nine, no!"
James put up his hands in defeat. "All right, all right, but--"
James got the message, and it was, "JAMES POTTER: PLEASE TRY AGAIN. YOU NEEDED MORE OF THE RICO SUAVE, BUT SUCCESS WILL COME AT A LATER TIME." Most people would have thought the message was "NO" but most people don't have James Potter's brain (and that's probably a good thing for the world).
So James got up, already planning his next go.
And so it went. Peter often asked whether his head was screwed on correctly, and Remus and Sirius often concluded that it wasn't.
Most of the time, they were right.
Some of the time however, James would somehow not turn off the smart part of his brain and would actually say something intelligent, but these instances were so rare that they are hardly worth notice. Lily did notice them, however, which was probably worth a point or two for James' side (which, at the time, was losing quite embarrassingly. Lily would have definitely taken the World Cup).
When James actually started winning--well, that came as a shock to everyone. Including himself.