She could feel him watching her again.
Lily kept her eyes trained on the Potions book in front of her, skimming through the pages of ingredients but only registering about every fourth word or so. He stood at the bookshelf just behind her, absently picking books from the shelves but never keeping any one long enough to actually read. When she’d first heard the footsteps and felt the telltale prickling at the back of her neck, Lily hadn’t been able to resist turning her head. Their eyes had met for a brief second before his had darted away again, suddenly entirely consumed with the rather massive tomb in his hands.
He’d been doing it a lot lately, the staring. At first Lily thought it was a fluke, that she was being self-involved or sensitive and clearly needed her head checked, but it had been weeks now and she had caught him at it far too many times to chalk things up to mere coincidence. For someone who strutted about the halls with such a slick, cavalier air about him, she wouldn’t exactly call him smooth. Then again, maybe it wasn’t about fluidity—Merlin only knew James Potter had never been subtle. Maybe he wanted her to notice.
But for all the occasions that she’d caught him staring ever since they’d come back from summer hols, he’d never once said a word to her.
James Potter, silent.
She didn’t trust it.
She knew what Sev would say, which is why she didn’t tell him about all this. She didn’t need to hear the scathing list of all of James Potter’s worst deeds and faults, or yet another diatribe about how worthless and asinine her male housemates were. She had four full years worth of that nonsense, and didn’t need to start off her fifth with more of the same. It wasn’t that she didn’t acknowledge that Sev had a few good points—and Merlin knew he of all people knew how rotten the lot of them could truly be—but objectivity had never been Severus’s strong suit, and Lily wasn’t so naive as to believe that the animosity and antagonism only went one way. Both sides were at fault, and the boy standing behind her was certainly no innocent. Still…
Moving her head as slightly as possible, Lily shot Potter one more quick glance.
She didn’t know what it was about him. The boy drove her absolutely mad in so many ways. He flaunted everything he shouldn’t and played down everything he should, and Lily could’ve sobbed at the blatant lost potential. He may not have spoken to her since the end of last term, but Lily wasn’t entirely certain that was a bad thing. More often than not, they ended up arguing. He was so pigheaded, so certain in the things he said and believed, and Lily would have admired that kind of conviction if he didn’t dedicate himself to all the wrong things. Still, he made her think and he made her wonder, and sometimes when he grinned—even when it was that cocky arse smirk of his—Lily’s stomach did odd things.
The staring wasn’t helping.
Lily was about to tilt her head back around and focus on her Potions book once more when Potter chose that exact moment to shoot her another glance. When their gazes caught and Potter instantly whipped back around to the shelves, Lily’s temper flared. She snapped her book closed with an angry clap and whirled on him.
“What?” she demanded. “What the bloody hell is it?”
Potter turned, blinking owlishly at her from behind his glasses.
“Sorry?” he asked.
“The staring!” Lily cried. “What’s with the staring? Every bloody time I turn around, there you are, looking at me! So what is it, hm? Is this some kind of prank? Are you just trying to get a rise out of me? Because if that’s it, congratulations, you’ve done it! “
“I’m not trying to get a rise out of you,” he said.
“Then what are you doing?”
For a long moment, Potter didn’t do anything at all. Lily stood seething, validated in being the one to stare this time, but Potter gave her no satisfaction. It seemed an eternity before he finally closed his own book, carefully returned it to its proper place on the shelf, then turned around to face her. He crossed his arms over his chest and Lily felt for the first time what it was like to really be stared down by him, to have those damned piercing eyes giving her all of his attention. Without knowing quite why, she felt a flush begin to creep up her neck.
“You cut your hair,” he finally said.
Lily blinked. “Sorry?”
“Your hair. It’s shorter now than it was last term.”
“I like it.”
Lily’s hand lifted almost instinctively to an errant strand of hair that had fallen out of its braid, a inevitable consequence of her shorter locks that she had indeed chopped over the summer. The blush that had started at her neck spread immediately to her cheeks, burning and bright and mortifying.
Potter’s lips lifted into one of his trademark smirks.
“S’later, Evans,” he said.
Then he turned and exited the library, and Lily was the one left staring.