Lily's on her second run of the day when the unthinkable happens.
Her first instinct is to blame Marlene, because of course her best friend had to abandon her for the black diamond runs knowing full well that Lily refuses to do anything above a blue, but the reality is that Marlene isn't the reason that the ski lift has come to a screeching halt while Lily is only a quarter of the way up the mountain.
Although admittedly, the lift stopping would probably be at least slightly more entertaining if her best friend was on the lift next to her. As it stands, her only company is the guy sitting on the opposite side of the three-person lift, and he's fiddling around with his music on his phone, so she doubts he'll be of much value, entertainment-wise.
The view is nice, at least - there are snow-covered mountains every single way that she looks, and the ski trails carving perfect white paths through the trees.
She wryly thinks that the view would be a hell of a lot nicer going down the slopes instead of being trapped in the air above them.
Vaguely, in the distance, she hears the ski lift operators placing an all-call for a mechanic. Which is just what she wanted to hear. It means that this wasn't just a little stall-out - something on the lift is well and truly broken, and who fucking knows how long it'll take to fix that.
She's about to dig her phone out of her inner jacket pocket so that she can fire off a text to Marlene (a text in which she will wholeheartedly blame Marlene for breaking the lift and abandoning her, because she's just in the mood to be overly theatrical like that) when -
"Looks like we're going to be here for a while then," the boy on the other side of the lift comments, and she practically jumps at his voice. She'd more or less just come to terms with the fact that he wasn't the sort to make small talk with his lift companions.
"Seems like it," she replies, looking at him properly for the first time since they both got on. He's got goggles and a helmet on, and a mask covering his face, so she can't really see what he looks like, but she'd guess he's somewhere around her own age, or maybe a little older. He's got on a bright red parka that looks like it costs double what her thrift store jacket did, judging by the fact that she's pretty sure the back of it is custom, and his skis are lacking the classic rental stickers, meaning he either lives out here or is one of those rich boys who just owns a pair of skis for shits and giggles.
"I'm James, by the way," he says, and there's a slight crack in his voice as he says it. "Figured I might as well introduce myself since… you know, it seems like we're going to be stuck on this thing even longer than usual."
"You from around here?"
The classic ski lift small talk question. "No, I'm from D.C. actually - just out here for the weekend."
"Oh, no way," he replies, excitedly. "I went to law school in D.C. Graduated two years ago and moved to New York. Great city - I still miss it."
So he's a lawyer. That explains the expensive ski gear.
"I love it," she tells him honestly. "I grew up in a super small town, so moving to a city has basically been a dream come true."
"Oh yeah? What do you do in D.C., if you don't mind me asking?"
"I'm a legislative assistant on the Hill."
She chooses not to get into who she works for - mostly because that could potentially start a whole thing of nasty political discussions if it turns out he's some die-hard conservative, and given that she's literally trapped here with the bloke, she'd prefer not to go down that rabbit hole if she doesn't have to.
This week is meant to be a break from the political rush - she's silenced her email and Slack and even turned off most of her news notifications, as hard as that one's been to live with. Getting into a verbal sparring match with a stranger doesn't seem like it'd fit well with that 'mental break.'
He nods. "Nice."
And then it falls silent again, because she's really not sure what else they talk about at this point. Normally, when she's on a ski lift with a stranger and they start making small talk, this is about the point where they reach the top and go their separate ways and never have to speak again.
This time, of course, they're still in the exact same place they were when they started talking.
And now the silence feels more awkward than it did at the beginning. Before, they just weren't people who started conversations with strangers on ski lifts; now, they've started the conversation and just can't figure out where to go with it. Which is somehow so much worse.
James awkwardly clears his throat, before doing his best to pick up the conversation again. "So, are you out here on a family trip or something?"
She shakes her head. "No, I'm out here with one of my friends - she just decided to abandon me for the double black diamond trails and there was no way in hell I was joining her."
"You're telling me you don't like constantly feeling like you're one bad turn away from tumbling off the side of a mountain?" he says, a teasing tone in his voice.
She laughs at that, her breath coming out in a visible puff. Unlike him, her face isn't covered at all. "I like to think I've got a healthy sense of adventure, but I draw the line on that one."
"They're very humbling, if you ever decide to try one," he replies. "It's hard to maintain your sense of ego when you're crawling up the side of a mountain to retrieve your other ski from a snowbank."
"Somehow, I think there are easier ways for me to deflate my own ego than that. Nearly being taken out by a six-year-old on a green run, for example."
He laughs. "Gotta watch out for those."
"What about you?" she asks. "Who'd you come out here with, and why'd they abandon you?"
"My friends didn't abandon me, necessarily," he answers. "But this lift only seats three and I drew the metaphorical short straw, so the three of them are all sitting together two chairs in front of us right now."
"Oh wow, I'm a short straw then? I'm hurt." She puts her hand on her chest, feigning offense.
For a moment she worries that he won't pick up on the fact that she's joking and make this whole thing even more uncomfortable, but he seems to just roll with it.
He shrugs. "I mean, personally, I think I ended up the clear winner in this situation."
There's a playful tone in his voice. Is he… flirting with her? She can't tell for sure, but it definitely bordered on it.
"At least they're also stuck up here, and… misery loves company?" she replies, deciding not to comment on the potentially-flirty-but-potentially-not line. "Meanwhile Marlene's probably on her second run since we got stuck here, without a care in the world."
She's being dramatic, again - Marlene would almost certainly feel bad if she knew that Lily was trapped up here, but Lily's also extraordinarily jealous of her friend for not being trapped, so…
Placing blame where blame isn't actually due it is.
"What a traitor," he nods solemnly, and she decides this James boy isn't half-bad - he's playing along with her dramatics, and that at least gets him some credit.
"Although, on second thought," Lily reasons, "it's probably a good thing she's not on this lift with us. If she was, she'd almost definitely be sitting on my other side, constantly nudging me and trying to get me to make a move on you or whatever."
She wishes she could see his reaction to that, but his face is still obscured by his goggles and mask, so she'll just have to content herself to imagining it. "And would you?" he asks eventually. "Make a move on me or whatever?"
"That would depend on how hard she's nudging me."
A strong gust of wind picks that exact moment to hit them, making the lift chair rock a little and sending the frigid air deep into Lily's bones. Her skiing outfit is perfectly fine when she's constantly in motion going up and down the slopes, but is decidedly lacking when sitting completely still and exposed to all the elements on a ski lift for an extended period of time.
She can't feel her nose anymore.
She shivers. "Fuck, it's cold."
James looks at her for a moment. "I suppose the gentlemanly thing to do in this situation would be to offer you my jacket, but I don't think that would do either of us any favours right now."
"Honestly, it's mostly my face."
"Yeah, I'm afraid I especially can't help you with that one," he replies. "Although I suppose I could level the playing field - I mean, you said it yourself, misery loves company, yeah?"
She doesn't really get a chance to ask him what he means by that, because he pulls his mask down and puts his goggles up on his helmet, and whatever other thoughts were swirling around in her head come to an abrupt and total halt.
She registers exactly two things at once.
The first is that he's absolutely fucking gorgeous, what with his bright eyes and perfect tanned skin and a jawline that could practically cut glass.
The second is the thing she blurts out loud.
"Oh my god, wait, I follow you on Twitter!"
He cocks his head at her, looking both supremely entertained by her reaction and a little confused by it as well.
She feels her cheeks warm, even as the cold air continues to nip at her skin. "I just - James Potter is your full name, isn't it? I remember you were livetweeting one of the UN Human Rights forum sessions and a bunch of your stuff showed up on my timeline and I thought they were all such good takes so I followed you and - " she realises that she's rambling, "that is you, right? Otherwise things just got supremely awkward."
He laughs, and she notices the way his eyes crinkle as he does so, and how it's possibly the most adorable thing she's ever seen.
"Yes, that's me," he replies. "Although I've got to say, I don't think anyone's ever recognised me from Twitter before."
"Really? You've got like, thirty thousand followers."
She knows way too much about him - this is definitely borderline creepy on her part, and yet, he seems thoroughly entertained by it more than anything. Which is good, because she'd be embarrassing the fuck out of herself right now if he wasn't.
"Yeah, people don't tend to remember my face from that, though."
She's not going to tell him that, the day she'd found him on Twitter and followed him, she spent entirely too much time looking at his profile picture and positively losing her mind over the fact that one person could be both so intelligent and well-spoken and so fucking hot all at the same time.
(He's got the sleeves of his button-down rolled up to his elbows and his chin propped in his hand in that picture, and nice forearms are her fucking kryptonite, apparently, because she'd definitely stared at them longer than necessary.)
She mentally retracts every judgement she'd cast on the boy when they'd first got on the ski lift - he's a fucking human rights lawyer for the ACLU, not just some spoiled rich boy with a custom ski jacket. And he's just as hot in person as he is in his profile picture.
Lily, calm the fuck down before you make a fool of yourself, she mentally chastises herself.
"I guess remembering faces is a talent of mine then," she replies easily, sounding much calmer this time.
He turns the topic of conversation back to her. "So, if you follow me on Twitter, I take it you're not a legislative assistant for like, Lucius Malfoy or anyone like that."
Lily almost chokes on air at the mere implication. "Absolutely the fuck not. Lucius Malfoy can get fucked."
Her disdain for Senator Malfoy knows no bounds. When his party was still in the majority, he'd made a concentrated effort to sink literally any good legislation or manipulate it beyond belief so that it more or less lost all its teeth. Even though he's Minority Leader now, Lily still holds a massive grudge against him for that.
"Good to know we agree on that one," James replies, grinning at her.
"Yeah, well, as a bi woman who got her start in D.C. working for a refugee protection organization, I don't think I fit Malfoy's ideal standards for a staffer," Lily says, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "I'm in McGonagall's office, actually, so you know, complete opposite."
If possible, his grin broadens. "Hell yes, I love that woman."
"She's pretty great," Lily nods. "Although really, I think you suggesting I might work for Malfoy is more offensive than you calling me the short straw earlier."
"For what it's worth, I was really hoping the answer was no."
She looks at him curiously. "And why was that?"
"Because I was going to be incredibly disappointed if the pretty woman I'm stuck on a ski lift with turned out to be not-so-secretly trying to undermine our democracy as her day job."
Okay, now he's definitely flirting with her. And saying mean (but accurate!) things about someone she detests while doing it.
And... she is more than okay with that.
Hot, smart, social justice-minded man telling her she's pretty? Sign her the fuck up for that one.
She smiles. "That would have been a shame, wouldn't it?"
His cheeks are tinged pink - either from the cold or from their banter, as he replies, "Well, it's a very good thing I never had to find out."
"Very good indeed," she agrees.
"You're not the only one with pushy friends, you know," he says, changing the topic. "When we first got stuck, Sirius sent me like five texts in a row telling me to 'stop being a motherfucking coward and start a conversation with the girl on your ski lift.' "
She decides not to comment on how objectively bizarre it is that one of his friends is named Sirius, because that part's not important right now. "Well, tell him thank you for me, then. This would've been an awfully boring experience if you'd just ignored me the entire time we've been stuck up here."
"Hey now, Sirius shouldn't get all the credit. I would've started a conversation eventually, I was just trying to figure out what to open with."
She laughs. "Do you normally struggle so much with making small talk with strangers on ski lifts?"
"No," he retorts, "but normally I don't care so much about making a good first impression on a random stranger on a ski lift."
"And so you opened with a line about us being stuck here," she deadpans back at him. "Hold me while I swoon."
"Look, I got to the charming part eventually, it just took some warm-up time to get there."
Another laugh bubbles out of her chest. She really likes this guy - even without the fact that she's been lowkey crushing on his Twitter profile for months now, but especially in light of it.
"Well thank god you did," she replies, cheekily. "What else are we going to do while we're stuck up here for… who knows how long at this point?"
He looks around for a moment, like the snow-capped trees are going to give him an answer, before responding, "We could make out?"
She doesn't even think twice before answering him.
"Okay," she says, and from the stunned look on his face, he clearly wasn't expecting her to say yes.
He opens and closes his mouth a few times before any words actually make it out. "You're… that was a yes?"
She tries (and fails) to fight off a smile at his bewildered reaction. "I mean, if it's a genuine offer, then yeah. Fuck it, why the hell not?"
His initial shock turns into a grin, his eyes practically sparkling.
"This is the first time I've ever asked a person on a ski lift to make out with me, you know," he tells her, even as he scoots closer. "I don't like… make a habit out of this or anything."
She moves closer to him as well. "Neither do I."
"Well, now that that's been established," he says, and doesn't finish that sentence because he's leaning in to kiss her instead.
And despite the cold, despite the fact that her face is a little numb, she feels heat zip through her entire body when his lips meet hers. His face is much warmer than hers, having been shielded from the cold for much longer, and one of his hands finds a place at her waist, sending another zip of heat through her even through her many layers of clothing.
He tastes like peppermint Chapstick, she notes, wrapping her arms around his neck and deepening the kiss.
Despite the awkward angle and the very real risk of falling to their deaths from here, it is undeniable that he is a very good kisser.
There's applause coming from in front of them, as well as a wolf-whistle and a, "Atta boy, Prongs!"
She pulls back, just an inch, on instinct.
"Ah yes," he says, practically against her lips, "I probably should've mentioned that in addition to being pushy, my friends are also nosy assholes."
Any sense of embarrassment she might normally feel has been completely obliterated by the fact that kissing him is positively addictive, so she just smirks at him. "Let's give them a good show then, yeah?"
"Fucking brilliant," he mutters under his breath, either referring to her idea or just to her in general, but she doesn't get to ask what exactly he's referencing because he's kissing her again and... honestly? That's a much better use of both of their mouths right now.
She's so wrapped up in it - wrapped up in him - that she barely notices the ski lift suddenly jolting back to life and the chair they're on gradually starting to move forwards. She doesn't really register it until they're almost at the top, and he pulls away. They're both breathing hard, and his face lights up in a smile.
"We probably should stop before we manage to miss the unloading point entirely," he says breathlessly. "But, uh, want to do that again sometime?"
"Perhaps," she says, grinning cheekily at him as they prepare to get off. "You'll have to find me first - on Twitter or on the slopes, I'm not picky."
"I'll find you on both," he replies, and they get off the lift and go their separate ways - he joins his friends who are waiting for him in a cluster, and she takes off alone down the first available blue run.
Sure enough, by the time she's taking the ski lift back up for her next run - with no technical difficulties this time, thank god - he's already followed her on Twitter, and when she gets down to the bottom of the mountain after that one, he's there at the bottom.
None of his friends are anywhere to be seen, and he grins when he sees her. "Found you."
She grins right back at him, her heart skittering in her chest in a way that can't be blamed on the skiing alone. "Looks like you did."