Lily/James, also known as Thorn and Buck, is a canon heterosexual ship from the Marauder Era involving Lily and James Potter. It's extremely common in the fandom; it's by far the most popular OTP at Unknowable Room, due to the fact that many of the archive's originating members and founders were based in this era and ship.
In the books, Lily and James were rivals while at Hogwarts. One particular incident—known as Snape's Worst Memory—was portrayed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, revealing that Lily thought James was, to put it mildly, an arrogant and insufferable bully. Despite her blatant dislike, in their fifth year, he began harbouring a crush on her, and asked her out; she, of course, refused (OP28).
At the time, she was a Prefect (OP9) and he, a reknowned troublemaker; somehow, they became Head Girl and Boy in their seventh year (PS4). At some point before Graduation, Lily changed her mind: they began dating, and eventually got married (OP29), with James' best friend Sirius Black as best man (PA11). On July 31, 1980, their son Harry was born.
Lily/James fics are most commonly found in the following genres: romance, drama, angst and humour.
In fanon, Lily is often characterised as a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. She's obsessed about studying and doesn't approve of the Marauders' pranks and irresponsible behaviour. When James begins to ask her out, she is often both confused and irritated, but doesn't hesitate before turning him down. In several stories, we see him stalking Lily during their Fifth and Sixth Year, much to her aggravation.
Most fic authors portray James as an extremely popular student, which fits according to everything canon has revealed about him. He was an excellent Quidditch player, extremely intelligent, and eventually became Head Boy. In fics, he usually becomes obsessed with Lily in their Fifth Year and doesn't stop chasing her until Seventh Year; he then changes—"deflates," as some put it—, and hopes she'll notice that he's no longer that bad.
Several Lily/James fics show the beginning of the couple's relationship as triggered by the death—often the murder—of either Lily or James' parent(s). This is apparently based on statements by J.K. Rowling that both Lily and James' parents died some time before Harry's birth; the author has, however, also pointed out that none of them was murdered by Voldemort.
In an effort to avoid these common plotlines, some authors portray Lily and James as having been friends in their younger years, before either James played a horrible prank on Lily or fell in love with her and forever ruined their platonic relationship.
If you're thinking of using any of the aforementioned clichés in your fic, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It would be a good idea to see the "writing this ship" section below, though.
Writing this ship
If you're thinking of writing a Lily/James fic, here are a few helpful reminders:
Many authors tend to write Lily/James' badfic by having:
- Lily be an Animagus;
- Lily have three friends who enjoy pranks and entertain a rivalry against the Marauders;
- Lily look perfectly beautiful and flawless, and impossibly brilliant (sometimes even a Veela);
- Lily have three equally beautiful and flawless friends who happen to fall for the three other Marauders;
- Lily be a suicidal emo or cutter, a state from which James rescues her;
- Lily have an abusive boyfriend/family, from which James saves her;
- Lily be raped by Death Eaters during a Hogsmeade visit;
- Lily think of herself as (or actually be) rather ugly and/or extremely fat, until one day she decides to change;
- Lily have a pet unicorn, or any other equally cutesy magican creature (sometimes a snowy owl);
- Lily be a famous singer or dancer;
- Lily be extremely talented at Divination.
The odds of any of those facts being true are extremely low. If any ideas of yours involve the above plotpoints, try to think everything through. It would be extremely difficult to come up with an original story starting from there.
- According to Professor Flitwick's statement, James and Sirius were the most intelligent students in their year (PA10). Lily was undoubtedly smart—she did become Head Girl, after all—, but the boys were brilliant. There has been no mention of Lily as a "wonder" of any sort (except for Potions - HBP4)).
- Lily's intense disgust at seeing James bullying Snape doesn't seem to be rooted in the fact that she's a prankster herself. In fact, all canon evidence points to an entirely different direction. J. K. Rowling has, however, indicated that Lily was not entirely against rule-breaking.
- Although Lily throws the insult in Snape's Worst Memory, it is unlikely her sarcastic preference for the giant squid was a reccuring theme in her relationship with James. Similarily, it is unlikely she used the phrase "arrogant, bullying toe-rag" more than once. It is more likely she was, at the least, creative enough to come up with new insults every time.
- Harry has no godmother. It's likely that Lily kept few close friends during and after Hogwarts and that, at the end, she ended up being restricted basically to the three Marauders, and perhaps a few Order members.
- Lily agreed to have Sirius as the godfather to her only son, and both Sirius and Remus seem to remember her fondly. Don't forget that she probably built a solid friendship with all three of the other Marauders—yes, all three. If Lily had ever had suspicions regarding Peter's character, she would not have accepted him as Secret Keeper.
- James is a good guy. Despite his portrayal as a bully at the age of fifteen, we all know he's a good guy. If you choose to make him an abusive boyfriend to Lily, please think this characterisation through, and take your time to explain and establish it.
- James is not very likely to burst into tears or sink into heavy depression for days at the slightest dismissal from Lily. He is also not very likely to have been "in love" with her since they first met; they were eleven, and most people do not fall in love quite so young.
- He doesn't have to run his fingers through his hair all the time. It's a habit of his, everyone's aware of it, but don't overdo it. He also does not need to have a Snitch with him at all times.
- Despite his playing with the Snitch in Snape's Worst Memory, J. K. Rowling has indicated that James was a Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
- James probably treats the three Marauders differently, even though they are good friends. Sirius was the one chosen to be best man at his wedding, godfather to his son, and was their first option as Secret Keeper. It's possible that he shares different levels of detail about his relationship with Lily with the three of them.
- When describing Lily's behaviour as a pregnant woman, do some research on the subject. For instance, not all pregnant women feel heaps of symptoms indicating that they're expecting a child. Morning sickness, heat waves, irrational food cravings and mood swings and others are common, but not mandatory.
- Baby Harry was fifteen months old when his parents died. At that age, he could probably already walk, climb furniture, eat when given food to hold (but probably not with a spoon), say a few words—most of them not with perfect enunciation—, recognise Lily, James, the Marauders and other close friends of the family; he could call
- When writing a fic involving him, it's a nice touch to know what he could actually have done at that point in his life. As the paragraph above makes clear, it's impossible for Baby Harry to, say, point at the approaching Dark Lord and say "Voldemort". He could certainly, however, call the three Marauders by their names; in all likelihood, he knew them as Moony, Wormtail and Padfoot, or the baby-talk equivalent of whichever he was by then unable to say properly.