Author's Note: Don't hurt me people :P You'll get your L/J later. Thanks to Sarah for beta-ing this chapter for me.
Chapter 14: The Potter Party Part II
What on earth had she been thinking when she decided to wear the dark blue robes to this high society party? For that matter, what had she been thinking when she agreed to go in the first place? Every few seconds Lily reminded herself to breathe in the enormous and lavishly decorated ballroom. She carefully watched her steps, as not to embarrass herself or James by crashing into one of the vases of sparkling roses placed on tiny tables, where several of the guests had placed empty wine glasses. It felt more like an obstacle course to Lily than something to enjoy or marvel at. Not to mention, she could feel the stares, the whispers behind her back which painfully reminded her of Hogwarts. Some even sneered at her, having recognized her from the newspapers.
James, however, was feeling quite at ease, used to the attention and the grandeur of one of the many rooms in his mansion, even if he didn't enjoy being here. He nodded politely at several of the guests he passed by, guiding Lily towards his parents with a gentle hand on her lower back. He offered an arm as they drew closer, giving them a more formal and polite impression of Lily.
They were talking to another couple but they excused themselves when they spotted him and Lily.
Dressed in a bright red robe with several large rubies adorning her neck, ears, and fingers, Evelyn was quite the sparkling sight. Lily briefly wondered how much the entire ensemble weighed and how many Brilliance Charms the woman had done, before James's stepmum introduced herself with much enthusiasm.
"Hi, I'm Evelyn, James's mum, and this is Harold, James's father." She gave her a wide smile, but Lily felt she was being analyzed from head to toe nonetheless.
A brief look of disgust crossed her features and Lily immediately knew her enthusiasm wasn't genuine. Well, at least she was trying to be nice for James's sake.
Evelyn continued. "You must be Lila Evils. James has told us all about you!"
"It's Lily-" James tried to correct, but his stubborn stepmother wouldn't hear any of it. Lily didn't know whether to laugh or be insulted. In the end, she settled for being amused as the woman prattled on.
"You're a muggleborn right?" The tone of her voice wasn't insulting, but the woman had spoken a little too loudly and several of the people around them turned accusing eyes toward Lily. Conversations around them stopped as they overheard the offending word.
"Mother!" James reprimanded her immediately, displeasure seen on his face and now rigid posture.
"Well she's not ashamed of it is she?"
Lily decided to interrupt. "The name is Lily Evans Mrs. Potter, and yes I am muggleborn, but I fail to see how that has any relevance to the conversation." She held her head high, and her dark green eyes gleamed.
Evelyn amended her attitude. "Oh nothing dear. I was just curious." Another amiable smile flickered across her face.
Harold spoke up, assessing Lily not in the way Evelyn had, rather in a way that Lily felt uncomfortable and unable to pinpoint. "So you're Head Girl I hear."
Ah, that was it, Lily decided. He was determining whether she was good enough for James. "Yes." She chanced a joke. "Someone has to keep James in line."
Harold laughed good-naturedly, while Evelyn smiled politely. "James, I'm sure your friends are looking for you," Evelyn hinted.
"I'll find them later."
A young woman dressed in a sparkling light blue robe gracefully stepped near them, nodded respectfully at the Potters before turning to address James. "I apologize for interrupting, but I was wondering if you wanted to dance, seeing as how you don't have a proper dance partner at the moment."
Lily stiffened at the insult, but didn't have time to reply, as James and his mother answered the girl.
"He'd loved to!" Evelyn exclaimed delighted at the girl that was asking as well as the perfect timing of the interruption. The petite brunette grabbed James's hand, and dragged him off despite his protests. His high society upbringing prevented him from leaving the girl at least for one dance and he sent an apologetic look at Lily.
She waved it off. She could find him later, and put the rude girl in her place, but now she needed to fend off Mr. & Mrs. Potter.
The woman dropped her smile, and adopted a serious, business-like tone. "So what is it exactly that you want from James?"
Harold frowned at his wife's impropriety, but didn't interrupt as he too wanted to know the answer. He peered down at Lily from his much taller stature, narrowing his eyes at her.
"A better question is: what do you want for James?" Lily responded. She respected his parents, even if she didn't like them for their blatant prejudice. She lowered her voice so none of the other guests could hear her. "Because from what I can tell it's not his happiness you're concerned about. It's as if you don't even trust him! Since when is intelligence, love, respect – all those things you want in a good relationship – specific to just Purebloods?" Her eyes became hard as she gave them both a long look, knowing that she may well have ruined any chance of a good relationship they may have had with each other, but she didn't care. This wasn't about her. This was about James.
"If you say you love James, then prove it. Not to me, but to him. That would be better than any decision you could ever make for him. For heaven's sake, respect your own son instead of not trusting him to make his own choices!" she said, passionately. "Believe it or not, I want the same thing you do for James. He deserves someone that makes him laugh, keeps him in line while at the same time being able to keep up with his wit, and appreciate his intelligence. He deserves to be respected and loved just like everyone else. And while I may or may not be that someone, that's the entire point of dating isn't it?"
Evelyn and Harold were shocked at her audacity.
"Why you little-"
Harold placed a hand on his wife's arm that stopped her from finishing the sentence, which Lily was sure wasn't flattering at all.
Lily could feel her cheeks heating up from the confrontation and how strongly she believed in what she said. She was embarrassed she spoke so frankly and boldly to James's parents, but she wouldn't back down. Thankfully an angel, or so he was at the time, appeared next to her.
"Care to dance m'lady?" An arm was offered for her to take, and Lily readily accepted, allowing the young wizard to lead her away from the stunned Potters.
"I could kiss you right now Remus," Lily said gratefully.
He grinned at her. "And I could accept right now, but somehow I doubt that would help your reputation any."
"Somehow I don't think I need you to ruin my reputation. I do it quite well on my own, thank you."
Remus chuckled. "Didn't go so well eh?"
"Understatement," she said dryly and promptly changed the subject. "You clean up well."
Remus's eyes met hers for a brief second as they crossed the room towards the ballroom floor. "I had some help," he admitted. "Peter and Sirius nearly forced me to wear this."
She laughed, her gloved hand still on top of his arm, and she became more comfortable with his presence.
He made sure that more of her attention was drawn towards him instead of focused on their surroundings. Remus knew how uncomfortable and unwelcome people could make others feel.
Her dark green eyes danced with amusement. "They 'forced' you?"
Remus smiled wryly. "It was either this or go naked. They hid the rest of my wardrobe…or at least I hope they did. I would be upset if they destroyed it."
A strangled laugh came out of Lily. "Well, can't argue with that logic."
They joined in with a few other couples dancing to a Viennese waltz. Neither of them was very good, but they enjoyed it nonetheless, managing to avoid several close collisions. Lily's cheeks were flushed from the fast pace, and she motioned to Remus she needed a short break before dancing again. He steered them away from the crowd.
He smiled at her in understanding. "Been a while?"
Lily was still trying to catch her breath as she leaned lightly against him. She could smell what she suspected was his cologne and closed her eyes automatically inhaling the scent. "Understatement," she murmured. She remembered why she liked him, especially before she met James.
Lily suddenly opened her brilliant green eyes to inspect his face. She frowned at him, but moved her head back to his quite comfortable shoulder as they leaned against the wall away angled out of sight of many of the guests. "How come we stopped talking after fifth year?" she asked seriously. She had missed their conversations. "We were good friends weren't we? At least I thought so…"
"You were becoming too pretty," Remus confessed, a sober look on his face. "I couldn't take your blatant rejections any more."
Lily poked his side, giving him an annoyed glance. "I'm being serious." She turned to watch the others around the room and thought she spotted Sirius among the throngs of people.
Remus heaved a great sigh. "I suppose same thing that happens with most friendships. We grew-"
"Oh spare me that nonsense. You purposely avoided me you know." She cut to the point. Lily had realized what exactly was wrong with Remus during her fifth year and his frequent excuses during a few days of Prefect patrol. They were assigned together naturally, both of them being the Gryffindor Prefects.
He winced at her bluntness. This was not a subject he wanted to talk about. "Well you weren't exactly comfortable with me after you found out."
"That's not true," Lily protested. She lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him.
Remus rolled his eyes. "Like hell it isn't. You were anxious when it was that time, and there were lots of awkward silences between us. Every time I tried to make conversation you'd make excuses to be out of my presence as fast as possible."
"You could have said something."
"Like what? You wanted me to comfort you?" he said incredulously. Why was she making such a big deal about it? He was quite used to people acting differently around him once they found out, even to the point of not thinking of him as a person. Lily didn't go that extreme, but their relationship was definitely strained once he realized what was making her so nervous around him during the full moon days.
"No-I don't know!" Lily let out a breath in frustration. "Don't blame this entirely on me."
"Who said I was blaming anyone?" he pointed out, looking away from her. "After you found out, you always wanted me to be a different person than who I was…who I am. I'm not a hero or a saint or any of those other things you wanted me to be, Lily. I'm never going to be the guy that fights against the prejudices; I just accept them for what they are and live my life the way I want to, not the way anyone else thinks I should."
"How are you not living your life to the standard everyone else dictates for you huh?" she retorted. "You can't accept prejudices and then claim you live life the way you want. Prejudices don't work that way. It forces you to conform to what everyone else thinks is right. You can't possibly tell me you want to be seen as a monster instead of a person. That you never want to get married to have kids or hell, even be an Auror."
"Why would I want to work for an organization as prejudiced as the Ministry? I can't fault you on the other points, but what the hell can I do about it?" His voice was harsh now as he kept his anger under control.
"You could fight against it!" Her eyes shined brightly, as angry tears formed in her eyes. Remus didn't deserve this. No one did, but he just wanted to give in!
Remus laughed bitterly. "So naïve Lily." He grabbed a glass of wine from a waiter that was passing by, downing it in a few swallows.
"I may be, but you're a coward. You think you're the only outcast? What do you think I go through every damn day Remus? Because it sure as hell isn't a perfect life. At least most people don't know about your condition. But me? My heritage isn't something I can hide, and I wouldn't even if I could. Do you think people are actually happy for me being Head Girl, getting better grades than most of them in classes, dating James!"
She folded her arms, taking a deep breath to keep from lashing out at Remus. She was angry, but not at him. "I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I just accepted it, thinking that I deserve the things they say, the things they do to me. I wouldn't be here right now either if I believed that just because I'm Muggleborn I'm not good enough. James didn't give into prejudices either. I'm here tonight because he didn't give into what his parents wanted."
"I'm not James, Lily," Remus said quietly.
Before she could say anything else the very person they were talking about stopped in front of them. "There you are!" he said, a little out of breath. "I've been looking all over for you – thought you might have eloped with…"
James noticed their rigid postures, and the way they weren't quite looking at each other, standing a little ways off. "Everything okay here?"
Lily's eyes shimmered for a brief second, before she blinked and managed a weak smile. "Yeah, just smashin'."
She saw him study Remus for a few seconds, and took his arm to prevent any further inquiries. "Come on, let's mingle. I'm sure there are a few people I haven't insulted yet," she said with forced cheer in her voice as they walked away from Remus.
"I really hope you're kidding," James said warily.
A sudden thought comforted her as she remembered the woman that had stolen James at a very inopportune moment. With a devious look in her eyes she muttered under her breath, "A brunette in particular…" And then she turned to James and grinned. "I'm nothing but angelic."
He sighed in relief. "That's good to know."
However, he didn't see the two fingers crossed behind her back as she sauntered towards a large group of people, nearly giddy with anticipation of sweet revenge.