This had to be, by far, the worst moment of her entire life.
Lily Evans watched the horrific scene with her eyes wide, her mouth open, and the bottle of butterbeer she had previously been sipping slowly draining all over her brand new sandals, forming a pool at her feet.
And she didn't care one bit.
Because this really was, the worst moment of her entire life.
20 minutes earlier…
"Happy birthday, Lily!"
Lily beamed at the pile of presents forming by the front door, growing bigger and bigger with each new arrival to her eighteenth birthday party. If she had known she could get this many gifts out of her fellow students she would have had a birthday party like this years ago. Her smile only broadened as Benjy Fenwick added a very large box to the top of the pile.
"Butterbeer for the birthday girl?"
"Cheers," Lily continued to grin, taking the bottle from the dark haired girl beside her. Dorcas Meadows was Lily's best friend, and had been since the first day of term when they met on the Hogwarts express. It was Dorcas who had persuaded Lily to agree to this party, along with their fellow dorm mate, Emmeline Vance. Lily was glad they had succeed, she decided as she looked around the room, even if they had nagged the hell out of her for three days in the process.
The party was being held at Emmeline's house, as it was the Christmas holidays. The girls were very grateful to her parents for giving them free reign of the house and providing the food and drinks. Lily presumed they felt sorry for her for not having parents of her own to organise such an event. She hated being pitied, but perhaps it had been worth it just this once.
Emmeline's father's gramophone had been set up in the main room, blasting out a combination of Muggle and Wizarding party tunes. A lot of the guests had congregated around it for dancing and everyone seemed to be having a great time. They had invited all the seventh years, even the ones they didn't like, and a number of Lily's friends from the younger Gryffindor years. Everyone had RSVP'd, bar the odd Slytherin, which was a fantastic accomplishment considering it wasn't the summer holidays. It seemed everyone invited had been sure to go home for Christmas in order to celebrate the Head Girl's eighteenth in January. Lily couldn't be more flattered.
"Last ones to arrive as usual," Dorcas snorted, inclining her head in the direction of the doorway. Lily glanced up to see four jovial looking boys entering the party, instantly receiving a large number of greetings from people already in the room. The shortest of the four dropped a gift onto the pile, while the tallest of the four made a beeline for the refreshment table. The remaining two set themselves up by the fireplace, talking amongst themselves and looking around at the other party goers.
"It's called being fashionably late," Emmeline informed them as she approached, flipping her long hair and eyeing the tall boy as he made his way back to the group. "No body cool actually turns up on time to a party, you know."
Lily laughed. "We've been here all day."
"Oh." Emmeline's expression turned suddenly dismal.
"Let's go say hello," Dorcas said, linking her arm with Lily's. "You're the host after all. Emmeline can show Sirius her new dress."
"Oh shut up," Emmeline clucked, flipping her hair once more. "He'll come to me, just you see."
"Hmm, you're a poet," Lily smiled, before taking a sip of her butterbeer. The boy on the opposite side of the room - the one with glasses - mimicked her, giving her a short nod of acknowledgement as he lowered his bottle. She smiled briefly before detangling herself from Dorcas. "Maybe later. Have you seen John?" she asked, looking over the heads of the many people around the room. "He said he was going to the loo; he's been ages."
Dorcas snorted. "He didn't try Emmeline's dip, did he? He'll be in there a while."
"Shut up," Emmeline cried again, reaching across Lily to give their friend a playful shove. "People love my dip."
Dorcas muttered something incoherent, and no doubt insulting, into her punch cup.
"I thought I saw him talking to Judy Webster earlier," Emmeline added thoughtfully, glancing toward the refreshment table. "Over there." The boy in question was nowhere to be seen and she shrugged. "Let's go dance or something – I feel like dancing."
"She feels like shaking her arse for Sirius' viewing pleasure," Dorcas muttered to Lily.
"What was that?"
"Nothing," Dorcas beamed at her blonde friend, lowering her cup to the table behind them. "All right show off, let's go." Emmeline grinned, quickly knocking back the last of her butterbeer. "Coming Lily?"
"Later," Lily nodded. "Let me finish my drink." The two friends disappeared from view, leaving Lily to look for John on her own.
John Willis was a seventh year Hufflepuff, and Lily's current boyfriend. He was handsome and popular, and it had always been 'just a matter of time' before the good looking, Quidditch playing prefect got together with the Gryffindor beauty queen. Some people said they belonged together, and after six months of a successful relationship, Lily was really beginning to think so too. She loved spending time with him in and out of class; he always knew how to make her smile; and she had never known a better kisser. Physically, they still had quite a way to go, but Lily knew that tonight was going to be the night all that changed…
If she could only find him.
"Evans, great party!"
Reluctantly she paused on her way out the room to greet her guest, coming face to face with the four boys she had noticed earlier; the Marauders.
"Oh, thanks guys."
"Happy Birthday," Remus Lupin added, raising his cup to her. "Mine's the big present on top."
Lily smirked. "Really now? I seem to remember Benjy Fenwick arriving with one just like it."
"Fancy that," Peter Pettigrew sniggered into his punch.
A crude whistle sounded from her left. "Nice frock Evans; you wear that just for me?"
"Who else?" she responded playfully, giving the tall Sirius Black a flirty smile. "It's new, actually. Do you like it?"
"Congratulations," James Potter added a moment later, catching her attention. He smiled at her, hesitantly, as he had done from across the room earlier. One hand held his butterbeer in front of him and the other was fixed in his pocket until he removed it suddenly to draw her into a sort of half-hug. Lily obliged him, but it was awkwardly rigid and each avoided eye contact for a second as they pulled away.
James Potter was Head Boy this year and he and Lily spent a considerable amount of time together in meetings and on patrol. That could be considered quite acceptable if it wasn't for the fact Lily Evans and James Potter shared an awkward history. They had been friends until their fourth year, in which James had developed a crush on the redhead. But the public way in which he advertised his affection had made things rather uncomfortable for Lily. Hostilities ensued as James became desperate, showing off frequently at other people's expense and often bribing her to go out with him. When it seemed she was never going to give in they slowly drifted apart, until eventually they barely even spoke to one another any more. It wasn't until this final year that they were forced back into each other's company again as they were chosen to Head the school. So far they had attempted to make amends but they remained very distant.
"Have you seen John?" Lily asked suddenly, hoping to ease the silence that had fallen amongst the group.
James shook his head. "Sorry," Remus added. "Can't say I have."
"Never mind," Lily sighed, glancing over her shoulder. "I'll see if he's in the kitchen," she added, backing away from the boys. "Have a good night – thanks for coming."
Lily, however, didn't need to look very far. As she turned, John himself appeared in the doorway, a Ravenclaw girl called Judy Webster in his wake. "Excuse me," Judy smiled, pushing passed the two.
"Hey, enjoying your birthday?" John grinned, pulling Lily into a hug that was decidedly warmer than James Potters. He kissed the top of her head. "I was looking for you out there."
"I was looking for you," she replied, leaning into him more. They remained like that for a moment, just embracing each other silently until she felt John lower his head, whispering into her ear.
She pulled away slightly to look him in the face. His blue eyes seemed heavy lidded, lustful.
"-You're still coming back to my place, right?"
She smiled, knowingly. "Unless you've changed your mind."
He grinned widely. "Oh I've definitely not changed my mind."
Stretching on her tiptoes she kissed him chastely on the cheek. "Good."
"Okay, break it up lovebirds; we want to dance with the birthday girl." Lily turned from John to see Dorcas and Emmeline waiting impatiently behind her. "You can have her back later," Dorcas added, taking Lily by the wrist. Lily gave her boyfriend an apologetic shrug before allowing herself to be steered away.
"Ow, Dorcas! What are you doing?"
Lily scowled as she found herself being pulled quite violently into the corner of the room and not the dance floor, almost sloshing her drink onto the carpet. Looking up, she discovered Dorcas and Emmeline looking equally frustrated.
"What's wrong with you two?"
"Judy Webster," Dorcas hissed, glancing over Lily's shoulder as though to glare at the girl herself. "Is a complete slut."
Lily snorted. "So?"
Emmeline's eyes were wide in disbelief at Lily's ignorance. "We were dancing just before, near her friends, and she came up to them, bold as brass, flaunting off her new ring."
Lily pursed her lips, clearly not understanding the reason for all the fuss.
"John's ring!" Dorcas hissed. "His Quidditch ring!"
Lily could not help the second snort that escaped her as she shook her head at the dramatics of her friends. "I was just with John, he was wearing his ring."
"Was he?" Emmeline cut in immediately. "Or do you just think you saw it, because he's always wearing it?"
Lily hesitated. "John's not fooling around behind my back, guys. Tonight's the night, remember?"
"Like that means anything to him," Dorcas scoffed. "He's a cheater if I ever saw one."
"Dorcas," Lily chided her friend, feeling hurt. Her friends had always been supportive of her relationship with John; they'd never said a bad word against him before. Dorcas was the one who had bought her a box of condoms as a joke birthday present – three boxes – because she wasn't sure which size John might require.
"I'm sorry, Lily," Dorcas sighed. "I didn't mean to be – just see for yourself, okay?" She motioned over her shoulder and Lily turned with a pained expression toward the dance floor where Judy Webster could bee seen dancing and talking with the Ravenclaw girls. John was at the far side of the room talking to Remus Lupin. The other Marauders had vanished which wasn't much of a surprise because they didn't really get along with her boyfriend. Remus was just too polite.
"Go on," Emmeline encouraged her in a small voice.
With a deep breath, Lily headed toward the dancers, holding her drink above her head as she squeezed passed people until she was just two feet away from Judy and her friends. She could not see the girls hands properly however as she moved them around as she danced, often disappearing completely into her hair. Suddenly she turned toward Lily with a smile on her face. "Hi," she said, shouting to be heard over the music.
What was she supposed to say? Don't 'hi' me, bitch. Show me your hands! "Um, hi," Lily replied, feeling more than slightly tongue-tied. But another voice drowned her out and Lily felt a second person at her side; John.
"Hi," he said. Judy hadn't been talking to Lily at all; she felt her face flush with embarrassment.
"Wanna dance with me?" Judy continued to shout, ignoring Lily completely.
"Sure," John smiled, nodding his head in time to the music. "You don't mind, do you Lily?" he added a moment later, looking down at his shell-shocked girlfriend.
Lily shook her head; her tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of her mouth now. Slowly she backed out of the crowd, finding Dorcas and Emmeline waiting in the same corner.
"Well?" Emmeline asked hesitantly.
Lily shook her head. "I couldn't see a ring."
"They're dancing together," Dorcas added impatiently. "And you just let them?"
"If he was cheating on me I'm sure they wouldn't be so obvious about it," Lily replied defensively. "If there is a ring then I guess they just have similar taste in jewellery, that's all."
Dorcas looked disappointed as she dropped her head to one side, crossing her arms over her chest. "If you say so, Lily."
"I do say so."
"Fine," Dorcas huffed. "You want another drink?"
"Whatever," Lily replied nonchalantly.
Dorcas pushed passed her roughly. "You're lucky; I think someone spiked the punch already."
Lily rolled her eyes and she felt Emmeline lean in close. "What does that mean?"
"It means she thinks I'm going to be in need of hard liquor when I discover John and Judy snogging in your mother's linen closet." She rolled her eyes again for effect.
"Oh. Right then."
Dorcas did not return immediately and Lily suspected she was taking her time to cool off. It was probably for the best. The two girls bopped to the music in their corner, sipping their drinks and wondering over the contents of the many parcels piled high at the far side of the room. Lily suspected Dorcas might return soon with an apology and sure enough, the dark haired girl appeared at her side a moment later with a fresh butterbeer in each hand.
"Got lost, did you?" Lily murmured.
Dorcas did not return it with a smart comment. Instead she was oddly quiet and avoided eye contact.
"John and Judy just left together."
Lily felt a lump in her throat and she tried to swallow it. Would he really? After all they had planned for tonight? "Oh this is just ridiculous," she forced herself to laugh, shaking her head at the two girls. "I'll prove it to you," she added determinedly, taking a swig from her bottle. "He's probably showing her to the loo." And with that she slammed the empty bottle down and snatched a new one from Dorcas' hand as she stormed from the room.
The hall was fairly quiet but Lily could see people gathered in the kitchen and a few couples lingered on the stairs. Lily walked briskly to the kitchen and being unsuccessful in her search there, smirked as she made her way back down the hall, determined to make her way up the stairs and to the bathroom where she was sure to find her boyfriend. She did so, careful not to step on the hands and feet of the couples who were too busy to take care of their own appendages. At the top she found the bathroom door closed and knocked smartly.
"Someone's in here," a female voice called back. It could have been Judy. Lily decided to wait outside and make sure she saw her come out. And then, just as a precaution, she would demand to see her hands. Maybe she'd even take a photograph and show it to Dorcas. However, a light down the landing caught her eye; someone was in one of the bedrooms.
"Bedrooms are off limits," she huffed to herself, scowling at the signs on each door that she and the girls had made that afternoon. They clearly stated,
Bedrooms are off limits!
Figuring the rascals deserved to be embarrassed at being caught whatever it was they might be doing, Lily grasped the doorhandle and pushed the door open. It slid noiselessly over the carpet. And that's when Lily wished she'd knocked.
It was true. It was all true and more. There was John with his back to her, sitting on Emmeline's bed with Judy Webster in his lap and her lanky legs wrapped around his waist. She froze instantly but Judy's eyes flickered open and she caught sight of the redhead in the doorway. She did not however appear shocked, nor did she make any attempt to stop what she was doing. She merely smirked, kissing Lily's boyfriend fervently, all the while staring at the girl in the doorway. She raked her hands through John's short blonde hair, showing off the Quidditch ring on her middle finger; John's ring.
The bottle began to slip from Lily's fingers until it hung upside down in her loose grip, sloshing down her leg and onto the carpet. She wanted to scream, she wanted to throw something at them, she wanted to hex them, she wanted to make them stop! But she couldn't draw her gaze from Judy's knowing smirk and her voice failed her as she mouthed wordlessly, her eyes feeling hot and beginning to sting.
A voice called her from the stairs and she turned sharply to see James Potter standing at the top, a cup of punch in each hand.
"Hi," he said, extending one of them to her. She stared blankly back at him, unable to see anything but that vision of Judy burnt into her mind, and his eyes flickered down her form, stopping at the puddle by her feet. "You all right, Lily?"
Finally willing her feet to move she moved passed him and hurried down the stairs, feeling the tears fall at last. Dorcas and Emmeline were waiting hesitantly at the bottom, sorry looks upon their faces.
"Oh my God!" Lily screamed at last. "I saw them! I SAW THEM!"
"Hush," Emmeline hissed at once, as she and Dorcas steered their hysterical friend down the hall and into another 'off limits' room – her father's study. Lily felt herself being pushed into the large leather armchair and she cried freely into the tissues that Dorcas handed her. Emmeline retrieved her wand and sealed the door before joining Dorcas on the floor at Lily's feet.
"You let it out," she said, rubbing Lily's knee. "It's okay."
"Don't worry," Dorcas added. "We won't let them ruin your birthday."
"It's already ruined!" Lily cried loudly, throwing her arms out wildly so that both girls flinched. "They were – they were snogging and she – she – she – she just-"
"Shhh," Dorcas soothed. "Breathe, Lily."
"She just looked at me! She was kissing him and looking at me! And – and – I co – I couldn't move! I wanted to yell and I j-j-just couldn't!"
"Does John not know you saw him?"
Lily shook her head, wailing terribly. "I hate her! I hate her so much!"
"We know," Emmeline said gently. "We hate her too."
"Don't worry Lily," Dorcas added. "We'll get her for this."
"Why tonight? Why on my birthday?"
"We don't know, Lily. We don't know."
Lily could not help herself and she fell forward off the chair, allowing herself to be embraced by her two best friends as she cried uncontrollably.
They spent the rest of the party hidden in that room.