Chapter 3 : Assumptions
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The Slug-Club party was, as Lily had suspected, long and dreadfully boring. She did meet a few very interesting people, some big names in the wizarding world, but as always, they only gave her a few moments of their time.
She could tell that some of them would have liked to chat with her more, but they were obligated to make the rounds. If even one of Slughorn’s special guests didn’t schmooze with all of the pureblood student at the party, they would all receive a very unpleasant owl from the “spurned” kid’s parents.
Some of them didn’t give her the time of day. It was easy to pick out the purebloods from the muggleborns, and even the half-bloods. It was just in the pureblood manner of speaking, of holding themselves and interacting with their superiors (and especially their inferiors).
She had to give Slughorn credit though, he was persistent and tried his best to make his favourite students successful, regardless of blood status. Whenever he saw that she was alone or being snubbed, he stepped in and bragged Lily up; even she didn’t know how good at brewing poisons she was.
Lily always found these parties illuminating, seeing her peers being judged by people more judgmental than they were. It was actually at her first slug-club party that she had truly understood the rank that purebloods held, and how far she was considered to be below them. Growing up in muggle England, that sort of racism was not completely uncommon (in other forms), but she certainly had never experienced it first hand, or to such a degree. She was from a small town after all, and her family had been comfortable financially, but certainly not well-off.
It had been at the only Slug-Club party that Sirius Black had attended. Lily had watched as person after person fawned over him, asking about his parents and his grades and what he planned to do when he graduated, making insinuating jokes about where he’d end up and who he would marry. It was the same way they treated Lena and James and every other pureblood there.
But she saw that Sirius noticed how they had treated her and the few other muggleborns at the party. When one high-up in the ministry made a light joke implying that the Potters and Dumbledores were blood traitors, Sirius had stood up without a word and walked over to one of the other guests. Lily recognized the man whom she had met minutes before; he made brilliant broomsticks, was quite successful, and was very obviously not a pureblood. Sirius shook his hand purposefully, said loudly that he was glad to meet somebody of substance, and then placed himself next to Lily.
Everybody, including Lily, stared at him. When people had finally gone back to their business, Sirius cleared his throat and started a mundane conversation about the weather. But his fists and jaw were clenched tight, so Lily took his arm and quietly lead him out of the room.
As they had walked silently back to the Gryffindor common room, Lily had been reflecting on the world she had just been introduced to. It was overwhelming.
Before they reached the tower, Sirius paused and let out a sigh. “Lily,” he had said, “I’m sorry for how pompous assholes we purebloods are.”
The clink of a glass brought Lily out from her thoughts, returning her to the present-day Slug Club party, and wishing fervently that Sirius was here to stare down the lady from Witch Weekly who was sending nasty glances her way every three minutes.
But she had to admit, James Potter was doing a pretty good job of cheering her up as well. The Witch Weekly witch was trying, to no avail, to hit on James. He was obviously spurning her advances as he tried to speak with a man from the Auror office. Every now and then James would catch Lily’s eye and roll his eyes or make a face behind the witch’s back, making her suppress a giggle.
After one particularly high nail-on-a-chalkboard cackle, the witch leaned forward and stroked his arm. Lily almost choked on her drink from laughing. James, his face a little red from embarrassment at her attentions, made his way over to Lily to escape.
“Potter’s got a girlfriend...” Lily sang under her breath as he leaned over for a glass of water on the table decked out with glittering red hearts behind her.
James shuddered. “If I ever date someone like that, I hope Moony and Padfoot tear me to pieces.”
“What is with those nicknames, anyway?” Lena appeared on his other side, reaching for a glass of sparkling water and flicking her long blonde hair behind her back.
The two girls had been trying for ages to figure out what the nicknames meant. Moony was just all too obvious for Lily, because she knew that Remus was a werewolf. But Lena didn’t know that.
James shrugged and his attention was diverted as the witch started towards him again. “Good god,” he muttered, running his hands through his messy hair.
Lily laughed, and James smiled too, infected by her amusement. “You are enjoying this way too much,” he accused.
“I am. But actually, I’m about to leave. Do you want me to help you make an exit? I can distract her with my dirty-blooded poor manners.” Lily joked.
Lena slapped her arm, admonishing her and James narrowed his eyes at her self-deprecating humour, but he only said, “I wish. That guy over there is friends with my parents and if I leave this thing early I’ll get an unpleasant owl tomorrow telling me how inconsiderate I am, for leaving the poor old guy alone on Valentines.”
“I have to get back to my date,” said Lena, making a face. Her mom had set her up for the party with one of Slughorn’s young visitors who worked at the ministry. He was cute, but Lena wasn’t a fan of being told what to do my her parents.
Lily stuck out her tongue at the two of them, “Pure-blood problems...” she teased, and was about to walk out the door when it was blocked by Slytherins.
It was Severus and some of his friends, making it to the party “fashionably late”. Lily cursed under her breath. She usually tried to be gone by the time this particular gang showed up.
Abruptly, she started to turn to walk back to where James Potter was now chatting with his parent’s friend, but one of the Slytherins said, “What are you doing here, Evans?” He spat out her name like it was a curse.
Lily sighed, sensing her night was not going to improve, and crossed her arms as she glared at them. Severus was determinedly not looking at her.
“I was invited, but I was just leaving, if you could just move out of my way.”
The Slytherins snorted and moved on, but one of them said in a low voice, “Oh yeah, I forgot that you were sleeping with Slughorn. That’s the only way you could get into as party like this.”
Another of the guys laughed and said, “Aww, even Slughorn wouldn’t stoop that low.”
Lily tried to hold her tongue, but she was getting so sick of the six and a half years of bullying that she replied, “Yeah good one. But at least I didn’t have to get my mommy to pay to get me in. All of my merits are my own, not from a sackful of gold...”
Lily was cut off by James abruptly dragging her out of the room before the Slytherins could process what she had said.
"What do you think you're doing?" he hissed as he pulled her up the corridor, past the cupid statues that Slughorn had put up to point the way to the party.
She tried to yank her arm back but he tightened his grip painfully. "I am sick of this bigoted society,” she told him heatedly.
"So you bait them? You're going to get hurt! What are you trying to prove?" James yanked her to a stop and forced her to look in his face.
Lily struggled, her face flushing. "I’m.. It's.. Look, Potter, it's none of your business what I do."
James snorted and let her go. Lily rubbed her arm where he had grabbed her as she watched him start to pace. "I'm not going to sit around and watch you act like you've got a death wish by baiting death eaters," he said irritably.
It was her turn to snort. "They're still teenagers, do you really think..."
James cut her off harshly, "Yes, I do think. I think that very much. All those idiots are mini-Death Eaters. Don't you dare think otherwise. And that includes Snape!"
Lily's face felt hot. "Don't treat me like a child, James."
"Well you are certainly acting like one!" He snapped, running a hand through his hair. "You're a muggleborn, you know the danger..."
Lily had had enough. "Yes James," she snapped back. "I'm well aware of my heritage. Nobody in this damn place ever lets me forget it!" She was faintly aware that her voice was rising with every word.
"I'm sick of being treated like an infant or an idiot because my parents and grandparents didn't own a wand! There is a very real psychopath out there killing off people like me every single day, and all I can do is throw insults back in the faces of some pathetic, wannabe boys!"
She took a deep breath, suddenly very tired. James opened his mouth to speak, but Lily raised a hand to stop him. "Just stop. I don't need another pure-blood telling me what to do or how to act or what to think. Just leave me alone."
Lily was halfway down the hall before James, rooted to the spot, managed to find his words.
"WHAT?" He bellowed. Lily turned around and stood watching him, fascinated by the colours that James' face was turning as he stormed towards her; red, white, purple, white, red again. His face matched the awful flower petals that someone had strewn across the floor.
He seemed to be at a loss for words as he stopped directly in front of her. They stood nose to nose, though James was a few inches taller. They glared into each other's eyes, green to hazel.
"Is that how you see me?" James demanded after several minutes, "Am I just another spoiled pureblood?"
Lily didn't back down, "Are you telling me you're not?"
There was silence as the Head Boy and Girl stared each other down. Lily's muscles were tense; she was angry and tired and sick of letting purebloods think they were better than her.
In a way, James and Sirius and Lena were worse, because they neither sided with the death eaters or against them. The only realistic option for purebloods who didn't want to join the Death Eaters was to go unnoticed. They tread the line so carefully that it was hard to tell what they really thought. Sure, they could glare at the bigots in their families, be friendly to muggleborns, and even celebrate birthdays and rub their backs when Slytherins picked on them, but when it came down to the wire, could they risk their own necks for somebody so below them?
James' hazel eyes were narrowed in anger and incredulity, but Lily held his gaze, challenging him.
After a long moment, he stepped forward and grabbed her by her shoulders. His gaze softened but she defiantly kept glaring, although he was getting so close that her eyes were starting to cross.
And then he was kissing her. Gently but urgently, he kissed her. And as Lily kissed him back, James wrapped his arms around her and pulled her even closer. Her hands found his messy black hair and the kiss deepened.
Just as suddenly as it had begun, they broke apart and stood a foot away from each other. Lily raised a hand to her mouth as blood began to rush back into her head. She had no idea what to say, or what to feel. She stared at James in shock. He watched her. All traces of anger disappeared from his face, and was replaced with an intense look Lily didn't recognize.
"This spoiled pureblood cares about you." James said in a slightly hoarse voice.
Lily was overwhelmed and didn't know how to respond. She turned and walked briskly away, feeling so many emotions, she couldn’t tell them apart.
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