"A ball?" Sam exclaimed, watching incredulously the Announcements board. Bree, standing next to her, nodded hapil, while Lily, who was still a bit sleepy, moved her friend aside and stood in front of the board, practically yelling:
"What?" But no, Sam hadn't read it wrong: in a ornated green caligraphy, it was announced that on Hallowe'en, instead of the traditional feast, they would be having a ball for the older students (The students who were less than fourteen read the sing- would have their party at the Common Rooms). But that wasn't the worst part. It was a costume party. Lily stared with hatred at the elegant card with golden rims.
"Has Dumbledore gona mental?" Asked Samantha, her eyes still fixed to the board. The redhead started ranting and raving about the Headmaster, dragging herself half-heartedly to one of the armchairs:
"Merlin, what was the need! There's been years since they last held a ball at Hogwarts. And as if it wasn't enough, instead of having it on Christmas, he just does it on Hallowe'en! Dumbledore has been watching way too many muggle films and he has chosen the worst cliché of them all. A costume ball, Merlin what a stupid idea!"
Some chuckled distracted her, and when she looked around she found the four Marauders playing Exploding Snap sitting around a table; Potter and Pettigrew were on the sofá, Remus on the floor and Black was sitting on a chair with his back to the fireplace. Lily looked daggers at them.
"It seems someone has got out of bed on the wrong side today." Black commented, swinging on the chair's back legs and dropping a card on the table. "It'll be fun, Evans, stop complaining."
Lily folded her arms and Sam, sitting on the armchair's arm, answered moodily:
"That's 'cause for you it's just another chance to go out on the pull, Black" Sirius smiled; she was partly right.
"Oh, come on Sam, he's right, it'll be fun." Bree said, sitting on the floor at Lily's foot. They have decided to take Sunday free.
"I still don't get why Dumbledore thought about doing this now. I'll talk to Professor McGonagall; she has to make him see sense!" The redhead said in such a desperate tone that made everyone laugh.
"Actually, throwing balls at Hogwarts was quite common years ago," Remus commented, carefully leaving a card on the table. Despite he had just left the Hospital Wing the day before, he looked much better than he used to after hs monthly disappearances, although the other three had scratches on their hands. "They where held during the Yule, but as most of the students weren't here for Christmas, they stopped doing them. But it wasn't Dumbledore's idea to recycle the tradition; apparently, Professor Templesmith insists that Hogwarts isn't Hogwarts without a ball
I guess Dumbledore decided to make him happy; maybe this time he gets the Defense Against the Dark Arts' teacher to stay for more than a year."
"Why do you always know everything?" asked him Black, and James laughed.
"But why did it have to be a costume party?" Lily insisted.
"Don't you know Templesmith yet?" Bree and Black asked in unison, laughing.
"Y'know, Evans? I think you'll find something positive in this whole ball thing," James commented casually, playing with the cards he was holding. The redhead looked at him skeptically.
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
"Ain't that obvious? That you can go with me." Lily rolled her eyes and stood up.
"I think I'll pass, Potter." She said, leaving the Common Room through the portrait.
"Where's she going?" Sam asked.
"Where d'you think?" The brunette answered
Right then, Peter placed a card on the table and the game exploded.
Lily closed the portait behind her, sighing. A ball, as if she needed to add that to the mess that her head was lately. She headed slowly towards the stairs; it was still early, Severus wouldn't be there until about half an hour, but the redhead had preferred to leave the Common Room: she wasn't in the mood to stand Potter and company.
On one side, she couldn't stop thinking about her father, who was getting worse at an alarming pace, despite both him and her mother tried to hide it in their letters. Lily knew they didn't want to worry her, but the letters were so excessively cheerful that no one would have bought it.
On the other hand there was Bree: the redhead was quite sure that the affect she felt towards Black was becoming something more than friendship, and that didn't have to happen; Brianna was far too sweet and good to deserve to be hurt that way. She said that both Lily and Sam were delirious, and that the only thing she saw in Sirius was a good friend. And that was true; the boy was an amazing friend, and the girls knew it. Bree loved him and enjoyed his company, and he would never do something to hurt her, on the contrary, he would have been willing to protect her from anything. But there were certain details in the brunette's behaviour that led her friends to notice that she was falling in love, even if she didn't even know it herself, and that was dangerous. Not beause they hated Blac; in fact, he wasn't that bad. Yeah, he was an arrogant prat, but not with Bree. The problem was the way he treated women. And Bree didn't deserve to get her heart broken.
Then there was Remus' issue too. As Lily had supposed, he hasn't appeared the whole day after that night, although they had discharged him sooner than she expected: Saturday night he was already at the Common Room, with an unusual joy. The redhead would have expected him to come back as always; tired, with dark rings under hs eyes, and destroyed. And partly he had, except for his mood. It had been weird that the rest of the Marauders had shown up with scratches in their hands and even in their faces, but Lilydidn't pay much attention to them; what those three did wasn't her business. But Remus
Remus and his strange disease. Every time her thoughts went that way, the girl tried to stop them. She was afraid to go there, because she was afraid to be right. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she was, and the more the facts fitted her assumptions. When she realized she was thinking about it, she blocked it. She didn't feel capable of dealing with it right then. And she didn't want to think that her sweet friend had had such a terrible fate, nor that such a hard future was expecting him. Maybe it would be better if she forgot about it for now. Anyway, she wouldn't ever mention it to anyone, not even to her own friends.
And on the top of all of that, even if she didn't want to admit it, was Potter. The truth was that the last month and a half he had been
different. He seemed to be more calm, and he didn't play fool all the time anymore. I mean, sometimes he did, and of course he still played infinite pranks on people, but it looked like he had started to mature. Besides, as weird as it sounded, he didn't seem to be dating other girls anymore. It's not that she was paying attention, Lily said to herself, but it was just impossible not to notice that the only one that still fluttered around anything with a skirt was Black. It had been quite a drastic change in Potter. Besides, lately they had been leaving Severus alone, or at least, that's what she thought.
Yeah, that was it, he was more mature. A little bit, at least. He still asked her out every time he had a chance, of course, but she had realized that it wasn't impossible to have a normal conversation with him, brief as they were. And she had even found herself about to laugh several times at something he said.
And that confused her. And she didn't like it.
Lily heard some voices when she reached the Entrance Hall, and saw two boys leaving the dungeons. One of them was skinny, had black hair and an aquiline nose; the other one was thin, tall, and honestly repulsive. Avery.
The redhead hid behind the staircase; Severus wouldn't want Avery to know they were meeting each other. For her spot, she could perfectly hear everything the boys said; the redhead didn't want to pry into their business, but she would have needed to cover her ears and start to sing not to hear them.
"I don't know when, but soon," Avery was saying with that cruel but soft voice. "The Dark Lord is getting more and more powerful, yes, but for that he needs more followers. As many as he can get." Lily let out a gasp and knew that they had heard her, so she casually left her hideout, pretending she had just arrived and was passing by.
"Were you eavesdropping, mudblood?" Avery spat angrily, taking out his wand. Lily faked surprise and apathy when she answered:
"Don't think you're the center of the Universe, Avery. I was just passing by." She said coldly. Snape seemed really uncomfortable, looking alternatively at both of them nervously.
"Don't talk to me like that, stupid girl;" the Slytherin started tos ay rabidly, but the redhead interrupted him.
"I say whatever I want. And put that wand out, you're not allowed to do magic in the corridors." She said haughtily, pointing at her Prefect badge. Avery laughed.
"How naïve, thinking that a badge could protect you. Keep living inside that bubble of yours, mudblood; the day will come when pure-blood wizards like us won't have to stand scum like you. The day when the muggles will finally be where they belong." He spat all of that getting closer and closer to her. Snape semed hesitant.
"And how much muggle blood do you have?" Lily said with disdain, staring at him with disgust.
Severus opened his eyes wide and looked like he was about to throw up, and Avery was so surprisesd he couldn't use his wand, but he hit her with the back of his hand with so much strength that it let her stunned. Before anything else could happen, they heard some noises coming out of the Great Hall.
"Let's go, Severus." The boy hesitated on his place, but ended up following his friend.
Lily stood there for some minutes with tears in her eyes, but mostly out of rage. Not for Avery, but for Severus. She could stand that the other bloody prick yelled as many insults as he wanted, and even that he hit her (though it had actually hurt. He was probably wearing a ring or something, because the redhead could feel her injured cheek throbbing), she would have even hit him back if she had had the chance. But what hurt the ost was that Severus had just stood there, watching. Lily's friends always wondered how she could like someone like him, who hated muggles and every person like her. But she always made excuses for him; that Snape wasn't like the rest of them, that he couldn't defend her in front of other Slytherins,that he was her friend. But this time it was being really hard to find an excuse for his behaviour, and she didn't think she would be able of standing it much longer. She knew Severus would have never let Avery really hurt her; she still remembered that one time in third year when he had stopped Mulciber from attacking her when she ran into him in a corridor. But she couldn't understand how her friend stood that people who humiliated and hated people like her.
When she was reaching the third floor, she heard someone calling her.
"Lily!" She kept walking. "Lily! Lily!"
In the end, the redhead turned around (not without drying her tears first)
"What?" Snape approached to her panting.
"I thought we had agreed to meet." He said.
"Oh. Yeah. I remembered I have some stuff to do. Prefects' Meeting." She lied. Snape seemed to sadden.
"Oh," he said. "Maybe later."
"I don't know, Sev." She answered wearily, and a bit sadly too. Snape looked distressed.
"I'm sorry, Lily" He sounded honest. "I'm sorry about what Avery did to you, but you have to understand me
"I do understand you, Sev. I know you would never hurt me, but it's hard
" She answered, mellowing her voice. "It's hard for me that you just stand there without doing anything, but it's even harder to know he's your friend." She didn't say all she thought about Avery and the rest of his lot, and she didn't mention she had heard their conversation. Both of them tried to avoid those thorny topics if it was possible.
"I'm not like him, Lily," Snape said imploringly. "And you are my friend. My best friend."
Lily smiled sadly. Severus had suffered so much
she couldn't see him like that. She approached to him and kissed him on the cheek.
"You're my best friend too, Sev." She said.
On the way to the Common Room, tears flooded the redhead's eyes again, but she didn't shed them. She had forgiven Severus, but she felt exactly like when Avery hit her. If things didn't change, she wouldn't be able of forgiving, and that hurt. She didn't want to lose her friend.
Even before that any of them heard her (maybe except Remus and his wolf ear), James knew she was there because of the scent that flooded the place. Lily hadn't been too long doing whatever she was doing. Sam's exclamation seemed to get her out of her thoughts, and when the boy noticed the reason of the scream, he felt the rage coming up his throat like the bile. He wanted to yell. Someone had hurt her! Her right cheek was slightly swollen and it had a small cut that bled a little.
"What the hell happened to your face!?" Sam asked. Six pairs of eyes fixed on her, and Lily seemed disconcerted when she touched eher face and saw her fingers slightly stained with blood.
"Nothing," lied Lily, approaching to them with shining eyes. James guessed that she wanted to run away to her room, but was staying there so that they wouldn't suspect anything.
"Was it Snape?" asked Bree in a whisper. When she heard her, Sirius gave a start, but James stood up without even realizing about it. Remus pulled his robes and made him seat, but none of the girls seemed to notice what they were doing.
"No!"Lily exclaimed angrily. "He would never do something like that!" Everyone appeared to doubt it, so she ended uo saying. "It was Avery. It doesn't matter, it's nothing." James realized he was clenching his fists. He easen them; he was hurting himself.
"Why did he do it?" Remus asked in a quiet tone that hid his fury.
"'Cause when he started talking about the pure-blood wizards' superiority I asked him how much muggle blood he had." Sirius roared with laughter, and Lily smiled a bit.
"You should tell Professor McGonagall." Added Lupin.
"I already did," lied the redhead, but no one was looking at her as closely as to realize it wasn't true. "I'll go wash this," she said pointing at her face and walking away. Her friends followed her.
"I'm gonna kill him." James announced, and none of his friends bothered in discouraging him.
At the end, Lily had gotten everyone to forget about the incident (even though she ahdn't suspected that the reason many fifth-year Slytherins could attent to Potions lesson had been an awful and painful rash, courtesy of the Marauders), and the only thing everybody at the school was talking about was the Hallowe'en Ball. Many students had already planned their costumes and had asked their parents to send them over by owl, but many others would use the Hogsmeade visit to buy what they needed.
The Great Hall was almost empty, but in a corner at the Gryffindor's table, Becca and Lily were involved in a really hard-fought chess game, surrounded by their friends, who observed quietly.
"Whatcha doing?" Asked Black, sitting next to Bree, who attentively observed Rebecca's movements.
"Acrobatics, can't you see?" said the blonde, moving a bishop. Lily frowned.
"Right, but why aren't you getting ready to go to Hogsmeade? All the girls are like crazy about their Hallowe'en costumes." James (who had just arrived with his other two friends) asked.
"Whoever wins decides what everyone's wearing," answered Sam, tense: she wanted, no, she needed Lily to win. She didn't trust Becca. "We agreed it would be something muggle, but we couldn't decide what. So after arguing about it, we decided to do t this way; all of us have played, but it was reduced to these two."
The Marauders found it quite fun.
"I hope you win, Evans," said Black, playing with Bree's curls. "But only if you promise you'll make this blonde wear something truly ridiculous. I need a good laugh."
"Well then you're betting against me, Padfoot," said James, standing next to Lily. "I want Moon to win." And approaching to the redhead's ear, barely brushing her neck with his fingers he moved her hair so that she could listen to him better and whispered "I hope she makes you wear something really sexy for our date."
Lily went stiff, and trying to ignore him, moved any piece on the board. Then it was Becca's turn. Checkmate.
"YES!!" The blonde shouted, jumping with joy with her fists up in the air. "I won."
"It's not fair!" said Lily, standing up and pushing Potter. "He made me nervous!" Black let out a guffaw and James raised an eyebrow.
"Do I make you nervous, Evans?" he said in a seductive purr.
"Arrrg!" Lily grumbled, walking away with her arms folded. Samantha scowled at Potter.
"You better watch it. I'll painfully kill you whenever I get the chance." She said, standing up and going after the redhead. The quiet tone she used to say it ended up frightening the boy a bit and it made Eli smile.
"Fine, you two are coming with me. Off to Hogsmeade!" Rebecca said cheerfully, taking Brianna and Eli's arm and leaving the Great Hall.
"I refuse," said Lily with obstinacy, folding her arms. The costumes had been a surprise until Hallowe'en; as Rebecca couldn't enter to the Gryffindor rooms when it was time to change, she was giving them the dresses that afternoon.
"That wasn't the deal, Lily, and you know it," answered Becca with her arms on her hips. The five of them had met in the Charms classroom, and neither Sam nor Lily had like the costume very much.
"You never said we would have to dye our hair." She replied. Rebecca rolled her eyes.
"It's a spell. Bree and I have already practiced it, it works perfectly fine and it only lasts twelve hours. Why do you have to be so stubborn? We're all doing it, it'll be fun!"
"Well, I accept dying my hair, but I won't wear that." Sam said, pointing almost with fear at the bulk of clothes resting on one of the desks.
"Oh, come on Sam, it'll look great on you." Eli commented from the back of the room, where he was trying on his Hercules costume. Sam blushed.
"Come on, don't complain and say yes already," Bree asked in a weary voice.
"Besides, Lily, you can't complain, your dress doesn't show too much of anything. I searched for one that didn't" Added Becca, with annoyance. The redhead glared at her but ended up accepting.
James, sprawled out in the sofa, sighed. Sirius was the only bloke he knew capable of taking as long as a girl to dress up. He, Remus and Peter (who were playing chess) were already at the Common Room, but their friend was still upstairs arranging some last details about his aspect.
They heard some quick steps and a metallic tinkle, but before he could turn around, the portrait closed violently. Immediately after, a flowery scent invaded his nose, and the boy frowned.
"Was it Lily?" he asked, turning around as if the girl was still there.
"No, it was a black-haired girl dressed as a gypsy," answered Wormtail, focused on the game.
Seconds later, they heard steps again and a really tall girl came out of the women's rooms.
"Perks?" asked Potter, surprised. The girl's long, black hair was dyed in a silvery, almost white colour, and one of its locks was decorated with a golden ring. She had also painted some strange blue symbols on her right cheek that matched the strapless bikini she was wearing. It looked like she hadn't finished dressing up, because she was also wearing a pair of jeans that didn't really fit the rest of the outfit.
"What?" She answered inher usual bad mood, but she covered her bare belly with her arm and timidly took her white bangs off her eyes.
"Nothing," said James, shaking his head with a half smile. Perks wasn't as tough and confident as she pretended. "I wasn't sure I had recognized you." The girl snorted.
"How could you, if Remecca and Brianna have managed to dress me like an idiot." She said, moody.
"It looks good on you, showing some skin for a change, Perks," Black commented while walking down the stairs with an elaborate and sexy pirate costume. The girl looked daggers at him.
"Whatever. Have you seen Lily?" She asked, looking at Potter.
"I haven't." He answered, puzzled.
"She was dressed as Esmeralda." She clarified. The four Marauders looked at her with intrigue and she roled her eyes. "From a muggle children's film. The hunchback of Notre-Dame? Esmeralda, the gypsy?"
"Did she dye her hair too?" asked Peter, nodding.
"Then yeah, she has already left." Sam clicked her tongue and started going up the stairs again.
"Where was she going in such a hurry?" Potter asked with curiosity.
"She was running away from a lipstick." Sam grunted without turning around and without stopping.
"Well, shall we go?" Sirius asked, going down the rest of the steps.
"Checkmate," Lupin announced, smiling smugly at Peter. "Let's go."
"Hey, Esmeralda!" The Entrance Hall was full of people waiting for their dates, and Lily was having a hard time getting to the Great Hall. When she heard Eli's voice calling her she turned around to find her smiling friend dresses as the greek semigod whom the muggle children loved so much. The boy opened his arms and asked: "Don't I look splendid?" The girl laughed. Actually, he did look amazing; tall as he was, tanned as always, with his huge smile and in that warrior's suit, he would make more than one girl sigh.
"It's not fair. You didn't have to dye your hair." She complained, folding her arms.
"It's not my fault that I look so much like Hercules, sweetheart." He answered his fake arrogance, making her laugh again. "You do look very pretty, Lils." He said honestly, running his eyes over her.
The girl had tied a pink ribbon on her black hair, adorning her arms and ankles with golden bracelets to match the ring on her left ear. She was wearing a cream-coloured shirt that showed her bare shoulders in a really sensual way; a turquoise girdle and a lilac skirt. Over it, she had tied a dark purple shawl on which hanged little coins that tinkled on her hip.
"Thanks," Lily answered, sighing. "If only I wasn't barefoot, this wouldn't be that bad. But don't tell Becca I said that."
"Don't tell me what?" If the Ravenclaw attracted many looks dressed just in her school uniform, now no one could take their eyes off of her. She had dyed her long, blonde mane in a ginger tone, and had combed it to one said, covering one of her cat-like eyes, which she had made up to accent their shape. She had her arms wrapped in long, purple gloves and was wearing a stunning strapless red dress with a heart-shaped cleavage that highlighted her generous bosom and a long slit on one side. Besides, she was wearing really high heels.
"Wow," Lily said when her friend arrived. "You really look like Jessica Rabbit." Becca smiled.
"You look really pretty too, Lils, I'm glad you listened to me."
"Though she ran away from the lipstick," Said Sam, appearing next to Brianna. Eli couldn't stop staring at her without even noticing about it, and both Rebecca and lily burst out laughing non-stop and without explaining the reason.
"I knew princess Kida would go perfectñy with you," said Becca once she could stop laughing. "You look amazing, Sammie." The girl glared at her, but blushed a little. The truth was that she was really uncomfortable on that blue top and that kind of sarong skirt, and in case that wasn't enough, she was barefoot. Definitely more skin than she was used to showing.
"Don't call me Sammie" She spat, folding her arms over her body so that they wouldn't look at her. Her friend ignored her..
"And you Bree, look lovely!"
"You're the perfect Tinkerbell." Praised her Eli once he was out of his trance. Little Bree was wearing her hair now blonde- in a bun, a simple strapless light green dress with a heart-shaped cleavage, really short and ending points, and a couple of adorable tiny shoes with white pompoms, and ethereal wings on her back.
"There have to be advantages on being so tiny." She said, smiling.
"Well, shall we go in? Becca asked, making her way through the crowd. Her friends followed her, laughing at the looks the girl attracted.
When she had just entered at the Great Hall, Lily felt someone grabbed her wrist and she turned around.
"I knew it was you," the boy said with a huge smile that Lily returned. "Dark hair looks nice on you, it makes your eyes stand out."
"Thank you, Aidan." The girl could feel she blushed. She turned around for a second; her friends had kept walking but Sam had seen what had stopped her, and was making her hand getures to tell her to stay with him. "You look great too. You're a musketeer, right?" she asked, observing the boy's classical outfit. He nodded.
"I lost the other two blokes, but I'm supposed to be Aramis." He said.
"Aramis has always been my favourite musketeer." She .
"And you are a
gypsy?" Lily grimaced.
"Esmeralda, she's from a muggle gil, something we agreed to do with my friends
never mind. I didn't even choose the costume." She said, making a hand gesture. The boy smiled and Lily noticed once again the dimple on his cheek.
"Well, whatever you are, you look stunning. Hey, I didn't see you that much around Hogwarts after that time on the train
" He said, taking her hand and leading her to the dancing floor.
"Yeah, sorry. With my Prefect duties and the O.W.L this year I can't even breathe."
"Don't worry, I get you. The N.E.W.T.S are doing the same to me." He said. The music that sounded has really lively, and after a moment of shyness they both started dancing and chatting as if they had been in touch these last few months.
They danced for a long while and laughed a lot, but there was a moment when they had to stop because neither their feet nor their breaths could take it anymore..
"Would you wait for me here? I'll grab us something to drink." He said leaning close to her so that she could hear him. Lily nodded, leaving the dance floor.
"How are you doing, Casanova?" Said a voice in her ear. The girl turned around giving a start and met Eli's mischievous eyes.
"Pillock," said Lily lovingly, smiling at the boy. "Don't talk aout Casanovas; I've seen more than a few girls who won't stop ogling at you."
"Yeah, right." Eli said, crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out. Lily laughed.
"You should tell her." She said, getting serious. The boy looked at her, apparently disconcerted.
"What are you talking 'bout?" Lily narrowed her eyes.
"You know." Eli looked at her with his eyes wide open and with fake innocence, and our gypsy couldn't help laughing. The boy put his arm around her shoulders, hugging her and kissing her on the cheek.
"And who are you?" The seriousness in Aidan's voice startled both of them. Eli let Lily go, raising his palms in the air
"I'm not touching." He joked, but the Hufflepuff didn't laugh.
"He's Eli, one of my friends." Said Lily, slightly frowning.
"Oh,I see." The boy answered, relaxing only a little. "Here you go," he added, giving the redhead a cup and deliberately ignoring the Ravenclaw, who looked at Lily raising his eyebrows and flew out of there.
Aidan answered dryly to everything Lily said for a while, but he ended up forgetting about it and went on being the same nice boy as always.
"Would you like to go outside for a while=" He said when a quieter music begun to sound. Lily nodded and let him led her to the grounds.
The sky was full of stars, and there was a slight breeze but it wasn't cold. They walked in silence for a while, until Aidan stopped and, playing with Lily's hand, asked her in a tone that tried to be casual:
this bloke, Eli
" The girl laughed.
"He's just a friend. Really." Aidan smiled, relieved, and Lily felt like kissing that dimple.
"You have very pretty eyes, Lily," he said, and she got lost into his dark eyes. As he said so, he placed his hands on the redhead's (not so redhead) waist and carefully made her come closer to him. "I've always liked them." He whispered, raising one had and taking her face. Lily got even more close to him and, with her hands on his chest, waited for the kiss