After a week of typical English weather, gray and dismal like the mood I had adapted to, Henn came with the sunshine, shocking us all out of our dull lives and forcing us to look at brilliant light we were so unaccustomed to.
Brilliant light, which in this case, was reflecting from a particularly large rock sitting on her fist.
“I’m engaged!” she exclaimed with absolutely no preamble, no warning of any sort as she arrived at our flat, throwing said rock and attached ring into our bewildered, shocked faces.
“I’m blinded,” was Grace’s ludicrously inadequate reaction, whilst I proceeded to blurt out mine,
Aaron, the reason behind all of this and who was soon becoming in a rather alarming rate the target of my wrath, appeared at the stairs behind her, panting and clutching a stitch at his side.
“Blasted stairs – honey, how did you get up here so fast?”
“She must’ve been dying to tell us the news!” said Grace, being appropriately giddy for the occasion, whilst I continued with my incredulity.
I didn’t say I was creative about it.
“Honestly, Aaron, you’re the fit one of the pair,” said Henn, whilst I furtively brought Grace aside and hissed, “Did he just call her ‘honey’? Did you hear that? Honey?” If so, the situation was far more dire than I had expected. ‘Honey’ was reserved for the ultimate couples of our generation – those who had no one but each other and frequently went grocery shopping together.
Grace gave me a look which confirmed my suspicions – yes, I was definitely going socially insane – and promptly ignored me, turning to Henn instead. “So, how did this all happen? Are you going to tell us?”
“I will if you let us in,” she said with a brilliant grin that under normal circumstances, would’ve melted my growing sourness at the situation, but at present, only made me gape wordlessly at her, my eyes shooting from her, to Aaron (with a lingering glare) and back to the originally offensive item: the ring.
There was a fuss about said item as Grace and Henn, dutiful women who were upholding the standard for general fussiness over weddings, came into the flat whilst still trying to drag Henn’s suitcase inside. This was harder said than done, since halfway across the living room Grace decided to snatch Henn’s hand for the umpteenth time, which was unfortunately, still attached to said suitcase. After a few half-hearted curses and a resumed conversation back to, you guessed it, weddings, I was left at the front door still, opening and closing my mouth like some demented goldfish, with only Aaron to witness it.
Three days passed, and much to my dismay, the maniacal pre-marital euphoria that had infested the household had not yet faded. I hardly spoke in those three days, hoping that the two girls would realize on their own that this was the stupidest idea that had ever occurred to them, surpassing even our most flimsiest, imbecilic moments at Hogwarts, without my seemingly sour interjections. Upon realizing that this might never happen, I avoided our flat entirely by finding ridiculous excuses to leave.
“You left your pen – again?” said Henn as she sat on Grace’s bed, wedding magazines strung about the mattress, identical, inquisitive brows upon both my friends’ faces.
“It’s – an important pen,” I replied lamely. I had Apparated soon after that.
The Auror offices were busy as usual, even this late at night. Upon reaching my cubicle I slumped into my chair, exhausted from all the girl talk. I don’t know how long I sat there, simply staring at the wall before me, thinking of horrifying images of weddings and rings and attractive yet conniving Quidditch players who lure innocent girls into pre-contracts, when I sensed someone behind me. I whirled around, only to find Dorcas Meadowes leaning against the corner of my cubicle, her lips curving. The image itself was intensely reminiscent of my first day at the Ministry and our introduction.
It was only then that I realized that I had done something incredibly stupid – I had forgotten about her.
It was an interesting notion, forgetting about Dorcas Meadowes. Even under normal circumstances, there was no possible way to remain an Auror and put her out of your mind. She was infamous, respected, and scared the shit out of nearly everyone.
I was no exception. However, overlooking Dorcas Meadowes ordinarily, was imprudent. In my case, it was dangerous. Until then, I had not completely comprehended what sort of precarious state my career was in. She wasn’t a woman to trifle with, and I knew that. What I had done to her, however, was a bit more than just insubordination. I had accused her of leading an innocent woman to her death – therefore being an instrument to her murder. An image of Eleanor suspended flashed involuntarily in my mind – and I realized that I was right to accuse her. What Dorcas had done was unforgivable, and shouldn’t have gone unpunished.
With this thought, I straightened my shoulders and met her stare full on. Her eyes seemed to glitter behind her glasses, like a snake’s. Similarly, when she moved, her limbs seemed to uncoil and her teeth sharpen, if only for a moment. Then she was gone, leaving me with the threatening feeling that I had just escaped an assailant whose nature I was just beginning to comprehend.
When Sirius popped into my cubicle later that night I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined the entire encounter with Dorcas and really came out unscathed. I didn’t even notice him until he grasped my shoulders and shook me about a bit, causing me to spill ink all over the reports I had been writing. I cursed him for nearly two minutes straight, before calming down.
“A bit of a potty mouth, today,” Sirius noted amicably as he leaned against my desk.
“Just got off a shift?” I asked, observing his pale face and dark circles.
Sirius shrugged and yawned simultaneously. “Haven’t seen you around,” he said, stretching his arms overhead.
“That’s because Moody’s hardly got me on any shifts,” I replied with some sourness.
Sirius slumped forward, his black hair falling gracefully into his eyes in his usual fashion, even when he was exhausted and stressed. “Reckon he still thinks you’re nuts?”
I didn’t deem this statement worth of a reply. Instead I resumed staring at the report I had been looking at for an hour, thoughts running crazily in my head.
“Speaking of nutters, tonight I was paired with that Tia broad. Let me tell you – “
“Henn’s getting married,” I blurted out without warning, unable to keep it inside much longer.
Sirius stopped into the middle of his rant of the latest girl who had been stalking him and stared at me in disbelief. “What?”
“That’s what I said!” I cried, extremely relieved that someone else shared my incredulity.
“Not to that Aaron bloke?”
“Please get over your Hogwarts Quidditch rivalry for one second and freak out about this with me,” I pleaded, interrupting Sirius’ typical sulky look that any post-Gryffindor male shared whenever someone mentioned the former Ravenclaw Quidditch player. “The only people I’ve spoken to the past three days are two girls who are probably currently ranting nonsensically about china patterns and flower arrangements. You’re my only hope.”
Sirius seemed to take in my desperation seriously. “Well, obviously, it’s ridiculous,” he said finally.
“Yes! I know!” I exclaimed, encouraging him to continue.
“I mean, how long have they known each other? One month?”
“Three,” I corrected unwillingly. “But still!”
“Still a bit sudden.”
“Okay, I got nothing else.” Sirius shrugged helplessly. “Sorry.”
“What do you mean, you ‘got nothing else’? How about, ‘they barely know each other’, or ‘marriage isn’t something that should be rushed into’?”
“That basically falls into the ‘time’ category, Lily.” Sirius looked pensive for a moment. “Where would they live?”
Somehow, during my inner rant ofit’stoosoonit’stoosoonit’stoosoon this thought hadn’t occurred to me. Now it seemed stupid of me. After all, Henn lived in Sweden, which wasn’t exactly down the street. And Aaron had recently been accepted to the reserve team of Puddlemore United, so he probably wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Well, I haven’t exactly been discussing wedding plans with them.”
Sirius grinned. “So, what? You’ve just been sitting there looking sulky and hoping they get the message?”
I glared at him, having no better retort.
“It’s pretty classic ‘Lily’, I’ve got to say.”
I was interrupted in what eventually would’ve been a good defense of my character by James appearing overtop my cubicle. He was leaning against his crossed arms, his hair slightly less shaggier than usual in a tired sort of way. “Sirius? You ready to head back?” he asked, as if it weren’t an abomination that he was two feet away from me when I currently felt like strangling him.
“Yeah, okay,” replied Sirius, just as nonchalantly.
“I’ll grab my coat.” Then, to my astonishment, his eyes actually fastened upon mine.
But what came next was much worse.
And before I could do anything about it, he was off, happily grabbing his coat as if he hadn’t the faintest worry in the world.
Sirius didn’t seem to notice anything. He was just talking about Tia again, who I was beginning to suspect had grabbed the attentions of my handsome friend more than he would care to admit, when I spun around in my chair and blurted out, “Did you just see that?”
Sirius raised one of his immaculate black brows in that charming way of his. “See what?” he asked blankly, staying true to his gender and remaining oblivious to the atrocity that had just occurred in front of him.
“He nodded at me,” I said significantly.
I waited for this revelation to effectively hit him. When nothing happened except Sirius frowned in confusion, I repeated, “He nodded at me.”
“Is this one of those weird things that broads get pissed about?”
“Of course!” I exclaimed with exasperation, unwittingly agreeing with his slightly degrading comment. “He hasn’t spoken to me in more than a week and the last thing he said to me wasn’t exactly flattering. And now he’s what – nodding – at me?”
“At least he’s acknowledging you, right?” When my furious expression did not alter, he continued somewhat hesitantly with, “Uh…or not?”
“We used to date, Sirius,” I said slowly, as if he didn’t know, as if he hadn’t experienced the angst and twisted-ness of it all. “It’s insulting that he’s nodding at me. Don’t you get it?”
“No,” said Sirius bluntly.
“For goodness’ sake!” I snapped, throwing my hands up in the air with exasperation. I gathered my papers and pushed him off my desk as I attempted to find a decent writing device – ironic, since that had been my initial excuse to get away from said ‘broads’. “I need to talk to girls!”
“Ah, but those girls aren’t talking about anything but china patterns, according to you,” said Sirius sagely. “Sorry, love, I’m all you got.”
I stared at him as this possibility hit me. My reservations must’ve shown in my face, for Sirius added dryly, “Goodness, am I really that bad?
“You don’t know what you want, Lily Evans!” Sirius shouted after me as I left. “One minute you’re running away from the birds and the next you’re running to them – make up your mind, woman!”
Of course, Sirius was right. About the whole ‘not knowing what I want’ bit. Nevertheless, it was a relief to get back to my flat. Henn and Grace had fallen asleep by then, not that this was any hindrance.
I barged into the room and shouted, “James just nodded at me!” in a fashion that was rather reminiscent of ‘The British are Coming!’
Although both of my friends, who were currently sleeping in Grace’s large bed, wedding magazines still strewn about them, had similar initial reactions – namely, anger, crankiness, and irritability at being woken up – they were soon on board and were respectively, each taking up the emotions I wanted – indignation, and rage.
I smiled. Girls had their purposes after all.
It was only the next day as I woke up for my early shift at four in the morning that I realized that I was going to do something about James. The thought was there as I woke, as if the whole time I had been dreaming I had actually been concocting a plan of immediate revenge.
Thoughts of righteous vindication were promptly eliminated as I met Alice by St. Mungo’s, and she started to chatter away about the second target of my wrath – weddings.
“The flower arrangements were tricky,” she was saying, as I desperately attempted to regain whatever hazy, half-conscious thoughts of my plan ,which had been present when I had initially regained consciousness that morning. She had a fervent look upon her face as she went over the ceremony’s details over and over again. The wedding was this Saturday, and over the weeks Alice had become progressively more forbidding as the date drew nearer. “But that was all sorted out. I can’t believe they’d confuse lilies with tulips. Honestly, the incompetence of some people –”
Alice had no way of knowing that I really was not at all inclined to talk about weddings at the moment, so I made a point of letting her know in some subtle way of mine. “Henn’s just got engaged,” I burst out, interrupting Alice’s ramble about doilies.
Alice froze, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “She’s not getting married this month, is she?” she asked, instinctual bridal rivalry kicking in.
“I’m…not sure,” I said nervously.
“You’re not sure?” she repeated, in a tone that sent shivers up my spine.
“Well, they just got engaged. So probably not,” I quickly assured her.
“Oh, well, that’s great!” she exclaimed, her mood changing from hostile to congratulatory in an alarmingly quick rate.
“Uh…yeah. I guess,” I said, baffled at the sudden change in her. We walked in silence for a bit, and before Alice could start ranting about the bridesmaid dresses again, I added, “It’s that they haven’t known each other very long.”
“Did he not go to Hogwarts with you all?” asked Alice, uncomprehending.
“No, he did,” I said, somewhat grudgingly, “but they only started going out at the end of the year. At the Graduation Ball.” Alice murmured understandingly. “And they hardly see each other. Henn lives in Sweden and Aaron lives here, and I just don’t think it’s very – well, prudent.”
“Well, love isn’t prudent is it?” said Alice in her typical, bright fashion.
“It should be,” I muttered somewhat irritably.
“To tell you the truth, I would’ve married Frank a year ago,” said Alice somewhat mischievously, her eyes twinkling. “But his mother would’ve never allowed it. Something about tradition – we had to know one another for at least a year or she wouldn’t give us her blessing. It was important to Frank. I personally, wouldn’t have cared,” she added bitterly. She then muttered something about “off her rocker” and “crazy bitch.”
I tried to hide my amusement – Alice was one of the sweetest people I knew and I had never heard her talk badly about anyone. “Will she be at the wedding?”
“Unfortunately,” she sighed. Then, with a naughty grin she added, “You won’t miss her. She’ll be the old broad with the vulture on her head.”
The security around London had heightened because of the recent attacks, but there were still reports of families disappearing in other areas. A family of five had been brutally massacred in Surrey, and the Aurors still hadn’t caught the Death Eaters who had done it. The only indication of the culprit was the ghastly green skull overhead, but that sign was seen so often now that it was hardly a clue.
When I arrived at our flat later that night, Henn and Grace were making dinner. For once, Grace was abdicating her control over the kitchen and allowing Henn to prepare the main course, which happened to be a Swedish recipe we had never heard of before.
“Hello Lily,” Henn greeted brightly as I entered the kitchen. “Oh, and Sirius!”
Sirius had been showing up more frequently at dinner these days, due to the fact that all his friends were either working, depressed, or harassed by maniac girlfriends. He kissed Henn on the cheek and nodded to Aaron, who deemed inadequate to cook, was setting up the table unabashedly. Sirius seemed to be a bit relieved that another male was present – I could tell sometimes that he felt overwhelmed by estrogen when the three of us were the only ones around. I didn’t blame him – he was a part of the infamous Marauders, whom at Hogwarts, had been absolutely inseparable. A lot had been lost and changed since then.
Aaron, noticing our sober expressions, noted amiably, “The weekend’s here.”
Sirius and I exchanged looks – we both had been thinking about the family in Surrey – but not wanting to ruin the happy mood Sirius forced a smile and said, “Yeah, for once, we have Saturday off.”
“I love weddings,” said Henn, and Aaron and her exchanged a furtive look that undoubtedly they believed no one else had witnessed, and which infuriated me.
As if the mere mention of the word had suddenly summoned her, Alice was suddenly present in the kitchen as well, much to everyone’s alarm.
“Oh my god!”
Alice didn’t bother to apologize, but just started ranting, even as the more spooked of us finally lowered our wands, “I can’t believe this! How could this happen? Blasted relatives, you can never count on them –”
“Um, Alice?” I asked tentatively, instantly regretting it.
“My cousin is sick!” she cried out, baritone-style, causing us all to jump again.
“Sorry?” offered Sirius.
“Dragon pox!” answered Alice as if he had asked. “Honestly, relatives. Everyone says family’s all you got but they just – just – “ Alice paused as she struggled to find an adequate word to describe this betrayal. “–disappoint you!”
“Can’t you die from dragon pox?” said Henn in a carrying whisper, but Alice was beyond paying attention.
“That’s awful, Alice,” I said as sensitively as I could. “Really. But that doesn’t explain why you appeared in my kitchen to scare the living shit out of everyone.”
“Well, I came for you, of course,” she said, looking slightly deranged as my brain filled with all sorts of ominous possibilities, including pseudo-death reaper scenarios.
“I need you to be my bridesmaid,” she clarified, and perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed like I wasn’t the only one who let out a relieved breath.
Before I could assure her that I would do it, Alice took my open mouth as affirmation. “You’re the right size, and I like you,” she said, ticking off the reasons why I had been chosen for the part. “Oh, and you have to come to rehearsal with me. Now.”
I could tell from the look on her face that there would be no arguing with her. Apparently, brides were a XXXXX dangerous level in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
I looked forlornly at the people who were about to be happily fed. “Leave me some food?” I asked, and Sirius, Aaron, and Henn all snorted in reply.
“Just my luck,” I muttered as I Disapparated with Alice, following her to the rehearsal.
Alice and Frank’s wedding was to take place in a beautiful park on the outskirts of London. The tables were set up for the reception, lovely and white against the green grass and each to be illuminated with floating lanterns the following night, and the chairs and altar were set up as well for the ceremony. The altar was placed at the classical Greek styled pavilion, and all the guests would be facing it during the ceremony.
Not that I noticed any of this as we were drilled relentlessly by Alice pseudo-military style. Every time one of us missed a step Alice would shriek and have us start over. The groomsmen had it easy – all they had to do was stand and look pretty at the altar, watching with amusement as we were forced to start the music over and over again. Soon amusement morphed into boredom, and then annoyance. I was positive that a normal rehearsal wouldn’t have taken two hours, but I wasn’t about to bring that to Alice’s attention.
Two of Alice’s cousins were there to suffer alongside me. Alice’s maid of honor was close to me in age, and I remembered her vaguely from Hogwarts being a few years older than me. Then there was Rachel, the flower girl, who was to be a first year after the summer. She was a coquettish little girl who acted like she was sixteen, brazenly flirting with the groomsmen and skipping around in her skirt. I looked about for some sort of adult supervision but found none – Rachel’s mother was clearly not present and us women were far too occupied with memorizing our steps to be paying attention to certain underage witches’ lewd ways.
“Honestly, it’s not that hard! One, two! One, two!” Alice was now shrieking at her maid of honor, who shot back a nasty look at her as she stalked back to the aisle to recommence. I was already at the pavilion with Rachel, bored out of my mind now that Alice had absolutely forbidden conversation between the people at the altar. There was no chance of me getting to know the groomsmen or the minister, who was standing as erectly as he could after two hours, watching motionlessly as Erika, the maid of honor, made her way down the aisle for the umpteenth time.
“Please, please let her do it right this time,” I muttered pleadingly, and apparently audibly as the groomsmen sniggered.
My prayers went unanswered as Erika tripped (honestly, it really wasn’t that hard, I had gotten it right the second try) so I focused on the family who was there. Frank’s abhorrent mother was not present, but both of Alice’s parents were, fondly watching their daughter as she induced Erika into tears, as was Alice’s spinster aunt, who was a reserve bridesmaid. It wasn’t really necessary for her to be there, but I could tell that the poor woman didn’t really have anything better to look forward to – imminent as her eyes gleamed every time Erika tripped, as if hoping that she’d break a leg and be able to substitute her.
The maid of honor was now complaining to be breaking out in sweat and stomach pain. I wanted to tell her that she’d be able to go back to her flat and complain all she wanted after the rehearsal, but thought it best not to break Alice’s ‘no talking’ rule.
Apparently Alice was thinking along the same lines. “Honestly, suck it up, Erika!”
I was going to be there all night, I knew it.
I was required to be at the park at noon, even though the wedding started at seven. Under normal circumstances I would’ve told Alice to bugger off, but luckily I did not have to experience her wrath for Moody had scheduled me to patrol from four in the morning to noon, again. Alice would understand, I told myself, that I needed to sleep if I wanted to have any energy whatsoever for the wedding. Still, I sent Sirius as the messenger.
When I arrived from my shift, he was sitting at the table, nursing a bruise on his shoulder.
“Something about floral arrangements,” Sirius explained in disbelief.
“Oh, were the tulips delivered instead of the lilies?” I said before I could stop myself.
Sirius froze as the two of us digested this newfound marital knowledge of mine. “You’re one of them,” he gasped in horror.
I sighed. “I don’t want to deal with this. I’m going to bed.”
“You’ll need it. I didn’t even tell her that you weren’t coming until later.”
“What? Sirius, why not?” I cried. “Did you not see how anal she is?”
“Yes, and that’s exactly why I didn’t tell her,” said Sirius self-righteously. He pointed at the flowering bruise that nearly encompassed his entire right bicep. “I got this just from hearing about blasted tulips. Imagine what she would’ve done to me if I told her one of her bridesmaids was going to sleep instead of submitting to her will?”
I weighed out my options. Alice in this state was clearly not good to be around, for anyone’s health. And since the rehearsal had somehow lasted four hours the night before, leaving me one measly hour of sleep before I had to get up for my patrol, without any food left, mind you, I decided that I had ever right to collapse. I simply would arrive at three. Or maybe four. That was plenty of time to help.
“Good night,” I said decisively, and made my way over to my comfortable, beautiful bed.
But I had overslept.
I had planned to wake up at three, so that I could take a shower, get dressed, and overall just look presentable. That way I would be at the park at Alice’s beck and call at four o’ clock, a full three hours before the ceremony. It was a perfect plan. But my body had not cooperated.
At four o’ clock I woke up, horrified, slipped into my bridesmaid dress, grabbed the first edible thing I could find (it turned out to be turnips – why did we have turnips?) and stuffed it in my mouth as I simultaneously Disapparated.
“Lily!” exclaimed Alice as I met her. She was quite a sight, even more so than me: half her hair was in rollers and it was apparent that her eyebrows had just been plucked – along with the rest of her facial hair – rendering her face beet red.
“You look lovely,” I lied, but my half-assed compliment fell on deaf ears as I was ushered into the large tent that had been set up next to where the ceremony would take place.
“Great news!” she said brightly, with a false, wide smile, and for a moment I was so stunned at my reversal of fortunes (no bruises, no raging ferocity directed in my direction), I barely registered what she said next. “You’ve been upgraded to maid of honor!”
“Maid of honor?” I sputtered in disbelief. “But what about Erika?”
I could see that Alice’s smile had become a little strained – her left eye in particular seemed to be twitching. “Erika – shall not be – attending,” she said slowly, breathing erratically.
Sensing a possible nervous breakdown, I didn’t inquire further. Not that I needed to. The whole time I was helping Alice get ready she muttered several telling things, until finally she spun around in her chair and demanded to know how fatal dragon pox actually was.
“I believe there’s a 62.6% death rate,” said Alice’s spinster aunt who had landed the position she wanted – bridesmaid – and surprising us all.
I stared at her as I stuffed a piece of spearmint gum in my mouth in hopes of getting rid of my turnip breath. Apparently this was rather typical behavior of hers, for several other relatives were rolling their eyes. “Uh, right,” I said, just because I thought the situation would grow even weirder if I had said nothing at all.
“I knew it,” said Alice with a slightly fanatical smile. “I knew it. They’re just jealous – I’m the first out of all of us to get married, they’re just being petty, little girls who can’t stomach a simple cold – ”
“Why don’t we start putting on your makeup?” I intervened.
“Oh, yes, I set it up right over there,” said Alice, pointing carelessly to the cabinet where her foundation, blush, lipstick, and eye makeup were all assembled, neatly and organized.
Everything went well for a while, until it was time to apply her eye makeup. I took out the mascara and proceeded to use it on Alice when the wand broke at first contact with Alice’s eyelashes, falling onto her face and streaking it with black.
Alice’s reaction to all of this was to scream as loudly as she possibly could and throw a tantrum – squeals, flailing arms and kicking legs all included.
“It’s okay!” I assured her with some panic, already grabbing a soaked towel and applying it to her face. By the time I realized that all the women in the room had suddenly lunged towards me, it was already too late, and Alice had burst into wailing tears. “What is it?” I asked, desperately looking to the women to explain what it was I had done.
“That,” said Alice’s twice removed great-aunt with the utmost melodramatic slowness, “was a potion to apply afterwards – so that the makeup would last up to twelve hours.”
Feeling that the room was rapidly becoming my own personal hell, I attempted to comfort Alice. “It’s okay! We can just – wash it off –”
“You can’t wash it off,” said Rachel, her hip cocked arrogantly to the side in a gesture that I knew she would master by the time she was fifteen. “That’s the whole point.”
“There’s a 99.7% success rate,” uttered the spinster aunt, nodding. “Practically impossible to wash off.”
“Well, then we’ll figure something out!” I snapped. “I’m sure there’s a charm, or something – ”
“This – is – all – terrible!” wailed Alice in an acute impersonation of Moaning Myrtle. “First the flowers, then the turnip smell,” (I chewed my gum faster) “and now this! Why is everything going so wrong?”
“Maybe you’re not meant to be married today,” offered one of the relatives.
“Yeah, perhaps it’s a sign.”
“We all know that Aunt Enid married three times because she didn’t step with her right foot into the first ceremony – ”
Everyone stopped chattering at once, and I wondered if maybe I really was cut out for all of this maid of honor business. All of the women’s eyes were on me.
“I want everyone out of this tent now,” I said with as much calm as I could muster. “Anyone who doesn’t will suffer the consequences.” I personally felt that this threat was rather half-hearted, but added with a subtle touch to my wand, turned out to be effective, and the women began to leave. I pointed at the bratty flower girl with a sudden burst of inspiration and said, “You. Find James Potter and bring him here. He’s tall, shaggy hair, glasses – ”
“Oh, I know who he is,” said the flower girl in a tone I didn’t like.
“Do you know how old you are?” I demanded. “Go get him.”
She teetered away, giggling.
Alice was staring at me, apparently just as surprised as I was at my newfound power. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know yet, but I know that you’re not going into your wedding looking like you got run over by bicycle wheels.”
James appeared soon after that, Rachel in tow. I shot her a look and she didn’t need much coaxing – she left, but not before glancing at James with a – there really was no other way to describe it, even if she was ten – ‘come hither’ smile.
“What’s going on?” he asked in that infuriating nonchalant way of his that he had adapted to lately, but at least he wasn’t nodding in greeting.
“This,” I said, turning Alice in her chair to face him. This wasn’t very effective, since she hid her face in her hands with a shriek as soon as she saw him. “Come on, Alice,” I sighed. “James needs to see you to help.”
When I finally got Alice to show her face, at least James didn’t cringe. He simply studied her and said, “Oh.”
“Right. It’s some potion,” I said, tossing him the flask it had come in. “It’s supposed to keep her makeup on for twelve hours. We obviously don’t have that time.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Well, you were the best in Transfiguration, and I was rather good at Charms.” I shrugged. “I think that between the two of us, we can find a solution.”
James nodded as Alice shrieked, “Transfiguration? No way, you are not transfiguring my face.”
“I don’t think we’ll need to,” said James, smiling. He was clearly amused but was trying to hide it. It was good to see him smile, I realized. His eyes met mine for a moment and it seemed like his eyes had twinkled in that mischievous way of his – but soon he was looking aw ay and I couldn’t tell if I had imagined it.
It was difficult, but we managed it. I used a few charms to bring attention to her other features – her eyes sparkled more, her lips were slightly rosier and had just the right amount of shine to them. I worked on her hair while James conducted a few spells I had never even known were possible – there was a point that he actually transfigured the tiny hairs on Alice’s face to become skin that flawlessly covered the offending, black mascara mark. By the time we were done, Alice didn’t even need makeup, and she looked lovely.
“Wow,” said James when we finished and I nodded, speechless.
“What is it?” asked Alice, touching her face worriedly, but when she turned around and looked at herself in the mirror, she let out an exclamation of jubilation. “Oh my god! I look – well – “
“Beautiful,” I said, just as James uttered, “Hot.”
We all laughed, and when I actually caught James’ eye, he seemed to be genuinely grinning at me. I forgot how funny we used to be together, how odd it must’ve looked to the common observer – we were so different, but somehow, we fit. We used to work so well together.
The two of us left Alice to continue admiring her face and I walked James out of the tent. “Thanks for helping,” I said with genuine gratitude.
“I was surprised that you thought of me,” replied James with a shrug. And there it was again – his guard was back on. It was a forced nonchalance, and it continued to be insulting. Whatever brief moments of levity we had just had were now gone.
“Of course I did,” I said somewhat forcibly.
James didn’t seem to notice. “Well, take it easy,” he said, with a nod.
“Take it easy?” I repeated in disbelief, but James didn’t seem to hear me. He was already moving towards our friends, who were all sitting together in the fourth row. For a moment I was completely prepared to charge after him and demand that he treat me with some small ounce of normalcy and decency, but I was distinctly forced back to reality when Alice called in renewed hysterics, “Lily? I don’t think the dress fits!”
The dress did fit after all, the zipper had just gotten stuck. Alice was more than a little relieved – for a moment it looked like the possibility that she had gained weight was only the beginning of an apocalyptic conclusion to her wedding. I pondered how so many things could’ve gone wrong in one wedding when the reception hadn’t even started yet and how I, of all people, had been chosen on this fateful day (or rather, forced into) to support Alice through all of this. I secretly hoped that Frank and his best man were having just as many crises to deal with but somehow doubted that much was going on as they waited at the altar.
After finally convincing Alice that she was more than ready for the ceremony to begin, I called in Alice’s relatives to all gush over the bride and take photos whilst simultaneously applying my makeup hurriedly. Then I ordered whoever was in the wedding to stand by, forcing several reluctant great aunts to leave the tent. Alice’s mother was particularly difficult to kick out, crying hysterically as she clung to her daughter’s skirts whilst simultaneously being dragged out by two of Alice’s younger cousins.
Rachel took her post at the front of the column self-righteously, but not before attempting to stuff the upper part of her bodice with tissue paper. Looking sullen after I snatched it away, Aunt Statistics came up behind her. Although she had gotten the prized position of a bridesmaid after I was upgraded to maid of honor, it was clear that this was an issue of great sourness for her.
“Knew her since she was a baby – family –” she muttered as I indicated where she should stand behind Rachel, who was already practicing her smile and holding the bouquet. I had to snatch tissues away from her twice more after finally being satisfied that she had nothing else that could possibly replicate a bust on the ten year old’s body.
“Okay, I think we’re ready!” I said, nearly crying with relief as the music started and Rachel left the tent in her tiny, measured steps. I went over all the things that could possibly go wrong in my head. I had personally checked all the heels of the shoes, to make sure they offered stability as Alice’s little cousin and aunt did their rehearsed steps. I had haphazardly thrown my hair into a fashionable bun as I simultaneously checked that the minister was in place, as were the groomsmen and groom. There were no straggling guests, for they were all in their seats – I had made sure of that. The bouquets were fresh and had been transfigured into the desirable lilies, the lighting was perfection, Alice’s aunt had just started her walk down the aisle, the bride – uh, the bride –
The bride had lapsed into sobs. Again.
“Do I want to ask?” I uttered weakly to the heavens, but I knew I had to. “Uh…Alice? You – er – ready to go?”
“I c-c-c-an’t do this!”
Oh my god. This was not happening.
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t do this’?” I demanded, all sensitivity gone. “Today’s your wedding day, Alice. You’ve been planning this for months now. You forced me to experience the most hellish twenty-four hours of my life. You bloody well better be able to ‘do this’.”
All of these legit, solid reasons seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. “What if I can’t do it?” she said, her voice tiny now.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, completely uncomprehending.
Alice’s lip quivered as she repeated, “What if I can’t do it?”
It occurred to me then that as I was running about, completely stressed out and attempting to resolve all the crises that had befallen this wretched wedding, I had forgotten about the absolute, primary duty of the maid of honor – to convince the bride that she was ready to be married.
Because Alice was afraid. Not just afraid, but terrified. As well she should be. It was marriage, for goodness’ sake! It was no small thing that she was vowing to do today. It was something so huge that I flaked out of such a promise the first chance I got, knowing I wasn’t ready to be married, even to the man I loved.
“You can do it,” I said as kindly as I could, trying to ignore the note in the musical score that was supposed to signal my entrance. “You love Frank – you said so yourself that you would’ve married him a year ago if you could.”
“But look at me!” she cried out, pointing at herself and flailing her bouquet, which I had personally trimmed to look perfect, about. I tried not to cringe as petals were loosened and flown about. “I’ve had at least five mental breakdowns today. I obviously can’t handle pressure. What if I’m a terrible wife? What if I screw up at first opportunity?”
“Hey, you can handle pressure,” I refuted. “You’re an Auror, aren’t you? How many times have we patrolled together? Have you ever, ever lost your cool?”
Before Alice could say ‘no,’ I continued, “And besides! You freaked out about these things because today’s your wedding day. Brides are supposed to freak out about these things. This is just one, hellish day. Marriage is completely different.
“Just think about it this way,” I said, inspiration hitting me. I could hear the murmur now of the crowd as they wondered why the bride and maid of honor hadn’t appeared yet. “Is there anyone else you can possibly imagine spending the rest of your life with?”
Alice didn’t even have to think about it. “No,” she said immediately. She was already straightening her posture, her poise more confident. “Only Frank.”
I grabbed a hold onto her shoulders. “Well, then let’s go,” I said. “Because you’re probably making him sweat out there, waiting for you.”
Alice’s eyes widened as she just noticed the music that was going on somewhat tentatively now. “Oh, shit! We missed our cue! Go! Now!”
I didn’t need any more coaxing. I started out of the tent, winking at Alice, who was practicing her bride-ly smile. I couldn’t help but grin as I made my way around the guests and made my way to the aisle, which was already strewn with the petals that Rachel had thrown. The summer night was perfect – not too hot, or humid, but comfortably warm. The pavilion which Frank and the rest of the wedding party was standing at looked magnificent, and the orchestra, upon seeing the maid of honor were playing more confidently now that the crowd’s nervousness was fading. I counted my steps carefully and met Frank’s gaze as he mouthed, ‘Is she okay?’
I did the tiniest nod, and he relaxed, his best man patting him on the shoulder. I winked as I passed my friends, laughing as Sirius let out a wolf call. I forced myself not to look at James.
For a moment I thought that there was a vulture sitting in the front row, but upon closer inspection I saw Alice’s dreaded mother-in-law, who was observing the ceremony with a keen and skeptical eye, her nose pointed in the air. Alice’s parents were sitting next to her, eyeing the hat warily.
I finally reached the pavilion and stood by Alice’s aunt. The music grew to a crescendo and Alice appeared at the foot of the aisle, absolutely radiant.
It was Frank’s expression that really caught my attention. There was something there that I believed I was just beginning to grow the courage to comprehend. It was as if there was no one in the room but those two, for they did not have eyes for anyone but one another. Grimly, I noted that we didn’t need to spend so much time and effort to the small details of the wedding if Alice wasn’t even going to be paying attention to them.
Without volition my eyes fell upon James, and my heart jumped as I saw him staring at me already. My breath caught in my throat. There was such fire there, in that gaze. I wanted to run into his arms right there and then, but common and social instinct forced me to stay in place.
I didn’t want to tear my eyes away, but soon Alice was at the altar, and the minister was speaking.
“Ladies and gentleman! We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls…”
I was still thinking about James’ look when the ceremony ended, jerking me out of my reverie. Alice and Frank were kissing now, much to the guests’ joy as they took photos and cheered. I couldn’t help but let out breath that I didn’t realize I was holding in. It was over. Finally.
The guests were meant to follow the bridal party to the area that would hold the reception, and Alice grabbed my hand as she passed me. I grinned at her. “You did it!”
Grabbing Rachel by the back of her dress as she reached towards the handkerchief that Alice’s aunt was holding, I dragged her to the reception as the guests followed us.
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” Frank’s uncle was telling me as he shook my hand. I was required to stand with the rest of the bridal party as each guest came and shook our hand – many assumed that I was simply a distant relation, and after correcting the first twenty or so people, I grew tired and accepted whatever title they gave me.
“You’re Jean and Toby’s youngest, aren’t you?” he added as he peered at my face too close for comfort.
“Yep,” I said automatically, wrenching my hand away from him and proceeding to the next guest, who happened to be Grace.
“I cried,” she stated unnecessarily, for her blue eyes were completely red-rimmed.
“Me too,” said Sirius soberly, and I laughed and pushed him along the procession towards Rachel, who was absolutely ecstatic to shake his hand, to Alice’s aunt, who giggled rather girlishly upon having him introduce himself.
Alice caught my eye and grinned. Now that the ceremony was over she was infinitely more relaxed, and back to being sweet, easygoing Alice. “You hanging in there?”
I shrugged. “I was asked again if I was Jean and Toby’s daughter.”
“Well, she’s a redhead too. I suppose you kind of look like her. Frank?”
Frank poked his head around Alice as he simultaneously shook an old man’s hand. “Prettier, I think,” he said. He grinned at me. “I can say that now. I’m married.”
“Yeah, don’t take advantage of it just yet,” said Alice. He pouted at her jokingly and gave her a quick kiss, before turning to one of his aunts. It was definitely one of those ‘aww’ moments, which is why I was completely distracted when James came up in front of me.
But he didn’t shake my hand. In fact, he skipped me all together and moved on to Rachel, who looked like she had hit the jackpot.
No apologetic look, or any sort of acknowledgement. I gaped at him.
“That is it!” I snapped, already marching towards him, but I was held back by Alice’s formidable mother-in-law, who literally pulled me back into the line and proceeded to shake my hand forcibly.
“You’re that Lily girl, I suppose,” she said in a way that I wasn’t entirely sure if it was an insult. “Auror, I’m assuming?”
“Yes,” I said, taken aback and stunned by the proximity of the stuffed vulture. It really did look real if you tilted your head back –
“A satisfactory wedding,” she barked, still shaking my hand with vigor and energy that was surprising in the older woman. “I think I would’ve preferred something smaller, simpler –“
James was walking away now, his shaggy head bobbing above the crowd. It was just so odd – one moment he was looking at me in that way and the next he was brushing me off unimportantly –
– and I hope that you learned your lesson about décolletage,” she finished, already proceeding to the flower girl.
I blinked and glanced at Alice, who was struggling not to laugh. “Décolletage?” I repeated, looking down at my modest, square cut pink gown that Alice had chosen for the bridesmaids. “What décolletage?”
“She’s like that,” said Alice with a shrug. “Said my dress was too pale. Yeah – it’s white.”
Bewildered, I shook myself as Frank’s sister-in-law introduced herself. I tried to look interested as I discreetly looked around for James. He had disappeared into the crowd.
A/N: As you can see, this chapter was a bit lengthier...let me know if you prefer it. Also keep in mind, however, that if the chapters are longer the updates will take longer as well...just a thought.
More wedding scenes coming up in the next chapter. Please, do review! I really enjoy reading them even if I can't respond to all of them, and I feel that lately the number of reviewers have been dwindling.
Summer is starting for those of us who reside in the northern hemisphere...I wish you all a great summer! I will be busy, so that doesn't necessarily mean that I'll be able to update more...although bits and pieces of chapter 68 are currently in the making!