Chapter 39 : Chapter Thirty Nine
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“Are you sure about this?”
I coughed in what I hoped was in an unsuspicious way and looked at James. His hair was ruffled because he had been running a hand through it like he always did when he was nervous or confused or just had nothing better to do. He furrowed his eyebrows at Virginia’s manor then gave me a questioning look.
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” I said. I cursed myself for my voice cracking at such inconspicuous timing.
“Well, it doesn’t exactly look like—” James paused, grimacing at his words and trailing off.
“Anywhere I would be?” I finished for him gloomily.
“Well, no.” James said in an unconvincing tone. I scowled at him.
“You’re of age, right?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at his luggage as he bent down to carry it.
James raised an eyebrow. “Yeah.”
“Well, then just use magic. There’s no one around here anyway.” I replied. James didn’t seem convinced so I said, “Seriously. The next house is pretty far away from here and I doubt anyone is looking through the windows.”
“If you say so,” James shrugged, and then took out his wand from his pocket, pointing it at his single bag and levitating it into the air. It followed us as we walked up the gravel path and then turned left to go up the vine at the side of my house. I looked at the windows, double and triple checking if anyone was peeking.
“Who did you say lives here again?” James asked for what must’ve been the umpteenth time.
“No one.” I said. I hoped I didn’t sound too rushed. “Er – well…we rented it. Yeah, we rented it.”
James stopped suddenly and gave me a weird look. He stepped up and stared down at me, frowning. “You’re lying.” He said simply.
“I am not.” I said hotly.
James smirked. “Yeah, right.” He said, and then started again around the house. I growled and followed him, cursing myself for not hitting him.
“It’s here.” I said once we reached my window. James raised his wand and slowly the bag lifted and finally fell down onto the balcony. I hoped no maid was in there cleaning or something. I looked around again and then reached towards the ivy.
“If I didn’t know any better,” James said in an irritably superior voice as he too, climbed the ivy. “I’d say you’re trying to hide me.”
“Oh, be quiet.” I said, because of course that was true. If I could prevent it, James would never meet Virginia and Virginia would never meet him. This house was big enough, so I was sure he could hide himself. I reached my balcony and swung my leg over it, stumbling as I practically fell down onto the marble. I straightened up and brushed the leaves off of my clothes just as James jumped onto the balcony also, grinning like he did it every day. I rolled my eyes and grabbed the handles of the doors, wrenching them open and peeking inside.
“Is the coast clear?” James asked, not bothering to keep his voice down. I felt like smacking him as he followed me into my room anyway, his bag hitched up on his shoulder.
“Okay…” I said just to break the silence. James was looking around the room, not looking the least bit interested. I waited for him to say something.
“This looks like something my dad would like to live in,” he finally said, setting his bag onto my bed and dropping onto it. I frowned as he messed up my comforter. He grinned at me. “Looks like we’re going to be roommates, eh?”
“Yeah, but not bedmates.” I scolded. “You’re sleeping on the floor.”
James gave me an incredulous look. “How? I didn’t exactly bring a spare mattress.”
“We’ll figure it out.” I said briskly, walking into my bathroom and proceeding to brush my hair. James followed me in, studying the loo now. He whistled.
“Whoever ahem – rented this, sure has a lot of money.” He said in a would-be-casual voice. I scowled.
“I’m ignoring you.” I said, although I couldn’t help but smile as he beamed at me from behind.
“You can’t do that,” he said, kissing me shortly on the cheek and then going over to the bathtub, where he started the taps. “We’re sharing a room, aren’t we?”
“Don’t do that,” I said warningly, but James was already taking some of my shampoo and spraying it inside of the tub. I glared at him.
“You’re going to waste it.”
“No, I’m not.” He said, chuckling. He grabbed my bubble bath liquid and dumped some inside too.
“James,” I groaned, marching over to him and letting my brush down onto the sink. I grabbed his wrist and wrenched the bottle away from him, setting it down next to the running taps and glaring at him. He grinned.
“Lily,” he said, mimicking me. He grabbed my wrists too and pulled me closer.
“You’re going to get me wet,” I scowled.
“With what? The bubbles or my mouth?”
I blushed. “Stop it.”
James snorted. “Like you want me to.”
“I do.” My protest turned more into a squeal though, since James had clamped his mouth onto mine and had proceeded to kissing me. I squirmed out of his reach and he groaned.
“What is it?” he asked as I turned off one of the taps. “Do you not like kissing me?” He laughed, as if he very well doubted this. I rolled my eyes as he came up behind me and put his hands on my waist. I stopped for a moment, my hand still on the tap.
“You like me kissing you,” he whispered in my ear. I could feel him grinning against my face. “C’mon, you can admit it.”
I turned around, wrapping my arms around his neck. “What if I don’t like kissing you though?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. He grinned.
I rolled my eyes. “Shut up.”
“Okay,” he said, and then kissed me again. I smiled against his lips as he pulled me closer and let his hands fall down to my hips, resting there. I breathed in his cologne and closed my eyes. The sound of the running water was slowly dimming.
He pulled away for a moment and smirked at me, letting go of my hips. I felt myself fall backwards as he pushed on my arms, making me tumble into the tub, screaming.
James grinned as he leaned over the bathtub, chuckling but stopping short. I sputtered and spat out the bubbles coming out of my mouth, as the water kept on running and foam still resided on my head. I made a grab for James but he took my wrist first, putting a finger to his lips. I frowned.
“I hate you!”
“Shut up!” James hissed at me as he struggled across the tub to clasp a hand over my mouth. I bit his hand and he howled, nursing his thumb as I grabbed his shirt and pulled him in the water with me.
I smirked as his head popped out of the water, looking furious. “Ha,” I said, but soon he was tackling me and pressing me against the bathtub wall, pressing a firm hand to my mouth as I grunted in protest. I widened my eyes as I heard what James had heard too.
With his free hand James turned off the remaining tap and listened intently as Susannah pounded on the door, yelling for me to answer. I glared at James and he took the note, letting go of me as I scrambled out of the bathtub, calling, “I’m right here!”
I wrenched the door open hurriedly and found myself in my devastating state in front of Susannah. She had her fist in midair as she attempted to knock on the door again and had a horrifying look on her face. I could understand why, I suppose; my red hair was tangled and splattered onto my forehead, and my clothes were clinging to me uncomfortably, especially my jeans.
“Susannah,” I said in what I hoped was a happy and unsuspicious voice. “Um…well—”
“Miss, are you alright?” I felt a pang of guilt as I looked at her kind, grandmotherly face furrowing her eyebrows in concern. People like her made me want to be such a better person.
“Yes,” I said, moving out of the way as she came inside with a pack of towels and sheets. She laid them on my bed and looked around, just as we both heard a distinct splash coming from the loo.
Susannah had obviously noticed. “Why, what is that?” I panicked.
“No!” I said suddenly, running to the loo and blocking the way as Susannah gave me a perplexed look. She smiled curiously.
“Dear, I’m just going to check if there’s—”
“No, it’s okay.” I said loudly. “Don’t go in the bathroom.” I said the word ‘bathroom’ particularly loud, just in case James hadn’t gotten the hint yet.
Susannah was definitely looking suspicious as my lanky frame covered the doorframe, making me feel absolutely ridiculous. She was a plump, short lady, so she had to look up at me as I gave her a weak smile, “Miss Lily! Why are you all wet?” she inquired worriedly.
“I fell into the tub and made a mess,” I lied quickly. “You don’t want to go in there; it’s terribly wet.”
“And so are you!” she piped up, handing me a towel she had in her arms and wrapping me in it. Somehow she was able to get me out of her way as my arms stayed clamped to my sides, and I protested with panic as she walked into the loo without further ado.
I wrenched the towel off me and scurried inside, looking wildly around as Susannah inspected everything. I let out an audible sigh of relief, disguising it into a cough as she gave me an inquiring look. James wasn’t anywhere in sight.
“This is quite a lot of water,” Susannah said.
“Heh—yeah.” I said weakly.
“Especially for one person alone.”
I couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were on the wet trail that was on the marble floor—leading to a particularly near closet, which held all of my towels and bathrobes. I heard her cough and in the mirror I saw her look quite appalled. I blushed as she turned around with a rather forced smile on her face.
“Well, call me if you need anything.” She said, and hurried out of there on her short legs. I felt even guiltier as I heard her mutter something about ‘indecent teenagers these days.’
I made sure that the door was completely closed and just in case closed the loo’s door also. Without even looking back, I crossed my arms and said in a perfectly audible and dull voice, “You can come out now.”
Immediately James tumbled out of the closet, one of my white bathrobes clinging to his face. He took it off and threw it behind him back inside, kicking the door closed as he brushed his clothes a bit, as if it was the most normal thing ever to be hiding from an elderly maid who thought that we were going about in dirty business.
James had just noticed that I was giving him a death glare. He raised his eyebrows suggestively and grinned. “You look very nice, you know.”
“As do you,” I replied acidly.
“I like her,” James said suddenly. “Your maid, I mean.”
“You think?” I asked coolly. “She was absolutely horrified by the time she got out of here. She knew you were in there, idiot.”
James laughed and walked up to me, hugging me tightly against him. He was soaked also, and even had some bubbles left in his shaggy hair. “Lily, Lily.”
This made me blush with both embarrassment and anger. I pulled away and took the bathrobe that was crumpled onto the floor of the closet and wrapped it around me; walking into my bedroom and soaking my hair into one of the towels Susannah had left me. James followed me predictably, lying down on my bed until I hissed for him to get off.
“Sheesh, what’s wrong with you?”
I glared at him. Of course there was something wrong. There was the whole stress of having my boyfriend in my mother’s house, even though he didn’t even know it was my mother’s house yet—and he didn’t even know everything else. I huffed and walked to the balcony, leaning against it and suddenly feeling like I wanted to cry.
I heard his footsteps—footsteps that I had already been able to recognize, without even realizing it. They were light and usually had some upbeat to them. I felt him lean against the door—practically seeing it… I hunched my shoulders up protectively in fear of him getting any closer. He didn’t.
Suddenly the annoyed atmosphere for me and the funny, lighthearted atmosphere for him changed dramatically into something much different. My breath turned ragged as I waited for him to say something.
“You’ll be alright, you know.” He said finally. I swallowed.
I hoped so.
I tossed in my bed, semi-conscious and covered my head with my blanket. My dream was still lingering onto my eyesight.
“Someone’s knocking on the door.” James murmured from under the covers. I slowly opened my eyes and blinked at the canvas of my four-poster, finally hearing the knocking on the door as it processed inside my brain.
“Miss?” someone said softly out my door.
“Who is that?” James growled, stuffing his head under his pillow. “It’s the bloody morning.”
I rubbed my eyes and sat straight, glancing at my alarm clock which read eight o’ clock. I snorted. For once, James wasn’t exaggerating when he said it was the morning.
“James, shut up.” I hissed, shoving him slightly and climbing out of my bed. “I’m coming,” I said in a louder voice to the woman outside. I wrenched the door open and blinked at the maid who was standing in front of me. I didn’t expect it to be Susannah, since she had been uncharacteristically avoiding me (well, I guess I was avoiding her too) since the “bathtub incidence”.
“Good morning, Miss.” The maid said, smiling at me. She was holding a package with a few more bed sheets piled on them. She made a move to go inside my room, but I immediately blocked the door with my arm.
“My room’s a mess.” I said quickly.
The maid looked confused for a moment, but quickly recovered. She widened her eyes and uttered a soft “oh”, and then winked.
I blushed, wanting to die. Did everyone know about James?
“Well, this dress was sent up for you.” She said, still smiling in an all-knowing way. “Sorry to wake you up so early, but the wedding is going to be in the afternoon and Madam wants you to try on the dress again and then eat breakfast with all the girls.”
I stared at her for a moment, trying to formulate a plan so I could get out of this. Finally, I said, “Uh…sure.”
She beamed at me, handing me both the package and the sheets. “Oh, and Miss, if you’re—” She coughed, pausing and widening her grin. “Bored, just so you know, there’s a television in the entertainment room.”
“Sure.” I said, wondering where the hell the “entertainment room” was. My cheeks flushed even more so and I said, “Thanks.”
“No problem, Miss.” She curtseyed and left me to close the door. I set my things on my trunk and groaned, sitting down on the couch.
I could hear James breathing very deeply through his nose, so I knew that he was sleeping again. I walked over to him and jerked him awake, making him mutter something incoherent as his hazel eyes shot open.
“Yes?” he asked groggily.
I rolled my eyes. I was already starting to regret in letting James sleep in my bed. Apparently, the extra blankets I had scattered on the floor weren’t a good enough bed for him, so he pleaded for the vacancy on my own four-poster. It took some convincing, especially since Susannah already thought we were up to no good, (imagine if she found us on the same bed) but my bed was big enough for both of us, I suppose. I didn’t want to hear him complaining in my ear at 2 o’ clock in the morning again, and the maids weren’t that nosy anyway.
James sat up and reached for his glasses on my bedside cabinet, putting them on his face and looking at me. “What is it?”
I blinked at him, not knowing what to say. “Uh…” I said unintelligently. “Nothing, I suppose.”
I saw immediately that he was going to grin, and of course, he did. He grabbed my wrists and squeezed them slightly. “Missed me?”
“Don’t flatter yourself, James.” I said, cocking up my eyebrow. James’s grin widened.
“Are you saying I wasn’t in your dreams?”
I smiled. “You weren’t,” I said.
“You were in mine.”
I grinned and took his face, kissing him. I think he was surprised since he widened his eyes at first; usually it was James who took the initiative. He was already corrupting me.
James pulled away and kissed my nose. “Morning breath isn’t that bad when it’s you.”
I laughed and jumped off the bed, earning some groans of protest from James. I took the package that was on the chest and brought it over back to my four-poster, opening it and showing my bridesmaid dress to James. He raised his eyebrow.
“Is that your dress?”
“Yeah.” I said. I looked at him and raised my eyebrow. “You brought your tux, right?”
“Yep.” He grimaced. His hand jumped by habit to his hair.
“Good.” I said distractedly, folding the dress back in the package and not bothering to try it on. “I have to go eat breakfast with the rest of the bridesmaids…don’t get too bored, okay?”
James groaned. “Fine.”
I laughed and gave him a quick kiss, before taking my bathrobe and bounding towards the door. I watched as James slumped back onto my pillows and closed his eyes, immediately falling asleep again.
The loud chattering told me that the breakfast was being held in the dining room, a room that branched off from a hallway that came off the kitchen. Servants were hurrying about, platters on their hands.
All the women were in their nightgowns and bathrobes. I entered cautiously and slid into the closest chair, which was unfortunately, next to one of Vernon’s annoying cousins, Pamela. She stopped talking to her aunt Colleen immediately and narrowed her eyes once seeing me. I kept my eyes down and pretended not to notice.
“I like your necklace,”
I inwardly groaned. Knowing fully that I could avoid her no longer, I looked up at her, meeting her squinted, piggy eyes and smug smile. Her lip was curled up in a sneer as Marge laughed uproariously from across the table. I clutched my necklace protectively and said in what I hoped was in a bold and fearless voice, “Thank you.”
Pamela smirked, knowing that I knew that she was being very sarcastic. She coughed and took a sip of her coffee, her eyes traveling down to my straggled appearance. Most of the women there weren’t wearing their nightgowns but their best dresses and makeup. I however, had my bathrobe thrown over my thin nightgown; my pale legs poked out, looking rather sickly.
“Who gave that to you?” Marge suddenly said, raising her eyebrows and exchanging looks with Colleen, who was also wearing a smirk now.
“It was my grandmother’s.” I said coolly.
“Oh, I see.” Pamela said, giving a silvery laugh. She gave me a very cold and superior look, her own glistening pearls hanging from her fat neck. I was sure that they were gifts from my mother. “I thought it was rather old. It looks like it’s rusting, by the way.”
“You’re not wearing that to the wedding, are you?” Marge barked.
The surrounding Dursleys were all looking at me with smug expressions. They were enjoying the fact that they were tackling the smallest and scrawniest of the group. I didn’t really think I was small and underweight until I met them, however.
I had to admit that I was rather intimidated, which was very unusual for me. But who wouldn’t be? Here I was…in the midst of all these Dursleys who could probably squash me by sitting on my head. The only normally sized women around were Petunia, and Yvonne, who were at the other end of the table. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t help me otherwise, though.
I was saved from the wrath of Pamela when Virginia came in, wearing an olive trimmed dress and a smile on her face. Immediately all the Dursleys shut up and ran up to her, greeting her and saying just how wonderful the wedding was going to be. She passed by and gave me a tap, squeezing me on the shoulder slightly as she reached the head of the table where she sat graciously between Petunia and Yvonne.
As the Dursleys squawked over the plans of the wedding and how lovely the decorations were going to be, I sat and ate quietly, pretending and willing myself to be invisible.
I spent the rest of the morning helping with the decorations, having to endure yet more bashing from the Dursleys. I kept my head down and my mouth shut, although I wasn’t exactly sure why. I tried to ignore them and thought about James, which made me quite nauseous too. Pretty soon we’d be going to the wedding…and someone was bound to notice him. Yikes.
I shook my head and hung up some more flowers in the gazebo, feeling the hot sun on my back as I stretched upwards. I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and jumped.
“Are you alright?” Virginia asked, laughing slightly. I turned around and wiped the sweat off my forehead, forcing a smile despite the way I was feeling.
“You scared me,”
“Sorry,” she said, beaming. “So…am I going to meet that friend of yours?”
My heart stopped as my fears were confirmed. Hoping that my face wasn’t giving away how uncomfortable I was, I said, “Well, he’s arriving today.”
Virginia was beaming, obviously happy that she now had some sort of role in my life. I felt my courage slipping away. “Wonderful. Well, dear, I think you’ve done enough. Why don’t you go take a shower and meet us in my bedroom? All the bridesmaids are getting ready in there.”
I glanced at Pamela, who was standing on the deck, clearly laughing at something. I blushed once noticing that she kept her cool gaze on me.
“Sure.” I said, giving my mother a very false grin. She either was too happy to notice, or chose to ignore my displeasure. She patted me on the shoulder and took off, me reluctantly falling.
I kept my distance as I passed the Dursleys that were cluttered in the kitchen, trying to sneak some of the desserts and stuffing them in their mouths. I rolled my eyes and made my way in between the servants that were rushing about, hurrying in trying to make the entrance hall look perfect.
Slowly I climbed the stairs, finally reaching my room. I stood there for a few moments, my back against the wall as I watched the chandelier in front of me shake slightly as people pounded up and down the stairs. I sighed and crossed my arms, the soft jingling ringing through the halls.
Knowing I could avoid him no longer, I reached towards the doorknob and turned it. I rolled my eyes once hearing heavy breathing.
“James,” I said irritably, closing the door. I was sweating and my jeans had some new grass and dirt stains. And while I was working my butt off—James was sleeping. It just made me get in a worse mood.
He didn’t even stir. I frowned and marched over to the bed, reaching towards the covers so I could grab them quickly and shove him off, but—
I screamed as James grabbed both my arms and flipped me over so that I was lying down on the bed on my back with my red hair in my face. He held me down and laughed as I blew air out of my mouth so that I could see.
“Surprised?” James grinned. I grunted in response, trying to squirm out of his grasp, but both his arms were firm and steady, so that I couldn’t move.
“Let me go,” I scolded. James merely grinned some more, not moving. Then he swept down and kissed me, leaving one hand on my wrist while the other reached towards my hair and tangled itself in it. Once he saw that I wasn’t protesting anymore his other hand moved towards my waist, squeezing it slightly as he nuzzled his lips against my neck.
“James, I’m dirty.” I muttered. My eyes were closed as I felt his fingers graze against my hip and slide up my shirt so that they rested on my waist. He still had fistfuls of my hair intertwined with his knuckles.
He pulled away so that I could see his face and he smiled at me. “Do you think I care?”
He had his glasses on so I knew that he had been awake before, when I thought he was asleep. He probably had been awake for a while, actually, since I could taste his mint scented breath, indicating he had brushed his teeth. His smile faded slightly as he continued to look at me. His stare was so intense that I turned my head and looked away.
“What?” I asked. I couldn’t help but grin as he reached towards my chin and pulled it so that I had to look at him again. His hazel eyes were so sincere and truthful—it was rather frightening.
“What was the first thing you noticed about me?” he asked suddenly, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he swept a strand of my hair out of my face.
I raised my eyebrows. “Why?”
“Well, I dunno.” I said, feeling taken aback. I tried remembering the first time I had seen him in first year—then I suddenly grinned. “Oh, wait. I know. Your hair.”
I laughed and reached towards it, ruffling it in the back. It was funny how it annoyed me endlessly when he used to do that, and now I found the habit strangely adorable. James’s lip twitched slightly.
“How about me?” I asked, touching his face lightly with my fingertips. I grinned. “What did you first notice about me?”
I expected him to stay pensive for a few moments, and not immediately give me an answer, which was what he did. “Your eyes,” he said simply.
I gave him an inquiring look. “Yeah, right.”
“Well, your hair sticks out too.” James said, grinning. “But your eyes is what really got me going.”
“James,” I said, smirking. “Don’t lie.”
“I’m not,” James said hotly.
“You are too,” I giggled.
“Oh, shut it.” James said. He bent down and gave me another feathery kiss, and I involuntarily sighed against his lips. James chuckled and pulled away again, rolling to the side and sitting up straight.
I sat up also, slightly disappointed. I tried to look indifferent though as those familiar butterflies constantly rolled around in my stomach.
“Well, we have to get ready soon.” I finally said as James jumped off the bed and stretched his arms.
“Already?” James asked, blinking as I opened the curtains of window and pulled open the balcony doors. I walked into the bathroom and turned on the light, reaching towards the shower and twisting the taps. James followed me inside, scratching his head and looking bewildered. “So, when am I going to show up?”
“When most of the guests have arrived, I suppose.” I said, biting my lip as I turned to face him. “Just make sure no servants see you…the wedding is going to be in the backyard.”
James gave me a childish and devilish grin. “I feel like a spy.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, which unnerved me slightly. I was thinking everything he ever said was funny instead of aggravating…how strange.
“Seriously, though.” I said, suddenly earnest. “You might think it’s funny, but this whole ordeal has been a huge hassle.”
“It’s been worth it, though, don’t you think?”
I gave him a hard look; he was grinning as he sat down on the counter of the sink, swinging his legs. He reminded me of a little kid—or perhaps I just felt too old. “I guess.” I said slowly. James threw his head back and laughed, hopping off the counter and walking out of the loo.
“I guess I’ll just let you take a shower, then.” He called out amusedly behind his shoulder as he closed the door. I rolled my eyes and turned my back to him, feeling the water’s temperature and deciding it was just right.
I found myself half an hour later entering my mother’s bedroom, my hair damp on my back and my bathrobe hung over my white under dress. When I walked inside I saw that all the maids were scrambling about, doing some of the Dursleys’ makeup or handing them their bridesmaid dresses.
Virginia hurried towards me, already dressed. She was wearing a peach colored, lace-trimmed dress that fell just below her knees. Her pearl necklace was on again, with matching earrings and bracelet. Her nails were painted with clear nail polish and she was wearing skin-colored tights and shoes that were the color of her dress. Her blonde hair was in a shiny bun.
“You look beautiful,” I said softly.
Virginia beamed. “Why, thank you dear.” She said, taking my arm and bringing me to the other side of the room. I stumbled as she handed me over to a maid. “Grace, will you take care of Lily, dear, please?”
Grace happened to be another elderly maid, although she didn’t look nearly as kind as Susannah. She was tall and rather skinny, with short gray hair and many deep lines in her face that were even more pronounced when she frowned.
Grace’s blue eyes moved towards me, then slowly back towards Virginia. She gave a curt nod.
“Wonderful,” Virginia said brightly. She patted me on the shoulder and then proceeded towards Petunia, who was being attended to by four maids, plus Virginia and Colleen.
“Sit.” Grace said, narrowing her eyes at me and motioning towards a chair. I swallowed and did as she told me, facing one of the various mirrors positioned in the room. I stared at my reflection and she started to comb my hair rather forcefully, making me wince.
“Would you mind?” I asked politely, grimacing as she tried tackling a stubborn knot.
Grace did not feel the need to answer me, and continued to comb with the same fervor. Once she was done she started to dry my hair with a towel, shaking my hair and messing it up again. I gave her a questioning look but she had already thrown the towel to the side and was now proceeding towards Virginia’s walk-in closet, looking for the box that had my name on it. I noticed that when she found it and was making her way back, she gave my mother a rather significant glare. I raised my eyebrow.
“Stand up.” Grace said harshly, and I did so immediately. She handed me my dress and helped me slide into it, zipping it up in the back.
I looked into the mirror and saw that it fitted perfectly now. The dress was a halter kind and was rather comfortable for a corset, which hugged my waist. It flowed out from my hips and was just the right length; the soft, pink fabric now fell down and dragged only slightly on the floor, covering my feet which were in glittery and matching high heels, which cost quite a lot just to be hidden from view.
Grace had shoved me in my chair again and went to fetch one of the stylists, which were hired to do the bridesmaids’ and bride’s hair. A plump, grouchy looking lady came and immediately started to tackle my red locks with a comb, making me go through the same painful process Grace had done.
The stylist, without talking, put my hair up in little curls at the top, sticking some pink flowered bobby pins in the back. While that I put in my pearl studs and bracelet, but didn’t change my necklace. I gave Pamela, who was looking like she was about to burst out of her corset, a contemptuous look as she scowled once seeing that I wasn’t putting on my pearl necklace.
“Lovely,” Virginia said once all the girls were ready. She was handing us all little bouquets of pink flowers, stopping once reaching me. For a moment she looked like she was about to cry, but she merely smiled weakly and proceeded towards Yvonne, handing her the biggest bridesmaid bouquet. She glanced at me again and said distractedly, “Oh, Lily, dear, you forgot to switch your necklace.”
Marge and Pamela both snickered at this comment, making me blush even more so due to my makeup. Virginia didn’t say anything else but kept moving towards the other girls, still handing some bouquets. I reached towards my pendant again and clutched it, glaring at them all.
We all looked at Colleen as she left Virginia’s office, which was connected to the bedroom and where Petunia was getting her hair and makeup done. She smiled blandly in her peach dress that was the same as Virginia’s but looked quite different on each of them, and announced, “Petunia is ready.”
Everyone in the vicinity gasped as Petunia came out of the office, looking smug as the bridesmaids applauded. Her white dress was square necked and had thin, lacy straps that had little blue jewels embedded in them. It became tight in the waist like the bridesmaids’ dresses and came down like a hoop skirt, like some sort of Cinderella dress that covered her toes. Her blonde hair was put up and had a little crown, which held the long, white veil that trailed behind her with her long dress. She was already holding her big bouquet, which consisted of white roses and baby breath.
Virginia beamed and embraced her eldest daughter, while Colleen barked, “Alright, time to get down there! Let’s go, girls!” Her piggy eyes glared at me for a moment, but she was already following the huge Dursleys into the hallway. I followed immediately, not wanting to look at my mother.
The sun was shining brightly as we all waited at the side of the house, where we were to make our entrance. Ahead there were several chairs in rows, where the guests were chatting animatedly to one another. The priest was already there, and so were Vernon and his best men, all wearing black suits. They each had a white rose tucked into their front pockets.
I could also see Virginia and Colleen scurrying to stand by them, grinning proudly at one another. The orchestra was at the side, already raising their violins. In the distance, near the gazebo, the champagne and the cake were ready at a table.
I took a deep breath and leaned against the brick wall behind me, closing my eyes but abruptly opening them once Pamela shouted at me to get into position. The orchestra was starting their number….
For some reason my stomach felt unsettled. I swallowed the lump in my throat and felt my eyes blur. I didn’t know why I wanted to cry, but if I didn’t do something I’d start bawling right there and then.
“It’s time!” exclaimed one of the Dursleys that was behind me. Her and several of the other bridesmaids were squealing and giggling rather forcefully. I glanced back at them and saw Yvonne in front of Petunia, her back straight, looking positively smug and gleeful that she was wearing the purple instead of pink dress, making her different and more “important” than the rest. I tried to not look at my sister.
The girl in front of me was already moving in her tiny steps—or at least as tiny as she could muster with her huge feet. I straightened and tried to smile, but it didn’t work. Instead I went for a serious yet not miserable expression, hoping that no body would notice me too much. Of course, I couldn’t really lean on this; I was probably very prominent against all the Dursley girls.
My heart was thumping madly as I followed the girls in front of me, but my mind was strangely clear. I kept my eyes up ahead, swallowing whatever was in my throat again and clutching my bouquet with shaking hands.
I concentrated on my steps. One…two…three… Halfway up the aisle I spotted James with his shaggy hair, grinning and waving at me. He was wearing a tux and had tried to smooth down his hair; I could tell because he had a comb visibly tucked into his front pocket along with a red rose.
I gave him a brief smile, although I knew it was rather hollow and fake. I didn’t wait for his reaction and instead looked at my mother’s beaming and watery face, but that made me sick too.
Finally I reached the priest and moved to the right, where the rest of the Dursleys were lined up, their chins up and piggy eyes squinted in dislike upon seeing me. I quietly moved to my place and stood quite stationary as the quiet music continued to play. Slowly, it stopped. All the bridesmaids and Yvonne had reached their respectable spots, each holding their pretty bouquet. The unmistakable tune was starting up, and all the guests stood up.
Don’t cry, I told myself. Just don’t cry.
My eyes scanned the crowd; everyone looked so falsely happy. I wondered if Petunia even knew some of these people, I wondered if it wasn’t just Virginia who had invited the guests. None of the women were crying except for my mother, who wasn’t bawling but had tears in her eyes.
How did Virginia feel? How did it feel to have been absent in her daughters’ lives for so long and then suddenly making an entrance again? How did it feel…to be watching your daughter marry someone who you weren’t even sure if he was worthy, if he was kind? And Petunia…I wondered how she was feeling right at that moment. Was she really happy, or was she faking it? Did she really not care that her father was there? And if she did, why wasn’t he present at such a moment in our lives?
My eyes were blurring again so I blinked rapidly, and my vision became clear once more. My eyes followed everyone else’s as the music sped up; Petunia was coming down the aisle.
She looked beautiful in her white dress, even if I hated myself for thinking that. Her gaze didn’t reach me, as she held those flowers with a wide smile on her face. Vernon outstretched his arm pompously and she took it immediately. She didn’t even care that I was there—and that no one had escorted her down the aisle….
No body was crying, and no body was sad. No one, except for me, was feeling miserable at such a happy occasion. Why had I bothered to come? I didn’t belong there, in that family, with my “mother” and Petunia.
I didn’t look at James but felt his stare on me. I suddenly felt heavy and tired, and wanted more than ever to just run out of the yard, out of the house, out of this life…
“We are here to commemorate Vernon Dursley and Petunia Evans’s—”
That stupid priest, I found myself thinking viscously. He doesn’t know anything at all…
I saw that Virginia was looking at me and I quickly looked away. I stared at the flowers I was holding instead.
The priest was handing them the rings, and I narrowed my eyes unconsciously as Petunia slid one on Vernon’s fat finger, beaming. For a moment I thought that she really did want to live a “happily ever after”—but then I remembered there was no such thing. There couldn’t be.
James continued to stare at me, but I was determinedly looking anywhere but him.
“Do you, Vernon Dursley, pledge to love Petunia, in sickness and in health, in happiness and sorrow?”
Vernon seemed to be swelling with pride as he did something that was similar to smiling. “I do.”
“Do you, Petunia Evans—” Virginia’s smile faded slightly as “Evans” was used, “pledge to love Vernon, in sickness and in health, in happiness and in sorrow?”
“I do.” Petunia said in a soft voice, which was so unlike her own.
“I pronounce you husband and wife; you may kiss the bride.”
I looked away in disgust and decided to bite my fingernails instead. My heart was throbbing in my chest again, as my own skin felt too heavy to hold. My knees were shaking and my lip was quivering and I continued to look down…away from everyone and anyone. Applause ringed loudly in my ears.
When I finally did look up, Petunia and Vernon were already leading the crowd towards the triple-layered cake, which was probably going to be cut soon. Pamela shoved past me and started to shriek something about wanting the first piece, the other bridesmaids following suit. I swayed at my spot for a moment, then slowly made my way to the side where hopefully, I’d be able to find a peaceful shelter somewhere beneath a tree or something.
Predictably, I heard thudding footsteps onto the soft grass behind me. I swept a strand of hair out of my face and turned around to see James already catching up to me.
“Hey,” I said, struggling to sound indifferent. I didn’t want to talk to him now, especially about this. “So…were you completely bored? Sorry to make you go through that—”
“Lily,” James said, scowling. “Come off it.”
I stopped in mid-sentence and glared at him. My hands and knees started to shake again. “Excuse me?”
“I said come off it,” James said. He looked rather angry, but I had no idea why. “I saw—you…up there.”
“Did you?” I asked, raising my eyebrow. “Well, I am one of the bridesmaids…”
“You know what I mean.” James said viscously. He stepped forward, and this time, when he looked at me, he looked more confused and hurt, rather than angry. “Why didn’t you tell me…what’s going on?”
My heart started to beat quickly. “What do you mean?”
James sighed, running a hand through his untamable hair. He frowned, glanced at me, then looked at his feet again. “You looked so sad.” He finally said, his voice soft.
I swallowed as he looked at me again. I crossed my arms, mainly for my defensive, and looked at him unflinchingly, although it was killing me inside. I hated looking at his eyes—which were always so truthful and honest—and then lie to him.
“I don’t know what you mean, James. I’m perfectly fine—it’s just Petunia, you know how she is, we always get into fights…” I trailed off hopelessly as he scowled at me. He was clearly demonstrating that he knew I wasn’t telling the truth. “Listen, James,” I said, still trying to regain some of my bravery. My voice was shaking. “Just—you don’t know, alright? I-I don’t know what you’re thinking but just leave me alone for a bit, I-I’ll tell you, I swear, just—” I stopped abruptly and made a choking noise in the back of my throat, knowing I wasn’t making any sense. I brought a hand up to my forehead and pressed my skin against my palm. I was losing it.
“I’m okay,” I said loudly once I felt him touch my arm. “Just leave me alone.”
Instead of getting my wish, James only moved closer and brought me into his chest. He held on tightly, kissing the top of my head. I couldn’t help it anymore—tears unwillingly flowed down my face and I started to sob into his chest, dropping my bouquet and bringing my arms to encircle his neck, so that he could pull me closer. I cried as he whispered soothingly into my ear.
“Don’t worry, I’m here.”
But he didn’t even know. He didn’t know what I was feeling—because he didn’t even know what was going on in the first place. I wondered if he noticed my father wasn’t there, I wondered if he noticed the blonde woman who was crying. He didn’t know—
“You look beautiful,” he said quietly as I shook furiously with broken sobs. He gave a nervous chuckle. “You took all the attention from the bride, you know.”
I gave a sad little laugh and said, “Don’t say that.”
“I have to,” he said, and his voice shook a little. “I have to, Lily—because…”
He trailed softly and mumbled something incoherent. I clutched onto him tightly and started to calm down as he held onto me. I heard him say something again but I couldn’t hear him.
I pulled away and looked up at him, giving James a weak smile. For some reason he was blushing furiously. “James,” I said earnestly. “Thanks.”
James merely nodded and pulled me closer again. I breathed in his cologne and suddenly started to feel calm again. He smelled nice.
I wiped my tears away, probably looking horrible due to my smeared makeup, and threw my arms around James’s neck again and hugged him. I tiptoed and kissed him on the cheek, sighing and closing my eyes for a moment before abruptly opening them.
Virginia was walking quickly the other way, looking back and hurrying out of sight.
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