A/N: Is it weird that this is, like, one of my favorite chapter titles ever? I think it is really funny for some reason. Like sort of an understatement, don't you think?
The train ride was as long as it was irrelevant.
Apparation would have been quicker. Floo would have been easier. However, it was tradition, and it was tradition that had Scarlett leaning up against the window with her eyes beginning to droop into slumber. They had already left the Hogwarts train; now they were on a train that would take them from London to Dijon, a ride that currently still had five hours remaining.
Scarlett was tired of it—both traditions that she didn't like following and trains themselves— but the dominant feeling within her was one of uncertainty. The wedding was so close, so close that it was almost there, and like other instances Scarlett had avoided it as well as she could.
But, it was coming. And it was coming quickly. Every single hour was sacred now, because in just three days and fifty-three minutes Scarlett would be always and forever wed to Theodore Demetri Nott. She would not only lose her surname; she would lose her identity.
That was what she feared the most out of the whole situation. She knew that, being a pureblood socialite, that as soon as she was a wife she would automatically lose freedom. It was not as if Theodore would domineer her when they wed, but she would be expected to be obedient and quiet. She would be the housewife that her mother had become, only determined on giving her children a future that was identical.
And Scarlett didn't want that. She didn't want to turn into her mother or her aunt or her cousins or any of her family, because when it came down to it she was different. She may have been rooted into the pureblood ways since she was a little girl, but she was different now.
It was all because of Sirius, too.
It had been he that had made her reconsider the marriage, and it had been he who had made her reconsider her whole lifestyle. Why? Sirius had asked just a couple of nights ago. Why do you even bother?
And Scarlett could not think of an honest response to that. She could not explain to him frankly about why marrying Theodore wasn't a choice without revealing the tattoo on her arm. She had instead evaded the question, like always.
She huffed in self-loathing and closed her eyes. She hated dwelling on that fatal flaw, because every time she did she would recall the terrible fight that she and Tenereus had had. His words still burned through her, because she knew that time was running out. She knew that much.
But she didn't know what to do, so she did nothing.
She sighed quietly. She missed Sirius, because Sirius would know what to do. Even though he was unaware of their fight, he knew that something was wrong; he had been constantly questioning about it. If she had told him— and she had contemplated telling him— he would have known how she could've dealt with it.
But she couldn't tell him, because telling him would be impossible if she couldn't reveal the damned tattoo on her arm. Scarlett wanted to expose her secret; she had even foolishly hoped that he would notice it sometime when her wrist was exposed. She wanted him to know everything, she had internally screamed it all into his face, and yet he had not noticed. She wanted to tell him all of the secrets she had held from him, from the voice and the pain and the Dark Mark, because she trusted him. She trusted him so much, and she felt so much for him, and it terrified her, because she wasn't supposed to feel like this. She felt as if she was losing control every single time she saw the boy, and control vanished entirely when he so much as touched her.
She didn't know what she felt for Sirius, because it was not a feeling that had a name. It was mysterious—and frightening because of it—, but for some reason Scarlett seemed to relish in her fear. The feeling was not unpleasant, but it was strong. And it consumed her in a way that made her more scared than anything else but also made her feel like she wanted more of it. And the sole occasion where there had been a chance that her feelings for Sirius would be an entire country away... well, she had somehow made them come to her once more.
Scarlett could not believe she had asked Sirius to come to her wedding. She also could not believe he had said yes. The fact that Sirius had agreed without any argument was shocking, to say the least. Scarlett had become used to Sirius's inflexibility, but this?
She had really not expected this.
And, though she wanted him to be there for reassurance, she could not help but feel slightly apprehensive at his appearance at her wedding. While his real motives would be disguised by his friends (which she had encouraged him to invite) she still could not help but worry if anyone caught a trace of what they were up to.
She took a deep breath and put her hand on her forehead. She was over-thinking again.
Georgiana laughed; Scarlett opened her eyes to her bubbly Ravenclaw friend. "Why are you so tense?" she questioned, her eyes almost dancing with mirth. "Is it because your fiancé's asleep on one of the most important journeys in his life?"
Scarlett looked over at Theodore fleetingly; he had his head on the other side of their compartment, his hand still loosely intertwined with hers. He looked adorable, innocent almost, and peaceful, his face expressionless and dreaming. He looked perfect, just as he always did, and Scarlett smiled sadly, because she knew that she did not deserve him.
"No," Scarlett responded absentmindedly, turning her attention back to Georgiana. "I'm just thinking about... everything."
Georgiana grinned. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
Scarlett felt strange walking around her manor for a grand total of three reasons. Each reason not only made her uncomfortable but also incredibly nervous, and every emotion attached to the reasons was completely justified. The first reason was simple: although Scarlett and her friends had long become accustomed to how massive the manor was, it had never been in this kind of state. Everything was too clean, and nearly each piece of furniture had some kind of tinsel on it. Mistletoe was strategically placed as well, an observation that had Georgiana eager, but made Scarlett, Theodore, Bellatrix and Narcissa either sigh, smile half-heartedly, or groan.
The second reason was that Scarlett had not been in her house for ages. Her sister, Tiffany, lived in a flat in downtown London, and plenty of summers were spent with her or at Theodore's house, which had actually spawned the concept of the two marrying. Christmas and Easter breaks generally took place in Hogwarts because, frankly, Scarlett had no interest in visiting her family when Hogwarts offered so much entertainment.
It was not a surprise, then, that Scarlett felt like a stranger walking within it, just as it was not a surprise that she felt even more detached when she realized that she was supposed to be the hostess for her friends.
She could not believe that she had, long ago, lived in this house every single day. She was aware that when she was younger plenty of memories were made in this very manor; house parties and Christmas mornings had taken place right where she was standing. As she reminisced she could not feel comfortable; thinking of her past, where she had been so eager, made her feel absolute, permanent, in the position that she was in now.
She would never feel comfortable at this house again. It was not just the extended absence— after so long, the morals that this house was built upon no longer fit hers. Knowing that this was where she would tie the knot to both Theodore and her socialite future separated her further.
The third reason was, rather bluntly, that the house was empty.
At least, it seemed empty. There was no welcoming party for them when they arrived at the train station, and there wasn't one here either. The excitable voice of Tiffany did not boom from upstairs, just as the soft click of her mother's heels could not be heard in the kitchen or living room. Scarlett would have felt as if she was in the wrong place were it not for the decorations.
"Hello?" Scarlett called out, slightly hesitant, as she took another step closer to the kitchen. "Is anybody home?"
To Scarlett's immense relief, the light sound of footsteps against carpet was her response, and she smiled, pulling a strand of hair behind her ear. "Priscilla?" she asked, directed towards where she knew her sister's room was. "Priscilla, où est mère et le Tiffany?"
Priscilla's reply was in the form of silence, though Scarlett could hear as her bedroom door closed. "Êtes-vous étant difficile?" she asked, and in the corner of her eye she saw Bellatrix shift uncomfortably at the foreign language. "Ne parlant pas en tant que toujours?"
Priscilla laughed as she came into view, and the sound was so rare, so melodious, that Scarlett could not help but smile. Her long ebony hair was longer now than when Scarlett last saw her; it now reached her waist. Though Priscilla had always looked sickly, it was muted slightly by the lovely sundress that Scarlett recalled from when she was younger.
"Bonjour, ma belle soeur!" Scarlett said, and Priscilla beamed, storming down the stairs and immediately embracing her sister.
"Je vous ai manqué," Priscilla said, and her voice was hoarse from how little she spoke. That made the meaning of the words so much more, and Scarlett hugged her sister tighter, her own face glowing just as much as her sister's.
From where she stood, Bellatrix huffed and leaned towards her sister. "All I got was 'hello'," she muttered. "What the hell are they talking about?"
"She said, 'I missed you'," Theodore replied under his breath. "Obviously."
From where she stood, Narcissa raised an eyebrow. "How do you know that?"
Theodore put a hand through his hair, embarrassed. "I've been here before."
Georgiana shook her head. "Bloody hell," she stated. "You two are perfect for each other."
The wedding got closer.
It had started at weeks and then days, but now it seemed like every single hour was significant. The days before the wedding consisted mainly of preparation; every single person was put to work, even Priscilla, who was too fragile to carry anything and too young to be trusted to prepare food.
Scarlett enjoyed the work; it was a distraction from realizing that every second was leaving her. She busied herself in putting up decorations and cleaning the house, because it was the safest thing. It was her way to run away from it all.
But, regardless, the wedding got closer.
One night, when the girls were drifting off to sleep, Scarlett ran out of ways to distract herself.
"Narcissa?" she asked quietly into the darkness, but Narcissa didn't reply to indicate that she was awake.
To herself, to the darkened room, Scarlett confessed, "I'm scared."
Only one day was left.
Scarlett was alone, sitting at the kitchen table and looking outside where the others were working. She could see the aisle from where she was.
Always and forever's true meaning had come to her. After that kiss, there would be no time when she was not his.
Her mother's heels clicked against the floor. She studied her daughter for a second, and, noticing her anxiety, wrapped her arms around her, not bothering to say a word.
And, after a second, Scarlett put her hands on her mother's forearms and sighed.
But the wedding still came closer.
Ambrose Katalina was the first guest.
She came in wearing beautiful (and tight-fitting) robes, although the wedding was not until the next day. She greeted Scarlett in as amicable a manner that she could muster; her genuine friendliness was directed towards Georgiana and, surprisingly, Tiffany.
"I have a gift for you," Ambrose whispered to Scarlett as she hugged Tiffany for the umpteenth time. "Here, come into the bathroom. It's makeup."
Scarlett resisted the urge to put her hand to her face as she reluctantly trudged towards the bathroom, Georgiana, Ambrose, Narcissa, and Bellatrix plenty steps ahead of her. "Makeup?" she asked curiously, though she supposed she should have expected something like this from Ambrose. "Why?"
Ambrose grinned as she closed the door to the bathroom; it was remarkably cramped. "It's for the wedding. Especially for, but it works for all occasions, I suppose."
Scarlett sighed, defeated.
"First thing," Ambrose said, as she pulled out a small vial from a gaudy colored bag. "Amortentia."
"Amortentia?" Scarlett asked, stunned. "Are you serious?"
Ambrose smirked. "It smells so good!" she exclaimed. "And, you're one of the only people I know that can use it without an allergic reaction! Remember, in Potions?"
"Vividly," Scarlett said, contemplating what would happen if she threw the bottle in the trash. "But I don't see what good will come out of trying to play with Theo's mind—"
"Scarlett," Narcissa said, "regardless if you use Amortentia or not, I'm pretty sure that Theodore's mind will be played with anyway."
"Thank you!" Georgiana exclaimed. "It's perfect. Better than any perfume I could've thought of. Ambrose... you're a genius."
Ambrose smiled and inclined her head. "You're my inspiration, sweet," she joked, and she dug through the bag once more. "Second thing," she stated to the group, and held up a tube of lipstick. "Haudstringo. Very special— bought it especially for you. But anyway," Ambrose said, "Wear this after you're wed. Don't wear it down the aisle. Believe me."
Scarlett fingered the makeup cautiously. "Why?"
"Ha," Ambrose said sarcastically. "Georgie knows. Ask her."
"You are..." Georgiana began, but her words faded into silence, and she wove a hand through her hair. "You are... brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And she's gonna need this too, 'cause Theodore's not really the type—"
"What does it do?" Scarlett interrupted sharply. "What are you going to do to him?"
"You'll figure out eventually," Ambrose said. "But let's just wait until the time is right."
Matt Cornfoot and his older sister, Lisa, came next.
Matt's early appearance came as a surprise, but not as a shock. Georgiana welcomed him with more than open arms, leading to a smirk by everyone and five sickles for Scarlett because of a bet won with Bellatrix.
Lisa filled in for Georgiana while she was, in simplest terms, busy. She hung more around Tiffany and Ambrose than Scarlett, Narcissa, and Bellatrix, and while she was not quite as overly-enthusiastic as Georgiana her sense of humor and empathy was appreciated by Scarlett.
"I hope your wedding works out," Lisa said casually, applying mascara. "You two seem to really rate each other, anyway." She sighed as she observed her reflection in the mirror. "I mean, you don't get that often," she said. "I married a few years ago. It was nice for a while, but I was just... not ready for the commitment."
"When did you divorce?" Scarlett asked her.
"Only a couple months ago," Lisa replied. "I'm happy about it. You shouldn't have to be held down by someone if you don't want to. Why would you want to live your life like that?"
"You tell me," said Scarlett bitterly, shaking her head as she stared at herself in the mirror. She sighed as she looked over her appearance; she did not look like someone ready to get married.