Absolutely gorgeous chapter image by nala @ TDA!
Chapter Three: A Time Of Revelations
Voices filled the ballroom at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place as several witches discussed Walburga's bridal gown in intricate detail, debating the merits and failures of the dress. Fee sat at a table in the far corner of the room, the furthest distance possible from those she secretly called “gossiping harlots”, completely uninterested in how pretty the dress was. As far as she was concerned, as long as Walburga loved her dress and looked beautiful in it- which she did- then it was none of anybody's business how much it cost or who designed it. Opposite her, her best friend Alphard slouched in his chair while putting his feet up comfortably on the table in between them.
“Do you think we should tell Kreacher that Wali's named after Aunt Elladora, who started the family tradition of beheading house-elves when they get too old to work?” Alphard asked with a devilish twinkle in his eye. “And that Wali fully intends to live up to her name?”
“As much as I'd like to cause mischief,” Fee admitted, “don't you think a hysterical house-elf would ruin the day? I know this entire débâcle of a reception is more boring than double History with Binns, but I don't want our amusement to be at Wali's expense. And, I think she was talking more about the noble bloodline of Black when she said she wanted to live up to her name than your Aunt Elladora.”
“I know that!” Alphard answered scornfully. “But Kreacher doesn't. And look at Wali. Does it look as if anything could possibly ruin her day?”
Fee followed Alphard's gaze, and her eyes rested on Walburga and Orion dancing. She had to admit that her best friend was right: normally a perfectionist, Walburga had surprisingly ignored the mismatched tablecloths after one of the house-elves had accidentally shrunk some of them, and while spells had been used to restore it to its original size, people like her who looked carefully would see differences. She had also failed to complain about Alphard's casual behaviour, although normally the eighteen-year-old would be lynched for putting his feet on the table at a formal event, and hadn't yet bothered to seize Fee and attempt yet again to persuade the redhead to date Abraxas Malfoy. Instead, Walburga was enclosed in her own world with Orion, and once more Fee could feel the familiar sensation of jealousy simmering within her.
“Fee, I need your help,” a young woman with sleek, long blonde hair slid into the third seat at the table, which had previously been vacant. “I've been assigned to write an article about Walburga's wedding, and I was hoping I could get an interview with the bridesmaid.”
“Why don't you include an interview with the best man, Ophelia?” Alphard interrupted with a smirk. “I'd even strip for Witch Weekly's Man of the Month poster if you want.”
Ophelia glared at Alphard murderously. “Just because you think that being a journalist is insignificant does not give you the right to make a mockery of my article. Witch Weekly is read by witches who'd love to be bridesmaids, hence the interviews with Fee and Naomi.”
“Naomi?” Fee and Alphard asked in perfect unison, both full of puzzlement.
“Cedrella's blood traitor of a bridesmaid,” Ophelia answered scornfully. “She got married this morning, so my editor is demanding that I cover both weddings and have one article covering several pages about “the two Black weddings”- like Cedrella's even going to be considered a Black any more!”
“What do you mean, the two Black weddings?” Walburga queried, and the trio looked up at her in fright. When Ophelia hesitated, Walburga's voice turned into a frightening tone not unlike a snarl. “Ophelia Selwynn, you will tell me what you mean by two Black weddings!”
“Your cousin Cedrella got married today,” Ophelia confessed.
“How dare she?” Walburga growled. “How dare Cedrella get married on the same day as me? She was invited to this wedding, so she can't pretend she didn't know when it was. That bitch!”
“What did you mean with your comment about Cedrella's blood traitor of a bridesmaid, Ophelia?” Orion asked, and he glared so viciously that the blonde bitterly regretted the words she had spoken.
“Naomi Meadowes,” she whispered, barely audible.
“That little Gryffindor cow? Why would Cedrella have her there? I know we rarely see her these days, but I'm sure she wouldn't be that desperate!” Alphard sneered.
All four turned to Ophelia, silently demanding answers from the youngest of the Selwynns; as she had attended Cedrella's wedding, they all considered her to be the best source of information. After a long pause, during which the uncomfortable silence grew, Ophelia realized she had no other option but to admit the truth.
“I don't think she had Meadowes as her bridesmaid out of desperation.”
“Why?” Walburga demanded instantly, almost before Ophelia had finished her sentence.
“Because it was Septimus Weasley that she was marrying.”
“WHAT?!” Walburga's tone was so shrill, it attracted the attention of every guest in the entire house. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I'm sure, Walburga, I wouldn't tell you something like that if it wasn't true or if I wasn't sure of it!” Ophelia retorted. “I knew you'd react like this, that's why I didn't want to mention it to you today of all days.”
“So you were going to wait until I received my issue of Witch Weekly and saw the article?” Walburga snapped, slapping the younger witch in fury. “I knew you were a disgrace to the Selwynns, but I never dreamt you were this disgusting. Attending the wedding of two blood traitors! No self-respecting pure-blood would even think about doing that!”
“I had to go; I would have lost my job at Witch Weekly if I didn't!” Ophelia cried. “Please, Walburga, I'm really sorry but it wasn't my fault; you were the one who demanded that I write an article on your wedding, and my editor insisted that if I wrote about your wedding, I had to write about Cedrella's too-”
“-Don't say her name!” Walburga hissed, interrupting Ophelia's panicked tirade. “From now on, that name is forbidden! She married a blood traitor, which makes her one too and there are no blood traitors in my family!”
“You can't just disown her like that!” Ophelia exclaimed.
“Oh, can't I?” the furious bride snarled, her eyes blazing with utmost fury. “Watch me!”
Turning away from Ophelia and her three astounded friends, Walburga marched towards the door, blasting objects out of her way with her wand. It took a few seconds for Fee's shock to fade, but once it did, she rushed after her friend and followed the dark-haired woman into the drawing room, as did several curious guests. When Walburga paused, Fee seized the moment to stand in front of Walburga and placed her hands on the other woman's shoulders.
“Wali, I know you want to disown Cedrella and considering she's a traitorous bitch, I have no objections to you doing that,” Fee spoke with as much calmness as she could muster. “However, enough of a scene has been caused. Today is meant to be the best day of your life; do not let that traitor and that Septic Weasley idiot take your happiness away from you.”
A few of the guests, including Alphard who had fought his way through the crowd, could not restrain their giggles at Fee's deliberate mispronunciation of a name they had been forbidden to use ever since Septimus' Sorting into Gryffindor seventeen years previously. Even so, Walburga's mood was unyielding and she pushed the redhead aside violently to aim her wand at the tapestry that detailed the Black family tree. With a silent curse, Cedrella's position on the tree- already intertwined with Septimus' name- was replaced with a disproportionately large burn mark.
“Walburga,” a voice interrupted Walburga's rage suddenly, and she turned to stare at the wizard who had spoken; the same wizard who was helping Fee up from the floor. “Since when did you hurt your best friend like that?”
It was then that Walburga noticed blood running down the side of Fee's face, and realized that the sound of Fee's head hitting the nearby table had been masked by the sound of her curse blasting Cedrella off of the family tree.
“Don't criticize my daughter like that!” Irma snapped at the newly-graduated wizard as she loomed out of nowhere, evidently having decided to stay on the sidelines no longer.
“Somebody's got to,” Tom Riddle's eyes narrowed as he spoke. “Fee could have been seriously injured!”
“So what?” was the older woman's scornful reply.
Fee clung on to Tom, the dizziness in her head growing.
“Walburga?” she whispered. Please defend me, were the unspoken words she tried in vain to convey in the three syllables of her friend's name.
And when they were met with silence from the emotionally-torn bride, Tom put his arm around Fee's slender body and without warning, they Disapparated, leaving a speechless Walburga staring at where they had been as the feeling of guilt started to overwhelm her.
It shouldn't have happened, I can't deny that. But I can't change events that have already occurred, no matter how much I want to. I promise you that if I had that ability, this wouldn't be happening right now. We could have what we both want so desperately.
And yet I don't, so we can't.
I'm so sorry. Please forgive me.
Author's Note: Please do review and let me know how I'm doing with Sheer Abandon; I'd love to know what readers think!