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Chapter 9 ~ Confidence and Epiphanies

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~

You know those moments when everything and everyone but you just seems to freeze? Where the whole world just stops and, as if someone accidentally hit the pause button but you didn't get the memo? 

Then, when it does actually move, it's almost like slow motion? 

That's what kind of moment this was. 

My strappy heels clicked on the concrete, as I stepped out onto the back stairs and everything haulted. Time stopped. It literally seemed to stand still, giving me time to think- to observe. 

And if the idea of being thrust into a glaring limelight with all of my old enemies sitting in the audience horrified me before, it was nothing compared to now. Nothing compared to the terror that washed over me, as I stepped into that rose covered isle. 

It was surreal actually. The very people who'd made my life a living hell intermingling with the ones who'd hoisted me up with the angels. Those demons who'd dug their nails roughly into my delicate fair skin sitting alongside the wonderful people who welcomed me with open arms and made everything heaven on Earth. 

Completely bizarre. 

Could this get any worse? 

Stupid, stupid question. Because the answer was yes. Yes it could. 

I'd highly doubted it as I hesitantly stepped forward. But then I noticed the groomsmen. All standing next to Tante Olmype's husband-to-be, Rubeus Hagrid, my old professor. I saw Professor Longbottom (Alice's dad) and a few others. I saw the giant one, Hagrid's brother. But they weren't the ones that caught my eye. 

No, my eyes were more drawn to the four firey red heads. Weasleys. 

And next to one of them stood a familiar man. Not because I'd seen him a whole lot. Because I hadn't. But everyone knew the face of Harry Potter. 

Oh perfect. Just fabulous

Before now, I'd harbored the smallest hope. There were easily two hundred wizards and witches in attendance. I might not even see James Potter. Or any old enemy from Hogwarts for that matter. 

But now, forget it. That hope had most definitely been snuffed out. 

Because, if his famous father was in the wedding party as well as several uncles, their family's table would be horrendusly close to the Head table. And the Head table was where I was going to be. 

Dammit.

Just as this sunk in, I caught sight of my three best friends. My sisters in so many ways. They stood there at the end, beaming madly at me. They were radiant. Even more gorgeous than usual. 

Next thing I knew, two mental images of myself flashed, side by side in my head. A before and after picture. 

The before was of my thirteen year old self. Sallow skin, unhealthy undereye bruises and much too thin. Meek, skittish and anxious for someone to like me. Pining and craving for the approval of those who abused me. 

The second-the after- was a memory of my reflection just an hour before. I'd studied myself in the full length mirror upstairs after all my preparations were complete. A natural pink tinting the delicate skin on my high cheekbones, blazing sapphire eyes gazing intently back and a near perfect figure accentuated by the breath-taking gown I was wearing. Beautiful, happy and in need of no one's approval. Surrounded by people who loved me for me. 

A swift rush of confidence swept upon me. 

I don't have a clue where it came from but I was ecstatic that it did. 

I felt my shoulders pull back, perfect posture and I beamed back at my friends as I began my confident glide down the isle. They noticed the change and grinned wider. I was glowing with confidence, I was not a scared little weakling anymore. I was a force to be reckoned with and I dared any one of those Hogwarts horrors to try. 

I could tell by the delighted reaction of the guests that I was a knock out in their oppinions. And I could also tell, as I scanned the faces, that not one of them could tell I was the sad girl they'd gotten so much amusement out of torturing. 

I did, however, spot one or two boys who'd gawked at me in the station a few months previous recognize me as the tacitile Beauxbatons beauty they'd ogled wolfishly. The jaws (much to my amusement) dropped. I wondered idly at how they'd react if they knew the truth. 

And then I saw him. 

James Sirius Potter, in the flesh. And he was looking directly at me, of course. 


***

"Allie! Allie!" 
"Yeah, Grandmere?" 

"It's time for the first dance." 

I nodded. That was my cue. 

The reception (taking place under a gigantic white tent-not far from the actual wedding spot- filled with floating lanterns and lush red roses) had gotten well under way an hour before and everything was perfect.
 
I ate up at the Head table-which was elevated slightly higher than all the rest on a fancy sort of platform a couple meters high- laughing and chatting happily with my friends. They laughed at me for groaning euphorically as I ate the good kind of food I'd missed since my escape to Beauxbatons. They had French food too but I wanted the delicous English morsels. The people were nasty but the Hogwarts food was excellent and I'd bet ten galleons this food came directly from the Hogwarts house elves. It certainly tasted like it.

The confidence hadn't abandoned me yet. I could feel more than one pair of eyes on me but I didn't shy away. I let them look. I let them wonder. I was oddly unafraid, strangely secure. 

I continued to ignore the many prying gazes as I carefully descended the stairs of the platform and crossed the dance floor to the stage. 

"Good luck, Allie, "  Bee, Lynn and Leah said together. 

We laughed and I gave them a quick wink. 

Once I'd gotten on stage and the rather famous band (The Wicked Wizards)was ready, I cleared my throat daintily and began the announcement- my voice enchanted to be louder so all could hear. 

"Bonjur, everyone. I'm-" 

"Angelique!" 

I laughed, a twinkling laugh, as I heard Claude Van Damme yell the nickname he'd given me in fourth year. I followed the sound and found him grinning at me his arm around Estella Gerard (a.k.a. the original Beauxbatons beauty for the Hogwarts boys). 

"Merci, Claude." I laughed lightly, and then I continued, "Most of you know me as Angelique Swan." Not a lie. 

I heard several cheers and over them all I was sure I heard Bee, Lynnie and Leah. 

I laughed but went on, "I'm the bride's surrogate niece."
 
I met Tante Olympe's eyes to make sure she approved of the term. She did, of course.
 
"And many of you probably don't know this but, I was also once a student of Professor Hagrid's, as well." 

I saw several faces flicker in confusion and a satisfied smile sort of brushed my lips. I noticed that James Potter was one of those very confused individuals and resisted the childish impulse to stick my tongue out at him. 

I spotted Alice, Dee and Roxy and they beamed ecstatically back at me. I saw that Brigitte, Jocelyn and Leah looked shocked. Shocked but very impressed. They hadn't expected me to disclose such information to this crowd. It was giving away too much. 

But I almost wanted them to figure it out now. I wanted them to realize that the young bridesmaid with the delicate shoulders and killer blue eyes was the same girl who'd once had those bulky black framed glasses and pallid skin. I wanted them to choak on every insult they'd ever spat at me and grovel at my feet. I wanted to have the satisfaction of seeing their shock. I wanted it but I didn't. 

"And I've been asked to sing this song as they share their first dance as husband and wife. So, allons faire nous? " 

Several people cheered again as Tante O and Professor Hagrid made their way to the floor. Grandmere flicked her wand subtly and the lanterns dimmed seductively as the introduction music started. 

I waited for my beat and watched as my wonderful headmistress stared lovingly back into the glittering black eyes of my old professor (who cleaned up pretty nice when he cut his hair). It was strange to watch that kind of love up close. I wondered idly, as their song began, if I'd ever get to experience that. 

And then it was time to sing. 

"In the circles I been runnin', I've covered many miles. And I could search forever, for what's right before my eyes..." 

Tante Olympe whispered something that made Hagrid grin and several guests moved forward to the edge of the floor to snap pictures of the two. I watched as they kissed gently, feeling half- grossed out and half -gooey and romantic at the scene before me. 

"...Here with you I feel it, close my eyes and see it. In midnight talk, in a morning kiss, when I'm in your arms that's where it is..." 
I felt some eyes on me. Several in fact.
 
From the corner of my eyes I saw people nodding in approval as I demonstrated my excellent lung capacity. But I was too engrossed in the sight of such a happy newly wed couple to pay much attention to anyone skirting the dance floor. 

Tante Olympe was stunning in her grand off-white dress. Her hair was in a complicated sort of bun and a big white flower-that matched the tiny ones in my own updo- was pinned and charmed to stay right above her ear and hold one half of her long viel to her head.

I could see their lips moving occasionally as they murmured sweetly to each other and I wondered what they were saying. Everytime they'd beam at one another and then kiss as if there was no one else around but them. 

A few couples joined in the dancing half way through the song and I spotted my sister for the first time all day. 

She looked gorgeous, of course. She was wearing a spaghetti strapped white dress (appearantly she missed the rule about no one wearing white but the bride) and a green clip or something was holding back one side of her billowing blonde curls. My stomach rolled with nausea as I realized she was eyeing James Potter. 

And then it did another sickening turn as I noticed him eyeing me. 

Oh this could not be good. 

At last, I hit the final note and the song ended sweetly. With it, I found, had gone my enormous rush of confidence. 

I rushed off the stage as fast as I possibly could without tripping in my dress and heels. I wanted to get back to Leah, Brigitte and Jocelyn so they could sooth my sudden intruding panic attack. But I didn't even make it half way to the Head table before a voice behind stopped me directly in my tracks. 

"Alexa Diabolique Swan, I know you are not going to saunter off to that Head table again without saying hi to me." 

I whirled around and saw a girl that bared a striking resemblance to Jocelyn. The long silvery blonde hair and high cheek bones. The perfectly angled nose set directly above the full lips. The only two differences were her outfit and her eyes. She wore an off the shoulder blue dress that draped gracefully on her perfect figure and her chocolate eyes sparkled mischieviously. 

The girl was flanked by an unusually tan redhead wearing a short purple dress and silver heels and a girl in orange one who I hadn't seen since Christmas holiday. 

I couldn't help but grin, my panic attack forgotten. Seeing the three people who'd kept me going  during my own personal dark ages made me almost forget about all the ones who'd made it that way in the first place.
 
"Of course not!"  I exclaimed in mock- indignance and I rushed over to hug my old friends excitedly. We screeched happily at our reunion.

Just as I threw my arms around Roxy's neck I saw what table I'd come far too close to. The very table I'd vowed to stay far, far away from for the entire evening. Then my eyes met with a familiar pair of liquid gold ones. 

Everything about that all too well known face was confused. And then, as comprehension dawned and recognition flickered in those smoldering eyes, I realized what Dominique had just called out in front of so many of the Hogwarts people I used to hate. 

She'd said my full name. 

Well, an inward awareness sighed, it had to come out eventually.

And as if they'd been waiting for some sort of cue, three voices suddenly exclaimed the inevitable. "BEAUXBATONS GIRL!" 
I whipped around and there was my brother (his arm slung around a positively glowing Leah) rolling his eyes at his three burly best mates. While Emmett, Bryan and Frank grinned at me, impishly. 

Then Emmett held out his arms, "What I don't even get a hug?" 

None of them seemed to notice the several wide-eyed, slack-jawed faces at the tables near enough to hear. They hadn't realized yet that Dominique had just set off a ticking time bomb and that I probably wasn't going to be left alone for the rest of the reception. 

They all just grinned, happy to see me. 

And that's when a cool breeze seemed to brush the back of my long neck. It was like the sea breeze, spraying soothing mist my way. Calming me. And I realized something. It was one day, I'd held out for three years. I laughed at how stupid I was being.  France hadn't made me that soft had it? It was only today. I could handle it.  And after today the people I loathed (one in particular) would never see me again. Unless, a few years down the road, Tante Olympe and Professor Hagrid decided to have their  vows re-newed (Please, dear God, no). 

And it wasn't like any of them could try anything anyway. 

If one of them dared to jinx me I was willing to bet there were a hundred more (from Beauxbatons mostly) that would have their head on one of those fancy silver platters our meal had been brought out on. I knew that my friends and family would hex them with every vile spell in the books if they even so much as pinched my delicate porcelin skin. 

And if one of them had the audacity to hit on me again, all I had to do was wave over one of my lovely beach-bodied guy friends from Beauxbatons (particularly Adam) and they'd be running in the other direction with their tails between their legs. That, or I could scream rape and have them pulverized by twenty of them in a millisecond.

So why was I being so ridiculous about the whole thing? They couldn't hurt me anymore. Not even if they tried. 

"Earth to Allie," Emmett laughed, ripping me from my epiphany. "Hug?" 

I grinned at him and sighed, "You're going to anyway. Why not? Just don't mess up the hair, it took them an hour." 

And as my brother's best mate swooped me into a crushing bear hug and Jocelyn and Brigitte came over to greet their cousins, my eyes locked with that same pair of smoldering hazel ones. 

This time they were carefully calculating, reliving the train station and the kitchen diabolical no doubt. 

And this time, my gaze was solid, no fear. James Potter couldn't get near enough to make my life hell anymore. I was untouchable but in a far different way than before. 

My last thought before I broke the steady gaze between sapphires and topaz, was enough to make me laugh out loud in pure unadulterated happiness. 

I think I just had an epiphany. 

*** 

( Alright, so I know it's short but I have a lot to say about this. Originally, I didn't plan to have them hear who she was until Michael's upcoming eighteenth birthday bash. But for some reason I decided to make Dominique the one to let the cat out of the bag. This is the reason it has taken so long for me to update. Indecision. I wasn't sure if I wanted to give away the surprise just yet. I am sorry about that, it's a flaw of mine. But I want to know what all of you lovely readers think... Should I have kept it how I was going to or did you like this way? Review!

Love, RED 

PS. By the way, I do NOT own those song lyrics. They're from the Carrie Underwood song, That's Where It Is.... I chose that one because Alexa has a very good lung capacity and I've seen Carrie Underwood preform before and that girl has the lungs of life!)

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