Words more then mean it
When they count for one like you
Love is here any cloud in the sky
Would you be my flushing bride?

-Never Met a Girl Like You Before, Flogging Molly

December 1968

Having a wedding in one's parents' backyard, in the middle of winter no less, was probably the worst idea ever. Of course, if one had different parents than Petula Cordingley had been saddled with at birth, the entire thing might not be so bad.

Not that she'd had any say in selecting the date. Her mother subscribed to some silly old witches' tale that brides who married on the first day of the New Year, starting the year fresh as a bride, would be lucky in their marriages. And so here it was, New Year's Eve, and Petula was wishing she could have eloped to somewhere tropical. Maybe never come back, either.

She'd sort of been hoping her fiancé would help her out by refusing the date, but he was so agreeable that he'd simply said yes to whatever ridiculous schemes her mother had concocted, and now Petula was stuck, with the whole winter wedding, no aspect of which she'd been allowed to choose. She had not chosen the date. She had not chosen the food. She had not chosen her wedding attendants (Thomas had been allowed to, which she thought was unfair, but this was probably only because Petula did not have any brothers her family could foist onto him). She had not even chosen her dress.

It had been her grandmother's dress. Neither of her sisters had been able to fit in it for their weddings, something Petula took a malicious pleasure in, but the dress was an antique, and it didn't suit her. She didn't want to wear it. She wanted one of the lovely, modern gowns the bridal magazines were always picturing, the models turning gracefully to show off their dresses. She didn't want the lace monstrosity. It required a corset. Honestly, it wasn't fair.

There was at least two feet of snow covering the grounds of her parents' house in Yorkshire. And her mother had chosen royal purple for the attendants' dresses, with pumps dyed to match. Petula had a very bad feeling about this. It probably would have been better to put Margaret and Penelope, her two older sisters and only bridesmaids, in royal purple snow boots.

One of her bratty nieces was part of the wedding party as well – Margaret's daughter – and there had been a very loud row over this, as Penelope also had a daughter. Margaret's had won by default, being of a more appropriate age (five) than Penelope's (two).

Penelope, commonly known as Penny, had decided to blame this on Petula, who didn't particularly want either little girl in her wedding. The two year old had eaten a rose off her bridal bouquet that morning, and honestly, that couldn't possibly be healthy, could it?

Margaret, commonly known as Peggy, had blamed the fact that Penelope had shouted at her on Petula as well. No one had shouted at their mother, who had selected Margaret's daughter in the first place. It was completely unfair, as things generally were when her sisters were involved.

Penny and Peggy were stroppy cows, that was all there was to it.

Her mother thought it was cute for the three of them to have rhyming nicknames. Petula did not think it was cute, and had done her level best at Hogwarts to never let anyone know her mother and sisters referred to her as 'Petty'. She also went out of her way to refer to both of her sisters by their actual names, instead of the inappropriate-for-their-ages Penny and Peggy.

They'd complained about her all day. She was getting married tomorrow, and all she'd heard all day was Petty this and Petty that and why everything was all Petty's fault. And her mother had never admitted that she'd orchestrated the entire event and none of it had been Petty's choice.

They were petty stroppy cows. She wished she could disown the lot of them.

Oh, they had their moments – Penelope had brought her the most beautiful tiara and veil, her grandmother's having been lost over the years, and Margaret had procured a lovely old sapphire necklace that belonged to their other grandmother – the Muggle one they weren't supposed to talk about, much less visit to borrow necklaces from – for Petula to wear. They loved her, she knew, in their own way, and she loved them as well, as best she could, all things considered.

They were her sisters, after all.

She just wished they didn't have to be her bridesmaids as well. She'd promised her friends they could be, but her mother had balked at the idea of six bridesmaids. Even when Petula's friend Siobhan Fitzgibbon had disappeared, and Arthur Weasley admitted she'd left the country for parts unknown, leaving Petula only three friends to be her bridesmaids, her mother still only wanted Petula's sisters to stand for her. She said a small wedding party was elegant.

It wasn't fair.

Petula had hoped Thomas would put up the fight for her, but she supposed it was unfair to ask him to do it. There wasn't a lot of fight in him, honestly. He was very fair-minded, almost too much so sometimes, but he didn't like to argue with anyone, especially Mrs. Cordingley.

So Petula sat at her window after dinner the night before her wedding, watching the snow in case it was going to melt overnight (unlikely), or a freak windstorm would destroy the tents set up in the backyard for the wedding so it had to be rescheduled in the spring, or possibly in Majorca (also unlikely), or maybe even marauding aliens would kidnap the entire wedding barring herself and Thomas, leaving them to elope in peace, possibly to Majorca (extremely unlikely).

A face popped up at her window, and she shrieked – or tried to, anyway, but she'd been in mid-sigh at the time and instead she choked on her indrawn breath, subsiding into a fit of coughing while the window slid open and a dark-haired young man climbed inside.

“Petula! Are you all right? I didn't mean to startle you so, oh dear-” and Thomas Ockham took hold of her, spun her around, and thumped her between her shoulderblades.

Petula drew in a gasping breath and nodded, trying to regain her voice.

“I'm sorry,” Thomas said anxiously as she turned back around.

“I'm all right,” she managed, patting him on the arm. “You gave me a fright. I was just thinking about aliens, and then you popped up out of nowhere-”

“Why on earth were you thinking about aliens?”

She thought about aliens quite a lot, actually. It was all the Muggle horror novels. She really needed to stop reading them. “Nevermind.”

Thomas glanced over at the pile of novels on her bedside table and shook his head at her.

Petula sat down on the edge of her bed. There weren't any chairs in her bedroom, so Thomas sat next to her.

“You seem upset,” Thomas observed, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Yesterday my sisters were fighting with each other, and today they've been all chummy and have been making rude comments about me all day. I hate them.” She pulled a face. “Pair of stroppy cows.”

“They're your sisters. You're obliged to love them. Even when they're cows,” he added.

“Well, they are.”

Thomas refrained from commenting on this. He'd met her sisters many times, and even said once that she ought to just tell the both of them off one of these days. She wasn't sure she could do it. She would have to live with her mother afterward, after all, and she didn't even like to think about that.

“Did you come by just to check on me?” she asked, wondering why he was here.

“I haven't seen you since that damn wedding dinner three days ago. I miss you.”

She melted into him, resting her head on his shoulder. He wasn't a very large young man, and she was rather tall, but she'd always liked the way they fit together. Her head, for example, fit perfectly into the crook of his shoulder.

“Tomorrow is the wedding, and then we'll go on our wedding trip and see Paris, and you won't have to think about any of your family for two weeks,” he said cheerfully.

Petula perked up. “That's true. And when we get back, I won't have to live with my mother any more, either. What a lovely thought. Thank you, Thomas.”

He chuckled, the sound rumbling deep in his chest.

They both fell silent then, freezing in place, at the sound of footsteps in the hall. Thomas made as if to get off the bed, but Petula grabbed his arm and held him in place. A moment later, the footsteps faded, and a door closed softly.

“I better go,” Thomas whispered.

She leaned over to kiss him. “I'll see you tomorrow.”

Thomas caught her face in his hands and gave her a very intense look. “Yes. Tomorrow.”

A little shiver ran down her spine. Tomorrow they would make their vows, pledge themselves to each other for the rest of their lives. Tomorrow evening they'd catch a Portkey to Paris, and she wouldn't have to think of anything but romance for two whole weeks.

“Good night,” Thomas said, kissing her again.

She watched him climb out the window, closing it silently after him, and a few moments later came the muffled crack of him Disapparating from the edge of the yard.

Petula snuggled in under the blankets, thinking that this was the last night she would sleep alone. It sounded quite nice, actually.


Penelope was being a stroppy cow again.

Margaret wasn't being much better, come to that. Petula sat in the middle of her bedroom on a chair, dressed only in her white silk slip and stockings, while Margaret argued with their mother over how Petula's hair should be styled, the two of them waving their wands about as they gestured wildly and talked all over each other. Penelope was attempting to apply makeup to Petula, and kept making remarks the whole time.

“You're not applying enough cream to your face at night, Petty, you're going to be all wrinkled up by the time you're thirty-”

“If you'd ever read Witch Weekly, Mother, you'd know how witches are styling their hair, and it's not with those silly finger waves, you're so dated, isn't she Penny? And can you even imagine how awful little Petty would look if we did that to her hair, it wouldn't suit her at all-”

“You have no sense of enduring style, Peggy! How a daughter of mine can think those teased bouffants are at all appealing to a man, I'll never know. And it's such a miracle we're getting Petty married off in the first place, we can't have her hair like that at the wedding. Penny, just tell her-”

“Peggy, do you see these lines on Petty's face? Just look at her. Mum, look, I think I see a wrinkle in Petty's forehead, and she's only nineteen, can you believe it-”

“Shut up!” Petula shrieked. She batted both of them away, shooting to her feet and giving Penny a hefty shove to get her away. “Shut up, shut up, all of you!”

Her sisters stared at her. Her mum was open-mouthed in shock, and tried to reach for her. Petula batted her mother's hand away.

“Get out! I don't want any of you in here!”

“Who's going to get you ready for the wedding then, hmm?” Peggy said haughtily. “You can't possibly get into that dress by yourself, you know.”

“I don't care, just get out.” She shooed them out the door, wishing she had her wand so she could hex the lot of them. She should have a sign made and put it up in the front lawn. 'Beware of stroppy cows'. Maybe aliens would come and collect them (still unlikely, unfortunately).

She flung herself on the bed, hoping she was wrinkling her slip horribly, and made a few horrible faces that she would never dare make in front of her mother. Normally she wouldn't dare throw her mother and sisters out of her room, either. It had felt good, though.

Of course, now she did have to get ready for the wedding all alone. She couldn't do a worse job than her stupid sisters. She wriggled a bit on the bed, smoothing the slip underneath her. Maybe it wouldn't be good to wrinkle.

There came a timid knock at the door, and then it opened a crack. Gemma Folwell stuck her head in.

“Petula? Are you all right?”

She sat up. “I hate my sisters.”

“I know.”

“And my mum.”

“Yes, I know.”

Gemma sounded very calm. Petula blew out her breath, making her partly-styled hair puff up above her forehead for a moment.

“Gemma, would you mind fetching Molly and Hattie for me?”

Gemma smiled. “Of course.”

It didn't take long for her to return with Molly Weasley and Hattie Habbershaw. Molly and Hattie had been Petula's roommates all seven years at school, and were her closest friends (aside from Dunstan Birtwhistle, Gemma's boyfriend, who was absolutely useless at weddings but otherwise was Petula's best friend).

Molly had eloped over the summer with Arthur Weasley. Petula looked at her reflection in the mirror, the complicated antique dress hanging next to it. It wasn't fair. Weddings should be illegal. Everyone should elope.

“Petula, what's wrong?” Hattie asked as she closed the door softly behind her.

“She hates her sisters,” Gemma said dryly. “And her mum.”

“Well, yes, we know that,” Molly said. “But why aren't you dressed?”

Petula turned to them, her palms held up beseechingly. “Help me.”

So Molly and Hattie did her hair, and Gemma did her makeup, and when they were finished, they shoehorned her into the horrible old dress. Petula greatly appreciated that none of them remarked on how outdated it was.

Hattie had noticed the chewed-off petals of one of the pink roses in her bouquet, and pulled the remains out, rearranging the other flowers a bit to cover the hole.

“There you are,” she said, handing the bouquet over. “You look lovely.”

“I'm sure I don't.” Petula turned to look in the mirror and cocked her head, examining herself critically. The lace dress fit like a glove, with a small bustle of white silk and lace at the back in a style that hadn't been popular in about 80 years. But the uncomfortable corset lifted her up and squeezed her in so that she looked rather nice in the dress after all.

“I suppose it's not so bad,” she allowed, and then turned to her friends. “If I could have had you for my bridesmaids, I would have. You are my bridesmaids, you know. You just don't have to wear those horrible purple dresses.”

Hattie chuckled, and Molly and Gemma were smiling.

“We would have worn the horrible purple dresses,” Molly told her, and it was clear she spoke for all three of them. “But I'm rather glad we don't have to.”

Petula laughed and hugged each of them in turn.

Molly tugged the veil down over Petula's face. The sheer silk organza made everything look slightly hazy and more romantic. Now the dress really didn't look so bad.

Gemma helped hold the skirts so Petula could descend the stairs to the main part of the house.

Her sisters and her mother were waiting. Apparently her mother had been flustered by Petula's unexpected tantrum, and had forgotten to clear a path through the snow for her sisters as they made their way to the wedding tent. They left purple footprints in the snow as the dye on their shoes bled out. Petula grinned and hoped their feet were cold. She peeked through a tent flap, looking over the assembled audience.

Molly and Arthur were sitting next to Hattie and her boyfriend Edwin Smythe toward the front of the room. She could see the Weasleys' red hair, and Hattie's clever little pink hat. Dunstan was one of Thomas's attendants, so Gemma was on her own, and had sat next to Cosmo Graham, on the other side of Arthur Weasley. Petula smiled at the group of them there together, but her mother pulled her away.

“I'm going in now, dear. The music will start as soon as I'm seated. You remember what to do?”

“I'm not stupid, Mum,” Petula said, annoyed. “I can manage it. Where's Dad?”

Mrs. Cordingley pointed at her husband, who was furtively smoking a cigar near one corner of the tent.

The cigar smell clung to her father's robes as he led her down the aisle, and she tripped a bit on the unfamiliar shape of her skirts, walking up the aisle to music she could barely even hear. Her purple-clad sisters stood to one side, Margaret with one hand already free, waiting to take Petula's bouquet. She glanced down and smiled. The hems of their dresses had lost a bit of colour to the snow as well.

Dunstan winked at her when she caught his eye, and then she was standing in front of Thomas, who was smiling at her with soft brown eyes, and she listened with half an ear as her father presented her or whatever his purpose actually was, and then she handed her bouquet to her sister and took Thomas's hands, stepping up in front of the tiny old wizard officiating the wedding ceremony.

She felt calm now, centered, as she smiled at Thomas and he smiled back at her. He would be hers and she would be his very soon, and tonight they'd be in Paris, just the two of them, husband and wife.

The wedding was perfect.

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