A/N: I'm so sorry that this took so long to write! But this year's been extremely chaotic and I haven't had any time to sit down and write. Anyway, this is the last chapter. I hope you like it!
The wedding was to be held in the countryside, just outside of Stratford. Lavender decided to hold the ceremony on a government-owned estate. The estate once belonged to an extremely wealthy family, whose great-great-grandfather had stocks in the company responsible for the Nimbus broomstick. The estate consisted of the main building, which was a classically beautiful mansion, a garden, a man-made maze, and a smaller guest house. Though it lacked its former glory, it wasn't hard to see why the building had formerly been the site of lavish parties and extravagant soirées.
The guest list was smaller than Katie and Lee's wedding, though not quite small enough to be considered miniscule or quaint. An hour before the wedding, Alicia and I sat in my flat, going over our plan.
Naturally, Alicia was the master mind behind this scheme and I was having serious doubts about our ability to pull it off. Of course, on paper it had sounded fine. But then again, I'd been a little tipsy, so I hadn't been thinking too hard about the rationality of it all. Alicia was already dressed and ready to go, decked out in a yellow, ankle-length dress that emphasized the honey-colored streaks in her hair.
"Ok. So. Run it by me again," I demanded.
"George is meeting me there, because he's the best man. You and I will share the port key, which will take us to the front entrance of the mansion. You wait in one of the front rooms, while I go find the bride. Then, when you hear me knocking on the door, you open it and grab Lavender. We temporarily stun her, grab a few of her hairs, and then you switch clothes. You'll use the polyjuice potion I bought at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes."
I nodded, absorbing the information, attempting to be optimistic, though I was already dreading the worst.
"So after that, I go find Fred, tell him that I'm not pregnant and call off the wedding."
Alicia smiled, adrenaline beginning to color her cheeks. On the contrary, I felt sick. I wasn't sure how well everything was going to go or if Fred would even believe me.
"Exactly. And then you and Fred can live happily ever after," she finished.
"But Leesh, what if he doesn't believe me?" I argued.
"Why wouldn't he believe you? Or should I say, Lavender? The information's coming right from the horse's mouth, as they say. I don't think he'll need anymore proof than that. Trust me, he's practically begging for a way out of this. What better reason could he want?"
"I don't know. I'm just-"
"Lina, stop worrying! It's not going to do us any good."
"Look, I'm sorry, but this is something that we could've pulled off at Hogwarts, but we've been out of school for years now."
Alicia sighed and placed two sturdy hands on my shoulders.
"I'm not too sure about a lot of things, but I've always been sure about you and Fred. You guys are soul mates. And usually, I don't believe in all that hoopla. But I'd be stupid to deny that you and Fred are meant to be."
Tears began to trickle from the corners of my eyes. Up until that point, I hadn't realized that I was close to reaching the point of exhaustion. I was tired of keeping up a persona of indifference. I was sick of burying my feelings and trying to forget about my relationship with Fred. Things hadn't changed that much from our days at Hogwarts. Once again, I was stubborn and Alicia had come to my rescue, doing anything in her power to make me see the truth.
"I love him."
"I know, Angelina, I know."
About an hour later, Alicia and I had used the port key to get to the mansion. Guests had begun to arrive; many of them didn't pay us any attention. The mansion looked every inch the elitist's playground, with French doors, thick columns and generous amounts of ivy that laced around the stone surfaces.
Alicia dragged me by the arm, swiftly darting through the front doors and down the hallway. Anyone in our way stood the chance of getting run over, as Alicia was a one-woman wrecking ball. I ducked my head, hoping that no one recognized me. Alicia stopped at the first unlocked door, peered inside and then practically shoved me into the room.
I looked around; we'd ended up in some sort of study room. The musty, velvet curtains had been drawn and blocked out the sunlight. The far right wall was covered by bookshelves that nearly touched the ceiling. All of them were empty. In the center of the room stood a plush loveseat and antique table. Nothing about the furniture seemed genuine or authentic; it had the appearance of seeming deliberate and staged. Alicia double checked the door, making sure it was locked. With a satisfied nod, she tapped her ear, where a tiny earpiece had been nestled.
"Calling Alpha Two, calling Alpha Two, the Eagle has landed."
I began pacing around the room, my stomach jumbled and twisted. Katie's voice squawked back, shrill and equally uneasy.
"What? Alicia, is that you?"
Alicia groaned, shooting me an apologetic grimace. I shrugged and shuffled over to one of the windows. I pushed back one of the curtains and watched the rest of the people arrive.
"Course it's me, who else did you think it was?" she hissed.
"Well, I'm sorry, but you said something about an Eagle and I-"
"It's code, you dolt!"
"Oh. Well, why didn't you say so?"
"That's the whole point of code. In case someone is listening, they won't be able to figure out who it is."
"But…why would someone else be listening?" Katie asked, truly confused.
"I don't know!"
"I'm so lost right now."
"Kates, just shut up for a moment, will you? Look, Lina and I just got here. We're waiting in some library or something. Where are you?" Alicia demanded.
"Oh, I'm out back. Lee's around here somewhere."
"She's in the back of the mansion. In one of the other rooms, getting ready."
"Ok. Is there any way you can get her to come out? We don't have much time."
"I…I guess so. Give me a few minutes and then I'll get back to you," Katie offered.
"Well, don't take all night. We've got a wedding to stop!" Alicia urged.
"Right. Look, give me ten or fifteen minutes."
There was a hiss of static and Katie turned her earpiece off, presumably to go hunt down Lavender. I sighed and started to pace, feeling the contents of my stomach practically jump into my throat. My palms and the back of my neck were damp with sweat and I feared that I'd be paralyzed with illness before I even got outside.
"Merlin, Angie, would you stop that pacing? You're gonna burn a hole in the carpet!" Alicia demanded.
"Look, I'm sorry, but how can I not worry?"
Alicia walked in my direction and grabbed my shoulders, forcing me to look her in the eye. I couldn't return her smile, no matter how hard I tried. The voices of the increasing number of guests seemed to surge through the very walls and the windows, soft laughter tinkling like shards of fallen glass.
"It's going to be fine. Ok?"
"How can you be so sure? Leesh, I don't know if this is such a good idea. What if something goes wrong?"
"Nothing's going to go wrong. If we just stick to the plan, then we're golden. We've got this in bag."
All of a sudden, the door creaked open. Alicia and I both whipped in the direction of the noise, shock coloring my face, annoyance warping Alicia's previous expression of confident determination. The intruder's face seemed familiar but I couldn't pinpoint a name. I think it was one of the Patil twins.
She frowned, utterly perplexed. Her rose-colored dress accented in the natural blush of her cheeks, although it definitely could have been one size bigger. However, even if I had wanted to ask, there wouldn't have been time.
Out of nowhere, Alicia whipped out her wand and uttered a spell. It all happened so fast that for a minute, I had no idea what the heck was going on.
The Patil Girl fell to floor, flat as a board, her forehead clonking against the floor. Alicia calmly walked over to the door and shut it, stuffing her wand back in her handbag.
"A simple stunning spell. She'll be fine."
"But what-how?" I stuttered.
Alicia shrugged, as though she went around stunning innocent people every day.
"I wasn't going to bring my wand, but I figured it wouldn't hurt."
"But why?" I demanded.
"She's one of Lavender's mates. We wouldn't want her squawking to Lavender, now would we?" Alicia devilishly insisted.
I couldn't help but burst out laughing. My anxiety and surprise finally hit my system like a pound of hot sugar.
"What's so funny?"
"You. Me. Everything. God, what next? What other hoops are we going to have to jump through?" I wondered.
"Not too many more, I hope," Alicia grumbled.
"This is ridiculous," I said through breathy giggles.
Alicia raised an eyebrow, smirking.
"Nobody said love had to make sense."
"Oh jeez, here we go. Since when did you become such a sentimentalist?" I teased.
"I've always been a sentimentalist. But situations like these allow me to show my true colors," Alicia replied.
"Oh brother. Let's not get fancy, all right Shakespeare?"
Suddenly, there was the crackling of antenna static and Katie's voice chirped out of Alicia's ear.
"USE THE CODE NAME!" Alicia snapped.
"All right, all right. Don't get your bloody knickers in a twist."
"Look, we went over this. Follow the plan, Katie."
"I am! Christ…Alpha One. Come in, this is Alpha Two."
"Alpha One, this is Alpha Two. What's the status of the Target?" Alicia questioned.
I watched, half in awe but mostly embarrassed for Alicia, who seemed to be taking this entire espionage deal a bit too seriously. However, I was extremely grateful that Alicia Spinnet was my best friend and not Lavender Brown's.
"Status of the-Leesh, can you just speak English?"
"Where's Lavender now? Have you been able to get her away from everyone?"
"Oh! Yeah. She should be opening the door any minute now," Katie cheerfully said.
No sooner had she said this and the door banged open for a second time, revealing the frazzled bride in all her white and lacy glory. Her dress was a monstrous concoction of ivory frills and bows, something that I'd never think about wearing, yet appeared perfect for someone of Lavender's taste. Her hair had been curled and was pinned back with a simple clip. She'd applied too much lipstick; baby pink coated her mouth like leftover clumps of cotton candy. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of me.
"What are you doing here?"
"Stopping your wedding."
With that, Alicia got out her wand and stunned the bride. She toppled to the floor like an overly frosted wedding cake. I snorted and Alicia flicked the door shut with her wand.
"Hurry up, let's get this show on the road," Alicia prompted.
I swooped down upon the slumbering bride and then plucked out a few strands of hair. Alicia took out the bottle of polyjuice from her handbag and tossed it to me. I barely caught it, cracked the seal and then added Lavender's hairs. The potion gurgled and spat up a few green bubbles.
"Oh God, it reeks," I moaned.
"Hurry up, Angie!"
Shutting my eyes, I downed the potion, almost gagging. Within seconds, a wave of nausea rocked my gut, smashing against my insides. I put a hand to my mouth, downright sick. Woozily, I began to slide onto the floor, my body moving out of its own force. Muted colors and florescent lights swam before my eyes and I reached out for Alicia, holding back bile at the sound of my bones cracking and transforming. My skin felt like hot wax and it seemed to bubble like lava.
"Alicia, what the hell is happening?!" I screeched.
"Hold on, Angie, it's almost done," she patiently soothed.
A few seconds later, the sensation was over.
"It's done! C'mon, we gotta change your clothes."
About five minutes later, Lavender lay on the floor only in her bra and underwear, a scowl on her face, clashing with her nauseatingly bright lipstick. Picking up the sides of the dress, I threw open the door and rushed out of the library, in search of Fred.
As I was searching for Fred, someone grabbed my arm.
Desperately, he pulled me behind an overgrown bush. Without another word, he hungrily pressed his mouth to mine. I squealed, eyes wide open. I pulled back and you could audibly hear the smack of our lips parting. Seamus latched onto my hand, attempting to bring me closer to him.
"Look, Lav, I know you told me not to come, but I couldn't help it. I'm in love with you! And I can't let you marry Fred."
"I know I don't have a lot of money right now, but it doesn't matter."
"Seamus, I can't talk right now. I need to find Fred."
"Lav, there's still time to call this thing off. You don't have to do this. I told you, I don't care if the kid is Fred's. I'll love it anyway, as it were my own," he protested.
"Yeah, see, here's the thing. I'm not pregnant."
I threw him a crooked smile.
"Yeah, whoops! False alarm."
I broke away and headed in the opposite direction, almost tripping on my heels. Irritated, I stopped and flung off the heels and then ran bare foot, only one goal on my mind. I was about to head into the maze, when Lavender's mom stopped me.
"Lavender, ducky, what in the world are you doing out here?" Mrs. Brown demanded.
"I uh...oh wow. This isn't the restroom," I replied, shrilly laughing.
Mrs. Brown took a step closer, placing the back of her hand on my forehead.
"Are you feeling ok?"
"I'm fine! Really," I passionately assured.
Skeptically, Mrs. Brown gave me a little shove towards the main house.
"Well, you'd better get going. The ceremony's going to start in a few minutes."
I nodded and started to head in that direction.
"Right, Mrs.- Mom. Right, Mom. Absolutely right."
"Are you sure you're feeling ok? Did you take too many Midols? I told you, it takes awhile before it kicks in."
"Mom, I'm fine. I'm going to get my veil. I forgot it inside."
I hurried away from Mrs. Brown, knowing that if I started to run, it'd look even more suspicious. After wandering around for twenty minutes and ignoring the bewildered stares of the guests and nearly knocking down Dean Thomas, I found Fred. He was in the guest house, looking unbelievably handsome in his tux. Hands in his pockets, he whistled to himself, gazing towards the garden.
"Lavender? What're you doing? Isn't it bad luck or something for me to see you before the ceremony?"
My throat felt dry. Damn. This was going to be harder than I thought. I walked forward and cleared my throat.
"Listen, Fred, this is a big mistake."
"I can't go through with this," I interrupted.
He grabbed my hands, gazing down at me with heartbreaking panic and incomprehension. Outside, I could hear the orchestra tuning.
I slipped my hands out of his warm grip and looked past him, stomping out the slightest pang of guilt.
"I'm not pregnant."
"You're not pregnant."
I shook my head, managing a smile that intended to be sweet but only come across as mocking. Like a slap in the face, the life reappeared in Fred's ashen expression like a balloon pumped with paint exploding on asphalt.
"No, I'm not pregnant. It was-it was a big misunderstanding. And I'm sorry but, I can't let you go through with this. It'd be a big lie."
"Why the bloody hell did you wait this long to tell me?"
"Well, I mean, uh. See. Everything was just happening so fast and I didn't really have time to think. I only found out a few days ago," I fibbed.
"Then why didn't you tell me as soon as you found out?"
I let out a nervous giggle, which was sharp and screechy even to my own ears. Fred took a step forward, absolutely livid. He looked like he would have hit me, if he didn't have the manners or control.
"I don't know. Um, I would've told you yesterday, but well, there was a crisis at the house and my Aunt Tabby had a little trouble with a hair-growing spell and ended up looking like Big Foot. So you know, uh, I had to be there. For emotional support and all," I rambled.
"Great. Just fucking great."
Defeated, he slumped to the ground, biting down on his back molars.
"I'm sorry Fred, I really am."
Just as I was about to leave, Fred's strained voice stopped me.
"Lavender. You ever been in love?"
Without turning around, I whispered, "Yes."
With that, I walked out of the guest house and shakily started towards the main house. I purposely avoided clusters of people, keeping my head down, dismissing the eager calls of Lavender's guests.
Just as I reached the library doors, I felt the uncomfortable tingle of metamorphosis. I knew that I had only a few minutes until I would change back into myself. I hoped that Lavender was still in the room, silent and stunned. When I finally got back to the library, Alicia was talking to Katie.
"Well, how did it go?" Katie wondered.
"Fine, fine. But where's the port key?"
"Right here," Alicia said, holding up an obnoxiously-bright compact mirror.
Frantically, I located my clothes, which had been carelessly thrown into a pile next to the unnaturally stiff Lavender. I stripped out of the wedding gown, almost breaking the zipper and then shimmied into my T-shirt and jeans.
"Wait, where are Lavender's shoes?" Katie asked.
"Oh, somewhere outside."
"What? I had to take them off, Katie. I nearly fell on my face. You try running about in heels and then tell me if you can manage," I snapped.
"Christ, I'd better go find those heels," Katie muttered.
Katie glanced at Lavender and then dashed out of the room, the fabric of her dress swishing behind her like tissue paper.
"Ready?" Alicia prompted.
"Ready as I'll ever be," I confirmed, slipping on my other shoe.
Alicia tossed me the port key.
"Think you can handle the damage control?" I questioned, jerking my head at Lavender.
"Yeah, no problem. Go ahead, go home. I'm sure Fred's waiting for you," she ushered.
Alicia, who had begun redressing Lavender, gazed up. I bent down and hugged her tightly, knowing that Alicia and Katie were the closest to sisters that I could ever have.
She patted my back.
"Don't mention it. It's what I'm here for."
He was sitting on my bed when I got home. He'd taken off his jacket and it lay beside him. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. I dropped the port key on the floor, speechless. Rooted in place, I stared at Fred, drinking in his features as though it was the first day of Hogwarts and I'd just stepped on the train.
Without a word, he met my astonished expression, his mouth lazily curling into a grin, both relief and exhaustion filling his eyes. For a split second, he was both the boyish prankster I'd known and loved in our school days and the man I always knew he could be and would be. What was there left to say?
Every crack, every hole, every fissure that'd been pounded into my heart over the last few days vanished. My thoughts were rearranged and like an abstract painting, many of the pieces and sentences didn't fit and didn't make any sense. Hours could have passed and I wouldn't have known. He stood up and walked over to me, locks of red hair falling in his eyes. Fred loosely wrapped his arms around my waist. Slowly, tenderly, he kissed my forehead, the tip of my nose, each cheek and then finally, my lips.
"Are you busy right now?"
He kissed me again and I let my hands disappear in the untamable wildness of his hair. Unlike his initial kiss, this one was nearly a declaration of battle, an unspoken challenge, a survival of the fittest. The air left my lungs and blood throbbed between my ears, but I refused to pull away until the last possible moment.
His husky voice vibrated against my skin as he kissed my neck.
"You feel like getting married?"
"Why Fred Weasley, are you proposing?"
"I'll take that as a yes."
No more than two hours later, I would become Mrs. Angelina Johnson Weasley.