“I know it’s ridiculous,” Claudia admitted, gazing at her bridal robes from her perch on her bed - her bed until she awoke tomorrow morning. Forever afterwards she’d call somewhere else home; her bed would become ‘our’ bed.
Marley was already shaking her head before she finished speaking, the silk scarf tied around her hair miraculously staying put despite this vehement disapproval. “Only in, like, all of the best ways,” she insisted. “They put anything I could’ve imagined totally to shame.” She’d always associated robes with school, and a part of her had definitely thought the idea of bridal robes were a joke, but Claudia’s choice came surprisingly close to a wedding dress to her eyes. “Are you happy with them?”
A small smile crept onto Claudia’s rose-petal-pink lips. “I hadn’t expected to care, it’s just an outfit for one day, but yes, I’m very happy. Maybe I won’t mind everyone staring at me all day if I’m wearing that.” She didn’t like to be the center of attention, but if she could distract the various volatile guest combinations from quarrelling with each other, perhaps it would be worth it.
Claudia had heard it was normal for a bride to feel nervous the day before her wedding. It was not the marriage itself that caused her trepidation - being wed to Nathaniel had been a fantasy since she was twelve years old; it was only quite recently she’d contemplated it becoming reality, and it was the best version of her future she could imagine - but the gathering together of so many people for such a long time. Her main concern was keeping Holland and her Dubois grandparents away from each other, but there were so many other guests who had the potential to get along like a corridor on fire. “I hope it won’t be the catastrophe I’m imagining. I’d like to believe that everyone can get along for one day.”
“They’ll do it for you. Well, they’ll try,” Marley amended, rolling her eyes with a grin. In contrast to Claudia, who throughout their friendship had come across as the one with a plan for the future, she had always been more of a live-for-the-present type (her younger self’s ability to overthink a crush and decide they were a Thing before even going on a date absolutely didn’t count as ‘future planning’). Being here now, having a sleepover on Claudia’s last unmarried night, was both bizarre and exactly what she’d expected to happen. And, as someone who had never been to a wedding before but watched a lot of rom-coms, she knew exactly what her role was. She leaned back on her elbows, feet dangling off the bed. “You deserve to enjoy tomorrow... We should come up with signals,” she suggested, joking but not. “Like, blink twice if you need a getaway driver, tap your elbow if you want me to make a diversion. Whatever it is, I got your back.”
“Thank you,” Claudia smiled, “but I think if I need rescuing, it’ll be from a ruckus already evident. I don’t need an escape route. I want to be married to Nathaniel.”
Marley laughed and shook her head again vigorously. It was lucky that she’d already fixed her hair up: if she could play derby with a scarf & bantu knots and still tease out a ‘fro for the afterparty, she could get through a night of conversation with the same effect. If she couldn’t have a bridesmaid’s dress, at least she’d have a good hair day.
“You think I wouldn’t have offered earlier if I didn’t believe that?” She liked Nathaniel, and by Claudia standards, they were basically head-over-heels. That more than made up for the general weird of this technically being a teen wedding, and not even one that could be attributed to the Bible Belt. “But maybe you’ll both need an out, or just someone to start a new ruckus before you can be blamed for one in progress. The benefit of, er,” she gestured at approximately all of herself, “is I‘ve got no reputation on the line here.”
Marley coaxed a rare laugh from Claudia. “An enviable position,” she agreed. “But really what I want from you is an encouraging nod whenever our eyes meet, a glass of iced water with lemon whenever I look flushed, and a promise that you’re going to have a good time.”
Making sure Claudia felt supported was really at the core of all this; Marley had already long decided she'd keep an eye out for wedding drama, but in lieu of that, ‘happy and hydrated’ were tasks she could throw herself at wholeheartedly. “I can do that!”
“Wonderful.” Their friendship might have been rocky in places, and unconventional in others, but Claudia knew she could depend on Marley. She also did not doubt her best friend’s ability to have fun. Danny said it would be nice to see Marley again, and there were other RMI alumni attending, and Marley hadn’t ever had trouble finding someone to talk to in the years Claudia had known her. It was then Claudia recalled how Marley had answered her invitation. “Tell me about this plus-one you’re bringing.”
“Ooh, right!” She sat up, repositioning her legs under her. “To start, it’s a guy.” Marley grinned while saying this, zero-percent offended that the news might be taken with some relief - and acknowledging it was an anomaly in her dating history. When she thought about it, she was continually surprised that her choices had come down to a couple of cis dudes. Or one, really. James was into her, but also her coworker which seemed like a bad idea, so he’d been out of the running pretty quick.
“His name’s Evan. He’s studying business,” she began listing off, “he’s also in improv club, and he’s got this beard, I was so not a fan at first but it’s grown on me. We met at karaoke at the start of term and we’ve been, like, casually getting together for a while, but a couple weeks ago we decided to label it.” Was it abnormal to bring your boyfriend of two weeks to your best friend’s wedding? Maybe. But it couldn’t be any more abnormal than marking off a plus-one without knowing yet who you would bring. Probably everyone had done that - who else had a serious LTR at their age? “Oh, and he’s a wizard,” she added. “Outside of specialized degrees, the ratio at Queens is way more Muggle, so that was lucky.”
The possibility that Marley would bring someone who wasn’t a wizard had crossed Claudia’s mind, but never that she’d bring someone not magical! Swallowing her alarm, she replied, “Very lucky. Thank you for not bringing a Muggle to my wedding.” Breaking the International Statute of Secrecy was not featured in her order of service. “I’m looking forward to meeting Evan tomorrow.”
“I’m looking forward to introducing you! And to see everyone again, and meet your other friends. It’s really gonna be a mix, hey?” Where before her social circles could be summarized as school and home, since leaving RMI it was like smaller circles had sprung up all over; she was excited to introduce someone from her new life to her old one, and get to see Claudia’s, too. “But enough about tomorrow. Is there anything you want to do now?” Marley glanced around the room as if expecting some inspiration to pop out from behind the furniture.
“Now?” Claudia flicked her hand towards her bridal robes, wrapping the protective cover back into place, obscuring her outfit again from view. (Turning into a poison dart frog wasn’t the most useful skill she had developed, but the by-product of learning wandless magic during her animagus training had been worth the effort.) “I didn’t have any specific plans, but I thought perhaps you’d have some clichéd idea,” she teased, “about what a bride should do the night before her wedding. Eating cookie dough or something.”
Marley gave up her mock search with a laugh and leaned over, hauling up her purse from beside the bed. “I mean, I’m happy to go off-script, but some things are tradition.” Sticking her arm inside, she began pulling out her stash which, indeed, included tubes of cookie dough (not the Muggle kind, but a magical one with a warm, fresh-baked effect that had gotten her through midterms) as well as nail polish, fancy moisturizers and face masks, a big jar candle that claimed to smell like amortentia, and two entire bottles of wine, as she hadn’t been able to decide if Claudia would like the sparkling white or rosé more. “We are gonna relax so hard tonight. I had to choose between the TV or my shoeboxes, so no cheesy background movies - we’ll have to make up for that another time - but not to worry, I’ve got music. On the topic of cheesy, though.” She glanced at Claudia, still rummaging in her bag for her charmed speakers. “My derby captain, who's the only other married person I know under the age of, like, forty, said she wrote a letter to herself on her wedding night. What she was thinking about, hoping for, that kind of thing. Do you wanna do something like that?”
Claudia was bewildered, bemused, and delighted by the vast array of items Marley laid out between them on top of the pale pink quilt. She opened the bottle of rosé, duplicated the empty water tumbler on her bedside table and poured. “Write a letter to myself?” she asked dubiously, passing a tumbler of wine to Marley. “Dear Claudia, your life has been a series of mistakes, revelations, poor decisions and near-catastrophes. Yet somehow Nathaniel still wants to marry you, and you have some truly weird and inspirational friends.” She raised her glass in toast, quickly mirrored by a grinning Marley. “Try to fuck up less in future. Sincerely, Claudia.” She swallowed a mouthful of wine down in one large gulp. “Right, light that candle, open the cookie dough, and let’s do facemasks first.”
Co-written by Sasha and B.