** I've written hen party in reference to the bride's party before the wedding because HP is set in Britain. In America (where I'm from) this is typically referred to as a bachelorette party.


AN: For some reason, 20 year-old Padma is a lot harder for me to write than 11-year-old Padma.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

For the Woman in Black Challenge on HPFC by Hermione's Harmony.

"Painted Plastic Smiles and Pretty Pink Bridesmaid Dresses"

Padma Patil wore black to her sister's wedding. She was the Maid of Honor.

Parvati never forgave her. But Padma never would've been able to forgive herself for wearing the bright pink bridesmaid dress.

Padma knew that Parvati would never see it the way she did. 'Vati would think it was about her, as she always did. She'd think it was about some sort of stupid, childish protest to the union.

And honestly, Padma didn't have a problem with the guy. He wasn't someone she'd have ever gone for herself, but he was good to Parvati, and good-looking, if a bit dim. It wasn't about him, and it wasn't about 'Vati. Not that it was about Padma, either, for that matter.

She couldn't not, though. Because every time she thought about her sister's wedding, she thought about everyone laughing, everyone dancing, everyone carefree.

And that idea made her ache.

Padma couldn't understand how everyone could just move on. Her keen eyes took in George Weasley, who was shattered forever, Teddy Lupin, who would never know his parents, Dennis Creevy, who wasn't so innocent any more. She watched the survivors who had lost everything try so hard just to keep living. She watched Molly Weasley go through the motions, Andromeda Tonks try to live for her grandson, countless others whose names she would probably never know, but she could tell they mourned. She watched Lav, who wasn't dead but sometimes wished she was, because after what Greyback did to her, she'd never be the same.

And seeing all of this, knowing all of this, there was no way Padma could go to a wedding – even her sister's wedding – and watch all the happy people, and paint on a plastic smile in her pretty pink bridesmaid dress, and not say anything. She just couldn't. Not even for Parvati.

Before the wedding, she'd been a good girl. She'd planned 'Vati's perfect hen party**; she'd ensured that the rehearsal went off without a hitch.

She showed up to the wedding late maybe a little bit on purpose, hoping that Parvati wouldn't have time to kick up a fuss. Parvati was in the dressing room, forlornly staring into the mirror. She looked beautiful in white. She always had. Padma painted on a smile just for her.

Padma could tell the exact moment Parvati caught sight of her in the mirror.

She screamed at the top of her lungs. Padma winced, then shrugged apologetically. At that opportune moment, Lavender chose to walk into the room. She gaped in abject horror at Padma's black dress.

"Um... Well... It's just... It's time to start, 'Vati," she murmured, regaining control of herself. The old Lavender, the pre-war Lavender, would've slaughtered Padma, or at least chewed her out. Padma's painted smile slipped a little bit.

Parvati simply nodded once, sharply, before flouncing past Padma without a word.

Padma blinked, telling herself she should have been ready for that. This is the price she agreed to pay in order to make a statement for those who wouldn't – couldn't – speak for themselves, the price she agreed to pay so that she could live with herself.

Padma walked down the aisle with her head held high. Looks of horror followed her the whole way down. A tear slid down her face, because no one understood. No one else was mourning Fred, Colin, Remus, Tonks, Snape, the millions of others. Padma mourned the Order members, the Death Eaters, the innocents, the Muggles.

Maybe, Padma mused, it's because she didn't really lose anyone that she mourns everyone so deeply. She still has her sister, alive and happy. Her parents are fine. Almost all of her friends are fine – it's really only Lavender that isn't, and Lav's always been more Parvati's friend than Padma's.

Padma's always had the fairy-tale life. Her entire childhood was sunshine and rainbows, with insignificant hardships scatted miles apart. She doesn't know how to deal with tragedy.

Parvati doesn't either – they grew up the same – but 'Vati shied away from hardship because of it. Padma absorbed all the tragedy around her and experienced it tenfold.

But, for now, she stuffed all the pain inside, because despite it all, she does love her sister. She stuffed the pain down deep and walked shakily down the aisle in her flowing black dress, and she tried to stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks.

She tipped her chin just a little bit higher, playing proud and haughty, before she realized that all that was, was a different kind of mask.

Calmly, Padma dropped her chin and walked confidently down the aisle, something like conviction shining in her eyes.

She wanted to regret her choice. She wanted to regret the black dress, but she couldn't, because as much damage as it'd done, she knew that it was something she had to do. For them, but for herself, too. She did regret hurting 'Vati, though, and not just because Parvati screamed at her afterward. Hurting her had never been Padma's intent.

The words still echoed in her head.

"It was my day, mine, and you ruined it!"

"Some times, Parvati," Padma had replied cooly, "it isn't all about you."

These were the last words Padma ever spoke to her sister.

Some part of her wanted to blame Parvati for it. After all, Padma was sorted first. Parvati should have followed, the way she always did.

Before the sorting they were joined at the hip, inseparable. And it would be so easy to just blame it all on her. But Padma knew that wasn't right. The blame was theirs to share. Either one of them probably could have stopped their relationship from spiraling out of control, but neither did.

She thought the words a thousand times, but never once did she say them aloud.

'I'm sorry.'