Cassiopeia Black looks beautiful on her wedding day to Charlus Potter. After ten years of betrothal, one year of engagement and several months of chaotic wedding and dowry preparations she is finally getting married. Her dress is a pure white, glowing and radiant. Her soft light curls are lifted up into ringlets atop her head, the light veil covering them for the duration of the ceremony. She regards herself in the dressing room mirror with critical enjoyment. Her bridesmaids have floated off to talk to other guests before the ceremony starts and she is alone with Horace Slughorn, who stands awkwardly toward the back of the room in his dress robes that look far too tight on his bulky frame,
"Do I look lovely, Sluggy?" she asks, turning to face him. She is radiant as she asks this, knowing the answer.
"You're always lovely, Cassie," Horace says, rubbing a large hand over his forehead. "I'm surprised Potter waited so long to marry you." He hates the tingly feeling she gives him. Horace thinks of knowing Cassiopeia back at Hogwarts when he'd tutored her in Potions. He hadn't thought of her that way then, had he? Horace couldn't be sure; he was never very good with girls. He knows Cassie is fond of him – as a friend as a brother. She is forever grateful to him for saving her squib little brother. But she could never love him the way she loves Charlus.
"Well, Charlus is a busy man," Cassie chirps, adjusting her veil and sweeping out the skirts of her dress. "He's so…strong and dashing and…the first Ravenclaw the Potters have had in several generations." She twirls around the sun lit room. Her small hands flutter over her body, smoothing out creases in her gown. She is twenty-one, but Horace thinks he wouldn't give her a day over seventeen had he seen her on the street.
"He's also very full of himself," Horace mutters.
Cassie doesn't notice. She stops her pacing as her hands land on the loose end of a ribbon. "Oh, Merlin, Horace could you help me tie this?"
He goes to her and begins to tie the ribbon. His large fingers are clumsy and he has to re-do the knot several times. He can cut up ingredients for potions alright, but outside of the lab he becomes such a clumsy oaf that he isn't surprised that he is not worthy of Cassiopeia Black's notice.
Cassie is lost in her own world. "I can just see him now, Horace. Standing at the alter as Papa walks me down the aisle. We make our vows and dance then, like we danced at all those balls… He will make love to me tonight." At this last she flushes and Horace feels a stinging jealousy as his mind, unbidden, begins to form images in his head of how Cassie's lithe body will slither out of the gown and the petticoats and spread itself out on the bed, among satin pillows…A beautiful private exhibit for the Potter heir. Horace exhales and tugs at the ribbon, making the knot far tighter than he had meant to.
Cassie continues, the blush having faded from her cheeks. Sun falls over her face as she fantasizes about her future life with Charlus and how many sons she will bear. Horace knows it is for the better, that it is the right thing. She is a Black and she is ought to be married to a distinguished Pureblood heir.
He just doesn't think Potter deserves her.
Cassiopeia turns and regards him seriously, her dreamy smile fading. "Oh, Sluggy, I'm so glad you're here."
Horace flushes and looks away from her. "Don't call me that, I hate that nickname," he mutters. He really does hate it, hates thinking what sort of un-romantic images that nickname brings to her mind.
Cassie looks confused but relents. "I'm so glad I have you, Horace. You're the best friend a girl could ask for." She leans forward and brushes her lips against his cheek. They both flush and step away from each other. Cassie is still smiling.
The moment is broken by the door flying open and one of Cassiopeia's bridesmaids running in, accompanied by a deafening rustle of skirts. "Cassie, you must come at once!"
"Oh!" Cassiopeia turns once to the mirror, then back to her friend, Horace completely forgotten. "Is it time? Finally! What's been taking so long?"
"Wait, Cassie." The girl looks suddenly somber and pale. Cassiopeia stops dead halfway across the room. "Come with me. There's been an owl."
Something dead and heavy begins to form in Cassiopeia's chest. She doesn't like Ophelia's expression; she suddenly realizes that the ceremony should have started half an hour ago. She follows the other girl down the hall and through the double doors. Horace trails behind them but Cassie has forgotten all about him. She pushes the double doors open and looks around. The guests are in disarray and when they see her, their conversations fall silent. Her parents and brother and grouped at the front, by the alter. An owl sits perched nearby, hooting mournfully. Cassiopeia suddenly realizes that her Dorea is nowhere in sight.
Cassie draws nearer, her heart pounding. "Mama, who is the owl from?" she asks, shakily. She looks around for Charlus but does not see him. When she looks back to her parents, it is her father's eyes she meets.
"Sweetheart, there has been dreadful news…The owl is from your sister."
"I don't understand." Cassie grabs for the letter but misses.
"Dorea and Charlus…have eloped."
Cassie stares at her parents, at her brother – who frankly looks like he could murder someone – to the baffled Binder still in his place at the alter, to the faces of the guests nearby. She suddenly remembers the way Dorea cried for seemingly no reason when Cassie's engagement was announced and how Charlus looked at her when they danced at Dorea's coming out ball a month ago.
When Cassie faints, Horace is the one to catch her.