Sirius fidgets nervously in his tuxedo, tugging at the collar, clasping and unclasping the cufflinks in the shirtsleeves. His hair is freshly trimmed, short now at his shoulders and his chin is professionally clean-shaven. He has not indulged in such luxuries since he was a teenager and still living with his mother and father who hadn't approved of his shaggy hair and roguish scowls.
Damp grass squelches beneath his shoes as he walks through the damp heat of June, the after-math of last night's storm lingering in the air like a heavy cloak. He approaches an aging cathedral, its towers and spires regal and its stained-glass windows blinking stories at him through the buttresses of grey brick and mortar and the integrity of religion. He has not been to a church for years and it makes him feel uneasy, for it was another lifetime ago when he had stepped through doors such as these.
Entering the cathedral, Sirius is greeted by a clergyman and event planners bustling about arranging the last of the flowers and bannisters. He finds James' mother squawking commands and fussing over the state of the seats. She acknowledges Sirius, but they do not linger in each other's company, both of them absorbed in their own thoughts.
The hall is attractively decorated in a burst of reds and whites and pinks glowing and laughing in the morning sun. Garlands of blushing roses and Calla Lilies adorn the bannisters alongside the chapel seats. The fragrance is strong and it takes Sirius a moment to adjust his senses to it. Down the centre aisle of the church sits a wide, white wrought iron archway embellishing the same flowers. Sirius' heart leaps to his mouth, knowing that that is where he will give away his best friend.
He tries not to think of it as barter; trading a man for an altered replica, but Sirius cannot help but feel forlornly of James and Lily getting married, for now his best friend will have a new best friend, and Sirius will be left to wander through his life alone, with only a brother, but no longer a comrade with which to cause mischief and conduct mayhem.
Well, perhaps not entirely alone.
He returns to Mrs Potter and inquires after the bride and groom and she says that one is to the left door of the chapel, the other to the right. Sirius ventures immediately to the right where James is, but changes his mind and goes left. He unbolts a heavy wooden door and moves beyond a lavishly wreathed reception hall to another door. He knocks tentatively until he is admitted.
Mary, Marlene and Alice circle Lily in a flurry of chatter and make up and jewellery in a small room lit by a high chapel window. There is a chaise lounge and a small table with a bottle of champagne. Lily sits before a vanity in a white dress robe, her face pale, but her hands steady as she applies a coat of mascara to her already long lashes, wiggling the brush cautiously. Sirius is taken by her, for while Lily has always been beautiful, on her wedding day her beauty stands solitary in its comparison. Her long red hair tumbles out over shoulders, the front of it pinned back elegantly to reveal her startling eyes which blink up at Sirius' appearance, green and gold and glowing. She smiles amiably, her face lighting up like the dawn.
"Sirius! I always forget how fetching you can look in a tux," she croons merrily, setting down the mascara. Alice is fussing about with a long lace veil, attempting to attach it properly to Lily's hair.
"You're quite stunning in that dressing gown, yourself," Sirius returns slyly, grinning at her.
"It just won't sit!" Alice moans furiously, throwing up her hands, the veil fluttering through the air sadly. It is extremely long; Sirius guesses it will trail the ground. "You've made a disaster of your veil by having your hair down, Lily."
"Stop stressing her out, Alice!" Marlene bickers impatiently, adjusting her dress, which is similar to Alice and Mary's gentle cornflower blue ones, but extravagantly donned with a lace bolero and a mother-of-pearl necklace to commemorate her position as Maid of Honour. Sirius thinks she looks very handsome, her long blonde hair pulled back into a low bun, short tendrils framing her face. She smiles quaintly at him, catching him staring before he averts his gaze back to Lily.
"Here," he gestures, moving towards her. He reaches inside the breast pocket of his tux and draws out a silver box about the size of his hand, neatly topped with a bow. He sets in on the vanity. "A wedding gift; perhaps it will help."
Curiously, Lily tugs at the bow and lifts the lid of the box to reveal two silver hairpins encrusted with sparkling sapphires and diamonds. They glint and laugh in the light of the dressing room.
"Oh, Sirius," she gasps, lifting a now trembling hand to touch them. She scrambles out of her chair and throws herself against him weightily for someone so small, thanking him generously and planting a forceful kiss against his cheek, living a pale lipstick print.
"They were my cousin's," Sirius explains as she examines a hairpin wondrously. "She wore them on her wedding day, and before that they were my aunt's, and before that my grandmother's. I think they were passed down to me in the hope that one day I too would see a future wife walk down the aisle, but under the circumstances I think they are better served in your favour; and they match your earrings."
Lily kisses Sirius on the cheek again sweetly, tears welling in her eyes from the sentiment. Sirius feels slightly uncomfortable at her display of emotions and scratches his nose awkwardly, wondering how to ease the building tension. The bride sits back down and Alice proceeds to secure the veil to Lily's long tresses with the hair pins.
"They look very old," she comments, inspecting one with a trained eye.
"A few hundred years, I fear," Sirius says.
"That means you have something old! And something blue, apart from us," Mary says delightfully, clapping her hands together. When Sirius gives her a quizzical glance, she elaborates; "We only have something borrowed; Lily's veil is her grandmother's."
"Doesn't that count for something old?" Sirius asks.
Mary shakes her head. "She has to return it after the wedding; her grandmother wants all her granddaughter's to wear it. Lily's the second so far."
"Who was first?"
"My sister," Lily replies. "She got married two years ago and was absolutely livid when she had to wear it. She hated the design on the lace and it clashed horribly with her gown, but I was clever and chose mine to match the veil. I personally think it's lovely."
"Oh, I've never met your sister," Sirius says enthusiastically. "Will she be here today?"
"Unfortunately," Lily says bitterly. "Mum said to make her a bridesmaid, but I wasn't hers and we barely speak, so I don't see that working out to anyone's favour. Actually, where is mum? She's been gone for a while."
"I'll go find her," Marlene offers. She pauses to remove her high heels, flashing Sirius a gracious smile.
"How's James?" Lily questions nervously, chewing her lip.
Sirius shrugs. "I haven't seen him yet," he says.
"Get out of here, then!" Lily cries kindly as Alice finishes with her veil. She makes a final adjustment and Lily stands once more, approaching Sirius. She hugs him tightly and kisses him again before he departs for James' room.
On the other side of the church, the dressing room is a replica of Lily's; chaise lounge, champagne and all. Peter and Remus are already there. Sirius enters and is immediately tackled by his best friend. James shudders with nerves and then grabs Sirius by the face, his eyes wide behind his glasses. "I am making a huge mistake," he howls. "She doesn't deserve me, Sirius!"
"He's been like this for almost an hour," Peter clarifies, rubbing his eyes grievously.
"And rightly so!" James blubbers. His hair is a mess of black and grease and his tie has come undone. "I should bail now and save her years of sorrow. I can't make her happy."
"I should bail now and save myself years of sorrow," says Sirius coldly, pulling his face away from James' hands and taking him by the shoulders, shaking him slightly. "Get a grip on yourself. She couldn't want for a better husband. You spent years chasing after her, and you're going to get cold feet now? Where's your sense of chivalry? Where's your Potter courage? Since when are you one to deny yourself something you want?"
James sniffles for a moment, his shoulders slumped like a woeful stump. "I s'pose you're right. I mean, if she didn't want to marry me, she wouldn't be here, right?"
"Right! Now, fix your tie, comb your hair, and go meet your future wife in that church because she's nearly ready and they'll be admitting guests soon and you have to greet them."
"You've seen her?" James cries, straightening himself in front of Sirius, eyes hungry for answers.
"She looks beautiful, mate. She's really excited," he says gently, fixing James' tie.
James takes a deep breath, composing himself. It amuses Sirius how easily his best friend is mollified by his presence. Peter had never been capable of controlling James' theatrics, which were disastrous and frequent in their occurrences. Sirius was always sought to handle the matter. James is his brother, whether by blood or not, and it is Sirius' duty to be there for him.
James turns to the mirror behind him and proceeds to comb his hair messy hair with perfectionist precision. Sirius goes to Remus, who is sitting on the chaise lounge, watching the havoc around him. He looks desperately attractive in his tuxedo, which Sirius had been insistent on purchasing so he had something adequate to wear for the big day. It is superbly tailored to his tall build and Sirius' stomach does backflips at the sight of him, his chest purring. He sits downs and rests his head on Remus shoulder.
"Are you nervous?" Remus asks, his lips against Sirius' hair. He can feel Remus' breath against his scalp and their fingers interlock unconsciously, together at last after only a few hours apart. Sirius closes his eyes, savouring the warmth and the affection like he is storing oxygen to breathe.
"Me? Why should I be nervous?" Sirius returns, trying to hide the fact that he actually is. It is not his big day, and so he feels it is not his place to be nervous, but he'll be damned if he can find himself with a level head at this time. He is losing his best friend forever, though he condemns himself frequently for thinking of it as such.
"You're the best man; you have a duty to uphold,"
"My only duty is to get this berk into that church without any emotional breakdowns. I always knew he would be a mess on his wedding day, but I didn't think I'd actually get to witness it first-hand." Sirius opens his eyes and keeps them on James, wary of his friend doing something drastic again. He currently is heckling Peter for more hair grease, but the other boy his shaking his head emphatically, adamant in saying that if James uses any more, the mop on his head will be more product than hair.
A knock on the door interrupts the chaos and Mrs Potter enters, declaring it is time for the groom and the best man to greet the guests. James corrects his posture tensely and motions to Sirius who does not leave without kissing Remus long and hard, knowing it will be a few hours before he can do so again. He leaves Remus pink-faced and smirking, a new sense of valour restored in him.
There are a lot of guests. Sirius stands at the doors of the church with James and shakes hands with people he knows and people he does not know and all the while he wishes he were back in the dressing room with Remus. It is only now that he realizes how many people were precisely on the guest list. A hundred and seven hadn't really given the correct impression of such an extensive amount of people. Sirius only consoles himself with the fact that, if this were his wedding, there would be at least four times as many people thanks to his extended family and their extended family and the extended family's friends.
Inside the church, the guests amble between the aisles, finding their assigned seats and greeting old friends. James invited various classmates from their boarding school days and so there are a great number of shrieks in the delight of seeing a fellow peer after so many years. Sirius' cheeks are beginning to ache from so much smiling. He sees Remus and Peter positioned by the podium at the front of the church, Peter waving at various people and grinning. Remus looks anxious to be around so many strangers and Sirius wants to hold his hand and give him courage to remain composed, but he waits until all the guests are seated and eagerly awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. Sirius takes his position at the front of the chapel next to James. He brushes hands with Remus for comfort, gracing him with a small smile.
James is agitated, every extremity moving, twitching. He licks his lips over and over and makes small, panicky noises. The church begins to quiet, soft whispers of excitement reverberating against the walls. James looks to Sirius for some sort of solace and is returned with a thumbs up and a grin, as is Sirius' way of handling his friend during his jitters. He wishes he knew a way to console James and tell him everything would be all right while simultaneously making light of the situation, but his quick-wit fails him in this respect and as the audience finally falls completely silent, he feels his heart thump with a similar anxiety.
The organ begins to sound, a looming vibration of change and anticipation. Down the aisle, Alice and Mary follow a pretty flower girl tossing pink rose petals along the carpet. Marlene is close behind their procession. She smiles at Sirius and takes her place to James' distant right next to her friends. The ring bearer trails her, a small boy slightly on edge and gripping the pillow so tightly Sirius wonders if he won't tear out the stuffing. He situates himself in front of Sirius, taking deep breaths. Sirius is reminded of Remus and that painful shortness of breath and constant apprehension. He places a hand on the boys' shoulder as a form comfort for a second and the boy relaxes.
The organ begins to play a slow wedding march and James is taking deeper breaths than the ring bearer. Sirius is astounded to see his friend in such an emotional state. This is a boy who has always been sure of his decisions, always pulling Sirius along in the wake of his mischief and ploys and pranks and games. James was the initiator; he fulfilled his duties and needs and always got what he wanted whether it was through prior planning or sheer luck or irritating determination. But who was once just a boy is now becoming a man, facing the biggest decision of his life, for now it is too late to walk away. Sirius knows James' nerves are purely out of self-doubt, but he prays the git does not leave Lily at the alter because of it. While James had been born with brainless willpower and courage, he was ridden with enough insecurity to throw it all into the water.
Clutching the arm of her father, Lily appears at the end of the aisle, her gown a brilliant vision of ivory and lace, her face masked by the long veil which is held by a small girl behind her. She is carrying an enormous bouquet of so many flowers Sirius can name only several. But he does not notice the way Lily's walk is elegant and poise, or that a small bump at her stomach can be seen through the folds of white and lace. He notices instead the expression on her face through the marring of the veil and she is radiating confidence and grace and he can see that she has never been surer of anything in her life.
Sirius casts his gaze to James and his best friend is no longer shaking, no longer moving. His eyes are fixed on Lily, tears welling up behind his glasses as she walks down the aisle. They smile at each other and Sirius knows they cannot see anyone else in the room. He is happy now, for Sirius realizes he is not losing his best friend, but gaining a sister. He gave her something old and something blue, and now Lily will be returning the gift with something new.
The ceremony is long, but Sirius feels it was dreadfully short. So captivated is he by their whispered vows and silent touches that he is taken unawares when they kiss and the entire chapel bursts into a deafening applause. Sirius whoops with the guests, cheering and whistling and grabbing Remus to spin him around in an attempt to expel his sudden energy.
Lily seizes James' hand and they run back down the aisle together, laughing and grinning, followed by the teeming crowd of friends and family. Outside they are bombarded with rice and the remainder of the rose petals and Sirius hitches Lily up and twirls her around, embracing her and James and feeling at home again in a place he does not belong. Something new, he thinks, beaming around at his friends. He beckons to Remus and snatches Peter by the collar of his suit and they pose for the first photo together.
Sirius has a copy of the photo in his flat. It sits atop the mantel of the fireplace and not a day goes by when he does not look at it. When Remus goes to the hospital for check-ups and physiotherapy, Sirius visits him and he leaves the photo on the bedside table so that Remus always knows he has friends who care for him.
Sirius understands that perhaps he will never get the chance to marry the person he loves like James and Lily did, but he pays the thought little concern, for he and Remus made their own secret vows, in sickness and in health; in joy and in despair. But mostly joy, for he does not wish to linger on despair. The long, aching silences of the hospital ward bear no weight against the heated tremor in the bedroom, or the sweet Sunday mornings of coffee and freshly baked scones. Sirius knows there are plenty of things to despair over; tiny, insignificant things that he abandons beneath the bed in the shadows of his nightmares. Things like grumpy landlords and the stress of exams and the fact that he does not see James anymore. But the landlord like brownies and Remus bakes the best and exams will come and ago and a new year will begin and James and Lily will be back from their honeymoon soon. Despair does not come without the promise of happiness, so while Sirius knows he does not have until the end of his life with Remus, he takes comfort in the fact that Remus has until the end of his life with him.
The world is full of heartache and pain, but Sirius ignores it all. He wakes in the middle of the night, troubled and restless, and he rolls over in bed and feels Remus wrapped in the sheets barely inches away. In the few short months they have lived together, Sirius was finally able to learn the thousands of ways to kiss Remus and discover that there is still a thousand more. He comes to fathom the feeling of no cold patches in the bed and the smell of sweets in Remus' sweaters and how to prevent an attack of asthma without the use of an inhaler. He knows the difference between Remus' chronic coughs and his flu coughs and he picks up on Remus' reading consistencies and the discrepancies in his handwriting when they sit together in Gender Studies. Sirius no longer waits for anything, because there is nothing left for him to ponder. He is not impatient for something new, because he lives a novel experience every day.
And this is how Sirius measures his life, not with a thunderous applause, but with the quiet turning pages of a book; a book he helped write and create. A book he can finally read.