Tripping Down the Aisle Chapter Twenty: The Wedding, Part 2
Note: Hey, yeah, remember how I said this was the last chapter? Funny thing…
Well, what happened was…it was taking me…way too long to get this out. There was just so much that had to happen in here, and I just couldn't get into it, knowing that I had to do so much. So I decided to split it up into two chapters, and…everything came a lot easier, and I was able to get it done and post it for you!
I really am sorry about making you wait five months to not even have the story be over, but with this way, it actually gets finished and it's not all rushed and filled with general badness. I should've known that I wasn't going to be able to finish everything up in one chapter—and you were right to express your disbelief in reviews for 19—but I was really…I guess we'd say jazzed about having both Deflating and TDA a nice, even 20 chapters. It was irrational. I apologize.
Well…here it is.
"Where are they?" Sirius demanded impatiently, hitting his wrist repeatedly with the stack of index cards he was holding.
"Three guesses," Peter replied lazily, grabbing a flute of champagne from a tray the waitress who had just passed them was holding.
The wedding had gone off mostly without incident, except for the part where Sirius had started to cry and Peter had laughed at him rather loudly, causing James to twist around and shoot them death glares until they stopped. James and his wife had disappeared after their little half-run down the aisle, and their guests were currently awaiting their arrival in the reception hall.
"Yes, but I know Prongs doesn't take that long," Sirius said crossly. "They've been gone for thirty minutes."
Peter and Remus both slowly turned to stare at him. "And exactly what do you know about James's…bedroom skills?" Remus asked.
"Enough," Sirius responded vaguely, still playing with the cards. At their expressions, he explained, "He asked me—you know what, nevermind. I'm not going to betray my best friend's confidences. It was an extremely uncomfortable conversation anyway, and I don't really feel like replaying it for your entertainment."
This conversation was growing uncomfortable in itself, so Remus quickly changed the subject. "Why so impatient, Sirius?"
"I want to give my speech," Sirius answered, and Remus realized that that must've been what the cards were for. "I've been gathering material for this speech for fourteen years, and if they spend their entire reception in a cupboard somewhere I'll never get to give it."
"Fourteen years?" Peter said, surprised. "You've been friends for that long?"
"Mm. I met James when I was six. We—" He cut himself off. "But you will just have to wait for the speech to hear that story," he finished primly.
There was a sudden, outrageously loud sort of cackle that caused Peter and Remus to jump, but Sirius to smile sort of fondly.
"What was that?" Peter asked, slightly alarmed.
"Cousin Seb," Sirius replied cheerfully. "Bless him, he must be thoroughly sloshed already. He always laughs like that when he's drunk. Which is always."
"Seb?" Remus said. "James's cousin Seb?"
"Mm-hmm. Great chap, Cousin Seb. Always forgets who Lily is. Thinks she's Cherise."
Cherise was James's first real girlfriend. He'd gotten together with her in October of his sixth year, and had really been quite taken with her. She was a pretty, fun sort of Hufflepuff seventh year who liked to change her nail polish every day, hum peppy pop songs under her breath, write in purple ink, and drink. She liked to drink a lot, actually, and was much better at it than anyone else they had ever known at school. The only bad thing about her drinking was that she tended to get mean if she had too much, and she would try to pick physical fights with anyone who was around. The relationship faltered towards the end of the school year when Cherise decided she was too old for James and he decided he'd never really stopped liking Lily Evans and had merely been going with Cherise to curb boredom. Which was cruel, but sadly true.
"They don't look anything alike," Peter commented, amused.
Without skipping a beat, Sirius told him, "Cousin Seb's an alcoholic, Peter. He forgets the names of his own significant others; you can't expect him to remember James's. Why d'you think he's been divorced four times?"
"Weren't you supposed to be keeping him away from the bar because he's an alcoholic?" Remus asked.
"Yeah, I was," Sirius said unconcernedly, tapping his index cards on his hip. "But it wouldn't be nearly as fun if Seb wasn't drunk off his arse. Seb's a fun drunk. More fun than Lily, even."
"You just say that because she kissed you that one time," Peter said.
"And it was fun. For both parties, I should think."
"Is that why she sat on you once her hangover had worn off, put a wand to your throat, and made you swear you would never speak of it again?" Remus inquired airily.
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Sirius returned easily. "She was afraid that James would realize we had spent a night of passion together and break up with her. He'd have to leave the country, probably, and go someplace like Czechoslovakia or Zimbabwe or, y'know, Nebraska to become a missionary or something. I mean, I wouldn't want to follow me, would you?"
Peter was sniggering, but Remus flatly said, "She kissed you, Sirius, she didn't bear your children."
"Ah, 'cos I stopped her. Who knows what would've happened if I hadn't pried her off me? You could be talking to James right now about his fling with my wife."
"No, I couldn't," Remus retorted, "because according to you, he's in Nebraska."
"I don't think James would go to Nebraska, actually," Sirius said thoughtfully. "He's just not a Nebraska kind of person. I definitely think he's more of the Yugoslavian type. Simply because I think he'd enjoy saying 'Yugoslavia'."
"Do you even know where Yugoslavia is?" Peter asked.
"No," Peter replied shamelessly, shrugging a little.
"Oh," Sirius said. "I don't either. I hoped you did so you could tell me."
Cousin Seb cackled again. Remus winced.
"There they are," Sirius said exasperatedly, and Remus and Peter turned to face the entry to the reception hall, where James and Lily were standing, smiling sheepishly and holding hands. Cheers and applause greeted them, causing Lily to turn to James and laugh, her cheeks flushing attractively. The swarm of guests closed in on the two of them, obscuring them from the remaining Marauders' view.
"I bet that's the whole reason James got married," Sirius volunteered pensively, tapping the index cards against the side of his left hand. "The attention."
"Ah, well, that's a switch from last week's theory that he was doing it for the presents."
"The presents and the attention," Sirius amended, unfazed.
"And the week before that it was because you were sure Lily was pregnant," Peter reminded him.
"She has definitely put on weight," Sirius said with a slight defensive air.
"And the week before—" Peter began.
"Hestia!" Sirius interrupted him, waving someone over. "Oy, Hestia!"
A cold feeling spread through the pit of Remus's stomach. He turned his head slowly to see Hestia, clad in a dress of knee-length chiffon, deep red in color. She had diamond studs in her ears and a matching bracelet, which caught the light and sparkled when she returned Sirius's wave and headed their way.
"I almost got lost," she confided, laughing breathlessly when she reached them. She pushed some of her dark hair behind her ear and pulled on her right earlobe, something she always did when under pressure. "It's a nightmare over there." She nodded her head in the direction of the crowd surrounding James and Lily.
"I know what you mean," Sirius said, perhaps a bit too eagerly.
Peter was squinting at Hestia as though he remembered her from someplace but he wasn't quite sure where and it was bothering him. Remus's stomach contracted nervously, hoping he didn't make the connection.
"Hello, Remus," she said, catching his eye and smiling in what, to an outsider, would look like a casual manner. "Always nice to see you."
Remus realized he was staring and quickly jerked his gaze away and concentrated intently on a spot on the wall three inches above Hestia's head. He tried not to blush. "Likewise," he replied, his voice stiffly polite.
Sirius jabbed him in the side. "Be nice," he hissed.
"I am nice," Remus mumbled. If only you knew quite how nice.
Sirius turned back to Hestia, smiling his toothpaste-ad smile. "Honestly, can't take him anywhere."
Peter cleared his throat pointedly, adjusting his collar and glancing around the room.
"Oh," Sirius said. "This is Peter Pettigrew, he's another friend of ours. Peter, this is Hestia Jones."
As she shook his hand, Hestia furrowed her brow and asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
Remus closed his eyes.
"Er," Peter said, and when Remus opened his eyes again they had released each other's hands and Peter had obviously realized where he knew her from and was trying to think of something to say. "I—I don't think so."
"You might've seen pictures," Remus spoke up quickly, "i-in the paper. Peter works at St. Mungo's."
"Yes," Peter agreed promptly. "I do. I work at St. Mungo's."
Sirius frowned. "You work in the file room, Wormtail. How would that get you in the paper?"
Peter threw him a dirty look. "I do more than just work in the file room," he said, with as much dignity as he could muster. "I deliver letters to the patients and—and I direct meals to the correct rooms and I—I help organize the storeroom sometimes." He blushed furiously as though realizing for the first time that maybe his job wasn't as glamorous as he had previously thought.
"Oh, right," Sirius said sarcastically. "How could I forget? Glorified waiters routinely get full-page articles in the Prophet, I apologize."
Peter started to launch himself at Sirius, but Remus, having expected this, gripped Peter's arm. "He didn't mean it," Remus told Peter. "Sirius is just an arrogant cad, you know that."
"The official description, actually, is 'devilishly attractive, unmistakably single, arrogant cad," Sirius drawled, scratching his head absently.
Remus released Peter's arm. "Oh, I didn't forget," he replied dryly. He caught Hestia's eye. She looked highly amused, quirking an eyebrow at him and fighting a smile. Remus averted his eyes and tugged on the sleeve of his robe to distract himself.
"Ah, it's the marrieds!" Sirius shouted exuberantly, and Remus, Peter, and Hestia turned to see James and Lily making their way towards them. "How d'you feel, Prongs? Depressingly mature? Trapped? Peaky?"
"I'm a bit buzzed, actually," James responded, grinning. "I can't stop smiling."
"Oh, that's because I shot you with a Cheering Charm," Lily said, giggling uncontrollably.
He laughed with her for a while, then paused and tentatively asked, "That was a joke, yes?"
She nodded, still giggling.
"Brilliant. Let's go find a closet to shag in, wife."
"Again?" Lily implored, still laughing like a schoolgirl.
"Yes," James responded, tugging on her hand. "Now."
"No!" Sirius cried, waving the cards at their retreating backs. "I have to give my speech!"
They paid him no heed and soon disappeared in the crowd.
"Disgusting," Sirius muttered, shoving his index cards moodily into his pocket and folding his arms over his chest like an insolent child. "Rabbits, is what they are. It's a miracle they haven't surrounded us with speccy little children with red hair and bad attitudes." He scowled.
"Oh, come off it," Remus said, punching his friend good-naturedly in the arm. "Are you telling me you wouldn't be thrilled to be Uncle Padfoot?"
Sirius fought a smile. "Yes. That's exactly what I'm telling you."
"You'd love that and you know it," Remus grinned.
"Would not," Sirius mumbled, rubbing at his mouth in an attempt to disguise the smile that was slowly spreading there.
"Would too. You'd spend all day thinking up new ways to give Lily heart attacks. Hang the baby upside down by its feet. Take it on a broomstick. Buy it leather."
"Hide its glasses," Sirius muttered. He finally allowed the smile to grow. "Used to do that to James all the time when we were kids. I'd take his glasses when he was sleeping and hide them. Drove him mad. He'd spend upwards of eight hours looking for them. It was great."
"Sirius, you still do that," Peter reminded him.
"And it's still funny, is it not?"
Remus was about to reply when James's mother, wearing an elegant, almost regal ensemble of black satin, approached them. She had tears in her eyes and, without any sort of warning, flung her arms around Sirius's neck and gave a rackety sob.
"I know, Maureen," Sirius said, patting her on the shoulder. "Little boy, growing up so fast, and so on."
"Married!" she choked throatily. "My Jimmy! I— " She was unable to finish her sentence, as she burst into tears again.
"I know," Sirius repeated, taking her by the arm and gently steering her towards the hallway. "No one is more surprised than I."
Hestia laughed a little, watching Sirius lead Mrs. Potter out of the room before turning back to Peter and Remus, a smile still on her face. "It was a lovely wedding," she said, as if Peter and Remus were the ones who had just been married.
Peter nodded. "Listen," he said abruptly, "I don't mean to be rude, but d'you mind if I talk to Remus alone for a second?"
Hestia's eyes flickered to Remus for about half a second before turning back to Peter. "Of course," she replied. "I was about to go get myself a drink anyway." She smiled at him. "Great to meet you," she added, straightening her skirt and adjusting her hair a little before heading back into the throng.
Peter and Remus both watched her go. "So," Peter said conspiratorially, "you're boffing her, then?"
"Don't be crass, Peter," Remus replied, scratching absently at the base of his neck.
"Well, aren't you?" Peter insisted, turning his head to face the other man. "And there's no use lying. I recognize her from the pub."
"If you recognized her, why bother asking me?" Remus wanted to know.
Peter whistled lowly.
"What was that for?"
"I didn't actually know for sure if it was her," he said, rather proudly. "Now I do."
It did not bode well, Remus thought as dryly as it is possible for someone to really think, for his supposedly discreet nature that two people had discovered his torrid secret in the span of five hours. Remus shot Peter the dirtiest sidelong look he could muster. "Say nothing," he said flatly.
"Didn't figure you for the type," Peter said, positively cheerful that he'd come to a correct conclusion all on his own. "I always thought it would be James or Sirius to do this sort of thing. Not you."
"First off," Remus said irritably, "do you spend a lot of time thinking up soap-opera situations to throw us in?"
Peter shrugged. "I work in a file room, Moony," he said seriously. "I don't have much to do."
"Secondly," Remus continued, ignoring this, "when would James or Sirius get the opportunity to do this sort of thing? James has been with Lily forever, and Sirius still doesn't like her as much as he could."
"Which would make it all the more shocking," Peter replied promptly. "No one would ever expect it."
Remus stared. "We really need to find you a better job," he said.
Peter nodded. The silence that followed was, while not exactly the most comfortable, not entirely awkward. When Peter spoke again, it was with a much more solemn tone. "When are you going to tell him?"
Remus said nothing, gazing down at his shoes instead.
"So that's a never?"
"Not never. But not…soon, either," Remus said, frowning at the stupidity of his sentence. "I just…I'm waiting for the right time…or something." That wasn't much better, but it would have to do.
"How long has it been?"
"Three months, give or take."
Peter scoffed softly. "Moony," he said, almost gently, "if you haven't told him yet, what are the chances you ever will?"
Remus looked away from Peter, watching Hestia laugh politely at a joke one of the other wedding guests had made. She said something to the woman, brushing a strand of hair away from her face as she did. Remus turned back to Peter, who was watching him stare.
Peter clapped Remus on the shoulder, completely ruining the poignant little moment he had set up. "She's quite pretty, though," he said. "Don't know how you netted a bird like that."
Remus was staring at Hestia again, watching her take her seat at the table where, most unluckily, Remus would soon be sitting himself—with all of his friends. She glanced up from her silverware and caught his eye, flashing him the tiniest of smiles before returning to her inspection of the flatware.
It really was relatively unbelievable.
"I met James," Sirius began, standing on his chair so as to command the room's full attention and reading from the first of his cards, "when we were both six. See, we'd both been locked in the Ministry daycare because James's parents work there, o' course, and mine just make routine visits to blackmail people in positions of authority." His tone of voice became maybe a little too bitter towards the end, and he scowled for a moment before shaking his head and continuing, "Anyway, James and I, over a set of wooden blocks, decided that six was much too old to be in some stuffy daycare and quickly threw together a plan to escape.
"To make a long story short, James's father had to have a long talk with the bloke at the front desk of the Volatile Creatures Department, and I had to go to the hospital, but we've been best friends ever since."
He grinned at his audience, who laughed appreciatively, and Sirius, warming to his subject, said, "Of course, James disputes that version of events, and is shaking his head as I speak"—he was—"but he was much too young to remember, so we'll just go with mine.
"We remained friends. We saw each other through that long list of firsts that start when you turn about eleven or so: first day of Hogwarts—we got lost four times—first crushes—mine was on a girl called Calliope when I was twelve, James's was Gwendolyn something-or-other when he was thirteen; she punched you in the face once." He directed the last comment to James. "I don't remember why, though, do you?"
James shamelessly yelled in response, "I accidentally spilled a bottle of yak bile down her shirt and then tried to clean it up."
"That was it, yes," Sirius agreed, grinning and pointing to him. "You really don't have a steady hand for a Chaser, d'you?"
James shrugged. "My appointment to the team was a fluke. I'm now convinced it was simply because I look good on a broom."
"Oh, I completely agree," Sirius nodded before continuing, "When James was, oh, fourteen or so he set his sights on Miss Lily Evans." He made a sweeping sort of motion to Lily.
Raucous cheers and applause. James and Lily both laughed, though Lily was blushing. James, however, was enjoying the attention easily as much as Sirius was.
"James asked Lily out for the first time on—" He waited for James to fill in the blank.
"March 17, 1974," James supplied.
"—good God, that's pathetic that you know that—and was turned down. James was shocked. 'Kay, in case you've never met James, he's a bit full of himself. Likes to think he's God's gift to the world. Loves his hair and his eyes and just about every other aspect of his appearance. Thinks he's the smartest, wittiest, most charming person to grace the planet. So naturally, he was astonished at Lily's indifference to him. Surely, James thought, Lily had not heard the question correctly. He asked again. And again she said no. Determined to make an arse of himself, he asked again. And again. After the sixth or eleventh time, Lily stopped feeling sorry for him and started to get annoyed. She started looking up curses and made sure to arm herself with her wand whenever she left her room.
"This continued, much to the dismay of me and the rest of the school, for roughly two years. Pretty soon we were all on Lily's side: we were just as sick of James as she was." He turned to James and ruffled his hair affectionately. "I say that because I love you, Prongs," he added, "and I feel we can be honest with each other."
"That's starting now, yes?" James said dryly, tilting his head upward to face Sirius, his right eyebrow quirked.
"Later, duckling," Sirius practically sang. He was quite obviously in his element; surrounded by people hanging on his every word and laughing at all of his jokes. As such, he was becoming more charmingly obnoxious by the second. "We have comp-any.
"So anyhow, when we were seventeen, good old Jimmy finally wore Lily down. Actually, I'm still not unconvinced that she's under some form of the Imperious Curse, but James insists that she isn't, and she rarely looks glassy-eyed so I have to be a good friend and take his words at face value."
Sirius took a very dramatic pause here to delicately sip his champagne. After carelessly handing off the near-empty flute to the groom in question, he continued, "Well, my friends, I love James nearly as much as I love my leather jacket, but I am, among many other things, a realist. I did not expect the relationship to last very long, and I really don't think they did either."
"No," Lily agreed, maybe a little louder than she'd intended to.
"Right. They fought too much, over everything. They still do, come to that." His tone of voice became serious, and he picked up the champagne glass again, seemingly to have something to do with his hands. "And I admit that, maybe because of all that or maybe because of my own…insecurity or whatever, I've never exactly liked you, Lily."
The bride looked up from her hands.
"I've, um, always seen you as sort—sort of a threat. 'Cause James is my best friend, you know, and I—I—he means…a lot to me." Sirius carefully avoided James's eyes here, choosing to focus instead on the cuffs of his sleeves. "We had plans, you know. When I broke up with my first girlfriend, we—we promised each other that we'd be single forever, and—and we'd live together in this idealized bachelor pad for all eternity and stuff. And then he got…you, and I—he wasn't just…my James anymore—please, bear with me; that was the best way I could think to term it—he was yours, too, and I didn't—don't—like sharing him." He swallowed, with difficulty—it was clear he was trying not to cry. "And so I was terrible to you for a really long time, and I apologize."
"It's okay," Lily said softly.
"Yeah, but I'd like to thank you, actually. Because—okay, people…need people. You need a circle of people—friends and family and whatnot—around you in order for your life to go smoothly. You—you need people to support you when something goes wrong, and you need people to help you celebrate when something goes great." He swallowed again and glanced around the room. "Cl-clearly, I'm not telling this right, but the nub is that Remus, Peter, and I can't be the whole circle. His family, huge and wonderful as they are, can't be the whole circle. And, um, you can't have an incomplete circle. 'Cause…then it's not a circle, y'know, it's, er…a spherical shape with a great, gaping hole in it. But you, er, you complete the circle, Lily. So, er…thank you. On behalf of the other members of the James Potter circle." Sirius smiled and gave a little bow as the applause started. Lily rose to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Why, Sirius," James cooed, propping his head up on his hand and fluttering his eyelashes at Sirius coquettishly as his friend took his seat. "I hadn't realized that your obsession with me had reached such an advanced stage."
"Stuff it, Potter," Sirius grumbled. "The next warm thing you'll hear from me will be at your funeral."
"Assuming, of course, that you outlive me," James said, grinning smarmily.
"Oh, I will," Sirius replied, tipping the last of his champagne down his throat. "I'll make sure of it, mate."
Lily remained standing, waiting for the straggling applauders to finish clapping. She was holding her own champagne glass and delicately touching her hair, as if making sure it was still there. When the applause died down, she said, visibly nervous, "I—I'm not very good at speaking in front of people, actually, but…I just wanted to share something with you." She tucked a flyaway strand of hair behind her ear as she fumbled around in the bag she'd had her mother carry for her until now. When her hand reappeared, a piece of paper—folded over several times—was clutched in it.
Turning this paper over and over in her hands, she continued, "Er, I'm a meticulous, analytical person. I make lists. I have to evaluate all aspects of something before I'll do it or say it, because usually, when I don't, it has disastrous consequences. Or maybe it doesn't, and my obsessive-compulsive personality has just convinced me it does. Anyway, James was the same way—or, rather, my decision to date James was the same way. I made…several lists, comparing his virtues to his vices, our commonalities to our differences, the benefits to the drawbacks of dating him…all of it.
"Really, by that time, I didn't mind him so much. I mean, yes, he annoyed me sometimes—a lot of the time—but I found him to be charming, funny, bright, and even occasionally sweet and compassionate. I just wasn't sure he would stay that way, you know, if dating him would really be a good idea in the long run." Lily gave a sheepish smile. "I can be a bit melodramatic at times."
This comment was met with laughter, which encouraged her greatly, causing her to project her voice more when she said, "When I had all but ultimately decided that, yes, I was going to take a chance on him, I needed to know…why he liked me. So I asked, and he gave me this beautiful list of things that I swear he must've gotten out of a book, but my attempts to find out which one have been unsuccessful thus far."
"See how little confidence she has in my romantic side," James drawled, tugging absently at his hair and looking altogether pleased with himself.
"The fact that your shining moment, romance-wise, was four years ago gives me little reason to have such faith," Lily smiled.
James gasped in mock-fury before responding, "Lily Evans, how dare you suggest that I am anything short of a Lothario, a Casanova, a Rock Hudson where The Ladies are concerned?"
Lily laughed. "First of all, I knew you liked 'Pillow Talk'. Second of all, I'm afraid I'm no longer Lily Evans."
James grinned. "Too true. You win."
"As I always do." She paused, clearly flustered. "You made me forget where I was going," she accused jokingly, glancing up at the ceiling and thinking. "Okay, I remember. In return for James's spontaneous exaltation of the wonders of me, I decided to extol the wonders of him. I can't remember all I said, and it would be boring to read it all off to you, because it's such a long list"—the sarcasm in her tone was not lost on her audience—"but I did say that I enjoyed the way he smelled, his sense of humor, his persistence, and, maybe most importantly, his imperfections.
"Well, by the time we were nineteen or so, I was sort of…forced to reevaluate the relationship for reasons I really don't wish to go into right now, and when I did, I realized—after much…emotional hardship, I guess—that I had come to love those things about James, and many other things besides. It was after this that I finally got that this was quite possibly The Real Thing and I shouldn't do anything to damage my chances of keeping it."
Lily sucked in a breath, and her eyes began to glitter with tears. "See, I guess…everyone assumes that by the time you're thirteen or so, you've started to grow up, because of all the physical changes you're undergoing. But I understand now that even though I had been able to fill out low-cut shirts for a few years and I had graduated from school, I didn't really grow up until I was twenty years old. And I guess James made me do that. And so…I say thank you." She gave an embarrassed sort of bow, blushing and tucking her hair behind her ears as she returned to her seat, James pulling her to him for a kiss. When he pulled away, he whispered something in her ear that made her nod, then swipe at her eyes.
What did he say, you ask?
Even I don't know.
A/N: To answer a few of the questions I'm anticipating…
1) Is this a ploy for reviews?
No. Really. I'm just trying to actually finish the story so I can move on to my next project(s).
2) So, like, is Sirius…ever going to find out about Remus and Hestia?
I'm not at liberty to say…(::cough::nextchapter::cough::)
3) Will I have to wait till February to get the last chapter, you vengeful harpy?
Not likely. I'm on Christmas vacay, and I haven't got much left to do, so.
4) Um. Hello. What about the cake?
I know, I know, you're all on the edge of your seats wondering: chocolate? Will it be chocolate? In the words of Conan O'Brien, keep cool, my babies: all in due time.
Oh, and, um…review. Please. Because I really do love you, despite all evidence to the contrary.