Disclaimer: Most of it's not mine, and if it's yours I apologise for stealing it... unless you're J K Rowling, the theft was completely unintentional. If you are her... um, I'm sorry?
A/N This chapter's going to take some explaining, I think. First of all, I highly recommend that you read Worthy Friends before going any further with this. It's not all that long, and it's a companion story to this one. Because if you don't I'll be giving things away here and believe me it'll make a lot more sense if you read WF first. I'm sorry about the dots below, but you really don't want to see what's written in my A/N down there if you haven't read WF.
Done that? Good. Now, let's see. Trinity has an arranged marriage. Trinity is Indian. Before you scream at me for being stereotypical and whatever else, hear me out. I am an international person. I have many friends all over the world and from all over the world. Of all my Indian friends, and there are a number of them, none have arranged marriages. Of all my other friends, only one of them has any conditions on her marriage, and that is that her husband will be from her own country and of her religion. I'm not naming that friend. I know that arranged marriages are in almost all cases nowadays a thing of the past, and very much a part of western culture as much as it is for Eastern and Asian and whatever else culture. That being said, Trinity's Indian. She could just have easily as been from any other country, but I just happened to make her Indian. This is where I say 'deal with it.' And now I shut up. This is the last chapter, everyone… I hope you like it, and all the changes I've made!
The next four days of November passed without mishap, as did December. Christmas came and went, with Lily, James, and most of their friends all staying at school and causing chaos to reign supreme. There were, however, no more major pranks. There was no time for serious planning, because they had so much revision and homework to do that they couldn't spare the time for serious pranking. Instead, they kept to minor things, generally food-related.
Christmas day came without mishap. Lord Voldemort seemed to be taking the holidays as a time for rest, because no attacks came during the Hogwarts Christmas break. James and Lily grew closer; Lisa and Douglass announced their engagement. Trinity and Sirius broke up, but would not tell their friends the reason. They remained close friends, and neither Sirius nor Trinity accepted dates with anybody else, although both were asked by several students who had, it seemed, been waiting for just this opportunity.
And so the Christmas break ended, and real studying for the NEWTs began. None of the seventh-years were to be seen without a book or a quill in the long winter nights. Sirius suddenly became a big reader, and his voice was raised less and less frequently. He was becoming almost withdrawn, which scared James more than he would like to admit. At least, that was until one Wednesday evening, when James approached Sirius about the whole issue.
"Sirius, what's the matter?" James asked, concern evident in his dark eyes. The rest of the common room was deserted, the younger students already asleep, the older students bullied into going to their dorms by all of James's (and so Lily's) friends.
"Nothing," Sirius said mechanically, and continued to read, but this time James wouldn't have it.
"Enough, Sirius," he said, setting his face stubbornly, and took the book off Sirius, careful to mark the page. "You're not putting me off anymore. We're talking. Now."
"There's nothing to say, James."
"Yes there is. There's been something wrong ever since… well, ever since Christmas, in fact. And you're either going to tell me, or give me a very good reason as to why you can't tell me."
"Nothing's wrong. I'm fine. Everything's perfectly fine!"
"No it's not," James told him. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to sit here and let you study- whatever it is you study every single night. I'm your friend, and you're bloody well not going to shut me off like this!"
Sirius scowled sullenly, and sat back in silence, glaring at James. James refused to be intimidated, and looked down at the book Sirius had been reading. The book was a dark green colour, and old, with the title: Indian Arranged Marriages: Their Advantages and Drawbacks.
"What the hell are you- oh. God no." James suddenly realised and broke off his sentence. He mutely handed the book back to Sirius. When Sirius accepted it without a word, James said softly, "I didn't realise."
"It's… okay. I'm researching, trying to find a way to get around it."
"I… is there anything you can do?"
"I don't know. There might be a way… but it hasn't been done in a long time." Sirius seemed to take it for granted that James understood. "I'm going to do it, though. There's nobody that can stop me."
"Of course not. Is there any way I can help?"
"Not yet. I might need some help in some of the more complex magical parts later, but at the moment I'm still in the research stage. This is a project I'm not doing the night before."
"Naturally. Well, good luck. And seriously, give me a yell whenever you need anything. I'll do whatever I can to help. Don't cut me off." James smiled sympathetically, and Sirius returned the smile, a grateful look in his eyes. Then James stood, and, with a warm, silent grasp of Sirius's shoulder, went up to his own dorm. He wouldn't tell anyone, of course.
Sirius's research continued, and gradually his mood began to lighten. He smiled more often, laughed at more jokes, and one week even suggested a trip to Hogsmeade. He did, however, have ulterior motives, because James saw him split off from the group and into an actual bookshop that James had been in, but Sirius had previously avoided like the plague. It was that night, in fact, that Sirius came to ask James for help.
"Hey, James?" Sirius asked as James was reading on a couch, with Lily curled up next to him.
"Hmm?" replied, preoccupied with his book.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?"
James seemed to notice the tone of voice Sirius employed, because he immediately excused himself from Lily and followed Sirius out of the portrait hole, and into a nearby empty classroom. "What's up, Sirius?" James asked.
"I… need your advice and help," Sirius confessed.
"Which first?" James asked, seating himself on top of a table. Sirius sat on one opposite, and took a breath.
"I have to be officially Indian, bonded by magic, determination, strong desire, and blood."
"You're going to do it?" James asked softly.
"Yes. There is no other alternative that I can see. But I need you to tell me, honestly, whether you think it will work. Here: I've copied down all of the vital information… read it, and tell me what you think." Sirius handed James a roll of parchment, and James began to read, in Sirius's surprisingly obsessively neat handwriting:
The only historically know unions of a non-Indian man to an Indian woman in magical history were where the man performed the ceremony to become a part of the magical Indian community.
Blood donated has to be other than from potential bride or her extended family, requires two magically-inclined witnesses of any race, and one Indian-born that is the blood donor. All must sincerely want ceremony completion.
Ceremony needs blood from willing Indian donor, which must be mixed with applicant's own blood at time of immersion. Said immersion to be wand-arm into thyme-scented boiling water, for the duration of blood-mixing and official spell casting. Spell to be chanted by other two witnesses.
Ceremony: Blood must be given by willing blood donor. Shallow cut administered by blood-donor to applicant's arm (not wand arm), and a similar cut to be administered by applicant to donor's arm. Cuts must be pressed together and blood mingled at same time that applicant's wand arm is immersed in boiling water enough to fill one medium-sized cauldron, having had four thyme leaves soaking in said water for at least four days prior to ceremony… 7 days for strongest magical tie. During this process, all parties must sincerely want ceremony to succeed, and two witnesses chanting the following:
Tie of courage to join the spirit,
Tie of heart to join the people,
Tie of blood to join the race,
Tie of need to join the hearts,
Trial of pain assure the truth,
Soul of old be cleansed anew,
One of value assume the title,
Become the man with love and pride,
Join eternally the everlasting people.
If need, want, magic, or blood is not sufficient, applicant will die. If successful, cuts will heal on closure of chant, water will become cool, and mark of Indian will become apparent.
James handed the parchment back to Sirius. "If you really want it, I'll back you. All the way." He said nothing of the possibility of death, knowing that Sirius knew of the chances. He just hoped to hell that Sirius knew what he was doing.
I want to. It's the only way."
"Who do you want to take part in the ceremony, then? Have you found a blood-donor?"
"Yes and no… I want you, of course, to be a witness and spell-chanter. I thought I could ask Lily to be the second one- Lily is close to Trin, and I don't know how Remus's… complication will affect the ceremony. And Trinity has a cousin in Ravenclaw, a year younger than us. I think… I know that she will agree to be donor."
"Then we'll do it. When?"
It was a Saturday night, the first day of Spring Break. The thyme had been immersed in water for seven days. They were in a classroom that had been locked and soundproofed to prevent distraction with the strongest spells the four of them combined could come up with. Sirius stood in the middle, facing Trinity's cousin. He held a silver knife with a hilt of black ebony. Lily and James stood opposite, facing each other, between the donor and the applicant. The cauldron was in the centre of the small circle, the water bubbling and giving off a scent stronger than they had imagined it would be.
"On the count of three," Sirius said, looking at the knife identical to his own that the girl in front of him held. "One… two… three."
Tie of courage to join the spirit.
Sirius's right hand went into the boiling water. He did not flinch.
Tie of heart to join the people.
His knife moved cut her left arm as her own cut his. He did not flinch.
Tie of blood to join the race.
Their arms met, blood merging, trickling down into the steaming cauldron below. He did not move.
Tie of need to join the hearts. Trial of pain assure the truth.
Sirius bit his lip, his face white. He stood still.
Soul of old be cleansed anew. One of value assume the title.
He did not falter.
Become the man with love and pride. Join eternally the everlasting people.
There was no crash of thunder. There was no flash of light. Sirius stepped back from the girl facing him. He took his arm out of the still water in the cauldron.
On his hands, vines of henna brown began to grow, twisting to form leaves and buds, spreading up and up, past his wrists, past his elbows, to his shoulders. They strengthened, they twisted, and they grew in intricate patterns. Sirius stared in wonder, his eyes wide and his face set as he watched the ever-moving vines claim his arms. He smiled then, a smile that filled out his face and lit up his eyes for the first time in months. Slowly, he made a pass over his left arm with his right, and his right arm with his left. The vines faded, leaving only pale skin in sight, skin that had spent far too much time inside.
He stood on the street corner, peering through the darkness to find the house. It was there, on the other side of the road, standing tall and forbidding. The lights downstairs were on, but to him, they gave out no warmth. This was the moment of truth.
He stepped towards the house, taking faster and faster steps, until he reached the front path. With a trembling hand, the front gate was unlatched. He entered, and closed the gate behind him. Then he followed the path, twisting and turning like the vines on his arms. He stood at the door, and straightened his robes. He lifted the heavy knocker and allowed it to drop. The sound echoed throughout the night.
The door was opened after a pause, and a man stood there looking at Sirius enquiringly. "Can I help you?"
"Yes. I have come with a request. May I speak with you at your convenience?" The wording had to be perfect, Sirius prayed he hadn't made a mistake.
"I have no business to attend to that cannot be done another day. Enter, if you mean no harm."
"I thank you," Sirius said. It would have been funny to an observer; the words were unrealistic, uncommon for the times, but they were part of the complex ritual that had to be observed. One misstep on Sirius's part, and all would be lost.
Sirius stepped in side, and stood courteously until the man who had led him in was seated. Then Sirius sat, perching carefully on the edge of the seat, his hands gripping his robes in an attempt to keep them from nervously twisting.
"I have come for a favour sir," Sirius said. "Do I have the privilege of addressing the honoured father of Trinity?"
"Honoured as he is to have her for a daughter, you do."
"I bring with me a gift in respect of your family, and hope of your friendship and goodwill."
"I thank you for your kind offer of a gift, but can accept none without some knowledge of your intentions." The man was trying to catch Sirius out, he felt sure. He was subtly changing the ritual, and Sirius realised that he would have to make the result of the ceremony he had undergone apparent.
"I give my word as one of the everlasting people that my intentions are honourable." That was the hint; would the older man accept it?
"Your intentions appear to be so; it is of your background I am uncertain. I belong to the everlasting people. I am not certain that you do." The man had changed the script entirely now, needing proof of identity before he was willing to continue with negotiations.
"I am one with the everlasting people, in spirit through courage, as one through heart, of a race by blood, of the heart through need, and of the truth, through pain. I am who I claim to be." Sirius had this speech practised; he knew with a clarity that he had never felt before that this was exactly what he had to say. "I am of your people." As he said this last, he passed his arms over each other, momentarily revealing the vines, before once more hiding them. This was all the proof he needed to give.
"You are of us," the man said, the look of wonder in his eyes being slowly replaced with understanding. "Your gift is accepted as it is given, in good will and good intentions."
Sirius took from his pocket a small black bag, which he handed to Trinity's father. The man accepted the bag, and laid it aside without opening it. That, too, was custom.
"I have told you of my wish to ask a favour. It is of this I come to speak," Sirius said.
"Speak on, son," was the reply, and Sirius suppressed his thankful smile. Those were the words that indicated acceptance if conditions were of a standard.
"I wish to take part in the ceremony of three with regard to Trinity."
"What do you have to offer my daughter?"
"I have a house to offer. I have a prospective job to offer." That much was true- Sirius had already had his ministry Auror-application returned positively. "I have a dowry to present to her father, the sum negotiable, and a heart full of love for your daughter."
There. He had said it. Now the negotiations would begin. If the dowry was acceptable, he would be allowed to be one of the three suitors. There would be no need of a duel against another if Trinity's suitors; her father's previous acceptance of Sirius as a 'son' had proved that there was room in the three for him.
"Your prospect interests me, and undoubtedly so my daughter. What dowry-price do you assert?"
The negotiations continued long into the night. It was a tricky business, Sirius knowing that a too high amount would show too much eagerness, but an amount too low would make it appear that Sirius underestimated Trinity's worth. In the end, Sirius won. He would be the second suitor that Trinity was to meet. Sirius could only pray that Trinity would not accept the first. It was against custom for him to inform Trinity that he was one of the suitors. She would not find out until she met him as a suitor.
The night that Sirius left to speak with Trinity's father left both Lily and James in the common room, worrying.
"I hope it goes well." Lily said, for the umpteenth time.
"It will. Sirius would give up everything for that girl. It'll be fine."
"Yes, I suppose. I hope!"
"It's funny, isn't it? Lisa and Douglass engaged, Sirius asking to be allowed to marry Trinity. I wonder who will be next." James said, and then grinned impishly. "Kate and Peter, do you think?"
"James! That's mean!" Lily said, but she couldn't help the grin that was spreading across her face.
"It made you laugh, didn't it?"
"It's still mean! Poor Peter."
"He should be used to it by now. And it's his own fault- I told him not to go anywhere near Kate, because she's only messing around. He told me I was jealous, and that, and I'm quoting, 'Kate just can't resist my charm.'"
"Did he really? Poor boy!"
"Yeah. Well, serves him right. And is it true Kate's set her sights on Remus, now?"
"Yes, she has."
"Oh," James said, "well, she won't get him. Remus has that much common sense, at least."
"Yeah, I hope so." Conversation petered off around here, and the two of them just sat together, staring into the fire, and thinking along similar lines. At last, James cleared his throat.
"Hey Lily?" he asked softly.
"Yes?" she turned to look at him, her breath caught in her throat, and trying to act naturally.
He took a deep breath. "After school, you said you wanted to be an Auror?"
"Yes…" Lily said, wondering where he was leading. They had already talked about what they wanted to be after school, many times. James was still undecided, but leaning towards Auror, too.
"I think I want to be an Auror, too. That has nothing to do with anything else I'm going to ask you… just that it's what I've decided. And we'll both have to live near the ministry…"
Lily wondered how long he would take to say what he was going to say, and refrained from telling him to 'spit it out.' Being both romantic and cynical at the same time was sometimes difficult to bear.
"Well, what would you say to… to living with me?"
Lily threw herself on him, in an affirmative answer that wasn't verbal.
The Hogwarts graduation ceremony was complete. Everyone was back in his dorm unpacking. Actually, all of the 7th year boys were in their dorms unpacking. The girls had all done that the night before, and were now in their own, reminiscing. Slowly, the girls who weren't a part of Lily's group of closest friends disappeared off to say goodbye to their friends in other houses, and Lily, Mia, Trinity, Lisa, and Kate were left alone.
Trinity took a deep breath. "I have something to tell you."
Lily knew what it would be and said nothing, but none of the others had any idea. Yet.
"It's- well, you all know my family's Indian, right?"
"Well yeah!" Kate said, grinning.
"Well, when my great-grandparents moved out here a long time ago, they brought their traditions with them. We still carry them all on. Including arranged marriages."
"Jesus," Mia whispered.
"You- you have an arranged marriage?" Lisa asked.
"Yes, I do. And… I should've told you guys ages ago. But I didn't. And that's why I broke up with Sirius, because I was getting too close to him, and I have to marry someone else."
Nobody said anything, but Kate hugged Trinity tightly, and one by one Mia, Lisa, and Lily joined the hug.
Lily took the key from James and unlocked the door. She twisted the knob, and the door opened silently. With a grin at James, Lily led the way into what was now their very own flat. They quickly did a tour, the small living/dining room, the even smaller kitchen, the bathroom, and then the bedroom. It was a tiny place, but it had all they would need.
Lily ran around the flat, grinning from ear to ear. At last, she stopped in the middle of the living room and flung her arms around James.
"It's ours, it's ours, it's ours!" she chanted happily, still grinning.
"All ours." James said, with a satisfied smile. "Now all we need is furniture!"
"Yep! We're doing that next, right?"
Three hours, and a lot of money (both in pounds and Galleons) later, they had a bed, a couch, a table, four chairs, a bookshelf, and other odds and ends necessary to the not-quite-married life of Hogwarts graduates. Lily was once again dancing around the living room, grinning once more.
"We have furniture!"
"Yep! And I've just carried it up two flights of stairs, so if you don't mind, I'm going to sit on it!"
"You did not carry it! You lifted it up with your wand!"
"It doesn't make any difference! It was still hard work!"
"Oh yeah? How?"
"You know how crap my Charms is!"
"Excuse me! Yours Charms isn't crap anymore! You came fifth in the year, had you forgotten?"
"True. All thanks to you." James grinned at her, and kissed her.
"I know!" Lily said, grinning. "And you help me with Transfiguration. "All's fair in love and war."
"Where did that come from?"
There was more silliness, until they both finally calmed down. Then they went to join their friends for dinner.
Lily and James Apparated in a restaurant in Diagon Alley, and quickly joined the ever-growing crowd of happy teenagers at a table. Everybody else was there, and Lily settled down between Mia and James, grinning happily.
"Our house is liveable now!"
They relived their Hogwarts days, laughing and talking, and full of 'do you remembers.' After dinner had finished, and they had all left the restaurant (much to the waiters' relief), they were milling around outside.
"What to do now?" Lisa asked.
"I know! I've always wanted to get a tattoo! Let's do that!"
So they did. A tattoo parlour close to the end of Diagon Alley obliged, and Kate soon had a tattoo of a rose on her upper arm. Being magical, its leaves rustled as if in the wind, and Kate showed them all how she could make it seem as if she didn't have one. After that, it was Mia's turn to live one of her dreams. They all made a trip to St Mungo's, where Mia finally got her eyesight fixed. That was another happy moment, and then it was Sirius's turn. Peter excused himself, saying that he was tired and needed to go back home.
Sirius, being Sirius, wanted a motorbike. So it was off to Hogsmeade they went, and Sirius chose a motorbike. A flying motorbike. He couldn't actually ride it, because he hadn't passed his test yet, so they sat around admiring it, and then they Apparated to Sirius's new house, taking the bike with him. Then it was Remus's turn, and Remus wanted a puppy. Nobody quite knew why, because he had never talked about dogs before at Hogwarts to anybody's knowledge, but he was adamant. So it was to the muggle RSPCA that they went, and came back to Remus's flat with a half-starved puppy. Peter wasn't home, even though he had said he would be, but nobody noticed his absence. They were all too keyed-up, and they spent the next half hour setting up part of the room for the puppy to live in, feeding it, patting it, and playing with it. When the floor was suitably covered in newspaper, the dog asleep in its new basket, everyone came back outside. It was Lisa's turn.
She wanted friendship necklaces for the girls, so they went back to Diagon Alley. In a small jewellery shop, she found what she was looking for. Four silver chains, with pendants on the end. They were silver, and the pendants at the end were silver hearts, with a stone inside each. Lily's was a solid green colour, similar to an emerald, but much more vibrant. Lisa's was a deep purple. Mia's stone was red, and Trinity's was a deep sea blue. They happily accepted the gift from Mia, celebrating with another group hug. Even James, Sirius, and Remus joined in. The woman in the shop told them that when they held the necklace, it would warm if somebody was thinking of its owner. Each girl instinctively raised a hand to clasp the charm in her hand, and each was rewarded with a warmth seeping into her hand. They grinned at each other once more, and then told James it was his turn.
"I don't know what I want!" James moaned. "At least, there's nothing that I can afford after all that furniture today!" There were suggestions from everyone, and finally James decided. "Okay, okay, I've got it! You girls have friendship necklaces, well… I'm gonna get the guys friendship socks!"
There was silence for a while, and then everyone burst out laughing. But James was actually serious, so they went to a shop and explained to the owner what they wanted. They had to try three different shops, because by this time it was nearly midnight and everything was closed, but finally they found one that was open. The man doing the selling looked somewhat wary of them, but he complied with James's wishes, and cast a spell to make the socks become warm when anybody was thinking about them.
Next, Lily said that she wanted to take the group out to a muggle nightclub. There were cheers to that, and then laughter directed at Sirius when he professed shock, saying, "But aren't all the muggles asleep by now?"
Three hours later, everyone was slightly drunker than they wanted to be, and tired out from dancing. Lily cast a very handy spell that she had learned only two days below, restoring everyone to sobriety. And then it was Trinity's turn. She sobered everyone up even more with her words.
"I met my first…I guess you'd call it a suitor, last night… wait, the night before last." She said, looking at her watch and realising it was three in the morning. "Tonight I'm meeting my second, so what I want, is this…" With a smile to the group, she kissed Sirius passionately. There was a pause as everyone realised that they should probably disappear while Trinity said her last goodbye, so the group Apparated back to Lily and James's apartment. They all drank coffee and talked even more, until Sirius and Trinity arrived ten minutes later. Trinity looked sad, but happy at the same time about what she had done. Sirius had a peculiar expression on his face, one that Lily couldn't read. She hadn't realised that he would be proposing tonight.
"Well guys, it's been a long night. I think I'm going to bed. Same time next week?" Lily asked.
"Same time next week!" Everyone Apparated home, leaving James and Lily alone.
"Ready to spend the first night in our new home, then?" James asked.
"Oh yeah!" Lily said. "Come on, you." She dragged him off into the bedroom.
It was evening, and Trinity was once again in the garden she had been in two days before, waiting to meet her second prospective husband. She sat on the bench, wondering who it would be, and whether he would be nice. The first guy was just completely wrong for her. She had met him in Hogwarts, actually, and he was a Slytherin. Trinity tried to keep an open mind and not judge people on their houses, but this guy… was Slytherin at its worst. She didn't know how her father had allowed him to become one of the three, but she prayed to all the gods she had ever heard of that this second one might be someone she could live with. If he wasn't, she would be stuck with the third, give or take, win or lose. She could do nothing about it.
Trinity sat on the bench, fighting down tears. Her mother had had to go through this; her older sister had had to go through this. They were both happily married. She would be too. She just had to trust her father. That didn't prevent the nerves, though, as she saw the man emerge from the trees. He was tall, like Sirius was. She quickly banished that thought from her mind; she could no longer think of Sirius. The moon was behind him, and all Trinity could see was his outline. He was quite thin, like… he was thin. He walked with a funny spring in his step. Was he as nervous as she was? Did he know her? Did she know him? Well, she would find out.
The man came closer, and Trinity averted her gaze down into her lap. She felt him sit beside her, but she didn't look up until she knew she had herself in hand, and wouldn't cry. If only this he was different to the other one!
In the dark, she couldn't see his face. He didn't speak, so finally she felt as if she had to. "I suppose you know my name, Trinity. Do I know you?" She tried to make her voice light, tried to banish her worries. In the darkness next to her, the shadow took a breath.
"You do know my name. And I have come with your own father's permission, to ask your hand in marriage."
Trinity burst into tears.
"Hey Lily?" It was exactly one week after the wedding of Lisa and Douglass, and exactly a year from the day that Lily and James had served their first detention in the mooncalf hut. They were in their flat, sitting together on the couch.
"Hmm, James?" They had been living together for four months. They hadn't had a single fierce argument in that time, a record for them both. Sure, they had fought over who would cook breakfast, whose turn it was to go to Gringotts, but none of that was remotely above a friendly quarrel.
"Will you marry me?"
Lily realised that 'Of course, you idiot,'would not be an answer appropriate to tell their grandchildren. Instead, she just smiled and said yes. And then, when James looked pleasantly relieved but made no move towards her, she rolled her eyes and kissed him once more. "I love you, you know," she whispered to him. He smirked, and pulled her closer.
A/N And this is the end. I've changed it to appease the cynic in myself (and in Katriona… yes, you have influence. Feel proud). I want to thank everyone who has reviewed, in both postings… You're all really wonderful. And that's all. Thanks once again!