Today was a day of firsts, Remus thought, watching Nymphadora step carefully into the circle of standing stones. It was the first time he had attended two weddings in one day, the first time he had ever visited the Hebrides and the Isle of Lewis. He smiled at the woman he loved while his heart leapt at the thought of the most important first yet to come.
The setting sun bathed Nymphadora's face with a soft radiance, highlighting her pixie-like beauty. She had the look of a bride, although her role was Maid of Honour. He wondered if she thought he looked like a groom. Remus felt the way he imagined Tom was feeling right now. Happiness warring with impatience, enjoying the moment yet longing for the ceremony to be over in order for a private celebration of love to begin.
The Celtic harpist finished the prelude piece and began the processional music. Beside him, Remus heard Tom's indrawn breath and turned to see the Julia approaching. She didn't look sad that only he and Nymphadora shared this most joyous occasion. Resplendent in emerald dress robes, Julia was luminous.
The wizard celebrant waited for his wife to finish the song before saying, "We gather here, in a ritual of love." He held out his wand between the couple. "Place your right hands on the wand, over the rings." When Tom had placed his hand over Julia's, the celebrant asked the bride-to-be, "What is your desire?"
"To be one with Thomas," Julia answered softly.
The wizard turned to the bridegroom with the same question.
"To be one with Julia," said Tom.
Remus' eyes strayed to a nymph in sapphire blue. While the celebrant led the couple through an exchange of vows, the words, with slight alterations, echoed in his mind.
Do come here freely, seeking partnership.
I come with all love, honour and sincerity,
wishing only to become one with her that I love.
Always will I strive for
happiness and welfare.
Tears slipped down Nymphadora's cheeks as she mouthed, "I love you," and turned listen to the celebrant advising, "It is no weakness to admit a wrong. More, is it strength, and a sign of eternal growth. Forever love, help and respect each other. The constant circle of love you share is symbolised in these rings. Let them be a token of the partnership you have come to celebrate this day. When the waters are rough, let these rings remind you of the ebb and flow of life. Let them remind you of the happiness you feel at this moment, and let the memory soothe your spirit."
Within moments, Tom and Julia exchanged rings and the groom had kissed his bride.
"You look as dazed as I feel!" said Tom laughingly, shaking the hand Remus offered in congratulations.
Julia and Nymphadora were hugging. "I'm so happy for you!" Nymphadora cried, before throwing herself at Tom and hugging him too.
Remus kissed Julia's cheek. "You are a beautiful bride, and Tom is a fortunate man. I wish you both a lifetime of happiness."
"That's so sweet. No wonder my best mate loves you so much!" Julia said as she hugged him.
"Shall we adjourn to the sea?" the celebrant asked with a smile.
The small group Apparated the distance from the stones of Callanish to the shore of Loch Roag, a nearby sea-loch on the Atlantic coast. Remus didn't like to speculate about how many Galleons local wizards had charged to ensure Muggle Aversion Charms kept tourists away, even though Tom Fenton could easily afford it.
Tom had offered to book them a room at the luxurious Victorian guesthouse he and Julia were spending the weekend in, but Remus had refused the generous offer. His tariff for a week's lodging at the small place his friend Andrew recommended would total less than two nights' accommodation at the lavish bed and breakfast. Nymphadora cared nothing for period bed linen and antiques. She only wanted to spend time with him.
On the shore, each member of the party threw a stone into the water while the celebrant spoke a traditional Celtic Blessing.
May you both be blessed with the strength of heaven,
the light of the sun and the radiance of the moon,
the splendour of fire,
the speed of lightning,
the swiftness of wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of earth,
and the firmness of rock.
"Blessed be," sighed the celebrant's wife.
The wedding feast held in the dining room of the stately guesthouse drew interested looks from other diners. After Remus accepted a glass of champagne from Tom and smiled his thanks, he said, "Truth be told, I far preferred your wedding to that of Nymphadora's cousin, beautiful as it was."
"Lots of pomp and ceremony?" Tom chuckled.
Remus tried to answer in a politic way. "There were doves," he said.
"Those were my idea," Nymphadora said in a small voice. She winced. "It seemed so romantic. The bride and groom releasing white doves as they go out into the world together."
"What happened, Tonks?" asked Julia.
Nymphadora hesitated to answer, so Remus volunteered, "The mother-of-the-bride's hat became…soiled."
Tom and Julia grinned. Nymphadora smiled reluctantly. "I could've wrung that bloody bird's neck!"
At that moment, servers brought out the main course. Roast pheasant with Madeira sauce was set before them. The couples looked at each other and broke into laughter.
After making numerous toasts and arrangements to meet for breakfast Monday morning before Tom and Julia returned to London, the couples said goodbye. The Isle's lone Squire Cab transported Remus and Nymphadora to their accommodation on a remote part of the island.
"Oh, Remus! It's perfect!"
It was a two-storied, whitewashed cottage. The proprietors, old friends of Andrew's, must have converted the attics for guests, Remus thought uneasily. He hadn't asked how long it had been since Andrew visited. What if the room was small and shabby, with a lumpy mattress smelling of damp? His heart sank.
"Welcome tae Caladh. We hope you enjoy your visit to our Haven."
They saw an old man waiting on the front step. He accompanied his greeting with a smile. "In the morning, you will see the beach, but there is nae view in the dark. Come in, come in! Mrs. MacLean is sleeping, but she will greet you when she delivers yir breakfast."
Remus brought their luggage into the house, secretly relieved to find the cottage furnished charmingly.
"That's local tweed on the settee," said their host.
"Very nice," Remus said, somewhat embarrassed by the anxiety he had felt.
"Lovely art," said Nymphadora, gazing at a painting depicting a little girl running along a white sand beach. Similar work hung on all the walls.
"Thank you, I enjoy dabbling," MacLean said.
"You should be ecstatic," she replied.
Remus listened to the two chat on the way up the stairs, admiring the ease with which his outgoing partner made friends. He was more of an observer, who out of necessity projected a friendly reserve that held most at a distance.
Nymphadora glanced back and smiled. Remus's lips curved. She had burst into his life, scattering his defences like leaves in the wind. He'd wanted to pull her close, not keep her at arm's length.
At the top of the stairs, their host said, "We've two rooms, nae difference save the lavatory. One has a tiled shower, an' the other has a slipper bath. Which would—"
"Slipper bath," said Nymphadora.
"Aye, ladies like a bubble bath." MacLean chuckled.
He opened the door of a room that was a fair size and smelled of the flowers arranged in a vase on the table beside the brass bed. "Ma wife prides herself on her roses. Red velvet, those are."
"They're beautiful," Nymphadora said.
MacLean smiled and asked Remus in a low voice if he would prefer breakfast delivered early or late.
Remus cleared his throat. "Late."
Once they were alone, Nymphadora took out her wand and began casting spells. "I'm not saying the bed squeaks or the room doesn't have privacy wards," she said. "I just want to…you know…not have to think about it when I'd rather…erm…think about something else."
His bold nymph was blushing and sounding like a nervous bride. Remus waited until she put her wand down and gently enfolded her into his arms. "I come with all love, honour and sincerity," he said, "wishing only to become one with her that I love."
He could feel her body soften against him. "That's what I want, too," she said, ducking her chin and looking up at him with big, dark eyes. "I don't know why I'm acting like you've never seen me naked, or we haven't done more than kissed."
"It's our first time," Remus said with a smile.
Nymphadora laughed. It was a shadow of her usual exuberance, but it helped eased the tension. "I guess it is," she said.
He slowly lifted his hands to frame her face. Patiently, Remus waited until his love lifted her chin and parted her lips to settle his mouth on hers. He restrained the urge to intensify the kiss. On this night, he wanted to take nothing she did not give freely. Remus kissed her lingeringly, coaxing her out of self-consciousness.
Nymphadora's lips shifted and moved beneath his, returning his kiss with a sweetness that made him ache. She sank into him, giving herself over to the kiss in a way that made Remus feel humble and triumphant.
By the time he touched her lips with his tongue, Nymphadora's fingers splayed in his hair, using her tight grip to keep his mouth fused to hers. Remus's intent to deepen intimacy little by little melted in the heat of passion. Her body was as yielding as her kisses. The need to touch and love her in every way consumed him.
The sound of her breath hitching, the scent of her skin and the taste of her mouth were intoxicating. He drank her in and wanted more. His hands moulded her curves and traced the seam of her robes, longing to feel bare flesh.
Nymphadora slid her lips across his cheek to whisper in his ear, "You know what would be relaxing?"
Lust gripped Remus so tightly, it was hard to think, much less speak. "What?" he asked hoarsely.
There was a slight chill in the air, but Remus made no effort to locate discarded covers. The warmth of the body pressed to his was all he needed. Contentment was so complete he could not stop smiling.
"The splendour of fire," Nymphadora murmured, her hand making lazy circles on his chest.
Remus chuckled, remembering the next line in the blessing. "But not 'the speed of lightning,' I trust."
Her laughter was as uninhibited as her lovemaking. "I love you to the depth of the sea," she said, lifting her head to look into his eyes.
"For my stability of earth?"
Nymphadora's eyes sparkled, giving her the look of a mischievously alluring pixie. "I was thinking more the firmness of rock."
Remus gave a bark of laughter that set his partner to giggling. With a playful growl, he rolled Nymphadora onto her back. He gazed down at his lover, his mate, and felt happiness so deep, he said, "I don't need the strength of heaven. I'm already blessed with your love, and I could not ask for more."
"Then take my love," she said, her body rising to meet his.
A/N: It took three fics and sixty chapters to get to this moment. Please say it was worth the wait! If a few long-time readers were reminded of ch 40 in a certain Snape fic, yes, I borrowed two parts of the ceremony from my earlier story. (the Celtic blessing I found was supposedly ancient and anonymous) I wish I could've had Dumbledore, with his Druid celebrant status gained from an ad in the back of Standing Stone magazine, lol, preside over this ceremony too, but at least this wizard didn't start with 'Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.' (Princess Bride for all occasions) :D
Next Friday, I'm posting a one-shot to bridge the gap between the end of this story and the beginning of the next chapter fic. It will have Sirius, Tonks, and Remus' povs, so the 'imaginative' title is Three for the Road. I hope readers will look forward to the stories to come and review this one!