Chapter Seventeen: The End of the Beginning

Author's Note: A million zillion thanks to my darling friend Cryssie, who helped me sooo much with everything Gilderoy-esque in this chapter, as she is a Gildy Goddess. Need proof? Go here: http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=575280

Ahh, well, this is the end. It shall be all over. Tragic, tragic. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Disclaimer: All By Myself ain't mine. I don't want it.

~*~

Remus Lupin was nervous.

Well, perhaps 'nervous' wasn't an adequate description. More like terrified out of his mind.

Sirius had disappeared without a trace at least a week before, and even Mr. and Mrs. Black had no idea where he could be. This left James without a best man, and the day was going so crazily that it didn't really make the situation better. And now, just to make things all the more spectacularly jolly, he was stuck in a room with the devil himself.

Well, not exactly. Perhaps what the devil would be like if he had really, really perfect hair and an obsession with mirrors.

"Eh eh ehm," Gilderoy Lockhart cleared his throat in a frighteningly charming manner. When he caught Remus studying him with utmost horror, he winked in response.

"Do you realize they intended on having that... Celestina Warbeck sing at the wedding?" Gilderoy demanded in disgust, taking Remus by surprise.

"Er, yes," replied Remus, eyeing the door as he passionately longed to escape the torture chamber disguised as the Potters' living room.

"Luckily, she came down with the flu," Gilderoy continued with a wave of one hand that, Remus noticed a bit fearfully, was perfectly manicured. "Now, let me tell you, Robert, that Warbeck girl is never going to succeed in life. She won't amount to anything; mark my words!"

"Er, I'll do that," Remus said awkwardly. "So, I suppose we're without a singer."

"But what you don't realize is that I sing," declared Lockhart dramatically. He was apparently looking for more than an 'uh-huh' from his reluctant listener, but alas, that was all he could get.

"Uhhhh-huh."

"Yes, yes, hold your applause," Gilderoy chuckled as though he'd made a dazzlingly clever joke. Er, not that he hadn't.

"You know, I'll try really hard," Remus responded dryly.

Gilderoy stroked his chin thoughtfully before replying, "You know, Roger, I think you need to hear my beautiful singing voice to truly understand what I am telling you."

"Remus," the werewolf corrected.

"Who's he?"

"Never mind," Remus groaned. "So, what are you singing?"

A broad, sparkling grin that would in years forward win many a Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile award stretched across Gilderoy's flawless face as he responded. "There won't be a dry seat in the house, I'll guarantee you that one, Ronnie!"

"Er...."

"But I won't waste time telling you what I'm going to sing!" Gilderoy proclaimed. "Oh, no no no. I'll show you."

"Yay," groaned Remus miserably.

Gilderoy snapped his fingers, and the grand piano in the corner immediately began producing sounds as though a cat was running across it, or a five year old was banging on it.

"Technical difficulties," he said smoothly, snapping again. This time, it grew a bit more tolerable.

Lockhart clasped his hands to his heart and stared longingly upward with bright blue eyes. In the voice of a severely tortured soul, he dramatically proclaimed, "When I was young, I never needed anyone!"

Oh dear God.

"And making love was just for fun," he continued, then cast his miserable gaze downward and whispered, "Those days are...gone."

"You know," Remus cut in, not wanting to subject himself to another millisecond of such torture, "That's really great-"

"Shhh!" Gilderoy snapped irritably. "I'm not finished yet!"

After this reprimand, he began waving his hands madly as though signaling to someone across a football field.

"All by MYSELF!" he cried in a tone of utmost angst-ridden misery, sounding like a cross between a dying cat and John Travolta in Grease. "Don't wanna be...ALL BY MYSEEEEEEELF anymore!"

"Yeah, that's really...moving-"

"Hard to be sure," Gilderoy continued, wiping an invisible tear from his cheek, "Sometimes I feel so...insecure. And love's so distant and obscure...remains the cure."

Dear God, Remus prayed desperately, falling to his knees and clasping his hands together, Please, please, please have mercy on my soul! No one deserves this kind of torture! NO ONE!!!

"All by myseeeeeeelf!" Gilderoy wailed. "Don't wanna be all by myyyyself anyMOOOOORE!"

With a miserable wail, Remus sunk down into a little ball on the floor and forced himself to embrace the fact that escape was nothing more than an impossible dream.

A few moments later, the song came to a dramatic finish (complete with Gilderoy throwing himself onto the floor and belting out the last note until he turned blue in the face, while still remaining devilishly good-looking), and everything seemed right in the world again. Breathing shakily, Remus slowly looked up in an attempt to convince himself that it was finally over. As soon as he saw that Gilderoy had resumed studying his reflection in the mirror, a happiness engulfed our howlin' honey like one nobody had ever experienced before.

"I'm alive," he muttered to himself in joyful disbelief. "I'm alive, I'm alive, I'm alive-"

"I know you're just dying to have me sing again," Gilderoy interrupted with a roguish wink. "Don't worry. I've still got to sing it a few more times. What is it that those not gifted-from-birth-and-excellent-at-everything-they-attempt people say?"

Lockhart struck an extremely thoughtful pose for a moment, stroking his chin in a very intelligent manner, before snapping his fingers triumphantly and declaring with a toothy grin, "Practice makes perfect! Yes! That's it!"

"No," Remus cried miserably, the rush of pain and suffering that had ceased moments before flooding back to him. "No, please, I'm...er...not worthy-"

"Oh, my boy!" Gilderoy cried with a hearty chuckle. "I know that! What do you think I am, a fool? But I'm almost overly generous by nature, and I feel that I just have to do this for you. After all, imagine, just hearing me sing once and then never again?! Lord, if I were you, I'd be close to tears!"

"Believe me, I am," Remus responded despondently.

Clearing his throat in an extremely dashing manner, Gilderoy struck a dramatic pose once more.

"When I was young, I never needed...anyone..."

~*~

"ALL BY MYSELF!" Sirius shrieked the next morning as he bounced up and down on the bed in the guest room. He'd been doing so for the past hour while listening to the radio, the springs squeaking audibly all the while, and it could be assumed that Petunia wasn't exactly thrilled.

"Shut up, you stupid prat!" she screamed up the stairs.

"Now, Petunia," scolded Mrs. Evans, "Leave the boy alone-"

"NO!" Petunia cried. "He's driving me insane! I'm fed up with him! He's awful! Terrible! Like a character out of a bad humor film gone horribly, horribly wrong! He embarrasses me in front of Vernon and sings bad Olivia Newton John songs and eats est cargot while sipping Dr. PEPPER, for crying out loud! I'm about ready to leave and go stay with Lily at her stupid boyfriend's house!"

"Petunia," Mrs. Evans started to chide immediately, then stopped short. "Her stupid boyfriend's house?"

"Yes!" Petunia snapped. "Yes, she's at James's! I threw the note away! Big. Deal. Just go find them! NOW! Get it out of my house!!!"

Mrs. Evans looked livid, but there was no word in the English language (or any language...except perhaps Gibberish) to even begin to describe Mr. Evans's anger.

"YOU!" he roared, raising from the chair where he sat and slowly advancing toward his oldest daughter.

"Er...Daddy?" she said weakly.

"It is because of you," he said in a deadly whisper, "That I have been suffering for the past week, being led around that crazy wizarding world with a madman!"

"Frank," Mrs. Evans started tentatively.

"Petunia, you have caused me so much PAIN!" screamed Mr. Evans. "And then I finally come home and am forced to have a demented wrestling match with your tub-of-lard boyfriend!"

"He's big-boned," Petunia said defensively.

"And I'm the queen of England," Mr. Evans snarled. "Young lady, you're never going to be able to make up for this one! EVER!"

"Frank, dear," Mrs. Evans nervously placed her hand on her husband's arm. "Just calm down...the important thing is that we can find Lily and James-"

But when Frank Evans got angry, he got an-gry, and he was definitely angry.

"You're grounded! FOREVER!"

"Forever?" Petunia scoffed, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Honestly, Daddy, you're overreacting. You-"

"ARE YOU TALKING BACK TO ME??"

"No," Petunia squeaked.

"Frank, you can come up with cruel and unusual punishments later," Mrs. Evans said impatiently. "Now, Sirius, what's the quickest way to the Potter's house?"

A wide grin spread across Sirius's face.

"Well, my dear Mrs. Evans," he said suavely, "The quickest way comes in the form of a little thing I like to call floo powder."

~*~

Lily Evans had never thought herself as beautiful as she did after inspecting her reflection in the mirror. Her hair fell in fiery curls past her shoulders, framed by an intricately sewn veil made of lace. Mrs. Potter's dress now covered her slim form, sparkling as though coated by a sheen of liquid diamonds.

She was very much alone, standing in the guest room. She'd always pictured herself preparing for her wedding day with her mother and sister by her side, Mrs. Evans blabbering on excitedly while Petunia whined about how she'd rather be anywhere but there. It was quite depressing, to know that her own beloved family wouldn't witness her wedding.

I always thought Daddy would walk me down the aisle, she thought wistfully, absently fingering the fabric of her dress.

Oh well. She'd see them again soon enough.

....

But she wouldn't be Lily Evans any longer when she did.

Nope, she'd be Lily Potter by then.

For a day that was supposed to be the happiest of her life, this one definitely sucked. Tears were springing into brilliant green eyes, and she was determined not to let them fall. She'd spent practically thirty minutes applying her mascara and eyeliner, and she wasn't about to let some little emotional breakdown ruin it.

A soft knock on the door sounded, and she stifled a groan.

"Come in."

Little did she know, she would regret those two words more than anything she'd ever said in her entire life...

~*~

"I can't believe Sirius isn't going to be here," James said, shaking his head as he straightened his bow tie. "He's been planning our wedding since first year."

"He'll show up," Peter said, sounding completely unsure. "Er...won't he, Remus?"

"What?" Remus asked from where he sat in the corner, looking completely disturbed for some unknown reason. "Oh...yeah. Uh huh."

James rolled his eyes. Everyone was acting strangely today.

"It just seems kind of weird," he continued, nervously running a hand through his hair and causing it to appear even more messy. "We've always been best friends, and now I'm kind of...all by myself."

"Eeek!" Remus squeaked as though James had just uttered the Killing Curse.

"What?" James asked, wondering briefly just when his friend had gone insane.

"P...please don't say...that...phrase," Remus whispered, eyes wide with fright.

"What phrase?"

"I think he means 'all by myself'," Peter piped up helpfully.

"Aaah!" Remus cried in agony, covering his ears with his hands. "Don't say it!"

"Don't say what? All by myself?" Peter asked, completely clueless.

"YES! YES! Don't. Say. It."

"What's wrong with 'all by myself'?"

Remus shuddered in fear before proclaiming in a deadly whisper, "Picture yourself trapped in a room with Gilderoy Lockhart. Picture said Gilderoy Lockhart singing All By Myself. Do the math."

"Ugh," James said sympathetically. "You poor, unfortunate soul."

"I don't think I'll ever be the same again," moaned Remus. "And the worst thing is, he's singing at your wedding."

"What?!" James asked, panicked. "What about Celestina Warbeck?"

"Sick," Remus responded glumly. "Say, James...you'll understand if I don't attend, won't you? Because I just can't...take it anymore..."

~*~

"Well, well, well," Gilderoy Lockhart chuckled, smoothing down hair so gold it practically glowed. "I hope I'm not too late for a little bachelorette party, Miss Bride To Be."

Oh. My. God.

"Er...Gilderoy," Lily said nervously, backing towards the wall. "What are you doing here?"

He wriggled his eyebrows mischievously.

"As if you don't know."

Death suddenly seemed a very blissful option.

"I'm...er...afraid I don't," Lily said. "Now, can you leave please? Er...you're not supposed to see the bride before the wedding."

"That's the groom," Gilderoy reminded her suavely, then added with a roguish wink (he ought to have owned the phrase 'roguish wink'), "Though I'm sure you'd like a certain magical me to be the groom more than that...Potter fellow."

I wouldn't be so sure, bud.

Gilderoy took a few slow steps towards her, his grin growing rapidly until every single tooth was exposed, glowing like the skin of a crazed albino.

"Not everyone can smile and show every single tooth," Lily stated nervously, attempting to distract him from...whatever he was attempting to do by baring his pearly whites. "That's quite the accomplishment."

"I have many...accomplishments," he said with yet another roguish wink. (There's that phrase again.)

"That's something to be proud of," Lily said, taking a few steps backward.

Gilderoy moved forward, obviously not getting the message.

Lily allowed herself to collapse onto the bed, scooting backwards desperately.

"I know you've wanted me since you first set eyes upon me," Gilderoy began dramatically.

Why!? Wwwwwwwhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyy?

"And really," he continued, blue eyes sparkling deviously, "I can't blame you. It does get old, to have women lusting over you left and right-"

Please, God, save my tortured soul.

"-But you, I must admit, aren't too shabby."

"Gee, thanks," Lily drawled.

He wriggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner that would frighten even his own reflection away.

"So," he suggested slyly, "How about we split from this...wedding-" he wrinkled his nose, "-and go back to my place for some real fun??"

Dear Lord.

Lily shuddered, feeling more revolted than she ever had before in her entire life. (And that, mind you, was saying something, as she'd known Sirius for eight loooong years.)

Gilderoy continued, voice low and husky as he drew each word out. "We can look at my photos for as long as you like. And, if you're lucky enough, you might even get to keep one of the more stunning pictures!"

Lily didn't know whether to be relieved or horrified.

"Um...pictures," she said. "Great. Fab. Absolutely spiffy."

Spiffy?? she asked herself silently. Lil, you've completely lost it.

She took a quick glance up at the clock. "But you know, Celestina Warbeck's singing in five minutes, and-"

"Bah!" spat Gilderoy, looking positively revolted. "Celestina Warbeck is sick...completely suddenly and accidentally, of course," he added coyly, chuckling in a manner that Lily found quite frightening. "And, what do you know, they've asked me to sing in her place!"

"How...wonderful," Lily said faintly, deciding that the only singer that could ruin the mood of a wedding more than Marilyn Manson was Gilderoy.

"I'd best be going," he said, giving her yet another roguish wink. "Give me a call after the honeymoon."

"Well," said Lily delicately, "As much as I'd love to, James and I will be legally wed then, and I couldn't be unfaithful to him. So, much as I want to, I must do the right thing..."

Gilderoy let out a heavy sigh. "I understand, and believe it or not, Lily, I really do respect you for it."

Oh yes, Lily thought dryly, My life is finally complete, for your respect is something I've pined for all my nineteen years.

"I know many a woman who has left her husband forgotten, ignoring the bonds of matrimony to satisfy their sinful lust."

"Er...that's..."

Blech.

Aw, hell, why not just play along?

"Leave!" Lily commanded dramatically, voice breathy. "Leave now! I can't bear to look at you a second longer before being lost to my own desires!"

Gilderoy sent her a last lovely roguish wink before disappearing out of the room.

"Thank God," Lily muttered to herself.

That had certainly been a close one.

~*~

The Potters' huge living room was growing more and more heavily crowded with people, all eager to see the young couple wed in fifteen short minutes....

~*~

Gilderoy stood in front of the seated crowd of wedding guests, his purely naturally stunning (just lots of teeth brushing, no whitening spells involved. Honest.) smile lighting up his perfect face. They all stared expectantly up at him, obviously basking in the glory of his delicious self.

It's a pity that the bride can't be here to witness this, he thought to himself, But it's probably for the best. At the sound of my lovely voice, she certainly wouldn't be able to resist my charms any longer.

"What is that?" a gruff-looking middle aged man in the front row muttered to his wife. "Some sort of living Ken doll?"

Gilderoy didn't know what a kendol was, but it was something very grand, spectacular, and all-around perfect, no doubt! Otherwise, why would anyone be comparing him to such a thing?

He cleared his throat in a most charming manner before winking (roguishly, in case you wanted to know) to signal that he was ready to begin. Mrs. Potter, who was serving as the pianist, began to play the opening chords to his song.

I'll have 'em all in tears, he thought triumphantly. After all, my voice can tug at peoples' heart-strings like nothing else!

(Actually, it could damage peoples' ear drums like nothing else, but our beloved Gilderoy was not aware of this information.)

"When I was young," he began dramatically, "I never needed anyone...and-"

BOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!

Gilderoy's first thought was that everyone had spontaneously combusted in unison due to the fact that his voice was so beautiful that it just couldn't be handled by their unworthy mortal ears.

But no, this was not it!

Instead, that troublesome Sirius and the Evans girl's parents and sister tumbled out of the fireplace, all heavily coated in black soot.

Ew, Gilderoy thought to himself, wrinkling up his nose. How filthy. And how dare they barge in here and RUIN MY SONG???

Yes, they'd stolen all the attention!!! Everyone's eyes were on them instead of HIM, the wonderful, luscious, revolutionary Gilderoy Lockhart! Were they mad??!!

"I hope we're not too late," Mrs. Evans said in a perfectly professional tone, straightening her hair.

"We're making a scene," growled Mr. Evans.

"This sucks," Petunia proclaimed.

Sirius, however, was a bit more enthusiastic.

"Is that my song?!?!" he asked, his eyes falling upon Gilderoy.

Mmmm, attention. Even if it was from him, it was better than nothing.

Sirius ran over to Gilderoy and as the piano music resumed, began to sing.

"And making love was just for fun!"

Gilderoy gasped in horror. What was this hoodlum doing?? This was his song, his moment of glory!

"Those days are gone!" Gilderoy sang quickly, making sure that his beautiful angelic voice overpowered the desperate warbling of that sinister fiend.

Sirius glared at him in a 'you're on!' sort of way before screeching out at the top of his lungs, "ALLLLL BYYYY MYYYYYSEEEEELF!"

Well, he certainly wouldn't be beaten!
"DON'T WANNA BE ALLLLL BY MYSEEEEELF ANYMORE!" Gilderoy shouted at the top of his lungs, still sounding positively beautiful.

The guests were all fingering at their ears in terror and clinging to each other, muttering things about making the scary noises go away.

And so it went on, Remus collapsed on the floor in a dead faint as the two battled each other out.

By the end of the performance, there were certainly many tears, but it sure as heck hadn't been the heart strings that the...interesting duet had tugged.

~*~

There was no mistaking that sound.

It was the warbling of an incredibly pained dying cat.

Times about a thousand.

"Sirius!" James cried, leaving the room where he stood and running out to the living room. Sure enough, his best friend stood next to Gilderoy Lockhart, pulling a face at the narcissistic self-worshipper.

"Jamesie buddy!" Sirius cried brightly. "I made it, and I'm ready to be the best man!"

With his entire body covered in soot, he looked positively ridiculous, but James just laughed and resisted the urge to fling his arms around him.

After all, tuxedos didn't grow on trees.

~*~

"Well, this is lovely," Mr. Evans snarled to his wife. "Let's just go have a seat, shall we? Don't worry about your appearance....the Cinderella pre-ball look is very in this season."

"Shut up, Frank," she hissed. "Now, you go find your daughter and apologize to her."

"Why should I?"

"Because, you idiot, she needs someone to walk her down the aisle!"

"Aisle?" Mr. Evans repeated blankly.

"Yes, my darling," she spat. "Aisle. They're about to get married."

"Married!?" Frank cried, aghast. "My baby can't get married! She's only twelve!"

"Try nineteen, Frank," Mrs. Evans said wryly. "Now, you go and apologize to your daughter and walk her up the aisle."

"Fine," Mr. Evans agreed, rolling his eyes.

"And," his wife added, eyes flashing, "If you get any of that filth onto her dress, you will die in a cruel and unusual way."

"No offense, darling, but comments like that could really destroy a marriage."

"Puh-leeze," Mrs. Evans responded, a small smile dancing across her lips. "You don't just go around throwing away twenty-three years of marriage."

"And yet I am bound to an eternity of lonely nights on the sofa."

"I might have to rethink that," Mrs. Evans said, voice drenched in an affectionate warmth that Frank hadn't heard in what seemed like forever. "You may be promoted back up to the bedroom, if you're a nice boy."

"I love you, you know."

"I love you too."

~*~

"I'm sorry," Lily murmured under her breath to no one in particular. "You see, I can't be married today, as my family isn't here, and Sirius, who has had his heart set on being best man since first year, couldn't seem to make it either. And besides-"

"Lily?"

She spun around at once to see Mr. Evans, looking as though he'd just climbed out of a fireplace.

"Daddy!" she cried in pleased surprise. "I didn't think you'd make it! How did you find out? I'm soooo glad you're here, I-"

"You're supposed to be mad at me," he reminded her.

"Oh, yeah," Lily said blankly.

A silence fell across the room for a few moments before she said cheerily, "Oh, well, forget all that. James didn't seem to suffer any permanent damage."

"You know I'm sorry, love," Mr. Evans said, reaching out to put a blackened hand on his daughter's shoulder and then deciding against it. "I just didn't want my baby girl taken away from me..."

"You've still got Petunia," Lily reminded him with a devious smile.

"Yay," deadpanned Mr. Evans. "Well, the point is, sweetie, I am really sorry. James is a nice boy, and I know you two will be very happy together."

"Thank you, Daddy," Lily said earnestly.

"But," Mr. Evans added as an afterthought, "Stay away from those friends of his, will you?"

"Oh, Dad, they're not that bad!"

"Well, the Remus one is okay," Mr. Evans said. "But Peter..."

"Peter barely speaks!" Lily reminded him laughingly.

"It's always the quiet ones," Mr. Evans said in an overly spooky voice. "And Sirius...oh, God, that kid is a demon."

"Daddy, he's just eccentric."

"Mmmm-hmm. I'm sure."

Lily didn't have a chance to argue any further, however, because at that moment James's aunt tiptoed in and motioned to her that it was time.

After muttering a quick incantation to replace her father's soot-covered apparel with a tuxedo, she looped her arm through his own. The beginning notes of the wedding march danced from the piano and drifted through her mind as she stepped into the room. Everyone's gaze fell upon her at once, and Lily saw tears shining in her mother's eyes. Petunia actually wasn't scowling, but staring at her sister with a sort-of smile on her face.

James stood at the front of the room next to the minister, a crooked smile on his face. His hair was an absolute mess, sticking up horribly in the back, and next to him stood Sirius, remnants of soot still smeared across his face.

James's eyes locked with hers, and he winked at her.

All at once, every bit of nervousness that she'd ever felt disappeared, leaving way only for blissful happiness and the knowledge that she was doing the right thing.

~*~

There was no way that either of them could know that tragedy would strike in a few short years. They didn't know of the betrayal, the danger, the pain they would face.

They only knew love.

And love was enough.

THE END

Author's Note 2: Whoo...it's finally done! *sighs in relief* Couldn't resist but go a bit fluffy on you there. Okay, my next chapter fic is called Imaginary Romance, which is a post-Hogwarts Harry/Ginny/Draco love triangle type thing. Fun, fun :) I'd reeeeally appreciate if you checked it out: http://www.fanfiction.net/read.php?storyid=891127

Now that my shameless self-promoting is done, I've got to thank you guys. Every single review has brightened up my day, and it's amazing to think that so many people have read my work. This was pretty much silly, and not that serious, and I personally didn't think it was that great and would have stopped writing loooong ago if it hadn't been for your support. :) Thanks a million, and I hope you keep reading on Ff.N...not only my stuff, but everyone's, because everyone who pours their soul into their writing deserves lovely reviews like the ones you've given me. :)