Author's Note: Not a chapter, but not a stand-alone short story. You could probably read this without reading "Lawfully Proposed" and still know what's going on. I decided to combine short story files to make the continuity easier to follow. Anyway, enjoy!
London bustled in the waning summer heat with its usual busy air. People of all shapes and sizes chattered, scattered, and slipped through the crowded streets into various shops and restaurants. Some were native to the city, others were from the country there for a visit, and quite a few were tourists from different places on the globe bright eyed and bushy tailed; ready to see the wonders of London, England.
There were hidden places in London. Some were hidden vendors or homes in old, run down, buildings and back alleyways. Completely out of sight and out of mind. Thankfully, our story does not take place in these places. At least, this one doesn't. One can never know quite what to expect in a back alley.
Instead of hidden places of the less than reputable places of London society, this hidden place happened to be in the middle of London. Hiding in plain sight was one thing, but this sort of plain sight involved powerful enchantments to keep away those with little to no magical tendencies. One would think, though, that this hidden place would be the location of a wondrous meeting between magic users exchanging notes on the wonders of their craft. Instead, it was a shop, a dress shop to be exact, run by an elf who dealt in weddings, funerals and other assorted special occasions.
This is where we draw our eyes to the main heroine of this story, Brianna Davis, or as she was most commonly known to her people, Aracasse ven Aldura. Unusually, in mixed company, this elf lady preferred Brianna. She liked it better. It sounded less depressingly odd. The generic feminine version of the name, Brian, appealed to her due to the very fact that it helped her fit in. She hated standing out in the crowd; especially when around her crowd of friends.
Brianna, accompanied by her friends, Hermione, Ginny, and Luna, were trying on dresses for a very specific occasion. For both Brianna and Hermione's case, it was for the sole purpose of their individual weddings and the bridesmaid's outfits that both would be interchanging. Hermione, who wasn't too much of a fan of the modern witch fashions for wedding dresses turned to the more traditional styles of the elves. Brianna's excuse was that she had to find something worthy of a, well, of a princess as much as she hated to admit it (especially to the store owner who, once she realized she was serving royalty, went out of her way to accommodate all of them).
Hermione, Ginny and Luna were planned to become three of Brianna's six bridesmaids in her wedding. The other three would be her professor, her aunt, and her other friend Allyson O'Neal all of which couldn't make it to that particular fitting session, but planned to try on their dresses later that night. Brianna didn't blame them. Professor Moruni was the head of the elven historical archives and, normally, took summer months off from her teaching career at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to collect newer information that her underlings might have missed. Her aunt, Artemis, was the head huntress of the elven hunters organization that fought day and night to keep the dark beings of the world at bay. Allyson, who was also a huntress, was Artemis' underling and unofficial protégé. The fact that they were unavailable for that moment in time hadn't surprised her in the least. It was why she made certain that the dresses arrived on the day she knew they would be home for that night.
Hermione's wedding only involved three bridesmaids with Brianna being the matron of honor (the date was set a month after Brianna's wedding). Ginny and Luna were the other two both involved in each girl's wedding.
"I'm really liking the eighteenth century look, what do you think?" asked Hermione in a completely business-like tone.
Ginny Weasley grinned and sent her friend a wink, "I'm sure my brother will like it. I think it's quite… appropriate for a wedding. What about you Luna?"
Luna, who hadn't quite caught on to the underlying joke Ginny was trying to imply, sent the bushy brown haired woman in front of her an airy smile.
"I think Ron will find you stunning no matter what you wear, Hermione. But I must say that this particular dress fits you quite well," remarked the blond.
From where she sat glancing through the interactive pictures given to her by the dressmaker, Brianna studied the dress her best friend wore with a contemplative look etched on her face.
"It's definitely a traditional elven dress from that time period, and just so happens to be free of any unnecessary frills. I approve," came her honest opinion.
Hermione smiled and gave the garment another twirl as she replied, "It's why I picked it. Little to no lace being the major factor."
When Hermione retreated back into her dressing room the two other girls rounded on Brianna with expectant looks. The bronze haired elf let out a light sigh while shifting to another page illustrating a dress.
"I haven't quite found one I liked yet," she told them.
Ginny scowled and moved to sit next to her friend to look over her shoulder.
"What exactly are you looking for?" she asked.
Brianna raised an eyebrow while turning another page. Really that was a stupid question even if she did know that the context was about her criteria for her wedding dress and not the dress itself.
"I need something that won't… that will look regal but not overbearing," she replied.
Luna interjected with her own question, "But, is not this your wedding, Brianna?"
Brianna sighed. She forgot. Witches and wizards weren't used to having kings and queens so the royal aspect of a wedding was completely foreign to them. It wasn't going to be a small wedding. It was what she wanted, but that wasn't something her station in life ever took into account. Politics breathed into everything, including her private life. A wedding for her signified not only her transition from maiden to matron, but it showed her people the person, the one, she had chosen to rule them by her side. The marriage would show everyone the person she wished to share her crown with.
Whether or not he was entirely prepared for this was another matter entirely.
"Not for me," she finally replied after a few seconds of thought, "no, for me, I have to walk down a long isle towards my husband in front of the most powerful people in elven society."
"So no pressure," Ginny said weakly.
With a small smile Brianna returned to her perusal of the latest elven fashion. Hermione came out of the dressing rooms a short while later with the dress she tried on in her arms. All business-like, she all but ignored her friends (she nodded at them) and approached the shop's head seamstress. From what Brianna could tell, the conversation revolved around the purchase of her desired dress.
Annoyed with herself, Brianna placed aside the current book in her hand and reached for another one. This one looked a bit older, its pages worn and yellowed. After glancing through it her eyes fell on one certain dress drawn out in full detail. This one was an old style, but she knew they would make it. The elves rarely tossed any one original style completely away. Traditionalists still existed among the race and a few more were born every day or so with a certain amount of attraction to the old styles.
Brianna happened to be one of those people as she gazed at this particular dress with a slight smile on her face. This one was perfect.
Hermione just finished her conversation when Brianna's decision was made and the elf princess called for the seamstress. He always moaned on about liking bodices anyway.
"I'm not sure how I feel about the neckline," muttered the very much disgruntled voice of Sirius Black from where he inspected himself in a floor-length mirror.
Behind him stood three other men smirking at him in their identical knowing manner. Sirius didn't need to ask what they were thinking. Among these particular gentlemen some things were common knowledge, like the fact that he would do almost anything for his fiancé. This included him wearing the very uncomfortable elven garb that drew up halfway up his neck. The tunic was ceremonial, a deep scarlet (his Gryfindor choice) with embroidered elven-style patterns up the outer vest. Thankfully this particular summer was not hot or else the duel layers would make him very uncomfortable.
"Just wait till you get a load of the circlet you'll be wearing. Bri showed it to me the other day explaining how she made sure it was custom made to fit you," chirped the youthful voice of his godson, Harry.
Sirius rolled his eyes and continued to inspect himself. There were no cuffs or lace, he was happy about that, but the collar seemed to have a love of restricting his air passage.
"You might want to loosen the back just a bit. It'll help with the collar," suggested Landion ven Aldura, cousin of said fiancé, from where he sat searching through various fashion catalogs with a bored look.
"Experience?" Sirius asked while taking the suggestion and adjusting the ties that bound the collar together at his neck.
Close to where Landion was occupying himself Sirius' best friend, Remus Lupin, was trying very hard not to burst out laughing.
"You really don't look bad in it, Sirius, in fact with a bit of work I'd say that you'll look like royalty by the time the wedding date rolls around," said the amused werewolf.
Sirius grimaced and turned his complete attention back to his image in the mirror. At one point in his past, the idea of becoming a king would have appealed to him. Maybe, had everything gone a different way, marrying the heir to the elven thrown wouldn't have been so bad. But this way? This forced way by Ministry Decree? He hated it! Sure he proposed to her properly, that was a plus that he knew she appreciated, but to enter a marriage like this?
He frowned at his appearance. No, he didn't feel like a prince-to-be. In fact, he felt more lost than he ever had before.
The sacrifice was great. He didn't have to accept the idea Dumbledore originally presented both of them when it was brought forth. She hadn't overly objected, not with her mother and a few other family members breathing down her neck about marrying. Elven/human marriages weren't common among the ruling elven community, but once the engagement had been announced formally no one seemed to disapprove. In fact, everyone had been quite taken with him, or so she had said. Sirius was pleased with the fact that he had managed that, but he wished, he really wished, that he had more time to ingrate himself in her society before getting engaged.
He would make this as comfortable as he possibly could for her sake if nothing else.
"How was everything on your end?" asked Brianna curiously that evening.
Sirius glanced up from the menu he held in one of the Italian restaurants in the nicer side of London. She smiled at him and waited patiently for him to answer her question.
"Well," Sirius began after setting the menu down, "I found out that the ceremonial men's wear isn't nearly as comfortable as dress robes."
She laughed and replied, "There are some styles my people haven't quite moved away from yet, but they are working on it."
They were at this Italian Restaurant for their weekly "date". Sirius had been the one to suggest the arrangement a few days after he proposed. He always picked various muggle places with five star ratings. Sometimes they didn't even eat in Great Britain. The memory of one place they went to in Greece still made her smile. The man was charming, romantic, and eager to make things easier between themselves. Which meant that these dates were more for their benefit than not. They had to get to know each other better. It was hard to do, after all, Sirius had lived with her as a dog twice and snuck into the girl's dormitory during her fourth year when she and Harry had been entered into the tournament. Most of their conversations, though, revolved around Harry's safety, but quite a few had been casual. This especially was the case the further along their friendship grew and her feelings develop far beyond.
Despite these dates he kept his distance and only focused on talking with her. One of the few things she ascertained first was his dating experience. Brianna, for all of her ninety-eight years, had none to answer for. She had been too busy with other things to think about dating or courting anyone much to the chagrin of certain aunts (especially the one who's name should never be thought of lest she make an unwarranted appearance). Sirius, though, had experience. In fact, she was quite certain that he had more experience in a lot of things that she could barely even imagine. She appreciated that he obviously been around the block enough to know when to take it slow (and know how).
As she scanned over her menu, her choice settling around some sort of seafood dish, her teal eyes dimmed slightly as one very depressing thought concerning their relationship entered her head. As much as she appreciated what he was doing during their engagement she felt the gap between them widening. How could she not? He was entering into this out of convenience and the marriage had absolutely nothing to do with love.
He seemed to catch on to her suddenly dark mood when he placed his menu onto the ceramic table and asked, "What's wrong?"
She glanced up at him and almost lost herself in his blue eyes. Her mouth went dry for a moment and her mind blanked as she wracked her brain for a way to communicate what she was feeling. How could she tell him? He was blissfully unaware of her feelings towards him (her actual feelings at least) and she wasn't sure if she wanted to ruin his blissful ignorance. It didn't seem right, to tell someone who didn't love her that she felt that feeling for him.
"Nothing, just thinking. I'm fine," she assured him.
From the look on his face she could tell that he didn't believe her. As usual when moments like these came up he allowed them to slide for the time being. It was best that way.
With the school year slowly approaching and Brianna's commitment to at least finish her Hogwarts education (she honestly didn't need it), there had been little time for her to actually go to Diagon Alley and retrieve her supplies. When Harry had said one morning that he needed to get his books before the month of August ended Brianna had jumped at the chance to take him. It was like how she normally jumped at the chance to do anything with her little protégé these days. Mostly, she took him to the Irish countryside and trained him in every way she could imagine until both of them were tired, irritable, and sore on their feet. Coming up with an excuse for a sort-of luxury visit to Diagon Alley was the perfect ruse to get out of Grimmauld place and away from her fiancé. She loved spending time with him, but with the wedding a few weeks away, Brianna hadn't quite been up to the daily heartbreak.
She and Harry left that early morning planning to make a day of it. Sirius would be in the Ministry for most of the day working on Harry's adoption papers before heading to the elven capitol with Professor Moruni to look into the laws about adoptive sons and marriage. Brianna was content in keeping her mind completely off Sirius as she sifted through the various potions ingredients she would need for that year (she was starting a special mastery level Professor Snape was organizing for her). Harry had been running low on some more of his own exotic ingredients due to Brianna and Sirius' insistence that he practice the art before school the next year.
When they found themselves seated for lunch at a little quaint café in the middle of Diagon Alley Brianna noticed that Harry seemed to be a bit on edge about something. She looked up at him from her lamb-burger (the shop specialized in exotically put together muggle food imitations) and watched him squirm in his seat for a few minutes. The way he was avoiding her gaze told her that her friend (and soon-to-be stepson) really wanted to ask her something that she probably wasn't going to like discussing. She sighed. She had a feeling who it was about.
"Ask, Harry," she ordered.
Looking slightly relieved and a bit cautions, Harry's posture relaxed slightly.
"Well, I was wondering, actually I've suspected and I'm quite certain that you're already talked about this to Hermione because she keeps badgering me about talking to him, but do you… er… like Sirius?" he asked.
Despite how uncomfortable this question was and the fact that she knew exactly what Harry meant by "like", Brianna couldn't help but see the humor in the situation. Harry's tact still needed a lot of fine tuning.
"Harry, I do like Sirius. I also like Ron and Hermione too," she began with a bit of cheek.
Harry rolled his eyes, "Not what I meant! Do you… um… are you… do you like him in the… er… romantic sense?"
She couldn't help but chuckle at his wording. She couldn't even imagine what it would be like if Sirius actually was his biological father. With the flames of humor gone after a few seconds Brianna looked down at her burger with a frown. She sighed.
"Yes, I do," she muttered.
An awkward silence followed that admission and Brianna, at the time, believed it was because Harry was uncomfortable. In actuality, he was thinking about his godfather's answer to the question he had asked shortly before the last spring term ended.
"Have you told him?" he asked.
Brianna looked horrified, "No! He's already entering into this marriage because he's being forced to by the ministry! He doesn't need to feel guilty about my feelings too!"
Harry looked confused for a second before realization dawned. Brianna gave him a confused look.
"Why do you think he'll feel guilty?"
The bitterness she felt was shown in her wan smile as she answered, "Harry, not all love is reciprocated, even in marriage. This law your nearly-controlled-by-death-eaters Ministry makes mutual love in a marriage nearly impossible. This is, of course, where Ron and Hermione got lucky. It's better that Sirius believes I'm doing this to keep the two of you safe as his friend and your mentor."
Harry was looking thoughtful, she could tell, and Brianna had a sneaking suspicion she knew what his next question would be.
"Bri, how long do you expect to rule?" he asked.
She blinked before answering, "At least five hundred years."
Harry nodded, "Alright, how long do you expect to live after that?"
"Hundreds, maybe even thousands of years more," she replied.
He leaned forward with a business-like air about him, "Alright, besides Voldemort, how many humans would actually willingly live that long without having a reason to?"
Feeling distressed, she shook her head and sighed. It wasn't like she hadn't thought about this, but Sirius had made it clear in so little words that he wasn't in love with her. That he hadn't really wanted to marry her. That he felt caught between a rock and a hard place.
"Harry, I'll think on it, okay?" she asked.
Looking less-than satisfied, but still resigned to the fact that the subject was dropped for the moment, Harry went back to his zucchini fries.
That night Sirius returned to Grimmauld place late. He missed Brianna, he noted, again and silently wondered about that. Sure they talked, still, their little dates he set up forced the issue. The problem lay with the fact that she still seemed to be withdrawing from him; completely unsure about how to approach him. He wondered if she had some former lover she was trying to spend as much time with as possible before she no longer could. It would explain her behavior.
Sirius found his godson in the drawing room reading through his advanced potions book and taking a few before-term notes. His godson's vibrant green eyes glanced up from his work and smiled.
"Hi," he said.
"Hey," replied Sirius as he sat down across from Harry, "How was your day?"
"Interesting, Brianna and I talked about a few things today," Harry informed him cryptically.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. Talked about what?
"I think telling her soon would be a good idea, Sirius," Harry said.
The older wizard sat back in his chair while pinching the bridge of his nose, "Harry…"
"No, Sirius, listen for a second, I didn't tell her anything! And I'm not going to tell you anything she said either, but I will tell you what I think and I think you need to tell her. Preferably before we go back to Hogwarts!" snapped Harry sharply like he was reprimanding a teenager.
'Well, if I ever had any question that he was Lily's son, here's my answer,' thought Sirius.
"Harry, simply saying 'I love you' isn't going to make this situation any better. In fact, I'm positive it'll make everything worse," he insisted.
"I think you'll be surprised if you stopped being so certain about how she feels!"
"I know her, Harry, she doesn't want me!"
They were one decimal short of yelling at each other. Harry, though, not feeling up to a full-blown argument sank back into his chair and closed his book and put away his notes.
"If she didn't want you, then why did she agree in the first place? 'Till death do you part', Sirius. The elves take it literally. I know you know what that means. Do you want to go through life for as long as the two of you live and not tell her how you feel?" Harry asked before slipping out of the drawing room and to bed.
Sirius sat in his chair with a frown on his face. As much as he really hated to admit it, his godson had a very annoying point. He did need to tell her. It wouldn't be fair to her otherwise. Maybe, even, he could try and work on her feelings for him while they were at it.
The problem with being him, though, was that he honestly had no idea how to tell a woman that he loved them dearly.
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