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The Conference by Melvacaea [Reviews - 5]

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Black_lust_z, Trickie Woo, and PLEASE! for the adorable and completely appreciated reviews!
Thanks to all my readers!
Hang on people, it's going to be a wild ride from here on to the end!
****
Chapter Thirty-Three: Christmas Eve Part I

It was amazing exactly how many students stayed at Hogwarts during Christmas. It was as if they were going to see the greatest phenomenal event in history. Mara was separated from Severus that morning by an adamant Hermione and Severus was sequestered as well. Mara had chosen Hermione as her maid of honor and Ginny and Luna as her bridesmaids. Remus was Severus' best man, Harry and Ron his groomsmen (reluctantly). Albus was conducting the ceremony, thanks to the fact that he was a Great Sorcerer, and it was being held in the courtyard. To Mara's giddiness, it had just snowed and it was still lightly snowing. Mara had designed her dress before Albus was taken ill and while she was unconscious, Hermione and Ginny had created it. Both Mara's and Severus' parents were long dead and Mara had quite a heartbreaking time looking for someone to give her away. When she gave up and Flooed all the way to Italy to find another cousin, she arrived at Hogwarts with eight people and not quite knowing how. Neither of them would hear a word about a bachelorette or bachelor's party, having too much to do to bother about silly things like that (or so they said).

Today, Christmas Eve, their emotions run high as they are fussed over and annoyed in their separate rooms. Today, Christmas Eve, at long last, the adoring couple finally completes what the ring intended them to do all along.

But, of course, it had been of their own doing.

****
Severus' dungeons

Sequestered in his dungeons, Remus handed him the dress robes they had found. They were austere, formal, but not quite stiff. There was a hint of seduction in those black robes and a tint of mischief in the cape and boots.

"I feel like Zorro," Severus sneered as he looked at himself in the mirror. Remus laughed at him.

"You look fine, Severus," he said.

Severus looked at himself critically and wondered what exactly that beautiful woman in the Gryffindor Tower had seen in him. The best man and groomsmen stripped down and changed, comfortable amongst each other, and Severus removed the things that could be placed on hastily and lounged in a chair.

"So, Severus, how does it feel?" Remus asked him once they were all dressed in the comfortable parts of their robes.

Severus frowned and then looked tired. "Nerve wracking," he admitted and the three married men laughed. He gave a them one of his looks, which seemed to have lost its edge lately. It would probably return full force after the next few hours.

"I remember that I was standing at the altar in the second wedding ? you remember, Remus, the one that came right after the war with our families ? and Ginny was late. God, how horrible. I thought for sure that she had left me," Harry remembered fondly.

"It was something about her veil getting stuck in the zipper of the dress," Remus recalled what Hermione had told him. Harry snorted.

"I remember Luna. She was right on time and there were bluebells falling from her hair. Gods, she's beautiful," Ron sighed and Severus rolled his eyes.

"Oi, Harry, remember when Hermione made me eat the salmon at my wedding?"

"You turned green!" Harry laughed.

"And then Hermione remedied it by placing a piece of chocolate in her mouth," Ron said with a wince. "Now there's an image I'll carry to my grave and not fondly."

"What?" Remus said innocently.

Severus watched the married men talk about things that had happened in their weddings and during their lives in marriage, and he wondered if he and Mara would have stories like this. Remus noticed the solemn look on the man's face and the dark look in his eyes. He opened his mouth and Severus stood up to avoid anything and walked into the kitchen. He made coffee and then saw her black sweater lying on the chair. He closed his eyes and held his hands to his temples, gritting his teeth. He would not worry like a... a... a Gryffindor! He was a Slytherin, Head of Slytherin house, and had no patience for that sort of stuff.

"It's all right to worry, you know," Remus said softly from behind him.

"Not for me," he said stiffly before pouring the coffee into the mug and sitting down in the chair next to 'her' chair.

Remus almost sat in it before Snape stopped him with a sharply said word and he transferred his behind to another chair. Snape was watching 'her' chair with something like wistfulness, carefully cloaked, in those eyes.

"You miss her."

"Hard not to. Usually she'd be sitting in that chair with me, talking with me about wedding plans, or how her day went, or the possibilities about making that damn fool potion, or about... about ice skating or her family." He growled into his mug. "Damn her for getting under my skin."

"I said the exact same thing. Except I was staring into a mug of hot chocolate."

"Trust you to ruin my view of myself by comparing me to a Gryffindor, Lupin," he said dryly and Remus chuckled.

Harry and Ron entered at last, each of them holding something in their hands. Severus watched them pull up chairs, not hers though, and show him exactly what they had. Harry held a moonflower in a glass case, which Severus watched him place with an eagle eye on the desk. Ron held a white pillow, which he placed underneath the glass.

Someone Flooed in and the two boys that stood up were obviously family of the Lupins. One was barely older than nine with Remus' sandy-blonde hair and the other was around twenty with Remus' eyes and nose.

"Sebastian! Dane!" Remus hugged the two boys and then introduced them to the men. "These are my cousins from Aunt Bella's side."

"What, more of them?" Harry asked and Ron snorted at him.

"My mother had two sisters, Harry. One of them was Mara's mom, bless her soul, and the other is Aunt Bella. Aunt Bella had not two, but six kids. Three boys and three girls. Sebastian's the oldest and he's giving Mara away. Dane here is the second youngest and he's the one holding the Promise Flower."

"What's a Promise Flower?" Harry asked.

Remus nodded towards the moonflower. "It's that. It works like the wedding rings, but it has a very strong magic on it. It's the ultimate binding. The only ones who do it are pureblood families. The conductor of the ceremony lets it float between the bride and groom and asks them to promise something. First, the bride places her hand on the glass case and promises something for the groom. The groom places his hand on the bride's and promises something as well. The Promise Flower binds them to those promises and, thus, to each other."

"Funny, I thought that was a gift for the bride."

Introductions were made after this explanation and Snape became sarcastic once again, causing Sebastian to laugh and Dane to hide behind Remus, who finally got fed up and snapped at Snape to get a grip on himself. Apparently, Snape wasn't expecting that and his facial features seemed to freeze as he stared grimly at the kitchen. Harry gave Remus an exasperated look and Sebastian, also married, shook his head.

"He's got it bad," Sebastian informed them, only to be found at the end of one of Snape's worst glares.

"I'd ask you to keep your nose out of my emotions, but then Lupin would bite my head off," he told him coolly.

"How's Abigail, Sebastian?" Remus asked hurriedly to avoid a verbal fight. Sebastian grinned.

"Pregnant."

Remus gaped at him and then thunked him soundly on the head. "And you didn't bother to tell us? Prat!"

"So sorry," he mumbled.

"How far along?"

"Four months."

"Well, well. We're going to have similar ages in our children then."

"Hermione's pregnant?"

"Yes."

Sebastian thunked him on the head as well.

"And you didn't bother to tell us? Prat!"

The other four watched them with arched eyebrows, Snape's the highest, and finally he cracked. He held a hand to his mouth and his shoulders shook with suppressed laughter, which Ron noticed. A few bare chuckles escaped him and they all stared at him.

"I'm about to marry into ? the craziest family I have ever ? ever met!"

"He needs a stiff drink," Sebastian said, peering at him through narrowed eyes. "Where's the brandy?"

****
Mara's rooms

Mara was not dressed yet. She was in jeans and a white turtleneck, hair loose around her shoulders, standing before one of the large windows and staring out at the courtyard. The students were helping with the vast decorations and conjuring and cloning chairs. The other three girls were watching her warily from their chairs in front of the fire. Just ten minutes ago, she had a conniption fit which had resulted in a vase blowing up and a whirlwind of papers. Afterwards, Hermione and Ginny had given her the worst talking to of her life, bringing her back down to earth. And now she just stood there, hands clasped behind her back, fiddling with the silver signet ring.

The Floo flared to life and a small girl holding a bag much too large for her tumbled out. Mara turned at the familiar sound and she smiled suddenly, rushing forward and sweeping her up into her grasp. The bag fell to the floor as the girl squealed and hugged her tightly. She looked rather like Mara. She had brown hair that was pulled up into pigtails with white ribbons and large eyes, but they were brown instead of blue. And, to both their chagrin, she had her nose.

"I missed you, Maria," she said softly.

"Missed you too, Mara."

"Come and meet my friends."

The girl peeked out over her shoulder at the three women and smiled tentatively. Hell, she even smiled like her.

"Guys, this is my cousin Maria. She's five. The eldest brother from her part is twenty; don't ask how her parents keep doing it. They're gonna end up like Gin's family. Maria, this is Hermione. Remember? Remus' wife?"

"Hello," she said shyly and then her lips puckered as she saw her belly. "Are you... in trouble too?"

Hermione raised an eyebrow and Mara shook her head.

"Try not to repeat everything Will says, dear. That's not the right way to say it. Yes she's pregnant, too ? wait a second, what do you mean 'too'?"

"Abigail's got a big stomach," she promptly informed her.

Mara whooped and lifted Maria into the air. "I knew Sebastian could do it, it's in the genes!" After a moment of celebration, she calmed down and introduced her to the other two. "This is Ginny Potter ? I'm sure you've heard of her, Harry Potter's wife, sorry Gin ? and this is Luna Weasley, the youngest Weasley brother's wife. She's pregnant as well. Golly, this is just a big stomach gathering!"

"Hello," she told them and then she pointed at her bag. "Mummy sent you that. It's got my dress and things in it too."

"Oh, great," Mara groaned. "Here comes Aunt Bella to put her hand in. Might as well get started gals. Maria first."

"Why me?"

"Because you're the youngest and I'm the oldest and I say so!" Mara told her in a childish way.

"Sometimes, I think that you're the youngest of us all," Ginny muttered as she opened the bag.

Evidently, her aunt had been informed of the white-and-black theme (white and various soft variants for the women, straight black and white for the men) and had included a sweet white dress made of cotton for Maria, a white sweater, a white scarf with a moonflower etched on the end, and white boots. The girl was dressed and fussed over, much to her chagrin, and Mara decided to not have much of a hand in it to stay on her good list. But when it came time for her hair, Mara shooed them all away.

She picked up the small brush and unpinned her ponytails, brushing the soft, silky hair that was so much like Mara's. She started to sing an Italian song to the grumpy girl, who immediately perked up. Mara pulled her hair back into ponytails, wrapping them with big white bows. Looking into the girl's eyes, she finished the song in a murmur and then pursed her lips.

"You're next," Ginny informed her regally and Mara sighed.

"I'm going to die within the next fifteen minutes. Tell Sev I love him, will you?"

"Sev?" Hermione choked out around her laughter.

And the maids dressed her and painted her face lightly, keeping it as neutral as possible, and combed her hair, pulling it into elaborate curls, and made her sit still or not move that much until the time came. They retreated to the bathroom and then returned to have everyone fuss over everyone else, laughing and chattering away.

"Oh gods, Hermione, remember when my veil got stuck in the zipper? Harry was so worried, when I got out, there was sweat on his forehead!"

"Remember the bluebells? Ronald has given me bluebells on our anniversary every year now."

"I remember the salmon. And then the chocolate. Poor Ron. He really didn't need to see that tongue action."

"I remember my cousin Sebastian's ? he's the one who's giving me away ? wedding to Abigail. Abigail is a sweet thing, really calm and quiet and they say she would have been a Ravenclaw. Well, one of the bridesmaids fussed so much that Abigail exploded into a tirade that blew the lights out. The room was in utter darkness and we had to use candles!"

"Oh, you've ruined your hair again, Mara."

"Leave it, Herm, we have another hour and a half."

It continued much in this manner, everyone occasionally fixing something else. Maria had quite a few stories to tell about home to Mara, who was sorry she had missed out on everything. She had no brothers, sisters, or parents, so Remus and Aunt Bella's part of the family were everything she had. Then, Maria pointed out that the ring was gorgeous and Mara grew quiet, staring out the window over Maria's chair.

"I didn't think I'd be this worried about him. Not about myself, but him. He's always looked out for himself and to have about five people looking out for him instead must be wreaking havoc on his nerves. He's a very... independent man. To know that the fate of this wedding lies in the hands of so many people, one of whom he can't see, must be breaking him apart."

Ginny held her hand as the tears sprang into her eyes.

"He was so guarded and so damn stubborn. Come to think of it, he's still guarded and damn stubborn. But so full of hurt and pain and memories... I did all I could to ease the pain. I just want to be able to keep doing it."

She burst into full-fledged tears and smeared her makeup for the umpteenth time.

****
Severus' dungeons

The Floo flamed up and Severus opened one eye from where he lazily sat in his chair, half-listening to the million stories from each family. Albus' face sat there, looking highly amused, the twinkle going full steam.

"It's time."

After Albus left, the men sat there silently, lips pursed and thinking. Then, as one, they stood up and helped Severus finish. Eyes flaming, he took the moonflower case from Ron's hands and gave it to Dane, who set it upon the pillow and let Sebastian mutter a Balance Spell. They looked at each other, still in silence, and followed Severus out of the dungeons and up into the Entrance Hall. They left Dane with the flower and Sebastian in the Entrance Hall and walked outside into the sunlight. The courtyard was completely covered with white snow. There was a white velvet carpet sprinkled lightly with snow leading from the Entrance Hall doors down to where Albus stood several yards away behind a white podium bearing a banner across it with the Snape and Alexandria signatures.

There were a million white folding chairs down both sides of the carpet, filled to bursting with students that had stayed during the Christmas holidays, students from Severus' years at Hogwarts, surviving students from Mara's years at Alms, the staff, the Weasley family, Mara's family in the front row, and his sister. Moira Snape gazed at her brother as he stopped in front of the podium, Remus flanking him and Harry and Ron following after him. Then she stood up and stepped in front of Severus.

"I'm happy for you, brother," she said softly.

"You didn't have to come," he replied stiffly.

"I wanted to. I'm the only family you have, Severus, and you're mine. I'm sorry we've never acted like it."

She sat down again and Severus held her violet gaze for a moment before Albus cleared his throat and Minerva skittered from the Entrance Hall, cheeks flushed.

"They're coming now."
****
About the 'are you in trouble too' phrase: my little cousin said that to someone else in my family once, because he heard his elder brother tease his friend. In my family, telling someone that they're 'in trouble' means that they're having a child out of wedlock and it's rather insulting. Just in case.

So, everyone... read, review!
-Mel

The Conference by Melvacaea [Reviews - 5]

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