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Chapter Thirty-Five: Christmas Eve Part III
Half-an-hour later, the gathering of people had settled along the table that was constructed from the four House tables and the Head Table. It was long and everyone fit easily. In the center were Severus, flanked by Remus, and Mara, flanked by Hermione. The order continued somewhat like the procession and the seating arrangement. Directly facing the newlyweds was Albus, smiling gently. He nudged Remus' foot and Remus hit a champagne glass with a fork, demanding silence, which was granted.
"I know that we've all had enough of speeches. Mara's done far too many and there have just been even more during this wedding. But I'm sorry to say that you're going to have to put up with my toast. When Mara first interacted with Severus, I fully expected Hogwarts to be blown to smithereens. Well, actually, my house, seeing as how their first communication was through letters. Bloody hell, I arrived at Hogwarts scared out of my wits that they were going to set this place on fire!"
Some people laughed and several agreed. Severus rolled his eyes and Mara chuckled.
"When the Halloween episode was revealed to the staff, I had to lock myself up to keep from murdering Severus. Hey, werewolf instincts. I sincerely believed that they were going to find a way out and when Mara told me about the potion that they were working on -- yes, they were working on a potion to cure lycanthropy, they have the base potion --" Applause. "-- I thought that this potion was the way out, for she had told me about some two-month limit and some exchange of deeds. And then she arrived in the Great Hall with her ring and her dress and her head held high. Ginny noticed the ring and it was, in a word, war. Everyone wanted to kill either her or Severus or both of them. Mara was always the peacemaker in our family, so she managed to make everyone quiet and sort everything out. It took me a bit to accept the fact that she was marrying Severus -- at this point, we weren't on friendly terms -- but I did. She let us handle the wedding and it's come out just fine if I do say so myself."
Severus and Mara snorted at the same time.
"Did his plans include an off-key band that had to be corrected, me forgetting my bouquet, me getting bitten by Rubicon, and him thinking that he had forgotten the rings?" she muttered to Severus, who bit his lower lip to keep from chuckling.
"I've seen Severus change. The hours before the party, Sebastian -- my cousin -- told him that he had it bad for her. He does, no matter how much he scathingly retorts that she has just managed to worm her way into his head. He didn't want to be separated from her and he was looking into a mug of coffee when he said: 'Damn her for getting under my skin.' Sound familiar, men?"
The married men all laughed and agreed, shooting looks at their wives. Those with girlfriends wrapped an arm around their shoulders and muttered that yes, it did sound familiar.
"Severus wasn't softened up, no matter how our students and future students may wish it. Sorry, Severus. But he is more humorously sarcastic than insulting now. Just don't laugh in the middle of class. Severus will continue to be the same man he's always been and Mara will keep being... well, Mara. They will continue living their lives, except now they are living one life, one line, one time. Theirs. They have both suffered many terrible things in life and they are here now, to suffer together. So, in conclusion: Mara, Snape, in the words of Sophocles: 'One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.' To Mara and Snape: may they relieve each other from everything until the ends of the earth!"
"Hear! Hear!" everyone shouted. Glasses were clinked, champagne was sipped at, and the food appeared on the tables, Welcome Feast style. The laughter and familiar atmosphere started and before they started eating, everyone looked over at the newlyweds.
Severus was staring at Mara, staring into her eyes, which started to brim with tears, and she hugged her husband, causing him to sigh with as much exasperation as he could muster. Then, she wiped the tears from her eyes and sniffed. She smiled through her tears and blurring vision.
"In the words of Sartre, then," she croaked. "'Well, well, let's get on with it!'"
The laughter started up again and soon enough, the Great Hall was filled with chatter, the sound of glasses and plates, laughter, and several different languages.
"Fue un excelente brindis, Remus!" someone said.
"It was an excellent toast," Mara translated and Remus nodded to his uncle. "Ooh, what's that?" she asked her husband.
He arched an eyebrow in her direction and lifted a fork full of some yellow-red fruit.
"Mango from the Caribbean. Care to try?"
She closed her mouth around his fork, swallowed the fruit, licked her lips, and noticed the amused look on his face. He shook his head and took a bite of it himself. The dinner continued much in this manner, with people taking bites from other people's plates, jokes, laughter, Italian, Spanish, English, French, exotic dishes, and anecdotes. Ginny leaned over to Hermione and whispered something in her ear and Hermione's squeal penetrated the noise, gaining silence. Hermione whispered fervently to Mara, whose jaw dropped and then she smacked her forehead. She stood up, raising her hands, and gave Ginny a wry glance.
"I swear this will be short. Apparently, this is the big stomach gathering because not only are Hermione Lupin, Luna Weasley, and Abigail Anderlini pregnant but... Harry, start shopping for baby clothes, dear."
Whistles. Applause. Things that had become common during Mara's stay. She sat back down again, ignoring the couple that were now fervently kissing each other behind her, and continued to eat.
When people were leaning back, hands on bloated bellies, Remus stood up and ushered them all outside again. By this time, it was around six or seven, and the sun had set and the stars were just starting to appear in a darkening sky. Severus and Mara looked over at each other and smiled.
"Mara, I remember how much you love Muggle music and I know that you've been practicing your skating. Hermione? A little help?" Remus said.
The girls took Mara inside and Severus was dragged away by Remus and the groomsmen. Mara was cornered into a bathroom and brought out something that caused Mara to fall back and grasp the sink, still in her wedding dress.
"How... what... oh my God."
Hermione grinned fiendishly. She was holding up an ice skating dress. It was a turquoise dress with a deep V-neck, one of the sleeves continuing down to tuck under the other. The skirt of it just barely reached past her buttocks and the hem was lined in white and cubic zirconias. She looked up into Hermione's eyes and swallowed deeply before taking it. She locked herself into a cubicle and shed her wedding dress, with some difficulty, and finally pulled on the undergarments and the dress. Hermione and Ginny pulled her hair into a tight bun with a moonflower straddling it, falling over the bun elegantly. Luna refreshed her face, spreading white eyeshadow around her eyes and on the lids.
"You look wonderful," Hermione reassured her as she stepped outside into the night.
Severus, on the other hand, was having a rather rough time of it. While the black ice skates were a perfect fit, he definitely didn't want to put on the pants. After a few minutes of cajoling and insulting, they changed the blue pants to black and he pulled them on, a scowl firmly in place. He flatly refused to wear the shirt.
"So you want to ice skate with only your pants and a black belt on?" Remus snapped at him and Severus sullenly pulled on the long-sleeved, tight, black shirt rimmed in silver.
"I'm never going to hear the end of it," he muttered as Remus led him back to the lake from the very edge of the Forbidden Forest.
He stopped as he stared at Mara ? his wife, yes, his wife ? and she stopped at well. Hermione and Remus nudged their friends and gave them the boxes with the ice skates. Mara sat down on the bank, pulling on the ice skates and tying them on expertly. He followed suit next to her.
"I didn't know you knew how to ice skate," she said coolly.
"I didn't either."
His lips quirked and she shot him a sharp glance, which softened.
"Yes. But not a complete one. I have a rudimentary grasp of the thing."
He kissed her lightly before they heard a song that Mara recognized very well. It was the theme song from a semi-good movie she had seen a very long time ago in a Muggle theater: "Titanic". She laughed as Severus led her out onto the ice and they swivelled in small circles, holding on to the other with one hand, just for moment. Then he reeled her in and they waltzed on ice: he held her close to him by the waist and she hung onto his neck.
His hand lowered and she pushed herself up into the air. Before she knew it, he had uttered a Heightening Spell and Suspension Spell in quick succession and she was left in midair. Gritting her teeth, she silently cursed him, stuck out one leg and tipped backwards. Legs curled underneath her, she heard him say the counter-curse and she fell straight down into his arms. She managed to spread one leg to the side and she found herself back to his chest, one foot on ice and that knee bent, the lifted leg curled around his hip.
When both of her feet were planted firmly on the ground, they skated backwards, his arms wrapped around her waist and his chin on her shoulder, her arms crossed over his. She had a soft smile on her face and Severus seemed content. One of his hands grasped hers and he spun her away from him. The ice was slippery beneath her and she bit her lower lip as he pulled her back to him and her back slammed against his chest. She then slipped away from him and skated circles around his amused figure, his eyes following her carefully. She sprung into the air and performed a double toe loop, landing neatly and cleanly.
The song was ending and she skated back to him, back to his arms. She heard the final note ring out across the dark lake and she tilted her head up to receive the kiss he bestowed upon her. Both of them skated small circles as the kiss became heated, ignorant of the people that were (once more) clapping and whistling at the bank.
"You know, I know a very effective Warming Charm," he said against her neck.
"And I know where we should try it out... don't you?"
He cupped her face in his hand and kissed her again, gently.
"I love you," he muttered and her breath hitched as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
"I love you, too, darling."
"My one and only."
She cleared her throat. "Now, about that Warming Charm..."
(1) One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love - Sophocles
(2) Well, well, let's get on with it! - This is from Jean-Paul Sartre's (existentialist) play "No Exit". It's the line (actually said in French) said in the transition between two acts.
Now all that's missing is the epilogue. I don't believe this! Oh my gosh! We're almost done!
Well... I'll spring the surprise in the epilogue. ;) Thanks so much! You've been a wonderful set of readers and the admins have been wonderful in putting up with my multitude of mistakes!