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Breaking Even by TenthWeasley
Chapter 28 : Wedding Day
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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Beth stood in front of the warped, watery, full-length mirror that hung crookedly on the back of her bedroom door. She was trying very hard not to think about a lot of things – how Sirius had helped her hang it, how Harry had been fascinated by his reflection in that very mirror one night. That all seemed like a long time ago now, a faraway dream that was just beginning to fade into the recesses of her mind. What mattered was the image Beth saw in it now.

She ran her palms over the skirt of the dress she wore, trying not to admit to herself how moist with nervous perspiration her hands were. Beth had no idea if the dress was appropriate for the occasion – she’d truthfully walked straight into a Muggle secondhand shop and purchased the first dress that had fit and hadn’t looked extremely hideous. It was red, belted around the middle, and made of some kind of draping fabric that seemed to both cling to and flow off her skin. The shoulders of the dress were ruffled, three or four layers thick, and scrunched to show half her upper arm. The shoulder pads had been somewhat problematic; she’d been unable to help laughing at how stupid some of the recent Muggle fashion trends were, but a quick Reducio had fixed that problem.

Beth fiddled with the neckline, tossing her thick, wild hair over her shoulders and immediately bringing it back to lie on the dress again. Half of her hair had been wrestled into a silver clip to match the thin silver bracelet that encircled her wrist, bird charm dangling mid-flight from it.

This is what I’m wearing to get married, she thought suddenly, incredulously. This is the dress I’m going to remember wearing when I married Severus.

She’d never been prone to dreaming about her wedding when she was younger, but Beth reckoned that if she had, she probably wouldn’t have imagined it like this. She had sent Oscar the owl to Severus’s just after returning from their Hogsmeade meeting, awaiting further instructions, and he’d returned late last night with a letter. Severus had arranged for a time at a register office (she suspected a Confundus Charm might have aided him in that respect) for the following day, November third. He had told her he would meet her at her flat at seven that morning, and they would walk to the office together. Beth still couldn’t wrap her head around the idea that she was getting married.

Her mother wouldn’t be present; Severus had no parents to attend. Beth had contemplated asking Remus to be one of their witnesses, but in the end Severus had found a couple leaving the office on the day he’d made the appointment, and they had agreed to witness the pair’s wedding. It was slightly odd, she thought, but then, she wasn’t about to complain.

There would be no James, no Sirius, no Peter, no Remus. No Lily or Harry, no Mary, and no Marlene. It would be Beth and Severus, the officiant, and a couple Beth had never met before. A red dress, a silver bracelet, and a marriage certificate. And even if she had never before given thought to her wedding, Beth still felt as though she could hardly feel more right about what she was doing.

She smoothed down more nonexistent wrinkles, blowing out through her lips and shaking her hands to get rid of the nervous, squeezing feeling in her stomach.

Bethany Amanda Snape.

She laughed aloud, pressing her hand flat to her mouth. It felt like a schoolgirl thing to be doing, practicing her name with Severus’s. It didn’t seem real at all. And for so long she hadn’t allowed herself to think about him at all, and certainly not as a husband – her husband, the words sounded so strange! – that now she was almost giddy with the freedom of it.

Beth couldn’t stand here any longer. The small alarm clock on her nightstand had only ticked around to six forty, but the walls felt cramped, stifling, claustrophobic. She took up her wand from beside the clock and tucked it into a pocket in the front of her dress, pressing it flat so it wouldn’t look strange to anyone in the register office, and moved into her sitting room. She hadn’t even thought about what would happen after the wedding – would they live here? Would she move to wherever Severus lived now? Would they get a brand-new flat, a fresh start?

Her head spun. Everything was happening so dizzyingly fast. Her insides still doing whole gymnastics routines against her rib cage, she slipped the chain back, opened her door, and let herself into the corridor outside her flat, locking the door behind her with her wand and stealing downstairs.

The early morning air was bitterly cold, and it was still dark, though the sky to the east was beginning to turn paler shades of blue and purple with the impending sun. It did at least give her something else to think about, and she wrapped her hands around her bare elbows, shivering, thinking longingly of the cloak on its peg back in her flat. It would be too suspicious to wear a cloak into the heart of Muggle London, and it would look stupid over the dress besides, but it was the warmest thing Beth owned, and right now she was almost willing to risk it.

A man tottered past on the opposite sidewalk, looking staggeringly drunk; he kept walking as though avoiding invisible obstacles, and even from this distance Beth could hear that he was muttering to himself. She smiled, although she felt a little bad for finding it funny, and as she did so, she heard a voice to her left.

“Good morning.”

She turned so quickly she felt drunk herself, staggering back on the walk, and felt her cheeks redden as Severus approached her up the pavement. He was smiling a little himself, moving quietly and purposefully as always, and she felt fuzzy with happiness just knowing he was here, even before she remembered that he was here to marry her.

“You look beautiful,” Severus said softly, coming to stand in front of her, and she had to remember to suck in a quick breath before the memory of how to breathe left her. He had dressed in a Muggle fashion himself, and it looked as strange on him as it always had – not in a bad way, but simply because Beth could count on one hand the number of times she’d seen him in something besides standard wizarding robes. He was wearing a dark shirt pinstriped with gray lines, buttoned all the way up to the collar, and gray slacks that were a size too big for him. Severus’s hands were in his pockets, fiddling with the lining self-consciously.

“Thank you,” Beth responded, unable to keep a happy grin flitting across her face. She ducked her head, and then added, “You look very handsome, Sev.” His own smile widened in turn, but it flickered a moment later, uncertainty creeping into his eyes.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked her. “If you don’t want to marry me –“

Beth cut him off. “I do,” she said firmly. “You’ll never need to doubt that I do.” Trace amounts of sadness shivered through her, just at the fact that he still needed reassurance that she loved him and wanted to marry him. As though to console him, she reached out and placed both hands on one of his arms, bent from his hands in his pockets.

Severus nodded, brushing back the dark hair that fell into his eyes as he did. He touched his forehead to hers, briefly, and then said, “I almost forgot. Hang on.” He took his arm from under her hands, reaching into his pocket and drawing out his wand. As she watched, he waved it in the air; a tiny spray of white forget-me-nots bloomed immediately from the end of it. The significance of the name of them was not lost on Beth. She felt her cheeks warm again as Severus handed them to her, and slipped his arm through hers.

“Should we go?” she said, voice quieter than she’d intended. Beth could have spent the rest of her life preparing for this moment, and still she wouldn’t have prepared enough – time was, she thought, divided into three distinct segments. There was the anticipation of a moment, and then being thrust headlong into that moment, and then the memories of it came later. She had skipped the first step entirely, it seemed, and had had no chance to expect the headlong jump into marriage.

She was ready if he was.

“Let’s go,” he said. As if he had planned the timing down to the second, Severus spun on his heel, taking Beth alongside him as he Disapparated from the stretch of pavement in front of her flat complex.

As they reappeared again on an unfamiliar street corner, a distant clock was just chiming out six forty-five with loud, slow bells. Severus slipped his arm out from the crook of Beth’s elbows and surreptitiously ran his hands down his own thighs, a mirror image of the gesture she’d made in front of the mirror earlier. Somehow knowing that he, too, was nervous set her mind slightly more at ease.

“This way,” he told her, turning back and extending a hand for hers. Beth grasped it with her left, her right hand still clenched around the stem of the flowers, and he began walking east. They didn’t speak, but she preferred it that way, somehow – and anyway, there would be months, years to talk later, she knew. They would have forever. And for the first time she could remember in ages, Beth stopped herself from lifting her hand to rub her nose in self-doubt, because she believed it would be true.

As they rounded a corner, a tall, square tower, topped by a domed cupola, emerged through bare tree branches and over the roofs of surrounding buildings. Hardly any other people were out on the street at this time of the day, but a few smartly-dressed businessmen in bowler hats passed by Severus and Beth as they came to a stop in front of the register office, still clutching each other’s hands. She tipped her had back to look at the British flag set over the left of the building, snapping in the November wind.

Beside her, Severus sucked in an audible breath, and she turned her head to look at him. “Is it stupid to feel a little sick?” he murmured, his eyes trained on the same flag.

Beth squeezed his hand. “I do, too.”

Severus turned his head to her, his same small smile slipping about the corners of his mouth. “I’m ready to marry you, Beth.” And then, as though he couldn’t wait, he bent slightly and pressed a light kiss to the corner of her own mouth, just centimeters away from her lips. The skin there tingled when he drew back.

The inside of the register office was surprisingly sticky with humidity, and Beth winced almost as soon as the door had shut behind her, thinking regretfully of just how frizzy her hair would be after the ceremony, if it wasn’t already. Heat was pouring through an old-fashioned grate in the floor near the door, and similar grates lined the scrubbed wooden corridor ahead of them, set between highly-polished closed doors. The small hall smelled both musty and sharp, a combination of dust and acidic floor polish.

As they took a few tentative steps away from the front door, a gray man poked his head out of a door midway along the row. The face on his skin was sagging and papery, and looked a bit as though it had been coated with dust – it blended nearly seamlessly with the high collar of his stiff gray suit. His hair was pale and colorless, hanging limply down across his pallid forehead.

“Severus Snape?” His voice was nasally and extremely high, and a giggle hitched in Beth’s throat. Severus’s fingers tightened around hers, and she knew he was fighting expressing amusement, as well.

“Yes.”

“Your witnesses are already here,” the man – Beth had surmised him to be officiant by this point – said. He beckoned them down with the crook of his index finger and slipped back into the doorway, and Severus glanced sidelong at Beth. She shifted her grip around the flowers again, the crevices and bends in the skin of her fingers dampening again.

The miniature room that the officiant had summoned them to was nearly as colorless as he himself was, though of a different hue. At one time it must have been elegant even in its smallness, but the faded powder blue wallpaper on the walls was frayed and peeling, and the cream-colored carpet on the floor was ripping from the floorboards at the corners. Rows of chairs that made Beth think of the chairs at the Order headquarters had been set up facing the back wall, but only two of these were occupied. A man snored gently in one, his head lolling against the shoulder of a woman who was presumably his wife; she was filing her nails with a cheap emery board, looking like she’d rather be anywhere but here at this time of the morning.

The officiant was sorting through a thin stack of papers on a sideboard off to the left. Beth and Severus hung near the door, their hands still clasped, looking about them with mild curiosity. This, too, was not what Beth would ever have pictured for her wedding – but what did that matter?

“If you’ll step to the front of the room, please,” the officiant called over, looking a touch put out that they hadn’t already done so. He took a pen from his pocket and scribbled something onto one of the sheets in front of him, and Beth stared, not used to seeing anyone write with anything other than ink and a feather quill. The paper looked starkly white compared to the normal yellow-brown of the parchment the wizarding world dealt in.

The woman looked around as Beth and Severus walked to the front and took their places facing each other, as though they already knew the exact steps and roles they were performing. Beth caught her eye and the other gave her an encouraging sort of smile, which eased the tension from her shoulders somewhat. She jabbed her husband with her bony elbow, and he started awake, blinking large eyes about him.

“Wha – ?” His eyes focused on Severus and Beth. “Oh, righ’, yeah.” He rubbed sleep from his eyes and yawned loudly; his wife frowned in annoyance.

“All right,” the officiant said, voice squeaking, and Severus snorted softly. Beth grinned at him, shifting the small bouquet of forget-me-nots in front of her. “We’ll begin now, if you please. Short ceremony, nothing to it.” He cleared his throat in a series of strange staccato sounds and flipped his hair off his forehead again.

He began to speak, but Beth’s ears buzzed and missed most of the words that came out of his mouth. She thought idly she might regret not listening better, but Severus was looking at her with an expression she’d never seen on his face before, and it rather drove her thoughts elsewhere. She could feel her cheeks, still warm from nerves, turn even redder as his eyes held hers. Her stomach twisted, and she sucked in a quick, deep breath and held it. Her mind wandered further back.

Beth had noticed Severus for years, and for years he had never spared her a passing glance. She had looked over at him over the tops of books and through curtains of hair, watching the way his hands wrote words on parchment, the way his eyes seemed to absorb everything in lessons as though it were effortless. She had watched as James and Sirius tore away at him with words that were meant to be funny, but their humor had been lost on her.

She had watched as he’d trailed Lily around the school, and her heart had broken every time, though she always pretended it hadn’t – he couldn’t break her heart, she’d argued, because her heart wasn’t his to break. But it always had been. And then, in seventh year, he had noticed her, and everything had changed.

She had nearly lost him then, but he had returned for her. Against all odds, though she had pretended not to care even while caring too much, though she was determined to keep him a thing of the past – he had returned for her. Even more incredibly, they had made it work – and somewhere along the way, between the missions and the secrets, she had fallen in love with him.

He had risked his mind for her, everything he held dear, and Beth knew that it had been for her, even while it had slowly eaten away at her for the past year. And now she was here, standing in front of him – absurdly, unbelievably, wonderfully – only minutes away from becoming his wife.

Beth loved Severus, and she was marrying him, and even though they had both lost much since knowing each other, to have each other now – it was enough.

“If anyone does object to the union between this man and this woman,” the officiant was droning, his nasal tone slicing into her thoughts like a knife through butter, “let him or her speak now, or forever be silent.” The air conditioning unit in the corner of the room hummed into the silence. There was a soft scratch, scratch as the woman seated in the hard chair started to file her nails again.

The officiant cleared his throat in eighth notes. “Severus Snape, do you –“

“I’m sorry,” Severus interrupted then, and Beth’s nerves skyrocketed. He’s backing out. But he turned his eyes on her again, and the same unfamiliar, wonderful expression was in them. “Can I say a few words?” he asked the officiant, though his gaze was still trained on her.

Beth glanced quickly at the officiant, who looked thoroughly nonplussed at this turn of events. “I – of course,” he stammered.

Severus reached out his hands to Beth, and he wrapped them around hers; his fingers were strong and sure, and covered her hands entirely. “I just have to say something,” he said. “I don’t want to miss the opportunity.” He swallowed, and then said, in a low voice, “You’ve saved me, Beth. You have. I love you, and I will always love you. You have changed my life forever, and I know I want to marry you, like I’ve never wanted anything before. And” – his hands tightened around hers – “it was worth it, our time at school, your friends. It was worth it. Because through them, I found you.”

Beth’s eyes were hot with tears, and she brushed away at them shakily with the back of her hand, laughing and gulping. “Sev.” Her heart was swelling in her chest, growing, expanding. “I love you, Sev. I’ve always loved you.”

And he drew her to him then, without waiting, his arms strong around her back as he lowered his face to hers. Beth placed her hands against his face, forgetting the flowers she clutched in her right hand, and kissed him.

From the corner of her eye, she could see the witnesses in the front row, both with stupid expressions on their faces as they tried to work out what had just happened. To her right, the officiant looked absolutely befuddled, and finally shrugged his shoulders helplessly. Not sure of what else to do, he spoke up.

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”

*

Beth looked over Severus’s shoulder, standing in the small hall of the register office, their eyes trained on the paper he held gently in his fingers. The signatures at the bottom – his, hers, the witnesses’, and the officiant’s – and words that meant nothing to her but that they were married.

She had a husband.

Her eyes flicked down to the ring on her finger, bright against the gray of Severus’s shirt. “It was my mother’s,” he had told her after the ceremony, surprising her by pulling it out of the pocket of his trousers without warning. “Not her wedding ring – a family ring. I’ve come close to throwing it away so many times.” He had smiled down at her, kissing her forehead. “I’m glad I didn’t.”

She watched the two miniature gems set along the band – one a diamond, one a polished and pale blue moonstone – catch the light from the lamp overhead now, winking at her, and pressed her forehead into Severus’s shoulder, grinning into the fabric of his shirt. “We’re married,” she whispered, her tongue stumbling pleasantly over the unfamiliar phrase.

Carefully, Severus folded the certificate in half, then in half again, slipping it into his pocket and slipping his arm around Beth’s shoulders. “I – “ he muttered, and then stopped, cheeks flushing red. “Beth, down the road… there’s – there’s an inn…”

The breath left her lungs; cold, clenching panic raced through Beth’s veins for a fraction of an instant. And then –

“Yes,” she said, amazed at how sure her voice sounded. “Let’s go.”

*

The room was about as dingy as the register office had been, paneled in dark wood and covered underfoot with a maroon rug that had seen better days, and had then used up its share of somewhat good days since then. A full-sized bed stood to the left of the door, facing a set of gritty windows shaded by pale white curtains. On the opposite side of the bed was the door leading to the water closet; below each window, a long dresser for clothing. There was no other furnishing in the room.

“Somewhat less than desired,” Severus muttered, but Beth’s mind was a thousand miles away. She walked over to the windows, reaching up and fingering the curtain. Through the fabric, her hand looked like a silhouette, splayed against a windowpane. The early morning sunshine was bright against her skin and eyes.

She didn’t want to be nervous – but she didn’t even know how to be anything but nervous, and she was slightly ashamed of herself for it. There was a soft click behind her as Severus shut the door, and he moved a few steps across the room in her direction, the sound of his shoes muffled by the rug.

“Beth?”

She turned, and felt even worse at the worried expression on his face. “I wanted James to be there,” she blurted out, before she could help herself. “And Sirius, and Remus, and Peter.” She let her hand fall away from behind the curtain.

“I know you did.” His voice was heavy. “I’m sorry.”

“No.” Beth stepped over to him quickly, taking his hands in both of hers and pressing her lips to his knuckles, eyes still focused on his. “There is nothing to be sorry for. Severus – you did all this for me.” Beth closed the space between them; Severus’s breath was heavy, quick. “And it was perfect. It was. I love you.”

He closed his eyes, pressing his face into the top of her head. “I love you,” he murmured. And even though she was nervous, and he was clearly still feeling guilty, love won. With sure, slow steps, they moved to the bed.

He lay down first, and Beth moved next to him, the entirety of the left side of her body flush with his right. She fit just right there, as though she’d been made to specially fill every space his body left behind. Severus turned and looked at her, propping himself up on his elbow. Beth nodded.

He leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers, and she reached up and snaked her arms around his neck, bringing him the rest of the way, closer than they’d ever been before.

A/N: SHORT AUTHOR'S NOTE IS SHORT BECAUSE I CAN'T HANDLE MY EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW. BUT SERIOUSLY, I AM HAVING DIFFICULTIES ACTING NORMAL. So? What did you think?! 

I'm so excited right now I might just scream. You guys! You guys! Thank you for reading, and I really, really, really hope you liked this chapter! ♥


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