First time

The wedding

Chapter 28

The wedding

It wouldn’t have been like Snape to agree with something too readily, even if it was something Elizabeth felt sure he wanted as much as she did, and so it didn’t really surprise her any more that it took another quarter of an hour, during which she had to come up with an endless amount of arguments about why she wanted the wedding to take place so inappropriately early, before he finally consented to at least thinking the matter over, but only under the condition that they would, straight upon their return to Hogwarts, seek out Dumbledore to see what his opinion of the whole marriage-after-graduation idea would be. Now, had the circumstances been a little different, and had Elizabeth been talking to someone other than Snape, she would have perhaps been somewhat dissapointed not to have received a more enthusiastic reaction from the man who had just been asked to plan something as pleasant as his own wedding, but, as it was, the response she got was as much as she could ask for.

The last couple of days spent at the Snape mansion are (when, of course, one omits the fact that at one point Elizabeth had disappeared to London for almost half a day to haunt the jewellery shops in search of an engagement ring for Snape) not worth mentioning. Snape seemed to be nervous because of the wedding, and as such proved to be poor company. Elizabeth already knew better than to force him to talk when he was in no mood for it, and so they spent most of their time in silence, reading or listening to their MP3 players. Yes, indeed, even Snape had eventually discovered the numerous advantages of listening to music, and from then on his Beatles CD’s had been frequently in use. Learning from the episode with the shampoo, Elizabeth didn’t dare comment it, but her knowing smile said it all.

At last, however, it was time to leave, and though Elizabeth would previously have laughed at anyone with the guts to suggest that she would actually be happy to do so, this was indeed the case. Not only was it obvious that Snape would never find peace until Dumbledore had been consulted, but even the Ravenclaw herself was now beginning to anticipate what the old man would have to say (though she was quite certain that it could be nothing negative), and was therefore eager to get to Hogwarts as soon as possible.

In the end, however, Dumbledore’s opinion of the matter turned out to be no great surprise (at least to Elizabeth) – he was all for it, and even, without anybody asking him to, put himself in charge of the organization of whole event. It would have to take place at Hogwarts, of course, he would ask the Minister for Magic to perform the wedding act, he would invite-

But Snape obviously wasn’t willing to hear who Dumbledore had chosen to invite to his own wedding. “Headmaster, I must protest,” he cut in firmly. “I absolutely refuse to have all of Hogwarts, and more, goggle at me when ... well, simply speaking, what I had in mind was a quiet event, attended only by Elizabeth’s family, yourself, and perhaps Professor McGonagall...”

Dumbledore, however, wasn’t to be stopped, no matter how much Snape and Elizabeth (who, frankly, didn’t really care whether the whole of Hogwarts witnessed her wedding or not, as long as she and Snape got married, but since Snape would evidently suffer with too many people around, she thought it better to support him in his cause) argued, which eventually led the two of them to give up the fight and, especially in Snape’s case, leave the Headmaster’s office in much lower spirits than they had entered it.

“Don’t be angry with him,” pleaded Elizabeth, in a feeble attempt to justify Dumbledore’s unwelcome initiative, as soon as they reached the corridor outside. “Can’t you see that he’s obviously bored? Ever since Voldemort had died, he has nothing much left to do, and so he seeks every opportunity to find himself an occupation.”

“Well, perhaps he could try to find himself an occupation elsewhere, and leave the wedding preparations to those whom the entire matter concerns the most,” said Snape bitterly, obviously not in the mood to forgive the poor, bored Headmaster any time soon.

“Yes,” sighed Elizabeth, “but since that’s about as likely to happen as Hufflepuff winning the House Championship, we just have to accept it, and make the most of it as it is.” She gave Snape a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll survive.”

Snape’s expression clearly conveyed that he highly doubted it.

Neither Snape, nor Elizabeth had much time to brood over the monstrosity that Dumbledore was so eagerly planning for them, however, for their main worry at the moment was the much awaited last Quidditch match of the season – Slytherin versus Ravenclaw – which was to be played in the middle of May. Both teams were still in the running for the Quidditch Cup, and both desperately wanted to win, though Ravenclaw had to beat Slytherin by at least 100 points, otherwise the Cup would go to Gryffindor. That’s why Elizabeth now spent most of her days either in the classroom or on the Quidditch pitch, fighting her way through Jane’s brutal drills and listening to her forever changing strategies of beating the Slytherin team, which left her almost no time for anything else. The only exception was, naturally, Snape, whom she still continued to visit every evening and with whom she was currently leading endless debates concerning the upcoming Quidditch match. Soon a healthy rivalry had developed between the two of them, causing them both to take immense pleasure in either accentuating their rival team’s shortcomings, or feeding one another false information about their own team’s strategy in the match.

And so, with the two of them being kept busy in such a manner, time seemed to pass incredibly fast for them, leaving them both in a state of mild shock when the middle of May suddenly arrived without any noticeable warning, and with it the day of the decisive match. Neither of them let their true feelings show, however, and they both walked out of the castle looking as smug as if they had won the Quidditch Cup already, Elizabeth heading for the changing rooms, Snape, whose willingness to make an exception in his usual attire and actually wear green robes instead of his famous black ones clearly showed just how important he thought the occasion, for the Slytherin part of the stands, where he immediately blended with the swirling mass of silver of green. But while the Head of Slytherin was able to keep up his mask for the whole of the match, Elizabeth dropped hers as soon as she entered the changing room, seeing as now was her last chance to solve the dilemma that had been bothering her ever since she first found out the details of the possible match outcomes. What if Ravenclaw won the Quidditch Cup? How would Snape take it? Or worse, what if Ravenclaw won the match, but Gryffindor took the Cup? Not that she didn’t wish Hermione, Neville, and all the rest of McGonagall’s house all the best, but if she knew for a fact that Ravenclaw wouldn’t win the Quidditch Cup anyway, wouldn’t it be better to just let Slytherin win the match, simply to make Snape happy? She would just have to play a little worse than usual, and simply hope that Slytherin would take advantage of it...

She never got any further in these treacherous thoughts, however, for at that moment Jane climbed onto one of the changing room benches and began her usual pre-match pep talk, forcing Elizabeth to abandon her musings and concentrate instead on what was being said.

“This is it,” Jane was just saying in an unusually low voice, almost as if the words were sacred. “At last a chance for Ravenclaw to claim the Quidditch Cup. And we will do it, I’m sure. We’ve been training hard all year, sacrificing our afternoons, our weekends... All this must show somewhere, am I right?” Six heads nodded vigorously. “So please, girls, don’t let the team down. You know the tactics for this match. Do your best.” At this point, Jane looked straight at Elizabeth, almost as if she knew what had been going through her mind earlier. Elizabeth lowered her gaze. Jane, looking satisfied, turned her attention back to her team. “Go out there and fight!” she shouted out, and thus finishing her speech, she jumped off the bench, grabbed her broomstick and briskly led the way out of the changing room.

Elizabeth walked out of the door last, feeling as though she deserved a huge slap. How could she have even thought of giving Slytherin a chance to win? She would have been betraying her whole team, for god’s sake! And all this for a man who most probably wouldn’t even thank her for it. Perhaps he would even be angry with her, because he would know that his team’s victory wasn’t completely deserved. No, this would definitely not do. She would play her best, as always, and if Ravenclaw won, and Snape was unable to accept it, then bad for him. She would simply have to teach him how to lose.

In such spirits, Elizabeth finally reached the Quidditch pitch, instantly casting a confident look into the Slytherin stands, where Snape sat regarding her with an equally smug expression.

‘Look as smug as you want ... for now,’ she thought with a nasty smile as she climbed onto her broomstick and got ready to take off. ‘For I doubt you’ll still have the mind to wear that expression when the match is over.’

Shortly after this, the aforementioned match was underway. Bludgers were flying left and right, and Elizabeth was sending them at the Slytherin team as if her life depended on it. She was definitely playing the best Quidditch of her short career. Perhaps she just hadn’t been sufficiently motivated before? Not really feeling like pondering over it at the moment, however, she swiftly sent another Bludger at one of the Slytherin players, who immediately dropped the Quaffle he was carrying right into the hands of the Ravenclaw Chaser who was flying underneath.

“And ... Ravenclaw scores!” called the commentator, a small but extremely loud boy from Gryffindor, only a few seconds later. “Ravenclaw leads Slytherin fifty to twenty!”

‘That’s not good enough,’ thought Elizabeth anxiously. ‘We still need to score at least two more goals before we can let our Seeker do the job.’ And, as if to add emphasis to her thoughts, she immediately hit one of the Bludgers coming towards her so hard that it nearly knocked the Slytherin Keeper off his broom, causing him to completely miss the Quaffle that flew through one of the hoops amidst a huge wave of cheering and clapping coming from the Ravenclaw stands.

“Another goal for Ravenclaw!” yelled the commentator ecstatically. “They now lead Slytherin sixty to twenty!”

“All right, one more,” Elizabeth muttered to herself, desperately searching for a loose Bludger to cause sufficient damage with. But there was really no need to, for at that moment Jane had managed to aim her own Bludger so well that it hit the Quaffle, which was just being passed between two Slytherin Chasers, in mid-air, changing its direction and sending it flying towards the Slytherin hoops. Still, the Slytherin Keeper would have probably been quick enough to block it, had it not been for a quickwitted Ravenclaw Chaser who caught it at the last second and readily threw it through the hoop which the Keeper had just left. And, to top it all off, at almost exactly the same time the Ravenclaw Seeker caught the Golden Snitch, ensuring Ravenclaw both the match and the Quidditch Cup.

The celebrations that followed this memorable victory were spectacular, involving lots of food, drink and general happiness, and so it was only well after dinner that Elizabeth finally managed to sneak out of the common room to pay Snape her usual evening visit. She was, naturally, not entirely comfortable about doing so, as she had absolutely no idea how Snape would receive her (for all she knew, he might even think that she had only come to laugh at him), but she had to face him sooner or later, and personally she preferred the former. What good would putting it off do? She would only prolong the uncertainty, which, if it were to last too long, would most likely drive her crazy.

And so, with an unsteady hand and a heavy heart, she eventually knocked on the familiar dungeon door, which immediately opened with an ominous creak, and entered, briefly wondering how Snape always knew it was her who was visiting him, and not some dangerous enemy that had somehow managed to sneak into the Hogwarts castle undetected. ‘It must be some spell or other,’ she decided as she took a tense look around the room, instantly spotting Snape sitting on the sofa and silently regarding her in a very unnerving fashion. Now, what on earth was that supposed to mean? And, more importantly, what should she say? Should she act as if nothing had happened? Or should she perhaps attempt some sort of an apology – that could never hurt...

“Sorry I’m so late,” she began, “it’s just that we were ... um...” Oh yes, great start. Keep going.

“Celebrating?” supplied Snape smoothly, raising an eyebrow.

Elizabeth looked at her feet. “Well ... yes, kind of. It was only natural considering the...” she took a deep breath and looked Snape right in the eye “...the circumstances. Look, I’m really sorry that your team lost, but that’s just the way it goes. We won this time, you’ll win next time. No big deal.”

“Oh, no doubt we shall win next time,” smirked Snape. “After all, Miss Wells and yourself will have graduated by then.”

Elizabeth threw him a confused look. Did he just pay her and Jane a compliment? Did that mean...

“Does that mean you’re not angry with us?” she asked incredulously, taking an uncertain step towards him.

Snape endowed her with a bitter smile. “Did you really think me as narrow-minded as that? I am flattered.”

Elizabeth sank down next to him onto the sofa, looking crestfallen. “Yes ... no ... I don’t know. You react really oddly sometimes.”

Instead of looking affronted, as Elizabeth thought he would, Snape just looked disappointed, almost as if he felt sorry that Elizabeth didn’t yet understand him as well as he thought she did. “Everything I do has a reason behind it, believe it or not,” he declared finally. “Do you really think I would have given you a book about Quidditch for Christmas if I could not come to terms with your team beating my own?”

Elizabeth felt like a complete fool. “No,” she muttered, staring at her hands, “I don’t. It was really stupid of me not to have remembered that. Gods, I don’t even want to imagine what you must think of me right now.”

“I think it is time for you to go to bed,” stated Snape, getting to his feet and giving Elizabeth such an uncompromising look that the Ravenclaw found herself rising from the sofa and letting herself be steered to the door without a single word of protest. However, when she realized that Snape was about to dismiss her with only a curt “Good night”, she simply couldn’t keep quiet any longer, and, in a hurt tone, inquired after their usual good night kiss.

“I am not entirely sure you deserve it,” said Snape flatly, though some sixth sense told Elizabeth that he didn’t quite mean it, that he was only trying to get back at her for her earlier doubts of his sportsmanship. Bearing this in mind, she somehow found the strength to continue.

“Oh no, please don’t torture me like that,” she pleaded, feeling the tears well up in her eyes. Suddenly it didn’t matter what Snape’s motives for not kissing her good night were – all she knew was that he did refuse to kiss her, and she couldn’t bear it. “I know I should never have thought of you so foolishly, but I can’t take it back now – all I can do is apologize, and promise to remember this episode whenever I find myself doubting you in the future.” She fixed Snape with a miserable gaze. “Now, is there any chance of your forgiving me? Please?”

Snape regarded her upturned face for a while, almost as if he were trying to look into her soul, before, at last, he took a step forward and placed a swift kiss on her parted lips.

“Good night,” he said, softly yet categorically, resuming his original position and opening the door.

For a second or two Elizabeth remained looking at him as if she expected more to come, before finally whispering a resigned “Good night, Severus” and slipping into the corridor outside. Her last thought, before the door snapped shut behind her, was that Snape had somehow managed to forgive and punish her at the same time, considering that their good night kisses usually lasted quite a bit longer.

With no more Quidditch to take their minds off the rapidly approaching wedding (not to mention the even more unnerving task of announcing their relationship in front of the whole school), Elizabeth and Snape now hardly thought about anything else than how they would possibly manage to get through it all without ending up in St Mungo’s, despite Snape’s unsuccessful attempts to pretend that none of this had anything to do with him. After all, he couldn’t quite go into a jewellery shop to help Elizabeth pick out the wedding rings without admitting to himself why he was actually doing it, nor could he very well lead endless debates with Dumbledore about whom he absolutely refused to invite to the wedding without realizing that the wedding was actually his own.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a different matter altogether. She would spend hours poring over various fashion magazines in an attempt to find herself the perfect wedding gown (after all, she couldn’t look less than perfect at the wedding, could she?), she would disappear from Hogwarts for whole afternoons just to discuss some minor detail about her veil with her mother (who was more than happy to reconcile with her offspring as soon as the word ‘marriage’ reached her ears) ... not to mention that she now practically lived in Dumbledore’s office, forever hunting the old man with new suggestions concerning the wedding ceremony and at the same time unobtrusively leading him to respect as many of Snape’s wishes as her influence would allow. How, with such a busy schedule, she still managed to find the time to attend to her students, friends and, of course, Snape was a mystery, but the fact was that she did, and with considerable success. Not only did she finally manage to earn something very close to respect from the Slytherins (which, she hoped, didn’t only result from her threats of a very difficult test at the end of the year if they didn’t behave, cancelled end-of-year exams or not), but she was even able to keep Snape in a relatively serene state of mind, which, under the circumstances, was a heroic achievement indeed.

Sadly for her, however, this perfect state only lasted for a limited period of time, for as the graduation ceremony crept closer, even she gradually started losing her nerve, speak nothing of Snape, who all but flinched whenever someone mentioned the words ‘graduation ceremony’ or ‘wedding’ in his presence. Perhaps it was fortunate, then, that thanks to all the end-of-year commotion the first of these two events arrived much quicker than either of them had anticipated, because otherwise it wouldn’t have taken long for them both to end up in the hospital wing with the worst case of a nervous breakdown Madam Pomfrey had ever seen.

As it was, however, it wasn’t the infirmary where Elizabeth and Snape eventually found themselves sitting, but the High table, from where they perceived the happenings around them with somewhat clouded senses. The only time when Snape seemed to be paying full attention was when Dumbledore announced the results of the House Championship, which, to the surprise of all, exceptionally went to Slytherin this year, possibly because it was the only year when Harry Potter didn’t have the chance to gain some last minute points thanks to his usual end-of-semester showdown with Voldemort.

As the whole of the Slytherin table erupted in cheers, Elizabeth couldn’t help but glance over at Snape to check his reaction to these unexpected news, seeing as she knew only too well how much, after Slytherin’s unfortunate failure in Quidditch, the victory of his own house meant to him. To her complete astonishment, however, Snape’s expression seemed to be just as stony as it always was – he was clapping, yes, but apart from that the only thing that contrasted with his usual countenance was that he was wearing a slight smirk. But was it really so? Elizabeth looked more closely, and soon came to an interesting conclusion: that the smirk definitely wasn’t anywhere near what it appeared to be, and that she was probably the only one to recognize it for what it was – a smile.

At that moment Snape looked at her, and she couldn’t resist giving him a huge smile of her own, hoping to put into it all the pride and happiness that she currently felt for him. After all, who cared if anybody noticed? They would reveal their relationship in only a couple of minutes anyway...

As if Snape had read her thoughts, he eventually returned her smile, and though it still vaguely resembled a smirk, it was a smile none the less, one that warmed Elizabeth’s heart and renewed her faltering courage to face what was to come.

And indeed it did come – after the few seventh-year students (Elizabeth, of course, included) who had not perished in the final battle had been presented their graduation certificates, and after Hermione, as the year’s top student, had made a short, moving speech where she remembered the victims of the war and subsequently thanked everyone who was there to thank, Dumbledore finally stood up and, to a room that had gone completely quiet in anticipation of what he had to say, spoke thus:

“Yes, I am well aware that you are now all expecting me to give orders for our annual grand feast to begin, but before I do so, there is one more announcement to be made. However, as it is not for me to be the messenger of those undoubtedly happy news, I will now yield the floor to those whom the whole matter actually concerns. Severus, Elizabeth – if you please.”

Giving a small start at the sound of her name, Elizabeth sent Snape a nervous glance, upon which they both stood up, Elizabeth feeling her knees wobble beneath her.

“Well,” she began constrainedly, painfully aware that (unlike in class) all eyes were now on her, “there’s not much to say. Just that Professor Snape and I are ... are getting married. You’re all invited to the wedding, of course, which will take place in three days’ time. And ... that’s all, I suppose.”

Slipping her small hand into Snape’s as if to demonstrate that she really did harbour amorous feelings for her former Professor, and that their marriage therefore definitely wasn’t in any way forced upon them, she took an uncertain look around to see the general reaction to her controversial announcement. Unsurprisingly, the Great Hall looked as though someone had dropped a bomb in its midst. Students were staring at her with their mouths wide open, disbelief written all over their faces. Professor McGonagall seemed to have choked on her tongue. Professor Flitwick nearly fell off his stool. Hagrid (who, to the delight of all, had been one of the first to try the new Soul Restoration Potion recently developed at St Mungo’s with complete success, thereupon returning straight to Hogwarts to reclaim his old teaching post) looked as though he was about to cry. And then, just as Elizabeth and Snape resumed their seats, the whispering started. Elizabeth didn’t really mean to pick up on what was actually being said, but then again nobody was really bothering to keep their voice down. And so she heard it all...

Snape is getting married? That Woodhouse must be completely out of her mind!”

“Such a greasy git, isn’t he? Who on earth would want him?”

“Albus, is this ... cough ... true? Albus, how long have you known?”

“Such a luvely pair ‘ey ... sniff ... make!”

“It was about time he got laid, wasn’t it? Maybe we’ll actually see some improvement in him at last...”

Closing her eyes in disgust, Elizabeth thought she was going to be sick. Snape, on the other hand, seemed just about ready to endow all the saucy talkers with some very nasty curse. It was probably rather fortunate, therefore, that there was still one person in the Great Hall who hadn’t yet lost all her common sense, and so when that particular person realized that the situation had perhaps got a little out of hand, she decided to solve the matter in a decidedly witty (yet simple) way – she stood up and began to clap. The effect was almost miraculous – the whispering instantly ceased, and instead people started to join in the clapping – first the teachers, then the individual houses, until the whole of the Great Hall was on its feet, making so much noise that Elizabeth’s ears hurt. Still, she was naturally forever grateful to the iniciator of this entire clapping and cheering contest. Darling Hermione! Who knows what would have happened had it not been for her? As it was, however, the very relieved couple at the teachers’ table could now successfully tick off the first of the two things on their ‘to do’ list, and fully concentrate on the other. The wedding.

“Hey, Elizabeth! Wake up! You’re getting married today!” yelled Jane’s enthusiastic voice a little too loudly considering that it was only half past six on a Sunday, while its owner shook Elizabeth firmly by the shoulders.

Elizabeth opened her eyes, trying to adjust to the bright light pouring in through the dormitory window. Was it really true? Was she really going to marry the man she loved more than life itself at last? The past three days had gone by in such a hurry that she hadn’t even had the chance to stop and think about it properly. She had just mechanically gone on with the wedding preparations as if they concerned somebody else, and it was only now that she finally began to realize what exactly was going on. And to be honest, it made her feel as nervous as hell. But since she couldn’t exactly skip her own wedding, she eventually brought herself to dress, give her hair a quick brush, and then obediently follow Jane down to breakfast, where she was soon joined not only by Snape, who looked as though he hadn’t slept for at least a week, but also her parents and her grandmother, who had arrived by the Hogwarts Express the night before (seeing as Mrs Woodhouse had categorically refused to use any magical means of transport), and who were currently accommodated in a spare dormitory at the top of Ravenclaw Tower. Despite all this, however, Elizabeth simply couldn’t afford to dawdle around for any longer than was strictly necessary, and so as soon as breakfast was over she instantly disappeared back to her dormitory, seeing as the wedding was to take place in just a little under four hours and she wanted to have a sufficient amount of time to get ready for it. Needless to say, she didn’t stay alone for long, for only a couple of minutes later Hermione and Jane (her two bridesmaids) rushed in, insisting that they would help her, and another couple of minutes after that her mother and grandmother turned up, demanding exactly the same thing. Sighing, Elizabeth eventually allowed them all to stay, reasoning that their constant chatter would at least keep her sufficiently distracted, leaving her no opportunity for getting nervous. It was a good theory, no doubt about that, but in practice it didn’t quite work out, for by the time the four enthusiastic females were done with her, her knees were shaking and her stomach felt as though it was floating on water together with the whole British Navy. Worst of all, however, was the fact that she couldn’t quite explain why she was feeling so irrationally queasy. Shouldn’t she be blissfully happy instead? What on earth was there to worry about? What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, of course, and yet the mere thought of the wedding ceremony made her stomach muscles tighten with fear. It must have somehow shown in her expression, too, for it didn’t take long before even her companions noticed that something about her wasn’t entirely right.

“What’s wrong, Elizabeth?” Hermione inquired finally, regarding her friend with concern. “You look a little green...”

Elizabeth gave her an unconvincing smile. “I’m fine. Just a little nervous.”

“Ah well, that’s perfectly normal,” declared her mother knowingly. “Every girl is nervous before her wedding, it’s the natural reaction.”

“Really?” asked Elizabeth feebly, not quite sure whether her mother was only trying to calm her down or whether her statement was actually true.

“Really,” confirmed her mother resolutely. “Even I was nervous, if that makes you feel better.”

“It does,” smiled Elizabeth, cheering up a little. After all, there were only so many things that could put her mother out of countenance, and if her wedding had indeed been one of them, then Elizabeth was quite happy to accept her current state without further fuss. “Now, how do I look? Can I go like this? Do you think Severus will like my wedding gown?”

“You look like a princess,” said Mrs Woodhouse proudly, looking at her daughter with admiration. And rightly so, for there certainly was a lot to admire. For one thing, it was the wedding gown itself, white as snow, sleeveless but otherwise not too revealing, very tight in the upper region but flowing freely in gentle folds of satin from the waist down. The veil, on the other hand, reminded vaguely of a spider’s web, so light and transparent it was, almost to the point of giving off the impression that there was actually no veil at all. Then there was Elizabeth’s hair, which, apart from the fringe on one side, was combed neatly back, and streaked with silver. Her make-up, too, was something one simply couldn’t miss, seeing as the black eyeliner and silver eyeshadow she was wearing caused her eyes to light up like two great diamonds. And, to top it all off, she was to carry a lovely bouquet of lilies, tied with a white ribbon which gently underlined her look of snowy purity.

“I kind of get the feeling that winter has arrived,” commented Jane, which just about summed it up.

And so, satisfied with the reassurances concerning her looks, Elizabeth finally let her four companions go and get fixed up themselves, while she carefully seated herself on the edge of her bed, wondering how on earth she would spend the time remaining until the ceremony without driving herself crazy with anxiety. Fortunately, Jane provided the answer to that soon enough, for the moment she returned from the bathroom to finish her beautifying process in front of her dresser mirror, she instantly drew Elizabeth into a pleasantly diverting conversation by asking, in a decidedly suggestive tone: “So, are you looking forward to the wedding night?”

Elizabeth, who had been meaning to broach this topic sooner or later anyway, either with Jane or with Hermione (but preferably with Jane, seeing as Hermione had once hinted that she and Neville, being both somewhat old-fashioned, hadn’t ventured that far yet), pracatically jumped at the opportunity now that it had so conveniently presented itself.

“Well, of course I am,” she replied with a smile. “Though I must admit that I’m kind of nervous, too. What if something goes wrong? What if I won’t know what to do?”

“Nonsense,” said Jane dismissively. “You have enough theoretical information to begin with, and the rest will be taken care of by instinct. Just don’t push it, be spontaneous.”

Elizabeth looked thoughtful. “OK, I’ll try,” she said finally, “but what about Severus? Have you ever seen him do anything spontaneously?”

“Um ... yell at Joshua and Jamie?” supplied Jane hesitantly. “Well, all right, I admit that Snape might prove to be a bit of a problem, but let’s hope that he’s experienced enough to get along even without spontaneity. Perhaps he’ll make it up in another way.”

“Perhaps,” repeated Elizabeth absent-mindedly, once more looking thoughtful. It was only a minute or two later that she finally spoke again, asking the question that probably bothered her the most. “Jane ... does it hurt too much?”

Jane gave her a sympathetic look. “When you do it the first time? Well, I think it varies. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it doesn’t. For me it only hurt a bit, afterwards I was enjoying myself too much to feel any pain.” She threw Elizabeth a reassuring smile. “But don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just don’t forget to use the Contraceptive Potion; I don’t think I’m quite ready to become ‘Auntie Jane’ just yet.”

Despite herself, Elizabeth, too, had to smile, and from then on the conversation took on a lighter turn, causing the time left until the wedding ceremony to run mercifully fast. Before Elizabeth knew it, it was time to go downstairs, which she, after a lot of encouragement from Jane, eventually did, meeting her father, who was to lead her to the altar, in a secluded chamber off the Entrance Hall.

“My, don’t you look wonderful,” proclaimed Mr Woodhouse as soon as he saw her, regarding her with awe.

“Well, thank you,” said Elizabeth, trying to look pleased despite her wobbly knees, racing heart and a mind swirling with disconnected thoughts. Why couldn’t it all just be over already?

“I simply cannot believe that my little girl is getting married,” continued Mr Woodhouse sentimentally, obviously unaware of his daughter’s distress. “It seems only yesterday when you first went to Hogwarts, and now ... now-”

“Now, all of a sudden, I’m getting married,” supplied Elizabeth swiftly, desperate to end the conversation and simply get going. “It’s weird, I know. But shouldn’t we head off now? It’s nearly time...”

“Not yet. I was told that somebody would be sent to inform us when everything’s ready ... well, what did I say?”

There was a knock on the door, and Ernie Macmillan poked his head in. “It’s ... almost time,” he announced, nearly choking on the words as he took in the drastic change that Elizabeth had gone through. “You’re supposed to wait behind the front door until the music starts, then it’ll open by itself and you’ll walk out, towards the altar. Good luck!”

Blurting the last few words out so fast that they were almost unintelligible, Ernie gave a curt nod and disappeared out of sight, leaving Elizabeth trembling even more than before.

‘Oh my god, oh my god, so now it’s finally here,’ she thought discomposedly as she and her father linked arms and set off towards the front door. ‘Calm down, Elizabeth, calm down, or you’ll collapse even before you reach the altar.’

But nothing seemed to help, and by the time she came to a standstill in front of the heavy oak gates, she was barely standing. Even her father noticed it now.

“Are you all right, Elizabeth?” he asked concernedly, sounding very much like Hermione a couple of hours earlier. ”You seem to be trembling.”

Elizabeth threw him a suffering look. “I’m nervous,” she sighed. “Incredibly nervous. I don’t want to be, but I can’t help it.”

Looking at her with compassion, her father gave her a pat on the shoulder. “It’ll be over soon, don’t worry,” he said soothingly. “Then you won’t even remember-”

But he never finished his sentence, for at that moment the music (Mendelson’s Wedding March) Ernie had mentioned started playing, and the massive castle gates swung open soon after, flooding the dark Entrance Hall with sunshine. Led firmly by her father, Elizabeth hesitantly stepped outside.

The first thing she saw were people. Lots and lots of people. They filled the entire front lawn, and for a fleeting moment Elizabeth had a strong suspicion that, without bothering to inform her, Dumbledore had somehow found the courage to invite the whole of the British wizarding community, and maybe even a fair amount of foreigners as well. But then she realized that her strained mind was most likely just exaggerating. The only people that were actually there, she told herself as she glided through the narrow aisle that said people had created, were the Hogwarts students (who had all gladly put off their summer holidays just so they could attend the wedding, seeing as it didn’t happen every day that their Professors, and especially somebody like Snape, got married) and staff. And, of course, her family. And some Ministry officials. And some people she had never even seen before... Blasted Dumbledore! Oh, how she would make him pay! As soon as the ceremony was over, she would turn his precious beard green. Or pink. Or...

Thinking such revengeful thoughts, she had nearly reached the altar by the time she started paying full attention to her surroundings again, causing her heart to forget its function for a second or two as her eyes suddenly met Snape’s. Christ, he looked good! Not only did he somehow manage to get rid of his sleepy countenance from earlier in the morning, but even his robes, though not much different from the ones he usually wore, made him look strangely noble, like the aristocrat that he was. And then, of course, there were his eyes. Yes, those beautiful obsidian eyes that could disclose Snape’s emotions much better than any of his words ever could, those eyes that currently overflowed with a mixture of admiration, awe and suppressed anxiety. Could it really be true that the owner of those eyes would soon come to be called her husband?

From the look of it, it certainly could. Having finally come to a halt in front of the altar now, she could see that every tiny little detail seemed to indicate that a wedding ceremony was indeed about to take place. Minister Weasley was there, clad in a long white robe with golden hems, several other Ministry officials were there (probably to make sure that everything went through without a hitch), as were Dumbledore (deceitful bastard!) and Elizabeth’s grandmother, the best man and best maid, each standing on one side of the altar and smiling from ear to ear. Feeling somewhat dizzy, Elizabeth began to wonder whether she hadn’t accidentally stumbled into some kind of beautiful dream.

But it was all too real to be a dream. All those people, all those decorations, all that music ... surely she had never had such a vivid dream? Just then, however, the music stopped, causing everybody to fall silent and focus their attention on Mr Weasley, who constrainedly adjusted his robes, cleared his throat and began to speak. And, once again, his words were simply too real to be just a mere dream.

“We have all gathered here to witness what is undoubtedly one of the happiest moments of one’s life...”

“Or the saddest,” said a gruff-looking wizard from the Ministry, glancing at an obese and jewellery behung woman whom Elizabeth guessed to be his wife.

“Well, yes ... ahem...” Mr Weasley suddenly seemed quite lost, the man’s comment having obviously unsettled him. “I’ll just get to the point, shall I?” Looking nervously around, he cleared his throat again, and, in a grave tone, launched into the well known formula: “Severus Snape, do you agree to marry this woman, Elizabeth Woodhouse, to stand by her always, through the good times and the bad times, until death do you part?”

“I do,” said Snape, loudly and clearly, while looking at his almost wife with so much love in his eyes that it brought her close to tears.

“And you, Elizabeth Woodhouse,” continued Mr Weasley doggedly, obviously unaware of what had just passed between the two young people in front of him, “do you agree to marry this man, Severus Snape, to...”

Her mind practically swimming with emotions, Elizabeth didn’t really hear the rest of the sentence; she simply whispered her “I do” at the right moment, and from then on she knew only one thing: that she was, at long last, Severus Snape’s wife, and that it wasn’t about to change. Her eyes suddenly filled with the tears that had been threatening to spill ever since Snape had looked at her a couple of minutes before, she was only vaguely aware of Snape putting a ring on her finger (she must have done the same, too, though later she had absolutely no recollection of it), and she didn’t even summon the strength to protest when Snape merely brushed her lips after Mr Weasley had asked them to share their first newlywed kiss. It was only when the first people started to come and congratulate them that she finally pulled herself together enough to respond, seeing as it would have been decidedly impolite to receive her congratulations with a blank, tear-stained face.

“Congratulations, my child,” beamed Dumbledore, one of the first well-wishers to tackle her. “May you live happily ever after.”

“Thank you,” breathed Elizabeth, so moved that she forgot all about her revenge for the extra wedding guests.

“Good luck, Elizabeth!” hollered her grandmother, the next congratulator in line. “I hope to see some grand-grandchildren soon!”

“Well ... we’ll see,” said Elizabeth dubiously, feeling herself blush. Fortunately, though, she didn’t have a chance to linger on the subject for long, for her attention was soon captured by her mother, who successfully managed to clear her mind of all thoughts by pulling her into a bone-breaking hug.

“It’s going to be lonely without you,” she sniffed into her shoulder. “Come and visit us often, will you?”

“I will,” Elizabeth promised, as she would promise almost anything as long as her mother let go of her. Mrs Woodhouse seemed satisfied, however, and, loosening her death grip and wiping her eyes, moved on to bestow her felicitation on Snape. Absently shaking the hand of some important-looking wizard from the Ministry, who had managed to squeeze his way into the line between her mother and father, Elizabeth couldn’t help but overhear what was being said.

“Congratulations, Mr Snape,” her mother began in her usual, business-like manner, but Snape quickly interrupted her.

“Severus, please,” he said, causing both Elizabeth and her mother to look at him in amazement.

Unsurprisingly, though, Mrs Woodhouse took only an instant to recover. “Oh, well, in that case I must insist that you call me Irene,” she stated determinedly, giving Snape a look that clearly excluded any form of protest. Snape looked resigned. “Anyway, what I really meant to say was that I hope you will both be very happy. My daughter deserves no less, after all.”

Elizabeth threw her mother a withering look. How could she? How dared she? Didn’t she realize that had she, instead of that last sentence, said “Treat my daughter right ... or else”, it would have had just about the same effect?

Gazing anxiously at Snape, Elizabeth saw that he had caught the underlying meaning of her mother’s words only too well. In conflict with her expectations, however, he handled the situation absolutely superbly.

“Oh, that she undoubtedly does,” he declared, glancing at his wife with unfeigned fondness. “You really need not worry, Irene, I shall take good care of her.”

Turning her attention back to her own congratulators, namely her father, Elizabeth suppressed the urge to laugh. It was official – Snape was a genius. After all, who else could make a completely harmless phrase sound like the not-so-harmless statement ‘It’s really none of your concern, you silly meddling woman, but if it makes you feel better, no, I won’t kill your daughter as soon as you let us out of your sight?’ Even Mrs Woodhouse, who obviously didn’t interpret Snape’s words as harshly as Elizabeth had done, noticed that something about the way her son-in-law had answered her wasn’t quite right, and she moved away without another word.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, couldn’t have been prouder of Snape, and so as soon as the endless line of well-wishers finally exhausted itself, after which the wedding guests slowly started disappearing towards the castle for the much awaited wedding feast, she pulled him into an affectionate hug while profusely thanking him for dealing with her mother so well, and especially for finally allowing her to call him by his first name. To her utter disappointment, however, Snape gently pushed her away.

“Not here, Elizabeth,” he hissed, glancing around as if to make sure that everybody was out of earshot. “It was quite enough that we were requested to kiss in public; we do not need to induce common nuisance by displaying our emotions still further. Not to mention that I have done nothing to deserve your gratitude.”

Elizabeth looked at him in disbelief. “What? How come? You asked my mother to call you Severus, even though I know how much against the hair it is to you. What more could I ask for?”

“Oh, but how can you be so certain that I did if for you?” asked Snape maliciously. “Has it never occurred to you that I might have done it for a different reason entirely?”

“No, as a matter of fact it hasn’t,” snapped Elizabeth, unsuccessfully trying to decide whether Snape was just pulling her leg, or whether he was actually being serious. “So ... are you actually going to tell me what that reason was?”

With a slight smile playing on his lips, and most likely only to miff her, Snape regarded her for quite some time before he finally answered. “Perhaps I was merely tired of your mother calling me Mr Snape at all times,” he said, looking perfectly serious as he did so. “Eventually I came to the conclusion that even my given name was preferable to that.”

Elizabeth looked at him thoughtfully for a second or two, then started laughing. “I always presumed you had a sense of humour, Severus,” she giggled, feeling the last bits of the tension that had been plaguing her ever since she woke up that morning slip away, “but now I know for sure. Now come on, let’s go and find something to eat. I’m starving!”

As could be expected, the wedding feast lasted long into the evening, and so it was only well after dark that Elizabeth and Snape finally said their goodbyes and, changing from their wedding garments into some more ordinary clothes and shrinking their luggage, Apparated to Snape’s mansion to begin their honeymoon. It had been largely Elizabeth’s decision to spend the first couple of weeks of their marriage just there, seeing as Snape would have clearly preferred some more distant and exotic location, like Hawaii, Australia or Zimbabwe, but since his wife had been fairly insistent on the subject, he was eventually forced to give in and accept the fact that Zimbabwe would have to wait until later. After all, as Elizabeth had said, it was right about time he definitely chased those demons from under his bed.

And so it happened that the couple once again found themselves standing in the spacious entrance hall, listening to the excited chatter of Marvin the house-elf, while nervously anticipating what exactly they would do once they were left alone.

“Congratulations again, master Snape!” Marvin was saying for about the hundredth time since they arrived, beaming like a light bulb. “Marvin is so, so happy! But Marvin will go now, he suspects that master and miss would like some time alone.” And with a conspiratorial wink and his typical crack, he vanished without trace.

Elizabeth felt her stomach muscles tighten. “Well ... shall we go upstairs?” she suggested timidly, seeing as Snape seemed to have suddenly become rooted to the spot, not looking as though he would move any time soon.

He all but flinched at the sound of her voice. “I suppose so, yes,” he said, a little too quickly, and, without as much as looking at her, reluctantly set off for the stairs. Elizabeth followed, feeling more and more nervous every second.

‘Pull yourself together, girl,’ she ordered herself firmly. ‘It’s what you’ve been looking forward to all along, isn’t it? There’s absolutely no need to panic, everything’s under control, Snape will know what to do. Yes, Snape will take care of everything... But then again,’ her heart suddenly skipped a beat as something occurred to her, ‘why is he so nervous himself? Is it possible that ... oh god. Oh god, oh god. What now? Maybe if I had a little talk with him before the ... well ... before the act, just to make sure... No, not maybe. Definitely.’

However, by the time they finally reached the privacy of Snape’s bedroom, she had become strangely tongue-tied, and so it was only after they had been sitting on the opposite sides of Snape’s bed for several minutes without speaking that she found the courage to begin.

“Severus, you ... will be careful, won’t you?” she peeped, not really saying what she had meant to say, but it was a start none the less. “It’s only my first time, you know.”

Snape looked at her with haunted eyes. “I know, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You ... you haven’t done it before either, have you?” she blurted out. There. She had said it. Now let the hell begin.

To her great amazement, however, Snape seemed to have expected the question. Gazing at her for quite a while, as if to decide just how much the answer would cost him, and looking almost apologetic, he finally shook his head.

For some reason, Elizabeth didn’t find herself surprised at all. Now that her prediction had been confirmed, she realized that, deep inside, she had probably known about Snape’s ‘condition’ all along. She produced a weak smile. “Well, that’s going to be interesting, then, isn’t it?” she said wryly.

Looking somewhat relieved by her mild reaction, Snape gave a slight nod. “Interesting indeed.”

And with one wave of his wand he put out all the old-fashioned gas-lamps on the wall, leaving the room bathed in only the light of the candleholder with three candles standing on the bedside table.
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