keene_observers (keene_observers) wrote in outside_of_rmi,

Happily Ever After: Part Two

It was June, and Holland was a cursebreaker with the diploma to prove it. In two weeks they would move into the house and the curator position at the Musée des Artefacts Magiques waiting for them in Lyon. In the meantime they were spending every spare moment with their friends and family.

“How are the French lessons going?” Monty asked over dinner.

Bien,” Holland said. Lost without another assignment due after graduation, they’d filled the time with a French course. “I’m nowhere close to fluent, but I can order lunch and explain basic gender theory, so that should be enough.”

Holland hadn’t realized moving to France meant they would have to start using neopronouns. Je m’appelle Holland. Veuillez utiliser le pronom ‘iel’ pour moi. There were still problems—of English’s many linguistic issues, at least the gender of the subject didn’t change how a word was conjugated—but they would find a solution. For now, not speaking the language meant they weren’t too bothered by misgendering.

“And everything’s settled with the house?”

“Yes,” Danny answered. He was keeping the house in Boston—it still had rent-paying occupants—and, as promised, they’d used the rent Holland had been paying for the past few years to help pay for their first home together. “We can pick the keys up on Monday.”

“And the guest room will be ready for your visit in August,” Holland promised.

Nobody could make Holland do something they didn’t want to do, but still Danny held some reservations about moving them away from all their family and friends. He wanted to make this move as smooth for them as possible: together they’d chosen a city with connections to ancient artifacts, and a home that suited their needs, including a guest room for family visits. Over the last few years, Danny’s concept of family had broadened to include his Tallow grandparents, his friends, and Bryony and Monty, with Holland at its center. His Dubois grandparents shared a name and genes, but they weren’t family. Not any more. They were just two more people whose ignorance and prejudice Danny and Holland fought against every time they stepped into society. After his sister's wedding, Danny would probably never see them again.

“Claudia must be excited for the big day tomorrow,” Bryony said.

“I suppose so.” Danny struggled to recall a time Claudia had appeared excited about anything. “I’m excited,” he confessed. The presence of many socialite purebloods was daunting, but he had new robes to wear, he’d spend the whole day with Holland by his side, and he’d finally be able to stop worrying about the effect his relationship had on Claudia. Her husband (and the Dubois family fortune) would take care of her.

Danny smiled at Holland, adding, “I think we’ll have fun.”

Holland smiled back, less confident. “Me too.” It would be fun to see wizarding wedding traditions, but Danny’s paternal grandparents would be there, along with dozens of strangers. Holland didn’t know pureblood etiquette, but it was probably bad form to wear a cursed defensive amulet to your partner’s sister’s wedding.

They were, of course, going to do so anyway.

“And you’ll be okay?” Monty asked, frowning concernedly across the table at the young couple. “Being there? With all of the… people?”

“We’ll be fine, Dad.” Holland almost believed it.

“I’ll take good care of them,” Danny promised.

He remembered his promise the following morning, as he grasped Holland’s hand in his and greeted guests he knew, avoiding anyone with potential to cause problems. Today he wasn’t here to battle convention; he was here to witness his sister and his oldest friend get married. To each other.

The venue was decorated with magnolia blooms and spiralling golden vines that glittered in the morning sunshine. The gold embroidery on Danny’s dark teal robes and on Holland’s purple robes sparkled in celebration. Danny and Holland found seats part way along the second row. He squeezed their hand.

Holland squeezed back, scanning the crowd. They spotted Christophe and Gilberta Dubois in the front row, but they also saw the Tallows, and Elinor and Teddy, and Lucas, and Fifi Tenenbaum, and Kaye and Marley in the room. They had enough allies here. The gold runes at the hem and cuffs of their purple dress robes provided enough passive defensive magic for Holland’s comfort. They didn’t anticipate needing an offensive spell, but if they did the gold star pin on their lapel would transfigure anyone they threw it at into a starfish. Just in case.

Holland had never been to a wedding before, but the pureblood ceremony was recognizably close to what they expected a Muggle ceremony to be like. Soft, melodic music played, and the guests stood while Claudia and Nathaniel entered from opposite sides of the room. The officiant began the ceremony with a bit about family and duty that made Holland squirm in their seat.

The next part of the ceremony—the fathers of the bride and groom each presenting their family crests—was a decidedly pureblood feature. Claudia and Nathaniel drew their wands and performed a bit of transfiguration that merged the two, keeping the Dubois crest’s green trees at its base, and the fountain of golden stars from the Fontenot banner.

Danny leaned slightly closer to Holland and murmured, “I don’t suppose you have a family crest.”

“We’re not landed gentry, so no,” Holland whispered back. They could design a crest. The thought made their stomach flip, but not in a bad way.

Nathaniel and Claudia repeated vows delivered by the officiant: standard phrases about respect and support, with no personal embellishments. Claudia’s included an oath to honor and obey her husband. Holland couldn’t help the small scoff that escaped their throat, but it was soft enough that only Danny could hear it. He whispered, “We’d edit this part out.”

Holland felt their cheeks warm. Danny sat back again with a smile that suggested he wasn’t thinking about Claudia’s wedding anymore. Holland looked straight ahead and tried to focus.

The ceremony concluded after an exchange of rings. Danny exhaled. They’d done it. Claudia looked beautiful in glittering robes, and she looked happy. Nathaniel too. Danny’s shoulders dropped in relief as the newlywed couple led the procession out into the grounds, where white table cloths glistened under canopies laden with cooling charms. An enormous four tiered cake drew a crowd around it. “We can just watch this bit,” Danny said, lingering on the outskirts, Holland’s hand still in his. “All the women pull on a ribbon and there’s a charm hidden in the cake that’s supposed to tell your future or something.”

“Yoo-hoo!” Fifi Tenenbaum swanned over in feathered yellow dress robes. “Y’all ready for the cake pull? It’s always my favorite part. Well, that and the fashion. You both look exquisite, by the way, I always adore your outfit coordination.” She gestured to Holland’s teal hair and the purple lining of Danny’s robes.

Holland glanced between her and Danny. “I thought the cake pull was just for women, so—”

Fifi waved off their objection. “Oh, nonsense, Claudia won’t mind.” She threaded her arm past Holland’s elbow. “Come on!”

That wasn’t why Holland hadn’t planned to take a charm, but they’d learned over the last few years that Fifi always had good intentions and an iron will. It was easier to go along with her plans, so Holland just rolled their eyes towards Danny and followed Fifi to the cake table.

At first, the charm on the end of their ribbon just looked like a silver ball. Then it transformed into a small broomstick. “Ooh,” trilled Fifi as they walked back to Danny. “That means you’re going to travel soon.”

“Wow. What an amazing prediction,” Holland deadpanned. They pointed to the tiny silver owl dangling from the end of Fifi’s ribbon. “What does yours mean?”

Fifi winked at them. “Good news coming.”

In a whirlwind of yellow feathers, like a canary in a tornado, Fifi blew away to another gaggle of guests. The space she vacated was quickly filled by Elinor, her cheeks and robes both rosy pink, and Teddy, broad-shouldered and beaming.

“Holland, I saw you at the cake pull!” Elinor gushed. “What did you get?”

Holland showed her their charm. “The cake predicted our move.”

Danny asked, “How about you?”

Elinor and Teddy beamed at each other as if they’d rehearsed this moment. “A mandrake,” Teddy said, his cheeks also flushing pink, as Elinor held her charm up to eye level.

“Oh, wow,” Danny said, grinning as he caught Holland’s eye. “A fall wedding and a family soon following, it seems.”

Holland wrinkled their nose. It was strange enough that they were at a teenager’s wedding, and ickier still that this young couple was excited about drawing a charm that predicted they were going to have a baby. Holland barely believed in marriage as an institution to begin with, and they’d always believed that no one under twenty-five should get married at all: one shouldn’t commit to another person without a fully-developed brain and some life experiences! They were loosening on that now, but they were never going to get used to how weird purebloods were about kids’ relationships.

A ballet of white-jacket waiters wove through the crowds distributing tall glasses of champagne. Nathaniel’s younger brother led a toast to the bride and groom, fulfilling the role that Danny had always thought he’d play in Nathaniel’s wedding. Given the circumstances of his family’s disinheritance, however, he was relieved to even be invited, and was very happy to watch as one of the crowd instead of drawing all its attention. He raised his glass and joined the chorus toasting, “Claudia and Nathaniel!”

Aside from the glasses magically refilling themselves, the rest of the event was very much like a Muggle wedding. Claudia and Nathaniel made their way around the room to greet their guests and receive congratulations. When the bride and groom had finished their rounds, they opened the dancing, paper doves flitting about overhead. “Do you remember this dance?” Danny asked. “I know it’s been a while.”

“I remember.”

“Shall I lead or would you like to?”

“I’ll lead.” Holland took Danny’s hand and led him onto the dance floor, resting their other hand on the small of his back. As much as they’d dreaded today, no one here had made them feel uncomfortable once. Teddy and Elinor and Fifi had made them feel welcome, even. They weren’t an outsider here. “This is going a lot better than I expected.”

“Hold the presses,” Danny teased, “Holland Keene is enjoying themself at a pureblood wedding.” Against all odds, they fit into each other’s lives at last. “It’s been a good day,” he agreed. Then he stepped closer so their cheeks were almost touching. “Ours will be better.”

The only reason they hadn’t talked about this more, Holland knew, was because they’d always said they wanted to graduate first. It was practical—there wouldn’t have been time to plan a wedding when they were in school—and it was the easiest time frame they could give Danny, who’d been ready to set the date years ago. Holland had always suspected that by graduation they could find an excuse to move the goalpost further.

Except they couldn’t think of one now, and did they even want to? Danny always made them feel loved, and safe, and respected, and happy. He was the first person they wanted to see when they had good news, to share it, and when they had bad news, to comfort them. They trusted him more than anyone else, with every part of them. The idea of making a commitment to Danny didn’t scare Holland at all.

They didn’t answer out loud, but Danny could feel the warmth of their blush and curve of their smile against his cheek.

At the end of the evening, after food, more speeches, more dancing, and enough social interactions to sustain even Danny for the rest of the week, the crowd began to thin. After congratulating Claudia and Nathaniel one final time, Danny and Holland arrived back in Boston exhilarated and exhausted. In no time at all they lay together beneath the bedsheets, Holland’s back pressed against Danny’s chest and his arms wrapped loosely around them. All day he’d found his mind wandering away from Claudia’s wedding to his own, and he’d tried not to be too obvious and scare Holland off. But when he inevitably slipped up, they hadn’t been scared: they’d smiled, as if they were imagining it, too. And now he knew Claudia was taken care of, and nothing he did would ruin her chances at future happiness, there was nothing left to stop Danny giving himself to Holland completely. He was ready. Holland was ready.

For a brief moment, he entertained the idea of an elaborate gesture, on a clifftop under the starlight, where he could drop to one knee and propose with his grandmother’s ring, but it didn’t feel right. So much of their relationship was subject to public scrutiny. This… this was just theirs. Danny pressed his lips against the back of Holland’s neck.

“Holland,” he said softly into the darkness. “Will you marry me?”

When Holland turned over to face him, he could hear the smile in their voice. “Would I have to wear dress robes?”

“Dress robes are negotiable.”

“Yes,” Holland said, before he finished. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Cowritten by B and Sophia.

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