Chapter 16

Ines was wearing her best dress, a ball gown made of iridescent shot silk, which appeared silver from one angle, and lavender from another. The front was simple in design, with a smooth, tight-fitting bodice and a low scooped neckline. A web of intricate tucks in the back flowed into a cascade of silk that fluttered and shimmered whenever she moved. She looked down at the wispy dress, her fingers trailing over it. Old sequins were sewn down the side, forming the shapes of lilac flowers. The breeze provided for a quite dramatic effect, as the ceremony was in the Malfoy Manor garden. The two of them stood at the altar, as Cygnus read through the ceremony. Narcissa's dress was stunning. Every bride is beautiful. It's like newborn babies or puppies. They can't help it. A cream-colored skirt, full and soft, twirled around down to her ankles. Golden buttons fastened themselves up the placket on the bodice and over the elegant, tight sleeves. From her elbows, wisps of white flowed to the ground for tippets. A collar around her neck drifted out into a cape of the same material.

Ines could hardly focus on the ceremony, Lucius smiled proudly because he's convinced he's accomplished something quite wonderful. Narcissa smiled because she's been able to convince him of it, with the help of her parent's wonderful negotiation skills. As her father hands her off, she lets go of her singlehood identity, she prepares an internal space where her new identity as a wife will eventually bloom. They were lucky to have found love in their arranged marriage, but events like these only reminded her that she may not be that lucky. She never liked weddings. The marriage ceremony is sexist beyond parody. The bride appears in a fussy white dress that symbolizes her virtue and virginity, and everyone keeps on remarking on how thin and beautiful she looks. Her father walks her down the aisle to 'give her away', and she passes, like property, from one man to another. The minister, who is traditionally a man, gives the man permission to kiss the woman as if that is in the minister's authority and the woman has none. The man kisses, the woman is kissed. At the reception, only men are given to speak, while the bride remains seated and silent. Henceforth, the woman will adopt the man's name, as will their eventual offspring. Despite all this, the wedding day is said to belong to the woman. She definitely wanted to be married one day, but not like this.

She was brought out of her thoughts by the applause, the ceremony was over and the newlyweds walked down the aisle from which they had come and into the house. The guests followed suit, trying not to trample on each other's ball gowns. They entered the ballroom, and Ines gazed around at the excessive sights. The diamonds glinted under the glare of the chandelier and they looked like a thousand spider eyes. She stood stock-still, drinking in the simple beauty of the marble fountain placed in the center, the base of its pedestal wreathed in delicate fronds, that stood, glowing lambently in the soft white light, in the center of a small, secluded, fern-shrouded clearing. Water poured steadily from the pitcher of the partially clad maiden frozen forever in her task of filling the wide, scroll-lipped basin. The entire room was draped in silks and lights. The floor was separated, one side to dance and the other with tables to eat. Ines was being kept on a tight leash, not stray far from her father, so he could keep a watchful eye on her. Oberon was free to roam as he pleased, and Ines expected he would find his way to Regulus at some point. This was made easy as when Ines approached their table, she found that her place card was seated next to Regulus and across from Sirius. They all reached the table gradually, Her father switched Oberon's place card so he would be seated next to her. Oberon was unhappy with this but didn't say anything, Ines could just tell.

Sirius sat across from her, in his best dress robes, she could see him through the vase of lilacs of all different colors in the center of the table. He wore a tailor's masterpiece of obsidian fabric so expensive that it would've been personally offended to have been referred to as a 'black suit'. It was a really nice black suit. He wasn't like those handsome men you see on the fashion magazines. Like a man who knows that he has starry eyes that can bring stars closer but doesn't even bother to look. The cynicism in those eyes was a fascinating contrast to the touch of humor that lurked at the corners of his wide mouth. It wouldn't have mattered if she was staring, as he was staring right back. They were both brought out of their thoughts by speeches. They lasted for quite a while, they spoke of the sanctity of marriage, the wonderful bond Lucius and Narcissa shared, and their hopes for the future. It was nice on the surface, but below all that is was quite depressing and insincere. When the speeches ended, they all applauded, which led to the first dance. Slowly, people started filtering onto the dance floor. It wasn't until the majority of the people had left that their table had found it acceptable to disassociate from the festivities.

Agnes looked to Walburga as if they had some sort of unspoken agreement, before launching into an obviously rehearsed conversation. "This wedding is just wonderful isn't it Agnes.". Her voice gave it away immediately, she was up to something. "Of course, I'm excited for the day when we can once again attend one like this.". Sirius was now interested in the conversation, looking to Ines to see if she had any clue what was going on but her expression clearly alluded that she didn't. "Well, maybe the chances of that aren't too slim.". Her sly smile caused a wave of nervousness flow through the whole table. Regulus was now paying attention, meaning Oberon was too as he would now notice if he stared. Victor had had enough of the dawdling and groaned at the women's' immaturity regarding the situation. "They aren't. Regulus, you are well acquainted with Ines are you not?".

Not even the sharpest blade could slice through the tension that now filled the room. There was not a single thought in Ines' mind, all she could do was stare blankly ahead at Sirius. She could feel Regulus eyes on her, but she couldn't bear to look, because knowing if she did, the truth would fully set in. She hated it, it was against all scientific reason for two people who hardly knew each other, with barely any ties at all between them, with different characters, different morals, with minimal acquaintance, to suddenly find themselves committed to living together, to sleeping in the same bed, to sharing two destinies that perhaps were fated to go in opposite directions. Married, under false pretense, under an agreement.

She looked into Sirius' eyes, the stars in them mingling with fear and anger. She turned to Regulus, who was no longer looking at her, rather Victor. "Yes, I am.". "Wonderful" Victor said as if he had just closed a deal, "Ines, we have known that this will be a perfect time when we can find someone for you. We had been getting proposals for the last couple of years, but as you were studying we let you be. So we never said anything to you. But now you are on your way to a stable job and doing good, so this was a perfect time that we start looking for a suitable option. We can't think of a better man than Regulus.". He slapped his hand on the back of Regulus' shoulder, trying to imitate some sort of fatherly affection. Regulus tried with all his might to give a smile, but he couldn't do anything as Oberon's eyes were boring into his. Agnes, Walburga, Victor, and Orion all stood in unison, as they deemed the job to be done. Leaving Ines, Oberon, Sirius, and Regulus seated at the table, none of them able to speak.

Hot tears fought for a room in Ines' eyes but she would not let them out. Better to stand resolute and proud in the face of terror, she thought, but it was impossible. She couldn't look Regulus in the eyes, he couldn't marry him. He couldn't look at Oberon, because she would be ripping the one thing from him that he truly loved, as much as he tried to hide it. She couldn't look at Sirius, as she just might die. His eyes were something that could never belong to her. She stood up quickly, her chair almost toppling over behind her and strutted towards the door. Tears stood in her eyes, afraid to let them fall. She broke into a run, only slowing down when she found herself at the end of a hallway, a window to the garden filling the whole wall.

Before she could even breathe she saw Sirius running down towards her. She crumbled in his arms, her tears flowing freely now. She couldn't talk, she couldn't possibly articulate words at this moment. "Ines," he whispered, "It's going to be ok.". She ripped herself from him "No it won't! It will never be! My parents have married me off, to your brother of all people, I'll never be happy, I'll never be able to make my own choices, We'll never be able to.". She couldn't say it, she couldn't face him. She looked out the window, all the thoughts rushing through her head. She watched the lilacs of all different colors sway in the wind, they were so close she could practically smell them. She tried her hardest to, anything to ignore what was behind her. She couldn't possibly look him in the eyes and say it, her heart just may stop beating.

He moved toward her, and put his hand on her shoulder, turning her to face him. He could feel the tension in his own body, the effort of holding back, of not pulling her against him and taking this one chance, however dangerous and stupid and unwise, and kissing her the way he had thought he would never, in his life, be able to kiss her again. Her eyes overtook him, and he cupped her face in his hands and he kissed her so deeply that she didn't know who was breathing for who. His mouth came down on hers. And that was it. All the self-control he'd exerted over the past weeks went, like water crashing through a broken dam. Her arms came up around his neck and he pulled her against him. His hands flattened against her back and she was up on the tips of her toes, kissing him as fiercely as he was kissing her. She clung to him more tightly, knotting her hands in his hair, trying to tell him, with the press of her mouth on his, all the things she could never say out loud. It wasn't the sort of kiss she'd had with anyone before, it was the kind of kiss that inspires stars to climb into the sky and light up the world. They parted, and she stared into his eyes, they looked like the constellations on her tapestry. She could look into them for years.