The next day, his wedding day, Tom felt a little better but remained blindsided. Sure, everything fit and made sense. Livia's gift also counted as an extraordinary gesture as well as a reminder of the girl he had championed for years. He went back to their first meeting with the long-bearded man, who wanted nothing from him. Tom easily could imagine him as a mythical figure in garb associated with some great fictional wizard. Tom thought through everything. He did not want to turn his back on Livia, certainly. He just felt like the ground beneath his feet had shifted; he needed some time to adjust. He only spent a few quiet moments alone when a breakfast cart and two of his groomsmen arrived, Bertie and Gary. Best man Jake arrived later. Gary spoke for him at times, being more suited to it.

               Livia still had somewhat of a restless night, though. Christopher tried to keep her calm and motionless. If he had gotten any closer, he would have smothered her. When she finally opened her eyes, he was less than an inch from her face, asking how she was. “I don’t know,” she answered. “Depends on what happens.”

              “No matter what, I got you, okay?” he said. “And he will come around. I know it.”

              They had their own breakfast and made tea in the room. Not long after, the phone rang. Livia picked it up. It was Alice, inviting her to come to her room to have her hair and makeup done by those helping all the women in the bridal party. Alice wanted to talk to her, also. Christopher agreed that she should go. Let Alice do something for her, he explained. He would get ready in the room, and she could come back for him. She took her dress and hairclip and departed.

               Livia entered the King James Suite and, for the moment, Alice occupied it by herself. She told Livia that, whilst unexpected to say the least, she realized one thing. “If Tom truly loves you unconditionally, he gets past this. If he cannot, he does not, and he is not the man I agreed to marry. I mean, should we have a child or children, would he only love a certain type of ‘normal’ child? What about a hugely gifted one or a disabled one? I need to know this today. I wanted you to know, as well as thank you for what seems like an extraordinary gift for a girl who just graduated from school. I don’t know how you got £800 to spare.”

               “The money has a few sources and to me seemed like the least I could do,” Livia stated. “I can see what you mean about the rest, but I dread to know what I have done.”

                “Done?” Alice questioned. “I would never have seen the best of Tom had you never come to Durham. He owes you that. If he can throw you away, he could just as easily throw me away.”

                Meantime, Tom had rung Livia’s room, but Christopher told him that Alice already had called her to the King James Suite. Tom asked if Christopher wanted to hang out with the groomsmen, since Christopher was alone. Christopher accepted and headed there once dressed, wondering if his presence might make a difference in whatever happened, making sure he took a few more drops to avoid changing back to his older self during his time there.

               Shortly after Tom hung up, Alice rang his room, with a question she needed him to answer: did he love Livia unconditionally or not? Tom thought it an unbelievable question. “I think you know,” he replied. She disagreed, stating that Livia needed to know this. Further, Alice needed to know because, should they have a child or children, would he love him or her unconditionally, no matter how talented or challenged. He was taken aback that she had thought of such a thing. He brought up Lydia, which Alice dismissed as an unfair comparison, given this was about ability, not choices or behavior. Tom had zero reason to question Livia’s loyalty to him whereas she had no idea if he accepted her fully.

                “The man I agreed to marry, I think, would love her unconditionally – today,” Alice told him. “I don’t know who I’d be marrying if he wavers on this question. And I am saying this for myself. Livia has said nothing to me. Yet she has to know – as do I.”

                Alice knocked Tom for a loop – and a lot of sense into him. He replayed how Alice had liked Livia and how his kindness towards Livia had enhanced the way Alice viewed him. She also felt grateful that her long-lost Uncle Jack had returned to her life for the same reason. Tom never thought that Livia might question how he felt about her, but finally he saw how she could and thus why she needed support to risk telling him something he never would have figured out for himself.

                  “I hear you, Alice,” Tom affirmed. “None of these things occurred to me. I had no idea.”

                  “Well, I told you how I thought she felt. What did you think I was talking about?”

                  “Please put her on the phone,” he requested.

                  “Tom, how do you feel today?” Livia asked.

                   “Like an idiot,” he answered. “I had no idea you might feel I would try to alienate you. That never entered my mind.”

                   “I understand,” Livia said. “I said a lot, but it’s made me worry a lot, too.”

                   “I know,” he responded. Just then Tom heard a knock and opened the door. Christopher had arrived. “I’m sorry if I put that doubt in your mind. You have been special to me since the day I found you. Nothing can change that – ever. Okay?”

                   Livia began to tear up. “Okay,” she said. “I had to hear that. Losing you would kill me.”

                   “I can say the same,” he stated. “Will you put Alice back on the line?”

                   Livia handed Alice the phone. “I don’t know if I have said enough to her,” Tom asserted. “I love both of you unconditionally. I plan on doing so forever. I’m sorry if my shock got mistaken for anything else, because I never considered that.”

                  “Then I will see you later,” Alice said. “Enjoy your time with your mates.”

                  Alice’s bridesmaids and professional people began showing up in the suite as more showed up at Tom’s room. Tom made sure, though, to greet Christopher and shake his hand beforehand, to let him know he appreciated him for helping Livia. He explained that his utter shock never had meant to hurt her. Christopher nodded, telling Tom quietly what Alice’s Uncle Jack had said as they headed to their rooms. Christopher confirmed that Livia had become upset and would have beaten herself up over it had he and Uncle Jack not been there. Tom realized the unforeseen effects of what he had said – and not said. He hoped never to make that mistake again.

                   Fortunately, none in the wedding party, male or female, knew anything about it. Livia had put on her now pale blue gown and got her hair done first, since the bride typically left last. Another worked on Cathy’s makeup. The rest just drank tea and chatted. The men did much of the latter two things, though each tried at great length to get each other’s tie correctly. It seemed only Bertie, and strangely to the others, Christopher, knew how properly to fix an ascot tie. Bertie found himself quite impressed with how deftly Christopher could do it, asking him where he picked up such a skill. Christopher replied that he could do a cravat, also, thanks to a grandfather. Some thought maybe Tom’s tie should look different so Christopher made it work to everyone’s satisfaction. Tom used pre-fashioned items to serve as a barrister, so he had limited exposure to formal wear, which explained his refusal to accept a top hat. The men would head to St. Mary and St. Cuthbert first, so Christopher headed back to his room. Livia, having her hair and makeup done, also departed, giving everyone a warm send-off before taking her leave to return to her room. There she would add her hat to complete the outfit and get her bag.

                 Christopher had just contemplated what to do after taking a few more potion drops when Livia unlocked the door and entered. Despite her more modest daytime frock, highly appropriate for the wedding, he told her that she looked stunning. She smiled and shyly thanked him. She had not seen Christopher’s white shirt, dark grey cravat and trousers with black, almost Austen-like breakaway jacket and returned the compliment. He looked impeccable. “I knew what you needed,” he asserted. He told Livia that Tom invited him to hang out with the groomsmen in her absence and that no one but he and Alice’s cousin knew how to fix an ascot tie, which he found amusing. “I had no idea few knew that,” he observed. “I gave your brother more of a cravat.”

               “Doesn’t surprise me,” Livia said. “Tom is not a suit-and-tie person mostly – the stuff he wears comes as it needs to look. Most ties here today do not require the same skills, either.”

               Livia and Christopher took a type of minibus to the church with other relatives staying at Lumley Castle. She made sure to get on early and head straight to the back, giving her the opportunity to see Lydia Woodcock and her date, a bartender where Lydia worked, named Frank Crawley. He stood just a few inches taller than either Lydia or Livia, had medium brown hair fully slicked back, a dusky skin tone and hazel eyes. Told she could not wear white, Lydia wore a very loud red mini-dress with a very open neckline. Christopher instantly picked her out. He whispered his surprise that a minister found that dress suitable for a formal, afternoon wedding.

              “He probably had no say,” Livia surmised. “I bet she begged her mother to buy it.”

              At least, the mother of the groom wore a mauve-colored dress of a decent length and coverage for her age and the event, along with a hat. Livia figured that Rev. Woodcock had insisted that she wear something akin to what Livia later saw the bride’s parents wore: Mrs. Beatrice West sported a deep green, ¾ lacy sleeved gown with a hat and gloves whereas Alice’s father, Ernest, wore a similar ensemble as the groomsmen but would not forego the top hat.

              Livia sat in a row behind the Woodcocks, with other relatives. Behind them sat some of Tom’s co-workers from Fitzer, Robinson and Hubbard as well Mr. Wilson, the Framlingham solicitor, with his wife, and others Tom knew from Framlingham College or Durham University. Mixed in were some people from Rev. Woodcock’s congregation who wanted to see the service, at least. The bride’s side had her parents, her ten-year-old twin brothers, Matt and Kyle, their nanny, Uncle Jack and his neighbor and many cousins of varying social status, some with children, some not. Others sent gifts. Also attending were friends from Durham University, Newcastle University and near her Norfolk home. It was a good-sized crowd, perhaps about 200 or a bit more.

                All the bridesmaids passed in their pale orchid organza dresses, with material, bejeweled flowers in their hair and shawl wraps pinned by blue cameos. Then came the bride. Alice’s floral, diamond tiara sparkled brightly as she seemed to float down the aisle with her father. Alice wore pale blue shoes no one could really see and a pearl choker that finished with a heart-shaped tanzanite stone. The beaded and detailed bodice, with some of its flower-like shapes, especially on her rose-shaped cap sleeves and tiara pleased her parents, as did her gloves. The fairly short veil and subtly shimmering skirt and off-white color suited her. Yet she would remove the gloves for the exchange of rings. The bouquets and decorations largely consisted of lilies, pale orchids and white roses. Livia beamed as Tom and Alice made their vows official. She did not fail to notice that Christopher fixated on the flowers. It passed, but for a brief moment Livia suspected the mind of Professor Snape had focused on something – her name. Livia realized that he did not recall why.

                 The service ran like clockwork, including the ease with which Audrey took Alice’s bouquet and gloves. The two photographers got everything right, it seemed, at least in terms of where they set up and what they likely captured. Before departing, the bridal party stood for photos, but Tom insisted on getting at least one with Alice, Livia and Christopher. Livia shot Christopher a look, as if that might pose a problem. He reassured her quietly that the photograph would show exactly what they all saw. As they continued to have pictures taken, the rest of the group staying at Lumley Castle returned to change for the outside cocktail reception before the dinner and entertainment.

                When they returned, Christopher merely transformed the color of some of his garments and spruced up his shoes, Livia had gone into the bathroom to change her dress for the evening, the deep blue silk, wide-strapped gown with side slits, which she had altered from its original, flashy burgundy red and shorter length. She changed her shoes to a silver color. She had not changed her hair but made a headpiece less obtrusive and asked Christopher to help her with a necklace, which he managed quite easily. “I know what I need to do, and I have your back, Livia,” he reassured her again. “They will all think you are safe with me, at least.”

              Safe? Livia wondered what he meant. She did not know. She could imagine what some might want to see or hear, but she doubted that word would give them what they preferred. Sure, some would act quite protectively towards her, but they would rather he seem taken with her, like he had done with Ben Spence watching. She did not want to tell him anything, though. That he was there said more than enough for her because she felt she needed him, especially then.

               Livia and Christopher enjoyed the Inner Courtyard drinks reception for the most part, though at first kept to themselves. It seemed Lydia found something even more garish, almost neon, and seemed determined to make everyone notice her. A few members of Alice’s family started congregating around Livia and Christopher. Bertie had warned all of them, and they were content to chat more quietly and ignore Mrs. Woodcock and her bratty daughter. They remarked to Christopher how nice his cravat looked and found it astonishing that he had done it himself. He told them he had fixed Tom’s tie, also, which they all liked and had assumed Bertie had done. It seemed there was a genteel portion of the reception occupied by the West family along with Livia and Christopher. Some of Tom’s relatives as well as Alice’s friends found their way to that group, too. At least outside, most could keep their distance from Lydia, if they wanted.

              Livia and Christopher found their inside seats just before a Master of Ceremonies began introducing the bridal party. Livia did not sit with them in the Barons Hall, a warm, ornate and sophisticated Georgian setting. Tom and Alice put her with Alice’s parents, brothers, Uncle Jack and his neighbor, Anne. Alice’s parents were delighted that he had come and understood that Livia had something to do with it, which he confirmed. They confessed to not realizing fully why he had lost touch with everyone. Uncle Jack explained it had to do with his choice of a wife and disputes he had with deceased family members. Some could not accept his late wife nor that, given a kind of ultimatum, he still married her. After that, a few lingering problems just meant that he never seemed able to present her to anyone. He grew tired of visiting people by himself, as if Renee did not exist. He did it for a time, hoping it would change, but that never happened.

                 Both deeply regretted to hear that, though they understood both sides of the dispute, especially as it existed so many years before. They relayed how happy Alice was to have him come. He said he felt the same though about two decades had passed since he gave up visiting. Anne stated that Renee would have loved to have taken part because she knew this bothered Jack. Essentially, Anne wanted to come in memory of her friend, first and foremost, since they enjoyed a sisterly bond for years. Only after Renee had passed had she and Jack become good friends.

                 The meal began well, after the initial toast to Alice and Tom, with a creamy soup, followed by a salad, a marinated pheasant dish with roasted vegetables then a cheese selection. Everyone at the table again complimented the Wests for their excellent selections. They refused to take credit for the wedding cake forthcoming, since Alice chose that herself with Tom. The signal for cutting this cake – a mousse-filled layered chocolate cake with white frosting – came when a Barn Owl dropped symbolic rings onto the table in front of the bride and groom. When Tom learned of this service, he insisted that they find a way to use it, as both he and Alice would find it meaningful. The Wests explained that the Castle offered this gesture for weddings held there, but the staff found a way to incorporate it into the reception. Livia understood it like no one else, except for Christopher. This Barn Owl, a very large female, had exquisite shadowing and chest flecks, which somehow caught the light as if made of gold. She resembled Sydney a good deal.

                 The Great Scots already had set up a two foot high platform with their equipment in the Barons Bar adjacent to the Barons Hall. After the diners had sufficient time to finish their cake, the Master of Ceremonies opened the door and invited everyone to enjoy the night’s entertainment. As promised, Jimmy McNaught announced that, as requested by the bride and groom, they would begin the first dance to their first song to which they ever danced together and invited the parents of both to join them and the eventually the entire bridal party. The bridal party decided they rather provide a chorus since everyone among them knew the song, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

                 Christopher asked Livia about it. She told him Tom often thought of the song during his work with Mr. Wilson and thought about it long afterward. By happenstance, a friend played it at a party, and Tom asked Alice to dance with him to it. McNaught’s voice was strong and easily carried over the chorus of bridal party members who wanted to sing it versus dance to it, especially with a microphone. Finally, Livia got a chance to dance with Christopher, and he seemed to make the most of it. “Safe” did not seem the appropriate word, as he held her well and acted both polished as a dancer and totally captivated by her. No one would question it, unless they knew what Livia herself did. Even so, he started seeming so convincing that she nearly thought there had to be an iota of sincerity about this, at least. If he wanted to win her over, he easily could do just that. It blew her mind, really. She knew that he had taken more drops to remain as he was at some point, but she did not recall if he did so during dinner or what.

                  Before the first set ended, Tom came to dance with Livia, whilst Alice danced with Christopher. Tom kissed her on the forehead and hugged her. He asked if she forgave him, but she did not see why he needed that. She just needed reassurance from him. Alice warmly spoke to Christopher. She must have flattered him greatly, too, because at one point he looked a little sheepish. She also asked him to promise that he would continue to take care of her, given that they could not ensure her wellbeing as they imagined. He vowed that he would do so. Tom caught the last part of that and basically said, “What she said. You promise me, too?” He assented.

                 The band then took their first break after about an hour and one of the staff asked Gary if he was ready to go forward when the band reassembled after taking a break outside. Gary and Penny had come over to see Livia with the same staff person to check that all were on the same page. They flipped a coin to decide who led first. Livia won. She said the group could do anything by Simple Minds and asked if he could do the backup singer as Boy Gary. He said he could but wanted to know which song. She suggested “Alive and Kicking.”* He agreed, saying he knew it, calling it a generous part. He also said he would do “Time (Clock of the Heart)”* as they suggested. Penny told Christopher she would keep him company, if he did not mind. He readily assented.

                The band returned from their break and Jimmy motioned for Gary and Livia to join him, telling the assembled group that each wanted to do something in honor of Alice and Tom. By flip of a coin, the lady would go first, though her talent did not involve singing as a female. Just then, out the corner of his eye, Christopher saw a staffer briefly set down a tray with three drinks, which looked like iced water with lemon slices. He saw Lydia pass by the tray and thought she put something into one of the glasses, though she had hidden her action fairly well. Staring at the glasses carefully, he thought the center one looked slightly darker. The waiter did not notice and put the three glasses in front of Jimmy, Livia and Gary in a sort of triangle, with the darker liquid at the top of it, closest to the three. Christopher has started to tell Penny he would be right back when Jimmy picked up the center glass and left the stage. So instead, Christopher motioned to a staffer and told him Jimmy picked up a liquid he suspected was tainted, and he should get it away from him. If he didn’t, immediately give the man a tablespoon of baking soda in another glass of plain water and toss the contents of that other glass and get rid of the glass.

                 Meantime, Livia began to sing, having told the musicians what she wanted them to play. Having heard her use that voice before, the rest of the band wanted it to sound perfect. It worked extremely well. Livia bobbed her head with Gary picking up the featured secondary singer well and his mimicked voice worked with the part. She ensured he picked up the solo leading into the final chorus, and the whole band seemed into doing it, too. Her voice was strong and heartfelt, yet Christopher also could sense and partly hear Jimmy McNaught coughing profusely. He had consumed some of the tainted drink. Christopher flagged another employee, told him Mr. McNaught had a huge problem and retrieved a vial from his pocket. He put two drops into a nearby glass of water and told the server to have him drink it all, even if he had to hold his nose to do it.

            Penny asked what happened. Christopher told her that Livia warned him that Lydia Woodcock would try something – and she did. He saw her slip something into a drink she thought would be Livia’s, though she tried to mask it. Instead, Jimmy McNaught had taken it. He was trying to suppress the man’s coughing fit so Jimmy could continue to sing. He had come prepared. Penny found herself shocked that Lydia would go that far and that Livia’s boyfriend had anticipated her actions and could handle them. After Gary took the lead for the second song, Christopher said he wanted to briefly go check on Jimmy McNaught.

            Christopher found him outside, still coughing but less harshly. He just had begun to settle down. Christopher informed Jimmy about what he had seen and that, whilst not the intended target, he needed the tonic to continue. Jimmy thanked him for his concern in between coughs. Christopher made sure he drank what he had put into a glass of plain water and told him to hold his nose if necessary to finish it. He would feel better fairly soon then fully back to himself.

            Christopher returned to Penny and asked how Gary was doing. “Just great,” she said. “They look so happy up there. Gary either practiced for this and I didn’t hear it, or he knows this song like the back of his hand. Good thing I’m married to Gary and know the whole story, or I might get jealous – because I am that type.”

            Christopher saw it, too. They were talking to each other and having fun. The least he could do was make sure Penny had some fun dancing, which she appreciated. Jimmy told a staffer he had not recovered sufficiently to sing yet, so asked if Gary and Livia would do another song, maybe something with some length.  Gary made an announcement that Jimmy McNaught needed a few more minutes and they would do one more song. Livia conferred with the band then with Gary. The longest song she could think of that they would easily know was “Bad” by U2,* but she had to be sure the lead guitarist and bass player had no issue doing those key parts. They said go ahead. Livia and Gary agreed to alternate verses, with Livia telling him at certain parts she would sing at a lower range and to take the higher octave if he wanted. Livia started and alternated verses with Gary. Christopher realized what she sang had another meaning for her; it explained her own conduct in recent years when she came to the school in January to prank someone she knew.

              She even guessed about the bloodshot eyes, having seen his whiskey once. He knew who she really sang it ostensibly about with so much feeling, but he figured she had no idea that he could realize it. He also recognized that the song went on for longer than the average one, so she made a virtue of helping Jimmy McNaught recover by fusing it to something she understood fairly well. She had found a way to relate to someone no one could understand, let alone find sympathetic.

            When they finished, everyone, even the band instrumentalists, applauded Livia and Gary. Gary took her hand and raised it with his and ensure both bowed at the same time. He also kissed her on the cheek and added into the mic that he had not developed his own voice without her help. Jimmy McNaught retook the stage, cleared his throat and thanked them both, but held onto Livia for a moment asking into the mic that ever since he first heard her, he wondered what her own voice sounded like. Again, he cleared his throat and asked if she could let him hear her own voice.  She looked wide eyed and put her hand over her mouth but also realized something had happened and Jimmy still wanted a few minutes before continuing. She asked the keyboard player about his knowledge of one artist on their playlist. He assured her he knew everything and the band could handle whatever she wanted. She would test him because she asked for a somewhat obscure song called “Summer, Highland Falls.”* He smiled broadly. He said, “Lass, I have loved that tune for years. We will be happy to do it.” So she announced the song, he began and she sang:

They say that these are not the best of times
But they're the only times I've ever known
And I believe there is a time for meditation
In cathedrals of our own...

Christopher had never heard this before, much less in Livia’s own voice. She did it incredibly well. He could tell it held special meaning for her, literally or not. He pondered the fantasy aspect more than the similarities referenced later, since he had tried to give her essentially that. She must have felt great sadness that she could not return the favor. He decided to try to convince her otherwise.

            Gary had rejoined them before Livia’s own song finished. He asked Christopher if he knew she could sing quite skillfully in her own voice. He nodded. Gary seemed surprised. “Hang onto her, Christopher – you won’t be sorry. Just promise me you’ll take good care of her.” Seemed to be quite the developing pattern. He agreed to yet another promise regarding her.

            He also traded dances as the evening progressed with the other bridesmaids whilst the groomsmen danced with Livia. They ended the same way, whether it was Adam, John, Bertie, Jake or Doc – they all seemed eager to hear Christopher promise to treat her well and take care of her. He kept agreeing. Christopher finally told her, “Every gentleman here it seems wants me to take an oath regarding your wellbeing.”

            “That’s only because you-know-who hasn’t approached you yet,” Livia asserted.

            Christopher explained to her what had happened before and why Jimmy McNaught needed extra time to recover. He drank something she had wanted you to drink, he said, to ensure you could not sing. It failed completely, and he made sure Jimmy would be able to continue.

            “Thank you,” Livia stated. “I needed you for that. Thank you for spotting it and assisting in Jimmy’s recovery. Lydia easily could have ruined this reception. I can’t imagine the fallout. I could kiss you for that.”

            “I don’t mind,” he said.

            So she didn’t stop herself, didn’t think about the consequences or implications. She just gave him a sincere, heartfelt and sizable smooch like the best she had ever received herself. He seemed a little surprised at how passionately she did that. His answer – let’s have another glass of champagne. One soon turned into several.

            At that point, Lydia Woodcock and her date wanted to switch partners. Christopher showed confidence. Frank tried to denigrate Livia over several things and claimed he knew the “real story” of the fraud and bastard she was. Livia bore straight into him, like her Potions Master inspired her to do it, telling him simply to enjoy that manipulative, lying weasel for as long as he could stand, since everyone in the bridal party would tell him that he deluded himself – she had lied through her teeth and had done so for years. Livia suggested he ask them all about this before he bought into her warped reality, given Tom had gone the extra mile on her behalf and Cathy recanted any support of her lies. The town even apologized to Livia about it and the court case no longer existed. Livia also suggested that he might want to get out before he got stuck by her or with her.

            Lydia, meantime, had tried her charm offensive as well as attempted to convince Christopher that Livia was a manipulative fraud abandoned by a mother who knew she would turn out evil. Christopher would have none it. He told her he knew about the thumbtacks, what she did to the cat, Sarah, who ran away to join Livia because of this and that she deliberately injured herself to blame Livia. Moreover, he had caught her trying to taint a drink she thought Livia would consume, but Jimmy McNaught took it off-stage instead. He provided the means for Jimmy to continue singing. Her plot had backfired. “I know exactly what you are, you manipulative, selfish, spoiled, untalented and wretched mess.” He eyed her with pure contempt and disgust, menacingly hissing: “In fact, you deserve a taste of your own medicine. Enjoy.” Lydia suddenly felt sick to her stomach and ran off the floor to the lavatory, with Frank following shortly behind her.

            “What did you do?” Livia asked.

            “She’ll have fun throwing up for the rest of the night – just a taste of what she tried to do.”

            “Are you kidding?” Livia questioned. “I could kiss you again.”

            “I won’t object,” he answered. “Had too much to drink for that.”

            She did and this time he seemed much less surprised and more enthusiastic. She had forgotten about everything else except wanting to kiss him. He seemed also very present in that moment, either unconcerned or dismissive of any consequences. They found that same page at that moment – only the present mattered then, not the past or the future. Of course, he still wanted another glass of champagne – or two.

            As the two enjoyed another round of champagne, Livia could see her father, Rev. Woodcock, approach. She quickly warned Christopher. She did not know what he would say exactly. He purposely walked towards them. She did not know where Mrs. Woodcock was, so it remained possible that she would affect whatever transpired. Since he came alone, he made no attempt to take Livia away from Christopher. Instead, he complimented her on her performance and told her that Cathy had informed him as to why she had refused to serve as a bridesmaid to Alice, which he regretted yet to him also seemed both selfless and prudent. He told them that his wife had gone to the lavatory owing to Lydia’s sudden illness. “I know the best thing I ever did for you as a parent was enable your brother to help you,” he admitted. “For that, I am very happy and yet very sorry that I did not do more to make that unnecessary. May God forgive me.”

            “I do not know what to say, sir,” Livia stated. “Tom means the world to me.” Christopher recognized just how nuanced and multifaceted that last statement was.

            “He has kept me apprised of certain things about you,” Rev. Woodcock continued. “So I am glad I have met you this weekend, Christopher.” Rev. Woodcock shook his hand. “I need to ask you something. Can you vow to me, as a minister of God, that you will comfort and protect my daughter as I could never manage properly myself?” Livia realized the weightiness of such a vow to be made to a clergyman. Agreeing to this before Tom or his friends paled in comparison.

            “I can and I do swear to it,” Christopher affirmed. Livia wondered if he crossed his fingers or toes somewhere that she could not see. He sounded completely sincere.

            “Thank you,” he said. “My best to you both.” He kissed Livia on both cheeks and firmly shook Christopher’s hand and touched his arm with the other before returning to his seat.

            “Christopher…” Livia began.

            “It’s fine,” he insisted. “I told you I took this seriously.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Another round, why don’t we?” Livia did not know if he meant dancing or drinking. He actually meant both – and more than one of each. He was sweeping her and maybe himself off their feet. She could not distinguish this as mere fantasy nor how she felt right then.

            The event too soon came to an end. Everyone applauded the band for their performance, great indeed that it was. They had named themselves well. Jimmy introduced all the musicians – Geoff McDonald, drums, Ryan McReynolds, bass, Dylan McNaught, keyboards, Shane McThompson, saxophone or various, Craig McNulty, lead guitar. He again thanked Livia and Gary for their vocals, adding that Livia McWood could sing with them anytime. He also thanked Livia’s date, Christopher, saying that he knew why. Jimmy did not wish to embarrass anyone so he offered no description. Christopher and Livia would tell Tom about it at brunch. They had retired early from the reception to their suite, and no one would see them until the Sunday brunch.

            Livia and Christopher held hands as they went back to the Earl of Somerset Room. Livia’s heart raced like it had never done before. Partly, the conflict came back to her, yet mostly the evening had given rise to feelings she scarcely could have predicted a day or two prior. Overwhelmingly, she still wanted to kiss him over and over again. After closing the door, he removed his jacket and, as he hugged her, she started doing exactly that. He did not resist at all, not even as they moved towards the bed. She landed in it and, clasping him, pulled him on top of her. The moment had become quite intense for both of them. If she knew how to undo his tie, she would have removed it. He loosened it whilst she got rid of her shoes. After about at least 20 minutes in the room, he had sobered up just enough to pick his head up, if still about an inch from Livia’s face and suggest to her that they should stop before they went any further.

            “That’s what Bill Weasley said,” she remarked.

            “I cannot say if he was right or wrong, only that he had nothing like my situation.”

            “What if I do not care about the consequences, and I am old enough to know?” Livia asked.

            “The problem is that one consequence might be that I never see you again,” he replied.

            “Noooo,” Livia told him. She closed her eyes. That hurt. She did not wish to imagine that.

            He gently picked her up from behind her shoulders so she sat up in the bed. “I think those are the stakes,” he affirmed. “I feel a lot of conflicting things, which perhaps enhances the tension more than would otherwise exist.” She could feel his pulse racing like hers. He kissed her again, more tenderly. “We should go to sleep to attend the brunch tomorrow. After all, Alice and Tom need to know what nearly happened earlier.” She held onto him as he helped her feet find the floor and she headed into the bathroom to change. Then they switched and she set the clock. He got into bed with her, pulled the curtains shut and, for an entirely different set of reasons, enveloped her firmly with his arms as both started to drift off to sleep.

            Perhaps two hours later, he woke up and in the darkness could still see the back of Livia’s moderately long, wavy deeply brown hair cascading over her neck down to the bed’s surface. He still had his arms around her but looked at his hands. They did not look 20. He picked his head up some, and he stared at her sleeping, peaceful face. She looked so beautiful, even in the dark. For the first time, all of him consciously appreciated her as a woman, one who possessed so many extraordinary gifts. He wondered a bit what would happen if she woke up and could see him as he was. Would she be happy? Would she still want him? He had crossed a line with her – or nearly had – that he should not have ever approached. Now what? At least, he thought she did not know.

            He kissed her on the top of her head as he carefully extricated himself from her and made his way to their bathroom. He saw who he expected to see in the mirror, and it was not Christopher Prince. He took more potion drops, rinsed his face and returned to the bed. She seemed to turn some whilst still asleep, and he clutched her snugly as he worriedly watched for his hands to change in appearance. He saw them change and put his head down to sleep.

            Before he fell asleep, he heard a loud banging at the door. He pondered it for a few seconds and realized what it meant. He carefully removed himself from Livia again, wrapping her figuratively-speaking and ensured that the bed curtains totally protected her from any disturbance. With wand in hand, he went for the door and partly opened it, having anchored his foot behind it.

            “What do you mean by coming here at this hour?” he called out in a sneering tone through a small opening in the door. The inner Severus Snape had come out in full force again.

            Lydia Woodcock and her date Frank Crawley had not expected him to be at the door though they tried to push it open, anyway. They were probably hallucinating. They both made some incoherent statements that seemed directed derisively towards Livia.

            “You better leave this instant before I make both of you regret the audacity of you coming here to bother anyone,” he spat out menacingly. When they tried to touch the door, it felt like their hands had gotten scalded by boiling water. Both quickly withdrew their hands and seeing the vicious look on his face, both started running down the hallway. With ease, Christopher got them to tangle their feet together and trip each other up. Both crashed hard onto the stone floor, masked under only a fairly thin commercial carpet. Both had bloody noses and at least one would have a black eye by daybreak. Satisfied, Christopher secured the door. They will not do that again.

            Christopher took down the protection he had given Livia to ensure she had not woken up. He returned to bed and settled back in. Yet by resuming his position, he did awaken Livia who shifted fully onto to her back and asked if he was okay. He reassured her and gently kissed her and told her to go back to sleep. She had sobered up some. Still, she felt conflicted staring into his face.

            Both awoke with plenty of time to fashion something appropriate for the brunch and to pack most of their things. Christopher ensured he took more of his potion, too. He told Livia about what happened as she slept and that he had taken care of it. The way he figured it, Lydia Woodcock would never bother her again. He would make sure Tom understood everything that happened, as would Rev. Woodcock. Livia could only thank him and hug him. She closed her eyes and held him a long time, as if she attempted to convince all of him to remember that she meant it.

            The brunch took place in a room called the Garter State Room, a sumptuous, Georgian styled room with high cream walls with embossed-like patterns and a pale yellow, complementary-patterned ceiling. Its windows feature heavy, burgundy window treatments yet the room seemed to bask in the light of day. Tom and Alice wore clothes they would wear on their outbound flight from Newcastle International Airport, leaving for it shortly after the meal. Since some of the guests could not stay for the meal, the room got modified into several larger tables from one dais and  guest tables. Livia and Christopher arrived early enough to snag seats near the bride and groom. Christopher took Tom aside and explained what he saw during the reception and what happened overnight. Fortunately, Livia had not witnessed either incident, and he had ensured neither caused any real harm. Tom profusely thanked him for minimizing the problems that could have arisen from either episode. Alice asked Livia what happened. Livia said Tom would likely tell her later and that this merely concerned one attempt as disrupting the reception and another regarded an effort to disturb her overnight. Both failed.

            The meal included traditional, cooked breakfast fare, which did not entirely appeal to either Livia or Christopher. They liked their tea, muffins, toast, cereal and such, rather than the heavier foods that most guests savored. When Rev. and Mrs. Woodcock arrived, Christopher told him everything, which could explain why Lydia and her date Frank had checked out. Christopher surmised that their faces looked a bit too ugly after they both fell. Mrs. Woodcock seemed a bit put out by Lydia’s absence but put on a show to seem like she fussed over her son and daughter Cathy sufficiently. She never showed even a pretense of concern regarding Livia, but Livia ignored her. Audrey and Jake had also left to return to their daughter as soon as they could. Gary and Penny attended, seeing that a few hours would not make much difference for them. Still, everyone left made the brunch quite congenial and a great way to wind down the weekend.

              Tom had not thought that Alice’s family could have gone to any greater lengths for their daughter with all that they planned, but in their wedding card, they had enclosed the deed to their Durham house. They had paid off the loan entirely. Tom confessed to Livia in the King James Suite afterwards how awestruck that made him feel. Alice told him that they did not think either the wedding or the house seemed too outrageously expensive. More pleasing to them, to Alice, concerned the fact that everything had gone well, and that the queen had sent a congratulatory card to the newly married couple. Apparently, Bertie knew who would ensure that happened and spoke to the right person. Rev. Woodcock had not known how to match their gifts, so he had made sure the honeymoon arrangements worked well by paying all the upfront costs.

            The only issue that remained concerned taking the cards and the vehicle belonging to Alice and Tom back to their house. Christopher volunteered that he could drive a manual transmission and would have no trouble settling Livia into their home. Given the daylight, and people about, Christopher moved his and Livia’s bags into the automobile along with the gifts, cards and mementos Tom and Alice had amassed. Livia eyed him quizzically, but she had an idea as to who actually owned a driver’s license. The hotel had called for transport and a wonderfully antique-looking car would convey Alice and Tom to the airport. Everyone went outside to wave goodbye once everything else had been settled. Christopher had Tom’s vehicle and house keys, but he simply waved as all the other guests left before him. He had gone slowly and waited intentionally. Christopher would not really drive. Once everyone had left and he had resumed being Professor Snape, he started the engine and asked Livia to direct him towards where Alice and Tom lived.

*Author's Note

The Simple Minds's song 1985 single "Alive and Kicking," written by Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill and Mick MacNeil, appears on their album Once Upon a Time from the same year.

The Culture Club recording of "Time (Clock of the Heart" first appeared as a 1982 single off of their 1982 album Kissing to Be Clever. Written by Roy Hart, Boy George, Mikey Craig and John Moss, it later was included in a 1987 compilation of their music.

The song "Bad" first appeared on U2's 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire. With lyrics by singer Bono and music by all of the group, including The Edge, Larry Mullin Jr. and Adam Clayton, the group released a live version of this on its 1985 record Wide Awake in America. A version sung at the Live Aid concert became lauded as a breakthrough for the band's success worldwide.

A recording of "Summer, Highland Falls," written by singer-songwriter BIlly Joel, was released first as part of the album Turnstyles in 1976. A live version of the song appears on the 1981 album Songs in the Attic.

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