He took my hand and we stood up. We faced each other against the darkening sky. The blue was lovely but not as striking as the navy hue of Romulus's eyes. I stared into them and attempted to fathom their secrets. But no knowledge came.
"Knowledge will pass between us," he murmured, reading my mind.
It felt like a strange, important ceremony. There was gravity in amongst my excitement.
Romulus bent down and made sure that the crystal balls weren't in our way. He picked up the remaining items and gave me the turquoise, the tiny model of a hippogriff (which was truly a remarkable creature) and one of the vials of Blissy's Sleeping Draught.
"Put them in your pocket," he murmured, placing the diamond, the model of a dragon (which actually scared me slightly with the awesome power it possessed despite its size) and the other vial in his own pocket.
After putting the articles that I was holding in my pocket, I took Romulus's hands. He held mine in his and continued to gaze at me intently.
To my right, a scroll appeared. My gaze didn't move from Romulus's eyes. He looked towards it and scanned part of it before looking back at me.
"I will always love you, Tilly," he said quietly, and there was almost reverence in his tone as he spoke my name.
I guessed and said "I will always love you, Romulus."
Romulus smiled, nodding slightly to show me I was right.
"I will never leave you," he proceeded to say.
"I will never leave you."
"Life would be unbearable without you."
His mental voice entered my mind. ‘After I've said my bit, you say ‘Let us become inseparable', okay?'
"It is a crime against nature for us to be apart."
Faithfully, I said "Let us become inseparable."
Romulus let go of my hands and leant down to pick up his crystal ball. He closed his eyes and looked to be concentrating.
Before my eyes, the ball filled with light the colour of Romulus's eyes. There were black swirls and silver spirals and while the sight was amazing and beautiful, it also scared me a little.
After a few seconds, Romulus opened his eyes and held the ball out to me.
"I - I take it?" I asked hesitantly.
He nodded, looking extremely serious. I wondered if the movement of the light from his body had hurt him. I took the ball and was surprised by its weight. I held it carefully as if it was precious - wait, it was precious. This was the soul of my lover.
"You hold it in one hand," Romulus whispered "and take your own. You think of your favourite colour, an image of your birthstone and some feature of your personality you feel defines you."
I carefully held Romulus's ball in one hand and picked up my one.
"I don't know what defines me," I confessed sadly.
Romulus frowned in thought for a moment and then replied "Falling. Or drowning. You like losing yourself."
"Wow," I breathed. "You really know me that well..."
Romulus smiled. "I'm meant to, Tilly," he murmured. "We're forming a soul pair, and only a well-informed dragon would be part of that oh so significant thing."
I nodded. "Are you sure you made the right decision?"
"Tilly, I love you. And ... knowing me, that's probably a feeling I shouldn't ignore. If I lose you, I lose out on my chance to ever fulfil myself. So I'm securing you. Anchoring you to my life like a ship's crew anchors her to the sea bed. The analogy might not be quite the right one but I basically intend for you to find your home in me. This is right, Tilly."
"You're amazing," I whispered, before closing my eyes.
"Count to ten before you open your eyes," he told me.
I began a mental count. As the numbers increased, I thought about the colour blue, picturing it as a backdrop to my other thoughts, visualised turquoise and also imagined that sensation of falling I got every time I looked into Romulus's eyes or when his gaze was particularly suggestive. My fingers started to feel tingly - it was a bit like having pins and needles - and my skin became warmer. When I opened my eyes, the crystal ball was full of light the colour of my eyes: a sort of chocolaty brown. Romulus was staring at in awe. I wordlessly handed it to him. He held it delicately, caressing the crystal tenderly. Astonishingly, I felt it. It was like he was touching a deeper part of me. I closed my eyes in pleasure and the experience intensified. My soul was surrounding Romulus's fingers and they were reaching in to touch the depths, enter the caverns, explore the territory.
"I love you," he said, and the words echoed around my mind, around my heart, around that liquid light floating deep within me.
"I love you too," I choked out as my joy and the warmth from his statement engulfed me.
Romulus sighed and the feelings ended. I opened my eyes, finding myself in a slight daze.
"What next?" I breathed.
Romulus grinned. "Well, technically that wasn't part of it. Now we say ‘Shine on me, oh light of my beloved's soul."
I began and he joined in.
"Shine on me, oh light of my beloved's soul." And then, we were enveloped in multi-coloured light. It was like a glass prism had shattered and cast the colours of the spectrum over us. Romulus's features were highlighted in warm red, vivid magenta, light, carefree cyan, bright yellow, sky blue and grassy green. Ribbons appeared from, it seemed, inside the crystal ball, but extended out of them, moving through solid matter like it was no big deal. Romulus's were a velvety black, the black that caressed your senses, that evoked your fear, that made you feel small as you gazed up into the vast star-filled sky... Mine was deep blue: a blue I found myself wanting to drown in, a blue that was ocean and sapphire-lit caves and blue highlighter forming a picture on a piece of paper: a sky in which to fall, endlessly...
Romulus, his fingers trembling, balanced my crystal ball in one hand and reached forth to tie the ribbons together. I helped, and was stunned to find that they felt like satin - nothing ethereal like smoke or steam as I had imagined they might be. Once a knot was tied with the two ribbons, Romulus took his crystal ball and set both down a little distance away from us.
He straightened up and said "Our fates are nearly entwined." He smiled, looking slightly more relaxed now we weren't holding each other's crystal balls.
I smiled back. "Now what?"
"Right, we take our birthstones and china models out of our pockets, and we state why we're similar to our miniature animal."
I pulled out my turquoise and tiny hippogriff while Romulus pulled out his diamond and dragon. I waited for Romulus to go first, so I could hear how to compare myself with my little animal.
He looked at his dragon and then up at me.
"I believe myself to be like the dragon," Romulus said, his tone very serious, "for when I'm impassioned, there is something like a fire rumbling deep within me."
I nodded and thought a moment before stating "I believe myself to be like the hippogriff because I feel like I'm a mixture of different personality traits, sometimes opposing."
Romulus nodded, smiling to show me I'd said the right sort of things.
"Now we give each other our items and simultaneously say ‘All that is mine is yours, including my destiny, my heart and my essence'."
"What beautiful words," I murmured.
"They are, aren't they? Yuck, I sound like Peter."
I laughed. "Well, you need a bit of soul to do something like this, Rom. Don't worry. As soon as we're finished, you can go back to being darkly passionate and seductive and exciting."
Romulus grinned. "I can't wait."
We gave each other our birthstones and model creatures, and together stated "All that is mine is yours, including my destiny, my heart and my essence."
The words rang true throughout my soul, finding the right places and nestling into them. They settled and felt permanent, and it was like our souls were like the crystal balls, tied together by outward-extending ribbons to symbolise our connection.
"Now you say ‘Let the final spell be cast'."
"Let the final spell be cast," I repeated.
"Forces behind The Magical Light of the Soul and Profound Power unite."
"Forces behind The Magical Light of the Soul and Profound Power unite."
Romulus put my items in his pocket and I copied him.
"Another simultaneously stated declaration," Romulus said, rolling his eyes. "We say ‘This pocketing of these items of my beloved is symbolic: the items, and, therefore my beloved are close to my heart'." He had read off the parchment with all of these statements and up until now they had been pretty easy to repeat but this one was impossible. I reached up and turned it in the air so we could both look at it.
Romulus chuckled and we spoke the lengthy sentence. As our words filled the air, the articles in our pockets started to shine, making the material of the shirt glow like skin does when a torch is pressed up to it. I also noticed the crystal balls emanating pure white light, so dazzlingly bright I was almost blinded. I looked back at Romulus and saw him looking at me, stifling laughter. I knew why. I just suddenly felt so joyous that laughter seemed natural at a time like this. Laughter and happy tears. My vision blurred and I chuckled along with Romulus.
"We're actually doing it, Tilly," he whispered, as if he'd only just realised.
"Yes, my darling; yes, we are," I replied.
And we leant in and shared the first kiss since the ceremony had started. It was so powerful, so passionate, so crazily exciting that I felt like I might burst from sheer emotion.
I drew back and looked at the sheet. I memorised the last few instructions and pulled out my vial of Blissy's Sleeping Draught. Romulus did the same and we removed the corks at the same time. The magenta-coloured liquid too seemed to shine: it was like our ceremony was a celebration and worship of light rather than a process to tie two souls together. I held my vial at Romulus's mouth and he held his at mine and we counted down from three before tilting them and swallowing the warm, sweet liquid. It caressed our tongues and slid easily down our throats and suddenly I was exhausted. Together, Romulus and I collapsed to our knees, though more out of sheer fatigue than following the method on the parchment which still floated above us. We held each other, me resting my head on his shoulder, and promptly fell asleep.