Thanks so much to ChiQs09 for the fantastic image.
With one thing and another, Harry had almost forgotten. Well, he hadn't forgotten about the wedding . What he had forgotten was the date. First Saturday in July, of course! He had been so immersed in the task ahead, thinking of Dumbledore, trying to keep Ginny out of his mind, trying to figure out who RAB may be or may had been that, as the Headmaster had warned him once, he had forgotten himself, he had forgotten to live.
'Come on, mate, the wedding is on Saturday! We are coming to get you on Thursday night!' Ron had announced by owl.
But that's tonight! Harry realised. He couldn't even ask Aunt Petunia to intercede as she had been busying herself with preparations for a dinner party she was holding for Uncle Vernon's business associates.
Once again, he thought of the wedding preparations, of Fleur's and Mrs Weasley's fuss and of Ginny's likely comments. Ginny, Ginny, once again... He couldn't be with her and he couldn't be without her. What if someone else asked her out? What then? But then again, what if she ended up dead because of him? Also, what could he offer her? He was likely to die in the end. Not even Dumbledore had been able to defeat Voldemort.
He had survived when he was an infant, that was true, but he had never understood exactly why. Yeah, something to do with love, his mother's love, but how, how did that work exactly? It was all too vague and Albus Dumbledore wasn't there any longer to explain in more detail. He wished he had asked when he had had the chance. He didn't want to die, but he did not want to become a Death Eater either. Voldemort had offered him that possibility once as well. But why? Why had he wanted him to join his side? Did he believe him dangerous? After all, Voldermort knew half of the prophecy.
But, before he died, he had to spend the night with Ginny, caress her locks, her body, look into her eyes, make her his... Maybe he wanted to have children, one day. But would he want his children to grow up without a father, like he had done? But Ginny would survive, he was sure. She was tough.
Enough of that, Harry!
he said to himself. You are not even bloody seventeen yet! What are you doing thinking about kids, about death? Enough.
But Ginny was a comfort; he could bury his head into her bosom, surrounded by a mane of red, fiery hair, and be at peace, but this was selfish, very selfish...
Practicalities could not be ignored any longer. He had to let the Dursleys know that he was leaving for a few days but that he would briefly return, until his birthday at the end of the month. And what about the protection? Well, in truth, it was just the same as when he was at Hogwarts. The only thing stipulated was that he must treat his relatives' house as his home, not that he had to be there 24 / 7, chained to the kitchen sink! Yes, he could leave for the wedding and he would do so. But, and there was a but, what reception would he get from, say, Molly Weasley, now that he had broken her precious daughter's heart?
Again, that would have to wait. The Dursleys had to be told about this wedding. He walked downstairs feeling a bit uneasy. His uncle and Dudley were watching some sport on TV. Their team wasn't doing well. That wasn't a good omen.
"Uncle Vernon?" started Harry, standing between the sofa and the large television set trying to grab Mr Dursley's attention.
"Don't bother me now," replied Vernon moving his arm, motioning Harry to get out of his field of vision.
"I need to ask you something," Harry pressed on.
"What is it? Be quick," commanded his uncle, not wishing to give whatever the matter was any more time than was strictly necessary.
"I have been invited to a wedding, only I almost forgot."
"You forgot? How convenient. With those freaks, is it?" Mr. Dursley mocked, frowning in disgust.
"Yes. My friend Ron's brother, he is getting married. They are coming here to get me, but, don't worry, they won't try to come through the fireplace this time," added Harry, repressing a giggle.
"They better bloody not!" Vernon was now getting agitated.
As they spoke, there was a knock at the door. The Andersons were early, unfashionably so! Dinner wasn't quite ready yet,
Petunia thought annoyed, quickly sticking in the oven a pie she was making. "Dudley, be a darling and open the door to our guests, please."
Harry's cousin obeyed.
Fleur Delacour led the group. Dudley nearly fainted. He could not keep his pokey eyes off her. She was stunningly beautiful, unnaturally so. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks followed her. Dudley looked at them from a distance and decided to find something to do in his room.
Aunt Petunia prayed with all her might that the Andersons' car broke down or something. They just couldn't arrive when these freaks were still there
. She had just spotted that awful creature with the spiky short pink hair again. She was trying to get on with Harry these days, but this was just too much.
"Good evening," said Mr. Weasley in a calm, polite way, stepping in from behind Kingsley and Tonks to speak to the Dursleys.
"What are you doing in my house?" Mr. Dursley almost yelled before he realised that the black man in front of him looked familiar. Surely, it couldn't be. For a moment he thought he had seen him on TV, with the Prime Minister, of all people!
"Don't worry, we are not staying. Our eldest son is getting married to this young lady here," he said pointing towards Fleur. Even Uncle Vernon couldn't resist her charms. He stared at her in a peeping-tom kind of manner.
"I'm ze bride to be - would you care to join us for ze day?" offered Fleur politely.
"We, we, my wife and I are otherwise engaged, Miss," replied Vernon Dursley fighting all his instincts.
"Ok, I take that's settled," finalised Tonks. "We'll take Harry to France. We promise to bring him back in one piece. Not that you care, you lot!" she added disapprovingly.
"Don't you dare talk to me like that!" protested Mr. Dursley.
"Sorry, Tonks," said Harry in a whisper. "There is lots I have to tell you. Let them be, I have just about packed my trunk. Let's go."
Since the Durselys hadn't provided any refreshment for the motley crew of witches and wizards, they had a spot of tea at Ms. Figg's house. From there they Apparated to the Burrow, with Harry side-along Apparating with Arthur since he hadn't taken his test yet.
Molly rushed to greet everybody. "Harry, how have you been?" she asked as she cuddled him tightly.
It was comforting to know that she wasn't mad at him. But, where is Ginny?
"Ginny, Ginny!" shouted Molly from the bottom of the stairs as if reading Harry's mind. "Harry is here! Come and say hello."
Maybe she didn't know. Maybe Ginny hadn't said. Hermione and the twins came to the kitchen and greeted Harry cheerfully. His now ex-girlfriend eventually stepped in and said hello in the same tone of voice she would have used if she was very bored, or if she was forced to salute someone.
"How are things, Ginny?" asked Harry trying to sound casual, trying to keep his nervousness at bay.
"Great, just great," she replied with a very false smile.
"I think our little sister could do with a love potion, don't you?" whispered Fred into George's ear.
"That can be arranged," George whispered back, but he instantly knew Harry had overheard him as he had gone very red.
Ginny, suddenly, decided to go into the garden pretending to have something to do there. Molly Weasley embraced him again and, ensuring that Harry didn't notice, made a motion to the twins and Hermione for them to leave the kitchen. "You are wasting away, dear boy. Those Muggles don't feed you properly. Don't be afraid of me, Harry. I am still the same. I know about you and Ginny," she said very quietly.
Harry did not feel at all in the mood for that kind of conversation. "Mrs, urm, Molly," he started, not knowing what to call her anymore "I, I ... never wanted to hurt her but, she is in danger with me," he almost pleaded.
"We are all in danger, dear. Look at the clock," she said, as she stared the timepiece that showed where everyone in the family was and which had pointed towards mortal peril for quite some time.
"Yes, but her more so, if she is with me," he replied stubbornly.
"Oh, you are too young for that kind of thing anyway. Also, we need to talk to you. I know it is going to be painful, Harry. Poor thing, you've lost so many people. But you've always known that you are like one of my own. I wish we could have taken you in instead of those Muggles, but Dumbledore had his reasons, of course..." digressed Mrs. Weasley.
"Yes, Molly, he did."
"You are far too young for all this. I know the rumours about the prophecy but it doesn't make sense. The Ministry should be protecting us from You-Know-Who, not a 16 year old boy. Harry, I lost two brothers in the last war. We lost so many, the Longbottoms, your parents ... It doesn't bear thinking about. I can't bear to lose any of you," she said on the brink of tears.
"Molly, what Voldermort wants is me. I would give myself up to him if I knew by doing that you'd all be safe, but someone has to finish him off and it seems that it has to be me. I don't understand it either." There was no point in continuing with the secrecy about the prophecy where Molly was concerned. After all, the Daily Prophet
had put that thought into everyone's mind anyway. Harry's sadness was evident in his eyes.
"Professor McGonagall says you won't tell anyone what you and Dumbledore were up to... that night," she continued.
"I promised him. I can't."
"Damn you, Albus! I never thought I would say that”, Molly muttered recoiling at the sound of her own words. "Why couldn't he see that the Order can help you? We are more prepared, we have more experience and there are more of us. Even he made mistakes, Harry."
"Yeah, one cost him his life!"
"But I don't want another one to take yours," Mrs. Wealey's eyes were now clearly wet.
"It's likely to happen anyway. Look, that's why I finished with Ginny. Even if she survives, I am likely to end up dead."
"But you can't fight him just yet," Molly said in an overprotective tone. "You need to learn more and for that, my boy, all of you
must return to Hogwarts. I overheard Fred and George talking some nonsense about the three of you not going back to school," she disclosed willing him to give her further information.
"Molly, I can't tell you why but, you are right, I cannot fight him just yet. That would be nearly useless, but it is not really a matter of being more prepared. He will always be more skilled than me. Dumbledore said something about me having power Voldemort doesn't and that it has something to do with being able to love."
"That's why he thought you didn't die, because of your mother's love, dear," she replied wishing she hadn't had to remind him about his mother's death.
"How does it work, Molly? I mean, how exactly, from a practical point of view. Can I use it as a weapon?" he asked impatiently.
"I believe it's very ancient magic but I don't know the ins and outs. Did Dumbledore not explain more?"
Harry lowered his head and said, "No, I'm afraid not."
Remus walked in the kitchen just then to fetch a glass of water and heard Molly talking with Harry on the very subject that the Order had some serious concerns with.
"There seem to be lots of loose ends, Harry," commented Lupin, joining them at the table. "We all think you need to confide on us. Minerva is beside herself with worry. Albus isn't here to protect you anymore. Whatever is that you both were attempting, you can't do it alone. You are only a kid, for goodness sake!"
"I will be of age fairly shortly," snapped Harry.
"Your parents were of age, Sirius was of age, Dumbledore was of age!" came Remus' harsh reply.
"But I made him a promise, a solemn promise that I wouldn't tell."
"You may be endangering people by keeping it a secret now that he is no longer with us. Can't you see that? Do you think that's what he would have wanted?" Lupin tried to persuade him.
"I don't know, Professor, umm, Remus. I have just had an idea though."
"Yes, Harry," Lupin answered in a tone of voice that indicated he was ready to listen.
"If I could talk to his portrait ... maybe I could ask him..."
"Harry, his portrait is not meant to be something like the owl post. You cannot just talk to him as if he were still alive. It doesn't work like that."
"Yeah, but I have heard the other portraits making comments from time to time," Harry retorted with what he saw as logic.
"But you cannot just contact the dead at will. I have no doubt that if this were possible, you would have talked to your parents and to Sirius by now. It is not like a Muggle telephone." Harry sensed that Lupin felt sad about having to burst the bubble but realised that Remus felt it was necessary to impress that idea on him.
"I guess you are right. But, what if I used the Mirror of Erised and what I most wished for was talking with Dumbledore?"
"Again, Harry, that mirror doesn't show you the truth. Merely what you most want to see."
Harry felt defeated.
"You will have to make a decision as to whether you think confiding on anyone is wise or not, given the circumstances," summarised Lupin.
"He has to trust us, Remus," Molly interrupted.
"He has to decide that for himself," concluded Remus as he left the room.
This didn't make Harry feel any better.
"Ginny, you can't ignore him forever. You're going to have to decide what you are going to do. I know you want him back and I think he misses you too. He is frightened for you, that's all," Hermione tried to explain later that day, sitting on Ginny's bed. She had found Ginny in the garden and feeling that her friend needed comforting, she led her upstairs for a chat. The two girls had been at it for quite a while already, the subject always centred around Harry.
"He is always going to be like that, isn't he? Harry Potter, the noble hero! And to hell with the rest of us! At least he is letting you go with him, isn't he? He has confided in you two. I well know that!" It was hard to tell whether Ginny was starting to cry out of sadness or out of pure anger.
"Ginny, he trusts you too, I know. It is all very difficult for him at the moment," Hermione tried to justify, giving her a hug.
"It's also difficult for the rest of us. Just because everybody has always felt sorry for him! The golden orphan!"
"Ginny!" reprimanded Hermione.
"I don't know how I feel anymore. I love him and I hate him. I could kill him!"
"Well, no need for that, sis, he is convinced You-Know-Who will do that job for you anyway!" Ron mocked, opening the door and stepping into the room, causing the two girls almost to jump out of their skins.
"Get out of my room, Ron! Have you come here spying for your mate?"
Ron turned red. The girls suspected that he had in fact been listening to their conversation from outside the door. "Piss off, Ginny. Hermione is right, make up your mind! Do you want him back or do you not?"
"Get out of here, Ron, now!" yelled Ginny. Since they weren't likely to talk anymore in front of him, Ron had no choice but to leave them alone.
"It is not just about his parents being dead, and Sirius and ... well, Dumbledore," continued Hermione, "it is about the prophecy and how he feels he is destined to fulfil it. I wouldn't want to swap places. It's a huge responsibility."
"No, I guess I wouldn't want that either. But I am brave, I am prepared to fight. He just doesn't see me as an equal, like he sees you two. Does he?" Ginny shouted frustrated.
"I don't know what to say, Gin. I think it might be a good idea if you talked to him directly."
I think he misses you too
Hermione had said. Maybe he still has feelings for me,
Ginny thought. This brought a naughtly smile to her face.