This is the first chapter image I did the hard way; i.e. working with very small images and deleting with the eraser. Not brilliant I know...
Early on Friday morning, Harry and Ron were woken up by a cheerful Mrs. Weasley, who bribed them with the idea of a lavish English breakfast.
Two main problems flashed in front of Harrry's mind. Firstly, how to deal with Ginny and secondly, he thought he ought to discuss with Ron and Hermione his conversation with Molly and Lupin. In other words, should they tell them about the Horcruxes? On both these matters, his own opinion was completely divided.
The whole household was booming with activity. Fleur and Mrs. Weasley were almost hysterical trying to think of the final preparations. Everything had to be perfect, nothing could go wrong. Mrs. Weasley would have preferred for the whole event to take place at the Burrow but, then again, she had had to concede that tradition usually gave this right to the bride's family. After all, there was going to be a dance back at the Burrow in the evening with all attending and, going to a French chateau for the occasion was an exciting prospect anyway.
Ginny had the perfect excuse to avoid the boys generally. She was helping Fleur, trying out her bridesmaid dress once again, rehearsing her hair-do and those of the other girls... She would think about The Chosen One
another time. This being said, she was going to make sure she looked positively stunning.
Alastor Moody was in the garden muttering incantations, presumably trying to protect the place. The Death Eaters were bound to know about the wedding and about the fact that most members of the Order would be in attendance. Harry realised this and hoped beyond all hope that, after what Bill had gone through, this wouldn't come to spoil his and Fleur's special day, but despite all the precautions that had been taken, he worried.
After breakfast, he rounded up Ron and Hermione at the back of the garden, in a quiet spot. He hadn't had a proper chance to talk to either of them since he had left Hogwarts for Privet Drive. He started by telling them about his mother's letter and his aunt Petunia's attitude change. In fact, he let them read it.
"That means, your mother knew she was going to die. That looks to me like a good-bye letter, mate," said Ron in a way that came out more bluntly than he had intended.
"Yes, I know," conceded Harry feeling a bit down, "also, she didn't foresee a betrayal, or who would end up being blamed. She said that someone else would take care of me." He paused. "I bet she was thinking about Sirius." This seemed to sadden him even further.
Hermione sighed in resignation. "Come on, Harry, we cannot change the past, what's happened's happened."
"But what a bitch, your aunt, not replying to her!" added Ron with his customary subtlety.
"Anyway, as Hermione says, what's happened's happened," replied Harry still looking morose.
"At least we now have the address for Godric's Hollow," commented Ron on a more cheerful note.
"Problem is, we won't be able to see the house. It is under the Fidelius Charm
, remember? Only Pettigrew can take us there," Harry reasoned.
"Bugger, forgot 'bout that," Ron admitted.
"Harry," Hermione changed the subject. "Did you get my letter? You didn't reply."
It took Harry a moment to respond as he was distracted while playing with some leaves. "To be truthfully honest, I was at a loss as to what to say. I thought I'd see you soon enough, anyway."
"And? What do you think?" she asked eagerly.
"Again, Hermione, not a single clue," replied Harry, not truly concentrating on the topic at hand.
Ron looked between his two best friends. "Is this about the Muggle church business?"
"How did you guess?" Hermione smiled.
"Well, I think you, Hermione, or even your father, Ron, are the best people to shed some light on this," Harry contributed. "You are Muggleborn and Ron’s Dad, well..."
"Yeah, he's obsessed with Muggle stuff," Ron said, finishing Harry's sentence.
Harry nodded in assent.
"Well, Harry, surely you know the basics of the Christian faith, about the sacrifice of the Son of God and redemption and all the rest, having been brought up as a Muggle," started Hermione.
"Well, of course, and you Ron?" Harry asked.
"I wouldn't claim to be an expert, mate."
Hermione pressed on in an attempt to bring them back to the real subject at hand. "But the essence of the matter is, why was Slughorn there?"
"Look no further, love,” Ron blushed slightly as he realised that he had just called her love. “He wants to invite the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury, or even better, both, to one of his parties," he teased.
"Seriously, I just sense there has to be something in it," insisted Hermione.
"Do Muggles do dark magic, or any kind of magic, in their religion?" asked Ron as if at a loss for what else to say or ask.
"Well, this is a very good point, you know. Think about it! There has always been talk about miracles and the like, I mean, Jesus Christ could do all kinds of magical stuff, like turning water into wine."
"That would just be right up Slughorn's street, don't you reckon?" Harry couldn't resist but saying. They laughed again.
"Come on, you two, let's be serious. I think you have hit a nerve, Ron." Hermione went on.
"If Voldemort…, well, if he really hates Muggle stuff so much and thinks it's so beneath him, he would not think that was of any value, now would he?"
"Yeah, but don't forget, he was brought up in a Christian orphanage; he must be well acquainted with ..." observed Harry.
"But, even so," contributed Ron. "Why does Slughorn want Muggle magic, or protection? What for? Is he in trouble? I never worked out which side he's on."
"I think he just wants to steer clear of trouble, to avoid being attacked. He put up a great pretence when Dumbledore and I visited, just in case. You see, he's frightened out of his wits. Anyway, it's something to think about"
The following morning the two boys rose early, without the need for Mrs. Weasley's customary knock on the door. Both Harry and Ron felt quite excited and proceeded quickly towards the bathroom, before the girls had a chance to get in there and it became unavailable for hours on end.
When Ron finished brushing his teeth he said, "I've never been to France before, have you?"
"Nope," replied Harry, wiping away the excess shaving foam.
"The food and the wine are said to be the best. I hope so, anyway," said Ron, thinking once again with his stomach.
After spending an hour or so trying to keep away from the hustle and bustle, waiting for the rest of the household to be ready to go, someone finally announced that the time had now come. Mrs. Weasley was acting like an orchestra conductor, arranging everything and positioning everyone. They were all now ready to Apparate to the chateau in Burgundy. Well, apart from Luna Lovegood and, her date, Neville Longbottom, who had decided on using the Floo network and showed up at the wedding from top to bottom covered in ash.
Before departing, Mrs. Weasley turned to her daughter. "Please, Ginny, make sure she's not forgotten the tiara."
"Yes, mum," Ginny replied rolling her eyes.
The ceremony was beautiful. The attendees congregated in a circle on the grounds of the mansion, a truly splendid place. Fleur's family must be pretty well off, thought Ron. Fleur's mother looked exactly like her, only slightly older. This was going to be too much, all those part-Veela French girls! But Hermione looked very nice too in a lovely violet dress and high heels with her hair all done up.
Harry couldn't but notice that Ginny looked incredible, almost like a fairy. She wore a slightly low cut, long pale gold and ivory dress which enhanced her curves, acessorized with long gloves similar to those worn in old films. Her red hair was curled up and held up with a band. All the girls looked lovely, in particular, the astonishing bride. Yet Harry had only eyes for Ginny. He was trying to stop his mind from wondering, from fantasising, but didn't find it easy.
Harry and Ron didn't look bad themselves. Ron was able to wear brand new dress robes and a bow tie as the twins had donated the money. They both looked handsome and grown up.
Harry's bright green eyes stood out in that outfit, Ginny thought. She had to admit, he was no longer the "Boy" Who Lived but a young man ready to take command, he exhaled charisma.
Fleur, holding her father's arm, moved towards the centre of the circle, Bill was aready there, holding his mother's arm, waiting for her.
Mr. Delacour and Mrs. Weasley stood aside. Fleur's dress was pale ivory and almost impossible to describe. It was as if she was surrounded by a circle of pure light. A French man, who Harry thought must be the wizarding equivalent to a priest, stood in front of them. He took their hands and talked about the power of love. The power of love, damn it! That's what I need to find out more about!
Harry reminded himself. Then, bride and groom's hands were placed together. They drew their wands but in a way that Harry had not seen before, not as if they were about to duel. This was a different way altogether. When the wands made contact with each other, sparks started flying from their tips, much to the audience's applause and delight. This reminded Harry of what had happened in Riddle's tomb, between Voldemort's wand and his own. But this time, there was no Priori Incantatem
, no dead people came back from their graves. This was something happy and extremely special. He felt an electric current crossing his spine. There was very old magic at play there, just like Dumbledore had said, the magic of love.
The couple dropped their wands and kissed for what seemed like an eternity. Despite Bill's scarred faced, they looked like the most beautiful couple in the world. It was their right. It was their day. But Harry knew that something more had taken place; this was old, very old and very powerful, like a vow made truly for life, not like in the Muggle world where people, especially the rich and famous, got married almost on a yearly basis. This was different. He could sense there was some kind of magical contract involved. If he was to survive this war, he promised himself, he would never get married the Muggle way. Not even if he married a Muggle woman, but then again, his heart was set on a witch anyway. Maybe that joining magic that made wizards and witches husband and wife offered a protection, like the kind his mother had given him. It must do. But then again, he remembered, it had not aided his parents much, had it?
Everyone congratulated the newly-weds and proceeded towards the feast. There was an impressive buffet comprised of a large selection of fine French cuisine, which was later to be followed by a full sit-down meal. Champagne, wine and many other refreshments were flowing in abundance. Ron stared at all the food before grabbing a plate to wait his turn, even he didn't think he could manage it all.
"This was bloody amazing, mate," Harry said to Ron. "Have you been to a wedding before?"
"Only when I was a kid and I don't remember much. But yeah, this is good. Magnificent setting, incredible women, I could live with this!" Ron answered merrily.
"Yeah, but I mean, the actual ceremony. What was that about?"
"What do you mean? Are you dense? They just got married," replied Ron matter-of-factly.
"Yeah but, what about the wands and the sparkles?"
Ron was piling a delicious variety of foods onto his plate as he answered, "That is part of the lore."
"Is the contract binding? I mean, like the Unbreakable Vow?" enquired Harry.
"Well, you don't die if you break it but it is complicated. I would say, if you break it, you owe a debt. After all, it's meant to be forever. So be careful who you pick!" joked Ron.
"You mean a debt like if someone owes you their life, like Pettigrew and I?"
"Well, not exactly like that but you better ask my mum. Let's find a table and eat. Let's sample that highly spoken of Burgundy wine. I can't wait!"
Soft classical music played in the background and the whole place seemed truly enchanted. There were a lot of people there he knew. Harry was pleasantly surprised to see Hagrid, looking unusually smart, in deep conversation with Madame Maxime, Lupin and Tonks, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. But there were also a lot of people he didn't know. Like a handsome young French chap, likely a relative of Fleur's, who was chatting up his Ginny. Or was he merely talking to her? He couldn't tell and he didn't care either. A sense of dread entered Harry's mind. What if they really hit it off? What then? Without losing sight of how dangerous it would be for her to be with him, the last thing he wanted was for him to have to be back there, say in a few years time, to celebrate Ginny's wedding to that French git! He was going to ask her to dance.
But he couldn't muster his confidence. Instead, he sat by an old perennial tree nursing a glass of champagne in his hand.
"Are you Ok, Harry?" He was abruptly brought back to reality by the person he least expected, Minerva McGonagall.
He gulped. "Professor?"
"'Harry? What are you doing here all by yourself?" she asked softly, almost in a motherly way.
"Well, I'm not a very good dancer," he excused himself.
"Nonsense. Would you care to dance with a much older woman?"
"With you, Professor? Are you asking me?"
"I am, Mr Potter," she said grinning at him overtly. Harry was a little suprised, as he was used to her in her role of Head of House.
"All right then, but you better lead me."
In fact, McGonagall was not bad dancer at all, old as she surely was. Harry couldn't cast away the thought that it would have been lovely to see her dance with Dumbledore on this occasion, even if not romantically.
"Cheer up, Harry. There is a long way ahead but you must live as well. I think someone told you that once." She smiled whilst she graciously moved Harry's body towards the centre of the scene.
"What about young Ginny? Are you not going to ask her for a dance?"
"As you can tell for yourself, I'm no dancer." Even McGonagall seemed to know about his situation with Ginny and why could nobody understand him? He was fighting his most inner desires and all people wanted to do was play matchmaker, he thought, getting slightly irritated.
"You can't fool me, Harry. I have seen the way you look at that girl. Love is not a bad thing, you know; it can be a strong weapon."
"So I've been told." Harry replied remembering Dumbledore again. "Have you ever been in love, Professor?" Immediately after asking this very personal question, Harry began to realise that he must be getting a little tipsy, maybe everyone was.
"In answer to your question, yes, Harry, twice. Both my husbands are dead, though."
"I am, I am, sooo, sooo sorry to hear, Professor," replied Harry a little embarrassed for having brought up a potentially painful subject.
"You can call me Minerva here, since you are dancing with me." She is clearly a strong woman, he thought.
"Sorry, Min.. Minerva. In the first war, was it?"
His Head of House sighed sadly. "Yes and no. The first one no, the second one yes."
"Do you have any children?"
"I'm afraid not. There was always too much going on," she said dryly, almost with regret.
"I am glad for Hagrid, aren't you?" he said changing the topic.
She smiled. "Yes, he hasn't had an easy life, bless him. He deserves a bit of happiness. And, so do you, Harry Potter." And with a skilful swing, she threw Harry into Ginny's arms, who had just finished a dance.
"Ginny? This is not what you think. It was bloody McGonagall," he whispered to her.
Ginny had seen the scene and she just burst out laughing. "Harry, it isn't a crime, you know!" stated Ginny, repressing a wide smile and leading him into dancing yet another slow song.
"A crime, what?"
"Men are thick, I will always say so," she said with a chuckle.
"Ginny, don't take any notice of what I do or say, I think I'm drunk," he tried to excuse himself.
"You will get there eventually, but you are not drunk yet. Where is the famous courage you are supposed to be known for? Don't pull that one on me!"
"I know I'm drunk because I still fancy you," he ventured, feeling as if had been someone else who had uttered those words.
Ginny laughed again, for lack of a better response. "Do you, Mr. Potter?" she defied him.
"Well, no, of course I don't, I TOLD YOU I'M DRUNK!" Harry was now beginning to feel extremely uncomfortable.
'"That's funny. Most people who are drunk protest they're not. Take Ron or the twins, they are having a wonderful time getting smashed and denying it and yet you are kind of boasting about it. I think you are using it as an excuse, Mr. Potter."
The champagne he had consumed in solitude was now starting to take effect for real, and Harry's next words came out rather slurred. "Why do you keep on calling me Mr. Potter?"
"Because I think it sounds sexy, and I am not drunk," said Ginny, with a very sensual grin on her face.
"Do you mind if we sit down for a bit? McGonagall has given me a good run for my money."
"I could see that!" laughed Ginny.
"I don't want you to spoil your dress," said Harry as she sat on the grass. "You look beautiful."
They remained sitting there for a few moments without saying a word.
"I wonder," Harry said, "the Death Eaters must know we are all getting wasted. It is definitely not the best state to be in if they were to attack."
"I doubt they'll attack here. Most of them are more familiar with England after all," Ginny told him, more hoping than knowing.
He turned his head to look at her. "What about the Burrow?"
"Mad Eye, I believe, was seeing to that."
"Do you have your wand?" asked Harry, not exactly sure where he was heading himself.
"Of course I have my wand!" replied Ginny almost annoyed. Of course she was prepared for all eventualities!
"What is it made of? I don't think I've ever asked you that before." Harry couldn't hide his curiosity.
"Yew, the core is unicorn hair. Do you want to see it?" But then she thought he must have seen it thousands of times when they practised at the DA.
"Yeah, this is mine," he said, as he pulled out his wand, fumbling a little as it got caught in the folds of his robes. "Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, gave two feathers. I have a wand with one; guess who has the other?" He had just revealed something very personal, he realised, but he couldn't back off now.
"Tom?" Ginny had always referred to Voldemort as Tom ever since the diary experience.
They were both a bit tired and seemed quite relaxed. They just laid peacefully on the lawn. Harry was now caressing her hair distractedly.
"Ginny, would you join your wand with mine?" he blurted out. He hadn't managed to find out everything about wizarding customs and was intrigued.
She smiled but was almost alarmed. "Harry, if we do that, I'll be married to you!"
"You have seen it before, Harry. Do you remember the sparks earlier? When that happens, a binding contract is made" she explained.
Harry froze. "Ginny, I didn't mean that, I swear I didn't know."
"As I said, you're dense!" Ginny seemed to be almost offended.
"Look, Ginny, I would marry you this minute if I wasn't going to die, or cause you to be dead ... So many people had died because of me!" His eyes were radiating with feelings of pain, of desire and of revenge. "But I can't because I have a gut feeling I am going to die anyway. I mean everybody is, but I mean, soon. I won't put you through that, well, perhaps only, only if you were to promise me that you will find someone else after I'm gone, someone good to you."
"Yeah, like Pierre, I saw the looks you were giving us. That's why McGonagall came to your rescue."
"I mean it, Ginny." There was a sense of urgency in his voice. "I mean it! Otherwise, I'll come back for you after the war is over, I promise. That is, if you'd still have me."
She tussled his hair and began kissing his forehead. She was kissing his scar and he could feel the opposite to what he had felt when Voldemort touched it. He could feel something deep, sublime. It was hard, it was very hard, in every way, for his body and his mind. He had to let go, otherwise he was going to be married to her that very night.
Eventually they all Apparated back to the Burrow for the final dance, which was meant to go on well into the night. Afterwards they would watch as the newlyweds departed for their honeymoon. The Burrow had been enchanted so that all the guests could stay there, more or less comfortably, like they had done with the tents for the Quiditch Word Cup. After all, Fleur's lot seemed used to a great deal of comfort back in France.
"I love you, Molly," Fleur mumbled.
"I love you, Fleur! To think I had my doubts at the beginning!" Molly confessed under the influence of the wine and champagne.
The Burrow too looked lovely with gold sparkles everywhere; everything was glittery, festive and full of the celebratory spirit.
In the kitchen, a large eagle owl rapped on the window. Molly opened it and took a letter from its leg. She read it very quickly and passed it over to Moody straight away.
"STOP THERE, EVERYBODY!" shouted Alastor in a menacing way.
The place, however, was in perfect order, everything was tidy and in place. There seemed to be no need for this panic. The musicians were ready and were taken aback by this commotion. He started to read out aloud:
"The Death Eaters have taken Petunia Dursley, Harry's Aunt from a Muggle car park. My sources indicate she is being held at number 59 Towers Court, Elephant & Castle, South London. Good luck and congratulations!"
"It's unsigned," Moddy continued.
"Ah, ah, really?" shocked voices exclaimed. The atmosphere changed. Mad-Eye, proceeding very fast, took up his wand and stunned Harry as he was rushing up to see what was going on, before even Ginny, who was by his side, had the time to react.
"No worries, I have stunned this one," said Alastor, pointing at Harry. "He is too drunk anyway to go anywhere. As are most of you," he added disapprovingly.
Hermione shuddered and held her mother's hand tightly. "But Moody," she shouted "It's his family. He has the right to know!"
"I'll tell you what's right, Miss." Alastor had taken complete command.
"It's a trap, Moody, it's a trap. Can't you see it?!" Hermione shouted back.