Chapter 23 : Chapter 23
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During the next year the lives of the four youngsters passed peacefully and profitably. Hermione became one of Hogwarts most successful students ever. Her eleven outstanding N.E.W.T’s second only to a record set over a hundred years before. It was all the more remarkable because the record was set by one A. P. W. B. Dumbledore. She applied to the new university for a place and was accepted without even having to attend an interview. Her reputation had preceded her.
George Weasley, by now a relatively wealthy young man had opened a branch of Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes in Hogsmeade. This was the shop that Ron managed for the year in order to be close to Hermione at school. He had tried inventing new wheezes. George had appreciated the effort but had to explain gently why they were not up to the standard of WWW. Especially the one designed to get students out of classes by giving them headaches and achieving this by crushing the skull. It was fortunate that they had tested it on a dummy first. His assistant at the shop was none other than Angelina Johnson whose relationship with George, Ron suspected, was based on more than business.
Harry completed the first year of auror training and, given his life experiences, had engaged in many lively debates with his tutors. In a couple of instances they had amended their training curriculum to take account of the inconsistencies that Harry had pointed out. Just before he was to start his summer break he was summoned to see the Minister. Kingsley Shacklebolt had told him that his instructors had reported that they were confident that he could complete his course in two years instead of three. Harry was delighted. He was living at Grimmauld Place while training, where he was royally looked after by Kreacher. He had been unable to remove the portrait of Sirius’s mother, and had laughed heartily once when he had heard Kreacher yell “Shut up you foul, ugly monster.” before violently closing the curtain. There was no doubting where Kreacher’s loyalty lay now. As he left for the Burrow at the end of his academic year he reminded Kreacher that he would be back in ten days.
While the others had all had what they would consider good years, the year for Ginny Weasley had been nothing short of spectacular. After her debut for the Holyhead Harpies, she had become a regular in the first team playing mainly as a Chaser; she played two games as Seeker when Bronwyn Macmillan had been injured. With one game left in the domestic season, she had been named in the England squad for two international games when the season was over. Victory in the last game had meant that the Harpies had won the championship losing only one match. The one losing match she blamed on Harry. When the Harpies had travelled to London to play the Westminster Warlocks, she had quietly left the team hotel and spent the night with Harry at Grimmauld Place.
She had not played well the next day being unable, for some reason, to sit comfortably on her broom. The loss was a sore point for her, to which Harry had replied that he had a sore point too. It was a mistake she would not make again, she vowed. She had made her international debut in the second of the post-season matches. England were victorious in that match, and now it was Ginny’s portrait that adorned thousands of children’s bedrooms in all corners of the wizarding world. The rising of her star was positively meteoric.
By contrast, Draco Malfoy’s year was one to forget. He served his term in prison and on his release had gone to ground at Malfoy Manor. Without any magical powers, he and his mother were totally reliant on what remained of the family wealth. Azkaban had been closed. The new prison on the mainland was still a forbidding place but at least the removal of the Dementors as guards was an improvement. It would be at least five more years before his father Lucius would be released. Even then Lucius would face many years, if not the rest of his life, as a squib. For the whole of the Malfoy family penury beckoned.
Ten days later Harry arrived back at his London home with Ron. They went down the hallway from the front door and into the kitchen. Kreacher poured them coffee. Harry suddenly had a strange feeling that something was different, something was missing. But what? He stood and walked back into the hallway. He surveyed the area and then called Kreacher as he saw what was missing. Ron followed Kreacher, curious to see what was going on. “Kreacher, where has the portrait of Mrs. Black gone?”
“It has gone Master Harry.”
“I can see that Kreacher. I want to know where and how. It had a Permanent Sticking Charm on it. How did you get it off the wall?”
“I didn’t get it off the wall, young master.”
“Then where is it? Explain exactly what you did please.”
“Very well sir. As Harry Potter knows, the Permanent Sticking Charm is impossible to break. Kreacher found a solution, sir, and it worked very well. The portrait is gone.”
“What precisely was the solution? No more evasion Kreacher, just tell me.”
“Kreacher knew that magic would not work so he used something that Muggles call a sledgehammer. Kreacher knocked down the wall and built a new one.” The house elf smiled an almost embarrassed smile. Harry and Ron looked dumbfounded.
“Kreacher that was brilliant. So simple.” said Ron. Harry laughed loudly,
“How come nobody thought of that before? Kreacher you did very well. I’d like to get you a present. What would you like?”
“A present Master Harry? Oh no, no that would never do. Kreacher is happy that you are happy. That is enough. Now dinner is nearly ready. Come and eat.”
Arthur and Bill Weasley were the last to arrive at Grimmauld Place for Harry and Ron’s stag evening. Kreacher welcomed them and showed them to the large reception room on the first floor where Harry, Ron, Percy, George, Charlie, Dean, Seamus and Neville were sitting around one end of a long table. Against a wall was a table laden with bottles of Butterbeer and Firewhisky as well as a tasty looking buffet prepared by Kreacher.
As the evening progressed, the chatter became louder, more raucous, and then downright rude. Harry wondered aloud what the females were doing at the Burrow. Ron was the first to answer. “They’ll be doing what women do best, talking and gossiping about knitting, clothes, shoes and babies. That’s what they consider fun ain’t it” Arthur pointed an unsteady finger at his youngest son,
“Ron you don’t know how wrong you are, believe me I know. They will be talking and laughing like we are and if you think they are being more genteel about it, you are sadly mistaken. Some of the jokes we’ve heard here tonight have been as dirty as I’ve ever heard, and son let me tell you that they are telling exactly the same jokes and then some.”
“I think you must be wrong Dad. Hermione and Ginny won’t know any dirty jokes.”
“Maybe not, but your mother most certainly does.” Charlie poured more Firewhisky into his glass,
“It’s just as well that Aunty Muriel isn’t there. She tells jokes that are better than anatomy lessons.” he said.
“You’re wrong about Ginny too.” said Neville. Harry jumped in.
“What do you mean Nev?” he asked, going to the table for another drink and some more chicken wings.
“That year when you were away from Hogwarts, we spent a lot of time together and believe me she knows more than a couple of dirty jokes.” Neville explained, “It wasn’t all doom and gloom y’know, we did have some lighter moments. Not many, but some.”
“That’s right,” Said Seamus, “that joke I told earlier about the blonde and the three tennis balls, that was one of hers. She made me blush once or twice.”
“I wonder where she learnt them.” If he had bothered to look at George he might have found a clue, but he didn’t. “And why she has never told me a dirty joke.” mused Harry. The party broke up at midnight, when Arthur and Bill returned to the garden of the Burrow.
Bill entered the Burrow first,
“We’re back ladies, clean up the conversation please.” Hermione came out of the living room carrying a drink and walking with a hint of a wobble, she put one arm around his shoulders,
“You’re Billy aren’t you; I know cos you got a ringear, you’re goin’ be my buber law ‘morrow.” she mumbled.
“Hermione, I do believe you are drunk.”
“Noooo, not me, I a good girl I am,” She started to giggle, “Did you hear about the tennis balls Billy, it’s soooo funny.” Bill grinned and passed her onto Arthur before going into the living room, dreading what he might see. Ginny stumbled in front of him and flung her arms around his neck,
“It’s Billeee, my bestest bruvver,” her words were slurred and she was giggling, “have you seen Perky, he’s my bestest bruvver too. Where’s Charlie? You seen Charlie?”
“’ow many bruvvers ‘ave you got?” asked Katie Bell.
“Eleventeen I fink.” Ginny replied, taking another drink. Bill reached down and took the glass from Ginny’s hand.
“I think that’s enough for you young lady.” he said reprovingly. She opened her mouth to protest, just as her eyes closed in sleep. He looked around the room. His mother was asleep in an armchair. The only two remotely sober people there were Luna and Angelina. All the other girls had gone home. Guessing what Bill was thinking Angelina, who didn’t drink, volunteered the pair of them to get all the girls to bed. Arthur took charge of Molly, then they and Bill retreated gracefully and went to bed themselves.
Arthur poured himself a drink and wandered out into the cool night air. Tomorrow my baby girl is getting married, he thought. I have to entrust her welfare to another man. He had full confidence in Harry and the fact that they loved each other. Pride swelled in his chest, she was a daughter to be rightly proud of. She was strong, honest and despite his misgivings had made a career as a chaser for the Holyhead Harpies and England.
A hand slipped into his and a soft voice whispered, “Hey Dad.”
“Hey,” he responded, “what are you doing out here? You should be getting some sleep. You’ve got a long, busy day tomorrow.” Ginny sighed
“I know Dad, Luna did the sobering charm, it woke me up, then I couldn’t get back to sleep, my brain is working overtime. Y’know, I was nervous my first day at Hogwarts. I was nervous when I made my Harpies debut. I fought Death Eaters, but I would trade those feelings for what I’m feeling now. I’m not having doubts or anything like that. I’m sure Harry loves me and I know I love him, so why am I so scared?”
“Are you sure you’re scared, or just very, very excited? You are getting what you have wanted for ten years.”
“Either way, Dad, I don’t feel like sleeping.” She took a gulp of her father’s drink.
“You should Ginny. You probably won’t do much sleeping tomorrow night.” Arthur said with a grin.
“Dad! Don’t be so rude. That’s no way to talk to your little girl.”
“In my heart you’re my little girl, Ginevra, in reality you are a beautiful young woman, and I cannot put into words just how proud of you I am.” He raised his glass, “Here’s to you my darling daughter. May you have all the luck and love in the world.”
“Thanks Dad. I am what you and Mum made me. You and six elder brothers. You’ve all had a part in what I am. Bill and Charlie protected me, mainly from George and Fred. Percy was bossy but he always meant well, Ron…, well, if Ron had his way I’d still be waiting for my first proper kiss. All my life I have been loved, that is something I’m very aware of and I value very much. If I ever have children, I’ll try to make sure they feel the same way.”
“You are a Weasley, what do you mean ‘if’.” Ginny smiled
“It will be at least a year, Dad. For twelve months I want Harry all to myself. No distractions. Pretend I said ‘when’ instead of ‘if’.”
Harry woke with a start as a huge pillow hit him squarely in the face. Seconds later another pillow hit Ron. “You’re a git, whoever you are.” roared Ron. Ron’s elder brother Charlie stood grinning in the doorway of the room at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
“Big day today guys, haul your backsides out of those pits, breakfast in five minutes.” Harry sat up and put his glasses on, took the pillow that had woken him so rudely and hurled it at Ron, whose head was disappearing back into his own pillow.
“You’re a git too” said Ron.
“Come on,” said Harry, “I’m hungry.” He grabbed his towel and toothbrush and headed for the bathroom. When he returned, Ron was still under the covers. Harry pulled the duvet aside and slapped Ron with his damp towel. “Come on Ron, you can’t stay here all day.”
“Cut it out Harry, I don’t want breakfast,” said Ron, “In case you hadn’t heard mate, I’m getting married today.”
“I’m getting married today as well and I’m still hungry, so shift your fat backside.” They both jumped as loud crack deafened them and George Weasley blinked into view.
“Mornin’ bro” He sounded obscenely bright and cheerful.
“Sod off George, before you lose your other ear.” Ron was determined to be grumpy.
“Now, now, Ron, that is no way to talk to your best man. Alright there Harry?”
“Fine thanks, have you seen Neville yet”
“He’s having breakfast; he’s a bit jumpy though, been up for ages.”
“Nerves I ‘spect,” muttered Ron, crawling reluctantly out of his bed, “must be hard being a best man.”
They arrived in the kitchen just as Kreacher was brewing fresh coffee, Harry took a mug and sat down,
“Alright there Neville, how you feeling?”
“OK, I think I’ve got everything memorised, I wish I hadn’t lost my Remembrall”
“You’ll be fine mate, nothing to worry about.” Harry helped himself to a large portion of bacon and eggs thinking to himself that today he was going to marry Ginny. He could not understand why he didn’t he feel scared or at least a bit nervous. He glanced at Ron who was pushing a rasher of bacon around his plate and looking as though it was the final meal of a condemned man.
“You’ll feel better if you eat something, Ron.”
“Shut up Harry,” Ron said moodily. “You’re starting to sound like Mum.” Harry felt a little tug at his elbow and turned to find Kreacher holding a small parcel.
“Kreacher understands that it is the custom to give presents on a wedding day, so Kreacher wishes to give this to Harry Potter.” Harry took the little package, feeling a little lost for words. Kreacher gave a little bow as Harry said,
“Thank you Kreacher, I really appreciate this.” Harry tore open the paper to find a small photograph of Harry’s godfather Sirius Black. Harry studied the picture; Sirius was about 20 he estimated. Harry fought to keep a tear from his eye and a choke out of his voice.
“Thanks.” he said again. Kreacher bowed low once again.
“Kreacher will go now master, and wishes you a happy day.”
“Blimey.” said Ron, “Y’know, I still can’t get used to him being so civil.” There was another loud crack and Bill Weasley, Ron’s eldest brother, popped into view.
“Morning everybody.” He said cheerfully. “Preparations at the Burrow are progressing. Hangovers are cured and everyone is feeling much better now. How are things here?”
“All in order.” said Charlie, “At least they’re all out of bed.” Bill threw a copy of the Daily Prophet to Harry.
“You made the front page again.” Harry looked at the headline over a picture of himself and Ginny.
‘HARPIES STAR CHASER MARRIES TODAY.’
By Rita Skeeter.
Holyhead Harpies star chaser and England international, Ginny Weasley, will today wed Harry Potter in a ceremony at her home in Devon. At the same time her brother, Ronald, will marry long time love Hermione Granger. Speculation abounds that Ginny will retire from Quidditch after only one year as a professional player to start a family immediately.
Harry didn’t bother reading the rest of the story. “At least Ginny got the headlines and not me. That’s great, she deserves them” he said.
“What about the speculation abounding then?” asked Ron.
“That’s just Rita Skeeter doing what she does best, speculating. If you don’t have a real story then make one up. That’s the way Skeeter works isn’t it.”
“So it’s not true then? I’m not trying to be nosy, I’m just curious.”
“Think about it Ron. She has just had the best first year of any professional player, maybe in the history of Quidditch. She has become a better player than I ever thought she could be. Would you want to quit after a year like she’s just had? I wouldn’t, and I’m not going to let her.” he spoke again to Bill. “Who had the hangovers then Bill?”
“Angelina doesn’t drink, as you know, so she was fine. Luna was OK too, Katie was a bit sloshed. I couldn’t tell if Mum was asleep or unconscious. That leaves the two brides to be, everybody else had gone home. It’s hard to say who was worse, but they were both well pissed. I think I’d have to give the edge to Hermione. Right, you’ve got an hour and a half before you need to leave here.” said Bill, he sniffed the air, “and at least one of you needs a shower.” He laughed as Ron’s poorly aimed bread roll sailed past his head.
“What’s it really like at the Burrow?” asked Harry, “How are the girls?” Bill gave a grimace,
“Harry, believe me you do not want to know! Mums having kittens, Fleur is having the time of her life, which is what is driving Ginny out of her mind. As for Hermione, she’s just being Hermione, all efficient and organised, unless she thinks nobody is looking and then she looks petrified.
“I’d be petrified too, if I was marrying Ron.” laughed George. The others followed suit.
“Apparate off, why don’t you?” growled Ron. Bill continued,
“However, given the state they were in nine or so hours ago they’re fine. Probably the sanest one there is Luna.” Bill checked his watch. “Anyway time is passing guys, let’s make a move. By the way Ron there is some good news, Aunty Muriel is feeling much better and she’ll be coming after all.” Ron’s aim was better this time and Bill had to duck the roll.
An hour later they started to gather again in the kitchen, resplendent in dress robes each wearing their insignia of the Order of Merlin. Bill and Charlie were pouring firewhisky for everybody. Small measures for the others, larger ones for themselves. Harry and Neville were the next to arrive; they took a drink and stood around making small talk. George announced his arrival as usual by apparating instead of walking down the stairs. Ron wandered in and grabbed a glass and swallowed its contents in one go. He reached for the bottle but Charlie snatched it away.
“No more for you until the execution of the sentence of marriage has been carried out.”
“Just a small one, c’mon Mum will never know.”
“It’s not Mum I’m worried about Ron, it is your wife-to-be. Hermione would kill me.”
“I can handle her.” said Ron. This remark made the kitchen erupt in laughter and caused Neville to choke on his drink. Bill raised his glass,
“To the grooms Ron and Harry.” The rest acknowledged the toast and swallowed their drinks. “Right we’re off; we are all apparating to the Burrow. See you there in a minute. Charlie you wait till last please, and keep this lot away from that bottle. OK.” He turned on the spot and vanished. One by one they followed him.
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