Kyne and Hedwig were perched somewhat impatiently on the windowsill of The Burrow sitting room. They had been there since sun-up, shuffling uneasily back and forth and cooing whenever someone passed through the room. Neither had been tasked to deliver anything for well over a week, so the large stack of wedding invitations in neat envelopes on the coffee table was understandably making them a bit anxious.
Ginny stepped from the stairs, still half asleep, heading toward the kitchen. Both owls called loudly, and she stopped. She crossed to the window and stroked each bird affectionately, trilling and cooing. She noticed the stack of envelopes and spoke empathetically to the owls. “I know, I know, you want to get at the deliveries, I understand.” She trilled a bit more scratching gently at their breast feathers. “But, I’m sorry; you’ll just have to wait, like the rest of us, for Fleur to give her final okay.” Both birds looked up at Ginny with their wide dark eyes and made chittering noises that sounded to Ginny like they might have been a rather impolite complaint. The owls turned their heads toward the stack of envelopes, staring for another moment, then turned their heads back to Ginny, nudged her with genuine affection, then fluttered off into the morning mist.
Ginny pushed through the kitchen door crossing quickly toward the smell of brewing coffee.
“Good morning Ginny, dear,” Molly said warmly to her daughter.
“Morning Mum,” Ginny replied. “Fleur left the invitations out again,” she said a little bitterly as she filled her cup and turned to the table.
“I saw dear,” her mother replied, looking up from the morning paper.
“Well, she’s got the whole house riled up, and now she’s even got Kyne and Hedwig upset with her,” Ginny grumbled.
“Breakfast, Mistress Ginny?” Jarvy said, appearing with a “pop.”
Jarvy set a beautiful plate of Eggs Benedict, garnished with a sprig of mint and several sliced strawberries in front of Molly. “Your breakfast, Mrs. Weasley.”
“Thank you, Jarvy,” Molly said in a rather monotone voice.
Jarvy stepped back from the table and was gone again.
“Still trying to challenge him, Mum?” Ginny asked.
“Honestly,” Molly leaned toward Ginny and whispered. “I ask for things I know we don’t have, and he just pops off to the Manor and gets them,” She said in a defeated tone. “I appreciate him, but I really want my kitchen back.”
Ginny patted her mother’s hand with understanding. “Just a couple weeks more, Mum,” She whispered back.
Ginny sipped from her mug closing her eyes for a moment savoring the warmth; then the moment was over. She turned to her Mother, who was hidden by the turned up paper. “Anything interesting in the Prophet?” She asked.
“More terrible reports out of Eastern Europe; things are really going badly there,” Molly said, and her voice broke.
Ginny pushed the paper down and looked at her mother. Tears were starting to slip down her cheeks. “What is it Mum?” she asked with concern.
“Oh, dear,” Molly patted Ginny’s hand now, “I’m just being overly emotional.”
“It’s Charlie, isn’t it,” Ginny said knowingly, “Has something happened?”
“No... Well, at least I hope not. We just haven’t heard from him in almost two months,” Molly wiped her face with a kerchief from her apron.
Ginny got up from her chair and moved to hug her Mother.
“It’s just...” Molly sobbed, “With all that’s happened in Romania and him way up in the mountains at that Dragon Reserve. I can’t help but worry what might have happened.”
Ginny patted her Mother’s back, letting Molly hold her as firmly as she needed to. “I wouldn’t worry too much, Mum. Charlie is way too clever to get caught up in anything he can’t get out of.”
“Here, here, well said Sis!” came a strong voice through the open kitchen window.
Molly raised her head almost in shock, “Charlie? She said.
The Garden door flew open and in walked a rather scruffy, bedraggled looking Charlie Weasley. He dropped a heavy rucksack on the floor with a thud and held out his arms for his expected hug.
“Charlie!” Molly screamed as she leaped from her chair and pulled her son into a massive embrace. “Oh Charlie is it really you? You’re here!”
“Yes Mum, It’s really me,” he hugged her back.
The sitting room door burst open. Arthur Weasley rushed into the room, wand drawn. “What’s all this?!” he was yelling. Behind him were Ron and Harry, also with wands drawn, and coming down the stairs across the room were Bill and Fleur, with Hermione close behind.
“Molly, step back,” Arthur commanded!
“But Arthur, its Charlie,” Molly protested!
“I see Molly, but we have to be sure,” Arthur insisted.
Charlie chuckled. “Right you are, Dad. Give me a test,” he said.
“I’ve got one,” Bill said from the doorway. “Your fifth year, after the final match for the Quidditch cup, I surprised you when I found you in an alcove just outside the Griffyndor Common room. What were you doing?”
“Snogging Cassie Hedgemour,” Charlie replied with a broad grin.
Everyone in the room laughed. “That’s our Charlie,” Bill said triumphantly.
The room erupted into a flurry of welcoming hugs. There were questions about where he’d been and how he’d gotten home.
“Hang on! Hang on,” Charlie said loud enough to quiet the questions, “I’m not alone. I’ve brought company.” He stepped back to the still open door and waved in his unseen guests.
Two figures emerged from the morning mist and entered the kitchen. They were both covered by dark travelling cloaks with the hoods up, which made their appearance a little disconcerting at first. They quickly pulled back the hoods as they entered to reveal two women. Both had raven black wavy hair and bright sky blue eyes, the elder appeared to be in her mid to late thirties, had pleasantly angular features and dark olive skin. She was at least as tall as Charlie. The younger, who could not have been older than twenty, by appearance, had a rounder softer face and fuller lips with skin just slightly lighter than the elder. She was half a head shorter. They were both strikingly beautiful.
“Mom, Dad, everyone, this is Alexandrina Burgestikoff, Chief Keeper Trainer, and Second Chief Keeper, of the Romanian Dragon Reservation.” Charlie said formally.
The older of the two women bowed slightly. “There is no need to be so formal Charles. Please to call me Alex,” her voice was throaty, and heavily accented. “I believe I met your parents when they ‘wisited you at the reserve,” she nodded specifically to Molly and Arthur, who smiled with recognition.
“This is her daughter, Helena,” Charlie said, gesturing to the younger woman.
Helena curtsied; “I am very pleased to meet you all,” Helena’s voice was much softer and far less heavily accented.
Charlie took Helena’s hand. “When we were forced to flee the Reservation, I refused to leave Helena behind,” he said, smiling at the young woman, and then at his family.
“And I ‘vould not be parted, in such dark times, from my only child,” Alex added.
“I insisted that they would be welcome here,” Charlie finished.
“Of course, of course,” Arthur spoke up, “please come in, sit, eat, you all look a bit travel weary.”
Everyone crowded around the large kitchen table, which was now suddenly laden with several breakfast platters. There were introductions all around and many, many questions.
Arthur sent Patronus messages to Fred, George and Percy. About twenty minutes later the twins Apparated to The Burrow eager to see their older brother.
After everyone had finished eating, Molly offered to let Charlie and the Burgestikoffs get cleaned up, and asked if they needed to sleep, but her offer was politely refused. Charlie asked that Mad-Eye Moody be contacted. They wanted to give him a report on the situation in Romania, and both women were eager join the Order of the Phoenix.
Upon receiving the Patronus, Moody arrived by Floo equally eager to receive their report.
Moody came through the sitting room fireplace in a swirl of green smoke and flying ash, followed by Remus Lupin. Harry suspected that Moody rather liked the more dramatic entrance of the floo as he could have easily Apparated. There were perhaps advantages to arriving inside over possibly being seen arriving outside, but as no one had ever brought it up, Harry was inclined to think it was more about drama.
Moody dashed his coat for ashes, which had the effect of creating more of a cloud around him, than clearing any actual debris from his coat. His magical eye scanned the room.
Lupin straightened himself behind the more imposing Moody.
Before any introductions could be made Alexandrina stood up, “Alastor Moody, you old reprobate. I have not seen you since the Skorzeny case in 1972, yes? You still like the dramatic entrances I see.”
The room went quiet as everyone looked between Alex and Moody. Harry could not suppress a soft chuckle, his suspicions confirmed, which brought Moody’s magical eye straight to him. He quickly straightened himself.
“Alexandrina Dalca, it’s been a long time,” Moody said. “I heard you gave up your Auror post to go chasing dragons with that boy, what was his name, Burgestikoff?”
“I married him,” Alex replied.
“And how is Grigori?” Moody asked congenially.
“Alas, he is no more, killed by his own dragons some fifteen years ago,” Alex said sadly.
The room was silent again.
“You knew my father, Sir?” Helena broke the silence.
Moody looked between mother and daughter. “And who have we here?”
“Helena Burgestikoff, Sir,” Helena stood and bowed slightly.
“Yes,” Moody looked between mother and daughter again, then smiled kindly, in as much as it was possible for him to do so. “Yes, I knew your father before your parents were married... Only briefly, you understand. Still, I may have a few stories you would like to hear.”
Helena smiled brightly and sat back down next to Charlie.
“Now, as nice as it is to renew old acquaintances, I’m here for a report on the situation in Romania,” Moody said.
Everyone listened intently as Charlie began to explain what they had seen happening and how they had escaped. The Wizarding Ministries in that part of the world, for some time, had been slowly falling under the influence of Lord Voldemort. While there was Death Eater activity, there seemed to be far less of it as there was already much more conflict and ethnic tension inherent in the whole of Eastern Europe.
Among the Wizards of the area, these ethnic tensions had already manifested as anti-Muggle sentiment, so the roots of Voldemort’s agenda was much nearer the surface; a flame, ready to be fanned.
As Voldemort gained more and more influence over regional leaders, there came the rise of a political faction that drew upon anti-Muggle sentiments. It grew so terrible that all Muggle-borns and suspected Mixed-bloods became subject to a registry and were eventually made to wear a badge that identified them. A yellow “M” for Muggle-born, and a red “M” for Mixed-blood. In the previous few months things had become so bad that Muggle-born Witches and Wizards were being rounded up and forced to live in particular areas separate from the rest of Wizarding society. Sanctioned gangs of “pure-blood” Wizards began scouring the country to hunt down the un-registered.
When they came to the Dragon Reserve they had a list of names, including names of suspected sympathizers.
“Alex feared that my name would be on that list,” Charlie said, “and she was right! I hid up in the mountains in one of the Dragon caves, along with other non-Romanian Trainers.”
“They were very interested in capturing Charles and taking him for questioning,” Alex continued. “They separated a few of our apprentice trainees for registration, they ‘vere not kind. One of the men protested and was killed on the spot,” she paused. “When they could not find Charles, they became very angry. We told them that he had fled, along with the other international trainers at the reserve, to return to his homeland. They called us all sympathizers and threatened to take us all away, but I was able to convince them that we had been abandoned there. They burned our station and all of the buildings, and told us to go to our homes for a census.”
“After they had gone,” Charlie cut in, “we escaped across the reserve eastward. We stayed in the mountains as long as we could, following the Carpathians North into Ukraine. From there, we went east again, travelling like Muggles to avoid any magical detection. Most of the group split off to go to their respective countries. Only Hans Jorgensen remained with us. We slowly made our way into Russia and eventually north to St. Petersburg. After a few days hiding there, with Hans’ contacts, we were able to cross into Finland and get on a Muggle ship from Helsinki to Stockholm. In Sweden, Hans helped us get across the country to Oslo, where we said our goodbyes and boarded a ship from there to Newcastle. We arrived this morning and felt it would be safe to Apparate here. So, here we are.”
After the story had been told, Moody had lots of questions. They discussed the goings on in Eastern Europe in greater detail for some time.
Eventually the Twins excused themselves and left to open their shop. Molly peeled away, taking Ginny and Hermione to go make the Twins old bedroom suitable for guests.
By lunch, Moody seemed satisfied that he understood everything Charlie and the Burgestikoff’s could tell him and everyone gathered in the Kitchen for a good meal.
After lunch, before Moody and Lupin departed, Harry was able to catch them for a word about the Manor. Moody brought up a few security concerns about holding Bill and Fleur’s wedding there, but reluctantly conceded that there could be nothing nefarious found about the Manor. He agreed that Harry could visit as he liked without escort.
When Fleur came into the sitting room, complaining loudly about some fabric that was, unfortunately, unavailable, and insisting that someone must have nicked her seating chart; that was everyone’s cue to make their departures.
Harry went upstairs to retrieve the Portis Omnibus from beneath his bed. On his way back down he overhead Bill and Charlie talking in Bill’s room. His curiosity made him stop to listen.
The conversation was about women and marriage. Bill was saying something about “The Bonding” that Harry did not understand. Charlie reassured his brother that it was nothing to worry about. If it hadn’t happened yet, it surely would in its place during the ceremony. Then he confessed that it had already occurred between him and Helena, which was the whole reason that he had not returned to England alone. Bill congratulated Charlie, but Charlie quickly asked him to keep it quiet for a while so that none of the focus would come off the wedding, saying that he did not want to steal any of Fleur’s excitement. At that point, Harry felt terribly guilty that he was eavesdropping. He continued on his way down the stairs.
When Harry got to the sitting room, Fleur and Helena were sitting together going over the guest list and seating chart in rapid French. Fleur called to him and asked once more if her guests must arrive at The Burrow. Harry assured her that there was no other way, but that he and the Twins were working out a plan to make the transfer of guests to the Manor more befitting the event than coming through The Burrow kitchen. Fleur seemed unsure but agreed that she must trust Harry on this, and asked if the owls might be ready to begin delivering the invitations.
Harry nodded, then gathered up the stack of invitations and took them to the kitchen. There he, Ginny, Hermione and Ron separated them into stacks by location. There was no need to call the owls as they appeared on the kitchen window sill shortly after the sorting had started. Hedwig was given the large pouch of international invitations, which needed to be delivered to the International Owl Post Office, near Dover. The rest were divided so that Kyne could make deliveries to the North, Pig could make all the local deliveries and Hedwig would finish deliveries to the South once she returned. Errol, unlike the other owls, seemed utterly disinterested, so he was given only the task of delivering to the family, which meant the Twin’s apartment, Percy’s flat, and Aunt Muriel’s.
With the owls happily on their way, Mr. Weasley gone to work and Bill and Charlie apparently hiding in Bill’s room. There remained only Molly and Fleur who seemed to be deeply entrenched in wedding planning in the sitting room. The Burgestikoffs had finally retired to the Twins’ room for a badly needed rest.
The quartet decided that, with the restriction lifted, there was nothing stopping them from slipping off to the Manor for the afternoon. They left a note on the Kitchen table saying they would be back for supper, and off they went.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Hermione had insisted on showing Ron the Library right away. Ron was extremely impressed, though there was no hiding that any size library would still just be a collection of books to Ron.
More rewarding was the reaction of the Dumbledore card, which Harry had remembered to bring with him. He had not brought it on any previous visits as they had all been escorted and the existence of the Dumbledore base was to remain secret for the time being. Harry set the Collector’s base on one of the central tables in the Library and dropped in the card. Harry had already described much of the Manor to Dumbledore, but seeing it now the little card was suitably impressed. He readily agreed that the Library was easily larger than the one at Hogwarts.
They fell into an easy conversation about what had been happening over the last couple of weeks, bringing Dumbledore current on events in Europe and activities at The Burrow. Including what they had just heard from Charlie and the Burgestikoffs’. Harry apologized that he had not had the base out very much because of fear he would be discovered at the busy Burrow.
Dumbledore dismissed his apologies politely, agreeing “It was indeed prudent.”
After a short time, they began to discuss the need to locate and begin to destroy the remaining Horcruxes. They reviewed what they knew, at which point the Dumbledore card surprised them by declaring that it thought it knew the identity of, R.A.B.
“It occurred to me Harry, when you first recounted the story at your Aunt and Uncle’s house. Our mysterious R.A.B. may very likely be Regulus Arcturus Black, Sirius’ younger brother,” Dumbledore said. “He was a fine boy and a good student at Hogwarts, though he and his brother seldom saw eye-to-eye. He was in Slytherin House, and he was young when he became a Death Eater,” Dumbledore sighed. “Very sad; still, if he had somehow become aware of Voldemort’s efforts to conceal Horcruxes, it might have been enough to cause him a change of heart.”
“Hey, hang on,” Ron cut in, “fifth year, summer at Grimmauld Place; do you all remember the cleaning Mum made us do?”
Harry, Ginny and Hermione nodded.
“In the drawing room, in the glass cabinets there were lots of magical objects. Do any of you remember a locket? The one none of us could open?” Ron asked.
“I remember it,” Ginny interrupted, “it was a heavy thing, gold, and it had a snake on it, made kind of an ‘S’.”
“You think we had it right then, and we just didn’t know it?” Hermione questioned.
“That could very possibly be,” Dumbledore said concernedly, “which would mean that a search could be made of Grimmauld Place.”
“But, didn’t Sirius chuck it in the rubbish sacks with everything else?” Ron asked.
“Then who knows where it could be,” Hermione said, sounding a bit defeated.
“Kreacher probably nicked it from the rubbish. I can ask him for a start,” Harry said.
“Very good, Harry. That is at least a beginning,” Dumbledore said.
Together they determined that they needed to somehow uncover the location of Helga Hufflepuff's golden cup, and do some research to try to find candidate items that could have belonged to the remaining Founders, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Godric Gryffindor.
Additionally, Hermione wanted to find out everything she could about Horcruxes, especially how they were made, and how they might be destroyed. She wasted no time at all uncovering books with sections on dark magic.
In the Hogwarts’ entire Library, Hermione had only uncovered one reference to Horcruxes. In the Manor Library, she was able to find three within twenty minutes. They were all references, none giving any more information than they already knew. Still, it made Hermione tremendously hopeful that she would be able to find much more.
Dumbledore proposed caution on the matter, but he too seemed genuinely interested in what the Library might be able to offer.
As the afternoon wore on, Ginny, Ron and Harry, grew a little weary of searching through the shelves. They decided they wanted to go check out the Manor’s Quidditch pitch. When they suggested taking a break to Hermione she grumbled a little and told them to go ahead without her.
Likewise, the Dumbledore card chose to remain in the Library. There was a large book propped up before it and a bluish Pixie was lazing nearby chomping on a gumdrop and obediently turning pages.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The Quidditch Pitch was a full regulation size field, complete with six observation towers each containing seating for up to fifty. The whole oval pitch was surrounded by bleachers, and there were identical locker rooms on either side.
“Blimey Harry, this is a full professional set up,” Ron observed as they walked through the first locker room, toward the actual Pitch. “We could get in loads of practice here,” he beamed.
Along one of the walls was a series of team photos from matches that had been played on the Pitch. Ron was surprised and pleased to see nearly every UK team represented there. Including, his beloved Canons.
Ginny discovered the door to the equipment room and was surprised to find it unlocked. She slipped in and came back out with a broom. “Look at this old thing,” she said releasing the broom so that it hovered at her side. It was actually quite a pleasant broom, well finished, straight and presumably accurate. But it was, as Ginny described it, old. “There are about twenty of these in there,” she nodded to the doorway.
“That’s a Moontrimmer,” Ron exclaimed! “Those predate the Cleansweep series. The only place I have ever seen one is in the Quidditch Museum.”
“Well, it makes sense with the Manor closed all this time,” Harry said, “I suppose all the equipment is outdated?”
Ginny smiled and nodded. “There are pads and robes in there too, but they all belong in the Quidditch Museum.”
Ron pushed past Ginny and entered the equipment room. He returned with two more Moontrimmers. “She’s right, Mate,” Ron said, “that’s a room full of relics, that is.” He handed one of the brooms to Harry.
They stepped out onto the pitch and mounted their brooms. Ginny was first to kick off, followed by Harry and Ron. They arched into a lazy turn clockwise around the pitch. They flew in formation two turns around.
“Feels good to be back on a broom, don’t it?” Ron yelled. Harry and Ginny smiled nodding their heads in agreement.
“Pretty stable brooms, but I doubt they’re very fast,” Ginny called.
Harry flew up close to Ginny, smiling. He leaned over toward her. Ginny leaned in, thinking he was about to say something. “Tag, you’re it!” Harry yelled, lightly tapping Ginny’s leg. He zoomed straight up into an overhead arc and came over heading the opposite direction. Both Ginny and Ron stared for a moment, both impressed by Harry’s maneuvers on the old Moontrimmer. Then Ron, catching on, darted off across the Pitch. Ginny swung around and came after her brother, chasing him up around one of the towers and past one set of goal posts. They were all laughing happily.
Harry came around the opposite direction and passed between her and Ron, and she reached for him, but he was just out of arm’s length.
Ginny rolled and arched upward building height above Ron, then she leaned into her broom handle and dived, gaining speed. She slipped right up behind him and slapped him on the arm. “Tag,” She yelled as she darted away in a rapid turn.
Ron chased after Harry for a good couple of minutes, but every time he got close, Harry would roll away or flip over and dive, or arc upwards into an overhead turn. Ron knew he was outmatched trying to catch either of them, even on the old brooms.
Harry zoomed over when it seemed Ron was giving up. “Ron, don’t try to catch us, you’re a Keeper, fly the way you know how,” he yelled.
Ron gave that a few seconds thought and then he slowed almost to a stop. Ginny was laughing and swooping, she came along the pitch edge fast. She was a good three meters to Ron’s right. At the last second, Ron moved straight sideways to intercept her and tagged her arm as she zoomed past. “Tag,” He yelled triumphantly!
They had been chasing one another for what seemed a fairly short time, when Hermione appeared on the pitch below them. They all seemed to spot her at once, and they swept down to land near her.
As they dismounted, Hermione was pulling one of her faces that showed she would never truly appreciate the joy of flying. None-the-less, she was clearly happy to see them each enjoying themselves.
“You do know you have been out here over two hours, don’t you,” she asked. “I was starting to wonder where you’d gotten to.”
“Sorry Love, I guess we just kind’a lost track of time,” Ron genuinely apologized. He stepped right up to her happily and gave her a quick peck. Hermione blushed but kissed him back just the same.
They walked back through the locker room and put their brooms away. Harry had them take a quick inventory of the equipment and proposed that they should order new equipment to replace everything. Ginny and Ron were both quite keen on that idea, making mental notes about what would be needed. They closed up the locker room and started toward the Manor.
The two couples, each walking arm in arm made their way lazily up the manicured walking path to the garden entrance. They passed through the garden quickly and made their way to the entrance nearest the Library.
“Hermione,” Harry said as they were coming to the center of the room, “I’ve been thinking about the Hogwarts founders.”
“Yes Harry,” Hermione said in acknowledgement.
“How we might find out about things that they possessed... things that might have been good candidates for Horcruxes.” Harry said.
“And?” Hermione prompted.
“Well, I was thinking about the magic that my Grandparents used to conceal my family from interest, and to protect this place,” Harry continued. “And I wondered what sort of far reaching effects it might have had,” he paused. “This might sound dumb, but I wondered if it might have effected editions of books that came out after the Manor was hidden. Say like, Hogwarts: a History. I thought there might be earlier editions of such books in this Library that would contain things that have been inadvertently left out of newer copies.”
“That’s brilliant, Harry,” Hermione said excitedly, “I should have thought of that myself.” She began looking at the shelves, obviously considering Harry’s suggestion.
Harry went to the central table and asked the Dumbledore card if it was ready to head back to The Burrow.
“That would be fine,” Dumbledore responded.
Harry pulled the card from the slot and pocketed the pewter base.
“We had best head back for supper,” Harry said, stepping back to take Ginny’s hand. “We can look into that possibility when we come back again.”
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Once back at The Burrow, Harry headed directly upstairs to stow the Portis Omnibus beneath his bunk. As he hit the stairs, he could hear Ron and Ginny being recruited by their mother to help set up the garden for an outdoor dinner. He felt only slightly guilty for escaping before he could be recruited as well.
On his way back down, he heard a heavy thump come from Ginny’s room. It sounded as though someone had fallen to the floor. As he came to the open doorway, he found that he was not far wrong. Hermione was standing before her open school trunk and had dropped a rather large book onto the floor. He chuckled slightly at her stricken expression, and the way she was carefully checking the binding for damage. Her alarm quickly turned to relief upon finding it intact.
“Need any help in here?” he said casually as he entered the room.
“Oh! No,” she said slightly surprised. “Crookshanks startled me and my book slipped. But it’s okay.” The large Ginger fur-ball emerged from beneath Ginny’s bed indignantly, and meowed at her, almost as though, guilty or not, he didn’t appreciate being blamed.
“That’s a pretty big book,” Harry observed out loud.
“Yeah, it’s my copy of Hogwarts: a History,” Hermione replied. “I was just thinking about what you said, and I wanted to take a quick look at it before I search for a copy in the Manor Library.”
Harry plopped himself down on the window seat.
Not bothering to get up from the floor, Hermione turned so that she could lean against the bed. She picked up the thick tome and pulled into her lap. She thought Harry looked a bit pensive. “Is something the matter Harry?” she asked.
Harry looked up. “No, no. I was just thinking about the wedding.”
“Ah,” Hermione acknowledged, not quite knowing why Harry might have any thought at all about the subject.
“It’s just that... Well, I’ve never been to a wedding, Muggle or Wizard, so I really know nothing about them,” Harry said with the tiniest hint of embarrassment. “In fact, I would have to say that I don’t know much about marriage at all. Except what I have seen on the telly in very small bits; and that of course never seems to work out. Well, aside from couples who are older and have already been married quite a long time,” Harry laughed a little at himself.
“Hmm,” Hermione collected her thoughts. “That’s quite the subject Harry,” she seemed to be examining him intently from across the room, “any particular reason for the interest?”
Harry looked back at Hermione. She was smirking a bit mischievously. Harry didn’t understand what that was about, so he simply answered the question.
“Just the upcoming wedding is all... Oh, and then I overheard Bill and Charlie talking about something they called ‘The Bonding’ and it seemed to be connected to marriage somehow.”
“Really, Harry, sometimes I forget that while you are a Wizard, you weren’t raised in a Wizard home,” Hermione smiled. “Okay, I can tell you what I know, but it’s mostly from reading about it.” She set the heavy book off her lap back onto the floor. “Well, you do know what marriage is, it’s when a couple commits their lives together. You know married couples, like Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and your Aunt and Uncle. It seems like, in the Muggle world, marriage has become less and less meaningful over time. Or, at least, people seem to rush into it before they really know what they are getting into. That’s why the divorce rate among Muggles is something like thirty-five percent. The very first thing I suppose you ought to know is that there is no divorce in Wizard society. When a Witch and Wizard get married it is for life.”
Hermione adjusted herself against the side of the bed, crossing her legs. “The big difference seems to be, what’s called ‘The Bonding.’ It is some sort of magical connection that forms between a Wizard and a Witch when they are truly in love with one another. What I have read describes it as a linking of their souls so that they really and truly know one another.”
“So, like, they can read each other’s minds or something?” Harry asked.
“No, not really, at least I don’t imagine so. More like they know how each other feels about things. It’s supposedly an extremely intimate emotional connection. Some things I have read say that it makes it so that you cannot lie to someone with whom you are bonded. But, other sources have said that is not true. In any case, it is a unique magical connection.” Hermione paused, looking like she was trying to remember.
“So how does it happen?” Harry asked, taking advantage of the slight lull.
“Well, again, according to what I have read, it can happen pretty much any time within a couple’s relationship,” Hermione said, “though, it has sort of become the expectation that it happens either before, or during the wedding ceremony.” Hermione blushed slightly. “There is also some suggestion that it often happens when a couple first consummates their relationship physically. Which now-a-days seldom means on their wedding night.”
Harry shifted on the window seat and tugged a little at his collar.
“It doesn’t seem to be something a couple can control. There are lots of accounts of marriages were it hasn’t happened, and some where it’s happened years into the marriage. There are even a few accounts of it happening between people who never actually get married, and never have, what you would consider, a married relationship. But, the normal expectation is that it happens when a couple professes their love for one another in complete honesty. Therefore, it has become linked to the wedding ceremony. I don’t know enough about it to know if there is any sort of stigma associated with it not being evidenced in the ceremony,” Hermione paused again. “Oh, and it is extremely rare that it happens before the age of seventeen, which I guess has something to do with why seventeen is considered the age of adulthood in Wizard society.”
“Hmm,” Harry responded, “I guess I sort of understand now.” There was a brief silence. “Okay, but what about weddings? I still have never been to one,” Harry said.
“Well, I have only ever been to one or two myself,” Hermione smiled slightly. “From what I can tell there are not a lot of differences between Wizard and Muggle ceremonies. They still are highly formal affairs, with all the usual trappings, wedding gowns and wedding rings, and vows, etc. There will be a representative from the Ministry to preside over the ceremony just like a vicar would do in a Muggle ceremony. I have quite a bit of curiosity about it myself, and I am looking forward to witnessing Bill and Fleur’s ceremony.”
Harry still looked a little lost in thought.
“I can do a little more research about it if you are still curious,” Hermione suggested.
“Oh, no,” Harry replied, “I was just curious because I overhead Bill and Charlie.”
Crookshanks crawled up into Hermione’s lap. Hermione began to scratch at his neck in a way that he obviously enjoyed. Harry could hear the purring from across the room.
“Well, if you really want to know more, you could always ask Bill,” Hermione suggested. “After all, he’s the one getting married. Or, you could ask Charlie about bonding since he claims to be bonded with Helena. Personally, I kind of think that the bonding is nothing more than a variation on the Unbreakable Vow, and the rest is all an old wives tale.”
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The homecoming supper for Charlie was a modest affair. Between the Weasleys and the house guests, it was a large enough group that moving to the garden for a cook out was more comfortable than crowding the kitchen.
After the events of the day, everyone was eager to have a good relaxing meal and do some catching up.
The Twins showed up in time for the meal, and everyone enjoyed the warm company and laughter that was the Weasley family together. Even the Burgestikoff’s, who were the nearest to strangers among the group seemed to be extremely comfortable as though they had been family friends for years.
Harry wondered if that had something to do with the fact that Charlie and Helena were “bonded” even though that was not yet public knowledge. Harry made a mental note to ask Hermione or Dumbledore about it. Somehow, it didn’t seem to him to be a topic to discuss with Ginny.
As the meal got into full course, there was a set of soft “pops” near the garden gate and to everyone’s surprise Percy appeared along with Penelope Clearwater. He entered the garden gate and approached the table a bit nervously. Penelope remained at his elbow smiling congenially clearly there to support Percy.
Everyone stopped eating and looked at him in silence. Molly tried to get up, but Arthur held her arm and prevented it. She started to say something to Arthur, but he silenced her with a squeeze of the arm.
Harry glanced around the table quickly. Most everyone’s expressions were somewhat dumbfounded, but not angry. Ron looked a little angry, but not nearly as much as Harry would have thought. Clearly no one had expected Percy to turn up.
Ginny gave Harry’s hand a squeeze beneath the table. It made him wonder if he perhaps looked angry. He turned and smiled at her. She smiled in return.
Percy cleared his throat. “I have come this evening because I received your message Dad, and I wanted to see Charlie,” he paused. He appeared even more nervous now. “But also, because I knew that the whole family would be here,” he paused again clearing his throat once more. “Over the last couple of years as I have attempted to seat my career with the Ministry, there have been a great many changes, and in an effort to forward my position I have been guilty of siding against the family. It is easy to see with hindsight that I was wrong. I felt that my faith and loyalty needed to be with the Ministry, I thought that was the way it was supposed to be, that when you work for a man like the Minister of Magic you owe him your belief and loyalty completely. So even though it pained me to keep faith with the Minister against my own family, and friends, I convinced myself that it was the right thing to do.”
There were low murmuring reactions around the table, and at least one gasp from Mrs. Weasley. Percy pushed forward. “Time has proven out that the Ministry is no better than the perceptions, desires and fears of our elected leaders, and I find that I have been very guilty of following our leaders with blind devotion; so blindly, in fact, that I participated whole heartedly in forwarding their misguided agenda. I now understand that I helped to spread fear and delusion against a truth that fear and paranoia were preventing our previous Minister from facing. I realize that our leaders must be questioned and that blind faith accomplishes nothing when it flies in the face of the facts,” Percy stopped, as though he felt his was losing his point. He recomposed himself.
“I am happy to say that our new Minister appears to be embracing the facts. But, even the feeling that I am following a better leadership does not excuse my actions of the past. I have a better understanding now of what the facts are, but I have come to the conclusion that I must seek my own understanding. And, that I must make apologies where they are due. To that end, I have come here now to apologize for my lack of faith in all of you. Not because I now see that you were all right all along, but because I see that I was wrong. When I disagreed with you, it was because of my own ambitions, and because I failed to listen. I failed to give you the consideration that you deserved as individuals, and devotion that you deserve as family. I am truly sorry.”
Arthur released Molly’s arm, and she was up from the table, rushing toward Percy. She pulled him in to a huge embrace. Penelope stepped back a little and appeared to be crying happily.
Fred and George stood up at their spots at the table. Fred began, “Dad, family, if we may?” there was no real pause for an answer.
George continued seamlessly, “Percy, you have always been a bit of a git when it comes to rules and regulations and such. Personally, Fred and I have always found it a bit annoying.”
Fred picked up the thought, “Still, you are our brother, so we have always accepted you.”
George cut in, “Teased you terribly we know, but always accepted.”
Fred continued, “So we feel it is only fitting that we point out to you now that among your many habits, is a tendency to ramble when you are nervous, and to make the simplest of tasks, rather complicated.”
George finished, “All any of us really needed to hear, was a simple ‘I’m sorry’,” he paused to pick up his glass, indicating to everyone to do the same. “I think I speak for the whole family in saying, Welcome home, Percy.”
Everyone tipped their glass in agreement. “So, how many times did you practice that speech?” Fred asked, bringing a chorus of laughter from around the table. Percy gave him a wry, embarrassed smile.
Places were made for Percy and Penelope at the table. Food was passed, and by dessert it was as if there had never been a rift in the family.
There was a lot of catching up to do, as well as introductions to be made, and the meal continued well in to the darkness of the evening.
Once the dishes were cleared, and the tables put away, a large fire was built, and the camaraderie continued with a few bottles of fire-whisky that the Twins produced from their robes.
Arthur and Molly were the first to excuse themselves as they said their “goodnights,” reminded everyone, especially the youngest, not to stay up too late, and headed into the house to retire.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
In their room, Arthur and Molly were getting ready for bed. Molly stood at the window looking out on the garden where the fire still burned, and everyone was sitting around it. She casually dragged her hair brush through her hair.
Arthur came up behind her, hugging her, “Happy to have the whole family together in one place?”
“Oh, yes, Arthur. It’s wonderful,” she said with a sentimental catch in her voice.
“It’s going to be growing before too long, I would imagine,” Arthur said, “What with Bill marrying Fleur, and from the look of it Charlie is not far behind him with marriage plans.”
“And Percy too,” Molly replied, “From the way he seems bonded to Penelope.”
“I would hazard from the look of things that Harry and Hermione will become official members of the family eventually, though that can wait a good while as far as I’m concerned,” Arthur said.
“So you think we have a glimpse of the future, sitting right out there around a fire in the garden?” Molly said thoughtfully.
“I expect so,” Arthur said, pulling Molly from the window toward their bed.
Molly hummed a happy tune as she pulled back the covers and got into bed next to her husband.
Arthur reached out and flicked his wand from the nightstand causing all the lamps in the room to dim and flicker out.
“They are all nice matches, don’t you think?” Molly said in the darkness.
“Yes... Yes I think they are,” Arthur replied through a yawn.
“Even Fleur,” Molly asked hesitantly.
“Yes, Dear... Even Fleur,” Arthur said his voice drifting already.
There was a long silence, during which Arthur began to snore quietly.
“Arthur?” Molly said with a sudden sense of concern.
Arthur snorted but didn’t truly reply.
“What ever can we do about the twins?” Molly said.