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Brave New Hope by ARG
Chapter 66 : Epilogue
 
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A/N: And so here it is - the epilogue. It's been a long ride and I'd like to thank everyone who supported me. Thank you so much for everything!

29 August 2002

It was a busy day in 12 Grimmauld Place.

The pitter-patter or feet rushing from one place to another sounded throughout the whole house, as well as shouts of one person telling the other to hurry up.

“Sirius, the Portkey is leaving at ten sharp. That’s only twenty minutes away,” Mia shouted from their bedroom’s doorway at the same time as she put her earrings on.

“Relax, love. We’ll make it in time,” her husband’s voice came from the adjacent room.

“We’d better. Or else we’ll have to apparate outside the Borrow’s wards and wrestle all the reporters out of the way,” she replied, just as Mary came running into the room dressed in her flower girl dress.

“Mummy, I found my shoes,” she proudly declared, pointing at the feet.

Although her daughter brought good news, Mia couldn’t help frowning once she noticed the state of her hair – the hair Mia had fixed up just about ten minutes before. “Honey, what happened to your hair?”

Mary seemed confused for a moment, until she saw her reflection on the mirror behind her mother. “Oh… I found the shoes under the bed,” the five-year-old (five and a half, she’d insist) apologetically pointed out. “Sorry, Mummy.”

Mia sighed. “It’s okay, honey, but you need to be careful. Get up on that chair – I’ll fix it up for you in a moment after I call your brother down,” she said, heading to the door in order to howler for her son, deciding that it might be a good idea to keep the children within her sight until they left just in order to avoid more delays. “Alex, get down here!”

She made her way back to Mary at the same time as the sound of rushed footsteps on the stairs sounded in the background. As she started pulling pins out of her daughter’s long brown hair, using a hairbrush to comb it back into place, a solemn Alex made his way into the room.

With every year that passed, he was more and more like his father: all silky black bair, steely grey eyes and constantly up to something (rarely the good kind of something). In four years, he’d be heading into Hogwarts and likely become the bane of McGonagall’s existence… hers as well, if he made it into Gryffindor, which she didn’t doubt.

“These clothes are itchy,” he complained as he sat down on the foot of his parents’ bed already wearing his much-detested dress robes.

“I’m sure they’re not that bad,” his mother told him as she brushed his sister’s hair. “You just need to get used to them.”

“What do we have to get all dressed up for in the first place? It’s just Harry…” he pointed out. It was beyond him why they had to get all fancy for someone they saw practically every day and who required absolutely no flourishes in their day-to-day life.

“It’s just Harry getting married, honey. You’re supposed to dress up for weddings, especially when you’re the family of the groom.”

“Why? He hates dressing up too – he told me so when he had to go to that New Year’s thing for the Mistry.”

Ministry,” Mia corrected. “And you’re just supposed to, Alex. Besides, it’s only a few hours in dressing robes – it’ll hardly kill you.”

Alex huffed. “These clothes are stupid.”

“I think I look pretty,” Mary pointed out from the chair.

“You look like a girl,” Alex said, as if that was meant to be an insult. He was still on that phase when all girls were just plain icky – all girls except the ones he got along with well in a regular basis, whom he classified in his mind as ‘honorary boys’. “Can I take the floo to the Burrow now? I want to go play with Finn.”

“We’re not taking the floo today, honey. And you know you’re not allowed to use it on your own until you’re ten,” Mia told her son. “Besides, Darcy,” she said, insisting on using his son’s friend’s real name rather than the nickname Alex had come up with for the single purpose of not reminding himself too often that Darcy Finnigan was, in fact, a girl, “won’t get there for a while. She’s arriving right before the ceremony like all other guests.”

Alex groaned in return. “I hate weddings,” he commented.

“That’s ‘cause you’re dumb,” Mary replied.

“Mary!” Mia scolded her daughter in an aggrieved tone.

“I’m not. You are,” Alex said in return.

“Nobody is dumb,” their mother stated with a tone of finality. “Now, not another word about that or you’re both grounded.”

The two children went quiet, knowing their mother meant it, but that didn’t stop them from making faces at each other as Mia sighed, shaking her head.

A soft knock on the door caused her to look up and smile at who it was. “Quinn, sweetheart, come on in. Are you all ready to go?”

Young Quinn Evans, her godson’s young cousin, nodded as she stood at the door, wearing a pretty olive green dress. She still resembled her aunt Lily Evans quite a bit – softer features, bluer eyes and lighter hair, more strawberry blond than red, were the main differences that gave her away. “Dudley helped me with my hair,” she said.

The thought of burly Dudley Dursley helping a little girl with her hair would be laughable at best under normal circumstances. The thing was that circumstances were hardly normal for those two – seeing as for the past couple of years Dudley had been, for all intents and purposes, Quinn’s main caretaker, it wasn’t surprising he’d have gotten used to such things.

Petunia had remarried about two years after the war. After a rather exhausting divorce process, she’d found herself another man whose name Mia couldn’t recall – Dudley and Quinn usually referred him as ‘the Colonel’. It was more than just a nickname: apparently, that was actually the man’s rank, which he’d reached through his work at the army. He was, according to them, a decent enough man, not as nasty as Vernon had been but just about as dry as Petunia was – two peas in a pod, one might say.

His current assignment had him often travelling around the world, a lifestyle Petunia very much appreciated since she got to join him most of the time. Children, however, didn’t quite fit into the plan, so by then Quinn – who Petunia, despite her best efforts, couldn’t feel close to, mostly due to her inability to accept her daughter as the witch that she was – had been quickly shipped off to a boarding school near Newcastle. That fact might have been particularly heart-breaking for the little girl if Dudley, by then already working as a police constable in Epsom, hadn’t transferred to Newcastle, allowing her to spend most of her weekends out of school with him at his new flat, where he kept a room just for her.

With time, weekends had extended into small school breaks and, that year, into about five sixths of Quinn’s summer break, the rest of which Petunia had spent touring South America with the Colonel. She was actually still there, which led her to miss the wedding she certainly wouldn’t have gone to even if she was in Britain, Mia was sure.

Even though Quinn and Dudley were frequent guests in 12 Grimmauld Place, often visiting for birthdays and around the holidays, Petunia had always avoided their ‘abnormal’ company like the plague. She’d tried keeping her children away at first as well but Dudley’s defiance and her own lack of enough interest in the girl, which her son resented, had made her feeble attempts lack in success. That time, the plan was for them to stay over for the wedding and a couple of days afterwards, until Quinn was leave for her first year at Hogwarts.

“That’s very nice of him,” Mia said as she placed the pins back on Mary’s hair. “Is he ready to go too?”

Quinn nodded, making her way further into the room and taking a seat by Alex’s side. “He’s downstairs. Mum called – he’s talking to her on his phone,” she explained.

“What’s a phwone?” Mary asked, mispronouncing the word.

“A phone, Mary,” Mia corrected, slightly more familiar with the term.

“It’s a thing you use to talk to people when they’re not right next to you,” Quinn explained.

“Like a fireplace?” Alex asked.

“Hum… yes. But smaller. And without fire,” she said.

“That’s not a fireplace. If you don’t have fire, how do you see who you’re talking to?” Mary inquired, confused.

Quinn shrugged. “You don’t.”

“Well, that’s stupid,” Alex declared.

“Alex!” Mia scolded.

“You say it’s rude not to look at people when they’re talking to you,” he reminded his mother. “Isn’t it stupid to invent something that makes you have to be rude all the time?”

Mia stared at her son, realizing he sort of had a point. Not that he was all that concerned about politeness or lack of thereof – he probably was just glad to get a legitimate reason to say the word ‘stupid’.

“They probably just haven’t gotten to phones where you can see people’s faces yet,” Quinn offered. 

“Yes, I’m sure they’re heading that way,” Mia agreed before placing the last pin on her daughter’s hair. “All done again. And please be more careful this time.”

“´Kay, Mummy,” Mary said, climbing down from the chair.

“Alex, stop tugging at your collar,” Mia scolded her son, exasperated.

“But it’s trying to strangle me,” he replied.

Mia sighed, reaching for her wand. “Alright, come here – I’ll try to loosen it a little.”

He gladly got up, hoping to charm her mother into a few other changes, like getting rid of the whole dressing robes ensemble, and Mary quickly occupied his previous seat by Quinn’s side. “There’s something I don’t understand,” the little girl told Quinn in all seriousness.

“What?”

“If your brother is talking to your Mummy downstairs, why are you here and not there so you can talk to her too?” Mary inquired.

Mia looked up, alarmed that Quinn might be upset by the question. “Honey, Quinn probably doesn’t want to answer your questions all day,” she told her daughter.

“No, it’s alright,” Quinn said. She wasn’t downstairs to talk to her mother as well, because her mother wasn’t interested in talking to her. Of course, Mary would never understand it if she told her that, so she used one of the excuses Dudley had tried to feed her at first. “She’s in Bolivia now. Calls from there are very expensive – it’s best if Dudley talks for both of us.”

“Oh,” Mary mumbled.

“You have to pay to be able to talk to people?” Alex asked, frowning. “Muggles are weird.”

“I’m sure they’d say the same bout us,” Mia pointed out before turning to Quinn, hoping to intervene in order to change the direction of the conversation. “So, are you excited to be a bridesmaid today, Quinn?”

The young girl smiled and nodded – having Ginny inviting her to stand as one of her bridesmaids had probably been one of the highpoints of her still short life. She liked Ginny – she and her family were always nice to her and every once in a while she’d get her and Dudley tickets to go see her Quidditch games with Harry or Sirius, when her cousin couldn’t make it due to work. And, just a few days before, she and Izzy had even taken her to a sleepover in the flat they shared, where they were joined by the other bridesmaids, Luna and Hermione – it had probably been the most exciting night of her life. Her mother had said brides only wanted bridesmaids so they had someone to be nasty to when Quinn had mentioned being one during the short week she’d spent at her house during Summer break – Ginny was nothing like that, though. As far as she was concerned, her mother was the nasty one. “I’m just supposed to keep an eye on Mary and make sure she doesn’t ruin her flower girl dress, right? Other than standing by Ginny during the ceremony, I mean.”

Mia nodded. “Yes, the other bridesmaids can handle the rest. Just keep an eye on her and bring her to me if she gets dirty,” she instructed before turning to her daughter. “And you be a good girl to Quinn.”

“I’m always a good girl,” Mary said innocently, just as Sirius was walking in with her younger brother, Evan, on his hip. “Daddy, tell Mummy and Quinn I’m always a good girl.”

“She’s always a good girl when she’s not being precious little nightmare,” Sirius declared as he placed his nearly three-year-old son on the floor and let him walk over to Mia, to whose leg he latched on.

“Daddy!” Mary complained, pouting.

Sirius chuckled, approaching the pouting girl and picking her up just so he could place a kiss on her rosy cheek. “That’s okay, baby – Daddy loves you despite that,” he said before putting the no-longer pouty girl back on the floor and turning to Mia. “Everyone here ready to go?”

“I think so,” his wife responding before turning to Alex again and frowning. “For the love of Merlin, Alex, stop tugging at your collar. It can’t possibly still be strangling you.”

“It’s itchy!” he complained.

“It can’t be that bad. Your brother is practically wearing the same thing,” Mia argued before reaching down to pick up little Evan. “Are your clothes itchy, honey?”

Her youngest son shook his head. “No, Mama.”

She gave Alex a look. “See?”

“But he never complains about anything,” Alex said.

Mia sighed. Alex was right there – there was probably no child more agreeable in the world than young Evan Black. He was always happy, hardly ever threw tantrums or fussed when he was being dressed and he ate anything anyone put on his plate without as much as a frown… unless there were carrots involved, which was, all in all, fair enough. With their history of loud and stubborn children, she and Sirius had had to wonder if there was something physically wrong with him. Or mentally. Or… in any way. Turned out, there wasn’t – they were just blessed with a rather contented child who seemed to have avoided the dominant troublemaking genes that seemed to come with having Sirius for a father.

“Come on, kid – I know you hate the clothes but just think of what fun it will be to get them all dirty once all the pictures are taken,” Sirius told Alex, who started to look less sceptical.

“Sirius!” Mia scolded her husband.

“What? This is what cleaning charms were made for. It’s a fair compromise,” he pointed out before turning to his so again. “Don’t rip them, though – that’s harder to fix. You need to dip it into potion and it stinks… just don’t do it, okay?”

“Okay. Lots of dirt but no ripping,” Alex agreed, satisfied enough with the free card to get dirty all over.

“Perfect. Now, everyone under five feet tall get marching downstairs because the Portkey is off in ten minutes. Quinnie, would you mind terribly taking Evan down too? Your Auntie Mia and I just need a couple of minutes to have a word and we’ll be right down with you.”

Quinn nodded eagerly as Mia placed Evan back down on the floor. All it took was for the older girl to stretch her hand the toddler’s way and he running towards her, taking her hand as all four children walked out.

The moment they were on their own, Sirius turned to his wife and grinned. “See? All settled. Am I or am I not a top notch husband?”

“If Alex throws himself into the pond during his mission to ruin those dress robes, you’re the one who’ll be giving him a bath,” Mia warned him.

He chuckled at her and planted a soft kiss on her mouth. “Alright,” he easily agreed. And by the way, you look quite lovely today, Mrs Black,” he complimented her, taking a look at the midnight blue dress she was wearing.

“You think? Not too much for the acting mother-of-the-groom?”

He shook his head. “Never too much,” he assured her. “So, acting mother-of-the-groom, nervous about seeing your oldest cub getting married today?”

Mia sighed. “He so… grown up,” she said, feeling a nostalgic sensation in her chest. “Where has time gone? I feel like just yesterday Lily was holding him in her arms as a newborn.”

“Nice to see you’re willing yourself to forget the very stressing years that came between today and that ‘yesterday’ of yours,” he commented.

She sighed. “You know what I mean. He’s all grown up and getting married. And it just gets me thinking that tomorrow maybe it will be Izzy, and then Alex, and then…”

“Wow, hold on a minute,” Sirius stopped her. “Alex is seven and he’s yet to think of girls as anything but the scourge of the world – I’m pretty sure that one won’t be ringing the wedding bells for the next decade, at the very least. As for Izzy… well, unfortunately she does not consider boys the scourge of the world but she knows she’s not allowed to get married until she’s like fifty…” he found himself at the end of a strange look by Mia “…hum, forty?” Another look. “Thirty, then.” She still didn’t look satisfied with that. Sirius huffed. “Alright, let’s just say that she’s not engaged yet, so let’s not worry about that until she is.”

Mia sighed. She knew he had a point. “I’m being stupid, aren’t I?” she asked. “It’s not like this is only just starting today. I mean, Harry has lived on his own for quite a while and Izzy moved out even before he did. But now he’s starting a life with the girl he loves and someday soon a family of his own as well – it makes me really happy that he gets to do that but it also gets me a little nostalgic about that little boy who used to come running to get me every time Izzy as much as moved in her cot when she was a newborn.”

Sirius wrapped one arm around his wife, planting a comforting kiss at the top of her head. “He’ll always be that little boy deep down, love,” Sirius assured him. “Really – the first time you got cross enough at me to kick me out, all I wanted to do was to go and hide behind Judy Potter’s back. So, trust me, there will always be a time when he’ll come running to you, either it is when he first experiences the post-marital rage of Ginny or when his first kid does something really weird that completely freaks him out. Sooner or later, he will. And in the meantime, you can go on gathering future nostalgic material from Alex, Mary, Evan and any potential future child…”

“Don’t even try,” Mia warned, interrupting him with narrowed eyes. “Just because I’m a bit sentimental over my emptying nest, don’t think I forgot that you promised Evan would be the last child we have. I can’t keep popping out babies until I’m fifty, Sirius!”

“You’re a long way from fifty. Besides, it’s not my fault my boys are… accident prone,” he mumbled.

“They won’t be if I floo Elizabeth and have her set up an appointment with that healer friend of hers I told you about. Then no more ‘accidents’ – the actually accidental ones or otherwise,” she pointed out. “So, are you sure you want to make me doubt your ability to keep ‘accidents’ under wraps without need for intervention?”

Sirius gulped, shaking his head blankly. He cleared his throat. “We’ve got four minutes. We should go.”

His wife smiled, grabbing her coat and lacing her arm with his. “Glad to see we’re on the same page,” she told him before they walked out.

They ran straight into Dudley making it back into the living room just as they reached the ground floor. “Sorry, I had to step out – couldn’t get any decent reception in here,” he said.

“Don’t worry, you got here just in time,” Mia assured him as they entered the living room. “How was your mother, then?”

“The same as always,” he said blandly. “They’re moving on to Peru tomorrow.” He then turned to Quinn, who was looking back at him from the sofa with Evan on her lap. “Mum says for you to have fun.”

No, she didn’t, Quinn knew. She never said that kind of thing – not to her, at least. Dudley always made it up that she did so she wouldn’t feel bad. Quinn didn’t, in any case, but it made Dudley feel better that he thought she bought it, so she always went along with it. “That’s nice of her,” she said softly.

“Alright, then,” Sirius said. “Everyone grab your coats right now – better put them on while we get through the Portkey journey. Alex, you and your brother are with your Mum. Mary, you’re with me. Just hold on to us – don’t let go for anything in the world. The same goes to you,” he added, turning to Dudley and Quinn, the inexperienced ones in terms of Portkey travelling. “Hold on to the portkey. Don’t let go under any circumstance, okay? It’s going to be a little hard but it’s worth it if you want to avoid landing badly,” Sirius explained, making the siblings look rather nervous. “Oh, don’t worry. People hardly ever die from Portkey travel.”

That wasn’t particularly comforting either. “And… er, where exactly is that ‘portkey’ thing?”

“Oh, it’s right here,” he said, picking up a rolled-up rug was resting against a chair near the door. 

“Sirius, did you snatch that from the library? Lulu brought me that rug from Turkey last year!” Mia said, looking at him in annoyance once he unrolled it. “I thought you were using that old goblet you found in the attic.”

“I was, but with all of us, this is so much easier to grab onto. I promise I won’t ruin it. Really – if you want to, I’ll have Kreacher bring it back the moment we get there,” he said.

Mia sighed. “Kreacher has enough on his hands helping setting things up for the wedding today. But that had better make it back home safe and sound. It’s part of a set,” she warned him before turning to little Evan at the same time as Sirius got a hold of Mary. “Come here, baby. You too, Alex – hold onto my arm and don’t let go. It’s almost time.”

“Yes, thirty seconds to go,” Sirius confirmed, checking his watch. “Alright, everyone. Hold on tight.”

---

“Is it too late for me and Harry to just up and elope?” Ginny mused out loud.

Izzy peered at her friend over the magazine she was reading. The redhead sat at the window in her bathrobe, appearing quite thoughtful as she looked out of it. It was impossible to tell if she meant what she was saying as anything more than a hypothetical question. “Yes, it definitely is,” she replied.

Ginny turned to her, frowning. “How can you possibly be so sure of that? I have a broom, Harry does too, we’re both cleared to cross the wards. All it takes is me running down the hall and telling him to get a move on. He’ll go along with it in a blink of an eye.”

“What on Earth would you do that for?” Izzy asked in disbelief. “The worst part, which is the planning, is already over. Everything is ready. All you have to do now is put the dress on, walk down the bloody aisle and say your vows. Then it’s done – you’re Ginny Potter.”

“But does it have to be such a blasted circus? I can see the reporters rubbing themselves against the wards from here,” the redhead said in a frustrated manner, getting up and starting to pace.

“They can’t see us from there,” Izzy pointed out.

“Still, they’re making a spectacle out of it. You’re holding a magazine claiming to have ‘exclusive details’ about my wedding!”

Izzy threw said magazine into a nearby bin. “Sure, but we both know you’re not wearing a diamond-covered dress and arriving in a carriage pulled by winged horses that descend from the legendary Pegasus and were especially brought in from Greece. That would just be plain overboard,” she pointed out before sighing and standing up in order to approach her friend. She smoothed over the long olive-green bridesmaid dress she was already wearing and walked over to Ginny, placing her hands on her shoulders. “Look, we both know this is not about the press – you couldn’t care less about what they write. But you’re freaking out because you’re getting married and anyone who knows you well also knows that being nervous makes you angry – in this case, at the reporters themselves, who are a constant pain in your arse. So, you’re going to take a breath and you’re going to listen to me as I tell you five reasons why sticking it to them by eloping after all is not that good an idea.”

“Five reasons? You’ve just pulled five reasons out of your arse in the past thirty seconds,” Ginny asked sceptically.

“Yes, I’m that good. Want to see? Well, here it goes: number one – I’m pretty sure you and Harry making a run for it would actually be good enough a twist to have them selling more newspapers and magazines; number two – if you elope, your family won’t get to be there and you don’t want that; number three – Ron has already eloped with Hermione last year so it would look like you’re just stealing their idea; number four – Ron has already eloped with Hermione last year so you know how furious your mother was at the both of them; number five…”

“That one won’t count if you say Ron has already eloped with Hermione last year, so something or other will happen again,” Ginny stated.

“No. This one is actually about how I’m going to kill you if you make a run for it after all this wedding trouble.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Trouble my arse. Don’t think I don’t know why you and Ron were so on board with me and Harry naming Hermione as your co-maid of honour and co-best man at the same time. You were planning to delegate everything on her, which I know you did.”

“I most certainly did not. I spent over a week helping you decide which cake flavour was best because you and Harry had decided to have dinner at some tacky fish and chips place and caught food poisoning. I gained two pounds for you!” Izzy replied in outrage.

“Oh, I’m sorry. That must’ve been painful, eating cake for free,” Ginny said sarcastically.

“It was when I had to go jogging every day for a month to lose them again,” she stated just a moment before Ginny’s old bedroom door burst open all of a sudden and closed itself back only seconds later with no one apparently entering the room in between. “What the…?” She didn’t have to finish the question as, seconds later, Harry was removing his invisibility cloak from over himself. “Harry!” she said, her voice taking a more scolding tone than an excited one. “Get out! You’re not supposed to see the bride before the wedding – it’s bad luck!”

“Don’t worry. I’ve made a deal with the universe – I’ll forgive it for all the trouble it gave me during the first seventeen years of my life and in return it won’t let anything muck this day up,” he replied in an easy-going manner. “Besides, I think that only applies if she’s wearing a wedding dress, which she’s not.”

“It’s easier to make a run for it when you’re not wearing a huge dress,” Ginny replied with a devious smile.

Harry paled as Izzy just huffed, taking back the seat she’d been occupying before. “What?”

“Oh, don’t worry. If went forward with it, I’d take you along,” Ginny assured him.

“Well, you’d better not go forward with it because it is my job as maid-of-honour to kill you both if this wedding doesn’t go through,” Izzy informed them.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not. And you know I could arrest you for that, right?” Harry said, taking a seat on Ginny’s bed. “Threatening a law-enforcement officer is a crime.”

Izzy grabbed one of Ginny’s discarded slippers from the floor and threw it at him.

“Oh, looks like you can add battery to the mix,” Ginny said, sitting by her soon-to-be-husband’s side. “Battery is a big deal when the Saviour of the Wizarding World is concerned. Wasn’t there a rumour that they added an extra life sentence to Yaxley because he tried to kill you while you were on a mission to capture him?”

“That was blown a little bit out of proportion. They were just deliberating between twelve and thirteen life sentences and the fact that he was a bloody menace during his capture was what swung them to the thirteen side,” Harry explained. “To be fair, I’m pretty sure he only needed one of those.”

“Who knows? Maybe he’s planning to give you a run for your money and raise from the dead repeatedly,” Izzy pointed out.

“How many times do I need to tell you that I did not raise from the dead?!” he said in annoyance. “Not… fully.”

“Hum, hum,” Izzy mumbled, sounding unconvinced. “Anyway, what are you doing here, challenging centuries of tradition by chatting up the bride right before the weeding?”

“I was bored of being on my own,” he said.

“On your own? I thought Ron and Hermione were with you,” Ginny said. “Hermione clearly said she was going to check up on you when she left this room like fifteen minutes ago.”

“She did. But then when she was going through her third checklist, we realized Ron had forgotten the rings at their flat and he had to go back to get it. And since he’s still physically paying for all the drinking he had last night, Hermione went along to make sure he wouldn’t splinch himself on the way.”

Ginny snorted, expecting nothing less of her brother. “I told you letting him hold on to the rings was a bad idea.”

“You did, so I put a locator charm on them. If he lost them, I could always find them,” Harry assured her. “But, anyway, what about the other bridesmaids? Aren’t most brides supposed to be surrounded by them right before weddings?”

“Do I look like one of those brides to you?” Ginny asked in return in a rhetorical manner.

He chuckled. “You don’t look like ‘one of those’ anything to me.”

“Good answer,” the redhead told him. “Anyway, Luna’s being Luna and you know she’s never on time for anything these days. As for Quinn, you know she’s coming with Sirius and Mia. And, finally, Fleur is in labour, so I’m pretty sure she won’t make it.”

“Really?” Harry asked, surprised. “Ron and Hermione didn’t mention it.”

“Of course they didn’t,” she said. “Ron can’t process anything in that big head of his when he’s hung-over even if it was the fact that his clothes were on fire and Hermione is freaking out over every detail of this wedding.”

“Do you think she may be vicariously living all the stresses of planning an actual wedding through you?” Izzy asked her best friend.

“It could be,” Ginny offered. “If it is, it works for me. Anyway, Mum went over there to Shell Cottage to get Victoire and said the healer told her it should take a handful of hours for the baby to come. She’s going to keep checking in before the ceremony and during the reception,” the redhead explained, finishing just as a knock sounded on the door, causing Harry to start looking for his invisibility cloak so he could conceal himself under it again.

Ginny, sweetie, are you decent? Can Sirius and I come in?” Mia’s voice asked through the door.

“Just a second!” she called back, helping her fiancé cover himself and backing him into a corner of the room as Izzy snickered unhelpfully on her chair. “Alright, you can come in now.”

The door clicked open and Mia stepped in, followed by her husband. “Good morning, girls. Ready for the big day, Ginny?”

“As ready as I’ll get,” the redhead said. “I could do without the reporters surrounding the wards, though.”

“Couldn’t we all?” Sirius asked as he reached down to greet his oldest daughter with a kiss at the top of her head. “Hey, not to alarm anybody, but does any of you know what happened to Harry? I’m pretty sure it’s not a runaway groom kind of situation, but we went to Ron’s room and it was empty.”

“Oh… er, maybe he went to the loo?” Ginny suggested in a rather unconvincing tone, her usual ability to lie under stress failing her. Maybe the fact that Harry was literally standing right behind her nearly breathing down her neck had something to do with it.

“Yeah, maybe he did,” Izzy agreed in a very unhelpful fashion.

There was a moment of awkward silence.

“He’s right here in this room with us, isn’t he?” Sirius asked as soon as the moment was over.

Just like that, Ginny gave up on the pretence and pulled the cloak from over Harry without a warning.

“Hey! My glasses are stuck!” he complained as the cloak uncovered him, bringing his spectacles down with them. He managed to loosen them after a few seconds and put them back on his face, standing there looking at his godparents from behind Ginny. “Hum… hi?”

Mia sighed. “Why am I not even surprised?”

“Does that mean you’re not going to yell at me?” he asked, tentatively.

“Why would she? We saw plenty of each other right before our own wedding,” Sirius pointed out before his face turned thoughtful.

“Sirius!” Mia said in a scolding manner.

“What?” he asked, genuinely surprised his sentence granted him a scolding. Then, it hit him. “Oh, I didn’t mean that in a dirty way! Honestly, why does everyone have to assume I’m always saying something filthy?”

“It’s just something on your face, Dad,” his daughter pointed out.

“Don’t make me ground you, Isabelle. Just because you have a job and a flat of your own, you’re not too old for that yet,” Sirius warned her.

Anyway,” Mia said, rolling her eyes at her husband’s threats. “We just came by to see if any of you needed anything. Maybe a pep talk or a hand getting ready…”

“Or a quick way out of here,” Sirius jokingly offered, earning himself a smack on the side by his own daughter, which caused him to yelp and glare at her. “Oi! I’m the grownup here.”

“That’s debatable. And don’t encourage them, Dad,” Izzy told him.

“What? Is there something going on that we’re not aware of?” he asked, turning to the couple. “Should we prepare ourselves for a wedding reception without an actual wedding?”

Ginny chuckled, turning to look at Harry, who shrugged, as if saying it was up to her. “You know what? I think we’re good,” she told Sirius after a few seconds. “It would take us far longer to find somewhere to elope than just going through with things here. Plus, we wouldn’t want you to have to find your way back into Azkaban just to visit your daughter because she was incarcerated for murdering us like she promised would if we didn’t go through with this wedding.” She gave Izzy a grin, which was responded to with a narrow-eyed look.

“I’d make it look like an accident,” she assured her best friend.

“That never works,” Harry casually informed her, as if they weren’t discussing his potential murder at all.

“I’d make it work,” Izzy replied.

Mia cleared her throat. “Do I need to give you all a time out? Here I was, a little overwhelmed that my two oldest children are all grown up, but apparently I must’ve been thinking of someone else’s kids.” To be fair, she had to admit that she was glad to see Harry and Izzy bicker – it just served to convince her that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. It made her feel like smiling but, in order to remain faithful to the scolding moment she’d just had, she sighed instead. “Alright, then. Do any of you know where Molly is? I should see if she needs a hand with anything.”

“She probably could but good luck finding her,” Ginny said. “She’s running around the place like a chicken with its head cut off. I thought I was the one who was supposed to be acting like a nutter today.”

“Shall I refer you to the moment you were having about ten minutes ago?” Izzy asked. “Something to do with reporters and elopements…”

“Do you want to compare that to the way Fleur acted on her wedding day?" Ginny reolied.

“In any case,” Mia interrupted them, “I should really go and find Molly. I’ll come check on you both again before the ceremony, but if you need anything…”

“We’ll open a window and call for you,” Harry said. “We’re fine. Now go and enjoy all the stress of being mother-of-the-groom for the day.”

Something warmed up inside Mia upon hearing Harry calling her his mother. Calling her ‘Mum’ or ‘his mother’ wasn’t something that naturally slipped out of his month. He’d tried shortly after the end of the war but it had all felt very… forced. It wasn’t that he felt about her as anything less than his mother – he’d just spent such a long time calling her ‘Aunt Mia’ (a habit she’d encouraged as a way to never let him completely drift apart from the memory of Lily as his original mother) that the title ‘Mum’ had just sort of… mutated into it. He’d been rather frustrated upon realizing that at first, given that he’d made her a promise he’d start calling her ‘Mum’ if he made it though the war, but she’d quickly let him off the hook, though. At the end of it, she knew she’d never resent him but whenever one of those rare natural references of her as his mother slipped out of his mouth, it just felt like a little bit of heaven.

And, as the little bit of heaven it was, she couldn’t help approaching Harry and enveloping him with a hug. “You’ve come such a long way,” she whispered. “I hope you know how proud we are of you. And how proud Lily and James would be too.”

“Thank you,” was all he could say in response before she pulled away, moving on to hug Ginny as well and drop a few ‘thank yous’ to her as well.

“Alright, then, better be off,” Mia said, heading to the door a few seconds later.

Sirius jumped in immediately. “Do you want me to…?”

“No need, you can stay. I’ll see you later,” she quickly dismissed him on her way out, her tone a little strangled.

“Was she starting to cry?” Harry asked, mildly alarmed at his godmother’s exit.

“It’s an emotional day,” Sirius simply let him know. “Well, I’ll get out of your hair too. Izzybel, come along – I need your help for something.”

“What?”

Something. Come on, I don’t have all day,” he said, grabbing her arm and pulling her up, all but dragging her behind him as he walked out.

Izzy only had the strength to hold on to the doorway long enough to give Harry a warning. “Don’t you ruin her hair. It took like a half hour to do – if I have to explain to Molly why it needs to be done again, I’m throwing you under the bus.”

“Nice to know,” he replied dryly just before leaving her line of sight.

Once they were already on the stairs, making their way down, Izzy shot her father an inquisitive look. “So? What are we doing? I can’t be too far – Ginny will need my help getting into her wedding dress.”

“Don’t worry. We’re just going for a little walk. I won’t take you too far,” Sirius assured her.

Izzy narrowed her eyes at his response. “A walk? You wanted my help with a walk?”

“Er… I have a terrible sense of direction?” he replied, phrasing it more like a question.

“Bollocks. You could find your way out of a labyrinth blindfolded,” she called him on it. “You just wanted to leave them alone, didn’t you?”

“So what if I did? Pleasant as you are, I’m sure Harry didn’t sneak into Ginny’s room to enjoy your company.”

“Funny how when Harry is concerned, you’re all in to help him get a snog but when it’s me, you’re all shock and horror,” she pointed out

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he flat out lied.

She chuckled dryly. “I’ll be sure to remind you of that later,” she promised.

They reached the ground floor just in time to see Remus and Tonks walking into the house.

“Ah! There’s my favourite Lupin!” Sirius said in a cheery tone.

Remus sighed. “I’m going to assume you don’t mean me,” he said.

“Or me,” Tonks added, rolling her eyes.

“Well, now that you’ve finally given me the godchild I’ve been requesting for so long, I’m honour-bound to like her more than any of you,” he said, just as Remus placed the portable bassinet on the sofa. He approached, peering into the bassinet only to find himself looking back at the sleepy ten-day-old baby girl inside. “Well, hello there, gorgeous. Remember me?”

The little girl just stared back with tired blue eyes before yawning and closing them, apparently ready to drift off to sleep.

“Looks like you haven’t made much of an impression on her so far,” Izzy told her father, who narrowed his eyes at her.

“I’ll have you know I just have a very soothing presence,” he replied before turning to Remus. “So, where’s the little Marauder? The other one, I mean.”

“Oh, already marauding about with your kids, as usual,” his old friend replied. “By the way, is it true you gave Alex a free card to completely destroy his dress robes after he’s done with pictures? Because he seems to believe you did.”

“As long as he just gets them dirty and doesn’t tear them apart, it’s fair game,” Sirius replied.

“Well, thanks, then, because Teddy wants in on the deal,” Tonks pointed out. “I swear if he covers himself with mud head to toe, I’m sending him over for you to clean up.”

“Go ahead. Cleaner is my middle name. Speaking of which, have you two settled on a name yet or do I have to keep referring to this little bundle of joy as ‘the nameless little girl also known as my goddaughter’? Honestly, who takes over a week after their baby is born to decide on a name?”

“Oh, just stuff it, Sirius. Not everyone is instantly struck by naming inspiration the moment they lay eyes on the kid,” Tonks pointed out. It had been the opposite on their case – they’d had a name picked out but, the moment they lay eyes on her, she just didn’t look like a Caroline. “But, as a matter of fact, we did settle on a name just yesterday. Libby.”

“Aw, that’s a great name,” Izzy said. “Hi, Libby,” she said, tickling the little girl, who flailed her little limbs around in response.

“Wait a second,” Sirius said, turning to Tonks. “Do you mean Libby as in short for… Liberty?”

Tonks narrowed her eyes. “So what if it is?” she challenged him.

“Oh, nothing other than the fact that it was one of the first names on my list of ‘Cliché post-war names my godchild shall not have’, right next to Freedom, Victory, Justice and other equally overused names ever since we won the war. Did you actually call your own child Liberty just to annoy me?”

“Well, you were just asking for it, weren’t you? Besides, Liberty is a perfectly decent name,” Tonks replied.

“I bet that’s what your mother thought when she called you Nymphadora!” he said.

The metamorphagus looked at him in complete outrage. “At least ‘Liberty’ is something you can find in a dictionary!”

“Most decent names are not supposed to be found in dictionaries!”

“Well, fine – here’s a suggestion: if you want naming rights so badly, why don’t you go make another kid with your wife and leave me alone?”

“I can’t! She won’t let me!” he said in exasperation, to his daughter’s mortification.

“Okay! I am going back from where I came from before I die of embarrassment,” Izzy announced, positively horrified. “Thank you for that, by the way, Dad.”

“Hey, she started it!” Sirius protested as his daughter made her way back up the stairs. The moment she was out of his side, he turned to the metamorphagus and glared. “Bad Tonks. And shame on you, Moony, for letting your nutter of a wife do such a thing to your own child,” he added, turning to Remus. “Shame on you.” And, just like that, he promptly walked out of the house, while mumbling something along the lines of ‘bloody liberty’ under his breath.

While Tonks just stood there looking positively delighted, her husband seemed completely dumbfounded.

“Okay, just to be sure… Libby still stands as short for Olivia, right?” Remus had to ask. “You didn’t just decide to actually call her Liberty to annoy Sirius, I hope.”

Tonks snorted. “Of course not. Liberty… honestly, do you have any idea how many Liberties she’ll go to school with?” she pointed out. “Even though he was all annoying about it, Sirius did have a point when he said those names were lame and overused. Even Dawlish has twins named Liberty and Justice and they’re boys.”

“Merlin, those poor children…” her husband commented. “So, how long do you plan to keep on fooling Sirius?”

“As long as I can. Seriously – I’d trade a vital organ just for the chance of watching someone’s bottled memory of his face when he found out through the sorting hat’s roll call that Libby’s actual name was Olivia rather than Liberty.”

“A bit unlikely you’ll keep it up that long. Honestly, knowing Sirius, he’s just about to go vent about it to someone right now and they’ll tell him he was fooled.”

“Yeah… but one can hope.”

While the couple hoped downstairs and Sirius fumed outside, Izzy made her way up the stairs, headed back to Ginny’s room. It was around the time she reached the second floor that she stopped to think, considering for the first time the fact that Harry was still in the room. It was probably not a bad idea to give him and Ginny a little more time on their own, or else she risked walking into something she really didn’t want to walk into. Even going near the room at that point was too much of a risk to her sanity, honestly.

She considered going back downstairs but, even before she could actually decide on it, something caught her attention. The twins’ old room’s door was open, something that very rarely happened (something she’d never personally witnessed) ever since Fred had passed away.

She couldn’t resist taking a few steps closer and peering inside for a moment – once she did, her surprise only grew: George was inside. It was a widely known fact around those parts that there were certain things George had started religiously avoiding after Fred’s death – things that would bring memories too painful to bear. With time, he’d gotten over most of those things, their childhood bedroom being the only one remained: he hadn’t stepped foot in it since Fred’s death. Not once. She knew it – everyone knew it. So, naturally, she couldn’t help feeling slightly flabbergasted to see him in there.

As she watched him standing at the window with his back to her, apparently oblivious to her presence, she wondered if she should say something or just leave him be. She got too distracted debating, it appeared, as next thing she knew was George facing her with raised eyebrows.

“Are you planning to come on in at some point, Isabelle?” he asked.

She took her about five seconds to form a single word, so astounded she was. “I’m … er… You’re here,” she said.

“I am,” he confirmed in a tone that silently pointed out how obvious her statement was.

“In this room,” she added.

“No, I’m in the kitchen,” he replied sarcastically.

“What?” she asked, completely missing it.

He sighed. “Never mind. Yes, I’m here. I’m in this room. You’re not imagining it.”

“I’m not imagining it,” she repeated slowly, like she was testing it. A few seconds passed and she seemed about to say something before stopping herself, crossing her arms in restraint against her chest as she remained standing at the doorway.

“Go on,” he encouraged her. “You can ask it.”

“Ask what?” she asked, as if she didn’t know.

“You know what,” he told her. “And you really can come in, you know? This is not sacred ground that will be tainted with your presence.” It occurred to him that it was a little ironic he’d say that – he’d avoided the place for such a long time…

She took a tentative step inside, then another. After a moment of silence, she spoke. “Are you sure you want me to ask it? Because this is a big thing for you. You’re entitled to a little time before people start bombarding you with questions,” she said. She was always careful not to push him with those matters now – matters concerning Fred. She’d learned her lesson from their confrontation on the day of the battle, all those years before. Even though it was long past them, she couldn’t help being reminded of it every time Fred’s memory was particularly present.

“You’re not ‘people’,” he reminded her softly. “You know I learned the hard way not to put you in the same box as everyone else. So, ask.”

Her lips curled slightly, fuelled by the memory that, despite harsh-sounding, was actually a rather good one. She sighed. “Why? Why did you come into this room today after all that time?”

“Because I like to keep my promises,” he replied.

She raised her eyebrows at that. “What promises?”

“Just one promise,” he said. “A very old one. Honestly, I’d forgotten all about it until it came up yesterday during Harry’s stag do. We were all talking about the old times and at some point Ginny’s old crush on Harry came up. You know the way she fancied him even before she met him in person – we used to tease her mercilessly about it when we were kids. And while we were talking yesterday, Ron reminded me of this one time when Fred and I told her that if she ever managed to snag Harry Potter, we’d give her our entire Chocolate-Frog Card collection. It was a big deal at the time – we were like ten and that collection was our most prized possession – so we were really were just taunting her. Anyway, it’s stupid. She probably doesn’t remember it at all.”

“She’ll still appreciate it,” Izzy assured him. “Especially once she gets to rub on your face how wrong you and Fred were to bet your collection on her never snagging Harry.”

He chuckled. “I’ve no doubt that will be the best part of all, as far as she’s concerned.”

“Like I said, she’ll love it. So, I take it you came here to find the collection,” she guessed.

He nodded, gesturing to an old box resting on top of the dresser. “We never ended up taking it along once we moved into our own flat… Anyway, I spent good part of this morning talking myself into coming here to fetch it. It’s been four years. I’ve moved on with most of my life. It was time I moved on with this room too… and so I came here. And when I did, it felt… fine.”

“Fine?” she asked, surprised.

“Yeah. Fine,” he said, walking over to his old bed and sitting at the bottom of it. “I mean, it stung that it made me miss Fred like mad, I’ll admit, but it wasn’t unbearable. Not anymore.” He knew that feeling would never really go away – missing Fred. Knowing that had torn him apart in the beginning but, with time, he’d learned to be able to live with it. To withstand it through letting people in rather than pushing them out. Through letting the good memories flow rather than holding on the bad ones. “Makes me feel kind of stupid that I avoided this place for so long like it was the root of all pain. It’s just a room with a lot of memories.”

“Hey, you took the time you needed to take,” she told him, taking a seat by his side. “That’s not stupid – it’s giving yourself time to heal.”

He turned to her. “Do you ever get tired of trying to defend me from myself, Isabelle?”

“Every once in a while. Thankfully, you don’t give me much reason to intervene these days,” she replied.

George smiled. He could always count on her to do that… to do pretty much anything. Either it was to yell at him or to offer him a shoulder to lean on, she was always there. And even though she was completely different from Fred, she’d come to occupy the role his twin brother had left vacant as his best friend. Well, she and Lee had, though he leaned more on the latter as a partner in crime and on Izzy as… well, as practically everything else.

“So, maid-of-honour, how is our bride doing today?” he asked. “Did she kick you out already?”

She shook her head. “I actually chose to leave. For all intents and purposes, she’s having a moment on her own.”

“For all intents and purposes?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “Is there any chance our favourite groom is tempting fate as we speak?”

“Something like that,” she confirmed.

George had to chuckle. “Of course.” He paused for a thoughtful moment. “Merlin, I can’t believe Gin-Gin is getting married today.”

“I can’t believe Harry is either,” she replied. “Feels like it was just a few days ago that he was pulling at my pigtails.”

“Oh, he told us about that yesterday,” George stated, making her raise an eyebrow. “Old-times talk, remember? A lot of stuff came up. Did you really throw a whole sac of flour at his face when you were a toddler?”

“It was accidental magic. I can’t be blamed for what I did because of accidental magic,” she said defensively. “What else did he say? Do I need to go upstairs and make him regret it?”

George chuckled. “Don’t worry – your Dad took him home before he got drunk enough to reveal something really embarrassing.”

“Good,” she said, relieved. “Still, I hear it was an interesting party last night. Apparently Ron still can’t quite stand upright yet.”

“Well, that’s his own fault for mixing Mead with Firewhiskey and Butterbeer and… something blue that I was unable to identify,” George pointed out. “But that was actually the least exciting part of the night. The most exciting one involved Ron falling in the fountain in Trafalgar Square, Percy ralphing all over a constable’s shoes, Bill explaining in excruciating detail the wonders pregnancy has on his wife’s curves and, finally, me finding out that all the while Charlie was hooking up with someone he really shouldn’t be hooking up with.”

“Funny how you leave your own antics out of that account,” Izzy pointed.

“I’ll have you know, Miss Black, that the most embarrassing thing I did last night was laughing myself to tears,” he assured her. “Staying just mildly tipsy in order to fully enjoy the crap the really drunk people you’re with pull is terribly underrated.”

“I take it you gathered a shocking amount of dirt on your brothers for a single night, then,” she said with a chuckle.

“Better. I gathered very good, undeniably embarrassing, dirt on Charlie, which is very hard to do because, as you know, he has a very small shame spectrum.”

“He does, and I’m pretty sure shagging some random girl isn’t included in it,” Izzy pointed out.

“It is when this girl is concerned,” George told her.

Izzy immediately looked alarmed. “Bloody hell, is it a friend of ours? Is it Luna?”

“What? No. Of course not. Luna would never go for his type,” he assured her.

“Then what? Is she married?”

“Nope – worse.”

She looked at him in disbelief. “What’s worse than married? Some bride he stole from a wedding?”

Even worse.” That time, she just gaped at him. She had absolutely no idea what he meant. “Allow me to direct you to the poster on that wall,” he said, gesturing to the wall on her left where, about three feet away from the door, a large poster of the 1993 Holyhead Harpies team presented itself.

“A Harpy,” Izzy realized.

“Not just any Harpy,” George told her, pointing at the one waving at them on the centre of the poster. “That Harpy. The most legendary captain and beater of the Holyhead Harpies, three-time league champion, Quidditch hall-of famer and current much-prized coach to her previous team: the one and only… Gwenog Jones. Also known today as ‘the Boss of the Bride’.”

“No…” she mumbled, looking positively dumbfounded. “No way. You’re lying.”

“As if I’d ever have the nerve to feed you wrong information just to have your wrath fall on me like the hand of god,” he casually told her. “Trust me. I was unfortunate enough to see happening in a dodgy London alley. My eyes are still burning.”

“Oh my God,” Izzy mumbled. “Oh my god, Charlie shagged Ginny’s boss the day before her wedding.”

“Oh, yes he did, the little tart,” he said of his brother.

“But how? People don’t just run into Gwenog Jones out of chance.”

“I don’t know – I remember seeing her earlier in the night entering that new fancy restaurant near Flourish and Blokes with some bloke when I was heading to the Leaky Cauldron. She was probably on a date, but it must’ve gone sideways enough that she ended up drowning her sorrows in the Leaky too. It’s no news Charlie will set his sights on a vulnerable female like a lion on a lone gazelle drinking from a pond,” George argued.

“Even if said female is Gwenog Jones?”

Especially if that female is Gwenog Jones. He’s been singing odes to her legs ever since he was a randy second year noticing girls for the first time and she was the Captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. There literally were poems involved – bad ones. Fred and I stole a few of them… they’re probably stashed in this room somewhere.”

“Wait, so they knew each other from school?”

He gave her a doubtful look. “She was five years ahead and in a different house. I doubt they ever spoke to each other. Still, he could probably get a conversation starter out of that. Then a mention of Ginny… well, you can see where I’m going. Now, am I exaggerating it all in my mind or is that enough to get Gin-Gin to tear him a new one?”

“It’s enough for her to do that and then feed him to one of his dragons,” she replied. “But you’re not going to tell her now, are you? Because she will lose it. And I’d rather she wasn’t taken in for murder on her own wedding day.”

“Of course not – I wouldn’t waste it all in one go. I’m going to use this to torment him the way he torments me about Crazy Effie.”

“Are you kidding me? This would wipe the floor with the Crazy Effie situation. You don’t want to compare the wrath of Ginny Weasley to the wrath of Lee Jordan – not to mention that the Crazy Effie thing happened ages ago. But does Charlie know that you know?” she asked.

“Not yet. As a sign of good faith, I’m saving it for a less eventful day,” he told her. “I wouldn’t want to ruin the wedding. Especially when I’m counting on using the reception to collect the dance you’ve owed me since Bill’s wedding. It’s practically a scandal that I haven’t taken care of it yet.”

“It’s not my fault we never really attended a wedding at the same time between now and then,” she replied.

“Well, I suppose it’s better late than never,” he stated.

“Are you sure you don’t want to let this debt slide for the sake of your feet? Because I still can’t dance.”

“I don’t care. Are you trying to sneak your way out of this?”

“Maybe,” she admitted. “You know, I’m pretty sure there has to be some kind of rule in the guidebook of relationships that says something along the lines of ‘if your current girlfriend opposes you collecting a debt-dance from some random bridesmaid from five years ago who had a crush on you, you should do what she says’. And I’m fairly sure I could convince that girlfriend of yours to oppose.”

“Oh, I’ve no doubt you’d succeed. But then again, I think that rule would only really apply if the current girlfriend and the bridesmaid from five years ago didn’t happen to be the very same person,” he pointed out.

She tried to look uninterested. “I’d like to see that in writing.”

He rolled his eyes in amusement, deciding not to bother with the argument any further since there was no doubt in his mind that, one way or the other, he’d get her to the dance floor later that day. “You know, I haven’t had the chance to tell you yet how nice you look in that bridesmaid dress.” He got up and stretched his arm towards her, intending to pull her up as well so he could get a better look at her dress.

She smiled, taking his hand. “Well, that wasn’t very hard to achieve, considering all you have to compare it with is that golden atrocity Fleur made me wear.”

“The only atrocious thing about that dress was that I had to look at you in it all day and keep my thoughts to myself,” he informed her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her closer until they were close together.

She looked at him pointedly. “And what thoughts would those be?”

“It’s hard to put them into words,” he stated.

“Then don’t. No one said anything about words,” she easily replied.

He grinned, eager to take the invitation, and dove in to show her a little sample of those thoughts instead, starting by covering her lips with his.

She took the kiss with a smile on her lips, responding by cupping his face and parting her lips. They’d kissed maybe thousands of times already throughout the years they’d been together – hundreds, certainly –, still it never got old for her. She was always excited to find out how it would be like next time – Passionate? Sweet? Vulnerable? It was safe to say he was brilliant at it every way they spun it.

That time, it started out playful, but quickly moved on from there as the passionate factor took over, like he was trying to make up for his self-restraint from Bill and Fleur’s wedding all those years ago. If only he’d know back then how badly she’d daydreamed of that…

They had to break apart for breath a few seconds later and, once they did, standing pressed against one another, his forehead resting against hers, she spoke. “I wish you hadn’t.”

“What?”

“Kept your thoughts to yourself,” she pointed out. “I was already falling for you back at the wedding.”

“I didn’t know that at the time,” he retorted. “In my defence, I did plant one on you next time I saw you. At platform 9 ¾.”

He really had, she fondly recalled it with a smile. “Pity you called it ‘stupid’,” she pointed out.

I was stupid. The kiss was brilliant.” As if to make a point, he leaned down and placed a soft one on her lips. “They always are.”

Izzy was just about to kiss him again when Ginny’s voice filled the room, causing the two of them to jump away from each other so their eyes could search for her in the room. However, instead of an amused redhead, they found themselves staring at a massive horse-shaped Patronus.

Izzy, can you come back up? I need your help with the dress,” it said in Ginny’s voice before starting to fade away.

Izzy sighed. “Well, I guess that’s my cue to go,” she declared, sounding rather disappointed.

“Yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to keep the bride waiting,” he agreed with a sigh. “Besides, I can’t let you monopolize all my time when I have another pretty, one-eight veela, girl waiting for me downstairs,” he said, baiting her.

“I might be jealous if she wasn’t two years old,” Izzy pointed out, referring to his only niece and goddaughter. “Are you taking her to the pond?”

He nodded. “You know Vic. She thinks her duckies will starve if she doesn’t feed them every time she comes by. Better be extra careful so she doesn’t fall into the water, though. Fleur would never forgive me if I let her get dirty before the wedding.”

“Oh, haven’t you heard? Fleur isn’t coming – she’s in labour.”

“Really?” he asked in surprise, before starting to grin. “Wow, Bill must be having the greatest time – a hangover and a screaming wife. The perfect combination.”

Izzy hit him on the arm. “Don’t rejoice at your brother’s misery,” she scolded. “Now,” she added, reaching forward to place a quick kiss on his lips, “I’m off.”

Before she could step back, he pulled her into another, much deeper, kiss that made her let out a surprised moan against his lips. “Don’t think I’ll forget about that dance,” he assured her.

“I wish you would,” she replied.

“Yeah, well, you can’t always get what you want, Miss Black.”

---

The wedding ceremony went smoothly, culminating, as expected, into Harry and Ginny exchanging vows and becoming husband and wife.

Soon afterwards, the reception followed as a lively and casual affair. There was toasting, eating, cheering and chatting. Large groups of old friends and acquaintances that usually only got together once a year for the final-battle memorial gathered, standing in circles all over the marquee or sitting at the various tables. As the adults chatted away, children ran all over the place, taking turns between playing hide and seek and just plain running around after each other, not once showing sign of ever getting tired.

“So, kid, how does it feel like to finally be Mr Ginny Weasley?” Sirius asked his godson as the two of them finally managed to sit together on their own at one of the tables, about four and a half hours into the reception.

Harry grinned. “It may be too early to tell, but so far, so good,” he said.

“Well, the shackles are on, kid. Get ready for all the fun to begin,” Sirius told him. “And by fun, I don’t mean always literal fun.”

“I know, marriage takes work, yada, yada… Aunt Mia’s already sat me down for that. And Molly. And Arthur. Even Tonks lectured me about it one day she was particularly annoyed at Remus and all men in general because he’d ‘insulted’ her by insisting that she didn’t move heavy stuff around while eight and a half months pregnant. A bit awkward to have your boss telling you in excruciating detail what not to do when you’re married in a middle of a hormonal rant,” Harry mumbled.

“Oh, well, at least you know what you’re on to,” his godfather offered. “But you picked a good one, kid. The mighty Ginny.”

Harry snorted. “She’d love to hear that.”

“Well, save it for a stormy day, then. You can never be wrong when you have a couple of interesting compliments up your sleeve,” Sirius advised him, just as they heard his godson’s name being called from somewhere in the room.

They turned to the source and found Ginny at the tent’s entrance, surrounded by her parents, Charlie and George, the latter of whom seemed to be carrying little Victoire. She seemed to be gesturing at Harry to come join them for something.

“Go on, kid. You’re being summoned – get used to it,” Sirius told him.

“Already am,” Harry said as he got up and walked away towards his new wife.

Sirius watched as Ginny told his godson something that made him grin. Then, George kissed his niece goodbye, handed her over to Ginny, and walked back into the tent as the rest of them walked out. Wondering what they were up to, he didn’t skip on the chance to grill his daughter’s boyfriend. “Oi, lover boy!” he called, prompting the younger boy to approach. “What was that all about?”

“Fleur’s just had the baby. Mum is taking them to meet it now so Harry and Ginny can leave for the honeymoon on time.”

“Really? So, what’s the verdict? Did I win anything in the betting pool?” Sirius asked.

“I don’t think so. It was another girl. Pretty much everyone was betting on a boy. But let me check the rest,” he said, reaching into his pocket for a piece of parchment where they’d all written their bets just the week before. “Alright,” he mumbled as he looked through the names. “Ah, here it is. Sirius Black – boy, twenty-one inches, eleven pounds…” He paused, raising his eyebrows. “Eleven pounds? Really? Did you see Fleur’s size? How on Earth would she possibly hide an eleven pound baby in that little bump of hers?”

“I dunno. Bumps can be misleading,” Sirius replied.

“Not that misleading,” he said with a laugh.

Sirius narrowed his eyes. “You know I can withdraw my permission for you to date my daughter at any time, right?”

Sirius, don’t threaten your daughter’s boyfriend,” they heard Mia saying before even spotting her approaching them from behind. “Didn’t we talk about this in the past?” she asked.

“It’s not my fault he’s being a smartarse,” Sirius grumbled, looking down like a little kid who’d just been scolded by his mother. “Fleur’s just had her baby and I’ve just lost two galleons.”

Mia sighed. “Why do you still bother to bet on these things? You know you’re terrible at it,” she said.

“I am not!”

“Really? When Elizabeth and Kingsley were adopting Diana, you guessed they’d get an eight-pound boy even though they’d said they were going for a war orphan and it was months after the war was over.”

“I didn’t hear the war orphan part. They must’ve said it while I was in the loo,” he defended himself. “Besides, I wasn’t too far about Moony’s little girl. Tell her, George.”

“He was actually pretty close,” the younger man confirmed, even though they both knew the only thing he’d guessed right about Libby Lupin was that she’d be a girl. “Well, if you don’t mind, I’d better go tell Ron he’s won himself twelve galleons.”

“Tell him not to spend it all in one place,” Sirius replied.

“He might have to. From the looks of it, he’d going to need plenty of hangover potion from the apothecary,” George informed him with a chuckle before walking away.

He reached Ron a few seconds later, finding him in a pitiful state, sitting at a table with his face down on the table cloth.

“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” he told his brother as he sat by his side, getting an unintelligible grunt as his only response. “Congratulations, you won the bet. We’ve got a new niece. You got everything right but the height.”

His response was another grunt.

“So, has Hermione dumped you for a less hung over bloke?”

Another grunt.

“You know, you’re going to have to start speaking English. I don’t understand pitiful sod language,” George informed him.

Ron groaned, finally lifting his head up. “I said ‘no’. She went to check if Harry and Ginny had everything packed,” he said in a very scratchy tone.

“Of course she did,” George replied, recognizing his sister-in-law’s micromanaging ways. “Anyway, you look like death. How many of me do you see?”

“Not sure. More than one, for sure,” his brother replied.

George looked over his shoulder and sighed. “Pity you’re hung over, then,” he mumbled.

Even with a skull-splitting headache, Ron could recognize the hint of sadness in his brother’s voice. “Go on. Mock me some more,” he honestly urged him. “You can have Fred’s share too if it makes you feel better.”

George shook his head. “I’m fine. Besides, it’s too easy. You can only beat a dead horse so much before is stops being funny. Better quit when I’m on top.”

Ron sighed. “Good for me, I guess,” he mumbled, going back to resting face-down on the table just as Izzy made her way to their table.

“Hey, where has Ginny gone?” she asked, taking a seat by George’s side. “I just stepped out for a few minutes to go to the loo.”

“She and Harry went to meet Bill’s new baby,” her boyfriend informed her. “It’s another girl, apparently. Very un-Weasley-like.”

She chuckled. “I hope you’re not implying anything about your mother.”

“Merlin, no,” he said, immediately, before quickly changing the subject. “So, it seems you have a break on your maid-of-honour duties. I guess it’s time we settled that old debt…”

She groaned. “Do we have to? You know, Ron doesn’t look too good. Maybe we should stay here and make sure he doesn’t choke on his own vomit or something.”

Ron lifted his head. “Thanks,” he said dryly. “And, by all means, don’t let me stop you from whatever you need to do.”

“See? He’s fine,” George said.

“But I’m exhausted.”

“Not enough to escape that dance you owe me, you’re not. It is your duty as my girlfriend to dance with me at least once tonight,” he said, getting up and stretching his arm to her

She groaned. “Do I have to? This makes it even more likely that I’ll end up falling face-first on the floor.”

“I promise I’ll hold you up,” he calmly assured her.

She just looked at him for a few moments before sighing and taking his hand, letting him pull her up. “You’d better know this makes me a brilliant girlfriend and that this gives me the right to dismember you ever dump me for thinking otherwise.”

“Good thing I’m not planning to dump you,” he pointed out, already walking her to the dance.

“Don’t you dare try anything fancy,” she threatened him. “If you spin me, you’ll regret it.”

“Hmm-hmm,” he mumbled in response.

“I mean it,” she insisted.

He sighed. “Isabelle, you don’t spin people to Seraphina Warbeck,” he assured her, referring to Celestina’s mellower-sounding sister, whose last single’s first chords seemed to be sounding on the background. “Now, will you shut up and just put your arms around me?”

She did as she was told and, after a few awkward moments of trying to figure where each hand went and to which side each of them was supposed to move so they wouldn’t step on each other’s toes over and over again, they managed to achieve some sort of simplistic rhythm. It was actually more comfortable than she’d predicted, like they were sharing a slightly weird, moving hug.

“So, are you going to miss having Ginny around?” he asked at some point, as they slowly moved around.

“Just because she and Harry got married, it doesn’t mean she won’t be around,” Izzy replied.

“I know, but she’ll no longer be your flatmate,” he pointed put. “You can kiss her surprisingly brilliant cooking skills goodbye.”

Izzy sighed – they were surprisingly brilliant cooking skills. “I suppose I’ll have to live with my marginally acceptable ones instead,” she admitted. “But then again, I already have to during half the Quidditch season – Gwenog Jones keeps dragging her to those training retreats…”

“Well, that’s Charlie’s girlfriend for you,” George joked.

Izzy snorted. “I’d better be there when you tell that to his face.”

“I’ll plan it accordingly,” he promised, just as the song changed to a softer tune that required an even slower dance.

He pulled her closer together, if that was even possible, and she rested her head against his shoulder as they moved slowly. George could tell she really was tired as she leaned heavily against him with her eyes closed, almost like she was trying to use the song to lull herself to sleep in his arms. He didn’t mind it, though, reaching down with his lips to place a kiss at the top of her head.

“Do you want to come over after this?” she asked him softly, feeling his lips curl against the top of her head.

“You know I always do,” he replied easily.

She smiled. “Do you want to stay?”

“For the night?”

“Forever,” she replied.

He tensed against her for a second. “Is that an official request for me to move in or just a ramble from your wedding-stricken mind?”

“An official request,” she replied, pulling away just enough so she could look up at him – he seemed cautiously hopeful. “I’ve been thinking of it for a few weeks. We’ve been together for quite a long time and you’ve been spending over half of your time in my flat ever since Ginny and I move into it. Honestly, even when she was around, it felt lonely when you weren’t there. And now I have the flat all to myself and… well, I don’t want to, I want you there. I mean…”

“Okay,” he said before she could finish.

She paused and stared for a moment. “Okay? Really?”

“Really,” he agreed.

“No fight about trying to get me to move into your flat?”

“Well, considering that these days my flat is more like an extension of the shop’s storage room where I just happen to live, that’s probably not very practical. Besides, odds are, your cat would throttle me with its tail in my sleep if I made it move out.”

“So, that’s it? You’re moving in? Just like that?”

“Just like that,” he declared. “And, hey, now that Ginny’s room is free, do you think I could use it for product experiments?”

“Don’t you dare,” she threatened.

“Come on. I promise I’ll try to keep fires to a minimum,” he insisted.

That time, she just glared. Once she saw his face break into a revealing grin, she smacked him on the arm. “You were winding me up!”

“Of course I was winding you up! I’ve got a perfectly good lab at the shop – why would I need another?”

“You’re an arse,” she declared.

“And yet you still love me enough to want to put up with me more than you usually do,” he replied.

“There must be something wrong with me,” she replied dryly.

He grinned at her subtle admission. “That’s okay. I still love you too despite it,” he told her before leaning forward to place a soft kiss on her lips.

Across the room, watching the couple as he sat at his table, Sirius groaned. “Ugh… do they really have to do that in public?” he mumbled.

Mia elbowed him softly on the ribs. “Leave them be – they’re doing nothing wrong… certainly nothing that we haven’t done before. And you should be used to it by now – they’ve been together for years.”

Sirius groaned again, annoyed that his wife had a point – somehow that only made it worse. “Do you reckon they’re up next?” he asked, although he really didn’t want to hear the answer.

“Up for what?” his wife asked.

“We’re at a wedding, Mia. Take a wild guess,” he offered.

She did and sighed. “Maybe. Probably not, since Percy’s already engaged and they aren’t. But it’s going to happen sooner or later. They’re young and in love, Sirius. They’re happy together,” she told him calmly.

He groaned once more. “Can’t you go back to being a mother hen all worked up about letting her chicks leave the nest like before? I think I’d feel better if you did. ”

She smiled. “I don’t think so. I guessed you did too much of a good job talking me out of it.”

He huffed. “Why couldn’t I just be quiet?” he mumbled.

She rested her hand on top of his. “They have a life ahead of them. Everyone does now. All that matters is living it the way it makes them happiest. Merlin knows we do.”

Sirius looked thoughtful for a moment. “I guess you’ve got a point there,” he offered, sighing as he looked away from the couple and back at her. “It took us a whole lot of trouble to get to this point, didn’t it?”

She nodded. “Two wars, losing Lily and James, you spending twelve years in prison in the meanwhile…”

“Harry being right at the centre of one of those wars,” he added. “Me being fired from Hogwarts and you having to go back there without me to protect Izzy, then you being nearly captured and us going into hiding…” He took a breath. “Do you ever wish it was easier?”

She shook her head. “Never. You know what they say – even if you change the littlest thing in the past, you might destroy the present as you know it. And I like the present. The fact that I know we had to fight to get it makes it even greater to enjoy – so, no, I wouldn’t risk it for the world.”

Sirius grinned. “Good answer,” he told her. “Just imagine what a tragedy it would be if things has been different and you’d ended up married to Lucius Malfoy.”

“Lucius Malfoy? Couldn’t think of an even nicer imaginary husband for me?” she asked sarcastically.

“I’m talking worst-case scenario here. I promise if you somehow ended up stuck with Malfoy, I wouldn’t rest until I’d freed you.”

“How can you be so sure of that? Maybe in that world we hated each other. Or maybe we didn’t know each other at all,” she suggested.

Sirius frowned.  “I don’t like that world one bit.”

“Then I guess we’d better stick to ours, then,” she told him.

“Good idea. Now that is settled, Mrs Black, kiss me and show me just how worth the trouble this world was,” he requested with a smile.

“The way I’d never kiss Lucius Malfoy?” she asked.

“The way you’d never kiss anyone else at all,” he corrected.

She chuckled and leaned forward, cupping his face and placing a soft kiss on his lips, chaste enough not to embarrass anyone who might spot them. When she pulled back, she gave him an inquisitive look. “Well?”

He gave her a wide grin. “Yep. Definitely worth every trouble.”

The End

A/N: Want to know how Izzy and George got to the point where they are now? Check the sequel States of Mind. It will be posted soon and take place between last chapter and this epilogue. Feedback is welcome! Review!



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