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Chapter 22 : Chapter Twenty-One - The Binding of Matrimony
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The Binding of Matrimony
Harry eyed Ron across the open field; he was standing at the ready, his wand drawn. At a word from Alex they both bowed to one another, a traditional nicety to signal that their duel was a friendly practice match.
Under Alex's tutelage they had all been getting much better at dueling. After just six days of morning lessons, Harry was becoming quite accomplished at wordless spell casting. It was giving him a distinct advantage. Ron was well aware of Harry's advantage and he looked a little nervous, but he had been getting much better himself.
Alex counted down from three and waved her hand sharply through the air to signal the beginning of the match.
Harry cast his first spell, a silent expelliarmus, but Ron had his shield up and ready, deflecting the spell easily. Harry cast a binding spell as he moved to his left, then cast a shield quickly to meet any attack from Ron. The binding spell bounced harmlessly from Ron's shield and Ron cast a stunning spell, but it passed Harry harmlessly as he dodged.
After several days of lessons Ron was upset with himself that he was still not doing better. He continued calling out his spells, and during duels he was still reverting to aiming them as well, despite the evidence that with proper concentration it was not at all necessary.
When his stunning spell missed Harry entirely, he leaped to his right and rolled, knowing Harry would follow with another attempt at expelliarmus. He was right and as he rolled he tucked his wand in tight and gripped it hard. The spell struck him and he felt the hard jerk at his wand, but with sheer determination he maintained his grip. He rolled to his feet and without hesitation cast another stunning spell.
Harry saw his spell hit Ron and thinking that would end the duel, he lowered his wand. To his surprise Ron still held his wand and the momentary hesitation cost him as the stunning spell struck full force and knocked him off his feet. He landed hard, with the wind knocked out of him. He quickly cast a shield, as Ron pressed the advantage casting a binding spell followed by "expelliarmus." Luckily, Harry's shield diverted the spells.
Ron was advancing on him at a run and had cast a shield. Thinking quickly, Harry cast a Muddy Bog charm on the ground in front of him. Unable to change direction, or stop in time, Ron fell face first into the mud with a satisfying splash. Harry cast a final expelliarmus, causing Ron's wand to fly from his hand. Everyone began to laugh and cheer as the duel ended.
Even Ron was laughing as Harry retrieved his wand and stepped forward to help him up from the mud. Ron splashed Harry with handfuls of mud as he approached. "You win again Mate," Ron said with genuine congratulations.
"You almost had me there, for a moment." Harry nodded, grinning.
"Wery good, wery good," Alex said, as she stepped before the group motioning for Harry and Ron to rejoin them.
Harry paused to restore the muddy ground to normal.
"Can anyone tell me, vhat happened here? Vhy did Ron lose de duel?" Alex asked the group.
Hermione's hand shot up. Standing next to her JeanBaptiste had raised his hand as well, not nearly as high, but it was enough.
Alex nodded at the French boy and he answered a bit tentatively. "Ee gave up 'is advantage by charging 'Arry. 'Ee didn't need to charge. 'Ee could have won the duel from where 'ee was, with a binding spell, or something."
"Yes, wery good," Alex said, "moving in on your opponent too soon can sacrifice your adwantage. In dis case, vhile Ron's shield vas in place protecting his adwance, his speed and aggressiveness created instability that Harry vas able to turn against him." She turned directly to Ron, "You must alvays be avare of your movements lest you give a clever opponent too much opportunity."
Ron nodded, looking a little embarrassed.
Alex turned to Harry. "As for you, Harry," she continued severely, "You should have lost that duel. You must never drop your guard until you're sure that your opponent is subdued. It was only Ron's tactical error that allowed you to win. In combat, you only get to make a mistake like that once." Seeing Harry's chastened expression, her own softened a bit. "Dis is vhy ve practice. To eliminate mistakes vhen the vorst that can happen is that ve get a bit muddy."
"That vill be all for today," Alex said, "tomorrow ve vill practice silent spell casting again."
With the lesson ended, they all thanked Alex and pausing only a moment for Hermione and Ginny to cast banishing spells on the mud covering their respective boyfriends, they headed back to the Manor.
The morning lessons had proven a very good idea as, not only did they feel that they were progressing rapidly, but the lessons brought a sense of purpose to everyone concerned. Even Lupin had been recruited and he had taken the younger children under his wing giving them lessons while the older students worked with Alex. Their parents had readily agreed thinking it would be a good introduction to how they would be instructed once they were attending Hogwarts come September.
Over the past few days they had gotten in to a routine, and Harry was anxious for the wedding to be done with so that Ginny's sixteenth birthday could be celebrated the next day and following that, things at the Manor would calm down.
In discussions with Ginny, Hermione, Ron and the Dumbledore card, they had agreed that once the wedding and the birthday were over they would begin real efforts at tracking down the horcruxes or at least the few items they believed were most likely to be the horcruxes. Harry had been growing increasingly anxious to get on with it, and had it not been for the memories left by his ancestors, which he was still in the process of reviewing he felt that he would be to anxious to concentrate on anything else.
They all headed in from their lessons to the busy sitting room for a relaxed lunch. The sitting room had become sort of a central planning room for the wedding as it was where everyone had been gathering for buffet style meals.
More of Fleur's guests had arrived from France, two of her former schoolmates, Antoinette, an attractive raven haired girl with what Harry thought was a rather annoying giggle, and Odette, a blonde girl with a rather aristocratic air, who everyone seemed to agree, was a bit too skinny. They were to be bridesmaids along with Ginny and Gabrielle.
A special guest of Bill's had also arrived. Daniel Peterson was an American Wizard who Bill had befriended in Egypt while they were working for Gringott's as curse breakers. He was a very friendly sort and it was easy to see why the two men had become good mates. A tall blond with a lean muscular build, a squarish, handsome face and a laid back southern California attitude, his arrival had been particularly welcomed by Fleur's friends. He in turn had seemed to be equally taken by the two French girls.
There had been a rehearsal the previous night and all that remained was a Bride's high tea in the early afternoon before they all disappeared to get dressed. The men too would be gathering for a private drink,though that would be just before the ceremony. Harry was not a part of the formal wedding party, but he had been asked to join the men in this traditional bachelor's last toast.
The sitting room was bustling when they stepped in from the outside patio. The seamstress was arriving with her assistants carrying all the dresses in garment bags. Fleur and her Mother were quick to meet the woman and direct her off to the suite where the ladies would be dressing. The Florist had also arrived with a procession of assistants. Harry watched as Jarvy summoned Winky and the female Elf quickly presented herself to the Florist and lead her out to the ceremony site. A contingent of Aurors had arrived from the Ministry to serve as security and they were obviously intent on getting a bit of lunch.
Harry was pleased to see that everything was functioning smoothly, and according to the plans that he had worked out with Fred, George and Moody. Harry drew out his watch and looked at the time; it was a quarter past eleven, coming on time for a special surprise. He grabbed Ginny's hand and turned to her, Hermione and Ron. "Okay," he said, "let's grab a quick bite and then we'll all go change.
"It's not near time to change yet Harry," Hermione said as Ron began to inch toward the buffet table. "We have loads of time before we need to start getting ready."
"It's not for Fleur's wedding," Harry persisted, "We have something else to do before that and it requires we be a bit dressed up," he paused. "Not as formal you understand but looking nice."
All through lunch Hermione and Ginny tried to get Harry to reveal the secret, but he wouldn't budge. Finally, once they had cleaned their plates they agreed to head off to their rooms and change.
About twenty minutes later they met back in the sitting room. Ron and Harry each had decided upon Muggle style dress slacks, summer weight button downs and ties, while Hermione chose a simple summer dress in a light floral pattern, with her hair pulled in to a bushy pony tail.
Despite Hermione's petitions to know what they were up to, Harry hurried them through the Portis Omnibus where they emerged through a set of double doors hung on a freestanding wooden archway that the twins had constructed at Harry's suggestion. The archway was standing at one end of a large tent that let out at The Burrow garden path. In front of the double doors, which glowed with the telltale blue lattice was a wide carpet runner flanked by several free standing floral displays that barely concealed a number of security devices, dark magic detectors and the like. Several of the visiting Aurors were already stationed within the tent and they were eying everyone warily. As they exited the tent they found the twins discussing security with the lead Auror, and Alastor Moody. They were setting up a table for wand registration, and there was a sign which read, "All guests must present forearms for examination prior to entering."
As they passed the group, Moody pulled out a watch and looked at the time. "Cutting it a bit close aren't you Harry?" He turned from the table and followed the three of them.
"Blimey, Harry, I knew there was going to be loads of security," Ron said, "but isn't this a bit much?"
"Not at all Mr. Weasley," Moody answered from behind them, "it is all much less than I asked for."
Ron was momentarily startled by Moody's unexpected reply. Harry couldn't help but chuckle, which in turn made Hermione laugh.
They entered the kitchen door of The Burrow where Ginny was waiting for them in obvious excitement. "Harry," she said, taking his hand, "it's a wonderful surprise!"
"What is?" Hermione asked urgently as they crossed quickly to the sitting room.
"This," Ginny said as she pushed open the door.
In the Burrow sitting room were six people each dressed nicely, but casually compared to the formality that would come later in the day. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were there as well as Tonks and Lupin, along with two women that Harry did not recognize. One was a tall, dark haired, stately looking woman dressed in dark blue robes, whose features Harry thought were vaguely familiar. The other was a shorter happy looking, light haired, woman wearing a gold robe, with white trim and an academic style hood of white velvet. Around this later woman's neck was a gold amulet bearing the insignia of the Ministry, and in her hands was a tattered leather book.
Mrs. Weasley waved them in. "Come in all of you," she said. She quickly introduced them all to Nymphadora's mother Andromeda Tonks. Harry realized suddenly as he bowed slightly, that the familiarity was a black family resemblance.
They were then quickly introduced to the Ministry Officiator, Miss Gore, who bowed deeply, mostly to Harry.
"Thank you for coming all of you," Lupin said, "It is not our desire to detract at all from the events of the day, but as Nymphadora and I have recently found ourselves bound, it made little sense to put a marriage off. We desire nothing more than to share this event with our few good friends in a very small ceremony." He paused, waving Harry to come to his side. "So as not to deflect attention from Fleur and Bill, we would ask that you keep this matter silent until all the celebrations of the day, are done," he bowed a bit nervously.
Harry straightened Remus' tie for him and clapped him lightly on the shoulder, "I wish so much for you that my father and Sirius were here to witness for you," Harry said in a whisper.
"Harry," Lupin said, "I wish that were so as well, but do not think yourself a substitute, they are here in you, but you are here at my request." He paused, "And, Harry, thank you for the suit."
Harry smiled as they all moved in to positions, Tonks and Lupin facing the Officiator, Harry to Lupin's right, facing them, and Andromeda on Tonks' left opposite him. The others formed a loose semicircle around them.
The Officiator began. "Today is day of blessing..."
Harry was quickly lost in his own thoughts as his gaze fixed on Ginny, who had also chosen a simple floral, summer dress for the occasion and whose hair was loose and tossed behind her shoulders. A light breeze from the open window made her dress cling to one side framing her figure in a way that made him wonder that he might be drooling. So lost in contented splendor was he that the Officiator had to address him twice to ask for the binding powder. With a slightly embarrassed smile he reached in to his pocket and produced a small glass vial filled with a small amount of gold powder, and handed it to Miss Gore.
"Having each proclaimed your love and devotion, I offer you the most time honored Wizard tradition of binding rings," she paused, "If you would each raise your left palm?"
Turning to face one another Lupin and Tonks held their left hands out to one another, palms facing up and pressed gently together.
"Remus John Lupin, do you take this woman, Nymphadora Antares Tonks, as your one true love to be forever bound in the sacred state of Matrimony?" the Officiator asked.
"I do," Lupin stated without hesitation, his eyes locked to Tonks'.
The Officiator poured about half of the powdered gold in to his upturned palm. At once it began to swirl like a small, slow motion, wind funnel in his hand.
"And do you Nymphadora Antares Tonks; take this man, Remus John Lupin, as your one true love to be forever bound in the sacred state of matrimony?"
"You better believe it!" Tonks proclaimed excitedly.
The Officiator poured the remaining gold powder into Tonks' upturned palm and it swirled just as the portion in Lupin's did. The two swirls of gold came together as a single funnel and there was a slow illumination as the material seemed to become liquid and glowing as though it were heated. It formed a thin fluid figure eight above there palms until it shined so brightly that it was difficult to look upon. With a sudden flash it was gone and all that remained was a simple gold band upon each of their ring fingers.
The Officiator smiled brightly. "Having exchanged vows and completed the magical rite of ring binding," she said, "by the power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, it is my great honor to pronounce you Husband and Wife."
Applause filled the room as Lupin and Tonks shared their first kiss as husband and wife.
Mrs. Weasley had prepared a cake and they all gathered in the kitchen to share a slice and extend their congratulations.
As the ceremony had been a surprise to most everyone, there were no gifts, but Harry had a thought of just what to give them once he'd had a chance to look into it.
After a very brief celebration, they all agreed once more to keep it secret until after the further events of the day, and they adjourned to return to the Manor and the preparation for the evenings festivities.
The quartet exited The Burrow kitchen into the bright mid-day. It seemed to them that the garden had only gotten busier. Mrs. Scheffelgroober had arrived with several large crates of catering equipment which the security teams were going over carefully. This had resulted in a bit of a row between she and Alastor Moody, and she was complaining rather loudly that she would not tolerate them spoiling any of the food and fresh ingredients.
"I hadn't realized that Mrs. Scheffelgroober was doing the catering" Harry said.
"Oh, yeah, she and Mum have been friends for years," Ron answered, "Mum's a bit jealous that she's a better cook, but it is all in good fun."
Harry felt a firm tug at his hand and he turned his attention to Ginny in surprise. "What is it?" he asked.
Ginny was waving at someone down the road and tugging Harry toward the garden fence.
"Oh, it's Luna!" Hermione said enthusiastically, and she too began to wave, and drag Ron toward the fence.
Luna waved back and began skipping toward them.
"Why's she showing up so early?" Ron questioned.
"Remember we sent her an owl and asked her to come early," Ginny said. "Harry wants to introduce her to her Great Aunt."
"Oh, yeah, I forgot," Ron said rather unenthusiastically.
Hermione gave Ron a slap on the shoulder. "Ronald, be nice," she said, "Luna is our friend, and as it turns out she and her father are probably Harry's closest living relatives."
"Oh, right," Ron replied uncertainly.
Luna had reached the fence and Ginny directed her through the garden gate, greeting her with a big hug. If it was unexpected, Luna gave no indication, but seemed to return it rather joyfully.
Luna was dressed in bright orange Capri pants and a cream colored flouncy blouse with a pattern of large pink flowers. Harry thought the combination clashed terribly, but somehow Luna seemed to pull it off. It may have been the customary necklace of Butter beer corks, or perhaps the fact that she had adorned her hair with what looked like hundreds of blossoms that consisted mostly of clover and dandelion.
"Did you bring your dress for later?" Ginny asked Luna.
Luna reached in to her shoulder bag and pulled out a dress bag that had been reduced to doll size. She showed it to Ginny, as she smiled at everyone else. "I have it here," she said, pausing as she took in the busyness of the garden, "hope I haven't forgotten anything."
"Well, if you have I am sure we can make do," Ginny said as she took Luna's arm and started toward the big tent.
"We're glad you could make it Luna," Harry said finally, as Ginny grabbed his hand and pulled him along.
They hurried over to the security table where Moody measured Luna's wand and she was subjected to a security sweep with a DMD. Where most would find the security intrusive, Luna just smiled brightly and seemed to be flattered at the attention. She smiled at the young Auror operating the DMD and he smiled back in a way that made Harry momentarily uncomfortable.
Harry became aware of two things simultaneously. First, Luna had grown a bit in the short years he had known her and she was now a beautiful young woman. Her features had balanced out, her eyes, which had once seemed overly large for her face, now, were simply wide pools that this young Auror seemed quite prepared to get lost in, her hair had grown so long that she would have to be careful not to sit on it, and the rest of her... Well, he knew he had never noticed, only because he had only had eyes for Ginny. And second, realizing that he was about to tell her that they were actually related, he suddenly understood in some small part the protectiveness that the Weasley brothers felt about their little sister.
"So, Luna," he interrupted, "Have you been having a good summer?"
She accepted her wand back from Moody, and turned nonchalantly toward The Burrow. "It's been okay, Harry. Father and I have mostly stayed at home, what with his work on the Quibbler. But it's been nice; I have had lots of adventures taking long walks almost every day. You'd be amazed what there is to discover even staying close to home."
Harry felt a twinge of guilt, even though she acted her usual optimistic self, Harry thought she seemed a bit lonely.
After a long pause, Luna said, "well, should we go inside? Ginny, can I hang my dress up in your room?"
"Actually, Luna," Hermione said, "We are going to get dressed later in my room."
"Your room?" Luna questioned, "Are you living here now? Is there something you haven't told me?" Luna looked curiously at Hermione, standing next to Ron, their hands entwined.
Ginny stepped forward and took Luna's arm again, turning her toward the tent entrance. "Actually, we have a lot to tell you, Luna."
They all headed into the tent and back through in to the Manor.
Upon seeing the Manor, Luna came to the same conclusion that they hoped all the guests would arrive at. She was very impressed and expressed her surprise that the Weasley's had been able to rent such a lavish facility for the wedding. Maintaining this minor deception had been carefully planned and had required the participation of everyone staying at the manor. Even Fleur's family had believed, with the help of a simple suggestion spell which Moody had insisted would prevent them from asking too many questions, or looking too intently around the Manor. Now that the day of the wedding had arrived the visiting Aurors would be stationing sentries to prevent any guests from wandering into parts of the Manor that were to be held off limits during the festivities. Harry was pleased that everything was going well in that respect.
After depositing Luna's dress bag in Hermione's suite they started toward Harry's study. As they walked Ginny engaged Luna in a conversation about the OWL testing at the Ministry which had been their only common experience of the summer. Hermione was excited that both Ginny and Luna felt they had done quite well on the examinations and speculated that the results should be arriving any day by owl.
Upon reaching the study door Harry stopped and turned to address Luna. "Luna," he began tentatively, "we asked you here early today because we, or I, have something very important to tell you."
Luna's eyes widened, and a look of concern crossed her face, "What is it, Harry? Has something bad happed?"
"No, Luna," Ginny interrupted excitedly, "something wonderful!"
Luna stared at the smiling girl and looked rather confused, which for Luna meant a look of far off bewilderment. "Oh, I am glad," she said finally. Has this something to do with the DA?"
"Well, no Luna, not really," Harry said, "this summer has been filled with lots of unexpected discoveries, some of them having to do with you."
Luna looked far away again. "Me?" she questioned, "I can hardly imagine how anything interesting would have to do with me."
"Luna," Harry began again, more seriously. "I have some things to tell you, but first I have to know that you can and will keep what I have to tell you a secret" He paused, "It could very well put you and your father in great danger if what I have to say became common knowledge."
Luna gave Harry a look of mirrored seriousness, "Of course, Harry," she said nodding.
"Okay," Harry nodded in return. "During the summer, I have discovered a great deal about who I am and who my family is." He paused, seeming a little uncertain of what to say next. "For instance, this Manor, which we hope everyone assumes, is rented for the wedding. Well, it is actually my home."
Luna nodded again. "That is wonderful Harry, I am happy for you, but it hardly seems to have anything to do with me."
Harry nodded at Ginny, and turning, retrieved the study key from his pocket unlocking the door.
"Luna," Ginny began. "Remember, at the Ministry, just before all that mess with the Death Eaters, you were telling us that you had a Great Aunt?"
Luna looked a bit bewildered again as she tried to recall. "Oh, yes," she said finally, "I had a Great Aunt Philomena. She was my Grandfather's sister. But she disappeared, long before I was born. My father speaks of her sometimes."
"Well, it turns out," Harry began as he opened the door and lead them all into the study, "that I've discovered what became of your Great Aunt."
The life size portrait of Harry's Grandparents had been removed from the entry hall, in the interest of security, and now stood in the room propped up against one of the book cases.
Harry turned to the portrait and announced. "Luna Lovegood, I would like to introduce you to my Grandparents, Deyton, and Philomena Potter."
Luna froze; she stood before the life size portrait her eyes wide. She began to visibly tremble.
"Grandfather, Grandmother, I present your Grandniece, Luna Lovegood," Harry finished.
"My dear, I have so been looking forward to meeting you," the image of Philomena spoke, as she clutched at Deyton's arm.
There was a loud gulping sound, and Luna erupted in to tears. She turned and launched herself at Harry, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder. Ginny had to take a step to the side, but she caught Harry's eye and smiled. He looked startled, but he wrapped his arms around the trembling Luna and held her tight.
After a second, Harry asked gently, "Luna, is there something wrong?"
Luna sobbed loudly and her head shook from side to side a little.
"Harry," Ginny said, "she's just overwhelmed with happiness."
Luna's head bobbed a little, and she continued crying loudly.
After a long minute, Luna pulled herself away, and though huge tears continued to stream down her face, she was smiling. "Family?" she said, finally, in a questioning tone.
"Yes, Luna," Harry responded gently, "we're family." He hugged once again quickly.
"You're cousins, Luna," Philomena said.
Hearing her Great Aunt's voice caused Luna to tense a little, so much so that Both Harry and Ginny reacted with a look of questioning concern.
"Luna?" Philomena said again, "Deyton and I have so been looking forward to meeting you." She paused slightly, "From the first moment Harry told us about you, you have been in our thoughts... Our beautiful girl."
Luna turned and stepped slowly back to the portrait. She held her hand out in front of her until she touched the painting, her palm flat against the brush strokes. Philomena matched her movements so that the two were as close to touching hands as was possible. Luna stood there, palm to pigment for what seemed a long time before she dropped her hand and leaned in to the painting her face pressed to the canvas where Philomena's hand remained.
"It's been so long since I've had any family but Daddy," Luna said, her voice trembling.
"Well, now you have us, Sweetheart," Deyton said warmly, "and you have Harry."
Deyton gave Harry a wink and a nod.
"I think we'll just give you a few minutes alone, Luna," Harry said as he directed the others toward the door, "We'll be right outside when you're ready."
"Second cousins," Hermione said as soon as the door was closed behind them.
"What?" Ron asked.
"Technically, they're second cousins." Hermione said very seriously.
"Yes, you're right, Hermione," Harry said. He looked at the very serious expression on Hermione's face and slowly started to grin, the grin growing in to a warm chuckle.
Ginny and Ron joined Harry in his amusement. Hermione looked momentarily perturbed, until finally the absurdity of her seriousness struck her and she too began to laugh.
After a couple of minutes, Luna opened the door and invited them all back in and they passed nearly an hour chatting with his Grandparents about the Lovegood side of the family, and filling Luna in on some of the developments of the summer. Luna became excited to learn about their lessons with Alex Burgestikoff and wondered if there was any way she might join them for additional training.
Eventually, they realized that the scheduled events of the day would not wait for them and it was time for the girls at least, to be going for the bride's high tea. Luna promised the portrait she would return as soon as possible and they all made a lengthy, lingering exit.
The girls rushed off leaving Ron and Harry a bit of time to wander leisurely toward the gaming room, where the men would eventually gather for the bachelor's last toast. Of course, leisurely, meant that there was enough time for them to go out of their way, and stop at the buffet so Ron could have a leisurely sandwich, before they went to change. into their formal attire.
By four-thirty the Weasley men were all gathered in the rustic gaming room, along with Mr. Delacour, his brother, and Daniel, the good friend of Bill's from California.
The game room had been one of the first discoveries of the twins once they had been given limited permission to wander Potter Manor a few days before. It was directly across the hall from the main ballroom and featured an assortment of recreations. There was a true billiards table, two pool tables, several darts options, card tables, and an original Jaques of London 1918 "hard bat" Ping Pong table, which had intrigued the twins immediately. However, Harry suspected that the real attraction of the room was the fact that it featured a large built in, fully stocked bar, and had the feel of an upscale London, Victorian era pub.
Harry had been in the room before them, of course, but he had failed to recognize the room's potential in the same way as the twins.
Guests had begun arriving as early as three-thirty and were enjoying pre-ceremony Hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in the garden. With the ceremony scheduled for five o'clock it was only minutes before the twins, who where the lead ushers, would have to go to begin seating guests.
With all of them dressed in their wedding finery, and the fathers looking particularly proud, there was a feeling of joviality permeating the room that bordered on magical, which made Harry eye the twins with suspicion, knowing their work with magical mood altering powders.
They had all gathered around the bar where Bill and Charlie were passing out shot glasses to everyone. Charlie had asked Harry earlier if they could have a few bottles of fire whiskey from the Manor's stores for the occasion. Harry in turn had asked Jarvy for the best the Manor could offer, and Charlie was almost overwhelmed when the Elf had presented a half dozen bottles of Red Stag, thirty year old, single barrel fire whisky, in bottles dated 1902.
Charlie stood in the circle of men proudly displaying one of the bottles and announced that they were in for the finest drink of fire whiskey that any of them had ever had pass their lips. He ceremoniously uncorked the bottle and held it at arms length as the expected swirl of blue flame danced from the bottle neck, the one-hundred-twenty-one year old liquid meeting oxygen again for the first time. Once the burst of flame quickly dissipated he carefully filled each shot glass.
Bill held his glass high. "In keeping with tradition," he began, "this is my last toast as a bachelor, and I dedicate this moment to my soon to be bride, my bonded soul mate, Fleur Delacour, who will do me the very great honor, less than a half hour from now, of becoming my wife." There was a raucous response of "here here!" and they all tipped their glasses.
Harry was surprised by the smooth delicious flavor of the whisky as it slid warmly down his throat and settled in his belly spreading a wondrous comfortable heat through him. There was total silence as the surrounding men all seemed to be experiencing the same delicious phenomenon.
A moment later Charlie was refilling everyone's glass and he offered a toast to Bill and Fleur's happiness, adding that he hoped, his own bonded relationship with Helena Burgestikoff would soon lead to their own marriage.
After, that a second bottle had to be opened so that both Mr. Weasley, and Mr. Delacour, could offer toasts of their own.
A few minutes later Alastor Moody entered the room and produced a dark flask from within his robes. He summoned the twins and filled their glasses with a dark purplish liquid from the flask, made them drink and sent them off to begin seating guests. He pushed through to where Bill and Charlie were standing at the center of the company and took a third bottle from the bar examining it with obvious reverent recognition. He quickly retrieved a glass for himself and uncorking the bottle filled his glass and emptied it without hesitation. Everyone seemed to fall silent and watch as what could only be described as a smile, cracked across Moody's weathered and scarred visage. He released a satisfied "ahh" and said "wondrous!" as he viewed his empty glass with amazement. "And just how much of this have you lot had?" he questioned.
"Only four a piece," Charlie announced happily.
"Right then," Moody said, the smile still firmly anchored on his lips. "Then you'd best all have a bit if this" he began filling everyone's glass with the liquid from his flask. "We can't have any of you falling down during the ceremony. This will moderate the effects of the whiskey."
Once he had assured that everyone had consumed some of the anti-alcohol potion he ushered them all toward the door to gather near the far end of the ballroom where much of the wedding party was gathered.
Bill pulled Harry aside quickly to whisper a last minute request, and though it confused Harry a little, he none-the-less agreed.
As he crossed the room Harry was able to get a glimpse of Ginny standing in line with the other bridesmaids. He was stunned at how she looked in her shimmering leaf green, goddess style, floor length dress. The green color while chosen perfectly for the garden setting of the ceremony seemed expressly chosen for Ginny who stood out, with her fiery red hair beautifully pulled in to an elaborate French braid trailing down to her mid back.
Harry wanted to go over and tell her how stunning she was, but he was headed off by Fred who had come to usher he and Hermione to their seats.
They were walked out of the ballroom down to the garden path and a short distance to where the garden opened up through an arched hedgerow and a sea of white chairs had been set up in a half circle around the garden gazebo. Hermione was commenting with wonder at all the decorations, especially the elaborate webbing of floral garlands that hung from posts at the back of the seating area extending all the way to the top of the domed gazebo, forming a beautiful ceiling and giving the whole setting a feel of intimacy and inclusion.
As they entered the seating area Harry waved slightly to Hagrid who was seated in the back row on the groom's side. He tried to nod politely to the many guests that were waving and smiling at him, even though he was quite certain that he had never met most of them.
He was not at all surprised to see a contingent of Gringott's goblins seated on the groom's side and he acknowledged a nod from Edwin Garron who was present it seemed with a wife and three children.
He waved again as they passed Neville Longbottom sitting with his grandmother very near Luna and her father.
As they neared the front Harry nodded in recognition at the pointed glance of Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister for Magic, whose unexpected acceptance of his invitation had turned the wedding in to a major social event.
Harry and Hermione were seated at last in the front row on the groom's side next to Aunt Muriel.
A few minutes, and a few random quick seatings later, Fred escorted Mr. and Mrs. Delacour to their seats, followed quickly by George escorting his mother and father to their seats.
Miss Gore, and Bill appeared from the opposite side of the gazebo and took their places. Fred and George came to the front and standing like sentries on either side of the carpeted isle they flicked their wands over the audience's heads and a great number of candelabras placed on the gazebo and surrounding the setting popped gently alight.
The music then changed from the light chamber music that was setting a calm atmosphere to a more robust festive orchestration, signaling the entry of the wedding party.
Charlie and Antoinette entered first, traversing the isle at a comfortable pace, they arrived at the gazebo and took there places on either side of where Bill stood with Miss Gore.
Daniel and Odette were next, taking places one step down from the main level of the gazebo. They were followed by Percy accompanying Ginny, and finally Ron with Fleur's sister Gabrielle.
Once the wedding attendants were all in place, Fred and George, who had been standing at attention turned and flicked their wands at the bride's runner which was sitting coiled at the base of the stairs. As they turned and marched down the isle the white silken runner rolled behind them aligning perfectly in the center of the isle and forming a pristine walkway.
As they reached the end of the isle they disappeared through the arched hedge. The music changed again to the bride's chosen march.
Fleur appeared in the archway and stood still for a moment as everyone stood to their feet. She slowly began her approach. She was stunningly beautiful; her blonde, almost white, hair was elaborately braided beneath her simple jeweled tiara and gossamer thin veil. Her silken A-line wedding gown swept with her graceful movements, the wide scalloped, lace finished hem flowed into a ten foot chapel train. The sweetheart bodice was a shimmering work of beaded lace, embellished with crystals. Even without the benefit of her inherent Vela attraction, everyone would have agreed she was the most beautiful bride they had ever seen.
In her obvious state of elation she moved with what seemed a natural, unpracticed grace, practically floating the length of the isle to meet Bill at the base of the stairs. Together they ascended the stairs to stand before the Ministry officiator, as the music dramatically concluded. Surprisingly, they both turned to face the guests and together stepped to the right of Miss Gore.
"Welcome, family and friends to this joyous celebration," Miss Gore began, "If you will remain standing, before we begin, I am privileged to inform you that we have a very special and unusual surprise. Our Bride and Groom, Fleur Delacour and Bill Weasley, have decided, that it would be their great honor to share their ceremony today with the Groom's brother Charlie Weasley, and his intended, Miss Helena Burgestikoff."
Charlie looked momentarily stunned as a second bridal fanfare began. He recovered quickly and hurriedly descended the stairs to await Helena. As he did so, the guests erupted in applause, and turned again to face the floral archway at the end of the isle.
"That's my cue," Harry said quietly to Hermione, and as Bill had requested he stepped forward, as Daniel and Percy each stepped up a position, and occupied Percy's previous step in the wedding party opposite Ginny. No one seemed to notice the quick adjustment, except for Bill who gave Harry an appreciative wink.
Helena, who had barely been seen since her recovery, appeared at the archway. She too was a stunning bride. Her dress was slightly less elaborate than Fleur's; an elegant French Mikado gown with intricate lace floral detail on the fitted bodice, and a simpler clean A-line skirt with a shorter train. Her raven hair swept elaborately up created a stark contrast to the white of her short veil, and accentuated the lace open back of her dress with its fabric covered buttons trailing the length of the train.
As the fanfare built to a final crescendo, Helena met Charlie at the base of the stairs and they ascended to take their place at Miss Gore's left.
Molly Weasley burst in to a fit of happy tears.
"Today is truly a day of manifold blessing," Miss Gore proclaimed exuberantly. "We come together on this beautiful day to witness the joining of not one, but these two wonderful young couples in the sacred rite of the binding of matrimony..."
Harry did his best to listen this time, and he was rightfully impressed by Miss Gore's experience as an orator and an officiator. She was eloquent as she stepped through the traditions, exacting the permissions and blessings of the parents, asking for any objections, impressing upon the couples the importance and permanence of their commitment and love, and expressing the myriad rewards that would surely be theirs through the bonding of souls in honesty and purity of love.
He tried to listen, but he couldn't help but steal occasional glances at Ginny. More than once she was doing the same and their eyes met in a fury of emotion and desire. It was all he could do to remain planted to his spot and he was certain she was enduring the same.
By the time the couples had recited their personal vows, Harry was certain there were very few dry handkerchiefs remaining among the guests. There were moments of humor as well, as Charlie stumbled over his heartfelt, but entirely impromptu vows, and as Bill and Charlie each fumbled to produce a vial of powdered gold for one another's ring bindings.
The ring bindings were each more spectacular and blinding than the first Harry had witnessed earlier that day and in what seemed only a flash of time, Miss Gore was proudly proclaiming each couple wed and applauding as they sealed their vows with their first kisses as husband and wife.
As the couples were presented enthusiastically, music rose triumphantly from the orchestra, and the newlyweds were quickly on the move down the isle. Fleur and Bill, were first, followed quickly by Helena and Charlie, and in turn each of the attendants. Harry was ecstatic when he was finally able to feel Ginny take his arm and they hurried down the isle after Percy and Odette.
What followed was a tremendous feat of choreography. As the guests were ushered away back in to the open garden and plied with more cocktails. The wedding party and families were gathered for pictures by the photographer and his three assistants. Afterward they quickly assembled for the receiving line as the guests entered the main ballroom for Mrs. Scheffelgroober's sumptuously prepared feast.
Harry had never been in a situation before where he had to stand there and meet so many people. He was worried at first that his presence would distract from the brides and grooms, but while the guests did gush over him and want to shake his hand, Ginny's presence, and the fact the line did seem to keep moving made the ordeal tolerable. Luckily most everyone kept their composure and remembered what they were there for. After everyone was finally seated the feast began and the ballroom settled in to a kind of happy chaos.
Once the dinner was nearly done, the toasts began, after which dishes were magically cleared and the band began playing. Fleur and Bill and Helena and Charlie took to the dance floor for the first dance, and soon the ballroom was filled with happy guests enjoying themselves rather enthusiastically.
After dinner and a couple of quick dances, as they had agreed before hand, Ginny went to ask Luna's father, and Neville's Grandmother if the two might be allowed to spend the night, "at the Burrow", so that they could be present for her birthday celebration the following day. This gave Harry the opportunity to walk around a little and meet some of the guests. It was not something he was truly enthusiastic about doing, but he had determined, in discussion with the Dumbledore card, that it would be a good thing if he made himself a bit accessible during the event.
Harry moved about the ballroom being drawn in to conversation, after conversation. He was surprised by the number of guests that seemed very keen to express their condolences about Dumbledore's recent passing; an event that he had dealt with, with the help of the Dumbledore card. Harry was pleased by the apparent depth of Dumbledore's significance to so many across several generations. He listened politely and at times eagerly to the many stories people had to recount about the man and his many contributions to Wizarding society. Most enjoyable were stories from those who had known Dumbledore in his youth, and during his own attendance of Hogwarts.
Many of theses stories and discussions appeared to be fueled by the recent publication of an unofficial biography by Rita Skeeter. Though, among those who mentioned the book to Harry, the consensus seemed to be, that Ms. Skeeter had gotten many of her facts quite wrong, and had given to base sensationalism in order to fuel book sales.
Hermione had gotten the book almost immediately and after reading it had proclaimed it a piece of literary drivel. In his inspired, but often off-handed way, Ron had suggested to Hermione that she should write a more accurate book, and Hermione seemed to be considering the idea quite seriously. She had even begun soliciting among the wedding guests, for those who had personal accounts and encounters with Dumbledore and was seeking permission to contact people for interviews.
After making his round of most of the room, Harry finally arrived at Minister Scrimgeour's table where he was invited to sit down, for a brief discussion, and a photo op. Though it was impossible to discuss anything of any importance at the reception, he did agree to come to the Ministry that coming Friday for a formal meeting with the Minister.
After excusing himself from the Minister's table, Harry moved purposefully to the table where Headmistress McGonagall was seated with several other of the Hogwarts Professors. He greeted everyone, and inquired how preparations were coming for the approaching school year. His question was met with very enthusiastic answers from most of the table, and he gathered that a lot of changes were afoot for the new term, mostly due to an influx of students who would be attending Hogwarts following the unfortunate destruction of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. After listening to some of the ways in which they planned to accommodate the French students, and some of the French Professors, including Madam Maxime, Harry quietly, and rather pointedly inquired of Headmistress McGonagall, if she had filled the post of DADA Professor. Somewhat reluctantly, Minerva confessed that the position remained unfilled and that she was finding the problem quite troublesome. With a rather large grin spreading across his face he asked politely, if he might be allowed to make a suggestion.
Minerva looked at Harry for a rather long moment, with a somewhat surprised expression. "That would be a bit unorthodox, Mr. Potter," she said finally. "However, if you know of a suitable candidate, I would be remiss if I did not at least hear your suggestion."
With that, Harry quickly described some of his recent lessons and directed the Headmistress' gaze to the head table.
Afterward, Minerva thanked him for his suggestion, and promised to give the matter her consideration. Harry, quite happily, asked to be excused from the table then and after final greetings made his way back to his own table.
Having fulfilled his more-or-less social obligations, Harry was quite relieved, when he was finally dragged onto the dance floor by Ginny to join Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna.
For a while Harry expected something to happen to compromise the security and identity of the Manor, or that there would be an attack by Death Eaters, but as the night wore on and nothing of the sort happened he finally relaxed and enjoyed himself.
By about ten o' clock, many of the more elderly guests, and those with young children had begun to take their leave, but that just seemed to signal the party to move into higher gear. The raucous merriment continued unabated until midnight when the two couples announced that they would be retiring to their suites. That triggered the guests to gather and form a pathway for the two couples to move through as they exited the ballroom. As they moved through the room the guests showered them with pink and blue flower petals, which had been set out on all the tables in large bowls. The gesture was meant to wish the couples fertile unions and gave the guests the opportunity to register their opinion as to the gender of a first child.
As they left, Harry noted that Fleur's train was covered in predominantly pink petals, while Helena's was predominantly blue. He wondered flippantly if this gesture would be an accurate predictor for the future.
Ginny noticed as well, as she pulled Harry close and whispered in his ear. "Guess I'm going to have a niece and a nephew," she cooed, "eventually."
Harry smiled at her and nodded. "If the petals are right, it certainly looks that way." Harry pulled her out onto the dance floor as the band began to play again. "Oh, by the way," he said, "Happy birthday, Ginny."
Ginny gave him a big smile and pulled him close as a slow song began.
By one o' clock in the morning most of the guests had departed. Moody quietly started making rounds suggesting to guests that were not staying at the manor, that it might soon be time to leave.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley departed about two in the morning, but not before coming round to thank Harry once again for use of the Manor and informing Ginny that she and Luna were expected to follow shortly, and were to sleep at The Burrow in Ginny's room.
Once all the guests were gone and security was satisfied that everything was in order, Moody left with the last of the Aurors and the Manor was once again quiet.
Ron and Hermione said their good nights and went off with Neville to have Jarvy open a room for him. Harry retrieved the Portus Omnibus and walked Ginny and Luna to the cupboard that would take them directly to The Burrow kitchen.
It had been a wonderful full day and a magical evening, and Harry was glad it had gone so well. He was very tired and ready for sleep, but, instead he headed to his study to say goodnight to his Grandparents.
Tomorrow was likely to be another full day.
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for anyone interested, I have now begun a page on Facebook dedicated to this Fan-fic and I welcome any comments there.
Also I have posted a file containing Harry's family tree as it appears in this story that can be downloaded.
Just search - Harry Potter and the Heart of the Hero - on Facebook and you should find it. I welcome all comments and discussion!
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