Chapter 20 - A Walk Down the Aisle
Voldemort - Deceased
Dumbledore - Defunct
Potter - Departed
Ron didn't require an Outstanding in his divination exam later today to predict the future furore those Prophet headlines would generate. There was an expectant silence hanging over the great hall as people crowded around those with an issue of today's newspaper. Apart from being very vague about Harry and Luna's sharing abilities, everything else was laid out in vivid detail. Luna's heroics, Dumbledore's deception, Voldemort and his remaining Death Eaters demise along with Ginny's betrayal were graphically described in gut wrenching accuracy.
He worried over his sister. Ron didn't see any way Ginny could ever walk back into Hogwarts after this, she probably couldn't walk down Diagon Alley either. It actually got worse for Ginny's case on the inside pages of the newspaper. The Prophet had run the same picture of the trio standing up to the dementors in Diagon Alley, though this time with a different headline. 'Heroes Betrayed' really summed the situation up nicely, and doomed those doing the betraying to a life of hell in Britain.
When Draco stood and started applauding in the direction of the staff table, Ron scanned down the page to see Professor Snape was being awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class. This proposal may have come from the new Minister of Magic, Madam Amelia Bones, but she made plain the nomination for the award came directly from Harry Potter. Thus practically guaranteeing it sailed through the Wizengamot vote with a positive result.
Ron then stood and began applauding the professor too, taking most of Gryffindor with him. Looking over to his also standing twin brothers, all three shared the same thoughts. Without Professor Snape, Harry and Luna would probably have perished. Any chance Ginny had of avoiding capital punishment would have perished with them. She would soon have had her wish to be with Harry granted, Ginny would have been dead too. None of the three brothers had any doubt Snape had also saved their sister's life that night.
With the entire great hall now on their feet, including the staff, Severus was left with no choice but to stand and take a bow. That this then saw the cheering increase almost had him blushing. He still intended to inform Minerva she would need a new defence professor for September, he would though now at least stay in Hogwarts until the end of the week. He would need to wait on the ministry contacting him anyway.
Alongside his qualifications, now having an Order of Merlin, First Class, to his name meant Severus Snape shouldn't have any trouble finding a new job anywhere. Things had certainly taken an upturn in his life.
Albus Dumbledore couldn't say the same, quite the opposite in fact. The stares he was being greeted with this morning were verging on hostile, that was until Tom spotted him. Their was no mistaking the proprietor of the Leaky Cauldron's emotions, he was serving up pure hostility - with more than a dash of anger on the side.
"Pack yer bag and sling yer hook. You're not welcome here."
"I paid for a room and breakfast…"
"You'll be getting your money back, I don't want it. I watched that brave lass lose her father in the Alley that day last year, she fought like a tiger at Harry and Hermione's side. What gave you the right to send her up against that dark bastard? It wasn't her job to deal with the likes o' that - it was yours! Get your stuff and get out, you're barred from my pub as long as I'm the landlord."
Looking around the pub, Albus couldn't miss the nods of agreement coming from the other customers. He also couldn't miss the large framed picture of Harry standing beside Tom that was above the bar. Considering some of Tom's clientele, Albus thought he might just have achieved another first. The first person to be barred from entering the Leaky Cauldron.
With a heavy heart, Albus headed back up to his rented room to pack. After living in Hogwarts for fifty six years, and expecting to return there after his stint as Minister of Magic ended, Albus didn't have a home he could call his own. He certainly had enough gold in his vaults to buy somewhere to live, but that would take time. Meanwhile he needed to find somewhere he could hang his hat tonight, and wasn't sure where to start.
Heavy hearts were the order of the day for the three Weasleys sitting in the small juvenile courtroom. Bill had rushed back to Britain, unable to believe a Weasley, far less his baby sister, could be involved in something like this. Even though the news came from his father, Bill still needed to hear the words from Ginny before he could accept this wasn't some colossal mistake.
With Luna and Harry managing to escape and then make relatively full recoveries, Amelia was able to have Ginny's case heard by the juvenile court. This offered some relief as, while they could still hand out severe punishments, the veil wasn't one of them. Any other result that night would have seen Ginny dragged in front of the full Wizengamot, and they wouldn't have been in a forgiving mood.
The three Wizengamot members who would sit on the panel entered and Arthur wasn't surprised he didn't know any of them well. Amelia played everything by the book. These three would listen and then make their judgement - and it would be a just one.
Ginny was led in, and Bill's heart was in his mouth at the sight of her in prison robes. She sat in front of them with her head down, a ministry representative by her side. The member of the panel sitting to the left of the three asked the first question.
"Miss Weasley, we have heard a lot about what happened on Monday. We're here today to hear about the part you played in it. Please tell us what happened, right from the very beginning. I feel I should point out your parents have given their permission for truth serum to be used here today, if we think it's necessary. Telling lies during this hearing would severely increase any punishment meted out here today."
Sitting there with her head down, Ginny's long red hair covering her face, she began to speak. This entire situation was designed to encourage this very thing, get the youngster somewhat comfortable and then start them talking.
"I have been in love with Harry Potter for years, I suppose a lot of girls around my age have. The difference here is those girls didn't walk down to breakfast one morning and find him sitting there. I didn't know it was possible to be excited, mortified and totally in love all at the same time. He stayed with us for four weeks, those were the best weeks of my life. I couldn't talk to him though, nor was there anyone else I could talk to about it - then I met Tom."
Arthur asked if he could explain to the panel about that episode, informing the three members exactly who Tom was and how the Dark Lord had possessed his daughter. Arthur led them through the entire affair, ending with him and Molly sitting in Dumbledore's office. They were waiting on news of their two youngest children, missing presumed lost. Arthur was unable to find the words to describe how they both felt when Harry Potter led Ron and Ginny into that same office.
Ginny once more took over. "Harry came for me. Not only that, he defeated an enormous basilisk and then destroyed Tom to save me - almost losing his own life as he did so. Surely that must mean he really loved me? Then he hugged Hermione - in front of the entire great hall too. I was devastated. We went to Egypt that summer so I didn't get to see Harry at all. Back at Hogwarts, he barely noticed me. Hermione was always there at his side."
As Ginny continued in the same vein, all could hear how a normal crush built into an unhealthy obsession - an obsession that ruled her life. Listening to Ginny describe how she was ready to go head to head with Hermione because the witch was taking her Harry away from Hogwarts - and of course Ginny - was unbelievable. All had seen the iconic picture of Hermione fighting dementors by Harry's side, yet this little girl was delusional enough to think she was going to win some duel against this extraordinary witch - with Harry's affections supposedly going to the victor.
Her grief when she thought Harry had been kissed by a dementor was certainly real enough, only matched by discovering he was alive - and then her Harry publicly rejecting one Ginevra Weasley. That grief quickly turned to anger when Harry left with Hermione - and Luna. How had that happened? She'd tried for years to get him to notice her, yet he left her behind again while Luna now walked at his side.
Ginny saying that she thought Xeno's murder was Luna's punishment for trying to steal her Harry had Molly sobbing, Arthur and Bill were staring at the girl as if she was a stranger. After not seeing Harry for a year, his arrival that day in Hogwarts had Ginny high as a kite. Hermione was there of course, but so was Luna. Hearing Harry was now Lord Black, and would need to marry a pureblood - it was like all her dreams just came true. She would get her prince, the love of her life, and be Lady Black to boot.
She immediately made her offer, only for Harry to publicly reject her again. He was going to marry Luna and Hermione. Two wives, and Ginny couldn't even be one of them. She didn't remember much after that, until Bulstrode appeared in the toilet.
Arthur and even Bill now had tears in their eyes. The way Ginny talked about the whole affair was like someone doing extra chores and odd jobs, while saving up their gold to by a new broom. Getting Luna out the picture was the chore, and Harry then became the Firebolt. That she was talking about someone being murdered didn't seem to register with Ginny. Either that, or she just didn't care. It was cold, callous and creepy to hear all this pouring out of such a young witch, one they seemingly only thought they knew.
As she finished her tale, the member sitting in the centre of the panel asked if the Weasley family would like to say anything on the matter. It was a shaken Arthur who nodded and stood to be heard.
"We of course knew our daughter had a crush on Harry Potter. Then again, what young witch in Britain didn't. It's now clear this went way beyond a crush, I can honestly say I didn't recognise the witch who spoke at the end there. Harry is an outstanding young wizard, and someone we consider family. We know Hermione very well too, she is someone else who has shared our home and hospitality. Her father actually offered my family use of their cottage after Death Eaters burned our home to the ground. The Grangers are considered good friends by the Weasleys."
At this point, Arthur found Molly's hand slipping into his. This gave him the strength to say what he needed to. "I stood and spoke at Mia Lovegood's funeral while Xeno cradled his daughter in his arms. That we returned there again last year to bury Xeno was one of the saddest things I've ever done. Xeno though would have died happy, knowing he left his beloved Luna with people who loved her as much as he did. What I'm trying to say is that all the people involved in this are very close to our hearts. I listened to my own daughter saying those things and still I struggle to comprehend how this could have happened. I have no excuses to offer because Ginny's actions and behaviour are inexcusable. All I have is a father's love for a little girl who became the apple of his eye from the moment she was born. If those rose-tinted spectacles blinded me to what was really happening then I can only offer my apologies."
As Arthur sat back down, Molly was clinging to him for dear life. Bill to had his hand on his father's shoulder, offering and receiving comfort from the contact. Ginny still sat with her head down, almost as if waiting on being told she was a bad girl and to go to her room.
This wasn't really a courtroom as such. With the aid of a few silencing charms, the three panel members sat where they were and deliberated over the notes each had written. It may only have taken twenty minutes for them to reach a decision but the three eldest Weasleys were unable to stand by the time the silencing charms came down.
"Miss Genevra Weasley, what we have heard here today is quite the harrowing tale. There is no one in this room who doesn't believe you guilty, your own family can't even disagree with that. It is the judgement of this panel that you be expelled from Hogwarts, your wand to be snapped and your magic bound. It will then be up to your family whether they claim you, or a complete memory wipe will be carried out. You will then appear in the muggle world as an unknown young girl, one suffering from amnesia..."
With a wail of despair, Molly's eyes rolled in her head at hearing that. Only Arthur's strong grip kept his wife from falling off her seat.
"We realise this might seem harsh, but the consequences of your actions saw people die. The fact you appear to have no remorse over the matter left us with little choice. Your possession by the Dark Lord when aged only eleven troubles us though, which is why we took so long to reach our decision. Before we condemn a young witch to such a severe punishment, we wanted to be sure we were right to do so. Prior to any punishment being carried out, Ginevra Weasley will be examined by the best mind healers St Mungo's has to offer. Their findings will determine whether this punishment is carried out, or they discover any new information that finds us back here again to reconsider."
Arthur gently lay Molly across his seat too as he stood and addressed the panel. "From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for that. We were told by someone we trusted that our daughter was fine, I really should have known better. Should the findings go against Ginny, I will of course still claim her as my daughter. Our home is quite remote, she could be happy there - and not cause any more trouble."
The panel members seemed pleased at that, they nodded and left. Ginny was then led out the room, not once did she lift her head to look at her family. Arthur and Bill then roused Molly to give her the news, there was now a glimmer of hope.
Any glimmer of hope Albus had died the instant his brother spoke.
"So, finally scraping the bottom of the barrel are we? Tom chucked you out on your ear and then Rosmerta wouldn't let you across her door. All these friends you cultivated finally got to see the real you, funny that they now all think the same as me. You've had nearly a century yet still haven't worked it out, have you? Let me explain something that I've known since I was still a student at Hogwarts, oh esteemed brother mine. Sacrificing a young girl who's yet to see her sixteenth birthday is never a price worth paying, not even for your blasted greater good. Ariana would be so disappointed in you, Albus."
This saw the great Albus Dumbledore slump into a chair in the Hog's Head Tavern and sit with his head in his hands. Abe was right, he'd had doors slammed in his face all day. Even Minerva barred him from staying with Hagrid while Hogwarts was in session. If he could get lodgings until Saturday, Albus would at least have somewhere to spend the summer. Abe though had floored him with his reference to their beloved sister. Had he really made the same mistake again? As the tears started to soak into his beard, a bottle of firewhisky and two glasses were plonked on the table. He looked up just as Abe sat to join him.
"What about your customers?"
"What customers? They all buggered off as soon as you walked in the door. Since they're gone, you can stay the night. You need to leave in the morning though, you brother are bad for my business."
"Thanks Abe, I'll pay my way."
"Too bloody true you will - and for this firewhisky as well. You nearly had the entire country paying for your mistakes.'
"I don't understand. We needed to get rid of Voldemort…"
"The Dark Lord was as good as dead. He had few followers, little gold and no political power - it was only a matter of time before he fell. You almost unleashed a far worse fate on the country."
Those blank looks left Abe shaking his head. "And you're supposed to be the smart Dumbledore brother. Being a pub landlord has its advantages, one of them is I get to hear things you might want kept quiet. I've been hearing stories about Harry Potter since the boy first set foot in that castle. Filtering out all the crap left me with one fact. Harry Potter is an extremely powerful wizard, maybe soon even overtaking you and that arsehole Tom Riddle. This is the wizard you could have turned against us."
"What are you talking about? Harry Potter will never turn dark…"
"…not while he has those girls of his at his side. You almost took one of those girls he loves away from him. Harry Potter turning against everything you purport to believe in, especially with the Granger girl at his side, he could have destroyed our world. I'm not talking about burning down houses and dark marks floating in the sky."
Albus let out a sigh of relief at that, his relief was short lived though.
"He has magical power in bucketloads, with the prestige and gold of the Potter and Black families to back it up. He's a real live hero who the public adore, and both he and his future Mrs Potter are smart enough to fool the entire ministry along with you - even when he was locked in Azkaban."
Not being able to refute any of that left Albus wondering just where Abe was going with this. He didn't have long to wait as his brother angrily pointed out something else that was apparently obvious to everyone but him.
"Look at the damage Malfoy and his money were able to do to our community, then multiply that effect by at least a hundred. Potter would have been able to take our magical society by the throat and shake it like a terrier with a rat until it screamed for mercy. He would then have remodelled our society to whatever he wanted it to be. His model would certainly have been a different version to what Riddle would have moulded, but I doubt if ether of us would have recognised our own country in a few years - providing you survived his wrath that is."
Sipping his fire whisky, Albus had to confess the lad had promised to come after him with everything he had if Luna didn't pull through.
"Exactly as I said. That lad lost his family while still a bairn, can't you see that would make him even more protective of the family he now has? Look what he did to Bellatrix Lestrange, and she was regarded as being the most powerful witch in the country. Voldemort also paid the price for kidnapping one of his girls. Wiped off the face of the planet, along with his remaining Death Eaters. This was the force that you almost unleashed on Britain. Personally, I'm glad he's settling with those girls in Italy. Now all the madness is over, that will let Bones get our country back on an even keel."
Pouring another drink for each of them, Abe then said what he needed to. "With Riddle dead and Potter now left Britain, it's time for you to go too, Albus. The country will survive without you, Amelia will make her own decisions. Buy a magical tent and get out to see the world. All the things you ever wanted to do or see, now is the time. If you find a place you really like, buy a little pub and settle down. It's not a bad life, and certainly never boring. You might even like passing on all that wisdom you've accumulated to people who actually want to hear it. Drunk customers are great listeners, especially when you're the one serving the drink." Abe gave a hearty laugh at his own wit, before reaching for the bottle again.
As the sun and the level of the firewhisky bottle sank lower, Albus began to think his younger brother was on to something. It had been demonstrated over and over again today that there was nothing left for him in Britain, perhaps a long road trip was exactly what he needed.
Their portkey dumped the four Hogwarts students on the same floor where Claire had first discovered magic was real. These four of course knew that fact and were entirely focused on greeting their waiting friends. While Dobby took their school trunks away, Hermione and Luna led the group through to the terrace where Winky had a light lunch prepared. That Ron wasn't looking all around him like the other three, and had deliberately held back to the end of the group, alerted Harry something was troubling his best mate.
"Harry, I've got news about Ginny…"
"Can you share it with the rest of the group, or is it private? You know I have no secrets from Hermione and Luna."
"It's not really private, I was unsure about mentioning it in front of Luna…"
"In this place, we find it's better if everything gets brought out into the open. I'm assuming you'll be telling Susan about it, what about Neville and Parvatti?"
Nodding, Ron made his mind up. "I think I'd rather just tell it the once, perhaps everyone together would be best…"
Harry put his hand supportively on Ron's shoulder and led him through to the terrace. After taking a seat, and a sip of whatever that delicious juice was, Ron decided to get this out of the way.
"My father met me before I got to Hogsmeade Station, he brought news of Ginny that he thought I should know. Ginny's been in St Mungo's for the last couple of days, the mind healers were looking to see if it was possible her being possessed by that bloody diary had left any damage. It seems they found something…"
Luna burst into tears at that, being quickly held by Hermione and Harry. Ron tried to apologise for upsetting her but Luna was having none of it.
"I've been wondering what I could possibly have done wrong for Ginny to do that to me. Hearing that she might be ill is a relief - does that make sense?"
She got a nod of understanding from Ron. "She's my sister yet I felt the same relief. The alternative was just too horrible to think of. We all know Voldemort was the only person who was more obsessive about Harry than Ginny, that seems to have caused the problem. Not only did this reinforce Ginny's belief she was right to be obsessive about Harry, Voldemort's morals on the matter transferred to Ginny too. Since Voldemort didn't have any morals about getting what he wanted from Harry, neither does Ginny. When it comes to Harry, she would literally do anything, and not see that it was wrong. Dad used some big word that I'd never heard before, and can't really remember. Something to do with her mind having problems, and Ginny being like two different people."
Hermione had a stab at guessing. "Schizophrenia?" Ron's nod had her continuing. "It's not really called that now, it's more often referred to as multiple personality disorder."
Since they had all seen that darker side of Ginny, it was hard to refute what Ron and Hermione were saying. Harry did have a question though.
"What happens with Ginny now?"
"Oh, she's still expelled from Hogwarts, and the ministry are keeping her wand in storage. Having her magic bound has been suspended, but only until the mind healers have reached their decision - then everything will be looked at again. She will have to attend St Mungo's on a weekly basis and has another review with the juvenile court scheduled in six months. The mind healers have told my mum and dad this is going to be a slow process."
Ron had his head down at the next bit, there was still some lingering guilt that he had failed his sister back when she was in first year. "Ginny had that diary for the best part of a year, and then went untreated for another three. The mind healers reckon that might be the sort of timescale we're looking at for Ginny to make a complete recovery. The juvenile court are going to give her all the time she needs, but continually keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, Ginny is confined to the Burrow. Mum's blocked her floo access and put a tether charm on her…"
That this started Luna giggling confused Harry and Hermione, they were searching to remember what that charm actually was before Luna told them.
"The tether charm is used by parents on toddlers, it's basically like a set of reins. If Ginny moves too far from whoever she's tethered to, she sets off an alarm. She'll be tied to Molly's apron strings for the foreseeable future, Ginny will absolutely hate that."
Emma had been alarmed when she heard Luna burst into tears. Making her way onto the terrace, she arrived just as Luna began to giggle. Seeing Hermione and Harry were once more right there for Luna left Emma in awe of the way their relationship worked.
After the experience Luna had earlier in the week, Emma and Dan had been prepared for disturbed sleeps, mood swings and worse as their blonde daughter struggled to cope with her actions. They were even ready to suggest some sort of therapy, similar to what Ginny now seemed to be receiving. Instead, they had to concede that the best therapy for Luna seemed to be having Harry and Hermione with her.
It would appear the old axiom that a trouble shared was a trouble halved applied doubly so in their case. That trouble wasn't just halved, it was shared equally between all three of them. Add that Luna knew for certain the other two didn't think any less of her and she was dealing with the situation much better than any of them had expected.
Having seen their relationship already cope with Xeno's death and the aftermath of their battle in the Alley last year, all the adults involved had agreed this was a solid foundation to build the type of marriage the trio wanted onto.
She'd already met the four friends from her trips to Hogwarts but this was Emma's chance to get to know them. Emma was invited to sit too as Hermione's excitement soon overspilled into discussing the plans they had made for their friends. That excitement soon reached Susan and Parvati, just mentioning going shopping for wedding clothes this afternoon made a big impression on all of them. None of the four had ever been shopping in a muggle area before, and were keenly looking forward to the experience.
All seven witches and wizards just had a pretty traumatic week. Shopping today, lazing around the pool tomorrow and then sightseeing in Venice on Monday was as good a way as any to ease them back into what passed for normality here.
Hermione was in her wedding dress, standing looking in a full length mirror. That the same mirror also showed the reflections of her mother, Luna and Susan took the bride back to the day she'd picked the garment they were all currently admiring.
Luna now had a better idea of how much of a shock it was for Susan and Parvati to be entering what to them felt like a different world. She ended up taking both witches by the arm as Emma and Hermione led them past a vast range of muggle stores filled with unbelievable wonders. Both mother and daughter guided their little group straight to the bridal shop they had previously chosen. Luna reminding the two Hogwarts students they were staying in Italy for the next two weeks, and that more shopping trips would certainly be on their itinerary, saw that information being celebrated with wide grins.
Hermione being the witch she was already knew what she was looking for, pleasing the shop assistant no end. Within an hour it was down to a choice between two dresses. The bride to be knew the one of the pair she really wanted to choose, Hermione just didn't know if she had the body or the confidence to pull it off.
This led to her being kissed by Luna, who had immediately sussed what the problem was. "I think you are absolutely stunning in that. I also have no doubt our future husband will think the exact same. You can ask him tonight, Since there's no way we'll be able to keep this to ourselves."
The dress was pure white silk, strapless and clung to her body without in any way being sexually evocative. The dress actually only started to splay out when it reached halfway down her thighs. It was gathered there in a large white gold and sparkling diamond clasp/broach. A belt of the same design and material was around Hermione's trim waist.
Her mother, Susan and Parvati all agreed Hermione looked stunning in her chosen dress, but it was Luna's opinion that really counted. With that decision made, the bridal party then shifted their focus onto choosing bridesmaid dresses.
With the style of Hermione's dress setting the tone, both Luna and Susan chose a dress that was of similar cut but a lot simpler design. The assistant suggested a pale peach colour would complement both bridesmaids, Susan and Luna trying on a couple of garments in that colour convinced the party she was right. When Luna and Susan liked different features on two different dresses, the assistant was quick to point out these could easily be combined to make bespoke garments. That was another easy decision and they all hoped the men were having the same luck. Since Hermione decided they would be wearing traditional black tuxedos, they shouldn't have any problems.
While Luna was helping Emma chose her outfit as mother of the bride, Hermione had a quiet word with Parvati. "We want you to pick a dress for our wedding too, and also one for Padma. She'll be getting an invite as well. We actually thought about adding Draco's name to the invites but feel that it might just be too soon to take that step. He will certainly be at Lord Black's wedding next September."
After a hug of thanks, Parvatti grabbed Susan to give her a hand as she hit the racks of dresses, Hermione moved over to where Luna was busy helping their mother with her choice.
For each of the seven friends, those two weeks became the best holiday of their lives. Not only did it strengthen the bonds of friendship between all of them, the two visiting couples grew closer to their significant other too. It wasn't just seeing Susan and Parvatti in their newly bought bikinis that had Ron and Neville's thoughts turning to snapping these witches up permanently, their relationships were deepening the more time they spent together outside of Hogwarts. The more of that time they spent together as a group, the Hogwarts four got to really see just how close their trio of friends were, and just how happy it made them.
While neither of the couples had any wish to add a third person to their blossoming relationships, each of the four could see these relationships working through the rest of school and beyond. The fact that each wanted these relationships to do so, and were prepared to work toward that end meant there was a fair chance they just might make that happen.
There had been tears shed amongst the group when it was time for four of them to head back to Britain, just as there had been tears last night when they returned. With all the guests from Britain staying for the weekend, the villa was bursting at the seams. Ron and Neville had fold out beds in Harry's room, leaving the one they used earlier in the summer available for the Weasley twins - Padma had just bunked with Parvatti and Susan. Molly and Arthur had tried to send their apologies before Ron contacted Bill. The eldest Weasley brother was back at the Burrow, babysitting Ginny to allow their parents to attend the wedding they were most certainly invited to.
With two Ministers of Magic and the British Chief Witch there as well, it had taken quite a bit of planning to keep their small family and friends wedding from turning into a media circus. Not releasing the date beforehand had certainly helped. Outside their seven friends at Hogwarts, all of whom swore themselves to secrecy, only Headmistress McGonagall had known the exact date. This was kept a secret until all their friends left Hogwarts after classes on Friday to take their portkey to Italy.
With Amelia, Arthur, Molly and Augusta here too, this further emphasised the families may be living in Italy but they had not forgotten their British friends. The families were also going to provide both Eugene and Amelia some wedding pictures that could be printed in the Italian and British magical press.
Looking again in the mirror, Hermione could see the tears forming in the corners of her mother's eyes. "Mum, you're not supposed to start crying until dad leads me down the aisle."
"I know, love, but you look so beautiful. I was just wishing those girls who had given you such a hard time at primary school could see you now. I wouldn't change this though for our church in Crawly - and we're never inviting any of them here."
"You're just not thinking this through, mum. I distinctly remember you getting the Crawley Observer every week, and looking at the pictures of the local weddings. I'm sure the paper would print ours too, if only to let their readers know that the Grangers are now dentists in Sorrento."
"Beautiful and smart, Harry never had a chance. Then again I'm biased, about both my girls."
"Thanks mum. Hermione really is beautiful though, and I've got to follow her next year."
This saw Hermione hug a Luna who she knew was joking. "The wizard who will be waiting on us at the end of that aisle thinks we're both beautiful, and Harry's is the only opinion that counts with us."
"Well, even though my opinion doesn't seem to count, I think both my girls are beautiful. You too darling, oh and Susan looks so pretty that Ron might find himself jumping in the pool again to cool off. See what I mean, the sight of you four stunningly beautiful women has me gibbering here like a tongue-tied teenager." Dan's ravings had all four of those women now laughing at him.
A kiss on his wife's cheek followed. "Seriously love, you need to go and take your seat. I'll be along shortly, after I get rid of these two…" Dan couldn't say anymore, while still trying to joke he was choking up himself with the intense emotions of the occasion.
Being careful of all their make-up and hair styles, Emma gave the three witches a kiss on the cheek before going to take her position in the front row. They all had flowers in their hair, both Hermione and Luna insisting there would be no tiaras worn today. Rowena Ravenclaw's possessed diadem had put them off that particular type of jewellery for life.
It was time, so Dan offered Hermione his arm. He then surprised all of them by offering Luna his other arm. "You are my daughter, and you're also going to meet your new husband too. My job is to take the both of you there,"
"But this is Hermione's day…"
Thinking her father's idea was wonderful, Hermione wasn't slow to add her approval. "A day that is made even better by knowing you're involved too. I'll be standing beside Harry with you right next to me, I can't think of anything more wonderful than that so my day is already perfect. It's tradition for a father to pass his daughter onto her chosen husband, that's what dad is doing here - with both of us. I know you'll be quietly whispering your marriage vows too, just as we both know Harry will certainly be answering them under his breath."
Luna's smile was now of the megawatt variety. She missed her parents but believed that both would be looking down on her today. Harry and Hermione hoped she was right, because that would mean James and Lily Potter would see their son marry both of them too. She looked to the man who had become a father to all three of them. "We can start our own tradition here today. We'll switch positions when I become Lady Black next year."
With that settled, a smiling Dan turned his attention to the other bridesmaid. "Are you okay with this, Susan?"
"I think it's a wonderful idea. It might also hide me from Molly Weasley for a little while longer, I don't think she'll approve of Ron's girlfriend wearing a dress like this."
This got an even wider smile out of Dan. "You might be surprised. I heard her telling Amelia last night you're the best thing that ever happened to Ron. After all that trouble Ginny caused, I doubt if Molly will be passing judgement on anyone else - certainly not anyone here today. Shall we get this show on the road? We wouldn't want to keep your gentlemen waiting."
As the secrecy of the event was paramount, George and Fred weren't able to ask dates to the wedding. They were sitting dressed in tuxedos Harry had arranged for them. Both thought they looked spiffing and their mother couldn't or wouldn't take her eyes of them. Then the music started and Dan led Hermione and Luna down the small aisle, with Susan behind them. The twins just glanced at one another and had the exact same thought.
"We don't have enough film for the camera with us."
"Wouldn't matter, Georgie. No one would believe those pictures anyway."
"Yeah, they'd think we pranked the pictures. You'll tell me if I start drooling though, won't you."
"Sorry, I can't take my eyes off three of the most beautiful women I've ever seen."
"I thought these Italians knew how to make a suit, but those dresses are something else…"
It was their father who passed on some words of wisdom. "It's not the dresses, rather the wonderful witches who are in them. Harry and our Ron are very lucky wizards."
Amelia was sitting in front of the Weasleys and agreed with what Arthur just said, she was also very happy the way Susan's relationship with the youngest Weasley son was progressing. Augusta was sitting beside Amelia, with Parvatti and Padma in front of them. She thought her grandson looked so handsome standing up there with his friends, Augusta was also delighted Parvatti thought so to. Like Amelia, she heartily approved of her ward's choice. Seeing the two beautiful witches being led down the aisle, she couldn't help but think that in a few years Neville would be standing there waiting on his bride.
Sirius sat with his wife and mother-in-law, proud as punch at the wizard his godson had become. If anyone deserved to be happy, then it was Harry James Potter. Just a glance in his godson's direction was all that was needed to tell the world that he was exceedingly happy about what was just about to take place here. All Sirius needed to make this day perfect was to find out more about the date Remus had brought to the wedding. With his wife, mother-in-law and Emma all warning him to be on his best behaviour though, Sirius was going to have to be subtle. That was fine by him, subtle was his middle name - or was it Orion?
The villa's terrace had been magically expanded out and over the swimming pool, with the guests seated in rows either side of the flowered arches that made the aisle Dan was currently leading Hermione and Luna down.
Mindful of the Italian Ministry official who was standing beside them to conduct today's ceremony, Ron watched his language as he stated the blindingly obvious. "Harry, mate, we are two - sorry three lucky wizards."
Neither Neville or Harry were going to disagree with that.
Harry really couldn't answer anyway. The sight of Dan leading both Hermione and Luna toward him had temporarily stolen all the breath from his body. It wasn't even the dresses, having already seen every detail when they shared.
He really couldn't put his finger on what had triggered these powerful emotions. The beautiful occasion being held in their home and bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, all those he considered family being here to support them, Dan's sensitivity and thoughtfulness toward Luna with the wonderful gesture he was making today. It could be a combination of all of those, or even it suddenly just hitting him how far he'd come since those dark days of being flung into Azkaban. They tended not to look backward, and certainly didn't play the what-if game. Their forms also helped a lot with that, Bolt's instincts were all about the now and looking to the future.
As Harry's future walked toward him, he could see through misty eyes the concern on Hermione and Luna's faces. Harry stepped forward and took both their hands from Dan, starting another tradition as he gently kissed Luna and then Hermione.
"Are you okay?" Hermione's concern died with Harry's kiss.
"I am now, and always will be as long as I have you two."
As Luna moved to take her position at Hermione's side, she spoke just loud enough for both of them to hear. "Then you're going to be fine for the rest of your life, we all are."
With that, it was time to do what they were here for - get married.