CHAPTER THIRTY

CELEBRATION

As I said, the ceremony went off beautifully. Harry and Ron, dressed in black formal robes, took their places. Ron's outfit looked brand new, and was trimmed in gold; Harry's was trimmed in red. The girls wore gorgeous silvery-white robes; Hermione's was trimmed in red and Ginny's in gold, so both couples were wearing their House colors when they stood together. The brides both carried bouquets of mixed red and golden-yellow roses, too; when the subject came up, Betty Blackstone impressed Professor Sprout, and surprised me, by knowing that red roses symbolize love, yellow roses stand for friendship, and all roses mean happiness and joy. How that figures in a Bosun's education, I don't know.

Professor Flitwick, seated on the aisle, made flower petals appear under their feet as Arthur and Walter escorted their daughters down the aisle, and at the proper moment, placed their hands in the hands of their husbands-to-be. Then, as if they'd rehearsed it, both fathers leaned over and kissed their daughters on the forehead, straightened up, and went and sat down by their wives. (It wasn't rehearsed, or even discussed. Afterwards they both expressed surprise that the impulse had come to them at the same moment. I think they were the only ones who felt surprised, though.)

When the rings had been exchanged, there was an unexpected moment: Hermione reached up and took off the tiara she was wearing. It was a lovely piece of worked silver, set with jewels. She reached over and placed it on Ginny's head, adjusting it to sit just so. I guess I must have looked surprised, because George, who was sitting next to me, glanced over, grinned, and explained in a prison-yard whisper out of the side of his mouth:

"That's old Aunt Muriel's tiara. There's only the one, so the girls decided Hermione would wear it going up the aisle and Ginny coming back down. Thank the stars we've only got the tiara this time, and not Aunt Muriel! She's a hundred eight, and never stops talking. Or anything, really. But she's loaded, absolutely loaded, so we have to let her come and insult everyone. Dad went over to see her in person, and told us she was just wild that she couldn't come on such short notice. If that's the only thing your suggestion had accomplished, Ryan, we'd still be in your debt forever."

He was shushed by a wet glower from Molly. Wet, because she and Anne Granger were sitting next to each other and both crying. I looked around surreptitiously, and saw that Betty Blackstone, Fleur Weasley, and the ladies in the Hogwarts group were all dripping too. Even Professor Slughorn was dabbing at his eyes with a monogrammed handkerchief. It's a curious phenomenon. I think it comes under the heading of Inevitable Natural Occurrences, like bread always falling butter-side-down, or the sunset that was beginning to take shape and color outside the tent.

I somehow never actually met the Wizard who conducted the ceremony. He was a short fellow, balding on top, with fluffy white hair and a white beard. He had a tenor voice and a tendency to be sort of formally up-and-down as he recited, but he seemed pleasant and smiled a lot. He left, I think, right after the ceremony: I didn't see him during the festivities afterwards.

There was a huge heart-shaped cluster of golden balloons right over the two couples, and as the ceremony finished and they kissed, George whispered "Watch this!" and the balloons burst into tiny golden bells which rang in harmony, and a flock of gorgeous little multicolored birds who flew around the tent, singing and trailing long feathers. Everyone stood up and applauded and both grooms were appropriately red in the face as they walked back through the crowd. The sunset was just at its peak, a rainbow of color on fluffy clouds.

Arthur then waved his wand and the chairs re-arranged themselves around a series of round tables with matching purple-silk tablecloths which seemed to sprout from the floor. They were set around the sides of the tent, leaving a pretty big oval-shaped space in the center. He nodded at me, I flicked my wand, and music began.

Booking a decent live band on short notice is never easy, and they were worried musicians might spill the beans about the wedding, according to a Wemail I'd gotten a week earlier. The answer was simple enough and quickly agreed: recordings – and Percy's Wemail fairly overflowed with gratitude when I volunteered to take care of it. I had slipped in that morning and set up my computer for playback, placing transducers throughout the big tent – which, by the way, Arthur kept calling the "marquee" which to me means the reader-board above the front of a movie theatre. I'd worked out a list of songs after some more Wemails, and then hurried conferences with several Weasleys.

When I flicked my wand, an orchestra began. I think people were surprised by the opening bars of La Marseillaise (Fleur Weasley looked startled), but it did get their attention, and I knew my lead-off choice was kind of risky. I was actually nervous about it, but when the Beatles began to sing, "Love, love love..." everybody grinned, and the brides pulled their husbands down for a kiss. I felt better. In the middle of the second chorus, Minerva McGonagall came over to me.

"Such a remarkable song! 'All you need is love.' A most appropriate sentiment. And such interesting lyrics. Albus Dumbledore would have would have quite liked it, I think." That's when the butterflies in my stomach came in for a landing, although they'd been lining up for the runway since I had started to hear voices joining in on the chorus. Then she asked, "Who are the musicians?"

"The Beatles."

"Beetles...are they animaguses? That loathsome Skeeter woman was-"

"No no," Thinking back, I marvel at my temerity. Nobody interrupts Professor McGonagall, it's a law of nature. "-it's spelled b-e-a-t-l-e – it's a pun. They're Muggles, actually. But they are British."

"Well, that's something." She didn't seem bothered; in fact, she grinned.

Mr. and Mrs. Potter, and the newly-minted third Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, circulated around the gathering exchanging hugs, kisses, and handshakes with everyone. When they got to me, I made sure both brides were properly kissed, and then both grooms surprised me with big hugs, and Harry said "Thanks mate. Thanks for everything," while trying to crush my ribs.

The music segued into Celestina Warbeck singing "Witchcraft," with the original lyrics ("...'cause it's witchcraft, lovely witchcraft, and though Muggles think it's strictly taboo, when you arouse the need in me, my heart says yes indeed in me..."). Ron caught my eye, grinned, and rolled his eyes; he knew darn well that Molly had made me promise to include Warbeck in the music. I wondered for a moment how many of these folks knew that song was a hit for Muggles as well, with a few deft changes. It's amazing how many Wizarding songwriters have had hits in both worlds, simply by writing two sets of words.

Before long, the music shifted to a dance beat. My folks love music, and my Dad is a real audiophile (an affliction that he says used to be called a "hi-fi nut") who has a great sound system. I'm into modern music but have a very wide background, thanks to Dad and his huge library. When I was in my fourth year at IWU, another student and I had worked out the transfiguration spells needed to extract the music from Muggle recordings (plastic "records" and "tapes" and "compact discs"), so Dad's library was now mine as well and I drew on it a good deal. For this occasion I included some modern hits that us younger folk could get down with, and we did! – but I knew the crowd would be mostly older and didn't start with those.

Even if they hadn't heard it before, I knew that nobody can sit still when the Basie band rolls into "Jumpin' At The Woodside," and so it proved. I couldn't tell whether the grooms led their brides out onto the floor, or the other way around, but there they were, movin' and groovin' and makin' it up as they went along. There was a spontaneous round of applause, and then the floor was filled with dancers. I hesitated just long enough to double-check my song list, and then caught Jenny Killick's eye and led her out onto the floor.

During the evening I had at least part of a dance with most of the ladies, I think. Aurelia Longbottom, Neville's Gran, didn't dance but watched with satisfaction. Arthur and Molly, Minerva McGonagall and Poppy Pomfrey only danced a few of the slower numbers, but Pomona Sprout and Filius Flitwick really got going, to their delight. The happy couples had plenty of good moves too, especially Ginny Potter, and Betty Blackstone was brilliant – she quickly wore out Alistair and went round the floor with most of the other men at one time or another. She had a wonderful way of making any partner look good.

Dancing turned out to be even more fun than anyone could have hoped – way more. I haven't discussed it with anyone so it's just my opinion, but I think everyone kind of felt this was their first real chance to celebrate – and not just an opportunity, but in a sense, even a part of their duty – since the heroic and tragic conclusion of the long struggle with Vo – I mean, with Tom Riddle. They were so ready to party, and you know, DJ-ing is a lot easier if you're a Wizard, because you can be anywhere in the room and do anything with a flick of your wand. The high spots of the evening started when I heard a classical guitar intro I knew well, and quickly pointed my wand at my larynx to amplify my voice.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the dance made world-famous by the legendary Argentinian Witch-and-Wizard dance team, Borges and Carrhena...here's 'Purple Tango!'"

Kingsley and Serena Shacklebolt suddenly looked at each other with wide grins. He stood, bowed, and offered his hand; she took it, rising gracefully; they moved out onto the floor and struck a pose, just as the guitarist made a gorgeous run into an augmented 7th chord, and the orchestra came in. If you've never tangoed, you can't really know. It's the most passionate dance ever invented. Anyone can have fun with it, but to really tango properly is one of the great arts. Kingsley and Serena were artists.

Other couples started out with them – the Potters, the Proudfoots, the Grangers, and Neville and Luna – but before long they had joined the rest of us watching from the sidelines. The Shacklebolts were amazing. They obviously knew the music and stayed precisely in step with it. The Argentinian transfer student who had turned us on to the Tango in my final year at IWU (and given me that recording) said that Muggles could tango very well, even though they can't levitate. But Kingsley and Serena could. They had all the classic moves down, and flew each other all around the tent – I mean, marquee. When they finished, landing gazing into each others' eyes in a perfect pose on the very last note, applause and cheers erupted from all sides.

But that wasn't the end of it. A little later, Walter Granger came up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder, and asked if I had some more swing tunes. I said sure, and listed a few I had already included in the mix. When I mentioned Fletcher Henderson's "Christopher Columbus," he said "Perfect!" and headed out on the floor with Anne when I brought it up. That's a bouncy, infectious uptempo arrangement, and quite a few people began dancing. But part way though the song, the crowd on the floor began to thin out once again, as people voluntarily stepped to the sidelines to give more space for the dancing dentists. The Grangers were doing a dance I'd heard of but never seen, called the "Jitterbug." It's wild. This was obviously something they'd practiced – a lot! – because they were perfectly in step with each other and the music. It's astonishingly acrobatic. They rolled across each others backs, slid between each others legs, spun out and back, and did lifts that almost looked like they could do levitation. They really swung!

It was hard to tear my eyes away from the dancers, but watching Hermione's face during this – and Ron's, and Harry's, and Ginny's, but especially Hermione's – was unforgettably hilarious. Everyone was surprised, but they were astonished, and she was just flabbergasted. ("Gobsmacked" was the word Ron used later.) When they were all laughing about it afterwards, I gathered that Hermione knew her parents belonged to a dancing club, but had never gone because it met after her bedtime when she was little...and of course Hogwarts had refocused all her interests. She had always thought it was probably stuffy and boring! But Walter and Anne were good enough to be in a movie, and they too ended right with the music, snapping into a casual pose with ankles crossed and her head on his shoulder. The applause and cheers were just as loud, with a happy froth of laughter.

I don't know why they called it a "wedding breakfast," because it wasn't bacon and eggs or those kipper things. A buffet supper had appeared on tables around the walls of the marquee when the dancing was in full swing. Well, not tables, more like great big old heavily carved cabinets with flat tops. I think everybody but me knew they were called "sideboards," a term I'd never heard. Each sideboard was presided over by a house elf, wearing a new elf-garment (I don't know what they call them) of almost blinding white, embroidered over the heart (if that's where Elves keep their hearts) with the Hogwarts crest. An old house elf, rather portly, wearing an identical garment with a great big letter "D" on the front, wandered from one to the other. They were Hogwarts house elves, of course, and Minerva told me about it later in the evening.

"Well, of course the house elves heard about the wedding as soon as I started telling the staff," she said, between bites of these little swedish-meatball things with a soft cheese filling and a zingy dipping sauce to die for. "And The Dobby, himself, appeared in my office, as soon as I got there after breakfast. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that the house elves all wanted to do something to help at Harry's wedding. It was extremely important to them. It was almost a demand, if you can imagine that! I think Hermione would have been pleased." She smiled mischievously, and went on, "Well, of course I knew that Arthur and Molly were at their wits' ends, trying to make all the arrangements so quickly, and it was quite obvious that having Hogwarts' elves cater the evening would take a huge weight off their shoulders. So I sent him on to The Burrow, and he was back in an hour with a note from Molly accepting the arrangements."

What a spread! Appetizers, main dishes, sides, desserts...I'd go bonkers trying to remember and describe everything. All superb and endless, it seemed. There was a table – er, sideboard – full of drinks, everything from pumpkin juice to firewhisky, including a remarkable selection of the finest Muggle libations.

The crowning glory, of course, was the wedding cake. It was a big one, an eight-tier ziggurat elaborately decorated in red and gold (all four newlyweds were Gryffindors, of course) with four miniature figures flying round the top on tiny brooms. I stuck my finger out to try and get a taste of the icing, and the little Harry-figure (it had dark hair sticking out in all directions and wore tiny glasses) instantly zoomed down, pointed a tiny wand, and zapped it with a spark. It felt like an electric shock, and I snatched my hand back.

"Ha-ha-ha! Got you too, eh?" I hadn't noticed Admiral Blackstone was watching. He thought it was a lot funnier than I did.

People danced, drifted out to the tables, sat and ate, drank and schmoozed, danced some more, and repeated the process until finally, later in the evening, most everyone was sitting and eating or talking, and the dance floor was almost deserted. It was after eleven when Harry stood up, holding a goblet, and tapped it with a fork to get everyone's attention.

"We're going to have to leave before too long, so I think it's about time we cut the cake, don't you?" There was a general shout of agreement and scattered applause.

Bill Weasley had brought a very nice Wizarding camera, and he and George and Charlie had been circulating around taking pictures. I know they got one of me, boogieing down with Molly, that I'm afraid to look at, and one of Hagrid dancing with Betty I'm dying to see. Now Bill stood next to me, camera at the ready, as the Dobby and a couple of his elves levitated the cake onto a table in the center of the dance floor. The newlyweds stepped forward and he addressed them in a surprisingly deep voice.

"If all four of you will please point your wands and say 'sempris primo'..." He bowed and withdrew. They looked at each other, surprised, and did as he bid. The four tiny figures zoomed straight up to the top of the tent, then dove straight down into the top layer of the cake, which split in two and was escorted into little boxes. Then they zoomed up to the second layer and split it into four equal pieces which moved toward the newlyweds, and as we watched, Bill took pictures as the grooms fed their brides and the brides stuffed cake into their husbands' mouths.

There's a picture just like that in my parents' wedding album (of course they weren't moving like in a Wizarding photograph), but I've discovered that's not a coincidence. I asked around. A picture of the bride and groom stuffing cake or something into each others' mouths appears in every wedding album since the beginning of photography, and the custom probably goes back to the beginning of time. I'm sure the old Greeks and Romans must have done it, but of course in those days only wealthy people could pay a sculptor to create a marble statue of the moment. They'll dig one up, one of these days, depend on it.

It was a great cake! Each layer was a different flavor. The second layer was pineapple (Ron said "bye-a-bull" with his mouth full and I think that's what he must have meant), then came vanilla, chocolate, carrot, pomegranate, pumpkin, and the bottom layer was an incredible fruitcake. Little golden plates with golden forks on them zoomed under each slice as it came off, and everyone picked their favorite flavors out of the air as they passed around the room. I couldn't decide on a favorite, and was working my way through my fourth or fifth piece, wondering how in the name of Merlin's pointy hat they managed to make a pomegranate-flavored cake, when the unmistakable sound of fork-on-goblet turned all eyes to Arthur Weasley, who was standing with Walter Granger, also holding a goblet.

"Friends," Arthur said, smiling and looking all around the room, "our newlyweds are due to leave at midnight, and before they go, Walter and I would like to give you a toast." He looked straight at Mrs. Harry Potter. "Ginny, my darling daughter, as you were growing up I never thought I'd be giving you away so soon, but Molly and I are ever so happy for you and Harry – the only regret we have is the one we were bound to have whenever you left the nest. We'll miss you." He looked at Walter, who was looking at Hermione Weasley.

"Hermione, your mother and I feel exactly the same," Walter said with a wistful smile. "Learning that your daughter is a Witch is quite an experience, but now that we've done it twice, we're getting used to it." Everyone laughed, Hermione turned pink, and Ron hugged her. "And now that we've gotten to know your friends and your new family," he went on, "we couldn't possibly be happier. Ron, I want to repeat in public what I said to you in private the other day: Anne and I are so very glad Hermione found you – welcome to our family." Now it was Ron's turn to go pink, which always clashes dreadfully with his hair. By this time, full goblets of everyone's favorite drink had whisked through the air and found everyone's hands. I saw Headmistress McGonagall lean down and speak to The Dobby, and suddenly the house elves were all holding small goblets too.

"Harry," Arthur picked up the thread, "as you continue your own family, we are all so glad that you are now formally and permanently a member of ours..."

"...and ours as well," put in Walter. "That makes three families," he added with a gentle smile, looking at Harry, whose chin was trembling a little. "So here's our toast," he said more briskly, as Arthur pulled a piece of parchment out of his robes, and they both read from it. Arthur begin:

"Here's to the newlyweds, who are our children, and our friends,"

"As you begin your lives together," chimed in Walter, "we all know that you can accomplish anything you set out to do."

"And we all want you to know that we'll all be there for you as the years go by," said Arthur.

"So tonight we wish you long, happy, healthy lives together," said Walter.

"And every good fortune, and every good thing you deserve, along the way," finished Arthur. The two fathers looked at each other, then looked at the rest of us and spoke together.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Brides and Grooms!"

There was a shout, and everybody drank deeply, and then someone started tapping on his goblet with a fork or a spoon, others picked it up, and soon we were all doing it – which made Harry and Ron turn pink again. But only for a moment, because they both kissed their wives lovingly and we all applauded. Ron and Hermione came up for air first.

"You know," Ron said, looking around with both arms around his wife, "before we go, I've got to say how wonderful this has all been. Can't thank you enough for – for being here with us, and – for everything everyone's done..."

"Oh, yes, yes," Hermione picked up the moment as Ron faltered. "Especially the house elves from Hogwarts, it was SO good of them to want to help, and haven't they done a fantastic job, though?"

That got an enthusiastic round applause from everyone, and we looked around and saw the elves stepping forward in a shy sort of way, bobbing their heads. I think they might have been a little embarrassed or something, because their faces turned orange. But they were smiling, and The Dobby bowed, very low.

"Yeah, what they said," began Harry, in an identical pose, "can't thank you all enough. I – I've been trying to think of how to answer that lovely toast, and...well, I just don't know how to say it. We...you all are..."

Ginny came to his rescue. "I don't know how to say it either. But I know we'll never, ever forget this wonderful day. We love you all."

This was getting on to pretty thin ice for British people, with so much deeply-felt emotion coming so close to the surface. I've learned that British folks feel just as intensely as anyone, but they seem to think it's usually best to treat emotions like ice cream – freeze them and hide them in your belly. It looked for a moment like things were going to get awkward, but Jamie and Crackers Conway saved the situation by marching up through the crowd. Jamie was levitating a large purple velvet pillow, on which were a number of objects, and Cracks was shepherding four medium-sized rollie cases, which moved around to stand behind the two couples.

"It's getting close to twelve, I think," said Jamie, "and it's time to get ready, because these Portkeys will activate at midnight."

I suddenly realized that there was no clock in the room, and had an idea. I took out my wand, pointed it at the corner where my computer was concealed, and tried to remember the timekeeping spells.

After a couple of moments a digital time display appeared in front of me, reading

11:49:17

Another flick of my wand started it counting, and I made it much larger, changed the colors to purple hours, golden minutes, and red seconds. Then I perched it up in the air where everyone could see it, and remembered to use a display-spell I'd invented back in school, which made it appear right-way-around no matter where you were standing.

"Nice one, Ryan!" Jamie gave me a thumbs-up, and turned to the center of the room. Positioning one of the tables in front of the happy couples, he set the purple pillow down. With his wand, he indicated four brightly-colored seashells. "These are your portkeys, and all you need to do is be holding one in your hand when the time comes. And be touching your luggage, too, of course."

"We packed some other things," said Ron. "for later. Where did they get to?"

"We've got 'em, Ron, don't you worry," came Alistair's voice from the middle of the crowd. "They'll be waiting for you when you get back to the mainland."

That was when the brides stepped forward and tossed their bouquets. I wasn't sure if this was a custom over there, and maybe it's a little different because they didn't turn their backs like the bride at the other wedding I'd been to. Hermione's bouquet went high over the crowd and almost hit Hagrid in the face – he bobbled it for a moment, stood there holding it, and went beet-red, as far as you could see among all that hair. That brought a big laugh. Ginny tossed hers at Jenny Killick, who was standing beside me, but she made a bad throw and it headed for my chest. Jenny and I reached for it at the same time, our arms got tangled, the bouquet went up in the air and came down on my head. That brought a bigger laugh, as Jenny snatched it.

"Now is the moment for you to enjoy some fresh, young coconut!" said Jamie, pointing at two large, bright green coconuts with his wand. "The Kahunas have enchanted these to help you travel – it's almost eight thousand miles, you know. If you don't mind, I'll release the preservative spell and open them. The Kahunas' invitation explained how, but I never did find time to translate it for you."

Jamie pointed his wand with a little circular motion at the two coconuts, and the tops came off, leaving about a three inch hole. Cracks stepped forward with four golden drinking straws in his hand, giving one to each of the travelers. Each couple took a coconut, put their straws down in it, and drank.

"Ooohhh, this is soooo good!" Ginny was the only one to take her mouth off the straw. The others kept drinking and nodded.

As they drank, I heard Molly behind me, talking – she sounded annoyed. "Oh! Tchah! There's always something."

"What is it, Molly?" Minerva McGonagall sounded concerned. They kept their voices low, but I was close enough to hear.

"We were going to toss rice as they left, and I've only just realized we completely forgot to get any. I was just going to summon it, but there's not a grain in the house."

"Oh. Well – perhaps we can sort that for you. Just let me have a word with the elves." I didn't turn around, but heard the Headmistress move away. Just then we all heard the sound you hear when anybody sucking on a straw gets down to the bottom of anything, and the four lifted their straws out of the coconuts. Cracks was right there to collect them and hand them each a long-handled golden spoon.

"Now get some of the meat – it's very soft at this stage, you can just scoop it out," said Jamie, and they started to do just that.

"Mmmmm, so sweet," said Ron, swallowing. "I never had coconut like this, it's usually hard and crunchy-like."

"It's really good!" said Harry, appreciatively, as he dug for more.

"I'll bet we never see these young coconuts because it takes too long to get them here," observed Hermione, with a spoonful poised by her mouth.

"That's right," said Jamie, "exactly. Muggles bring them in, and they just don't have the preservative spells. People who live where coconuts grow, though, generally know exactly when to open them." He grinned. "You've all had plenty, now, for the travel spell to work, but there's no harm in finishing it all."

"That's good, because I was going to anyway!" Ron was waiting for Hermione to finish getting a spoonful, and dug down in. "Bet we can get these every day, where we're going."

"Sweet!" agreed Harry. "I'd fancy one at brekka, what d'you think?" He looked at Ginny, who nodded but didn't answer because her mouth was full. When the coconuts were done, Jamie collected them and Cracks took the spoons. The time display read

11:59:23

At Jamie's behest, they each picked up one of the seashells, and then took a step back and put their other hands on their luggage.

"Listen you four," Molly was now standing beside me, "don't you worry about us. We'll all be just fine now, and you know it. You pay attention to each other."

"Oh, we'll send you a postcard or something, I'm sure," said Ginny.

"That's all very well, but we really don't expect to hear from you until you're ready to start your tour in the States." Arthur's voice was a little shaky.

"And don't spend a moment worrying about that, either," I put in. "Whenever you show up, we'll have everything ready and fixed so you can decide where you'd like to go then."

11:59:42

"Good-bye, everyone," said Harry, and the other three echoed him. He added, "Thanks again for everything!" A chorus of goodbyes and good wishes filled the room until the display read:

11:59:55

Suddenly, a large burlap sack with the word "RICE" stenciled across it appeared right above the newlyweds. The astonishment on our faces (and the sudden cessation of good-byes) made them look up just as it split in half.

12:00:00

Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione ducked their heads and hunched their shoulders as a perfect Niagara Falls of rice came down on them, just as the seashells started to glow.

And then they were gone.