A/N: It is with a very full heart that I post this last chapter. I am so grateful to all of my readers who voted for my story in the recent Silver Trinket voting. I have enjoyed each and every one of your reviews and thank everyone who wrote to me for asking questions, giving their opinions, and encouraging me to end this story on a happy note. I am pleased to tell you that it does.
I know I have thanked by betas every chapter, and I'm going to do it again here. Without them, this story wouldn't be as polished as it is. To Melindaleo, thank you for all your questions. They made me think about what I had written and at times, go back and change something to reflect something I'd put in a previous chapter. To Mutt n Feathers, thank you for letting me talk through various ideas with you over a cup of tea. Your friendship is one of the precious things in my life and I writing HP stories wouldn't be as much fun as it is if you weren't there to share it with me. To Brennus, thank you for answering all of my weird questions and giving me financial advice so that poor Harry doesn't dig himself into too big a hole when he tries to help others. To Cackling Stump, thank you for all the rewrites and ideas that untangled my sometimes convoluted paragraphs and arguments. You somehow know what I want the characters to say and do better than I do.
With all my thank yous written, here's chapter twenty. I hope you like it enough to review it.
"Are you ready?" Harry asked as he steadied his hovering Firebolt so that Ginny could climb on. They had come to the farm to talk wedding plans with her parents and Harry was now giving her the long-promised broom ride. "Pretend the handle is the crossbar of a bicycle. I'll get on when you're settled."
Ginny nodded nervously and swung her leg over the broom handle. Surprised, she exclaimed, "It's cushy!"
Harry laughed. "Cushioning Charm, m'lady. It makes riding a broom for hours long distance easier," he told her. "I would hate to fly back to London on this thing without it."
"Where do I put my feet?" she asked.
"Just let them dangle. Pretend you're on one of those fancy roller coasters that suspend the riders from the track like Nemesis at Alton Towers Theme Park," Harry told her as he mounted the broom behind her.
"How do you know about Alton Towers?" she asked as Harry grasped the broom handle, securing her to him in the process.
"I've been researching places to go during our honeymoon, my dearest," Harry said as he kicked off. "I've always wanted to ride a roller coaster."
"EEEEEEPPP!" Ginny squealed as the broom accelerated and climbed above the paddock holding the alpacas. "Give me some warning the next time you do that!"
"Do I have to?" Harry whinged, making her laugh. "It's so much more fun making you squeal!" He levelled off and flew in a lazy figure eight over the house and outbuildings.
"This is amazing," Ginny said as she surveyed her childhood home. "So, this is what it's like to be a bird!" She spotted her mum calling the ducks into the duck house for the night, the birds' faint quacking reaching her ears. A few minutes later, Mum met Dad on the path to the barn and Ginny watched as they walked hand in hand to the door of the house.
"Are you happy with the plans for the wedding?" Harry asked. "You and Molly were upstairs for a long time."
"We got a lot done today," Ginny told him. "I like the idea of getting married between our birthdays and so does Mum after I convinced her not to invite every cousin and his brother. She did that for Bill's wedding and Jeannine had a fit. Are you sure it's all right for the ushers to seat my family's guests on both sides of the chapel?"
"It's fine," Harry said. "My list of guests isn't that long, so mixing everyone up will avoid a lopsided-looking church. Besides, once the ceremony is over, your relatives will be my relatives, and I hope they'll all be nicer than the Dursleys."
"They'd better be," Ginny grumbled.
They flew for a few minutes in silence, just enjoying the view and each other's company. The wind blew gently, tugging at Ginny's plait and dislodging some of the shorter wisps around her face. She sighed contentedly when Harry wrapped his arms around her middle and began steering with his knees.
"Shall we go faster, maybe do some loop-the-loops?" he asked.
Ginny shook her head. "Not tonight. Maybe next time," she told him. "I may be a dare devil, but I'm having too much fun just being up here with you." She twisted so her shoulders were parallel with the broom handle, then quickly kissed Harry on the cheek. He laughed quietly as she faced forward again, then began blowing in her ear.
"Stop that! It tickles," she giggled.
"Oh, but it makes me smile just to hear you laugh, Ginny," he said, hugging her around the middle again.
Ginny's heart swelled happily. She truly wanted to make Harry smile for the rest of his life. He was gradually telling her more about the war and his role in it and she was beginning to realize that he had never been completely happy until last summer. Now, with their wedding only a few short months away, she had the rest of their lives to give him the happiness he so richly deserved.
They flew over the farm watching as the sun set and Harry pointed out the various constellations as twilight deepened into darkness. By the time the moon began peeking over the horizon, Ginny was a bit chilly and ready to be earthbound again. Harry agreed and gently spiralled into the garden next to the back door.
"Thank you, Harry," Ginny said a bit breathlessly as they dismounted. "I'd like to go up again sometime."
"All you need to do is ask," he told her. "I'm glad it's something you want to share with me."
Ginny hugged him, laying her head on his shoulder as his arms encircled her waist. "I definitely will," she sighed contentedly and stood on tiptoe to kiss him gently. "I love you, Harry."
"I love you, too."
Molly stood waiting for the ducks to leave the pond and waddle into their duck house. She felt a sense of accomplishment that she hadn't felt when her other children had planned their weddings. She decided that it was the fact that it wasn't someone else's plans she was having to negotiate, but her and her daughter's. They'd agreed on caterers, photographers, attendants, and the church and the reception venue (a marquee in the front paddock) and had even started on the guest list. It made her sad to think that poor Harry only had a list of about twenty people he wanted to invite, no matter what he said about how meaningful each guest on his list was to him. It still surprised her that Ginny didn't want a huge wedding like her sisters-in-law did. She thought that maybe Ginny was limiting the guest list to help Harry not feel lost in a sea of unknown people.
A squeal coming from overhead made her look up. There, silhouetted against the darkening sky, were her daughter and Harry, sailing slowly on the wind on his magic broomstick. After the initial shock of learning that Harry was a wizard and the breakup of his engagement to her daughter was over his having to keep his true self a secret, Molly had embraced the idea as just another talent in a long string of talents Harry seemed to possess. She also couldn't fault him for trying to protect Ginny from a law that wanted to separate them from each other.
The more she thought about it, the more she realized just how easily it came to her to love Harry. She'd felt very motherly towards him the first time Ginny brought him home, not because he was ill, but because he seemed to need her approval that it was all right with her that he loved her daughter. Molly had never had that feeling with her boys' fiancées. The women they brought home were good matches for her sons, and she'd come to love each one over the years, but none of them had been as heart-wrenchingly needy as Harry. When Arthur had told her after the first visit that Harry had asked him for permission to not only go out with their daughter but actually ask her to marry him, she had beamed happily, knowing that Ginny would have a good life with Harry.
What had surprised and dismayed her was their breakup. Molly's mothering instincts had told her immediately there was an underlying cause other than Harry not wanting children and when he'd come home with Ginny to tell them that magic was the reason, many things about him made sense. To her, it was exciting to get to know the young man who loved her daughter with everything he had; that was the important thing, not that he was a wizard.
Sighing happily, Molly went in search of her husband. Arthur met her at the barn and when she told him Harry had taken their daughter up on his broomstick, he shaded his eyes and followed their flight path.
"Oh, Molly! Isn't magic a wonderful thing? Just a few words, the wave of a wand or an enchanted broomstick and you're up there amongst the clouds with not a care in the world! I watch Harry lift heavy things or make something appear out of nowhere and I wonder what it would be like to be able to do magic!" he exclaimed.
Molly chuckled. "You're pretty magical yourself, you know. Not every man can raise a successful herd of cattle and turn a profit. You know this land like the back of your hand and that's pretty magical to me," she said hugging his arm.
Arthur kissed her cheek and together, they slowly walked back to the house, content with each other and content with the new addition to the Weasley household.
The guest list blossomed to ten pages long, seemingly overnight, from a manageable fifty guests to over five hundred, most of them magical. Funnily enough, The Daily Prophet had nothing to do with it. The origin of the increase seemed to be an innocent remark Harry himself had made to Neville during a "private" conversation at the Leaky Cauldron over a pint of ale. The news that Harry Potter had chosen a Muggle bride had travelled through the Wizarding world like Fiendfyre and suddenly his wedding had become an "event" managed by an obscure department at the Ministry of Magic. In less than twenty-four hours of his remark, the office had arranged for half of the guests to receive their invitations through the British postal service while the other half would be sent theirs using an army of post owls, many of which would be borrowed from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry had no idea why so many people wanted an invitation to his wedding, but as Hermione explained, he was a celebrity in the eyes of the Wizarding world and everyone and his mother wanted to be seen entering the church.
Ginny was more than a little overwhelmed by the prospect of so many people attending her wedding. When Harry likened his sudden popularity to being the newest exhibit at the London Zoo, Ginny thought she understood. He also knew that she was disappointed that her idea of a small, intimate wedding, with just a few special friends and her family as witnesses, was being turned into a circus by the Ministry of Magic. It seemed that all the work she and her mother had done was for nought and someone else was suddenly in control. Harry wasn't so crazy about the whole thing either, come to think of it.
That was when he finally put his foot down. He requested a meeting with Minister Shacklebolt to see if he could suggest something that would keep the day meaningful for him and his bride.
"Harry, it's such a pleasure to see you fully healthy again!" Kingsley exclaimed in greeting. "Come in, come in."
"Thank you, Kingsley," Harry said as he sat in the proffered chair across the Minister's desk. They made small talk for a few minutes before Harry stated his reason for calling the meeting. "I'm here because I'm being forced to invite so many Ministry officials, people I never dealt with during the war, but who think they're entitled to see me make a fool of myself by marrying a Muggle. Ginny is quite unhappy with the fact that we've had to move the ceremony from the church where she grew up to one that seats five hundred two towns over. What we really would like is to invite only a few friends and family to share our special day as we originally planned."
Kingsley asked, "Who are you working with here at the Ministry?"
"Eloise Midgen," Harry answered. "She heads the Department of Magical Events and Invitations."
Kingsley wrote a note on a small square of parchment and put it in his OUT box where it folded itself into a small paper airplane that zoomed out of the office. A few minutes later, Eloise was shown into the office.
"Harry! It's good to see you again!" she simpered, reminding Harry of Rita Skeeter. He ground his teeth to keep from saying something he would regret. "How are you and your lovely bride? I must say she makes a striking contrast to your rugged dark looks."
"Ginny is not happy and neither am I," Harry told her. "Our wedding has so many people on the guest list that we've had to move the date and venue to accommodate them. The new church's vicar doesn't know Ginny and refuses to let her own vicar perform the ceremony. What can you do to make my fiancée happy?"
"Oh, dear, that is a problem," she murmured, opening a large folder and extracting a duplicate of the guest list. "When you announced your impending nuptials, it was generally thought that you would be amenable to a State ceremony, so we didn't even ask."
"You should have," Harry said. He looked at Kingsley for help.
"May I make a suggestion?" the Minister asked.
Eloise stopped reading the parchment she held, and looked up. "What is it?"
"You're in charge of Magical Events, are you not?"
"Yes, I am."
"Then let's do this. We can allow Mr Potter and Miss Weasley to have the small wedding they wish, on the day and at the place they wish with appropriate security, and then, on another day soon after the wedding, the Ministry will hold a reception in the Ministry Atrium for them so that the magical public may attend and celebrate with the happy couple." Kingsley turned to Harry and continued, "Will this be acceptable, Harry?"
Harry smiled tightly. He really didn't want to expose Ginny and her family to the rabid Wizarding public quite so soon, but then again, there never really was a good time to do so. However, the reception was a good solution to a very aggravating situation. "That would be acceptable," he said, "but only if I get to approve the guest list and the paparazzi are kept out of the receptions."
Eloise, who had been smiling, scowled at the limitations Harry was proposing. "I can agree to that, although the security aspect of two events will be difficult, especially since you refuse to let in the press," she said stiffly. "We can go over that and other details closer to each event. In the meantime, please send me the modified guest list, so I can compare it with the one I currently have."
"Fair enough," Harry agreed. "I'll bring you a copy tomorrow. I will also include a dress code to be included in the magical invitations. Magical guests to the wedding are to wear appropriate Muggle attire. Those wearing dress robes will not be admitted to the church. Ginny's family and friends will not understand grown men wearing what they will view as choir robes."
Eloise glared at him and then stood up. "I'll get right on the arrangements for the reception, Minister," she simpered and without even looking at Harry, scurried out the door.
"Thank you," Harry said to Kingsley. "Ginny and I appreciate your suggestion."
"I just hope this doesn't make a bad impression on your fiancée and her family," he said.
"I don't think it will because everyone seems to be getting a little of what they want: Ginny and I want a small wedding and the Ministry is getting a chance to celebrate with us later. It's a much more workable plan," Harry said. "It also gives her family more time to get used to how people treat me."
Kingsley chuckled. "I'll make sure the fawning is kept to a minimum."
Harry stood up. He'd taken enough of the Minister's time. "I need to go see Ginny. Will I see you tomorrow?" he asked.
"Probably not," Kingsley said, also rising, "but Eloise knows to include me in the list of people who will be working on the reception. I think between the two of us, we can guarantee a dignified event. We will be in touch."
The two shook hands and Harry left the office to find the nearest loo. Dealing with people like Eloise always made his hands sweaty.
True to his word, Harry brought a copy of the original guest list to Eloise Midgen's office the following day along with the promised dress code. He and Ginny had spent an hour after she finished work getting the wording just right after he showed her his own dress robes.
"You're right, they do look like choir robes," Ginny mused.
"Are you worried about witches and wizards dressing inappropriately for the wedding?" Harry asked. "It might set tongues wagging about my weird guests."
"They might," Ginny told him. "I have a couple of uncles who are as opinionated as your aunt and uncle when it comes to people who seem to be cross-dressers. They're perfectly nice people in most respects, but it's really not a good idea to give them the opportunity to air their opinions in public."
"You do know that I will have to wear robes for the Ministry reception," Harry told her.
Ginny put her arms around his waist and looked up at him. "When in Rome…" she chuckled. "Will I get to wear a fancy dress?"
"Of course, you will. You're the guest of honour," Harry told her.
"Then I'd like to get a set of dress robes. I'm sure we will be expected to attend holiday parties and other events and it might be a good idea for me to have something that helps me blend in with your crowd," she mused.
Harry smiled. "Your wish is my command. We can go shopping whenever you want."
Ginny returned his smile. "Thank you, luv. I just want to fit in."
"You will, Ginny. You will."
Now, standing in front of Eloise's desk, Harry glowered as he read the Ministry's guest list for the reception.
"Absolutely not," he muttered.
"What aren't you approving?" she inquired sweetly. "Every one of the guests are members of the magical elite."
"I will not have the Malfoys, the Parkinsons, the Yaxleys or any other family who fought with Voldemort at my wedding reception," Harry stated forcefully as Eloise quailed at the name. He grabbed a quill from the ink stand on her desk and began crossing out names. By the time he was done, he'd reduced the list by a third. "Take this to the Minister. If he requests someone be invited that I've crossed off the list, please notify me with a good explanation of why the person is to be invited."
"Yes, Mr Potter," Eloise murmured, her eyes flashing. She was no longer simpering as she had done yesterday. "Will that be all?"
"For now. Good day," Harry told her stiffly and marched out of the office, eager to get away from the whole debacle. He could hardly wait to see what sort of mess she made of the security arrangements.
Kingsley caught up with Harry as he was leaving the Ministry. "Do you have a moment?" he asked. When Harry murmured that he did, Kingsley led him to an out-of-the-way alcove. He stated his purpose immediately. "Harry, it has come to my attention that the International Confederation of Wizards has gotten wind of you telling Ginny's family about magic."
Harry sighed. "I was hoping that wouldn't happen, but since it has, how much trouble am I in?" he asked.
"Not much," Kingsley replied. "I've taken care of it. You're a national hero and as such, you are entitled to a little leeway if you don't take advantage of your fame very often. You haven't, so they only request is that you make an appearance the next time the Confederation meets to answer a few questions. I'll send you an owl when I know more."
Harry considered this and thought it fair. "Thank you. I'll await your owl," he said, suddenly feeling a little lighter. He had no idea he'd secretly been concerned about what could happen if anyone ever got wind of what he'd done.
The two parted and Harry Apparated to a quiet alley near the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital because he wanted to have lunch with his fiancée.
The next morning, The Daily Prophet ran an article about Harry's up-coming nuptials.
Potter to Wed Muggle
Boy hero, Harry Potter, shocked the Wizarding world yesterday when it was revealed by the Ministry of Magic that he will be soon marrying a Muggle, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. The couple plan to wed in a Muggle ceremony at a Muggle church attended by the bride. Only a few wizards and witches have been invited to celebrate with the happy couple, but my sources tell me the Ministry is planning a reception for the happy couple a week after the wedding.
Which brings me to the very important question of why Mr Potter has chosen to marry a Muggle. Could it be that they met after Mr Potter recovered from the war, spent some time together and then recently discovered that they have to get married? Or is it that witches no longer interest Mr Potter? Certainly, there are plenty of eligible witches from which he could choose to settle down. One would think that even his long-time companion, Hermione Granger, would be a more suitable match for the Boy Who Conquered the Dark Lord than a Muggle! After all, they did spend the war together and she is a witch, after all.
So, what do we know about this Muggle? My sources tell me that her name is Ginny. She's twenty-five and comes from a large farming family. She moved to London two years ago to take a job at one of the Muggle hospitals as a nurse (someone who looks after sick Muggles). Rumour has it that she was sacked from her previous job for impropriety…
Harry stopped reading and crumpled up the newspaper. He threw it into the kitchen fire with all his strength, and gleefully watched Rita Skeeter's poisonous words succumb to the consuming flames. Ginny didn't need the stress Rita's insinuations would undoubtedly put on her. He was used to it, but she wasn't. This was why he had wanted to get married in the Muggle world in the first place; he and Ginny were considered just an ordinary couple wishing to spend the rest of their lives together quietly, without people bothering him. Instead, the powers that be had turned the whole affair into a circus. He was thankful that Molly had been able to cancel the reservation for the larger church and rebook the chapel Ginny had originally wanted on the day they wanted to wed.
Another thought came to him. How did Rita know about their wedding plans? Undoubtedly, there was a bug flying around the Ministry where it wasn't wanted.
It was Percy who was able to finally explain Harry's status in the Wizarding world to her even better than Harry had done. She thought it funny that her straight-laced brother turned out to be the one who was most fascinated with the idea of a parallel universe existing alongside the one her family occupied.
"It's like this, Ginny," Percy told her one afternoon when they both were at the farm, "The Prime Minister says you're marrying the equivalent of either Generals Eisenhower or Montgomery from the Second World War or a popular rock star. Personally, I think he's more like the generals from what you've told me."
Ginny giggled. "That does make sense, especially considering how long Harry spent fighting his war, and while he might not have been a general, his friend, Hermione, says he certainly earned the adulation when he killed the evil wizard. She says he really is treated like a rock star because of it," she said. She cocked her head to one side, trying to form her next question so that her brother would answer her without breaking any spells—Harry had cautioned her to be careful how she phrased any sensitive questions she might want answers to that her brother might be magically bound not to answer. She decided the direct approach would be best: if Percy couldn't answer she knew he would probably start talking about something else.
"How do you know this?" she asked.
Percy, who had been a bit tense, relaxed and said, "The Prime Minister gave me permission to explain it. There's a portrait stuck to his office wall that no one has ever been able to remove. I happened to be in his office one afternoon when the portrait announced an undersecretary to the Minister for Magic would be arriving shortly and would he please be alone in his office. The Minister looked very nervous about what I had heard and tried to cover it up as a practical joke. When I said, 'You know about magic too?' he visibly relaxed. I explained that my sister was marrying a wizard and he said he was happy that there was someone else in the office that he could talk to about magic and not think he was going mad. He even let me stay for the meeting with the undersecretary of the Minister for Magic. When the meeting was over, I asked the undersecretary if he had heard of Harry Potter, the Prime Minister laughed. He said, 'You know Harry Potter? Even I know who Harry Potter is.' The undersecretary then explained that Harry was a war hero and probably the most popular celebrity in all of Magical Britain. He also said that the whole Ministry was talking about his upcoming wedding. That really opened my eyes to how famous your fiancé is." Percy then grinned. "Your relationship with Harry is actually helping me at work and my relationship with the Prime Minister! Thank you!"
Ginny chuckled at the idea of her love life being helpful to Perc's career. "I'm glad I could help, she joked. "Do the two heads of government often get together?"
Percy shook his head. "No. From what the minister said, there's a law that prevents us from knowing about the magical world, so there's very little interaction between the two heads of state. He only gets notified if something unusual is happening in the Wizarding world."
"That makes sense," Ginny mused. "Harry said this Wizarding law is what he was following when he tried to change my memory. He is still a bit reluctant to tell me more than the minimum before we actually marry. It's something I've come to accept because I know he will eventually answer any questions as they come up. Thanks for helping me understand, Percy."
"I'll see you at Sunday dinner?" Percy asked as he stood to leave.
"Harry and I wouldn't miss it for anything. See you Sunday."
In early July, Andromeda Tonks invited Harry and Ginny to her house for lunch. Harry was so excited that Ginny was finally going to meet his godson, that he was nearly vibrating with anticipation. He wanted Teddy to like the woman he'd chosen to spend his life with and he hoped that the eight-year-old would accept her role in Harry's life. He needn't have worried.
On the appointed day, Harry drove the two of them up to Andromeda's house. He and Ginny enjoyed the drive and the chance to be together without someone else needing to talk to them. Right on time, he pulled up in front of the house and before he had even helped Ginny from the car, a blue-haired missile shot across the front garden and barrelled into him.
"Harry!" Teddy exclaimed, hugging his godfather tightly.
"It's good to see you, too, Teddy," Harry said. "Let's go inside and I'll introduce you and your grandmum to Ginny."
Teddy took off for the house, yelling for his grandmother.
"I like him already," Ginny giggled. "What's with the blue hair?"
"Teddy's a Metamorphmagus, which means he can shape is appearance at will. I'm surprised he didn't put black spots in his hair like he did the last time I saw him," Harry said.
Ginny sighed and briefly rested her head on Harry's shoulder as they approached the house. "Will his hair be blue for the wedding?" she asked, sounding worried. "I wouldn't want one of my unthinking relatives to laugh at him."
"If we give him a good reason for wearing a more traditional hair colour, I think he'll accommodate our wishes… with his grandmother's help," Harry chuckled.
Harry could tell Andromeda liked Ginny immediately. While Harry played a board game with Teddy, the two women discussed careers, favourite recipes, Ginny's plans for the wedding, and the Ministry reception in the kitchen. It wasn't long before lunch was ready and Harry and Ginny were able to ask Teddy to be an usher in the wedding while they ate.
Teddy's eyes widened. "Wow! You really want me in your wedding, Harry?" he asked. "Grandmum said I was too old to be a ringbearer."
"She's right, Teddy," Ginny said, "but there's no age limit to being an usher. Would you like to stand up with Harry and his friend, Neville? We've decided on two attendants each along with my little nephew, Liam, who is the ringbearer and my niece, Torie, who will be the flower girl. Harry thought you'd like to represent his family in the wedding party."
Teddy turned to his grandmother. "Can I, please?" he pleaded.
"May I," Andromeda corrected with a smile. "You'll have to be very grown up and on your best behaviour that day, Teddy," she cautioned. "And your hair colour must be conventional."
Teddy looked puzzled. "Conven—" He tried the word again, "Conventing? What's that word mean, Grandmum?"
"Conventional. It means expected, luv," Andromeda said. "The people at Harry and Ginny's wedding will expect your hair to be black, brown or ginger rather than blue."
"Oh. Like I wear it for school," he said, brightening.
"Yes, like for Muggle school," his grandmother agreed. "Now, I'll ask you again… do you think you can be on your best behaviour all day? After all, it is an honour to be in the wedding party."
"I'll be my best," Teddy promised. Harry tried not to laugh when he noticed all of Teddy's fingers and thumbs were crossed under the table.
"Then you may be in the wedding," Andromeda allowed.
Teddy jumped out of his chair and threw his arms around his grandmother's shoulders. "Thank you, thank you!"
Andromeda laughed and gently steered the conversation to other, less exciting things for the rest of the meal.
The four had been lingering over the last slices of Andromeda's delicious treacle tart when Ginny looked over at Teddy and whispered, "Do you like sport?"
"You mean Quidditch?" he asked quietly. He'd been doing his best not to fidget.
"Maybe," she answered, drawing out the word. "I was actually thinking about Muggle sport."
"Oh, you mean games like rugby?" Teddy asked.
"Sort of. How do you know about rugby?" Ginny asked.
"Granddad collected lots of books about rugby. They're in his office. Grandmum lets me go in there sometimes to get a book to read," Teddy answered.
"That sounds like fun," Ginny continued, "but I was thinking more on the lines of football."
"It's a Muggle game played with a ball you move around a pitch without touching it with your hands," she answered. "I used to play it with my brothers when I was your age."
"No hands?" Teddy asked incredulously. "What's the fun in that?"
"You'll see," Ginny said, winking at him. She looked over at Harry. "Would you get my ball, please?" she asked. "Then meet us in the back garden."
Harry smiled and went to get Ginny's football.
While he was gone, Ginny asked Andromeda, "May we retire to the back garden? Your grandson and I have some unfinished business to attend to."
Chuckling, Andromeda led the way out to the garden and the large expanse of lawn behind the house. "I hope this space is big enough," she commented.
Ginny smiled when she saw Teddy's broom leaning against the wall of the house. "If this is where Teddy flies, we'll have plenty of room."
Harry appeared around the corner of the house and tossed the ball to Ginny who dropped it and immediately began kicking it around the lawn. "Come get it, Teddy!" she challenged.
"I know this game," Teddy cried, his eyes lighting up. Then he sobered. "I've played it at school, but I'm not any good at it, so I only play when they make me."
"Then I'll show you how to play properly," Ginny told him encouragingly. "Come on, you can do it. Remember, we can't let our hands or arms touch the ball. Use only your legs and feet."
Teddy ran alongside her and waited until she had advanced the ball a few feet with a gentle kick, then jumped ahead and kicked the ball in another direction. Ginny laughed and praised him for stealing the ball. Teddy enthusiastically asked about the best way to kick and Ginny showed him the proper way to control the ball.
"Keep your kicks small so that the ball stays close to your body. That way your opponent can't steal the ball from you," Ginny explained. "Give it a go."
Teddy grinned and gave dribbling a try. Soon, he was racing from one end of the lawn to the other. After he gained more confidence, Ginny ran beside him and tried to steal the ball.
"That's great, Teddy," Ginny praised him as they took a break to get a glass of water from his grandmother. "Would you like to learn one of the kicks?"
"Yeah! Can you teach me to pass the ball?" Teddy asked, handing back his glass.
Ginny beckoned him over and explained, "When you pass, you used the inside of the back of your foot, like this." She demonstrated and then had Teddy try. The ball rolled much further away. He grinned as they went back out into the middle of the lawn to practice passing.
"I like this game so much better now that you've showed me how to play. Could you teach me another kick?" he asked a while later.
"Sure. This one's called a long pass or long ball. You used it when you want to advance the ball a long way," she said. "You do it like this." Again, she demonstrated, cautioning Teddy to kick away from the house.
It wasn't long before the two of them were dribbling and passing and kicking the ball all over the lawn. Ginny glanced over at Harry and Andromeda and was pleased when Harry grinned from ear to ear at her. Andromeda was smiling at them, too.
They'd been kicking the ball back and forth for about a half hour when Teddy tried to pass the ball a longer distance than usual, and put too much power into his kick. Ginny stopped running and watched with not a little trepidation as the ball sailed towards the first story windows, an "Oh, no!" escaping her.
Harry, who was standing on the edge of the lawn, seemed to have heard her and before she could warn Andromeda about a broken window, he had his wand pointed towards the house. "Protego!" he called loudly and a moment later, the ball bounced against an invisible barrier and flew off towards the back of the garden.
"What did you do?" Ginny asked, greatly relieved.
"Shield Charm. A very useful protection charm," Harry said with a smug smile. "I think I'll keep it up until you and Teddy get tired of playing."
Ginny looked over at Teddy, who grinned. "You're really lucky, Teddy, that your godfather knows magic. I would have had to muck out the cow shed for a week if I'd broken a window."
Teddy grinned. "Thanks for helping me stay out of trouble, Harry."
Harry grinned back. "Any time, Teddy, any time."
Later, as they were driving home, Ginny asked, "Do you think Teddy likes me?"
Harry glanced over and patted her knee with his free hand. "I know he does, mostly because you paid attention to him and not just his grandmother. I think you've made a friend for life."
"I'm glad," she murmured happily. "He's a great kid. I think he'll fit in with my nieces and nephews fabulously."
Two owls entered the kitchen at the same time, invading Whitehorn's domain. He clicked his beak at them as they settled on the backs of two chairs, a noise that told the other owls that he would alert his owner. A moment later, Whitehorn leapt off his perch and nimbly navigated the narrow stairways until he reached the first floor and the library. His owner and his mate were reclined on the sofa, a place the owl didn't dare land for fear of accidentally sinking his talons into the cushions. It wasn't pleasant being stuck to the furniture and having his owner free him one claw at a time. Instead, he landed on his owner's outstretched arm and began running the female's long hair through his beak, trying to put it back into place.
"Stop that, Whitehorn!" Ginny shrieked, giggling. "Don't you know how much that tickles?"
Whitehorn dropped the lock of hair while giving her a look that said he'd be back to fix her feathers later and inched his way down his owner's arm toward his hand. When he reached his destination, he bobbed his head in the direction of the door.
Harry sighed. "I think I have mail," he told Ginny. To the owl, he said, "Lead the way," and reluctantly stood up. He followed Whitehorn down to the kitchen.
The owls on the kitchen chairs stuck out their legs as soon as Harry entered the kitchen. He stopped at the sink to get a shallow bowl of water and a few owl treats, then approached the table. It took only a moment to relieve the birds of their burdens and give them their snacks, Whitehorn receiving a treat as a thank you for alerting him. Then, without another glance at the birds, Harry returned to the library. As he left the kitchen, Harry heard Whitehorn hooting loudly to send the other owls on their way. He smiled, knowing who ruled the roost around here.
"Correspondence?" Ginny asked as Harry walked back into the library.
"Yep," Harry answered absently, his main attention on his letters. "Two offers of employment, in fact."
"I didn't know you wanted a job," she said, sounding puzzled.
"I don't, but I'm also getting bored just lazing around the house. Would you mind if I worked in the magical world?" he asked her.
"Tell me about the job offers and then I'll answer your question," she said.
Harry opened the letter with the Ministry of Magic coat of arms emblazoned on the envelope. He waved it at her as he said, "This one is from Gawain Robards, the Head of the Auror Department at the Ministry. He's inviting me to act as a Dark magic consultant for his office. The work sounds interesting, but…" he broke off, hesitantly, not sure how to put his feelings into words. Then, he showed her the envelope with the Hogwarts crest. "This one is from the headmaster at Hogwarts. He's in need of Defence Against the Dark Arts and History of Magic teachers. When I was in school, the Defence position was cursed so that the teacher never was the same one two years in a row. It seems I broke the curse when I killed Voldemort. For the last three years the position has been filled by an elderly warlock who now wants to retire. That's a good thing. The headmaster has also convinced Professor Binns, the History of Magic ghost, to go to his next adventure."
Ginny giggled. "Sorry. I just can't imagine being taught history by a ghost. When did he die?"
Harry chuckled. "Sometime in the nineteen teens. His classes were always the best place to take a nap during the day. Hermione had lots of fun elbowing me awake on the days I fell asleep. Anyway, the headmaster is giving me my choice of position."
Ginny now asked, "Would we need to live close to the school if you took a teaching job?"
"No, we wouldn't." Harry shook his head. "Both positions are day jobs," he said with a smile. "I can Apparate to the gates on pleasant days and take the Floo Network directly to my office on blustery days."
"Is that a good thing?" she asked.
"It is if you want to keep working at the hospital," Harry answered.
"You know I do," she said earnestly. She was quiet for a moment. "Do any of the jobs interest you?"
Harry sat beside her and put the letters on the ottoman, then leaned forward so that his chin rested in his hands. Ginny scooted over and rubbed her hand soothingly across his shoulders. "They all do," he said after a fashion, "but I'm rather confused by my reaction to the offers."
Ginny picked up the letter from Robards. He'd spelled out what he might require of Harry, which included travel to various parts of the country. It sounded like exciting and dangerous work. "You seem reluctant to take the Ministry job. Why?"
Harry sighed. "I'm tired of running after Dark wizards, Ginny. The hours would be long and irregular, even if all I did was sit at a desk at the Ministry. I know I have the experience to do the work, but I don't think it's what I want to do with the rest of my life."
"That makes sense," she said. "What about the Hogwarts positions? You sound more positive about those."
Harry smiled at her. "I am. Mostly because it means a more stable home life with more time to spend with you. Sure, I'd have essays to correct and lessons to plan after work, but the world just might be a little better because I made a difference in the lives of my students if I took one of the jobs."
Ginny grinned at him. "I think you have your answer, Harry. Which position are you going to take?"
"The History of Magic position," he said, knowing the answer to be true. He stood up and ran his hand over the books on one of the shelves in the bookcase. "I've read all of these in the last two years, Ginny. Most of them are magical history, but I've made a study of comparing wizarding history to that of the Muggles and I think I could do a decent job of helping my students understand how the two worlds influence each other and how prejudices often cause more trouble than necessary. It might even deter someone from becoming the next Voldemort."
"Would you have to teach your students about you and your war?" Ginny asked.
"Yes," Harry replied. "It's one of the reasons I want to be the history professor. It'll be awkward, at least the first time, but I think hearing from the participants—not just me, but Neville and Hermione and Hannah—will make that part of wizarding history more real for the students."
"I think that suits you." Ginny stood up and came over to give him a hug. "You'll start on first September, Professor Potter?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye.
"Yes, right after we get back from our honeymoon. I think I'm going to enjoy coming home to you each evening after class," he said, hugging her back. They stayed in each other's arms for several minutes, then he backed away, towards his desk. "I have some letters to write."
"I'll send Whitehorn upstairs in a few minutes," Ginny said as he sat down.
"Thanks," he said absently, already thinking about how to word his letters.
Ginny left the room and as her soft footsteps descended the stairs, he heard her pause and excitedly tell the portraits, "Harry's going to be a Hogwarts professor!"
The day of the wedding dawned hot and clear, making Ginny happy that the little Ottery Saint Mary chapel had air conditioning. She'd spent the night at the farm in her girlhood bedroom surrounded by her parents and her brothers and their families. After dinner last night, she'd finally been able to tell her brothers about Harry's investments in their favourite charities.
"You mean to tell me that all that money came from Harry?" Charlie asked, sounding gobsmacked. "He's funded not only the repairs, improvements and scientific studies at my sanctuary, but at two others since the initial investment. I don't know how to thank him?"
"Then, don't," Ginny told him. "It's something he feels strongly about; preserving the beauty and heritage of Great Britain. He's something of a philanthropist and values the past as well as the future."
"I read in The National Trust's newsletter that two estates on the waiting list have started preservation repairs," Percy said, "because someone has given huge amounts of money to help preserve our landmarks. Is the philanthropist Harry, Ginny?"
Ginny smiled shyly. "Yes, he's the one and we are going to continue donating the interest from Harry's investments after our wedding," she told her brothers. "I'm proud that I'm marrying a rich man who is willing to help others just because he can."
"Did you know he had money when you met him?" George asked.
"No, I didn't," she admitted. "I only learned about his money when he added me to his bank account the day we became re-engaged. I admit that it took me a few days to wrap my head around just how much Harry's worth."
"Ginny," Ron piped up, "How did Harry get started with his 'projects'?"
She grinned. "I had to practically drag this out of him, but Harry decided to pay down a good portion of your student loans because he wanted me to know that he still cared about our family."
Ron sat staring into his tea cup for quite a while before he said, "I appreciate what he did. Do you think he'd be willing to redirect any future donations to something other than my personal loans? It feels a bit selfish of me to accept his money for my personal gain when he's supporting so many other organizations."
Ginny reached across the table and grasped Ron's hand. "All you have to do is ask him. I'm sure he'll be interested in any organization you suggest."
"I'll do that, then," Ron said.
The siblings stayed around the table a while longer, then Ginny went up to her room and tried to get some sleep.
She awoke early, excited about the day to come. Her eyes landed on her beautiful wedding dress, the one she hoped would make Harry's eyes pop out of his head when her dad walked her down the aisle later that day. It was made of cream silk, had a long pencil skirt with a daring slit and beautiful lace that decorated the plunging neckline and long sleeves. The detachable train could be hooked up to her waist so it wouldn't get stepped on when she and Harry moved about the reception marquee after the wedding.
Knowing she might not get to eat until the reception, Ginny clattered down to the kitchen and helped herself to a scone, some eggs and bacon, and a big glass of water. Time flew by quickly between greeting family members who were participating in the wedding and helping her mum with preparations for the reception, so that she was startled to find Hermione and her best friend, Amy, sitting in her room when she went up to dress.
"All right, missy," Amy greeted Ginny as she entered the room, "let's get you ready for this shindig."
Ginny giggled at her friend, "Do your worst!"
What ensued was an hour of pampering that transformed Ginny's pale, freckly complexion and long red hair into something she'd only dreamed of as a girl. By the time she zipped her dress and added the jewellery she was borrowing from her mother, Ginny felt as beautiful as Harry kept telling her she was.
"Right on time!" Hermione crowed as she zipped her own bridesmaid's dress and then helped Amy into her maid of honour dress. "I wonder if Harry is as punctual as we are?"
"He better be," Ginny commented. "The photographer is meeting us at the church in fifteen minutes."
She stood up and gathered her skirts, only to hear a horrible ripping sound. Looking down, she discovered part of the train had become caught under Amy's heel.
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed, bending down to inspect the damage.
"I'm so sorry!" Amy exclaimed. "I'll go get your mum and see what she can do." Before either Ginny or Hermione could say anything, she dashed out the door, yelling for Mrs Weasley.
The two left in Ginny's room looked at each other, then down at the dress.
"Close the door, Ginny," Hermione instructed, reaching into her beaded bag and extracting her wand. "I can fix this and no one will know your dress was damaged."
"Do I need to take it off?" Ginny asked.
"No, just stand still and let me concentrate," Hermione said.
Ginny did just that and a moment and two incantations later, she looked down at the train to see it looking like nothing had happened to it. "Amazing!" she whispered.
Ginny's mum chose that moment to enter the room. "Amy said something about a ripped dress?" she asked.
"Not any more, Mum," Ginny said happily. "Hermione fixed it with her wand. Come look."
"What am I supposed to be seeing?"
Hermione smiled. "That's the idea. I repaired the rip with magic and all is well."
"Thank goodness! Now let's get you to the church, darling. Your father is a nervous wreck," Mum said.
"Why? We've already had four other weddings in this family," Ginny said.
"We may have had four weddings, but your father never had to walk a son down the aisle!"
The three women burst into giggles and hastened down the stairs.
The ceremony went just as they'd practiced, except for the fact that little Liam had caught a beetle in a jar and didn't want to part with his prize. Ginny finally suggested to him that the beetle would have a better view of the wedding if his mother could hold the jar. Liam reluctantly agreed and Jeannine gently took the jar from her son.
Ginny and Harry had exchanged vows and were going through the ring ceremony when something extraordinary happened. There was a loud pop, the sound of breaking glass, and suddenly a dishevelled woman with messily rigid curls and broken, jewelled spectacles was sitting in Jeannine's lap.
Harry hastily shoved the ring onto Ginny's finger and turned to one of the suited men standing close to the wedding party. "Get Rita Skeeter before she transforms again!" he hissed, and the man quickly followed his instructions, escorting Rita out of the church by the arm.
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny watched as a wand parted the fronds on one of the flower arrangements and someone whispered, "Obliviate!" and she knew her guests had been made to forget the woman in Jeannine's lap. It made Ginny sad that she would have this memory, but would never be allowed to laugh about it with her family's friends.
"Who was that?" Ginny asked, as the soloist began the song for the candle-lighting ceremony.
"A reporter who has been plaguing me all my life," Harry admitted as they lit their Unity Candle. "I'll tell you more about her tonight."
A few minutes later, Harry was leading her back down the aisle as Mrs Harry Potter.
The reception at the farm was all Ginny could have wished for. She had time to speak with friends she hadn't seen in years, was actually able to eat her dinner, and then start the dancing with the bride and groom's dance. She had been pleasantly surprised to find out that Harry knew how to waltz and do the Fox Trot a few weeks ago when they decided to practice for their dance. He'd been the one to pick the music, and had found a song from the nineteen forties in her dad's antique record collection that was perfect for their first dance together. When they finished, the DJ took over and the guests flooded onto the dance floor to join the bride and groom.
Ginny and Harry had been circulating amongst the guests sitting at the tables for a while when they heard an "OH, NO!" from just outside the marquee, and the next thing they knew, the DJ and his equipment was splattered by the exploding wedding cake! Apparently, one of George's fireworks had spontaneously lit before he could set it up properly, flying over the guests' heads and landing in the cake. Everyone was grateful that the only casualty was the cake.
"The pictures of the mess will be something to laugh at years from now," George told them sheepishly. "I'm really sorry."
"Did anyone tell you your family room sofa is lumpy?" Ginny asked with an evil grin.
George groaned and sloped away to finish the firework display and endure a tongue lashing from Charlotte.
However, the most interesting thing about the entire evening was the fact that Ron broke up with Patti in the middle of the dance floor and then five minutes later began talking to Hermione. Neville, who had come with Hermione looked rather relieved. He immediately excused himself from the people he was talking to and went to talk with another of Harry's Hogwarts friends. A few minutes later he was escorting the pretty blond witch out of the marquee.
"Who was that with Neville?" Ginny asked Harry.
"Hannah Abbott," he replied. "You met her at the Leaky Cauldron when she served us our lunches. She owns the pub. Anyway, she and Neville have fancied each other on and off for years, but never did anything about it. It's about time they got together!"
"Why did they leave so early?"
"I think Hannah is the one who opens the pub early for breakfast tomorrow and lets the first customers pass through on their way to the shops." Harry replied. "Neville is probably seeing her home."
"Do you think Ron fancies Hermione?" Ginny asked.
"It looks that way. They might have a lot in common with Hermione being a Muggleborn witch. Let's wait and see what happens in the next few days," Harry said, leading Ginny back onto the dance floor.
Soon, it was time for Harry and Ginny to depart for their hotel room in Exeter. The remaining guests chased them out of the marquee with showers of grass seed that would take root in the next few days. In another few weeks, this corner of the paddock would be filled with the grasses the cows loved to munch on.
Later, as she snuggled into her new husband's side, Ginny sighed happily. She was looking forward to the next fifty years of her life with Harry.
A week after the wedding in Ottery St Mary, the Weasley family gathered at Grimmauld Place before going to the Ministry of Magic reception with Harry and Ginny. They were all wearing what they'd worn to the wedding except for Harry and Ginny. The bride and groom were resplendent in a new sets of dress robes. Hermione, upon hearing Ginny's request to wear robes in order to fit in with her husband's world, had taken Ginny to Madam Malkin's to get hers three days ago and the elderly dress maker had created Ginny's robes while she waited, promising her that no one else at the reception would look as beautiful as Harry's bride. She had been right; Ginny had been fairly floating around Grimmauld Place since she'd put them on.
Tori giggled when she first saw Harry and Ginny together. "Uncle Harry, why are you wearing a dress?" she asked.
Harry smiled down at her. "I'm wearing what wizards call dress robes, Tori," he said as he sat beside her on the sofa. "In the Wizarding world, when a man dresses up, this is what he wears. They're like your daddy's tuxedo. You'll see many men wearing dress robes tonight."
Tori considered this, then said decidedly, "They're a uniform just like our vicar wears on Sunday mornings, aren't they?"
Harry tried not to laugh at the image of the Atrium full of vicars as he said, "Exactly."
While Ginny's entire family was not required to be present, there had been a family meeting that had led to the decision that there was safety in numbers, since they would be the only non-magical people in the hall. Magic was still so new to everyone that they all wanted to go to see what all the fuss over Harry was. Harry had then arranged with Kingsley for a small play area to be added to the reception room for the children.
Ginny had told Harry that having the children at the reception was a good excuse for her brothers to leave if things became uncomfortable. Harry agreed. He knew how catty and unthinking the Wizarding public could be. Still, he hoped the Ministry would abide by his wishes to shelter his new family.
He had left instructions with the head of security that the entire family was to be allowed into the reception. Eloise had tried several times to limit the number of family members attending the reception to the wedding party, but Harry was having none of that: everyone would be invited or the bride and groom would not show up for their own reception. The Statute of Secrecy had long ago been breached because he'd wanted to be honest with his new family. Eloise didn't understand how important honesty was to Harry and had tried her best to stick to the Ministry's guidelines… even while the Minister for Magic was telling her to do what Harry wanted.
Two Ministry cars pulled up to the curb in front of the house. Harry was pleased that none of Ginny's brothers remarked on the spaciousness of their interiors when all fifteen people were settled comfortably inside. They did, however, find it strange using the telephone box visitor's entrance.
Hermione and Neville met them at the visitor's entrance to help Harry accompany Ginny's family, along with Andromeda and Teddy, to the Atrium. They came separately, rather than together like they usually did. When Ginny asked Neville if anything was wrong, Neville shook his head and mumbled something about him and Hermione being better off as good friends rather than lovers. Hannah Abbott joined them a few moments later and volunteered to help some of the wedding party down to the Atrium. Once their group had reassembled, Ginny noticed that Hannah and Neville were holding hands and standing quite close to one another.
"Harry, look at Neville and Hannah," Ginny whispered. She pointed discretely to the new couple.
He smiled and put his arm around Ginny's waist, drawing her close. "I'm happy for them," he whispered back. "I hope it lasts this time."
"I do, too," she said, then tilted her head in Hermione's direction. She was standing very close to Ron and she seemed to be explaining something in great detail. "What do you think of that?"
Harry glanced over at the couple, thinking hard. "You know, those two might make it as a couple," he mused. "Hermione was raised as a Muggle until she was eleven, so she's comfortable with living with electricity and things like a telephone and the telly. I think Ron is smart enough to challenge her intellectually, too."
Ginny grinned at this. "I agree. Besides, she's a whole lot nicer than Patti ever was!" she giggled as Minister Shacklebolt arrived to greet the Potters and their wedding party.
"Harry, Ginny! It's so good of you to come early. Would you please introduce your family?" Kingsley requested once everyone had reassembled in the Atrium. Ginny made the introductions with Kingsley recognizing Percy as his Muggle counterpart's speech writer. Percy seemed pleased.
"Right, then. Thank you all for coming early. The Floo Network fireplaces will be opening in about five minutes to admit the guests. Miss Midgen has a few instructions," Kingsley told them before striding off.
Eloise now took the Minister's place, her nasal voice and condescending attitude grating on Harry's ears. "I would like the wedding party to stand by the fountain in a reception line with the bride and groom closest to the fountain. They are to be followed by the attendants and then the children. The guests will be asked to form a queue to greet you. The rest of the family is free to mingle with the other guests on the other side of the fountain. We must leave this area open for those Apparating in and coming by Floo," she said, beckoning to Harry, Ginny and their attendants to follow her. Jeannine came with them, carrying Liam and holding Tori's hand. The children were goggle-eye at the immensity and grandeur of the Atrium.
As they walked along, Jeannine whispered to Harry, "Is she always that bossy?"
Harry nodded. "I'm afraid so. Look, if you don't think the children should stand with us, feel free to let them find the play area," he told her. "I had Eloise add one for them."
"Let's see what happens," Jeannine said. "Liam has been surprising me lately. He may not last long, but he wants to do big boy things like his new Uncle Harry. Besides, he was quite taken with Teddy last weekend and if Teddy stays in the line, Liam just might, too."
Harry couldn't help the grin that spread across his face upon learning that Liam wanted to be like him and Teddy. "Sounds like a plan," he managed to choke out.
Over the next hour, the hundreds of magical guests poured into the Atrium and eagerly queued up to gawk at their hero's Muggle wife. Most of the witches and wizards were gracious with their congratulations, but there were some, the ones Harry hadn't wanted to send invitations to, who made biting or catty remarks about his choice of spouse within his hearing. Their obvious distain for Ginny rankled in a way that he hadn't felt since the war.
"I know you told me to expect feeling like an exhibit in a zoo," Ginny said as the last guest wandered off in the direction of the food tables, "but this is ridiculous! Who was the bloke with the white hair, you know, the one with his nose in the air? He looked at me like I had two heads!"
"That's Draco Malfoy," Harry replied as he ran a finger between the collar of his robes and his neck: the starched material itched. "He's from one of the old families who like to lord it over anyone who isn't a pureblood. I didn't want him to be invited, but his wife is one of the junior department heads, one of the youngest ever, so I had to accept him being issued an invitation."
"I think I'll stay out of his way," Ginny said. "The reception will be so much more pleasant if I'm not tempted to say something that will possibly get me hexed." She waited several seconds for Harry to stop sniggering and then asked, "Are we allowed to circulate now? I need something to drink."
"I do, too. Let's get a small plate each and go sit with Ron and Hermione. I'd like to get to know your brother a bit better," Harry suggested.
"Oh, good idea, luv," Ginny agreed and the two made their way across the hall, Harry looking for Hermione. He spotted her sitting with Ron and a few moments later, the four were chatting amicably.
"Attention, please, ladies and gentlemen," Kingsley's voice suddenly boomed through the Atrium and Eloise Midgen seemed to materialize at their table.
"Harry, Ginny," she hissed. "You can't sit down now. We have the formal introductions next. You're wanted by the fountain."
Harry suppressed a groan and rose to his feet, offering Ginny his hand. She took it and they followed Eloise back across the Atrium. She pointed to a small dais that hadn't been there earlier and made a shooing gesture that Harry took to mean they were to mount the steps, all while hissing, "Join the Minister now!"
"It is my pleasure to introduce the guests of honour," Kingsley was saying, "Mr and Mrs Harry Potter." The assembled guests clapped as Harry and Ginny made their way onto the dais. "It is the Wizarding world's pleasure to celebrate your marriage with you.
"We also want to take this time to recognize Harry's efforts in ending the recent war. As this is the first opportunity we've had to thank him for what he did to end the war, I am pleased to award Harry James Potter the Order of Merlin First Class medal for his outstanding bravery in ridding the world of Lord Voldemort." Kingsley paused for the resulting applause. "Harry, you are the last of many who received Order of Merlin medals for their efforts during the war and Britain's Wizarding public hopes you will wear this medal with pride."
A small boy now walked up the steps carrying a large, leather presentation box and stopped in front of the Minister who opened it and extracted a gleaming gold medal suspended on a green ribbon. As he hung it around Harry's neck, he said, "I apologize for springing this on you, Harry. We held the original ceremony while you were in St Mungo's. If you look out at the guests, you'll see many of them are now wearing their Second-Class medals."
Harry yanked his eyes from the medal dangling on his chest to the audience and smiled broadly when he saw that not only was Hermione wearing her medal, but so were Neville, Hannah, Seamus, Parvati, Padma, and a host of others.
"I'd like to say a few words," he said.
Kingsley nodded and Harry cast Sonorus on himself. "I'm overwhelmed," he began after gathering his thoughts. "Thank you for honouring me with this Order of Merlin. I'm glad to see I'm in such good company.
"Nine years ago, when I started on my journey to fulfil the prophecy about me and Voldemort, I felt I could trust only a handful of people. That changed drastically the longer the war wore on. I met and learned to trust many extraordinary people who were doing their best to protect their loved ones and their Muggle neighbours, who were willing to risk their lives in battle, and who provided me and Hermione Granger with shelter when we needed it. Many of you endured what I've heard have been called the Death Eater Years at Hogwarts and I'm just now hearing heroic stories about members from all four houses. Thank you all for your courage.
"Finally, I couldn't accept this medal without thanking those who gave their lives so that we could once again live in peace: Gideon and Fabian Prewett, Sirius Black, Dean Thomas, Minerva McGonagall, Amelia Bones, Hestia Jones, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and James and Lily Potter to name a few. I've seen the memorial at Hogwarts and I hope it brings you as much comfort as it does me to know that these witches and wizards will never be forgotten.
"In closing, I—"
"Unca Hawwy! Unca Hawwy! Look! I catched the beetle I gots at your wedding!" Liam clattered excitedly up the stairs, his little hands clasped tightly together, his mother at his heels.
Harry cancelled his spell and bent down to take a look at the beetle, thinking fast. If this was the same beetle from last week, he needed a jar now. With a swish of his wand, he conjured one and held it under Liam's hands. "Let's see what you've got, sport," he said. "Drop the beetle in the jar so we can look at it."
Liam did as he was told and Harry quickly put the lid on the jar. Then, he cast several spells to seal and protect the jar from breakage. Liam was right; he had once again caught Rita Skeeter buzzing around where she wasn't wanted.
"What are you doing?" Liam asked, looking at Harry's wand.
Smiling at his new nephew, Harry said, "I'm making sure your beetle won't escape. Isn't she pretty?" Liam nodded as Rita buzzed angrily in her prison. "Would you like to stay up here with me and Aunt Ginny until the ceremony ends?"
Liam's eyes suddenly went wide as he realized hundreds of eyes were looking at him. He lunged towards Harry, burying his little face in his uncle's neck.
Kingsley, realizing that Harry wasn't going to finish his speech, quickly concluded the ceremony and then Vanished the dais as soon as it was vacated. He then came over to where Harry was sitting with Liam on his lap.
"Is that who I think it is?" he asked quietly.
"Yes," Harry replied. "You know I specified that all reporters were to be kept out of my wedding and receptions and Rita Skeeter—" Harry raised the jar. "—chose to disregard my instructions to the press. Liam, who is a budding entomologist, caught her both days and here she is." He turned to Liam. "Sweetheart, Minister Shacklebolt wants to look at your beetle. Would you share it with him?"
"Your beetle is a special beetle the Minister wants to look at it closely because we think it's been naughty," Harry invented wildly. He saw that Liam was reluctant to part with his prize, so he changed tactics, "What happens when you get in trouble with your parents?"
"I sits in a corner or go to my room. Why she naughty?"
Harry smiled. "This is a magic beetle, Liam, that flew where she wasn't supposed to fly. The Minister has a very special cage for naughty beetles to stay in. Would you let him take her to the cage?"
"Can I have more cake if I give my beetle to the min'ster?"
Harry looked up at Jeannine, who had been hovering a little way off the entire time. She nodded and Harry turned back to Liam, "Your mum says yes."
"Yeah!" Liam cried as he hopped off of Harry's lap and thrust the jar at Kingsley.
"Thank you, young man," he said, taking the jar. "I'll take very good care of this naughty beetle."
Liam took one last look at his beetle and then made a beeline for the cake table.
Harry looked over at Kingsley. "What will happen to Rita?" he asked.
"She's violated the probation we put her on last weekend, including not registering her Animagus form this past week as stipulated, so she'll see a few weeks of gaol time for certain. You won't see any unwanted articles in the Prophet under her by-line for a while, if that's what you're worried about," Kingsley replied.
"Thank you," said Harry, extending his hand. The two shook and Harry left to go find Ginny.
He found her sitting at a table with both Hermione and Ron and Neville and Hannah. He Summoned a butterbeer from the tray carried by a passing house-elf and took a long pull.
"Rita again?" Neville asked.
"Yup," Harry said with a sly smile. He looked over at Hermione and said, "I think Liam just finished what you started all those years ago."
"You mean Kingsley knows she's an Animagus?"
"He does and he's promised that she'll get jail time for not registering her form."
Hermione smiled. "Closure at last."
Harry and Ginny spent the last few hours of the reception wandering amongst the guests talking to them about all number things, avoiding Draco Malfoy, and getting used to all the attention. Finally, Jeannine and Bill came over leading a sopping wet Liam by the hand. He'd fallen into the fountain and they wanted to know how to exit the building.
Harry pulled out his wand. "May I dry him for you?" he asked.
"You can do that?" Bill asked.
"That's the beauty of magic," Harry told him as he performed a drying charm, complete with warm wind that made Liam giggle as the moisture evaporated. "It makes life just a little bit more enjoyable."
Ginny suggested, "Let's gather the troops and all go back to Grimmauld Place together. Harry, dear, will you ask someone to pull the cars around to take us back?"
Happily, Harry replied, "Yes, dear."
The sun sank low on the horizon as Harry and Ginny stood watching the day fade into evening from the turret that was their bedroom. The windows were open to let in the evening breeze, which ruffled Ginny's hair, along with the last golden rays of the sun that turned her hair into the molten fire that Harry loved to watch. He never tired of watching the woman who had turned his life around and gave him the future he thought he'd never have.
Harry had used his connections to secure a small castle nestled high on a hill in the Peak District for the last two weeks of August and the two of them had spent their honeymoon exploring the countryside on foot, by horseback and on Harry's broom. They'd gone to an amusement park where Harry had ridden his first roller coasters and also toured an estate run by the National Trust that Percy had recommended. No one had bothered them: no reporters, no family members, it was just the two of them, enjoying what Ginny jokingly called "wedded bliss."
It was now their last night together in the castle and with their time here quickly slipping away, Harry stepped behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her middle and rested his chin on her shoulder.
"What are you thinking?" he whispered in her ear.
"I'm going to miss this place," she admitted after a moment. "It's so beautiful here with the land spreading out in all directions. I feel like a queen surveying her realm and I don't want to leave tomorrow."
"Neither do I," Harry replied. "These last two weeks have been so special just having you all to myself, but I know it has to end. We have a future to make together, jobs to go to. Are you looking forward to going back to the hospital?"
Ginny turned in his arms and snuggled into his side, laying her head on his shoulder. "I am. As much as I've enjoyed this month off, I've missed the patients, the challenges they present, and the satisfaction that comes from helping them heal. What about you?"
"I'm excited about bringing to life a subject that most students laughed at and thought was useless when I was in school. It's going to be fun being 'Professor Potter,' I think," he told her.
They were quiet for a time. The sun sank completely under the horizon, turning the sky shades of orange, red and purple, before darkness descended and a multitude of stars made themselves present in the heavens. As he had the last few nights, Harry pointed out the various constellations and they wondered at the brilliance of the Milk Way that swept across the sky.
Finally, Harry asked, "How are you?"
"Truthfully?" she queried. "I think I'm the happiest I've ever been. What about you?"
"I couldn't be better," he answered. He kissed her temple and then asked, "Is there a nickname you'd like me to call you?"
Ginny gazed out over the countryside. "I have several you can use," she said, a playful tone in her voice. "You can call me 'Ginny' for every day and 'Gin' for special moments. Please, never call me 'Ginevra' or 'Ginevra Molly' because that's what Mum used to call me when I was in trouble."
Harry laughed at this. "You? Get in trouble? I thought it was only your brothers who got in trouble," he chuckled.
Ginny elbowed him gently in the ribs. "Shut it, you. Now, where was I? Oh, yes… And when you are absolutely, incandescently, happy, you may call me… 'Mrs Potter.'"
Harry turned to his wife, happiness bubbling up inside him. He framed her beautiful face with his hands as he whispered, "Mrs Potter… Mrs Potter… Mrs Potter."