A/N: So here it is, the long awaited epilogue. Why did Harry go to Rosenheim? Where was Ginny going when he did that? And whatever happened to those wedding invitations they slaved to get out?
Guess you'll just have to read to find out.
Oh, by the way, when I was rereading the story, I realized that I forgot to pay proper homage to Dee Henderson. She's one of my favorite authors, so I modeled the situation where Ginny fell through the floor off a situation in The Truth Seeker, right down to Harry getting punched. If you liked that scene, definitely check out The O'Malley Series because she's ten times better than I am, I promise.
Disclaimer: I don't own it, natch.
Epilogue: A Wedding Bejeweled
The morning of what just might be the busiest day of her life dawned cool, bright, and welcoming. It was one of those days people called "crisp" and reminisced over years later. A breeze fondled gently at tree leaves just hinting at the burnished autumnal shades. Sun tipped bright and clear, sating the entire day to its fullest.
Ginny, however, only got to enjoy the weather in very brief snatches. She felt that cooling breeze, for instance, when she popped into the market in Ottery St. Catchpole to pick up extra frosting to cover the Chudley Cannons symbol the twins had "thoughtfully" ordered onto an otherwise classy wedding cake. Smelled the first hints of a lovely fall when she rushed to pick up the final floral arrangements. She felt sunshine on her face when she bossed Harry and George into rearranging all of the tables they'd already humped out to the meadow behind the Burrow.
She knew the instant she left that they played table wars, probably splintering the whole lot to tiny little bits, but as long as they were in exactly the spot she'd dictated and none for the worse, she couldn't be bothered to care.
She had far too many other things on her mind.
"You'd better hope the bride doesn't randomly decide to drop in on her future in-laws today," Tara remarked, aiming her wand at one of the white posts of the tent Ginny had ordered. Expertly, she shot a stream of sparkling gold and red at the top and walked slowly 'round the pole, wrapping it easily. "If she does, she'll wonder what's happened to the old Quidditch pitch. You said this was a Quidditch pitch, right?"
"Yeah, we used to pass our holidays back here," Ginny said absently. "Now Harry's gone and got it registered as an official pitch. We could hold league games here if we liked—with some enhancements, of course."
Tara repeated her ministrations with another post. A flick added a stately lion's head of burnished gold near the top. "Neat," she decided, looking up at her handiwork. "What's with the colours, anyway? And the lions? Not a very wedding-like theme, if you ask me."
"Our house colours. The lion was our mascot." They'd talked about their different schools—Tara had gone to a magical 'prep school,' as she'd called it, and she'd been fascinated by the idea of the four houses of Hogwarts. Though she could never keep them straight. "We figured we'd go with simple colours that we knew they both liked, and it is nearly autumn…"
"I get it."
"Yes, well, I hope it's not too much. We're a rather Gryffindor family." For what felt like the eightieth time, Ginny checked her watch. The moon ticked slowly closer to the sun, warning her that she hadn't much time left before Hermione's spa appointment (a "thoughtful" gift from Harry to "pamper the only pregnant woman in his life") ended and Luna would scoop her up and distract her with brunch. Though Ginny had spoken with Luna time and again, there was still a lingering fear that the other woman might thoughtlessly announce something about the wedding and that Hermione, being Hermione, would pick up on it immediately.
But it was a risk they'd have to take, as all hands were busy elsewhere.
Molly Weasley was cooking up a feast to rival any that the Hogwarts House Elves could produce with the help of Fleur and Angelina (Ginny, though competent in the kitchen, had been shooed off first thing). Ginny had Harry, the twins, and Bill in the back, setting up the tent and dance floor while she and Tara moved about with decorations. Somewhere, Euan Abercrombie and Terry Holicrest were out running last minute errands—collecting the band from Diagon Alley, checking on the bottles of champagne that Harry had ordered (Terry had valiantly volunteered to travel all the way to France). And Charlie was slowly rounding up all of Hermione's Muggle relations, as, despite the scars of working with dragons, he seemed the most normal of the lot.
"Wow," Tara observed, spinning a slow circle in the center of the dance floor. "This is… a bit of a change from this morning, wouldn't you say? It's already looking fabulous. Those floating candles are just the trick, I think."
They'd blatantly stolen that from the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but Ginny didn't bother to explain.
"And the flowers were a perfect choice."
Ginny blew a stray strand of red out of her face. Though her brothers were all in some broken down semblance of their Muggle wedding attire (the men had yet to put on their dress coats, though they all looked fetching in vests and the crisp black trousers), she had yet to change from her Muggle jeans and a baggy sweatshirt that proclaimed her loyalty to the Holyhead Harpies, a shirt that Harry had snarked on the instant he'd seen it. "I'm just amazed," she muttered, drawing gold thread upon the air, "that all of it came together. The last two days have been a madhouse."
"But a good madhouse," Ginny clarified. "Everybody's a lot more relaxed since…"
Understanding, Tara nodded. "Any news?"
"They've got more than enough to charge him for kidnapping Bear and Luna. As for the Witch Hunter stuff…" Ginny focused very hard on the gold thread, draping it from the base of the candles to form autumnal icicles. "I'll need to testify against Dermot in court, it looks like. My testimony is key to the case."
"Plus you'll have a strong influence, either way, as you were working on the Witch Hunter case for all those months, Tunnel or no," Tara surmised. There was a pause as both women let the work of nearly three years finally rest. "Either way, that bastard's going to be in prison for a long time."
"Yeah," Ginny agreed viciously. "And I hope he has a very friendlycell mate."
Tara let out a humorless bark of laughter. "Cold. I love it. Now, c'mon. Let's get the rest of these candles fixed up so that we can get Terry and Euan to float the bottles of champagne everywhere."
"I feel like a House Elf," Ginny grumbled, but they moved apart without another word, stringing gold thread along.
That is, until Tara cleared her throat. "Er, Gin? What'd you say your house mascot was, again?"
Ginny squinted hard as she struggled to align a few glimmering strands of red among the golden icicles. "It was the Gryffindor lion. Why do you ask?"
"No, ah, reason. But I think one of the guests just arrived early."
"What? Why?" Ginny whirled. "They weren't supposed to arrive until — FRED!"
Across the dance floor, Fred Weasley grinned. "Supposed to arrive until Fred?" he echoed, ignoring the fact that Ginny was very quickly becoming a shade of angry mauve. "That makes no sense."
He'd chosen to celebrate the day wildly, it appeared. A top hat of blinding lime green clashed horribly with his dark red locks, and even worse with the pinstriped suit of dark plum. He'd even found a cane that reminded Ginny of Luna Lovegood's old Gryffindor hat, but that wasn't what drew the strangled rasp of the very angry from her.
No, it was that he wore all this — and sat atop what looked to be a genuinely purple hippopotamus.
Harry and George, arranging tables around the edge of the dance floor, looked to be very wisely holding back laughter. From behind her, Ginny heard what sounded suspiciously like a masked snicker from Tara.
"What?" Fred asked innocently, patting his mount atop its massive rump. "Don't like my date?"
The dam broke; Harry and George collapsed respectively to a chair and the ground, gasping with laughter. "What happened to Angie?" Harry managed between fits, for now ignoring the fact that Ginny was going from mauve to maroon—a very dire sign indeed.
As if to answer him, there was a pop!behind Fred, and Angelina herself appeared, hands on her hips. "NOT funny!" she told him, then did a double-take at the sight of the hippo beneath her fiancé. "Oh, for heaven's sake! Put Neville back to the way you found him!"
"That's no fun," Fred muttered but, spotting the murderous intent in Ginny's eyes, he hastily climbed off the hippo. Knowing full well that he was likely tweaking a tiger's tail, he beamed at Ginny. "What's the matter, sister mine?"
"Guests — Muggle guests — arriving — any minute — "
"Fine, fine. Spoil a bit of fun, will you?"
Ginny finally rediscovered the use of her legs, and began to jerk forward as if on puppet strings. Sensing danger, Fred dodged behind the hippo.
Meanwhile, Tara sidled up to Harry and George. "Why's the hippo purple?"
Both shrugged. "Probably seemed like a good idea at the time," Harry informed her. "Hope Fred's fast enough to dodge her Bat-Bogey Hex. That one's nasty."
"You've been on the receiving end of it?" Tara wondered.
"No, she reserves it for enemies and when she's hungover."
had thus far managed to dodge the hex, though he was laughing too
hard to last much longer. "It's just a joke, Ginny!" he
called, even as he used the hippo-shaped Neville as a shield.
"Really, just a simple enchantment—"
"Then take it off of him! The Muggles will be here any minute — "
"But you have to admit, he's got a certain charm when he's like this — "
Neville the Purple Hippopotamus blinked sluggishly.
"Take it OFF him, Frederick!"
Ignoring the commotion entirely, Angelina strolled away from her fiancé and his combatant. "Nice day, isn't it?" she asked the trio by the tables. "Perfect day for a wedding — hope mine will be this nice."
"If your fiancé survives, it might be," Harry mused. "I like the dress."
Unlike her husband, she had chosen a simple, classy ball gown in a deep red. "Thank you. My Muggle cousin lent it to me. So how's the decorating going?"
"Swell," Tara informed her just as Fred let out a pained yip.
"All right, all right! I'll change him back!"
All three glanced over at a loud crash. If any were surprised to see Fred and Ginny both strewn to the ground on either side of a very befuddled Neville, who wore a maroon tuxedo and a matching top hat, they didn't say.
"Doing okay there, Nev?"
Neville blinked a couple of times and finally looked down at his tuxedo. "This was black…"
"Fetching colour on you anyway, mate," George informed him.
"Was it just me," Neville continued, ignoring him completely, "or was I a hippo just now?"
While Ginny rushed frantically from one place to another, little more than a red blur, Harry decided that the best place he could be was out of the way. And he sought to make that happen by absently de-gnoming the old garden, very much like he'd spent his summer holidays doing.
Before long, Neville joined him at it. Like Harry, he'd shed the top coat and his hat so that he wandered around in shirtsleeves and maroon trousers. "Good idea, mate," he told Harry fervently, climbing over the low fence to reach the garden. "That girlfriend of yours is…" He trailed off and glanced over his shoulder, as if expecting Ginny to be there. Seeing her nowhere, he turned back to Harry. "Absolutely bonkers."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, also glancing around for Ginny. "She's…taken the project a bit seriously."
"I'm surprised everybody didn't fly for the hills after what she did to Fred."
"Me too. Though I think his hair will turn back to its normal…texture… in a couple of days. Or she'll likely change it back for the photos. Hermione won't want a goo-haired groomsman. I hope." Harry plunged one hand into the weeds and yanked it out. Dangling and kicking madly was a bright gold garden gnome. "Ah, here's the one that bit Fred that one Christmas."
Neville eyed the golden gnome. "What in Merlin's bloody beard?"
Harry lobbed the gnome like a Quaffle, watched it fly. "He bit Fred's ankle. Ginny's not the only vicious Weasley."
"What was that?"
Both men whirled guiltily. At the sight of a very annoyed Ginny standing just beyond the garden fence, Harry turned an awkward shade of puce. "Er — nothing. That is, it was — er — just a bit of — Did anybody tell you that you look nice today?"
She stared balefully. Beside Harry, Neville began to fidget.
"Really nice," Harry continued, stammering. Though he wasn't lying, fear sweat began to run. Ginny had finally found time to change into her own dress for the wedding. "N-nicer than I've seen you looking in awhile. Uh, beautiful—"
"Gorgeous," Neville supplied for him.
"Gorgeous! Yes, that's it! Thanks, Nev—yes, Ginny, you look gor—absolutely stunning."
Ginny's eyes narrowed dangerously. Both men straightened, but the youngest Weasley merely sighed. "If it weren't the truth, I'd be hexing you bloody, Harry Potter. As it is, I need you in one piece. Your guest is here. He's in the house."
"Oh. Oh, right. Thanks." Harry studied Ginny's face for a long moment, debating his next move. Bravely taking the coward's exit, he fled as fast as he could, but he still heard Ginny ask, "So what was that about me being completely bonkers, Neville?"
He was too far away to hear Neville's terrified gulp, but he could imagine it very well.
Ginny fussed with her hair as she entered the Burrow, trying not to smile broadly. Neville had turned the same shade as oatmeal—and had very promptly fled. She wasn't supposed to find it amusing, but like her ability to lurk, she enjoyed scaring men out of their wits.
It was a sick, sick talent, but as long as she had it, she might as well enjoy it.
"Harry?" she called, knowing he'd be somewhere in the house with his guests. The rest of her family had abandoned the Burrow, doing final preparations for the wedding. Ron and Hermione would be arriving in less than thirty minutes, and she needed to gather everybody up for that moment. Or just Harry. She wasn't sure which reception would go over better.
"In the den! Come on back!"
She poked her head in, smiled. "Hey."
"Hey." He stood by the windows with an unfamiliar couple. "Are Ron and Hermione here yet?"
She checked her watch for the eighty-first time. "Twenty minutes, give or take. I'm just stepping in to get away from the madness."
"Which you started," Harry pointed out. More than comfortable in the Burrow, he went to the side cabinet where Arthur Weasley kept the liquor, and reached for the wine. "Ginny, this is Dieter Reiss and his wife, Anja. Dieter's the Captain of the National German team. Dieter, Anja, my girlfriend, Ginny Weasley."
"Ah, yes, the woman who's captured the heart of the famous Mr. Potter." Dieter smiled and kissed Ginny's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too, Herr Reiss." She grinned at him, liking him immediately. Harry handed her a glass of wine.
"Oh, Dieter. Please. My wife, Anja."
Anja returned Ginny's smile. Ginny, the only Weasley to have inherited her height form the Prewett side of the family, nearly had to crane her head back to look at the woman, who surely had to be a model. "So Harry tells us you are responsible for all the insanity happening today."
"It was his idea," Ginny returned immediately. "But I implemented a lot of it, sure. I'm glad you two were able to make it. Working with a Quidditch team has more than taught me the value of a player's schedule."
"When Harry came to visit us in Rosenheim, I will admit we were intrigued. But we wouldn't miss this for the world. It'll be my first wedding to, how is it you say…" Dieter bought himself some time by taking a drink, his eyes twinkling. "Host?"
"Conduct?" Ginny offered.
Dieter beamed at her. "Ja. Conduct. I wrote down my speech so that I would not have to say 'how is it you say' during the ceremony, so you have nothing to worry about, Miss Weasley."
"Oh, if you get to be Dieter, you'll have to call me Ginny," Ginny told him. "And we're just so happy you could come conduct the wedding—the normal magistrate would have blurted everything out and ruined the secret, so you are a godsend—you could just point at Ron and Hermione, declare them married, and we'd be happy. We really appreciate you and Anja coming out all this way."
"Like we'd miss a party. Especially one as unique as this. What are the plans for when the bride and groom come?"
"Oh, Hermione will cry," Ginny informed Dieter blithely. "And Ron will be shocked, but warm up to a night of dancing and partying with his friends rather quickly. Hermione's parents have been warned ahead of time. We'll get her in the dress, get her down the aisle, and hopefully dance until morning."
"I have a question," Anja announced. She turned to Harry. "You have a Quidditch captain on your team, do you not?"
"I do." Harry smiled, understanding her question. "But I had to pull a lot of strings to get the pitch in the back registered officially, so I figured better safe than sorry. I didn't know Bear well enough for him to conduct the wedding back when I was getting everything set up, and besides, Dieter, you're my first choice. Much more dignified."
"Makes sense," Dieter agreed, smiling.
Ginny tilted her head to the side. "Which makes me wonder—if any official Quidditch captain can conduct legal weddings on a registered pitch… are the Hogwarts captains able to marry off their fellow students?"
"You mean, I could have done this for Ron and Hermione years ago?" Harry asked her, mock-seriously. "That would have saved everybody a lot of trouble."
"But we're all legally able to drink now," Anja pointed out. "So the wedding wouldn't have been nearly as much fun."
"Too true," Ginny sighed. She finished her wine. "My brother and his wife-to-be will be here any second. I'd better get the handkerchiefs ready. Hermione tears up at anything these days. She's going to cry when she finds out what we've done."
"Oh, joy," Harry muttered, and began to look for the exits.
Hermione did cry. In fact, she cried buckets, it seemed, before Ginny and Molly scooted her along to put on her wedding dress. Ron was much easier; he accepted what Harry and Ginny had done with a stunned look, and tossed back the tumbler of firewhiskey Harry had handed over before he changed into his dress robes. He still looked a bit dazed at the altar, and Hermione a bit teary-eyed, but they exchanged vows with such sincerity that several members of the audience sniffled. Bride and groom had laughed at the honorary seat for Trevor the Toad at the head table, and Hermione had cried again during Harry's toast to the "newlyweds," even though he did get a reference to troll bogies in there.
Since Ron was famously Harry Potter's best friend, it seemed like the population of a small country attended his wedding. A small country of Quidditch players, that is. Harry skated the dance floor, grabbing a glass of champagne from a floating tray. Along the way, he spotted a few Harpies players dancing with what looked to be the entire reserve team for Puddlemere United while Captain Oliver Wood scowled dourly at the lot of his backups for flirting with "the enemy." Alistair Grokman, a relic from the days of Teddy Gingham Quidditch, danced with Celestina Warbeck (Harry noticed that Molly kept surreptitiously glancing at her favorite singer, trying not to stare, and that Fleur seemed to avoid that half of the floor entirely).
And the rest of the group, apart from family, seemed to be Tunnel members. Tara danced with Terry, while Euan twitched in time to the music, his arms around a woman who looked vaguely like Tara. Must be her sister, Harry mused, and wondered how long that had been going on.
"Oi, Potter," said a voice near him. Harry turned to see a vaguely familiar young man beaming at him. "Did you catch the latest England match? Brilliant catch on Jarvis's part, but he's no Potter."
So they'd officially replaced him on the national team, Harry mused. A month before, the news might have hurt; today he shrugged it off. He was happy with the Typhoon. "I was actually in the states. Good match, was it?"
"Flattened Switzerland," his companion confirmed. He then launched into a play-by-play with such enthusiasm that Harry pegged him as either straight out of Hogwarts or very new to the sport. Very likely both.
Oh, he realized as the kid went on, this was Gregory Perks. They'd met at Emma D. Barnaby's party ages before. The night that Ginny had come back into his life.
He blinked when a hand dropped heavily onto his shoulder. Bear, swaying a bit, grinned briefly at him before turning to Perks. "Shoo."
Faced with a Quidditch superstar like Barry Winslow, Perks did exactly what he had not done with Harry: he turned white, began to stammer, and very quickly fled.
"I've still got it," Bear said smugly, watching him go.
Harry nipped the drink out of his hand and sniffed it. It certainly didn't smell like grain alcohol, though Bear swayed like a drunk on a three-day bender. "Got what?" he asked absently.
"It. Whatever it is that makes the lads still wet behind the ears in our glorious sport fear me." Bear grinned and abruptly straightened, no longer swaying. "Some shindig your best friend here's throwing. Not even a Quidditch player, and he's got all of Portree here."
"And the Nottingham Typhoon," Harry pointed out. 'That's what you get when Ginny plans your wedding."
"Mighty handy, that woman is."
"What woman?" Stacy appeared at Harry's elbow, eyes narrowed suspiciously on the man that had been outed just that morning by the press as her new boyfriend.
Bear just grinned. "The hot redhead."
Harry, as a matter of routine, said, "Hey," in warning even as Stacy deduced, "Oh. Ginny." She patted Harry's shoulder. "She isa hot redhead."
Just for form, Harry affected a grumpy look. "She's my hot redhead."
"Don't I know it," Bear said with just a hint of wistfulness.
Stacy obliged Harry by punching her boyfriend in the shoulder.
"Speaking of which," Bear went on, unaffected (though Harry personally knew a punch from a Harrows twin felt rather like a semi-truck and a double-decker bus had mated, and their offspring had slammed into you at a dead run), "you might want to remind somebody else of that, mate." He nodded over Harry's shoulder.
Harry glanced over. Ginny had made her way from the dance floor, where'd she'd been dancing all afternoon, and was leaning on the bar, chatting with Luna Lovegood. Some unfamiliar bloke, probably a distant relation of Hermione's, leaned in close to her, leering in a way that made Harry's blood rumble threateningly.
Still, he maintained an even look. "Oh. Ginny can handle that."
"You sure? He might be drunk."
"The last time I tried to interfere, I got my hand broken for my trouble and missed the Snitch the next day. I'll let her take this one." Because it still twanged occasionally, Harry shook the hand in question and took an absent drink of champagne.
He barely hid his smile when Ginny gave the bloke her best simper—and promptly poured her drink over his head. Harry turned to Bear and Stacy. "See?"
"Incoming," Bear warned, grinning.
Harry turned to see the bloke curled up in a fetal position—and Ginny striding toward him with a glint in her eye. A warpath, he saw, too late. She barely acknowledged Bear and Stacy with an "Excuse me, I'm stealing Harry," before she banded her arms around him and kissed him so hard that he nearly reeled.
He might have heard Stacy mutter, "That looks like a good idea. Bear?" before his teammates slunk off. But he couldn't be sure. Every thought in his head had blissfully disconnected, leaving him in a wonderful fuzz.
And too quickly, Ginny leaned back. But, he noticed, she didn't let him go.
He blinked muzzily at her. "What the blazes was that for?"
"Branding you," she informed him. "Just in case anybody here had any questions."
The back of Harry's neck began to burn red as he remembered who "anybody here" was. Their friends, Quidditch stars, half of the wizarding population…her family. And he couldn't help but remember the last time her family had witnessed such an ardent kiss. And a great deal more, he amended as fear oozed a greasy, frozen track down to his stomach.
Ginny laughed. "Relax, Harry. My family likes you."
"When I'm not trying to shag their only daughter on the kitchen floor, they like me just fine," Harry corrected.
"There is that, but I don't care." When the first notes of a slow dance hummed across the air, Ginny grabbed a fistful of Harry's lapel and tugged. "C'mon. Let's dance."
Several dances later, a panting Neville came up to Harry, who stood at the bar while Ginny danced with Chris Gingham. "Good news, mate," he informed Harry, after he'd ordered a scotch and soda. "Movers'll be done today."
"Yeah. Moving into my own flat. It's ready for me."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Not with Luna?"
"Nope." Faint pink appeared along Neville's cheeks, but he just shrugged, took a drink. "She's off to Fez. Rhodondins."
"At least it's not Nargles this time."
"Hear, hear." Neville clicked his glass to Harry's and both took a drink. "But you'll finally have the flat to you and Ginny, so—"
"Won't," Harry interrupted. "Her parents made her move back to the Burrow. Can't have her living in sin." He tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice, but Neville's sympathetic look warned him it wasn't a success.
"Oh, speaking of Ginny, my jeweler friend got back to me. I got the owl just before Fred ambushed me." Neville grinned ruefully down at his maroon tuxedo as he dug in his pocket, removed a small box. "Oddest commission he's ever received, he tells me. But easiest, too. Seems the piece wantedto change. Work practically did itself. Whatever that all means. He's owled you his bill."
"Fantastic." Harry opened the box and smiled. "She'll love this."
"She'll love what?" said a voice behind Harry.
He hastily stuffed the box into his pocket before he turned. "Oh. Nothing. You look radiant, Hermione."
She narrowed her eyes at him, but conceded with a small smile. "Even though I was the last to know, it's my wedding day. I'm allowed to look radiant. And nobody's allowed to say no to me. So you'd better dance with me."
"I have my orders," Harry said with mock regret, and passed his drink to Neville. He spun Hermione onto the dance floor. "So, how're you? And how's the sprog?"
She wrinkled her nose at the terminology. "We're both doing well. My parents may wonder about the birth date being so close to the wedding date—"
"They'll just be so happy to have a grandchild, they won't care," Harry interrupted.
When Hermione's eyes began to glimmer, he fought off a stab of pure male panic. "Oh, no. Not that. Don't do that again." Panicked, he scrambled for the handkerchief Ginny had pressed into his pocket for such an occasion.
"It's just, nobody's ever thrown me a weddingbefore. Not even a surprise birthday party, did you know that? And here I am, at my own wedding, and it's such a lovely wedding, and so perfect. Ginny really did a phenomenal job—I couldn't have planned it better myself—my own wedding—"
And to Harry's absolute horror, she burst into tears.
Desperate, he yanked out the handkerchief and shoved it into her hand, patting her shoulder awkwardly and wishing somebody would come to his rescue. Ron, Ginny, or maybe even Mrs. Weasley. He didn't deal well with crying women. They terrified him.
"Ginny and I wanted to do something nice for you," he said bracingly, looking desperately for help. "I mean, the pair of you are the closest thing I have to family, and Ginny loves you both. So don't cry. It's happy. I promise. A good thing, an absolute good thing. Not a tears thing."
Hermione smiled through her tears. "It's my wedding and I'll cry if I want—hey, what's this?" She bent and picked up a small object on the dance floor. Harry froze; the box Neville had handed him had fallen out in his scramble for the handkerchief. He didn't move even when Hermione wonderingly opened the box.
Then came her soft sigh. "Oh, Harry. Really?"
"It's not…" He began to squirm. "It's not that, exactly."
But she just lifted her eyebrows and pursed her lips in her best McGonagall expression. Even though that expression always made him feel mutinous and ten, he couldn't fight the relief that at least she'd stopped crying. "Then what is it?"
"That's…something I need to talk to Ginny about," he said slowly.
Suddenly solemn, she handed the box to him. "You should do that, then."
"I will. I just have to figure out the right time."
She glanced around at the people around them, all enjoying champagne, laughing and talking in groups. "No time like the present."
"With all these people around?"
"You could go somewhere quiet, you know," Hermione pointed out. Deliberately, she looked past the scads of people at the woods surrounding the old Quidditch pitch. "Though I'd be careful. Weddings tend to make people…randy. You'd probably stumble across something you'd rather not witness out here, come to think of it."
"Ididsee George sneaking away with one of your cousins," Harry admitted.
Hermione scowled. "I just hope he watches himself."
"Why? After the fifth bout of fireworks, Justin Finch-Fletchley said he could memory charm your family for us. He's got connections."
"Oh, I didn't mean magic. Belinda's just a man-eater."
Hermione paused, then shook her head. "Go find Ginny. She'll be in a really good mood with the wedding being a success. I think you ought to try your luck. And I'm happy for the both of you, really. Ron is, too, though he's more likely to grumble about it."
She had several good points, though Harry specifically called the fire-red shade of Ron's face when the Weasleys had walked in on Harry and Ginny. Still, he nodded. "We'll be back to wish you off," he promised. "Nice to see you as a married woman, Mrs. Weasley."
"Granger-Weasley," Hermione corrected instantly. "And I've been married three years, you git."
Harry grinned as he gave her a hug. "Ron's rubbing off on you. Merlin help us all."
He left her dancing with Neville and sought out Ginny. She'd finished dancing with Chris Gingham and had moved onto to Tad Gideon, laughing at something the giant Beater was telling her. He cleared his throat, "Hey, Tad, can I steal my woman?"
"Your what?" Ginny challenged as Tad laughed and said, "Sure, mate. All yours. I hear a meatball calling my name."
"I'm not property," Ginny informed Harry as Tad wandered away.
Harry just quelled any chance of argument by leaning down and kissing her. She softened against him. "Want to get out of here?" he muttered in her ear.
She leaned back to meet his eyes—and read their expression quickly. Desire warred with propriety in her own eyes. She nibbled on her bottom lip. "We can't leave—it's Ron and Hermione's wedding—"
"The bride just gave me permission to bail, and nobody'll miss us."
A glance around told her that everybody was either involved dancing, or just standing around talking. Indeed, nary a soul paid them a lick of attention. She gave a small shrug. "It seems you're right. What'd you have in mind?"
He leaned down to mutter in her ear. Though his suggestion would have made hardened witches blush, Ginny just pursed her lips and said, "Hmm. Inventive. All right, but we can't go together. People'll definitely notice that. I'll go now. You come to the Hutch in ten minutes."
Her eyes promised a great deal more than her words. Effortlessly, she slipped into the crowds and vanished from his sight.
It was going to be, Harry discovered as he checked his watch, the longest ten minutes of his life.
Harry must had left a window open the night before, so that a cool breeze drafted over Ginny's bare back, but she didn't move. Nor did she want to. Everything felt so blissful and loose and wonderful in a way that she wasn't sure she'd felt in, well, ever.
She snuggled closer to Harry, who hadn't moved since he'd collapsed beside her on the mattress, one arm flopped over her. He made a noise in the back of his throat that could have indicated hunger or pleasure. She chose to interpret it as the latter, and nuzzled even closer.
"Cold?" he asked in a slurred voice, the first thing he'd said.
"A bit. I'm okay, though." Wonderful, actually. "Are youokay? You're a bit…comatose."
Harry made the noise again, and shifted toward her. His green eyes were sleepy, and faintly amused. "Seems I'm okay, too. Though I'm really irked at your family."
Ginny blinked at him. They were as tangled up in each other as they were in his bed sheets, blissfully naked. And he was thinking about her family?
"Their timing really sucks," Harry went on, smiling drowsily at her. "Now that I know what they deprived me of by walking in on us last week, I'm seriously displeased with every single one of them. You're amazing, you know."
"You're not too bad yourself, Mr. Potter."
Well, she conceded in her head, leagues better than "not too bad," though she didn't want to inflate his ego overmuch. It appeared that Quidditch was not Harry's only natural talent. She hadn't once felt the all-numbing and paralyzing fear she'd had the first time they'd started to become intimate. In fact, her mind had gone utterly blank.
Thrilled with that fact, and him, she kissed his shoulder, rested her head against it. "Think anybody at the wedding's missed us yet?"
"Don't care. Anybody outside of this room has ceased to exist." Wonderingly, Harry traced light fingertips down her back. Her shudder had him smiling. "Still ticklish."
"Turnabout's fair play, you know." And Ginny dug her fingers into his ribs, where she knew him to be particularly sensitive. He writhed, laughing, and simply rolled on top of her, pinning her hands and fusing her mouth to his. Because she felt that instinctive pull in her belly, Ginny broke off the kiss and smiled at him. "Already ready for a second go-round? I'm impressed."
He leaned down to nip at her neck, smiling. To Ginny's disappointment, he levered himself off of her, moved toward the side of the bed. "Maybe in a minute. Got something for you first, though."
"Oh?" She sat up, hugging the sheets to herself.
"I think you'll like it. Where the devil are my slacks?"
Ginny glanced around the room and began to laugh. "Um. Look up."
He did so. "I'm glad you spotted that before we had any visitors. That would be a fun one to explain." Laughing, he stretched and grabbed the trousers from the lighting sconce, pulling them down. "Well, they had good company, it seems." From one of his fingers dangled her lacy bra. He grinned at her as he dug into his trouser pockets, then clambered back into the bed, something clutched in one of his fists. "So I…I didn't exactly have time to write a speech or anything—"
Ginny frowned at him. Were those nervesshowing in his eyes? After everything they'd just done? What on earth did he have to be nervous about?
She couldn't tell. He wouldn't meet her eye. "I know you hear about all these complicated relationships where it's never the right time or whatever, but I'm not like that, and I don't think you're like that, either. We're simple people, right?" Now he did glance at her, just a peek from under his eyelashes.
Ginny's eyebrows drew together. "Uh, right." What on earth was he going on about?
"And this isn't anything binding, or to put pressure on you, or anything. It's just—well, here. See for yourself." Miserably awkward, he thrust his fist at her, and slowly opened it.
Ginny stared at the jewelry box, her mind absolutely blank. Was that…? No. It couldn't be. It was too soon. They'd only been official for a few months. And she remembered, very clearly, the way he'd paled when mentioning weddings and getting married.
It was like somebody else was controlling her hands, lifting her arms and using her arms like a puppet's to open the box. Stunned, she stared at the red gemstone, mounted beautifully on a gold band. "Harry, is this…"
"We've both been through a lot in our lives," Harry said quickly. "Between Voldemort and Dermot, we've both had it extremely rough. So I thought I'd give you this — this ring — as maybe a sort of promise. That I'm not like them." He took a deep breath, and began again, his words tumbling over in each other in their haste to get out. "That you, I don't know, can lean on me, and I can lean on you, and we'd have each other. It doesn't have to be an engagement ring because that's probably moving pretty fast, so it can just be a promise that we can be, uh, more?"
Incredulous, Ginny picked up the ring box and slowly drew out the ring, staring at it.
"Er, now is where yousay something," Harry informed her, fidgeting nervously with his glasses.
"Speechless in a good way?" Harry ventured.
She finally looked away from the dazzling ring and wrinkled her nose at him. "Yes, in a good way. Merlin, Harry, you got me a ring — it's absolutely gorgeous —" Carefully, she lifted it from its velvet bedding and brought it closer to her face. "This is the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen. Besides you, that is."
Red crept us his neck, delighting her. "If anything, I'm handsome, and I'm not really even that—"
"Handsome, then," Ginny interrupted, laughing. She leaned forward, ring still in hand, and cupped his face with her hands. "Are you asking me to marry you?"
The flush deepened. "Not – not if you don't want me to. I don't want to rush you. This can just be a promise, or a pretty ring—"
"If you want me to marry you, I will," Ginny interrupted, her gaze steady on his even as her heart galloped almost painfully against her ribcage.
His hands flew up to cover hers and squeezed. He'd stopped breathing, she realized, and so had she. "You — you will?"
She threw her arms around him and laughed. "Yes!"
His arms nearly crushed her in return. "You mean it?"
"I love you, Harry. That isn't going to change." Ginny shifted back, gave him a resounding kiss. "Hah. Now you're stuck with me."
Harry's grin was somewhere between sheepish and elated. "Could be worse," he said, and dodged her playful swat. "Looks like I'll get to do this for the rest of my life." He leaned forward and kissed her, deepening it.
After a blissful eternity, she nudged him back. "Nuh-uh," she informed him "You have to put the ring on me now. It's tradition."
"Is it?" He took the ring from her and held it up. In his hands, it looked extremely tiny. Obligingly, she held out a hand; he fumbled and slid the ring onto the appropriate finger. "Ah. The jeweler got your size right. Good. How's it feel?"
"Wonderful." She brought her hand up to admire the ring more closely. "What isthat gemstone anyway? And are… are those wings etched on the band?"
Harry took her hand in his, studying the way the light played over the ring atop their joined fingers. "It's a garnet. And those are wings, yes. I, er, I sent the snitch I caught at the Open to a jeweler and had him transfigure a ring for you."
"I just thought," Harry went on, still studying the ring, "this was the most important snitch I'd ever caught. This was the snitch I was holding when I looked at you and realized that I loved you. I know it's not diamonds, which are traditional, but I thought if it meant something…"
"Harry," Ginny said more firmly, and he finally met her eye. His own widened when he realized that she'd begun to cry, but she kept his gaze. "It's perfect. Absolutely perfect. And so are you."
"Well, I don't know about that." He fidgeted with his glasses. "I'm still a bit scrawny, and I've got that temper, and Hermione says I'm bullheaded —"
Ginny cut him off with a kiss. "Perfect," she told him. "And mine."
Harry's grin of relief nearly made her laugh. "All right. If you say so. So I'm yours, am I? What are you going to do with me?"
"Oh, I can think of a thing or two."
Later, much later, Ginny nuzzled against his back, her arms around him while he absently played with the ring on her finger. "Harry?"
"Hmm?" Drowsiness dripped from his voice; he was about to drift off. Still, he rolled over to toy with her hair. "What is it?"
She bit her lip. "Do you mind if it's a long engagement?"
"Why?" He lifted a brow.
"Well, with Ron and Hermione's wedding today, and Fred and Angelina getting married next month, I think I'm all wedding'd out. And you being a big Quidditch star, and me being universally loved by everybody, we'll probably need a big wedding." She grinned.
"We could just elope."
"My mum would killus."
"Good point." Harry smiled. "Guess we'll just have to wait and have a big wedding." He paused. "We've got the rest of our lives, after all."
That being said, he fell asleep, his arms still around her. Ginny just grinned at him and shook her head. "That we do," she agreed quietly, and drifted off to her dreams, the Garnet Snitch glinting on her finger.
A/N The Second: It's done. Folks. I finally finished it. I'm sure there were times you wondered if ever would, and there were certainly times I did, too. In the time I wrote this, I switched majors, colleges, visited other countries, lost relatives, graduated college, got my first job, moved across the country. This is an epic fic in more ways than most because I can plot my entire college education through this fic.
There are a lot of people I want to thank. First, I want to say thank you to everybody kind enough to ever leave a review, even the ones that swore at me. :-P There are reviewers in particular I want to thank, some of those who stuck with me over several chapters, Buttamello and Shalli (more coming on these two), Wolf's Scream, sidlovesnancy1979, GeorgieGryffindor, PSTurner, SilentWasteland, LilyJames Addict, karma 11, 100-Percent-Harry-Potter-Obsessed (aren't we all?), Melindaleo, and several others (I'm sorry if I didn't name you here! You still have my gratitude!)
On the next level, I want to thank Leslie and Kat. They've seen this fic pretty much from its beginning, and they've provided a lot of ideas for it without knowing. And Kat's been my unofficial beta-reader, Aussie tester (she keeps me in my strine). Really, y'all should all be grateful to Kat. There were times I forgot about Garnet and she nudged me.
Lastly, thanks to my friends in real life, who tolerated the way my eyes would go foggy and I would forget them for days at a time when inspiration struck. Thanks to my mom, and my dad, who've never done anything but encourage my writing (Dad even gave me a plot once, hee). I love you guys.