Lightning Bolt Archives
Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me;
Other times, I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me,
What a long, strange trip it's been.
Kaitlyn Potter pulled the gold silk glove further up her arm, desperately trying to gain some kind of order in her lavish outfit. She was stood in front of a large full-length mirror, critical eye running across her reflection; her long red gown was too tight across the bust and she was hoping no one would be able to notice the small stain near the hem where she'd spilt her coffee earlier. However, as she carefully arranged the mass of honey brown ringlets around her face, fixing them in place with gold chop stick she couldn't help feel a sense of a job well done.
She could scrub up well when she put her mind to it - even if she did feel something of a class traitor. The dress cost more than she'd lived off for a year when she was younger. But then again she thought, glancing at the reflection of her home, she could never have imagined that she'd end up living in a place like this.
Her eyes travelled to the photographs and pictures that covered the wall, each of them a happy memory captured forever, sandwiched behind glass to remind her of how far she'd come: A wedding picture, bridge and groom grinning with confetti raining down around them, a sleepy head poking out of a tent, the Cornish coast stretching out behind him, a large group of people, bizarrely dressed and celebrating Victory Day.
She smiled to herself, picking up a picture of Ron and Harry in the official blue Auror robes, glasses of champagne in hand, celebrating graduation. They'd all come so far, risen above the death and destruction that had brought them together. Her eyes flitted to another moving picture, this time Remus and Tonks waved back at her and her stomach clenched painfully.
Eight years on and it still hurt.
Before she could muse further upon her change in fortunes she heard the sound of something large and expensive smashing on the floor downstairs.
"That better not be what I think it is!" she shouted instantly, placing the photo back on the table.
There was a guilty silence and she sighed heavily. A quick glance at the clock told her they'd have to leave in ten minutes and she tried to calm her nerves, already jangling from the waiting. She stooped down, picking up the various clothes and robes off the bedroom floor, throwing them in the washing basket. Harry was about as untidy as Kitty was and she usually left the housework to him, he could flick a wand and have it done in moments after all.
It calmed the butterflies however so she continued her uncharacteristic cleaning spree, all the time keeping an ear out for more sounds of destruction from downstairs. She came across a sheaf of parchment strewn under the bed and she glanced at Harry's familiar scrawl, as usual they were important documents that he'd forgotten to take into work.
She smiled to herself and put them on their desk, taking the time to screw lids back onto ink pots and bin half-eaten plates of food. She felt a familiar sense of pride as she looked around their beautiful home, admiring once again how easily they accommodated the muggle and the magical; a pen pot with quills and biros in, sheaves of parchments kept flat beneath pads of lined A4, wand polishing kit kept next to her paintbrush box.
Another glance at the clock told her she now had seven minutes to go and after taking one last look around their cluttered bedroom, she made her way downstairs. Sure enough, the expensive sounding breakage was what she'd feared; one of her own statues was lying in pieces across the floor. She stepped over it gingerly and went in search of the culprit.
"I didn't mean to," came a small, guilty sounding voice from behind the sofa.
She sighed, staring sadly at the fragments but knowing full well Harry could fix it in an instant, "What have I told you about flying your broom inside the house?"
She rounded the sofa to find the young boy regarding her with disconcertingly grey eyes and a face pulled into a frown of almost chronic injustice. There was a miniature Asteroid 360 on his lap.
"Uncle Harry said I could if I was careful..." he tried.
"No he didn't Teddy!" Kitty exclaimed, before pausing and reconsidering, it was entirely possible that Harry would have said that.
Harry doted on Teddy as if he were his own son and Kitty knew exactly why. He was determined that Teddy would not grow up as he had, orphaned by Voldemort and not knowing anything about his parents and the magical world. This had meant that inevitably Harry had become the 'fun' uncle whereas she was the boring, bossy auntie.
She didn't mind however, she loved Teddy as if he were her own too, she'd seen him grow from a tiny bump in her best friends stomach to the cheeky and caring boy of 8 now sat in front of her and she'd never regretted taking him in; they were godparents after all.
"Well, Harry shouldn't have told you that," she said, trying to look stern but failing miserably, "you know broomsticks are for outside only. Now, get your coat on."
"But I don't wanna go..."
Kitty gave a slight smile and crouched down so she was eye level with him.
"I know Teddy," she told him sympathetically, smoothing his hair down affectionately, "but you know this is really important to Auntie Kitty right?"
"But it's gonna be bo-ring," he complained, pulling another face.
"I know, but all your aunties and uncles will be there, and you can play with Victoire," she tried, "now how's about you be a good boy for your poor worried auntie?"
"Am a good boy," he muttered sullenly.
"But I thought we agreed you'd have brown hair tonight," she said sternly standing up now and moving to the cloakroom.
"Brown in places," she remarked, staring at the little boy's head for a moment, "what about all this green?"
Teddy merely broke into a wide grin, looking supremely pleased with himself. Kitty had to stop herself from being shocked at how suddenly the boy could remind her of his parents. That grin definitely had Tonks' mischief all over it.
"Fine," said Kitty airily, wrapping a gold shawl around her shoulder, "keep it green if you want Teddy – just no changing when we're around muggles – you know the score."
"Aye aye captain!" exclaimed the child happily, already dashing out of her bedroom and arriving back second later, with a backpack rammed full of things.
"We're only going for a few hours," she told him wearily, fully expecting him not to listen.
She was right, Teddy merely swung it over his shoulders and hurried over to the fireplace, looking so eager to jump in he was in danger of burning himself on the real flames.
"No floo tonight, trouble," she told him, "Harry's not back yet and you know I can't use it on my own."
"When's Uncle Harry coming?" he whined already dropping onto the floor in what Kitty recognised as the 'about to have a tantrum' pose.
"Good question," she muttered to herself, reaching for her mobile and hit speed dial.
It went straight to answer phone.
"Hi, Harry's ignoring you right now, but leave a message and I'll get right back to you."
She sighed in frustration but waited for the beep anyway.
"What is the point in me getting you a mobile phone if you never turn it on? I swear to god Harry, I'm going to kick your arse if you're even two minutes late tonight, get it? This is important! And wear a tie ok?"
She hung up, giving another irritated, yet nervous sigh. Teddy was repeatedly hitting the fire guard with a small, wooden hippogriff.
"Je-sus Christ," she muttered, picking up her phone again.
After a couple of rings a familiar voice picked it up. She was too nervous to congratulate Hermione on being the only magical person capable of accepting technology.
"Hey Hermione," she said quickly.
"Hi Kitty, you all set?" said the girl sounding slightly muffled, "We're in the midst of a muggle clothing crisis over here!"
"Harry's not back yet so I'm going to have to get a taxi," she replied, before picking up a pillow and aiming it at Teddy's head. The look of surprise as it rebounded harmlessly off him was enough to stop Kitty's nerves for a second and stop Teddy hitting anything else.
"Teddy's getting fed up too, I can't really wait much longer…"
"I thought he was going back to yours after his shift, he said he was going to floo you," she replied, before a sudden voice in the background suggested Ron was in trouble with some item of clothing.
"Well that's what he said, I've got his new suit here and everything…Goddamn it," she muttered as she felt a wave of sickening nerves overtake her, "You don't think he's in trouble do you? Or hurt…"
"He's probably just been held up Kitty," Hermione soothed in such a long-suffering voice that it suggested this was a well practised conversation.
"He does know its tonight doesn't he?"
"Of course! I saw him in the Ministry this morning and he sounded almost as nervous as you," she laughed, "don't worry, he's probably been held up and is desperately trying to make it on time."
"He will come won't he?" she asked anxiously.
"Of course, why wouldn't he?"
"He missed the last one," she said in a small voice, hating herself for brining it up.
"Kitty, he was unconscious," Hermione stated bluntly "You know what his job's like, believe me, being the worried wife comes with the territory – I've lost count of the amount of nights I've sat worrying about Ron…Now don't worry! He'll be there, I promise. How are you feeling anyway?"
"Nervous as hell," she breathed, glancing at her reflection once more, "what time will you get there?"
"At the rate Ron's taking to put his tie on? Hours. But don't worry, give us half an hour," she said and Kitty could hear Ron's moaning in the background again, "see you soon?"
"Yeah, ok," she said.
"Good luck, bye."
Kitty cancelled the call and was surprised to see her hands were shaking. Again to calm her nerves she hit speed dial.
"Hi, Harry's ignoring you right now, but leave a message and I'll get right back to you."
She gave sigh.
"Harry," she told the beep desperately, "please make it…"
She couldn't think of anything else to say so she hung up abruptly. Gathering her bag and giving a last minute look into the mirror to tidy herself up, she turned to Teddy.
"Come on then, trouble," she said, holding out her hand, "let's go get a taxi!"
"Taxi!" exclaimed Teddy happily, abandoning his destruction of the fireplace and grabbing Kitty's hand.
Kitty took great care when leaving the house. She locked all the muggle locks and activated all the spells Harry had put on the building by pressing the bricks around the doorbell in a complex pattern. Although it was years since they'd had their last Death Eater attack, Harry's job didn't exactly leave him short of a few enemies; people Harry had put away, those who wanted to carry on the 'noble work' of Tom Riddle, foreign spies and would-be assassins.
She cast another look across the door, looking to any muggle that walked past as if she were examining the wood grain – her job wasn't exactly a popular one with some magic folk either and she was just as likely a target as Harry.
Finally satisfied with the security arrangements, she took Teddy's hand and led them down the bustling London street. She soon flagged down a Hackney Carriage and settled herself and Teddy down for the ride. Despite his earlier reticence, he was now extremely excited about the evening a chattered away with the driver.
She stared out of the window anxiously, nibbling away at her previously beautifully manicured fingernails. She tried ringing Harry one more time but had no luck. She tried not to let this affect her too much and was desperately trying not to think about all the duels and monsters he could currently be dealing with when the taxi pulled up outside a large concrete building.
She scrambled out, paying the driver and pulling Teddy out behind her. She stared up at the edifice for a moment, which was dancing with colours as lights strobed backwards and forwards. She was more nervous than she thought she'd be.
"Is this your gallery auntie Kit?" asked Teddy, imitating her long stare up at the building.
"Yes it is Teddy," she said, crouching down in front of him and smoothing his hair down once more, "my very first one."
"It's pretty," he said with Remus-like sincerity, "you're really clever Auntie Kit, to do this."
She smiled sadly, wishing more than anything that Remus was here, leading Teddy and Tonks into her gallery, telling her how proud they were.
"You look sad," pouted Teddy.
Kitty gave him a big grin, "I'm not sad, trouble, just thinking about your mom and dad. Did you know, it was your mom that decided to send me to Art College? If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't be here now, at this gallery."
"She was really clever too, wasn't she?" asked Teddy, gazing at Kitty with solemn grey eyes filled with longing.
"She was," Kitty nodded, heart squeezing painfully, "and so was your dad. The cleverest people I ever knew."
"Cleverer than Auntie 'mione?" he asked incredulously.
"Even clever than Hermione," she agreed, "and braver than Harry, and funnier than Uncle George."
"That's not possible!" scoffed Teddy, obviously waiting for Kitty to reveal her joke.
"Of course it is," she said, before straightening up, "now, shall we go in?"
Teddy grabbed her hand and Kitty took a moment to compose herself. She squared her shoulders, hoisted her gloves back up towards her elbows and marched them in.
"Kaitlyn, dahling!" came the shriek as she walked through the doors.
"Suki, hi," smiled Kitty, as the outrageously dressed woman gave her three air kisses.
"And how is my little Teddy bear," cooed Suki, bending down and pinching his cheek.
Teddy brushed off her hand silently and gave her a long look. Kitty felt a pang of sadness again, that was such a Remus-like reaction it was uncanny.
"Why don't you sit here and play before everyone comes?" Kitty told him, and after a haughty stare he set up shop of the sofa and investigated the contents of his rucksack.
"Dahling, simply everyone's been dying to see you!" she gushed, grabbing hold of her elbow and dragging her into the main room, "Lord Elvin! Marcia from Debussy's! Jean-Paul is around here somewhere too! And this is Crispin, he's the art critic for The Independent!"
Kitty shook the man's hand and was about to begin chatting when Suki pulled her off in another direction again, introducing her to what seemed like the entire room without stopping for more than a greeting. She was finally left to wander when the boisterous woman spotted something wrong with the canapés wandering past on the silver trays.
"I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing your work," came a smooth voice from behind her as she was half way through gulping down a glass of orange juice.
She spun around, coming face to face with the brilliant white smile of the art critic known as Crispin.
"Oh, well, thank you," she said blankly, "I hope you like it."
"I'm sure I will," he said smoothly, "I must say, I'm curious of the title of your gallery - where does it come from?"
Kitty looked across to the sign he was referring to, the words Lightning Bolt Archives wereetched onto a sheet of glass, behind which a light was slowing morphing from colour to colour.
"Oh, it's a personal reference," she said, giving a brief smile, "it'd take too long to explain."
"Really?" asked the man, eyebrows raised, "Well I'm even more curious now…Tell me, what would you say are the main influences on your work?"
"My own life mainly and my friends," she nodded, before quickly wondering where they were, "I don't see the point of art for art's sake unless it means something."
"That's certainly an interesting perspective," nodded the man, sounding very much like he disagreed with her, "but ars gratia artis, is it not?"
Kitty merely forced a thin smile, carefully trying to hide her building annoyance. She hated doing this sort of thing, talking to the press and critics; it's what she paid Suki for. She very rarely gave interviews or did promotional work and far from hurting her popularity as an artist, it had seemed to enhance it; now she was mysterious and kooky and an exclusive scoop was worth hassling her for.
"So Kaitlyn," Crispin began, flashing his ludicrously white teeth at her once again, "when you say you're influences are your own life, is there one aspect of it in particular?"
Kitty knew where this was going, she'd known since the man had first sidled up to her - these critics and 'admirers', they loved talking about her old life.
"No, not really," she said, slightly coldly, trying to put him off further discussion.
"Only, I've noticed many themes in your earlier works, I wondered whether your relationship with your mother and your disturbed childhood was reflected in some way?"
Disturbed, she thought to herself, that was a new one.
"Read what you want to into my art," she said offhandedly, looking around the room for an escape, "that's the point."
"Oh I do," he told her, treating her to another dazzling smile, "tell me though, the recent court case involving your stepfather, were his allegations that you-"
"Ian is only interested in my money," she said flatly, "and he'd say anything to get it."
"Really? I heard that he implicated your husband in-"
"This has got nothing to do with my art," she hissed at him.
"But it's a fascinating diversion, is it not?" he batted back, quick as a snake striking, "I heard the final settlement was made out of court, nice and quiet, what was the final amount I wonder?"
"I'm not going to continue this conversation if you haven't got anything of relevance to say. What goes on between me, my husband and Ian Banks is private and has nothing to do with this gallery or why I paint what I paint."
"Does the fact you faked your own death at 16 have any bearing?" he cut in quickly.
"Fuck off," she snarled, hands shaking, "write what you want you arrogant prick!"
She spun away, temper already rising – how dare he talk about Ian and her mother on this of all nights! Just then she caught sight of Hermione's face in the doorway and rushed over, glad for the distraction.
"Thank God you're here!" she said instantly, giving the girl a grateful hug, "I've been surrounded with posh gits in suits talking about how disturbed my life is and riling me up!"
"Glad we could rescue you," she laughed, "your dress is amazing!"
"Thanks," she said, nervously flattening it down, "hiya Ron, sorry to drag you out to something like this."
"Are you kidding?" he said with a grin, before giving her a hug, "we're really proud of you!"
Kitty merely grinned before giving a significant nod towards Hermione.
"How you feeling anyway?"
"Don't ask," she said with a roll of her eyes, "you try finding a decent dress to fit this thing."
She prodded her belly which was so large she had balanced her purse on it momentarily.
"You look ready to pop," commented Kitty with a grin as Hermione flinched.
"Don't remind me," she said sourly, "I tell you what Kitty, never have a baby – they make it look so exciting and easy in the books but it's just uncomfortable, painful and downright embarrassing at times."
"Ignore my wife," said Ron simply, "she's cranky because we've run out of peanut butter and treacle sandwiches."
"I'm not cranky," snapped Hermione, before pausing and smiling, "wow - guess I am. Anyway, cranky or not, I'm thrilled to be here, congratulations Kitty."
"Thanks," she said gratefully, before leaning down and addressing Hermione's belly directly, "Now you listen here Rose Weasley – don't you dare turn up tonight! You're a Weasley so you better get used to being perpetually late and that includes for your own birth. I don't think I can take any more stress tonight."
Ron laughed and Hermione frowned at him, "You see what you've done? We've got a reputation for always being late now because you're always faffing!"
"Not as late as Harry," grinned Ron, happily passing on the buck.
"Good call Ron," Kitty said, glancing up at the clock on the wall, "he promised he'd be here this time."
"It wasn't really his fault last time though," said Ron in Harry's defence, "he was in the middle of a battle with a-"
"Ron, what have I said about talking about you-know-what in places like this?" cut in Hermione, giving a meaningful look at the muggles around them.
"Oh yeah, right," he said meekly, "forgot. Anyway, I'm just saying, last time it wasn't necessarily his fault."
"His fault or not if he doesn't come tonight he wont even be sleeping on the couch, it'll be the garden for him," she said, and both Hermione and Ron flinched, they'd seen enough of Kitty's temper to know she'd probably go through with her threat.
More visitors began to pour through the door and Kitty grinned happily to see George and Angelina appear.
"You look…interesting," laughed Kitty affectionately.
He was wearing a penguin suit complete with orange shirt and green bow tie.
"We thought we'd liven up your stuffy muggle do," he added, receiving an elbow in the ribs from his wife at the mention of the magical world.
George merely rolled his eyes and Kitty hugged Anglina, complimenting her on her dress and swapping gossip. Her previous anger at the critic was evaporating and she slipped back into her world, leaving her muggle worries far behind.
In a blur of green hair Ron was suddenly gripped by Teddy, who instantly began to show him his latest toys.
"You've been spoiling him," Angelina noted with a slight smile.
"We can afford it, and he deserves it," shrugged Kitty, "anyway, you guys hungry? There's food walking about."
She pointed out the various waiters who were wandering with champagne and canapés. They must have heard the call because one arrived almost instantly at Ron's elbow, holding a plate temptingly in front of them.
"What are those?" Ron asked bluntly.
"Gruyere cheese and rocket bruchetta's," replied the waiter smoothly.
"Is that food?" Ron asked everyone and Hermione glared at him in annoyance.
"Fine, but I'm only eating it because I'm starving," he muttered, lifting the tray out of the man's hands and proceeding to dig in.
The little waiter looked lost for a moment, before backing away and rushing to get more supplies.
"It's supposed to be one at a time," sighed Hermione, picking up one of the small pastries up and nibbling it.
"But I'm starving," said Ron plaintively as he picked up a handful, "we've had no dinner - you said there'd be food here Kitty!"
"I meant the kind of food that you usually get at jumped up, pretentious parties like this," she told them, also collecting a few, "I personally wanted burgers but for some reason I was shot down on that one."
They all laughed appreciatively and Kitty took a moment to study them all. There was something very robe-like about the suits, and in Hermione and Angelina's case, dresses, they were wearing. The guys jackets were slightly too long and had suspiciously deep pockets whilst Hermione's dress looked like a sleeveless dress robe. She supposed you could take the wizard out of the robe but you couldn't take the robe out of the wizard, they seemed genetically hardwired for them.
She tuned back into the conversation just in time to hear alcohol being discussed.
"Its free," she informed them and a nearby tray was quickly commandeered and shared out amongst the group, "get as much as you can before they open up the gallery else you'll be left stone cold sober and facing that lot."
She nodded over to the huddles of art critics, artists and various other media folk that were circulating the room like vultures, all deep in arty type discussions; no doubt about how damaged she was or how much her stepfather had bled them for.
She wondered momentarily whether Harry would be as restrained as she had been if he were asked similar questions and decided it was a definite, resounding no. There'd be a pair of smoking shoes where Crispin stood. Kitty knew that Harry hated Ian even more than she did, if that were even possible. As her thoughts swirled around her husband she felt a familiar twist of nerves.
"Have you seen Harry?" she asked them finally, unable to hold it in any longer.
"He's on his way," George informed her, "bumped into him at the Ministry about an hour ago - just come back from a raid or something."
"And he asked especially to have the afternoon off," said Hermione tersely, "honestly, he lets them walk all over him…"
"I'll walk all over him if he doesn't turn up, again," she said, trying to sound threatening but she was obviously too worried because they all looked at her sympathetically.
"He's just trying to lighten Gawain's load," Ron shrugged stuffing another vol-au-vont into his mouth, "he's not going to stick around forever and everyone knows Harry'll be Head of the Department when he goes."
"Really?" asked Kitty, momentarily side-tracked, "What about the older guy, what's he called? Caleb."
Ron merely shrugged, obviously he had the inside knowledge, "The grapevine says Harry."
Kitty wondered how she felt about this; Head of the Department was a big job, a dangerous job, but then again, there'd be more people to delegate work to and how better to change the department and the ministry than from the top.
"They'd be mad to consider anyone else," George was saying.
"He's addicted to danger that man," Kitty half-joked, glancing at the door.
A steady trickle of people looking slightly anxious and wearing robe-like suits and dresses were trickling in now and she waved to a few of them in greeting. She noticed a few friends from college and the muggle world too, it gave her a warm feeling in her stomach to know she had so many people she could rely on.
Harry had to be here tonight she told herself forcefully, he just had to. It was a big night in so many ways.
"Well, it doesn't matter if Harry is going to be the next Head or not, even management deserves time off," said Hermione, sharing a worried look with Kitty, "he asked for it off!"
"He told me to tell you that he promised he'd be here no matter what," said George helpfully, "he was getting changed in the toilets when I saw him."
"You saw him getting changed in the toilets?" asked Ron, grinning just as a sudden yelp caught all there attention.
Kitty spun around to see a toddler bounding through the crowd towards her, silvery blond hair dancing. She grinned widely, bending down to scoop up the girl and spin her round.
"Auntie Kit, mama bought me a bonne chapeau!" burbled the small girl, tilting her head side to side like a supermodel so she could admire her new hat.
"That is a belle chapeau," agreed Kitty in a poor attempt at French.
She lowered the little girl to the floor and hugged Fleur happily, before catching sight of Bill and treating him to the same. Again, they had both missed the essential muggleness of the dress code, but looked effortlessly styled in their robe-like outfits. Kitty doubted that Fleur would look bad even if she were wrapped in a bin liner.
"Sorry we're a bit late," Bill said, glancing around the packed room, "did we miss anything?"
"Nah, still waiting for everyone to turn up," she said, gazing around the room, "including Harry."
"He'll be here" he said with a smile, "now where's the free booze?"
Kitty merely laughed and directed him to the nearest waiter. She gazed towards the door anxiously, wondering whether she should try and ring Harry again, when Hermione turned up at her elbow.
"He'll be here," she promised handing her a glass of wine, "you know he wouldn't miss this for the world."
"Yeah…" she sighed, carefully depositing the glass back onto a nearby table, "I know…"
"I like the name by the way," said George suddenly, nodding the glass sign above there heads.
"Lightning Bolt Archives," read Hermione, "wow, that's ambiguous enough, but nice - does Harry know?"
"No, it's a surprise," she said vaguely, still watching the door, "speaking of which, there's one for each of you inside."
"Oh no, you haven't painted a portrait of me have you?" asked Ron in horror.
"Don't worry," she said as everyone laughed at his expression, "I couldn't possibly capture on canvas what nature has done to your face."
Even he had to laugh at this and after a few more minutes of banter, Fleur came rushing over to them, hand clamped around Teddy's, who was looking slightly shamefaced and wearing Victoire's new hat.
"Kitty, zere is a problem with 'is 'air again," she said worriedly.
Kitty sighed before sneaking a peak under the brim of the hat, "What colour are we now?"
"Blue!" he yelped, with a clap of his hands.
"He's feeling a bit multicoloured today," she explained to the rest of them, "won't stay as one shade for more than five minutes, even though he promised."
Sure enough, as Kitty watched the blue hair suddenly began to darken until it was bright red.
"Oh well, you'll fit right in with all these arty types," Kitty told the boy, who merely pulled off Victoires hat and put on his own day wear hat from his rucksack, "they like weird hair."
"Yours looks nice by the way," Hermione said, as if noticing her for the first time.
"Nice and expensive," muttered Kitty, still staring avidly at the door, "where is he?"
"Kitty, if he's late for this then you know it can't be his fault," George assured her, picking up another tray of nibbles, "you know, these aren't half bad."
"Hmm," she agreed half-heartedly, before checking the clock, "listen, I better go and just check everything's ok before it opens…if you see Harry…well, tell him I'm looking for him."
Ron and Hermione watched Kitty move through the curtain that was hanging in front of the gallery.
"He better have a good reason, that all I can say," laughed Ron, shaking her head, "honestly those two…one drama after another."
"Understatement of the century," murmured Hermione, "just for once I'd like a week to go by when we didn't have any worries…"
"She'll be ok once he gets here, she's just nervous," Ron said, before pausing and shouting, "TEDDY! Don't you dare do that!"
The boy stopped in his attempts to pull the tablecloth out from underneath the small buffet and spun guiltily, face radiating innocence.
"Go play with Victoire, and keep out of trouble!" he cautioned.
Teddy grimaced but did as he was told.
"This is fantastic though, isn't it?" asked Ron, looking around the room when the commotion had died down, "a real achievement."
"Yeah, to think its been ten years since she turned up - and now opening her own art gallery," she said, shaking her head in amazement, "it feels like a lifetime ago, doesn't it?"
"It was really," shrugged Ron, "do you remember how much we hated each other when we first met, how we'd argue and fight at every opportunity."
"I know, I still feel guilty about it now," Hermione admitted, "do you remember how she was nearly obliviated by Moody and Kingsley, and then when we weren't sure what was going to happen to her? I was sure she was going to disappear, live a ruined life…"
"Its all down to Tonks and Remus really," Ron replied, note of sadness in his voice, "for giving her a home, sending her to art college - if they hadn't helped her then, who knows what would have happened to her."
"They were good people," she nodded, watching Teddy play with a far away look in her eyes, "but I think we all know it's Harry who kept her on the straight and narrow - and Kitty herself, for putting her mind to something."
Ron was about to reply when a commotion at the doorway revealed the missing guest. Harry had obviously been running, his cheeks were red and his tie wasn't even fastened yet. He skidded to a halt in front of the group, his face a picture of worry.
"Where is she?" he gasped, still quite obviously out of breath and forgoing all pleasantries.
"She's gone in to check everything," Hermione replied, as everyone else joined them.
"Is she pissed off?" he asked worriedly, running his fingers through his wild hair.
"Of course she is," she replied in a sharp tone, "where have you been?"
"Ministry," he said breathlessly, "Do I look ok?"
"Come here," sighed Hermione, beckoning him forward.
She began to do up his tie, tucking his shirt into his suit and straightening everything up. Harry hopped from foot to foot, looking impatient as she brushed some invisible dust off his shoulders.
"What was the big emergency?" asked Bill curiously, "You were supposed to be on leave."
"Oh you know," he said vaguely, craning to catch a sight of Kitty, "the usual, some guy who can't understand that unforgivable curses really does mean unforgivable."
"You've been duelling?" demanded Hermione as he dodged her attempts to further mess with his hair, "Again?"
"Only a little," he shrugged, obviously thinking this was a minor piece of news, "It is my job you know."
"You've got blood on you," noted Ron, motioning to his temple.
Harry brushed it away wordlessly, "Have I missed all the speeches?"
"No, they're about to start," she said finally, giving up on her failed grooming attempts and stepping back to admire her handiwork.
"Are you sure you're ok Harry?" asked George, peering at him closely, "You don't look too hot."
"Slightly dosed up," he shrugged, fingers already re-ruffling his hair, "the Healer said I should-"
"Healer?" demanded Hermione incredulously, "You got hurt?"
"It's nothing," he told her.
"But," she began, before Ron cut her off.
"He's fine Hermione," he cautioned, "anyway Harry, you better go and-"
But Harry had already disappeared behind the red curtain into the gallery.
"-fetch her," he finished lamely.
They watched the silent, unmoving curtain for a moment, expecting at any time to hear the familiar shouts start, but there were none.
"I don't know about you lot, but I thought he wouldn't make it," laughed Ron finally, "again."
Hermione merely rolled her eyes, "He'd be mad to miss this, and stupid to be duelling tonight as well!"
Meanwhile, Harry was hurrying through the twisting corridors of the art gallery. It was strange to see the works of art and sculptures that were usually scattered about the breakfast table or the bathroom floor now in gilt frames or behind velvet ropes. He was similarly shocked to see the bowl he'd been using for his cereal the past few weeks was actually supposed to be part of a sculpture and now had a price tag of £230.
He finally found Kitty standing in front of a large shape, hidden beneath a white dust sheet. He hurried over to her anxiously.
"Kitty," he began breathlessly, "I'm so sorry I'm late."
"So, the wanderer returns," she said, spinning around hands on hips, "seven on the dot I told you – on pain of death I told you! I was waiting for you!"
"I know, I'm sorry! I tried," he pleaded with her anxiously, "it was an emergency..."
She gave an annoyed frown and took in his scruffy, flustered appearance.
"What's wrong?" she asked him suspiciously, "You look sick."
"I'm fine," he told her, spreading his arms as if to show her.
She stared at him for a long moment and Harry waited for her verdict. He thought he'd got away with it until she gave a deep, unhappy sigh.
"You've got blood on you," she said flatly, beckoning him forward, "come here."
She took out the small handkerchief that was stuffed in his pocket and wiped his neck in silence.
"I don't want to know," she told him finally, looking up at him, "just tell me you're ok?"
"I'm ok," he reassured her.
"Liar," she scoffed with a worried frown.
Wordlessly she set about straightening his jacket, ruffling his hair once again and picking imaginary pieces of fluff off his shoulders. Harry guessed it was a girl thing, didn't they realise he'd never be tidy and well presented?
"Why can you never get ties right?" she asked the world in general, pulling it off and retying it slowly, "around the tree and down the rabbit hole, remember?"
Harry knew she was only nagging because she was horribly nervous so he merely withstood her brutal assault on his appearance, occasionally making pleading apologies for her forgiveness. If there was one thing he'd learned from seven years of marriage, it was that Kitty was always right (even if she wasn't in full possession of the facts).
"Ok," Harry told her calmly, reaching up a taking hold of her wrists, "you're never going to get me looking any tidier. Now calm down."
"I am calm!" she exclaimed loudly, before giving a slight look of shock, "oh…guess I'm not."
Harry smiled, "There's nothing to worry about – you know for a fact that this is the best art you've ever produced. It's so good in fact that you've opened up your own gallery Kitty – your own gallery! Now, that room back there is full of snobs and critics and every sort of media shark you hate because they all love your work, and they're going to give you an award to prove it. So believe me when I say there is nothing to worry about. The hard bit's already done."
Various emotions flickered across Kitty's face the usual of denial, surprise, happiness and fear, before she took a deep, shaky breath.
"You're right," she told him quietly, "I can relax, I've got to relax…"
He gave her an encouraging smile before bending down a placing a light, sweet kiss upon her lips. When he pulled away the old Kitty was back, eyes dancing with mischief and fun – he suddenly found it incredible that he'd known her for so long, ten whole years…she still looked like the girl who at 15, sat by him on the bus and struck up a conversation about the weather.
"I'm so glad you made it," she whispered emotionally, "I'm not really as angry as I made out...just relieved."
"I know," he grinned, brushing his fingers across her cheek tenderly, "if you were really angry you'd have used my middle name."
She gave a laugh and Harry wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug. She laid her head on his shoulder and gave a contented sigh.
"I love you Harry."
Again he grinned, "You weren't that worried were you?"
"I knew you'd make it," she said, avoiding the question somewhat, "I just realised I hadn't said it for a while. Because I do, love you I mean, more and more every day."
He smiled happily as she pulled back, hands slipping down to her waist.
"Love you too," he murmured.
Kitty gave a contented sigh and Harry closed his eyes, savouring the moment. They were both so busy these days he couldn't remember the last time they'd just stopped. She must have been thinking the same thing because she was suddenly drawing back and fixing him with an excited expression, electric blue eyes dancing.
"Let's just go home?" she suggested, moulding her body against his, eyes alight with mischief.
"And miss your big night?" he laughed incredulously, "after all the years of effort and weeks of nagging? Not likely."
"Oh come on," she begged, smiling seductively, "just you and me? We could go to bed early, make our own entertainment?"
"Mmm tempting," he told her, fingers caressing her spine lightly, "and as much as I would love to, I know you're just doing this because you're nervous. Now, you're going to listen to your speeches, do your own, unleash everyone on your work, drink too much champagne and then we're gonna go home, just you and me."
She pouted and Harry grinned once more, almost tempted to take her up on her offer there and then.
"No," he warned her, against his better judgement.
"You're a harsh master to follow, Mr Potter," she complained, smile still dancing across her lips.
"And you're a difficult mistress to control, Mrs Potter," he retorted to her amusement, "Now are you ready to do this, it's nearly time to get started."
"No," she whispered honestly.
"You're going to be amazing," he promised, "you already are. I've got complete faith in you."
Kitty smiled despite herself and Harry took her hand.
"Got faith in you too," she reminded him as he pulled her towards the entrance to the gallery, "Ron said they're thinking of making you Head of Department."
He shot her a brief look of surprise before giving a slight shrug.
"I've spoken to Gawain about it and I've got some big ideas...but not just yet. Next year maybe, when he retires. Besides, I've got enough on my plate as it is at the moment."
"Ministerial reforms getting you down?" she teased, "Surely the great Harry Potter isn't admitting that work's getting the better of him?"
"No! More like dealing with three months of you pacing until the small hours, turning every room in the house into a studio and making me pose for your sculptures," he replied easily, wrapping his arm around her waist as they walked.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she laughed incredulously, "At least all you have to do is clean paint of my clothes, not blood! Maybe I'm pacing because I'm worried about you!"
"Yeah right! Does this worrying about me include muttering to yourself about paint colours?"
Kitty merely shook her head with a laugh, before growing serious; she could hear the buzz of the crowd beyond the curtain and obviously didn't want to go any further. She stopped and turned to him with a thoughtful look on her face.
"Joking aside, you should take the job, when they offer it to you," she told him, tidying his tie and shirt once again, "you deserve it. That place was rotten to the core when you started, it was you that dragged it into the light and made it what it is today. You should be proud."
"I am, we've got a good team," he told her, looking slightly surprised, "I would have thought you'd have hated the idea of me being promoted."
"Is that why you didn't tell me?" she suggested shrewdly.
"Maybe...I guess I thought you had enough to be dealing with yourself right now."
He wondered briefly whether Ian Banks' ugly head was about to rear itself into the conversation and he guessed the same thought had occurred to Kitty. However, she seemed as keen as he was to gloss over that part of their life.
"I'm just glad I can leave the gallery to do all my muggle business and focus on Ministry work, I hate all this publicity, art-critic stuff," she said with a frown, "please can we just go home?"
"No, come on Kitty, you deserve this, enjoy it!"
"I can't! I'd rather enjoy you at home."
"Later," he grinned, planting a quick kiss on her unresisting lips, "Now come on, let's get a quick drink with the guys before Suki finds you-"
No sooner had he said this however, than the curtain was ripped aside and the aforementioned PA bustled over to them.
"Kaitlyn, dahling!" she cried exuberantly, "There you are! We're ready to start! I've been looking for you simply everywhere!"
She gave Harry a pleading look, "Can't we just get out of here? Go home?"
"This is you're big moment Kitty," he said encouragingly, "enjoy it!"
"Listen to your beau Kaitlyn dahling!" Suki admonished and Harry grimaced, he hated her calling him that, "This is your time to shine! Now chop chop! Remember nice clear pronunciation! Stay away from the controversial topics! Don't let Eddington embroil you in a political debate! And please, please, please don't forget to mention our sponsors this time! I've written your speech down for you here…"
And with a final pleading look thrown across her shoulder at him Kitty was led towards to small dais at the front of the room.
"Harry, dahling!" mimicked George at his elbow, grimacing at the women now harassing Kitty's hair.
"Don't," Harry warned, "I get enough of her coming over the house every hour godsends! Kaitlyn, listen to your beau, blah blah blah!"
"Why does Kitty put up with her?" asked Hermione incredulously.
"Because she's brilliant at her job," Harry said sulkily, hands rammed in his pockets now, "I wouldn't mind but she arrives so unexpectedly, and you know what the house is like…"
Everybody nodded wisely. Kitty had a penchant for magical gizmos that were next to useless and cluttered every surface with the things. Harry wouldn't mind, but he had to keep fixing them or casting spells on them whenever they broke down, which was often. It made receiving muggle visitors a constant problem.
"Come on, let's get a good view," suggested Ron already barging past the incredibly dressed visitors with a glass of free champagne in each hand.
Hermione sighed and followed him until they were all positioned in front of the raised area. Harry got his first look at the name of the exhibition.
"Lighting Bolt Archives," he murmured, smiling faintly as his fingers unconsciously touched the scar on his forehead.
It hadn't troubled him for eight whole years.
"Cool name huh?" asked Ron appreciatively.
Harry nodded and was about to say something when Suki clapped her hands with a faint jingle of jewellery and walked up to the microphone. She began to call everyone to attention in her usual florid style and soon the noise volume lessened.
"Ladies, gentlemen, esteemed members of the art community!" she began gracefully, "Welcome one and all to the official opening of the Lightning Bolt Archives!"
There was a murmur and a polite clapping of hands from the general crowd. Harry felt more people crowding in behind him and he guessed they were Kitty's friends and co-workers from the Ministry.
"Now as you all know, we are here tonight for two reasons! The first is to officially open the first permanent exhibition space dedicated to the work of the brilliant artist Kaitlyn Potter-" here everyone clapped politely whilst Harry, George and Ron whistled and whooped, "and the second, is to reward her dedication and extraordinary achievements with a special award! With more on this award, and how Kaitlyn came to be nominated for it, I hand you over to the utterly fabulous Marco Coco, sponsor of this gallery!"
More clapping and Harry and Ron shared a look which plainly said, 'disengage brains for 15 minutes'. Sure enough Marco Coco (or The Money as Kitty called him) was an elderly gentleman bedecked in an orange suit of dubious fashion who could talk for England. Kitty called him The Money because he'd been her patron for nearly nine years and, as Kitty put it, had more money than sense.
He could tell he wasn't the only one struggling to listen to the dull drone of The Money's voice as he detailed the history of the award Kitty was getting. It was full of references to artists he didn't know and drew occasional appreciative titters and nods from the assembled critics for what seemed like terrible jokes.
The various children that had accompanied Kitty from the magical world had already decided to begin a vicious game of seek and destroy. Soon small biscotti's and hors d'oeuvres were flying through the air behind them. Even Kitty had a faraway look on her face. He persevered though, intrigued to find out how the muggle world saw Kitty.
"I first came into contact with Kaitlyn's work during a trip on the London Underground, the Oxford Line to be precise. The mural I found there was simply the most beautiful piece of guerrilla art I had ever seen and knew at once I had found someone special."
"Guerrilla art?" whispered Ron questioningly.
"Subversive," Harry replied with a grin.
"Illegal," muttered Hermione, with a roll of her eyes.
He remembered vividly Kitty's penchant during her first few years of studying, of sneaking off and 'improving' walls, pavements and benches. It'd had been during the war and in particular the year of separation they'd faced whilst he was hunting the Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. Of course, everything she'd done had an anti-war message, such as Phoenixes on sites of old Death Eater attacks, but the muggles were oblivious to that. He remembered stumbling across just such a message after four months of being on the road unable to contact her. The image of the lightning bolt painted into the middle of a road was burnt into his mind forever; it had spoken of hope during the darkest days.
Harry knew it had always amused Kitty that she'd been seen as a trail blazer for this guerrilla art form, when the muggles didn't even understand that it wasn't about art at all, or being subversive and 'sticking it to the man'. It had been to show hope and community and the only way she could make her views known when she was in hiding herself and being hunted by Death Eaters and Ministry workers alike.
"…she graduated with distinction after a year's sabbatical for personal reasons and began a series of high profile commissions, including the creation of the statue to mark the memorial of the 17 people that died in the Harringate Disaster."
It was no disaster, Harry thought grimly, it had been a Death Eater attack on a muggleborn's hide-out.
"…always somewhat reclusive, Kaitlyn has shied away from the limelight shed on her by her peers and the art community, but has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness for many noble causes," the man was saying, "the Women's Shelter Scheme, rehabilitation and counselling for young offenders and of course, as her role as patron to the Youth Arts Foundation."
Harry smiled to himself, thinking back to Kitty's mother and her childhood, back to a different Kitty who'd stole, who'd sell drugs, who carried a gun around; the Kitty he'd fallen in love with all those years ago He'd always supposed her muggle charity work had been to make amends in some way for her past but he'd never stopped to ask.
"And so we come to the present day, which see's Kaitlyn's dream come true; this is the first of many galleries I am sure," said Marco warmly, "and I'm sure she will continue to work as hard as she does, putting us to shame with her talent and good deeds. And that is why the Arts Council has granted this year's prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Artaward to Kaitlyn Potter, an example to us all."
Harry was the first to begin clapping, quickly followed by his friends and the muggles in the room. Kitty was blushing and was sat stock still, staring at her hands. The man stepped aside and Suki reappeared, still clapping enthusiastically.
"Thank you Marco for such a fantastic description of your fabulous award!" she twittered happily, "and may I just say, I agree with you completely on Kaitlyn's early guerrilla work! I myself own one of the very early pieces Kaitlyn created when she was just 17, the Phoenix From The Ashes from Soho Square, and was quite astounded at the recent valuation of it!"
Harry grimaced, sharing a frown with Hermione. Soho Square was the scene of the notorious Death Eater attack which left Tonks' father and his friend Dirk Cresswell dead. Kitty had painted the phoenix for Tonks, who had visited the site only once before her own death.
It was difficult to imagine Suki enjoying it for a completely different reason, unaware of its true meaning. But then again, Kitty was always telling Harry that that was the point, that art could mean different things to different people. What had always made Tonks cry could be the same thing that made Suki smile.
"Anyway, that is beside the point! I shall hand you over to the person that will be presenting the award – award winner himself, Nile Denman!"
Harry looked up in surprise, recognising the name. It was Kitty's old college lecturer from London – she'd spoken of nothing but him after she'd started; mostly about how much he annoyed her and argued with her, which she secretly loved. She mustn't have known that he was attending because now she cast a delighted look at the man weaving through the crowd, sad thoughts of Tonks seemingly forgotten.
When he reached the dais he gave Kitty a big hug and said something to her that made her laugh, before turning to the podium and placing a small gold statue on it. The clapping died down and Nile regarded them with twinkling blue eyes for a moment.
"Good evening class," he quipped, causing Kitty to stifle a laugh, "If you'd have told me ten years ago that I'd be standing here, in front of what seems like England's entire population of art critics, handing out this award, to this girl, I'd probably have laughed in your face. Not because Kaitlyn was quite honestly the most dreadful student I've ever had to suffer, but because I didn't think I'd have the stomach to stand here looking at you all: the single biggest threat to individual art in this country."
This didn't quite seem to be the start to the award giving that the assembled art critics had been expecting, and they made various noises of outrage and anger. Kitty however, didn't seem to be hurt by his comment about her; instead she was trying desperately not to laugh. Ron and Hermione both turned to Harry with a shocked expression on their faces but he merely shrugged and gave them a grin; he remembered meeting the man for the first time and being similarly incensed.
"Thought that'd get your attention," laughed Nile, "now I'll tell you a little story. Ten years ago, only days before the new term started at the London School of Art and Design, I get foisted a last minute applicant. A girl with no artistic experience, who had failed to turn up to her GCSEs and demanded a place at the most prestigious college in the country; what we in the business like to call a no-hoper. Naturally, I took her on straight away and instantly regretted it."
"Having no artistic experience meant she thought she knew better than me, and quite frequently told me so. She constantly failed assignments, got into trouble for being disruptive and fundamentally failed to understand that critics and journalists such as yourselves tell us what art is, not the artist."
Behind him, Kitty gave a snort of laughter which quickly transformed into a cough.
"I see she still agrees with me on some things then. Now you might think I've described the worst student in the world, and you're right, she was. But she was also the best artist I have ever had the misfortune to train. Some people don't need to be taught art, because they know it instinctively. It's what we in the business like to call a natural."
Harry grinned widely, that was almost exactly what he remembered telling her during their phone calls during his sixth year; that it didn't matter that everyone else had gone to private schools or that they had the best equipment. She had a gift that did need to be taught, just polished.
"She constantly failed assignments because the assignments given to her were too pretentious and conceited. She got into trouble for being disruptive because she dared to say that art shouldn't be written into a syllabus and that money couldn't buy talent. She refused to play the game, and yet here she is, standing in front of you receiving the award."
"As with anything Kaitlyn does, you get the feeling she always knew this was going to happen, and probably wouldn't stop bugging people until it did. But I caution you to not underestimate this woman. Use your soul to study what lies behind those doors, not your brains. Because, as with anything Kaitlyn does, there is a lot more going on beneath the surface than she'll ever say. I have followed her career very closely and have seen some incredible things lurking in her paintings."
Harry was slightly taken aback at the man's insight and he could tell Kitty was too. She gave him a momentary look of surprise mingled with fear.
"So I can think of nobody better to give this award to, than Kaitlyn Potter," said Nile suddenly, obviously having felt he'd said his piece, "The girl who was told to draw still life and came back with a pocket watch, disembowelled on a board. The girl who copied Van Gough's Sunflowers onto the back of a seed packet and got away with it. The worst student in England, who dared to be its best artist."
The critics didn't seem to like this too much but that didn't matter because the noise coming from Harry and his friends was enough to drown them out. They clapped wildly, cheering and whistling as a laughing, smiling Kitty accepted the award from her mentor. Suki seemed at a loss of what to do and Harry guessed it wasn't in her action plan for the award giver to ritually humiliate the audience and the winner.
Kitty however, solved her dilemma by stepping up to the podium herself and placing the award back onto it, satisfied smile on her face.
"Well, how do you follow a speech like that?" she said cheekily, catching Harry's eye and giving a wink.
He guessed the nerves that had been plaguing her for weeks had now evaporated.
"Thanks Mr D," she laughed, "Now I remember why you used to wind me up so much. I wasn't actually a bad student you realise, he was just a bad teacher."
A few of Kitty's class mates and friends must have been present because there was suddenly whistles of agreement and Harry grinned appreciatively.
"But seriously now," Kitty began, looking down at the award, "thank you so much for this. I don't suppose any of you will ever understand what it means to me…"
She trailed off, seemingly lost in her own thoughts momentarily, before clearing her throat importantly and picking up a sheaf of cards from the podium, "Erm...I do actually have a few people I want to thank for tonight. My patron, Marco Coco, of course for his generosity, and also to the Arts Council-" Kitty frowned at the cards for a long moment, before giving a sigh and looking up, "do you know what? If you want to know what I'm supposed to say you can read these later."
She chucked the cards onto the podium and Suki gave a panic-stricken look towards them, moaning under her breath.
"I'll take a leaf out of Mr Ds book and tell you a little story. I'm guessing from the amount of journalists here that you've obviously all read the papers recently and the 'shock revelations' of my past," she began, looking momentarily bitter, "so I'd like to set the record straight while I've got your attention and you can stop hounding me and my family. Maybe then you'll understand why I did what I did."
"Ten years ago I was living in a small flat in Crawley with my stepfather. He wasn't a particularly nice guy and my lawyer tells me he hasn't much changed. I never knew my real father and my mother had committed suicide a few years before. I'd spent much of my life living hand to mouth, and hating everyone for it. It's hard for people to imagine what it's like growing up in poverty and fear, and if you've never experienced it for yourself then you can't know what it feels like to be utterly powerless to raise yourself out of the gutter."
"I'm telling you all of this because I know you all thrive on this sort of information, because it's so fashionable to talk about damaged childhoods and broken homes – as if it somehow gives me credibility. But I want you to know that that girl has got nothing to do with me, she left a long time ago and nothing I do today is a product of that life. "
"I kicked the habit of being Catherine Earl ten years go today. On that day I got onto the 49a bus into town and met a stranger, who changed my life. He showed me things I would never have dreamed possible, both good and bad. He loved me like no one else had ever done before, or ever will, and taught me to do what's right, not what's easy. I doubt any of you can understand what it takes to believe in something so deeply and passionately that you're willing to give your life for it. But he did. And my friends did."
"You've probably never known one person in your life who has done that, but I've known many people, many friends, who aren't here today for that very reason. It seems so pointless to be given an award to say well done for doodling when the worlds a little emptier without those people in it."
"So instead of me standing here and thanking some rich old guy because he's got more money than sense or pandering to critics and journalists who think they know me because of what they see me produce, I'm here to tell you where art comes from and who it belongs to. It comes from the heart and soul and it reflects sacrifice. And it belongs to my friends who died for what they believed in."
"For Pops, who spent his life making up for the mistakes of his youth…For Fred Weasley, who could never have told enough jokes or made enough people happy…For Ginny Weasley, who was the strongest and bravest of us all, till the end…For Remus, who understood that everyone deserves a second chance…And for Tonks, who believed in me, and meant more to me than a sister or best friend could ever do…"
"I miss them all more than words can say and wish that they were here to see what they helped me achieve."
The crowd watching Kitty were utterly silent. Either because they were confused, or because they too were lost in painful memories. Kitty however, had eyes for nobody else except Harry and he could see the raw emotion that hadn't dimmed despite the long years. He guessed their generation would be a traumatised one, and that it didn't matter how long ago it was or how far they'd come, they'd never quite be able to put what happened behind them.
"But life goes on...and although we've lost friends, we've gained family. And I've gained more family and friends in the past ten years that I could ever have dreamed possible sitting in that flat in Crawley feeling lost and alone."
"So I'll finish with my dedication. Lightning Bolt Archives is dedicated to Harry. Who is my best friend and my husband. My boy-who-lived and my chosen one. My everything."
"Thank you for making it Harry."
Harry was vaguely aware that everybody was clapping but he didn't pay any attention to that. He merely pushed through the crowds and ran up to Kitty, pulling her into a tight embrace, pressing his lips against hers. She had tears trailing down her cheeks unchecked.
"That was perfect," he whispered to her.
"It needed to be said," she replied in thick sounding voice, "if it wasn't for them I wouldn't even be here, I probably wouldn't be alive."
Harry nodded silently, smoothing her hair down and gazing around the room – the critics and muggles seemed at a loss of what to do next, oblivious as they were to the effects of the magical war. In the end, Suki unceremoniously pulled the curtain aside for them to enter the gallery, then collapsed in a pile onto a nearby chair and ordered a large vodka.
One by one the room emptied of muggles until they could properly see the assembled witches and wizards for the first time. Although they'd lost many friends, she'd been right when she said they gained many more, Harry thought. There were all the various Weasley families, Molly and Arthur at the head, hair now grey and only flecked with vibrant red. Luna was there with her new boyfriend, both gazing admiringly at the large fish tank against one wall with Neville.
Kitty had many friends from the Ministry, where she worked with Hermione in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, putting an end to pro-pureblood laws and muggle discrimination. She was the first muggle to ever work in the Ministry and her links with both the muggle and magical world made her extremely popular. Most of her Department seemed to be here tonight.
One by one, everyone came up to them and hugged Kitty, congratulating her achievement whilst dabbing red eyes and runny noses. Everyone seemed to be lost in painful memories but agreed that Kitty's speech was perfect. It was a mark of how awful the war had been, but everyone had been traumatised by it in some way, either by what they saw or what they did. A whole generation that were deeply scarred, and always would be.
Eventually they began to wander into the exhibition, until only Harry and Kitty were left. He led her over to a sofa and they sat down, she leaning against his chest, legs tucked up under her.
"You're supposed to be happy tonight," he said finally, frowning at her tears.
"I am happy," she replied, threading her fingers with his, "you don't know how it made me feel to look down from that podium and see all my friends staring back. I even imagined Tonks and Remus were here too, standing just beside you."
"I'm sure they were," he said, also feeling sad, yet strangely happy at the same time, "they'd have been so proud of you."
Harry fell into his unconscious habit of fiddling with her wedding ring, thoughts travelling back to the moment he'd given it to her, all those years ago. They'd been young and impulsive and so different to what they were today. Yet he'd never once regretted it, not even for a second; their life had been one massive rollercoaster, with unbelievable highs, devastating lows, but somehow, they always pulled through.
"Can you believe it was ten years ago today that we met?" she asked him, thoughts obviously dwelling on the same thing.
"It seems like only yesterday," he said, "or a million years ago - makes you feel old doesn't it?"
"Yeah," she agreed, "ten years ago, if I'd got to the bus stop in time, we wouldn't be here. Weird thought."
"If I hadn't managed to sneak out of the Dursley's…" he suggested, letting the thought roll out unspoken, "What do you think would have happened?"
"Who knows?" she replied, "I wouldn't be here, that's for certain."
"You wouldn't be a world famous artist? Adored by your fans, celebrated by your critics?" he teased.
She scoffed, leaning her head against his shoulder, "You wouldn't be a world famous Auror? Saviour of wizard-kind? Adored by your fans, feared by your enemies?"
"You make it sound so glamorous," he joked, but he knew she could hear the hint of seriousness in his voice too.
She gave a sigh and Harry wrapped his arms around her stomach, pulling her closer. He pressed his lips to her hair, once again the feeling of serenity washing over him. There was nowhere else he'd rather be, nowhere else he'd ever wanted to be.
"I heard a song on the radio this evening that made me think of you," she said thoughtfully, "had the coolest lyrics."
"Oh yeah?" he asked her curiously.
"Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it's been."
He gave a laugh and planted another kiss onto her hair, "Sounds about right."
"Ten years," she repeated in a far away voice, "I can't believe how much everything has changed…all those people we met, everyone we lost…"
"I know," he said heavily, "too many…"
"But do you know what? Despite everything, I would never have swapped it."
"Me neither," he replied.
She gave another heavy, yet contented sigh, and Harry hugged her even tighter.
"I'm so glad you're here Harry," she whispered emotionally.
"I told you I'd make it," he said reassuringly, giving her a slight, affectionate jostle.
"Not just for tonight though," she replied, "for every night…"
"I know, like I said, I told you I'd make it."
Kitty gave a low laugh to this and he could feel the vibrations chasing up and down his own body. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but paused suddenly.
"What is it?" he asked, giving her slight squeeze.
Kitty sat up and turned to face him, unreadable expression on her face. Quite suddenly she leaned forwards and kissed him.
To him it was as exciting and exhilarating as their first kiss, as every kiss they'd had since. On this night of reminiscence, it spoke to him of their magical summer away from the whole world, when it had just been them together and nothing else.
He felt liked he could have stayed there forever, like there was no one else in the world except him and his one true love, his soul mate. He couldn't help but grin at the thought and with a low chuckle she pulled away, resting her forehead against his and smiled at him now.
"I've got a surprise for you," she whispered.
Harry stared into her eyes for a moment, there was something odd in her tone.
"In the gallery?" he asked.
"No, it's right here, a work of art," she said, pulling away from him and reaching for her purse, "I honestly think it's the best thing I'll ever do."
He smiled at her faintly, curiosity piqued. She found what she was looking for and turned to him with an excited expression on her face. She paused momentarily and he had the feeling she was savouring the moment, before slipping something into his unresisting hand; a grainy black and white photograph.
He stared at it incomprehensively for a moment, before recognising it for what it was.
He was completely winded.
"It's a boy," she told him, beaming smile breaking across her face, "I think we should call him James Sirius."
And that's it. Over. Do you know what's really sad? I did a JKR and wrote this epilogue a few years back – it was heart wrenching going back to it and editing out three brilliant characters in Fred, Tonks and Remus. Just so you now, in my world they'd already had two kids (Troy and Atlantis) and we're expecting a third and very happy.
It feels really strange to be saying goodbye to this story after four years of struggling on and off to write it. Since i started i've graduated, fallen in and out of love, moved house 3 times, bought my own place and got my dream job. Phew.
I feel like I know Kitty really well and could bump into her myself on the bus into town.