I am so, so, so very sorry for how long this chapter took. I'm moving tomorrow from the United States to Canada, and packing up my entire room has consumed my life. I hope this kind of delay won't happen again!
And thank you ALL for your reviews!
For warnings and disclaimers, see previous chapters.
Chapter Four: The Wedding
Harry put as much weight as he could on his back foot, hefted the load in his arms, and spun, flinging the bundle over the fence. A moment later, he heard a dull thud and grinned, looking around for his next victim.
De-gnoming the garden probably wasn't the most fun thing he'd ever done, but it was entertaining enough. He laughed as Ron's gnome began to try to bite him, and the redhead finally resorted to using a spell to lift it up and toss it over. Hermione sat with Ginny, who had finally calmed down and joined them, though she was pointedly ignoring Ron. The two girls were drinking lemonade in the shade of a big tree and watching the men do all the hard work. Arthur was in and out of the house, working on conjuring chairs from thin air and transfiguring anything possible to create the rest; apparently, they were expecting a big crowd.
Percy had arrived only an hour after the three teenagers and had, much to the annoyance of the rest of the family, immediately started bragging about his new job, working with the new Minister. Ron had almost thrown a hex at him when he'd turned his back, and only Hermione's glare had stopped him. Harry had merely sighed at his arrival and slipped his wand back in his pocket, knowing that Percy would report him without hesitation if he was caught using underaged magic. While the magic of the Weasleys' house would mask his magical signature, he knew he couldn't risk the Minister finding out. It was bad enough that Percy had sent an owl off to Scrimgeour the moment he laid eyes on Harry; the Ministry was not happy that they had no idea where he was.
Still, little by little, the backyard began to look nicer and nicer. Hermione and Ginny went inside to help Molly cook for the dozens of guests that were expected, while the Twins, who had arrived shortly after lunch (a quick meal of sandwiches before going back to work), took to flinging decorations about and setting the blinking fairy lights throughout the area. By the time dinner arrived, the backyard was ready to go.
The next day was spent with much frantic rushing about. Bill showed up mid-morning with dress robes hanging over one arm, bringing news that Fleur and her parents and sister would be arriving just after dinner. Fleur had Apparated back home for the days before the wedding, much to Bill's disappointment (and Ron's as well). The news sent Molly into another flurry of activity as every available hand (except Bill's, who was to "sit back and relax, and let everyone else do the work") was put to cleaning. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny moved into Ron's room for the night, leaving Ginny's room free for Gabrielle, and Charlie's old room was fixed up as a guest room for Fleur's parents.
Dinner passed quickly and quietly, and the family gathered around the fireplace afterwards to welcome the Delacours. Fleur appeared first in the floo, grinning and wrapping her arms around Bill. Gabrielle came next, dusting herself off and waving cheerfully to Harry, who smiled and waved back and ignored Ginny's glare. Fleur's parents arrived only seconds apart, both tall and blond, with traces of Veela clearly visible. Fleur's mother ("call me Vianne") had kissed everyone on the cheek before vanishing into the kitchen with Molly, while her father, Henri, followed Arthur, Percy, and Bill to the couch to talk. Fleur and Bill disappeared before too long (with a shared look from Vianne and Molly, though neither said anything), and Gabrielle was shown to Ginny's room shortly after that. The four remaining teenagers, with nothing to do and a big day before them, dragged themselves up the stairs.
"I think I'd have taken the Dursley's over this, mate," Ron said later that night, flopping down on his bed. Ginny and Hermione glanced up from their makeshift beds in the corner (Ginny had protested heavily at having to sleep in Ron's room, until it was pointed out that subjecting the guests to the bright orange walls was not going to happen), both frowning for a moment.
"We're helping your brother and his fiancée prepare for the happiest day of their lives, Ron," Hermione stated. "Surely two days of work isn't too much to ask for? Besides, it's not like you've been doing much work! Look at Harry, having to do everything by hand while you just wave your wand everywhere."
Harry sighed at this reminder. "Only 'cause Percy's here," he mumbled. "Though, your mum's far better than Aunt Petunia, no doubt about it. And we don't have to cook!"
"You're not a bad cook, Harry, when you try," Hermione pointed out.
Harry made a face. "Sure, I can cook," he said. "But so could you if you'd been making meals for your relatives for years. Doesn't matter, though, I hate doing it and you wouldn't believe how many times I've burned bacon. Aunt Petunia always cooked the important meals herself, so Vernon's guests wouldn't get poisoned or whatever, especially after the Aunt Marge incident."
"The Aunt Marge incident?" Ginny asked. Clearly, she hadn't heard this story yet, and she leaned forward, eager to find out what had happened.
Ron laughed and stretched out on his bed. "Oh, I remember that one. Blew up your aunt, yeah? During supper, over the summer before third year, right?" Harry laughed as well, remembering the look on Marge's face as she'd expanded.
"Ron! Harry! You two shouldn't laugh at something like that. What if she'd been hurt?" Hermione cried. "You two, honestly. You're so immature." She turned to Ginny and drew her back into their conversation that Ron had interrupted.
"Immature?" Ron snorted. "She needs to lighten up. What do you suppose they're talking about, anyway?"
Harry rolled his eyes, yawned, and turned over on his pallet of blankets. "Girl things, I expect," he said. He took off his glasses, setting them on the floor next to him. "I'm tired, and I bet your mum's gonna wake us early tomorrow. Night, Ron."
"Yeah," Ron agreed, sullenly. He flicked his wand at the light and whispered Nox, ignoring the annoyed shouts from the two girls, and laid down. "Night, Harry."
The morning of the wedding dawned with clear blue skies, much to Molly's delight, and the entire household woke up to the scent of pastries cooking and the sound of humming from the kitchen. Charlie Apparated in before the meal was over and pulled up a chair to join in. By the time everyone had finished eating (Ron and Charlie battling to see who could eat the most, to Harry's amusement and Hermione's disgust), Bill had vanished up to his rooms with Arthur and Henri, and Fleur had been tucked away in the guest bedroom until the start of the wedding. Hermione and Ginny pulled Gabrielle up to Ginny's room with giggles and mentions of dress robes, leaving the Weasley males and Harry to sit at the table and squirm at the thought of dressing up.
"The first guests won't even arrive for another hour or two," Charlie pointed out, speaking for them all. "Why in Merlin's name are they going to get ready now?"
"Girls," Fred and George said at the same time, rolling their eyes.
At 11:42, the floo flared to life and the tired form of Remus Lupin stepped into the sitting room of the Burrow. Harry, who had been playing a game of chess with Ron and trying not to wrinkle his dress robes, immediately jumped to his feet to greet his surrogate godfather.
"Harry," Remus grinned, wrapping an arm around him. "You're looking well. How's your summer been so far?"
Ron squirmed, watching the two talk, and shared a look with Harry. Neither had planned on telling their former professor about their summer activities, but there seemed to be no way around it, short of lying. "It's been fine," he said. "We've just been, you know… doing stuff."
Remus opened his mouth to question what kind of 'stuff' they'd been doing, but was interrupted by Bill as he walked in the room.
"Remus, you're here earlier than I expected," he said, shaking his hand in welcome. "Thanks for coming. Do you have a minute now, to talk?"
The werewolf shot a look at Harry that clearly said 'we'll talk later', then nodded. "Sure, let's go into the backyard. I could use a bit of fresh air."
As soon as they left the house, Ron glanced at Harry, winked, and pulled out two of the long white cords that he'd taken to carrying in his pocket. "Knew these would come in handy soon," he said. "Here, the twins improved on their Extendable Ears again."
They unrolled the ears, creeping a bit closer to the backyard to catch the conversation.
"…turned two kids last week." It was Remus talking, and both boys could hear worry in his voice. "Killed another three up in Lancaster, all Muggles. The Ministry hasn't heard about any of this yet, he's keeping quiet for some reason, not advertising his kills like he usually does.'
"And he doesn't suspect you yet?" Bill's voice was just as worried.
"No, not yet, luckily. I don't think he caught my scent at the Hogwarts Attack because of all the blood. But he's definitely still with the Dark Lord, and whatever he's being offered for keeping quiet for now, it must be big. Fenrir's even ordered us not to attack anyone on the full moon next week. Something's up, I just don't know what."
They could hear Bill sigh. "I wish I could help, in some way."
"You know why you can't, Bill," Remus said. "You don't change, so you're vulnerable. If Fenrir ever finds out that you're still alive, he'll come after you to finish the job. Besides, you're about to be a married man. Relax and enjoy it while you still can, while things are quiet." There was a moment of silence, then, "How have you been doing, by the way?"
"Still craving meat," Bill said with a small laugh. "Eyesight has improved a bit, and hearing and scent. I'm just lucky the scars aren't too visible, though Fleur thinks they're sexy."
Ron made a face at this and rolled up his ear before he could listen to any more. Harry laughed and did the same, pocketing the string and returning to the couch. The chess game was long-since forgotten.
"The papers didn't say anything about children being turned or killed," Ron said, surprised. "How would the Daily Prophet not report something like that?"
Harry shrugged, fiddling with a pawn. "You heard Remus," he said. "Muggle children. Maybe we should start reading Muggle papers whenever we can, see what they say that the Prophet doesn't."
"More reading?" Ron made a face, though they both knew it was mostly for show. He'd been reading more and more often, as of late, now that he had a role to play. "Hermione will know how to get one for us, where ever we go."
There was a long moment of silence as neither knew what to say. By the time Remus and Bill walked back in, the two were once more focused on the chess game, though their enthusiasm was half-hearted at best. Remus took no notice of this and sat down on the arm of a chair, facing the two teens.
He waited until Harry had made his next move before speaking. "So, how's your summer been so far, boys?"
Harry and Ron exchanged a glance that didn't go unnoticed by either Remus or Bill, who had taken up a spot on the edge of the table in the center of the room. "It's been okay," Ron finally said, answering for the both of them. "The Dursleys weren't around while we were there, so we just… hung out."
"Hung out?" An eyebrow rose at this statement. "Why do I find it hard to believe that you three didn't do anything at all these past couple of weeks?" Remus was smiling slightly as he spoke, though it was clear that he didn't quite believe them.
Harry shrugged, and moved one of his pawns forward, focusing his attention on the game so he wouldn't have to look his surrogate godfather in the eye. "We really didn't do much, Remus," he said. "Watched telly a bit, Hermione read a lot and kept us in line. We played Muggle football in the back yard a few times, though Ron kept using his wand to cheat."
"Did not, mate!" Ron replied, attempting to appear appalled. He'd quickly caught on to Harry's lies. "Besides, you won loads of times!"
"And you didn't use your wand to retaliate, Harry?" Bill asked, speaking up for the first time.
Harry blinked and looked up, managing to school his features into perfect surprise and innocence. "I'm not seventeen for weeks yet, you know that!" he said.
Bill shrugged and said nothing more, though Harry wondered if he knew or just suspected. Remus was giving them all an odd look, now, and Harry mentally cursed the older Weasley for mentioning it.
"This game is scrapped," he proclaimed after another long stretch of silence. "And we'd better go get our robes on, Ron. It's almost noon, now, and people will be arriving any moment."
The two teens rose, shot a grin at the older men, and hurried upstairs to change into their dress robes.
By half-past one, the Burrow was crowded with dozens of people, and the backyard was filled with more, many crowded around the buffet table that Molly was keeping well stocked with the help of Ginny and Hermione. Both women had emerged from their rooms shortly after noon with Gabrielle Delacour, and had spent much of the time since then talking together and glancing around at the wedding celebrations. Ron had turned an unhealthy shade of red when Hermione had made a comment about how she couldn't wait for her own wedding. Ginny had shot Harry a look, which he had ignored as he turned to talk to Gabrielle.
The noise in the room escalated when the floo flared to life once more (it had been non-stop green for a while, as guests poured in), and Minerva McGonagall stepped into the room, brushing soot from her robes. She was quickly surrounded by guests, many of whom were former Gryffindors and friends of Bill's from school, who came to say hello. A few were Order members, and the trio exchanged a look at this.
Finally, the crowd around her died down. Harry approached her quickly before she could get wrapped up in a conversation with someone else, and held out his hand in greeting. "Professor," he said. "How are you doing?"
McGonagall shook his hand, a look of sadness and worry flitting over her face for a moment before she controlled it. "Mr. Potter, good to see you again. I'm doing well, though the stress of working on the wards at the school has been taxing, I'm afraid."
"Then Hogwarts will re-open in September?" Ron asked, sliding up beside his friend.
His former professor nodded. "It will be announced in the paper tomorrow that the school is undergoing re-warding. While it is most likely that Hogwarts will open its doors once again this fall, the decision still must pass through the Ministry's council. However, I have no worries that their vote will be in favour." She opened her mouth to say something, but Harry saw the question in her eyes and shook his head quickly.
"Before you ask, no, I will not be returning to Hogwarts this fall," Harry said. "Though I hope that you will welcome us if we stop by for an occasional visit, Professor?"
"We shall see, Mr. Potter."
"And…" he hesitated, glancing around at the crowd that surrounded them. "Did you ever receive that owl I sent you, ma'am?"
"I did, Harry." She seemed to thaw slightly, her stern look fading. "And, while I understand why you are asking, I—
A shower of golden fireworks lit up overhead, the signal that the ceremony was beginning, and cut off what she was about to say.
"We shall continue this discussion afterwards," McGonagall said. "Find me following the ceremony and I shall answer your questions." She left without looking back, leaving Harry confused and a bit disappointed.
The trio slowly followed the crowds towards the rows of chairs that had been set up, slipping into their reserved seats just as Bill, with Charlie standing next to him, took his position under the canopy that had been set up. There was a dull murmur surrounding the guests, which vanished as music suddenly filled the air from an unknown source.
All heads turned to the house, where curtains had been set up to hide Fleur from the guests (and her husband-to-be, of course). Now, the curtains parted and Gabrielle emerged, walking slowly up the aisle. A moment's pause followed before the curtains parted again, and Fleur emerged with her father at her side. There was a gasp from nearly every male in the room (and Harry had to elbow Ron in the ribs to keep him from drooling).
"Look at those dress robes," Hermione whispered excitedly to Ginny, who was sitting next to her. "And that tiara is beautiful." Ron gave her an incredulous look that said 'look at what's wearing the dress robes', and Ginny just nodded, watching as the part-veela passed them. Fleur was ignoring everyone in the yard except Bill, who smiled and took her hand as she joined him.
The ceremony was short and to the point. The couple exchanged rings and vows, then held out their joined left hands and the bonding spell was chanted over the metal bands they now wore. When the light surrounding the rings faded, the wizard overseeing the ceremony said his last line. "You may kiss the bride". Bill and Fleur were instantly in each others arms, and there was a soft "awww" from the crowd as they kissed. Harry noticed Hermione wiping a tear from the corner of her eye, and Ginny was almost as emotional.
The bride and groom, hands still joined, walked back down the aisle, followed by their guests, who quickly assembled around the table where a large cake sat. All too soon, the cake was cut and devoured, the twins had turned half a dozen guests into canaries, and the sun was starting to drift towards the horizon.
"Thank you all for coming," Bill shouted, setting off sparks from his wand to get everyone's attention. "I'm glad that you all could be here today, to share in our happiness. Before I whisk Fleur away for our honeymoon, we both just wanted to thank you all for making this the happiest day of our life."
Fleur joined him, curling into his side. She placed a hand on the white rose that Bill had pulled from the front of his robes, and said "Au revoir, et merci beaucoup!" before the couple vanished as the portkey activated.
The guests began to trickle out, and Harry stood for a moment, glancing around, before pushing off from the tree he had been leaning against during Bill's short speech and making his way through the crowd to where McGonagall stood waiting.
I'm just going to apologize now for how horrible this chapter is. It's really just a filler chapter, to hold you over until I can get something decent out! Chapter Five will include Chats With McGonagall, a Discussion With Ginny, and Godric's Hollow Part One, if all goes according to plan. Also, a possible Harry/Scrimgeour encounter, but we'll see...
Thank you for reading!