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The Unspoken Code
Beta: The Weaver's Proxy
It is a common misconception that only women ponder love and relationships at a wedding. As Harry Potter sat next to Hermione Granger basking in the warm August afternoon amongst the other guests and family in attendance, he could hear the occasional sniffle or wistful sigh over the marriage ceremony and knew most of them belonged to the female guests at the Delacour-Weasley wedding. While women were liberated in a way that permitted them to show emotion, men had to prove more stoic.
Watching two people pledging themselves to an eternal, everlasting love was hard not to envy, particularly when you never expected to find the same kind of happiness for yourself. Harry didn't know if it was fortunate or disappointing that he only had a short list of failed romances to run through in his head.
There was Cho Chang, of course - the beautiful Ravenclaw he hadn't known existed at all until a third year Quidditch match where they had been rivals for the Snitch. From that point on, Harry spent more than two years wondering if that floppy feeling he had felt in his stomach had been love – the kind of love Harry had craved all his life: unconditional acceptance, a resilient intimacy, and a permanent family of his own instead of a few stolen moments spent during the summer holiday with the Weasleys.
Everyone wants his or her first love to be perfect, wants to be the couple that beats the odds and experiences a single love that will never falter, never fade from the first pristine moment it is first felt. Looking back, Harry wasn't surprised he and Cho didn't make it as far as Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour.
It was unsurprising and wholly acceptable that Harry was back with his surrogate family for another holiday. This time around, it was different from the other occasions as the mood was somber and joyous – endeavoring to be oblivious of the dreadful and wicked events that were undoubtedly taking place outside the Burrow. Harry did his best not to dwell on such unpleasant thoughts, but his mind felt numbed to all the idea of finding lasting happiness after six and a half years of agony. Voldemort was so successful at tormenting Harry by this point that Harry had finally started to do some of the work himself.
How else could you explain how things ended with Ginny?
There is an unspoken code that exists between men, a tacit agreement that is as universal as it is straightforward. Men don't invite complications into their lives by allowing themselves to display the same free-flowing emotions that liberate women. Without internal distractions, it was easier to tell when you crossed a line. And one of the most important codes - the Golden Rule amongst guys - is that should never fool around with your best friend's sister. Even making the attempt requires purist of intentions. Either that or you had best be a better dueler than all of Ginny Weasley's six brothers.
Of course, Harry's intentions towards Ginny or the approval of her brothers, particularly Harry's best friend, Ron, was not the crux of Harry's problems.
Harry couldn't clearly say when he stopped thinking of Ginny Weasley as his best friend's sister and started thinking about her; he couldn't guarantee that marriage would have been the end result, even if he had a more ideal life - if it had been someone else's life altogether. However, Harry did know that he had possibly loved Ginny more in those several months than he had loved Cho Chang in the span of several years, and the idea of turning his surrogate family into his real one was almost cruelly appealing.
As the ceremony murmured past Harry's ears, he kept his gaze fixed forward. He made a solid effort to focus on the beautiful bride and her disfigured groom, but his interest waned more than was appropriate. Harry felt less guilty as he stole a glance at Ron, who was fidgeting alongside his other brothers to Bill's right. More often than not, Harry's famous green eyes wandered to the other side of the aisle, squarely resting on the bridesmaid who would become Fleur's sister-in-law in a matter of minutes.
The first time Harry's gaze drifted to his ex-girlfriend during the ceremony and he saw Ginny's red hair shining as brilliant as a setting sun, his first instinct was to wonder what his parent's wedding had been like.
It was hard to grasp how young Harry's parents had been when they were married - just a year older than Harry was now. The age of Lily Evans and James Potter at the time wasn't what challenged Harry's mind as much as the fact he knew so little about the people who gave him life not once, but twice. For eleven years, Harry had grown up in a house with his mother's sister. Hed had spent six years amongst the people who knew his parents best – for better or worse. And somehow, Harry still managed to remain ignorant of the two people he should know the best, forced to be content with secondhand memories provided by broken friends and embittered rivals, their now-dead mentor, and their still killing murderer. All of which could only be sporadically illustrated with taunting mirrors, dancing pictures, screaming voices, swirling pensieves, and phantoms preserved within the tip of a wand.
Passively, Harry wondered if there was something perverse in a boy who so resembled his late father falling for a girl who resembled the mother he never knew. History seemed destined to repeat itself; it was certainly a mixed omen, especially for a young man whose personal tragedy hinged on prophecies. Harry had nearly lost count of the times he had defied the Dark Lord, but was sure it had to be more than three. He wondered if he would share a fate similar to his beloved strangers of parents. His only true solace was in knowing that Lily and James Potter had been happy for the duration of their short lives and loved each other until the moment they died.
That part wouldn't be a horrible thing to repeat, Harry thought to himself. Not that he had given himself or Ginny much of a chance.
As Bill and Fleur began reciting their vows, Harry stopped thinking about himself enough to honor the people everyone was celebrating today. He thought of how the whole Weasley family had undervalued Bill and Fleur's engagement when they first heard of it and how now everyone couldn't be happier to have Fleur joining their family. Harry couldn't help but be a little impressed with how things turned out. Perhaps Fleur wasn't what Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had expected or wanted in a daughter-in-law, but the only man she had ever loved more than herself was Bill Weasley, and that was more than most people would ever know.
The ceremony ended and everyone in the crowd clapped as the new Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were introduced. As Bill and Fleur descended the altar to greet their parents, Ron and Hermione took advantage of the spare moment and wandered off together a little ways, hand in hand.
It was evident what was in the hearts of Harry's two best friends, but they still seemed to be in the process of learning how to blur the lines between a friendship and a romance. Harry could relate – it was difficult to adjust to the idea that you loved someone you came to thought of as a friend, but what was happening between Ron and Hermione was a long time coming and Harry didn't see the harm in taking a little more time to get things right. Although the only true sign that they were dating was occasional hand-holding or brushing of hair, Harry still envied his two friends.
Harry turned away from his friends in time to see Ginny approaching. Harry was convinced she was the prettiest girl present - and at an event with a bride and several partial veelas, that said something.
"It was a great ceremony," Harry said, but meant something more like: Our wedding will be nicer.
Ginny smiled in a way that made Harry want to abandon thoughts of revenge, leave Voldemort to the rest of the wizarding world, and start a new life somewhere else with her. Something that, for once, might actually feel like living. Harry wanted to take back the words he had offered in a time of mourning, exchange them for ones more befitting an occasion embracing love.
"It was," Ginny replied, cutting into Harry's thoughts and robbing him of the will he couldn't muster, allowing Voldemort to take precedence yet again over Harry's personal happiness.
"I'm glad you came, Harry."
It was optimistic, but natural for Harry to hope Ginny had her own code that was in perfect synch with his own. He wanted to hear these words as I'll wait for you if I have to, or someday this will be us and you'll only have to look forward instead of always over your shoulder and into the past.
It would have been nice to hear Ginny say all this aloud, but men and best friends weren't the only people with unspoken codes. Estranged lovers always found ways to speak to one another.
"I should congratulate Bill and there will be a few pictures with the family," Ginny said, her reluctance almost palpable. "We'll have more of a chance to talk during the reception."
"Right. Later then," Harry promised. He could think of a million things to say to Ginny and one important subject they should talk about someday, but doubted any of that would happen today. The most Harry could hope for was maybe a dance later on. It would probably be awkward, though not so awkward that it wouldn't be worth it.
As Ginny walked away to join her family, Harry silently recalled the traditions of a wedding – something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Without really trying, Harry thought of the something for each part.
Memories, hope, time, and himself until he finally defeated the wizard responsible for making him the Boy Who Lived. Until Harry could at last be for Ginny what she needed from him:
A man who lives.