Wings of Freedom
There was a cheer and a round of greetings when a tall and tired–looking wizard was seen approaching from the distance. Mr. Weasley recognized him as the Bonder assigned to the wedding, and it was about time: the sun had almost reached dusk.
People began to move hastily, getting ready for the big event. Bill approached Charlie and soon Mrs. Weasley joined in, wearing a nice dress that didn't match her hair at all. Harry wondered if it was on purpose.
"She's ready," said Mrs. Weasley in an excited whisper. "Oh, Bill, you look so handsome . . . My little boy is getting married . . ."
"Come on now, mum," Bill smiled. "It's time already."
"Yes, it is," Mrs. Weasley said, her hand clutching a handkerchief and moping her eyes. "This will be such a beautiful wedding . . ."
McGonagall explained that Mad–Eye Moody would be in charge of the security during the wedding. The Bonder assigned by the Ministry, Demetrio Halffreckle, had brought four Aurors who would take Moody's orders out of respect for his past work. Harry saw them walk away and spread out around the Burrow.
"Come, Harry, we have a special seat for you," said George, grabbing Harry by the arm and pulling him toward the rows of chairs.
"Right, we don't want you to miss anything at all," beamed Fred.
"I can walk by myself!" Harry protested.
"Oh, don't be a crybaby, now sit!"
The Twins led Harry to an empty chair in the second row. He was forced to sit next to one of the pillars, separated by one empty chair no one seemed to want to occupy. Harry noticed the Twins had taken chairs to Harry's right rather hastily, as if making sure no one would take those seats. There was no need, really, for Harry saw Ron and Hermione sitting together on the far right side of the row, apparently forgetting him.
The empty chair between Harry and the pillar remained empty. Twice it was attempted to be used, but the people trying to sit on it had to leave in a hurry. First it was Dedalus Diggle, who yelped and recalled he had to do something important (although he walked aimlessly for a while before picking an empty seat on the fifth row). Second was Mrs. Figg, who was thrilled to have seat next to Harry until she jumped up and said something about feeding the cats (which she hadn't brought with her) and left in a hurry, only to return moments later and take a seat on the third row. Harry noticed the Twins muffled their laugh at both cases.
"Did you do something to that chair?" Harry said out of the corner of his mouth.
"Who, us?" George grinned.
"Search us," smiled Fred.
But before Harry could say anything else, Demetrio Halffreckle ordered silence and everybody got quiet. The tension and excitement in the air could be cut with a knife.
"Now, now, please," said Halffreckle, and then repeated it, only in French. "We are just about to perform the ceremony of Bonding," he added, switching to French next and repeating the message.
Everybody made sure to keep in place and wait. The sun was just setting on the horizon. Above their heads, the sky fought a lost battle against night, whose dark tones and bright stars were beginning to shine.
Harry saw Mr. Weasley exchange some words with the Bonder, so did Monique Delacour. It seemed like Demetrio Halffreckle was playing the interpreter. Then they bowed and returned to their seats.
Silence grew louder as the Bonder stood on top of the altar and coughed.
"We are here tonight to witness the Bonding of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour under the laws of the Ministry of Magic and the Vows the marrying couple shall speak," said Halffreckle, switching to French and repeating. "I ask the groom to approach to the altar."
Everybody turned their heads to the end of the carpet, where Bill stood still with Mrs. Weasley holding his arm. Behind them was Charlie as they began to walk. All the heads followed them like a sunflower followed the sun. Once they reached the end of the carpet, the Bonder spoke:
"Are you Mr. Bill Weasley, the groom?" he asked. Bill nodded. "Are you Mrs. Molly Weasley, the Entruster?" he asked next, and Mrs. Weasley nodded in an attempt to hold her tears. "Are you Mr. Charlie Weasley, the Best Man?" he finished, nodding at Charlie's confirmation. "Very well. Now, I ask the bride to approach to the altar, please."
While he repeated it in French, half of the guests, Harry included, had turned their heads to the end of the carpet.
Fleur was there. She was radiant. The tiara on her head matched her hair and dress color, and she wore an intense smile with blinding white teeth. Next to her, holding her arm was Pierre Delacour, and behind them was another woman Harry had seen moments ago and who was surely Fleur's Maid of Honor. Behind them all were Gabrielle and Ginny, each of them holding a straw basket with white flowers. As they began to march, Gabrielle and Ginny tossed their flowers at their respective sides. Gabrielle looked astonishingly proud of herself, but Ginny smiled as if she was having an inner war of feelings.
Once they arrived at the altar, Demetrio Halffreckle went on.
"Are you Miss Fleur Delacour, the bride?" he asked. Fleur nodded. "Are you Mr. Pierre Delacour, the Entruster?" Mr. Delacour nodded. "Are you Miss Janice Voudieur, the Maid of Honor?" The woman identified as Janice nodded. "Very well, then," said Halffreckle, "the bridesmaids may be dismissed."
As he said this, Ginny and Gabrielle moved to their respective sides. Gabrielle was seated next to her mother in the first row of the Delacour side, but Ginny walked straight to the empty seat next to Harry.
"Don't sit there, I think it's—" Harry whispered, but Ginny ignored him and just sat on the chair. She didn't met his eye and, after a moment or two of no reactions, Harry felt there was more than a simple joke spell cast on that chair.
"The Entrusters may let them go," said the Bonder, making Harry focus on the wedding once again.
Pierre Delacour released his daughter's arm at once, but it seemed to everybody that Mrs. Weasley had gripped harder on her son's.
"Mum, you can release it now . . ." muttered Bill out of the corner of his mouth. Mrs. Weasley gave a little whimper and gripped harder. Most of the guests, both French and English ones, held their breaths. "Please . . ." Bill whispered, and Mrs. Weasley slowly released him, sniffing loudly as she did.
There was a very soft whisper of relief from some of the Weasley guests. Harry heard Fred whisper to George "Blimey, you were right. I owe you five Galleons . . ."
"As you know," said Demetrio Halffreckle, "the Bonding consists of the enunciation of the Vows, which will work as promises of the soul for your married life together. These Vows are meant to be spoken from deep within, and the Bonding will not work unless the feelings put upon such important words are true. Now, in order to announce your respective Vows and Bond you, I ask Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour to hold hands, please."
They all saw how Bill and Fleur turned, facing each other, and held hands tightly together and at the height of their chests.
Harry gasped. There was something on his own left hand. He turned his attention to it and got a surprise. Ginny's hand was gripping on his.
He stared at her face. She had turned her shiny eyes to his, and from the closeness Harry noticed her quivering lip. She squeezed her hand in a way that made Harry witness incredible worlds of fantasy and endless happiness.
"Fleur Delacour," said the Bonder, "we would like to hear your words."
Harry heard Fleur starting to speak. She was saying something like "Do you promise, Harry, to love me and—"
. . . did she say 'Harry'
Harry's mind went into shock. He wasn't listening to Fleur's words. He was listening to Ginny's. He saw her trembling lips vaguely moving at the sound of her words. He vaguely wondered when had his other hand held and squeezed her free one. He could only listen to her words, which echoed in his mind . . .
"—protect me from all harm, to take care of me, in riches and poverty, in health and illness, on behalf of Merlin's Blessing, from now on until death separates us?"
She finished at the same time Fleur finished his question and, at the same time Bill said it, Harry stuttered and mindlessly whispered, "I do."
Everybody gasped as a tongue of golden fire surrounded Bill and Fleur's held hands, but nobody except Harry and Ginny noticed the gentle yellow sparks and the thin lick of golden fire surrounding theirs. Harry stared down at their hands and was suddenly aware of what he was getting into.
He shot his wide eyes at Ginny's face, and not only found a genuine and heartwarming smile greeting him beyond the trembles and quivers, but also a pair of loving eyes who shone with happiness as teardrops began to come from them and roll down her blushed cheeks.
And Harry was lost in a pink, soft cloud; everything and everyone else seemed obtuse and distant. He knew in that moment all he really wanted to do was be with her, holding hands forever, never taking his eyes from hers, kissing her lips with passion for all eternity and sharing not only his pain and his happiness with her, but also his mind, body, soul, and heart.
He heard Bill beginning to intone his question. He stared at Ginny's pleading eyes. And he then knew what he had to do.
Mrs. Weasley was going to kill him . . . She would scream, she would yell, she would threaten him with her wand, and then she would just kill him.
"Do you, Ginny," Harry softly whispered, "promise to be true and stay with me in any situation, no matter how bad, no matter how frightening, and to help me remember at all time all the much I love you and how much I'd have regretted leaving you behind, in good and in bad times, from now on . . . until death separates us."
As in a synchronized speech, Harry also finished his words at the same time Bill finished his; and when Fleur opened her mouth to reply, Harry could only hear Ginny saying: "And beyond death, Harry. I would. I do."
A new, louder gasp came from the guests as a second tongue of golden fire surrounded Bill and Fleur's hands. Harry and Ginny's hands were blessed by more golden sparkles and a thin golden stream of their own.
"Then, by the powers given to me by the Ministry of Magic, and under Merlin's Blessing, I therefore declare you husband and wife," finished Halffreckle. "You may kiss the bride."
Bill and Fleur kissed deeply under the sight of every person at the backyard except for Harry and Ginny, who only had eyes and lips for each other. From above the din of happy relatives cheering the just married couple in two simultaneous languages, they could hear Fleur's cries of happiness: "Oh my! You can now address me as Mrs. Fleur Weasley!"
And when Harry and Ginny separated from their kiss and stared deeply into their eyes, she said, between blissful sobs: "And you can call me Mrs. Ginevra Potter . . ."
Harry laughed. It was the careless laugh of a man who knows he is the happiest person in the universe. And he had no remorse in kissing Ginny one more time.
People chatted and laughed, feasted and drank, smiled and grinned during the reception party. With a simultaneous flip of several wands the rows of folding chairs moved aside, the red carpet rolled back and dozens of small, round tables with fancy white tablecloths and several trays of assorted food and drink popped in from thin air.
The guests began to spread around, starting random conversations and having a good time.
"Oi! Ah! Quit it, you two!" Harry complained, though smiling.
The Twins were tossing handfuls of dried rice onto Harry and Ginny, who were still holding hands.
"Isn't that for Muggle weddings?" Ginny giggled, half–covering her face with her free arm.
"Oh, don't spoil it for us! We have a legal opportunity to toss food at people and we plan to use it wisely!" said Fred.
"Well, maybe not too wisely," corrected George.
"Be quiet!" Harry whispered. He wished he could at least stop grinning. "And by the way . . . You planned all that? You know . . ."
"Harry, Harry, Harry, what did we tell you some hours back?" George grinned.
"Ginny inherited our cunning mischievousness," nodded Fred.
Harry stared at Ginny. He didn't feel bad about it.
"Your idea, then?" he asked.
Ginny's cheeks blushed pink. It matched the beauty of her hair . . . and her wide smile.
"I had to . . . I had to make sure. I mean . . . I'm sorry for this morning at the chicken coop. I just couldn't sleep last night, what with all my thoughts and everything. And I just . . . I meant to make sure our love was going to last. Otherwise, the Bonding wouldn't have worked at all."
"And you two—?" Harry turned to the Twins.
"We loved the idea," they said at once. "So, have a very warm and rice–full welcome to the family!"
"Isn't that 'rightful'?"
"Nope. It's RICE–full!" they grinned, doubling the amount of rice they were throwing.
"Quit it!" Ginny laughed. "You can also do that to Bill and Fleur!"
"Oh! Why hadn't we thought on that?" Fred seemed shocked. "And we just ran out of rice. Pity."
Harry and Ginny stared at each other, smiled broadly, and kissed again.
They jumped back and turned. Mrs. Weasley had just spotted them. Her eyes were watery and her smile was proof of how good she found the sight of her daughter in the arms of Harry Potter had been.
"Ah . . . Umm . . . Mum . . ." Ginny stuttered, but Mrs. Weasley waved her hands hurriedly.
"Oh, no, no, please don't mind me! I'll be gone, don't worry! Just enjoy the party, please . . .!" she said, and before they could say anything she had turned and moved somewhere else.
"Whew, close call!" said George.
Harry stared at the back of Mrs. Weasley talking animatedly to Lupin and Tonks. Whatever she said to the couple, it made Lupin shift uncomfortably and Tonks smile.
"She will go mental . . ." Harry muttered, half–smiling.
"Yes, she will," Ginny joined Harry's worries. "Luckily, she will end up accepting it. I hope."
"Oh, you don't worry about her," Fred waved a hand. "You'll be gone tonight, we assume? Ginny told us of your planned escape."
"Well, yes, but—"
"It's settled, then!" George interrupted. "Tomorrow we will tell everybody of what actually happened here."
"Look at it as out wedding present . . . Mr. and Mrs. Potter," Fred winked at them as they shyly blushed.
"You sure you can do that? Their reaction will be—"
"Will be a Once–In–A–Lifetime thing, Harry," they grinned. "And we've never missed out on a Once–In–A–Lifetime thing before."
"And if you excuse us," said Fred, noticing Madame Maxime bringing a huge wedding cake (though it seemed a bit small, compared to the carrier) and placing it on an empty table, "I think it's time we look for an escape route . . ."
". . . because Fleur and Bill and just about to get our pretty wedding present."
Harry and Ginny didn't know exactly which moment the Twins vanished from sight, but the resulting blur indicated they hadn't Disapparated. They saw Bill and Fleur being summoned to the slicing of the cake.
"What a cool party," said Ron, approaching Harry and Ginny and holding Hermione's hand. "Hey, I see you two fixed things up, didn't you?"
"We certainly did," Harry smiled. "How 'bout you two?"
Hermione blushed. "We're . . . good," she shyly said. "This is truly a night to be remembered."
"Oh, I have the odd feeling no one in their right mind will ever forget this," said Ginny, looking at the people gathered around the huge cake. Mrs. Weasley had given Fleur and Bill a large kitchen knife and the happy couple was holding it together, readying for the ceremonial slice. "No . . . They will not forget this at all."
And Bill and Fleur stuck the knife in.
It was only fair to say that Bill and Fleur's wedding party was a blast. True, everybody was caught by surprise and they were pretty angry at the beginning, but after a minute or two even Fleur couldn't help but laugh at her cream-soaked wedding dress.
It looked as if a sudden snowfall had hit the backyard.
Mrs. Weasley went mad and began to hunt down the most likely suspects. They proved to be very quick and sly, for Mrs. Weasley's Petrificus Totalis jinxes just ricocheted off them. Surely Fred and George were wearing their own protective merchandize. Only when everybody else was laughing, and noticing Fleur's dress as the mess it had turned into, she also joined the joy.
The party ended close to midnight. The Twins brought the original cake from its hiding place and were forgiven by everybody. The guests began to depart in the same groups they had arrived. The Portkeys had been waiting to carry on their objective.
The Delacours thanked the Weasleys for the hospitality, blessed their daughter and Bill, and also departed to their own home back in France. The Carry–Able Cabin they had lived in was folded back into a briefcase and stored in the Burrow.
Bill and Fleur then departed for their Honeymoon. Madame Maxime, deeply fond of her best student and Triwizard Champion, loaned Fleur her flying chariot for the trip. Mad–Eye Moody was requested to fly along with the chariot and protect the newlyweds from any danger.
As the chariot became a freckle in the star–spiked night, the eyes of all the remaining guests fixed on the now headpin–sized vehicle, and then it was gone. Bill was gone, as Mrs. Weasley wept about; a sad, longing cry of those mothers who truly care for their children, no matter how old and responsible they had turned.
And during all that time, growing less and less worried of what people would think, Harry and Ginny stayed together, one arm around the other's back. Once the chariot was part of their memories, once Mrs. Weasley had ordered them all to go to bed, once they separated as they arrived to Ginny's bedroom, they exchanged silent stares full of secrets. Only Fred and George would know what they were up to.
Harry couldn't sleep that night, but this time he meant to. He had to remain awake, waiting. The Burrow had become so quiet every single noise was amplified several times. Everybody had worked hard on the previous day, what with the wedding preparations and such, and so now they all were sleeping heavily. It was perfect for his plans.
He was also tired, but an inner fire kept his resolutions burning stronger. The moment was closer and closer in every new second. Harry began to realize he was now a married man. A married man. Ginny was his wife. Harry and Ginny were bonded together. She now shared his last name.
A shiver went up his spine. It was a shocking realization. But a good shocking realization. He only wished it could have been public, not private . . . Ron would have killed to be Harry's Best Man, and now he would kill Harry instead.
Harry laughed at his thoughts. He couldn't help it.
But still, he was worried about Ginny. Guilt was kicking him in his conscience and tried to warn him about the extreme danger in what could happen from now on. Sure, the letter had been already written; and he'd write it over and over if he'd have to.
But what about Ginny?
His guilt entered through his mind's back door and made him feel horrible. He was going to risk his wife's life in this last adventure! No, he couldn't do that. He couldn't risk Ginny.
He couldn't . . .
New thoughts were gathering, and fast. Harry had to deal with all of them.
The main door of the Burrow gently creaked as it opened. Harry peeked outside. No one in sight. But not for too long, he knew.
He stood at the doorframe with the door open, looking back at the kitchen inside. Moments later he closed the door and, slowly, began to advance around the house toward the chicken coop.
"Halt!" cried someone.
"Shhhh!" Harry shushed, startled. "Tonks, it's me!" he whispered in a hurry.
Tonks didn't lower her wand. "Oh, yes? What's your best friend's favorite Quidditch team?" she said.
"The Chudley Cannons, but really, Tonks, anybody could have known that just by peeking inside Ron's bedroom in the middle of the night," Harry muttered.
"Then tell me something only Harry would know," she said.
"Your Patronus is a certain someone you like," Harry grinned.
So did Tonks. She lowered her wand. "Just what are you doing out at this time of the night — Oh, I see . . ." she realized.
"What's that? Who's there? Harry?" whispered Lupin, coming from behind. Tonks made him stop.
"Be quiet, nobody must know he's awake. Harry's leaving tonight for Dumbledore's request, don't you remember?"
Lupin thought for a bit, but then half–smiled. "Creeping out in the middle of the night . . . I'll make sure to be away when Molly finds out."
Harry gave a bitter smile. "Not my best thought, I grant you."
"You have everything for it?" Lupin said. "Buckbeak won't be able to carry your trunk."
"No need. I have some clothes in this backpack . . . and in these two briefcases."
"What are those?" asked Tonks, staring at the contents of the briefcase Harry had opened.
"Fred and George's latest discoveries in Defense. Don't worry . . ."
They guided Harry along the rest of the path until the chicken coop came into view. Buckbeak the hippogriff was sleeping next to it. It seemed that the chicken had taken him to be an overgrown rooster. As he sensed people approaching, Buckbeak's orange eyes snapped open and glowed in the dark.
"Good night, Buckbeak," greeted Harry. He stared deeply into the orange orbs and bowed ceremoniously. Moments later, Buckbeak returned the bow. "We'll be gone tonight, Buckbeak. You think you can reach Godric's Hollow?"
Buckbeak, as if he had understood every word, gave a gentle hawking.
Harry and Buckbeak walked away from the Burrow, escorted by both Lupin and Tonks. Once they were a few good distance from the building, they stopped.
"So, well . . . I guess that's all . . ." Harry muttered.
"Godric's Hollow is north of here," pointed Lupin. "It'd be better if you avoid flying during daylight. Unlike the Ministry, we don't really mind if Muggles spot you, but we'll be really sorry if a Death Eater does."
Tonks gave Harry a hug and a pat on the back. "Way to go, Harry. You'll have news from us, and information too, whenever you need it. You can use your Patronus to send messages to us. It's not difficult, and very reliable. Patroni are true only to their masters' order, so they will never turn their back on you."
"Thanks," smiles Harry.
Remus hugged him next. It was a longer and warmer hug.
"James would've been proud. So would Sirius. So would Dumbledore. Not to mention Lily. No matter what happens now, Harry, always remember they will be proud."
"I will," said Harry, his eyes shining.
"We'll be going," said Tonks. "We're supposed to watch over the Burrow. Good–bye, Harry. Until our paths cross again."
Harry waved as Lupin and Tonks walked back to the Burrow, leaving him alone with Buckbeak and with his mission. Once Lupin and Tonks were out of sight, however, someone else spoke.
"So glad Moody went with Fleur and Bill. He would have noticed me," said Ginny, and removed Harry's Invisible Cloak from herself.
"Sure would have," Harry nodded, his eyes fixed on the Burrow. When he turned to see her, Ginny was just pushing her hair from her face. "Brought it with you?"
"I have it right here," she half–smiled.
She also had a backpack with her, full of clothing and such, but in her hands she was holding a large briefcase.
"I have never stole a house, before," she now grinned. It was so Fred–And–George of her that Harry had to smile back.
"Haven't stolen anything," he retorted. "I left a bag full of Galleons, probably more than the Carry–Able Cabin's value. But we'll need it more, won't we?"
"Oh, surely we will," nodded Ginny. "Our little and lovely home sweet home."
Harry stared back at the Burrow. "You know . . . the moment we got Bonded . . . I believe we got our possessions shared." He turned his head and grinned at her. "Seems you are a wealthy girl, now."
Ginny smiled. "I've always been rich, Harry. I had you." The smile changed to a grin as she half-teased him, "My Chosen One."
Harry would have loved to laugh, but that would have surely brought trouble at that moment. He turned his eyes to the Burrow once more.
"I have written a Last Will," he said, now serious. "Just in case . . . you know. If something happens to me, then at least I want my belongings passed to good hands. Who better than your parents?"
Harry felt Ginny's hands surrounding him and her head being leaned on him. He sighed.
"You are such a noble gentleman . . ." she whispered.
They remained like that for a moment or two, when Harry turned and hugged her in return. They also kissed, and by the end of their kiss he stared fixedly at her eyes.
"It's time to go," he said. Ginny, her eyes shining, nodded.
Ginny turned to face Buckbeak, and while she stared deep into the orange orbs, Harry said:
"Now, Buckbeak, this is Ginny. Ginny Potter," he added, unable to help himself. "My wife. I trust her deeply, and I hope you trust her as well."
Ginny bowed deeply, and seconds later Buckbeak bowed in response.
"Very well, then," Harry said. "Here, let me help you up . . ."
Harry helped Ginny onto Buckbeak's back. He was about to climb in front of her, when something very odd and very painful stabbed him straight through his soul.
He looked back . . .
. . . back into the night . . .
. . . onto the dark shape of the Burrow.
It had been much more than a house for him. He recalled the first time he visited the Burrow, rescued from the Dursleys by Ron, Fred, George and a flying car. From that moment on, he and the Burrow were one. And now he was leaving it behind. Considering his mission, he wondered if he'd ever return. If that wasn't the case, then he was staring at the Burrow for the last time ever.
Ginny's hand was placed on his. Harry turned and saw her eyes.
"Let's go," she softly whispered. Harry understood she was having similar thoughts.
Harry climbed onto Buckbeak, right in front of Ginny. She slid closer and wrapped her arms around her beloved husband, leaning her body on his back. Harry felt a warm feeling within, and he suddenly felt more confident and fully capable of doing anything at all.
"Come now, Buckbeak," Harry whispered to the hippogriff's ear. "Up to the sky and beyond."
Buckbeak reared as his wings spread widely, then began to gallop across the fields, flapping his wings and eventually taking off, floating in the darkness and gaining height and speed.
Harry made Buckbeak turn and head north. Ginny gripped Harry's body harder, and he couldn't contain his happiness.
Down on the ground, Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks saw the dark silhouette of a hippogriff above the Burrow. They couldn't distinguish Harry, and they certainly hadn't guessed Ginny was with him, but they felt Harry's laugher of intense happiness had reasons other that the real ones.
The truth was that Harry felt happy. With his mission. With the faces everybody would surely adopt the next morning. With the menace of Death Eaters at every turn. With it all. He had Ginny with him. That was all he really needed.
Harry Potter was free for real, for the first time in seventeen long years. And he resolved to fight to the death to keep that right as his. Even against death itself.
Watch out, Voldemort – Harry thought – here I come . . .