Author's Note: This is the last chapter, and I would guess quite a bit fluffier than the previous one (if that is possible). But I do hope it's at least intelligent fluff. Please don't forget to review. It really makes an author's day. And who knows, the more reviews I get, the more inspired I may be to keep up the flow of creativity and continue writing. :)
Also—there are the reactions of a few Weasley family members to Harry/Ginny in this chapter, so all of this is based on the assumption that nobody has told them about H/G dating before now. All right, that's it from me—enjoy!
Disclaimer: If I'm JK Rowling, then Harry and the giant squid are a canon pairing!
Vows and Goodbyes
The weather was remarkable. For months Fleur had been moaning and fretting that the same gray chill that had fallen over the country would persist into her wedding day and ruin it. But, as pure luck would have it, the day in question dawned blue-skied and clear. It was the first sunny day in weeks, with only a few white puffs of cloud set like little pearls in a cerulean-blue sky.
Harry sat in one of the rows, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his shoulders. To his right was a teary-eyed Hermione, and to her right (sitting rather unnecessarily close) was Ron. For a while Harry had been unable to understand why Ron was grinning so inanely—then he noticed Hermione had interlaced her fingers with his and was squeezing his hand tightly. On Harry's left was Mrs. Weasley, who was blubbering openly into a handkerchief and murmuring disjointed little sentences now and again, like, "Can't believe this day's come . . ." and "My little boy, getting married . . ."
There was a whisper of music from an untraceable place, and with a jolt Harry realized the wedding had begun. The ceremony was beautiful, but it seemed to pass in a blur to Harry. He listened to the crowd's collective gasp as Fleur trod down the aisle, a vision in white satin robes, with a silvery, cobweb-thin veil covering her face and hair. If Fleur had been gorgeous any of the past times Harry had seen her, she was something beyond that now. Her face behind the veil glowed with pride and happiness, her blue eyes and smile focused on the red-haired man she was walking toward.
But Harry had eyes for no one but the bridesmaid. She looked amazing. Ginny's blazing locks had been swept back and coiled into a bun; her dress robes shone in the sunlight like molten gold. She was grinning at Bill as she stood beside him in the outdoor altar they had erected. Harry stared at her, blind and deaf as Bill and Fleur stood before each other and recited their vows. He noticed when her eyes grew momentarily bright as she watched her brother being married; he noticed when she winked at Fred and George from across the yard; when she smiled at her mother and father encouragingly; when she tucked back a wisp of hair behind her ear; and he noticed, too, when her eyes flicked over to meet his for a fraction of a second before looking away again.
The ceremony ended. There was perhaps a minute's reverent silence before, with a whoop, the twins jumped to their feet, wands pointed skyward. Immediately a shower of sparks burst forth, exploding in midair to form the sparkling words "CONGRATULATIONS, BILL AND FLEUR." Rose petals and confetti showered down upon the cheering crowd, and the newlyweds simply stood at the altar, beaming.
After that the music restarted; the rows and altar vanished, to be replaced by small, separate tables and a dance floor. Harry, Hermione, and Ron found a table and sat down, accepting goblets of Rosmerta's best mead. It was after they had watched a successive number of couples go out onto the dance floor—Bill and Fleur, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Tonks and Lupin, Fred and Angelina, various Weasley relatives and Delacours Harry didn't know—that Hermione began to grow antsy. She shifted in her seat, cleared her throat several times, and fiddled endlessly with the stem of her goblet.
Ron frowned at her. "Do you have to go to the loo?"
Hermione clenched her fists on the tabletop and glared at him. Harry, having just realized what was making Hermione so restless, laughed into his mead and inhaled half of it into his nostrils.
Ron still looked clueless, and Harry doubted Hermione would condescend to helping him out on this one. When Hermione had her head turned to watch more of the twins' fireworks displays, he kicked Ron under the table and gestured toward the dance floor significantly.
Ron gave him an odd look. "No thanks, Harry, I really don't fancy dancing with you, if that's okay."
Harry groaned. "Don't be a git, Ron." In a hissed whisper, he added, "Ask her."
Far from its usual flush, Ron's face drained of color. The freckles stood out sharply against his milk-white skin. "I . . . me . . ." he choked.
"Yes, you. Don't deny that you want to."
Ron sighed and glanced at Hermione as though afraid she might bite. Harry was getting impatient and starting to toy with the idea of putting the Imperius Curse on Ron to get him to do it—when Ron stood up, offered his hand to Hermione, and said tentatively, "Dance with me?"
Hermione looked up at him, and Harry had never seen her smile so hugely. She put her hand in his and let him lead her off to the dance floor. Harry had the urge to pat himself on the back for a job well done. It was high time they got the ball rolling, for heaven's sake.
Harry was glad he had managed to get his two best friends to dance, but he did not count on being totally abandoned by them. After the first song was finished, Harry had foolishly expected them to return to him. However, they didn't seem to want to let each other go, and so they proceeded into the next song, and the next . . . and the next . . . Night had fallen, and colorful lamps were being lit all throughout the yard . . . and still the two danced. . . .
"How did you do it?"
Harry turned around to look, but he really had no need to; he would've known that voice anywhere. Ginny was standing behind him, a glass of mead in her hand and a look of delighted awe on her face as she watched Ron and Hermione spin around on the dance floor.
"It wasn't too hard," Harry shrugged. "I did have to kick Ron once, but he cottoned on fairly quick."
Ginny snorted and took the seat across from Harry. "Pretty impressive; when I try to explain things to him it usually requires multiple kicks."
Harry laughed, but inside he was nervous. Was she still angry at him? And if she was, Harry honestly couldn't blame her.
"Harry, we need to . . ." Ginny began, but just then, after a solid hour of dancing, Hermione and Ron returned, pink-faced and grinning.
"Ah, the hero's triumphant return," Ginny teased her brother as he and Hermione took their seats. "Having fun?" she asked sweetly.
"Bit thirsty," said Ron loudly, ignoring his sister. "Would you like something to drink, Hermione?"
Reddening a little, Hermione nodded.
"Be right back," Ron said, sauntering away.
"So . . ." prompted Ginny, raising an eyebrow at Hermione.
"So," said Hermione just as smoothly, but this time she turned to Harry, "have you asked Ginny to dance yet?"
The atmosphere at the table suddenly grew very still. Color was rising up Harry's face.
"No," he replied, very softly.
"Are you going to?" Hermione persisted.
Harry glowered at Hermione. Just who did she think she was, butting into Harry's love life like this? It was one thing when she offered him advice, quite another when she actively meddled. Did Hermione not understand that he was in enough turmoil right now just sitting near Ginny, that he had to maintain some distance if he wanted to keep his emotions in check, keep her safe?
He felt a wad of resentment in the pit of his stomach at how Hermione had put him on the spot like this.
"No!" he snapped, far more harshly than he had meant.
He knew he'd gone too far by the look of outrage on Hermione's face and the hurt and anger on Ginny's. Without another word Ginny stood up, slamming down her goblet of mead and striding briskly away.
Hermione was giving him a viper's stare from across the table. Ron bustled back up to them, two more drinks in hand. He took one look at Hermione and said, "Blimey, what did you do, Harry?"
Harry sighed. "I'm being a prat. I'd better go fix this." Without elaboration he rose and followed Ginny at just under a run.
He followed her onto the outskirts of the yard, leaving the circle of guests. For a moment he thought he'd lost her; then he caught sight of a glint of gold disappearing into the trees and quickly trailed it.
He found Ginny in the circular clearing where they played Quidditch. She was sitting on the ground, uncaring of the dirt or leaves that sullied her robes, her knees drawn to her chest and her back against a tree trunk. Harry gulped and approached her.
"Hey," he said, sliding down beside her.
Ginny exhaled slowly. "Why'd you follow me here, Harry? I thought you were avoiding me."
"I was. Until I realized . . . until I realized how stupid a thing it was for me to do."
Ginny's face softened to some degree. "Maybe I should be arguing, but right now I can't think up a single argument. Harry," she said, serious, "I understand your feelings. You have a path you have to follow. I know that, I've always known that. We don't have to be anything you don't want to be. But—Harry—you can't make me stay out of your life completely. You can't do that. You know I . . . you know I've always . . ." She struggled with the words, then fell silent.
"Yeah." He took her hand. "I know."
"But do you know?" She looked at him, worry in her eyes. "I don't want you to think that just because we're over it means we're over. Because I'll always be here, Harry. Waiting."
He sucked in a breath, hearing the promise he had been hoping to hear but never daring to ask of her. "You'd do that . . . for me? It could take years—so much will change—"
"Some things don't change, Harry. I waited for six years before this.I've become good at it, even if I don't like it. I'll always wait for you."
Harry swallowed hard, tightening his grip on her hand. "I will too. Those weeks we were going out, Ginny . . . I never felt like it was just some girl I was dating . . . it was you. And I—" He hesitated, then went on, "I felt like I could spend the rest of my life that way, with you. I still do."
Ginny smiled at him sadly. "I'll hold you to that."
Harry kissed her to seal the promise.
When they broke apart, Ginny grinned at him cheekily. "Still going to refuse me that dance?"
Harry climbed to his feet and pulled her up. "I don't think I have the willpower to resist."
They returned to the yard just in time for the final dance of the evening. They stepped in beside a swaying Ron and Hermione; Hermione beamed over Ron's shoulder and winked at Ginny. As they started to dance, others began to take notice. Fred and George, half the yard away sending up fireworks and surrounded by an elated group of children, stopped with their wands half-raised. Their mouths hung open as they spotted their sister dancing with Harry Potter.
"Take the mickey out of 'em now or later?" Fred asked his twin after a moment's taken aback silence.
George was still gazing in the direction of the dance floor. "Later," he finally said. "She looks like she's enjoying herself too much—she'd only hex our noses onto our buttocks if we interrupted."
Fleur and Bill were dancing on another part of the dance floor, taking it in turns to eye the other couple as they rotated slowly.
"Your little seester . . . she is dancing with 'Arry?" Fleur said in some surprise. "I did not know they . . ."
"I didn't know either," said Bill quietly, smiling into his new wife's face. "I only had my suspicions. I'm glad to see they were right."
And at one of the small tables set out, Mrs. Weasley was (for the fifth or sixth time that day) once more crying.
"Ohh, it's so beautiful," she sniffled. "I always thought . . . maybe . . . one day Harry and my little girl could . . . and, oh . . ."
Mr. Weasley smiled and patted his wife's shoulder. "I think we all thought about it at one point or another. There have been plenty of signs . . . I thought Harry had been treating her differently lately. . . . Poor boy, always has been transparent. . . ."
Mrs. Weasley chuckled wetly, and across the table Tonks and Lupin smiled.
"They look very happy, don't they?" said Tonks fondly, twisting a strand of pink hair around one finger.
"They look," said Lupin very quietly, an odd expression on his face, "like James and Lily."
At last, the song ended. Harry and Ginny stepped apart rather unwillingly.
"Ginny, I'm going to be . . ." Harry started to say, but was interrupted by a sudden explosion of hoots and catcalls coming toward them. Fred and George were hurrying onto the dance floor, sending out celebratory jets of confetti with their wands as they charged, not toward Harry and Ginny, but toward Ron and Hermione—who, Harry realized with a jolt, had been kissing.
"It's happened!" shouted George.
"At last!" whistled Fred.
"They've come to their senses!" George howled.
"Less fighting!" Fred cheered.
"More snogging!" George whooped.
Laughter and scattered applause was coming from the guests. Ron was scarlet-faced and glaring murderously at the twins, but he had not let go of Hermione and it was easy to see that part of him was much too overjoyed at what had just happened to care about his brothers' antics. Hermione herself had turned magenta, but the smile on her face was enormous, and she was even laughing shyly with everyone else.
Ron looked on the verge of jinxing Fred and George, then, with pointed gallantry, he took Hermione's hand, muttered, "Come on," and pulled her away, off the dance floor and across the yard. This, of course, elicited only more hoots and wolf-whistles from their audience, but neither seemed to care. They went into the house and no one anticipated seeing them again for quite a while.
Fred was dusting his hands off in a singularly satisfied way as he watched his two victims leave. Then he turned to Harry and Ginny, smirking. "Now . . ."
Ginny had drawn her wand so fast Harry didn't even see where she was keeping it in her dress robes. "Oh no you don't. You're not publicly embarrassing Harry or me tonight."
Both made huffing sounds, as though offended.
"Dearest of sisters! You think we would dare?"
"To Ron and Hermione, yes, but that's because they were so painfully obvious for years that they needed a little cheering session in celebration of their accomplishment."
"We would do the same for you," George confided, "but you're a bit too skilled at spellwork for that."
"Yeah, we like our noses where they are," Fred said, rubbing his.
Rolling her eyes, Ginny turned back toward Harry. "What were you going to say?"
And looking into her deep brown eyes, peering back up at him so hopefully, Harry lost his nerve. "Erm—later."
But they weren't given a chance for "later." Once the last dance had ended everything seemed a mad scramble. There was the bouquet to toss (caught by Gabrielle Delacour, though there was some suspicion she had cast a Summoning Charm on it just after it was thrown). After that there were endless relatives to hug goodbye (for Ron and the other Weasleys, at least); guests to see off as they Apparated or Floo'd away; messes to tidy and spare food to put up; Mr. and Mrs. Weasley went around magically clearing away the tables, chairs, and dance floor they had summoned into the yard; and, most importantly, there was Bill and Fleur to bid farewell before they embarked on a weeklong honeymoon to the south of France. Mrs. Weasley cried several more bucketfuls of tears as she was finally pried off of Bill, allowing the jubilant couple to Disapparate.
By the time they had returned the Burrow's backyard to the way it was before the wedding, it was late and getting later. When the last of the chores were finished, the family (every Weasley, minus Bill and Percy, plus Hermione and Harry) gathered in the sitting room to relax and reminisce for another half-hour or so. Then, smiling in an exhausted sort of way, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley retired, with warnings to the others not to stay up too much later. Shortly thereafter the twins yawned ostentatiously, declared the wedding "quite spiffing, as shindigs go," and Disapparated back to their flat. Right afterward Charlie retreated upstairs to his old bedroom. He was soon followed by a shifty-looking Ron and Hermione (Ginny would've bet very good money they were not off to bed, as they claimed, but rather finding a suitable corner in which to snog) . . . which left Harry and Ginny alone.
Ginny turned to him expectantly. "This 'later' enough for you?"
Harry swallowed hard. He hoped this wouldn't lead into a fight or, worse, tears. "Actually, it's as late as I can make it," he told her grimly. "We weren't going to say anything, but—I can't not tell you. Ginny, the three of us are leaving tomorrow. At sunrise."
Ginny bit her lip but only nodded. "I figured you would be. Do Mum and Dad know?"
"No. And it's going to stay that way until we're gone. We agreed we don't want a huge fuss. We're leaving notes instead."
"You're smart to do that. Mum would probably put a Permanent Sticking Charm on your bums and glue you all to the kitchen table if she knew. But I'm glad you told me."
"Why? I'm not even glad about it myself. Why do you want to be told?"
"So I can give you a proper goodbye."
"What's a prop—"
But his words were quite abruptly cut off as she launched herself at him in one of the most passionate kisses Harry had ever experienced. His first, fleeting thought was that it was worth leaving if just to get kissed like this. He felt a rushing sense of relief that he had confided in her. The kiss allowed him to forget about anything, everything, and everyone else, if only for as long as their lips were together. He didn't have to be Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, the hero on whose fate the Wizarding and Muggle worlds alike depended on—he could be, quite simply, Harry.
It would be the kiss he carried with him wherever he went from that night on, what he thought about to warm him on the darkest, coldest nights, and what he took with him into battle against Voldemort.
"Goodbye," Ginny whispered, breaking the kiss.
And Harry swore to himself it would be the last goodbye they ever had to say to each other. Once Voldemort was dead and gone, he would make sure of that.
"Come on, Harry. We can't linger. Mrs. Weasley could be up at any minute," Hermione reminded him solemnly, resettling the rucksack over her shoulder as she turned and glanced at her friend.
Harry was standing on the outskirts of the lawn, his back to Ron and Hermione as he gazed at the tall, slightly crooked structure that was the Burrow. It was dawn; the strong, brilliant colors of the rising sun were reflected in the house's windows, which shone dazzlingly back at him. Heedless of Hermione's words, he stayed where he was, staring hard at the windows as if searching for something. At last, in one of the upper stories, the third window from the right, he could faintly see the outline of someone with long, gleaming red hair standing there. Watching him.
Harry smiled, raised one hand in a final gesture of farewell, and then turned around to face his destiny.