Ch 33 Happily Ever After, almost
Many thanks to the Beta readers who have helped me get this far on my story. FriendOfMolly and PokePotterfan93 are just the latest in a series of people who have been immense help. Thank you for reading so far. Review, please. Let me know what you liked and what I could improve on.
Late Friday morning June 25 Harry and Ginny left for Switzerland and the International Confederation of Witches and Wizards. The actual meetings did not start until Saturday afternoon but the Swiss wanted Harry and Ginny there early.
They walked out onto a large glassed-in street. There were streetcars on tracks moving up and down the street, but a lot of people were walking. The glassed-in street looked like it went quite a way around the valley, and up the mountains there were several more similar looking glass covered streets. Ginny was stunned when she saw how large the valley was. There were thousands of witches and wizards who apparently lived in this valley. The place looked immense, and Ginny halted to look at everything. "How many people are there in this valley?" Ginny said. "It looks like there are more people here than there are witches and wizards in all of Britain."
The witch that greeted them said, "I think there are easily twice as many magical people here than there are in all of Britain. This is by far the largest single concentration of Witches and Wizards in the world. Of course there are plenty of witches and wizards who live in other parts of Switzerland, but more here than everywhere else combined."
Ginny looked in amazement at buildings and roads and other evidence of human activity. There was a busy valley below, green, with gardens and orchards and plenty of places for people to play.
The group boarded a streetcar. They almost immediately went past Gringotts. "I didn't know Gringotts had a branch here," Ginny commented.
"Oh, the Gringotts in England is only a branch, although a bigger and more important branch than most," Harry explained. "Gringotts is headquartered in Switzerland. There are big branches in England, Paris, Frankfort, and in New York City, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and other major cities around the world. Gringotts has small offices almost everywhere there is a concentration of witches and wizards."
Ginny was fascinated by the architecture of the valley. It was clear that building had been going on here for a very long time. Some of the buildings looked like they could have been built two or three thousand years ago, and in fact some of them had been. Others looked ultra-modern, and there was every kind of construction and decoration in between. The one constant is that most of the buildings looked like they were built into the mountain, and often up the mountain above the building were additional windows or decks or carved out yards.
They came to a branch in the road, and Ginny saw that they were on the second of four major levels. The branch led down to the first level, and they got off the streetcar and got onto a special kind of streetcar for going up and down the steep hills. At the bottom they had to transfer again. "There are quicker ways to get to the castle," the witch said, "but we thought you would like to see your city."
"Our city?" Ginny asked, looking at Harry.
"Your city," the witch said. "You own it, or might as well own it. We pay rent to you, we all do."
About halfway around the valley from where they started they came to what looked like a large castle. It really was beautiful, with lots of Gothic decorations, lots of carving. It looked like it had been added onto and altered many times, and had a fairy tale quality to it. The biggest problem with it was that it was huge, almost as if it was made for giants and not people. It certainly was out of scale for Ginny and Harry, two rather small people.
The road curved into the mountain, and the castle stuck out beyond the mountain. They were apparently close to the roof of the castle. They went into a large gate and came upon a courtyard with a beautiful fountain in it. The fountain had seven levels in it, and it was obviously designed so that water flew from the top of the fountain down to each of the levels in turn. The fountain was dry, however. "The water is supposed to burst forth when the new Zeus and Hera, the new head witch and wizard, come," the witch said.
Ginny looked at the fountain, and could feel a pull down in her womb. That was the only way to describe it; the fountain was calling her to reproduce, or at least there was some connection between the fountain and reproduction. The feeling was so strong that Ginny asked the witch, "Does every woman feel this pull on your womb when you look at the fountain?"
"No. I've never heard of anyone feeling what you describe. Ask the prophets about it," the witch said.
The courtyard would have made a beautiful plaza if it had not been surrounded by the walls between it and the street. There were what looked like high walls and a multi-story tower above the plaza, all of foreboding heavy stone, and battlements on the top of the walls. It looked like a building that was made for defense.
The inside was somewhat lighter, although still very old fashion and castle like. Apparently there were plenty of windows and open areas on the inside. As they went in and downstairs there was what looked like an open area in the center of the structure to let in light and air.
Harry was called aside, and he and Gerhardt Richter sat down to talk.
Ginny was led to a very large room, where she was met by Hermann and Adel Regentus, and some other staff members.
They all bowed down and knelt, as did all the other staff including some house elves. "We are all your loyal, humble and abject servants," Adel said.
"I hope you are not all that abject, and if you are we'd better do something about it," Ginny said. "Please get up. I'm Ginny Potter." Ginny went over and shook the hands of everyone there.
Adel although standing up was still bowing and looked concerned. Her posturing and bowing and overly condescending language was bad as a house elf, thought Ginny.
Ginny was in a huge formal living-sitting-reception type of room with a magnificent view of the valley. The floor of the room was about 100 feet above the upper floor of the valley, where the grass and gardens of the valley met the edge of the mountains and the buildings that were built against the mountains. In looking over the valley Ginny realized that there were no large buildings in the valley. Every building of any size was built into the mountain, and some of them were very far up the mountain indeed. There appeared to be roads running on the face of the mountain, and she could see from where a road disappeared and re-appeared that many of the roads ran for much of their length inside the mountain. It looked like centuries of construction.
Ginny was still looking out the window when Harry came into the room. "How is the love of my life?" Harry asked Ginny.
"Nice rooms, I guess. A little bigger than our suite in Hogwarts," Ginny replied.
"Maybe even bigger than 12 Grimmauld Place," said Harry laughing. "This is so unreal I'm 18, you're 17, and here we are in this huge castle that we are being told we can live in, Ginny, do you want to live in a castle like this?"
"Not really," said Ginny. "My Happily Ever After dream had me marrying Harry Potter, but not living outside of Britain and away from my family."
"Apparently I would not be in the position to inherit this if I was not married," said Harry.
"Good thing I got you to put that engagement ring on my finger, then," said Ginny.
"And I knew enough not to try and get it off," said Harry.
"Were you really thinking of taking it off?" asked Ginny.
"No, I was thinking that trying to get it off you was going to be harder than facing Riddle. He could only kill me," Harry replied. "The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was to make the witch I wanted to spend the rest of my life with mad."
"Poor little me?" said Ginny with a big smile on her face.
Harry could only shake his head at this remark After a brief pause he said, "We are going to have lunch with Steven and Valerie Bushman of the Swiss Prophesy Department and one of their prophetesses, Nausicaa Scheria. A nice dress or some feminine robes would be fine; this is not a formal occasion."
Nausicaa Scheria turned out to be a tall, thin but shapely Greek looking woman with a striking profile that could have come straight off one of the antique Greek jugs or statues. She had an olive complexion, very dark brown eyes, and very long straight black hair. She was wearing a white dress that looked like every costume designers wish for a Greek prophetess, flowing over her bust and hips in a most enticing and attractive way. She did not walk into a room as much as glide into it, and she exuded an air of mystery and the supernatural.
After introductions Harry and Ginny sat down for lunch. They were prepared to hear something like the vague and strange pronouncements of Professor Trelawney but instead Nausicaa introduced herself in a most businesslike manner. "My name is Nausicaa Scheria and I am a direct descendent of the prophetess of Delphi. For over 2,000 years we have kept a branch of that ancient and most noble art alive here in this Swiss valley. We are not infallible, but we are real good at what we do. We have been key players in anointing new families to rule this valley, and almost all the Wizarding world respects our pronouncements."
"So what do you do?" asked Harry. "Look at chicken entrails or something?"
"Well for a matter of this significance we usually look at sheep entrails, and there the omens are very good," said Nausicaa, grinning and looking a little apologetic.
"So what do you do with the sheep after you look at its entrails?" asked Harry.
"You eat it, of course! The lamb you are eating right now came from the sheep I sacrificed to read its entrails. You do not let good meat go to waste," said Nausicaa in obviously good humor.
Harry and Ginny both looked down at the lamb they were eating. If they were Christians and knew more about the early history of the church they may have been concerned that they were eating food sacrificed to idols. For the last 1,500 years the reading of entrails, although very pagan, was not in any way a sacrifice to a pagan god. As it was they were just a little uneasy. "Is this part of the test?" asked Harry as he held up a piece of the lamb.
"Not really," said Nausicaa. "Once the animal has been killed and the entrails have been read the animal is just food. The dinner is relevant, however. Delphi learned long ago to read the sign of the times. You do not tell an armed man that he is an idiot and to go back home because his quest is going to fail unless you are sure he is going to listen to you. You do not give your blessing to an idiot or a violent man no matter what the entrails say. I need to at least meet you before pronouncing judgment."
"So if I act like an idiot I don't have to take this job?" Harry cheerily asked.
"You've passed that test long ago, Harry," said Nausicaa. "Sorry, but all the signs point to you as the last Regent, and one of your descendants becoming the next chief wizard."
"So I don't have to worry about being killed because that would void the prophesy?" asked Harry.
Nausicaa answered, "Over the centuries we have had several very confirmed prophesies not turn out because somebody got killed. If you are dead by definition you cannot fulfill the prophesy, and that makes it void. Be careful; you are supposed to be alive not only to father children but to pass on the job, but you could do something stupid like drive a car without a seat belt on or fly your broom into a cliff or," she sort of looked around for some other example.
"Get your girlfriend so mad she hexed you to death," said Ginny with a laugh.
"Like not saying yes when your girlfriend thanked you for proposing, even though you did no such thing," said Harry laughing.
"Smart boy," said Ginny still laughing, giving Harry a little tap on the arm.
They gave each other a kiss, looked at each other, and burst out laughing again. Then they composed themselves and looked back at Nausicaa and the Bushmanns'.
Valerie Bushman said, "There is obviously a story behind that exchange. Please, I would love to hear it!" Steven and Nausicaa both shook their heads in agreement, and the three turned to look at the Potters.
"Where should we begin?" asked Ginny.
"When you were 5 or 6," said Harry.
"Well," said Ginny "When I was little my mother read stories to me, and one of the stories was about The Boy who Lived, little Harry Potter who survived Lord Voldemort's killing curse. I knew he was not living in our magical world, and I thought he might be lonely."
"You have no idea how alone I was," said Harry.
"And if I knew what you were going through," said Ginny looking right at Harry, "I probably would have dragged my mother over to the house of those horrible Dursleys' to rescue you right then. As it was I told my mother that when I grew up I was going to marry Harry Potter. Well then the year before I went to Hogwarts all my brothers were getting on the train, and I was not, but there at the station, talking to us, was Harry Potter, the real Harry Potter. Then Harry came to our house part of the summer and I got to know him. And I never forgot my dream but now the dream was attached to a real person.
"Harry rescued me from the Chamber of Secrets my first year and we became good friends, but never boyfriend and girlfriend until the end of my 5th year, and then he broke up with me to save me from being in trouble, except that was one spectacular failure. I got this," pointing to her scar, "from being Potter's witch. And all school year I hoped he still liked me."
"I had a map of Hogwarts that showed where all the people were, and I used to stay awake at night and look at Ginny's dot and tell it that I loved her. I had no idea she was being tortured," said Harry. "So I finally killed Tom Riddle, and we got back together."
"When they cast the two spells, and Tom Riddle's wand flew into Harry's hand, and he caught it, I thought my fairy tale ending was coming true, except it didn't. Everybody and everything was messed up. But by the end of the night we were back together," said Ginny.
Harry said, "I knew I wanted to marry Ginny, but some day, not necessarily last summer. Well, actually I probably wanted to marry her as soon as possible, but she was only 16 and had a year of school left, well, you are still only 17 and I'm only 18 which makes this whole scene so unreal," said Harry looking around. "And with all the estate problems I knew that there were advantages to getting married when Ginny turned 17, but I had no idea if we were ready and no idea how her mother would react. I was I think a fair way from formally asking Ginny to marry me."
The couple looked at each other. Finally Harry said, "We were in the Potter vault in Gringotts in London."
"We were looking at Potter heirlooms and came across this set of engagement and wedding rings," said Ginny showing the rings on her hand.
Harry showed his as well, then said, "I showed Ginny the set, and was getting ready to put them away."
"I could see him starting to put them away, and that was not what I wanted," said Ginny, "so I took the box and took the wizards ring out," pointing to the larger ring next to Harry's wedding band, "and put it on him. Then I held out my hand," and she held it out like she did that day.
There was silence. Then Harry said, "And she looked at me like that," and Ginny had the 'put the ring on' look in her eyes again, her hand held out to Harry, "and without saying a word indicated that I would be in big trouble if I did not put the ring on her finger. So, I put the ring on her finger."
"And I jumped up and down and thanked Harry for asking me to marry him and said yes over and over and kissed him and acted very happy I was engaged," said Ginny. "Which I was, I guess, happy because I thought I was engaged but scared to death that maybe I had pushed too far but, what the heck I wanted Harry!"
"And I tried to think of what to do next," said Harry, "and concluded that it was probably easier facing Tom Riddle than it would have been facing Ginny if I tried to get that ring back. I mean I really did want to marry Ginny. All Tom Riddle could do was to kill me, but Ginny could Bat Bogy Hex me for the rest of my life, for starters, and then get really mad and figure out some worse way to torture me for a follow up. And she is one redhead I do not want mad at me, certainly not for the rest of my life. So we were engaged."
"And as we left the vault I thought 'Oh Merlin, I got away with it.' I always believed that if you had the guts to do something you could probably get away with it," said Ginny with a big smile and look of victory on her face.
"Poor little Ginny Potter," said Harry, looking at Ginny.
"With such modest looks and skills," said Ginny, looking at Harry with a big grin on her face.
"With such spectacular looks and skills," said Harry, looking proudly at Ginny.
"From an article by Rita Skeeter," said Ginny, looking around at the table.
"That got Ginny so mad she did everything in her power to prove Rita wrong and land me right away," said Harry, looking at Ginny.
"Got me so mad and determined that my brothers were betting how soon I would be engaged!" said Ginny, looking at Harry.
"So that is how we got engaged," said Harry as he turned to the table indicating that this bit was done.
Everybody at the table was laughing at this exchange, partly because the story was funny but also because the back and forth banter between the Potters was so enjoyable. The obviously loved each other and were a good match. "I'm not going to go against the entrails today," said Nausicaa. "You are a delightful couple, much better than the last of the Rothchilds."
"I do have one question," Ginny asked. "When we came here we walked passed a fountain. I was told that the fountain was going to have water in it when the next chief witch and wizard were, I don't think it was when they were born. When they were ready to inherit their position? Something like that."
"That is correct," Valerie said. "The legion has it that when the chief witch and wizard come to their power, when all the prophesies about them have been fulfilled, the fountain will spring to life."
"I felt the fountain pulling on my," Ginny put her hand down on her lower belly, "womb. That's the only way to describe it. Like it was calling me to have babies. Does it always cause women to feel like that?"
Nausicaa had dropped her fork on her plate and was staring at Ginny. "You're the first in hundreds of years," she said.
"What does it mean?" Ginny asked.
"Probably that you ARE the Regents," Nausicaa said, still visibly a little shaken. "Almost certainly that you are the Regents."
"Stupid Prophesies," Harry said. "Always messing with our lives."
As the lunch was ending Valerie said, "Normally the ICWW starts on Saturday afternoon. They called a special session this afternoon to anoint you as heads of the Valley and Regents. You need to go back to your rooms and get dressed, and this afternoon you will formally become the Regents."
Harry and Ginny went back to their rooms and looked around. Finally Ginny turned to Harry and said, "Not very homey is it? Too big and cold and castle like. You know this is really ridiculous, to have a fairy tale dream come true, Happily Ever After guy, and then get to live in a big castle, and not want to. I guess that is why they are fairy tales and not real life."
Harry said, "I think I do not have enough energy to make the changes that this place needs to become a home."
"I want to have children someday," Ginny said, "but not enough to fill THIS place." (Albus Potter would, but that's another story)
Harry and Ginny were told that the formal International Council of Wizards ceremony was going to take place that afternoon, and that there were specific garments in the closet that they would have to wear for this. They were also expected to wear their Order of Merlin metals, all of them, plus Harry had to wear his Victoria's Cross. Ginny had been told this, and had brought them along.
Harry was horrified at the getup that he had to wear. At least he had his own boxers on but then he had to wear some flounce blouse made of purple silk with lots of magical symbols on it, and silk pantaloons also purple and also with lots of magical symbols, and then a robe made of some stiffer combination of materials, of a deeper purple color, with gold embroidered magical symbols. The shoes were slippers that looked like they came out of the Arabian Nights tale, with long curved fronts. The hat was a very large tall pointed hat with a brim, again purple and again with lots of magical symbols on it, and a tassel that had a mind of its own and was flying around on top of the hat. There was actually a place on the robe for the metals, and Hermann pinned them on Harry.
Meanwhile Ginny was looking at her own outfit. The silk under dress was similar to Harry's blouse and pantaloons. The robe was also similar to Harry's, but more form fitting and feminine. Similar shoes, but instead of a wizards pointed hat there was a tiara to take your breath away. It had more precious stones in it than Ginny had ever seen concentrated in one place. "There is only one in the world any nicer, or more valuable," Adel said, "and that is reserved for the Chief Witch who is to come."
Poor little Ginny Weasley had apparently come a long way.
Harry and Ginny were led to a large meeting room set up with seats with desks, sort of like a governing body or legislator would have, The desks were in a semicircle, and tiered so everyone could see the front. There was a desk high above the seats at one end, with room for several people, and a large aisle down the middle. It sure looked like a working room for a large number of people, and although there were only about 150 desks there were probably 450 people in the room, crammed reasonably close together.
Harry and Ginny were told to walk down to the front just under the raised desk, and they did, to absolute silence. It was an unnerving sensation to say the least. At the front they were met by Gerhardt and Nausicaa. Gerhardt said, "All the paperwork is in order to appoint Sir Harry Potter O.B.E., OM(3) to the post of Regent and hereditary head of the Valley of the Wizards. What do the omens say?"
Nausicaa said, "The omens concur. Harry Potter is fated to take the position as Regent."
Gerhardt said, "Sir Harry James Potter O.B.E., OM3, do you accept the position of Regent, knowing that you may have to surrender the position to a new Chief Wizard of the Valley, knowing that if there is no new Chief Wizard you may be called on to hand your position over to a son or grandson if the council deems you no longer able to function as Regent."
"I accept," said Harry. 'I'd be thrilled to get rid of this job' thought Harry.
Gerhardt turned to Ginny and said, "Ginevra Molly Potter OM, do you accept the position as spouse of the Regent, knowing that as spouse you may be called on, in rare and usually tragic circumstances, to take over for Harry until another, maybe a child maybe somebody else, is able to function as Regent."
"I hope nothing like that happens," said Ginny.
"We all hope nothing like that happens, and no omens predict that anything like that will happen," Gerhardt said. "We still have to ask the question. If the unthinkable happens will you do what is asked of you and take over, doing your best to do what is asked of you."
"I will," said Ginny.
Two wizard staffs were brought out, with Gerhardt saying, "These are yours as tokens of your positions."
Gerhardt then looked out at the assembled crowd and said, "It is understood that the Regent does not act outside the advice of the council, and the members of the council do not act outside of the wishes of the assembly as proclaimed by the Regent or Chief Wizard or Chief Mugwump. Will you all raise your wands and pledge allegiance to this council and this new Regent." Everybody raised their wand, and Gerhardt, Harry and Ginny in unison read the words of a charm. Power as evidenced by thin glowing lines went between each wand and the staffs.
"There is one more order of business, and then you can all be dismissed. Is it still your wish to honor Sir Harry?" asked Gerhardt. "We need to confirm our previous vote." There seemed to be a voting board, and wizards would point their wand to indicate yes or no. Apparently about 2/3rds of the people there could vote, because in the end the vote was 298 to 17.
"Harry," said Gerhardt, "The highest award we can give is the WW, the Wizard of Wizards or Witch of Witches award. Over the 3000 plus years that this award has been in existence we seldom award more than 30 a century, and we average 20 or less. Over half of all these metals have been awarded posthumously. Albus Dumbledore was honored with this award for his service. Therefore it gives me great pleasure to present you, on behalf of this assembly and the magical community at large, the WW."
"I hope they stop giving me metals," said Harry to Ginny quietly, "or my dress robe is going to end up looking like a suite of armor." Ginny giggled at this remark. It was so like Harry, self-depreciating in the face of honors.
The assembly was dismissed, and Gerhardt had Harry and Ginny come into a small office just off the assembly.
"Just between us," said Gerhardt, "your office here is going to function very much like the Harry Potter Estate offices, except in this case I am the one who can do most but not all of your duties, if you let me. If you want me to keep running things I will promise to keep you informed, probably sending you more to read than you would really like to have."
Harry signed where he was told, and gave a sigh of relief. This Chief Regent job was not going to take too much time, he thought. In the end that was only partly true, but it was much easier than if he had to be there and manage.
As they were going back to their quarters Ginny asked Harry Are you tired?" Harry answered "Tired and a little overwhelmed."
When they got back to their quarters Harry showed Ginny a huge pile of petitions that various groups had given him. "I guess I should read these," he said. "Gerhardt said I really should not do anything about them, but I hate not even to read them. I'm just overwhelmed."
Ginny encouraged Harry to take it easy, with some cuddling and rest, and the Potters had an easy night.
Harry woke up first as usual, about 6:30 AM, and got dressed. When he went to the room where breakfast was served previously Hermann Regentus was waiting for him. "Wake up your wife, please," Harry was told. "You have a breakfast meeting this morning at 8:00 AM. I will take you there from this room when you are ready. Dress similar to the way you dressed last night. Harry woke up Ginny and about 7:45 they were ready to go, Harry with a clean set of robes, Ginny with a different dress but one very similar to the one she had on last night, form fitting, full skirt tight enough around her bottom to show off her nice butt and thin waist but not too tight, and just low enough on top to show her scar and some cleavage, which she knew Harry really liked because he was just so proud of how she had stood up to the torture last year.
Kingsley Shacklebolt, Al and his wife Carrie Van Lente were there. Gerhardt Richter was there and he introduced his wife Giselle. There were also three other couples, Cinderella "Cindy" Edington, North American Minister of Magic and her husband William "Bill" Edington, WW Chang, Chinese Minister of Magic, and his wife Mary Chang, and Fanishwar Chatterjee, Indian Minister of Magic (including most of the countries around India) and his wife Fantine..
Al said, "In many ways this group represents the largest, strongest and wealthiest witches and wizards in the world. We can finance anything we want without getting any money from anywhere else, and we have enough people who are either governed by us or who owe us that we can usually get all the people we need as well. Yet for many very good reasons we cannot just force other groups to do what we want. This is where the ICW is critical.
"You know, I think, that Albus Dumbledore was Chief Mugwump before he was killed. We were his chief advisors, and when he died we decided to rotate the post. WW Chang is Chief Mugwump this year, Cindy will be next year, and it will go back to Gerhardt the following year. Kingsley will have a turn one year, but he has enough to do right now after all the problems in your country. Fanishwar has his own problems, but we want him to take his turn as Chief Mugwump as well. Let me tell you what we want.
"We have some major problems confronting the Wizarding Community.
"In some ways our battle against Voldemort was a continuation of the huge battle against good and evil fought fifty years ago in Europe and Asia. Killing Riddle helps in Europe but there is a lot more to do.
"We have two other major enemies. One is a witch who is responsible for many of the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. We think she has kept the human sacrifice of the Aztecs' alive, she and her ancestors.
"The last is a 1,000 year old wizard who could have become Chief Wizard, but instead chose to pursue personal immortality by allaying himself with Dementors and becoming Lord of the Dementors."
Harry said "I think I may have made an enemy of him already with what I have said to the British and Swiss Dementors."
"You and your decedents," Gerhardt said. "I think you have. Harry, you talk like you would like to retire to a simple life, and then you do things like challenge all the traditions the house elves have been living under, or challenge the Dementors. I think you have an interesting life ahead of you."
"I'm told that's a Chinese curse, living in interesting times," Harry said.
"Opportunity and danger almost same thing," WW Chang said.
Al continued, "In addition to these enemies we have other problems. You have heard from more than one person that maintaining secrecy in this ever more technological age is getting harder and harder. We feel we need to do everything in our power to maintain secrecy for as long as possible. This means an ever larger budget to allow us to do that. We have the resources, and most communities around the world agree. We would be stupid to assume that all agree; some still need convincing and many would disagree if we did not keep working on it.
"We need to be prepared for the day when we can no longer keep our existence secret. And we agree that there are several things we need to do to get ready for that day.
"First, we need to make our society's values compatible with the best values of the societies around the world. That is one reason why house elves are so important. There is little tolerance for slavery around the world. That is also why we need to stop tolerating dark wizards; they already cause too much harm to magic and Muggle people alike.
"Second, we need to advance the understanding of why we can do what we can do, so we can at least offer a plausible scientific explanation. Calling on spirits and the dead will only raise the ire of the monotheistic religions. We are making some progress in that area, but funding is sometimes a problem, and some opponents do not even want us looking at the science.
"Third, we need to make sure that what we do is either beneficial to Muggle society or at least neutral. No stealing of money or electricity or other things, just because we can. How did what we do help and not hinder. And we need to carefully document in a form that we can distribute to Muggle society how we helped. Who did we rescue by apparating when no other way could save the life, what warning did we give that no other group could give, and how many lives did it save. Not all groups even want to be neutral, some feel it is our right to steal from Muggles, and we need to stop that attitude as soon as possible.
"Finally, we need to better govern ourselves, so when drastic changes need to be made we have the structure and institutions in place to do it."
Harry looked at Al and said, "What is your place in all this?"
We do not have a single leader," said Gerhardt. "Because of my position I am nominal head of the valley, but I have to carefully build consensus, and I cannot spend much time traveling."
"I have a great influence not only in China but in most of Asia and Africa," said WW Chang, "even Japan, but not in India which is something of a problem area for us. And China is both becoming wealthy and rapidly moving from the 19th to the 21st century."
Fanishwar Chatterjee said, "Greater India, including Pakistan and some of the Mid-East, is also rapidly moving from the 19th century to the 21st. We also have some unique problems with a mix of magic known to or believed in by Muggles. All the Asian communities are troubled by The Lord of the Dementors, just like the North and South Americans are troubled by the Pirate Witch of the Caribbean, but he is actually in our territory. We have some unique problem areas as well; the greater India territory is not simple."
Cindy said, "North America probably has as many wizards as China, because it was a refuge for persecuted witches and wizards, and you could find wilderness to hide in and still not be too far from civilization. One problem I have is North American witches and wizards are so diverse that getting any sort of consensus is a problem, although as a society most of us are very open to technology. I nominally represent South America at this group too, mostly because right now we don't have a logical person from that area to join our little group."
"Britain was always a key player in European Magical society, because of Merlin, and Hogwarts," said Kingsley. "But of course that was lost, at least temporarily, by Tom Riddle. Gaining it back will take time, but you have already helped, Harry, just by beating him and not lording it over people and trying to take over the ministry."
Gerhardt then said, "You asked what part Al played in all this. Note that although Al is on the ICW as head of the International Aurors, our Wizard strike force, he does not have a national or regional constituency. He is much freer than the rest of us to travel around the world getting information, and occasionally raising a little hell. We really do operate on consensus, and Al by the nature of his contacts has on more than one occasion got us to act sooner than we would have liked to or held us back from acting because of something we had not thought of.
"More importantly for you, what do we want you to do? First, be part of this group. Second, become the nominal head of the Valley. I will do almost all of the staff work and together we will do most of the political work, but you may be called on to visit a few people with one of us from time to time. Only a few people know that this group exists, and we feel we need to keep it that way. And we are thrilled that you do not want to become the full time Regent; this way few people know where the real power lays, and until we have someone who is at the same time a master politician and a very good person at the helm we feel this is a better way to govern our little group of the world, the little group of magical people.
"And Harry, sometime when you are older you may have to become Chief Mugwump for a while, but not for as many years as Dumbledore."
"Why me? Why now?" asked Harry.
"You are the Regent," Gerhardt said.
"Is the Regent always part of these meetings?" Harry asked.
"No, not always," Gerhardt admitted.
"Why me, why now?" asked Harry again.
"The prophesies are heavy on you and your family, Harry, Ginny," Kingsley said. "I'm on this council partly because I'm your boss. We can't tell you anymore because we really don't know much more, except that the fate of you and your family will be important for the Wizarding Community and the world at large."
"Damn prophesies," Harry said as he looked at Ginny. "I don't like it but I'll do my best."
"That's all we can ask," Gerhardt said and the others agreed.
Harry knew Kingsley and Al, and was beginning to know and like Gerhardt. He thought that he could trust these people, at least unless something happened to betray his trust. So he became a part of this group, and let them use him to govern as well as they could the magical world.
After more discussion about specific roles different people would play over the next 24 hours the group broke up.
The rest of the week was taken up with the business of the ICWW. Hermione was there to advance the cause of the house elves; the most she could get was a document saying what was happening in some parts of the world, talking about clothes and house elf rights, which frustrated her. Harry found the sessions sometimes tedious, but he could see how important they were. Harry seldom saw how important he was, and just because he made his views known in a nice if insistent manner and seldom took personal credit for things he was quickly becoming a respected and important member of the ICWW.
Ginny spent most of her free time flying. The Swiss did have a national team, and several semi-professional teams, and she had no problem finding people to fly with her. They graciously allowed her to play chaser in some games, so she got a good workout on her broom, to her total delight.
Finally Sunday July 4 arrived, with a formal closing ceremony in the afternoon followed by a big ball. Harry and Ginny actually spent a little time each day of the Conference practicing dancing, because they were told the final ball and dance was important.
That afternoon Ginny was led into the dressing room which held ball dresses for the female members of the Regent family. Adel had a gown picked out, a beautiful pastel dress that complimented her red hair, with small gems woven into it. It had full sleeves and a high neck, with beautiful detailing that enhanced her shape on top, and below her bust it was form fitting until well below her waist, highlighting her flat stomach and tiny waist. It then flared out with the sort of skirt that reminded you of every princess fairy tale dress you had ever seen. The dress covered all her scars except for a small one on her face and another on a hand; Ginny had never been gentle on her body. Adel and her staff had makeup that minimized but did not cover up the profusion of freckles that covered the visible parts of her body, and highlighted her youthful appearance.
Ginny felt like a princess. She felt like the heroine of one of the fairy tale stories she had read as a child.
Then Adel brought out the Tiara, all white platinum and gold, with jewels in it, looking like only one of the richest queens in the world could wear it. It was not a big heavy piece, but very airy and light weight. They put Ginny's hair up so that it perfectly complimented the Tiara, with just enough of her long hair hanging down to show it off.
Ginny had to turn around to make sure she had not grown wings. Then Harry walked into the room, and stopped when he looked at Ginny, delightfully surprised at what he saw. An objective observer would say that Ginny was honestly more cute than beautiful. Harry was hardly an objective observer, but even Harry knew that Ginny didn't look like Fleur, didn't look like a classic beauty. He had all sorts of adjectives to describe her, tough and determined, spirited, cute, sexy, but not elegant, not elegant in the same breath as Fleur was elegant. Tonight at least she could hold her own against Fleur or anybody. She was magnificent!
Ginny slowly turned around again.
"The most magnificent lady in the land, in the Wizarding Community. Ginevra Molly Potter, I am in awe of your beauty, fair lady," Harry said.
"You look pretty good yourself, Harry James Potter," Ginny said with a giggle.
"Tonight I shine in your reflected glory," Harry said, with a huge smile, as he took her hand and led her through the castle to the ballroom.
To Harry and Ginny's great relief the ball was just that, a dance with beautiful music and polite conversation. Harry was sure that a lot of politicking got done at affairs like this, but he did as much dancing and as little talking to people as he could, and he and Ginny enjoyed the dance. Fleur had come over to join Bill, and when they were not dancing the two couples made small talk. Fleur and Bill did make a beautiful couple, and when you saw them dancing you could almost forget how scarred Bill's face was. Part of that was due to some heavy duty makeup that Bill used for occasions like this, and the other part was the striking part Veela beauty of Fleur.
About halfway through the dance the orchestra took a short break. Bill and Harry were talking to some people, and Ginny and Fleur were briefly alone at their table, a special table for THE REGENT and Guests. It was a little apart and higher than the other tables, which made Harry uncomfortable. Ginny looked over the assembly, and then touched Fleur's beautiful dress, and then her even more magnificent dress. "It's like the ending of a fairy tale," Ginny said.
"Fairy tales end," Fleur said. "Not real life."
"At least I don't have to go back to school," Ginny said. "I finally feel like I'm growing up. This ball, then a vacation, then the Harpies. Everything is just about perfect."
As the dance was ending both Al and Gerhardt let Harry know that he and Ginny did just the right thing at the Ball.
Harry thought of the Death Eaters and others not yet captured, the two girls still kidnaped, and all the work left to be done. He was going to need a vacation to prepare him for the stressful days ahead. Life wasn't perfect but, looking at Ginny, he had to feel his life was pretty good at the moment.
Cindy Base was at the entire ICWW, focusing on Harry and Ginny and documenting at least their public appearances.
Harry and Ginny were some of the last couples on the dance floor, and after the music stopped they kept on dancing for a couple of additional minutes Tomorrow she and Harry were going on vacation, and when they got back she was going to start with the Holyhead Harpies. How could life get any better?
Ginny hugged Harry tightly and gave him a huge kiss, the joy of the moment almost overwhelming her. She then turned to Cindy, bowed, and with a wave of her hand said, "And they lived Happily Ever After."
Harry and Ginny would go on to lead a very exciting and interesting life together, as the introduction says "filled with happiness … and tears." Despite the inevitable sorrows that a long and exciting life brings they would say that they sort of came close to living Happily Ever After.
The next story in this series is "Broomsticks and Bad Guys." It will continue Harry and Ginny's journey through Ginny's career at the Harpies, but it will mostly document Harry growing in power and confidence as he and his team go after the last of the Death Eaters, and try to rescue the captured girls.