|SIYE Time:4:25 on 23rd June 2018|
Genres: Drama, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Sexual Situations, Violence
Summary: Things are not looking good for Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort has been defeated, but many of his Death Eaters are still on the loose, and Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, will not let Harry anywhere near them, insisting he needs time to recover from the trials of life on the run. And to top things off, he still can’t manage to sort things out with his ex-girlfriend, Ginny.
Hitcount: Story Total: 7510; Chapter Total: 347
Another chapter!! I’m so sorry that it took so long to update!! I almost missed my self-imposed “update-at-least-once-a-month” rule! I’ve been continuously busy with work and done some serious restructuring to this story and where I’m trying to take it. Anyways, I hope you all enjoy this chapter. It is titled after the song ‘Harness Your Hopes’ by Pavement. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist of all the songs I’ve used for chapter titles thus far and included a link on my author page. As always, thank you for reading and reviewing.
The scar ran the length of Ron's left side, starting near his hips and reaching all the way past his neck to his hairline. Every time Harry saw it a dull pit formed in his stomach. He pointed his wand at the hem of Ron's shirt, which tucked itself neatly into his trousers.
"I'm going to vomit," Ron groaned for what seemed like the twentieth time that hour.
"You're not," Harry replied again as he straightened the tie on his best friend's dress robes. Ron's nerves had been in check for most of the week up to the ceremony. However, upon waking this morning, he'd decided that Hermione had made a grave, grave mistake in agreeing to marry him, and that the best thing he could do for her was to call the whole thing off.
Though Ron's struggle with an extreme lack of confidence had mostly been overcome in the year since the war had ended, Harry suspected the emotional upheaval of the day had triggered the stifling insecurity that had plagued Ron for most of his adolescence.
Harry, also suspecting such a reaction would emerge from Ron as the happy event arrived, had already prepared his rousing speech. He took a deep breath.
"Look, Ron, why do you want to marry Hermione?"
Ron rolled his eyes. He had explained this to anyone and everyone for the last two months, and clearly found it redundant to remind Harry again.
"Because nearly dying gave me the profound realization that I want to spend the rest of my life, no matter how long or short it is, with her," Ron recited in a monotone, just as he had to his parents, to Hermione's parents, to all of their friends and siblings, and to Harry specifically, who, for the first few weeks, had had a genuinely hard time wrapping his head around the concept of his friends' brief engagement.
"Right," Harry said. "And why do you think Hermione's agreed to marry you?"
Ron's ears turned red, and he smiled in spite of himself. "Because she loves me, but I don't think she realizes-"
"'Don't think she realizes'?" Harry interrupted. "Blimey, maybe you shouldn't marry Hermione if you honestly believe you can get anything by the woman. Have you ever known her to make a choice that she hasn't first considered in at least twelve different ways?"
"Hermione knows what she's doing, and so do you," Harry said simply. "If you think you're ready, then you're ready. You've been through the war and now everything with Rowle. This is a good thing. This is what we've fought for."
Ron scowled. "You've practiced this, haven't you?" he asked.
"A bit," Harry chuckled, patting Ron on the shoulder and looking over his handiwork. He himself had chosen the dress robes in his capacity as best man and he thought Ron looked bloody smart.
There was a knock on the door, and Ginny stuck her head in the room.
"Harry?" she called with a dazzling smile. "You're needed for something downstairs."
"Right," Harry said, looking at Ron. "I'll be back to walk you down in a few minutes. Please try not to make a run for it."
"Har-har," Ron said sarcastically, but he still looked a bit nervous as he turned back to the mirror, pulling his hair around his ears in an effort to make them not stick out as much.
Harry followed Ginny out onto the landing and down the first flights of stairs.
"Who needs me?" he asked, afraid that the answer would result in him being at the command of the imperious Mrs. Weasley in the remaining hour before the ceremony began.
"I do," Ginny said, quickly grabbing him off the landing and pulling him into her darkened bedroom. She brightened the lights with a flick of her wand and turned to face him. He looked her over for the first time today, taking in her braided hair, falling in a crimson rope over her shoulder, and her dusty lilac dress, one shouldered and cinched at the waist.
She was incandescent, from every strand of copper hair to every inch of freckled skin. Harry crossed the room quickly, bringing her into his arms and kissing her soundly, pressing his tongue against her lips and revelling in her throaty sigh as she opened her mouth to accept him. One hand found its way, as it always did, to her hair, hindered in part by her plait but still managing to weave its way into the dense tresses. The other clawed at her back, bare in her open dress. He still couldn't believe that he was allowed to touch her like this; that she wanted him as much as he did her.
Unlike the summer before where grief mingled with their time apart made him hesitant, even reserved as he touched her, the recent shock of Ron's injury had caused Harry to become reckless, animalistic, and unwavering in his attention and affection. Work was gruelling still, and he felt his hours with her were far too short, but this did not hamper their time together as they had both feared it would during the last year. Rather, it made it more precious.
"Why did we wait for so long to be like this?" Harry asked, his thoughts becoming vocal as her mouth made its way to a place just below his ear.
"Because we're fools," Ginny replied. Harry sighed and ducked his head, biting her shoulder gently.
"I love you," he murmured into her neck. She pressed her mouth to his temple.
"I love you so much," she said. This was how it had been, since the night at the hospital. Harry could not declare his adoration enough, and she always reciprocated simply, warmly, passionately, in full. Harry sometimes wondered if she was trying to make up for him going most of his life without hearing the words; a thought that might've embarrassed him once, but now resulted only in his sheer happiness.
Harry lifted her chin so that she was looking up at him and smiled softly, gesturing down to the marquee below.
"D'you think this will be us soon?" he asked.
Ginny laughed. "Watch it, Potter," she said. "It's only been two months, you don't want to scare me off."
"I'm serious, Ginny," Harry said, drawing her in and wrapping both arms around her.
"What's the rush?" Ginny said. "The war's over… we have time."
"Rowle-" Harry began.
"Is a concern," Ginny finished. "There will always been Dark wizards, Harry. I know the risks of being with you, and they don't scare me. I don't need a ring to know that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together."
Harry's breath caught in his throat. "Really?" he asked dubiously.
"You're telling me that you feel differently?" Ginny challenged. "This… this is it for me. I love you, you giant sap. I want to share everything with you."
"Me, too," he said thickly, cursing his inarticulacy. "I love you."
Ginny kissed him then, her lips parting slowly as she gently pressed her tongue against his. "Come on," she said, breaking away. "We really are needed. I've told Hermione I'd gone to get more Sleekeazy's, but really I just wanted to see you in your dress robes. And Mum wants you to get Ron downstairs so he can be on time for his big entrance."
Harry groaned, leaning back from her and straightening the front of his robes. She adjusted her dress, tugging it down a bit to reveal even more of her freckled chest, and looked to Harry suggestively.
"Stop it," he huffed.
She chuckled and walked out the door onto the landing. Harry followed, reaching out impulsively to grab at her bottom, hidden away underneath all the chiffon. Ginny jumped in surprise and turned, laughing, to swat him across the chest.
"If you ever try that again you'll have bogeys flying out of your nose before you can say 'Sorry, Ginny,'" she threatened playfully.
"Glad to see that you can defend your own honor, sweet sister," a voice said from the landing above.
Harry turned bright red and cursed under his breath. George and Angelina were making their way down the stairs from George's room, hand-in-hand. Angelina looked decidedly pretty in her pale pink gown, which clashed fantastically with George's hair and signature magenta robes.
"Hullo," Ginny said pleasantly.
"Hello, yourself," George replied with a smirk, reaching them on the landing. His spirits seemed better than Harry had seen them since Fred's death, and he blessedly seemed not to mind Harry's rare and unusually indelicate display of intimacy.
Still, George had been one of the few people who had known, definitely, of Harry and Ginny's past relationship, which he tactfully chose not to ignore in this moment, instead running a hand across a dusty picture on the wall of the staircase, displaying the family on vacation in Egypt six years prior. "You two ready for what is sure to be an epic shit show?" he asked.
Harry and Ginny blanched at his tone, for even in their most private moments together, neither voiced their doubts at Ron and Hermione's impending union, knowing that if their roles were reversed they wouldn't want the other couple thinking ill of them. Yet, these doubts existed still, as small, unsaid words avoided in nearly every conversation.
Harry understood Ron's logic, understood the appeal declaring, in front of nearly everyone he had ever known, that he loved Hermione and was prepared to spend the rest of his life with her. He felt the ache too, to settle down with Ginny now and assert that this was how it would be forever, for some glimmer of certainty in this new muddled world of theirs.
After the war and Ron's injury, Ron and Hermione now were largely willing to give into the desires and needs of each other with admirable self-sacrifice. Harry only worried that it would not be that way twenty years down the line…
Beyond that, it all seemed annoyingly grown-up, after only a year of Harry finally feeling as though he had some semblance of his youth restored to him. Granted, most 19-year-olds weren't trained professionals trying to track down terrorist holdouts after the bloodiest war their country had seen in several hundred years. But Harry, Ron, and Hermione had always been doing that to an extent. Marriage was yet another step that indicated his best friends were moving away from him, and Harry couldn't help but be nostalgic for the time that he was the glue that held them together.
"It does feel a bit rushed," Ginny allowed. "I think they'll stick it out, though. I mean, everyone expecting you to fail is a great reason not to. "
"Wow," George said appreciatively. "And they haven't asked you to give a speech? That was moving."
Ginny rolled her eyes. Harry was saved from having to make any additional comment by the appearance of Mrs. Weasley, who seemed to be ready to breathe fire as she saw them standing on the landing.
"I'm sorry," she voiced shrilly. "I'm simply struggling to understand why, when I've got nearly two hundred guests in the garden expecting a wedding in twenty minutes, you lot have seen fit to have a nice chat in the hallway. Ginny, you told me you'd have Harry bring Ron down nearly half-an-hour ago!"
"Sorry, Mum," Ginny murmured, turning to go back upstairs, presumably to fetch Hermione from Percy's room, where she was getting ready. Harry, blushing, followed her, leaving the others on the landing.
As Ginny reached the bedroom she gave Harry's hand a small squeeze.
"I'll see you in a bit," she said with a dazzling smile before disappearing behind the door.
Harry trudged to the final landing and let himself back into Ron's room. The groom was sitting dejectedly on his bed, holding an empty glass. A bottle of Firewhisky was on the nightstand.
"Er- is that wise?" Harry asked, gesturing to the bottle.
"I need some liquid courage to propel me down the aisle," Ron said glumly.
"You act like this wasn't your idea," Harry reminded him, exasperated. "No one is holding a wand to your head."
"I want to do this!" Ron said sharply. "But I'm starting to really feel the pressure, you know? What if I can't, you know, give her the life she wants? Or what if something happens and I get all terrible and walk out again…"
"You won't do that," Harry said forcefully. "You've grown more than you realize since the war. Ron, this is a good thing."
"I suppose," Ron mumbled. "Are they waiting for us, then?
"Yup," Harry replied drily.
Ron reached to grab for the Firewhisky but Harry beat him there. He opened a drawer in Ron's desk and shoved the bottle inside, closing it roughly.
"There will be plenty of time for that once you've said your vows," Harry said. "Let's go."
Ron stood, grumbling a bit, but the two made their way down the stairs and through the kitchen. The guests had all been seated, and Harry and Ron ducked around to the corner of the tent and quietly took their places at the front of the altar.
Harry looked out across the sea of faces, nearly all of them familiar. Ron and Hermione had invited the entirety of the Order and the D.A. to their celebration, and Harry spotted several members of the Ministry as well. Hermione had done well in her first months there, despite Ron's injury, and last Harry had heard, was a contender to head her department when she and Ron returned from their honeymoon.
The Weasleys and Mrs. Granger were sat in the front row of chairs, and as Harry and Ron stood tall in front of the tufty-haired man presiding over the ceremony, the sounds of a harp began to emanate throughout the marquee.
Ron turned sharply to face the aisle, where Ginny was now standing, holding a bouquet of baby's-breath. She smiled slowly and began walking down the center of the tent, revealing Hermione and Mr. Granger behind her.
Ron took a quick shaking breath, and when Harry glanced at his best friend's face, he saw wetness in his blue eyes.
Harry glanced back at Ginny, walking down the aisle towards him now, and for a moment his imagination let himself believe that this was his wedding, that Ginny was walking towards him now so that they could be wed, and a sickening happiness formed deeply in his stomach. He tore himself out of his reverie and forced himself to give his attention to Hermione as every pair of eyes in the garden turned towards her.
The dress was simple in a way that could only be expected of Hermione. The high neck and capped sleeves were of a modest cut, and the gown itself was devoid of any embellishment, save for a small studded belt cinching at the waist. Hermione's hair had been sculpted back (certainly with more than one bottle of Sleekeazy's) into a feminine knot near the nape of her neck, from where was fastened a long veil.
She was breathtaking.
Ron's face immediately broke into an utterly dopey grin, and he looked as though he wanted to sprint down the aisle to meet her half way. He began bouncing on the balls of his feet, and the tiny wizard presiding over the ceremony gave a small cough in Harry's direction.
Harry considered briefly laying a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder, but ultimately decided against it as Ginny reached the altar and took her place on the opposite side of the tufty-haired man. She smiled brightly at Harry, who felt his heart rate pick up rapidly as he contemplated how much he wanted her.
He forced himself to turn back to Hermione, who by this point had reached the altar. Mr. Granger kissed her cheek briefly before leaving to take his seat beside Hermione's mother. Ron grabbed her hand happily as the couple repositioned themselves in front of their friends and family.
The tufty-haired wizard cleared his throat.
"We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Ronald and Hermione in marriage…" he began, and Harry watched a single tear fell down Hermione's cheek. He felt himself relax, letting the words of the ceremony wash over him a gentle hum.
Mrs. Weasley was crying quietly in the front row, and Ron and Hermione began to say their vows, describing a love everlasting and a commitment that wouldn't weather through even the deepest of adversities.
Harry caught Ginny's eye over Hermione's shoulder and smiled. She winked in return and Harry was overwhelmed with a sudden sense of warmth, as though suddenly everything in his world had been made beautiful and sound.
The tufty-haired wizard - Truly, Harry wondered, who the hell was this man? - had finished speaking and, as the guests rose from their seats with thunderous applause, Ron and Hermione kissed for the first time as a married couple. Harry gazed out in front of him as tables appeared under the marquee and all of their friends and family began milling about in search of places to sit.
Ron and Hermione joined hands and moved towards a tide of well-wishers as Harry sought out Ginny, wanting nothing more than to be near her as the festivities began. Their dual role as maid-of-honor and best man ensured that they could remain close throughout the evening without drawing suspicion, but Harry still had to check himself in his effort to avoid grabbing at her waist, remembering that this was Ron and Hermione's celebration, and not his own.
Harry followed Ginny towards the back of the tent, where the wedding party was to sit at a long, rectangular table. They quickly found their places and waited for the rest of the seats to fill. Waiters bearing flutes of champagne appeared in front of them, and Harry grabbed one, tossing it back in a quick swig.
"Watch it," Ginny laughed. "Your track record with booze isn't spectacular."
"Let's get trashed and make fools of ourselves," Harry replied, the champagne making him giddy.
Ginny was soon joined by Mr. and Mrs. Granger at the bride's end of the table, and Harry by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley at the groom's side. Harry smiled as he watched Ginny demonstrate how the menus at each setting worked, looking at the empty goblet before her and murmuring "Elderflower mead."
The glass filled quickly to the brim, much to the Grangers' astonishment.
"But surely that won't work for us," Mrs. Granger voiced awkwardly.
"I'm not actually doing magic," Ginny kindly explained. "The table settings are enchanted, of course, but the waiters don't care if you can perform magic or not; they're the ones hearing your command and serving everything."
Mr. Granger looked down as though expecting a waiter to appear from under the tablecloth with his wand drawn. Harry personally thought they were bearing up reasonably well for being the only Muggles at the wedding of their only child. Harry thought of the Dursleys, a rare occurrence, and had a private smile at the idea of his relatives at a Wizarding wedding.
Most of Hermione's family wasn't aware of her status as a witch, as the International Statute of Secrecy forbade all but the closest of Muggle relatives from knowing of the existence of the Wizarding World.
The original plan for the wedding had been for the ceremony to take place at the church where Hermione had been baptized, with Ron's family doing their best to blend in to the Muggle festivities. However, it quickly became apparent that it was easier for the couple to leave most of the organization of the event to Mrs. Weasley, while Ron and Hermione focused on the former's recovery and the latter's new career with the Ministry. Thus, the location of the ceremony had been changed to the Burrow, and only Mr. and Mrs. Granger and Hermione's aged grandmother, Jean, had been invited to the ceremony.
"She's so batty she probably won't even notice her champagne pouring itself," Hermione's mother had said with a dismissive wave of her hand the night before the ceremony, after Mrs. Weasley had voiced concerns about Grandmum Jean's possible confusion regarding the festivities.
"We've told her that you're hippies," Mr. Granger had told the Weasleys conspiratorially. Harry nearly choked on his wine as he laughed at the bemused expressions on Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's face. Hermione had thumped him on the back, turning bright red.
Ron and Hermione had pushed their way through the crowd of guests to the table, and sat down. Both were grinning from ear to ear, and Ron grabbed two champagne glasses out of the air, handing one to Hermione. She reached out for it and Ron took her hand, pressing a gentle kiss to it. Hermione leaned forward and whispered something in his ear.
Harry looked down to one of the adjacent tables and watched Charlie put his wand to his throat.
"Alright, you lot," Ron's older brother boomed across the marquee. "Find your places, it's time for toasts."
The wave of guests began to sit, so that Harry could see better who was present. He waved to Neville and Luna, sitting amongst Ron and Hermione's Hogwarts roommates at a table adjacent to Ron's brothers. Grandmum Jean appeared to have fallen asleep in her space next to Ron's Auntie Muriel, who was prodding at her rather rudely. Harry attempted to hide his smile.
Dinner appeared on their plates and goblets were raised in toast to the couple. Mr. Granger gave a moving speech on the importance of unity and partnership, followed by Ginny, who read a passage from a favorite Muggle novel of Hermione's.
George was next, giving an impassioned description of what an utter nag Hermione was to himself and Fred during their five shared years at school, before ultimately asserting that Hermione's disapproval had motivated the twins more than anything else to succeed in establishing Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. By the end of his speech Hermione was wiping quite repeatedly at her eyes with the corner of her napkin.
Harry was last, and as he stood awkwardly every head under the tent turned to face him. He took a deep breath and took a scrap of paper out of his pocket.
"You think I'd be used to everyone staring by now," he said. The crowd tittered quietly. Harry continued, looking down at his sheet. "Er, I'm Harry, the best man."
The guests laughed openly this time at Harry's useless introduction.
"I thought about using this speech to describe how Ron and Hermione were my first friends, all the trouble we got into in school, how they followed me into the most dangerous of situations - but then I realized that you could read all about that in Rita Skeeter's new book, which is coming out next month, so I won't spoil it for all of you."
There was another wave of laughter, and Harry tugged at the collar of his robes.
"Er- It's hard, I suppose, when the people that you've done everything with for the last eight years suddenly go off by themselves, but seeing Ron and Hermione together, it doesn't feel like such a bad thing. It's, er, a beautiful thing, how much they love each other."
He turned to face Ron and Hermione directly, and saw that Hermione was crying in earnest now, and that Hermione's blue eyes looked a bit misty as well.
"You're both kind, you're both brave, you're both funny, you're both loving, and I can't think of two people who deserve each other more. Really, you two are the best friends I could ask for. And, more importantly, you're the best together. I wish you all the happiness in the world."
The tent erupted into applause, and the band began playing, signalling the end of the speeches.
Ron and Hermione both stood and drew Harry in to a great hug. Hermione kissed his cheek and Ron clapped Harry on the back, clearing his throat as the guests returned to their food and conversation.
"Why don't we all take a picture together?" Hermione suggested happily, wiping at her cheeks.
"Where's that damned photographer?" Ron said gruffly, attempting to recover some of his composure.
Harry quickly volunteered to find the man, and his quest led him past an old witch talking loudly to a table of wizards who all looked as though they had been born no later than the nineteenth century. Harry attempted to hurry by without attracting any attention, but unfortunately tripped on the leg of the witch's chair, causing her seat to shoot backwards with a large thump.
"Sorry, Muriel," Harry huffed.
"You presume to address me in such a familiar tone when we have yet to be introduced?" Muriel shouted, turning to address him, her eyes widening just slightly as she took in the messy black hair and lightning-shaped scar. She seemed to take it in stride, however, as she continued to address him. "I care not a whit whether or not you're Harry Potter. I'm a hundred and nine and shall be spoken to accordingly."
"Er-" Harry said, for he had forgotten that he had been disguised as an imaginary Weasley cousin, Barny, when he had first met Ron and Ginny's Aunt Muriel. "Yeah, you're right, it's, er, nice to meet-"
"Harry?" a quiet voice cut across. "Could I borrow you for a moment?"
Harry turned and smiled graciously at his rescuer. "Thanks - I mean, sure, Andromeda."
He followed after her without much thought to Muriel, who had resumed talking to the wizards at her table, this time about Rita Skeeter's forthcoming biography of Harry.
"You saved me," Harry told the older witch gratefully.
Andromeda smiled wryly. "I've been at the receiving end of one of Muriel's rants before. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
Harry took a moment to wonder when Muriel and Andromeda might have crossed paths before tonight, but saw that Andromeda had led him to a table quite near the dance floor. She looked out across the sea of guests.
"A young French girl took quite an interest in Teddy and scooped him up to play," she said, a hint of worry in her voice. "I was keeping an eye on him, but I had to use the lavatory. I do hope he's alright."
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Harry said, though he, too, found himself looking for Teddy amongst the crowd of dancers. He and Andromeda watched the floor silently for a moment.
"Perhaps you'll be next?" she asked, nodding in the direction of Ron and Hermione in the center of the dance floor. Ron kept stumbling and Hermione, her face a deep crimson, was making more of an effort to keep him upright than do any actual dancing.
"What do you know?" Harry asked her with a chuckle.
Andromeda gave one of her wonderfully baying laughs. "Only what I see," she admitted. "But all evening I've been watching you stare rather openly at your friend's little sister, the one I met in Diagon Alley last year. She does look lovely in purple."
Harry blushed, but inclined his head in respect to her observation. "She does," he agreed.
"Do her parents know about your attachment?" she wondered, taking a sip from her champagne flute.
Harry thought for a moment. "It's been going on for awhile," he said. "They may. We don't discuss it much with the others, though."
"A secret romance?" Andromeda pushed.
Harry shook his head. "It took us awhile to sort ourselves out, so we kept everything quiet at first… and now… I mean, we don't want to steal Ron and Hermione's thunder… there's not been a good time to bring it up, I suppose. I've known them all for ages, and they've been the closest thing I have to family. I can't imagine saying, 'By the way, Bill, I've been involved with Ginny for two years now,' over tea one day."
"I'm sure they know more than they let on," Andromeda mused. Harry glanced at her again. She looked more relaxed, having finally located Teddy, who was was trotting around the dancefloor, laughing and waving his arms while followed closely by Fleur's younger sister, Gabrielle. Harry cleared his throat.
"I - er, I had something I actually wanted to discuss with you," he said, feeling a moment of anxiety wash over him.
"Yes?" Andromeda asked. Harry shifted his gaze to the ground.
"Well… Ron and Hermione have got a house now, close to here, so they're leaving our flat in London. I was thinking I might turn the empty bedroom into a place for Teddy. I could get everything new… toys and books and all of that… and maybe he could start having overnights with me." Harry looked back at Andromeda hopefully.
She regarded him for a moment, taking another drink from her champagne flute. The silence hovered awkwardly between them as she lowered her glass.
"There is a group for the spouses of Muggle-borns killed during the war," she said. "They meet on Tuesdays at eight o'clock… quite late when one is raising a child."
Harry grinned, his venture to find the photographer long forgotten. "Tuesdays are good for me," he said happily, glancing across the dance floor. Teddy had torn the sash off of Gabrielle's dress, and she looked close to tears as he held it happily over his head.
Ron and Hermione had been sent off on their honeymoon; a two week trip to the south of France paid for by the bride's parents. The guests had left; some off to the Leaky Cauldron for another drink, generously supplied by apprentice landlady Hannah Abbott, while most of the Weasleys had retreated to their living room to toast the happy couple and listen to a Celestina Warbeck special that Mrs. Weasley was greatly anticipating, even in light of the recent nuptials.
Harry and Ginny remained, ostensibly to help direct the waiters and caterers in the process of cleaning up from the event, but now they were sitting easily in the gilded chairs, each nursing a beer as they watched the band pack up their instruments.
"I'm happy for them," Ginny said softly. "I think… I don't know what I think. I want to judge Ron for the cliché of it. Near-death experience followed by proposal, the whole deal, but I think I understand it. We're young… but we're not."
"I can't remember ever really feeling like a kid," Harry admitted. "I've been thinking about, you know, if I ever have a family, I'll want to make dead sure that my kids have the most normal lives imaginable. No secrets, no Dark magic, no need to restructure an entire society. Just Quidditch and Exploding Snap and Chocolate Frogs."
He turned to see Ginny smiling kindly at him.
"Oh, Harry," she said with a giggle. "All of that will be completely out of your control, you know."
Harry shrugged. "I suppose. I've just been thinking about it a lot lately."
"Having children?" Ginny asked, a note of surprise in her voice.
"Yeah. Not now, obviously, not for a long while, but one day. I just think it would be nice to actually have living, flesh-and-blood family for once. Apart from the Muggles, I mean."
Ginny gave him another appraising stare before settling more comfortably in her seat.
"Okay," she said. Harry stretched beside her, placing a hand on her knee and relaxing back. Nighttime had somewhat cooled the oppressive August heat, but Harry was torn between wanting to stay with Ginny here forever and going back to the house to change out of his robes.
"Do you really have to leave for training on Monday?" he asked her.
"I really do," she replied.
"Will you dance with me?" he murmured, gesturing towards the empty floor.
Ginny smiled. "You don't dance. I remember watching you during the Yule Ball."
"That," Harry said pointedly, "was a long time ago." And with a smile he reached out his hand to her.
She took it, setting down her beer bottle, and he guided her past the empty tables to the center of the marquee, where he pulled her into him. They began to sway to the sounds of crickets and calm night winds that moved through the grasses around the home. He felt awkward at first, but remembered that there was only Ginny here, and that though she would likely always tease him, she loved him and wanted to be close to him, now and always.
"You didn't dance at Bill's wedding, either," Ginny said, leaning into his shoulder.
"Well, there was only one person I would've wanted to dance with then," Harry mused. "And her brother had instructed me very specifically to steer clear of her."
Ginny pulled back from him for a moment, eyes wide. "You never told me that!"
"Didn't I?" Harry asked, looking down at her. "After he walked in on us kissing on my birthday, Ron told me not to 'mess you around' anymore."
Ginny looked thoughtful for a moment but then her posture relaxed. "Stupid git," she muttered under her breath. Harry was silent.
They danced quietly for a few more minutes before Ginny spoke again.
"Do you remember when Ron told you to ask me to the Yule Ball?" she wondered. "But I'd already agreed to go with Neville?"
Harry closed his eyes and pressed his cheek against her skull. "Vaguely?" he replied honestly. "I definitely remember not being able to find anyone to go with me, and that you were there."
Ginny snorted. "I was so angry at myself," she admitted. "I stormed off to an empty classroom and set about twenty tapestries on fire for missing the chance to go out with you."
"Really?" Harry asked. He was truly struggling to ever remember Ron suggesting that he go to the ball with Ginny. Perhaps Ron had never been as put-out with Harry dating his sister as he had always implied.
Ginny nodded into his chest.
"You could've told Neville your plans had changed," Harry said, looking down at her. "Ron and I would've done the same to Parvati and Padma if Fleur and Cho had suddenly become available."
"Ron, maybe," Ginny said with a snort. "I don't know about you though. Your weak spot for Cho Chang has always been one of your least-redeeming features, but I don't believe you'd've really left Parvati in the lurch. You're better than that."
Harry decided to take the compliment, knowing full-well if Cho had decided he'd been a more worthy date than Cedric Diggory he would've left Parvati without second thought. But Ginny was so good, and loyal, he knew exactly why she'd still gone with Neville, and loved her for it. It seemed a hundred years ago now, though it would only be five years that winter. He was suddenly overwhelmed with how far behind him his childhood truly was.
As if reading his thoughts, Ginny spoke quietly.
"Are you afraid?" she asked.
"Of the future."
Harry thought about this for a moment, considering his words carefully before he answered. He had thought, after the Battle, that facing death would be the most difficult thing he'd ever do. But Dumbledore was right, had always been right; there were many worse things than one's own death, and Harry had little desire to confront any of them right now, or in the near future. But afraid? Afraid, with Ron and Hermione married, with Teddy Lupin happy and healthy, with Ginny Weasley, flesh and blood and a beating heart, clutched in his arms at this moment?
"No," he said slowly. "I'm not. I think - I think I made the mistake of thinking everything would be easy, after Voldemort; that the war itself was the difficult part. I mean, it was, but this aftermath has been anything but great. But… I don't know, Ginny, just because my life isn't easy doesn't mean it has to be difficult, either."
Ginny gazed up at him expectantly. Harry took a deep breath before continuing.
"There's no prophecy, no Dark Lord dogging my footsteps everywhere I turn. Fate will lead where it will, and when it's time for the end, it's time for the end. But… I still worry. I worry about you getting hurt all the time, and Ron and Hermione, too. I think that fear is inevitable, even if Rowle and the Lestranges weren't on the loose."
Ginny didn't say anything for a moment, but sighed instead, looking out from under the roof of the marquee and biting her lip.
"I worry about you, too," she admitted. "I wouldn't have you any other way, Harry. I love that you'll never be content to be idle, that you will always need to fight for what is good… but after everything that happened during the war, after seeing you in Hagrid's arms… I don't want you to think that because I've accepted who you are means that I'm happy about it."
Harry smirked. "That's really good to know, actually, because the last time I was stuck in the woods with Killing Curses whizzing over my head, all I could think was 'I bet Ginny's really pleased about this.'"
Ginny pressed her face closer to his chest. "Don't joke," she said.
"Oi," Harry said gently. "Look at me."
She turned towards him, reaching a hand up to smooth down some of the rogue hairs sticking out of his head.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said.
"Neither am I," she said, jutting out her chin defiantly, and Harry took this as his cue to lift her face to his and gently press his lips to hers as they continued to twirl around the dancefloor.
It seemed as though they'd been linked like this for hours when suddenly a great burst of cacophonous sound erupted from all around them. Harry jumped, as he always did at loud noises, with his hand flying to his wand, pushing Ginny protectively behind him as he turned, ready to face whatever terror was sure to find him, here in this place that he felt most safe.
But he quickly realized that what he feared was nothing that could be confronted with a wand, as the sound that had started him so thoroughly was the applause of all the Weasleys (sans Ron and Hermione) and Angelina Johnson, who were standing at the far end of the dance floor laughing at the young couple and holding several bottles of champagne.
"We were going to have a nightcap," Charlie called good-naturedly, lifting up a bottle of champagne in offering. "George said we should make sure to find you for the toast, but I'd reckon we've gotten a bit more than we bargained for."
Mrs. Weasley looked at her middle child, wide-eyed. "George! Did you know we'd find them like this?"
George flashed a gleeful smile. "I'd hoped they'd be in a greater state of undress, actually. But this will have to do."
"George!" Mr. Weasley warned, turning quite red. Harry found himself suddenly wishing he had chosen to board that train at King's Cross last year when Dumbledore had given him the chance.
Ginny stuck her head out from behind Harry's shoulder to glare at George. "I can't believe you!" she spat. "I didn't tell anyone about you and Amélie and Dad's Firewhisky!"
Fleur's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Amélie?" she wondered. "My cousin?" And then the blue orbs widened in sudden understanding. "Tu es l'homme qui a vomi sur ma cousine et lui a dit que tu t'appelles Abelard?"
George gazed innocently at Fleur, whose face had changed into an expression quite frightening at this point, practically spitting as she gesticulated wildly and continued to shout. "Je savais qu'il n'y avait personne appelé "Abelard" à mon mariage! Tu as ruiné sa robe!" Bill tactfully led her away before she could say any more, and they all listened in silence for a few moments as her fading voice continued to berate George in French.
"Well," George said. "Thanks for that, Ginny. But really, it should be you who's thanking me."
"How do you figure that one?" Ginny asked contemptuously.
"Everyone knows now," George said. "And you didn't have to awkwardly worry about how to tell us all that you're back together-"
"Back together?" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed, her voice a bit weak.
George ignored his mother and continued. "And you didn't have to worry about everyone talking about you behind your backs, speculating about what the two of you are up to. And now you can just be together, without worrying about what anyone will think. It's bloody brilliant."
For the first time, Harry really looked at Angelina, who was smiling just a bit more widely than the rest of the family assembled around the dance floor. Beside him, Ginny relaxed, humbled.
"Well, yeah, I suppose you're right," she muttered in a rare moment of defeat.
Percy immediately seized the chance to deflect the awkwardness of the situation by raising his champagne flute. Angelina turned to beam at George. He grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips.
"Ron and Hermione," Percy said. "Ad multos annos!"
"Ad multos annos," Harry murmured, bringing his glass to his lips.
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