Wedding preparations at the Burrow and Harry moves back to Hogwart's
It was a Saturday dawn, in the Weasley house Molly was already up making the kitchen ready to prepare breakfast for her brood as well as the guests, Monsieur et Madame Delacours and their delightful daughter Gabrielle. She was so thankful that Arthur's promotion and subsequent rise had allowed them to 'smarten up' the Burrow so that all the guests who wanted could have their own rooms, Fleur and Gabrielle had chosen to room together while Bill slept in his old room as Percy, Molly sighed heavily to think of her estranged son, Percy wouldn't even RSVP the wedding invitation. The owl had returned the invite unopened.
Ginny appeared in the doorway looking sleep tussled (and a bit sleep deprived) and said "Hi Mum, need a hand?"
"Thank you dear, roll out the croissants?"
The petite redhead, well they were all redheads but she was definitely the petite one, nodded yawning and floured her hands before taking on the task of rolling out the pastry dough and forming the crescent shaped tubes that would rise to flaky perfection in two dozen minutes in the vast Weasley ovens. The smells of breakfast, melting butter, flour and moist dough along with the wood burning in the ovens made the kitchen everyone's favorite room in the Burrow. She knew the smell of baking would permeate every room in the house and bring all the Weasley men to the table in short order.
She sprinkled the work surface with flour. Rolled the dough until it was a generous 10"-X-38" rectangle, and, most importantly, about Â¼" thick. This is a crucial dimension, since it determines the size and texture of the croissants. She then trimmed off any irregularities to make the strip uniform in width. Then she cut the strip lengthwise to make two 5" pieces. Marking the strip into triangles, 5" wide on the bottom and using a yardstick as a guide, she cut through the dough with a pastry knife. She then separated the triangles, placing them on a baking sheet, to chill for 15 to 20 minutes. After which she would roll the dough into the traditional croissant shape, by rolling the triangle from the bottom to the point.
After a quarter hour had passed she placed the croissants on baking sheets to allow them to rise for just over an hour, in which they would double in volume.
Ginny pictured herself someday in her own kitchen cooking and baking for her own family, usually the patriarch of the family was a raven haired man with spectacles. She sighed heavily wondering when and if she would hear from him again; she had so much she wanted to tell him. Surely, surely he would be here for the wedding.
Upstairs Ron was tip-toeing down the hallway so that he could sneak into the room that Hermione was sharing with Ginny. He had heard his little sister clomping down the stairs and knew this was a good opportunity to get some alone time with his bushy haired girlfriend. He spared a thought for his best friend, wondering if he'd gone off on his own to search for the horcruxes. He hoped Harry would be at the wedding this weekend. He had a lot he wanted to tell him.
Hermione lay awake on the cot listening for the squeaking floorboards that signaled Ron's latest attempt to get her alone. She wasn't worried; the colloportus spell wouldn't let anyone but her and Ginny open the door and she wasn't opening the door. The first morning he came to her she thought the idea of it was sweet but the reality of it was a combination of overnight chin bristle, morning breath and clumsy fumbling groping. All this had pretty much put her off morning visits. After breakfast they could walk around the pond, in clear view of the house so that Ron couldn't get 'carried away.' She thought of Harry for the millionth time that summer, hoping he was safe, wherever he was. She prayed again to the Goddess Saint Brigid for his safety and happiness. She hoped that she would get to see him at least once more before he disappeared from their lives, for she had no doubt that he would. He would reason that searching out and destroying the horcruxes was too dangerous a risk to share and he would somehow force them away, somehow keep his friends from joining him in his dangerous quest. She knew Harry. She needed to see him; she had to tell him how she felt about him before he could leave. She also knew he would be at the wedding this weekend.
"Hermione," Ron whispered urgently, "lemme in, it's Ron!"
She stretched, placed both hands behind her head and smiled.
Molly checked the ovens and saw they were at the perfect temperature 425Â°F (220Â°C). She called over to Ginevra and opened the doors so that she could place the four large baking sheets onto the racks, which she did two at a time. Molly nodded her approval; Ginny was turning out to be quite the baker herself. And the Delacours raved over their croissants in the morning - high praise indeed coming from the Parisians. Molly knew the secret; the secret was to not use magic in the cooking. Conjured food or even food 'helped along' with magic never tasted as good.
She hoped Ginny would find her match, she prayed that it would be Harry, and that together with Hermione and Ron they could become one big happy Weasley family. She'd had the 'talk' with Ginevra and her little girl had indicated that she was ready to do whatever it took to make Harry see that they were meant for each other. Molly reached into her pocket and grasped the vial tightly, the same one she had used in her sixth year at Hogwarts, the one that convinced Arthur Weasley that they were destined for each other. She felt a small pang of guilt for the nature of the 'capture,' but reasoned that it had worked out for the best for her and Arthur; surely it would work out as well for Ginny and Harry.
She just had to make sure that Harry got the right glass for the wedding toast.
Arthur Weasley rolled out of bed deftly slipping his feet into the fuzzy bunny slippers which yawned and blinked as he stood up ready to face the day. He shuffled into the only private bathroom in the Burrow to perform his morning ablutions. As he used his wand tip to charm the overnight stubble off his face he stared hard at his reflection. The image that looked back was balding, thin but with a noticeable paunch about his waist. He wasn't old by wizarding standards, but he was tired. What was that wonderful muggle saying? Oh yes, it's not the years, it's the mileage. Right now he was feeling like a million miles over bad roads. He thought of his children, how hard he'd had to work to keep food on the table and he thought of his pride and joy, little Ginevra. He remembered his own youthful obsessions, including one Molly Prewett and how one day he had thrown all his careful planning and caution to the wind and bedded her - before either were really ready for it (hence their eldest son, Bill). Come to think of it, they had been going at it like rabbits ever since, this made him grin as he thought of his "Molly Wobbles." He sighed as he remembered he had a daughter of his own now, and while he loved Harry like a son he needed to have a 'talk' with the young man. He'd be able to catch the lad at the wedding tomorrow.
Gabrielle stretched her lithe newly pubescent body. At twelve 'little' Gabrielle was anything but. She had the body of an Olympic gymnast albeit tall for her age. Her Veela blood forced her to endure precocious puberty, with all that entailed; the good and the bad. She could barely stand to be around kids her own age now and sought out the company of her elders. There was serious talk of advancing her to the next year so that she would not be so physically different from her classmates, she was all for it, academically she was on a par with 'Ermione herself at the same age and would welcome an intellectual challenge. She was not surprised to find her sister gone from the bed; she was, of course, with her betrothed. Fleur had left the room just after the last Weasley could be heard galumphing off to bed. She shook her head at the thought of so many redheads, so many young men, all with long noses, big hands and feet . . . So her sister was off enjoying Bill's 'long assets' while Gabrielle slept. Mon dieu, did Mme. Weasley not know she couldn't keep a Veela apart from her mate? Could anyone be so, qui est si ignorant tellement simple, yes so simple and so ignorant? The Weasley Matriarch had been young once, perhaps she just chose 'not to see.' Her thoughts returned yet again to the object of her undying affection and thought, "surely he has not seen a Veela in her full glory, I will see him tomorrow, and if I have my way, we will not talk . . . much!"
Two doors down a clinically exhausted Bill Weasley was enjoying a short nap. Fleur had literally worn him out that night; they had surely tested the silencing charms and various contraceptive potions to their limits as well as the replenishing potion and the wide array of magical aphrodisiacs, Fleur was just beginning to stir and he groaned as he reached for the salve that worked on scrapes and abrasions, rug burns and rubbed-raw willies. He didn't have a thought to spare for Harry, if he had it was completely lost in the haze of a burst of powerful Veela pheromones.
At Grimmauld Place Remus Lupin stretched and turned on his side his face colliding with a mass of bubble-gum pink spiky hair. His 'time of the month' was fast approaching, tonight would be a full moon and at the waxing of the moon, so close, he tended to let the animal out, much to Nymphadora's delight. He smiled as he remembered the night before and the one before that and the one before that when his thoughts turned to Harry. He hadn't heard from the pup in weeks and that thought gave him a pang of guilt. The Order of the Phoenix seemed to be reestablishing itself, with himself the unofficial leader. The Order, however, needed something or someone to galvanize it into a cohesive working unit once again.
Remus needed to talk to Harry in the worst way. He knew he would see him on Sunday. He and Harry needed to have a nice long talk.
Harry and his company, Avalon Ninth, Second Brigade arrived in Hogsmeade in an impressive feat of apparation. The entire company, in formation, with British Army PLCE Bergens on their backs marched smartly up the road leading to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Citizens of Hogsmeade were stirred by the sight of all those young men and women dedicated to preserving the peace and protecting the citizens of the magical community. Spies quickly sent word by owl and apparation that there was a military presence at Hogwarts. The master would want to know.
When the Fighting Ninth arrived at Hogwarts the gates were being held open by Argus Filch and the pathway to the main hall entrance was lined with teachers and staff to welcome their protectors. Many of those watching dabbed the corners of their eyes as the young men and women in uniform passed.
Staff Sergeant McClaggan called "Comp - nay . . . Halt!" and the formation halted and stood still as statues as the commander and his staff addressed the Headmistress.
"With your permission ma'am, Avalon Ninth Company, Second Brigade wishes to billet here, if it is not too great a hardship. We shall of course recompense you for any additional cost this may entail" then he added with a wink, "and we won't even leave any messes around the castle."
Headmistress McGonagall smiled and said, "you are all welcome, Commander, please consider our home to be your home for as long as is necessary." Then she added a wink of her own and said in a low voice, "you scamp, I noticed you didn't say you wouldn't make any messes while you're here!"
"No ma'am, I try not to make any promises that I don't know I can keep."
"Sergeant! Have the troops fall out and take seats in the great hall."
"Aye sir! Comp - nay, you heard the Skipper, fall out and take seats!"
Forty eight aurors moved smartly into the great hall where they sat in four even rows on opposite sides of two tables. The headmistress addressed the group from the floor of the great hall.
"Welcome to Hogwarts! Or rather I should say, welcome back to Hogwarts for I see many faces that I recognize from our most recent graduating classes, and some from classes past. Your Staff Sergeant has your room assignments, I hope you don't mind staying in the quarters that you may have only vacated a few weeks ago, but I assure you the linens have been changed" this elicited chuckles from the group "and the food is as good as you remember it!"
The last announcement was met with polite applause which was replaced with much more enthusiastic applause as heaping trays of food appeared on the tables.
"On behalf of the elves of Hogwarts I thank you, now please, don't be shy, tuck in!"
McGonagall motioned for Harry to join her at her table and he invited Marietta, Jose and Ernie to join him. Ernie declined politely citing 'decorum' and sat down at the end of one of the tables, where he quickly found himself being peppered by questions of who was staying where.
"Commander, you and your lieutenants will have private rooms in the suites set aside for married staff. You each have been assigned a room and your bondmate will be able to have a room for herself or . . ." she raised an eyebrow.
"Thank you for your consideration Headmistress, I will abide by your wishes, if you do not want me sleeping with my bondmate, or anyone else I will of course abide by your wishes" he could almost feel Marietta quail at the thought of having to sleep alone, "but remember Professor, after six years of wandering these halls, I think I know where all the good broom cupboards are . . ."
McGonagall chuckled and shook her head, "no Commander, that won't be necessary. I believe we have a suite of three rooms that share a common room and a bath, will that suffice?"
"That will be perfect Professor."
After dinner Harry went to the main entrance where a thestral-drawn carriage deposited his bondmate. He gallantly helped her disembark from the carriage and said thank you to the thestral, which nodded in acknowledgement. They smiled at each other and though they'd never really separated he still told her that he'd missed her company.
"This wasn't necessary, milord, I could have walked with you and Marie."
"I know, milady, but I didn't want anyone asking why a civilian was walking alongside a military formation."
"Ah yes," she smiled, "wouldn't want people to think I was a 'camp follower.'"
"Exactly, now if my lady will join me?"
Her eyes widened in mock horror, "here? Now?"
He laughed out loud at her audacity and she joined in as well, it was good to laugh she thought, and it was good to see him laugh as well.
"I am a bit too serious, aren't I?" he observed.
Belle nodded, "I hope we get to laugh often after all this is over, milord."
"Hear, hear" he agreed.
Together they walked to their new quarters. Harry had to chuckle when he saw a shiny new brass placard that read "Officer's Country," apparently placed there by an industrious house elf. The small common room was about half the size of the house common rooms and the bathroom a bit smaller as well, but they all knew the way to the Prefect's Bathroom. They all sat on the cozy couch, Harry flanked by Marietta and Belle with Myrtle floating in the space between them, her ectoplasm warmed by her constant 'visitations' with the three loves of her afterlife.
"Tomorrow we have a wedding to attend," he explained about Bill and Fleur's wedding and how it was going to be the jumping off point for the 'great horcrux hunt,' which now, of course, was a moot point as there were no more horcruxes. "I will be attending in my dress robes, but not my uniform dress robes, I don't want a lot of people to know my status yet, and there will be a lot of people there. People from the Ministry of Magic, guests, dignitaries . . ." That was the point at which Harry had absolute clarity "oh Merlin! How could I be so stupid?"
Belle of course understood immediately, Marietta was a close second and they had to explain it to Myrtle.
"He knows I'll be there, how could I not be? This is the perfect opportunity to get me and in the process get a lot of people I care about at the same time!"
"But, he wouldn't - if he harms you the "Issue of Mine Enemy" spell will be ruined!" Marietta interjected.
"It's already ruined, remember?"
And she did, she saw the image of Bellatrix Lestrange plastered all over the wizarding media being levitated out of the leaky cauldron, dead as a doornail. At least, as far as Riddle was concerned; she groaned and thought 'we've outsmarted ourselves on this one!'
Harry's eyes grew suddenly cold.
"Enough," he said, "It ends tomorrow; one way or another. This has gone far enough. Marie, please get Sergeant McClaggan, tell him what's happening. Myrtle, can you get the house ghosts to send word to my aurors? They need to assemble in combat gear in the great hall in one hour."
Marie started to leave when Harry asked her to wait just a moment. He walked over to Belle and dropped down on one knee. Both women's eyes grew wide as saucers.
"Belle Black, I don't know if I'll be able to do this after tomorrow, I don't know if I'll be around after tomorrow, but I know I love you, and I love the precious life you carry within you. Will you please marry me?"
Tears rolled freely down both her cheeks as she fell to her knees and tenderly took both his hands in hers and said, simply, "no."