Harry awoke in a silent house. He considered going out for a stroll but decided against it. "No need to give Mrs. Weasley another fright," he thought.
He decided to go downstairs and start breakfast. As he pulled on his clothes, an envelope dropped to the floor. Harry picked it up. It was the letter that his aunt had given him. The letter of instructions Dumbledore had left with him as a baby. With shaking hands, he opened the envelope and extracted the letter.
He recognized the looping purple writing immediately...
Mrs. Petunia Dursley nee Evans,
It is with ultimate sadness that I must inform you of the tragic demise of your sister Lily. I knew her well. She was a brave woman. Because of their bravery, she and her husband were marked for death by a vicious wizard named Voldemort. Voldemort blew up James and Lily's home, and attempted to kill their son Harry. Lily's dying, courageous act was to protect Harry. I trust that you have the same depth of courage as your sister. I am leaving your nephew in your charge, and I pray that you will raise him as you would your own son.
I can offer you no greater reward than the knowledge that you have honored your sister's ultimate sacrifice.
Harry replaced the letter in the envelope with shaking hands. Although it conveyed no new information, it struck a deep emotional chord. His parent's deaths were suddenly very real. He finally understood their sacrifice.
He wondered if things would have been different if he had received the letter earlier in his life. He assumed so, but even when he gave his imagination free reign, he could not determine where he would be. He gave up on the conjecture.
He finished dressing and slowly made the journey to the kitchen, intending to start breakfast for the family. Mrs. Weasley was already up and at task.
As soon as she saw Harry, she took him in a tight embrace. "Harry dear, I'm sorry I caused such a fuss last night. I just can't bear the thought of losing a family member." She held him even more tightly and sobbed. "Harry, dear, I count you as family."
"I'm the one who owes sorry. I should have known better. Mr. Weasley warned me and I forgot." Harry patted Mrs. Weasley on the back.
"Well, if we can agree to no future repeats, we'll get on fine. Ginny tells me you know how to cook. She loves you dearly." Mrs. Weasley's eyes misted again. She patted Harry's arm. "Are you up to making breakfast with me?" she asked, dabbing her eyes dry on a towel.
Harry recognized she had purposely changed the subject and was secretly glad for it.
"If you'll proctor and allow me to use magic...what would you like me to do?" asked Harry.
"Well...let me see...we're having French toast with rhubarb marmalade, bacon, eggs, orange juice, kippers, chips, and haggis..."
"Haggis?" questioned Harry immediately.
"Oh good, you can make the haggis," she said.
"No...I was just..." then he saw the smile on Mrs. Weasley's face. "You had me going there."
"Sorry, couldn't resist. Can you do the juice, bacon and eggs?" she asked.
"How do you want the eggs?" asked Harry.
"That confident are we? Well, well! Scrambled is the safest until you learn how everyone takes their eggs. Let me see the juice first," she said.
Harry took the large stone pitcher. He wanted the magic to go perfectly under Mrs. Weasley's watchful eye, so he used his wand. He concentrated on the juiciest, squirt-in-your-eye oranges he could draw from his imagination. A dozen oranges appeared on the table. Harry took a knife and cut one open. It smelled right. It tasted right. So he started them juicing into the pitcher.
Mrs. Weasley clapped. "Very good Harry. Fruit is always difficult. Next time try to produce the juice in the pitcher, that will save time." She smiled and patted his shoulder.
As they worked together, she gave pointers and advice, and Harry followed the advice carefully. In a very short time, the table was groaning with heaps of food. The smell was as effective as a wake-up call. Soon the entire family was sitting at the table, eating, and chatting animatedly.
"Fleur's family will arrive today," said Bill, "but Fleur won't be here until tomorrow, some Delacour family tradition about the bride and groom not seeing each other the day prior to the wedding. I don't profess to understand the tradition, but I'll abide by it."
"Like you have any choice," sniggered Ron.
"Laugh now. You'll be laughing out of the other side of your face when it's your turn. You'll learn to say yes dear to everything you're asked. Then I'll be taunting you." Bill's smile took the starch out of his jab.
The meal was complete and the table cleared when there was a knock at the door. Everyone jumped. Mr. Weasley went to the door and asked cautiously, "Who's there?"
"It's Remus and Tonks," said a female voice through the heavy door.
The door was opened; Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks entered. Greetings were exchanged all around and when Lupin saw Harry, he took him to the side.
"Harry, I owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude," he said. "The potion you and Neville provided made the change bearable. For the first time in over thirty years, I could control the desire to strike out at anything around me. Access to that potion would change my outlook on the future. If the potion were readily available, werewolves worldwide could live almost normal lives. If there is any way I can convince you to make the potion available, I would do it."
"It's more complicated than that," began Harry guiltily. "It takes a special crucible to brew the potion. I have it, but I have a need for it. When that need is fulfilled, I'll make the entire process available to you..." He thought for a moment, and finalized a decision he had contemplated for some time. "I need to talk to you in private before the wedding. Are you going to stay at the Burrow tonight?"
"That will depend on Nymphadora. We came here to offer our help," said Lupin. He motioned for Tonks, who joined them immediately.
"Did my diversion work?" she asked Harry with a wink.
"Great! I've seen no evidence that I've been followed," said Harry. "In fact this has been the most carefree couple of days I recall in a long go."
"Not exactly carefree, as Molly has explained it to me," said Tonks with a knowing smile. "I understand congratulations are in order for you and Ginny."
Lupin looked from Tonks to Harry and back again. He smiled a broad smile. He took Harry in a surprisingly strong hug and congratulated him.
"Are we staying the night?" Lupin asked Tonks.
"No. We'll help out the day, but Delacours will be here soon, and we don't want to add to the crowd.
"In that case," said Harry, "maybe we could find a few minutes today. It won't take long."
"We'll make time. Harry, you have earned a bit of my time," said Lupin.
Arthur Weasley gathered the group. "Thank you all for your willingness to help. I think Molly and Dobby have the inside figured out. I could use some help arranging the outside work."
He led them outside and assigned a multitude of tasks to everyone except Bill. Feeling left out, Bill complained, but his father would not relent.
"I'll not take you away from the things I know you need to finish. Molly and I eloped, but I can imagine how hectic the last two days before your wedding will be." He slapped his son on the back and went to work in the garden.
Harry and Ginny were assigned to rake out the front garden and place stones along the path to the bowery. Harry was thrilled to work alongside Ginny. They completed their portion of the work a few minutes before Mrs. Weasley called all to meal.
The meal was taken outside to allow room for the number being served. As Harry ate, he looked around and admired the change in the Burrow. Where he and Ginny had done their tasks manually, the bulk of the others had used magic. New paint, fresh plantings of flowers and greenery, even new shingles on the Burrow's roof, all made a scene of pleasant change.
If Harry had thought the volume level inside the Burrow was high at mealtimes, it was nothing compared to the latitude drawn in the outdoors. Everyone was reveling in the upcoming wedding.
Harry caught bits and pieces..."spent the last few days working with the forest werewolf community (Tonks to Charlie)...I don't see why I can't make my own wedding dress by magic (Ginny to her mother)...can't believe her grandmother wants to include one at the wedding (Bill to his father)...could be world class (Ron to Hermione)...do you ever see Percy. I'm just sick (Mrs. Weasley to Tonks)...real inroads with the werewolves (Lupin to Mr. Weasley)...Fred and George will be back with more help (Mr. Weasley to Lupin)...seems romantic, but I don't know how Fleur would react (Tonks to Bill)...yes he asked me yesterday (Tonks to Ginny)...all the local wizard families, I grew up with most of their kids (Bill to Lupin)...family tradition (Hermione to Ginny)...no a poltergeist, not a ghoul" (Bill to Ron).
Harry finally decided to dive into the frenzy. "What's that about a poltergeist?" he asked Bill.
"It's the oddest request on my list of things to do before the wedding. Fleur's grandmother wants a poltergeist at the wedding. We have our own ghoul in the attic, but apparently he won't do. I don't even know how to summon a poltergeist," said Bill in frustration.
"Why would anyone want a poltergeist at a wedding. All Peeves does is throw food when he see it. Someone like him at a wedding...sounds like a disaster in the making," responded Harry.
"I agree, but Fleur's grandmother gets what she wants. Wait 'till you meet her! It's quite an experience. But thanks, I never even thought of Peeves. How would I get my hands on him?" asked Bill.
"I suggest by the throat," said Ron. "He never does anything except cause mayhem."
"I could get in touch with him," offered Harry. "I know he's miserable at Hogwarts during the summer holiday. However, he does worry about leaving Hogwarts and not being allowed back in. I could talk to Headmistress McGonagall about that too. And speaking of McGonagall, is she invited to the wedding?"
"Yes. Between her and Professor Flitwick, I got most of my training for working at Gringotts," said Bill.
"Let me work out Peeves," offered Harry. "It'll be one thing less for you to worry about. When do you want him here?"
"About three seconds before the wedding," said Ron. "Limit the time he has for disruption."
"No, Fleur's grandmother was specific. She want's to talk to the poltergeist as soon as she arrives today."
Then I'd better get cracking," said Harry as he excused himself from the table.
"I'll go with you," said Ginny, springing to his side.
As they left, Hermione and Ron joined them. "Can we help?" asked Ron.
"I'm going to get in touch with Headmistress McGonagall..." started Harry.
"Can I try my Chocolate Frog Card?" asked Hermione. "I've never had occasion to actually use it."
"Give it a go," said Harry encouragingly.
Hermione sorted her pack of Chocolate Frog Cards. When she found Albus Dumbledore, she applied her ring to the border. Almost instantly Dumbledore appeared.
"Well! Miss Granger! What can I do for you?" asked the Porcrux.
"We are in need of a conversation with Professor McGonagall," she explained.
"I can see that as an interface between the Order and the D.A. I may be kept quite busy." Dumbledore smiled warmly. "Let me find Minerva. I will be back shortly." Dumbledore left the small card.
As Hermione placed the card atop a Wellington boot where they could watch for Dumbledore's return, her brow wrinkled. "Harry, I've just had a thought...what if one of the members of the D.A. wanted to contact another member directly? Will we always have to go through Dumbledore? What if he's busy?"
"I assume that Dumbledore will always be the go-between unless your protean charm was altered to allow alert from any ring not just my master," he answered thoughtfully.
"That's difficult magic," said Hermione. "Let me give it some consideration."
Any futher discussion was cut short by Dumbledore's return. "Minerva says she will be at the Burrow tomorrow. Can your conversation wait until then?"
"Bill needs Peeves at his wedding. A special request from Fleur's Veela grandmother. But Peeves needs to be at the Burrow today. If Professor McGonagall could arrange it, Bill would be very grateful," explained Ginny.
"I will pass along the message. Peeves, you say. Well, well, isn't he a bit exotic for a wedding guest?" asked Dumbledore.
"Exotic is putting it very nicely," commented Ron. "Bloomin' balmy is closer to the truth."
"That aside," inserted Harry, "I promised Bill I would try and make the arrangements. If it's not going to work out, I need to know."
"I shall pass the request," said Dumbledore. "If anything would preclude Peeves arriving today, I will inform you."
"All I could ask," said Harry, "thank you Albus."
Dumbledore walked out of the small portrait frame.
"While we wait, why don't you tell us about your week at the Dursley's. You hinted at some changes," said Ron.
"I'll say," replied Harry enthusiastically. He told of his cousin's change of attitude, of the Centre and the suits, of Hesper and V, and finally he handed them the letter from Malfoy.
Ginny, who's eyes had narrowed at the mention of personal training with V, stared wide eyed as she finished reading the letter.
"They are all in danger of death because you exercised there!" she asked incredulously.
"Bonkers, mate," said Ron, "it's just Malfoy's idea of a sick joke or something."
"I don't think so," explained Harry. "He had nothing to gain from the warning. I believe it's legitimate. Malfoy may have changed."
"Not likely. Creepy blokes never change. They're always creepy," opined Ron.
"I would most likely have agreed if I hadn't seen the change in Dudley," explained Harry.
Their conversation was interrupted by the loud pop of apparation. The oddest trio Harry could imagine stood in the Burrow's back garden...Minerva McGonagall, accompanied by Peeves the poltergeist, and Moaning Myrtle.
"Never again," said McGonagall with our prelude. "I'll never apparate with these two again. During our trip, all Miss Longbottom did was shriek and Peeves cackled like a madman. Never again!"
"Welcome to the Burrow," said Ginny. "Ah...Myrtle, we didn't expect to see you. What a pleasant...surprise."
"Don't lie to me," whined Myrtle. "I wouldn't be here if the Headmistress hadn't insisted."
"That I did," explained McGonagall who had regained some of her majesty. "Your need seemed dire. Peeves said he wouldn't come unless accompanied by Miss Longbottom. I judged it a necessary...compromise. I'll just leave them in your capable hands, shall I?" said McGonagall, and in a swirl of robes she was gone.
"Why did she bring you by apparition?" asked Ginny.
Peeves cackled. "She was worried about me floating over the countryside. She needn't have worried, Peevsie will behave!"
"Not likely!" said Ron.
"Why, I is offended, I is," said Peeves. "Headmistress made me promise to behave in order to get back inside Hogwarts. I feels sooo much better here than cooped up in a drafty old castle with no ickle kidsies."
Harry noted Peeves colouration was as vivid as he had ever seen the poltergeist exhibit. "Myrtle," he said addressing the ghost, "have you decided on what we talked about? Have you forgiven me?"
Myrtle glared a transparent glare. "I have thought through the incident, and I have to reluctantly give you the benefit of the doubt...but don't make me cross. I can still haunt you."
"I think I'd better go let mum and dad know we have guests," said Ron. He left with Hermione at his side.
"Do you know why a Veela would like you to be here at her granddaughter's wedding?" asked Harry
"Peeves has his ideas," he said in a wicked voice.
"Well, on behalf of my brother, thank you for coming, Mr. Peeves," said Ginny.
"Mr. Peeves! Mr. Peeves! No missy. Mr. Peeves was my poppers. I'll never be half the poltergeist he was. Ever heard of the Mary Celeste? My poppers frightened the entire crew off that ship during one of our family vacations. Yes sir, he was some poltergeist!"
"Well..." began Ginny but she was interrupted by Bill's arrival.
Bill turned to Harry. "When you say you'll get a thing done, you don't waste any time do you?" He turned to Peeves. "I understand Headmistress McGonagall has put you under covenant of good behaviour to get back into Hogwarts?"
"That she has. And Peeves is as good as his word. Peeves will cause absolutely no trouble. Peeves will enjoy the ickle wedding." The poltergeist started his bowtie spinning like a windmill.
"Why don't you look around," suggested Bill. "Someone will arrive shortly who wants a word with you and you just as well be comfortable with the surroundings."
"Don't mind if I do," said Peeves holding his green plaid clad arm to Myrtle. The pair zoomed away through the air.
"I don't like the way he said Peeves wouldn't cause any trouble," said Harry. "I'm getting a nasty feeling about why he insisted Myrtle come with him."
"Let them meet Fleur's grandmother," said Bill. "I think it will be just fine. You wait and see." He thanked Harry again and headed back to the Burrow.
"While we're alone, tell me about this V," coaxed Ginny. "She sounds...impressive."
"I wasn't sure how to take V," said Harry as he spotted the trap. "She beat me to smithereens, but she taught me a lot about when, why, and how to battle. I do hope she finds her brother."
Ginny seemed placated. "Teach me!" she implored.
"Let's start with mind management, we'll get to the physical as we have time," offered Harry. "I think the battles we are about to encounter will have as much to do with our mental preparation as they have to do with physical ability. I don't think that any physical aspect of my training at the Centre will aid me against Voldemort."
Ginny seemed to relax a bit.
"Let me teach you how to layer your mind," said Harry. "If you are ever faced by a Legillimens, it's the only way to prevail."
Harry spent the next two hours teaching Ginny how to build a front of the mind facade, while layering thoughts below the front. Ginny caught on quickly. Soon, she could withstand Harry's probing for a full ten seconds.
"I'll need more practice at that," she finally said as she broke eye contact with Harry, "but it's like listening to a lot of Weasley conversations at once."
"I want to teach you everything I know," explained Harry. "That's the real focus behind my decision to be with you. You've probably been driven crazy this past couple of weeks by my back-and-forth waffling about being together. Thanks for enduring."
"It has been a bit off-putting," admitted Ginny. "But however you came to your decision, I'm happy for it. Never look a gift thestral in the mouth."
"Harry!" hailed Lupin from the Burrow's back door. "If we are going to talk, it will have to be now. Nymphadora and I are leaving soon."
"Go make your secret plans," said Ginny with a smile. "I need to go freshen up for the Delacour's arrival anyway."
"Thanks, I'll only be a bit," said Harry.
Lupin joined Harry and they strolled around the gardens. "What did you want to see me about?" asked Lupin.
"I know you were asked to administer Dumbledore's willy instructions. I was wondering if I could engage you to do the same for me?"
"Harry, I never..."
"Hear me out," asked Harry.
Harry outlined his plans for his possessions, his desires for how his estate was to be used if something happened to him.
Finally Lupin stopped him. "Harry this is all very noble, but why the dark thoughts?"
"I'm not one to try and fool myself. I know who is after me. I know his resources. I just have to be as practical as possible. I don't feel I'm yet up to making a willy to speak for me. Would you be willing to administer my wishes?" asked Harry.
"I don't think we need to have this discussion right now," countered Lupin. "We have plenty of time..."
"If you'd rather not have the responsibility, I understand..." began Harry.
"No, it's not that," said Lupin. "It's just that talking about it...making these kinds of plans...it puts a face on mortality. I think you have time..."
Harry removed Malfoy's letter from his pocket and handed it over to Lupin. Lupin read it carefully and handed it back to Harry.
"I see," said Lupin looking at Harry seriously. "I accept your commission. I will carry out your instructions to the letter. I would prefer a written list to a verbal set of instructions. That way there is less chance of misunderstandings."
"Thank you," said Harry in relief. "I trust you completely. I'll have a written list for by tomorrow."
As the two shook hands, a terrific wind began to whip at the surrounding trees. Harry's first thought was that they were enveloped in a hurricane. Lupin looked at the malevolent sky and, unbelievably, he smiled.
"The Delacours have arrived," he said simply.
The Weasley family filed out of the Burrow, led by Bill. He also was smiling broadly.
"The Delacours were always ones for a grand entry," he said.
The whirlwind circled the Burrow catching up more than a few stray chickens. Harry noticed Ginny put Arnold her pygmy puff under her robes. It wasn't until the wind died down that Harry looked closely at Ginny. He stared open mouthed. He didn't even see the Delacours step from the maelstrom. His attention was riveted on Ginny.
He edged his way close to her, laid his hand on her arm and whispered, "You are absolutely breathtaking!"
Ginny blushed and hushed Harry. "We have guests," she said simply.
Harry turned back to the arrival of the Delacours. It was a grand arrival indeed.
The whirlwind subsided and split into dual rainbows. The arch of each bow ended in the Weasley's front garden. As if materializing from the essence of the mist, individuals could be seen gliding gracefully down the rainbows. Harry watched the spectacle in awe. The first to set foot on the ground waited for the others, hands outstretched. Harry finally realized those descending last were women. If the men had been graceful, the women were beyond Harry's ability to describe. They moved with a power and sense of self that befitted royalty. The men held out a hand as the women reached the end of the rainbow. The women touched the offered hand lightly...not for support...but for effect.
The men directed their approach to the waiting line of Weasleys. Bowing and stepping behind the women, the men left quietly.
Harry recognized one of the two women. He had seen her at the family gathering of the Triwizard champions. It was Fleur Delacour's mother. She spoke first.
"I am pleased to see you again," she said.
Harry noticed that she was addressing Mrs. Weasley, not Mr. Weasley.
"We met once at Hogwarts. My daughter was competing in the Triwizard Tournament. I believe you were there for Harry Potter, were you not?"
Mrs. Weasley nodded.
"I don't believe we were formally introduced. My name is Silven Delacour. I am pleased to meet you."
Silven Delacour pressed the back of Mrs. Weasley's hand between her thumb and forefinger and inclined her head.
"Allow me to introduce my mother." Silven held her hand, palm up, and directed her mother to Mrs. Weasley.
"This is it!" thought Harry. "This is what Bill has been preparing us for!"
The Veela stopped directly in front of Mrs. Weasley.
"My mother Sylphus," said Silven.
Mrs. Weasley smiled warmly. "I'm so glad to finally meet you. Bill has told us so much about you. I feel as if I already know you."
Sylphus smiled at Mrs. Weasley. "You are an honest woman. We will get along well."
Harry could have sworn that her voice had the same tinkle as water splashing merrily over rocks. If introductions had not been made, he would have been hard pressed to determine who was the mother and who was the daughter. Both women were ageless, and almost as breathtakingly beautiful as Ginny.
Mrs. Weasley introduced Ginny, then Hermione and Tonks.
Sylphus smiled warmly at Tonks. "Nymphadora! A lovely name! Do you have blood-of-the-woods?"
"No," responded Tonks. "My mother was a witch, but my father was a muggle."
Sylphus inclined her head to Tonks. "Yet there is something unique about you."
"I am a metamorphmagus," said Tonks. "I can change at will."
"So it is said of all women," said Sylphus with a lilt in her voice. "To some that change can be a driving thing," and she looked purposefully at Remus Lupin. "I feel an air of forced change about you," she said focusing on his eyes.
Lupin bowed at the waist. "Rightly so. I am a werewolf."
"No you are not," replied Sylphus. "You are a man everyday, less one, each month. Why list your existence by the one day and except the larger number?"
"Most people label one for the worst day, never accounting for all the best days. I have fallen into that way of thinking." Lupin smiled a sad smile.
"Most people are wrong. You are a good man." Sylphus appraised the line of people. Without being introduced to anyone, she continued, "You are all good. Our families will blend well."
Harry noticed he was getting hot. It was very much like the feeling of being too close to Fleur Delacour, only exponentially stronger.
Sylphus glanced around. "I see it is time to set up protections for the men. Were you able to enlist the services of a poltergeist?"
"Yes," said Bill. "His name is Peeves."
"Wonderfull! I will make my home in the woods next to the lovely bowery you have erected. Have Peeves visit me there. Silven may visit me in the woods, but she will prefer to stay indoors overnight."
"That has been attended to," said Mrs. Weasley quickly. "We have a room ready."
Sylphus nodded and then made her way gracefully toward the woods. Silven took Mrs. Weasley's arm and followed her to the Burrow.
When they entered, Silven clapped her hands. "This is wonderful! I feel as if I never left home." She was seated in the mossy-looking divan and Mrs. Weasley took the seat next to her. Hermione, Ginny, and Tonks followed suit.
Mr. Weasley excused himself, and with a pointed look, dragged the other men from the room.
"Well, wasn't that something!" he said when they were in the kitchen. "Meeting a real live Veela and her daughter. That's something to write in your diary!"
Bill excused himself to find Peeves. Mr. Weasley enlisted Ron, Charlie Harry, and Lupin in serving elegant cakes and pastries that Mrs. Weasley had prepared.
Harry noticed that without Ginny by his side it was difficult to navigate anywhere near Silven. The room's temperature seemed to rise as he approached her.
Glad to finally have the cakes served, the men withdrew to the kitchen.
"That was awful," said Ron. "I feel lost in there without Hermione."
"I understand," said Bill as he rounded the stair into the kitchen. "Bear with it...dad, think of mum...Ron, think only of Hermione when you are around either Sylphus or Silven. It'll help. Remus same goes for you and Tonks, Harry think of Ginny, Charlie...sorry mate you're on your own."
Upon inspection, Harry thought that Charlie did look distinctly worse for the encounter.
"I've found Peeves. He and Myrtle were in the attic with our ghoul. Myrtle had the poor thing reduced to tears. I'm beginning to think I know why Peeves was invited. I'm taking him and the ghost directly to Sylphus. You lot do your best 'til I get back." Bill smiled a winning smile and left through the door to the back garden.
Harry saw Peeves and Myrtle meet Bill and float at his side as he made his way toward the woods.
The men had served tea and a second round of small biscuits by the time Bill returned.
Minutes later Peeves zoomed in the door, followed closely by Myrtle.
"Where is the daughter?" asked Peeves.
Harry was shocked. Peeves normal acidic manner was gone. He sounded almost normal. Myrtle also, seemed less gloomy than usual. Bill directed them into the room where the women were visiting.
When it was time to gather the dishes, Harry went in with trepidation. He was feeling worse and worse and he didn't understand why. To his surprise, Peeves and Myrtle were standing silently on opposite sides of the room. When he entered, Harry felt immediately better. He felt the gentle breeze he had missed before. He heard the tinkle of falling water. When he put a thought to it...he felt normal!"
After the trays were gathered, the men met back in the kitchen.
"What just happened?" asked Ron looking at Bill. "I mean, I took your advice and thought only of Hermione, but that was night-and-day."
"I'm not sure either," said Bill, "but did you see the look on Peeve's face. I've never seen him that content. He's almost docile!"
"And Myrtle," remarked Ron, "I've not seen her that happy since she thought a basilisk was going to kill Harry."
"We've one more serving lads," said Mr. Weasley. He took covers off of several large trays.
Harry stepped back. The trays were filled with soil, peat moss, shining vermiculite, and hundreds of tiny pots.
"You want us to take those...in there?" asked Ron incredulously.
"It's all from Lockhart's book," explained Mr. Weasley.
"Not Lockhart," moaned Ron. "That bloke didn't know his ear from his elbow when it came to magic."
"So far he's been spot on. I'm willing to carry this through. Will you help?" asked Mr. Weasley.
They all reluctantly agreed. The trays were covered with white cloths and the men made their way back into the front room.
All conversation stopped when the covered trays were brought into the room. Harry held his breath as each tray was uncovered. To his amazement, Silven Delacour clapped her hands with delight at the sight of the dirt and pots.
"I'm so delighted. It has been ages since I planted myself in a friend's home."
She reached into her pocket and withdrew a packet of glittering seeds. The men were forgotten as the women, under Silven's direction began to fill each tiny pot with soil and seed.
Mr. Weasley motioned the other to follow him, which they did gladly.
Back in the kitchen Mr. Weasley confided in the others. "Lockhart's book says that if you get past the first ten minutes with a Veela, and then get her to plant something, you've got it made. Thanks lads. I can watch it from here."
"Thanks," said Charlie. "I needed to get out of there."
Everyone except Mr. Weasley left the Burrow. The sun was beginning its downward trek.
Harry turned to Bill. "Let me guess, Veela society is matriarchal."
"Right in one," said Bill. "I've noticed that each generation down from Sylphus has moved away from the strict matriarchal mores. Fleur is almost normal. That is, until she turns on the charm. I think that only a man who is truly devoted to his true love would stand a chance against a Veela's charm."
"That's why your dad can negotiate the charm. He loves your mum," noted Harry.
"Exactly," said Bill. "Dad's always been totally devoted to mum."
"It seemed to be easier to put up with Fleur's mom than I remember it being to be around Fleur at Hogwarts," said Ron.
"You're not wrong there," said Harry. "Remember when Roger Davis took Fleur to the Yule Ball. He looked like he had been hit by the Knight Bus."
"I've noticed you and Harry are doing pretty well," observed Bill, slapping Ron on the back.
"Yeah, well we both have marvelous women in our lives, don't we. No wonder it's easier to handle her charm. We really love other women!" Ron looked astounded at his own insight.
"What do we do until they're done in there?" asked Charlie.
"How about some Quidditch?" asked a voice from the around the corner of the Burrow. Fred and George stepped out, broad grins on their faces.
Hugs were exchanged by the Weasley brothers as Fred said, "We've been listening to your conversation about Veela. It's probably a good thing we weren't here to greet the Delacours, as we are...unattached."
"I remember what it was like to just pass Fleur in the corridor at Hogwarts," added George. "Better to play a rousing game of Quidditch."
"We're either one man long or one man short," observed Bill.
"I'll sit this out," offered Lupin. "Quidditch is a young man's sport."
"I'll tell you what," said Harry. "We can take turns sitting the odd man out. I'll start on the bench. I have some writing to do." He exchanged significant looks with Lupin who understood immediately.
"Thank you Harry," responded Lupin. "But you all must agree to take it easy on an old fellow."
Harry watched as they started to fly warm up laps, then he set to work. He risked a small magic, and conjured a piece of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink. It only took a few minutes to commit to paper what he had long thought through. By the time Lupin had his fill of zooming through the air, Harry was finished. He showed the paper to Lupin.
Lupin read the instructions carefully. "Do you have the items mentioned here?" he asked.
"Yes. I'll leave some of them to your care today," said Harry. "Others, obviously would have to wait until after..."
"I understand," said Lupin. "This is very generous. Are you certain of the distribution?"
"Very much so. I may make some of the arrangements myself...Bill and Fleur's for example. As I do, I'll stay in contact so you know of the dispositions," said Harry.
"We need witnesses for this to be valid," said Lupin.
Harry called to the Weasleys. They landed at his beckon. Harry explained that he needed them to witness his signature. They all laughed until they saw Harry was serious. Harry signed the bottom of the document. All of the Weasleys signed as witnesses.
"What's this about Harry?" asked Ron. "It's almost like you plan on leaving us."
"I don't plan on leaving. Let's just say I'm making plans." Harry rolled up the parchment and handed it to Lupin. "Best not mention this to Ginny," he said to the others.
"Do we look balmy?" asked Ron. "None of us want to get crossways of Ginny if we can help it!"
Harry excused himself to retrieve some items from his haversack. He returned with Tonks. "Are you ready darling?" she asked Lupin.
"I'm always ready to be with you," he said. He accepted the heavy package from Harry and then took Tonks by the hand. "We'll see you boys tomorrow at the wedding."
Assuming the other women might talk all night. Bill and Charlie conjured blankets and pillows. They talked quietly as they counted off the constellations in the clear night sky.
Harry's last thought before he slipped off into sleep was of a seventeen star constellation shaped like a dragon.
Capricio woke Harry early the next morning by needling his side with sharp claws.
"It's about time," exclaimed Harry. "Your dive really took it out of you. You need to be careful with that. Make sure I'm around to look after you when you do that."
He fed the wyvern. When Fred and George approached, Harry tried to hide the small dragon from the twins.
"It's OK Harry," they said in unison. "We've heard rumors of a scaly monster here at the Burrow. Yeah, and besides Charlie, we heard you have a dragon!" said Fred.
"Keep it down, will ya," I don't want everyone to know. There is still the matter of it being illegal," said Harry.
"It's only illegal if you get caught," said George slyly.
"Easy to say," said Harry. "But if I got caught at the Burrow with a dragon, it could raise all sorts of problems. I have a feeling it's going to be tough enough to just get through today."
"All right," said Fred. "But if you ever decide to sell him, call us first. Can you imagine the customer draw a dragon in the shop would have?"
"I can't sell what I don't own," said Harry. "Capricio doesn't belong to anyone. For the moment he seems content to stay with me, but it's comes down to his decision; not mine."
"Wedding today chaps!" said Charlie as he yawned widely. "Do you think we tired Bill enough last night. I mean it wasn't much of a bachelor's last night was it?"
"I think I prefer the way it went last night," said Bill as he joined his brothers. "Mum seemed to get on with Fleur's mum. We had a grand time flying, and I don't have a hangover. All-in-all a great night."
"Are you ready for today?" asked Charlie.
"Absolutely not!" said Bill, then he laughed. "I am anxious to see Fleur. I miss her. I think I'll go see if I can help mum with breakfast. I have a few things to talk over with her." He waved as he left for the Burrow.
As Ron joined them, Capricio gave a low, rumbling growl.
"I see the winged terror is still about," remarked Ron as he stepped away from Harry.
"Best not annoy him," warned Charlie.
"It's OK," said Harry. "I planned to take him for a little fly this morning before breakfast. He's slept a long time."
"You know, I think I like him better when he's asleep," said Ron.
Capricio growled again and Harry thought it best to leave. "I'll be back in a bit. If Ginny rouses, please tell her."
Fred and George started to clean up the bedding as Harry made his way toward the trees. Once he was obscured by the trees he allowed Capricio from his pocket.
"Listen mate," he told the small dragon as he fed him, "I'm still trying to get a handle on your dislike of Ron. For now you can fly free in the trees. Just be careful of being seen, and don't eat anything!"
Harry released Capricio. The dragon soared into the trees and was immediately lost from sight.
"Things are not always as they seem...are they?"
Harry jumped at the voice. He had assumed that he and Capricio were alone. He looked around and could not see anyone. He tuned his glasses, his concern mounting.
As if she walked straight out of a tree, Sylphus was standing directly in front of him. Harry started. He caught his breath as he felt his temperature rise.
"Do not be disconcerted," said the Veela. "I am at home with all the creatures of the Earth. The dragon is magnificent. Possibly more so than you understand."
Harry looked at her carefully trying to determine how Sylphus had just appeared. Close up, he saw that the Veela was as delicate as a Renaisance alabaster bust. Her features were fine, her skin absolutely smooth and almost translucent. Her wide eyes, rounded cheeks, and pointed nose made perfect symmetry. He felt like fleeing her presence.
"We were not introduced last night out of respect for Veela sensitivities," she continued. "I live by the restraints and traditions of my race. I must adhere to those conditions in public, but here in private, I am more at leisure to talk. However, before we begin, you need protection."
Slyphus made a sound somewhere between the crackle of a starling and the cry of the hawk. Something fluttered from the woods and came to a halt between Harry and Sylphus. He immediately felt better.
"My piggleflaggen," explained Sylphus as she reached out and stroked the translucent, undulating creature. "If you were to go to a stream and withdraw a fish, your touch would damage a delicate coating on the fish's scales. Your single touch might condemn the creature to death. Were I to speak to you at length, without my piggleflaggen, I might condemn you to madness or death. Paracelcus, when he first discovered my ilk, only observed a protective piggleflaggen. Veela have been mischaracterized ever since. We are known as ephemeral beings of mercurial substance. We can change our appearance, so the mistake has been easily perpetuated. Interestingly, the first time ever I saw a muggle, he was traveling at great speed in the air. I could have wrongly assumed much about muggles had I not realized that the man was using a mechanical device to fly."
Harry listened to Sylphus all the time wondering about the direction of her comments.
"You have patience," she observed. "That is good. I know you have burning concerns. Patience brings the answer to many questions. One-on-one, or in very small groups, my piggleflaggen can absorb the energy that would be toxic to humans. You probably questioned the inclusion of a poltergeist in the wedding party." She smiled at Harry. "A poltergeist acts as a shunt for the same energy in a large group. Poltergeists live on the emotional energy, the angst if you will, of the humans around them. They cause mayhem, not out of malice, but out of hunger. Simple beings that they are, they may not realize this fact about themselves. Humans are similarly affected by the emotional tide of those around them. If they cut themselves off from mutual society, a part of them starves just as a poltergeist fades without contact with human emotion."
Harry finally understood where Shylphus was directing her comments, but he was astounded that she had known of his internal turmoil. He had no more than entertained the thought when the piggleflaggen shimmered iridescent blue in the muted forest light.
"Good!" said the Veela. "You have applied my words to your situation. You are a man of wisdom beyond your earthly age. You give me hope for the human race in the upcoming storm. Take the I out of what I have said and it becomes sad. Resist the temptation to be alone. There is great strength in the company of friends."
Harry smiled at Sylphus, a feeling of peace and love filling his heart. The piggleflaggen glowed silver.
"I extend my love to you also," said Sylphus. "Hold out your hand."
Slyphus pushed her hand through the piggleflaggen and covered Harry's hand. As she withdrew her hand, he thought he could see a glowing something inside his flesh.
"You are more than the carrying flesh and bones of your physical body. Every other human you meet is similarly constituted."
Harry recalled the suits teaching about seeing the good in others. Looking beyond the person to the eternal potential.
The piggleflaggen rippled blindingly white.
"Yes, humans can look into the eternities. That is the value of any human...what they have the possibility of becoming in the eternities." She smiled again. "My daughter and granddaughter have similar ability to look into human souls. It is a dangerous gift. It can lead to arrogance in judgment. Some of my sisters use the ability to influence humans for base purposes. Some even use the ability, unshielded, and warp men's minds. I have learned to have patience with humans as they discover that their infant mortality is but a step to something greater and more eternal. But beware, to desire eternal mortal life is to prolong imperfection on the path to perfection. We have much to learn together."
Harry thought of his past teachers. He considered Dumbledore and DePais, the suits and V, Lupin and Moody, Dudley and his parents, Baskin and Lockhart; he even thought momentarily of Quirrell, Barty Crouch, Jr., Snape, and Voldemort. His mind raced, "They all had a hand in making me who I am today. But I alone have control over who I will be tomorrow!" He recalled Ogram's words... "Both questions and answers lie in your future. When the student is ready the teacher appears."
"I may have to alter that," thought Harry... "When the student is ready, past lessons in life become clear!"
Sylphus smiled again, then she looked to the sky, as if sensing something in the breeze. "My granddaughter will be here soon. This is now her day. Remember well our conversation, Harry Potter." She nodded, and in an instant, disappeared completely into the woods.
Harry pondered her words as he made his way back to the Burrow. He suddenly realized that in his entire interview with the Veela, he had never uttered a word.
When he arrived back at the Burrow, the garden was a buzz of activity. Ginny saw him and raced straight over. Harry didn't hear her words the first time she spoke. He was overwhelmed by the love he felt for her.
Ginny snapped her fingers in front of Harry's nose. "Snap out of it!" she commanded. "You've got to get dressed. I have your formal robes laid out on Ron's bed. Go change! Fleur will be here any minute!"
Harry didn't argue, and by the time he had made it to the top of the Burrow, changed his clothes, and made it back down; the wedding party was lining up for the wedding.
As Harry made his way through the Burrow, he was surprised to see a vaguely familiar stranger in dusty, tousled attire asleep on the mossy-looking divan.
George stepped in and saw Harry's object of concern. "Never mind him Harry. That's Fane Pinchbeck. He works for Fred and me. He's narcoleptic, falls asleep right in the middle of a conversation. Dead annoying really. If he wasn't such a good salesman we wouldn't put up with it. He's had a hard time making a living with his condition. I felt a bit sorry for him, he reminded me of Lupin; you know...can't hold a job. He's knows a good bit of magic if you can get him motivated enough to show it. He's not like Verity, our other staff member. She's outside right now helping with the last fiddly details. She's a pure gem."
George picked up one of Fane's arm and let it drop, eliciting a small poof of dust from Fane's jacket. Fane didn't react a whit.
"Now that I think about it, he has more trouble here at the Burrow. The last time he was here, he slept right through the fuss about Dumbledore's Porcrux."
"You know about the Porcrux?" asked Harry shocked.
"Fred and I came back to the Burrow after Dumbledore's funeral. Mum was in a real state. Fane came over later to go through some numbers from the shop. Fell asleep right in the middle of a discussion about a missing load of sneakoscopes. Dad came home that night in a dither. He told us about Dumbledore's Porcrux and Percy's attempt to impound all Dumbledore's possessions for the Ministry. I offered to go visit Percy in his office. Dad said no. He never knew Fane took an entire trunk of Cornish Pixies to Percy's office that night. They tore the place up, they did."
"You never told anyone about the Porcrux, did you?" asked Harry.
"Never. Nor about its later damage. Dad swore us to secrecy."
"Secrecy's the thing. I'm constantly on the lookout for a spy among us," confided Harry.
Fred looked around the Burrow conspiritorily. "Speakin' of secrecy...do you have your dragon?"
"Capricio is in the trees, but I have found he'll come if he's close enough to answer my need."
"Crikey I'm jealous," said George. "You get all the adventure."
"You can have the adventure," said Harry. He looked through the window. "It looks like they're ready. Should we try to wake Fane?"
"No. He came because we gave him the day off for the wedding. He likes free food. Let him sleep." George crossed Fane's arms on his chest, placed a lily from one of the flower boquets in his hands, and left him like a corpse. George smiled at his handiwork and then headed to the garden with Harry.
"By the way Harry," said George in a whisper. "Ron's been teaching me and Fred some of the D.A. tricks. We've been coming home every night for an hour or so. Don't tell him I told you so, but he's a fair teacher. You've made a huge improvement in his magical abilities."
"He's worked hard on his own," defended Harry. "And speaking of the D.A., I have a deck of Chocolate Frog Cards for you and Fred."
"Thanks mate, but we're a little too old to collect Chocolate Frog Cards," said George.
"They're not just cards," explained Harry as he fished the two packs out of his pocket. "They allow the D.A. to communicate through Dumbledore. I'll need your D.A. galleons to improve the way they work. We can do that after the wedding."
"Something else to teach Fane and Verity," commented Geroge as he took the cards from Harry.
"What do you mean?" asked Harry in concern.
"Ickle Ronnykins teaches Fred and me; we teach Fane and Verity, they teach their families. Ron said you told everyone in the D.A. to teach their families. Like I said, Verity is a quick study...Fane struggles a bit. It'd do him good to be able to protect himself. I guess he could always snore at the Death Eaters."
"I did tell the D.A. members to teach their families," admitted Harry. "I guess I didn't realize it would happen so quickly; or that it would have such a ripple effect."
"I can tell you I feel better about the little I've learned. Maybe you could teach Fred and me yourself while you're here!" encouraged George.
"Be glad to," said Harry. "I just have to be careful of that underage magic thing with the Ministry. Ron's of age. It's legal for him to teach you. I guess I could coach."
"Mum's the word from us about anything illegal," said George with a wink. "We don't want the Ministry to come nosing around our shop."
Harry watched George cross to where Fred was standing and pass over the deck of cards with a whispered explanation. He looked around the crowd. Neville and Luna were there, as was Headmistress McGonagall. Ginny and Gabrielle were standing to the audience's left, looking stunning. Harry was annoyed he hadn't gotten to talk to Ginny before the wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were standing with Bill, ready for Fleur's arrival. Peeves was standing like a man-at-arms and, unbelievably, behaving himself.
A scented breeze whispered through the grass. The whisper turned into a triumphal wedding march.
If Harry thought Fleur's distaff progenitor's arrival had been impressive, it paled in comparison to Fleur's grand entrance. Silver clouds gathered, reflecting golden sunlight on the wedding party. Birds flew intricate dances in the sky. The clouds swirled in patterns that drew the eye toward the heavens. At the top of a cloud, in a billowing white dress, Fleur appeared. At her first step off the fluffy cloud, a rainbow formed and made a coloured path to the ground.
As Fleur descended, Harry tore his eyes from the spectacle and looked at the wedding party. Already waiting were Fleur's mother and grandmother. Harry could see the soft shimmer of a piggleflaggen between them and the others. Bill was waiting patiently in bright white dress robes. The rainbow stopped next to Bill. Fleur continued down the rainbow until she was standing next to Bill. Her dress had turned gold. The instant Fleur looked into Bill's eyes, her dress changed colour again. It glowed brightly silver. Suddenly Harry realized the outer layer of Fleur's dress was a piggleflaggen. It was showing Fleur and Bill's mood. Harry remembered the silver manifestation was an indication of love. He smiled.
Bill and Fleur exchanged vows. Harry couldn't recall all the words, he just knew the piggleflaggen stayed silver. The expression of love meant much more than the words to Harry.
The ceremony was short. Soon Bill and Fleur were pronounced husband and wife. Bill kissed Fleur who was crying tears of joy.
"Women cry at the most inopportune times," said a voice next to Harry. He suddenly realized that he had been so focused on the wedding that he hadn't heard Ron come up beside him.
"Where have you been mate?" Harry asked.
"I've been right here all the time," said Ron. "Hold on! What's this?"
Harry moved his attention back to Bill and Fleur. They stepped to the side and were replaced by Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks. Lupin and Tonks exchanged vows and rings.
"Wow! A double wedding! Would you look at that!" exclaimed Ron. "I heard Bill mention something along those lines, but he thought Fleur would want the day exclusively her's."
After Tonks and Lupin had kissed. Tonks and Fleur stood side-by-side. In a blurred instant, they had thrown their bouquets over their heads. Ginny and Hermione caught the flowers amid gales of laughter and applause from the crowd.
Bill and Fleur, followed by Lupin and Tonks, strode to the shade of the bowery and started to receive guests.
Hermione and Ginny rushed to Harry and Ron. Ginny took Harry's arm and showed him the bouquet.
"You know what this means?" she asked with a giggle in her voice.
"I believe I do," said Harry. He escorted her to a table and sat staring at her.
"What?" Ginny asked uncomfortably touching her elaborate coiffure.
"Nothing is wrong," he said smiling. "You are just absolutely beautiful. I see why Fleur was willing to share the day with Tonks. It took some of the attention away from the most beautiful woman here...you."
Ginny blushed demurely. "I need to greet guests. I'll only be a little while. Promise you'll wait for me and not go wandering off."
"I promise," said Harry.
As he watched Ginny move through the crowd, he was startled to hear a sharp crack. He was sure it was the sound of someone disapparating. He looked around for Ron to see if he had heard the noise, but he couldn't find him. Harry decided to check inside the Burrow but didn't find anyone there. He had just reached Ron's room at the top of the house when he heard another apparition crack. He rushed downstairs and out to the garden. Ron and Fane were sitting at a table, eating delicate jam tarts from frilly napkins.
Harry took Ron by the arm and led him away from the table. "Did you hear anyone apparate?" he asked quietly.
"In all this noise?" asked Ron incredulously. "Besides, some of the guests may be leaving. I haven't been paying that close attention. Can I get back to my tart?" he asked impatiently.
"Oh go eat!" said Harry crossly. He watched Ron return to his seat by Fane.