The sense of fear and panic was almost overwhelming. His breath was coming in short, ragged gulps. He felt trapped. His palms were sweating, his heart racing, he couldn't stop his hands from shaking, and the only thought that was in his head was "What am I doing here???"
"It's my wedding day – THAT'S what I'm doing here", the thought came unbidden into his mind.
Looking over at Ron - his best friend and Best Man – he wondered if he had gone through any of this when he had married Hermione seven months ago. Of course he had. Harry had been there to witness the whole thing. The two of them were in a room not too dissimilar to the one they were currently in and Harry remembered with a grin the look of panic that occasionally flitted across Ron's face in the morning leading up to his wedding ceremony.
Seven Months Ago ….
"Harry – what the bloody hell am I doing?" Ron's panicked voice came in a strangled whisper from across the room.
"You're getting married. Or you will be as soon as Hermione finishes getting ready." Harry replied, unable to keep the laughter out of his voice.
The two men had been sitting in the antechamber for about two hours now. Even in the wizarding world, as was so often the case in the Muggle world, the bride-to-be was running a few minutes behind schedule. Ron's father had been by twice already to explain it to them. In Harry's opinion, he'd been by just for something to do rather than out of a need to explain things multiple times.
Arthur Weasley stuck his head in the door once again. "She's ready," he announced with no small amount of relief coloring his voice.
"FINALLY!" Ron's exasperated tone forced Harry to choke back another fit of laughter. He covered it up, rather nicely he thought, with a cough.
Hermione looked beautiful, of course. Ron was a little prejudiced there – in his eyes, she always looked beautiful. The woman walking down the aisle towards him though was beyond lovely, beyond beautiful. Once again he had to wonder how it was he was so lucky to have a woman like this who loved him. He thought back to the advice his brother Charlie had given him: Don't argue mate. Just love her back as much as she loves you and the rest will take care of itself.
In the end, Ron would honestly be able to say that he didn't remember too much of the ceremony. It was all just a confused blur of thought and emotion that ended when he kissed his new wife, whispered "I love you ‘Mione" to her, and then turned to greet the cheering throng of friends and family who had assembled to witness it all.
"And now it's your turn Mr. Potter." Ron said with a chuckle. He remembered all too well the maelstrom of feelings that ran through him that day and recognized the look of panic, anticipation, dread, and hope that was on his best friend's face.
With a quick chuckle, Harry replied, "Indeed it is Mr. Weasley. Indeed it is. And it's been a long time coming, has it not? We've both come quite a long way since that day at Platform Nine and Three Quarters."
"True enough. Though if I had known that you and my baby sister were going to start dating, I would've encouraged her to keep running away every time she laid eyes on you!" Ron said with a mock growl. He had long since stopped worrying about Harry and Ginny being together. It had taken a while, but Hermione, Bill, Charlie, Fred, George, Percy, and his parents had managed to make him see the error of his thinking. Fred and George had only dangled him out of the upper-most windows of The Burrow for a minute before he had started singing a new tune.
Struggling to control his laughter, Harry reminded him, "It's your own fault you know. You were so busy shagging Hermione that fifth year at Hogwarts that we were left to our own devices."
"WE WERE NOT SHAGGING!!" Ron exclaimed, turn a color of red that came close to matching his hair. "We waited until we got out of Hogwarts before we started doing anything like that. Besides, you know how hard it is to get any sort of alone time in the Gryffindor Common Room."
"Ron you git – that's what the broom closets were for!"
"It was too cramped in there for our liking." Ron glanced around before he returned his gaze to Harry. "Let's just be glad my Mum isn't around to hear us talk like this. She'd unleash a lecture on us that would leave us both begging for a Howler instead."
For some reason, that comment sent them both into gales of laughter.
The previous evening
"I'd like you all to join me in raising your mugs as we take a moment to remember those who couldn't be here tonight; those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to help defeat The Dark Lord." Arthur Weasley spoke with quiet regret in his voice. It was a Muggle function called a ‘bachelor party'. According to Mr. Weasley it was supposed to involve a rather raucous party for the groom-to-be. He also mentioned than an equally rambunctious ‘bachelorette party' was supposed to be thrown for the bride-to-be. However, Harry and Ginny had decided that they would use it to remember all of their friends who had lost their lives in the Battle Against Voldemort.
Ron stood up first. "To Remus Lupin."
Rising to her feet next to him, Hermione quietly added "Alastair Moody"
Professor Dumbledore slowly got to his feet and added "Severus Snape."
"Minerva McGonagall." said Molly Weasley, a slow tear falling down her cheek.
With an unmistakable catch in his voice, Harry added "Cedric Diggory."
"Dennis and Colin Creevy" said Ginny.
His godfather, Sirius Black, was the last to stand. "For James and Lily Potter, for the Longbottoms, and for all those others who cannot be with us, we gather here today to honor their memory and to thank them for the future they helped to provide for us. It is through their sacrifices that we are able to come here today."
"To their memories," came the murmur from those gathered.
"And as we remember those we've lost, we also turn our attention to those who we come to witness joined in marriage. Harry … Ginny … you two have meant so much to those of us here. I thought I'd find no bigger joy than getting to know my godson. Happily, I've found myself discovering two lives – two lives on the verge of becoming one. I think I speak for everyone here when I say that starting with Ron and Hermione and now you two, the future for us all looks bright indeed." With that, Sirius raised his glasses to the two couples.
There was a contest then to see who was flushed with embarrassment more – Ron, Hermione, Ginny, or Harry. All of them stood with their faces flaming.
Clearing his throat, Professor Dumbledore spoke next. "I too add my voice to Sirius' hope for a wonderful future for you all. Harry and Ginny, it was my honor and my privilege to get to know you both during your years at Hogwarts. I saw you when you first arrived there – unsure, insecure, and striving so hard to do well. Then later I reluctantly said goodbye to you – barely recognizing you with how much you both had changed during your years there. You may have left Hogwarts to face an uncertain future beyond its walls, but each of you proved that you were more than capable of facing anything that fate and the future put in your path. Now, on the eve of your wedding, I'm pleased to see that exactly how right I was."
"Thank you Professor.," Ginny said, once again flushing. Harry nodded his agreement as he reached out to catch her hand in his own.
"Ginny and I want to thank all of you for being here with us. Not just for the wedding, but also for all of the love and support you have shown us these past few years. Molly and Arthur – you have been the parents to me I never had a chance to know. Sirius, you have been the rock from which I have been able to draw strength and experience from whenever I thought I couldn't go any further. Professor Dumbledore, you have provided guidance to us all when it was necessary and you showed patience towards us when we probably should've been expelled from Hogwarts many times over."
"Don't think I didn't consider it Mr. Potter!" Dumbledore replied with mirth in his eyes.
That brought a laugh from all present, none louder than from Fred and George.
Ginny kissed her fiancée's hand and spoke next "To my family I would like to say thank you. Thank you for making fun of a young woman who used to squeak and blush every time a certain Harry Potter was around."
Laughter erupted from everyone at that comment.
"Thank you for not sending me a Howler in front of everyone even after I snitched every pair of socks from Gryffindor Tower."
"Ginny – I still haven't gotten my Chudley Cannon's socks back from you!" Ron replied to her, trying to look angry with her, but failing rather miserably.
"And thank you to you all for helping The Boy Who Lived become the man that I am marrying tomorrow. Each and everyone one of you have changed him in some way. Thankfully the ways that Fred and George change people tend to wear off after a few hours!"
The co-owners of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes looked at each other innocently at that final pronouncement from their sister amidst a barrage of laughter from those around them.
A/N – Huge thanks and a long-distance high 5 go out to Jack for his beta read on this wee beastie. And thanks to Imogen as well who has withstood a veritable torrent of dumb questions from a first time writer. I raise my pint of Guiness to you both.