Disclaimer/Author's Note: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast books. Furthermore, certain plot elements, quotes, and character names, have been borrowed from several other sources. Call 'em if you see 'em.
No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
One week. One more week before she could call herself Mrs Potter. Seven short days until the big day, the first of August, Lughnasadh. And she didn't even have a dress yet. Nor had she taken care of the catering or chosen a Maiden.
"Relax, Ginny," Gudrun said in-between bites. "We'll help you sort all of this out. First off, you need to pick your bridesmaids and maid or matron of honour."
"Isn't that a Muggle custom?" Galatea asked, while she gently turned seven-week-old baby Henry around to give him access to her other breast.
"No, darling," a pregnant Janice Cliff-Faust said while she tried to feed her very stubborn eleven-month-old son, Peter. "Bridesmaids and groomsmen are a Roman tradition. They served as witnesses, and to make it harder for the evil spirits to find the real couple."
"I had something else in mind. Aside from the priest, Harry, and I, only six people are allowed to be in the inner circle during the ceremony. I still need to find four people to fill special roles in the ceremony. I suppose it could be two men and two women to keep it all even. And I have no idea who should give me away. I also still need a Maiden."
The three other women exchanged surprised looks.
"Haven't you asked Hermione?" Gudrun asked.
"I was going to, but it slipped my mind," Ginny said miserably. "She won't be back until two days before the wedding. And you know how she hates being given last minute notice like this."
"Speaking about late requests, I have one of my own," Galatea said. "My father was supposed to be in England to meet with a fellow botanical expert, but the wizard in question got an invitation to this wedding and—"
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Neville?"
"Yes, Neville Longbottom."
Ginny nodded. She'd received a letter from him a week ago, in which he told her that he might not make it on account of a very important deal with a Muggle-born botanist. In a visit to Concordia the previous summer, Neville had discovered that the fruits of a Mirror Realm plant called Assassin Vine, a carnivorous plant, could make for a good but heady wine. The only problem at the time seemed to be that its fruits were just a tad too toxic. But Neville had also discovered that some specimens were more docile than others, and that their berries were less toxic. He'd been planning to cross-pollinate those specimens in the hope of creating a subspecies docile enough to harvest good grapes from. "So he was talking about your father!"
"Yes. Your friend chose my father because they get along well, and because my father has profound knowledge of wines since his relatives have been in the business for a very long time. My father says that he didn't want to keep your friend from attending the wedding, but due to their busy schedules, next week would be the only time they could meet and discuss business. They are in a hurry because someone else had the same idea, and could beat them to the creation of the product if they didn't get to work as soon as possible. But my father couldn't bear to deprive Mr Longbottom from attending the wedding of such dear friends, so he is asking if you could extend an invitation to him and his wife also."
There were many bad people out there who wished her and Harry harm—not that anyone stood a realistic chance of beating Harry, but many bystanders could be hurt during such an attempt. That was among the reasons why Concordia had been chosen as the location for the wedding. And in order to give potential evildoers as little time as possible to prepare, the invitations had been sent out as secretly as possible, and a mere month before the date of the wedding. Since access to Concordia required a six-month waiting period, the invitations also served as passes into the city.
"Couldn't Commander Ironheart arrange passage?"
Galatea shook her head. "Maybe if someone had died, or for reunification of long lost family. Not for a reason like this, and certainly not on such short notice. There are limits to his influence."
Ginny smiled. She was sure that Harry would be all right with this. He'd be helping Neville, and Galatea's dad would be able to see his youngest grandson, while his new wife, who happened to be Heidi's mum, would get to visit her daughter. "Just tell me where the invitation should be sent."
"Are you going to eat that?" Gudrun asked. She'd already finished eating the last of her breakfast and was hungrily eyeing a slice of Galatea's French toast.
The house-elf who had been entertaining Little Robert and Rachel by making their toys zoom around the kitchen, piped up, "Hoover can make toast for mistress."
"There's no sense in wasting good food," Galatea said. "Go ahead."
Ginny giggled. She knew that Gudrun was eating for two again. "When are you due?"
"Late December or early January," Gudrun said, before taking a large bite of toast. She finished chewing and swallowed. "We've decided to call him Nathaniel."
Galatea gasped. "It's a boy?"
Gudrun beamed and nodded. "Matt saw it on the tapestry."
"We're lucky that things have been quiet and that we've had nice, large groups of recruits last year and this year," Janice said. "After Peter was born, Matthias told me that we'd possibly have to wait a while before we could have the next one, because Nehanda and Donovan had been pondering a restriction due to the strain our maternity leave caused the Order."
"That's not fair!" Ginny exclaimed.
"Nor is the fact that the others have to work their arses off because we want to pursue our personal happiness in the short term." Gudrun shrugged. "At least it doesn't harm our chances for promotion in the long run, like it does with women's chances in the Muggle world. Being a Ranger and having a normal domestic life is a difficult combination. We were all very lucky to have your sister-in-law as a nanny when we're not around to look after our kids."
It was true. Jasmine had contributed greatly to the Order by looking after Robert, Rachel, and more recently, Peter, when their mothers went back to work after six months of maternity leave. "Bless her," Ginny said.
"Or you can put off children until you're retired, or almost retired, like me," Janice said.
"Does that mean you're calling it quits?" Gudrun asked.
"After twenty-two long years, I've decided to stop," Janice nodded. "October eleventh. I'll have about a month to prepare for this one's arrival," she said, stroking her belly. "When Peter and this baby are old enough, I'll help Jasmine take care of the children if both parents are unavailable."
"Did someone call?" Jasmine asked as she appeared from the living room. She was holding her thirteen-month-old daughter Rose, about whom everyone agreed that she could have been Ginny's daughter, such was the likeness. Rosie was positively all Weasley. Her big brown eyes lit up as she saw Ginny, and she smiled broadly, flashing an incomplete set of teeth. She whined and extended her little arms in Ginny's direction, and Jasmine indulged her by handing her to Ginny before she took her place at the table.
Rosie smelled of baby powder and milk, and the scent loosened an emotion deep within Ginny. She knew she didn't want to wait too long to have some of her own.
"We were just talking about how grateful we are that you're looking after our brood when neither us nor the fathers are around," Gudrun said. "I wish Matt and I didn't have to lean as much on you as we do, but I don't have a husband who can multiply himself and help out," she added, giving Galatea a quasi-jealous look.
The women laughed at that. Over the past couple of years, Wolfe had improved his powers tremendously, acquiring no less than thirty-two Animagus forms, multiplying himself nine times and sustaining a single copy for up to seventy-two hours. Consequently, when both he and Galatea had been scheduled to be at the Citadel, after Galatea's maternity leave for little Robert had passed, sometimes he made a double that would stay behind and look after Robert. Now that Galatea was on maternity leave again, it wasn't necessary.
From upstairs, a shriek that would have put many a banshee to shame echoed through the house, followed by two pairs of feet pounding the stairs. Charlie junior came darting into the kitchen, triumphantly clutching a brassiere, something Muggles and Muggle-born witches tended to wear instead of corsets.
"Come back here, you little sicko!" Mary screamed, hot on his tail.
The seven-year-old boy nimbly leapt over Hoover, Robert and Rachel, and exited through the kitchen door, towards freedom. Unwilling to risk trampling her little sister and Robert, probably unable to duplicate Charlie's athletic feat, and no doubt aware that she was still in her nightdress, Mary gave up pursuit and opted to let loose a string of curses that would have made Lilia proud. Charlie did a victory dance some twelve feet away, taunting Mary and challenging her to come out after him.
"Charles Weasley Junior!" Jasmine said sharply, causing her son to go pale under his freckles.
He reluctantly came back into the house. Mary snatched her brassiere back as soon as he was in range and grabbed his ear with her other hand.
"Mary, it's not your place to punish him," Gudrun warned, and her daughter released Charlie with much reluctance.
"Charlie, don't you have something to say to Mary?"
Charlie muttered something that was probably supposed to pass for an apology.
"I don't think she heard you."
"I'm sorry, Mary."
"That didn't sound very convincing. Maybe I ought to take you out of the gobstones club."
"Mum, I said I was sorry!" Charlie protested.
"I know you didn't mean it. Now, try again."
"I'm really sorry," Charlie said, sounding more regretful this time.
"Much better. I think a two-week grounding ought to be enough. No broomsticks, carpets or gobstones. And you'll stay at home when we go swimming with the family."
"No!" Charlie looked very distressed now, tears threatening to spill forth out of his eyes. "Mum, please." He turned to Mary. "I'm really, really, sorry. I won't do it again, ever. I swear."
Mary's heart was as big as her fuse was short, and Charlie's pleas didn't fall on deaf ears. She looked at Jasmine uncertainly, and the woman's severe expression lessened.
"If Mary forgives you, you're allowed to go swimming with the family," Jasmine said.
Marry rolled her eyes. "Oh, why not? You're forgiven."
"Thank you!" Charlie threw his arms around Mary's middle and hugged her fiercely, reminding Ginny of how Dobby used to hug Harry. Mary tousled his already messy curls even further as she smiled down at him. "Okay, that's enough. I don't want your cooties." Then she pried his arms loose and headed to the living room, where she took the stairs to the second floor.
Jasmine frowned at her son. "Charlie, why did you take her bust-holder?"
Charlie blushed. "I told David Golan that Mary's boobies are bigger than his sister's but he didn't believe me because his sister is fifteen and Mary's eleven so I had to prove it," he rattled.
Galatea looked at him oddly. "Batya Golan?"
Gudrun shook her head. "That's Mary's friend. She's eleven too, but she's barely got any curves. I think he means the older sister, Sabra."
"Yeah, Sabra," Charlie confirmed.
"So he told you to nick one of Mary's bras so you could compare them?" Ginny asked.
Ginny shook her head. "Boys."
"I've seen Batya and David's sister around," Gudrun said. "You can tell David that he can take my word for Mary having bigger—boobies—than his sister."
At eleven, Mary certainly didn't look it anymore. She'd always been very tall for her age, and she'd already begun developing curves around her ninth birthday. "I barely had any curves when I was her age."
Gudrun laughed. "I bet you were a foot shorter too."
At five feet and four inches, Mary was tall for her age, and save for her youthful face and expression, she could easily be mistaken for a much older girl.
"The kids these days grow up much too early," Gudrun sighed. "I went to see a Healer to check if Mary had some sort of hormonal imbalance. She couldn't find anything, so she put it down to nutrition and heritage. Since she doesn't get it from my side of the family, I asked Matt about his. Turns out his Aunt Betty is six-foot-two and measures at least fifty inches around the bust. His Aunt Zelda isn't poorly endowed either."
Cliff looked sceptical. "Fifty inches?"
"At least. Matt described her as looking as though she had a pair of Quaffles stuffed under her robes. Mary seems to take after Lynette a bit too, so I don't think she'll expand that much. Anyway, at first I just thought I was being paranoid, but when the school term ended and the teenagers came back home, I noticed a lot of boys of about fourteen to sixteen walking past the house several times. One of them must've seen her and spread the word about a babe on the block quickly. I bet they don't know she's only eleven."
"Knowing boys that age, I bet it won't matter," Janice warned. "I'd keep a close eye on her if I were you."
"If I were around all the time, I would. Mary doesn't realise that those boys are after only one thing. Maybe I ought to send her to Caer Sidi until school starts. Thank goodness she's going to a girls' school."
"Doesn't she know the facts of life?" Ginny asked.
"My mother took care of that years ago," Gudrun smiled and glanced over at little Rachel. "In a few years I'll have do it myself, though. They grow up too fast."
Galatea frowned. "I'm not sure about the Salem Witches' Institute, but going to Southern Cross wasn't fun at all. They wouldn't let us have any contact with boys whatsoever. A little lips-on experience with boys isn't necessarily a bad thing, you know. It would have made my life after school much easier."
"Salem isn't that bad. A few years ago, they started getting the boys and girls together on Halloween, Yule and Easter. They have dances and things like that."
"Isn't that why she wanted to go there in the first place?" Ginny asked, while she pried open her niece's clenched fist and freed the lock of hair Rosie had been tugging at.
"Yeah, that way she'll see Nicolai a little more often than just the Christmas and summer holidays. It's a good school, and I don't want to deprive my daughter of necessary experiences, so we signed her up there. I want to shield Mary from older boys who are much smoother and want much more than a kiss. She isn't ready for any of that, but from what I've seen so far, she tends to attract their attention. Younger boys are intimidated by her size—oh, look, there's another one." Gudrun nodded to the window, where another teenaged wizard of about fifteen walked past, hoping to catch a glimpse of the inside of the house. He averted his gaze quickly when he saw the women staring back at him.
"Has Harry picked a best man yet?" Janice asked Ginny.
"I assume Ron will be the Guardian. But I'm not sure."
"Well, that's Harry's concern, not yours. I'm sure Hermione will consent to being the Maiden. Knowing Hermione, she has probably anticipated it," Gudrun said. "Right now, we've got to get you a dress, so we need someone who has rubbed shoulders with the best dressmakers and knows what would suit you."
Janice nodded. "We don't want the dressmaker to waste your time with eccentric designs."
Gudrun leaned back in her chair. "Where is Heidi right now?"
"I'm really going to hate this, aren't I, Ron?" Harry asked, as he sat down in a booth at The Barrel with Ron and Wolfe. "No, I don't have to read your mind for this. It's written all over your face."
Ron sighed. "Remember how I told you it was a bad idea to send Percy's invitation to the Ministry?"
Harry groaned. "What happened?"
"Word leaked," Wolfe said. "One of our people was in London two days ago and heard about it. Ironheart told me this morning."
Vesta Gaal appeared at their table and beamed at Harry. He'd rid her of a parasitic personality two years ago and she'd been eternally grateful, offering a drink on the house every time he was in The Barrel. But even her dazzling smile couldn't erase the sense of dread mounting inside him.
"Hey, Vesta. Fire Whiskey for me and Wolfe, and hot chocolate for Harry," Ron said.
"Fire Whiskey in the morning?" Harry asked. Whatever Ron was about to tell him would have to be really bad.
"Better make the whiskeys doubles, and give them to Harry," Wolfe said.
"Because of your status in the wizarding world, when people got wind of the wedding, lots of them felt snubbed for not being invited," Ron began.
"They felt they ought to be invited because—" Wolfe had sensed his question and would have begun to answer it, but he was at a loss for an explanation.
Ron took over from Wolfe. "You've saved the world, and as representatives from the governments, they chose to invite themselves. It would do wonders for many of their careers to be seen at your wedding. Treaties with Concordia allow them to get in at will, so the six month advance notice rule can't keep them out."
"The Lord Mayor sympathises with your plight, but he couldn't turn these opportunists away," Wolfe said. " The timing is simply too convenient to seal some very lucrative contracts with said government representatives, and in the end he has to think about his re-election too."
"How many people are we talking about?" Harry asked. He'd resigned himself to the presence of the unwanted guests.
"It isn't all bad," Ron said quickly. "Here in Concordia the news was received with great enthusiasm. We've got lots of people volunteering services and goods for the wedding, free of charge, and—"
"How bad is it?" Harry repeated.
Wolfe grimaced. "On a scale of one to Korumu's stone, it's about—heck, kid, just elope."
Vesta arrived at their table, bearing the drinks on a tray.
Harry gave her a rueful smile. "Keep the drinks coming, please."
"C'mon, Harry, it isn't that bad. I bet a game of Quidditch would take your mind off things," Ron said.
"Do we have a team?"
"No, but Wolfe can multiply himself and play the Chasers and Beaters."
Harry chuckled and looked at Wolfe. "You know, I always thought you got the better end of the deal with that power."
"Would you trade it for flying?" Wolfe asked.
"Not a chance."
"Then what are you complaining about?"
Ron cleared his throat. "If the super wizards would momentarily cease boasting about their powers, we've got to do some wedding planning. Hermione sent me a message to remind me."
"Hermione, I should have known," Wolfe chuckled. "So, what did she say?"
"First off, she wants to know if she'll play a role in the ceremony."
Harry frowned. "Didn't Ginny ask her to be the Maiden?"
"Apparently not. She also wanted to know if you've picked the Guardian yet?"
Harry sighed. He didn't quite know how to tell Ron this. "You're my best mate, but I was thinking about asking Wolfe to be the Guardian. I mean, the things he did to get Ginny and me together—"
Ron laughed. "You don't have to look so guilty. I think it's a great idea. It completes the circle, you know. You were my Guardian, I was Wolfe's, and now Wolfe is yours."
Harry's shoulders sagged with relief. "Thanks. I was thinking that you might want to give Ginny away instead?"
Ron blinked, clearly taken aback by the request. "I'd be honoured, but I had a different idea. If we can find someone else who'd give Ginny away, my brothers and I could cover the points of the compass."
Ron clearly wanted to give his brothers an equal share in the ceremony. "D'you think your mum would do it?" Harry asked.
"No, Mum thinks a man should give Ginny away. She's old-fashioned like that."
"What about Aberforth?" Wolfe asked. "He's got a special relationship with Ginny."
"I don't know. I'll have to ask Ginny about it," Harry said. "We'll have to talk about all of this. Maybe she wants some of her friends to have a part in the ceremony too, so I wouldn't hand out the points of the compass to your brothers just yet? I'm sure Hermione would object to being the only woman in the ceremony's inner circle."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Ron said. "Anyway, let's take this one day at the time. First we'll have to survive the madhouse my family will create when they get here on the 30th."
Harry smiled. The Weasleys would arrive two days before the wedding so they could go on a grand family outing to the lake the day before the wedding, Harry's birthday. Now that everyone owned a home in Concordia, Charlie, Ron and Ginny had decided to divide the family among themselves. Angelina, her kids, and Mrs Weasley would stay at Ron's, because he had the most room available. Percy, Hannah and their two daughters would be staying at Charlie's, while Bill and his family would stay at Harry and Ginny's. "I hope Fleur doesn't tie up the bathroom too much with her preening."