“Your Great-Aunt Muriel doesn’t agree, I just met her upstairs while she was giving Fleur the tiara. She said, ‘Oh dear, is this the Muggle-born?’ and then, ‘Bad posture and skinny ankles.’”
“Don’t take it personally, she’s rude to everyone,” said Ron.
“Talking about Muriel?” inquired George, reemerging from the marquee with Fred. “Yeah, she’s just told me my ears are lopsided. Old bat. I wish old Uncle Bilius was still with us, though; he was a right laugh at weddings.”
“Wasn’t he the one who saw a Grim and died twenty-four hours later?” asked Hermione.
“Well, yeah, he went a bit odd toward the end,” conceded George.
“But before he went loopy he was the life and soul of the party,” said Fred. “He used to down an entire bottle of firewhisky, then run onto the dance floor, hoist up his robes, and start pulling bunches of flowers out of his – ”
“Yes, he sounds a real charmer,” said Hermione, while Harry roared with laughter.
“Never married, for some reason,” said Ron.
“You amaze me,” said Hermione.
They were all laughing so much that none of them noticed the latecomer, a dark-haired young man with a large, curved nose and thick black eyebrows, until he held out his invitation to Ron and said, with his eyes on Hermione, “You look vunderful.”
“Viktor!” she shrieked, and dropped her small beaded bag, which made a loud thump quite disproportionate to its size. As she scrambled, blushing, to pick it up, she said “I didn’t know you were – goodness – it’s lovely to see – how are you?”
Ron’s ears had turned bright red again. After glancing at Krum’s invitation as if he did not believe a word of it, he said, much too loudly, “how come you’re here?”
“Fleur invited me,” said Krum, eyebrows raised.
Harry, who had no grudge against Krum, shook hands; then feeling that it would be prudent to remove Krum from Ron’s vicinity, offered to show him his seat.
“Your friend is not pleased to see me,” said Krum, as they entered the now packed marquee. “Or is he a relative?” he added with a glance at Harry’s red curly hair.
“Cousin.” Harry muttered, but Krum was not really listening. His appearance was causing a stir, particularly amongst the veela cousins: He was, after all, a famous Quidditch player. While people were still craning their necks to get a good look at him, Ron, Hermione, Fred, and George came hurrying down the aisle.
“Time to sit down,” Fred told Harry, “or we’re going to get run over by the bride.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione took their seats in the second row behind Fred and George. Hermione looked rather pink and Ron’s ears were still scarlet. After a few moments he muttered to Harry, “Did you see he’s grown a stupid little beard?”
Harry gave a noncommittal grunt.
A sense of jittery anticipation had filled the warm tent, the general murmuring broken by occasional spurts of excited laughter. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley strolled up the aisle, smiling and waving at relatives; Mrs. Weasley was wearing a brand-new set of amethyst colored robes with a matching hat.
A moment later Bill and Charlie stood up at the front of the marquee, both wearing dress robes, with larger white roses in their buttonholes; Fred wolf-whistled and there was an outbreak of giggling from the veela cousins. Then the crowd fell silent as music swelled from what seemed to be the golden balloons.
“Ooooh!” said Hermione, swiveling around in her seat to look at the entrance.
A great collective sigh issued from the assembled witches and wizards as Monsieur Delacour and Fleur came walking up the aisle, Fleur gliding, Monsieur Delacour bouncing and beaming. Fleur was wearing a very simple white dress and seemed to be emitting a strong, silvery glow. While her radiance usually dimmed everyone else by comparison, today it beautified everybody it fell upon. Ginny and Gabrielle, both wearing golden dresses, looked even prettier than usual and once Fleur had reached for him, Bill did not look as though he had ever met Fenrit Greyback.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said a slightly singsong voice, and with a slight shock, Harry saw the same small, tufty-hired wizard who had presided at Dumbledore’s funeral, now standing in front of Bill and Fleur. “We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of two faithful souls…”
“Yes, my tiara set off the whole thing nicely,” said Auntie Muriel in a rather carrying whisper. “But I must say, Ginevra’s dress is far too low cut.”
Ginny glanced around, grinning, winked at Harry, then quickly faced the front again. Harry’s mind wandered a long way from the marquee, back to the afternoons spent alone with Ginny in lonely parts of the school grounds. They seemed so long ago; they had always seemed too good to be true, as though he had been stealing shining hours from a normal person’s life, a person without a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead….
“Do you, William Arthur, take Fleur Isabelle…?”
In the front row, Mrs. Weasley and Madame Delacour were both sobbing quietly into scraps of lace. Trumpetlike sounds from the back of the marquee told everyone that Hagrid had taken out one of his own tablecloth-sized handkerchiefs. Hermione turned around and beamed at Harry; her eyes too were full of tears.
“…then I declare you bonded for life.”
The tufty-haired wizard waved his hand high over the heads of Bill and Fleur and a shower of silver stars fell upon them, spiraling around their now entwined figures.
As Fred and George led a round of applause, the golden balloons overhead burst. Birds of paradise and tiny golden bells flew and floated out of them, adding their songs and chimes to the din.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” called the tufty-haired wizard. “If you would please stand up!”
They all did so, Auntie Muriel grumbling audibly; he waved his wand again. The scars on which they had been sitting rose gracefully into the air as the canvas walls of the marquee vanished, so that they stood beneath a canopy supported by golden poles, with a glorious view of the sunlit orchard and surrounding countryside. Next, a pool of molten gold spread from the center of the tent to form a gleaming dance floor; the hovering chairs grouped themselves around small, white-clothed tables, which all floated gracefully back to earth round it, and the golden-jacketed hand trooped toward a podium.
“Smooth,” said Ron approvingly as the waiters popped up on all sides, some hearing silver trays of pumpkin juice, butterbeer, and firewhisky, others tottering piles of tarts and sandwiches.
“We should go and congratulate them!” said Hermione, standing on tiptoe to see the place where Bill and Fleur had vanished amid a crowd of well-wishers.
“We’ll have time later,” shrugged Ron, snatching three butterbeers from a passing tray and handing one to Harry. “Hermione, cop hold, let’s grab a table…. Not there! Nowhere near Muriel – ”
Ron led the way across the empty dance floor, glancing left and right as he went; Harry felt sure that he was keeping an eye out for Krum. By the time they had reached the other side of the marquee, most of the tables were occupied: The emptiest was the one where Luna sat alone.
“All right if we join you?” asked Ron.
“Oh yes,” she said happily. “Daddy’s just gone to give Bill and Fleur our present.”
“What is it, a lifetime’s supply of Gurdyroots?” asked Ron.
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