Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: The Nightmare Before Bedtime :: 04 :: Sunset

04 • Sunset

I managed to get away from Snape without spilling my idea on the Dark Tosser’s death, though it was quite a challenge to distract the man. I finally pointed out that he was dodging the issue of Harry’s scar, as though he had no answer, and that sent him off down the appropriate line of thought as I had hoped.

By the time I was able to leave Snape was back to muttering about ways to convince his potential paramour to pony up, and I was grateful to slip outside in order to knock back a few cigarettes; fighting always did make me nervy. I was hardly surprised when Harry appeared as I was finishing up the first of them. I expect he had been keeping an eye on me with his map and had sought me out at the first safe opportunity.

“How did it go?” he asked a bit breathlessly.

“Fine,” I assured him. “He’s agreed to back off for one thing, and I did eventually trick him into giving me his unvarnished opinion about your scar and my little potion.”

Harry’s face pinked from more than just the cold as I paused to light a second cigarette and take a drag.

“He thinks it should be fine,” I said after exhaling, then shot him a penetrating look. “But it’s your decision, Harry. I can’t guarantee that it won’t hurt you in some fashion.”

And like the brave Gryffindor that he was Harry immediately responded with, “I’m willing to take the risk. I want to be free.”

I nodded and had another drag, exhaling the smoke lazily afterward. “All right,” I said, then changed the subject. “I’ll have you know I already have all my Christmas shopping done. Do you?”

He looked a bit dismayed at that news and shook his head.

“Do you want to go to Hogsmeade, then? Perhaps this evening we can take care of that scar, with all night ahead of us just in case, though I don’t really expect any problems.”

And as we walked toward the village, scuffing our feet playfully through the snow, he asked, “Do you think the scar will disappear?”

It was hours later that we returned to my room and I was kind enough to avert my gaze when Harry went to wrap a certain gift, though I helped him with the others. He jittered nervously all the way through dinner, and I suppose I couldn’t blame him, but eventually we were back in my room and I had my supplies out.

Harry glanced them over, then looked at me with an odd expression. “Do you want payment now or after?” he asked.

I laughed softly and shook my head. “Later is fine. After all, if that kiss is half as good as I hope it will be, I won’t be interested in that scar for quite some time, and perhaps neither will you.”

Harry flushed and nodded as he looked for and found a stool to sit on. I went ahead and began making a new batch of the potion, not wishing to trust what was left over from earlier. It was much too close to the period when it would turn all sparkly pink, and I didn’t think I could handle that. That sort of colour really ought to be banned from the spectrum.

When it was ready I had him lie down on a slant so that his feet were higher than his head. If the potion was to drip, I would rather have to figure out how to fix his hair than panic over any damage to his eyes. Obviously, it hadn’t mattered so much with the test subjects; no one would care if they lost the hair on their arms, right?

By the time I was done scrubbing Harry was a bundle of nerves and completely tense, despite the fact that he had never once complained of any pain, nor even moved in such a way as to denote it felt even if not voiced. I chucked my supplies into a handy bucket and smiled at Harry. “All done.”

“That’s it?” he asked rather tentatively.

I nodded and added, “My senses are telling me that nasty bit of work is gone now, but I’ll goad Snape into checking as well in the morning. In any case, I think you should probably spend the night in here, or me in your dorm, so I can keep an eye on you.”

He tried to get up, but I pushed him back down. “Wait a few more minutes before you go wash your forehead the normal way, okay? Or take a shower, whichever. I’d offer to let you borrow some of my clothes rather than make the trip, but. . . .” I snorted. “It’s not like anything but the shirts would fit.”

Harry grinned at me and said in a not unkindly way, “You are short for a boy.”

“Yeah, but that’s okay. I’d feel really strange being taller, and I’m already used to my limitations at this height. Besides, I somehow don’t think you mind all that much.”

His cheeks pinked again.

“All right, you can get up, but be careful when you wash your face. I got off as much as possible when I was done, but keep your eyes protected.”

Harry disappeared into my bathroom for a couple of minutes, reemerged, then wandered off to his own dorm briefly before ending up back in my room, obviously freshly showered. I had taken the opportunity myself to wash up while he was gone and was presently running a comb through my hair to get out any tangles.

“I don’t understand how you can handle all that,” Harry commented.

“I’ve had long hair for what seems like decades. You get used to it,” I replied, then set the comb aside so I could twist the length and tie it into a knot to keep it out of my way. “You still feel okay, right?”

He nodded and took a seat on the sofa so I decided to be bold and advanced, sliding on so that my legs straddled his. “About that payment,” I breathed and lowered my head slightly, waiting to see if he would attempt to meet me halfway.

Harry did, so I brushed my lips against his and came back for a second, more pressing turn, then asked for entrance by gliding my tongue between his lips. He seemed a bit confused by that action, and I had to think that those rumors about Harry and girls must be true. I, however, could fix that.

I entreated again, more firmly, and Harry’s lips parted, so I slid my tongue within and explored his mouth with languorous movements. His arms came up to clutch at my back, then pull me closer, and I felt a great deal like smiling. I must be doing something right—I should bloody well hope so, at least. I didn’t pull back until a good five minutes had passed, finally saying, “I think that about covers payment.”

“That’s good,” he rasped, then yanked me back in for more.

Well, I could not say I wasn’t delighted that he was feeling quite frisky. Still, as we continued to kiss the desire to shift against him became more and more appealing. Arousal felt quite a bit different in a male body, not that it worried me personally. I was more concerned with what might happen if I lost control and how Harry would react.

So I pulled away again, my breathing somewhat ragged. “I’m going to make a wild guess and say you enjoy that,” I said dryly.

Harry licked his lips and nodded, a faintly predatory gleam in his eyes.

“It doesn’t bother you that I used to be female?” I inquired curiously.

He shook his head. “Not really. And Madam Pomfrey said it couldn’t be reversed, so why worry about it?”

“And am I fascinating to you because of my circumstances, or on my own merits?” I asked bluntly.

Harry tilted his head to one side before responding, a slight furrow marring his now flawless brow. “You’re different. Unlike the usual sort around here, you don’t seem to care about all this Voldemort stuff. You aren’t nice to me because I’m Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived.”

I shrugged and smiled. “It’s not like I had a clue when I came here, and it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway. I either like a person or I don’t. The most bearing fame might have is if it swelled your head, and it doesn’t seem to have.”

“Well, I like the fact that you’re smart,” he said, “but you don’t feel like you have to show it off constantly. And I like that you don’t seem to care what others think, and you aren’t intimidated by people like Snape or Malfoy. You aren’t even intimidated by Dumbledore.”

I gave him another shrug. “The worst that could happen is I got expelled, and I am an adult, so who cares? It wouldn’t prevent me from taking the NEWTs, anyway. At any rate, I think I can safely say that I like you for you, not for a bizarre accident that happened when you were barely a toddler. If I didn’t enjoy your company, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

He gave me a smile that was just shy of . . . well, shy, then asked, “Can I kiss you again?”

I nodded, so he did.

*

The next morning I arranged for a succinct note to appear at Snape’s place setting just prior to him taking a seat. He read it quickly and scowled, then gave a tiny nod. I kept a surreptitious eye on him during breakfast, eventually pleased when he conveyed to me that all appeared to be well, and finished my meal with a certain sense of additional relief after whispering the good news in Harry’s ear.

I was not able to escape easily, though. Daddykins held me back in order to inform me that he had sent a vague message to Lucius, and would let me know when I was needed for that particular exchange. I gave Snape a bright smile, which predictably annoyed him, then skipped off quickly before he could manufacture a reason to keep me any longer.

He did track me down on Christmas Eve to let me know that Lucius was due to slip into the castle the next day. Apparently, the Malfoys didn’t bother with the façade of family togetherness if no one was there to witness it, so I suppose it could hardly be considered surprising that Lucius would decide to favor his desired lover with his time on that occasion.

Harry thought it was all very amusing when I told him, but promised to keep it to himself, even from Ron and Hermione. We would already have enough trouble once they got around to noticing that his scar had disappeared. A great deal of time in the interim was spent snogging in my room, away from prying eyes, and Harry had been sleeping in my bed since the first kiss, though that would have to stop once the new term began lest we be deluged with impertinent questions about our relationship.

On Christmas morning we brought all our presents to my room and settled in to open them. I had, of course, purchased myself a gift, that being a new mug that read, “RTFM.”

Harry was thrilled with his Levitating Galileo Gravitator. An ultimately useless gift, I am forced to admit, but fun to play with and observe. Naturally, I had spelled it to run off magic rather than electricity, so there was no problem with it at Hogwarts.

I nearly laughed when I realized that Dumbledore had worn my gift to breakfast, his new pair of Monty Python Killer Rabbit Slippers peeking out from under the table, and I had to pinch Harry after I pointed them out to prevent his own descent into open amusement.

Snape cast me a glance at one point, his eyes glittering, so I knew that not only did he appreciate my t-shirt, which read, “Cluelessness: There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots,” but also my gift to him of a Voodoo knife set.

He held me back again to remind me of our meeting and give me the password to his quarters, then let me go. Harry was keen to know what I’d got for the others so I showed him the website once we were back in my room. For some reason, it tickled me pink the idea of having purchased an LED binary clock for the oh-so smart Hermione. I had to wonder just what she’d make of it.

For Ron I had picked up a wavy wand, for Neville all three colours of Luminglass, and for Ginny a Mathmos Space Projector. And of course, every last gift had been wrapped with geek paper from the same company, which I thought was vastly appropriate.

I spent the first part of the morning making another batch of the potion, then Harry and I went outside to play in the snow, somehow ending up kissing to “keep warm” after a game of chase through tunnels we made ended in him capturing me. In truth, I was giving serious thought to seducing the boy into my bed for real, but I wasn’t sure I should push. It was with great reluctance that I ended our little tryst and made him follow me back inside so I could change and fetch my supplies in anticipation of my meeting.

I left him there, curled up on my bed and snoozing, and went down to the dungeons. Snape’s rooms weren’t hard to find and I spoke the password quietly to gain entrance. I was, dare I say it, precisely on time, so my father would have no reason to criticize.

As it was my entrance went unnoticed, but I certainly did pay attention to the fact that Snape and Malfoy were indulging in . . . well . . . wild sex on the sofa. Honestly. What point was there in punctuality if one’s parental unit was so rude as to not keep an eye on the clock? I watched them for several minutes, deciding that an object lesson was never to be wasted, and noticed as I did that there was a journal, or something like it, sitting on the side table.

I made no move toward it, though, preferring to wait until they were finished with their assignation. After all, this was the sort of thing I could hold over their heads, and I saw no point in wasting the opportunity. In truth, it was all rather educational, and I hadn’t realized that Snape was quite so flexible.

Lucius finally stiffened and let out a prolonged and guttural moan; I could clearly see the results of his delight. Daddykins quickly followed, grunting in time with his, er, movements. It wasn’t for several minutes that one of them finally noticed me standing there, my arms akimbo and one foot tapping the floor patiently.

“Hello,” I chirped, then smiled broadly at them. “Are you done now?”

Lucius nearly managed to get his wand in hand when Snape stopped him. “Don’t be a fool,” he said harshly.

“Who is this impertinent whelp?” Lucius demanded to know, glaring at me quite fiercely.

I blinked. “Why, daddykins, didn’t you fill him in? I think I’m hurt.” I clutched my chest with one hand before dropping heavily into a chair.

“Daddykins?” Lucius said it as though the word dripped filth, his gaze turning back to Snape.

“Isn’t it great?” I chirped before my father could speak. “And really, it doesn’t matter all that much, Mr Malfoy. And anyway, I rather think you need to curb your tongue and be civil, or I might forget exactly how to remove a Dark Mark.”

Lucius snarled and Snape lost his composure enough to roll his eyes heavenward. “Now would be a good time to get dressed,” he said redundantly.

“Don’t mind me,” I said with annoying cheerfulness. “It’s nothing I’ve not seen before.”

I heard a faint growl as they untangled themselves, but ignored it, instead glancing around the room curiously. It was a bit of a shame; Snape’s rooms were really quite bland, with almost no personality whatsoever. It made me wonder if his bedroom was as boring, or if that’s where he hid the manacles and other naughty toys.

“Brown!” Snape snapped.

I looked back over with a faint smile. “So, do we have a deal? Or did you get distracted before you had a chance to check out that journal?”

Daddykins aimed a glare at me, forgetting that they had no effect, then said, “Yes, I had time, you insolent brat. Lucius also consented to questioning under veritaserum, so I feel no qualms in proceeding.”

“All right,” I said agreeably. “I brought the stuff. Shall we get started?”

Lucius was directed to strip his shirt back off; I’m not sure why he bothered to put it on in the first place. He didn’t seem too keen on me pulling up a chair next to him, but that was his problem. If he wanted my father, the circumstances of my birth and my personality were rather beside the point.

I fetched out a vial and a flannel and set to work, occasionally glancing at Snape to note his reaction. I figured he would speak up if something didn’t look right, so I didn’t press for conversation, and I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary myself. Everything seemed to be going exactly as it had the previous four times.

I cleaned off Lucius’s arm once I was done, not knowing the long-term effects of the potion should it remain on the skin, then sat back and put away my things. “That pretty much does it,” I remarked as I stood up and slung my satchel over one shoulder. “Would you like me to take that information to Dumbledore, or. . . ?”

Snape scowled at me. “Fine. But don’t delay. Drop it off and don’t stick around for him to question you.”

“Sure!” I had no intention of telling him that I planned to duplicate the journal before I made myself useful. After securing it in my satchel I gave them a mock salute, then turned smartly and got the hell out of there before either one could change their mind or object. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went in for round two the second I was gone.

I headed straight for my room and unloaded my satchel, then made a copy before concentrating. It was surely a coincidence when I had learned that Fawkes would answer my call, and he was happy enough to flash into the room and take the original to the headmaster as a favor to me. I thought it was the wisest course of action; that way Alby couldn’t delay me long enough to formulate any nosy queries about where the information had come from.

Harry continued to sleep as I speed-read my way through Lucius’s words. I was delighted to find out that the Dark Tosser hadn’t set foot in the muggle world from the moment he was able to leave it. That is to say, with the exception of putting a toe over the line every so often in order to kill off a few dozen people here and there as whim or fancy struck him.

As far as I was concerned, that meant it was pretty damn likely he’d never know what hit him when I got around to leading him to his death. And I figured I was the best person to handle it. Harry had enough on his mind without having to deal with the man (if you could call him one) face to face. Really, all that stress was bad for a person, and if I could spare my snoozing paramour the hassle, then why not?

Besides, I had an advantage he did not, though it wasn’t the sort of thing I would dream of revealing to anyone. They all just thought I was exceptionally gifted at Defense. And that’s not to say I wasn’t, but the underlying reason was a definite secret of the first order. I could dodge and deflect with the best of them, though I admit I found it rather tedious, but it was better not to rely so much on my secret ability. Efficiency might be intelligent laziness, but being totally lazy was always a bad idea.

At that point, it was simply a matter of setting up a scenario and enticing the Dark Wanker to fall into it, and my clutches.

*

It took a while, I admit. I spent days sneaking out of castle, planting clues and red herrings for the Dark Tosser to find. After all, I really wanted to be present when he met his well deserved end. And, of course, it would really help if there was a witness to his demise. I’m sure Alby would like a memory of the event in order to tidy things up, right?

Of course, by then nobody could get too righteously upset with me for taking the risk. It would be a done deal. So I furthered my scheme as best I could while under the restraint of being a student. Nearly the entire thing hinged on one very salient fact. Harry’s recounting of the past had set my mind working on it, and Lucius’s contribution to the cause cemented the idea.

So it was that when Easter rolled around—more specifically, the Feast of the Resurrection—I had slipped off the grounds on a quasi-mission. In truth, I had every expectation that that Dark Wanker would follow my trail of breadcrumbs just like those poor children that the Grimm brothers wrote about. Except, Voldemort wouldn’t get eaten. I doubt he’d taste very good, even to a cannibal. A Texan? Maybe. They did strange things to snakes.

I had a horrible time holding back my amusement when I finally caught him shadowing me. Someone really ought to have brought him up to speed on muggle fashions. He might not have looked out of place in New York City or parts of California, but in England? The poor man was a laughing stock and didn’t even realize it.

In any case, he followed me all the way along a convoluted path, and was close enough to hear me muttering to myself, “You can’t get there from here.” Eventually we ended up at the Sears Tower in Chicago. It really didn’t matter much that I’d never been there before except for an overnighter for research purposes.

I paused at the base to check out a street vendor who was selling seafood. It wasn’t that I was hungry, I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t trying to pass off inferior lobster as the good stuff. Everybody knew that the only good lobster was from Maine, right? Once I’d vetted the man and given my seal of approval (my actions seemed to confuse the Dark Tosser), I nipped into the building and made a beeline for the bank of elevators.

It was busy despite the date, but that wouldn’t interfere with my plans. I made sure he was right behind me as I boarded the first available lift, smirking to myself as he slipped in behind me. It struck me, for a brief moment, that most people would not have had the nerve to do what I was so nobly doing. It made me want to kick the sorting hat around again given its rather narrow views on what I supposedly needed work on. Bravery? Puh-leaze.

A ding brought my attention back to focus on my immediate surroundings, and it was then that I settled in to wait and watch. You see, he had no natural or acquired defenses against one of the most horrifying and devastating weapons known to man. Most of the civilized world had been given fleeting tastes, eventually inuring themselves against the threat—but him? No such luck I’m afraid. His strict avoidance of the muggle world was about to be his downfall.

The elevator car began to trundle upwards and the sickly sweet sounds of Muzak piped in through the speakers abruptly intensified; it was impossible to escape. Only seconds had passed and I could see his eyes already glazing over thanks to the helpfully polished inner metal doors. By the time we had ascended ten floors he was completely lost to his surroundings.

The muggles entering and exiting the car paid him no mind; they probably assumed he was just another druggie, only in more expensive clothes, no matter how inappropriate they might be. At the twentieth floor he was sagging against the wall, faint moans emitting from his slightly open mouth. When we hit the thirtieth I decided it was time to begin repelling the muggles just in case.

I mean, I must believe, it cannot be a pretty site for anyone to witness a soul being systematically sucked out of a living being. Muzak could do that to the unprotected. I was fairly certain it was on nearly the same level as being Kissed by a dementor, except I could hardly get in trouble for using such an innovative technique. As it stood, he simply didn’t stand a chance. There were over one hundred floors total, and we were only just reaching forty.

And so it went. I hummed along with the sadistically chirpy renditions of popular heavy metal tunes while Voldemort sagged lower and lower, eventually ending with a thump on the well-trodden carpet. By the time we reached the top floor he was drooling rather copiously, which I thought was disgusting, but I did my best to ignore it as I thumbed the button for the ground floor.

Even if his soul hadn’t been sucked out by what passed for music, he would have lost his will to live, so it was all good in the end. We were just approaching the end of the ride when I sprang into action, whipping a portkey out of my pocket that I had purchased some time back, not wishing to get into the issue of illegalities. The Ministries could be so nardly about that sort of thing.

I hit him with it, activating it for us both, and wobbled when we landed. I might have spent ten years taking ballet lessons, but no one could ever claim, least of all me, that my sense of balance in everyday life was perfection itself. At that point I whipped out my wand and cast an invisibility spell on the Dark Tosser before levitating him; there was no sense dragging him all the way up to the castle if it meant the students would see him and demonstrate again just how well they could panic.

Harry joined me just inside the main doors, giving me a rather odd look. I shot him a flirty little grin and kept right on walking, Voldemort floating along behind me innocently, continuing toward the entrance to the headmaster’s office. Harry, the dear, began the sweets guessing game, but I motioned with my free hand for him to stop and used the override password Alby had given me.

Then I gestured for Harry to go first, and followed him, making sure that my cargo made it inside before the gargoyle resumed its place. It did not take long to reach our final destination for the moment, and we were shortly ensconced in seats and being plied with tea and sherbet lemons despite the unexpectedness of our visit.

Neither of them had a clue about the bombshell I was about to drop, and I thought it was best to delay a bit. “Sir, do you think you could summon Professor Snape before I get into the reason for my visit?” I asked.

Dumbledore looked up from his search for the perfect sweet and replied, “If you think it’s necessary.” He then dashed off a short note and sent it with Fawkes, so I innocently drank my tea while we waited, ostensibly ignoring the questioning looks Harry kept shooting my way.

Snape arrived after a short delay, his expression darkening when he saw both myself and Harry sitting there. To forestall any snide comments on his part I set down my cup and swished my wand. Everyone started at the sound of a thud, their heads turning toward the sound.

“I brought everyone a present,” I said brightly, then waved my wand again, removing the charm I had cast earlier. Three jaws gaped open in surprise, and Harry knocked his chair over as he pushed to his feet and got into a defensive stance. “He’s harmless,” I assured them.

Once Snape got his jaw back into place he quite nearly minced over to the Dark Wanker’s body, obviously reluctant to go anywhere near him, and yet knowing that someone had to be brave enough to check him over.

“Really, it’s okay,” I said. “He couldn’t magic his way out of a wet paper bag at this point.”

Snape turned a penetrating look on me, but only briefly. His head snapped back around to stare at Voldemort as though the man might leap up at any moment and yell, “Die!”

“Perhaps,” Dumbledore said, having finally found his voice, “you might share with us what happened? I think we would all be interested to know.”

“Oh sure,” I chirped. “It was really quite simple when you get right down to it. Are any of you familiar with”—I paused to artificially heighten the tension—“Muzak?”

After a moment of startled silence, Dumbledore burst into peals of laughter.

*

I stood there waiting, taking the time to think back over the past few months. Once the pesky details had been gotten out of the way, Voldemort had been paraded up and down the streets of Hogsmeade like a prize cow at a local 4-H club before being carted off to Azkaban. The wizarding public celebrated for what seemed like weeks, and during that time the Dark Tosser slowly slipped away to his final rest.

After all, his base autonomic functions, such as breathing and sleeping, carried on without outside intervention, but not one of the guards at the island prison was willing to visit his cell on a daily basis to force food and water down his gullet. He died, alone and unaware, covered in his own filth. Such an ignominious way to go, but fitting, I’m sure.

And I was pleased to note that my suspicions about his Death Eaters were correct; with his death, they died as well, every last one of them. It all worked out rather conveniently if I do say so myself. Still, for a while there, one never knew when one might stumble over the stinking corpse of a Death Eater while gadding about the countryside or trying to fit in an afternoon of shopping.

Snape had become rather insistent since then about my future career options. He was pressing for me to enter a Potions apprenticeship, hoping for me to follow in his footsteps and become a Potions Master. I supposed I was talented enough, and had the knack, but I’ve always been a mite rebellious when it comes to people trying to tell me what to do. Time would tell.

A touch at my arm brought me out of my contemplative mood, and I looked up to see my father staring at me with frightening intensity. “Are you absolutely certain you wish to do this?” he asked for the millionth time.

I smiled and nodded. “Of course.”

There had been a bit of a kerfuffle over things once Harry and I revealed our plans. Snape and Dumbledore both tried to claim the honor of standing up with me, but my father won in the end, so Alby had to be content with the role of a grandfatherly type. It was a bit surprising, but I suppose that Snape had become, over time, rather reluctantly fond of me in some small way. Then again, it might have been that he felt he had no choice. I was the only child he saw in his foreseeable future, and it was clear that I didn’t give a flying fig if he accepted me fully or not.

Remus Lupin had been drafted in for Harry. That was hardly a surprise, and I had charmed the socks off the man almost directly I met him, which pleased Harry to no end. I confess, I’m not generally the sort to make the effort, but I did actually want to make him happy, and Lupin didn’t seem to be such a bad sort.

Snape sighed heavily and nodded. “In that case, it’s time,” he said, then snatched my arm and positioned it just so. Somehow—perhaps due to my former life on the other side of the fence and my continuing short stature—I ended up playing the more girly role in this little joining.

Snape led me out as the music swelled. Harry was emerging as well, Remus at his side, and we all converged at the center of the dais. They stepped back a pace and faced forward, and after Harry and I exchanged a smile we also faced front, to gaze at the priestess that had been engaged for our wedding. Her name, I had been informed, was Bats Mondai.

She was barely taller than I was, truth be told, but that’s a generally acceptable thing in a female, and her eyes were rather like mine used to be under glamour, an odd melding of grey and blue. Her skin was classically pale, her hair a striking shade of auburn, and she was, I could say from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, rather well put together.

Her formal robes were of a flowing silvery-blue with wide sleeves and a low neckline, and a dark green sash accentuated her waist, the ends hanging down to draw the eye to her delightfully bare feet. Thank goodness it was the summer, else she might have been a skosh uncomfortable. I couldn’t really blame her; I frequently went without shoes if I could get away with it.

The only true accessory she had was a staff fashioned from dark wood, topped by a sphere of clear crystal. I’m not quite sure what its purpose was, but I figured she could use it as a weapon if she couldn’t reach her wand in time.

And then she smiled and spread her arms, a gentle and nonverbal request for the guests to shut the hell up and pay attention, which they did with only a minimum of fuss. The ceremony itself went along just fine, but I rather figured that our audience was behaving so well in order that they might speed things along to where they got to feast themselves into a stupor.

That was fine, as it meant not only were there no problems for us in terms of hearing and responding to our cues, but I knew very well that Mrs Weasley had placed certain children of hers under a full body bind to ensure proper behavior during these most sacred moments. Of course, she bawled her eyes out the entire time, along with many others of the female persuasion, but I simply ignored them as being predictable.

Eventually, at long last, Harry and I were married. And that, my friends, is the end of this particular tale. (For real this time. I mean it.)

— The End —