Chapter 40 : Epilogue :: Two-And-A-Half Years Later
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It was a crisp October morning. Trees stood towering above the entire street; their shades making the path beneath them feel fresh and cool. The breeze blew fallen leaves, engaging them in rhythmic dances where they spiraled high and shimmied gracefully back to the ground. Along the road, children ran back and forth, their laughter echoing for the entire mile. Shoppers bustled to and fro, their hands laden with packages and bags. Shop owners kept busy, catering to clients with vigor and eagerness. It was a pleasant day that seemed to shine even brighter with the new addition to the district.
Standing on the very top of the hill, the once abandoned building and lot had transformed into a magnificent sight. The yard was neatly trimmed, a short stone wall covering the entire breadth of the property. From the gate, a meandering cobble-stone walkway led to the front entrance, two fountains sitting on either side of the steps. No longer broken and battered, the house now stood at three stories tall and measured half-a-football-field wide. Its walls were a mixture of yellow and blue, a perfect blend that elicited a calming effect on anyone who looked at it. The windows were of stained glass, mosaic renditions of animals, people and nature and its inner walls were lined with more creative pieces – statues, sculptures, sketches and paintings - all of a different temperament.
It was the new art studio, built over the course of one and a half years that added the perfect touch of culture to the shopping district so many people loved to trek through. Named for the owner and her family, Weasley-Potter Art Gallery was the manifestation of Ginny’s dream. She had always hoped to own her own studio one day, showcasing her talent and the pieces of art she had worked so hard to create. Inside, personnel and family members worked diligently to add the finishing touches to the gallery. It was to be the Grand Opening as well as a New-Coming Celebration.
In the main gallery was where most of the chaos was. Tables lined the back walls while staff members piled trays of food, cups, plates, cutlery and drinks along it. Cloth-covered chairs were lined along the floor in thirty rows. A mahogany podium stood in the front with the studio logo stamped on the front in beautiful gold and white characters. Ginny stood next to this dais, her hands perched on her hips and her lips puckered in thought. She was dressed professionally in a black-and-white pinstripe pants suit with a black silk blouse underneath it and a pair of pumps to match. Her red hair was pinned back into a flower bun and her head was tilted upwards, her gaze on her brother.
“I said I wanted it higher, Ron.” She dropped one of her hands from her hip and pointed vaguely upwards, somewhere above his head. “It has to hit that mark right there.”
Standing on a ladder, Ron groaned and rolled his eyes before lifting the frame in his hand higher. He had been trying for the last twenty minutes to get the covered painting perfectly placed and every time he thought he had it, Ginny would issue another order to move it higher, lower, over to the left, to the right. To make matters worse, he was unable to use magic to adjust the frame because most of Ginny’s workers were Muggles and the area where the studio was located was dominated by them, as well. So, he had to resort to the non-magic way of doing things – with a ladder and his arm.
“Is that good?” he asked, a little impatiently.
“Yeah. No, wait,” she quickly retracted, eliciting another moan from Ron. “Come over to the left a bit. Not your left, Ron, mine.”
“Well, then, you could’ve said to the right,” Ron argued, his arm trembling slightly from holding the darn thing up for so long. “Is that good now?”
Ginny tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. To Ron’s dismay, she shook her head. “It just doesn’t look right.”
Ron hung his head and cried out, “Harry, please come and do something about your wife.”
A chuckle answered Ron and Harry stepped over, a cup of pumpkin juice in one hand and his other hand jammed into his black trouser pocket. He stepped up behind his wife of one year and rested his chin on top of her head. Even with her high heels on, Harry still stood a few inches taller than Ginny and he just loved to use that to his advantage. He surveyed the painting in Ron’s hand, thinking, unlike Ginny, that it looked perfectly fine where it was.
Shrugging and moving his chin so he could talk properly, Harry said, “It looks fine, babe.”
Ginny spun to face him. “Not yet, it doesn’t.”
“Honey,” he said, taking his hand out of his pocket, “don’t you think you’re being too much of a perfectionist?”
Ginny dropped her other hand from her hip. “I just want everything to be flawless.”
“And it will be,” Harry cooed, placing his hand over her shoulder and turning her back around.
“Bloody hell, can I please come down?” Ron felt his hand slip a little and struggled to keep himself steady. “Agh!”
“Wait,” Ginny shouted, breaking free of Harry’s embrace. “That’s perfect, Ron, tack it.”
Sticking the hold for the frame onto the wall, Ron carefully adjusted the back and then shook it, ensuring that it was secure. Breathing a sigh of relief, he trotted down the steps of the ladder and then jumped onto the ground.
“It’s about ruddy time, too,” he muttered, swinging his arm back and forth as he stepped up to where Harry and Ginny were standing. “Thought my arm was going to fall off.”
“Oh, Ron, quit complaining,” Hermione said, walking up to the trio. “You’ll live.” She stopped, standing next to Ginny.
She, too, was dressed professionally; only her suit was dark brown with a silk cheetah print blouse underneath and she was wearing dark brown flats which were easier to walk around in and far more comfortable. Her hair was loose in tamed curls, which were currently being pulled by the giggling baby in her arms.
“Oh, Charlie,” she said, adjusting him on her hip. “You’re going to ruin mommy’s hair before the ceremony starts.” Another high-pitch giggle was her response. She rolled her eyes and smiled. “I swear this boy has a fetish for hair.”
“My boy just knows a good thing when he sees it.” Ron reached out his arm and Charlie leaned towards him, laughing when his father lifted him into the air before cradling him.
“Be careful, Ron,” Hermione said, flinging a diaper over Ron’s shoulder. “I just finished feeding him.”
“He knows better than to vomit on me. I’ll take his Quidditch privileges away.”
“He’s six-months old, Ron,” Harry laughed. “He can’t even hold on to anything properly.”
“Disbelievers. My son’s going to be a brilliant Quidditch player. Just you watch.” He turned and started walking away. “Come on, son, let’s go look at the picture Aunt Ginny did of you.”
Ginny laughed and turned to Hermione. “That poor child is going to be so spoiled.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Don’t I know it. Speaking of which, where are your two?” she asked, folding her arms.
“Dad has them,” Harry said, swallowing the last bit of his juice. “He and Arthur are supposed to be here soon.”
“I wish they’d hurry up,” Ginny said anxiously, glancing at her watch. “The opening is supposed to start in fifteen minutes. Do you know if Luna and Neville are going to make it?”
“Someone call for me?” Neville smiled as he poked his head between Harry and Ginny’s shoulders.
“Just wondering where you were,” Hermione replied, reaching for a hug.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “We would’ve been here sooner but Luna kept having to go back to the bathroom.”
“You try holding something equivalent to the weight of two bowling balls against your bladder and see if you wouldn’t have to pee every five minutes.”
Ginny laughed and turned to look at Luna, pulling her friend into a hug. “How are you holding up?” she asked, rubbing Luna’s massive stomach.
“I’ll be glad when this kid’s born,” Luna said, heaving a sigh. “It feels like I don’t have anymore room left but the kid keeps growing.”
“Imagine if there was more than one.” Ginny shook of her head. “I felt like I was going to burst those last few weeks of my pregnancy.”
Luna laughed. “I could imagine. Only two more months, though. Two more months.”
“Why don’t you have a seat and rest?” Ginny suggested, placing an arm on Luna’s back. “We should be starting soon, anyway.”
Luna nodded and gave Ginny one more hug before she and Neville walked off, heading towards the first row of chairs. Just as they took their seats, Ginny noted that the room had begun to fill up. People were filing in, looking around at the walls and scurrying for seats.
Just as her eyes reached the entrance, the doors opened again and five people walked in. Arthur was easily recognizable being the tallest of the lot. He was dressed in a perfectly tailored navy blue suit. In his arms was a little girl who looked to be almost two years old. She was dressed in a light green dress, a white unbuttoned jumper and matching slippers. Her deep dark red hair was tied back into a curly ponytail, a green ribbon laced around it. Next to them, James stood looking around. His raven black hair was a little messy, as though a huge breeze had just blown through it. He was dressed more casually in a pair of dark blue jeans and a white button-down shirt, a black blazer thrown over it. His glasses normally covering his eyes were currently being waved around by the little boy in his hand, who looked to be about the same age as the little girl. His hair was a darker shade of red, though, almost brown and he had brown eyes. Behind the quartet, Sirius followed, his arms buried in his black trouser pockets.
Ginny’s mouth broke into a smile upon seeing them and she started walking over. Spotting her, the little boy began to wiggle in his grandfather’s hands. Noticing this, James placed the child on the ground but, before he had a chance to reclaim his glasses, the little boy broke off into a run.
“Mummy!” he cried, running as best as he could.
Ginny crouched as he reached her and lifted him into her arms. She planted a kiss on his cheek and stood up just as the others reached her. She managed to wrestle James’ glasses free and handed them to the owner.
“Thanks,” said James, putting them on. “That’s the third time he took my glasses hostage.”
Ginny laughed just as Harry took the little girl and said, “He always does that with mine. Even broke it a few times.”
“Boys will be boys,” countered James with a chuckle.
“I hope they weren’t too much trouble,” Ginny inquired.
James laughed again. “They’re kids,” he said. “Of course they were.”
“Maybe Arthur-James,” Arthur said. “We all know how much of a busy-body he is. Lillian was well-behaved though.”
“That’s because my little girl is an angel.” Harry tickled Lilian under her chin, causing her to burst into giggles. “I’m hoping some day her good behaviour rubs off on her brother.”
The little boy looked up upon hearing his name. “No,” he exclaimed with a toothy grin.
Harry laughed as Ginny said, “Well, I guess that’s that.”
They all looked up to see David standing there.
“Hey!” Harry cried. “I thought you weren’t going to be coming until later this evening?”
“I couldn’t miss this momentous occasion, bro.” He bent and gave Ginny a kiss on her cheek. “It’s not everyday my sister-in-law makes her mark in both the Magical and Muggle art world.”
Ginny stared gratefully at David, still marveled at the change. Following the final battle, he, along with Harry and James, had made moves to incorporate him back into the family. Harry and James had told him stories about his first five years with them as well as highlights from the many things he had missed over the twenty years. Ginny had been able to tell how much finding David had meant to both men. Then, a year ago, James had gotten word about a Transfiguration master by the name of Minerva McGonagall who had the ability to alter changes no one else could. It was a long shot considering the implication of ‘permanent transfiguration’ but all three of the Potter men wanted to give it a try. And it worked. After countless sessions and months of readjustments, the looks that had marked Draco Malfoy were completely gone. He had even gone through the steps to forever alter his name, now going by his birth name, David Potter.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here, David,” Ginny finally said. “It means a lot.” She adjusted the little boy in her arms.
“I hate to break up this reunion,” Hermione interjected, walking over, “but everyone’s seated. We should probably start.”
Ginny nodded and handed Arthur-James back to James. Hermione gave both of the kids a kiss each and then she and Ginny proceeded to the front of the hall. As she neared the podium, she felt her heart start to beat quicker and quicker in anticipation. She couldn’t remember anytime she had ever felt this excited about anything, except for maybe her wedding day. That morning had felt like one of the best days in her life, next to the birth of her twins, Arthur-James and Lilian Molly. And now she had this day, the day she opened her studio, to add to that list.
Stepping up to the podium, she took a deep breath and then turned to face the crowd. Everyone was watching her with smiles and easy eyes. The contentment and pleasant atmosphere did a lot to keep her calm. With Hermione, the co-owner standing beside her, she began to talk.
“Good-morning,” she started, eliciting responses from everyone in the room. “Today is a very special day. Today marks the start of a dream I never thought would become a reality. Art has always been my passion; it’s something I’ve done to keep myself focused, my thoughts grounded and to keep me at peace. This entire studio is basically an anthology of my life. Each piece is a mark of something great that happened to me or to someone special in my life. But it is here in this gallery where the true masterpieces lay - the ones that mark great times, memories and things that will forever be engrained in my history.”
She lifted her hand to encompass the room. Following her gesture, all eyes swiveled, soaking in the art around them. There were snapshots of her and Ron’s children, marking periods from their birth to current times. There were mosaic renditions of wedding days – her and Harry, Ron and Hermione and Luna and Neville. Situated on the floor, on both sides of the room, were sculptures of those deceased – Molly, Lily, Bill, Charlie and even one done of Percy. There were even pictures of Charlie and Percy’s funerals. A few days after the Final Battle, Arthur had gone back to collect their bodies, feeling that he couldn’t let their final resting places be among rubble. So, he had gotten them and, as a family, buried them. At the very back of the gallery was one of her most favourite paintings. It was the emerald-eye she had done the day after meeting Harry. Altogether, it was a breathtaking collection, one that she hoped would last over time and teach future generations about their past.
Dropping her hand, Ginny continued with her speech. “Before I allow you to take a more detailed look around, I invite you to take a look at my most recent piece. It is a manifestation of the very thoughts that have inspired this gallery.”
She turned around and gave a quick nod to one of the staff. Nodding back, the man turned and tugged his arm. The covering of the painting Ron had struggled to put up flew off, forming a pool at the base of the portrait. She heard gasps echo from the crowd and smiled in satisfaction. No one, not even Harry, had seen the painting before this moment. She had wanted to keep it a secret so that on this day, it would be a surprise, a tribute to everyone she held dear.
Behind her, Hermione turned and announced that the gallery was now open. Ginny heard the subtle scrape of chairs as people got up and started moving around. Their voices began to fill the room, their tones and words hinting at complete awe and marvel. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a few people walk closer to the main painting, the one she had jus unveiled. After a few seconds went past, she saw the nods and the looks of admiration on their faces. It was reactions like that that made her truly feel accomplished. She could paint a million pictures, but if she didn’t manage to make someone smile, look back and say, ‘wow’, she didn’t achieve anything. But she had done that and it made her smile.
She sensed a presence behind her but didn’t move, knowing who it was. Harry stepped up behind her and placed his chin on the top of her head again. She closed her eyes and sunk back into him, allowing him to wrap his arms around her waist.
“You did a good job, babe,” he said softly, his chin hitting gently against her head.
“Thank you,” she replied, opening her eyes. “Just when I thought that things couldn’t get any better.”
“We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?”
“We sure have,” she said, turning in his arms. “Who would have thought that after twenty years of fighting, the Potters and Weasleys would be allies and their children would be together?”
Harry chuckled. “I sure as hell didn’t,” he said, resting his forehead against hers. “I think we would’ve been together, either way, though.”
Ginny lifted her head and looked up at him, her eyebrow arched. “How so?”
“You weren’t the only one who was captivated instantly,” he said, nodding to the portrait of his emerald eyes at the back of the gallery. “After I left your room that night, I kept hoping that I would see you again.”
“Even though you knew who I was?” she asked.
Harry shrugged. “It didn’t matter to me. And that’s how I know we would’ve ended up together regardless. I didn’t care who your family was and you obviously didn’t care what your family thought.”
“Good point,” Ginny conceded, looking behind Harry for a fleeting second. “But I have a feeling that that relationship might have sparked a whole other war.”
Harry turned slightly to see where she was looking, only to see both his father and Arthur watching them. Both men, although they were now friends, still acted protectively once in a while. Chuckling and shaking his head, he turned back to Ginny who was smiling herself.
“We would have been like the real Romeo and Juliet,” he said, pulling her closer. “Only together in death because they would have killed us both, then gone after each other.”
“Well, let’s be glad that didn’t happen.”
“Yep.” Harry kissed her softly on her lips and then turned her back around, wrapping his arms around her waist again. “The Potters and the Weasleys are no longer at odds, and you made sure to let everyone know it,” he added, pointing at the portrait.
Ginny smiled as she looked at it again. The painting was of her own creation, taken from a mix of one of her wedding photographs and a dream. In the middle of it was her and Harry, both dressed in white, with everyone else surrounding them. In their arms, they held Arthur-James and Lilian Molly, only nine-months old then. Hermione (whose midsection had a small bump) and Luna stood to Ginny’s left; both were dressed in soft blue bridesmaid gowns. Neville and Ron were beside Harry, their tuxedos white with a powder blue shirt beneath it. On a raised platform behind them, Arthur and James stood - the former behind Harry and the latter behind Ginny. Fred, George, David and Sirius were on either side of them. The setting was ‘Eden-esque’. Watercolor brushes of flowers and fruit trees dominated the background. Twinkles of fairy lights shone all around them, the golden color adding a splash of illumination to the entire portrait.
But it was something else Ginny had added that truly made the overall affect spectacular. Shining from ahead was an ethereal image, shadowed into the original picture. Symbolizing heaven, a cloud of angels - renditions of Molly, Lily, Bill and Charlie – looked down at the scene. Smiles adorned their faces and there was an extra spark to their eyes so that, as a person walked past, it would give the illusion that the angels were winking.
Without even realizing it, everyone had stepped up beside Ginny and Harry. They crowded around them, their eyes focused on the portrait. Arthur and James stood behind the couple, holding their grandchildren in their arms. Hermione and Ron were on one side, Charlie cradled between them, while Luna and Neville stood on the other side. Then, Fred, George, David and Sirius surrounded them. It was as if they were recreating the image before them and it was something Ginny couldn’t help but notice. She gazed up, her eyes lingering on the twinkle in her mother’s eyes and suddenly felt that it went beyond just a well placed brush stroke. It was something more, like an affirmation from the world beyond. And, to her, it showed an unparalleled union. Her family was together, joined as one - even those who had gone before.
A/N: Well, there you have it folks. The ending of Slightly Scandalous. I would just like to thank all of my readers and my reviewers. You guys made writing completely worthwhile and I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed concocting the plot and fiddling with the characters we all know and love.