The end of HBP reminds me very much of Tolkien's phrase, "the deep breath before the plunge." This is a series of vignettes about the women of Harry's world and how they have all been waiting for their personal happy ending during the action of HBP.

Headmistress's office, Beauxbatons, Christmas holidays

Madame Maxime poured herself another glass of wine and stretched out in front of the fire in her office. Christmas was always lovely at Beauxbatons. Tonight, the fire reminded her of trying to kindle a campfire while on last year's mission with Hagrid. She was not the kind of woman who enjoyed camping. Sleeping in caves, wearing dirty robes, eating substandard food, and trying to make contact with hostile giants was not something that she could remember fondly. She much preferred the elegant grounds of Beauxbatons, and the comforts of her office and chamber. Why then, was she so much less happy these days than she had been while on her mission with Hagrid?

Hagrid. How unexpected his presence in her life had been! Maxime had always known that she had giant blood in her background. It was not something she'd wanted to publicly acknowledge, given the prejudice she knew that she would face. She had always avoided questions about her heritage, and never denied it when people made allusions to an accidental childhood intake of too much Skele-Gro. She had never expected people to think that she was pretty, content to dress well and be thought "handsome," a word reserved for a woman of her imposing size and bone structure. Hagrid, however, thought her beautiful. She had contented herself with success as headmistress of an esteemed school, instead of expecting to be loved. She sighed when she remembered all of the time lost during the Tournament. If she had just been forthright with him about her heritage, they could have enjoyed months of peaceful courting, instead of avoiding each other. Now, their courtship was confined to owl post. She could see no possible change in their relationship, since Hagrid was so dedicated to Hogwarts, and her life was here, at Beauxbatons. She had never expected to have the privilege of being in love. Now, it consumed her, draining her once pleasant life of contentment and causing her to measure life as the distance between letters from Hagrid, instead of the time between school holidays.

Hogsmeade, Early Spring

Tonks looked in the mirror as she got ready for another Order meeting. Without control of her metamorph abilities, she suddenly had need of all of those beauty potions that her friends had always talked about. Of course, she thought, she needed them because the one person she wanted to look beautiful for, never looked at her anymore. Her longing for Remus was a constant, dull ache that she felt every moment of every day. But when she was at risk of meeting him in person, it became a pain so sharp that it took her breath. If being deprived of his company was painful, then being near him and not with him was agony. She knew the way it would be tonight, should he show up. They would do their best to avoid eye contact, they would never get near enough to touch or talk, and if forced into any contact, they would be polite and distant. The whole time, however, she would be screaming inside, desperate to throw herself at him and beg him to acknowledge her presence and her love. She had enough self control and pride not to do that publicly or privately. She had tried once before and he had simply walked away from her. But he would know that she wanted to do it, and that made it worse. How had it come to this? When would it change? Taking one last look at her drab appearance, she squared her shoulders and willed herself to focus. This was simply the way things were, and there was absolutely nothing that she could do about it. She was unattractive and unloved. Tonks pocketed her wand, and walked out into the chilly spring night.

Hogwarts Hospital Wing, Night of the battle at Hogwarts

Fleur's thoughts and feelings whirled madly as she and Bill's parents flooed to Hogwarts. She had never experienced anything as terrifying as getting the news that Bill had been attacked by a werewolf. Not even the maze during the third task of the Triwizard Tournament had scared her that much. When the Weasleys got the news of Bill's attack, it had been understood that she would come along to Hogwarts. She knew, though, that they neither liked her nor wanted her there. She tried to be understanding, but grew irritated at the way they made her feel that she was intruding on a private family moment. She was, after all, about to become their daughter-in-law. A sob caught in her throat when she thought of their wedding. Would this attack affect their plans? How badly hurt could he be? Please, oh please, she thought, just let him be alive. Anything else we can deal with together.

Finally they were in the hospital wing and the extent of Bill's injuries became horrifyingly clear. She froze, not able to take it all in at once, willing herself to be strong and not to cry in front of Bill. She didn't know how long she stood there, as if she had been on hold, but suddenly Mrs. Weasley's voice broke in on her thoughts saying something ridiculous like, "he was going to be married." She recalled enough from Bill's grammar lessons to know that this particular use of the future tense meant, and now will not be getting married! Preposterous! She had had enough of this nonsense, and told Molly that in no uncertain terms. As the words came flying out of her mouth, she expected to see Molly start to smolder in one of her characteristic rages. What she did not expect, however, was to see Molly look at her with understanding and acceptance. When she cried with Molly that night by Bill's bed, it was not just about his injuries. It was also with relief, knowing that, at last, she was no longer an intruder in their family. Her family.

Hogwarts Express, End of Term

Ginny hesitated as she prepared to board the train to return to King's Cross. Never before had she been this worried about where she would sit. She knew exactly where she wanted to sit: next to Harry, his arm around her, making plans for how they would spend the summer holidays. That was exactly what would not be happening. It was over, as far as he was concerned, and nothing she could do or say would change that. She had two distinct options to choose from. She could sit in the same carriage as Harry, and take it on his terms, and act as "Ginny the friend." She would wonder the whole time if she had made the wrong choice, and would be bracing herself for Ron to tell her tell her to get lost, and leave him, Harry and Hermione alone, just as he had done once before in her second year. She didn't know if she could handle it if Harry agreed that she should leave.

Her other option was to sit somewhere else, with other friends, enduring a hundred questions about why she wasn't sitting with Harry, and spending the whole time wondering what she was doing there, in a different carriage from Harry, and whether she should have chosen differently. Neither choice sounded appealing. Ginny had absolutely no idea what she should do, where she should go. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, pasted a smile on her face, and opened the door of her chosen compartment. "Mind if I sit here?" she asked.

The Burrow, Week of Bill and Fleur's Wedding

Hermione had never more distinctly experienced the feeling of being in limbo. Ron was finished with Lavender, and she was now fairly certain that the feelings she had for him were returned. However, nothing was happening. Outwardly, every thought and action was focused on either the Weasley/ Delacour wedding or the war. Inwardly, though, Hermione continued to wonder how much longer she was going to have to wait for Ron to be hers. It wasn't just the romance that she wanted. It was a sense of completion. Hermione liked her i's dotted and her t's crossed, and the knowledge that her relationship continued to be undefined left her uneasy. She knew, though, that if Harry had so nobly (and she must say, ridiculously), sacrificed his relationship with Ginny for the sake of their fight against Voldemort, that this was not the time to start something new with Ron. She had waited 4 years for Ron to realize that she was a girl, and 2 more for him to realize that he cared about her. She could wait until the war was over if she needed to. She was good at waiting.