Ginny hasn't seen Hermione for a year, since the defeat of Voldemort, and now she's graduating from Hogwarts. Then an odd-looking stranger shows up at the graduation ball and asks her to dance…Who could it be? gw/hg eventual slashy deliciousness :)

A/N: no, i do not own Harry Potter, nor am i JK Rowling, nor am i making any profit whatsoever from this. aka, no copyright infringement intended! the whole story is written already, so i'll probably post one chapter every couple of days. also, WARNING: this story will eventually contain a girl/girl relationship, so if that's not your cup of tea, stay away! because, if you read this chapter, you might get hooked and end up reading the slash chapters against your will...muwahahaha...

Graduation Presents

Ginny idly scanned the crowd from her place on the makeshift stage. Graduation was being held on the Quidditch pitch this year instead of the great hall because of the abnormally large size of the graduating class. Last year many more students had been pulled out of school because of the war, and now Ginny's year was swelled with students who had come back to finish or redo their seventh year.

Most of the students who had left had come back after Harry defeated Voldemort at the end of his seventh year. He had single-handedly hunted down the horcruxes and finally the Dark Lord himself, and staged the final battle on the very grounds of Hogwarts. Ron had just barely graduated with the rest of his year, because of the three weeks at the end of the year he spent with Harry in Scotland tracking down and destroying the last horcrux. Hermione, acting as Harry's source at Hogwarts, had had no trouble graduating on time either, despite the mountains of extra research she had taken on to help Harry in his quest.

Ginny felt a pang of regret at the thought of Hermione - she hadn't seen her friend since the end of school last year. She tried to distract herself from this line of thought before the pang of regret grew into the dull ache of longing that had been an ever-present background to her life since the end of last year. Hermione had rushed off to Australia to retrieve her parents as soon as it was safe, and then had taken an internship with the American Ministry of Magic in their Muggle Relations department, according to her letter.

Hermione had written regularly since then, but the letters were always just newsy updates about her job. Ginny knew she couldn't expect the letters to ever say what she really wanted them to say, but she was still frustrated at how impersonal they always seemed. She and Ginny had been close friends at Hogwarts, and Ginny missed their late night confidences, and insignificant secrets, and the easy conversations they could have about anything and everything. She would happily settle for just getting her friend back, but after this year apart, she didn't quite know where they stood. Sighing, Ginny turned away from her thoughts for a moment to check how close it was to her turn.

"Vance, Elizabeth," read Headmistress McGonagall from her list at the podium. Elizabeth Vance, one of the super-seventh-years, walked up to the podium and received her diploma from her head of house, Professor Sprout.

Ginny scanned the crowd, and found her family easily. Eight heads of flaming red hair were not hard to miss anywhere, even in the huge crowd of families, friends, and alumni that were gathered there. Fred and George caught her eye and gave her identical mischievous smiles, which made Ginny suspicious. She knew that look; it meant they were up to something. But hopefully they weren't planning anything too disastrous…she remembered Ron's graduation all too well, and didn't look forward to magical fireworks going off as she received her diploma. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had obviously not seen Fred and George's faces, for they waved encouragingly when they saw Ginny looking their way. She smiled back and turned her attention back to the stage, in time to hear McGonagall call her name.

"Weasley, Ginevra."

Ginny walked up the stairs to the podium and shook hands with McGonagall, who handed her a thick scroll tied with a red and gold ribbon. Before she could walk away, McGonagall put a hand on her shoulder to still her, and announced, "On the behalf of Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry, I present to you the Order of the Phoenix, in honor of your outstanding contributions to the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!" With this, she placed a heavy gold medal adorned with a flying phoenix motif around Ginny's neck. Ginny beamed. Neville, Ron, Hermione, and quite a few other students in Ron's year had received the Order, but Ginny was one of the few in her year who had. She already knew her family was very proud of her, whether or not her contribution had been recognized officially, but receiving the Order would be cause for yet more celebration.

True enough, the Weasleys were overjoyed when they met up with Ginny after the ceremony. Mrs. Weasley swept her up in a huge hug, and she received numerous congratulatory back-slaps from her brothers, and two kisses on each cheek from Fleur, who breathed, "Congratulations, Ginny; Beel and I are vairy happy for you!"

Ginny smiled, feeling surrounded by warmth, and let herself be carried along in their tide of excitement. They walked off together to the Great Hall for the Graduation feast, which promised to be extravagant. What she was really looking forward to came after the feast, though. In the evening came the annual graduation ball, which was only open to graduates, alumni, and guests. Current students were not allowed to come, even as guests, so Ginny had gone through hearing about each of her brothers' fabulous graduation balls without ever having gone herself. It was going to be so much fun.

After the feast, the round tables were pushed back, so that almost the entire great hall was open as a dance floor. At one end of the hall, a small orchestra played classically inspired ballroom dance music, and swaying couples filled the floor. It was only eight o'clock in the evening, so many of the graduate's parents and families were still there, enjoying the ball. Ginny stifled a giggle as she looked over and saw professor Slughorn dancing with her Great Aunt Muriel, who had insisted on coming to see her youngest grand-niece graduate.

Ginny and her friends had claimed a table far away from the orchestra and now they were talking animatedly. Most of them were single right now, and they were all waiting for dancing later that evening, with a band, when partners would not be strictly necessary. Ginny, for one, didn't particularly feel like dancing. The thrill of finally graduating and then the jubilant, raucous air of her family's table at the feast had begun to wear off, and now she found herself thinking about Hermione again.

She only seemed to get crushes on people who were totally unavailable. First Harry, and now this…but after she met Hermione, he hadn't really stood a chance. That childish obsession had only been based on her image of him, and didn't last once she finally got to know Harry Potter, the person. Of course, she hadn't developed a crush on Hermione right away, but it was inevitable really; Ginny couldn't imagine feeling any other way. When Hermione had never shown any inclination to reciprocate her feelings, though, she had told herself to just give up, and date people who were available. There turned out to be plenty of these, but none of her relationships had really felt right, and she had dumped many boyfriends when they just weren't what she was looking for. Hermione, on the other hand, now she was perfect in every way…

"Ginny, are you ok? You look kind of sad…" Persephone Winters, one of Ginny's dorm mates, inquired from across the table.

"No, I'm fine, just tired. Long day, you know?" But she vowed to herself that she wouldn't spend the whole graduation ball sulking and pining after a girl who was thousands of miles away and definitely not interested. She looked around to see if there were any boys she knew who weren't already dancing. This was her graduation ball, damn it, and she should be having fun.

Just then, a young man who Ginny had not noticed before detached himself from a pillar he had been leaning on and came walking toward Ginny's table. He was of medium height, with large horn rim glasses that covered half his face; long, straight, brown hair pulled back from his head into a ponytail; and a rather incongruously bushy handlebar mustache and sideburns.

Aside from the unfortunate facial hair choice, Ginny decided, he looked nice enough. Long hair was uncommon on any but the most traditional, pureblood wizards, but somehow it didn't look out of place on the stranger. Ginny saw that he was wearing dark maroon dress robes with a brown silk tie and matching brown pants – quite classy compared to what the twins had chosen. The stranger stopped in front of Ginny's seat and gave a half-bow. "Would you care to join me for the next dance?" he asked politely, in a curious accent.

"Why, I'd be delighted!" said Ginny, picking up on his polite manner. Odd-looking though he might be, here was an opportunity for fun standing right in front of her, and she wasn't about to spend any longer sulking at the table. She rose out of her chair, and they made their way out onto the dance floor.

After an awkward pause, Ginny reached out to take his hand, and he hurriedly put one arm around her waist, and let her take his other hand. Ginny was just short enough to rest her head on his shoulder, which she did as they began swaying around the room in time to the music. His shoulder felt rather bulky and stiff, and she wondered, in amusement, how many layers he must be wearing under his dress robes. They danced in a somewhat awkward silence for a few moments, before the stranger broke it by clearing his throat.

"Congratulations on your Order of the Phoenix award," he said. "Your family must be proud."

"Oh, you were there?" said Ginny, taken by surprise. She shifted slightly so they could look at each other and talk. "I mean, thank you! They are proud of me…I'm afraid you have an unfair advantage now," she continued. "You obviously know who I am from the ceremony, but I still don't know your name!"

"Oh-I'm Herman Granston," he stuttered slightly, seeming distracted by something.

Fin (de chapitre)

A/N sorry to break at this point, but there's no good place to put chapter breaks, really. also, there will be more dialog later, i swear. it doesn't stay this angsty and introspective : ) begging time! don't even have to like it, i just want to hear your must have SOME thoughts after reading this, right? the little button is right down the, calling out to you!