Before You Say 'I Do'
'If anyone has just cause why these two should not be joined, let them speak now or forever hold their peace'. It's really a rhetorical question asked by a minister during a wedding ceremony. Tradition mandates that the question be asked but it also discourages anyone from actually answering it. The only ones who do are deranged ex-lovers that burst into the ceremony uninvited in a last ditch attempt to win back a lost love. While those instances are few and far between, you probably wouldn't find a single time in the history of weddings where the person trying to stop the wedding was the maid of honor. That is, until now.
Hermione Granger stood at the altar, across from her stood her boyfriend Ron Weasley. Between them stood Ron's sister Ginny and their best friend Harry Potter, holding hands and listening to the minister. Her wedding dress flared out at the waist and looked way too old fashioned and frilly for Hermione's taste. She would've chosen a dress that was a simpler, more elegant design. Harry wore brand new dress robes that fit him perfectly. They were a far cry from his cousin's hand-me-downs that he was forced to wear growing up. It took all her effort not to stare at him. She was with Ron and he was marrying Ginny at that very moment. It went without saying that mooning over Harry would be extremely inappropriate in the situation she currently found herself in but that's what she wanted to do. Truth be told, she wanted to do more than that. She wanted to put her arms around him and feel his around her. Then she would kiss him and find out if his lips against hers felt like she'd always dreamed they would.
She'd been in love with Harry for as long as she'd understood what that meant and possibly even before that. She wasn't one to believe in love at first sight but had to admit that from the moment she had introduced herself to him in his compartment on the Hogwarts train their first year, she'd wanted to be close to him. She'd wanted it so much that she'd begged the sorting hat to put her in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw because she knew he'd end up there. She spent the next seven years at his side helping him solve mysteries and find the answers he needed to survive his almost yearly battle with Voldemort. She also helped him rescue Sirius in the third year and prepare for the tasks in the tri-wizard tournament in their fourth year. She was the one he had been able to depend on above all others because she was the only one that had never left him. Even Ron had abandoned him first in fourth year when he refused to believe that Harry hadn't put his name in the cup and later during the horcrux hunt when he grew impatient with the lack of progress, lost his temper, and walked out on them.
He'd stayed just as faithful to her over the years. It was Harry that decided to take on a troll to save her life, he put himself between her and a werewolf, stood up to Malfoy and his cohorts when they insulted her, defended her when she and Ron fought, and comforted her when she was upset. She had hoped his feelings for her would, like hers, become more than just friends but it never happened. First he liked Cho and then Ginny. His relationship with Cho didn't last long and she'd hoped his interest in Ginny would come to the same quick end but it hadn't. He'd fallen in love and was about to pledge his life to her.
He seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she loved the 'Boy Who Lived' and the attention and notoriety that went with it rather than Harry the boy who loved to fly, spend time with his friends and wanted a family more than anything else. He'd had the weight of the world dropped on his shoulders at the age of one by a madman and completed the task that had been assigned to him without his consent. He did what was asked of him, not for fame or glory, but simply because it was the right thing to do. The only thing he wanted was to live his life in peace with his friends and hopefully someday, a family of his own. The last thing he wanted was fame and would be happy if the Prophet never wrote another article about him again.
She always got butterflies in her stomach whenever she imagined herself as his wife and the one to give him a family. If only she could make him see that the biggest difference between her and Ginny was that, unlike his fiancé, his happiness was what was most important to her, not her own. That's why she was standing there watching the man she loved marry someone else. She wasn't there for Ginny, she was there for him. She'd always been there for him. She helped him fulfill his destiny. She'd comforted him through the tragedies and celebrated the triumphs with him. In between those times, she helped him with his homework and laughed with him in those rare moments he was able to forget Voldemort, the war, the expectations of the wizarding world and just be a normal kid for awhile. He'd always had her unwavering support and he had it now even if it was breaking her heart.
She was pulled out of her reverie as the minister asked the proverbial question with the command to speak now or forever hold your peace. He went on to say if someone had cause they were honor bound to declare it and that withholding that information was a grave crime against the couple standing there and the sanctity of marriage in general. Hermione was always one to follow the rules so, before she realized what she was doing, her hand was raised and she had cleared her throat. There were loud gasps from the audience behind her. Harry and Ron both stared at her. Ron's face slowly turned red as shock gave way to jealousy and anger. 'Nothing new there,' she thought to herself. She was used to that reaction after all the years she'd known him. Harry was shocked as well but, unlike Ron, it gave way to curiosity instead of anger. Ginny looked around for a few seconds trying to figure out who'd interrupted her wedding before following the groom and best man's stares to find it was her maid of honor. Her face turned red like her brother's as her expression changed to one of pure rage. A few seconds passed before she realized everyone was looking at her and waiting for her to speak.
"I'm sorry," she said timidly feeling every eye on her. "I-I just need to tell Harry something before this goes any further."
She grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from the alter before anyone could object. She didn't stop until they were far enough away that they could talk without anyone being able to hear them. It also made her more comfortable that there were some bushes that hid them from view as well. Harry stood quietly as she composed her thoughts and didn't push her to talk right away. When she was ready, she met his eyes again.
"Harry, I just thought you should know that Ginny doesn't really love you." She said quickly before she lost her nerve.
"What do you mean?" he asked. "She tells me she loves me all the time."
"I know," she responded. "But it's not you she loves. She loves 'the boy who lived, the savior of the wizarding world."
"You mean she's only interested in my fame?" he asked dejectedly.
"Unfortunately," she answered nodding. "Although I suppose the fact that you're rich appeals to her as well."
"I'd hoped to marry someone that would love the real me," he replied sadly. "And not just the legend but I should have known it wasn't possible. I might as well go finish what I started. It's probably as close as I'll ever get to real love. Who knows, may she'll come to love the real me in time."
He started to head back but she stopped him.
"Harry! There are a lot of girls out there who wouldn't care about the other stuff and would truly love you." She said encouragingly.
"Yeah, name one," he challenged.
"Me," she said simply.
He was in the process of inhaling in preparation for challenging any name she gave him when he registered her response and started coughing.
"You?" he said when he could breath properly again. "But you're with Ron."
"I'm only with that git because I didn't think you were interested," She replied. "But I would drop him in a heartbeat for you."
"You would?" he asked surprised.
"Yes Harry," she answered. "I love you, the real you not the legend."
He pulled her into his arms and gave her the most romantic kiss of her life. When he pulled back, he smiled at her.
"I Love you too Hermione," he said finally. "I think I've always loved you but didn't realize it until now."
Before she could respond he went down on one knee.
"Will you marry m-."
Hermione was jarred from her daydream when the minister started speaking again. She realized that her hand was half raised and her lips were pursed to clear her throat. The daydream only lasted a minute but it kept her from speaking up until it was too late. She followed the rules and the rules said that she now had to forever hold her peace and that's what she would do. She took some comfort in the fact that no one was looking at her so no one would ever know what she almost did. But as she turned toward the front she met Harry's eyes and realized at least one person had seen her. He held her gaze for a moment before turning back to the minister. She was suddenly afraid he would hate her for almost ruining his wedding. She hoped he would let her apologize in private and not make a scene in front of everyone. He probably would, if only to avoid upsetting his bride on her wedding day. He was considerate that way. She was also glad Ron hadn't been looking at her at the time. It save her at least one fight. Although, knowing him, he would find something else to fight with her about to make up for it. It was the most consistent part of their relationship and the main reason she didn't think their relationship would last.
The minister started the vows and took Ginny through them first. Ginny responded with an enthusiastic 'I do' then it was Harry's turn. The minister took him through his vows and then waited for his response. Hermione felt her heart start to break as she anticipated his answer and felt her eyes fill with tears. She thought it ironic that she could cry openly at this moment and no one would know why. They would assume they were happy tears for the new married couple rather than tears of sadness for an unrequited love. He didn't answer right away and seemed lost in thought then glanced at her again. He held her gaze until Ginny nudged him and drew his attention back to the minister.
Hermione realized something wasn't right with him. She knew him better than anyone else and could tell something was bothering him and he was having an internal debate about it. She knew everyone else was getting impatient with his silence but she knew that whatever was going on was important to him and he wouldn't speak until he was ready. The minister apparently felt that everyone expected him to handle this situation and decided to give him an extra push.
"Shall I repeat the vows for you?" he asked the groom.
Harry shook his head but remained silent. Ginny hissed something at him and Hermione could tell she was getting angry. He ignored her and turned back to the minister. Ginny seemed to relax thinking he was finally going to answer.
"I-," he started and everyone thought they knew what was coming next. "Need to talk to Hermione before I answer." He finished.
He turned and immediately moved towards her.
"What!" Ginny, Ron, all the rest of the Weaselys and several other guests said at the same time.
"I need to talk to Hermione," he repeated. "She's my best friend and I need her advice."
"You're marrying me not her Harry!" Ginny snapped impatiently. "If you need to talk to someone it should be me! I won't tolerate you running to her with your problems after we're married. You will see her at family gatherings once she and Ron are married and that's it! Your days being best friends with a woman other than your wife are over do you hear me!"
Ginny glared at Harry once she was finished clearly expecting him to back down. She clearly thought the same overbearing and pushy attitude that her mother used to control Mr. Weasely would work on Harry but the anger she saw building on his face indicated he would not be so easily controlled. It was another example that showed she didn't know him that well. His destiny had been decided for him by a madman at the age of one. He'd been abused, manipulated and controlled by relatives, professor's and the ministry as he fulfilled his destiny and hounded by the media and general public who wanted even more from him afterwards. He'd refused them all because he felt he'd given enough of himself and the world could go on without him. He would never let anyone dictate any aspect of his life again.
"She's been my best friend since I was eleven!" he yelled back returning her glare. "She will always be my best friend and I will be hers no matter where life takes us! I need her advice and will seek it whether you like it or not!"
Hermione felt a warm feeling inside at his words. Knowing he treasured their friendship as much as she did, eased her fears at being cut out of his life once he was married. He turned back to her and his expression softened.
"Can I talk to you please?" he asked her softly.
She nodded and he walked past her encouraging her to follow. She glanced at Ron before she turned and saw that his face had turned a crimson color and looked like smoke would shoot out of his ears at any moment. She ignored him and followed Harry around to the other side of the house. Once there he stopped, leaned against the house and looked at her.
"What's going on Harry?" she asked after a few seconds.
"You tell me," he answered simply.
"What do you mean?" she responded puzzled. "You said you wanted to talk to me."
"I saw you almost raise your hand when he asked the question Hermione," he replied. "You don't think I should marry Ginny and I want to know why."
"Oh Harry," she said sadly. "Is that what this is about?" he nodded and she continued. "It's nothing Harry, I was just being overprotective. You deserve to be happy. I just got worked up over something silly and now have nearly ruined your wedding because of it. Come on let's get back and fix this."
She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him back to the wedding but he wouldn't budge.
"Have you forgotten how well I know you?" he said his emerald eyes boring into her. "I've never known you to get worked up over something silly. Even if I thought it was at the time or got angry with you over it, like when you got my firebolt confiscated, I knew you were right. I've come to depend on your advice to keep me from making bad decisions. It helped me survive the war and defeat Voldemort and I know it will help me now. There's no one I trust more than you Hermione. You would never have considered disrupting my wedding over something silly. There's something you thought I should know and I want to know what it is."
She started to argue but stopped herself. She realized he deserved an answer. She had planned to raise her hand anyway but missed her chance when her mind wandered. She thought she was doomed to forever hold her peace and now she realized that fate had given her a second chance. She took a few moments to compose her thoughts then met his eyes again.
"Harry, you deserve to be happy, truly happy," she started. "With someone who truly loves you, the real you, not some legend or fantasy or status symbol but you. I've heard Ginny talking about you to her mother and to Lavender and the Patil twins. All she talks about is being the wife of 'the Boy Who Lived' or 'the Savior of the Wizarding World'. She doesn't love you Harry, she loves your fame and the place it will give her in society. It's clear from the way she just treated you that she doesn't really know you and I'm not sure she wants to."
"I know," he replied simply. "She's said similar things right to my face. Talking about being invited to all the best parties and throwing the most exclusive parties in Britain as everyone will clamor for an invitation to a party thrown by 'The boy who lived'. She's been pushing me to start shopping for the magnificent mansion she thinks will fit our place at the top of wizarding society. She's also tried to discourage me from becoming an Auror and join one of the administrative departments of the ministry instead because she thinks it will help me become the minister of magic faster not to mention it would ruin everything if 'the boy Who Lived' was killed prematurely in the line of duty."
"Is that how you want your life to be?" she asked.
"No," he answered. "I'd much rather live in a simple cottage that no one knew about except my family and friends with a quidditch pitch to fly around with my kids in. I have no interest in attending lavish parties much less throwing them. I truly want to be an Auror and have absolutely no interest in ever being Minister of Magic."
"Then why are you marrying her?" she replied.
"She's the best of the lot," he said resignedly. "The others are far worse, believe me. You wouldn't believe what some of them expect from me. They're all the same except for one girl but unfortunately she's in love with someone else. It's this or live alone Hermione and I don't want to be alone anymore."
"I would never let you be alone Harry," she said softly. "But you said there as one girl that wasn't like the others. Did you tell her how you feel?" 'And there's two if you could only see the one in front of you!' she thought to herself.
"I've tried many times," he responded. "But the git she's in love with kept getting in the way. He left for awhile once and I thought I might get my chance but she spent all her time being unhappy about him being gone so I didn't bring it up. We started getting closer and she seemed to stop missing him so much but then he showed back up and ruined it. It was the first and only time I wished death on someone other than Voldemort or his followers."
"It sounds like you're in love with this girl," she commented. There was something familiar about what he said but she couldn't place it. She also was trying to figure out how he could have such strong feelings for someone and she not know about it.
"I am," he replied. "I think I've been in love with her for years but didn't understand what I was feeling with my background and all."
"Are you still in contact with her?" she asked. He nodded his head. Despite knowing that there was yet another girl that he loved that wasn't her, she still wanted him happy. While Ginny wasn't the girl to do it, it sounded like this girl was. If so, Harry deserved to be with her.
"I still see her from time to time," he answered.
"You should tell her how you feel," she encouraged him.
"She's still with the same git," he said shaking his head. "And I think she's planning to marry him."
"You should still tell her Harry," she replied. "At worst, you'll be right where you are, at best, you'll get the girl of your dreams."
"Maybe I will," he responded. "If I can work up the courage and find a way to get her alone. Her boyfriend is crazy jealous and almost never lets her out of his sight especially when I'm around."
Again, there was something familiar about this couple. It was right in front of her but she just couldn't put her finger on it.
"This guy doesn't sound very nice," she said thoughtfully. "I wonder why she's with him."
"I have no idea," he replied. "He's almost never nice to her. All they do is fight, which is nothing new because that's all they've done as long as I've known them. He treats her more like a possession than a companion. He constantly parades her around; making her stay at his side so everyone will know that she's his. He gets particularly obnoxious around me. I think he knows I love her and takes particular delight in throwing their relationship in my face. In his mind, I've always had everything and likes that he has something I can't have. If she was with me, I would treat her like the lady she is. I wouldn't get crazy jealous or pick stupid fights with her. I would never act like I own her but would show her every day how happy I am that she's in my life."
She didn't say anything right away. The thing that had been nagging at her had finally clicked into place. She knew who he was referring to, in fact, she was quite familiar with them. Her heart leapt with joy but her head refused to believe it without proof. She covered her mouth with her hands while her eyes went wide with shock. She was almost paralyzed with fear of what his answer might be, but forced herself to ask the question that would either confirm her deepest hopes or forever crush them.
"What's her name?" She asked nervously her voice barely above a whisper.
"I should think with your intelligence," he said sarcastically. "You'd have figured it out already."
"I'm pretty sure I have," she replied. "But I need to hear you say it."
He didn't answer right away and suddenly looked nervous.
"Please," she said softly
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Hermione Granger," he said finally.
She turned away as tears filled her eyes. Happy tears this time instead of the sad ones she'd shed before. She surreptitiously pinched herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. He started speaking again and she turned to face him.
"It's ok Hermione," he said soothingly. "I know you love him. I may not understand it, but I accept it. Don't worry about me I'll be happy enough with Ginny. We'd better ge-."
He was interrupted as she flung herself into his arms and covered his mouth with hers. He didn't respond right away and she was momentarily afraid she'd imagined him saying her name. Then she felt him respond to the kiss while wrapping his arms around her and pulling her closer to him. She'd imagined kissing him many times but none of them compared to the real thing. They kissed for a few minutes before pulling back. He looked at her and caressed her face like he was making sure she was real as well.
"I love you too Harry," she said finally. "I was with Ron because I thought you were in love with Ginny and would never love me back."
"How could I not love the most beautiful girl I've ever seen?" He asked lovingly. "I only knew what love was because you gave it to me. Even if it was only in friendship at first, you were the first person to truly love me."
He pulled her in for another kiss. Then his expression turned serious.
"So," he said nervously. "Where do we go from here?"
"Well," she said smiling. "You deserve to be happy and, if the last few minutes are any indication, holding me in your arms and kissing me make you happy. So I think the first thing you need to do is call off the wedding and break up with Ginny."
He didn't return her smile and she was suddenly afraid that she'd misread the situation.
"Unless you're still planning to go through with it?" she finished fearfully.
She felt a lump in her throat and her heart sink at the thought. She'd just experienced everything she'd been hoping for. Harry had told her he loved her, they'd kissed and he'd held her in his arms. She didn't think she could handle going back to being just best friends again.
"Of course not," he answered smiling reassuringly. "I was just wondering about you and Ron. I don't think I could handle seeing you with him after this."
"Ron and I are over," she said moving in for another kiss. "He just doesn't know it yet."
"Well then we should go tell them," he replied. "I've waited long enough to be with you."
They held each other for a few more minutes then headed back keeping a respectful distance from each other. They'd decided to tell their soon to be exes privately about the new development and wanted to avoid any public embarrassment that would be caused by them showing back up holding hands.
Despite it being a warm summer day, she felt strangely cold now that she was no longer in Harry's arms. She suddenly wanted to get this over with as soon as possible so she could go back into his arms and feel warm again. As they approached the alter she heard several muffled conversations that stopped suddenly when they were seen coming back. Ron and Ginny were still where they'd left them. Ginny looked nervous while Ron glared at them, either he'd never stopped or he started again as soon as he saw them. Harry walked up to Ginny, whispered something in her ear then took her by the hand and pulled her away from the alter, the minister, the wedding party and the guests. He stopped when they were far enough away to talk privately but still visible to everyone. She tried to do the same with Ron but he ignored her. He'd turned away from her and his glare was now turned toward the betrothed couple. She tried a second time but he didn't acknowledge that she was even there. Then she was distracted by a loud scream and turned in time to see Ginny slap Harry.
"You're breaking up with me to be with that slut?" She yelled at the top of her lungs while pointing at Hermione. "When I'm through with her you won't be able to stand looking at her much less ever touch her again!"
She turned around while pulling out her wand but Harry caught her arm and took it away from her. She didn't see what happened next as she felt something hit the side of her face where her cheek bone and temple meet. At first everything went black then she saw stars and soon found herself on the ground. Holding her face she looked up to see an angry Ron standing over her, the fist he'd hit her with still clenched.
"You filthy whore!" He screamed at her. "You won't let me touch you until we're married but you'll happily jump into his bed? I should have known he'd get to have you before I did. He's gotten everything else hasn't he? Well starting tonight, I won't take no for an answer anymore. I'll show you how a real man does it. You will never see Harry again after tonight you hear me? You belong to me and I won't let him have you! I-"
He didn't finished as a hand grabbed his shoulder and turned him away slightly moments before a fist connected with his face knocking him out of view only to be replaced by Harry looking angrier than she'd ever seen him. She sat up and saw Ron sprawled out on the ground looking up defiantly at his attacker.
"You stay away from her Ron!" He yelled. "You come near her again and I'll do a lot worse than punch your lights out!"
He started to pull out his wand but Harry still had Ginny's in his hand summoned Ron's before he had it all the way out and caught it with his seeker's reflexes. By that time the rest of the Weasleys finally made to the front. Mrs. Weasely made a beeline for her daughter while Mr. Weasley quickly got between Harry and his youngest son. Bill and Charlie positioned themselves on the other side of Harry and Hermione so that they were between them and the two Weasely women in case their mother lost her cool like her two youngest already had. She was, after all, where they'd gotten that particular trait from and unlike Ginny, still had her wand. The twins, meanwhile, helped Ron up but kept hold of him so he couldn't embarrass the family anymore than he already had. Arthur glared at his son and got right in his face once he was upright.
"I taught you better than that boy," he scolded him. "It's wrong to hit any woman but it's especially heinous to hit the woman you're supposed to love! You apologize to Hermione right now!"
Ron glared at his father defiantly.
"The whore got what she deserved," He said coldly. "I gave her the chance to be with a pureblood and lowered myself to be with her but she threw it all away. I don't know why I expected anything different, she's only a muggleborn after all."
Mr. Weasley slapped him. He struggled in the twins grip his face a mask of pure rage. Hermione was quite sure that if his brothers weren't holding him back, he would have attacked his own father.
"That's something a Malfoy would say not a Weasley!" He yelled at his son. "If I ever hear you talk like that again, I'll disown you and you can see if that lot will take you in!"
She was distracted from this scene by a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned to see Harry crouched in front of her his face full of concern. He carefully moved her hand to look at her face. The anger momentarily returned and she knew there was probably some swelling and the beginnings of a bruise where Ron had hit her. When he met her eyes again, the concern was back.
"Are you okay?" He asked her.
She nodded her head.
"I think so," she answered him.
He helped her up but kept an arm around her. She turned and faced Ron.
"In case you don't know Ron," she said angrily. "And, as thick as you normally are, you probably don't, we're through. I'd hoped we might have been able to stay friends but now the only thing I want from you is your total absence from my life."
Ron again struggled but the twins held him firm. Mr. Weasley turned to her a look of regret on his face.
"I apologize for my son's actions Hermione," He said. "I'm embarrassed by his behavior. I assure you he was taught better than that. The fact that he refuses to apologize himself makes it even worse."
"Thank you," she responded. "But you have nothing to apologize for. You gave him an excellent example to follow. It's a shame that, like everything else besides chess and quidditch, he was too lazy to learn from it."
Harry handed him the wands he'd taken from the two youngest weasleys.
"Here are their wands," He said quietly. "I would appreciate it if you waited until we left to give them back."
Mr. Weasley took the wands and put them away in his robes.
"Of course," he responded. "I doubt I'll let them have them until I'm sure they can use them responsibly. Their behavior today, even under the circumstances, proves that they're not even close."
"Harry, Hermione?" A voice said softly from behind them.
They turned toward the voice saw that it was Mrs. Weasley that had spoken to them. She was comforting Ginny whose face was buried in her chest. Her face was a swirl of emotions and there were tears in her eyes as they met her gaze. Hermione briefly glanced at Harry, saw sadness in his eyes and understood why. Molly Weasley had been the only mother Harry had ever known. She'd always addressed him the same way she did with her own children; saying his name followed by 'dear' and had more than once said he was like one of her own children. She done the same with Hermione but she had her own parents so it didn't have the same effect on her. The Weasleys were the only family he'd ever known and the lack of a 'dear' after his name let him know something had changed between him and his surrogate family in the last few minutes. It broke her heart to realize what he was sacrificing to be with her. It also hit her like a ton of bricks how much he must love her to make that choice.
"I-I just want you to know," she started shakily. "That I don't approve of what my kids did or tried to do and I concur with Arthur in regards to what Ron said but their hearts were broken today and I have to do what I can to comfort them."
She paused as her emotions seem to get away from her for a moment and tears escaping her eyes as she fought to keep from breaking down. Hermione noticed Harry had tears running down his face as well.
"I-I'm sorry Harry," she said when she could speak again. "But I have to be a mother first and a-a friend second."
Again she started to break down and had to pause. Harry, who was crying openly now, merely nodded and waited for her to continue. Hermione held him tighter trying to offer what comfort she could. She understood what was happening even if no one else outside of the family did. A mother was disowning her son in front of a hundred witnesses. They might not have been blood related but that's what they were to each other. Harry, who'd lost his parents as a baby and his godfather at fifteen, was now losing the only other parental figures he'd ever had. She felt no anger at the Weasley matriarch. This was clearly hurting her as much as it was the man next to her. She wasn't trying to be vindictive or mean, just honest. Unfortunately this was one truth that truly hurt and both of them were clearly suffering.
"You've made your choice and we'll respect it," she said when she could speak again. "But now I need you to go," again her face momentarily twisted in sorrow. "Please," she finished finally letting her tears flow leaving the 'and never come back' unsaid but implied.
She started feeling guilty that he was suffering because of her. Then as if he read her mind, he looked down at her and shook his head slightly letting her know that, despite the pain, he didn't regret his choice before returning his gaze to the woman in front of him.
"I will," he said nodding. "But first I want to thank you for all the kindness you've shown me over the years and assure you of one thing. Hermione and I never cheated on your children. Yes, we had feelings for each other but never knew the other one felt the same way until a few minutes ago then we immediately went to tell Ron and Ginny the truth. I know we hurt them but we felt it was better than to continue living a lie. Ginny deserves to be with a man will worship the ground she walks on and who will swear the sun rises and sets with her and that wasn't me and Ron deserves someone who'll feel the same way about him."
He then addressed Ginny.
"I'm sorry Ginny," he said softly. "I never meant to hurt you and I hope someday you can find a way to forgive me."
Then he turned back toward Ron.
"As for you Ron," He said coldly. "I want you to think back to our fourth year when my name came out of the cup. I told you then that I hadn't put my name in it but you wouldn't believe me and jumped to your own conclusions and nearly ruined are friendship before you realized I was telling the truth. I'm telling you now Ron that we didn't have an affair behind your back. As usual, however, you jumped to your own conclusion before we could even say a word and did something I can never forgive. My sentiments now equal Hermione's. We are no longer friends and I don't want you to come near me or Hermione ever again."
With that he looked down at her, the strain of the last few minutes still etched on his face.
"Let's go," he said and they turned to go and noticed that all the guests were still seated and had been paying rapt attention as the scene had unfolded. He paused momentarily as he looked back and forth at the crowd then cleared his throat.
"Um, er, in case you weren't able to figure it out from all that," he said aiming a thumb over his shoulder. "The wedding is off. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you and thank you again for coming but I believe this ends the festivities for today."
With that they started down the aisle hoping to make a quick exit. Harry held her close as they walked. She knew he'd put his arm around her when he helped her up to keep her steady in case she was woozy after being hit but now it was him needing the support and she was more than happy to give it. She was worried they'd be bombarded by questions from the guests but almost nobody left their seats or made eye contact. Either they were afraid to show what side they were on while the new couple was still there or were waiting to pick a side until they were safely away from the Burrow she wasn't sure but she knew she would find out in the next few days. She had no doubt this would be on the front page of the prophet the next morning.
As they got near the back they were engulfed in a hug by Luna Lovegood followed shortly by Neville Longbottom. It warmed her heart to know they still had a few friends. Luna then pulled out her wand and pointed it at her face and healed the bruise. She immediately felt relief from pain she hadn't noticed was there while she'd been so focused on Harry and thanked the blond haired witch.
"I don't know what got into Ronald," she said dreamily. "He may need to be checked for Wrackspurts."
She smiled at her friend and felt her mood lighten a little.
"Well, something got into him that's for sure," she responded.
Harry's mood seemed lighter too as he drew strength from his friends support.
"Are you alright Hermione?" Neville asked. "Ron's a total prat for doing that to you. I always thought you two made a better couple than you and Ron did. Listen if you need anything or someone to talk to or just want company, send me an owl and I'll be there as quickly as I can."
"That goes for me too!" Luna added.
"That's goes for us too," said a wizened voice behind them.
They looked up to see Professor McGonagall and Hagrid standing behind Neville and Luna waiting their turn to greet the couple. Harry immediately hugged his first friend while Hermione looked at her favorite professor.
"Professor you're not disappointed in us?" she asked.
"Of course not," she said frowning. "You and Harry did what you've always done and showed true Gryffindor courage by choosing to do what was right instead of what was easy. If I'd have done that when I was your age I daresay my life would have been much happier and I might have gotten to be with the man I loved."
She looked away at nothing in particular momentarily lost in her thoughts before turning back to the young witch in front of her.
"Hold on to him dear," she spoke encouragingly indicating Harry. "There will be many, I'm sure, who will argue against you being together. They will do whatever they can to drive you apart but your love can and will see you through if you let it. Don't let anyone convince you that it would be better for Harry if he was with someone that was more acceptable to the wizarding world. He just sacrificed a great deal because of his love for you; don't let that sacrifice be in vain."
The passion in the older woman's words surprised her and she wondered what had happened to her when she was younger and gave her a confident smile.
"Let them try," she said confidently.
Before she could say anymore a large hand practically enveloped her head. She turned and had to crane her head to look up at the half giant. He was smiling down at her and she returned it.
"I ne'er woulda believed Ron could do something like that," he said softly. "I was half out o' my seat to set him straight until I saw Harry coming to yer and knew he would handle it. What he said was even worse. You remember what I told you after Malfoy called you that horrible name Hermione?"
She nodded her head as he continued.
"Well it's even truer today," he said. "You're the smartest witch or wizard for that matter, that ever graced the halls of Hogwarts and there's still not a spell created that you can't do. Don't give a thought to a single word that idiot said, not one thought."
She threw her arms around him, well at least as far around him as she could reach, and gave him a hug. When she let go of Hagrid, she felt two arms encircle her from behind and looked up to see a smiling Harry.
"Look guys," he said gratefully. "We appreciate the support but we've been asked to leave so we better get going. We'll contact you soon and plan a time to get together."
They all nodded and said they're goodbyes. Hagrid suggested a visit to Hogwarts soon and told them Buckbeak missed them. They promised to visit the hippogriff soon and then started heading for the apparation point. As they walked, she thought about what tomorrow might bring. Now that they'd made their choice, the wizarding world would make theirs. Many, if not most, would view this as a betrayal by the savior of the world of the family that was his strongest supporters during the war. Others like the friends they'd just left would think they deserved happiness and would applaud the courage they showed in choosing to be happy instead of doing what was expected of them. She didn't know if they would have any friends beyond the four whose support they just received when they woke up tomorrow and didn't care. As they reached the apparation point, Harry wrapped her in an embrace as he prepared to apparate them. She took one more look back at the house and family they left behind as a final thought entered her mind. If nothing else, they would still have each other tomorrow and every day after that. She'd never left his side before and there was no way in hell she was going leave him now.