Chapter One- Unhappy Endings
"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!"
Ginny stormed up and down the hallway practically wearing tread marks in the carpet. If not for her enraged state and the fact that she was clutching her wand alarmingly tight, Ginny would've looked absolutely stunning in a beautiful floor length emerald dress. The perfect shade to match Harry's eyes, a detail quite planned. Those same eyes were marked with fear as they followed Ginny pacing back and forth.
Harry sat silently in a chair in the middle of the hallway right next to a side table atop with gigantic decorative flowers in a vase. He was dressed in his newly bought tux and eyeing his girlfriend cautiously, fully aware of her death grip on her wand.
"The nerve! I swear to you, Harry, that boy is NO LONGER my brother!" said Ginny whipping around to face him and waving her wand to exaggerate her point. Harry instinctively flinched with each flick of her wand waiting for the possible doom any of the objects in the hall might receive… including himself sadly.
"Just calm down, Gin. He'll be here. It's only twenty past seven. Everyone's still eating and probably mingling about." Ginny's anger seemed to calm slightly with Harry's words and her grip on her wand seemed to relax. Harry breathed a sigh of relief as Ginny put a hand on her forehead to shade her eyes, a gesture of pure frustration.
After a few moments of her just standing in her same pose, Harry's worry slowly began to creep back up. He couldn't tell what the next emotion was going to be and the unknown was quite frightening especially with Ginny. He watched as her arms sank down to her sides as if in defeat and when he looked in her eyes, only seconds ago marked with such fierce anger, he saw disappointment and sadness.
"It's her big night, Harry," she choked, tears starting to swell. "He's going to ruin her night… again. The other times were at least excusable; they were just Ron being oblivious like he always is. But tonight? He knew, Harry. He knew what this would mean. And this time he did it anyway." Ginny turned away from him as the first tear rolled down her cheek. She had never really been much of a crier and had rarely cried in front of Harry, except for a few specific occasions. But tonight, her frustration had reached that unmistakable peak where tears could no longer be swallowed back or simply replaced by anger. All that was simply left was for them to fall and so they did.
Harry stood up and slowly wrapped his arms around Ginny. She turned into him and allowed him to embrace her.
He wasn't much for words when it came to these types of things. A trait Ginny found to be both a blessing and yet at the same time annoying. But all thoughts were lost as he pulled away for a brief moment to kiss her forehead and wipe away a few of the escaped tears causing Ginny to smile despite all her frustrations.
"Where have you two been? Everything's about to start!" Mrs. Weasley stood at the door to the banquet hall entrance in a fret. "And where is Ron?" she inquired as she placed her hands on her hips ready to scold at any second.
Harry looked down as Ginny's face hardened.
"I see," Mrs. Weasley nodded in understanding as her mouth slipped into a frown. "Well, we'll just have to deal with him later. Let's get to our seats. Hermione at least needs you two there," she said as she ushered the two inside.
Harry quickly nicked the wand out of Ginny's hand and stuffed it in his coat pocket not wanting her to have it for the night just in case Ron did show up, but also not wanting his date to enter a fancy hall looking ready for a fight. Ginny's nose scrunched at Harry's obvious antics, but relaxed when quickly his hand instinctively took the place the wand had previously occupied within her grasp.
They all walked quickly and quietly to their seats as the new Minister of Magic took to the beautiful clear glass podium centered on the small stage set up in the front of the hall. The hall itself was stunning. Round tables with white, white table cloths were adorned with sprinkles of gold gracing their surfaces. The center pieces were made of tall, delicate glass structures that looked too fragile to be sturdy and yet were standing unwavering, sparkling from the light of the candles that sat at their tops. The air of the room smelled of elegance. But even more memorable was the collective feeling of the room. A frown could not be found in a room such as this, as only smiling faces existed. But more so than anything, even the joy that seemed to take up the entirety of the room, there was the subtle and yet undeniable spark of hope glinting in every eye.
"Hmm-hmm," Arthur Weasley cleared his throat silencing the many guests. "Good evening ladies, gentlemen, and distinguished guests," he began with a smile. "I hope you all enjoyed the meal, as I surely did." A polite laugh echoed through the hall. "A night such as tonight, it is customary for the Minister of Magic to oversee the occasion and present the awards. But with all customs and duty aside, I would just like to say that I am honored and privileged to be able to introduce you all, ladies and gentlemen, to the two remarkable individuals that we are here to celebrate tonight. I think we all can say without a doubt that remarkable is the perfect way to describe this pair. We've all read the articles in just about every paper there is and I'm sure we've all done our fair share of gossiping." At this the Minister winked at his blushing wife. Another low rubble of laughter cooed from the guests. "What they have done separate in their own lives has been truly amazing, but tonight for a change we get to talk of the wonderful thing they have accomplished together. So without further adieu let's welcome our honored guests for the evening: Miss Hermione Granger and Monsieur Jean DeMont, co-founders of the International Fellowship for Equality." With this Arthur turned to the two young people sitting in the only chairs on the stage as the hall opened up with applause.
A blushing Hermione sat in the first chair in a warm blue dress. Her hair done up perfectly which must have taken her hours. And next to her, a young and quite handsome sandy-haired gentleman sat who one could only presume was Jean DeMont, also blushing quite profusely.
Arthur turned back towards the podium as the applause began to soften.
"Now, as most of you know, I have known the lovely Miss Granger for quite some time and have been blessed with being able to watch her accomplish many, many wonderful things. I have been even more blessed to have been able to witness a young, eager girl grow to become the amazing and brilliant woman we all see before us today." Arthur turned to look back at the teary-eyed Hermione. "She has been fighting for rights since the moment she entered the wizarding world. She fought for her own in a time when some thought that being a muggle born meant you were nothing. She fought for the elves when many had never even put a thought to it. She fought for our own rights to freedom, for a world without darkness." Arthur paused to look out at the guests all nodding. "And tonight we honor her for creating an association where each and every one of us can join her in the effort to make our world the best it can possibly be."
Applause rang out among the guests once again and Hermione turned a shade darker.
"Of course," continued Arthur effectively ending the praise, "no one, not even an overachiever herself, could take on such a task without help. And here we have Monsieur Jean DeMont to thank for. I have only known Jean for a short time, but from what I have seen I can tell he is a fine individual. France surely has been keeping a treasure within its borders." At this another bout of applause rang out, this time mixed with a few whistles from a few of the ladies in the room. "Apparently, some in the room highly agree."
A round of laughter echoed from the company as Arthur raised his eyebrows in Jean's direction who merely shrugged.
"Jean DeMont has become quite a legend in France. He has been working his way up through their Ministry, taking on the tough cases, and doing everything a wizard can possibly do to fight the good fight. He has dared to announce the need for ambassadors to giants and lawyers for elves before they begin work. He has been addressing topics that one might lamely call controversial, but has done so with respect and class." Arthur took a moment before beginning again, "And so tonight we honor these two lovely individuals for their work and we wait eagerly for more to come. So on behalf of the Ministry, I would like to present Miss Hermione Granger and Monsieur Jean DeMont with the Orion award for their services to the magical community."
The hall once again erupted with loud applause and quite a few hoots from a certain raven haired man as the Minister of Magic stepped over to the now standing pair.
Arthur stood before Hermione first, gently handing her the crystal award. They paused for a brief moment as the pictures snapped for all the newspapers. Arthur winked and then moved on to Jean handing his over. The cameras snapped crazily when Jean turned and smiled politely. Arthur motioned for one of the two to take the podium and so Jean stepped forward.
"I would," Jean started in a highly French accent, "just like to say 'ow very thankful I am for this. It 'as been a pleasure working with Hermione (Errr-me-o-nee). We 'ave both been trying in our own ways to create something that could affect everyone the way we 'ave been and finally with us together it 'as 'appened. We started this fellowship so that everyone could 'ave a voice like we all deserve. So I am very grateful for this, grateful because it means we may 'ave succeeded just a little bit. Thank you." Jean bowed as he finished his acceptance smiling as he backed away from the podium to allow Hermione to step forward.
"Like Jean, I am so unbelievably grateful for this. We have all seen dark times. Some have seen it a little closer than others," She found Harry's eyes in the crowd and smiled. "And I think that because of that, we all know the importance of a life in peace. And if there is anything I want you all to take away from tonight I think it should be the simple fact that everyone-every witch, wizard, elf, giant, any and every magical creature there is out there- deserves a right to a life in peace. That's the equality I want to give with this fellowship. So thank you so much for acknowledging that."
The guests applauded once again and took to their feet giving a standing ovation. And just as the Minister stepped forward and officially ended the ceremony for the night, a tall broad shouldered red head entered through the back.
As witches and wizards swarmed the pair as they came down from the stage, Harry stood back simply waiting his turn to congratulate his best friend. He watched as a rosy cheeked Hermione spoke excitedly to a number of people, many of whom seemed to be from various places of the world. Until finally the numbers seemed to dwindle as people started trickling out to go home for the evening. Harry watched as Hermione wished the last of them a goodnight and then scanned the room, searching, until finally her eyes rested on him. She smiled and Harry returned it with a grin from ear to ear. They made their way to each other weaving through the last of the crowd and the tables.
"You were absolutely lovely," said Harry as he engulfed her in a huge bear hug which she whole heartedly returned. She mumbled a drowned out "thanks" into his shoulder.
"Where is everyone?" She asked pulling away and beginning to search again. Ginny all of sudden appeared right next to Harry.
"You mean me?" Ginny laughed as Hermione launched herself at her.
"Yes of course I mean you!" The two girls giggled as they embraced. "Well, don't you look stunning, Gin," cried Hermione as she took a step back from her to eye her dress. "Nice color. Where on earth did you get the idea?"
"Not a clue. It just came to me," Ginny replied. Hermione just rolled her eyes at her and Harry. Arthur and Molly then approached the threesome followed closely by a shy and yet beaming pair, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. Hermione quickly embraced all four trying very hard not to get emotional at the looks on the faces of the adults she considered to all be her parents.
"You were lovely dear," said Mrs. Granger squeezing Hermione's hand.
"I can't imagine being so. I was nervous beyond all belief… especially with the Minister of Magic himself coming to present the award."
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," said Arthur smiling genuinely. Hermione almost began to tear up again for about the billionth time that night, but stopped as she suddenly noticed there was one specific red head missing from her family right now. She searched the room perplexed.
"He's not here," whispered Ginny in her ear as Hermione's face fell with the news. "I don't know why," answered Ginny to the question in Hermione's eyes and once again Hermione felt the tears begin to rise for the billionth and one time that night.
Seeing Hermione's face, Harry began to move the family away towards the exit to distract them from Hermione's sad features, but without any success as they all noticed despite his efforts. Just as the group approached the doors to the exit they all seemed to stop just short suddenly noticing the red haired man in the path before them. They all sidestepped, passing Ron along the way to the exit. Ginny did so with a particularly nasty look. Harry hung back just a second before leaving Hermione and Ron alone inside a very large and once happy banquet hall.
The two stood awkwardly before each other unable to neither bear the tension between them nor break it.
"I-I…I'm…" tried Ron not quite effectively breaking the silence.
"Are you honestly trying to apologize?" Hermione's eyes hardened to the thought.
"No I'm not at all actually," said Ron decidedly.
"Then why did you even bother showing up at all?"
"I thought I should come here and talk to you about why I didn't come." Another drawn out silence surrounded them.
"Well… why didn't you?" asked Hermione trying to look anywhere but at him.
"I just couldn't be here tonight." Her eyes shot up to his face.
"Couldn't be here? Ron, why was it so hard for you to be here?" said Hermione raising her voice.
"BECAUSE, Hermione!" screamed Ron. "Because of everything. I couldn't come here and watch you parade around with THAT nancy of a Frenchman! I couldn't-"
"What is your problem with Jean? Are you honestly jealous of him?"
"I am NOT jealous for the last blooming time!" Hermione almost retaliated with something but Ron held up his hand to stop her. She waited quietly for him to say whatever it was he needed to get out.
"Hermione, I was never jealous. I've pretty much accepted that every bloke in the entire universe probably deserves you more than I do. And I was used to it. I was used to people looking at us and thinking, 'Well I wonder why she's with that guy?' because I had you and that's all that mattered. You were mine and that was that. I could look past all my insecurities if you could, but-" Hermione sighed, knowing there always had to be an exception. "But it all takes a toll at some point, Hermione. All of those looks and stares. All of those silent questions. Every newspaper celebrating you and Jean. It all adds up. I do nothing special. I work my arse off at a job where I do occasionally well at and Jean does everything wonderful and amazing just like you. But still, I could get past Jean. I could, I knew I could. But you? 'The brightest witch of her age'? How could I get past you? So I took extra cases and got a bit more riskier, so what? Maybe then, I thought, I could measure up to you. Maybe if my name was in the newspaper just once-"
"Ron our relationship is not a competition. It doesn't matter how many times you're in the Prophet or me for that matter!"
"But IT does, Hermione! It does! You say it doesn't, but it does. Everything in the papers begins to mean something when you read more stories of your girlfriend than actually talk to her!"
"So because I didn't spend enough time with you since I was starting an international society and traveling I get blamed for everything? I'm being punished because of my ambitions! Here, I was thinking that when you said it was a good idea for me to do all those things you actually meant it!"
"I did! I wanted to support you! But you spent months in France! MONTHS, Hermione! So forgive me for not showing up, but I can't anymore. I can't come here and support you at an event that basically awards you for you choosing your career over our relationship, for you choosing some other bloke over me! Everyone thought I was a real stupid git for honestly believing as long as I did that nothing happened between you two during all that time! MONTHS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!"
"NOTHING DID HAPPEN, Ron!"
"Suuure, nothing happened! People already were going around wondering why the hell you had such a dope wrapped around your arm and they sure found their answer when they realized you had me so oblivious that you could spend WEEKS UPON WEEKS WITH ANOTHER MAN WHILE I SAT ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE CHANNEL IN OUR FLAT THINKING ALL WAS WELL!"
Ron stood fuming with his face as red as it had ever been staring down at Hermione as tears freely cascaded down her cheeks.
"I thought you trusted me…" she choked quietly and tried again to find her voice. "Here I was thinking you had no reason to worry since I loved you so much."
Ron still stood there cold as stone to her tears. No longer being able to bear his harsh stance and features Hermione carefully moved past him making sure not to touch him as she strode by. Once she hit the door she ran.