|SIYE Time:4:11 on 17th January 2022|
Category: Alternate Universe
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Summary: Sometimes things don't always work out the way you plan them. Ginny must come to terms with life after the war, even if her life isn't exactly what she thought it'd be. She'll soon realize that all it takes is one little moment to make everything fall into place
Hitcount: Story Total: 69334; Chapter Total: 4424
Sorry about the wait! Please review :)
Chapter 6: An Evening to Remember
The Burrow was a flurry of activity in the hours before the party as everyone got ready for what was rumoured in the Daily Prophet to be the event of the century. Bill and Fleur arrived at a six-fifteen to go with everyone else as a family. George had come back to the Burrow too, and had dressed in a suit that was shockingly normal until he turned around to reveal the suit’s vibrant green back. Charlie apparated from Romania around mid-afternoon, and even Percy had stopped by in the late afternoon saying that he would have to meet his family at the Ministry as he was taking care of a few last minute details.
Hermione and Ginny got dressed together in Ginny’s room, which quickly turned into a very feminine space as Ginny’s vanity became covered in various hair and makeup products, and clothes, accessories, and shoes were scattered across the floor. Hermione wore a long dress of midnight blue made of stretch taffeta that hugged her body until her hips where it fell to the floor like soft waves of water. It took a team effort between Hermione and Ginny to quickly straighten and style Hermione’s hair, but it was finished in record time.
Ginny’s gown was a fitted strapless dress that had a corset-like top and a flowing gown attached to the bodice. She and Hermione had altered a simple black dress that Ginny had had in her closet for a few years, and it was thanks to Hermione’s wand-work that made the dress look as if it were new again.
While Hermione had opted for her hair to be styled in an elegant knot and with wispy ends, Ginny curled her long hair into large curls that hung down her back and framed her face. Once they were both dressed, had done their makeup, and put uncomfortable high heels on their feet, they walked carefully down the stairs to wait for everyone else.
“Oh, good, you girls are finished!” Bill said, clapping his hands together when he saw them come down the stairs to the main floor. “We’ve got to get going. Dad and Mum are almost ready, I think.”
“Are Ron and Harry already there?” Hermione asked, glancing up the stairs as if expecting them to come down.
Bill nodded, glancing at his watch. “Yes, I think Mum said they came home to dress but left again. Since Harry is a guest of honour, Kingsley wanted him there early to meet and greet people as they came in.”
Charlie came around the corner, tanned, freckled, and dressed up in a nice suit. He was followed by Fleur who was fidgeting with one of her earrings and wearing a stunning red dress. Charlie grinned at his sister and Hermione. “You girls look nice.”
“Thank you,” Hermione and Ginny said at the same time.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley came down the stairs moments later, dressed in their best robes for the evening, followed closely by George. As Ginny stood among her family all dressed up, the surreal quality of the moment washed over her and it was the happy, excited faces of her family that made the moment infectiously happy. In spite of all that she and everyone else had to endure, they had reasons to celebrate life.
Mr. Weasley did a quick head count as he pulled on his shoes. “Are we ready?”
“Are we taking the Floo Network, Dad?” George asked, adjusting his jacket collar.
Arthur nodded, striding over the fireplace to pick up the little bucket that contained the family’s supply of Floo powder. “Yes, due to sheer numbers, apparition would be a little risky… you’d likely land on someone if you apparated directly into the Atrium.”
“I don’t see the problem,” George joked lightly.
“Behave tonight, won’t you?” Mrs. Weasley begged of George, reaching out to pick a piece of lint off of his jacket.
“On my best behaviour,” George promised solemnly, though he winked at Hermione and Ginny who both fought to hide their smiles. When his mother turned away, he moved in closer to Ginny to add, “Fred would want me to be on my best behaviour tonight.”
“He would,” agreed Hermione rebelliously, her eyes shining. Ginny was sure she was feeling exactly as Hermione was at George’s words. Tonight would be as painful as it would be wonderful as tonight would be the final recognition of all those who had lost and were lost in the fight against Voldemort. Ginny hoped that tonight wouldn’t be too painful for her brother; George was never quite the same since Fred had died, but he was doing better these days.
One by one, they left the Burrow and re-appeared in the brightly-lit and very-busy Atrium. When Ginny stepped from the fireplace and dusted herself off, she gasped at the sheer beauty and elegance of the Ministry. The last time she’d been in the Atrium of the Ministry was when she, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Luna and Neville had come to rescue Sirius from the Department of Mysteries. The large entrance hall was barely recognizable now, and for this she was glad. It was one less painful memory to deal with tonight.
An elegant string quartet was set at the far end of the room, playing for the few witches and wizards who spun each other around on a small dance floor. The walls were covered in massive shimmery silver curtains, and a long purple carpet lined the floor between the fireplaces and apparition points to guide people into the main part of the hall. The room was filled with flowers and candles, and what seemed like hundreds of tables covered in white linens, roses, and silver dinner plates.
Guests were pouring into the Atrium from the fireplaces already, and many had already arrived. The music and the chatter of many witches and wizards created a hum mixed of voices, music, and of people moving in the Atrium. Her parents led the way toward a row of Ministry-officials who were dressed impeccably in their finest dress robes and carrying long rolls of parchment.
“Mr. Arthur Weasley and family?” The first available wizard called, beckoning her father forward. “Ahh, yes, table thirty-one, sir! Enjoy your evening!” He bowed them through and then turned to greet the next group of people behind the Weasleys.
“It’s all so beautiful,” Hermione whispered excitedly, hooking her arm with Ginny’s. “I barely recognize it!”
In spite of being awed by the beauty of the hall, Ginny was now distracted by her curiosity over where Harry was. She wanted him to see her like this when she felt beautiful and confident in herself. Not wanting to sound so desperate to find him, she asked Hermione: “Where do you think Ron is holding Harry hostage?”
“He’s over there!” Hermione said, indicating a small knot of guests surrounding a very sheepish-looking Harry, and a half-embarrassed, half-excited Ron.
Harry looked dashing in his dress robes with his tousled hair and his embarrassed smile. Ginny took a deep breath to steady herself, suddenly feeling nervous about approaching Harry. She smoothed her dress self-consciously and shook her head slightly to allow her curls to tumble down her back. She was regretting not being able to talk to him earlier since there was nothing she wanted more at that moment than to go over and slid her arms around him, claiming him as hers in a room where every witch seemed to be looking at him with interest. “Should we go save them or wait a little?”
Hermione was already accepting two goblets from a passing waiter and then handed one to Ginny, smiling slightly. “Depends on what you want… I for one think we could let the boys deal with it a little longer. It wouldn’t hurt Harry to talk to people tonight… so many people want to express their gratitude.”
Ginny chuckled and took a sip from the goblet, startled by its fruity taste. It was a berry-flavoured beverage that was surely alcoholic and quite tasty. She watched Harry say something to the group, to which they all nodded, looking thoughtful as they listened. Their conversation ended moments later and Hermione beckoned for her to follow, leading the way toward Harry and Ron. As the group parted, Ginny managed to catch Harry’s eye as she moved toward him, trying her best to seem gracious in her heels and gown. She nearly tripped over herself when he gave her a breathtaking smile of relief at seeing her.
Hermione was smiling, obviously having noticed Harry’s reaction, but Ginny ignored her. Hermione could smile that irritating, knowing smile all she wanted tonight. As long as she got a few moments alone with Harry–just enough to know that things would be moving forward after last night–she would be happy. Ron wasn’t subtle either as he ogled his girlfriend, obviously impressed.
“There you are! Harry and I haven’t had a minute of peace. And people have been asking where you are, Hermione. Honestly, I think I’ve posed for at least fifty cameras tonight. It’s really weird… we’re famous!” Ron was grinning in spite of his complaints.
“Have you met anyone interesting yet?” Hermione asked curiously, looking around the room. “There are a lot of famous and important witches and wizards here tonight!”
Ron shrugged. “So far, it’s mostly a lot of Ministry-officials or Dumbledore-supporters. Harry had to pose with an Armenian family at one point,” Ron said with a laugh. “They made Harry hold their baby for the photo. He didn’t know what to do with it.”
Harry rolled his eyes at the comment. “I’ve never actually had a lot of practice with babies, Ron. I’ve spent the last seven years trying to defeat the Dark Lord,” Harry said wryly. “Perhaps I’ll have more practice soon with the rate that you and Hermione go at it.”
Hermione swatted at Harry, but Ron continued to laugh as he animatedly described how awkward Harry had looked trying to hold a wriggling, screaming infant to pose for this family’s photo. “It was like he was trying to hold a Quaffle covered in something awful,” Ron explained to Hermione and Ginny.
“Who from the Ministry have you met?” Hermione pressed, her face still pink from Harry’s teasing jab.
“Oh, this woman wanted to meet you!” Ron exclaimed suddenly, looking around to see where the woman had gotten to. “I think she’s the one you spoke to about working for after you finish school. There she is!” Ron pointed out a tall witch with dark hair, dressed in long magenta robes.
“Oh, yes! I’ve been owling her back and forth… I’ll be right back,” Hermione said, Ron following right behind her.
Ginny watched them go with amusement, smiling at Hermione and Ron who immediately took each other’s hands as they walked toward the witch in the purple robes. She’d just turned back to Harry when he grinned at her nervously now that they were alone.
“Hi,” he blurted. There was a moment of hesitation, but then he leaned over and hugged her. Granted the hug was awkward and a little jerky, and really, she’d much prefer a kiss on the cheek, but it had been a while since that kind of behaviour was normal… even if they had just snogged in her kitchen the night before.
He released her with a small smile, avoiding her eyes. “Ready for your speech?” Ginny asked, pleased with how calm she sounded in spite of her racing heart.
He rolled his eyes, looking around at the room with a small look of alarm at how quickly the Atrium was filling up. “Well, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I didn’t prepare much so I’m still going to wing it…”
She smiled at his flippant resolution and took a sip from her goblet. “Your face looks good,” she told him conversationally.
His lips tugged up into a small smirk as his eyes ran from her toes to her face. “You look good in that dress.”
Ginny nearly choked on her drink at his blatant flirtatious comment. She laughed between coughs, shaking her head. The second she noticed he was turning pink was embarrassment at having her laugh at him, she tried to calm herself and reached out to pat his shoulder. “I was referring to the fact that I can’t even tell you had a bruise there, but thank you… Hermione altered this dress I already had.”
“Oh!” He chuckled nervously, running his fingers through his already tousled hair. “Well, you still look beautiful.”
“Thanks,” she repeated, her voice soft as she spun for him with a shy smile. “I’m a little scared in these heels.” She pulled the hem of her dress up a little higher to show him the height of her heels.
Harry looked at her feet and laughed. “I never know why you girls do that to your feet… how are those comfortable?”
Ginny leaned in, her eyes alight as she whispered, “I heard that men invented heels to make it harder for women to run away from them.”
He chuckled, his expression playful. “So since you willingly wore those shoes, does that mean you don’t plan on running away from me, tonight?”
“I don’t ever plan on running away from you,” she told him.
But apparently this was the wrong thing to say as Harry was suddenly looking around nervously, as if he didn’t want anyone to overhear their conversation. She also became aware of the casual space between them and wondered if he was keeping his distance on purpose. He was flirting with her, but he didn’t want to be close to her? It was possible, of course, that Harry didn’t want to attract any attention at work, especially in front of the press and with half the wizarding world watching them. She understood that, still… she still felt rejection’s brutal sting welling up inside her.
Pursing her lips, she kept a straight face as she tried to wave away her comment with a small embarrassed smile. “Sorry… I shouldn’t have said that. The Atrium filled with people and the press isn’t the ideal time to discuss things.”
He opened his mouth to reply but a voice calling their names interrupted whatever he had to say.
Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, and a blonde girl that Ginny did not recognize were walking toward them. Ron and Hermione suddenly reappeared just before Dean and Seamus made it through the crowd. Somehow she found herself being hugged by both Dean and Seamus, though Seamu’s hug was a little awkward as he didn’t seem to want to let go of the blonde next to him. As innocent as Dean’s embrace was, the Jackson-incident made her uncomfortable to be hugging her ex-boyfriend in front of Harry.
“Blimey, it’s good to see all of you!” Dean exclaimed cheerily.
“Looking a right side better than the last time we saw you,” Seamus commented wryly, looking from Harry, to Ron, to Hermione in succession.
“A few good meals of real food did wonders,” Ron said, then glanced quickly to Hermione and amended, “Of course… Hermione did well with what we had.” Hermione rolled her eyes, smiling sadly at Ron’s newest habit of complimenting Hermione to cover any potential insults that might hurt his chances with her.
“Are you excited to be the guest of honour, Harry?” Dean asked, gesturing around the hall as he added, “All this for you… it must be weird.”
“Very weird,” agreed Harry wearily. “What are you two up to for the summer?”
Ginny shifted on her already uncomfortable feet and when Ginny’s elbow gently brushed a chest, she realized that Harry was now suddenly very close to her, as opposed to the distance he’d been keeping between them before. If she moved even an inch she would be leaning into Harry’s chest, but he wasn’t touching her. She tried to keep a normal expression and focus on the conversation, but Harry’s proximity was very distracting. Was Harry being possessive because Dean was there? How was it that a slightly flirty comment about never wanting to run from him was inappropriate, but he felt standing so close to her that he could count the freckles on her neck was acceptable?
“I’m going on a vacation soon. My family wants to visit Paris, so we’ll be touring France for a few weeks… I have relatives on the Southern border, so we’ll probably visit them too,” Dean was saying, pulling Ginny from her thoughts.
Seamus’s hand was stroking the blonde’s arm affectionately. “And I’m looking for a job. Me Mam is pushing for me to get working... I’m applying for a bunch of things, but I have no idea what I want to do. It feels too soon to think about life as an adult, you know. It’s the real world now for us…”
“What are you guys up to?” Dean asked, his eyes lingering on Ginny. As much as Ginny wanted to talk to Dean and possibly re-establish a friendship, she disliked his obvious looks and implied gazes. It had been a long time since they’d seen each other because Dean had been on the run from Snatchers last year, and their break-up aside, the war and near-death experiences had alleviated much of the awkwardness involved with their break-up. To see Dean now still held a little of the awkward remnants of their relationship, but personally, Ginny was just happy to see him alive.
Seamus and Ron were talking now, and Dean’s eyes lingered on Ginny for a few seconds too long- a few more seconds than she would have liked. Or maybe she was just being paranoid about men after the whole Jackson-incident? Still, she didn’t like Dean’s lingering looks now that they were broken up and had been for some time now. Dean was a good guy-- he couldn’t and wouldn’t try anything with Harry present and standing so close to her? Jackson had had no idea about Harry, but Dean knew very well their history, even if he hadn’t been there to witness her fellow classmates branding her Harry’s girl- untouchable by all.’
Hermione had just begun to tell Dean that she and Ginny were going back to Hogwarts when an elderly witch stepped up to a podium at the back of the room and called the room to her attention.
“Welcome, honourable ladies and gents,” she said graciously, her voice sweeping the entire room into a polite silence. “If you would please take your seats, dinner will be served shortly!”
The room’s volume rose once again and people began to move to find their seats at one of the many tables. “Finally! I’m starved!” Ron exclaimed gratefully.
Over Ron’s excitement over dinner and his wonderings directed at Harry over what they might serve, Dean had turned to Ginny. “Where are you sitting?” Dean asked her curiously. “It’s been so long! We should catch up!”
Hermione was quicker than she was. “We’re all at table thirty-one with Harry, but we’ll see you after dinner!” Hermione turned to Ginny, Ron and Harry and added, “We’d better get back… it’s crowded in here. See you later!” She offered a wide smile to Dean, Seamus, and the blonde girl, and then pulled Ginny along with her. Ginny smiled and said goodbye to Dean and Seamus, grateful that Hermione was all-business and no drama.
Hermione had not been kidding about needing to go find their table. The Atrium was now packed with witches and wizards moving about to take their seats, which was made it more difficult as every two feet people were stopping to greet each other between tables. Ron moved up to lead the way, followed by Hermione, Ginny and Harry.
Once they were out of sight from Dean, Ginny and Hermione exchanged a look and Ginny mouthed a ‘thank you’ to her friend, grateful that she had been there to step in for her. Unfortunately, with her attention diverted, Ginny bumped into a hurried waiter carrying a large tray full of steaming goblets. The waiter cursed as several of the goblets spilt on the tray, splashing some sort of steaming liquid onto the ground. A hand seized Ginny and pulled her roughly backwards, making her trip over her heels and stumble against a hard chest. The waiter gave her a dirty look and pulled out his wand to clean the mess before hurrying on his way without a word of apology. In the struggle, her shoe had come off and she bent to grab it, her hand on the same chest that had stopped her from tumbling to the floor. She looked up at the same time she pulled the shoe back over her heel and found herself staring up at Harry. Her face flushed pink as she became very aware of her hand on a hard, muscled chest.
“He’s going to burn somebody,” Harry said, glaring at the waiter’s retreating back. He looked down at her, his expression changing to one of concern. She was suddenly very aware of the warmth that against her palm from underneath his dress shirt.
“He didn’t get you?” He verified worriedly, dropping his hands off her arms.
Ginny cleared her throat and pushed her curls back over her shoulder, determined not to let her cool composure be destroyed by the blushing she got from merely touching him. Being this close to him with her hands on his chest had made her remember their kiss in excruciating detail. Still, she wasn’t that little girl who couldn’t move in front of him without blushing furiously anymore. She shook her head with a grateful smile. “No. Thank you for catching me, though.”
“Don’t mention it,” he murmured. “Come on, we’d better go sit down before another waiter tries to run you over.”
Ginny nodded and led the way back to their table. Most of her family was already seated and it took her all of three seconds to realize that she was sitting next to Harry. Hermione was busy smoothing her napkin on her lap with an odd expression on her face, which gave Ginny the sneaking suspicion that Hermione had switched the name tags to ensure that they sat next to each other. It also seemed more logical that Harry sit on the left-side of the table, which would face the rest of the room, instead of having his back to it. She sat down without a word, determined to keep her composure as Harry slid into the seat next to hers- their elbows nearly touching.
What was it with her heart racing every time he got close to her?
Thankfully, she made it through dinner without any slipups. She laughed, she smiled, and she made sure she made conversation with everyone as if she was completely at ease– as if she didn’t notice that Harry smelt of a cologne so appealing that she wanted to lean in and take a deep breath to fill herself with it. She kept still, hoping that she wasn’t so obvious about being aware of every movement he made, and as if she didn’t feel little tingles of pleasure every time his arm brushed hers, or a desperate longing for his hand that he had placed on his leg to slide over to her knee. Harry, on the other hand, did not seem to be affected by his proximity to her, which made her feel as if she was going mental.
During the course of dinner, many important Ministry officials spoke, as well as the families of well-known victims and survivors. Kingsley spoke last, acknowledging the efforts of the students of Hogwarts, both survivors and the fallen. He spoke of Dumbledore and his efforts, as well as the Order of the Phoenix, and all that they had strived for. And then he called on Harry, thanking him gratefully, announcing that the world would forever be in his debt after fate had been saddled on his shoulders, and he had come out victoriously. He then asked for Harry to join him up on the small stage that had been erected for the speeches-portion of the evening.
There was a smattering of applause as Harry got nervously to his feet and slowly moved up to the stage where Kingsley stood with several other important people.
Kingsley turned again to the audience. “Many of us owe our lives and our futures to Harry Potter. He has given us our freedom and our world back. He’s given our children a chance to grow up in safer world, and he has allowed us to breathe more freely. He has defeated Voldemort- the most evil wizard of all time. The Ministry of Magic has spent many weeks now trying to decide how we could thank Harry Potter for all that he has done for us. And after much deliberation, we came to a decision.”
A short witch with fly-away grey curls handed Kingsley a thick yellow roll of parchment, which Kingsley then unrolled and read out to the crowd.
“As a gift to Mr. Potter, the Ministry is pleased to award him with a gift that, for those of you who know Mr. Potter and his story, this will help to express our endless gratitude. The Ministry has set aside a property estate for Mr. Potter in his hometown of Godric’s Hollow, which we hope, will provide him with a home after he lost his all too early in life; a home that Voldemort denied him many years ago.”
The surprise of the crowd and the sound of applause was deafening. Ginny watched Harry’s face pale with shock as he accepted the roll of parchment and he shook hands, thanking everyone on the stage. Kingsley gently urged him up the forefront to say a few words and the crowd felt into an awed silence.
“Thank you for this,” Harry began awkwardly, his face now turning pink as he addressed the hundreds of people in the Atrium. Down the table, Hermione and Ron were beaming at Harry in support, and Mrs. Weasley had tears in her eyes. “I don’t really know what to say… I’ve- erm… never really been good at public speaking so I’ll just keep this short. There was a time when I thought I would not make it out alive–that I was not supposed to survive. But I made it. I survived- we all did. And I know that you want to thank me for what I did, but I could not have done it without my best friends– without the two people who stuck by me through everything. Ron and Hermione were with me stuck through it all with me- over seven years.” He paused to look at them again meaningfully.
“If Ron and Harry would perhaps like to join Mr. Potter at the front?” Kingsley asked in his deep voice.
Hermione and Ron got nervously to their feet and quickly went to join Harry on the stage. Their embarrassment was obvious as even as Ron walked away, Ginny could see Ron’s ears had gone scarlet and Hermione was a bright pink with so many eyes on her. Harry smiled at his two best friends as they stood on either side of him before he looked back out over the crowd.
“I’m proud to say that we now live in a world without Voldemort.” There were some, Ginny noticed, who still cringed at the word, and she supposed it would still be like this for a long time. There would still be fear and anxiety in the his memory as Voldemort had not died without leaving many scars on the wizarding community.
“We’ve all lost nearly as much as we have gained,” he continued, his voice catching as he looked out over the crowd. “Thank you again, for all of you who supported me, supported Dumbledore, and supported the war against Voldemort. And in spite of everything and everyone we have lost… I’d like to spend this night in celebration of the good we have gained, and to remember those who lost their lives in the fight to give the world a chance.”
Harry raised his goblet in the age-old gesture of a toast, though his hand shook slightly. “Here is to freedom and to happiness. This is in honour of those we have lost…and this is to us!” He said loudly, a nervous smile breaking across his face as hundreds of people raised their own goblets in imitation.
“Here, here!” George called loudly from their table, earning a few laughs.
The crowd drank and then erupted into cheers and applause. At the front, Harry, Ron and Hermione embraced after they drank, smiling, crying, and overjoyed at the same time. When they pulled apart, they took a photo with Kingsley, and then began a slow walk back to their table as people stood and reached out to shake their hands and exchange words of gratitude. As happy as this moment was, it was heartbreaking in a way to see her brother and his her friends acknowledge after everything, the war was finally over. They could live their lives normally at last… Ginny couldn’t imagine how different their experiences had been from her own and from everyone else’s.
Once Harry, Ron and Hermione were seated once more, Kingsley moved back to the podium and called the room back to silence. “Before we clear the tables, I have the honour of presenting the newest addition to the Ministry that will forever grace our halls here.”
Two wizards walked off the stage toward the far right wall with their wands raised. Slowly, they brought down one massive curtain to reveal a marble plaque that covered a large section of the wall. Many names were engraved there on the shining marble wall.
“We will always remember those we have lost and in their deaths, we acknowledge their courage, strength, and their role in Voldemort’s fall. Here in marble, we will always remember those whom we have lost.”
After a long round of applause, Kingsley smiled and raised his voice to be heard over the din. “And now!” Kingsley boomed over the crowd cheerfully. “The tables will be cleared for the dance part of the evening! Enjoy your evening!”
Everyone began collecting their items from the tables and standing up to either socialize or get a closer look at the wall. Tables and chairs had already re-appeared around the edges of the room to clear the center for a larger dance floor. Ginny got to her feet slowly as the band struck up and the lights dimmed overhead. As she pretended to listen to a conversation between Bill and Charlie, she watched Harry, Ron and Hermione who stood talking to a couple who had tears on their faces. The couple embraced Harry with sad smiles, and then did the same with Ron and Hermione. Once they had moved on, Harry met Ginny’s eyes and she felt herself caught up in an emotion that made her chest hurt, though she wasn’t sure why. She tore her eyes away, unable to bear whatever emotion had felt so overwhelming.
Harry was busy again talking to people who were practically queuing to speak to him so Ginny followed George who had gone to look at the wall to see his brother’s name. She would talk to Harry later, but for now, she needed to see the names of those she had lost, namely Fred, and to stand by George when he had to look upon his twin brother’s name.
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