Hi, Jenny. This is Vicki, here to say that I was really happy to read your story set in the context of the Fourth of July, which so many Americans say is their favorite holiday, surpassing even Christmas (for many reasons). And it was really neat that your story was posted just a few days before the holiday, when we were all in the mood. (I'm sure you must have planned it that way.)
There were lots of things that I liked about this story. The structure was good, the first half being like a mystery (what's going on?) and then the second half evolving into an exploration of what this holiday implies in a much larger sense. You are lucky to have your history-nerd brother to help you with the background, but you did a wonderful job in developing those bare facts into the moral discussion that runs through the latter half of the story.
Your characterizations of Ron and Hermione were spot-on. Hermione gives Ron a lot of information, but in a succinct way, not going on and on or overwhelming him (and us readers) with too much detail. And she doesn't talk down to him or belittle him for not knowing this stuff already; this makes her seem very lovable, and fits in perfectly with her caring personality that we know so well.
Ron praises Hermione for having so much factual knowledge, but I like the fact that you show that he's pretty smart too, in recognizing the philosophical conclusion "It's not always just good or evil...", and seeing how that philosophy applies to so many different situations.
(I was glad to see that you completely avoided the common stereotypes of Hermione as a bickering, critical shrew and Ron as a clueless oaf. The Ron and Hermione that you depict are much more believable, as maturing adults who have grown beyond their adolescent selves.)
Your descriptive passages of the hotel room were just right. We have all been in Ron's place, looking out the big windows onto the night scene below, with the streetlights and the occasional passing car. It is so easy to see in the mind's eye, and I loved your description of the heavy drapes and the thin curtains -- only in a hotel room! There was a tone of gentle, sympathetic humor in your treatment of Ron's experience with the Muggle world, and I smiled when Ron momentarily wondered if someone had cast the Dark Mark.
I particularly admired your brief phrase "...she transferred into textbook mode." So succinctly and gracefully put.
Finally, the moral discussion in the latter half of your story is what lifts the story high above merely an entertaining piece about Ron's not recognizing fireworks. I went back through the story and listed all the examples you had subtly managed to tuck in: wizarding world vs. Voldemort, British vs. Americans, British vs. Irish, wealthy merchants vs. ordinary people, and people of varying opinions regarding elf rights. That's pretty impressive because it all flowed naturally, and the effect was to make Ron seem wise and reflective. I, and probably others, have wondered what a smart girl like Hermione saw in Ron, enough to make her want to marry him. Your story suggests that, at an intellectual level, they did have more in common than we may have surmised.
You are to be congratulated for taking an amusing little episode from your own life and expanding it so imaginatively into this philosophical piece. Being one of those Americans whose favorite holiday is Independence Day, I enjoyed your story thoroughly. Good job!
This made me so happy for Ron's and Hermione's realationship.