You are viewing a story from

The Future Mrs. Weasley by MischiefManaged311

Format: Novel
Chapters: 24
Word Count: 58,408

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature

Genres: Romance
Characters: Draco, Ginny, Harry, Dumbledore, Hermione, Ron, Fred/George, M. McGonagall
Pairings: Others

First Published: 05/02/2005
Last Chapter: 08/19/2005
Last Updated: 08/19/2005

Hermione comes to terms with her relationship with Ron, and finds the love of another Weasley in the process. Hermione/Charlie

Chapter 1: A Troubled Heart
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Dislaimer: I do not own these characters.

Nobody asked. They didn’t need to. Everyone just assumed Ron and Hermione were together. Or rather, that they’d be together soon. Everyone knew they were in love; it was only a matter of time before they told each other. And after six years of friendship, the confessions were long overdue.

Still, not much had changed between the two friends. They still treated each other exactly how they had been for years: just as friends. Every now and then one of them would show a twinge of jealousy if they saw the other show interest in someone else, but that was about it. Their Christmas gifts had gotten slightly more meaningful, but there was never any talk of love.

Ron and Hermione were best friends, and outside of Harry and Ginny, they were the only real friends each other had. Both of them decided individually that a relationship would be too risky, and their friendship was too important. Harry tried his best to encourage his friends that they needed to do something about their feelings for each other, but they didn’t budge. Neither felt that being romantically involved was worth compromising what they already had. So they stayed platonic, despite how much their hearts ached to be together.

Hermione woke up in the dead of night, unable to breathe through her nose. Her mouth was so dry from being open it felt like a desert; her tongue was rough and chapped. She listened for sounds of random Weasleys traipsing about the house, but heard none. The room she shared with Ginny, as well as the rest of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, was completely silent. Everyone had gone to bed, and everyone was sleeping peacefully. Everyone except Hermione, that is.

She stood up slowly, feeling the cold rush over her body as her covers fell back on the bed. The floorboards creaked a little as she walked carefully to the bathroom. Blinding light assaulted her eyes, and she wrinkled her face up until they adjusted. Hermione looked at the face staring back at her in the mirror and noticed two incredibly puffy eyes. She had been crying in her sleep again.

Hermione turned on the faucet and let the trickle of ice cold water fill her cupped hands; she took a deep breath and splashed it on her burning face. Again she dipped her hands in the cool water and rubbed the back of her neck. I’ve got to stop doing this. Dammit, why can’t I sleep through the night?

But she knew the answer to this question: it was Ron. Ron was the reason she couldn’t sleep, the reason she woke up every morning feeling more tired than she had been the night before. It killed her to be with Ron at every moment, and not be able to be with him. He was only two rooms away, but it felt like miles.

In her mind, she knew it was for the best, especially with the war going on. They had bigger things to focus on. The war is what drove them all to be at Grimmauld Place during the Christmas holidays. Normally, Hermione would have been at home with her parents, but this year Dumbledore had wanted them all to be together under the protection of the Order. Things were getting much, much worse. Just to add to the stress of Voldemort’s growing power, it was nearly Christmas, and Hermione missed her parents. And she missed Ron.

Hermione dried herself off with a hand-towel and put on her bathrobe. She prayed Mrs. Weasley would not wake up and catch her sneaking downstairs; she hated breaking rules (well, it was more from the fear of getting caught). The teapot in the kitchen normally made a terrible racket, but Hermione had gotten very good at the silencing charm during her late-night practices.

She sat at the table for hours, finishing cup after cup of tea. The swelling of her eyes had subsided, only to be replaced by dark circles. Hermione didn’t even notice Mr. Weasley enter the kitchen.

”Late night again, Hermione?” Arthur Weasley was a caring man, and reminded her a lot of her own dad. He knew she often had trouble sleeping, and only guessed it had something to do with his youngest son. She, however, never offered any information.

“Yes, well… I guess I think too much. Everything with the Order, and the war… I just worry, that’s all,” she answered feebly.

He placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her. “Indeed, we all worry, Hermione. But there are times you’ll find that worrying about something will only cause you more pain, be it about a war or anything else.”

“Thank you, Mr. Weasley, but there’s nothing else…”

“Sometimes when I’m sad or worried about something, I find that I feel better after I talk to someone about it.” Mr. Weasley paused, but Hermione didn’t answer. “Well, I’m off to work. Have a good day, dear.” He patted her head then moved towards the door.

Bill, Charlie, and Mrs. Weasley entered the kitchen just as the conversation had ended.

“Leaving already, Dad?” Charlie called out.

“Bye son. I’ll be home after work. Goodbye Molly, my sweet.” He blew her a kiss and was gone.

Mrs. Weasley immediately interrogated Hermione to find out why she was awake at such an hour; Bill took it upon himself to be the father figure and helped her. Hermione really didn’t want to answer any questions, and did her best to slither out of giving them any useful information. She was thankful for Charlie, who had taken a seat right across from her, because he didn’t ask any questions. He made her feel slightly awkward, yet glad at the same time because he let her do what she wanted: just sit and be quiet.

“…And just look at those circles under your eyes! Merlin, child! You get to bed this instant!” Mrs. Weasley shook her spatula in Hermione’s general direction, flinging bits of egg on the floor.

“Ok.” Hermione didn’t argue because she was so glad to be leaving. The Weasleys always meant well, but sometimes their inquiries were more annoying than helpful.She gave Charlie a tiny smile in appreciation on her way out.

Her bed was cold, so she wrapped herself in blankets and shielded her eyes from the sun that invaded her room. Before she even had time to think of Ron, sleep became her.

a/n: Hope you enjoyed. Please review and let me know what you think. =)

Chapter 2: A Helping Hand
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione awoke hours later to the sound hushed voices, and six eyes fixated on her.

“Hey, you all right? Are you sick?” Harry asked looking concerned.

“Yeah, we were worried about you.” Ron…beautiful Ron.

“Thank you, but I’m fine. I was just a bit sleepy.” She sat up in bed, then realized how revealing her nightclothes were and hastily brought her covers up over her chest.

“No need to be embarrassed, ‘Mione. We’re all family here!” Harry thought he was being helpful by lightening the mood, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Ginny scolded Harry for his rude remark, and his posture instantly drooped. He was in trouble now. Then the Weasley girl shooed her brother and her boyfriend out of the room quite easily, for they didn’t dare test her temper. She sat down on the edge of Hermione’s bed, and sympathetically stroked her friend’s bushy brown hair.

“So, you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Ginny’s voice was soft and soothing. Hermione sighed.

“You know what’s wrong. It’s the same thing, over and over again. Boys—the one thing I need to know most about, and the one thing I can’t learn in a textbook.”

“You mean boy.” Ginny gave a sad, sideways grin.

“Oh, Ginny, please don’t make this harder than it already is.”

“Sorry. But I don’t understand something, why did you sleep so late? Usually this stuff keeps you awake.” Ginny was Hermione’s best girl friend, so she usually got the inside scoop on everything that was going on.

“It did keep me awake. I was downstairs in the kitchen for quite a while. I talked to your dad a little this morning, then your mum and Bill questioned me to death when they found me still awake. Only Charlie had the decency to leave me be. They all had good intentions, I guess… but God, I thank Charlie for not saying anything.”

“And then you just came back to bed and went to sleep?”

“Yeah. I guess the lack of sleep is finally catching up to my body. I barely even had time to think about anything before I was out. First time in months I’ve been able to do that, and it felt wonderful.”

Hermione thought of Charlie again, and how much it meant to her that he had not added to her miseries. Certainly he must have wondered what was wrong as much as Bill and Mrs. Weasley, but he still kept out of it. I should probably thank him for that.

The rest of the afternoon passed with ease, as Hermione’s made-up hours of sleep left her refreshed and in a better mood. The four friends mostly just goofed off all day, playing wizard chess and searching the house for Christmas gifts. Hermione noticed Harry and Ginny holding hands as they snuck up to the attic, and her heart sank.

Dinner that night wasn’t too pleasant to start. She saw how close Harry sat to Ginny, and how they looked so deeply into each other’s eyes as they talked. Hermione didn’t eat enough to satisfy Mrs. Weasley, but she earnestly insisted she was full.

The only thing different was that Charlie sat on her right; he usually never sat by her before. Hermione didn’t mind though, and it actually made her feel better. It was as if he was saying he was literally “by her side,” almost as if he understood what she was going through.

Harry and Ginny excused themselves from the table, and snaked off by themselves—undoubtedly for a make-out session.

Ron was utterly miserable as well, but Hermione didn’t notice because she could barely look at him. Ron tried his best to sound cheerful and asked, “Hey, ‘Mione, want to go play some chess?”

Hermione was startled as his request. She thought to herself, It’s fine. I can play chess with my friend. No problem. She turned to look at Charlie briefly before answering Ron with, “Sure.”

”I'm really glad you feel better,” Ron said genuinely.

”Oh yeah I’m fine, thanks.” She looked at Ron and noticed how much he and Charlie looked alike. Of course they were brothers so naturally they resembled each other, but for some reason today they looked even more alike than usual today.

“Wonder where Harry and Ginny are? Maybe they’d like to play with us…” Ron smiled though he felt uneasy being alone with Hermione. As much as he wanted to be alone with her, he was scared of what would happen if he got his wish. Ron didn’t trust himself at all.

“They’re around here somewhere, but I think they’d rather keep to themselves for awhile. After all, they are dating now. They need their space.” She waited to catch his reaction. “Is it so hard for you to be with me, Ron?”

The look of hurt on Hermione’s face caught Ron off guard. He was instantly filled with ten different emotions at once, and didn’t know what to say first. Yes, it was that hard for him to be with her—but he couldn’t say that. He couldn’t let his love for her mess with their friendship. So instead, he said nothing.

Hermione slowly pushed out her chair and walked towards the door. Ron made to follow her and said, “Wait, you don’t have to go.” She turned around and replied, “It’s ok, Ron,” then close closed the door behind her.

She decided to take a walk outside to clear her thoughts, but found that task nearly impossible. The night sky seemed brighter than usual due to the heavy clouds that lingered over. It was below freezing and the snow on the ground gathered on her shoes as she tramped through it. Her hands were numb and red, but she didn’t care. All her energy was focused her situation with Ron. She wondered why Ron didn’t follow her, secretly hoping he would tap her on the shoulder at any moment. Then she countered if Ron did appear, it would make everything more difficult to bear. Why is this so hard?

Hermione continued to walk through the long, circular path she’d made in the snow, wondering if anyone else even knew she was out in the cold.

“Hermione?” She heard a familiar voice behind her, and turned to meet Charlie.

“Mind if I join you?”

Hermione was shocked to see him, but not at all disappointed. She smiled at him and said, “Of course not. It’d be nice to have some company.”

“Great! So, what are you doing out here all alone in the cold anyways? Aren’t you freezing?” Hermione told him she was used to it because of all the ski trips she’d taken with her parents. Charlie, however, was a complete gentleman and removed his dragon-hide cloak to wrap around her shoulders.

“Thanks, Charlie.”

“So why aren’t you with Harry and Ron? You three are usually attached at the hip.”

“Well actually it’s Harry and Ginny who are attached at the hip now. He hasn’t been spending as much time with us since they started dating. And Ron… He’s around here somewhere, I guess.”

Charlie noticed her tone lowered a bit at the last part, so he decided not to push her any further. Instead, he changed the subject to something that would be a little bit more comfortable for her.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do after you graduate in a few months?”

“Oh, I’ve thought about doing LOTS of things. It’s picking one that’s the problem,” Hermione laughed. “How did you end up deciding to work with dragons? I mean, how did you know that’s what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know exactly. I’ve always loved being around animals, not to mention a certain affinity for danger.” Charlie struck an impressive super-hero pose, and adorned a look of pride that could have rivaled Gilderoy Lockhart’s. Hermione couldn’t help but laugh, and Charlie joined her. “It was actually a bit of unexpected luck. The day after graduation I received a letter for my first job offer in Romania. I figured it would be a good opportunity to have fun and see the world while simultaneously getting to do what I loved. Worked out perfectly, in fact.”

“So you really like it in Romania, even though you’re so far from your family?”

“Yes, I’d have to say that’s the only drawback. It’s hard to be away from everybody and only get to see them twice a year. I get a little lonely sometimes, but it’s worth it to have a job that makes me happy.”

“That’s kind of how I feel about school. I love being there, but now I miss my parents more than I used to. Usually I was with Harry and Ron so much that I didn’t have time to be sad or lonely, but now… Well, at least there’s only one term left until graduation. Then I can move on, get a job, do something important with my life.”

Charlie put his arm around her shoulders and said reassuringly, “Don’t you worry about those two gits. They’ll wise up eventually. But just in case they don’t, you can always send me an owl in Romania if you feel lonely.”

Hermione smiled at him appreciatively and answered, “You know, I might just do that.”

Feeling a lot better, Hermione decided it was a good time to go inside and warm up. They walked in and joined the rest of the Weasleys and Harry by the fire. She sat by Ginny, so immersed in conversation that she didn’t notice Charlie smiling at her from across the room.

Ron looked glum as he talked to Harry and the twins about the latest products from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, a subject that normally would have had all the boys laughing excitedly. His gaze drifted lazily to the Christmas tree that sheltered numerous presents wrapped in cheerful paper and fancy bows. He fixed his eyes on the shiny red package he had wrapped for Hermione, but was snapped back to reality when George playfully thumped him on the head.

“Wake up, ickle Ronnie!” George said in a baby voice.

“Aw, is the poor, lovesick puppy daydreaming again?” Fred’s joke highly amused his twin brother, but got quite the opposite reaction from Ron.

“Go ahead and laugh. I wouldn’t expect you two prats to know anything about love,” Ron said sternly as he exited the room.

Hermione caught bits of the derisive exchange between the youngest Weasley boys and let her eyes watch Ron as he left. The door slammed harshly and broke her gaze from the door. She looked across the room and met Charlie’s eyes, silently motioning and wishing he would go talk to Ron.

Harry joined Hermione and Ginny just before Charlie excused himself and followed Ron to his room.

“Go away! I don’t want to talk to anyone!”

“Hey, little brother, it’s me, Charlie,” he said as he inched the door open. Ron collapsed onto his bed and looked at his brother, trying to show as little emotion as possible.

“Ok, I guess you can come in…” Ron said with indifference. Charlie sat down beside his distraught brother, but Ron made no eye contact as he stared out the window.

“You want to tell me what’s wrong?” But Ron kept silent.

“Love is a tough thing to understand. It can be the greatest of joys, but also the darkest of hells. I know you’re in love with—“

“I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH HERMIONE!!!” Ron shouted so loud that Charlie jumped back, his heart racing. Tears started to well up in Ron’s eyes as Charlie regained his composure and moved closer. Ron broke into tears as Charlie patted his back.

“Y-y-yes, I a-am…” Ron sobbed.

“Hey, it’s alright. Shhh, don’t worry, everything will be ok,” Charlie consoled. “You know, maybe you should tell her.”

“N-no w-w-way! Are you m-mad!?” Ron’s flow of tears increased as he broke into near hysterics. He cried so frantically he could hardly breathe. Charlie did most of the talking for a while until Ron could calm down.

“This is what happens when you keep love bottled up like this; eventually you explode. If you love Hermione, you should tell her. It’s not fair to either one of you to go on living like this. I can see it’s killing you inside to not be with her. You owe it to yourself, and to her.”

“No. I c-can never tell her. That’s j-just n-not an option,” Ron stated firmly, though this voice still quavered.

“And why not?”

“She’s my b-best friend besides Harry. I can’t take that risk. Besides, she’s not in love with me…”

“Well, how would you know? You’ve never asked her!”

“No, she’s not. Maybe she did once, but she can’t now. I’ve waited too long, hurt her too much. No, what she needs to do is find another bloke and move on. That would make everything easier for both of us, because then I wouldn’t have to worry about her feeling lonely, and then torturing myself knowing I was the source of her pain.”

“Are you sure that’s what you really want? To see the girl you love with some other guy? You might regret that decision someday.”

“Seems I’ve already made that decision. I made it years ago when I took so long to ask her to the Yule Ball. Can’t take it back now. And as for regrets, what’s done is done and I can’t change it. I’d rather let her move on and be happy than continue to cause her sorrow.”

“That makes sense, I guess, but you realize it’s going to be a rough road ahead, right? I want you to think about this before making any rash decisions like telling her you can’t be with her.”

“I told you, I’ve made my decision. And trust me, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I know what I’m doing.”

“Ok, now all you’ve got to do is tell her.”

“What? Why? Why can’t we just go on like nothing happened? It’ll sort itself out eventually…”

“No, Ron, it won’t. Something has happened, and you can’t just sit back and let Hermione wait for you forever, especially since you have no intention of giving her what she needs. You need to talk to her.”

Chapter 3: A Wandering Eye
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Charlie and Hermione made a routine of taking walks together. Every day, often several times a day, the two would escape the bustle of the house to enjoy a quiet conversation. These walks became Hermione’s therapy. Whenever she started to feel alone or bored, all she had to do was give Charlie a thoughtful look, and he immediately postponed his activity for a little break time of his own.

She and Charlie talked continuously and never seemed to run out of things to say. Hermione had learned so much about dragons that, if contested against anyone else at Hogwarts on their knowledge of the subject, she would surely come out the victor. They talked about school, and Hermione amazed him with her ability to rattle off facts and figures from the top of her head. She also started thinking about jobs that would involve traveling because of how much she enjoyed hearing about Charlie’s adventures; her new goal was to work at the Ministry in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.

Besides talking, the two enjoyed playing Exploding Snap, helping Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen, and snooping around the house for unwrapped Christmas gifts. Charlie also decided that Hermione needed to learn the art of Quidditch and began to give her expert flying lessons. Hermione’s days were now so occupied with her new friend that she hardly had a moment to spare sulking about Ron. It seemed the more time she spent with Charlie, the longer she was able to sleep through the night, and consequently, the less she thought about Ron altogether.

Though she felt like a bad friend for not paying as much attention to Ron as she used to, it eased her stress level considerably to not be constantly pining over him. She knew Ron would never give in to his feelings, if in fact he had any, so she convinced herself that moving on was the healthiest choice for all those involved.

Still, in the middle of her newfound revolution, she couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty when she stole glances at Charlie in his dashing Quidditch robes, and imagined the toned muscles concealed underneath. She had never really noticed how remarkably handsome Charlie was, which was probably because in years past her focus had always been saved for Ron. But now that she was in a progressive mindset about severing any romantic attachment to Ron, a gateway was opened to countless possibilities—possibilities that in no way excluded a crush on the second eldest Weasley boy.

Hermione tried earnestly to think of Charlie in a strictly platonic way; she was aware of what could happen to her mental state if she allowed herself to be attracted to yet another member of the Weasley family. But try as she may, Hermione’s thoughts became increasingly preoccupied by the dragon keeper. She constantly coached herself that developing feelings for Charlie was not smart, and practiced private mind games to avert her attention to something else. It worked when she focused, but nighttime was a different story.

He hugged her and let her know everything would be alright without having to say anything….They flew high above the trees, through the clouds and completely out of sight….He was at Hogwarts to visit her…..She worked for the Ministry, and had pictures of their vacation on her desk…..In a dark corner of Grimmauld Place, he bent low to kiss her….

Images continually flashed through Hermione’s mind at night. She drifted between things that had actually happened, things she wished might someday happen, and things she knew would never happen. Every effort she made to refute her feelings for Charlie was annihilated by the content of her dreams. She found it increasingly difficult to take walks with Charlie and not get the sudden urge to kiss him.

She didn’t know what it was about him that captivated her so. She was not overly keen about his dangerous occupation (yes, she was intrigued, but just like a true Mrs. Weasley, she was also a worrywart). His features were nothing new (she was used to the red hair and freckles after all these years), though his athletic build and intermittent burns on his arms did lend a certain aura of manliness to his character. Charlie’s extra years also gave him an advantage; he understood women very well and knew how to balance his macho side with his sensitivity. His intelligent sense of humor was something Hermione appreciated most, and his insightful comprehension of the world freed her to discuss things she never would have been able to with Harry or Ron. Basically, Charlie allowed her to be herself.

The days approached nearer and nearer to Christmas, and excitement buzzed all around Grimmauld Place. When Hermione was not with Charlie, she was with Ginny. They spent many hours talking and guessing what everyone would be receiving on Christmas. Ginny knew Hermione better than almost anyone, and her frequent togetherness with Charlie did not go unnoticed by the young Weasley girl.

“So, Hermione, are you going to tell me what’s going on with you and my brother?” Ginny questioned with an air of authority, as if she already knew the answer.

“Ron is a lot better now, we-“

“Wrong brother. You know who I’m talking about…”

“Oh, Charlie? He’s been a really great friend lately, and-“

“Hermione, don’t be short with me. I know there’s something up with you two.”

She gave Ginny a reproving look and responded, “As I was saying, Charlie and I have become very good friends. He’s quite pleasant company, and I enjoy spending time with him.”

“Is that all? You really expect me to believe that after all that time you spend with him on your romantic walks that you-”

“Romantic walks? Ginny, they’re not romantic. How could they be, knowing that everyone in the house could spy on us?”

“Ah ha! So you do want to be alone with him!” Ginny’s grin widened and her eyes grew rounder as she said it.

“Ginny! That’s not what I meant. We just talk and have a good time. He’s actually really helped me a lot with…with not being sad about Ron,” she finished sadly.

Ginny decided to stop pushing so hard, but was still very curious. “What do you talk about?”

“Oh, we talk about lots of stuff—work, school, dragons, Quidditch, Christmas… You know, Gin, I was thinking of maybe getting him a present, to say thank you for being so nice to me recently. What do you think?”

Ginny’s ears perked up, and she hid a sly smile. “You want to get him a present, do you?”

“Well, I thought about it. But actually, it’s quite impossible, There’s no way we’ll be able to leave the house to go shopping. Too late, I guess.” Hermione’s face drooped with this realization.

“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” Ginny reassured with a mischievous smile.

“What’s that look for? Ginny…”

“Oh, nothing…”

Ginny wasn’t the only one who noticed the excessive amount of time Hermione and Charlie spent together. Nearly the entire Weasley clan began to form their own theories about the status of the relationship, and gossip spread like wildfire.

Mrs. Weasley saw it from the beginning, and watched out the back window and Charlie and Hermione took their daily walk. “Arthur, it’s happening again… Why can’t that poor girl ever escape the drama our boys cause her?”

“Now, Molly, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. Hermione’s having a rough time, and I think Charlie was exactly what she needed.” Mr. Weasley had a bit more confidence that everything would sort itself out than Mrs. Weasley did.

“But don’t you think this is a little strange? I mean, she and Charlie have always gotten along, but this is a bit much, don’t you think?”

“Stop worrying, dear. Charlie is a grown man; he knows what he’s doing. And not to belittle our youngest son, but Charlie does have a bit more brains than Ron when it comes to the fairer sex.”

“That’s another thing I’m worried about, Arthur… He’s too old for her! She’s not even out of school yet, and he’s grown-”

“Molly, listen to yourself. You’re blowing this way out of proportion, and nothing has even happened yet. Everyone has just jumped to conclusions about the two of them without even thinking about it.” Mrs. nodded, knowing that her husband was right. “Besides,” he continued, “Charlie is a good man, and Hermione has impeccable judgment. Would it be so horrible if something were to happen?”

Mrs. Weasley looked out the window again and shook her head slowly. “But what about Ron…?”

Chapter 4: A Curious Mind
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Morning, ‘Mione!”

Hermione yelped as she was startled awake by a loud voice in her face. She opened her eyes slowly to see Harry, Ron, and Ginny standing over her.

“Come on, wake up! It’s Christmas!” cried Harry joyfully.

“Yeah, the sooner you’re up, the sooner we open presents!” Ginny beamed.

“Well, we have to eat breakfast first, but we can’t without you there,” corrected Harry. “Get dressed and come downstairs.”

“Right, I’m ravenous. Hermione, if you don’t come soon, I think I may die of starvation!” Ron laughed.

Hermione rolled over and covered her head with her blanket. “You go on without me. I’ll meet you down there,” she moaned.

“No, we’ll wait for you as long as you hurry. Besides what have you got to do? You look fine. Let’s go!” Ron was clearly anxious to eat, and Hermione suppressed a tiny smile at his compliment. She knew she must look horrible, but obviously Ron never cared about how she looked.

“Really, it’s ok. I’ll only be a few minutes. You go on,” she said while slowly rolling out of bed.

Harry and Ron headed for the door, but Ginny remained behind. As Hermione began to change out of her nightclothes, she inquired about why everyone was up so early.

“We’re not up early, Hermione. You slept in. It’s after nine o’clock! That’s late for my family on any regular day, but especially on Christmas!” Ginny looked at Hermione as if this should have been common knowledge.

“Sorry, I was just tired. I feel fine now though…”

“Well yeah, now that you can actually go to sleep at night.” Ginny had a look that said she was battling with herself whether or not to ask something she though she ought not to.

“Spit it out. I know you’re thinking something, Gin.” Hermione had her arms crossed over her chest and tapped her foot, waiting.

“It’s because of Charlie, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said stoically.

“Oh yes, you do. Charlie is the reason you can sleep at night. Hermione, I’m not blind, and have you forgotten that I share a room with you? I can put two and two together. You had the most awful time sleeping when you were worrying about Ron. Then you started spending time with Charlie, and all of a sudden you’ve cured your insomnia. Coincidence? I think not.” A smugness adorned Ginny’s countenance as she waited for Hermione’s refutation.

“I’ve told you, Gin, we’re just friends,” Hermione stammered, and a blush creeped over her face.

“I KNEW IT!” Clapping her hands excitedly, Ginny ran over to her friend and hugged her, all the while giggling like a… well, like a girl. “I knew you fancied him… Admit it!”

Hermione was at a loss for words and let her mouth hang open as she tried to think of something to say, hoping words would form themselves if only she thought hard enough. The only thing she could do was shake her head. Ginny kept smiling, leaving Hermione only one option of how to end the conversation.

As she walked towards the door, Ginny called after her, “Admit it!”

“Good morning, Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley greeted. “Have a plate, dear.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” she said as she accepted a plate full of eggs, bacon, and biscuits.

“Where’s Ginny?” Ron asked with his mouth full. Harry’s ears perked up at the mention of his girlfriend’s name.

“Right here!” Ginny shouted as she bounded into the room. “Morning everybody!”

“Well, well, aren’t we just a ray of sunshine!” Percy said sarcastically and rolled his eyes. “Lay off the sugar this early in the morning, ok? Can’t be good for your health.” She shot him an evil glare then kissed her mother’s cheeck while taking her food. Percy had changed little since he’d been back home. Once a prat, always a prat.

Hermione still stood in the middle of the room, waiting for Ginny so they could take their seats across from Harry and Ron. However, she waited a little too long, because Fred and George entered the kitchen and plopped themselves right in their spots. Ginny then made to sit beside Harry, and left Hermione a seat between Ron and Charlie.

Good thing this isn’t awkward, Hermione thought as she squeezed between the two Weasleys.

Mr. Weasley looked upon the twins with suspicion as they talked in low whispers with their heads down. “Fred? George? What are you up to? Please tell me you didn’t charm any of the Christmas gifts… All we need is a disaster like last year.” He looked at them pleadingly, and added in an undertone, “I can’t handle your mum going nutters on Christmas again…”

“I heard that, Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley scolded, never breaking her concentration on the eggs. She brought the last batch over to the twins and emptied it onto their plates, all the while giving her husband a reprimanding look. Frightened though he should have been, Mr. Weasley smiled innocently, and her scowl faded into a grin.

“Way to go, Dad! Good job getting out of that one!” the twins congratulated.

Feeling quite proud of himself, Mr. Weasley boasted, “Yes, I believe all of you could take a lesson. Especially you three…” he emphasized pointing to Bill, Charlie, and Percy. “You’re getting to be about that age. You might be getting married soon, and you’re going to need to know how to deal with women. They can be quirky sometimes.”

“Dad!” Ginny acted offended at her father’s comment about women’s behavior. Hermione laughed, inwardly agreeing with Ginny, though she did find it quite amusing.

“Oh, now we see. They’re your favorites, huh? What about us, you know, your other sons?” George accused playfully.

“You think we can’t get married?” Fred joined in.

Mr. Weasley laughed as he shook his head at his twin sons. “You know that’s not what I meant, boys. Although… If I were a young lady, I can’t imagine marrying the owner of a joke shop. Sounds truly terrifying!”

“HEY!” they chimed together. Fred threw a piece of bacon at his father, and George catapulted a forkful of eggs. Both hit right on target. The whole table errupted in laughter, and even Hermione couldn’t bring herself to disapprove. Mr. Weasley looked around furtively, making sure his wife wasn’t watching, and lifted his hand to retalliate with his own piece of bacon.

“ARTHUR! Put the bacon down!” As if they hadn’t been laughing hard enough already, almost every member of the family nearly fell out of his or her chair laughing, including Mr. Weasley.

So breakfast wasn’t quite the nightmare Hermione had planned for when she first sat down at the table. Ginny’s comment upstairs had made her somewhat self-conscious, but her nerves were eased considerably at the jocularity among the family. However, there was one tiny thing that plagued her… Mr. Weasley had mentioned marriage, and she realized that Charlie was indeed about that age. She pondered that maybe Charlie really was too old for her and became a little discouraged.

Charlie took Hermione’s now empty plate from her and voluntarily began to clean up the aftermath of breakfast. What a gentleman. Maybe it could work…

Ginny watched Hermione oggling her older brother and kicked her chair playfully as she walked by, batting her eyelashes teasingly. Hermione pursed her lips and visually scolded her friend for being so blunt but thanked Merlin that Charlie had his back turned. What a disaster it would be if he found out.

The family gathered around the Christmas tree in the living room, each anxiously awaiting for the fun to start. Fred and George began to hand out presents as they waited for Mrs. Weasley to join them in the living room. Everybody had at least one present in their possession by the time she arrived, and they each tore into the wrapping paper and bags that concealed the gifts.

The twins eyed their new copies of Wizarding Business for Dummies and threw sarcastic looks at Percy for his feeble attempt at humor.

“Thanks for the books, prat,” they laughed.

Harry put on his new green jumper that Mrs. Weasley had made for him as Ron handed Hermione a glistening red package and watched her open it. Her eyes widened as she pulled out a silver necklace with a Gryffindor crest charm. She wasted no time fastening it around her neck.

“Oh, Ron, thank you so much,” she said and gave him a quick hug. Ron smiled back at her, feeling quite proud of himself. Charlie watched the exchange from the other side of the room while absent-midedly playing with a small black hoop. His gift would just have to wait.

Hermione then passed her presents to Harry and Ron and watched with anticipation as they showed no mercy to the wrapping.

Harry read the title of his new book, Secret’s to the Perfect Chess Game: Learn to Defeat Any Master in 30 Days. “Blimey! Thanks, Hermione, for reminding me how awful I am at chess,” he scoffed, pretending to be offended.

“Well now maybe you’ll actually be able to beat Ron, for a change,” she teased.

“Wicked!” Ron had just opened his much heavier package and found a red and yellow chess set. “This is amazing! And in Gryffindor colors! Hey harry, you can put your new skills to use… Thanks, Hermione, this is incredible!”

The trio were busy enjoying themselves (Hermione still admiring the premium set of quills Harry had given her) when they heard a loud scream from Ginny’s direction. Her eyes flared with anger as a black puff of smoke rose up from the package in her lap. She had her wand pointed straight at the twins, who were busy laughing and high-fiving each other.

“Haha, calm down, little sister. It’s just a gag.”

“And a darn good one at that!”

“Indeed, George.”

“Your real present is inside. Take a look.”

Her ears were still red as she stared daggers at her older brothers. Mr. Weasly motioned to her wand, so she slowly lowered it to her side though still kept her hand on it.

“Hey, don’t be mad. You should feel priveleged for being the first to test out our newest invention!”

“Yeah, Smoke Bats! You put them into a closed container so when people open it the bat flies right into their face! Freaks the hell out of people…”

“Obviously. Oh, don’t be so uptight, Gin. It’s not real.”

Even her annoyance with her brothers couldn’t make her deny the invention’s cleverness. She sat back down and removed the small, rubbery bracelet from the bottom of the box. She held it up with one finger and asked, “And just what is this?”

“Another of our newest inventions. It’s a Secret Seeker. Stays red until you start hiding stuff from people.”

“Hence the name Secret Seeker.”

“Right you are, Fred. The Secret Seeker is always seeking, and when it sees a secret, the Secret Seeker signals the secret-keeper with a not-so subtle change in color.” George nearly cracked himself up with his wittiness.

“Alliteration aside, it’s a great invention but I’m not sure people would want to wear it. After all, if people have secrets then there’s obviously a reason, so why would they want to wear a bracelet that changed color and let everyone know they were hiding something?” Ginny asked, confused.

“That’s the point though. You give the bracelet to someone and don’t tell them it’s a Secret Seeker. One handy feature of the bracelet is that you can change its appearance so no one will recognize it as a Secret Seeker, then unsuspecting victims will fall prey to the all-knowing bracelet!”

Ginny just shook her head. She sometimes wondered about the sanity of her twin brothers. “Whatever you say,” she answered while absently throwing the braclet back into the box.

Hugs and “thank you’s” went all around as the gift-opening came to a close. Charlie stealthily tucked his own Secret Seeker in his pocket and stole out of the living room, followed by Bill, Percy, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who kept a watchful eye on her twin sons. The three youngest Weasleys and the two adopted-Weasleys remained, still talking and playing with their gifts. Ron set up his new chessboard and challenged Harry to a game. Harry kept his new book open the whole time. Ginny and Hermione talked amicably about nothing, and Ginny noticed her friend’s mind was somewhat distant. Hermione heard every word the redhead said, but her gaze was fixed on an unopened package in the corner behind the tree.

a/n: Sorry for cutting it off in such a weird place but this chapter would have been SO long if I didn’t. Once finals week is over, I will post chapter 5. Until then, enjoy! ~MM311

EDIT: Finals are now over so I will have more time to write on this story... for updates on the progress check out my livejournal at

Chapter 5: Timely Confessions
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 5- Timely Confessions

Dinner that night was most pleasant. Everyone was cheerful in light of the holiday spirit, and Hermione paid no thought to taking her seat between Charlie and Ginny. So what if the family noticed their excessive togetherness? It was the least she could do for herself to sit by her friends and enjoy an evening of comfort without worrying about prying eyes and invasive assumptions. The only thing that was on her mind now was how she was going to thank Charlie for being so wonderful.

As the decadent meal came to a close, Hermione felt Charlie’s hand rest on her knee underneath the table. Her heart jumped, and she turned to smile at him but obviously couldn’t express anything herself and hope to hide it.

Ginny cleared off her plate and beckoned Hermione to join her upstairs. She got up all too reluctantly but managed to brush Charlie’s arm in what she hoped was a clandestine enough manner. After exiting, Hermione quickly glanced back and noticed Charlie was watching her leave.

The girls tramped up the stairs, and Ginny decided that more talk of their Christmas gifts would be a good way to steer the conversation where she wanted.

“Anymore thought about a gift for Charlie?” the redhead asked sweetly.

Hermione tensed at the mention of his name because, though she knew it was coming, the subject was still a bit unnerving for her.

“I’m afraid it’s too late; everyone’s already given out gifts…”

Ginny nodded her head, knowing Hermione was going to continue her point.

“And even if I wanted to get him something, it’s not like I could,” Hermione said sadly.

“Gift-giving is not on a timetable, Hermione. And many gifts do not require money, if you know what I mean,” she replied expressly.

“Ginny, I can’t…”

Ginny’s chocolate eyes bore into her own with anticipation as she felt a confession itching to be released.

“I mean, I’m really nervous to…do anything. He’s amazing, Ginny, but I can’t just… I’m not…”

When Hermione couldn’t manage to finish the majority of her sentences, Ginny sat down beside her and stroked her hair comfortingly. “It’s ok, Hermione.”

Hermione looked up from where she had been mindlessly destroying her fingernails and continued, “Gin, I…I think I’m falling in love with him. But, oh, I just don’t know what to do…”

Undoubtedly Ginny already knew this, but it was still a shock to have actually said it. Hermione slumped herself over and propped her elbows on her knees, laying her face in her hands.

“I think you should tell him. He seems to like you, too, you know.” It took every effort to keep Ginny from giggling madly, but she couldn’t control herself from smiling a bit.

“That’s the problem. If Charlie does feel something for me, what in the world are we to do? Certainly we can’t just be a normal couple, living halfway across the world from each other. Not like we could date anyways, because of Ron…” Hermione sounded even worse than she had at the beginning of the conversation at the mention of Ron’s name. Falling limply back on the bed, she closed her eyes tightly as if willing all her problems away.

“Now you leave Ron out of this. It’s not about him, remember; it’s about you and Charlie. Don’t punish Charlie because Ron is a prat.” Ginny was not about to let her friend give up so easily.

Hermione opened her eyes. “It’s not Ron’s fault. We both decided it was for the best. We knew it would work out the best to just stay friends. I don’t think I could ever let him see me with another man, let alone his brother.”

“Do you think that, as your friend, Ron would want to see you alone and miserable forever? It’s not every day you fall in love, and if I say so myself, Charlie is a good choice. You owe it to yourself, and to him, to give it a shot,” Ginny urged.

“And Ron? What’s going to happen to him?”

“We’ll think about him when the time comes, but everything will work out,” she assured.

The girls changed into their nightclothes and got ready for bed. As Ginny crawled under her covers, she said cheekily, “I knew you had a secret, Hermione, even without subjecting you to Fred and George’s new invention.”

She laughed and thought she heard a slight chuckle from Hermione’s side of the room.

If only it could have stayed a secret… Hermione mused to herself.

Hermione sighed with a mixture of fear, guilt, and relief. How would she tell him? What would she do about Ron? These questions flooded her brain as she lay in the dark room with her eyes fixed on the ceiling. She was somewhat eased by the advice Ginny had given, but nonetheless hated all the questions that arose by her finally admitting her feelings for Charlie. She knew Ginny would hold her accountable now and wouldn’t stop badgering her until she’d taken action.

She tossed and turned in her bed for hours, deliberating just how she’d tell him. Wild scenarios played in her mind as she imagined every possible setting and outcome. She though that maybe if everything was planned out and rehearsed repeatedly in her mind that she’d manage to not make a fool of herself. Of course, that would depend on what Charlie had to say as well, and unfortunately Hermione couldn’t plan that part out.

Other than slipping up and saying something foolish, Hermione’s biggest fear was rejection. Even though she was pretty sure about Charlie’s regards toward her (all the signs pointed to it at least), she still never allowed herself to be completely sure of anything. There was always the chance that Charlie didn’t return her affections, or that even if he did, he would feel that a relationship between them would be either too difficult or would compromise his duties as Ron’s caring older brother.

Her brain reeled, and the hours kept passing steadily. She had no idea what time it was but knew it was definitely about the time to be tired. Hermione couldn’t take it any longer and decided to revert back to her old ways of having early-morning tea.

She listened to make sure Ginny was asleep and quietly sneaked out of the bedroom they shared. She took the stairs slowly and shivered as her bare feet hit the marble flooring of the hallway. Walking quickly through the hall, she glanced into the living room and noticed a dark figure silhouetted against the window. Hermione stopped abruptly to watch. She knew it was him.

Hermione tiptoed in silently and admired how gorgeous the tree looked with the enchanted candles twinkling throughout. She debated whether or not she should disturb Charlie, as he was entranced with the tree’s beauty as well. She thought she heard him address her, but realized he was only talking to himself.

Nearing as close as she dared, Hermione took a deep breath and broke the silence.

“Charlie? Is that you?”

He turned around to greet her without hiding his surprise to see her there.

“Hi, Hermione. Fancy meeting you here. Isn’t it a little late?”

She looked around the room not knowing quite what to say.

“Er, yes, I suppose so. It’s just I…couldn’t really sleep. I came down to get some tea. Would you like to join me?”

Charlie ignored her offer and inquired about her sleeplessness.

“It’s been a while, eh?” He, of course, was referring to her late-night meanderings.

“Yes, quite a while, actually. I don’t really know what’s happened.”

He smiled at her genially and said, “Well, whatever is bothering you, this might cheer you up.”

He bent down to retrieve a large rectangular package wrapped in green paper and held it out to her. It was, in fact, the same package she had seen left behind the tree earlier that day. She only looked at him with her mouth slightly agape. Indeed, Charlie had thought of her on Christmas, and just holding the box would have been enough to satisfy her.

However, Charlie was anxious for her approval and asked, “Aren’t you going to open it?”

Hermione shook herself out of her state and sat down with the box in her lap. Charlie sat on the couch beside her and watched with anticipation as she carefully unwrapped her present.

Even in the dark, Hermione could see her initials, “HJG,” seared into the black leather of the designer briefcase. She ran her fingers over the impression and looked at Charlie with wide, misty eyes.

“Oh my god, Charlie… This is incredible. I can’t believe you did this…”

“Top-of-the-line. Only the best, for the best. But you have to open it. There’s more.” Charlie had hoped she liked it, and so far he’d been getting the reaction he’d wanted.

Hermione looked stunned upon hearing there was more. The two latches clicked open and revealed, along with a set of keys to lock the briefcase, a full set of stationary paper and matching envelopes. The top of the paper read, “From the desk of Hermione Granger,” in a delicate, professional script.

“Wow, how did you…? I'm speechless, Charlie. These gifts are just fabulous. I don’t know how I could ever thank you,” she said, now letting her tears flow freely. She didn’t care if he saw, either.

“You just did. I’m really glad you like it.”

Charlie placed his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into him, wrapping her free arm around his waist.

“No, Charlie, I llove it,” she corrected.

Hermione then straightened herself up again and looked at him sadly.

“What’s the matter?” Charlie asked.

“I didn’t get you anything. Not that I didn’t want to, it’s just…well, you know, I couldn’t really leave the house, and that made it somewhat difficult to buy a gift,” she answered in a dejected tone.

He smiled at her and said, “Don’t you worry about that. All that matters is that we care about each other. That’s what gifts are all about anyways, to show others we love and appreciate them.”

Did he just say ‘love’? Yes, he most certainly did. It wasn’t a direct confession or anything, but for Hermione, it was good enough.

She nodded in agreement and then reached for Charlie’s hand, allowing his rough, muscular fingers to cover her petite ones. The silence between them was understood, and not at all uncomfortable. He must have known it was coming, because when Hermione put her hand on Charlie’s cheek, he leaned in and met her half-way with a soft, timid kiss.

Hermione repositioned herself so that her neck wasn’t turned quite so awkwardly and in so doing let her briefcase and its contents slide to the floor with a light thud.

Charlie broke away asked quietly, “What was that? Is someone here?”

“No, no, that was just my, err…” But Hermione could hardly even form the words to answer him because her mind was so preoccupied with the sweet taste of Charlie’s lips. She wanted another go but began to wonder if she should try or not.

“Oh,” Charlie breathed. He then brought his hand up and rested his fingers in her hair. He kissed her cheek lightly, and Hermione felt her face start to burn as she heard his breath in her ear. But, Hermione couldn’t take the teasing anymore and snapped around to catch him full on his open lips.

Charlie moaned softly in surprise, but wasn’t disappointed that Hermione had taken initiative. This time Charlie let his feelings take over as he worked his fingers through her hair and tasted the wetness of her smooth lips and gentle tongue. Hermione was impressed by his abilities but reminded herself that he undoubtedly had had much more experience than she.

She separated her lips from his reluctantly but felt that, if she didn’t, things might have gotten out of hand (or worse, that someone would happen to walk in on them).

“Charlie…” she began, “I have to tell you… I think I’m a bit…in love with you,” she said fearfully. “I know it’s crazy since we’ve only really been friends for a few weeks but I just can’t get you out of my mind.”

Charlie nodded. “Same here. I haven’t felt this way about someone in a long time, and to tell you the truth, I debated whether I should even tell you or not. I’m really glad I did, though, or else I couldn’t do this,” he said before kissing her again. This time when they parted, they kept their foreheads touching and continued to talk about how much they had wanted to do that.

When Hermione tried and failed to suppress a yawn, Charlie did his best grown-up impression and said, “Ok, young lady, off to bed with you.”

She laughed and nearly screamed as Charlie placed his arms underneath her and lifted her speedily up off the couch. She rested her head on his shoulder as he carried her through the hall and up the stairs to her room. He laid her gingerly in her bed and began to tuck the covers in around her when she grabbed him behind his neck and pulled him close for a goodnight kiss.

“Happy Christmas, Charlie,” she said slowly.

“Happy Christmas, love.”

Charlie made another trip downstairs to gather her briefcase and stationary and returned to find Hermione fast asleep. He placed it at the foot of her bed and kissed her forehead before exiting.

a/n: Yeah, so the chapter title theme I was going with kinda bit the dust on this chapter...woops. Oh well. Hope you liked the chapter anyways, despite my lack of ability to think of the perfect chapter title. Please review with any feedback. Updates coming I don't know when, but as soon as I can. Love and such, MM311

Chapter 6: Walls Have Ears
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione awoke with a smile plastered on her face. The birds chirped so loudly outside her window that she wondered how Ginny was managing to sleep through all the racket, though their noise was not as intrusive as it might have been if Hermione hadn’t just had the most wonderful night of her life.

She lay in bed and snuggled under her covers, wishing that Ginny would hurry and wake up—she had loads to tell her. Hermione felt so relieved that she had talked to her friend the day before, because what she had now to confess would have been all the more difficult to hold in if she hadn’t.

After waiting for Ginny for about ten minutes, Hermione decided to go ahead and get cleaned up. Her shower felt better than any shower she had ever taken in her entire life. It must have been, at least in part, due to the way Charlie had kissed her last night. The way the warm water drenched over her body reminded her of how warm and safe she felt as Charlie carried her up to bed. The water livened her senses and made her feel fresh and new, much as her encounter by the Christmas tree had. She felt better and happier than she had in ages.

Hermione stepped out of the shower and got dressed, allowing her dripping tresses to air-dry after she’d blotted them with a towel. When she got back to her room, she saw Ginny tossing and turning in her bed, no doubt trying to catch a few more minutes of shut-eye.

“Hey, Gin, you awake?” I know you are…

Ginny rolled over and squinted up at her friend as she moaned and said drowsily, “No.”

Hermione began to brush her hair out and crossed the room to sit on the edge of Ginny’s bed.

“Listen, Ginny, I have to tell you something…”

Ginny nodded feebly to pretend she was listening but had closed her eyes in her vain attempt to fall back asleep.

“It’s about last night.”

The redhead opened her eyes and leaned up a bit in her bed, quite anxious to hear the news, yet still too sleepy to make any excited or sudden movements. She asked slowly, “With Charlie?”

But just has Hermione had opened her mouth to spill all the details, they heard Mrs. Weasley’s voice from the kitchen calling them to breakfast. Hermione’s heart jumped as she thought of seeing Charlie downstairs.

“Come on, let’s go eat. I’ll just tell you later.”

Ginny huffed (either at having to get out of bed or having to wait for the big news, or possibly both) and reluctantly climbed out of bed. She followed Hermione out of the room, who looked back to the foot of her bed at her new briefcase. Practical, useful, and just simply…perfect.

Hermione floated down the stairs as Ginny trudged after her; they entered the nearly full kitchen and were welcomed by the tantalizing smell of eggs and bacon.

“Good morning, girls,” Mrs. Weasley greeted, to which they replied, “Good morning, Mum,” and “Good morning, Mrs. Weasley.”

Ginny plopped down at the table and laid her head on her folded arms, and Hermione took a seat beside her. The very first thing she had noticed upon entering the kitchen was that one particular member of the Weasley family was absent. Her heart sank as she wondered where he could have gone.

Maybe he got called back to work early—Oh, how terrible that would be…. Or worse, what if he’s ashamed of what happened and skipped out because he couldn’t bear to look at me again…

Fortunately for Hermione, somebody else noticed his absence, too, and took enough interest to ask.

“Now where is Charlie?” Mrs. Weasley asked. “He’d better get down here soon if he wants any breakfast,” she fussed.

“Still in his room. Sleeping, I think,” answered George.

“Yeah, he had a long night, last night, didn’t he?” Fred answered with a snicker. The twins looked at each other with knowing glances and laughed openly.

Hermione’s ears perked up and she felt her face grow hot. What did they know?

“What’s that supposed to mean, you two?” Mrs. Weasley demanded.

“Oh, you know, the excitement of Christmas really takes its toll on Charlie,” answered Fred innocently.

“Yeah, he was all puckered out,” added Fred.

Hermione felt she might faint.

Ron was only half listening as he and Harry played with their Chocolate Frog cards, but he did hear Fred’s last comment.

“Don’t you mean tuckered? Like tuckered out, meaning tired?” Ron asked, confused.

Fred and George grinned slyly at each other and passed it along to Hermione.

“Yeah, mate, that’s what we said.”Hermione suddenly didn’t feel so happy anymore. Why hadn’t she been more careful?

She tried to eat as much as she could force herself to, but suddenly she had lost her appetite. Ginny, by now, had livened up a bit and took notice of Hermione’s drastic change in demeanor. After eating, they left the kitchen with the plateful of food Ginny had offered to take up to Charlie’s room for him and talked along the way.

“Look, I don’t know what that was all about, but you can tell me after you take Charlie his breakfast,” Ginny stated.

“Gah—what!?” Hermione sputtered, but Ginny had shoved the plate into her hands and took off down the hallway before she could refuse.

She felt her heart pounding in her chest as she walked down the hallway, turned the corner, and found herself standing outside Charlie’s closed bedroom door. It took a full thirty seconds before she worked up the courage to knock.

“Come in,” sounded a very alert, very sexy voice.

Hermione turned the handle and eased the door open slowly, trying carefully to not spill the food (though that was really the last thought on her mind). She stepped into the room and watched a shirtless Charlie come out of the bathroom, brushing his teeth.

“Good morning, Hermione,” he smiled.

She was completely mesmerized looking at the gorgeous piece of art that was Charlie Weasley and found that she had difficulty talking. She was so fixed on his rock-hard abs, defined chest, and the way his shoulder and arm muscles moved when he brushed his teeth that she couldn’t think of why it was that she was there or what she was going to say.

“Hi, Charlie… I, um…brought you some breakfast. Your mum noticed you weren’t downstairs…” she wasn’t the only one, “and thought you’d be hungry.”

“Thanks, love,” Charlie said casually, but with a heart-melting smile.

Hermione felt her knees go weak and was certain her face was about the same color as Charlie’s hair. She was relieved when he returned to the bathroom to finish brushing his teeth so she could take a few moments to recompose herself. He returned, still shirtless (not that she was complaining), and pulled up a chair for her to sit in. Charlie offered her some bacon, which she took willingly, having recently found her appetite. Indeed, he hadn’t been called back to work—thank Merlin—and he wasn’t embarrassed to be around her.

“So, why weren’t you downstairs this morning?” she asked nonchalantly, even though she was keenly interested to know.

He finished crunching on his bacon and answered, “Well, besides being tired and wanting to sleep in an extra half-hour, certain…circumstances…arose that might have made that situation a little awkward.”

Hermione lowered her head, thinking it was something she’d done.


“No, not you, Hermione. You’re just fine,” he assured. “It’s something else. Rather, somebody else. Two some bodies, actually.”

Fred and George. Shit, thought Hermione.

“Who knew those extendable ears would work so well, huh?” he chuckled. “Got to admire their inventiveness.”

“Yes, I thought they were acting strangely at breakfast. The things they said were quite revealing. Well, to anyone who knew what they were talking about. I just hoped my suspicions weren’t true,” she said tensely.

Hermione scrunched her face up and looked awfully stressed about the whole thing, after which Charlie scooted his chair closer to her and laid his arm on her shoulder.

“Hey, hey, don’t you worry. They’ll be alright, and they’ve promised not to say anything.”

She looked skeptically up at him and inquired, “What exactly do they know?”

He leaned over to kiss her on the forehead (wishing he could do a lot more than that—she looked so cute when she was worried), and suggested they talk outside.

“Even walls have ears, as we’ve recently discovered,” Charlie said.

Charlie grabbed a blue turtleneck shirt from his closet and slipped it on while Hermione admired the way the fabric clung to the lines in his chest. He then took her hand and led her to the door, but she reminded him they’d need to be careful. His arm slowly dropped and he let her hand slide out of his and looked at her in disappointment.

“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry,” he apologized with a sad smile. “I just wish…”

But Hermione reached around Charlie’s back and closed the open door, pressing herself to him as she did. She took her time lifting her head up and looked deeply in his bottomless blue eyes. Her face came inches from his and she urged softly, “Not yet,” and Charlie bent down to kiss her so passionately it was as if he was trying to suck the life out of her through her mouth.

He brushed away a strand of hair from her face and then let his lips follow his hand down her neck. She gasped as the arm wrapped around her back pulled her even closer, and felt a violent, glorious sensation shoot straight south as he moved his hand ever further down her body. She just couldn’t get enough of how wonderful Charlie felt and tasted, and he apparently was enjoying himself as much. Hermione had her hands on his hips but reluctantly forced herself away as she felt a sudden urge to undo the clasp on Charlie’s belt.

Both of them panted heavily as they held each other, and it took every ounce of Charlie’s control to keep from pouncing on her again.

“We can’t, Charlie. Who knows who could be listening?”

“You’re right, but god…Who cares who’s listening!?” he asked frantically while leaning down for another lascivious kiss.

“No, really…”

They kissed again, and again, and…

This time when she broke away, she took an entire two steps back. Still breathing laboriously, she told him, “We really do need to take this outside.”

Charlie nodded but held up his hand, motioning that he needed some time to recover before going out. Hermione sat on the bed to wait for him, and he considered joining her, but changed his mind and sat on a chair to be safe.

Hermione started to look slightly nervous and embarrassed again as they both basked in the memory of the steamy encounter.

The redhead sat in a stupor as he stared at the small girl sitting on his bed. “You’re so beautiful, Hermione.”

She blushed and shifted on the bed, feeling a little uncomfortable sitting there in her drenched knickers. How could he have this power over her?

“Um, thanks,” she said shyly.

Now back to a state of flaccidity, Charlie stood up and beckoned her to the door.

“Let’s try this again,” he said with a laugh as he picked up his plate. “And thanks for breakfast, by the way.”

She smiled and said, “You’re welcome,” while mentally thanking Ginny for her deviance. Oh, Ginny… How much there is to tell her!

She stood up awkwardly, and felt rather strange walking along as her knickers swished unnaturally. When they got to the end of the hall, she asked if she might postpone their walk for a while so she could talk to Ginny for a bit.

“Of course. I’ll just go take the plate downstairs. Come find me when you’re ready.”

He looked stealthily around for intruders or Extendable Ears, and softly kissed her on the cheek before heading down the stairs. After watching him leave, Hermione turned to open the door of the room she shared with Ginny.

Her smile was fixed permanently on her face and Ginny looked at her with anticipation.

“YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!” Hermione exclaimed as she jumped into the room.

Ginny cocked her eyebrow gave a crooked, saucy smile.

“Oh, won’t I?”

Chapter 7: The Sneaks
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“It was amazing, Ginny. The heat was almost unbearable—but in a good way. Oh, Merlin, the way he touched me…” Hermione went on, falling back on her bed and letting her hair sprawl out on her pillow.

“As much as I love gossip, Hermione, remember this is my brother we’re talking about, so please spare me the intimately graphic details,” Ginny pleaded facetiously.

“Sorry, Gin, I just can’t help it. It’s like I’m out of control or something. When I get with him I just want to... do stuff I never have before. He makes me feel different than any guy ever has done.”

Ginny studied her friend’s dazed expression. “Not even Ron?”

She leaned up and wrinkled her brow at the mention of Ron’s name. “Ron and I never had a relationship—of any sort. For all practical purposes, we are just friends. That’s the way we wanted it, so that’s the way it’s staying. Besides, I don’t think Ron could ever do anything like Charlie… So I guess the answer to your question would be no: Ron’s never made me feel like that.”

Despite the redhead’s plea to keep details out of it, she seemed highly engrossed with Hermione’s spiel about Charlie. “Anything like what?”

Hermione found herself at a loss for words. How could she say what she was feeling without coming across as being completely mad?

“Err, Ginny…Have you and Harry ever, you know…” she lowered her voice to an almost inaudible whisper, “had sex?”

“HERMIONE!” Ginny yelped, and suddenly Hermione had wished she hadn’t said anything. “Is that what you’re thinking about…with Charlie…? Oh, goodness!” she rambled while trying not to giggle.

Hermione looked ashamed and embarrassed but still had to know, “Well, err…have you?”

“Goodness, no! Do you really think Harry is that audacious to try something on me? Not like it wouldn’t be welcome or anything, but I think Harry’s just as scared of me as he is of what my brothers would do if they found out he’d shagged me,” Ginny laughed. “It’ll be ten years before he ever touches me. Hell, I’ll be lucky to get him on our wedding night, if he ever asks me to marry him, that is.”

The busy-haired girl looked even more crestfallen than before and replied, “This is insane, Ginny. I don’t know what I was thinking, getting together with Charlie. He has so much more experience and…I guess he really is too old for me. I should probably just break things off.”

“Don’t you dare, Hermione Jane Granger! Love knows no age limits, and I’ll be damned if I let you give up on your relationship over something silly! Besides, you’ve got to have a first time before you can have a second time, so what difference does it make that he has more experience? Everyone starts from the beginning—just remember that. It’s going to happen sooner or later so why not let it be with someone you love?” Ginny cried passionately.

Hermione was stunned at Ginny’s forcefulness and was absolutely convinced that Ginny had full faith in these convictions by the way she spoke. But she was right…

“You love him, don’t you?”

A small smile found itself on Hermione’s face, and she looked down at her briefcase. “Yeah, Ginny, I really do.”

“Then you must know that Charlie would never do anything to hurt you in any way. Out of all my brothers, he’s definitely the most conscientious of the lot, and the most sensitive to girls. You don’t have any reason to be afraid. If you wanted to wait, he’d wait for you.”

Ginny was right—Charlie would wait for her—and this thought made her want him even more. The mere fact that Charlie would be willing to take any means necessary just to make her comfortable somehow made him all the more sexier and desirable. Hermione felt she might lose her mind from the sheer strain of the thousands of thoughts and emotions running through her at that moment.

“It’s about time I go meet Charlie. I said I ‘d only be a few minutes…”

“Oh?” asked Ginny mischievously.

“We’re just taking a walk. He’s going to tell me about Fred and George. I’m a little worried about those two, not sure if they can keep their fat mouths shut,” said Hermione uneasily.

Ginny nodded her head knowingly. “How long are you going to keep this from everyone?”

“Seems a few people already know, so if by everyone you mean Ron, then I don’t know. As long as we can, I guess.”

“Don’t you think he needs to know?”

“Eventually. I just don’t know how to tell him. Ok, well, I’d better get going. See you in a little while.”

After Hermione rounded the corner, Ginny quietly skittered down the hall to her boyfriend’s room for a much-needed chat.

Hermione knocked, and he same deep, sexy voice beckoned her to enter.

“I think I should stay, actually,” she responded while still standing outside Charlie’s door. She felt quite comfortable in her clean knickers and wanted to keep it that way for their walk.

Charlie agreed with a laugh and closed the door behind him before accompanying Hermione out the back door of Grimmauld Place. The whole trip through the house, he wanted nothing more than to reach out and take her delicate hand in his, but he restrained himself. He hated hiding but knew it was the only way it could work until she was ready.

They continued along their usual path around the expansive yard in the direction of the small woods just beyond. Now Charlie was finally able to hold her close as he rested his arm on her shoulder.

“The twins must’ve heard you come downstairs and followed you. They told me they were just heading down to the kitchen for some snacks but somehow I don’t really believe that,” Charlie said skeptically.

“Why would they want to follow me, though? Since when have they ever cared what I do?”

Charlie paused. “Maybe since they saw me staring at you as you left dinner the other night. After you left they kind of did this impression of me with crossed-eyes and my tongue hanging out like an idiot,” he smiled.

“Oh,” Hermione blushed. “Yeah, that might do it.”

“Well, at about six this morning they came barging into my room making smacking noises and saying things like, “Oh, Hermione!’ and “Oh, I love you!’ I knew they’d been eavesdropping when George said, ‘I haven’t felt this way about someone in a long time!’ and took Fred’s hand, who was pretending he was you. Then of course, I saw the Extendable Ear sticking out of Fred’s pocket.”

Hermione laughed in spite of the delicate situation with the twins, because she had to admit they were very clever.

“So that’s why you skipped breakfast—Fred and George interrupted your sleep cycle!” she grinned, and then became serious again. “Well, now what do we do? You said they wouldn’t tell anyone, but how can you be sure?”

Charlie answered her with confidence. “Trust me, I know a couple of secrets of theirs they wouldn’t like getting around, and they know that if they spill, I spill,” he grinned roguishly. “If word got out that they actually had girlfriends—former teammates, no less—they were civil to, their images as immature jokesters would be ruined. They couldn’t allow that to interfere with their business, now could they?”

“If you say so,” Hermione answered, hoping with all her might that Charlie knew his crafty brothers as well as he thought he did.

They came to the edge of the woods and pushed back bare branches, stepped over fallen logs, and crunched dead leaves as they entered. Dry twigs snapped loudly and flung bits of bark into Hermione’s ever-expanding hair. The air was chilly and silent, save for the rustling that crackled all around them.

“Yeah, don’t worry. No one will ever find out about us,” Charlie said in what Hermione ciphered to be a disappointed tone.

She felt guilty now. “Oh, Charlie, it’s not that I don’t ever want this out in the open; it’s not like I’m ashamed or anything. I just don’t know how to tell Ron I’m in love with someone else, and then have to explain it’s his big brother.” She sighed and continued, “I don’t want to lose my friend.”

Charlie had stopped walking but the light rustling continued until Hermione turned around to face him.

“So then you really do want to be with me?” he asked in disbelief.

She neared him and, at the sound of a snapping tree limb, answered, “Of course, I do. Didn’t you believe me last night when I told you I loved you?”

“It’s not that I didn’t believe you. I just thought that you and Ron… Well, that once you got back to school you’d realize he was the one you were supposed to be with, and I’d just become a memory. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking this was only a temporary holiday fling, though it killed me to think like that.”

She took more steps towards him and said, “This can’t be temporary, Charlie. I need you. I need Ron, too, but in a different way. He and Harry are my best friends, and I can’t ever lose them, but I can’t lose you either…We only have to keep this up for a little while longer because school starts in less than a week.” She then wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered, “Merlin, I’m going to miss you so much,” while planting a peck on his cheek.

“It’ll be less time than that, I’m afraid. I’m leaving for Romania tomorrow,” Charlie said regretfully. “They need me back at the reserve, you know.”

Hermione’s eyes filled with tears as she mouthed, “No,” and Charlie kissed them away as they slid down her red cheeks. “Please, don’t go, Charlie.”

He looked deeply into her soggy eyes and replied. “I’m not going anywhere until tomorrow. You can have me until then…”

Hermione moved her hands to behind his neck and pulled herself up to meet his lips. As she moved her hands to work on Charlie’s belt buckle, he broke their kiss.

“Are you sure we should be doing this, Hermione?”

She linked their hands together and looked pleadingly up at him.

“Oh, Charlie, you know you’re leaving tomorrow,” she said while reaching up to kiss the side of his mouth, “and it’s going to be months before we see each other again. Please, I need you…”

Hermione continued to kiss him softly so that he couldn’t refuse, and grabbed around her waist and squeezed her to him. He then broke away from her kiss, inching slowly down her neck and unbuttoning the top of her cloak for access to her clavicle. She allowed Charlie to ease her down onto the ground and, because of the heavy panting, neither heard the stifled gasps as their garments were shed and tossed carelessly about.

A mere six feet away, two onlookers were shocked at the intimate display that was taking place right before them. Ginny turned to kiss him, but he held her off for fear that he wouldn’t be able to stop once he got going.

“We can’t. We shouldn’t even be here, Gin.”

The invisibility cloak didn’t leave them much space to distance themselves, and the moans coming from Charlie and Hermione seemed to beg Ginny to do something.

“Harry, just kiss me,” she pleaded.

He obeyed but felt himself giving in to his arousal and quickly severed contact with his girlfriend.

“Ginny look, this is wrong. We still shouldn’t be here, and I shouldn’t have let you use my cloak this morning. This is Hermione and Charlie’s business, and quite frankly I don’t really enjoy seeing my best friend like that.”

“You’re not looking, are you!?” the fiery redhead demanded.

“Er, no Ginny. That’s not what…Ugh, never mind. Charlie had just better be lucky he’s a Weasley, or else I might have to knock his lights out.”

“I’m surprised you’re thinking straight enough to dish out threats; most guys aren’t so aware when the blood has been deprived from their brains,” Ginny spat, annoyed.

“Well, one of us has to be reasonable,” he noted.

She threw him a look that told him he was going to pay for that comment later.

“Please, Ginny, let’s go,” Harry begged, and Ginny tiptoed (though she felt like stomping) off beside him.

Hermione saw nothing and heard nothing of her spying friends, being as she was in ecstasy with her love. Her breathing grew rapid, then altogether stopped as she held it. Her toes curled, and she let out a soft scream as she and Charlie climaxed together, and then fell limply with their arms and legs wrapped around each other. The chill air was friendly to her hot, sweaty skin and, as she lay with Charlie, couldn’t think of any place she’d rather be.

Hogwarts would be hell without him.

Chapter 8: Goodbye for Now
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Ch 8- Goodbye For Now

After having dressed and brushed off leaves and twigs, they stood holding each other to stay warm in the ever-dropping temperatures. Hermione rested her head on Charlie’s shoulder, feeling more satisfied and content than she ever remembered. The sun began to set, and both Hermione and Charlie’s stomachs were making it known that dinner time was approaching, though neither wanted to ruin the moment by joining the hustle and bustle of the house.

They walked back as slowly as possible and separated their hands when they came within a certain range of the house. Hermione thought to herself how much she already hated hiding her relationship with Charlie, and it hadn’t even been twenty-four hours. They passed through the back door of the kitchen where they met Mrs. Weasley. She turned from her work over the stove to greet them, and as they left, pondered upon how long their walk had lasted.

Hermione and Charlie took leave of each other at the top of the stairs and parted without even the tiniest kiss (she knew it was too risky, but was disappointed nonetheless). She entered her room to find Ginny and Harry having a heated discussion over Merlin knows what, and said hello to them both.

“Hi, Hermione,” said Harry, but he barely got a small “hi” from her before Ginny prompted him to the door, saying she wanted to talk to Hermione.

“Not now, Gin. I’m going to take a shower.”

Ginny nodded. Yeah, wouldn’t want to smell like sex, or else someone might find out… “Ok,” she replied easily.

Hermione dried her hair, something she didn’t usually do after her showers, because she didn’t want the whole world knowing she had just taken one, lest they get suspicious. (She was never one to take evening showers, as she was a morning person, and thought it might draw unnecessary attention to her if she came down to dinner with wet hair.) She and Ginny were the last two down to dinner and found that their seats had already been chosen for them. Harry, of course, saved a spot for Ginny right beside him, so the only place left was next to Ron. Hermione couldn’t help being angry that she couldn’t sit by Charlie (even though she knew it wasn’t anybody’s fault since nobody knew any better), but at least Charlie was seated right across from her.

Sorry, Charlie mouthed. Obviously, he’d been a little late as well or else he would have made sure they had seats beside each other. Just seeing him smile at her the way he did made Hermione forget her annoyance and helped her to relax into a comfortable meal.

The strange thing was, she thought she ought to feel more awkward sitting beside Ron, (especially as she reveled in the memories of her rendezvous with Charlie), but found that even her worries over losing her friend were dulled due to the soothing effect of Charlie’s presence. She and Ron even managed to have civil conversation without becoming flustered and embarrassed when they spoke.

And actually, Hermione had been interested to know what Ron had been up to all day, since she’d hardly even seen him at all, but felt that asking him would only draw attention to the fact that she had been gone and might cause her to have to explain her whereabouts. Fortunately, Fred and George answered her question when they started talking about their new, top-secret product that Ron had been helping them develop. Ron actually looked quite pleased with himself when the twins complimented him on how much he had contributed to the development of the new product. Hermione wondered if Harry had also been in on it, but then reminded herself that Ginny had probably stolen him away for most of the day to find a dark corner in which to make out. Well, at least Ron hadn’t been alone all day while she was preoccupied with Charlie.

Everyone was disappointed to hear Charlie’s news about having to return to work early, especially Mrs. Weasley.

“Oh Charlie, can’t you ask for a few more days?”

Yes! Ask for a few more days! Hermione tried to telepathically communicate across the table.

“Sorry, Mum. I’d love to stay but Walt Springly got a nasty bite, so he’ll be out for a while. I’ve got to go tend to his dragon while he’s recovering.”


Mrs. Weasley huffed, “That careless… Can’t someone else do it?”

“Blimey, Mother. It’s my job, you know. Not like I have a choice,” Charlie said, hoping to end the conversation.

“Very well, but you’d better hurry home soon. Make them give you extra holiday time for having to go back early!” Mrs. Weasley suggested.

“Oh, Mother…” he sighed. “Don’t worry; I’ll be home before you know it. Besides, we’ve got some little ones about to graduate Hogwarts, soon. Think I’d miss that?” Charlie smiled at his mother and then at Hermione.

Ron looked up from his plate and said, “Hey, watch who you’re calling little, prat. Last time I checked, I was still a head taller than you.” He grinned facetiously and pretended to aim his dinner roll at Charlie’s head, until Mrs. Weasley intervened.

As dinner came to an end, Hermione and Charlie regretfully unlocked their legs from underneath the table and waved to each other before parting ways. Of course they just wanted to be alone, but they had already spent so much time together that they figured anything more would have to be covert in order to avoid suspicion.

Ron and Harry followed the twins to their “laboratory” and grinned sportively back at Hermione and Ginny, who were heading back to their bedroom. Hermione hoped the twins would remember to hold their tongues, and Ginny was delightfully glad the boys were gone so she could ask Hermione about her walk with Charlie.

“It was just lovely. Well, except the part when he told me he was leaving tomorrow. But at least he knows the twins won’t tell…”

“That’s not what I mean, Hermione,” grinned Ginny. “Did you, you know, what we talked about?”

Hermione blushed as she never had before. She started to shake her head and then remembered Ginny was the only girl she ever talked to and rather needed her support.

“Erm, well…”

“Oh my god, you did!” Ginny exclaimed.

Hermione fumbled around her drawers for her hairbrush but gave up the pursuit and settled for a pony tail, all the while failing to make a complete sentence.

“How was it?” the redhead asked.

“It, err…” Hermione didn’t know how she could be so embarrassed talking to Ginny after…after what she had just done with Charlie. That’s different, she told herself.

Ginny smiled, which made Hermione smile and cause her cheeks to redden further.

“You used a contraceptive charm, didn’t you?” the younger girl asked, suddenly concerned.

“Of course, I did, Gin.” First sentence she’d managed in five minutes.

“You really are the cleverest witch of your age, ‘Mione.” But I’m the sneakiest… “Imagine, you doing all that and not getting caught! I can’t believe no one knows you two are together,” Ginny mused.

“Well, not no one…Fred and George do. And you. But now I really don’t care who knows, I just want him to stay,” Hermione answered while putting her robe on over her nightgown.

“Yes, you do. What are you going to tell Ron? And when?”

“I honestly don’t know, Gin.”

Hermione gathered some of her school books and headed toward the door. “I’m going to the library to study. School starts soon and I haven’t done any of my work, yet. I’ll see you later.”

Yes, much later. “Bye,” Ginny called out.

A couple of hours later, Hermione closed her Arithmancy book. School could only distract her for so long, and she was desperate to see Charlie again. A thought to go look for him crossed her mind but she deduced she should probably wait a bit to make sure everyone was asleep. Still, she couldn’t stand the library any longer and continued down the hall to the living room. Surely he’d find her there.

She sat and stared at the bare Christmas tree outlined in the window, and barely waited ten minutes before, “You’re too predictable, love.”

“And what’s so wrong with that?” she glared playfully up at Charlie.

“Did I say anything was wrong with it?” he countered while taking a seat beside her and planting a kiss on her cheek. “At least I knew where you were. You been here the whole time?”

She crossed her legs over his lap and told him about studying in the library. When she asked him where he’d been, he answered sadly, “Mum and Dad were helping me pack.” Then he laughed and said, “Then Fred and George dragged me down to their lab for a bit.”

Hermione leaned into his shoulder and muttered, “Oh, I don’t want you to go,” as she nuzzled into his neck. He wrapped his arms around her and picked her up, much with the familiar feeling of the night before, and walked the path to Hermione’s room.

“No, take me with you,” Hermione pleaded.

Once in his room, he let Hermione down who immediately shed her robe, revealing a slinky, pink gown. She pulled back the covers of Charlie’s full-size bed and climbed in, snuggling into the pillows.

Charlie locked the door and put a silencing charm on the room, taking no chances. He removed his sweater and under t-shirt and tossed them in his hamper before joining her. She curled up next to him and slowly dozed off as he lightly massaged her back through her silky gown. He talked to her while she was half-asleep, hating the fact that this would be the last time for months he’d see her in person.

“You know, it’s a good thing training dragons takes immense concentration, or else I might go mad thinking about you all the time… Merlin, I’m going to miss you so much.”

Her eyes were still closed, but she nodded her head slightly and sleepily moaned, “Mhmm,” in agreement.

Charlie couldn’t help thinking how beautiful and peaceful she looked when she was sleeping—or almost sleeping. Just like an angel.

“We can always write each other,” he said while rubbing her shoulder.

Hermione sighed and nodded her head even smaller than before.

“Yeah, five months won’t be so bad. We’ll be together again before you know it.” Then you’ll be mine forever.

Charlie finally fell asleep with Hermione still in his arms. This was the first time he’d ever resented going back to work.

When she woke up in the morning, he was gone. The alarm clock hummed to warn her she’d better get back to her own room before someone caught her, and as she reached to turn it off, she found a note laying on Charlie’s pillow.

Dearest Hermione,

You looked so beautiful this morning that I didn’t have the heart to wake you, and I doubt I could have let you go if I did. Two thousand miles won’t stop me from loving you. Have a good term, and happy (almost) New Year’s.

Always yours,


Chapter 9: New Year, New Term
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione sat on a fallen log at the edge of the woods with her cloak wrapped tightly around her. The bitter cold stung her nose but she didn’t want to leave; she wanted to sit right here in the middle of her and Charlie’s beaten path and bask in the memories of their walks. Never one to base relationships on physicality, Hermione still couldn’t help thinking that making love to Charlie was the closet to perfection her life had ever been. But now she’d had to leave behind Grimmauld Place—the place where she shared all her most treasured moments with Charlie.

Soft footsteps sounded behind her. “Hey, ‘Mione?”

She wiped a tear away and turned to find Ron with his hands in his pockets, staring at his feet as he prepared to be chastised for his interruption.

“I know you said you wanted to be alone, I mean, that you didn’t need anyone to walk with you, but err, you looked a bit lonely so I thought I would join you,” Ron said rapidly while fumbling with the threading on the insides of his pockets. “That is, if you don’t mind, because I can go if you like…”

“Sure. That’s really nice of you, Ron.” She smiled and offered a seat on her log.

He sat down, being careful not to let any part of his body touch her. They sat in an understood silence for several minutes, Ron glancing sideways at her every now and then as she looked off into the trees.

“I know you miss him, ‘Mione.”

She shivered but kept her gaze fixed ahead of her. Ron wondered whether he should put his arm around her but decided that doing so would cross their agreed-upon boundaries of friendship and kept his limbs to himself. Besides, he had never been too good at the sentimental stuff anyways, and figured he might screw it up if he tried now.

When Hermione didn’t answer him, he continued, “He’s a good guy.” And then, not knowing exactly what to say after that, filled the silence with, “Yep. All us Weasley men are good guys, ‘cept Percy, maybe,” and then chuckled. “Nah, he’s a good guy, deep down, but I’d be a little more worried if you took up with him.”

The red-faced girl looked at him for the first time since his arrival. She hadn’t expected this from Ron at all. Surely he didn’t know…? Ron might be a bit thick, but he wasn’t blind, she reasoned. Hermione said nothing and only nodded as she inched herself closer to him so that their legs touched, feeling comforted by the instant warmth.

Ron let his muscles loose as he relaxed into her touch and realized how tense he had been. “Just your luck, huh? Your new friends always have to fulfill the criteria of either living or working a thousand miles away from you, though I’m happy this one isn’t a Bulgarian Quidditch player,” he laughed. “Maybe you should find someone closer to home.”

Whatever Ron knew, which Hermione couldn’t be certain, it was apparent that he didn’t expect her friendship (as Ron had implied) with Charlie to last any longer than the poinsettia’s of the kitchen table centerpiece. And if she wasn’t mistaken, it had sounded like his suggestion of finding someone closer to home was actually a subtle ploy to work himself in. Oh but it couldn’t be… He just wanted to keep an eye on her.

Hermione sighed heavily and watched her foggy breath fade away before her eyes. “You’re right. I do miss him,” she said, completely evading the previous topic.

Ron stood, now resenting the cold he felt on one side of his body, and offered Hermione a hand up. “Mum’s just about got dinner ready. I think you’ve had enough of this weather.”

“I’d rather stay…” she said listlessly while staring at his hand.

“No, really. I don’t want your brain to freeze—Harry and I need you to help us with NEWTs. Come on in, and save us the trouble of failing out of Hogwarts.”

As downtrodden as she was, Hermione couldn’t help smiling and accepted the hand to help her up. Her chilly fingers felt good in his warm hand, and before setting off she asked earnestly, “We’ll be friends no matter what, right?”

“No matter what.”

Still holding his friendly hand, she allowed Ron to lead her to the back door of Grimmauld Place. Hermione ate a little more at dinner that night than she had the previous few days in which Charlie had been gone, and Ron couldn’t help but think he’d had some part in it. The festivities and cheery moods of the Weasley clan didn’t cure her completely but did, at least, have a small uplifting effect on her heartache. Hermione looked at her watch and listened to the family begin the countdown.

“Three…two…one…HAPPY NEW YEAR!” they shouted.

Hugs went all around, and Hermione smiled inwardly. Happy New Year, Charlie.

Across the room, Harry and Ginny were enjoying the customary New Year’s kiss, and Ginny seemed to have forgotten there were others present in the room. Ron smiled awkwardly and tried not to look at his best friend and his sister in such a compromising position, as it made him feel more than a little uncomfortable. Hermione couldn’t help feeling sorry for him, but also wanted to thank him for being there for her earlier, so she stretched up to kiss him on the cheek. “To another year of friendship and many more to come.”

Charlie sat in the weathered old chair in the living room of his apartment, absently picking at the bandage around this left wrist. His co-worker’s nasally voice drifted into his head: “If you’d been paying attention, this wouldn’t have happened you know. Grendel is quirky, and I know she’s not your dragon, but you’ve got to be alert at all times.”

“I know, Johnson. Just had my mind somewhere else.”

“Well keep it here, or else you’ll just be handing yourself to that monster. A dragon reserve is no place for a lady.”

“Who said it was about a girl?”

“It’s always about a girl.”

Charlie winced when he realized what he was doing and watched the blood trickle down onto his trousers. Thinking about Hermione constantly was not proving to be very good for his health. He rummaged around through is first-aid kit and redressed the wound. She’s right—this is a dangerous job, but only because of her, he mused.

He yawned deeply and took another large gulp of his tea (lifting it with his right wrist) and then yawned widely while mentally encouraging the clock to hasten its ticking. 1:55am. Almost time. Charlie finished off the remainder of the tea he’d been drinking not because he was thirsty, but to stay awake to ring in the New Year on Hermione’s time. 1:58am. Getting closer. He washed out his tea mug and left it in the sink to dry, watching the clock on the wall trudge steadily along. Bracing himself on the counter with his good arm so he wouldn’t fall over from exhaustion, he counted down quietly, “Three…two…one… Happy New Year, Hermione.”

Grimmauld Place was all a shambles; three school-aged kids rushed around trying to find all their belongings to make sure they didn’t leave anything behind before returning to Hogwarts. Hermione, of course, had packed the night before, so she helped her irresponsible friends gather their things and place them neatly in their trunks.

As Hermione traipsed around the house while scouting for Ron’s left shoe, Fred (or George) pulled her aside and down to their laboratory before she could protest.

“Now Fred, I haven’t got time for this! Your mum is having a fit over it… We’ll miss the train and I’ve still got to find Ronald’s shoe!”

“First of all, I’m George, and secondly, I just wanted to let you know how bloody difficult it was for me and Fred knowing what we know and not being able to tell anybody. This thing with you and Charlie better work, because I’m not going through all this hell for nothing!”

“Yeah!” piped Fred from behind a steaming cauldron. “You need to hurry and get on with telling, because we can’t take this much longer. Secrets kill us—”

“—Unless they’re our own,” interjected George.

“Right-oh!” agreed Fred.

“Well, you’ve certainly done a good job keeping your own secrets. I don’t see why it should be that hard with mine,” Hermione combated.

The twins gave each other questioning glances and tightened their faces into scowls seemingly meant for Charlie. Well, it was only fair that Hermione knew about their girlfriends; after all, what they knew involved Hermione as well as their brother.

“All we’re saying is—”

“—Get on with it.”

“Live happily ever after with Charlie—“

“—And try not to break ickle Ronnie’s heart in the process.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at the twins annoying habit of finishing each other’s sentences and tried not to think too much about what they had said. Breaking Ron’s heart was something she was entirely not prepared to deal with. She obviously had no intention of doing so but didn’t see any other way around it if she wanted to be with Charlie.

“Yeah. I won’t. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some footwear to find,” she said coolly while turning on her heal and marching out of the lab.

“Feisty one, she is,” Fred stated.

“Charlie’s got himself a handful.”

Mrs. Weasley’s insistence on “moving with a sense of urgency” was taken seriously by the kids after she found Ron’s shoe in the broom closet and beat him about the head with it, harping at him that he’d have to learn to keep track of his belongings one of these days. They’d never packed so quickly before in their lives, and it was a good thing they learned how because Mrs. Weasley was frantic trying to get them to the station, and apparently serious about doing whatever it took to get them there.

After saying their goodbyes, the four Gryffindors shuffled off and situated themselves on the train in a compartment along with Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood. Hermione noticed that they sat uncharacteristically close to each other and saw Neville blush ever so slightly whenever Luna spoke to him. Everyone’s pairing off…and my other half is an entire time zone away.

Hermione had planned on taking the time during the train ride to write to Charlie, but with all the commotion going on and all the chatter, she decided it had better wait until later. The girls conversed amicably while the boys discussed Quidditch and played a few games of Exploding Snap (excepting when Ginny and Ron had to take leave to do prefect’s patrols, and when Hermione tended to her Head Girl duties). Though Charlie was so far from her, Hermione had a decent trip, nonetheless, and only got sad when she thought how this would be the last time riding to school on the Hogwarts Express.

Five months and it’s all over, she thought. Five months until NEWTs, five months until graduation, five months until Charlie. Merlin, get me through these five months…

She stared out the window and absently clicked the lock on her briefcase (which she’d insisted on carrying with her and not having it put in the luggage racks with the rest of the students’ trunks). She ran her fingers back and forth over the black leather, thinking how much it felt like Charlie’s hands—tough, smooth, and strong. Locked inside the briefcase was the rest of Charlie’s gift and the letter promising his greatest gift of all: his love.

Ron noticed her vacant state and requested she join him in a game of Exploding Snap. She accepted with mild interest, but really was glad to have something to take her mind off of Charlie.

“So, what’s with the briefcase, ‘Mione? Surely you haven’t traded your schoolbag for it?” Ron teased.

“It was a gift,” she answered easily, though calculating if she ought to say who had given it to her. No, now was not the time, and she hoped he wouldn’t ask.

“Must be some special gift if you can’t take your hands off it for two seconds. What about your other presents? Don’t see you fondling them, do we?” Ron continued. He felt he might have gone a little far with the banter but seemed to think Hermione was in a good enough mood to handle it.

“For your information, Ronald, I have the quills Harry gave me inside my briefcase, and here—“ she said while pulling out the silver necklace from under her robes, “is yours.”

Ron couldn’t stop himself from smiling. He loved getting her worked up, and then seeing his gift around her neck made him that much more satisfied. He stopped giving her a hard time, and they continued their games (of which Hermione even won a few times, though she wondered if Ron had gone easy on her) until arriving at Hogwarts.

She hopped off the train, monitoring the rest of the students’ behavior, and scolded a second year who was trying to frighten the wits out of a first year. (“Second term is the worst for first years,” the boy said. “That’s when the professors get really nasty!”) She shook her head in exasperation at already having to deal with troublemakers. This was going to be a long term.

Chapter 10: Mixed Emotions
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

She carried the letter in her pocket; it somehow made her feel as if he was closer to her that way. When she slept, the letter was under her pillow. It had been weeks since arriving at Hogwarts and writing her first letter to Charlie, and still no response. She knew that one single owl flying all that way would take a long time, but she hated the uncertainty of never knowing when a reply would arrive. Part of her anxiousness was due to the simple fact that she wanted to hear from him. Another part was deciding exactly how she was going to get the letter and read it without Harry or Ron seeing. Just to be safe, Hermione had even used a school owl instead of borrowing Hedwig from Harry, because she didn’t want to have to explain everything and risk her secret leaking to Ron.

Hermione mentally scolded herself every time she thought about lying to Ron. She knew she needed to tell him, but finding the right time was not going to be easy, nor was thinking of what to say. Several times she had thought about just coming right out and saying it. She even practiced with the mirror in her bathroom.

Ron, Charlie and I are together.


As in, “together.”


I love him, Ron. And he loves me.


Yes, I’m sure.


Because he told me. We’ve been together since Christmas.


He is not too old for me!


Why would you say something like that? Your brother would never…


I just know, ok?


No, I’m not supposed to be with you! I’m supposed to be with Charlie!


But we agreed, Ron! Just friends! We were just going to be friends…

But every time it ended the same way, with Hermione envisioning Ron’s reactions as they took the worst possible of courses (which she felt were probably the ones most likely to occur). More often than not, her practice sessions with the mirror ended with a silent sob in her bathroom.

Three light taps sounded on the door. “Hermione? You in there? It’s Ginny. I brought you some food.”

Hermione reached from where she sat on the opposite side of the floor, leaning her head against the edge of the tub. Determined not to move from her spot, she willed her arm to stretch a few feet further, but to no avail.

“Just do it,” the weeping girl answered feebly.


Ginny ducked into the bathroom, but all Hermione saw through her watery eyes was a red blur.

“I brought you some food. Oh, Hermione, you’ve really got to stop this, you know,” Ginny said sympathetically while taking a seat on the edge of the tub, right next to Hermione. “It’s not helping anything…”

Hermione didn’t reply; she just shifted herself away from Ginny ever so slightly.

“Sorry. I’m not trying to be insensitive,” Ginny apologized while gently stroking the curly brown hair across her lap. “But really, will crying make it any better?”

Hermione leaned up and looked Ginny in the eyes, letting the tears fall freely down her face, and shook her head no. Ginny grabbed a tissue to dry them off and gave a sad smile.

“And just who are those tears for, Hermione? I know you miss Charlie desperately, but for some reason I think this is about someone else…”

Damn your acumen, Ginny! Sometimes I wish you were as thick as that brother of yours. Though, lately he hasn’t been too bad…

“What makes you say that?”

“Come off it, now. You’re scared to tell Ron, aren’t you?”

Hermione sighed heavily and didn’t refute the accusation as she was entirely too exhausted to argue.

“What am I going to do, Gin? I don’t know how to tell Ron, and I haven’t heard back from Charlie… My life is completely in disarray and I can’t take this anymore!” Hermione said, growing more frantic the longer she spoke.

“Hey, hey, calm down. Shhh, it’s ok,” Ginny soothed. “If you had come to breakfast this morning, you’d have been there for the arrival of your letter.”

Hermione’s heart jumped as she saw the folded parchment Ginny held in her hand. She immediately relieved Ginny of the letter and tore through the outer envelope, then stopped abruptly.

“No one saw, did they?” Hermione asked with her hands still frozen in place around the letter.

“Of course they saw, but they don’t know who it’s from. Not like you can hide a giant bird like that when it surprises you at eight in the morning.” Ginny saw the horrified look on her friend’s face and continued, “I told you they don’t know. I made sure to take the letter before they could see anything. That’s when I grabbed you some food and told them I’d be bringing it up to you. Don’t worry; they have no idea.” Well, Harry does…

Hermione relaxed her shoulders a bit and asked, “Did they ask about me? I mean, why I wasn’t at breakfast?”

“Only about a billion times. Of course, ninety-nine percent of that came from Ron,” Ginny answered with a smirk.

“And you told them…?”

“The usual: you didn’t feel well and weren’t up for breakfast with a crowd of people. Then, of course, Ron had to be his ardent self and insist on coming up to check on you, but I handled him,” Ginny assured. “I also reminded him that I was the only one of us who knew the password to the Heads’ common room so it would do no good to get on my bad side.”

“Handled him gently, I hope,” she said while raising her eyebrow.

Ginny laughed but quickly silenced herself when she realized Hermione was serious. “Definitely. Told him you were stressed about NEWTs and that it would probably be best if I came alone. He started to argue, but I told him it was girls’ business. He didn’t fight me after that.”

“Thanks, Gin,” she sniffed. “Oh, goodness, what time is it?”

“About that time…”

“You’re right. We need to go.”

Hermione stood up slowly and waited to steady herself as she felt the blood rush to her head. Leaving her untouched breakfast behind in the bathroom, she followed Ginny out into the Heads’ common room, picked up her schoolbag, and hurried off to Care of Magical Creatures to meet Harry and Ron. The second letter, after being placed in her pocket alongside the first letter, would be saved for later, as Hermione had much more immediate, pressing matters to attend to.

“How are my eyes?”

“Puffy and red.”

“Thanks for the brute honesty,” Hermione said sarcastically.

“Any time. Good thing you’ve developed an allergy to pollen, Hermione,” Ginny noted facetiously. “And, oh no… You’ve got to go outside and expose yourself, again.”

Hermione was truly grateful to have Ginny around covering up for her. She’d never been able to lie worth anything, so having Ginny was a blessing. Not that Ginny necessarily enjoyed lying, but she knew desperate times called for desperate measures, and she had to protect her friend’s integrity and pride at all costs.

”Yeah, pity,” Hermione agreed with a soft chuckle.

“Harry, we really need to get her to tell him,” Ginny said to him.

“First of all, we aren’t going to get her to do anything. As far as she knows, I have no clue about Charlie, and I’m not about to give myself up as a pathetic, peeping tom and have her hate me for the rest of my life. No thanks.” Harry crossed his arms and tried his hardest to stand his ground.

But Ginny was not about to let Harry weasel out of this one. “Ok, so we get her to tell you first, then the two of us can work on her.”

“Err, why don’t you just do it yourself? Just say…whatever it is that you girls say to con each other. Use reverse psychology, I don’t care,” he said, desperately trying to stay out of Hermione’s business.

“Reverse what?”

“Never mind.”

“I’m not doing it myself because you’re Ron’s best friend, you prat. Who do you think she’d be more likely to listen to on the subject of Ron?”

Harry leaned back his head in exasperation and sighed heavily. “Fine…” After all, he found his girlfriend’s persuasive techniques rather hard to resist, and knew he’d end up doing her bidding, anyway. He reasoned he ought to make it easy and not to fight her about it.

“Good. I’m glad you’ve come to your senses. Now, come sit down,” Ginny beckoned as she patted the seat next to her on the couch.

“Gin, I’m tired, and my lips already hurt, as it is…”

Ginny rolled her eyes in a very Hermione-like way. “Not what I was talking about. Is that all boys ever think of?” she teased him.

Harry shook his head in defeat. He’d given up on ever trying to understand girls. One minute they can’t get enough, and the next they turn the tables to give the men in their lives a hard time.

“Just hurry up and get over here, before I get angry,” Ginny smiled.

Harry duly obeyed and prepared himself for an endless conversation that would, no doubt, be filled with a giant list of precise, detailed instructions. He had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he only imagined it to be a painful experience.

“What if Hermione doesn’t want to tell Ron? Or me, for that matter?” Harry asked skeptically.

“Trust me; she does.”

Deciding to go along with his girlfriend’s whims (not like he had much choice in the matter), he assured himself that she was a girl, after all, and would know how to deal with other girls a lot better than he did. It was a good thing she did, too, because Harry had vowed never to delve into the inner-workings of his female counterparts again, and having Ginny’s vehement insistence was the only way he’d ever get involved in Hermione’s private affairs.

Ginny had better be right about this, he thought, or Hermione will have my head.

Hermione lay motionless on her bed, staring up at the ceiling and reflecting on her day. Her mounds of unfinished homework lay neatly stacked on her desk but she couldn’t conjure up enough motivation to do any of it. She heard Draco Malfoy enter the common room, back from his rounds, but didn’t even move. They had been putting off their weekly meeting for a few days now, but Hermione couldn’t make herself care enough to drag her body out of bed. If she knew Malfoy as well as she hoped she did, he wouldn’t mind missing one meeting. Much to her satisfaction, she heard his bedroom door close shut.

Her day hadn’t been particularly bad or anything. Well, after the morning’s bathroom incident, that is. Her classes were as stimulating as could be expected, Ron and Harry were appropriately concerned with her well being, and the weather had cleared up considerably. Actually, her day had been quite good, but the utter exhaustion she was now suffering due to emotional strain was taking its toll on her studies and her physical state. She wanted nothing more than to lay motionless forever, curled up in her soft bed, and dream about…

“Charlie!” Hermione remembered and violently scrambled through her robes for her letter.

Her day had been so eventful and busy that she’d completely forgotten what should have been the highlight of her day. She held the still folded letter in her hands for a while before reading and closed her eyes, thinking how Charlie had touched this very parchment that she now pressed to her chest.

My lovely Hermione,

I’m sure this letter will be days old by the time it reaches you. Sorry it’s taken so long, but I wrote back as soon as I got yours; it’s quite a bit more difficult and time-consuming to write with my wrist in this awkward bandage. Don’t worry, love. It’s not serious—just a little accident, that’s all. I get a considerable amount of grief from my fellow trainers about it, too. They always say things like, “Well, if you hadn’t been thinking about her again, you would have seen that dragon go straight for you.” Quite funny, sometimes, except then I remember how far away you are, and suddenly it’s not so funny anymore. I miss you like hell, Hermione. Sorry for swearing, but there’s really no other way to describe it. Being without you is torture. I always loved coming to work before, but now I can’t seem to think of anything but when I’ll get to see you again.

But enough of my whining. How are your classes going? I remember NEWTs being tough, but I’m sure you’re on top of everything and aren’t worried one bit.

Hermione paused at this point in the letter and looked at the stack of closed books on her desk. During any normal week, Charlie would have been right: she would have been on top of everything—but not today. Well, maybe now that she’d heard back from him it would help her calm down enough to focus on her studies. She shifted her eyes from the books and continued to read:

I bet you’ve been studying far too much for your own good and haven’t even given your brain a moment to start missing me yet. I just want to say that it’s ok if you take it easy; I know you’re going to do amazingly well in all of your NEWTs and come out the top of your class, so I’m sure you’d be fine even if you didn’t put so much pressure on yourself. Although, Ron and Harry might learn from your rigorous study habits, don’t you think?

How is everything else going? I mean, how are things between you and Ron? I know you said you wanted to tell him sometime, and by now you might have done it already. I’m sure it’s really hard for you to think about, and if you have any doubts about it, you know there’s absolutely no pressure to rush into it. Don’t think you’re going to hurt my feelings by not telling him right away, because I completely understand. I can’t imagine how tough it is to be torn between your best friend and your boyfriend. And yes, I realize I never properly asked you to be my girlfriend, but will you humor me? I promise that a proper asking will come your way in no time.

My hand is killing me almost as much as not having you here. Of course, it doesn’t help that this bloody owl is becoming very impatient with me and is trying to eat my fingers… Hope to hear from you soon.

Love you always,


This was exactly what she needed after a long day. Hermione read the letter again several times before folding it back up and placing it under her pillow with the other letter. Now her day was complete and perfect—or nearly perfect, if not her lingering concern about Ron. Something would definitely have to be done, but no suitable options presented themselves. She wished she had the courage to just tell him… But there was no time to think of that now, and even writing to Charlie would have to wait until morning, due to her dire need for sleep.

Chapter 11: Rough Morning
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Dear Charlie,

You know how much I worry about you being around those dragons all the time, so must you go and get yourself hurt? You’ll do well to focus on those ruddy lizards and don’t go damaging any more of your body parts, because if I find out you get injured again, you’ll wish they’d have just killed you by the time I’m through with you.

Hermione paused and read what she had so far in her reply to Charlie, then crumpled the parchment and discarded it in the bin along with her first attempt. Even though that was exactly how she was feeling about the situation, she still thought it sounded a bit harsh and was too much in accordance to the likes of Molly Weasley. Hermione could just picture Charlie shaking his head and envisioning his mother scolding him. Although Hermione respected Mrs. Weasley and knew her to be very caring, the last thing she wanted was for Charlie to regard her like he did his mother. Not that being similar to Mrs. Weasley was entirely a bad thing, because she did have some admirable qualities about her, but Hermione preferred for Charlie to see her as his girlfriend, rather than a younger version of his mum. So she started the letter over again, this time using the stationary Charlie had given her for Christmas.

Dear Charlie,

I’m sorry to hear about your hand, and I hope it gets better soon. You know how dangerous those dragons are, but I trust you know what you’re doing and will be safe about it from now on. I don’t want to hear of any more injuries, so promise me you’ll stop daydreaming and focus. I want you alive and well enough to take me away when this year is over.

She stopped writing again to make sure this version was what she wanted. Quite satisfied, she continued.

Not that I’m complaining about school or anything; it’s actually not too bad, aside from not having you here. My schoolwork has fallen slightly behind just because I’ve been worrying about what to tell Ron and haven’t been concentrating as hard as I should. It’s actually quite stressful, too, as NEWTs are coming up so quickly. But, I guess that’s why I’m awake at five-thirty in the morning, because as soon as I finish writing this, I’ve got to catch up with Transfiguration.

Still, school isn’t even my main concern right now. As much as I’ve thought about this whole situation, I don’t feel any better about Ron. He’s been absolutely amazing these past couple of weeks. We haven’t had a row in over three days, and he’s actually making an effort to be sensitive. I suppose he knows how much I miss you and how hard it is for me to me away from you, so that’s my guess as to why he isn’t provoking me like he used to. He’s always been a terrific friend (well, not always, but for the most part), and he is only getting better with time, which makes it that much harder to tell him now. Oh, not that I’ve changed my mind or anything—it’s nothing like that. He just seems so much happier now than he has all year, and I don’t know if I can ruin his mood just yet. After all, I wouldn’t want to give him an excuse to mope around and skive off studying, because Merlin knows he needs it.

I really just wish I didn’t have to deal with this right now. If only Ron and I had never been… Well, had never let the tension build up in our friendship, then you and I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this. I know you say it doesn’t hurt your feelings, but I still feel guilty sneaking around. I just want you to know that I’m not ashamed of you—I love you. I just have to find a way to (as Fred and George would say), “Live happily ever after with you, while not breaking ickle Ronnie’s heart in the process.” The first part I think we’ll manage just fine, but the latter is the problem.

Every time I start to feel like my life is just about to fall apart, I just think of what George said. I really could live happily ever after with you, and sometimes it feels like being with you is the only thing that could ever make me happy again. School doesn’t hold the same amount of excitement as it used to, and Ron and Harry are just…themselves. I don’t know what it is, but nothing seems as important as it used to be. Maybe if you were here with me, things would be different, because I wouldn’t have to miss you so much. I could just sit here, wrapped in your arms, and know that everything would be all right because you were with me. You know that I absolutely adore my briefcase and stationary (recognize the paper I’m writing on?), but I still say you are the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. I think about that night by the Christmas tree constantly, especially when I’m having trouble sleeping. I find that dreaming of you somehow makes life easier for me to bear.

Goodness, I’ve nearly written you a novel, and I haven’t even started on my homework. I really must be going. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m counting down the days until school is over, because I can’t stand this much longer. Hope it doesn’t take so long next time to hear back from you. Maybe I’ll use a different owl this time.

With all my heart,


Quite satisfied with the way her letter turned out, even if it had taken two sheets of stationary, Hermione folded it carefully and set it aside to begin working on her assignments that were due later that day. She flipped through the first few pages of her Transfiguration book to refresh her memory (not like she needed it), when she noticed a tiny ink mark in the lower left corner on one of the pages. Anyone else would have had to squint to read it, or even to see it, but Hermione knew instantly that that’s where she’d scribbled Ron’s name, along with the words “I’m sorry”, at the beginning of the year. Startled and a bit shocked that she’d forgotten it, Hermione hastily vanished the ink from the parchment, just as she’d done with every other scribbled "Ron" she found in her various books.

I thought I got rid of all of those…

While staring down at the now-blank bit of parchment, Hermione was overcome with nostalgia, and the memory of defacing her book came flooding back. There she was, sitting in the library, alone. Always alone. Ron and Harry were at Quidditch practice, but even if they hadn’t been, they still would not have joined her in the library. Hermione had been spending an excessive amount of time there recently, even for her. The dark shadows of the corners, the small pools of light created by the desktop lamps, and the ceiling-high bookcases were her only refuge now. Lately, even being in the same room with Ron was painful, so she did her best to limit the time they spent together. The best way to do this, of course, was to stay in the once place he couldn’t stand. She knew Harry was on to her, but he never said anything directly—at least not yet. He reasoned that not even Hermione liked to study that much. Still, she was always there. She told herself it wasn’t to avoid Ron, though she clearly knew better, and almost convinced herself that her motivation was entirely geared towards making all O’s in her NEWTs. If pining over Ron had been a course subject, Hermione most definitely would have achieved a perfect NEWT score, as each study session always ended with Ron’s name written on something of hers at least twice. This particular incident had occurred on a day when she’d yet again rubbed one of Viktor Krum’s letters in his face, hoping to make him jealous enough that he’d see what they were missing out on. In the back of her mind, she knew it was hopeless and would only serve to further deteriorate their friendship. She also knew that their agreement to just stay friends had been a load of rubbish. It wasn’t what they really wanted, only what they thought was best. But that day, after a considerable amount of yelling, Ron spent hours in a temper and walked around sulking without even looking at Hermione. Her guilt about provoking him was unbearable, but as he wouldn’t even acknowledge her presence, she’d have to settle for apologizing to her Transfiguration text. So she scribbled him an apology note at the bottom of the page. It would never do much for Ron, since he’d never see it, but at least writing the note helped Hermione to feel like she’d done something.

Hermione shook her head so that the tears welled up in her eyes spilled over the brim and down her cheeks. This bitter memory of one of her many fights with Ron only served to remind her that love wasn’t always pretty. Remembering the horrible things she’d done to her friend had cancelled out any joy she’d felt just prior to her homework attempt when she wrote to Charlie. She let her book close with a thud and decided to return to it later after taking her letter to the owlery. It would be a nice break to calm her nerves, and the physical act of sending the letter off would at least give her something to do.

She noticed a light on in the common room, which was unusual for this hour of the morning. But, when she glanced around, she didn’t see Malfoy anywhere. When she reached the door, however, a voice stopped her.

“And where are you going?” Malfoy inquired, almost accusingly. He had been lying down on a couch facing the opposite direction of the door, which is why she hadn’t seen him.

“Why are you up so early?” Hermione asked, genuinely puzzled.

““Why don’t you answer my question?”

“Why do you care?” she shot back with surprising menace.

“I asked you first,” Malfoy stated, as if that solved everything.

“And I asked you last.”

Malfoy couldn’t seem to come up with a suitable response and was obviously frustrated with Hermione’s stubbornness. He squinted his eyes at her to make sure she knew how annoyed he was and replied resignedly, “See you in class,” before yawning and crashing back onto the couch.

“Good day, Malfoy.”

The owlery was not as empty as she’d expected it to be. A black-haired, bespectacled boy looked deep in thought as he stroked the feathers of his snowy owl.

“Morning, Harry.”

He turned around quickly and greeted, “Morning, ‘Mione.”

“What is it with everyone today and waking up so early?”

“Err, what do you mean?”

“Don’t give me that; I know these aren’t your normal hours. Malfoy was up awfully early this morning, too. Is there something I should know?” Hermione pressed, unsure of what to think of it all.

“I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. I came to visit Hedwig, and there’s no telling what Malfoy was doing. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to know. But speak of yourself—you’re up just as early. Do you have an excuse?” Harry smiled and knew he was about to get a verbal whipping, but still couldn’t help himself. He understood now why Ron liked to irritate her.

Hermione huffed but didn’t give Harry the satisfaction of becoming annoyed.

“Just delivering a letter,” she said carefully.

“You know, Hermione, I would have let you borrow Hedwig. It’s really not a big deal,” he said sincerely.

“Oh…Oh, I know, Harry. Just, um, I thought that maybe you might be using her for something…”

Harry nodded and played along with her story, just as Ginny had instructed. “Make her think you believe her when she tries to get around telling you the truth,” she’d said. “That way she’ll feel guilty about leading you to false conclusions when you’re so ready to believe her. She’ll come clean out of sheer remorse.”

“Yeah, actually I was using her. Pig has refused to deliver anything, probably because Ron keeps insulting him and hurting his feelings. Anyway, Ron needed to write to his mum about sending his jumper that he left at home, so I told him he could borrow Hedwig,” Harry said smoothly. Hey, it could have happened… Besides, he wasn’t lying for himself; he was doing it for her, sort of.

“Poor Pig,” Hermione cooed. “And that’s just like Ron,” she laughed while shaking her head.

Harry pet Hedwig on the head one last time and made for the door. “I’ll see you in a bit, Hermione.”

“Yeah, ok,” she responded, while beckoning down a large brown owl from the rafters. She watched Harry as he exited and closed the owlery doors behind him, thinking how she’d just betrayed the trust of her best friend.

Could this day get any better? she thought sardonically.

“Good morning, class,” Professor McGonagall greeted. “Please open your books to chapter twenty, and I will be by to collect the homework.”

Ron and Harry started rummaging through their bags; Harry found his homework first and laid it on the table, and a panicked Ron thought he’d lost his, but eventually found it wrinkled up in the bottom of his bag. Neither of them wavered when Hermione didn’t follow suit and dig through her own schoolbag, because they assumed she already had it laid out on the table, ready to hand in.

McGonagall strode by each student’s desk and collected the parchment apathetically. Obviously she was as thrilled to be grading the papers as the students had been to write them. She finally reached the back corner where the Gryffindors sat and pursed her lips at Ron’s carelessness with his homework. He blushed a little from the embarrassment but soon forgot all about it when McGonagall spoke next, addressing not himself, but his table partner.

“Miss Granger, where is your assignment?” she asked incredulously.

Hermione remained upright with her hands folded on the desk in front of her, looking as serious as ever. Her flinch was so small that only people who knew her as well as Ron and Harry did would have seen it. Her voice cracked at first, but she steadied herself with grace.

“I didn’t do it, Professor.”

McGonagall’s eyes grew as round as Ron and Harry’s, and she looked very much like she was thinking what Ron had the nerve to voice.

“Bloody hell, Hermione!”

Both boys’ mouths gaped wide open at her, waiting for her to say, “just kidding.” When it didn’t happen, McGonagall was forced to bring herself out of her trance.

“See me after class, Miss Granger,” she said. Still looking horrified, the professor began the day’s lesson and tried to pretend nothing had happened. The boys, on the other hand, were completely floored and didn’t pay one bit of attention to their professor.

Harry thought he saw a glimmer of a tear in her eye, but it never amounted to more than a pool behind her eyelid. This was a time when Hermione’s stubbornness and bravery got the best of her. She kept her eyes focused on McGonagall the entire class and didn’t even look around to acknowledge the many whispers that filled the air. She looked as though her entire world had been shattered, and Ron sensed danger was coming.

One excruciating hour later, Harry and Ron gathered their things and waited for Hermione. But she didn’t move. The boys looked at each other, wondering what they ought to do, and settled for waiting outside the classroom until after she’d had her talk with McGonagall. They promised themselves they’d always be there for her, and now was their chance. Ron placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder bent down to whisper their intents, but she shook her head at him. Feeling somewhat at a loss, Ron and Harry regretfully left her behind.

Chapter 12: One Step Closer
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 12- One Step Closer

Hermione knew the boys would be waiting for her; they practically attacked her when she entered the Gryffindor common room to find them. Their concern was almost cute, if Ron’s face hadn’t been so ghostly white. Wow, he really does care about me, thought Hermione.

“I’m fine,” Hermione huffed before anyone even had a chance to ask the question. She knew what they were thinking.

“Like hell, you’re fine! You didn’t do your homework, Hermione! You can’t just brush that one off. Something isn’t right!” Ron accused.

Harrymade to restrain Ron by putting a hand on his shoulder to let him know he needed to back off a bit. Undoubtedly Hermione was distraught, and the last thing they needed to do was to push her over the edge. Harry even hated what he was about to ask, but he, like Ron, needed to know.

“You didn’t get a…detention…did you?” Harry tread carefully over these words and could hardly believe to whom he was directing them. Never would he have thought Hermione would do something intentionally that could warrant a detention.

“No. Not a single one. Not even when I told McGonagall I deserved it…” she spat angrily.

“You begged for a detention?” Ron asked incredulously.

“I broke a rule, Ronald! She’d have given anyone else a detention without blanching. Why should I be an exception to punishment?”

“There you go with the equal treatment. Hermione, despite what you think,everyone is not equal. You are the smartest, most dedicated student in the entire school—no, probably in the entire world—which makes you anything but like the rest of us. I think McGonagall knows that,” the redhead combated.

What Ron had said made a lot of sense to Hermione, but she still wasn’t prepared to let him win their row. In her mind, Hermione still thought she deserved at least some sort of punishment for what she did—or didn’t do, rather.

“Yeah, well Tom Riddle was a model student, too! Should we give him a break?”

“That’s completely different, ‘Mione! You don’t even—“

“I think what Ron means is,” Harry cut in, “McGonagall understands how much pressure you put on yourself to be perfect. She knows how many classes you take, that you have Head Girl duties, and that you have to be our mother as well.” Harry knew that last comment would elicit a smile from Hermione, and it did, even if just a small one. “Look, Hermione—it's obvious that the teachers are going to go easy on you because they know how hard you work, they know that you never shirk your responsibilities and they know you. Anyone with any sense would realise that there would have to be a really good reason for you to miss handing in your homework.”

Hermione had nothing to throw back at him, and Ron had no further comments, since Harry had just proven his point. The two stopped their row (though it was difficult for Hermione), much to Harry’s gratification. Actually, Hermione would have liked to have Harry clarify what he meant by “a really good reason” but felt the subject would best be discussed out of Ron’s earshot. She couldn’t know if Harry knew anything—he’d probably meant something else entirely—but this whole situation was really getting out of hand.The guilt from this morning’s encounter in the owlery didn’t make her feel much better, either.

“So, I guess since you don’t have detention tonight, you could help us with our Potions essays?” Ron asked hopefully.

“Can’t, Ron. Sorry. I’ve got to finish the homework I didn’t get done today, along with my Arithmancy and Runes for tomorrow,” she explained.

“McGonagall is still making you do that? Why couldn’t she just let you forget about—“

“She isn’t making me, Ron. I need to do it. This material is going to be on our NEWTs, you know.” Hermione rolled her eyes as if this should have been obvious. “I’m going to the library after dinner tonight to do it.

Ron threw up his hands in defeat, and as he turned his back, Hermione quickly mouthed to Harry, “Will you come with me?” He had to have her repeat herself and only barely understood what she was trying to say by the time Ron turned around.

“Don’t get upset, mate. We have Quidditch practice tonight, anyway, so it’ll be awfully late until we get to those essays. Hermione’s got too much to do, as it is.”

Hermione’s shoulders drooped. Damn Quidditch!

“But I think I’ll join you for a little while before I have to go to practice. I’d like to have you help me before it’s too late,” Harry added.

Ron considered the events that would be taking place later on, and it was clear when he shifted between playing Quidditch and the library, as his facial expressions changed from delight to disgust. “I guess I’ll, err…” Ron began, thinking if he actually wanted to endure the torture of the library just to be with Hermione.

“Hey, Ron!” came a voice from the girl’s stairwell. “Can you go to practice early with me? I want to train a bit extra tonight.”

Perfect timing, Ginny, thought Hermione.

The< redheaded girl bounced over to the trio’s side of the common room< and implored her brother with her big, brown eyes. Harry smirked to himself. No wonder she always gets her way. Used that trick on me a few times, too.

“Sure,” Ron relented, though clearly happy to have an excuse to stay as far from the library as he could. He’d find time with Hermione elsewhere.

“Ok well, I’ve got to get to Herbology,” Hermione said, as she gathered her things.

“Glad we dropped that one, eh mate?” Ron nudged Harry in the side, who answered with a chuckle.

“See that you two aren’t late for your next class.”

“Oh but we’re done—“

Hermione didn’t hear Ron finish his sentence because the portrait of the Fat Lady closed behind her.

Totally absorbed in the light scratching noises that her quill made, Hermione nearly forgot what it was she was supposed to be focusing on. She traced small doodles on her parchment (that had yet to have any words written on it) as she let her imagination wander.

The woods had been cold that night. So cold. But Charlie was with her, and that was all that mattered. He walked so close to her—as close as he dared—that she could feel the heat that radiated off his body. A rough hand brushed lightly against her arm and amplified the goosebumps that already dotted her skin. His bright blue eyes were fixated on her; she didn’t see them, but she felt them. “Just keep walking,” she told herself. “We’re almost there.”

Hermione?” His deep whisper made her shudder and lose her resolve altogether. It was all she could do to keep her feet going, but she had to face him. Her brown eyes met his, and she wondered how eyes so chillingly blue could make her heart melt at a glance. Hermione opened her mouth to answer him but found no words. The only thing she found herself capable of doing was taking the hand that had taunted her and wrapping it with both of her own.

She wished, at that moment, that she owned an invisibility cloak. Oh, what she could do with the ability to disappear on a whim… Sneaking around would never be a problem. She could stand here, in the middle of the field, and allow herself to be snogged senseless by the man she loved. No worrying about who would see. All that would matter was that they were together.

Charlie lightly stroked her hand with his thumb, sending a new wave of shivers up her arm and down her spine. They both kept walking, but their steps had slowed considerably, and every step covered less and less distance than the one before it. Now nearly at a standstill, the two might as well have quit trying altogether for all the progress they were making. Charlie took another slow, cautious step forward. He wasn’t looking where he was going because his face was now buried at Hermione’s temple, where her flowing hair tickled his closed eyelids. He tried to steady his breathing as he planted sof kisses up and down the side of her face, starting from her temple and moving to her upper jaw. When he doubled back to nibble her ear again, his efforts to control his breathing gave way as he sighed heavily into her ear.

It was this sound, and the electricity it created in her body, that brought her back from her dreamy state. Hermione reluctantly inched herself away from the man trying to seduce her, because she realized they were still in plain view of the house. The cold on her skin was agonizing. The side of her face where Charlie should have been now felt nothing but a crisp, unforgiving breeze.

Looking back now, Hermione would have gladly risked being seen if only she could feel Charlie next to her again. There was no way she could have known that that would be their last night together at Grimmauld Place, and she now flouted herself for being so edgy about it all. She had pushed him away, and now she wanted him back.

“I want you back,” Hermione pleaded to her parchment. “That’s all I want.”

Just then, a banging noise echoed through the library as Harry purposely stumbled over a chair and knocked into a desk. He was about five tables away from where Hermione sat, making sure he gave her enough room that she could pretend to be busy when he showed up. Hermione snapped her head up to see Harry leaning on a desk while rubbing his shin. She hated to smile and laugh at her friend’s pain, but it was kind of funny.

“All right there, Harry?” she asked with a suppressed chuckle.

Harry faked a wince and hobbled over to Hermione, being careful not to overdo it. “Fine, thanks. Chair just jumped right out at me.”

He took a seat opposite her and set his bag down on the table. When he didn’t open it to take out any books, Hermione ventured, “Something you want to talk about, then?”

“Not particularly,” he lied. “Just a bit concerned about the homework incident, and wondering if everything is really fine, like you said.”

Much as she wanted to change her mind and keep Harry in the dark, his compassionate request was hard to deny.

“Well, the homework thing really is fine,” Hermione answered, while ruffling some papers around. “Well, it will be once I get started.” She held up the parchment with the random doodles on it and explained, “This is what isn’t fine.”

Now Harry didn’t even have to pretend to be confused—he really was confused. What does Hermione doodling have to do with Charlie? Ohh… Harry thought, as it suddenly dawned on him.

“I didn’t do my homework, you see, because I had a lot of other stuff on my mind,” she said, trying to be vague.

Harry nodded his head and waited for her to continue.

“I… got a letter from Charlie this morning. Actually, I got it yesterday, but I couldn’t write him back until today. That’s why I was in the owlery this morning.”

“It was really early, Hermione,” Harry noted.

Yes, of course Harry would bring that up. “I know. I was, err…” Dammit, she thought. Just say it. “I was trying to avoid Ron. I didn’t want him to see me going to the owlery.”

Playing the ignorance act, Harry asked, “Why not? You’ve sent letters before.”

“But never to Charlie. I don’t know if Ron would take it so well if…well, you know, if he found out I was writing to his brother,” Hermione practically whispered, lest someone else overhear.

“Oh, I’m sure Ron would understand. He knows you two are friends, and besides, if you’re just writing…” Harry hated to toy with her like this, but she did need some encouragement in order to fess up.

Hermione took a deep breath and elaborated, “We’re not just writing, Harry. Well, I mean, right now we are, since he’s in Romania and all… That’s not what I meant. We, um… Charlie is kind of… my boyfriend.”

She winced while awaiting his reaction. There, she said it. She finally admitted it to Harry. But Harry didn’t react quite the way she’d imagined, though she really hadn’t thought so much about Harry’s reactions as she had Ron’s. She noticed his eyes grew rounder, but he didn’t gawk at her, and he didn’t yell and make a scene. At least he’d taken it well.

“I see… And I suppose you’re worried about Ron, then?”

Hermione let out the breath she’d been holding in and answered, “Yeah. Merlin, do I worry about Ron. I just don’t know how to do it.”

“Do what?”

“Tell him about Charlie and me.”

“So I guess you and Charlie are pretty serious, then, if you’re going to tell Ron about it?”

“Very serious, Harry. I love Charlie… I love him so much. And while I haven’t received any ‘formal invitations’ as he calls them, he’s made it perfectly clear that this is ‘forever.’ Unless, of course, I do something between now and then to mess it up.”

“Oh, come now, that won’t happen. You could never mess anything up,” Harry assured.

“I could mess up a friendship,” she answered dejectedly.

“We won’t let that happen. I promise,” he said, reaching across the table to hold her hand.

Asingle tear slid down her cheek, and she nodded to her friend.

“I’ve got to go to practice. You going to be ok by yourself?”

Hermione reached up to wipe the tear away and nodded again, to Harry’s disbelief.

“I don’t think you should stay in the library tonight. Why don’t you just go back to your common room where it’s more comfortable? Or better yet, just go to bed. You’ve had a long day and I’m sure you could use the rest,” Harry insisted.

“No, I’m fine, really…”

“Please? For me?”

Harry had already started to gather her books and stacks of parchment and place them in her bag before she could protest.

“Come on, I’ll walk you back.”

Harry stopped outside the Heads’ common room entrance, handed Hermione her bag, and received a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Thank you, Harry.”

“Yeah. Don’t worry about a thing. We’ll get this all sorted out,” he said. “Promise.”

She smiled and said goodnight before turning to find Draco Malfoy kicked back in a poofy lounge chair, writing an essay.

“Little Potty come to walk the Head Girl home, did he? What’s Golden Boy going to do now? Save an old woman’s cat from being stranded in a tree?” Malfoy jeered.

“I’ve asked you not to make such derogatory comments about my friends, Malfoy,” she shot back.

“Ooh, touchy. Just like this morning. Is it just me, or have you been acting more psychotic than usual? That episode in Transfiguration today was quite unlike you,” he taunted.

“And why do you care?”

“I just don’t want you to land yourself in any detentions, Granger. I can’t very well have you incapacitated, because that creates more work for me.”

Of course, it’s always about him.

“Well, McGonagall didn’t give me detention, even though she should have, so don’t you worry about lifting a finger more than you have to. I’d hate for you to overload your duties and strain yourself.”

Malfoy glared at her as she rummaged through the book bag that was now situated at the foot of the chair she had chosen.

“Ready for our weekly meeting?” Malfoy grumbled.

Hermione fell back into her chair and let her limbs sprawl out every which way. Yet another thing to do.

“Now?” she asked, hoping to postpone it just one more day.

“Granger, you’re slacking. First it’s the meetings, then who knows what you’ll fall behind on? Remember what I said about ‘more work for me’?” Malfoy heckled her.

Hermione mentally punched Malfoy in his fat mouth, as she was too exhausted to cross the room and do it by hand.


Chapter 13: The Essay
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 13- The Essay

Hermione leaned back against a tree, whose shade provided her relief from the brightness of the sun. A rather odd-looking root poked up through the ground and dug into her leg when she moved and began to irritate her. So she repositioned herself carefully so that the book she was balancing on her lap would stay put, and the papers she had spread neatly around her would not get mixed up. Just as she was about to get settled again, a gust of wind sliced through the branches of the tree and the locks of her hair and took away with it the beginnings of her History of Magic essay. Frantically, Hermione secured the rest of her papers inside her book before chasing after the flying essay. It folded and dived artfully along, dancing on the wind’s currents and taunting her. “Come and get me,” it teased. “Catch me if you can.”

She knew her feet were moving, because she could feel them, but she never made it any closer to her drifting paper. Frustration began to take over and she could distantly hear herself muttering threats to the rogue essay. It still flew every which way around her, getting close enough to be within reach, then slipping away again. Now panting, Hermione collapsed on the bank of the lake and gave up any hope of retrieving her hard work. With her knees drawn up to her chest and her face buried into them, Hermione began to sob. Her cries grew louder and louder, and she rocked back and forth on the bank. Soiling her robes with the black sand was the least of her worries. Then, the wind stopped.

“I think you dropped this,” came a voice from above her.

Hermione kept crying. Why can’t they just leave me alone?

“History of Magic…” the voice said. “Impressive work. When I was in seventh year, I…”

When he was in seventh year? Hermione thought. But then it dawned on her: she knew this voice. Gathering all hope, she lifted her head and saw the watery outline of an athletically built redhead.

”Charlie!” she cried, while jumping from her spot in the sand and throwing herself at him. Her tears didn’t cease and, in fact, only streamed more steadily. In the split second it took her to reach him, she had barely enough time to cry, “Oh, Charlie,” once again before seizing his lips with her own.

Charlie wrapped one arm around her lower back and pulled the shorter girl to him, while he placed the other on her head and worked it through her hair. Hermione had locked her own arms around his neck to make sure he’d never get away from her. His lips were everything she needed at that moment: the passion, the heat, and the love contained in his kisses made her forget her recent stress and frustration. It no longer mattered that nature had harassed her into an emotional breakdown. No, if anything, she should be thankful that nature had brought him to her. Thanks to the wind, the fleeing parchment had made its way into Charlie’s hands, and he had made his way into hers.

She always knew the dragon trainer had the softest lips, which contrasted so nicely with his rough, calloused hands. Charlie knew exactly how to make Hermione’s knees buckle and used it to his advantage. Every movement of his mouth felt like it was amplified times ten, as her senses seemed heightened and particularly in tune to his body. The way he applied the smallest pressure and sucked lightly on her lower lip elicited an involuntary moan from Hermione. The kisses they shared had not been necessarily clean, but were not altogether messy, either. It was the perfect kiss from the perfect man, and she let him know it.

He pulled away slowly, letting his lips linger just a bit, so that Hermione could still taste him even after they parted. The redhead brushed a few strands of hair away from her face that had been stuck to her cheek with tears. He rested his hand on her soggy cheek and gently massaged her temple with his fingers as he looked into her reddened eyes.

“Don’t cry, love. I’m here,” Charlie said, while leaning his forehead against hers.

“Y-yes, I-I know,” Hermione replied shakily.

He leaned in to kiss her again, though this time the raw passion gave way to the pure joy they felt from holding each other in their arms. Once again, they parted to look deep into each other’s eyes. Hermione heard a subtle crunching noise and realized Charlie still had her essay gripped in his hand that held her behind her back.

“You should finish this, you know,” Charlie told her. “Wake up, Hermione. You’re running out of time.”

“What do you mean? It’s only just past midday, and…”

Charlie faded in front of her, but she blinked tightly once and noticed he wasn’t yet gone. Red hair and freckles were still clearly visible in front of her.

“Hermione, wake up! It’s past midnight and you’re still not done with your essay!”

She blinked again and blearily looked up at the tall redhead before her. Her eyes were cloudy and took a while to focus.

“Ron?” she asked, confused.

“Yeah, who else would it be?”

“I thought it was... Oh,” she said sadly, upon learning the reality. "Oh, dear…” Hermione looked around the dark common room, noting Harry’s presence in the corner and a group of fifth years at the opposite side of the room. She then turned her attention back to Ron and questioned him accusingly, "What did you have to wake me up for? I was having a really nice dream."

"Nice dream, Hermione?" replied Ron, incredulously. "It sounded like a nightmare. You sounded angry and were kicking your feet all about. And then you sounded really sad, like you were about to cry. You also kept moaning and muttering like someone was trying to attack you."

“I was fine, Ron!” she insisted through gritted teeth.

“You’re always ‘fine’! Why don’t you ever just tell us what’s going on?”

Hermione glared at Ron but didn’t reply as she noted the large, red mark on her forearm and suspected that a matching one adorned her cheek due to the way she had been sleeping.

“If there was anything going on, I’d tell you! And why did you let me fall asleep? Look at my essay!” Hermione yelled, while grabbing the parchment and waving it in front of his face.

Harry looked on at the scene his friends were making and motioned to the inquiring fifth years to mind their own business. He knew he ought to intervene but feared Hermione might bite his head off if he did.

“You were tired, ‘Mione! You’ve been at your homework all day and you were beat. You looked like hell, actually, so we thought we’d let you sleep for a bit to get your energy back,” he explained with a rather rough tone to let her know he was serious. “Isn’t that right, Harry?”

Harry would have liked to kick Ron in the shin for dragging him into his row with Hermione, but he had to agree. “Err, yeah. You really did look pretty bad, and we didn’t think a little nap would hurt anything. I know you’re upset with us, but Ron’s right. You needed some rest.”

The way Hermione crossed her arms, and the way she glared at Harry, let him know just how irritated she was with him. He knew he’d get a serious talking to, when and if Hermione ever found the time to get him alone and scold him.

“But I told you, I’m—“

“—fine,” Ron finished for her, making her even more annoyed than she had bee. “Yes, we know. You might as well stop complaining about it now, because we can’t change it. It’ll do you know good to sulk, ‘Mione, and you’re just wasting time.”

“Wasting time? I’m wasting time by helping you two with your homework? If that’s the case, then I may as well not even be here!” she stammered while unceremoniously shoving her books and papers into her bag.

“Now hold it right there. You’re overreacting,” Ron said, attempting to calm her down.

Hermione threw her bag on the edge of the couch, where it promptly fell onto the floor. “Oh yeah, I’m always overreacting! I come here to help you finish your essays and you let me fall asleep! What help am I, then? NONE!”

“Err, Hermione?” interjected Harry. “I think you might have forgotten a few things since you’ve been asleep. You got Ron and me started on our essays and then went to work on yours. We finished ours when you were sleeping.” Harry held up his finished History of Magic essay for her to see.

“So you see, you are a big help, ‘Mione,” added Ron. His voice came from the floor, and Hermione turned to see him unpacking her bag and neatly arranging its contents on the table.

“And I suppose that you—“ she began, before Ron held up his essay as well.

The aggravation she’d been feeling now somewhat lifted, she sat back down on her place on the couch. Ron took a seat beside her and gently patted her back.

“Helping us was not what I meant by you wasting time. I guess I could have chosen different words, but what I meant was that our arguing wasn’t getting your essay done any faster.”

After just starting to feel a little better, Hermione again was reminded of her unfinished homework. She sighed heavily and leaned her face down to rest in her hands, her elbows perched on her knees.

“You know, Hermione,” Harry started, “if you didn’t want to do this essay, I’m sure Professor Binns would go as easy on you as McGonagall did.” He smiled facetiously at her and could have sworn he heard her chuckle.

She lifted her head, and the tiny smile quickly vanished from her face. “Impossible,” she replied. “I’m never missing a homework assignment again; it was pure torture the first time and I’ll not let there be a second.”

“So what are you going to do? It’s almost one, you know,” Harry stated.

“You could always borrow our essays,” Ron grinned.

Hermione looked shocked that he would even suggest such a thing.

Harry expected such a reaction from her, but tried to convince her it would be perfectly all right. “Well, you practically wrote them, anyway. You helped us first.”

“But technically, Harry, we wrote them, even though she gave us ideas. Wouldn’t that be rich—the smartest girl in school getting homework help from her two lazy friends!”

Hermione rolled her eyes at her amused friend. “You great prat,” she jeered before setting her sight on her essay again.

The parchment she now held in her hand, even after being carelessly shoved in her bag, was smooth and clean in comparison to the essay that the swift gust had carried away in her dream. This tangible piece of paper was untarnished by dirt, unaffected by wind, and—to her disappointment—untouched by Charlie. She examined the start of her essay and re-read it several times, forming an outline in her head before attempting to complete it.

By this time, Harry had dozed off with his open History of Magic book still in his lap. It was a wonder to her why he would even try to read a subject that bored his so much this late at night, as she knew he’d never accomplish anything. Moreover, anything he did manage to read would never be remembered by the next morning. Ron seemed to have taken her thoughts into consideration, because he was not foolishly attempting to read the droning book of age-old facts. Instead, he sat by Hermione and pretended to critique his own essay in an effort to look busy so he wouldn’t have to leave her. His vain attempt would have worked a lot better had he not kept nodding off and yawning widely. Nearly every time, he would catch himself before sleep could fully overtake him and would try to recover as if nothing had happened. But Hermione knew he had no idea what was going on; a sleepy Ron was not an acute Ron.

It was a miracle when Hermione neared the end of her essay. Not only did Ron’s snoring distract her, but so did the incessant memory of her dream about Charlie. She paused for a moment to engrain that dream in her mind—to remember every sound, every touch, every kiss—and relish in the feelings it created inside her. Charlie had been right there with her. Yes, he most certainly had. He was thousands of miles away, but she could still hear him and taste him as if he was by her side. Hermione had never known any dream to feel so real before—a dream that she got completely absorbed in and believed in without question. Of course she should have known that Charlie couldn’t be at Hogwarts. He was in Romania, right? It didn’t add up, yet it still felt so real.

She looked over to Harry, who had his neck resting uncomfortably crooked on the arm of the chair, and watched the book slip slowly from his hands. The dreams Harry had about Voldemort entered into her mind, and suddenly she had a case for comparison. Harry had always said he felt his dreams were real, and indeed some of them had been. Arthur Weasley getting attacked by the basilisk in the Ministry of Magic had been one such real dream. It was so real that Arthur might have died had it not been for Harry’s ability to see what was impossible to see, to know what was impossible to know. But then, there were those dreams that were entirely fabricated, like the one that ultimately led to Sirius’ death. His dreams had proven both useful and fatal, and the problem was that Harry had no way of knowing which dreams were real and which were a mere product of Voldemort’s sick mind.

Hermione knew that her dreams would mostly likely not be useful, and definitely could not be fatal. Hermione’s dreams couldn’t be real, because she, unlike Harry, did not have a magical connection to the source of her dreams. She and Charlie had not been bound by a curse of hate as Harry and Voldemort were, but by a profession of love. It was her subconscious that had beckoned Charlie to her in her sleep; her frustration and her need to have him near automatically conjured him in her brain to ease her suffering. It was not Charlie’s visions or emotions that permeated her mind’s eye, but her own desperate desire to have him back.

And for a moment, Hermione wished that she and Charlie were bound the way Harry and Voldemort were, so that she could know that all the love and longing she felt in her dream, Charlie felt too. Of course she knew he did, because he’d said so in every single one of his letters that she’d received over the past month. She’d read the words countless times, but words are so much less effective than real feelings. Her dream, even if created by her own imagination and unawares by Charlie, did as much or more for her heartache than a letter ever did.

But Hermione knew they couldn’t share dreams or thoughts and settled for writing him a letter. She set her essay aside and was reminded of Ron’s presence when he shifted in his sleep. His snoring ceased for only a moment and when it resumed, Hermione proceeded to search her bag for clean parchment. Ron muttered incoherently and reminded her that he’d said the exact same thing about her when she’d fallen asleep. Though she couldn’t make out what any names, he was definitely talking to someone. She began to worry that her repetition of Charlie’s name wasn’t only spoken in her dream, and had instead been said out loud, much as Ron was talking in his sleep. No, she reasoned. He’d have said something if I did.

Satisfied with her reasoning, she began her letter to Charlie. She wrote about her dream in as much detail as she could muster with her cramping hand. Nearing the tenth inch of the parchment, Hermione took a break to relax her hand before continuing her comprehensive explanation of her thoughts and feelings. She sat back and glanced at Ron as he slept with his limbs stretched out over the couch and resting on the table. His essay was getting smashed between his leg and the couch, so she made to save it from any more damage. As Hermione leaned over, another piece of parchment caught her eye: the calendar she’d made for each of the boys to help them keep up with their studies. Looks like I’m the one who needs the calendar now, she mused.

She unfolded the parchment to see if Ron had actually been using the calendar properly—which, to her surprise, he had. Of course, his notes were not nearly as precise as Hermione’s would have been, but he seemed to do a fair job of keeping up with himself. Quite satisfied with the effort Ron had made, it was only when she made to replace the calendar among his stack of papers that Hermione noticed a thick black circle of ink that bled through the back of the parchment. She re-opened the calendar to find the circled day to be the fourteenth of February.

“Oh, no…” she mouthed silently.

She returned to her letter and hastily wrapped up the bit about her dream to move on to the issue of Ron’s calendar.

I think the time has come, she wrote. I have to tell him.

Chapter 14: Misguided Malfoy
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 14 Misguided Malfoy

Charlie’s response to her letter about Ron didn’t really make her feel any better. Though she knew, in the back of her mind, that nothing Charlie could have said would make the situation any easier, she still held out a glimmer of hope that he’d spark a revelation in her that would help her deal. Unfortunately, the only advice he had to offer were things that Hermione had already assumed, anyway: get Ron alone before telling him, and be prepared for a lot of yelling.

This was all easier said than done. Every time she was alone with Ron and felt like she might be able to finally tell him, her courage failed her. The way Ron smiled at her kept her from breaking his spirit. She knew that her news would rip him apart, and she couldn’t stand the thought. Just when their friendship was beginning to return to normal—or better than normal—Hermione had to go and tell him something that would probably ruin their relationship forever.

Like it or no, I have to do it, Hermione instructed herself.

Ginny agreed that Hermione had better tell Ron soon, before he asked her to go to Hogsmeade with him for Valentine’s Day. Hermione assured her that Ron would never actually ask her out, and while they would be together in Hogsmeade, it wouldn’t be a date.

“That’s what you think. You know Ron isn’t as logical as you are, Hermione. He doesn’t see things quite the way you and I do. Just because he didn’t specifically ask you to be his date doesn’t mean he won’t think you are,” Ginny warned.

Hermione had pointed out that Valentine’s Day wasn’t even on the Hogsmeade outing day, but the Friday before.

“Doesn’t matter,” Ginny had said. “If anything, that only means that Ron could do something a day early and not even bother waiting until you’re in Hogsmeade. You know how impulsive he can get.”

Just thinking of Ron going off on some extravagant measure for her on Valentine’s Day, when the whole school would be milling around to see, made her stomach churn. It was bad enough having to explain everything to him, but having on-looking classmates snicker and gasp was not what she had in mind. Rumors flew fast enough as it was, and the last thing they needed was to have “eye-witness” accounts of Ron and Hermione’s falling out.

And yes, it would definitely be a falling out. Hermione held no hope that Ron could still be her friend after she told him what she needed to tell him. She’d prepared herself for what it would be like after she finally told him by practicing more arguments with her mirror. She also spent more long hours in the quiet of the library to immunize herself from the effects of his angry silent treatments. Some of these quiet hours could be spent in the solitude of her own common room; when Malfoy was out on rounds, Hermione could study, write to Charlie, or simply sit and stare in peace. Then, when Malfoy came back, she could practice her arguments with him, instead of her mirror.

“Still up, Granger?” Malfoy asked.

“Well, apparently,” Hermione answered, albeit a little rudely.

Malfoy cocked his eyebrow in contempt. He hated when people talked to him like that, especially inferior Muggle-borns. Every other girl in Hogwarts would have fallen to Draco’s feet and worshipped him, but Hermione fought him back without any interest. That was what irritated him the most. Girls adored his aristocratic good looks and haughty personality, and the one that didn’t was tainting his record. Even if she was a mudblood, she was still a girl.

“You know, Granger, there are loads of girls in this school who’d love to be in your shoes right now.” A self-satisfying smirk crossed Malfoy’s pointed face. “But all you’re interested in are those useless books.”

“I’m sure you haven’t noticed, Malfoy—after all, it’s only been seven years—but I am not ‘loads of girls’. I actually have a brain in my head. Now please stop talking so I can concentrate.”

Malfoy looked insulted, as if she’d just insinuated that the girls who drooled over him were brainless twits. Well, maybe some of them were, but it was a blow to his ego nonetheless.

“Well, brains aren’t so important when you’ve got the looks…” he retorted, “and the blood.” He knew the last remark would get her riled up.

“What the hell does ‘pure blood’ have to do with anything? Nobody is truly pureblood anymore, or else you would have all died out! Get off your high horse, Malfoy, because none of that rubbish even matters. If it did, I wouldn’t be the Head Girl or at the top of our class, now would I?”

“Oh, blood most certainly does matter, Granger. But I wouldn’t expect someone such as you to appreciate its significance. However, I’d be willing to make an exception in your case,” he said easily, as if he were offering her the opportunity of a lifetime. “Your blood is detestable, but your looks have quite improved recently.”

“If that was your idea of a compliment, Malfoy, you’re horrible at it. And I want nothing to do with being another one of your silly admirers, so don’t ask again.” Her words were serious and smooth, but the slight color on her cheeks made her wonder. Malfoy had just admitted he found her attractive, even if he wasn’t very nice about it.

“Oh, I get it. You’re saving yourself for Weaselby, aren’t you? He’s got the blood, at least, but I can’t say he’s got the looks or the brains. Certainly, with your aptitude, you must know that one out of three isn’t a very good percentage.”

“Have you already forgotten that I don’t care about blood? And—“

“Ok, one out of two. Fifty percent is still failing, Granger,” he interrupted.

Hermione was determined to finish her point. “There is nothing wrong with Ron’s looks. Just because his nose doesn’t point upwards like some people’s doesn’t make him any less attractive.”

Malfoy smiled arrogantly. “You just said I was attractive.”

“No, I didn’t!” she denied, her eyes now wide and alert.

“Yes, you did. You said that because his nose wasn’t like mine that it didn’t make him any less attractive, meaning you think he’s as attractive as I am.” Malfoy crossed his arms in front of his chest and smirked at her, quite proud that he’d proved her wrong.

Hermione scoffed at him and insisted that he’d just twisted her words around. That sneaky Slytherin always had a way of making things turn out in his favor.

“So I’m right, then. You’re just like every other girl in this school who can’t resist me. You should take advantage of that now, before Weasel grows up and admits how he feels. I’m not going to stop you.”

“You insufferable prat. For the last time, I don’t want to be your snogging buddy, and I’d also appreciate it if you’d stop inquiring into my personal life. My relationships are my own business.”

“Then Weasel won’t have to know.”

“Stop calling him that!” Hermione exclaimed as she slammed her fist down on the table.

Malfoy laughed. For such a small girl, she sure had a sizable temper.

“You wear me out, do you know that?” she sighed in exasperation.

“Oh, you have no idea how I could wear you out…” he answered.

Her eyes widened and she couldn’t help feeling like she was harassed. “Don’t say that!”

“Well, I could.”

“If he knew how you were speaking to me…” Hermione threatened.

“He’d what? Make me eat slugs?” he laughed.

“Feed you to his dragons, more like!”

Her blood was starting to heat up with her rage, and she had a vision of Malfoy being devoured while he still wore his charred, designer robes.

“What the hell are you talking about? Whose dragons?”

Feeling as if she’d said enough, Hermione stacked up her parchments and books and placed them in her bag.

“You didn’t answer my question, Granger. Who are you talking about?” he said, while grabbing her arm to turn her around.

“It’s none of your goddamn business! Now let go of me!”

Hermione struggled to get out of his grasp, but he only held tighter and grabbed her other arm as well.

“I just want to know who it is,” so I can scare him away from you. “I know you’re bluffing about the dragons, so just tell me. Come on, Granger. We’re friends, right?” he asked innocently.

“I’m not telling you, so just stop trying,” she said, while staring him down. She knew her death glare was her most intimidating feature, but it didn’t seem to faze Malfoy in the least.

“I think you’re lying. I don’t think there is anyone else. You’re just denying your feelings for me.”

Malfoy’s grip had lessened considerably since he’d first taken hold of her, so she tried to push away from him. However, the Slytherin in him couldn’t lose, so Hermione was instantaneously pulled back and crushed up against him. In a flash, Malfoy lowered his head and seized her mouth with forceful passion. Before Hermione even registered what was going on, the blonde already had his tongue in her mouth. She reacted on instinct and bit his lower lip with such strength that she could taste the blood it drew. Malfoy yelped and shot back as soon as his lip was free.

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT!?” Hermione fumed. “Exactly what part of our conversation led you to believe I wanted you to kiss me?”

The pale boy’s face was not as white as normal—anger played a part, but so did embarrassment from having his pride so effectively shattered. He brought a finger up to his lip and wiped off a massive amount of blood.

“Fuck, Granger! Look what you did to my lip!” he said, while holding out his hand to make sure she could see the blood.

Hermione had one hand on her hip, while the other twitched as if it would like nothing more than to slap Malfoy across the face. “You deserved it! I have no idea what you were thinking, but it obviously didn’t work out too well for you. I know boys have two heads and only enough blood to work one of them at a time, but please try to control yourself!”

“But you said…” he argued, and then stopped to think exactly what her words were.

“Yes, what did I say?” she demanded.

But Malfoy wasn’t interested in arguing anymore as he realized just how much blood was dripping from his mouth. “Shit, it’s dripping all over my damn shirt.”

“Give it to me,” she ordered. Malfoy cocked his eyebrow and smirked. “What? Is your pure blood too good for me to clean? I suppose if you want it to stain that would be all right, but you get to be the one to tell everyone how it happened. I can see you explaining to Crabbe and Goyle, now.” Then, she added in a deep, mock-Malfoy voice, “‘I attacked her, then she bit me and made me spill my precious blood.’ That’ll go over well, I’m sure.”

The smirk vanished from Malfoy’s face as he relented and gave her his shirt. She just wants me naked, he thought. He smiled at himself but quickly stopped because of the incredible pain his lip was causing. Hermione began to examine the shirt and decide how she wanted to clean it when Malfoy interrupted her.

“Do you think you could do something about my lip, first?” he asked pleadingly, while running his tongue along the edges.

“Aw, is the little Head Boy’s lip bothering him?” she mocked condescendingly. Malfoy just nodded. It must have hurt pretty badly for him not to argue with her. “I’ll fix it if you tell me why you attacked me.”

“I didn’t attack you; I kissed you. I was pretty sure you’d know what a kiss was, but I guess it was a long shot.”

Hermione glared at him. “Ok, if you’re going to be like that, then you can just bleed to death. See if I care.”

“No! Erm…fuck. I thought you were playing hard to get. Girls do that, you know, to test blokes and see if they’re really interested.”

“You thought I was testing you?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Remember when I said ‘I am not most girls’? I guess you forgot that part, because I don’t test boys by pulling stupid stunts like pretending I’m not interested when I really am. When I say I’m not interested, I’m not interested.”

“You never said you weren’t interested.”

“Yes I did! Were you not listening? I said I didn’t want to be your snogging buddy!”

Malfoy’s scrunched up face softened a little as he realized the truth to what she’d said. “Oh… But I still thought that you were messing with me.”

Hermione sighed. “For the last time, I don’t do stuff like that. I’ll forgive you this time, but don’t let it happen again, or else I’ll bite your lip clean off. I mean that, too.”

“I never said I was sorry,” he said angrily.

“And I know you never will, because you’re a stuck-up, egotistical, self-absorbed prat who cares more about where his next enjoyment is coming from than what other people think or feel or want.”

His jaw dropped a bit, but he didn’t reply. He knew what she said was true. Hermione then told him to wait for her while she went to get something from her room to clean his lip.

“Take this and swish it around your mouth, but don’t swallow it.”

Malfoy looked skeptically at the green liquid. “And this will fix it?”

“Well, no, but it’ll keep it from getting infected. It seems the blood has stopped a little, so it’ll heal on its own. Just take this and rinse for a bout thirty seconds, and then spit it out down your sink. It might sting a little…” she warned.

He left to go try out Hermione’s “Muggle potion” and she set her sights on Malfoy’s shirt. Hermione found that Muggle remedies were often just as effective, and sometimes more so, than magic; the bleach she brought back from her room was already starting to do its work on the bloodstains.

“Hey, Granger,” Malfoy called from the foot of his stairs. She paused in her cleaning to look at him but made no reply. “If you’re not interested, and there really is someone else, who’s the dragon bloke?”

“Don’t you worry about that. Go fix your lip.”

Malfoy turned and headed up his stairs. While scrubbing the red spots out of the shirt, she realized just how tired she was. Arguments and spontaneous, unwelcome advances had their way of exhausting her brain and her body simultaneously. She finished with the shirt and laid it out on the table, and proceeded to write a letter to Charlie. She’d have to tell him about the mind-numbing events that had happened today.

“You were right—that potion did sting, and I can’t feel my lip anymore,” Malfoy said as he snuck up behind her. “I guess that could be good, though. Your damn teeth are sharp and they fucking hurt.”

Hermione had shuffled her letter quickly out of view as soon as she heard him behind her. Malfoy did not need to know whom she was writing.

“Good. I hope it hurts a lot.”

“No need to be bitter, Granger. So,” he said, while plopping down on a chair beside her, “who’s Charlie?”

Oh, Merlin, thought Hermione. There’s no use in denying it, now. He already knows. “The ‘dragon bloke.’”

“Ok. You don’t tell about my lip, and I won’t tell Weasel about Dragon Man. Deal?”

“Deal,” Hermione agreed.

So there really was another guy. It wasn’t just me, after all. I’ve still got it, Malfoy thought smugly. If she weren’t with that dragon fellow, she’d have been mine.

Hermione watched him out of the corner of her eye, knowing he was thinking something entirely misguided. That prat. He definitely deserved what he got. At least I got to put him in his place, though he’ll never stay there for long.

Malfoy fingered his bottom lip, which was now considerably swollen, and noticed the furtive glances she cast at him. She’s checking me out. Yeah, she definitely wants me naked.

She sighed heavily. As awkward as being sexually harassed by Malfoy was, she admitted it would probably have been more awkward had he been Ron. She was sure Ron wasn’t capable of doing something as idiotic as Malfoy had just done, but she wouldn’t put it past him if he got caught up in the moment. Well, I’ll just make sure there is no ‘moment’ to be caught up in. Hermione was going to have a time keeping her afternoon with Ron as platonic as possible—especially on the most romantic day of the year.

Writing to Charlie had always been her outlet, and so it was again tonight. She went back to her letter and explained in detail how the assault happened, but assured him it was just a mistake and that he shouldn’t worry. She hated to tell him something like that in a letter, but she always told Charlie everything, and not telling him would make her feel like she was hiding it. She had no reason to hide it; she knew Charlie trusted her.

Hermione felt her nerves tingling with every word she wrote, and she couldn’t imagine why her hand was starting to shake. Maybe it was the adrenaline from fighting off Malfoy—but that had long since passed—or maybe it was just her lack of sleep catching up with her again. She pushed these thoughts aside and settled that it must just be anxiousness about Ron.

Even Malfoy noticed her jittery hands. “Just itching to get those hands back on me, aren’t you, Granger?”

“Actually…” she considered, making Malfoy lean up in his chair in anticipation, “no.”

Malfoy glared at her for tricking him, but she just smiled.

“I’m going to go deliver this to the owlery, then I might pay Ron a visit. I really need to talk to him.”

“No, you’re not,” Malfoy denied. “It’s too late, and I’m not going to let you walk the corridors alone. Just do it in the morning.”

“Since when have you ever cared about my safety?”

“Since you’re the only girl in Hogwarts who won’t have me. Something could happen to you, and I’m not letting you get away so easily.” I’ll have you eventually.

“Well, I’m going whether you like it or not,” Hermione protested and walked toward the door.

Malfoy shook his head at the stubborn Head Girl. “Wait up. You’re not going alone.”

Chapter 15: A Huge Mistake
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 15- A Huge Mistake

With Malfoy trailing at her heels like a puppy, there was no way Hermione could visit Gryffindor Tower without giving away its location. In a way, she resented Malfoy for not leaving her alone, but his presence also gave her another excuse to postpone her talk.

No. You have to do it now. Just tell him to go.

The two exited the lively owlery and checked the corridors to make sure nobody was coming. Hermione fell slightly behind him, owing partially to her shorter legs, and started slowly veering off to the right. She had already made it down a connecting hallway before Malfoy noticed she was gone.

“Granger!” he whispered loudly, as he saw her small figure sneaking away. “Get back here!”

She glared at him angrily but the shadows that bounced off the walls hid her expression. “I told you, I’m going to visit Ron. Just go, and I’ll be back later.”

“And I told you, Granger, that you’re not going anywhere alone.”

“Yes, I am,” she said defiantly and pointed her finger down the hallway. Malfoy grunted in response and took a few steps backwards, still eyeing the girl in front of him. Hermione turned around and continued her way to Gryffindor Tower, after making sure Malfoy was still moving his feet in the opposite direction.

It took her a little longer than usual to reach her destination, as she had to take special care to walk silently. The Fat Lady was quite annoyed when Hermione interrupted her sleep, but she let her in, nonetheless. She stood in the dark common room for a few moments to rehearse her plan and thought she heard some muttering outside the portrait hole. Eventually she dismissed it as the Fat Lady’s rant at being woken up and convinced herself to stop stalling and go up to the boys’ dorm.

She took the stairs slowly and waited at the doorway to make sure none of the other boys were awake. Ron had been sleeping the soundest of all; she could tell how deep his sleep was by the way he snored. Hermione didn’t possess the heart to wake him, though she really would have liked to get it over with, and made her way back down the stairs.

“Hermione?” asked a soft, groggy voice.

Hermione turned around to see Harry sitting up in his bed, fumbling on his nightstand for his glasses.

“Is that you? What are you doing here so late?” Harry asked, while stepping out of bed.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you, Harry. I thought there might be a chance Ron would still be up, because I was going to tell him. I guess it’s better this way, though; I have something I need to tell you, too.”

“All right,” he yawned. “Let’s go downstairs.”

The common room was still quite dark and eerie, so Hermione lit a few candles to place on the table in their usual corner. She tried to make some small talk first, but Harry was clearly still very sleepy and wanted to hurry it up to hear what she had to say.

“So, what did you want to tell me?” Harry asked.

“It’s really nothing. I don’t even know why I’m telling you this, anyway, because it’s not a big deal. Something happened, but we worked it out. It will probably only upset you, so I really shouldn’t be—“

“Hermione, will you just tell me?”

“Promise me you won’t do anything rash, first,” she insisted.

“Is it really that bad?”

“Well, in all appearances, yes. But, like I said, we handled it… Or I handled it. There’s nothing you need to do or anything. I just thought you should know, since you know everything else. You just can’t tell Ron, ok?”

“Erm, I can’t make that kind of promise until I know what it is. I mean, if Charlie hurt you or something, I think Ron has a right to know. He still loves you, you know.”

Harry’s last sentence was a stab right through Hermione’s chest. She could feel the cold blade enter her heart and twist back and forth as it worked itself deeper and deeper.

“I know he does, but this has nothing to do with Charlie. There’s no real reason why Ron should have to know about this at all. I just need your advice on how to handle him.”

“You know Ron as well as I do, so you know there’s never an easy way to ‘handle him’.”

“No, not Ron—Malfoy,” Hermione explained.

Harry straightened his shoulders and narrowed his eyes. “Malfoy!” he practically yelled. “What did he do to you? What happened?”

“Now don’t go jumping off the deep end about it. Just listen, ok?”

“I’m not cursing him, am I?” Though I might be soon, he thought.

“Well, the thing is… Malfoy has a bit of a… a crush on me. Only it’s not really like that, either…”

“WHAT!?” Harry cried.

“Shhh! Please, Harry, keep your voice down!”

“You just said Malfoy has a crush on you!”

“He doesn’t, though. Not really… Well, maybe, because he said I was attractive, but it’s more like he sees me as a challenge,” she explained. “I’m the only girl in school that he hasn’t—I mean, he knows he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. I think that makes it fun for him.”

“That’s right, he has no chance! And even if he did, I’d never allow it,” Harry responded like a protective brother. “What was that about ‘you’re the only girl in school’ something or other?”

Hermione hoped he would forget about that, but there was no use in keeping it from him now. After all, that was the whole point of her telling him this story, anyway.

“I was about to say, ‘I’m the only girl in school that he hasn’t snogged,’ but that would be wrong.” Hermione braced herself for Harry’s reaction.

“HE DID WHAT!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? BUT WHAT ABOUT…?” But Harry stopped himself as he saw Ron dragging down the stairs.

“What’s all the yelling about?” Ron asked, while rubbing his eyes. “Hermione, why are you here?”

Harry was too angry to answer, and Hermione was too preoccupied with Harry. The raven-haired boy ignored both of his friends and stormed off towards the portrait hole.

“Harry, where are you going?”

When he didn’t answer, Ron asked Hermione, “Where’s he going?”

She was still too much in shock to be able to say much of anything except, “STOP!”

But Harry kept walking and decided to answer Ron, “TO KILL MALFOY!”

“Wait! Why are you going to kill Malfoy?” Ron was now suddenly more alert than he had been upon entering the common room. “Does it have something to do with you? On second thought, I’m going with Harry. We’re going to kill him together.”

Ron ran to catch up with Harry as Hermione followed closely behind, begging them to stay out of it.

“It’s not what you think! Don’t be so thick! You’ll be expelled!” she shouted at them. However, she might as well have been shouting at a brick wall for all the response she got.

Harry pushed open the portrait and heard a heavy thud on the other side, along with a surprised yelp.

“What the bloody hell is he doing here?” Ron asked, pointing to the blonde Slytherin sprawled out on the floor.

Harry immediately lunged for Malfoy and caught him by the neck, but Malfoy had his wand out in a flash. Harry had left his by his bed, so he had no choice but to let go.

“Get your damned Gryffindor hands off me!” Malfoy sneered. The way he said “Gryffindor” made it sound like a most offensive insult.

“That’s what I would like to know! What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to go back?” Hermione demanded, placing her hands on her hips.

“I don’t listen to anyone, least of all you. I told you I wouldn’t leave you alone. It’s not safe.” Malfoy answered.

“It’s perfectly sa—“

“What the…? Bloody hell!” interrupted Ron. “This is why Harry is so angry! You’re dating Malfoy!”

Ron looked as if he’d like to strangle Malfoy like Harry had done, but was reminded of his lacking a wand. Instead, he settled for some vicious threats, to which Harry expressed his approval.

“I AM NOT DATING MALFOY! It’s not what it looks like, Ron…and Harry. This is a huge misunderstanding, and I want you all to stop it right now!”

“I know what it looks like, Hermione. It looks like you and Malfoy were out on a tour of the castle past curfew, then you took a detour to Gryffindor Tower, and Malfoy, here, was waiting for you to get back. Please, if I’m mistaken on any of this, correct me and tell me what the hell is going on.”

“It’s a very long story, Ron. And Harry, you don’t know the half of it, so don’t go forming any premature opinions.”

“I’ve got time. Let’s here it,” Ron insisted.

“I’m with Ron. I’ve got plenty of time to hear what this is all about,” added Harry.

“No, not tonight. I’m tired. I’ve had a very long day and I’m not prepared to deal with the two of you right now.”

“You have to tell us what’s going on. And Malfoy stays here while you do, so we can beat him to a pulp when you’re done with your story.” Harry cracked his knuckles absently, waiting for the chance to connect them with the side of Malfoy’s face.

“Not a good idea, Potter,” Malfoy threatened.

Hermione became serious. “Please go back to bed, you two, or I’ll have to deduct points.”

“You can’t do that,” Ron stated.

“Of course I can; I’m Head Girl.”

“But you wouldn’t—not from your own house,” Ron countered.

“Oh, wouldn’t I?”

Malfoy then stepped in between Hermione and her housemates, puffing himself up to his full, intimidating stature (though his height was still no match for Ron’s). “And if she won’t, then I will. I have no problems taking points from Gryffindor. I’ll start with ten points for the threats, ten points for suggesting that I’d date Granger, and ten points for plain stupidity.”

“That’s it!” Harry shouted. He jumped at Malfoy, who instinctively took a step backwards and knocked over Hermione. The three landed on the stone floor, all tangled up, and Ron immediately joined in.

Once Hermione freed her arm from where it was being pinned under Malfoy’s back, she grabbed her wand and aimed a Full Body-Bind spell right at the center on the tangle of boys. The light shot from the tip of her wand and hit Ron right between the shoulder blades; he immediately fell stiff and rigid.

“What did you do that—“ Harry began.

However, before he could finish, Hermione shouted, “Petrificus Totalus!” and hit him in the stomach with a flash of light. Immediately, Harry’s joints locked up and he joined Ron in a state of complete rigidity.

“Thanks for getting those two arses off me, Granger,” Malfoy said smugly, while wiping the dust off of his robes.

“Don’t go thanking me for any favors. I’m not through with you, yet,” she said menacingly. Then, turning to Harry and Ron, she said, “Sorry I had to do that, but this whole thing is really ridiculous. I am not going to tolerate such childish behavior, is that understood?”

“Well of course they can’t answer you, Granger.”

“SHUT UP!” she yelled. “Now Harry, Ron, I’ll take the binds off, but you must promise me to go back to bed. If I you so much as lay another finger on Malfoy, I’ll put the binds back on faster than you can blink and then carry you in myself.”

“I think you should just leave them,” Malfoy suggested.

Hermione sighed and revived her friends, both of whom uprighted themselves with haste.

The Head Boy shook his head in disappointment. “Pity that couldn’t last.”

As furiously wronged as they felt, and as much as they wanted to beat the tar out of the blond, their better judgment told them not to cross Hermione now. Through gritted teeth, Harry accepted her requests. Ron only agreed after she swore to tell him about it first thing in the morning.

“Deal,” she answered.

“Making lots of deals today, are we?” Malfoy muttered. He grinned slyly to himself.

Hermione jabbed her elbow back and connected it with Malfoy’s stomach before extending the same arm to point at the portrait hole. “In,” she instructed.

It took them a fair amount of time to crawl through the hole, but when they finally did, Malfoy expected Hermione to turn on him. Instead, she started back to her room and left him standing there. He rushed to catch up, but she was in no mood to talk.

“So will you tell me what that was all about, Harry?” Ron asked.

The two boys now sat on a couch, watching the dots labeled “Hermione Granger” and “Draco Malfoy” make their way down the corridor.

“They better go straight back,” Harry muttered. “And they better go to their own rooms.”

Ron looked over Harry’s shoulder and examined the Marauder’s Map, where the two dots remained in the Heads’ common room. “Why aren’t they going to bed? You don’t suppose she’s actually talking to him, do you?”

Snogging, more like. I can’t believe this… Harry thought. “I don’t know.”

Just as he said it, however, the two dots slowly moved in opposite directions. Harry let out the stale breath that he’d been holding for the past minute.

“Harry, why was Hermione here? And why did Malfoy follow her?”

“I think the better question is why was she out so late? You know how Hermione feels about school nights, and not to mention breaking rules.”

“You don’t think they’re actually dating, do you?” Ron asked, with a mixture of disgust and pain in his voice.

“She said they weren’t. And so did Malfoy. I’m sure they’re not, but I think maybe something did happen…” Harry said carefully. He had promised Hermione that he wouldn’t tell Ron what she told him. Or had he? He told her he couldn’t make that promise until he knew what it was, and he wouldn’t be able to keep a promise like that, anyway, if it involved her being hurt somehow.

Harry felt so bad for Ron that he just couldn’t take the torment written all over his face. So he apologized in advance to Hermione for what he was about to do. “I think she and Malfoy had a little, err…well, they snogged…”

Ron’s face contorted in rage and yelled, “THEY WHAT!?”

“Now listen, Ron, now that I think about it, the whole thing might have been just a misunderstanding,” Harry recovered quickly, trying to remember what exactly Hermione had told him. “I guess I never gave her a chance to finish her story, since I took it upon myself to go after Malfoy…”

“You’re just saying that, Harry. It’s true, isn’t it? Hermione’s with Malfoy…” Ron’s eyes glimmered with sadness, though his fists were still shaking with fury.

“No…No she’s not.” Harry scooted himself closer to his friend and tapped him lightly on the back to show his support. “They both said they’re not together. I think it’s something else. There was something she said… Merlin, if I had only paid attention.”

Harry now scolded himself for doing exactly what Hermione had warned him not to do by reacting before he heard the whole thing. Learning to control his emotions was something Harry definitely needed to work on.

“How did this happen Harry?” Ron asked.

“I don’t really know. I told you, I didn’t give her a chance to explain.”

Ron shook his head and a single tear slid in his nose. “No, I mean how did she get away from me?”

Harry’s heart stopped. How was he going to get out of this one? She got away from you a long time ago, mate, he thought.

“Ron, we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. Let’s wait until tomorrow so Hermione can explain everything.”

Again, Ron shook his head. “I’m not going to talk to her. She can talk to Malfoy. That’s what she wants, isn’t it?” he asked angrily.

No, she wants Charlie, you daft git! Wait, she does want Charlie, doesn’t she? Merlin, I’ve made a terrible mistake… Harry had a sudden realization about his female friend. He wished there were a class about girls he could take, because understanding them was harder than Potions.

“No, it’s not. She wants… She wants us to be her friends and listen to her. She wants us to believe her when she says there’s nothing going on.”

“But there is something going on. You just said she snogged Malfoy!”

“I know, but it can’t be what we think. Let’s just stop thinking about it and let her set us straight tomorrow,” Harry pleaded.

“Whatever you say, mate, but I still reserve the right to hex Malfoy.”

Chapter 16: Roses
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

That night, sleep came to Hermione only for short, intermittent periods. Worry and dread occupied her thoughts, but anger and frustration had been the most prominent feelings of all. Raw emotions boiled under the surface of her skin, even as she slept, and her jaw clenched tightly in response.

Boys were the most troublesome creatures ever to grace the planet, Hermione decided, and it was no wonder why she’d sworn off boys her own age—they were much too immature to handle serious situations in an adult-like manner. After that night’s incident, Hermione was more thankful for Charlie than she ever had been; he, at least, would never have jumped to conclusions like Harry and Ron did. She now regretted even bringing up the subject with Harry, but at the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

Then there was Malfoy. While she hated to blame the snooty Slytherin for everything, the fact of the matter was that it really was all his fault. Granted, Malfoy had no control over his enemies’ reactions, but he was the one who came on to her in the first place. He started the whole entire mess, whether or not he’d actually meant to cause so much trouble. Although, the more the thought about it, Hermione didn’t really mind placing all the blame on her Head counterpart, as he was probably basking in the enjoyment of wreaking so much havoc among the students he loved to torment most.

She ended up sleeping—or trying to sleep—on the couch in the common room. The third time she woke up, her watch read four-twenty a.m. Rather than try to go back to sleep, she lay on her back and planned her next actions (what to do about Ron and Harry) and day dreamed about Charlie. It was four-twenty a.m., and Hermione realized it was Valentine’s Day.

I should be happy>, she thought. I shouldn’t have to defend myself against Harry and Ron’s false accusations. I shouldn’t have to fend off a randy Head Boy who only wants another notch scratched on his broom. I shouldn’t have to be worried about what my news will do to Ron and how much I’m going to hurt him. I should be with Charlie. It’s Valentine’s Day, and I should be with the man I love. Yes, I should be happy—I deserve to be happy—but I’m not.

“How’d the couch treat you, Granger?” came a voice from the stairwell. “My bed would have been a lot more comfortable, but since you refused my offer…”

Hermione slammed her extra pillow over her face, hoping that Malfoy would get the hint and leave her alone.

“Now I know I kiss better than that pillow does.”

Frustrated and annoyed, the sleepy Head Girl launched her pillow at the offending boy. She slung her arm over her eyes to block the light.

“Don’t talk to me,” Hermione ordered.

Malfoy smirked. “I just came to give you a good-morning kiss and tell you to have a happy Valentine’s Day,” he said innocently.

“And don’t touch me.”

Hermione huffed and snatched her pillow back from Malfoy. Why he’d gotten up at the crack of dawn was beyond her. Probably just to annoy me, she mused.

The sun was beginning to rise, and Hermione felt like she hadn’t slept a wink all night long. She wanted nothing more than to stay in her room and sleep, but the dreaded day had approached far more quickly than she would have liked. Now was not the time to relax; she had to prepare herself for whatever Ron had cooked up and find a way to break her news.

“See you in class, sweetie!” was the last thing Hermione heard before the door to the Common Room closed behind her.

What an arse, she thought.

When she got to the Great Hall, Ron and Harry were already waiting for her.

Merlin, will I ever get a break?

Their eyes followed her all the way from the door to her seat, begging all of the thousands of questions they wanted answered. If that wasn’t enough to make her uncomfortable, the decorations in the room surely did. Red and pink streamers lined the doorway, pictures of hearts and doves adorned the walls, and a charmed cupid flew about pretending to strike his arrow into unsuspecting victims.

What a horrible day for this to happen, she thought.

“Good morning, boys,” Hermione greeted, hoping that her formalities would allow her to stall at least until breakfast was over.

“So, are you going to tell us what happened?” Ron asked, getting right to the point.

“Hello to you, too, Ron,” Hermione said sarcastically.

Ron was bewildered, wondering why she had said hi twice, especially when he had just asked her a question.

“Good morning, Hermione,” Harry answered back. He then nudged Ron in the side and nodded his head towards the table.

“Oh, sorry. Good morning, Hermione. Better?”

Hermione sighed. Harry’s manners weren’t too detestable, but Ron still needed a considerable amount of work.

“And how is everything, this morning?” inquired Hermione, determined to start the day off right.

But Ron was antsy and not at all in the mood to play games. “Err, all right, but I still want to know what that whole thing last night was about.”

“That’s good,” she replied. “And about last night, I’d rather talk when he had some privacy. The Great Hall is not a good place.”

Yeah, Malfoy could over-hear you talking about him,” Ron muttered to Harry.

“What was that, Ron?” she asked.

Before Ron had time to lie, a large brown owl swept down to the Gryffindor table and dropped a bundle of red roses in front of Hermione. Her jaw dropped as she stared at the arrangement of the most gorgeous flowers she’d ever seen.

“Malfoy got you a Valentine’s Day present!?” Ron bellowed. “What the bloody hell is he trying to pull?” The rage behind Ron’s eyes blazed, and he stood up to seek his revenge.

“Sit down, Ron!” Harry hissed, and pulled on Ron’s shoulder.

“What does the note say, ‘Mione?”

“No note,” she answered. That’s weird. Maybe it was Malfoy, since there’s no note. No, it couldn’t be from him. They have to be Charlie’s.

“It was him. I’ll kill the little bastard…”

Before Ron was out of his seat again, two smaller owls made additional deliveries to Hermione: both were bundles of red roses identical to the first.

“He just won’t quit, will he? Listen, Hermione, I don’t care how you feel about Malfoy, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to let you date him!” insisted Ron.

“Like it’s up to you?” shot Hermione.

“Well, yeah! He’s evil, ‘Mione! Harry and I won’t let you!”

Ron looked to Harry to back him up, but the terrified look on Harry’s face said he wanted no part in Ron’s attempt at being protective and possessive of their female friend.

“And he’s sending you bloody roses! How fake is that?”

Tears welled up in Hermione’s eyes. After such a rough night, the last thing she needed was to be berated by one of her best friends. She wouldn’t even get to enjoy her flowers now that Ron had ruined the incredibly romantic moment.

“Think what you want, Ron! If you won’t let me explain myself on my terms, then you can just go on believing whatever the hell you want! I’m leaving!”

“You can’t go!” Ron shouted to her.

The small girl stormed out of the Great Hall with three bundles of roses crushed in her grip. The brown paper that bound them together crunched against her as she ran all the way to her room.

Ron was mere steps behind her and, owing to his longer legs, caught up with her halfway there. Still, no matter how much he argued and begged her talk to him, she wouldn’t listen. Her attempt to close the common room door on him was none too successful, as her small stature was no match for his towering strength.

“I’ll give you a detention for being in here, Ron!” she shouted. “You don’t have my permission!”

“I don’t need permission! I’ve got a damn good reason to be in here, whether you like it or not!”

“Trouble in paradise?” Malfoy asked as he entered the common room.

“Sod off, Malfoy!”

“Calm yourself, Weasel. What’s the commotion about?”

“It’s about you and your damn roses!” Ron screamed.

“What’s he—“ Malfoy started to ask, but then noticed Hermione had retreated to her room, which was made apparent when the door slammed with an eardrum-shattering bang.

“Hermione!” Ron called. He raced up to her room, completely forgetting about the no-good Slytherin downstairs.

“Go away!” Hermione yelled.

“Let me in. I need to talk to you.”

“You’ve done enough, Ron.”


“That won’t work!” he heard her say.

With that, Ron kicked the door as hard as he could and nearly broke his foot in the process.

“RON! What on earth are you doing?”

“Breaking down your door! What does it sound like?”

As furious as Hermione was, she did not want a broken door (especially since that was the only barrier between her and Malfoy every night). She reluctantly crossed the room and opened the door.

“What is it?” she demanded, glaring at him.

“Tell me what’s going on! Tell me why Malfoy sent you roses!”

“If you would have used your head, instead of being so thick all the time, you would have realized how it didn’t make sense for Malfoy to send roses by owl.”

“Why would Malfoy send roses by owl?” Ron asked.

“He didn’t, Ron! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! They’re not from Malfoy. Read the card!” she said angrily, while thrusting a small piece of parchment into his hands.

Yeah, that’ll show him. Now he’ll stop pestering me about Malfoy, thank Merlin.

“Where did this come from?”

“It was in the last bundle. Oh yeah, I couldn’t stay in the Great Hall long enough to read it, because somebody had to go harass me over it!”

Ron snorted at her and tore open the outer envelope. Hermione folded her arms and watched him angrily as he read.

She watched his eyes travel down the page, and slowly his face unscrewed from the rage and jealously he’d felt. As this began to happen, Hermione soon realized it was not a good thing. She saw his eyes widen in disbelief, and when he finally looked up at her, all he could do was stare. No words came from his mouth. His shoulder and arm muscles lost all control and fell limply at his sides; the note slipped from his hands and floated gracefully to the floor. Ron’s face was now completely white—a stark contrast to his reddening eyes.

Oh, god, Hermione thought. What have I done?

But she found herself as speechless as Ron. Everything she tried to say was caught in her throat. She could only stare back at him.

Slowly, Ron turned on his heel and made his way carefully towards the door. His strides were so calculated it seemed as if he had to literally instruct his legs to move. He looked so weak that Hermione wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just collapsed right on her bedroom floor.

All her argument rehearsals with her mirror could not have prepared her for Ron’s reaction. She’d not expected this at all. Of course, she didn’t expect to have to tell him this way, either, but she at least expected a fight. But it wouldn’t be so. Whether Ron didn’t want to talk to her, or simply wasn’t able to, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she’d waited entirely too long, and that her anger at Ron’s temper caused her to hurt him in the most excruciating way imaginable. She didn’t work into it gradually, as she had planned, but rather threw it in his face in the worst possible way. Reality had smacked Ron with a hard slap on the face, and she knew it stung him. It stung him so hard that Hermione could feel it, too.

Ron was halfway down the stairs, going as fast as his weak knees would carry him, when Hermione called out, desperately, “Ron! Ron, don’t go…”

She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down at him. He looked up but didn’t meet her eyes, and merely waved his hand in response. He mumbled to himself something that sounded like “Gotta go,” and completely ignored all of Malfoy’s comments as he crossed the common room.

The tightening in Hermione’s chest was now unbearable. She felt like the wind had just been knocked out of her by a runaway hippogriff and would have cried if she’d had enough oxygen to do so. She barely made it inside her doorway before falling in a heap on the floor.

Hermione tried not to think about anything, as breathing was proving to be a difficult task in itself, yet she couldn’t help the negative thoughts that overwhelmed her mind. Everything was a complete disaster, and there was no way she could fix it. She couldn’t take any of it back now, and she had no idea how to make things right with her friend.

I waited too long, she scolded herself. I got angry and frustrated. I can’t get like that with Ron. I can’t blame him for his untamed emotions, because when I do, I hurt him beyond repair.

I should have just told him in the beginning. Concealing the truth is the same thing as lying. Ron has always been straightforward with me (mostly), and I just couldn’t have the decency to pay him the same courtesy. I led him on, and now I’ve shredded his heart.

How will things ever be the same again? There’s just no way. I’ll never be able to live happily with Charlie knowing that I was the source of Ron’s broken heart. Fred and George warned me, and I failed them. I failed Ron, and I failed Charlie.

A reserved tap sounded on Hermione’s door. She didn’t answer or even respond with a gesture. Malfoy walked through her open door and kneeled beside the curled up girl. As much of a prat as Malfoy could be, crying girls always seemed to break down his harsh barrier. Well, she didn’t really seem to be crying, but he reasoned it was her stubbornness that willed her not to cry. He knew she wanted to, and that was enough.

“Err, Granger, I don’t know what that was all about, but… You seem pretty upset,” he said. Well, duh, she’s upset. Look at her, he kicked himself. Reasoning that he was probably the last person she wanted to talk to right now, Malfoy stood up. Before he exited, he noticed the small piece of parchment lying on the floor.

“I think this is yours,” he said, moving it to her with his foot. Then he left.

Hermione kept her face buried in her arms until the last of Malfoy’s footsteps died off. As weak as she felt, she couldn’t stop herself from reading Charlie’s letter. Should have done this before I bombarded Ron with it, she thought bitterly.

She read:

Dear Hermione,

Surprise! Hope the roses arrived all right. You might not have counted them yet, but there are forty-three: one for every day I’ve missed you. I know a bouquet of roses hardly makes up for me not being there with you, but maybe it will come close.

How did your talk with Ron go? Did he break any school property when he found out? If so, I’ll pay for it myself—wouldn’t want Mum to find out he did something like that, or she’d let him have it. That’s the last thing he needs right now.

Words can’t describe how much I miss you, love. Thankfully, Hogsmeade Flowers and More let me mail order the roses for you to help with that. Amazing people, they are. Oh yes, and I’ve been meaning to ask you something: how do you feel about diamonds?

Hope your Valentine’s Day is more bearable than mine. I love you.

Yours always,


Now Hermione cried. No wonder Ron had reacted the way he did. He found out about Charlie and her lying to him all in the same letter. Moreover, Charlie had practically proposed when he asked her about the diamonds.

Thinking about his question made her stomach flutter and she cried even harder. How was she supposed to be happy—no, how was she not going to feel guilty about being happy about Charlie, when she’d just caused Ron so much anguish? This was all just too much to handle.

And the roses… Oh, the roses had been such a sweet gesture on Charlie’s part. She only imagined how much forty-three roses cost him, plus the cost of having them delivered to Hogwarts. He must have planned that weeks in advance.

Hermione went to her bathroom and filled two large jars with water. She set them on her windowsill, divided the roses nearly equally, and placed them inside. They really are gorgeous, she thought. Unfortunately, Hermione couldn’t keep her mind on the joy she felt from receiving them, as every time she looked at the roses, she was reminded of how they had inadvertently hurt Ron.

Still crying, Hermione crawled into her bed and laid her head against the cool sheets. She held Charlie’s letter in her hand and fished out his others that she stowed underneath her pillow. Holding them to her chest, she breathed deeply and willed herself to sleep.

Malfoy went to check on her one last time before going to class. He saw her lying down, with her back towards him, and decided not to disturb her. He nodded sympathetically and closed the door as quietly as he could.

Granger’s going to miss her classes today, and it’s all my fault.

It wasn’t like Malfoy to feel sympathy or remorse for anything or anyone, but the state in which he saw Hermione that morning was wretched enough to tug even at Malfoy’s taut heartstrings.

I bloody hate Valentine’s Day. This lovey-dovey shit is highly overrated, and apparently detrimental to friendships, too.

Chapter 17: Dealing
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 17

“Ron?” Harry asked, as his friend fell limply into his seat in Transfiguration. “Ron, what happened?”

Ron didn’t answer or even use enough energy to turn his head and look at Harry. He looked positively drained of all emotion as he sat perfectly still, staring straight ahead. Harry knew at once what had happened when Ron followed Hermione; nothing else could have devastated Ron to the point where he was beyond words.

Professor McGonagall closed the classroom door behind them and was clearly searching the room for one Hermione Granger. When the bushy-haired Head Girl failed to arrive, the professor studied Ron’s unusual behavior and motioned to Harry. He answered her silently by shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.

Against his better judgment, Harry turned to Ron and whispered, “Hey, where’s Hermione?”

Ron flinched at the name, but still said nothing. Harry reasoned that however his friends’ last little row had ended, it must have been pretty horrible to leave Ron speechless and make Hermione skive off class.

Class was excruciating for the both of them; on top of the tension so thick it could have been cut with a butter knife, McGonagall’s meaningful glances in the boys’ direction helped nothing. It seemed class would never end and, through the entire hour, that’s all that Harry wished. When it finally did, Harry had to go deal with Ron properly. Most of the class had cleared out, but Ron was firmly planted in his seat. Professor McGonagall interrupted Harry’s attempt to coax Ron into standing up, so she could have a word with him in private.

Skiving class was a matter never taken lightly by the Transfiguration professor, but when it came to her brightest student, she couldn’t help but be worried instead of angry. “Mr. Potter, do you know anything about Ms. Granger’s whereabouts this morning?”

“Err…” he answered. “Not really, but I have a pretty good hunch.”

“Does her absence have anything to do with Mr. Weasley?” McGonagall nodded towards the motionless redhead behind Harry.

“Yeah. Two of them, actually.”

Harry couldn’t get Ron to talk at all on their way back to the common room. Every question Harry asked was answered with a nod or shaking of Ron’s head, and his small talk comments received no response at all. Dealing with Ron would be harder than Harry thought.

They were greeted by Ginny when they entered, but again, Ron had nothing to offer; he made a beeline for a poofy chair in the corner and folded himself into it. Ginny rolled her eyes at him and began to stomp her way over to the corner when Harry grasped her arm and stopped her.

“He’s not going to talk, Gin. I’ve tried.”

“Well, maybe you just didn’t try hard enough. Ron’s going to put up a fight, so you’ve got to fight him harder.”

“I don’t think that would be the best way to deal with him right now. I mean, look at him,” Harry said, shifting his eyes to land sympathetically on his friend. “No, I don’t think he needs to be scolded right now. Why don’t you go talk to Hermione and leave Ron to me.”

“Where is Hermione?” Ginny asked.

“Her room, I guess. She didn’t show up for Transfiguration this morning.”

Ginny’s eyes widened. “She didn’t skive off class!”

“Yeah, she most definitely did.”

“Oh my god. Whatever happened must have been really bad, then. I’d expect this kind of behavior from Ron, but for Hermione to just not go to class…”

“I know. We need to find out what happened. I think I have a pretty good idea, but I want to hear it. I’m sure you’ll have better luck with Hermione than I will with Ron, so I hope she feels up to talking.”

Ginny nodded her head and answered, “Me too,” before making her way to the portrait hole.

“Hey, Gin, hold on a second,” Harry called to her.

She stopped at waited for him. Harry took a quick look back to see that Ron wasn’t watching and bent down to kiss Ginny on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

She smiled at him, thinking, Yeah, if only…

Just as she was entering the Heads’ common room, Ginny was startled when she nearly ran into Malfoy, who was on his way out. But instead of the “Watch where you’re going,” that she expected from him, she got, “She’s in her room.” Nothing else was said to be particularly welcoming or kind-hearted, but at least the coldness had melted from his voice.

Hermione was beyond tears. Her pillow was soaking wet and it seemed as if her tear ducts had all but dried up. It had been at least a half hour since she stopped crying, but her eyes were now so swollen that she had to concentrate just to fully see out of them. She heard a knock on her door and was reluctant to invite Malfoy in, though he’d proven to be very helpful this morning.

“Who is it?” she asked, just to be cautious.

The door handle turned and Ginny poked her head in. “It’s me.”

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief and cried, “Oh, Ginny.” The tears that had ceased seemed about ready to flow again, as seeing the redhead only reminded her of the one she’d hurt.

Ginny crossed the room and sat on the edge of Hermione’s bed where she lay. “Are you all right?” she asked. Of course Ginny knew everything wasn’t all right, but she had to start somewhere.

“No. It’s Ron…” Hermione sniffed. “He knows.”

“Ohhhh,” said Ginny. “You had to tell him on Valentine’s Day?”

“I didn’t really have much choice. It’s a long story, but I lost my temper with him this morning and did the only thing I knew how to prove something to him. Unfortunately I wasn’t really thinking when I did it.”

Ginny looked round the room and mumbled, “Right. Those are nice roses, Hermione. Charlie send them?”

Hermione gave a small smile. “Yeah. Forty-three. Entirely too many.”

“What do you mean, too many? They’re all so gorgeous!”

“I know they are.” Hermione turned her pillow over to the dry side and snuggled back into her bed while Ginny waited for her to continue. “Forty-three roses for the forty-three days he’s missed me. That’s what his note said. That’s how many days we’ve been together, and that’s how many days I kept it from Ron. Entirely too many days.”

Another “Ohhh” escaped Ginny’s lips as she realized that the roses not only symbolized Charlie’s love for Hermione, but also embodied Hermione’s inability to tell Ron about it sooner. No wonder this is so hard for her, thought Ginny.

“So, then, you just told Ron who the roses were from?” Ginny asked.

“Something like that, only not quite as nicely. That wasn’t how I wanted to talk to him at all…” Hermione said, starting to get choked up. “I needed to ease him into it, and instead I threw it in h-h-his f-face,” she sobbed.

Ginny lightly stroked Hermione’s hair and shushed her soothingly.

“Everything’s going to be ok, you’ll see. Don’t you worry about Ron. He’ll be all right. At least he knows now.”

“But w-what do I d-do now? H-how can we ever b-be friends?” Hermione looked through her water-filled eyes to the blurry outline of her friend, begging her to solve all her problems. “What should I d-do?”

“Talk to him properly, like you wanted to in the first place. You can do it tomorrow at Hogsmeade. Harry and I were supposed to have our Valentine’s Day date tomorrow, but if you like, we can stay with you two for support.”

Hermione shook her head. “I’m not going to Hogsmeade.”

“Well, Ron will be there,” unless he keeps acting like he hates the world, “and you need to talk to him as soon as possible. The longer you let this wait, the worse it will get. I shouldn’t even have to tell you that, as you’ve seen what happened the first time.”

“Ok, maybe,” she half-heartedly agreed. “There’s just too much to explain, and I don’t know if I can do it.”

The bright sun was starting to beat down even through Hermione’s drapes, reminding them that the time was slipping away.

“You can, but I’ve got to get back to class. Is there anything you need before I go?” Ginny asked. Hermione just shook her head. “Ok, I’ll bring you some lunch later.”

Hermione didn’t answer, as she was on her way to falling asleep, but Ginny didn’t mind. Ginny crossed the common room and, once again, met Malfoy at the door.

“Is she all right?” he asked, trying not to sound too concerned and give himself away.

“No, she’s not, but I don’t see why you care, anyway,” Ginny answered a little roughly. She wasn’t used to this semi-friendly Malfoy and was rightly cautious around him.

Her attitude didn’t help Malfoy’s mood any, either. For a moment, he’d considered telling Ginny the truth, but not if she was going to speak to him like that. “How about because I’m Head Boy and, if the Head Girl is too miserable to do anything, then my job gets harder? Ever think of that?” he shot back. Malfoy completely lost whatever urge he had to treat this matter delicately.

“Well, you’re just going to have to deal with it! And how did you know she was miserable? If you’ve done something to her… She’s got enough on her mind right now, so-“

“Calm down, Weasel. I didn’t do anything,” today… he added to himself. “It was all your stupid brother. They came tearing in here this morning about to rip each other’s heads off. Then he left without a word and she started crying and having a break down in her room.”

Ginny eyed him skeptically, but she had no proof to refute what Malfoy was saying. For everything she knew, it could have happened, and most probably did. “Fine. But just stay away from her, ok? She doesn’t want to talk to you.”

“How do you know? Did she say she didn’t want to talk to me?”

“Hermione doesn’t have to say anything. I know she hates you, and you hate her, so just stay away from her before you make her feel worse.”

For the first time in his life, the words of a Weasley had actually hurt him. Hate was such a strong word. Surely Hermione didn’t hate him, did she? He didn’t hate her. He might get irritated at her bossiness or annoyed at her need for perfection, but even her bloodline wasn’t enough to make him hate Hermione. Maybe that was the attitude he’d conveyed for so long, and people were so used to his overt animosity towards the Head Girl that they interpreted it as hate. Well, maybe she hates me now, after what I did. They were arguing about me this morning. Then he realized. Shit…

In the time Malfoy stood there, thinking, Ginny had already turned and left without saying goodbye or waiting for one, either.

As Harry had suspected, Ron didn’t talk at all in the time Ginny was gone. His vow of silence made it extremely difficult for Harry to make even the smallest of communications, let alone to be able to understand exactly what had happened. When Ginny returned, Harry was all too glad to take a break from coaxing Ron and talk to her.

“How is she?”


Harry’s shoulders drooped. Of course he knew she was pretty bad off, but he hated hearing it. He almost wished Ginny had just lied to him and said she was fine.

“Harry…” Ginny consoled as she wrapped her arms around his waist in a hug

“I need to talk to her,” he said.

“Not now, love. She’s sleeping. Besides, I don’t think she could handle much more talking right now.”

“But at least she’s talking. That one, over there, won’t say a word.” Harry motioned to the corner where Ron’s nearly lifeless body lounged in a chair.

“He will when Hermione talks to him tomorrow.”

“At Hogsmeade?”

“Yeah, if everything goes right.”

Chapter 18: Look Who's Talking
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 18

Ron’s stomach growled, but he ignored it. Somehow hunger seemed the least of his concerns right now. Harry urged him to get out of the chair that he’d been sitting in for the past five hours, but it was no use; Ron absolutely refused to move, refused to eat, and refused to talk.

The rest of the Gryffindor crowd had cleared off for dinner, but Harry remained behind to stay with Ron. After Transfiguration, Ron had missed the rest of the day’s classes, so Harry felt he needed to at least keep Ron company, since he wasn’t able to earlier.

“Listen, Ron, I know you’re upset and all, but you’ve got to eat something. It’ll make you feel better,” Harry pleaded.

The now quiet common room stayed quiet as Ron just stared back at his friend.

“It’s going to be all right, you know. He’ll take care of her…”

“What?” Ron asked.

Harry was so shocked to hear Ron’s voice that he nearly fell out of his chair and responded another “What?” on top of Ron’s. He couldn’t believe Ron was talking, but Ron’s long pause made him fear that he might have ruined it.

“What do you mean, ‘He’ll take care of her’? Who is the ‘he’ you’re talking about?” Ron finally answered.

“Erm, you know…Charlie.”

Ron scrunched his face up, crossed his arms in front of his chest, and put on the most menacing glower he could muster. It seemed he was too angry for words yet, but his bright red face spoke wonders.

“So you knew, then? You knew all this time, and you never told me.” Ron’s voice was surprisingly calm. This was not the frantic yelling of Ron’s usual angry temper, but instead the sound was deep and venomous: the voice of a man who had been hurt and betrayed.

Harry’s words caught in his throat. He had so much to explain, yet his brain had just completely short-circuited upon hearing Ron’s accusation. How would he ever get out of this one? Now the tables had turned; Ron was no longer the one without words.

“She told you, and she didn’t tell me. Why?” Ron asked, in the same deadly drawl.

Harry shook his head and moved his lips, but the silence was loudest of all.

“No. The better question is why you didn’t tell me. So much for friendship there, mate.” As Ron said this, he moved from his stationary position and felt his stiff muscles scream as he stood.

Finally able to react, Harry grabbed for Ron’s robes and held on tight to keep him from walking away. Ron turned slowly and said, “I believe your hands are on my robes. Now let go.”

“I can’t do that, Ron,” Harry answered. “I have to talk to you about this.”

“I don’t want to talk.”

“Then just listen.”

Ron frowned and eyed the hand that still clenched the arm of his robes.

“I’ll let go if you sit down and listen.”

“You try all day to get me to move, and now you want me to sit back down? That’s rich, Harry.”

Harry sighed inwardly. Ron was going to make this as difficult as possible just to get back at him for his betrayal. In a way, Harry knew he deserved it for keeping such a secret from his best friend, but on the other hand, there was really nothing else he could have done. Hermione was his friend, too, and he had to respect her wishes as well. It’s never easy to choose between friends.

“Ok, we’ll stand,” Harry countered.

Ron looked annoyed, but Harry didn’t care. He finally got Ron to talk and wasn’t about to let anything mess it up.

“Ok, Golden Boy,” Ron agreed sarcastically. “Tell me why you lied. You have three minutes.”

“Merlin, Ron, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t tell you. It’s not that I didn’t want to, because I really did, but Hermione wanted to tell you herself,” Harry started. The words flew out rapidly at first, almost as if Harry thought Ron would really hold him to his three-minute time limit.

“So what? I’m your best friend, not Hermione,” Ron pointed out. “Well, I was your best friend,” he added.

“You still are, Ron. But you being my best friend doesn’t mean I could betray Hermione, either. I had to protect her wishes, and besides, Ginny would have skinned me alive if she found out I told you.”

“So my baby sister knows, too? Perfect. It’s my life, and I’m the last one to know everything about it.”

Harry shook his head fervently. “That’s not how it is. Well, maybe, but that’s not how it was intended. Hermione tried to tell you so many times. She just couldn’t hurt you.”

“She did a good job of that.”

“This isn’t her fault, Ron.”

“Yeah, then whose fault is it? It sure as hell isn’t mine! If it’s not Hermione’s fault, and it’s not my fault, then it must be your fault!”

“It’s no one’s fault. Things just happen.”

“Oh, really? Well, tell me what you know, and we’ll determine whose fault it is. You must know everything that’s gone on while you three left me so blissfully ignorant, so tell me what happened.”

“I can’t do that. Hermione wanted…wants…to tell you.”

“Well, she already got that part down, and she did it with a bloody note from Charlie. That’s how she told me: a fucking mushy Valentine’s card from my own damn brother!” The normal raging anger of Ron’s voice returned as he lost control and began to shout and swear.

Harry tried to deal with him as calmly as he could. “You didn’t leave her much choice, though, did you? You made her angry and she was defending herself against your Malfoy rant.”

“Yeah, a rant that you started! See, it is your fault! You were the one who told me Malfoy snogged her.”

“But I also said that we could be wrong about the whole thing and that we should wait for her explanation. Dammit, Ron! Why did you have to go chasing after her this morning?”

Ron clenched his fists as if he’d like nothing more than to punch Harry in the jaw, but turned and started to storm off towards the boys’ dorm. A few paces later, he stopped. “I suppose it was real easy for you to watch her get those roses this morning, wasn’t it? You weren’t the one watching the girl you love get gifts from some other guy!”

“It could have been you, you know!”

“What!?” Ron shot back.

“It could have been you giving her the roses if you’d have just told her you loved her when you had the chance.”

Ron walked back to where Harry was standing. “Impossible. We agreed to just be friends. It never could have been me.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. You two never agreed to anything. I think you were just scared of letting anything real happen.”

“So what?”

“So? Your little ‘decision’ to keep love out of it is what drove her to Charlie in the first place. Surely you noticed how miserable she was in the holidays? I hate to say this, but that was all because of you and her love for you. You didn’t give it to her, and Charlie did.”

“So then Charlie moved in on my girl, and she took him because she couldn’t have me.”

“Hermione was never your girl, Ron. You laid no claim to her, which you made quite apparent. And maybe, at first, she took Charlie because she couldn’t have you, but it grew into love. She loves him, Ron, and you can’t get her back.”

Ron breathed heavily, taking in everything Harry said one word at a time. You laid no claim to her… And you can’t get her back… He sat, once again, in the squashy chair he’d become to attached to that day and stared silently up at his best friend.

“Hermione wants to talk to you. It will do you good to hear it all from her. Will you be ready to face her tomorrow?”

Though the nod of Ron’s head said ‘yes’, his watery eyes definitely said ‘no.’

Hermione didn’t make it to dinner, either. With Ginny’s promise to bring her back something to eat, she felt it would be best for all if she just stayed put in her room. When the knock came a little early, she was a bit surprised, but not disappointed.

“Come in, Gin,” she answered.

The door inched open and a blonde head poked inside. “No, it’s me. Sorry,” Malfoy said, and slowly entered the room.

“Where’s Ginny?” Hermione asked.

“At dinner, I guess. Dumbledore asked me to bring this to you.” He stretched his hand out to give her a letter.

Hermione didn’t hide her confusion. “What’s this?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t read it.”


“Yeah,” Malfoy replied, walking towards the door.

While tearing the seal, Hermione beckoned him to stay. “Can you wait a second? I mean, just in case I need to write him back.”

Malfoy waited. He heard her voice shaking. This girl was not used to getting in trouble, and she’d just received and unexpected letter from the headmaster. He could only imagine how nervous she was. But then, he didn’t have to imagine it after he saw Hermione’s face pale.

“He wants to see me tomorrow…” she choked, “in his office. Oh my, I’m going to be expelled! It’s for skiving class today. I just know it.” Hermione was so frantic that she jumped out of bed and pulled her trunk out from underneath it. Malfoy watched her with a puzzled expression as she went to her closet, tore her clothes off their hangers, and tossed them unceremoniously into the trunk.

“You’re not going to be expelled,” Draco assured, grabbing a handful of her clothes and returning them to her closet. “Dumbledore couldn’t part with the female third of the Golden Trio, especially when she’s the Head Girl.”

“How do you know?” she asked, now tossing all her books in her trunk.

In between her trips from the trunk back to her desk, Malfoy made trips of his own to counter her sloppy packing job. He grabbed a handful of her heavy texts and stacked them back on her desk. “I just know, so stop getting all hysterical about it.”

“What are you doing?” Hermione asked, when she noticed her trunk was not nearly as full as it should be.

“Saving you some work. You’d be pretty disappointed if you got all your stuff packed only to find out tomorrow morning that you don’t have to leave. At least now you’ll only have to unpack half of your bedroom.”

Hermione glared at him. How could Malfoy be so insufferable and so helpful at the same time? The paradox that was Draco Malfoy became more confusing by the day. “You seem very sure of yourself, though that’s hardly a new attitude for you.”

“I know I’m right, Granger. You just have to trust me, for once.”

Hermione snorted. “Well tell me, then, what exactly did Dumbledore say to you?”

“Just asked if I’d deliver the message to the Head Girl. That was it.”

“What was his face like? Did he look angry?”

“When has Dumbledore ever looked angry? That senile old man was smiling like a fool. It wasn’t the face of someone who was about to expel his cleverest, most obsessed-with-school student.”

Even under Malfoy’s insult of Dumbledore, Hermione couldn’t help to be relieved to hear this. Maybe she wouldn’t be expelled after all.

“Ok, fine,” she said, starting to help Malfoy unpack her trunk. When she realized she had just proven him right, she was frustrated with herself and asked him to leave. Just before he closed the door, she called out, “Thank you!”

What a day, Hermione thought. I do like excitement, but this is just a bit much. Hermione looked over at her roses that still sat on the windowsill. I wish you were here.

But her thoughts were interrupted by another knock, this time, by a visitor she’d been expecting.

“Hey, Gin,” she greeted.

“What are you doing?” Ginny asked, noticing Hermione’s open trunk. She set a plate of food down on Hermione’s desk.

“Unpacking,” Hermione answered, and then, seeing Ginny’s bewildered expression, added, “It’s a long story.”

Ginny plopped down in a chair and said, “I’ve got time.”

“You’re starting to sound like Ron and Harry.”


“Never mind. That’s another long story, and I’m not up for a whole lot of talking right now.”

“Well, I hope you’re up for a lot of talking tomorrow. I made a stop by the common room before coming up here, and Harry said he actually got Ron to say something. Of course, by the time I got there, Ron was back to being a comatose lump.”

“So he’d only talk to Harry, then?”

“Yeah, but Harry says Ron agreed to talk to you tomorrow. Or at least listen while you talk.”

“Great. There’s just one problem: I have a meeting with Dumbledore tomorrow.”

“About what?” Ginny asked, suddenly afraid. “You’re not in trouble are you?”

“That’s what I thought, but Malfoy seems to disagree.”

“He would disagree. He’s just a very disagreeable kind of person.”

“Now, Ginny…” Hermione scolded.

Ginny looked offended. “Why would you stick up for him after he’s been so horrible?”

Horrible, maybe, but not so horrible, Hermione thought. “He’s the Head Boy, and his duties require a certain amount of honesty and responsibility.”

“Not everyone is as noble as you are, Hermione, and certainly not everyone takes school as seriously as you do.”

“I know, but I really have no reason not to trust him.”

“Whatever you say. So when does this meeting take place?”

“Eleven o’clock.”

“Oh. How long do you think it will take?”

All of Ginny’s questions were starting to get tedious. “I really don’t know,” she answered, taking a bite out of a buttered roll. “I don’t know what he wants to see me about, so there’s no telling how long it will last. Why do you ask?”

“Ron’s going to meet you at the Three Broomsticks at noon. He wants to talk to you alone, but I suppose if your meeting lasts longer than an hour, Harry and I should stay with him.”

Hermione’s stomach churned as she thought of Ron just sitting there, waiting for her to explain about Charlie. Merlin, how am I going to do this? After a long pause, she answered, “That would probably be a good idea.”

Chapter 19: The Meeting
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione nervously clutched the letter in her hand. Her insides churned as she made her way to Professor Dumbledore’s office, and was only further distressed when she realized that she didn’t have the password. Already a few minutes late, and nearly about to cry from fear, she opened the letter again and re-read it to make sure she hadn’t missed something. Suddenly, underneath Dumbledore’s signature, the words “Ton-Tongue Toffee” wrote themselves in black script. Hermione took the hint and said the words aloud, and then watched the gargoyle spring open before her. The moving staircase had been one of Dumbledore’s more brilliant ideas, Hermione noted, as she most definitely wouldn’t have made it up to the top by herself.

“Ah, yes, Miss Granger,” greeted Dumbledore cheerily to Hermione as she stood in the doorway. “Quite on time, I see. In addition to being the cleverest, you are also the most punctual witch of your age.”

Hermione felt his compliments to be rather undeserved, as she was sure she was not perfectly on time. Dumbledore did have a tendency to act a bit mad sometimes, but this was one of his most endearing qualities, as it made his personality much more agreeable.

“Good morning, Professor,” she replied, trying to keep her voice from shaking. “If… If this is about my missing classes yesterday, I just want to say that… I um…”

“Now, now, Miss Granger. Do not fret over such matters. I have no intention of punishing you, or of discussing your absence at all,” Dumbledore assured.

Confused as she was, Hermione couldn’t help but be relieved that her educational career and perfect behavior record was not about to be demolished. “You’re not?” she asked.

Dumbledore shook his head. “There are much more important things in this world than a few missed classes, and in the world of war in which we are living, it is vital that we hold on to what little hope and love that we can.”

Hermione wasn’t quite sure where here headmaster was going with his philosophical statement. “What do you mean, sir?” Normally, she wouldn’t have had a problem understanding abstract concepts, but her brain was still exhausted from the emotional strain that love and friendship had dealt her.

“Love is the most precious and powerful gift one person can give to another. As you know, the life of your friend, Harry, was saved by love. His life was saved in the literal sense that his physical body would no longer be alive if it weren’t for the sacrifice his mother made, but love can also save in a spiritual sense, of which you might already be aware.” The headmaster peered over his half-moon glasses so that Hermione could see the twinkle in his fading blue eyes. “As clever as you are, Miss Granger, I’m quite certain that you’d not let something of such vast consequence slip away from you.”

Her mouth fell open ever so slightly. It seemed that Dumbledore was always one up on everything that went on in his students’ lives, and Hermione’s was no exception. How had he known? His urgings for the Head Girl to take love seriously demonstrated his knowledge of her feelings (and quite possibly of her relationship), but how could he know?

“I won’t, sir,” she answered.

With that, Dumbledore clapped his hands once and rose from his chair. “Now that we’ve cleared that up, it is time for the real reason for this meeting: you have a visitor.” Dumbledore held a hand out to a side door that led to his personal chambers, and Hermione watched anxiously as a muscular redhead opened the door. “I do believe I’m late for my Valentine’s date. Minerva might give me a detention if I keep her waiting any longer. I’ll leave you to it.” He smiled and then regarded Charlie with a nod as he left.

Hermione’s legs wouldn’t move, so she sat glued to her chair. She blinked her eyes several times to make sure they weren’t deceiving her, as Charlie walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder. She gulped hard but couldn’t force any words from her mouth; her throat tightened and tears formed in her eyes.

Charlie kneeled in front of her and covered her delicate hands with his own slightly charred hands. “Hermione?” he whispered. “Are you all right?”

Her eyes never met his, but stayed focused on the hands in her lap. Still looking downward, she removed one of her hands and blindly felt around for Charlie’s face. Perhaps feeling him would make it all real (somehow her hands had gone quite numb, so Charlie’s hands on hers never reached full effect). When she finally found his cheek, she caressed him lightly with her thumb before leaning forward to wrap her arms around the dragon keeper’s neck, still never meeting his eyes.

“Charlie,” she cried, and meant to continue, but words failed her as they gave way to her sobs.

Charlie patted her lightly on the back with one hand, and stroked her hair with the other. “Hey now, it’s ok. You don’t have to cry, love. I’m here,” he soothed.

“But wh-why?” she managed. “I mean… How?”

Charlie smiled. “I had to see you. You have no idea how awful it is to be apart from you.”

Then Hermione pulled back and looked Charlie in the eyes for the first time in over a month. “Yes, I think I do have some idea. I’ve had to put up with so much lately…”

“Yeah, you told me about that Malfoy bloke. Has he been behaving himself, or am I going to have to let one of my dragons have their fun with him?” he joked.

Hermione laughed softly, and Charlie looked quite pleased with himself that he was able to cheer her up. But her smile soon faded as she remembered the living disaster that was Draco Malfoy and all the problems he’d caused. “He’s not so bad now,” she told him, “but so much more has happened since I wrote to you last.” She sighed. “I don’t even know where to begin explaining it all.”

“Don’t you worry about that now. I want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend, if you don’t mind, and I’d like her to be able to enjoy herself. How about it?” Charlie asked eagerly.

“Oh, God… Valentine’s Day. I… I can’t, Charlie.”

“In Merlin’s beard, why not?”

“I have to go talk to Ron. You know, talk to him. He knows, Charlie.”

Charlie looked taken aback, though he was glad to hear that his youngest brother had finally learned the truth. “So you told him, then? Good for you, sweetheart-“

Hermione shook her head and cut him off. “I didn’t exactly tell him,” she said regretfully. “I’m so sorry, Charlie. Please don’t take it personally or anything, but I just couldn’t find the right way.”

“Oh, don’t you worry about a thing. I’m sure everything will work itself out,” he assured. “So, how did he find out, then?”

Hermione debated whether or not to get into the whole thing right now. She knew she’d tell him all about it eventually, but she reasoned that she’d better save her talking voice for dealing with Ron. “It’s quite a long story, and I promise to fill you in, but right now I just want to listen. Tell me how you managed to get all the way here, and how you got Dumbledore in on your little plan,” she begged. “That was awfully brilliant how you did it, by the way.”

“A little bit of lovesickness will make any man mad enough to the point where he’s willing to go to any lengths to be with his girl,” he stated matter-of-factly and then kissed her on the nose. “I simply owled Dumbledore about a week ago and told him that I’d like to pay Hogwarts a visit, and that I’d like to keep it something of a secret until my arrival. He also agreed to arrange this little meeting between you and me. Dumbledor is bloody brilliant.”

“Did you fly here?” Hermione asked, thinking the better of it. Surely he didn't fly all the way from Romania…

“I Apparated to Hogsmeade yesterday, and Albus let me stay in his guestroom last night.”

Hermione searched his eyes and replied, “You’ve been here all night?”

“Listen, I wanted to go and find you. Really, I did. But, well, Dumbledore thought it would be better to wait until morning. Besides, I don’t know how to get to the Heads’ common room, and I wasn’t sure what the Headmaster would think if I started enquiring where the Head Girl’s private quarters were.”

“It’s ok, Charlie. I’ll show you where it is,” she said.

Charlie’s mouth twisted into a sexy smirk and he raised his eyebrows. “Oh, really?”

“Yes, really, and maybe I’ll show you where my bedroom is, too,” she teased, returning a tantalizing half-smile.

The redhead perched before cocked his head to the side and questioned, “Maybe, eh?”

Hermione nodded satisfactorily. “Exactly. Maybe I’ll show you my room… If you’re good.”

Charlie laughed, despite being taunted by his girlfriend, though somehow, he found her coyness rather sexy. “And just what does ‘being good’ entail?”

“Oh, I don’t know…” Hermione said nonchalantly as she shrugged her shoulders and batted her eyes flirtatiously.

“I do,” Charlie answered Hermione as he placed a hand behind her neck and drew her to him. He connected his lips to hers, intending to keep them there for as long as he could, and she responded with equal affection. These were the lips she’d been missing for all these weeks and was glad to have them back, to feel them on her own lips, cheek, neck…

She broke away reluctantly, knowing she had to go meet Ron soon. “Charlie, do you realize what we’re doing in Dumbledore’s office? We have to go,” she told him.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” Charlie laughed. “He knows about us, remember?”

“Yes and he’s not the only one. I have to go and talk to Ron.”

Charlie’s shoulders dropped slightly, and he gave her a small but loving smile. “Right. It’s about that time, isn’t it? I suppose I’ll just wait here for you, then,” he answered, while taking her hands again.

“Never mind that—you’re going to stay in my room. I shouldn’t be too long at Hogsmeade. I hope…”

“So I’ve been good enough to go to your room, have I?”

Hermione blushed but quickly composed herself. She had business to take care of, after all. “Let’s go.” She led him down the many corridors and staircases until reaching the entrance to the Heads’ common room. Charlie tried to resist the urge to hold Hermione hand as they walked; he wasn’t sure if she’d be comfortable with overt displays of affection just yet.

She opened the door and pulled Charlie inside, slamming him against the closed door and pushing her body against him. She kissed him hard and then breathed, “I can’t take this.” She kissed him again. “I can’t go to Hogsmeade. I can’t leave you—I need you with me.” She kissed him again.

Charlie’s hands on her shoulders stopped her from kissing him forever. “You have to go, love, and I can’t go with you. You said yourself this is something you need to do on your own. He deserves at least that much,” he told her.

“And I deserve a little privacy in my own common room,” came a voice from the staircase. “Really, Granger, if you’re going to be bringing visitors, I’d at least like a little fair warning first. Quite rude to be barging in on other people private space if you ask me.”

“Well, I didn’t as you, and this is as much my room as it is yours,” she shot back.

Malfoy sniggered and rolled his eyes. “Who the hell is this bloke, anyway?” he scoffed.

Charlie approached the annoyed Head Boy and extended his arm while introducing himself. “Charlie Weasley. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. …”

“Malfoy,” he said a little fearfully. “Draco Malfoy.” Malfoy then turned to Hermione and asked, “So he is real, then. Imagine that…and a Weasley, too.”

Charlie gave him a warning look, and Hermione was nearly as displeased with Malfoy’s behavior.

“Say, you wouldn’t be of any relation to Potter’s pet Weasel, would you?” Draco had crossed the line, and he knew it when Hermione threatened to hex him.

Charlie restrained her from pulling her wand on him, and Malfoy became aware of the redhead’s defined arm muscles as he did so. Suddenly, Malfoy regretted insulting this man.

“You better go, love. He’ll be waiting for you.”

She looked fearfully into his eyes and gave him one last, desperate hug. “Will you be ok?”

“I should be the one asking you that, but yes, I’ll be ok. Mr. Malfoy and I are just going to have a little chat.”

Malfoy gulped hard and Hermione scurried out of the common room.

Chapter 20: True Confessions
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The clinking bell on the door of the Three Broomsticks was barely audible over the loud chatter of students that crammed themselves into the small pub. Hermione felt stifled just stepping foot into the overcrowded room and would have turned back, if not for the absolute necessity of talking to Ron. What she really needed was fresh air, and she was absolutely certain the pub would not provide it.

Standing on her tiptoes, Hermione craned her neck to see over the gaggle of teenage witches and wizards to look for three in particular. She spotted two redheads sitting in a corner, and as she walked closer, she could see Harry’s black hair that nearly blended into the dark background of the walls. The three seemed to be talking easily—or two of the three were talking, as the boy redhead seemed disinclined to share his opinions or thoughts with them at all. Upon looking at the boy, one might think that he didn’t much care for butterbeer, either, as his glass sat untouched and nearly full to the brim.

Winding her way through the maze of people, Hermione finally reached her friends. Harry was the first to break the awkward silence by saying hello and asking how her meeting went. She returned his ‘hello’ and also greeted Ginny and Ron, though she didn’t hear an audible response from the latter. To Harry’s question, she answered, “It was fine.”

Ginny immediately wanted to know all the details. “Well, you’re obviously not in trouble, so shat did he want?”

Hermione screwed up her face slightly; she was nervous as it was, and Ginny wasn’t helping anything by putting her on the spot like that. She threw the redhead girl an “I’ll tell you later” look, while Harry clandestinely nudged his girlfriend in the side.

“Well, Gin, we should probably get going or we’ll be late for…that thing,” Harry said awkwardly.

“Oh! Oh, yes… Right. We’ll be leaving, then, unless you’d rather we stay?” Ginny asked.

Hermione nodded her head violently, but Ron waved them off with a limp hand. Of course Hermione knew that she needed to talk to him alone, but having the support of her friends there would have been comforting.

“See you,” If I’m alive after this, Hermione mused. She stared down at the table, wondering where on Earth she was going to begin explaining everything, and took a large gulp of the half-finished butterbeer that Ginny had left. Then she took another. And another…

Surprisingly, it was Ron who spoke first. “Let’s get out of here.” His request left no room for refutation as he stood up and exited the Three Broomsticks, leaving Hermione to fend for herself amongst the stifling crowd. When she was finally able to battle her way out and catch up to him, Ron had already made it halfway up the road.

He heard her panting behind him, and turned back once to look at her, but said nothing further; his gangly legs kept widening the distance between them so that Hermione struggled to keep pace. Hermione had been waiting for him to stop so that she could look at him when they talked, but clearly she wasn’t going to get that chance. Ron had yet again taken off ahead of her and had reached the top of a hill when she yelled, “I’m sorry, Ron!”

Ron stopped abruptly in his tracks, catching a glimpse of the Shrieking Shack in the distance as he turned to face her. “Sorry for what, exactly?” he snapped. “For lying to me or for tearing out my heart with your fingernails?” Ron’s upper lip quivered with rage and his watery eyes sparked with pain. He started to say something else, but his words were cut off by choking sobs.

Hermione clenched her fists and gritted her teeth, while staring straight back at her friend. She was angrier than she could ever remember being in her whole entire life: angry about how the whole situation had turned out, angry at how Ron discovered her relationship with Charlie, and angry with herself for not telling him sooner.

After thirty seconds without an answer, Ron turned and stomped away. Hermione still couldn’t make her brain react, but desperation set in when she saw how far away Ron was getting. “BOTH!” she shouted at his back.

Ron froze in his tracks, but didn’t turn. “So you knew what you were doing the whole time, did you?”

“Merlin, Ron, I didn’t plan on it! It just happened!” Hermione cried. She approached his back and placed a hand on her shoulder and said tenderly, “I never meant to hurt you… Please believe me!”

The crying boy shivered and fell to his knees, covering his face with his hands. “How could you do this to me, ‘Mione?”

Hermione kneeled beside him and put her arm around his shoulders, but Ron shook it off and inched away from her.

“I love Charlie,” she said, as gently as she could.

Ron shook his head slowly, forcing the tears further down his cheeks. “You used to love me…”

That comment twisted the knife even harder into Hermione’s chest. She’d never felt such incredible pain before hearing those words from Ron’s mouth. “I still do, Ron, only…. Only not like that, anymore.”

“There’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? ‘I used to love you, Ron, but you were too late. Have a nice life.’”

“It doesn’t have to be like that, you know. We can still be friends. Please…” she begged.

“It’ll never be the same. Nothing will ever be right again. You’ve got Charlie now, and…” Ron paused as he tried to regain control of his tears. “You’ll forget all about me, about what we had—or what we could have had.”

So Ron was afraid that she’d forget about him. She understood why he’d think that, but it hurt her so badly to hear him say it. Hermione would never forget a friend like Ron, though he’d never believe her if she told him. She had to show him. For the second time since Christmas, Hermione reached into the collar of her robes and pulled out a silver necklace.

“I still wear it,” she said, holding the Gryffindor pendant in her hand for Ron to see.

Ron removed his attention from the grass he was tearing out of the ground and looked at Hermione, seeing that she was, indeed, still wearing his Christmas gift. It made him feel a little better, but not enough to end his verbal fight with Hermione. “It doesn’t mean anything. It was a stupid gift and look what it got me!”

“It means everything, Ron!” she countered. “Don’t you understand?”

“Apparently I don’t understand a lot of things, or else you’d be with me instead of Charlie.”

Ignoring his self-pitying remarks, Hermione continued, “It means everything because you gave it to me! It means you care about me, just like I care about you!”

“I don’t just care about you, ‘Mione. I LOVE YOU!” Ron shouted. “I thought you knew that!”

“How could I have known when you never told me, Ronald!?” Unable to continue to stay calm, Hermione was near shouting as she explained, “All I could do was guess, and that made me miserable! I couldn’t go on like that!”

Ron frowned and ripped out another large chunk of grass and added it to the pile he’d created. He tried to just ignore her, but he couldn’t handle keeping it all inside. “So you just moved on to my brother,” he stated, his voice still raised. “Did you ever think to ask me if I’d be ok with it!?”

“When have I ever asked you who I could date?”

“Never! That’s the problem!”

“Well, did you ever think it might just be a little difficult to discuss my love life with you? Why do you think it took me so long to tell you about Charlie?”

“You didn’t tell me! You threw a bloody note in my face and let me find out for myself!”

Hermione inhaled rapidly as she remembered her poorly made decision from the day before. She’d never regretted anything more than when she showed Charlie’s note to Ron without even the slightest warning. She started crying again just t thinking about it. “I’m s-so s-s-sorry.”

Ron had begun crying again, too. He’d tried not thinking about that traumatizing note, but somehow he just couldn’t get it out of his mind; every time he saw Hermione, he also saw the words written in Charlie’s handwriting. “To say I was shocked would be an understatement. It was like I’d just been pummeled by a troll,” he said.

“Ron, I’m—“

“I was expecting Malfoy,” Ron interrupted. “I could have handled that; I’d have just murdered him. But Charlie? I can’t kill my brother.” He shook his head sadly.

“I know—“

“I should have seen it coming. I was happy when you started becoming friends with Charlie during the holidays, because I knew he’d be good to you, but I wasn’t expecting it to go this far.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, both gathering their thoughts and sorting through their emotions. The quiet hill was peaceful and serene above the bustling town of Hogsmeade and was a perfect place for them to be alone for this difficult moment. But it still wasn’t quiet enough to keep them calm for long.

“I didn’t expect it, either, but I wouldn’t take it back. He saved me, Ron.”

“And he killed me.”

Hermione sighed. “All he thought about was you, you know. He didn’t want to hurt you any more than I did. I’m the one who screwed up, Ron, not your brother.”

“Don’t take all the credit! If I’d have listened to him in the first place I wouldn’t be in this mess…”

Confused, Hermione waited for him to clarify, but he never did.

“And if I didn’t go nuts on you about Malfoy… Everything would have been different.”

She put a hand on his shoulder again, but this time he didn’t slither away from her. “Don’t think about that, Ron. It’ll only leave you with a lifetime of regrets and ‘what ifs’. You’ll drive yourself mad like that.”

“I can’t help it, ‘Mione. I’ll always wonder.”

Hermione’s knees became sore from how she was kneeling, so she shifted her weight and sat cross-legged in the grass just inches from Ron’s side. “You know,” she said, “I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself, knowing I caused such everlasting damage to my best friend.”

“Best friend?” Ron asked skeptically. “What about Harry? I’d think he was your best friend, not some stupid git like me.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Let’s see. Who’s famous, rich, decently clever, very powerful, everyone’s favorite hero, nice bloke…?”

“Ronald, you know that has nothing to do with being a best friend.”

“…And I’m the one that always argues with you, makes you angry, copies off your homework…”

“You’re the one who keeps me on my toes! You keep life interesting, and even though we might have our disagreements, you never fail to defend me or help me when I need it. You’re loyal and supportive—with the exception of S.P.E.W.—you’re caring, thoughtful, and reliable. Ron, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I can’t lose you. I won’t lose you.”

Ron tried to hide a smile but did a pretty poor job of it. It seemed that no matter what argument he came up with, Hermione always found a way to turn it around and discredit it, and he loved that about her. Ok, so he was her best friend, but what did that mean, anymore? His smile faded as he pondered what role he would play in her future.

“But I reckon you’ve got a new best friend, now…” he said, wiping his face dry with his sleeve.

“No one could ever replace you. You know that, right?”

“Well, if it has to be someone, I guess better Charlie than Malfoy.”

“Did you not hear what I just said? You’re not being replaced.”

Ron nodded disbelievingly. “Right. You don’t have to spare my feelings anymore, ‘Mione. It’s ok.”

Hermione sighed in exasperation. Ron was always one for an argument.

“Well, you might be replaced, if you don’t stop acting like such a prat,” she teased. Ron’s horrified look forced her to explain that she was kidding, and she thought she heard a faint laugh.

“There’s one other thing…” he said. “You really didn’t date Malfoy, did you?”

She couldn’t help but chuckle.

“I see that’s quite funny, isn’t it? Well, I’ll have you know I’m very serious…”

“Don’t worry about him, Ron. It was just a misunderstanding, that’s all. Nothing you need to fret about,” she assured. “So please don’t go and hex him or do anything too…Ron-like.”

Ron acted offended and crossed his arms. “Hey!” But Hermione just laughed again and wrapped her arm around Ron’s back, settling herself into his side as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“I just want to tell you again that I’m sorry for the way things happened. I was wrong to keep it from you. I just hope you can forgive me someday,” Hermione said.

“Yeah,” Ron replied. He ran a hand over her hair once before making to stand up and forcing Hermione to do the same. With both hands in his pockets, he started to walk to the other side of the hill and admire the view. Hermione knew she needed to get back to the castle—there was no telling what Charlie and Malfoy were up to—but she was reluctant to leave Ron alone.

“You coming?” she asked.

Ron shook his head and said, “No. I’ll just stay here for a bit. Tell Harry not to wait up for me at practice this afternoon.” He continued to walk in circles around a large boulder and scuffed his feet in the grass as he went.

Hermione approached him, but he just walked right past her. The second time around, she positioned herself directly in his path so that he had to stop. Neither of them said a word as Hermione reached up and kissed him quickly. She then made her way down the hill alone while Ron perched on the hard rock and watched her go.

Chapter 21: Pebbles
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 21

Hermione walked back to the castle alone. Harry and Ginny had spotted her as they walked hand in hand around the small town, but their offer to accompany her was politely refused. Ginny noticed that Hermione had been crying and was worried that they shouldn’t leave her alone, but Harry insisted that Hermione knew what was best for herself and that they should give her privacy if that was what she wanted.

She replayed everything in her head over and over again as she went. The words exchanged weren’t the only things that stuck in her mind, but also the tone in which they were spoken and the look on Ron’s face when he said them. She thought about it so much that the entire moment now seemed surreal, and Hermione had to keep reminding herself that this wasn’t just another dream—that she had, in fact, finally talked to Ron the way she needed to since Christmas.

Or nearly the way she needed to. Nothing ever goes according to plans, Hermione had learned, because there’s always something to mess it up. In Hermione’s case, she figured that love had messed it up. Her love for Ron (even if platonic, now) inhibited her from being able to break his heart by telling him about Charlie, yet, in the end, it happened anyway. She’d also learned that nothing could be totally prevented, but only postponed. It was only a matter of time before Ron was going to find out, before she was going to have to tell him about being in love with Charlie, and the time encroached upon her and wore her so thin that she snapped. Postponement only worked for so long. But what was done was done; if she could have gone back and changed it, she would have told Ron before they’d even got back to school. Still, it did her no good at present, so all she could do was resolve to make things right from here on out…starting with Malfoy.

She entered the Heads’ common room a little past one o’clock and found her boyfriend chatting amicably with a slightly terrified Draco Malfoy sitting opposite on a squashy chair. Charlie greeted her warmly and received her in a comforting hug, topped with a kiss on the forehead.

“Are you all right, love?” he asked tenderly.

Hermione paused a moment to consider and then nodded. “Yeah… I really think I am,” she smiled. She then caught sight of a nervous-looking blonde watching them. “Everything well, Malfoy?” For some reason, seeing him intimidated was rather amusing to Hermione; she knew Charlie would never hurt a fly, but Malfoy didn’t, and a tiny smirk crossed her face.

“Just fine,” he squeaked.

Hermione smiled and gave a mischievous look to Charlie, who returned it with a self-satisfied grin. “I’ve got a lot to tell you, Charlie,” she said.

“I don’t doubt that at all,” he replied in a chuckle. “But now I’ve got to take care of some business of my own. Did Ron come back with you?”

“No. He’s still in Hogsmeade, for all I know. Even asked me if I could tell Harry he’d be late for practice. Oh, damn…. I forgot.”

“All right,” Charlie said, while grabbing his jacket off the arm of the couch where he laid it. “I’m going to go and find him. Meet you back here?”

Hermione nodded, and Charlie gave her a soft kiss before exiting the common room. “Good luck,” she whispered to the closed door.

“You just going to stand there all day and stare at the door, or what?” Draco badgered. Now that Charlie was gone, Malfoy’s subdued insolent attitude was back again at full strength.

Rather than answer him, Hermione thought she’d have a little fun by reminding him that Charlie wasn’t too far away, and she’d be able to summon if she needed him to defend her. “So what do you think of Charlie? You two have a nice chat?” she grinned innocently.

Malfoy coughed quietly and puffed his chest out, if not to convince Hermione of his manliness then at least to convince himself. “I could take him.”

Hermione laughed out loud, puncturing a hole in Malfoy’s deflating ego. “He did tell you he’s a dragon trainer, right?” Hermione asked. “Maybe he didn’t tell you much about himself… Well, maybe I’ll have you two spend some more time together—you know, get to know each other better.”

“No!” Malfoy protested. “Err, I mean… We did have a nice chat, thank you. And he did tell me about the dragons. ALL of them,” he added, a look of horror in his eyes.

Hermione was having too much fun toying with Malfoy to stop. “Oh, then I’m sure he told you how deadly they are. It takes a very, very strong trainer to be able to handle them.”

“I know how dangerous dragons are, Granger. I’m not stupid, you know.”

“Could have fooled me,” she jeered.

“Hey, just because your boyfriend’s pets are overgrown, fire-breathing lizards doesn’t mean—“

“You’re right; I guess I’ll just tell Charlie—“

“NO! Don’t tell him anything! I mean… Dammit, Granger.”

Hermione laughed. “What? Were you going to say something?”

“Nothing. Forget about it,” Malfoy said. “I don’t want that Weasel after me.”

“Don’t call him ‘Weasel’!”

Malfoy huffed. He hated being pushed around, especially by a mudblood and a Weasel, though there wasn’t much he could do if he hoped to be alive on Monday. As arrogant and proud as Malfoy was, he was no idiot; he knew when to take “cautionary warnings”, as Charlie had called them, (though Malfoy knew what they really were: death threats) seriously. He reasoned that his aristocratic face was much too beautiful to be pummeled by a Muggle-lover and decided that he’d better obey Charlie and treat him and Hermione with respect, as much as it pained him to do so.

“Ugh, fine…” he answered.

“You know, your insufferable side is your most annoying quality. I know you’re capable of being at least a semi-decent person, so why not try to let it show a little more?”

“Because it’s not me. I’m not a nice person, especially to mud-…. anyone.”

“You could be,” she countered.

“Don’t push it, Granger.” Malfoy knew she was right: he was capable of being semi-decent, but it took a great deal of effort on his part—effort that he felt could be better spent on playing Quidditch, or admiring his chiseled features in the mirror, or shagging girls he cared absolutely nothing about.

Hermione heard Malfoy’s stomach rumble, and she suddenly realized how hungry she was. Missing lunch to talk to Ron, Hermione was now feeling the emptiness inside her that started even before her meeting with Dumbledore.

“Let’s go get some food,” Hermione requested.

Malfoy just sat and stared at her.

“Either we go eat now, or Charlie’s dragons will eat you,” she joked.

“Ha. Ha. Good one,” Malfoy said sarcastically, while following Hermione out of the common room. He only hoped that she didn’t see him flinch.

Charlie wound his way through the ancient halls of Hogwarts, remembering his old school days with nostalgia. He couldn’t believe how long it had been since being here for the Triwizard Tournament, much less how long it had been since he was a student. He passed Peeves the Poltergeist on one of the staircases, but he seemed much more interested in harassing Mrs. Norris to pay any attention to Hogwarts’ redheaded visitor. However, one person he ran into seemed much more interested in his presence.

“CHARLIE!” shouted Ginny as she ran to give him a hug.

“Hey, sis,” he greeted.

“What are you doing here?”

But before Charlie could reply, Ginny answered her own question. “That’s why Hermione didn’t want to talk about her meeting! Ooh, you sneaky little devil!” She grinned roguishly, causing her brother to laugh.

“So she didn’t tell you I was here, eh?” Charlie asked, quite interested.

“Well, Ron was right there with us, and that was before she had talked to him.”

“Does he know I’m here now? I mean, after she talked to him?”

Ginny shrugged. “Not a clue. I haven’t even seen Ron, and Hermione wasn’t in a mood to talk afterward. She might have told him, but I doubt it.”

Charlie considered this information for a moment, thinking of how he ought to approach his youngest brother. Nothing came to him.

“Say, where’s that boyfriend of yours?”

“Quidditch practice,” Ginny pouted. “Had to break our Valentine’s date early just to make it.”

“Why aren’t you there?”

“He’s running a special practice for our Beaters; they need a little work, you see, and we’re playing Slytherin in a couple of weeks. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be having practice on a Saturday.”

“I suppose that means Ron won’t be there, either?” Charlie reasoned.

Ginny really had no idea if Ron was supposed to be at the practice or not. “I don’t know. You could try and see, I guess.”

“Load of help you are, Gin,” Charlie teased.

Ginny got a fiery look in her eyes that just begged Charlie to continue his banter—that way she’d get to practice some more of her famous hexes—but Charlie got the hint.

“Hey, calm down, I was only kidding,” he smiled. “What do you say to escorting me to the pitch? You can help me look for Ron… Or just admire Harry in his element.” Charlie laughed and offered her his arm.

Though she had been looking forward to cornering Hermione into spilling about everything that had happened in the past few days, she knew Hermione would still be here tomorrow, so she supposed the talk could wait. Ginny accepted her brother’s request and linked her arm with his, walking side by side to the Quidditch pitch.

Moments later they arrived to witness the small practice session of Gryffindors, but still no Ron. Ginny loved watching Harry coach his team—the way he instructed was encouraging and seemed almost father-like (she sighed dreamily, creating a list of their children’s names in her head)—so she preferred to stay on the bench as a spectator, rather than continue to aid Charlie’s search for their brother.

Charlie traipsed around the grounds for a while without much luck, and finally conceded that he’d have to go back to Hogsmeade to find him. But then he saw a lanky boy strolling down the banks of the lake and could just barely make out his flaming red hair. Finally, thought Charlie as he quickened his pace to join the lone wanderer.

Ron took calculated steps in the black sand on the shore of the lake as he scanned the ground for more pebbles to toss; the three he already had wouldn’t last him too long, and he needed something to do. With little luck, Ron settled himself on a patch of grass just above the shoreline and released a pebble, watching it splash into the water. The second hadn’t much energy behind it; it’s low arch over the tiny waves provided it with only a mediocre “plunk” noise that was quite disappointing for its size. He held the last pebble in his hand and rubbed its smoothness between his fingers, all the while thinking about Hermione. He thought about the two pebbles in the lake and pondered the one in his hand. Then, instead of letting this tiny rock join the other two, he placed it deep inside his pocket. Just let them go, little pebble. You don’t belong with them, anymore.

“Looking for more rocks to throw?” Charlie asked, surprising Ron from behind.

Ron spun around and gaped at his older brother. He was caught off-guard, but not at all surprised; the events of the past few days had made him prepare to expect anything. His brain knew he ought to be polite and offer Charlie a spot in the grass beside him, but for some reason the words never connected with his mouth. He did, however, answer Charlie’s question by shaking his head with a ‘no’.

Charlie positioned himself beside Ron and waited for him to speak. Wherever Ron wanted to begin the conversation, he’d let him, and wherever Ron wanted to take it, he’d let him do that, too. Charlie and Ron sat in silence for about a minute, just watching the water ripple on the bank.

“What are you doing here?” Ron finally asked.

“Came to talk to you,” Charlie answered simply. “See how you were getting on.”

“Getting on like a bed full of Blast-Ended Skrewts,” Ron replied sullenly.

Charlie nodded to himself; it was just as he expected. “That bad, eh?” he asked sympathetically.

“Yeah, that bad. But I can’t really feel it, anymore,” Ron said, rubbing his chest slowly with his hand. “It’s a bit numb. Maybe it’s not capable of handling the strain, or it’s just beyond any feeling at all.”

Charlie waited to respond and recounted Ron’s devastation. As much as he liked to think that he always knew the right thing to say, this situation found him in a bit more trouble than usual.

“I know what you mean, now,” Ron continued. “Darkest of hells, indeed. Is love always like this?”

“Afraid so, little brother. But generally you’ll find the joys will outweigh the hell, and it’ll be worth it,” Charlie assured.

“Except in my case,” added Ron. “How did this happen?”

This was the moment Charlie was waiting for, the moment he’d prepared for. This is where his rehearsed monologue was going to prove useful.

“Well, you know Hermione and I started getting close during the holidays—”

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not hear whole passionate story of how you fell in love with my girl,” Ron begged.

“Oh, right. So what is it you want to know?”

Ron sighed. “How you were right about everything and I was a stupid git for not listening to you.”

Charlie laughed softly. “There’s no magic there, only experience. You make mistakes in love enough times, and you eventually learn not to make them again. I think I’m safe to say that you’ll never let something like this happen a second time.”

“You’re right, because there won’t be a second time. There’ll never be another Hermione.”

Now Charlie was starting to feel bad. But still, he’d been in Ron’s shoes many a time: the “love of your life” ends up with some other bloke, and it seems like the end of the world. However, Charlie knew from experience that it wasn’t the end of the world, and it was possible to love again.

“Just because there is only one Hermione Granger doesn’t mean that there is only one girl for Ron Weasley. Do you know how many girls there are in this world, Ron?”

Ron scoffed. “None of them are my best friend, though, are they?”

“If you’d let them try, you might be delightfully surprised. Just promise me one thing, ok?”

Ron tilted his head, signaling Charlie to continue.

“When you fall in love with the next one, tell her you’re in love with her,” he stressed. “Preferably before she finds someone else, rather than after.”

This was a blow. Of course Ron knew all that now, and he knew Charlie had been right all along. Tell the girl you love her, or tell her you don’t. If you don’t, then be prepared for heartache and a “rough road ahead”, as Charlie had put it, and don’t blame anyone but yourself when she falls for another man.

Minutes passed and the two brothers sat in companionable silence. Charlie was relieved at how well Ron was taking all of this (though his calm state was definitely more serious and severe than his rash temper, at least he could talk to him without all the shouting), but he knew that Ron was hurt beyond imagination.

“Listen, Ron, I just want to tell you I’m sorry. I had no intention of being a slimy brother and taking Hermione from you, but I couldn’t help falling in love.”

Ron nodded his acceptance. “Yeah, I know. Besides, it’s not like I ‘laid claim to her’ either,” he added, thinking of Harry’s words.

Charlie smiled sadly and placed his arms around Ron’s shoulders. “I know this is very hard for you to talk about right now, but there’s something I need to ask you.”


“Well, I’m thinking about asking Hermione to marry me. What do you think?”

Ron inhaled sharply. “You are?”

“Yes, unless you don’t want me to. That’s why I’m asking you first,” Charlie explained. “If you’re not ok with it, then I won’t ask her.”

“You’d do that if I said no?”

Charlie smiled. “Of course, Ron. While I love Hermione with all my heart and can’t think of anything that would make me happier than to marry her, you’re still my brother and I’d never intentionally hurt you. If our marriage would make you miserable, then I won’t propose.”

The small voice inside Ron’s head that sang for this opportunity to crush his brother’s relationship with Hermione was overruled by the one that said, “Yeah. She deserves that.”

“Really?” Charlie asked, a bit astonished. He’d expected Ron to fight him at least a little.

“I said myself that she needed to find another bloke and move on so she wouldn’t get lonely, and it looks like I got my wish. She’d be happy with you, Charlie. She loves you; she told me herself,” Ron said. Then he added, “And you deserve to be happy, too.”

Charlie wasn’t really sure what to say next. Surely ‘thanks’ wasn’t enough, but there were just no other words that sounded right.

“At least this way I’ll know the man she’s with is a good person, and not some big-headed Bulgarian,” Ron continued.

“That’s true, mate… It could have been worse!” Charlie laughed.

“Bloody hell, don’t even joke about that,” he begged.

Then Charlie reached into his inside coat pocket and pulled out a small, velvety box. “One other thing I want to ask… What do you think of this?” Charlie opened the box and revealed a ring: a silver band with a single diamond solitaire.

“Whoa! It’s, err… She’ll love it,” Ron said, fighting the urge to cry.

“You think? I tried to get something that wasn’t too flashy; you know Hermione’s not into all that gaudy nonsense.”

“Just wait a while, ok?” Ron requested. “Please?”

“Oh… How long, then?” Charlie looked at his brother with uncertainty.

“A year? Two years?”

“You want me to wait a year before I propose?” he asked incredulously.

Ron chuckled lightly. “No, before you get married I mean. You can propose whenever you want; I just need to some time to get used to the idea of you two being together before I can handle you being married.”

“You make a good point, there. All right, a year or two it is,” Charlie promised. “Shouldn’t be too hard, anyway, because I’m sure she’s going to want to get a job and ‘establish’ herself in the working world before marriage. That’s just how she is, you know.”

“You’re telling me? I’ve had to listen to her badgering over homework for the last seven years, always going on about ‘how important our futures are’ and ‘when you have a job, you can’t just use a Skiving Snackbox to get out of going to work.’” Ron laughed. “She’d be the type to make sure she could stand on her own two feet before standing with somebody else.”

Changing the subject to jobs and futures was a clear indication that the conversation was over. Ron felt he’d done enough talking and listening for the day, and Charlie was anxious to get back to his future bride-to-be. The two Weasleys walked back to the castle, each with on hand in a pocket: Ron’s holding a small pebble, and Charlie’s twirling a ring around the tip of his index finger.

The entrance into the great hall was nearly barricaded by a group of giggling sixth year girls, two of whom never took their eyes off the redheads. Ron shook his head slightly and sighed, but couldn’t prevent the blush that creeped over his face when one of them batted her eyelashes at him.

“She’s cute, Ron. You know her?” Charlie teased.

“Oh, bugger off,” Ron smiled.

Chapter 22: Perfect Proposal
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Charlie took a small detour before making his way back to the Heads’ Tower; he wanted to make sure everything was perfect for tonight. Even with the slight deviance in his path back from the lake, he still made it back before Hermione returned (which he had no way of knowing). So, not knowing the password, Charlie tapped lightly on the door of the common room, but got no answer. Then he heard Hermione’s laughing voice behind him as she rounded a corner, and the Head Boy by her side.

“Oh, Charlie!” Hermione greeted as she scampered quickly over to him and threw her arms over his shoulders. “I’m so sorry! Have you been waiting long?”

“No, just got here. You two seem to be having a good time,” he smiled, hiding the ounce of jealousy he felt, even though he really knew Malfoy was not a threat at all (especially after the conversation they’d had just hours earlier). The pointy-faced boy would mind his manners from now on if he knew what was good for him, and Charlie made sure of that.

“Oh, we just grabbed a late lunch. I didn’t get anything at Hogsmeade because, well, you know…” Hermione trailed off.

As the two stood outside the doorway talking, they eventually noticed that Malfoy had since disappeared into the common room, claiming his seat on a squashy chair. They decided the hallway was not a good place for involved conversation and joined the other boy inside.

“Wow, you’ve been here all day and I feel like I’ve hardly even seen you!” Hermione pouted. They sat across from each other, with their chairs pulled as close together as possible, and Hermione petted her hands through Charlie’s red hair as she fussed over him.

Charlie responded by leaning in to rest his forehead against hers and whispered, “I know. It’s been a long day, but I’m glad to finally be back here with you.” He leaned in further, directing his lips towards hers, but their kiss was halted by a disgusted huff.

“Urgh, you two are repulsive,” Malfoy said, throwing down the magazine he’d been reading. “Why don’t you get a room?”

“You like this room, Hermione?” Charlie asked cheekily.

“Yes, I quite like this room,” she responded.

Malfoy scowled at them and promptly shuffled upstairs to his bedroom, making a point to shut his door a little louder than necessary.

Charlie shrugged. “This is the common room, I guess, and he has a right to use it, too. Can’t say I blame him, but at the same time… Well, the bloke deserves it for making a pass at my girl,” he grinned.

They’d now moved to the couch to be “more comfortable”, and Hermione leaned up against her boyfriend, with her legs sprawled out over the end of the couch. Charlie played with her hair and kissed her cheek and neck as they sat there. She was enjoying this far more than she ever thought possible, and not just because she was being doted on by the man she loved, but also because she was thinking of a bit of payback for Malfoy: this time, the screaming and banging noises would come from Hermione’s bedroom and keep Malfoy up at night, not the other way around. She took great pleasure in the thought.

“You’re looking very smitten, love,” Charlie commented.

Still wrapped up with thoughts of the evening, Hermione tilted her head back to meet Charlie’s eyes. “Oh, I am,” she said in a silky, tantalizing voice. “But I won’t be for very long if you don’t kiss me right now.”

He didn’t need to be told twice and bent his head forward to meet the girl who lay across him. Her legs came up and she snuggled even closer into Charlie as their simple kiss turned into a very long, heated snog. Charlie broke after a while for air, gasping, “God, I needed that.”

Hermione seemed to be thinking the same thing, only she still needed it, which was made apparent when she commanded, “Do it again.”

“I love it when you’re bossy.” Then he obeyed.

The last thing Charlie wanted to do was stop in this heated moment—part of him even wanted to forget his whole plan and ask her to marry him right then and there—but the other part (the part that was now jabbing into Hermione’s hip as she lay on top of him) signaled him that it was time to stop. They were still in the common room, after all, and he wanted nothing about their intimate lives to be common. Hermione was a bit pushy when he started to back away from her, but giving her “the look” brought her back to reality as well. She sat up and brushed off the front of her robes, smoothing out the many wrinkles that had developed since tangling herself with Charlie.

Hermione looked at him awkwardly, not knowing if it was something she’d done to make him back away. But Charlie made it clear that this was not the reason at all. “Do you want to talk?” Charlie asked. “I know you’ve got to be thinking about a lot right now, and… Well, if you’d like to talk about it, I think we should.”

Yes, her mind was swimming with scenarios and feelings of all the events that had taken place in such a short amount of time, but that was precisely why she didn’t want to talk about it. When she kissed Charlie, everything else went away. It provided her relief from her brain and, for once, she was able to react solely with her body and not her mind. There would be no talking right now. Talking would be reserved for when their bodies were too tired to do anything else. So, without an answer to Charlie’s question, she grabbed him by the hand and dragged him up to her bedroom. Hermione closed the door quickly behind him and pushed him up against the door, using a surprising amount of force for such a little girl. She kissed him hard, feeling his panting breath against her skin, and lifted his shirt over his head.

“I don’t want to talk,” she said breathlessly. “Not now. Right now I just want you.”

“Yeah, I guess—there’s plenty—time for that—later,” Charlie said between kissing his girlfriend and simultaneously helping her remove his clothes by kicking his shoes off (quite a task for someone with little blood left in his brain). If he’d have been thinking, he’d have taken better care of how his trousers folded on the floor and made sure that the velvety box stayed put in the pocket. Fortunately for him, Hermione was too wrapped up to notice that Charlie even owned clothes, let alone see that he had a box in a pocket of his trousers.

No Imperturbable Charm was placed on her bedroom, partially because Hermione was caught up in the moment of finally getting her boyfriend back, and partially because she wanted to irritate the one who’d caused her so much trouble in the first place. She won on both ends, and she couldn’t have been happier.

Hermione’s room would have been quite cold, if not for the heat the pair had generated during the past hour. A thin, silky sheet kissed Charlie’s naked legs, but Hermione was the one keeping him warm as she curled her petite body into his side. Their breathing rates had returned to normal by now, but the sweat still glistened on their brows, and every gush of wind through her open window sent chills down Charlie’s spine. He was also very eager to clean himself up and proceed with his romantic proposal.

When Hermione heard Charlie’s stomach growl, she thought about how they’d probably already missed dinner. Having eaten a late lunch, Hermione felt she could eat, though she wasn’t too starving. “Would you like to go down and see if there’s any food left?” she asked him.

“Like this?” Charlie laughed. “I’m sure that would draw some attention.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “No, I was thinking we’d have to have a shower, first.” She gave him a sexy, sideways grin and left the bed to make for the bathroom.

“You did say ‘we’, didn’t you?” he asked with an excited grin.

“Only if you’re interested,” Hermione replied coyly, as she glanced back at him and moved Charlie’s trousers out of her path with her foot.

Charlie nearly had a heart attack from jumping out of bed so fast. Luck must have been on his side that day, because Hermione didn’t notice a single odd thing about his trousers.

“Eager, are you?” she laughed.

Hermione drew the hot water and stepped under the showerhead, running her hands over her hair as Charlie stood and watched. The soap made her skin even more slick and soft than usual, which Charlie had never even thought possible.

“Well? What are you waiting for?”

Charlie was so mesmerized watching her that he’d been standing on the tile floor the entire time. “You’re just so beautiful. Merlin, I could shag you senseless again right now, and even better than ever.”

“Apparently,” she said, nodding her head towards his lower half. “Now come on and get yourself cleaned up, including that dirty mouth of yours.”

“You know you like it,” Charlie laughed. He stepped into the shower, and pulled her close to him. “And this dirty mouth will kiss you till the day I die.”

They left the Heads’ Tower much later than intended and, at this point, Hermione was sure they’d missed dinner.

“Sorry, Charlie,” Hermione apologized.

Charlie gaped at her. “Sorry? For that!?”

She pretended to be embarrassed and just grinned at him. “Well, it made us miss dinner, didn’t it? But I’m sure Dobby would find us some food if you want to run down to the kitchens…” Hermione suggested.

“Hmm, I’ve got a better idea. This way,” he said, taking her by the hand and leading her in the opposite direction. Excellent, he thought, all according to plans.

He led her down corridor after corridor, up this staircase and that staircase, past meandering students, an annoyed Filch, and Peeves on a tirade against Mrs. Norris. Hermione recognized their destination as the Astronomy Tower, and couldn’t think of a more romantic place to spend time with Charlie. The climb to the top had always been a bit exhausting for her, especially since she usually had a full book load slung across her shoulders, but trekking the stairs seemed insanely more bearable just by having Charlie at her side.

The night was clear, blacker and brighter than it had been in ages, and the stars glittered their good luck down to Charlie. They stood at the edge of the wall, peering down over the grounds of Hogwarts. Everything looked so peaceful from that high up that Hermione couldn’t help but daydream and get lost in her thoughts, as she stood hand in hand with the man she loved.

“Ok, now I want you to close your eyes,” he said. “Go on.”

Hermione was reluctant, as she hated to miss out on the gorgeous scenery, but felt that the calmness of her closed eyelids was even more peaceful than the landscape before her. Not that she really cared, Hermione was more curious than anything and asked, “Is there some reason why I’m closing my eyes?”

Charlie watched Dobby disappear stealthily down the staircase and turned back to Hermione. “Not anymore. Turn around.”

She did so and was shocked to see a picnic dinner arranged on a blanket on the stone floor of the Astronomy Tower roof. It was set for two, with two tall candlesticks burning in the middle and a basket off to one side. She was too stunned to even speak.

“Care to join me for dinner, Miss Granger?” Charlie asked properly and politely, making quite a game out of the fanciness.

“Oh…my… You…” Hermione sputtered.

“No, no, not me—Dobby,” he explained, not wishing to take any more credit than he deserved (though he might have been rewarded for it later, he was sure his conscience would get the better of him).

They took their seats on the blanket and Charlie served the food that Dobby had brought up from the kitchens. Hermione didn’t even pay attention to what she was eating, though she knew it tasted fabulous. She’d always dreamed of dining on a rooftop and, as she was quite certain she’d never informed Charlie of this fact, felt it quite impressive that he came up with it all on his own. She even dreamed about what it would be like to be proposed to in such a setting as this (along with many other settings, of course), but this was just beyond her comprehension.

“I can’t believe you did this, Charlie. I mean… I can, because you’re just that—amazing—but still…” she said, her eyes glossy.

Charlie smiled. “Ron was right. There’s really no one else in the world quite like you.” Ooh, that was a good one. Yeah, lather it up before you pop the question there, mate, he consulted himself. Lather… he thought, reverting back to their recent shower. Ok, moving on…new topic…find something else to say. Sweep her off her feet!

Hermione ate up every word he said, but decided when he mentioned Ron’s name that he was subtly seeking for a conversation so she could vent all her feelings. He wanted to talk earlier and I didn’t let him. Now he’s gone and done this, so I owe him at least that much. We’ll talk, she settled.

“Wow, that’s… I don’t know what to say. And how is Ron doing? I know you wanted to talk about what happened a while ago.”

No! Charlie’s brain shouted. I had it just right! Well, if she needs to talk about Ron first, we better talk first. He sighed inwardly, so close.

They talked all through dinner, not realizing just how much they were eating (Dobby always went over and above doing what was asked of him, which obviously included packing dinners). Hermione related her conversation with Ron, and Charlie could tell that she was much more comfortable with the afternoon’s events after having talked about them. He knew that letting her talk was the right thing to do, and when she questioned him about his own meeting with Ron, he gave her as many details as he could without spoiling his plans. The news of Charlie’s encounter was much more satisfying to her, since she now knew that the brothers were on good terms and that Ron would eventually be all right. Even the part about the giggly sixth years ogling him had made her laugh.

All in all, dinner couldn’t have been lovelier, nor could have the surroundings or the company. They’d each said what they needed to say (except for one of them, who still had a ring burning a hole through his pocket), and although the romantic moment was not ruined with the chatter, it was definitely not the same kind of romantic as the way Charlie wanted to propose, so he decided to wait.

“Ready to go back, love?”

She nodded in response, and Charlie whisked her off her feet in one swift motion and made for the door. “What about the basket and things?” Hermione asked.

“Oh, Dobby said he’d come back up later and get them,” Charlie answered. However, when he received a disapproving raised eyebrow from his girlfriend, he set her down and quickly shoved the picnic contents back into the basket. “Or I’ll just take care of it for him,” he corrected, eliciting a satisfied nod from Hermione.

“Thank you.”

Good move. Just keep her happy.

The couple made it back to the Heads’ Tower in fairly decent time, considering they walked all the way down to the kitchens to return the basket and thank Dobby, on top of walking slowly enough to hold each other around the waist without breaking for a second. Malfoy was not in the common room when they entered, so they had no reservations whatsoever.

“Finally I can do this properly!” Charlie swept her up in his arms yet again and made for her staircase.

Hermione kissed him, and Charlie was a bit afraid of not being able to see where he was going, so he walked slower than he normally would just to make sure he didn’t do something stupid, like run into a wall. He reached her bedroom and felt instantly awakened; the smell of Hermione permeated through the whole room and excited his senses. This is what he dreamed about all those lonely nights he spent on the Dragon Reserve.

“Will you stay here tonight?” Hermione asked earnestly.

He kissed her tenderly as he lay down on the bed beside her and stroked her arm. “All of my things are still back in Dumbledore’s guestroom. Don’t suppose I could really go and get them or anything. Imagine what that conversation would be like when he asks me where I am going to stay!”

“Maybe you don’t have to go get it. What’ve you got that’s so vital, anyway?”

“Well, clothes, for one…”

“You don’t need clothes…”

Charlie smiled. “I guess you’re right. I’ll have to go get my things tomorrow, regardless, but one night without them won’t hurt.”

“Don’t tell me you’re leaving already!” Hermione cried.

“Sweetheart, it’s my job. I have to go back.”

“But… But…” she pouted. “But what about that Johnson fellow? The one you had to take over for at Christmas? Doesn’t he owe you a favor? Couldn’t you just let him take care of your dragons for a few days?”

Charlie looked at her sadly. “I wish I could stay, love, but Johnson really isn’t trained enough to know how to handle my dragons, and frankly, I don’t really trust many of the others there to look after them. They’re very temperamental creatures and I’d hate to see one of my co-workers get charred to death.”

Hermione looked sadly down at her hands as she twiddled her fingers in her lap. “Why do you keep doing this? I finally get you back and now you’re leaving…”

Now feeling really guilty, Charlie took her petite hand in his and promised, “Well, I can make it worth your while as long as I’m here, Mrs. Weasley,” he smiled. Hermione’s head shot up and her heart pounded. Surely he didn’t just say…

Charlie repositioned himself on the bed so that now he was perched on both knees, directly in front of her, and fished around in his pocket for the box. He, once again, took Hermione’s hand and held out the open box with the other as he said, “I love you, Hermione. Will you be my Mrs. Weasley?” And that was that: a simple, cut to the chase, perfect proposal. It had not been the candlelit dinner engagement he’d imagined, but this was better.

Hermione was stunned beyond words. All she could do was smile and cry until her face felt as if it were about to break. She was so choked up that even a “yes” was impossible to manage, so she settled for nodding her head. Charlie removed the ring from the box and slid it onto her finger, watching her admire and gaze at it.

“I love you,” she finally managed to say, embracing him in a hug.

Eventually she stopped crying, and it also no longer mattered that none of Charlie’s clothes were with them. Even Hermione was completely naked, except for the silver band and diamond on her ring finger. Hermione sighed contentedly to herself as she held him tightly — they were engaged now and she promised herself that for tonight, at least, nothing was going to take him away from her.

Chapter 23: Moving On
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 23 – Moving On

Hermione woke with the birds; no matter how much she would have liked to have stayed in bed with Charlie, she knew he had to leave soon and wasn’t going to waste time by sleeping. She watched him doze soundly underneath her silken sheets. Everything in the world now seemed so peaceful since the proposal, even Charlie as he slept in a rather amusing position with his legs spread-eagle and one arm tucked underneath his head, and Hermione couldn’t resist a gentle caress of her fiancé’s stubbly cheek.

Yes, he was her fiancé now. They were going to be married! Hermione had never even considered through the entire night how she and Charlie would go about wedding plans. Hell, they hadn’t even told their parents they were seeing each other, much less serious enough to be engaged! Mr. and Mrs. Granger would have to meet Charlie, and then hey would have to meet the Weasleys. Oh, there was so much left to be done, but somehow not much of it really mattered as long as Charlie was still at Hogwarts.

Hermione knew her parents would go berserk if she up and introduced them to an older wizard they’d never even heard of and claimed to be engaged to him. She thought the best way would be to have Charlie come home with her for a bit over the summer (she’d make sure he was able to find a replacement trainer at the Dragon Reserve for at least a few days) on the pretense that he was just her boyfriend; that way, she could tell them the good news of the engagement face to face and let them see first-hand how perfectly right for Hermione he was.

Of course, she’d reassure them that she would get a steady job first and start saving for the wedding, and saving long-term for a house. Hermione didn’t care what Charlie said: she was absolutely not going to let him pay for everything himself. Marriage was an equal relationship, after all, and Hermione would make sure that everything was equal. Charlie just didn’t know it yet.

She sat cross-legged in the bed, running her hands through Charlie’s mussed-up, red hair. He purred lightly into Hermione’s pillow as she lightly scratched her nails on his scalp. But it wasn’t Charlie’s hair that kept her staring at his head; it was the ring on the finger that was doing the stroking that did the trick. It was so pure and beautiful that Hermione couldn’t take her eyes off of it.

Eventually she slipped in and out of the shower, returning just in time for a groggy dragon keeper to greet the morning. He noticed her dripping wet curls and huffed.

“You didn’t wait for me?” he asked disappointedly, still barely able to make out her outline from squinting his eyes.

“Wanted to let you sleep in,” Hermione replied easily.

“What if I didn’t waaa-aaaanna sleep?” he yawned.

Hermione just laughed at him and shook her head. She knew Charlie must have been exhausted after the night they’d just had and wanted to make sure he was well rested before returning to such dangerous work. After wrapping her hair in a dry towel, Hermione crawled into bed beside her lover, allowing him to snuggle her as close as he could. The longer they laid there, the more sleep threatened to overtake the both of them, and only the rumbling of both their stomachs warned them that breakfast was fast retreating. Hermione reckoned that it would draw a bit too much attention to have Charlie go down for breakfast in the Great Hall, but he seemed to think it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. That way, he’d get to spend time with his brother and sister before he went.

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Hermione worried. She was looking fearfully at her ringed finger, not wanting to take if off, but was still wary and wondered if now would be the best time for Ron to see something like this. She’d only just told him about her relationship with Charlie, and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to handle such a blow as her engagement.

Charlie then informed her of the talk he’d had with Ron, leaving no detail untold. “That was the main reason I came out here, Hermione. Obviously I was here to see you, but I really needed to talk to Ron. He knows this is coming, or else he wouldn’t have given me permission to ask you. But of course, if you still want to wait a while, I’ll understand.”

“NO!” she shouted frantically, nearly making Charlie jump out of his skin. Waiting to talk to Ron was what got her into this mess in the first place. “Waiting is a mistake. Whoever said ‘better late than never’ obviously didn’t have to tell Ron they were in love with someone else. No, I think the sooner this is done, the easier it will be for all of us. But…maybe breakfast isn’t the right time to do it. After breakfast, then.”

Charlie nodded his agreement to Hermione’s decision and then suddenly noticed that she’d fallen behind. He turned to look at her, as she stood, stationary, in the middle of the corridor, looking like she was about to cry. Immediately he replayed his last comments, thinking of what he could have said wrong, and approached her, ready for whatever apologies he’d need to make her happy again.

“Are you all right?” he asked, somewhat fearfully.

“Did you really ask Ron if you could marry me?” Her voice seemed more fragile than he’d ever heard it before.

Puzzled, Charlie answered, “Well, yeah… I’m sorry if…”

But Hermione grabbed him in a hug, crying openly. He soon realized that she wasn’t upset with him, but amazed. The fact that he’d known how much Ron meant to her as a friend—and cared enough about him as a brother—to do something as thoughtful as ask permission just astounded her. There was never a better man than Charlie Weasley.

Breakfast went well, for the most part, and except for only a few awkward moments, was really quite pleasant. Harry, Charlie and Ron talked Quidditch; Ron was thoroughly interested in how the practice went, as the outcome of the upcoming match against Ravenclaw would depend heavily on the improvement of the Gryffindor Beaters, and Harry was all too grateful to have Charlie’s input as an ex-Quidditch captain himself. The girls enjoyed their usual light conversation. Though Hermione was just itching to show Ginny her gorgeous ring, the breakfast table was not the right place to do it (and especially since she’d promised herself to tell Ron first).

Goodbyes were always fairly difficult for Hermione, because she never knew when exactly she’d get to see people again. And so it was with Charlie, and his promise of “I’ll see you soon” didn’t really console her. He said he’d come back for her when she finished school and they’d celebrate somehow; Hermione wished for some exotic trip, but deep in her mind, she knew that that was the time to be telling her parents… Undoubtedly Charlie would have told Mr. and Mrs. Weasley long before then, as he was never talented at keeping such happy secrets all to himself. Hermione expected to receive an owl from Mrs. Weasley in no more than a week’s time.

She walked with him until they reached the boundaries of Hogwarts, stopping just beyond the gates. Impossible as it was for Hermione to let go of Charlie yet again, ten minutes in the chilly February air was just about all she could stand. They kissed and kissed again, saying goodbye until words of farewell had lost all meaning. Then, with a loud pop, Charlie Disapparated.

Hermione headed straight to the Gryffindor common room, where she found Ron, Harry and Ginny lazing about in the corner, staring at closed books and blank rolls of parchment. Ah, Sunday…homework day. She took a seat on the couch beside Ron and looked over his shoulder at the assignment he was supposed to be completing, kindly offering, “Like some help?”

Harry and Ginny glanced at each other, and then sneakily stole away out of the common room. It was clear that Hermione wanted to talk to Ron alone, as she barely even acknowledged the other two, so they respectfully gave her space.

Ron allowed his muscles to go limp and slammed back into the couch, letting his arms and legs fall all over the place. With a heavy sigh of relief, Ron answered, “Sweet Merlin, thank you…”

She laughed in response, but then became serious again and looked at Ron thoughtfully. “Ron I…” Hermione started. “I want to tell you something.”

The reclined redhead leaned himself up just a bit so he could see Hermione as she talked to him. “Yeah?”

“Well, it’s…” Her hands shook slightly and her voice wavered.

“It’s all right, you can tell me, ‘Mione,” said Ron as he placed a hand on top of hers. His touch calmed her.

“It’s Charlie. He’s asked me to marry him, Ron, and I said yes.” Hermione then held out her hand to show Ron the sparkling diamond ring.

He didn’t speak for a while, but just sat there, staring at the ring on Hermione’s finger. After what seemed like ages if her telling him the news was a mistake, Ron cracked a small smile.

“Congratulations,” Ron said genuinely. “I know you’ll be happy.”

Hermione nearly started to cry as she sat there in a companionable silence with her best friend. And if she thought Ron had taken it well, he seemed even happier when she informed him that he was the first to hear the good news, that not even Harry or Ginny or either set of parents knew of the engagement. For once, Ron felt like the most important person in Hermione’s life (perhaps besides Charlie, but he could deal with that), and he was satisfied. Of course he knew their friendship would never be exactly the same again, but at least it was back on the right track.

Harry and Ginny returned almost an hour later. At first the silence coming from the common room reassured them that either the fighting and yelling was over, or that there was no fight to begin with. However, Harry couldn’t help but fear that the reason there was no noise is because one of them had killed the other. But upon entering the portrait hole, Harry was relieved to find that neither of his friends had met their deaths. They, surprisingly, were diligently working on a rather involved essay.

Ginny approached them first. “Everything going all right?” When the two older students nodded and smiled, Ginny was convinced that someone had simply taken Polyjuice and replaced her brother and Hermione. “Well…” she said disbelievingly, “that’s good.”

“How’s the essay going, mate?” Harry inquired.

“Oh, brilliant, now that Hermione’s here. I’m…I mean, we’re nearly finished,” Ron gloated. His remark received a look of jealousy from his bespectacled friend.

“I take it you haven’t started, either?” Hermione asked with a disapproving glance, though it’s not like she didn’t expect it.

“He was a bit…preoccupied, Hermione,” Ginny answered while throwing a flirtatious wink at her boyfriend.

All of this talk made Harry more than a little embarrassed, so he changed the subject as quickly as possible. “Hey Ron, we ran into Luna just now.” Ron looked up from his parchment. “She er, said to tell you hello, and…thanks….for….for being her friend.” Harry laughed, “Ha ha, I think she likes you.”

Ron was puzzled but didn’t seem too unhappy, despite his nonchalant response. He actually starting writing a little faster than he had been, but Hermione and Ginny expressed their silent suspicions when Ron wasn’t looking.

“That didn’t happen, Harry,” Ginny whispered in his ear.

He smiled slyly in return and replied in a low voice, “Not true. She did say ‘hello’.”

“You sneaky little…”

“And you never know—she could like him.”

But their quiet conversation was interrupted when Ginny screamed shrilly into Harry’s ear. Hermione’s reflexes nearly caused her to slap Ron in the face, and her heart jumped into her throat. Before she even had a chance to ask Ginny what was wrong, she saw the redhead girl staring and pointing to her own finger, motioning to the ring that Hermione wore. She blushed profusely as Ginny continued to giggle.

“Mum’s going to have kittens when she hears about this!”

Hermione winced slightly as she thought about the uproar that would ensue when the Weasley mum found out her son was getting married.

“You know what this means, right, Hermione? We’re going to be SISTERS!” And Ginny ran to embrace the now beaming Hermione in a tight hug. Harry and Ron shook their heads at each other.

“Don’t you snigger at us, Harry James Potter. You—and Ron—would both do well to take a leaf out of Charlie’s book!” Ginny reprimanded, and then continued her babble with Hermione.

Ron leaned over to Harry and said quietly, “Not so subtle hint, eh? Looks like the ball and chain’s about ready for another poor bloke, another victim of marriage…”

“You keep your mouth shut, Ron! Besides, I’m sure Luna will want to get married some day,” Ginny said, catching Harry’s discreet smile. Ron immediately stopped laughing.

“So,” Ginny continued, ignoring the boys, “when’s the wedding?”

Chapter 24: Wedding Bells
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Chapter 24- Wedding Bells

18 Months Later…

The church buzzed with excited guests, all eagerly awaiting the ceremony that would unite Charlie Weasley and Hermione Granger in marriage. In attendance were family members of the bride and groom, old school mates, Charlie’s fellow dragon trainers, and Hermione’s co-workers at the Ministry. However, the only people currently in Hermione’s presence were her mother and Molly Weasley. Tucked away in an upstairs corner room of the church, the two women fussed over Hermione’s dress, making sure the lacy skirt contained just the right amount of fluff. Each mother also took turns crying and smiling and crying some more.

When Mrs. Granger noticed the far-off look in her daughter’s eyes, she became worried and asked, “Is something wrong, dear?”

Hermione quickly shook her head and assured the now alert Mrs. Weasley (who had immediately begun imploring whether Hermione wanted to cancel the wedding) that it had nothing to do with Charlie. “I’m ok, Mum,” she answered. “Molly?”

Mrs. Weasley looked up from the jewelry box she was rummaging through and looked at her expectantly.

“Is he here?” Hermione asked.

Mrs. Weasley swallowed hard. “Well, I know he said he would be here, and of course I haven’t been downstairs with the others… I’m positive he’ll make it. Don’t you worry,” she said, trying to keep her soon-to-be daughter-in-law happy.

Hermione looked back to the mirror to examine her make-up and make sure that every shiny curl was in place, either pinned atop her head with a diamond-studded clip or hanging in perfect ringlets around her face. Her strapless white dress was trimmed at the top with tiny diamonds and equally small silver beads, and the intricate embroidery wove itself into patterns of swirls. But still, as breathtakingly beautiful as Hermione looked and felt, something was still missing. As she searched her mind for the answer, a knock tapped lightly on the door.

Mrs. Granger peaked out through a crack in the door and greeted Charlie Weasley. Mrs. Weasley jumped to her feet to reprimand her son for trying to catch a glimpse of his bride before the wedding.

“Shoo! It’s bad luck!”

“Oh, hogwash, Mother. I really need to talk to her.”

Hermione listened to the conversation from her chair and tried to assure Mrs. Weasley that she didn’t mind if Charlie came in to talk. The redhead witch muttered to herself for a bit but then reluctantly left the room alongside Mrs. Granger.

Charlie looked very polished in his tuxedo, and Hermione thought he’d never looked more handsome (except perhaps when he was in his Quidditch robes). His eyes nearly fell out of his head when he saw his bride in all her glory. But as radiant as she looked, he could tell that something bothered her. Crossing the room, Charlie stood behind the sitting woman and laid his hands on her smooth shoulders; both of them stared at each other’s reflections in the mirror, enjoying this moment of peace amongst the hustle and bustle of wedding excitement.

“You’re so gorgeous, Hermione,” Charlie said as he stroked her arms and shoulders. She smiled in response and reached her arm up to place one on his. Charlie’s other hand continued to caress her skin up to her neck. Hermione closed her eyes and relaxed into him. “I think it could use a bit more, though,” he said contemplatively.

Hermione cocked her head to the side, wondering what on earth Charlie was on about.

Then, Charlie reached into his pocket and brought out a silver necklace with a Gryffindor pendant. “You left this on the dresser this morning, love,” he said, while fastening it around her neck and kissing the spot where it rested on her skin.

She’d left it on purpose, actually, because she thought that wearing a gift that Ron gave her on the day of her marriage to Charlie would somehow be inappropriate. But Charlie knew how much the necklace meant to her (she wore the thing every day since they’d started dating over a year and a half ago) and didn’t want her to be without it on what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.

Hermione had tears in her eyes as she stared at herself in the mirror, wearing one of her most prized possessions. She mouthed, “Thank you” and proceeded to wipe her moist cheek with the back of her hand. Charlie walked around in front of her and knelt down, pushing a curl back from her face and smiling. “So we all set now?” he asked.

“All set. I love you,” Hermione answered and leaned forward to give her groom a passionate kiss. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, but we’d better save that for the ceremony,” Charlie laughed.

“Or how about the honeymoon?”

With an enthusiastic nod, Charlie agreed. “You make an excellent point. Well, I’d better be off. I’m sure Mum’s still in a huff about me seeing you right now.”

“Oh, she’ll get over it,” Hermione assured. “Just give me one more kiss and then you can leave.”

“Bossy witch.”

“Tradition-breaking delinquent.”

After a quick kiss, Charlie floated out of the room and met his mother and Mrs. Granger out in the hallway. “Hello, Mum… Mum,” Charlie grinned. Mrs. Granger gave him and equally sweet smile in return.

“What was the meaning of that, mister?” Mrs. Weasley demanded.

“Nothing you need to worry about. Everything’s fine.”

“So the wedding’s still on, then?”

“Well, of course! What on earth would make you think it wasn’t?”

Mrs. Weasley faltered. “Well… I don’t know. Just, Hermione seemed a bit distracted earlier. I wasn’t sure if you two had had a row or…”

“Oh, Mum, you worry too much. I know what was bothering her, but it’s taken care of now.”

Both women turned to each other and expressed their relief.

“All right, I’m going down. Talk to you at the reception!” Charlie beamed and kissed his mother and Mrs. Granger on the cheek before bounding down the spiral staircase that would lead him to the sanctuary.

The music in the background signaled the congregation to stand; all heads turned to the back of the church to watch Hermione stride down the aisle on the arm of her father. She quickly scanned the congregation and searched the sea of redheads for one in particular. Unfortunately the aisle was much too short to do any good at locating her best friend, so Hermione gave it up to focus on the ceremony.

Mr. Granger kissed his daughter on the cheek before handing her off to Charlie, who took her small hand in his and led her up the stairs to the altar where the jovial preacher awaited them. Ginny, the maid of honor, stood to the left of Hermione and tried with all her might to keep from giggling as she saw her brother and her friend eyeing each other. Her face was red as a tomato from her efforts and her cheeks ached from smiling so widely. Charlie’s best man was one of his closest old school chums, as it would have been too hard to choose one of his five brothers to do the job.

Throughout the ceremony, Hermione could still hardly believe she was there. Everything had seemed like a dream when it first started: the walks in the woods, the Christmas confessions, and her first time with Charlie. Nothing had ever come to her so easily before. There was always some drama with her friends or parents, and even grades in school had come from much effort. But this was different, somehow. Of course, the actual relationship wasn’t all that easy compared to how natural the romantic feelings grew, since she nearly lost her best friend in the process. Still, even in the midst of a rocky friendship with Ron, loving Charlie always felt right.

While reminiscing on everything that had happened in the past two years of her life, Hermione lost track of the progression and was called back to reality by a slight nudge in the side from Ginny. She blushed a bit from embarrassment, but Charlie just smiled at her. They said their “I do’s” and Charlie took her hand to slip on a silver band embedded with three small diamonds. After a soft, sweet kiss, the preacher proclaimed them husband and wife to the delighted congregation.

“I now introduce Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Weasley!” the preacher announced.

The guests rose from their chairs and clapped and hugged (the mothers were crying, naturally, and even the fathers’ eyes looked misty). Hermione and Charlie milled around the church a bit after taking pictures to talk before heading out to the reception.

“So, Mrs. Granger-Weasley, quite perfect, wasn’t it?” Charlie asked, while wrapping his arms around her waist.

Hermione shook her head. “No ‘Granger’. Just ‘Mrs. Weasley’, if you don’t mind,” she said, before kissing him on the cheek.

Charlie gaped at her with a goofy grin on his face. “Are you serious? I thought you’d want…”

“Sweetheart, I’ve waited long enough to become a Weasley, so I’m going to take advantage of it!”

“I love you.”

“Well, I should hope so!” Hermione laughed. “You married me!”

“Yeah, I did. Bloody fantastic move, too.”

“I love you, Charlie.”

Moments later the newlyweds walked into a large reception area where friends and family eagerly awaited their arrival. Mrs. Granger immediately ran to her daughter to hug and fawn over her, and Mrs. Weasley soon after did the same. It was all “Oh, my baby’s married!” and “I know you’ll both be so happy!”

Everyone took their seats around several tables will full place settings for every guest. A posh Muggle restaurant that Hermione was particularly fond of had catered the delectable meal (neither her nor Charlie’s mother objected, as it saved them from having to do any of the cooking). As the dinner came to an end, Charlie’s best man clinked his fork on the side of his wine glass and called for attention.

“Good evening, everyone. I know it’s customary for the best man to give the speech, but I know someone else who’d like to say a few words.” He then motioned to one of the lower tables where the whole of the Weasley family sat, pointing straight at Ron.

Hermione’s heart leapt when she caught sight of him, but she thought Charlie could have looked a little more surprised than he did. Ron must have slipped in without her noticing. The hall was quiet as Ron stood up and cleared his throat.

“Unlike many of you, I’ve had the privilege to know both the bride and groom equally well. Growing up, Charlie and I always got on great—well, as great as two brothers can,” Ron said, eliciting a laugh from the crowd. “He was always a good guy, the type of person I could go to if I needed anything. That’s why, when he started dating my best friend over a year ago, there was no way I could object. Harry—God, rest him—Hermione, and I were thick as thieves back at Hogwarts. We did everything together. Things have changed a bit now, but Hermione and I remain close friends, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her—including roughing up any bloke she tried to date who wasn’t worthy of her.”

Mrs. Weasley scolded her son under her breath and Hermione suppressed a smile while mouthing, “Oh, Ronald!” But Ron continued as if he hadn’t seen or heard either of them.

“Needless to say, I couldn’t think of any man more worthy to marry my best friend than my brother, Charlie. And there’s also no woman more perfect for Charlie, either. I hope you’ll join me in wishing them the best of luck and happiness in their marriage.” Ron raised his glass and said, “To Charlie and Hermione!”

The room erupted with the slightly off responses from every mouth saying in return, “To Charlie and Hermione!”

Hermione’s eyes had teared up as she smiled at Ron, and Charlie led her to the floor where they would have their first dance as husband and wife. She wrapped her hands around the back of Charlie’s neck as they swayed gently to the music and whispered in each other’s ears. Soon others had joined them of the dance floor; Charlie directed Hermione’s line of sight over to where Ron had taken Luna by the hand to dance.

After a while longer of dancing and kissing, Hermione felt a hand on her shoulder. “Can I cut in?” the voice asked. She turned to find Ron, dressed in a stately suit and tie, holding his hand out for Hermione to take.

“You don’t mind, do you, Charlie?” she asked.

“I’d be disappointed if you didn’t dance with my kid brother,” he assured.

“Hey!” Ron retorted. “I’m not a kid, thank you very much.”

“Oh, Ron…”

Charlie pointed to where he’d be when she wanted to find him again and headed off. Ron and Hermione fell into rhythm with the music.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t make it,” Hermione confessed.

“And miss my best friend’s wedding? Not a chance. I just had to pick up Luna, and that took a little longer than I expected. Didn’t miss anything, though,” he answered.

Hermione raised her eyebrow at him. “So, Luna is like…your date?” she teased.

“Well… Technically, no, since she was already invited. I just ran into her about a month ago in Diagon Alley, we got to talking, and thought it might be fun to come to the wedding together.”

“Oh, I see. Very lucky that you happened to run into her, then?” she said, with a hint of knowing in her voice. Harry would have loved this….

“Yeah. We’ve been having a pretty good time so far. Hey, do you think we could go somewhere for a while? It’s sort of hard to talk in here.”

Standing on her toes, Hermione scanned the room for her husband. When she saw him twirling Ginny round in circles, she knew he’d be ok for a few more minutes. It was terribly sad about Harry, and Ginny even still wore the ring he’d given her at the end of her sixth year, so it did her heartache well to have a little fun with her brother.


Ron took Hermione by the hand and they walked out into the garden behind the church. “You really look incredible, Hermione,” Ron said sincerely. “I’m happy that everything worked out for you and Charlie. Really, I am.”

Hermione hugged him and kissed his cheek.

“Wish Harry could be here to see you. But you know you always have me, right? No matter what happens, we’ll still be friends.”

“Thank you so much, Ron. You have no idea how much that means to me.”

Ron wiped a tear from her cheek before reaching into his inside coat pocket and pulling out a tiny, smooth pebble. He turned it between his fingers a few times before speaking again. “Could you just do one thing for me?”


“Will you hold onto this for me? It might seem a bit weird, but it’s something very special that I want you to have,” Ron said, while placing it in her palm and closing her fingers around it.

Hermione didn’t ask what the purpose or meaning of the rock was. The important thing was that it belonged to Ron and he wanted her to keep it, so she agreed. A comfortable silence now grew between them until Ron spoke again.

“I really miss him,” he said sadly.

“I know.” Hermione placed a hand on his shoulder. “I do, too. How’s Ginny doing?”

“You know as much as I do. She’s holding up all right, I think. It’s not easy to get over losing someone you love. Just takes time, you know.”

“Yeah…” Though Hermione knew Ron was talking about Ginny, she felt an indirect connection to Ron’s own situation of losing her to Charlie.

“Well, I expect the party’s missing its bride. Let’s go back in.”

“And I bet the bride’s best friend is being missed by someone as well…” she teased.

Ron blushed slightly. “Bugger off, ‘Mione,” he grinned.

The party crowd thinned a bit until all that was left were immediate family and a few close friends. Charlie and Hermione made their rounds of goodbyes, making sure to speak to each and every guest and thank them before heading on their way to New Zealand for their honeymoon. The small white purse she carried now held a small brown rock in addition to her lipstick and the day-planner she was never without.

Hermione had indeed waited ages for this day. The future Mrs. Weasley was now the present, and Charlie made sure to dote on her from this day forward. She now had a job, a best friend, and Charlie as her loving husband—finally, everything she had ever wanted.


A/N: Yeah it’s over, and no sequels. I think I’ve pretty much said all I need to say and frankly I don’t really care about their kids (sorry). Just know that they’ll live happily ever after. Questions of how Harry died: the final battle, duh. I’m 100 percent sure he’ll bite it in book 7. Sad, but yeah. Thanks so much to everyone who’s read and reviewed. It means SO SO much to me.