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Overshadowed Heart by ElissandrAnne

Format: Novella
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 30,061
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: Harry, Hermione, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Molly, Neville, Luna, Fred, Ginny
Pairings: Other Pairing, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 01/19/2007
Last Chapter: 06/29/2007
Last Updated: 03/05/2008

Summary:

After the final battle, Hermione is left alone... and pregnant. Will someone be able to help her out of her grief and dissipate the shadows that have settled inside her heart?
Finalist in the Dobby Awards for Best Romance.


Chapter 1: The Final Battle
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It was a day like any other. The sun rose on a sky clear from one horizon to the other. Who would have thought it would happen on a beautiful day like this? On a gray and rainy day, yes, but not on the brightest day of the whole summer.

Hermione stirred and opened her eyes lazily. Immediately, Ron’s arm wrapped around her and held her tighter. Even asleep, they were acutely aware of each other’s presence. They were that close. They had been since a month after they started on their Horcruxes search. And now, all of the dark vessels had been destroyed – all but Voldemort himself.

Hermione swallowed, then told herself that she was safe here, at the Burrow – at least, if Mrs Weasley didn’t find Ronald in her room. But I guess she knows, she thought, smirking, remembering the older woman’s gaze when they arrived, the night before. A gaze that bore through the girl’s very soul. She must have been satisfied by what she found there, because she welcomed her back like another of her children.

The Burrow, it felt like home. Harry was there too. But he didn’t have anywhere else to go… No, that’s not true, he has 12 Grimmauld Place. But she knew he didn’t like it any better than Sirius had. Like herself, he belonged here.

Ron stretched against her and nuzzled her hair. "’Morning, love," he said.

She smiled and turned to him to kiss him lightly on the brow. Then she said, "You better go back to your room…"

"Why? My mother’s not as stupid as Harry, you know," he joked.

It had taken Harry two months to find out his best friends were a couple and sharing the same bed. True, they had been very discreet. And he had been more than very distracted. And for a good reason, Hermione thought, shuddering.

"Are you all right, hon?" Ron asked.

"Yes!" She wondered why she was thinking about that now, when she should have been happy they had a respite, at last. Because the worst is yet to come. "I’m going to take a shower," she said. She couldn’t wait to go down to have breakfast. The constant buzz of the Burrow would help her forget about those dark thoughts.

But Ron decided to follow her in the bathroom, and she was delayed. After all, there were other things that could drive out dark thoughts from a woman’s mind. Like having the complete attention of her lover and giving him hers in return. Thankfully there was no short supply of hot water in a wizard house. Ronald is not so lanky anymore, she observed to herself, her hands exploring his now toned body while his were roaming hers. Her last coherent thought was: I hope they can’t hear us! Then she lost herself in the love-making.

"It was about time," Harry grumbled when they walked out of the bathroom hand in hand. "I hope you left some hot water."

Hermione blushed a deep red, even if the joke was old now. Then she saw Ginny, and her heart ached for her friend. The girl was looking hungrily at Harry then, when he closed the door behind him, she glanced enviously to the couple.

"Hey, Ginny."

"’Morning, Hermione," Ginny mumbled before disappearing back into her room.

"What’s eating her?" Ron asked, incredulous.

Hermione slapped him on the shoulder. Men were so insensible!

When they finally made it to the kitchen, most of the family was already there. They all looked up from their toasts and cups of tea, but if Bill and Charlie smirked behind their copies of the Daily Prophet, no one said a word.

"Good morning!" Mrs Weasley said brightly.

Hermione had not tasted such wonderful food since they left. They had often done their own cooking, and to say the truth, she wasn’t much better at doing that than the boys. Cooking is not something one can learn in books, she told herself. She had learnt it the hard way. Cooking was something you did with your heart and with your imagination.

Finally, Ginny entered, followed a minute later by Harry. As if on cue, Ron stood up and pushed back his chair. Hermione looked at him, and their eyes met. He was nervous – why was he nervous? Then he went on one knee and took her left hand in both of his. "Hermione Jane Granger," he said, his voice shaking a little. "Will you marry me?"

Ron took a little box out of is pocket and opened it, swallowing hard. Inside was a simple gold ring topped with a diamond.

Hermione was dumbfounded. But not for long. "Yes," she answered. "Oh, yes!" Knowing that putting the ring on her finger would be like taking some kind of magical vow. And she did, with Ron’s help.

"Oh, Merlin!" Ginny squealed, tears of happiness in her eyes. "I’m going to have a sister!"

The girls hugged each other.

It was a very happy moment for all the family, until an owl flew in by the open kitchen window and delivered an envelop to Harry.

Oh, no, not today! Not today, please… Hermione thought.

A heavy silence fell on the room. All eyes were fixed on the young man. Harry took a deep breath and opened the letter. Then he read it and paled. "It’s time," he said simply. "Voldemort is in Hogsmeade and is making ready to move on Hogwarts." He looked at Mrs Weasley, than at Mr Weasley. "Thank you for everything."

They all heard Ginny’s intake of breath. Harry closed his eyes briefly, but didn’t turn to her. Instead, he hugged Molly, like a son would do. "Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you for giving me a real family." Then he shook Arthur Weasley’s hand, turned on his heels and walked out.

They were exchanging looks. Ginny’s frightened eyes went from one face to another.

"Oh, Merlin," Hermione breathed. She left the kitchen and went back to her room. There, she searched for something at the bottom of her trunk.

~*~

Harry left the Burrow and apparated in the outskirts of Hogsmeade. An eerie silence hung over the small wizard town. There were no laughter and no talk. The streets he had only seen packed with wizards, witches, students and all sorts of magical beings were deserted.

He walked to the hilly country between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Strangely, he felt at peace. As he was thinking how happy he was that his friends had let him go without raising a fuss, there was a faint popping sound, then another, and another. He turned around and saw Hermione, Ron and Ginny there. And more and more people were apparating. Neville appeared out of thin air and bumped into Luna. The girl giggled when he blushed and stuttered some excuses. Harry heard Luna telling Neville he was probably followed by 'porteelinks', whatever they were.

"You didn’t think we would leave you doing it alone, mate, did you?" Ron said.

"But…" Harry began.

"No 'buts', Harry," Hermione warned.

"Gin…"

"No," she cut him. "Voldemort won’t come alone, and you know it. So you take care of him, and we kick his Death Eaters’s as… um, behinds." Seeing him open his mouth to protest, she gave him a wan smile. "I’m here to stay, Harry. We all are."

There was a chorus of assents.

Harry realized that if he had felt at peace before, now he felt confident. There were all the members of Dumbledore’s Army, of the Order of the Phoenix and some Aurors he didn’t know. He was surprised to see Percy with one of the latter's.

But he didn’t have the time to greet them. Hooded figures appeared, and behind them, the Dark Lord himself. In less than a minute, chaos erupted.

*

Very soon, they were all fighting in little groups against clusters of Death Eaters. Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, her sister Padma, Cho Chang, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas found themselves facing Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe and their respective fathers. Dean and Seamus were bravely protecting the young witches, who casted spells after spells as if they had done so all their lives. As Parvati was bellowing "Everte Statum!", sending Goyle Jr flying, Lavender hit him with a binding spell. Goyle Sr retaliated with a Cruciatus Curse, and Dean dived in front of his fellow Gryffindors and writhed in agony. Seeing that, Seamus and Cho casted each one a different spell, the first hitting Goyle’s father and the latter Crabbe Jr. If the older Death Eater deflected the curse, the younger had no such chance and fell to the floor, unconscious. His father thundered: "Sectumsempra!", opening Padma from her collarbone to her navel. The girl died almost instantly. Shocked, Cho lowered her wand for a second… then she used the same spell on Crabbe Sr, who was deathly wounded but still had enough energy to say angrily, "Avada Kadavra!" The pretty Ravenclaw died in a green flash.

*

Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Hannah Abbot, Susan Bones and Colin and Dennis Creevey were battling against the three Lestranges. The members of Dumbledore’s Army had paired off. Colin shouted: "Locomotor Mortis!" at Rabastan Lestrange while Susan deflected the man’s spell with a deft flick of her wand. Hannah and Dennis sent different spells flying in the direction of Rodolphus Lestrange, which had interesting effects. And if they didn’t stop him, they slowed him enough so they could bellow in unison: "Impedimenta!"

Of course, Neville had to face Bellatrix. He knew her husband and her brother-in-law were there the night his parents had been tortured to insanity, but she was the one he blamed the most. With Luna’s help, he succeeded in half-stunning the Death Eater. But when he was about to point his wand at her and say: "Crucio!", Luna caught his arm. When he looked at her, a protest already forming on his lips, the girl shook her head.

Neville nodded reluctantly, just before he saw Dennis being engulfed in a sickly green light. Neville turned towards Rodolphus and said, his voice firm: "Petrificus Totalus!"

Luna was right. They would all die, but not by their hands.

*

Remus Lupin was keeping Fenrir Greyback at bay when Tonks arrived and flicked her wand at the werewolf. A jet of silvery light erupted from the tip of her wand and hit him in the heart; he died instantly.

"What…?" Remus stuttered, stunned.

"Silver, of course," she answered smugly. "I made some researches. It’s a very ancient spell – very effective, too."

He had never been so proud of his beautiful girlfriend.

*

Katie Bell, Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet and Fred and George Weasley were together again, but not for a Quidditch practice. They were facing Alecto, Amycus and Avery. The female Death Eater was particularly vicious. She sent the Imperious Curse in Alicia’s direction and tried to make her turned against Angelina, but Katie stunned her friend and she and Angelina riposted. Fred and George were very serious, maybe for the very first time in their life. They stopped Avery and binded him, then they turned towards Amycus, who was pointing his wand at the unconscious form of Alicia. Not only did they stunned him, but he sprouted horns. Enraged, Alecto hollered: "Avada Kadavra!" just as the girls sent her flying. Unfortunately, the deflected flash hit Alicia.

*

Bill and Charlie Weasley were duelling to death against MacNair and Mulciber, next to Kingsley Shacklebolt and Severus Snape, who did the same against Rosier and Rookwood. The latter seemed to take it personally that Severus had been a traitor to the Dark Lord and did his best to make him pay. They all fought valiantly, and Shacklebolt was the first to fall. When their four adversaries were dead or bound, the two Weasleys looked around and saw Snape lying on the ground, in a puddle of his own blood.

"I invented that damned spell," he said through clenched teeth.

"Hold on," Bill said.

*

Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley and Percy Weasley had stayed close to Harry. That was how they found themselves facing Voldemort’s bodyguards'; Lucius Malfoy, Nott and Dolohov. Hermione was particularly pleased when she succeeded in stunning Dolohov, the man who had almost killed her during the Battle of the Ministry of Magic. Next to her, Ron was fighting like a lion. And Percy seemed intent in making up for his absence and protected his sister. If Ginny hadn’t been so afraid, she would have been annoyed. Percy was a git… but he died a hero.

Suddenly, as Ginny and Hermione were sending Nott flying, knocking him cold, an eerie silence fell on the battle field. Ginny ran towards the place where she had seen Harry for the last time. Lucius Malfoy didn’t miss that opportunity. He pointed his wand at the Mudblood with a cruel smile. Ron lunged at the last moment, saving his fiance.

"NO!" Hermione screamed. Then she raised her wand and bellowed: "Sectumsempra!" Just before everything went dark.

~*~

Hermione woke up minutes, hours or days later. She was lying on a bed, and the smells told her she was in St Mungo’s. people were whispering at her bedside. All she understood was "pregnant" and "willing herself to die " before unconsciousness claimed her again.



A/N: I would like to thank... juls, who read this first and corrected my spellings errors. I still cannot believe I spelled "eerie" wrong... lol.
All the people at SAYS, who tried to help me find a title for this story - which is hard when you don't want to know too much about a story! All your prods help me find the right title.
And my friend Christie, who also tried to help me find a title - we found two or three good titles together, but they were already in use!


Chapter 2: Losses
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Molly Weasley was in her kitchen. She had been there for hours now. All her life, she had felt good there. But not today. Tears streaming down her face, she was remembering their life before Voldemort came back to life. And particularly Ron and Percy, her heroes. Arthur had been the one to tell her in a flat voice that their sons would never come back home. She had refused to believe him at first, then she had demanded to see them, and he had taken her to St Mungo’s. She needed to see their lifeless bodies to accept the horrible truth. To hold them one last time in her arms, to rock them like she did when they were babies, or not so young, when they had made a nightmare.

So many young people, gone forever. So many hopes, dashed. So many futures that would never be… And all because of one egomaniac madman.

Molly had always been so proud of her third son. He was the most serious and the most studious of her children. She could still see his freckled face and his intelligent eyes behind his glasses and hear his slightly pompous voice, all the more so when he was talking to the twins. Those two had always liked to play their pranks on him – he wasn’t much older, and unlike Bill and Charlie, they knew he wouldn’t retaliate. He had broken her mother’s heart when he refused to face the truth along with his colleagues at the Ministry. When he thought them crazy to follow a great wizard like Albus Dumbledore. She admired his ambition – it was a good thing – but for Molly, it had always been her family first. Money, fame… they would never warm your heart like the love of the people you loved.

What did I do wrong with you, my Percy? she asked herself. Because now, he would never answer that question for her.

She wiped her eyes with the back of her trembling hand, another face imposing itself on her thoughts. Ron, oh, Ron…! her mind screamed, at a loss. She couldn’t believe that the day before she had seen her youngest son – now a man! – proposed to the girl he had been loving for years. Had she ever told him how proud she was of him, the youngest boy, the one who thought he would never live up to her expectations? She wondered how he could have been so unsure of himself, when he was the bravest of them all. Not any best friend would have stood next to Harry Potter and faced the Boy Who Lived’s fate with him. But Ron was as loyal and loving as he was unaware of his own extraordinary abilities.
Molly sighed through her tears. During the hours she spent in the kitchen she had been busy cooking for her loved ones – well, not for all of them. But it was the only way she knew to honor the memory of those who would never sit at the table with them again.

~*~

Charlie took a look inside the sitting room. Bill sat on a chair, in front of the cold fireplace. His brother was stone-faced. Charlie could see a muscle jump in his clenched jaws. His scars stood out on his pale freckled face.

When Harry, Hermione and Ron announced they had destroyed the last of the Horcruxes and were coming back home, Bill had sent his wife, Fleur, back to France. The young woman had fought her husband with all her might. She had protested for days. She had tapped her foot, screamed and cried. But to no avail. Bill had stood his ground, never fighting nor screaming back. And finally, she had relented and accepted to do his biding. But she didn’t like it, and she had made it plain.

Charlie had to admit she had far more personality that he had credited the girl for when he first met her. Now, he could see why Bill was so in love with her. She wasn’t just beautiful. She was smart and she was loyal. And above all, her heart was in the right place – and it was that fact that had finally won Fleur their mother’s heart.

Fleur had gone back to live with her family out of love for her husband. She knew that once she wouldn’t be here, Bill would be able to focus more freely on the war… and the final battle. She had accepted to go and remain in France, knowing there was a chance she would never see her husband again.

Charlie had never experienced that kind of feelings. He had never had such a deep relationship with anyone. Would he have been strong enough to send his beloved away, depriving himself of what might have been their last days together, to protect her?

Sighing inwardly, he walked to a window looking out on the garden. The twins were there, absentmindedly testing some of the stuff they invented. That was probably a bad idea. Some of their inventions could be pretty dangerous when handle without care. They might get hurt. But they didn’t seem to care, and those who generally would have were each lost in their own grief.

Charlie thought about what Percy woud have said if he had been there now and smiled… Then he exhaled sadly. He had never seen his pranksters of brothers so subdued. Generally, when you couldn’t hear them, that was because they were plotting together. But not today.

Charlie kept on doing his unconscious round, as if to make sure there was still some constant in his world. He passed his father’s study and saw him inside. Arthur sat at his small desk. He had arranged a few "plugs" before him and he was taking them apart and putting them back together with what the Muggles called "tools". But he wasn’t really to what he was doing. His eyes were unfocused behind his spectacles. He must be lost in his thoughts, Charlie told himself. Or rather his memories. He knew his family had plenty of them.

But Charlie wasn’t ready to do just that. He knew that if he did, he would be of no use to anyone, and something nagging at his mind told him he needed to be strong – just a bit longer. He would mourn later.

He looked more closely at his father. Arthur Weasley looked wan. And was it more gray in his hair? Maybe… The last twenty-four hours had been hard on all of them. But especially on his parents. Charlie had lost two of his brothers, two of the siblings he had grown up with, but he couldn’t imagine what it felt like to lose a child, and even less two. It was just… wrong. Parents were not supposed to survive to their children.

Was his father reproaching himself for Percy’s estrangement? He knew that the day Percy had slammed the door, he had angered their father and broken their mother’s heart. But now Percy had died a hero, protecting their sister. He finally had chosen a side. He had been there when they all needed him the most. As if he had known that, not being able to be at Ginny’s side himself, Harry would be able to focus and face Voldemort more serenely – and survive – if he knew someone was there to keep an eye on her.

Entering the kitchen, he saw his mother’s plump frame shake with silent sobs. If her heart had been broken before, now she was crushed. For Molly Weasley, there was nothing more important in the world than her family. He was tempted to give her a shoulder to cry, but it would probably make him cross the line too. He would, after… After what? Was it just a trick of his mind? It was so frustrating!

He thought about Ginny. Should he be beside her? Did she need him? She was at the hospital with Harry. The young man had been wounded, but he would make it. He was young and strong – he had proven that time and time again.
Ginny… She had been unable to tell them how Ron had died. When she had rushed to Harry’s side, Ron was still alive.

And then, Charlie knew. There was one person they had all forgotten about – Hermione! Had someone told her parents she was in St Mungo’s? Were they at her bedside? He felt guilty. She had been part of their life for years now, and he had not thought of going to see her and making sure she was all right. None of them had…

Damn… All Charlie knew was that Hermione had left the battlefield alive and been taken to the hospital. How could they have all been so unthoughtful? Ron was gone, but she still belonged with their family! Ron would be so mad at us! And he would be right.
Charlie silently left the Burrow and disapparated.

~*~

The young man apparated a couple of heartbeats later in an alley close to St Mungo’s. It took him a few minutes to reach Harry’s room. Ginny had fallen asleep in a big armchair at her boyfriend’s bedside. She wanted her face to be the first he would see when he woke up. Voldemort was dead. And Harry was alive. She would finally make her dream come true.

Their dream… Charlie corrected himself.

He observed her for a moment. She was a woman now, and yet… he knew she would always be his little sister. Of course, if she could have read that thought, she would have hexed him. He smiled at that. She was strong – not to say pigheaded. He was so proud of her!

Charlie felt a pang of emotion. She looked so young, so peaceful, but her tears had left her cheeks raw and her eyes puffy. The young man looked at the bed and the boy – the man! – lying there. Harry was pale, but the doctors said he would be all right after a couple of days of sleep. They had given him potions, so he would get them and stop fretting.

Reassured about those two, Charlie left the room and went to the nurse station to ask about Hermione.

"Are you a relative?" the witch asked him after what seemed like a long time.

Charlie started to shake his head, then nodded. "She’s my brother fiancee."

He didn’t like her expression, the way she looked at the door before she finally answered his question.

"Miss Granger is in room 315."

Charlie headed towards the room, but as he reached it, he hesitated. He should have asked the nurse if Hermione was alone. Maybe someone, anyone, had taken her parents to see her? Sighing, he knocked discreetly on the door and waited.

"She won’t answer, sir," the nurse said, making him start.

Charlie frowned. "Why? Do you have her drugged too?"

She pursed her lips, then said: "You should talk to the doctors, sir. They will be here shortly." And she walked away.

"Wait!" Charlie called after her. But he knew she wouldn’t give him any more information. Something’s wrong, he thought.

He reached for the doorknob and opened the door silently, even if he knew he wouldn’t wake Hermione up. Like Harry, she was alone in the room – the other bed was empty. Charlie crossed to the one in which the girl was lying. Her face looked almost as white as the pillow. Her brown hair stood out in a stricking contrast to her skin. He could barely saw her breathing.

Charlie conjured a chair and sat down. It felt… strange to be here. He had never talked that much with Hermione. He spent so much time away, in Romania. But she should have become my sister-in-law, he told himself. It just felt strange because Ron and Harry weren’t there, he decided. At the Burrow, you never saw one without the two others!

Ron loved that girl. And he was about to marry her. Hermione was no stranger.

"I’ll take care of her for you, little brother," he whispered. "She doesn’t have the ring, but she’s my sister anyway."

He almost jumped out of his skin when the door opened. The doctor stopped short.

"Excuse me, I didn’t know she had a visitor," the man said.

Charlie stood up. "What’s wrong with her?" he asked bluntly.

"Maybe you should sit back down," the wizard adviced.

Charlie shook his head. "Just tell me, please."

The doctor sighed. "Actually, your guess is as good as mine. She should have come to for hours now, but…"

"What?" Charlie asked, rather impatiently.

"It seems like she’s willing herself to die."

No, it was impossible. He must have misunderstood the doctor. Hermione was strong-willed and gutsy.

But the man continued. "It can happen, fortunately very rarely, after a big trauma. I’m sorry, I can’t tell you anything more."

No. Charlie wouldn’t let that happen. She was the only thing Ron had left them.

"Actually, there is more." The wizard grimaced. "Did you know she was pregnant?"

One look at Charlie’s stricken face answered his question. Shaking his head, the doctor left.

Charlie sat back down, stunned. Had Ron known? Right now, it didn’t matter.

He took a deep breath and, taking Hermione’s right hand in his, he started to talk to her. He had to bring her back. At first, his voice was hesitant, but little by little, as he was sharing with her his memories of Ron, he lost himself in them. And they just flowed.




A/N: I'm sorry if that chapter made you cry or brought tears to your eyes. All I can say is that it can only get better. ;)
Thanks, juls, for reading the first half and telling me it was FANTASTIC. It really helped me write the second half faster. :)


Chapter 3: Live To Remember
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"… when dad took Mom and Ron home, after Ron was born, I remember telling to myself he was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. His face was all scrunched and red like a beetroot, which shockingly clashed with his rare red hair, and he was howling like a banshee. I thought there was something wrong with him, but Mom and Dad were calm. Mom cooed at him and…"

Suddenly, like a unexpected punch in the gut, Charlie remembered Ron would be having a baby of his own soon and swallowed hard. If I can save her.

He stood up and sat carefully an the edge of the bed, never letting go of her hand. "Please, Hermione," he pleaded desperately, his voice raw with barely contained emotions. "Please, don’t go, Hermione. Ron would never forgive us if you died now. He loved you so much. He would want you to live and try to be happy. He would want you to have his child and tell him or her how wonderful he was." Charlie took a ragged breath, closing his eyes. "Hermione, please…"

She whimpered low in her throat, and his eyes snapped open. "Her… Hermione?"

Two fat tears escaped her eyelids and rolled down on both sides of her face and disappeared in her hair.

His heart beating madly, he touched her cheek with his hand. She whimpered again, louder this time, and rolled on her side, tucking her knees against her chest, a ball of misery. Her small frame was shaking under the white sheet.

Charlie was a bit at as loss. It was one thing when she had been unconscious, now… now it was another entirely! Like so many men, tears made him feel very uncomfortable. Damn, what would you do if it were Ginny? a part of his mind asked – he would have sworn it sounded exasperated. And like… Ron’s?

He held out a hand tentatively and carressed her silky hair, rather awkwardly at first. They stayed like that for a minute or two, then she sprang up and threw herself against him, and he had to catch her, so she wouldn’t fall back down, her swift movement having made her dizzy.

He let her cry, long shuddering sobs raking her body, her fists ruinning his shirt. And the dam finally broke and silent tears ran down his cheeks. A moment passed, then Hermione must have felt he shared her pain, because her hand touched his face, and the moisture there. After that, she started to relax. Little by little. Until her breathing slowed and became shallower.

Charlie took a deep breath that filled his nose with the scent of her and lay her down on the hospital bed. She looked so young. No one that young should have to face that kind of pain.

He sat back down in the chair and let the memories flood his mind. And eventually, he fell asleep, there, at her bedside.

~*~

When Hermione woke up late in the morning, her mother and her father were at her bedside. She looked at them, then her eyes swept the hospital room.

"Your friend is gone," her mother said softly.

So Charlie was really here… I thought it might have been a dream. Something to hold on to in the ocean of her despair. Something to help her keep her sanity.

"He came to fetch us." Her mother closed her eyes briefly, and Hermione could tell that it had nothing to do with the sensation of a first apparition, then added. "He told us you would need us. He told us… Oh, Hermione, I’m so sorry, honey!"

Hearing that, Hermione bursted into tears. Her mother held her tight while she sobbed, and her father, at a loss for word, awkwardly patted her shoulder.

"I’m not going to tell you everything will be all right, honey," her mother whispered. "At least it can’t be right now. But one day, yes, one day, it will."

No! Hermione’s mind screamed.

Of course, her mother knew she didn’t believe her.

~*~

"Charlie!" Molly Weasley cried out, seeing her son enter the kitchen. She stood up and hugged him tight, than she slapped him on the shoulder and scowled. "Where in all the little gods’s hells have you been? I was so worried!"

And she burst into tears.

Charlie took his mother in his arms and said softly: "I went to see Hermione at the hospital, mom."

She looked up at him, her tearful eyes wide. "Hermione!" Her hands flew to her face and covered her mouth. She looked stricken. "I didn’t think about the poor girl… She must have felt so lonely." Then she pinched his cheek, as if he were still five years old. "No, she didn’t, because you were there. Thanks, Merlin, you thought about going to see her!"

And she hugged him fiercely. Charlie almost couldn’t breathe. But he let her anyway. He knew how she felt – like her world had been turned upside down and she needed to hold on to someone she loved or she would lose it.

~*~*~

Charlie went back to Romania a week after his two brothers Ron and Percy had been laid to rest. He knew his mother would have liked him to stay for a while. And he would have loved to – he hated to see her so afraid to lose another of her children. But he couldn’t take a longer leave from work. Voldemort was gone for good, and there were many things to rebuild. The Wizarding World was nursing his wounds, and trying to heal. And eventually, it would.

A few months later, the heroes of the final battle, the Battle of Hogsmeade or the Battle of Hogwarts, as the wizards and witches had gotten to call it – with the help of some reporters and some papers –, were still the focus of the wizarding folks’s attention. But already, most people were tired of hearing from them each time they opened a magazine or a newspaper. It was like rubbing salt on an open wound. They wanted to forget, to go on with their lives.

Some, like us, can’t forget. But we have to go on with our lives, Charlie thought. But he wasn’t bitter. He knew people had to forget, at some level. They had lived in fear long enough. That’s life!

It had been four months since Charlie had seen Hermione for the last time. She had been leaving St Mungo with Mrs and Mr Granger. But thanks to Harry and his little sister Ginny, he knew that she spent the summer with her parents, then she returned to Hogwarts on September 1 with them.

He had thought about sending her a letter, and he had even started to write one, but after a couple of sentences, he had burnt it with a simple spell. They had never really talked. They had just shared that one moment at the hospital.

And so he was there, for the first Hogsmeade weekend. Charlie needed to see Hermione, to talk to her. Above all, he needed to know why she had not told anyone about the baby. He didn’t know why, but she was always on his mind. He’d gone back to Romania, and she had been there every waking moment, and in his dreams too. Charlie told himself he promised his little brother he would take care of her and of the baby.

But I went back to my life, he thought. And little Ronikin must be mad at me – that’s why she’s haunting me. He wants me to remember the promise I made to him. So he was there, waiting for her on the outskirts of the little town.

Charlie sighed. Then he started when a thought struck him – what if Harry and Ginny were with her? They would ask what he was doing here… and he couldn’t answer that question. Not really. He had to talk to Hermione – alone – first.

He saw some students pass by, and suddenly being here didn’t seem a very good idea anymore. Hermione is safe, and surrounded by friends. She doesn’t need me! Charlie turned around to retrace his steps and go back home. She’s already been through so much. She will tell mom and dad when she will be ready.

"Charlie?"

Hermione had not expected to see him here, but she was glad he was. She had wanted to talk to him about that night for some time now. She had even written him a letter – but it was still in her Potions book though.

Charlie turned to the sound of her voice. "Hermione!" He didn’t have to feign to be surprised, because he trully was. He looked at her, a bit too long probably, because he saw a blush creep up her face. "Sorry," he made a face. "Mom would have my hide for staring that way," he added.

Hermione had a thin smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes, and he immediately understood what had struck him – her eyes.

"She would, no doubt," she answered. "But I’m not going to tell her."

"Look…" they both said in unisson.

"Ladies first," Charlie said, nodding at her. "At least, Mom would be proud I remember that much."

"I’m glad you’re here…" Hermione began. "I’ve been wanting to talk to you."

"To me? About what?" he blurted. Did the doctor inform her he told me about the baby?

Hermione hesitated. "I… It looks like we’re both heading in the same direction, so maybe we could walk together?" she asked him. Suddenly, she didn’t want to be alone anymore. Was it because of that moment they shared in the hospital room? She felt close to Charlie. Admit it, Hermione, she told herself. You simply miss them all.

"Yes, I’d love to!" Charlie answered. "In fact, I don’t have anything to do, so… Where do you want to go first?"

"Honeyduke!" she answered without hesitation. Then she blushed and added. "I love their strawberry flavoured lollies."

"We all have our addiction," he told her, pulling out a packet from his pocket.

"Sherbet lemon?" Hermione exclaimed. "But it’s a Muggle candy !"

Charlie shrugged. "Albus Dumbledore got me addicted."

Another smile that never reached her brown eyes…

They went to Honeyduke and Charlie thought Hermione would buy all the stock. Then he invited her to lunch in the Three Broomsticks.

"So," he said, putting their drinks on the table. "What did you want to tell me?"

"I wanted to say thank you… I’m glad you were there, that night." Hermione extended her arm to take his hand and squeeze it.

"Thank you, Charlie. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d been alone the night… Ron died."

Charlie remembered a girl with bushy brown hair and front teeth that were slightly too long. Where is that girl now? he wondered. At St Mungo’s, she had seemed so young and so lost. But now, he could see she was no child anymore. The Final Battle had honed the girl into a woman.

"And you… what were you about to say, earlier?"

Charlie swallowed. It was one thing to want to demand an explanation – and another to ask for it.

"I…"

"Yes?"

Seeing him hesitate, Hermione started to fidget. She sipped her pumpkin juice, observing him from under her thick eyelashes.

"About that night…" he began again.

She blushed slightly. "You must have felt so uncomfortable…"

"The doctor told me about the baby," Charlie said quickly.

Hermione paled and tensed up. Then she relaxed and closed her eyes, sighing. He knows! One of them knows! She was flooded with relief. "And you haven’t told your mother?"

She knew that if he had, she would have heard about it.

Charlie shook his head. "No one knows." Seeing her questioning look, he added: "You must tell them, Hermione. I can’t do that."

"I must…" Hermione swallowed hard. Then she shook her head slowly. "It took me some time to get used to the idea that I’m going to have a baby… that I’m having a baby alone."

Charlie looked sharply at her. "You’ll never be alone, Hermione. We are there – we would be there for you, even if you were not pregnant."

Hermione knew it was the truth. The Weasleys had always been her second family – a family who understood her far better than her parents could.

She was opening her mouth to tell him how much they all meant to her and how much she had missed them when a female voice exclaimed: "Charlie !"

Ginny and Harry had just walked in the Three Broomsticks. Charlie stood up and his sister threw herself into his arms. He hugged her. "Hello, Ginny" Then he looked at Harry and added: "What’s up, Harry?"

Ginny pulled away and looked at her brother, frowning. "I hope you’re not here to make sure Harry takes good care of me."

"Why not?" Charlie asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I’m a big girl and I don’t need you or Bill or the twins to…" Ginny let her voice trailed off, remembering she had had two other brothers. But they would never be nosey again.

"I’m not there to make sure Harry is taking good care of you," Charlie assured his sister. "He knows that he better do it," he added in a mock threatening tone, giving a sidelong glance to the boy – young man, really.

"Charlie came to invite me over for Christmas," Hermione said.

Ginny smiled at her brother, then looked expectantly at her friend.

"I was about to accept." 

Chapter 4: Family Ties
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"Hermione! If you don’t come out of here soon, the Hogwarts Express will leave and we’ll have to stay here for Chritsmas!" Ginny yelled through the door. And I bet that’s what you want! she added silently.

Hermione finally walked out of the bathroom. She looked slightly green, but Ginny knew her friend had had no bout of nausea in the morning for a full month now. So she must have been upset because she was going to spend Christmas at the Burrow with all the Weasleys. Well, not all of them, Ginny reminded herself sadly. But it would be the first time Hermione would set foot there since… Since the day Ron proposed and she accepted. No wonder she’s not feeling well.
They met with Harry in the Common Room and a few minutes later they finally reached the carriages – there were still a couple of them to take the last departing students to the train station, in Hogsmeade. 

We all can see the Thestrals now,
Ginny mused. Seeing Hermione’s looking at the one pulling their carriage, she knew her friend was having the same thought. They remained silent as they were crossing the hills where the Battle of Hogwarts took place, none of them daring to take a look outside.

But once on board the Hogwarst Express, Hermione started to fidget again.

"Are you all right, Hermione?" Harry asked, seeing her pull on her collar for the thousand times.

Hermione nodded her head. "Yeah… just a bit too hot."

He nodded his head. Half an hour later, he stood up. "I’m going to see if I can find the trolley lady. I’m starving."

Ginny shook her head, chuckling. Then she shooed him off.

Hermione woke up when the door closed behind her friend. She’d been drowsing.

"Do you really feel all right" Ginny asked her.

"Yeah…" she yawned. "I…"

"You’re pregnant, yes, I know," Ginny let out matter-of-factly.

Seeing Hermione staring at her, wide-eyed, she made a face. 

"Hermione, you threw up almost every morning for three months, your mood changes faster than anyone can say Quidditch, you’re falling asleep during classes and you’re waist is not that slender anymore."

"I thought…"

"I’m not a guy – and when I say I’m not a guy, I mean I’m not Harry – I’m your friend and even if my mother still see me sometimes like a baby, I’m a grown woman," Ginny interrupted. "So of course I would notice!"

~*~


Oh, Merlin, is she mad at me? Will they all be mad at me? Are they going to hate me because I didn’t tell them about the baby sooner?


Her heart beating madly, Hermione gulped – she wouldn’t throw up again! "I’m so sorry, Ginny. I…" she began.

"Stop fretting," her friend interrupted. "It’s good neither for you nor for the baby."

"But they are…"

"They are going to be happy and love you even more – if that’s possible."

I hope Ginny is right. Charlie didn’t hate me for not telling, right?

"Stop fretting, Hermione." Then Ginny seemed to ponder that. "In fact, I would, too. Because once Mom will know, she will fuss and fuss… I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes."

"Oh, Merlin…" Hermione whined.

"I’m kidding!" the redhead quickly added.

Of course, they both knew she wasn’t, but they didn’t talk further about it. Because just at that moment, Harry came back with an armfull of cauldron cakes, pumpkin pasties and all sorts of food and drinks.

At first, Hermione refused to eat anything. She felt queasy. But half an hour later, she could have eaten everything on the trolley. She caught Harry looking at her as she was licking her fingers clean of the last crumbs of the pumpkin pasties she had just wolfed down. But he averted his eyes when they met hers and he didn’t say a word. Nevertheless, she felt herself blush. I must have looked like a pig.
The rest of the trainride was thankfully uneventful.

~*~


As they were apparating at two hundred paces of the Burrow, Hermione told herself it would have been easier if some of the rules at Hogwarts were not so strict. They could apparate, but all students were supposed to use the Hogwarts Express. She rolled her eyes. Her back was killing her after having spent hours in a train. She was hungry again. And she was…

Oh, Merlin!
She thought, her breath catching in her throat. Why did I say I would spend Christmas here? But her parents had been relieved, because they had planned a cruise on the Meditarranean Sea, and thanks to the Weasleys’ invitation, they didn’t have to cancel.

"Are you all right?" Harry asked her.

Hermione nodded. "I might have eaten too much chocolate frogs."

He took her hand briefly and squeezed it: "You’re going to be fine," he winked at her. Seeing her gape, he chuckled and added: "Hermione, you’re my best friend and contrary to popular belief…" He looked at Ginny from the corner of his eye. "… I pay attention."

Hermione was so relieved that for in instant, she thought she might cry. Damn mood swings!
"Come on," Harry said, putting an arm around her shoulders.

Ginny saw them walk side by side and smiled. Just as they reached the door, it flew open and Molly Weasley appeared, wearing an apron. "Come on in, come on in," she said, ushering them in the house. "It’s cold outside."

She all but crushed Ginny against her ample bosom. Then it was Harry’s turn. "Oh, Harry, dear." She observed him for a second. "You look pale and thin… don’t they feed you at Hogwarts?"

Ginny giggled. "They do! But I swear he stuff himself like a pig and yet he doesn’t take a pound!"

Harry laughed, and Ginny made a face at him.

"Oh, Hermione," Molly said. "I was so glad when Charlie said you would come over for Christmas."

Hermione felt Molly’s arms envelopping her into a bear hug… but Molly stopped herself before completing her motherly welcome. Her arms relaxed a bit, and she held the girl during a moment. Then she looked at her – there were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. "I didn’t know the gift were given so early this year," she told Hermione. "But none of the ones waiting under the Chrismas tree will be better than the one you just gave me."

Hermione bursted into tears.

"Oh, don’t, don’t," Molly cooed. They shed tears of sorrow. But they were also tears of happiness.

Molly was still comforting Hermione when a man cleared his throat.

"Yes, Charlie?"

"Mom, Dad would like you to join him in the kitchen."

Molly threw up her arms. "Never leave a man alone in a kitchen!" she muttered. "He won’t find his way from the sink to the stove!"

Hermione sniffed. "Hello, Charlie."

"Hello, Hermione. Are you all right?"

She nodded her head, took a deep shuddering breath and sighed.

"I guess Mom knows?"

Hermione nodded again.

"And you didn’t tell her, right?"

This time, she shook her head. "How do you…"

Charlie shrugged. "Easy enough: we’ve always been able to hide a few things from Dad, he’s so busy. But, Mom, never – even the twins. She always finds out about everything that concerns her children." He looked at her. "And you’re the daughter of her heart, if not of her flesh, Hermione."

She let him took her to the sitting room.

"You’ll get used to it," he added, just before Fleur came striding towards them.

"’Ermione" she said, her accent thick again when she tried her best to speak English like a native.

"Fleur. How are you?"

The French beauty tucked her hair behind her ear in an elegant gesture and answered: "I’m fine. And I’m so glad I…" Letting her voice trail off, she took Hermione’s hands in hers. "I’m so sorry for your loss."

Bitting the inside of her cheek, Hermione nodded. She knew Fleur was sincerely affected by what had happened on the battlefield. The Weasleys were her family now, and she knew what that word meant. Her heart is in the right place.
Hermione had spent more joyful Christmas Eves at the Burrow, but she felt good surrounded by the warmth of their love. She had truly missed them all. Later that night, after the feast, they started, hesitantly at first, to tell about the best gift either Ron or Percy had made them. A Christmas present, a birthday present…

When it was Hermione’s turn, she simply said: "Ron gave me the gift of life. He lost his life to save mine and the life of our child growing in my womb."

Silence fell on the room during a few seconds, then they all started to talk at once. Molly hugged Hermione again, but more carefully, and Arthur took the girl’s face in his hands and kissed her on the brow. Fleur squealed, then bursted into tears of happiness and longing, and Bill had to comfort her and tell her she would be a mother herself soon.

Fred turned to George and whispered: "Well, it looks like I win and you lose, after all."

Seemingly dejected, George nodded. "You’ll have your money back tomorrow, all right?"

"Yeah," his twin nodded.

Charlie was looking at them in turn. "Wait a second… what did you two bet on?"

Fred and George looked at one another, then shrugged.

"Well, I said Harry and Ginny would be the first to have a child," George said, before glaring at Harry. "But the git has still to do the first move!"

Fred gave the thumbs up to Harry, who blushed furiously. Ginny, too, but it was obvious she was more angry than embarrassed.

Charlie shook his head.

~*~


Later that night, as Harry and Ginny were saying goodnight, she observed shrewdly. "You didn’t look surprised when Hermione announced she was with child."

"Mmm?" Harry answered, nibbling at her ear.

The girl pulled slightly away. "I’m sure you heard me, Harry James Potter."

He shrugged. "So what if I wasn’t surprised?" Seeing her about to retort, her eyes narrowing, he added quickly: "You didn’t tell me either!"

Ginny tilted her head on one side, then nodded and pressed her body against his again. Their lips crashed, but this time, it was Harry who broke the kiss. "I’m not sure it’s a good idea, Ginny."

"Why not?"

"We said we’d wait… we must finish school first!" he reminded her, his breath a little labored.

"You decided!" she hissed. Then she added: "What would have happened if Hermione and Ron had waited?"

Harry sighed and took his time to answer. "I was jealous, you know," he finally said.

She shook her head. "I don’t…"

"When I found out they were together… I missed you so much! I thought I’d die soon and I’d never know how it felt to spend a night with you in my arms."

"So what are you waiting for now?"

"Things have changed, Ginny, even if…"

"Yeah?"

Harry sighed again. "At the time I thought Hermione and Ron should have waited. But today I’m glad they didn’t and had the time to know each other."

"I’m glad too," Ginny said, snuggling up in his arms. Then she looked up at him and started caressing the nape of his neck.

"Ginevra Molly Weasley, I’m not going to spend my first night with you under your parents’s roof!"

Oh, yeah?
she thought. Wanna bet?

~*~


Hermione woke up and smiled when she noticed Ginny wasn’t there. Then she grimaced, registering the reason why she was awake – she needed to go to the bathroom. Sighing, because she couldn’t sleep during a whole night without having to get up at least once to relieve herself, she left her warm bed. The wooden floor was smooth and cool under her bare feet.

As she was walking out of the bathroom, a voice whispered. "Are you all right, Hermione?"

She blushed and grimaced – those words were starting to get on her nerves. "Yeah," she snapped. Then she compressed her lips, took a breath and said: "I’m sorry, Charlie."

He shook his head and stepped closer. In her nightgown, with her robe opened, it was obvious now that she was pregnant.

"It’s ok, don’t worry. I bet you’re fed up of hearing people asking you the same question all the time."

Hermione nodded. He took another step towards her, and she couldn’t fail to notice how different he was from Ron. Her lover had been lanky, but if Charlie was still taller than she was, he was shorter, and definitly broader in the shoulders. He was working hard in Romania, and it shows.

The girl felt herself blushing and was thankful for turning her back to the moon. Damn hormones! she whined inwardly. Aloud, she said: "Um, I’m going back to bed. Goodnight, Charlie."

"Goodnight, Hermione."

~*~


It snowed all morning, and in the afternoon, Fred, George, Harry and Ginny had a snowball fight, soon joined by Fleur and Bill. Charlie saw his mother looked out of the window and smiled, then turned her eyes towards Hermione. The girl was dying to be out there with her friends, it was obvious.

"Come on, Hermione," Charlie said, taking her by the hand.

"Charlie Weasley!" Molly cried, scowling.

"I’ll take good care of her, Mom," he said above his shoulder. "Some fresh air will do her a lot of good." He looked at the girl. "Do you trust me, Hermione?"

She nodded, smiling.

They bundled up and walked out the garden door. Soon, the others were pelting them with snowballs. And true to his promise, Charlie made sure none ever touched Hermione – and that none of hers ever missed their intended target.

When they all get back inside, their cheeks were red and their eyes bright. Molly had made hot cider with spices, and they drank it slowly around the fireplace.

~*~


Molly was looking at her family. Fred and George were no doubts talking about some new inventions. Ginny and Harry were playing wizardchess, sitting cross-legged on the rug. She knew they had spent the night together and they both had had what they wanted – well, maybe not exactly, because Harry wanted Ginny, but he was mature enough to resist her. Fleur had her head on Bill’s lap, and he was stroking her hair.

She saw Hermione arc her back, and Charlie solicitously offer her a cushion. The girl smiled her thanks, and they exchanged a few words. She finaly nodded her head, and she turned her back to him so he could rub it with his strong hands.

Molly started slightly, then relaxed and smiled. She was still smiling when Arthur put his hands on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.

When his wife looked up at him, Arthur saw she was truly happy for the first time in months.

Chapter 5: New Life
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Charlie apparated in the hills close to the Burrow and headed towards the house, drinking in the view when it appeared at the bend in the path. To any eyes but a Weasley’s, it might be the most unbelievable sight ever beheld, even in the Wizarding World. Some rooms just seemed to have been added as after thoughts – which they probably were – and jutted out at odd angles.

But as strange as the sight might be, it warmed him from the inside out. The young man had been living abroad ever since he left Hogwarts, but that was home to his eyes and to his heart. It wasn’t only magic that helped keep it up – it was love. Or so he liked to believe. The appartment he shared with other dragon handlers in Romania was soulless and cold. It was the place were they slept when they didn’t work at night, nothing more. They seldom ate there, prefering sharing food before leaving the reservation. Charlie loved his job, but he’d been missing the warmth of a true home for years.

And here it was, in the glory of the late winter sun, with timid flowers showing in the flowerbeds.

Sighing with contentment, he opened the door and walked in. At this hour of the day and at this time of the year, his mother must be alone at home. And as he expected it, he found her in the kitchen, drinking a cup of strong tea at the window. Of course, being a practical woman, it wasn’t the bird she was observing that way. It was the gnomes.

"Damned creatures," he heard her mutter. "Maybe I should buy a cat…"

Then she turned around – but not to find her Guide To House Pests by Gilderoy Lockhart. She had used it to fuel the sitting room fire, along with Lockhart’s other books. The git was a fraud – he didn’t help save her baby when she was taken to the Chamber of Secrets. When she had to talk about him, she called him the Greatest-Coward-The-Wizarding-World-Has-Ever-Known. Suffice it to say that she didn’t talk about him very often.

"Charlie!" Molly exclaimed, seeing him in the doorway. Then she frowned. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, it’s good to see you too, Mom," he answered, smiling.

She clicked her tongue and shook her head, but gave him a bear hug all the same.
Good thing I’m taller than she is, Charlie thought, hugging her back – but with some more care. He could barely breathe.

"I’m so happy to see you… but tell me why you’re here," Molly insisted, pulling away. "You should be in Romania, doing you job – you know, the one you’re married to."

She couldn’t help it, she made a face. She was proud of his dedication, she could understand his passion, but really, couldn’t he tell there were other things to life than dragons?

Charlie knew her opinion. He knew she wanted him to have everything life could offer – a good job, a passion and above all the love of the right person and a family. And of course, to her eyes, he wasn’t doing anything to find the woman that was made for him. How could he when he spent all his nights and days with his single friends, taking care of overgrown fire-breathing lizards?

Yes, Charlie loved his job and loved dragons. But since the day of the Final Battle, he’d discovered that he loved his family even more. He missed them. He wanted to be here for the birthdays and the little things that marked their life. At Christmas, he had an epiphany: he belonged with them. To make it short, after all those years, he finally realized that his mother was right. There was more to life than work and having good times with friends.

His brother Ron had discovered that earlier in his life, and he had died before he could really live all the good things he could foresee. It had been an eye-opener for Charlie. He didn’t want to wake up one day and find out he’d missed the most important things and wasted precious time. He didn’t want to wake up one day feeling like… he didn’t want to get up, because there was nothing, and especially no one, to get up to.

"I’m going to work on an experiment, Mom," Charlie announced.

"Does it have anything to do with giving a good fright to your old mother?" Molly asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

He laughed. "No, of course not. It has everything to do with…"

"Don’t say it," she cut him, holding up one index finger in warning. "It has to do with your overgrown fire-breathing lizards, of course."

Charlie nodded his head enthousiastically. "Well, of course!"

"What kind of experiment? Will it be dangerous?"

Seeing she was clearly alarmed now, Charlie stopped teasing her.

"No, it shouldn’t be more dangerous than what I’m doing now. In fact, probably less…" his voice trailed off.

Her fists on her hips, Molly snapped: "You’re not telling me the whole truth, Charlie Weasley, and you’d better do it quickly before…"

"We’re going to try to cross-breed two species. The Ministry finally gave us the go-ahead."

"As if there weren’t enough already!" she humphed. Then she sighed. "I guess we’ll see you even less than before…"

Charlie shook his head. "You should see more of me actually – so much more than you’ll probably try to send me back to Romania in a couple of months."

His words were so unexpected they took time to register. Then a big smile broke on his mother’s face.

"Where are you going to work now?"

"Scotland," Charlie answered. "Not so far from Hogwarts. We needed a remote place…"

"Where are you going to live?" Molly asked, her eyes suddenly alive.

"Hogsmeade, prob…"

"Why didn’t you say so earlier? We would already be there… Wait, how many of your friends will live there with you?"

Charlie felt a bit embarrassed now. She had the knack for asking the questions he didn’t want to answer.

"Just me."

"Just… you?" she looked at him more closely. "I suppose you’re not going to do that experiment on your own."

Oh, Charlie didn’t like it when she used that tone of voice and looked at him as if she could read his very soul.

"No, of course not. There will be three other people and…"

"I guess you’re doing that because it will be a more interesting job and you’ll get a pay rise."

"What?" he stammered. Then he cleared his throat and nodded. "Yes, a better job and a better pay."

And it was the truth – part of it, at least.

Molly cupped his cheek with one hand. "Well, that’s what we’ll tell the others," she said with a knowing look. 

~*~

"I still can’t believe you’re going to live here," Ginny said, looking around her.

The appartment wasn’t that big – two bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchen and a bathroom – but Hermione could see that Molly had done her best so Charlie would have a real home. And you can tell there is a guy living here alone. Definitely. She hid a smile, seeing the sock caught under one of the cushions of the couch.

Charlie cleared his throat and inquired. "So… whatcha think, Hermione?"

Harry and Ginny had run ahead of them. Charlie was showing them around. Lately, eight months pregnant Hermione had had the feeling of dragging herself – she was certainly not walking anymore. Yet she wasn’t that big. When she had asked Madam Pomfrey about that, worried because it showed, but not as much as she thought it should, the Matron had laughed and answered that all women were different. Then, noticing Hermione needed a bit more reassurance, she added that it happened, sometimes, with a first pregnancy, and she should be grateful that she wasn’t that big.

"I love it, Charlie, really," she responded.

"Yep, it’s very nice," added Ginny, coming back with Harry. "Tell me, what are you going to do with the spare bedroom?" she asked her brother.

Behind her, Harry blushed slightly.

Charlie feigned to ponder her question, rubbing his jaw. "Well, I guess I could use it to house a pet dragonet…"

Hermione laughed at the look on Ginny’s face. Her friend sticked out her tongue at her.

"Well, I need to buy a couple of things," Harry said. "Hermione, do you feel up to it or do you want to wait for us in the Three Broomsticks?"

"Uh…"

"You can stay here with me, Hermione," Charlie offered. "Then we’ll join with those two for lunch, and if you have anything to buy, I’ll go with you and Harry and Ginny can keep on running from one place to the other."

Unexpectedly, the grateful smile she gave him made his heart leap. He told himself that it was good to see her smile again, even if sadness seemed to have settled in her eyes.

"You don’t mind, Charlie?" Hermione asked.

"Of course not!" Ginny answered for him. Then, seeing her brother shake his head, she retorted: "You wouldn’t have offered if you did."

When her friends were gone, Hermione turned to Charlie, who invited her to take a seat. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Yes."

"Let’s see, no tea nor coffee… I have pumpkin juice."

"Good! But before…"

"You know where is the bathroom," he told her above his shoulder, disappearing inside the kitchen.

When Hermione came back, there were two glasses of pumpkin juice waiting on the coffee table. She sat down in one of the armchairs. As she was conjuring her drink, she asked: "So how is your new job?"
Charlie smiled. "Great! I’m sure we’ll have dragonets soon. It’s just a question of finding the right spells for the mating, then…"

He told her everything about the experiment they were doing, and she listened to him, asking questions sometimes. Then he realized he’d been talking for almost an hour

"Oh, Merlin! I’m so sorry, Hermione…"

"Why?" she said, looking at him quizzically. "I really thought it was interesting." Then her stomach grumbled and she laughed, embarrassed. "But now I’m hungry… I’m always hungry."

"You should have told me!" Charlie said. "Mum was here yesterday and left…"

She held up both hands to stop him. "No, please… I can’t eat all day long – it wouldn’t be good either for me or for the baby."

Charlie stood up and held out a hand to help her up. "Come on, let’s go to the Three Broomsticks." Then he saw her wince. "Are you all right?"

She beamed at him. "The baby is just kicking. Do you…?"

He swallowed hard when she took the hand she was still holding and pressed it against her swollen belly. And he felt it. "A foot?"

"I hope so, or he or she will know how to use their fists!"

Laughing, they left his appartment and slowly headed towards the Three Broomsticks. Harry and Ginny were already there when they enter.

"We have a pumpkin juice for Hermione and a butterbeer for Charlie," the readhead announced as they sat.

They ate wizard shepherd’s pie. The food was good, though not as good as Molly’s. Then while Harry and Ginny went their way Charlie followed Hermione at Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop – she needed a new quill. They didn’t visit any other shop, because she was tired.

As Charlie was going to the gates of the castle with Hermione, she suddenly cried out and clutched at his arm with one hand and at her swollen abdomen with the other. "Hermione, are you ok?" he asked her, his voice full of concern.

They had stopped in the middle of the road. She let out a hissing breath, then she answered, her voice quivering a little. "Yes… no… I don’t know, Charlie!"
When she looked up at him, he could see she was terrified. "When are you due?"

"Two weeks," she whispered.

Well, she was going to have her baby. So he had to get her back into the castle – and the Hospital Wing. "Do you think you can walk?"

Hermione nodded her head. He put his arms around her, to support her, and they walked slowly across the grounds and towards the looming castle. They had to make three other stops, as she was having contractions. There was no doubt now – she was in labour. Finally, he had to pick her up in his arms and carried her to the Hospital Wing.

"Well," Madam Pomfrey said when she saw them enter. "It was bound to happen."

She guided Charlie towards one of the bed.

The young man put down Hermione, then the matron shooed him out, despite Hermione’s protests.

"I need to find an owl," Charlie muttered. His mother would kill him slowly and painfully if he didn’t tell her.

There was a crack, and a house-elf appeared. "Dobby can help you, sir?"

Dobby… He’d heard that name before. "Yes, I need to write a message to my parents."

The house-elf nodded, then disappeared. He was back two minutes later with a quill, an inkwell and a piece of parchment. Only seconds later, and owl landed on the windowsill.

"Thank you, Dobby," Charlie said, taking the profered items.

"Dobby always serves Harry Potter sir’s friends."

And he was gone.

Charlie wrote a couple of sentences to his mother – Hermione is having the baby. Come as soon as possible. –, gave the note to the owl and set to wait. Ron should have been there. Hermione shouldn’t be left to go through that alone, even if ultimately she was the one giving birth to that baby.

He was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t hear Madam Pomfrey approach. "She would like to see you."

Charlie nodded and followed her on the other side of the curtains.

Hermione had never felt so utterly alone, but she smiled bravely at him. "Thanks, Charlie. Now would you tell your mother and your fa…" She had to stop because of the pain.

Charlie took her hand in his. "Don’t worry, I already did. Mom should be here soon."
Hermione gave him a wan smile.

When Madam Pomfrey asked Charlie if he wanted to stay, he nodded his head. He couldn’t leave Hermione alone – he promised Ron he would take care of her.




A/N: Who said Charlie always had to go back to Romania and break Hermione's heart? Well, not in my story - I promised you some surprises along the way, didn't I? If you enjoy reading that chapter, and my little twist, please leave me a review. :D

Chapter 6: Around A Cradle
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When Molly saw the owl flying towards the kitchen window, her mother instinct told her it had to do with one of her children. Then, somehow, she knew that Hermione was having the baby. Her cup of tea fell from her suddenly nerveless fingers and crashed to the floor. She waved her wand absentmindedly at it, saying: "Reparo!" while she was opening the window for the bird with her left hand. It landed on the table and extended a leg so she could take the note tied to it. Her hands trembling, Molly read it and called: "Arthur!"

She put out the fire under the cooking pot and ran to his little study. Arthur was trying to put back together the Muggle toaster he brought home the night before. "Yes, Molly dear?" he said. Seeing her flushed face, he stood up, slightly alarmed.

"The baby!" she squealed. She had tears in her eyes, but she was smiling.

Her husband paled. "Again?"

She clicked her tongue impatiently and smacked his arm. Men could be so dense

"No, not me, of course not! Ron and Hermione’s baby!"

Arthur audibly gulped. "Now?" He had thought it would be easier to become a grandfather than a father… it was not.

"Yes! Hurry up or it will be born before we can get to Hogwarts!"

They apparated before the school gates and walked briskly towards the castle. Molly knew Charlie was waiting for them – in his haste, the poor boy forgot to write down his name at the end of his message, but she had recognized his handwriting. She smiled. She didn’t know what happened that day in the hospital, but he was intent on taking care of Hermione and of the baby – and some unknown force seemed to make sure that he was always there when the young woman help.

Molly and Arthur entered the Hall and headed towards the Hospital Wing. But Charlie was nowhere to be seen. Could he…? Molly smiled again. She had never been so proud of her son.

~*~

Madam Pomfrey had taken Hermione to one of the two small rooms off the main one for more privacy. Charlie had followed suit, holding the young woman’s hand. She had drunk the potions the matron gave her, and now she was doing everything she told her to do. The young man could see the shadows under her eyes darken with every contraction of her abdomen, but she hardly let a groan or a cry escape her lips. He didn’t know how she could be so brave and so courageous – he’d never been so scared in all his life and he’d spent years taking care of the most dangerous creatures in the Wizarding World! And yet… he was witnessing the miracle of life. Soon, he would have a nephew or a niece. Soon, a new life would take a breath for the first time. A new life, so many promisses…

"I can see the head… now push, Hermione!" Madam Pomfrey said.

The young woman obeyed, groaning and panting.

"Good," the matron cooed. "You will be done soon."

Charlie wondered it it was just a way to reassure Hermione, but he found out a few minutes later that it wasn’t. The newborn started to wail as Hermione was falling back down on her pillows. Tears were running down her cheeks now, but she smiled through them.

"It’s a beatiful baby girl," Madam Pomfrey announced.

"I want to see her," Hermione said in a small voice.

The matron was already putting her daughter down on her stomach.

Charlie swallowed hard. She was so… tiny. Everything about her was tiny. Her hands, her fingers, her feet, her ears… but she had a strong voice!

"She’s a Weasley alright," he chuckled.

"Now I have to ask you to wait outside, young man," Madam Pomfrey told him.

Charlie nodded and left after a last look above his shoulder to his baby niece and her courageous mother. The latter had her hair plastered to her head by sweat, her eyes were red and her cheeks blotchy. Yet she is beautiful, he told himself.

As he was coming back in the main room of the school infirmary, his mother’s voice cried out: "Charlie!"

He had forgotten about his mother and father. He approached them with a sheepish expression.

"Mum, I’m so sorry. I forgot…"

"I know," she interrupted, pinching his cheek – he really would like her to stop doing that. "So?"

"They are fine, mum. Hermione and the baby are fine," he assured her.

His mother gave him a bonecrushing hug. Then his father cleared his throat and asked: "Do I have a grandson or a granddaughter?"

Charlie laughed. "A granddaughter… and she already has the Weasleys’ voice – or should I say the Prewetts’?"

His mother gave him a mock glare. "Only if in addition to that, she’s a big baby."

"I doubt it. She’s so… tiny."

~*~

Hermione was dozing when Madam Pomfrey came back with her daughter. She awoke with a start and took the baby in her arms. She was clean now, and asleep, exhausted by her first big adventure. The young woman smiled tenderly at her daughter, marvelling at how beautiful she was. Her head was covered in fine short titian hair.

"Yes, you’re a true Weasley, Charlie was right," Hermione whispered, kissing her softly, her lips brushing her brow. She was flooded by a love she never knew existed.
"Welcome to the world, Damia."

It was a wonderful world, but tough too, and her daughter needed a strong name.

There was a knock at the door, and at first, she was annoyed. She wanted to stay alone with her baby. Then, hoping it was Charlie – she really needed to thank him for staying with her through it all –, she called: "Come on in!"

The door half-opened and Molly’s head appear. "If you’re not too tired…"

"Come in," Hermione repeated with a warm smile. She was happy to see them. And so proud to introduce them to their granddaughter.

Molly, Arthur and Charlie walked in. The latter closed the door behind them. His mother had already reached the bed when he turned towards the room again.
"How are you, honey?" Mrs Weasley inquired sollicitously, cupping Hermione’s cheek. But it was obvious her eyes wanted to stray towards the new born at her side.

"I’m fine." The young woman picked up the baby. "Do you want to hold her, Mrs Weasley?"

"Ah, Hermione, I think it’s time to call me Molly, don’t you think?" Molly told her, taking her first grand-daughter in her arms, her eyes filling with tears of joy. "Oh, Arthur, look at her! She’s so beautiful!" she cooed. "Look at her perfect tiny hands!"

"Yes, she is perfect," Arthur nodded, blinking hard.

Hermione knew most people underestimated Arthur Wesley because he was ever so calm by comparison to his ebullient wife. They thought he was weak. But if you threatened his family or his friends in any way, you had better be prepared for a fight. She knew Ron would have been that kind of man – gently strong, loyal, a man a woman could count on any time. Even if it was just to make her smile.

The only difference was that Ron had been obsessed with Quidditch, and his father was with everything belonging to the muggle world.

"I’m not sure they’ll give her back to you, you know," Charlie joked.

Hermione chuckled, then sobered. "Thank you."

"No," he shook his head. "Thank you."

They looked at one another, and some kind of understanding passed between them. 

Harry and Ginny came to see Hermione and her daughter after dinner – Madam Pomfrey refused to let them in ealier.

"Another red-haired Weasley," Harry observed, feigning to ignore his girlfriend’s glare. She had heard the ‘a redhead, you must be another Weasley’ too many times.

"Well, Harry James Potter, since your own mother was a redhead, and I’m a redhead, our children will probably be redheads," Ginny stated. Then she realized how it sounded, and she blushed.

Harry guffawed. "I guess you’re right. But then people will say: ‘A redhead, you must be a Potter!’"

Hermione’s parents came the next day – once again, Charlie took them to their daughter’s bedside. But this time, it was for a far more happy occasion.

But not a peaceful one, for the afternoon turned into a grandmothers’ ‘war’.

"Oh, look," Mrs Granger cried. "She has Hermione’s ears!"

Molly looked at Damia and finally said: "Maybe, but she has Ronald’s mouth."

And they kept on and on during the next two hours. After half an hour, Hermione could have screamed, but she kept quiet and tried to ignore them. They both loved Damia, and if they had to do that to prove it, well, there was nothing she could do to stop them, short of kicking them out.

But when the grandparents were all gone and Charlie arrived, Hermione was fuming.

"Hey," he said, sticking his head inside. "Can I come in?"

"Yeah, if you can swear to me you won’t tell my daughter that she has your brother’s nose and my eyebrows!"

"Ah," Charlie smiled, understanding. "They were that bad?"

She shrugged. "Worse!"

"Well, you will never hear me say that Damia has little Ronnikin’s nose… because I really hope she doesn’t!"

They laughed, then he handed Hermione a parcel. Inside, there was a teddy bear.

"It’s exactly like the one Ron had when he was a baby."

Hermione smiled. Then she leaned over and hugged him with tears in her eyes

"Thank you! I’m sure she’ll love it… At least if I can keep the twins away from it."

"Ah, you heard about the stuffed bear turned into a spider."

"More than once!" She rolled her eyes.

At that very moment, Damia started crying, and Charlie immediately looked in the cradle to see if anything was wrong.

"You haven’t taken her in your arms yet," Hermione observed.

"She’s so... small." He was dying to take the baby in his arms, but he was afraid too. However, feeling Hermione’s gaze on him, he did.

The next day, Harry and Ginny brought her a photo album, so she could start it with the photo Colin took of her and the baby the day before. Then she was very surprised to see Luna enter her room, Neville on her heels.

"Neville!" Hermione squealed, happy to see her old friend. She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, making him blush.

Luna went straight to the craddle and her eyes went huge. "Why haven’t you protected your daughter, Hermione?" she asked, her tone almost accusatory. Her carrot earrings were dangling disapprovingly.

"Um, I don’t…" Hermione was at a loss for word. She knew Luna was a bit deluded and very serious about her delusions.

"She could have been snatched by the Banthee!"

Hermione gave a questioning look to Neville, who shrugged.

"Uh, right… Remind me what are the Banthee again?"

Luna rolled her eyes. "And I’ve heard people said you should be in Ravenclaw. It was in my father’s magazine two month ago. They are spirits like sickly yellow clouds that take your baby and leave a changeling in its place. It is rumored that Scrimgeour is one of them."

"A Banthee?" Neville asked, feigning to be interested in the conversation.

"No, one of the babies who have been changed!"

Hermione hid a smile. Luna would always be Luna. "And how do you protect your child?"

"With… this!" Luna produced a sprig of heather. Then, smiling dreamily, she made it stick to the baby’s craddle with a charm.

Hermione was relieved. The protection wasn’t that bad. Knowing the kind of things you could read in the Quibbler, she feared the worst. At least, she wouldn’t have to bath her daughter in some foul potion to make Luna happy. Then she noticed something and looked at her friends. Luna had taken Neville’s hand.

"You two…"

Luna nodded, and Neville looked uncomfortable. "We didn’t want… Ron…" he gulped.

Hermione burst into tears. It hurt, yes, but still, people had any right to be happy. And she told them so. "I’m so glad you two got together." The clumsy boy and the gullible girl. But they were so cute.

After the battle, the surviving members of Dumbledore’s Army had been taken to St Mungo’s – for minor injuries, in most cases. Then they had all gone their separate ways. They needed time for their mental wounds to heal. Except those of them who had found each other during the crisis, like Fred and Angelina, who had started to date seriously a month before Christmas, after the girl came to their shop to buy gifts for her little cousins, Lavender and Seamus, who got married at the beginning of the year… and Neville and Luna.

When her friends left her, Hermione reflected on her own life. In a couple of days, it would change drastically.

~*~

When Charlie entered the Hospital Wing that night, after work, he found Hermione alone. Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks still red. She had been crying. Of course, he knew women could be depressed after giving birth, but he suspected it was something else.

"What’s wrong, Hermione?"

"I’ve been thinking about how much I’m going to miss Hogwarts," she said.

Ah, yes, she couldn’t stay at Hogwarts now that the baby was born. A dormitory was no place for a new born child.

"Uh, what have you decided to do?" Charlie inquired.

"Not much of a decision," she sighed. "I’ll live with my parents, and Ginny and Harry will send me copies of their notes by owl post."

"Your parents will probably be happy to have you at home again," he observed cautiously.

"They are never home that much. I think that’s what scares me the most… being alone all day long. Well, not really alone, because I’ll have Damia, but…"

"I know what you mean." He thought again about that crazy idea of his, then blurted out: "You could live with me!"

"What?" Hermione sounded incredulous.

"I have a spare room, and it’s not so far from the castle. You could go to school everyday. I’m sure you could find some arrangement with Headmistress McGonagall for Damia during the day, here, at Hogwarts."

"That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard!" Ginny exclaimed from the doorway. "Oh, please, say you will, Hermione!"

Hermione smiled. "Are you sure, Charlie?"

Of course he was sure. He’d been thinking about that for months. "Yes."

~*~

In the morning, when Headmistress McGonagall came to see her, as she did every morning, Hermione told her about Charlie’s offer.

"I guess Damia could spend the day here, in the infirmary. Poppy would take care of her with the help of a house-elf," the Headmistress mused.

"Oh, that would be wonderful!"

McGonagall watched the girl during a minute, then said: "I’m glad you found a better way to finish studying for your N.E.W.T.s. It would have been a shame if our best student had failed."

"Thank you, Professor," Hermione told her. She new that behind that strict façade of hers, McGonagall was always concerned for her charges. Her heart was truly in the right place.

The next day, Hermione and Damia moved in with Charlie, and a new life began for all of them.




A/N: I just couldn't make it a boy. I mean, can you imagine being called Ronarld Percy??? LOL. Then, I hesitated during a long time, because I wanted to find a strong name. I thought of Aeron, the Welsh Goddess of War. But then it would have been a nit too much. So I looked at Greek names, since Hermione is a Greek name, and it reminded me Damia was one of them... and the name of the Goddess of the Forces of Nature. haha. With a name like that one, and red hair... oh, well.

I hope you liked this new chapter. Again, sorry for the delay. Please, leave me a review - I love reading what you thought of my fic.


Chapter 7: Of Love and Hope
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Harry pulled Ginny’s hair back to give him access to her neck.

"Harry James Potter! What are you doing?" the girl protested, rather feebly. "We have to study! N.E.W.T.S are in less than a month now…"

Her voice trailed off because his lips and tongue had found a soft spot. He knew exactly how to distract her from her notes and books. Ginny closed the one she was reading and let it fall carelessly to the floor of the Room of Requirement. Then she turned to her boyfriend, placed her hand on the back of his head and pressed her lips to his.

Harry slid his tongue over her full lips and deepened the kiss when they readily parted. But he took his time to enjoy the softness and the taste of her, making her moan. She wanted more. Well, she would have to ‘ask’ for it. He felt her untuck his shirt and she leaned back to take it off.

Ginny pulled Harry towards her, and they laid down. Her hands and fingers danced on his bare stomach and chest. As she was leaning in for another hungry kiss, she told herself that he was well-muscled, but not overly so, which was just fine. His right hand wandered up her thigh, but when instead of easing up her skirt it kept going right above it, all of a sudden, she felt very angry.

Ginny pulled away. "Don’t you want me, Harry?" she asked him in a dangerous tone.

Harry was utterly taken aback. "I… uh…"

His glasses were slightly askew and he was gaping – if she had not been so frustrated, she would have found this extremely funny. Ginny sat up, turning her back to her boyfriend.

"I love you Harry. Two years ago, when you broke up with me because you were afraid Voldemort could use me to get to you, I understood. I wasn’t happy with your decision, but I knew why you… we had to do it."

"What’s wrong, Ginny? We’re together – we’ve been together again since I came to in this hospital room…"

She turned her head and glared at him. "That’s the point, Harry James Potter. You and I have gone through so much already. I sometimes feel like we already lived a whole lifespan, because so many things happened. But they were mostly bad. Now I want all the good things, and I want them now!"

Harry sat beside her, nodding his head. "You will have them, Ginny, and more. I swear."

"Good, because I can’t do this anymore." When he looked at her questioningly, she rolled her eyes and added: "The last times we had a snog, they left me barely remembering my own name!"

Harry smiled. She was beautiful, especially when she was angry. There was a fire in her chocolate eyes he found irresistible. He nodded his head decidedly and said: "I’ve always wanted it to be perfect, and it will be."

And he kissed her before she could protest. When she pulled back, the Room of Requirement had changed around them. They weren’t on a couch anymore, but they were sitting on the edge of a bed. And all around…

"You told me once you wanted a house in a tree when you were a little girl," Harry smiled smugly, seeing the look on her face.

The ceiling was now the canopy of a large tree, as if the floor was perched on its strongest limbs. Boughs like those of a weeping willow were cascading all around and rustling slightly. Flowers and tiny magical light orbs were tangled into them.

"I love you," Ginny whispered, straddling him and kissing him passionately, her hands rubbing down his back, her fingernails digging a little into his skin. Then she leaned back, unbuttoned her blouse and took it off. When she looked into Harry’s eyes, there was something there she’d never seen before: a yearning he’d never dared show her.

He traced the outline of her face with the back of his fingers and let his right hand slid the length of her throat to her collarbone while the other gently cupped one breast. Ginny moaned and claimed his lips once more, pushing him back onto the bed. They finished taking off their clothes and let their hands explore each other, memorizing the spots where their caresses elicited a stronger reaction.

"Now," Ginny gasped.

Harry nodded and proceeded gently, if a bit awkwardly. Then desire and instinct took over for them both.

As they were cuddling up to one another, afterwards, Harry said: "I changed my mind, Ginny."

"About what you’re going to do after Hogwarts?" she asked him.

Harry wasn’t surprised. They understood each other so well, sometimes without having to say a word. "Yes, I… I want to study to become an Auror."

Her head on his chest, Ginny nodded. "I know."

But Harry continued. "I know I said I didn’t want anything to do with dark wizards anymore, but if I didn’t fight them and one of them rose slowly and secretly like Voldemort did and suddenly came to power when our children would be of age, I wouldn’t be able to live with that. All because I know how to fight the dark arts."

Ginny looked up and her brown eyes caught his green ones. "You don’t have to."

"I know I don’t have to. But it’s the choice I’m making. It’s my duty, and I want to do it. I want to make the world a safer place to live in."

Ginny sighed and opened her mouth to talk, but he wasn’t finished.

"I’m sorry, sweetheart, I know I said I wanted to lead a calm life, but…"

"I’ve always known you would choose that path, Harry," Ginny interrupted him. "Always. And I respect you for that. I’ll probably be worried each time you’ll be doing your job, but I’ll always be proud of you for making that choice. No one would have blamed you if you had decided to enjoy life and stay away from harm. But I’ve always known you wouldn’t."

Harry kissed her brow. "I love you, Ginevra Molly Weasley."

~*~

Not so far from Hogwarts, in an apartment above one of the shops in Hogsmeade, Hermione heard her daughter start to wail and closed her eyes. She needed to study. She was behind in so many classes – she had been behind since the beginning of the school year, because of her pregnancy and now because she was a mother. She loved her daughter, she truly did, but it was harder than she had thought to be both a mother and a student.

The young woman waited for her daughter to fall asleep again. Damia couldn’t be hungry, not yet. But the baby kept on wailing. Sighing, Hermione was about to stand up when she felt a strong hand on her shoulder.

"Stay here, I’ll take care of it," Charlie said.

She had not heard him approach from behind. "No, Charlie, wait!" Hermione called after him. "You don’t have to…"

"I know I don’t have to," he answered from the corridor between the bedrooms.

And she could actually hear the warm smile on his handsome face. A minute later, Damia had stopped crying. Sighing with relief, Hermione went back to her notes and books.

Half an hour later, Charlie still had not come back to the sitting room. Hermione looked up from her Ancient Runes book and her eyes wandered towards the door leading to the sleeping part of the apartment. No sound was coming from there. Intrigued, the young woman stood up and headed towards the bedroom she shared with her daughter. The door was half-opened. She took a peek inside and saw Charlie in the rocking chair Molly had given to her, saying it had always been the only way to put Ron to sleep. He had Damia cradle in one arm, and his free hand was caressing one of the baby girl’s softly.

Hermione told herself it was amazing how his strong and scarred hands could be gentle when they held Damia. For the moment, not-yet-two-months old Damia was looking at Charlie, who was weaving for her a tale of witches, wizards and dragons. His voice was soft, trying to lull the baby back to sleep. But she was resisting it with all her might, as though she wanted to hear more. And he didn’t seem to mind at all.

The young woman smiled at the heartwarming sight. She was a good mother, but she often lacked the necessary patience rocking a baby to sleep required. And here was that man who needed adventure as much as the air he breathed and he looked so relaxed and patient, as if there were no other place in the world he would have prefered to be.

There was no place in the world Charlie would have prefered to be than in this room, with this child in his arms, knowing her beautiful mother was so close… The young man started and blinked. Where did that thought come from? He had not idea.

During the first two days, things had been a bit strained between Charlie and Hermione. Charlie could tell Hermione was glad she would keep on studying at Hogwarts, but she also was embarrassed at the idea of the ‘sacrifice’ he was making.

They had had an interesting conversation, the second night…


"Uh, Charlie?"

"Yeah?" he answered. Then seeing her wringling her hands, he added: "Is there anything wrong? If you need anything…"

" No!" She grimaced, probably realizing she’d said that a bit too forcefully. "It’s just that… I haven’t even thought about asking you before…"

Charlie had been raised in a house full of boys and his mother had always been one to speak her mind, so he was at a loss when a girl seemed to wait for him to understand what she didn’t say. But thankfully, Hermione continued: "Won’t your girlfriend be upset when she hear about you living with me and my baby?"

"My… what?" he stammered. He didn’t know why, but the unexpected question made him blush.

"Your girlfriend."

Charlie shook his head, chuckling to cover his embarassment. "I see you didn’t talk to my mother… I don’t have a girlfriend, Hermione. So don’t worry, ok?"

The way she was looking at him… it almost made him squirm.

"Why don’t you?"

"Why don’t I… what?" But he already knew what she meant.

"Why don’t you have a girlffriend? You’re handsome and nice. Any girl would like to have a boyfriend like you." Then he saw her made a face. "I’m sorry, it’s none of my business."

She was about to turn to leave when he answered, shrugging: "I guess I haven’t found the right girl for me."

"Well, maybe you should try looking for her, don’t you think? When I see you with Damia, I can’t help but think you would make a good father." Hermione’s expression grew thoughtful. "Maybe I could…"

"Don’t even think about it!" Charlie warned her. He knew that look. "I already have a mother, thank you. If there’s a girl for me, I will find her."

Unconvinced, Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but obviously thought better of it. Charlie was reminded of how Ron used to call her when he was mad at her: the insufferable know-it-all.



Charlie smiled. Hermione would probably always be a know-it-all, but insufferable? No, he wouldn’t say that. He would say she was challenging – she knew so much about so many things. To catch the interest of such a woman, a man had to use his brain, and even more so to keep her interested. He’d never had such stimulating conversations – and arguments – as he had now with Hermione. She kept him in his toes, and he liked that.

He stood up carefully and put a now sleeping Damia back in her craddle. Then he walked to the sitting room. However, Hermione wasn’t there. He heard her in the kitchen and headed there to help her make dinner.

"Is she finally asleep?" Hermione asked him.

Charlie nodded his head. "Yep."

"Not for long, I guess," she sighed. "In an hour, she’ll be hungry"

They busied themselves in a companionable silence, their hips and their arms brushing sometimes. Charlie couldn’t help to give more than a sidelong glance to the young woman and realized Hermione was beautiful to his eyes. He didn’t like her because she had been Ron’s fiancée and a member of their family for so long. He didn’t like her because she was Damia’s mother. He didn’t like her because he had made a promise to his late brother.

Charlie did like Hermione. For no other reason than her being… Hermione.

"Are you all right, Charlie?" Hermione’s soft voice broke into his daydreaming.

He looked up and nodded his head. "Yeah," he answered after clearing his voice.
Damn, he couldn’t afford to fall for her, could he?

Later that night, as he was tossing around in his bed, sleep eluding him, Charlie tried to analyze his feelings. And he had to admit to himself he was slowly falling for the young woman who shared his apartment.

~*~

Hermione, Ginny, Harry and Charlie were walking down the main street in Hogsmeade, doing some shopping.

Hermione looked at Ginny, then at Harry. There was something between those two, something that wasn’t there before.

"Merlin’s beard, you did it!" she whispered loudly to the redhead.

Ginny’s cheek turned crimson, but she nodded and smiled. "How did you guess?"

"I don’t know… It’s something in the way you two move around one another."

Hermione shrugged. "It’s just obvious."

Ginny feigned to be afraid. "Obvious enough for Charlie to notice?"

The brunette giggled. "You know as well as I do that nothing is ever obvious enough for a man to notice!"

They burst out laughing.

"What’s so funny?" Harry asked them, frowning slightly.

But neither of the girls answered him, because at that very moment, they saw a witch with ebony hair walking straight to Charlie with a smile on her face.

"Charlie Weasley!" she called brightly.

She was tall and willowy, with a slightly sallow skin that enhanced her very blue eyes. She was beautiful, and she knew it. When she saw the way the witch was looking at Charlie, Ginny instantly felt the urge to wring the girl’s neck – or to hex her to oblivion.

"Uh… Serena Addams," Charlie answered, when she hugged him.

"How are you?" she asked, then she finally noticed he wasn’t alone. "I bet the redhead is the little sister you told me about! Another redhead, you see…" She let out a slightly throaty laugh, as if she had just said something very funny.

Ginny narrowed her eyes and gritted her teeth. Nah, no hex… maybe she would hit her, muggle-style.

"Yes," Charlie responded, having recovered from his surprise. "Serena, this is my little sister Ginny, her boyfriend, Harry Potter and…"

"You have a kid?" Serena exclaimed, eyes wide with shock when she saw Hermione and her baby.

"No," Hermione answered quickly. "Charlie and I aren’t…"

Maybe she would hit Hermione too, Ginny thought. Couldn’t she have just kept quiet, for once? Now Serena was smiling seductively at Charlie again…

"Good. I’m sure you remember what I saw in my crystal ball, that day." She let out a throaty laugh again before turning to the others. "I saw me and Charlie getting married, " she said, lowering her voice.

"And once I thought I saw myself living ina real palace," Ginny said sweetly. "I guess it was just wishful daydreaming."

When they were walking away from Serena Addams, a couple of minutes later, Hermione told Ginny: "You don't like her."

Since it wasn't a question, Ginny looked at her pointedly for all answer.

"Why?"

"I thought you liked Charlie, Hermione. If you did, you'd know she's not the right girl for him."




A/N: I'm sorry I didn't update in a while. RL got a bit crazy. But I do hope you enjoyed reading chapter 7... and I promise I'll post chapter 8 very soon. Please, leave a review. :) 

Chapter 8: Silent Love
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Charlie sat cross-legged in a chair in the sitting room of his apartment. He was feigning not to see the owl waiting on the window ledge of one of the two windows. It was the fifth times in three days that the same bird came to his home, bringing each time a message from Serena Addams. He had read the first four and responded to the first two before realizing that doing so would incite the young woman to keep on sending more notes.

Yeah, like she needs any kind of encouragement, he thought, sighing inwardly.

He pitied the barn owl. So many coming and going, all in vain. He didn’t need to read that fifth letter. They had all said the same. Serena was overjoyed they had met again. Fate had brought them back together. They were obviously made to be together and she couldn’t wait to see him again…

Not before hell freezes over, if I have my say.

Most men found Serena’s beauty stunning. Her body was generously curvy in all the right places, even more so at twenty-six than it had been when she was sixteen. Yet Charlie didn’t stop to wonder if there was something wrong with him.

When they had been at school together, most boys would have done anything in their power to catch the attention of the gorgeous Ravenclaw – even the Slytherins. She never needed to ask for anything twice. She didn’t need to ask for anything, in fact. She only had to say one word in that husky voice of hers, and any male around did whatever it took to get her what she wanted.

But what Serena had wanted, back then, at Hogwarts, was Charlie Weasley. And Charlie had never been interested in the slightest. At first, his classmates had thought he was playing hard-to-get to make sure he would keep the attention of the beautiful Serena. He was Bill Weasley’s brother, after all. But Charlie was not playing any kind of game.

It was hard to explain, but he knew she wasn’t the one for him. His brother and his friends had told him that it didn’t matter. He could still date her, since she was so intent on getting with him. And hormones had almost made him do it, at one time. But it would have been a mistake. He had known it then and he knew it now. If he let her dig her claws into him, she wouldn’t let go that easily.

Charlie had never been much of a daydreamer, but now, when he imagined a woman at his side…

He heard Hermione come back from school and was almost disappointed when she went directly to her room to put Damia to bed. He would have liked to say hello to his niece. Sighing, he started reading again the book about dragon breeding propped up on his thighs. The girl would spend her evening reading her notes.

"Oh, hi Charlie!" Hermione said, entering the room and seeing him on the couch. "You’re home early."

"Hello," he smiled warmly. "Uh, actually I went to work early too."

"I know. You were already gone when I woke up." Hermione was looking at something above his shoulder. "It’s Serena’s owl, isn’t it? What’s it doing here?"

"Dunno," Charlie lied, looking down at his book.

He shouldn’t have done that, because the next thing he knew, Hermione opened the window and the bird flew in. "No, don’t…"

"Why not?" Then she saw the letter the owl was still carrying. "Why did you let it wait outside?" She tried to take the envelope, but the bird bit at her fingers. "Ouch! Silly owl, I want to give it to him!"

It seemed to understand that because it allowed her to take the message. Hermione walked to the couch and handed it to Charlie, who took it grudgingly.

"What’s wrong?" she asked him, seeing him put the letter aside. "Aren’t you going to read it ?"

"No."

"Why not?" She sounded genuinely surprised. "How will you be able to respond back if you don’t…"

His meaningful look was all the answer she needed, of course.

"What’s wrong with you, Charlie?"

"With me? What do you mean?" He was taken aback by her words.

"Yes, with you. She’s a beautiful woman and a gifted witch!"

"So what?" It did hurt more than he thought it would. He knew of course that Hermione wasn’t interested in him the way he was in her – not yet. But he had thought… hoped that it would change. But here she was, trying to push him to throw himself at a girl he knew was the wrong one for him.

"Well, any man would be flattered that such a woman was interested in them."

"No, Hermione, not any man."

Why was she so intent on him getting with Selena? That was absurd! Then Charlie noticed the way Hermione was looking at him. She had a thoughtful expression.

"I would never have guessed," she finally said.

"Guessed what?"

"That you don’t… uh, you know… like girls," Hermione answered. "But it doesn’t matter!" she quickly added.

Charlie was now speechless. He blinked a couple of times and choked out, "I like women, Hermione…"

"Really, it doesn’t matter to me…"

Another stab, right where it hurt the most. Charlie jumped to his feet. He had heard enough. "I just don’t like this woman!"

But he could see she didn’t believe him. When she opened her mouth to speak again, he held up both hands to stop her. Then he left the apartment.

~*~

"You what?" Ginny exclaimed. She was so indignant at her friend’s assumption that she could hardly speak. What had gotten into her?

Hermione blushed. She had thought it would be old news for the Weasleys – but she had to admit she had never heard even the slightest rumor… " I thought you knew," she stuttered. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…"

"No, you don’t understand," Ginny cut her off, having found her voice again. "For Merlin’s sake, Hermione, Charlie is not gay!"

"I know he’s your brother, and I can understand this came as a shock…" she began, but she was interrupted again.

"Yeah, I’m shocked that you can believe one second that Charlie doesn’t like girls." Ginny narrowed her eyes. "Can you tell me, please, what made you think so?"

"Well, there is that beautiful and talented witch who is literally throwing herself at him, and your brother ignores her. He doesn’t even respond to her messages!"

"Tell me you’re not talking about Serena, I beg you," Ginny said through gritted teeth. Because she already knew the answer, of course.

"Why, yes, I am!" Hermione answered. Why was her friend being so unreasonable? "She’s…"

"A men eater," the readhead finished for her. "And I think that not responding to her messages doesn’t prove that Charlie is gay – it just proves that he has more brains than most men can be credited for."

Hermione looked at her. "Why don’t you like Serena? You don’t know her…"

"If I had not met her, the mere fact that Charlie doesn’t like her would have been enough for me. You see, all of my brothers are different, and he’s always been the most sensible and observant of the lot. Now, I met Serena and I can tell you that I’m very glad he is not interested in a girl like her."

"Why? May I remind you that you didn’t like Fleur when she and Bill started to date?" the brunette said slyly. "So maybe you would like Serena too, if you gave her a chance."

"Yeah, well, I have to admit Fleur is more than just a pretty face…"

"The mere fact that she was a Champion in the Triwizard Tournament should have helped you reach that conclusion."

"May I remind you that you didn’t like her either?" Ginny knew that it had irked Hermione no end to watch Ron starting to drool each time he saw the French part Veela beauty.

"I had very good reasons to dislike her," Hermione answered stifly. "Now don’t try to change the subject…"

"I’m not. But I don’t see why we have to talk about Serena… unless you’re ready to admit that you were wrong about Charlie!" Ginny added triumphantly.

"No, I’m not." She sighed, frowning slightly. "Would you love your brother less if he were…"

"Of course not!" The readhead was hurt. "All I want is Charlie to be happy."

It was then that she realized she had never seen him as happy as he was now. Sure, Charlie had always been a nice guy with whom girls got along very easily. Maybe he didn’t understand them better than any other man, but he would listen to them when they needed to talk – and it was far more than many men did. He would listen and advise them never to sell themselves cheap, never to let any guy treat them wrong or use them. His family wasn’t rich, however he believed that anyone deserved respect, but they had to respect themselves first.

Charlie had always been a great guy, and of all her siblings, he was the one who had changed the most since Ron and Percy died. It had brought out in him what she knew, like her mother did, had been there all along.

Ginny had thought grief had honed Charlie’s character, but… maybe it had just nudged him in the right direction. He was living with a girl and her baby, and he was thriving on family life.

Charlie liked Hermione! The realization hit her all of a sudden. Followed by another – Ginny had unconsciously hoped it would happen.

"Uh, Hermione, tell me why you want so much Charlie to be gay when he told you he wasn’t and I can assure you he’s not?" she asked the brunette.

~*~

Hermione went back home with Ginny’s question echoing in her mind. She had had no answer to give her friend. Could there be a reason why she had been so intent on believing Charlie prefered men to women? Because now, she could see how absurd her assumption had been. Just because he didn’t like Serena didn’t mean he didn’t like women. For that matter, why had she been so intent on making him get with that girl?

She blushed. Um, yeah, he had told her that and she had not believed him. She would have to apologize.

Charlie was gentle and strong, depending on what the situation required of him. He was kind and caring too. He had always been there when she needed a shoulder. However she never had the feeling that she was weak in his eyes. Probably because he didn’t mind her being weak, at times. In fact, no man had never made her feeling so strong, so interesting, so… very much a woman.

Hermione knew she wasn’t funny – generally, when she was, she had not intended to be – but he had the power to make her laugh anytime she needed it. Yet he wasn’t like the twins who didn’t take anything seriously, except money – and it was the reason why their business was so successful.

Hermione and Charlie could talk about trivial as well as serious matters. He was smart and educated, yet he did like to work with his hands.

I just love his dichotomy.

Hermione stopped to consider her choice of words. Then she told herself that Charlie was perfect – even in his imperfection – and any woman could see that. And she was a woman, so of course she had had to notice.

She entered the apartment they were sharing and called his name, but she didn’t get any answer. She hadn’t heard him coming back the night before, and apparently he was already gone when she woke up. She knocked on his bedroom door, but he wasn’t there. It was then that she noticed that he had not spent the night there.

~*~

"Where is he?" Bill Weasley asked the owner of the Three Broomsticks, crossing the room towards her.

"Over there," Rosmerta answered, indicating a table with a nod of her head.

"Thanks, " he said, and he leaned down to kiss her on the cheek.

Blushing slightly, but smiling, she responded, "You’re welcome, sweetheart. Now take your brother back home. I’m tired of hearing him mumbling about that girl."
Bill grimaced. "Damn her! She’s always been a pain."

Rosmerta’s note had been brief. She had found a room for Charlie Weasley the night before – a man was entitled to getting drunk at times. But when he had woken up in the afternoon to get himself drunk again, she had owled Bill. Fleur had not been very pleased that he had to go so late. And she would have been even less if she had known that he was going to a place owned by one of his old lovers. Thankfully, she didn’t, but he would have to make it up to her all the same.

"What’s up?"

Charlie was slumped on his chair. He looked up from his glass of firewhiskey and squinted slightly at his brother, trying to focus on his face. "Hey!"

"Why don’t you go back home?" Then Bill nodded. "You probably don’t want Hermione to see you like this."

"I don’t want to see her," Charlie slurred.

"Well, you don’t have to. I know what happened – Ginny and Harry told me – and if you don’t want to see her again, don’t."

"I have to."

"No, you don’t. And I don’t see why you’re getting you in… a right state over that girl."

Charlie gave Bill a disgusted look. "First she wants me to date that… that…" He shook his head, as if he couldn’t bring himself to say it. "Then when I say I’m not interested, she says she didn’t know I was gay."

It was Bill’s turn to shake his head. "What? Who?" It made no sense!

"Hermione," Charlie answered, looking at him as if he thought he was thicker than a troll.

"Hermione?" Bill’s eyes widen in sudden realization. If Charlie had not been so clearly in pain, he would have found this very funny. "She told you that you should get with Serena, and when you said no, she assumed you didn’t like women?" He thought this woman was smart… what had gotten into her? When Charlie nodded, he added. "And now you’re trying to crawl to the bottom of a bottle of firewhiskey to hide from her."

"I like her."

"You just said you didn’t…"

"Not Serena!"

"Oooh!" That made too much sense. Bill sniggered. "Why don’t you tell her? That way, she will know for sure that you aren’t…"

But Charlie clearly thought he’d said too much. "Forget about it."

"No, why would I?" But he immediately knew what was the problem. "She’s not Ron’s girl anymore."

Charlie shrugged. "She is still, in her heart."

Bill thought about it and told himself he wasn’t so sure. Yes, Hermione had loved Ron, and he was perfect for her. But Charlie would be even more perfect, because he had that maturity Ron had lacked… and might never have had.

"Life goes on, and one day, probably sooner than you think, she will love another man. It could be you."

"Yeah, right," Charlie drank some more firewhiskey, looking dejected.

"Ok, then look at it this way – who do you think Ron would want to share Hermione’s bed and help raise his daughter? You, or a stranger who will take her away from his family?"

He knew it wasn’t fair to bring that up, but he wanted Charlie to start thinking instead of merely reacting.

"Come on," Bill helped his brother to get up and they left the Three Broomsticks.

Almost half an hour later, he knocked at the apartment Charlie shared with Hermione. She opened the door. "For Merlin’s sake, where did you find him? I was so worried!"

"Then be glad Rosmerta sent me an owl."

They put Charlie to bed and Bill was torn between staying and going back home.

"You don’t have to stay. I’ll take care of him," Hermione told him. She looked guilty.

He nodded, almost hoping she would have a hell of a night. "Alright. Goodnight, Hermione."

"Goodnight, Bill. Thank you."

Those last two words made him smile as he was turning his back to the door.




A/N: There should be two more chapters to complete this story... I hope you enjoyed chapter 8 and you're not already so bored with this story that you'd want me to make it only one more chapter. lol.
I'm sorry it took me almost a month again to update. I entered the Writer's Duel and even though my fic didn't do very well, I still like it.
Please, review... :D


Chapter 9: Confusion
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Hermione walked out of the Great Hall and heaved a sigh of relief. It had been her last N.E.W.T. Tomorrow, the carriages and the little boats would take the students away from the school and leave them at Hogsmeade station. They would get on the Hogwarts Express and go back home for the summer holiday.

All but one – Hermione herself.

When they were searching for the Horcruxes, Ron had often implied that he knew she would work for the Ministry of Magic one day. And Hermione had to admit she had toyed with the idea for a time. But the more she had thought about it, the more it had seemed impossible. It took three years to become an Auror, and the curriculum would be too much for a young single mother with a six months old baby. And she wasn’t sure she wanted that kind of life anyway. Deep inside, she still was the annoying bookworm, the insufferable know-it-all. She loved the smell of old parchments and of potion ingredients. She could choose to become a researcher. Or a doctor at St Mungo’s.

But all of these jobs would be time-consuming, and would require years of studying to get there.

Finally, it was Headmistress McGonagall who had offered Hermione an opportunity she just couldn’t miss. The severe looking witch hid it well, as did most people who had a heart so large, but it was in the right place for all who cared to see. Hermione could only guess that her old professor had spent a lot of her precious time thinking about what her best student would be doing the next year.

Hermione would be part of the Hogwarts faculty when the next school year would begin. She would be the new potions teacher. And because of that, she was going to spend the whole summer at school. Severus Snape, the ex-Potions Master, had accepted to give her extra lessons, starting in a week from now. Hermione told herself he probably needed money very badly to do that. It wasn’t easy for an ex-Death Eater to find a decent job – even if he had given evidence of his innocence to the Wizengamot. Hm, now that she thought about it, Headmistress McGonagall might be trying to kill two birds with only one stone…

Hermione sighed again, sadly this time. She wasn’t very pleased at the idea of being taught by Snape again. But if she didn’t like the man, she respected the Potions Master’s competences. He was one of the best. If he wasn’t working for the Ministry, and getting well paid for his talents, it was solely because he had made the wrong choice when he was young and become one of Tom Riddle’s followers. Tom Riddle  – Harry, Ron and Hermione had gotten to call him that the year before.

No, she wasn’t happy about this situation, but she would make the best of it. And at least, every night, she would go back home and laugh about it with Charlie.

Hermione stopped dead. Maybe she wouldn’t do that. Charlie had been very… stand-offish since that night. He was avoiding her, that much she could tell. She felt tears stung her eyes. She hated the idea that she had hurt him. When she had tried to apologize…



Hermione heard someone moving around in the bathroom and immediately knew Charlie was awaked. Why was he up so early? No light came from outside! Swallowing hard, she silently eased out of her bed and went to check on him. Maybe he was sick after all the firewhiskey he had drunk.

The door was half-open and she could see him inside. Stripped to the waist, he was leaning on his hands, one on each side of the bathroom sink, his arms supporting most of his weight over it. His head was down and she could see in the mirror that his face was dripping and his eyes were closed. He was breathing slowly, deliberately, which made the muscles of his shoulders and back ripple slightly under his smooth skin. Years of taking care of dragons had left him a few scars, but also a nicely muscled built.

"Are you alright, Charlie?" Hermione asked softly.

He looked up, his eyes wide, and turned to her so quickly he sent droplets of water all around. "Hermione!" His tone suggested that he had not heard her coming into the room.

Their eyes met briefly, then he looked away. He was clearly embarrassed, and maybe still mad at her.

"Are you alright?" she inquired again.

"Yeah, you can go back to sleep. I’m fine," Charlie answered through gritted teeth.

Hermione walked to him and put a hesitant hand on his shoulder. He recoiled from her touch. "Please, don’t."

She let her arm drop back to her side, hurt. Then she reminded herself that she had hurt him first. No wonder he didn’t want to see her or talk to her.

"I’m so sorry, Charlie. I don’t know what got into me…" She let her voice trailed off, then added, "Well, your brother had a whole theory, but you don’t want to hear it here and now." She gulped. "I’m so sorry. I…"

"It’s ok," he cut her off. "You don’t have to apologize. You said it yourself, it doesn’t matter to you whether I’m straight or not."

"Well, no, but I do think…"

"Then all is said, Hermione. Now, please, I need to take a shower." Turning his back to her, he unbuttoned and unzipped his trousers.

Blushing furiously, Hermione almost stumbled out of the bathroom before he dropped them and she saw even more of him than she already did
.



She told herself that she had not meant it that way. He was her friend, wasn’t he? And that kind of things didn’t matter between friends. Or at least they should not.

"Everything’s ok, Hermione?"

She looked up and saw Ginny watching her with a slight worried frown on her pretty face.

"Yeah, I was lost in my thoughts, that’s all," she waved her hands to indicate it was nothing.

"No pleasant thoughts, I bet," the redhead insisted.

"I’ve just realized I need to talk to Charlie…"

~*~

"What? Why?" Charlie was stunned. He knew it was bound to happen, but when Hermione had decided to take some kind of internship at Hogwarts during the summer, so she could start to teach there at the beginning of the next school year, he had been secretly relieved. He would have some more time.

He had not been so drunk that he couldn’t remember Bill’s words that night, a few days before, in the Three Broomsticks. "Why don’t you tell her?" They were never far from his thoughts. But he knew it was still too early – right? When Hermione looked at him, all she saw was a friend, Ron’s older brother. She didn’t see a man.

A man who dreamt of her at night, when he could sleep. Her room was next to his, and he could hear her when she turned over in her bed, the sheets rustling slightly. It was as if before Bill’s words he’d been able to keep his feelings at bay, but now… "Ok, then look at it this way – who do you think Ron would want to share Hermione’s bed and help raise his daughter? You, or a stranger who will take her away from his family?" Charlie knew the answer. And he wanted her – so much it was torture to know she was so close and so out of his reach at the same time. But she would have her say, of course, and maybe she didn’t want another Weasley in her life.

"I’m sure that if I asked Headmistress McGonagall, she would find me a suite in the castle," Hermione was saying.

Charlie took a deep breath. "Yeah, of course, if that’s what you want, go ahead."

She looked up sharply. "No, that’s not what I want," she blurted out. She swallowed. "Do you think I want to spend the summer with only Snape, the portraits and the ghosts to talk to?"

He frowned. "Then why would you do that?"

And all of a sudden, he saw her face brightened.

"You don’t want me to go?" Hermione’s tone was hopeful.

Charlie opened his mouth to answer, then he closed it again, took her hand in his and, tugging on it, said, "Come on, we need to talk."

He guided her to the couch and they sat side by side.

"You’re not mad at me?" Her brown eyes searched his.

"Why would I be mad at you?"

Hermione blushed and bit her lower lip, and Charlie smiled.

"You know," she said. "Because I assumed you were…" her voice trailed off. "But I know you’re not!"

He chuckled but did his best to hide his relief from her. "And what made you change your mind?"

Her face flushed again. "I… I realized I had been silly to make such an assumption just because you didn’t want to date F… uh… Serena."

Charlie looked at her during a moment, then asked, "What does Ginny call her?" He knew his little sister well. "I assume she doesn’t call her by her name."

"Foldie. It’s... um... short for lethifold."

"Ginny has always been very observant," Charlie remarked, trying not to laugh. Yes, she had always had a real talent for observation, and she had become a smart young woman.

"So you’re not mad at me anymore?"

He shook his head. "I’ve never been really mad at you, Hermione." It was the truth. He had been mad at himself for falling for her.

"So why were you avoiding me?"

"I’ve never…" He thought about it. "The last two weeks have been crazy at work, and for you too because of your N.E.W.T.s."

The next thing he knew, Hermione was giving him a hug. "I’m so glad!"

Charlie wrapped his arms around her. He didn’t want to let go… But she was already pulling away.

"Uh, sorry," she mumbled, her cheeks turning crimson.

Charlie’s heart missed a beat. Maybe she knew, after all.

~*~

Hermione pushed open the iron gate of the graveyard with her free hand and it creaked on its rusty hinges. In a nearby tree, a bird stopped singing, decided she was no threat and started warbling his song again. It had rained earlier, and the smell of damp earth was still lingering in the air, calling for more. And there would probably be, in the evening. It was sultry and a storm was gathering in the distance. She could taste it in the back of her throat, it’s metalic tang rivaling with the bittersweet smell of fading and rotting flowers.

She walked slowly to a grave and bent down to put a single flower in the ever full vase. "Hello, Percy," she said, before turning to the tombstone marked Ronald Bilius Weasley and leaving there a bunch of wild flowers. "Hello, Ron." Her voice was slightly breathless, full of barely suppressed emotions.

Fighting back the tears, Hermione sat on the grass and started to talk to him, hesitantly at first, about N.E.W.T.s, about her decision to become a teacher at Hogwarts…

"I know you would have laughed and said ‘What took you so long?’ or something along that line. Because it’s like I was born to be a teacher, isn’t it?"

She also told him about their daughter – she was so beautiful, so perfect! – and about his family and how she and Damia loved them dearly . And that’s when she began telling him about Charlie.

Hermione still felt bad about what had happened at the beginning of the summer. All the more so that she had thought she had gotten out of that bad habit of thinking that she always knew better than the others, even about themselves. The first time Ron had remarked that she couldn’t possibly know better than the people themselves, and thus she should keep quiet and listen to what they had to say, she had been so mad at him. Really, being told off by Ronald ‘Insensitive’ Weasley! She listened to people – she just didn’t listen to him! But she had been so angry because in her heart of hearts she knew that he was right.

Thankfully, he had not given up on her. The next time, he had reminded her of S.P.E.W. – hadn’t she been so intent on freeing the house-elves that she had forgotten to ask them what they truly wanted? After a few less and less heated arguments, it had become a private joke between them, a reminder of what she shoudn’t do – of what she didn’t want to do.

But obviously, she had not gotten out of her bad habit forever. Ron was gone. There was no one to share the joke with anymore. And it had come back with a vengeance.

"You wouldn’t be proud of me, would you, Ron?" It still hurt to think about him. It would probably hurt all her life. But now she could conjure the good memories, and smile, and ignore the others. People tended to dismiss Ronald, because he wasn’t as famous as Harry or as smart as Hermione, but she had learnt a lot thanks to him. He had taught her not to play the know-it-all with people, but also that life was not in books. They had hurt each other’s feelings a few times, but they had also been the best thing that had happened in each other’s lives.

"When I told Charlie your mother wouldn’t bring Damia back home before the next morning, he took me out that night – he’s been so… sweet! Each time I have needed help in any way, he’s been there for me. For us. Sometimes I wonder… but, no, he wouldn’t have done that… I mean, why would he have accepted that job in Scotland just for me and Damia?" She remained silent a few seconds, then continued. "But I’m glad he did. It feels good to come back home knowing he will be there, and sometimes I just can’t wait to talk to him about, you know, something that happened during the day. I like to feel his presence in a room – it’s… I don’t know! I like the mixed scents of his shampoo and shower gel lingering in the bathroom when I wake up, but I also like the smell of him when he’s just gotten out of bed…" Hermione stopped, realizing what she had just say and swallowing hard. "Oh, Ron, what is happening to me? I must…"

"Live, dear, you must live," Molly’s voice said behing her.

She jumped to her feet and turned around. "Molly! I didn’t hear you… I didn’t know…" She could feel the heat rush to her face.

"I didn’t want to interrupt you and I didn’t want to overhear what you were saying either, but if I had left…" She let her voice trailed off, then she continued. "Come on, we need to talk."

Hermione nodded her head, and they left the graveyard and headed towards the Burrow. But long before they reached it, Molly indicated a path off the road with a nod of her head. They soon reached a brook with mossy banks.

"Arthur and I used to come here when we needed to have a moment to ourselves, and we still do sometimes, even if all our children are gone."

"It’s beautiful," Hermione said, looking around her. And so peaceful.

There were two stones. Molly waved her wand at one of them, then at the other, and they both sat. Hermione was surprised, because the rock was now as soft as the seat of a chair.

"Nice trick, isn’t it?" the older witch smiled knowingly.

They remained silent during a couple of minutes, then Hermione blurted out, "I kind of got carried away. I mean, it’s not what you probably think…"

"Well, I think that you like Charlie…"

"I like Charlie, I really do." She sounded slightly on the defensive. Then she realized what Molly said. "But I loved Ron!"

"Of course you did!" Molly acquiesced.

"No, I meant…" She had to make her understand. Her feelings were still the same – they couldn’t have changed without her knowing!

Molly held up a hand to stop her protests. "You truly did, and somehow you will always love Ron, I’m sure. He will always be in your head and in your heart. But…" Hearing Hermione’s intake of breath, she continued more forcefully, "you are still so young – you can’t close your heart…"

"It’s not like that! I don’t…"

"No, you don’t… right now. But don’t let your head silence your heart. Listen to what it’s whispering to you."

"But it’s so confusing! I’m so confused," Hermione cried out. Then, in a more reasonable tone, she added. "I guess it’s a good thing I will leave Charlie’s apartment in a couple of weeks. I’ve just grown a bit too used to living with him." She nodded her head. "Yes, it will do a lot of good - to the two of us."

Molly looked disappointed during a second, then she smiled and said, "If you think so."




A/N: So what did you think of Chapter 9? I hope you liked it...

This chapter is for all of you who have been reading and reviewing this story, and who have been encouraging me to do my best and to finish it. (Yes, I wrote the end a couple of days ago, and I now have to edit it before I can post it.) Because I do have to admit that I hate writing the ending of a story - I hate saying goodbye. Snif, snif...


Chapter 10: Separate Ways
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"Well, I guess that as long as you keep your books at hand, you’ll do just fine, Miss Granger," Severus Snape said at the end of their last private lesson.

Hermione looked up, feigning to be utterly astounded. "Was it a compliment, Professor?" she asked him, raising her eyebrows.

Somehow, she had gotten to know him better. She had caught glimpses of the man behind the mask of the teacher and the mask of the spy, and she knew he had let her see those. And she was flattered. Because not many people knew that much about Severus Snape. And he had lowered his guard in her presence. It proved that he considered her as an adult, if not yet as his equal, and that he had some kind of respect for her.

She had come to her first lesson reluctantly. He had come thinking he would teach her the basics and leave it at that. The first few days had been hell, until he had finally understood that she was truly here to learn, not just to show him that he had nothing more to teach her. Seeing that she was really interested, he had started to share some of his secrets with her without telling her so. But she knew it, of course, because they weren’t the kind of things one could find in a book. And she was honored. It was one thing to be able to brew a potion, but another entirely to be a potion master. He didn’t have to tell her that much.

He had, however.

"Any witch or wizard who is able to stay focused long enough to read a list of ingredients and follow directions can make a potion," Snape had sneered.

"You make it sound like… cooking," she had observed a bit challengingly.

His lips had thinned. "Ah, cooking, yes. Then, tell me what differentiates a chef from a cook."

"The cook will read the recipe and follow the directions, a chef will do that too, and knowing what he is doing will add his personal touch."

"And that will make all the difference. Good answer."

That had broken the ice.

Hence, when she called him ‘Professor’, she could see some sadness in his dark eyes. It was probably the last time anyone called him that. It only lasted a second, then he put on the only mask he had left again.

"Wouldn’t you like to teach again?" she asked casually, pretending to be very busy cleaning her cauldron and putting away all her ingredients.

"Among other things, I’m a known ex-Death Eater, Miss Granger."

"Yes, but I would think that the man who was able to make the unregretted dark lord Voldemort believe he was his servant while he was in fact spying on him to help to his downfall would know how said dark lords think, and thus would make a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

Snape opened and closed his mouth, and Hermione wondered whether she went too far – she had never seen him speechless before.

But she didn’t have the time to apologize, for Headmistress McGonagall said, "So, what is your answer, Severus?"

~*~

"I can’t belive one of us is going to teach at Hogwarts," Harry remarked, looking around him.

He, Ginny and Hermione were unpacking the new Potions teacher’s belongings in her suite in the castle. They were in the living room; the brunette would take care herself of everything that went into her bedroom and the adjoining private bathroom.

"Hermione will do great." Ginny stated before turning to her friend because she could see she was starting to regret her decision – out of pure nervousness. "You will be a great teacher."

Hermione let herself fall in a comfortable chair, sighing. "I’m sure the kids are going to hate me!"

"Don’t be silly!" Ginny reassured her. "Why would they, anyway?" She elbowed Harry sharply and mouthed: Say something!

He shrugged and answered, What?

Ginny rolled her eyes. She loved him, she really did, but sometimes, like now…

"Ron and Harry were my best friends and they hated me when I tried to explain something to them. And I was just trying to help," Hermione continued. "Is it not true, Harry?"

He cleared his throat. "Of course not! We never hated you." Seeing her about to protest, he quickly added, "We hated the homeworks, at least some of them, but you, never."

Ginny beamed at him, and he threw out his chest a bit and went to his best friend.

"To me, it just proves that you were born to be a teacher," he said, laying a hand on her shoulder and squeezing it gently.

"He’s right, you know. It shows that you are more patient than I’ll never be if you ever tried to explain something to those two dunderheads!"

Hermione smiled her thanks.

"Hey! I resent that!" Harry exclaimed.

Ginny ignored him. "Where’s Charlie?" she asked, frowning slightly. Her brother had been there the day before, to help them take Hermione’s belonging’s to the school.

"Still at work," Hermione replied, and her smile disappeared. "He told me he would probably have to work double shift today." Ginny and Harry were constantly bantering, and when she saw them, she couldn’t ignore how much she was missing Charlie.

~

Two hours later, Hermione was walking to their… to Charlie’s apartment. She was trying to get used to calling it that. It was not theirs anymore, or at least it wouldn’t be in the morning. It was never truly mine, to be honest – I’ve just borrowed some of Charlie’s living space during a few months.

Opening the door, she sighed, wondering why she had elected to spend the night here instead of staying at Hogwarts. It would be her home during the school year. And Charlie wouldn’t be here anyway.

You want to spend one last night here because you need to say goodbye, came the unexpected thought. And she knew it was true.

Hermione put a sleeping Damia to bed and headed towards the kitchen. She entered the sitting-room on her way there and gasped.

There was no light but the soft warm glow of candles to drive the shadows of twilight away.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. Then she saw him. He had obviously taken a shower just before she arrived, because his hair was still wet on the nape of his neck. He was wearing the shirt she liked on him… Hermione swallowed hard. "I’m sorry. Obviously you’re waiting for a girl. I-I didn’t know. I’m going to go back to the castle. I just hope she won’t see me leaving."

Why did she feel like crying? Just because it was obvious he had been waiting for her to move out to go on with his life?

Charlie’s smile wavered and he shook his head. "You’re making assumptions again. I’ve been waiting for you, Hermione."

"But… the candles?" She looked around her. "The cushions on the floor, the food and wine…"

"You told me once you liked this room in the candlelight, that it felt even more like home," he replied, shrugging his shoulders slightly. "I want your last night here to be special."

All of a sudden, Hermione felt a lump form in her throat. "Oh, Charlie, you’re so sweet!" She gave him a hug and broke off almost immediately, self-consciously.

Charlie cleared his throat. "Would you like some wine?" When she nodded, he conjured two glasses and raised his. "To your new life."

They sat on the cushions and ate. "You made all those?" Hermione asked him, indicating the dishes with a nod of her head.

"Yep, every one of them," Charlie responded. "I’m not a bad cook."

"You’re a far better cook than I am," she grimaced. "But all the same, I’m impressed."

Charlie waved his wand and a soft song came out of the Wizard’s Wireless. "I can dance too, you know," he declared with a mischievous smile, standing up. He held out a hand to her. "Will you dance with me, Hermione?"

She felt her heart rose to her throat, thoughts pushing themselves around in her head. Ron couldn’t dance – at least not without treading on her toes. Once she had wondered if he didn’t do it on purpose, knowing she would not ask him to make her dance again.

Hermione put her hand in Charlie’s and he helped her up, then he pulled her to him and she tensed immediately, dreading the moment when he would step on her toes. But it never came. Charlie had not lied. He could dance. His hands were both gentle and firm, leading her in such a way that Hermione relaxed and simply enjoyed dancing with a man who knew what he was doing.

When Charlie caught her smiling, he chuckled softly and asked, "What, you thought that all the Weasley boys were useless when the music started to play?"

"Well, I know Ron was." She felt a pang, but it was the truth. Ron was brave and loyal, but he admitted himself he was worthless on a dancefloor and didn’t care much about dancing anyway. "And Percy wasn’t better, as for the twins… can you even call what they do ‘dancing’?"

He shook his head. "Nope, you cannot!"

Smiling mischievously, Charlie led her into a playful spin, then wrapped her back into his arms. She laughed, and he did it again, but this time when he pulled her back to him, they were much closer than they had been before. And all of a sudden, Hermione was very aware of the heat coming from his body, of his male scent, of how hard his muscles were under the thin fabric of his shirt. She looked up to him and regretted it instantly. Their gazes met, and her chocolate brown eyes were caught by his. She noticed they were blue with green flecks. Hermione’s heart missed a beat then started to hammer in her chest. Heat spread inside of her and she felt her legs grow numb. Her mouth went dry and she had to swallow, hard.

No man had ever made her feel this way. And it was frightening. Because Hermione realized that Charlie was a man and no tentative boy anymore. Her breathing slightly labored, she started yearning all the more to feel his lips on hers, his hands on her skin. She was longing for his touch… as much as she was afraid of it.

A baby’s wail broke the spell.

Hermione pulled away, torn between relief and regret. "Damia is crying," she said, as if he couldn’t hear her.

Charlie nodded his head, and she could feel his gaze following her as she was leaving the room.

~*~

Charlie had been tossing and turning in his bed for hours. Hermione and Damia were gone, and the apartment was so silent, it felt so empty, it was overwhelming. He had the feeling he was constantly missing something – or more to the point, two someones.

He sighed. Why hadn’t he kissed her? He could tell she wanted it, but also that she was scared of what she wanted, her eyes and body sending him mixed signals. That was why he had fought the urge.

He could have kissed her and… Charlie stopped himself before he could finish the thought. He could have kissed her, then she probably would have run away. He would wait for the day when she wanted him as much as he wanted her – if it ever came. He would be patient. He had been waiting for her all his life. He could wait some more.

Because he wanted all of her. He wanted to fall asleep beside her every night and wake up at her side every day.

And because of that, Charlie didn’t want her to do anything with him she might regret later.

Even if it were just a kiss.




A/N: Didn't I promise you another chapter before the end of the week? Here it is! I hope you enjoyed reading it. Please, review. :)

Chapter 11: An Old Enemy's Grudge
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He had been waiting for that moment since dawn. Nobody had payed any attention to the dark cloaked figure almost lying in ambush near the school gates. It was the first Hogsmeade weekend of the school year. The students had passed by him without raising an alarm. They had probably been too busy thinking about the sweets they would buy at Honeydukes and the items they would find in that damn new shop, Weasley Wizard Wheeze, to notice his presence.

He sneered, then he made a disgusted face. He had seen the traitor leave the castle. So the rumors were true. He was teaching at Hogwarts again… Maybe he would take care of him too. The curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts job had been lifted by Voldemort’s death, but it didn’t mean it was safe. He would make sure of that.

At last, he saw her walking towards the gates, her precious daughter in her arms, and fury almost overwhelmed him. She had been his obsession for months now. He had imagined so many ways to make her suffer, and to kill her. His source had not lied – she was a teacher at Hogwarts. He sneered again, but this time, there was a maniacal glint in his eyes. She had been the best student in her year, maybe in her generation, and she taught potions.

His spy had been keeping an eye on her for months. No one had noticed him – there were far too many strangers in and out of Hogsmeade. After her baby was born, she had shared an apartment not even as big as his own room at home with Charlie Weasley. He smiled contemptuously. If that girl really wanted to ever be accepted by the wizarding community as a true witch, she needed to get over her fondness for bloodtraitors. After the sidekick, the dragon handler. But some might consider that slightly better. And maybe the older brother would have the good idea to get himself killed too. Dragons were nasty creatures. Plus accidents happened a lot around Saint Potter and the Mudblood Granger.

He looked at the baby girl. Of course, she had red hair. All the accursed Weasleys had red hair. But if he had his say, she wouldn’t live long enough to become a bloodtraitor like her father. She was going to pay for her mother’s actions.
He stepped out of the shadow when she passed by him. His left arm darted forward to snake around her throat and he pressed the tip of his wand against the baby’s temple. "Do. Not. Utter. A. Sound!" he growled.

~

Hermione could have sworn her heart almost stop beating. Fear shot through her, making it hard to think. "W-what do you want?" she stammered.

"I want you to suffer, Mudblood," he hissed in her ear.

That voice… and the way he had just called her…

"Malfoy?"

"Don’t even think about pulling out your wand!" he growled. "If you make a move, I’ll kill her."

Hermione could hear that he wasn’t bluffing. And even if he were, she could take no risks. She kept very still.

"Please, you’re no killer. Dumbledore knew it. I’ll go with you, I’ll do anything you want, but don’t hurt my baby!" she implored.

She noticed that silent tears were running down her cheeks. Sensing her mother’s fear and anxiety, Damia started to wail.

"You got it all wrong, Mudblood. Like I said, I want you to suffer as much as I’ve been suffering since you murdered my father."

"I didn’t murder your father, Draco. I cast a spell in self-defense…"

"And you think your life was worth it?" he spat. "He was a pureblood wizard and you’re nothing but a freak… and your kid is a freak too."

Hermione was breathing hard. "I’ll do everything you want, but don’t…"

"I’m here for her, Mudblood."

"No!" Why had she told Charlie she would meet him at the Three Broomsticks? Why had she not let him come and pick her and Damia up, like he had always done?

"Will you still be able to sleep not knowing whether she’s dead or alive?" When she whimpered and tightened her hold on Damia, he let out a maniacal bark of laughter. "And you’re going to give her to me, or I’ll kill her here and now."

"No, please, Draco…" She hated pleading with him, but what she wouldn’t do for herself, she would do for her baby.

"Don’t be stupid, Mudblood…"

~

"Didn’t your father tell you that you had to respect women?" Charlie tutted. His voice was cold, and dripping with sarcasm – and some loathing too.

"And here comes the dragon keeper," Draco drawled. He took Damia from Hermione’s arms by force, and she let go for fear of hurting her daughter. "You won’t save her, you know. Neither of them, in fact."

And he turned on the spot to disapparate, but nothing happened.

"Ah, yes, I forgot to tell you," Charlie added in a dangerous tone. "Dragon handlers know Anti-disapparition spells… and a few others, to help them taking care of their charges." He saw Hermione slightly nod her head from the corner of his eye. "Expelliarmus!" he said.

And at the same time, Hermione cried out, pointing her wand at her daughter, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

Draco just had the time to utter the first syllable of the Disarming Spell before hitting the ground, victim of Charlie’s second spell, a Full Body-Bind Curse.

"And we learn to be very fast – faster than dragons," Charlie continued, as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. He walked towards Malfoy. "Of course, we’re not allowed to use our spells on people." He turned to Hermione, who was holding tight to a crying Damia, trying to soothe her. "Are you two alright?"

"Yes," she nodded.

Despite his cool demeanor, Charlie had never been so angry in his whole life. He had been very tempted to use one of his dragon handler’s spells on Draco Malfoy – but he would not lower himself that way.

"What are we going to do with him?" Hermione asked.

She had wiped her tears and she was quite composed again. Charlie had never been so proud of her.

"We’ll take care of him," Minerva McGonagall’s voice answered. "Charlie, take Hermione and Damia away, please."

She was reaching the school gates with Severus Snape and Filius Flitwick.

Charlie hesitated before lowering his wand. But Minerva was right. He had to think first of Hermione and Damia. "Come on, let’s go to the Burrow."

She nodded, then she asked him in a small voice, "Can you side-apparate with Damia?"

"Sure," he responded, knowing that she was still too upset to take the risk to side-apparate with Damia herself.

Not long after, the three of them were on the road leading to the Burrow. Hermione threw herself in Charlie’s arms, and he held them tight.

"Thank you," she sobbed into his chest. "Thank you for having been there for us again!"

"I’ll always be there for you. Always."

~

Ginny and Harry apparated farther up the road and saw Hermione and Charlie in each other’s arms.

"Glad to see those two finally came to their senses," Harry muttered.

Ginny’s head whipped towards him, her eyes huge. "You knew?"

He gave her a lopsided grin. "I’m far more observant than you credit me for, Ginevra Weasley." He sighed theatrically, then he grew serious. "I wouldn’t make a very good Auror if I were not, don’t you think?"

They walked slowly towards the couple and realized then that Hermione was crying and clinging to Charlie as though the world would stop turning if she let go.

"What’s wrong?" Ginny asked.

"What happened?" Harry added, alarmed.

Charlie looked at them in turn and replied, "Let’s all go inside."

When they were all settled in the kitchen of the Burrow, Charlie told them what had happened as Hermione was leaving Hogwarts.

"I should have been there earlier," he concluded, pacing.

"Malfoy," Harry spat, furious, as if the name itself were a curse.

Molly glared at him – she was trying to rock Damia to sleep. Harry looked contrite for a second, then his face hardened again.

Hermione was nursing the cup of strong tea Molly had made her. Her hands had finally stopped shaking. "He was so mad because I k-killed his father during the Final Battle."

"If you had not, you would be dead!" Ginny protested indignantly.

"But according to him the life of a Mud… Muggleborn is not worth the life of a pureblood wizard," the brunette said through gritted teeth.

At first, they were all shocked by the statement, but they were all very aware of the bigotry of some pureblood families like the Malfoys.

"Damn stupid arsehole," Charlie growled.

"I won’t let you swear in front of my granddaughter, Charlie Weasley!" Molly declared, scowling at him.

Hermione caught Charlie’s hand as he was passing behind her and pulled him beside her. "Please, sit down." Their eyes met. He obeyed, and she seemed not to notice she was still holding his hand – almost clinging to it. "I don’t know what I would have done, had you not been there. You saved Damia. And thanks to you, Draco Malfoy is no threat anymore." She took a deep calming breath and continued, "Now could we change the subject, please?"

She had been looking forward to spending the day with her daughter… and Charlie. They saw each other every weekend, either at the Burrow or in Hogsmeade – because of Damia, of course, or at least that was what Hermione told herself. Charlie loved his niece and she had promised him he would still see her any time he wanted to. And it had turned out to be every Saturday or Sunday – sometimes both. As long as the weather had permitted them to, Charlie and Hermione had picnicked and gone for long walks in the hills around the small wizarding town. Then… well, there was always something to do on weekends, if you were searching for a good excuse to see someone.

And Hermione had done so almost as often as Charlie.

She might pretend otherwise, that she was doing this because of her daughter, but the truth was, Hermione loved every minute she spent with Charlie. She had pushed aside, in a dark corner of her mind, what had happened during her last night in his apartment. The attraction, the yearning… she had blamed them on the moment, on the wine and on the dance. She had not allowed herself to think about how he had made her feel anymore…

… until now. All of a sudden, she was very aware of his presence. And if her heart was beating a bit faster, it wasn’t in fear anylonger. Of course, she knew Charlie was a gentle man, but not a soft man. He was strong and brave – she knew that, but she had never seen him like he had been during the attack, and it had been an eye-opener. She was still very impressed…

"Sure." Charlie nodded his head. When she gave him that kind of look, he would do anything to make her happy.

He didn’t tell her when an owl arrived an hour later with a note from Minerva McGonagall. Draco Malfoy wouldn’t be a threat for some time.




A/N: Well, another little twist... I hope you liked it. If you did, you know what to do. If you didn't... well, you know what to do (you can tell me)!

Chapter 12: Full Circle
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Hermione watched the kids climb into the carriages and the thestrals take them away from Hogwarts. They were leaving the castle to spend the Christmas holiday with their families. She could barely believe she had been teaching for a whole term already.

"Are you going to stay at school for Christmas?" Severus Snape asked, startling her.

No wonder some students thought he was a vampire – it was one of those Hogwarts legends – because she had not heard him come behind her.

Hermione composed herself and turned to answer his question. "No, I’m going to the Burrow. I’ll leave in an hour or so."

"Ah, yes. I assume you’re still very close to the Weasleys."

She tried to discern any hint of sarcasm in his voice, but there was none. Severus Snape was only in his early forties, which was still quite young for a wizard, but he probably felt old and he was now too bitter to be loathsome.

"Yes, I am." And particularly to one of them. But if he knew that, he didn’t remark about it. "I wish you a happy holiday, Severus."

At the beginning, it had been hard to call him by his first name. But it was an implicit rule among the staff.

"I wish you a happy holiday too, Hermione."

She went to her room, where a house-elf was babysitting Damia. As soon as she saw her mother, the baby girl crawled towards her, and Hermione picked her up. "Are you ready to go to your grandma and grandpa’s house?" she asked her daughter with mock seriousness. "I promise you I won’t let Uncle Fred and Uncle George scare you – if they do it again, Aunt Ginny and I will hex them in such a way they will remember it till their last breath!"

It had not been entirely the twins’ fault. They had just been trying to make Damia smile – Fred and George’s style. Damia had cried during half an hour and Ginny had sworn that if Fred and George ever did anything like that again, they would regret it.

Damia didn’t answer but caught a lock of her mother’s hair in her fist and tried to put the whole into her mouth.

"Oh, no, no, no, you can’t eat this," Hermione laughed. "In fact, you can’t have anything. It would spoil your apetite, and you and I know that the first thing your grandmother will do when we arrive will be to take you to the kitchen where your lunch will be waiting for you." She took her bag and looked around to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. Then she turned to the house-elf. "We’ll be back the day before the starting of term."

"Yes, Mistress Hermione. Fira will wait for Mistress Hermione and young Mistress Damia’s return."

~*~

Charlie saw Hermione walking towards the school gates with Damia in her arms and couldn’t help but smile at the sight.

"Hey," he greeted them, taking their bag from the young woman. When he leaned over to kiss Damia’s forehead, he took a breath of Hermione’s scent – citrus and vanilla. He cleared his throat and continued, "Come on. If you get cold, mom will kill me."

"No she won’t," Hermione shook her head, then turned to her daughter. "We won’t let grandma hurt Charlie, will we, Damia?"

He laughed, and a few seconds later, they apparated close to the Burrow. Molly ushered them inside. "Come in, come in! It’s so cold outside."

"Yes, it is. Poor Charlie, he had to wait for us at the castle gates!" Hermione couldn’t help to add, suppressing a smile, and when he looked at her, she gave him a wink.

But Molly wasn’t paying attention. Her granddaughter in her arms, she was heading towards the kitchen. Harry, Ginny, Bill and Fleur were already there.

"We don’t talk about Fred," Ginny mouthed to Hermione and Charlie, who nodded their heads. Fred would spend Christmas Eve with Angelina and her family. None of them wanted to remind Molly of it, even though all of them knew it was always on her mind.

They talked and laughed while making super. And when George arrived, as they were almost through, he didn’t seem affected by his twin defection. Unlike Molly, who kept on looking at the door wistfully. At least until Fleur and Bill conjured a couple of bottles of champagne.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Molly asked. But her wide-eyed expression showed that she already knew.

"My parents sent them to us from France. We, I mean, you have something to drink to, because obviously I can’t…," Fleur announced, then she gave them a huge smile. "I’m three months pregnant!"

They congratulated them. They all knew how much Fleur and Bill wanted to have a child, and Fleur would be a good mother – one just had to look at her when she was with Damia.

"I’m so happy for you," Hermione breathed when she hugged Fleur. So that was why Bill was so protective with his wife!

It truly was a more joyful Christmas Eve than the year before.

As they were about to have dessert, an owl arrived and tapped with it’s beek at the window. Molly opened and it flew to Charlie, dropping a letter on the table in front of him before flying out again.

"Was it…?" Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow. She didn’t know Serena was still sending letters to Charlie. "You should open it."

"No, he should burn it," Ginny muttered.

Meanwhile, George had taken the letter, opened it and read it. "You dated that bitch?" he exclaimed.

Charlie glared at him. "I…"

"Will you excuse me," Hermione said, standing up. "I must put Damia to bed."

Damia had fallen asleep in her arms. And she needed an excuse to leave the room. It doesn’t matter whether Charlie dated Serena or not, right? So why did it hurt?

She watched her baby sleep during a couple of minutes, than she composed herself and left the bedroom.

"I didn’t date her," Charlie’s voice said.

"You don’t…" Hermione started, turning to him.

"She was having a drink in the Three Broomstick, and I was there too," he cut her off. When she tried to get past him to go downstairs, he caught her by the arm. "We just happened to be in the same place at the same time."

"Really, you don’t…" Hermione swallowed hard. If he really didn’t have to explain himself, why was she still here, why was she listening to him, instead of going back to the dining room?

Charlie wondered about that too. He turned her to him, unresisting. "I do."

"Why?"

"Because…" Charlie wrapped an arm around Hermione and pull her to him, while his other hand cupped the back of her head and his lips claimed hers. Gently.

She was so taken aback – and yet she realized she had been waiting for this for weeks now, ever since the attack at the end of October – that she stayed still one second too much. He broke the kiss and let his arms fall back to his sides. "I’m sorry," he said, before turning away and running down the stairs.

Hermione blinked, then followed him downstairs, her heart beating madly. But he was nowhere to be found.

"Where is Charlie?" she asked Molly, who was in the kitchen.

"He just left," she answered, indicating the door with a nod of her head.

Hermione was already ouside, just in time to see Charlie disapparate. She ran in again. "Can you look after Damia for me, please?"

"Of course, dear," Molly responded. Hermione didn’t see her knowing smile, nor did she hear her add, "About time!"

~*~

Charlie opened the door and Hermione threw herself at him, linking her arms around his neck. It was her turn to seek his lips. And if their kiss was first gentle, it became quickly more and more passionate when he responded by parting his lips and flicking out his tongue to tease hers. She parted them, allowing him to deepen the kiss as he caught her slender body in his arms.

"Hermione…" he said, breaking the kiss.

"You thought you could kiss me and ran away?" she interrupted him breathlessly, the fingertips of one hand stroking his hair and the nape of his neck in a tantalizing way.

His lips pressed to her neck, and she turned and tilted her head so he had a better access. Charlie left a trail of warm, wet kisses up to the sensitive skin bellow her ear, then along her jawline, breathing in that scent of her, and he heard her breath catch in her throat, then quicken slightly. Their lips met again, and their tongues, and when she moaned, his desire for her flared.

Hermione moved her hands down his chest and untucked his shirt to wrap them around and touched his bare back, pulling him even closer to her. He framed her face and he looked deeply into her eyes. "Are you sure?"

She nodded her head. "Yes." Her face was flushed, but her eyes glinted mischievously when she added, "Don’t you think you’ve had me waiting for too long?"

Smiling wickedly at her, he unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it from her shoulders, his hands gliding on her skin, then his kisses cascaded on her throat and down. Hermione gasped when his palms brushed against her bra, arousing the sensitive skin under. She helped him pull off his shirt without unbuttoning it, then she took off her skirt, letting it pool at her feet. Charlie looked at her from head to feet, slowly, and when their eyes met again, there was no mistaking the lust and yearning in his. He scooped her up, and she wrapped her legs around him.

He carried her that way into his bedroom and placed her on the mattress. She leaned forward to unzip his pants, and he kicked them off before lying against her. They started to kiss again, and he pulled her on top of him. Hermione straddled him and pressed against him, and Charlie drew in a ragged breath. He undid her bra, and they started to explore each other with their hands and with their lips and tongues, eliciting gasps and moans from each other. They freed each other of the last and now offending pieces of clothing and he rolled her over. Leaning onto one elbow, he looked down into her eyes and let his free hand wander some more. Hers started to caress up and down his back in an agonizingly slow motion, and Charlie’s lips sought hers again, enjoying their fullness, the sweet taste of her mouth. Until she clung to him and groaned, "Oh, please, Charlie. I can’t wait anymore." He lowered himself and felt her welcoming him. And they started to move together.

Oh, man, he’s really no tentative boy anymore, Hermione thought, crying out his name as she was about to lose control for the second time.

~*~

Charlie woke up in the greyish light of pre-dawn. Hermione was lightly drawing patterns on his chest and stomach.

"Morning, love," he yawned, his arms tightening around her. It wasn’t a dream. It had really happened. And actually if her hands didn’t stop right now… Her fingertips passed his navel.

He pressed her onto her back in one lithe move. "I love you," he told her, his eyes catching hers.

"I love you too."

They arrived at the burrow for a late breakfast. Hermione kissed her daughter.

"What took you so long?" Harry smirked.

"Well, Harry, if you really want to know…" George started.

Ginny slapped him on the back of his head.

Hermione and Charlie ate quickly, and the whole family moved to the living room. It was Damia’s first Christmas and her mother wasn’t the only one who had been looking forward to it. But of course, being barely nine months old, the baby wasn’t very impressed.

"Oh, well," Hermione said. I guess I’ll have to wait one more year."

"We," Charlie said, a question in his eyes, sliding an arm around her shoulder.

She nodded her head. "We."

At the same moment, Ginny gasped and they turned to the sound. Harry was kneeling before her, holding one of her hands in his. In the other, he held a ring.




A/N: Here is the last chapter. If I enjoyed writing this fic that much, it was because I knew people were waiting to read it and enjoyed reading it.

Thanks to all my faithful readers, and especially to those of you who reviewed to share their thoughts on this fic with me!

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