Charlie and Hermione made a routine of taking walks together. Every day, often several times a day, the two would escape the bustle of the house to enjoy a quiet conversation. These walks became Hermione’s therapy. Whenever she started to feel alone or bored, all she had to do was give Charlie a thoughtful look, and he immediately postponed his activity for a little break time of his own.
She and Charlie talked continuously and never seemed to run out of things to say. Hermione had learned so much about dragons that, if contested against anyone else at Hogwarts on their knowledge of the subject, she would surely come out the victor. They talked about school, and Hermione amazed him with her ability to rattle off facts and figures from the top of her head. She also started thinking about jobs that would involve traveling because of how much she enjoyed hearing about Charlie’s adventures; her new goal was to work at the Ministry in the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
Besides talking, the two enjoyed playing Exploding Snap, helping Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen, and snooping around the house for unwrapped Christmas gifts. Charlie also decided that Hermione needed to learn the art of Quidditch and began to give her expert flying lessons. Hermione’s days were now so occupied with her new friend that she hardly had a moment to spare sulking about Ron. It seemed the more time she spent with Charlie, the longer she was able to sleep through the night, and consequently, the less she thought about Ron altogether.
Though she felt like a bad friend for not paying as much attention to Ron as she used to, it eased her stress level considerably to not be constantly pining over him. She knew Ron would never give in to his feelings, if in fact he had any, so she convinced herself that moving on was the healthiest choice for all those involved.
Still, in the middle of her newfound revolution, she couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty when she stole glances at Charlie in his dashing Quidditch robes, and imagined the toned muscles concealed underneath. She had never really noticed how remarkably handsome Charlie was, which was probably because in years past her focus had always been saved for Ron. But now that she was in a progressive mindset about severing any romantic attachment to Ron, a gateway was opened to countless possibilities—possibilities that in no way excluded a crush on the second eldest Weasley boy.
Hermione tried earnestly to think of Charlie in a strictly platonic way; she was aware of what could happen to her mental state if she allowed herself to be attracted to yet another member of the Weasley family. But try as she may, Hermione’s thoughts became increasingly preoccupied by the dragon keeper. She constantly coached herself that developing feelings for Charlie was not smart, and practiced private mind games to avert her attention to something else. It worked when she focused, but nighttime was a different story.
He hugged her and let her know everything would be alright without having to say anything….They flew high above the trees, through the clouds and completely out of sight….He was at Hogwarts to visit her…..She worked for the Ministry, and had pictures of their vacation on her desk…..In a dark corner of Grimmauld Place, he bent low to kiss her….
Images continually flashed through Hermione’s mind at night. She drifted between things that had actually happened, things she wished might someday happen, and things she knew would never happen. Every effort she made to refute her feelings for Charlie was annihilated by the content of her dreams. She found it increasingly difficult to take walks with Charlie and not get the sudden urge to kiss him.
She didn’t know what it was about him that captivated her so. She was not overly keen about his dangerous occupation (yes, she was intrigued, but just like a true Mrs. Weasley, she was also a worrywart). His features were nothing new (she was used to the red hair and freckles after all these years), though his athletic build and intermittent burns on his arms did lend a certain aura of manliness to his character. Charlie’s extra years also gave him an advantage; he understood women very well and knew how to balance his macho side with his sensitivity. His intelligent sense of humor was something Hermione appreciated most, and his insightful comprehension of the world freed her to discuss things she never would have been able to with Harry or Ron. Basically, Charlie allowed her to be herself.
The days approached nearer and nearer to Christmas, and excitement buzzed all around Grimmauld Place. When Hermione was not with Charlie, she was with Ginny. They spent many hours talking and guessing what everyone would be receiving on Christmas. Ginny knew Hermione better than almost anyone, and her frequent togetherness with Charlie did not go unnoticed by the young Weasley girl.
“So, Hermione, are you going to tell me what’s going on with you and my brother?” Ginny questioned with an air of authority, as if she already knew the answer.
“Ron is a lot better now, we-“
“Wrong brother. You know who I’m talking about…”
“Oh, Charlie? He’s been a really great friend lately, and-“
“Hermione, don’t be short with me. I know there’s something up with you two.”
She gave Ginny a reproving look and responded, “As I was saying, Charlie and I have become very good friends. He’s quite pleasant company, and I enjoy spending time with him.”
“Is that all? You really expect me to believe that after all that time you spend with him on your romantic walks that you-”
“Romantic walks? Ginny, they’re not romantic. How could they be, knowing that everyone in the house could spy on us?”
“Ah ha! So you do want to be alone with him!” Ginny’s grin widened and her eyes grew rounder as she said it.
“Ginny! That’s not what I meant. We just talk and have a good time. He’s actually really helped me a lot with…with not being sad about Ron,” she finished sadly.
Ginny decided to stop pushing so hard, but was still very curious. “What do you talk about?”
“Oh, we talk about lots of stuff—work, school, dragons, Quidditch, Christmas… You know, Gin, I was thinking of maybe getting him a present, to say thank you for being so nice to me recently. What do you think?”
Ginny’s ears perked up, and she hid a sly smile. “You want to get him a present, do you?”
“Well, I thought about it. But actually, it’s quite impossible, There’s no way we’ll be able to leave the house to go shopping. Too late, I guess.” Hermione’s face drooped with this realization.
“I’m sure you’ll figure something out,” Ginny reassured with a mischievous smile.
“What’s that look for? Ginny…”
Ginny wasn’t the only one who noticed the excessive amount of time Hermione and Charlie spent together. Nearly the entire Weasley clan began to form their own theories about the status of the relationship, and gossip spread like wildfire.
Mrs. Weasley saw it from the beginning, and watched out the back window and Charlie and Hermione took their daily walk. “Arthur, it’s happening again… Why can’t that poor girl ever escape the drama our boys cause her?”
“Now, Molly, I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think. Hermione’s having a rough time, and I think Charlie was exactly what she needed.” Mr. Weasley had a bit more confidence that everything would sort itself out than Mrs. Weasley did.
“But don’t you think this is a little strange? I mean, she and Charlie have always gotten along, but this is a bit much, don’t you think?”
“Stop worrying, dear. Charlie is a grown man; he knows what he’s doing. And not to belittle our youngest son, but Charlie does have a bit more brains than Ron when it comes to the fairer sex.”
“That’s another thing I’m worried about, Arthur… He’s too old for her! She’s not even out of school yet, and he’s grown-”
“Molly, listen to yourself. You’re blowing this way out of proportion, and nothing has even happened yet. Everyone has just jumped to conclusions about the two of them without even thinking about it.” Mrs. nodded, knowing that her husband was right. “Besides,” he continued, “Charlie is a good man, and Hermione has impeccable judgment. Would it be so horrible if something were to happen?”
Mrs. Weasley looked out the window again and shook her head slowly. “But what about Ron…?”
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