Hermione yelped as she was startled awake by a loud voice in her face. She opened her eyes slowly to see Harry, Ron, and Ginny standing over her.
“Come on, wake up! It’s Christmas!” cried Harry joyfully.
“Yeah, the sooner you’re up, the sooner we open presents!” Ginny beamed.
“Well, we have to eat breakfast first, but we can’t without you there,” corrected Harry. “Get dressed and come downstairs.”
“Right, I’m ravenous. Hermione, if you don’t come soon, I think I may die of starvation!” Ron laughed.
Hermione rolled over and covered her head with her blanket. “You go on without me. I’ll meet you down there,” she moaned.
“No, we’ll wait for you as long as you hurry. Besides what have you got to do? You look fine. Let’s go!” Ron was clearly anxious to eat, and Hermione suppressed a tiny smile at his compliment. She knew she must look horrible, but obviously Ron never cared about how she looked.
“Really, it’s ok. I’ll only be a few minutes. You go on,” she said while slowly rolling out of bed.
Harry and Ron headed for the door, but Ginny remained behind. As Hermione began to change out of her nightclothes, she inquired about why everyone was up so early.
“We’re not up early, Hermione. You slept in. It’s after nine o’clock! That’s late for my family on any regular day, but especially on Christmas!” Ginny looked at Hermione as if this should have been common knowledge.
“Sorry, I was just tired. I feel fine now though…”
“Well yeah, now that you can actually go to sleep at night.” Ginny had a look that said she was battling with herself whether or not to ask something she though she ought not to.
“Spit it out. I know you’re thinking something, Gin.” Hermione had her arms crossed over her chest and tapped her foot, waiting.
“It’s because of Charlie, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said stoically.
“Oh yes, you do. Charlie is the reason you can sleep at night. Hermione, I’m not blind, and have you forgotten that I share a room with you? I can put two and two together. You had the most awful time sleeping when you were worrying about Ron. Then you started spending time with Charlie, and all of a sudden you’ve cured your insomnia. Coincidence? I think not.” A smugness adorned Ginny’s countenance as she waited for Hermione’s refutation.
“I’ve told you, Gin, we’re just friends,” Hermione stammered, and a blush creeped over her face.
“I KNEW IT!” Clapping her hands excitedly, Ginny ran over to her friend and hugged her, all the while giggling like a… well, like a girl. “I knew you fancied him… Admit it!”
Hermione was at a loss for words and let her mouth hang open as she tried to think of something to say, hoping words would form themselves if only she thought hard enough. The only thing she could do was shake her head. Ginny kept smiling, leaving Hermione only one option of how to end the conversation.
As she walked towards the door, Ginny called after her, “Admit it!”
“Good morning, Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley greeted. “Have a plate, dear.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” she said as she accepted a plate full of eggs, bacon, and biscuits.
“Where’s Ginny?” Ron asked with his mouth full. Harry’s ears perked up at the mention of his girlfriend’s name.
“Right here!” Ginny shouted as she bounded into the room. “Morning everybody!”
“Well, well, aren’t we just a ray of sunshine!” Percy said sarcastically and rolled his eyes. “Lay off the sugar this early in the morning, ok? Can’t be good for your health.” She shot him an evil glare then kissed her mother’s cheeck while taking her food. Percy had changed little since he’d been back home. Once a prat, always a prat.
Hermione still stood in the middle of the room, waiting for Ginny so they could take their seats across from Harry and Ron. However, she waited a little too long, because Fred and George entered the kitchen and plopped themselves right in their spots. Ginny then made to sit beside Harry, and left Hermione a seat between Ron and Charlie.
Good thing this isn’t awkward, Hermione thought as she squeezed between the two Weasleys.
Mr. Weasley looked upon the twins with suspicion as they talked in low whispers with their heads down. “Fred? George? What are you up to? Please tell me you didn’t charm any of the Christmas gifts… All we need is a disaster like last year.” He looked at them pleadingly, and added in an undertone, “I can’t handle your mum going nutters on Christmas again…”
“I heard that, Arthur!” Mrs. Weasley scolded, never breaking her concentration on the eggs. She brought the last batch over to the twins and emptied it onto their plates, all the while giving her husband a reprimanding look. Frightened though he should have been, Mr. Weasley smiled innocently, and her scowl faded into a grin.
“Way to go, Dad! Good job getting out of that one!” the twins congratulated.
Feeling quite proud of himself, Mr. Weasley boasted, “Yes, I believe all of you could take a lesson. Especially you three…” he emphasized pointing to Bill, Charlie, and Percy. “You’re getting to be about that age. You might be getting married soon, and you’re going to need to know how to deal with women. They can be quirky sometimes.”
“Dad!” Ginny acted offended at her father’s comment about women’s behavior. Hermione laughed, inwardly agreeing with Ginny, though she did find it quite amusing.
“Oh, now we see. They’re your favorites, huh? What about us, you know, your other sons?” George accused playfully.
“You think we can’t get married?” Fred joined in.
Mr. Weasley laughed as he shook his head at his twin sons. “You know that’s not what I meant, boys. Although… If I were a young lady, I can’t imagine marrying the owner of a joke shop. Sounds truly terrifying!”
“HEY!” they chimed together. Fred threw a piece of bacon at his father, and George catapulted a forkful of eggs. Both hit right on target. The whole table errupted in laughter, and even Hermione couldn’t bring herself to disapprove. Mr. Weasley looked around furtively, making sure his wife wasn’t watching, and lifted his hand to retalliate with his own piece of bacon.
“ARTHUR! Put the bacon down!” As if they hadn’t been laughing hard enough already, almost every member of the family nearly fell out of his or her chair laughing, including Mr. Weasley.
So breakfast wasn’t quite the nightmare Hermione had planned for when she first sat down at the table. Ginny’s comment upstairs had made her somewhat self-conscious, but her nerves were eased considerably at the jocularity among the family. However, there was one tiny thing that plagued her… Mr. Weasley had mentioned marriage, and she realized that Charlie was indeed about that age. She pondered that maybe Charlie really was too old for her and became a little discouraged.
Charlie took Hermione’s now empty plate from her and voluntarily began to clean up the aftermath of breakfast. What a gentleman. Maybe it could work…
Ginny watched Hermione oggling her older brother and kicked her chair playfully as she walked by, batting her eyelashes teasingly. Hermione pursed her lips and visually scolded her friend for being so blunt but thanked Merlin that Charlie had his back turned. What a disaster it would be if he found out.
The family gathered around the Christmas tree in the living room, each anxiously awaiting for the fun to start. Fred and George began to hand out presents as they waited for Mrs. Weasley to join them in the living room. Everybody had at least one present in their possession by the time she arrived, and they each tore into the wrapping paper and bags that concealed the gifts.
The twins eyed their new copies of Wizarding Business for Dummies and threw sarcastic looks at Percy for his feeble attempt at humor.
“Thanks for the books, prat,” they laughed.
Harry put on his new green jumper that Mrs. Weasley had made for him as Ron handed Hermione a glistening red package and watched her open it. Her eyes widened as she pulled out a silver necklace with a Gryffindor crest charm. She wasted no time fastening it around her neck.
“Oh, Ron, thank you so much,” she said and gave him a quick hug. Ron smiled back at her, feeling quite proud of himself. Charlie watched the exchange from the other side of the room while absent-midedly playing with a small black hoop. His gift would just have to wait.
Hermione then passed her presents to Harry and Ron and watched with anticipation as they showed no mercy to the wrapping.
Harry read the title of his new book, Secret’s to the Perfect Chess Game: Learn to Defeat Any Master in 30 Days. “Blimey! Thanks, Hermione, for reminding me how awful I am at chess,” he scoffed, pretending to be offended.
“Well now maybe you’ll actually be able to beat Ron, for a change,” she teased.
“Wicked!” Ron had just opened his much heavier package and found a red and yellow chess set. “This is amazing! And in Gryffindor colors! Hey harry, you can put your new skills to use… Thanks, Hermione, this is incredible!”
The trio were busy enjoying themselves (Hermione still admiring the premium set of quills Harry had given her) when they heard a loud scream from Ginny’s direction. Her eyes flared with anger as a black puff of smoke rose up from the package in her lap. She had her wand pointed straight at the twins, who were busy laughing and high-fiving each other.
“Haha, calm down, little sister. It’s just a gag.”
“And a darn good one at that!”
“Your real present is inside. Take a look.”
Her ears were still red as she stared daggers at her older brothers. Mr. Weasly motioned to her wand, so she slowly lowered it to her side though still kept her hand on it.
“Hey, don’t be mad. You should feel priveleged for being the first to test out our newest invention!”
“Yeah, Smoke Bats! You put them into a closed container so when people open it the bat flies right into their face! Freaks the hell out of people…”
“Obviously. Oh, don’t be so uptight, Gin. It’s not real.”
Even her annoyance with her brothers couldn’t make her deny the invention’s cleverness. She sat back down and removed the small, rubbery bracelet from the bottom of the box. She held it up with one finger and asked, “And just what is this?”
“Another of our newest inventions. It’s a Secret Seeker. Stays red until you start hiding stuff from people.”
“Hence the name Secret Seeker.”
“Right you are, Fred. The Secret Seeker is always seeking, and when it sees a secret, the Secret Seeker signals the secret-keeper with a not-so subtle change in color.” George nearly cracked himself up with his wittiness.
“Alliteration aside, it’s a great invention but I’m not sure people would want to wear it. After all, if people have secrets then there’s obviously a reason, so why would they want to wear a bracelet that changed color and let everyone know they were hiding something?” Ginny asked, confused.
“That’s the point though. You give the bracelet to someone and don’t tell them it’s a Secret Seeker. One handy feature of the bracelet is that you can change its appearance so no one will recognize it as a Secret Seeker, then unsuspecting victims will fall prey to the all-knowing bracelet!”
Ginny just shook her head. She sometimes wondered about the sanity of her twin brothers. “Whatever you say,” she answered while absently throwing the braclet back into the box.
Hugs and “thank you’s” went all around as the gift-opening came to a close. Charlie stealthily tucked his own Secret Seeker in his pocket and stole out of the living room, followed by Bill, Percy, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who kept a watchful eye on her twin sons. The three youngest Weasleys and the two adopted-Weasleys remained, still talking and playing with their gifts. Ron set up his new chessboard and challenged Harry to a game. Harry kept his new book open the whole time. Ginny and Hermione talked amicably about nothing, and Ginny noticed her friend’s mind was somewhat distant. Hermione heard every word the redhead said, but her gaze was fixed on an unopened package in the corner behind the tree.
a/n: Sorry for cutting it off in such a weird place but this chapter would have been SO long if I didn’t. Once finals week is over, I will post chapter 5. Until then, enjoy! ~MM311
EDIT: Finals are now over so I will have more time to write on this story... for updates on the progress check out my livejournal at http://www.livejournal.com/users/excitable_one/
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