Chapter 5- Timely Confessions
Dinner that night was most pleasant. Everyone was cheerful in light of the holiday spirit, and Hermione paid no thought to taking her seat between Charlie and Ginny. So what if the family noticed their excessive togetherness? It was the least she could do for herself to sit by her friends and enjoy an evening of comfort without worrying about prying eyes and invasive assumptions. The only thing that was on her mind now was how she was going to thank Charlie for being so wonderful.
As the decadent meal came to a close, Hermione felt Charlie’s hand rest on her knee underneath the table. Her heart jumped, and she turned to smile at him but obviously couldn’t express anything herself and hope to hide it.
Ginny cleared off her plate and beckoned Hermione to join her upstairs. She got up all too reluctantly but managed to brush Charlie’s arm in what she hoped was a clandestine enough manner. After exiting, Hermione quickly glanced back and noticed Charlie was watching her leave.
The girls tramped up the stairs, and Ginny decided that more talk of their Christmas gifts would be a good way to steer the conversation where she wanted.
“Anymore thought about a gift for Charlie?” the redhead asked sweetly.
Hermione tensed at the mention of his name because, though she knew it was coming, the subject was still a bit unnerving for her.
“I’m afraid it’s too late; everyone’s already given out gifts…”
Ginny nodded her head, knowing Hermione was going to continue her point.
“And even if I wanted to get him something, it’s not like I could,” Hermione said sadly.
“Gift-giving is not on a timetable, Hermione. And many gifts do not require money, if you know what I mean,” she replied expressly.
“Ginny, I can’t…”
Ginny’s chocolate eyes bore into her own with anticipation as she felt a confession itching to be released.
“I mean, I’m really nervous to…do anything. He’s amazing, Ginny, but I can’t just… I’m not…”
When Hermione couldn’t manage to finish the majority of her sentences, Ginny sat down beside her and stroked her hair comfortingly. “It’s ok, Hermione.”
Hermione looked up from where she had been mindlessly destroying her fingernails and continued, “Gin, I…I think I’m falling in love with him. But, oh, I just don’t know what to do…”
Undoubtedly Ginny already knew this, but it was still a shock to have actually said it. Hermione slumped herself over and propped her elbows on her knees, laying her face in her hands.
“I think you should tell him. He seems to like you, too, you know.” It took every effort to keep Ginny from giggling madly, but she couldn’t control herself from smiling a bit.
“That’s the problem. If Charlie does feel something for me, what in the world are we to do? Certainly we can’t just be a normal couple, living halfway across the world from each other. Not like we could date anyways, because of Ron…” Hermione sounded even worse than she had at the beginning of the conversation at the mention of Ron’s name. Falling limply back on the bed, she closed her eyes tightly as if willing all her problems away.
“Now you leave Ron out of this. It’s not about him, remember; it’s about you and Charlie. Don’t punish Charlie because Ron is a prat.” Ginny was not about to let her friend give up so easily.
Hermione opened her eyes. “It’s not Ron’s fault. We both decided it was for the best. We knew it would work out the best to just stay friends. I don’t think I could ever let him see me with another man, let alone his brother.”
“Do you think that, as your friend, Ron would want to see you alone and miserable forever? It’s not every day you fall in love, and if I say so myself, Charlie is a good choice. You owe it to yourself, and to him, to give it a shot,” Ginny urged.
“And Ron? What’s going to happen to him?”
“We’ll think about him when the time comes, but everything will work out,” she assured.
The girls changed into their nightclothes and got ready for bed. As Ginny crawled under her covers, she said cheekily, “I knew you had a secret, Hermione, even without subjecting you to Fred and George’s new invention.”
She laughed and thought she heard a slight chuckle from Hermione’s side of the room.
If only it could have stayed a secret… Hermione mused to herself.
Hermione sighed with a mixture of fear, guilt, and relief. How would she tell him? What would she do about Ron? These questions flooded her brain as she lay in the dark room with her eyes fixed on the ceiling. She was somewhat eased by the advice Ginny had given, but nonetheless hated all the questions that arose by her finally admitting her feelings for Charlie. She knew Ginny would hold her accountable now and wouldn’t stop badgering her until she’d taken action.
She tossed and turned in her bed for hours, deliberating just how she’d tell him. Wild scenarios played in her mind as she imagined every possible setting and outcome. She though that maybe if everything was planned out and rehearsed repeatedly in her mind that she’d manage to not make a fool of herself. Of course, that would depend on what Charlie had to say as well, and unfortunately Hermione couldn’t plan that part out.
Other than slipping up and saying something foolish, Hermione’s biggest fear was rejection. Even though she was pretty sure about Charlie’s regards toward her (all the signs pointed to it at least), she still never allowed herself to be completely sure of anything. There was always the chance that Charlie didn’t return her affections, or that even if he did, he would feel that a relationship between them would be either too difficult or would compromise his duties as Ron’s caring older brother.
Her brain reeled, and the hours kept passing steadily. She had no idea what time it was but knew it was definitely about the time to be tired. Hermione couldn’t take it any longer and decided to revert back to her old ways of having early-morning tea.
She listened to make sure Ginny was asleep and quietly sneaked out of the bedroom they shared. She took the stairs slowly and shivered as her bare feet hit the marble flooring of the hallway. Walking quickly through the hall, she glanced into the living room and noticed a dark figure silhouetted against the window. Hermione stopped abruptly to watch. She knew it was him.
Hermione tiptoed in silently and admired how gorgeous the tree looked with the enchanted candles twinkling throughout. She debated whether or not she should disturb Charlie, as he was entranced with the tree’s beauty as well. She thought she heard him address her, but realized he was only talking to himself.
Nearing as close as she dared, Hermione took a deep breath and broke the silence.
“Charlie? Is that you?”
He turned around to greet her without hiding his surprise to see her there.
“Hi, Hermione. Fancy meeting you here. Isn’t it a little late?”
She looked around the room not knowing quite what to say.
“Er, yes, I suppose so. It’s just I…couldn’t really sleep. I came down to get some tea. Would you like to join me?”
Charlie ignored her offer and inquired about her sleeplessness.
“It’s been a while, eh?” He, of course, was referring to her late-night meanderings.
“Yes, quite a while, actually. I don’t really know what’s happened.”
He smiled at her genially and said, “Well, whatever is bothering you, this might cheer you up.”
He bent down to retrieve a large rectangular package wrapped in green paper and held it out to her. It was, in fact, the same package she had seen left behind the tree earlier that day. She only looked at him with her mouth slightly agape. Indeed, Charlie had thought of her on Christmas, and just holding the box would have been enough to satisfy her.
However, Charlie was anxious for her approval and asked, “Aren’t you going to open it?”
Hermione shook herself out of her state and sat down with the box in her lap. Charlie sat on the couch beside her and watched with anticipation as she carefully unwrapped her present.
Even in the dark, Hermione could see her initials, “HJG,” seared into the black leather of the designer briefcase. She ran her fingers over the impression and looked at Charlie with wide, misty eyes.
“Oh my god, Charlie… This is incredible. I can’t believe you did this…”
“Top-of-the-line. Only the best, for the best. But you have to open it. There’s more.” Charlie had hoped she liked it, and so far he’d been getting the reaction he’d wanted.
Hermione looked stunned upon hearing there was more. The two latches clicked open and revealed, along with a set of keys to lock the briefcase, a full set of stationary paper and matching envelopes. The top of the paper read, “From the desk of Hermione Granger,” in a delicate, professional script.
“Wow, how did you…? I'm speechless, Charlie. These gifts are just fabulous. I don’t know how I could ever thank you,” she said, now letting her tears flow freely. She didn’t care if he saw, either.
“You just did. I’m really glad you like it.”
Charlie placed his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into him, wrapping her free arm around his waist.
“No, Charlie, I llove it,” she corrected.
Hermione then straightened herself up again and looked at him sadly.
“What’s the matter?” Charlie asked.
“I didn’t get you anything. Not that I didn’t want to, it’s just…well, you know, I couldn’t really leave the house, and that made it somewhat difficult to buy a gift,” she answered in a dejected tone.
He smiled at her and said, “Don’t you worry about that. All that matters is that we care about each other. That’s what gifts are all about anyways, to show others we love and appreciate them.”
Did he just say ‘love’? Yes, he most certainly did. It wasn’t a direct confession or anything, but for Hermione, it was good enough.
She nodded in agreement and then reached for Charlie’s hand, allowing his rough, muscular fingers to cover her petite ones. The silence between them was understood, and not at all uncomfortable. He must have known it was coming, because when Hermione put her hand on Charlie’s cheek, he leaned in and met her half-way with a soft, timid kiss.
Hermione repositioned herself so that her neck wasn’t turned quite so awkwardly and in so doing let her briefcase and its contents slide to the floor with a light thud.
Charlie broke away asked quietly, “What was that? Is someone here?”
“No, no, that was just my, err…” But Hermione could hardly even form the words to answer him because her mind was so preoccupied with the sweet taste of Charlie’s lips. She wanted another go but began to wonder if she should try or not.
“Oh,” Charlie breathed. He then brought his hand up and rested his fingers in her hair. He kissed her cheek lightly, and Hermione felt her face start to burn as she heard his breath in her ear. But, Hermione couldn’t take the teasing anymore and snapped around to catch him full on his open lips.
Charlie moaned softly in surprise, but wasn’t disappointed that Hermione had taken initiative. This time Charlie let his feelings take over as he worked his fingers through her hair and tasted the wetness of her smooth lips and gentle tongue. Hermione was impressed by his abilities but reminded herself that he undoubtedly had had much more experience than she.
She separated her lips from his reluctantly but felt that, if she didn’t, things might have gotten out of hand (or worse, that someone would happen to walk in on them).
“Charlie…” she began, “I have to tell you… I think I’m a bit…in love with you,” she said fearfully. “I know it’s crazy since we’ve only really been friends for a few weeks but I just can’t get you out of my mind.”
Charlie nodded. “Same here. I haven’t felt this way about someone in a long time, and to tell you the truth, I debated whether I should even tell you or not. I’m really glad I did, though, or else I couldn’t do this,” he said before kissing her again. This time when they parted, they kept their foreheads touching and continued to talk about how much they had wanted to do that.
When Hermione tried and failed to suppress a yawn, Charlie did his best grown-up impression and said, “Ok, young lady, off to bed with you.”
She laughed and nearly screamed as Charlie placed his arms underneath her and lifted her speedily up off the couch. She rested her head on his shoulder as he carried her through the hall and up the stairs to her room. He laid her gingerly in her bed and began to tuck the covers in around her when she grabbed him behind his neck and pulled him close for a goodnight kiss.
“Happy Christmas, Charlie,” she said slowly.
“Happy Christmas, love.”
Charlie made another trip downstairs to gather her briefcase and stationary and returned to find Hermione fast asleep. He placed it at the foot of her bed and kissed her forehead before exiting.
a/n: Yeah, so the chapter title theme I was going with kinda bit the dust on this chapter...woops. Oh well. Hope you liked the chapter anyways, despite my lack of ability to think of the perfect chapter title. Please review with any feedback. Updates coming I don't know when, but as soon as I can. Love and such, MM311
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