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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s about last night.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hermione felt she might faint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good morning, Hermione,” he smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh.”

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

Fred and George. Shit, thought Hermione.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, really…”

They kissed again, and again, and…

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

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

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

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

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

“Um, thanks,” she said shyly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny cocked her eyebrow gave a crooked, saucy smile.

“Oh, won’t I?”

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