Hermione nervously clutched the letter in her hand. Her insides churned as she made her way to Professor Dumbledore’s office, and was only further distressed when she realized that she didn’t have the password. Already a few minutes late, and nearly about to cry from fear, she opened the letter again and re-read it to make sure she hadn’t missed something. Suddenly, underneath Dumbledore’s signature, the words “Ton-Tongue Toffee” wrote themselves in black script. Hermione took the hint and said the words aloud, and then watched the gargoyle spring open before her. The moving staircase had been one of Dumbledore’s more brilliant ideas, Hermione noted, as she most definitely wouldn’t have made it up to the top by herself.
“Ah, yes, Miss Granger,” greeted Dumbledore cheerily to Hermione as she stood in the doorway. “Quite on time, I see. In addition to being the cleverest, you are also the most punctual witch of your age.”
Hermione felt his compliments to be rather undeserved, as she was sure she was not perfectly on time. Dumbledore did have a tendency to act a bit mad sometimes, but this was one of his most endearing qualities, as it made his personality much more agreeable.
“Good morning, Professor,” she replied, trying to keep her voice from shaking. “If… If this is about my missing classes yesterday, I just want to say that… I um…”
“Now, now, Miss Granger. Do not fret over such matters. I have no intention of punishing you, or of discussing your absence at all,” Dumbledore assured.
Confused as she was, Hermione couldn’t help but be relieved that her educational career and perfect behavior record was not about to be demolished. “You’re not?” she asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. “There are much more important things in this world than a few missed classes, and in the world of war in which we are living, it is vital that we hold on to what little hope and love that we can.”
Hermione wasn’t quite sure where here headmaster was going with his philosophical statement. “What do you mean, sir?” Normally, she wouldn’t have had a problem understanding abstract concepts, but her brain was still exhausted from the emotional strain that love and friendship had dealt her.
“Love is the most precious and powerful gift one person can give to another. As you know, the life of your friend, Harry, was saved by love. His life was saved in the literal sense that his physical body would no longer be alive if it weren’t for the sacrifice his mother made, but love can also save in a spiritual sense, of which you might already be aware.” The headmaster peered over his half-moon glasses so that Hermione could see the twinkle in his fading blue eyes. “As clever as you are, Miss Granger, I’m quite certain that you’d not let something of such vast consequence slip away from you.”
Her mouth fell open ever so slightly. It seemed that Dumbledore was always one up on everything that went on in his students’ lives, and Hermione’s was no exception. How had he known? His urgings for the Head Girl to take love seriously demonstrated his knowledge of her feelings (and quite possibly of her relationship), but how could he know?
“I won’t, sir,” she answered.
With that, Dumbledore clapped his hands once and rose from his chair. “Now that we’ve cleared that up, it is time for the real reason for this meeting: you have a visitor.” Dumbledore held a hand out to a side door that led to his personal chambers, and Hermione watched anxiously as a muscular redhead opened the door. “I do believe I’m late for my Valentine’s date. Minerva might give me a detention if I keep her waiting any longer. I’ll leave you to it.” He smiled and then regarded Charlie with a nod as he left.
Hermione’s legs wouldn’t move, so she sat glued to her chair. She blinked her eyes several times to make sure they weren’t deceiving her, as Charlie walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder. She gulped hard but couldn’t force any words from her mouth; her throat tightened and tears formed in her eyes.
Charlie kneeled in front of her and covered her delicate hands with his own slightly charred hands. “Hermione?” he whispered. “Are you all right?”
Her eyes never met his, but stayed focused on the hands in her lap. Still looking downward, she removed one of her hands and blindly felt around for Charlie’s face. Perhaps feeling him would make it all real (somehow her hands had gone quite numb, so Charlie’s hands on hers never reached full effect). When she finally found his cheek, she caressed him lightly with her thumb before leaning forward to wrap her arms around the dragon keeper’s neck, still never meeting his eyes.
“Charlie,” she cried, and meant to continue, but words failed her as they gave way to her sobs.
Charlie patted her lightly on the back with one hand, and stroked her hair with the other. “Hey now, it’s ok. You don’t have to cry, love. I’m here,” he soothed.
“But wh-why?” she managed. “I mean… How?”
Charlie smiled. “I had to see you. You have no idea how awful it is to be apart from you.”
Then Hermione pulled back and looked Charlie in the eyes for the first time in over a month. “Yes, I think I do have some idea. I’ve had to put up with so much lately…”
“Yeah, you told me about that Malfoy bloke. Has he been behaving himself, or am I going to have to let one of my dragons have their fun with him?” he joked.
Hermione laughed softly, and Charlie looked quite pleased with himself that he was able to cheer her up. But her smile soon faded as she remembered the living disaster that was Draco Malfoy and all the problems he’d caused. “He’s not so bad now,” she told him, “but so much more has happened since I wrote to you last.” She sighed. “I don’t even know where to begin explaining it all.”
“Don’t you worry about that now. I want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend, if you don’t mind, and I’d like her to be able to enjoy herself. How about it?” Charlie asked eagerly.
“Oh, God… Valentine’s Day. I… I can’t, Charlie.”
“In Merlin’s beard, why not?”
“I have to go talk to Ron. You know, talk to him. He knows, Charlie.”
Charlie looked taken aback, though he was glad to hear that his youngest brother had finally learned the truth. “So you told him, then? Good for you, sweetheart-“
Hermione shook her head and cut him off. “I didn’t exactly tell him,” she said regretfully. “I’m so sorry, Charlie. Please don’t take it personally or anything, but I just couldn’t find the right way.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about a thing. I’m sure everything will work itself out,” he assured. “So, how did he find out, then?”
Hermione debated whether or not to get into the whole thing right now. She knew she’d tell him all about it eventually, but she reasoned that she’d better save her talking voice for dealing with Ron. “It’s quite a long story, and I promise to fill you in, but right now I just want to listen. Tell me how you managed to get all the way here, and how you got Dumbledore in on your little plan,” she begged. “That was awfully brilliant how you did it, by the way.”
“A little bit of lovesickness will make any man mad enough to the point where he’s willing to go to any lengths to be with his girl,” he stated matter-of-factly and then kissed her on the nose. “I simply owled Dumbledore about a week ago and told him that I’d like to pay Hogwarts a visit, and that I’d like to keep it something of a secret until my arrival. He also agreed to arrange this little meeting between you and me. Dumbledor is bloody brilliant.”
“Did you fly here?” Hermione asked, thinking the better of it. Surely he didn't fly all the way from Romania…
“I Apparated to Hogsmeade yesterday, and Albus let me stay in his guestroom last night.”
Hermione searched his eyes and replied, “You’ve been here all night?”
“Listen, I wanted to go and find you. Really, I did. But, well, Dumbledore thought it would be better to wait until morning. Besides, I don’t know how to get to the Heads’ common room, and I wasn’t sure what the Headmaster would think if I started enquiring where the Head Girl’s private quarters were.”
“It’s ok, Charlie. I’ll show you where it is,” she said.
Charlie’s mouth twisted into a sexy smirk and he raised his eyebrows. “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really, and maybe I’ll show you where my bedroom is, too,” she teased, returning a tantalizing half-smile.
The redhead perched before cocked his head to the side and questioned, “Maybe, eh?”
Hermione nodded satisfactorily. “Exactly. Maybe I’ll show you my room… If you’re good.”
Charlie laughed, despite being taunted by his girlfriend, though somehow, he found her coyness rather sexy. “And just what does ‘being good’ entail?”
“Oh, I don’t know…” Hermione said nonchalantly as she shrugged her shoulders and batted her eyes flirtatiously.
“I do,” Charlie answered Hermione as he placed a hand behind her neck and drew her to him. He connected his lips to hers, intending to keep them there for as long as he could, and she responded with equal affection. These were the lips she’d been missing for all these weeks and was glad to have them back, to feel them on her own lips, cheek, neck…
She broke away reluctantly, knowing she had to go meet Ron soon. “Charlie, do you realize what we’re doing in Dumbledore’s office? We have to go,” she told him.
“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” Charlie laughed. “He knows about us, remember?”
“Yes and he’s not the only one. I have to go and talk to Ron.”
Charlie’s shoulders dropped slightly, and he gave her a small but loving smile. “Right. It’s about that time, isn’t it? I suppose I’ll just wait here for you, then,” he answered, while taking her hands again.
“Never mind that—you’re going to stay in my room. I shouldn’t be too long at Hogsmeade. I hope…”
“So I’ve been good enough to go to your room, have I?”
Hermione blushed but quickly composed herself. She had business to take care of, after all. “Let’s go.” She led him down the many corridors and staircases until reaching the entrance to the Heads’ common room. Charlie tried to resist the urge to hold Hermione hand as they walked; he wasn’t sure if she’d be comfortable with overt displays of affection just yet.
She opened the door and pulled Charlie inside, slamming him against the closed door and pushing her body against him. She kissed him hard and then breathed, “I can’t take this.” She kissed him again. “I can’t go to Hogsmeade. I can’t leave you—I need you with me.” She kissed him again.
Charlie’s hands on her shoulders stopped her from kissing him forever. “You have to go, love, and I can’t go with you. You said yourself this is something you need to do on your own. He deserves at least that much,” he told her.
“And I deserve a little privacy in my own common room,” came a voice from the staircase. “Really, Granger, if you’re going to be bringing visitors, I’d at least like a little fair warning first. Quite rude to be barging in on other people private space if you ask me.”
“Well, I didn’t as you, and this is as much my room as it is yours,” she shot back.
Malfoy sniggered and rolled his eyes. “Who the hell is this bloke, anyway?” he scoffed.
Charlie approached the annoyed Head Boy and extended his arm while introducing himself. “Charlie Weasley. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. …”
“Malfoy,” he said a little fearfully. “Draco Malfoy.” Malfoy then turned to Hermione and asked, “So he is real, then. Imagine that…and a Weasley, too.”
Charlie gave him a warning look, and Hermione was nearly as displeased with Malfoy’s behavior.
“Say, you wouldn’t be of any relation to Potter’s pet Weasel, would you?” Draco had crossed the line, and he knew it when Hermione threatened to hex him.
Charlie restrained her from pulling her wand on him, and Malfoy became aware of the redhead’s defined arm muscles as he did so. Suddenly, Malfoy regretted insulting this man.
“You better go, love. He’ll be waiting for you.”
She looked fearfully into his eyes and gave him one last, desperate hug. “Will you be ok?”
“I should be the one asking you that, but yes, I’ll be ok. Mr. Malfoy and I are just going to have a little chat.”
Malfoy gulped hard and Hermione scurried out of the common room.
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