Hermione watched the kids climb into the carriages and the thestrals take them away from Hogwarts. They were leaving the castle to spend the Christmas holiday with their families. She could barely believe she had been teaching for a whole term already.
"Are you going to stay at school for Christmas?" Severus Snape asked, startling her.
No wonder some students thought he was a vampire – it was one of those Hogwarts legends – because she had not heard him come behind her.
Hermione composed herself and turned to answer his question. "No, I’m going to the Burrow. I’ll leave in an hour or so."
"Ah, yes. I assume you’re still very close to the Weasleys."
She tried to discern any hint of sarcasm in his voice, but there was none. Severus Snape was only in his early forties, which was still quite young for a wizard, but he probably felt old and he was now too bitter to be loathsome.
"Yes, I am." And particularly to one of them. But if he knew that, he didn’t remark about it. "I wish you a happy holiday, Severus."
At the beginning, it had been hard to call him by his first name. But it was an implicit rule among the staff.
"I wish you a happy holiday too, Hermione."
She went to her room, where a house-elf was babysitting Damia. As soon as she saw her mother, the baby girl crawled towards her, and Hermione picked her up. "Are you ready to go to your grandma and grandpa’s house?" she asked her daughter with mock seriousness. "I promise you I won’t let Uncle Fred and Uncle George scare you – if they do it again, Aunt Ginny and I will hex them in such a way they will remember it till their last breath!"
It had not been entirely the twins’ fault. They had just been trying to make Damia smile – Fred and George’s style. Damia had cried during half an hour and Ginny had sworn that if Fred and George ever did anything like that again, they would regret it.
Damia didn’t answer but caught a lock of her mother’s hair in her fist and tried to put the whole into her mouth.
"Oh, no, no, no, you can’t eat this," Hermione laughed. "In fact, you can’t have anything. It would spoil your apetite, and you and I know that the first thing your grandmother will do when we arrive will be to take you to the kitchen where your lunch will be waiting for you." She took her bag and looked around to make sure she wasn’t forgetting anything. Then she turned to the house-elf. "We’ll be back the day before the starting of term."
"Yes, Mistress Hermione. Fira will wait for Mistress Hermione and young Mistress Damia’s return."
Charlie saw Hermione walking towards the school gates with Damia in her arms and couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
"Hey," he greeted them, taking their bag from the young woman. When he leaned over to kiss Damia’s forehead, he took a breath of Hermione’s scent – citrus and vanilla. He cleared his throat and continued, "Come on. If you get cold, mom will kill me."
"No she won’t," Hermione shook her head, then turned to her daughter. "We won’t let grandma hurt Charlie, will we, Damia?"
He laughed, and a few seconds later, they apparated close to the Burrow. Molly ushered them inside. "Come in, come in! It’s so cold outside."
"Yes, it is. Poor Charlie, he had to wait for us at the castle gates!" Hermione couldn’t help to add, suppressing a smile, and when he looked at her, she gave him a wink.
But Molly wasn’t paying attention. Her granddaughter in her arms, she was heading towards the kitchen. Harry, Ginny, Bill and Fleur were already there.
"We don’t talk about Fred," Ginny mouthed to Hermione and Charlie, who nodded their heads. Fred would spend Christmas Eve with Angelina and her family. None of them wanted to remind Molly of it, even though all of them knew it was always on her mind.
They talked and laughed while making super. And when George arrived, as they were almost through, he didn’t seem affected by his twin defection. Unlike Molly, who kept on looking at the door wistfully. At least until Fleur and Bill conjured a couple of bottles of champagne.
"What’s that supposed to mean?" Molly asked. But her wide-eyed expression showed that she already knew.
"My parents sent them to us from France. We, I mean, you have something to drink to, because obviously I can’t…," Fleur announced, then she gave them a huge smile. "I’m three months pregnant!"
They congratulated them. They all knew how much Fleur and Bill wanted to have a child, and Fleur would be a good mother – one just had to look at her when she was with Damia.
"I’m so happy for you," Hermione breathed when she hugged Fleur. So that was why Bill was so protective with his wife!
It truly was a more joyful Christmas Eve than the year before.
As they were about to have dessert, an owl arrived and tapped with it’s beek at the window. Molly opened and it flew to Charlie, dropping a letter on the table in front of him before flying out again.
"Was it…?" Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow. She didn’t know Serena was still sending letters to Charlie. "You should open it."
"No, he should burn it," Ginny muttered.
Meanwhile, George had taken the letter, opened it and read it. "You dated that bitch?" he exclaimed.
Charlie glared at him. "I…"
"Will you excuse me," Hermione said, standing up. "I must put Damia to bed."
Damia had fallen asleep in her arms. And she needed an excuse to leave the room. It doesn’t matter whether Charlie dated Serena or not, right? So why did it hurt?
She watched her baby sleep during a couple of minutes, than she composed herself and left the bedroom.
"I didn’t date her," Charlie’s voice said.
"You don’t…" Hermione started, turning to him.
"She was having a drink in the Three Broomstick, and I was there too," he cut her off. When she tried to get past him to go downstairs, he caught her by the arm. "We just happened to be in the same place at the same time."
"Really, you don’t…" Hermione swallowed hard. If he really didn’t have to explain himself, why was she still here, why was she listening to him, instead of going back to the dining room?
Charlie wondered about that too. He turned her to him, unresisting. "I do."
"Because…" Charlie wrapped an arm around Hermione and pull her to him, while his other hand cupped the back of her head and his lips claimed hers. Gently.
She was so taken aback – and yet she realized she had been waiting for this for weeks now, ever since the attack at the end of October – that she stayed still one second too much. He broke the kiss and let his arms fall back to his sides. "I’m sorry," he said, before turning away and running down the stairs.
Hermione blinked, then followed him downstairs, her heart beating madly. But he was nowhere to be found.
"Where is Charlie?" she asked Molly, who was in the kitchen.
"He just left," she answered, indicating the door with a nod of her head.
Hermione was already ouside, just in time to see Charlie disapparate. She ran in again. "Can you look after Damia for me, please?"
"Of course, dear," Molly responded. Hermione didn’t see her knowing smile, nor did she hear her add, "About time!"
Charlie opened the door and Hermione threw herself at him, linking her arms around his neck. It was her turn to seek his lips. And if their kiss was first gentle, it became quickly more and more passionate when he responded by parting his lips and flicking out his tongue to tease hers. She parted them, allowing him to deepen the kiss as he caught her slender body in his arms.
"Hermione…" he said, breaking the kiss.
"You thought you could kiss me and ran away?" she interrupted him breathlessly, the fingertips of one hand stroking his hair and the nape of his neck in a tantalizing way.
His lips pressed to her neck, and she turned and tilted her head so he had a better access. Charlie left a trail of warm, wet kisses up to the sensitive skin bellow her ear, then along her jawline, breathing in that scent of her, and he heard her breath catch in her throat, then quicken slightly. Their lips met again, and their tongues, and when she moaned, his desire for her flared.
Hermione moved her hands down his chest and untucked his shirt to wrap them around and touched his bare back, pulling him even closer to her. He framed her face and he looked deeply into her eyes. "Are you sure?"
She nodded her head. "Yes." Her face was flushed, but her eyes glinted mischievously when she added, "Don’t you think you’ve had me waiting for too long?"
Smiling wickedly at her, he unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it from her shoulders, his hands gliding on her skin, then his kisses cascaded on her throat and down. Hermione gasped when his palms brushed against her bra, arousing the sensitive skin under. She helped him pull off his shirt without unbuttoning it, then she took off her skirt, letting it pool at her feet. Charlie looked at her from head to feet, slowly, and when their eyes met again, there was no mistaking the lust and yearning in his. He scooped her up, and she wrapped her legs around him.
He carried her that way into his bedroom and placed her on the mattress. She leaned forward to unzip his pants, and he kicked them off before lying against her. They started to kiss again, and he pulled her on top of him. Hermione straddled him and pressed against him, and Charlie drew in a ragged breath. He undid her bra, and they started to explore each other with their hands and with their lips and tongues, eliciting gasps and moans from each other. They freed each other of the last and now offending pieces of clothing and he rolled her over. Leaning onto one elbow, he looked down into her eyes and let his free hand wander some more. Hers started to caress up and down his back in an agonizingly slow motion, and Charlie’s lips sought hers again, enjoying their fullness, the sweet taste of her mouth. Until she clung to him and groaned, "Oh, please, Charlie. I can’t wait anymore." He lowered himself and felt her welcoming him. And they started to move together.
Oh, man, he’s really no tentative boy anymore, Hermione thought, crying out his name as she was about to lose control for the second time.
Charlie woke up in the greyish light of pre-dawn. Hermione was lightly drawing patterns on his chest and stomach.
"Morning, love," he yawned, his arms tightening around her. It wasn’t a dream. It had really happened. And actually if her hands didn’t stop right now… Her fingertips passed his navel.
He pressed her onto her back in one lithe move. "I love you," he told her, his eyes catching hers.
"I love you too."
They arrived at the burrow for a late breakfast. Hermione kissed her daughter.
"What took you so long?" Harry smirked.
"Well, Harry, if you really want to know…" George started.
Ginny slapped him on the back of his head.
Hermione and Charlie ate quickly, and the whole family moved to the living room. It was Damia’s first Christmas and her mother wasn’t the only one who had been looking forward to it. But of course, being barely nine months old, the baby wasn’t very impressed.
"Oh, well," Hermione said. I guess I’ll have to wait one more year."
"We," Charlie said, a question in his eyes, sliding an arm around her shoulder.
She nodded her head. "We."
At the same moment, Ginny gasped and they turned to the sound. Harry was kneeling before her, holding one of her hands in his. In the other, he held a ring.
A/N: Here is the last chapter. If I enjoyed writing this fic that much, it was because I knew people were waiting to read it and enjoyed reading it.
Thanks to all my faithful readers, and especially to those of you who reviewed to share their thoughts on this fic with me!
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