AN: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...Hold on, wrong speech . Dearest followers, my great apologies for being absent for such a long time. Those of you who read my stories regularly know I have been attempting an MSc and two internships, so the past months have been crazy and I barely had time for anything. I did however start a new story and am currently happy to finally be able to present it to you. This is something I haven't quite done before but the idea wouldn't leave me, so here it is. Posts will be once or twice a week as usual, so don't worry, not much waiting to do :) I hope you are all doing well and look forward to the summer months up here on the Northern part of the globe! As always, your opinions and criticism are most welcome and I look forward to hearing how you have all been :) For now, hopefully enjoy!
Hermione ran a hand through her forever wild curls before stepping into the tall wedge sandals she decided to wear for the Weasley Sunday lunch. Ever since the war it became a tradition for all those who could make it to the Burrow at least for a few hours to see the rest of the family. As Harry was already married into the family and Hermione was practically adopted, they always joined the large redheaded clan for an afternoon of catching up, screaming children and general overwhelming loudness. But despite it always being a barely organised chaos, Hermione still relished the chance to be a part of a family. Having no more relatives of her own with her grandparents gone a few years now and her parents passing just a year ago in a car accident, Weasleys were the only family she had left anymore. The war had been hard on them all. With Fred and Ron dying in the battle, it took a long time for the family to mourn, and all of them to heal the best they could after witnessing so much blood. But it has been nearly three years now, and the Wizarding World was slowly recuperating.
She stepped in front of the mirror for the last time and smoothed out the new white summer dress that hugged her curvaceous figure delicately, before apparating with a loud crack. Straight into the loud chaos that was the Weasley back garden. Victoire and James stumbled on their little feet around the garden, the first son of the Potters attempting to chase the squealing blond girl happily. Molly could be heard shouting from the open door of the kitchen at George and Remus to get the large outdoors table set, while Harry entertained Teddy on the swing. Ginny could be seen rushing around the kitchen beside Molly to get everything ready, her belly already swelling with Harry's second child.
"MIMI!" Victoire announced her arrival loudly and ran over to her, hugging her leg. For whatever reason the little girl had taken to her, and her wild hair especially, as she always leaned into her and played with Hermione's curls.
She smiled at the little girl and picked her up into her arms, spinning her around a bit to the sound of happy giggles."Hello princess. What a pretty dress you're wearing!" she beamed.
"Petttyyy, blansh..." she pointed at their white dresses, both her English and French still a little fumbled as he learned.
"Oui, ma petite. Blanche." Hermione smiled and kissed her cheek, heading towards the kitchen to help out.
Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of Bill and Fleur arguing quietly, their angry hissed conversation drawing a few eyes, but no one really commented. Not any more, after all the times they witnessed it already. Hermione set the girl down with a last kiss to the forehead and James started to chase her once again as she entered the kitchen.
"Hermione dear, so good to see you." Molly enveloped her in a quick bear hug before bustling back over to the large pots and pans.
She smiled and greeted them both, pressing a kiss to Ginny's cheek. "You look positively radiant." she teased the redhead.
Ginny just beamed happily, rubbing her growing belly. "Finally no more morning sickness, this one was a right pain." she cooed down at her body, making Hermione chuckle softly.
"What can I help with, Molly?" she asked but before she could even finish the sentence, the Weasley matriarch pointed at the table where all the empty cups and glasses were standing.
"If you could help set the table and pour ice tea and lemonade, that will be help enough. LUNCH IN FIVE MINUTES!" she called into the garden, making Ginny and Hermione wince a little at the volume.
A loud crack of apparition made them all jump as Charlie appeared right at the doorstep, patting his firm flat belly. "Merlin, I could eat a horse!" he said by way of greeting, laughing as Molly nearly tackled him in her exuberance to see her wayward, dragon-handling son surprising them with a visit.
Hermione smiled as she was swept into the embrace of his strong arms as well. "Welcome home." she pecked his cheek before stepping back.
"It's good to be home." he grinned roguishly, his laid back nature always contagious.
Charlie had come home to help during the war and stayed for three months afterwards as well, to be with his family and help gather the dragons Voldemort had persuaded to join the dark, before they could cause any trouble. In that time Hermione got to know him and Bill much better, as the two eldest sons didn't live at home anymore and she rarely saw them before the end of the war. Charlie and herself occasionally exchanged a few letters just to keep in touch, and Hermione always sent him news from the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures where she worked.
"Looking beautiful as always, I see. How's my favourite bookworm?" he teased.
"Swamped in the office. There is so much paperwork with the new legislation I fear death by a paper-cut." she grinned. "How's my favourite Red?" she retaliated cheekily, laughing as she narrowly evaded his tickling fingers and stepped around the table into safety and to pick up the glasses and lemonade. During one Sunday lunch, Charlie admitted to being called 'Red' by some of his co-workers, as he was the only one at the reserve with such flaming locks. Hermione teased him with the nickname ever since.
"Easy like Sunday morning." he grinned. "Here, let me help you." he said and easily picked up a heavily laden tray with several jugs and cups.
Hermione just rolled her eyes at him showing off and led the way outside towards the table. They set the glasses and cups beside every plate, pouring the fresh fruity lemonade for the children and the chilled ice tea for everyone else as they greeted Remus and George as well. Molly soon levitating several large pots and baking trays to the table for everyone to pick at what they felt like and they all took their seats, Hermione ending up sandwiched between Charlie and Teddy, who reached out and gently tugged on one of her long curls. As they fell down towards her lower back, they were easily in reach and the children just seemed to always find a way to tangle their little fingers in it. She smiled fondly at Teddy when his hair shifted into short chestnut curls to reflect hers, and helped him get some potatoes and vegetables on his plate before turning back to her own meal when Remus took over helping him eat. Everyone continued to chat and catch up as food was passed around for everyone to reach, the table packed and heaving under the weight of the deliciously smelling meal.
"So, really how have you been, Hermione?" Charlie asked as he crammed his plate with everything he could get his hands on, absolutely starved from an early morning of hard work.
"Pretty well, actually. Work has been driving me a bit mad, but we are nearly there. All we need is to finish the final draft and it will go before the Wizengamot. The research alone took us so long that we had to rush the write up a bit in order to make the deadline." she admitted as she tried to reach for the roasted vegetables.
Charlie picked up the baking tray and held it up for her so she could get some on her plate. "Is that the werewolf one?" he asked with interest. Magical creatures and their rights were a passion for both of them and they usually discussed the topic extensively in their letters when their busy schedules allowed.
"Thank you." she smiled as she got all that she could eat. "And yes, we had some great input from Remus on this one. I just wish Bill had the time to contribute as well. Merlin knows how many victims of Greyback there are." she added a bit more softly.
The eldest Weasley son was still a bit of a mystery to her sometimes. Out of all the Weasley men, only Bill and Charlie seemed to have picked up the traditional manners Arthur was brought up with, and she always enjoyed talking to both of them when she got the chance as they also always treated her as an equal rather than someone younger. But where Charlie led a live of adventure that suited his warm nature, Bill exuded a certain calm and patience unless the moon was full. It was true that ever since Greyback's attack, Bill's personality had changed a bit as the moon affected him without actually forcing a turn. The curse was in his blood however, and with it came the advantages of enhanced senses and strength, but the disadvantages of a temper that rose once every month during the moon cycle.
Hermione noticed Bill's eyes snap in her direction when she said his name, hearing her perfectly even from across the long table. She offered a small smile, seeing he still seemed to be angry from his argument with Fleur, and she didn't want to add to his dark mood. Relief washed over her though when he offered a small smile in return and a nod in her direction before turning back to Arthur and their conversation.
"I don't know why he puts up with Fleur." Charlie's soft baritone sounded close to her ear. "They are clearly unhappy." he commented softly to not be overheard.
Hermione just looked at him and silently shook her head. She didn't know either, but this wasn't the time and place for such a conversation. Charlie understood and picked up his glass to take a sip before getting back to their topic. "So, what are you calling this paper-baby of yours?" he grinned.
Hermione just rolled her eyes at his wording but answered nonetheless with a smile, pride in her work clearly shining in her eyes. "Werewolf Occupation Act. It will ensure that werewolves will be allowed to own their own businesses, and be treated fairly at any interview no matter what their choice of occupation is. Remus explained in great length the struggle to find a profession that accepted werewolves, and was most helpful with getting the research and surveys within the werewolf population done." she turned to look at her ex-professor with a smile.
Remus chuckled. "You are giving me too much credit, Hermione. I merely offered some help, the rest was all you. You should have seen her, Charlie, she was like a fury on a war path when the Ministry initially refused her research proposal and budget."
Hermione blushed a little at such words. "Oh hardly, they just needed to understand that if they want me working for them, they better become reasonable." she said nonchalantly, her eyes sparkling with humour.
Charlie laughed heartily and wrapped a jovial arm around her shoulders. "Oh I would pay to have seen that."
"Name your price, I'll send you the memories." Remus' grin was positively wolfish.
Hermione just shook her head in amusement. "Forever a Marauder." she said fondly and petted Teddy's still curly hair when he reached towards her at the sound of their happy laughter. She was happy to see Remus once again smiling, as it had taken a long time for him to heal after Nymphadora's death during the battle.
"What about you, Charlie?" she turned to the redhead who managed to demolish his incredible portion and was piling up a second plate. "Not that I'm not happy to see you but what brings you back to England?" she asked.
Charlie scanned the table with his eyes for a moment to see if anyone was listening before leaning in a bit closer to not be overheard. "Don't tell anyone yet, but I might be transferring back to England." he admitted softly.
Hermione looked at him in surprise. "But you love Romania and the reserve." she said gently.
Charlie nodded. "But I miss my family. And I am not getting any younger. I'm already 28 and one of the eldest dragon handlers still in the field. Most who work at the reserve take senior positions by the age of 30. It's a very physically taxing job and my last injury took longer to heal than most. I guess it was the push I needed to consider my options." he admitted.
Hermione contemplated him for a moment. She couldn't imagine Charlie spending his days behind a desk. He was shorter than all his brothers but still had at least five inches in height on her, and he was also the strongest. The physical aspect of his work was clear to the eye when one looked at the bulging muscles stretching the black t-shirt he was wearing. Charlie had always been an outdoors kind of person, as far as she heard from his siblings, and clearly enjoyed the physical workout his profession provided. "What will you do then?" she asked, wondering about possibilities for him there in Britain.
"I have a few options and several interviews planned over the next couple of weeks, so I'll be staying in London. Which brings me to the favour I would like to ask of you." he said, a little hesitant.
Hermione just chuckled. "Say no more. You need a place to stay but while you're happy to visit your family, you don't want to live at the Burrow. Of course you can come and stay at mine. I'll get one of the guest rooms ready for you." she smiled.
"Oh you angel." he winked and smacked a loud kiss on her cheek until she had to swat him away, laughing at his silliness.
"Charlie, stop manhandling the poor girl and finish your lunch. Desert will be served soon." Molly reprimanded her boisterous son.
"What's for desert?" he asked and let go of Hermione to finish his second plate.
"Sticky toffee pudding, lemon cheesecake and sweet polenta tarts." she said, happy to see the food disappearing off the table and everyone filling their bellies.
Charlie groaned in delight just at the sound of that. "Sticky toffee...Merlin I missed England." he said as he hurried to finish his food.
Hermione just shook her head in amusement and nodded to Remus to finish his food as well as she took over helping Teddy eat. He smiled at her gratefully and dug into his roast with delight as Molly started cleaning the table and taking the empty pots and pans away. The rest of the lunch went smoothly and they stayed a while longer to rest after eating so much before they all went to their respective homes. Charlie decided to stay at the Burrow for one night to make Molly happy, agreeing to come by her flat before noon the next day to get ready for his afternoon interview.
Hermione said goodbye to everyone and apparated back to her flat in muggle London, sighing a little tiredly as she slowly took off her heels and stretched her legs for a moment. It will be nice to have someone else staying with her for a while, she mused as she looked around her home. It was an old industrial building that has been converted to several large spaces meant for studios or temporary letting. Hermione however worked out an agreement with the owner to buy and convert the whole top floor to a living space, as she fell in love with the place the first time she saw it. The ceilings were high and the windows large, making the space light and airy. She modified the walls a little until a large living room area flowed into the professional kitchen with a cooking and food preparation island in the middle that separated the two spaces somewhat. The rest of the floor was divided into four rooms; her master bedroom with an en-suite, two guest rooms with a sharing bathroom between them, and her library/study room where she kept some of her work and private research interests alongside the floor-to-ceiling book cases.
The industrial elements were still very much present in the rough brick walls and some of the metal work, but combined with the earthly tones she decorated in, and the warm wooden floor she chose, it was a home she loved very much. After the death of her parents, she sold her childhood home and their practice, leaving her plenty of cash to find herself the right home. She was lucky to have been walking past and the building intrigued her, or she would never have noticed the 'To Let' sign.
While she made herself a cup of tea, a light melancholy managed to creep into her heart as it sometimes did after the Weasley gatherings. Ron would have mostly likely been an Auror with Harry by now, or playing quidditch perhaps... And the twins would still be the two perfect puzzle pieces they have always been, whereas she still sometimes caught George looking a little forlorn at having to finish his own sentences. To most of them however, the last three years have been kind. She had never seen Harry happier, married to the woman he loves and working on a family of his own that he had always wanted. Molly and Arthur were getting older but still worried and fussed over all their children, whether biological, wedded, or adopted.
Hermione herself felt a great contentment in her own life. At the age of 21 she owned her own home, had a job that she loved, that challenged and frustrated her in equal measure, and a family and friends that were there for her no matter what. With those fulfilling thoughts, she settled in bed that night and drifted off with a soft smile stretching her lips. What could she possibly wish for in her life?
She had no idea about the roller-coaster her life would become very soon...