A/N: Finally, I've finished the Christmassy One-shot about Charmione that I promised. Sorry it's a bit late. It got a lot longer than I intended. I hope you like it! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

xx-Kitten.


Last Christmas

By Kittenshift17


Hermione Granger blinked from the garden at the Burrow, peering through the window and debating silently if she really wanted to go in. She almost didn't dare. She clutched a large bag of Christmas gifts, spying many of the intended recipients of those gifts through the window as they laughed and made merry in the kitchen and the living room for the Weasley's family home.

There was Harry, his hair all in a mess as he threw his head back laughing while Fred and George ingested some kind of potion that meant they sprouted antlers and large red noses like Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. There was Molly, cheerfully bustling about her homey kitchen, fixing dinner, preparing several different kinds of pudding, and humming along with the Christmas tunes playing over the Wizarding Wireless. Arthur was chatting with Remus and Tonks in the corner, showing off what looked suspiciously like a muggle drill with glee.

Ron was balancing his niece, Victoire, on his hip, doing a little dance as he held the toddler and playing a one-handed game of Peek-a-Boo with her while she emitted peals of happy, childish giggles. Ginny was in the living room, charming the Christmas tree to grow larger, and decorating it even more than the already lavishly adorned branches could surely hold. She, too, was dancing along to the tune form the Wireless, making a face at Harry when he called to her, trying to get her to try the twins' newest Christmas product. Bill and Fleur were in the living room, hurriedly wrapping gifts for their daughter and their extended family while the girl was distracted.

Hermione felt a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth even as she stood outside, looking in. The snow was coming down softly, dampening her shoulders and probably making her hair frizz. She was nervous to go inside. She and Ron had been broken up almost an entire year, and they were on good terms, but this would be the first year since Hogwarts that she'd attended a family Christmas at the Burrow without being romantically attached to one of her the Weasleys. It wasn't that she feared she'd be unwelcome, or that she might be turned away. Quite the opposite. It was that she knew she would be embraced as surely as though she were a part of the family. And after what she'd done last Christmas Eve shortly before the break-up with Ron, Hermione wasn't so sure she should be welcomed among them.

The sound of dragon-hide boots stomping up the front path caught her ear despite the thick woolen hat she wore, and Hermione turned quickly in that direction, not wanting to be caught lingering outside and peeking in like a terrified field mouse. The last thing she needed was to have someone telling Molly that she'd been hiding in the garden, out in the cold, rather than coming inside to have a few eggnogs and join in the merriment. Squinting through the heavily falling snow and the low light but for the flashing of Christmas decorations that hung from the gutters and the eaves, Hermione tried to make out just who she needed to be hurrying away from, wondering who might be turning up as late as she was.

In the dark, the man coming up the path looked intimidating. His rangy stride and broad shoulders tipped her off to his identity long before she caught the flash of his red hair or spied any of the burns and tattoos littering his heavily freckled skin.

Charlie.

Hermione almost swallowed her tongue as she watched him coming up the path toward her, her heart beginning to pound at the very sight of him. He had a duffle bag slung over one shoulder and he was watching his feet, being sure he wouldn't slip in the snow on the treacherous path that, though recently shoveled, was rapidly icing over once more. Hermione took a hesitant step toward the front door, wondering if she'd be able to hurry inside before him without him seeing she'd been peeping in the window. He didn't look up at the crunch of fresh snow under her shoes, apparently too lost in thought to hear the small sound, or having already spotted her and so unworried by the sound of someone else standing out in the dark. Hermione took another small step toward the door before glancing back at the occupants already in the house, watching as Hagrid shuffled across the kitchen carrying an enormous tankard of eggnog.

She was torn between going inside and just apparating back to her tiny flat, knowing she only had mere moments to decide, lest Charlie spotted her and reported that she had been there, but had been too chicken to come inside. Hermione could already imagine Molly's hurt feelings and Harry's confused questioning should she leave now when she belonged inside with the others.

Before she could take another step, either to make her entrance or to leave, Charlie stepped off the front path, tracking her footprints through the snow to stand at her side just inside the garden. Hermione gulped, looking up at him when he came so close as to invade her space.

"Hullo, Hermione," Charlie greeted her quietly in the dark.

Hermione's cheeks flushed crimson.

"Hello, Charlie," she greeted him just as quietly.

By the lights decorating the guttering and the garden, Charlie's blue eyes traced over her face curiously, his lips twitching like he might smile, but wasn't sure he should. Hermione felt the same urge. She wanted to sling her arms around him and exuberantly hug him, welcoming him home to Britain and wishing him a Happy Christmas. But she wasn't sure she should.

Not after last Christmas.

"How are you?" Charlie asked. "It's good to see you."

He made no comment that she was loitering in the snow, and Hermione bit her lip before she smiled, just a little.

"It's good to see you, too," she said softly. "I'm well. How was your trip home?"

"Long," Charlie admitted, his lips pulling up just a little, too. "They've made it harder than ever to get through the Ministry upon entry into the country. I nearly didn't get this little guy through."

Hermione's smile grew as he dipped his hand into his pocket, withdrawing a Romanian Pygmy Puff – the only breed of the species to come in a brilliant shade of gold.

"Oh, he's darling," Hermione smiled, watching the tiny critter dance on Charlie's calloused palm in protest at having been disturbed from where he'd clearly been slumbering in Charlie's pocket, before sitting up and begging for pats when he spotted Hermione smiling at him. Hermione couldn't resist tickling her fingers in his soft fluffy fur, listening to the little creature emit a happy little trill of sound at the caress.

"Got him for Victoire, for Christmas," Charlie grinned. "Think she'll like him?"

"Of course, she will," Hermione said. "Though I suppose we'd better go inside so that you can give him to her."

"Probably," he nodded. "Were you waiting out here for me?"

Hermione's eyes jerked from the Pygmy Puff to Charlie's face and her mouth opened softly in surprise.

"Erm…" Hermione stammered. "Actually, I was… um…"

"Debating making an excuse and hiding in your flat until tomorrow?" Charlie guessed, looking amused. "I thought you might've spotted me coming up the road behind you and waited, but from that guilty gleam in your eyes, I'm thinking that you were standing out here trying to gather your courage to face the merriment. Am I right?"

"Yes," Hermione admitted, shamefaced.

Charlie laughed.

Hermione laughed, too, despite her embarrassment.

"It's not that I didn't want to see anyone," she offered. "I just…"

"You're nervous to see everyone after what happened last Christmas," Charlie said knowingly, lowering his voice just a little though there was no way they could be overheard standing out in the snow as they were.

Hermione bit her lip, looking down. Last Christmas she'd had a few too many Eggnogs on Christmas Eve and she'd foolishly mistaken Charlie for Ron in her intoxicated state. No one else knew, of course. She hadn't even told Ron. But she'd found herself snogging Charlie in the hall outside the bathroom on the top floor of the Burrow until she'd come to her senses when she realized that his hands were more calloused, and his body was differently proportioned, and he'd stirred her to so much more fiery passion than Ron ever had.

Things with Ron had ended soon after because, try as she might, Hermione hadn't been able to forget the hot feel of Charlie's hands gliding down her back and gripping her arse through only the thin fabric of her knickers when she'd awoken late in the evening after everyone else was asleep. Merlin, she'd nearly shagged him right there in the hallway, and Hermione hated that in the days following the incident, she'd found herself wishing that she had shagged him before realizing her mistake and seeking to correct it. They'd discussed it, in private, the following morning when Hermione had been nursing a hangover and enough guilt to pickle a toad. Charlie had assured her that it had just been an honest mistake, and that there was no need for doing anything drastic, like breaking things off with Ron and ruining Christmas for everyone by admitting their guilt.

He'd been equally shame-faced, from what she'd gathered during the brief discussion, having gotten carried away to have been grabbed and snogged when he'd been drunk off his arse and barely awake. Hermione had felt so bad that she'd barely made it to mid-January before suggesting to Ron that maybe they'd be better off just being friends. And though she still felt guilty over it whenever she woke from a hot dream starring the wild-eyed Dragon Tamer, Hermione couldn't say she was sorry for the incident. She'd been gearing her life to marry Ron before that night and their frank discussion of their feelings for one another had proved that, like her, Ron had been thinking that they lacked a certain amount of passion that they both craved, but didn't seem to find in one another.

"I'm not touching Hagrid's eggnog this year," Hermione said quietly.

Charlie smirked at her.

"That's a shame," he teased gently. "You're fun when you loosen up, Granger."

Hermione pressed her lips together, looking at her feet.

"Heard you and Ron split soon after last Christmas?" Charlie asked, hooking his finger under her chin and tipping her head up, forcing her to meet his gaze.

"We did," Hermione nodded. "I couldn't… He'd be crushed if he ever found out what we… and I just…."

She stopped talking when his blue eyes searched her face carefully for a long moment.

"Was it a bad break-up?" Charlie asked, frowning. "You didn't tell him, did you?"

Hermione shook her head. "No… I should have. But after broaching the topic of parting ways with him, I found there were enough other reasons to part amicably without hurting him, and without causing a rift between you and Ron just because of a drunken mistake. But it wasn't a bad break-up, per se. A little awkward, I suppose, but in the end, I think it's for the best. We'd have tortured one another had things been allowed to progress to something so drastic as marriage or children."

"That's where it was heading?" Charlie asked, raising his eyebrows.

Hermione frowned, sighing a little. "I thought so… until…"

"Don't tell me you and Ron split on my account, love," Charlie said, his brow furrowing.

"No," Hermione shook her head, trying to ignore the little prickle of hurt at the way he so easily dashed her hopes that he might still think about their steamy encounter, or might perhaps consider a repeat. "What we did just allowed for a little clarity, and when I broached the topic, Ron confessed that he wasn't as enamored as he'd hoped to be."

"And you?" Charlie asked.

Hermione frowned, her eyes searching his face for a long moment, wondering what he was asking.

"I wasn't as enamored as I thought, either," she shrugged finally. "I think we both realized that to continue dating, or to progress the relationship would be to settle for less than either of us really wanted or needed in a partner. It was awkward for a few months after, especially when we each started dating other people, again. But we're on good terms again. He's got a new partner, now."

"Oh, yeah?" Charlie asked, raising his eyebrows. "Anyone I know?"

Hermione nodded. "Oliver Wood," she told him softly.

"From the Gryffindor Quidditch team? Doesn't he play for Puddlemere United, now?" Charlie asked, his eyes widening in surprise.

"Why do I get the feeling you're more surprised that Ron is dating a celebrity than you are that he's dating a bloke?" Hermione asked, grinning just a little.

"To be honest, I thought he had a thing for Harry, when we were younger," Charlie shrugged. "Was a real surprise when he came home holding your hand, rather than Harry's. Thought he and Ginny might have to fight it out for Harry's affections, actually."

Hermione giggled.

"That would've been awkward. I think Ginny might've beaten him bloody, had he made a move," Hermione snickered.

"Too right, she would've," Charlie chuckled. "The girl's vicious."

Hermione laughed, turning with him when he peered through the window when someone gave a shout. She laughed when she watched Harry dash into the next room, stooping to scoop up Ginny and throw her over his shoulder before carrying her into the kitchen while she laughed and beat her fists on his back until she was plonked down in front of her brothers, who proceeded to force feed her a piece of cake that mostly smeared all over her face.

"They're already in fine form," Hermione commented, tensing a little when Charlie slung his arm around her shoulders.

"Are either of the twins seeing anyone?" Charlie asked causally.

"Yes," Hermione said. "Both of them. Fred is dating Angelina Johnson and George is dating Katie Bell. If they're not all careful, the Weasley family is going to wind up spawning enough genetically engineered quidditch players to fill out the entire Gryffindor team at Hogwarts."

"If they all keep at it, they'll need to have their kids sorted into other houses just so they can all play. No one's getting hitched, yet, right?" Charlie asked, laughing.

"I have it on good authority that Harry plans to pop the question very soon, actually," Hermione said.

"Had you help him pick out a ring, didn't he?" Charlie grinned down at her.

"Yep," Hermione laughed.

"Bloody hell," Charlie sighed. "You know what that means?"

Hermione glanced up at him for the suddenly tortured tone in his voice.

"That you're the last hold-out," Hermione guessed. "And I see no date in tow, meaning your mother is going to badger you all holidays about finding yourself a nice girl or boy to settle down with."

"Now, hold on with that boy talk, Hermione," Charlie laughed. "It's one in three, the statistic. And obviously Ron and Percy have taken up that mantel."

"Percy?" Hermione laughed.

"Bent as a bowtruckle, that one," Charlie nodded.

"He's… actually, now that you mention it, he was being very secretive about who he'd be bringing to Christmas this year," Hermione frowned.

"My money is on Marcus Flint," Charlie told her, smirking.

"That bloke from Slytherin in his year? Gods, I hope not. If he brings Flint here when Ron's brought Oliver, there might be an actual brawl in your mother's kitchen."

"Might be awkward, more like," Charlie chuckled. "Their quidditch rivalry began before I left Hogwarts, and I caught 'em shagging the stuffing out of each other in the dressing sheds one day after a match when I was in my seventh year."

"Oh, Merlin," Hermione giggled. "Well, what's one more awkward sexual encounter between your siblings' exes, I suppose?"

"I don't recall any awkwardness with you," Charlie said quietly, and Hermione's cheeks bloomed crimson, once more.

"You had had a lot to drink last Christmas Eve," Hermione reminded him.

Charlie laughed. "True. Well, come on, Hermione. Time to face the music and let Mum nag our ears off about how there are plenty of fish in the sea, and how maybe we need to change up the bait we're using."

"I tried changing the bait I was using," Hermione sighed. "I cut my hair short when I broke things off with Ron."

"It's long, now," Charlie pointed out, toying with one of her curls as he steered her toward the door, apparently intent on ensuring she made it inside.

"The horror that is hair like mine when it's pixie-cut will not be discussed, Charlie," Hermione chuckled. "I looked rather like an indignant and huffy poodle, according to Harry. I nearly bankrupted myself buying enough Sleak-Eazy styling potion to work it straight every day for months before giving in and just drinking a Hair-Growth potion."

"Is this a confession toward hairy pits, love?" Charlie laughed.

Hermione swatted him, startled when he opened the front door without bothering to knock before he steered her inside with his arm still slung over her shoulders.

"I practice perfect grooming habits, thank you very much," Hermione said, laughing.

"Charlie!" Molly gasped. "Oh, and Hermione, you're here, darling. I'd begun to worry. Oh, what took you both so long?"

Hermione blushed when the woman hurried across the kitchen and threw herself at the pair of them before Charlie could release her.

"Sorry, Mum," Charlie laughed. "I was held up on my way through Customs and Quarantine."

"Figured out you're a rabid turkey, did they Charlie?" Fred asked.

"I told you to ship yourself across in a crate to properly declare yourself as a highly dangerous magical creature, big-brother," George teased.

Hermione laughed, patting Mrs Weasley awkwardly on the back as the woman hugged her and Charlie simultaneously.

"They caught me when they peeked in the breathing holes, George," Charlie laughed along with his brother.

"Peeping bastards," Fred declared.

"Scoundrels," George agreed.

Swept into the kitchen in a sea of embraces, Hermione managed to untangle herself from Charlie when the twins insisted on commandeering her person for warm hugs before they tried to offer her some of their Antler-Growing potion. Harry rescued her, pulling her into his embrace and directing the twins toward Percy, who'd strolled into the kitchen at that moment, a book under one arm and his horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose as he moved to greet his brother.

"And just what kept you, love?" Harry wanted to know, tucking her under his arm and dropping a kiss to the top of her head while Ginny relieved her of the bag of gifts she carried.

"I had some last-minute shopping to do after work," Hermione said. "I was half-way home before remembering I hadn't finished my Christmas shopping for everyone and it was a madhouse in Diagon Alley. Hi, Hagrid."

"Hermione!" Hagrid grinned, hurrying over and budging Harry until Harry released her.

Hermione squealed in surprise when Hagrid, seemingly already a bit noshed, scooped her into his enormous embrace, lifting her almost four feet off the floor and hugging her close.

"It's wonderful to see you, Hagrid," Hermione told the half-giant, laughing at herself for her surprise.

"Haven't seen you in ages," Hagrid said. "Where've you been?"

"Working," Hermione told him. "I've been meaning to come by and see you, but then I get stuck at work on a project and it's midnight before I get home."

"Ye can call on me at midnight, Hermione," Hagrid told her, grinning. "Always got an open door for you, eh?"

Hermione smiled. "Thanks, Hagrid. How's teaching? Are you still scaring the life out of the children by showing them Acromantula and Skrewts right out the gate?"

"Nah," Hagrid said. "Been sticking to those curriculums you made for me, eh? Nice mix o' the boring critters and the fun ones, see?"

Hermione laughed. "I'm glad to hear it."

"Been too long, you know," Hagrid told her as he set her down and patted her on the shoulder. Hermione hid her wince when he used more force than he ordinarily would, either to show he'd missed her, or just because he was a bit tipsy and forgot himself.

"I promise I'll drop by more often in the New Year," Hermione told him. "Remus! How are you?"

The werewolf grinned, hurrying forward and drawing her into a snug embrace.

"I'm well, Hermione. Very well. And you?"

"I've missed our long chats," Hermione informed him, smiling. "When are you coming back to work?"

"Soon," Remus promised. "Teddy's almost old enough that he behaves, rather than running Andromeda ragged. And Dora's got some leave coming up shortly. I'll be back in the office before you know it."

Hermione's eyes lit up as they danced over Tonks, who happened to be dressed rather conservatively in an ugly Christmas sweater two sizes too big.

"Leave, huh?" she said leadingly, grinning at the Metamorphmagus. "What kind of leave, Tonks?"

Her hair turning a bright shade of pink, Tonks winked at her. "Wotcher, Hermione."

"I call Godmother," Hermione whispered, pulling the other woman close for a cuddle.

"Well," Tonks laughed. "I suppose that saves me the nervousness of asking if you'd consider it, doesn't it?"

"Oh, I'd be honoured. Congratulations. I'm so happy for both of you!" Hermione beamed. "Though I confess, I'm devastated that you won't be drinking with me, tonight."

"I thought you said there'd be no eggnog, Granger," Charlie said, barreling free of his siblings and latching onto Tonks, scooping her up at the knees and lifting her over his head. "Howdy Nymphadora."

"Charlie!" Tonks squealed, her head almost hitting the ceiling.

"Miss me?" Charlie grinned at the witch and Hermione laughed, watching the two best-friends catch up.

"As if, Weasley. What d'you take me for?"

"My biggest fan?"

"Pretty sure he's your biggest fan," Tonks said, nodding when little Teddy Lupin let out a shriek and barreled at Charlie, who lowered Tonks back to the floor just in time to scoop the boy up, tossing him into the air.

"You're off the eggnog?" Remus asked, laughing as he watched his wife and son interact with the Dragon Tamer.

"I made an arse of myself last year," Hermione said, blushing and recalling that in addition to her torrid encounter with Charlie, she'd also participated in awful karaoke and an unfortunate nudie run around the pond out the back alongside all of her friends.

"That's what family is for," Remus told her, laughing. "Who else can you make an arse of yourself with, without repercussion?"

Hermione laughed, shaking her head as she hurried over to embrace Arthur before hugging Bill and Fleur when they came into the room to see what all the fuss was about.

"Hermione!" Ron called just after Hagrid pressed a tankard of eggnog into her hands, grinning.

"Ron. Hi," Hermione said, smiling widely at her ex-boyfriend as he bounded toward her, having passed Victoire back to Bill so he could greet the newcomers.

"Where've you been?" Ron asked, scooping her into his arms and crushing her against his chest. "I'd begun to think you might've been swallowed by a book. I was telling Harry that we might have to perform an intervention if you thought you could hide away with a novel on Christmas when you could be here doing another nudie run with us."

"You just want to see her tits again, Ron," Fred taunted, coming over and slinging an arm around Hermione.

"Yeah," George said. "Bet you miss tits now that you're all about the todger, eh?"

"Fuck off, you pair of sods," Ron laughed good-naturedly.

"Don't suppose you'd be willing to share the view, even if Ron's too interested in pillow-biting to look, eh Hermione?"

"Don't you both have delightfully endowed witches to show you're their boobs every day?" Hermione asked the twins, shaking her head when Ron's ears turned red while Oliver strolled up behind him and hung his chin over Ron's shoulder, winking at Hermione.

"Well, yeah," Fred said.

"But there's got to be variety every now and then, you know?" George said.

"Otherwise you begin think, yep, this is perfection," Fred said.

"And if you don't keep comparing, perfection might be subconsciously redefined," George said.

"So, we need to see yours, to make sure we're not getting complacent," Fred said, nodding smartly.

"Why don't you just trade off for the night and refresh your memories?" Hermione suggested.

"Hermione Granger you did not just suggest we swap witches for the night?!" George gasped, his eyes going wide.

Angelina and Katie both looked over, eyes narrowed.

"Hear that, babe?" Fred called. "Even Hermione thinks trading off is a good idea!"

"She's the brightest witch of the age," George said, smirking at Katie. "She ought to know. A very wise woman, Hermione Granger."

"Hermione!" Katie exclaimed, scandalized even though she was laughing.

"Sorry, but it's that, or letting them see my tits, and they nearly froze off on last year's dash about the pond," Hermione laughed, holding her hands up helpfully.

"You know, if we'd known you were open to trading off, Hermione," Fred said, leaning down to murmur in her ear whilst keeping his eyes on his extremely sexy girlfriend.

"We'd have been chasing your skirt in Hogwarts, rather than letting Ron get his hands on you, wasting all that time before figuring out he prefers to take, than give," George smirked.

"You imagine I'd have been interested in sharing a matched set like you two when I could have you both all to myself?" Hermione asked, smirking and winking at Ron, whose ears turned red all over again while Harry's mouth dropped open.

"You did not just say you'd have let us share you, Granger," Fred laughed, pulling back a bit to look down and meet her gaze in surprise.

"At the same time?" George asked, raising one eyebrow at her and looking curious.

"By nature, I'm a curious person," Hermione informed them solemnly.

"You're single right now, yeah?" Fred asked.

"You're not," she reminded him, laughing. "You two both have hitched your wagons to those fine ladies, so paws off."

"Taunting the twins, and you haven't even started drinking yet, Hermione," Charlie's low voice came from behind her when Hermione wriggled out of Fred and George's hold.

Hermione spun to face him.

"I see you have," she nodded at his most empty goblet of eggnog.

Charlie met her gaze boldly, his eyes wild as he stared at her and Hermione was fairly certain he was trying to start a fire in her knickers with just that one, smouldering look. And Merlin, help her, it was working. She traced her eyes over him appreciatively, noting that he'd dropped his duffle bag somewhere in the house and had shucked off his cloak, leaving him only in a form-fitting knitted jumper that his mother had probably made for him, snug jeans, and his socks. She kind of hated the fact that her whole body thrummed with pleasure at the sight he made, his powerful and lithe body almost too much for the jumper he wore.

"I never said I wasn't drinking tonight, love," he smirked at her. "I plan to be three sheets to the wind before Mum can start harping on about settling down with a nice girl."

Hermione chuckled when, at the moment, Molly bustled up to them.

"Charlie, love, I thought you told me you were bringing a witch home with you this Christmas?" the woman said, none-too-subtly.

Charlie groaned before narrowing his eyes when he caught Hermione giggling.

"I did bring a witch with me, Mum," he told the stout woman before looping his arm around Hermione's shoulders, once more. "Didn't you notice that me and Granger arrived at the same time?"

Molly's eyes widened, and Hermione shook her head, tipping her gaze to meet Charlie's wild-eyes when he casually took another pull on his drink.

"Do you really expect me to believe you and Hermione are seeing each other, love?" Molly asked, not falling for it for a single second. "She was here just last week for Sunday lunch and telling me about a nice wizard in the next department over who'd been sniffing around her for a date."

"Turned him down for me, though, didn't she?" Charlie smirked.

"Charles Weasley, I'm sure I did not raise you to tell such tall tales," Molly chided. "Hermione, did you tell me you'd be bringing along a date? That nice boy from your department, what was his name?"

"Remus?" Hermione offered, giggling when the werewolf heard her from across the room and winked.

"Paws off my man, Hermione," Tonks called, laughing.

"No promises," Hermione replied, laughing when Molly spluttered, here eyes going wide at the exchange.

"Play along with me here, Hermione," Charlie lowered his lips to her ear, whispering hurriedly while his mother was distracted.. "You're unattached. I'm unattached, and you don't want the woman nagging you all night, trust me."

"And have her hate me when I crush another of her son's hearts in the new year?" Hermione challenged.

"Oh, baby, you're not nearly strong enough or mean enough to crush my heart," Charlie laughed.

"It's still a bad idea," Hermione whispered back, turning her head a little to talk to him without Molly overhearing.

"You were the one just suggesting the twins share you, love," Charlie said. "I'm sure Mum can handle the idea that you find all of her handsome sons utterly irresistible."

"All?" Hermione scoffed.

"Oi!" Ron complained, hearing their hushed chat when he milled closer, perhaps to help save her and Charlie from his mother.

"What are you whinging for?" Charlie asked. "You let her go, mate. Don't be surprised if someone else spots how bloody brilliant she is."

"You're dating my brother, Hermione? Really?" Ron chuckled. "You're already part of the family, love. You don't need the name to be one of us, you know?"

Hermione chuckled.

"Maybe I want the name," Hermione retorted without thinking. "Mrs Hermione Granger-Weasley has such a nice ring to it."

Ron's ears turned red all over again.

"Well, sorry, darling, but you don't quite have the right anatomy for my tastes anymore," Ron grinned at her.

"So, I'd noticed. Where is Oliver, anyway?"

Ron nodded his head at something across the room and Hermione chuckled to see Harry, Ginny, Oliver, Angelina and Katie all discussing Oliver's absolute favourite topic. Quidditch.

"Well," Hermione sighed. "I can't say I blame you. The man is awfully fit. And he obviously doesn't mind your incessant Quidditch chatter."

"Now you're eyeing off my man, too?" Ron chuckled.

"You just never know, Ronald," Hermione winked.

"Sure, I do," Ron smirked. "He's not going anywhere."

"Keeping him, then?" Hermione said, her eyes lighting up.

Ron's ears turned red and he glanced at his feet for a moment. Hermione giggled with absolute glee, bouncing on the balls of her feet with delight and realizing Charlie still had his arm around her despite having been sucked back into an argument with his mother that Hermione was his date for the evening.

"I erm…" Ron said. "I wanted to ask you about it, actually. I know it's only been, what? Less than a year since you and I… well… and Olly and I have only been at this for a few months, but bloody hell, Hermione… I'm in over my head here."

"You're in love," Hermione accused softly enough hat Oliver wouldn't overhear them, though her smile was so wide with happiness that she wanted to shout with glee.

"Yeah," Ron admitted, his ears and neck turning red.

"That's wonderful, Ron," Hermione said. "I'm so happy for you. I can see how happy he makes you. Happier than I ever did, certainly."

"We're just… you like books and worrying after magical creatures and chasing down dreams to make the wizarding world a better place," Ron shrugged. "But I'm just happy if there's a bit of Quidditch chatter and someone to play chess with, you know?"

"I had picked up on those things, yes," Hermione laughed. "Oliver likes chess?"

"Doesn't like it when I beat him," Ron smiled crookedly. "Competitive, that one. But it's pretty adorable when he tries to win and then gets in a huff when he loses, just the same."

"Give a lot of apologetic blow-jobs, do you?" Hermione smirked.

"Mmm," Ron hummed affirmatively, smirking as though that fact amused and pleased him more than it had any right to.

"Oh, you've got it so bad," Hermione laughed, shaking her head at him. "You only look that pleased about giving someone else head when you're wand over broom for them, Ron."

"I know," he sighed. "You wouldn't mind if I… you know…"

"Popped the question?" Hermione asked in a whisper, entirely too excited for words.

"Well, no. not yet. Bit too soon, yeah? Don't want to scare him off. But I was thinking of asking him to move in with me. We're still living separately, right now. And that bloody bed you helped me pick out is big and cold and lonely in winter when he stays at his place and I'm at mine."

"Oh, Ronald," Hermione laughed. "You don't need my permission to ask the man to move in with you. I mean, look at him. You'd be mad not to be reeling him in and intending to keep him. In fact, you're lucky he's bent for you, or I'd just have to think about pinching him from you."

"Because you were such a fan of the Quidditch chatter?" Ron laughed.

"Well, no," Hermione admitted. "I'd rather talk magical creatures all day, but I do like a man with stamina."

Ron began to laugh at her forthright answer, throwing his head back and making everyone look over in their direction.

"How much of that have you had, Hermione?" he teased, nodding his head at her glass, still chuckling.

"Not even one whole one, yet."

"I'd forgotten how much fun you are when you lighten up, you know?" Ron chuckled. "Next thing I know, you really will be dating Charlie. He'd certainly be open to chatting about magical creatures all day."

Hermione's cheeks flushed crimson and she darted a glance toward Charlie – his arm was still around her shoulders, though she couldn't tell if he was listening in on their conversation.

"You think so?" Hermione asked Ron. "And you wouldn't find that… odd?"

"I've already got one best friend dating my sibling, love," Ron shrugged. "What's one more, eh? And you're right. Mrs Hermione Granger-Weasley does have a nice ring to it."

"So, does Mr Oliver Weasley," Hermione said, changing the subject when her cheeks flushed pink, once more.

"You don't like Mr Ron Wood?" he asked, grinning.

"Mr and Mr Oliver and Ronald Weasley-Wood," Hermione declared. "Hyphens are your friend, you know?"

"Let's get him agreeing to live with me, before we worry about the bloody hyphens, eh?"

"Well, what are you doing, standing here, talking to me?" Hermione laughed. "If you want to find out if he's willing to put up with your habit of leaving all your socks in the bottom of the sheets, and your habit of using every pot in the house to cook one simple meal, you need to ask him. I cleverly excused myself from those duties."

"Don't pretend you didn't used to find the socks in the bed that I kicked off in the night and pinched them for yourself. I swear you've still got my Canons socks," Ron said, though he was laughing. Hermione smirked, before sticking out her ankle and lifting the hem of her jeans to show him that she was, indeed, still in possession of the orange and black striped socks he spoke of.

"I knew you had them!" Ron exclaimed. "Where's Ollie? Ollie! Come here! We had a bet going about this. He reckoned I'd lost them and that you're much too sweet a girl to pinch my things."

"More evidence that he's obviously a sweetheart. And perhaps just naïve enough to put up with you for the rest of his life."

"Just because we're not dating anymore doesn't mean I'm above paddling your arse for that cheek, Hermione," Ron threatened smirking.

"You're not borrowing my bat for it," Oliver informed him, strolling over in answer to Ron's call.

"That's okay," Hermione smirked. "I'm more a of hands-on, all-natural kind of a girl, anyway."

"Bare palm will do, then?" Oliver chuckled.

"Quite nicely," Hermione said. "If you don't mind, of course."

"Now, see here, Granger," Oliver said, his cheeks turning pink at her forward suggestion. "You had your go at him, already."

Hermione pretended to sigh dramatically.

"Well," she huffed, feigning a pout. "I suppose I'll just have to find someone else up to the task."

"Are you propositioning more of my brothers and their partners, Granger?" Charlie asked, sounding amused.

Hermione glanced up at him.

"What if I am?" Hermione asked impishly.

"I'll have to inform you what a positively terrible date you're turning out to be," Charlie said. "How am I to convince my mother that you're here with me, when you're hitting on all of my brothers, and not me?"

"Would you prefer that I hit on you?" Hermione asked flirtatiously, her cheeks turning pink just as little when his fixed her a look so hot, her blood fizzed.

"Do your worst, angel," he dared.

Hermione's heart skipped a beat, but she smirked before taking a long draw on her liquor before smiling at him, watching his eyes trace the movement when she licked her lips.

"Ron was threatening to spank me," Hermione said. "And Oliver told him that his beater's bat is off limits. I was just telling them that I prefer a more natural, hands-on approached. Know anyone who might be able to help me out?"

"I know a bloke who works all day with his hands," Charlie smirked. "You like a nice, rough feel, Granger?"

Hermione almost swallowed her tongue, recalling with alarming clarity the way his rough hands had felt last year when they'd glided down her back to dip under the waistband of her knickers and palm her arse until she whined.

"The rougher the better," Hermione replied, sipping her drink again to try and alleviate her suddenly parched tongue.

"I don't know, babe," he smirked. "The bloke I had in mind is used to handling tough things, like dragon-scales. I don't reckon your pert little arse is ready for hands that rough."

"I'm up for anything," Hermione replied without thinking.

Charlie's smiled grew wickedly heated, but just before he could suggest that she bend over and prove it, Hagrid shuffled over and boomed at Charlie in greeting before waylaying him with questions about Norberta the Norwegian Ridgeback. Hermione cleverly slipped away while he was distracted, before she could be pulled into the discussion by using the excuse of needing to refill her drink to get away, lest she do something terrible like snog the handsome Dragon-Tamer right there in front of everyone before she was even sloshed, yet.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Long after the food had been eaten, and much more eggnog had been imbibed, Hermione Granger found herself watching Charlie Weasley across the living room at the Burrow. Remus and Tonks were planning to head home in preparation for playing Santa to their young son through the night, and would return for Christmas lunch tomorrow. However, they were having just a slight problem prying the boy from Charlie's arms.

Asleep with his arms curled tightly around Charlie's neck, and his head on Charlie's shoulder, little Teddy Lupin wore the red hair and many freckles Charlie had been blessed with and Hermione's whole body ached at the sight. He looked more like Charlie's son than Remus's, right then, and Hermione couldn't un-see the sweet sight, or the tender way the Dragon Tamer carefully handed the small boy back to his mother.

Merlin's little green apples, until that very moment, Hermione Granger had never even thought of having children beyond the vague and passing idea of 'someday' trying for a few. Yet, looking at the little boy who looked so much like Charlie, and watching the careful was Charlie handled the toddler, Hermione found a very poignant and almost painful yearning inside her chest to have one of her own that looked just like the handsome wizard who seemed more interested in dragons than he was in women.

"You know," Ginny said quietly, sidling up next to her where Hermione was perched on the edge of the couch by the fire, watching Charlie. "If Mum catches you looking at him that way, she might just sob with joy."

Hermione's cheeks flushed as she looked over at the younger witch.

"Looking at who in what way?" she asked, blinking a little to bring Ginny into focus after the rather pliant amount of eggnog and whiskey she'd had.

"Don't play dumb with me, Hermione," Ginny whispered, smiling. "Do you really think it's some secret that you and my brother want to bonk each other's brains out?"

"We do not," Hermione protested.

"No?" Ginny said. "So, you're not watching him hand over that child whilst thinking about what it would be like to have a son with him?"

Hermione shook her head defiantly, denying the accusation despite it's truthfulness.

"And I'll bet you think you haven't been flirting with him all night, or watching him when he's not looking, too," Ginny teased.

"I'm certain that your making mountains out of mole-hills, Ginny," Hermione said. "Probably because Charlie tried to convince Molly I was his date to avoid being harped after all night to settle down."

"Oh?" Ginny said. "So, if we were all to clear off and leave you two alone together, you wouldn't shag like bunnies?"

"Of course not," Hermione denied, though she was certain her face was hot enough to fry an egg upon.

Ginny scanned her face, her lips pulling into a wide and knowing grin.

"I'm certain no one would object, Hermione," Ginny told her softly. "You're already part of the family in all but name or blood. And Charlie's been alone long enough."

"Yeah, that tends to happen when you spend most of your life hidden away on a Dragon Sanctuary in the Romanain Mountains, little sister," Charlie drawled, and Hermione looked up, her face getting impossibly hotter to find that Charlie had sauntered over to investigate their hushed conversation.

Tonks and Remus were gone, taking little Teddy with them, and Hagrid was snoring in the small lounge-room off the other end of the kitchen.

"Merlin, look at the time, love," Molly was saying to Arthur. "It's high time everyone was in bed, I think. It'll be an early start in the morning with Victoire in the house."

Peering around, Hermione noted that everyone actually did look rather sleepy. Fred and George were both sprawled on the couch, each of them with their respective girlfriends in their laps and looking tired, but content. Harry was standing with Bill and Percy by the window, discussing one of the Auror cases that had called for Bill's expertise as a Curse Breaker, which Percy was trying as the attorney representing the Ministry. Ron, Marcus Flint, and Oliver Wood were all still in the kitchen, arguing heatedly about Quidditch, though it looked to be in good fun when Ron slung his arm around Oliver's waist while Oliver socked Marcus in the arm. Fleur had already retreated upstairs with Victoire, her second pregnancy tiring her out.

Hermione supposed that it was just down to family, now. She knew she was expected to stay the night, but she wondered if Molly had really thought through the specifics. With all of her children grown, there was limited space in the house for having everyone sleepover.

"Where've you got us all sleeping, Mum?" Fred asked, apparently thinking the same thing.

"You four will be in your room," Molly nodded at the twins and their girlfriends.
"And the rest of us?" Ron wanted to know.

Hermione pursed her lips to hide her wicked grin, realizing the problem immediately. Everyone was tipsy, and everyone was paired up. In times past, Ron and Harry would both camp in Ron's room, Hermione would share Ginny's, and everything would be fine. Now, with all seven Weasley children home, and six of them matched up, the bed configurations weren't so simple. Ron, Hermione knew, had moved into what had once been Charlie's room when Charlie had moved out, having shared with Percy before Charlie's graduation.

It wasn't so simple as everyone just bunking in wherever they liked.

"What a silly question, dear," Molly said. "You'll all sleep where you've always done. Harry in with you, Hermione in with Ginny, it'll be fine."

Hermione looked at Ginny, who snickered very softly when it became clear that Molly was not only tired, but a bit noshed. No one said anything as Arthur chuckled and suggested to his wife that they go to bed.

Bidding goodnight to them both, and wishing them sweet dreams, all seven Weasley children kept perfectly straight faces until their mother had left the room. Arthur stopped in the doorway that led to the stairs, smiling at them gently.

"Whatever funny business you all get up to this evening, do try to keep from waking your mother and tipping her off that all of you unwed heathens will be sharing your beds?" he chuckled. Everyone laughed.

"Sure thing, Dad," Fred grinned.

"And I swear, if I'm expecting more grandchildren nine months from now, I will deny all knowledge of how they came into existence," Arthur added. "Goodnight, Weasleys."

"Night, Dad," the chorus rang out to some giggles and some laughter.

"Well," George said. "At least there's only a risk of four pregnancies instead of six, eh?"

"I beat the Christmas rush and got in early," Bill piped up, grinning.

"Always were a bit premature though, weren't you, Bill?" Fred teased.

"Oi!" Bill exclaimed, laughing.

"I think you'll find only three of us are at risk, anyway," Katie told the twins.

"Bollocks," George disagreed with his girlfriend before looking directly at Charlie and Hermione even though Ginny stood between them.

"Gods, it's a relief to not need to worry about all that contraceptive mess, though, eh?" Ron said, strolling into the room with Oliver under his arm.

"Charming, Ronald," Hermione rolled her eyes.

"What?" Ron asked.

"Pretty sure they didn't want to think about you and I going at it, Ron," Oliver told his boyfriend.

"Could've done without the mental image, myself," Harry nodded. "First you shag my sister, and now you're shagging my team captain."

"Talk to me when you're not shagging my sister, Harry," Ron laughed, flipping him the forks.

Harry laughed before looking at Ginny. "Speaking of…" he said, winking at his girlfriend.

Marcus snorted as he crossed the room and slung an arm around Percy, who glanced at his boyfriend in surprise as though the affection was uncommon.

"You've got stones, Potter," Flint said. "I'll give you that. Standing in a room full of her brothers and you ask her for a shag? What've you got? A death wish?"

"As though any of these tossers could take me?" Harry asked, grinning wickedly.

"Going the right way for a wrestle in the snow with talk like that, Potter," Charlie told him, and Hermione snickered.

"You sure you want to give it a go?" Harry raised his eyebrows, grinning. "I wrestle criminals all day."

Charlie's grin grew predatory. "I wrestle dragons."

Harry's eyes faltered for a minute and Hermione laughed.

"Right. Well, I could take you," Harry said.

"I think I'd pay to see that, actually," Ginny piped up.

"Oi!" Harry laughed. "Whose side are you on, love?"

Ginny grinned impishly. "Charlie's."

Harry narrowed his eyes. "You better watch it, witch. Or I'll wrestle you right out of that dress."

"I dare you," Ginny smirked.

"Gross. Nope. We had a deal," Ron intervened. "We had a deal that you two can date as long as I don't have to think about the fact that my best mate is shagging my baby sister."

"You were the one crowing about not needing contraceptives with your hunky boyfriend," Ginny said. "Though I confess, the contraceptives I take just make it all the more fun."

"Bloody hell," Charlie laughed. "Knock it off before I have to beat the stuffing out of all my siblings' boyfriends, yeah?"

"We could take you," Flint said after looking Charlie up and down.

Hermione watched Charlie glance at Bill, before narrowing his eyes on Flint.

"Before this devolves to a lot of grunting and chest thumping," Percy spoke up primly. "I'm going to bed, and you," he spoke directly to Marcus, "are coming with me."

"You think there won't be grunting if I take you to bed, Weasley?" Flint leered at his boyfriend and Hermione laughed when Percy's cheeks turned a brilliant shade of pink.

"Marcus!" Percy hissed, swatting him in chastisement while his boyfriend and his siblings all laughed.

"Merlin, I need another drink," Charlie muttered.

"Are you coming, Hermione?" Ginny asked when she crossed the room to sling her arm around Harry's waist, everyone beginning to say goodnight as Percy, still blushing, dragged Marcus from the room.

"Upstairs?" Hermione asked. "With you and Harry?"

Ginny nodded.

"Not that we're inviting you to bed with us, love," Harry said. "I think I might die of shame trying to keep up with two of you."

"I think we'd both vomit," Hermione countered. "You're the closest thing I've got to a brother, you git."

"Right. But the other bunk is set up for you," Ginny chuckled.

"Yeah, because that will be nice. Listening to you two giggling and going at it when I'm three feet away," Hermione rolled her eyes. "Thanks, but I haven't had to suffer the indignity of listening to other people getting laid in my vicinity since Hogwarts. It's a record I'd like to maintain."

"Where will you sleep?" Ginny asked.

"Oh, I'll be up to sleep in your room," Hermione assured her. "Later. After you to shag yourselves to sleep and I don't have to listen."

Harry laughed.

"And until then?" he asked, darting a pointed look at Charlie.

"Until then I have a Christmas tradition of reading until the sun comes up," Hermione said, resolutely not looking at Charlie. "I'll stand guard for Santa, and all that."

"Not too late, love," Harry told her. "I make no promises not to spill pudding on you if you fall asleep at the table again this year for Christmas dinner."

Hermione laughed.

"Git," she accused.

"You love me," Harry retorted, tucking Ginny under his arm and heading for the stairs.

"Merlin knows why," Hermione teased.

Ginny laughed, waving to her sleepily while Harry stuck his tongue out at her.

"Night, everyone," Harry said.

"Night, Harry," Ron said. "Silencing Charms, yeah?"

"You too, mate," Harry said. "I don't need to hear that girly little shriek you make when you blow, eh?"

Oliver laughed, glancing at Ron, who's ears turned red. Hermione laughed too, knowing from experience that Ron did tend to emit a rather high-pitched groan when he orgasmed.

"Did not need to know that. Did not need to know that," Charlie muttered, shaking his head and heading for the kitchen.

"Night," Ron called, winking at Hermione despite his red cheeks while he led Oliver upstairs to his room.

"Should we go?" Fred asked George.

"I'm not shagging with you in the next bed, brother mine," George warned.

"Yeah, right," Fred laughed. "As though you can keep her off you?"

Hermione noticed that Katie was kissing George's neck and looking very much like she wanted a good shag.

"I swear, if you two high-five during again, I'm not speaking to either of you all of Christmas," Hermione heard Angelina mutter as she climbed out of Fred's lap and helped him to his feet.

Fred and George were both laughing as they all headed for the stairs.

"Hermione, love?" Fred said.

"Yes?" Hermione asked, having fetched her overnight bag from the corner and begun digging into it for her book.

"Be gentle with him, yeah?"

"The book?" Hermione played dumb.

Fred chuckled. "Night, love. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"I feel like I need more parameters than that," Hermione scoffed, and everyone laughed.

Hermione watched them all go until only she and Bill remained in the living room, while Charlie tinkered about in the kitchen, mixing up some kind of cocktail, it seemed. Bill, she noticed, was regarding her curiously.

"How've you been, Hermione?" he asked, moving over to sit in the armchair opposite to the couch where she was seated.

"Good," Hermione smiled. "Busy. My research work at the Ministry keeps me hopping."

"Heard it's been keeping you out until after midnight most nights, actually," Bill said seriously, frowning just a little. "Are they working you too hard?"

Hermione smiled at the genuine concern on his face.

"No," she shook her head. "When I stay late, it's usually by choice, or by accident. My boss tries to send me home every afternoon at five o'clock, but I'm usually in the middle of a breakthrough or slogging through mountains of research and field-notes and I tend to forget."

"You been eating enough, love?" he asked, his eyes scanning over her critically. By the heat of the fire, she'd taken off her jumper, revealing that she'd lost enough weight to make her look waifish, rather than womanly.

"I tend to forget about needing dinner until I get home, sometimes after midnight," she shrugged. "I'm fine, I promise."

"You don't look fine," Bill said seriously.

"You sound like your mother," Hermione accused, though she smiled gently.

"Mum's right," Charlie grunted, coming back into the room carrying three flaming goblets of something that Hermione was certain would make her regret all of her life's decisions in the morning. "You're too skinny, babe. And you've got dark circles under your eyes from not enough sleep. You sure you're doing alright?"

Hermione sighed, accepting the goblet he handed her and watching the Dragon Tamer drop down onto the couch cushion beside hers.

"I'm fine," she said.

"Whenever Fleur says 'fine' it tends to mean that she's actually extremely annoyed and trying to make me figure out why by myself," Bill pointed out.

"I'm not a passive-aggressive Frenchwoman," Hermione argued, blowing out the flame on the top of her cocktail and taking two big gulps.

Bill chuckled. "No," he said. "I get the feeling that you are infinitely more complicated, Hermione."

"I'm not sure if I should be insulted, or if that's a compliment," Hermione told the Curse Breaker.

"A bit of both," Bill winked, and Charlie laughed. "You're working too hard, Hermione. You need to slow it down and treat yourself right."

"As though you aren't a workaholic, too?" Hermione asked, raising her eyebrows at him before slanting a glance at Charlie. "And don't you even begin to think about telling me to slow down. I think we both know that bandage on your bicep is one of many you're hiding, and you've got dark circles under your eyes, too."

Charlie raised his eyebrows in return, narrowing his eyes a little before skolling his drink in one without blowing out the flame first. Bill turned his eyes on his brother, watching him down the drink and avoid her assessment.

"You alright, Charlie?" Bill asked seriously, looking his brother over more critically than he had all night now that Hermione had pointed out some of the signs of his self-neglect.

"I'm good," Charlie nodded. "Dandy. Bandages are nothing new for me. Got a fiery bloke in the Sanctuary at the moment, in the Healing Sanctum. Brought him in with a busted wing a few weeks back and he's been stroppy, wanting to be set loose. He surprised me this morning when I thought he was dozing. All in a day's work, for me."

Hermione bit her lip, not saying anything about the fact that more than half the field reports she'd been processing in her research lately had been written by Charlie Weasley. He was turning in more reports than ever and Hermione got the feeling that she wasn't the only one searching for distraction in work.

"How badly are you hurt?" Bill asked, frowning at Charlie.

"Not at all," Charlie said, darting a glance at Hermione as though she might give away that he was more injured than he was letting on.

"What's under the bandage, Charlie?" Bill asked sternly, narrowing his eyes on his younger brother and closest friend.

"A bite," Charlie said.

"A bite," Hermione hissed, too shocked to hold her tongue. "Charlie! A dragon bite would've almost torn your arm off!"

Charlie narrowed his eyes on her.

"And how would you know that, Granger?" he asked.

"Because I'm the one pouring through all the reports you've been submitting through the DRCMC with details of everything from bite-power, jaw width, fang length and everything else about those dragons you're studying!" Hermione told him.

"Wait… you're the one pushing for research about the dragons?" he asked, frowning at her.

Hermione nodded biting her lip with indecision before deciding that now was as good a time as any to share her surprise.

"The Ministry has enough funding at present to open a dragon sanctuary here in Britain, and we sorely need one. But they won't allow the designs through the Wizengamot without specifics on every breed that might be housed in the sanctuary here, and every possible detail about what might go wrong if one of the injured dragons gets loose. The designs are in place to erect the Sanctuary in the highlands, just north of Hogwarts, so that the Tamers who would run it might make a home for themselves in Hogsmeade. The proximity to the school means that extra safety regulations have to be met and the Wizengamot is fighting the DRCMC every step of the way because they're all a bunch of old fashioned sods who want Hogsmeade to remain a sleepy village, rather than a trade center for all things dragon. There are a number of them on the committee that currently make a killing on the shipping of all the dragon products into Britain, so they're set to make a loss if the legislation is passed. I'm trying to prove to them that it will actually be better for the British wizarding economy, will be safe despite the proximity to Hogwarts, and will improve our overall international relations thanks to the increase in exports and trades, not to mention the benefit or more magical creatures enriching the environment here in Britain."

Charlie's eyes were wide.

"They're opening a Sanctum here?" he asked, his eyebrows climbing as he regarded her before he looked at Bill, who looked equally stunned by the news.

"Only if I can jump through all of their hoops," Hermione admitted. "And believe me, there are a lot of hoops. I'm almost there, though. But I've spent months studying the ferocity, temperament, power, fire-range, and anatomy of all the dragons that we currently have on British soil, in addition to those that would be transported here for the sake of enriching the magic in the telluric currents in this part of the world. Without that enrichment there is a very real chance that the Squib population will boom because the magic in the earth and in our blood following the war is fizzling out. Without those dragons, British wizarding bloodlines are in very real danger of dying out. With the number among the pureblood lines who are already closely related, or even inbred, and with the decline in the number of muggleborns we're seeing, we're at risk of going extinct within the next two or three hundred years."

"Blimey," Bill breathed.

Hermione nodded. "But it's all very hush-hush, so um… keep it to yourselves?"

"Yeah," Bill said.

Charlie was still staring at her, apparently shocked beyond words.

"Anyway, the point is that I have a very real grasp on just what kind of injuries you're concealing under than bandage, Charlie. What breed bit you?"

Charlie shook his head. "An Ironbelly," he said. "Big bastard, strong bite-power, but he's old, this bloke. His fangs were starting to dull, and he wasn't interested in killing me. He was just stroppy because I was tidying up his cage when he wasn't finished his dinner and because I wouldn't let him loose."

"You're lucky he didn't take your head off," Hermione shook her head.

Charlie shrugged.

"They're really opening a Sanctum here?" he asked, still frowning.

Hermione nodded. "As soon as I can pass their legislations."

"Who are they hoping to have running it?" Charlie asked.

Hermione bit her lip, glancing at Bill for a moment before looking back at Charlie.

"The management job will go to the wizard who has the most expertise regarding all the dragons we'd be protecting, and the one who's the most dedicated to the protection of the dragons and the jobs as a Dragon Tamer," Hermione admitted.

"How are they gauging that?" Charlie asked.

"Through the reports being submitted to the Department," Hermione admitted. "The Wizengamot is insisting that if we're opening a Sanctuary, it needs to be run by British wizards. Those of your who work as representatives for the DRCMC in other Sanctuaries throughout the world are all being remotely monitored for candidacy. They're checking the number of reports submitted, the usefulness of the information in those reports, the likelihood of each Tamer to risk his own skin to protect the other Tamers, the general public, and the dragons. Everything."

Charlie narrowed his eyes on her.

"Don't suppose you know who sends out the research assignments for the Tamers working for the DMCRC?" he asked suspiciously.

Hermione bit her lip, looking down into her goblet before bringing it to her mouth and drinking down the contents in three long gulps.

"I do. I send them," Hermione admitted. "Well, I draft them, based on the information I need, and my boss certifies them before they're owled out."

Charlie stared at her. "You're the only sending me all these assignments?" he asked. "The other lads I work with from the UK haven't got nearly as many as I do."

"Yes, they have," Hermione said. "Every scrap of information I ask for is submitted to every Tamer from our department. I'd be put on probation if it seemed like I was only sending the assignments to certain Tamers to better their chances for getting the job. Everything I ask for is sent to every Tamer on our payroll, worldwide. It allows for a better collaboration of results based on the types of dragons we'd be able to house."

"So, you're not sending me all these extra assignments to better my chances of getting the job?" he confirmed.

Hermione glanced at Bill, who leaned forward curiously as though her answer intrigued him.

"I didn't say that," she said quietly. "I'm contractually obligated to send the assignments to everyone on the payroll. But if I happen to word them in ways that I know are more likely to get responses from certain Tamers over others, there is nothing preventing me from doing so."

"Explaining why all these extra field assignments generally call for me risking my arse and collecting samples of things that most blokes wouldn't dare to do."

Hermione shrugged. "The assignments aren't mandatory, as you are well aware. Half the people I send them too haven't sent back a single one. Or, if they do, they half-arse it just enough to submit a report to keep their jobs because most of them got into Taming for the prestige of the position, not because they actually enjoy chasing down dangerous beasts in treacherous locales where they might get eaten if they mess up. Those assignments that call for easy answers get a decent response, but for the hard jobs, I only get about five reports back from around the globe that are of any use to the department."

"You're wording them in such a way that Charlie jumps at them?" Bill asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

"I'm wording them to ensure that the best and most dedicated Tamers will provide the more specific and useful information I need to do my job," Hermione evaded the question. "And if I happen to do so in a way that appeals to dare devils but forces them to fill out tedious hours' worth of reports after the danger is over and the fun part is through, it certainly weeds out the less than useful employees on the payroll and slims the pickings for who might be best equipped to run a dragon sanctuary on British soil."

Charlie narrowed his eyes on her. "You trying to lure me home, babe?"

Hermione pressed her lips together, glancing at Bill again when the Curse Breaker leaned forward in his chair before she looked back at Charlie.

"Yes," she admitted boldly, though she spoke softly.

"Why?" Bill asked, frowning at her. "Charlie loves his job."

Hermione held Charlie's wild eyes for a long moment.

"He'd love it more on home soil," Hermione said quietly. "Especially with another niece or nephew on the way."

"You think I'm unhappy overseas?" Charlie asked, his eyes fixed on her face, that intense look of his that could melt her knickers boring into her with such power, she feared she might swoon.

"I know you're unhappy overseas," she told him. "You told me so."

"When?" Charlie said, obviously confused.

Hermione darted another look at Bill, almost wishing he'd gone to bed so that she could more frankly inform Charlie that when he'd been snogging her and feeling her up last Christmas, he'd muttered into her neck about how he'd missed the feel of a willing witch under his hands and how the biggest drawbacks of his job were being away from his family, and the fact that so few witches dared to become Dragon Tamers, or wanted to live somewhere as remote as the Romanian Sanctuary. He'd been muttering it into her neck before giving her a love bite and Hermione hadn't been able to get it out of her head in the months that followed that incident

"Last Christmas," Hermione said, meeting Charlie's gaze, once more. She looked at him imploringly, willing him to figure out that she meant he'd told her when they'd been hooking up, and silently begging him to stop asking so many questions, lest she reveal just how much that snog in the hallway had rocked the foundations of her life.

"When would he have told you that last Christmas?" Bill asked, obviously out of the loop and curious about their past interactions. Hermione didn't blame him. The sexual tension between her and Charlie had been fizzing all evening.

"His Yule wish on the Yule Log was that the two things he loves most in life didn't have to be so far apart," Hermione said quietly without taking her eyes off Charlie's face. "You're hooked on the dragons and the lifestyle of being a Dragon Tamer, but I know how hard you find it to say goodbye after every visit, Charlie. I was also there after we saw you off last Christmas when everyone spent the entire trip back to the Burrow talking about how they wished they'd get to see you more often."

"And so you… what? Made it happen?" Charlie asked, looking baffled.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "The only way to make all those wishes come true was either to move the family to you in Romania, which was unrealistic. Or, to bring the dragons to the family. Knowing that the means to grant everyone's wishes was within my reach, how could I not get the ball rolling? It's been attempted before, of course. A few others in the past have tried to petition for a dragon sanctuary here in Britain, but the Wizengamot always crushed the idea by throwing out all these hoops that most people either don't know how to jump through, or simply can't be bothered to jump through. But I know how."

Bill was shaking his head.

"You found a way to bring Charlie home and let him keep his dragons?" he asked, shaking his head in disbelief. "And you've pushed and pushed to get it done, in addition to fighting tooth and nail with the Wizengamot every step of the way, for an entire year?"

Hermione glanced down at the empty goblet in her lap, shrugging her shoulders again as she nodded her head.

"Why?" Charlie asked, and Hermione lifted her head, her brow furrowing when she realized he sounded almost… angry.

Searching his face, Hermione frowned at him.

"Your dragons and your family are important to you," she said. "And having you here is important to your family. If I can make it happen that you get to more than one Sunday lunch a year, and can ensure you see your niece and Teddy more than a handful of times a year, and all by simply doing my job, how can I not?"

"Simply doing your job?" Bill echoed. "Hermione, you've been staying at the office until after midnight most nights of the week for an entire year. That's a bit more than just doing the job."

Hermione blushed.

"Yeah, well, maybe it's important to me, too," she admitted, studying her goblet. "And I wasn't kidding about the positive effect having dragons back in Britain would have on the magical world. We really are in danger of going extinct, and all the research I've done shows that despite the number of Sanctums in the world, the dragons are suffering and beginning to experience population declines, too. And last Christmas, Ron said that he wished he got to see you more often, and your Mum and Dad were wishing that Romania wasn't so far away, and you, Charlie, wished that there was some way to bring the two things you love closer together. I know you've stayed at the Sanctum in Romania even though you've been offered promotions to better paying positions with Sanctums in Australia, Canada, Brazil, and China, and you've turned them all down because the Romanian Sanctum is the closest to home. I know that it's getting harder for you to leave after every trip home, especially now that Bill's married with a daughter, and another on the way, and especially when Harry and Ginny will be tying the knot soon, and Ron's planning to ask Oliver to move in with him, and Tonks is expecting again. I know you hate the fact that you're hooked on a profession that leaves you in the middle of nowhere in a male-dominated industry. I know that for all that you complain about Molly nagging you to find a nice witch and start thinking about having some kids, you want to do it to make her happy, but can't do it because there aren't many in witches the Romanian Sanctuary and there are even fewer who would sign on for the long-distance relationship thing. And I just… if there was a Sanctum here, all of those hurdles would be jumped and everyone would be happy and…"

Hermione trailed off, shrugging again when she realized she was talking too fast and revealing too much. She toyed with her cup, nervous in the silence that followed her outburst. When Charlie reached over and pried the goblet from her grip, Hermione dared to look up, finding him frowning at her.

Her stomach flipped nervously and Hermione waited, holding her breath as her cheeks slowly grew warmer and warmer under the intensity of his smouldering gaze. Charlie's blue eyes darted over her face intently, seeking some clue of her thoughts. When he opened his mouth after a pregnant pause, Hermione was surprised by what came out.

"Did you do this out of guilt?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice that made her tremble in her seat.

"Guilt?" Bill asked quietly, but Charlie ignored him.

"Hermione?" he pressed when she didn't answer immediately. "You said that Ron wished he could see me more often after last Christmas. Did you figure out a way to make that happen because you felt guilty?"

Hermione shook her head after a long moment.

"No," she whispered. "I didn't begin digging into the Ministry funding and the dragons Sanctuary idea until a month after Ron and I broke up."

Charlie's eyes danced over her face.

"You've been tailoring the assignments to better appeal to me, ensuring I will do them and so look better in the eyes of the DRCMC so that I'll get the job when the legislation goes through?" he asked.

Hermione's mouth twisted, and she looked down at her fingers, fidgeting with the loose threads on her shirt.

"Yes," she admitted. "I've needed all of the information from those assignment to push this project through for approval. But yes, I've worded them in such a way that I knew would appeal to you."

"How did you figure out how to word them so that I'd do every single one?" he asked.

Hermione sighed. "I read your employee file. I have access to all of the Ministry archives. Getting hold of your file wasn't hard. When I went through it I read all the assignments you'd done in the past, and I noted which ones got the best responses from you, which ones got bare-minimum effort, and which ones were ignored. I tailored my assignments from there in a way that I know you'd be more willing to do them."

"Are you going to be caught for that?" he asked.

Hermione shook her head. "I draft them, but the Department Head is the one who approves them. If anyone ever investigates, should I get approval for the project and should you get the job, they'll look at him before they look at me."

Charlie's frowned deepened. "How close are you to having the project approved?"

Hermione shrugged again. "There's a hearing scheduled for the second week in January. The research I was doing tonight that kept me back at work so late was the last hoop I've got to jump through. The designs are all drawn up, all of the research is prepared. I have to give a presentation to the full Wizengamot, proving that a Sanctuary to house the Welsh Greens, and the Hebridean Blacks bred here in Britain, in addition to a design structure to import Ridgebacks, Ironbellies, Vipertooths, Fireballs, Short-Snouts, Opal-Eyes, Long-Horns, and the Canadian Wool-Scales, will be safe and economically viable. I have to prove that the funding to build the Sanctum, and the hire of several new British Tamers, along with the contract of several foreign wizards to care for the dragons is a sound investment. The design includes a processing plant within the Sanctum, itself, to harvest those products we currently import, and explores the expansion of Hogsmeade from a small village that services Hogwarts into the first all-wizard city in Brisbane with a population of more than ten thousand people. I've had to put together stock portfolios and business structures to ensure that the trade of the goods harvested here is legal and regulated. I've got four thousand, one hundred and seventeen reports detailing every incident that might occur, how it will be handled, and how best to prevent such incidents. I've got plans for how to move the dragons, how to protect them, how to keep the muggles from stumbling upon them, how to ensure they don't eat livestock, or incinerate towns, or create a population boom – and I've got back-up reports of what to do if that does happen. Tonight's research was the final read-through before filing with the Wizengamot to confirm the date of the presentation."

"And you're ready?" Bill asked, when Charlie didn't speak.

Hermione nodded her head. "I'm ready. If they knock the project back now, I'll be able to prosecute them for a conflict of interest to remove those who are determined to hang onto the investment kick-backs they make by keeping Britain as an import-only nation regarding dragon based products. If they try to block me regarding the historical significance of Hogsmeade and the danger of expanding the village into a city when the students visit it, I've got back-up plans to begin an entirely new town to conduct the Dragon trade from. I've drawn up designs for that, too. There's no way they'll block this project without incurring the full wrath of my significant influence and intelligence. I've even conducted in-depth research into every member of the Wizengamot and found ways to circumvent their biases, legally, to such an extent that I could turn their own families on them, if need be. Nothing will stop this project from becoming a reality, and when it is, I've even ensured that the best people in the business will be the ones who'll run the Sanctum."

She looked over at Bill, seeing that he looked completely stunned. When she looked back at Charlie, he was gone. Hermione frowned, watching him stride into the kitchen and out of view. She frowned when she heard the clink of him setting down their goblets before listening to the stomp of his feet into his dragon-hide boots and then open and close of the back door.

Frowning, Hermione made to follow him, sitting up and reaching for her jumper. Bill stopped her with a hand on her arm.

"Is he… angry with me?" Hermione frowned at the eldest Weasley son.

"Give him a few minutes," Bill said quietly. "Charlie tends to process things best on his own."

"I don't understand," Hermione admitted. "What is there to process?"

"You did all this for him, yeah?" Bill asked, his eyes tracing her face curiously.

"Well, not just for him," Hermione shrugged. "But I confess that at times when I wanted to cry and to quit and to scream in frustration, it was the memory of how frustrated and hopeless he sounded wishing for a way to have both things he loves, that kept me pushing forward."

"Do you know what he meant when he asked if you did it out of guilt?" Bill asked.

Hermione bit her lip, nodding slowly. She could tell Bill was waiting for her to tell him. She wondered if Charlie would mind. She wondered if she dared. Could she admit to what she'd done last Christmas with one brother while dating another? Glancing toward the stairs before squinting toward the kitchen, Hermione finally settled her gaze back on Bill when she'd determined they were alone.

"Last Christmas Eve, when we were both a bit sloshed, I ran into Charlie outside the upstairs loo, and mistook him for Ron thanks to my intoxication. We snogged," Hermione confessed.

"This is why you broke up with Ron?" Bill asked, not sounding like he thought less of her for it.

Hermione shook her head. "No. I never told Ron. I spoke with Charlie about it and we agreed that it would only create a rift between the two of them over a silly mistake. But the snog did make me realize that snogging Ron certainly didn't feel like that," Hermione admitted. "When I brought up the lack of passion between Ron and I, he confessed that he'd felt the same lack and we agreed to go our separate ways. I felt guilty for mixing them up while I was drunk, and for feeling more from just that snog in the hallway than I ever really had when snogging Ron… but I didn't do all of this in some misguided attempt to make it up to Ron that, accidentally or not, I betrayed his trust."

Bill nodded slowly, frowning a little. He glanced toward the kitchen when the back door opened before closing again softly. Hermione looked over, too, getting to her feet and eyeing Charlie warily when he stomped back into the living room without taking his snow-crusted boots off. He was still frowning fiercely, as though she'd angered him, and Hermione opened her mouth, intent on apologizing for upsetting him, though she'd hoped he'd be happy, rather than annoyed with her.

Before she could utter a single word, Charlie invaded her personal space and threaded both hands into her loose curls, tipping her head up before his lips descended on hers. Hermione blinked in surprise before heat and desire fizzed through her veins as his tongue swept into her mouth, gliding against hers and making her dizzy in a second, flat. Melting into the kiss, Hermione snagged her hands into the front of his jumper, pulling him closer and kissing him back hungrily.

Dimly, she heard Bill chuckling as he got to his feet.

"On that note, I'm going to bed. Goodnight, you two," she heard him say, listening to his footsteps as he crossed the room and began climbing the stairs.

Both Hermione and Charlie were a little too preoccupied to answer him, and Hermione squeaked in surprise when Charlie turned the two of them, dropping down onto the couch and pulling her down into his lap until she was straddling him. Smoothing her hands up his chest to tangle them into his soft red hair, Hermione kissed him soundly, her tongue tangling with his and the fire in her veins raging out of control, burning with all the things she recalled from last Christmas when she'd been pressed to the wall upstairs while he groped her arse and kissed her neck and made her realize just what she'd been missing out on.

Hermione was tired of missing out on that much passion and heat and scorching desire. Sighing against his lips, Hermione pulled back far enough to nibble along the length of his jaw, nipping his earlobe gently before suckling the sweet spot below his ear. She rolled her hips against the rapidly growing bulge between her legs where she sat straddled in his lap, and Hermione felt a little thrill of pleasure rush through her when Charlie tipped his head, surrendering to her ministrations with a soft groan of delight.

She tormented him slowly, taking her time as she explored his skin hungrily and enjoying the way he dug his hand under the hem of her shirt, his strong, calloused fingers kneading her lower back and pushing her to roll her hips. Hermione complied eagerly, grinding against the hot, hard protrusion beneath her and smiling into his neck when he uttered a soft cuss.

"Fuck, babe. You're good at that," he murmured before leaning up, capturing her lips for another dizzying kiss.

Hermione tangled her tongue with his, kissing him hotly and scraping her nails against the nape of his neck.

When they broke apart she was panting, and Charlie snagged his hands in the fabric of her shirt, meeting her gaze questioningly as he began to lift it, intent on undressing her and finally finishing what they'd started last Christmas.

"What if someone spots us?" Hermione whispered against his lips. "Anyone could walk in."

Charlie frowned. "Got a better spot it mind?" He asked. "Hagrid passed out in my usual bed in the lounge, and Ron stole my old room."

"We could go to my place?" Hermione suggested.

Charlie glanced toward the fireplace, looking very much like the idea of letting her go even for the short time it would take to Floo to her flat was too much to bear thinking about.

"No one will walk in," Charlie said quietly, tracing his hands over her skin as he slowly dragged her shirt skyward. "They're all upstairs shagging their significant others. They won't hear a thing, and they're too drunk and too horny to come back down here and catch us."

Hermione sighed when he leaned into her, kissing the sweet spot just below her ear and making her crazy.

"Besides," Charlie muttered. "If you let me have you now, I'm going to shag you until we pass out. And I think everyone will figure out what we've been up to if they come downstairs in the morning and we're gone."

"As opposed to passing out together, naked, on the couch where they can find us in the morning?" Hermione asked drolly.

Charlie smirked. "It's Christmas, babe. We can't go running off before the big feast. And if I get you anywhere alone when I don't have to worry about us getting caught, I might not let you out of bed for a few days."

Hermione mewled softly when he nipped her neck, laving the sting with his tongue before peeling her shirt off over her head. Surrendering, Hermione flicked her wand around the, casting Muffliato and Notice-Me-Not charms so that on the off chance that Hagrid awoke, or Victoire came rushing downstairs, no one would spot them while they were indecent.

Charlie peeled her out of her shirt and then her bra, his hands trailing over her skin and making her shiver at the rough feel of them. He palmed her bared breasts eagerly and Hermione tipped her head back when he ducked to capture her right nipple between his teeth, nipping her sharply before suckling away the sting and driving her mad.

Her heart was racing inside her chest and her stomach rioted with butterflies that all took flight, rustling their wings restlessly within her. She was finally going to finish what she'd started with this man last Christmas, and though she'd vehemently denied it to herself, she had been craving the hot feel of his hands on her flesh and his mouth on her neck since this time last year. She wanted him like she couldn't ever remember wanting a man, craving the wicked fires of passion he stoked within her. The place between her legs was on fire with the burning urge to be filled and Hermione rocked against him harder, barely resisting the urge to use magic to vanish their pants so that sweet ache could finally be sated.

Charlie bucked under her, tormenting her harder and nipping her again when Hermione pulled back far enough to peel his jumper off over his head. She needed to trace her hands over his tightly muscled form, burning with the urge to learn every line of him. Her fingers itched to trace every scar and to explore every tattoo upon his heavily freckled skin. and Charlie seemed only too willing to let her.

She kissed him slowly then, wanting to devour him with all the raging passion that roared like wild fire between them, but also needing to savor the moment, not knowing if she would ever have this chance again. He kissed her back almost lazily, the pair of them finding a rhythm as she slowly learned the dimensions of his heavily muscled form.

Charlie traced his hands over her bare torso, his fingers sliding down her back and digging under the waistband of her jeans to slide inside her knickers. He gripped her arse tightly, grinding her against his erection harder, making her body thrum with need and Hermione would swear she was on fire, craving the desire and pleasure that bubbled within her, yearning to find out what to might be like to have him so deep inside her, she might never dislodge him.

He groaned softly when she rolled her hips, grinding against him harder even as she traced her hands over his chest and his taut stomach, latching onto his belt and unbuckling it swiftly. There would be no going back, and as she listened to the rasp of his fly descending, Hermione thought she might die of happiness and lust right there in his lap before she'd even managed to get him inside of her. She squeaked in protest when, with more strength that she'd expected, he lifted her right out of his lap and stood her on her feet in between his knees, breaking their kiss and disentangling the two of them in a way that most displeased Hermione.

At least, it did until he made short work of the fastenings on her jeans and jerked them down her legs, leaving her bare to his hungry, simmering gaze.

"Sweet fucking Circe, Granger," Charlie groaned, holding her by her hips and drinking in the sight of her like he'd been blind, but now could see. Hermione squirmed under the heat and the intensity of his gaze, her body of fire and the lust she felt for the Dragon Tamer pooling at her core.

Her breath caught when, without warning, Charlie's hand slid down the back of her right leg and hooked behind her knee, lifting it and dragging her closer until he could loop the limb over his shoulder. He didn't seek permission before he leaned into the space he'd made, burying his face between the junction of her thighs and dragging his hot, wicked tongue up the full length of her slit. Hermione wasn't sure she was capable of talking past the urge to sob with her desire. She'd never wanted a man so badly, and from the way he began feasting upon her flesh, his clever tongue delving inside her and drinking her sweet nectar, Hermione got the feeling that Charlie wanted her badly, too.

"Oh, gods," she said breathlessly, her hands knotting in his shoulder length red hair, her head tipping back as he licked and licked and licked at her slit until she was sure she might scream.

"So fucking sweet, baby," Charlie muttered before latching onto her clit and suckling it hard.

"Charlie… I'm gonna… oh, gods, Charlie," Hermione whimpered, her knees quaking with the power of the oncoming wave she suspected would slam into the pair of them very soon. Hermione's blood bubbled and boiled with lust, and the pleasure of his tongue dipping inside her, his teeth twisting her clit, and his stubble rasping over her sensitive flesh was all too much.

"Fuck!" Hermione gasped, her knees buckling as the orgasm built and built before it all snapped free with a spasm and a wicked, heat that spread through her from her core, outward.

"Fuck, yeah," she heard Charlie mutter triumphantly as he lapped at the juices he'd lured forth.

His free hand fished his cock from inside his boxers and Hermione's leg slipped off his shoulder before he was guiding her down by her hips, back into his lap, this time intent on filling her up. Hermione went eagerly, holding his strapping shoulders for balance while Charlie released her hip to guide his cock between her legs. She was so wet from his skilled tongue and the recent orgasm that there was no resistance as he impaled her upon the glorious, hot length. Hermione's head dropped back at the feel of him filling her and filling her, stretching her body to capacity until he was completely encased inside her tight, wet sheath.

"So fucking good," Charlie muttered. "So much better than I imagined. Fuck, Granger."

He pulled her lips to his, and Hermione snogged him hungrily, the taste of herself upon his tongue titillating her all the more as she rested there in her lap with him buried to the hilt within her. She trembled with the aftershocks of her first orgasm and she could feel Charlie trembling too, with the restraint to hold out long enough to make this worth their while.

"Gods, I've wanted this for so long," Hermione heard herself whisper when she broke their fervid snog to trail kisses over his cheek and down the side of his neck.

"Merlin, I wanted you last Christmas, Hermione," Charlie confessed, his hands tightening on her hips as lifting her back up the length of his dick before lowering her back down upon it once more. "I knew it was you snogging me in that hallway, and I knew you weren't mine to fuck that night, but Godric, I wanted you."

Hermione whimpered, building to a rhythm, rocking herself up and down the length of his cock, grinding down on him harder, wanting him deeper, wanting to crawl inside him and never come out.

"When I realized it was you… that night…." Hermione admitted breathlessly. "When you pushed me away even though you still had your hands in my knickers…I wanted you, too. I knew I shouldn't, but I wanted you to fuck me right there in the hallway, Charlie."

Charlie wrapped his arms around her body tightly, then, cuddling her to his strapping chest and holding her close even as Hermione bounced herself on his cock. He buried his face against the side of her neck, kissing and licking at her skin, clutching her to him desperately. Hermione fucked herself on his cock until she couldn't stand it anymore, little whines of pleasure escaping her to know that finally, after waiting so long and hoping so hard that this might happen, she was finally shagging Charlie Weasley.

And Merlin's little green apples, it was good. It was fantastic. Hermione squealed when he bucked under her, his control snapping as he clutched her to him even tighter, his body bucking into her.

"Come for me, babe," Charlie said against her neck. "Come on my cock like I've been imagining you would for years."

She did.

A low, husky moan tore free of her lips when the fire in her belly ignited into a brilliant explosion of color and light and magic behind her eyes. Her pussy clenched, and her body trembled and shuddered with the power of her release, pulling Charlie over the edge along with her. He came with a muted roar, his teeth sinking into her skin and amplifying her pleasure with that sharp sting of pain.

Hermione saw stars behind her closed eyelids, magic fizzing through her blood, pleasure suffusing her. The feel of Charlie's seed pumping into her made her quake with something she didn't dare even address and she loathed herself just a bit for the traitorous thought that flitted across her mind of what might happen should she conveniently forget to use a contraception charm. Merlin, she'd never even thought about having kids until tonight, but as his seed washed against her womb, filling her and making her moan all over again, Hermione couldn't help imaging a tiny son with her curls and Charlie's red hair, his bright blue eyes, and her brains.

Goddess, Hermione wanted that, and she wondered if she'd had too much to drink when she found herself clinging to his robust form, feeling the way the powerfully muscled Dragon Tamer shuddered against her, overcome with lust and pleasure as he fucked her right there on the couch in his family's sitting room.

"Merlin, Hermione," Charlie whispered against her neck, pressing kisses to her sweat-soaked skin as he cuddled her to him like he never wanted to let her go.

Hermione collapsed against him when the aftershocks of her orgasm wore off, surrendering her weight to him and letting him hold her close while the raging inferno of desire they'd lit slowly died down to a soft, warmly glowing ember that seemed to take root inside her heart.

"Probably just as well things didn't get this out of hand, last Christmas," Hermione murmured, closing her eyes and cuddling into Charlie closer.

"I'd have had to fight my kid brother for you," Charlie agreed quietly. "More than I already wanted to."

Hermione's heart squeezed inside her chest at the soft certainty in his voice.

"Oh, yeah?" she asked, without looking at him.

He didn't answer, though his hands trailed over her back surely, tracing her shape and cuddling her to him even more snugly.

"There's really going to be a Dragon Sanctuary here in Britain?" Charlie asked, changing the subject without releasing her.

"Mmm," Hermione nodded. "And they're probably going to ask you to head it up."

"Even though I'm fucking you?" he asked.

Hermione kind of liked the way his wording suggested that he planned to do so more than just this once. She laughed very softly.

"It might be in both our best interests to keep this to ourselves until the approval goes through and they can offer you the job, yeah?" she said. "The last thing anyone needs is to catch wind that you and I are intimate. Nothing will stand in the way of me getting this Sanctum built."

"Nothing?" Charlie asked, pulling back to frown at her curiously.

"Nothing," Hermione confirmed. "Not even you, Charlie Weasley."

"So, if I suggested that I wanted to fuck you again, say tomorrow?" he asked leadingly.

"We'd have to keep it quiet until everything's approved," Hermione shrugged. "Else the Wizengamot will rule you out as a candidate for the job to spite me."

Charlie blinked at her, his eyes glittering with some emotion she didn't dare label.

"But you wouldn't refuse the request?" he asked.

Hermione frowned. "Do you want me to refuse?"

"No," he admitted before leaning in and capturing her lips for a slow, sensual kiss. His cock twitch inside of her and Hermione kissed him back softly.

"We should get to bed," Charlie told her huskily when they broke apart several minutes later.

Hermione nodded "Did you say that Hagrid is in where you usually sleep?" she asked.

Charlie nodded glancing toward the far side of the kitchen where Hagrid could still be heard snoring from the lounge-room beyond.

"Would you like to curl up with me?" she offered very softly, blushing as she made the offer despite still having his cock lodged deep inside her.

"You wouldn't mind?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders as she began to disentangle herself from his embrace. "I like to cuddle."

Charlie chuckled. "That little cot in Ginny's room is perfect for that," he said, holding her steady when she rose from his lap on shaky legs.

Hermione laughed, too, before digging into her overnight bag for fresh knickers and her pyjamas. Charlie righted his boxers and his jeans, not even having fully removed them while he shagged her silly. He rose to his feet behind her, not bothering with his shirt, and Hermione turned to drink in the sight he made. A large, blank-ink tattoo of a Chinese dragon wound its way over his right shoulder, down his back and over the upper part of his ribcage. A long, shiny burn showed across his left arm, and he had an old, faded scar of claw marks slashed over his left hip and abs, disappearing under the waistband of his jeans. Every inch of him rippled with tightly coiled muscle, his strength and power undeniable.

He grinned when he caught her looking and Hermione blushed all over again, sheepishly looking down at the beg she clutched before hurrying for the stairs up to Ginny's room. Charlie laughed softly as he followed after her, his hand brushing over her arse as she climbed the steps, apparently enjoying the view. Hermione glanced over her shoulder at the red-haired wizard and he grinned at her, snagging his hands in her waistband and pulling her to a stop before he turned her with a light grip on her hips, and snogged her all over again.

"I don't remember if I said thank you," he said, his lips whispering against hers.

"What for?" Hermione asked breathlessly.

"You've spent the entire year trying to bring me home, babe," Charlie said, his blue eyes searching her brown ones as though she was some wonderful creature he'd never encountered before.

Hermione blushed, unsure what to say. Rather than saying anything, she distracted him with another kiss, claiming his lips all over again and wondering if they might be better off returning to the sitting room so that she could shag him all over again. He kissed her back hungrily, pressing her body to the length of his intimately, his tongue dancing with hers and making her dizzy with need.

"Thank you," he breathed when they broke apart.

Hermione nodded, smiling softly.

"Come on," she murmured. "Let's get to bed before we're caught, shall we?"

"You think we won't be caught if we wake up together?" he asked.

"I doubt any of your family will go running to the Wizengamot and interfering with my project being approved," Hermione told him. "But if it worries you so much, you take the cot and I'll go home."

Charlie shook his head, holding her tighter. "You think I'm about to let you go now, Granger?"

Hermione blushed all over again, pulling out of his embrace and hurrying up the stairs. She crept into the bedroom carefully, being sure not to wake Harry and Ginny where they slept in the bed under the window. Charlie tiptoed in behind her, closing the door almost all the way before peeling open the covers while Hermione put down her bag. He looked at her through the dark for a long moment before very deliberately unfastening his jeans and dropping them to the floor until he wore just his boxers.

Hermione's fingers itched to run over every inch of him and he grinned at her before crawling into the bed and pressing his back up against the wall. He held his arms open for her, obviously intending to spoon her and Hermione smiled just a little when she went into his hold willingly. She curled into the bed, pulling the covers over the pair of them before snuggling down in his arms and sighing.

Charlie curled himself around her completely, tucking his knees into the backs of hers, looping his arm over her waist and holding her close until she was pressed back against the full length of his warm, powerful frame.

"Happy Christmas, babe," he murmured into her ear when she'd pillowed her cheek on his arm.

Hermione smiled sleepily. "Happy Christmas, Charlie."

He kissed her cheek tenderly before settling down to sleep while Hermione drifted off. And if she dreamed of what it might be like to spend next Christmas playing with a little boy with Charlie's red hair and blue eyes, and her wild curls, well, no one had to know.