(Come to Those Who Wait)
Disclaimer: All characters, events, places belong to JK Rowling, Warner Bros, Scholastics, Bloomsbury, and Raincoast. Song is by Evan and Jaron, "Crazy for this Girl".
Summary: Charlie is set in charge of fixing the Weasley's new car – but fixing a Muggle car is something Charlie isn't good at, so he enlists Hermione's help. CW/HG
She rolls the window down
And she talks over the sound
Of the cars that pass us by
And I don't know why
But she's changed my mind
The beginning of summer started on a hot Wednesday, according to Hermione's calendar, and that particular Wednesday promised of hotter days to come.
Hermione had just finished her last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, spending most of the last two months in the hospital wing thanks to Rabastan Lestrange (now locked away in Azkaban, an empty shell). She, Ron, and Harry had all survived the final she-bang against Voldemort and had come out victorious. They, however, were too weak to make it to the celebrations and parties that had been going on late into the mornings those days; instead they spent it in the hospital wing with others who were recovering or injured, and the Weasley family.
She had been included, along with Harry, to have a Weasley celebration, which included champagne, cauldron cakes, and many, many chocolate frogs. Most of the family was in the hospital wing, anyway: Ron, Ginny, George, Fred, Bill, and Arthur. The rest had come along to cheer them up, and with Hermione and Harry being honorary Weasleys were included.
In the end, Hermione started talking to Charlie about his part of the war, and they spent most of the night talking about his dragon squad and his work in Romania.
Hermione, somewhere in the back of her mind, knew that she would always end up with a Weasley. She just didn't know which one.
Hermione was sitting on the lumpy couch in her den; her long, tanned legs casually tossed over one of the armrests, and a heavy hard cover novel resting in her lap. She was contently chewing on the end of a red licorice stick, her eyes moving back and forth as the words of the novel settled in her memory.
She was so absorbed in reading that she didn't notice Pig until he hooted psychotically and made a bomb-dive for her head.
"Ow!" Hermione raised one hand to rub her corkscrew curls. "Pig! What was the meaning of that? A simple 'hoot' could have done fine."
Pig settled down on the back of the sofa, sticking his short leg out for Hermione to relieve the letter that was placed there.
She did so and opened it carefully. One never knew if the Weasley twins had gotten a hold of it before it was sent off.
However, it was a simple letter from Ron, asking her to come and visit the Burrow that summer before she started at the Muggle University she was going to, to appease her parents.
'Dear Mione,' he had written. Hermione snorted. Of course he would call her that ridiculous nickname Fred dreamed up while they were bored one night in the hospital wing. She made a metal note to get Fred back for that.
'How are you? Everyone is fine here, and everyone is here for a change. Charlie's not in Romania, and might be staying here in England for a bit, Bill's not off to Egypt until December or so – something about the goblins of Gringotts unsure about sending their curse breakers out so soon after You-Know-Who's fall – and even Percy and the Twins are here instead of Diagon Alley and the Ministry.
'You know you're wanted here, love. Send Pig back with an answer, as soon as possible – Harry and I miss you terribly. Ginny has been pleading with mum and dad to have another female over and she keeps complaining when Harry or I mention Luna. I don't think they're quite close, despite the fact that she's my little sister and Luna's my girlfriend, don't you think?
'Anyway, come soon, and if you can't, well… come anyways! Lots of love, your friend, Ron.'
Hermione bit back a grin. It seemed that nothing had changed. The Weasleys were still the Weasleys, and everyone seemed to be all right. Of course, with Hermione being of age, she could go regardless of what her parents wished, so she grabbed a Muggle pen lying on the coffee table and scribbled a quick reply to Ron at the bottom of the letter.
'Ron,' she wrote, 'I'll be at the Burrow tomorrow morning with all my personals for the summer… at say… eleven o'clock? If you have any problems just Floo me, okay? Love you too – tell Harry and Ginny I say hello. Yours, Hermione.'
With her reply written, Hermione summoned Pig back to her and tied the letter to his leg. "Now, be careful with this, Pig. Don't do anything silly."
Pig seemed to give her an owlish reproach and soared off and out of the open window at the end of the den.
With a sigh, Hermione closed her now forgotten novel and swept her feet off the armrest. She stood, stretching and relishing in the feel of her sore bones and kinks righting themselves.
Then, she went out of the room to inform her parents of her new summer plans. They would just have to make due without her, she decided, feeling little remorse after the awful row they had in wanting her to go to a Muggle university instead of going to Stonehenge Colligate or to the Ministry.
Hermione found her parents sitting outside under a massive oak tree that offered much shade. They were seated in two identical lounge chairs, sipping lemonades and talking in low, soft tones.
When Hermione approached, they looked up and smiled at their only daughter.
"What is it, darling?" asked her mother, Helena Granger.
Hermione took a deep breath, mentally preparing for anything thrown her way. "I'm going to the Burrow tomorrow and staying there for the rest of the summer, until I start at…" her voice took on a bitter tone, "Oxford."
Helena Granger let her sunglasses fall on her lap. "What? Darling – you can't. I made plans with all my friends to have their daughter with them for get-togethers, and even some of us mothers started matchmaking"—
"Matchmaking? Get-togethers? Mother, please," Hermione sighed, "I'm eighteen, I certainly don't need you matchmaking in my life, or planning get-togethers in hope that I will bond with one of your friends' daughters. Harry and Ron are my best friends, and you'll eventually have to accept that."
"Yes, but…" Helena's voice trailed off as she glanced helplessly at her husband. Samuel Granger cleared his throat and sat a bit straighter in the lounge.
"Hermione, sweetie," he began, "Think about this. Do you want to spend your summer with… with the Weasleys? When you could be making friends who are 'normal'?"
"Normal? Now, what do you mean by that?" Hermione asked, softly, her eyes a steely colour.
"Well, it's just that you need friends that are normal, dear, and not well… magical," Samuel finished mildly, turning his head to see what his wife thought.
Helena nodded. "Please, Hermione, think of this."
"I don't need to think about it, mother, father," said Hermione, through gritted teeth. "I am going to the Weasley's this summer whether you like it or not, and I am going to Oxford to mollify you both. I happen to like my talents and skills very much, and enjoy living in that world." Hermione sighed. "Now, if you have nothing left to say, I will begin packing, and then go out to the mall to pick up some other items that I might not have."
Without waiting for an answer, Hermione turned on her heel and left her parents sharing worried glances behind her.
Three hours later, Hermione had finished packing her necessary items, with only a few missing. Though, she did need a nice dress to wear if the occasion called for it; one never knew when the press might show up unexpected when one was out and about – and Hermione wished not to be caught unawares.
So, with that in mind, she grabbed her purse and wallet, ready to go to the local mall to buy said dress. She had only made three or four steps towards her door when her mother's head poked in.
"Do you need to go to the mall, darling? I need to pick some things up myself," she asked.
Hermione nodded. "I do. I need a dress."
Helena smiled. "Wonderful. Let's go now then, while Sam stays here."
Hermione followed her mother out of the house and into their car, buckling herself up as she did so, wondering if there was a change in her mother's attitude about wizards as of late.
Hermione really couldn't blame them; Dumbledore had thought it imperative to let Muggle-born parents know of the war that was brewing. When the Grangers learnt of it, however, they threatened to take Hermione out of the school until Dumbledore himself told them that Hermione was needed and most desired at Hogwarts. Even if they had taken her out, she would still be in danger of Death Eaters.
In the end, her parents agreed to let her return for her last year, but since then, had been trying to get her more involved in the world she had left behind many years ago – the Muggle world.
They arrived at the mall without hitch, or talk, and began to window shop. Helena went into a George and Denny's, looking at a blue scarf for winter, and Hermione stood idly by.
She wondered what Fred and George had been up to; maybe she could persuade her mother to take her to Diagon Alley, to visit them? No, it would be too late when they arrived at Charring Cross. Hermione sighed. Only a day, Hermione, only a day left.
With her items paid for, Helena and Hermione left the store, wandering around. Hermione finally saw a gorgeous dress to try on at a vintage store, and immediately pulled her mother in.
Hermione grabbed the midnight blue dress, and slipped into the changing room. She took her clothes off and pulled the hidden zipper of the dress down. She slithered into it, pulling the spaghetti straps up onto her shoulders, and reached behind to zip the dress up. She did so with little difficulty, and stepped out of the changing room to see her reflection.
"Hermione, you look wonderful," Helena commented, smiling tenderly at her daughter. "What will you wear it for?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe a dinner at the Weasley's, or the society ball that Albus Dumbledore is planning for in October. It would certainly fit in there."
"Society ball?" Helena asked, curious.
Hermione nodded and turned her head to look at her mother over her shoulder. "Yes, the society ball. Albus is planning it, to have everyone who help defeat Voldemort celebrate the downfall. Most of us – the ones who were actually there – were still recovering the weeks following the war, so we never joined in the merriment. Having the ball will allow everyone to."
"Oh," was all her mother said, before Hermione slipped away again. She put her clothes on and then folded the dress to take to the counter.
As see paid, her mother commented, "Are you saying then… that you were there when it happened? I thought you were some behind-the-scenes operator."
"Hardly," Hermione gave a dry laugh. "I was up there in the front lines with Harry and Ron, one of the few who were there in the chamber when we destroyed him."
"That's not what you told us you were doing!" chastised Helena.
Hermione shrugged. "You would have worried otherwise."
"Exactly, and I don't now? This is why your father and I don't want you associating with that world anymore. It's not for you – it's dangerous. Too dangerous."
"You can hardly tell me what to do anymore, mother. Did I mention that I'm moving out too?"
"What?" Helena hissed, surprised. "When did this happen? What have you been keeping from us?"
"Just enough, apparently," answered Hermione easily as she glanced at her mother. Both were the same height, with brown hair. That was were the similarities began and stopped. Hermione was short with corkscrew brown hair that never went straight, while Helena had straight brown hair. Helena's eyes were green while Hermione's were brown. Helena liked chaos and things she knew, while Hermione liked order and learning.
Helena would never understand why Hermione loved the wizarding world, which made Hermione sad. Perhaps that was what Petunia Dursley felt, and why she loathed Lily Potter so much, the young woman mused.
Hermione sighed. "Please mother. Don't start this now. I'm not your child anymore, but an adult in both worlds. If I choose to move out, then I go. Don't make this any harder."
Helena said nothing, but was noticeably colder for the rest of the shopping trip.
At dinner that night, the table was quiet and alarming to Hermione. She knew that her mother had spoken to her father, and that they were both silently fuming. Soon, Hermione knew that they would erupt and the picture would not be pretty.
She desperately wished for some backup.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, Samuel Granger cleared his throat and began in a gravelly voice, "Hermione, your mother has brought some things to my attention recently that I believe we should discuss."
"All right," replied Hermione, setting her knife and fork down on the table, folding her hands demurely in her lap.
Sam glanced at Helena, who nodded. He said, "You were on the front lines, I believe, in the war, with Harry and Ron, instead of behind the scenes work which you said you were doing."
"So… you lied to us… and then you told your mother that you were moving out soon?"
"Yes, again," echoed Hermione, nodding slightly. Where was her father going with this?
"Where will you find the funds to live on your own? While you are at school?" he asked.
Ah, thought Hermione, here we go. "I won't be living alone. I'll be with Harry and Ron. We've already found the townhouse and started moving some of our things in. We're sharing the rent, and we all have enough money to live comfortably."
It was true, she thought. Since she worked in the Order with her two friends, and helped in the defeat of Voldemort, they had all been paid a considerable sum for their work – from both Dumbledore and the Ministry. It was more money than Harry had even seen or had, which was saying something. Together, their sums would have been equivalent to living alone in the downtown London area.
"Where did you acquire these funds?" Sam asked.
Hermione smiled, "Through the Order. Being a member of the team that defeated Voldemort made us heroes and quite popular. The Ministry and Dumbledore both paid the three of us nice sums."
Sam's eyebrows rose. "Why are you doing this?"
"Doing what, father?"
"Breaking your ties with us."
"I am not," replied Hermione, almost childishly. "If you had ever listened, you would know that I love the wizarding world and it is now my home. You are both still my parents and nothing could ever change that and I do love you both, but sometimes you are entirely too stubborn for your own good! You cannot make me stay here against my will, or make me date someone I do not care for. I certainly will not care for a Muggle. I can't see myself with a Muggle in the future, I'm afraid.
"And, yes, you have gotten me to go to a Muggle university, but that is all. I won't do anything else to make you even try to understand how my life is now. I want to include you, but I can't if you won't listen," Hermione finished her monologue and looked at her parents.
Both were quiet as they looked at Hermione and their plates, thinking. Finally, Samuel said in a quiet voice, "if that is how you feel, then make sure that your things are packed. Move into that flat of yours and don't come back, Hermione. Not until you realize just how dangerous that world is."
Hermione nodded, on the outside appearing calm as she stood, placed her dish by the sink and left the kitchen. However, as soon as she made it to her bedroom and closed the door behind her, she sank to the floor with her head on her knees and sobbed.
The next morning, Hermione slept in late as to avoid seeing her parents at breakfast and before she left. She was certain that she didn't want to talk to them, and the feeling was apparently mutual because at ten she heard her parents start the car and drive away.
Unsure of how long her freedom would last, Hermione took her time to say goodbye to the home that she had known for seventeen years of her life. Finally, she stepped in the living room and tossed some floo powder in the fire. It changed to green, warm to the touch but not burning her.
She shrunk her trunk and possessions, and placed them in her pocket, zipping that closed. She then stepped into the fire and shouted clearly, "The Burrow!"
She spun around and around, her eyes tightly closed until she felt the fireplace spew her out. Hermione landed with a painful thud on the floor of the Weasley's living room, covering in soot and her nose beginning to twitch uncertainly.
"Mum, dad! Hermione's here!" a male voice shouted, entering the room she was currently lying in.
Two pairs of arms wrapped themselves under Hermione's arms as she was lifted from the floor. Her eyes opened and she saw Harry and Ron standing before her, grinning widely.
"How are you Mione? All well?" asked Ron.
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "How's your summer been so far, love?"
Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but she paused, her nose twitching. Harry and Ron shared a look, before Hermione took a step back and let out a squeaky, "a-choo!"
Ron grinned. "Well, that was cute."
Hermione glared at him through watery eyes. "It was not," she replied, stiffly. "I am a bookworm. Bookworms don't do 'cute'."
Harry let out a laugh that turned into a cough at the last second. He placed an arm around Hermione, and with his wand in his other hand did a simple cleaning charm on her. "Now, now, Mione. Ron's just saying that he thinks you're cute. We both do. You are, after all, the woman in our lives."
"I hope not!" laughed Hermione. "What would Luna say?"
"Dunno," shrugged Ron. "I'll have to ask her about that."
"And you Harry? Is there anyone in your life?" asked Hermione, turning back to her best friend.
"I'd like to say yes, but alas, there is no one." Harry sighed and faked a sad look on his face, even managing to make his lower lip quiver. Hermione laughed.
"Oh please, Harry."
The trio entered the kitchen, with Hermione receiving warm hellos and hugs. She found herself seated next to Arthur, who was engaging her in a conversation about Muggle cars.
"Do you know much about them?" he asked.
"A bit," Hermione admitted. "I have my own car, you see, a Mini, and I had to take some courses to figure out if anything went wrong with it."
Arthur's eyes lit up. "Fascinating!"
Molly shot him a glare. "Don't even think about asking her, Arthur. You already having Charlie out there in that garage trying to fix that new blasted car of yours, and dragging the child into it will do her no good!"
"New car? What's going on?" Hermione asked, glancing at her friends. Ginny, who was sitting next to Bill and Percy, playing some wizard version of monopoly, spoke up. "Dad found a car and er… did some things to it."
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
Arthur grinned proudly. "I added an invisibility charm to it again, and enlarged the boot and inside, Hermione. Perhaps you'd like to see it later?"
"Certainly," Hermione opened her mouth to say, but Molly Weasley snapped, "Arthur! Don't even think about it! This is Hermione's holiday, and she doesn't have to be surrounded by Muggle things day and night, listening to you blabber on about Muggle items."
"But dear…" Arthur trailed off. Hermione, Harry and Ron shared an amused glance.
"It's all right Molly," Hermione spoke, "I'll go out with Arthur and see the car. I'd love to, actually."
"Wonderful! Perhaps you can figure out what's wrong with it," he beamed.
"Wrong?" asked Hermione, frowning.
Ron nodded. "Yes, ever since Bill took it to the town, there have been problems. The whole car has been… shuddering or the likes. No one in the family can figure it out and we don't want to take it to a what's-it-called? Car mechandlic?"
"Mechanic," both Harry and Hermione corrected Ron automatically. Hermione continued with a sigh, "You should have taken Muggle Studies Ron… honestly."
Hermione stood. "Maybe we should go look at the car now, Mr. Weasley."
Arthur stood and ushered Hermione out of the back door, across the lawn and towards a shed that served as the garage. Pulling open the large barn-like doors, Hermione spotted the car immediately. It was a North American model, a Ford station wagon from the early 80's.
Music blared from somewhere in the barn like garage, and the hood of the car was open and raised. Hermione spotted several Muggle tools lying about the floor, on workbenches and a lone chair, but no toolbox. Everything was completely disorganized.
Looking back at the car, Hermione was surprised to finally notice someone in Muggle blue jeans and a green rib top partially hidden underneath the car.
Arthur, catching her gaze, nodded towards the person. "I've had Charlie working on the car as of late, but he can't seem to figure out what's wrong with it." He raised his voice, and shouted over the music, "Charlie! I've brought someone here to help you!"
On a sliding seat, Charlie Weasley pushed himself out from underneath the car. His hands held onto the car's frame, and his face had oil and grease on it – but it was clear to Hermione just who the seven years her elder was.
Charlie looked at the pair standing in front of him, blinking owlishly as he did so. He blindly patted the ground around him for his wand, and when he found it, he waved it in the air. Instantly, the music disappeared and an odd ringing silence ensured.
He sat up, stretching his legs out in front of him and grinning at his father and Ron's friend. "Hi dad, Hermione, right?"
"Right," Hermione nodded. She glanced towards the car. "What's wrong with it?"
"It keeps shuddering, or vibrating. I can't seem to figure out what the problem is," informed Charlie, standing and reaching for a cloth to wipe his hands and face with. Arthur watched the two for a couple minutes as they discussed the car before announcing, "I'm going now. Tell me what happens later."
He promptly disappeared, leaving the two alone in the garage.
"Do you know what it is?" Charlie asked, looking down at the short young woman.
Hermione nodded. "I have an idea. Do you have the keys?"
Charlie handed the keys over to her, ignoring the heat from her body, and the tingling sensations he felt when their fingers brushed each other.
Hermione opened the driver's door and slid in, putting the eyes in and leaving the car in park. She listened as the engine roared to life, then shuddered, making the whole car vibrate and shake. She gunned the engine, pushing the gas pedal to the ground but the shuddering didn't stop. Nodding in satisfaction, she turned the engine off and retracted the keys, and stepped out of the car, slamming the door shut.
"I think I've got it," she declared.
"Great," replied Charlie. "What is it?"
Hermione moved to the hood of the car, glancing at it. "Well, there are some things that could be wrong with it if the car is shuddering. It could be the wheel bearings, the brakes, or the engine mount. We'll have to check all of them. There weren't any lights on in the warnings so we're okay there."
"So what shall we check first?"
"Wheel bearings, I think. It'll be more work, but best do that now in case it is," Hermione suggested.
Together, they removed (one at a time) the wheels, the bolts, and check the bearings. Finding nothing wrong with them, they moved on to the brakes.
There was nothing wrong with them either, so Hermione motioned them to look at the engine. "It has to be the mounts then."
Together, they pulled the bolt out of one of the mounts and replaced all of them, before putting the bolts back in. Charlie slid behind the wheel of the car and started it.
The engine purred, with no shuddering or vibrating whatsoever.
Grinning, Charlie turned the engine off and closed the car door. "You did it! Excellent work!"
"Thank you," Hermione replied, smiling. "I had the same problem on my own car earlier when I got it."
Charlie grinned down at her. "Well, since you can drive and actually have a license, perhaps you would like to take me out for a drive?"
Hermione smiled back, taking the keys from his hand. "I'd be delighted."
Together, the slid into the car, wrapped the seatbelts around them and waited as Hermione started the engine, checking the mirrors and looking over her shoulder at blind spots.
She grinned, gunned the engine and asked, "Ready?"
"Very," replied Charlie, giving Hermione a tiny smirk. She wiggled her eyebrows at him and changed gears from parked into drive, and left the garage, going down the Burrow's driveway path until she reached the road. She rolled down the windows, and smiled into the breeze.
She then flicked the blinker and turned right onto the road, beginning to drive into Ottery St. Catchpole.
Charlie reached for the radio, and turned up the volume of a song that was playing. Together, they rode in a comfortable silence, exchanging grins every so often.
"How was your summer so far, Hermione?" Charlie finally asked, resting one arm on the passenger side of the car.
"All right, I suppose," replied the woman.
"All right? That's it?" asked Charlie, leaning forward. "It had to have been better than just 'all right'."
Hermione's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "No, it was just all right. Fine. Shitty, actually."
Charlie's eyebrows rose. He gently reached over to where one of Hermione's hands were on the steering wheel and turned the car so that they were on the shoulder of the road. "What happened?" he asked, gently.
Hermione sighed and let her hands drop into her lap. She tried to tell herself that it was because she was dejected, not because of the wonderful feelings she got when Charlie touched her.
"My parents kicked me out," she finally mumbled.
"What!" Charlie exclaimed. "Why? You're smart, so I can't believe it's because of your marks…" he trailed off as he saw a tear streak down her cheek. "Mione?" he asked, using her nickname.
Hermione bit her bit and tried to stop crying. "It was so stupid!" she finally burst out. "They kicked me out because I was going to the Burrow – and not staying at home and get matched up with Muggles. I don't want to go to Oxford in September. I want to work at the Ministry, or help the Order still. I don't want to go to a Muggle school."
Charlie reached for Hermione, pulling her awkwardly towards him as he wrapped his arms around her.
With his free hand he pulled the keys out of the ignition and then gently guided her head to rest on his shoulder. He felt the wetness of her tears as they soaked the strap of his rib top, but did not move. She needed to cry out her worries at the moment, and he was there for her.
After a couple of minutes, the tears dried up, leaving Hermione hiccupping. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her head down with her hair shielding her eyes from his view.
Charlie placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her head, smiling down at her. "There's nothing to be sorry about. I think I would cry like that too, if I were in your shoes."
Hermione gave a bitter, choked laugh. "Ha! I doubt it. Your parents care so much for all of you… they are so unlike my parents."
Charlie shook his head. "You know that Mum and Dad consider you one of their own, already, Hermione."
"I know," she replied timidly.
Charlie continued on, stroking her back calmingly as he did so. "And you know that they already consider you as a Weasley, thinking you'll end up with one of our lot."
Hermione did chuckle at that. Charlie, amused, muttered, "I certainly hope it's not Ron… or, egad, Percy."
Hermione burst out laughing. "It will never be Percy or Ron, Charlie! Honestly – Percy is engaged and Ron has Luna."
"Is she that little blonde thing with weird eyes?"
"What! I was serious!" he countered, grinning into Hermione's hair, with his arms still around her.
They were silent as they sat together in the car, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Hermione stirred and murmured, "We should head back and tell your father that I've gotten the car fixed."
"You mean, we," Charlie grinned, pulling slightly back from Hermione and trying to not let the loss show on his face.
Hermione slid back towards the steering wheel and shot Charlie a saucy wink that made him want to moan out loud. Once the car was started again, and they were heading back to the Burrow, did Charlie speak.
"What are you going to do about your parents?"
Hermione shrugged, tucking a way-ward strand of hair behind her ears as the wind blew in the car. "Dunno. I don't want to not ever talk to them again, but they need to realize that both worlds can be equally as dangerous."
Charlie nodded, and said nothing. There was a lot to think about.
AN: Oh wow! A Charlie/Hermione story! So, tell me what you think – shall I continue writing this, or should I abandon this story? Just to let you all know: I plan on writing a story with every single pairing that I can come up with, especially the unknown ones. So, read, review and enjoy! Yours, Kneazle