AN: I apologize in advance, before you read. 0:-)
In her eyes, she was a failure. She had failed to keep her parents alive. She had failed to stick by Harry and Ron's sides to defeat Voldemort. She failed to finish school. She had failed to keep herself safe. Mostly, though, what Hermione thought of over the past few days, is how she failed to remain unattached to the Weasley boys.
No, that wasn't true, it wasn't the Weasley boys in general. It was just one, just Charlie. Charlie and his easy smile. Charlie and his tousled hair. Charlie and his strong arms. Charlie. Just Charlie. It was Charlie whose image stayed in her head long after sleep claimed her at night, Charlie who held her safe from her nightmares, Charlie who saved her. Just Charlie.
Hermione had been told only hours before that she would be leaving them soon. She had thought at the time that she had taken the news rather well, but in retrospect, she could easily recognize the panicked feeling that had eaten away at the pit of her stomach. After a moment, her eyes had searched for Charlie's, and when she found them, the only thought in her mind was that there would be no more Charlie.
Now here she was, sitting in her room alone, trying to be happy for being able to escape, for being able to see Harry, for being able to help once more. But it was only one more thing she failed at, because the only thought was that there would be no more Charlie. She now had only a few hours before Charlie or Bill would come in to collect her for the escape.
The entire ordeal had been explained in full detail, and she knew just what to expect. Even while her head knew they were helping her, the entire process sounded a bit like she was being tossed around a Quidditch pitch like a bludger. One person tossing her to the next. The one thing she could look forward to is being in Charlie's arms once more.
Reluctantly, Hermione dredged her thoughts away from the self-pitying path, and opened the knap sack George had given her. She had been given a few sets of second hand robes, and some muggle clothes to wear over the past few weeks, and it all needed packing. She sank down on the bed and started folding the items carefully before placing them in the bag.
Hours after it was all done, she would still replay everything in her mind. Bill talking softly to her, explaining who she would start with, and what order everyone would go in. He asked her if she had any questions, and though she desperately wanted to ask if she would see Charlie again, she held her tongue and shook her head.
George giving her an awkward hug, and whispering that it would all be over with soon, as if that was the thought which would soothe her. She had returned the hug just as awkwardly, and simply nodded her head. Finally, though, her gaze turned towards Charlie. Sweet Charlie. Just Charlie. His smile looked forced to her, though it may have been wishful thinking on her part.
He had come over to her and enveloped her into his arms, holding her tight and pressing his cheek into her soft curls. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and held onto him just as tightly. It was him who broke through her shell, who tore down the hastily erected walls around her heart. She hadn't even noticed that she had started crying, or that Bill was urging George from the room, and shutting the door behind them.
It was only when a ragged sob left her throat that Hermione noticed the tears soaking his shirt beneath her face. His arms began to gently rock her back and forth, whispering soothing words and nonsense to her. She pushed back from him, and felt his hands sliding up her arms to cup her face. One thumb brushed gently across her face to brush away a tear.
"Come with me?" Hermione's voice startled both of them, as it escaped without warning. It was raspy from disuse, and thick with emotion as she pleaded with him. "Stay with me, come to Georgia. Just stay with me, Charlie."
Hermione could see the shudder going through him as he leaned his forehead in until it was resting against hers, and his eyes were staring into hers. His thumbs wiped more tears away before he pulled back just enough to kiss her forehead, and then her nose. She tilted her head back more, and the next time, his lips met hers. After the gentle press of his lips, he pulled away again, and graced her with a smile full of love, and of hope.
"If it were that easy, I'd be yours, Hermione. I want to, Merlin only knows how much I want to. There is so much I would do for you, but right now, while there are others to be saved, I have to do this. I made a promise, one I have to keep. You have no idea how much I want to break it for you, Hermione. I want nothing more than to hear your voice everyday."
Charlie ended his speech by placing another kiss on her lips, this one longer, with his lips and tongue caressing hers, and his hands holding tightly to her upper arms as he held her soft body to his. She heard a whimper, a soft mewling sound like a kitten might make, and was surprised to realize it had come from her own body, her body which was now arched towards Charlie.
In the end, though, he let her go when it was time to start her escape. She could feel his eyes on her as she stepped into Bill's arms for the first step. Hermione bit down on her trembling lower lip and squeezed her wet eyes shut before taking in a deep breath. When Bill asked if she was ready, it was all she could do to stop herself from crying out that she just wanted to stay.
But she didn't. In a rapid succession of Apparations, and an already upset stomach, Hermione was launched across Great Britain and Europe, before she found herself suddenly steadied in Charlie's arms once again. He looked down at her with troubled eyes, and as he activated the port key, his lips touched hers once more. This time, the gut wrenching feeling might have been from the port key, or it might have been from Charlie. She never could be certain.
As soon as his lips left hers, he leaned in to whisper to her softly that he would be back, that she could count on that. Then she was pushed backwards into another set of waiting arms, and even before she could lift her arm to reach out towards Charlie, he was gone. Hermione was shaking badly as the arms turned her around. She looked up into Harry Potter's surprised emerald eyes, and began crying again, just like the day she was first found.
Charlie never did return. The light side won the second coming of the second war, but it wasn't without it's own losses.The End
AN: Thank you SO much for reading this story. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I could have ended it with Charlie coming back, and as much as I would have preferred that myself, this ending just felt right as it came out. No punishment, please! Many hugs and smoochies to my reviewers!