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It was only when the sun rose high enough to seep through the gap in the curtains and sting her eyes, that Hermione found the energy to untangle her legs from Charlie's and slither out from underneath the sheets. He didn't notice. Snuffling his freckled nose into the pillow, his body curled into the warm indentation her body had made without waking, one foot poking out from under the sheets and a muscular arm flung over his head with unconscious vulnerability.
Strange how things turn out.
Carefully tugging a blanket back over his shoulders she smiled a little at him, watched the sun gild his tanned skin and turn his hair to wildfire. Charlie. Good natured, good humoured, courageous dragon tamer extraordinaire: her Charlie. Outside the door the floorboards creaked with the unmistakable sound of Harry creeping back to his bedroom, Ginny's whispered goodbye as much a promise as a farewell. Molly and Arthur are strict when it comes to premarital intimacy, a view that is outwardly respected and then flouted at every given opportunity by most of the couples that reside under their roof. Suppressing a giggle at the memory of Tonks returning from a late assignment and greeting Lupin with far more enthusiasm than grace, discretion or prudence, Hermione thought with affection that it was lucky everyone expected Tonks to be clumsy, for it certainly distracted attention away from her knickers tangled amongst the remanants of the teapot she had managed to knock to the floor.
Ron would have laughed, she thinks to herself, and the knowledge no longer hurts the way it once would have done. The guilt has gone, Ron's memory a benevolent ghost that flickers at the edge of her subconscious, neither unwelcome nor obtrusive. Charlie has never pushed her to talk about the last battle, and for that she is grateful, for she has long ago made her peace with the terrible events of that day, and has no desire to open them to public scrutiny. She and Harry know what happened, and for them it is a private matter, a shared grief, no matter how many times The Daily Prophet try to rake up it's memory. Charlie wakes her when she has the occasional nightmare; silent and reassuringly bulky, holding her tight until she falls asleep again, and more than once she has reawakened to find him watching her with a softness that belies his appearance.
It is strange, she thinks, that she had thought everything worth leaning was to be found in the printed page when she was younger. The look in Nevilles' eyes as he blocked hex after hex, taught her more about courage than any dusty pictures of long ago heroes in her history books, Rons' sacrifice a strange bitter lesson in nobility and loss. In the darkness when Charlie whispers her name and she runs her fingers over the scars on his back, she wonders at the poets that tried to capture this feeling, tried to pin down something so hot and sweet and right, in ink and parchment.
"Whatcha doin?" Charlie's voice is sleepy, his eyes squinting in the light. The sheets are rumpled and his tousled hair makes him look much younger than his thirty years.
"Nothing." Smiling she slips back under the covers and snuggles against him. "Nothing at all."
A/N A little epilogue because Dea asked for one - very fluffy I'm afraid. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter.