I hope that everyone thinks this is worth the wait. Sorry it took so long.
The New Year
Ron stared in shock. "You can't be serious! Hermione is coming here for the party…with him!"
"Yes, she is. And if you know what's good for you, you won't say anything more about it," Molly said.
Harry was eating his eggs and enjoying the show.
"B-but Mum, she's only just seventeen. He's twenty-four. How can you let them date? It's – it's disgusting."
"Don't be ridiculous, Ronald. Hermione is of age, and she's always been more mature than her peers. And Charlie truly loves her, he's waited for her for two years, and he's still going to wait for her to finish school before he proposes. She is going to be your sister-in-law, and you'd better get used to the idea now."
Ginny entered the room yawning. "Whaz' goin' on?" she asked Harry.
"Ron's complaining about Hermione and Charlie dating, and your mom is chewing him out."
Ginny plopped down next to him, and began loading her plate with eggs, toast and bacon.
"And further more," Mrs. Weasley was saying, "You are lucky that Charlie hasn't done anything to you for trying to damage Hermione's reputation."
Ron winced. He had thought that his mother had forgotten about it.
Charlie came downstairs and pecked his mother on the cheek, interrupting her rant, and said, "I'm going to take Hermione out for the day. We'll be here in time for dinner at seven."
"Have fun, dear," Molly said as he exited the house.
- - -
"Charlie! Happy New Year," Jane said as she opened the door. "Come in."
"Happy New Year, Jane," Charlie replied. He stepped into the entrance hall, and was nearly bowled over by a small brown haired boy who had just run down the stairs.
"Sorry," the boy said breathlessly.
"No problem," Charlie replied, chuckling as the boy dashed into the living room, and judging from the crash, into the kitchen, knocking something over.
"Sorry about that," Jane said. "We're having some friends over for the day."
"It's not a problem. My brothers, Fred and George, were worse than that. Come to think of it," he mused, "they still are worse than that."
"Charlie!" Richard stepped out of his office.
"Mr. Granger," Charlie said, and shook the man's hand.
Any further conversation between the two was interrupted by Hermione's arrival from upstairs.
As she didn't know how dressy the party was going to be, she chose to wear a knee length black wool skirt and a very soft, silvery-blue sweater that shimmered in the light. The neckline was draped just low enough to show her locket, and her hair was pulled back on the sides to reveal the gold and blue diamond earrings that Charlie had given her for Christmas.
"Charlie," she said excitedly, throwing herself into his arms for a hug.
"Hello, Princess," he muttered into her hair. He pulled back slowly. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes, just let me grab my coat." She opened the closet door and pulled out her long tan coat and a maroon scarf, hat and glove set.
Ever the gentleman, he helped her put on her coat.
The pair walked down to the same apparition point he used for their first date, and Charlie apparated them away.
Charlie's plans for the day involved a winter festival in a small town in Wales. The pair wandered down the roads, looking at the different things for sale at the booths.
They stopped for lunch at a small, cozy café by the park. After enjoying a leisurely lunch, they walked through the park looking at the ice sculptures.
As the afternoon turned into the evening, they began to make their way back to the edge of the town to leave.
They stopped once at a booth that sold crystal sculptures, where Charlie bought a small castle that looked a bit like Hogwarts for Hermione.
- - -
After a sumptuous dinner, which Mrs. Weasley outdid herself on, the guests for the party began to arrive.
Among them were the Lovegoods, Molly's Aunt Muriel, Tonks and her parents, Remus Lupin, and various other members of the Order.
Molly turned on the radio to her favorite station for the New Years Eve Special Broadcast. It was held in Diagon Alley every year, and witches and wizards from across the England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland would travel to London for it. There was live music, and they would have a countdown to the New Year. It was rather like the New Years celebration in New York City, except it was for magical people instead of Muggles.
Fred and George had closed the shop late that night because of everyone trying to buy last minute party supplies and fireworks. Needless to say, they made a killing.
Right now though, a soft romantic song was playing, and much to Fleur's relief, it wasn't sung by Celestina Warbeck.
Bill pulled Fleur out onto the portable dance floor that the twins set up, and they were soon followed by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, and several other couples.
"Care to dance?" Charlie asked Hermione.
She nodded and let him pull her out of her chair and onto the dance floor.
He wrapped his arms around her, and she let her cheek rest on his chest. Charlie rested his chin on her head, and they slowly rotated in one spot.
Two songs later, Charlie led Hermione to a small couch then left to get them both some spiced cider from the kitchen.
She was relaxed and watched Mr. Weasley dance with his wife, whispering little comments to her and making her giggle. Hermione sighed happily, that was what she wanted to have twenty years from now.
Unfortunately, Ron decided to interrupt her peaceful contemplation.
"Hermione," he said.
"What do you want, Ronald," she said, sighing in annoyance.
"How can you date him? He's so much older than you; people are going to think you are a slut." Apparently, Ron had a fatal case of foot-in-mouth-syndrome.
Charlie was nearly back to Hermione when he heard what Ron said. He made a quick detour to whisper two words to the twins.
He calmly walked back over to Hermione, handed her one of the cups of cider, and sat down wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
"Ron, I believe I warned you at the beginning of the Christmas holidays what would happen if you said anything rude about or to Hermione," he said.
Ron paled. "I didn't," he tried to defend himself.
"I heard you, Ron," Charlie said, loud enough to capture the attention of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
Bill and Fleur had heard what Ron said to Hermione, and the pair was busy with their part of the plan.
Ron was stammering trying to come up with some sort of defense.
It was a little known fact that Charlie was the one who taught the twins how to prank people. During his time at Hogwarts, many a prank was pulled by him and Tonks that no one was ever punished for.
Ron backed up several steps from the couple.
A cloud of thick pink smoke engulfed the room.
Because of this, no one noticed four different jets of colored light shoot from four different directions to hit Ron.
Some people began to cough from the smoke.
"Could someone get rid of this smoke," someone yelled out, possibly Aunt Muriel.
"I shall get reed ove 'eet," Fleur said and, making a sweeping motion with her arms that only Bill saw, the smoke began to be sucked into her wand like dirt being vacuumed.
When the room was clear of smoke, people began to laugh at the sight in front of them.
It was Ron. At least, that's who they thought it was, but no one could be sure.
His hair had grown out and was in braids, and he wore a blue and white checked dress with lots of white petticoats holding the skirt out like a tutu. He also wore white tights and black ballet slippers. His face was heavily coated in makeup that made him look like a clown, and the whole thing was made even more ridiculous when he opened his mouth to complain.
The second his mouth opened, he began to sing "I'm a Little Teapot" in a high soprano voice.
No one was able to stop laughing for ten minutes after he ran from the room in horror. Even then, some people would burst into giggles at random moments.
- - -
When Charlie brought her home, he again kissed Hermione. It was long and tender, and neither of them wanted it to end, but unfortunately Charlie had to get some sleep before he left for Romania later that day.
"Good night," he whispered to her as she entered the house.
Hermione turned and before she shut the door, said, "Good night, Charlie. And…be safe." She looked worried. "I don't know why, but I have bad feeling about this year."
Charlie frowned, but said, "I'll be as careful as I can, Love."
"Good," she said, breathing a sigh of relief.
As she got ready for bed that night, she thought about the party.
As enjoyable as the prank on Ron had been, her favorite part of the evening had been just before Charlie took her home.
Fleur had approached her and said, "I wanted to zank you for whatever eet was zat you zed to Beel. 'E told me zat before you zed somezing to 'im, 'e was veree arrogant and self-ceentered. So, zank you."
Hermione had not intended for Bill to take her words from the summer before the Quidditch World Cup so seriously, but he evidently had. She had only meant to get back at him for his rude comments about her.
All in all, the day had been amazing. She got to spend it with Charlie, and apparently the entire Weasley clan and their friends were happy for them. Well, barring Ron that is.
Even Aunt Muriel had talked to her, and declared her "a dear, sweet girl with a good head on her shoulders".
- - -
When Charlie arrived home in Romania, he unpacked and went into his office to check if Mick had sent out the Dragon Acquisition forms like he had promised to.
As he looked through the papers on his desk, he became distracted when his eyes landed on the magical safe in the corner.
He left what he was doing and walked over to the safe. He opened it.
Inside sat a small box. Charlie picked it up and opened it.
Resting against black velvet sat a gold ring with a round blue diamond surrounded by tiny white diamonds.
"Soon," he muttered to himself, closing the box. "Soon."
He placed the box back inside the safe and shut it.
10 points if you can name a fictional character with red braids...any fictional character.
"100 Ways" has a competition. The winner gets 100 points for their submission (see the latest chapter for details)...200 if I have trouble breathing from laughter. I will also post the winning submission at the end of the next chapter in that story, the author will of course get full credit. Happy Writing.