Family Ties

A/N: The first part is fifth year, second is self-explanatory.

I am really sorry about the lateness of this Christmas fic. It has been finished, but I haven't had a working computer to type it. Sorry. I love reviewers. Please review.

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Ever since Hermione spent her first Christmas with Ron, she had wanted a Weasley sweater of her own. A sign that Mrs. Weasley truly acknowledged her as part of Ron's circle.

She thought about stealing one of Ron's.

She had mad sweater envy.

Now, sharing Christmas with Ron and his family, she assumed that she would receive her Weasley sweater. But to no avail. She was stuck enviously eyeing Harry's sweaters every year.

Why hadn't Mrs. Weasley given her a sweater? She was Ron's best friend too! Somehow, though, Hermione knew it wasn't only Ron's circle she wanted to be included in, but also Ron's family. She wanted Mrs. Weasley to consider her one of her own.

She sighed.

Maybe she just wasn't meant to be part of the Weasley family.

Maybe.

--

It was her first Christmas season with Ron as a couple. The first season since the war. And it was wonderful. At the Burrow, she was accepted as "sister" and "aunt". She was almost a Weasley. She might as well have been if it wasn't for her glaring omission from the sweater list. She wasn't a Weasley yet. She wouldn't be official until she received the sweater.

As she passed through the almost empty living room, Ron pulled her into his lap. "Where are you going, beautiful?"

"Nowhere, really. Just wandering." She snuggled into his arms.

Mrs. Weasley walked through the living room, smiling warmly at the couple. "You two are picturesque."

"Yeah," Ron said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. "I've been training, Mum. Didn't you know?"

Mrs. Weasley shook her head, amused. "I don't know why Hermione tolerates you."

Hermione laughed. "I don't know what I'd do without him. Love him too much, I suppose. How foolish of me."

"That does cause a problem, doesn't it?" she said, continuing on her way.

Ron kissed Hermione on the neck. "You're a part of the family."

"Not quite," she said, turning to look at him. "I haven't received my sweater yet."

"That doesn't mean anything," he lied, his eyes not meeting hers.

"Uh-huh. I believe you. Look me in the eye and tell me that."

He looked directly into her eyes. "It means nothing."

"What means nothing?"

"The sweater."

"The sweater what?"

"The sweater means absolutely nothing." He looked away immediately.

"Oh yeah. I really believe you now."

"I'm sure you'll get one this year."

Hermione felt hope bubble in her chest. "You really think so?"

"Yes," he said, genuinely.

She beamed and vacated his lap. "I'm off to the loo."

"Don't fall in."

"I'll try. Thanks for your support."

"Welcome."

Christmas Eve brought a new excitement. Teddy's first Christmas. Ginny and Harry's first Christmas together. The whole family was there. With the exception of one Fred Weasley.

There was a tangible sadness. The twins were split, but George cheerful, despite the expectations of his loved ones. He was the life of the party. But the absence of Fred caused a hole in the loving atmosphere. Mrs. Weasley had a watery look from time to time. Ron tensed in the shoulders when encountering something that reminded him of the late twin. Hermione often tried to return him to his jolly demeanor before he could introvert.

However, the happiness heavily outweighed the despair. The Weasleys remained the cheeriest people Hermione had been privileged to share the holidays with.

The festivities and crowd overwhelmed her, though, for she was used to smaller crowds. She sneaked away from the rest of the family into Ron's room, book in hand. Sitting on his bed, she filled her senses with the world of Maggie Quinn: sulfur, high school, and Justin MacCallum. A chivalrous prude, a white knight in shining armor who made Maggieand often Hermioneweak in the knees. He was nothing like Ron, and essentially, Hermione couldn't imagine being with him because of it. Although Ron had many protective moments, he was far from chivalrous. And that was exactly the way she loved him.

As she paused to ponder this, she heard him calling her name. "Hermione? Where are you? You okay?" Her heart melted. It was so sweet. He truly did have his moments. She pretended to be deeply involved in her novel. She couldn't even make out the words in anticipation. The door opened and she looked up a few moments later. "There you are. I've been looking for you," he said as he crossed his small room.

She lowered her gaze to her book. "Have you?"

"Yes. I've missed you down there." He bent and kissed her cheek.

"Hmmm," she said, acting disinterested. In response, he slipped to his knees beside her on the bed and his lips slid to her neck, suckling on it. She kept her eyes on her book in her right hand. He moved the opening of her buttoned V-neck sweater to brush his lips against her collarbone. If she was distracted before, she was lost now. He came back to her cheek and whispered softly, directly into her ear, "I want you." And proceeded to tongue it, bringing her earlobe in and out.

The book slipped from her hand. She brought her fingers to the back of his head, lacing them in his hair. He pressed her into the bed and kissed her lips with vigor, his fingers lightly tracing her curves. She was putty in his hands. He caressed the skin of her stomach, leaving a tingling trail of heat.

Then, almost as suddenly as he had begun, he kissed her lips and, climbing onto his feet, offered his hand to her.

"They'll be wondering where we are."

The party downstairs had been the furthest thing from Hermione's mind. She, in fact, couldn't care less if they knew where she was. She just wanted his fingers on her intimate skin. "Who cares?"

"Do you really someone to find us up here in that position?"

She didn't answer.

"Can't you wait 'til we go home?"

"Can we go home now?"

He paused, obviously battling his own desire to do just that. Then he smirked. "Do you want your sweater?"

And that was how Hermione found herself in the Weasley crowd for the rest of the night.

But almost as if he had read her mind, he kept his fingers under the back of her sweater all night. In constant contact with her lower back, very intimate skin.

Early the next morning, Hermione woke Ron up and the migrated to the deserted living room. Snuggling tightly on a small couch, she was contented completely.

"You know you're part of my family no matter what, right? You'll always be part of my family."

She fought an overwhelming urge to swoon. "You promise?"

"Always."

She burrowed herself further into his embrace. And feeling unconditionally loved and seeing good things for the day, she fell asleep.

Her hands shook as she sat in front of her opened presents, hours later. It was time for Mrs. Weasley to hand out the Christmas sweaters. Ron grabbed one of her hands and leaned into her, whispering, "It'll be fine. You'll get one."

"And if I don't?" she whispered back.

"You'll always be mine. My family."

She genuinely smiled, her fear beginning to slip away.

The first sweater went to Teddy, then to Fleur. Then it came to her hands. A green sweater with a big "H" on the front. She grinned, her eyes filling with tears. Her sweater. It was finally hers. She was a Weasley. Happiness threatened to explode out of her. "Oh Mrs. Weasley, I--"

"Hermione, dear, would you pass that to Harry?"

Hermione froze. "Of course," she said, handing it back to him. It was okay. She's get hers next. Honorary members were going first. But the next went to Bill and Charlie after that. And her eyes filled with tears. She wasn't going to get a sweater. She wasn't a Weasley. Sweaters were passed to every member of the Weasley family. She didn't get one. Ron clenched next to her as he received his sweater.

"Are you okay?" she asked, trying not to sound whiny.

"Am I okay? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"I can't believe this. I guess being my best friend for eight years doesn't mean anything." His ears were turning red. He was intensely angry. "Oh, and being the known love of my life for, oh, forever doesn't count for anything either."

"Ron, don't. It's"

"Don't say it's okay like it's not anything. She knows how much we care for you. How hard is it to knit one sweater for the only girl I've ever wanted? Is that too much to ask for?"

Ginny and Harry were looking at him curiously. "Ron," she said, placing a soothing hand on his arm. "Calm down. Really. Don't make a scene. Especially not about this. It's really okay."

He looked at her in wonder. "I love you. I want everyone to know how important you are to this family."

"They know. What's most important to me is being in your family. And you've already given me that promise. It's fine." It wasn't really. She desperately wanted Mrs. Weasley's approval. So that wasn't strictly true. But she wanted to be Ron's family more than anything else. So that promise would do for now.

She resolved to be satisfied with Ron's commitment.

After a few moments, Mrs. Weasley said, "Oh dear! I've forgotten something!"

Probably lunch. Or maybe she's off to crush someone else's dreams.

And she came to Hermione's side. "Here, Hermione, love. Your sweater."

Maroon filled her sight. Just like Ron's, except with the letter "H".

H for Hermione.

"I really don't know how I forgot it. Silly of me. It must have--"

Hermione interrupted her words with a hug worthy of Hagrid. "Thank you," she said, with tears flooding her vision. "Thank you."

"Well, there's no need to thank me, dear. You're family."

The tears flowed down. "Thank you."

She was a Weasley. Mrs. Weasley had accepted her into the family.

So mostly, it was a bonus when Ron proposed at 12:03 that night.

Okay. It was a pretty big deal.