20 July 1995

"Dad? Here is fine. I can walk," Hermione said, consulting Ron's note. It had mentioned that the park was not far from her mysterious destination. "I think this is as close as you'll be able to get." Her father frowned, but pulled the car over to the curb. They were beside a small play park in the heart of London. Hermione pushed open her door, carrying Crookshanks' basket. The cat growled disconsolately.

It was still blazingly hot, though it was getting on into early evening. The grass in the park was brown and dry. Two little children, a brother and a sister, played on the swings in the sandpit. Hermione's parents climbed out of the car. Her mother was fanning herself with her handbag, and her father was unlocking the boot.

Hermione handed Crookshanks' basket to her mother and helped her father pull her heavy school trunk from the car.

"How are you going to walk with this?" Mr. Granger asked, frowning at it on the curb.

"I can make it," Hermione panted, fanning herself. "Ron said it's not far."

Her father chuckled and patted Hermione's hair. "If you say so," he told her.

"Bye, Mummy," Hermione said, giving her mother a tight hug. "Bye, Dad."

Her father planted a kiss in her hair. "You're sure you'll be all right here?" He looked around the little park.

"You're still welcome to come to New York," he told Hermione. "Might not be too fun, if we're in the seminars all day, but…"

Hermione shrugged. "You two should go without me. There's—well, there's a lot going on right now, with school and everything. I should be with Harry and Ron, helping."

"We'll miss you, baby," said her mother, pulling Hermione in for another hug. "If you really need us, you can call the hotel, I put the number in your bag." Hermione smiled. Her mother never seemed to remember that wizards did not use telephones, and she would be rather hard-put to find one.

"Of course I will," said Hermione. "Skiing over winter holiday, right?" she asked, looking hopefully at her parents.

"You've got it, sweetheart, can't wait," said her father. He bent over and lifted Hermione's school trunk so that it sat on its end. "Call if you need us."

"Love you," Hermione said, giving her father one last hug and kissing her mother. "I'll write when you're back."

"Us too," her mother said.

"Be good." Her father winked at Hermione, and she smiled.

Hermione watched her parents climb into their car and waved one last time as they pulled away from the curb and rounded the corner at the end of the street. Hermione sighed, a little sadly. No matter what, if they were arguing, or she was angry with them, it always hurt to leave her parents. And this had been a remarkably nice few weeks.

She reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a neatly folded piece of parchment, Ron's letter. She had managed to find the park. The next part of her instructions was to open the enclosed, sealed note that bore Professor Dumbledore's handwriting.

Hermione carefully tore it open and frowned.

The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London.

Grimmauld Place? Hermione frowned, looking all around her. There were four street signs in her sight. None of them said Grimmauld Place. Hermione rolled her eyes, bent to pick up Crookshanks, and began dragging her trunk down the street. The two little children in the park were staring at her. Their mother called them, and the boy and girl scurried away.

Hermione continued up the block, looking for Grimmauld Place. She could not see anyone to ask for directions, and turned around to walk past the park again, in the opposite direction. Hermione did not normally grow anxious without reason, but she had no way of contacting Ron, and twilight was beginning to fall. Streetlamps were flickering to life as the sky turned from a burning orange to dark blue.

Hermione pushed her sweaty hair from her eyes and lowered her trunk onto the ground, trying to think of how to deal with this situation. She held Crookshanks' basket on her lap and sat on the trunk, chewing her lip.

A sudden movement caught Hermione's eye, and she jerked her head up, leaping to her feet. A shadowy figure had appeared seemingly from nowhere on the opposite street corner, and had broken into a brisk walk down a narrow alleyway. Hermione could just see a shock of bright red hair. It was too short to be Ron, but…

Hermione gave a sigh of relief and hefted her trunk, hurrying across the road, dodging two cars frantically. The trunk bounced behind her, but she was intent on catching up with Fred—or George—it was one of them, to judge by the height and build.

He was just reaching the far end of the alleyway when Hermione got to it. "Fred!" she called, panting and heaving. "George!"

The figure turned and Hermione stopped, doubling over as she panted. She waved one arm above her head to signal for him to stop.

"Is that Hermione Granger?" asked an unfamiliar voice.

Hermione's heart leapt and she straightened up quickly. The man was advancing towards her warily. He had to be a Weasley—Charlie, if she wasn't wrong—he was short and stocky, like the twins, and his hair was the exact same red as all the rest of his siblings. But there was something different about him—he was like a very handsome combination of every one of his brothers.

"You are Hermione Granger, aren't you?" he asked again, from about ten feet away.

Hermione nodded, and he smiled warmly at her. Hermione blushed and had a sudden flash of what she must look like—sweaty-faced, hair wild, and wearing only and old t-shirt and shorts with her ancient trainers.

"Y-you're Charlie, right?" she asked, still panting. "Charlie Weasley?"

"I am," he said, frowning. "What are you doing here?"

"Ron told me to…to look for the play park, and then open Dumbledore's note. Is it under a Fidelius Charm?" asked Hermione. Charlie nodded. "I thought so, it only makes sense," Hermione said.

Charlie smiled a little. "All right, well, do you know where you're going now?"

"Yes," Hermione said. "Well, I've read the note, but I've got no idea where I am."

"Good, give it here." Charlie took the note and touched his wand to it. It went up in flames before their eyes, and Charlie pointed his wand at Hermione's trunk, levitating it off the ground. "Come on, you're being rescued," he told her with a grin.

"Oh, thank you—"

"No problem, just start walking. That way," he said, jerking his chin down the alleyway. Hermione blushed again and picked up Crookshanks' basket. The cat made a loud spitting noise.

"Make a left at the end," Charlie said, and Hermione did so. Charlie came up on her right to walk beside her, scrutinizing her carefully.

"So you're Ron's friend," he said. It was not a question. He sounded…approving?

Hermione frowned slightly. "And Harry's, and Ginny's," she said, pushing her hair behind her ear.

"Well, it's nice to meet you," Charlie said, grinning at her. He had a lovely smile, Hermione thought in a flash—then she shook her hair back, and smiled as well.

"And you," she said. Charlie didn't seem to hear.

"Okay, stop here," he told her. Hermione turned to face two brickwork façades, one with a number eleven, the other with a number thirteen. She frowned and turned around. The house on the other side of the street was number twenty-one—all the houses were lined up numerically, except for these two.

But, as she and Charlie stood on the pavement, Hermione saw the houses begin to move—completely unbeknownst to the people in numbers eleven and thirteen, an entire house was springing up between them. The dark, tall building had a number twelve on its bricks.

Hermione smiled to herself.

"After you," Charlie, said, magically lifting the trunk again. Hermione climbed the steps, Charlie on her heels, and raised one hand to the doorknocker, which, she noticed, was in the shape of a coiled snake.

"Ah, wait, don't do that!" Charlie cried frantically. "Just push it open, it should be unlocked."

Alarmed, Hermione reached for the handle and turned it. The door swung open, and a veritable cloud of dust puffed out at them. Hermione coughed.

"In you go," Charlie told her with a grin. "But be quiet."

Once they had made it inside, Hermione found herself in a narrow, dark hallway lined with what she could just make out as paintings. They were in what looked to be a very old, abandoned house. Everything was dark and musty, and the silence was unnerving. Charlie closed the door, lowered her trunk softly, and turned to her.

"Follow me," he whispered. "We'll go to the kitchen." Hermione helped Charlie move her trunk away from the door, and set Crookshanks' basket on top of it. Charlie put one arm around her to point her in the direction of the hallway again, and Hermione allowed herself to be led through a doorway, where a bright light assaulted her adjusting eyes.

"Hermione!" squealed a high voice, and a second later Ginny had launched herself into Hermione's arms, knocking her backwards into Charlie, who caught her and grinned.

"Oh, Hermione dear," said Mrs. Weasley, hurrying over to give her a hug as well. Hermione felt Charlie squeeze past her and smiled as he walked away.

Mrs. Weasley pulled Hermione by the hand so that she was standing at the front of the room, before a long table full of people Hermione—for the most part, at least—did not recognize. She spied Sirius and Professor Lupin, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape, Professor Moody, and Ron's oldest brother, Bill, as well as his father, and smiled at them. "We're so glad you're here safely—"

A chorus of greetings met Hermione's nervous wave. Sirius nodded at her, and Professor Lupin beamed.

"Hermione, dear, Ron's upstairs in his room—he'll be so happy to see you," Mrs. Weasley told her. "We've got to start our meeting, but you'll get to meet everyone later. Ginny—"

"We're going, we're going," Ginny groaned, tossing her long hair behind her. "Come on, Hermione, I'll show you our room. Where's your trunk?"

"In the hallway," Charlie called. Hermione smiled at him and waved.

"Thanks for coming to my rescue," she said, and Charlie laughed, and Ginny frowned confusedly.

"Anytime," he answered.

"Out, girls," said Mrs. Weasley, shooing Hermione and Ginny out the door, closing it behind them. Hermione was still smiling to herself when they arrived in the hallway.

"What are you grinning at?" Ginny asked.

"Nothing," Hermione said.

Ginny arched one eyebrow as she knelt and unfastened the buckles on Crookshanks' basket. The orange, grumpy-faced cat gave Hermione a very disdainful look, allowed Ginny to scratch his ears once, and took off through the house, undoubtedly smelling a tasty rodent snack hiding somewhere. Then Hermione picked up the empty basket and she and Ginny each took one end of her trunk, carrying it up the stairs.

On the second floor landing, they collapsed in a heap.

"Take a few more classes, Hermione, really, go on," Ginny panted, feebly trying to swat Hermione.

"Be—quiet," Hermione answered. "Is this our floor?"

"Huh-uh," Ginny said, shaking her head. "One more up."

Hermione groaned. They had both been quiet for several minutes, catching their breath, when—

"Ginny?"

"Uh?"

"How old is Charlie?"

"Twenty-one—wait, no, twenty-two," Ginny told her. "He'll be twenty-three in December."

"Oh," Hermione said, wrinkling her nose as she stared at the dark ceiling.

"Why?" Ginny asked, propping herself up on her elbow to frown at Hermione.

"No reason," Hermione said quickly, turning bright pink.

"Then come on, let's get this upstairs and then we'll go find Ron."

"Oh...right, Ron," Hermione said, sitting up and shaking herself.

That night was the first time Hermione (wearing a very pretty green top instead of her ratty t-shirt and shorts) had ever worn lip-gloss to dinner.


Teehee. Well, if the Weasley brother you know best is annoying, what's a girl to do but find another cute one to crush on? As always, this is a canon fic; Hermione and Ron do belong together. But I think it's impossible to believe that Hermione never had a crush. Who's to say it wasn't on another Weasley boy? I was like that when I was fifteen hehehe. My prompt for round two of the 34 Prompt Challenge! A Hermione/Charlie romance of some kind! Hope you like.

Lucy