LbN: Shout out to my crazies in the Teachers' Lounge! Chelsey, this one's for you! :)
Hermione sat in the corner of the living room, watching as Harry and Ron entertained Teddy. She tried to look happy and entertained, but it was hard. It was the first Christmas without her parents, and she wished Ron would pay a little more attention to her. Or any of them, really. It was weird being the one who was part of the family, and yet wasn't.
"I'm going to go outside for a bit," she told the boys.
"Sure," Ron said absently.
She resisted the urge to sigh. She hadn't expected much more than that. Walking outside, she could see the light on in Arthur's shed. Probably helping George with something or other. She sat on the porch swing and let her mind wander.
Hermione jumped. "Oh, hi. I didn't know anyone was out here."
"I just Flooed over from a friend's house. Mum doesn't like it when I smoke in the house, so I came out."
"It's been a while since I last saw you," she said, smiling.
He stared at her for a long moment, before realization dawned. "Hermione?"
"Didn't really get to see you after the battle, since you were gone by the time we got back with Harry. How's Norbeta?"
He laughed and sat down next to her. "Fiesty as ever. You don't mind, do you?" he asked, pulling out a thin cigar.
She shook her head.
"They were worried about Death Eaters on the fringe using dragons against us," he explained. "That's why I left. Had to do post-battle surveillance."
"How have you been since then?"
"Doing as well as I could hope. You?"
She started to say "fine" but couldn't quite manage it.
Charlie smiled. "Still waiting for my brother to come round? Good luck with that. We Weasleys have incredibly thick skulls."
"That's for sure."
He stamped out his smoke on the ground and held out a hand to her. "Shall we rejoin them? I'm sure they're wondering where we've gone."
"I doubt it for me." Still, she accepted his hand and walked with him.
"I know how it feels to be an outsider in this family," he said quietly. "So does George, and so did Fred. It's something you learn to cope with after a while, but if you ever need an ear…you know where to find me." He gave her a quick hug as they reentered the living room.
George walked toward them carrying two large glasses full of some sort of yellow and purple liquid. "George Weasley's Yuletide Punch. We're toasting to Fred in a second. And no, I haven't done anything to them."
Arthur smiled around at them once everyone had their drinks. "To my son Fred, and to all those who couldn't be with us this year. Happy Christmas."
Hermione knew there was something different the moment she woke up. She felt tired, and kind of sore. And the body next to her was…definitely the wrong Weasley. She shot up in bed, mouth dropping open in horror as she gazed down at Charlie Weasley. The memories came rushing back to her.
Three large glasses of George's punch.
Harry and Ron wandering off to talk about Auror training.
Decorating cookies with Charlie.
More playful banter.
Charlie asking her to breakfast at his hotel the next day.
Turning up at Charlie's hotel, crying.
She tried to stem the rising feelings of guilt and panic. Quietly, she slipped from bed an gathered her clothes. She couldn't do it, though…. she couldn't just leave without saying anything. It wasn't fair to him. She dressed quickly and shook him gently. "Charlie?"
He grunted and rolled over, then turned back quickly. He had the same look of surprise she was sure she'd had a few minutes previous. "Tell me we didn't," he croaked.
"If the 'best orgasm of my life' feelings I woke up with are any indication…I'd say yes, we did."
He looked smug for a moment, before sobering again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for…."
"I know. Me either."
"He's my brother," Charlie mumbled.
"I'm not going to tell him. It was…." She tried to say 'nothing', but it wouldn't come out for some reason.
"That's fine. I'm…I'm okay with that plan."
"I have to go."
Hermione grabbed the mail of the window ledge and flipped through it absently. Bills, coupons, and junk magazines. And a letter…from Charlie. Her heart pounded a little faster as she opened it.
I know we left on awkward terms, but I don't want to continue that way. I want to be friends without our guilt getting in the way. We'll be seeing more of each other in the coming months, as I'm moving back to England, and I don't want us to be strangers. I don't know if things have gotten better with you and my family, but my offer still stands. I'll always be here to listen. Warm wishes,
She read the letter over three more times, nerves calming each time her eye reached the bottom of the page. She smiled. It could work. They could put that night behind them and be friends. It would never happen again.
It happened again. And again. And again.
When Charlie transferred to the Dragon Containment Division in England.
When Hermione got a promotion to the Junior Head of Magical Law Enforcement.
When Charlie got sick and she went over to take care of him.
When Ron backed out of a charity benefit in favor of a European Quidditch match with Harry and Ginny.
And so on. And every time they felt guilty. But every time they made their excuses.
"I was lonely."
"It was the last time."
"I'm so stressed. I need this."
"It'll never happen again."
But it kept happening. And they couldn't bring themselves to stop.
Every once in a while, when Ron was home and not trying to be Harry's twin, she would feel the guilt come back in full force. Sometimes, he would look at her, and she could swear that he knew…something. But he never said a word.
And she didn't either.
"You're pregnant," Ron said. It wasn't a question. He smoothed her hair back into a ponytail as she heaved into the toilet again.
"I…I think so. Ron, I—"
"As long as you and the baby are healthy, that's all I care about," he said hollowly. "I'll…I'll see if I can get you an appointment today at St. Mungo's. Unless you've already had one?"
"Okay," he said, turning to leave.
"Ron," she called. She didn't know what else to say, but she didn't want him to walk away.
He stopped, but didn't turn back to her. "Whose is it?" he whispered.
He turned then, disbelief etched on his face. "My…brother?" He let out a strangled laugh. "Really?"
"It was…he was always there, Ron. He…listened to me. Paid attention."
Ron sat on the bed. He was crying silently, but obviously trying to stop it. "You…did Harry ever tell you what happened when I destroyed the locket?"
She shook her head.
"Riddle revealed himself to me…in a way. He knew my deepest fears…and he showed them to me. He was you, and Harry. And it was always my fear that I wasn't needed. That you wanted him more than me. I didn't think anything could ever be worse than you leaving me for him, or cheating with him. But this is. This is so much worse, because I would have understood it if it was Harry. I wouldn't have liked it, but I would've understood," he said, voice breaking.
He held up a hand. "I need some air. I'll make sure St. Mungo's makes space for you today or tomorrow."
The brothers stared at each other over their drinks.
"So," Ron said conversationally. "How long have you been fucking my girlfriend exactly?"
"Since last Christmas," Charlie answered quietly. "Ron, I swear—"
"I don't want to hear it." He sounded tired…defeated. "She's yours."
"Hermione. I'm giving you my blessing."
"Ron, that's not what I want."
"Really? Then what do you want?"
"I want you two to work out."
"You make her happy."
"I'm no good with relationships."
"Just screwing them up for other people."
"Oh come on, Ron!" Charlie snapped. "How much have you shown her that you wanted her over the past six months? I'm not excusing what I did at all. I just want her to be happy. With you. I want you to forgive her."
"I'll try. But that doesn't mean I want to be with her still. She needs you. She loves you. I can tell."
"I can just tell," he said, shrugging. "And I expect her feelings have grown since finding out she's pregnant with your spawn."
Charlie froze with his glass halfway to his mouth. "What?"
"She's pregnant. And it's yours."
"I…I can't…" he stammered.
"You have to."
She'd never felt more alone than in those first two months. Ron, Harry and Ginny refused to speak to her. Charlie left for Romania again, not ready to be a father. She kept to herself at work, and took care of herself as much as she could. But she was lonely—lonelier than she'd ever been. Which was why, when she went for her three-month check up, she was so happy to see Luna. The story had been all over the paper, but Luna hadn't mentioned it. She did offer to stay with Hermione though, to help her, and Hermione had accepted.
"I think my feet are swelling," Hermione said, pensively. "I'd be able to tell better if I could actually see them, of course."
"Here, pillows," Luna said. "Keep them elevated."
The younger woman smiled and handed her an envelope. "It's from Charlie."
"He's in Romania, training dragons, doing well, hopes I'm okay, and wishes things had been different," she said before opening the letter. Her eyes darted across the page quickly. "See? I could teach Divination."
"I don't think so," Luna said, pouring two glasses of lemonade. "Your wardrobe is far too normal. I think sequins and beads are a requirement."
Hermione laughed. "I think you're right."
"What will you name her?"
"Haven't really thought about it."
"Get a move on. You've only got two weeks left. And that's if she waits."
11 Years Later
"Where do you think I'll be Sorted?"
"Luxanna Jade Granger, if you ask me that one more time…" Hermione said, laughing.
"But I just want to know where you think I'll be!"
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again…I'll be proud of you no matter which House you're in. But for the record, I'm pretty sure they'll be putting you in Slytherin…. Now, do you have everything?"
"Yes, Mummy," Lux said, rolling her eyes and grinning. "My things are all on the train, and I have my school bag here." She tapped the bag at her side. It had a Romanian Silverhorn dragon stitched onto the front—a birthday present from Charlie.
"Where's your jumper?"
"In my bag. Stop worrying!"
Hermione smiled, remembering how nervous she'd been her first year at Hogwarts. For the millionth time since her daughter was born, she figured she must get her confidence from Charlie.
"Aunt Luna! You made it!" Lux screeched.
The blond hugged the girl and nodded to the train. "Before we have to Floo you to Hogwarts.
The girl hugged her mom one last time before hopping on board.
"She's going to be great," Hermione mused aloud.
"She gets it from you, you know. That strength."
"Let's hope she doesn't get a few other things from me in the mix…." Hermione muttered.
"Do you regret it?"
She smiled and waved at her daughter as the train pulled away. "No. Not one bit."