A/N Addendum: I'm finally getting around to posting this on my own profile. To the grammar Nazis out there, this is totally unbeta'd. I admit I forgot about the exchange and banged it out in a weekend. It does jump around the timeline, but I'm too lazy to fix it. Hopefully my readers will enjoy it anyway :D
A/N: I hope you like this, dear. I liked your prompts, and I started with one and then followed a rabbit trail, then another one, then another one and finally ended up with the final product. I will warn that it kind of jumps around, time-wise.
A New Life
"We have to tell them, eventually."
"I know… I know we do. And we will, just… not today." He replied, snuggling closer to her.
"Well, we need to tell them before Christmas. It will be awkward enough as it is." Hermione replied, making herself comfortable in his long arms. She worked a hand upwards to brush back a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. He grinned and hugged her briefly before letting her go to roll over onto his back, arms behind his head.
As Hermione laid her head on his chest and softly rubbed the soft red down on his stomach she thought about the past few months. She'd been surprised at how fast their liaisons had become routine, and how quickly she came to look forward to their rendezvous. She smiled softly as she felt, rather than heard, him start softly snoring.
Ron and Hermione sat across from each other at the breakfast table of the Burrow, each reading a letter that a ministry owl had deposited in front of them. Hermione had a concerned crease between her brow, Ron a jubilant smile on his face.
"What does your say, then?" Hermione asked, finally noticing the beaming smile on her boyfriend's face.
"The Chudley Cannons want me to come play beater for them," Ron replied, handing the letter over for her to read herself. "Apparently the scout was present during our last game, sixth year, and has been trying to get in touch since then. Obviously, he couldn't…" Ron trailed off as he noticed Hermione's almost imperceptible shiver. "What's yours about?"
"The private investigator I hired to find Monica and Wendell Wilkins has found their current residence."
"Who are they and why does it matter enough for you to hire someone to find them?" Ron asked around the toast and egg he had just taken a bite out of.
"Honestly, Ron, swallow first. They are the identities I gave my parents when I obliviated them last year. I'd like to find them as soon as possible. I guess I should put my things in order, if I'm going to take a trip to Australia."
"Same here, if I'm going to Chudleigh next weekend."
"So it's safe to assume you're not going with me, then?" Hermione asked, although she wasn't overly surprised. As hard as she and Ron had tried to have a relationship, she felt they didn't seem to have any kind of spark, unless they were arguing, and she wasn't sure she wanted to spend the rest of her life constantly at odds over the breakfast table.
"Uh, I guess not," Ron replied, scrubbing the back of his neck with his hand. He wasn't sure what to say. Hermione didn't seem overly upset by the idea, which was good, but he wasn't overly upset about her not accompanying him, either. He thought that dating Hermione was what he'd wanted for the past half-year, ever since that light had gone through his chest, but they couldn't seem to find any common ground. Every time they even tried to do something fun, they bickered over what constituted an enjoyable date. If he was honest with himself, he looked forward to a weekend without her company, and it seemed she felt the same. All things considered, he still didn't like the idea of her travelling alone, and said as much."
"I know," Hermione replied, "I don't really like the idea of going alone, either, in case something goes wrong. Do you think Harry would want to go?"
"I think you'll have a hard time separating Harry from my sister for more than about five minutes, really," Ron replied and they grinned at each other. Since the end of the funerals, Harry and Ginny hadn't been seen outside of Grimmauld Place, which Ginny had made it her personal mission to renovate and clean, except for meals.
"Well, who would you suggest, then?" Hermione replied, genuinely curious as to whom Ron would consider a safe travelling partner.
"Well, I would say Bill, because of his experience with mind magic and curses, but I don't want to risk my stones by interrupting Fleur's vacation. What about Charlie?"
"I suppose so, if he's agreeable. All I really need is a wand to cover my back in case I run into any enemies," Hermione replied, shrugging. "Do you want to ask or should I?"
"I will," Ron replied as he picked up both of their plates and set them in the basin with the other breakfast dishes and flicked his wand at the pile, setting them to washing themselves. "After all, if this hadn't come up," he gestured to his own letter, "I'd be going with you myself."
Hermione and Charlie stood in line at the Australian Ministry's international apparition office, the silence between them sick and awkward. Charlie cleared his throat, shuffled his feet, and said quietly,
"I'm sorry it took so long for me to get to mum's house…"
Hermione, relieved that he'd finally broken the silence that had plagued them since leaving the Burrow three hours earlier, answered overeagerly,
"Oh, it's fine. Ron was going to try to get a weekend off, but I didn't want him to miss any practices."
"The Cannons certainly need all the practice they can get," Charlie muttered under his breath as he handed his wand to the witch behind the desk to be checked. He grinned when he heard the almost imperceptible snort from his curly-haired companion.
True to his word, Ron had written Charlie the same day, asking him if he would be willing to travel with Hermione as soon as possible. Unfortunately, at the time Ginny had borrowed Pig to send a letter of her own to Neville asking about some rare plant for the greenhouse she was planning, and Ron had had to send his letter with Errol. True to form, Errol collapsed halfway to Romania, and took his time recovering under the kind ministration of a friendly witch in Austria. Charlie didn't receive the request until three weeks after it was written, and it took another week to fill out the appropriate paperwork to use his vacation time. Charlie was pulled out of his musing by the quiet reply,
"All the practice in the world couldn't help that team win a game. I'm just happy that Ron has found something to do he enjoys."
Hermione accepted her wand and temporary visa from the welcome witch with a quiet thanks and the pair headed for the doors of the ministry, then headed towards the address the detective had provided for Hermione.
Charlie awkwardly held Hermione's hand across the small table as the waitress set two steaming cups of tea down, glanced at them concernedly, then swept away to tend to her other tables.
"I'm sorry that didn't turn out the way you wanted," He began, not knowing quite what to say. Hermione saved him by wiping her misty eyes with the back of her hand and replying, voice cracking,
"It's alright. I expected they would be upset and angry with me. Honestly, in my worst nightmares I expected to be completely disowned," she hiccoughed, then chuckled at herself before continuing, "I honestly didn't expect hugs and understanding. I certainly didn't expect them to give me our house." Hermione gently touched her beaded bag, which now contained the deed to her childhood home along with the library she toted with her on a regular basis.
"I'm happy for you, Hermione, really," Charlie replied and smiled while scrubbing the back of his neck in the same charming gesture as his brother and father. "What do you want to do now? I've the entire month off."
Charlie wasn't sure why he'd volunteered that information, but he found he wanted to spend more time with this smart, kind woman who'd hinted at a wicked sense of humor. He couldn't quite understand why his little brother would rather spend his time having quaffles thrown at his head than spend time with her. Shrugging internally, Charlie decided it was Ron's loss, and gave his little brother no more thought, focusing instead on the woman across from him. Yes, he definitely wanted to spend more of his free time with her.
"Oh, well, I didn't expect you to take that much off. If you want to visit your parents or maybe a girlfriend…" Hermione trailed off uncertainly. She was flattered that the handsome redhead was willing to spend his holiday with her, although she wasn't sure why he would want to spend his free time with a silly swot like herself.
Charlie took both hands in his and smiled disarmingly at her as he replied, grinning,
"I don't have a girlfriend, Hermione. And I saw my parents not that long ago," His face fell briefly, recalling that he'd last seen his family at Fred's funeral, and giving a brief thought to his happy-go-lucky brother, continued, "I took the time off to spend with you. Since your errand didn't take as long as you thought it would, is there anything you would like to do? I'm at your disposal." Charlie thought he could envision Fred giving him a wink and a thumbs-up.
"Well, it would be nice to get away from the constant stress of day-to-day life for a little while. Being a war-hero is a lot more stressful than I thought it would be. I suppose I understand now why Harry is so temperamental," Hermione chuckled, then fell quiet as she thought to herself where she'd like to go before continuing, "How's your international apparating skills?"
Hermione sat up in the bed and stretched, her messy curls falling down her back, brushing against the tan she'd gained over the past three weeks. Always the responsible one, she'd sent owls to both Harry and Molly as soon as they'd popped into the international apparition office of the French Magical government. As soon as both letters were winging their way to their recipients, they'd inquired about magic-friendly hotels close to Cannes.
The pair spent the first week wandering around the city, trying new food and wandering into shops that sparked their interest. Hermione found an interesting companion in Charlie. She'd never had much chance to talk with him, having only met him during holidays and order-related events, with a houseful of other people taking both of their attention. She'd always assumed he would be somewhat dull, that the only subject he'd be familiar with would be the dragons he worked with. She was pleasantly surprised to find Charlie was quite intelligent in his own right, and well-read in both magical and muggle literature. He explained that the dragon wranglers ended up with a lot of downtime because they worked a rotation schedule with another team, but everyone was required to stay at the reservation in case of emergencies.
Hermione was also fascinated by his description of the Carpathian Reservation, which housed all kinds of endangered and dangerous magical animals. She thought she would quite like to see it, and possibly work there one day. She found it interesting and appropriate that one of Charlie's favorite places to read was in the building that housed the snidgets.
Hermione made her way to the bathroom for her morning ablutions, humming. She was about halfway through her shower when she felt Charlie's hard body slide in behind her. He gently began to work shampoo into her hair as he continued the morning's conversation.
"You're worried about Ron's reaction."
"A little bit, yes," Hermione hummed in response, his ministrations turning her legs to pudding.
"I wouldn't stress too much over it," Charlie replied, "I had a letter from him yesterday. He went on and on about the groupies that hang around the team. I think he'll be okay."
"Oh, he did, did he?" Hermione responded hotly, and then forcibly calmed herself. She could hardly get angry at Ron while in the shower with his brother. They had apparently moved on, and she was alright with that.
"Charlie, did you ever expect to be here, doing this?" Hermione asked, leaning back against him, allowing the spray of the shower to flow over both of them. Charlie knew it was a rhetorical question, and smiled at the thought of when he realized he'd fallen for her.
Two and a half weeks after they'd found the hotel, checked in and made themselves comfortable, Charlie had taken off on a solo walk along the beach, leaving Hermione laying on one of the beds, reading. They had agreed that sometimes they needed their own time and space, and could do their own thing, no questions asked. As Charlie made his way down the shore, feet digging into the warm sand, he came to terms with the feelings he'd developed for Hermione. He realized they started the afternoon in the small diner in Australia, and had become stronger as the past couple weeks had passed and they'd spent every waking minute discussing every topic under the sun, or it seemed like it. He'd yet to tire of her company. He found himself looking forward to returning to their hotel room, to watch her chest fall and rise as she slept with a book on her chest. He knew he had to tell her, and soon.
Unbeknownst to Charlie, Hermione was actually laying in a hot bubble-bath, having a similar conversation with herself. She knew she no longer had any feeling for Ron beyond brotherly love, and that while she wasn't quite in love with Charlie, she easily could be, given time and proximity. The logical portion of her brain tried to point out that they lived in different countries and both had quite busy schedules, normally, but the emotion side won out, pointing out that they could work those things out if they really wanted to.
An hour later, when Charlie let himself in the door, hair blown back, barefoot and bare-chested, Hermione knew there was no question about whether her decision had been the right one.
When she'd let the cooling water out of the tub, and toweled off, instead of putting her gown on and climbing under the covers like she'd previously done, she'd forgone any night clothes and laid down on the top of Charlie's blanket instead. When his eyes adjusted to the lower light and he saw her laid out before him, he came to her, took her in his arms and neither of them looked back.
"We do have to tell them, eventually." Charlie repeated, as he scrubbed at his head with his towel, "because if we don't, Christmas will be very awkward. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be thinking about you naked while my mum tries to set me up with every available witch in Great Britain."
Hermione snickered at the thought of Charlie's potential dilemma, then sighed. Unfortunately, he was right, and he wouldn't be the only person subject to Molly's matchmaking.
"Alright, alright, we'll tell them as soon as we get back to the Burrow. This holiday has been nice, but you were right yesterday when you said we need to get back to our lives. How much leave to you have left?"
"About a week and a half," Charlie replied.
"Good, that gives us time to see if my house is still in one piece, do any damage control if it isn't, find out if the Reserve has any job openings, and tell your family about our relationship and escape before there's any kind of explosion," Hermione ticked the items off on her fingers as she spoke.
"Sounds like a plan," Charlie laughed, "Are you sure you want to work at the Reserve? It's dirty work."
Hermione rolled her eyes in response. After dealing with Voldemort and his followers any job seemed like a breeze, and she'd assured Charlie of this several times. She didn't waste her breath this time. She simply held his hand while they paid for their room and walked out of the hotel lobby and towards the closest apparition point. She gave him the address of her home, and smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and they stepped into their new life together.