Chapter 1 : The Reason Why I Thank The Heavens Above, Everyday, For Mistletoe
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A/N: This story was written for the SAYS Secret Santa Exchange. We were all given a prompt and asked to write a special story. This is all I could come up with. I hope you enjoy the story.
From where she was sitting she could see the snow falling gently to the ground outside. A chill was in the air, evident from the frosty breath of people passing by on the street. Thankfully she was inside where a warm fire was burning just a few feet away, a steaming mug of coffee warmed her hands as she sat back and waited patiently for her date to arrive. From her spot in the quiet café just off Diagon Alley, she could see families rushing by as they attempted to make their last purchases before Christmas.
Even this small café looked as if a Christmas bomb had exploded and sent various decorations splattering against the walls. The metallic red, green, and silver ornaments were gaudy and yet still festive all in the same breath. Not to mention dazzling enough to cause a blind man to wince.
From what she could gather, it seemed everybody had decorated for this holiday, everybody that is, but her. Part of her quite thought her home would chew up and reject any piece of Christmas-esque decoration that dare enter its threshold. That coupled with the fact that she never spent Christmas at her own house anyways was her justification for never decorating.
Besides, all of her Christmas memories belonged at the Burrow, and she knew that anything she would ever attempt at home would fall short. Decorating for Christmas hardly made it Christmas, no, for it to really be Christmas, you needed family. Luckily for her, the Burrow at Christmas time meant spending time with her family. Perhaps it wasn't the family she was born with, but it was the family she had chosen for herself.
Sighing impatiently she looked at her watch one more time, only to feel her annoyance spike at the time. She realized it was busy outside, and that he had an important job, but that hardly meant he could assume she would always be waiting for him. Especially now.
A frown crossed her face as she thought about everything that had happened since she had graduated from Hogwarts. Life had happened, and unfortunately she was beginning to realize that the life she had always wanted was lacking. In what, she wasn't quite sure, but she did know that it wasn't normal for a perfectly healthy twenty-four year old to be as unhappy in life as she was. She needed excitement and danger.
Hermione Jane Granger was tired of living her life vicariously through books.
It was during this epiphany that the front door of the café opened, small bells on the door jingling merrily as they announced the presence of a customer. A wave of relief flowed through her body as she caught sight of him. Snowflakes had managed to sprinkle through his hair and a dusting of pink from the cold tinged his cheeks. Seven years ago the mere sight of him would have sent her heart racing at the speed of a dashing hippogriff, now all she could do was give him a small tight-lipped smile and motion him over.
He made his way over to her table and shrugged out of his overcoat, sending snow flying in every direction, including a large clump that took residence in her mug of coffee. As he took a seat she slowly let her eyes fall over his face, taking in each feature as if it were her last time. She knew every inch of him intimately, knew every scar, every freckle; and yet somehow, it was all too safe. The saddest part of all, was deep down she knew that he felt the same way.
Their romance was supposed to be the fairy tale, the one that everybody admired and wished was their own. Throughout their teenage years they had danced around the idea of being couple, never quite wanting to admit to each other how much they wanted it. Time slowly passed, and finally the right moment hit, it was supposed to be happily ever after.
Except, Hermione was starting to believe that happily ever after only belonged in storybooks.
She knew even before he began to speak what he was going to say, and she was relieved. Relief wasn't exactly the normal type of reaction in this situation, but it was the only emotion she could provide. They had waited too long to say these things, and despite the fact that tomorrow was Christmas, this couldn't possibly wait another day.
"Hermione," he began, his voice disheartened but strong. "You know that I love you, and I always have. I think I always will in some ways, but the cold hard truth is, I'm not in love with you anymore."
"I know," she answered softly. She knew she should be upset right now, begging him to stay with her, but all she could feel was if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "I feel the same way."
"You are one of my best friends," he continued as he reached forward and grabbed one of her hands with his own. "I never wanted to hurt you."
"You didn't," came her blunt and honest reply.
"See you at Christmas?" he asked as he motioned to stand up. Everything he had needed to say had been said, it didn't make sense to prolong this conversation. "It wouldn't be the same without my friends."
"Have I ever missed a Christmas?"
"I don't think you could ever miss a chance to prove to us yearly how much smarter you are than all of us," he joked, happy that nothing had changed between them.
"Wanker," she shot back, a grin spreading over her face.
Somewhere along the way they had stopped teasing, stopped having fun, and she had missed this. There had been passion at first, that kind of raw lust that left you gasping for air, but it had vanished, along with the playfulness that they had once possessed. Now it had returned and she couldn't help wondering why they hadn't done this years ago.
"I love you," he whispered in her ear as he gave her one last hug before leaving the café. "Just promise me you'll find someone who makes you happy."
"I'll try," she managed to choke out as she watched him walk away.
She was finally free, she could start living the life she wanted to, the only question was, would she?
"Ginny!" Hermione yelled as she ran up the front steps of the Burrow. She had just left the café after her talk with Ron and needed to talk to a friend.
Nobody answered, so she simply opened the front door and dashed through the house to the kitchen, where Molly and Ginny occasionally got together for a mother/daughter hour. Unfortunately it seemed that the had taken their meeting somewhere else today, and all she managed to find as she very gracefully skidding into the kitchen, almost taking out a potted plant, was Charlie Weasley.
He raised an eyebrow at her somewhat disheveled appearance and then sat back in his chair as if expecting some sort of explanation.
"I was looking for Ginny," she said with a sheepish smile.
"Well, then do you happen to know where she is?" Hermione asked exasperatedly.
"She should be back any minute," he answered as he motioned to a seat at the table. "You could take a seat and wait for her, I promise not to bite you. Unless you are into that sort of thing."
"Working around dragons all the time must be the reason you act like a randy teenage boy most the time," she answered dryly, as she took a seat.
"Well played," he answered with a smirk. "Now, while we wait for my lovely sister to return, why don't you tell me exactly why you were looking for her in such a rush."
"Ron and I broke up."
There, she had said it. It was real.
"I'm - wow, I'm at a loss for words here," Charlie replied, stunned. "I'm really sorry Hermione, I know how much you two cared for each other."
"I wasted seven years of my life," she murmured more to herself than to him, but he heard her all the same.
"Were they really wasted years?" he asked, half out of curiousness, and half out of a feeling he couldn't quite explain.
"Yes," she nodded. It seemed so surreal to be sitting at the Weasley kitchen table discussing all of this with Charlie, but in the same breath, it felt right. "I love your brother more than I can ever explain, but, I always felt like something was missing."
"You'll find what you are looking for," he assured her. "Sometimes you just have to find that person you never knew you always wanted."
"That sounds like a quote from a greeting card Charlie Weasley," she accused.
"Well, I never claimed my advice was going to be original," he grinned at her, and she couldn't help but laugh - his attitude was infectious.
"I think I've had enough World Class Weasley advice for one day," Hermione told him. "So, why don't we focus on exactly why you've never brought a woman home to meet your family. Good grief, you're going to be thirty-one soon, how is it that you never found a woman to share your life with."
"She's just hasn't found me yet," he replied with a shrug. "I'm not all that concerned, it's only too apparent that I'm quite a hunky dish."
"Excuse me while I vomit for a moment," she laughed. "Does it have anything to do with all your time spent with dragons, or perhaps you just aren't interested in the female species."
"Don't tempt me Hermione. I could show you right now, on my mother's kitchen table, how interested I am in the female species."
As soon as the words had left his mouth he knew he had made a mistake. The room fell unnaturally silent as she stared at him, her lips falling open in a perfect little 'o' shape, as she watched him, stunned. It had been an impulsive and stupid statement to make, but now that he had made it, he couldn't quite keep his eyes off her mouth, or drive away the thoughts of how her mouth would feel on his lips, out of his mind. Suddenly all he could focus on was how beautiful her eyes were, hesitation and a tinge of fear winking back at him.
The atmosphere in the room had taken a sudden change as the stared at one another, as if realizing for the first time that he was very male, and she was obviously female. A part of him was warning himself to back away, that he couldn't go down this road, she was a child for god's sake. Yet, another part of him was questioning him, why couldn't he do this? Not to mention she had stopped being a child a long time ago. She was very much a woman, and he was shocked to realize that he wanted her more than he had ever wanted another female in his life.
He leaned forward just an inch, and cupped her chin with his palm, he felt a shock of electricity the moment his skin touched hers, and that was all it took. Everything else faded away as he stroked her cheek with his thumb, trying desperately to chase away the fear still in her eyes. All he could imagine in that moment was his lips on hers, and the way she would feel molded against his body, her legs wrapped around his waist.
His lips were almost on hers when he heard the front door slam. As if a spell had been broken, Hermione pulled away like a skittish horse, shakily standing up, and racing past Ginny without saying a word. Ginny made her way to the kitchen, saw Charlie sitting there, placed her hands on her hips and glared.
"What in the hell just happened here?"
"I made a mistake," Charlie shrugged his shoulders. I should have bloody well snogged her senseless a long time ago he mentally finished to himself.
Snow was still falling when Hermione woke from her troubled dreams the next morning. It was official, she lived in a snow globe. Just as easily as someone had shook that beautiful, sparkly globe, her own life had been tossed upside down. Everything in her life had been relatively normal yesterday when she had awoken in this very same bed, and now nothing was the same.
For ten years she had fallen asleep thinking of Ronald Weasley. Last night, for the first time since she had been a teenager she hadn't.
Charlie Weasley was claiming that position with a vengeance.
For the life of her she couldn't forget how damn tempting he had been as he had sat across from her at the kitchen table. She would have never guessed that the Weasley kitchen table could be such an enticing place to act out a fantasy. It hardly mattered that the thought of straddling Charlie on the table where she had ate breakfast over the years should have made her feel sick, all she could think about was what he would look like without a stitch of clothing on.
It was driving her sodding mad.
The worst part of it all, she had to leave in exactly two hours to spend Christmas with the entire Weasley clan. Her stomach was a churning and oddly enough, Ron wasn't the one she was concerned about spending time with. With an exasperated sigh she climbed out of the warm cocoon of her bed and made her way to the bathroom, where she quickly drew a bath and climbed into the steaming water.
All time stopped as she laid her head on the edge of the bathtub, simply enjoying the feeling of the water all around her. A million thoughts continued to pound through her mind though as she tried to enjoy this moment by herself. To shave her legs or not, seemed to be the biggest question in her mind at this moment. It almost seemed like she was reading too much into things to take that step - after all, it could have been a fluke. A thoughtful look crossed her face as she remembered the look of intensity as Charlie looked in her eyes yesterday, his face a few inches from hers.
Shaving her legs it was.
Next item on her agenda was what to wear to the Weasley house, something she had never considered in all the time she had known them. Fast and simple had always been her motto in the clothing department, and today really was no different. Except for that extra twenty minutes choosing the perfect shirt, and that whole shoe breakdown catastrophe.
Finally she was on her way to the Burrow, her gifts in tow, and a smile on her face. It finally felt like Christmas and she was heading to the only home she had really ever known. Before she even reached the front steps of the Burrow, she could feel the happiness seeping out of the house, and she could hear the shouts of laughter.
Without bothering to knock, she entered the door and made her way to the sitting room where she found most of the Weasley clan decorating the tree. She was almost knocked to the ground as a sprinting Fred made his way out of the room, an equally fast George hot on his heels. Luckily for her, a strong pair of arms managed to steady her just in time.
Hermione felt her face flush as he slowly peeled his hands off of her, the heat of his palms burning through the thin fabric of her shirt. She would have known it was him even if she was blind. A chill had snaked down her spine at his very touch, and she felt her mouth go dry. It was all she could do to not drop her gifts all over the floor and kiss him in ways she had been dreaming about all night.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on how you looked at the situation, the moment passed as Mrs. Weasley started organizing the gift exchange. She was like a drill sergeant as she barked out orders and assembled her little troopers. Soon everybody was lost in the excitement of wrapping paper flying through the air, and laughter as everybody compared gifts.
It was the type of Christmas Hermione lived every year for.
She hadn't managed to forget about the entire Charlie situation though, and everything managed to get much more complicated as everybody made their way into the kitchen for dinner. Somehow Hermione had been in the position of leader at the front of the line, with Charlie trailing immediately behind her. Then it happened, like a curse from below, or perhaps more accurately, a present from above.
They had barely walked underneath the devil plant that sent fear in the hearts of all single people when they heard a shout from behind them.
"Hermione and Charlie are standing under the mistletoe," Fred yelled loud enough for the deaf couple down the road to hear. "We all know what that means…"
"Kiss her, you sodding fool," George finished for his brother.
It was right then that Hermione vowed that she wouldn't sleep until she hunted down the pair and murdered them.
Everyone was looking at them with mild interest as they watched the pair squirm, not quite understanding why they wouldn't just go with the Christmas tradition and kiss. Neither was really in the position to admit that what they feared most was that they wouldn't be able to stop with just one simple kiss, and then where would that leave them?
How would it affect Ron?
As if sensing their hesitation on his behalf, Ron winked at Charlie and motioned for them to kiss. Sure, he had loved Hermione, but he had stopped loving her as more than a friend a long time ago. He was certainly able to grasp the fact that someday she would in fact kiss another man, even if it was his older brother.
There really was no other option.
For the first time since this whole little scenario had began, Hermione looked up at Charlie, and was surprised to see a small smirk pulling at his lips. He raised an eyebrow challengingly, and she did her best to keep her heart from leaping right out of her chest.
"There's no where to run this time Granger," he whispered in her ear as he closed the distance between them.
"Maybe I just don't want to escape this time Weasley," she whispered back, before she caught him off guard and her lips found his. A shock raced through her body as she felt his arms encircle her waist and pull her closer, until they were so close their bodies were beginning to mold together as one.
Everything else behind them began to fade as she let her arms tighten around his neck and pull him closer to her. Wanting more of what he had to offer, needing more of what he had to offer. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced with Ron, and she had thought at one point in their relationship that she understood the word raw sexual desire.
She had been wrong.
Good lord, he was sex on a stick.
They were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat, and as they hastily tried to untangle themselves from each other's embrace, Hermione felt her cheeks begin to burn. If the look of utter shock on Mrs. Weasley's face was any indication, they had just taken the Christmas mistletoe tradition to extremes.
"Talk about bottling it all up," Fred stage whispered to George.
"No kidding, someone needs to get these two a room, and fast, before they go at it on the middle of our kitchen table at dinner," George replied, and Hermione almost died.
That god damn table was going to be the death of her.
As he climbed in the shower later that night he couldn't help but curse at himself. How in the hell had he let that happen, he knew better. He should have never kissed her. It was the first rule of seduction, never a kiss a girl you are attracted to, for the first time, in front of your entire sodding family, it was like asking for a unhealthy dose of scarring.
Not to mention she would probably never speak to him again, he had most likely embarrassed her. It was the opposite of what he had been hoping, the entire ordeal. All he had wanted was the chance to show her that just maybe he was the one thing she had never known she had always wanted, but the damn mistletoe had ruined all of that.
He was so busy cursing the mistletoe that he didn't hear the door creep open, or the sound of bare feet against the tile. It wasn't until he heard a very feminine clearing of the throat that he felt his entire world shift. Slowly he slid open the shower door and peeked out, hoping, but hardly expecting to find her on the other side.
"I didn't know if I should come, but I couldn't stop myself," she rambled nervously, clutching her towel as if it were a life preserver. "All I knew was that I wanted to come, and that if I was going to stop living my life through my books, I was going to have to be a little daring."
He didn't know what to say, his mouth refused to work.
"Oh bloody hell, you didn't want me to come," she yelped and started towards the door.
"No. Wait," he finally managed to sputter, still shocked as hell that she was really here. "I just never expected this Hermione, You and me, it seems preposterous."
"It does, and yet, it feels like the most natural thing in the world."
"Well," he finally said slowly. "Would you like to join me?"
"I can't think of anything I'd enjoy more."
It was in that moment, as she dropped her towel and joined him, that Charlie vowed he would spend every waking moment thanking heaven above for mistletoe.
A/N: I just wanted to wish you all Happy Holidays, and I hope that you enjoyed this little piece. All comments are appreciated as always. I hope you have a fantastic day and a wonderful holiday season.
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