The Next Day
Chapter 2 – The Next Day
It was bright and sunny when Hermione walked out of the Burrow’s back door the next day. The shock caused by the events of the early morning was starting to fade and the warmth on her face made Hermione feel even better.
The house and yard were quiet. Everyone but Mrs. Weasley was curled up in their beds, sleeping off the excitement and horror they had experienced. Hermione had tried to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw a skull floating in the sky and heard Draco Malfoy’s sneer of, “Mudblood”.
Mudblood. Hermione sighed as she sat on an old wooden swing and stared up the branch it hung from. It was only a word, and Hermione knew that, but it had the desired effect. She’d never let it show, but the epithet had always disturbed her. It wasn’t what it meant – the idea of ‘dirty blood’ was ridiculous – but the hatred, the contempt, and the unshaken belief that she was inferior that lay behind the word as it was spat at her that made her shiver from just thinking about it.
When Malfoy had first called her it, she’d only been at Hogwarts a week. She’d been lonely and hiding in the library – again – when she’d spotted the Slytherin reading at a table. When she’d approached, hoping that she had found someone to talk to, she’d been shocked. He had been rude and cruel, taunting her lack of friends, her inferiority. Why would he be friends with a mudblood? She was lucky that he was even talking to her.
It had taken her months to find out what the word meant. By that time she’d become friends with Ron and Harry and was busy trying to find out who Nicholas Flamel was. She’d put the entire thing out of her mind until he’d called her it again the next year. It had been different then, though – she’d had people stand up for her. She smiled slightly at the memory of Ron belching up slugs. Though it would have been funnier if it had been Malfoy…CHCHCHCHCHCHCH
The first thing Charlie did when he woke up was look out his window. He did this every morning that he stayed at the Burrow. In the nine years since he had graduated, he’d come to appreciate his home in ways that he hadn’t even thought of as a teen. He missed the activity and atmosphere of a house full of children. The house he shared near the dragon reserve was usually mellow, a place to chill out, not loud and fun like here.
As he stared out at the grove where he’d taught his siblings to fly, a movement caught his eye. On the rickety wooden swing that had been there as long as he remembered was a figure with brown hair. He stood for a moment, thinking.
Hermione Granger interested him. In some ways, he felt like he knew her as well as his siblings. His mother’s letters contained large sections of nothing but her other children and his youngest brother and his friends featured in many of her rants (although Fred and George took up a majority of the space). He’d first heard of Hermione from the terrible two who found it hilarious that Ron was already experiencing his first crush. The fact that it was on a girl who seemed destined to be another Percy made the situation even funnier. The story of how they’d become friends had shocked him, though – taking out a mountain troll at eleven! The next two years had yielded even more adventures that had given his mother fits. And he doubted that any of them had heard the entire story.
Still, they’d been bad enough. The Weasley matriarch had sounded ready to have an aneurysm when she’d written to say that Hermione had been attacked and that the school might have to close. Then Ginny had been taken. He’d been ready to head to Hogwarts when he’d been told of her rescue and the recovery of the petrified students. Then this year … well, he hadn’t really been given a story, but there’d been mentions of Sirius Black that had had Ron going very quiet.
Of course, last night had proven that he didn’t actually know Hermione Granger. Instead of being prickly and Percy-like, she’d been shy and friendly. That’s not to say that she wasn’t very smart – he had recognized the locking charm on her journal to be very advanced. She just hadn’t seemed like she was ready to lecture him when he hadn’t understood her enthusiasm. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really. She, Harry and Ron had broken more rules than Fred and George in far more interesting ways. As the obvious brains of the operation, she must be even more relaxed than she appeared. What he’d give to read that journal of hers…
Abruptly he turned from the window to dress. He knew better. If a person didn’t want to share something, they shouldn’t be forced to. How many times had he worried about his dorm mates or brothers finding some of his work? He still couldn’t share it with anyone.
He winced as he lifted a shirt over his head. He was more out of shape than he liked to admit – and his muscles were screaming at him for it. He’d spent last night’s chaos trying to help people flee and fighting looters. At least he hadn’t met any Death Eaters. In the shape he was in, he’d have been beaten easily.
His mother came bustling over as over as soon as he entered the kitchen.
“Come and sit down, dear. You must be starving.”
Knowing not to argue, he sat and fondly watched his mother hurry around the kitchen. He’d missed this fussing more and more over the years and welcomed it – in small doses.
“Are any of the others up yet?”
“Besides Hermione out on the swing? No.”
Mrs. Weasley whirled around from the stove. “Hermione’s outside? I didn’t realize. I had hoped to catch her this morning. Poor dear must have been terrified.”
“It was pretty scary last night, mum.” He pointed out.
“Yes, but more so for Muggleborns. Arthur said that Ron mentioned that young Malfoy boy talking about Muggleborns being targets last night. Between that and that horrible mark -.” She clucked sympathetically.
Charlie, however, wasn’t paying attention to his mother anymore. He was thinking of the brunette he’d seen from his window. Their conversation the night before rang in his head. She’d been so … enthralled by all of the new experiences last night. Then she got a look at the darker side of the Wizarding world. No matter what she’d seen and done on her adventures, he was willing to bet that this was a new experience she hadn’t wanted.
“Tell you what, mum.” He said suddenly interrupting her worrying. “I’ll go get her. Make breakfast for her, too.”
“That’s sweet, dear. Hurry back, though – it sounds like your brothers are awake.”CHCHCHCHCHCHCH
He found her in the same spot he’d seen her in earlier. He stood quietly watching her. She was deep in thought, as she usually was, swinging slightly as she stared up into the trees. Her long hair nearly touched the ground and Charlie was struck by the picture she made. If you actually looked, she was quite a pretty little thing. He shifted slightly and stepped on a twig. The sound had her jumping up and whirling around, her wand in hand.
“Impressive.” He studied her stance. “You might want to crouch more, though. Not that you’re much of a target to begin with.”
“Charlie.” Relief and annoyance overwhelmed her embarrassment about jumping. “What are you doing out here?” She sat back on the swing.
“Looking for you, actually.” He stepped behind her and began to push the swing the way he use to for Ginny. “Mum was worried about you.”
“Really? Why? I wasn’t fighting and it was Harry’s wand that was stolen.”
“Yes, but Harry and Ron haven’t quite grasped the magnitude of what happened – they’re still asleep. And,” He added softly as he stopped the swing and knelt in front of her. “They’re not muggleborn.”
She glanced away and was shocked when he gently turned her head back to face him.
“Look, I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. But I think you need to hear that they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter that your parents aren’t wizards – I’ve heard enough to know that when you’re called the ‘smartest witch of your generation’, the professors mean it.” He smiled slightly at her surprise.
“You’re pretty, you’re intelligent, and you scare all the pureblooded snobs because you’re proving them wrong.”
“You – you think that I’m pretty?” Hermione whispered.
“Uh, yeah.” Charlie was a bit surprised that that was the part of his speech that she mentioned first. “Of course you are. Hasn’t anyone told you that before?”
She blushed and glanced away. “No. Ron and Harry don’t even seem to realize I’m a girl – none of the boys do. I’m ‘one of the guys’. They don’t even mind me hanging out in their dorm anymore.”
They were silent for a moment as Charlie tried to process that and come up with a response. Then Hermione spoke again.
“Thank-you, though, for the compliment.” She blushed again. “And the other things you said. You’re right. I did need to hear it.” She sighed. “Do you know why I study so much?” he shook his head. “I started because it didn’t seem like studying. I was ‘obsessed’ with grades before Hogwarts, of course.” Why am I telling him this?
“But it was like reading fiction. I use to love fantasy books. When I got a hold of ‘Hogwarts: A History’, it was like stepping into a dream world – all of it seemed like one of my books, but it was part of my new world.” She made a face and laughed slightly.
“Of course, now when I try to read fantasy, I find it unrealistic and hard to get into. And most wizard fiction is silly…” She trailed off as she noticed the odd look on her companion’s face.
“What? Oh, sorry, Hermione, you just said something – nevermind.” He smiled and stood.
“Ready to face everyone?” When she hesitated, he held his hand out. “Come on, the others will be awake and distracting Mum.”
Their height difference made it uncomfortable to hold hands, but the silence between the two as they walked back was reassuringly friendly.CHCHCHCHCHCHCH
Later that day, Charlie went back up to his room and pulled out a large, bound stack of parchment. He sat there for a while, staring at what he considered the biggest secret he had. Finally, he seemed to make up his mind and pulled out his wand.
It was not until September 1st that Hermione received the package Charlie had been preparing that night. The rest of the summer had gone by quickly with most of her time spent reading the next year’s books. She and Charlie had had several more discussions, mainly about his book, which none of his family had read.
The package itself was small and wrapped in red fabric. Hermione found it waiting on her bed when she entered her dorm with her excited, chattering roommates. On her headboard was a snooty, gray owl.
The letter he had attached was short.Hermione, That day in the yard you said that you wished there was wizarding fantasy. Funnily enough, I wrote something a few years ago that might be what you were looking for. I hope you enjoy this, C.
AN: Thanks to those who reviewed. There are already several chapters of this written, so it's just a matter of finding the time to upload them.