“I don’t think he’s listening,” Hermione says, looking at the group flying around. Charlie is flying pretty low, but so are George and Ginny. “They’ve probably got some bet or another going on.”
“They never listen to me when I’m telling them things they don’t want to hear.” Molly smiles wryly. “Dear Harry listens more than my own children.”
“I’m sure they’ll be careful, Molly.” Hermione watches the flying for a few moments. “Or perhaps not. Charlie is being rather daring today. I’ve never seen some of those tricks before.”
“I have.” Molly chuckles. “When he was fifteen, he was trying to impress this older girl who was visiting Bill. He did all those tricks and…” Her voice trails off.
“And what?” Hermione looks at Molly and sees that she’s now smiling broadly.
“Hmm? Oh nothing, dear.” Molly sits down beside her and nods at the sky. “I was just thinking how funny it is that men don’t truly grow up, do they?”
Hermione shrugs. “It doesn’t seem like they do in some ways, but I haven’t had enough experience to be an expert yet.”
“You’re still young, dear. Give yourself another twenty years, and then you’ll know.” Molly clucks her tongue. “If that boy hurts himself being a show-off, I’m going to hide his broom.”
“No, you won’t.” Hermione smiles and rolls her eyes at the empty threat.
Molly sighs. “No, I won’t. He really should know better, though. I don’t know why he thinks trick flying is the way to impress this time.”
“Impress who?” Hermione looks around to make sure no one else has arrived since she got busy reading her report. “There’s no one here, Molly. I think they’ve probably just made some sort of silly bet. You know how competitive Ginny can be, and George likes to instigate those type of things.”
“Hermione, dear, I know you’re far too clever for your own good, but you can be very oblivious sometimes.” Molly stands up and spreads out her apron before she pats Hermione on her head. “A piece of motherly advice, if I may? If you want him, go for it. But if you aren’t interested in him, please do let him down gently. My Charlie may seem very rough and tumble, but he’s honestly the most sensitive of my children.”
“What?” Hermione clears her throat when she hears herself squeak. “Me? I don’t think you’re right about this.”
“Of course I am, Hermione. A mother always knows.” Molly smiles and looks at the fliers. “It might have taken the flying to alert me, but I can see it all clearly now. You can, too, if you really think about it. I’m going to finish up the pies I was baking, so keep an eye on them, dear.”
Molly is obviously imagining things. That’s the only explanation for her ridiculous talk of Charlie trying to impress Hermione. Charlie isn’t interested in someone like her. Besides, he’s not at all like the men she would normally consider dating. Not that she has much experience with dating. The men who have been interested in her have been somewhat uptight, intelligent, and workaholics. They’re too much like her for the date to ever end well, if she’s being honest, but Charlie isn’t at all like that. While he is clever, he’s more of a hands-on type of bloke. A man’s man, as her mother would say. He’s more at home outside building or flying than he is inside working or reading. He is handsome, all the Weasley boys are, and she can’t deny that she’s admired his muscular frame several times or that the ink that covers his skin doesn’t intrigue her.
They get along well, despite their differences, and she has enjoyed many conversations with him in the years since the war ended when he’s been visiting his family. He likes to deliberately goad her into arguing with him sometimes, which can be infuriating, but he always has solid points to make that catch her off-guard even if he doesn’t actually agree with whatever issue they’re debating. He’s currently home for a two week stay, and Hermione’s been staying at the Burrow while trying to find a new house that suits her. They’ve had the opportunity to spend even more time together recently without interruption from other family members and it’s been nice. She’s enjoyed it. She still thinks that Molly is delusional, though.
Now that she’s actually watching them fly, Charlie’s tricks seem to be getting more reckless. He’s flying around upside down and standing up and doing a variety of things that she thinks must be dangerous. Ginny and George aren’t doing the same type of tricks, she notices, and that makes her wonder if it’s actually a bet, like she assumed, or if Molly might be right. When Charlie flies closer to her, she watches him stand up again. She bites her lip when she realizes he’s about to do a handstand. That fool! She might not enjoy flying very much, but even she knows that his balance will be off kilter if he’s standing on his hands and flying that low.
It’s too late for him to change his mind, though, and she watches him do the handstand. He manages to fly a short distance before his body starts to wobble. Fortunately, he’s close to the ground when he crashes. Still, she gets up and runs over to him, anxious and worried that he hurt himself badly. “Charlie, are you alright?”
“Did you see? I managed to fly for several meters before I fell.” He looks at her and grins. “Impressive, huh?”
“No, it is not impressive, Charlie Weasley!” There’s a cut above his eyebrow and there’s already a bruise forming on his cheek. “You’re hurt because of those foolish antics. Let me get that cleaned up, then I’m going to hex you for being so childish. You’re almost thirty, not thirteen.”
“Just because I’m turning thirty this year doesn’t mean I’m an old man. I can still have fun,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Stop treating me like some misbehaving toddler.”
“Then stop acting like one!” She gets out her wand and conjures a cloth so she can wipe the blood from the wound. “You’re bleeding and bruised yet you want to sit there sulking because I pointed out how childish it is to do flying tricks at your age.”
“Your hands are shaking, Hermione.” Charlie reaches out to grasp them with his hands. “Steady there.”
“You fell, you reckless prat. I was anxious,” she says crossly. Molly’s advice is ringing in her ears, and she has to know for certain. “Was it a bet?”
“The tricks. Did George bet you? Or Ginny?”
“No, it wasn’t a bet.”
“Then why were you doing such dangerous stunts?”
Charlie shrugs but doesn’t answer. Instead, he ducks his head and avoids her gaze.
“Your mum had an interesting theory,” she says, brushing her thumb over his knuckle and watching him intently.
“What did Mum say?” Charlie snaps his head up and looks worried.
“Something about you showing off and doing something similar when you were a teenager.”
“Bloody hell. That woman doesn’t know how to keep her trap shut.” Charlie grimaces and then looks at her sheepishly. “You can hex me now, Hermione. Put me out of my misery.”
“Charlie, were you trying to impress me with flying tricks?” she asks, not wanting to just assume she knows what his motivation had been.
Charlie gives her a look that seems to question her intelligence before he says, “Maybe?”
“Are you asking me?” Hermione arches a brow. “If you are, I’d say that you were, though I don’t understand why. I’m not the type of girl to get giggly over a man doing flying stunts.”
“You’re not the type of woman to get giggly over anything, which is the problem.” Charlie lets go of her hands and runs his fingers through his thick red hair. “I don’t know how to impress you because you’re unlike anyone I’ve ever wanted before.”
“Nearly getting yourself killed is not the way,” she says, feeling her cheeks flush as she fusses with the cloth. She can’t believe Molly was actually right, but Charlie just said he wants her. From the family gossip network, he favors temporary relationships that generally don’t last longer than one night and often don’t include names. She isn’t the type of woman to engage in something like that.
“What is the way then?” Charlie stares at her, and she can’t help but think he looks helpless, which is a contradiction to the strength and confidence he usually displays.
“I don’t do temporary, Charlie. You also know my name already. Are you sure you want me to answer that question?” She has to be clear because she isn’t going to risk their friendship on a miscommunication.
He rubs the back of his neck. “Ouch. Guess I deserve that, though. My history doesn’t speak that kindly, does it? I’ve never led anyone on, Hermione. It’s always been understood what exactly we’re both getting out of our time, and none of those women ever expected anything more than what I gave them.” He reaches over to stop her from fussing with the cloth. “You’re different. I wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t. Do you really think any of my family would be on my side if you get hurt? They’d hex me from here to Romania and back again, and that’s just Mum. I’ve thought about this for months, since I first realized I was infatuated with my baby brother’s ex-girlfriend. So, yeah, I’m sure.”
“If you hurt me, your family is the least thing you should be worried about.” She smiles slightly. “I’m much scarier than any of them.” She notices that he’s still bleeding, and she feels silly for being distracted. Reaching over, she brushes the cloth over the wound to clean it before she heals it. “Flying tricks obviously don’t work. Walking around without your shirt and showing off your muscles and your tattoos doesn’t work, either, even if it does provide an enjoyable view.”
“An enjoyable view?” He snorts. “Here I was hoping you’d be so overcome with attraction that you’d start to realize you want me, too.”
“Even if I’m attracted, it takes more than a fit body and a handsome face to get my attention.” She finishes cleaning the wound and reaches for her wand. “I’m going to heal this. Is that alright?”
“Of course. I trust you,” he says, lowering his head so she can reach it better. “You should let it scar, since it’s only fair that I have a visual reminder of my stupidity so I don’t try anything like that again.”
“You have enough scars and burns already. I think this one can get healed. Besides, I’m sure you won’t be able to forget this foolishness so long as your siblings and Mum are around.” She smiles before she heals the cut. Once she’s sure it’s taken care of, she puts her wand down and looks at him. “Sorry for the delay in answering. I’m still a bit taken aback by this confession, so I’m resisting the urge to get parchment and a quill and make lists to determine the best choice of action. Your mum gave me advice, and I know she’s right, and I just want to do the right thing.”
“Advice from my mum? About me?” Charlie sighs and makes a face. “If she told you to run the other way, don’t listen to her. She has some idea that I’m a lecherous Romeo with girls all over the countryside. The truth is no lechery at all. Well, not much. And Bill’s always been the Romeo, not me. I’m the bit of rough on the side.”
“She never mentioned lechery at all.” Hermione smiles because, really, she doesn’t need parchment and lists to know what she feels in her heart and her gut. “I don’t want anything on the side, Charlie. You wanted to know how to impress me?” She gathers up some of the famous Gryffindor courage and leans forward to brush her lips against his. After the chaste kiss that quickly becomes not so chaste, she manages to pull away and looks into his eyes. “You already have.”