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Chapter 1 : (Late) May
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chapter image by cérise
“Oh, oh! What about that one, dear?” his mother hissed excitedly in his ear. “She’s quite pretty!’
Barely retaining a sigh of exhaustion, Charlie leaned forwards in his seat and followed her line of sight. When he saw the woman in question, a willowy redhead who looked too much like his little sister, he shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose she is,” he agreed, averting his eyes away from the woman as soon as he could. He stared intently at his flute of champagne, mildly fascinated by the way it captured the light.
“Why don’t you ask her to dance then? She looks lonely.”
“Because I don’t want to dance, Mum,” Charlie said, sloshing the champagne around in the flute.
Molly Weasley sent her second eldest and now only bachelor son a pointed look. “But it’s your brother’s wedding!”
He returned her look with one of utmost impatience. “So that means I have to dance with her?” Charlie rolled his eyes and brought the flute to his lips, draining the remaining liquid in one fell swoop. Unlike the four shots of firewhiskey he had knocked back before his mother came tottering over to bother him, it didn’t burn as it went down. In fact, it felt quite pleasant in comparison.
“Well, no, it doesn’t mean you have to dance with her,” Mrs Weasley said, frowning at his burly attitude, “but I think Percy would be happy to see you out there dancing instead of brooding in the corner.”
“I am not brooding!” he objected sourly, folding his arms over his chest.
“Then ask her to dance!” his mother countered, nudging him with her elbow. “Oh, come on, Charlie, it’s only one dance. What harm could it do?”
Charlie could only raise an eyebrow at Mrs Weasley. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Why would I joke…”
“Bill’s wedding,” he interjected.
The blank look he received made him want to tear his hair out. Not that he had much to tear out in the first place; being a dragon trainer meant keeping short hair. Less flammable, see.
“What about it?”
“Don’t you remember what happened?”
Mrs Weasley blinked in confusion and shook her head. “Not particularly, dear, no.”
“I’ve got two words for you,” Charlie said, suddenly wishing he hadn’t emptied the flute, but he had, so he set it on the table before pinning his mother with a pointed stare. “Julie Hertz.”
It took a moment for the name to click with a face in Mrs Weasley’s head, but as soon as she captured the image, she gasped. “You mean that adorable girl with the blonde hair and lovely disposition?”
Twisting around in his seat, Charlie called for a waiter.
“What was so wrong about her?” Mrs Weasley demanded. “She was perfectly lovely. Really nice smile and a great family.”
“Yeah, and she was completely nutters,” Charlie snorted, growing impatient at the lack of service. He managed to catch the eye of a passing waitress, who rolled her eyes when he waved her over. Women.
“Charles Septimus Weasley!” Mrs Weasley exclaimed loudly, colour rising to her cheeks. The volume of her voice was so loud, several attendees sitting at nearby tables jumped in surprise and sent them furtive glances. Charlie was, of course, used to his mother’s abrupt outbursts and didn’t bother flushing in embarrassment. It did horrible things to his already freckled complexion anyway. “I did not raise you to talk about women that way. Julie Hertz was -”
“Bound for a mental institution the moment she told me she loved me,” Charlie finished, passing a hand over his short hair in irritation. “Mum, we shared two dances and a few drinks, and she was already thinking about marriage! Talking about it, even!”
“You were at a wedding, for Merlin’s sake,” Mrs Weasley began, her tone laced with disbelief at her son’s insensitivity. There was a reason why he was without a significant other and it had nothing to do with his dedication to his job, no matter what he said. “Of course she would be thinking about marriage.”
Squeezing his eyes shut, Charlie reminded himself that they were in a public place and though his mother didn’t seem to have a problem holding the conversation here and now, he did. His personal life was just that - personal. Besides, he hardly doubted that Percy would like for them to go at each other’s throats at his wedding reception. That could be saved for Christmas or some other family gathering.
“I think you’re missing the point, Mum,” Charlie ground out through clenched teeth. He turned in his seat to see where the waitress had gone, but she wasn’t anywhere within his line of sight. He grimaced; Merlin, he needed a drink.
“Pray tell, then, what is the point, dear?” Mrs Weasley prompted curiously, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
The combination of her smug amusement and the brass band playing a jazzy tune set him off. “I don’t want to be set up anymore!” he revealed in a rare blaze of anger. “I know you think this is all in good fun, but I’m sick and tired of the endless disappointment and the fact you just won’t give up, no matter what I say. Don’t you know when enough is enough, Mum?”
Mrs Weasley didn’t say anything for a very long time. She stared at her son, unsure if she knew the man in front of her anymore. Suddenly, he looked twice as old as usual, his soft grey eyes old and tired, his face rugged and beaten. She frowned. When had he grown up? When had the little boy disappeared and became this hardened man sitting in front of her?
She sighed. “You’re right, dear,” she said after some time, struggling to maintain a note of neutrality to her voice. Maintaining her emotions had never been one of her strong suits. “I shouldn’t keep bothering you about this sort of things. You’ve got to make your own decisions.” She reached across the table and patted his hand. “I just want you know that I’ve only ever had your best interests at heart.” Here, her voice cracked, causing an immense wave of guilt to come crashing down upon Charlie.
“Mum,” Charlie began awkwardly, for she had started to sniffle, the tell-tale sign of oncoming tears. “D-don’t get upset. There’s no need to cry.”
She lifted her head to look at him, her eyes leaking freely and bottom lip quivering like bad. “I just want you to be happy,” she said, producing a handkerchief out of thin air and dabbing her eyes.
“But I am happy -”
He couldn’t get another word in edgewise as his mother released a particularly loud sob. Despite his discomfort with the situation, Charlie scooted his chair closer to his mother’s and wrapped his arms around her. Immediately, she tightened her arms around him and cried, her words thankfully muffled by the fabric of his dress robes.
His rescue arrived in the form of the waitress, who flashed him a semi-sympathetic smile before wordlessly handing over a flute of champagne. He nodded his thanks and lifted the glass to his lips, watching as the waitress turned on her heel and went about her business. It took several drinks for his mother to stop crying and let go of him, and the second she did, he choked down a deep breath of air.
“I-I’m sorry I got so emotional, Charlie,” Mrs Weasley warbled as she blew her nose into her handkerchief. “It’s just that I can’t bear the thought of you growing old all alone!”
“I’m not going to grow old alone,” Charlie countered.
“No,” he said assertively.
At this, Mrs Weasley perked up considerably. “Does that mean you’ll dance with the redhead?”
Charlie rolled his eyes. He should’ve known this was a ploy. The woman couldn’t have given birth to two mischievous masterminds if she didn’t know how to spin the game herself. Sighing, he passed a hand over his face and shrugged. “I’ll consider it.”
Beaming, his mother wiped at her eyes and rose to her feet. “I think I’ll go check on your brother now. See how he’s doing. Don’t wait forever to ask her for a dance - sooner rather than later!”
Shaking his head to himself, Charlie watched as his mother tottered off into the crowd, no doubt searching for Ron to heckle him about his engagement to Hermione. The thought made him frown. Perhaps she was right - perhaps sooner was better than later. But when had he ever done something because his parents wanted him to? Sighing again, he lifted the glass of champagne to his lips, emptied its contents, and set it on the table, preparing to flag down another of the servers.
Just as he raised his hand, a cool flute of bubbly was pressed into the palm of his hand and when he looked up, he saw the waitress from before. “Thanks,” he said with a nod, tipping back a considerable amount of the liquid within. If he was going to go along and dance with the redhead, he didn’t want to remember it, especially if she turned out to be another Julie Hertz.
The waitress’ lips quirked into a lopsided smile. “All in a day’s work,” she replied, swatting at a wayward strand of dark hair that had escaped its bun. “Well,” she said, fidgeting awkwardly, “enjoy your champagne.”
As she turned to leave, a spark of curiosity ignited within Charlie, though he could not for the life of him explain why. “Wait!” he heard himself calling out.
She stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Did you want another?”
Charlie shook his head, absentmindedly tapping his finger against the neck of the flute. “No, I think I’ve had enough.” He glanced briefly at the collection of champagne glasses on the table and then back at her. “I was curious about something, though.”
The waitress furrowed her brow. “Do you want something stronger…?”
“What’s your name?” he blurted.
She tilted her head fractionally to the left, her dark eyes finding his as she studied him. It didn’t take long for the spark similar to the one he had experienced only moments ago to appear on her face. He had to admit, the expression looked much cuter when it was on her face. The lopsided grin returned to her lips as she answered, somewhat sheepishly, “Clementine. My name is Clementine.”
Title from the song "Orange Marmalade" by Mellowdrone.
Well, there’s the first chapter! I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it. I should warn you now that things may get fluffy at some points, but there will be a plot to this, I promise! Thank you for reading and, as always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to voice them in a review!
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