Chapter 1 : Just Another Laurie
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Secondly, here's the standard disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to the genius, JK Rowling. However, the title of this chapter is referencing the novel Little Women by another literary genius, Louisa May Alcott. If you picked up on that, and the little joke, you are officially one of my favorite people!
Thirdly, as this A/N is getting horrifically long, I want to thank everyone at TGS - I appreciate your help, support, and encouragement more than you could know! Especially everyone who took part in that Laurie/Jo = best ship ever conversation in the cbox.
Yikes, this is a ghastly length. Enjoy! (and review ♥ )
Charlie picked dragons for three reasons.
One: dragons were not people. This worked out splendidly, as Charlie Weasley came dangerously close to living the life of a social pariah. He was not, in any sense, a people person. Luckily, awkward conversation usually didn’t come up much when he was tending to gigantic, magical reptiles. Interaction with dragons resulted in far less conversational distress than most humans beings and for this he was eternally grateful.
(She looked him right in the eyes when she first said hello, and he flushed a hundred shades of red.)
Two: dragons were bloody brilliant. Not in the superficial breathing fire and ripping apart prey sort of way, but something entirely different. It was almost as though Charlie could feel the presence of something greater, held captive underneath the scaly casings of a dragon’s armor. There was vulnerability underneath that suit of scales, a tenderness masked by a strong, hard exterior.
(Maybe somewhere, they reminded him of her.)
Three: dragons were in Romania. Romania was a tiny country that he couldn’t point out on a map at first; thousands of miles away from home.
(Far, far away from her. Charlie doesn’t handle heartbreak well.)
Three (and a Half): dragons don’t break hearts. Sometimes they sneeze and singe your eyebrows off, but from what Charlie’s learned, a first degree burn is quicker and easier to heal.
His heart is still chipped in places, even after all these years. But he likes to remind himself that there’s hope, that somehow the crevices will fill again, and he’ll finally feel whole.
She wrote him a letter three days ago.
Hi, Charlie –
Please come back home? We need to talk.
I miss you.
At first, he wondered where she’d gotten his address from. Then, after a quarter hour of staring down at the familiar slants and loops in her writing, he remembered the letters. Dozens of them, thick with several roles of parchment stuffed into envelopes, all penned in her messy scrawl. He sent them back. Every last one of them, unopened.
After a while, they stopped coming.
Until three days ago, that is.
Charlie thought that nearly six years was a very long time to go without letters. He’d have gone longer as well, had she not caught on and not bothered with an envelope. Her last letter was written hastily on a single sheet of half-crinkled parchment, as though she’d written it down quickly before she could change her mind and crumpled it with the intent to throw it into the rubbish bin, before something overtook her and she sent it instead.
One look at his name, scribbled in her hand, and all it took was a portkey and far more courage than he thought he’d possessed to land him here.
At the front door of a house he’d never been to.
One that, despite the sweetly-scented tangle of forsythia growing wildly from the window box and the bright blue-painted door, was dreadfully terrifying.
(He worked with bloody dragons, and he was scared of a house?)
He was more pathetic than he had initially believed.
He was also frozen in the center of the cobblestone pathway.
Staring at a women bustling out the door who, upon seeing him standing their looking like he was about to be sick, jumped nearly a foot in the air.
She only lowered her wand when she caught a proper look at his face.
“Is that – you’re not – but – Charlie Weasley?”
He can feel his face flood with color. Her mother stares at him as though she can’t quite discern if she’s dreaming or not.
“Er – hi, Mrs. Tonks.”
There is a tense silence that he’s all too used to (see Reason One.)
Andromeda makes a strangled sound at the back of her throat. “I wasn’t expecting to see you home.”
Charlie grimaces. “I wasn’t really planning on being home.”
“I see,” she nods. Her lips purse together. “Paying Nymphadora a visit?”
He’s about to answer; flustered, awkward and entirely wishing he was anywhere but here, when the door swings open and a young woman stumbles down the steps.
“Honestly, mum, you’re interrogating my neighbors again? I can assure you that Mr. Fitzpatrick is not a Death Eate – oh!”
Nymphadora Tonks is standing at her front door, her hair an outrageous shade of fuchsia and eyes roughly the size of dinner plates. She looks surprised (if not terrified) to see Charlie Weasley on her front lawn, chatting with her mother over his hasty return to England.
Charlie blanches, having nothing to say at all as he’s always relied on her to do all the talking. But there she stands, wearing the Weird Sisters tee shirt he bought her years ago and gaping at him.
She’s taller, slimmer, and she looks happy. Charlie sighs.
(As much as he hates to entertain the thought, he’s not sighing out of discontent. As daunting as this impending talk is going to be, seeing her makes him feel more than he bargained for.
The sigh has more to do with the fact that he still goes weak in the knees at the sight of her, that her voice still reminds him of bell chimes, that even after his trying so hard to utterly hate her, the first thing that he notices is this:
Andromeda’s eyes flicker between the both of them. “Well,” she says, with enough emphasis that her daughter jolts from her reverie, “I’ll just be going then. Nymphadora, owl me about the dress, won’t you? And Charlie…welcome home, dear.”
And she turns on the spot, throwing her daughter a poignant look, and apparates away.
They have nowhere else to look but at each other. She stares at him, and he cringes internally when her hair loses some vibrancy, shifting to dusky pink.
Albeit hesitantly, she tries to smile. “Wotcher, Charlie.”
(He doesn’t bother returning the grin. He couldn’t even if he tried.)
“You look surprised,” he says, and she has the decency to blush to the roots of her hair.
Tonks chews on her bottom lip, her telltale sign of extreme discomfort. “Honestly, I didn’t think you would come.”
Charlie’s stomach plummets. She catches the look on his face and is quick to take a step towards him, totally flustered and speaking too quickly with her hands.
“No, no! I wanted you to come – of course I did – I just thought, well, with the letters and the not speaking for who knows how long…”
Charlie knows how long.
Five years, seven months and nineteen days. He doesn’t know what to make of his remembering the exact Tuesday that they parted ways.
“…but of course I wanted to see you! It’s been eons Charlie, really it has, and I suppose letters really aren’t your thing but that’s no excuse for us to stop talking after eight years -
(Nine and a half years, actually.)
“– of friendship. It’s just silly really, our not talking. I don’t know anything that’s happened to you in all these years and I’m sure Romania is really interesting and totally lovely and -”
“You said you wanted to talk,” he blurts, and she promptly closes her mouth. “In your letter, I mean, you wrote that we needed to talk. So, uh, I suppose we can do that now.”
He thinks maybe he imagines variety of emotions flit across her face, ending with an expression of utmost guilt. She takes a shaky breath, nodding her head as though she can’t quite come to terms with what she’s about to do.
“Yes – I mean, yeah – we can, uh, go…why don’t you come inside?”
“That’d be fine.”
And so he does, taking care to catch her when she trips back over the threshold.
* * *
Before there were dragons, there was Hogwarts.
At Hogwarts, there was a sea of giggly, eyelash batting girls.
Charlie Weasley picked Nymphadora Tonks for three reasons.
One: she didn’t giggle. Charlie didn’t think she could even if she tried. Tonks possessed one of the heartiest laughs he had ever encountered, one that he often compared to what he imagined Saint Nicholas’ would sound like. “Ho, ho, ho!” he would tease, and she would promptly thwack him over the head with something.
(Secretly, he did it on purpose. She looked especially pretty with her face all flushed and hair bright red, her eyes set on him.)
Two: she was always good at surprises. If there was anyone who could catch Charlie Weasley most off guard, it was irrefutable that the person was Nymphadora Tonks. Sometimes, he loved this about her; those times included unplanned kitchen raids, unannounced visits to his dormitory in the dead of night and spontaneous bursts of inexplicable energy that had her dragging him off to explore the depths of the castle.
(Once, she kissed him in the hallway before Charms. His head was reeling so hard that he accidentally levitated Professor Flitwick instead of the feather they had for practice.)
Other times, he didn’t love it: times like this, for example.
Three: he loved her.
(The last time he told her so, he walked back home with his mind set: he was picking dragons.)
“And then – oh, Merlin, and then-” Tonks pauses, tears of mirth spilling down her cheeks. She holds her stomach as another onslaught of giggles shakes her body, and she nearly falls from her perch on the couch’s arm.
“Yeah, yeah,” Charlie groans, “and then I fell into the lake.”
Another peal of laughter escapes her, and this time she does fall, taking the box of photographs in her lap with her. (She was never one to be organized enough to actually put together a scrapbook.) They splay out on the floorboards, and when he peers over the pillows and down at her, it only serves to make her chuckle harder.
“No!” she gasps, nearly rolling around on the floor by now, her hair back to brilliantly bright pink, “You didn’t just fall, Charlie! You rolled down the hill into the lake!”
He has to bite his tongue to stop himself from cackling along with her. “And where was my best friend during this scarring moment in my childhood?”
Tonks grins. “I was at the top of the hill, partly horrified because I hadn’t meant to push you that hard, but mostly amused because it turned out far better than I’d anticipated.”
In one swift motion, Charlie takes the photographs he held in his hands and throws them over the side of the sofa, covering Tonks’ petite form in dozens of fluttering, moving pictures. She lets out another hearty guffaw before hoisting herself up onto her elbows, looking up at him with a familiar glint in her dark eyes.
“There’s another box, you know,” she smiles, and in this instant Charlie can practically feel the crannies in his heart begin to mend themselves.
He returns her smirk with a roll of the eyes and a sigh. “Where are they?”
“Shelf on the far wall, I think.”
Easy enough for her to say – the shelf was cluttered with paraphernalia that Charlie didn’t even know the name of. “I’m going to need more help than that if I’m going to find it. I’m not the Hufflepuff here.”
Her laugh carried across the room. “Look by the picture of the three boys.”
And so he did, rifling through books on magical defense and protection, tattered paperbacks by people he had never heard of, knickknacks that included animal figures and loose papers with writing scrawled over them about goodness knows what. There was a thin layer of dust over most of it, as though the possessions that lay tucked away on the shelf hadn’t seen the light of day in ages.
“Come on, it shouldn’t take you that long.”
Charlie huffed, grabbing a book and waving it wildly at her. “Everything here either consists of books on magical creatures or-” (He picked up another.) “- dark arts defense-” (And another.) “The Chocoholic’s Guide to Cocoa-? Weird, you hate chocolate -”
(And finally, another.)
Charlie watches as she crawls around the side of the couch, brows furrowed in confusion. It’s only when she catches sight of what’s in his hands, that she scrambles ungracefully to her feet and practically launches herself across the room.
“Here, let me take that -”
Tonks hovers about him, reaching out with desperate fingers that paw at the item he keeps away from her. Charlie blinks down at the magazine in his hand.
“Modern Bride,” he reads slowly, his eyes flicking over the cover.
(Silence, Charlie notices, has never been more painful.)
“Who’s getting married?” he asks.
Tonks is polite enough to pretend as though his voice doesn’t shake.
“July seventh,” she whispers.
It’s enough for both of them.
Charlie’s knees buckle. Grasping the side of the shelf is all he can do to keep himself from crumpling to the ground. She gasps, grabs his arm and tries her best to hoist him up.
“I think you should sit down.”
“You know, when you said you wanted to talk, I wasn’t really expecting this.”
His averts his eyes from the bridal magazine in his hands, falling backwards into the nearest armchair. It smells of aftershave and freshly laundered clothes, and he can’t help but wonder how many times they sat here, she curled up like a cat in his lap, his hand stroking her hair.
She nods furiously. “I know, Charlie.”
“I have every right to be furious with you.”
Tonks’ voice is small. “Yes, I know, Charlie.”
“You should have said something.”
“Would you have come?” she whimpers, “Would you be here today if I had?”
His silence serves to answer her question. She pulls the magazine from his hands, looking at it in utter disgust. “My mother brought it over,” she says, “It isn’t mine, really.”
(As if that makes it better.)
“So this is what I’m here to talk to you about?” Charlie asks suddenly, and Tonks tears her eyes away from the photo of a blushing young girl, clad in white and smiling delightedly.
She looks like she hates herself now. “Yes.”
There is a tense silence (and although Charlie should be used to these by now, he’s never had one with her before. As it were, it’s all the more horrible than the others.)
“So, should I buy a suit?” he snaps suddenly, floundering for something – anything – to say. His voice strikes with the harshness of a whip, and she recoils away from him as though he’s slapped her. She stares at him, and they both silently marvel at the venom that trickles from his words.
(He told her nine years ago that he could never be angry with her, no matter her actions. Charlie wonders whether it’s chivalrous or merely pathetic that his promise still holds true.)
He supposes he’s angry with himself. The world. Time itself. Anything but her. Never her.
“Oh,” Tonks says, surprised, “Oh…I didn’t think…”
“If you’re going to be marrying someone-”
(That isn’t Charlie himself.)
“- then I reckon your best mate should be in attendance.”
She blinks, her teeth biting down on her bottom lip. In the moment, Charlie can feel the whole world fall upon his shoulders, the cracks in his heart ceasing their effort to mend.
“Oh, Charlie…” Tonks stutters, and now her speech is just as clumsy as the rest of her, “with the state of things right now…we just can’t afford to have anything drawing too much attention. It’s…it’s just not safe, Charlie…it needs to stay small.”
Somewhere in the middle of it all, he has to remind himself to breath.
Silence is abundant today.
After a while, she speaks: “I wanted closure. I asked you hear because – despite everything – you’re my best friend, Charlie. I need you to tell me it’s okay. I need you to be happy for me.”
“It’s rather hard to be happy for someone when what they’re doing is tearing you apart.”
“I don’t understand what-”
“I never stopped loving you,” he says, “Five years, seven months and nineteen days ago I told you that it was forever, Tonks. I meant it.”
She emits a sound that is barely recognizable as a gasp, tears pool at the corners of her dark eyes. She shakes her head.
But whatever she has to say dies on her lips as the front door opens with a deafening creek. Disheveled but smiling, a man bustles through and drops what looks to be a shabby coat onto the rack. He shakes his head, feigning anger.
“Dora, what did I tell you about locking the doors? You really -”
And they’re staring at each other, Charlie Weasley and this man; the man who can never, ever understand just how much he has.
Tonks looks over at this man, and brief moment taken to look him over, and she’s at his side in a flash. Clumsy, uncoordinated Nymphadora Tonks sashays with unsettling grace over to him, an expression of utmost content lining her face.
The man smiles curiously, his tired eyes bright.
“Charlie Weasley,” Tonks says quietly, stepping towards the stranger and securing herself under his arm. She holds onto him as though he’s what keeps her rooted to the world. “This is Remus Lupin.”
Charlie picked dragons for four reasons.
One: they weren’t people.
Two: they were bloody brilliant.
Three: dragons were in Romania.
Four: a dragon’s eyes didn’t light up when they said Remus Lupin.