Charlie laughed at Tonks as she changed her nose to look like Genevieve Midgen’s.
“I’ve never seen a sadder bunch of first years. Can’t you lot just be quiet!” she said in a fair imitation of Genevieve. She chuckled and changed her nose back. “She really was upset about all the noise the first years were making.”
Charlie smiled at Tonks’s normal face. He liked it better than any of the ‘pretty’ faces that she put on from time to time. “What did they do?”
“They just got louder and started playing Exploding Snap right next to where she was studying for her O.W.L.s.”
“Poor ickle Genevieve.” Charlie put his arm around Tonks. She snuggled up to his shoulder as they walked.
“I really don’t understand why she’s in Hufflepuff, she’s so driven to succeed that she should be in Slytherin,” Charlie said into Tonks’s ear. She flinched pleasantly from his breath. He smelled her herbal shampoo and ran a hand through her hair.
“She hates the Dark Arts.” Tonks grabbed Charlie’s hand. “I think it’s the only reason she’s not. She’d never have anything to do with most of them.”
They reached the small path that led to the lake and walked in silence for a few minutes, stopping once to kiss. The kiss lasted until they heard a noise behind them. They turned to see Mrs Norris creeping behind them. Her lamp-like eyes shone as she spotted them kissing. Charlie held out a hand to the cat, who came up to him and rubbed at his hand. She purred as she rubbed.
“You’re the only person besides Filch who that cat likes.” Tonks shook her head as Mrs Norris flopped over so Charlie could rub her belly.
“I did it with kindness, gentleness, and fish treats.” He pulled a dried piece of fish from his pocket. Mrs Norris sat up and let out a ‘merp.’ He dropped the piece of fish and she gobbled it up.
Mrs Norris brushed Charlie’s leg once again before cocking her head, twitching her ears and leaving at a trot.
“She must have heard something,” Tonks said.
“No doubt she heard some students snogging.” Charlie turned back to Tonks and lowered his lips to hers again. This time the kiss lasted much longer.
They broke apart and continued hand-in-hand to the lake where they sat next to some other students enjoying the brief period of sunshine. The giant squid splashed in the distance.
“I’m so glad we don’t have O.W.L.s to study for.” Charlie leaned back and Tonks rested across him.
“Yeah, but next year we have N.E.W.T.s to worry about.”
“You finally decided what you want to do?” He stroked her hair, which turned red under his touch.
“I really do want to become an Auror, but I don’t know if my marks will be good enough. Snape’s class is tough and I don’t think that Jameson is any good at teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts.” She sighed. “I don’t know if I’ll have learned enough.”
Charlie nodded. “Yeah, Jameson’s a joke. My parents have arranged a tutor for me this summer, a bloke named Lupin that they know. Maybe you can join me.”
“If it means I get to spend more time with you, then I’m all for it.” She twisted back and kissed Charlie again.
Charlie pushed her away playfully. “There won’t be time for that if we’re going to be learning.”
“Oh, we’ll be learning, it just won’t be about defending ourselves.” She pushed his arms away and squeezed back up to him.
Charlie walked slowly to the gravestone. He hung his head before it and rested silently for a moment before kneeling and putting his hand flat on the grave.
“I’m sorry for both of you,” he whispered. “I wish I had known Remus better. I wish that we hadn’t fallen out of contact over the years of the war. You deserved much better.”
A tear rolled down his cheek.
“I’m glad you found happiness again, however brief it was.” He pulled a photograph of Tonks and Remus from his pocket. Tonks beamed at him, resting her head on Remus’ shoulder. Her veil had gotten caught on Remus’ tie-tack and they were both laughing because the photographer had chosen just that moment to capture them.
“If I had been quicker to arrive, I might have saved you both.” The tears came faster. “I might have been able to help Fred.” He pounded his fists on the grave dirt and screamed. “It should have been me instead!”
He leaned the photo against the headstone and wept. A bitter wind blew through the graveyard. From the other side, by the fence, a woman with silvery-grey eyes observed as she made her way to a grave decorated with bright flowers.
Luna’s head nestled against Charlie’s on his pillow. The rumpled blankets covered them from the chill air of the late Romanian spring. Luna’s breathing came deep and rhythmic as she drowsed in Charlie’s arms.
He leaned close into her. She always smelled pleasantly of the outdoors.
She stirred in his arms and opened her eyes. Her pale blonde hair splayed across the pillow over his long, red tangles.
“I’m so happy now, love.”
“I’m very serene when I’m with you,” he whispered back. “There’s something welcoming and gentle about you.”
He closed his eyes.
He stood at Bill’s side. Fleur and Bill recited their vows to each other, but Charlie’s eyes were drawn to the seats where Xenophilius Lovegood sat with his daughter, Luna. It was impossible to miss them. Their bright yellow robes stood out in the crowd like goldfinches in a murder of ravens. He hadn’t seen her for a few years, and was surprised at how old she was. He turned to Ginny. She also had grown since he last saw her. His attention wandered until the tufty-haired wizard who was presiding over the wedding announced Bill and Fleur as husband and wife.
Charlie found a table at the back with Hagrid and began chatting with him about dragons in between sips of champagne. He saw Luna stand and begin to dance. After a short time Ginny joined her and they danced near each other. They were obviously friends now. He’d missed so much of what was going on when he was off in Romania. A boy came up and started to dance with Ginny. Luna spun away across the dance floor to Charlie.
“Hey, Luna!” Hagrid shouted as she came up.
“Hi, Hagrid,” she said in her lilting voice.
She turned to Charlie. “You’re Charlie, right?”
“That’s me.” He stood and held out his hand to her. “You’re Luna, Xenophilius’ daughter. I haven’t seen you since you were about ten or eleven years old.”
“I’d love to interview you for my daddy’s magazine. So many people don’t understand dragons. They’re terribly misunderstood creatures.” She smiled and her rather plain face lit up.
“I’d like that,” he heard himself say.
He opened his eyes, to find her still beside him. She sighed deeply and began to fall asleep again. He fell asleep beside her and dreamed.
A light knocking awakened him. He grabbed his wand from the night stand and moved to the door.
“Yes,” he said, “who is it?”
“It’s Luna.” Her voice came from behind the door.
He opened the door and Luna stood there, dressed in bright red robes with a large rucksack.
“What…” he started to ask.
“I’m here to work with the conservancy effort.” She smiled. “I was on my Grand Tour after Hogwarts and I’ve decided to help on the reserve. Mr Romanski has already hired me as an assistant dragon keeper on Hagrid’s recommendation. He didn’t tell you?”
Charlie shook his head. “I—no, he didn’t tell me.” He stepped back from the door. “Where are my manners? You must be tired, please come in.”
“Oh, I can’t right now, I’ve got to report to Mr Romanski.” She dropped the rucksack and embraced him in a fond manner. “But I just wanted to say hello before I went. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”
As she walked away, Charlie hoped it was true that they’d be seeing a lot of each other.
He turned restlessly in his sleep until his hand brushed Luna’s back. They both settled at the other’s touch.
It hurt to see them together; he’d introduced them after all. Watching Luna lean on Rolf, Charlie had to steel himself. He wanted to pull her aside, to tell her how he still felt, but he had too much respect for both of them to intrude on their happiness. He closed his eyes and counted to ten. When he opened them, both of them were staring at him, Luna with her silvery-blue eyes and Rolf with his chocolate-brown eyes.
“I say, old man, are you quite all right?” Rolf asked in a soft voice that belied his size.
“I...” Charlie thought for a moment before speaking. “Too many early days and late nights. You know how it is when the hatchlings start to grow.”
Rolf chuckled. “I do indeed, and I don’t miss those days.”
“Glad you’re out of the conservation business now?” Charlie asked.
“I’m glad that I’m out of the daily grind, but really, I’m still in the conservation business, just a different aspect of it.” Rolf took a hearty swig of his coffee.
“We’ll still be promoting conservation and teaching, we just won’t be as hands-on,” Luna added in her dreamy voice. Charlie closed his eyes again.
“Charlie—Charlie, are you there?” Luna asked. “Did the Nargles start to get you?”
“I...I’m sorry.” Charlie sighed. “I must be more tired than I thought.”
“In that case, I’ll cut to the chase.” Rolf reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. He started to say something, but Luna took the box from his hand and opened it. A gold ring shaped like a serpent with its tail in its mouth nestled inside on a bed of red velvet. The snake’s ruby eyes flickered at Charlie and the mouth opened to reveal a flickering, gem-encrusted tongue. Charlie knew it was an Ouroboros, a symbol of the cyclical nature of life.
“We’re going to be married in March, on the Equinox,” Luna said.
He was dead: it was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance. It had happened again.
“I’m happy for both of you,” he said, not sure if it was a lie or not. He hid his face behind his mug of coffee for a moment so Luna couldn’t read his face. She was the best at reading people he’d ever met.
“I’d like you to be best man,” Rolf said. “If it weren’t for you, we’d have never met.”
“I’d be honoured,” Charlie said, knowing that it was a lie this time. Having to stand by as the woman he still loved married another might be more than he could handle. At least when Tonks had been married, he hadn’t been there in person to see it. He turned to Luna and saw the joy in her face.
“I’d be honoured,” he repeated, meaning it more this time.
Rolf reached across the table and grasped Charlie’s hand.
“Thanks, Charlie. It’ll mean the world to me to have you there.” A broad grin spread across his face. It reminded Charlie of the first time he’d seen Rolf’s smile.
Charlie opened the door, revealing a very large, red-bearded man waiting outside in the rain. He stood head and shoulders over Charlie and must have weighed twenty-five stone.
“Charlie Weasley?” the man asked, in a posh accent. Charlie stifled a laugh at the voice.
“Yes, I’m Charlie; can I help you? The refuge won’t be open to the public until morning.”
The man held out a string-wrapped parchment. “I’m Rolf Scamander, and I’m bringing Ebony, the new Hebridean Black.” He pointed to a Muggle lorry idling just down the road. “She’s right in the back there. Just show me where her pen is and I’ll offload her.”
“You can drive a lorry?” Charlie asked, opening the parchment.
Rolf smiled and shrugged. “It’s not that difficult. Besides, if a Muggle can do it, there’s no reason a wizard can’t.” He laughed. “It’s a damn sight easier to sedate the dragons and move them in a lorry than it is to try to herd them when they’re flying.”
Charlie finished reading the parchment. “I’ve always been partial to shrinking them and moving them in a small animal carrier.”
He looked up again at Rolf.
“Wait, did you say your name was Scamander? Any relation to...”
Rolf smiled. “Newt was my grandfather.”
“Was?” Charlie asked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear he’d passed away.”
“Last summer, but he was happy to go finally. He’d been in pain for a while and it was a relief.”
“Let me get my leathers and I’ll show you Ebony’s pen. I know we’ll all be excited to meet her, especially Luna. She’s been looking forward to meeting the new Hebridean Black.”
“Rolf, could you be a dear and get me another gillywater?” Luna asked.
“But the one in front of you is still full,” he protested.
“Oh, that one’s sat out too long and if I drink it then I’ll get the gillie-willies.”
“Ooookay,” Rolf said as he rose and went to the bar.
Luna slid the velvet-lined box into her pocket. “Oh, Charlie. We didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
He lowered his eyes. When he looked up, she was staring at him. Her eyes always seemed able to pierce him to his soul.
“It’s why I’ve been avoiding you so much the last few months. I knew that if you saw me too much that you’d see how much I still cared.” He sighed. “I am happy that you’ll be happy, but…”
“But you’re also dead inside, just a little.” She said it flatly. “I understand how you feel.”
“You do?” Charlie sat back.
“I saw the man I loved once wed one of my friends; my best friend.” She smiled. “I was jealous, but happy for her… and for him. I knew he’d never loved me like I loved him, but it hurt anyway.”
“It’s happened to me twice now.” Charlie sipped his water. “I can tell you the pain never goes away, but it does dull with time.”
Luna laughed. “Yes, it dulls with time. Sometimes love comes again.” Luna waved at Rolf as he walked back to their table. “It may come a third time for you; good things often come in threes.”
“I thought that was bad things,” Charlie said.
“Oh, Charlie, don’t be superstititious.” She laughed again, her long braying laugh that always made her friends laugh with her.
Rolf sat back down and put the gillywater in front of her.
“I’ve got to go,” Charlie said, rising. He held his hand out to Rolf. “Congratulations, the both of you.”
As he turned to walk away, Luna said from behind him, “as you know, my best friend is your sister, Ginny.”
The Rule of Three
Rolf sat across from Charlie at the table. It had been years since he’d come to Romania. Charlie’s eyes were drawn to Rolf’s wedding band. Rolf noticed his gaze.
“Luna’s well, better than well.” He grinned broadly. “I’m going to be a father: twins.”
Charlie laughed. “Twins can be a handful.”
“That’s right; you have brothers who are twins.”
“Fred died at the Battle of Hogwarts,” Charlie replied thickly.
“I’m sorry; I forgot.” Rolf raised his glass. “To Fred’s memory.”
Charlie raised his glass as well. “To Fred’s memory.”
They drank in silence for a moment. A tall, pale woman with the same reddish-brown hair as Rolf entered the bar, and Rolf waved her down. As she approached the table, Charlie and Rolf stood.
“Charlie, I’d like to introduce my cousin, Griselda.”
She held out her hand and Charlie shook it.
“Pleased to meet you. Rolf’s told me so much about you.”
“It’s all lies,” she said, laughing. “I’m much nicer than he says.”
“I’ll just bet you are,” Charlie said before he could stop himself.
“Play your cards right and maybe you’ll find out.” She met his eyes boldly.
A/N Well, here it is. I’m not sure what to make of it. I think it’s quite similar to what I’ve written before, but also quite different. Hopefully, the flashbacks don’t pull the reader away from the experience. I’ve had trouble with flashbacks before and generally avoid them, but they really felt right here. I’d love to hear any CC.
The line, ‘He knew he was dead: it was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance’ is from The Order of the Phoenix, pg 815, US edition HB (Chapter 36, The Only One He Ever Feared).
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