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Chapter 5 : Questions of Character
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"Hey." That was all I was going to get? A hey? I stared at him as if in shock, before the fire place turned green again and Bill came tumbling out.
"I dunno how you like flooing better than ap--hey." Bill stopped short, seeing Charlie sitting there, the oder of whiskey melting off him like sweat.
"Is that all you Weasley men say, hey?" I asked astounded at the fact that Charlie had left me there and had nothing better to say than hey. I turned to him angrily, completely ignoring the fact that Bill was in the room at all. "Couldn't you at least say hello?!"
The guilt that had been on Charlie's face when I first arrived was quickly replaced by an ugly snarl. "Shut up, Alice. Not everyone has to be as proper as you do, alright? We can't all be saint like and perfect!" His words slurred together ever so slightly, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at him. He was just a drunk, ranting with the power of boozes. Bill made an attempt to tell him to cut it out, but Charlie just lifted up his hand to silence his brother. "No, Bill, she should hear this! Alice is so damn perfect, and if someone else doesn't live up to her standards, she feels the need to fix them! I don't need to be fixed, I'm not broken. I'm just fine! Alice, if you wanna fix something, go find Brian." He started to laugh like a maniac, throwing his hands out in wild gestures. My stomach contracted in a guilty way, like I was going to be sick. "He's six feet under, see if you can fix him, huh Alice? Little miss perfect can't fix the dead, huh Alice?"
Bill again made an attempt to tell his brother off, but I held up a hand. Much calmer than the fashion that Charlie did. Because, he had a point. For once, Charlie Weasley was right. "You're right, Charlie." I said quietly, "I don't know anything about you, and I shouldn't have tried to help. Just like you don't know anything about me to say such things. We're both in the wrong. I'll leave you alone from now on. Serve you drinks at the bar, and as long as you pay your bill we won't have any problems." I paused, turning to head out the door and back to my home, while I had one. "But you're not the only one, Charlie. Whose hurt and scared, suffering and feels alone. You are not the only one. The rest of us don't let it stop us from living. Brian wouldn't want to see you this way. At least, I think Brian wouldn't wanted to have seen you this way. Because you're right about that too. I didn't know Brian."
"Thanks again, Bill." I muttered as I quickly headed out the door and down the path towards the orphanage. I barely slept that whole night, with thoughts of Charlie Weasley in my head. I had been wrong to judge him, but he had also been wrong to judge me. There was nothing perfect about a girl with no last name.
A few days went by, and I didn't see Charlie. He avoided the bar and I avoided the Weasley household. However, that did not stop me from seeing Bill.
"Don't you ever just want to do something different?" I asked him one day as we sat outside the steps of Gringotts. He was telling me again what he did for the day, which sounded like the same thing had done the day before, and the day before that. "We get into routine too much, don't you think? We're so young!" I leaned back against my elbows, feeling the sun beat down on my face.
"Hey, I'm nineteen. I'm not that young anymore. I might be needing a cane soon." I rolled my eyes at him, before jumping up and turning to face him.
"Go? Go where, Alice? I have work." I just smiled at him leaning down to pull on his arm.
"Skip!" And that was all I said before dashing down the alley. I was going to find something fun for us to do. Or at least something that was going to get my mind off Charlie. Had I been too hard on him? He had lost his best friend, I couldn't pretend that I understood what that felt like...
I turned to look at Bill, who was glancing between the building in which he was due back in thirteen minutes, and then at me. I just gave him a small smile, and it seemed to reassure him enough. For Bill picked up the bottle of Gillywater that he had, and followed me. Out the doors of the Leaky Cauldron, and to a world that the two of us planned on exploring, together.
"I'll give you fifteen. Final offer." I starred at this man, much larger than Bill and I put together, with blots of ink down his arm. I wasn't sure how we had ended up in this shop, but I decided once I had gotten there, that I was getting a tattoo. Bill and I were both going to get ink dotted onto our arms. This was nuts, and completely not routine.
"Sweetheart, fifteen isn't nearly close to what we offer here. Seventy-five." The man was not budging on his price, and I absolutely could not afford that, even if it was muggle money. His voice was condescending and I knew the poor girl angle wasn't going to get me anywhere here.
"But, it's our wedding gift!" I cried, and I felt Bill's jaw widen ever so slightly next to me. "Bill, honey, tell him!" I turned back to the man who was eyeing Bill with pity and suspicion as if he didn't believe that the boy would marry someone as annoying as me. "We wanted to get something matching, we don't have enough money for a real ceremony, so this was our binding point. Two question marks that uhmmm...make a heart when you put them together! So when were separated, it's a question, but together a full heart!" Not sure if Bill wanted that on his body forever...
"How old are you?" The inked man asked with an eyebrow raised. His mustache moved upwards with this motion too.
"Barely adults, sir." Bill answered this time, and I smiled at him for going along. "Our families disapproved of us uhm... marrying so young, so we took off without them! Nothing but the clothes on our back. And of course, our...love." He looked like he was about to laugh hysterically, but the man seemed to take it as a love struck look. He looked back and forth between us, as if still suspicious.
"Fine, consider it your wedding gift. You first, pony boy." Bill grinned excitedly, hopping in the chair. "Just soz you two know, you could die from this. Love birds better say goodbye, just in case." One of the things I learned from working with Mr. O'Malley, I could tell when people were testing you. Watching you, as if waiting for you to say the wrong thing. To prove to them that you were going to screw up all along. That's exactly what this man was going, and I wasn't going to let him win.
"Be safe, love." I whispered to Bill, bringing my face closer to his. After a moment of staring into his warm brown eyes, someone moved. Maybe it was him, or maybe it was me, maybe it was both of us. However, before I could explain it, our lips were pressed together. The warmth of his mouth made me reach my hand up, stroking his chin before resting it on his shoulder. After a moment, I pulled back, lips swollen and in shock.
"Always, love." He replied with a wink, before sitting back and looking at the large man as if he had forgotten he was there. "Ready when you are, sir!"
Bill starred straight ahead as the device went over his right wrist, drawing on a black question mark. It was over before I knew it, and then it was my turn. The artist made Bill's wrist line up to mine, outlining it with a marker before preparing the buzzer device. "Ready, Blondie?" He asked, before pressing it to my wrist.
Why didn't anyone tell me it hurt? "OW!" I screamed, before jumping, making the line he was drawing blur slightly. "Holy Merlin! That stings!" The guy grumbled about how I had messed it up, and it was going to look silly now. He yelled at me to sit still, before quickly finishing.
"Now get out, I need some paying customers who don't scream like little girls. Enjoy married life, kids. It starts to suck after a while."
"Well, they almost match!" Bill said with a small smile, as we compared our tattoos. It was true, the almost fit into a perfect heart, except my top corner, which strayed away towards my own wrist rather than his.
"Works well enough." I said, rubbing my wrist gingerly, before redoing the white cotton over it. I didn't know how Bill had sat there like it was nothing, nor how that man had so many. It was downright painful to sit through. "Did you have fun?"
"Of course, Ms. Alice." Bill said with a wink, "How was it being a Weasley for a night? I mean, being my wife and all." I couldn't help but laugh. What I wouldn't give to be a Weasley. I said that to Bill too, and he just smiled. Not a sad smile, however, or a pitying one. Just a smile, like he was happy to know that there were people who wanted to be in his family.
"Well, I'd offer to give you Charlie's spot, but that would mean we wouldn't be able to do this anymore." He stepped forward again, running his hand through a strand of my hair, before tucking it behind my ear. "Is this ok?" He asked, and with a nod from me, he kissed me again. Kissing Bill was nice, and comforting. It was a safe feeling, and it was what I thought about the whole walk from the Burrow to the orphanage. He was such a gentleman, and had offered to walk me. However, I turned him down saying that I wanted to walk home alone. And I did. It was a time that it was quiet, the only time in my day that it was just me.
Until I reached a little pond, just right before the house. There stood Charlie Weasley, and just like that it wasn't just me anymore.
"What're you doing here?" I asked him quietly, in a curious voice. He looked up from the water and towards me. He looked exhausted, but completely sober. He scratched the back of his neck nervously, before letting out a large sigh.
"Brian and I met on the train my first year. We instantly clicked over the fact that we both had older brothers who seemed out shine us. Bill always had better grades than I did, and he became a prefect and Head Boy. Brian's brother Marc was the same, a few years older than Bill. We had been best friends ever since." He paused, looking back to the pond as if talking to me was too painful. "When we left Hogwarts, it was going to be an adventure. Sailing the seas, trying to find something different. People told us not to go down the path by Norway. Said it was too dangerous. But, I said we should." His voice cracked slightly, and I stepped closer to him, and saw in the light of the moon that he was silently crying. He took a few minutes before continuing. "I don't even know what attacked us. All I know is it struck Brian in the throat...and there was...was so much blood." His voice raised and octave with another crack.
"It wasn't your fault." I said quietly. I leaned down to pull of my shoes and socks, before sitting down and placing my feet in the water. Charlie remained standing for a minute, before following the suit. It was cold, but neither of us really seemed to notice. "It wasn't your fault. Brian's parents know that too, I'm sure. Grief changes people." I glanced at him, realizing that without even meaning to I was talking about him.
"I can't...let it change me anymore." He said quietly. "I can't let my mum cry another night." He closed his eyes, as if remembering something. "She cries like Brian's mum did. It's as if I'm dead too."
"Then it's time to start living again."
The next few weeks went by without anything interesting happening. Charlie stayed true to his word, and even if it was a slow process, started to live again. The first sign of change was the morning after we had talked. I opened the bar, and spotted Bill running by through the window. Then, lagging behind and completely out of breath was Charlie. Right in front of O'Malleys, he placed his hands on his knees and bent over, trying to catch as much breath as he could. He looked towards the door as if he wanted nothing more than to give up right there, and come in and have a drink. However, he just turned and continued to limp after his brother.
I felt like my thoughts were swimming with Weasleys. Whether it was Bill and his cute comments that made me feel like melting, or Charlie's harsh words that made me want to fight back. Bill and I hadn't kissed since that night, but we still saw each other regularly. I felt as if I spent my days with him, an hour for lunch, then my nights with Charlie, sitting by the pond just talking. He hadn't said another word about Brian, and I had not asked. I think he said all that he needed to. For the most part, I talked a lot about my life. About missing out on Hogwarts, about not knowing who my parents were or anything about them, and a lot about leaving the orphanage. I only ten days left before I was moving out. And still no where to go.
"You could come stay with us." Charlie said one night as we sat by the pond. I thought about sharing a roof with him and Bill and quickly shook my head. I wasn't sure if either brother knew how close I was with the other.
"I couldn't do that to your mum." I said with a small smile. "She's got it rough enough, having you there." I nudge him and he let out a laugh. A real laugh, something I didn't think I had ever heard out of Charlie.
"I'm moving out soon." Charlie said randomly. "To my aunt's place, Shell Cottage. It's right on the water, away from everything." He closed his eyes for a moment. "You could come there."
I hardly notice the invite as I focused on the location. "You're going to live on the water?" I said quietly. "Charlie, surely you don't think that's a good..." I trailed off.
"I need to." That was his only reply. "Come with me?"
What could I say to that? I opened my mouth and closed it. "I'll think about it." I said quietly, closing my eyes. I felt more stressed out about leaving than I ever had.
It was the stress. I was sure of it. It was all so overwhelming. I had no where to go, expect maybe the Shell Cottage with Charlie. And we'd have to pay for things, like food. And he didn't have a job. And his aunt might have wanted me to pay rent.
Stress can drive you to insanity.
Which is why, I, Alice, the good girl, the one who was trusted, reached into the cash draw the next day at O'Malleys, and took out three sickles and a galleon, and slipped it right into my pocket.
A/N?: I'm back! If there's anyone still out there... -stops and listens- I know it's been FOREVER. but I just found some awesome plot bunnies for this story, so not only is this chapter done, but so isn't the next one! And I'm planning a sequel -cackles- anyways, if you're still there, lease read and review. i'll need the impute considering the fact that I haven't written in forever. Plus, a poll: Which brother would you like to see Alice with?! Please, review! ;D pleaseeee! ;D
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