It was during the between time that he would lie and close his eyes--not in the time between sleep and awake, but that furious wondering between acceptance and resistance of a danger that was very real. It was an inherited tenacity that allowed his bullheadedness to see the space around him with a generous eye, a dry brow; he didn’t wish to own it. More often than not it was easy to pass it off as some well-covered Weasley weakness.
It was too, at these times, when he found himself looking down upon his own body lying amongst the reeds and grasses that created a swaying film over the expanse of Serenity Hill. A muted green blanket, confined to the space of a small hillock floating in space. It was clean, fresh air, blue skies, a cloud or two. Though it wasn’t the nature--it wasn’t the ease with which his eyes took in the landscape, with which he savored the warm resin beneath his back, that drew him back time after time. It was a figment of thought, embodied in a lingering peace--it was the warmth of a childhood home, a tangible promise.
The nighttime sky would fall, comfortable, like ink across a wet surface--quickly, surely, without qualm. One didn’t have to wonder what might happen under the night on Serenity Hill. It was only passing time, the pace of his breathing, the pulse of his heart in rhythm with the beating of the earth. It was in and out again, but even the disparity between his own life breath and that of the land was a comfort; a reminder. His life, though on instances in beat with the earth, was ultimately his own.
There was always the option of wholeness in a world that seemed to be edging into decay.
* * *
“Open your ears,” Mrs Weasley said gently as she settled down into the creaky old rocker in Percy’s room. Charlie gathered the blankets up to his chin, settling into Percy’s pillow comfortably. Percy spluttered theatrically besides him, giving him a nudge.
“You’re choking me!” he whispered into Charlie’s ear--Charlie ignored him by administering a hearty punch to his side. Apart from a little wheezing, that quieted him nicely. He didn’t want to miss a single word of this story.
“Once upon a time,” Mrs Weasley began, leaning in, her brown eyes sparkling in the light of the little blue jar of flames on the bedside table, “there was a wise old Wizard whose world was in a state of chaos. There were two kings in his land, and both of them were fighting over the kingdom’s control. One brother wishes to purify the land of outsiders, and the other wished for their kingdom to be a refuge and a home for all. The--”
“Why wouldn’t the other king want the land to be pure?” Percy asked nasally, still holding his side. Charlie punched him again.
“Perce, that’s evil!” Charlie shouted. “The land should be a place where anyone can live!”
“Even dirty people? Can they at least have a law that makes people take baths?” Percy eyed his brother meaningfully. Charlie lifted his fist again, but his mother’s sharp hiss placated him and he remembered there was more of the story to hear.
take baths more often,” Mrs Weasley nodded, eyeing the dirt on Charlie’s cheeks and nose mildly. “But the kings could not agree on the state of the purity of the land. It was a long fight, and the king in favor of purity was slowly taking over, convincing people of the royal court to take his side.
“Now, remember the Wizard I was telling you about at the beginning of this story?”
“Yes! The Wizard! What did he think about who could live in the kingdom?”
“Well,” Mrs Weasley continued, looking thoughtful, “The Wizard was not from the kingdom himself. He was worried that he would be expelled from the land and have no home.”
“What about the place he came from, Mum? Why wasn’t that still his home?” Percy seemed to be struggling with the story. Charlie thought he always had too many opinions about things. Even at four years old, he could never let anybody have complete control over a situation, even telling a story.
* * *
There was an off-beat beauty to her face: low brows, tough-looking, cracked lips...but there was a delicacy to the slope of her forehead and the way it melded with the small dunes of her cheekbones. The mess crowning her head, looking more like a mass of dark-colored, fibrous flobberworms than hair, somehow suited her more nicely than neat little curls would have done--neat little curls which she told him once before throwing a fist-full of porridge into his face had been what she had had before she'd stopped brushing her hair. Charlie wasn’t sure if he could imagine Apricot with any other kind of hair; he’d teased her once, look, Apricot's got a new member of the family, what ya gonna name ‘im, Apricot, when can we meet him right and proper?
It was the last day of summer and Charlie was lost in a wistful and futile hope that somehow, someway, he could be the one to board the train at King’s Cross the next morning--he could be the one to be shuttled off to safety, to warmth, to house-elf laundry service. To something just a little bit separate from the outside world, where there could be a chilly wind with an edge that was briefly and horrifyingly magical. A shift in the air would rouse the dragons from peaceful slumber, and for a moment, looking about him in awe at the fire lighting the black sky, he would wonder with a floating detachment if he were surrounded by hellfire, sparking, dangerous, unearthly bright.
It was easy to surrender to the push and the pull of everyday living in the base camp. They ate out of the same tin for all three meals, carried the same knapsacks on their backs as they moved from field to field of dragon domains, and cast the same charms around each dragon’s home. They even used much the same spells to help each sick case--pump the stomach, heal the wound, detach sheep skull from left front fang.
Every once in a while, soaring the length of a dragon’s body on broomstick, often in the air beside them, Charlie would for a moment see something very similar to fire in one of the giant, slitted eyes. His stomach would rise to his chest and he would teeter on the brink of acknowledging that fighting was not only for humanity. There were whispers that even reached all this way about the coming war, about the way the Muggles were disappearing, about the way that Muggleborns were going into hiding.
But it was so much easier to sit back and fall into the habit of a daily routine. It was easier to count on the dependency of Apricot’s schemes, to dodge her spells, to flip through volumes for counterjinxes to her inflicted maladies. She was always jumping out from behind things, tripping him when he walked by, putting beetles or sand in his porridge, dumping pumpkin juice--imported from home--over his hair, to “preserve the colour of it.” I’m preparing you for the fight back home. I’m helping you fight our war, even from Romania.
The truth, if he would give it, whenever he would say it to himself, would sound like this: These wounds were small--these wounds were, in their way, very safe.
* * *
“The Wizard could never go back,” Mrs Weasley continued, summoning her knitting from the depths of the Burrow and setting it to work under the supervision of her skillful eye. “He had done a bad thing back home, and they wouldn’t accept it.”
“What bad thing?” Percy asked, his eyes wide. Charlie rolled his eyes and elbowed him in the ribs.
“It doesn’t matter, Perce, just listen!”
“Your brother’s right, Percy, what the Wizard had done in his past was far behind him. What mattered now was what was happening in his kingdom. The Wizard knew--”
“Does the Wizard have a name?” Percy interrupted again. Mrs Weasley seemed to become impatient for a moment, but she sighed heavily and bowed her head.
“His name was...The Wizard,” she said definitively, and continued with her story. Percy remained quiet and Charlie unwound his arms in relief. “Now, the Wizard was very wise, and was very good at Potions.”
“Sluggy!” Percy cried, then clamped a hand over his mouth. Mrs Weasley looked at him sternly, but there was a forgiving softness to the lines of her face.
“Not Professor Slughorn, Perce,” she amended lightly. “This was long before his time.”
“But Mum,” he whined, unable to let the matter rest. “I thought wizards didn’t have royalty!”
Mrs Weasley paused, considering. “Well,” she began tentatively, and then an idea seemed to occur to her. Her eyes lit up for a moment and she said, “Percy, I did
say this was a long time ago. Wizards then lived under Muggle kings. The kings’ advisors were often Wizards,” she added, perhaps as a bit of a flouish. Charlie knew it was true, though.
“Like Merlin,” he said promptly. Mrs Weasley nodded eagerly.
“Can I continue now, Perce?” she asked, looking over her glasses at her youngest child. Her belly suddenly seemed very swollen in the blue firelight.
This time, Charlie interrupted. “Why doesn’t Bill ever come to story time, Mum?” Bill was Charlie’s favorite brother.
“He’s reading, Charlie,” Mrs Weasley answered. Her eyes behind her specs flickered up, as if to roll, but she looked back down at the boys and put her hands on her hips. Sitting down, as she was, it still had the regular effect. Charlie quieted, Percy squirmed a bit, and she continued with her story.
“The Wizard,” Mrs Weasley asserted, her voice a bit strong for story time, folding her arms over her protuberant midsection, “was very good at Potions. He knew that the King who wanted blood purity was winning the most votes. If this King’s rule overcame that of the other, the Wizard would be forced to leave the land and become a wanderer, without a home, and without any gold. So he decided that he would develop a special Potion, that could take everyone in danger to a very safe place.
“That place was called Serenity Hill.”
author's note: i started this story last year, november, i think, and other things kicked in, and i forgot about it. it's a completed, four-chapter story now, so there should be regular updates :)
*edit 23 july 2012: thank you, forsakenphoenix, for pointing out April vs. Apricot ;A;*
i've never written charlie weasley before. he's a bit of a mystery to me. so that's fun!
thanks to tenthweasley for being enthusiastic about mah writin', and thanks to faerieall for hosting the charlie weasley challenge at hpff, which i obviously didn't finish in time for, but which inspired this fic. lastly thank you celestie. you were with me when i was thinking up a name for apricot, and we were joking at the time, but it stuck, and worked, and, well, voila. ♥