Disclaimer: Why do I bother? I seriously hope you can tell that I'm not JKR.
A/N: Super duper special thanks to my beta, Cyndi – thanks for all your hard work and encouragement along the way!
DeeDee the SMARMY – Yes, he was awful! (Aren't most guys?) ;)
HollyMahogany – I know how you feel! Much of Tonks's pain was from my own experience.
Ariana Malfoy-Lestrange – Hold onto your broom, dear. It's only a little conspiracy – don't go mad just yet. ;)
Spazzy Magee – Put some cookies in here just for you. :)
Pedagogie – Yes, we do love him in spite of it all!
MelissaMoony – Yes, very pretty review indeed!
mysticaldreams - He could never be truly conceited!
Dr. Huff-Puff – Thank you so much! That makes me VERY happy!
Misting Morning – Goodness, I hope no one will attack me! ;)
liferscove2118 – Cliffies are just me being lazy!
Eraserhead – lol, stupid boys indeed.
Hippy Gypsy – I tried to write fast!
TeenTypist – Thanks so much!
Two weeks. Fourteen days. Fourteen long, torturous, agonizing days. When is it going to end?
Charlie stared up at the ceiling without blinking. He hadn't had a good night's sleep since Tonks had left, and here he was again, counting down the hours until daybreak.
Maybe tomorrow will be different. Maybe tomorrow she'll come.
Charlie tossed the covers aside and rolled over, stepping onto the cold floor. With a shiver, he lit the lamp on his bedside table and pulled on a pair of wool socks. If he was going to be awake, he might as well do something productive.
He made his way quietly down the staircase, hoping he wouldn't wake anyone. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts.
Down in the kitchen, Charlie poured himself a glass of milk and sat down at the table with a large roll of parchment. Unrolling it, he examined the map that Remus had asked him to look at. It was a map of Eastern Europe, an area he was familiar with, and he needed to try and pinpoint some possible hideouts for Voldemort… but he was struggling to find his focus. Tonks' face kept swimming before his mind's eye, her usual smile gone, tears on her lashes.
Charlie put his head on his folded arms with a shuddering breath. I just need a chance to make it right.
Tonks sat in her favorite armchair, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, a mug of tea in her hands, and a plate of cookies on her lap. She stared at the flames flickering in the fireplace, but all she could see was Charlie.
"I miss him." Her voice sounded odd to her ears as it echoed slightly in the empty room. "I wonder if he misses me."
Her breath caught in her chest. What if he doesn't?
She hadn't wanted to consider that possibility, but there it was, looming before her like a lethifold, ready to suck the life right out of her. She struggled against the tears lodged at the back of her throat. "Of course he misses me."
How do you know? Maybe he's doing fine without you. Maybe he's glad you're gone. You lied to him, remember?
She frowned. "Yes, but… but Charlie's not a liar, and he said he hadn't given up on me… on us."
She let her own words be absorbed into the dark silence of the room. It made sense. Charlie wouldn't lie to her. He hadn't given up, and she had promised him that she wouldn't give up either.
But what if he's changed his mind?
Tonks set her tea and cookies on the table and stood up, letting the blanket fall to the floor. "Well, I'm not going to give up, and neither is he. I won't let him."
"Charlie? Charlie, wake up."
Something was pounding on his head. A rock? A brick?
He groaned. Why couldn't they just let him sleep? It sounded like the Hogwarts Express was rolling through his bedroom. What was going on? Why wouldn't they leave him alone?
A hand grasped his shoulder. "Charles Weasley, wake up right this instant!"
He warily opened one eye and saw his mother staring down upon him indignantly. He pried open the other eye and saw with some surprise that he wasn't in his room at all.
"Don't know why you can't sleep in your room like normal people," his mother was saying. "Drooling all over Remus's map like that! Why, there's a puddle right in the middle of Russia!"
Charlie frowned and sat up. "I don't drool, Mum." How had he gotten from his bed to the kitchen, anyway?
"I know you're not a morning person, Charles, but this is ridiculous. Pull yourself together( , ) and then get upstairs and get dressed so I can make breakfast. We've got a meeting in an hour – everyone's coming and I don't want you looking like a zombie."
Charlie's eyes popped open again. Everyone was coming? That meant… He jumped up from his chair, leaving his mother to clean up the kitchen, and scrambled up the stairs. He uttered a quick apology to Ginny as he accidentally bumped into her, and scooted into the bathroom just ahead of Ron.
"Hey!" his brother protested. "I was just about to take a shower! I had to wait an hour for Percy to get out – it's my turn!"
"Sorry, little brother – first come, first serve!" Charlie replied as he slammed the door behind him. No way was he going to get caught looking a mess today.
Charlie stared at her from across the table. He knew he should be paying attention to what Dumbledore was saying, but he couldn't help it. He was like a man who had been lost in the desert and had finally found water. He wanted to drink in the sight of her – he didn't know when he would see her again after this.
He knew that her hair usually reflected her mood, and he wondered if she knew that those short brown curls were the same as the day they'd met – for the second time – three weeks ago. Does that mean there's still hope?
Tonks stared blankly at Dumbledore. She hadn't heard a word he'd said this whole time, but she kept her eyes on him, a true test of her will. She knew if she gave in and looked at Charlie, all would be lost.
She took a deep breath and tried to concentrate. It was torture, being this close to him, unable to say what was on her mind. He looked good, though, not like he'd spent as many sleepless nights as she had. Maybe he hasn't. Maybe he doesn't lay awake at night, thinking about me. She blinked back tears, determined not to make a fool of herself.
Without warning, the meeting was over. It was now or never. She stood up, ready to move towards him, ready to face him… or so she thought. Her heart was suddenly overcome with fear, her legs immobile. Oh, Merlin, I can't do this.
She brushed past Mundungus and through the door, spurred on by her own cowardice. I have to get out of here. She heard someone behind her and quickened her pace. Go away, Charlie. Leave me alone. I can't handle your rejection.
She stopped in her tracks. It was Kingsley. She took a steadying breath and pasted a smile on her face before turning to face him. "Kingsley. Hi."
"Hello, Tonks." He smiled. "How are you feeling?"
Like my heart has been trampled by a herd of hippogriffs. "Alright, I guess. Ready to come back to work tomorrow." Anything to get away from the loneliness. Anything to get away from my doubts.
He had tried to catch her, but Kingsley had beaten him to the punch. Charlie stepped back into the sitting room, out of sight. He couldn't interrupt them – Kingsley was her boss, for Merlin's sake – maybe he should just wait until next time.
You're such a coward, Weasley. You face dangerous, fire-breathing dragons every day, but you can't face one tiny woman?
Charlie frowned. But she's just one woman. She's like ten women squished into one fiery package. I would gladly spend the rest of my life discovering every aspect of her personality, but what if she won't let me? What if she says no?
He hated this battle within himself. He was usually a very decisive person, but now he was just being stupid. You'll never know unless you try. Be a man, Weasley. Anything had to be better than not knowing. If she turned him away, if she wouldn't forgive him, at least he wouldn't spend his life wondering.
Charlie peered around the doorframe and saw that Tonks and Kingsley had finished their conversation and she was coming his way. He waited until she was right next to him and then reached out to grab her hand.
Tonks jumped as a hand appeared from seemingly nowhere and pulled her into the sitting room. "What in the…" She looked around at her abductor. "Charlie?"
He looked apologetic, but determined. "I want… no, I need to talk to you, Tonks."
She shook her head. "I… I can't, Charlie. I'm sorry." She tried to pull her hand away from his, but he held tight.
"Please, Tonks. Just give me five minutes."
No! I'm not ready for you to reject me! I'm not strong enough for that! But those puppy-dog eyes were impossible to resist. "Five minutes," she whispered, her heart filled with dread.
Come on, Weasley. Gather up your meager supply of courage and just tell her!
Charlie wove his fingers through hers and swallowed hard. "Tonks, I… I want to say, first of all, that I am so sorry. There is no excuse for how I treated you at school. I hope you'll forgive me, and believe me when I say that I'm not that boy anymore."
She looked up at him, her eyes wide. Unwilling to examine what those eyes were saying, he plunged on, his gaze on the floor. "Er… I also want you to know that I… I'll understand if… well, if you don't… er…" For Merlin's sake, Weasley! "I'll understand if you don't want to see me again."
Tonks continued to stare at him, and his stomach churned. "Tonks? Please… please say something."
She seemed to be searching for words, but none came. Charlie could feel his heart being torn into tiny pieces. Time to bow out gracefully. "Well, er… anyway. Sorry to bother you. Guess my time's up." He drew in a shaky breath. "See you around, then."
Tonks watched numbly as he turned from her. He was walking away, out of the room… out of her life.
The word burst from her like dynamite, shattering the agonizing silence. Charlie stopped, then turned back towards her, a million questions in his eyes.
"No," she whispered. "Please don't go." She raised her voice slightly. "I'm sorry too, Charlie. We both made mistakes. I know you're not the same boy anymore. I'm not the same girl. But I convinced myself, sometime during these last few weeks, that we were those same kids, and that you wouldn't want me any more now than you did then. Merlin, I've changed my mind a million times just today alone. I don't know what you want, Charlie, but I do know what I want – I want a second chance."
He looked stunned. Say something. Anything. She didn't think she could bear the silence much longer.
"Tonks, I…" Charlie shook his head. "I should be asking you for a second chance." She tried to protest, but he stopped her. "But I want more than that. I want us to do this right, have a fresh start. I want to spend the rest of my life getting to know everything about you."
Then she smiled, and his heart soared. "I want that too, Charlie."
His kiss was unlike anything she ever could have dreamed. It was new, and yet familiar, like finding an unexpected refuge during a raging storm. Oh, Merlin, I could get used to this.
She gently pushed away from him and looked up into his eyes – he looked as dazed as she felt. "Why do I know this is right?" She shook her head with a disbelieving smile. "I mean, we've only known each other for a few weeks, really."
"Yeah, but we've lived a lifetime during those two weeks," he grinned, "and we've got a lifetime more to spend figuring it out."
A/N: Sooooo… whadya think? I'm still not sure of the ending – I had about a zillion drafts, trying to stay away from the sappy as much as I could… not sure I succeeded! ;) Anyway, go push that little button down there… you know you want to!