Author's Notes: So, yeah.
Pearl One, Knit Two
"It was hard letting your kids get themselves into dangerous situations …It was hard not knowing what would happen to them, or if you'd ever see them again …But it was hardest of all knowing that you can't stop them, and you can't help them, and no matter how much you love them, push come to shove, they're on their own, just like everyone else. All you can do, is let them go, and pray with every fiber of your being that you've somehow managed to teach them what they need to know, not only to survive, but to triumph in the end." - Reconciliation
"Ron, Ginny—upstairs, now!"
"Head them off at the door!"
"I'll be all right, kid. Don't worry about me."
"It's too quiet."
"It's a diversion!"
"Well, well, well. Mother Weasley."
"Stay away from my Mum, you bastard!"
"Kids, they got him…"
"He's my brother, damnit, and this is the last time I'll ever see him!"
"Charlie was a good son…a good brother…"
"Do you remember that time when Charlie…"
"Hey, remember when…"
"And there was the time when he…"
"Doesn't really matter though, does it?"
If there has ever been anything that I have done, anything that caused me physical pain or emotional hurt, it was done to prevent this moment. I have fought in this War with everything I have. I have given my time, my life, my money, my husband, and worst of all, my children. All things Weasley have gone into this fight, from sewing blankets for troops to supplying the troops themselves.
And that, let me tell you, is no easy business.
I have done everything there was to do, everything that could be done, to keep this from happening.
My eyes follow the casket as it is lowered into the ground. He wouldn't want this, I think. He would want to be in Romania, with his dragons. He would want to be ashes, flying on the wind like the creatures that he so loved.
I take a deep and steadying breath. Ginny is clinging to my arm and sobbing her eyes out while Ron is stiff beside her. He is clenching and unclenching his fists as though if he would run out and get Voldemort now, if they would only let him, then Charlie would come back. Fred and George are unusually sober-faced, staring stonily at the coffin as it descends into the Earth. Percy is shaking all over, his eyes bright but stature erect. His ministry hat is flopping over his eyes and for once he makes no move to right it. Bill is tight-lipped also, but I see his chin quivering and his eyes shining brightly.
Arthur has said nothing. His eyes are dull and his stature slumped.
I want to hug them all, to squeeze them with all my might and whisper, It's okay, children. It will all be all right, like I used to do when they were afraid of the dark and thought that there were monsters out to get them.
There are real monsters this time, monsters that I cannot banish away by simply turning on the lights.
There is a soft thump as the coffin reaches the ground. Wizards in black conjure the dirt surrounding the grave and fill it. They transfigure the grass to flowers. Discreetly, so that no one can see, I bring my hand past my face as though brushing hair out of my eyes.
I turn the flowers into Snap Dragons. Ginny bursts into fresh sobs that sound like she is trying to laugh, and a ghost of a smile appears on the other's faces.
The wave of a wand, and a tombstone appears atop of Charlie's grave. Fly Home, Charlie, it reads. Fly home.
I thought it was fitting.
"M-Mum?" Ginny murmurs from beside me, "I w-want to go h-home." I nod my assent and she sniffs her thanks.
Arthur places a cold hand on my shoulder, but it sends no comfort. His touch is dead, as though he isn't trying to comfort me but to comfort himself, as though he needs his hand on my shoulder more than I need to feel him there.
"Bill, Percy—Ron—Fred and George…we're leaving."
Ron turns first from the grave and marches over. His jaw his set and his eyes alight. "Let's go, then," he snaps. When no one moves, he growls, "I'll meet you at the Burrow."
He apparates and Ginny dissolves into fresh tears. I wrap my arm around her and am gratified as she buries into me and wraps both her arms around my middle. I hold her tightly and feel her tears sink into my dress and tickle my skin.
Hermione's eyes are pitying and sorrowful. "I'm so sorry, Mrs. Weasley," she murmurs, giving me a quick hug around Ginny. "I'll talk to him…" She kisses Arthur's cheek and nods to the rest of them, apparating without another word.
It's good for Ron, I think, having Hermione. She's what he needs now, more than he needs me.
It hurts to say it, but it's true.
I want to help him. I want to take him in my arms and make everything okay, like I used to be able to. I wish this was something I could wave my wand and fix—like a cut or a broken leg. I wish I could have spared all of my children and my husband this, but I know that I can't.
I want, more than anything, to find a way to make this okay.
"Bill," Arthur says gruffly, breaking the silence that has descended heavily upon us, "Will you take a walk with me?"
His voice is so quiet, and so sad, and no humane person could have turned him down at that moment. Bill shrugs and offers a weak, shaky smile. "Sure thing, Dad," he says, and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Which way are we going?"
Arthur leads him from the grave—a wise choice, in my opinion—and they converse in low voices. As they move away, snatches of the conversation are heard. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel, I've never lost a brother before. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel…I've never lost a son before.
George shuffles on his feet and Fred clears his throat. "We should get back," he offers mildly, looking like he would do anything to get out of this graveyard. "It…it was a nice…" he seems unable to continue, as though he hasn't finished his own statements in years.
George says nothing.
"You two get back to your shop," I finish for him. "I understand how busy you are this time of year."
They both nod, eager for the escape route. "Love you, Mum," they murmur as one, and kiss both my cheeks at the same time. I remember a time when I would have laughed and protested, "Honestly, both of you!" at the sloppy, wet kisses. But these are restrained, formal, and so foreign. I want to envelop them both in a bear hug and pretend not to hear George mutter, "Honestly, woman, if you love us this much you might want to let us breathe a bit!" To which, of course, Fred would add, "It'll keep us around longer, you know."
But a hug can't fix this emptiness. A hug doesn't fill the empty chair, or tame dragons, or laugh at horrendous jokes. And a hug won't help out at the Joke Shop or join forces against Percy and Bill. A hug won't ruffle Ginny's hair and say, "See you later, kid."
A hug can't defend against her Bat-Boogey Hex.
"See you, Gin," George says softly, more tender than I've heard him in years. "We'll stop off by the house first."
He moves off to apparate, but before they can get away Ginny tears herself from my abdomen and flings herself onto both of them. "I love you, you great big idiots," she sobs, kissing both of them soundly on the cheeks.
Smiling and looking slightly embarrassed, George and Fred pat her back spasmodically. "You too, Guinea Pig," Fred murmurs, using the pet name for her that the used as a child. She laughs wetly into them and kisses their cheeks again.
I want to cry.
It is beautiful, my family. The love is beautiful.
And Charlie will never be part of it again.
I want to break down, to run to my room and never come out because what does it matter? I can cook breakfast every day of these kids' lives and it won't spare them horror. I can give them clean laundry and full bellies but will that save them? No. I can fill them with love, but even love is not enough.
"We'll be all right, you know?" I look over at Percy, whose Ministry hat as slipped once more, but he has long since bothered with righting it. I smile shakily. "I'll miss him."
I nod. "I'll miss him, too."
Fred and George apparate with simultaneous crack!s and Ginny returns to where Perce and I are standing. She entwines her hand with Percy's, as though if she shows enough affection to her family we'll all be all right.
That's what I used to think.
"I love you, Perce," she murmurs, giving him a hug.
"Love you, too."
I smile shakily at them and take a deep breath. "Yes, well. We all ought to be heading back, I think. Ginny? Are you ready?" She nods with a barely-there smile and peck's Percy's cheek. I pat his hand. "I'll see you at the Burrow, Percy," I promise, and supress a small shudder.
What if I don't?
"I love you."
"I love you as well, Mum."
I take hold of Ginny's hand and ask Percy to tell Arthur and Bill where we've gone. "My love to them both Percy—remember that."
We apparate to the kitchen. Silence reigns in the Burrow and Ginny stands helplessly in the kitchen as though lost. "He's everywhere," he murmurs. His hand on the clock is spinning madly, unsure of where to rest. "In this room…the living room…the bathroom, the closet, the hallways…"
I place a gently hand on her shoulder. "He'll always be here, Ginny." She smiles shakily at me and kisses my cheek. "Go get some rest."
She nods and hurries up the steps, undoubtedly to cry herself to sleep, and I watch her go.
She is my youngest, and so alive. I want to call after her, bring her back to me so that I can wrap her in my arms and never let go, but I know she needs to be alone.
I take a deep and shuddering breath. I'm alone again, and suddenly all I want to do is curl up into a ball and cry until I am nothing but a puddle of tears.
"Aww, Mum, whatchoo crying for? It's not like Bill's dead or something! He'll be back this summer…I can't wait to go to Hogwarts…"
I fall into a seat at the kitchen table and desperately pick up my knitting. Try to keep busy. Try to keep busy. Try to keep busy.
"What happens at the Sorting, Bill? Does it hurt? Are there dragons? I heard from Bernard Halliwell that if you want to be in Gryffindor, you have to fight a dragon! Do I have to fight a dragon? C'mon, Bill, gimme a hint before we get there! We're practically in London already!"
My grip tightens on the tools as I knit one, pearl two, pearl two, knit one…
"And MUM! I got to FLY in CLASS and I was the BEST one there, you should have SEEN me! I'm going out for Seeker next year, and just you wait, I'll be the best you ever seen, I promise…"
Tears begin to gather in my eyes as his voice fills my head, his big, wide eyes and missing tooth laughing in memories of a little redheaded boy who wanted nothing but to be the best…
"You'll love it, Percy. I bet you will. The classes are wicked hard, and my Head of House, McGonagall, she's awfully strict. Right up your alley, eh! …What, Mum? That wasn't an obscene joke!"
I'm no longer knitting, and can barely see the sweater-form that I was attempting. My hands shake and I rest my head on the table.
"What do you mean another baby? Don't we have enough?"
"There's this girl, right? And she's so, so pretty. No, really. As pretty as you! Gorgeous black hair…down to here! Yes, here, Mum. Of course it's longer than Bill's…do you want me to tell the story or not? It's okay. So, she's on the broomstick and I'm trying to get the Snitch right? And WHAM! She whacks right into me! Turns out, she's the Seeker for the other team; I'd pinpointed the wrong player! I got the Snitch, but she didn't seem to mind. She asked me out for drinks."
I stand and walk to the stove, taking deep and shaky breathes while trying to regain control of my body. I wipe my eyes furiously, but the tears continue to come. I need to cry, I know I do, but it seems to early, I can't accept that he's…gone…just yet.
"Angie? Nah, we broke up. I didn't mention it? I thought I had, in the letter! Ah, bollocks—sorry, I mean, darn it, I guess I forgot to tell you. I'm with Kathy now. She's really nice, Mum, you'll like her. She's got blonde hair, and green eyes. Looks like a mermaid or something…not really into Quidditch though. She's the pre-transition girl. What do you mean, I can't have a pre-transition girl? Of course I can. Yeah, well, if it wasn't in your rule book that doesn't mean it can't be in mine!"
I rest my hands on the counter beside stove and sob into the metal. My tears splash onto the burner and hiss as they dissolve in the fire. I glance over at the half-finished sweater on the table and feel anger sweep through me. It's rough cloth, and scratchy. Ron's always been right—it's not the thought that counts.
"Someone's parents died, Mum. I saw her, she was so…her eyes were all red and she just…I can't explain…have you ever lost someone like that, Mum?"
"McGonagall says that I have to improve in Potions and Charms if I want to work with dragons in that program in Romania. Yes, I'm sure I want to…I know it's far away, but it's all I've ever wanted to do. Amy will be there, too, if she makes it. Of course you know Amy, she's my girlfriend. Kathy? Kathy was ages ago…she was before Lisa, right? Well, whatever. It's Amy now. Sarah? Sarah was the girl who lost her parents…she's just a friend. Yes, I'm sure!"
I stride angrily to the table and rip the sweater from the needles. I throw it on the stove and watch it burn, satisfaction and horror sizzling as one inside of my skin. I stare at the needles in my hand and with one, angry motion snap them both in half and fling them across the kitchen floor.
"I love you, too, Mum…of course I'll write. When am I going to have time to write twice a day, woman? Every other day, if I can wrangle it. Yes, I promise. Of course I'll be well-fed…Mum, Amy and I broke up. What do mean, who am I with now? I'm single! What's that supposed to mean? …Oh, never mind. I love you, as well. Yes, I have enough socks. Yes, I'll eat a lot and come home as much as possible—honestly, if you don't let me go, I'll never get there! I love you all, I'll see you!"
They slide until they reach the other wall and crash into it. The needles lie on the floor, dejected and broken. I collapse to the floor and stare at my hands. They are shaking and pale. I am pale.
He was my son. He was my son, and I failed him.
I squeeze my eyes shut as I hear Arthur come in. He wraps his arms around me and I sob into his chest. Bill and Percy stand a little to the right, but I pull them into the hug and feel their tears on my shoulder. The noise I make brings the other children, and soon we are all gathered together in a massive embrace on the kitchen floor.
"Dear Mum…Romania is great. The dragons are brilliant…I get to ride one tomorrow! Jack—he's the main guy around here—says that I've got real talent. I'm having loads of fun. Love to all of you, Charlie. P.S. Send some pie!"
"Dear Mum…I heard about Ginny. Am coming home."
"Dear Kiddo…hang in there, kid. I love you. How has your second year been? Stupid Harry Potter still hanging around? Don't worry about it, munchkin, he'll come round eventually. You're the prettiest girl around, anyway, didn't you know? In fact, I think I might not let Harry step in…no dating till you're married! Love, Charlie."
"Mum and Dad…there's a Tri-Wizard Tournament this year at Hogwarts! I can't wait to see the Kid, Ron, and the twins…I'm bringing the dragons! I'll try to come see you…how have you been? Love, Charlie…"
"Mum and Dad…with all that's been going on with Harry and Ron—not to mention the rest of us…How come we always get dragged in?—I've decided to ask for a transfer…can't believe about Sirius, unlucky sod. I'll see you this summer. Love, Charlie."
"Mum and Dad…"
"Fred and George, you sods…"
"Perce, loosen up a bit…"
"Bill—how's the fang? Still hanging?"
"Hang in there, kid."
"Do you have a spare room?"
"Of course we do, right this…what's that?"
"I don't…Ron! Ginny! Upstairs, now!"
"Head them off at the door!"
"I'll be all right, kid. Don't worry about me."
"Well, well, well. Mother Weasley."
"Stay away from my Mum, you bastard!"