Review offering insight to the story:
"You never cease to amaze me, or make me cry. That was such a great chapter, perfect and heart-wrenching. I don't really know what to say. The relationship between all the characters and the way they interact with each other is so believable and seemingly real. The little details of the story are what make it so intriguing. While you have the power to portray emotions so well and make us feel in ways we never thought we could by simply reading, the little details about each character, about the house, about anything and everything, make it all the more intoxicating. That is exactly what this story is, it is intoxicating. You read one chapter and you want more and more. You don't want it to end because it is so great and you will miss that rush you get when you realise it has been updated. It is stories like that, that will stay with you forever. Just like this one. I really hope you can update soon, though I wish it weren't the end." - CrystalizedHeart (Mel) of FanFiction net.
Thank you to the following reviewers: ginsensu, FredWeasleyLover1126, x-Lazart-x, ebbe04, Hailz98, Lee Swain, CraZIEdUCKIE, ProperT, Blackmusasabi, reach for the stars of heaven, Galleon-to-Galleon, bethy94, Jester08, KandyFloss, wasu, suni-dilight, rachhulk, BBRuth, ultimate ron gal, MsRisa, ssdawn, Isobel, Coquetry, Liz and especially mskiti (Tabi), CrystalizedHeart (Mel), Filette, SeanEmma4Evr (Noelle) and galloping-goose (Zeus).
Q&A: "The whole thing about the book he's reading - "Drew the Dragon and his Drum" - honestly, this may sound stupid, but did you come up with that? The title seems sketchy to be a real fairytale, but it sounds so genuine and real; I'm starting to feel like it's a REAL story. If not, you're DAMN good at what you do." - Actually, I just made it up, lol. I took the word dragon and tried to think of a name that started with "D" and then I wanted Drew the Dragon to have something that was child like, something that represented them. And I remembered when I was a kid I loved to make noise. To pretend the pots were drums. So I called it "Drew the Dragon and His Drum." I wanted a line to represent it, so I thought it over and over and finally it came out "Drew the dragon loved his drum, but his parents did not like the way it went dum de dum dum." The repetition of the "d" is what I was working for and it rang true. My parents used to go nuts when I played with the pots, lol. And that's how it all came together!
Only In The World of Dragons
Epilogue – A Dragon Keeper's Forever
"Papa, is Auntie Flower still bringin' Luc to play t'day?" Ashby shouted to him from the living room. At five years old, she found it much easier to just talk loudly, even in close vicinity, rather than waiting those few very long seconds of walking to wherever he was to talk to him directly.
Sighing, Charlie rolled his eyes in the kitchen. "Ashby, come here. What did I tell you about inside voices?" he asked her, shaking his head as he poured the whisked eggs into the frying pan. It was still fairly early, though Charlie had been up for a few hours already. He'd already fed their crup, Zeus, and filled Crookshank's bowl, and after making breakfast for himself and Ashby, he had to set up the backyard for the BBQ. "And it's Fleur, Ash," Charlie corrected, smiling to himself as he stirred the scrambled eggs around with the spatula.
Ashby gave a dramatic sigh as she walked into the kitchen, her feet dragging behind her. She was wearing a pale blue nightgown that reached the tops of her toes and her hair was a wild mass of red curls. She looked up at him with exasperated hazel eyes. "Yeah, but Uncle Fred told me it's just French for flower, so I dunno why I gots to call her the French name when flower's prettier," she told him, her eyes turning up at her logic before she gave a sharp nod.
"Because 'flower' isn't her name, it's the meaning of her name. Her name is Fleur," he told her, shaking his head with a sigh. She frowned at him, rolling her eyes, and he snorted. "Ash, you know she prefers Fleur to flower, will you please just call her by her given name? Papa doesn't want to have to hear her complain all afternoon, all right?" he asked, walking to the fridge to pull out the cheese. He tugged the bottle of pumpkin juice and took a swig before putting it back inside, licking his lips and smiling as he closed the fridge door.
"Okay," she drew out, resting her chin on her arms as she sat at the table on her legs beneath her. "But I don't want her playin' with my hair no more or I'll call her flower again," she warned, sitting up quickly and lifting her little hands to placed them on her hips stubbornly.
Chuckling to himself, Charlie nodded. "All right, Princess, I'll remind her not to play with your hair anymore. Now why don't you go get dressed? Thought you wanted to wear your new dress that Jonas got you?" he prompted, grating the cheddar over the eggs and placing a lid over the pan. He leaned against the counter to watch her as her face changed from the irritation it had previously been showing. She was such an expressive girl, which had always been something he loved about her. It reminded him constantly of Hermione and how expressive she could be when it came to books and knowledge and defending what she believed in. She was so much her mother's daughter.
Ashby's expression lit up and she jumped up and down excitedly, clapping her hands together. "The pink one?" she asked him, her eyes glimmering happily.
"Sure," he replied, shrugging one shoulder. He had no idea what color the dress was, it seemed Jonas was always buying her something. He spoiled Ashby more than anybody and Charlie couldn't help but wonder sometimes why Jonas didn't just have children of his own. Ashby turned to run off and he called after her, "Brush your hair first, Ash, and your teeth." He remembered being a little boy and hearing the same thing from his mum and dad, which he always found infuriating, even if he had forgotten he was supposed to do it.
"I know, papa, I'm a big girl now," she replied as she hurried upstairs. Suddenly the sound stopped and then her feet were returning his way and Charlie looked over at the door with a furrowed brow. She came running back in, slightly out of breath with an inquisitive expression on her face. "Can I wake mummy up?" she asked hopefully.
Charlie pulled the lid from the pan and glanced over at her with a frown. "We talked about this, Ashby," he said, sighing.
"But she'll want to come to the barbecue too," she said, her voice coming out rather whiny.
Charlie sighed, "She needs her sleep, Princess," he told her, feeling a distinct pain in his chest. He hated those words, the memories still felt fresh.
"She's always sleepin'," she told him, her lower lip shaking as she slumped closer to the ground, ready to throw a tantrum.
Noticing the signs, Charlie's brows rose high and he shook his head quickly. "Don't even think of it," he warned, waving the spatula at her, his attention turning off as a gob of scrambled eggs landed with a plop on the floor. Ashby giggled, covering her mouth with her hands and staring up at him with amused green-brown eyes, so familiar. "Yeh think that's funny?" he asked with a grin. She nodded, smiling with large eyes staring up at him. Pushing the pan off the burner, he tossed the spatula on the counter and walked toward her. "Come here, let papa teach you a lesson about laughing at him," he said, leaning forward.
Giving an excited shriek, Ashby turned and took off out of the kitchen, Charlie following after her. He kept a leisurely pace, careful not to catch her too quickly, laughing and making growling noises as she hurried up the stairs, forgetting to use the banister with her hand as she'd been told numerous times to, her little feet carrying her up fairly quickly. She held onto her nightgown, worried about it tripping her as she ran. He heard her happy laughter echoing down the halls as she ran past her room and the study, heading straight for his bedroom. Charlie's eyes widened and he shook his head, "Ash, no," he told her, but it was too late, she'd already run in.
Sighing, Charlie walked to his room and pushed the door open carefully, finding the familiar curves of Hermione laying fast asleep in their bed. She was on her left side, per usual, the blankets sitting high up on her shoulder while she lay facing away from him, toward the wall. He felt the usual thump in his chest that he always did when he walked into the room to see her slumbering peacefully and quietly called out for Ashby to come out. He rubbed the back of his neck, tip toeing across the hardwood floors, thinking she was either beneath the bed or in the closet.
With a loud whoop, she popped out from beneath the bed and shouted, "I win, papa, you didn't find me!"
Reaching out, Charlie picked her up from the floor quickly, "Shh," he whispered, motioning with his forefinger. "What'd I tell you about letting mum sleep?" he asked her.
Ashby slumped against him, resting her head on his shoulder. "You said she needed lotsa sleep so she can be real awake later," she replied, her voice sounding defeated and rather upset.
"Ash," he said quietly, rubbing her back as she sat in his arms, "You know I'm here for you, Princess. When you want to play or talk or anything. You've always got me."
"I know," she said quietly. "But I want mummy, too."
"She won't be sleeping much longer," he assured, holding her back and grinning at her. "So what about that dress then, huh? Jonas would be pretty sad if you didn't wear it."
Slowly a smile began to bloom. "D'ya think Jonas'll let me play with the baby dragons again?"
Charlie's face pale slightly. "Not after last time, he won't," he murmured. She was just as disciplined as her papa, always playing with fire. Charlie had left her with Jonas for just an hour and when she was returned to him she had little burn holes all over her clothes from playing with the new hatchlings a few weeks back. After that, Charlie knew it was best not to leave Jonas to babysit, especially at the camp. Ashby spent most of her mornings and afternoons with her grandma Molly, but Charlie had a few days off so he was throwing a barbecue and invited the family and a few close friends. It was also to congratulate Jonas on becoming an administrator for the reserve, making him Charlie's new boss, which was amusing to think of really. Jonas wasn't really the boss type, but he wasn't planning on leaving the reserve any time soon and he loved the dragons enough to keep the camp working in top shape. Having Ashby at home, Charlie had changed his schedule around so that he worked from early morning to mid-afternoon, starting at seven and going until four. He flooed Ashby over to his mum's and then went in to work and when he came home, Ashby was usually already there waiting. It had been working out well, though for the last few months Ashby had been staying home more rather than going to her grandma's.
"Oh, but I promiseded I wouldn't let them outta their cages again," she whined, looking up at him sadly.
Charlie laughed, shaking his head. "Don't give me that look, I'm not buying it." He put her down on the floor and opened the door a bit wider. "Go on and get ready, I'll serve you up some eggs soon. I'm sure Luc and the others will be here soon."
Grinning, Ashby nodded her head and took off running down the hall again.
Charlie nudged the door closed and sighed, walking closer to the bed, his eyes settling apprehensively on the sleeping woman on top of it. Sliding onto the cool blanket, he laid down on his side, putting his arm around her and dragging her back until she was laying pressed against his chest. Letting out a soft sigh, he buried his face in her curly locks and nuzzled her neck with his nose. She smelled faintly of coconut shampoo and berry lotion. "You can stop pretending you're sleeping," he murmured, rolling his eyes.
"It's just so boring," Hermione replied, her voice full of exasperation. "I don't see why I need to sleep so much anyway."
Stroking her stomach, he felt the thrum of a kick against his palm. "The Ob Healer said you were doing too much and it wasn't good for the baby," he reminded, smirking.
"Doing too much? Please!" she cried, shaking her head as she moved to sit up. "I've hardly been doing much of anything. So I cleaned a little, and maybe I rearranged the furniture, and all right, I admit I re-alphabetized every book in the house, but they were out of order," she told him, throwing her arms up. "And you try watching over Ashby all afternoon and then tell me that it isn't hard keeping up with her. Especially when I'm so huge!" she told him, her hands falling to rest on her round stomach. "Why did I say I thought it'd be so great to be completely awake for the whole thing again," she wondered, rolling her eyes.
Charlie laughed, "Beats me. Your mood swings for the last few months with Ashby were hard to handle, I can barely keep up these days."
Hermione glared at him, her mouth setting in a hard frown. "I'll thank you to shut up, Charlie Weasley, this is all your fault!"
"My fault?" he asked, chuckling, his eyes lit with amusement. "If I remember correctly, Hermione Weasley, it was your doing that got you pregnant." He nodded, crossing his arms beneath his head. "You thought Ashby needed a sibling, she was all alone and you always hated being an only child. You were jumping me everywhere," he reminded, smirking devilishly. "Remember mum's garden party last year? In the shed out back? Or at Bill's Christmas bash, in the bathroom? Or even Harry and Luna's wedding reception, in--"
"All right, all right, I get it," she replied, rolling her eyes. "You wanted it just as bad. I wasn't alone, you know!"
"Have you ever known me to pass up on a chance at ravaging you?" he asked, cocking his eyebrow.
Snorting, Hermione tried not to smile at him. "The point is I'm tired of being, well, tired!" she told him, shaking her head. "I don't want to be pregnant anymore. My back hurts, I can't find my feet, I have to pee all the time, I can't sleep at night but I nap away the days, I can't see my dragons, and I can't stop thinking about whether we need more food or not!" she told him, her eyes filling with tears.
Reaching out, Charlie rubbed her back soothingly. "There's only six weeks to go, love, you'll be okay," he told her softly. Hermione smiled at him, sniffling. Charlie grinned. "And your feet are right where you left them." Snickering, Hermione glared at him. Laughing, he shrugged. "Are you gonna rest a little more? Before the guests arrive?"
Sighing, she nodded, falling back to lay on the bed once more. She gave a long yawn, "Hold me a little bit?" she asked faintly, her eyes already fluttering.
Instead of replying, he moved up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, his hand settling on the wide expanse of her stomach. "For twins, you're not that big," he told her, his thumb swiping back and forth.
Hermione snorted, her hand slipping across his, fingers entwining. "So you're saying I am big?" she asked moodily.
"Would you like me to lie?" he asked, leaning forward to kiss her shoulder.
She was quiet for a moment, letting out just a small sigh of mild irritation. "S'all your fault, Charlie," she murmured tiredly.
"I'd gladly do it again," he replied, grinning.
Hermione made a muffled annoyed noise. "Not unless you plan on carrying the next one," she muttered, leaning back into him and settling more comfortably on the bed.
"Not possible, love."
"Not probable," she warned, squeezing his hand lightly. "Anything is possible."
Charlie leaned up on his elbow, looking down at her as she drifted off to sleep. He reached over to gently move a tendril of her hair from her cheek, his finger stroking her soft skin slowly. She murmured something he couldn't make out, though he was pretty sure she said something about 'gnomes'. He remembered a time when he thought this moment wouldn't be possible, when he thought he would never have her in their house, awake and herself again. He remembered when he didn't think it would be possible for her to meet Ashby or to have more children with him, when he didn't believe the future they wanted would come true. But he got the miracle he had wished for every day he spent in that hospital next for her and he thanked the Gods for giving it to him. It still worried him, five years later, whenever she fell into a fitful sleep. He had a deep seeded fear that somehow she'd fall back into that coma and it wouldn't reverse this time, but it had yet to happen. He'd seen her sleeping every single day since she woke up and still he worried that she might not open her insightful brown eyes and look back up at him. She was used to it now, knew that his fear wasn't going away, and simply said, every time, "I'm here, Charlie. I'm not going anywhere." But the worry remained and the relief still felt heavy each time she awoke.
He'd never forget though, not the pain and fear that led up to her revival, or the knee weakening relief he'd been swamped with when she looked at him for the first time in so many months. He dreamt of it sometimes, his mind replaying one of the best moments of his life. The two others being Ashby's birth and the day the Healer told him and Hermione they were having twin boys. It could have all been so different had she not woken up and he couldn't help but think that some days. He didn't want to consider how different both his and Ashby's life would be had Hermione not woken up, ever. He didn't think he could have made it through that loss without losing a big part of himself. He was happy every day that Ashby got the chance to live her life with her mum right there with her, having no idea what she could have lost. What they almost lost.
Charlie's days passed slow and dragging, the house becoming more and more complete as they went. Within the month, the house had transformed into something he could truly call home. There were a few touch ups here or there, a little more furniture needed, family pictures needing to be put up and the noise of a family living in it waiting to echo through the halls, but it was ready. His brothers and sister, mum and dad, friends and family had helped him create a place to raise his daughter. Ashby's room was ready and waiting for her, the walls awash in color, the furniture unique and comfortable. His and Hermione's room was airy and open, a place that always left him feeling as if she was there with him already. He hadn't yet managed to use the bed, spending his nights in her hospital room still, but he'd gone down to their tents and packed up all of their belongings, bringing them over to the house and filling the dresser and closet. The camp administrators offered their sympathies over Hermione and promised him that whenever he wanted to return to work, his job was waiting for him. He'd put in a lot of time and work with them and they didn't want to lose him. While he hadn't been able to promise he'd return soon, he knew that he would one day. He and Hermione had always said that dragons and keeping them was something that meant the world to them. While he hated that it had caused her disposition, he also knew that she would be disappointed if he gave it all up. He knew that the dragon that had harmed her had been sent back to the Ukrainians and was later told that it had been put down because it was too hard to control. He wasn't sure how to feel about it and so he didn't think about it much.
With Hermione six months pregnant, Charlie was seeing the Ob Healer more frequently, trying to find out if there were any complications with Ashby due to Hermione's condition. He was happy to learn that she seemed to be doing fine, growing well and no problems looked to be coming. So much time had passed and it bothered him that Hermione wasn't awake to enjoy each stage as it happened. Could she feel it when Ashby kicked? Did she have any idea how much time had passed? He wondered, so often, how she felt while she was sleeping. Did it hurt at all? Her burns were completely healed now, due to various potions and balms. The gouge in her arm was gone, though a white puckered scar sat against her skin, the size of a galleon. The scrape across her cheek was a distant memory and now the only visible dilemma was that of her coma. The healers had no reason to believe she'd sleep forever, though they didn't have any reason she would wake up soon either. They couldn't give him any real answer and though Charlie contacted other healers, he always received the same answer, there was nothing more they could do. And so he waited and waited and waited...
It was a night like any other, shortly before dinner when Charlie sat holding Hermione's hand, telling her another one of those, 'Remember when...' moments, his fingers massaging her palm and forearm. His eyes swept over her slumbering form, knowing every inch of her by memory. He missed the mornings when he'd wake up to find her fingers threading through his hair, her eyes half closed as she cuddled up to him, soft and warm against his chest. He knew that in a few short months Ashby would have to be taken home and his nights would need to be spent there instead of with Hermione. It scared him to think of a time when he wouldn't be there with her, of the day when he'd realize he hadn't seen her for days, weeks, maybe even months. He didn't want her to become a distant memory. He didn't want her to become a person he felt obligated to see. He hated that their dreams had shattered with the force of a dragon on the rampage. He hated that every day that passed, he felt her slipping farther and farther away from him while he reached out blindly, trying to hold on.
Leaning forward, Charlie rested his chin on the bed in front of her stomach, there were fewer and fewer inches between her expanding belly and the edge of bed. He trailed his fingertips over her large abdomen, creating random patterns as he spoke softly, "I don't know if I told you enough just how much I love you. I wonder about that, every day that I'm working on the house." His brow furrowed as he frowned, "I ask myself if you knew... If I said it enough... And I don't think I did. I don't think that I expressed it enough or made sure that you knew just how much I really meant it. I..." He clenched his jaw, his eyes falling as he shook his head slightly. "I thought you knew, I thought you'd just know that I felt it, that it was only ever you. But now... now I feel like it was never enough, that I never held you long enough and I never kissed you as much as I could have. Like I wasted so much time not loving you as much as I could. And... And it-- it hurts knowing that I might never be able to tell you again and have you... have you smile at me like you always do. Have you hug me like it's the first time you've ever heard it, like you might never hear it again and you want to savor that moment." He swallowed, his eyes glazing with tears. He lifted her hand, holding it to his face, pressing a kiss to her palm and holding it there for a moment, eyes closed and chin quivering. He sighed, keeping her hand loosely against his cheek. He let out a shuddering laugh, squeezing his eyes tightly. "I thought... I thought I'd have you forever and... and..." He head fell a notch, defeat pulling his shoulders down. "Who knew forever was so short?" he whispered sadly.
Charlie felt a twitch against his hand, as if her finger tapped his cheek. He felt his heart leap but told himself not to get his hopes up. He waited, his breath held, and then he felt it again. Her thumb brushed his face, soft and slow and he forced the breath out, before letting his eyes open but focusing them on the bed a moment. Four months of waiting and he wasn't sure if he could take the disappointment of her not waking up now. Slowly, he let his eyes travel up the bed, taking in the crisp sheets that they changed daily, up the pillow past her curling hair that had grown a couple inches. He stared at her mouth, the soft lips still and open slightly, before traveling up her cheek, a light rosy blush kissing them. He paused just before her eyes, clenching his jaw. Swallowing tightly, he lifted his gaze until he was staring into the sweetest brown eyes he'd ever seen in his life. She looked tired still, her eyes half lidded, but still open. He let out a shuddering gasp, blinking quickly, terrified that he was dreaming. Her mouth lifted ever so slightly, a faint smile staring out at him.
"Either I've put on a lot of weight within the last few hours, or it's been longer than I thought," she breathed, her voice hoarse and quiet.
He laughed, strangled and choked, tears filling his eyes. His eyes fell shut as he shook his head, shoulders slumping and head falling forward to lean on the bed. His back shook as the fears of so long slipped from his eyes, streaming down his cheeks and wetting the sheet beneath her. Her fingers threaded through his hair, slow and soft, tugging lightly at the back. "Shh..." she whispered soothingly. Charlie shook his head, not sure what to say or do, happiness and relief flooding him so quickly all he could do was breathe shakily and cry. "Come here," she told him, her voice a faint whisper in his ears. She moved back across the bed, careful and stilted in her movements. He rose on shaky legs, managing to lie down beside her, his body forming around her stomach. He rested his head below hers, gazing up into her eyes while his hand cupped her cheek, thumb stroking her face. "Hi," she breathed, her eyes soft with adoration.
"Hey," he choked out before shaking his head. "Don't ever... I didn't know what to... I couldn't..." He clenched his jaw a moment before leaning forward and pressing his lips to hers desperately. She returned his kiss gently, her mouth cupping his warmly, eyes falling shut while his stared at her in wonder, scared that if he closed them now she'd disappear. Her hand stroked his hair and rubbed his back, as if soothing away the pain of a child. He broke away from the kiss slowly, gulping in air and wrapping his arm around her side and up her back, fingers clinging to the hospital gown she wore. "I missed you," he told her, though his voice shook so much he wasn't sure it was intelligible. But she nodded anyway, her mouth turning up in a light smile and her eyes meeting his with understanding.
"I'm here," she told him softly. He stared at her, not entirely certain. "I'm here," she repeated a little stronger. "I'm not going anywhere, Charlie."
"Promise?" he asked, feeling like a little boy who put too much stock in something that couldn't really be controlled.
"I promise," she whispered nodding.
Charlie's shoulder relaxed and he leaned forward pressing a chaste kiss against her lips before trailing down her chin and across her neck, burying his face against her chest. He held her tightly, his eyes pressed against her gown, letting it soak up the tears that had hardly been released, building and trapped inside. She bowed her head, whispering soft words to him, her fingers slipping through his hair, nails lightly grazing his skin. He heard voices in the distance, familiar and loud, but he never moved. He continued to hold onto her, his face buried against the body he'd missed so much, clutching at her, letting himself cry for what he almost lost, what he hadn't had for so long, what he had back. And then the voices stopped and he knew his family was standing just outside the room, seeing what seemed to be a miracle. He heard something crash to the floor and assumed his mum brought him dinner again but lost hold of it when she realized Hermione was no longer fast asleep.
"Told you so," the twins chorused, though their voices were a little more shaky than usual.
"And sleeping beauty awakens," Bill announced cheekily.
"Wha?" Ron asked, confused.
"It's a Muggle reference to a classic children's fairytale," Hermione told him, her voice still choked up from so little use.
"Oh," Ron said, still sounding rather flummoxed.
"I'll explain later," Harry told him before returning his attention to Hermione. "How d'you feel?"
"Tired," she admitted softly, her hands never stilling against Charlie.
"Bloody hell, 'Mione, you've been sleeping forever," Ron whined exasperated.
"Watch your language," Molly chastised before her voice softened, "How are you dear? Any pain? Are you hungry? Should I get a Healer? Are you warm enough? Comfortable?"
"Take a breath, mum," Bill told her, sounding rather amused. "Why don't we let her and Charlie have a moment?" he suggested. "As long as the princess promises not to fall asleep on us, we can all come back in a little while, yeah?"
"No sleeping, got it," Hermione agreed.
After much scuffling and whining, the door finally shut, leaving Hermione alone with Charlie once more. She was silent for a moment and if she wasn't still stroking his hair, he would have thought she'd fallen asleep. A few moments later, after Charlie's body calmed down enough so that he was simply resting next to her, running his hand up and down her back, she spoke. "Are you okay?" she wondered worriedly.
He nodded slowly. "It's been a long time," he told her, shaking his head slowly. "I was beginning to think you might not..." He trailed off, his jaw clenching tightly against it. He took a shaky breath, "Talk to me?" he asked.
"About what?" she wondered.
"Anything. I just... I just want to hear your voice for awhile," he admitted, shrugging slightly.
"D'you know the story of Sleeping Beauty?" she queried, glancing down at him. He shook his head. "All right, well, it involves a princess, fairy godmothers, and an overlooked wicked fairy, it would seem quite farfetched were I not a witch actually. But anyway..."
Charlie closed his eyes, listening to her heartbeat against his ear as her voice slowly gained more strength and soothed him. They had a lot to talk about, so many things to figure out, and she probably had a million questions, but that could wait. For now, he wanted to bask in the moment, to enjoy the sound of her voice that he had missed so much in the last four months, to absorb the feel of her skin once more. He didn't want to let her go, didn't want to think about what would have happened had she not woken up. She was in the middle of the sentence when he interrupted her. "I love you," he said, his voice muffled against her chest.
She paused, "I know you do," she told him, her voice holding such conviction, as if she was trying to assure him that she never doubted it. Her hand tugging his hair like she always did when she was happy, "I love you, too, Charlie." A moment later she was saying, "You know in the Muggle film of Sleeping Beauty, the evil sorceress ends up turning into a dragon and completely gives them a bad name. No wonder Muggles will never understand dragons, they have a fear set in from childhood that they're evil creatures out to burn and eat them," she told him, sounding completely miffed. He grinned against her chest. He really missed her. But she was back now, he assured himself, and she wasn't going anywhere. He let out a shaky breath, his head resting easier against the pillow, eyes drooping. It had been so long since he'd slept a full night, since he'd felt comfortable where he was, since he was relaxed and happy. "Go to sleep," she murmured, her fingers grazing his cheek, soft and tender.
"Don' wanna," he slurred, his eyes fluttering. "S'been so long."
"I'll be right here when you wake up," she told him, her thumb smoothing over his eyes, closing them. "You're stuck with me forever," she whispered against his forehead, her warm breath skittering across his skin.
"Forever," he repeated, his mouth curving as he slipped away into sleep. It was okay now. Everything would be okay.
"Charlie?" he heard her voice faintly.
"Hm?" he managed back.
"D'you know where my sugarless candies are?" she wondered hopefully.
He chuckled. "Top drawer of the stand," he muttered.
She shifted, reaching over him and searching through the drawer before letting out a tiny noise of glee, finding her treasured candies. "Thanks, love."
"Mm," he replied, moving himself around to get more comfortable, feeling her stomach press against his. He heard Hermione sigh in content as she tossed a candy in her mouth and a moment later he felt Ashby kick.
"Oh," Hermione said in awe.
Charlie grinned. He had his whole family now, complete and perfect.
"I'm ready!" Ashby sing-songed down the hall. "Come on, papa, the eggs are gettin' cold!" she whined.
Smiling to himself, Charlie carefully extracted his body from around Hermione's and padded softly across the floor, closing the door behind him. On his way down the hall, he hauled Ashby up into his arms, enjoying the shriek of laughter she gave, and made his way downstairs, his eyes momentarily caught up in the pictures on the wall. Five years of a life that he had at one time worried he'd never had splayed out before him. Photos of Ashby when she was just a tiny baby, barely large enough to fill his arms. Of her screaming, crying, smiling, laughing, shaking her fist at him, rolling, walking, falling, dancing, and everything else. A black frame sat in the center, a wedding picture taken three and a half years prior. Charlie grinned at it as he half-listened to Ashby babble on about how much fun her and Luc were going to have. Instead of the usual, posed picture, Charlie and Hermione were standing in front of one of the dragon keeps, a burst of flame spewing out behind them from Sal. They stood tall, grinning at the camera, Hermione dressed in white lace and satin and Charlie wearing a loose tuxedo, his tie hanging undone and his shirt sitting comfortably outside of his pants while his coat hung unbuttoned. He would lean her back, dipping her over, her leg lifting into the air and her soft curly hair dangling in the air attractively as she grinned up at him adoringly, and then he'd lift her back up to meet his lips for a long, drawn out kiss. The fire would light up their frames, flickering a golden red, hot and hypnotizing. The wedding had been set up behind their house, a small but perfect affair. As he used a heating charm on the eggs and set Ashby up with hers at the table, he ventured out to sit on the swinging chair on the porch, his mind wandering.
Just a little over a year after Ashby's birth and Charlie was finally putting the finishing touches on his and Hermione's relationship. His mum had been going mental setting up tables and chairs, flowers and food, for the ceremony that was set to start in just a little while. Charlie was currently sitting on the porch, his legs propped up on the railing in front of him as his eyes sat shut and the distant noise of his family and friends echoed in his ears. Ashby was laying quietly in his arms, half asleep and happily sucking on a bottle of formula as her hands curled and uncurled in his white shirt. Her legs squirmed around once in a while and she gave a soft sigh of comfort while he smiled to himself.
She was getting bigger each day and he thought, with obvious fatherly adoration, that she was the prettiest baby girl to ever live. Her head was covered in soft auburn curls and her eyes were a familiar brown. She had her two tiny front teeth and her molars growing in now, making her rather fussy if she didn't have something to chew on when she was wide awake. Jonas' idea was to rub them with rum but Hermione smacked him seconds after it exited his mouth, so that was a never-gonna-happen, and instead she used cold teething rings that Hermione bought out of Muggle stores. She also liked it when her parents rubbed her gums with their fingers but since they couldn't do it all the time, she usually used rubber, water-filled teething toys. Other than her teething cries, she was a rather happy baby. She had her fits from time to time, but she mostly giggled and rolled around, much to her parents delight. She already learned to say 'mama' and 'papa' and very much to the amusement of everyone, 'donus,' which they were sure meant Jonas. She knew her own name and usually listened to small instructions, depending on her mood. She was growing up quickly.
Charlie felt her squirm against him and opened his head, tipping his chin to see her looking up at him with wide, brown eyes. She lifted her arm, her little hands reaching for him and he lifted her a little higher so she was leaning against his shoulder. When close enough, she simply pressed her fingers to his face, tugging on his lips and poking his cheek. He smiled at her, amused, and she smiled back around her bottle, shaking her head from side to side. Her first birthday had passed a few months prior and she'd been spoiled rotten. Her pale green dress was twisted around her, looking rather uncomfortable from all her squirming, and he wasn't surprised to see it was the one Jonas had bought her especially for her birthday. Despite the fact that the guy was more interested in dragons than children, he had taken a great liking for Ashby and was designated as her favorite person outside of her parents. Overall though, she was her papa's princess.
He could hear his mum inside the kitchen, exclaiming that there was only a few more minutes until the wedding would start and Charlie sat comfortably in the swing, letting everybody else deal with the preparations. He would have married her in a tree if it would make her happy, he just wanted the privilege of calling her his wife. Ashby's mouth disconnected from her bottle with a soft 'pop' noise and she turned her head up to look at him. "Dew dum," she said, her voice rather demanding.
Chuckling, Charlie let his legs fall from the railing and stood up from the swing. He'd left the Drew and his Drum book up in the bedroom. Walking through the house, he overheard Ginny, Luna, and Parvati talking in the living room, all exclaiming to their other halves how beautiful Hermione looked. Looking over at them, he could see Ron tugging at his collar as Parvati stared at him searchingly and Luna leaning against Harry happily, her engagement ring winking out from her hand against his chest. He could make out Ginny reminiscing with Neville about their own nuptials and judging by the expression on the young man's face, he was still just as in love with Ginny as he was they day they married. Given that all the women seemed to be downstairs, Charlie slipped up to the second floor, certain that Hermione would be all alone in their bedroom. He glanced behind him to make sure nobody else was nearby as he turned the handle and snuck into his room.
For a moment, he admired her as she sat on their bed, legs crossed and laid out over the expanse of their bed. She was holding a book in her hand, one of Ashby's and he smiled to himself when he realized it was the one he'd come up for. Her dress was long, made of pleated white silk. He remembered how excited she had been when she seen it, exclaiming that it was perfect. "It has a dropped waist, Charlie! And look at the beaded motifs, they're... they're so... elegant!" she told him, her eyes sparkling joyously. It was strapless, showing off her tanned and toned shoulders and arms. The top of the dress hugged her curves and he was forced to remind himself that there was only a few minutes until the wedding so he really had no time to enjoy the task of exploring those curves just yet. Her bare feet peeked out from beneath the dress, tapping to a beat only she could hear. Her eyes were reading the book meticulously as he watched her from his position leaned against the closed door. When he saw her jaw move from side to side and her lips pucker momentarily he knew she was sucking on her addictive sugarless candies.
"Dew dum!" Ashby exclaimed again, this time much more impatiently.
Hermione's attention to the book was drawn away and she looked up at Charlie and Ashby standing in the room, a surprised expression crossing her face. As she lifted her head, the curls of her dark hair bounced around her shoulders, shimmering in the sun that slipped through the open window. His breath momentarily caught in his throat, she was even more beautiful than just a few hours earlier, a feat he didn't think possible. She smiled up at him, her perfect white teeth making his stomach twist excitedly. "You know you're not supposed to see the bride before the wedding, it's bad luck," she told him as she rose from the bed and padded across to them, the train of her gown long enough so that it was still laying on top of the bed.
Charlie shrugged. "It was your own fault. You shouldn't have kept Ashby's book up here, you knew I'd have to come looking for it eventually," he said cheekily.
Hermione rolled her eyes playfully. "Yes, it was all a ploy. I purposely kept the book so that I could lure you up here," she said, thinning her eyes and smirking at him as she stepped closer. "Now what will I do with you?" she asked him, her voice soft and seductive. Before he could respond, she took Ashby out of his arms. "Nah, I'd much rather spend it with you," she said to the little girl, leaning in to brush her nose over her daughters.
Giggling, Ashby kicked her legs in the air and reached out for her mum, fingers wiggling to try and grab on to part of her.
Bringing her closer, Hermione hugged her to her side, cooing quietly over how beautiful she was in her dress. Charlie admired them from his place a few feet away, a small smile gracing his face. Hermione eventually sat back down on the bed, moving back until she was sitting where she had been, her back against the headboard and her dress splayed out across the mattress. Ashby began calling for the book again and Hermione brought it out, but instead of reading it, looked up at Charlie, beckoning him over. Crossing the room, he carefully crawled over her dress and settled in close to them, Ashby held comfortably in Hermione's arm between them. They held the book in front of her, their heads leaning together above Ashby's, and Charlie began to read the book he'd read a thousand times before. "Drew the dragon loved his drum, but his parents did not like the way it went dum de dum dum..."
Not long after Molly would knock on the door and chastise him for breaking tradition by seeing Hermione before the wedding and he'd be pushed out of the room, a sleeping Ashby in his arms. He made his way downstairs without a care in the world to find his brothers all hanging around the kitchen, trying not to eat the delicious food sitting on platters around them. Jonas was sitting up on one of the counters, telling a story to Fred and George, before his attention was caught by Ashby and he grinned happily.
"There's my lil' dragon keeper," he said, hopping down and walking over to take the sleeping girl out of her father's arms. "Don't tell me yeh tuckered her out, I was gonna show her 'round the reserve t'day. Introduce her teh a couple dragons, enjoy all the young keepers tha' fawn over me an' the little tyke as if I'm the lucky bastard who fathered her," he told him, smirking.
Charlie rolled his eyes. "Not sure Crystal would appreciate that one."
Jonas grinned, "I dunno. She's a very understanding woman. She may even consider joining if--"
"Donus!" Ashby suddenly cried, very much awake, seconds before Charlie would have.
Chuckling, Jonas lifted her high up in the air and twirled her around. "Is that the dress I got you?" he wondered, bringing her back down so he could settle her comfortably in the crook of his arm. She giggled and kicked her legs around happily.
"Mum kick you out of your bedroom then?" Bill asked, popping a cracker covered in something tasty into his mouth.
Charlie nodded, leaning back against the counter. "She's getting pretty excited, eh?"
Bill snorted. "You kidding? She's been planning this from the moment you started liking girls." He grinned, throwing an arm around Charlie's shoulder. "You remember your first girlfriend, don't you?"
Groaning, Charlie shook his head. "Don't remind me."
Laughing, Bill shook his head. He opened his mouth, likely about to remind him of something embarrassing and memorable but their mother rushed into the kitchen then, clapping her hands. "All right, take your places. Come on then, boys. The guests are all seated and you need to get up to the front of the altar," she said, motioning to Charlie, Bill, and Jonas. She turned then, waving her wand at the platters of food that Ron was quickly trying to grab numerous items off of. They disappeared in a flash and Charlie knew they were now sitting out on the lavishly set up tables beneath a tent set up in the backyard.
Everybody began emptying out of the kitchen and Charlie stood up straight when his mum made a bee-line for him, her eyes watery and her arms out. "Oh, Charlie-bear!" she exclaimed tearfully.
Bill laughed at him and left the kitchen, grinning.
Patting his mum's back, he waited for her to calm down.
"I- I'm just so h-happy for you," she told him, hiccuping. She leaned back, wiping at her face and then straightening out his tie and buttoning his coat. "This is just the beginning, you know," she said, her voice much softer now. "And this is one of those journey's I've told you about, Charlie. There will be slips and falls and fighting. There will be moments where life isn't the best to either of you, but you will always, always have each other. And you remember that, sweetheart. You remember that no matter what this world throws at you, no matter what happens in either of your lives, you will have one another to lean on. If you remember that, cherish it, than you two will have a wonderful marriage. All you need is love, Charlie. Everything else comes with it. The whole future laid out there for you to take and you have to take it!" she told him, staring up at him with wide eyes. "You have to reach out and wrap your arms around it and don't you ever let it go. Because when you find it and I know you have, then it's forever." She shook her head, smoothing her hands over his shoulders. "You are going to have a beautiful marriage, my sweet boy. You're going to have a family of your own, to love and protect and I know that you will do it to the best of your abilities. Because that's who you are, Charles Weasley. You are just as I raised you to be, just as I always hoped you'd be. I've never been prouder of you than I am right here, right now. Because I know now that whether I'm here or not, you will always be a man to be proud of." Sniffling, she wiped away a stray tear from her cheek and nodded at him. "Now go on, your bride is waiting."
Speechless, Charlie simply stared at her a moment before she waved him off and he did as he was told. He took his place at the front of the altar to stand next to Bill and Jonas who were discussing which appetizer they were going to seek out when the ceremony was over. A faint tune played in the background as Ginny, Crystal, and Tanya walked down the aisle in their floor length, clover green bridesmaid gowns that perfectly matched Ashby's dress as she sat in Ginny's arms, holding her aunt's flowers for her and waving them around at everyone while she sucked on her fingers and giggled happily. The bridesmaids moved to stand to the right, lining up and turning to stare at the arch made of vines and exotic flowers. White rose petals led a path up to the front of the man-made altar and standing at the beginning was Hermione, her arm wrapped around Arthur's as she looked up at him, talking quietly to themselves.
They stepped forward, Hermione now swathed in a sheer veil that fell over her face and down her back, reaching to her waist. A small ring of pearls sat atop her hair, holding the veil in place. A four-rowed, speckled brown beaded necklace ran around her throat, and he remembered Hermione telling him that they reminded her exactly of how Keleman's eggshell looked before he hatched. Her ears were adorned with matching earrings and her face was lightly done up in makeup. She was as exquisite as always and he felt the familiar thrum of his heart against his chest, speeding up as he took her in. Soon she was in front of him, Arthur giving her hand to his and he smiled at her, a grin lighting up his whole face. She passed her long bouquet of lilies and roses to Luna behind her and turned back to him, her hands clasping his tightly.
Charlie heard the Ministry official beside him talking to the crowd about love and honor, trust and loyalty, but he didn't pay him much attention. His eyes were settled solely on Hermione, who was smiling up at him warmly. His mind wandered to when they were a few years younger and she had been her bossy self, forcing him into letting her help him with his injury. She still stayed up with him some nights when it began acting up again, soothing away the pain in his calf and never once making him feel as if he were less of a man because of it. She was just there, always there, and he couldn't ask for anything more. She was a constant in his life, the one person he knew would never really change and was thankful for it. She'd always be morally bothered my people who thought little of dragons and the people that kept them, she'd forever be addicted to the sugarless candies she seemed to have with her always, she'd never lose her affectionate nature, be it with him, their daughter, or the hatchlings at the reserve. He stood strong on the fact that he was the luckiest bloke alive. He had the perfect baby daughter and the most incredible soon-to-be-wife he could ever ask for. He had promised himself he wasn't going to do anything completely sappy like cry, but he was pretty sure he was going to break his own rule. He figured he could forgive himself for it though. After all, she was giving him their forever.
Shaking off his memories, Charlie rose from the swing and made his way back inside. He could hear Zeus barking in the kitchen and wasn't surprised to find Ashby making him do tricks for some of her eggs. Resembling a Muggle Jack Russell terrier, aside from the forked tail, their four year old crup was the most playful animal alive. He adored Ashby and took a great liking to Crookshanks, though the half-kneazle feigned indifference for him. "Ash, you know Zeus isn't allowed to be fed at the table," he reminded, looking through the drawer near the stove for his favorite apron, exclaiming in large, scaly green print, "Kiss the Keeper." There was a picnic table already set up that fit four comfortably, so he had to magic it larger and clean the barbecue. Hermione had mentioned the garden needed de-gnoming and he knew his mum would remark on it if he didn't get it done before they arrived. "You done eating, Princess?" he called out after tossing his apron over his shoulder.
"Yup," she exclaimed, leaning up on tip toes to put her dish in the sink. "Are we gonna set up now, papa? They'll be here soon, right?" she asked, smiling.
"Yeah, go get your shoes on and you can help me out back," he told her, whistling to call Zeus over to him. Running over excitedly, the crup hopped up at Charlie's legs and waved its forked tail with enthusiasm. Charlie ushered him out the back door and pulled his wand from the back of his jeans. He decided to do the easier things first and when Ashby hurried up beside him, he hauled her up to sit on his shoulder. She wrapped her hand around his to help him motion it around while he elongated the picnic table, charmed the lawnmower to fix up the lawn, and cast a cleaning charm on the BBQ. After pleading with him for five minutes to let her play with the child's broom Bill had got her for her birthday, Ashby finally submitted to just playing around with Zeus while Charlie fixed up the garden. He could hear her giggling as he searched the garden for telling holes. He was glad he had only wore his undershirt, leaving his arms bare and his back free of restricting material. He could see the tattoo on his upper bicep of Ashby's name on a small banner wrapped around a drum, the drumsticks moving to an soundless beat. Beneath his shirt, against his chest, he had flickering flames with "Hermione Forever" etched inside, the letters made of shimmering scales that changed colours, oh which she had a matching version on her ankle replacing her name with his own. His mum told him he'd be covered in ink if he didn't stop soon, but Hermione assured him she loved them. After the accident, she had to have her Kelemen memorial tattoo repaired on her shoulder and while at the parlor, had a small tattoo depicting Ashby on cloud, holding a tiny book in her arms as she lay fast asleep magicked onto her other shoulder blade.
Hearing the creak of the back door, Charlie looked up from his position crouched near the ground to see a very pregnant Hermione making her way into the backyard. She was dressed in a pale pair of capri pants and a flowery top that stretched around her large stomach. Her feet were bare and he smiled as she wiggled her toes in the grass. She used her hand to cover her eyes from the bright sun to watch Ashby as she ran around in circles, chasing Zeus and laughing as she got closer but he managed to escape her grasp once more. With an amused sigh, Hermione moved to sit down on the grass, carefully plopping down, leaning back on her arms and casting him a grin. "I was bored and lonely," she told him when he gave her an amused and inquisitive look.
"How would you know, you were supposed to be napping?" he asked, grinning.
Rolling her eyes, she muttered something under her breath. "Back to work, Weasley, I didn't come out here to sit in the hot sun for nothing," she ordered cheekily.
Laughing, Charlie cocked his brow at her as he wrapped his hand around the ankle of a gnome that had come out to investigate what it was he was doing peering into the gnome holes. He swung him around a few times, his arm flexing and stretching, and tossed it as far as he could. Curious and rather dumb, the other gnomes began pouring out of the holes to find out what was going on and Charlie started rounding them up, throwing them away and feeling the sun scorch his skin, causing a sheen of sweat to break out. He found Hermione still watching him, a familiar smirk on her face as he finished up with the last couple of gnomes, rather amused at how much they seemed to enjoy being chased. Crookshanks was tearing after a gnome, chasing it out of the yard, while Zeus was barking loudly at a nearby gnome, running circles and wagging his tail excitedly. Ashby watched from her perch leaning against Hermione's stomach, intrigued by Charlie's de-gnoming and enjoying her mother's ministrations as Hermione parted and untangled her hair with her fingers.
"This is the real reason you married me, isn't it?" he teased, moving to lay on the grass next to her, his breath a little quicker with his small work out. "To de-gnome your garden at your whim."
Hermione snorted, smiling down at him with one eye closed against the sun. "Of course," she said simply. "There were a few other reasons, but they pale in comparison to your incredible de-gnoming abilities." She shrugged her shoulder as she turned her attention back to Ashby, fingering the shoulder strap of her dress. "This is very pretty, who got it for you?" she wondered, smiling knowingly.
"Jonas did," Ashby told her happily. "You know what?" she asked, turning around to look up at her mum expectantly.
"What?" her mum asked, leaning back slightly as Charlie ran his hand up and down her back, fingers massaging lightly.
"I already know who I'm going to marry," she told her matter-of-factly.
"Oh yeah?" Hermione replied, looking much at Charlie who sat up suddenly.
"Nobody!" he exclaimed, shaking his head. "She's going to stay home and live with her papa forever," he said, reaching out and running his hand over her wild red hair.
Ashby looked up at him with a frown, her brow furrowing. "Don't be silly, papa. I hafta grow up and get married and have somebody de-gnome my garden, just like mummy. Don't worry though, you'll like him. I know so, 'cause you already do. See, 'cause I'm gonna marry Jonas. He's the coolest person I know and he loves dragons!" she told them, her eyes lighting up. "And he gets me pretty dresses and he says I'm his special girl. I'm his favoritest in the whole world!" she said, holding her arms out as if trying to show them just how much. "And he'll let me see the hatchlings all the time then and teach me how to keep the dragons like you and mummy do. And you can visit too, papa," she told him, reaching out to take his hand as he stared at her, stunned. "Anytime you want, you can come see us. But you'll be okay, don't be sad. You'll have mummy forever and ever and I'll always be your princess!"
Charlie stared at her, his mouth opening and closing but nothing coming out.
Hermione laughed, patting his shoulder. "Are you sure this is what you want, Ashby?" she asked her daughter, her fingers stroking her hair like she usually did when she found her daughter doing something amusing that made her father stunned into silence. "Because you know, Crystal still loves Jonas very much and I think she might have a problem with it," she reminded with a dramatic sigh.
Ashby frowned, shrugging one shoulder. "Well then I'll marry somebody just like him," she said, nodding. "Does Jonas have a brother, papa?"
Hermione laughed richly, hugging her daughter warmly against her stomach. "You better stop or your papa is gonna have a hard time reviving for the BBQ," she said, kissing the top of her head. "I think I heard somebody inside the house, maybe your cousin is here to play."
Ashby hopped up from the ground, her face lighting up hopefully. "D'you really think it's Luc?" she wondered. Without waiting for a reply, she took off for the house in a run.
"Husband," Charlie finally choked out and Hermione chuckled, reaching out to rub his cheek with the back of her hand affectionately.
"Don't worry, that's so many years away there's no point in even thinking about it," Hermione told him, shaking her head. "Wait until Jonas hears about it though." She grinned, rolling her eyes. "He'll never let you forget it."
"Husband," he repeated, shaking his head forlornly. "She's really going to grow up one day and run off with some bloke!" he exclaimed, frowning.
Hermione moved closer, resting her head on his shoulder. "Anybody Ashby loves is bound to be a good man, Charlie. When the time comes, I'm sure you'll come to think of him as good enough," she assured.
He snorted, his arm moving to wrap around her comfortably. "It's incredibly unlikely."
She patted his leg, sighing lightly. "Well at least she's too young to marry Jonas," she said, barely restraining her laughter.
"That's not funny," he muttered, trying not to smile. "Where did you go wrong that she'd want a bloke like Jonas anyway?" he teased.
"Me? I think it's your influence," she told him, sitting up and smirking up at him. Shifting around, she struggled to stand up and then glared at him until he stood up to help her. "Fifteen years from now when she brings back her own Jonas it'll be all your fault!" She nodded at him, pointing as if to prove her point.
Throwing his arms up exasperatedly, he shook his head. "I thought you said anybody she fell for I would come to think of as good enough!" he accused, frowning.
Taking his hand, she shrugged. "Jonas is lovable," she replied, smiling at him cheekily.
"I think we should just go along with my first suggestion," he told her, wrapping his arm loosely around her shoulders and walking them toward the house. "She can stay home forever with me and spend her life being incredibly adorable and perfect."
Hermione opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted when Ashby poked her head out the door and shouted, "Papa, Auntie Flower is playin' with my hair again!"
Sighing, Charlie shook his head. "Ash, princess, what did I say about calling her Fleur?"
"That I didn't hafta if she played with my hair," his daughter replied, frowning.
Hermione chuckled next to him, her hand rubbing against her stomach habitually. A soft expression crossed his face and he found himself absorbed by her again. In just six short weeks, he'd have his boys with him and their family would be that much more complete. He'd already been rearranging what used to be the office into their nursery, having the same painter who did Ashby's room, do the same to Edan and Adam's. Fiery dragons, luminescent scales, brown speckles eggs and a whole future set in the walls of his children's rooms. He had a book sitting on the dresser between both handmade cribs, the tale of the Hydra dragon, the same he had read to Ashby when she was still tiny and did nothing but cry, spit up, dirty her nappies, and drool. They'd grow up just a ten minute hike from the dragon reserve, having parents who worshiped the lizards with a passion and a sister who idolized the creatures. They'd grow up learning the stores of Drew the dragon and his drum, and hopefully feel the same excitement Charlie did when he saw shimmering scales, expanded wings, spiked tails, and bursts of flame spat from razor sharp mouths.
People began filling the backyard, Ashby was picked up by one of her uncles as the various Weasley families greeted Charlie and Hermione and began talking to one another about anything and everything. Charlie heard his mum exclaiming loudly about how nice the garden looked and mentioning to Bill that it would be nice if he could stop in and do her the courtesy of de-gnoming her garden. The picnic table was soon brimming with food and conversation and Charlie hung back, standing with Hermione as they simply watched Ashby run around the yard with Luc and Zeus. Crookshanks sat down at Hermione's feet, his bottle-brush tail swishing against Charlie's leg. Their family stood all around them, Harry and Luna Potter with their baby daughter Lily, Ginny and Neville with their daughter Zoey and son Philip, Ron and his fiancée Parvati, Fred and his wife Angelina holding their two and half year old son Grayson, George and Alicia with their sons Fletcher and Graham, Bill and Fleur with Luc and baby daughter Sherry, and lastly Arthur and Molly, his father standing silently while his mother had something to say about everything. It was comfortable, regular, a moment where Charlie felt truly at home.
He rested his chin on Hermione's shoulder, his arms wrapped around her stomach, palms pressed down protectively, thumbs rubbing each time he felt a kick. Hermione leaned back into his chest, sighing lightly, her hands wrapped around the crook of his elbows. In the far distance, they could hear the deep roar of dragons, various species and ages, loud and beautiful to their ears. Charlie squeezed Hermione lightly, kissing the side of her neck and noting the familiar shape of a sugarless candy in her cheek. Some things would never change. He had all he could ask for, all he could ever want out of his life. A future working with the creatures of his dreams, a daughter who was rambunctious and lively, full of energy and love, two boys on the way that he was certain would be just as incredible as their sister, and a wife that would forever fill that once empty spot in his heart. There was a time when he wasn't sure he would ever hold her again, or hear her laugh as she found amusement in the way her daughter talked about marrying a man like Jonas. But the fears that once were could not dampen this moment, could not take from him the warmth he felt as she relaxed in his arms or the thump against his hand as Adam or Edan kicked for attention. It had no bearing over the trill of his daughter's laugh or the sweet scent of coconuts in Hermione's hair. The aversion he felt each time she fell asleep was long forgotten as he saw the familiar sight of the small freckle on her shoulder and felt the soft tendrils of her hair against his cheek.
Hermione turned her head to him, her mouth a few inches from his, soft and tempting. "Will you love, honor, and protect me 'til death do us part, Charlie?" she whispered like she had so many times in the last five years.
"Beyond death," he replied, leaning in to brush his mouth with hers, tasting the familiar tangy flavor on her tongue. He felt the usual skip of his heart and the twist of his stomach, as if it were the first time he'd ever kissed her and it was just as tender as ever. She pulled back from him slowly, licking her lips and nuzzling his nose with hers. She smiled at him lightly before turning back to watch Ashby jump up into Bill's lap, hugging him tight around the neck and babbling on about how Jonas had bought her the dress she was wearing and one day she'd marry someone just like him, but her uncle shouldn't worry, because he could come visit whenever he wanted and they'd have barbecues too. Hermione chuckled lightly. Charlie watched as Ashby soon became more interested in what Zeus was sniffing at over by the garden and rushed off from her uncle, dragging Luc along behind her to investigate.
The sun glinted off the locket around Hermione's throat and he felt her hand slide around the back of his neck, her fingers tugging lightly at his hair. His eyes fell shut and he relaxed into the comfort she spread throughout him without trying. He knew without a doubt that she was the only woman he could have ever had a future with, could ever have forever with. Hermione with her books and her bossiness, her radiant smile and love of fire and scales. With her deep intelligence, inspiring fondness for all things runt-like, strength in all situations, and mischievous attitude when it came to all things involving a cheeky Charlie. He could have searched the world over for someone else but nobody would have fit as perfectly as her, nobody would laugh or frown quite like her, or even talk in their sleep like she did. There was nobody outside of Hermione that he could love like her and he was content to have just her. Her and Ashby, Edan and Adam, all to himself, in a future all their own. It was just his luck that the perfect woman for him could be found only in the world of dragons.
A/N Okay, well, that's it for my dip in the Charlie ship. I hope you've all enjoyed this as much as I've loved writing it. I did my best to keep everybody in character and I hope it didn't come of cliché. I've really had a wonderful time writing this relationship. Personally, Charlie just completely grew on me. His personality and his love for Hermione really made me connect to him. I'd have to say he was one of my very favorite characters to ever right. With him would have to be Jonas, and from other stories, James and Sirius (The Werewolf Tamer). It's kind of sad to see this all end, but I've written all that needs to be read!
Thanks for reading. Please review, it's greatly appreciated!