Silence is exhilarating at first - as noise is - but there is a sweetness to silence outlasting exhilaration, akin to the sweetness of listening and the velvet of sleep. ~ Edward Hoagland
The next time anybody approached Charlie it was dark outside. He'd stopped paying attention to the comings and goings of his family and the staggering amount of friends Luna seemed to have who had all come rushing to the hospital, dropping everything just to prove to themselves that she was in fact alive.
George had entered the crowded waiting room and was greeted by a shocked hush. His younger brother hadn't been seen in public since the very public funeral for his twin. Charlie looked up at the sudden lull in conversation and watched as George had weaved his way through the sea of concerned faces to take the seat beside him.
"Hey," he said by way of greeting, pulling his jacket closer to his body as he avoided all eye contact.
Charlie watched George fidget for a few moments before voicing his surprise; "I didn't expect to see you here."
The earless twin shrugged, "I wasn't going to come, but when nobody came home I got worried. I couldn't stand the waiting. What's taking them so long?"
"I don't know. Did you know Luna well?" Charlie asked, curious at just how much of a connection his witch had with his family. He knew she had been in Ginny's year, and had been apart of Harry's defence group, but he'd never heard of her interacting with Fred and George.
"I don't think anybody really knew Luna. She was – is – something else. She was our first test subject, used to volunteer to try out new products at school, never complained, even came up with a few Wheeze's herself. I guess none of us realized how lucky we were to know her when we did. Is it true what they did to her?" George finally looked at him; searching for the answers he must have compelled him to come out in public after so much time.
Charlie thought back to the story Hermione had told him when he had first come across Luna, of her capture and public torture – shuddering at the mental image of her being paraded down Diagon Alley by the evil men who had no doubt raped and violated her repeatedly. He'd seen the evidence for himself and knew that any account of those weeks she had been amongst the Death Eaters could never compare to the true horror Luna had gone through.
"She was so sick when I found her," Charlie said quietly, noting the amount of eyes and ears turned in their direction. He could see his father speaking urgently to their mother, both of them gesturing in his direction.
"Do you think they'll keep her here?" George asked, noticing their parents too.
Charlie shook his head, letting out a sigh, "I don't think so. She can't communicate, but I really thought I was getting somewhere with her. It would kill me to see her locked up in the Janice Thickey Ward. Merlin, she must be so scared," he groaned, voicing his concerns for the first time since they had arrived at St Mungo's.
George didn't offer any sentiments or false hope, he just patted Charlie's knee and turned to watch their parents, who had obviously decided to join their sons.
"George," Molly greeted, worrying her hands at the sight of her reclusive son, "is everything okay?"
George gave her a weak smile, the gesture only a little bit strained, "Sure. I heard there was a party going on down here and thought I might be missing out. As far as parties go, I've been to better."
Arthur looked around the room and returned to look at his sons, "Sorry looking lot, aren't we?" he sat down beside Charlie, patting the hard plastic seat beside him for his wife to join, "Shouldn't be too long now, I expect," he said.
All four of them took to looking at the swinging double doors, waiting for the news that never seemed to come.
Charlie looked around him at the sleeping witches and wizards in the waiting room. It was well past midnight and a Mediwitch had come along several hours before to transifigure the chairs and couches into beds.
Refreshments had been provided and an assurance that it wouldn't be too much longer had been given. That had been some five hours ago.
Charlie had remained in his seat, not even focussing on the doors anymore, his mind blank as he started to believe George's fears. He wasn't getting her back. Maybe the Mediwitch who had insisted he eat and drink earlier would just come in and kick them all out in a few hours, never letting anyone see Luna again.
His morose thoughts were interrupted by the double doors swinging open. At first he didn't register that someone new had entered the room, it had been so long since anything had happened, but then he laid eyes on a tall, very serious looking Healer who was striding purposefully toward him.
"Mr Weasley?" she whispered, barely waiting for him to confirm, "I'm Healer Hawthorn, you're fine to see Miss Lovegood now, if you'll come with me, please." And with that she spun on her heel and strode back the way she had come.
Charlie was on his feet before and running after her, giving no thought or consideration to the sleeping people around him. Following the healer through the doors, he caught up with her half way down the hallway.
"How is she?" he asked, his heart pounding in his chest from adrenalin.
The Healer continued to walk, her strides long and filled with purpose, "As far as we can determine, she's still severely underweight and probably in a bit of pain at the moment because we had to reset several bones that had healed incorrectly. She is also under the effects of a dreamless sleeping draught to counteract the headache she know doubt has after the memory modification."
"Memory modification?" Charlie asked.
The Healer came to an abrupt stop in front of an unmarked doorway and gave him a very piercing look, "Miss Lovegood has been the victim of not only physical rape, but they breached her mental shields as well. We've had our best Legilimen's working on her for the better part of the last twelve hours, no easy feat, mind you. Her attackers we're very nearly successful at destroying her mind. They taught her to fear everybody, to fear magic and men, they erased her mind of any happy thought she had ever had. It is no small miracle you found her, Mr Weasley."
"And now?" Charlie choked out.
"We have restored many of her earlier memories that were locked away, it was decided that the worst of her memories during the time she was held captive would be eradicated, as drastic as that sounds, it is for the best. Unfortunately, we were unable to restore her hearing or her voice, not even magic could heal what they did to her," Healer Hawthorn told him gently before pushing past him to enter the room.
Charlie paused at the door, his eyes falling on Luna's prone form. Seeing her there, breathing so deeply, looking so peacefully, eased the ache that had settled around his heart hours ago.
Before he knew it he was at her side, his hand coming to rest on her smooth cheek, as if to feel that she was truly there in the flesh.
"It will be morning by the time she wakes. We'd like to keep here hear for a few more days for observation, but after that, she's all yours," the Healer interrupted, making a note on the chart at the end of the bed.
All Charlie could do was nod, his eyes fixated on the fanning of her eyelashes and the small pout of her mouth.
He'd never felt so happy over two simple words.
One Year Later – Christmas
Charlie eased down on one of the very worn couches at the Burrow, pinching a shortbread cookie from the plate balanced on Hermione's very large baby belly.
"Hey!" she cried indignantly, "Bruce was really looking forward to that one."
"Bruce?" Charlie snorted, "Is that what you're calling him this week?"
Hermione gave her bump a pat before popping half a cookie in her mouth, "It was that, or Nigel."
He grinned, "Ron still only looking at girls names?"
His sister in law gave her own grin, "Of course, stubborn man. Nothing I say will convince him it could be a boy. Although, he's got it in his head that Arabella is a good…" she was cut of abruptly by a loud explosion in the corner of the room, behind the Christmas tree.
Smoke began to rise from the base of the heavily decorated pine, followed by a deep chuckle and enthusiastic clapping. A moment later, George and Luna spilled from behind the towering pile of presents into the living room.
"Honestly!" Molly Weasley cried, "George Weasley, how many times have I told you?"
George, not looking very contrite at all, helped Luna to her feet before facing his mother, "We were just trying to see if we could get fireworks to shoot from the star," he defended.
"I'll make fireworks shoot out of you! Come on, you can keep yourself out of trouble and help me with sweets," she scolded her adult son, dragging him by his one remaining ear into the kitchen, ranting about pasts Christmas's and maturity along the way.
Grinning, Luna crossed the room to sit in Charlie's lap, her arms wrapping around his neck as she eyed off the last cookie on Hermione's plate. With an exaggerated roll of her eyes, the older witch pushed the plate toward her friend. The whole room fell silent, freezing at the sudden gasp and the sound of the plate smashing a moment later.
Harry and Ron came running into the room from the kitchen, the red heads face stricken, "Is it the baby?" he asked frantically, pushing his way through his family to reach his wife.
Mrs Weasley and George had joined the fray, every person home for the holidays converging on the tiny living room.
Hermione ignored her fretting husband, pushing his hands away as he reached for her belly, "No, look," she finally gasped, grabbing Luna's hand in both of hers. The large engagement ring sparkled in the festive lights.
Charlie sat back with a grin, Luna blushed lightly and everyone in the house exploded with surprised elation.
His witch had given him the best Christmas present ever. She'd said yes.
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