This was just a little side-project, originally written for a competition that never happened in the end. (:
Oh well, it took me ages and I quite like it. Sorry if you don't agree with the pairing. It is canon - I don't write things that aren't, generally, I just give thing different backstories; we don't know what happened in the characters past, so technically this all could have happened (:
I didn't know when Charlie joined the Order, so I made it up so that it suited me.
Thanks for reading guys, don't forget to review ;D x
It was stupid, really. It had been so long, and yet… it was so hard to forget.
Charlie took a deep breath as he contemplated the night ahead. It was his first meeting with the Order of the Phoenix that night. He'd heard so much from Bill about it when he was back in Romania, and ever since he'd found out about it he hadn't been able to wait to join. He wasn't nervous, he was excited; the prospect of actually being a driving force in the fight against Voldemort made him grin ear to ear, despite the dangers. It made him feel worthy, proud, brave, almost.
No, the Order wasn't what was making him nervous. It was the people – or, more specifically, person, in it.
Back when Charlie was at school, he hadn't had many girlfriends. Sure, he was Captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team, and he was head boy. Many boys wanted to be him, and Charlie knew – no matter how much it unnerved him – that there was once an entire queue of girls who would have jumped at the chance to be with him. But Charlie wasn't that kind of guy. He'd waited for someone special – someone different.
Someone like Nymphadora Tonks.
She was a Hufflepuff, in the same year as him, and up until seventh year he'd never really paid her much attention. Until then, she was just the weirdo with the pink hair who flirted with people way too old or way out of her league, and whose greatest achievement was turning Snape's dress robes pink once.
Well, then, they were partnered up in Potions. Then, he'd noticed all the little, wonderful things about her; the way she'd try desperately to be ladylike and fail miserably, the way her nose crinkled when she laughed, the way she was always – always – smiling, and how she was unafraid of anything. They laughed, they talked, they sabotaged each other's potions – it was the perfect relationship, growing out of indifference.
She was the kind of person you could talk to about anything at all, and never feel awkward or embarrassed. She'd fill any silence with incessant, random chatter, unable to stay quiet for more than ten seconds. She was curious – endearingly so; she'd ask anyone anything, and go exploring into the furthest reaches of the Hogwarts grounds. More than once, Charlie's perfect reputation had been scratched thanks to Tonks' 'adventures'.
Tonks. Never Nymphadora. Not unless you wanted your hair turning green and your skin blue.
So, inevitably, their friendship had developed until friendship wasn't enough. She'd become Charlie's first girlfriend, and she'd made him happier than he ever thought possible. She even cheered for Gryffindor in the Quidditch tournaments – sitting fearlessly in amongst a squabble of patriotic Hufflepuffs with her hair morphed red and gold and waving a giant banner with Charlie's face on.
It would have been a lie to say it didn't freak him out. But he later assured her that his only crash of his school career had absolutely, definitely not been her fault.
Summer came around far too quickly that year, and as the seventh years graduated, there was a tangible buzz in the air. The future held exciting, unknown, new possibilities for the graduates, each as clueless as the next as to what the coming years would bring.
Charlie had always known he'd wanted to work with animals. They were much easier to deal with than people – less emotional, less confusing. The rarer, more dangerous variety had always been his favourite, much to his mother's dismay. So, when six months later his dream job offer appeared out of the blue, he could barely control his excitement. Without even pausing, he accepted, not taking a second to think of the effects.
The break-up had hurt; hard to believe, frustrating and tear-jerkingly depressing for all involved. Because, in truth, given the choice again, Charlie would never have left Tonks. But the job in Romania was too good to turn down at the time.
"I'm sorry, Tonks, really, I am…"
His voice trails away as she nods silently, staring intently at her knees. Charlie can't tell whether she's crying or not – she's always been good at hiding it. The very possibility makes Charlie's own eyes burn and sting with tears, but he furiously blinks them away. He will not cry.
He takes a step towards her and tries to put a comforting arm around her. She flinches away, turning to face the window. Now Charlie can see the tear tracks on her face – reflecting the fading sunlight and tainted with the heavy eyeliner she insists on wearing. One, renegade tear finds it's way down his cheek.
"Tonks, please. Don't do this," he pauses as she flicks her fringe from her face, searching for the right words to say. Her silence hurts him more than words ever could. "You know that," he stumbles on his words, "You know that, given the choice-"
She interrupts, snorting in her trademark, unlady-like way. Charlie stops short. When she speaks, her voice is timid, but her words have a hard edge to them.
"Choice?" she asks, still not facing him, "But Charlie, you do have a choice."
It takes him a while to think of an answer. "This job, Tonks – it's all I've ever dreamed of… please, don't-"
His voice dies again and they sit in silence for what feels like years. Then, slowly, and for the first time, she turns to face him. She's smiling – softly, the faintest of traces playing with the corner of her lips. Her eyes are still swimming, but they're crinkled at the edges from the smile. She sniffs.
"I know, Charlie. I'm sorry," her smile falls, "it's your future. It's your decision. If you want it without me, that's your choice."
He wishes she was shouting. He wishes she'd hit him, hurt him physically and storm out of the room in a flurry of angry red hair. Because her out-of-character silence, her soft smile and her acceptance makes his heart ache – how can he be doing this? How can he be letting her go?
She stands and walks out in silence, leaving him alone once more.
Bill's voice brought Charlie hurtling back into the present. He snapped his head around to face his brother so quickly it hurt.
"Yeah?" he said, trying to ignore the pain in his neck.
"They're getting here now. Just thought I'd say." He left.
Charlie stood, brushing himself down in an attempt to calm his nerves.
The feelings had never faded, like he'd hoped. And yet, he'd never had the chance – no, he'd never had the courage to return home, to see her and admit that he was wrong. He hadn't had contact with her since he'd left, since she'd wished him goodbye and good luck – she had no idea he was coming tonight, and he couldn't wait to find out what she was going to say when she found out.
He tried to slow his heartbeat, to dry his sweating palms; but it was no use. He couldn't help the reactions. She was coming. She was going to be here.
He stared at his reflection, pushing a stray bit of hair from his eyes.
"Okay, Charlie," he told himself, standing up straight and puffing out his chest, "This is it. Be cool." He nodded to himself, still muttering "Be cool."
It was the voice he'd been waiting to hear.
He wheeled around so quickly he almost fell over, blindly grabbing at the edge of the table to stop himself hurtling towards the floor. All of his hair-fixing had been completely demolished, and his mental note to 'be cool' disappeared. At the sight of her, Charlie made some incredibly attractive, incomprehensible muttering noises, looking her up and down.
She looked pretty similar to when he'd last seen her. Her hair was still bubblegum pink, sticking up on her head at odd angles and sweeping down into a fringe far too long to be socially acceptable. Odd, black earrings dangled from her ears to her jaw, where she was smiling in exactly the way Charlie remembered. It spread across her face, crinkling her nose and eyes and lighting up the room. Her eyes were deep, chocolate brown – the trademark 'Black family' eyes, with Tonks' own mischievous twinkle in them. Still, she insisted on surrounding her eyes with thick, black eyeliner, framing them and drawing Charlie's own eyes to them; once he'd taken them off her figure. She was slim and lady-like, in contrast to the cocky, tomboyish way she stood in the doorway, completely and totally at ease.
It was only when he saw her smile start to die and her eyebrows raise did he realise he hadn't said anything within a good two minutes. He snapped into focus, trying to remember all of the things he'd wanted to say to her, but it seemed his brain was failing him.
He settled on an eloquent "Um, hi, Tonks."
Her smile grew wide again and she advanced towards him, arms wide in preparation for a hug. He too, rediscovered the ability to control his own body, smiling back as confidently as he could and hugging her back. His stomach started somersaulting as he felt her delicate frame in his arms, as he smelt the familiar raspberry shampoo she used in her hair. This is it, he told himself, the moment you've been waiting for.
He only let go when he absolutely had to, but Tonks seemed to think nothing of it. She was still smiling as her face came back into view. As she pulled her arm away, he felt something cold on her hand brush against his bare arm. He didn't think anything of it.
"So, how've you been?" Charlie was ashamed that she was the one making the conversation, but let out a nervous laugh.
"Oh, you know," he said, trying to be casual, "same old, same-"
Charlie's voice died. He'd seen exactly what it was that had brushed against his arm; leaving it's cold mark on his skin.
"Charlie? Charlie, are you alright?"
His heart sank. His stomach felt like lead. His eyes threatened to tear up and his brain told him to smash something as his heartbeat quickened, his heart thundering now. He couldn't speak; his throat and mouth were dry. He tried to swallow, but it didn't work. He just stared at her hand, frozen, unblinking, unbelieving.
How could he have been so stupid?
"Charlie?" She sounded genuinely concerned now. Charlie tore his eyes away, praying she hadn't noticed.
"What were you looking at?" She looked down to her hip, where her hand rested casually. Charlie bit his lip.
"R-ring." He was still unable to string a sentence together.
Tonks' eyes dropped to her hand as she raised it infront of her. She blinked slowly; her long, black lashes brushed her rosy cheek, the colour rising in it as she blushed.
"Oh," she said, a smile growing on her face, "yeah. That."
It wasn't flashy, or particularly expensive. It was a simple gold band, resting around her ring finger on her left hand. It wasn't the nicest, most impressive ring Charlie had ever seen, but it's message was clear.
Tonks was married. Engaged, at least.
He was far, far too late.
"I forgot you didn't know. You won't have even met him, will you? Oh, wait there."
And with a flick of a pink fringe, she was gone.
Charlie collapsed into a chair. He felt stupid. He felt worthless. He felt as if his whole world, his whole plan for the future had come crashing down on him. His heart felt like lead as his head began to throb and tears threatened to burst free.
She was his last chance. She was his only chance.
And she was taken.
He had nobody else, no other plans. The Order suddenly didn't seem so appealing. He'd have to see Tonks and her new fiancée – whoever he was – every day. The heartache wouldn't fade; he'd just hurt, endlessly, numbingly and constantly.
He thought about running back to Romania. Slipping through the back door of this godforsaken house and escaping all over again, maybe leaving a note for his Mum on the table. He'd go back to his dragons, his simple, unemotional life…
Who was he kidding? The fight was here. He needed to be here.
Again, some very attractive noises escaped from his mouth before he could stop them. Tonks smiled. Charlie melted.
"This is Remus."
Charlie swallowed in an attempt to moisten his throat as Tonks' new partner followed her into the room. And the only thing Charlie could think was: he's nothing compared to me.
He knew it was wrong, and bigheaded, but it was true. He was at least ten years old than her, with greying tawny-brown hair swept across his face in an unkempt, untidy fringe. He looked tired – far too tired, with dark purple circles underneath his eyes and a gaunt look to his cheekbones. His robes were frayed and littered with hand-stitched patches, hanging on his thin frame loosely.
But then he saw Charlie, and he smiled. His face lit up and Charlie noticed the man's eyes. They were a strange colour – as if they couldn't decide whether to be hazel or green. They were crinkled around the edges – the only lines on his face, the immortal etchings of a thousand forgotten smiles. And they glinted and twinkled in the musty light of the old, dusty room in a way which made him look younger. They were a window to his real soul – that of a teenage boy, as far as Charlie could see, from the mischievous sparkle in his eyes.
He held his thin hand out for Charlie to shake. Snapping back to reality, Charlie realised that he couldn't dwell on his feelings. Not now. He had to pretend. He had to be happy for her.
"Nice," he still couldn't stop his stutter, "nice to meet you, Remus."
The man's handshake was firm. He was still smiling. So was Tonks.
Charlie hated that.
"And you, Charlie. I've heard so much about you."
Finally, Remus let go of his hand and stepped back, bringing Tonks back into Charlie's line of vision and reigniting the newly-found heartache. He let out a nervous laugh. Remus raised a broken eyebrow – an old scar running down the middle.
"Well," he said, smiling briefly, "I think I'd better get back to the kitchen. I'll see if Molly needs any help."
And giving Tonks a quick peck on the cheek, he left. She watched him walk away, before turning back to Charlie, a beautiful smile across her dainty features. A smile Charlie knew should have been reserved for him.
He couldn't find it in himself to smile back.
Tonks' smile fell. "Charlie? Are you alright?"
She began to walk towards him. He averted his eyes. He wasn't going to cry. He didn't cry. This was nothing to cry over.
He didn't see her, but he felt her hands on his chest. A friendly gesture – she felt comfortable around him -, but nonetheless, it sent electric sparks through Charlie's body. He slid his eyes across to meet her gaze.
"What's the matter?" she asked, genuine concern in her eyes, "Don't you like him?"
No, Charlie wanted to say, you should be with me.
But of course, he said nothing. He'd seen how happy she was with him. He wouldn't dare ruin that. Never.
He'd just suffer in silence.
He sniffed the tears away and flicked his hair from his eyes, turning to face her properly and placing his weathered hands on her shoulders.
"Of course, Tonks," he said, forcing a smile, "I'm so happy for you."
And as she smiled up at him, he enveloped her into a hug, closing his eyes into her shoulder. One tear found it's way out between his eyelids.
"I just can't believe you're so grown up."
She giggled, her whole body shaking as he held her. Charlie didn't laugh. He was being serious.
Because that was the one thing he'd never expected to find when he returned to her. He'd always assumed, stupidly, that she'd always be that weirdo from Hufflepuff, always joking around and never being serious, always acting like a little kid. Never once had he imagined that she'd have outgrown him.
He'd waited and waited, assured in his mind that she'd be waiting for him.
He'd waited too long.