2 May 1998

Charlie wasn't sure if the sick feeling he got came from the smell of blood, the sounds of the wounded and mourning, or the peaceful look of the stars in the enchanted ceiling as they shined on the scene below.

Or perhaps it was the sight of his little brother lying dead.

Or his mother's sobbing form, sprawled over the body. His father's tears. His brothers' stunned silence.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was seeing the woman he loved lying next to her husband, the father of her child. Her orphan.

Charlie put his head in his hands so that he could look away from her still face, but the image was branded into the lids of his eyes. He pressed his palms into his sockets and tried not to yell at the anger, hatred, and abject sorrow that was building inside him.

Charlie Weasley was a shy, peace-loving boy; that was why Tonks, who was so fiery, but somehow still gentle, had attracted him. Well, she was pretty easy on the eyes, too. Tonks…well, she was in a league of her own.

Charlie watched her from afar for years. He thought she was the prettiest girl in the year. She was a little awkward, maybe, always a few inches taller than her classmates, but a very gifted witch. She liked to make trouble, but had the kindest heart that Charlie had ever known. She was embarrassed of being a Metamorphmagus; Charlie thought it was really cool, but he couldn't imagine her looking any more beautiful than she was naturally.

And yet, Charlie knew almost nothing about her until they were sixteen years old. He didn't even know that she hated her first name. He'd finally gotten up the courage and greeted her at the first N.E.W.T. level Care of Magical Creatures class. She had threatened him with an itching hex if he ever called her Nymphadora again. It was at that moment that Charlie decided he loved her.

One rainy October afternoon, in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charlie leaned over the table and asked her to go to Hogsmeade with him. She had turned bright pink, said yes, and avoided him for three days until they met in the entrance hall to leave.

That year, Charlie spent his first Christmas away from the Burrow. He had been invited to Tonks' house, and had happily accepted the invitation to be with his new girlfriend.

That spring, Tonks came home with him for the Easter holidays; she met the entire Weasley clan and loved them. Ginny, who was only eight at the time, informed Charlie that he had her permission to marry Tonks any time he liked.

They had a wonderful seventh year. Tonks was preparing for her Auror training after Hogwarts. Charlie was seeking out connections for someone to help him get involved with the dragon herding efforts on the continent. The two of them spent almost every night studying for N.E.W.T.s in the library, hands interlaced as they scribbled notes and essays.

Then, that June, they graduated. Commencement. That was the day they had been dreading. Charlie was to leave for Romania; Tonks, for London.

They took a long walk together before the ceremony. It was in the shadow of the forest that they decided to end the relationship. Tonks kissed him on the cheek, and they walked silently back up to the castle together, ready to join their classmates.

They commenced. They commenced living their separate lives. First the letters were frequent. Then there were fewer, and fewer, and fewer, until suddenly, they hadn't seen or heard from one another in over a year, and there they were, standing in the dim little kitchen of Grimmauld Place during an obscenely hot summer.

They commenced work for the Order, so caught up in research and planning that they didn't have time to get to know each other once again. Tonks was a real Auror. Charlie was a dragon tamer. That's great, Charlie. Hot today, isn't it.

Tonks' heart was elsewhere now; this Charlie knew. It hurt him more than anything he could have imagined, but she had moved on. When she married Remus, Charlie knew a feeling of loss that he had never before thought possible. It was as though he had lost half of who he was.

So, the new couple commenced their lives together. Charlie stood on the outskirts, watching in pain, longing for one more day when he knew what it felt like to be loved by the remarkable Nymphadora Tonks.

But this was useless wishing. There would be no more commencements for his Tonks. She would never throw her arms around his neck and tell him that she loved him. She would never link their fingers across a library table as they furiously wrote down dates and facts. She was gone.

Charlie heard Voldemort's voice echo through the walls of the Great Hall. He lifted his head from his palms and clenched his jaw.

If, at the end of that hour, you have not come to me, have not given yourself up, then battle recommences. This time, I will enter the fray myself…

Charlie stood, gripping his wand tightly in his fist. He looked at Remus—Fred—and finally, Tonks. Nymphadora Tonks. The most beautiful girl he ever knew, the first—only?—girl he ever loved, and the woman whose memory he would fight for, no matter what the cost.

So let the battle recommence. Charlie Weasley would be ready.

Written for elibubble's Battle of Hogwarts challenge. Prompt: Charlie Weasley, commence.

Thanks for reading,