Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Of all the problems Molly expected to have to deal with in the aftermath of the war, her second son wasn't one of them. In fact, Charlie was probably last on her list of potential issues. He'd always been practical, independent and just so…dependable. That was just Charlie. He hadn't cried since he was seven years old, even when he had fallen off his broom when he was twelve and broken his leg. He'd never caused her any heartache; he got good marks, he got a well-paid job straight out of school, he never forgot birthdays and he was always home for Christmas. His siblings adored him, especially the twins, and he and Bill were best friends just as they always had been. And that was it. No drama. No horror stories.
Which is why Molly was genuinely surprised the night she found him out on the back step with his head buried in his hands. In hindsight, perhaps, she thought she should have seen the signs. It had been two months since that fateful day at Hogwarts, and Charlie still hadn't gone back to Romania. That wasn't so strange in itself – the entire family was just beginning to feel the way out of the dark shadow cast by losing Fred – and Charlie had been helping as much as he could. On several sleepless nights, Molly had purposefully ignored the sound of sobbing coming from George's room because she could also hear the soft rumble of Charlie's voice comforting his brother, and later when there was silence she would peek around the door and see that George had fallen into an exhausted sleep with his head on Charlie's lap. Charlie, his hand resting on George's head, would just smile thinly at her and resume stroking his brother's hair. He'd take Percy for walks, the pair of them gone for hours until they returned for dinner with muddy shoes and Percy looking as though a weight had lifted from his shoulders. He's sense when Ron had almost had enough and force him into an exhausting Quidditch session that seemed to release more of his younger brother's frustrations than anything else could. He'd curl up on the sofa with Ginny, just like when they were small, and read to her. He joined his father for hours out in the shed, listening patiently to his ramblings. He helped his mother in the kitchen, used to cooking for himself, and capable of performing to her standard.
He'd been an angel, actually. She wasn't sure how she would have coped without him. Charlie just knew how to get things done. But there had been signs. There had been. He didn't seem to sleep, not much anyway, and he was painfully quiet when left to his own devices. He didn't smile, not like he used to. Then again, Molly tried to reassure herself after she had stumbled across him, Charlie was reserved. She was loathe to admit it, but she knew him least of all her children. He'd just tended to slip through the gaps; between Bill and Percy, her most academic children and then entirely overshadowed by Fred and George, he got on by himself and he got what he wanted through sheer force of will.
That is why she was surprised that night.
She wasn't sleeping, but that wasn't particularly unusual. Planting a light kiss on Arthur's cheek, she stepped out of bed and padded down to the kitchen, stopping at every door on the way down to peek in at the occupant. Charlie's room was empty, but that wasn't unusual either. As soon as she got to the kitchen, she knew where he was; the back door was standing ajar and a shadow could just be seen beyond it.
"Hello love," she said, slipping out of the door, "What are you-"
She stopped short, gazing down at her son. His head was resting in his hands, fists gripping his unruly hair, and his shoulders shook. Charlie was crying.
Without a word, Molly planted herself next to him and wrapped her arms as best she could around his broad shoulders. Far from providing the comfort she was aiming for, Charlie seemed to lapse into a fresh bout of tears, an anguished sob escaping from between his trembling lips. She held on tightly anyway, making familiar soothing noises at the back of her throat and already wondering how she could have missed this. Eventually Charlie quietened somewhat and collapsed into her arms.
"Charlie, love. Talk to me, please."
"I'm so sorry, Mum," he murmured, "You're not supposed to see this. You've got enough to worry about."
"The last time I checked, Charlie Weasley, you still my son. Now tell me what's wrong."
If it was possible, her hulking twenty three year old curled up even more into himself and buried his face in her shoulder.
"I wasn't there, Mum," he whispered, so quietly that she almost wasn't sure she had heard him, "I wasn't there when you all needed me."
"Oh Charlie," she gently removed his face from her shoulder and held it between her hands, "You did your part, love. Don't ever think you didn't."
"I did my part for the Order, Mum. I wasn't there for you and I wasn't there when Bill got attacked or when Percy needed someone or when – I was too late to help Fred, Mum. How can I ever look in the mirror and forgive myself?"
His face crumped again and she could do nothing except embrace him again. She was tempted to cry herself, such was the guilt she felt about missing this self-loathing, but she fought the urge. This was about him, and if she cried, he's only try to comfort her, and he had done enough of that lately. Pressing her lips to his hair, she then rested a cheek on the top of his head and began to talk.
"I want you to know something, love. I am so proud, so proud, of everything that all of you have done. All of you have done so much that I hoped you'd never have to do. None of you have anything you should be ashamed of."
"No, I'm not finished," she chastised gently, "And I realise now that I haven't said anything like that nearly enough to you, love. I've always been proud of you, Charlie. You always know where you're going, and I suppose I take it for granted that I never have to worry about you. You've been fantastic these last two months. I wouldn't have coped without you."
"Thanks Mum," he sniffed, allowing her to wipe away the damp from around his eyes with her sleeve.
"There is nothing you could have done differently, Charlie. When you look in the mirror, I want you to see a brave young man. You should only be proud of yourself."
He made a non-committal sound in his throat, but his eyes were clear and a small, sad smile played over his lips.
"Will it stop hurting soon, Mum?"
"Soon enough," she whispered, kissing his forehead and needing no explanation of what he was talking about, "I love you, Charlie."
"I love you too. Why are you even awake? It's the middle of the night."
"I came to make a cup of tea. Do you want one?"
"Good. I want to hear all about what you're doing in Romania. I need something else to worry about for a while."