For the Family Slice of the Chinese Moon Festival Competition

Also for the Favorite Character Boot Camp with the prompt: mother

Charlie appears in the Weasley garden with a loud popping sound. It takes him a moment to adjust to his surroundings as he never did like Apparating. When he opens his eyes and looks about he sees that it's still dark, the moon casting the faintest glow over the property as it makes its descent in the sky. His appearance has disturbed a couple of gnomes, but other than that, all is still. It's been exactly one year since he's been home, but nothing much has changed; nothing important anyway. He knows that despite the early hour, at least one person is probably awake inside the Burrow. But first…

He swiftly goes over to the tree in the far corner of the yard and bends down over the little grave marker. "Hey, little brother," he says. The words feel forced. Charlie has never really understood people who talked to those who couldn't hear. He certainly never thought he'd be one of them. But it seems disrespectful not to. It occurs to him that Fred would be the last person to be concerned with what is disrespectful. He supposes this is just a way of making up for lost time.

Charlie smirks and shakes his head before heading for the kitchen door. As he gets closer he sees the glow of the fireplace within. His mother is cooking. She's always cooking. He opens the door and she turns around, her front covered in flour, her hair in disarray from running her hands through it in distraction.

She looks just like she always used to, except now her face is a bit tearstained and Charlie notices the kitchen table has become a shrine to Fred. It's covered in rubber chickens and Puking Pastilles and a folded up Christmas sweater that she will never get to give him. She still makes one every year and she always puts a letter F on it and George gets one with a G despite the fact that he doesn't need a label. Everyone knows which twin he is now.

She smiles widely and Charlie grabs her in a bone crushing hug because he can and then she sits him down to give him a haircut because that's always the first thing she does when he comes home. He used to protest and groan the whole time. He would magic his hair back to the way it was by the time the visit was over. But it's May second and she can do what she wants.

He lets her fret over his appearance and the fresh burns on his arms. He doesn't get upset when she asks him about his love life for what seems like the thousandth time. And she doesn't sound disappointed when he tells her that it is still doesn't exist because if he's happy, she's happy.

They don't talk about Fred. Not yet. That happens later after dinner when everyone is full of food and a little too much wine. For now, Charlie and his mother are happy to just sit in the kitchen and talk about everything else.

He didn't make it home last Christmas. He probably won't this year either. But it's May second and if this day has taught him anything, it's that he has to come home once in a while.

He just wishes he had realized this sooner.