Written for my dearest wifey Kelly (HedwigBlack), who is lucky I love her because I fail at het!Charlie, apparently. I hope this is all right, dear.
Thanks to the wonderful Sam, who looked over this for me and helped with the ending.
I'm still not so sure about this, but I'm going with it.
She's eleven. She's just starting to learn about love, about crushes, about romance. She knows enough to know that's not really going to be her thing, but she watches him soar around on his broom and snatch the snitch out of a deep, hair-raising dive and she thinks, I'm going to marry that boy one day.
She doesn't say anything. It's a crazy thought.
She's fifteen. He's twenty-one and he's seen the world, and she feels like a child in comparison. He's more freckled, more muscled, and a world further away from her. He's only back at Hogwarts for work, for his job, for the dragons. He's got better things to do.
Still, she sees him and she thinks, That's the man I'm going to marry someday.
It's a crazy thought. She doesn't say anything.
She's nineteen — the only nineteen-year-old who didn't need a burning Galleon to know that Potter was back. The only nineteen-year-old who never graduated with the rest of her class. The only nineteen-year-old to live this year from hell.
She so often thinks that it isn't fair, but then she thinks about the Muggles who are being slaughtered and don't know why, about the people who are out there running for their lives, about the people who don't know where their best friends, brothers, sisters, lovers are and she knows that despite what happened to her, she is not one of the unlucky ones.
She watches Seamus Finnigan be so brave it's borderline arrogant to hide the fact that he's terrified Dean won't make it home alive. She watches Ginny Weasley take up the mantle that's been left behind for her by her brother and her boyfriend, who are both on the Ministry's most wanted list. She watches the common room and sees so many missing faces and she knows that she is not unlucky. She is not a target. Her family is not a target. Her friends are not targets.
But that doesn't make this easy.
Nothing makes this easy.
So when she sees him next, leading a mob of the Hogsmeade villagers into the castle during the battle, she isn't thinking about him, not really. She's thinking about all of the unnecessary pain this year has brought. Thinking about being left behind, thinking about losing almost six months of her life because some bastard decided to play God and used her. Thinking about the spells shooting out of her wand and revenge.
She's certainly not thinking about marriage. So she obviously doesn't say a thing.
She sees him in the aftermath. He is slumped up against a wall, staring unseeing into a pile of rubble. Without thinking, she sits down next to him. She knows about Fred and she knows she can't know what he's feeling — she's never had a sibling — but she sits beside him, not quite touching, and she shows him silently that the human race is not all unsalvageable. That they bear the bad in human nature because of the good.
Somehow, she thinks he gets the message.
He thanks her when he stands. She just nods, remaining seated. She needs processing time.
It's beginning to seem like every time she sees him is either a sad occasion or a dangerous one as she slips into a seat at the funeral. She knew Fred well. Played on a team with him for three years and remained friendly even after Quidditch was canceled.
The funeral is beautiful and solemn and dignified and everything Fred would have hated, so she doesn't feel disrespectful when her attention wanders after the third aunt starts to speak.
She sees him in the front row, his brother George curled shamelessly into his shoulder, one of his hands buried comfortingly in George's hair and she thinks, That's the man I want to marry one day. And she notices the change but she doesn't say anything because it isn't the time.
She's not sure when the time is, but she knows it isn't now.
She isn't sure what she wants to do after the war, but she knows it isn't stay in England. She can't. She can't face the ruins of a life she once knew, can't face too many missing faces, can't face forever lagging a year behind the people who were once her peers. She sees an ad in the Prophet for a Reserve in Romania and some part of her latches on to it and she goes.
She twenty and she's off across the continent because she can.
She knew he worked with dragons in a far-off country but somehow she hadn't really considered that he might work here. It's too much of a coincidence, too much like Fate. Katie doesn't really believe in Fate. But then, if not Fate, what's been driving her toward him?
She doesn't question it but she doesn't force it either — she's friendly to him, but she's really not sure he has a clue who she is. And why should he? She sat by him for maybe an hour — an hour likely clouded by grief. As far as he's concerned, that's all the interaction they've ever had.
He's assigned to be in charge of her training because Katie says she wants to work with Norwegian Ridgebacks — because she does, and they happen to be his specialty. Fate once more. Or coincidence, and Katie, of course, favors the latter.
He is patient with her except when he thinks she's being dense, at which point his patience dwindles to nearly nothing. He's only ever sharp with his words, though — except for the time she nearly gets in the way of a rampaging Chinese Fireball and he practically body slams her out of its path.
She loves the way his eyes light up when he talks about dragons — she's never seen anyone so passionate about what he does. She loves his open mind and forgiving soul — she watches him stand up for a man the entire Reserve knows is a thief and argue the point well enough to get the man a second chance. She loves the way he sings when he thinks nobody can hear him, the way his hands twitch when they've nothing to do, the way she can trace burns up and down his arms and he knows the story behind every single one of them.
The part that scares her is that she isn't falling in love with an ideal anymore. He is a person now, flesh and blood and flaws. He gets angry. He gets sad. He is infuriating and oblivious and oh-so-charming, and she is terrified, because Katie isn't good with love. Not this sort.
So she hides it away from even herself until it is forced to light.
She's twenty-four. He's thirty now, and she's been living on the same Reserve as him for four years and she's beginning to wonder, because she's never seen him show interest in anyone, not ever.
But then, she supposes, she hasn't exactly shown interest in anyone either. Not ever.
She sometimes wonders if perhaps they'll be stuck at this standstill forever, but then Christmas happens. Someone on the Reserve decides that a practical joke is in order and puts spelled mistletoe in the strangest of places. Katie has been doing a good job at avoiding it until the one tucked up behind an archway. She walks through the arch and suddenly she can't take another step.
She sighs. She can take a practical joke as well as the next girl, but she's not fond of the thought of standing in this archway until someone nice enough and bearable enough comes along.
She slides down the wall and resigns herself to wait. It's not exactly an oft-used hallway.
Of course it's him. How could it be anyone else? This entire affair is riddled with coincidence and cliché and crazy chance encounters. Why not one more?
She is done letting time and chances slip through her fingers when they are tossed in her face. She figures the signs really couldn't have been much clearer, and really, what has she got to lose? Only the friendship of a man she cares about very deeply, a man she respects greatly. Or, perhaps not the friendship, precisely, but the easiness of it, at least.
But four years is a long time, and thirteen years even longer, and Katie is not big on romance and she's terrified that things will change and she won't know how to handle that but she is sick of the waiting and she is sick of hiding behind her fear. She is a Gryffindor, and she will act like one.
So she pushes aside the fact that she hasn't been close to anyone in years, pushes aside the fact that she still flinches a bit from human contact — has ever since six months without it, or without the knowledge of it, at least. She has been afraid for too long and she doesn't expect everything to change in an instant but she can expect it to start to, and that's all she's asking. For now.
She pulls her knees up against her chest and makes herself invisible from the other side of the archway.
She watches him jolt as he hits the edge of the circle the charm will let him move within. He looks up and, instead of scowling like she expects, he smirks a bit. Then he notices her and it morphs into a full blown grin. "Well, hello." His voice is far too cheerful as he offers her a hand. She takes it, standing in a fluid motion.
"Hello." She is pleased at how steady her voice is. He is smirking, and her stomach is doing somersaults.
"Mistletoe," he says, stepping closer.
"Really? Hadn't noticed."
He chuckles, and he's close enough now that she can feel his chest rumble. His hand, rough with callouses and a scar, comes up to cup her cheek. "You, Katie Bell, are a spectacularly unobservant human being," he murmurs, and he doesn't give her time to respond before he covers her lips with his.
It's more than just a mistletoe peck. It's not a there's-mistletoe-so-I-have-to-do-this kiss. It's a there's-mistletoe-and-I'm-damn-well-going-to-use-it-as-my-excuse kiss. Katie can feel the heat spread from her lips to her toes, and without even thinking her hands wind up tangled in his long hair — a mark that he hasn't been home in a while.
She pulls away to catch her breath and when she can speak again — though between gasps — she says, "Took you long enough, didn't it?"
He laughs breathlessly. "Me? How about you?"
She moves her hand to his cheek, feeling the stubble there. "Charlie Weasley, I have been waiting since before I even knew you."
He is so close she can feel his breath ghosting across her forehead. "And you never, in all the time, noticed me looking back? I repeat, spectacularly unobservant human being."
"Nor did you notice me!"
He laughs, and she feels it more than hears it. It's a deep, rumbling laugh that he has — the sort that makes her want to laugh with him. "That's cute."
Katie is affronted by his tone. "Now, what do you mean by that?"
"It's cute," he says again. "It's cute that you think I don't notice." He grins. "Who do you think put up the mistletoe?"
She frowns. "Why do you have to hide behind charmed plants?"
Charlie ducks his head, and she can see the blush spread on the tips of his ears. "I'm not particularly good at all of this," he admits. "The whole… romance thing is not my forte." He shrugs. "Better using charmed plants than not doing anything at all, yeah?"
She smiles. "I suppose that's true. But no more mistletoe, all right?" And then she kisses him again.
Eventually, she finds out she was wrong.
She's not going to marry that boy one day. Somebody asks a somewhat flippant question about when Katie'd have a ring on her finger and Charlie had laughed it off and said he wasn't the marrying type.
So Katie adjusts her mental image of the future, only slightly surprised to find she doesn't care. She doesn't need a white dress and a walk down the aisle to know that she will spend the rest of her life with Charlie Weasley.
The only thing she finds somewhat disappointing about the whole situation is the fact that she can no longer claim to have been a seer at eleven-years of age.