March 2002

1 - A Letter

Four years after the war, Charlie was the only bachelor among the Weasleys. All his siblings were already married, only he seemed to be uninterested.

Bill had married Fleur at the day the war began. Their daughter had been conceived the day it finished, or so they liked to say.

Ron and Ginny had wanted to marry their loved ones as soon as the war was over. Molly objected. "You should first finish your studies. No need to hurry to the altar."

This proved to be a wise advice. Ron was unable to stay faithful to Hermione. Three weeks into the school term, he was already sneaking to spend some time with Lavender. A month later, after a grand-scale quarrel, Hermione and Ron parted officially. Ron stayed with Lavender ever since, marrying her soon after school was over.

Ginny also found that Harry wasn't the hero of her childhood books. He was a troubled young man, suffering from guilt and nightmares. Harry was usually very moody and sometimes plain hostile. Only Hermione was able to take him out of these moods. Ginny eventually broke with Harry and returned to her previous love – Dean. Harry looked actually relieved.

It took Harry and Hermione much longer to realize what everybody else had known for years – that they were meant for each other.

Eventually, the three couples shared a common wedding which the press called "The Wedding of the Century".

It took George much longer to realize that his friend Angelina was a lot more than a friend. They married in a small ceremony, keeping an empty seat in memory of Fred.

Percy really surprised them all. A month after the war he brought Penny to the Burrow. "I want you all to meet my wife." It turned out that they were already married for a few months, keeping it a secret due to Percy's position in the ministry, where he acted as a spy for the Order.

Yet everybody thought Charlie was only interested in Dragons.

This was going to change soon. Charlie had already informed his parents that he had found a suitable bride – Viviana, one of his co-workers at the Dragon Reserve in Romania. They were not yet officially engaged. Charlie, despite Vivi's insistence, was a bit reluctant to commit himself to life with her.

While she was quite vivacious and easy-going, as her name implied, he didn't feel that their relationship was deep enough for getting married. He had already known her for two years, shared bed with her for almost a year, and yet, there were too many things he couldn't even mention in her company, let alone talk seriously about them. She wouldn't listen whenever death was mentioned, or dark magic or war. She could gladly chat about the Quidditch league, about the different dragons or about the latest muggle fashion (there was no magical fashion to talk about), but he couldn't even mention the war, where he had lost his brother and some friends, nor the confrontation between Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, AKA Voldemort. She would simply cut him, changing the subject promptly, or just move elsewhere.

Still, Vivi wanted a wedding. "I'm already twenty eight. I love you and I can't see why it's all right to live together, shag as much as we care, and not get married. I'm also a decent cook, you know, and I just can't wait to become a mother as well!"

He didn't give her a ring, nor promised anything specific. "I'll tell my parents," he said, "and then you may expect them to invite you and your parents."

Just saying that reluctant promise gained him a long snog and a very passionate shag, and he still didn't feel he should marry her.

He came to the Burrow for a visit. It was no longer the home he had known for years. As all his siblings were no longer living there, the house looked empty, almost deserted, and way too quiet. His parents also didn't seem to like staying there. Arthur was working late almost each day, now that he was the deputy minister of magic, while Molly was spending her time visiting each of her grandchildren at least once a week,

He was sitting with his parents for dinner at the Burrow when an owl came in, landing in front of Charlie, on his favorite dish.

Charlie untied the letter, also trying to make the owl move somewhere else. It didn't work. The owl seemed to be interested in that dish just as much as Charlie.

Sighing, he unfolded the letter and read it silently.

"Dear Charlie,

You may not remember me and that's just natural. We've only spent a few days (and nights) together shortly after the last battle. You were still grieving your losses and I was feeling insecure with all the changes occurring around us. We found some solace in each other and then we parted, promising to keep in touch.

I didn't really expect you to keep your promise, just as I didn't think I'll keep mine. It was just the kind of promises nobody thinks about; ones only expressed as a sign of good intentions, not wanting to think of the separation as final.

As expected, you didn't stay in touch. You didn't even stay in Britain. A few weeks after we separated, I found out that you went back to Romania, to the dragon reserve. There wasn't anything urgent, really. I only wanted to tell you then that I was pregnant, carrying your child.

Now he's almost three. He's a smart boy who looks a lot like me, except for his fiery mane and his freckles. I'm sure you know who he got them from. He has recently discovered that his friends have fathers. It's a matter of days before he starts asking about his father.

I need to know how much you want to be involved with your son and how much I should tell him. For this, I need to meet you ASAP.

I can come to the WWW and meet you inconspicuously there. Just tell me when you want us to meet.

Love, D."

Charlie folded the parchment and put it in his pocket, trying to look indifferent. He grabbed a parchment from the nearby cupboard and scribbled his reply quickly. The owl took it and left, yet Charlie's dish was already ruined.

"What is it, Charlie dear?" his mother asked.

"Just an old acquaintance who's heard I'm back home and wants to meet me," he shrugged. It wasn't really a lie. "Can you give me another portion of this?" Asking for food was a sure way to distract Molly, and the owl had really taken quite a few bites.

Arthur was watching his son with a look of understanding. He clapped his shoulder comfortingly but said nothing.

Charlie remembered those events as if through a thin veil. He had still been grieving Fred's death, just like the rest of his family. He simply couldn't stay at the Burrow any longer, seeing them all sad, seeing George looking like a shadow of his former self, hearing his mother sob whenever she thought nobody was near.

He went to a pub, a muggle pub, where nobody would know or care about the recent war. Yet somebody cared. A young woman, not much older than his sister, noticed him.

"I'm also distraught due to some recent events," she told him. "Maybe we can help one another if we stick together for a while."

She looked quite nice. He found her really beautiful, when he saw her properly. She was a bit shorter than him, with long blond hair and blue eyes. Her body was also like a precious sculpture done by the best artist. She was shapely, with nice tits which she was eager to show him, once they took a room at a nearby hotel, flawless porcelain skin, flat tummy and long legs. Her tightly trimmed pubic hair testified that she was a true natural blond and they both enjoyed paying attention to that area.

It wasn't love, at least not then. They both needed to feel physically close to somebody in the most basic way and they just happened to find each other. They didn't even speak much. He only told her he was Charlie. She nodded as if she knew. "I'm Daphne."

She cried on his shoulder. He cried between her breasts. They had some sex. They slept. They ate. They drank. They cried some more. They made love. They got drunk.

Two weeks later she told him, "My parents are coming home tonight. I should wait for them and look presentable."

They shagged for the last time and then took another shower together, before checking out of that hotel and going each his way.

He hadn't know she was a witch. He hadn't told her he was a wizard. Yet now it seemed that she had known.

His heart beat faster as he approached George's shop – the now famous WWW. George was in, smiling widely at his older brother, and Ron was helping with the clients. Angelina was in the back room with her four-months old baby and she didn't seem to be disturbed by Charlie's presence while she was breast feeding little Fred.

Charlie didn't know what to expect, really. The elegant blonde who stepped into the shop, attracting all eyes almost like a Veela, was only slightly reminiscent of the distraught girl he had hugged almost four years earlier. Yet her well groomed hair was the same and her eyes, although no longer showing fright and confusion, were the ones he remembered, only now she was a very confident young woman, sure of her position. Her beautiful face wore an indifferent expression as she looked around. Once she noticed Charlie, her expression changed to recognition and delight.

She stepped directly at him. "Charlie! So good to see you!"

He could see in her eyes that she was really glad.

"It's also good to see you, Daphne. You look marvelous." He eyed her suspiciously. "Why didn't you tell me then that you were a witch?"

She shrugged. "Did you tell me you were a wizard? I had met your brothers before and I recognized you, that's all, but we were staying among Muggles, trying to forget the magical world for a while, weren't we?"

He smiled kindheartedly. "Yes, we were. What happened to you since?"

She smiled back. Her face looked as if lighted from within when she smiled and he thought she looked more beautiful than Fleur. 'How could I miss such a beauty four years ago?' he wondered.

"Well, we'd been too occupied with our sorrows to remember to use some contraceptive means. None of us knew of such means used by Muggles, I suppose. When I missed my period, I thought it was just the stress. When it was more than a month late, I understood. The healer only confirmed my suspicion. I then thought that you should know as well. I visited this shop and asked George about you. He told me you had left for Romania almost a month earlier."

Charlie felt awkward. Speaking about such private matters in the busy shop didn't seem right.

"Maybe we should go someplace more private for this conversation. Would you like to go to a restaurant, take a private room?"

"What will your fiancée say if she finds out?" Daphne teased. "I like the idea," she added a moment later. "I believe The Leaky Cauldron has some private rooms like that."

Walking with Daphne at his side was... odd. He felt like he should take her hand in his or even wrap his arm protectively around her slim waist, yet he was engaged, sort of, to another. It would not be right! Still, walking at her side made him feel prouder. Maybe even happier. He wasn't sure what that meant.

"So, how is our son?" he asked, once they were seated where nobody could see or hear them.

Her face broke into a wide smile. "He's wonderful, like his father!" She took a few photos from her handbag. "This is how he looked shortly after he was born."

The chubby baby had a tuft of red hair and waved his arms at the camera.

"This was taken on his first birthday." She gave him another picture, where the toddler was standing a bit wobbly, taking cautious steps while holding his mother's hand and still falling on his butt.

Charlie smiled. "I looked like that at his age."

"This was taken last fall," she handed him another picture. The young boy looked like a miniature of Charlie, or of any other Weasley man, with his fiery hair falling to his shoulders and a wide smile adorning his face, as he was flying about a foot above the floor on a toy broomstick.

"Already training for Qidditch?" Charlie commented with a smile. "I'd really like to meet him, you know."

Daphne looked a bit relieved. 'She probably wasn't sure how I would react,' he thought.

"He's with my sister now. They are either at the children's section in the bookstore or at the ice-cream parlor. You may meet him if you want."

As expected, they found Astoria and the child eating ice-cream, that is – Astoria was eating it daintily, as expected of a woman in her position ("She married Draco Malfoy, after he was released from Azkaban. I don't understand what she could find in that ponce," Daphne commented during their lunch), while the child was just making a mess all around, as children his age often do.

Daphne handled the introductions. "Storie, this is Charlie Weasley who gave me this wonderful gift. Charlie, this is my sister Astoria Malfoy, nee Greengrass, and that red mess is our son, Freddie. Now, Freddie, say a nice hello to Charlie. He's a very close friend."

Charlie was surprised at the name. He kissed Astoria's hand, according to the protocol and smiled at the boy, who had suddenly become very shy. He then turned to Daphne. "What made you give him this name?"

"Once I knew I was expecting, I studied your family and its history. I knew how much you loved your brother and I thought this would be nice. I named him Frederic Fabian, also commemorating your uncle."

Charlie felt tears in his eyes and tried to withhold them. "That was very considerate of you. I really appreciate it."

He now looked at the boy. Freddie looked unmistakeably like a Weasley. He was covered with freckles; his hair color was the famous Weasley red and now, being excited, he was starting to blush, his face and his ears turning as red as his hair.

The boy was also studying him. "Are you a friend? I've never seen you!" he blurted.

"I'm a friend, only I've been very far since before you were born," he answered patiently.

"Will you stay now?"

"I'm not sure. It depends on many things..."

The boy was silent for a moment, looking attentively at Charlie. "You look like me," he finally said. "Are you my father?"

Charlie looked at Daphne, as if seeking advice about the right answer. "Tell him," she mouthed silently.

"Yes, Freddie, I'm your father, but I didn't know about you until today. Now, I'll try to be a good father, as you deserve."

"Really?!" the boy looked delighted. "Will you take me on your back?"

Charlie smiled, feeling suddenly very relaxed. "Only after cleaning you from this mess. A big boy like you should start learning not to make such a mess when eating."

A very serious Freddie answered, "I'll try harder."

Daphne waved her wand at Freddie, cleaning his face, his hands and his clothes, then Charlie took him in his arms, hugged him a bit, until the boy started squirming, and then let him sit on his shoulders, making sure to hold his legs securely.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked Daphne.

"Let's go a bit along the street. He's already tired, He'll fall asleep in a few minutes and then we shall Floo home."

"Where do you live?"

"With my parents, at Greengrass Manor. I'm not married, and they consider Freddie their heir."

"Don't you want him to meet his other grandparents?"

"I'd love to, but it was unthinkable before. Now, knowing you approve, I'll be happy to let them know him."

Freddie was already nodding on his back, laying his head on Charlie's. "I'll owl you as soon as I tell them," he promised.

Freddie had already fallen asleep. Daphne took him tenderly off Charlie and cradled him in her arms. "Fine. I really need to put him in bed now. It's been a delight meeting you again."

"It was my delight as well," he answered.

Daphne looked at him for a moment. She stretched up, kissed his lips briefly and then turned around, going into the nearest shop which had a Floo connection.

Charlie still stood there, as if stunned, touching his lips with the tips of his fingers. He didn't even notice that Astoria was still at his side.

"Wow! I'd say you two really belong together. It's a pity you're already engaged," he heard her say.

"I'm not really engaged," he blurted unthinkingly.

"Oh! Is that so? I'm not sure Viviana would like to hear you say this!"

It was as if she slapped him, bringing him back to reality. "How do you know her name?"

Astoria smiled, proving she was just as beautiful as her sister, despite the different colors. "Once I made Daphy confess the identity of the father, I made it my task to find everything about you. It isn't difficult when you know where to look."

Charlie shook his head. "You must have been a Slytherin at school."

She smiled mischievously. "I was actually a Raven, although the hat considered sorting me to Slytherin at first, like my sister."

"She was a snake?"

Astoria laughed. "No, she was a girl who was sorted to Slytherin, although, as she had once told me, the hat considered Ravenclaw as well."

Charlie felt it was almost too much. He still escorted Astoria to the Leaky Cauldron, where she intended to wait for her husband, before Flooing back to the Burrow.

The Burrow was empty. Arthur was still at the ministry and Molly was visiting Victoire. Despite the good relationship she now had with Fleur, she still found it difficult to refer to her as family. Charlie slumped on the couch and tried making sense of all that he had just learned.

He had a child with Daphne. That was an undeniable fact that made him feel happy and content. Daphne was still unattached. For some reason that was also welcome news. He knew he wanted to play a big part in Freddie's life, just as big as Arthur had played in his life. That also meant being very close with the mother of his child, maybe even marrying her.

He suddenly found that he liked the idea much better than marrying Viviana. That disturbed him. After being a couple for almost two years he was supposed to love Vivi, and yet...

He tried to recall Vivi's face in his mind, but he could only see Daphne smiling at him and kissing his lips.