Charlie ran pell-mell across the reserve. CeCe's patronus was urgent. Charlotte collapsed at work. He was worried what the problem could be. He was watching his wife close since they arrived back in Romania two months ago. Between Thayer, CeCe, Katie and himself he knew she ate every meal. Just last night he even noticed how she no longer looked like a skeleton as he held her in his arms after they made love.
He smiled as he thought about how they had not missed a night since she returned from her aunt's home. At first, it was out of his insane jealousy of those ridiculous "dates" she was made to participate in. After those were finally behind them, he found it was really just an excuse for him to have her. Unable to forgo her comforts, he went to her every night to satisfy his desire for her and she never turned him away.
He worried about her as they left for Romania in mid-July. So much changed since Percy and his co-workers paired the two of them together. For one, she had more than just Gillian as a friend. That last morning they were at the Burrow was a long tearful goodbye for the whole lot of them. Of course, it was her and Gillian who embraced the longest, but Hermione and Ginny were in absolute floods when the time arrived for a final goodbye. He was happy Luna's honeymoon was still ongoing as he did not know if his wife's mind could have coped with another tearful farewell.
Molly fussed as always, more upset then normal as it was not just Charlie leaving for the wild remotes of Romania. She hugged them both tightly before she turned to walk back into the house so no one would see her cry. His father accompanied the pair to the Ministry. It was another difficult parting.
They were surprised to find out not every family member was leaving them on English soil. A beaming Ronnie and Harry stood with overnight bags slung over their shoulders and paperwork completed to accompany them to Romania. They scheduled their monthly trip to coincide with the couple's departure. The pair would be over for dinner that evening, easing Charlotte's anxiety over all of the partings she was making.
It also helped when they arrived in the Romanian International Travel Office to Jake, Katie and Nate there to greet them. New friends would not replace the old, but they eased the burden of being so far away.
They slid easily into their coexistence. They had yet to have a real serious fight about anything. Charlotte would occasionally become upset about little things, usually Charlie trying to do chores around the house, but they were quickly squashed by his firm stubborn personality. She would either sulk about it for some time or become overly jumpy about his help until he could no longer take it and would kiss away the irritation or worry with sex or compromises.
She slipped into her work without any issues. Her NEWT results arrived the week after she completed school with three big, school barn owls arriving during breakfast. Hermione was in hysterics as they landed. Not able to contain herself, she ripped the letter from the owl after turning the bird completely upside down in her haste to get to the results. Charlie just managed to catch the poor creature before he was unceremoniously dropped on his head. Back upright and placated with a strip of bacon, the great bird left slightly ruffled to Hermione's screams of delight of all O's.
Charlotte smiled up at her friend as she opened her own letter. Her hands shook as she attempted to remove it. Most of the family was focused on Ginny and her mother as Ginny tried to convince the woman she was not all that fussed about what was inside the envelope. With the family distracted in other areas, Charlie leaned over and encourage Charlotte to look at her results. With a deep breath, she unfolded the letter and read.
Charlie beamed as he read over her shoulder. "Did you really have any doubts? O's and E's."
She smiled back at him as Ginny finally conceded to open her letter. "Oh, look. All A' except one E in Defense. See mum, not so bad."
The family laughed at Molly's exasperated look. Hermione, still slightly manic, snatched Charlotte's letter from her hands. "Well, at least most of us took this seriously. Great job, Charlotte. I'm sure you will have no issues getting into the healer's program in Romania with those scores."
Molly walked over and looked at the results over Hermione's shoulder. "Oh, darling, I'm so pleased. O's and E's! You have done marvelous."
Molly had reached down and hugged her. "Well, I think this calls for a celebration. Dinner in the garden this evening. We'll floo the rest to come over as well."
Charlie leaned over as everybody's attentions were drawn elsewhere discussion plans. "I think she's right, a celebration is in order, my love. Tonight, I'll reward you for all of those long hours and hard work. Wear your red dress, and the shoes."
Charlotte blushed understanding she would wear the red and black knickers set also.
"Oi! Whatever you two are discussing down there, stop. I'm trying to eat," Ginny groused from the opposite end of the table.
Charlie bounded up the stairs, barley slowing for the doors. CeCe and Thayer were both at a bedside across the room. Charlie quickly strode towards them.
"There you are, up and at 'em, Weasley." Thayer commanded. Cece helped a very pale and clammy Charlotte sit up in bed. "Weasley, we need to get to the bottom of these dizzy spells of yours. I thought food and less stress would do the trick, but for some reason, it isn't working like I hoped."
Charlie stopped at the end of the bed and looked expectantly at all three women.
"We don't know anything yet, Charlie. We just got her revived." CeCe supplied. "Come here and help her sit up while I grab a couple of potions."
Charlie took the woman's place as she left. Thayer loomed over them like a mother dragon watching her hatchlings. She said nothing as she began to cast diagnostic spells upon Charlotte. She was perplexed about some result or another and cast another spell. When the results returned, she snorted and grinned. "Should have started there to begin with, I reckon. CeCe, bring me the invigorating potion without hellebore, please."
Charlotte's head snapped up to gawk at Thayer in shock. Across the room CeCe squealed in delight. Charlie looked at the group perplexed.
Thayer rolled her eyes in mirth. "What'd you except child? He would bed you every night and you wouldn't end up this way?"
It took Charlie's brain a minute to comprehend what Thayer was saying. He snapped around to Charlotte in awe. "You're pregnant!"
Charlotte turned her head towards him still in shock. She nodded still trying to take it all in. Charlie jumped up from the bed and punched the air whooping. "I'm going to be a dad! I'm going to be a dad!"
He reached down and drew Charlotte into his embrace and kissed her pulling back to take in her beautiful features. Her initial shock subsided and she smiled at him with happy tears in her eyes.
"I'm going to be a dad," was all Charlie could say to her. She nodded, smiling, and her tears began to fall. He hugged her close again and was again on his feet pacing in celebration. CeCe returned with the correct potions beaming. Still shocked, Charlie grabbed the woman by her arms and looked at her in shock. "I'm going to be a dad!"
CeCe laughed. "Yes, and a great one at that. Let me get these to your wife, please."
Charlie stepped aside so CeCe could proceed.
"I feel so awful about this, Thayer. I was finally feeling like I was becoming useful around here," Charlotte whispered.
"So you fainted. By tomorrow those potions will start to kick in and you will be back up and going again. Now we know and we will take precautions," Thayer stated.
"But I will have to leave after the babe is born. Does it make sense to continue training me," Charlotte asked sadly.
Everybody looked at her in confusion.
It was Charlie who finally asked the question. "Why would you have to quit, Charlotte?"
"I'll have no choice. I will need to care for the baby," Charlotte answered. The look on her face clearly showed her warring emotions.
Charlie smiled at the healers and turned back to Charlotte. "Do you want to quit your training?"
"No," Charlotte exclaimed, "I love what I am doing and learning."
"Then why would you quit," Charlie admonished.
Charlotte looked about the room at the identical grins. "Because I need to care for the baby?"
Charlie smiled at her again. "That doesn't mean you have to give up your dream, Charlotte. You can continue to work after the baby is born. I'm sure Thayer and CeCe will even let you have a little more time off if you want to spend some more time at home with him, or her. Oh, Merlin's pants, I might have a daughter!"
The older women laughed. CeCe gasped as she tried to speak. "Can you...Can you imagine…Charlie's reaction… to… to a … scoundrel… just like him."
The pair of healers almost collapsed on the floor in fits of giggles. Charlie snarled with an evil glint in his eye. "I'll remove his bullocks and feed them to Gladys."
The woman laughed even harder before regaining their composure. Thayer looked at Charlotte with an unusual maternal gaze. "You will have as much time at home with the little one as you need, Charlotte. I know if I need you, you will be here at the drop of a wand. When you are ready, you can come back. CeCe and I have managed this long with just the two of us, we'll manage for however long you feel you need to keep the new little Weasley at home."
"You'll wait eleven years, or longer, since we will need to have at least two children," Charlotte asked in shock.
"If… that's what you want," Thayer questioned in shock.
"I will need to wait until they go to school, I would think. The reserve is a dangerous place for children to run about unsupervised," Charlotte said sadly.
CeCe looked at the couple thoughtfully before a look of understanding came into her eyes. "I think, Charlie, a trip to Hilda's could be in order."
A look of understanding crossed Charlie's face. Charlotte looked at CeCe in confusion. CeCe grinned knowing her answer. "Go see her now, Charlie. She will want to know immediately. Charlotte will be fine to go. Make sure she rests and eats. I'll send word to the director you will be off the remainder of the afternoon."
"You're sure she will be fine," Charlie worried.
"Go," Thayer commanded, "By morning she'll be right as rain. Back here when you are up to it in the morning. I'll have your prenatal potions mixed by then."
Charlie stood and cautiously pulled Charlotte from her bed. She rolled her eyes at him. "I'm not going to break, Charlie."
He grinned back at her apologetically and took her hand. They left the hospital and walked across the compound, but instead of turning towards their cabin, Charlie redirected them to another area of the reserve she had not visited yet. He pointed out their destination of a solid looking brick building a short distance from the central compound.
As they approached, Charlotte heard screeching and laughter of children playing. Charlie pulled her to the back of the building, following the noise. To Charlotte's amazement, a play yard surrounded by a sturdy fence came into view, and inside it, children ran and playing with each other. She looked at the collective group with amazement.
A thin, attentive middle-aged woman with greying black hair and hazel eyes looked up at their approach and smiled in recognition. "Charlie Weasley. What may I ask is the pleasure of your visit today?"
Several children stopped their play for a moment to stare at the newcomers and continued on their way. Charlotte watched them go with a smile imagining a small red headed toddler doing the same.
Next to her, Charlie beamed at the woman. "Hilda, this is my wife, Charlotte."
Hilda smiled and clapped her hands joyfully. "Oh, Charlie. I heard from Martin you married. It was quite the scandal when it went down. Look at her, she is absolutely beautiful! And glowing! Oh, Charlie! I couldn't be happier for the pair of you. Betsey! Betsey! Come quick, meet Charlie's new wife. Oh, dear, I am so excited."
Betsey, a robust brunette with doe brown eyes appeared from behind a swing she was pushing. She approached with a baby on her hip and a skip in her step. "Oh, finally. I was so excited the night you came. I told Hilda and Lucy it wouldn't be long before he brought you around. Mind you, I was shocked when Lars said you were going back and forth to England. Such a shame they didn't let you get finished with school before you married. Well, obviously, you made up for lost time since you have arrived."
Charlie dropped an arm around Charlotte's shoulder and looked at her with adoration. "That we did."
Another woman, blond with sky blue eyes, followed a group of preschool aged children out of the back door of the building, talking animatedly to them about a story they obviously just completed reading. The children were all debating what they would like to become if they could be an animagus.
"Lucy," Hilda squealed from the fence, "Charlie Weasley has brought Charlotte to meet us."
Lucy looked up from her young charges and studied them both intently. "Oh, my. Oh, my I can see the child now. Can you just see her? Those curls with Charlie's red hair and if we are lucky, Charlie's freckles. And that face, she will break every heart. Mine already belongs to her. Oh, Charlie. You'll be beating the suitors off with a broom."
Hilda and Betsy rounded on the couple and contemplated. "Oh, without a doubt. But that black hair is gorgeous. Black haired little Charlies with her beautiful complexion."
Betsey sighed with want. "Oh, they will be beautiful. Wild, without a doubt. Mischievous to no end, knowing Charlie. I just can't wait."
Hilda features dropped for a moment and looked beseechingly over the gate. "They will be coming here?"
Charlie smiled at the trio. "Charlotte and I have yet to discuss it fully. We came right here from the hospital."
"Oh, please tell me you will bring them," Lucy begged, "How can I live without that little red headed angel at my side?"
Charlotte looked up at Charlie with wonder. "I do not have to leave my job?"
Charlie took hold of her shoulders looking her closely in the eyes. "Not unless you want to, Charlotte. If you want to stay home, I will not stop you. But it will be your choice. You can see, it would not be a hard decision to allow the child to come here. Already, they all but have the children named and married off without my consent."
Charlotte looked uncertainty into his face. "But your mum stayed home with you and your brothers and sister."
"And your mum had to drop you off to a place much like this one and head off to school to teach," Charlie reminded her.
Charlotte shivered at the memory of her time at the preschool. She looked around the play yard at the assembled children. She studied each one looking for the signs of neglect and abandonment. Not one of them stood alone on the periphery. All of them were paired up in groups of two and three or even more. Friends built blocks together on the grass. Three little boys pretended to play quidditch with a soft ball and a hula hoop. Little girls sat at a child size table having a tea party. Other laughed and play on a play structure changing partners without a thought. No one played alone.
Charlotte turned her attention back to the four adults. All looked at her with concern.
"What is it, Charlotte," Charlie asked softly, wiping away the tears she did not realize where falling. "What happened when you went to preschool?"
Charlotte did not want the women to know her secret linage. "What if they hate our child for who I am? What if they will not play with them and they are left alone?"
Hilda gasped. Lucy looked indignant. Betsy stormed. "Are you saying you were outcast as a child, my sweet darling? Didn't the staff intervene?"
Charlotte looked at the group worried. Charlie decided to intervene. Best to put her constant fears to rest now. "Charlotte's mother was a single mum. She did not have the best of reputations and made some bad decisions at best. One of the outcomes was the most wonderful human being that has ever graced our world. Because of her father, my fellow countrymen decided it was best to take it out on a child who had no say in her parents' decisions."
The three looked at Charlotte in sympathetic horror. It was Betsey who finally spoke, "I'm still stuck on why did the staff not intervene?"
Charlotte shook her head. "They didn't like me any more then the children."
"Your mother did nothing," Hilda snapped in obvious displeasure.
"She accepted the consequences," Charlotte answered.
"Were you a rotten child, Charlotte? Because from your current attitude, I just don't see it," Lucy asked candidly.
"Charlotte has always been quiet and shy," Charlie supplied, "I'm afraid any roguish misdeeds of these little one will be solidly on my shoulders."
The jest broke the mood, at least. Hilda tried again to get Charlotte to admit her concerns. "Then why did the adults cast you out also. Even on his worst days, Nick, our little problem child, is still a joy. Unless you were strangling babies or stabbing the staff, I cannot understand their reasoning."
Charlotte choked back a sob. She decided to cast her lot and seal her doom. Best to be prepared for the inevitable. "They hated me because my father was a Roma."
The woman blinked at her waiting for her to continue.
"And," Betsey finally prompted.
Charlotte looked up at them in confusion. "That was all. I am a half Roma."
The women looked indignant again.
"You are telling me that the whole school set you aside for that reason," Hilda stormed. "Where it this place at, Charlotte. I am going to go give them a lesson in how to care for children. The nerve of them. How could they!"
"What's wrong, Ms. Hilda?" A toe blond little boy approached with concern.
Hilda took a breath and turned a radiant smile on the young boy. "Nothing to worry yourself about, Luke. I am just sad for my new friend, Charlotte. You see, the big people where not very nice to her growing up. Because of that, the kids would not play with her."
The little boy thought for a moment. "Did you put them in time out, Ms. Hilda?"
She chuckled and ruffled the boy's hair, "I wish I had been there, Luke. You can bet they would have been."
Luke thought for a moment more. "I can be her friend, Ms. Hilda. She can play in the sand with me. And Roger. And Ricky. But we have to watch Ricky, he sometimes still eats the sand."
Charlie laughed at the boy. "No worries, little man. I'll be her friend today. And forever."
Luke studied him for a moment with a critical eye. "You promise? It wouldn't be nice to leave her alone."
Charlie tried to stop his amusement. "Oh, I promise. I won't even leave her side for naptime."
"Don't forget," Luke reminded him solemnly, "you have to sleep on the other side to the room because you are a boy."
The women laughed heartily at Charlie's face as he contemplated the rule. "I'll try to remember that."
Luke nodded and refocused on Betsey. "My I go in to use the bathroom?"
Betsy nodded. "Come along, let's check to see if anyone else needs to go. I think we best take little Jessica with us as well. She hasn't went in a while and she is doing so well with her training."
Hilda turned back to Charlotte with sympathetic eyes. "I hope you will consider bringing your child here, Charlotte. Romania, especially here at the reserve, has a very different attitude about the Roma. Several work side by side with our friends and family. You will see."
"If not, and I am regretting even saying this in fear of losing my angel, we know the names of several women who watch little ones at their homes. We could get you the names. A lot of families make the decision to wait until their babies are a few months old to bring them here. But you need to make the best decision for you and Charlie and my new angel," Lucy supplied.
Charlie decided Charlotte had enough to consider for one day and they said their goodbyes to the remaining group. They only a short distance when Charlotte realized two things. "Charlie, where are the school aged children? And why is the center brick. Most of the buildings here are wood?"
Charlie nodded realizing how much Charlotte still did not know about her new home. "The other brick building you see across the central quad is the primary school. The older children are all mostly there. Some are still homeschooled, but most attend the reserve school. It runs year round. The children do have breaks, but several parents see the advantage of a year round education. When they are on breaks, some parents travel. The school is still opened, but the children do a lot more hands on learning, or arts and crafts. I know we once went in with a batch of hatchlings and let the kids help raise them for a week. I helped teach the kids quidditch one year, as well. That was great fun. It's more fun and less school work based during that time."
"So, like going to camp," Charlotte asked. Charlie looked at her in confusion. She smiled at his lack of muggle terminology.
"If you say so," Charlie shrugged. "The schools are brick to make them safer. Dragons want easy targets. Both schools have concrete bunkers, reinforced with magic, built under them. In case of an emergency, the children are evacuated directly into those bunkers from inside the buildings. The dragons may attempt to attack the schools, but will become easily dissuaded and move on."
Charlotte walked on thoughtful about what Charlie had explained to her. "The reserve really wants people, especially the women, to return to work. Don't they?"
Charlie nodded his head. "Think about how much time goes into training someone. You, for example, to become a healer. It will take several years for you to become completely qualified. Do you really want to lose those people who have worked so hard to get qualified in what they want to do? No, it makes no sense to from an administrative point. You have put a lot of time, effort, and energy into training these people. The last thing you want to see is for them to leave for someplace with better facilities or quit to raise a family. It would be impractical. Several years back, the previous director started to see the issue and began to take measures to ensure he didn't lose his hard trained employees. Do you think it is by chance that Hilda, Betsey and Lucy are running that center? No. It's because they are experts at what they do. They were recruited by the director to develop that center and its program. The children go into the primary school one or two years ahead of their peers from outside the reserve. It is by design. If parents feel their children are being cared for at the same level, or better than they would receive at home, parents don't feel as bad about taking them there while they are at work. The primary school is the same way. The parents are getting reports back from their chosen magical school telling them how much further ahead the children are when they get to wherever they are going."
Charlotte could understand where Charlie was coming from, and smiled as she could see the positives of sending her child to such a warm and caring place to grow up while she continued her dream.
Charlie grinned his mischievous grin as he opened the door to their home. "So, my wife. Feel up to being naughty and breaking the rules about me staying on the other side of the cabin to sleep."
Charlotte returned his grin and pulled him down to her lips, initiating their celebration.
Heartbreaking pain. Pain and despair. Deep rooted and horrible despair. And sorrow so great, it could not be put into words.
Charlie sat on the edge of the small bed in the hospital holding his wife within his arms, willing them to be protection enough to keep the demons at bay. It had been a miserable week.
Only two weeks after they were the happiest they had ever been, the world crashed down around them. They were happily preparing for a day at the market. Charlotte was laughing at some foolishness or another he said when she stopped abruptly wrapping her arms across her stomach and keeled over in pain breathing deeply.
Her scared eyes met Charlie's. "Something is wrong."
It was the pronouncement of their doom.
Charlie swung her into his arms and got them to the hospital were CeCe was checking over a fracture that she healed the week prior when Charlie crashed through the door.
A quick patronus alerted Thayer of her immediate need. The pair worked for what seemed like an eternity, neither giving up. Finally, the awful truth became evident in the other women's faces. Thayer could not say the words. Her head dropped and she stormed from the room.
CeCe wept openly, trying to put into words that what would bring their perfect world crashing down around them. They didn't need to hear the words however, the sad situation was evident for everyone to see.
The ever efficient Nadine could not move from her place by the corner of the potions cupboard as heaving sobs rocker her small body. CeCe finally pulled herself together enough to look after a still suffering Charlotte. She retrieved potions to help with the pain and bleeding only to have Charlotte finally come out of her shell shocked gaze and fight the woman to take them.
CeCe finally grabbed Charlotte by the shoulders and shook her to realization with the words they all had been dreading to hear. "It's gone! Charlotte, the baby is gone. There is nothing more we can do. There is no way to save it. Please. You need to take the medication. We have to get everything under control."
Charlotte's wild eyes searched her friend's face for anything to tell her it was a deception. "No! No, it will stop. He will be alright."
"Charlotte, sweetheart. The heartbeat is gone," CeCe pleaded for her understanding. "You need to take the potions, love. We need to get the bleeding under control, or you will die also."
"No," Charlotte shook her head. "No! All will be…"
"Charlotte," Charlie's voice cracked. He hit his knees beside her bed tears streaming down his cheeks. "Please, Charlotte. If you love me at all, please. I can't lose you both. I can't survive you leaving me here alone. Please, my love. Please."
Seeing him like that crushed Charlotte. Any composure she had remaining, cracked and disintegrated. Her body shook at the intensity of her heartbreaking sobs. Charlie gathered her into his arms and they wept together for what was lost. The only disruption to their grief was CeCe placing the two vials into his hands and Charlie coaxing the potions into Charlotte. They were quick and effective at ridding her body of the remains of what could have been.
Charlie couldn't remember the next few hours. Nadine finally recovered enough to send for Katie and Jake. Katie arrived with clean clothes for Charlotte. She was still crying when the women guided her to the small bathroom in the hospital to clean up. Jake sat next to Charlie in shock, a hand on his shoulder for support.
A red, puffy eyed Thayer eventually returned once they resettled Charlotte for the night. Charlie knew she talked to them about what happened, but he did not comprehend. Bits and pieces of 'no one's fault' and 'try again' floated in and out of his mind but he was still unclear to what was said.
The true extent of how much of an effect the situation had on everyone they knew came hours later when Louis and Nate appeared pale and quiet with grief. The Frenchman, always the light at the end of the gloom, could not speak. He simply gathered Charlotte into his arms and rocked her, humming some long forgotten lullaby. Nate sat with his head cast down and tears dripping on his knees as he held Charlie's hand, grounding him to the earth.
Peptrofski and his wife, Anastasia, came by at some point. He said very little, only pulling the pair to his chest together and whispering into their combined hair to be strong and take all the time they needed to grieve together. Ana Peptrofski never spoke, just looked at Charlotte with sad, sympathetic eyes.
Now, just a week later, they sat in the same location as Thayer ranted around the corner dealing with the newest situation to plague the young couple. "Barbarians. There is not another word for you people other than barbarians. Haven't you put them through enough?"
"Healer Thayer!" the familiar voice of Mrs. Horton, their assigned Ministry official snapped back. "The two of us are here to get to the bottom of what has happened here."
"What has happened?! Seriously, what has happened? Let me explain you heartless hag…"
"Well, I never…" Horton indignation was clear.
"Olga, you making things worse." CeCe warned.
Thatcher obviously did not care. "What HAPPENED is that the poor child you married off for breeding purposes well before she should have been had a miscarriage. A god awful, heart shattering miscarriage that has turned their world and everybody's around them upside down. That is what happened you vile, arrogant piece of…"
"Enough!" The new, familiar voice caused Charlie to look in the commotions direction for the first time. He looked back at Charlotte as perplexed as she was.
The voice continued with the same aggressive snap. "Where is my brother? Charlie?!"
Charlie closed his eyes, sure he could not survive the look of pity upon his brother's face. Charlotte must have had similar thoughts because she collapsed deeper into his chest. He could feel the silent tears shaking her small body.
Sharp footsteps approached and a sympathetic groan carried across the bed from where they sat. Strong arms extracted Charlotte from his encaging grip. Charlie tried to pull away only to be captured by the back of his neck and pulled into the joint embrace. Charlotte began to audibly cry for what felt like thousandth time since the week prior. Charlie, feeling safe to do so in the strong embrace he was currently held, joined her in gut wrenching sobs.
No one spoke. The strong arms rocked them both lovingly stroking their hair until they could gain some measure of composure again.
Then, and only then, did Bill's strong sad voice utter a word. "I am so sorry. It was such a blow this morning to hear from Horton who we were going to interview. They would not let me know until we were ready to leave. Or at least, I thought it was time to leave. Percy made them bring me in 30 minutes early to give me time to come to grips with what had happened. He knew, of course. The minute the forms confirming your pregnancy crossed his desk he was elated, Horton said. All day last Sunday at dinner he sat there with his smug 'I know something you don't' smirk on his face. We passed it off as some new stupid requirement or another, but he knew. He thought you would be home soon to make an announcement. Horton said when the forms came through notifying of the los...of the deat. .of the miscarriage, he was devastated. He wouldn't let anybody in his office all day."
Charlie who had wrapped his arms protectively around Charlotte's stomach, whispered into her back. "Does mum or dad know?"
"No." Bill whispered back into Charlotte's hair. "There is no way she would not be here if she ever found out. You don't need that right now. Percy and I both agree on that point. Percy made the decision to go straight to Kingsley and not let dad know right now. Dad has been handling the investigation into what is happening. If it comes to nothing, he will never need to know until you tell him."
Charlie pulled himself and Charlotte away and looked into his big brother's bloodshot eyes. Bill smiled sadly back at the pair. "It's the reason we are here. We are running into some issues with some of the married couples. Ones with pure bloods in them."
Charlie's insides crushed. Bill notice and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I don't think this is anything other than rotten luck. If it were, Fleur and I…"
Everybody's eyes widened as he stopped. The image of his blond haired goddaughter ripped into his mind where he had forbidden her all week. He flinched in pain at the memory of her pale blue eyes and new smell.
In his arms, Charlotte whimpered. Charlie swayed her side to side comforting her. Bill looked at them with guilty sympathy. Charlie, needing a distraction to exercise his perfect niece from his mind, prompted Bill to continue. "What's happening?"
Bill drew a deep breath and continued. "The pure blood families, or at least some of the pure blood families, have some type of taboo on their children to prevent them from producing any child other than another pure blood. You may not be aware of it, but the Ministry cancelled a lot of those marriage contracts. Mostly because of the admission by one or both parties they wanted nothing to do with it. Some of them had other partners in mind, but a few were matched like you and Charlotte. Quite a few, of course were matching themselves to other pureblood families, so they are not affected. But there have been over twenty couples that have suffered miscarriages. Considering the unfortunate statistic is that ten percent of the pregnancies end this way, it is entirely possible to pass it off as coincidence. However, one mother made the mistake of telling her daughter about the taboo. She was actually pleased it worked and that her new grandchild would not be bone with and I quote 'a filthy mudblood father' and all of the prior generations found a way to circumvent the Ministry interference. That was when I was called in to sit on the task force trying to work this all out. So far, we have found the taboo on 15 people. Five men and 10 women. The frustration is, they have a way to work around it or cancel it if they so desire. The problem is, none of them are willing to give up the secret. We have been going back through any historical family journals trying to find the answer. Harry provided us with all of the Black Family archives. The only problem is, Tonks."
"Tonks?" Charlie asked, saddened again by the loss of the young woman and her husband.
Bill nodded. "If what we are finding is true, the Blacks didn't enact the taboo. Remember Andromeda did not marry a pure blood. Ted was a muggle born. She would have never been allowed to produce a child with him. We are discussing the situation with her to make sure we did not overlook anything, but it may be a dead end."
"Have you managed to find out who is affected?" Charlotte asked.
Bill nodded. "So far the Bulstrodes, Notts, Parkinsons, Avery, Carrows, Flints, Lestrange, Rosiers and Yaxleys, so you know they are not talking."
"What about the Malfoys?" Charlotte asked.
"We are assuming they may be, but no one has married outside the purebloods, so it is hard to tell. We are not being very vocal about the situation hoping to find answers before it becomes widespread knowledge." Bill explained.
Charlotte wondered aloud. "Draco and I have kept in touch, mostly to feed my family some bogus information to keep them at bay until I become of age in the muggle world. I could send him a letter and ask for his help. Maybe he would comply."
Bill looked at her in gratitude. "That would be greatly appreciated, but wait until after the first of the year. Don't give him any reason to withdraw his aide."
Charlotte agreed and the matter was dropped.
An uncomfortable silence followed. Charlie finally spoke. "What do you need from us?"
Bill lowered his head. "Family histories, medical histories, blood work and medical workups. We are looking for any other reason for this to have happened."
Charlie nodded and pulled Charlotte deeper into his lap. "Do your worse."
Horton, who must have been listening from around the corner, appeared at last. "I'm so sorry. Every indication was that the two of you had grown to love one another. The news was devastating. I hope you can work through this and go on from here."
Charlie leaned down and drew in the scent of Charlotte's hair. Over the past week, it had been the only balm for his raw soul. The fact that she had survived and was still with him. "We will. I can't be without her any longer."
Horton nodded and withdrew her paperwork. "Charlotte, we do not have a lot of information on your father's family. The Roma do not register all of their births. Could you go over what you know of them? Bill pointed out this morning that the taboo probably does not exist in your family as you were born out of wedlock, but it is worth investigating."
Charlotte nodded. "What do you need to know?"
Charlie sat, arms crossed, in the chair across from his director. He was itching for a fight. Had been since two night prior. Across from him, Peptrofski sat calmly watching him, not saying a word.
Charlie had been in a foul mood longer than just the past few days. It began after the infuriating interview and exams by the Ministry. The results were inconclusive. The Ministry was siding on what they called 'statistical misfortune'.
The couple gave themselves two more days to recover from the loss and decided to return to their jobs. Though neither one of them would admit it, the cabin seemed more like a tomb then their home.
They tried to carry on. Tried to have a normal life. The issue was, neither one knew what normal was anymore. Charlie woke up most nights to his wife crying in all-consuming grief, which could not be comforted. He thought he was holding it together, telling her it would be alright and things would get better. Even when she was not crying, Charlotte was a shell of the person she once was. She looked at Charlie with some kind of need in her eyes but Charlie did not know what that need was.
For a week, they existed. Charlie being the rock for his wife, burying his feelings to try to help her feel some kind of normal. Only, he could not control what was being pent up inside him.
After a week, Charlie began slipping away with Nate to the pub just to get away from their home. The first night had been one drink, then one turned into two, then several. After a week, Nate and Louis had to all but carry him back to his cabin and a very distraught Charlotte.
This led to their first fight as a married couple. Charlotte, after a week of Charlie coming home so inebriated he was falling over his own shoes, scolded him about his drinking. Charlie exploded in a drunken rage. He ranted and raved and shouted at Charlotte which caused her to erupt into tears once again. He was so upset at her grief, he punched the wall next to her head. She looked at him in fear. Charlie stumbled out of the house and into the night. He woke up at Nate's cabin unsure how he had gotten there.
This was the beginning of his regular outings. He went to work, went to the pub, drank until he could no longer remember anything and was hauled home or to one of their cabins by one friend or another.
At work, he was surly, short and mean to everybody. Most people were now trying to avoid him at all cost. The meanness only continued and increased when he drank, which lead him to his predicament two nights ago.
He was at the Dragon's Den with his first bottle of whiskey almost empty when the man two stools down from him jumped down to use the loo. He sidestepped a waitress with a tray and bumped into Charlie. The bloke apologized and went to move on until Charlie exploded in a drunken fury. He man again tried to placate Charlie, but he had been itching for someone to take his anger out on for days. Charlie managed two good swings before someone pinned him to the ground and his hands tied behind his back.
The constable was on site in minutes. He may have allowed Nate to take him home, if Charlie had not been belligerent with him. So, Charlie found himself carted, none to gently, off to the temnita to spend some time sobering up in the celula.
As per the agreement with Director Peptrofski, the constable sent word to the reserve to let the director he had one of his employees as a guest. Charlie waited for Peptrofski to arrive, still looking for a fight, only no one came.
"Stabiliți-vă, sunteți aici pentru noapte1" the constable grinned.
"What?" Charlie ragged shaking the bars. "What do you mean, I'm here for the night."
The constable smirked. "Your director feels you may benefit from a night here in my cells. Something about appreciating what you have left behind at your home. If I remember, she is very beautiful. Maybe one of your friends can keep her company this night, yes? Maybe Nate?"
Charlie screamed in rage and shook the bars.
The constable shot a stinging hex at him. "Stai jos si dormi. Voi fi cand voi sunteti treji.2"
Charlie slumped on the floor across from the bars glaring at the man. The constable sighed. "Dormi. Veți putea pleca mai repede.3"
Charlie continued to glare. The constable turned back to his paperwork. After a few more minutes of Charlie not complying, the man dimmed the lights. Charlie eventually conceded and fell into a drunken stupor.
Morning did not improve his mood. The constable, true to his word, let Charlie go after he had slept off the prior night's alcohol. Charlie collected his jacket and headed to the reserve. He was met at the gates by Phillip, who informed him he had the day off and was not allowed to leave the reserve, or for that matter his cabin, until he met with the director. Peptrofski was conveniently not available until tomorrow afternoon.
In a worse temper than ever, Charlie stormed home ready for a battle with his wife. Only, she was not home and from the look of the cabin, she had not been home for at least a day. Charlie paced, enraged at being trapped in the one place he came to despise.
At every turn there were memories of what use to be. He slumped on the couch and stared at the big bed. The one they had stayed in the whole first Saturday they first came home to Romania in mid-July. They left only a few times for food and the loo and once for him to play out her fantasy at the footboard of the bed. He looked at the table where one night he pulled off her knickers and undone his fly and made love to her as they sat in his chair, waiting for their dinner to cook. She gained so much confidence before the baby was lost. Now, he was not sure. Now, he did not know what she had become.
She never came home that night. The constable's words came back to him. After three failed attempts, he was able to conjure a partonus which he sent to Nate, Jake and Louis asking for them to come to him. Nate and Louis did not respond. Jake sent back his wolf looking sheepish and telling Charlie it was not worth losing his current sleeping arrangements over.
He could not sleep that evening. Could not bear to close his eyes and dream of what might have been. Eventually, his poor sleep the night before and the late hour drove him into an exhausted oblivion.
He woke the next day to a pounding on his door and his temper reignited. Phillip was waiting on the other side with instructions Charlie was allowed to report to work. When Charlie cornered him about Charlotte, Phillip simply asked if she had not told him where she was. Charlie's red headed temper got the best of him again. Phillip left without another word after Charlie told him off.
Charlie worked with Gladys all day, since they seem to be sharing a personality recently. They battled most of the day until Phillip came to inform him the director had time to see him finally.
So now, hot and mad from working with Gladys and still not knowing where his wife was, Charlie sat stubbornly in his chair waiting for the director to speak.
Peptrofski said nothing, just continued to look at Charlie as if waiting for something. Eventually, Peptrofski sighed and folded his fingers. Charlie was ready. Any word would probably bring on the fight he so desperately needed.
"You are hurting deep inside," Peptrofski said to him sadly.
Charlie was taken off guard. Peptrofski nodded. "You are safe here, Charlie. No one can come in or out of this office until I open that door. It is just you and I, no one else. You need to let go of this anger you are feeling, son. It is covering your real issue. You have to grieve."
Charlie bristled. This was not what Peptrofski was supposed to do. He was supposed to rant and scream at Charlie, to give him a reason to fight. He glared at the director. The director smiled back sadly.
"You don't know what you are talking about," Charlie snorted. "I'm fine."
"You are fine? That is why no one, not even your friends want to be around you. You are fine? That is why you drink every night at the Den. You are not fine, Charlie. You are hurting and you do not know what to do with that hurt, so you strike out at everyone and anyone you can trying to make them hurt as badly as you do."
Charlie rose from his seat and stormed to the door. It was locked. " .Out."
"Not until you can let go of some of your grief," Peptrofski calmly reiterated.
Charlie rounded on him and crossed the room in three quick steps. "I'm not…"
"You're not thinking about what might have been." The director asked.
Charlie flinched like he had been hit with another stinging hex. Peptrofski nodded.
Charlie shook his head trying to clear his mind.
Peptrofski continued. "You're trying not to remember the perfect picture you painted in your head when you thought of the child with your beautiful wife's face and eyes. You are not still hurt over the thoughts of teaching your son to fly like you can. You do not go numb seeing them in their school uniform for the first time."
Charlie screamed and ran his hand through his hair pulling it to justify the pain he was feeling.
Peptrofski continued faster. "You cannot see the child in your arms as your sweet wife sleeps in the hospital bed next to you after giving birth to your child. You don't think of the lullaby you would have sang to him or her as you rocked them to sleep the nights your wife worked late at the hospital and it was just the two of you at home. You do not imagine their first steps, their first words, the first time they smile at you, excited you are home."
Charlie's knees gave out and he fell to the floor. He threw his head back and screamed like a wounded animal no longer able to contain the pain he had concealed deep within his heart. His magic became unstable. The things on Peptrofski desk began to fly around the room. Peptrofski waved his wand and a shield charm appeared to protect him from the debris.
Charlie collapsed to the floor, weeping for what was lost. He cried for what should have been and would never be. He cried for Charlotte, because she was hurt and in as much pain and he could not make it go away. He laid on the floor on his hands and knees and begged for it all to stop. Eventually, he cried himself out.
Peptrofski was by his side, helping him up and into the chair across from his desk again. He waved his wand and his things returned to where they belonged. Finally, he walked to his seat and sat down, waiting for Charlie to be ready to listen to him again.
Charlie looked up at the man and finally saw the same hollow grief he saw when he looked into the mirror reflected back at him. Charlie finally understood , he was not alone. Peptrofski nods at his epiphany. "You need to grieve, Charlie. You need to grieve for your lost future. Only then, can you go forward."
Peptrofski leaned back into his chair and sighed. "You are not the first man I have sat down in the office and broke. Sadly, you will not be the last. I do this because I do not want you to make my mistakes. For, you see, Charlie, I have walked down the path you are walking. Unfortunately, I walked down the wrong path, and it almost cost me more than I could bear to lose. It was two years after the loss of our first pregnancy that I finally crawled back to my wife and begged her forgiveness for my waywardness. Two years I drank and fucked other women and ignored and abandoned by beautiful wife, trying to get away from a pain I could not run from. It was two years until I finally crashed down on my knees and begged for the pain I was drinking and fucking to hide from to go away. It was two years before I was able to grieve for my child. When I was finally able to come to terms and see the mess I had made, I crawled back to my beautiful Ana and begged her to forgive me. Begged her to grieve with me, begged her to heal with me. It took us another year to overcome that hurt. Another two years to finally have a child. You are at an advantage, Charlie. Your Ministry has, inadvertently, forced your hand to not making some of my most brutal mistakes. Oh, you have already took steps down the wayward trail I have walked, but I think we can correct your path before you have went too far astray. You see, there were some mistakes you do not have the luxury to commit as I have. You, for one, cannot ignore your beautiful wife for too long. You will need to go back to your marriage bed in order to comply with your Ministry. I had no such edict. It was easier to find my comforts with a woman who was not in so much emotional pain. You will not have that option available either. Not without your bond burning you from the insides out. So you will have an easier time than I. But first, you must admit to yourself you are hurting, and then, you must admit it to your beautiful Charlotte. Then, and only then, can you grieve and recover from this pain."
Tears continued to cascade down Charlie's face as the director spoke. He could see the trap, the path, which Peptrofski spoke of. The easy way out was down that path Charlie chased for three weeks already. But every morning the pain was back anew and Charlotte was just as lost. Did she feel as isolated and lonely as he did as well? The empty cabin came back to him and he sank into even greater despair.
"I am already too late, she is gone." Charlie groaned.
"She has not left indefinably. Katie took her to Italy to get away for a couple days. I could see you were at the precipice, you just needed to fall over the edge. You made it easy a few nights ago. It took me several stays in one of those jail cells before I came to my senses. I thought one night would be sufficient for your thick skull, especially if your wife was not home when you got there."
Charlie nodded debating his next move. Peptrofski made it easy. "Go home, your wife is already back and at the hospital. Thayer is sending her home early if nothing goes amiss. Go home and think on what you want, Charlie. Then tell you wife what you need. You may see, she needs much the same thing."
Charlie took a deep breath and nodded, rising from his seat. "Thank you director. I am sorry for the trouble I have caused."
Peptrofski nodded. "Everybody you have hurt understands the pain you are in. All you will need to do is ask for their forgiveness and it will be granted, I believe. You may have a few problems with a couple of them. It has been Katie who has had to pick up the shattered pieces of your wife while you have been a brutal drunk. She will not be as forgiving."
Charlie nodded and turned toward the door. He took a moment to look about the office. For all the intensity of his wayward magic, most of the items were protected. He looked back at Peptrofski.
"Phillip." The director answered. "He is very effective at his job. He usually comes in and places shields around the majority of the items in the office for just that reason. As I said before, you are not the first, you will not be the last."
Charlie nodded and began to open the door. Peptrofski stopped him one last time. "My door is always opened. You will know when you need to return again."
Charlie looked back one last time and nodded as he pulled open the door. "Thank you again, director."
"Good bye, son." The director said sadly as Charlie closed the door.
Phillip was in the outer office shuffling paperwork. Charlie looked at him as drew in a deep breath. Phillip cut him off. "I know it was not you speaking to me, Weasley. Just get better. Your wife is too good of a person to suffer alone."
Charlie nodded. Phillip continued pointing his wand at the door going out of his office. "Go out the side door, fewer people will see you. Apperate straight to your cabin. Take a hot shower and get cleaned up. I am supposed to let Thayer know when you leave. She will send Charlotte in an hour."
"Thanks again, Phillip." Charlie began to move towards the door.
"Charlie, Thayer wanted you to know she cleared Charlotte today."
Charlie didn't look back, he just nodded his head and proceeded out the door. He was back in the stifling cabin quickly. After stripping out of his clothes and scalding his skin in the shower, he sat on their couch and stared into the flames of the small fire he lit.
He sat and thought. Thought about the baby. Thought about all of his dreams and all of his wants. The plans he made and the few things he and Charlotte had the time to discuss before it all ended. Tears fell freely down his face as he considered the thought of never seeing his wife again.
He lost track of the time until the door of the cabin creaked open. Charlotte walked in and stopped. Charlie turned slowly and looked into her eyes. He made no effort to stop his tears. No effort to hide his grief. She entered the cabin and walked to him, dropping in front of his on the floor. Slowly, she raised her hand up to brush the tears from his cheeks. He rolled his face into her touch.
"I am so sorry, I have acted the arse. I was so hurt by what happened, I could not even remember you were hurt just as badly as I was. I don't want to run away anymore. I don't want to hide in the drink. I don't want to be angry instead of sad. I will never forgive myself for what I have done. I do not deserve your forgiveness, I don't deserve your understanding, but I am begging for both. I want us to be a couple again. I want us to be a team, I want that woman I can lean on in my time of need, and I want to be the man you come to when you are hurting. I am hurting, Charlotte. I am hurting so bloody badly and I know you are hurting, as well. I want us to hurt and cry together. I want to grieve for our child together. I want to hold you when you can't go on and I need you to hold me when I can't come to grips with what has happened. I need to be us again, Charlotte. The us that overcame my stupidity and your shyness and made our marriage work. I need us to succeed again and overcome the loss of our child together."
Charlotte said nothing. She stood up and pushed Charlie against the back of the couch. She sat down next to him and rolled her body against his strong chest. Charlie wrapped his arms around her holding her close. Within seconds, Charlotte was in tears, crying into his arms. Charlie tried to be brave for only a moment, then let his mind let go. They held each other and cried. They cried for the time they were apart and the mistakes they had both made and for their lost dreams.
After some time, Charlie picked Charlotte up and moved them to their bed. They just lay there together, holding one another, drying each other's tears and sharing brief loving kisses. It was Charlotte who eventually looked up with tear filled eyes asking without words for something more. They came together only after long drawn out caresses and kisses. Charlie never let his eyes leave Charlotte's as he entered her fully. Tears still ran down their faces and onto the others face at times. There was no rush to come to their completion, no need for them to separate and go on. They both needed this. Both needed the closeness that only this union could bring, to move them back from the brink of disaster they were balancing on. When they had finished, both held onto each other and cried knowing they were finally on the road to healing. Together.
It had been almost two weeks since Peptrofski broke Charlie in his office. He still ached for the child that would never come, but he had managed to move forward with Charlotte at his side.
He never knew how perfect their friends were until he went back to work the next day. When he entered the enclosure, the other workers scattered from him. His friends stood firm, awaiting whatever his current temperament would throw their way.
Charlie looked into all of their faces and dropped his head. "I've been an arse. I don't deserve your loyalty."
Three of the people in front of him relaxed their postures. One strode forward and punched Charlie in the jaw dropping him to the ground. When he looked up, rubbing his face it was Katie's violent eyes he met.
"Thank you." Was his only response.
"I didn't do it for you!" she spat at him.
"I know." Charlie responded. "You should not have had to, if I would have been a better husband. You had no reason to and yet you did. I know I cannot be forgiven, but I would at least like to thank you for holding her together when I was not. I promise, you will never have to do it again because of my lack of being there for her. I will not make the same mistake twice, Katie."
Katie's expression did not change. "Peptrofski says I have to give you a chance to prove yourself. Don't fuck this up, you bastard, or I'll feed you to the Horntails."
Charlie nodded, not doubting her honesty.
Peptrofski, as always, was correct. Katie still had not forgiven him. She was still checking in with Charlotte daily to ensure her wellbeing. When Charlie was around, she pretended he was not there. Jake told him to give her some more time and not to push the issue. He would let Charlie know when she quit referring to him as the rotten, heartless bastard. Charlie did not expect a fast turnaround from the hot headed Italian.
Charlotte and he made some headway at least in repairing their relationship. They spoke every night this week about what was happening in their minds. They comforted each other in their grief and held each other in their sorrow. He woke that first night to Charlotte crying again. Instead of trying to be strong and comforting, Charlie begged her to confide in him what she was thinking about. When she told him of her fears she had been the cause of the baby's death, he pulled her into his arms and confided his own doubts about what Bill told them. Fears because of Bill's werewolf infection and Fleur's veela blood, the taboo overlooked the pair and Charlie was now faced with the blood curse that seemed to affect most of the sacred twenty eight.
The days continued much the same way, with times when one or the other would falter, but, this time, the other was there to pick up the pieces and be strong until they could recover. Even though they only made love the one time, they still held each other close as they fell asleep every night, there to comfort the other in their need.
Charlie checked in with her every day at the hospital to make sure her day was going okay. When it was not, he held her during her breaks and wiped away her tears. Thayer found them once just holding one another after Charlotte finished a check up on one of the expecting wives. They both were teary eyed, but coping with one another's support.
She nodded at the pair, telling them she was glad they began to lean on one another finally. "It may not seem it now, but you will be stronger for this one day."
Charlie clumped up the steps to their home. It was a long, exhausting day inside the enclosures and he was happy to be home. He wanted a hot shower and his wife's comforting arms, not necessarily in that order.
He opened the door to shout his arrival, only to be drawn up short. Their little scrubbed table was already laid for dinner and his wife stood by couch awaiting his arrival. She wore the red dress he had bought her for her graduation. Charlie looked her up and down from the top of her wild mane of black curls to the tips of her red heels. Desire raced through his blood. She dressed in his favorite outfit.
In two quick steps he as across the house and pulled her into his sweaty embrace. She surrendered her body to him and he held her tighter than he ever thought possible. Dinner was forgotten. So was Charlie's shower, until much later.
They didn't leave the big bed again until the following afternoon.
1: Settle in, you're here for the night.
2: Sit down and sleep. It will be better in the morning.
3: Sleep. You will be able to leave faster.