Hands to Hold You

January 15

"Push, Push, Push. Keep pushing," CeCe commanded. After a few more second CeCe took a breath. "Ok, rest.

The young dark haired woman slumped back into her bed panting.

CeCe called over her shoulder, "Charlotte, go grab me that ointment we use for swelling out of the potions stores."

Charlotte looked up from her spot next to the laboring woman and blanched. "I…can't."

"Yes, you can," Thayer said walking across the ward to continue treating another patient. "You have been able to for two weeks. Which just confirmed to all of us you are ready to have access to it again."

CeCe nodded her off to the cabinet as she started running diagnostic spells. Charlotte turned and looked at the cabinet and reflected on her previous six months. She finally shook herself into moving as she reflected.

It had been a long road back to this point, one she could not even imagine being as difficult as it had been when she woke after being brought back form Gladys' enclosure in Charlie's arms.

She may have grown up bring an outcast and generally untrusted due to her father's blood, but the people who knew her, truly knew her, never doubted her honesty. She managed to bring every ounce of that trust crashing down around her with one stupid decision.

Being restrained to her bed was a big enough blow to the young woman when she woke. Those restraints going back on after Thayer gave her more potion to make her sleep that night was gut wrenching. The fact it was the kind hearted CeCe and not the brisk, blunt Thayer made it worse. Charlie, at least, was there when she woke and held her as well as he could helping her go back to sleep.

She hoped when she was released in the morning and could escape to her home it would get better. Those hopes were soon dashed as she went into their tiny bathroom to take a shower.

"Leave the door open, Charlotte." Charlie looked at her with fear as she walked away from him. She looked into his eyes and seen the worry and mistrust. It crushed her more than anything else in her life.

More and more things that weekend began to show Charlotte just how far she had fallen. As she tried to make dinner, she noted several things missing in the kitchen. Thinking Charlie just put them away in the wrong space she began to look on the shelves and in the drawers for the missing things. Realization finally hit when she came to a drawer she could not open. She looked at it for a moment and began to categorize the missing items. Her knives. It was her knives and any sharp objects that were missing. She slumped in understanding. Charlie's arms wrapped around her and he kissed the top of her head and breathed in deeply. He reached out and drew the door open for her to retrieve what she needed. She slumped to the floor and cried, not saying a word. He joined her on the floor holding and rocking her.

It didn't stop with just the kitchen. The potions basket was missing from its spot in the closet. Some of Charlie's work gear was missing as well and she noticed his key ring was greatly reduced.

Charlie was her constant shadow. He did not hover, but she was never out of his sight. When they slept, he held her close to him, almost afraid she would disappear. She tried to get up during the night to use the loo sliding slowly from his grasp only to wake him up. He sat up wide eyed and afraid once again.

She smiled sympathetically. "Loo."

His body slumped in relief and he relaxed back into the bed watching her walk to the bathroom. When she tried to shut the door his whispered "Charlotte" stopped her again. They stared at each other for a moment. Charlotte sad and ashamed, Charlie wide eyes and afraid. She relented and went about her task.

What shocked her the most was when the realization hit it had not been Charlie, nor CeCe, nor Thayer who went through the cabin to purge it of what she could use to harm herself, but Katie and surprisingly, Nate. By the second day of her imprisonment, Charlotte began to go stir crazy. Charlie, knowing he was most of the cause chanced a call to Jake for some additional company.

Most people around her treated Charlotte like a delicate ceramic figurine which would break at the simplest touch. Katie came in like a firestorm. Charlotte expected it, dragon handlers were a volatile lot. They had to be for what they did.

She grabbed Charlotte by the shoulder and shook her violently before she could be stopped. When both Charlie and Jake tried to grab Katie to pull her away, her magic repelled them back. "Why?! Why, my bella. Perché la mia bella sorella del mio cuore mi faresti questo? Per Charlie? Non capisci quanto tu intenda per noi?"

Charlotte could not understand most of the native language of her friend. Only one phase stood out. The one Katie introduced her by on their visit. Sorella del mio cuore. Sister of my heart.

She crumpled once again to the floor, but it was not Charlie's arms that surrounded her. Not Katie's. Not Jake's. The big, strong arms which picked her up and held her close this time were almost unknown to her. Almost. She looked up into the dark brown eyes of Nate.

They were filled with a pain she could not read. "You will not succeed. Never. I will not allow you to leave this world and leave us behind. I will not watch Charlie become like my brother, a shell of the man he once was. His wife was weak, more weak then you, Charlotte. She had a sickness of the mind none could heal. You are not sick of mind, but sick of heart. Hearts can be healed with time, care and love. Until then, we will hold you closer than close to help you heal and keep you safe from your demons. If we can heal the hurts of those who would burn us alive, we can heal you who has it in her heart to care and love unconditionally. I feel this is what hurts you the most. You want to make everybody happy, but you. I tell you now. You smiling and laughing, it makes us happy. You looking in annoyance at Charlie while he smirks at some hidden secret you share, that makes us happy. You, cooking me dinner, always makes me happy."

His eyes sparkled with mirth at the last. Charlotte could not help but smile back and snicker just a little. Around them, sighs could be heard.

She reached the cabinet and put her hand out and hesitated. The first day back she approached it to retrieve a pain potion for a handler who had fallen off a fence. When she tried, it would not opened much like the kitchen drawer. Her whole body slumped. It was Nadine's gentle touch that moved her aside and opened the cabinet door much like Charlie. She handed Charlotte what she needed and smiled sadly at the woman as she turned away to close the door. It clicked softly shut, but to Charlotte it was a banging crescendo clattering across the clinic.

She took a deep breath and reached for the door, it snicked open and she looked at the shelves for her objective. Reaching inside, she retrieved the container and closed the door. Nothing else drew her eyes. She took a deep breath and let it out feeling, for the first time in six months, a bit of normal returning to her life.

The woman in the bed screamed again in pain and Charlotte quickened her steps back to the bedside. She opened the top of salve on her way and held it out to CeCe.

CeCe shook her head. "Charlotte, you have to do this. They waited too long to bring her in and your hands are smaller. We may have to deliver by cesarean."

Charlotte blanched and looked over her shoulder. The woman's family was gathered, not saying a word. Emil's dark eyes met hers in question. She smiled back trying not to worry them.

"It will not be good for her if we have to. Magical Roma families have some very old fashion opinions. Her husband could cast her aside if she cannot have this baby by traditional means." Charlotte began to scoop the salve from the pot and replace CeCe at the foot of the bed.

She smiled up at Emil's young daughter, hoping she would not think it an evil omen it was Charlotte trying to help her. Roma were nothing if not superstitious. The young woman, younger even than Charlotte did not register the change of healers. She was exhausted from hours of labor not progressing into a delivery. Charlotte and CeCe locked eyes. They needed to get her to deliver quickly or they would have few options to save them both.

Charlotte worked as gently as she could around the woman's opening trying to massage the swelling away. Still, she caused pain which the woman reacted to. CeCe tried to comfort her as well as she could. The family had been adamant. No pain medication could be administered. A Roma wife's strength was tested on the birthing bed. Charlotte closed her eyes and began to concentrate at what her hands were telling her. Something was not right. She reached up to her swollen stomach and pressed the baby down more. The woman groaned again, Charlotte locked eyes with CeCe.

CeCe looked back. "What do you feel?"

"Not hair." Charlotte said.

CeCe grimaced at the confirmation. "Breech."

Charlotte slowly removed her hands. The young woman knew English. She remembered Charlie telling her once it was this young woman who had interpreted the grandmother's evaluation of the betrothal gift she had given him for Christmas just before they were married, but in her current state, she was having trouble communicating. Charlotte decided it was best to hope the differing dialects would not be an issue and questioned her in her home language. After several questions and the woman confirming the child was still kicking the hell out of her bladder as opposed to her diaphragm, the dire situation was confirmed.

CeCe and Charlotte looked at each other and spoke in the way colleagues could in extreme situations. They were running out of options. They were running out of time.

"Do we have any other options?" Charlotte asked, not wanting to damn the woman to a shunned existence.

"Have you looked at the father," CeCe asked mockingly. Charlotte looked over her shoulder again. The young woman was married to a dragon handler who made Charlie look like Percy. From the size of this poor woman on the bed, the child was a son and would take after the father. Nadine already brewed a restorative for after the birth since they knew there was a chance she would be ripped to shreds from the delivery as it was.

Charlotte closed her eyes to think. The whispering voice of the old woman startled her back out of her thoughts. Her accent was thick and the dialect caused her some concerns as to her interpretation, but the intent was clear as the woman stooped between CeCe and her. "You know our ways, child. Her life is forfeit whichever path you choose. Better for her to die with honor."

CeCe looked at the horrified miserable face of Charlotte wanting confirmation of what the woman had said. Charlotte met her gaze with tear filled eyes. "We have to deliver her naturally, CeCe."

CeCe bristled. "Charlotte, do you realized what you are saying. She's too young for such a big baby. Her pelvis hasn't completely developed. The baby is breech and big. Those shoulders will be huge as well the head. She is swelled too badly as well. Do you realized what is going to happen if we don't stop now?!"

A tear slipped down Charlotte's cheek. CeCe watched it progress and looked at the old woman with malice. The old woman nodded coldly and returned to her family. CeCe looked back to Charlotte. "Do they understand…?"

"Completely," Charlotte deadpanned. "They understand I know what she will face. That she will be dead to her family anyway. She will be a shame to the family honor. CeCe, they will not consent. The husband will not consent. The only chance we have is to try to get this baby out of her and deal with the repercussions that follow."

CeCe glowered. "Charlotte, you know that I love you, but that half of your heritage, I could do without."

Charlotte smiled back sadly. "I've managed without them for many years already. So what are our options?"

CeCe thought. Her eyes looked at the woman, the swollen belly, the husband, Emil's wife and then Emil himself. I light came on and she looked at Marcel next to his father. "Charlotte, ask Mila about Marcel's birth. Was he big? Or just long?"

Charlotte looked at CeCe with some hope. She turned to Mila and began to question the woman as CeCe had asked. The family looked on in confusion until the grandmother nodded and added some points that a laboring mother may not have remembered.

"Marcel was upside down but not breech. The grandmother had to turn him. There was room." Charlotte said with a glimmer of hope.

"Do we have time?" CeCe asked.

"Yes." Charlotte grinned. "He has a big bum and it isn't in the birth canal yet."

"Small blessings," CeCe smiled back. "You go back in and try to get her ready. Get as much of that salve in her as possible. She will bleed badly, but like you said, we'll deal with the repercussions on the other side."

Charlotte nodded and began her task. CeCe began to feel the woman's stomach trying to place baby parts through the stretched skin. Nadine worked at helping the woman resist the urge to push any further. When they finally felt they were ready to proceed, CeCe closed her eyes for a moment and collected her inner strength and began to manipulate the child into wanting to turn.

"Most defiantly a man. Only they would be this difficult at wanting to move when they are comfortable," CeCe griped as she worked. The child finally cooperated and made the turn to face the correct direction. CeCe sighed and watched the child's movements through the belly. She then scowled and placed her hand firmly on each side of the baby. "Oh, no you don't. Stay there, you little stinker."

Marcel snorted in mirth. CeCe laughed. "I think he will take after his uncle."

The baby's father laughed and clapped his friend on the back.

Their joking was short lived as the woman screamed again in pain. CeCe looked at her and gave her the command that promised relief. "Push."

The labor progressed quickly for as large as the baby was. The woman was finally making good progress with each contraction. As promised, the baby had a big head, and wide shoulders. Charlotte worked diligently to help the child along. The whole time, CeCe and Nadine continued their encouragement and prodding.

At one point, the baby had managed to hang up on her too small pelvis. It was the grandmother who suggested the mother on her knees to move the child along. Much to Charlotte's irritation, the grandmother decided to continue her litany of complaints about Charlotte not knowing the age old technique used by Roma everywhere until Charlotte, exhausted from her work, snapped at the woman and told her she had been only ten when she left the family and was never at a birth during her stays.

The grandmother was drawn short by this. "They did not give you the family knowledge?"

"Only what a ten year old would have. Maybe more. I loved to learn about healing and the grandmother loved to teach an eager student." Charlotte answered distractedly.

"Ten," The grandmother asked. Charlotte sighed in exasperation as they gave the mother a rest between her contractions.

"After my after died, I never went back," Charlotte explained still distracted.

"They were not at your wedding," She demanded.

"No!" Charlotte began to prepare herself to start again as another contraction began.

The grandmother was silent, but her eyes never left Charlotte or her work. She could hear the family behind her whispering, but chose to ignore them and trying to understand what they were saying.

It took two more rounds of pushing before the large baby came out with one last screaming grunt from the mother. She slumped back in the bed, relieved the pain was gone. Charlotte worked the baby over clearing its throat and heard its first gurgling gasping cries as it began to breath.

Charlotte looked longingly into his smashed and bruised face and felt he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She placed the baby into the waiting blanket Nadine held for her and began to clean it off. She smiled at the young Roma wife looking at her with anticipation and smiled.

"You have a son. Big and strong and beautiful. He will be a good man, like his father." She said in her father's language in the phrase she had heard the grandmother announce births in during her summers with them. Much like then, the family cheered and laughed and danced around singing in celebration of the new family member. Charlotte cut the cord ending the connection to the mother. The baby was blanketed and handed up to the mother's waiting arms by a crying Nadine.

Charlotte watched the pair from the foot of the bed, knowing her work was not done. The husband joined wife to peer at the face of what they had created together. The mother looked at the child and whispered her love to the boy in her arms. She looked up briefly and swooned back into the pillows losing consciousness. Nadine managed to catch the babe as he rolled out of his mother's arms. CeCe immediately began to cast spells as Charlotte pulled back the sheet they had tossed over the woman's legs to give her some modest decorum after the birth.

"She is losing too much blood. The placenta has not detached correctly." Charlotte's hands were back in action, CeCe working from the outside. Nadine pulled the father back and deposited the baby into Mila's arms and began to move, retrieving potions and supplies.

After a few moment of no success, CeCe looked at Charlotte again dreading the answer. "Hysterectomy?"

Charlotte didn't even answer, CeCe groaned. They continued their work. CeCe finally came up with a solution which would give the woman a chance to continue to carry children, but it would require some intricate and well placed wand work on Charlotte's part. She slipped the wand up and into the woman's womb and repeated the delicate spell work required. Finally, after three rounds the bleeding stopped. CeCe and Charlotte began to breathe again.

It took another hour, but the young mother was finally able to be revived. The healers took the time to get her bathed and changed and set up in her bed again before they brought the family back with the baby. No one questioned the potions they gave the young woman, including the birthing restorative Nadine mixed earlier. The three grinned at each other with sly mirth, not caring that a good Roma wife should forgo such luxuries.

It was Emil who approached the women who stood silently by enjoying the fruits of their labors. He appraised Charlotte for a moment before he spoke. "We are indebted. All of us. You have given us not just one life, but two. Yes. A life for a life."

Charlotte looked at the child and smiled. "I hold no debt with you or your family, Emil. I wish you only happiness for your strong grandson."

Emil nodded and smiled. "You do deserve some honor, yes. Tell me child, what is the name of your …"

Charlotte looked at him trying to place the word. It was Marcel again who translated. "Father?"

Charlotte nodded and smirked. "Lash."

The whole family looked up in consternation. Emil swallowed and scrunched his nose. "A…good…name."

Charlotte began to laugh. Emil sagged in relief. Though common enough in England, the name was not popular in other countries.

"Please don't do that to the poor boy. He was a scoundrel at times. He needs a name to be proud of." Charlotte's mirth did not leave her face.

The new mother looked up from her bed and deep into Charlotte's eyes. "Chaz."

The family looked at the child and began to nod.

Emil nodded. "Yes. Yes. A good strong name in honor of one who is strong and fearless."

Charlotte blushed.

"I couldn't agree more." The Russian accent boomed from the door. The director stood in the opening smiling at the assembly.

He and his wife crossed the room to meet the newest member of the reserve. Ana looked at Charlotte questioningly. Neither of them said anything. They just smiled at one another, happy in the new mother's triumph while remembering their own sad past.

Thayer sent the three of them out then, stating they would be of no use as exhausted as they were. She would hold down the fort while they slept for a few hours. Charlotte didn't even have the strength to argue. She didn't have the strength to even appearate. Instead, she walked home, enjoying the cool evening air on her overheated body.

The lights were lit when she reached their cabin. She walked through the door and looked. Charlie looked up from the table and looked her over cautiously. "I stopped by the clinic earlier. Thayer told me what was up."

She nodded. He continued. "How…how did things turn out?"

"It's a boy. Mum and baby will both be fine." Charlotte sighed. She looked down her front and grimaced. She was always amazed at the general lack of shock, or for that matter, any reaction she received at her appearance by everybody in the camp. She was slightly worried about the mental stability of the whole lot of them as she was covered in blood from her elbows down to her shoes. "I'm going to take a shower."

Charlie nodded, still with a strange look upon his face. She entered the bathroom and stripped out of her clothes. She placed them in a shallow tub in the room just for that reason and added the miracle potion one of the handler's wives had found to remove anything from any material. Bless her.

Her wand clattered to the counter when she was done filling the wash tub. She scrunched her nose up remembering it would need to be cleaned, as well. She stepped into the steamy heat of the shower and allowed herself to finally relax and drop her façade. The tears fell mixed with the water of the shower. She tried not to sob, but failed. It was not long before Charlie's arms wrapped around her holding her to his naked chest.

"What hurts the most," He asked kissing her hair.

She could not speak yet, just clung to his body and accepted his comfort. When she could finally control her crushing sobs she looked into his concerned face. "How can I be able to save someone else's child and not be able to save my own?"

Tears slipped down Charlie's face as well. "I don't know. I know it is so damn unfair you can overcome the most impossible situations and never give up. You would think with determination alone, you would persevere and we would have our own child already, but determination alone is not the answer."

"I know," She answered placing her head on his chest again. "It just is so unfair. Lottie did not have an easy time. She probably will never have an easy pregnancy, but yet the child and her have both survived. She will be accepted as a good wife and mother because CeCe and I succeeded."

Charlie tensed in her arms. "Did you ever consider what would have happened to the child if she would have died?"

"No, in my mind there was no option. The mother and child both had to survive." Charlotte answered slightly confused.

Charlie relaxed at some overlooked response on Charlotte's part. He picked her up in his arms and put her back against the wall of the shower. Holding her up with one arm, he dropped the other to guide her leg up around his waist. She followed with her other and wrapped her arms tighter around his neck. He kissed her passionately as he reached out to the shower for his wand. She felt the magic flood over them with the spell preventing her from conceiving.

The realization of his previous statement flooded into her mind. She had not once put any though in not saving the honor or life of the young Roma mother preventing both from being cast aside. If the mother died, the child would be shunned as a demon for causing her death if he had survived and she not. The even more superstitious wizarding Romanian families would have both walked away, leaving a child abandoned without a home. It could have been so easy. All she had to do was give up, to not do everything she could and then some trying to save the mother's life. No one would have questioned the choice to stop. She and Charlie could have had a child. The thought never crossed her mind. Not once. She looked deep into Charlie's eyes.

"It was an ongoing concern you put to rest today, I am sure. Thayer was worried what you would do in that exact circumstance. Your actions today and response, the one just a moment ago where you never even considered it, was more than they hoped for." Charlie said solemnly.

Her expression never changed. Charlie nodded and some long held tension in his expression eased completely. Charlotte knew, she was finally healed. Maybe not completely, but as close as she was probably ever going to from the situation she had been handed. Charlie, that look on his face and the last of the tension finally leaving, meant he healed as well. He healed from the hurt and the pain from the loss of so many pregnancies and even more, he recovered from the loss of Charlotte's trust.

Charlie looked at her again with love and longing aligning himself at her core. She let herself go and just felt as he entered her with slow deep satisfying strokes.

They were whole again. Not the same. Never the same after what happened. But they were healed together.

Charlotte stood in the middle of Ginny's bedroom in the simple pale blue halter topped wedding dress surrounded by friends and family. It was her wedding day. January 15th, two years from the day of their first handfasting.

They had been home for two weeks. It worked out perfectly. The new Welch Greens were ready to come back to England, right on time. Charlie had them snugly tucked into their new home and the transfer was complete. Jake and Katie would be staying the extra week to ensure nothing happened to them. Charlotte and Charlie would be heading to Crete to one of Katie's family homes, which had been offered to the couple for a honeymoon getaway.

But for now, her eyes never left the ones in front of her. They had not since Bill escorted the guest inside the room only moments ago. This, Charlotte decided, just topped the oddities of their whole bizarre weeks leading up to their wedding.

It all began with an odd request from Emil. "I heard you are going to England. Can you help me to accomplish a task? I was to send Marcel, but is makes no sense to send the boy as you are already going and know the man he is to meet."

Charlie was at once going to agree, but Charlotte stopped him with a hand on his arm. She could not fault Charlie, but he had not grown up as she had. Sure the small Roma community within the reserve was more open and inviting since she safely delivered little Chaz, but they were still Roma. Charlotte did not speak, just smiled.

Emil smiled shrewdly back and nodded. "I am sending a colt to a man named Corban Buckland."

"Ah, Uncle," Charlotte acknowledged. Charlie looked at Charlotte confused. "He is not really my uncle. Roma children tend to call many older respected men 'uncle'. He is a well known horse trader in the Roma community in England. My father's family deals with him alot. The Cooper family is known for their horses."

"Yes. Yes," Emil said happy she remembered him. "He has been after me for years for a stud to sell into one of the good lines. I have a good one available. You go to England, so you can take. He will meet you at the port key location, wherever it may be."

"The transfer will need to be papered, Emil," Charlie pointed out. "If we are taking an animal into the country, the Ministry will have to know. They will be there when we arrive."

"Yes, yes," Emil reached into his pocket and produced paperwork. Charlie gave it a cursory glance before he nodded and placed it in the pocket of his vest. Emil looked him over and switched from Romanian to Roma. "You should make you man a new vest. This one is ruined."

Charlotte just grinned and stayed speaking in Romanian. "If he would not wear it to work, it would not be ruined."

"It was an accident," Charlie tried to defend himself. "We were called in while we were in the village. I forgot I had it on."

Emil turned and began to walk away. "You make him new vest as wedding present. I bring colt the morning you leave."

"I'm not making him another ves,." Charlotte told Emil as he left. "Emil, am I bringing anything back. Gold? Another stud?"

The man just waved his hand without looking back. "Good wife would make vest. See you in two weeks."

Charlotte shrugged. Roma had odd business practices. Obviously, whatever Emil got for the horse was already paid, or would be at the production of the first new colt of its line. It was not an unusual deal, though the studs tended to be older in that case and the mare held by the receiving party until the birth."

Two weeks later, Jake, Katie, Charlotte and Charlie in his new vest landed in the field just outside the Welsh reserve. The colt, anxious from the trip, began to rear up upon its hind legs. Charlotte admonished the young stallion and talked calmly to it until it settled before looking around.

The scene was comical and she laughed. Katie, Jake and Charlie all had hatchlings attached to their backs making them look like large preschoolers with oversized character backpacks. It was the safest way to transport the tiny creatures so they could not extend their wings during the portkey transport. Next to her, the colt nuzzled her pocket again and she complied feeding it a sugar cube. She was using the treat to keep the young horse from being to skittish during their trip.

The second part of their comical sight was the three, very different groups of receiving parties. Directly in front of her, the Ministry officials waited in their formal Ministry robes to review the paperwork and arriving animals. To the left, a bulky bunch of ragtag dragon handlers waited to start the process of acclimating and transferring their newest charges. They too looked like over anxious toddlers waiting for a new toy to arrive. Finally, to the right, a gypsy caravan waited, complete with its very flamboyant group of travelers.

After the group was received and cleared by the Ministry officials. Yes, truly it was a muggle horse, just like the paperwork said. No it wasn't a young Thestral. Yes. She was sure. Positive it was just a muggle horse. Why? Because a friend sold it to the gentleman in the purple waistcoat over there for breeding purposes. Because gypsys like horses and this one would be a very good horse when it got older. Thank you, sir. Yes, I am absolutely positive it is just a muggle horse.

Charlotte shook her head and headed to the caravan full of Roma. "Mr. Bucklin, It's good to see you again."

Corbin Bucklin removed his cap and looked at Charlotte with a twinkle in his jet black eyes. "Now, child. That is not what you called me at one time no so long ago."

"Uncle," Charlotte smiled at him, remembering that time. She was just a child when a younger version of the man in front of her would breeze through their camp for a night or two swapping stories and trading horses.

"There we are, my child," The man grinned and began to examine the young colt carefully. "So, you have finally brought me one of Emil's good studs, at least he will be in a year."

Charlie waked over to join her, reluctant to leave her alone for too long with the Roma . Corbin's eyes looked Charlie over and looked back to Charlotte. "This is your man. Is he a traveler?"

"No," Charlotte laughed. "The red hair is a family trait, but not a traveler one."

Corbin nodded in understanding. He took the lead from Charlotte and began to walk away.

Charlotte, excited for a bit about her old life couldn't help but ask. "Are you taking him to Applegate, or are you keeping him for your own breeding program."

Corbin smiled back over his shoulder. "He is already promised."

Charlotte nodded and waved goodbye to the familiar family as they left.

Her mirth was short lived. A frazzled Molly, still trying to make the wedding a bigger affair than Charlotte and Charlie wanted, was in what the family now referred to as full wedding mode. There were lists everywhere with instructions for everyone. Charlie laughed every evening when he returned home to see an equally frazzled Charlotte at the end of the day from working with Molly. He kissed away her frustrations and repaid her for dealing with his taskmaster mother with pleasures of the carnal kind. Usually involving his tongue in places causing his wife to scream out in pleasured ecstasy.

Even more dreaded was her trip to Hermione's parents home. It had nothing to do with the occupants of the home, but the phone call she needed to make to her Aunt Agnes. She decided it was time to end her relationships with her muggle relatives once and for all.

Bill managed to arrange for the muggle equivalent of Charlie's paperwork. They applied for the marriage license and scheduled to meet a magistrate to have the wedding completed in the muggle world two days before their actual wedding at the Burrow. Charlotte wanted a clean break and this would be as clean as it got. She called to invite her aunt to her civil ceremony in London.

As expected, Aunt Agnes was not please. She demanded Charlotte's presence with the soon to be groom. They would be expected at dinner on Saturday evening. Make sure to dress for the occasion and someone would meet them at the afternoon train.

"How bad can it really be, Charlotte," Charlie admonished as they walked through the atrium of the Ministry of Magic after completing their magical marriage license.

Charlotte looked at him with disbelief. "You do remember these are the people who threatened me and held me hostage the last time I saw them?"

Charlie just shook his head smiling as Charlotte spied an alley across the atrium. "Draco!"

Draco stopped and smirked. "Well, if it isn't my long lost girlfriend. Back in the country for a few days?"

Charlotte laughed. "As it happens, we are finally getting married. I'm afraid I will be ending our long distance relationship."

Draco smiled smugly. "I can't imagine your uncle took that too well."

"I think we will be finding out on Saturday evening," Charlotte grimaced. "We have been summoned to dinner at the manor."

Draco laughed and looked up at Charlie. "Good luck, Weasley. You are going to need it."

Saturday was upon them before Charlotte really cared and the couple appeared in the remote corner of the train station hand in hand. Charlie instantly walked them into the crowd of travelers leaving the station from the train he and Charlotte were supposed to arrive on. When they exited the station, Charlotte groaned. Giles waited for them, prim and efficient as ever.

After Giles had shut them in the back, Charlie leaned over grinning. "I see you are wearing my dress. I hope the outfit is complete underneath."

To make her point, Charlotte crossed her legs, showing off the red high heels. Charlie moaned just as Giles got into the car. 'Tonight' he mouthed to her as they pulled away.

Dinner was as horrible as she expected. Charlie was on his best behavior, but every man had his breaking point. So far her family had put down his job as a veterinarian, his small home in a nature preserve, his lack of family status, and his no named university education.

As dinner completed, he excused himself to the back garden for a breath of air, or, what Charlotte was sure to be a few minutes of chain smoking. The rest of the dinner guests retired to the library as Charlotte cringed, sure the family was ready to attack.

"Do you seriously believe we will allow you to marry this man," Aunt Agnes ranted.

Charlotte steeled her backbone. She was a Weasley. "I do not believe it is a matter of you allowing or not allowing. I am an adult and I will be marrying Charlie on Thursday."

"We will cut you out of the will!" Her grandfather stormed across the room on his cane.

"I told you before, your money had no draw to me," Charlotte countered.

"You're pregnant!" Her uncle raved.

"No, but it's not from lack of trying." Charlotte rounded on her most hated relative.

He smirked. "So much for saving yourself for the marriage bed."

"She did!"

That brought them all up short.

"What do you mean, you did?" Her grandmother looked down at her sternly.

"We were married in Romania a year ago. We came to England to make it official here also. It will allow my parents to attend our wedding as well as you, if you desire." Charlie had rejoined the group, much calmer than before. She tried not to crinkle her nose. Defiantly chain smoking.

"How could you, your rotten bitch!" Her uncle rounded on her his hand raised to strike her. The blow didn't land. Charlie's lightning fast reflexes caught his hand.

"Do! Not! Lay! A! Hand! On! My! Wife!" Charlie clenched his teeth trying to prevent himself from striking the man. Her uncle backed away from the area wavering a small bit.

Charlie grinned his evil grin and turned on the assembled family. "I asked my wife to make an effort to include you in our family. I kept telling her she was over exaggerating, but now I see I am wrong. You are more vile than I ever imagined."

He grabbed Charlotte and walked to the library door. Before he swung it opened he spoke without turning. "Charlotte has told you the location of the wedding. Be there or not, the choice is yours. I, for one, hope you do not come."

Charlie swung the door opened and was stopped by Giles. He flexed his arms menacingly. "Move."

Giles smartly stepped away. Charlie reached down and grabbed Charlotte's hand and marched them out the door.

They had walked a mile down the lane mile before Charlotte finally asked. "Charlie, why are we still walking?"

Charlie took a deep breath and stopped to look at his wife. "Because I will splinch us if I try to get us back right now. I'm sorry I never believed you. How could you, the most beautiful person inside and out, be related to that lot?"

Charlotte smiled and stroked Charlie's cheek. "Mum always said it was my gypsy luck which made me as sweet as the air after the rain."

Charlie took another deep breath and closed his eyes focusing before he let it out. He looked at the band around his wrist focusing on what they meant.

Charlotte noticed his gaze. "I will miss them, the handfasting bands. I know we are making a larger commitment, a more permanent one, but I will miss this part of our life. The outward symbol of our love."

Charlie looked into her face and smiled. "I understand. It was my solace when you were gone. That band on my wrist let me know you were still there somehow."

He pulled her close and grinned his 'come hither' smile. "Let's get back. I have a promise to keep this evening."

One he kept, perfectly.

The civil ceremony was quick and efficient. Fleur had again produced the blue dress Charlotte had been handfasted in originally. Truth be told, she and Molly purchased the dress with the sole purpose of Charlotte to wear for the handfasting. She kept it tucked away all this time until the secret was ready to be shared. So Charlotte, dressed much the same way she had been dressed almost two years ago got married in a magistrate office in muggle London.

Charlotte's Aunt Agnes did attended, but as a last minute reminder of what she was throwing away. Charlotte did not back down. "Give it to my brother someday."

The worst thing about the ceremony was the unexpected loss of their handfasting bands earlier than they expected. Charlotte cried that evening in Charlie's arms about the loss. He tried to make it up to her as only a good husband could, or should anyway. At one point Ginny pounded on the door and told them that good silencing charms made good neighbors. Neither of them could look her or Hermione in the eye in the morning.

The rest of their time was a blur. The preparations were made. The tent was up and the guest had begun to arrive.

Charlotte, now ready except for the marama sitting on the bed she was going to use as a veil this time, stared into identical dark blue eyes.

She could not move. She just stared into those eyes and that face she had not seen since she had dropped her off at the age of ten just after her father's funeral.

She finally spoke. "Aunt Naomie."

"Renee," The woman replied.

"Renee?" Bill asked from the corner by the door.

"The name my father gave me," Charlotte explained. "It was the one used when I was with them. They would not use my Gadjo name."

"I have come to make amends for that which was lost to you." Her aunt spoke in Roma.

"My friends and family speak English." Charlotte stopped her.

Her aunt bristled. "Have you forgotten the lessons of your youth? Have you forgotten what we taught you so quickly?"

"No. How could I forget the cruel lessons of my family to a scared five year old after the grandmother told everyone around me to speak nothing but Roma until I learned the language?" Charlotte answered her in Roma, then she switched back to English. "My family and friends speak English. This is how we will speak."

Naomie studied her calculatingly. "Yet you forget the lessons taught to you about respect for one's elders."

"I show respect where it is due. Where it has not been violated," Charlotte countered coolly.

Naomie looked opening hostile, but made no further comments to the debate. Instead she opened her bag and withdrew three items. She set two on the small dressing table in Ginny's room, keeping the third in her hand. "I have come to right a wrong which almost caused the lives of a kin."

She walked up to Charlotte and presented her with a slightly worn book. Charlotte studied her aunt's eyes for malice then retrieved the journal. She opened it to a random page and began to read. Confused, she looked into her aunt's dark eyes once again.

"The knowledge of your elders, passed on to you on your wedding day so you may run your household with the same devotion your ancestors have for generations. This I grant to you as your closest female relative. Use it to be a pride to your new family and a credit to you upbringing."

Charlotte eyes lit up, remembering some forgotten memory from the past. A wedding of an extended family member. The bride's mother had done the same. She gave her a book. Charlotte, being young, did not fully comprehend the significance of the ritual until now. In her hands she held a collection of potions and spells, traditions and rites, hints, secrets and family remedies for everything a wife would ever need to run a home and care for her family.

Charlotte struggled for a moment to remember, then lowered her head in respect. "I will do all in my power to bring honor and respect to our family in my new role."

Naomie nodded, pleased at the response. She turned back to the desk and unstopped the flask and emptied it into the silver chalice. Turning she approached Charlotte again.

"Child, what is your intent on this day?"

Charlotte closed her eyes, willing her mind back to that day over a decade prior. "To bind my life to that of my husband."

Naomie nodded, happy she could remember. "It is your intent to leave behind your childhood and be a woman in full?"

Charlotte's initial thoughts were it was a little late for that, but instead replied. "Aye, this is my intent."

Naomie stepped forward and handed Charlotte the challis. "Then take this cup…"

Bill's hand snatched the cup holding it in place. He stared deep into Naomie eyes almost snarling. "How do I know you are not poisoning her?"

Naomie grinned maliciously back. "You don't."

"Hermione," Bill said as he withdrew his wand and waved it over the cup. Both watched intently. He quickly turned his gaze on Hermione who shook her head. Bill nodded in agreement and released his hand. He stepped back, but not to the corner he once occupied when he brought Naomie to the room to see Charlotte.

"Your traditions are strange with your new family that you would allow a man into the bridal room as you prepare." Naomie scoffed. Charlotte did not bother to answer. She knew Bill, and probably the others were worried when the Roma woman appeared on the pathway leading to the Burrow.

Naomie shrugged and continued. "Take this cup, and leave behind the tainted blood of childhood and become that of a wife and mother."

Charlotte looked at her in shock, then at Bill. His eyes were unfocused as he remembered something. "Tainted blood."

She reached forward and grabbed the goblet from her aunt's hands and drained it in three long gulps.

Naomie bowed her head and took the cup from Charlotte. "Join now with your man and become a wife and mother. Carry on our values and traditions into the next generation."

Without another word the woman turned, retrieved her bag and deposited the cup inside. She strode to the door and opened it. She looked back at Charlotte. "Tell him, we have paid the price. One bloodline for another. Tell his, a life for a life."

"Emil" Charlotte whispered. Naomie continued to look at her for confirmation. Charlotte nodded. The woman turned and left closing the door behind her.

Bill grabbed her by the shouldered and looked at her with shocked hope. "Tainted blood."

Charlotte shook her head. "I always knew. I had always been told, my blood is tainted. Always tainted."

Bill kept her in his grasp. "We always assumed it was your half Roma status. Tainted blood. I have seen references to that same phrase in the old family histories. Again, I thought it was the mixing of anything less than pureblood."

Charlotte reached for the book where she had deposited it on the bed and began to rifle through the book. She found the potion section with ease and began to search each page. She smiled and handed the journal to Bill. "The Draught of Womanhood."

Bill studied the page intently. "So simple."

"Every family's will be different." Charlotte thought.

"Agreed, but how were you born?" Bill thought pacing back and forth.

"Oi!" Ginny disrupted. "Can either of you explain what the bloody hell is going on?"

"Ginny!" Molly admonished.

Bill looked questioningly at Charlotte. She froze in her tracks, thinking. "Not yet, Ginny, but soon. Give Bill and me some time."

Bill looked at her with concern. "Are you concerned?"

Charlotte began to nod her head, but stopped. Then she began to laugh. "Emil! You are brilliant."

"What does Emil have to do with this?" Katie asked.

"He sent a colt!" Charlotte danced around the room. No one understood.

Charlie lowered Charlotte onto the bed. Outside the open balcony doors, the sea crashed upon the rocky shoreline. He kissed her with zeal, frustrated at the delays to this moment. Katie's uncle was a wonderful man, but he insisted on showing the couple every amenity and feature within the home before he would leave.

Charlotte did not helped the situation. She changed out of her wedding dress before they left the Burrow, and arrived at the bottom of the stairway in a new pair of navy stilettos grinning mischievously.

That alone would was bad enough, but Gillian accompanied her and shared a knowing, evil grin. Charlie knew he was in for a new treat under the blue dress she wore for their first handfasting and muggle marriage.

Archie took an eternity going through the paperwork of the other travelers going to Italy. The entire time, he wife did everything in her power to drive him mad with desire. Her heels bounced as she sat cross legged waiting their turn at the counter. She dropped her birth registry and had to get on her knees to retrieve it from the ground making sure to look at him with unbridled lust from her position at eye level with his hardening cock. When they arrived, she slipped into his arms and unnoticed by the other travelers ran her hand over his aching member.

Katie's uncle was either intentionally being thick or was the most obtuse man who ever held a wand. As he showed them the property, his wife continued to show him her wares whenever his back was turned. She bent over at one point to look at flowers in the garden and allowed the crinoline of her skit to lift enough to give Charlie a solid look at the garters. Just garters. No knickers. He made a grab for her so he could toss her on the bench and pull up the shirt of the dress and relieve his aching cock when the uncle had come back around the corner of the path and Charlotte skipped out of his grasping arms, smiling as she caught up the doddering old fool and took his offered arm leaving Charlie behind to watch her hips sway with each click of those damnedable 'fuck me' heels.

The fool finally left them only moments before. The minute the flames turned from emerald to orange again, Charlie unceremoniously picked Charlotte up and tossed her over his shoulder and strode quickly to the master suite with the big bed Charlotte bounced on earlier and pronouncing 'wonderfully comfy' with a sly look on her face and the heels on display again.

He had no patience for slow and easy anymore. She was set on the floor and stripped from the dress within seconds of crossing the threshold. She, however, stopped him from picking her up once again and tossing her onto the bed and made him watch her walk across the room, step by agonizing step, until she was leaning against the bed with her legs slightly spread and her small thatch of curls beckoning him to come and taste their moist pleasures. He complied, stripping his clothes as he went and was naked except for the magical replica of the handfasting band by the time he held her in his arms. Bill, after seeing both Charlie and Charlotte's heart aching loss of the fasting bands, found a way to incorporate them into their wedding ceremony. Though not created by their commitment as husband and wife, the bands were embedded with spells to replicate the effects of their original bands. They were obviously not the first couple to have regretted the loss of the outward reminder of their handfasting when replaced by the more binding wedding vows.

Now she was laid out like a gift for him and him alone to unwrap and enjoy, though the skimpy lace of the bra and garters left little for him to discover. He peeled the cups of the bra away and tasted the erect nipples and the scratch of the lace until she was quivering at his suckling and nipping. He grinned. She was as worked up as he was from all of her seduction. He kissed her navel, thinking of how far she had come under his tutelage from the scared virgin in his bed two years ago to the seductress who had him ready to come in his trousers like an untried fourteen year old boy.

He ran his lips down further until he his lips were suckling the bundle of nerve at the core of her womanhood. She arched her back into his face and wrapped her legs around his neck spurring him downward with the heels. Grinning he thrust her legs back, splitting her wider, beginning his tasting at the small pucker further back than she was used to. She gasped and shuttered at the new sensation. He chuckled as his mouth fell on her opening and his tongue dove deep within her most carnal channel. She groaned and thrust up onto his tongue, wanting more. He allowed his tongue to continue his upward path, stopping for a moment to suckle once more on the cluster of nerves, and making her shutter and thrust into him even more. He slowly worked his way up her body until he could claim her mouth with his again.

Their bodies ground together, both desiring more than the sliding friction between them.

After a moment more, Charlie could no longer hold out. He reached beside her head where he had hastily tossed his wand onto the bed when he approached her. As he grasped it, Charlotte's hand carded his and he stopped. He looked up at his hand and back to her face. Her eyes never left his as she grasped his wand and drew it from his grasp. She lowered it back to the bed were it had previously lay and recaptured his hand in hers.

Her eyes were imploring, begging. Charlie's breath caught and held. He looked at her, hoping he was wrong for what those beautiful dark storm cloud eyes begged him for.

She looked at him begging this time with words. "Please. Just one more time, let us try just once more."

He could not breathe. His lungs ached for him to take in air, but he could not. He could see in her reaction when he could not keep up the mask any longer and his face and eyes showed the pain and concern of her request.

She looked at him with every ounce of love she could put into her pleading. "Once more, then never again. I'm stronger now and I am older, my body more ready to hold onto what we create together in love. My mind can process this is our choice. I am willing to live with the consequences if things do not work out. I want this, but only if you are willing to take this path with me. I will not travel it alone, only with you at my side and willing to take it with me."

Charlie's heart was breaking. He wanted this more than anything. Proof of the love they shared for each other. Proof of the passion she stirred within his loins. He was willing to do anything to make her happy, but was he willing to endure the painful costs if it did not work out.

He looked deep into her eyes. He saw the concern. He saw the love. He saw her pleading. And something else. Something he could not understand. It was not the determination she had for every task that challenged her. It was not the tenacity she threw at every problem she encountered. It was something else he could not place. Something secret. Something she knew and was not willing to share. Yet.

Charlie drew in air relieving his lungs. Her eyes continued to beg. Charlie lost his will to stand up to her pleading. He placed his forehead on her and looked at nothing but her eyes. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," She breathed back at him again. She was begging for more than just this one last chance. She was begging for his trust.

Any remaining resolve his body had to prevent the painful outcomes they suffered in the past crumbled. He slowly entered her inch by slow sensual inch. When he gave her all he had, she pulled him down again to her mouth, thanking him for his surrender.

Their lovemaking varied from slow and aching to fast and deep until they both climaxed. Charlie did not withdraw from her tight throbbing channel but held her close and kissed her lips for a long time after they were finished, savoring the thought that she would be his and nobody else's the rest of their lives.