"Little E! Stay where I can see you, please."
The dark haired boy turned and looked back with mischievous sea blue eyes and smile. He was Charlie in miniature, with his stocky build and freckled face, the dark hair was the lone contribution from his mother. He waited just long enough for the three women to get close enough to see around the corner and began his quest to push his outer limits with his mother again.
Charlotte laughed. At the age of five, Little E was the first of their children able to leave the safe confines of the child care center and the watchful eyes of Hilda, Betsey and Lucy. The child was a souvenir from their honeymoon. He arrived two weeks early, just two and a half months before the first anniversary of their wedding.
CeCe cried as she handed the baby into Charlotte's waiting arms. She could not speak, just stared at the mother and child as they looked at each other. Charlie, overcome with emotion at the birth of his son, was on his knees, watching the scene before, him unable to move or voice his emotions.
It was the director and Ana who collected Emil for the couple, and brought him to the clinic. Charlie collected the boy from Charlotte and deposited him into the Roma's arms announcing for the first time the child's name. Emil Alexander Weasley.
The Roma looked at the couple and then the child. He walked back to the bed and looked down at Charlotte from where she lay, exhausted from giving birth less than an hour prior. "You have a beautiful son. Big and strong. He will be a good man, like his father. He will be a loving soul, like his mother."
Emil laid his namesake back in Charlotte's arms and kissed her upon the brow. Then turning so no one could see his emotions, he left the clinic.
Ana came forward and sat next to Charlotte. She held her shoulders and looked at the newest member of the reserve. "He will never replace what you have lost, but he will heal some of the hurt now that he is here."
Charlotte laid her exhausted head on Ana's shoulder, thankful for the knowing comfort she provided.
"Devin! Why is it that you would think you could run ahead if Little E was just scolded for the same?" Katie hollered waving her hands.
The sandy haired boy, six months E's senior was a shock to everyone. Katie took it badly when she found out, devastated at her mixed emotions of irritation she needed to go on leave for the duration of her pregnancy and frustration her best friends, who wanted a child so badly and could not have one, but she could without even trying and excitement Jake and her would have an outward expression of their love. Jake, at the director's harsh assessment, married Katie just before the child had been born in Crete on the beach.
"Boyz vill be Boys" a small French woman said trying to convince her nine month old daughter she wanted to stay on her hip and in her arms.
Charlotte and Katie just smiled. Just over two years ago, Louis went home for his brother's wedding. Giselle, Izzy to her friends or Dizzy to Katie behind her back, was an attendant to Louis' new sister-in-law. Louis, ever the charmer, fell for her innocent personality and heated kisses. They left the wedding before the bride and groom. After two full days in their motel room together, Louis packed her up and ran off to Romania with her. Her arrival was announced to Charlie, Charlotte and Nate by an irritated Katie fire calling with a "Get your asses over here. Louis just showed up with some French tart who doesn't even know what end of her wand to hold."
This was, of course, followed by the arrival of Izzy's mother, father, three younger sisters and older brother who challenged Louis to a duel for the honor of his sister. Louis blackened the brother's eyes with three curses. After which, he announced to the angry family he would make things right and marry the woman on the spot as he was madly and passionately in love with her.
The wedding photograph of Louis, Jake, Nate, Charlie and the brother sporting two black eyes and a bloody lip with their arms around each other's shoulders still hung proudly in the couple's cabin. She was pregnant within months and their daughter, Josephine, arrived healthy and happy in due time.
"Have you heard from Matthew recently?" Katie asked as they continue their easy stroll.
Charlotte groaned. "Last week. He is still insisting the children be in the wedding. It will be a complete nightmare. We have been practicing how to interact with muggles at home."
The women laughed again. As Katie began berating Devin for not staying in sight again, Charlotte considered Matthew and everything leading up to his and Charlotte's meeting.
Bill, finally having a spot to begin, reviewed his research and found his answer. The pureblood Nott family kidnapped a Roma woman and forced her into marriage to one of their sons. Like Charlotte, this woman had miscarriage after miscarriage. The Nott patriarch was finally able to get the information regarding the taboo on all women of Roma blood out the woman . When the patriarch went to the Roma's demanding the taboo be lifted, the elders laughed and sent him packing. The man would not be deterred and started a war with the Roma. Finally, after many losses on both sides an accord was met. The Nott family paid a bride price to the Roma family and, in turn, the Roma family shared their secret and released the woman from the taboo.
Several of the pureblood families, driven by the quest to keep their blood purity, began to enact their own taboos closely following the one created by the Roma. The only difference, the taboo affected all of the children, not just the women. After he knew what to look for, Bill was able to quickly find the correct potion in every family archive. With Charlotte's success ongoing, Bill was able to start persuading couples to try again. Most had requested to wait and see how Charlotte progressed to the end.
Only one coupe, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Millicent Bulstrode, were willing to try on one condition, it was Charlotte who delivered their baby when the time came. Harry managed to pull some strings in both England and Romania to get Charlotte a portkey issued to take her straight from wherever she was in Romania to St Mungo's. Their plan was successful, and Charlotte arrived with three hours to spare to deliver the new baby girl, named Margaret. She was a pretty baby with her father's face and her mother's hair. Other couples were soon following suit by canceling the taboo and starting families.
Bill, however, had time on his hands as he waited for both Charlotte and Millie to achieve their joyous outcomes. Always needing a task, he began to research another family secret. When Charlotte moved out of her aunt's home, she took two boxes of mementoes with her. Most were muggle photos of Charlotte and her mother through the years. There were also a couple of Susanne's things in the box. Her diplomas, a few favorite books and some old class books from her school days. Bill helped Charlotte carry these boxes to the attic since Charlie was still at work that day. It was Bill in whom Charlotte confided the whole story of that awful confrontation with her uncle.
The information was stored in his mind, wanting an outlet. So, Bill gave it an outlet and did what he did best. Researched, starting with Susanne Hartman's old school things. He was able, from the writing in the back cover and notes on various pages, piece together some of Susanne's friends. A little more research and a quick pop across the country led him to the door of one Elizabeth Michaelson, nee Roberts, Susanne's best friend during their final years of school before university.
When the woman answered the door and Bill introduced himself as Charlotte's brother-in-law and an investigator, the woman reluctantly agreed to meet him for coffee the following morning. As they drank their coffee in the little café in the town square, Bill broached the subject in a roundabout way. He told Elizabeth, Charlotte was trying to find out more about her mother and wanted to know about when she studied abroad the year before they graduated.
Elizabeth was not a woman who beat around the bush. "So she is trying to find her brother?"
Bill was shocked. "Charlotte was told no one knew."
Elizabeth snorted and took a drink of her coffee. "I was her best friend. The two of us went to the chemist together to buy the test. She took it at my house while my mum was out. I was the first to know."
Elizabeth, it turned out, was a fountain of information, including the name of the facility in North Wales where Susanne was sent to 'address the issue' as her family put it. Armed with this information, Bill approached Charlotte when she was home for May 2nd with the family.
Despite Charlie's protest the stress could be too much for Charlotte and the baby, the three of them went to Wales to the private adoption center. After a slight clearing up of why they were there with the staff, as Charlotte was already six months along with Little E, the director of the facility was able to retrieve Susanne's records and review them before ushering them into her office. As it turned out, her brother made a request, with the blessing of his adoptive parents, to reach out to Susanne when he was 16. If his mother, or any family member, ever wanted to contact him, he was willing to meet. She would not divulge his name, but would arrange a meeting within the next two days.
Using Hermione's parents number again, Charlotte left a contact number for her brother. He called within four hours. The next day, a very nervous Charlotte with Charlie met Matthew and his parents at a restaurant on Charing Cross Road. When she entered the restaurant, she actually stopped and stared at the younger version of her uncle looking desperately at the door waiting for her to arrive. He met her eyes and saw her recognition. Rising from his seat, he crossed the room and met her looking longingly into her face, seeing a little of himself. They spent several hours talking. Charlotte, with Molly's forethought, brought photos of her mother for Matthew to see. He had tears in his eyes as he looked at her face for the first time.
Matthew had a good home growing up with loving parents and an even better education. He and his parents were shocked to hear the names of his grandparents and uncle. They traveled in similar circles and knew each other in passing. Charlie eventually ended the evening stating Charlotte needed her rest. He worried most of the day, but allowed her this time. When Matthew protested, Charlotte explained Charlie's concerns. It was Matthew's mother, Rebecca, who then insisted the couple retire understanding the situation all too well.
This was the beginning of five years' worth of correspondence and visits when they were in England. Matthew always questioned, but never pushed why Charlotte didn't have a phone. Romania was remote, he supposed.
Katie was able to focus on Charlotte again. "So he is still insisting on going through with his stunt?"
Charlotte moaned. "Yes. I don't understand why. Georgiana, or at least her parents, are insistent my uncle be there. Some land dealing or another, I don't know. Matthew refuses to give them the satisfaction of why he is insisting my uncle's family not be invited."
Charlotte, of course, understood completely. Another visit to Elizabeth provided them with the awful answer. Matthew despised ever wanting to know who his father was. Susanne was home from school when Sebastian and his friends came by the house. Their parents were out on one of their usual business trips overnight.
She stayed in her room and out of her brother and his friends' way. Only one of them, William Merchant, wanted Susanne's company, so much so, he took it from her. Matthew was born ten months later. For the first time, Charlotte began to understand her mother's choices. She drank to escape. Escaped her brother's reaction when she confronted him about what had happened. Escape what had been robbed from her. Escape the loss of Matthew. Charlotte could not fix those hurts. All she could hope is she was able to give her mother a little joy in the storm which had been her life.
Izzy laughed her throaty laugh. "How do you think this will go when they see you?"
"The real question is, how are they going to react when they see me and look at the wedding program and see it say Charlotte Renee Cooper-Weasley, sister of the groom? That is the real question." Charlotte rolled her eyes.
Both women laughed again. Katie piped up, "do you think they will talk to you at all?"
"Who knows? They may for appearances," Charlotte replied.
"Can you imagine what they will say when they see the kids," Izzy smirked.
Charlotte laughed as they approached the fence of the play yard of the care center. Hilda and Betsey had two sandy haired boys in front of them, correcting some misdeed. The women never scolded the children, simply explained their transgressions and asked them to stop. The pair in front of them currently were Charlie's bane, his mother's curse incarnate, doubled.
When the twins had been born a little over three years ago, most of the people in the room where shocked. No one said a word. Katie glared across the room at Jake who was trying to tell her he was not at fault. No one knew for sure what the status was until they were placed in Charlotte's arms and she was able to see their hair for the first time. "Oh look, Charlie. They have my mum's hair."
Charlie grinned at Katie. "Yah, blond as a summer day. Never thought it would stand a chance of showing up between your black and my red."
Jake gave a sigh of relief knowing he would not end up on the couch for the foreseeable future.
"Garret and Felix! What have you done now?" Charlotte snapped, bringing the boys to attention. Both turned their identical 'We are innocent' looks on her. "Oh, no you don't. Grandmum Weasley told me all about that look, my loves."
"Oh, Charlotte, honey, don't fret. They were just playing a little hide and seek without telling anybody." Betsey rolled her eyes.
Charlotte glared at the boys. "Your father will be here shortly."
Two little sets of hands went automatically to their backsides. Wide eyes looked up in desperate pleas. Charlotte said nothing. Charlie only paddled them once. But it must have been a good one, because they still remembered it well. Charlotte could not blame their father for his actions. The boys managed to escape from the center and were caught at the enclosure gate by Tony. Knowing they could outrun the old handler, the boys took off only to be caught in an incarsera jinx. When Charlie got to them, he released them, pulled them over his knee and paddled them both one after the other. Poor Felix had the worst of it since he had to watch his brother knowing what was coming.
The director took over from that point and gave he boys a good berating. He explained every way they could have died within the fence they were trying so hard to breach as Charlie paced back and forth trying to get his temper in check. The boys were crying harder than after Charlie finished with them after the director was done. With one last deep breath, he dropped to his knees and pulled them into his big embrace.
That was how Charlotte found them as Phillip helped her up the pathway to the enclosure gates. She just managed to get to the ground to make sure, with her own tear filled eyes, that they were safe and sound, when she doubled over her big belly and gasped in pain. "I think my water broke."
"Oh, drat, Angel, she showed up for you again." Lucy teased, guiding a small toddler out of the building.
The little girl looked up and smiled her angel's smile. "Mama!"
Little Susanne Katrina was born within four hours of her twin brother's misdeeds. Charlotte knew it was probably prompted by the stress, but CeCe had said it was time anyway. The child would probably be five before she realized her name was not Angel. She was the child Lucy had seen all those years prior. The fair skinned, freckle faced little girl with long auburn curls streaked by the sun.
Angel ran to the fence and lifted her arms. Charlotte compiled without thought.
Next to them, Katie groaned and rubbed her big belly. "Oh, Angel sweetie, I think your new playmate is practicing the ballet in there again. On my bladder as usual."
Angel looked at her mother. "How long before Auntie Katie's baby is here so I can play with it?"
"Any time now." Charlotte told her. "But remember what we keep saying at home."
"I can't make Gladys fly at Uncle Matthew's wedding," Angel nodded her head.
Charlotte laughed thinking about the stuffed dragon Charlie had bought her when she was born. It was still twice as tall as she was. "That too, but what else? About Auntie Katie's baby?"
"She will be too little to play with for a bit when she comes," Angel nodded.
"That's right. We will have to wait for a bit for our tea party. Maybe you can have one with Molly when we go the Gran's for Christmas." Charlotte looked about seeing E and Devin on the swings and relaxed again.
Felix stood at the gate. "Are we going home?"
"No." Charlotte smiled at him. "We are meeting your father. He wants us to wait."
Felix blanched and took off again to confer with his twin. Hilda grinned and winked. "I think he is hoping you will get him out of here before Charlie get here."
"Oh, I know they are hoping I get them out of here before their father gets ahold of them," Charlotte grinned. "Those miniature broomsticks were a brilliant gift. I was worried at first, but the first time Charlie took them and locked them away, I thought they were going to go mental."
The women laughed. The pair in question looked over at them and seeing Charlotte's eyes catch theirs and grin, knew they were the topic of conversation. Both relaxed and began to play again. Their mother laughing was always a good sign they would be able to work their way out of punishment from her.
Angel got back down and began to chase after the twins, only to redirect to a tea party being held by some older preschoolers. When Angel shyly approached the table, one of them pulled up another chair and set a place for her to join the game. Charlotte smiled with tears in her eyes at the children's easy acceptance. The horrible, tainted past never affected her children. Lucy put a comforting hand on her shoulder and moved across the play area to referee a squabble over the blocks.
She only seen her Roma family one more time. Two months after Little E was born, Emil and Marcel asked Charlotte to go with Marcel to England to the horse sales. She would know the families with the best lines still from her childhood. She reluctantly agreed. Charlie was another story. He protested her going. Why make her relive past memories of abuse and neglect. He was even more furious when Emil insisted Little E attend as well. Things almost came to blows when he was informed that in no way would he be attending with her and the baby.
The grandmother pulled her away from the men and told her to let them be to deal with it as men do. Whatever was discussed and decided still left Charlie agitated for days. The obvious compromise was the four of them traveling to England together and staying for a few days with Molly. E was old enough to travel safely finally and the family as a whole had been anxious to meet him.
Charlie and Marcel continued to argue about the fair until they left. Marcel continued to argue Charlie would turn people away from dealing with him. He needed Charlotte with him and the babe could not be parted from her for too long. Besides, the boy should go to his first sale with his favorite uncle.
Charlotte finally was able to calm Charlie enough to allow them the trip. Just as she had expected, Marcel walked from seller to seller looking for new breeding stock. He spoke with several men and made a couple of purchases of young, promising fillies. Most of the people they met assumed Charlotte was Marcel's wife, and it was their child sleeping in the sling on his mother's chest. He did not correct the misconception. Charlotte allowed the act to play out, knowing he was allowing her an opportunity to see her father's world again without the prejudices usually directed at her.
They eventually came to the vender Charlotte dreaded seeing all day. There were several men milling around a beautiful young stallion who was prancing with nerves at the attention. A familiar voice boomed across the crowd, boasting about the prize the family had acquired for nothing of consequence. Marcel scowled as they approached.
He approached with Charlotte to the front of the group. Stepping forward, he approached the horse and reached into his left pocket and drew out a couple of sugar cubes and offered them to the stallion. It bowed his head and accepted the treat without hesitation. Marcel nodded. He gave the familiar stallion a once over and stepped back away. Charlotte was perplexed by the action. Marcel offered sugar cubes all day to the animals he was inspecting. A peace offering for the beast to allow a strangers touch. Except he reached into his right pocket all day.
"It is a magnificent stallion," Marcel spoke to the previously boasting man.
He turned his attention on Marcel to continue discussing his newest breeding steed and stopped short, looking at Charlotte. Recognition shot into her cousin's eyes. He looked at her closely then traced down her body to the sling across her chest. Charlotte held Little E closer than before.
"Aye," Her cousin finally answered. "Our family traded bloodlines with another family in Romania. We feel we received the better deal."
Charlotte could feel Marcel flex next to her. She grabbed his hand to prevent him from being rash. Little E took that time to make a fuss. Charlotte thought maybe he could feel the tension in the air. She released Marcel's hand and pulled back the sling which hid him from view and stroked his face, comforting him as she hushed him and swayed side to side. Marcel looked over her shoulder to watch the babe.
"What is it your beautiful woman has borne you?" Another man asked conversationally.
"A fine strong boy." Marcel answered. The men nodded in appreciation. A few stepped forward to take a look at Little E who was nestled in her chest with a protective hand over his food source.
Many of the men nodded and commented on how big and strong of a boy he was and what a fine man he would grow to be. Her cousin also stepped up still trying to correct the deception before him. "He has his family's black hair."
Charlotte nodded to him. He looked pointedly at Marcel then to Charlotte. She spoke softly as any Roma wife would to a strange man. "And his father's fair completion."
Her cousin looked again at Marcel's darker completion and nodded.
"What is the boy's name?" Another asked. Her cousin winced.
Marcel answered. "Emil, for my father."
The men nodded. One looked at Charlotte questioningly. "Not for your father?"
"Emil is a great man and has done more for me than I could ever have expected." She answered looking again at the sleeping babe.
"Come, the child grows restless. Let us get home." Marcel took her arm to guide her away.
They were just a few steps away when one of the men spoke again. "Jimbo, could she be a distant relation? She looks just like your sister at that age."
"No," Her cousin answered. "She is no relation of ours."
Marcel placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. Charlotte smiled up at his concerned face. "They are no relations of my. My Roma family is all in Romania. All but one."
Marcel smiled at her again. "Come, let me get you back home to your man. He waits your return most anxiously."
The barking laughter of men redirected her attention from the play yard to the ruckus of a group of friends approaching the center. Her eyes instantly went to her husband. Even after all these years and four children, he still made her gypsy blood burn for his touch. His eyes were alit with glee as he walked and joked with his fellows as they approached. His eyes darted to hers and he smirked his roguish smirk that made the twins look innocent. He was up to something, something he was worried about judging from the cigarettes in his breast pocket. Even after Little E's birth, she could not deter the bad habit.
Her eyes wandered the remaining group and her nose crinkled, trying to justify the assembly. Friends, fellow handers and oddly, several Roma were with him as he approached.
It was not that the Roma were with him that caused the wondering. After Chaz's birth, the Roma community became accepting of Charlotte. She, alone of the healers, was trusted enough to attend to their injuries. Most never came to the clinic, instead Marcel or Emil would come and find her, bringing her to whomever needed her assistance.
The young women began to slip out of the close-knit camp as least a month before they were due to deliver for her to check for any problems. It allowed her to intervene at least once two years after Chaz's harrowing delivery for another young mother with a larger handler husband. The baby was at least turned properly but would be much bigger before she was due in four weeks. She would not be allowed to use a potion to do so, but natural ways existed to prompt the baby's wanting to arrive a little early. So, armed with raspberry infused tea and a suggestion to prompt her husband's attentions daily, the babe arrived ten days later to a very relieved mother and very sated husband.
It was this mother, exhausted from her still long, hard delivery of a large son that was openly thankful for Emil stepping in two years earlier demanding the community to openly accept Charlotte and, in respect of their marriage, Charlie into the elusive Roma community within the reserve. He was always a man every family had went to for help, advice and, at times, money when the need arose. He now had a debt to settle for his family. One that the half Roma witch would never hold him to, but he felt needed to be settled for just that reason. She had given him his daughter, alive, well and with her honor intact, yet, she herself lived an existence without honor amongst them. Did this child not deserve some repayment for her giving them back Lottie's life?
It was then, as she sat rocking and feeding Little E back in their cabin as Charlie fussed about his irritation over the boy not taking a bottle from him so she did not have to rush back from her work it hit her what the new mother meant. She thought back to Lottie's delivery which had been in her head all evening as she worked towards a better outcome for this mother and child. Emil's words that night returned. Two lives, not one, two. He repaid his debt, unasked for, but required in his own mind. Two lives.
She received her inheritance of the family knowledge and more importantly, the taboo and how to end it when Emil had traded the knowledge for fine stallion. One blood line for another. A continuation of her family line in exchange for Emil's family to continue on through little Chaz. Lottie would continue to bare children, and now, so would Charlotte. Another debt for Lottie's life, one which could have been forfeited, or worse, shunned. Charlotte prevented every disastrous outcome and for all of her determination for Lottie not to live her existence, Emil had given her that which she never had before. A chance at being accepted within a Roma community.
It was not easy, or complete. Too many of the elders held with their ancient beliefs, but to be accepted just a little had been enough. It was the younger members of the families, friends and young cousins of Lottie and Marcel who heard what she did for them, without hesitation or thought, who accepted them first. The others eventually followed as stories of Charlotte's care and compassion for their people began to circulate.
Charlie was a harder sell for Emil. The fellow handlers were a little more accepting, but Charlie, unlike Charlotte, did not look Roma. It was Marcel who came up with the solution after the visit to England and the horse fair. During a visit from some family outside the reserve family, Marcel simply told them Charlie was an Irish Traveler. The outside family was still upset Charlotte had not married a fellow Roma but Marcel simply shrugged and rolled his eyes. "English."
The community, armed with this excuse made all the more believable by Charlie's hair, went with it. His irritation was short lived once he seen the benefit of Charlotte's happiness of being accepted fully. He always contended the twins were conceived after an evening with the Roma dancing and drinking.
As they approached the center's fence, several handlers pulled their own children over the gates and into their arms. Most waved goodbyes and proceeded to leave for their homes. Charlie reached over the fence and tossed Angel in the air to make her squeal in delight.
Little E was soon climbing over the fence to get to his father as well. The twins held back, looking from Hilda, to Charlotte to Charlie. Their reluctance didn't go unnoticed. "What did you to do this time?"
"Nothing of concern." Hilda supplied looking at the twins adoringly. "We are all set. Right boys?"
The twins smiled their innocent smiles. Charlie was not convinced. One look told the boys everything was far from 'all set'. They paled.
Little E, always trying to help his wayward brothers, drew Charlie's attention away from them. "Da, why did we have to wait?"
Charlie smiled down at him. "I have a surprise."
The twins were instantly at the fence waiting for their tracing bands to be removed and to be lifted over the gates. They still have not been able to show enough responsibility to have them removed, and actually earned a pair of them, for their continued antics. One set keeping them within the walls of the center during the day and another to limit their range full time after a midnight stroll about the reserve. It was feared this was not their first nocturnal escape when Felix almost slipped. A quick elbow from Garrett, closed his mouth.
After the children were ready and goodbyes said, Charlie swung a gleeful Angel on his shoulders and took Charlotte's hand in his. He leaned over still balancing their little girl on his shoulders and kissed her soundly. "I almost forgot, good evening, my life."
"Good evening, my love." Charlotte replied running her fingers through his hair where Angel had knocked it into his eyes when he leaned down to kiss her mother.
Angel giggled, Little E gagged. The twins hadn't seen as they were running along the path leading home.
Charlie winced. "Angel, love. Don't pull Daddy's hair."
"You tip over!" She informed him.
"I'm sorry. I should have warned you." He looked up at her pouty face. "Boys, you're going the wrong way."
The twins stopped and turned back around. Charlie pointed in the direction he came from. Confused, the turned back and redirected their escape.
"Stay close." Charlotte commanded on what she was sure were deaf ears.
"Da, where are we going?" E asked again.
"You'll see." Was his smiled reply.
E looked at Charlotte who shrugged her shoulders and fell into step with Charlie. To her surprise, Jake, Katie, Devin and Marcel joined them. They chatted merrily as they proceeded across the compound. The twins stopped occasionally to wait for which direction to go but kept at the outer limits of Charlotte's allowable range. Little E split his time between pushing the same limit and interacting with Marcel and Jake. Katie continued to gripe every so often about the baby. Now she was certain he or she had taken up water polo as a pastime. Jake was taking the brunt of her ire in good humor.
They finally reached a split in the path that lead to an outer property of the reserve. Little E whooped and clapped his hands. "Are we going to the new house?"
Charlie just nodded, and the boy took off with the twins in tow. On his shoulders, the little girl clapped just as excited. Charlotte scrunched her nose again wondering why they would be heading to the construction site.
They had moved out of their original cabin a couple of months after Little E's birth when a two-bedroom cabin had finally opened up. It was hard for Charlotte to leave their first home. It held so many memories, both good and bad, but they needed the space and privacy Charlie pointed out seductively in her ear. He proceeded to show her the first night in detail just how much they would enjoy their privacy.
This cabin had been their home now for five years. They had outgrown it really when the twins were born but made do. Angel finally toppled their need to move. They just recently moved her cot out of their room after one too many times of her waking up and asking. "Mommy, what's wrong? Is Da hurting you?"
The property to construct the home was offered to them after both committed to another fifteen years at the reserve. It was a sly move on the part of the reserve governors to keep both Charlie and her at the reserve. Neither one wanted to give up their jobs in Romania, but they were at a crossroads. They needed a new home, Little E was starting school and would be going to Hogwarts in six years and Charlie bagan to receive some interest from other reserves looking to help him advance his career. Every one of them were also more than willing to take on Charlotte as well if she felt she would like to continue to work.
It was a hard six months after they found out they were expecting again as they considered leaving the people and place they loved for the benefit of their family. They were seriously looking at moving to Wales to the Welch Green reserve after they offered Charlie an assistant director's position until an absolutely horrible situation brought options from another direction.
One of the assistant directors of the reserve was in the enclosure when one of the horntails attacked. Not able to stop the attack easily and not wanting one of the new rookies to be hurt, he stepped in front of him and took a direct hit from the creature's tail. Thayer and CeCe worked tirelessly for hours.
After explaining the whole situation to his wife of 30 years and their children, it was the barely adult son who spoke up. "Mum, he wouldn't want that life. He wouldn't want to be paralyzed from his broken back. Mum, he could never live as half a man. He isn't even really holding on right now. They are struggling to keep him alive. Are we just making him suffer to delay the inevitable?"
The wife dropped her head into her hands. Thayer and Charlotte exchanged looks stealing their faces and resolve. They understood the gut-wrenching decision this woman knew she could face every day she watched him leave for work. Today, however, she stepped over that line and faced what every wife of a handler begged they would never face. It took her less time than Charlotte could ever imagined it could to make the call to give up and let him go with some amount of peace.
The director was brought in. He questioned her and the family making sure there would be no regrets. He would not look at the pair of healers as he nodded his head and walked the wife to her husband's bedside. It took less than an hour for him to leave this world behind.
Peptrovski never left. When it was over, and the family marginally recovered from their initial grief, the director kneeled in front of the wife being held by her daughter and took her hands. "If it is any comfort, I do believe your son is correct. Thomas would not have wanted that life either."
Her face haunted Charlotte. She knew Nate, Jake and Louis would never allow her to prolong Charlie's life greedily, but she hated the fact the possibility existed she would ever have to make the call. That drove her like a woman possessed. She began to research and experiment. Her single minded fury led her back to her old muggle life and upbringing and an old acquaintance, Chandler, who finished medical school. He was able get her to the right people who pointed her to specialists in the Americas working with rattlesnakes and cottonmouths.
Jake, still with connections, was able to track down a squib scientist with friends who worked within the field of anti-venom. She was there for three long weeks with the twins, a one-month old Angel and Molly. She found her answer. She missed a critical step. They always tried just to stop the bleeding. They forgot to stop the venom itself.
Back in Romania, armed with her new knowledge and a full day's worth of 'My love, I'm back' shagging supporting her, she returned to her experiments. They were successful. She found an answer just in time. There was another attack in the reserve and the family consented to their son being the practical test subject for the new anti-venom.
It worked! Not perfectly. That would take another full year. Three months ago, after another successful test and outcome, Charlotte published her findings and sent her research, instructions and anti-venom to every reserve housing Horntails. Just last week, a grateful family from Brazil wrote thanking her for her dedication to finding the answer that saved their brother's life.
The loss of Thomas was bitter sweet in another way as well. It opened a position in Romania for another assistant director. So Charlie, after years of dedicated work and studies, was in. He began his new assignment two days after Angel was born. The promotion came with options. A move to larger housing was the easy answer. The more difficult decision was the way they took. It was truly easy for them to decide. Neither one wanted to ever leave Romania. It was their home.
A week after Angel's first birthday, they broke ground on the new house. They were both so focused on raising four children and their new quest in their careers it was really the first chance they had. It probably would have been even longer if Angel wasn't such a light sleeper.
The biggest obstacle they faced was actually building the home on the reserve. Most magical contractors would not step foot in such a dangerous location. They anticipated waiting a year or longer for one of the two contactors that typically would enter the reserve to become available.
Enter Charlotte's extended adopted family. The family Lottie had married into had an uncle who was a magical contractor. Because of all Charlotte and Charlie did for the Roma families, he would come to the reserve and build the family a home to meet their growing needs. The only issue was it had to be fit around other projects until he could find a time to dedicate to its completion.
So, armed with the savings of years of frugal living, Charlotte and Charlie's home was becoming a reality. Slowly. The uncle had only been available for about four weeks total since he started. When Charlotte was last here, the roof was still not on.
She looked up the trail to check on her children again. The twins were making another break for it again. "Garret! Felix! Stop right …now."
The last word was not needed as the twins found themselves upside down floating by their ankles. Charlie pocketed his wand again. Plucking Angel off of his shoulders, he handed her off to Charlotte without a word and stormed down the trail. Little E and Devin scrambled back to their mothers.
"Oh, Oh!" Angel looked worried. "Da is going to punish them."
"I'm sure he is, and rightly so." Jake looked pointedly at his son. The boy blanched and stepped closer to his mother taking her hand.
E looked down the trail at his brothers and father. "What do you think he will do to them?"
I believe their life may become quite boring for some time." Marcel nodded.
Charlotte could only agree. Their broom riding privileges looked in jeopardy from where she stood.
"Come, Angel," Marcel held out his hands to take the child and put her up on his shoulders, "Let me give you wings again to fly."
They began to walk towards the father and sons. Charlotte could hear Charlie's ire at having his innocent smirk turned on him. He lowered the boys to his eye level, there blond hair swaying in the slight breeze upside down. Charlotte could see the exact moment when their toddler logic failed them. Identical tragic expressions exchanged the innocent grins. Charlie swished his wand again and lowered the pair to the ground landing hard bums first. Both scrabbled, teary eyed to their feet and back to the group of people half way to their location.
Little E looked at the pair with resigned apprehension. Garrett cried in temper. "Two whole weeks!"
"There is a simple solution." Charlotte told them. The pair looked up hopefully. "Start listening to what we are asking you to do."
Equally angry faces returned along with an irritated Charlie. "Go! I don't want you any further away from me then the length of a Longhorn.
Felix looked like he would question exactly which size longhorn but thought better after looking at Charlie's angry face again. The whole group of boys wandered, much slower, ahead of them.
"How could she, I was never that bad!" Charlie griped about his mother's curse.
Charlotte laughed back. "She blames you for the twins."
Charlie snorted and drew his pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. Charlotte took them away. He looked at her in dismay but did not push the issue. Instead he patted his pockets looking for some other distraction for his frustration. He came out with a squishy ball and grinned. "Angel."
The little girl barely turned before the small object was tossed. Her little hands reached and grabbed the gold ball without really looking. Charlie beamed.
Marcel snorted and spoke in Roma. "If she can catch that, she will be able to catch a quaffle. Much more useful. You, my lazy friend, only had to make one catch. I had to make many."
Charlie learned to speak the language two years ago after the twins stated to use it to plot against him. Marcel took it upon himself to teach Charlie, stating it would be easier if he knew the local dialect as opposed to the English one. They would be having all of their Roma conversations in Romania, not England.
The men playfully bantered back and forth about the best positions in Quidditch all the while the father and daughter threw the ball back and forth. Angel's aim was not as good, so Charlie had to work harder. Charlotte was appreciating the show he was inadvertently putting on for her.
As they approach the last turn before the house came into view, Charlie called a stop to the boys' forward progress. The other adults collected them as Charlie guided them forward. Charlotte looked back to see Katie grinning knowingly. The rat, she knew what was happening all along. Izzy looked as perplexed as she did, surely planned since the girl couldn't keep a secret to save her own life.
Charlotte looked up at her husband who was grinning his 'Charlie is innocent' grin again. She groaned. "What have you done?"
He said nothing, just continued around the corner and stopped. Charlotte looked forward and gasped. Their home stood in front of them, completed. She looked it over with a smile that dropped. She turned her irritation on her husband. He had the good common sense to look sheepish.
Katie laughed behind them as the children came screaming into the clearing. The boys whooped and danced at their new home being completed. The twins ran for the stairs and bounced waiting for permission to enter from Nate at the door.
Jake chuckled. "Come along, kids. Let's go find your rooms. You mother needs to be cross with your father for a minute."
Katie walked up behind her rubbing her belly again. "Listen to him, my Bella."
She walked up the stairs to the porch to begin herding the massive group of children. Devin looked at his mother with concern. "Is Auntie Bella going to scream at Uncle Charlie like you scream at daddy?"
"Not for long." Jake said loudly so Charlotte could hear as everybody entered the house.
"Jake." Charlotte stopped him. He looked back questioningly. "Watch Katie. She is in labor. Probably will not be until tomorrow morning some time. If I tell her, she will panic, and we will all have a time of it like last time."
Jake paled and nodded not looking forward to his next twenty-four hours. For being a dragon handler, Katie was a right mess while she was in labor. Something about the whole vulnerable situation changed the strong, resilient woman into a blubbering mess last time. Charlotte hoped this time would be better as she knew better what to expect.
She turned her attention back on Charlie. He reached for his pocket again before he realized she still had his cigarettes. He moved the hand to the back of his neck ruffling his hair instead. "I know we talked about this…"
"I wondered if you remembered that at all." Charlotte responded sarcastically.
Charlie tried his 'Charlie is innocent' smile again. She didn't budge. He sighed and continued. "We were going to get to this point anyway. Ross couldn't understand why we were not putting the second floor on right away. He said even if we didn't finish it, it made no sense to come back in two years, remove the roof, add the second floor and reinstall the roof."
"We did it because we didn't have the money for the second floor, if I remember correctly." Charlotte responded.
"Correct, we didn't have the gold, if Ross built the entire thing start to finish." Charlie agreed. "But we did have the money if he completed the framing and I did the majority of the interior work, especially on the second floor."
Charlotte looked at the house and sighed. "So just the outside is done right now."
"No." Charlie wrapped his arms around her waist. "The house is done. In fact, we are all moved in. That's why I was late getting to the center to meet you. We just finished up. Mind you, most of the boxes are just sitting in the rooms they belong in, and aren't unpacked yet, but the furniture is all moved, beds in the rooms. Dinner might take some work tonight, but Katie and Dizzy are working that out as we speak."
Charlotte looked back at him in shock. "How? A month ago the first floor walls were just barely up when I came to address the issue with the kitchen."
Charlie smiled back. "Your Roma family. Or our Roma family. Ross mentioned to the men our plan to get the second floor on so we could get it done all at one time. Next thing I know, eight Roma men show up the first day I am working here and we get a quarter of the first floor work completed. Space that across the month on my days off, Louis and Nate came on their days off and worked while I was gone. There was always one or more of the Roma men around working. One month later, house is ready to move into. Lottie got a few of the women together and scrubbed it down yesterday and I moved us in with help today after you left for work."
Charlotte turned and looked at the home she had been dreaming of for so long. "Why? Why did they all come?"
Charlie held her against his chest. "For you. Every one of them, you have helped. Maybe not each one individually, but you helped their families or their friends and never want anything for yourself. They wanted to help because they knew you wanted this, Charlotte. They knew you wanted this home for our children,"
"But Marcel and Emil…"
"I helped to build a home for my daughter." Emil's voice startled her from her side.
She looked at him confused. "I remember Lottie telling me you helped to build her house."
"Yes, Lottie's house I helped to build for Lottie." Emil agreed in Roma. "This house, I help to build for my other daughter. One not made from my loins, but made in my heart."
Tears streaked down Charlotte's cheeks as she looked at the truth in Emil's eyes. Charlie leaned behind her and spoke in Roma as well. "They all love you, Charlotte. Just like me, they discovered your hidden secret. That you have a heart too beautiful and pure. One that expects nothing and give without any thought of repayment. That is the woman they helped to build this house for. The one who goes in the middle of the night to ensure the next generation comes into this world whole and healthy. Good, strong sons to be the pride of their fathers and beautiful, gentle daughters who will grow to be the pride of any man she marries. You are the one who goes to their camp to check the sick and heal the hurt and comfort the sad and lonely. These hands, the ones I looked at that January day so long ago, have delivered so much love and understanding and compassion that every person in this reserve would have been here to help. I'm sure a good portion of them were at one time or another. This house will never be cursed. Never have a bad omen. Hell, I doubt it would ever have a ghoul. Because this house, this house was built with love. It will never be cursed or tainted. Ever."
"Yes, your man speaks the truth." Emil began to walk to the porch and up the stairs to go inside. "He is a good man, hard working and honest. You are a good Roma wife, head his words as truth."
Charlie smiled at Emil who nodded and walked in the door. He turned Charlotte in his arms and laced his hands through her hair and pulled her lips to his again. "Will you forgive me?"
She rolled her eyes. As promised to Devin, she could not be cross at Charlie for long. He grinned and kissed her again.
"Mama, why are you crying? Is Da being mean?" Angel stood at the door with stuffed Gladys in one hand and Marcel in the other.
"No, Angel. Da was not being mean. He was being very, very good. Mama is crying because she is so happy." She leaned close into Charlie. "So happy, in fact, she may have to reward Da later."
Charlie gave her a feral grin in anticipation of what was to come.
"Mama, come see my new room. Papa Emil has made me a bed." Angel demanded from the door.
"Go ahead, Angel. Mama and I will be right there to see it." Charlie told his daughter. Marcel grinned and led her away.
"Come on Charlotte. Come see your home." Charlie prompted as he pulled her up the steps.
At the threshold, he stopped and swept her into his arms. She huffed in annoyance. "Charlie, what are you doing?"
"Carrying you across the threshold." He grinned. "All the traditions have to be kept, you know."
"I'm too heavy, but me down." She fretted. Charlie snorted and rolled his eyes.
"I have gained weight." She looked pointedly at the small bump of her belly.
Charlie beamed down at it as well. "Two kilos?"
"There are two of them in there." She reminded him.
She had found out about the new pregnancy a little over three months ago. Charlie had been gone on a retrieval from another reserve. Percy had sent them both a letter with an old copy of the now terminated law tucked inside. It had done its job and the automatic repeal clause was enacted. He folded a copy of the law open to the page outlining the childbearing requirements for the couple circling the sentence with the line: All couples shall produce two children within the next ten years." Next to it in red he had written a note.
Really, I believe you two have fulfilled your requirements. You can stop at any time now.
She had not told Charlie she was expecting. She simply left Percy's letter on the table and a copy of the official notice filed with the Ministry of the pregnancy Thayer still submitted since they were a marriage law couple.
Charlie returned home, read the letter, looked at the marriage law, and then the copy of the notice. He crowed his excitement, got the kids ready for an early bedtime, read three stories and turned out the lights. He then picked his wife up and tossed her onto their bed and reenacted the situation that caused the celebration in the first place. The one where her hands firmly held on the footboard of their bed and as pounding into her from behind.
"I feel bad. For some reason they always come in pairs when you get pregnant in that particular position." He pondered.
She sighed. "Maybe, if you would have rode my arse like you wanted that night instead of taking the easy way out, we would not be in this position."
"Really." Charlie grinned his naughty smirk. "Can I have the chance tonight?"
"No, not until after the children are born."
Charlie pouted. She rolled her eyes. He continued to look at her stomach. "We will have to have at least one more. I need another player yet. Either a chaser or a keeper. Little E is showing promise in both areas, so I'll have to wait to see what the build of the next one is."
"What about these two. What if one of them is a better keeper." Charlotte asked.
"No, twins would have to be beaters or chasers." Charlie explained his logic. "They have that twin thing going on where they know what each other is thinking and doing. They need to work together out there."
She laughed and shook her head.
Charlie looked deep in her eyes and stepped through the door into their new home. He reached down and kissed her soundly with every ounce of love he felt in his being. "Welcome home, wife."
"Welcome home, Charlie." She replied as the tears streamed down her face as she captured his lips again.
I hope you have enjoyed my story as mych as I have enjoyed writing it. Thanks for all the feedback. I appreciate everyone who took the time to review.