TITLE: Blurring the Boundaries 1/2
WORD COUNT: 1,604
DISCLAIMER: The characters aren’t mine, they are the property of JK Rowling, Warner Bros., Bloomsbury, Scholastic, Raincoast etc etc…Dahlia though, she is mine!
SUMMARY: It’s a year since Percy died and Hermione is finally recovered enough to realise that someone who has been there helping her is more than just the friend she needed.
FEEDBACK: If you want and you think I deserve it then go ahead, click the comment button.
Charlie looked across the table to where Hermione was holding a spoon to her tow-headed daughter’s mouth, a smile on her face as she tried to coax the toddler to eat what looked a little bit like mushed up carrots and potato. “Come on sweetie, it’s really nice, look, mummy loves her carrots…” Taking a mouthful and effectively masking the grimace of distaste as the rather disgusting mixture rested on her tongue for a moment too long, Hermione held the spoon back at Dahlia’s lips and made more ‘yum’ noises until finally the little girl opened her mouth and reluctantly ate the food she had been proffered. Angry that she had been lied to, Dahlia spat out the orange mush, the pulp landing in bright splatters across her mother’s face.
Wiping the food away from her cheeks, Hermione glared at Charlie – who hid his face behind the rather large weekend edition of the Daily Prophet. “You think that this is easy?” she groused as he continued to chuckle, the paper rustling with every movement.
“I don’t know why you don’t just give her that stuff Ron and Padma are always feeding Melody, she likes that well enough.” Folding the paper he put it back on the kitchen table and stood up. “How about I take her for a little bit, give you time to clear up for lunch at Mum’s?”
A grateful smile on her face, Hermione unclipped the harness from around Dahlia’s waist, lifted her out of the hand-carved highchair and handed the fidgety toddler to Charlie. “Thank you.” As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Hermione needed a break. She was constantly tired, was always wearing clothes covered in either baby food, baby sick or baby powder and her hair hadn’t looked so bad since she was I her first year at Hogwarts.
Walking almost blindly to her bedroom at the back of the house, Hermione spared Charlie a faint, tired wave before she closed her bedroom door and collapsed in the middle of the bed. Before her head even hit the pillow she was snoring softly
Being the second oldest of seven definitely had its advantages. It only took him ten minutes to find the clothes that Hermione had laid out for Dahlia to wear to visit the family, and only a few more before Dahlia was playing happily and energetically in a finger-deep bath of warm water. She was splashing wildly, playing with the plastic fish that Hermione’s parents had given her the last time they had visited the now-retired dentists at their new home in Majorca.
Whenever he looked at Dahlia he couldn’t help feeling a little bit sad for what his brother was going to miss out on. Hermione had rushed headlong into a relationship with Percy when it became obvious that whatever she had with Ron wasn’t going to work out. After just five months they had moved in together, and then the war had started. Following six months of fighting, Hermione was left alone, the shock of Percy’s death from a stray unforgivable had sent her into labour.
For the last year Hermione had been a devoted mother, she had quit her job at the Ministry and moved into a small two bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Ottery St. Catchpole, determined to start her life afresh. The first few months had been hard, and many times Charlie had watched as Hermione’s face crumpled when things got too hard for her to cope with, but she had struggled on and eventually it seemed that she was coming out the other end of a very long tunnel.
Charlie’s visits to Hermione’s little haven had started the day that he realised she had turned away Ginny’s offer of help. He realised that seeing Ginny happily settled with her husband, a baby on the way, would be very hard for Hermione after all that she had lost, but he also realised that she needed the help. If she wouldn’t accept it from someone who was her friend, perhaps she would accept an offer of help from someone who had lost almost as much as she had.
The war had taken its toll on him; he had always followed adventure, seeking danger and thrills whenever he could, but the war had made him frightened. Seeing so many people lying on the ground battered and broken he had suffered nightmares for months. The damage that the dragons in his care had wrought on the small Muggle villages surrounding their camps had been horrific. After he had done his duty, looking after the dragons that had been used to fight in the final battles against Voldemort, Charlie had walked away, less one finger, the skin on one side of his face permanently marred with a series of scars. He now worked on the Ministry Breeding Programme, something set up by the Ministry of Magic when it was apparent the dragon population was in danger of extinction. His job was safe and if, at times, he missed what he had once done, he looked at the pictures of his various nephews and nieces on his desk and reminded himself that he was needed.
Molly kept on trying to set her up with this nice boy, or that nice boy, someone she had met at the post office, or in the local grocers, but Hermione wasn’t interested. She told Molly that she had Dahlia to worry about, and she had no intention of bringing someone else into the lives, but Molly hated to see the girl alone, and so the matchmaking continued.
“Dada…” Charlie was startled out of his reverie by Dahlia’s fairy tones. With a smile on his face he scooped the little girl out of the bath and, after wrapping her in one of the powder-blue, soft hooded towels that Hermione always kept beside the bath, carried her through to the buttercup-yellow nursery that Fred and George had helped him to decorate before she had been allowed home from St. Mungo’s with her 6-day old baby. Laying her down on the changing mat, Charlie wasted little time in dusting her bottom with powder before putting on a fresh towelling nappy and getting her dressed in the lavender and cream dungarees and t-shirt that Hermione had picked out.
Gurgling, Dahlia kicked her legs madly, all the while mumbling, “Dada…dada…dada…” Feeling as though he had been punched in the gut, Charlie lifted Dahlia up and carried her through to Hermione’s bedroom. With a faint grin he noted the way that a small trickle of drool had gathered in the corner of her mouth, and her arms were both up, covering her eyes, protecting them from the light. Feeling guilty, Charlie nudged her a few times, standing back when she finally sat up.
“Wha…What is it? Is Dahlia okay?” she rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand, looked over at the clock on her bedside and groaned, “it’s only been half an hour, Charlie.”
“She spoke…she said her first word!”
As if on cue, Dahlia gave her mother a toothless grin and burbled, “dada…dada…” wrapping her arms tightly around Charlie’s neck and nuzzling his face with hers.
Hermione was torn. One half of her was so happy that Dahlia was talking, but the other half of her was upset that Percy wasn’t here to share it all with her. She stood up and awkwardly wrapped her arms around Charlie and Dahlia, ignoring the sudden surge of awareness that speared through her when Charlie’s free arm closed around her, tugging her a little closer.
With tears in her eyes, she pulled back, “I should go and get ready. I don’t suppose Molly would mind if we got there early.”
Wondering at the unsteady state of his stomach, Charlie walked into the cosy living room and sat down on the edge of the over-stuffed sofa, absent-mindedly tickling Dahlia until the sound of her giggling filled the small room.
Studying her reflection in the mirror, Hermione gave herself yet another one of her pep-talks. “Come on Granger, he thinks of you like a sister. Don’t you dare ruin this friendship. He’s one of the only people you can talk to, don’t screw it up.” Sufficiently chastened, she tugged a brush through her unruly hair then twisted it into a relatively neat knot at the back of her head before going over to her depleted wardrobe and picking out something comfortable, casual, yet not scruffy, to wear. She didn’t bother with makeup – it was a complete waste of time putting on mascara, blush and lipstick when she would only end up rubbing the colour off.
Holding onto the Portkey just outside the front gate less than 30-minutes later, Charlie wrapped one arm around Hermione’s waist, his other hand holding Dahlia firmly on his hip. When they arrived in the tall grass in the woods surrounding the Burrow a few moments later, Charlie handed Dahlia to her mother and walked on ahead. The few moments when he had held Hermione to him had set him on fire and he needed to establish some space between them before he did something he knew would ruin everything.
Hermione watched Charlie, baffled as to his sudden retreat. He stormed through the garden as though the devil – or perhaps a Dementor – was at his heels, not even bothering to hold the gate or door open. Shifting Dahlia on her hip, Hermione walked quickly into the Burrow, setting her daughter down on the floor with three of her cousins before searching through the house for Charlie. They really needed to talk!