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Playing Cyrano

Chapter Text

He had been in the hospital for a week and Hermione was beside herself.

She stared at the blank wall beside the bed, tracing the woodgrains. Here she was, alone in his room, crying like a bloody infant. Hermione wiped her nose on her sleeve. Nobody was home anyway. Ginny and Ron were at St. Mungo’s with the rest of the Weasley clan, trying to support Charlie’s recovery. Hermione had banned herself from his bedside, as a concerned friend. Nevermind why he was suffering. She didn’t want to think about it. She caused him distress, distress flared his curse, curse caused him unparalleled pain. She caused him pain. Therefore, she had to stay away. Another sob choked her and Hermione coughed into her elbow.

Hermione had been going stir-crazy in her little apartment with only the six-toed cat for company. Little Charlie-Cat was a nuisance in that his tiny razor claws were sharp, and all he seemed to want to do was curl up in her lap and knead her thigh with needles. It was affectionate and painful. But he was still a tiny kitten, so it wasn’t his fault. She just needed a few hours out of the house.

Hermione had plenty of work to do now that her research had been approved with the Ministry. She had come over to borrow a book from Ginny, but she couldn’t make herself budge from Charlie’s room. He had never invited her inside in the past, and she had no business being there now… but the second she came through the floo in his office, her feet carried her next door, to the place he must call a sanctuary. Except that it was hardly homey… Charlie had a bed, of course, and a bureau which contained his clothing, and a single wing-backed chair that was flanked by a floor lamp. But that was it. It was tidy--and not just because Hermione had made his bed when she arrived. He just didn’t have many things to clutter it up. It had all the marks of a man who did not know how to make a home. Despite that, it was comforting to smell the distinctly Charlie-ish-ness of the place. Cedar, with the faintest hint of cinnamon. The source of the scent was a pipe, which rested in a modest bowl on his windowsill. Hermione didn’t know that Charlie smoked a pipe. He didn’t seem the type, but then, she had to admit that she knew much less about him than she thought. She sniffed.

Stop crying, she thought. You have no right to cry. You’re crying because you’re worried about him. You feel guilty. You’re crying because you feel guilty , and you should . You basked in the attention he gave you without considering for one second that you were taking advantage of him and his feelings. He did what he thought he had to do to make you happy. Well, what the heck do you know about making yourself happy?

I don’t owe him affection! She huffed. Definitely not, but she had to admit that she had loved the loyalty of a friend who really cared , and didn’t ask for anything back. She loved the little touches on the elbow to get her attention, the lingering hugs, the self-lessness--no, not selfless. He had done wrong for selfish reasons. Even if he had done it to make her happy, he must have deep down hoped that she would figure out his ruse and care for him back.

Who was she kidding? She did care about him. But… if she forgave him, and their friendship remained intact… how could that work? Have a frank and honest conversation that sets boundaries? “We can be friends as long as you never again do something I ask you to do, in order to help me, even if your methods were misguided at best and dangerous at worst?” What a strange contingency for a friendship that was based solely in two people being nicer to each other than anyone else. What in Merlin’s name did Charlie like to do, aside from trying to fix the world single-handedly? She didn’t want Charlie to try to fix things for her anymore.

He’s hurting, she thought with regret. What if he doesn’t survive this?

You can’t sit here and cry over someone who you don’t love, she told herself plainly. Then, she shivered.

Hermione swiped at her eyes one last time and piled her unruly curls into a massive top knot. She opened Charlie’s bureau. That one--the one he was wearing when we met. She pulled the tartan flannel from the hanger and slipped it on over her light blouse. The sleeves were too long, but with the cuffs rolled up, it was perfect and she was warm.

She smoothed Charlie’s quilt where she had just been sitting and fluffed his pillows. A stack of books caught her eye from beneath his bedside table. ‘Persuasion’ was on top, with a Chudley Cannons card for a bookmark, about halfway through, and a pencil tucked beside it. She picked it up. She tucked the pencil behind her ear and flipped to find where he had left off… page after page was filled with margin notes in Charlie’s neat handwriting that she had come to know so well.

‘Crofts seem like a real love match.’

‘Benwick and Anne are a good match of wits--but no passion to be had.’

‘Mr. Elliot is her cousin, right?’

‘Wentworth is torturing her! Have some decency, man.’

The notes went on and on, page by page; mostly, the notes were Charlie’s short observations about the relationships in the story, but sometimes he had recorded little bursts of intense feeling. Romantic thought , profound. one such observation read. It was underlined twice. He loved this book, obviously. He loved to speculate on the lives of these inconsequential people, it was notable from his first letter she received while she was away for the week. The moment summarized by his succinct critique was a critical point in the novel, when Anne’s conversation with Harville is overheard by Wentworth, making him realize that Anne has loved him all along, and spurring him to write her an immediate declaration letter.

A line from her own letter to Charlie came to her mind, unbidden.

‘You’re lucky I love cats, Weasley. Please name the cat after you.’

She blanched. Oh. Hermione shut the book with a clap and dropped it onto the quilt. She strode from his room in a frenzy, raced for the stairs--and ran full-force into someone at the bottom. She landed with a thump on a sure-to-be-bruised-tailbone.

“Hey,” he said softly, grasping her elbow.

 

*

 

Divello Fragmentum.

A curse meant to torture the emotional bonds of the cursed one. A calculated curse that was most certainly the invention of a Death Eater and Charlie would bet money on Rudolphus Lestrange.

A curse with a name is still a burden as long as there is no known counter-curse. Lucky for Charlie, Healer Lovegood was a friend of the family; she was an adept curse-breaker with hundreds of patients on her list of triumphs, and she happened to owe Ginny a favor, so getting her to attend Charlie wasn’t difficult. Until she broke the curse, Charlie would have to suffer. It was the treatments that were a struggle.

For the first three days he was in the hospital, Charlie was put into a sensory deprivation chamber for three-hour chunks. It was supposed to dampen his sensitivity to touch and light. The rest of the day, Charlie was blindfolded and had his ears covered with ear-muffs while Healer Lovegood and her team ran tests on him. If anyone had visited him, Charlie was not aware of it. His thoughts were cloudy, but every once in a while, he would get a flash of a pretty face and an immediate zap of pain. Of course, he recognized her. He wished he could stop thinking about her.

On the fourth day, Charlie’s visitors were allowed to sit beside his bed if they spoke in a whisper and they could touch him as long as it was only a grasp of the hand.  On the sixth day, he was allowed to alternate between blindfold and sight for one-hour increments, which allowed him to see and acknowledge his family of visitors. Charlie was hardly coherent. On the seventh day, Ron came to visit by himself.

“Hey, mate,” Ron said, sitting at the end of Charlie’s bed. Charlie nodded weakly. “How are you getting on?”

Charlie shrugged as if to say ‘how do you think?’

“Sure,” Ron said. “Listen, Char…” He stood and ran a hand through his shaggy hair. “I think it’s time I return to London. Ralston’s ready to take my place, now that the cadets are in order, and you and Ginny don’t need me underfoot. It’s... “ he sighed. “It’s best, I think.”

Charlie narrowed his eyes and winced. “What about…”

“It’s not meant to be,” Ron said with a shrug. He was quite obviously deeply sad about the whole thing but trying not to show it. “You’ll never believe my luck, though. I met someone yesterday. I didn’t even throw up when she spoke to me.”

Despite everything, Charlie laughed. Ron patted him on the arm softly and smiled. “You know… you can’t fix everyone, Charlie. I know that you care about your friends, and what’s best for them, but what do you want?”

Ron stood and held up his hand in farewell. Charlie raised a few fingers in return. His youngest brother closed the door behind him.

Ron apparated back to the farm to pack his things. Once he had a bag together, he’d tell Ginny. She’d understand. Then, he’d pick up Eliza and they’d go to London together. She’d have to learn about wizarding transportation someday… why not today, the first time she’s ever left Butteryhaugh? It would be a far cry from her grandfather’s bar, but he was sure Eliza would find her way. She was sweet. Ron needed sweet.

He rounded the corner to ascend the stairs and ran head-long into a brunette blur. He grabbed her elbow to steady her and realized who it was in his hands. Strangely, a flop sweat didn’t spring up on his forehead, and he felt no fear in looking her in the eye for once. He didn’t even need to vomit.

“Hey,” he said softly.