For my grandfather, who is a Neumann, And for Beth Voermans, who wasn't intimidated.
As is so often the case with one's elders, the brothers whom I favored the least as a small child were the ones who made me what I am today. If it weren't for Charlie and his towering temper, the legendary tale of my first encounter with Professor Snape might never have been, which would be a shame, as it's a story Colin really likes to tell.
"So, there we were," he'll say, "Filing into our first Potions class, with none other than the Slytherins, of course. And Professor Snape is writing at the board, you know how he can make even that seem threatening. So we're all scared out of our wits, and he starts talking (I don't remember what the lesson was about) but I'm sitting next to Ginny, and she's looking all pale and nervous and jittery, like she expects him to hit her at some point. Well you know how that oily old git can sense fear, so he turns to her and he asks her this really hard question, and I swear I almost reached out to grab her hand just to stop it from shaking so much, and then he gets up right in her face and does that stupid sneer thing and says, 'Ms. Weasley... are you afraid of me?'
"And all these Slytherins start snickering at her, and here I am worrying that poor Ginny is going to up and die, but instead she just looks right back at him and says, well, tell them what you said, Ginny."
At this point I'll look up from whatever I was doing with a somewhat bored expression and say my line,
"I said, 'No. Should I be?'"
"Well, you can imagine his surprise, gave him quite a turn, I think. For a minute there the old bat was too stunned to do much of anything, but then he recovered himself and deducted ten points from Gryffindor. But I don't think he's ever tried to scare her again..."
He's right. Snape hasn't tried to scare me since that day, and after my first year, word got round to most of the school that I was a lot tougher than I had let on originally, and boys were afraid of me—just for me, and not for my brothers. Michael once quipped proudly to his mates that it was I who had nicked Percy's bollocks, since he's such a prat and I'm…the way I am, He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek after that. I smiled and blushed a little at the time, but the truth is that I'm not brave because of Percy, but because of Charlie.
There are seven children in our family, one for each day of the week, except that Fred and George were both born on Friday, so we have no Saturday. But in any case, I always thought it was especially fitting that Charlie, whose temper was the stuff of legend, was born on Thursday, the day named for the Norse god of thunder. Even when he was a small child, Mum and Dad used to call him Stormy Charlie, because of the bouts of anger and sadness that he'd fall into every now and then. But that's the side of Charlie that no one but his nearest and dearest ever see. To most of the world he's 'Charming Charlie: Heartbreaker Extraordinaire'. In short, Charlie is a Prewett.
He's charismatic and funny, with a thousand little habits and mannerisms that drive girls crazy. But he's also the only person that the twins are honestly afraid to cross, and for good reason. I remember after my first year, when they had teased me so mercilessly about my crush on Harry (among many other things), they received horrible tongue-lashings from both Bill and Charlie. I don't know what Bill said to them, but I couldn't help but overhear Charlie's rant, such was the volume of his voice. It was our first night there, and Mum and Dad were out for dinner together. Bill was at his flat, of course, leaving Charlie in charge of all of us. I lay in bed awake as Ron slept soundly in the bed next to mine, and from the other room I could hear voices being raised until Charlie was shouting at what must have been close to the top of his lungs,
"What's the matter with you?!"
I heard something being flung across the room, but it made a 'clunk!' rather than a 'crash!' so I assumed it was nothing fragile.
"You two are by far the biggest emotional dimwits that I've ever had the misfortune of knowing, much less being related to you! Let's set aside the fact that you didn't notice that your sister was being possessed by You-Know-Who—but when she stopped eating, stopped sleeping! Don't you dare tell me you didn't notice, because Percy noticed! Percy, the big-headed prat who doesn't care about anyone but himself—HE NOTICED!
"So your little sister, who's away from home for the first time in her life and has no friends, grows quieter and quieter all year long while you sit around and ham it up, until she's so sickly and pale that she doesn't even blush when you humiliate her. And what do you two do? Do you take a time out from being the center of attention for just ONE second to see if she's okay? NO! You do the only thing your messed up, pea-sized brains know how to do! You take the piss out of her some more!"
If I hadn't been so concerned that the twins were indeed, dead, I would have been touched by his words. It was the nicest thing he'd ever done for me, even if it was a bit hypocritical. Because next to the twins, Charlie was the biggest tease I knew. Nevertheless, his words in the hotel that night changed my feelings about him forever.
Before that night, I had never had any reason to believe that Charlie cared about me any more than the next sibling, and for a girl who was the apple of everyone's eye for as long as she could remember, this always stung a bit. Once, when I was six or seven, a woman who was apparently very recently his ex-girlfriend came downstairs from his room in a huff as I ate my breakfast at the kitchen table.
"He's insufferable!" she fumed, desperately buttoning her blouse and fixing her skirt as I stared back in a total deadpan, trying to fit a very large spoon into my mouth as my pink-slippered feet dangled idly below.
"I swear--'no respect for me,' honestly! He's the only" and here she called him a very bad name, "I've ever met that would—argh! The man probably makes babies 'earn his respect'!"
I rested my temple on my wrist and stirred my Toady-O's, looking spiritlessly into my bowl as she continued to berate my brother.
"Sweety, I pity you! Having to live with that ego!"
"What are you doing?" Charlie had entered the kitchen forcefully, looking from her to me and putting the pieces together as his jaw twisted and clenched menacingly. "Get out!" he said tersely, but she wasn't finished just yet.
"What's the matter Charlie? Don't want your family to know what a—"
"I said get OUT!" he shouted, "If you've got a problem with me, come back and tell me about it when you grow up, but don't try to badmouth me to my seven-year-old sister! Because that's not payback, that's just asinine!"
She seethed for a moment, driving her foot into her shoe before she grabbed her wand and Disapparated. Charlie turned and looked at me.
"Someday you're going to look back on this and think I'm a total wanker, so perhaps it would be best if you just forget it now," and then he went back to his room and left me to my Toady-O's, not fazed in the slightest.
You could not have paid me to say it to Charlie at the time, but I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was, minus the sexual implications, and I agreed with his ex. Charlie was charismatic and smooth, but he had such ridiculously high expectations of everyone, and he was so painfully blunt in expressing his disappointment that at times one wondered if anyone but himself was perfect in his eyes.
Girls flock to him like bees to honey, how could you not? He's deep, dark and confident, with charm and a big scary temper. His partners joke that that's why he's so good at taming dragons.
"If it's a she," they say, "Charlie'll just wink at 'er and she'll fall right over in a swoon, quick as that! And if it's a he—well Charlie's got a temper that'd make You-Know-Who run and hide!"
Women are incredibly turned on by that, apparently. Back when he lived at home, after Hogwarts and before he went to Romania, women frequently spent the night at our house, much to Mum's disapproval. His mates made setting up Charlie into a bit of a sport, by advertising him to interested women.
"Oh yeah! Charlie seems rough and rugged, but he cleans up really nice- impeccable taste, he's got."
"And did you know? He can cook! Almost as well as his Mum, see he specializes in French cuisine, but he's got a knack for Italian stuff as well."
"You see those roses there? Charlie grew those; he knows everything about gardening, and he makes the most wonderful flower arrangements, but it's all a bit of a secret, mostly he just works out and plays Quidditch."
"Ah no mates, that's nothing! If you've heard him sing! That—that's the best. He's a fair dancer too, come to think of it,"
The funniest thing was that they weren't really embellishing much at all. He doesn't have any special gift for French cuisine, and he can't dance quite as well as Bill, but other than that, they spoke the truth.
No, Charlie's never had any trouble attracting women, but to this day, with all the pretty girls that have thrown themselves at his feet, I don't think he's ever been in love. For all three of my oldest brothers, there have been those who have questioned their sexuality, though for very different reasons. With Bill, it was simply that he was too good to be true. They'd see him, hear that he was a curse breaker, and say, 'Oh no, he's gay, isn't he?' Percy has so many feminine mannerisms, and he's such a mummy's boy that I think everyone has wondered at some point if he really swings the way he claims.
No one ever speculates that Charlie's not as straight as a ruler. Fred and George admire the fact that 'no bird can make Charlie do anything he doesn't want to', and so do most woman, until they get close enough to realize that they're no exception to that rule. That's when they storm out in a huff and claim that he's a bastard, or gay, or impotent. I hate it when girls say that boys don't think about anything but sex, or that they're stupid and easily manipulated. It's not true, and from what I've seen, the girls who say that are often the same ones that come charging out of Charlie's room with injured egos just because they couldn't seduce him.
Sadly enough, I was the same way as those girls, minus the sexual side. I thought Charlie was the coolest guy in the world until he'd criticize me, or tell me to stop being such a bloody drama queen, or when he wasn't moved by my very best puppy-eyed face. Then he was just mean, with a stuck up nose and a superiority complex.
But there's one key difference between myself and all those indignant women. I stuck around, and I gained his respect. Unlike most turnarounds in my relationships with people, this one didn't take place over many years, it happened in an instant.
It was two summers before I went away to Hogwarts, and at the time, Charlie was still living with us. Fred and George had dared me one afternoon to take Charlie's broom out of the shed and take a ride on it. I would have succeeded spectacularly, and stunned them with my surprising flying abilities, but just when I got high enough to really fly, a big wind came out of nowhere, and given the fact that I weighed about sixty pounds, blew me straight into a tree, and caused significant damage to the tail of the Comet Two-Fifty. I practically fell out of the tree in panic, and spent the rest of the day trying to run away from home before Charlie returned from work.
"He's going to kill you," leered Fred, snickering at me as I tried to pack a knapsack.
"Ginny dear, are you all right? You've gone all white and you're shaking," said Mum over tea.
Finally, the inevitable six o'clock rolled around, and I heard Charlie Apparating into the backyard. Any minute now, and he'd go for his usual fly around the paddock after work and realize that his broom was gone...
"FRED! GEORGE!" I was hiding behind my bed, praying that someone would grant me powers of invisibility when I heard Charlie shout, but I had no such luck. Fred and George burst into my room and picked me up by my arms and dragged me downstairs and out to the broom shed.
"Come on Ginny, we're not going to take a beating for this one."
I whimpered and struggled against them, but it was no use. My face had gone whiter than a sheet, and my heart was beating so furiously I thought it was going to leap out of my chest and run away in fear. Charlie was waiting for them under the tree in which the broom had crashed, looking nearly as angry as I was scared.
"Well," he spat, "What happened?"
By this time I was clawing desperately at their arms, and trying to stay behind them, but George forced me in front of them. I felt naked and very cold, standing there, the center of attention and the focus of Charlie's furious glare. I pawed at my face and wiped away the tears quickly, before he could see that I was crying.
"So Ginny, what happened?"
I was petrified. My eyes felt dry and prickly, and I struggled to keep them open from flinching so much. He bent down so that his face was even with mine, and his stony expression made the breath catch in my throat.
"Ginny, are you scared of me?"
I wanted so badly to cry and say 'YES!' and have him scoop me up in his arms like Bill would do and tell me over and over again that he loved me and he never meant to scare me. But in that moment, as his hard blue eyes stared into mine, I knew that he wasn't Bill, and I made a choice. I gathered my guts, looked up, and stared right back at him.
"No. Should I be?"
There was a long, triumphant silence. Charlie showed no emotion, except for a small raise of his eyebrows, but my heart swelled with pride as I spied Fred and George gaping like fish in my peripheral vision. After what seemed like an eternity, he sank to his knees in front of me, as if in surrender, replying "No. Because I would never hurt you."
He pulled me into his arms and gave me one of the only real hugs I'd ever seen him give, and from that day forward I had Charlie's respect, and he had mine.
Charlie and I give hope to one another. I'm his reminder that there are good girls out there, that are worth respecting and loving--he just has to find them. And he's my reminder that I'm worth loving and respecting, and anyone can see that--I just have to hang in there.
There are two halves to the Prewett Paradox: the first states that they're volatile, with wild tempers and passionate hearts, and utterly unpredictable. The second half says that they always end up falling in love with good people. I believe that in time, both will be true for Charlie.