Somewhere, a radio played, its music carrying on the soft breeze.

Poppy listened to the slow tunes as she sat cross-legged under a tree in the garden of The Burrow, her back pressed against its trunk. Charlie lay on the ground close by, watching the sky.

Every so often he would point out an oddly shaped cloud, and Poppy would have to pretend that she had not been admiring how his blue eyes shone in the sunlight, or how his slight fringe shifted against his forehead when a soft breeze blew.

Poppy held a book open on her lap, but she found that even when pretending not to watch Charlie, she couldn't finish reading even one line on the page. Instead, her mind wandered to the events of the past year.

It had been less than a week since Hogwarts had closed for the summer and Poppy had not only left school for the final time, but also fought with her best friends over their dismissal of Harry's account of what occurred during the Triwizard Championship final.

It had been less than a month since Poppy had woken up in the Hospital Wing, injured, and about to find out that one of her Housemates - and someone she considered a friend - had been killed, and that Voldemort had returned.

It had been less than two months since she'd been tortured by someone pretending to be her Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody.

All of this played on her mind. And she wasn't the only one who recognised that everything was changing.

The Burrow wasn't as carefree as it had been the previous summer. There was a tension and underlying excitement as Mr and Mrs Weasley prepared their family to join The Order of the Phoenix.

Poppy, had also been asked to join the secret alliance, knew that most of the Weasleys would be moving to the new Order Headquarters within the week. She, Charlie, Percy and Bill would stay behind.

They had yet to hear exactly when Charlie would return to Romania - he waited, his bag packed, his broom ready, poised for the moment Dumbledore would explain his role and give him his orders. Then he would return to the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary.

Bill would remain at The Burrow indefinitely, having put in paperwork for a desk job transfer to Gringotts Wizarding Bank's London office. When asked if he would miss the danger and adventure of curse breaking, he laughed and said, "Not when the danger's meeting me here."

Poppy herself had accepted a role at Gringotts as a Cataloguer, and the Weasleys had been kind enough to offer her a bed at The Burrow until she could find a flat to rent in London.

Staying at The Burrow with Bill gave her a head start on her new role – each night he found the time to brief her on the goblins and people she'd be working with, and walk her through the little things that she might have overlooked – what to do for lunch, where the toilets were, and what to say if a Wizard named Barnock asked what she thought of his hat.

"The essentials," Bill called them.

Writing to Dragan the Elder to officially decline the position he'd offered her at the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary had upset her more than she'd thought it would, but she remained positive that if she did well at her Auror Assessment Centre in a few weeks' time, she would be accepted into the Auror Training Programme. That took the sting out of it.

There was one person, however, whose plans the Weasleys and Poppy weren't sure of - Percy.

He had been a standoffish since Mr and Mrs Weasley had explained to him that they believed that Dumbledore and Harry were telling the truth about Voldemort's return. He had taken to leaving for the office early, and avoiding the family in the evenings.

Mr and Mrs Weasley said that he would come round, but his behaviour had caused a rift between himself and the other Weasley children.

"Nothing's changed," Fred said over a game of exploding snap one night, "he's still the same old git. Only now he's a git and You-Know-Who's back."

But while he began to ignore his siblings, Percy continued to speak to Poppy, seeking her out in the small pockets of time that they were both free from the company of his family. It seemed that he thought they were kindred spirits, locked in a house with his mad relations. She didn't tell him that she herself believed Harry, but only because she was too tired to fight with Percy as she had fought with Cass and Esther.

And, truthfully, Poppy couldn't quite bring herself to care about Percy's opinion or antics.

Not while the allure of The Burrow and its garden, orchard, books, safety, and (most importantly) Charlie, were hers for now.

While Poppy had yet to find the time to speak to Charlie about the contents of the letter she'd written to him, where she had declared her love for him, they had snatched long minutes here and there to chat idly and pretend that the coming war hadn't changed their entire world already. Those were the moments Poppy cherished.

Yet, while her heart was full from the attention Charlie had been showing her over the past week, in the past day she'd found herself thinking more and more on the fact that they were running out of time before Dumbledore inevitably sent Charlie home to Romania.

Poppy hadn't pressed the matter so far. Knowing how reserved Charlie was, she was unwilling to seem to be pressuring him to make a decision – instead she'd resigned herself to wait a while.

She was no fool. Priorities needed to shift. For instance, she was destined to stay in England, and he to go back to Romania. She just hoped that he would come to the conclusion that long distance could, and would, work for them.

As they lounged in the garden on that, her last day of being unemployed and therefore last day of freedom, Poppy's impatience began to get the better of her.

Feeling restless, her feet bounced as her thoughts swirled with how to broach the subject of his thoughts on the matter of them - if he did want to pursue a relationship with her, she rather fancied a kiss (or two) before he returned to the Sanctuary.

She thought she would ask him at two separate points while they sat there, but each time she chickened out of it - she didn't want to ruin the moment. Not even Cass' voice in the back of her mind whispering, "Coward," could make her overcome her nerves.

It didn't help that Ginny stood, staring out of the kitchen window at Poppy and Charlie while she washed up what seemed like the same dish over and over again, or that George stood next to his little sister, pretending he wasn't watching as well.

Or that Fred kept trying to throw something which looked suspiciously like a long piece of thin rope out of the back door.

Poppy was distracted, wondering what on earth Fred was doing, when her attention was caught by a large bird that swooped down, dropped a shimmering silver-coloured envelope onto her lap, and flew away without so much as a moment for her to thank it.

"Even her stationery is extraordinary," Poppy muttered with a smile as she ripped into the letter which she assumed was from her friend, Fleur Delacour.

"I really can't believe it," Poppy gushed a few minutes later, still reading the letter she'd received from her French friend, "she's so on it… she's found us a flat already. It's two bedrooms and in a really nice area and everything. Not too small. And affordable… I mean it's a kitchen-diner, but it's still miles bigger than the place I had last year, and knowing Fleur she'll make the place look incredible."

"Please tell me you're going to say yes," Charlie laughed, looking up at her.

"No need, her dad's already signed everything and paid the- oh they're so kind! They paid the whole deposit. I don't need to pay anything until August. Oh… maybe I should-"

"Don't even think about it. Keep your money. Fleur knows you're not made of galleons. Just accept her gesture," Charlie scolded.

Poppy smiled. "Then it's just a matter of when I'm moving in… She said she's already found an English tutor and she's starting a job at Gringotts on the seventeenth so she's got the flat from next Friday.

"Whoa… Apparently it pays to be a Triwizard Champion. She got the first job she applied for at the bank," Poppy said, incredibly impressed. "Didn't even need to go through the whole process I did."

"Merlin, it's only been a week since you left Hogwarts," Charlie said, shaking his head, a small smile tugging up his lips, his eyes crinkling. "Wouldn't expect anything less from someone who can charm a dragon though… Still impressed by that."

"Five days," Poppy corrected distractedly. She'd counted earlier - it had been five days without confirmation from Charlie about his feelings.

Charlie was silent for a moment. When Poppy looked up, she found him staring at her with a raised eyebrow. Knowing what he was asking, she shrugged and looked away. "I'm just pointing out that Fleur works quickly when she's determined…" she muttered, trying to cover her obvious jealousy.

"You know that's not what I was thinking about," Charlie said.

Poppy glanced at him and found him unmoved. She shifted and returned to the letter.

"Bounce… Are you still worried about Gringotts?" he asked.

"Huh?" Poppy replied, bemused.

"That's why you're counting the days, isn't it? You're worried about starting a new job, knowing that you'll be going for the Auror programme, right?"

Poppy didn't answer. Eventually she felt his gaze shift from her and she could breathe again.

When she finished reading the letter, she slipped the parchment into the side of her bra and fiddled with the hem of her dress, eyeing Charlie.

He had closed his eyes and crossed his arms at his chest. She thought he was asleep until he smiled and whispered, "Ready to talk again?"

She paused for a moment and allowed her eyes to travel over his strong arms. It should be illegal, she thought, for someone as attractive as him to lie in front of her, wearing a white shirt with an open collar and the sleeves rolled up like that.

"Maybe… Charles?" she asked after a moment.

He hummed in reply but didn't scold her for full-name-ing him. It was their little thing, she supposed. Only she could call him Charles in an affectionate way and get away with it.

Poppy glanced at the kitchen door. Fred seemed to have given up on his rope - he'd left it trailing back into the kitchen, and had closed the door. Ginny and George too seemed to have stopped watching her and Charlie - they had their backs to the window - so she thought she was safe to bring it all up now.

"Can I ask you about something?" Poppy asked.

"Fire away."

"You said you read my letter… and while I'm… well, with everything that's happened," she said, nervously rubbing the side of her leg, which still throbbed from her attack a few weeks previously. "I'm obviously really grateful that you've given me time to adjust and come to terms with everything. And while I can't say I'm healed yet, I uh… well uh… I… I was wondering if we could finally talk about it?"

"Talk about what?" Charlie asked in a confused tone.

There was a little commotion, and Charlie craned his neck to look, while Poppy frowned over at the kitchen entrance to see Mrs Weasley pulling Fred's rope inside, her face thunderous.

"Well, what you thought about it?" Poppy asked, furrowing her brow as she refocussed her gaze on the side of his face.

He frowned and adjusted his arms at his chest in what she thought was a nervous fidget, though once he was settled back in his original position, his eyes closed again. "Thought about it? I don't know… Was I meant to think about it much? I'm more concerned that you're okay if I'm honest."

"You are?" Poppy asked.

"Yeah…" Charlie said, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "In a friendly way, of course. Don't worry, I'm not about to make it awkward again. It's just, you don't get over a Cruciatus quickly. Least of all one that went on that long."

His expression hardened and his jaw tensed as he spoke through his teeth in anger.

Poppy swallowed thickly. When she'd explained to Charlie everything that fake-Moody had put her through, he'd decided that she probably had been under the torture curse for minutes, as she'd first thought.

Misreading her expression, he apologised quickly and his gaze softened.

"I'm still sort of surprised you managed to do your exams at all. And then the attack…" he trailed off and frowned at Poppy's leg, which she was still rubbing.

She snatched her hand from her leg. Her joy that he was worried about her gave way to the drop in her stomach when she registered his words. "Did you say, 'in a friendly way'?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, turning his head towards her again, watching her expression closely. His arms relaxed and his eyes narrowed slightly. "That's not what you wanted to hear?"

Poppy stared at Charlie for a long moment. Unsure what to do or how to channel the surge in nervous and embarrassed energy which flowed through her, she simply stayed silent, stood up, and began to walk towards the house.

She felt confused and incredibly sad. Had she made it all up? she wondered. How could she have been so awkward? So embarrassing?

Charlie had told her in his letter sent in May that he would move on. Selfishly, she'd just assumed he wouldn't be able to get over her quite so quickly.

She made it four steps before she turned around and walked back, cheeks hot as she avoided his gaze, to pick up her book and her wand which she'd forgotten under the tree.

She glanced at him and looked away again. Under normal circumstances Charlie's gormless expression and the fact that he was stopped still, as if in the process of standing, would have made her laugh. But now, it just made her sadder.

"What did I do?" he asked.

"Nothing," she admitted. "I'm sorry, I'm uh-"

She turned away again and began to walk towards the house, hugging her book to her chest as thoughts and feelings whirled around inside her mind, clouding her head, tightening her chest, and making her body itch, heat up and sweat.

Truly, it was nothing. He'd done nothing.

She'd done it this time.

Was this how he'd felt back in January when he'd thought he'd crossed a line? she wondered.

No… maybe… but he hadn't felt as bad as this felt to her she was sure – because it wasn't like this was a new crush for her - he was the man she had liked for years, and now loved. She'd been content to remain his friend so that she could have him in her life, but she'd thought he'd felt the same way and opened herself up for this pain when normally she wouldn't have. She'd thought he'd inferred his love for her and now she found that she was wrong.

Despite her overwhelming embarrassment, a voice at the back of her mind reminded her that he was her best friend. And she shouldn't run away from her best friend. He hadn't run from her after all.

She let out a small anguished cry and turned around again, coming face to face with Charlie, who stopped walking in just enough time to not bump straight into her.

Her stomach began a different type of somersault, and she felt a fleeting and wondrous jolt at the thought that he'd been following her.

She tried hard to ignore the voice at the back of her mind which was now telling her to stop thinking she was so special, and that he was probably trying to going inside.

But then she registered his bewildered but questioning expression and knew he had followed her.

"And nothing means…?" he asked.

Poppy bit her lip.

"Come on, Bounce, tell me," Charlie said, ducking his head slightly to catch her gaze.

Poppy swallowed thickly. "It's stupid," she whispered shyly.

"Just tell me," Charlie said, his voice steady and deep.

"I don't know where to start," Poppy said. She almost melted under his gaze and half-smile.

"First thought that comes to your head," Charlie said. "Go for it."

Poppy smiled slightly at his consideration – she didn't think that many people would have understood her inability to rationalise her thoughts in this moment.

"Moody attacked me," she said quietly, unable to stop herself from sounding at least a little petulant and sulky. "I was sending you that letter when I was attacked."

"I know. I know," he said kindly, his smile faltering. "And if you don't know already, then you should know that that makes me feel bloody awful. You have no idea what went through my mind when Mum said what had happened, and then when I got back to England and Ginny sent your letter… Merlin, Bounce you must've been so scared."

"But you're acting like it wasn't important," Poppy whined, completely losing her train of thought at his admission - he'd come back to England when he found out what happened to her and not just because of her letter.

"What wasn't?" Charlie asked.

"The rest of the letter," Poppy said.

"What? Nothing else in the letter was important enough for-"

"Wasn't important?!" she said, taking a step forwards so that they were mere inches apart. She'd moved automatically and hadn't thought of how close they would be until she felt his breath on her nose. She blushed, her eyes widened, and her eyebrows pulled together as she fought the urge to lean forwards just a little bit…

Charlie swallowed thickly and cleared his throat.

Realising that she couldn't do what she so wanted to and kiss him, Poppy worried her lip between her teeth and looked down, focusing on a little loose thread on his shirt.

Charlie let out a long breath through his nose and cleared his throat again. Poppy's brow furrowed and she looked up at him once more.

"Poppy! Charlie!" Percy's voice rang out behind her, calling from the kitchen door.

Poppy stepped away quickly and turned, plastering a smile on her face. She dropped her book to the ground and pulled her cardigan around herself in a comforting move.

"Alright Perce?" she called calmly, feigning nonchalance.

"Come inside. Dinner's ready and I have some news!" Percy replied.

"Be there in a minute," Charlie said.

But Poppy was already walking towards the house. She tried to swallow her upset so that it wouldn't affect her meal, and she might be able to act naturally around Charlie and his family for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow wouldn't be so hard - her shift would begin at nine, and she could leave before Charlie even woke up from his usual lie-in.

"Poppy," Charlie said, wrapping a hand around her upper arm. He pulled her back and positioned himself in front of her. "I don't understand what I've done wrong here."

Poppy shook her head quickly. "You haven't,… you haven't done anything wrong. I'm sorry, this is me." She placed her palm against her forehead. "I'm not sure why I'm so… so upset. I'm sorry."

"Poppy, you need to tell me what was in the letter."

"No, I-"

Charlie's free hand closed around her other forearm. "Focus, Bounce. Just tell me what was in the letter."

"Okay," Poppy said, trying to relax under his touch, though it felt like she could feel his fingertips burning into her skin. It was nice. So nice. She watched his hands, comforted instantly by the way they held her so securely.

Charlie let his hands drop, misinterpreting her stare. Poppy wanted to ask him to hold her again, but she couldn't - she'd embarrassed herself enough already.

"Sorry. I'm just… You really don't understand? You don't know?" she asked, distractedly. When he shook his head, Poppy said, "So you want me to spell it out for you?"

"Please. Tell me everything."

"But it's embarrassing enough that you read it," she whined. "Do I really have to-"

"Yes," Charlie said seriously. "Because it finishes abruptly, doesn't it?" he replied. "So there was more?"

"What?" Poppy asked, confused.

"Poppy, tell me what you think was in the letter," Charlie said.

He was breathing quickly now, his eyes were crinkled as if he was trying not to smile again. Poppy frowned at this, wondering why was he so happy at her embarrassment.

"Can you um… can I be brutally honest? Just straight to the point?" she asked quietly, hoping he'd be happy for her to just cover the main points.

Charlie nodded eagerly.

"Well, at the start, I said-"

"The last bit. Please? Just the bit that's upset you," Charlie interjected.

"Charlie," Poppy whined again.

"Come on. It'll make you feel better. Promise."

"Fine. At the end of the letter," she said slowly, staring at the front of his shirt rather than his face, "I wrote that…"

She took a deep breath and tried to get the words out as clearly and quickly as possible; "I wrote that I'm in love with you, that I've always been in love with you, and that I was sad on the train at Christmas because I couldn't fathom the idea of being without you again. Then I asked you if you'd wait for me to complete Auror training and consider a long distance relationship. And… and I offered that I'd move to Romania to be with you if Auror training fell through."

Her words were met with silence. Eventually, she chanced a look at his face.

"Stop smiling," she insisted, putting her hands on her hips.

Her cheeks heated with an embarrassed flush. Charlie simply crossed his arms at this chest and bit his bottom lip to stop his smile. It didn't work.

Confused, Poppy began to ramble, "I'm sorry for being weird about it all. I guess I thought I wasn't too late… that you hadn't moved on yet. So… I'm sorry."

"Don't apologise," he said. "But how hard did you hit your head?"

Poppy snorted and smiled despite herself. "I hate you," she said.

"What're you thinking?" Charlie asked, seriously.

Poppy shook her head.

"Poppy, tell me what you're thinking," Charlie insisted.

Poppy sighed. "That I sound like a child."

Charlie chuckled and Poppy glared playfully. "How do you manage to make me feel okay even when I'm being an idiot?" she asked.

"Poppy! Charlie! In, now, please," called Mrs Weasley, muting his answer.

Poppy looked over her shoulder and nodded at the matriarch.

"One minute, Mum!" Charlie called exasperatedly. Mrs Weasley sent him such a look that he back-pedalled and said in a quieter voice, "be right there."

Mrs Weasley gave them another stern look and retreated back into the kitchen.

"Look, that was my mistake, and I'm sorry I'm upset," Poppy said, shaking her head. "I'll calm down soon and apologise properly to you later. Just… don't make it awkward, okay? I'll be out of your hair soon. Now," she said, patting down the front of her dress. She took a moment to breathe properly. "Percy wants to tell us something, so I'm going inside." She pulled her arm away from his when he tried to stop her.

"Poppy," he said, elongating each syllable. "Bounce…"

She ignored the way the two words made her shiver and want to turn and run into his arms. Instead, she walked into the kitchen.

As she entered, she ran her hands over her forehead and up to the top of her ponytail, which she nervously pulled tighter.

Poppy groaned inwardly, feeling the blood rush from her face as her stomach twisted with dread. The whole family was packed into the small kitchen. Without Hermione or Harry there it was still a bit of a squeeze to fit her around the table, but it wasn't too bad. Which made her think- what if everyone had overheard Charlie and her conversation?

"Everything okay?" Ginny asked.

Poppy nodded quickly, taking a seat on Ginny's right. A quick look around the kitchen calmed her nerves - no one seemed to be looking at her oddly.

Still, she ducked her head when Charlie walked in.

"Everything okay?" Bill asked this time, and Poppy nodded again, smiling brighter, hoping to just move the conversation away from her.

"You sure?" Ginny asked in an odd tone, "because Charlie-"

"We're fine," Poppy replied as happily as she could. Though she averted her gaze quickly.

"Charlie, what are you doing?" Mrs Weasley asked.

Poppy looked up to find that Charlie was still standing by the door. "Sorry Mum. I just need a quick word with Pop," he said, tilting his head when he made eye contact with Poppy, indicating that he wanted her to come outside with him.

"What about?" his mum asked, narrowing her eyes.

Poppy worried her bottom lip between her teeth and tried to avoid making eye contact with any of the Weasleys, most of whom were now staring between her and Charlie.

"A Welsh Green," Charlie said quickly.

The family lost interest immediately.

"Surely it can wait," Percy said impatiently.

"No," Charlie tried. "She's got the wrong end of the stick about its uh- well, something about them, and if we don't talk she'll do a little mental spiral and-"

"Charlie please stop being ridiculous. Just sit. Dragons can wait until Percy's told us his news," Mrs Weasley said, pushing her second eldest son over to one of the empty seats. "Percy!" she said happily when Charlie finally sat down.

Poppy took a sip of her water and glanced at Charlie, who was now leaning backwards in his chair, trying to catch her eye. He smiled at her, and for the life of her she couldn't stop her heart from lightening.

She nodded when he mouthed; "Talk after."

Percy's clap took her attention away. He beamed around the room and said, "I've been promoted."