A/N I tried not to write this story, but it wouldn't go away. Up till now, all my stories have agreed with each other, more or less. But this one doesn't. I like to think it takes place in some parallel universe far far away from "my" little Weasley world. (Which isn't mine at all really, of course. It all belongs to the wonderful JKR.) And for once, this story isn't Sober Universe; there's a hint in there of JKR's "official" post-DH pairings if you look closely enough.
There are themes in here regarding end of life issues and euthanasia that might hit too close to home for some readers. If that's the case for you, please don't read.
For Christopher, Sara and Lo, who told me to write it, even though it probably isn't what they were expecting at all.
For My Brother
After a fortnight, they transfer Charlie from the Romanian hospital to St. Mungo's in London. Not that the British hospital can do any more for him, but it makes it easier for his family to visit.
The Healers are agreed. The brain damage sustained in the dragon attack is permanent and irreversible. Charlie's heart continues to beat, his lungs continue to breathe; it is probable that he can still hear and see, but nothing else works. He is totally paralysed, and although the Healers' magical machines and Potions can feed him and keep him hydrated, deal with his body's waste products and keep him pain free and relatively comfortable, they cannot cure him nor hope to do so.
The family visit often. They tell him the latest family news and read the Quidditch reports from the Prophet. George tells jokes. The children climb on his bed and continue to call him "Uncle Charlie", and draw him pictures which their parents pin up around his bed. The women and children kiss him, the men squeeze his hand. His mother cries a lot.
They know he hears and sees them. His eyes sparkle as they always did when Victoire or little Molly put flowers on his bedside table, or when George tells a particularly bad joke. Percy is sure there is sympathy there when he holds forth about a bad day at the office. Harry knows that Charlie understands every word when he tells him the things from the Auror office that he can tell no one else, not even Ginny. Charlie can keep a secret.
But increasingly, there is a look of desperation in Charlie's eyes that his family cannot ignore. And more often than not, when Bill is there, his eyes fix on his elder brother with a kind of pleading, which Bill understands only too well, and which the others are beginning to.
But no one mentions it, at least until one cold evening at The Burrow when Hermione decides she just can't let it lie any more. She follows Bill outside after a late supper, and comes up behind him in the dark, making him jump.
"Are you going to do it?" she asks without preamble.
He doesn't pretend to misunderstand her. He is oddly grateful that at last someone is acknowledging his dilemma.
"I think so," he says, not looking at her. "It's just – difficult." He swallows. "But I don't think I really have a choice, do you?"
She doesn't answer that. After a short pause she says, "You know we won't be able to ignore it. Harry and me? Our jobs..."
She trails off, and he turns and smiles at her. "I know, Hermione," he says. "It's okay."
It isn't, of course.
Bill dreams that night. The same scene. Something he thought he had forgotten until six weeks ago, when it came back to haunt him with a vengeance.
The Order have been in Grimmauld Place for a month. He has been back in England for nearly as long, and Charlie is home for the weekend.
"Dinner's ready," his mother tells him. "Find Charlie for me, would you dear?"
He hasn't seen Charlie since breakfast time, and he is in none of the obvious places. Not helping the twins and Ron and Ginny in the never-ending battle against the grime in the drawing room, not in the tiny bedroom he and Bill are sharing, not talking to Buckbeak in his smelly little room at the top of the house.
Eventually, Bill climbs up into the attic. He doesn't really expect Charlie to be there, but he is running out of ideas.
And Charlie is there. Bill gasps. His brother is doubled over, one arm clearly broken and clasped across his chest, his legs bent and misshapen, his face scarred and his eyes obviously sightless. What on earth has happened?
The he hears a kind of groan behind him and turns to see the real Charlie. His brother's pose mimics that of the impostor opposite, but his eyes are wide and terrified, and Bill understands at once. He pulls out his wand, and turns to face the grotesque not-Charlie. It turns briefly into a semblance of a woman, impossibly tall and with long silvery hair and a haunting enticing voice, that disappears with a "pop" as Bill points his wand at it, and says, "Riddikulus!" firmly and clearly.
He stows his wand away and crosses quickly to his brother, who is shaking and gasping, nearly in tears.
"It's okay, Charlie," he says, pulling him into a hug. "You're okay. It was only a Boggart. You're okay."
Charlie recovers quickly, pulling away from Bill and scrubbing at his eyes.
"Stupid!" he mutters. "A bloody Boggart! I should have been able to deal with it, but..." He kicks out viciously at the nearest box. "You did easily enough."
"Cursebreaker," Bill points out with a grin. "It's okay, Charlie. It's dealt with. It doesn't matter."
Charlie shakes his head. "It does," he insists. "Bill..." He swallows hard and looks his brother straight in the eye. "I couldn't live like that. I couldn't. If something like that happened and I couldn't – deal with it – myself, would you...?"
Bill understands at once, but tries to laugh it off. "Don't be a git, Charlie. It's not going to happen. Of course it isn't."
Charlie glares at him. "Don't be an idiot, Bill. It could happen to any one of us and you bloody well know it. There's war on, in case you hadn't noticed. Any one of us could be killed or – crippled – any damn day. You know it." He swallows again. "I know which I'd prefer."
He walks over and puts a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Bill, please, if it came to it, and for some reason I couldn't kill myself..."
Bill shakes him off and turns away abruptly. "Don't ask me that, Charlie," he implores. "It's not fair. What about my life? What about Mum and Dad and the kids?"
Charlie sits down on the nearest trunk. He looks depressed and utterly defeated. "I know it's not fair," he admits. "But there's no one else I can ask."
Bill sighs and comes to sit beside him, putting an arm round his shoulders. "I promise I'll at least think about it," he says. "That's the best I can do, Charlie."
Bill wakes to find Fleur sitting up in bed and watching him. There are tears on her cheeks.
"You are going to do it, aren't you?" she demands fiercely. "You are going to kill 'im."
He groans and rolls over away from her. He can't face her right now. "Yes," he says into the dark.
He hears her half-sob and the rustle of her silk robe as she gets out of bed and goes into the girls' room. He does not follow her.
He visits Charlie after work that day. No one else is there, for which he is grateful. He sits on the bed and squeezes Charlie's hand.
"I'm working on it, bro," he says quietly. "Just give me a day or two, okay?"
He is sure that Charlie understands.
Two days later, George appears at the bank at closing time and tells Bill he is taking him for a drink. Bill can see that he has no choice in the matter.
In the corner of a noisy Muggle pub, George puts a pint of beer down in front of him and glowers at him.
"You can't do it," he tells him firmly. "What about Fleur and the kids? What about Mum and Dad?"
"D'you think I haven't thought of that?" Bill demands angrily. "I've thought of nothing else for a fortnight." He takes along draught of his beer, and looks up at his brother pleadingly. "You'll make sure Fleur and the children are looked after, won't you? And Mum and Dad will be alright eventually. They were after..."
George glares at him. "That was different," he insists. "None of us killed Fred. It wasn't the same."
Bill sighs. "I know. Sorry, George." He takes another mouthful of his beer, and looks straight at his brother, delivering the one line he knows George will not be able to argue with. "You'd've done the same for Fred."
He leaves the house just before dawn, leaving Fleur sleeping, and looking in on the girls before he goes, wondering when - or if – he will see them again. He Apparates to St. Mungo's and lets himself in through the night entrance. The junior Healer on duty nods at him as he goes into Charlie's room. The staff are used to the family coming and going at odd hours by now.
The blinds are open and the room is brightening by the minute as the sun rises. Charlie is lying in the bed, as still as ever, and his eyes open. Bill takes a deep breath, and pulls out his wand. If he does not do this quickly, he will not be able to do it at all.
He jumps at a touch on his arm, and his mother's quiet voice. "Bill, dear..." He looks down at her, confused and disorientated. He had been so focused on Charlie, on what he must do, that he had not seen her in the corner by the window.
His mother smiles at him sadly. "Look at him, Bill," she says, and he obeys unquestioningly, walking over to the bed and gazing down at his brother for what seems like a very long time. Charlie's eyes are open, and there is a look in them that has not been there for seven unending weeks. He looks happy. There is an odd quirk to the corner of his mouth too, that reminds Bill irresistibly of Fred.
Bill reaches out and strokes Charlie's hair. He tries to say something, but the words stick in his throat, and he finds that there is nothing to say anyway. He feels his mother's touch on his arm again and turns to face her. There are tears on her cheeks now.
"I've killed before for my children," she says. "And I'd do it again if I had to. Now go home, dear."
He bends and kisses her and leaves the room without looking back.
A/N (Another one - sorry). Bill's Boggart isn't a Veela, it's a Siren.