A/N: Nothing you recognize belongs to me. The song is Painted on My Heart by The Cult, and of course, the characters/places belong to JKR. Thanks, as always, to Lori for the beta. Love you guys (so muches). Enjoy, and don't forget to review. Oh, and in case you missed it in the summary, this is slash and there are mentions of WeasleyCest here...
*Characters changed - sorry for any confusion.
I've still got your face
Painted on my heart
Scrawled upon my soul
Etched upon my memory baby
The midday sun glints off his bare, sweaty back, as Bill lifts his daughter into the air, swinging her in circles. Her giggles are loud and carefree, and Charlie tries not to let it grate on his nerves. He loves his niece, he really does. It isn't her fault she's a reminder of everything he's lost…everything he shouldn't want.
"He still loves you, you know." Harry sighs, as he eases down into the grass to Charlie's left.
Forcing a laugh, and hoping like hell it sounds natural, Charlie says, "Of course he does, he's my brother."
Harry doesn't miss a beat, "Which makes it even harder. It's like falling in love with your best friend - except, of course, a bit more taboo. They're always there. You can run, but you always end up right back in their orbit. You try to untangle the 'acceptable' from the 'not-so-acceptable' love, but it's all one big jumbled mess, and you can never quite figure out what's what."
It should surprise Charlie, that Harry knows about his relationship with Bill, but it doesn't. If anyone knows what it's like to love an unattainable Weasley, it's Harry.
"Charlie? Bill loves you, but he's doing what he thinks is right. It's that damned Weasley nobility, and there's no fighting it."
A wisp of hair slips free of Bill's hair tie. Charlie remembers a time when he'd been allowed to reach up and slip it behind the man's ear. His chest aches for those long-lost secret moments. He yearns for years past, when he was the center of Bill's world, and Bill was his everything.
But, Bill's focus has shifted, and he's left Charlie behind. Bill gets the happily ever after, and Charlie is left standing in the ruins of a love that never should have been. Charlie clings desperately to the memories of how Bill's arms felt around him, the slide of Bill's tongue against his, the sticky glide of Bill's cock, the shiver of Bill's body as they laid in a mess of cooling sweat and come.
"Charlie?" Harry's hand suddenly gripping Charlie's forearm grounds him, and Charlie pushes away all the stray, and wrong - so wrong - thoughts of his older brother.
"Yeah?" His voice is barely above a whisper, and thick with unshed tears.
"Don't waste away mourning the past while he lives. You have to move on. Bill-"
And, Charlie barks out a laugh, or what passes for one anyway. He thinks, out of all the people to give him advice, Harry is both the most and least qualified.
"And Ron? What about him, Harry? You can sit here, and tell me what I should do, but what about yourself?"
"That ended ages ago, mate." The edge of pain in Harry's voice is all too familiar.
"Maybe for him it did." Charlie is no fool. He knew when Harry and Ron were fooling around, and he knew when they ended it. Or rather, he knew when Ron ended it. Something else that hadn't evaded his notice, was the way Harry never seemed to recover. Charlie is intimately acquainted with that particular problem, and knows all the signs.
Swallowing, and inhaling deeply, Harry turns to completely face Charlie, "Well, I'm trying now. Try with me, Charlie, please?"
Charlie knows a lifeline when he sees one. He's also sure that Harry is asking for more than he's verbalizing. What he doesn't know, is if it's possible for Harry to save him. They're in the same boat, being tossed in the same storm, and Charlie wonders if they won't just hurt each other even more.
"I won't be a replacement for my little brother, Harry." He tries to pull his arm free, thinking the conversation is over. But, Harry doesn't let go.
"And, I can't fill the shoes of your older brother. But, neither of those relationships worked out for us, did they? I'm tired of hurting, Charlie. I'm tired of wanting and waiting. Ron doesn't love me, and he never will. Bill loves you, but won't let himself have you. They aren't coming back for us, mate. They have their wives, and their happy little families. I think it's time we took something for ourselves, yeah? Have dinner with me tonight. We'll talk about your dragons; we'll discuss the difficulty of Auror training. We won't mention either of your brothers, and after dinner, you can kiss me goodnight on my doorstep."
Finally, stopping to take a breath, Harry holds Charlie's eyes. The way Harry's hand trembles on Charlie's skin is the only thing that belies his outward confidence.
Not sure if he wants to agree, Charlie stalls. "You do realize that offer would be more interesting if the night didn't end outside your front door."
With a relieved sigh and a smile, Harry says, "Yeah, but the last time I just jumped in the bed with someone, it didn't end so well. I think slow and steady is the way to go. Besides, I've never been on a proper date." Harry shrugs, and finally releases his hold on Charlie's arm.
Knowing he's lost this battle, and not sure he cares, Charlie says, "Just dinner, no promises."
"No promises. Except, maybe that kiss?" It seems Harry's confidence has run out, because he's blushing and staring at his finger as he twirls a strand of grass.
Feeling a bit of weight lift from his chest, Charlie laughs. He laughs long and hard, and there's nothing fake about it. And, when he finally comes up for air, it's as if he's breathing for the first time in a very long time. He knows the pain hasn't vanished. Tomorrow will bring the same hell he lives in everyday he's at The Burrow. But, he isn't suffering alone anymore, and he feels a little hopeful. If anything, Harry deserves a kiss simply for saving him from that.