Disclaimer: You know the drill: the characters, the places, etc. are not mine. I´m just having my fun with them.
Harry Potter stood at the end of the aisle, dressed smartly in black dress pants, a black silk shirt and his burgundy festive robes. He studied the happy faces of all the wedding guests, his own smile - fake as it was - firmly in place. The wedding was a huge affair and guests included not only family members, but also members of the Order of the Phoenix and even the ministry. Harry wished it could have been smaller. All the whispers were a deafening roar in his ears and he was tired.
When the music started, a sudden hush fell on the crowd and everyone turned to watch the bride walk down the aisle. She looked absolutely stunning in her floor length white dress, her hair an ocean of silky waves, a radiant smile of happiness on her full lips.
Harry sighed and turned to watch the redhead standing next to him. He was happy for Ron and Hermione. He really was. They´d been through so much together and both his best friends deserved the happiness. Harry just wished… he wished there was someone out there for him. After that incident with the troll in their first year at Hogwarts the three of them had been inseparable. They had always been together, they had braved so many adventures together and they had always had each others backs. They had been called the Golden Trio.
That had started to change when Ron and Hermione had gotten together after the Last Battle. Hermione had been badly injured and Ron had never left her side while she was in a healing coma in the infirmary. The first thing he had done, when Hermione had woken up, was asking her to marry him. Almost losing her had been the final push for him to gather all of his Gryffindor courage. After that they had been inseparable, while Hermione had healed and rested, first in the infirmary, later at the Burrow. And Harry had had to face the media all alone. Sure, he had met Ron and Hermione in private regularly and they had spent time as the Trio. But it had been different. Ron and Hermione could only talk about future plans, about jobs and marriage and a family. And Harry was the outsider, looking in on the happy couple. And even though he was happy for them, on the inside he felt like screaming and crying and screaming some more. He felt so lonely.
Of course, if he wanted to he could date all he wanted to. Even a year after the final battle he received several marriage proposals a week, but those girls didn´t know him. They only saw the Boy Who Lived, or the Saviour. He hated the fame. He wanted to be Harry, just Harry. All those titles and the fame were never what he wanted. They actually made him wish to be able to just vanish. He longed for a little bit of peace, some quiet time, so he could not only figure out, what he wanted in life, but mostly to recover from all that had happened in the last years. He felt so empty, after all the deaths he´d had to witness. And the last death, the one committed by himself, left him feeling cold to his bones, whenever he thought about it. He knew, killing Voldemort had been necessary to stop further bloodshed by that madman, but it still weighed heavy on his conscience and no one seemed to understand or even care. Everyone had just gone on with their lives after weeks of celebrations, speeches and Orders of Merlin.
Usually the Weasleys were his anchor in those times when all the fame got to be too much for him. With them he was treated like all the other Weasley children, here he could be himself. But the last four months had been spent preparing the marriage and the Burrow had been utter chaos. Everyone was bustling about and arranging things or arguing about flowers or seating plans and Harry felt like the eye of a tornado. Around him was activity. Life. Power. And he was standing in the centre, watching everyone around him, standing still, not knowing what to do and no one saw him. He felt sick, but the smile on his face was still there.
The sudden sound of applause ripped Harry from his memories. He surfaced just in time to witness the married couple´s first kiss. They were both glowing with happiness and smiled at the invited guests. Harry took a look around, too. Almost all the women had tears glistening in their eyes. Molly Weasley was weeping and blowing her nose in a handkerchief. Arthur Weasley was beaming proudly at his son. The twins were grinning and Harry had a feeling they had a surprise in store for the newlyweds. Bill and Fleur looked at each other with soft smiles, obviously remembering their own wedding. And Ginny was grinning at Harry and waving him, when she saw him looking in her direction.
Ah, Ginny. He loved her, he really did. Like Hermione, she was like a sister to him. Unfortunately, she wanted more from him. He knew she´d always dreamt of a life with him, even before they´d met. Then she´d developed a crush on him and after second year, when he´d safed her in the Chamber of Secrets, he´d become her personal hero. He´d never realised what she felt for him, until she´d kissed him in sixth year after they´d won the Quidditch Cup. After that they´d become a couple, mostly because it was expected from them, but also because Harry didn´t want to hurt Ginny and didn´t know how to get out of the relationship without doing just that. So of course Ginny still had hopes for them to have a future together.
The reception was Harry´s worst nightmare. Ginny never left his side and tried to hug and kiss him all the time. Harry felt like choking and realised that he had to talk to Ginny soon, so she´d get over this crush of hers. She just wasn´t the girl for him, girl being the operative word. She was still so innocent. And Harry just… wasn´t. So now all he wanted to do was get away from Ginny and her constant touching.
And he wanted to get away from all the press. The marriage of two of the Trio, two war heroes, was naturally a big event and there were masses of reporters. At least Rita Skeeter wasn´t there. She was in a holding cell in the ministry, awaiting her trial for being an unregistered animagus.
Still, one would think the reporters would leave Harry alone on an event like this, but they all wanted to interview him. Only a few questions were about the wedding or Ron and Hermione. Mostly the reporters wanted to know what Harry had been up to the last months, what he planned to do in the future - surely he would continue his path as a hero and become an Auror? - and when he and Ginny would seal the deal. Harry hated it. He just wanted to get the hell out of there and get some peace.
It was hours later, in the middle of the night, when Harry finally had a realistic chance at peace. The wedding was over, the guests had all left hours ago, Ron and Hermione were in the Caribbean, enjoying their honeymoon and all the Weasleys were in bed. That left Harry, who spent the night in Ron´s room, alone for the first time. He lay on his bed and stared unseeingly at the wall, which was still a bright orange and covered with posters of the Chuddley Cannons.
Harry must have fallen asleep, because suddenly he jerked awake, dripping with sweat and shivering from the memories of his latest nightmare. Even though Voldemort was dead, Harry still dreamed of him. The theme had changed, though. He didn´t see Voldemort torturing and killing people anymore. But he was still haunting him. And ridiculing him. Mostly Harry dreamed of their last fight and killing Voldemort, seeing the shock in his eyes, when he died. But sometimes, like today, the dreams were even crueller. Harry had never believed in Dumbledore´s interpretation of love being the power the Dark Lord knew not. And Harry´s dream-Voldemort didn´t, either. Quiet the opposite, he found that idea very amusing and taunted Harry for his believe in and hope for love. And it was working. Harry no longer believed in love, at least not for himself. And how could he, when on the one hand all those witches who claimed to love him didn't even know him and when, on the other hand, he himself had never loved anyone, except maybe as family.
Harry tossed and turned in his bed, but after about an hour he gave up on sleep and decided to get some fresh air. Silently he crept down the stairs and went to the kitchen. He found himself a bottle of firewhiskey and left the house quietly. For a moment he leaned against the door and looked up at the night sky, admiring the twinkling stars. Barefooted he made his way across the garden to an old tree, which reminded him of his tree at the lake at Hogwarts. He slid down the trunk and sat on the damp earth. He stretched his legs and lay his back against the rough bark, opening the bottle in his hand and taking a deep swig. He stared at the stars and got lost in thought, taking another sip of the bottle once in a while.
Some time later Harry was still sitting against the tree, the bottle of firewhiskey lying abandoned next to him. He had his legs pulled to his chest, his arms wrapped around them and his head rested on his knees. Still lost in thoughts he stared into the distance and didn´t even notice he was shivering from the cold, until a soft blanket was draped around him. He started in surprise and slowly turned his head. Next to him stood a huge shadow, muscular and with a wild mane of hair. Harry wasn´t sure who it was, but he didn´t really care either. He drew the soft blanket around his shoulders and turned his head back, to keep staring into the distance. He was grateful for the blanket, because it offered warmth and comfort, but he just didn´t have it in him to care about who had brought it.
That´s why he was thoroughly shocked, when he felt a warm body squeezing itself between him and the tree trunk, and he was even more shocked, when strong arms were wrapped around him and a warm and strong body curled itself around his small body. The hands belonging to those arms tugged at the blanket and wrapped it more securely around Harry before those arms pulled him into a warm embrace.
Harry was stunned when he realised he felt… peaceful. And warm. And safe. Now he really wanted to know who it was, that made him feel that way. But he also didn´t dare to turn around and break this dreamlike state he was in. He was torn between his curiosity and the fear to move and he felt himself stiffen. The person behind him seemed to feel it, too, because those arms hugged him even tighter, one hand moved from Harry´s shoulder and started stroking his head and smoothing his sleep-ruffled hair. Harry had never felt like this before. Like someone cared for him.
Harry only realized he had started to cry, when he was suddenly lifted up, turned around and sat on a lap. The blanket around him was rearranged and he was cocooned in warmth and strong arms and a deep, rumbling voice murmured sweet nothings in his ears, while one hand rubbed soothing circles on his back and the other one either stroked his hair or softly wiped tears from his cheeks.
Harry didn´t know how long it took until he calmed down, but the tears slowed and he got his breathing under control again. When he was sure his breakdown was over he lifted his head and his gaze was met by the most brilliant blue eyes he had ever seen.
"Better?" he heard Charlie murmur in a deep rumble.
Harry snivelled. "Yes, thank you." He dared a small smile, then turned his head again and leaned it against that broad shoulder. He really did feel better and now enjoyed actually looking at the countryside around him.
Gathering all his courage Harry asked softly "Charlie, what are you doing here?"
He felt, rather than heard Charlie´s sigh. "I woke up some time ago when I heard the stairs creaking. At first I thought it was just someone of the family needing to use the loo, but when I heard nothing else I thought I´d better go check that sound out just to be on the safe side. I don´t know what I expected, to be honest, but when I saw you grab that bottle in the kitchen I kind of got a bad feeling and decided to follow you. So I did. Well, at first I thought you were just not tired and just enjoying the quiet. Then you started shivering violently but didn´t move so I went back in and picked up the blanket. I thought I´d just give it to you and leave you to enjoy the night. But then you didn´t react, when I talked to you and offered you the blanket, so I just dropped it on you. And then you looked up at me with those sad eyes and I knew I couldn´t just leave you alone out here, so I sat down with you and…."
Harry started to smile at Charlie´s rambling. Somehow it made him feel good, because not only had Charlie cared enough to watch him, but he´d also kept him warm and let him cry on his shoulder for Merlin knows how long.
"Thank you, Charlie" he said sincerely and with emotions he couldn´t quite place.
Charlie kept his arms firmly wrapped around Harry´s smaller body and caressed his cheek softly. "Harry, what are you doing out here, freezing your ass of?" he asked.
Harry just shrugged, but then decided to let it all out. It was probably the firewhiskey´s fault, but he actually talked about how he felt harassed by the media and his fans, how he wanted to be just Harry and why he was jealous of Ron and Hermione. And Charlie just listened to him, keeping on stroking his cheek and smoothing his hand through Harry´s ruffled hair.
When Harry finally finished he just felt… light. He had unloaded all his crap on Charlie and Charlie had just listened and comforted him. Harry felt kind of bad for loading all this crap on Charlie´s shoulders but he did feel better and he relished that feeling. It had been a long time, since someone had listened to him and all his problems, if ever, and since someone had taken care of him. Sure, there was Madam Pomfrey who had healed him several times in the course of all his years at Hogwarts, but even though she had been a good healer, it had just been her job to take care of him. But that someone had taken care of his emotional state… Harry couldn´t remember when that had happened the last time. The Dursleys had never cared. McGonagall was his Head of House in Hogwarts, but he was sure she never understood what he needed. And Dumbeldore? After his sixth year he was sure Dumbeldore just saw him as a pawn in that big game of chess of black against white. Harry had hated to be a pawn, he had hated the prophecy and all the responsibility it brought with it. Sure, he had done the job that was expected of him, but it hadn´t been easy and he hated all the attention. Not just because no one seemed to care about him as a person but just saw the saviour, but also because it forced him to take up a specific role which he hated to fulfil, because honestly… he was just a scared teenager and just did what seemed to be what people wanted him to do or what just seemed to be the right thing to do. Neither reason made all those adventures easier to get through, but he felt like he didn´t have choice. Since his parents died, his aunt and uncle didn´t care and Dumbeldore saw him only as a part of a game, not a person, he never thought about what he actually wanted in his life, but only about what people wanted him to be or to do.
And now he sat in Charlie´s lap, had cried on Charlie´s shoulder and he felt so good. Of course, he also felt embarrassed, because he had lost it like that in front of the older man, but it had felt so good to let go of all the tension.
"Charlie, why are you here?" he asked.
Charlie seemed to understand, what Harry was asking, because he answered "Because I care about you, Harry. Not about you as the saviour or about you as just another son of the Weasley family or as the best friend of Ron, but I care about you as a person. I´m worried about you because of all that pressure and all the expectations. And I just want you to be happy. I want you to live your life the way you want to."
Harry smiled. He had wanted to hear those words all his life and now he sat in the lap of a spectacular man and heard that man speaking those words and he was just unbelievably happy. Of course, he still couldn´t be sure if Charlie really meant those words, but this whole situation just felt so right.
They sat like this for a while and saw the first signs of sunrise, when Charlie started to shiver. "Do you mind, if we go inside again? I´m starting to freeze my ass off sitting on the cold ground." he asked Harry.
Harry started and was sad to see this intimacy pass, but he also didn´t want Charlie to catch a cold, so he shrugged and stood up, holding out a hand to Charlie and pulling him to his feet. He looked a bit sad, so Charlie draped his right arm around his shoulder and pulled him to his side, before leading the smaller man back into the house. They climbed the stairs and when they reached Charlie´s room Harry turned to face Charlie. He really didn´t want to be alone again, but he didn´t know if he could ask Charlie to stay with him. So he had better just wish Charlie a good night, right?
Charlie seemed to read his mind though, because after a few moments of staring at each other he asked: "You know, I kind of don´t feel like being alone right now. You want to come into my room to sleep a few more hours? We´d have to share the bed, but it´s big enough for two."
Harry smiled and nodded is head in acceptance, before following the redhead into the room. There they both climbed into the big bed and just before sleep could overwhelm Harry, he felt himself being pulled back into the warmth of Charlie´s embrace. With a smile on his face Harry fell asleep.
A/N: So, my first story. It´s short, but I really don´t have the courage to start something bigger just to have no one read and like it. Though I have a vague idea as to where this oneshot could lead. Anyway, criticism is welcome, but please be gentle to a first-timer. Oh, and this is unbetaed.