A/n – For Laura because I think four thousand and four hundred words is better than eight hundred.
Charlie grumbles as he walks back to the Floo. He should have been more careful around the baby dragon. Dragons – especially babies – are very temperamental and that one is no exception. The Floo is going to irritate the burn mark on his left arm, but he doesn't feel like walking the ten miles home in the dark.
But that's not what is annoying him the most. Just because he has a burn doesn't mean he should be sent home. It could be healed and he could be doing his job. "Talking to yourself is the first sign of insanity," a voice brings him out of his thoughts.
"Or it could just be the sign of a perfectly sane person trying to keep from going insane," Charlie retorts. He turns to face the man that had spoken to him. The boy looks familiar but he can't exactly put his finger on where he's seen the boy before.
The blonde haired boy laughs at his remark. "That's quite a burn," he nods towards the red scar now lining his left forearm. "Which dragon did that?"
Charlie shrugs, "I've had worse. But this one is from one of the newer ones. I should have been paying more attention to it." It was a rookie mistake, Charlie knows. Not paying close enough attention to know that the baby wasn't in a good mood. "I was too close to it when it blew its first flames." But there's something magical in seeing a dragon blow its first flames – nothing can compare.
"What's your name anyways?" Charlie questions, realizing he's forgotten his manners.
The boy is silent for quite a while before replying, "Draco Malfoy."
"That's where I know you from," Charlie murmurs to himself. He's heard about a lot about Draco from his youngest brother. But this boy doesn't seem like the person his brother made him out to be. "Charlie Weasley," he says.
"I should've known by the red hair," Draco smirks. "I don't know how I missed it."
Charlie just smiles. His red hair is darker than most of his family's since he's outside all the time. It doesn't exactly help that it's been burnt a few times by angry dragons. "I don't know either. It's a trade-mark for Weasleys, you know," Charlie remarks. "What are you doing here?"
"Seeing dragons, obviously," Draco replies quickly.
That's the wit that Ron hates, Charlie thinks. But it's a nice change from the serious atmosphere around the dragons. One has to be serious if they don't want to be killed. "I see," Charlie shrugs. "The dragons are beautifully misunderstood creatures."
Draco just nods, "Yeah. Besides, my mother thinks it's best for me to be out of England for the time being." But there's something that Draco isn't saying, but Charlie knows it has to do with the aftermath of the war. "After everything, I thought I would visit new places."
Charlie understands. He's needed to escape from the expectations of the world. The dragons offered a way out and Charlie can't think of any other way he would rather spend his life. "The world is beautiful. It's a great experience to see it all," Charlie assures the boy. He feels a connection to Draco – they both wanted to get out of a life that holds no appeal to them. "I've been sent home for the day," he holds up his arm. "But I work tomorrow. I could show you the baby dragon that did this, if you want."
Nodding, Draco doesn't know why he accepts or why he's even still talking to a Weasley, but there's just something about Charlie Weasley that has him lured in. "I can heal that for you," Draco offers without thinking.
"Great. I've always been rubbish at healing spells. Which is ironic because you'd think I could do them perfectly given my job," Charlie chuckles at his own discovery. Holding his arm out to Draco, Charlie gives complete faith to the boy without a second thought.
As Charlie shows Draco the baby dragon that caused the burn scar, Charlie wonders why he trusts him so much already. "Doesn't it have a name?" Draco glances up at Charlie, his eyes full of questions.
"We don't name them until they are much bigger. That way, we know what it is. Hagrid's dragon was named Norbert, but he turned out to be a girl. We had to change her name – we now call her Norberta," Charlie answers. He knows Draco is the one of the reason that Hagrid had to give up Norberta, but that's in the past – it'll always be in the past.
Draco looks back down at the sleeping dragon with get interest. "Its scales will turn an orange-ish color when it's older. For that reason, everyone's hoping it's a girl. They want to name her Ginger. Don't know what we'll name it if it turns out to be a boy," Charlie informs him softly.
Draco laughs at that. "Are their names always as stupid as that?" he asks.
Charlie nods. "One of the red ones is Big Red. I feel sorry for her. But when a dragon is born, majority wins."
Charlie puts the groceries on the counter. He went to the market after getting off work to restock the flat with food. Putting the food away, he wonders what he'll be making for dinner. Going into the living to get a second opinion, he finds Draco sitting on the couch, staring but not seeing.
"Draco," Charlie says, trying to get his attention. "Are you okay?"
Draco just nods, "I'm fine." But they both know he isn't. Charlie takes the seat next to him, waiting for Draco to tell him the truth. "I just don't understand. Why, out of all the people in the world, did you choose me?" It's one of the very few times that Charlie has ever seen Draco be anything other than self-assured.
Charlie is silent for a few minutes, unable to think of the right words. He's not even sure what it is about Draco that draws him to the boy so he can't even explain it. "I just did," Charlie finally says, knowing that it isn't enough for Draco. "Because I can see that you're not as bad as you think."
"But I've done terrible things. I provided the Death Eaters a way into the school. I nearly killed Dumbledore. I've hurt so many people," Draco growls. "If that isn't terrible, I don't know what is."
"You didn't kill Dumbledore. You knew it was wrong, so you didn't," Charlie argues. "You know what I see, Draco? I see a man that was forced to do those things by his parents. I see someone who was raised in such an environment that it nearly cost him is life. But in the end, I see a man who overcame everything to realize what is right and what is wrong. And that someone became better because of the obstacles they've faced. That's what I see when I look at you – a person that became better through learning from their mistakes."
Charlie never raises his voice and never takes his blue eyes away from Draco's gray ones. "That's not what I see," Draco admits. "I can't see past what I nearly did."
"Don't look back, it just makes it hurt more," Charlie whispers, pulling Draco towards him. "Trust me, I know these things."
"What about your family? I doubt they'll be able to see past what I've done," Draco asks. It's been something on his mind for a while now. Charlie seems to be giving up everything for Draco.
Charlie shrugs. "They're not important. I've made my decision and nothing can change my mind about it," Charlie says fiercely.
"Must be a Weasley thing," Draco smirks at him.
Charlie nods, "Must be." He sobers up immediately. "You know I do have to take you home for dinner one of these days, since we are dating. You have absolutely no say in this. You're going and it's final; because if I don't bring you home, my mum would kill me."
Standing in front of the Burrow, Charlie can't help but to think about how much he misses home. He's not home often, but he thoroughly enjoys the time that he is home. Without knocking, he heads towards the kitchen. His mother is standing at the stove, cooking for the amount of guests that will be there shortly.
He got here early to make sure his mother doesn't have a heart attack over who he's bringing home. Wrapping his arms around his mum, he picks her up and spins her. "Charlie, put me down!" she says in between laughter. It's the first time he's seen her since Fred's funeral two years ago. Vaguely, he thinks it's nice to see her smile again. "Would you mind helping me, dear?" she asks, putting him to work.
As he's chopping vegetables, he knows he should break the news to her. "Mum?"
"Yes, dear," she replies, stirring the food.
"You haven't asked about whom it is that I'm bringing," Charlie notes. It's the easiest way he can think of putting it. He doesn't want his mother freaking out.
She turns, smiling. "I know you would tell me when you wanted to. And besides, it doesn't matter who you bring home; I'm just glad that you finally found a girl."
His heart skips a beat. He's forgotten that he hasn't even told his mother that he might be gay; he's only told Bill. With all the Gryffindor courage he can manage, he replies, "It's not a girl, mum."
"Since when have you been –," her voice breaks as she tries to think of another way to put it. "Into men?" she finally finishes. "Not that being into the same gender isn't alright; I just want you happy, you know?"
Charlie sighs in relief. At least his mother is trying to be accepting for his sake. "It's been a while," he whispers. "And he does make me happy, mum, real happy."
"As long as you are happy, Charlie," she says. She turns back to the pots that she's been neglecting. After a few minutes of silence, she speaks again. "You know, dear, you didn't tell me the boy's name."
Charlie doesn't want to ruin her approval, but knows that she'll accept anything because of him. "It's Draco Malfoy."
His mother freezes. "Are you talking about the same person that Ronald does?" She knows the stories of Draco Malfoy and the torment that Ron went through during Hogwarts. Charlie just can't be talking about the same person.
"One in the same," Charlie nods. "But mum, I can't exactly help who I fall in love with. Besides, he's changed since the war."
She shakes her head, clearing her thoughts. "No, you're right; you can't help that. But your brother will despise it. And you know how Ron gets when nothing goes his way." Pulling Charlie into a hug, she whispers, "I hope you know what you're getting yourself into."
"I know, mum. If Ron has a problem with who I'm seeing, he can take it out on me, not Draco," Charlie assures his mum. When Charlie hears the fireplace roaring, he knows others are starting to show up. "Well, the others are getting here. I might as well go help dad set up the tables."
Before his mum can stop him, Charlie is out the kitchen and heading towards the backyard. Outside he sees his father non-verbally setting up the tables and chairs for the family. Behind him, Charlie sees Bill tending to his very pregnant wife. "Are you sure you don't need anything, Fleur?" Bill asks once more.
"Just take care of Victoire," Fleur tells him once more. Bill smiles and pulls their one-year-old daughter to his chest.
"Charlie, it's nice to see you home." Bill slaps his free hand against Charlie's shoulder. "Heard from mum that you have a lucky person coming home with you." Bill grins, "It took you long enough to bring someone home. So who is it?"
Pulling Victoire out of Bill's grip, Charlie just chuckles. "You'll meet him later tonight. Actually have to go meet him in a few minutes." Bill just raises an eyebrow and smiles at Charlie. But Charlie has already given his attention to his niece. "Are you just a little cutie?" he coos at the blue eyed, blonde in his arms. "Yes you are!"
After a few minutes of tickling Victoire, she gets pulled from his grasp from his mother. "Let me see my first grandbaby!" And when his mother gets like this, he doesn't argue. Victoire switches arms and Charlie slaps Bill on the back.
"How's the desk job, brother? Missing the tombs yet?" Charlie asks.
"Just about every day, but the desk job is much safer for a family," Bill reasons. "And I wouldn't trade Victoire and Fleur for anything."
Charlie nods with a smile, "Good. Well, if they ask you where I went, tell them I'll be back for dinner." Before getting Bill's reply Charlie Apparates away. "Draco, are you ready? Dinner's about to start anytime now and you don't want to be the last guest there. You get the bad seats."
Draco rolls his eyes at Charlie. "Let's get this over with already." Grabbing Draco's hand, Charlie Apparates back to the Burrow. "Wow, definitely different than I expected."
Without replying, Charlie gives him a tour of the main floor before leading him out to the garden. Since the family has grown, they all no longer fit in the dining room. Already at the table are Bill and Percy and Ginny. Bill is trying to get his daughter to eat while Percy is having in depth conversation with their father and Oliver Wood about the Ministry – though everyone knows that Oliver isn't really interested and is only participating to please Percy.
Harry and Ginny stop their conversation about their upcoming wedding and stare at the newly arrived couple. "You got to be kidding me," Ginny groans. "You're dating him."
Her comment got the attention of the entire table. Percy looks between Charlie and Draco. "What a scandal. Ron will hate this," he says with a grin. Bill just grins at his brother, knowing that there's nothing he can do if Draco makes Charlie happy.
Charlie looks at his sister pointedly, "Yes, I am. Do you have any objections?" His blue eyes bore into her brown ones.
Somehow, he knows that she won't object. She's cares about his happiness too much. She sighs in defeat. "No, I don't. But have you told Ron yet." When Charlie shakes his head, Ginny smirks. "He's going to blow his top. You know how bad his temper is."
From the doorway, they hear Ron ask, "Whose temper is bad?" Percy is about to answer him, when Ron reaches the table with Hermione in tow. "What in the bloody hell is he doing here?" Ron demands. He points at Draco, while staring at his family.
Charlie looks straight at his brother; his face completely void of emotions – something that he has long since learned from Draco. "He's here because I invited him," Charlie replies. "Surely mum told you I was bringing someone home." Charlie stares holes in his brother, daring him to say a word out of place.
"She did. What she didn't tell me was that it's him that you're bringing," Ron growls.
His mother attempts to say something, but Charlie knows this is between him and Ron. "She didn't know until a few hours ago, so there's no way that she could have told you."
"Why him?" Ron demands, just like Charlie knew he would. "He's a terrible person. He nearly killed Dumbledore! He let the Death Eaters into the school! He –,"
"Shut up, Ron," Charlie breaks in, standing up to tower over his youngest brother. "And you sit, Draco," he adds quickly when he sees Draco standing up. "Ron, you will get over yourself. Who I'm with and why is absolutely none of your business. All you need to know is that I'm happy and that should be enough for you. I know who he was and I know who he is. I can assure you that he's changed and you just have to trust me."
Ron starts to speak again, "I trust you, Charlie. But I don't trust him!"
Before Charlie can say another thing to his brother, Harry cuts into their conversation. "Ron, your brother is happy and Draco has changed. You need to accept that fact."
Ron turns to his best friend, "Not you too!"
"You know, Potter, I never did get the chance to thank you for what you did," Draco addresses Harry, speaking for the first time. "If it wasn't for you, I would be in Azkaban."
"Just make Charlie happy," Harry tells him. "That's the best way you can thank me. Besides, I owed you. You saved my life and provided me a way to defeat Voldemort." It doesn't go unnoticed that Draco shivers slightly at the mention of Voldemort's name.
Draco nods towards Harry. "You did what! After everything he put us through in Hogwarts, you let his sorry ass escape Azkaban?" Ron glared at his best friend. Then he turns on Draco and growls, "You may have everyone else fooled, but I'm not."
Without saying another word, Ron takes his seat and Charlie sits back down. Ron glares at Draco once more before starting a conversation with Bill. "What have I missed now?" George calls out, walking hand in hand with Angelina. When the table is silent, George presses. "Oh, come off it. I can tell by Ron's glare that –," he breaks off as he sees Draco. "That's what's got Ron's knickers in a bunch." Angelina hits George for his comment.
"I'm guessing Malfoy's with you, Charlie," Angelina asks. "Because I doubt he'd be with anyone else." And they both know that she doesn't mean it in that way. Charlie nods and Angelina smiles warmly. "Glad to see that you're happy."
"Pay up, Percy," George puts his hand out in from of his older brother.
Percy groans, "I was hoping you would forget about that."
"Not a chance, Percy," George grins.
"Do I even want to know?" Charlie asks, watching his brothers exchange money.
Ginny looks up at Charlie, abandoning her conversation with Harry and Hermione. "They were betting on whether or not you were gay. George thought you were, Percy and I didn't think so," she replies. She fishes in her pocket, pulling out a few Galleons. Handing them over to George, she grins sheepishly, "Couldn't help myself."
Before Charlie can say anything against the bet, his mother turns to him. "So how did you two meet? It couldn't have been during Hogwarts," she adds. She's naturally curious and Charlie should have realized this was going to happen.
Throwing an apologetic look to Draco, Charlie nods. "No we didn't meet during Hogwarts. He started the year after I graduated. We met at the sanctuary. I ran into him when I got sent home for a burn the baby dragon gave me. The dragon is now grown."
His mother looks at him, "You need to be more careful around those dragons, dear."
Sheepishly, Charlie nods. "I know. Ginger shouldn't have been able to blow fire, that's why I was as close as I was."
While he is speaking to his mother, Harry pulls Draco into a conversation about Quidditch. Long after Molly decides that Charlie has given her enough information, Draco and Harry are still in a debate about which team would win the Quidditch World Cup. "Holyhead Harpies have nothing against Ireland. Your girlfriend may be a skilled chaser, but the team would get flatten by Ireland – no question."
Charlie watches Draco as Ron finally joins in on the conversation. He's just surprised that Draco is interacting with his family so well. It isn't what he was expecting. He was expecting his brother to scream and throw hexes toward Draco and quite possibly toward himself as well. But yelling was all Ron did and for that Charlie is thankful.
After dinner, they light up the field behind the Burrow to play Quidditch. Draco sits on the sidelines with Fleur and Hermione, watching Charlie play Quidditch with his family. "Is he always this competitive?" Draco asks.
"You don't know the half of it," Hermione answers. And if Draco wasn't sure about how much he's changed, he's very sure of it now. He wouldn't be sitting here, talking with a Muggleborn if he didn't change just a little.
Draco sits there waiting the game of Quidditch be played as fairly as ever, something that doesn't happen often when there's a game verses Slytherin. Bill, Charlie, George and Ginny easily overpower the others. When they touch down, Charlie drags Draco onto the make-shift field. "Come on, they won't let you leave until you've played a few games. Trust me, I know."
Draco sighs in defeat, knowing that he would do anything that Charlie asked him to do. He grabs the broom out of Charlie's hand with a grumble. To Draco's annoyance, Charlie just laughs. "Oh, and you can't be on my team. They've made a rule. Apparently, significant others distract people from playing properly. Besides, it's some great competition," Charlie winks at Draco before teaming up with Ron, Angelina and Harry.
Draco practically throws himself on the couch, sighing in exhaustion. Four rounds of Quidditch is a bad idea after not playing for so long. "Thank you for going, Draco," Charlie murmurs, pulling the boy towards him. "It means a lot that you played nicely."
"If you were anyone else, I wouldn't have," Draco grumbles, but the mood is lost as he can't force the smirk from his face.
Charlie chuckles, "Well, it's a good thing I'm not, then isn't it?" Before Draco can say anything else, Charlie presses his lips to the other boy's. He pulls away. "But I need to go before you distract me." When Draco gives him a questioning stare, Charlie elaborates, "I couldn't get the entire day off. They gave me the midnight shift instead."
Charlie takes off towards their bedroom, changing into his work clothes – black pants, black shirt, gloves and hide boots. Draco is standing at the doorway, watching him quietly. Before Charlie leaves, he pulls Draco to his chest and kisses him again, "Don't wait up."
Draco's sitting in the living room, watching the television while eating a bowl of cereal. Charlie use to laugh at the fact that Draco couldn't cook, but now, he's used to seeing Draco eating bowls of cereal. "Morning," Charlie greets Draco. He takes his seat, not bothering with food. Charlie's not one for breakfast foods.
"You're up earlier than expected," Draco notes, shoving another bite into his mouth.
"Couldn't sleep without you," Charlie replies, grinning. "I've been up since you left. Decided to try to go back to sleep but it didn't work."
Draco nods and stays silent. The only noise in the room is Draco chewing and the show that he's watching. Finally, he puts the bowl of the side table and looks up at Charlie. "Doesn't it bother you that you are choosing me over your family?"
Charlie shakes his head, "No. I don't see them enough for their opinions to really matter. I only need to worry about your opinions on the matter. Besides, as I told my mum, I can't exactly chose who I fall in love with."
"Love," Draco echoes. It's the first time that Draco hears Charlie admit that to his face. Draco knows he cares about Charlie; the words don't need to be said.
"Yes, Draco, love," Charlie agrees. "We've been together for over two years. I think that's long enough to call it love." Draco stares at him in disbelief. "I do love you, Draco. And my family isn't going to change the way I feel."
"I think I love you too," Draco whispers. Instead of saying something else incredibly stupid, Draco just presses his lips to Charlie's. It may not be perfect, but somehow it's love.
As Charlie lies in bed that night, he realizes that there's one question that Draco's asked but he hasn't. Draco looks at Charlie and smiles – it's not his trademark smirk nor is it the faked smiles. It's in that moment that Charlie realizes how much Draco has changed; how much Draco changed for him. "Why me?" Charlie asks him.
"Because you saw the good in me when nobody else would. You made me want to be a better person. You didn't judge by the past and you didn't think of the "what if"s. You saw the things that I couldn't," Draco says. "What else would I need?"
"You've been asking all this time about my family. What about yours? How will they react to us?" Charlie asks because sometimes even he needs a little reassurance.
"My mother just wants me to be happy, like any mother would. My father's in Azkaban and will probably stay there for the rest of his life. There's no need to worry about his reaction. If it wasn't for Harry, my mother and I would be there too," Draco finally whispers.
"Thank Merlin for Harry," Charlie tells him. "I'll make sure that he gets something very nice for their wedding present." Draco just rolls his eyes. "You do know that you're going to their wedding, don't you?" Before Draco can say anything, Charlie adds, "You're going as my date."
"If it was anybody else, I wouldn't. But I can make an exception for you," Draco smirks.
Charlie laughs, "Then I'm glad I'm me."
A/n – Written for the One Hour Challenge. Of course, I picked option 3: three hours for five thousand words. Sadly, mine in under word count by nearly seven hundred words.
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