For the Choice Pairings Comp. Prompts used: run of the mill, the whole nine yards.
Also, the prompt was used from HedwigBlack's Weekly Challenge, "If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting the rest of our lives"- Lemony Snicket. This was used as inspiration, and manipulated a bit for one of Draco's lines.
Warning: Ron swears. A few times.
For Sam, because I think she ships this pairing as hard as I do by now.
"You can't keep running from them forever."
"I can try."
"They're my family."
"Yes, and how often do you see them?"
"I… That's not the point!"
"That's exactly the point! Why is it worth it, if they don't even play a large role in your life?"
"They're my family!"
"So you've mentioned."
"Why are you being so stubborn about this?"
"Because they hate me! For good reason, most of them!" But that's not it. Not entirely, anyway. Partly, and partly because he's afraid that their hatred will make Charlie realize that Draco is actually a horrendous excuse for a human being, but mostly because he doesn't want things to change. Sure, they live in a tiny little run-of-the-mill flat in middle-of-nowhere, Romania, but he likes things this way. He likes feeling exceptionally ordinary. Because there's no expectations, this way. There's no pressure to be someone he's not.
And that's why he doesn't want to go back to Britain, not even to visit. He doesn't want things to change. He likes things the way they are. And maybe that's cowardly of him, but he's okay with that – Draco doesn't need to be brave.
Charlie's next words are a whisper. "Please. For me."
And when Charlie does things like that – with his blue eyes wide and pleading – three words can turn Draco into putty in his hands: something Draco hates more than anything. Because he still doesn't understand how on Earth it happened, but somewhere along the line Draco fell for Charlie, and he fell hard. A chance meeting turned into an unlikely friendship, which turned into so much more until Draco doesn't know what he would do without Charlie – because Charlie loves him unquestioningly. And Charlie has forgiven him for all the things that Draco has done, without hesitation. Charlie doesn't hold his past against him, and that's why, for the first time he can remember, Draco really feels safe with Charlie.
Draco meets Charlie's blue eyes and he can't do anything besides agree. "All right. For you."
Charlie grins that utterly infectious grin of his and Draco can't help but smile in return as Charlie bounds forward like an overeager puppy and grabs Draco around the waist, picking him up and twirling him in a circle. Despite the fact that Draco is taller than Charlie, Charlie is plenty strong enough to pick Draco up; after all, Charlie's job requires quite a bit of physical exertion.
"Put me down!" Draco demands, but he's laughing as he does – because it's Charlie, and, with Charlie, Draco doesn't need to put up walls; he can laugh if he feels like it. "You're a maniac," he says flatly.
Charlie beams. "Yes, well, that makes you the man insane enough to date a maniac."
The corner of Draco's lip twitches. "Hmm. I suppose you've got me there." He smiles fondly at his boyfriend of a year and a half. "I love you, you maniac."
And that Charlie-grin spreads across his face again as Charlie places a hand on Draco's cheek and kisses him soundly. "I love you, too, my dragon." And Draco can't help but smile at the affectionate nickname: a literal translation of his name from Latin. Every time he hears it, some part of him – that tiny hopeless romantic in him – can't help but wonder if they were meant to be together. The Dragon Tamer and his dragon. It's like something out of a ridiculously cheesy romance novel (not that Draco would know anything about the contents of ridiculously cheesy romance novels, of course).
Draco figures if he has to do this – and he does, because it's Charlie – then he might as well go the whole nine yards. He foregoes the normal perhaps-overly-formal clothing, and, on Charlie's recommendation, he even surrenders robes entirely, despite the fact that it makes him feel unusually vulnerable around… not strangers, exactly, but people he isn't comfortable with. He even buys a vase of flowers. Because it doesn't matter how much he doesn't want to do this, because Charlie is right. Family is family. And once he accepted that, he knew that he had to do everything he could to make them approve of him.
He takes Charlie's arm for the Apparation – because Draco can't visualize his destination – and steels himself. "Promise me something."
"Promise me you won't let any of your brothers murder me?"
Charlie laughs. "They won't, Draco."
"I think you underestimate the power of their hatred."
Charlie smiles, still skeptical. "All right," he agrees. "I promise."
And then Draco's insides flip inside out until he's standing in front of a house that seems to be an odd amalgamation of a wide variety of building styles, all slapped together in such a way that it doesn't seem as though it should remain standing – but it does.
Charlie is bending over, clutching his stomach. "Merlin, I hate long-distance Apparation," he groans.
Absently, Draco rubs Charlie's neck. "You never did take well to local Apparation, either, Char."
Charlie just moans. "Remind me to take the Floo next time."
"Course," Draco agrees mildly. "Now, up."
Charlie shoots him a dark look, but he rights himself. "You're rude," he says sullenly.
"You'll survive." Draco smiles at him.
"If I don't, you'll be sorry."
"I'm sure I will. If you die of an overdose of rudeness, I will forever be sorry."
Charlie grins at his deadpan tone. "You ready?"
"If you're waiting for me to be ready, you'll be waiting forever," Draco says. "But I'm as ready as I'll ever be, does that count?"
"I'll take what I can get. Let's go."
He takes Draco's hand tightly in his. "I'm right here," he whispers as they move toward the front door. "I promise."
Charlie hesitates on the front step, and Draco can tell that he's not sure whether to knock or not. Eventually, he does, and it's only moments later that his mum answers the door.
"Charlie, dear! Come in, come in! It's been so long! Let me look at you." She puts a hand on each of his shoulders. "You're too thin, dear. Have you been eating?"
"Of course, Mum. I know how to feed myself."
She pats his cheek. "Of course you do, dear. Come in. Dinner will be ready in a few." She finally seems to notice Draco, standing somewhat awkwardly at Charlie's shoulder. "Oh, hello! Charlie, you didn't tell me you were bringing a friend."
"Well, Mum, you did tell me it was about time I brought someone 'round."
Her eyebrows furrow. "Dear, that's not quite what I meant."
"I know, Mum," Charlie murmurs softly, meeting her eyes.
Realization seems to flicker across her eyes. "Oh. All right."
Charlie smiles, apparently deciding that, despite the fact that they vaguely know each other, proper introductions are in order. "Mum, this is Draco. We've been together over a year and half now. Draco, this is my mum."
Draco smiles at her, giving her the vase of flowers and offering a hand.
"A year and a half! Charlie! Why am I only finding this out now?" She turns to Draco. "It's so good to meet you properly, Draco, dear." She places the flowers on a side table, ignores the offered hand, and smothers Draco in a hug, which Draco awkwardly returns.
"It's good to properly meet you, too, Mrs. Weasley."
"Oh, please, dear, call me Molly!" she says as she bustles back into the kitchen. "Everyone else is in the living room, dears!"
Squeezing Charlie's hand, which Draco only just realized that he never let go of, Draco hesitantly steps forward.
Draco hates himself for hiding behind Charlie as they enter the living room, but he does anyway, trying desperately to delay the inevitable.
"Hey, Charlie!" Bill says, the first to notice the new entrants. "Decided to join us for once?"
Charlie grins at the good-natured teasing. "Hmm, yeah. I managed to find a bit of time in my busy schedule."
"Oh, yeah. Wouldn't want to take too much of you precious time, would we? Don't worry; we'll eat fast," George chimes in.
It is, of course, Ron – because thinking of him as Weasley now would just get confusing – that notices him first. "What the bloody hell is he doing here?"
Without even thinking, Charlie wraps a protective arm around Draco. "He's here because I invited him," he answers promptly.
Ron's face is already red with fury. "And why the bloody hell would you do that?"
"Because he's my boyfriend." And Draco is astonished at the sheer calmness with which Charlie delivers the words. Frankly, Draco's still half convinced they're going to murder him.
"Why? Are you insane? He's a Death Eater, Charlie!"
Charlie's eyes narrow, but he refuses to give in to his anger. "Was, Ron. Was. And, unlike you, I can get over the past."
"People don't change!"
And this time, when Charlie's eyes flash, Draco knows that Ron has gone a step too far. "You want to hold the past against people, Ron? Really? Seems a bit hypocritical, given you're the one that left!"
Ron flinches back as though physically struck. Potter – who has been sitting in the corner by his ginger wife, Ginny – gapes in shock, as does Granger, who's seated next to Ron. Draco isn't sure as to what Charlie is referring to, but clearly it's something in Ron's past that he isn't proud of.
"That's not fair! I came back!" he finally replies.
"But people don't change, Ron," Charlie says coldly. Ron looks as though he wants to retort, but Granger puts a hand on his arm, shaking her head. He takes a deep breath and puts his head in his hands instead.
Charlie's arm is still tight around Draco. "Does anyone else have a problem with Draco's being here?"
Draco scans the faces. Most of them, surprisingly – Potter, his wife, Granger, Bill, his wife, even Percy – seem pretty much neutral. George looks like he wants to protest, but after seeing how cold Charlie was with Ron, doesn't think it's worth it.
"Good," Charlie murmurs softly, deflating post-confrontation. He takes a seat on a long couch next to Bill. Draco perches on the arm next to him, unable to completely relax.
"Don't expect me to be happy about this," Ron mutters. Granger puts a hand on his arm, but Charlie shakes his head.
"No, go ahead, Ron. Say your piece."
It's a Gryffindor move of Charlie, not something a Slytherin would ever attempt. But then, Ron's a Gryffindor, too, so maybe it will work out.
"I just don't understand why. He's a total git."
"Why?" Charlie echoes simply. "Because I love him." He grins. "Despite his occasional tendencies toward gittishness."
Draco bumps him lightly, and Charlie's grin grows. Ron is glowering at them. "That's highly disturbing."
Draco arches an eyebrow at him. "Well, Weasley, that appears to be your problem, so I'm not sure how we're supposed to help you with that."
Ron's response is simply to glare sullenly.
Needless to say, dinner is a somewhat awkward affair, with a lot of glaring and stony silence from Ron's end of the table. By halfway through, though, Draco is at least convinced that the rest of them aren't going to kill him, and so he finally begins to relax a bit. George still seems a bit uneasy, but, unlike Ron, he seems to be perfectly capable of ignoring that uneasiness and acting cordial. Potter is, surprisingly enough, the most accepting besides Molly.
And after dinner, Draco even allows himself to be coaxed into playing in a pick-up match of Quidditch – and he even forgoes his typical position as Seeker because, in all honesty, Charlie is the only one on their makeshift pitch who has even a snowball's chance of beating Potter.
Much to Charlie's obvious relief, they take the Floo home.
A few days later, without preface as they're relaxing in the kitchen in their flat, Draco says, "Why do you love me, Charlie?"
Charlie whirls around to face him, having abruptly dropped the teakettle he was holding onto the counter with a clatter. His eyes are blazing with anger. "Is this about what Ron said?"
And Draco realizes, after a moment, that Charlie isn't mad at him. He's mad at his brother. Draco shrugs a careless shoulder – a motion he never would have done, just a few years ago: too undignified, too improper. But it's just Charlie, and Draco's ceased worrying about what's proper around him.
"Partly. But I'm also curious. If you honestly think about it, it doesn't make much sense. I'm an Ex-Death Eater-"
Draco doesn't even finish his sentence, before Charlie strides across the kitchen in two quick steps, firmly but gently taking ahold of Draco's cheek.
"Listen to me," he says fiercely, his voice low. "I don't give a damn who you were. All I care about is who you are. You are strong and good and clever. You don't try to protect me from things, but you'll let me protect you from the world." He grins. "And you give as good as you get." He wraps his arms around his boyfriend and murmurs in his ear, "I love you because you're you. It's so much more than any one thing."
Draco is so distracted by Charlie's very thorough kiss that when Charlie speaks again, it takes Draco a moment to remember the conversation thread. He's also very distracted by the fact that he appears to have very thoroughly tangled his hands in Charlie's red hair. Somewhat sheepishly, he disentangles his fingers and wraps his arms around Charlie's shoulders instead as Charlie speaks. "You know, I always figured I was the lucky one. I never understood why you were willing to put up with me."
Draco rests his forehead on Charlie's, catching his breath. "You're a fool for wondering," he says. "You are the best, bravest, most essentially good person I've ever met."
"Hmmmm," Charlie hums. "I'm ordinary. You just see me as better than I am," Charlie disagrees. Draco pulls back in surprise, but he stays within the confines of Charlie's arms.
"You mean you really don't know?" Charlie's expression is blank with confusion. Draco shakes his head. "Merlin, Char. You're good and noble and all of that sappy Gryffindor crap." He sighs. "Honestly, do you know how many people would've done what you did – chosen to fight in a war, simply because you believed in it? Not many." He can see that Charlie wants to protest, so he elaborates. "Oh, a lot of people fought. And a lot of people believed. But not many fought because they believed. They fought because they had to, and they believed to justify that." Draco grimaces.
"But you, Char, you had a choice. You could have so easily just walked away – no, not even that. You didn't even have to walk away. All you had to do was just not do anything. And that would've been so much easier. But you didn't. Do you think that's ordinary? Because I know it's not."
"You see the best in me," Charlie insists.
"Maybe I do," Draco concedes. "But that's because there's so much good to see."
"People think you're cynical, my dragon, but you see all of the good and none of the bad."
Draco shakes his head. "Only with you. You bring out the best in me. You always have." He looks down at the floor. "You make me someone I can be proud of." He wants to be ashamed of the sappy, Gryffindorish proclamation, but he can't, because it's all true.
Charlie hums happily. "I don't know if you even understand how much I love you," he says.
"I think I might," Draco replies simply, kissing Charlie softly. "If it's anywhere near as much as I love you."
The teakettle stays on the counter, forgotten.