For my dearest Sam. Happy Birthday, darling! You deserve all this and more. I don't know where I'd be if you hadn't written me the fic that started our friendship so many months ago, but I know I'd be missing out! I meant to write you CharlieDraco fluff, but this is rather more… angsty than I intended. I hope you enjoy anyway, though!
Surprise! (I hope)
"Intentions and Revelations"
"Charlie Weasley, you open this door right now or so help me I will blast it down, neighbors be damned!"
Charlie closes his eyes and sighs, carefully disentangling his hand. His eyes linger for a moment until he finally gets up and goes to the door.
A fist pounds furiously for the second time just as Charlie twists the knob.
"Hello, BIll," he says calmly.
Bill's voice is scary quiet when he speaks again. "Oh, so you're not dead, then? Pity. That was going to be your only viable excuse. Then, would you mind explaining what the bloody hell––" Bill's voice suddenly turns into a yell, making Charlie jump slightly, though he wouldn't admit it "––you're doing here and not home?"
"Would you mind keeping your voice down a touch? Only, I don't think this is exactly the best way to go about waking him up."
Fury morphs into confusion.
"Explain," Bill hisses, some remnants of anger still in his voice. "And make it good. She is this close to tears. You promised!"
"I know. Do you honestly think I would skip out if I had much of a choice?"
And Bill seems to shrink as the anger seeps out of him. "No. You wouldn't."
Charlie smiles, but it's strained. "I had every intention… But, well…" He sighs. " I was finally going to bring him home to meet the family this Christmas."
Bill raises an eyebrow at his brother. "Bring who home?"
A small smile of true affection crosses Charlie's lips. "My… boyfriend." He stumbles over the word, because it doesn't quite fit. It's so much more than that, because the word brings to mind love-struck teenagers and things that can never last. Charlie knows that isn't what this is, but he has no better word for it without spending entire minutes waxing poetic – which he could.
Charlie almost finds it in himself to grin as he sees surprise flicker across Bill's face before it smoothes out.
"You're… all right then. You're happy?"
Charlie looks up, meeting Bill's eyes. "As I've ever been. More."
Bill nods. "Good. Then would you mind explaining where things went wrong? Because they obviously did, or I wouldn't be busting down your door."
Charlie's expression turns grave. "I think… It'll be easier to show you, but I need you to promise me something first."
Without hesitation, Bill agrees.
"Promise me… you'll keep an open mind. Promise me that you'll respect my judgement."
"I always do."
"Just… promise. Please."
There is a note of what is almost fear in Charlie's eyes – something Bill has never seen directed at him before – and it is this that causes Bill to nod. "I promise."
Charlie gestures with his head toward the small bedroom at the back of the two-room flat they've been sharing for over a year. Bill follows him without question.
He cannot help the flicker of surprise that crosses his face as he sees the figure on the bed. The pale features and white-blonde hair are all too familiar from the Wizengamot trial that shook Wizarding Britain when Harry Potter stood up in defense of a Death Eater who was his longstanding rival.
He shifts his gaze back to his brother. "You're certain?"
Charlie nods firmly. "Absolutely," he says with conviction.
"I trust you," is Bill's only reply.
"I appreciate that."
Bill nods and turns back to the figure on the bed. "What happened?"
Most of Draco is underneath the bedspread, but his one arm is curled across his chest and the other is splayed out, and both of them are wrapped in white bandages.
"The new intern at the Reserve has apparently reached previously untouched levels of incompetency." Bill can hear the barely in-check rage burning in Charlie's voice. "Even a two year old knows better than to go anywhere near a nesting horntail! Draco shouldn't have been even close to the danger zone, but rampaging horntails don't much care for what we define as the danger zone, apparently. It's both arms and his entire chest, covered in dragon-fire burns. They put him in a healing sleep six days ago. He should be awake by now." His voice breaks in the middle of the last sentence.
When Bill glances back at Charlie, he can see rage and pain and guilt and fear all spread across his face.
"Why was he on the Reserve at all?"
Charlie frowns as though this question should be obvious. "He works there." A fond smile crosses his lips. "He's good at it. A natural, and why shouldn't he be? It's in the name."
Bill nods. "I really shouldn't be surprised, should I?" Charlie raises an eyebrow in question, and BIll explains. "You always did have an extraordinary obsession with dragons. It's only to be expected that you'd fall for one."
Charlie smiles. "Truer words, you've never said, Bill." Then he sighs. "Tell her I'm sorry, yeah?"
"Course. But Charlie…"
Charlie sighs. "I know. It's… They gave me leave, for this. So it doesn't count as my holiday. I'll… We'll come. Soon. It's not ideal – I mean, I sort of wanted the whole family around – but, well…"
Bill nods, used to Charlie's peculiar way of talking entirely around a subject.
The hand spread across the bed twitches, and in an instant Charlie has brushed past Bill and is holding the pale palm in one of his own. With a tenderness that Bill has only ever seen his brother use around small children and baby dragons, he pushes a lock of blond hair off Draco's forehead, tucking it behind his ear.
"Listen, Dray, if you can hear me, love, please wake up." His voice is soft and low and desperate and pained, and it makes Bill want to flee the private moment. He takes a step back. He freezes, though, at a mumbling coming from the figure on the bed.
The voice is weak, hoarse. "Char."
Bill can see his brother's hand tighten. The pale face on the bed is twisted in pain, but his eyes are still closed.
"I'm here, my dragon. I'm here." Charlie's other hand comes up, touching Draco's cheek.
Finally, Bill steps out of the room, feeling intrusive. Charlie doesn't even notice, focused entirely on Draco as he is. After a few moments of contact, Draco's face smoothes out under Charlie's hand.
"Charlie," Draco says, his voice a mumble – an uncommon state for the normally composed man.
Charlie can tell that he isn't awake – his eyes are still closed and his limbs are limp like deadweight. But the fact that he's speaking means that he's dreaming, and that means that he can't still be in the healing sleep. He isn't awake, but he's closer to consciousness than he was, and that has to be good enough for now.
"I'm not going anywhere, love. I promise," he says softly. He kisses Draco on the forehead and then gently pulls away the hand at his cheek. "I'll be in the next room, and just for a few moments, all right?"
He doesn't expect a response, which at least means he isn't disappointed when he doesn't get one. He extricates his other hand very carefully and stands, treading on silent feet to the other room.
"I'm happy for you," Bill says, the minute Charlie enters the room. Charlie quirks an eyebrow in question and Bill continues, "You love him."
"Good. You deserve it."
Charlie knows his expression is puzzled, but he doesn't bother to ask. He glances back at the bedroom door, and of course Bill notices, reading all the worry and concern that the brief motion entails. He takes two quick strides forward, crossing the room.
He puts a hand on Charlie's shoulder, and for once, Charlie really feels the difference in height between them. "I'm proud of you, little brother," Bill says softly, but not lacking any sincerity.
Charlie raises an eyebrow. "For what?"
Bill cannot help but smile. "Exactly. For… being you. For not caring who people are, or where they come from." He grins. "You have a very forgiving soul, Charlie Weasley."
Charlie just shrugs. "People are who they are, Bill, not what they've done. I don't do anything but honor that."
Ruffling his hair, Bill says, "And that's the best part. You don't even realise that it's anything special."
With that, he's gone.