Disclaimer: I do own Harry Potter and all affiliates. Were you expecting me to say I don't? How silly!
Summary: Each death is different, just like each person is different, and Harry realises that he can't be expected to deal with each death the same way. Thankfully, Bill understands that better than Harry does.
Thank you Dragonb8 for beta'ing and making this into a better story. I would never have posted this for a long time to come without you.
Harry stood up abruptly and walked quickly out of the room, leaving before another word could be said. He distantly heard Hermione calling him back, but he ignored her. He wasn't going back until after he'd gotten out of the house and maybe had a good walk around the Burrow.
'She's in a better place.'
'She didn't suffer.'
'She did it because she was so devoted to you.'
Harry knew they all meant well, knew they were only trying to help, but he didn't want to hear it.
Yes, those comforting words had worked better with Sirius. Eventually, that is. And then there was the fact that no one really talked about Dumbledore, but rather offered silent camaraderie; everyone was still suffering over the loss of the great headmaster, Supreme Mugwump, and Chief Warlock. Then the war was suddenly upon them and more and more people were dying than he cared to acknowledge. But it was different this time.
Every death was different, every person meant something different to Harry, but this time those familiar words of comfort were falling on deaf ears. In fact, they were getting him angry; he really didn't want to hear any of it. And he hated that everyone kept trying to force it down his throat.
Stomping through the house, he shot through the back door, feeling a little satisfaction, and a little guilt, as it banged shut behind him. The warmth immediately hit him as he left the house and veered off towards the front. He looked down the road leading to the Burrow and just started walking down it. He didn't know where he was going; anywhere, it didn't matter. He just wasn't going to sit in there, suffocating, in that house a moment longer.
Harry belatedly found himself somewhere along the road away from the Burrow. He might have been going in the direction of Luna's house, he wasn't entirely sure. He didn't know where he was going.
And then at some point, he realised that he didn't want to be going anywhere anymore.
The weather was stiflingly hot, though the sun was already setting. Harry pulled the collar of his shirt away from his neck and unstuck the fabric from his back that was glued to his skin with sweat.
Lifting his eyes to the sky, he suddenly stopped walking, plopped himself down on the grass at the side of the road, then fell back until his head was supported by the long, yellow, prickly stalks of the summer fields. The stiff blades poked at his neck in a way that was part ticklish and part painful, but he didn't move. That is, other than his feet, flat against the ground, which he absently shuffled back and forth on the grass.
Harry didn't know how long he lay there, just thinking, just not thinking, just watching the sun as it made its final descent in the sky for the day. There were no birds in that sky, for which he was grateful.
'She may be in a better place now,' he thought angrily, depressingly, desperately, 'but that doesn't make me feel any better because she should be here with me.'
Everything was so quiet and he was so lost in his thoughts and his efforts to not think, that he almost didn't hear the other person coming until he was right upon Harry.
"That can't be comfortable," a male voice said disbelievingly, though good-naturedly, as another body came over and sat down right next to him.
Harry looked up, only partially surprised to see Bill Weasley looking over at him with an unreadable expression.
Harry grunted noncommittally and turned his eyes back to the evening sky, now devoid of the sun, but still light out. He didn't mind Bill's presence. He didn't know the eldest Weasley all that well, but Harry had always identified him as a calming presence. Always cool, calm, and collected.
As he let the silence stretch somewhat comfortably between them, Harry remembered how just a few hours earlier Ron had told him that the wedding was off. Harry didn't know why, and neither did Ron, but Fleur and Bill had called it off a month ago. But even though she was no longer going to become a Weasley, it was clear Fleur was not giving up on the war efforts, for which he was oddly grateful.
Harry wondered how Mrs Weasley must have reacted after doing all that planning for the wedding. He wondered why the couple broke up, marvelling how he wouldn't have known otherwise if Ron hadn't said anything, because from what he'd seen of Fleur and Bill, they hadn't acted any differently.
Then again, he wasn't all that attentive; he'd been ignoring most things Weasley for the better part of the last few days, save for Ron and the twins, really, since he broke it off with Ginny. He hadn't seen much of any of them since and he wasn't sure how they were going to react. But apparently his wasn't the only breakup news of the family. He rather thought calling off a wedding made a bigger impact than a couple months of dating, though.
Harry turned his head to look at Bill, who was gazing up at the sky now as well.
"I'm sorry to hear about you and Fleur," he said, not knowing really whether condolences would be accepted in the unknown situation, but figuring it was better to be safe than sorry.
Bill shrugged and spared him a glance. "Don't be."
Harry nodded and his gaze trailed down to the fang earring and the lock of hair that curled below it, resting on the other man's shoulder. Harry still thought it made Bill look cool. Even the scars on his face only added to the dark, devil-may-care look the eldest Weasley sported so well.
"It was mutual," Bill continued after a moment, and Harry knew he was still talking about Fleur. "For the most part." Bill turned to Harry and looked carefully at him for several seconds, as though measuring him up and trying to figure out how much to tell him.
Apparently Harry must have passed some sort of test for Bill continued. "All Veela relationships start out with passion and fire. Some survive the flames and settle into a comfortable, loving relationship, and others just die out." He shrugged again. "It's really not something you can predict, or expect. All relationships are different.
"You and Gin, for example," he trailed off, but Harry didn't get the impression that he was fishing for information or even mad at Harry for breaking it off with his sister. Still, Harry responded anyway.
"Yeah," he quietly agreed, "it was more about keeping her out of danger, but I can't honestly say I can see us getting back together, even if I make it out of this alive."
Instead of getting angry, as most big brothers probably would have – Harry knew never to say stuff like this to Ron, not yet at least – Bill just nodded in understanding.
"I'm sorry about –"
"Yeah," Harry cut him off, not even wanting to hear her name. Hearing her name was almost as bad as hearing the empty words of condolence. Not that the people who said them didn't mean them to be comforting, but to Harry they sounded like cheap expressions people used when they couldn't understand the situation someone else was dealing with.
And none of them could.
"I'm sick of hearing everyone try to rationalise it to make me feel better," he admitted quietly. "For some reason it's not like losing– losing another...person," he sighed, "It's just different. I don't – I don't know why really. It just is."
Bill nodded again, somehow making sense of Harry's stumbling words. "A wizard and their familiar have a strong bond that's hard to understand to those who don't have it, or those who've never lost it."
'Hedwig,' he sighed in his mind, rolling over to face Bill where he sat cross-legged in the tall grass.
"She was my first friend," he said, lifting his head to prop it up in his arms, and look out at nothing in the surrounding fields. "Hagrid got her for me; my first birthday present too." And six years was so short a time to have her. Too short.
He closed his eyes; he didn't think he could say anymore.
Silence descended between them once more, but it was far from uncomfortable. Harry hadn't felt this comfortable since before term ended. He appreciated Bill coming out here and sitting with him, and he suspected Bill enjoyed it as well.
"You know," Bill finally said, speaking for the first time in what felt like an hour. It still wasn't dark yet as it was summer, but it would be within the next hour.
Harry turned on his back again to sit up and face Bill, knees just barely brushing one another's, and Harry felt a small, uneasy fluttering in his stomach at the contact, like his breath catching in his throat, only more pleasant. He brushed it aside for now and lifted the corner of his mouth in a cursory smile, silently asking 'what'?
Bill didn't look over at him, but he seemed to have sensed Harry's acknowledgement and said, "Grief hits us in different ways. When we lost the family pet, Barney, a sweet mutt of a dog, I was nine, and all I wanted was a hug. I cried for days, but in the end all I wanted was a hug to make it better." He snorted silently in the back of his throat, and Harry couldn't help but smile in response. "When I got this," he gestured quickly to his face, and Harry knew he was referring to the scars from Greyback, "I wanted to throw things and yell. At no one in particular." He paused and then snorted again, this time louder and more self-effacing, "Well, maybe Greyback. But just let out my anger mostly."
Harry nodded. He knew how that felt. Dumbledore's office was tribute to that. That was over a year ago. He couldn't believe how much had changed since then, how much more complicated things had become.
"When Fleur and I broke it off," Bill continued, pushing his hand through his hair roughly, pulling it out of its ponytail, "I didn't know what I wanted. I guess it wasn't exactly grief, not the same kind of loss, at least. But it felt just as unfair." He paused to collect his thoughts. "I guess I wanted a specific reason why it all went to pieces."
Harry leant forward and hunched his shoulders, staring down at his crossed legs. He knew for the most part how Bill felt. He hadn't really thought about it before, but he had wanted different things for Sirius' death to make it hurt less than he'd wanted after Dumbledore's death. He'd figured it had somewhat to do with his age and understanding of his part in the war, not to mention his increasing familiarity with betrayal, death, and losing loved ones.
Bill leant up to encircle his knees with his arms, clasping his hands together casually in front of him, and finally turned to face Harry. "So what do you want?" he asked.
Harry blinked. It was still too soon. He didn't know if he wanted anything, for anyone to do anything; he just wanted Hedwig back, to sit on his shoulder and stay by his side while he did his damndest to make it through this war alive.
He looked over at Bill, opening his mouth to say he didn't know yet, but froze as he caught Bill's eye. Something in his gaze made his insides act all funny again and his palms to start sweating. He suddenly felt hyper-aware of his entire body and knew they were too close. Way to close.
He knew he should back away, or maybe get up, but he couldn't move.
And then Bill was unclasping his hands, leaning forward, placing them on either side of Harry's knees, and bringing his face much too close for comfort.
And still Harry didn't move.
He didn't move when Bill picked up one hand to hold the side of Harry's face. And he didn't move when Bill brought his lips down to meet Harry's, pressing against them in a chaste kiss.
But then he pushed back. And movement returned.
It returned with gusto.
Harry suddenly reached up and grasped the back of Bill's head, threading his hands through his hair and pulling Bill closer to him, pushing their mouths closer together. He worked his mouth furiously against Bill's like it was the first and the last kiss he was ever going to get.
It was rough, it was desperate, it was passionate, and everything Harry needed in the moment. It lasted for what felt like an eternity, out of time, and then it was over faster than he realised it had started.
Bill's lips were red, his eyes bright, and his hair mussed. Harry didn't think he looked much better, but he also had to admit that Bill looked very sexy like that.
Maybe it was the war and his impending doom, the fact that he would be leaving the Burrow to start hunting for Horcruxes as soon as his birthday came, but he didn't feel the slightest bit embarrassed or regretful for what they'd just done. In fact, to be honest, he felt...
He felt good. Or at least better than he had before.
Harry smiled, looking at Bill's slightly stunned, slightly lustful reaction. And then he started chuckling breathlessly, not stopping until he was laughing all out, slightly hysterically. He had just snogged his best friend's, not to mention ex-girlfriend's brother and he liked it.
Bill seemed to finally come to himself sooner than it took Harry to calm down again. He laughed breathlessly as well, looking at Harry with a thoughtful gaze once more.
"That," he said, having gotten his breath back, "was to give you what you needed right now." He then leant forward again and pressed another chaste kiss to Harry's lips, pulling back before Harry could reciprocate. "And that, was a promise for when you get back." He leant back and got up, dusting dirt and grass off his trousers. "If you want, that is."
And then he was up and gone, walking back down the road towards the Burrow.
Harry put a hand to his mouth, curling the back of his fingers against his lips. It was too far ahead to think about, really, when he didn't even have a plan to look for the Horcruxes, let alone what he would do with his life after the war, if he survived.
But maybe that was just the incentive he needed to make sure he came back.
Smiling a bit brighter than before, his heart feeling lighter than when he'd ran out here earlier, he began to make his way slowly back to the Burrow.
A/N: Thought I'd try my hand at this pairing. It can be quite a fun one to read, I have recently found out. Hope this one was worth the time to read as well.
And for any interested, I do have a sequel in mind for this that I have semi-started. So any thoughts, requests, or ideas would be welcomed. And if you do like this pairing, I promise that I will most definitely be writing more for it in the near future.