He gets his first tattoo when he is seventeen, fresh out of Hogwarts and with more than a little alcohol in his system. It's quite small, sitting easily to hide on his right foot – and he can't express just how glad he is for the fact that his mother doesn't have to know, that he can hide it from her indefinitely so long as he remembers to wear socks at all times – and for all that Charlie is the Dragon-fanatic in the family, Bill finds the red and gold Japanese Flamehorn more than beautiful. He has always held a liking toward the winged creatures himself, and for a drunken decision, he could have ended up with plenty of worse depictions etched forever onto his skin.
He doesn't regret it, not exactly, but he can't say that he wouldn't rather have made the decision while not under any influence what so ever.
His second is more planned, which, basically means that he thinks about getting another one while he's still sober. He ends up going into a parlor later that same day, though, so it's still not exactly something overly deliberated.
It's not the same place he went to three years ago, the hidden shop on a narrow London alley quite a far bit away from the brightness of the sun shining down on the dusty street where the Egyptian parlor his workmates had recommended lies. He's glad it's not, on some level, he likes to think he's more mature now and that particular shop and artist will forever be remembered as 'that one time when he was young and drunk and stupid'.
The air is cool when he steps inside, and coming from the dryness and heat outside, it's more than welcome. He looks around, trying to spot a living, breathing person among all the moving pictures on the walls and counter. There's a lot of colour everywhere, small details and hidden meanings making him squint his eyes as he looks them over. He likes puzzles – the search and find – and this place seems to be full of them.
That, more than anything, settles what his second installment of body art turns out as, and the labyrinth of knots and turns and secrets on his right shoulder will forever tell of who he is and what he does.
He ends up getting his third just over a year later.
Doesn't change the place this time, he's still in Egypt and he's more than happy with their previous work so he doesn't really see the point with going through the hassle of finding another shop.
He knows he won't come back a third time, though, because now it feels infected – sick, decaying and nauseating – and he'd rather not come anywhere near it ever again.
He's learned a lot of things this year, of ancient cultures and magic long forgotten, but what he'll remember most is the way blood splatter looks on dry sand and how it feels to have a knife force its way into his stomach. How the scar looks as he has the tattoo-artist etch in another – fake – at the base of his spine.
He was able to walk away – not unscathed, but by his own strength, his legs still able to move – but he knows all too well how not everyone is that lucky.
Number Four, he gets done by a muggle from America. It doesn't move, isn't alive like everything else imprinted on his skin, and it's somewhat weird looking at it because of that, as a wizard he just isn't used to things not moving. It's different in other ways as well, the newest patch of ink on his body. It hurt less getting, for one, no foreign magic invading him when it was done, but the healing process takes far longer than he's used to, which is, strange, used to quick potions and spells as he is.
He knows, that if he were to tell his family – who somehow, with the exception of the oldest of his siblings, doesn't yet know that he's tattooed at all – this one will be the one drawing the strongest reactions. His father will be excited, as he usually is when faced something muggle, and he'll probably forget the whole matter of his son getting several tattoos in face of that. His mother, on the other hand, will not take it anywhere near that well. He's not as scared of her temper as he used to be when he was younger – still intimidated, he'd be an idiot if not – so the thought that she'd be displeased with him doesn't scare him as much as it used to, but he'd still rather not have to deal with it.
So he doesn't tell them, not just yet. He knows that in a few years – a few tattoos more – he won't have the option of hiding them anymore, unless he wants to wear clothes covering every inch of his body outside of his face every time he goes home, but he's not there just yet.
It's easy to hide this one – the one who'll never move – and he does hide it even from those who know of his ink. Not everyone would get, or even begin to understand, what reason he could have for getting a lion who doesn't roar drawn onto his left hip.
Bill has always been fascinated by history, stories of ancient cultures, how people lived and thought died, always catching his interest and ensnaring his heart and mind.
He hates Binns, a little bit, for ruining so much of his expectations of Hogwarts, and never will forgive the Headmaster for letting him continue teaching, killing whatever interest eleven year-olds might have in what came before them. Mostly, though, he hates the system in place in his homeland.
There is only one school, and for a school, it acts more as a business rather than a place meant for learning and growing, politicians and aristocrats with their own personal goals far too involved in its running.
Teachers without any training in how to teach, and, even with all the gold that Hogwarts actually possesses, far too understaffed for it to work as well as it should, leaving too much responsibility on its students and far too little care in making sure that they're fine.
It takes a while for him to even realize a hint of that, he hadn't known anything else and didn't see what could be different in the beginning. It isn't until he transfers briefly to the Swedish branch of Gringotts, that he begins to really see what the system was hindering to grow.
The Scandinavians are famous for their manipulation of nature, their spells not as specific as the ones used by most of Europe and the rest of the more developed magical nations, but broader and more encompassing. There are plenty of tales of their High Wizards being able to move mountains, make forests grow during the length of a single night or unleashing snowstorms so ferocious that everything gets buried by white, with enough proof to give considerable weight to them, to convince even the most pretentious Englishman to watch their steps when they deal with the People from the North.
But it's not the power behind their spells that impresses him the most, or the many scientists unraveling the secrets of the world and the way they make their own wands at the young age of fifteen.
It's their schools.
How there is more than one in each country and most especially, how the students can choose freely which to attend and the schools receive their funding thereafter, thus making it essential for them to keep a high standard. And it's not perfect, he can see it in the way some students still seem to fall between fingers and how those really gifted has been pushed too far too soon, but it's more than Hogwarts.
Better, than Hogwarts.
And it sits uncomfortably in his mouth, those few words, because he's been taught since forever of how Hogwarts is the best there is, told to be proud and grateful to be born in Britain and not in some other country. But he doesn't regret putting them there, the words, has never preferred unknowing bliss over the weight of knowledge.
From Sweden he brings with him two ravens, one on each of his shoulder blades, and a promise to learn as much as possible when he has the chance, and, when the time comes, to teach.
He gets his nipples pierced back in England. It was a dare, and while he might not regret it – he likes them more than he first had anticipated – they're just another testament against making decisions like this when under the influence of alcohol.
When he is twenty-three, a few months after his family had come to visit him in Egypt, he tries tattooing himself for the very first time. He's not exceptionally good at drawing or painting – all right, but not much more than that – but he still wants to give it a try.
If it turns out he sucks at it, well, he can always have someone more talented than him cover it up with something else.
The process of actually making a magical tattoo is not foreign to him, he has enough ink on his body to know how it's done, but it takes a while for him to get the knack of it down. He practices on fruit, holding his wand tight in his right hand, pointing as steadily as possible to one of the lines he's drawn on the soft shell of the apple, and tries to push magic through the tip in an even flow. In the beginning, it goes fine, shaky lines perhaps, but not awful.
Then, someone knocks on his door, making him lose his concentration, and the green fruit implodes in his hand.
He's rushed to the emergency ward at Cairo's Medi-Center, not fully conscious, only aware enough to know that it hurts something fierce along his arm and hand, and that whoever it was that came knocking on his door was shouting for help.
Then he passes out.
He doesn't actually get that tattoo, that incident enough to scare him off trying a second time, and he's somewhat disappointed because of that. He's used to being good and accomplished at almost everything, and it's a slight blow to his pride.
He gets a quite big scar, though, stretching like fire along his left hand and wrist, and it looks pretty cool – badass even – if he can say so himself.
He's definitely not telling his family about this one, though.
After that, he doesn't try to get another for over five years.
There's war in Britain, and he's fighting.
He almost gets married once. A French girl, plenty younger than him and so beautiful it hurts. He feels ugly, standing next to her, scars glaring on his face, and maybe that's the reason and maybe it's not, but the wedding ends up not happening and he isn't as devastated as he thought he'd be.
His mother is happy, though, and he doesn't quite know how to handle that one.
There are many guests – family, friends and strangers – that he has to send home, and while none of them are outwardly hostile, he can't imagine he'll be greeted with open arms if he goes to France any time soon in the future.
In the end, cancelling the wedding probably saved dozens of lives, as scant an hour after the last of the stragglers left, the wards were breached.
He gets his second last tattoo as a memory of all those lost in battle, family members and strangers alike.
It's the only tattoo on his body that he never tries to hide, that he wears with pride and grief upon his skin wherever he may be.
The fiery red phoenix wraps around his neck, alive and trembling.
It's been a few years since the phoenix – since he lived a war – and things are back to normal. Or, at least normal enough that being happy doesn't seem as much as a betrayal as it used to do, normal enough that the sight of his mother laughing isn't something only seen in memories.
He never noticed it, though, that transition from before to now, from grief to reminiscing, so it catches him unaware when he finally realizes.
And maybe there could have been a more appropriate time to do so, to finally see what there has been right in front of him for several months, but it is what it is and he's set enough to roll with what's been dealt to him, even by himself.
"I love you," he blurts out through chapped lips, staring intently at his target with his eyes wide open. The silence that follows is encompassing, almost suffocating in its denseness, but he doesn't look away to see the faces of his family, has more important things to do. He hears them disappear out of the kitchen, though, Charlie ushering everyone out before closing the door with a thud, leaving the two of them alone.
Harry puts down the plate he was holding onto the table. "Bill?" he asks, a question. Uncertain.
Bill gets up from his chair. He moves slowly, his steps short and somehow cautious as he walks toward Harry, who's sitting by the other end of the table, seemingly caught unaware by his sudden exclamation. "I love you," he says again. This time with more conviction, more certainty, rather than the surprise which had coloured the words before.
He reaches out his right hand and twines his fingers in the unruly mop of hair, thumb stroking the skin on his forehead in slow, circular motions. He hadn't seen this before, Harry's eyes had never been so green and the smiles he gave Bill had never seemed so radiant. Bill can't help but lean in, lips meeting lips with barely a touch.
"I love your smile," he breathes out, fanning warm air against Harry's face. "I love your laugh," a kiss, "I love how you are with my family," a smile, "I love how you talk with your whole body," a chuckle.
He somehow ends up sitting in Harry's lap, and the angles are a little wrong, Bill is both longer and thicker, but the contact makes it more than worth it. He moves his left hand up to trace a cheekbone, and when he speaks again, his voice isn't quite as steady.
"I hate how you are so reckless," he lands a kiss on Harry's forehead, the words never stopping because it seems that now that he's finally caught on, he can't stop. "I hate how you think so little of yourself and the way you hide when you hurt. I hate it. So bloody much."
"Let me in, Harry," Bill begs, eyes open and pleading and hoping. "Let me stay."
And when his mouth meets Harry's again just lips against lips isn't enough any longer, and the fingers in Harry's hair tighten and he draws them toward his own body to make the angle better. More easily accessible.
And it isn't sweet, the way Bill's cock rubs against Harry's, the way his fingers scratch and his thighs clamp around Harry's body. Isn't languid, the way clothes disappear and chairs gets upended. Isn't careful, the way Bill's tongue tastes blood on Harry's throat.
But it's perfect, the way Bill's says I love you and Harry says I love you too.
His last tattoo, he doesn't get alone. Can't get it alone, since it stretches over two bodies and he's only got the one.
It begins on his thumb, small black lines that grow and multiply as they stretch up his hand and past his wrist to finally stop when they've climbed up half his arm. Some of them, most of them, fade out on the side, disappearing completely instead of continuing on the underside of his limb.
It's only complete when they're two, holding hands side by side.