This is for the lovely Laura. Who is adorable and awesome and I love her. And I know I promised her CharlieDraco so I hope she won't mind BillCharlie 'cest instead. ;)
Sometimes you wonder about your brother Charlie. He's always been just a little too reckless, and yet he's managed to never go too far. He toes the line between bravery and stupidity like a pro, and you have to admit you are a little envious at times.
But mostly, when you look at him, you see a light in his eye that tells you he's going to be trouble. He's a cannon set to explode and one of these days something is going to set him off. And what he will do is unpredictable, but whatever happens you are sure it will be glorious.
You've been a prefect for two weeks.
And already you've come across one of your brothers out past curfew. But it isn't Fred. And it isn't even George.
"Charlie, what are you doing?"
It's a stupid question, really. It's very obvious what Charlie is doing. In the hidden passageway behind the tapestry on the second floor. With a boy. A boy with his hands beneath Charlie's shirt.
You look pointedly at the wide-eyed fourth year whose name you don't care to remember, and jerk your thumb for him to disappear. He rushes past you, leaving Charlie looking guilty, back pressed against the wall. "So…"
You consider your options. And you're playing tug of war with your conscience trying to decide how to be the cool older brother and still be honest about the fact that you are upset. Upset about what? Even you don't know. It's an odd unfamiliar feeling. A feeling of betrayal. As if Charlie's…er… preferences were somehow any of your business. As if this was something he should have told you.
But it doesn't matter now because you know. And he looks utterly terrified at the thought so you push all negative feelings aside and shrug your shoulders and lean against the wall opposite him. "It's all right, you know."
Charlie looks up and finally meets your eyes, and it breaks your heart a little to see how relieved he is, how he lets go of the breath he's been holding since you pulled the tapestry aside. "You're not angry?" he asks.
You shake your head and grin. "Only a little because you didn't tell me."
"Oh, sure. Because that's a topic a person typically brings up with his brother."
You have to acknowledge the truth in that. But Charlie finally cracks a smile and suddenly you're laughing but it's okay because Charlie knows you're laughing with him and not at him. And things are still the way they are supposed to be.
You grab him in a playful headlock before dragging him out from behind the tapestry and in the direction of the common room. "Don't go sneaking around like that, though, mate. I'm still a prefect. Can't go soft on you just because you're my brother."
"I know… but…"
Again, Charlie pauses and it's so unlike him. He's always the one to be direct about things, always the one to call others out when they hesitate. You put a hand on his shoulder and turn him to face you. "I told you. It's all right, Charlie. We can talk about this now, can't we?"
Charlie rubs the back of his neck, uncomfortably. "I just don't think I want anyone to know. Not yet." He looks up at you, up to you, pleading with his eyes for you to understand. "It's just easier."
And you don't understand. You don't understand how anything Charlie is feeling could be considered easy, so you nod your head and agree. "If that's what you want."
You make it back to the common room and watch him disappear up the stairs. You decide to sit by the window for a minute and ponder. Because lying for Charlie seems strange. Unnatural.
Lying for Charlie is the light to the fuse.
You just don't know it yet.
Lying gets easier. Soon, you don't even see it as lying at all. He's just Charlie and sometimes he kisses boys but you don't catch him at it again. No one else does either, and he seems to be all right. You never really mention it again, until you are home one summer and the two of you get badges in the mail.
Yours says Head Boy and his says Prefect and your mother is overwhelmingly proud. So, you both grin and indulge her for as long as you can. But somehow Charlie bribes the twins into causing a distraction so that you can escape to the solitude of the bedroom you share.
You don't know what makes you think of it, but you remind him of that time when you were a prefect and you caught him sneaking about.
"Whatever happened with you and that bloke, eh?"
Charlie shrugs. "It didn't last long."
He's doing it again. He's not looking you in the eye. And you recognize this attitude now. He's ashamed.
"You still don't like talking about it, do you?"
Charlie shrugs some more, and it's really beginning to irritate you. You go over to sit down on the foot of his bed. He doesn't back away, but he doesn't elaborate, so you nervously probe some more, trying to be delicate but knowing you are probably failing.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Char. And you don't have to feel that way around me, you know. It's only me."
Charlie clears his throat and shakes his head. "Only you," he repeats. And when he finally does look you in the eye, you see something snap. Maybe it's a spark. The fuse beginning to light, to travel toward its final destination. Just like his mouth as it meets yours. And it's not a brotherly sort of kiss. Not a kiss that lasts but a second, a sign of affection that doesn't mean much more than that. It's a desperate clashing of teeth, and his hands gripping the front of your shirt to steady himself, and you are too shocked to pull away. And too saddened by his next words to blame him for any of this. "I'm sick, Bill, don't you see?"
You take a deep breath and put both hands on his shoulders willing him to understand. "No, you're not. You hear me?" And then you're kissing his forehead and pressing his face into your chest to keep him from protesting because you don't think you can handle it. You don't think you can be the cool older brother anymore.
Because this isn't cool. Letting him think this is okay is not cool.
And you wanting to think this is okay is not cool.
Because as you drift off to sleep in separate beds, you stay up and watch him stare at the wall until his breathing slows. And all you are imagining is that time you saw him with another boy in an empty passageway, hands wandering across bare skin. All you are imagining is what that must feel like.
But he's your brother and you shouldn't and you both know why. And you're going off to school soon, so maybe then he'll get over it.
And maybe you will too.
You don't get over it.
You think you do for a while.
You convince yourself that you have. And you are too busy to talk to Charlie much and things like this just take time, right?
But the Christmas holidays approach much faster than you remember them doing before. Once again you are sharing your bedroom and you have news that you break to him first to see how he'll take it. It's late but he's not asleep yet, so you blurt it out before you lose your nerve.
"McGonagall recommended me to Gringotts, and they said they'll hire me if I get all my N.E.W.T.S."
He sits up in bed to look over at you. "That's great, Bill. You're sure to get all your N.E.W.T.S. Too smart not to. And McGonagall doesn't throw her weight around like that for just anyone, you know."
You feel your heart beat just a little faster as you see the proud smile on his face. And you try to play it cool, try to pretend it doesn't mean a thing.
"Yeah… I suppose."
"What will you be doing?" he asks.
"Curse-breaking," you explain. "Might be travelling a bit."
His brow furrows as the word 'travelling' sinks in. "Travelling where?"
"Don't know yet. But I… I think I need to get away. It will be a good opportunity, right?"
Charlie doesn't mask the disappointed tone in his voice very well. "Right…" he says. And he lies back down in bed, turned slightly towards the wall. "Right."
Seventh year flies by and you think you barely even experience any of it, what with Head Boy duties and tests to study for and too many classes. Before you know it, you have graduated and you pass all of your N.E.W.T.S. just as Charlie predicted. And Gringotts informs you that you will most likely be assigned to a job in Egypt.
He doesn't take this news well at all.
You are cleaning out the broom shed for your Mum, letting him use magic even though you shouldn't. You see his knuckles go white around his wand as you tell him you are leaving for a while.
He's silent, contemplating what he means to say before he says it. And finally he comes up with words that cut like a knife. Or burn you like the fuse as it begins to run out.
"Why do you want to leave me, Bill?"
"I don't…" But he interrupts.
"I'm sorry for what I did before," he says. He doesn't have to actually say what it is he's sorry for. How could either of you forget? And you can tell he's been meaning to say this for a long time. For a year, in fact. "I'm sorry. I didn't… I didn't mean to upset you."
There are so many responses to this that come to mind. You wonder which is the most appropriate. Things like you didn't upset me and this has nothing to do with you burn your throat on the way up. But you don't say any of that. Instead, you pull him against your chest and your mouth descends upon his and your whispering your own apologies against his lips. It's I'm sorry I didn't do this sooner, and I won't be gone forever, and let's just pretend this is all right for now.
And later you go back to your room, and you make the most of these moments. You tangle your fingers in his hair and try to rationalize this love with excuses that in the light of day might seem stupid, but between the sheets they will do just fine. And the bed is too small because it's only meant for one but you're too far gone to care.
The fuse has burnt to the end, the cannon has gone off, and the explosion that's been years in the making shakes your ribcage on every exhale. It's as glorious as could be expected.
And the damage is done, so you might as well enjoy it. It doesn't sound so wrong when you think of it that way.
And in the morning you will say that this was inevitable.