For Dramione Forever for Gift Giving Extravaganza. Better late than never? ;)
Also for Camp Potter- Archery with the prompt scars. So obviously that meant a Charlie fic.
Thanks to Rochelle for bouncing ideas back and forth with me and for the bit of inspiration.
Scars are just stories, Charlie says. Stories of where we've been and mistakes we've made, lessons learned that have been carved into our skin so we don't forget them, staining our flesh like ink onto a blank page. Stories of dragons we've faced and fought and failed against. It's always dragons with Charlie. Always fire breathers with raging tempers but really they're just misunderstood. Beautiful and misunderstood.
It's been years since he's been a blank page.
He is freckled shoulders and burns running along his arms and down his torso. He is calloused hands and weary eyes that see right through to the heart of the matter, which has never bothered him before, but there's always something to upset the balance of things. Or someone.
And Katie's used to upsetting the balance of things. It's what she does. Even if she doesn't mean to.
Whenever he looks back he sees her in a summer dress, smiling and happy in fiery Gryffindor red. She's tanned from long afternoons on the Quidditch pitch, and she's young and beautiful and everything he didn't know he wanted. And everyone is looking on with knowing eyes because they saw it coming. They all did- George and Angelina and everyone else, because they've known her all along. It's the first time he's thought that perhaps he was missing out on something when he moved so far away.
And of course, it's the first thing he sees, the white patch of skin above her collarbone. He can't take his eyes off it even though all the while he can hear his mother in his head scolding him for staring. And in a moment of complete idiocy he reaches out and traces it with his thumb. She exhales slowly and he can see her pulse pounding at her throat.
What is he doing?
"You broke your collarbone," he says and it isn't a question. He doesn't have a doubt in his mind. "Right through the skin."
She smiles. "How did you know?"
"I did too. Have a scar just like that. Quidditch injury?"
"Isn't it always?"
"For you maybe." He pulls the collar of his shirt down to reveal an identical though slightly faded raised patch of skin. "It was fifth year. Got caught in a whirlwind during a storm and crashed right into the stands. Thought my captain was going to pass out when she saw the blood."
"I bet you thought it was the greatest thing to ever happen to you."
"I did at the time." He doesn't elaborate but the implication isn't lost on her and she smiles again, narrowing her eyes, probably wondering if he's just playing games.
"You don't even know me."
He waves a hand as though this is of no importance. "I know enough."
"You don't remember me, though," she continues. "I was a first year when you were in seventh. I went to every Quidditch match and I'll admit I had a bit of crush on you. The kind of a crush girls don't even think twice about when they grow up, you know? I still remember your Wronski Feint. Impressive."
They are closer now, though neither of them knows how it happened and neither of them cares. And her words ring true in his ear. He doesn't even know her, but he wants to. He really wants to. He wants to know how she broke her collarbone and why her fingers twitch and if she is still prone to having crushes on boys who she won't think twice about later on. And what would she do if she did think twice, and does it all really matter?
"I wish I'd known you then," he says. "I think I would have liked you. You know… for an ickle firstie."
"It's not so big of a difference now, is it?"
"No," he agrees. "No, it's not."
And he's kissing her slowly without a thought as to who is watching and what they think about it. And later when they're lying side by side and he's pressing his lips against the sweet skin of her collarbone, he's also pressing her for the details.
"Tell me how you broke it. Tell me a story."
So she tells him of Fred and George and what great Beaters they were and how she just has an unfortunate habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. How she had to choose between a Bludger to the face or a run in with a goal post and perhaps she chose the wrong thing. One never knows in Quidditch.
One never knows.
Whenever she looks back she sees him sitting at the edge of the bed at two in the morning trying to put a fresh bandage on the burn that he can't quite reach between his shoulder blades. She smiles in amusement until he groans in pain and she takes pity on him, knowing that he will never ask her for help. He's too stubborn. And that's how he got injured in the first place, but she knows it's pointless to scold.
She sits up and wraps her arms around him from behind, careful not to press up against the wound. The burnt flesh is reddened and angry and radiating heat.
"Need some help?" she whispers, her breath tickling his ear, and her always too cold hands brush his shoulders, making him shiver.
He hands her the bandage without protestation because he knows it's easier than arguing and she sets to work.
"Thank you," he says. He goes to turn toward her but she holds him still, kissing his shoulders and all the raised edges of his skin, evidence of dragon scratches and burns he couldn't avoid. She thinks if it's true that every scar tells a story then he has poetry written into every pore, but he's never been good with words.
But she asks him anyway because she wants to know. She wants to know how it feels to be so masochistic, to let the thing you love tear you down day after day. She wants to know what it feels like to have the flesh burnt from your bones, and why it's worth it. She wants to know the story behind every single line she can reach until he's an open book and she can decipher every word.
So he tells her a story. And maybe it's not the most poetic and a little bit predictable, but it's a good story just the same. He can name every dragon who gave him hell and he can recall what he did to deserve the marks he bears. He can recall the Howlers he received from home whenever they got wind of anything serious. He tells her of baby dragons blowing their first flames and how they can see into a person's soul just by looking him in the eye.
He tells her of the glass he pulled from his hand after he threw his fist through a window the day they put Fred in the ground.
"I wish I'd known you then," he says. They lie back on the bed, and he rests his head against her chest. She threads her fingers through his hair, and he sighs. "It would have been nice to see a familiar face. I didn't know anyone at the funeral. I was away too long."
"I wish I'd known you then, too. I would have held you. Just like this."
"I miss him."
"I miss him, too."
There's a long pause, and she begins to wonder if he's fallen asleep when he speaks again.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, baby," she whispers, pulling him closer. "I love you, too."
Now, she's sitting there at the kitchen table, a half empty bottle of wine in her hand, staring out into the snowstorm raging outside that reminds her of hospital walls and searing white hot pain. It reminds her of nerve endings firing for eternity until she can't feel anymore, until she doesn't see that her hands are shaking, until she doesn't see anything but white, and he might as well not be there at all.
"Katie," he says. "Katie, love, look here."
He takes the bottle away and tries to take her hands. She jerks them away instinctively before burying her face in them. "I'm sorry," she says. "Sorry, sorry, sorry."
"It's okay." It's really not, but he says it anyway. Always does. "It's okay."
She sniffs and presses her forehead into his shoulder, inching her fingers towards his but they never quite touch on days like this. She tries, but they sting so goddamn much. "It's just that time of year, you know? I can't see. I can't see."
He holds her tighter with every breath, afraid to let go and afraid of that fact that he's afraid. Because Charlie Weasley is never afraid. He's reckless and stupid and gets himself into messes like this all the time and he faces them like a man. But tonight, perhaps he's not. Perhaps he's finally figured out what it means to be a scared little boy with something worth losing. Perhaps it's occurred to him that some wounds don't fully heal.
He traces the scars across her palms, carefully at first, until her shoulders sag and she's forgotten that she cares. He takes her hands in his own, knowing all the while that he is that only one she ever allows such a privilege, worships them with his lips and swears that it will be okay. It's always okay in the end.
He says scars are just stories and we can finish them how we want. We make our own endings and that's the thing, isn't it? She could end it right now. That's what's scaring him the most but he doesn't want to say it aloud. He doesn't want to acknowledge the possibility.
"Tell me a story," he says. "Tell me everything."
But she can't because she doesn't remember. She doesn't remember any of it though she's been told her own story a thousand times. How something Unforgivable happened in the girl's bathroom and how she rose up into the air like an angel. How she screamed bloody murder but she didn't die even though most winter nights she wishes that she had. And she's sorry, so bloody sorry, even though he doesn't blame her.
"I wish I'd known you then," she says. "Wish you'd been around. You always make it better."
"I wish I'd known you then, too. I don't mind hospitals much. Though I don't usually see much of the waiting room."
She laughs weakly and pushes him away to look at his face. "I love you. You believe me, don't you?"
"I know," he says. He pulls her closer, presses his mouth against her own, tastes the wine on her lips. "I love you, too."
"Will we be okay?" she asks, as he picks her up and carries her to bed. The alcohol is catching up with her and she's crying. She hates it when she cries, and that only makes her cry even more. "Are we okay? I didn't mean to fuck up, Charlie. I didn't mean it."
He cradles her face in his hands, wiping away the tears with calloused fingers. "I told you, love. We're okay." He places one last kiss to her lips and whispers I love you in her ear until she drifts off to sleep. And somehow, though he swears to himself that he won't, he falls asleep himself.
The next morning, Charlie expects to wake up alone. He expects the story to have ended. He expects a tragedy on his hands with a note on the pillow or maybe just an empty closet. So when he finds himself with Katie in the crook of his arm he is relieved.
She smiles in her sleep and he looks outside to see the snow has stopped and it's likely whatever is on the ground will melt before noon. Her hand is open on the covers and the white scar across her palm that keeps her up at night stands out white against her skin, but it's a new day and it doesn't matter now. And Charlie sees that perhaps the wounds that Katie holds inside haven't healed yet. Perhaps they never will.
But he is still convinced that we choose our own endings. We choose our own dragons. And Charlie's determined to hold onto his.