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Chapter 2 : Suddenly Everything has Changed
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The door opened to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and a handful of people got on the lift. Brad shifted to the side to make room for the additional passengers when he saw a familiar freckled face. “Charlie?” he said tentatively to ensure he wasn’t imagining an attractive doppelganger.
The man turned and looked a bit surprised to see Savage. “Brad, what are you doing here?” he asked with a tone of surprise and perhaps a touch of excitement.
“I work here. What’s your excuse?” Brad asked raising an eyebrow. “Oh, here for re-certification?” The other men in the lift seemed to have the same rugged quality that working outdoors with dragons caused. Charlie nodded with a slightly puzzled look on his face wondering if Savage was still spying on his family or if he put person and place together. “Do you have time for lunch?” Brad asked before the atrium was announced.
“We were going to-“ Charlie started but was quickly interrupted.
“Don’t worry about us, Weasley. All of us know how to have a good time in London,” one of the men said with a jocular note to his voice.
Charlie smiled and let his colleagues leave first. “How long are you in London?” Brad asked hoping he didn’t sound upset or accusatory about Charlie not trying to see him. The truth was that they hadn’t been in contact very much since that day at Hogwarts. Brad wrote to Charlie a few weeks after the world settled down and did not get a response for many weeks after that. It was a short and rather cold. The letters after that were less frequent and very distant. Brad began to wonder if Charlie was involved with someone else.
“Just for today,” he said walking slowly towards the elevators. “Though I have the weekend off,” he added without thinking.
“Do you… I mean, would you like to spend it here? Together?” Brad asked tentatively. He felt foolish for asking as it was becoming clear that Charlie was not interested in him if he had an entire weekend free and had not tried to make plans.
A smile formed on Charlie’s rugged face as he said, “I think I’d like that, Savage.” They walked together to one of the many fireplaces that lined the atrium and left for Brad’s flat. Brad couldn’t believe it had a year and a half since Charlie had last visited. The circumstances could not have been more disparate. Yet, there was the same hint of distrust between the two men. Both were comfortable and chatted happily but each kept a slight emotional barrier between them. Was it for protection? Had their love petered out due to neglect and unspoken qualms?
They sat across from one another sipping tea when Brad blurted out what had been bothering him for the past few hours. “Have I upset you?” he asked not sure if upset was the right word for how Charlie had been acting but calling the other man distant and stony was definitely not the right way to start the conversation either.
“You haven’t upset me, Brad,” Charlie started quietly. “I’m just processing quite a lot after the war, Fred’s death, and, well, just putting life back together.” His eyes locked onto Brad’s before speaking again. “Part of me is still angry that you played spy on us, thankful that you helped, and confused about my feelings with all of that swirling around.”
The words made sense to Brad but they did not feel good to hear. He tried not to respond with the anger that was edging close to the surface, rather he took a stab at understanding. “Did all of that make you feel coerced to be with me,” he asked feeling slightly sick to his stomach. “I thought you had real feelings for me.” Unfortunately his understanding thoughts had turned into defensive words.
“My feelings for you were as real as anything I felt in the last two years,” Charlie said, his voice breaking slightly. “I just needed time and space to…” he paused for a moment to find what it was he had been doing. “To make sure I really love you for you and not out of some fear-driven need for survival.”
This words punctured Brad’s heart like vampire fangs, slowly spreading poison through his body. “Why are you here then?” he asked, not defensively, but in a tender worried tone.
“I had to find out for myself,” Charlie answered still looking Brad square in the eyes. “It was pretty clear to me after about 5 minutes…” Brad’s heart raced as the man he still loved next opened his mouth. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone else.”
The weekend seemed to speed by for the two men. Before either of them were ready for it, Sunday afternoon was upon them. Almost hoping that an extending lie-in would stop the weekend from ending. Time did not stop for lovers.
Charlie was curled up next to Brad tracing the outline of a tattoo on Brad’s chest. “Have you always had a dragon tattoo?” he asked trying to decide if it was a Chinese Fireball or Common Welch Green – the drawing was a bit generalized when it came to dragon features.
A blush crept up Brad’s neck. “I got it last fall,” he said meeting Charlie’s blue eyes. “I was sloshed and missed you. Saw this in a tattoo parlor and got inked that night.” The muggle who did the tattoo didn’t have the slightest idea what Savage meant when he said his fella was a dragon tamer and thought it was the booze that caused him to ask for a Norwegian Ridgeback.
“I’ll draw you one for the next time you’re pissed and feel the need to get inked,” he said planting a kiss over the dragon tattoo.
Before leaving that evening, Charlie and Brad made plans to meet up again when the weather was warmer. For the first time they parted ways confident that they would see each other soon and due to happenstance.
“Mum!” Charlie called into the kitchen at the Burrow it was Christmas Eve and the house would shortly be full of the expanding family. Molly Weasley turned from the kitchen table where she was supervising her knifes as they chopped vegetables for dinner. “Just got in from Romania,” he said giving Mrs. Weasley a one-armed hug.
“How are you, dear?” she asked kissing his cheek. “I see you’ve forgotten how to cut your hair again,” she added critically.
Charlie ducked out of her reach and eyed her wand wearily. “I’m fine, Mum, and my hair is just how I want it.”
“Like a red mop on your head?” she asked tapping her wand. “How do you expect girls to notice you if you always hide your face?”
Blushing and not sure what to say to his expectant mother, Charlie was glad when George piped up from the stairs. “The only women for Charlie to attract have thick scaly hides and breathe fire.” George winked at Charlie before going on, “You can’t hound all of us for grandchildren, Mum.”
The topics of dating and the vast number of eligible witches around Charlie’s age were brought up at almost every visit these days. His mum didn’t want to hear that he was too busy to date or any of the other excuses he made to not take her up on the blind dates she offered to arrange. Charlie wasn’t sure what his parents would say if they knew he had a semi-regular romantic rendezvous with a man. Bill knew about Brad as did George, and Fred before he died, but it wasn’t something he much wanted to share with the rest of his large family.
Watching as his mum cleared the vegetables and started setting plates, Charlie noticed there was one setting too many. She had set the table counting Fred’s spot many times since his death. Part of his mum could hardly go a moment without recalling the painful reality of her son’s death but parts of her that went on without thinking, the part that was setting the table, did not recall that there was on less person in the family now.
Deciding to ask about the extra plate, Charlie glanced at George before asking, “Mum, are we expecting guests?”
“Oh yes dear. A friend of yours, actually,” she said brightly. “It turns out Ron and Harry know him from work and found out he was going to spend Christmas alone and invited him here instead.” Charlie had a sneaking suspicion who it was based on the way George was grinning. “You and Brad will have to share a room I’m afraid. Even with Bill and Fleur coming over just for supper it’s a touch crowded.”
George was on the verge of laughing at Charlie’s expression. It was the oddest combination of pleasure and panic that either had seen before. “I don’t think Charlie will mind at all, Mum,” George said finally letting out the short laugh he’d been holding in.
“Charlie, you should put your things away before Brad arrives. He’s coming over when Harry and Ron get off work,” she said without noticing her two sons and their odd reactions to her announcement.
Hurrying up the flight of stairs, Charlie couldn’t help but worry about how the few days would go. He wasn’t quite ready to announce to his family that he preferred blokes to women. Mainly it was because he didn’t think he could face the look of loss on his mum’s face upon hearing she would have fewer grandchildren. Charlie wondered if Brad’s invitation to the Burrow was purely coincidence or if he had been angling at spending Christmas with the Weasley clan for some time. They hadn’t talked about Christmas or the holidays the last time they met. It had been a few months back when they met in Amsterdam for a short holiday together. Their relationship had plateaued at spending the occasional holiday together or weekends when they were both free.
After what seemed like minutes later, George knocked at Charlie’s door. “Everyone is here, including your boy toy,” he said grinning.
“Don’t you go bleating my private-“
“Relax, Charlie. I know how to be tactful and discreet,” George reassured his older brother. Charlie raised an eyebrow. “I’ve read about it at least,” George laughed. “Let’s go downstairs before Mum sets the ghoul on us.”
The kitchen table was crowded. Even without Bill and Fleur, who spent Christmas Eve with her family, there was barely enough room to cut their food with the Weasleys, Harry, Hermione, and Angelina – all of whom were soon to be permanently connected to the family – and Brad. Charlie had awkwardly half shook hands and hugged Brad when he got downstairs. They were seated next to one another at the table and their legs were touching in a way that made Charlie wish they were alone rather than surrounded by his family.
“So, Savage, I mean Brad,” Mr. Weasley started after his first plate was clear of food. “Ron tells me you’ve been put in charge of crimes against muggles,” he said looking alight with curiosity. “Are there still many of those going on?”
Brad dabbed his mouth with a napkin before answering. “A fair bit, actually. It’s not as widespread or rampant as before the war but there are still witches and wizards who go out of their way to harm muggles,” he said looking down the table at Arthur.
Before her husband could ask more about the muggles Brad interacted with, she posed the next question to her guest. “With a busy job like yours, do you find time to date?” she asked hoping to point out that people can work and have a social life.
“Not much,” Brad said carefully. He could feel his face blush and tried not to glance toward Charlie.
“Mum, don’t harass Savage about his love, life,” Ron said with a slight moan. “It’s bad enough that Charlie gets an earful when he’s home. You’re going to scare him off.”
Mrs. Weasley bristled slightly at her son’s words. The other half of the table had stopped their idle conversations to watch the matriarch’s reaction. “Well, pardon me for saying so, but two good-looking young men should not have that much trouble finding a nice witch to settle down with,” she said with a tone of finality.
“Say, Brad,” Ginny called down the table to draw attention from her seething mum, “How are you on a broomstick?” Brad, who wasn’t that keen on flying unless it was to escape peril, shrugged half-heartedly. “We’re having a Christmas Day match tomorrow. If you’re rubbish you can play on Charlie’s side but if you’re decent I’ll take you on mine.”
“I’m definitely rubbish,” Brad said risking a smile at Charlie.
That evening the two men were cloistered in Charlie’s room together. They had pushed Bill’s old bed up to Charlie’s and put a silencing charm on the tiny room. Dinner had gone better than Charlie expected though he felt nervous about Brad having firsthand exposure to his family.
“They seem nice,” Brad said as he fished pajamas from his bag. “Ron was great about inviting me over for the holiday. I think it might have been Harry’s idea though,” he said pulling back the covers on his side of the bed.
“Ron just happened to invite you over?” Charlie asked without hiding the incredulity in his voice.
“Well, not out of the blue. He asked if I was seeing my family for Christmas and I told him no. The next day he asked if I wanted to come to the Burrow. I had mentioned before that I know you,” he said with a slightly guilty look. “I couldn’t pass up seeing you at Christmas and feeling like a couple rather than…”
“Rather than two blokes to get together and shag?” Charlie offered feeling light on Christmas spirit. “I love our time together but I don’t know if I was ready for my entire family to see our relationship.”
Brad’s eyebrows contracted as he listened to Charlie. “The only relationship they saw tonight was of two wizards that barely know each other,” he said with a touch of coolness. “I wanted to snog you like mad when you came downstairs but instead we did a little handshaking dance and took our seats. I want more of you, Charlie, and I don’t want to hide.”
Instead of meeting Brad’s penetrating gaze, Charlie flopped onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “I don’t know why I haven’t told my family. I just can’t, that’s all.”
The tears in Brad’s eyes were unwelcome as were his feelings of hurt and rejection. “Why are you scared about saying ‘Mum, Dad, Brad and I shag like bunnies and are madly in love’?” he asked trying to keep the conversation from spiraling out of control.
“It’s terrifying, Brad. I’m scared of what they’ll say or do. I don’t know if they’ll accept it or just say I’m going through a phase. I’m scared of losing you in the process of being so scared. Most of all, I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you*,” Charlie said close to tears.
Kissing Charlie tenderly, Brad promised him, “You aren’t going to lose me. I’m not going anywhere.” Charlie ran his hand through Brad’s dark hair and pulled him in for a sultry kiss. It was amazing how simple the world felt when he kissed Brad.
The next morning Ginny insisted they play quidditch right after breakfast and presents. “Are you sure you’re legally allowed to play with us?” Ron teased his younger sister. “Won’t the Harpies be angry if you’re diluting your talent on a bunch of amateurs like us?”
“They won’t monitor her for a Christmas scrimmage, Ron,” Hermione said looking quite displeased at being forced onto a broomstick.
The rules were simple, fly below the tree line and try to get the quaffle past the other side’s keeper. Hermione was the keeper on one end and Brad keeper on the other. They were the least comfortable on a broom. Charlie, Harry, George, and Brad were against Ginny, Ron, Angelina, and Hermione. The game was as quite competitive with Harry and Ginny teeing off. Percy and Audrey watched and cheered from the side. They wagered a galleon a piece on the winning team. The catcalls and taunts on each side as the game progressed. All in all the scrimmage seemed to be going well until – with a loud crack the quaffle that Ginny had just pelted toward Brad flew through his outstretched hands and broke his nose.
“Merlin, Ginny! It’s just a game,” Ron shouted at his sister.
Seven figures on brooms sped towards Brad as he dazedly dismounted his broom. Charlie was the first to reach him. “Mum can patch this up,” he said ducking himself under Brad’s arm to help the bleeding man towards the house.
Molly caught sight on the crowd coming in and rushed to open the door. “Oh dear,” she said worriedly. “A broken nose – that should be easy to fix.” With a flourish of her wand and the sound of cartilage being forced back into place, Brad’s nose stopped bleeding. “Let’s clean you up, dear,” she said as if she were helping one of her own sons.
Charlie sat next to Brad as his mum worked on his nose. It was hard to play down his concern and emotions as he watched Brad’s blood-covered face slowly return to its normal state. Once Molly deemed the damaged had been repaired, Charlie offered to bring Brad up to his room for a rest.
Once he was in bed and resting, Charlie sat by his bed. Brad was still a bit bleary-eyed. “Are we in your room?” he asked as Charlie’s face came into focus. “Couldn’t wait until tonight to get me back into bed?” he laughed.
“Saw through that, did you? I arranged the whole thing with Gin,” Charlie said flatly. “I’m glad Ms. Harpie didn’t take your head off. I would have been quite cross with her.”
The two of them spent most of the afternoon holed up in Charlie’s room together. Molly had been on the verge of going up to check on her son and their guest but Arthur told her, with a small smile playing on his face, that they were probably getting on just fine.
The warm ocean air blew over Charlie and Brad as they lounged on the beach in Cádiz. They were two days into their trip and could not have been happier. The sun was out and they had the rest of the weekend to enjoy one another. Their weekends together were becoming more frequent than they had been in the past.
Brad pulled out his camera and put his arm around Charlie’s slightly sunburnt shoulders. “Say dragon pox!” They were both laughing when the camera clicked the first time and kissing when it snapped a second photo.
“I might have to get that one framed,” Charlie said stretching out in the warm sand. “We should visit more beaches,” he added. “It’s much better than the snow.”
“There’s a lot less clothing,” Brad said laughing. “I like it when you’re in less clothing.”
Somehow Charlie ended up being chased by Brad into the water. They were making a scene but neither really cared. Not being able to magic off the sand afterwards, they had to trudge to their villa with wet sand in places that made the short walk uncomfortable.
That night they dined under the stars. The warm evening and suave sounds of Spanish around them made the night feel magical. It might have been the romantic feel of the night or the result of several months of contemplation that made Brad say, “I’ve been offered a job that would let work in Romania.”
The idea that he and Brad could spend more time together made Charlie’s heart race with excitement. “The auror office will start sending you to me full time? Spying on my dad again?” he teased.
“It’s not quite the auror office. They need an international law enforcement representative to work on a bit of diplomacy,” Brad explained with a smile on his face. “It’d be a desk job but I’d be close to you.”
“I thought you hated desk work,” Charlie said with his brows contracted together. “Said it felt like daily slow death.”
Brad shrugged. “It’d be worth it to see you. We could even try living together,” he said cautiously. Living together and having a fulltime, real life together was everything Brad hoped for and more.
The allure of having a life with Brad was undeniable. They could be out in the open and be really happy, he knew it. But then fear crept into his mind. Would they be happy together in the long run or would their relationship turn cold and bitter? What they had, whatever it was, worked for them and he didn’t want to risk ruining it.
The silence between them lasted too long for it to be a moment of joy. “It’s okay if you don’t want to – it’d be a big step,” Brad said quickly. “I haven’t accepted the job yet.”
Charlie spurred into speech, “I like the idea of us living together. It would be wonderful, really.”
“But?” Brad asked trying to keep derision out of his voice.
“I just need time to think about it,” Charlie said reassuringly. “Let’s talk about it next time we have a weekend together.”
They agreed to table the discussion. While Brad liked the impetuous move of thrusting their lives together, Charlie wanted to be cautious and certain it was right for both of them. The weather remained warm but there was a chill between the two lovers for the last day of their trip.
“I want to see you before Christmas,” Charlie said in Brad’s ear before they left Spain. “We hardly get time together at the Burrow.” After his memorable first Christmas with the Weasleys, Molly insisted on inviting Brad back each year. While Charlie thought they suspected his family knew that he and Brad were more than friends, everyone let him keep the façade of friendship.
“Let me know when you’re free,” Brad said rubbing the back of Charlie’s neck. “I’ll miss you.”
“I love you, Brad,” Charlie said feeling the melancholy of departure sink in.
The snow drifted from the trees to the dragon enclosure. The younger dragons were letting out bursts of fire to melt the bits of snow as it fell. Charlie leaned against the fence and watched as the white fluff feel serenely from the sky.
“Charlie,” came Ragar’s rough voice. It took Charlie by surprise to be called by his first name. “Harry Potter is here to see you.”
Trying to hide the concern on his face, Charlie followed his boss out of the enclosure. Something in his voice told him it wasn’t a good visit. Mind racing with what could possibly be wrong – Charlie sped up his pace. Ragar pointed Charlie to the dining area of the dorm where Harry could be seen pacing.
“Harry?” Charlie said hoping his voice didn’t betray his unease at Harry’s sudden appearance in Romania. “What’s going on? Is Ginny okay?”
Harry walked up the Charlie and put a consoling hand on his arm. “I have bad news, Charlie,” he said somberly. "It's about Brad.”
The tears Charlie felt were sudden and stung his cold face. “Is he hurt?” he asked not caring if Harry or his entire family found out about their relationship.
Guiding Charlie to a table seating him in a chair, he said, “He was hunting for a death eater, Travers, who escaped custody a few months back. There was a group of death eaters where Brad tracked them to. It was an ambush.”
Charlie buried his head in hands. “No, no, no,” he started to mutter. He could feel loss and grief seeping into him.
Patting his arm in a brotherly fashion, Harry went on, “He went out in a fight like a hero.” Harry paused letting Charlie’s sobs carry on. After a few minutes, Charlie’s eyes were puffy and he looked as if he too had been murdered. “We know you were close. Brad didn’t tell us about your relationship but it was obvious to, well, Hermione. He had a photo of you with him when… when it happened.”
Pulling out a tattered picture from their recent trip to Spain, Harry handed it to Charlie. Looking at their laughing faces caused another round of tears and regret. He could have said yes and they would have been together. Brad would not have been chasing down stray death eaters. He felt culpable for his death as much as those that had killed him.
Charlie returned to London for Brad’s funeral. The Ministry awarded him an Order of Merlin, First Class. His death was one of the first signs of major death eater activity since the end of the war. The entire Weasley family was there, mainly to support Charlie. After words were said and his body laid to rest, Charlie left the country to try burying his grief in his work.
Forgetting was impossible. Living with the pain, excruciating. It had been more than 10 years since Brad’s funeral and every day the grief rose like the sun in the morning sky. No one pities a man who threw love aside so carelessly. He had failed at the one achievement people can hope for in life – to be loved and reciprocate love for another person. The weekly visitors to the exotic dragon preserve only saw the surface of Charlie’s sad performance in life. If they saw deeper, if they saw what heaven above and the depths below witnessed, they too would know his disappointing misfortune.
A/N: If you’re wondering who the heck Brad Savage is – let me tell you!! He’s mentioned in HBP as one of the aurors in Hogsmeade with Tonks. When I wrote Epitaph of a Good Man, I explored/made up Savage into a full character who ended up with a crush on Charlie.
I wrote this story for three challenges but mainly for my awesome HPFF friend, Rumpel. She gave me the idea to explore Savage/Charlie more so this story is dedicated to her.
The two quotes in this story Sylvia’s path lines at the beginning and “I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the way I feel when I’m with you” from Dirty Dancing don’t belong to me.
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