Harry shifted uncomfortably on the wooden chair, grimacing as needles of pain shot through his left leg. He gingerly flexed it to wake it up. He’d been sitting for too long, but there was nothing to do but continue to sit and wait. The burning rage to shout and scream, pace and fight, had long passed, all there was left was the waiting. Harry looked over at the bed where Charlie slept. In the flickering light from the candle sconce on the wall, it was hard to tell it was Charlie.
The left side of Charlie’s face was covered with thick, yellow paste that extended down his neck, chest, and left arm. His arm had been placed on top of the white sheet to keep pressure off the burns. His hand was undamaged, it had been protected by the dragon leather gloves, Harry reached out and traced the pattern of freckles on Charlie’s pale hand.
His beautiful red hair was gone, burned away. In the hours—days, Harry had spent by his bedside he’d gotten used to the acrid stench of burnt hair that seared his nostrils. There would be no fix for it until Charlie was well-enough to be bathed.
Through the closed door Harry could hear the Night Healer chatting up the Medi-witch. The sounds of the courtship dance, the flirting and teasing, should have irritated him, but it didn’t, just because his life had frozen, he knew that outside the walls of the room that everything was going on as it always did. Except for Harry. He didn’t think he’d exhaled since the three in the morning fire-call from Romania. Harry had Apparated to the Burrow, having to wake Arthur and Molly, and then on to the Ministry to demand emergency Portkeys to Romania.
Scrubbing his fingers through his hair, Harry fought to stay awake. The healers had stopped giving Charlie the sleep potion, the burn paste should have had enough time to work that he wouldn’t be in too much pain when he finally woke. It was just a matter of waiting now. Arthur and Molly had gone back to sleep at Charlie’s hut on the reserve, Harry had insisted on staying.
Restlessly, Harry stretched his arms over his head as he went to the window. He could only see his own reflection in the glass. Closing his eyes he rested his forehead against the cold pane. There was nothing to be seen, everything he could ever want was in this room.
It wasn’t right. Charlie was not meant to be lying so still. Charlie was motion. Charlie was energy. Charlie was laughter, joy, life. Charlie never just sat. He thrummed with energy. Harry couldn’t help but remember how even in his sleep Charlie would toss and turn, his hands on Harry, there had never been a morning that they hadn’t made love. Not until the end, Harry thought bitterly.
Cursing himself for becoming maudlin, Harry went back to the chair next to the bed. Sitting down, heedless of the jolts of pain he felt from his backside, he folded his arms on the edge of Charlie’s bed and rested his head against the coolness of the mattress and closed his eyes.
He woke with a jerk of awareness of fingers stroking his hair. ‘“I’m awake!?” he said in confusion, rising up with a start that sent the chair tumbling over. The room was filled with the golden light of dawn and Harry looked into Charlie’s clear blue eyes.
“Isn’t that--” Charlie’s voice was hoarse with lack-of-use and smoke damage, he cleared his throat and tried again. “Isn’t that my line?”
“You’re awake.” Harry said numbly as he straightened up. Charlie’s hand fell to the bed and Harry instinctively covered it with his own, their fingers weaving together.
“How long?” Charlie frowned at the cragginess of his voice and Harry reached with his free hand for the glass of water on the bedside table. He held the glass up so that Charlie could sip from the straw. “How long has it been?”
“Three, four days.” Harry wasn’t sure.
“The kid, the rookie, did he get--”
“Yeah. He’s fine. Was released the day after, superficial burns.” Harry couldn’t keep the resentment out of his voice. The risk of Charlie’s job training the apprentices at the dragon reserve had been a source of constant contention between them. The ignorant rookies always underestimated the dangers of the dragons and this wasn’t the first time Charlie had put his own life on the line rescuing one of them.
Charlie pulled his hand away, whatever connection there’d been was gone. “Not to be rude, but what are you doing here, Harry?”
“You never changed your next-of-kin notice. They called me, soon as it happened.” Harry fought to find his balance. He’d been so worried about Charlie not waking up; he hadn’t considered what would happen when Charlie did wake.
“And you came?” The doubt in Charlie’s voice was there for them both to hear as Charlie turned his head away and Harry had to swallow to keep back the tears. He couldn’t blame Charlie for his uncertainty, Harry was responsible for that mistrust and even two years later, the pain of their breakup hadn’t gone away.
“I came, I couldn’t not come, Charlie.” Harry said. He reached for Charlie’s hand. “I…” he didn’t know what to say. “Go back to sleep, Charlie. You need to heal, there is all time in the world to talk after you are better.”
“You’ll be here?” Charlie whispered, his eyes already fluttering closed.
Harry squeezed his hand, “I’ll be here.”