Neville couldn’t believe the state of the garden at the Burrow. Even for late November, it was bad – the gnarled trees were even more knotty than usual, and it was completely overgrown with weeds. The flutterby bushes that had been planted for Bill and Fleur’s wedding all those years ago were long gone, and the gnome infestation was worse than Neville had ever seen it.
Neville and Bill had come home to the Burrow to celebrate Bill’s birthday with his family. It was the auspicious occasion of Bill’s fortieth, and the whole Weasley clan was going to be there. Neville still felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of people involved in a Weasley celebration, and when Bill had suggested he could escape to the garden, he had jumped at the opportunity. The November afternoon was chilly, but Neville was happy to be able to spend some time among plants, even if he had to share them with the gnomes.
A loud crack alerted him to the arrival of yet another of Bill’s siblings. The sound of a single set of footsteps coming towards him made Neville think of Charlie before he even saw the stocky redhead. Bill’s eldest brother had never married – unless you counted Charlie’s pet Hungarian Horntail, of course – and he always came to Weasley functions solo.
“Hey there, Neville… How’s my favourite Herbologist?” Charlie grinned as he strode towards Neville.
Neville flushed crimson. “Uh-- hullo, Charlie.” He was still shy around the Dracontologist; perhaps because of how seldom Charlie came home to visit. “Bill will be happy to see you.”
“I’m happy to be home. Winter in Romania, especially at our dragon preserve in the mountains, can be cold and dreary.”
Charlie was so friendly that Neville couldn’t help but warm up to him. He relaxed visibly, and they chatted for several minutes until Neville saw a flash of red at the kitchen window.
Bill just happened to look out the kitchen window in time to see his brother – his brother! – chatting up his lover. He’d known that Neville was still uncomfortable attending Weasley family functions, and suggested that spending some time in the overgrown garden might do him some good. If Bill had known that Charlie would be arriving this afternoon, instead of tomorrow morning as expected, he would have been outside with Neville and the gnomes, instead of inside listening to Ron and Harry talk about Quidditch scores.
There was a reason Charlie was still single – and it had nothing to do with dragons. Charlie was a playboy, and wasn’t likely to settle down with any one person any time soon. There had been women in his life, for certain, and some men, too – though Bill was pretty sure that Charlie was unaware that anyone else knew of his varied tastes in sexual partners – and to Bill, it was obvious that his eldest brother had set his sights on Neville. Bill growled as he pushed his way out of the back door.
“Bill! Good to see you – you’re looking fit for a bloke who’s about to turn forty…”
“What do you think you are doing?” Bill stalked towards the men, not stopping until he was close enough to drape his arm around Neville’s shoulders.
“I’m just chatting with Neville, brother.” Charlie grinned, first at Neville, and then at Bill, whose answering smile looked more like a wolf baring its teeth.
“Why don’t you go on inside, Charlie?” Bill suggested, gesturing towards the kitchen door with his chin. “Mum will be thrilled that you’re home earlier than expected.”
As Charlie walked towards the house, pack slung across his back, Neville turned to Bill and said quietly, “That wasn’t necessary, you know. He was just being friendly.”
“I know my brother – when it comes to Charlie Weasley, friendly takes on a whole new meaning.”
As if Charlie knew they were talking about him, he turned towards them just as he opened the kitchen door, and blew Neville a kiss.
“I can’t. I won’t dance with you, Charlie, tonight or any other night. This is Bill’s birthday party, and I am his date, not yours.” Neville crossed his arms in front of his chest, as if to emphasize his point.
“So, if I stay until my birthday, will you dance with me then?” Neville couldn’t tell if he was being teased or flirted with, and was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable with this conversation.
“No, he won’t.” Bill grabbed Neville by the arm, and dragged him out of the sitting room, towards the stairs.
Neville stopped at the foot of the stairs, turning towards Bill. “You know I love you, right?” He leant in to Bill, pushing him back against the wall, and kissed him, stopping only when he felt Bill relax. “It’s you I want, you I love, you I want to spend the rest of my life with. So stop being so jealous, okay?”
“You don’t know Charlie. Haven’t you ever wondered why he never married?” Though calmer now, Bill still seemed agitated by the prospect of Charlie going after Neville.
“Not really, no. You’re the only Weasley for me. You should trust me, Bill, whether you trust Charlie, or not.” Neville smoothed a tendril of hair behind Bill’s ear, and pressed a chaste kiss on his lips before continuing. “Let’s get married.”
Before Bill could respond, they were interrupted by a commotion in the sitting room. Bill and Neville went back to the party, to find that the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, had just arrived.
“Minister Shacklebolt, welcome to the Burrow. We’re so glad you could make it.” Bill presented his hand to the Minister, and instead found himself wrapped up in a hug.
“Happy Birthday, Bill.” Kingsley grinned at him as he stepped back from the embrace, his hoop earring glinting in the candle-light.
The Minister, as far as Bill was aware, was single, like his brother Charlie. He’d also heard rumours – not that he normally paid attention to rumours, as they were often false – that Kingsley’s tastes ran to men. An idea began to form in Bill’s mind as he chatted with the Minister.
“Minister Shacklebolt, have you met my brother Charlie? He’s quite a good dancer, you know.”
As Charlie linked his arm through Kingsley’s, Bill steered Neville through the thickening crowd, into the kitchen and out the garden door. The chilly night air was a relief after the heat inside the Burrow, and the quiet of the garden was a lot easier on Bill’s sensitive ears. Bill and Neville sat on the steps, listening to the sounds of the night for a few minutes, before Bill finally spoke.
“Yes, Neville, I will marry you.”