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The Night Before

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It was late, and dark, but the sky over the Burrow was wide and clear and full of stars. Charlie sprawled on his broom and flew lazy figures of eight over the sleeping house.

Not long now, he thought and shivered though the air was warm.

"Pretty, isn't it?" asked Harry quietly, then snaked out a hand to keep Charlie balanced. Moonlight caught his glasses and gleamed across his smile. "Startled you, huh?"

Charlie tried to smile back. "Just a little."

"What were thinking about?"

"...Dragons." Charlie watched Harry move through the air around him, smooth and free. "Couldn't sleep either?"

"Big day tomorrow."

There wasn't much one could say to that, so Charlie didn't try. They circled together. The lights were off in the house but, in the far distance, they could just make others out, a row of torches burning.

"You should go in," said Charlie eventually.

"I don't really sleep any more," said Harry. "Dreams. You know."

Ginny still screams in her sleep sometimes, Charlie thought, but didn't say. They flew. Harry's touch was light, almost as if he didn't need the broom at all. Charlie's was too tight, knuckles whitening until he forced his fingers free.

"So," said Harry after a moment, smiling faintly. "Dragons! Remember Norbert? I liked Norbert."

"He's still around," says Charlie. "You can see him again."

"Yeah," said Harry's voice, but his eyes said it wouldn't happen. He seemed calm, resolved. Almost resigned.

"This isn't right, you know." It came out too loud and Charlie's face flushed, but he was already continuing: "You shouldn't be-- You shouldn't have do this. There should be something else. You should be at school, or doing a job, or, playing Quidditch! Or, I don't know, picking fruit in a field somewhere, doing the student apparating across the world thing."

"Backpack in one hand, wand in the other?" asked Harry, tone light, amused. "Picking papayas in the orchard groves?"

"Yes!" Charlie insisted. "Dancing with the native women! Having fun and, and, and sex and--" And damn that blush! "Not... not here. Not just... waiting." He subsided, looking away from Harry, cheeks hot. Blinked his eyes until the house came back into focus. It was quiet. Like he was alone up here.

He almost jumped when Harry's hand squeezed his shoulder.

"You're a good guy, Charlie."

"I'm just saying," he muttered, and Harry laughed.

"I've got a fast broom. Maybe together we can get somewhere?" He smiled at Charlie's expression. "Muggle song. Never mind."

"Doesn't it... Don't you wish..."

Harry smiled faintly, though it didn't reach his eyes, and squeezed Charlie's shoulder again. "We should get inside. It'll be light soon."

"You... you go on ahead. I want to fly a little more."

"Charlie," Harry started, but then nodded and, suddenly darting forward, kissed Charlie's cheek. He'd dropped away before Charlie could speak, and landed before Charlie turned his broom. Harry didn't look back.

The torches seemed closer. Charlie flew until the heat had faded from his cheek.