"I don't need a date," Charlie says with a sigh. He is at Shell Cottage, visiting from Romania for their mother's birthday, but instead of planning birthday presents, his siblings inform him that they have set him up on a blind date.
"Don't think of it as a date," Bill says. "Think of is as a birthday present for Mum. She'll be happy if you bring someone to her birthday party. She worries about you."
"And Ron found the perfect person," George puts in.
Ginny grins. "Yes, everyone likes him. Mum will be ecstatic."
"And what happens when I go back to Romania and nothing happens?" Charlies asks, trying to reason with them.
"You don't know. You might actually like him," Ron adds, before turning to Percy. "Don't you have anything to say?"
"That I have nothing to do with this. He's a grown man and he can do whatever he wants," Percy says. "However, Bill introduced me to Audrey this summer and we're engaged. Granted, Ron isn't as good as Bill-"
"Hey," Ron says affronted.
"But it's still worth a try," Percy finished.
"Can you at least tell me who he is?" Charlie says, sensing that he's lost this battle already.
George gives him a mischievous smile. "But that's half the fun."
Charlie sighs. He knows that smile and he knows that he's doomed.
Neville doesn't go out much. After the war, he threw himself into his work, working for three long years to arrest and bring to trial every single Death Eater. As soon as they were all in Azkaban, he resigned and went to work for a magical botanical garden. That was two years ago and now he's learned to love his garden, with lots of plants and very few people, but his friends have decided that he needs to date. He doesn't have the heart to tell them that he has dated but too many just want a night with the 'hero', some settle for him when they can't get to Harry, and some ask him to recreate him killing Nagini. It's why he doesn't date as much anymore, but Ron and Ginny have assured him that he won't have these problems tonight. He trusts them, but part of him is dreading what's to come.
He looks at his reflection in the mirror. He's wearing a new shirt in the latest colour, and why anyone thinks that hot pink is what every wizard should wear is beyond him, but it's impossible to find anything lately not in that colour. Luna insisted that he wear a pair of shocking blue trouser, but he vetoed it, and now he's wearing a simple pair of jeans.
He Apparates to Diagon Alley and makes his way to the Four Houses Café. The interior of the café is decorated with a mix of the four houses from Hogwarts, managing to make most people uncomfortable. Seamus, its owner, finds it hilarious. Neville agrees, but that's not the best part of the café; it's the fact that he always has the same table ready. He walks straight there and he smiles, pleasantly surprised when he sees who the mystery date is. "Charlie, how are you?" he says as he sits next to the other man.
Charlie grins. "You didn't know either, did you?"
Neville shakes his head. "It could have been much worse."
Charlie laughs. "Thank you."
Neville blushes. "I meant that you never know what could happen with your brothers."
Charlie waves the explanation off with a hand. "I'm just kidding and I didn't know what to expect either, but I was already planning exit strategies." A shadow crosses Neville's face and Charlie frowns. "Is everything all right?"
"Sorry, it's just-" He takes a deep breath. "Do you know why Seamus gave you this table, my table? It's in the corner. I sat next to you, so my back is against the wall and I have a clear view, and the kitchen is right there, best way to get outside and Disapparate. I don't really like being in crowded indoor places. This is the only place I'll even consider going to, because I know Seamus had plenty of spells around it. So talk of exit strategies makes me think of all of that."
Charlie gives him a sad smile, but doesn't press. "I hope Seamus doesn't mind if we leave, then. I don't like being indoors either. You spend most of your life on a reserve and this makes you feel a little claustrophobic and since you don't like being here-" He shrugs as if that should tell Neville everything, and it does. They go outside and Charlie Apparated both to a beach.
"Where are we?" Neville asks as he takes a good look around.
"Not too far from Bill's. I didn't want to go too close or we'd have everyone trying to listen," he says, laughing.
"Most people would mind such an intrusion of privacy, but you don't," Neville says.
Charlie shrugs. "They are my family. I'd rather have them nagging than not have them at all."
Neville thinks about Fred for a moment, and about of the many people who died. His thoughts turn macabre for a moment before he shakes them off. "I don't think you should be so accepting. At the very least, you should hex Ron for setting you up with me."
Charlie smiles amused at that. "And why is that? You're friendly, you're handsome, and you aren't after me because of who my family is. In fact, you're more famous that me."
Neville snorts. He looks down at Charlie's hand and there's an angry mark across the back. "Magical burn?" Neville doesn't need the nod of confirmation. "Some people have scars on the outside, but a lot of us have them on the inside, and some of us more than other. People don't want the scars, just the fame."
"What you, Ginny and the other students went through is something that most of us can't understand," Charlie says calmly, "but that doesn't mean that we run away."
Neville laughs, but there's a hint of bitterness in his voice. "You'll be surprised by how many people are disappointed when they discover that their imaginary White Knight isn't that shiny."
Charlie grabs Neville's hand and pulls him closer until they are standing chest to chest. "You must not be dating Gryffindors. In case you didn't know, we don't scare easily."
Neville lets out a genuine laughter. "So you're saying that my problem with dating is that I haven't dated someone as crazy as me."
"You say crazy, I say brave," Charlie answered with a grin. "I'm not looking for a White Knight. In fact, I didn't know I was looking for anything, but- Ron might be smarter than we thought."
"Nah, this was Ginny," Neville says smiling. "She made Ron do it so she can take the credit if it works and blame him if it doesn't."
Charlie snorts. "That does sound like her, but maybe they are both right. I've dated people in Romania, but they don't understand how much the war impacted me, even if I weren't here often. It still impacted me through my family, and it's hard to hear people dismiss it."
"So you want to date me because we're both fucked up, is that it?" Neville asks, not sure if he'd even be disappointed with an affirmative answer. At least Charlie would understand.
"Well, that, and you're kind, friendly and hot," Charlie answers with that infuriating grin of his.
Neville can't say that he's ever considered it before. Charlie is older and spends most of his time in Romania, but he's been back more often in the past years and he is sexy and charming, but mostly he's just nice, and Neville finds that he wants to give it a try. "This might not end well."
"We won't know if we don't take a chance," Charlie points out.
Neville decides to be brave. He leans forward and pressed his lips against Charlie's. It's gentle at first, a little touch to prove that he's willing to take a chance, but he's forgotten that Charlie is also a Gryffindor and the chaste kiss turns into more, into something he can't quantify. Hands are moving everywhere, while their tongues dance around each other until they both pull away panting. "Or it might end really well," Neville says, still a little breathless.
Charlie gives Neville one of his charming smiles and says, "I guess we're taking a chance."