Disclaimer - I own nothing you recognise.
Written for The Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition
Holyhead Harpies, Beater 2
Mandatory Prompt - Write an AU you've never written. (Soldier!AU)
Optional Prompts - 1. "Your silence scares me." / 8. Homemade. / 9. Knife. / 11. "It's like the blind leading the blind."
Word Count - Currently 3029
Beta'd by Liza and Sam and Lo and Raybe
"I'll be okay, Mum," Charlie murmured, pressing his lips to her temple. "I'll be home before you know it."
She sobbed into his chest, her arms wrapped tightly around him. As he felt her tears soaking into his t-shirt, he couldn't help but be glad that he'd had the forethought to not put his uniform on before his goodbyes.
Finally freeing himself from her grip, he placed a final kiss on her cheek before turning to his dad, for a much simpler clasping of hands and manly pats on the back.
His brothers were as simple as his father, and Ginny, his youngest sibling and only sister, just glared at him for a moment before she hugged him tightly.
"If you get killed out there, I'm going to murder you."
His lips twitched and he ruffled her hair. "Consider me warned," he replied. "I love you, kid."
"Yeah, yeah. Love you too, Charlie-bear."
Closing the front door to the ramshackle house he'd grown up in, Charlie took a moment to look back.
The memories of The Burrow were what kept him sane on the long nights of waiting in the desert.
Draco made sure his uniform was in spotless condition, eyeing himself critically in the mirror before he picked his rucksack up and hefted it onto his shoulder.
Making his way down the grand staircase of his family's manor home, he wasn't surprised that only his mother awaited him at the bottom. He hadn't expected his father to see him off, deeply opposed to Draco joining the army as he was, but it still hurt that he wasn't there.
"Be careful out there, Dragon," his mother whispered, gripping his hands with her own.
He nodded once, leaning forward stiffly to press a gentle kiss to his mother's cheek.
"Look after yourself," he murmured.
"Your father does love you, you know?" she said, as Draco dropped her hands. "He's just…"
Swallowing hard, Draco replied, "I know exactly how Father is, Mother. Why do you think I chose the army in the first place? I'll write."
She nodded. As Draco headed out the door, a single tear slipped onto her pale cheek.
Draco didn't look back.
No matter that it was Charlie's second tour, walking into the barracks for the first time was still a daunting affair. He looked around, grateful to find a top bunk in the far corner uninhabited. He'd never enjoyed the lower bunks; his paranoia that someone would fall on top of him during the night did not help Charlie's already difficult sleep schedule.
Unpacking quickly, he tacked the pictures of his family to the wall by his pillow, and placed his book into the corner of the bed along with a small torch. Reading was one of his favourite pastimes and the escapism helped a lot on the long nights when sleep was unattainable.
As the barracks started filling up, Charlie was gratified to see a few of the men he'd served his first tour with, and he hopped down to greet them cheerfully. There was a lot of slaps to the back and outrageous greetings of various insults.
As much as Charlie loved his family and had enjoyed his leave, he was glad to be back.
Draco slipped into the barracks, skirting around the boisterous men to search out a free bunk. Spotting one in the far corner, he moved over silently, avoiding eye contact as he set his rucksack down on the thin mattress.
He was glad he'd managed to get a bottom bunk. When he'd been in training, he'd been forced to sleep on the top bunk and he'd had a constant overwhelming fear that he was going to fall and hurt himself or someone else.
Draco looked up to see a well built redhead smiling at him, leaning against the bedpost.
"Charlie Weasley," he introduced himself, holding his hand out for Draco to shake.
Draco accepted the hand and replied, "Draco Malfoy."
"Looks like we're bunk mates," Charlie told him, his smile easy and kind. "Is this your first tour?"
"Am I that obvious?" Draco asked, fiddling with the edge of his shirt.
Charlie shrugged. "You've got the same 'deer in the headlights' look that we all had on our first tour. You'll settle in quick enough, mate."
Draco could only nod. He didn't know if the redhead's words were true, but he was already feeling more welcome here than he did in his own home, so he had some hope that they were.
Charlie pulled himself up onto his own bunk, before leaning over the side. Draco almost snorted at the sight.
"You'll want to change your shirt to the short sleeves. It'll be baking here soon; you'll be more comfortable if you wear that."
Charlie lay on his bed, his torch trained on the pages of his book though he couldn't concentrate on the words. His thoughts were on the man lay on the bunk beneath him.
Charlie felt for the younger man. He was smaller than most living in the barracks, and he'd already suffered a bit of teasing over his stature at the first dinner.
He seemed to bat it off easily enough, but Charlie vowed to keep an eye on him nonetheless. There were a few men who would take a shine to Draco simply because he was smaller, and they thought they could overpower him.
Across the barracks, he heard the tell-tale sound of sniffles and sighed to himself. Homesickness was common, particularly in the first week, and many of the soldiers saved their crying for night-time when they wouldn't be branded weak by their comrades.
Abandoning his book as a lost cause, Charlie saved his page and flicked off the torch, turning onto his side.
He knew sleep would be hard to come by, but he should at least try. Being tired on duty was only asking for trouble.
"You're a pretty one. Be careful, or someone might wreck that pretty little face of yours," the man sneered, crowding Draco in the shower block.
Draco wanted nothing more than to step back, to move away from the man, but he stood his ground, unwilling to show weakness to such a neanderthal.
"I suggest you move, Raymond," a pleasant voice said from behind the man, and Draco barely restrained the urge to show his relief.
The man who Draco realised must be 'Raymond' turned, his posture changing immediately.
"Weasley," he greeted, his voice suddenly deferential. "I was just greeting the new kid."
"I know exactly what you were doing, and it stops. Now. We clear?"
"I. Uh, yeah," Raymond replied, nodding. "I'm sorry."
"Not really me you should be apologising to, is it?" Charlie asked, pointedly looking over Raymond's shoulder at Draco.
Raymond turned back to Draco, offering a cursory apology that Draco acknowledged with a simple nod, before Raymond left the shower block with his tail between his legs.
Charlie nodded at Draco, before he turned into his own stall, hanging up his shower kit.
"Your silence scares me," the redhead said after a minute. "I hope I didn't… make you uncomfortable by defending you."
Draco shook his head before he realised that Charlie couldn't actually see him, separated by the thin cubicle wall as they were.
He cleared his throat. "No. I, uh. That was… good. Thank you."
"Raymond is an asshole," Charlie commented, his voice raising over the spray of the water. "If you can stay away from him, do so. If you can't, kick him in the nuts."
Draco couldn't help himself. He laughed.
A baseball was being thrown from bunk to bunk, the soldiers enjoying an afternoon of relative freedom from tension.
They'd been there for almost three weeks, and even the newbies had settled in relatively well. Charlie still heard the occasional sniffle at night, but they were tapering off as time passed.
Friendships had been quickly formed, as always seemed to happen at war. It was easy to make unshakeable bonds with people that would be fighting for the same thing side by side with you.
It was that camaraderie that Charlie enjoyed so much.
They'd enjoyed boisterous conversations - a memorable one being started with the question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" and meaningful conversations of the people awaiting them back home.
Nicknames were being given on a daily basis, often uncouth and not the kind of name that you'd ever tell your mother, but that made you feel a sense of belonging regardless.
Through it all, Charlie couldn't help notice that Draco was holding himself back. Since Raymond had cornered him in the shower, Charlie had kept an even closer eye on him, and he was slightly concerned with what he saw.
Of course, Draco could simply be the more reserved type, but Charlie thought that he must be lonely, keeping himself apart as he did.
Charlie took it on himself to involve Draco wherever he could, ensuring that Draco was often with his team when sent out off base, and kept him included in the conversations at night.
He worried about the younger man, and he wasn't really sure why he was so invested but he was and that was just the way it was.
He'd learned long ago not to question his gut instincts. It had cost him the life of his best friend on his first tour, and he'd vowed at the time that he wouldn't let that happen again.
Draco appreciated Charlie.
He really did.
But he couldn't help but wish that he could find some peace and quiet occasionally. It wasn't Charlie he minded, but the others, their banter and boisterous natures a little bit much for him.
He was an only child from a very reserved family, and that showed here more than it ever had before.
He slipped out of the barracks late one night a month into the tour. Standing by the door - he wasn't stupid enough to wander off by himself - he looked up at the stars dotted across the sky.
He'd never seen stars like the ones here; the smog in London didn't allow for such beauty.
"Are you okay?"
Draco jumped, turning to see Charlie closing the door quietly behind him.
He nodded. "I'm fine. Just… it's beautiful here. I don't get the pleasure of this at home."
Charlie smiled. "Do you know the constellations?"
Draco shook his head. "Not really. A few of them, but…"
Charlie began pointing stars out, reeling off name after name.
"Are you making this up?"
Grinning sheepishly, Charlie shrugged. "Maybe one or two of them."
A raindrop splashed off his nose, and he blinked. "It's raining."
Charlie snorted. "Thanks for that, Captain Obvious. Rain out here is glorious. It doesn't happen very often."
"We should go inside," Draco sighed as the rain made itself known properly. He cast another longing look at the stars.
Grinning, Charlie stepped further out into rain. "Where's your sense of adventure?"
Draco hesitated for a moment before he grinned, stepping out into the rainfall with Charlie, letting the water run over his skin. When Charlie took his hand and spun him around, before leading him in a daft dance with no real structure, Draco wasn't mad.
He was… happy.
Gunfire rained above them, and Charlie was barely letting himself breathe as he waited for a pause. His squadron were around him, all lying on their stomachs as he himself was.
He had no idea how they were going to get themselves out of it in one piece, but this was what they'd signed up for.
Taking a chance to reposition himself, Charlie managed to maneuver into a position to return fire, and he waited for the others to follow his movements.
As one, they opened fire on the enemy, deafening themselves in their defense.
A groan from down the line sounded, and Charlie swore aloud when he saw red blossoming from a younger squaddies' arm.
He could hear the man next to the hit soldier offering soft platitudes and nodded to himself. From his position, there was nothing he could do at the moment but swear to himself that all of the soldiers would make it back alive.
He could only pray that he'd be able to keep that promise to himself.
Draco sat on his bed, his head in his hands. He'd been there for over an hour, waiting for Charlie to return from the hospital block. The barracks were uncommonly quiet, the soldiers all processing the events of the day in their own minds.
The door opened, and Draco looked up, sighing in relief when he saw the familiar shock of red hair.
Charlie approached him slowly and Draco looked him over critically, looking for any sign of injury. He had a bandage on his forearm from a stray bullet; a flesh wound only, thankfully.
"Are you okay?" he asked, shifting over in an obvious invitation for Charlie to sit with him.
"I'm fine. Tired. Jones is going to be alright, thankfully," he added.
Draco barely managed to hide his wince at Charlie's tone. He sounded broken, exhausted and unhappy.
"You did all you could out there," Draco told him, resting a hand on Charlie's uninjured arm gently. "You know that, right?"
Charlie sighed, offering Draco a sad smile. "It's never enough though. We could have lost Jones today. It's like the blind leading the blind out there sometimes, and it scares me how young some of you are."
"You're not exactly ancient, Weasley," Draco murmured.
Charlie snorted. "I feel it."
Rolling his eyes, Draco nudged their shoulders together. "Go on then. Get yourself up to bed, Grandpa."
Charlie stared at him for a moment before he leaned over and pressed his lips to Draco's temple. "I'm glad you're safe. At least for tonight."
"Here," Charlie said, using his pocket knife to cut a piece of treacle off the large slab in the box on his lap. "My mum sent it. Her homemade treacle is the finest you'll ever taste."
Draco took the treacle, sitting down on the ground beside Charlie, his back to the barrack wall.
They were both grateful for the reprieve the shade of the building gave from the hot desert sun.
"That's amazing," Draco murmured, licking his fingers clean. "You're a lucky man, Weasley, having a mother who can produce that kind of magic."
Charlie smiled and nodded. "I know. My mum… she's the best woman on the planet. She drives me mad on a regular basis when I'm at home, don't get me wrong, but… I could never have asked for a better mum. Not ever."
"You're lucky that you're close to your parents."
"You're not?" Charlie asked, looking at Draco. He'd had his suspicions, but hadn't wanted to push Draco on a subject he didn't want to talk about.
"Not really. My family was never really about family, you know? My father, he's all about appearances. The trophy wife, the trophy heir, it gets tiring."
"I can't imagine he was happy with your decision to come and rough it with us reprobates then?"
Draco laughed humorlessly. "Not even close. I just… I wanted somewhere I could be me. Draco, without being Draco Malfoy."
Charlie patted his knee. "For what it's worth, I really like Draco."
"Charlie! Charlie, NO!"
Draco got out of the car, the envelope clutched in his fingers. The house he was looking at was nothing like his own, but it only made him like it more.
Steeling himself, he walked to the door, knocking twice.
"Coming, coming," a voice called from inside, and Draco couldn't stop his lips from twitching into the approximation of a smile. Just from Charlie's descriptions, Draco knew that the voice belonged to his mother.
It was a mum voice. It made Draco think that that was what a home should sound like.
She opened the door, her eyes widening when she saw him.
Draco blinked, not expecting her to know who he was before he'd even opened his mouth.
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear, but Charlie's written about you so often that I feel like I already know you. Come in, Dear," she said, ushering him into a well worn but homely kitchen.
"I came to -" Draco coughed, the sudden lump in his throat making it hard to talk. "I asked if I could be the one to deliver this."
He handed her the envelope, closing his eyes to ward off the accusing look he expected from her, when she'd read the letter.
He flinched when he felt the first contact of her hand, but when she pulled him into a hug, he leant into it, letting her envelop him in her warmth.
"It wasn't your fault, Dear," she whispered. "Charlie… I know my boy. He doesn't want you to blame yourself, I'm sure he told you that?"
Draco nodded, forcing the tears that were brimming away. "He did but... He saved me. And lost a limb for his troubles."
"Charlie knew what he signed up for, when joining the Army. He knew the risks. If he thought you were worth that risk, then that just shows that my son is a good judge of character. When will he be home?"
"In about a month," Draco confirmed, clearing his throat. "I, uh, he's going to stay with me. I have a flat, in London. I…"
Mrs Weasley smiled. "I'm sure you'll look after him admirably. In the meantime, you should stay for dinner. Get to know the family. I've a feeling you'll be around them for a while."
Draco felt his cheeks heat and she smiled wider.
"The barracks should have at least half prepared you for my rabble. You'll get used to them."
Draco nodded shyly. "I'd like that."
Draco was waiting at the airport with a shy smile and a bunch of flowers.
Charlie grinned at him.
Jumping in front of a bullet for the man had been gut instinct but Charlie didn't regret it in the slightest. He knew not to ignore his gut.
Also Written for;
Days of the Month - Military Spouse Day; Leaving a loved one behind when a character goes to war.
Sophie's Shelf - 10. "You're a pretty one. Be careful, or someone might wreck that pretty little face."
Showtime - 28. Flowers.
Geek Pride - Stand 4 - T-shirt : Wear / Sleeves / Comfortable.
Debate, Team OTP - Book
Cooking Corner - Egg - "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"
Scavenger Hunt; 4. Draco / Broken / Crying
Insane House - 487. Bandage