Title - Heartbroken
Pairing - Harry/Bill
Author - reinventthis
Rating - PG-13
Summary - Harry never got a chance to think, until they escaped to Shell Cottage.
Disclaimer - I don't own any of this (wish I did)
Warnings - None
Word Count - 2,493
Notes - There's not enough of this pairing and I've fallen in love with it a bit. I hope you like it, please let me know what you think! An AU of sorts, taking place during and after the events of DH (therefore EWE). X-posted to hp_slash .
Harry has wanted to move on for too long, but he doesn’t think anyone really cares about that part of his life. Of course, the war has made things like love feel a million miles away, and if they come to the fore it’s usually to remind everyone of their insecurities, things to be used against them. He tells Ginny that they’ll come after her to get to him, which is the truth – she’s still young to be burdened with death and Horcruxes and concealment charms everywhere she goes if she had even wanted to follow him. She agreed, as they both watched the funeral (and may there be many more, Harry thought bitterly), but they both knew in their own way that it wasn’t that truth she wanted. The truth was that after all that happened over sixth year, Harry got tired of everyone waiting for him to run off and make a rash decision.
He remembers Mr and Mrs Weasley telling Bill and Fleur about their marriage in the last war, not wanting to lose the only thing keeping them sane and how they could die at any moment but they would still be in love. Harry is not naïve about what he still has to do, he is Undesirable Number One after all, and if he doesn’t die when he’s meant to there’s a variety of other options (he could die if the concealments fail, he could die if the Snatchers get him, he could die if someone breaks the Taboo and he could die if someone betrays him, he thinks with a fleeting pain in his chest) and if anything, maybe everyone expects him to want to stay sane with Ginny by his side. Harry knows he loves her, somehow, but he doesn’t know her the way that Hermione and Ron know each other, and he doesn’t feel made for her the way Mr and Mrs Weasley are for each other. She’s fiercely independent now, beautiful, modest, intelligent and he could talk to her for hours just to listen to what she thinks, but he feels clumsy and awkward. He’s taken to laughing at things that make other people recoil, now that Ron has stopped laughing so much in hiding with them, and he doesn’t feel independent when in the last week he can’t count how many times the Saviour of the Wizarding World has been saved from something.
Shell Cottage is quiet, now, because everyone is too exhausted to stay up with him. When Ron left them behind before in the clearing he remembers keeping watch whilst Hermione cried into the sleeve of her jacket pretending to be asleep, and he’s still in that mindset. He doesn’t know that he would feel the same way if Ginny left him behind, simply because he would probably agree it was for the best that she went back home, or to Hogwarts, to help anyone but him. He sits on the window seat looking out onto the sea, even though in this light it’s nothing but the edges of the waves swallowing the shore and the soft periodic crashing, and he’s watching for the morning to come. He’s not had the time to think about this before their narrow escape from Malfoy Manor, always concentrated on moving and the sword and the Horcruxes and buffering Hermione and Ron, and he wonders if a prerequisite to his annoyingly prescribed destiny that he has no time for himself anymore. Immediately feeling selfish for even considering what kind of life he could have without everything and everyone following him around for answers, he pulls himself up from his slump on the seat and sits up to watch the beach closer when he hears the stairs creak gently behind him.
Bill comes downstairs, eyes half closed and his long hair tangled with sleep that like everyone else, Harry muses, is probably broken or unwanted. He feels immediately awkward for walking around in the night (and there’s the awkward feeling again, like a tangled knot in his stomach, he’s such an imposition) in Bill’s house, even coming to it in the first place but it was the only way they had. Bill notices him watching and smiles, coming over and turning on the lamp on the side table.
“You won’t wake anyone up with a light on, at least, Harry.” Bill, he thinks, is telling Harry off for sitting down here on his own to be introspective, and Harry blushes an apology. Bill seems older now since the wedding, and Harry never imagined that the coolest person he’d ever met with long hair and the earring that makes Mrs Weasley tut would ever own a house, settle down. Bill doesn’t look quite sure about it either; he walks around too cautiously in his own house like he doesn’t quite believe it. Despite the tension and unsure feeling both of them surely have, Harry thinks, Bill sits down on the window seat next to him, legs crossed and looks out to sea, says “It’s not a crime to want some space, you know. God knows you need it.” Harry nods and says that the moving and the tent felt stifling, says it’s nice to look out to the sea, doesn’t think he’s ever seen the sea properly.
Bill tells Harry that he only ever wanted to live by the sea; after spending so long cursebreaking in Egypt it was a nice opposite, too. He’s never been the kind of bloke to live in a big city, or even the countryside, because it’s either too busy or too static. The beach, he says, is calm but it’s not static. “As much as I can’t say no to Mum’s cooking or seeing everyone at home, I’ve been glad to be somewhere that isn’t so cut off.” Harry smiles and understands, tells Bill when he lived with the Dursleys it’s too quiet, too, and the thought that he inherited Grimmauld Place…and then he doesn’t know what to say about it, but Bill still nods, looks sidelong at Harry and tells him he doesn’t have to talk about that if he doesn’t want, “but what do you want to talk about? Because forgive me, Harry, but I know you have had an interesting time without me – and now you’re starting something with Griphook and Ollivander too. Ever wanted to stop?” Harry looks Bill in the eye and sighs, letting his shoulders slump again, and says that he’s wanted to stop for days, ever since they left, maybe even before that. He can’t stop talking now and Bill seems to want to listen so he tells him about the funeral (never Dumbledore’s funeral, he’s still not quite sure why) and he thought he would be on his own but even with just Hermione and Ron it’s like he carries everyone around with him, what they want and hope and how he could help them all if he wanted, if he really knew how. And he’s got so used to staying awake on his own, when they waited for Ron to come back (and Harry says of course thankyou to Bill for all he did for Ron, and Bill grins at that part) just thinking on his own, because nobody since he was first at Hogwarts has ever really left him alone to do that, maybe that’s why he liked walking around the castle with the Cloak so much.
Bill doesn’t quite know what to say, and Harry can sense it must be a shock, how reclusive he feels now, how unprepared he is, and he’s meant to end everything. But Bill doesn’t think that, he says, he can’t imagine the kind of demand Harry has been in when Bill spent the years Harry is just beginning going across the world on his own, to carve his own path and make some mistakes.
“My first year away from Hogwarts,” he begins, looking a little amused at himself, “I was never home, Mum can tell you, but she never minded because she knew I wanted to travel. I liked company, but I wanted to do it on my own for a bit. So I got pierced, I trawled bars, I met some good friends. I worked hard after that, but there is always something to be said for space. And now,” he stopped, looking at the sea and the window seat and then Harry and the stairs, trying to find the words (Bill always felt stuck for words these days), “I’m so different. I don’t think I thought that’d go away, and I love this place so much, so it’s working out.”
Bill looks slightly ashamed of admitting this to Harry but Harry is so relieved that someone who he looks up to, has always thought was on top and had it all worked out, feels somewhat displaced too. He says he doesn’t know what he wants, and everyone seems to know for him. Of course, he backtracks, he knows there’s the things he has to do, and if they’re done (he doesn’t say when, because when implies the confidence he doesn’t have, he doesn’t know the plan is going to work, by all accounts it’s insane) and if they’re not then looking out to sea at night feels pre-emptive. Bill laughs, it’s low and full of recognition and it reminds Harry of his own awkward laughs that Hermione and Ron have heard for so long in the tent, and tells Harry that he needs to let go of what people expect. Bill doesn’t expect anything from anyone, especially Harry, Harry who hasn’t lived or loved yet (and may never get to, Bill thinks, with an awful sting in his heart that he hopes doesn’t worsen). Harry asks if Bill ever feels rushed by the war, and Bill says of course, and you need a few years when everything is said and done, to figure out what you want. “From everything”, he says, understanding what Harry means, and Harry feels warm again and wants to look away for a minute.
Bill watches as Harry shrinks slightly and turns back to the sea, and is glad he woke up just to offer this even when it’s all he has and he wishes he had more. Harry’s eyes are wide and unblinking as he watches the waves and Bill decides to do the same, both of them with their legs folded and an imperceptible moment passes between them, except Bill does know what it means, the feeling that they’re both a little too trapped. Bill has always railed against what people expect of him until the war, until Greyback and the scars that he knows people stare at when he introduces himself now. But Fleur loves him despite them, and they have their life together harbouring a renegade group of teenagers bringing down the Death Eaters and they have the sea. Bill hasn’t spent much time with Harry and feels like he’s tripping over himself more than he has ever done when he does, he didn’t expect the mix of decisiveness and regret and self deprecation and he’s sadder now than any other time they have talked that he didn’t know. They don’t speak for a while but he can see Harry thinking and he wants to implore upon Harry that he doesn’t have to do anything, if he doesn’t want. Bill would like nothing more than for Harry (and Ron and Hermione, he adds) to stay with him and Fleur at the cottage, talk to him more like this, they could set this time aside. He knows if he does this he’d probably become a little too desperate for these moments, though, and he knows that forgetting everything else Harry will not give up on his mission to kill Voldemort and his plans for Griphook, maddeningly vague as they are to Bill.
Bill breaks the comfortable yet weighted silence between them and says that he has never believed in fate or prophecy or having to do something for the sake of others, and Harry snorts and says he wishes he didn’t because it wouldn’t feel so hard that way. Bill says he thinks other things work there, though – Harry has to leave him out of the Griphook plan, has to leave the cottage, has to be at the final battle they both know has to happen, because even if Harry is young and unsure of so many other things he is sure he wants to avenge those who he has lost, it’s not a pronouncement or command but passion that Harry will always have. Harry smiles at that and supposes so, yeah, he can’t imagine another way of doing things, but everyone’s waiting for what comes next, and he doesn’t really know, he just knows he’s going to disappoint someone. Bill’s heart breaks a little more and he says sometimes you have to disappoint someone, because otherwise you’ll be stuck in this forever, and can’t look at Harry’s eyes for too long this time (they’re so green, it just feels too honest) but the half smile on his lips tells Bill that no matter what the morning brings, when it’s just him and Fleur again, Harry might take it to heart.
After the final battle and the pain, unrelenting, burning his throat and eyes from losing Fred and Remus and Tonks, Bill watches Harry from afar as he is surrounded by people yet again. Trying to catch his eye succeeds and Bill shares this moment, this moment of conflict, he knows Harry wants to run away and talk to someone again because this moment also means that Harry does, in the end, have a rest of his life to be respected and expected to do exactly what Bill now knows he doesn’t want to. He watches as Ginny thanks Harry, sharing a quick friendly hug and a shrug of “do as you will” before she returns to the rest of them to try and conflate death with the relief of winning, for good. Bill’s mind is full of conflict, what he told Harry and what he has done himself, and he knows it’s wrong and he wants to set it right.
The next week, when Harry has to piece his life back together and can’t do it at Privet Drive like every other time, alone, or at the Burrow because it’s not for being alone, he goes back to Grimmauld Place and looks around, amazed that he has anything to come back to, reminds him of Bill and Shell Cottage. And he knows why when he finds the window seat and Bill at the back of the house, in the library and Kreacher has cleaned the windows, so Bill is looking out on the city, where the rapid flow of traffic lights is substituting the sea, lighting the side of Bill’s smiling, anxious face, who is waiting for Harry to sit with him again.