Title: Coming Out This Christmas
Fandom: Harry Potter, post-Hogwarts
Pairings: Charlie/Neville and many others of my choosing and in canon
Disclaimer: These characters and their world are NOT
mine! I make no money from this.
Summary: Charlie considers coming out to his family at the Weasley family Christmas dinner. A follow-up to “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder”
Author Notes: Poor Charlie-boy.
Bunnies: 10, 11, 31, 33, 42
Coming Out This Christmas
This year, it started with a letter. Errol practically collapsed upon delivery. While Neville saw to the owl, Charlie examined the note.
I wanted to be sure to make it clear to you that you are welcome to bring a special someone to Christmas dinner this year. Ron will be bringing Hermione, Ginny has Harry, Bill will be bringing Fleur and their little one, George has invited his friend Lee (who he co-owns the store with), and this year even Percy has someone to bring! He won’t tell me much yet, but I know that it’s not that Penelope girl he saw while at Hogwarts and apparently he and his new lady have not been together very long.
I don’t mean to pressure you, but I don’t want you feeling left out of the festivities, dear. If you have a special witch in your life, we would love to make her welcome at our family table this holiday.
Charlie sighed and looked down at his dinner. The stuffed cabbage rolls and sauerkraut no longer looked the least bit appetizing. He could already imagine the taste of his mother’s home cooking. And he wished he could share it with Neville.
After getting the owl a bite to eat, some water, and a makeshift nest of blankets in which to sleep, Neville sat back down at the table and immediately snaked his hand over to squeeze Charlie’s. “I’ve got to go home and spend Christmas with Gran.”
Charlie nodded, swallowing hard.
“We’ve been through this, Charlie. We’ve worked through all the possibilities—how you could phrase it, what your family’s reactions would be like—and nothing turns out very well.”
Charlie nodded again. Neville was right, of course, but that didn’t mean he had to like the damn situation. “I wish they already knew. I wish I’d told them a long time ago.”
Without another word, Neville collected their almost untouched meals. Roddy and Vlad would make quick work of them in the kitchen. Then he gathered Charlie up in a warm hug. “I’m going to go warm the bed up while you talk to Bill.”
With a start, Charlie stiffened in Neville’s arms. “How did you know I was thinking of flooing him?”
Neville chuckled. “We’ve been together months. I’ve noticed a thing or two about you. Plus he and Fleur are the only ones in your family who knows you’re gay. It makes sense to want to talk with Bill about this. Go on. I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done. But don’t take too long or I might just finish without you.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Charlie laughed. They kissed, then Charlie pulled away and let Neville go to the bedroom while he headed over to their fireplace. It was earlier in the United Kingdom, so maybe Bill wouldn’t be home yet from work. Or maybe he would be making dinner with his wife. Charlie thought long and hard before grabbing a handful of floo powder and calling on his older brother for advice.
Bill was out of breath when he got to the fireplace. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” he demanded an answer from Charlie’s head floating amongst the flames in his fireplace.
Charlie shook his head. “Don’t panic. I’m all right. I just needed to talk something out with you. Mum wrote me…” It was hard to see through the flames, but he was certain Bill had rolled his eyes. “She wants me to bring someone to Christmas dinner.”
“And you’re not comfortable bringing Neville.” A statement, rather than a question.
“I’ve been thinking of coming out to the family, but it has to be the right time and I just don’t know if this Christmas is it. But either way, I can’t bring Nev. He’s got to go to his gran’s place. She’s getting older and he wants to spend every holiday he can with her.”
“He’s a good man.”
“Yes, he is. And he’s most definitely a man. I can’t do that to Mum and Dad and everyone else at Christmas dinner. I mean, Neville was Ron’s dormmate and Ginny went with him to the Yule ball her third year at Hogwarts. I don’t know how anyone would react to the news. And it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got no one to bring.”
“Do you have a friend you could bring? Maybe someone you work with?”
Once more, Charlie shook his head. “Everyone’s got plans. And I wouldn’t want to get Mum’s hopes up. Having her prodding me for details all evening is not my idea of fun. I certainly don’t think any friends of mine would enjoy it either.” With a sigh, Charlie considered just pulling his head back. It wasn’t as though Bill could say anything to make the situation any different.
“Char, if the time doesn’t feel right, then you shouldn’t feel any pressure to say anything. Just ignore the pressure and come home to have a good time. It’s been months since I’ve seen you. At least we’ll be able to kick back together with some drinks. And maybe Mum’s obsession over Percy’s new girl will detract from you still being single.”
Nothing had changed, that was true. But Charlie did feel a bit better hearing that. “Thanks, Bill. I am looking forward to seeing you and everyone else again.”
When Charlie crawled into bed with Neville, and Neville put his arms around him and just hugged tightly, Charlie felt even better.
“Mmm-emm-er, ohh udded ooves.”
Jessica stared at Charlie, blinking. Then she turned to Neville for a translation.
Even Neville was stumped about this one. He reached down and eased the thermometer out from under Charlie’s tongue. “Come again?”
“Remember, no sudden moves.” He waved his hand at Roddy, who was hiding behind the trashcan, tail feathers still clearly visible.
Jessica nodded. “Of course.”
It was Neville’s turn to speak up. “And Vlad will get into anything you leave around, especially the food he’s not supposed to have.”
“I have taken care of them before. I know the drill.”
Charlie snapped forward, cupping a hand over his mouth and nose at the last possible second. “hitchuhhh! Ehtchhhih!”
“You should take some pepper-up right away,” Jessica told him.
Neville handed Charlie a tissue. “Yeah. Believe me, I’ve taken care of a sick Charlie Weasley before. I know how that goes as well.” Charlie mumbled something and blew his nose. Then he burrowed deeper into the nest of blankets Neville had made for him.
Neville leaned over the back of the couch and pressed a kiss to Charlie’s forehead. He whispered, “You’ve got some time to rest before our portkey out this evening.” Charlie nodded and closed his eyes obediently. It was wonderful to have someone here to look after him. And it was even better to have someone look after the animals with such care, as if they were his own. Neville was almost as good with creatures as he was with plants. And Jessica would be able to look after his pets fine for a few days until one of them returned to Romania.
Charlie stumbled out of the fireplace at the Burrow and almost landed on his sister-in-law and niece. “Sorry,” he told them, brushing remnants of ash from the fireplace off his clothes. His nose and throat both tickled madly, and he was glad Neville had given him a handkerchief before they’d separated at the Portkey Authority. A couple dry coughs and some snuffles cleared him up a bit. But a sneeze did a better job. “hih-Ehshuhh!” When he opened his eyes, Bill stood before him.
“Good to see you in person again.”
“That thing we talked about…?” Charlie started. “I’m definitely not doing it. I… don’t feel up to it, for one thing.” He coughed a bit more.
Bill nodded solemnly, understanding. Instead of speaking in hushed tones, he let the subject go and moved on. “Got yourself a cold for the holidays, Charlie boy?”
Charlie snuffled into the hanky—which still smelled like Neville and was charmed to stay dry. He smiled sheepishly and nodded. “It’s not too bad.”
“Then I’ll let Mum fuss over you. I’m sure she’ll enjoy that. In fact, I bet she already has a kettle warming.” Molly Weasley was strangely psychic when it came to her children. “I think you’re bunking with Percy this year. Why don’t you head upstairs and lie down? I’ll let her know where you are.”
Slightly overwhelmed, and wondering if Neville or Jessica or one of the others at the Reserve had owled ahead to Bill to tip him off, Charlie obeyed his older brother and headed upstairs. By the time he squeezed into the trundle bed, Molly was there with tea and an extra blanket. “There you are, dear. You should have called me as soon as the sneezing started,” she said, tucking him in.
Charlie loved snuggling with Neville in bed when he didn’t feel well. And he loved having an older brother to keep him company and make sure he ate well and drank plenty of fluids when he had a cold. But nothing beat his mother’s care. No matter how old he was, her fingers on his forehead, brushing his hair back felt magical. Her teas were astoundingly potent. And her lullabies… put him… right to…
Charlie woke with a start at the sensation of something striking his head. He pulled his arms out from beneath the covers and batted it away, realizing it was a pillow. He groaned, head aching, not wanting to be awake now.
Charlie squinted, wincing and turning away from the light until his eyes got used to his. His head throbbed. “Bercy?” Some itch in his throat made him cough.
“I’m sorry, but you were snoring. Quite loudly.”
Charlie felt his nose starting to run and tried to sniff, but his nose was completely blocked with stuffiness. He coughed and searched for his handkerchief. Percy tossed him a box of tissues instead. It plopped onto his lap. He made very little progress through blowing his nose, but apologized as soon as he trusted his voice. “Sorry, Berce. Eh-ehh-Hishhhhh! I swear they add pepper to the tissues. I always feel worse after… af… hehShooo! ehChuhh! Heh-Shooo!”
“Do you mind putting up a silencing charm? I’d do it, but I already put up a protection barrier and my charms won’t go through that.”
“Brotectiod?” It took him a moment. Of course. Protection against germs. Percy was a bit… particular about those things. Charlie gave blowing his nose one more shot, cleared his throat, and pulled out his wand to perform a silencing charm. That would ensure that at least one of them would get a good sleep tonight.
Charlie was vaguely aware of Percy squeezing past him in the morning to leave the room. And he remembered food and tea being forced on him. But for the most part, he spent the day asleep or sneezing, though mostly asleep.
He went to the bathroom to shower and clean up, and then headed downstairs for Christmas dinner. Even with his sniffles and coughs to announce his presence, no one noticed him there for a good five minutes. Little Victoire was throwing a temper tantrum about something or other, and Bill was trying to calm her down. George and Lee were debating their next product line at Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Ron and Hermione were fighting over something. Fleur and Molly were struggling in the kitchen. Ginny was complaining about her back hurting and Harry’s foot rubs weren’t helping at all. Percy was fielding questions about his new relationship. And Arthur was just trying to get the table set.
He considered going back to bed. The chaos made his head ache and, amidst it all, he felt terribly alone. They could celebrate just fine without him—better, probably, because he wouldn’t be there, potentially getting them ill. True, he wouldn’t feel so alone if Neville were here with him. But everything would change if he finally came out and told the truth. Bill was fine with it—now. But the rest of his family? He couldn’t do that to him at the holidays. That had enough to be getting on with without needing to know he liked men. In fact, a confession might distance him from his family and make him feel more alone.
Arthur beamed at him. He finished placing the silverware at the last table setting and rounded the table. He tensed up as his father embraced him. “Dad, I have a cold…”
“Your mother told me, and I’m sorry about it. But you don’t get out of a greeting because of it.” He squeezed and pulled away. “Now, tell me all about what’s happening at the Dragon Reserve.”
Charlie didn’t have long to relate all the news about the latest additions to the dragon population before Molly and Fleur were bringing dishes out to the table. And then he sat back, enjoying not being the center of his mother’s obsessing for once. When everyone, even the pouting toddler and argumentative newlyweds, was seated around the table, she officially started with the interrogation.
“Before she arrives, you must tell me more about Lindsey,” Molly prodded Percy. “Where did you two meet?”
“At a dance club. Our eyes met across a crowded room. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true. Except that we spent most of the night just talking. It was lovely.” Charlie tried to imagine Percy dancing at a club and absolutely couldn’t get the image to make sense in his head.
“How long have the two of you been together?”
“Oh, a few months now.” But apparently it was serious enough to bring her to Christmas dinner. He and Neville had been together for longer than that. Charlie noticed Bill giving him a supportive, sympathetic look.
“What does she do for a living?”
“Bookstore manager. Lindsey’s grandfather owns Flourish & Blotts in Diagon Alley.” Hermione perked up at this. She might be a Gyffindor, but she still had a love affair with books that could rival any Ravenclaw.
Charlie felt a sneeze coming on and nearly went to raise his napkin. But he stopped himself in time and pulled Neville’s handkerchief from his pocket instead. Folded in eights and cupped to his face, his sneeze was sufficiently muffled. “H’ehshffff!” A few people glanced over at him. He smiled apologetically.
“Another Ravenclaw girl?”
“Ravenclaw… yes,” Percy said around a mouthful of creamed corn. Houses weren’t so relevant after Hogwarts, and Charlie was used to living amongst people who had been to other wizarding schools across Europe. But sometimes knowing someone’s house made it easier to get a read on someone. “I’ve dated a Hufflepuff and a couple Gryffindors as well.”
“Anyone we know?” George asked in that sly, leading way of his.
Before Percy could reply, there was a knock at the door. He jumped up, grinning and giddy. “That’ll be Lindsey!” He rushed off to answer the door.
There was a sound like a squeal and then the unmistakable soft, wet smack of a kiss. Something inside Charlie clenched with just a tiny bit of jealousy. But that was quickly replaced by other emotions once Percy returned. He had his arm around Lindsey’s waist, the closeness quite evident.
Lindsey was beautiful, slight, blond. Lindsey was also a man. Confusion set in around the whole table. Confusion and shock. And maybe a bit of denial. But when Percy turned and kissed the man’s cheek. Not just a quick peck of greeting. Not just a soft kiss of affection. No, this was a strong, calculated kiss showing possession and leaving absolutely no cause to doubt. Percy dropped his arm and took Lindsey’s hand. Instinctively their fingers laced. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Lindsey Blotts. Lindsey, this is my whole family.” He lifted his hand, taking Lindsey’s with him, and freed a finger to begin pointing. “My mum and dad, Molly and Arthur. Then there’s my eldest brother, Bill, and his wife, Fleur, and daughter, Victoire. She was born just after the Battle of Hogwarts. There’s George and his friend Lee. You’ve probably seen them around Diagon Alley.” Lindsey nodded. “Then there’s my youngest brother, Ron, and his wife Hermione. My sister Ginny and her fiancé, Harry Potter.” Charlie saw Lindsey give a bit of a start at this, but the smile on the man’s face did not falter for a second; perhaps Percy had prepared him or perhaps he’d read about the engagement in the Daily Prophet. “And that’s my other older brother, Charlie, home from Romania for a few days.”
Lindsey raised his free hand and gave an awkward wave. “Nice to meet you all.” He leaned into Percy a little. “Um, I know you’re probably a little surprised or disappointed or disgusted or what-not. I told him this probably wasn’t the best way to come out. But what’s done is done. I appreciate the generous invitation to join you for Christmas dinner, which smells heavenly by the way, but I’ll leave if you need to discuss this with Perce as a family.” He laid his hand protectively on Percy’s upper arm. “Or, I’ll leave and take him with me if he needs protection. It’s your call.”
No one spoke. Everyone was too shocked to speak. Charlie was sure that everyone else at the table was shocked that Percy was gay. Charlie, on the other hand, was shocked that he hadn’t figured this out sooner. All those telltale missing pronouns alone should have clued him in. Charlie had done the exact same thing since he’d been a teenager.
Charlie caught Bill’s eye across the table. Bill’s eyes went wide and his head tilted forward, as if to indicate that Charlie should say something.
But he couldn’t. This was the perfect moment to stick up for his younger brother and to announce his own sexuality at the same time. He couldn’t have hoped for a better “in.” But this was Percy’s moment. And it was still uncertain as to how his family members were going to react. Their father looked entirely beyond the ability to speak, mouth half open, fork poised halfway between plate and mouth. And their mother…
“Don’t be silly,” Molly said, gesturing toward the two empty chairs at the table. “An invitation is an invitation. This just caught us by surprise.”
Though he didn’t look quite so comfortable doing it, Percy took a seat at the table and Lindsey sat down beside him.
No one spoke for about four minutes solid. It was like no one wanted to say the wrong thing or be perceived as speaking for the family. Finally, Percy broke the silence by putting his fork and knife down and addressing everyone. “I’m sorry to spring it on you like this, but I was tired to death of hiding. I figured that if you all welcomed me back after what I’d done before, you could forgive me for being a pofter. I mean, compared to practically working for the Dark Lord for over a year, falling in love with a man was almost nothing.”
Arthur’s fork finally slipped from his hand and clattered onto the plate. He had been staring unblinkingly at Percy, but finally came to. He rose and headed over. Charlie jumped up, not sure what he planned to do, but not wanting Percy to face it alone. Arthur stopped behind them and stuck his hand out. “Arthur Weasley. And I’m very pleased to meet you, son.”
Lindsey flushed. Charlie did likewise and started to sit back down, but everyone else got up as well. Without planning or talking about it, the Weasleys suddenly formed a line to greet Lindsey properly and speak with Percy.
Molly followed her husband, tears in her eyes when she hugged Percy. She whispered something to him that made all the worry vanish from his countenance. Charlie felt another sharp pang of jealousy at this.
“I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me,” Percy told her.
She moved in for a second hug. “Oh, my dear, of course I’m not. I’m surprised and a little hurt you couldn’t have told us earlier, but I’m glad you found someone who makes you happy. That’s all that’s important to me.”
Charlie could feel Bill staring at him, and he could feel his own ears burning. Why had he decided not to tell his family about himself? He couldn’t remember now. His head was swimming and his stomach felt queasy. He thought about ducking out, going upstairs to bed, blaming it on his cold, but he didn’t want Percy and Lindsey to think he didn’t approve of them. So he stood in the line, but his place was near the end. He snuffled into the handkerchief and tried to keep from lapsing into an attention-drawing sneezing fit.
So it was Bill, not Charlie, who was the first sibling to shake Lindsey’s hand. “Good to meet you.” He glanced back at Charlie briefly, and then he embraced Percy, clapping him on the back. “Same old Perce,” he muttered, chuckling. “You always did like being the center of attention. Do you always have to be so dramatic?”
Percy beamed. “Guess so.”
Up next, Ginny threw herself on both men, hugging equally. Harry had to pry her off in order to get a handshake of his own in.
Most everyone else settled for handshakes, in fact: Fleur, Hermione, Ron… even though Ron looked a bit uncomfortable. Charlie knew Ron liked neither change nor surprise, and this was a whole lot of both. “Next time,” Ron said, “Give us a bit of a warning before you spring something like this on us, would you?”
Percy grinned. “I wanted to tell everyone all at once because I didn’t think I could say it again. This was my best option.”
Charlie was up next. His pulse raced and nose tickled and he wondered if any of his family members watching could guess why. He shook Lindsey’s hand, surprised at the man’s enthusiastic handshake. “I’d hug you, Perce, but I know how you feel about germs. And this is a rotten head cold. It’s like the germs themselves tickle.”
Percy shook his head. “I’ll do a disinfecting charm afterward. C’mere.” He reached his arms out and Charlie found himself in the hug. Percy was so warm, but Charlie noticed Percy’s heart was pounding fast and hard. He might look relaxed, but he was terrified deep down still.
“I’m so proud of you, Perce. This took so much courage.” Charlie knew exactly how much, in fact, because he hadn’t been able to come up with that much courage on his own.
Charlie headed back to his seat, feeling a bit desperate to blow his nose and avoid Bill’s knowing looks. “ehhh-Hihshhhh!” Charlie slumped in his seat, feeling happy for his brother but completely miserable otherwise.
He was barely aware of George taking his turn with Percy until George cleared his throat. “Ah, and that’s why I hope Percy doesn’t mind if I go following in his footsteps here. Mum, Dad, everybody, I’m gay.”
The shock hit Charlie as if it had been a Crucio curse. For a moment, he completely forgot to breathe. Then he gasped for breath, coughed, and forgot to cover his mouth. George? George too?
“Lee and I have been together for years. Since… when was it exactly?”
“Not too long after Fred’s funeral.”
George nodded in agreement. “That’s right. Downward spiral of recklessness and depression averted. Thank you, Lee Jordan.”
“Any time, George.”
And they kissed. Right there. In front of everybody. Not even a kiss on the cheek like the one Percy had given Lindsey, but a proper, loving kiss.
Then George pulled back, grinning like a goofball. “Sit down and dig in, everybody. Dinner’s getting cold.”
Charlie slumped lower in his seat. It seemed so easy for his little brothers to say it. He knew it hadn’t been; he knew they were both scared and apprehensive. If they hadn’t been, they would have said something ages ago. Charlie jumped as he felt something kick his shin. He knew it had been Bill’s boot from across the table, because Bill was staring at him, wide-eyed, as if trying to mentally communicate and tell him to speak up.
But Charlie didn’t. “ehShuhhh! Ktchuhh!” Charlie sneezed and coughed and felt like curling up and dying. His younger brothers were much braver Gryffindors than he was. He looked up, trying to gauge his parents’ and family’s reaction to George and Lee’s news.
Molly looked shocked, and who could blame her? But Charlie was surprised when she spoke. “Boys, why didn’t you tell us earlier?”
“It’s not something we ever talk about in this family,” George answered. “Didn’t know how you’d react.”
Arthur spoke up, “This family has welcomed werewolves, escaped prisoners, goblins, and so many others. Of course you would still have a place amongst us.”
Lee spoke up, “By the time we realized that, it seemed too late to explain what was going on. Granted, when we started seeing each other, your family was going through a lot. So were we. We didn’t want anyone thinking the reason we were taking comfort in each other was because we missed Fred.”
“Fred…” Ron said, unable to finish the question they were all asking themselves.
“Oh, Fred definitely liked the ladies,” George said. “And, yes, he knew about me. He was fine with it. And he’s probably looking down at us, laughing his arse off right now. Percy! I had no idea! All the stuff I’ve been going through… I could have talked about it with you.”
Again, Charlie felt the kick to his leg. He pulled it, out of Bill’s reach. He kept his eyes on his plate, on the food he had absolutely no appetite for. He should speak up. He should say something. But the words stuck in his throat.
George prodded, “So, those other guys you dated… do I know any of them?”
Percy glanced over at Lindsey, who looked amused. “Percy doesn’t like to name names. But I don’t mind. Oliver Wood’s one.”
Harry sprayed a sip of wine over his plate and part of Ginny’s. She looked less than happy about that and tried to mop the edge of her plate with her napkin.
“Oliver Wood, Gryffindor Quidditch Captain?” George exclaimed. “Our Oliver Wood?”
Percy nodded. “My Oliver Wood for a little while after we left Hogwarts. He broke it off with me when I started acting like a prat, supporting the Ministry rather than my own family. Can’t exactly hold that against him. I hear he’s dating Marcus Flint now.”
“Flint!” Harry exclaimed. “But he hated Flint when we were in school!”
Percy shrugged. “Opposites attract.” He shouldn’t have, but Charlie noticed Percy’s eyes flick toward Hermione and Ron.
“Percy, George, Lee, Oliver, Marcus… is no one straight?” Ginny asked.
“I still am,” Ron insisted, not sounding indignant, rather more amused.
“Me too,” Bill pointed out, earning a peck on the cheek from Fleur.
Charlie felt everyone’s eyes on him. Some looked at him casually, waiting for him to say the same. Others seemed curious, maybe demanding. And Bill’s eyes were insistent, encouraging. Charlie felt them look, but couldn’t raise his head. It would be so easy to tell them that he fancied men as well. This was the perfect opportunity. But this wasn’t at all how he wanted to tell them. It would be so simple to let himself sneeze and excuse himself at that moment. But he loved them and owed them more than that. He owed them the truth.
He looked up, seeing that Bill’s expression was actually sympathetic. He tilted his head slightly, gesturing toward the hanky.
Charlie gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. He appreciated that his big brother could read his mind so well and knew he could excuse himself if needed.
Bill mouthed ‘Are you all right?’
Charlie took a deep breath and nodded back toward Bill. Charlie summoned all his strength and answered, “I wish I’d told you all a long time ago that I like men.”