Title: August: New York City
Written: December 2014 (and is the product of my Benedict love)
Crossover: Harry Potter/ August: Osage County
Pairing(s): Harry/Little Charles, past Little Charles/Ivy, past Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione
Summary: Harry saw him through the AT&T window in New York, and immediately fell for Little Charles.
Warnings: Homophobia, past (canonical) incest
The heart breaks softly, without a word.
It had been their first night in New York, they were staying in a cheap hotel, and they had just made love. Little Charles—for that’s what everyone called him, everyone except for Ivy—was lying on his back and breathing in deeply. Everything was perfect; everything was right. They were here with their plans and their dreams. To her he was not a loser. With her he felt like a winner. He’d gotten what he’d always wanted, since he was a boy of fourteen. True, she had been about thirty at the time, but that hadn’t stopped him from loving her.
Then she told him. She confessed it all, about how she had found out just two days before that her father and his mother had had an affair… that although he was named after Charles, he wasn’t really his father. Uncle Beverley was.
It was too horrifying to think about.
Ivy begged him to speak, to say something, but he couldn’t. Instead, tears rolled down his cheeks. He left after she had fallen asleep.
Charles—his dad, because Little Charles would always call him that—had given him a credit card for emergencies, so he had taken a cab across town and found another dive to stay in.
He forgot all their hopes and dreams. Instead, he got a little one room apartment on top of a Vietnamese Market, and a job at an AT&T store in Times Square. He hadn’t been good at selling shoes in Oklahoma—he’d gotten fired at that job—but he could sell cell phones. He liked the television. Somehow it translated to other technology, especially to phones where you could watch youtube.
Little Charles had been working there for about a year when he walked in. It was August again, the month the horribleness had all begun. At first Charles thought he was like any other customer, although better dressed. He was in a neatly pressed blue suit with a thin black tie. Messy black hair fell into his green eyes, which were obstructed by rectangular wire-rimmed glasses.
“May I help you?” Little Charles asked, coming up to this man. He seemed a little lost, his hands in his pockets, as he looked around a bit. He kept on peaking glances at Little Charles as if he were what really interested him.
“Yes. I just moved here for work and need a mobile.” His accent was British and it made Little Charles smile. It reminded him of Notting Hill, a movie that he and Ivy had always watched together, curled around each other on the couch—before.
“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” Little Charles said, using the script he had been taught. “If I can ask, what’s your line of work? It will help me narrow down what type of phone and contract you will need.”
The customer blushed. He leaned forward and looked at his nametag. “Charles. Do you go by Charles or Charlie?”
“Charles. Little Charles back home,” he admitted. “My father is Charles.”
The customer nodded. “Charles, then. I’m Harry,” he held out his hand and Little Charles took it easily. “I think I need all the technical mumbo jumbo. My godson insists I get something called an iPhone. He wants one, too. I don’t understand it, to be honest, but I’m a diplomat, so I need all the bells and whistles.”
“The iPhone5 came out last December,” Little Charles told him, leading him over to the display. He took the phone off the stand and began explaining all the features to Harry, who listened attentively. Still, he was looking at Little Charles more than at the phone. It was a little strange, but Little Charles let it pass.
Finally, Harry said, “Two of them, I think. Largest memory size, especially for my godson.”
Little Charles smiled at Harry.
As Little Charles and Harry discussed data plans, Little Charles couldn’t help but look at Harry. He had always been only attracted to Ivy, but there was something magnetic about this man. He supposed it came in handy being a diplomat. Harry must work at the United Nations, he reasoned.
He looked up the easiest numbers to remember and assigned them to the new phones.
“You’re not from New York, are you?” Harry asked suddenly.
Little Charles looked up. “No. Oklahoma.”
“I like accents,” Harry admitted. “Yours is different from the normal one you hear in Manhattan—a good different,” he hastily put in when Little Charles flushed.
“Yours is certainly distinctive,” Little Charles noted. “You rarely come across ‘posh’ British accents. They’re usually middle or lower class ones.”
“You know accents?”
“I know television and movies,” Little Charles admitted. His mother claimed it addled his brain, he watched T.V. so often. Little Charles disagreed. It was his way of relating to the world.
Little Charles handed over a bag with the phones. “I’ve marked each. Yours says ‘Harry’ and your godson’s says ‘godson.’ I didn’t know his name.”
“Teddy.” Harry looked pensive. “When’s your lunch hour?”
Little Charles looked startled and glanced at the clock. It was three o’clock, their usual slump. There were two other employees wandering around, playing with the tablets because there were no other customers.
“Two thirty,” he admitted. “I worked through it.”
Harry looked apologetic. “How long is it?”
“It technically lasts another half hour,” Little Charles said cautiously. “I brought a sandwich, so I won’t suffer for the loss of time.”
“Nonsense,” Harry said. “May I take you to lunch tomorrow? There’s this nice bistro around the corner.” He looked at Little Charles hopefully.
Little Charles wasn’t sure what to do. He glanced at his colleagues. “You don’t need to thank me—“
“I’m not—thanking you,” Harry breathed. He pushed his glasses up his nose. His hair parted and Little Charles saw some sort of scar peaking out from behind his hair. “You’ve been very helpful, but I’ve fancied you since I first spotted you on the street. That’s why I picked here to get our mobiles. I hadn’t planned on getting them today, to be honest.” He was now blushing and looking away.
Little Charles swallowed. “I—yes.” Then, more steadily, he asserted, “Yes. Lunch would be nice.” He must be going out of his mind. If his mom and dad would have gone crazy if they had found out about him and Ivy when they had supposedly only been cousins—they would be horrified if he were to date a man. Such things weren’t done in their part of Oklahoma.
Harry smiled. “Perfect. Two-thirty? I’ll stop by a little before and then we can go.” He looked like he wanted to lean forward and perhaps kiss Little Charles’s cheek but he glanced at Little Charles’s coworkers and aborted the movement. “Till tomorrow, Charles.”
“Yes,” Little Charles agreed, almost certain he wouldn’t see the man again, for all his nice promises. However, Harry was still sneaking glances at him. Surely that meant something.
However, he did show up.
Harry appeared at 2:15 and sat down on the couch in the middle of the store and waited until Little Charles went on break, and then he smiled when Little Charles approached him. “Ready?”
“You actually came,” Little Charles said, befuddled.
Harry stood up. “Of course I did. I’m a man of my word, and I told you: I fancy you.”
“I don’t see why. Only one other person has before,” he admitted. “I’m generally considered a disappointment back home.”
“So am I,” Harry admitted. They walked out the door. “Well, ‘disappointment’ is the wrong word. My aunt and uncle think I’m a ‘freak.’”
Little Charles looked at him horrified. “Even after everything you’ve accomplished?”
Harry only laughed. “Especially now.”
There was definitely a story there, Little Charles realized, but he didn’t pry. Instead, he let Harry lead him through the busy New York street, even allowing Harry to grab his hand so they wouldn’t get lost in the crowd, until the promised bistro was revealed. Little Charles had walked past it before, but had never been inside.
They settled into a table and Harry smiled at him, his green eyes showing depths that Little Charles secretly wished he had. He was just a salesman. Harry was in another pressed suit while he was in his uniform. Pale blue shirt, name tag, khaki pants. They must make the strangest looking pair.
“You have a godson?” Little Charles asked, trying to find a topic of conversation.
Harry nodded. “His parents died when he was only a few months old and his grandmother wasn’t able to take him in, so I did. He’s more of a son, really. He’s sixteen now. He’s still moody about moving to New York.”
“It must have been a change for him,” Little Charles offered. “I found it strange for the first few months after coming from Oklahoma. There it’s plains and heat and here there are just so many people and technology that moves too quickly.”
Laughing, Harry admitted, “I had to have Teddy show me how to use my mobile. I’ve got all my contacts in, at least, and my email is set up.”
Little Charles nodded. “I don’t really use my phone for much except for videos. I don’t even use the camera,” he admitted. “I have nothing to photograph.”
“That’s sad,” Harry admitted. “I love taking pictures. I have so few of my own parents—I’m an orphan—that I documented every stage of Teddy’s life. We had over two suitcases of albums to bring over when we moved.”
A smile twitched on Little Charles’s lips. “That must have been wonderful, to watch him grow up.” His hand was lying on the table, they were both eating soup but Little Charles had stopped to think, and Harry hesitantly placed his hand on top of Little Charles’s. Little Charles looked up in astonishment.
“Is this too much?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“No,” Little Charles realized, feeling that strange pull to Harry he had felt the day before. “I just wasn’t expecting it.” He went back to eating his soup, but their hands still remained connected. Little Charles felt warmed by it and while his heart still felt broken after all this time, he felt a little more life come into it.
It was strange to be walking back hand in hand. They had finished their lunch a little early so they took their time as the busy people of New York sped around them. When they finally got to just before the AT&T shop, Little Charles stopped. “I better not—it might not be professional—“
“Right,” Harry agreed, his cheeks blushing. He looked up at Little Charles and seemed hesitant. Then, seeming to gain courage, he pulled Little Charles’s head down and softly kissed him.
Little Charles had never thought about it before, but kissing a man wasn’t all that different from kissing a woman. He was still taller and the lips were still soft. Ivy had never worn even chapstick, so there was no difference there. The eyeglasses were a bit strange, but he could get used to it, if he just tilted his head to the side.
Harry smiled at him. “I have meetings tomorrow but Saturday I’m free. I promised to take Teddy to the Empire State Building in the morning, but perhaps we could do tea? No, wait: you do coffee in America. There’s a Starbucks on every corner.”
“Spend the day with your godson,” Little Charles urged. “He needs help adjusting.”
Harry looked at him a bit perceptively. “Monday then. I won’t get my schedule ‘til tomorrow, but I could call you. Maybe take you out after work for coffee?”
Little Charles, feeling like a teenager more than he had with Ivy, took out his cell phone. “I plugged in your number when you asked me out,” he admitted. “I’m texting you now so you have mine.”
Smiling, Harry took out his phone when it vibrated. “Perfect,” he said. “I guess I better let you—“
“Yes,” Little Charles answered a bit self-consciously. Feeling like he should do something, he squeezed Harry’s hand and jogged back to the store. He knew he had a silly grin plastered on his face.
He only wished he had someone to tell. His mind immediately flitted to Ivy, but that was out of the question. Karen was too flighty. Barbara? No. She’d be too judgmental.
That left no one but his dad. He stared at his phone for almost half an hour before he pressed ‘dial.’ His mom answered, but he quickly got her off the line. In the end, he couldn’t find the words to tell his dad. They just wouldn’t unstick from his throat. Perhaps he’d tell Dad next time. Perhaps.
Little Charles thought he’d gotten the wrong coffee shop the following Monday. He’d been planning and overplanning all weekend, stupidly enough. He’d brought his only button-down shirt to work so that he could change into it and look less like a—well—AT&T salesperson and more like a human being. He wanted to impress Harry. He didn’t want Harry to think of him as a disappointment, even if he was a diplomat and Little Charles was a simple salesman.
He almost walked out when Harry was over half an hour late, when Harry rushed through the door and came up to him. “I’m sorry,” he began. “I tried to do the thing called ‘texting’ but it didn’t work. There was a mistranslation on the floor and the Saudi Arabian delegate got insulted and it was one big mess. Let me just go order—do you want a top up?”
Little Charles’s coffee had gotten cold while he was waiting. “Just a black coffee,” he murmured.
Harry kissed the top of his head and was gone, presumably to the counter.
Little Charles just stared into his nearly empty cup and wondered at himself again. He had spent sixteen years lusting after and then loving Ivy, and now he was embarking on this—he wasn’t sure what it was—with a man. It was utterly baffling. Perhaps he should call Barbara after all.
Setting down two large cups, Harry appeared on the opposite side of their tiny table. He smiled at Little Charles hesitantly. “I am sorry. Again. I promise to have Teddy show me how to ‘text’ and I’ll even practice on you, if you don’t mind.”
Eyebrows rising, Little Charles thought about it for a second. He didn’t have anybody to text. “I don’t mind,” he finally decided. “Just—not after ten. I like to go to sleep early.”
Harry laughed. “I only stay up past eleven if I have an official event. Then I usually walk around trying to find tea so that I can stay awake.”
“You won’t find much of that over here,” Little Charles admitted. He felt a bit awkward. He knew he should say something—maybe ask about Harry’s work, but words just stuck in his throat again.
“Tell me something about yourself.”
Little Charles was genuinely surprised. Harry was looking at him so avidly, like he was a secret he desperately wanted to solve, and Little Charles wished that his most shameful secret—that he had been lovers with his own sister for over six months—would stay hidden away. “What do you want to know?”
“Something small. I won’t ask you about your hopes and dreams. Not yet.”
“I—I collected buttons when I was a child,” he admitted. “Is that small?”
“It’s perfect,” Harry decided. “Why buttons?”
Immediately feeling comfortable, Little Charles began to explain about the different size and shape of buttons, and how that had strangely fascinated him when he was six years old.
“I write music, too,” he admitted. “I don’t play the piano well, but enough to get by.”
Harry smiled winningly at him. “Perhaps one day you’ll play a song for me. Do you have a piano where you live?”
He shook his head.
Seeming to expect something more, Harry waited, before he took another sip of his coffee and looked thoughtful. “I used to sneak into the school library at night,” he admitted. “My best mate wasn’t much for classwork, and our other friend was all for it, and I could never find a happy medium. So, I snuck off when everyone was asleep and did my classwork then.”
“It wasn’t locked?”
Harry smiled secretively. “I have a way of getting around locked doors,” he admitted.
Little Charles could only smile back at him. “I’m not so clever.” If only if that were the half of it.
They sat in silence, drinking their coffee, when Harry said something unexpected. “You weren’t loved as a child, were you? I get some vibes that you were, and others that you weren’t. You said you were a disappointment—“
“To my mother,” Little Charles just managed to get out. “My dad’s always loved me.”
Harry smiled at him sadly. “If I met your mother, I’d tell her how great you are.”
Little Charles wasn’t certain what to say to this. He still felt lost after having given up Ivy, and his mom’s words always came back to haunt him. Little Charles didn’t even realize that he was hyperventilating until Harry gripped his hand.
“Focus on me,” Harry told him. “Look into my eyes and focus on me.”
Doing just that, Little Charles breathed in and out, syncing his breaths to Harry’s, and slowly he calmed down.
“I’m sorry—I didn’t mean—“ Harry began, but Little Charles shook his head.
“I should go. I—“ He stood up. “How much do I owe you?”
“You owe me nothing.” He stood as well. “Let me walk you home. I want your last memory before you go into your home to be of me kissing you.” His green eyes shone earnestly.
“It’s not a home,” he muttered. Home was where his dad was. Home was supposed to be where Ivy was.
“Don’t leave upset, at least,” Harry cajoled. “Please. I’ve been looking forward to this all weekend.”
This brought a laugh from Little Charles. “If only they could hear you back in Oklahoma.”
“I don’t care what they say in Oklahoma,” Harry argued. “I care what you say and, if we’re still seeing each other in a month or two, I care what Teddy says.”
“This goes against everything I was taught in Bible school,” Little Charles admitted. “This entire weekend, when I was trying to decide whether to wear my uniform, or this shirt, or my nicest t-shirt, I kept on wondering if I was going crazy for going through with this.”
Harry sat back and looked at him. “But you came.” He nodded his head. “You wore that shirt and you came.”
Little Charles smiled bashfully to himself. “I came.”
That night he curled up in his pajamas and just watched T.V. The first text came at eight o’clock. It made him smile. During a commercial break, he texted back. He spent the whole evening like that until he finally went to bed. Usually, he turned off his phone, but he didn’t that night. He left it on just in case—just in case Harry needed him.
“I have a busy day at work on Monday,” Harry apologized over sandwiches that Friday. Little Charles insisted that Harry experience the American grinder, New York style, and Harry was valiantly attempting to eat it neatly.
“I have Monday off,” Little Charles explained. At Harry’s confused look, he explained, “I usually have Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I switched with someone else.”
Harry’s face lit up. “You can come to the U.N. then. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be out, so you’ll have to wait in the lounge, but we can go to the cafeteria and I can show you where I work.”
Little Charles was genuinely stumped by this. “You want to—show me off to the other diplomats?”
“We’re technically called representatives or delegates, but yes. Do you have a jacket and tie?”
“Yes. It’s tweed, so it’s not that formal.”
Harry waved a hand at him. “That doesn’t matter. As long as you’re there. I promise not to introduce you to anyone frightening. I’ll have a pass waiting for you at, say, twelve o’clock? I promise to be no later than two.”
“I’ll bring a book.” Little Charles didn’t mention that he was reading To Kill a Mockingbird because he couldn’t seem to get beyond the level of Young Adult in reading. It was utterly humiliating. After seeing Gone with the Wind, he had attempted Margaret Mitchell’s novel and that had been a failure. His mom had laughed at him for weeks. It was utterly humiliating.
“I don’t want to let you go,” Harry admitted as they neared the AT&T store. “I know I have to get back to the U.N. There’s a debate at four.”
“Then go,” Little Charles pressed. “I’ll still be here on Monday.”
“I’ve told Teddy about you,” Harry admitted with a blush. “He moodily asked if you were just as American as everyone else before putting on loud music, but he still knows.” He gave a lopsided grin.
Little Charles was genuinely surprised. “I’m used to being someone’s dirty little secret,” he admitted.
“Well,” Harry said, reaching up for a kiss, “you’re not mine.” When lips met lips, Little Charles sighed and he pulled Harry to him as if he would disappear. He was almost afraid he would just vanish into thin air—like the idea of Ivy had with that one simple secret.
He called Barbara that night. He had to tell someone. “It’s Little Charles,” he admitted over the phone. “Do you have a minute?”
“Jean’s at a friend’s—probably smoking pot,” she admitted. “What’s up, Little Charles?”
“I’ve met someone. I wanted to tell—“
Her voice darkened. “So you’re not with Ivy anymore.”
“We haven’t been—since—basically the funeral—“
If she understood what he was trying to say, she didn’t mention it. Instead, she breathed into the phone. “So, what’s she like?”
Little Charles had determined that he was going to tell Barbara, and he wasn’t going to back out now. “He’s the British representative to the United Nations.”
Barbara whistled. “Forgetting we’re talking about a man, you scored a foreign diplomat? Way to go, Little Charles. Have you told your dad?”
“I’m afraid of how he’ll take it,” Little Charles admitted. “Harry’s a grown man—“
“Don’t do anything you don’t want to,” Barbara advised. “There’s no harm in saying ‘no’. I know you like to please everyone, but this is one situation where that could just hurt you.”
“Right.” Little Charles’s heart sank. “Of course.”
He felt more than a little disheartened. Still, on Monday he got dressed in his black trousers, white shirt, and tweed jacket. He only had the black tie, so that would have to do. He snagged his book and made his way out the door.
It was a nice walk to the U.N. When he finally made it there a little before twelve, the man at the front desk was helpful. He was shown into a lounge, where men and women were mingling and talking in quiet murmurs. Little Charles tried not to feel intimidated as he sat down with his book.
Harry showed up over an hour later. Little Charles had only gotten nine pages further into To Kill a Mockingbird. Hopefully Harry would never find out what a disgrace he was.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harry read. “Is it good?”
Little Charles was reading it for the sixteenth time. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Harry smiled at him and offered his hand. Little Charles looked at it and then back at Harry’s bespeckled green eyes. “I’m not going to hide anything, even if I do work here,” Harry told him honestly. “I’m not ashamed of you.”
Taking his hand, Little Charles stood. “I told my cousin Barbara about us,” he admitted. “It didn’t go over very well. Could have gone worse, though,” he realized.
“I’m sorry,” Harry murmured, squeezing his hand and looking up at him. “Why’d you tell her specifically?”
“I tried to tell Dad, but I just couldn’t get it out,” he admitted. “I wasn’t brave enough. I never seem to be.”
“Facing your dad with something like this must be hard,” Harry reasoned, as he led him down a stairwell. “I know Teddy was terrified to tell me when he had his first girlfriend. In retrospect, it was kind of cute. But you were telling me about Barbara.”
“I have three cousins,” Little Charles explained. “Barbara’s the oldest. I’ve never been close to her but she’s the most stable. Then there’s Ivy and we—I can’t—it’s complicated. Karen is too flighty. She dates a new man every week, though I think she just got married.” He paused and thought about that character she had brought to his Uncle Beverley’s funeral—he would never call him his father. He hadn’t earned that right.
“Well,” Harry said as he opened the door to the cafeteria. “Here we can be open and unafraid, and I’m buying. No but’s.” Harry looked at him sternly.
“You always buy.”
“That’s because I saw you through a shop window and fancied you. I seem to bewilder you more and more each time I see you, and I won’t have you paying for that. When we become more settled, then I might allow you to pay.”
“I had nothing as a child,” Harry said, moving in so that only Little Charles could hear. “Please. It makes me happy.”
Little Charles really couldn’t argue with that.
Of course, Harry had been horrified when Little Charles insisted they both have pizza, but he gave in in the end. Little Charles knew he would. Harry held some strange power over him, but he seemed to hold a similar power over Harry.
“Next time, you’re eating a hotdog,” Little Charles promised and Harry groaned.
“What have I gotten myself in for?” His green eyes twinkled behind his glasses.
“You’re dating an All-American guy,” Little Charles pointed out. “You must live with the consequences.”
“Wait ‘til I have Teddy out of the flat for the night. I’m going to cook you something deliciously foreign and convert you forever.”
“I can’t cook,” Little Charles admitted. “I burn everything.”
“How do you eat?”
“T.V. dinners.” Little Charles blushed.
Harry just blinked at him. “I wouldn’t wish the way I learned how to cook on anyone, but I’m so sorry. That just must taste dreadful.”
Little Charles shrugged. It was the way his life was.
“What happened?” Harry asked quietly. “With Ivy?”
He must have looked devastated, because Harry immediately looked apologetic. “My cousin Dudley used to beat me up,” he confessed. “He and his gang would chase me for the fun of it. They called it Harry Hunting. I’m very fast because of it.” He smiled sadly. “I saved Dudley’s life when we were fifteen—man with a gun, long story—and he was nice to me then. Used to leave tea outside my room, but I’d open the door and step on it by accident and wonder how it got there. He’s a used car salesman in Surrey now. I haven’t seen him since I was seventeen.”
“I saw my cousins last year, last August,” Little Charles shared. “My Uncle Beverley had died and I overslept, missed the funeral. The alarm went off but it didn’t—“ He sighed, still ashamed. “I made it for the funeral dinner. It descended into a fight. I tried to be brave. I tried to tell the family I was seeing this girl they wouldn’t approve of—“
Harry looked at him sadly.
“It ended badly, of course. It was no one’s fault. If anyone’s to blame, it’s our parents. By that time, though, I was already out here, and I couldn’t go back to Oklahoma and admit defeat again.”
“I fancied this boy,” Harry told Little Charles. “We were seventeen, eighteen. I was mad about him. He got angry with me and stopped talking to me, but then he came back. I was so glad, and I thought, perhaps, it might be for me. But then he basically told me he’d come back for our other friend, a girl. Hermione. I had to watch them grow closer and eventually marry. I’m godfather to their eldest daughter, Rose. Still, Ron broke my heart.—also,” his mind seemed to shift suddenly. “I’m not letting you admit defeat. I don’t know exactly what happened with this girl, but I want to make you happy now.”
“You do make me happy,” Little Charles mumbled.
Harry must have heard because he smiled.
They were drinking tea, Little Charles felt a little strange just doing it, when a black man with a bald head wearing some sort of robe came over.
“Ambassador Potter,” he greeted. “I’ve gotten five requests for a comment concerning an interview Ginny Weasley gave yesterday.”
Harry’s eyebrows rose. “You came all the way here just to tell me that? Don’t they know I’m in America?”
The man just looked at him sheepishly and then glanced at Little Charles.
Sighing, Harry introduced them. “Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, Charles Aiken. Charles is my boyfriend.”
Not quite sure what to do, Little Charles offered his hand. Kingsley took it.
Harry turned to the paper and seemed to skim the article. He then looked at Kingsley. “That is completely false.”
“I need a statement.”
Harry sighed and took out a pen from his inner pocket. In the corner of the paper he wrote something angrily and then returned it to Kingsley, who read it. “You wouldn’t touch Ginny Weasley sexually as she’s less appealing than a fire breathing dragon that’s trying to kill you.”
Little Charles thought that was a bit harsh.
Still, Harry nodded.
“Right,” Kingsley said. “I’ll leak that to the press.” He nodded to them and left.
“Should I even ask?” Little Charles said into the silence.
“Ex-girlfriend claiming I had sex with her and got her pregnant when we were teenagers. I highly doubt she was ever pregnant, and I certainly never slept with her. I was mad about her brother, Ron, if you remember.”
Little Charles played with his jello. Once again, words failed him. He wanted to say that he believed Harry, that it was all right, but he found that he just couldn’t.
Harry sighed. “I have a title,” he explained. “It makes me—sought after.”
“A title?” Little Charles parroted. “As in, you’re a Lord?”
He smiled softly back at him. “Lord Black. The Earl Black, to be more specific. I don’t really use it here except on the floor. It’s nice that American society is so equal. With you, I can just be a bloke who walked in off the street.”
“You were never a man who just walked in off the street,” Little Charles murmured, remembering how well dressed Harry had been.
Harry’s smile widened. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Little Charles supposed it was one.
Kissing Harry in the lobby had been a little embarrassing at first. Little Charles had been insistent that someone might see.
“Let them see,” Harry countered. “The delegates from the more conservative countries will never say anything in case it will create an international incident. You’re my boyfriend, if you haven’t noticed, and I want to kiss you goodbye. Just focus on me and forget the other people and where we are.”
Little Charles had never liked attention and focusing had always been rather difficult, but when Harry’s lips met his, that was all he could think about.
Within less than a week, Harry had taken him to a tailor where he was being outfitted for a tuxedo and a suit. He was holding up ties to Little Charles’s neck and Little Charles was looking at him through the mirror. “This is too much.”
“Hardly. We’re going to the French delegate’s house on Thursday for dinner. We need you to be prepared.”
“I can’t let you buy me these clothes. I have a little money saved up…”
“Which is your money,” Harry countered fondly. “You’re doing me a favor. I don’t want to hear her drone for two hours about trade routes on my own. The least I can do is dress you for the odious task.” Little Charles wasn’t quite sure what ‘odious’ meant, but he was sure it wasn’t good. He took out his phone and typed it in his child’s dictionary to find out what it meant. It took him a few times to spell it correctly. Ah. Right. That’s what it meant.
Harry had put several ties aside, including a purple one, and Little Charles just sighed. He felt like a doll at the moment. He supposed he was one.
He ended up wearing the suit. The food was rich, the French delegate polite, and she didn’t talk about trade routes. She did, however, look him up and down several times before glancing at Harry.
“Whatever possessed you to bring a Muggle?” she finally asked him.
“Slang for ‘American,’” Harry explained to him behind his napkin. Louder he replied, “He’s my boyfriend.”
“Does your government know?”
Harry sat back and crossed his arms, clearly ready for a fight. “Minister Shacklebolt does.”
She sighed. “C’est la vie. Our best and brightest.”
“You would have me marry a pureblood,” Harry deduced. The word meant nothing to Little Charles. He could tell they were arguing over something other than the fact he was American. He just couldn’t tell what exactly.
“It was such a shock when a half-blood was appointed,” the French delegate admitted. “There was a stir in the international community. Of course, your political currency cannot be denied, but it was always assumed you would make an appropriate marriage.”
Harry threw down the napkin. “Well, thanks for dinner, and for insulting my date, even if he couldn’t understand exactly what you were saying.” He stood up. “We’re going, Charles.”
Quickly standing, Charles looked between their hostess and her husband. “Thank you for dinner,” he said quietly before following Harry out.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said as soon as they reached the car. Little Charles had been surprised to see he had one in New York City of all places, though he supposed it made sense given the fact everyone seemed to live in compounds. “I didn’t know she would—the French are usually more liberal.”
“What’s a pureblood?”
Harry was silent for a few moments. “Someone who’s titled. My mother was a commoner so I’m a half-blood.”
“Sounds bigoted.” That had been his word for the week some time last month. He had a program on his phone for fourth graders that gave a word for the week. He always painstakingly memorized it. It was stupid, he knew, but he was always trying to expand his vocabulary.
“It is.” Harry sighed. “You were wonderful, though.”
Little Charles blushed and Harry just smiled.
They stopped in front of an imposing gate and Harry looked at Little Charles. “Come up for a drink? Teddy is at school now and it’s just me.”
Drink. Right. That meant sex. Ivy had teased him about it when he hadn’t known.
“I’m not sure I’m ready—“ he tried to demur, but Harry slid his hand over Little Charles’s.
“Just a drink,” he promised. “If you stay over, I’ll take Teddy’s room, I swear on my honor as a gentleman. I won’t take advantage of you. I’ll never do that.”
His green eyes held such promise that Little Charles nodded. They swung into the driveway, made their way past the gates, and into the parking lot. The apartment was beautiful. It was open concept, which Little Charles only knew from watching so much television, with a bathroom and two bedrooms off to the side.
“What’s your poison?” Harry asked him, and Little Charles shrugged.
“We always drink wine in the family. Merlot, Pinot. Those are fine.”
Harry rummaged around in a cabinet. “I have Chianti,” he offered. “I’m sorry that that’s all I have to offer. I mainly drink whiskey.”
“It’s fine.” And he really meant it. He accepted the glass and he sat down on the black leather couch. “Did you design the place yourself?” Little Charles was looking at a rather strange piece of modern art that was all black and neon green.
Laughing, Harry shook his head. “It came this way. I got my posting rather last minute at the beginning of August. I discussed it with Teddy and we moved out here within the week, so the flat was rather a godsend.” He looked at the painting. “We should go art shopping though.”
“Are you sure a sixteen year old will want to go art shopping?” He sipped his wine. It was rather good.
Harry laughed. “I meant the two of us. I’ll even let you take me for a hotdog afterward.”
“I’m not sure I have a taste for art,” Little Charles admitted. He had a taste for television and not much else, as his mom would cruelly point out.
“Hey there,” Harry said, putting aside his whiskey and kneeling down before him. “Where did you go?”
“Oh, nothing.” He tried to play it off. “Just something Mom would say.”
“I don’t think I like your mum,” Harry admitted, reaching up and cupping Little Charles’s cheek. “She can’t see what an amazing man you are.”
Little Charles laughed. “I can barely read. I’m a grown man and if you gave me a book off your shelf I would just stare at it. All the letters look wrong.”
“You’re dyslexic?” Harry asked, still not pulling away.
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Hmm.” Harry leaned up and kissed him. “You have tomorrow off?”
Little Charles nodded, a little confused. Harry got up and pulled out his cell phone. “Yes,” he answered. “This is Harry Potter in room 205. I need an expert in dyslexia tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. It’s rather important that we figure this out now. I also need a few bottles of Merlot.” He put his hand over the receiver. “Dry or not?”
“Not,” Little Charles answered, still confused.
“Not so dry,” Harry told whoever was on the other end of the phone. “You can call me back at this number. I’ll be up for another hour or two.” He hung up. “There, all sorted.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know what dyslexia is. I can barely say it.”
“It’s just a learning difference,” Harry soothed. “It makes reading difficult. And numbers. How are you at sums?”
Little Charles looked at him with sad eyes.
“We’ll get this sorted,” Harry promised, “and until then, more wine is coming. We’re almost out of your bottle. I had a diplomat here last week and he rather cleaned me out.”
“How old are you?” He felt silly for asking, but Harry seemed awfully young to be a diplomat.
“Thirty-one,” Harry answered. “You?”
“Perfect!” Harry exclaimed. “We’re age appropriate. I thought we were, but I was afraid you were in your twenties.”
“My last girlfriend was forty-eight,” Little Charles admitted.
“That was an age difference.” Harry topped up his glass. “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
“Yes,” Little Charles agreed. “The heart does.” Strangely, though, his heart barely felt broken now.
Two bottles of Merlot later and Little Charles was sleeping in the master bedroom. He was a little surprised when Harry knocked on the door the next morning with a steaming mug of something blue. “It will help with the hangover,” he promised. “Trust me.”
Little Charles took the mug dubiously and then knocked it back. It tasted like sludge but he immediately felt better. “What’s in that?”
“A little of this. A little of that,” Harry said enigmatically. He smiled secretively and kissed Little Charles. “You look far too delectable in you boxers and undershirt. Better get dressed before the specialist gets here.”
Little Charles was sitting nervously on the couch when the woman arrived. He stood and Harry welcomed her in. She looked visibly shocked by Little Charles’s age, but she soon covered it up.
She was a nice lady. Her tests were strange and a little difficult and in the end she nodded her head. Harry came into the room anxiously.
“He has dyslexia. Rather badly. I’m surprised he manages so well,” she admitted. She handed Little Charles some literature. “There’s a class Thursday nights. I’m afraid you’ll be the oldest student but it will help you learn how to read and write.”
Harry squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll make sure he gets there.”
When the woman left, Little Charles breathed out, “I’m not slow. I’m not a disappointment.”
“No.” Harry kissed the top of his head.
“I need to call Dad.” He took out his phone. “He needs to know.”
“Of course,” Harry said. “And then you owe me that hotdog.”
Little Charles leaned up to kiss Harry. “Thank you,” he murmured before pressing speed dial.
The conversation was short and to the point. Charles was only sorry he hadn’t thought of it sooner and told him to get all the help he needed and that he’d pay for it. When Little Charles hung up, he had a smile on his face when he looked at Harry.
Watching Harry eat a hotdog was hilarious. He was in a cableknit sweater despite how warm it was, but it was oddly adorable. Little Charles got him a hotdog with the works and Harry just looked at it. “It’s a sausage,” he declared.
“Just eat it,” he pressed.
Harry scrunched up his nose and took a bite. Then another bite.
Little Charles smiled and began to eat his own hotdog.
“I must have Teddy try this,” Harry declared. “It’s so strange. I can’t believe America would come up with it.”
“We invented pizza.”
“No!” Harry declared. “I thought that horrible stuff was Italian.”
“Italian American. I watched a documentary on it.”
“I’m going to have to get a telly so we can curl up and cuddle in front of it, aren’t I?” Harry looked at him somewhat hopefully.
“Or you can come to my place. I don’t have fancy wine, but I do have a T.V., and I’ve been told by a U.N. diplomat that I’m good company.”
Harry tackled him even though they were on the steps of a museum and soon they were exchanging sloppy, radish tasting kisses.
“I have to tell you something,” Harry said carefully near the end of September when they were walking around Times Square. “Ron and Hermione are coming. They’re leaving their kids back in England with Ron’s mum.”
“The Ron you were crazy about, Ron?” Little Charles asked carefully.
“The very same. He’s still my best mate and I—well—he might be a little bit angry about what I said about his sister in the paper.”
“Yes, I remember that,” Little Charles stated. “Do you want me to bump off for however long they’re here?”
“Gods, no!” Harry exclaimed. “You’re my boyfriend. I want to show you off. I’ll be with them, true, so we’ll probably only see each other once or twice a week, but I want to be very much with you while they’re here.—I just, there may be fighting with Hermione. She’s rather obsessed with books, and if she decides to lay into you, I’ll defend you, Charles.”
“Can’t I just say I just watch T.V.?”
Harry laughed. “Yes, of course you can.” He kissed Little Charles soundly. “I’ll text you with details about dinner.”
He was to wear his suit and the blue tie. Little Charles wasn’t certain, but he almost liked how Harry made these decisions for him. He didn’t feel smothered, just that he didn’t have to worry about it all.
He was the last to arrive at the restaurant, a trendy place in SoHo. He had combed his hair back several times on the subway, but he never seemed to get it quite right by the feel of it. Little Charles wanted to do Harry proud. He wasn’t sure how introducing him to Mom and Dad would go, but he could do this. For Harry.
Ron was a tall man with red hair, a slightly wide face, and freckles. He seemed to constantly have his hand around the back of his wife’s chair. Hermione was tall for a woman, slender, with a long face and bushy brown hair that she seemed too busy to tame for the evening.
“Charles,” Harry greeted, as he was shown in. “I ordered you a Merlot. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No,” he answered, taking the empty seat next to Harry and across from Hermione. “Thank you.”
Harry drew him in for a soft kiss, reaching up although they were seated, and Little Charles looped an arm gently around his waist. When they parted, Harry was smiling at him.
There was the sound of coughing. “Harry,” Ron began, “why did you just kiss a bloke?”
The waiter came with drinks and Little Charles quickly took a sip of his wine. It seemed like they were going to be in for an awkward conversation.
“Charles is my boyfriend,” Harry told him, as if this had been a familiar conversation. “I’m dating Charles.”
“Yeah, but he’s a bloke.”
Hermione sighed. “Ron, we’ve been over this. In the Muggle world, men can date other men. They can even marry.”
“Actually,” Charles said. “It’s not just in America. I watched a documentary on England that said that they have civil unions.”
Both Ron and Hermione looked momentarily baffled.
Little Charles leaned into Harry. “I thought ‘Muggle’ meant ‘American’?”
“It does,” Hermione said quickly, a little too quickly. “It’s just, Ron hates the mention of Civil Unions in Britain.”
“Right,” Ron put in, as if he were only agreeing for the sake of form. He turned to Harry, “How are you going to have any children?”
Harry laughed outright. “I have Teddy, Ron. He’s my legal heir.”
Thinking about it, Little Charles remembered the title. Earl Black. That would mean—“You’re related to Teddy?”
“His great-grandfather and my grandmother were brother and sister,” Harry admitted with a grin. “He’s next in line.”
Little Charles shrugged.
“And I told you I had a boyfriend. We had this entire discussion yesterday,” Harry pressed. “You shouted, broke a few things, said I should get back with your sister, it was all very dramatic.”
“You still got Ginny pregnant.”
“Actually,” Little Charles put in, holding his glass of wine and swiveling it, “he didn’t.”
Hermione just stared at him. “How could you possibly—?”
“Harry’s, as he puts it, a ‘man of his word.’ I was with him when he saw the article. The breathing dragon bit was a nice touch.”
Hermione laughed a little at that.
Ron glared at her.
“What do you do?” she asked politely.
“I work for AT&T.”
Hermione looked at him blankly.
Harry, who had been leaning back, came and put his arms on the table. “It’s a company like VirginMobile, Hermione.”
Recognition flashed in her eyes, and she looked him up and down. “Do you write code? You look like you could write code.”
He shook his head and took another sip of his wine. “What do you do?”
“I—“ She stuttered. “I work in the government. Human rights.” The words seemed to get stuck in her throat, almost as if she were him. “Ron works in his brother’s joke shop.”
“There was a time we thought Harry was going to go into—MI5, is it?”
“—And I was going to follow him in, but then he became a member of the government, voting rights and everything with his title, and then this position.” He looked disgusted. “You sold out, mate, and I’m never going to stop saying it.”
“No, it’s only been over ten years,” Harry deadpanned. “I like diplomacy,” he added to Hermione. “I think you’d appreciate it. I get to affect change potentially on a global scale, though really I’m just hand holding other nations’ hands so they don’t do anything stupid.”
“Give us an example.”
He looked sideways at Little Charles. “You remember Fleur Delacour, how her grandmother was a Gypsy?”
Ron looked confused but Hermione elbowed him.
“Well, while Eastern Europe welcomes them with open arms, some of the Western nations don’t. We don’t. Of course, you know that, Hermione.”
“It’s simply shameful,” she agreed. “I don’t particularly work on—Gypsies—but I find it disgusting. They’re just as much human as we are.”
Little Charles took a sip of his drink. “I may be considered not the smartest of men,” he began carefully, “but even I can guess we’re not talking about Gypsies. Or Americans.” He looked down at his drink and didn’t bother to meet anybody’s eyes.
A hand slid to his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Harry said quietly. “It’s just with work—I can’t name certain things, and Hermione’s in the government.” Little Charles’s shoulder was squeezed and he relaxed a little.
“Tell us how you two met,” Hermione said quickly and Little Charles looked up before glancing at Harry, who was smiling at him.
“Do you want to keep that under lock and key or do you want to tell?” Harry asked.
“He saw me through a window and decided he ‘fancied’ me,” Little Charles explained. “He then posed as a customer before asking me out to lunch.”
“I was a customer! I have the phone to prove it!”
“You only use it to text me,” Little Charles argued back a little playfully.
“And to check my email. I also go on the BBC. Teddy showed me how. It’s nice to keep up-to-date with British affairs.”
“Prove it,” Little Charles dared.
Their gazes met and then Harry took his iPhone out of his pocket and opened up his email to show Little Charles. Next, he went to Saphari, where his favorite pages were open, which included the BBC.
“I’ll drink tea the next time we go for coffee,” Little Charles said, admitting defeat.
“We’ll find a blend you like. It’s only a matter of time.”
“I’m from Oklahoma. I highly doubt that.”
“Maybe something herbal?” Hermione suggested.
Ron had his arms crossed and was fuming.
“We tried that. He wasn’t really a fan.—Everyone know what they’re having?”
Little Charles picked up his menu. He scanned down until he found his standard meal for a nice Italian restaurant, not that he really ever went to them. Still, he liked the dish. “Do you want to share a bottle of Merlot, anyone?” he asked the table at large.
“Oh, I will,” Hermione said quickly, before Ron could interrupt. “We can leave Harry to his whiskey and Ron to his beer, and have a grand old time with wine.”
He looked at her glass of white wine. “If you’d rather Pinot Grigio…”
“No, Merlot will go better with my dinner.” She smiled at him. “Now, Charles, do you want children?”
Little Charles looked at him. “Only if they’re named ‘Charles,’” he admitted. “It’s a tradition in my family.”
The waiter came over then, fortunately.
It was on their third drink that Ron got rather belligerent. “So, you plan on marrying a woman to get a child, then?” He took a swig of his beer and looked rather unattractive. Charles wondered how Harry ever could have been attracted to him.
“I hadn’t really thought. If I marry a woman, then, yes, if I marry a man, then adoption, I suppose.” Little Charles poured Hermione another drink.
Ron looked startled. “You swing both ways?”
“Ron—“ Harry warned, but his friend just wouldn’t shut up.
“What are you doing with our Harry then? He could go back to Ginny.”
“I don’t think he likes redheads,” Little Charles bit out, not bothering to look at him.
“Well, how are we supposed to know? You’re the only person we’ve been introduced to since he broke up with Ginny!”
“We were teenagers,” Harry reminded him. “And I can’t stand people with ginger hair, romantically, of course, anymore. Brings back bad memories.”
Ron turned red.
“Dessert?” Hermione asked pleasantly.
Little Charles just stared at her incredulously.
Harry cleared his throat. “I thought Little Charles and I could go back to his place for an aperitif and give you two time to settle in.” He looked at Hermione pointedly.
“Yes, of course. How silly of me.” She looked over at Ron, who was clearly fuming. “We’ll just leave now. Come along, Ron.” She managed to pull him out of his seat and Little Charles was left blissfully alone with Harry.
“They did know you were gay, right?”
Harry groaned and put his head in his hands. “They’ve known since I got drunk the night before their wedding and confessed to Ron my feelings. That was possibly the worst night of my life. We ended up having a brawl in a bar.”
“Sounds—“ Little Charles couldn’t find the word. “Dessert?” he asked. “We could have cannolis. They’re supposed to be good.”
Looking up at him, Harry smiled. “You’re definitely having one if it’s your first,” he said. “And we’re getting coffee. Yes, not tea. And then I’m walking you to your place, picking up a few bottles of something, and we can end this evening on a good note.”
“There’s a Twilight Zone marathon on tonight.”
“I have no idea what that is, but it sounds perfect.”
They ended up curled together on the couch, drinking Merlot out of mugs, and strangely it didn’t remind Little Charles of him and Ivy. Little Charles smoothed his hand through Harry’s hair and stopped a few times on the angry scar he felt on his forehead before continuing his movements again.
“Don’t you want to know?” Harry asked in the middle of one episode.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me. I supposed there’s just a lot I don’t know about you.”
“Hmm,” Harry responded. “Everyone always wants to know.”
“I’m not everyone then,” Little Charles responded.
He gained the courage two days later to call his dad and tell him. Charles Aiken was less than pleased with the news. It ended with a shouting match, with Little Charles admitting his affair with Ivy, and demanding that “surely this was better” and Little Charles hanging up on his father for the first time in his life.
“I told Dad,” he admitted to Harry quietly when they were seeing the Statue of Liberty with Ron and Hermione, who were oohing and ahhing like tourists. “He wasn’t happy.”
Harry enveloped his hand, and looked at him, although Little Charles was gazing at the horizon. “I’ll call, so he knows my intentions are honorable.”
He couldn’t help it, Little Charles really couldn’t, but he laughed, the sound bubbling deeply in his chest. “I’ll never be able to go home unless I break this off. Dad said so.”
“Oh, Charles,” Harry murmured. “I’m so sorry.”
“There’s nothing for me there,” he admitted. “All I had was Dad and Ivy. I lost Ivy last year—and now I’ve lost Dad.”
“I’ll call. See if I can make him see sense.” Harry seemed so sure of himself.
“You don’t understand. This is the Bible belt. It’s Oklahoma. It’s a,” and now he whispered, “sin. All I ever seem to do is sin,” he moaned to himself and tears formed in his eyes.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Ivy. We were together—for six months.”
“Your cousin? That’s a little unorthodox but that’s not wrong.”
“I don’t know that word,” Little Charles admitted and he took out his phone to look it up. He couldn’t spell it, as always, and Harry gently pried it from his fingers before typing it in for him. The definition showed up and Little Charles nodded. “Yes. I suppose so.”
“That’s not a sin, Charles,” Harry said determinedly.
“We found out last August that her father had an affair with my mother. We were half siblings. She didn’t end it when she found out. She let it continue. I’ve hated her for it. Hated her. She told me once we got out here. I—left in the middle of the night. I didn’t know what else to do.” He looked at the hand that was still placed on his. “You’re not—disgusted?”
“No,” Harry said decidedly. “Sad, so sad, that you had to go through that. Angry at her for letting it continue. Angry at your parents for not telling you, allowing this situation to happen.” He sighed. “I’m not disgusted.”
“I loved her so much,” Little Charles admitted. “And now it’s all gone.”
Harry leaned his head against Little Charles’s shoulder. “Thank you for telling me,” he whispered. “I know it must have been hard.”
That wasn’t the half of the feeling Little Charles felt. He imagined this is what being ripped in two was like. On the one hand he still belonged to Ivy, on the other he now was Harry’s.
Little Charles hadn’t planned it. It was the night after Hermione and Ron had left for Britain and they were at Harry’s, drinking champagne for having survived the ‘English Inquisition.’ First there were sloppy kisses and then Harry was dragging him into the main bedroom until they were falling on the bed.
“This all right?” he asked Little Charles.
He nodded his head and just kissed Harry deeper, pulling him close as they lay side by side in bed.
“That was different,” Little Charles mentioned after they were done. They were resting side by side and Little Charles felt oddly sated.
Harry laughed, his glasses having been discarded somewhere, and he curled up beside Little Charles. “Too much?”
“Always,” he answered honestly. “But I don’t mind.”
“You have to meet Teddy now,” Harry warned. “He’s coming home for school in about a month, and he simply must meet you.”
“He won’t mind?”
“Well, you’ll be the first,” Harry admitted. “You’re the only one I’d trust with my kid.”
A lump swelled in Little Charles’s throat. “I—I don’t know what to say. No one ever trusts me with anything. Not even Ivy. All the planning was left to her. I only was able to get out because Dad gave me a credit card for emergencies.”
“You’re lucky you have a dad then,” Harry mentioned. “He’ll come around. I’ll make sure of it.”
“I doubt you can.”
Harry just looked up at him and smirked. “You haven’t met the full force of the Potter charm.”
Little Charles got a call when he was waiting at the U.N. the following Wednesday. The caller ID surprised me. “Dad,” he said quietly. “I’m at the UN and it’s rather quiet in this room.”
What he was told startled him. His Dad wanted him to bring Harry around for dinner next time he was in Oklahoma. He hung up the phone in shock.
That’s what it was. Absolute shock.
They were wrapped around each other in Little Charles’s apartment when Harry said quite suddenly into his glass of Pinot, “Did you hear about the terrorist attacks across England ten, twenty years back?”
Little Charles immediately turned off the T.V. It wasn’t that good of a show anyway. “I—“ Words seemed to get stuck in his throat. “They said it was al-Quiada.”
“It wasn’t.” Harry was still looking into his mug of wine and Charles took a sip of his.
“I take it this is classified?”
“Yes and no,” Harry answered. “There were a lot of people involved, a lot of victims, but it was kept from the press. My parents—they died during an earlier wave that was blamed on the IRA. It’s how I’m an orphan and grew up with my aunt and uncle—the ones who think I’m a ‘freak.’ The second wave happened when I was at school. The leader he—well—he had a bit of an obsession with me. I was rather high profile even then.”
Little Charles might not be smart, but he could sometimes read between the lines. It wasn’t often, but with Harry, it seemed to be the case. “This is something more than the Lord Black thing.”
Harry laughed darkly. “Yes. It was the ‘political capital’ that French diplomat was talking about.”
“The one who called me a Muggle,” Little Charles remembered.
“Yes,” Harry said, looking up, “her.” Their eyes met and held, and then Little Charles nodded.
“They say the attacks are over.” Little Charles didn’t often watch the news, but he did occasionally. He knew the headlines, at least.
“I ended it,” Harry stated. “You might even call me a murderer.”
A blanket of coldness swept over the apartment and words seemed to fail Little Charles. Harry was once again looking into his mug and finally, after several minutes, Little Charles whispered, “It’s not murder if it’s self-defense or if you’re saving other people’s lives.”
Green eyes swept up and a tentative smile flashed on Harry’s face. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I’ve been so afraid to tell you. But when you told me about Ivy I thought…”
“Yes,” Little Charles answered for him. “Our two biggest secrets.”
Of course, despite the sheer millions of people in New York, Little Charles had to run into Ivy when he was waiting for Harry after work one day.
“Charles,” she breathed, taking the seat across for him, which was reserved for Harry.
“Someone’s sitting there.”
“They’re not here yet. Is that tea?” she asked in astonishment. It was, in fact. It was lapsang souchong. He didn’t actually mind it.
He ignored her comment about the tea. “He could be getting here at any moment. He just texted that he was only a few blocks away.” Well, that was a lie, but you know how things were on the floor of the U.N. Ghastly, apparently. Hopefully they didn’t have another mistranslation.
At that exact moment, his phone vibrated. “Could be him.” He looked at the message. It didn’t make sense. Something about the thickness of pots in export/imports. “There are some things I will never understand,” he muttered.
“You’re not stupid,” Ivy said, taking his hand. Strange. Before he had felt like his heart had broken, that he was being torn in two, but now… now… he felt emptiness when he saw her. It was an emptiness only Harry could fill.
He snatched it away. “Of course, I’m not. I just don’t understand politics. He can barely figure out how to text message. We’re even.” Little Charles looked out the window at the U.N. building. Fortunately, Harry only had to walk out of the compound and into the coffee shop.
“Charles,” Ivy said, leaning forward. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. You shouldn’t have just left in the middle of the night.”
“We made love and then you told me you were my sister. Tell me exactly why I shouldn’t have left?”
She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. He used to find that so appealing. He did find it appealing in Harry. Now, though, with her, he only felt remorse and loss. Remorse had been his vocabulary word for the day sometime last week. It rather fit the situation.
“It doesn’t matter. We were raised as cousins. We are cousins except for an affair. I don’t have a uterus, nothing can happen.”
He closed his eyes in pain and just took a deep breath in and a deep breath out. A hand settled on his shoulder and he looked up to see Harry.
“Charles,” he greeted. “I’m so sorry. Italy was getting in a tuff and then Morocco walked out. It was madness.”
“All sorted?” he asked.
Harry shook his head. “No, the debate has been postponed. This is a really important matter for Britain. There have been so many accidents with melted—pots and destroyed soups and dishes.”
“You’re not talking about pots,” Little Charles surmised.
“No, I’m not,” Harry admitted. “You know I’d tell you if I could.”
“I’m convinced you’re secretly a spy,” he deadpanned.
Harry laughed. “They wanted me to be, but no go, I’m afraid. I’m just a simple politician.—I’m sorry,” he said to Ivy. “We haven’t been introduced. I’m Ambassador Harry Potter, British delegate to the United Nations.”
Ivy looked stunned and didn’t seem to be able to say anything.
Little Charles took pity on her. “This is my cousin Ivy I was telling you about. The one I came to New York with.” Harry cast him a quick glance. “She saw me through the window and stopped in.”
“That’s rather common,” Harry joked. “Glass makes you rather irresistible. Must be the iridescence.”
Looking at him, Little Charles looked up the word on his phone. He couldn’t spell it, and Harry gently took it away and typed it in for him. “Oh,” he said. “Thank you.”
Harry kissed the top of his head. “Are you staying, Ivy? It’s only I’ve had a long day, and I’ve been looking forward to this date.”
“Date,” she stated.
“Dad’s okay with it,” Little Charles put in. “Told me to bring Harry round for dinner.”
“You go from me to a man?”
“To be honest,” Harry said, “I am a step up. You’re a lying woman who keeps the fact that you’re his sister from him, and I’m a representative from my country to the United Nations. I’m a far better catch.”
“Ivy,” Charles just put in, “just go. You know I don’t want to see you. I’m sure our paths will cross in Oklahoma, but that’s it.”
She got up, eyes blazing. “I will be calling Uncle Charles.”
“You do that,” Harry told her. “He loves me.”
“He must if you got him to come around on the homosexual issue,” Little Charles put in, taking a sip of his tea. “This has gotten cold.”
“What were you trying?” Harry asked kindly.
“Lap something. I don’t mind it.”
Harry smiled broadly at him. “I knew we’d find you a tea. I’ll stock my place tonight.” He got up and kissed Charles. Then he turned to Ivy. “Leave,” he said in a steely voice and, clearly frightened, she left.
November passed into December and still they found themselves drinking wine at Harry’s, going to the opera (Little Charles didn’t bother to read the translations because, even with his class, they moved too quickly for him), attending state functions, or just curling up around each other on Little Charles’s couch and watching television marathons.
Harry got Little Charles a gig selling high end musical equipment, where he earned a lot more money, and could dress down for work. It didn’t take him long to learn the specs of the various speakers and instruments and become one of the top salesmen. It was like television all over again, only this time, it was what made the sounds for television.
Teddy was set to come home the fifteenth and Little Charles was a little bit of a wreck. “What if he doesn’t like me?” he asked Harry for the millionth time. “I’m nothing special. I work in a music store.”
“He loves music,” Harry told him. “He’s even going on about a guitar for Christmas. I thought I’d bring him by so he could pick one out.”
“Well it depends on what kind of guitar he wants,” Little Charles began, and Harry hit him over the head with a pillow. Their wine glasses were soon forgotten and they were lying on the couch just ‘snogging,’ as Harry called it.
Teddy was a moody teenager with green hair. “I’ve seen you in photos,” he stated plainly. “Dad has a few up in his room.”
Yes, Little Charles had noticed those. He didn’t think Teddy would, though.
“That’s probably because we’ve been seeing each other since August,” he admitted.
“Dad says you like films. He’s absolute rubbish at them.” His golden eyes looked at Little Charles as if he was testing him.
“I do,” he admitted. “If your dad says it’s okay, I’d be happy to take you to one.”
“Could you take me to see The Theory of Everything? I love Felicity Jones!”
Little Charles couldn’t help but laugh. “I know the perfect movie theater.”
And that’s how he won over Teddy. He would take him to various movies and bring him back, exhausted and full of popcorn and soda, and he and Harry would stay up and drink wine.
“I have a present for you,” Harry announced a few days before Christmas. “I’ve asked Teddy and he’s given you the stamp of approval, even though you’re a ‘Muggle.’”
Little Charles rolled his eyes.
Harry held out a small box to him. It was sea green with a white ribbon. Even Little Charles knew what that meant. “You got me something from Tiffany’s?”
“I thought you liked the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s? We watched it last month,” Harry said uncertainly.
“I do, I’m just surprised.” He set down his glass of wine and slowly opened the box. In it was a simple platinum band lined with diamonds and he looked at Harry questioningly.
“I’m asking you to marry me,” Harry told him. “And I promise once we’re married I can tell you everything. There are laws that prevent me from doing so beforehand because—well—it’s just dangerous—“
Little Charles kissed him, long and slow. When they pulled apart, they were both a little dazed. “I never thought anyone would want to marry me,” Little Charles admitted.
“I do,” Harry said, taking the ring and slipping it on his left ring finger. “Happy Christmas.”
He grinned. “Merry Christmas, Harry.”
Teddy had gone back to school and Harry had insisted on celebrating after work at a trendy new bar after work. Little Charles was in his work clothes as he he’d had to work until nine, and Harry was in a perfectly dressed suit as ever, waiting at the bar. As soon as Harry saw him, he wrapped his arm around Little Charles and kissed him languidly.
“Hey, you,” he mumbled.
“Hi,” Little Charles responded.
They ordered Christmas martinis to shake it up, and were toasting their engagement when a red-haired woman inserted herself between them. “Harry,” she greeted. “I thought I’d never find you.”
“Ginny,” he said through gritted teeth. “Go back to England. I’m trying to celebrate.”
“Yes,” she said, glancing at Little Charles as if there were something wrong with him. “Hermione did mention that you had gotten yourself engaged not only to a man—but to a Muggle, no less.” She flipped her hair back to Harry. “You’re an international figure, Harry. Surely, you must see what you’re doing.”
“And what?” Little Charles asked. “Do you think he should marry you? I suppose you’re a pureblood then.”
“Bloodtraitor actually,” Harry put in helpfully.
“You really should write something out for me,” Little Charles noted, “so I can try and keep track of all these terms that don’t mean ‘American’ and ‘member of the aristocracy.’” He smirked. One thing the dyslexic lessons had helped him with is that his feeling of self-worth had vastly improved. He excelled at his lessons and so he seemed to be better able to tackle his work.
“I’m sorry,” Ginny put in, “what is this Muggle on about?”
“My fiancé,” Harry told her, “is going on about a private joke between the two of us. You must remember the International Statute of Secrecy. He’s found the ways I’ve tried to explain as funny.”
She flipped her hair.
“Perhaps I’ll just obliviate him,” she suggested. “Then he wouldn’t be a problem anymore. You could find a nice pureblood woman, settle down, have children—and I would obviously volunteer for the position.”
“Ginny, don’t be ridiculous—“
Suddenly there was something pointed at his ribs.
Whispering in his ear, Ginny said, “Walk to the nearest loo.” Little Charles only knew the word from Harry and he nodded, realizing that whatever was being held against him was probably some weapon.
The men’s room was fortunately empty and made of stainless steel.
“In here,” she said, prodding him toward the nearest stall.
“Please,” Little Charles begged. “I don’t know if you mean to shoot me, but Harry will be angry. You know he will be. He’ll never forgive you—“
“I just mean to make you forget,” she told him kindly. “It will be like you never knew Harry at all.”
The thought horrified him and Ginny raised her wand—yes—her wand—before there was a spark of light and she fell against the toilet, hitting her head. Harry appeared in the stall door.
Harry held out his hand. “Hurry. There will be aurors scowering this place within a few minutes.”
“But she—and you—“ Little Charles babbled, but Harry just beckoned. He took Harry’s and then there was the feeling of being pushed into a tube before they reappeared in Harry’s flat. “I—we were in the bathroom—how are we—oh my god—“
Harry wrapped his arms around Little Charles’s waist and held him while he babbled. When his words finally calmed, he asked, “Do you want to forget?”
Little Charles thought about it and then asked for a shot of vodka. He immediately sat on the couch while Harry poured him out a glass. He took the shot and then showed that he wanted another. “I’m a Muggle. It means I can’t have a wand?”
He took the shot and Harry poured another.
“What’s a pureblood?”
“A wizard born from a long line of wizards. I’m a half-blood. My mother was a Muggle-born. Her parents were Muggles. My father was a pureblood.”
The liquor went down smoothly.
“You’re all secret.”
“I’m not allowed to tell you under law until after we’re married.”
Little Charles nodded and took another shot. Then he got up and began to pace around the room. Harry’s eyes watched him as he moved back and forth. “This is not your fault,” he decided. “I’ll take Teddy’s room.” He went into his shared room with Harry and took out his pajamas and his change of clothes for the next day. Little Charles took a shower just so he’d be able to think. Still, nothing came to him. In the middle of the night, however, he slipped into Harry’s room and curled around him, just breathing in Harry’s scent.
He woke up to Harry’s hand just tracing the lines of his face. “I’m famous,” he confessed, “for killing that terrorist. He was a Dark Lord. With you I can just be me. I don’t have to be The Boy Who Lived or the Chosen One. I’m just Harry, the man who walked into the AT&T store.”
“And I’m not a failure. I’m Charles, the man who could do anything that he sets his mind to.”
Harry kissed him, arms around his neck and Little Charles just holding him close.
“It’s a secret,” Harry explained over breakfast with eggs that he made with his wand. “We were burnt at the stake once and, it’s just, we don’t want to go back to that again.”
“I kept Ivy a secret for sixth months,” he admitted. “I think I can keep this a secret for however long I need to.”
Harry just kissed him.
It was August the following year, with Teddy as their witness, they stood in front of the Justice of the Peace. How different life was than it had been two years earlier when Ivy had told him they were siblings. Now he knew about magic and a little about politics. He was taking courses for his dyslexia and he was gaining a son and, most importantly, the love of his life was standing opposite him, vowing to be his until the end of time.