A/N: This is meant to be an anthology that explores the spectrum of love and sexuality. The title comes from Elizabeth Barret Browning's sonnet 43 in "Sonnets from the Portuguese". Its first line reads: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
There will be chapter every day for the month of February, which means 29 total chapters this year. Each chapter is meant to be short—less than 1000 words—but there might be a time or two that I go over that self-inflicted limit.
29 chapters about different pairings/groupings/etc. is a somewhat daunting challenge. So I would like to thank all the people who offered suggestions when I went blank: Nexie, our Preciousss, Auntie_L, Faerieflightz, and an anon on tumblr.
This is a gift of love, about love, from me to you.
Your first gift is asexual/aromantic, so this explores aromantic love. You could call it agape, platonic, or something else.
It was a standing joke on the Romanian reserve that Charlie loved dragons more than he loved people. That wasn't exactly true—he loved plenty of people; he just didn't want to shag any of them. Not that he wanted to shag the dragons, either. It was just… complicated.
At Hogwarts, Charlie had never experienced a crush, and he'd never really wanted anyone. Mum had worried herself sick over that, and Dad had tried to have an awkward conversation about whether or not Charlie liked wizards. While Charlie understood that his Mum and Dad loved and cared for him—he couldn't stand the smothering weight of their concern.
Romania and its dragon reserve had been the answer to all of his prayers. Distance from his family had allowed Charlie to just… be… and that's all he really wanted. Here he had the freedom to be himself, and no one worried about whether or not Charlie was going to get married and have children.
The only downside to Charlie's seemingly permanent lack of love life was that some people felt that he should change shifts with them whenever they wanted just because he didn't have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Charlie dreaded Valentine's day and the flurry of demands that were couched as requests. The worst part was that most people couldn't understand how insulting they came across. As though they honestly couldn't figure out why Charlie wouldn't jump at the chance to make sure that their love life ran smoothly. He snorted in amusement.
That was why people like Higgs were so precious to Charlie. Higgs had come to the reserve 5 years ago, just after the war, and Charlie had a point of being friendly and polite to the former Slytherin. Higgs had accepted all of Charlie's overtures with the cool grace that was practically a signature of his House, but he had never presumed on their friendship. Not once, in the entire 5 years, had Higgs ever asked Charlie to switch shifts on any of the major holidays, which was why Charlie was striding toward Higgs' cabin at the moment.
"Weasley! What are you doing here? Is something happening? I didn't hear the alarms," Higgs blurted out when he answered the door. He turned to grab his work uniform—thick, fireproofed dungarees with a matching jacket—when Charlie put his hand on his arm to stop him.
"Higgs, no. It's fine. I came over because I wanted to offer to work for you on Tuesday," Charlie explained quickly.
"Tuesday?" Higgs echoed Charlie with a frown. Immediately, he shook his head. "No, Weasley, that's fine. Isadora and I have something planned for next weekend. She understands how it is."
"Are you sure? You could do some special surprise for her. It's my understanding that witches tend to like that sort of thing," Charlie said.
"Charlie… you don't have to do this," Higgs said with a frown. "I don't… I don't expect you to do this just because… well, you know."
"I want to do this," Charlie explained. "Terrence, you're the only person I know that doesn't expect it. You've never asked. You have no idea how much I appreciate that."
Higgs stared at him for a moment. "Are you sure about this?"
"Yeah, I am. You're important to me, Higgs. You're probably my best friend either on the reserve or off. Let me do this," Charlie explained carefully. A dull flush rose up his neck.
"Wow. I… me, too," Higgs admitted. His ears turned pink. "It was hard, after the war, and you never held any of that against me. You had more of a right to than most of the people who did, but you didn't. That meant a lot to me. It still does. Thank you, Weasley."
Charlie grinned. "Just have a happy Valentine's day with Isadora."
Higgs nodded. "We will."
That Valentine's day was one of the most stress-free that Charlie had experienced in years—even after one of the dragons went into an unexpected heat and began her mating flight months early.