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Chapter 1 - Graduation
We were destructive. There’s really no other way to put it. It wasn’t bad, not even close. Everything about us being together, how we felt with each other, was perfect. But that perfection wasn’t enough to calm the hurricanes that always seemed to be raging.
I fell in love the way a sixteen year old does — fast, hard, and irrevocably. Charlie did, as well. No matter what happened in the end, there was no question about it. He had truly loved me. He made me his everything, the way I made him mine.
You know what’s more dangerous in a relationship than not loving each other enough? Loving each other too much. It’s like that fire that you just keep adding fuel too. You know you can’t control it, and there’s no prayer of calming it down, but you keep feeding it. We were that.
The fabric of my robes seemed heavier than usual, thicker. They forced heat to gather at the base of my neck, creating an uncomfortable, sticky feeling. I closed my eyes and began to concentrate, to imagine what I wanted. Too hot, short hair. Pixie short hair, like a fairy. Dark? Light? Damn, I couldn’t choose… Dark. Very dark. When I opened my eyes again, I let my hands explore the new style, pleased with the refreshing feeling of wind tickling the nape of my neck.
“There you are,” Charlie said with a smile as headed my way. It hadn’t taken him long to find me sitting out on the Quidditch pitch. Any other day, I would have been ecstatic to watch him saunter over, oozing confidence, but today I wasn’t. I knew what would happen.
We were Hogwarts graduates for nearly half an hour now. No longer students. Ready to step into the real world. It should have been one of the happiest days of my life.
“What are thinking about?” he asked, taking a seat beside me on the grass. He’d already shed his dress trousers for a pair of jeans. Charlie had discovered the clothing item from a muggle-born in our third year, and I swear he wears them every chance he gets. Probably because he knows how delicious his butt looks.
“You know how jealous I always was of you? Every game I’d sit in the stands and imagine what it felt like to be up there chasing the Snitch, so sure of yourself.” I squinted as I tried to look past the sun and into the sky. He’d spent so much time up there, practicing, playing, winning. Charlie always won.
“You went flying with me plenty of times,” Charlie answered. He was right, of course. I was never coordinated enough to play, but I was still a decent flyer. Although being on a broom alone wasn’t anything compared to flying with him. Getting to feel his body tense as he leaned forward to shoot us farther into the sky.
Part of me was happy that we had a few minutes alone. I didn’t know why, because nothing good would come out of what we’d talk about next.
“My mum says hi,” Charlie said, leaning back on his elbows. I became exceedingly aware of the density in his voice. Something was wrong. I knew what was wrong, but I didn’t want to hear it just yet. Not ever, actually.
“Fat chance she did. She doesn’t even remember my name,” I added, forcing my voice to sound playful. I’d only met Molly a few times. She knew Charlie had a girlfriend, of course. I’m sure she even liked me well enough, but she wasn’t the easy going type of mother that I was raised with. More of a… control-your-every-move, type. So naturally no one would ever be good enough for her son.
“Course she does. Besides, it’s not like your parents could write a book about me or anything.”
Charlie was wrong about that. My parents could probably write a book about him. He had no idea how often I had talked about him; it felt a bit pathetic even to me.
I suppose I hadn’t been telling mum and dad much this year, though. Even talking about him had gotten harder since deciding what careers we wanted to pursue after Hogwarts. Every time I brought him up to anyone, even my friends, it felt like I was already talking about a memory.
So I tried to keep myself reeled in. I reminded myself over and over that I was only sixteen when we started dating, then seventeen.. now barely eighteen. Just eighteen years old. And I had so much ahead of me.
Do you know how hard it is for an eighteen year old to try and convince herself that her first lover, the first man she gave everything to, would be forgotten because of her bright future? Pretty damn hard.
But I knew that having the talk would almost be better than not knowing. He’d spent months avoiding my what next questions, and until today, I’d stopped asking.
“I thought about what you said earlier,” Charlie began, searching my eyes with his. “Tonks, it wouldn’t be easy.” I felt my heart begin to shake. This was it.
“I can’t just take a portkey from Romania to England every few days. And we both know you’re going to get a letter any day accepting you into the Auror program. Moody basically offered you the position during your interview. We’ll both be so busy.” I tried to focus on his freckles as he spoke. Concentrating on something always seemed to help when my heartbeat felt too nervous to remain steady.
I could already feel the pressure building up, but I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t cry and I wouldn’t ask him to stay with me. It was his decision. I would walk way and pretend I was fine.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted, Nymphadora.” He knew I wasn’t paying attention. He only used my full name when he could sense my concentration slipping away. I didn’t even have the heart to lecture him for it. I looked up from the freckles scattered over his hands and met his light eyes.
“All I’ve ever wanted is to work with dragons. Only one or two people out of twenty are kept on after training. I have to be one of those people. You know what this means to me.” My fingers began picking at the grass. I need a distraction, something.
I nodded my head, trying to silence the voice inside that asked what about me? What do I mean to you? This was Charlie’s dream. I would never stand in the way or make him feel guilty for that.
“Do you get what I’m saying?” he asked in the tender voice he used only with me.
How was I supposed to answer that when my heart was lodged in my throat? When my stomach was twisting and aching? How was I supposed to tell him that I understood, when it took every ounce of control to keep my composure?
“I need to get back to the Great Hall—”
“Tonks,” he interrupted, stalling my frantic need to get as far away as I could. “It’ll be hard, really hard, but I think we can do this.”
It took me longer than it should have. Like I was frozen. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. How was I going to make the best Auror the office had ever seen if my reactions were this slow?
The smile that radiated up into his eyes made it clear that he was really saying what I thought. That I hadn’t been hearing things or making up some delusional world where everything works out in my favor. Although, that world wouldn’t be too terrible of a place.
My fingers released the blades of grass that I’d been so set on crumpling, and somehow found their way intertwined with his.
“Charlie.” I tried to catch the breath that had been knocked from me, but just as I did his solid arms snaked around me and pulled me into his lap. The familiar heat of his lips on mine was enough to force the tears I’d been holding back to fall.
“I’m really that bad?” he asked laughing as he pulled away and brushed the tears aside.
“Well, I wouldn’t say bad.” My lips broke into a smile as everything began to sink in. It would be okay. We could do this.
“Maybe you can even come help me get set up in Romania before you have to start Auror training?”
“That’s a fairly sneaky way of trying to get someone else to unpack for you.” I tried to sound serious, but there was nothing that could take away from the excitement in my voice. He was still mine. For now, he was mine.
His arms pulled me into him again and the soft print of his lips fell over my neck.
“You know, I could get used to this one,” he said as he raised his fingers to my hair and teased the pointy ends.
I’ll kill him. I will. I’ll feed him to one of his precious dragons.
“Nymphadora!” His voice came through the small cottage, I felt my annoyance meter tick up just another notch.
“Charlie! I’m trying to put together a damn bed. You can get the shower curtain on by yourself!” I pulled a hair tie from the pocket in my jumper and bunched my currently pink locks up in it.
We’d spent all afternoon working our arses off to get Charlie’s new home cleaned up. Neither of us had done a ton of house hold spells in the past, so we ended up with plates washing themselves too hard and breaking in the sink, cleaners going off their rocker and spraying everything… It hadn’t been pretty, but we finished. And now I just wanted to get this bed made so we could take a nap. Or…
“You told me last week that this would be fun,” Charlie said with a pout as he stomped out of the bathroom. Even through my irritation, I could barely hide a smile at the sight of him shuffling around like a little boy.
“It was the day of graduation and I thought you were about to toss me. I would have said anything.” I finished my wand work with a flick and the fitted sheet continue to tuck itself in. It seems I’d gotten that spell down, thank God.
“I still can’t believe you spent all day thinking I was just going to dump you minutes after we graduate. I mean we talked about-”
“We didn’t talk about anything.” I copied my most hated move that my mum makes and began wagging my finger at Charlie. And of course, as my own personal punishment, a stray spider web latched onto it.
“Dammit.” I tried to shake the silky thing from my hand, and glared up at Charlie for his lack of help. “What I was saying, is we didn’t talk about anything. I guess it just seemed like the easiest thing.”
I turned back to the bed, happy to see some sun flickering in from the small window. My wand felt light in my hand as I started to repeat the tucking spell with a swish, only to be distracted by calloused hands rubbing down my arms.
“I think we’ve done enough work for one day.” I could feel him smiling against the back of my neck as he pulled me into him. The butterflies that always seemed to dwell in the pit of my stomach were alive in an instant.
“What do you say…” he began before cutting himself off by nuzzling against my shoulder. “What do you say we see what kind of trouble we can get into?”
I laughed, ignoring the steady hum of my body. Both of us were too curious of people to let a new country go unexplored at our feet. Even for.. we’ll, you know.
“That sounds brilliant.” I turned around to face him, happy to see the heat flickering in his eyes. Part of me wasn’t even sure why I’d been so worried on Graduation day. This was Charlie, after all.
“But first,” and before I could catch my breath his body was on top of mine, his fingers dancing up to lace our hands together.
“Is anyone here? Mr. Weasley?” A light, airy voice broke through our nest. I felt my cheeks go scarlet as a slender redhead opened the bedroom door. “Er, sorry,” Red began with an eyebrow raised. “I’m Ashton, your roommate.”
This short story collection is dedicated to my awesome beta reader and friend, Dan (CambAngst). I would go crazy most of the time without him to bounce ideas off of and vent to. He has a soft spot for Tonks and Charlie, so I hope I can do them justice!
Awesome Chapter Image created by luffprincess@tda!
Chapter 2 - The Reservation
“All trainees to the reservation!”
The pounding voice echoed from an enchanted speaker and filled my room, shaking apart the dream before I could stop it. It’d been such a brilliant one, too. Tonks was wearing nothing but the T-shirt she’d purchased for me on my birthday last year. It was too big for her, and when she’d bent over to pick up something…
Shit. I pressed my palms against my eyes, trying to force the sleep to drain from them, then gave my head a few violent shakes. My fingers automatically reached for the wand beside me as I fumbled from the warmth of my bed.
I navigated my way across the chilly floorboards, through the hallway and to the washroom.
“You almost done?” I shouted while pounding on the heavy door.
“Go make tea or something.” I couldn’t help but smile at her snarky tone. As far as roommates went, Ashton wasn’t too terrible.
“Isn’t that your job? You’re the one who has the-” just as I was about to humor myself with the best part of the sentence, she threw the door open and gave me the same glare she gives one of the ornery dragons.
“Can’t Tonks come back? She at least managed to make you try and behave.”
My smirk dropped immediately as I pushed past her and into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me.
The last thing I wanted to think about was Nymphadora Tonks. The dream had given me enough of her for one morning. Or night. Or morning. Whatever it was.
Stubborn, irritating woman.
I’d managed to get my hands on an owl and write to her at least twice a week. Hadn’t I? And what did I get in return? Some half arsed reply telling me how busy she was. Well, I was busy too. So I’d decided if she didn’t have the time to write, then neither did I.
I made that decision eight days ago. A very long eight days ago.
No wonder I was dreaming about her sauntering around mostly naked. It’d been over a week since I talked to her, over a month since I touched her.
I slammed my fist against shower faucet and stepped under the water while it was still ice cold, but even that wasn't enough to keep my thoughts from roaming back to her.
It wasn’t not being able to talk that annoyed me. I get it. We’re both busy. If that had been the only reason, I wouldn't have cared about her lack of letters. But it wasn't. The real motive behind her silence was that she wanted to punish me for the stupid row we had the night before she left.
I probably should have went after her when she stormed off, but she was the one who was acting like a bloody lunatic. And besides, I had other things to think about.
“You coming?” Ashton yelled down the hallway. I hit the nozzle again to turn the water off then threw the towel around me. I barely noticed the cold floors this time as I hurried to my room and pulled a pair of jeans and long sleeved shirt on.
I glanced over to the optional protective clothing hanging in the wardrobe, but decided against it. All it did was slow you down. If one of these babies wants to hurt you, they will. Doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.
My boots sunk into the mud with every step. Showering had been pointless, considering I was now soaked the bone. Lightning nearly broke the damn sky open every few minutes, but I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.
Sure, I was up at three-thirty in the morning because we needed to make sure the storm wasn’t getting everyone riled. Part of me was craving the cigarettes I’d sworn to mum that I wasn’t smoking… but it was worth it.
“Wotcher, Charlie!” I turned around as Gus came running up to me. He was one of the few people I knew who used that as a greeting, Tonks being the only other. And at least it sounded cute coming from her.
“Hey, Gus.” He slowed down once he caught up to me, his boots matching mine step for step.
“Where you headed? I have the Redtails today. Meeting their Trainer in fifteen.”
I nodded my head, not really wanting to waste what energy I had on pleasantries.
“You ever find an owl to use?”
I nodded again; Gus’s enthusiastic tone grated against my nerves. It was three in the damn morning.
“So, your bird ever get back to you?”
If I was drinking tea, I would have choked on it.
Bird? Holy Hell. He should be friends with my dad.
“No, Gus. Haven’t talked to Tonks yet. We’re both busy,” I added with a grunt.
“Busy… ya? Busy. Well, looks like you’ll have to wait some time until you get a proper sha-”
“Gus, get lost, will you?” Well… I had tried to be nice, hadn’t I? The last thing I wanted was to talk about my sex life... or lack of... with someone who used terms like bird.
“See ya, Charlie,” he said with a good-natured smile.
My morning went on smoothly enough after that.
The storm kept the sky dark, but I was sure it was after four by the time I’d checked on two dragons. My first had been a Liondragon, an older girl who couldn’t fly because she’d gotten her wing blasted off by a poacher when she was a baby. This kind of weather made her particularly feisty. They liked to be above it all, soaring high over the storm when it struck. Not being able to do that was like cutting off a man’s… well, manhood.
She’d been on the reservation longer than almost anyone. Person or dragon.
The second dragon was brought here sometime during the war as a baby. He was acquired illegally by Death Eaters who had used him to experiment on. Trying different potions to alter his mind, hoping they could figure out how to develop one that would destroy his resistance to magic and prove that the dragons could be controllable. Then they could create their own dragon army.
His Trainer had thought they’d be able to introduce him back into his own habitat, but he couldn’t survive. The majority of his instincts had been sucked from him, killed by those scumbags.
“Charlie!” I squinted through the rain to make out the face of one of our Handlers. “Go see Jones and check on Bluesy.”
I nodded toward him before turning and walking a few feet to my right. After I was off the trail, I closed my eyes and thought up an image of our Ukrainian Ironbelly section. They were big things, got at least four miles to themselves.
Shit. Okay. I shook myself a few times, trying to knock out the uncomfortable feeling of apparation. Really not one of my favorite things. But out here, it was necessary. The sections were too large that it would have taken hours to get from one spot to another by foot.
I hurried my pace as I passed the two trees that had been bewitched to constantly remain bright silver, signaling the entrance into the Ukrainian's domain.
We only had four with us now, three adults and one that was barely a year old. Still a pup. The Ukrainian people did a better job than most of surveying their dragons and keeping them to the mountains. They were also the quickest to owl over if one got out of hand so we could send someone to calm everything down.
The three adults were the few who were just too feisty to stay in the homeland, and the younger one was the oldest girl's hatchling. When they'd brought the mum over to us, the pup had began starving herself, unable to stand such a large separation. So shortly after, she was brought here as well.
This breed was one of my favourites. Too prideful to back down, mean enough to kick anyone's arse... They required a special kind of attention. And once you showed them you weren’t afraid, nor were you an enemy, they were supposedly some of the most fun to pal around with.
I got a fair distance into their area, nearly ready to send up my silver sparks to let Jones know where I was, when the sound of shouting toward the West grabbed my attention.
You didn’t shout here. You whispered, then once they allowed it, you talked. Ironbellies took anything close to a yell as a challenge, and that’s when you got yourself in trouble. Once you get yourself in trouble, you get the dragons in trouble. The second they snapped and take a man’s head off, we're required by the Ministry to put them down. There's enough safety precautions out here... sure you could get hurt easily, but you wouldn’t get killed unless you were an idiot. And these beauties didn’t deserve to die because of human stupidity.
I quickened my pace as the voice grew louder, ready to give whoever I ran into a piece of my mind. It wouldn’t be any of my superiors; they’d never have earned their gloves by doing this kind of shit.
I wiped the rain from my eyes with the back of my sleeve as I got closer to the shouting.
I stalked up behind the man. His wand tip gave me just enough light to make out what was going on.
That little rubber band Tonks always tells me I have, the one keeping an invisible box inside me labeled ‘Charlie’s Temper’ closed… snapped.
The youngest dragon, now about the size of a small man, was cowering into the wet earth with large chains around her.
I fought down the worst of the rage spitting through me, knowing it wouldn’t do any good to pound a man’s face in my first month on the reservation. But even while trying to force my control to hold steady, I felt my feet stepping closer to the back of the man.
My hand acted on its own accord, flying out and grabbing his scrawny neck before he even realized I was there.
“What the-” he started, but was cut off as I threw him backwards, itching to leave the print of my knuckles against his pathetic face.
I felt my fingers twitch. The amount of control I was struggling desperately to hold onto was slipping. Then from behind me a chorus of soft cries grabbed my attention. I didn’t turn around, not willing to give this waste of flesh a second to escape. But by the sounds coming from Bluesy, I realized that his bonds on her must’ve weakened.
I pulled out my wand and pointed it at him, muttering Petrificus Totalus in my head before he had the chance to defend himself. His body went rigid and fell to the ground, making a satisfying splatter as he hit the mud.
“Hi there, darling,” I whispered as I turned to the girl, lighting my wand. I could just barely make out her small body shaking off the loosened chains. Her metallic color was glittering as it caught the luminance I created. But over the silver of her scales were patches of thick, green blood where she’d thrashed against the chains. I wanted more than anything to chain up the stupid bastard that did this to her so he could see how it feels.
“How can I help you?” I asked the dragon pup, pushing down my rage and using the softest tone I could muster. My hand was steady as I reached, inch by inch, towards her.
She cowered away, and without a second thought I knelt down into the earth, giving her the advantage of being larger than me. I was careful as I glanced up, not wanting her to mistake my eye contact for a challenge, but kept my hand, palm up of course, stretched to her.
“You’re bleeding a bit, Bluesy. What about if I clean you up, then we get your mum over here?”
I kept my stance, waiting patiently for her to decide where to go from here.
Humans are always so set on these animal being violent creatures. So ready to label them as vicious murderers. They forget that they're only following their instinct. When mankind has been known to hunt and kill dragons for ages... when we stumble into their habitat... they assume it’s either them or us. That the person means to harm them, and they have a to react before their hatchlings or mates are put in danger.
But crouching down next to one of these creatures, seeing them react day in and day out, you learn how much there is to them. They were around way before us. They’ve survived millenniums over and were very possibly some of the first creatures to walk to earth. Once you become part of their world, tried to work with them instead of against them, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they’re some of the most intelligent things around.
“There we are,” I whispered as she took a step forward. Her long neck was curved down slightly, a much better sign than if it was straight and angled back — the position she’d take if she was preparing to challenge me.
I began standing, moving my muscles as slowly as I could, making sure to keep my head lowered. Then once I was back up to my full height, I extended my hand just a bit more.
She reached her Quaffle sized head forward and eased her snout into my palm. I raised my eyes again, relieved to see her deep red ones still staring into me.
I knew this was far from a good situation. She’d been hurt in a place where she was promised safety. But I couldn’t help the corners of my mouth from turning up. I was granted permission by a willing dragon to touch her, to help her. That’s a big fucking deal.
“That’s a good girl,” I whispered as I let my thumb run along her scales. They were already hardening, and in a few years they’d be the same steel like substance as the adults.
As much as I wanted to keep this sacred moment to myself, to keep it just me and her, I knew I wasn’t qualified to treat something like this.
“I need to get your Handler out here, okay girl? He’ll heal you up, then we’ll find your mum. I’m going to raise my wand, and there’ll be some sparks. But nothings going to hurt you.” She snorted a stream of warm air out her nose, which I took as an okay to proceed.
I raised my wand into the air and shot an array of bright silver sparks from it. That would signal that I was in the Ironbelly area.
After that, I whispered Coordinates Reperio and a list of numbers came shooting from the tip. I pointed it toward the sky, and sent those up along with the sparks. That would give Handler Jones my exact location, and he’d be able to apparate directly here.
I lit the tip of my wand again, casting the same small glow over us.
“Okay girl, your Handler will be here soon. He’ll figure out what needs to be done to get you healed up. There’ll be a loud noise when he shows up, but the thunder should drown most of it out.” I continued rub my hand over her head as she took another step closer.
“And then we'll find out just what this wanker thought was going to do.”
A loud pop echoed behind me, followed quickly by the tang of tobacco.
“Mr. Jones,” I greeted in response.
I kept my hand steady so Bluesy could continue to rest on it, but turned my head toward my superior.
He walked in a circle, glancing down at the immobilized form of Brackle, before turning back to the dragon and myself.
His shaved head and scarred face gave him a look that told you he wasn’t someone to fuck with. And even though his appearance was enough to make your palms sweat, he was one of my favorite people that worked on the reservation. Not only because he was probably the most respected, but because he had a way with these creatures that I knew I’d give anything to learn.
“Busy morning,” he finally commented, his eyes surveying the injured pup. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box of cigarettes, sliding two from the case and passing one to me. I tucked my wand into my pocket, keeping the tip out for that necessary light, then took the small item between my fingers, holding it still while Jones lit it.
“Thanks,” I answered, waiting for him to ask what happened.
“Knew he wouldn’t last here.” Jones nodded his head toward Brackle.
“Hey there girl. Mind if I come look you over?” he added to Bluesy, then walked steadily forward when she didn’t protest. “Okay, Weasley. Fill me in.”
I let the breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding slip out. “Mr. English sent me out here to see you about Bluesy. When I came up, Brackle had her wings and snout chained and was shouting at her to stop thrashing. I still don’t know enough about dragon injuries to handle it myself, so I immobilized him then calmed her down before calling you.”
Jones stayed silent as he ran a large hand over the scales on her back, gently touching the places that the chains had cut into.
After a few minutes of nothing but the sound of the wind whipping around us, he finally looked back up at me.
“You’re set out to be a Handler?”
“Yes sir, hoping to. Not that there’s anything wrong with Trainers or Keepers, I’d just rather do it all.” I answered, wondering if he’d looked into my file or if he was just guessing.
Being a Keeper or Trainer wouldn’t be bad at all, don’t get me wrong. They did loads of stuff around here.
The Keepers were in charge of making sure that the dragon’s domain mirrored the natural habitat. They kept enough wild life stalked so the dragons could hunt for themselves, set up wards to make sure we’d know if one flew off, healed the injured ones and dealt with most things that concerned their day to day life.
The Trainers were in charge of bringing in Dragons that we were owled about. They worked at calming the more aggressive ones down so they’d be able to be free in their assigned area with their breed, as opposed to isolated in a place with much stricter wards. They worked with them to accept us and allow us to enter their domain when we needed to, and helped rehabilitate the captured or illegally acquired ones we received.
Then the Handlers... they did it all. Everything the Trainers and Keepers did, a Handler could do as well. They would be the ones to make any decision about the dragons, the ones to oversee everything that went on in the reservation, and most importantly, they had free reign to any of the breeds.
Unlike the Keepers and Trainers, who were assigned as certain breed and could only rotate every six months, the eight Handlers on the reservation all worked together and with every breed. You had a specific one that you worked most with, Ironbellies were Jones’s, but you were still qualified and able to handle every other breed.
As a Handler, you didn’t just work on the reservation. You were part of it. Part of the dragons. They were yours.
“You just might have what it takes, Weasley.”
I had to force myself not to smile. You didn’t smile… out here you were only as tough as you looked. But still, Jones wasn’t a man of compliments. And having someone tell me they thought I had a chance at everything I wanted, it was brilliant.
He walked from Bluesy to Brackle, and bent down to reach into the frozen man’s pockets, pulling a small object out.
“I was hoping he’d just been stressed,” Jones began as I moved closer to him. “Hoping we could dismiss his sorry arse and that’d be it. That’s not the case today. Shit. Send up red sparks and our coordinates,” he added, keeping his eyes on the object.
I did as he asked, throwing the spells into the thundering sky.
“That should get English here immediately. You know what this is, Weasley?”
I shook my head as he handed me a smile phial. Taped to the side of the glass bottle was a long razor blade with some kind of handle attached.
“I knew Brackle might be a bit dodgy, didn’t think he was off his bleeding rocker though. What you’re holding is an illegal object used to cut off and contain the talons of a dragon. Ironbelly dragons have the most valuable talons, too. That razor is sharper than anything, can cut straight through your bones without a bit of trouble. It’s the only thing around strong enough to cleanly remove a talon.”
He took a long drag from his cigarette and I kept silent, waiting for him to continue.
“You can blast one off, of course, but then it’d be worthless. I sent this bastard out here to feed Bluesy, thinking he’d be able to handle her. He was supposed to meet Mr. English right after... must’ve been why he sent you to check on her after you ran into him. It doesn’t take long to let some rats out of a cage, even less time for our girl to gobble ‘em up. We’re lucky you showed up when you did, Charlie.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, I felt pride creeping up. It was the first time I’d heard Jones use mine, or any trainee’s, first name.
“Everything all right?”
I turned toward Bluesy as English made his way over to Jones. I’d heard enough of what that prick was trying to do, didn’t need to hear it all again.
She was curled up in a patch of soaked moss. Her breath came in even snorts, the kind of relaxation a dragon only displays when they’re sleeping. I thought back to a few hours ago when that had been me sleeping soundly in my bed. Dreaming of that stubborn thing of a woman who I now desperately wanted to be able to show this to.
The lack of sleep was well worth getting to be apart of all this. Maybe Tonks didn’t understand why I’d chosen this... maybe she did. Maybe my family thought I’d gone mad... well I suppose only mum and dad, probably Percy too.
But this was it. This was where I wanted to be.
“Weasley. You’ve had quite the morning. Take the day off and get some rest.” Jones turned and faced me as he put out his cigarette and slipped the butt of it into his pocket. “Bluesy’s yours now. We’ll get her healed up, then you’re going to meet with Stevenson, that’s the Ironbelly’s Keeper, in the Veterinary House at midnight. He’ll go over what he did for her, and we’ll ask him to save a small cut for you. He’ll give you the instructions on how to maintain her care for these wounds, and her general requirements. This is all on top of your regular duties. If you want to be a Handler, now is the time to prove that you can do more than most people. Got it?”
Don’t. Smile. Don’t. Smile.
“Yes Sir, Mr. Jones.”
“Good. I’ll stop in tonight and check on you. You get outta here, we’ll take care of this.” he muttered, nudging Brackle’s frozen leg with his foot.
After giving the sleeping Bluesy one last look, I sucked in my breath, pictured the small, warm bed in my cottage, and spun around.
I landed on my feet, but had to stomp around a few times to keep myself from tipping over. I shook my arms and head, trying to get out the compressed feeling that I was left with.
I began to peel off my jeans when a banging sound caught my attention. Ashton wasn’t let off early too, was she? I pulled the trousers back up and buttoned them before walking out of my bedroom, wand in hand.
For the first time that morning,I broke the ‘you’re only as tough as you look’ rule and let a huge smile spread over my face. The site of Tonks slamming around my kitchen was enough to make any man smile.
“Morning, Nymphadora.” She dropped the pan she was holding, glancing up at me with those big dark eyes.
Well, shit. Why did she have to give me that look? I knew I was supposed to be annoyed at the bloody witch… but she was covered in something that looked like milk, eggs were splattered all over the table, bacon was laying limply in a frying pan… How do you stay annoyed at that?
“I have three days off, and I got a portkey… then when you weren’t here I assumed they had you over night, and I knew you’d be pissy about -”
“I don’t get pissy,” I denied, earning me a legendary Tonks smirk.
“Sure you don’t get pissy. Anyway, I figured I could make up for it all by fixing you breakfast. But, you know. Hogwarts always made us breakfast. And I just eat whatever comes in a box already made…”
As I walked into the kitchen and leaned against the counter, I noticed two large, dark circles around her eyes.
“When’s the last time you slept?”
“That doesn’t matter. What matters is I really am sorry I left in the middle of our row, and then for not writing. I just… it all happens so fast and I really was busy. Then when I wasn’t busy I was just pissed about how dense you can be. But mostly I was just training hard, because they’re all so much better than me but you know you can still do it-”
“Nymphadora.” She couldn’t even muster a convincing glare at my use of her full name. “When was the last time you slept?”
“I don’t know, a day ago... maybe two. But I take naps. And that’s all you really need.” Her bubble of pink hair bounced around as she turned her wand back to the stove, muttering something that I think was supposed to get the bacon frying.
“No, naps are not all you need. Bed time.”
She turned back around, her ever present smile directed right at me. “You’re adorable when you try to be bossy. Now, listen to this-” Before she could continue, I decided to show her how adorable I was.
I took a step closer to her and bent down while grabbing under her arse (perfect arse, mind you) and threw her over my shoulder.
“Put me down!” she laughed, breaking any pretense of real anger.
I carried her back down the small hall and tossed her onto the bed, rather pleased with myself when she snuggled under the covers instead of trying to go back out to her disastrous breakfast.
“Fine. We’ll sleep. If I can’t get my way in the kitchen, at least I can in bed.” The wicked grin playing on face had my hands itching to peel off her jumper. “But as I was saying...” Damn. The jumper would have to wait.
“You know Mad-Eye Moody? The one I interviewed with?”
“Everyone knows Mad-Eye Moody. Remember, I’m the one who said he probably wanted to give you the position during the interview.” I answered, taking my gaze off of the slender curve of her neck to meet her dark eyes.
“Course… anyway, he went into retirement last year. Not officially, I don’t think. He still does the interviews and that sort of stuff. Well, he wants to mentor me! Me! He has the time now, and he said that he hasn’t seen so much raw talent since someone named Alice Christopherson.” She was nearly bouncing up and down. Her happiness had always been infection.
"Blimey, Tonks! That's fantastic! I'm always telling you that you're brilliant, aren't I?” I thought back to my new assignment for Bluesy… I would tell her later. She deserved for it to be about just her tonight. Today. Whatever.
I closed the distance between us, burrowing myself under the covers beside her. “I know the perfect way to celebrate.”
Okay. First person is really a challenge for me. Haha.
I'd love your opinions on how this second chapter turned out!