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Chapter 2 : Just My Luck
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Now, as much as the memory of him completely grosses me out, I probably should tell you about him. He captured my attention from the get go.
It was late, much later than I’d usually be out on a Monday night, but I was miserable. It was the fifth anniversary of Jenica’s death, and, I didn’t want to be stuck with my parents being miserable, so I found myself at the Leaky Cauldron, slinging back firewhiskies with a couple of fierce looking aurors.
The pub was almost empty when a really cute guy tied his apron over his trousers and got to work. The first thing I noticed was the huge dragon splayed across his chest.
“You like dragons?” I slurred, remarkably coherently.
“Love ‘em.” He replied, smiling at me. “You?”
“I work with them!” I said proudly, teetering on my stool.
“Whoa, there.” He said, reaching out a strong arm to steady me. “Let’s get you some coffee.”
I don’t know what he did to it, but that was the fastest I’ve ever gone from completely hammered to sober as my grandmother.
“Thanks.” I replied, trying not to choke on the bitter brew.
“No problem.” He grinned. He really was fit. His shaggy blonde hair ended right above his blazing blue eyes. He was very well put together. “I’m Chris.” He said, extending a calloused hand.
“Ileana.” I replied, shaking it.
“So, Ileana,” He said, leaning over the bar to grab his rag, with which he proceeded to wipe down the counter. “Do you really work with dragons?”
“Yeah.” I told him, looking down self-consciously at my outfit and cursing myself for not putting on a decent pair of trousers. “I’m interning with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, in the Dragon Safety office.”
“Do you like it?” He asked, looking at me with those penetrating eyes.
“No!” I burst out, laughing. “It’s full of old people who look at me weird because of the way I dress.”
He looked me up and down. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you dress.” He said. “I think it’s actually pretty sexy...”
I wasted two years (two years!) on that scumbag. Sure, it was fun, but, apparently he liked having fun- with the hostess at the leaky cauldron, and that slaggy dressmaker. So, brokenhearted, I packed up my stuff from our flat and moved to Romania, where I was welcomed by my seemingly endless extended family.
Having lots of relatives proved to be a good thing, however, as my Uncle Grigore was good friends with the director of the Romanian Dragon Protection Program and Rehabilitation Center.
“You know, Ileana, I could probably get you a job for the summer.” He told me one night, shouting across the table to make himself heard.
I nearly spat out my food. “Really?” I cried. “Thank you so much!”
So, that’s how I came face to face with Charlie Weasley, bright and early on my first day of work.
“Well, well, well.” He sidled up to me, grinning. “If it isn’t Ileana Ramsey. Someone’s grown up!”
“Look who obviously hasn’t.” I retorted, without really meaning to; I swear, sometimes, my mouth has a mind of its’ own. Anyway, that wasn’t true- Charlie had grown up a lot since I’d dropped a Dungbomb on his head the day after graduation. He had never been extraordinarily tall, but he had really grown into his frame; he was buff. There was no other way to put it. His hair, which had always been bright red, was now dark, almost brown, and he was covered in freckles. He was hot, and, in comparison, I still felt like the lanky girl he had always teased.
“What brings you here?” He asked, eyeing me up and down. “On vacation?”
“Actually, I’m the new dragon caretaker.”
Charlie looked at me for a moment, disbelief etched on his face. Then, he burst out in raucous laughter.
“Ileana, this is man’s work.” He said, wiping his eyes, though more tears of laughter leaked out.
“Then where are the men?” I asked pointedly. That shut him up- Yes! “Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go check in and get my assignment.” I picked up my beat up duffle bad and carried it past Charlie, who stood staring after me, open-mouthed.
I walked into an old building with a wooden sign that said “Dragon Center main office.” There was a man sitting at a beat up desk, writing a letter.
“Excuse me, are you Mr. Costache?” I asked, switching easily from English to Romanian.
“Ah, you must be Ileana Ramsey.” The man replied, standing up and shaking my hand. He was tall and tan, with salt-and-pepper hair and a kind, weathered face. “Your Uncle Grigore has told me so much about you. Please, sit down.” He gestured to a heavily patched up chair across from his weathered desk. I did, and I was afforded a glimpse of the beautiful grounds that were to be my home.
“I’ve already reviewed your file.” He informed me, switching to heavily accented English. “And I’m delighted to welcome you to the team. That is, if you don’t mind being the only female.”
Oh, Merlin! I didn’t know whether to be grateful for the absence of excess estrogen, or saddened by it. But, I decided it didn’t matter; I would get to do what I loved all the time!
“That’s fine with me!” A smile spreading on my face as I shook his hand.
“Excellent.” He said, getting up and walking to the door. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll take you to the campsite.”
Giddily, I got to my feet. I could feel the adventure in the cool breeze that fluttered in through the open window. I followed him out of the office and onto a wide, open pathway.
“Here is the Rehabilitation Center.” He said, pointing to a vast, deforested hillside on his right. “This is where we help dragons who have been injured, whether naturally or by poachers. We get more calls to pick up injured dragons than any other center in Europe.” I nodded and we walked on until we came to a large-windowed building on his left. “This is the hatching facility. Of course, usually we let the eggs hatch around their nesting others, but this place was recently built to accommodate the increasing numbers of orphan eggs we’re receiving.”
This place was enormous! I couldn’t believe I was actually here; after dreaming about working here for most of my life, I hardly dared to believe it. Clichéd or not, I pinched myself and winced; this was real, all right.
“And, about a kilometer on your right, the grounds start.” Costache pointed straight into the woods. In the distance, if I squinted, I could barely make out specks rising into the sky: Dragons!
“We currently have about thirty dragons in ‘captivity’ if you will. But I remember when I was young, we had over a hundred.”
“Whoa,” Was all I could say.
“Ah, and here is where everyone lives.” We had come upon an open campsite of about two dozen large, airy tents. They were scattered throughout the woods in a semicircle around a large campfire pit. A few strong looking men sat around the fire, talking loudly and drinking coffee.
“And here is your tent, Miss Ramsey.” Costache said, walking over to a tent in the second row from the campfire pit.
“Thank you.” I said, pulling the flap aside and peering in.
It was huge!! Straight back- about ten feet, a small platform rose up from the rest of the wood floor. There was a large bed and a small bedside table resting on the platform. Next to this, there was a bathroom, enclosed by a curtain, and, on the wall closest to me, a bookcase was mounted next to a comfy-looking chair. I walked into the tent and made a beeline for the bookshelf: Men who Love Dragons Too Much, Treating Scalerot and other Minor Maladies, and Dragon Species Anthology. I dumped my bag on the floor and turned to my left. A large screen wall separated me from a small, outdoor patio with a hammock. But, what got me was the view. A large lake at the foot of a mountain was less than a five minutes’ walk from my tent.
I couldn’t help it, I started jumping up and down in excitement, but remembered myself, and walked out of the tent in a dignified manner.
“Is everything to your satisfaction?” Costache asked.
“Yes, thank you. It’s all fantastic!” I told him, taking in the beautiful scenery.
“In the summer, we sleep in tents.” He informed me. “But in the winter, when it gets very cold, we have cabins about a kilometer away. Anyway, here is your schedule.” He handed me a small stack of papers. On top was a schedule.
Sunday and Monday- 8:00 am -1:00 pm- Hatching Center
3:00pm -8:00pm- Rehabilitation Medical Center
Tuesday and Thursday-8:00am – 1:00pm- Rehabilitation Center Border Patrol
4:00pm -7:00pm- Supply Stock (Thursday only)
Wednesday and Friday- 8:00am-4:00pm- Protection Center (East Side)
11:00 pm- 5:00am- Protection Center (West Side)
Saturday- 8:00am- 1:00pm- Free
2:00pm- 7:00pm- Rehabilitation Center
9:00pm- 12:00am- Protection Center Border Patrol
*In Case of Emergency- all times are subject to change.
Then, I saw the footnote at the bottom of the page that proved that this was too good to be true.
*Assigned with Charlie Weasley
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