Chapter 8 : Scarred
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“Charles Freaking Weasley!” I yelled as I opened yet another file, this one a report of the previous weeks’ dragon sightings. I’d gone through three of Phoenix’s eight records, and had started on the newest Quills album, but even the awesome chord progressions of their song, “Hex Me” weren’t enough to make my job any more enjoyable.
“Yes?” Charlie stuck his head in through the open flap of my tent.
“I hate you so much!” I told him, gesticulating wildly around at the towering stacks of paper.
“It can’t be as bad as all that.” He grinned mischievously as he sat down next to me. “Are you sure that you actually did all of this?” He asked, staring at all the paperwork I’d completed with a look of admiration, or incredulity, one of the two.
“Yes.” I replied waspishly. “I know how to fill out paperwork. It’s all I did when I worked for the Ministry.”
“Yeah, I forgot you went there after graduation.” He said, turning the volume on the gramophone down so we could have a conversation with normal voices. I’d turned it up quite loud, as if blasting my eardrums could make the work less tedious.
“I hated it.” I told him, setting aside folder without any hesitation. “Old codgers who sat around and talked about ‘the old days’” Charlie let out a snort of laughter.
“The old days?” He repeated, chuckling.
“Yeah, when they were young and could actually chase a dragon down without fear of asphyxiation.” He laughed again, and I joined him.
“You two alright in there?” Came Andrew’s Scottish brogue, which was followed by his shaggy head.
“Yeah, we’re fine.” Charlie said easily, reclining in the chair. “Just having a laugh.”
“Is that all they’re having?” Ciprian said, striding into the tent behind Andrew. They were both dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, and I was ridiculously envious.
“What happened today?” I asked, changing the subject to steer them away from their obvious conversation topic of choice.
“Nothing much,” Charlie started hastily, shooting daggers at Andrew and Ciprian, who were, of course, completely oblivious.
“Well, it was chaos today, because some Longhorn was spotted right outside of Sibiu. Muggles phoned it in to the police station, who phoned it in to the Romanian president, who called our Minister, who called the Department of Magical Creature Protection, who called the Muggle Protection Center, who called us.”
“Wow, Drew,” Ciprian said, cuffing him on the shoulder. “Do you think you could given a more convoluted and complicated answer?”
“Probably.” Andrew said, hitting him back. “Anyway, Costache sent us out all over the area trying to find the damn thing, wiping about 300 memories as we went. These Muggles were telling everybody about it; you’d think they’d never seen a dragon before.” I laughed through my jealousy at his indignant tone of voice. “We finally found her, sleeping in some cave, 150 kilometers from where we first started looking.”
“Sounds eventful.” I said, irritated that I was temporarily on what I considered hospice, and I couldn’t join them.
“It wasn’t anything special.” Charlie cut in, quickly, throwing a newly-completed file at Andrew, who got both the hint and a paper cut on his lip.
“Really, Charlie?” I asked, now supremely aggravated. “You just had to throw a file that I’ve been slaving over all day while you got to go hunt down a dragon?!”
“Nice one,” Ciprian said, smothering a laugh. I don’t know why, but they found it hilarious when I went off on Charlie.
“Well,” Andrew began, chewing on his lower lip, “We’ll leave you to sort this out on your own.”
“See you.” Ciprian said, and, futilely trying to hide their smirks, they ducked out, leaving me alone with my current least favorite person in the world.
“I’m not doing that again.” I told him pointedly. “There is no way in hell that I’m doing that one again; it took me an hour and a half to get it all in the right order!”
“Sorry!” Charlie broke off abruptly, and I could hear the uproarious laughter of Ciprian and Andrew- they were going to go into conniptions if they weren’t careful.
“Clear off, you two!” Charlie growled, and their laughter grew fainter and fainter as they ran off, no doubt to spread the gossip. Those two are like old women when they find something interesting to talk about; they’ll tell anyone.
“Fix it.” I said pointedly, shooting him a look that my mother calls “Horribly improper.”
Charlie raised an eyebrow challengingly.
“Charles Arthur Weasley, fix this file now!” I was so pissed that he was making light of the fact that I had all of these papers to fill out while he got to go have all of the fun.
“Calm down!” Charlie laughed good-naturedly as he opened the file. “I’ll fix it. It’ll get me out of my desk shift tonight.”
“You have the desk shift tonight?” I repeated, gleeful. The night shift at the Muggle Protection Center was the most dreaded of all. Ten hours of sitting in a cubicle waiting fruitlessly for the buzzer to go off, sounding an alarm that would mean we could actually get to go out and do something. Every week, someone from our team had to go to Bucharest for the night; the stories of extreme boredom were legendary
“Had.” Charlie amended, chucking his pen at me.
“Who’d you get to fill in for you?” I asked incredulously, throwing his pen back at him. I’d never been, but I’d have to be paid a huge sum of money to fill in for someone else; today’s experience with just sitting around had taught me that much.
“Ciprian.” He replied. I had to remind myself that the open-mouthed idiot look was not attractive.
“Ciprian.” I reiterated slowly, making sure that he heard every syllable.
“Yeah. I told him I’d teach him the Wronski Feint at this weekend’s Quidditch match. Plus, he’s sort of into this girl that sits at the desk next to ours, so it wasn’t that hard.” He said, not taking his eyes off of the papers he was futilely sorting through, trying to get them in some sort of order, as if attempting to decipher the miniscule, Romanian print was even possible.
“Interesting.” I said, watching him in his efforts, feeling sympathetic in spite of myself, my cool façade crumbling. “You know,” I began after a few minutes. “This file might be easier if you spoke Romanian.”
“I do.” He said, rubbing his eyes wearily. “Or, at least, I thought I did. These papers make no sense.”
“Here,” I scooted over closer to him against my bitchy intentions. “Let me see if I can figure it out.”
“No!” Charlie said, holding the papers out of my reach. “I can do it- you don’t have to.”
“Really?” I asked skeptically. He rolled his eyes. “Let me help; it’s not like I have anything better to do.”
“I know the feeling.” Charlie seconded. “I’ve been poisoned, too.”
“Seriously?” I asked, looking at his arms, trying to guess which one of his many scars was caused by an Ironbelly. “Where?”
“Here.” He put a hand on his chest, right above his heart, bring his eyes to meet mine, giving me a small, wan smile.
“Can I see?” I asked before I could stop myself. Mortified, I clapped my hand over my mouth, cheeks flaming what I’m sure was a very unattractive shade of red.
“Sure.” He replied hesitantly, as if he couldn’t comprehend why I’d want to see a scar.
“No,” I began, still completely chagrined. “I mean, you don’t have to- I wouldn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, or anything.” I finished, lamely.
“You don’t.” Charlie reassured me. He closed the folder and set it aside and slowly unbuttoned the row of five buttons on his navy thermal, slowly. He popped the last button open and I couldn’t stop staring. His muscular forearms, and, on the occasion that I’d seen them, biceps, should have been a strong indicator that he was one sculpted man. My attention was drawn to a long, jagged white scar that started right above his collarbone and traveled down his defined chest, ending right in the middle of his sternum. His bronzed chest brought out the pale gash, giving him a rugged, real quality I’d rarely seen.
“Beautiful.” I breathed, and, before I could stop myself, reached out with tentative fingers.
His breath whooshed out of his body on impact, a muscle leaping in his jaw. Slowly, I traced down, reluctantly stopping at the scars’ end before starting back up.
“How did this happen?” I whispered, somehow unable to stop touching him. I looked up to find him watching me intently, gauging my reactions, measuring every hint of emotion that flitted across my face.
“It was a wrangling job a few years ago. An Ironbelly was bewitched by Death Eaters and was ravaging town after town. They sent Andrew and I to subdue him, but we didn’t have a chance. I tried to distract him while Andrew went around the back, but I got clawed in the process. We called for backup, but before they could get there, we’d killed the dragon.” He looked away then, his voice full of anguish. “We had no choice but to kill him. I was helping move the body to a safer location, but I got too close.”
“What did you do?” I asked, stopping my hand at his heart, feeling the reassuring, steady pulse, reminding us that he was still alive.
“I didn’t realize what had happened until we were finished wiping memories. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before: pain so intense that I literally couldn’t move. Nobody had Dittany or a bezoar, but Costache had Coriander Salve.
“I remember wanting to die- I was ready to die, to give up fighting, if only the pain would stop. It was an hour before I got treatment. The longest hour of my life.” He shuddered at the memory.
“I’m sorry.” I said, on the verge of tears at his story. God, this injury thing was taking its toll on me.
“Part of the job, I guess.” He laughed softly, though his eyes lost none of their intensity.
“I guess.” I repeated, finally able to take my hand off of his rock-hard chest. An incredibly awkward silence filled the tent, neither of us looking at the other, afraid to say anything.
“Wow, I’m sorry.” I said again, this time bustling with a random file, needing to do something to ignore the ten thousand malformed butterflies who’d suddenly made a home of my stomach, making me feel alternately sick, dizzy, and wonderfully nervous. “I’ve just, er, just been feeling really,” I paused, feeling like a complete idiot. He looked at me expectantly, “out of it.” I finished quietly, looking back down at the open file in my lap. I felt his hand on my chin, turning my face toward his, and suddenly, I was looking into his face, stunned by his blazing blue eyes.
“I like you out of it.” He said softly, with a small grin, right before he pressed his lips to mine.
His kiss was incomparable to anything I’d yet experienced; maybe, one day, if I was ever lucky enough to ride a dragon, I could come up with a decent comparison. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and, my mind went totally blank.
All too soon, he broke away, touching his forehead to mine.
“Wow,” I said. He stood up, and ran a hand through his cropped hair, stretching his arms.
“Wow.” He seconded, grinning impishly. “Well, I-I gotta go, take care of a couple things, I’ll see you later, yeah?”
“Yeah.” I echoed, smiling. I knew I was blushing, but I didn’t care; I was giddy, yet confused- I didn’t know what to think.
He nodded, grinned at me one more time, and ducked out of my tent.
“Wow.” I repeated, slumping back against my pillows. Just when I thought I had him all figured out, Charlie Weasley surprised me yet again.
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