Chapter 6 : Being Happy
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“Ready?” he asks, smiling at me.
“Of course,” I reply with a smile. He gives my hand a squeeze and then takes a handful of floo powder, throwing it into the fire. He disappears and a moment later I follow him.
The place is already a hive of activity, despite it only being eight o’ clock in the morning. The spacious office that we’ve stepped into is full of people rushing around and outside I can hear the unmistakable roar of a Common Welsh Green.
“Hi Cyrus, hi Molly,” a few people call out to us as we arrive. I greet them in return and wave at a few others. The smile hasn’t left my face yet.
“Cyrus, can you come and give us a hand, mate? We had another one arrive last night and we need all the help we can get,” Phil shouts from the doorway.
“I’ll be there in a minute, mate,” Campbell responds, turning back to me to give me a kiss. I touch my lips to his briefly and then push him away. I’m still not a fan on PDA.
“Go on!” I urge. Shelly, sat at the nearest desk to us, laughs at our display.
Campbell grins and with another peck on my cheek, follows the stocky man out of the building.
In case you hadn’t already guessed, Campbell and I work together now. I’m not a dragon handler (that would just be silly) but a lot has changed in the last six months. And I really do mean a lot.
When Campbell and I ran away to Romania to get married (something I still can’t believe I did) I hadn’t told anyone at the Ministry that I was going. I didn’t expect to have a job waiting for me when I got back, but I suppose that I underestimated Dad’s influence at the Ministry. Since he didn’t know anything about Campbell, he spent the first week that I was missing convinced that I was ill. After that, though, he began to get suspicious. I’ve never had a day off sick in my life before – I used to live for work. But since none of my family knew anything about where I was either, he had to turn to Felicity for answers.
I don’t blame her for having let it slip. In fairness, I didn’t actually tell her where we had gone – but she’s smart enough that she put my disappearance together with my new relationship and came up with the right answer. I have a suspicion that Dad would have threatened her if she hadn’t told him, anyway.
I can’t accurately describe Dad’s reaction when he found out what had happened. Suffice it to say that I received no fewer than nine howlers in under an hour, all demanding that I returned home immediately because I was bringing shame on the family and abandoning my duties. A barrage of owls followed that, mainly from my Mum. They were tear-stained and filled with entreaties just to come home so I could talk to them about it.
I didn’t go, of course. What was there to talk about? I’m an adult, and I’m married to Cyrus Campbell. That’s all there is to it.
There was one letter I got in the midst of all the others that was a pleasant surprise. It came from Lucy, who had obviously heard what had happened from Mum and Dad (Mum had said they were trying to keep the truth from the rest of the family for as long as possible). I’ve never exactly had a good relationship with Lucy, but what she wrote cheered me up no end. I still read it every now and then:
So you found yourself a man, eh? Good for you! Who cares that you’ve eloped with a dragon handler? Well, Mum and Dad do, I suppose, but that’s not the point. They’ll calm down soon enough – take it from the expert! I want to meet him as soon as you get back! Until then, though, be happy!
Lucy is definitely the expert as far as angry parents are concerned. It’s weird that I’m now in the same position that she’s been in for most of her life. But at least it has brought us closer together – we’re actually on good terms, now, which is surprisingly enjoyable. We have more in common than I thought; or maybe I just never really bothered to find out.
Obviously I didn’t go home straight away. When I told Dad in a letter that I wouldn’t be coming back, I received several more howlers containing threats about cutting me off (not that they give me money, anyway) and a letter from Mum saying that I’d broken her heart.
I have to admit, that last one stung. I tried to keep it all from Campbell as much as possible because I didn’t want him to feel responsible for the ridiculous reactions of my parents. I had a good reason for not wanting him to meet them. The next day, though, I got another letter from Lucy telling me not to worry about it. In spite of all Dad’s threats, he’d persuaded the Minister that I was taking sick leave, and with several reminders about what a good worker I’d been for the last eight years, I was signed off indefinitely – I even got paid for the whole time. It turns out Dad couldn’t bear the idea of other people knowing that I’d run away to Romania with an ex-rock star turned dragon handler.
I don’t think there are even words for his reaction when he found out that Uncle Charlie had been the one to give me away at the wedding.
We came back eventually. Although Campbell works in Romania with dragons, we wanted to live back in Britain. Even though I complain about them constantly, I actually missed my family while I was away. So we came up with a plan.
Dad’s pride made things easier for us in a way. When I got back I was able to resign on “health grounds” and I received my wages until the end of the month. With my resignation, I made a recommendation for the next head of the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau. I suggested that Cynthia take over my post. For some incomprehensible reason, other people agreed with me. She’s been the head of the Bureau for the last five months.
I had my own reasons, of course, for recommending Cynthia as my replacement. After seeing Campbell working in Romania, I started to understand his fascination with dragons. And I realised that his proposal to start a dragon training centre in Britain wasn’t quite so crazy after all. Somehow, I found myself wishing that I’d approved it in the first place.
A week after we arrived back in Britain (and fresh from doing battle with Mum and Dad, who are worse than a pair of dragons themselves) we resubmitted Campbell’s application for the centre. Unsurprisingly, after our meeting with Cynthia, our application was approved (I’d like to think she was grateful for my recommendation, but I think that her decision was based more on the fact that Campbell kissed her on the cheek when I introduced them properly. There really is no hope for that woman).
It didn’t take us long to get everything set up. With us a joint managers, things ran very smoothly, and quick enough to satisfy even Campbell’s enthusiasm. He had enough contacts amongst other dragon handlers to make sure that we got a full team together straight away, and with my organisation I managed to find people to handle the paperwork and administration alongside me. We’re now running the first dragon training centre in Britain.
“Molly?” Shelly says, calling me back to the present.
I look up and realise that more people are coming out of the fireplace, and struggling to manoeuvre around me as they step into the room. Oops.
I smile sheepishly at her and take a seat at my desk. Although I’m in charge here, I don’t have my own office where I sit and rule things from on high. Campbell was the one who persuaded me on that. Back at the Ministry, one of the reasons that I worked so hard (besides the fact that I had no social life to speak of) was so that I could get promoted – because promotion meant that private office, without anyone to pester me about my famous family. It meant that I could ignore all of it and be my own person.
Here, despite the fact that I share my office with nine other people, not one of them has felt it necessary to mention my family. I talk to them – I’m even friends with them (yes, I know, I now have more than one proper friend!) – but we have more important things to talk about than what my cousins did in their weekend quidditch match, or what part my aunts and uncles played in the war. Who knew that I’d feel more comfortable working at a dragon training centre than I did at the Ministry of Magic?
The routine here is somewhat different to the Ministry. Although the atmosphere is definitely more informal (can you really have a formal dragon training centre?) it’s also surprisingly more professional than the Ministry ever was (the people I was working with, anyway – maybe taking Mona and Cynthia as an example of Ministry workers is an unfair generalisation). People here are so enthusiastic about their work that almost everyone is early each day and I only need to ask them once for a job to be done.
“Will you help me look over these applications, Molly?” Shelly asks me.
“Of course,” I reply.
Shelly is married to one of the dragon handlers working here. They’re both in their forties and have kids together; Shelly told me on the first day we opened the centre that she was eternally grateful to us for giving her husband somewhere to work in England instead of Peru (where they’d been for the last six years – Rick was helping the Peruvian Ministry to control their Vipertooth population). We don’t have a second in command here, but Shelly is my unofficial deputy. What she doesn’t know about dragon handling (and handlers, for that matter) isn’t really worth knowing.
I wheel my chair over to join her at her desk (yes, we have those muggle office chairs with wheels. Don’t look at me like that. You know you want one too) to see what she wanted help with. The stack of applications was over two feet high. Merlin, this is going to take a long time.
Even though I thought it was a stupid idea at first, when I eventually came round I knew that our centre would be popular. But I don’t think either Campbell or anyone else (myself included) could have anticipated how successful it actually would be. We managed to set up quickly with a team of twenty handlers and ten office staff, but demand for our services is increasing to such a level that we need to take on more workers after only five months.
I think it’s safe to say that my initial views on the plan were wrong.
The current stack on Shelly’s desk is all applications for an apprenticeship with the handlers. Campbell thought it would be a good idea to offer training for people who want to become dragon handlers like him. He’s going to make the final decisions with some of the other handlers, but we get the lucky job of sorting through all the initial applications to find the best applicants.
I roll my eyes at Shelly and she grins back like she knows exactly what I’m thinking. Probably because she’s thinking the same thing.
Time passes surprisingly quickly as we sort through the applications. Some of the others in the office join in and help us occasionally, and we laugh a lot at some of the ridiculous answers on the forms. A few make me worry a bit about the future of British witches and wizards (“What is your greatest academic achievement: Not getting caught in a broom cupboard with a girl at Hogwarts despite having spent most of my last three years in them”?). There were a lot of applications from abroad as well, which was funny because of the mistakes they’d made writing in English. Eventually, though, we managed to pick out the ten best from nearly a hundred who’d applied.
I can’t believe the number of people who want to be dragon handlers. They are hot, though. Molly, focus.
The rest of the day passes in a similar manner and once we’re finished I wait for Campbell and we floo home together. We get changed quickly because we’ve arranged to meet Felicity and Jasper for a drink. The pub is just down the road from our house so we decide to walk there instead of apparating.
Campbell looks gorgeous in a dark shirt over a clean pair of jeans. He takes my hand again as we walk along the pavement.
“Good day, Mol?” he asks.
“Yes – even though I spent most of it looking through applications for your apprentices.”
“How many were there?”
“Nearly a hundred,” I groan.
He looks slightly guilty but is still smiling. “I knew there was a reason I loved you.”
“Because I act as your secretary?”
“Of course – what other reason did I have for marrying you?” he jokes.
I elbow him in the side but he barely seems to feel it. Damn those muscles. “I didn’t think there would be so many people applying. There are a lot of weird people around.”
“Why does applying for the apprenticeship make them weird?” Campbell says curiously.
“We’ve already been over this. They want to work with dragons. What part of dragon handler says normal to you?”
Campbell doesn’t respond straight away, but there’s a wicked glint in his eye. I swallow nervously. A second later he starts tickling me. Lucky there’s nobody about.
“Campbell, stop!” I order, but once again fail to sound stern through my giggles.
“Not until you say dragons are cool!” he responds.
“Well, then I’m not going to stop!” And he carries on until I’m laughing so much that I’m nearly falling over. When I eventually do fall onto the ground, though, I decide to swallow my pride.
“Stop! Dragons are cool!” I gasp.
He stops tickling me. “What was that?”
“Dragons are cool!” I repeat miserably, slowly regaining my breath.
“Damn right they are!” he replies.
He extends a hand to me and tugs me gently to my feet again. I’m about to scold him for another tickling episode but before I have chance to say anything he pulls me closer and kisses me tenderly.
A minute or two later we’re both breathing harder than normal as he rests his forehead against mine. “Are you happy, Molly?” he whispers.
Instead of automatically using the reply that was my default answer when people used to ask me that (“I’m fine!”), I take a moment to stop and think about it. Everything in my life has changed so drastically. If you had told me a year ago, or even the day before I met Campbell, that my life would be like this now, I would never have believed it. I lost my job at the Ministry – probably the most important thing to me – and instead I set up a dragon training centre with my husband. And for some reason, I never stop smiling now.
“Yes,” I answer softly. “Yes I am.”
He smiles and kisses me softly again and then puts his arm round me as we start walking towards the pub again. As we walk, I cast my mind back over the last six months. That one crazy moment when I agreed to go for lunch with Campbell after refusing his first application to open the centre. A series of crazy moments after that – falling in love with him, running away and getting married, coming back and resigning from the Ministry, setting up the dragon training centre. It’s all led to one thing: being happy. And I am. I really am.
A/N: Well, that's my first story finally finished! I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this, and I really hope you enjoyed it - please don't forget to leave a review!