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Of Dragons and Daring by academica
Chapter 1 : Welcome to Romania
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 27


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Of Dragons and Daring

Luna woke with the sunrise, too excited to be in Romania to sleep any longer.

She had arrived in the country by a series of Floo passages late last night, after dinner but still early enough to get into her rented room without having to wake the owners of the house. The couple had twin six-year-old girls who were just as blonde as she was, and she wanted to stay up and play with them but knew that she needed to be prepared for an early start tomorrow. The weekend would arrive soon enough.

She dressed sensibly and put her hair into a loose braid she had learned from Hermione Granger while at Hogwarts. Then she turned to the small knapsack she purchased for the trip, trying to figure out what to pack for her very first day.

“Let’s see…” she said out loud to herself. Her eyes passed over the tour book on her nightstand, which had been a present from Ginny for her twenty-seventh birthday last week. That could wait until the weekend as well; she would only be seeing a very specific part of the country today. She did pack the two books her new supervisor had asked her to buy and bring, Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit and From Egg to Inferno: A Dragon Keeper’s Guide. Luna also packed a headband in case her hair got sweaty and fell into her eyes, a box of Toothflossing Stringmints for after lunch, and a small hammock that she could unfold if she needed to take a nap. Last was her father’s old pocket watch, which she always kept wherever she went.

Luna carried the knapsack downstairs along with her sneakers.

“Good morning,” she said to the twins, who were already tucking into their yogurt.

“Good morning,” Eloise and Eleanor chirped cheerfully in unison.

“Would you like some breakfast before you go?” offered Jacqueline, Luna’s hostess. Her husband, Richard, was a transplant working for the Romanian Ministry of Magic and—at least from what Luna understood—his wife had begged him to sign their family up to host students on holiday just so she would have people with whom to discuss English gossip. Despite Luna’s lack of finesse in this area, the woman did not seem disappointed with her so far.

“Yes, please,” Luna replied gratefully. She took a seat at the table.

“Richard had an early morning meeting, but he will be home shortly to take you to the sanctuary. Apparition will probably be your best bet to get there.” Jacqueline smiled, putting a plate in front of Luna. It contained two pieces of toast and a half-omelette decorated with tomatoes and feta cheese. It looked absolutely delicious.

“Thank you,” Luna said, reaching in front of her for a pat of butter. As she ate, she fondly recalled the foreword to From Egg to Inferno, which she’d read last night in an attempt to make herself calm enough to sleep. Dear adventurer, it had said, for you must be the adventurous type to take on a challenge like breeding dragons—I wish you well, and wish you luck. The art of dragon breeding is difficult to master or even attempt, not in the least because baby dragons are similar to baby humans in that suspiciously adorable expressions tend to proceed something nasty being launched directly at your nose. But never fear, for the reward is worth the work. It has been said, in fact, that one can achieve just about anything if one can raise a dragon.

Luna smiled as she took the first bite of her warm omelette and the house’s fireplace lit up with green flames. In a few moments, Richard would show her the closest safe Apparition point to and from the sanctuary, and then she’d be off for her first day of work. It was truly a question of now or never, and she was firmly on the side of now.

*

“Ah, Miss Lovegood! Welcome to Romania!” Mr. Charles Weasley greeted Luna brightly, nodding at Richard before he Disapparated from the main building of the sanctuary. “I’m thrilled to begin working with you. My sister said you were a Ravenclaw, you know, so I have high expectations—almost as high as if you were a Gryffindor, like me. I daresay you’ll need both wit and bravery around this place.”

“My mum always said that most people had a brain but a lot of them are too cowardly to let anyone know about it,” Luna said, offering him a soft smile.

“I suspect she was a Ravenclaw, too,” Mr. Weasley mused. “Well, then, right to it. Did you buy the books I recommended?”

“Yes, Mr. Weasley.”

He cringed slightly. “Good, but… Mr. Weasley is my dad. Please, call me Charlie.”

“All right,” Luna nodded. “You can call me Luna.”

“Then I will. Luna, this work placement is supposed to give you a basic experience in dragon breeding. It’s not something a lot of people will find to be their true calling, but it’s quite dangerous, so naturally it’s a lot of fun. Plus, it’s a good skill to have. You never know what you’ll encounter out there.”

Luna’s eyes got a bit wide. “Yes, you’re quite right, Charlie.”

“How many years of training post-Hogwarts have you received?”

“Two. I’ve completed the advanced Herbology year and the advanced Care of Magical Creatures year.” She had two years of education left after this three-month foreign placement—one that would be spent shadowing a magical naturalist in Britain in order to get an idea of what her own career would be like, and one that would be spent doing field research and writing her final capstone project.

“Excellent. So this your foreign work placement?”

“Yes, until September.”

“Splendid.” Charlie walked over to a desk, where a dark-haired girl sat typing up a report. “This is Alicia Spinnet. Did you two attend Hogwarts at the same time?”

“Yes, you look familiar,” Luna said to Alicia, who smiled at her and nodded.

“She’s here temporarily, working on typing up our daily reports and answering owls and such. She’ll be the one to oversee your paperwork, so be sure to check on it.”

They next moved toward a back door. Charlie placed his hand on the knob. “This is the way out to the paddocks. The other person on placement is already out there.”

“Other person?” Luna asked curiously.

“Yes, a young man. He’s a year ahead of you. His name is Rolf Scamander.”

*

Luna walked curiously along the stone path beside Charlie, looking from side to side at the walled-in fields that bordered it. She could hear no roaring or heavy footsteps, but she supposed that the heat of the afternoon may have driven the dragons inside. Now that she listened, she could hear several large beasts snoring inside their caves.

“Rolf? This is Luna Lovegood. Luna, this is Rolf Scamander.”

She looked up to see Charlie waving to a boy standing several feet from them. He had sandy brown hair and very kind brown eyes, and his smile made Luna feel strangely warm and a bit sick inside, like she’d had too many Butterbeers in close succession. She forced herself to mirror his expression and spoke. “Hello.”

“Yes, hello,” he said. Sounds like the sort to have a good singing voice, she observed.

“You two will be working together this summer. Have you met the breeders?”

“Not yet,” Rolf replied.

“Good, we can go as a group. Now, where you are now is for the adult dragons, both the males and the females who are past breeding age. In a minute, we’ll be coming up on a building—that’s the Breeding Center, where the younger females are kept. Past that are the paddocks for the little ones. I wish they had been built a bit closer to the main building, though. You really have to keep an eye on those feisty babies.”

As Charlie began telling stories about violent and humorous altercations the baby dragons had gotten into with one another in the past, Luna fell into step next to Rolf.

“So, Charlie said you were in the year above me in the program.”

“That’s right. I just finished shadowing my father for a year. Well, I suppose I’ve been shadowing him my whole life, but there was paperwork involved this time, so…”

“Your father?” Luna blinked. “Oh, right, Scamander.”

“My grandfather was the really famous one, but he died when I was twelve, so my father decided to just teach me what he’d learned from my grandfather instead. It was a rather reading-intensive shadowing experience,” Newt added. He spoke quite matter-of-factly, as if the experience was perfectly normal, but Luna didn’t notice.

“That’s interesting. I still haven’t chosen who I’m going to shadow.”

“What sort of career are you interested in?”

“Naturalism,” Luna replied obviously. “I think I want to study carnivorous plants.”

“Ah,” Rolf said.

“What are you writing your capstone paper on?”

“Integrating human and animal features more seamlessly in daily werewolf life.”

“Here we are,” Charlie interrupted. Luna looked up to see that they had arrived at a wooden door. “The ladies can get into quite a nasty mood during breeding season, particularly if they catch you looking too closely at their eggs, so I’d put on your gloves. An Eye-Shielding Charm wouldn’t go amiss either, I’d wager.”

Luna looked at him curiously. She didn’t remember learning that in Flitwick’s class. But before she could say so, Charlie spoke again. “Right.” He swung open the door.

*

The Breeding Center was a huge open room surrounded by glass-walled cages. It reminded Luna a little of the monkey house at the London Zoo, which her mother and father had taken her to when she was a young girl. Instead of chimpanzees and gorillas, however, the cages contained huge dragons. Some had spikes on their heads and tails. Some had horns, some didn’t. All of them were different colors. “They’re beautiful,” she said with a quiet exhale, looking around in wonder.

Rolf glanced over at her, smiling.

“Sure are,” Charlie replied. “Just don’t look the Chinese Fireball in the eyes. We harvested an egg from her on Friday and she almost took Marilee’s arm off.” He gestured to a petite brunette who was hastily dumping raw chicken into a large bowl in the corner of the dragon’s cage while another girl tried to distract it. “That’s Tessie helping her. She was in your program and decided to stay on here after school. Maybe one of you will end up on the same path.” He smiled at them.

“Is there any harvesting scheduled for today?” Rolf asked.

“We’re still working on being able to predict the end of a dragon’s gestation period. We can observe the dragon’s behavior and narrow it down to about a week-long period within which the birth can be expected, but it’s not an exact science. A Norwegian Ridgeback and Swedish Short-Snout are both expecting, though, so it looks like you will get to observe one soon.” Charlie paused. “We can go see the eggs we harvested last week, though.” He pointed to an elaborate set of stained glass double doors at the opposite end of the room, next to the Hebridean Black’s cage.

The three of them pushed through the doors and entered a dimly lit room where the temperature was a little too warm to tolerate for very long. “If you’re going to be working with the eggs for more than a few minutes, you can put on those robes over in the corner.” Charlie pointed to several blue sets of robes hanging up. “They’ve been charmed to help keep workers cool while inside the Egg Observation Room.”

There was a table in the middle of the room under a bunch of lamps. Three or four eggs were clustered in the center. They were different sizes and some of them even looked a bit more round than a bird’s egg might look, but Luna noticed right away that the colors matched several of the dragons being cared for in the main room. Perhaps that was the quickest way to keep track of which egg was which species.

“These will hatch by the end of the month,” Charlie murmured. Luna looked at him, realizing that he looked the way she felt when she entered the Breeding Center. “Ah, well, you know what they say—a watched egg never hatches. And it’s almost lunchtime.” He looked at the pair of them. “Why don’t we visit the baby paddocks?”

*

Charlie led Luna and Rolf out of the Breeding Center and along the path toward the baby dragon paddocks. As they approached, Luna noticed that there was a larger paddock in the middle of several smaller paddocks and that the larger paddock contained five baby dragons of varying colors and sizes all playing together. Also in the pen were a beaten-up metal ball—the current focus of the dragons’ attention—and several other toys that had clearly been well used.

“We’ve found that their adult temperaments turn out better if they are allowed plenty of opportunities to socialize as babies,” Charlie explained.

“Do they spend any time with their mothers?” Luna asked.

“Oh, of course!” Charlie replied. “They spend the entire evening and night with their mothers two days a week, three for the very little ones or those born a bit too early. In fact, part of your job here will be monitoring them overnight and recording observations of their behavior. I’m interested in mother-baby attachment research.”

“That sounds interesting,” Rolf added.

Charlie opened the gate to the large paddock and stepped inside, kicking the metal ball in the direction away from them. Four of the dragons quickly ran after it, but Charlie pulled out his wand and gently drew the last one closer to the three of them.

“This is Azure,” he said. One glance at the dragon’s shimmering blue scales, and it was obvious from where the name had come. “It would be a shame for you to not even have touched a dragon after having been here for a few hours already, so if you’d like to pet one, she would be a good start. She’s usually kind to strangers.”

Rolf bent down onto one knee, lightly running his fingers over the dragon’s nose. He was surprised to find it smooth and cool to the touch despite its rough appearance.

A young man with blonde hair came walking over to them. “She’s got a bit of a—”

Suddenly, Azure sneezed, blowing some smoke and a few licks of flame out of her nose. Rolf jerked his hand away, causing the dragon to emit an annoyed groan. The trainer encouraged Azure to join the other babies as Charlie and Luna looked at Rolf’s hand. It was clearly burnt, and his eyes were beginning to water with pain as he fell into a sitting position on the grass.

“You okay?” Charlie asked, looking concerned.

Rolf took a deep breath. “I left my Healing Potions in my room by accident.”

Luna, thinking quickly, had already taken out her wand. “Here.” She waved it gently back and forth over his hand, causing it to release a soothing blue-white light. The motion continued until the redness and scorch marks disappeared from his skin.

“Thanks,” Rolf said, smiling with relief.

“You’re a quick draw. That’s good. With such close proximity, it might have started to pus a little before we could get back across to the main building.” Charlie smiled approvingly at Luna. “Remind me to stick around you when I’m working out here.”

Luna smiled at him. She looked over at Rolf. “Feel better?”

“You bet.” When he looked at her, she felt the sick sensation creep up in her stomach again, except this time the warmth overtook it. It was like a tiny version of the way she felt the morning after the Battle of Hogwarts, or when she was returned home after being away from her father for so long. She wondered from where it had come.

*

“All right, action-packed morning!” Charlie said as he led them back toward the main building. “It’s twelve thirty now, so you two should probably get some lunch and then meet me back at the Breeding Center around one fifteen. We can spend the rest of your first day switching off and trying out the different tasks we’ve discussed so far, and you can decide where you want to begin the main part of your work tomorrow. For tonight, just read the first chapter of each of the books I suggested.” He stopped outside the main building, beaming at them. “Any questions?”

“No,” Luna said. “But thank you. That was a wonderful tour.”

“Indeed, all things considering,” Rolf joked.

“Good to see neither of you has been scared away. You’ll be good fits for the placement.” Charlie shook Rolf’s hand, and then Luna’s. “See you after lunch.”

As he closed the door behind him, Rolf turned to Luna. “Have you had a chance to eat any of the food in this country yet?”

“I had some at breakfast. It was very good,” Luna answered.

“My host family told me that there’s an excellent restaurant on the edge of town. It can’t be far from here. Would you like to see if they offer a take-out option?”

“Yes, I’d like that very much,” she said.

As the two of them began to walk down the street into town, Luna tried to process everything she’d seen. She had been expecting interesting creatures and friendly co-workers, and she had not been disappointed in that regard. The addition of her colleague was a pleasant surprise, and lunch—well, lunch was always a good thing.

It was like taking the train to Hogwarts for her first year, except maybe even better.



Author’s Note:

This one-shot was written for the 2013 House Cup! The requirement was that travel, in a general sense, be a major theme of the story. I really had fun writing this and I like Rolf/Luna as a ship. Maybe I’ll even continue it one day.

Thanks for reading, and please leave a review to tell me what you think! :)

-Amanda




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