Chapter 1 : Chasing Dragons
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At five-thirty on a Saturday morning, Charlie decided to make his move. What was the worse that could happen? A simple no wouldn't deter him because he'd try and try again. He understood where his father came from; there was only so much money with seven kids. Everyone needed a piece of the pie, as Arthur said, and Charlie's mother was dead set against him leaving school early without completing his magical education. After leaving the Gryffindor Common Room, he waved to the Fat Lady and continued on his way to the Hogwarts kitchens.
Which one was the right barrel? Charlie was a popular bloke, but his best mate was a pudgy badger. The pieces kind of fell into place. In their second year, Rolf Scamander, bespectacled badger, had a soft spot after Charlie took one for the team and stood in for Rolf on a detention with McGonagall. Scamander had smuggled a baby something or other into the castle after nipping off to spy on a Care of Magical Creatures lesson. Students didn't take that subject until third year, but Scamander got his hands on something cuddly.
Charlie remembered the part about two from the bottom. As he veered off to the right side of the kitchens corridor, he saw a small group of house-elves. They were obviously prepping breakfast. It really didn't matter that the students slept in on the weekends, for there was always lots to do. One house-elf, the smallest one, reached up and scratched a pear. It giggled and the entrance opened. Storing this useful bit of information away for later, Charlie went to go consult the puzzle. Rolf Scamander had told him the trick in a hurry after dinner in the Great Hall last night. It was a rushed hurry, though, so Charlie feared he missed stuff.
"Two and two," muttered Charlie, pacing in front of the barrels.
If he waited for a Hufflepuff student, he'd have to break his word with Rolf on super secret stash stuff. Who ratted out their best chubby mate? If Percy hadn't been going on and on about how students belonged in their own common rooms, Charlie might not have messed this up. He'd chosen the wrong barrel before. As an unforeseen consequence, the barrels had opened and cascaded him with vinegar. Charlie knew if he stood here long enough, he'd get caught by Filch or a house-elf. (Really, the house-elf would offer him food, which probably wouldn't be so bad. A man deserved a second breakfast.) Nymphadora Tonks had promised not to let Charlie forget what she'd deemed as the "Vinegar Vendetta" until his dying day.
He chose the second row and picked a random one in the middle. Closing his eyes, he tapped the barrel nervously. If he tapped too slowly to the rhythm of the name of Helga Hufflepuff, he'd still be wrong, and this was just as bad as getting the wrong answer. The barrel opened! Charlie heaved his body into the barrel shoot and landed on his feet into a cozy, honey-colored common room. There were splashes of black here and there in the circular room.
"Scamander? Psst, Scamander." The common room was deader than dead. Had Rolf meant six-thirty instead of five-thirty, or had he, Rolf, simply forgotten? If the latter were the case, Rolf Scamander had totally started off the weekend on the wrong foot. Charlie waited three minutes. A pudgy boy bumped into him as he slid down the barrel.
Rolf carried a stash and adjusted his spectacles. "Hungry?"
"Yeah." Charlie shook his head, wondering how the pudgy, shy kid got in lucky with the house-elves. He helped Rolf dump the lot in a cozy leather chair between them near the fire. Actually, over the years, thanks to trips with his grandfather, Rolf Scamander had cut off a lot of his fat. A house-elf bustled over and built a fire. She gave them a curious look and kept her mouth shut as she continued her work. Charlie helped himself to a fried egg sandwich. "Where's your grandfather? Going anywhere over Christmas?"
"Oh, he's here. And, no, we’re staying in New York.” Rolf chose a pastry. Charlie jumped to his feet, excited, but Rolf looked mournfully at his loot. He wolfed down a fried egg sandwich, too. "We're eating here!"
Charlie sat back down. He doubted it was very hard to steal from the kitchen house-elves, though he didn't know this for certain. Rolf went to town, which Charlie found amusing, but they both stopped dead when they heard a crash. Next moment, a thin girl with violet hair came downstairs with a curly-haired boy. Charlie and Rolf grabbed a crocheted yellow and black blanket and tucked it around the food.
Charlie played it cool, running a hand through his hair. "What're you doing here?"
"Yeah, yeah," stammered Rolf, nibbling on another toasted sandwich.
"I live here. What're you doing here?" Tonks sat on a honey-colored polished table and pointed at the blanket. "That's got holes in it, geniuses. You like that, Scamander?"
Rolf nodded, shrugging as he licked mayonnaise and ketchup off his finger. Donaghan Tremlett snorted and pulled off the blanket. Charlie, Rolf, Donaghan, and Tonks had been together since their early years at Hogwarts. Rolf, usually the smart one, rolled over like a puppy whenever he got caught, yet he'd managed to become Head Boy this year. Donaghan ragged him about this plenty and often.
"We're visiting my grandpa," said Rolf proudly. He conjured a pillowcase and stowed some of the food away fir safekeeping. The house-elf left before he stashed it behind a spotted cactus. It was a week until Christmas holidays, and today was a Honeydukes visit. "Wanna come?"
"Hold it, Scamander," said Donaghan, Summoning the pillowcase from its hiding spot and catching it in his hand. Tonks grinned and covered herself with the blanket when she stole the seat. Donaghan waved the loot in his face. "You're Head Boy. What're you doin'?"
"Fish gotta swim, and man's gotta eat," said Rolf, digging into the stash and wrapping a large blueberry muffin in a napkin. He shrugged, sounding a little dejected as he headed towards the Hufflepuff entrance. He wrapped an old Hufflepuff scarf around his neck. He blushed, falling back on his usual meekness. "What? It's for Grandpa. And I was hungry."
"Gotta keep that figure, Rolf?" Tonks laughed when Rolf, after stowing the blueberry muffin away in his robes, patted his belly. "See you later."
"Bye," said Donaghan.
On second thought, he waved frantically at Rolf, who had heaved himself down into the barrel. Realizing he'd messed his chance, he begged Charlie to wait a moment and disappeared into his dormitory. When he came back down, he almost tripped over his blue dressing gown and handed Charlie his battered copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Breathless, he asked Charlie to get an autograph from Newt Scamander, and grinning from ear to ear, Charlie showed him his copy of the textbook, too.
"Cool." Donaghan collapsed into Rolf's abandoned chair.
Tonks rolled her eyes at the ceiling. "Nerds. The lot of you. Why do I do this to myself?"
"Hey, you don't know what you're talking about." Donaghan tore an elastic band off his wrist and pulled his hair back into a ponytail. He conjured his acoustic guitar and ignored Tonks's jab about a closeted bookworm/ rockstar dream thing being quite the conundrum.
"Scamander's gone, Charlie. Glad to see you didn't get a vinegar shower." Tonks declined an offer when Charlie waved his copy and gave her one last chance. She said no.
Charlie left. He ran. When he got onto the grounds, he caught up with Rolf and they headed off towards the greenhouses and veered the other way. The Care of Magical Creatures classroom wasn't far from Hagrid's Hut, but there was nobody there. Rolf, walking purposefully ahead of him, strode into the Forbidden Forest. Surprised and amazed at Rolf Scamander's bravery or stupidity, Charlie quickened his pace. The sun wasn't all the way up yet was snowing lightly on the grounds.
They stopped in a clearance with nothing there. Professor Dumbledore stood chatting with a plump old man dressed in a peacock blue overcoat and trousers. White-haired with slower reflexes than Charlie guessed he'd had in his heyday, Newt Scamander grunted when Rolf bear hugged him from behind after helping the old man to his feet.
"Grandpa!" Rolf offered him the blueberry muffin before Newt had a chance to tell him off.
"Thief. No, no, I'll still take that, thank you." Newt plucked it out of his reach. He smiled when Professor Dumbledore, whistling, strode back and forth in his purple robes and pretended not to see anything. Newt ate the muffin and dropped a chunk of it on the floor. An invisible creature ate it. Newt grabbed a pail and whistled, beckoning the creature over to a carcass. As the carcass was almost stripped to its bare bones, he held a chunk of raw meat aloft. "Come on."
Charlie, perplexed, stood back and danced on the spot. "What is it?"
"Interested in creatures, are you? Give us a hand." The old man offered him the pail with a bruised hand. Newt tested him and observed whatever wasn't there; a wrapped bandage where the thing's leg would've been appeared to levitate. Newt gathered his dressings and disposed of them carefully with a casual wave of his wand after he gathered the contents in a drop cloth.
Charlie gaped at him. "Really?"
"As my wife says, early worm gets the bird." Newt shrugged his comment off when Dumbledore chuckled, mentioning quietly the Muggle saying went the other way around. Newt didn't appear to be bothered by it. Newt clapped Charlie on the shoulder before he rested on a stump. He offered his hand. "Really, really. Newt Scamander. And you are?"
Charlie giggled at Rolf and felt like pinching himself.
"Grandpa, this is Charlie. Charlie Weasley. The one who applied for the Release Program in Deva with me?" Rolf made the introduction, pausing when Newt cocked his head towards Professor Dumbledore, studying him. “The Heartstrings Sanctuary?"
"Ah, speaking of which, Dumbledore, I've got a bone to pick with you." Newt told Charlie to not stand around and lallygag all day because the wounded thestral needed nourishment. The invisibility made sense. Newt jabbed a finger in Rolf's direction. "Whilst I appreciate you making him into Head Boy, I made this boy from scratch. Why is he not in the program?"
Rolf helped Charlie feed the thestral. Charlie could tell by the way Rolf treaded, he could see the winged skeletal horse, and Charlie mirrored the way Rolf tossed the strips in the air. The meal got devoured piece by piece.
"It's all right, Grandpa," said Rolf.
"No, it's not! It's not, Newton. A year is a year, and you're bored. Twelve O.W.L.'s!" He jabbed a finger at his grandson. He turned his head towards Dumbledore. When he asked Charlie if he got in, Charlie said yes, he was on the waiting list, but his parents couldn't afford it. Newt, whether he meant anything by it or not, waved his hand at Charlie impatiently. "Professor Dumbledore, my grandson knows more than Kettleburn. You know this!"
"Newt, this isn't my call," said Professor Dumbledore. He ignored Mr. Scamander when he, Newt, told Rolf to go feed the Bowtruckles. As Professor Kettleburn had lost an arm, Newt was standing in as Care of Magical Creatures teacher for at least the spring term.
Newt wiped his hands on a handkerchief. “Yeah. You’re missing out, Mr. Weasley.”
"Really? Damn it." Charlie grumbled and stamped his feet. He cast an apologetic look at Professor Dumbledore and mumbled at the ground. "Sorry, Professor."
"Not at all, Charlie. I'd be disappointed, too. Newt, the council has until December fifteenth to make a final decision. If it doesn't work out," said Dumbledore, picking up the now empty pail and offering it to Newt. Newt took Hagrid, the groundskeeper, as help, but he wanted his answer. The right one. Dumbledore watched Newt feed the unicorns. Unicorns usually hated males, but they, like a lot of creatures, were trusting of Rolf’s grandfather. "Newt, there are people from around the world who apply for those slots. Do you know how many slots are open?"
"Three for Britain," grunted Newt. He glared at Charlie and examined a pair of pregnant unicorns as he petted them. They had five days to make final call. Newt Scamander had worked with the Dragon Research and Restraint Bureau, so he knew the skinny behind any sanctuary news before if reached most people's ears. Dumbledore nodded. "He deserves this! It isn't like he's fooling around like Frank, and it's not the Scamander name. Have you sat down with him? Who is his Head of House?"
"Professor Sprout." Rolf asked him to drop it.
"Yes, Newton, I know how brilliant he is. I taught his grandfather, did I not?" Professor Dumbledore, spoke now with a bite of impatience, though he remained calm. Hours passed in the Forbidden Forest. When they headed back up towards the castle for breakfast, the Professor and Newt seemed on better speaking terms.
Charlie went off to the Gryffindor table, and Rolf headed towards the Hufflepuffs. When the owl post arrived, Professor Dumbledore bent his ear towards Professor McGonagall and waved Newt, who sat at the far end of the table, over. When breakfast ended, Professor McGonagall and Professor Sprout followed Newt and Professor Dumbledore into Professor McGonagall's office after she unlocked the office door with a tap of her wand. It was a tight fit, but Charlie didn’t mind it and squeezed Rolf's hand.
"No matter how this ends, you have two applications in for an exchange program with Catelbruxo and Ilvermorny, Mr. Scamander," said Professor Sprout. "What did we talk about yesterday?"
"I don't know." Rolf admitted he stole food from the kitchens, and Charlie rolled his eyes. Dumbledore chuckled.
"This isn't the end of the world," said Professor McGonagall, supplying what she thought was the same answer because she'd told Charlie the same thing. Professor Sprout nodded.
"Mr. Scamander?" Charlie knew he should've called him Professor Scamander, and he apologized when Professor McGonagall corrected him. He pressed on when Newt turned towards him with interest. "How many dragon reservations are there?"
The sides of Newt's mouth twitched. "You tell me. How many breeds of pure-bred dragons are there in the world? Not you, Rolf."
Charlie smirked when Rolf, whose hand had shot straight up in the air, acted put out and frowned at his grandfather. Charlie stopped, taking a minute to frown as he counted on his fingers. "Nine. No, the Black. Ten known breeds. There are ten reservations?"
It sounded like Charlie was asking him , not telling him, and Charlie wanted to kick himself for this. Panicked, he shouted out an answer."Eight? Yeah, the one in Japan got shut down because of the Itsuki Kobayashi Incident in Japan in 1945. Eight?"
Newt appraised Professor McGonagall, impressed. "He knows about Itsuki. That's good. And you don’t … obviously.” He roared with laughter at the blank expressions on both Professors McGonagall's and Sprout's faces as they exchanged a look. He waited a moment and said, "Human barbecue. Basically. Why you would choose to crossbreed a Peruvian Vipertooth with a Chinese Fireball? The hell if I know. By the way, Charlie, you're wrong. Trick question. Saint Petersburg merged with Shanghai last night. Or this morning. At midnight."
"Oh. Okay. Seven.” Charlie frowned, mentally crossing Saint Petersburg off the list.
"I don't imagine either of you wants to be held in suspense any longer," said Dumbledore, shuffling two open thick envelopes. Charlie imagined both an acceptance and a rejection carried the same weight. He hesitated, smiling at the boys. He picked one and shook the paper. "Mr. Charles Weasley, we invite you to Deva, Romania on the third of January, Wei Yang."
He handed Charlie the correspondence and shook his hand in congratulations before he opened Rolf's. Dumbledore paused, smiling again, glancing at Newt.
"What?" Rolf and Newt demanded.
Dumbledore held up two fingers, separating two documents. "Two offers for you, Mr. Rolf Scamander."
At this point, Charlie and Rolf completely forgot themselves. They exhaled and hugged each other, jumping around like little girls. Professor McGonagall's eyebrows thinned into a severe line, for she'd probably never allowed this raucous behavior in her office. Professor Sprout shook Newt's hand. When they finally settled down, Dumbledore continued. There was an offer from both Brazil and Romania.
Shocked and speechless, Rolf addressed Charlie before his grandfather. The students outside headed towards Hogsmeade. Professor McGonagall hugged Charlie, and to Rolf's surprise, hugged him, too. Charlie shrugged. What did he need to say?
Professor Sprout patted Rolf on the cheek before she followed Professor McGonagall outside to join the queue off to Hogsmeade. "See? Nothing changed at all. I'm proud of you."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Rolf to her back when he finally found his voice and sat in a chair conjured by Dumbledore. "What ... what do I do?"
"Are you asking what would I do?" Dumbledore surveyed Rolf over his half-moon spectacles as he sat behind Professor McGonagall's desk. Newt took the contracts from his grandson. Dumbledore answered when Rolf nodded. "You have twenty-four days to accept an offer. The one from Deva. Do you speak Portuguese?"
Charlie gawked as Rolf and Dumbledore had a private conversation in a tongue he didn't recognize. Professor Dumbledore, still smiling, nodded at Newt. Rolf, as always, did as he was he was asked. The two in the private conversation shared a laugh.
"What? Did you just tell a joke?" Charlie asked Professor Dumbledore; the professor nodded. "Cool. Look, Scamander, no. No."
Rolf frowned when Newt said Brazil, for Castelbruxo focused on Herbology and Magizoology; he needed the edge and the focus. Chances were, Charlie and Rolf would break ties after they left school and went their separate ways anyway. For the first time, Charlie found Newt Scamander rubbed him the wrong way. Sure, part of this was true, but Charlie was sixteen, almost seventeen in two days, so he was a legal adult and could leave school. Technically, according to his dad, Charlie wasn't an adult until he left school, and he'd be missing out on the last eighteen months of his magical education.
"Scamander, no." Charlie glared at Newt and surveyed Rolf. Newt interrupted him, which really annoyed him. Charlie turned on the old man, annoyed, and got to his feet. Newt gave a defense, a weak one in Charlie's opinion, and argued that magizoology was the main focus. He got to his feet, leaving the textbooks with Rolf. "I know how great he is. He's my best friend."
"I understand," said Newt.
"No, you don't. I need ... I need a minute." Charlie handed the document back to Professor Dumbledore. "Does this have to be decided today? Signed and everything?"
"Not today. They want an answer by the thirtieth." Professor Dumbledore offered a hand to Rolf. "Walk with me."
Newt made to follow them.
"Not you. He's not you." Charlie nodded to Newt and placed a hand on Rolf's shoulder. "It's whatever. But you have to make this call. Newt Scamander's awesome... but you're not Newt Scamander...you carry the name. You're Newt Scamander. You got me?"
Newt Scamander, the elder, bowed out of the office.
Dumbledore beamed at Charlie and wished him a nice afternoon. Charlie left. After grabbing his things in his dormitory and went to join the others in Hogsmeade. He didn't want to leave his best friend, yet he wanted to leave his childhood behind. Charlie couldn't make Rolf's decision because it would be like putting a quill in a paralyzed man's hand and forging his signature as he dragged it along the parchment. Besides Charlie had his own problems to worry about. With Molly Weasley being at the top of the to-do list, he had a lot to tackle.
He signed his life away the following Monday on his seventeenth birthday. Rolf, sitting beside him in Dumbledore's office, did the same. They signed so much Charlie's hand crammed. Professor McGonagall made him sit through the tests until his last day. This probably had more to do with him leaving her hanging with the Quidditch team in mid-season than anything else. He finished last the Transfiguration test on written exam and lingered purposely and deliberately after the dinner bell rang and the students rushed into the Great Hall.
"If you're going to read over my shoulder, there's really no point," she said, sitting at the teacher's desk at the front of the classroom.
Charlie rubbed his hands together and got up from his desk. "There's really no point. The Pudgy Badger and I couldn't have been, I dunno, exempt, from exams? We could have saved you time."
"Pudgy Badger?" McGonagall dipped her quill in her ink and cast a Color Changing Charm. Charlie suspected, though he'd never seen her do this before, she went over the work twice. She paused. "If I were you, and I'm not, but if I were you, I would take any and all protection potions St. Mungo's offered me before heading abroad. And when I got wherever I was going, I would fight not to get trapped in the newness of it all."
"Meaning?" Charlie flipped over the heavy hourglass on her desk and flicked the trinket with his finger. The activated sands trickled slowly.
McGonagall finished grading the essay and flipped it over. After flashing his grade, an Acceptable, an A, she turned the document back over, tensed, and sat up straighter. "I knew last year during our career advisement session. What did I tell you?"
Charlie hesitated, thinking this was when she had submitted the application for the Dragon Research Reservation Program. She'd done so on his behalf, and although he didn't know who made this call, for him it had been submitted on his behalf, it seemed obvious now. Charlie muttered that he didn't know how his parents were going to afford this. She smiled, a rare gesture from here and jotted down two names, practically inviting him to read over her shoulder. Charlie, speechless recognized the first name with a slight shock, although the other man remained a mystery.
He read off the names of his benefactors. "Newton "Newt" Scamander and Elphinstone Urquart. I can’t.”
"You will,” she said with an air of finality.
McGonagall didn't say much, except that these men were practically strangers who happened upon a chance meeting in the Three Broomsticks last Hogsmeade visit. Sometimes men had too much gold and idle hands, and both of them needed to throw some Galleons at a cause because they felt charitable at Christmastime. For her part. Professor McGonagall had merely given a nudge in the right direction.
"You were the one who got away," she said softly. "Remember who you are."
Next moment, Professor McGonagall struggled with a desk drawer. Annoyed, she pounded ber fist on the polished surface, and the drawer popped open. She glared sharply at Charlie, as if daring him to reveal her little secret, and he answered with a half shrug. She handed him two battered copies of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. When he opened his, a small key fell out and he pocketed it. Mr. Scamander had written some message on the back of the "About the Author" page. He placed Donaghan's in his schoolbag. Unable to help himself as he read the message and strode out of the Transfiguration classroom, he grinned, and he could've sworn he got one in return from his favorite teacher.
Things didn't go over so smoothly at the Burrow on Christmas Day when Charlie finally decided to break the news to the family. Charlie's dad was all for it, telling his wife this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Molly said no, a hard no, and then she caught steam and there was no stopping her. Charlie insisted he was leaving, and he didn't care what she said. Furious, he went up to his bedroom, tossed his rucksack out of the window, and took the leap of foolish faith. A crack a second later told him this was really, really stupid.
He'd failed his Apparition test the last time around, and his dad was taking him to retest tomorrow morning. Getting slowly to his feet, cursing the injured one, he jumped when Bill Apparated at his side.
"You're stupid," said Bill, acting as a crutch for his brother and dumping him at a wooden table. Bill offered to take Charlie for his Apparition retest. He suggested conjuring a ladder or some apparatus next time. Bill knelt, checked out the damage, and said Charlie shattered it. Congratulating Charlie on a job well done, Bill conjured a tiny bottle of knockoff Skele-Gro; it zoomed into his hand from the open kitchen window. A large spoon raced alongside it. After filling the spoon, guessing that was enough, he handed the spoon to Charlie. "If I ever have to do this again you're not going to be happy."
Charlie felt ill the moment the he put the solution in his mouth.
"Swallow, Charlie Boy," said Bill patiently, kneeling on the dewey grass. He rolled his eyes and Charlie gulped. Sharp pain, immense pain shot through his leg. Bill recapped the solution and slipped it into his robes. Two years older than his brother, Bill, or Old Bill, was his closest mate. Closer than Scamander. As Charlie screamed, Bill squeezed his hand and struck up a conversation; he said he doubted Charlie broke every bone. "Fun fact: Including the ankle, there are twenty-six bones and thirty-three joints in the human foot. Thirty-three's your lucky number."
"I hate you," hissed Charlie through gritted teeth. "You're annoying."
"And you're ugly. On the plus side?" Bill shifted his weight and checked his watch. He waved at either Fred or George when he came outside. "I can fix my problem."
Charlie laughed though his hurt, and his foot got back to normal in about an hour. If the bones had indeed gone missing, especially the bones in his leg, this would've taken all day. They talked about this and that. Since Bill had gone off to Egypt, they didn't see each other anymore, though Bill had decided to come this Christmas to see Charlie off. They played rounds of Exploding Snap and raided the pantry for bottles of Butterbeer and Christmas biscuits. Really, Bill did all the sneaky sneak because Charlie had parked his butt.
"Think Mum will realize these are gone?" Charlie ducked when their playing card house exploded. Bill pushed away from the table.
"Blame Percy," suggested Bill lazily, making quick work of the Muggle fifty-two card pickup as the deck reformed itself. He amended this, shuffling the deck, saying it wouldn't work. "Fred and George."
"Miss you, Old Bill," said Charlie.
"Same here, Charlie Boy. Hey, maybe we should tradeoff Christmases in future, if we manage to get off. One year in Egypt, one year in Romania. Never been there. Switch it up and holiday in, like, Prague." They clinked bottles and sealed the deal. They turned their heads when they heard a faint pop. Rolf Scamander had appeared. The screaming inside the Burrow had stopped, and Arthur had retreated, probably to escape off to his shed.
Arthur went to meet Rolf at the Apparition point and came back into the garden, laughing. Rolf, dressed on honey-colored robes and his tattered Hufflepuff scarf, joined them at the table. Arthur sat down, too, playing with what Rolf called a torch. It needed batteries. Night started to fall.
"And a plug?" asked Arthur enthusiastically. Arthur collected plugs.
"No, no," said Rolf, muttering this wouldn't work with all the magical interference in the air anyway. He reached in his pocket and handed Arthur a small wrapped parcel; he shredded the paper like an eager little boy on Christmas. Rolf, smiling patiently, after making sure they were the correct size, opened them and inserted some of them into the torch. He switched it on, saying he had No-Maj friends across the pond in New York. No beam came from the torch, though Rolf switched it off and slapped it into Arthur's hand. "Electricity."
"Eckeltricity," said Arthur, nodding. He turned on the switch, uncertain, and wandered around like a Boy Scout.
Rolf called him back, a bemused expression on his face, and gave him a book of matches and a parcel of rubber ducks. Arthur, beside himself, hugged Rolf and surrendered the torch as he juggled the ducks. Charlie, smartly, pocketed the matchbook after he unearthed it from underneath the wrapping paper.
"Scamander wants Dad to blow himself up," said Bill. He conjured candlesticks and lit the candles with his wand.
"Oh, oh, yeah, I didn't think of that," said Rolf, scratching his chin. He made to get up, but Charlie clicked his tongue and Bill grabbed him by his robes, forcing him down. They had a hankering for home entertainment. Rolf sat back and rested his legs on the bench. “Your dad is the best person to shop for. I think he needs a stapler.”
This meant absolutely nothing to Bill and Charlie. “A what?”
“A stapler. You know, it hooks pages of a document together?” Rolf mimed holding up a stack of papers and sighed when nothing registered on their faces. “Never mind. It’s nothing.”
“Scamander,” said Charlie, tapping his foot and staring at him as if he saw him clearly for the first time. “You aren't wearing any glasses. What is this witchcraft?”
“Oh, contact lenses.” After squinting painfully for a few moments, or at least it looked like it hurt as he held his eyelids, he relaxed his eye. Rolf popped a folded disc onto his finger and showed it to them. “My grandmother bought them for me. Of course, this is the first day, and I probably can't put this back in without screaming bloody murder. I still have the glasses; a lot of people still prefer glasses.”
He popped it back in and blinked a lot. No screaming was included in the making of this demonstration, and Arthur, checking the end of this show, actually clapped. Rolf mentioned it was easier doing this with a mirror. His grandmother suggested these because they might be easier to handle whilst abroad because Rolf wasn't exactly gentle with his possessions.
“So, where did you choose to go?” Charlie cut through the fat ands got down to the point. He, Charlie, didn't have to work in Romania forever, yet he’d signed on for seven years. Unless something went seriously wrong or he didn't fit in, he’d been offered the cream of the crop because Romania only took the best of the best.
“Well, I talked it through with Professor Dumbledore.” Rolf mirrored Charlie’s nod because they both knew he knew this already. “And by the way, my grandfather isn’t angry with you. He invited you for Christmas dinner. What we got were offers, so Professor Dumbledore drafted a counter offer with my grandfather, If they take me on, I’m on call with Brazil. I signed with Romania.”
“Yes!” Charlie pounded the table with his fist and turned to his father. He’d never been further than Scotland. Rolf said he had pushed his starting date back until mid-February and would be hiding out in New York with his grandmother and great-aunt as they awaited an answer until the end of the Christmas holidays; both Brazil and Romania had a month to respond. “What if it doesn’t work out?”
“He goes back to school, Charlie,” said Arthur. Rolf was still sixteen. “He probably has to sign with his grandfather if he's underage. Do you want to go visit Mr. Scamander?”
“May I?” Charlie asked eagerly.
“Charlie, next month, you’re on your own.” Arthur smiled at him, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Why in the world are you asking me for permission? Your mother’s going to say no because that’s how she is, but she’ll get over it. She wouldn't be Mum without being Mum.”
Charlie jabbed a finger at Bill. “He’s in Egypt.”
“You don’t think Mum told me not to go? Ha.” Bill shrugged, agreeing with their dad on this one.
“You know what I want? Mind you, you’re grown.” Arthur held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, telling his sons to take this with a grain of salt. He rather considered Rolf Scamander as a strange adopted son, so this went for him, too. They waited as Arthur sandwiched himself between Bill and Charlie and draped an arm over both their shoulders. “I want you to see the world, whatever your world holds for you, and I wish you to be a part of it.”
Charlie, confused, felt as though his head spun around, for he’d expected a completely different answer coming from his father. Arthur found pleasure in working in his broomstick cupboard office and tinkering with Muggle artifacts.
Arthur winked at Charlie. “You want to go chasing dragons? You chase dragons.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Charlie got to his feet. His father, still smiling, gathered his rubber ducks and headed back towards the Burrow, whistling contentedly to himself. Charlie told Bill they were lucky blokes to have a dad like that man. Bill, still wondering how Charlie had missed the legendary row from a couple years ago told him not to change the subject. When Fred or George headed back inside with loot on a dirty rucksack, Charlie Disapprated with Rolf by Side-Along Apparition and headed to New York.
Charlie had never really Apparated long distance, and he had certainly never tried transcontinental Apparition. It felt as though he’d been squeezed through a longer tube and held his breath for the length of a minute. Suddenly, it was lighter outside, early afternoon, perhaps, and they’d appeared on a side street.
“What time is it?” Charlie straightened his Muggle clothes and pretended as though he did this all the time. It didn't exactly play out the way he wanted.
“One.” Rolf checked his wristwatch and gripped his arm. They stopped outside of the third brownstone to the left. So, thought Charlie as he did some quick adjusting, London stayed five hours ahead of New York time. When Charlie asked how he’d calculated this so quickly, Rolf flashed his expensive watch. “A Cartier. It’s a world clock, so it changes time automatically. I got for my birthday. See? Jeruselum.”
The wristwatch repeated "Jeruselem," in an automated American voice and the clock switched. Grinning, Rolf said, "New York City, New York, EST, and the wristwatch switched back after saying, "New York, New York."
“Your birthday’s on Christmas Eve!” Charlie snapped his fingers because he couldn't believe he’d forgotten this. He cast a Currency Charm on his pocket money pouch. Charlie was a mere twelve days and twelve hours older than Rolf. Telling him to wait, Charlie dashed across the street and invaded the small town ice cream parlor, a hidden joy in New York City. There was nobody else in the queue. “Hello.”
“Hi,” said the shopkeeper, a kindly woman. “What can I get you?”
“Ummm.” Charlie consulted a list; there were lots and lots of choices. He went with mint chocolate chip because this was one of Rolf’s favorites. He added dark chocolate covered cherries out of mere curiosity. He pointed at the vanilla bean honeycomb. “Is that good?”
“One of my favorites,” said the shopkeeper. She gathered containers. “Half-gallons?”
“Yes. please,” said Charlie, not really listening to her. He paid with Muggle money and wished her a Merry Christmas. He met Rolf outside the brownstone. Rolf’s friendly grandmother, Tina, answered the door. She was a grey-haired thin woman who wore fashionable clothes. Charlie raised his loot. “Ice cream!”
“A sugar coma sounds nice,” she said, ignoring Rolf, who went red and said it was too much. She said they had leftovers from yesterday. Tina cast a Freezing Charm on the cartons and stowed them away. “Rolf, let him spoil you on your birthday.”
“It’s not my birthday,” mumbled Rolf.
“Shut up, Scamander.” Charlie sat down at the table and marveled as a strange casserole with green beans topped with fried onions cooked itself in midair and landed neatly on a heating pad in the center of the table. A turkey and a small honey-baked ham sliced themselves with carving knives. “Can I help you with anything, Mrs. Scamander?”
Tina stopped whipping the mash potatoes by hand and tasted them for salt. Apparently, she thought they needed it because the salt shaker levitated itself and tipped itself over. She licked a little off her finger and pointed her wand at the bowl; it landed neatly beside the roasted veggies and casserole dish. The Scamanders alternated between American and English Christmases, although they spent most of them in Dorset.
“No, thank you. Ever had green bean casserole?” Tina conjured serving spoons and directed them to their dishes as she held her wand aloft like a baton. Charlie shook his head. Tina bustled over to the staircase and called for her husband. She tipped some casserole onto a plate and told the boys to tuck in. Tina handed the plate to Charlie and winked at him before she sat dawn. “You’re missing out.”
“It’s really good,” said Rolf. He shrugged off Charlie’s comment about him being a garbage disposal. He shoveled in a few mouthfuls and finally went to drag his grandfather out of his research cave. “We are off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, remember? Sit and stay.”
Tina snorted, sticking her tongue out at Newt.
“Why Christmas Eve?” Newt adjusted his spectacles on his nose and fixed his plate. Charlie knew he merely played along. Next to his wife, Newt’s grandson was probably his favorite person. Rolf grumbled that he was the favorite grandson. “Helps when you’re the only one.”
“Newt,” chided Tina. She rolled her eyes when both Rolf and Newt looked up. Charlie chuckled, thinking this likely got old quick in the household. She pointed her fork at her husband. “That one. That was rude, Newt.”
“No, no. I wasn’t being rude, Tina, I stated a fact. He’s laughing … they’re laughing.” Newt nodded at the boys. He turned to Charlie. “If Arthur Weasley’s adopted my grandson as one of his sons, does this mean you’re my grandson? How many of you are there?”
“Seven.” Charlie set down his fork and told Tina he liked the green bean casserole. “One girl. And, no, I don't think that’s how this works. But you can. I mean …you don’t have to. This place is really cool.”
Newt helped himself to a roll and muttered soundlessly, “You don’t have to …”
“It was my sister’s,” said Tina. She amended this statement when Newt held up three fingers; Charlie took this to mean Tina’s sister had been married three times, and Newt pointed it out at every opportunity. “Well, it was after the divorce. The second divorce. Anyway, it’s mine. All right. That’s definitely rude, Newton. The ice you’re standing on? Really thin.”
After dinner, Charlie offered to help her clean up, but Tina made quick work of the mess with some household spells. Newt disappeared in his research cave again and came out with four wrapped gifts.
“He gets to open one gift on Christmas Eve,” explained Tina, dipping into the kitchen for a minute and adding a parcel. “That’s from your father.”
“Actually from my father or you’re telling me it’s from my father?” Rolf ducked too slowly and groaned when Tina whacked him in the back of the head for his cheek. Newt smiled. Tina watched as Rolf unwrapped an empty photograph album. He set it aside. Rolf’s father, for better or worse, had been absent throughout his life. “That’s fitting. Grandma, ouch!”
Tina smacked him again with one of their gifts before handing it over. Newt encouraged Rolf’s assessment by shaking his hand, but he let go of Rolf when Tina called them birds of a feather and went away. Rolf got a Quick Quotes Quill, a set of journals, a deck of self-shuffling playing cards, and a set of miniature dragon figures that acted very lifelike.
“Oooh, cool.” Charlie pulled his hand away only when the Peruvian Vipertooth got a taste for his flesh.
If Rolf Scamander ever denied he was this closeted nerd, these gifts proved him dead wrong. If nothing else, Nymphadora Tonks would’ve had loads to say about the journals alone. Rolf had travelled with his grandfather all around the world since he could walk, so he was truly better of without his deadbeat dad. Newt might be strange and have an unnatural love for creatures and beasts, but nothing, absolutely nothing, came between him and his grandson.
Newt disappeared into his cave, which Charlie later found out was just a spare bedroom and came back with two photographs. One was of Newt holding Rolf at St. Mungo’s and the other one showed a younger Newt. still lithe, walking with a toddler between his legs with a rhinoceros -like creature, probably a Erumpent, in the background. In this photograph, after walking the length of a few shaky steps with a toddler, Newt scooped Rolf up, tossed him in the air, and caught him.
Rolf glared at Charlie, daring him to laugh. Charlie, rather touch, swallowed a lump in his throat. Newt, apparently not noticing the exchange as he hummed to himself, duplicated the photographs with a Germinio Charm, and slipped two of them into the photo album.
“Newton Artemis Fido Rolf Scamander, born 25 December 1972, St. Mungo’s, London,” said Charlie, flipping over the first photograph with the protective sleeve and reading the inscription aloud. This photograph was taken several weeks later after he was weaned off a drug addiction. Charlie hadn’t known much about Rolf’s mother, although he understood the Scamanders saved him from a bleak life.
“No matter what they tell you or whatever your feet take you, you are mine. You’re mine.” Newt walked over and embraced his grandson. Rolf nodded, muttering he had something in his eye. Newt held him close for a moment and released him after he stroked his thick hair. “I don’t always say this because I am not an affectionate person. But that’s not … I love you, Little Newt, because you are my son, the best thing I ever did, and I pray you never forget it.”
Rolf nodded. Charlie made an excuse to go to the bathroom to give them some privacy. He bumped into Tina, who was eavesdropping in the corridor and pretending to critique a painting. She did not cry; Tina held herself and didn’t shed a single tear.
“Romania, huh?” She took a deep breath.
“Gonna keep the pudgy kid as your friend? I hear he’s pretty cool.”
“Yep.” Charlie beamed at her and promised to keep an eye out for Scamander. He took her up on her offer to sleep over and suspected she meant business on that sugar coma when she handed him two large spoons. Tina returned his smile when he gave her a thumbs up. “He’s my best friend. I’ll be with him through thick and thin, Mrs. Scamander, I mean, Tina, so you don't have to worry about anything because he’s my man.”
Charlie nodded, clinking the spoons together and reminding himself to send an owl to his parents before he got lost in dessert. He meant to tell her a lot of things, but Tina seemed to get it when he reached out and squeezed her hand. So he said nothing. He didn’t know how long they stood there. He laughed when Tina said she’d tasted the honeycomb ice cream and it was to die for.
Ten days and counting. And Charlie didn't have a care in the world. Newt Scamander left the dining room and actually called him grandson before he went to set up the spare bedroom. Charlie helped him, though they said nothing of the exchange that had passed in the dining room. Charlie sent off his owl, second-guessed it, and contacted his mum through the Floo Network instead. Around eight, he tracked Rolf sneaking into the kitchen and carrying what looked like a white, furry ape. A Demiguise.
“It’s not sneaking if it’s yours, genius,” said Charlie, handing over the spoons after he rinsed them under the tap.
Newt placed a bowl in the sink with chocolate flecks in it and muttered he had no idea where it came from. Embarrassed, he took his time hand washing his dishes. He grabbed a copy of a manuscript off the bread box and revealed the hiding spot with the leftover chocolate birthday cake. He pretended to get lost in his manuscript and waved at them as he backed out of the kitchen, telling them good night.
“Your grandfather? He’s pretty much the coolest old person ever.”
“I got this baby Demiguise last year.” Rolf shrugged, picking a carton. “Poppy’s my carry-on for Romania. Grandpa said she’d make it though customs with flying colors. Even without my Muggle passport.”
Charlie stamped his foot like a little boy. He hoped, if they really considered him as an adoptive son and welcomed him into the family, these birthday and Christmas gifts are retroactive. He followed Rolf down the corridor and pointing at the Demiguise’s nest in a cubbyhole in Rolf’s wall. “That thing’s coming to Romania? Damn straight. Ooooh, I want one.”
Charlie got what he wanted, but after a few years, he got curious and snooped around. Newt Scamander, naturally, was no help at all. Thinking he had someone in the inside, technically, Charlie bent Nymphadora Tonks’s ear. He needed answers. Well, all right, this stretched the truth quite a bit; he wanted answers. Tonks, a candidate in the Auror program, went digging. Charlie stayed with her for a few days in her London flat and took sick leave.
Annoyed in no time, he raided her food stash and wondered if Mr. What’s His Face fed his Welsh Greens speech and his Peruvian Vipertooths cows. He’d given clear, simple instructions, but people messed up instructions going down the street. When Tonks arrived home at six-thirty in the afternoon, Charlie put away her groceries and told her to spill the beans.
“Unless you forgot, in which case, I hate you, and we are no longer friends. For today.” Charlie offered her a bite of his peanut butter sandwich and asked the burning question because he couldn't find the man for the life of him. Tonks shook her head, declining the sandwich. “Who is Elphinstone Urquart?”
“Well …” said Tonks, dragging this out as she hung her traveling cloak on a peg by the door. Charlie’s face fell, and he took his feelings out on the sandwich. He folded it in half and devoured it. “He’s dead. But that where it gets interesting.”
“Dead? Seriously? Oh, does that mean the money stops coming to the account?” Charlie shrugged when Tonks shot him a look. “Right. Sad. Dead? Really? I wanted to meet him.”
“Charlie, he died in 1985.” Tonks sat on her couch and patted the spot beside her.
“No,” said Charlie, thinking this couldn’t possibly be true. For one thing, Professor McGonagall had had a conversation with Mr. Urquart and Mr. Scamander three years ago. She’d said so. He sat down and waited for Tonks to pull out a large envelope. “Maybe… maybe there’s another one because that’s not what happened. Professor McGonagall said…”
Tonks held up a hand. Slowly, she opened the envelope and shuffled through the contents. First, she handed him a death certificate. It revealed that Elphinstone Francis Urquart had died of a Venomous Tentacula attack on September 11, 1985; he passed away at St. Mungo’s. Charlie nodded, confused, but he went along with the story. He read through a copy of an obituary posted in a September 1985 edition of the Daily Prophet. It didn't say much. Urquart was a dedicated lawyer … he was childless, survived by a wife.
“You’re boring me,” he said, monotone.
“Look.” Tonks handed him another document, a marriage certificate. “Read that.”
“This is certify that Elphinstone Francis Urquart and Minerva McGonagall were wed on the twenty-second of September 1981,” said Charlie, stopping after the first part and checking out the county. Tonks grinned at him.
“There’s your answer,” she said, putting the copies back in the file and handing it to him.
“But…” Charlie faltered, not really sure what to say.
“Yeah.” Tonks smiled at him. She showed him photographs of the dead man. Charlie smiled at one of these, a white-haired man standing over to the side with a woman who was clearly his former Transfiguration professor. She looked younger, but it was clearly her. Someone had zoomed in and stole a private moment because they laughed at some private joke, and the man whispered something in Professor McGonagall’s ear. “Amelia Bones gave me that. This was in London on a rainy day. She took this photograph. Aren’t they cute?”
“Yeah,” said Charlie. He hated the word cute, but old people rather radiated this. He tapped the photograph on his knee, nodding when Tonks said most of this had honestly been buried in public record. He nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I gotta go.”
Tonks frowned at him. “Charlie? Charlie, are you all right?”
“Yeah. I gotta go. Thanks. See you later?” Charlie got up and tucked the folder under this arm and went outside after grabbing an umbrella. He Disapparated.
Charlie Apparated outside Hogsmeade Station. He strode towards Hogwarts. He didn't send an owl on purpose. What exactly was he going to say to her? You lied, and that’s not cool. Sorry about your husband, I guess, by the way, forged a dead man's hand. He arrived around seven, and he guessed she was still at dinner. Filch let him in. He guessed he could visit Ron, since Ron was new here, and it was his first year, but that meant visiting everyone else, and he really wasn’t in the mood.
Professor McGonagall came down the corridor on the first floor and spotted him sitting on the floor. She did a double take and offered him a hand. “Mr. Weasley.”
“Professor McGonagall.” He took her hand and got to his feet.
She asked the obvious question as she unlocked her door with a tap of her wand. Worry crossed her face. “Why are you here? Is something wrong?”
“No, no, Professor.” Charlie waited for her to invite him inside and offer him a seat. An awkward silence passed between them. She offered him a drink and he accepted wine with thanks.
“How are you? How’s Mr. Scamander?” She pointed her wand at the fireplace and started a warm fire. The office door closed and locked itself.
“Fine. Scamander’s fine. He’s insisting I learn Romanian. I met a gypsy family last Thursday. That … that was fun. I milked a goat.” Charlie relaxed when she raised her eyebrows. “Have you ever done that?”
“No, I used to live by a shepherd and witnessed a ewe sheering. Does that count?” Professor McGonagall placed her hands on the back of her desk chair. She read something on Charlie’s face. “We were all young once upon a time. A long, long time ago.”
Charlie went with what he guessed was the appropriate answer. “You’re not that old.”
“I am. But thank you.” Professor McGonagall shrugged off her emerald green traveling cloak and hung it in a nearby wardrobe. Charlie, taking advantage of her turned back, opened his file and placed the London photograph on her desk along with a snapshot of Elphinstone Urquart. She smiled when she saw these and ran her fingers over the second shot. Her voice sounded softer, less brisk, a little distant. “I remember that day.”
Charlie unexpectedly felt a little guilty. Was he bringing up painful memories? “Professor.” She sat down behind her desk and held out her hand for the file. He didn’t want to give it to her, but he did. Professor McGonagall flipped through the file, flipping the documents facedown. She dropped the niceties. “What’re you doing, Charlie?”
“It’s not what you think.” Charlie jumped in quickly.
“What do I think?” Professor McGonagall took off her spectacles and shook her head when Charlie opened and closed his mouth. It was a rhetorical question, he guessed, or she really didn’t need an answer. She spread her fingers. “You caught me.”
“Sounds like he was a nice man.” Charlie told her some random facts he found out.
“He was. Elphinstone would’ve agreed to set up the account.” She reached out and patted Charlie’s hand. I don’t favor students, Charlie, because it’s not something I … there are lines.”
“Like buying Harry Potter a broomstick?” Charlie sat back when she laughed good-naturedly. He didn’t know this for certain, yet he guessed this Mr. Elphinstone Urquart character had been really, really rich. “Yeah. I hear stuff. That was you. A Nimbus Two Thousand? That’s a fortune! You really want to win.”
“Why are you surprised?” She sat back and shrugged when he asked why she’d chosen to be his benefactor. “Charlie, you deserved a shot. Money … I don’t need that money. I’ve got it, and that’s nice, but it goes towards good things. Or I try to pick good causes.”
“I’m a charity case?”
“Mr. Weasley,” said Professor McGonagall, returning to her usual brisk manner and replaced her spectacles on her face. “I don’t want to ever hear you say that again. Are you a charity case?”
“No, ma’am. Of course not.” Charlie agreed, getting to his feet. Professor McGonagall nodded and stood up, too. She walked around her desk and smiled again when he placed her wedding photograph on top of the others. She wore a simple blue dress, and Elphinstone Urquart had chosen a casual suit for the occasion. “I would’ve liked to meet Mr. Urquart.”
“He would’ve liked that,” she said, accepting his embrace. Professor McGonagall sniffed sharply, and Charlie didn’t feel strange holding her. After a long moment, she patted him awkwardly. “You’re having the time of your life, aren’t you? I can tell by looking at you.”
“Oh, yeah. Life’s pretty awesome. Pretty damn awesome.” Charlie released her, grinning when she shook her head. He walked to the office door and rested his hand on the doorknob, hesitating, for he knew there was no way to possibly thank her. “Professor?”
“Think nothing of it, Charlie. Thank you. Tell Mr. Scamander I said hello.”
“Tell Pudgy Badger hello. Got it.” Charlie saluted her, ignoring her sharp glare, and wished her a good night. He came back a minute later and ran down the corridor. “Oh. I am deathly sincere about this ma’am. I hope you crush Slytherin. Let me know when that happens.”
“Good night, Charlie,” said Professor McGonagall, sitting back down. “Stay safe.”
“Thanks. About Newt Scamander…”
“He’s difficult and exhausting,” said Professor McGonagall, stopping when she realized she may have spoken too quickly. She studied her paperwork.
“Ha. You’re awesome. You made my day.” Grinning from ear to ear, Charlie left the grounds after stopping by to see Hagrid. Pumping his fist in the air, feeling a little lighter and strangely stronger, though he couldn’t explain it, he headed back to London. He couldn’t wait to get back to Romania.
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