Charlie stories and come bearing my own for today's storytime.
Title: The Firsts
Warnings: some mildly offensive language, slash (a relationship with two males) if this bothers you
Length: 3,220 words
Summary: Charlie Weasley experiences a lot of 'firsts' as he becomes a dragon keeper.
Author Note: With thanks to the lovely velvetmouse for beta reading.
The first thing he learns as a Trainee Dragon Keeper is how to shovel shit.
Dragon dung is one of the few parts of a dragon that people will pay for that doesn’t actually harm the dragons, unlike dragon hide or liver. He spends months packing dung into sacks that have been charmed Imperturbable, stacking them by the summer holding pens for collection by the various businesses that the Romanian Longhorn Dragon Reservation has deals with. The money goes towards the upkeep of the Reserve, which costs more than the average wizard thinks.
He uses plenty of soap in the shower, but the smell won’t entirely fade. It’s kind of musky, but not too bad, so he shrugs and doesn’t bother showering more than his usual ten minutes once a day. Everything here smells slightly of it anyway.
He gets used to it.
When he arrives the summer is nearly over, but they’re still living in tents to be as close to the main herds for as long as possible. He shares a sleeping tent with two other blokes, one of whom is his supervisor, and there’s a bigger tent with a communal kitchen and dining space.
Studying the dragons, keeping an eye on the endangered species, the pregnant females and the rescue cases, involves a lot of moving around the reserve, which means a lot of temporary accommodation. They could sleep somewhere else and apparate, but apparition too close to the beasts can scare or anger them into a frenzy, so good broom skills come in handy.
Charlie doesn’t get to prove how well he can handle a broom yet. He’s too busy handling a shovel, building blisters and calluses on his palms.
It’s a casual lifestyle. He’s surrounded by broad shouldered men who strip their shirts off at the end of the day, leaving them walking around in nothing but flame proof trousers and boots. Charlie’s used to the shirtless thing from Quidditch and living with so many brothers, but some of these physiques make him feel a little jealous. He’ll never be more than short and stocky.
Charlie walks around with his own shirt off and his freckles breed worse than the gnomes back home.
They’re a mixed bunch, from a few different countries and all kinds of backgrounds, but everyone speaks English and he feels welcome. His tent-mates take him out on the ‘tourist run’ soon after he arrives. They seem to think that he likes castles, since he spent seven years living in one, but Charlie is more awed by the views from their windows. He’s always loved to fly.
“The one the Muggles call Count Dracula, he lived here,” Sven, the Swede from Durmstrang, tells him with a grin on his open face. “Offered as a gift to the Queen of
“You see Brasov, over there?” his supervisor asks, pointing out of the tower window with the fingers of one hand and resting the other on Charlie’s shoulder, warm hand print sinking through his shirt and into his skin. He pronounces it Brah-Shov like a native Romanian, but Charlie knows that his first language is English. Alex was a year above Sven at Durmstrang, which is why they were shoved in the same tent before Charlie came along, but he lived in
“Home to the narrowest street in Europe and the
“It has the nearest wizarding quarter,” Alex continues. “There are a few others, but not so good. That’s the place to go if you need anything.”
The first person he really talks to is the only female dragon keeper at the Reserve.
Olivia doesn’t have bulging muscles, but she can lift a sack of shit easier than he can. She has brown hair cropped close to her skull, the same style as the blokes, to make it harder to accidentally catch alight and easier to wash. The only way that she’s treated differently than anyone else is that she always gets the first cup of hot tea, maybe out of some ingrained politeness from the rest of them or maybe because somehow she’s always the first one reaching out to take it.
She was three years above him at Hogwarts and in Slytherin House, so he never really noticed her, but he notices her now.
She jokes about the weather, especially the rain, and uses slang and expressions that he recognises. They swap stories about Hogwarts, laugh about Binns and how they both know the real meaning of a full English breakfast.
He doesn’t see much of her during the day, because he’s shovelling shit and she’s off doing some real work, but they chat during breaks, over dinner and when it’s their turn to cook.
Olivia has a broad sense of humour. She reads political journals and jokes about the werewolf disputes in
“I was destined to work with dragons,” she jokes. “I’m Welsh. We have a dragon on our national flag.”
“You said you live in
“Well I was born in
“A Muggleborn in Slytherin?” Charlie asks, doubtful.
“I had an ambition, didn’t I?” she says with a grin, pushing the issue aside. “And here I am!”
(Charlie wants to ask about what it was like being a Muggleborn in Slytherin and if it was as difficult as he imagines it was, but he doesn’t, until four years later when he mentions the Order of the Phoenix in the same sentence.)
The first time Charlie flies a broom in
It’s Olivia that tells the others on their team to let him play Seeker, because he might not have remembered her from school but she remembers who was the pride of the Gryffindor team.
Matt’s the opposing Seeker, so tall and thin they call him ‘The Polish Pole’, too tall for a Seeker, even if he is a lightweight. Two huge Dutch guys from Charlie’s team follow him with their bats, but the German and Finn playing Beaters on the other team concentrate on Olivia, Alex and Koby playing Chasers. Those three have been working together on the Reserve for three years and it shows. Their teamwork rivals Fred and George at their best.
The rest of the players are Romanians.
Charlie squeezes his thighs tight around the handle of his broomstick, leans forward and flies. He can feel the wind pulling at his hair and the skin on his face; the power dragging him back tells him how fast he’s speeding forwards. Catching the snitch is easy, so he takes his time, enjoys the flight.
Olivia pounds him on the back hard enough to bruise when they win before she runs off laughing to beat them all to the showers.
His supervisor takes him aside, after they’ve carefully stowed the brooms away, dumped the equipment and stripped off sweaty shirts. It’s then, when Alex explains that dragon keepers aren’t allowed to see trainees ‘socially’, hint-hint, that Charlie realises how much time he really has spent with her.
Charlie blushes, then blushes harder because he’s blushing, and Alex tells him that if he likes Olivia that much he should let her know and then back off for now.
Charlie explains, rather bluntly because he doesn’t want to be misunderstood, that he hasn’t thought about having sex with Olivia, he just likes her company. They can talk about things.
Alex looks at him, one hand in his pocket and a slight smirk on his face.
“Do you like men then, Charlie? Is that it?”
“I don’t know,” he answers honestly. “Never thought about it.”
“Well, you think about it maybe, yeah? And try and spend some time with people other than Olivia. Fair enough, you can remember things together, but we’re living in the now, okay?”
Charlie nods and watches Alex’s arse as it walks away. He’s never really watched an arse before, male or female, but now he’s curious. What makes a ‘nice arse’ and how do you decide what body parts you prefer, never mind which gender?
Maybe this is something other people were figuring out when he was figuring out how Gryffindor could win the Quidditch House Cup.
The first time he picks up a quill, other than for writing letters back home, is the first time he feels like he’s actually learning something. He figures there must still be a bit of the school kid in him if he doesn’t feel like ‘learning’ is happening unless he’s holding a quill and being lectured at.
It’s winter and the dragons are quiet. They don’t hibernate, but as cold blooded reptiles they grow sluggish when the days grow shorter. With no sun for them to bask in they curl into family groups, smoke streaming from nostrils, to preserve warmth. At this time of year they don’t travel much.
The dragon keepers, in tune with their charges, don’t travel much either. They move into the main building for the cold period, a type of observatory on a steep-sided mountain, and now Charlie receives the bulk of his theoretical training. He even attends a series of lectures, which are held for visiting academics, magical creature enthusiasts and the general public. Some of the visitors stay. The Reserve charges for bed and board as well as the education, but the lecture on conservation is free and widely advertised.
The youngest visitor looks about the same age as Percy, but he reminds Charlie more of Ron. He sits next to his father in every lecture and although he doesn’t look bored he doesn’t look thrilled either.
Charlie knows what it’s like to have a dad who’s obsessed. One of the reasons that their family are often called Blood Traitors is Dad’s curiosity with the Muggle way of living. He doesn’t think Rolf Scamander will suffer that kind of animosity from people with a dad who loves dragons, but spending Christmas at the Reserve with no one his own age can’t be fun for the kid.
When Charlie goes down into
“Thank you,” the kid says politely.
Charlie ruffles his brown hair and thinks of ruffling red.
The first moment he really feels like part of the group, not yet a proper Dragon Keeper but at least a member of their ranks, is when he’s marked.
Everyone’s a bit drunk, which is clichéd but true, and showing off their badges of honour. There are skin grafts and ‘friendly’ claw marks, burn scars and a missing chunk of flesh. Nearly everyone has marks where they’ve rubbed against sharp-edged scales.
Charlie isn’t bothered. He’s fallen out of trees, fallen off brooms and fought with five brothers. He’d rather break a bone than never fly a broom and he’d rather burn than never fly a dragon.
Then there’s another type of show-and-tell that follows where Charlie learns that nearly everyone has a tattoo.
Sven has a Swedish Short-Snout, silvery-blue and shining on his bicep, Olivia has a Common Welsh Green perched on her collar bone and Matt has flames wrapped around one wrist. Charlie’s already seen Alex’s during the summer, a young Romanian Longhorn flying up his spine as water slid down over well-defined muscles when he was returning to their tent after showering, but now he admires it openly.
“Oh you have to get a tattoo, Charlie! Everyone gets a tattoo!”
Charlie’s pretty sure that Olivia’s drunk, but she isn’t slurring her words. “Sure,” he says, “why not?”
She blinks. “Bloody hell! It usually takes at least four pints to convince people to join our band of brothers.”
“Took her six,” Matt jokes. “Had to convince her she was male first, like.”
There’s laughing and Olivia elbowing and calls for another round.
It’s four in the morning when he’s marked with a Hebridean Black. It closes its purple eyes sleepily and curls up around his hip bone with a yawn. If it weren’t for the spiked tail and dangerously sharp neck ridges shown in sharp profile it might look cute.
The haze of alcohol dulls the sting and the friendly grins that surround him on the way back to the Reserve mask the after burn.
The first time Charlie actually touches a real dragon there’s snow on the ground, although the closer it lies to the creature the more it’s melting.
There’s a bunch of blokes who’ve come over from the smaller Ukrainian Dragon Reserve to exchange an Ironbelly for a Longhorn, mixing the males up whilst they’re quiet before breeding season.
They talk about trouble from the weakening
Charlie runs a hand, palm flat, across a metallic grey scale, unexpectedly warm and with its own subtle ridges, like the grains in unpolished wood.
The Ukrainian Ironbelly is the largest breed of dragon and he hasn’t seen any larger than this one. Its talons alone are at least as long as Charlie’s leg. White mist streams out of its nostrils with every breath and he can feel it breathing. If he concentrates he thinks he can even feel the blood moving beneath the scale.
A powerful wing twitches somewhere above his head, but Charlie’s hair is cut short now, too short for any kind of breeze to disturb.
The Ukrainians stay for a few days. There’s plenty of space in the Romanian Reserve’s centre now that the visitors have left and it has better food than they’re used to.
Charlie learns a few new card games from them and when he gets a letter from his youngest brother about a ‘pet’ Ridgeback the Ukrainians fly to Hogwarts with him and Matt to pick it up, their way of paying the Romanians back for the bed and board.
“It feels amazing, doesn’t it?” Alex says, sat on his bed doing paperwork.
Charlie wasn’t surprised that paperwork existed in this job, but he was surprised at the amount. He was also surprised at the amount of required reading for trainees, which would be why he has From Egg To Inferno on his pillow and his head propped up by one arm above it as he lounges on his own bed. It’s easier to read lying down, that way he doesn’t hit his head on Sven’s bunk.
He looks over at his supervisor quizzically.
“I was watching you, when you touched the Ironbelly.” Alex takes his time dipping his quill in his pot of ink, careful not to drip on the quilt. “Feels amazing, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Charlie breathes.
“Bet you can’t wait to ride.”
They both grin across at each other with shared excitement. Charlie thinks it’ll be even better than a broom, even more, and he can see in Alex’s face that it is and then some.
The first time he rides a dragon is everything.
There’s a lot that goes into training to be a dragon keeper, he knows now, and he was picking up how the keeping is done even when he was picking up shit, but riding a dragon is saved until last. It isn’t that it’s the hardest part of the job, but it is the best kind of graduation and you’re not a Keeper until you’ve flown.
It’s different from riding a broom in a lot of ways. His legs don’t meet when he squeezes them together and there’s heat underneath him as well as powerful muscles that shift as wings are pumped up and down. It’s leather reins instead of a wooden handle and leaning doesn’t do anything if you want to change direction.
He’s familiar with the harness, but you don’t steer a dragon so much as suggest. Generally they behave; they’re not the type of creature that bites the hand that feeds them, or looks after them, at any rate.
The glide back down to earth is as exhilarating as a perfect dive and Matt’s shout that drinks are on the newest Dragon Keeper sounds as good as the roar of the loudest Quidditch crowd.
They’re farewell drinks as well as celebratory. Now that Charlie is fully qualified, Sven leaves for the edge of the
“So, a fully graduated dragon keeper,” Alex says as his sits on his bed and yanks off his boots.
“You thought about men, Charlie?” Alex asks and Charlie’s eyes drift down to the other bloke’s chest, shirtless again.
“I thought about arses,” he admits and Alex laughs.
“Anything specific about arses, or any arses specifically…?”
He walks over to Charlie’s bed and Charlie sits up to look at him, easy to do with Sven’s bed gone. Charlie will never be anything but short and stocky, but Alex is a testament to what outdoor living and a lot of flying can do.
“I could show you something amazing,” he says, voice soft and eyes teasing.
“Yeah?” says Charlie and grins again. “Is this something ‘social’?”
A broad hand lands on his shoulder, warm heat burning his skin.
The first time Aunt Muriel tells everyone that Charlie ‘ran away’ to Romania because he is a ‘selfish shirt-lifter escaping from his mother’s wish to marry him off’ Charlie strips off his shirt with a grin and yanks the waist of his trousers down lower to display his tattoo, which breathes fire towards his belly button.
“I like dragons,” he tells her firmly as she sits there spluttering, “and the Romanian Reserve is the best there is.”
Charlie never wants his family to think he’s left them for anything other than the real reason for why he did. He’s not sure when he’ll tell them that there’s more in Romania for him than dragons, but he knows for certain that he’ll wait until Aunt Muriel’s not there before he does, and probably until Mum’s happily ‘married off’ at least some of her other children.
Years later he watches his one and only sister at Bill’s wedding, and watches their mum watching his sister and Harry Potter, and he thinks that someday soon there’ll be a perfect moment to mention it. Just not quite yet.