Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of its characters. I'm just another Potterhead
Much to our delight, unlike last time, this date ended with the shattering of neither Madam Puddifoot's fine china teacups nor her horrified squeals.
"Are you sure you've had enough m' dears?" the witch repeated for the fifth time that night, "What about a few doggy bags for the road?"
"Thanks for the offer, but I'm stuffed," replied Charlie.
"And when it comes to Charlie, that's definitely saying something," I added.
"Oi! I'm not that bad," he grumbled.
"You were literally inhaling those profiteroles," I pointed out.
Charlie frowned, opening his mouth as if to protest but upon thinking remained lost for words and I couldn't help but smile with the satisfaction that I had finally beat him.
"My, oh, my! Why aren't you two just adorable? Here, before I forget …" Madam Puddifoot sang, her laughter tinkling like bells as she levitated a sizable container of baked goods to land on my lap with a flick of her wand.
"Oh no, we couldn't …"
"Nonsense," she beamed, cutting me off before I could finish my sentence, "Take it, I insist." Much like Mrs Weasley, the witch's chirpy voice left no room for arguing, giving us no choice but to accept.
Charlie sighed, shrinking the package to size before pocketing it while I took out a sack chinking with galleons from my jacket.
"My word, that's far too much!" gasped Madam Puddifoot.
"Take it, we insist," I said, echoing her own words as I pressed the pouch into her hands until she eventually relented.
"I … well, thank you. That's awfully sweet of you m' dears," she said, her chest swelling with emotion as she accepted the pouch with a watery smile.
"We should be the ones thanking you for giving us such a lovely night," replied Charlie. And with that, we bid farewell to Madam Puddifoot before disapparating directly to Gringotts.
"HOOT!" Pepper jumped from her perch above my desk, her amber eyes glaring reproachfully at our arrival as she ruffled her feathers.
"Sorry," I apologised, refilling her food pouch with a handful of her favourite owl treats which quickly pacified her complaints. Pepper hooted, seemingly appeased as she eagerly flew to her feeding bowl.
"Wow," Charlie's eyes widened as he took in the expanse of my lavish new office. "I didn't even know that it was possible to apparate directly into Gringotts …"
"It's not," I replied, stroking Pepper's feathers before catching one of the various files that levitated themselves out from the large filing cabinet in the corner. "But being Gringotts' Head Cursebreaker does come with its benefits."
Charlie nodded as he ran a hand along with the spines of books and tomes on the cabinet display.
"Bill's office is outside just around the corner if you want to pop in," I offered, "Knowing him, he'd probably appreciate it, not to mention the extra cookies."
I nodded, "I can't exactly jet off without giving any notice," I reasoned, "And I still have one more thing that I've been meaning to follow up on for a while now. Don't worry," I added when I saw his expression, "It'll only take a few minutes."
"Alright, take your time, Love." He smiled, placing a lingering kiss to my lips before he went outside in search for his brother.
I sat at my desk, flicking through the files on hand.
Pepper squawked; amber eyes blinking as she craned her neck as if to read over my shoulder.
"I appreciate the concern, Pepper, but I've done all the research – you know I can't put it off any longer …"
She inclined her head, leaving her perch to land on my shoulder with a loving coo. I smiled as she gave my fingers an affectionate nip.
"The Head-Teller Goblin wishes an audience with you," the large grandfather clock chimed, just as I had predicted.
"Speak of the devil," I mumbled, taking one last look at the report before I let him in.
"Madam Cursebreaker," the Head-Teller Goblin inclined his head as the doors opened inwards on their own. "I trust that …"
"I know about the other dragons, Griphook."
The goblin's eyes dilate momentarily as the doors shut behind him. "I-I'm afraid I do not understand what it is you are referring to," he lied, tugging uncomfortably at his white collar.
"I am referring to the dragons that you have been illegally imprisoning to 'protect' your high-security vaults," I replied coldly, "You know; those large, scaly, fire-breathing creatures that you've been keeping in chains?"
The Head-Teller Goblin seemed to pale slightly.
I crossed my arms, "I may not be Patricia Rakepick, but I am very good at my job."
"You … you have no right to question Gringotts' security!" he spluttered indignantly as he puffed out his chest.
"And you have no right to hold innocent creatures captive in such horrible conditions!" I retorted heatedly as I rose from my desk, "Now you can either make this right by improving these horrible conditions and releasing all of the magical creatures that you have illegally obtained or, I can personally request both the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Department of the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to conduct a full-scale investigation of the bank and its vaults."
I could see the anger rippling through the goblin's resentful black pupils before he dutifully bowed his head.
"As you wish, Madam Cursebreaker."
Griphook left, muttering venomous slurs in Gobbledegook just as Charlie came inside.
"Um … is everything alright?" he asked, frowning as the goblin grumpily shoved passed him.
"Yeah, just a difference in opinion," I said as I sent my files to sort themselves back into their corresponding drawers.
"You sure? That goblin looked right pissed …"
"He did, didn't he?" I replied, smiling despite myself.
"Don't worry," I added, sensing his unease as I smoothed my hands over his jacket. "It's nothing that a little negotiation couldn't solve."
"Negotiation, huh?" Charlie smirked, his eyes glinting amber in the candlelight as his arms laced their way around my waist. "And what would that comprise of exactly?"
"I'm afraid that information is classified," I quipped back, going up on my tiptoes to peck a kiss to his cheek. "Speaking of which, I'm guessing by your lack of leftovers that you saw your brother?"
Charlie nodded, "He's not too happy about me whisking his Head of Department away again, but he did agree to fill in for you on the condition that he gets my share of mince pies next Christmas."
"What? Did you give up your precious mince pies for me?" I grinned, pretending to swoon in his arms as he tugged me close. "Blimey, Weasley – you really are pulling out all the tricks, aren't you?"
Charlie chuckled, the hum of his laughter tickling against my cheek as he rested his forehead on top of my own.
"Anything for you, my Dear."
"You really love it here, don't you?"
Charlie smiled, taking in a deep breath of mountain air as he ran a sheepish hand through his windswept hair. "That obvious, huh?"
"Just a little bit."
We dismounted from his broom, carrying my shrunk-down-to-travel-size trunk and a woven pet carrier.
Brina meowed. She'd never been much of a flier and was no doubt grumpy after being shut up in her cat carrier since leaving the United Kingdom via broom.
"Fine," I said, "You can wait at the cottage then."
I waved my wand and Brina vanished along with my small travel-sized trunk.
We made our way up through the sleepy wizarding village settled at the base of the Carpathian Mountains before we reached the beginning of what appeared to be a blocked off hiking trail. Charlie kept walking, passing through the metal barrier as if it were a mirage that simply did not exist and I followed suit. The world seemed to temporarily swirl around us before we stepped out of the shadows onto the other side at the very mouth of an impressive mountain range that stretched out in an enormous arch.
The dragon sanctuary itself was cleverly situated at the very heart of the caldera, surrounded by towering cliff faces on all sides. The location's natural defences, as well as its terrain and added disillusionment charms, made the sanctuary completely indistinguishable from the surrounding mountainside. It was, as Charlie described, the perfect cocoon of a dragon's paradise; all wrapped amongst mountains of ice and snow.
This, of course, hadn't been my first time coming to the dragon sanctuary but the sight of it seemed to render me speechless every time.
"There are a few things that I've been dying to show you," Charlie piped, eyes shining with barely contained excitement as we reached the heavy bronze gates that seemed to open by themselves upon our arrival.
"Well if it isn't Charlie fricking Weasley finally deciding to show up," Marius drawled from the front desk as we walked inside. "We figured you'd either died or got pissed …"
"I didn't take that long," Charlie frowned, rubbing the back of his neck as he averted his gaze.
"Oi, stop tormenting the poor boy, for Merlin's sake." Barb's voice chastised from the open door of the nearby office. "The stables still need to be cleaned out …"
"I don't mind cleaning them out again, Barb." Charlie offered as he put down his duffel bag.
"Yeah, make Weasley do it," agreed Marius.
"Nice try boy, but you're not getting off the hook that easily," she poked her head out of the office before she flashed us a toothy grin, "Besides, Charlie here has company and it'd be bad manners to make her wait around for him."
"Old crone," Marius muttered trudging away with a bucket and mop.
"I heard that!"
"Let's get going before she changes her mind," whispered Charlie.
"So this is the famed Norbert that Hagrid kept talking about?" I replied, admiring the dragon from afar as it dozed in a small patch of sun.
"The one and only," Charlie replied, leaning against the railing as he came up behind me. "Though, as it turns out … Hagrid's Norbert isn't really a Norbert …"
I frowned, momentarily confused before it dawned on me.
"When did you first realise?"
"Probably after she tried to bite my head off," said Charlie with a casual wave of his hand. "The females are always more aggressive than the males."
"Wow, I suppose Norbert doesn't really suit her then."
Charlie nodded, "We decided to rechristen her Norberta now."
We watched the adolescent dragon raise her head before letting out a short plume of fire as if to show off.
"Marius wanted to go with either Cranky or Bitey," Charlie continued as Norberta unfolded her leathery wings to stretch, baring rows of razor-sharp teeth in an obvious display of dominance before eventually curling back to sleep.
"Oh. My. Gosh."
"Newly hatched. Adorable aren't they? Well, in an eat-your-face-off sort of way."
Charlie grinned as he led me inside the enclosure, handing me a baby dragon the size of a small cat while he took out a bottle of brandy and chicken blood.
The dragon squawked, reptilian eyes looking up at me as its claws sank themselves into my dragon-hind gloves.
"Somebody knows that it's feeding time," I remarked as the tiny dragon began to gnaw at my gloved fingers.
"That's Barny for you," Charlie chuckled, "Here, take this."
He passed me the bottle, guiding me as Barny the dragon quickly latched onto the nib and drank.
"You're a natural."
"Thanks," I smiled, "It's actually not too different from feeding a hippogriff …"
It was only when the dragon had lapped up the last drops did I realise that Charlie was still staring at me.
"Uh … Charlie? Earth to Charlie?" I waved my free hand in front of his face, clearly bringing him back to reality.
"Hmm … What? I definitely wasn't daydreaming about wanting to hand-raise dragons with you!" he blurted out suddenly before his face flushed pink.
"I didn't just say that out loud, did I?"
"Oh god," Charlie groaned, burying his face in his hands in an attempt to hide the red tinge that was rising up his freckled cheeks to the very roots of his hair.
I sniggered, placing the dragon back to its nest before I shuffled beside him.
He huffed, pouting sulkily from between his fingers and I smiled.
"Well … if it helps, it's not like it's the first time you thought that …"
Charlie let out another groan.
Hi! I know that I haven't updated for a while but I promise that more is coming.
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xoxo - S.G.