Taking the Plunge
“Ehm… how long have you been here?” Bletchley asked as he came to a sudden halt the next morning and saw Ophelia already at the table, furiously scribbling away at a parchment.
She looked up at him, catching the worried look on his face, though she ignored it. He likely was reacting to how puffy her face looked after a night of crying. While she had managed to finally drag herself to her room, she barely slept as she went through every moment, trying to discover where things went wrong.
As it was, her head felt as though it were stuffed with cotton, but they needed to spend the day going over the proposal or else they really would fuck things up. The meeting with everyone was tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. sharp. So she had managed to drag herself to the shower and put on something she hoped would be somewhat presentable for a Sunday in the office and was now determined to put any and all thoughts of Charlie Weasley out of her mind for the time being.
“No that long,” she said dully, looking back down at the parchment. Leanne walked in just behind Bletchley and frowned. She started to open her mouth, but he shook his head quickly, signaling that they should get to work.
The two walked over and sat down at the table, reaching for parchments and quills.
“Where’s Charlie?” Leanne asked, causing Bletchley to groan and drop his head in his hands. Ophelia looked over at her.
“He’s no coming,” she said firmly. “But doesnae matter. We need to finish up all the details. The sooner we have that, the sooner ye can go home.” She then looked back down at the parchment as Leanne looked over at Bletchley, the two of them clearly wondering what had happened between the two yesterday. They both knew that they had spent the day with the Weasleys.
“Now, I’m taking care of the introduction and the conclusion. The cost analysis looks good, though… I think we need more in local benefits…”
A few hours later, Ophelia stood still as stone waiting for Bletchley or Leanne to say something. As the team leader, they had voted for her to do the final presentation and she had just run through it for the first time.
While she had a list a mile long of her own improvements, she wanted to hear what they had to say. But currently they were both killing her with their silence.
“Well… I honestly think we have nothing to worry about,” Bletchley finally said, a grin appearing.
“It’s a solid proposal,” Leanne added. Ophelia smiled and looked down at her notes, but then frowned.
“But I think I could tighten up here… and here,” she said. She could hear the others sigh as she crossed a few things out and added a few more in. She then stepped back and looked at the parchments laid flat across the table.
There was still more work to be done, but she knew there was no reason to keep the others here any longer. It was Sunday and they likely had things to do. From this point on, it was mostly just practicing the pitch, which she could do on her own.
“Ye two can go home, if ye like,” Ophelia said, looking up at them.
“We’re not leaving you here to do all the work,” Leanne scoffed, though Bletchley shot her an annoyed look.
“It’s fine. I’m just going to be rehearsin’. Probably take it home and do it there, to be honest,” Ophelia said, feeling guilty that she had dragged them in for as long as she had so far.
“Well… if you’re sure…” Bletchley said, slowly rising from his chair.
“I am,” Ophelia said, smiling at them. The two gathered up their things and then gave a few quick suggestions before heading out of the conference room.
Once she was alone with her thoughts, Ophelia sighed heavily as she looked down at her notes and then up around the room. The walls were still covered in designs, graphs and notes - all laid out in straight, organized rows. Her eyes then fell on the map that she and Charlie had put together, marking the layout of the reserve.
Walking over to it, Ophelia wrapped her arms around herself as she started at the broad, thick marks he had made as he redrew various buildings, making them bigger and smaller, his familiar handwriting next to them, noting out various things.
An ache filled Ophelia’s chest as she reached out and brushed her fingers over the lines, smudging them slightly. Just a few days ago, everything seemed perfect. They were working together on the Hebrides project, spending their nights together at her home. And when she fell asleep, she dreamed about the two of them working together at the new reserve.
And now she wasn’t sure what was happening or if that future would happen. Though, in the light of day after their discussion last night, Ophelia thought that perhaps she had been a bit unfair.
This was still new - only a few weeks old. Just because she had gone and fallen in love with Charlie didn’t mean he was obligated to fall in love with her. Or give up his career and life in Romania just because of her. He had a point - Ophelia couldn’t imagine uprooting her entire life to move to some far-off country just for a man.
Scotland was more akin to moving home for Charlie. However, even still… she understood. As much as she would want to drop everything and move to the sanctuary in Romania with Charlie, there was a lot to think about. She would be moving far from her friends and family.
She would be giving up Hebrides.
Sighing, Ophelia looked away, her eyes traveling back to her notes spread out neatly on the table. She had spent the last few years trying to get someone to listen to her and take her proposal to reopen Hebrides seriously. And now she finally was.
No, it was far more than that. She was on the cusp of seeing her dream come true. Of working with dragons and helping rebuild the local population.
Was she really so willing to give that up for Charlie? And if she wasn’t, was it so fair for her to expect him to give up Romania for her? It wasn’t, she realized. Even though it hurt. Even though she wanted nothing more than to hear that he was moving back to be closer to her, she couldn’t ask him to give up his life, his dream.
Because she wasn’t about to give up hers.
Ophelia walked over and stood at the end of the table, looking over her notes. She then closed her eyes and took a deep breath, slowly letting it out.
“This is yer chance, Ophelia Grace Wood. Focus on that. Focus on getting this right. Ye can worry about everythin’ else later. But do not muck this up.”
She then opened her eyes, staring out at the room and imagining she was meeting the eyes of Minister Shacklebolt.
“Good morning, gentlemen. For years, dragons roamed the lands of this great country, living peacefully with those around them. And then over time… the numbers dropped. More migrated to other countries, until finally… we are looking at a serious shortage of local breeds. So much so that they’ve been placed on the list of endangered magical creatures,” she said, her voice smooth and clear.
“Many believe that we’re past hope and that we should let nature play out as intended. But I refuse to believe that. Not while there’s breath in my body and not while there’s a viable plan to not only rebuild the population of local breeds, but to save many, many more dragons…”
Charlie pushed himself up into a sitting position, unsure of what time it was exactly. The sun was still pouring through the drapes on the window, telling him that at least he hadn’t wasted the entire day. But at the same time, he didn’t have much motivation to get up and do anything anyway.
After he left Ophelia’s, he went straight to Shell Cottage, nearly giving Fleur a heart attack when he suddenly stepped out of the fireplace. Bill had rushed into the kitchen after she had shrieked, took one look at his face and then led him into the den where he poured him a large glass of firewhiskey.
He didn’t ask what happened or pushed Charlie to speak, long knowing that no amount of prodding would get him to speak when he wasn’t ready. Rather, the two brothers sat and drank a few glasses quietly before Bill told Charlie that he could have one of the guest rooms if he needed it. Charlie had thanked him and gone to bed, though snuck downstairs after he was sure both Bill and Fleur were asleep to snitch the bottle of firewhiskey, which he then finished on his own.
Charlie was confused, upset and terrified.
He hadn’t intended for anyone to find out about the job offer until he had figured what he was going to do about it. Larkins had cornered him as he went out to fetch everyone lunch, telling him he was exactly what Hebrides needed in a head dragon tamer. While Charlie was flattered, he also knew the work that went into such a position and he wasn’t so sure that he was cut out for it. Not to mention, it would mean leaving Romania which had been his home for almost 10 years as it was. Up until that point, he had never spent much time thinking about leaving Romania.
And then there was Ophelia.
Charlie had known for a couple weeks now that he loved her. Had nearly told her so as she was leaving to go back to England. Then had nearly said it again when George interrupted them at dinner. And each time, he grew more frustrated.
But then the worry would begin. What if this was all some sort of grand sign that he and Ophelia weren’t meant to be? That he was wrong, and things would never work out between them.
That he was destined to forever be alone.
Charlie rubbed his face, wincing as he thought to her face last night. The pain in her eyes. He wanted to make it all go away, but at the same time he was afraid that he couldn’t. That instead he would cause more.
A knock sounded on the door and Charlie looked over, sighing. He was surprised Bill and Fleur left him alone this long.
“Come in,” he said.
The door opened and Bill stepped in, glancing back to someone else in the hallway. He then walked across the room and another stepped into the doorway. Charlie was surprised to see Duncan there.
“Aye, ye were right. He is a bloody mess,” Duncan said, glancing at Bill and then back at Charlie. He crossed his arms in front of him, a stern look coming over his features.
“Come to box me, have you?” Charlie asked dully, waiting for it. This time he knew he deserved whatever it was Duncan intended.
“Thought I’d be sensible… hear ye out… then I can decide just what ye deserve,” Duncan said. “If ye look this bad, I can only imagine what Phillie’s feelin’.” Charlie looked up at him and then over at his brother. He sighed and leaned over on his knees, his eyes fixed on the floor.
“I’ve really fucked this up,” he said.
“And how so? Far as we all knew, ye were the perfect couple yesterday,” Duncan said. Charlie laughed wryly and shook his head.
“Dunno. I thought it was fine as well until just before we left. And then when I asked her about it… it all went downhill,” he said.
“Maybe if you told us what happened?” Bill suggested.
“I’ve been offered the head tamer position at Hebrides - if it reopens, anyway,” Charlie said. “But I don’t know if I want to take it.” He glanced up, seeing no judgement in either man’s face. He took a deep breath to continue, but Duncan interrupted him.
“Yer aff yer heid if ye think I’m gonna believe this is about a fuckin’ job,” he said. Charlie’s eyes widened slightly. “Ye forget, I’ve lived wi’ ye for seven years. Known about every lassie ye’ve kissed or wanted to kiss. I’ve seen ye pinin’ and I’ve seen ye happy. But I’ve never seen ye the way ye are with Phillie or the way ye are right now about Phillie.”
Charlie swallowed and looked to the ground, frowning slightly. He then met Duncan’s gaze, this time not shying away from it.
“I love her,” he stated.
Duncan didn’t say anything at first, but then he finally cracked a small smile.
“Alright. Now we’re getting somewhere,” he said. “What’s so horrible about being in love wi’ my sister that ye look as though ye favorite dragon died?”
Charlie rolled his eyes and huffed.
“Not like you would know. When was the last time you even had a girl?” Charlie asked, slightly irritated and defensive. Duncan frowned.
“Ye ungrateful bast-”
“We’re trying to help, Charlie,” Bill shouted, shooting a warning look at Duncan. The Scot huffed and then motioned for them to continue. Bill turned back to Charlie.
The tamer was now back to staring at the floor, his brow furrowed. He finally closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“I’m terrified,” he said, not wanting to see the looks on their faces. It was slightly embarrassing to be admitting this to them. “I mean… I don’t want to hurt her. Or muck it up. But also, what if it doesn’t work out? What if I let her in and… it just… it doesn’t work?”
Neither man said anything for a moment, so Charlie opened his eyes and looked up. Bill was smiling softly, a look of understanding in his eyes. Duncan’s frown had faded, though Charlie wasn’t exactly sure what he was thinking.
“I’ve never felt like this for anyone,” Charlie said. “I bloody don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Unfortunately, that’s just love for you,” Bill said with a chuckle.
“Doesn’t really help me,” Charlie grumbled. “Phillie’s going to go into that meeting tomorrow and blow them away. Then she’ll get Hebrides up and running. Even working with dragon tamers, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as fearless as her. Who knows what they want and goes after it like she does… I can’t stand the thought of not having her in my life, but at the same time, I’ve never been more petrified… To the point that… I can’t make a decision.
“Stay. Go. Move to Hebrides. Be with Ophelia. Go back to Romania. Be alone. I just…” Charlie stopped speaking as he sighed heavily. He wasn’t even making sense to himself.
“Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what to do,” Bill said. Charlie looked up at him. “But you know that.” Charlie nodded, frowning again. Of course, he knew that, but it didn’t make the decision any easier.
“One thing I do know is… I love her,” Charlie said, looking up at Duncan. He nodded.
“I ken,” he replied. He then glanced at Bill and started towards the door, obviously feeling as though all that could be said had been said, but then stopped. Sighing, he turned back to look at Charlie. “I dinnae ken much about… commitment and all… ye got that right, but… if it were me… if there was a woman that I felt for the way ye say ye feel for Phillie… I’d swallow my pride and take the leap. Though it might scare the shite out of me, I’d take the plunge. Because she’d be worth it.”
He looked to the floor a moment, as though he was making sure there wasn’t anything more to say. He then looked back up at Charlie and nodded, before turning and striding out of the room.
Charlie slowly let out the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding.
“Suppose… just think about it,” Bill said, walking over and clamping his hand on his brother’s shoulder, squeezing it slightly. “You don’t have to decide anything now. For all we know, the Ministry may decide not to go forward with the proposal. Then that’s one problem solved… suppose.”
“Right,” Charlie said, though he knew well enough that the Ministry turning down the proposal would solve nothing between him and Ophelia. Bill then turned and walked out of the room, leaving Charlie alone once more.
He leaned over and ran his fingers through his hair, going over everything his brother and Duncan said. It made sense, but he was still left feeling utterly confused over what he wanted to do. Groaning, Charlie pushed up from the bed and began pacing around the room.
The more he paced, the more he thought about Ophelia.
The way she smiled. How her eyes lit up when she got excited about something or finally figured out a solution to a problem. Her no-nonsense way of talking. How she stood up to her brothers - both at school and now. The firm, yet gentle way she spoke to all the animals at her flat. To the dragons.
How utterly broken she had looked when he left yesterday.
Charlie stopped pacing and walked over to the window, pulling the curtain back to look at the beach and ocean beyond. He thought about going back to Romania. Working with Colonel and the other dragons. Tending to Rupert.
“Dinnae laugh, Charlie Weasley! It’s a good Scottish name! And ye said I could name him whatever I wanted!”
A faint smile crossed his face. She had gotten rather worked up about that before he told her that he agreed. He then thought of the mountains. Sitting on Dragon’s Head.
“Ye made that story up just now…”
Charlie closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against the glass. He thought about walking through the forests surrounding the main camp. Going home to his cabin.
“I could get used to this… being wined and dined by ye…”
Charlie’s eyes flew open as he looked back out at the beach. While he still had plenty of wonderful memories from living in Romania, he suddenly realized that all his best memories there, they had now been replaced with ones involving Ophelia.
The mud fight. Getting stuck in the cave during the storm. Even just sitting with her at night, the two of them talking about anything, nothing. Everything.
In that moment, Charlie realized that if he turned down the job, if he went back to Romania leaving things as they were, he would regret it for the rest of his life. While he was still slightly terrified of what the future held, he knew one thing for sure.
He didn’t want to have a future without Ophelia.