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To the Dragons

To the Dragons

Ophelia adjusted her knapsack as she made her way through the crowded and crazy Ministry of Magic in Bucharest. It was alive and full of people speaking in a language she didn't understand, but it was wonderful. She had done her share of traveling around the world, but there was something about being a new place that had her buzzing with life and excitement.

Someone from the Sanctuary was meant to meet her here and help her get there, but they hadn't exactly told her who it was. She couldn't help as part of her hoped it was Charlie Weasley.

She, like many young girls at Hogwarts, had held a mild crush on the Weasley before he graduated. He had been stockier and shorter than the others and held a bit of a rugged handsomeness to him. She wondered how he had changed over the years. Since he moved to Romania, she hadn't seen much of him and it had been a good five years or so since the last time she had seen him.

A flutter of something went through her stomach, but she quickly squashed it, reminding herself that she was here for work and work alone. Not to relive her Hogwarts crush.

She kept looking around the crowded atrium before looking down at her watch and wondering just how it was she was supposed to know who was here to retrieve her. She looked up again, just in time to see someone making their way towards her, a bright grin on his face.

Ophelia's eyes widened as she took in the bright red hair, slightly curly and pulled back in a short, low ponytail. The broad chest and arms covered in large muscles. If this is what working with dragons did to a person, then Charlie Weasley had been doing very well, indeed.

"No. No. Ophelia Grace Wood. Work," she scolded herself mentally.

"If it isn't little Phillie Wood," he said loudly as he approached her. Ophelia immediately blushed, not realizing that he would remember the annoying nickname her brothers had given her. Normally she hated it, but there was something about the way he said it.

Wait. No. Stop it. Don't think that way.

"You've grown up."

"I… yea…" she stuttered. She then shook her head and smiled at him. "I could say the same for ye."

Charlie chuckled, a deep rumbling that Ophelia could feel even though they were a couple feet apart.

"Suppose you're tired and eager to get to the reserve," he said. Ophelia nodded. "We'll floo to the village nearby and then I can apparate us up there." He motioned for her to follow him. "Need me to help with anything?" He looked back at the small knapsack on her back.

"Oh, I'm good," she said quickly, sure that she was still blushing. Charlie nodded.

"How long's it been?" he asked.

"Christmas, I think… five years ago," Ophelia said, remembering he had come to Duncan's annual party during the holidays. She then blushed fiercely, remembering how drunk she had gotten that night. Charlie laughed.

"Didn't you get caught under the mistletoe with someone?" he asked, winking at her.

"I dinnae remember," she said abruptly. Charlie continued chuckling.

"You sure about that?" he asked. "From what I recall, you threw a fit when you realized one of your brothers had jinxed it." Ophelia rolled her eyes.

She had been stuck underneath it with some Ravenclaw bloke that was a couple years ahead of her at Hogwarts and had refused to kiss him to get out of it.

"Dinnae remind me," she muttered, causing him to laugh loudly.

"Here we are. Just say The Green Dragon," he said. "See you on the other side."

He then grabbed a handful of powder and disappeared. Taking a deep breath, Ophelia grabbed a handful of her own.

"Ye can do this," she muttered to herself before hopping in the floo and shouting "The Green Dragon" as she tossed the powder.

Within seconds, she stumbled out of the floo in what looked like a large, busy tavern, Charlie standing nearby. Ophelia was grateful this wasn't one of the times that she landed on her arse. Merlin, did he always have to be smiling?

"Welcome to Bran," he said. "We're in a small wizarding section of the village. The reserve is about a half hour drive from here, but as you know, we can get there faster." He winked again. Ophelia nodded and followed him out of the tavern and stopped as she looked around the village. It was like stepping into a fairy tale. The streets were all cobblestone and it looked as though the buildings had been around since the 15th century or so.

"It's beautiful," she said.

"Wait until you see the reserve," Charlie said. He held out his arm and Ophelia eagerly took it, ready to get to the reserve.

She closed her eyes as she felt the odd tug of apparition. There was a pop and then suddenly it was far much quieter than the village. Ophelia opened her eyes and the sight nearly took her breath away. They were high up in the mountain, standing before a large sign that read something in letters she couldn't understand.

Ophelia turned and looked back down the mountainside, taking in the breathtaking landscape. She could see the village down the slope. It was far more beautiful than anything she had ever seen.

Charlie motioned her to follow him and they walked under the sign into what looked like a small village.

"We've got most things you could need up here, though it's easy to get down to the village if there's something you need. That's the Post where you can send out mail or get basic necessities that you need. Each cabin is equipped with its own kitchen, but there's a mess hall where we all like to get together for meals. That's the clinic if you find yourself injured or sick," Charlie said, pointing at each building as they walked. "And there's the main office." They kept walking, now coming to a collection of quaint looking cabins.

He stopped in front of one.

"This is where you'll be staying. I'm just over there," he said, pointing down the way. "Reckon you could unpack and get comfy, then I'll show you around a bit more before supper. Maybe see some of the dragons." Ophelia nodded eagerly, not wanting to wait.

"Thanks, Charlie," she said. He flashed her another dazzling smile that had her stomach doing flip flops.

"Merlin, get your shit together," she scolded herself.

"See you soon, Phillie," he said.

Ophelia turned and walked up onto the small porch of the cabin and then pushed open the door. Immediately, she fell in love with the space. While small, it was homey and the large windows allowed a large amount of light in. There was a modest kitchenette with a table and two chairs, then a large comfy bed. She saw a door that she assumed led to the bathroom.

Eager to get out to the dragons, Ophelia walked over and put her knapsack down, pulling out her suitcase and then enlarging it. With another wave of her wand, the suitcase opened and her clothes flew out into a wardrobe. She then pulled out a photo of her, Oliver and Duncan, placing it on a dresser and smiled down at it. The other photos she could put up later.

She then walked into the bathroom and splashed some water on her face before studying her face in the mirror. Despite the long day of traveling, she felt invigorated. Nodding to herself, she turned and walked out, making sure to grab her wand on her way outside. She then stopped and looked around before finding Charlie sitting on the porch of his own cabin, whittling something.

"What's this?" she called out, making her way towards him. He looked up at her and then back down at the piece of wood. Holding it out, she could see that it was taking the shape of a small dragon.

"Just a little something I picked up while here," he said. Ophelia took the object and studied it closely. There was an insane amount of detail for something so small.

"It's brilliant," she said. "Romanian Longhorn?"

"You know your dragons," he commented. Ophelia chuckled as she handed it back to him.

"Reckoned it'd be a good thing to ken, coming here," she said. "And well, I did do that internship with Newt Scamander." Charlies' eyes widened. "Certainly enjoyed telling me all about his work during World War I with Ironbellies. Suppose it was because I was a fellow Hufflepuff."

"Really?" Charlie asked, looking impressed. Ophelia blushed again. She really was going to need to work on that.

"Not the same as actually working with them, but suppose that's why I'm here," she said, looking around at the landscape. "Speaking of which…"

"Eager to get started, are we?" Charlie asked, standing as he slid the figure and knife into his coat pocket. Ophelia nodded and grinned. "Well then, follow me."

He started leading her up a path that led into the forest surrounding the living area.

"How many dragons do ye have now?" she asked, finding it suddenly rather easy to settle into work mode.

"At the moment, about 30, but it varies," Charlie said. "We mostly try to rehabilitate and then release, though there are a handful that are permanent residents. They're incapable of living in the wild either due to injury or they've been in captivity too long."

"Mostly local breeds?" she asked.

"Mostly, yes. Though we've got a fair amount that aren't native to this area," he said. "But it would be good to get Hebrides open again. Hopefully rebuild the native population there. Got a few Hebridean Blacks and Welsh Greens. And well, our resources are getting a bit strained as it is."

"That's certainly what I'm hoping. But haven't been out to look at the structures yet," she replied. "Hoping it's not a mess."

"Surely if anyone can get it worked out, you can," Charlie said, smiling at her.

"Gonna take more than me," she replied.

"Does take a village, as you can see," he said with a chuckle.

They came up to a ridge and stopped, Ophelia's eyes going up to the sky. Her breath left her as she saw a Norwegian Ridgeback glide through the air. She couldn't believe that she was actually seeing a dragon with her own eyes.

"Gorgeous, aren't they?" he asked softly from her side.

"It's amazing," she whispered, her eyes looking around the landscape. She then saw another dragon take flight, a roar filling the air. "Can we get closer?"

"Course," Charlie said. Ophelia looked over at him, seeing an amused look on his face. "Most are free range, but we have enclosures and habitats."

They continued down the path and Ophelia started seeing structures among the trees.

"We've got a hatchery as well. Sometimes we come across abandoned eggs, though usually it's because the parents have been killed," Charlie said. Ophelia stopped, looking over at him.

"Really?" she asked, worried but not completely surprised. This was one of the reasons they wanted to reopen Hebrides. If anything, to provide one more safe haven.

"Unfortunately, the black market dragon trade is still alive and well with nefarious types," he said. "We do what we can but need more resources - both funds and bodies." Ophelia nodded as they continued walking.

"Hard to imagine anyone wanting to harm such majestic creatures," she said, looking around the forest and enclosures. They were far spread out and seemed to be built into the surrounding nature.

"If only everyone out there was as empathetic as you," Charlie said. "But you're well aware of the many uses for dragons. Unfortunately, the money and lure of illegal trade is too big a pull for some."

"Well, hopefully we can do something about that," Ophelia said, a sense of purpose welling up in her.

"Hopefully, yes. But likely not tonight. Come on. The rest of the reserve should be waiting for us in the mess hall. Got a bit of a welcome party planned tonight," Charlie said, stopping on the path.

"There's no need for that," Ophelia exclaimed, her eyes wide. "You didn't need to go through the trouble." Charlie chuckled.

"Well, it's been done. So best to not keep everyone waiting," he said. Ophelia nodded and turned, gulping slightly as they started back towards the main part of the reserve.

Merlin, how was she going to handle all the attention?

~~~

Ophelia sat down with a bit of a thump at the table, eager to get a moment to herself and hopefully finally eat something. As soon as she and Charlie had walked into the large mess hall, someone had put a drink in her hand and it had been a long line of introductions.

There were roughly 50 or so workers on the reserve between the tamers, admin staff and others that worked in the kitchen, clinic or other areas. While it was small by village standards, it was still a lot of people to meet all at once and Ophelia worried it would take her ages to get all the names down. Some were locals though a good amount of the tamers were from all over the world. She supposed with so few dragon reserves still open, one had to be willing to travel far from home for work.

Of course, this also got her thinking about the money that would be necessary to not only get Hebrides up and running but keeping it that way. Ophelia was sure the Ministry would be willing to divert some funding to them, but she would need to find some way for the reserve to generate a bit of its own income. There was no way they would get everything from the Ministry.

But now wasn't the time to get caught up in those details, she decided, relaxing a bit. She was here to observe and learn. And by Merlin, finally get to see a dragon up close.

"Charlie give you the tour?" a woman with dark hair and bright blue eyes asked as she sat down across from Ophelia with her own plate and drink. Ophelia quickly tried to recall her name. Ah, yes. Adara.

"A bit. Though suppose we'll get more into it tomorrow," Ophelia said, taking a bite as her eyes moved around the full mess hall. She couldn't but notice she was getting more than a few looks. Seemed everyone was curious about her.

Though the majority from the men were a bit more pointed, which had Ophelia squirming slightly.

"Not often we get new blood. Or women for that fact. It'll wear off after some time," Adara assured her.

"Thanks," Ophelia said, blushing slightly.

Charlie then sat down in the chair next to her and began tucking into his food. She couldn't help but notice his plate was piled with food. He must keep up his quidditch diet, Ophelia thought to herself.

"How's Oliver doing?" Charlie then asked, looking over at her. "Duncan doesn't write as much as before so I never really know what's going on." Ophelia snorted slightly.

"Ye mean ye dinnae follow quidditch even up here?" she asked, not quite believing it. Adara was silently watching the exchange with avid interest. Charlie leaned towards her.

"I try the best I can, but not a lot of folks are as interested in the British and Irish League as I am," he said. Ophelia rolled her eyes.

"Aye, well… Ollie's been workin' his way up. Witch Weekly is certainly obsessed with him. Probably would be regardless of how good he is. But he's easily one of the top 10 keepers," Ophelia said, feeling a bit proud of her brother's accomplishments.

He might be a prat at times, but he was her prat. And a damn good quidditch player.

"I imagine that's only made his head bigger," Charlie replied.

"Surprisingly, no. Still doesnae care so much about attention from the lasses. But every time he makes it in Quidditch Monthly, we hear about it for weeks on end," Ophelia said.

"Who is Ollie, er, Oliver?" Adara asked, interrupting them. "You're boyfriend?"

Ophelia snorted as Charlie laughed loudly. He sat up in his chair and placed a large hand on Ophelia's shoulder.

"Oliver is Ophelia's twin brother - Oliver Wood. Keeper for Puddlemere United. We played on the Gryffindor team for a time before I left school. Her other brother Duncan is one of my best mates," Charlie said. Ophelia could feel her face heating up slightly at the touch. "Our families have been friends for years."

"Ah, I see," Adara said slowly, something odd in her expression, though Ophelia wasn't so sure what it was. "But I assume there must be some handsome man back in London waiting for you."

Ophelia choked slightly on her drink, though she heard Charlie chuckled at her side. She mopped up her face a bit, noticing that both he and Adara were eagerly waiting for her answer.

"I… no, I mean…"

"Ah, there is the lady of the hour!"

All three looked over, seeing a tall, slightly scruffy man with longer blonde hair, though not as long as Charlie's, walk over and sit down. He wasn't nearly as broad but was solid. In fact, Ophelia noticed that all the tamers seemed to be solid muscle and sported tattoos and burn scars. Though in a way it made sense. You'd have to be a rather sturdy person to work with dragons day in and day out.

Glancing down at her slight figure, Ophelia hoped she could hold her own and carry her own weight when it came down to it.

"So, I take it you know Charlie," the man said while grinning, his light blue eyes twinkling.

"Old family friends," Adara offered.

"Ah, so that's it," the man said. Ophelia struggled to remember what his name had been. He was in the middle of a long stretch of names that had been called out in rapid fire. "I'm Lazlo."

"Oh, right. Sorry," Ophelia said.

"No worries. I get it. Can be a bit overwhelming," he said. "But I assure you, you're not likely to forget it." He winked at her. Ophelia's eyes widened slightly as Adara chuckled.

"Calm down, Lazlo," she chided. "It's her first night here."

Ophelia laughed weakly. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Charlie was giving Lazlo a stern look despite the fact he was smiling. It was slightly terrifying and reminded her far too much of her brothers.

"Sure, I can handle my own. I did grow up with two brothers, ye ken. Sure, it's no worse than that," Ophelia found herself saying. All three tamers turned to look at her. She glanced at Charlie. "They'd understand if they met Duncan and Oliver." Charlie started laughing.

"This is true," he replied. "I recall you literally jinxing the trousers off Duncan once. We were sixth year, so that would have made you only about 12 or 13 at the time. Incredible aim. And still not sure how you got into the Gryffindor common room and managed to get the drop on him."

"Oliver," Ophelia said with a cheeky grin. "As for getting the drop on Duncan… I'll never tell."

"Really should have joined the Hufflepuff quidditch team," Charlie said. Ophelia just shrugged.

"Thought about it, but really, my poor mother barely survived with Duncan and Oliver playing," she said.

"Suppose I could understand…"

Ophelia quickly lost track of time as she and Charlie continued to catch up, though eventually Adara and Lazlo jumped in, asking the two of them various questions. After a few hours, she could feel the day of traveling and excitement catching up to her and Charlie dropped her off at her cabin.

After she had showered and changed into her pyjamas, Ophelia laid back on her bed and stared up at the ceiling, a bright grin on her face.

This was going to be an amazing month. She could feel it.

~~~

And we have met Charlie… let the fireworks start.

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