A/N: *Skids into the room, wild-eyed*

*Spots you loitering, hoping for a new chapter*

*knows it's been too bloody long, and that you might riot*

*flings the chapter at you before dashing for cover*


Let it Burn

By Kittenshift17

Chapter 11: Flicker

Hermione's mind was on the offer Charlie had made about having her move in with him more than it was on cleaning up dragon dung. She couldn't believe his offer. She almost couldn't stand his offer. On the one hand, she'd left his hut that morning swearing to herself that she would never return. She suspected that her irrational bout of jealousy over the idea of him shagging Amy there had been a result of that concoction he'd used to heal her because, while she was positively disgusted that his tastes had once swayed toward the vile woman, she could hardly blame him for having a past.

She'd had to lecture herself in her morning shower about how she had no right to be angry with him for his past dalliances and past relationships because he had no idea she fancied him and had done for years. What was more, she'd dated his younger brother. What right did she have to be stroppy with him for having a romantic life before she'd showed up, when she'd been seeing his younger brother? As such, she knew she needed to squash down her irrationality and her jealousy. She could recognize that Amy was pretty – prettier than her, probably – and that Charlie had been here in Dragonsmeade and he'd been lonely and horny.

In that regard, she knew it was stupid to vow not to return to his hut, and she knew that would a be stupid reason to turn down his offer of cohabitation.

On the other hand, if she moved in with him, she'd be that much closer to seducing him into fancying her. His suggestions that Amy and anyone else with issues wouldn't be able to prevent her from living with him or even shagging him now that this had been declared an international emergency meant she'd be bloody barmy to turn down his offer. That being said, for all that she would love to jump him that very second and ravish him until neither of them could walk, Hermione was acutely aware of the fact that working together in such close quarters under stressful circumstances such as those they were leading into meant they might not get along so very well. What if she moved in with him and he drove her positively spare during the day, only to have to go home and share a dwelling with him in the evenings?

Worse, what if she moved in with him and started shagging him, and everything she'd imagined the two of them being fizzled out? She wasn't a fool. She'd once imagined herself becoming Mrs Hermione Granger-Weasley with the intention of marrying Ron, rather than Charlie, and look how that had turned out. What if she had the chance to get to know Charlie as he was in his place of work and his chosen place of residence, surrounded by his friends, rather than his family, and he turned out not to be as compatible with her as she hoped? What if he had a bunch of habits that drove her batty? What if that temper she knew bubbled under his skin was more than she could handle? What if he never realised she fancied him?

Worse, what if he did, but he wasn't interested in anything more that a few good shags? He was hardly known for his long-term relationships. Ron had once told her that the only steady love in Charlie's life was his dragons. What if he wasn't interested in a long-term commitment with her? What if he only wanted to shag her for as long as she was going to be around, and then wanted her to go on her way?

Merlin, what if they gave it a go and the sex was rubbish, or it was awkward, or they just couldn't get along? He was hardly an easy man to live with. She knew there was a lot to his personality that he kept under the surface. She knew he had a wicked temper that would probably surpass that of Ginny or Ron or even Molly. She knew he was a daredevil who took unnecessary risks just for the hell of it. He was more like a dragon than a human, in some ways, and Hermione didn't think she could bear the idea of living with him if they tried things on for size and it fizzled out like a flame left in the rain.

"Oi! Hermione!" Charlie called, and Hermione blinked, swivelling her gaze to fix it upon him.

She froze when she realised that in her distraction while she'd been using her wand to levitate the huge piles of dragon dung into barrels for collection, the dragon in question whose enclosure she was cleaning had awoken and was watching her curiously.

"Hello, Rhydian," Hermione greeted the enormous Welsh Green politely, watching the hulking beast and realising she was far too distracted if the large dragon had managed to get so close.

Less than five meters from her, Rhydian watched her, looking intrigued, and Hermione looked over at Charlie, wondering what she was meant to do if the dragon planned on eating her.

Snaking his head closer before taking a large step in her direction, Rhydian blew a puff of smoke in her face, dousing her with the choking substance. Hermione coughed a little.

"Good to see you too, Rhydian," Hermione said, laughing and reaching a hesitant hand out toward the dragon.

He eyed the appendage for a moment before sniffing it and Hermione really hoped he wasn't going to try and eat her.

"He can smell the decoction I put on you this morning," Charlie told her. "A lot of the ingredients come from dragon… er… parts… and he's trying to figure out why you smell like you do."

"Dragon parts?" she asked, slanting a look toward the Dragon Tamer and raising one eyebrow even as Rhydian bumped her hand with his nose, apparently inviting her to scratch and stroke him if she wished.

The raw feel of dragon magic coursing through the beast was irresistible and without really thinking too much of it, she traced her hands over his snout, smoothing her fingers over his fangs, and stroking the length of his large head to rub the spot between his eyes. He flopped down on his belly under the attention, another puff of smoke emitting from his nostrils as he closed his eyes and allowed her to stroke him.

"Yeah," Charlie said. "You… uh… might not talk to me again if I tell you what's in it."

"I might not talk to you again if you don't," she replied, walking closer to Rhydian and trailing her hands over him, going so far as to climb him just behind his ear and walking along the length of his neck, smoothing her hands over his scales as she inspected them for signs of rot. If the dragon minded, he didn't let on.

"Right… well, it's uh… one of the key ingredients is some of the remaining yolk and fluid in a dragon egg after it hatches," Charlie said. "That and… um… a little dragon blood, and little purified dragon dung… a few herbs and magical plants that mix well with those things…. And… uh..."

Hermione frowned at him.

"And what?"

"The… um… bloody hell, it's got dragon spunk in it," Charlie admitted. "That's what causes the lustfulness when it's applied to the skin."

"Do I even want to know how that's harvested?" Hermione asked.

"Probably not," Charlie admitted. "Nothing outrageous, mind. But sometimes when they mate some of the females… uh… leak."

Hermione wrinkled her nose. "The same way human women do after sex if they don't clean up?""

"Yeah," Charlie nodded. "Anyway, it's right dangerous trying to get close enough to that end of a horny female after she'd been drilled by her balaur, but sometimes we manage it. Depending on the breed of dragon, the colour changes. That stuff I used this morning was purple because we harvest it from the Swedish Shortsnouts. The lads weren't kidding when they said Delilah was my best breeder. She'd fond of me, too, so she doesn't mind me cleaning her up every time she's mated by one of the balaurs."

"So, you're saying that this morning you covered me in amniotic fluid, blood, dung, herbs, and dragon ejaculate?" Hermione confirmed, raising her eyebrows at him.

Charlie actually blushed, his cheeks and his ears turning red at the accusation.

"I… well, it's mixed with other stuff, which turns it into a healing decoction. But yeah, basically," he admitted.

"And you proceeded to dry hump me on the bed, after that," Hermione went on. "Should I be worried about you with your obsession with these dragons, Charlie Weasley?"

Charlie's mouth dropped open at her accusation and Hermione giggled, smoothing her hands over Rhydian's scales some more and finding a few scales that looked like they might need some attention. They weren't yet beginning to rot, but they looked like they could turn sour if she didn't apply some antiseptic fluid to them soon.

"You… I… Blimey, Hermione!" Charlie exclaimed before he began to laugh. "Here I am, thinking you're going to tell me off for covering you with gross fluids and instead you accuse me of fancying my lizards? Bloody hell, witch."

Hermione laughed, grinning at him, pleased that some of the earlier tension between the two of them dissipated.

"Throw me that bottle of antiseptic wash, would you?" she said, still smiling. "He's got a few scales here that are starting to look a bit sour."

"You need the brush, too?" Charlie asked, grinning in return as he threw the bottle up to her.

"Not yet. Not for these ones, anyway. Do we need to change his tracker while we're here?" Hermione asked.

"Nah," Charlie shook his head. "We won't change them in dragons with scale-rot until we get them better. As long as they've got the scale rot they'll be confined here, anyway, and it's too dangerous to risk opening their healthy flesh when parts of them aren't so healthy. Don't want to spread the infection to the dermal layers or into the tissue, you know? That's how you lose a dragon. And believe me, if you think that scale rot smells and looks putrid, that's nothing compared to one who's muscles begin rotting off. That kind of death is worse even than the Pox in the lizards because the rot is such a slow-moving disease, and they're still so magically powerful that they literally just sit and rot to death because eventually their flesh and even their bones rot right under them, but we can't kill them because they're magic repels most of ours. I hope you never have to witness the horror of a rotting dragon, Hermione."

Charlie looked grim, frowning sadly and Hermione felt her heart constrict.

"There's no way to put them out of their misery in those cases? You said that when the Razorscales try to leave Russia, excepting a mass migration like today's, they're shot down?"

"Doesn't kill them," Charlie shook his head. "It's no easy thing to kill a dragon, love. No easy thing at all. The only real way to kill one is old age, disease, or death in the jaws and flames of another dragon. Isn't that right, big guy?"

Hermione watched Charlie smooth his hands over Rhydian's belly, leaning against the large beast while Hermione poured antiseptic wash over his suspicious scales. Rhydian hummed, making Hermione's whole body vibrate thanks to the power of the sound. Charlie grinned, looking up at Hermione.

"When they're shot down trying to leave Russia, they're usually badly injured – shot through the wing with weapons or spells. They break wings and legs, sometimes even tails and neck when they fall from the sky. They're often netted, if they lads see them coming with enough time to stop them. Then they're hauled off to a Sanctum like this one to heal up until their urge to leave Russia passes."

"That's awful," Hermione said. "Why aren't they allowed to leave? I know they're more vicious that some of the other dragon breeds, but surely letting a few out every now and then would be good for the population. I'm sure that cross-breeding plays a significant role in the continuation of the species."

Charlie smiled at her.

"Never known a Razorscale to crossbreed, love," he told her. "They're too big. The females would have to be desperate to accept a puny male – which most other species of dragon are considered when compared to the size of the Razors. Rhydian here would be considered an annoying runt by some of those females."

Rhydian opened his eyes and snaked his head around to glare at Charlie, not appreciating being called a runt, and Hermione laughed when the dragon headbutted the Tamer, knocking him on his arse in the dust. Charlie laughed, not bothering to try and fight the dragon off when Rhydian proceeded to drop his big heavy head into Charlie's lap, pinning him to the ground.

"And the males… they're just too big. Any female of another species would be crushed by his bulk when he tried to rut her. And if, by some miracle, they managed it, I reckon the female wouldn't be big enough to sit all the eggs and keep them warm. They all run at different temperatures, see, and the Razorscales originate from Russia. They're big and it's bloody cold up there, so they run a pretty low body temperature as a result. They spend a good portion of each year hibernating, in fact. Say a Razor mated a Fireball…. The Fireball would run way too hot and the eggs would cook, rather than Hatching. By the same token, if a Razor rutted an Ironbelly, she'd be big enough to sit them, but she'd run too cold to hatch the eggs properly. Dragon breeding is an art, Hermione. There's a lot more to it than just having two horny dragons shag. She's got to be in season, and his magic's got to be strong enough to overcome hers, and he's got to be big enough and strong enough and the temperature for those eggs has got to be just right. It's why we move the nesting females into the sanctum when we've got the room. We can help control the temperature to be perfect for that species of dragon, which means more of the eggs gestate and hatch properly, as well as keeping the female and the nest safe. Out there in the wild most batches of eggs are lucky to have half hatch. The others are squashed, stolen, or go rotten."

Hermione nodded her head slowly, having learned through her studies before coming to the Sanctuary that different temperatures and just the right circumstances were needed to ensure as many eggs as possible would hatch.

"So then, why bother keeping the Razors in Russia?" Hermione asked. "If it's not the urge to mate that has them trying to leave, what are they after?"

Charlie's mouth twisted.

"The Russians followed one, once, curious about that very question," he told her quietly as he scratched at the base of Rhydian's horns, causing the dragon to rumble happily under Hermione, once more.

"And?" Hermione asked.

"The first one they followed was hungry," Charlie told her grimly. "Hungry for the new hatchlings of Chinese Fireballs. That one bastard decimated almost an entire generation of Fireballs in a single bloody outing before the Russians got him under control. It was a political nightmare. Pangfua still hasn't forgiven Grigori for letting the Razorscale cross the border and this was almost five years ago, now."

"And they only let one cross and followed him?" Hermione confirmed.

"Another one they let through went after a Ukranian village and burned it to the ground before landing in the ashes and feasting on the human corpses," Charlie admitted in a low voice. "That was a dark day in Dragon history."

Hermione paled at the very idea.

"So… the lot of them coming here?" Hermione asked.

"Yeah, it's going to be bad. I'm surprised we haven't already had calls coming in. I can only think that the reason for it is that they're getting settled up in the mountains and fighting for space, nesting sites, and soon, they'll fight for mates."

"Will they be a danger to everything around them?" Hermione wanted to know, looking at him seriously as she slid down from Rhydian's back and walked the short distance to where Charlie was pinned under Rhydian's enormous head.

"Yes," Charlie nodded. "You've got to remember, Hermione, they aren't just overgrown lizards. They're not pets. They're certainly nothing like migratory birds or any other species in the wizarding or the muggle world. They're extremely powerful, glorious, dangerous creatures. We might hang about here climbing all over the likes of Rhydian because he was hatched in the Sanctuary and he's been raised all his life surrounded by witches and wizards. He's used to us and while he might still take offence when certain idiots insult him, he's not representative of the truly wild dragons populating the world. Some of these dragons from Russia have never seen a human before. Their colonies are high up in the mountains where it's much too cold and too dangerous for wizards to venture, most of the time. While they're here I expect everyone will be scrambling to get an estimate on their true numbers, because no one has ever seen this many all in one place."

"Will we go up there?" Hermione wanted to know, taking hold of one of Rhydian's horns and beginning to pull the dragon's head to the side, trying to free Charlie who'd begun to look uncomfortable thanks to Rhydian having dozed off whilst still pinning him.

Charlie gave her a relieved grin when she managed to move Rhydian off him before she offered him her hand, helping him to his feet.

"I don't think so, Hermione," Charlie said seriously, peering down at her. "You're still new to being around the dragons. It's only your second day on the Sanctuary, love. I'd love to take you up there and show you them. There's nothing like the first time you see your first Razor up close in the wild, but this disaster going on here isn't going to leave me a whole lot of time for showing your around, love. Hell, I'm itching to go up there right now to see the whole lot of them as they keep flooding in, but I'm also conscious of the fact that after me, the next one in charge is Jace and he's not ready for something of this magnitude."

He offered her a sad smile.

"Maybe, if things cool down a bit when we've got more manpower, we'll get up there, but until then we're needed here to keep these dragons healthy. The construction is already underway to expand this old stronghold, and you better believe that we'll be filling these empty enclosures as fast as those boys can build them," Charlie shrugged his shoulders. "Come on. Let's get on with our chores and get these guys in the Sanctum handled. We still need to get out into the field this afternoon to check on my Shortsnouts and I expect we'll have call outs from the team soon. I need to oversee everyone's induction here, too, and we've got to get everyone moving in with each other so there's more room for the builders and the other Tamers that are beginning to flood in."

"Do you need me to keep going with the Sanctum this morning while you see to some of the other stuff?" she offered, frowning at him. "Or maybe to do admin-type stuff to get everyone settled in?"

"When you were just caught napping?" Charlie scoffed. "Were he any other dragon, Rhydian would've gobbled your right up while you were distracted there before. Where's your head, Hermione?"

Hermione's cheeks turned pink.

"Pondering your offer that I move in," she admitted, sighing a little when she saw his curious expression.

Charlie raised his eyebrows at her

"What's to ponder?" he wanted to know. "You've spent both nights since you got here in my bed, and the offer's only for the spare room."

Hermione hid her wince, wondering if that meant he didn't want her crawling into bed alongside him another night, or if he was trying to ease her concerns.

"You and I haven't lived in the same house in a long time, Charlie," she pointed out seriously as they finished tidying Rhydian's cage. "And when we were living together at the Burrow, there were several other people living with us. If we're working together all day long, and then having to go home and live together in the evenings, I'm concerned you'll grow tired of me very quickly. I'm hardly the easiest person to live with, and I'm sure you have your ticks, too. With the Sanctuary overrun and tensions running high, it might not be the wisest decision to be in each other's pockets every minute of every day, you know?"

"You think we'll kill each other," he surmised.

Hermione nodded.

"And I don't particularly want to destroy my friendship with you as a result," she said, trying to delicately infer that she didn't want to risk trying things with him romantically if they were going to explode by living together, either. Oh, she wanted to jump him. The man had no right to stand there looking so utterly fuckable, but she didn't want to make working with him for the coming year of her life completely awkward and frustrating by doing so if things were just going to go to shit. She hadn't spent so long planning and plotting to get herself to Dragsonmeade and into Charlie's neck of the woods just to fuck it up by shagging him a few times in the heat of the moment before letting their tempers and the stress of the job rip them apart. When she had him, she intended to make him her wizard until she was old and frail and couldn't even count all those freckles and tattoos littering his body anymore. She wanted him forever and she wouldn't risk that by coming on too strong, too soon, or by moving in with him and having things fizzle and flicker out because the stress of their work, at present, was going to drive them both spare.

Charlie traced his wild eyes over her and Hermione felt the familiar heat suffuse her slim frame, centring in her knickers and everything she'd just said seemed like a waste of oxygen. Who was she kidding? She wanted him like she'd never wanted anyone else. She'd been wanting him for years. She doubted there was much he could do that would make her stop wanting him, and moving in with him would likely be the best way to secure some kind of future between the two of them.

So why was she hesitating?

"You think a few bad moods and a few fights might makes things uncomfortable between the two of us?" he confirmed.

"I think you've got a temper I'm likely to get incredibly acquainted with in the comings months while everything here is so crazy, and that there might be times when I want to tell you to go boil your head in a cauldron. That will be awkward, given that you're currently my boss. It'll be even more awkward if you're also my housemate."

"It's true that I've got a temper," Charlie nodded his head as they exited Rhydian's enclosure, levitating the sealed barrel of dung out of the cage and leaving it outside the door where it was almost immediately collected by one of the Dung Beetle Group guys.

"Yes, well, so do I," Hermione confessed, sighing as they checked the cage of Cinderella – one of yesterday's injured females - to find her sleeping heavily inside her cage.

"This hesitation got anything to do with what happened this morning?" Charlie wanted to know as they entered the paddock. "And with what would've happened two nights ago if I hadn't been called away to deal with Herc."

Hermione almost stumbled at his address of the fact that she'd intended to seduce him that first night when her hormones had been rushing wildly at seeing him again, and that this morning they'd frotted to completion thanks to the ever-thickening sexual tension between them and the healing concoction he'd used on their wounds. Bravely seizing hold of her confidence and her courage, Hermione blurted out exactly what she was thinking.

"It'll certainly be awkward living with you if we hook up and it's rubbish," she said, shrugging her shoulders as she approached Cinderella to begin checking on her wounds.

She was so preoccupied with the dragon when she saw that Cinderella had obviously been scratching and biting at her wounds, that she didn't see the way Charlie stopped dead, his back going ramrod stiff. She also didn't see the wicked look that passed over his face as he traced his eyes over her bum when she bent over to retrieve some healing salve from her bucket, or the heated determination that filled his wild-eyed gaze as though she'd just laid down a challenge he couldn't resist.