Word count: 5075
Castle On The Hill
There's another knight standing at the bottom of the tower, his armor clanking as he yells for the dragon to 'let go of the fair and kind princess, or be ready to taste my wrath'.
It's the third one this week and Charlie has honestly had to stop counting how many came over the past year. It really is ridiculous, and he can't believe people are still going on quests to bring him back when no one ever succeeds.
"Do they even know you're not actually a princess?"
Charlie scowls. Backing away from the window, he sits on the garnet red sofa Draco is already half-sprawled onto.
"Don't remind me. I can't believe they're still going on with that, and I have no idea how they keep finding us!"
"Well, dragons do usually go after princesses," Draco points out, his silvery eyes laughing. "And you did manage to find me – I can imagine your knights might do the same," he adds with a shrug.
"They're not my knights."
"Sorry, Charlie, but they kind of are. They were sent to bring you back home, weren't they?"
They've had that argument too many times for Charlie to dignify that with an answer.
"What's with the princess thing anyway?" He asks instead, changing the subject. "I can't imagine anything would be worth being stalked by those knights."
Draco laughs, a low rumbling sound that echoes off the walls and makes the room seem bigger. Almost despite himself, Charlie feels a smile tug at the corner of his lips. "They can be entertaining," Draco finally shrugs.
"You mean you like to see them run off in fear," Charlie replies dryly.
"You do too."
"Well, some of them can be pretty stupid," Charlie admits.
Outside, the knight seems to have abandoned his shouting in favor of trying to climb the tower. Charlie is almost impressed – it usually takes them longer to get that idea. He is less impressed by the fact that the man didn't even think to take off his heavy armor before. It wouldn't help him reach the top – that was impossible to anyone they didn't allow up – but it was still common sense.
He and Draco share an exasperated look, and Draco starts a countdown from twenty. He's reached five when the sounds of 'don't worry princess, I'm coming' are replaced by cursing as the man falls.
Listening to the man try again and again grows boring rather quickly. Were it an option, he and Draco would leave and come back later – unfortunately, the last time they tried that, they came back to find that the knight of the day had nearly started a forest fire.
"Want me to take care of it?" Draco asks, smoke already curling around his face.
For a moment, Charlie considers it, before shaking his head. "No, it's fine. And it's my turn anyway."
"That is true," Draco acknowledges, and settles back into the sofa.
Sighing, Charlie moves to grab his staff. Honestly, were he to tell anyone of how lazy dragons actually are, no one would believe him.
With his staff in hand, it is the work of an instant to teleport outside, right in front of his would be rescuer.
"And now the evil beast sends his dark wizard!" The knight starts to rant, pointing his finger accusingly at Charlie. "This must mean I am getting closer," he crows victoriously. "Fear not, fair princess," he yells toward the tower, "I will defeat him and rescue you!"
Rolling his eyes, and in no mood to keep listening to the man's ranting – honestly, who is he saying all this for? It's not like there's anyone interested in hearing it after all – Charlie waves his staff.
It is a thing of beauty – he took the wood with him from the palace when he ran, but the core comes from Draco. It's the scale he lost the last time a hunter got too close, grounded up in a thin powder that Charlie mixed with his blood, and it channels his magic like nothing else.
It takes him no words at all to freeze the man in place and silence him, but erasing his memories of this place and ensuring he can't find it again is harder work, and requires the long Latin incantations he's always hated having to learn.
Once the knight is on his way, Charlie teleports back inside the tower.
"You were faster this time," Draco remarks.
"Well, I am getting a lot of practice these days," Charlie points out with a smile. "But now that this is dealt with, what do you say about going outside for a while?"
"You want to go see the nests again, don't you?" Draco replies, throwing him an unimpressed look.
Charlie simply shrugs, unashamed. "Of course I do. They are amazing, after all."
It seems to be the right word, because Draco gets up and leads them outside.
Despite having seen it a hundred times, it always amazes him to witness the way Draco just seems to shimmy off his human body to reveal the dragon underneath.
Draco is a beautiful human, there is no doubt about it (even if it is the kind of unnatural beauty that people can't help but notice, and thus make him unable to truly pass off as one of them), but he is a magnificent dragon.
He can't talk in this form, or at least not in the way humans mean talking, but he doesn't need to.
The way he lowers his head to Charlie's level and huffs in his face – he knows that Charlie hates the smell of sulfur that comes with it but loves the faces Charlie makes – as well as pushes him closer with his wings is always more than enough to get that Draco wants him to hurry and climb on his back.
Flying on a dragon's back is just another thing Charlie never thought he'd be able to do – sure, he had dreamed about it as a kid after long days of reading dusty grimoires on magical creatures or playing games with his siblings, but those had been just that: dreams.
The real thing is better than anything he ever dreamed up, though. Draco is impossibly strong in this form, and Charlie can feel it in every beat of his wings, in the way the serpentine body shifts between his legs in an oddly comforting rhythm.
The flight isn't very long – the mountains are two days away by foot but Draco is much faster – and passes by quickly. The wind whips at his hair and the sun makes Draco's scales glow like molten metal, and whenever Charlie closes his eyes he wants this moment to last forever.
It doesn't though, and soon enough they reach the nests.
They're hidden high up in the mountains, in places unreachable by any other mean than flight. It is a safety measure Charlie wishes with all his heart wasn't needed, but dragon eggs are very valued in certain unsavory circles, and that measure is effective.
It is only because Draco vouches for him that Charlie is allowed up there. Not even in his wildest dreams had Charlie ever thought he would be allowed there, in the closest thing dragons had to holy ground.
Draco had explained once, soon after they had first met, that dragons stayed in the nests until they could fly on their own, something that took longer than Charlie had thought. It made sense though, when one considered that, not unlike humans, dragons only stopped growing once they reached the equivalent of adolescence.
They could fly well before that of course, but it was frowned upon to leave before that, as flying required a delicate balance.
Draco hadn't been on his own for long when Charlie had found him, which he insisted was the only reason why hunters had managed to get ahold of him.
Said hunters had never seen Charlie coming, who had knocked them out with the wood he had been gathering and the heavy cauldron they had been using to prepare their food, before freeing Draco. Draco, who had taken one long look at him and grabbed him with his teeth, before dropping him on his back and flying away.
Somehow the news of that event had spread, and mixed with the fact that the King's second son was missing, had lead people from all over the country to believe that a princess needed rescuing.
Because, as Draco had once laughingly told him, 'everyone knows dragons only take princesses.'
Still, Charlie had left the palace to study dragons (and escape a marriage his mother insisted on), and so he had stayed.
It's a decision he doesn't think he will ever regret, especially as a dozen of baby dragons, already tall enough to reach his knees, poke their heads out of the nearby caves and shuffle closer to him.
Behind him, he hears the rustling sound that signals Draco shifted into a human body again. He is warm next to Charlie's body, and Charlie is thankful for the heat as the mountaintops can get quite chilly.
They stay there until the sun disappears, the young dragons following them closely, their parents' eyes on them less obvious but no less present.
They fly back under the stars, and that too, is something Charlie would never give up.
Charlie has been the one to find their tower, though it had been abandoned then. It had been nothing some magic could fix though, since however comfortable Draco's cave had been, it had still be a cave and, well, Charlie had grown up in a castle as a prince, and as such was used to a little more luxury.
Draco had been the one to decorate it though, claiming that Charlie's taste was sorely lacking. The only thing Draco had allowed him to keep was the sinfully comfortable sofa he had made, and even then Charlie had had to fight to keep to the original color.
Draco, with his silvery scales in his natural form, preferred more natural tones, and colors that reminded him of himself. All the jewels the dragon had acquired over the years – Charlie wasn't sure he really wanted to know how – actually gave the rooms an oddly tasteful look that Charlie had been surprised to grow fond of.
And that had been at the beginning, before they had actually started living there.
Now some parts of the floors are littered with clothes and the walls are singed with some of Charlie's experiments with dragon's fire – experiments Draco only half-heartedly participated in. They have a library too, though most of the books tend to pile up anywhere but on the rows supposed to hold them, and a couple of free rooms they had to add once Charlie's siblings started showing up.
The point is that the tower looks lived in and it is home just as much as the castle used to be when Charlie still lived there. It makes sense his siblings would want to come when they can – and when you can teleport, no distance is too much to drop by for a visit.
Ginny is the one who drops by the most often. Even though she is the only princess their realm has, she is also the youngest child, and as such has more freedom to do what she actually wants. She's also the only knight they ever allow up the tower – no doubt his sister would find a way to bring it down if they didn't.
Most of the time she comes with Ron, but these days his youngest brother has his own adventures to fill his days, finally fulfilling the dreams of glory his brother's always had.
The twins drop by always when they're the least expected, trailing chaos behind them as they usually do, and Percy delivers what he deems 'essential reading' every month or so, less his brother 'loses his touch with civilization'.
All in all, it's Bill he sees the least of. It's not surprising, as he is the crown prince and can hardly get away as easily as the rest of their siblings, least of all for as long as they do, but it is still somewhat disappointing.
Which is why, when Ginny drops in through the window after scaling the tower's outer wall (something that always drive Charlie crazy, because what if she fell?) with news that Bill is getting married, Charlie's first reaction is to ask how he wasn't aware of this before.
"What do you mean, you didn't know? Bill's been dating her for like a year!" Ginny protests.
"Maybe it escaped your notice, little sister, but I kind of don't live with you anymore."
"But I told you about her," she frowns. "Fleur, remember?"
Charlie blinks, taken aback. The name does sound oddly familiar, though he's sure he would have remembered hearing about his brother finally finding someone. Behind him, Draco chuckles unhelpfully.
As far as he can remember, Bill had dating several women over the last year – none of which good enough for Ginny apparently, or for their mother, from what Ginny told him. It's only when he realizes that Ginny only used weird nonsensical names for all of them that Charlie realizes what happened.
"You mean the girl you kept calling names?" Charlie replies, arching an eyebrow. "The one you didn't like?"
"I still don't like her," Ginny pouts, perching herself on the windowsill, one leg on each side of it. "But," she relents after a few seconds of silence, looking for all the world as if the words are hurting her, "Bill does, and she seems to truly like him too."
"You didn't like Draco at first either," he reminds her, a smile teasing at his lips.
Ginny scowls. "Well, that's not the same. Your boyfriend's an actual dragon, and people said he had kidnapped you. Besides, you're not marrying him. Wait, are you?"
Behind them, Draco falls off the sofa with a dull 'thud'. Charlie laughs. "No, I'm not marrying Draco," he confirms, trying to ignore the relieved sigh that comes from said dragon.
"Good," Ginny nods. "Mum's already gone crazy with one wedding, I don't want to see what she'd do with two."
Just the thought is enough to make them both shiver.
"You know, the more I hear about this woman, the more I think I'd like to meet her," Draco says, back on the sofa.
"Well," Ginny replies with a mirthful smirk on her face that Charlie recognizes too late as her 'this is going to be so much fun (for me)' smirk, "you're in luck – you're going to get the chance, seeing as you're both invited to the wedding."
"Both?" Charlie chokes, vaguely aware of Draco doing the same behind him.
"Both," Ginny replies, a white envelope suddenly in her hands. "Well, technically only Charlie's invited," she corrects, "but he gets a plus one."
As a prince, he probably could invite however many people he wants, but if the invitation says only 'plus one', it means that it's a decision their mother made, and no one wants to go against that. No one.
"You do know that most of the people who will be there are the knights that were sent after us, don't you?" He feels obligated to point out.
"Knights who conveniently returned with no memories of ever leaving the city," Ginny retorts. "Yes, I'm sure they'll be a great threat to you, brother," she continues dryly. "Besides, making a public apparition after so long away might put a stop to these, err… nasty rumors of a princess being hidden away in a tower."
Charlie can feel his eyes narrow. "You know something," he accuses her.
"Me? I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," she replies with an innocent look that hasn't fooled him since she was five and had tried to get him to take the fall for the prank she had pulled on their gardeners.
"Right," Charlie drawls, keenly aware that Draco is still laughing behind him. Still, the perspective of putting a stop to those rumors, even a temporary one, and regaining a calmer life, is enough to make him take the envelope and consider going.
Apparently, it's also enough for Ginny, because she blows them a kiss and swings herself out of the window, catching herself on a nearby vine. "See you there then!" She yells on her way down.
"She does know she could just appear inside, doesn't she?" Draco points out after a while.
"I think she likes the challenge," Charlie replies, his eyes tracking his sister's progress down the tower.
Draco hums back. "So we're going to your brother's wedding then?"
He doesn't sound anything but amused by the idea, and so Charlie nods. "I guess we are."
"Great. Great… Just… What do humans wear at weddings?"
Almost despite himself, Charlie laughs. "I'm sure we can find something appropriate," Charlie waves it off, biting his lips at the dubious look Draco sends him back, no doubt thinking about how terrible Charlie's dress sense is.
"As long as I don't look ridiculous," Draco finally relents.
"You won't," Charlie promises.
"I'd better not."
From what he's seen and heard of Charlie's family so far, Draco doesn't think anyone could reproach him for thinking his parents had to be as crazy as the rest of them, Charlie included. After all, no matter how grateful Draco was for the human's company and help, fact remained that the human had taken on a group of hunters on his own, all to free a dragon, who, for all that he knew, would rather eat him than thank him.
(Draco had considered it for a while – the human's shade of hair was an extremely unappealing shade of red – but the human had helped him, and his parents had raised him better. Or well, his mother had anyway)
They are oddly normal though. There is barely a sign of their children's mischief and rebelliousness, though the fact that the King apparently has his own laboratory isn't exactly reassuring considering what happened last time Draco set foot in Charlie's.
Instead, the Queen tackles them with a hug that is so sudden Draco nearly turns back in a dragon and starts spitting fire – something that Charlie doesn't miss and elbows him for – while the King welcomes them both, Charlie as if he had never left and Draco as though he had always been there. They are even shown to a single room, which shows that someone has at least warned them of the situation.
Probably the twins, considering what they find in the bedside tables – some of it make Charlie blush as red as his hair even as he curses his siblings, but Draco finds the lot of it truly interesting.
That evening the entire royal family – plus Draco and the future princess, Fleur – eat together. It's the first time since he's left his nest (and even then there had rarely been as many souls present) that he's eating with such a big company, and he kind of likes it.
Fleur isn't human either – it's obvious to his eyes from the way her skin glows faintly, but he's probably the only one to see it. Draco thinks Bill knows, or at least he hopes so. He can't imagine building a relationship with someone and having to hide his true nature the entire time.
"So, Draco," Fleur starts over a truly delicious pasta dish, "what can you tell us about yourself?"
It's clear she's fishing for information, no doubt seeing that he isn't human either.
Before Draco has had the time to find an appropriate answer, Ginny has one for him. "He's Charlie's dragon boyfriend," she states with a smirk, causing the entire table to choke on whatever they were swallowing.
"That's very nice, dear," the Queen – or Molly, as she already implied she wants to be called – replies faintly as she thumps on her husband's back, sending him an approving smile. "Our Charlie always did get into more trouble than he could handle, it's nice to know you'll be able to keep up with him."
Beside her, her husband nods, and that is that.
"Draco loves decorating," Charlie prompts beside him as the silence turns expectant.
"I don't love it," Draco corrects, because who knows the kind of lies Charlie will spread if Draco doesn't, "I just realized that it was better not to let Charlie have anything to do with it after he tried to paint the ceiling red."
It's a familiar argument – one they have whenever one of them grows bored of something inside their home and needs change, or whenever they just have to add another room – and soon enough everyone joins in, most of them confirming that Charlie always was like that, and that most of his siblings aren't any better.
It is surprisingly easy to get on with Charlie's family. Of course, it shouldn't actually surprise him – his siblings have been dropping by for quite a while now, after all. Still, somehow Draco realizes that he hadn't expected the same easy not quite friendship to apply in their own home.
He's glad it does though.
By the time dinner comes to an end, Draco has, to Charlie's unending protests, gathered more than enough blackmail to last him months. He's also learned that Fleur isn't entirely human, but far closer than Draco himself could ever be, no matter the disguise he wears now.
He even almost mourns the fact that this is the only dinner of its kind he'll get to enjoy during this sojourn – the wedding is in a mere couple of days, and everyone's schedule is so busy that even putting this small dinner for them had been a carefully considered choice.
He and Charlie spent what time they have free between the repetitions wandering around the castle and the city. Draco has naturally never been in such a heavily populated place, and there is something oddly fascinating about the way humans behave in such a joyous time, something that Draco hasn't had the chance to study before.
Charlie's father, the King – "call me Arthur" – still manages to find some time to corner him in one of the rare moments Charlie's not around.
"Could you please get my son to stop sending back my knights with no memories?" Arthur asks after they exchange pleasantries. "It is growing tedious."
Draco smirks, wondering how far he can push this. "Well, I could always eat them, you know."
Arthur winces. "I'd rather get them back in one piece, if you please."
"Maybe if you stopped sending them after a 'kidnapped princess' then," Draco replies, shrugging his shoulders. As he told Charlie, the knights can be entertaining, but they're also terribly annoying. Being rid of them wouldn't be such a bad thing.
"Only if you promise to make him come visit," the King retorts with a mischievous glint in his eyes Draco recognizes from having seen it too often in his daughter's.
It makes Draco laughs, smoke curling in the back of his throat. "Sure, why not?"
Well, at least now he knows where the man's children got it from, Draco thinks as he watches the man hurry away after a quick thankful nod.
Later, when Draco relates this to Charlie, the man only chuckles. "I should have guessed," he says, rolling his eyes fondly. "Mum probably put him up to it."
"Your family is crazy," Draco replies, lying down next to him. He's exhausted – the wedding is tomorrow, and for some reason he had to spend almost the entire day standing and being prodded at by an angry-looking seamstress who kept making changes to his clothes.
"Aw, you love us," Charlie jests, shuffling closer until their bodies line up against each other. The human is cool against his borrowed skin, but it is not an unpleasant feeling. Even if it were though, Draco thinks he would bear it if it meant they could be closer still.
"I love you," Draco corrects, and Charlie whispers it back against his skin, before falling asleep.
With a fond sigh, Draco reaches over and snuffs out the light. Sleep finds him easily, and he's jarred from it far too soon by the voices of the maids that came to wake them, insisting they need to start getting ready.
He's lucky they don't notice the smoke coming from his nostrils, and it's only Charlie's hand on his arm as well as his amused headshake that stops him from roasting them alive for daring to wake him up.
"Sorry," Charlie apologizes for him with a slight smile, "he's grumpy in the mornings."
The maids curtsy and leave after that, only bothering to open the curtains to let in the blinding sunlight. It does wake them up though, and Draco stumbles after Charlie to the kitchens to grab something to eat.
What little time there is left before the wedding flies by after that, and before he knows it, Draco finds himself standing in his first church, witnessing his first wedding. It's beautiful, both the place and the ceremony, but it is also dreadfully long.
He and Charlie pass the time by trying to find all the knights they've met before – there is a surprising amount of them, and Draco thinks that if he were with any other family he'd be at least a little worried. Molly and Percy, her third eldest son, send them disapproving looks every so often, but Draco has caught more than once thumbs-up from Arthur before the man turns his eyes back to his son, and the twins have been pointing out some of the knights that Draco thinks he might have missed otherwise.
They seem to have some sort of bet going on over how many of them he and Charlie remember – almost none of the names, to be honest, and some of the faces they only vaguely acknowledged before sending them away so they don't remember those either, but by the time the church starts to empty Draco is confident they've actually encountered at least half the knights who were there. It does explain why Arthur was so adamant on Charlie stopping his mind-tricks.
The celebrations outside are more to his tastes. The food is delicious, a true treat, and the dancing is more fun than he thought it'd be. It reminds him a little of flying, how precise and graceful the movements have to be, and he doesn't think Charlie is very surprised to find him a natural at it.
"I'm terribly jealous," Charlie notes as they twirl around. "You have no idea how much work it was to get me to learn even the simplest steps."
Draco smirks, and dips Charlie low. "What can I say?" He purrs into the man's ear once he's standing again, "I guess I'm just better than you."
Charlie laughs, his eyes twinkling merrily. He is happy here, and seeing it, Draco honestly can't believe Charlie refused to go back for so long.
Charlie belongs there, with these humans. Maybe, if Draco were human too – or more human, a better person – he would insist he stayed. But Draco is a dragon, and he is greedy – he claimed Charlie as his treasure the moment he carried off the strange human who had freed him and been scolded for it by said human, and no dragon ever parts with their treasure easily.
"Long trip ahead of us tomorrow, huh?" He asks, trying to mask the uneasiness in his voice. He would never let Charlie go, but if Charlie wanted to leave… That would be harder to stand.
Of course, he needn't have worried. "Don't remind me," Charlie moans loudly. "I can't wait for this to be over."
Draco smirks, showing a hint of teeth too sharp to be human. "You know, technically we've said goodbye to your family already…"
Charlie perks up. "We did," he breathes out, his eyes alight. "Think they'll notice if we slip away?"
"When most are doing the same themselves?" Draco scoffs. "I don't think so."
Charlie hums softly, casting quick glances around them. The only ones of his siblings to still be there are Ginny, who, if the way she looks at that black-haired man, isn't going to be here for much longer, and the twins, who are busy doing something to the drinks everyone is pretending not to notice.
"Let's go then," Charlie says, taking the lead for a moment so as to get them off the dancefloor. "I know just the place."
The place turns out to be just beside the outer wall. It is out of the way, a small alcove hidden behind a wall of thriving flowers that part like the sea before them.
"I used to come here when I wanted to get away," Charlie confesses, his eyes wistful as he trails his hand against the wall. There are small cravings there, too low and rudimentary to have been made by an adult hand.
"I can see why," Draco simply replies, delighting in the quirk of Charlie's lips his words provoke.
"It's how I left the first time too, you know," he explains. "I just came here with what I thought I needed, and I teleported."
"Is that what we're going to do then?"
Draco hates teleporting – the further they go, the worse the feeling gets – and it must show on his face because Charlie chuckles.
"Don't worry, we're not going far."
"Well, I thought you might want to stretch your wings," he winks.
Draco smiles, heart overcome by a wave of love for this human who somehow keeps surprising him, and a heartbeat later Charlie steps in close and, grabbing ahold of him, teleports them away.
"Don't you think your people will be worried if they see a dragon so close to the city?" Draco asks once they find a clearing large enough for him to shed his human skin.
Charlie simply sighs, resigned. "I'm sure they'll just assume that you came back for your princess."
"Are you asking to be kidnapped?" Draco asks, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
Charlie laughs. "Sure, why not. Take me away, dragon."
"As you wish, princess," he taunts back, ignoring Charlie's shouted hey! of protest as he returns to his true form.
When he takes flight, Charlie on his back, it tastes like freedom.
It tastes like coming home.