Disclaimer:

I own neither Harry Potter nor any other character or creation of J. K. Rowling. Give her credit for the characters. Give me credit for the plot.



Notes:

Hello readers. This is my first attempt at a slash fic, and my second attempt at any kind of fan fiction ever. Constructive criticism is welcomed and flames discouraged. I hope you enjoy the tale.





Chapter 1




The sun was finally setting over the farthest hill as Ron patted the young Romanian Longhorn, urging it to return to its parents. "There, there, chap. Back to your mum." The adult female Longhorn stood and watched as Ron urged the young dragon in her direction. From afar, Charlie Weasley watched, holding his breath and muttering curses at his younger brother's audacity. "Be careful...bloody hell, Ron, that's an ornery adult female Longhorn...she'll take your head off," he said softly through his teeth, tense with worry. He knew Ron's reputation with all dragons, but there was no reason to tempt fate. Young as Ron was, at only the tender age of 25, he was the most talented dragon keeper in wizarding history. Ron's skill with the creatures surpassed many that had come before him, including his elder brother, so all Charlie could do was worry from a far distance that Ron's combination of skill and luck would maintain in this circumstance.

The fledgling Romanian Longhorn had wandered too close to the small wizard village close to the base of Mt. Moldoveanu, which was bad news, should its mother come searching for it. The Weasley brothers were called upon to urge the creature back towards its homeland of the Transylvanian Alps, far from both Muggle and Wizard civilization. In the past, Charlie, in such a case, would usually resort to a stupefy charm to transport the infant dragon. However, Ron needed no such magic. It was amazing to witness how Ron's mere presence begins to tranquilize the most savage of beasts. With the Longhorn, Ron approached slowly and spoke softly, earning the attention of the dragon. The presence of most dragon keepers at such close proximity usually drives dragon behavior to become volatile and unpredictable. Dragons, especially Longhorns, have been known to lash out at keepers without warning or reason. Ron, however, happened to be the exception to the rule--so much that he simply pet the creature and earned its trust. The baby Longhorn then allowed Ron to put a collar on it and lead it to where Charlie stood.

"Look, Charlie, isn't she precious?" Ron said as he led the dragon. Charlie noticed that the closer the Longhorn got to him, the more she bristled. "Sure, she's precious--so long as she's with you. Why don't you make this easy and take care of her? I'll follow at a distance so as not to aggravate her."

Ron smiled and called, "Okay, if that's how you want it. But you really should see her. She's a gorgeous baby.

Charlie retorted loudly, "That gorgeous baby could singe of the lower part of your body!"

Ron stopped and looked at the Longhorn, which stared back at him and mewed affectionately. He grinned and picked up the dragon in his arms, to which she joyously screeched. "Aw, Charlie, she wouldn't hurt a thing!"

Charlie shook his head, remembering the days earlier events. He'd wondered if today would be the day that he'd have to apparate to the Burrow to explain to his mother why her youngest son was burnt to a crisp.

Now, Ron was less then fifteen feet away from the adult Longhorn, baby Longhorn in his grasp. Usually in a such case, a mother Longhorn would violently react any creature in such close proximity to her young. Once again, as with countless times before, Ron bent conventional bestiary rules as he stood next to the mother Longhorn, holding her hatchling above his head. She nuzzled it with her leathery snout. "Amazing," was all Charlie said, shaking his head. Ron left the young dragon at its mother's feet, then ran a hand across the mother's smooth golden horn that shone and glittered in the faint light of the forthcoming dusk. The mother dipped her head and nuzzled her snout into Ron's hand. Ron patted her on the top of her head, bent to pat the baby dragon, and then turned to walk away.

When Ron was at a distance of about thirty feet, Charlie let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. Relief washed over him as Ron approached his position, smiling. "Gods, Ron, I'll never understand it," Charlie said when Ron was able to hear him.

Ron shrugged. "They are beautiful creatures, these specimens especially. You shoulda seen the young one, Charlie. She was no more than a few weeks old and bursting with curiosity. She probably would have been intimidated by you."

Charlie raised an eyebrow. "When in your studies, Ronald Weasley, have you ever read of anyone being able to handle the young of any dragon as eventless and amicably as you?"

Ron looked away.

"She might have been friendly with you...she was just a baby."

"A baby??" Charlie asked. "Look." He pointed to a large, rough scar on his left arm. "That is my proof of a lesson learned--never underestimate the power of a baby dragon. Especially a young Longhorn."

Ron turned his head and rolled his eyes so Charlie couldn't see. Charlie had a scar and a story to prove to Ron why he was gifted among the caretakers of magical beasts. "Don't you see, brother? You're special," Charlie said, punching him in the arm. The corners of Ron's lip curled slightly.

"You just think you're more of a man because you've got scars to prove it."

Charlie laughed. "The best dragon keeper has no scars, mind you. How many scars do you have, then?"

Ron shrugged. He knew he had no scars from mishaps with magical creatures. They never seemed hostile towards him. Bugger if he knew why.

Charlie shook his head, convinced. "There's your proof, then. Just look at your friend, Mr. Potter, for example. How was his luck with an unfriendly dragon, those many years back? It wouldn't hold a candle to the way you handle them now."

At the mention of Harry's name, Ron's mind began to wander. "I've not spoken to Harry in so long, and I've not seen him longer," he thought to himself. The last time Ron had seen Harry was at least four, if not five years ago. Not three years out of Hogwarts and the friends had been split, Harry to fight and eventually win the war against He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and his dark forces, and Ron to keep the dragons. Ron chuckled wryly at the contrast of their lives. Harry had finally defeated the Dark Lord less then two years ago, and Ron--he could befriend dragons. Mind, no one in history has ever had the ability to befriend a dragon as completely as Ron could, but that paled in comparison to defeating the Dark Forces. At least it did in Ron's mind, but that did not change the idea that popped into his head. "It's been way too long since I've seen Harry," he said aloud, more to himself than to Charlie.

Charlie, however, heard. "My, if that isn't the truth. I've not seen the lad myself since the wedding."

Ron chuckled and shook his head, memories of Harry's wedding to his only sister, Ginny, resurfacing. It had been such a joyous time in contrast to the dark that had followed. Harry was 20 and Ginny was 18 and fresh from Hogwarts herself. They had married only months before the Dark War had begun, and that was truly the last time that Ron had seen his friends happy and healthy.

"You miss them, don't you?" Charlie asked, noticing the reminiscent look that changed Ron's visage. Ron didn't answer, and Charlie glanced over. "He looks so old, and yet so young still," Charlie mused. Ron stood a good eight inches taller than Charlie, and his hair was longer, such a deep ruddy tone of red, matching the color of the receding sun on the horizon. Clusters of freckles covered Ron's visage, and his bright blue eyes contrasted sharply to the natural shades of his appearance. His shoulders had broadened considerably due to the amount of labor he had put in with magical creatures. Charlie smiled at where his thoughts were leading him.

"What?" Ron asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking that you may end up looking like Hagrid."

"Looking like Hagrid??" Ron exclaimed. "Are you daft???"

"No, seriously. If you took a foot off of Hagrid, slimmed him down considerably, cut off the majority of his hair,...and dye the remaining minority red--"

"I'd still look nothing like Hagrid!" Ron interrupted. Charlie laughed and conceded, "No, I suppose not. You win."

"Of course I do," Ron said, smiling again. "Now what's my prize?"

"A prize? So that's what you're after, eh? How's this? Two week's vacation."

That surprised Ron. "Two weeks vacation? Just for not looking like Hagrid?"

Charlie laughed. "No, brother. You work yourself ragged, and outside of myself, Pig, and a few village folk, you only talk to dragons. You need some time off, judging from the happy look you get on your face when you think about your friends. You've been isolated since, what, before the Dark War?"

Ron shrugged again. "But you need me, Charlie. What if something like today happens again?"

Charlie crossed his arms. "What are you implying? That I'm no longer a good keeper? I'm not nearly as skilled, but I still wield a reputable stupefy charm. I'm not that old."

"I didn't nearly mean all that! I just mean...," Ron began, and then stuttered.

"You just mean what? You don't know what you mean. You've known nothing but dragons since the start of the Dark War. Even dragon tamers need rest," Charlie finished, jesting.

"Tosh. You can't tame a dragon," Ron said dully. He and Charlie had this argument numerous times in the past, and he loathed to begin another.

"You're right," Charlie said. "I can't tame a dragon. But it seems that you can."

"Tosh," Ron repeated.

"Whatever you say, Ron. I just think that you need some time off," Charlie said, holding his hands up as a sign of surrender.

The thought tickled Ron's fancy immediately. "You know, I think I might. I'll owl Harry today and see if he'll let me stay with--"

"Let you stay??? Come on, Ron, this is Harry and Ginny! Why don't you just pack up and floo over tonight?"

Another pleasing idea. "Okay, I will," Ron said, and smiled.

Charlie returned his smile, then laid a hand on his shoulder. "Go ahead then, pack. Get out of Romania for a while and back to England, where I won't have to worry about you losing a limb."

Ron laughed and began to turn, but doubled back and hugged his brother. "Thanks, Charlie. This means a lot."

Charlie smirked and said, "I know. Now get your arse out of here."

***


Ron had his things packed and ready to go. He had given Pig, now fully grown, handsome, and a beloved companion, a letter to take to Harry's house so he wouldn't have to worry about the bird splicing while he was traveling. He packed his belongings and magically minimized them for travel. He looked at his wand lovingly, for it was practically new. He had bought it especially for himself once he had established himself as a dragon keeper. He had broken two wands in his career at Hogwarts, and although the second was special, his current wand was his favorite. It was from Ollivander's, and he adored it. It was made from oak, 14" long, and contained the heartstring of a Chinese Fireball Dragon. He had never felt so comfortable with a wand before. Placing the wand back under his robes, Ron grabbed a handful of floo powder and stepped into his fireplace. "Potter Loft!" he enunciated clearly, and disappeared from his home in a flash of green flame.

Seconds later, he arrived in the large and lush fireplace of one Harry Potter. Ron stepped out of the fireplace, preparing to yell a greeting to the residents of the loft until action on the couch caught his attention. Ron's eyes widened as he realized what was going on.

"Oy! I stop by for a visit after years, and am greeted by my best friend snogging my damn sister!"

Harry and Ginny jumped apart immediately, and Harry blushed like he'd been caught doing something embarrassing. Both were flustered and confused for a moment, until Ginny jumped off the couch and exclaimed, "Ron! You've finally come to visit!" She threw her arms around her brother.

Harry quickly regained his senses and followed suit, throwing his arms around his best friend. "Bloody hell, Ron! It's been too long!"

Ron laughed and said, "Aye, it has. I'll blame Charlie for not giving me a holiday sooner."

Ginny almost burst. "You blame Charlie??? Its you who's so persistent with those dragons! What did he do? Kick you out?"

Ron laughed again. "No. We just decided that a holiday for me is long over-due. And Transylvania's awfully boorish this time of year."

Harry laughed at that. "I'll agree to that! I've not been to Romania since...," and he trailed off, not wanting to bring up the Dark War and all things that it negatively connotes.

"Aye, I remember," Ron said after a moment. It had been a bleak moment in the war where the Dark Lord had fled to the Carpathian mountain range to begin to plot once again. Ron had not seen Harry then, but learned of his visit through the post. There was silence for a moment, and then Ron cleared his throat.

"Well, Harry, Ginny, what wonderful events have I interrupted, besides your snogging session?"

Harry laughed and blushed again as Ginny turned to look at the clock.

"My, how time flies," she said, turning back to Harry. "He'll be here any minute!"

"He?" questioned Ron, but Ginny didn't hear as she turned brusquely to attend to other matters. "What is she talking about, Harry?"

"Well," Harry drawled, "I suppose you'll find out momentarily. Tell me, will you be staying with us for any length of time?" Ron's expression showed annoyance at first, and Harry said, "Wait, that's not what I mean. You're welcome to stay with us, Ron, you know that. Blimey, we've got guest rooms galore here. I just wanted to know so that I could tell the house elves to prepare your room."

Ron raised his eyebrow at Harry's mention of house elves. Harry caught his change of expression, and said, "Don't worry, our house elves are well paid and provided for."

"I was going to ask how you had house elves and still maintained friendship with Hermione," Ron laughed. Harry joined in his laughter.

"In that case, then, yes, I'll accept your invitation and mooch off of your kind hospitality for a bit."

"Wonderful!" Harry exclaimed. The clock on the wall chimed 7pm and caught Harry's attention, though, for he turned and said, "Wow, he will be here any second. I better go check the foyer."

"Who will be here?" Ron asked again.

Harry turned back with a pensive expression. "Um...I guess you'll find out in a moment." He turned and walked out of the room. Under his breath Harry muttered, "Won't this be interesting?"

Ron caught the comment, however. Dumbfounded at his family's secrecy, in moments, he decided to follow Harry towards the front of the house.




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