Rating: PG (yes, pitiful, I know :D)
Author: Sabrina (honeycakehorse)
Summary: Charlie is called to Hogwarts because a dragon has settled into the Forbidden Forest. And where did Harry disappear to?
Author Notes: Thank you to my betas Vanessa and Moonypadfoot! This fic answers challenge No. 1 in the 2nd wave of the hpwbfqf.
Challenge: For those of you who don't mind being spoiled, :) read below.
Harry (age 16 or older) practices illegally to become an animagus. Realizing that he will become something very large he attempts the final first Transformation near the Forbidden Forrest but unfortunately gets stuck in his animal form. The next morning the staff is very concerned to find a Dragon on school grounds. Who else to call but Dragon expert Charlie Weasley. (by Thispe)
A Dragon-Sized Problem
"Charles, it's good of you to come at once." Charlie shook Dumbledore's hand and tried not to show his amusement. It was impossible not to hurry when you had a Portkey delivered to you by a phoenix bursting into your bedroom.
Still, his mirth evaporated when he took a seat and looked into Dumbledore's serious face. Something important had to be up then.
"I called you because we have something of a delicate situation here." He paused for a moment and Charlie moved in his seat. Finally, Dumbledore continued. "This morning Hagrid saw smoke rising above the Forest and investigated as to the cause of it. What he found was most peculiar."
Charlie leant forward. Since the end of the war, he hadn't had any 'peculiar' problems to solve. Usually, this meant it centred around dragons.
"Apparently, a dragon has established a nest in the Forest. When Hagrid went to investigate, he was most astounded not to recognize the breed. While dragons have certainly lived in the Forest before, you may understand that an unknown breed just a short distance from a school could cause severe repercussions if we didn't find a way of insuring the safety of our students and faculty."
Charlie couldn't believe what he was hearing. A new dragon breed! That would be amazing, absolutely astounding in fact. New dragon breeds hadn't been found since the Middle Ages and to think, he could be the one who could observe one of those! Every dragon handler would give his right arm for this chance. And Dumbledore had asked him! He finally concentrated on Dumbledore again and noticed merriment in his eyes. Charlie felt his face heating and forcefully tried to control himself.
When he had composed himself, he nodded at Dumbledore. Now was not the time to act like a child in a sweet shop, but to behave like the professional he was. "Did Hagrid say where the dragon was exactly? I think it would be best if as few of us as possible went in there, so it doesn't get too agitated." Dumbledore smiled at him. "I'm sure if you ask him, he will be able to help you without any problems. I don't think I have to tell you to be careful, as often as you have prowled around the Forest in your time here."
Charlie felt uncomfortable, realising that Dumbledore knew about his excursions, but the twinkle in his eyes left no doubt to his approval of Charlie's natural curiosity.
With a handshake and a promise to join the faculty for lunch in the Great Hall, he left the office and set out to find Hagrid and hear his, no doubt enthusiastic, report of the new dragon breed.
An hour later, his ears still ringing from Hagrid's colourful description, he was on his way to the northern part of the Forest. So far, he hadn't encountered either the dragon or any of the more unpleasant creatures of the Forest, but he still crept through the Forest with his wand at the ready. The presence of a dragon had most likely scared away a lot of the animals that usually lived in this part of the Forest, but in his job he had learned to better be careful than sorry. He edged forward along one of the narrow paths through the undergrowth, keeping his eyes and ears open. Despite that, it took him some time until he noticed the unnatural stillness around him. None of the native birds were singing in the tree tops, nor were there any of the usual small animals around. Even more careful, he followed the barely discernible path for a few more yards.
He stopped from time to time to listen for any disturbances of the woods around him and just when he wanted to continue on his way once more, he saw it.
Hagrid had been right (Not that he had had any doubts in that regard. If there was one thing Hagrid knew, it was dragons.). The dragon in front of him was a breed he had never seen before. And he had seen all known dragon breeds. Even though the reservation he worked for only had Romanian Longhorns, Swedish Short-Snouts and Norwegian Ridgebacks didn't mean that he knew nothing about other dragon breeds. During his apprenticeship, he had visited other reservations (without telling his mother for fear of even more Howlers for choosing such a dangerous job) and there he had been able to observe all breeds somebody like him could wish for.
However, the vision before him was even more breathtaking than anything he had seen before.
The scales of the dragon glittered in an unnaturally bright blue, covering its whole body in a slight sheen; the wings, snout and spikes on its tail green. Two small horns protruded from its head, glittering golden in the few rays of sun that broke through the tree tops. Small green wings behind its horns gave it a funny look, which was quickly diffused by the smoke coming out of its snout and the carnage visible around it. Several of the trees were charred and burnt leaves littered the ground. Ash particles were still floating through the air and the air coming from the clearing was warmer than the other around Charlie. Undoubtedly, there had been a fight here only recently, probably one of the animals of the Forest that got into the wrong part of it and didn't recognize the danger for what it was.
Charlie hadn't even noticed he had been holding his breath until his lungs started to burn and he took a gulp of air. Only forty or so yards in front of him stood a totally unknown breed of dragon and he was here to see it. The dragon handler in him warred with the fascinated boy he had been. A boy that had read every book about dragons it could get his hands on, sitting over the pictures and descriptions in the light of his wand behind closed curtains, holding his breath because of the sheer beauty he saw in those pages.
The more rational part of his brain, honed by years of working in a dragon reservation was cataloguing the differences between this dragon and other breeds he knew, making special notice of the forth toe, protruding from the back of its claws and the strange small wings on its head.
There was a natural beauty and grace in these beasts that stole Charlie's breath whenever he encountered one of them, but this one was special.
After Hagrid, he was the first to see this strange creature and the first to describe it to his colleagues, the first to admire its beauty and danger.
With years of training under his belt, he slowly advanced on the beast. He was lucky that the dragon hadn't scented him yet and even if it would have, he still could have got at least within twenty yards of it if it didn't recognize him as an enemy or prey. Tricks he had learned during his first weeks in the reservation had saved his life more than once in such a situation and at the same time allowed him to get closer to the breeding, bleeding or new dragons he had discovered.
However, the closer the got the more confused he got about this dragon's strange behaviour. It didn't seem to have noticed him, even though he wasn't more than thirty yards away now. Its gaze was still fixed on the trees in front of it staring at the damage it had wrought, unblinking, its whole stance screaming readiness to fight, but its senses apparently not included in this.
Usually, once a dragon got into fighting position, all its senses heightened; apparently this was another difference in this animal.
The big wings twitched lightly with every breath and small puffs of smoke still came out of its flared nostrils. Whatever the fight had been with, it was still agitating the dragon.
Concerned about the dragon's current perception of its surroundings, Charlie kept his distance, observing from a good twenty-five yards away, acutely aware of the fact that he was alone in the Forest with more beasts than he could count and an angry dragon in front of him.
However, even his worries couldn't keep him from investigating more about the dragon. It was a strange beauty, clearly at home either in the water or near it; otherwise the colourings would be much too distinctive. The fact that it had wings indicated that it didn't live only in the water, which brought up the question what it was doing miles and miles from the coast or any big waters? If it had been an inhabitant of the Hogwarts' lake, then it had hidden its existence extremely well. Charlie thought this idea was unlikely. Either one of the merpeople or Hagrid or even Dumbledore himself would have noticed a dragon living in or near the lake.
This meant that the dragon had only recently settled here. The question was why?
The question flew out of his head, however, when the dragon finally noticed him and turned its head into his direction. The glimmering, almost translucent eyes looked him up and down and Charlie thought he noticed hesitance in its behaviour, but this thought quickly fled from his mind when the dragon snorted out more smoke out of its nostrils.
He fell into automatic mode again, his brain evaluating the stance of the dragon. Seeing him had let it fall out of the fighting position. Charlie noted that this was quite anomalistic considering the dragon had just encountered an unknown creature in the form of Charlie. Then he went forward a bit, secure in the knowledge that the dragon wasn't going to attack right away. He had seen a similar behaviour with the Antipodean Opaleye. Perhaps this was a long lost relation of that dragon breed? But the Opaleye came from New Zealand, what would a related breed be doing in Britain?
He was pondering this question, almost not noticing the warning signs: tightening of the nostrils, laboured breathing, the accelerated puffs of smoke emanating from its snout.
He erected a shield that had been developed by a dragon breeder against the flame of almost every dragon. It wasn't fool proof, but at least it took the worst out of an attack by an angry dragon.
And just as soon as he had thrown up his shield, he retreated to a safer distance. A few hairs on his arms and head had been singed, and his skin felt as if he had lain in the sun too long, but otherwise he was okay.
He threw a last glance at the dragon, now surveying the damage around it again as it if couldn't believe that it had really been the animal to do this. Then, still puzzling over the dragon's strange behaviour, he returned through the Forest. Since his earliest days, he hadn't been fooled by a dragon like that. He was one of the best at reading the behaviour of dragons in their reservation and now this dragon had had him so simply fooled.
Either he was getting too self-assured in his abilities and had simply overlooked the warning signs, or the dragon was displaying some characteristics unnatural to any dragon - or beast actually - he had ever met. He laid those thought away for later when he approached the edge of the Forest where Hagrid was waiting for him. Excitement was pouring off of him and he overwhelmed Charlie with questions as soon as he was in hearing range.
During lunch Charlie noticed that the atmosphere at the faculty table was very... tense. At first glance everything seemed to be okay, Prof McGonagall was sitting there stern as ever, Snape was scowling at his food as if it was responsible for every accident that had ever happened in Potions and Professor Dumbledore sat there with a small smile on his face. When he looked closer however, he could see that McGonagall's demeanour wasn't just stern, but that there were small worry lines around her mouth, even Snape seemed to only want to storm out of the room and Dumbledore wasn't twinkling.
When he had entered the hall with Hagrid, Dumbledore had halted him to request his presence in his office after lunch and Charlie was already preparing the answers he would need in concern to the dragon.
He threw a quick glance over the house tables to see if anything unusual was going on there, but everything seemed normal. The Hufflepuffs were talking among themselves. The Slytherins were mostly stoically silent and a good number of the Ravenclaws were buried behind books. After all, the exams were going to start in just under two months.
On the Gryffindor table, he could see Ron and Ginny sitting together with their respective girlfriend or boyfriend. However, when his eyes tried to find a familiar black head, he failed. Harry wasn't at lunch.
Charlie wondered what could be important enough that Hermione would allow him to miss one of the meals - she was almost as bad as his mother in that area.
Scraping chair legs from next to him brought him out of his reverie and he looked up to see McGonagall and Dumbledore standing up and leaving through the adjoining door. Dumbledore caught his eyes and Charlie quickly pushed the last bit of his sandwich into his mouth and followed the two professors. The track to Dumbledore's office was silent and Charlie began to wonder what McGonagall had to do with the dragon, but couldn't think of a reason except that McGonagall as Deputy Headmistress probably wanted to know about it.
Once seated, Dumbledore got straight to the point. "Minerva, you already know most of the important facts. I think it could be very helpful if we include Charlie in our investigation as well."
Charlie watched his former Transfigurations professor, all the while wondering what investigation they were talking about. After all, he was already working on the dragon problem in the Forbidden Forest.
His confusion was cleared up quickly, when Dumbledore continued to explain. "You may have noticed, Charlie, that Harry wasn't at lunch today." Charlie looked at Dumbledore, and he knew that he had just paled. He had thought Harry had perhaps been too caught up in studying or planning the next Quidditch match to go to lunch, but these ominous words sounded more serious. "We are not sure where he is at the moment. The only thing we can say for sure is that he is not on the school grounds, "Dumbledore continued. "It seems as if he just left last night and hasn't appeared since then. So far we haven't told his friends yet as we do not want to worry them unnecessarily, but if he doesn't appear by tonight it will be necessary to do so." He looked at Charlie closely. "We thought you might know about what Harry has been planning. As far as we know, no fight took place and as Harry is more than able to hold himself against any of the remaining Death Eaters. It is unlikely he was captured."
Dumbledore paused for a moment and Charlie let everything the Headmaster had just told him, flow through his head. Harry had disappeared and no one knows where he was and still the headmaster was not worried. That alone was a bit strange, at least in Charlie's opinion. Harry usually was in the middle of some trouble all the time. Why now would be an exception to that was not clear to Charlie.
He said so and Dumbledore smiled at him "Being the Headmaster enables me to know if my students are in immediate danger, and Harry isn't. Still this doesn't tell us where he is."
Charlie pushed the thought about what else the Headmaster knew about his students away and instead concentrated on the problem at hand. Why, oh why did always everything happen at the same time? First the dragoon and now ... wait. The dragon. He hadn't told them about it yet and the strange coincidence in the occurrences of the day brought him to tell the two professors about his encounter in the Forest.
When he finished, the room was quiet.
Then Dumbledore looked at McGonagall and asked her. "Minerva, you're the specialist in this field. Do you think Harry's disappearance and the appearance of the dragon in the Forbidden Forest could be related?" To Charlie McGonagall looked a bit floored at the question, but while Charlie was still trying to figure out how this was McGonagall's specialty, McGonagall seemed to have understood Dumbledore's question and responded with a twinkle of her own. Charlie had never seen her looking so much like the Headmaster and was a bit disturbed by the sight. He had always pictured Dumbledore as the eccentric and imaginative one of their team, while McGonagall was the voice of reason. Apparently, McGonagall also had a good dose of mischief in her.
Which she proved just now when he answered Dumbledore's question. "I certainly wouldn't put it past Potter. And with his track record, as well as that of his father, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he managed such a feat." Then she frowned disapprovingly and Charlie was glad to notice he had the old Professor McGonagall back; this new persona had been unsettling. "Whatever he thought by trying by himself is beyond me, however. If he had come to any of us, we would have at least have tried to help him, but then the boy always goes off on his own."
Eventually. Charlie was fed up with the implications the two professors were making without ever coming out and saying what was actually wrong. He asked: "What happened with Harry?" Charlie knew that his voice had to sound close to hysterical, but he didn't care. He had thought that with Voldemort gone, the constant threat to one of his loved ones, had also disappeared and was totally unprepared for these news now.
Dumbledore quickly appeased him though. "Don't worry, Charlie. I know of..." He cleared his throat. "... your special relationship and I would tell you if I thought that Harry was in any real danger." He threw a glance at McGonagall that Charlie couldn't decipher and then continued. "However, I do think that your discoveries this morning brought us quite a bit closer to solving this problem." He leaned back in his chair and stroked his beard thoughtfully. He addressed McGonagall first. "You said that Madam Pince had been complaining that several of the books about Animagi had disappeared out of the Restricted Section?" Charlie watched in amazement as McGonagall nodded and the puzzle pieces slowly began to fall into place.
He almost didn't hear McGonagall's response, so taken was he with the idea that Harry could be the dragon in the Forest. If that was true, then the possibilities for a dragon handler were incredible. As an Animagus Harry would probably be able to at least superficially converse with other dragons.
He could barely contain his excitement when he remembered that it wasn't sure if Harry really was the dragon in the Forest and even if he was, that there had to be something wrong if he was there instead of turning back.
As an Animagus he would be able to keep his mind and there would have been no reason fro him to attack Charlie.
He interrupted. "But then why would he attack me? And I've never heard of a magical Animagus before. I didn't even know something like that existed."
McGonagall was the one who answered him. "I have so far only heard rumours about people being magical Animagi. There certainly isn't any or little written evidence to it. Which is also why I can't answer your first question. My only guess is that the magical component might be the reason why Harry - if he really is the dragon - attacked you." she frowned and spoke slowly, as if verbalizing her thoughts as they came to her. "The Animagus transformation is restricted with a good reason. Without any help it is extremely dangerous, all sorts of accidents could happen, from people getting stuck inside their forms to them getting stuck in the middle of transformation, to the animal mind overtaking their own even in their human form. What Harry did was extremely reckless and I wouldn't be surprised if he was somehow stuck in his form. I don't think he would otherwise still be in the Forest, as he obviously wanted to keep this a secret." She sighed and closed her eyes. "If the stupid boy also got stuck in the animal mind then I really don't know what to do." Charlie had never seen McGonagall so out of sorts and it was just then that he released that she wasn't really angry with Harry, but rather worried about him.
"But that could explain the dragon's strange behaviour!" Charlie took a deep breath. The last minutes had made him acutely aware of the fact that Harry might be in real danger and now that he had an idea, he wanted to get it out as quickly as possible. "He didn't behave like a dragoon would. He was too still and his fighting stance was all wrong. Perhaps... perhaps he is only partly stuck in the animal's mind and that is why he can't change back. After all, he seemed to hesitate before he attacked me and no dragon would do that." He was almost sure now that Harry was the dragon in the Forest and he wanted to help him a quickly as possible. After all, they couldn't know if this overtaking of the animal mind got worse with time could they?
After another few minutes in Dumbledore's office, the three departed into the Forest. Charlie already knew the way through the Forest, and so it wasn't difficult to find the dragon once again.
When they approached, they were sure the dragon knew they were approaching and wouldn't be surprised into an attack. During the test to find out if the dragon was Harry, the dragon would notice them anyway and therefore an open approach was the best option. The dragon was still standing among the burnt trees. It looked as if the dragon - Harry - had either taken on another animal, or had taken out its anger on the trees. They stopped about twenty yards away. They had decided that it should be Charlie who would try to find out if it really was Harry they were dealing with.
Charlie stepped a few feet closer, leaving McGonagall and Dumbledore behind. They had to be sure that Harry reacted to his name, not just the noises they were making or their presence. So far, the dragon hadn't indicated that it wasn't alone any more and Charlie steeled his nerves for his task.
He was so nervous, he could barely get his voice to work - what if they had been totally wrong and Harry was being tortured somewhere while they were busy hunting some stupid dragon? - but then he croaked out: "Harry!"
He felt a weight lift from his chest when the dragon – Harry! - turned around and looked at him once again.
Charlie imagined he could see Harry's human intelligence behind those creepy eyes and understanding and longing in the body language. This changed quickly, however, when the dragon turned back to staring at the trees and ignored the wizards around it once again.
Really, this behaviour should have tipped him off straight away that something was wrong with the dragon, Charlie silently berated himself. He had never heard of a dragon behaving like this. As soon as they had scented another animal they would either attack or flee, but never stay there just like that. From behind him, he heard the footsteps of McGonagall and Dumbledore and when they reached him, he could see McGonagall and Dumbledore were smiling as well, looking very relieved that they had solved both problems at once.
McGonagall was the one who was supposed to do the charm to restore an Animagus to its proper state as she was the expert in this field. Before today Charlie had never heard of that charm, but McGonagall had explained it on the way here. It connected with the magic inside a person or animal and worked with that magical core to restore it to its right form. Every magical core had the right information about the magical person or beast stored inside it, and so the core was necessary to be sure that it really was the right form and not just another transformation gone wrong.
Charlie vacantly heard her murmur an incantation, but he was too focused on the dragon and too happy to see Harry once again to hear what she was saying. McGonagall stopped speaking and Charlie waited for Harry to turn back.
After a moment of nothing happening, he frowned and turned to the professors.
McGonagall and Dumbledore looked perplexed; so that clearly wasn't supposed to happen, or rather not happen.
Charlie watched anxiously as McGonagall gave it another try, but again the spell only disappeared and didn't result in anything. Then Dumbledore took his wand out as well and when he spoke the incantation, Charlie could feel the hairs on his arms standing up. It felt as if Dumbledore had put all the power he had behind that spell.
Still, nothing happened.
Finally, Charlie couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Professor, what's wrong? This is Harry, isn't he?"
McGonagall still looked too confused to answer in her usual brisk manner and so it was the first time that Charlie actually saw her without words. "I think so... the charm connected with a human magical core, but then it was reflected again without an effect." She still looked deep in thought, but Charlie was getting too worried again to really enjoy the unusual sight. What if they could never get Harry back? What if he turned into a dragon fully?
The dragon seemed to once again become agitated, the smoke out of its nostrils was thicker and Charlie was unpleasantly reminded of his earlier brush with the flame. He collected his thoughts and decided to wait with his questions until later. "I think it's better if we go now. He is ready to go off once again and I don't fancy getting almost grilled twice in a day."
McGonagall and Dumbledore followed him through the Forest. Charlie felt weird leading his teachers through an area they probably knew better than he did, but neither of them took the lead. They were both quietly talking among themselves and finally Charlie was fed up with it.
"Could you please tell me what's going on as well? After all it concerns me as much as you." He didn't care if he didn't sound respectful or polite, but this was his boyfriend they were whispering about!
Dumbledore answered him, while McGonagall was whispering to herself. "Charlie, I'm sorry. but this is most puzzling. In my life, I have never heard of a magical Animagus and therefore we also aren't sure what this resilience against magic could be caused by." He paused for a moment. "We think that there are two possible reasons. Either the charm didn't work, because dragons are highly spell resistant and the magical nature of Harry's animal simply reflected the charm or it is his nature as a magical Animagus that protects him further. In my mind, however, there is no question that he really is Harry. He clearly reacted to his name and not only the noise. If we add to this, Harry's disappearance just at the time when the dragon appeared and the missing books from the library and I think we have a full picture of what happened."
Charlie was glad Dumbledore was being so open with him, but his descriptions didn't exactly sound reassuring. "So what are we going to do now?"
"I think it would be prudent to go to dinner as usual. Afterwards we can start to research magical Animagi." He briefly laid his hand on Charlie's arm. "I'm sure there is a solution to the problem."
And that was what they did. Well, with one small difference. After dinner all three of them were on their way to the library when they were interrupted by Ron and Hermione.
Ron was the first to react to Charlie's presence. "Charlie, what are you doing here? We didn't see you except during meals. I thought you'd at least say hello."
Charlie was just about to respond when Hermione interrupted him. She glanced at Ron, then back at Dumbledore. "Really, Ron. Isn't it obvious? As Harry's... you know, I'm sure he's here helping to find Harry." She continued as if she hadn't seen the surprised faces of her teachers. "We wanted to ask if you have found anything and if we can help somehow-"
"Thank you, Miss Granger, but I think you will help us most if you stay-"
"Actually, Minerva, I think a bit of help would be a splendid idea.. After all Miss Granger is renowned for her good research skills."
Charlie watched in amusement as Ron turned vaguely green at the mention of research, but then quickly reigned himself in again and tried to look enthusiastic.
Hermione was practically glowing after the compliment from he headmaster and was already pestering him with questions. "I think it would be best if we discussed the specifics in the library where we will have a bit more privacy." He turned to Ron. "Mr. Weasley, if you could be so helpful as to have a look through Harry's materials for his extracurricular activities." If possible, Ron looked even greener than at the mention of research and threw a glance at Charlie. "Extra... ew. I don't think I want to see anything connected with that."
It took Charlie a moment to know what Ron was talking about, then he almost burnt with embarrassment once again. This was not something he wanted to discuss with his little brother in front of two professors.
Ron on the other hand, got a clip around the head for his troubles. "Ron, honestly. I hardly think that is what the Headmaster was talking about. But you remember how Harry has disappeared upstairs all the time, closing his curtains and not talking to anybody? And you yourself said that he was behaving strangely."
"Yes, but I thought he was just... you know. Now that he has somebody to…"
"Mr. Weasley, I don't think anybody wants to know what you're just about to say." McGonagall threw a glance at Charlie. "Well, at least almost nobody. Simply see if there's anything out of order, any strange books or artefacts lying around."
Charlie watched at once horrified and amused as Ron took off into the opposite direction. He didn't want to think about McGonagall even knowing about sex, much less hearing her talk about it.
Dumbledore moved on, leading them all into a small alcove just inside the Restricted Section and then cast a privacy charm before he told Hermione what had happened and what they had deducted so far.
It really was an adventure watching Hermione when she learned something new or got a new problem to solve. Her face was intent as she took in all the details, even copied down notes of what Dumbledore was saying. When he had finished with the latest developments she frowned for a moment. "I have to admit that it sounds just like Harry to keep something like this from everybody, but do you really think he has the ability to be able to even attempt an Animagus transformation?"
She looked at McGonagall, but it was Dumbledore who answered. "Even if a lot of Harry's marks aren't the best in this subject, we all know what he can do if he sets his mind to it. If he really wanted to become an Animagus for some reason, I'm sure he could have managed to transform with enough patience and practice. The questions of how he managed to keep it hidden from all of us and how often he found himself in danger are the ones that worry me more."
Hermione looked pensive for a moment, then she smiled. "Well, I'm sure we can ask him once he is back." She locked around for a moment. "Where should we start looking? I don't think I have ever heard of a magical Animagus before."
"Neither have we." Dumbledore led them over to a shelf where books about dangerous magical creatures were located and asked Charlie: "I think it might be easiest for you to check if this dragon species really never existed." Then he went over to another shelf. "Miss Granger, if you could have a look though this section about severe accidents in Transfigurations. You might want to cover up some of the pictures. They could be quite gruesome."
Charlie was already immersed in a book about extinct breeds and only distractedly noticed that Dumbledore and McGonagall were at a shelf labelled Advanced Transfigurations and Everything That Can Go Wrong.
He slowly paged through a book, having to stop himself from going through it word for word and instead focusing on the engravings and paintings of dragon breeds that he had only vaguely heard about and could never see because they were extinct. He was going to have to borrow this once they had Harry back; it was fascinating.
However, none of the pictures showed a dragon like the one that currently was in the Forbidden Forest. There were all kinds of dragons, very small ones that were barely bigger than a lizard and big ones that could have given an Ukrainian Ironbelly a run for its money. They fluoresced in all colours of the rainbow, except for blue it seemed. The only one which even had a vague resemblance to the dragon in the Forest was a German Spreizfuß, but even this one was only blue with some yellow markings, not the green markings he had seen.
A yell from behind him distracted him from further search and he turned around to see Hermione sitting among piles of books, having a big smile on her face.
Dumbledore, McGonagall and he quickly joined her at the table, looking what had her in such an uproar. She had several books open, but it was the one in front of her that drew everybody's attention. There on the page was the picture of a Griffin being restrained by several wizards, another wizard standing close by with a wand, obviously chanting an incantation.
"I think this could be it. The text says that in 1123 a wizard named Odylfus of Bresben abruptly changed into a Griffin. He had to be restrained until his mind could be restored and he could change back. Apparently, he was an accidental Animagus." She looked up at Dumbledore and McGonagall. "That's similar enough to what happened to Harry, right?"
Charlie watched as Dumbledore stroked his beard. "Yes, Miss Granger, this might be what we are looking for." He threw a glance at his pocket watch. "However, I propose we wait until morning to find out. During the night the Forest is even more dangerous and I'm sure Harry will be safe enough in his dragon form." He looked at everybody in turn. "Tomorrow, after breakfast then. Charlie, I will let the House Elves know to prepare a room for you. Simply call for Dobby when you wish to retire. I'm sure at the moment you want to catch up with your siblings."
Charlie nodded dumbly. This was going faster than he could process. They had a solution! He grinned and said: "Yes, Headmaster. I will be ready come morning."
Just then the door to the library swung open and Ron entered, holding a pile of books and looking quite sick of having to carry them. He spotted them in the Restricted Section and came over, dumping the pile on the table. "That's what I found in Harry's trunk. All of them are books from the Restricted Section about Animagus transformations." He looked around at them. "Have you found anything?"
Hermione only nodded and drew Ron out of the room. "Yes, come on. I will explain everything. "She turned around. "Are you coming with us, Charlie?"
The next morning after breakfast they all headed out into the Forest. Charlie was so nervous, he could feel his heart beating against his ribs and fortunately, he knew the way to the clearing almost blind by now. When they arrived he exhaled loudly. Harry was still in the same place as he had been yesterday.
The dragon was sleeping peacefully, tail curled around its massive body and small trails of smoke rising out of his snout. It even looked kind of cute that way. Charlie grinned. He was going to have to tell Harry that; he would die of embarrassment. But then why did he have to be a dragon Animagus when his boyfriend was a dragon fanatic?
They drew nearer and Charlie's amusement evaporated on the spot. He watched as McGonagall approached the dragon even further, while the rest of them stayed back. She was the one who was going to do the charm Hermione had found last night, and so she was going to be in the most danger when the dragon woke up. The dragon stirred, looked at the approaching figure and stood up. Charlie instantly recognized that it had changed overnight. Gone was the slight confusion; instead it fell into fighting stance at once, clearly seeing McGonagall as the more imposing threat the closer she got to him.
Charlie already wanted to call a warning, but she seemed to notice by herself that the dragon - not Harry - was more agitated than the day before. She stopped about thirty yards away, careful to only move slowly and keeping and eye on the dragon's snout and tail; its main weapons.
She spoke the charm, slowly and clearly, keeping her wand trained on the dragon's heart, just as the book had instructed. Charlie could feel the magic weaving around him, the Forest almost coming alive under the surge of magic. A purple streak of light shot from her wand when she finished the incantation and all of them looked at the dragon expectantly.
Nothing happened. Charlie felt his heart thumping once again. For a moment he had trouble breathing. If this wasn't working then what would?
He looked at the dragon, imagining what is was like for Harry being stuck in that body, that mind. He wanted his boyfriend back in his arms, feel his soft skin against his own. He studied the scales, the eyes of this dragon, trying to find some of the human behind it, but didn't find anything.
He hastily threw up a shield around the three of them, only just in time to catch most of the blast from the dragon flame. The dragon was swaying lightly, tail swishing over the ground. Its head was lowered, more smoke pouring out by the second. Charlie knew the signs. They had to get out of here as quickly as possible. The dragon was going to attack any minute now. He quickly grabbed Dumbledore's arm and pulled him back. He called out the McGonagall. "Come back, quick! He is about to explode, literally." McGonagall turned around, worry clear in her eyes and joined them in a small clearing a few yards off.
"Do you know why he was more aggressive this morning?"
Charlie shook his head. "I don't know anything, except that we have one severely pissed off dragon on our heels." Too late, he remembered who he was talking to. "Sorry, Professor."
She waved his apology off and turned to Dumbledore. "Albus, did you feel the magical backlash from the spell?"
"Yes, Minerva. Let us retreat to the castle for the time being. We are going to have to think of a different solution."
He turned to go, but McGonagall took hold of his sleeve. "Albus, you saw what just happened. And you know the dangers of a failed Animagus transformation just as well as I do. The dragon mind clearly overtook him this morning. I have never heard of something like this happening, but we can only deduce that the longer he spends time in his Animagus form, the worse he will get." She took a deep breath. "If we don't move quickly, we might be able to restore Mr. Potter to his human form, but what about his human mind?"
Charlie felt a shudder running down his back. He hadn't known about this. And he was sure he didn't want to think about it. The possibility of his Harry being stuck in a dragon's mind for life was just too terrifying to contemplate.
He resolutely shook his head. That was not going to happen. He turned around to go. "Well, then we're going to have to come up with something new quickly."
Their search in the library was much more hurried than the one they had done the night before. Fortunately, it was Sunday and Hermione and even Ron helped them out.
By lunch all of them were weary of not having found anything. By dinner they were almost frantic in their search.
When he finally lay in bed, Charlie had the most gruesome images in his mind, pictures of Harry's green eyes looking at him without understanding and only trying to claim his mate, or protecting non-existent eggs or getting into fights, hissing at everybody he encountered.
He loved dragons, but he certainly didn't want a dragon's mind trapped inside Harry's body to be his boyfriend. Or what if they couldn't even turn Harry back? Would Harry have to come with him to the reservation and live among the dragons? He would always be alone, interbreeding among dragons being extremely rare.
The ideas and images were so horrifying that two hours after he had gone to bed - exhausted but still unable to sleep - he returned to the library to search more books. They had gone through most of the Transfigurations and all of the Magical Creatures books in the Restricted Section and still the solution wasn't even close by as far as they could see.
Ron had finally managed to drag off Hermione just after one in the morning when she had been sitting there with red-rimmed eyes and determination on her face. She would probably be back before breakfast to look through more books.
Charlie himself knew he had to look like he hadn't slept in days, but he didn't care. He searched through book after book, the only important thing being to find a cure for Harry. His Harry. With a wistful glance at the bracelet of a stylised dragon biting its tail, Harry had got him for his birthday, he remembered how they had got together last summer.
After Voldemort's death, everybody had been in high spirits and Harry, not having to stay at his relatives any longer, had spent most of his holidays at the Burrow, playing Quidditch with Ron and the twins and getting harried by Hermione to start studying for the NEWTs.
Charlie had arrived in the middle of such an argument and had been taken with Harry from that moment on. He hadn't seen him in quite a while and in the time he hadn't been looking, Harry had grown up.
It was very strange to suddenly see his little brother and his girlfriend as almost adults, laughing, bodies almost like those of grown ups, self-assured with the knowledge that they had helped in the defeat of one of the most evil wizards in recent times; but that had been nothing compared to how Harry looked. He had been positively breathtaking. Charlie had seen him the last time the summer before that and Harry had been a mere shadow of himself. And it hadn't been so much the fact that his body looked older – although it did of course – but it was the way he acquit himself. He looked more self-confident, like a shadow had been removed from his face. Charlie had been stumped and not a little conflicted.
It hadn't taken long for Hermione to catch on to his new interest and she had been the one who told him he should try to build something with Harry.
Charlie was sure she hadn't had in mind what they did at first: A purely sexual relationship, not intended to last more than the summer. However, when the end of the summer came, they both found themselves reluctant to part ways and had agreed to continue to see each other.
Over the Christmas holidays they had finally started to date exclusively, not that Charlie had seen anybody in the time in between. Living in a dragon reservation brought certain problems with it. No people were allowed to visit and the loneliness of the camp made it almost impossible to just go to the next pub and chat somebody up. At least if you didn't want to get questions asked about how you got there from the Muggle population.
From what he knew from Harry, he also hadn't had anybody else here at Hogwarts, still too worried that anybody would only want him for his status as the Boy Who Lived.
The almost noiseless opening - but not silent enough in the quiet of the night - of the doors brought him out of his good memories, memories from days spent in the garden under the sun, both wearing only what was necessary to give them a bit of cover, and enjoying themselves to their fullest.
He looked up to see Hermione entering the library, hair dishevelled, eyes still tinged red and a certain paleness about her that Charlie also remembered from the summer before last. She looked surprised when she saw him sitting there, but then smiled slightly. "You couldn't sleep either?"
Charlie just shook his head. There was no use pretending. It was obvious he was worried about Harry. And why shouldn't he be? Apparently, everybody here already knew about their relationship and the people they had to hide it from for the time being - namely the press and his parents - weren't here.
They sat in companionable silence, both engrossed in their search, until the first rays of sunlight filtered through the windows. Not long after sun up, the door opened once again and Charlie and Hermione both looked up from their books, seeing Ron entering with a sheepish expression on his face.
He came over to them and leaned over Hermione's back. He whispered even thought there was nobody else to hear them. "Knew you would be here when you weren't there when I woke up." He suddenly looked up at Charlie with a horrified expression on his face and quickly added: "You never heard me say that. And if you tell Mum about it, I'll be sure to let her know about what you've been doing with Harry for almost a year."
Charlie managed to crack a grin at Ron's discomfort, but it quickly faded again when he remembered why he was here. He just shook his head and continued to look through the books piled in front of him.
The sun moved up further into the sky, but Charlie barely noticed the time elapsing. He concentrated on the books in front of him, periodically leaving to get a new bunch, but then just sitting there and looking once again. Inwardly, he was terrified of overtiring and missing the one important sentence, but he kept going on.
Opposite him, Ron and Hermione had forgone breakfast and lessons that day, instead pouring over book after book. When it neared lunch time, Charlie couldn't ignore the grumbling of his stomach any longer. He was just about to leave for the kitchens when Hermione blew up. "Damn it!" She slammed a book shut. "I just want to go out there, shake Harry and tell him to concentrate so he can turn back!" She slammed the book down on the table and agitatedly paced between the windows and their seats.
Charlie and Ron were watching her wondrously and worriedly. That didn't sound like Hermione at all.
...shake Harry and tell him to concentrate...
Her last words flowed through his overtired brain and somewhere it clicked.
That had to be it. The only way this was going to work.
He jumped up. "Hermione, get Professor McGonagall! Ron, go and get Dumbledore. I'll wait outside with Hagrid. I think I just had an idea on how we can free Harry.
The two looked at him with open mouths, but he didn't think about how weird he had to look, hair sticking up in all directions, eyes red from lack of sleep, and just having sprung up like a lunatic. He could only think about how this could be Harry's release.
When they still hadn't moved after several seconds, he almost screamed at them: "Go on! You know that time is important." Quieter and more to himself, he added: "I just hope it's not too late already."
Fifteen minutes later, the six of them were marching through the Forest, Charlie in the lead, busy explaining his plan to them. When he looked around, he saw that McGonagall and Dumbledore also appeared anything but well rested and Hagrid was still confused over what he had just been told about Harry and the dragon being one and the same.
They finally reached the site once again, and Charlie let out a breath when he saw that Harry was still there. At once, when he had scented them, he snorted agitatedly, swinging his head from side to side, his deadly tail carving deep holes into the ground.
Charlie swallowed. This was it. If his idea didn't work then it would be highly unlikely that they would all get away unscathed. Fighting with a fully grown dragon seldom ended well for the humans, even if one of them was a half giant and the other one a dragon handler. In the reservation there was more than one person who had lost a limb that way. Fortunately there were only very few who had lost their life. Still, it wasn't unheard of and those were fully trained professionals.
Once again, he admired Hermione's persuasive work into letting her and Ron come along with them. She was right of course. If there was one person Harry knew best, it would be one of them. He threw a last glance at Hagrid and McGonagall, then the half-giant and Charlie went closer to the dragon. They came from different sides, so Harry had to turn his head from side to side to keep track of them. But that wasn't their concern right now. He had to react on an animalistic level first, which meant either sound or smell. He had to recognize them that way. Charlie just hoped that he could identify at least one of them. Then they would have a chance to get him out of this. But first, he had to listen. Harry had to take control again over the dragon part of his brain, the part which had, without a doubt, grown stronger over the last two days.
He could see that Harry was getting even more nervous than he had been when the six of them had entered the clearing. Charlie knew he had to concentrate on his work, not what was happening around him. He pushed everything but Harry out of his mind and started to speak in his dragon voice. Low, soothing tones, that had almost no inflection and instead focused on keeping up a low background noise. It would hopefully calm Harry down enough for them to proceed. From Harry's other side, he could hear Hagrid making similar noises.
At first, the sounds so close to him seemed to enrage Harry even more, but then he slowly started to calm down.
Charlie drew a deep breath and started phase two. He slowly merged his unintelligible words into actual sentences; memories that Harry would know about and understand. Something that he would hopefully understand now as well.
Hagrid had stopped talking, but Charlie could see him. He had reached the dragon and was slowly stroking its scales. Not that Harry would really be able to feel it, but his thesis was that alone the presence of somebody he knew well and trusted would calm Harry down.
Charlie finished telling Harry about the time all of them had been swimming in a brook last summer; then he gave McGonagall a sign and she stepped forward.
In her usual no-nonsense classroom-voice she addressed the dragon: "Mr. Potter, I know that you are in there and I want you to listen to me." Charlie threw a glance at the dragon and was relieved to see that it had focused its attention on McGonagall as soon as she had spoken Harry's name. "You got yourself into this mess and I expect you to also be able to get out of it again. Now, listen to me. I want you to concentrate on how it feels to be a human. I know at the moment is far easier to just behave like your instinct tells you to, but you need to overcome those instincts."
Charlie looked away from McGonagall to the other three standing a few yards away. Ron and Hermione were clutching each other's hands and Dumbledore had his gaze focused on McGonagall, not even blinking. Charlie turned his attention back to McGonagall. He was just admiring how she could speak to a dragon as if he was an unruly student in her class just about to earn detention, when he saw the movement to his right.
The dragon had apparently won the inner battle and it was disconcerting to watch the human intelligence, Charlie had just seen behind those eyes, disappear again.
He started to talk to the dragon again, telling it of how Harry and he had spent Christmas together at the Burrow, how Mrs. Weasley had almost found out about their relationship every single day, of how they wanted to tell his family once Harry had left Hogwarts.
Slowly, he could see how the dragon calmed down again and turned back towards McGonagall, expecting her to help him further, nodding to her, wishing for another try.
Charlie could see her swallowing under the intense gaze and again she started to instruct Harry. "Mr. Potter, concentrate on what I say! We know you have researched this, so try to remember what those books told you. To turn back you have to feel the human form around you once again. You have to force your magical core outwards and that will turn you back into your rightful form."
The dragon swayed once again and McGonagall snapped: "Mr. Potter! You already did this once before, so concentrate on doing it again. There is no reason for you not being able to do this, so concentrate on the job at hand if you please." Charlie watched from McGonagall back to the dragon the form shimmered in the filtered light of the clearing. It seemed to blur for a moment, then it focused again and again the same procedure. Almost without breathing, Charlie looked on, willing Harry to turn back, to find the strength somewhere inside him. Several times it looked as if he was just about to change form, but then the dragon always came back through again. McGonagall's brisk encouragement was a constant background noise and Charlie didn't even try to understand what she was saying any more. He only concentrated on Harry, hoping for Harry that he managed to turn back.
Then finally, the shape decreased, getting smaller and smaller until it was the size of a human, but still the body of a dragon.
The form blurred one final time and then in front of them on all fours lay Harry Potter, black hair in absolute disarray, leaves and ash sticking to it, breathing heavily, head bowed. Charlie was the first to react and slowly approached him.
He bent down and put a hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezing lightly. Harry looked up and Charlie almost let out a whoop of joy when he saw that his eyes were focused on him and he recognized him. He pulled Harry up and only through this closeness did he hear what Harry whispered. "Sorry, it was... supposed to be a... surprise." Then his eyes rolled up into his head and Charlie steadied him while McGonagall conjured a stretcher for him.
Half an hour later, Charlie sat in the Hospital Wing, waiting for Harry to wake up. Madame Pomfrey was bustling around, probably still miffed that she hadn't managed to throw Charlie out. But he wouldn't leave Harry, not before he had a chance to see if he really was okay and give him a good kick up the arse for his recklessness.
When Dumbledore and McGonagall entered a few moments later, he had to admit that they probably were there for the same reason and with their seniority, he would have to wait in line for his turn. Together they waited until Harry's eyelids fluttered open, but then clammed up when he saw the gathering around him.
"Mr. Potter, there is no need to play dead. We all know you're awake."
Even after years of not being a student anymore, Charlie still wasn't immune to this tone of voice - mainly because it was the same tone his mother still used with him when he had messed up - and he winced on Harry's behalf. He was going to get one hell of a lecture.
Harry opened his eyes and glanced at the angry Transfigurations professor and Headmaster, finally his gaze landed on Charlie. His most pleading puppy dog eyes had always been Charlie's undoing, but this time there was nothing that he could have done even if he had wanted to.
Which he didn't. Harry deserved everything he got for getting himself into danger once again and worrying everybody sick about him.
Apparently, McGonagall thought the same. "He won't help you, Mr. Potter. Do you have any idea what kind of risks you were taking with your little illegal exploits?" Harry winced at this, but McGonagall didn't even acknowledge it. "Not enough that you could have landed yourself in the insane ward of St. Mungos, you could also have hurt your fellow students. What do you think would have happened if a wild dragon - as you almost became - had attacked them during lunch break?" She didn't even raise her voice, but her matter-of-fact tone only made the lecture all the worse. An angry McGonagall was kind of funny actually, but a disappointed McGonagall was worse than any screaming she could have done.
"What do you think would have happened if we hadn't found you in time? You could have spent the rest of your days as a dragon wandering through the Forest or getting carted off to the next reservation. Do you have any idea how worried your friends were? Not to mention the fact that if the Ministry had found out about this, they could have had another reason to request more influence over Hogwarts as the Headmaster obviously wasn't able to keep something like this from happening." She paused for a second and Charlie could hear her murmur. "As if the Ministry could keep track of everything every student did all the time." Then she turned back to Harry, who still hadn't moved and looked at McGonagall as if he would gladly disappear under the duvet and never come out again. Charlie had never seen him so cowered, ever.
"Well, don't you want to explain yourself? Why did you do something so foolish?"
At first Harry didn't say anything at all. He looked at the people around him with an unhappy expression on his face. Finally, Dumbledore asked: "Charles mentioned that you said you only wanted it to be a surprise. Might I inquire as to for whom this surprise was to be?"
Harry still didn't answer, but he threw a quick, fearful glance at Charlie and suddenly everything added up. "For me?" Charlie couldn't keep the amazement out of his voice. "But why?" Then he remembered something else. "And how did you know that you were going to be a dragon anyway? I thought you only got to know your Animagus form just before the final transformation."
He looked at the expert in the room and McGonagall nodded tersely. "Mr. Potter, would you answer my question. You may believe it or not, but we do have other duties."
"I... that's not what I meant. I didn't know I was going to be a dragon. I only had a feeling that I was going to be a big animal, so I went into the Forest to transform."
"But why did you do it in the first place? Surely you didn't think the fact that your father was an Animagus would also ensure you were one?"
Harry looked even more uncomfortable at her words, Charlie noticed. He was really getting curious as to what Harry had been planning with this skill.
"Well, no. But I found this book in the library about it and I thought it didn't sound too difficult and that it might be a good ability to have."
"Not too difficult?" McGonagall sounded exasperated. "You know that it took your father and his friends more than three years to complete the transformation. What made you think that you could do it faster and that without the help of anybody?"
"I just thought trying wouldn't hurt anybody." Charlie looked at Harry's slumped shoulders and tense body and could tell that there was more to it.
"Mr. Potter, we found the books you have been stealing from the Restricted Section. I'm sure they mentioned the dangers of failed transformations. Didn't you ever think to come to Professor Dumbledore or me with your wish? Both of us could have helped you with your training."
Harry steadfastly looked down at his duvet, clearly uncomfortable with this closer questioning. "I'm sorry, Professor."
"Apologizing isn't going to be enough this time. You wilfully endangered yourself and other students. Report to me tomorrow for two weeks of detention. One hundred points will be subtracted from Gryffindor as well." With that she stormed out of the Hospital Wing, clearly too agitated to listen to any more of Harry's explanations.
Harry looked at Dumbledore with a hopeful expression on his face. This was quickly crushed however. "You heard what Professor McGonagall said. I suggest you use your remaining time here in the Hospital Wing to think about what you could have handled better." He turned to Charlie. "I expect you for lunch in the Great Hall." He turned to go, but just before he left, he turned back once more. "Charles, thank you for coming so quickly. I'm sure we can arrange something in the way of compensation." Before Charlie could say no to that offer, Dumbledore turned to Harry. "Come to my office tomorrow afternoon , so we can arrange the Ministry forms for your registration. I suggest you also talk to Professor McGonagall about finishing your training under her tutelage. See to it that something like this never happens again."
Charlie watched as the door fell closed behind him and then he looked at Harry: He still looked miserable after the putdown by both of his most influential teachers. Charlie didn't know what he should say. On one hand he was extremely pissed off at Harry for the danger he had put himself into. On the other hand, he could sense that there was something Harry hadn't said. He still hadn't explained why he wanted to become an Animagus in the first place either. It sounded interesting usually wasn't something that would encourage Harry to do more extra work. Still, looking at Harry, he settled himself in his chair more comfortably, waiting for Harry to tell him the real reason. He had said that it had had something to do with Charlie, so he wanted to know what exactly. "What didn't you want to explain in front of McGonagall and Dumbledore?"
Harry looked at him, surprised, then he blushed and looked down again. Really, if Charlie didn't already like him, he would think he was the biggest idiot to ever walk the earth.
"I, well... I didn't know if they knew about, you know, us."
"At least Dumbledore knows, I suppose McGonagall as well." Charlie watched, bemused, when Harry groaned and tried to disappear under the duvet. He suddenly felt that he needed to be closer to Harry, rather than just playing the role of yet another interrogator. He moved over from his seat to the edge of Harry's bed and touched his arm. "Come on, tell me. All your blushing and hiding have made me curious."
Harry looked up at him and took a deep breath. "I thought about what you told me about the reservation policy not allowing any visitors. And well, how you didn't think you would be able to Apparate every weekend to England, because your Apparating wasn't that good." Charlie nodded. So far he could follow him, he just didn't understand what that had to do with becoming a dragon Animagus. "And I also thought that I quite like Apparating and so it wouldn't be that much of a problem for me to visit you every weekend, only of course the policy doesn't allow it. And I also thought that as an animal it would be quite easy to get into the reservation without anybody knowing and then I could spend the weekend with you and nobody would have to know." He looked forlornly at the duvet and traced a few imaginary signs on it. "Of course, I didn't expect to be as big an animal as a dragon!" He hit the bed with his hand.
Charlie himself couldn't quite believe what he had just heard, except for the fact that it sounded very Harry. This brainless scheme was just something his boyfriend would plan. On one hand it was quite a nice thought that he went through so much trouble, just to be able to visit Charlie; on the other hand, Charlie didn't want Harry putting himself in danger just because of him.
He had thought about their problem of meeting as well. At first not very often, because he was sure that a distance relationship with somebody almost ten years younger wouldn't work out in the end. Now that the time had gone on and Harry was getting closer and closer to leaving Hogwarts, he had thought about it more frequently, although getting to no solution.
What Harry had thought up, had actually been not that bad an idea. He thought about it a bit more and the more he did, the better he liked the idea...
"Charlie? You're not too angry are you?" His thoughts were interrupted, but he promised himself to think about it some more later on. If this could work...
Instead of answering, he drew Harry into a hug. In his opinion Harry needed that much more than just another lecture about the irresponsible behaviour he had shown. Charlie was glad when Harry relaxed into the embrace right away and so they sat like that for a few more minutes, until Charlie remembered that he was supposed to be at lunch and Harry to think.
Dear Mr. Januk, May 27th, 1997
For the last decades we have tried to find a reliable method to communicate with the dragons in the reservation. As far as I know, very little progress has been made in that area, however.
Last week, my partner mastered his Animagus transformation and to the surprise of everybody he changed into a dragon.
Due to this reason and also due to the fact that as a dragon Animagus he will have little to fear from our residents, I propose that you consider the idea of either hiring him as an interpreter or allowing him to apprentice as a dragon handler. Even if the communication between a dragon and a dragon Animagus are only superficial, this could still give us an invaluable view into the lives of dragons.
Charles Weasley Master of Dragon Handling, 1st degree, Rezervatie Românesc
Dear Mr. Weasley, May 31st, 1997
I received your letter from the 27th and am very curious to meet your partner. The knowledge this could bring into our research, as well as the prestige it might bring to the reservation, are very good points in your argument.
Please let me know when your partner will be available for an interview and when we can test your hypothesis concerning his communication with dragons.
Pestor Januk Master of Dragon Handling, 3rd degree, Rezervatie Românesc
Dear Mr. Januk, June 3rd, 1997
Thank you for your quick reply and interest in my proposition.
My partner is currently attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and will finish his education here on June 23rd, 1997. Any time after this is suitable for an interview and test of his communication abilities.
Charles Weasley Master of Dragon Handling, 1st degree, Rezervatie Românesc
Dear Mr. Weasley, June 5th, 1997
Please accompany your partner to the Rezervatie Românesc on July 3rd, 1997 in preparation for an interview and subsequent testing of his abilities.
If the two of you are unable to attend the interview for any reasons, please let me know with advance notice.
Pestor Januk Master of Dragon Handling, 3rd degree, Rezervatie Românesc
Charlie smiled when Harry turned around at his voice and looked at him incredulously. "Charlie!" He left the rest of his team mates to go on alone and instead turned to Charlie. They didn't speak any further until they had reached the edge of the lake, then Harry asked: "What are you doing here?"
Charlie gave a careful look around, then he embraced Harry and steered him around the lake. He was going to have to explain a few things. "What I need a reason to visit my favourite boyfriend?"
Harry glared at him and Charlie laughed. The glare was about as useful as a puppy when Harry's eyes were shining with amusement. "I bloody well hope I'm your only boyfriend, Charlie Weasley." He grinned positively deviously. "Or I'm going to have to inform your mother that her second-oldest broke my heart and she should punish you as she sees fit."
"No! Please, anything but that! I swear, you're the one and only, there has never been nor will ever be anyone but you." Charlie squeezed Harry's waist during their banter and was just happy to be in Britain once again. Contrary to Harry, he hated Apparating, especially long-distance and international Flooing was expensive and just a general pain in the arse.
Harry sniggered. "Right, only one. That's about as likely as Hermione starting to date Snape." He wound his arm around Charlie's waist as well. "Now, tell me why you're here. You're not getting off that easily."
"Well, I have a question and a proposition..."
"You're propositioning me? I think we should tell your parents first, but if you think that's okay..."
Charlie looked at the smiling face next to his and couldn't help but grin back. "You're in an awfully good mood today. What did they mix into your breakfast?"
"I just had a fantastic practice and that always makes me happy." He turned into Charlie's embrace and slung his fingers around Charlie's neck. "Not to mention horny." He gave Charlie a slow kiss, lightly playing with his lips, until Charlie surrendered for the moment and actually forgot all about his reason for being here.
He was quickly reminded however, when Harry drew back again. "So, spill it!"
"Okay. First I wanted to know how your Animagus training and your registration were coming along."
Harry looked at him with a strange expression on his face and then answered guardedly. "Good. McGonagall actually spent half of my detentions training with me. Turns out me not being able to transform properly was the reason why I was such a strange dragon." He turned his nose up into the air. "Now I'm a Swedish Short-Snout. McGonagall said she will submit the registration as soon as I do one more transformation and show her if I'll be able to fly. Why?" He pushed back a bit. "You know I'm really not in the mood for another lecture on the topic. I know it was stupid and irresponsible to do this without any help and I promise not to do something so dangerous again. That's all I can do."
Charlie laid his fingers against Harry's mouth. "Shh. I didn't want to lecture you. I'm only asking because that is part of my proposition." He reached into his robes and pulled out a few sheets of parchment. "You see, I had an idea while I was talking to you in the Hospital Wing the other day and I asked my boss about it." He handed the papers to Harry. "He seems to like the idea."
Harry looked at him, then at the papers Charlie had pushed into his hands and finally unrolled them and began to read. The first one brought an amazed look into his eyes, while the other ones only added a facet of wonder to it. He finally finished all four and looked up at Charlie. "You really asked your boss for a job for me? And you actually want to work together with me?"
Charlie stroked his cheek. "Yes and yes. I think if the theory works and you really can communicate with dragons, you would be a great addition to the reservation, not to mention that I'd love it if you were close by." He couldn't read the expression on Harry's face. "Of course, you're absolutely free to decide for yourself what you want to do with your life, but I know that you're not interested in becoming an Auror anymore and your marks in Care of Magical Creatures and Charms are high enough to get you accepted into the reservation as a dragon handler anyway."
Harry looked from him to the parchments once again in what Charlie finally recognized as wonder and then the breath was knocked out of him when Harry flung his arms around him and kissed him even more breathless.
He finally drew back and grinned at Charlie delightedly. "There is nothing I would rather do than live with you in the middle of nowhere with some of the most dangerous creatures to wander the earth basically on the front step."