Here be dragons

Bill and Charlie have a brotherly little chat. Characters belong to Rowling.

"It's down here... hang on... He's with me, Clawnose."

"You're aware that visitors are not allowed in this part of the... Hey!"

"Listen carefully, you sad excuse for a maggot. This is my bro, and he's coming with me. I'm in no mood for arguing, I'm in no mood for you, and I can see preciously few reasons not to kick your ugly snout into the back of your head. Got that?"

"...Have a nice day, Mr Weasley."

"...Wasn't very friendly, was he?"

"Clawnose's just a third grade wanna-be bully. Give him a finger and you have him at your throat. Watch out, the stairs are steep."

"Still, you could have just asked, couldn't you?"

"Nah, visitors aren't allowed down here."

"Oh. Lucky for me I'm with you, eh?"

"Hey, they owe it to me. I've done enough for those bastards to be allowed to be lax about a few rules."

"Head boy speaking."

"Stuff it."

"...So, everything's in order for the wedding?"

"Dunno. Fleur and her mother are going ballistic on the last preparations down in France, but she's made it perfectly clear that I'm to stay well away from anything that needs the least amount of organization. My heavy duty is to show up reasonable sober, marginally clean, wearing dress robes of her exact specification. Oh, and to bring a ring."

"Have you picked up the dress robes, then?"

"Haven't got around to do it yet."

"What about the ring."

"There's still plenty of time."

"You haven't done scratch for the wedding, have you?"

"I proposed to her, remember? Doesn't that count for something?"

"Somehow I get the impression that Fleur had a lot of groundwork to lay before you could be coaxed into it."

"Why would you possibly think that?"

"She told me so."

"Oh."

"What about that pearl ring you found in a tomb in Greece?"

"The one with a decaying curse on it?"

"...might perhaps taint the wedding-sprit just a tad."

"Ginny will be brides maid together with Gabrielle. We'll have to find a decent dress robe for her."

"And she's going to be so happy about it."

"It won't kill her to dress up for her oldest brother's wedding."

"No, but it might kill some of the bystanders."

"Tough luck. She'll just have to accept it, doesn't she?"

"Whatever you say. As long as I don't have to be the one to force the dress robes on her."

"Now, this corridor is goblin sized, so we have to walk double-bent for awhile."

"This would better be worth it."

"It is bro, believe me, it is."

"Have you sent all the invitations yet?"

"Most of them. Chris and Cate are still out in South America somewhere where even the owls refuse to try to find them. Hopefully they'll find their way back to civilisation in time."

"Everyone else's coming, then?"

"Most people, anyway. There have been some refusals - you know, due to times being what they are..."

"...what about Percy?"

"He'll come."

"You've talked to him then?"

"Nope. But he'll come."

"You know, if you want to, I can bring the twins and..."

"No. I'll deal with Perce myself."

"Sorry. Just a thought."

"He'll come."

"If you say so."

"OK, we're here. Ready?"

"Of course I'm ready. Open the door!"

"Just be careful, these aren't your normal Romanian breeding stock."

"..."

"Impressive, aren't they?"

"...wow..."

"Specially bred in Iceland, as far as I have understood it."

"...It's the ridgeback, all right, but it's massive."

"And bad tempered. The goblins take security seriously."

"Just look at the size of those claws, and those wings... Do you know if they hatch here or if they're brought as a youngster?"

"Look out! I think it's going to..."

"Protego!!!"

"JUMP!"

"It's OK. He's just curious."

"Well, do you mind if we retreat a few steps?"

"It's a real beauty."

"Well, I told you there are dragons in Gringotts, didn't I?"

"You sure did, bro. Thanks for bringing me."

"No problems."

The two brothers stepped back against the wall, watching in silence as the large dragon went back to his treasure hoard, with a last, suspicious snort at Charlie. Charlie glanced at his older brother.

"So..." he hesitantly said. "You're all right then?" Bill gave him a dark look.

"Never better," he said behind gritted teeth.

"You didn't have any... problems last night, then?"

"Nothing I can't live with."

Tentatively, Charlie reached out and tenderly touched his brother's face. At first, Bill looked like he was going to draw away, but then he sighed and accepted the gesture. He looked at Charlie with eyes bloodshot of fear and worry. Charlie carefully moved his fingers along the edge of the still only half-healed werewolf wounds.

"You'll be all right, brother," he said with thick voice. "I know you will."