"Mick! Get over here! They're hatching!" Charlie yelled to his Australian friend.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," Mick grumbled. He never had liked Egg Watch.
An hour later all but one of the baby dragons had hatched.
"Come on," Charlie breathed, "Almost done, little guy." Charlie thought the hatchings were the best part of his job.
The baby Fireball poked his little snout out of a hole in the shell. He gave a little snort of flame, and moved back inside. Chink, chink, chink. More of the shell fell away. His whole head stuck out now. He stared at Charlie. He pulled back in and began to chip away at the shell again. At last, he broke his way through.
Charlie laughed softly as the baby stumbled around learning to walk. "Baby Oscar hatched at…" he looked at his watch, "2:10 in the afternoon." He picked the little guy up and carried him to the scale.
After recording all the pertinent information, Charlie brought him to the baby Chinese Fireball pen. He had just lowered Oscar into the pen when another dragon got a little too close and snorted.
"Damn!" he snapped. "That hurt." He inspected the burn on his hand. It wasn't bad; he'd had worse. He shrugged it off and went to sign out.
He apparated home, and when he entered he was surprised to see Hermione in the kitchen.
She was stirring something in his big pot and humming under her breath. It was a very domestic scene.
Charlie walked in and, grabbing her hips from behind, leaned over her shoulder to kiss her on the cheek. She smiled up at him.
"Hey there," he said smiling back at her.
"Hi," she responded. "How was work?"
Charlie beamed at her. "The babies from Sue's last nesting hatched today."
"Really? How many was that?" Hermione grinned back at him as he sat down at the table.
"Five. I have to admit, the youngest is my new favorite."
"Oh?" she asked as she dished up the chili she had made.
"Yeah, we were worried that he'd exhaust himself before he could finish breaking his way out, but the little bugger managed it. I named him Oscar; the little guy only weighed about as much as Hogwarts, a History."
Hermione chuckled softly at that description. "How are they doing? Though judging from the look on your face, they're all healthy."
"Yeah. They're doing great."
She placed the bowls down on the table, but as he reached for his spoon she noticed something.
He looked confused. "What's what?"
"That…on your hand?" she said pointing at his right hand.
"Oh," he said, "That? That's just a burn."
"Oh, my!" Hermione dashed from the table and began to rifle through one of the cabinets muttering under her breath.
"Hermione, what are you doing?"
"Getting some burn ointment for your hand."
He laughed. "It's not that bad."
She bristled. "Not that bad?" she asked incredulously. "It's bright red!"
"Hermione, it's really not bad at all. Just a singe," Charlie said. "I've had worse."
That really was the worst thing he could have said.
"How much worse?" she asked, fear coloring her voice.
He sighed. "Just worse," he said trying to blow it off.
"Charlie, how much worse?" her voice raised some.
He groaned. "I've had a few third degree burns."
Hermione's eyes filled with tears as she, at last, located the burn ointment. She started twisting off the top, but her hands were shaking.
He pulled the jar out of her hands. "It really wasn't as bad as it sounds." He held her hands in his.
"Charlie…it was third degree burns. How could it not be bad?" A few tears slipped down her cheeks.
"I didn't say it wasn't bad, just not that bad. I healed overnight. A few potions and I was fine."
She sniffed a little. She pulled her right hand away and caressed the scar on the side of his neck. "This is one of them, isn't it?"
"Yeah," he said, his throat a little scratchy.
She reached for the jar and, with steadier hands, opened it, and began to apply the cream to his hand. She didn't say anything.
"Hermione?" he asked.
She quickly closed the jar and put it away before washing her hands. "Let's eat," she said in a fake cheerful voice not meeting his eyes.
"Hermione, we have to talk about this."
She sighed. "It scares me."
"Talking about it?"
"No," Hermione said, "the idea that you could be seriously injured. It never occurred to me before."
"Injuries happen," he said. "Harry could get hit by the Knight Bus. Ron could fall off his broom. I could get burnt. It happens. Yes, it's scary when it happens to someone you care about. Hell, I was terrified when you were in Hospital Wing after fighting Death Eaters. But, sweetheart, you can't let your fear control you."
Hermione nodded her head. "I know. It's just hard."
"Believe me, darling, I know." He remembered how pale she had been, lying on the hospital bed.
"I'll work on it," she said, then smiled softly. "But I think my boggart has changed."
Charlie smiled softly. "To what?"
"Well, if your boggart is me hurt, then do you think your Patronus will be me as well." Charlie smiled at her.
She laughed a little. "Yeah. Maybe…I hope so," she whispered.
"I hope so too. I want to be your protector."
They smiled at each other, and finally ate their now cold dinner.