Note: Yeah, so... this went from slightly late to 'well, she's never going to update this again.' I kind of got caught up writing other stuff, for which I can only apologise. Unfortunately, this isn't the most popular thing I've ever written – which is a shame as I'm enjoying it – so motivation is a bit difficult. But I intend to power through! So, sorry for the delay and thanks to all those who reviewed the last chapter! Much appreciated! Enjoy and please review because I would love some feedback!
Anna jolted awake. She immediately regretted her return to consciousness.
One plus, she supposed, was that she seemed to be in her own bed. Well, on it. Fully clothed. She was still wearing that old green t-shirt with 'IRELAND' clumsily daubed on it in black ink. Leaning over to kick her boots off, she took a nervous glance at the clock on her bedside table. 5.03am. Thank Merlin. She wasn't sacked yet then.
She gingerly wiped her cheek and stared at her hand. Green glitter. Where had the green glitter come from?
For some reason, she suspected Sam Eddowes was responsible for that. It was all a bit of a happy blur, really. Ireland scored a few goals in quick succession and the Butterbeer that was flowing turned swiftly to Firewhisky and then Ireland scored a few more goals and then... laughing and leaping around and Ireland winning by 200 points. Even Anna knew her bet had been audacious, but apparently miracles did happen.
She grinned like a fool at the darkened ceiling. She was going to Quidditch World Cup Final. It made the searing headache entirely worth it.
But while she couldn't feel too sorry for herself, the thought of flying practise with a new class of recruits in a few hours filled her with horror. Because what she tended to forget was that she was thirty-four, not sixteen, and Gryffindor had not won the Quidditch Cup for the third year in a row – now that was a good party – and she couldn't still drink a gallon of Firewhisky and wake up perky in the morning. Times had changed.
Anna jumped into a sitting position, only to slump back under the force of her headache. Oh God, but she'd kissed Weasley, hadn't she? The moment returned to her in a blinding flash of memory. "Bugger!" she hissed. Of course, it hadn't been a kiss kiss. It was just a brief, mad thing. He hugged her unexpectedly when Lynch caught the Snitch and she just reacted without thinking. If anything, it was more of a peck. Definitely more of a peck. Like an aunt at a wedding or something.
Wait no, that wasn't a very flattering analogy.
It was matey then, between mates. Friendly.
It was friendly and she was nobody's aunt and it was fine. All fine.
The Quidditch World Cup Final was three weeks away. Charlie thought he might die of excitement.
That could be the only explanation for his bursting into one of Anna's classes under the pretence of 'important business.'
She was stood in front of the blackboard holding a foot long Ukranian Ironbelly fang and lecturing two boys who wouldn't stop talking. "Oi! Hadley! Tyler! How would like to have your insides ripped out by one of these?" She held up the gargantuan fang. "That's what's going to happen if you don't listen to me." She turned to Charlie who was lingering at the side and flashed him a brief, if weary, grin.
"What is it, Mr Weasley?"
Mr Weasley... qualified dragon handler and employee of the world's biggest dragon reserve. He couldn't quite get used to that.
"Nothing urgent," he said, standing back. "I can wait."
"Good." Her current class were a handful, that much was obvious. When at last they trailed out of the classroom, chatting and joking, Anna shook her head. She dumped the Ironbelly fang on her desk with a dull clunk. "I've got to fly with that lot tomorrow," she sighed, turning to Charlie. "You know how when you first got here we gave you all those deep speeches, kind of daring you to quit?"
"Well, I hope they all take it seriously." Charlie grinned as soon as she turned her back because he knew she didn't really mean it. "No, really, Charlie. I'm serious!"
"You're not," he laughed. "Maybe just take them into a few Wronski Feints?"
"Aha! Tempting, tempting," Anna said. "So what did you want?"
"Just got a letter from my dad – he's got the tickets to the final."
"Oooh!" Anna's dark eyes glittered, Quidditch providing an immediate distraction from her awful class. "So," she said. "Spill. Where are your seats?"
Charlie hesitated. Although he was thrilled about his family's seats, he was a bit embarrassed to admit it to Anna. "Uh... Top Box, actually."
"Top Box? How? Damn," she sighed. "And here I am in lowly seat 14H or G or whatever it was. How on earth did you get such a good seats, Weasley?"
Charlie shrugged. In truth, it seemed crazy even to him that his father had got such great seats. As a child, Quidditch finals were just a dream – he knew then that his parents had little money. "He did someone a favour in work," he explained, supposing that sometimes good things did happen to good people.
She rolled her eyes at him. "Wow. You lucky sod."
The door crashed open. It was Sam. "Anna, we need your help out here. That baby Horntail we brought in for blood testing has gone mental – it got one of the girls with its tail, badly cut her arm. All hell's breaking loose, honestly. Sorry to interrupt," he added, shooting a devious look at Charlie.
Luckily, Anna didn't seem to be paying attention. "Oh, Merlin," she muttered, twisting a hand through her hair. "Come on then. Show me where. You'd better come as well, Weasley. Sounds as if we need all hands on deck."
"There's no way that's true." Anna was sat, arms folded, at a small table at in the local tavern. She was positioned between her colleagues, Dragos and Andrei Cisca, the latter of whom was puffing on a pipe and shrouding them in thick purple smoke.
"It's true," said Dragos, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "To the best of my knowledge. I didn't believe it myself at first, Anna."
He pronounced her name strangely, over-emphasising the first 'A'. 'Aaah' rather than 'Ah'. She was very used to it by now, of course.
"Stupid," was Andrei's muttered opinion.
Anna wasn't sure whether he was referring to the conversation or Dragos' news. Possibly both.
Certainly, the revival of the Triwizard Tournament seemed like a ridiculous idea. True, when she was fifteen she would've loved nothing more that the excitement of a dangerous competition. But that was before the war took hold and life became too dangerous. Now it seemed vaguely disturbing to her that today's teenagers were being put at risk for sport, whereas so many of her own generation had died for something far more significant.
At the other side of the room, a group including Charlie and Sam were playing a raucous game of Exploding Snap. The young barmaid, Ramona, spent a lot of time hanging around their table, flicking her dark hair and laughing, albeit confusedly, at Sam's jokes. Anna watched them absently for a while, before turning to her companions.
"Well, I'm still struggling to believe it."
"Mr Ridgebit said – "
"Oh for Merlin's sake, Dragos! 'Mr Ridgebit said,'" she mimicked. "He says plenty of things, and how much of it do we actually listen to? The man doesn't know dragons! It's just a business to him."
"Idiot," Andrei agreed, and this time Anna knew exactly who he was referring to.
"And anyway," she continued, "what would he have heard about the Triwizard Tournament? It doesn't have anything to do with us. There aren't even any schools nearby – "
Anna stopped. There had been a small explosion followed by a plume of smoke rising from the corner where Charlie and Sam were playing Exploding Snap. The barmaid had scurried away. Anna forgot all about the Triwizard Tournament because Sam, she noticed, was suddenly and hilariously devoid of eyebrows.
Some of the best nights Charlie had in Romania were out on his broom just after sunset. Part of his work involved making sure his flying skills were up to scratch – but this, for Charlie, was more of a bonus than a chore.
He hovered in the air, an old Beater's bat clutched in his right hand. He swung it back and sent the tennis ball they were practising with careening into the night. He and Anna were in the paddock at the edge of the village where new recruits were put through their paces.
"Nice one!" Anna shouted, zooming after it, her hair flying behind her.
Charlie watched her diving after the ball, catching it inches from the grass, thirty feet below him. "You too," he called.
She flew back up to meet him, brushing her hair off her face and grinning. "Thanks. And your reflexes were great just then."
It was weird, he thought, she was being too nice to him. He turned the tennis ball over in his hands. It was an odd little thing: bright green, about the size of an apple and furry. Muggles were so strange, though he could see what his father found so fascinating about them.
"Weasley!" Anna clapped her hands impatiently. "Come on, what are we waiting for?"
Charlie jolted and looked up. The night had grown fully dark now, shadows creeping down from the mountains and filling the space between them. If it weren't for the stars glinting overhead, he wouldn't have been able to make out her face. He held up the tennis ball. "Sure you'll be able to see it?"
He threw it high into the air. It climbed into a high arch, but fell rapidly. Anna was just about as quick. She threw herself forward on her broom, flung out her right arm and it landed on her palm. She sent Charlie a flushed smile and glided slowly over to him. "You're right," she admitted, "it is getting dark."
On the way back to base, Anna asked Charlie an unexpected question. "Have you ever heard of the Triwizard Tournament?"
The name was distantly familiar. Charlie half-recognised it – perhaps it had been mentioned briefly in an old text book. He nodded slowly. "I think I know of it."
A strange look came over Anna's face; her lips were tight. "Me too. I know a little bit about it – mainly that it's dangerous." She shot a glance at Charlie. "Rumour is, they're reviving it."
"The Ministry. Apparently it's going to be held at Hogwarts. These are only rumours, mind. No idea if it'll actually happen. I just wonder... why was Mr Ridgebit involved?"
They could both quite easily guess, though neither spoke of what was running through their head. Dragons.
"Who told you?" Charlie asked.
"Dragos," Anna said and then sighed. "He's probably right, too, though I'd never tell him so..."
Something stilled within Charlie: a twist in the pit of his stomach and a sudden tightness in his throat. But it passed in an instant. It could easily have been his imagination, but it clearly wasn't because Anna had noticed. She fixed him a look, her head titled slightly. "What?"
"Oh. Nothing." He tossed and caught the tennis ball without much enthusiasm. It was an attempt at carefree that fell some way short.
She came to a complete halt. "What?"
Charlie's Gryffindor boldness chose exactly the wrong moment to surface: "I mean, you two are – "
The together bit didn't actually come out. He came to his senses before that, but by then it was too late. What else could he possibly be referring to?
"You two?" she repeated. "Me and Dragos?"
There was silence. Charlie fought for something to say, some explanation. He shrugged. "That's – that's what I was told."
Anna just laughed. Loudly. "Okay, sure." She threw her hands up in exasperation. "If that's what you were told, then of course. Who told you, incidentally?"
Horror was coursing through Charlie's veins. Why had he opened his mouth? "Sam," he admitted, wincing even as he said it.
"And that makes it true? Look Charlie: I don't care if Godric Gryffindor himself told you that! I'm damn well fed up of bloody stupid rumours!" She swung her Cleansweep Seven over her shoulder and marched back to base at a speed that told him it was madness to try and follow.
Charlie. She had called him Charlie. Though this time, using his first name instead of Weasley was not necessarily a good thing. It meant he had he broken down the barrier between boss and employee and, in this particular instance, that was very much a bad move.
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