AN: My dear readers,
I am very sorry for the delay in updating my story. First I was away for two months in somewhere without even the hint of an electronic device and then I had some problems with finishing this chapter. Though I am not exactly satisfied with how it turned out, I don't think I can make it better without making you wait for several more months.
Not to forget - thank you all for your reply. I appreciate your responses to my humble story very much!
Sorry again for the delay and (hopefully) enjoy!
12. Chapter – New Arrival
What did he want? That was a very good question.
They hadn't talked much longer after Charlie asked him the question. He hadn't known how to answer it and he wasn't prepared to reveal anything more either. He had always been very secretive and private about his affairs and he was pretty certain the next questions would be about his flashbacks and therefore his life with the... muggles. He wasn't ready for it. Not at the moment. Not when he had so much to figure out.
The dragon handler must have understood that it wasn't time to push for more answers and he let Janus go visit Adelinda without any protest for which the dark haired wizard felt grateful. Charlie had only asked him whether it would be okay if he told Bill about at least part of his involvement in the disappearance of the Boy Who Lived in order to avoid any more suspicion, before he grabbed a broom and was off to the dragoness.
Now, he was sitting close to the cave leaning against Adelinda, stroking her scales as she lay curled around her egg. He hadn't uttered a word since he came and the dragoness hadn't asked any questions. She just looked at him with her big eyes and then went on to rest in the sun.
Janus once again wondered how good it felt to have talked about some of the things he was dealing with. If it had been someone else than Charlie, he probably wouldn't have uttered so much as a word or thought of some excuse. It was rather interesting that despite knowing Charlie only for a week, he trusted him with his secrets.
People always told him what to do. Be it his relatives or the magical community in the UK. You are the Boy Who Lived, our Saviour, you have to do this and that... You can't do that... For the good of the wizarding world... There had never been a person asking him what he wanted to do. How he felt about things.
Sure there were his friends, Ron and Hermione, who would ask him in daily situations about his wishes but even those he couldn't answer honestly all the time because there were many expectations concerning the Boy Who Lived, the Gryffindor Golden Boy. If he said, he wished to study or go to the library in his free time, Hermione might be happy to see him acting responsible but Ron would definitely question his sanity. If he wanted to get a snake, he was sure to hear accusations that he is turning to the Dark side or even the next Dark Lord. Of course, those things did matter to some extent but there were also those fundamental matters.
Had he been asked on which side of the war he wished to fight, let alone whether he even wanted to take active part in the fighting? Had he been asked where he wanted to go and what he desired to do once he turned 17? No. Albus BloodyDumbledore made the decision about his life. He wouldn't even be surprised if the headmaster had already chosen a spouse for him. It was nauseating, really.
To be asked what he wanted to do was quite the novelty. The surprise however was how hard it turned out to be to answer a seemingly simple question. Although he had tried to see through the manipulations and be his own man for quite some time, Janus had never considered his own desires. He had only "moved" in the frame of the machinations and not looked beyond. He had been trained to think of the others instead of himself and though he knew it rationally, it was much harder to act upon the realisation. When you had been told over and over since a very young age that you were nothing, a burden, a freak, a waste of space, etc. you wouldn't be able to shake the lack of self-worth from one day to another, if ever.
Despite his silent rebellion against the Order and the headmaster he had never been so selfish as to think of his own wishes. Even his departure from the headquarters without permission was not as selfish as he was very close to a breakdown and in that state he wouldn't have been able to help in any way.
So what did he want? Did he want Snape to know he had a son? That he, Harry, was his son? And what did he want from Snape?
If it were any other person (well, perhaps not Dumbledore, Voldy, Malfoy senior or the other loyal disciples of the Dark Lord – not necessarily in that order), he wouldn't have to think long. He would have wanted to confront his parent and get to know him better. However as the situation was, did he wish to get to know Severus Snape? Did he wish to tell him the truth?
The answer was yes and yes. The question, however, was, could he deal with the consequences? Could he deal with the sure rejection?
Nearly exactly at noon Bill arrived at the dragon preserve. Charlie had floo-called him earlier as he promised and Bill, who was worried because his closest brother practically ran out of Order headquarters the night before without so much as a word of explanation, immediately took a portkey. He was reminiscing about the time when they could talk openly via Floo, write letters without the fear of censure and floo without restrictions.
Now, if you wanted to leave England, you had to take a Ministry controlled portkey, apparate (if you were magically strong enough) or use muggle means. It was frustrating. The curse-breaker missed Egypt. Not only was his job there more interesting and full-filling then his current desk-job at the London branch of Gringotts but when he lived there, they could communicate with Charlie much more freely and see each other more frequently. But he had decided to come "home" for the war, to be closer to his family, so...
The only saving grace was his work with the goblins. Though wizards usually didn't acknowledged it, goblins were powerful magical beings in their own state and were quite capable of making (slightly) illegal portkeys. As Bill proved to be good at his curse breaking job and while working in Egypt brought them every time more than they expected, he could enjoy the luxury of leaving the country almost at his own free will. Otherwise, he feared, the relationship with Fleur might not have worked out quite so well.
When he shook the effects of the portkey(He hated those blasted buggers. Even the goblins couldn't make the contraptions more pleasant.), he hugged the slightly smaller but stronger dragon handler and sat down.
When they both had a bottle of beer (muggle beverages were in both of their opinions underappreciated amongst wizards), Bill asked: "So which dragon had you in such a rush this time?" It was not the first time that Charlie hurried back to the preserve because of a crisis with a dragon, though he usually stopped at least to explain his abrupt departure.
Since it took Charlie more than twelve hours to call him, Bill had been really concerned that something happened to him. He could tell now from his appearance that this wasn't the case (this time) and thanked all the gods once more that their mother never found out how many scars her second eldest son had already acquired in his job. Though Charlie would be treated at the preserve, sometimes he wouldn't be able to work for a few days and then he would end up staying with him for a few days to get himself back on feet.
Bill's job wasn't exactly safe either but the frequency of injuries in the first year of Charlie's job had even him worried about his younger brother. However he knew that dragons were Charlie's love and that he wouldn't give up on his chosen career for anything. He often teased his brother that he would even marry a dragon if he could.
"None," the dragon handler said and took a swig from his bottle. "Kyle decided it was a good idea to strangle my assistant."
"And?" Bill asked with a raised eyebrow at hearing this. He wondered a little about the unexpected anger in Charlie's voice. His younger brother, though a mountain of muscle was known for his calmness and kindness.
"He's my ex-lover now," Charlie stated matter-of-factly. "And Ian is more or less alright."
"I didn't know you had an assistant."
"He came a few weeks back and stays with me," the dragon handler explained. "Apparently Kyle thought him a threat."
"A threat? No, you know I wouldn't be unfaithful."
Bill raised an eyebrow. He knew this statement to be truthful but usually his brother would comment on the inadequacy of the person and on the impossibility of a relationship with said person which could only mean that he was, at the very least, attracted to this Ian. Given the anger in his voice earlier, Bill suspected it was more than attraction Charlie felt but his brother would tell him about any possible new blooming relationship. There was no point in pushing him into anything.
Charlie noticed the raised eyebrow and felt grateful that Bill refrained from asking any pointed questions to which he himself might not have answers because he was attracted to Ian. Very much so and not only to his appearance but also to his personality more and more. However, he had to figure out if he wanted to do anything about it and if yes than what. He didn't even know whether Ian would be amenable to a relationship with him, let alone whether he was gay. Then there was the distance during the year as Ian would have to return to England in the end of August and he himself would stay in Romania. Furthermore they had specific roles to play in the war and then there was the war itself. No, he would think about all of it later. Now he had to deal with Bill's suspicions about certain matter.
"So, what did you think about yesterday's meeting?" He asked.
"Honestly I think it was a waste of time," Bill said seriously. "I have talked to Harry several times and I know that he is capable of taking care of himself and hiding from unwanted attention. Obviously he doesn't want to be found and so he won't be. Besides the suggestions where he might hide were rather ridiculous."
"Yeah, they were, weren't they?"
"Do you know something?" The curse-breaker asked when it became clear that Charlie wouldn't offer any additional information he might know.
The dragon handler met Bill's light blue eyes and said: "You wanna know whether I had anything to do with Harry's disappearance." The older man nodded even though it was not a question. "The answer is nothing. I mean I know about him wanting to get away and I talked to him that day. He was planning on disappearing shortly before the meeting started and staying at his friend's. But that's all I know."
Bill studied his brother carefully. Charlie was calm and serious but they weren't the closest brother's for nothing and so Bill knew when his younger brother was not entirely honest.
"There's something you're not telling me," Bill stated.
"Yes, but I gave my word not to tell anyone, not even you."
The curse-breaker searched in Charlie's eyes before he nodded. Wizards believed in the power of words and the meaning of promises. If you gave your word to someone, you better keep it. He would have liked to know what was going on but he trusted his brother and if he said he couldn't tell anyone, he couldn't and that was it.
They chatted for a while about their respective jobs and ex-/partners but much too soon Bill had to return to Gringotts. He would have liked to meet Charlie's new assistant but he would surely get to know him sometime in the near future. He just had to visit his younger brother soon and that wasn't such a hardship.
Charlie was glad how the talk with his older brother went and that Bill accepted him not revealing anything so easily. He was pretty sure there wouldn't be a problem but he was relieved nonetheless. He looked at the watch hanging over the dining table and decided to prepare late lunch and take it to Ian as he suspected the young wizard wouldn't come back to eat anything. With that thought he got up and made his way to the kitchenette.
When, later that evening, Charlie asked Ian how often he suffered from his nightmares, the black haired wizard was reluctant to give a straight answer and that was the only answer the dragon handler needed. He insisted that the young man cancel the silencing charms around his room so that he would know when he was distressed or couldn't sleep. For Charlie wished to help him somehow and if the previous night was any indication, he rather thought his presence might be able to.
They both went to their respective beds early as they would have to get up with the sunrise once again. It was not even midnight when Charlie woke up to screams. It took him only few seconds to orient himself and to run into the guest bedroom. Several minutes later he managed to wake Ian but he needed even longer to calm the young man and to convince him to go to sleep again.
At 1:30 am, not even an hour after Charlie returned to his own bed, the redhead found his way into Ian's room once again. This time, however, he expanded the bed and summoned his blanket and stayed with the troubled young man after he stopped shaking. Ian tried to disagree and send the redhead back to his bed as before but Charlie just shushed him and lay down.
The alarm clock woke them up at sunrise the next morning. Janus was encircled in the redhead's strong arms and when he became aware of the situation, he blushed and mumbled something unintelligible before he stumbled out of the bed and went to the bathroom.
Charlie only watched after him in part amusement at his friend's embarrassment about the situation and something strongly resembling longing. He was past the stage of embarrassment when finding himself in bed with someone. He wasn't after all a novice to sexual matters and having grown up with younger siblings who, as every other child, suffered from nightmares now and then, meant that he had allowed them to stay with him overnight when they were frightened, so there really wasn't a reason for him to feel awkward at waking up, especially as he was still clothed and under his own duvet with Ian in his arms.
Of course, sleeping in a bed with his youngest brother's best friend in a totally unromantic sort of way wasn't something you did every day and the redhead had to admit if only to himself that it was a little strange when he woke up the day before but he would have lied if he claimed he didn't enjoy holding the young man in his arms.
Every day he was more and more attracted to Ian. To his inner strength, to his gentleness and open-mindedness even to his insecurity causing him to blush. He didn't know whether he had a chance with Ian or even whether his guest bent that way. Furthermore Ian was eight years his junior and he was the wizarding Saviour and therefore could have anyone he pointed his finger on. So why would he want to settle down with him? A common, boring, scarred dragon handler?
He sighed and got ready for the day.
They didn't mention the night at breakfast nor later in the day. Janus only put his bed in order and brought Charlie's blanket into the living room. They returned to the cabin very late in the evening as Adelinda started to get restless as she felt the coming hatching of her baby and so the dragon handlers had more to do than any other day. They did their best to calm her down but she responded well only to Janus and Charlie. The others had to pay even more attention around her as not to be fried to a crisp.
In addition they had to prepare alternative living arrangements for the hatchling because, as the redhead explained to his assistant, it wasn't uncommon for the dragons not to take care of their dragonets. Janus doubted that would happen with Adelinda because it was obvious from her care of the egg that she cared for her baby very much. Even Charlie didn't believe Adelinda would reject the hatchling but protocol was protocol.
Dragons were nearly extinct due to many dragon hunts, be it for potions ingredients or for fear of the great reptiles, and so the dragon handlers took very good care of each and every one of them. It was better if the dragons took care of their dragonets as Tanit did but the dragon handlers had also to be capable of stepping in as surrogate "mothers", as in the case of Norbert.
So after the exhausting day they came home after a quick dinner at the meeting house and went straight to their respective beds.
However, as the night before, Charlie found himself soon in Janus' bedroom. This time he brought his blanket with him the first time. He didn't even wake the thrashing young man. He just expanded the bed and laid down, murmuring soothing words and stroking his long black hair. When Janus quieted down, the lines on his face smoothed and he snuggled up to the redhead who drew him closer into his arms and stayed for a while watching his companion before following him into sleep.
The next morning was nearly the same. Janus felt embarrassed and ashamed of himself for needing the comfort of someone else, especially the second eldest Weasley who made his whole body tingle when he came close let alone touched his skin. But although he was embarrassed about the sleeping arrangement he would have expected to be angry for finding himself snuggled up to a man or, at the very least, very reluctant to let it continue. He wondered why he didn't mind all that much. Why he even enjoyed the feeling of warm, muscled body beside him and the strong arms around him.
Again they didn't discuss the situation or the underlying tension between them. Something had changed the night Kyle attacked Janus. Something more than just Charlie gaining the trust of the younger man. Charlie felt they needed to talk about things and even Janus, despite his reluctance to admit it, could see that their discussion on their day off was far from finished. There were more things that needed to be addressed. Things he had never ever talked about before. Things he would have preferred to take with him into the grave.
However due to the work at the preserve they found themselves exhausted after the day of work. The second day proved to be the most trying yet for the assistant. The days of calm at the preserve were officially over.
They were just bringing Adelinda some freshly killed chickens when they heard a furious roar in the distance.
Everyone immediately paused in their actions. Usually, dragons were pretty quiet creatures and to hear one from so far away, there had to be something seriously wrong.
They didn't have to wait long to hear the next distressed roars. Roars as in plural. They could recognise the two first ones but the third one was a mystery which caused the dragon handlers to exchange worried looks. When you worked with the great beasts day in, day out you got to know the dragons very well and therefore you could distinguish the dragons from each other only by their noises. Same as parents can tell if it's their child that is crying in a crowd full of children.
The sudden answering roar from Adelinda brought the group back from their trance. They all turned towards her in order to calm her down as they didn't need any more enraged dragons at their hands. However, Janus, who could at least understand one of the distressed dragons, was already doing his best to calm her down.
Charlie seeing this turned to the rest of the team and beckoned them a few feet away from the dragon though he stayed close enough to jump in at any second, should Janus need assistance. Though they had dealt with numerous raging dragons over the years Charlie knew that there was a chance they could spare themselves many swearwords, stress and injuries for there was the slight possibility of calming the dragons without using too much force.
He looked at Janus and as if feeling his gaze upon him, the young wizard met his blue eyes with his emerald green ones. When he inclined his head, the redhead was certain that his friend knew what he wanted to do and that he, more importantly, agreed with him.
In the end, he managed to persuade his co-workers to call in Jaq' and Louise to stay with the now much calmer dragoness and to let Janus help them with the situation. They mounted their brooms quickly and rushed in the directions the three arguing dragons were but they were not even halfway there when Charlie ordered all of them to land in a small clearing.
"There is something you need to know," he halted their arguments before they even had a chance to open their mouths.
As they were concentrating on the redhead, Janus had the chance to set up some privacy wards around them inconspicuously while listening to Charlie's explanation.
"You need to know the reason why I wanted Ian to come with us. He has a special ability that could help us solve this situation without any burns or lost arms or legs. I know it's a lot to ask of you but could you, please, swear on your magic never to reveal to anyone what Ian's special ability is and what you are going to witness while dealing with the dragons?" Charlie implored and the usually easy-going man was now talking dead serious. The others could see it in his eyes, in his posture and in the way he talked to them. Hell, they sensed from the first moment that Janus was not all he appeared to be and the protectiveness he showed towards the young man was apparent to all of them.
They trusted Charlie. In their job they had to trust each other to have each other's backs if it was necessary. Furthermore they knew the redhead and he wouldn't be asking, no demanding, for a vow if it wasn't serious. Therefore they took out their wands and one after each other vowed to never reveal anything about Janus' ability.
They all noticed that Charlie and Janus both relaxed a little, though Janus was still a little uncertain about their reactions upon finding him speaking in parseltongue. He didn't reveal all to them now, they would witness it for themselves, after all, but he did give them the heads up.
"I kind of can talk to dragons, although I can only converse with the smaller ones like Adelinde."
They looked at him like he had suddenly sprouted two heads but instead of acknowledging them he cancelled the wards with a slight wave of his wand and mounted his broom. The others followed soon after.
That evening when they met up with the rest of their team for a couple of drinks, Paul, Chris and Andy told the French pair excitedly about the way they had handled the situation with the three dragons. Of course, not before Jaq' and Louise had sworn not to speak about it with anyone else. Janus was just happy that nobody was seriously injured during the little dispute and that he didn't need to fear to be around Tanit from now on. He feared at first the reaction of the others to his little ability but he needn't have worried. Although they were surprised, they were very understanding of his reasons to hide his ability. It didn't, however, stop them from appreciating the usefulness of parseltongue in their line of work and making fun of it.
Charlie listened to the descriptions but his concentration was directed at Janus. He was glad the young man started to come out of his shell at least a little. He fit very well into their little group and the redhead enjoyed watching the rare smile which graced his face now and then.
When they arrived at the scene they weren't very surprised to see Tanit's two dragonets there as they had recognised their roars before. What, however, made them stop in their tracks was the third dragon. They hadn't seen him before and for a Romanian Balaur he looked pretty violent in the way he tried to fight the two adolescent dragons. One of them, Tim, had already an injured wing and even though Tatsu tried to do his best to protect himself and his brother, it didn't look very good for either of them.
Janus fleetingly thought about the whereabouts of Tanit as it was highly strange for her not to be with her babies but he had his job cut out for him and so he shook of the attempts of the others to hold him back and stepped forward.
°Hello there. Why don't you let the young ones be?° Janus hissed in what he hoped to be a nonthreatening voice. All the dragon handlers froze in their movements, except for Charlie who seemed to fight with his instincts to pull his friend back. Ian with his lithe form was in comparison to the Balaur absolutely tiny.
Janus, however, paid neither of them mind. Instead he watched the Balaur turn his head towards the new possible danger. When he was sure he had the dragon's attention, he continued.
°I don't know what they had done to you but I am sure we can clear it without anyone getting killed,° he hissed and when the dragon roared angrily, he amended. °I am certain that their mother will bring them to order.°
It had obviously been the right thing to say as the two dragonets whimpered and the Balaur seemed to calm down a little. By this point the rest of the dragon handlers shook of their shock and watched their new colleague and the dragons in amazement.
°I don't think I will understand you but could you please nod or shake your head if you agree or disagree?° Janus continued. The dragon bobbed his head slightly and the green eyed wizard felt a bit of the tension in his body lessen. He had the attention of the newcomer and the dragon was obviously ready to cooperate. °You are on a dragon preserve. These humans behind me take care of several dragons who have their nests in this valley.°
As the Balaur roared angrily the four handlers raised their wands to stun the beast but Janus stopped them with a slight hand motion.
°No, the dragons aren't kept prisoners. They stay here voluntarily and can leave whenever they like. In exchange for shed scales and waste the humans keep the nests clean, help with the hatchlings and heal the dragons if necessarily as well as make sure that there is enough food,° he explained and the dragon quieted down. °Would you like to stay here?°
The dragon seemed to think the question over and so the young wizard glanced first at Tim and Tatsu who were huddled together and were watching the dragon warily, then at Charlie and the others. He saw the awe and confusion in their faces and despite feeling uncomfortable at their reactions he explained the situation to them quickly in English. "I explained to him about the preserve and he is thinking about staying here. When he has decided I'll make sure he lets you heal Tim and Tatsu.
If he wants to stay what shall I tell him?"
Janus had been at the preserve long enough to know how it worked between the wizards and dragons there. The dragons were staying because the handlers made it preferable for them to leaving. The protection from dragon hunters and enough food were welcomed and so they didn't mind giving the humans their old scales, dung and on rare occasions the egg shells or even their own blood. However, dragons were very territorial beings and so it was essential to find the newcomers an appropriate living space which wouldn't disturb the "older" ones.
When the dragon roared and nodded in agreement, the wizards gave him directions to a cave further up in the mountains the Romanian Balaur might like which he gave to the dragon before asking: °May we now heal the hatchlings?°
The Balaur turned to the two dragonets roared several times causing them to flinch back and huddle even closer together. After that the new addition to the dragon colony spread his wings and was with a few strong swings off to explore his new home.
He was a beautiful sight to see. He was the biggest dragon Janus had seen so far with dark green, nigh black, scales on his back and blue-green on the underside of his belly. The expressions of the others indicated that he was not the only one to think so.
After several moment he turned his attention from the skies to the two adolescents and, taking the departure of the Balaur as acquiescence, he approached them carefully while explaining what the others were about to do. He motioned the others to follow and after an hour, with some explaining in English and Parseltongue, Tim and Tatsu were fully healed. To make sure that they got to their mother safely, they mounted their brooms and directed the two dragons into the sky.
When they landed in front of the cave the little family of Hungarian Horntails resided, they needn't have waited even a minute before frantic Tanit came out of it. When she saw her children she calmed a bit, however, then her big eyes landed on Janus and she roared angrily and started to advance at him.
Before Charlie managed to so much as step in the direction of his assistant, both dragon brothers roared and tried to stop their mother. After several minutes of back and forth the dragoness fell back and studied the face and posture of the human before her carefully.
Although Janus didn't understand what the two dragons told their mother, he could wager a very good guess. He didn't move a finger during the entire confrontation despite the many calls of his name and the worried look of Charlie he could feel directed at him. When Tanit gave up on killing him right then and there, he looked her in the eyes and said: °I'm very sorry about what happened years ago. I never wanted to fight you or endanger your hatchlings but I was forced to. I am very sorry.°
The dragoness was obviously satisfied with what she found in his eyes because she blinked once, twice, inclined her head and then dismissed him and the other humans, turning back to her hatchlings to scold them for their earlier actions.
Janus couldn't help but feel as if Tanit was just another Mrs. Weasley in dragon form.