A smoky grey owl swooped down from the cloud-dotted blue sky, hooting twice to announce its arrival. Charlie Weasley held out his right arm for the bird to perch upon, and accepted the envelope that was attached to the owl's leg. It was sealed with red wax, and bore the stylised "M" logo of the British Ministry for Magic.
"Hang on a sec," Charlie said to the owl, which calmly remained perched on his arm while he popped into his cabin for a few owl treats. The owl gobbled up the meaty nuggets, and hooted once before flying away through the open door.
A wave of his wand shut the door. Charlie cracked the seal and removed the parchment page from within the envelope.
Office of the Minister for Magic
Ministry for Magic
London, UK1 November 2010
Dear Mr Weasley,
The Ministry for Magic is expanding its current dragon care operations, and as such, is in need of a director of operations for our new dragon reserve in the Derryveagh Mountains of Ireland. We are hopeful that a dragon keeper of your experience and background would be interested in this position, and invite you to come to meet with the Minister for Magic at your earliest convenience to discuss this opportunity.
Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic
Charlie shook his head and dropped the parchment scroll on the scarred wooden table in his tiny cabin. Leave it to Perfect Percy to write a letter to his own brother and still sound stuck-up and impersonal. Though he was intrigued by the proposition. After so many years at the Romanian Longhorn Dragon Reservation, Charlie was ready for a change of scenery, and the challenge of starting up a new dragon reserve had piqued his interest. He picked up a quill and penned a quick note to his brother in his role as Kingsley Shacklebolt's right arm.
Book me an appointment with Minister Shacklebolt at one o'clock on Friday. Clear his afternoon schedule.
That should get Percy up in arms, thought Charlie. An afternoon with the most powerful - and sexiest - man in Wizarding Britain? Charlie could hardly wait.
The next note was sent to the Burrow, announcing his upcoming visit - as much as his mum loved having her kids at home, she really preferred to have some advance warning.
Molly Weasley picked up the parchment scroll that had been delivered by a very tired-looking barn owl that afternoon, and re-read it for the umpteenth time.
I’ve an interview at the Ministry Friday afternoon. Will be at the Burrow in time for dinner Thursday.
See you soon,
Molly smiled, and waved her wand at the dishes in the kitchen sink, starting the charm that washed them. Her Charlie, interviewing at the Ministry? Could only mean one thing: he might be coming home for good soon. For the rest of the afternoon, Molly caught herself humming as she worked, and could hardly contain her excitement when Arthur arrived home for supper.
The Office of the Minister for Magic was brightly lit by the sunlight that streamed through magical windows on three walls. Kingsley liked the light, and had charmed the windows so that he’d have the sunlight any time, day or night.
Another bright spot in Kingsley’s day was his afternoon appointment. Charlie Weasley was just the kind of man Kingsley wanted to head up the new dragon reserve. Not so young as to be overly reckless, and not so old as to be averse to new ideas. He'd been valuable to the Ministry several times since the war, sharing his expertise on both dragon biology and behaviour, as well as mentoring apprentices in the Ministry's training programme.
Kingsley wondered a little at the great variety in Molly and Arthur Weasley's progeny. Proper, efficient Percy - an excellent undersecretary, but a bit of a prig. Charlie, on the other hand, was different, original. He'd been quite the innovator in the field of dracontology, though he didn't always follow the proper channels. Percy's polar opposite, actually. Kingsley found himself anticipating this interview like no other he'd participated in. Who wouldn't look forward to a couple of hours with a vibrant man like Charlie Weasley?
Charlie found his lap full of freckled, red-haired children. Rose and Hugo, from the looks of the frizzy hair on his niece.
"What are you two trying to do?" Charlie teased, even as he tickled the children.
"They're just happy to see you." Hermione stood framed by the kitchen door.
"Hermione!" Charlie exclaimed as he disengaged the children, placing each one on a chair beside him. He stood and went over to give his sister-in-law a hug. "You're looking well."
"You're very sweet, Charlie," said Hermione, smoothing an errant strand of hair behind her ear. "Although I think you may need a Visual Acuity Potion. Hugo is still keeping me up at night - I can't remember the last time I slept eight solid hours."
"Are you going back to work at the Ministry?"
"Yes, as soon as I find a nanny for Rose and Hugo. Molly offered, but Hugo in particular can be quite a handful."
"You realise Mum will be very disappointed if you get a stranger to look after her grandchildren, don't you?"
Hermione sighed. "I know that, but I hate the idea of sponging off of her. She's always so generous with her time, but after raising the seven of you, don't you think she deserves a break? Some time for herself?"
"There goes my wife again, creating causes where there's no need for them." Ron kissed Hermione's cheek as he passed through the doorway and bent to scoop up the children, settling Rose on his hip and Hugo on his shoulders. "Hey, Charlie. We weren't expecting you until Yule... what brings you home now?"
"Charlie has an interview with Kingsley tomorrow afternoon," said Hermione pointedly, giving Ron a look that even Charlie recognised as meaning 'how could you not know that?'
"I do have an interview," agreed Charlie. "They're looking for someone to head up the new Irish dragon reserve."
"Mum would love that," said Ron. "She might actually get to see you once in a while."
"Said like someone who's had the 'you're too busy to come visit' speech more than once," teased Charlie.
"You know it, brother!"
Hermione rolled her eyes at them and left the room. Charlie and Ron took the children outside for a rousing game of Capture the Garden Gnome.
Charlie set his empty teacup on the kitchen table and pushed back his chair. A glance at the mantel clock - the one that actually showed the time of day - told Charlie it was time for him to head to the Ministry.
"Thanks for the tea, Mum!" Charlie called as he snatched another chocolate biscuit on his way to the Floo.
Molly came down from upstairs just as Charlie reached the fireplace. "Give my best to Kingsley! And good luck with the interview," said Molly, who kissed his cheek. "Not that you need it."
"Mum! There's no guarantee that I'm going to get the job," Charlie protested. He grabbed a pinch of Floo powder and leant over to kiss his mum on the cheek.
Molly fussed with the collar of Charlie's shirt. "Tell Percy he and Penelope are expected to come to dinner Sunday."
"Yes, Mum." Charlie stepped into the Floo, threw down the powder and called, "Ministry for Magic!"
As he spun his way to his appointment at the Ministry, Charlie wondered what the future might hold for him.
The Atrium at the Ministry for Magic was bustling with witches and wizards scurrying like ants through a maze between the fireplaces, the lifts and the access to the phone box on the street outside. It was no busier than Charlie had seen it on previous visits, but it seemed busy for a Friday afternoon. Guess life in Romania moves at a slower pace than London, Charlie thought.
On his way to the lifts, Charlie stopped to admire the Fountain of Magical Brethren before registering his wand with the security guard. The first lift Charlie came to already contained three Aurors who appeared to be escorting a prisoner to the holding cells. Charlie moved on to the next and entered it, along with several witches and inter-office memos. Charlie flashed a smile at the witches and pushed the button for Level One.
By the time he arrived, Charlie was the last person left in the lift. He exited, and followed the corridor to the Minister's office. Along the way, he passed the Senior Undersecretary's office - he popped his head in to say hello to Percy, but his perfect brother was nowhere to be seen. Charlie continued on to the end of the corridor, and the Office of the Minister for Magic.
The Minister's receptionist was a pretty witch who batted her eyelashes at him and sent him on through to the inner office. Charlie chuckled under his breath. He was used to witches trying to get his attention by now; if they only knew how little their soft curves appealed to him... Charlie much preferred the hard planes and muscles of a fit wizard.
"Charlie, do come in," said Kingsley. He was seated behind a large oak desk, and put down the quill he'd been writing with before standing and coming around to shake Charlie's hand.
Kingsley's grip was warm and firm, and for a moment Charlie thought he felt an undercurrent of... something more.
"Good afternoon, Minister Shacklebolt."
"Please," said Kingsley, who indicated that Charlie should take the chair opposite his desk. "Call me Kingsley. We've worked together too often for such formalities."
Charlie sat. He crossed his right ankle over his left knee, and leant back in the chair. "So," he began. "Ireland? My mum would be over the moon if I was as near as Ireland."
Kingsley laughed. "Knowing Molly, I'm sure that's true."
"Tell me about the area you're planning to use," said Charlie. "I need to know it'll be suitable for dragons before I even consider taking on the position."
"And that's why you are at the top of my list," said Kingsley, who then went on to describe the mountainous region in the heart of a National Park.
They discussed the potential staffing requirements, the dragons' feeding and breeding schedules, and even the extent to which they would require Muggle-repelling charms. Charlie was surprised when Charlotte, Kingsley's receptionist, popped her head in to tell them she was leaving for the day. They'd been discussing dragons and their care for over four hours.
"Charlie, I'm not one to stand on pretence." Kingsley stood and moved around the desk. "The job is yours if you want it."
Charlie stood and stepped closer to Kingsley. He extended his hand, and said, "I do. Thank you."
Kingsley grasped Charlie's hand, sealing the deal. "Excellent. Shall we discuss the terms over dinner?"
Charlie smiled. “Sounds great.” As he followed Kingsley out, he relaxed. The look of male interest in Kingsley’s eyes boded well for that undercurrent he’d sensed earlier.
December 25, 2010
Molly Weasley surveyed the family members gathered around her dining table. The table itself groaned under the weight of the food that was piled high on platters and filled bowls to the brim, and the candles floating above the table flickered gaily.
Bill and Fleur were sitting among their three, who were all somehow as blonde as their mother. Percy - and Penelope, whose abdomen looked fit to bursting - were next, sitting beside George, who'd surprised them all by taking up with Lavender Brown after breaking his engagement to Angelina. Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Harry filled out the other side of the table, along with their children. The only one missing was--
"Sorry we're late, Mum," said Charlie, who'd just come out from the Floo.
"It was my fault," said Kingsley from behind Charlie. "Ministry business."
"Come, come, have a seat," said Molly. "You're just in time to eat."
Arthur beamed from the head of the table, and raised his glass in a toast. "Happy Christmas, everyone!"