To Kindle Fire

That moment when you know… I’ve been meaning to post this story for some time. It’s a bit of Harry Potter fanfic I wrote it over a year ago to make a Charlie fan smile—here’s hoping it does the same for you.

Hogwarts, October 1986

Charlie was not in the mood to study and scarcely needed to, to tell the truth. Instead, he figured he’d write to his family; he owed two letters, and had another on his mind. Ronnie had written a lot, twice so far this term, which was almost as much as all last year. Charlie hadn’t gotten around to answering the first when the second one arrived. Perhaps his kid brother missed him more this year than last, but judging by the generally greater legibility of the letters, he might just have felt more confident in his handwriting. It was still pretty messy, always with a smudge and a blot or two, but he obviously took special care when he signed his name. It was always perfect. Charlie could well imagine Ronnie at his desk, gripping the quill tight, his lips pressed together in concentration. What could you ask? The kid was only six.Mum’s letters, once a week like clockwork, always included a message from Ginny, which Mum wrote, but which Ginny signed in big block letters. Sometimes, one of the “N”s was backward. Why she wrote that way and Ronnie had attempted long hand from the time he started writing last year was anyone’s guess. Could be Mum insisting he write like all the other boys even though he was the littlest, or the converse, Ronnie insisting he be capable of whatever the others did and then being miserable because he couldn’t. Likely both forces were at work and always had been.

As for the twins, they never wrote, too busy with some antic mishap or other, and Percy would send his usual, proper birthday greetings, but nothing else. It was a mystery what went on in that curly head because clearly, something did.

Mainly, it was on his mind to write to his father. His mates in the Gryffindor dorm thought it odd that he didn’t rave about the girls the way they did. Was it odd? They perpetually had the hots for this one or that one, talked endlessly about them. Short, tall, blonde, brunette, older or younger, legs, bum, endless variation. He had nothing to contribute. He didn’t feel especially abnormal, but then, would you?

Charlie looked down the length of the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall, lamps freshly lit, everyone scattered about studying, his mates from the dorm—Lyle, Tom and Burton—and the Quidditch team—Loman, Will, Raymond, Burton again, and Rol, of course. Rolanda McIlerny, their Keeper. She was a Sixth Year, had a sense of fun, nice enough girl, but the only girl he saw in the place who really caught his eye was that Hufflepuff girl in his year, but who could help it? She had hair the color of cotton candy. He grimaced. Maybe it wasn’t girls, as his mates had nervously implied. But no, after another look, it wasn’t like he spent any time thinking about the blokes either.

He’d even cornered Bill to ask what he thought. Bill was only two years older, but he always seemed to know everything.

“You’re not odd, Chuck. Everyone likes you.”

“But it’s just…”

“Give it time. It’s a hell of a thing once it grabs you, anyway. Ties you in knots. Besides, you’re only 13.”

Charlie raised an eyebrow. You wouldn’t know the “only” part by his bunkmates. And he was actually a few months shy of his 14th birthday.

He flipped open the only class book he had with him, the Care of Magical Creatures text that Kettleburn had assigned. He’d finished it cover-to-cover before the Quidditch tryouts, the end of his second week. It was October now and already the book fell open in only one place—page 73, Dragons. He extracted a clipping from yesterday’s Prophet: a Hebridean Black was spotted over Blackpool, 52 Muggles required memory modification, and the McFusty wranglers had been called in. There was a photo of the men, tiny figures staggering through the surf, the looming bulk of the dragon twisting and straining above them. It looked chaotic, with the dragon’s jaws snapping overhead, but each man made the same orchestrated move, wands aimed. Tiny as they were, he could almost make out the figured lemniscates of the binding spell. That’s what it had to be.

During the morning class break, he’d run to the Faculty Lounge to find Professor Kettleburn.

“What is it, lad?” the man had asked with a weary sigh. The boy had an uncanny way of finding him, whether he wanted to be found or not.

Charlie had waved the Prophet article beneath Kettleburn’s bushy moustache; he had a hundred questions, but as there were no more than 15 minutes before the next class, he only got 4 of them answered. Maybe he could come to his office after dinner? He didn’t have detention or anything.

“A pity, a pity,” Kettleburn had said with a helpful smile. “I have rather a lot of preparation for my Seventh Year class to complete this evening. But you know, our Gamekeeper, he’s fond of dragons, too. He might be free.”

And he had been. Charlie had raced down to Hagrid’s hut straight away after dinner, and had walked out thinking he’d just met his new best friend. It was half a joke with him; Charlie had a tendency to think that every other week or so.

Before he’d knocked on the gamekeeper’s door, he’d spent his lunch hour pulling every book from the library shelves that had anything to do with the Hebridean Black, including the autobiography of Blaine McFusty, Tickling the Dragon, which he had decided to read first, considering it was his clan that watched over the blacks, or were supposed to, anyway. After his visit with Hagrid, he was so wound up, he’d stayed up until 2:00 o’clock reading, and didn’t really feel tired even now, though he’d overslept so much there was no time for a shower or breakfast before class. Not that he cared. He finished the final pages of the book in History of Magic later that morning. All he could think of then—and now—was the adventures McFusty had had with dragons. He’d ridden one! He’d watched a dozen dozen clutches of eggs hatch in his day, goopy little rags flopping about like bats. He’d watched an ancient patriarch, its scales patched and silver, lift itself airborne for one last flight, and heading out over the breakers, disappeared over the storm-tossed western horizon. They always did that, flying off into the west to die. According to Blaine McFusty, anyway.

Charlie was startled from his reverie by something heavy hitting his shoulder. He looked around to find Hagrid’s massive hand resting there.

“Got summat to show you. Come on,” Hagrid said in a hurried, hushed whisper accompanied by many furtive glances, as if a man of his proportions could fail to be noticed in the Great Hall.

Charlie crammed the unfinished letter in at Dragons and was still shoving his book into his overstuffed bag as he jogged to catch Hagrid up. He’d write to everyone later tonight if Hagrid didn’t keep him too long, which he’d better not do or Charlie’d be breaking curfew again. Eight o’clock—but Hagrid never remembered and neither did he. If his own brother gave him detention one more time…

A red-faced man with wild, fair hair was sitting back in one of Hagrid’s massive armchairs, puffing on a pipe. Charlie felt a sharp thrill; this had to be a McFusty—he looked just like the man on the cover of his book, except younger.

Hagrid shut the door with a heavy thud and latched it.

“So this here’s the lad?” the man said, with his pipe clenched in his teeth. Beside him, in front of the roaring hearth, was a steel-reinforced wooden crate about the size of a school desk.

“Charlie Weasley,” he said by way of introducing himself, dragging his gaze from the crate back to the man.

“Charlie, ye’ll never guess what’s in there!” Hagrid said with a greedy gleam in his eyes. “Show ‘im, Declan.”

The man looked warily from Charlie to Hagrid and back. “Boy,” he said. “What you see here, never leaves this place.”

“Never,” Charlie said in a sort of fever. He was certain he knew what was in that crate. But why and how…?

Why and how died in his mind when the dragon ducked its head out of the shadows of its box, scuttled forward and unfurled its wings. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He’d caught and studied birds, from his family’s geese to hawks and crows he’d netted or stunned in the trees behind the house. He knew all about wings. He’d flexed and felt and sketched the wings of geese and chickens killed for dinner, feathered and unfeathered, but never had he seen a thing like this. Pure structure—bone, sinew, tendon—the essence of flight. He automatically lifted his hand toward it, but McFusty caught his wrist halfway to his target.

“Can’t I touch it?” Charlie asked, turning to the man, whose warm eyes betrayed a kindred spirit. “Just the wings—I want to feel it when he moves.”

McFusty looked up at Hagrid, whose eyes were gleaming with admiration.

“Listen close,” he said to the boy, and Charlie’s wide blue eyes became vacuums for knowledge, barely able to pull his glance from the creature lumbering about the hut, its tail sweeping into a chair that toppled. “Big as it is, this is a baby, three months, and likely to spook easily.” He drew his wand and cast a spell that bound the beast’s mouth shut. “Willna hold long, ten minutes, might be. Take ‘er gentle and slow.”

Charlie edged forward, extending his fingertips as the beast flapped his wings and reared, shaking its snout to free its jaws. He could feel the heat of the creature even a foot away. The wing was cool enough to touch and his fingers brushed over the webbing, upward to a wing joint, cupping it loosely to feel the movement, and with the pads of his fingers, circled gently over the tendons. A shiver went through the wing as the dragon responded to the touch. Not a word was spoken as the boy and the dragon danced around the cabin, the beast straining for freedom, but soothed by the gentle explorations that were not unlike its mother’s searching breath upon its wings. But there was one moment, no more than that, when the slitted, violet eye met the small blue one, and Charlie stopped breathing. For one second, he felt, truly, as though the dragon looked into him and saw everything, thirteen years of every thought and vision and feeling, and he, falling and falling into the purple, reptilian depths, felt the same.

Finally, McFusty announced that he thought the time was up. He reached out for the boy, who was already, obediently, backing away.

With another swish of his wand, the dragon’s snout was free and he let out a bellow and a tongue of flame that singed a high beam. With that, the wrangler reached into the sack at his feet, and hurled a dead hedgehog into the crate. The dragon leapt in after it. Snug in its den, they could hear it tearing its meal apart.

“Well?” McFusty said.

“Why’s it here? Where’s its Mum?” Charlie asked, freely breathing again at last. Those ten minutes were the keenest, most pure tension he’d ever experienced. Even a plummeting dive for the Snitch was nothing like this. This—his chest felt brimful of hot, white light, and his head was a giddy fog—what was this?

“It’s Mum was spotted over Blackpool, as I’m sure you know. We found this little laddie some hours later out on a little peg of rock. We’ve had nasty bit of weather stirred up this week, and we couldna keep the track we normally would of all the broods. This’un musta got caught up in the winds and flew who knew where, staying aloft, till its mam came out after it. Simple thing, really.”

“Bet she didn’t want to leave Blackpool without her chick, did she?”

“That’s exactly right, son. It took us a lotta effort to get her subdued and moved. She’ll be at peace tonight with her bearn at her side.”

Charlie smiled up at Hagrid. “Thanks, Hagrid. And thanks, Mr. McFusty.”

“Happy to, Charlie-boy. ‘Bout now, ye are half dragon yourself, I fancy. Ken’s them alright, Hagrid, just as ye said. What d’ye say, we arrange a visit to the compound, lad, if ye’d like that?”

Charlie nodded, dumfounded, his face scorching red with pleasure. He would never be able to study or think ever again, not on anything but dragons. He was absolutely sure of it.

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