Rating: Good times for all!
Length: About 2,525 words
Summary: He could have played for England if he hadn't gone off chasing dragons.
Author's Notes/Disclaimer: Not mine, obviously. For the January challenge, with characters Charlie Weasley and The Fat Lady.
Charlie looked up from the fingernail he was slowly gnawing down to the bone as he pretended to read his Transfiguration text. "Yes, Professor McGonagall?"
"See me after class."
Why did he ever think he could get away with daydreaming in Professor McGonagall's class? She always caught him. He sighed heavily. "Yes ma'am."
It wasn't even as if he was daydreaming. Not really. As Professor McGonagall turned back to the board and her explanation of human-to-plant Transfiguration, Charlie moved his textbook aside and studied the parchment beneath it. Now, if the two Chasers flew like this, and the Beaters came in from these two angles, and the third Chaser came from underneath, then-
"Mr. Weasley? We're waiting," Professor McGonagall snapped.
Charlie looked up guiltily. "Sorry, Professor." He scanned his mind and found something of a question and began to recite an answer. Professor McGonagall looked thoroughly exasperated, which probably meant he'd gotten the answer right and she couldn't ream him out for not paying attention. He beamed his most angelic smile at her, and she smirked slightly before turning to the rest of the class.
He paid attention to the lecture with half his brain and plotted Quidditch plays with the other half until the end of class, when McGonagall finally assigned them a three foot essay and let them go. He gathered his books together and loped to the front of the classroom. "You wanted to see me?" he said, with deliberate casualness.
"Yes." Professor McGonagall adjusted her spectacles, looking over the top of them at Charlie. "Christina Heppert is going to be at the match this Saturday."
"Christina Heppert," he said, studying his teacher for any signs of a smile. "The Christina Heppert. The manager of England's Quidditch team Christina Heppert."
"You must be joking," Charlie said.
"Do I ever joke, Mr. Weasley?"
"You must know at least one. At least the one about an alligator sandwich." Professor McGonagall looked at him blankly, and Charlie sighed. "But I thought only League teams recruit from Hogwarts. The national team recruits from the League, right? That's how it works."
"Not this time," Professor McGonagall said, and now there was a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. "Miss Heppert is quite interested in watching you play."
Charlie stared at her, thunderstruck. "Wow."
"Exactly. I thought you should know."
"Was there anything else, Professor?" he asked when the silence stretched too long.
"No, that's all. You're dismissed." He let out a heavy breath and began walking towards to door. "Oh, and Mr. Weasley?"
"Hide your Quidditch diagrams a little better during class, won't you? That way I can at least pretend I think you're taking notes."
"Blimey. England!" Keith said as they made their way down the path to their Care of Magical Creatures class.
"I know," Charlie said, still in a daze. "England."
"And what if she takes you?" Keith asked, warming up to the possibilities. "Can you imagine? You'd get to travel- I mean, you'd get to play everywhere. Not just Europe, but Asia and Africa and the Americas and Antarctica."
"And the players would be great," Charlie agreed. "Better than at the League level, for the most part."
"And the birds!"
"You would think of that," Charlie said with a grin, but he wasn't about to argue that point, either. Or the point that if England made it to the Cup- and even better, if they won- playing professional Quidditch could result in a very pleasant salary. And he could see it in his mind, playing in a golden stadium as thousands of wizards cheered and the announcer called out his name….
"Oops. Sorry." He gave a sheepish look to the girl whose shoes he'd stepped on and took a step back.
"Class, may I have your attention, please?" Professor Kettleburn said with a long-suffering sigh. The students began to rustle into silence. "Thank you. Now then. Before we begin today's lesson, I need to tell you that several guests will be visiting Hogwarts, looking for new employees." He flicked his wand at a pile of papers, and they neatly folded themselves into cranes and flew to each student. Charlie unfolded his, scanning it with interest.
As Kettleburn began his lecture on manticores, Keith kicked Charlie and pointed to a name. Anton Ivonovitch, in Bulgaria. Phoenix breeder and tamer. Charlie raised his eyebrows and flashed Keith a thumbs up, and scanned the list again.
The name jumped out at him like a scarlet flag. Stephen McMahon, from the Romanian Dragon Preserve, was looking for a new Dragon Keeper.
He spent the rest of the class lost in daydreams, picturing himself taming Hungarian Horntails.
"It's Rybald to Johnson, Johnson to Rybald, Rybald ducks Ravenclaw's beater Bested and rolls! He comes down the pitch and Terrance blocks the Bludger and he shoots! Can Everland save it- no! Rybald scores, and the score is seventy-twenty, Gryffindor leading! I don't think I've seen that formation before. It must be another one of Captain Charlie Weasley's inventions."
Gripping his broom, Charlie grinned. It had been- one that had hit during Astronomy class. His team had been dubious, but more than one of Charlie's crazy ideas had led to a goal or a match, and so they'd listened. As Johnson flashed him a thumbs up, he knew they appreciated the success as much as he did. Johnson pointed, and Charlie took a quick peek to see Christina Heppert taking notes. His heart surged in his chest up to his throat, and he couldn't repress a grin before he schooled his mind back to the game.
The Snitch was more elusive than usual today, and perversely, Charlie was glad. An easy-to-catch Snitch would show off nothing. Finally, he spotted it, a speck of gold on the opposite end of the stadium, heading down towards the ground. He dove, glorying in the speed of flight and the wind rushing through his hair and the ground rushing to him. These were his favorites- the dives like this. Especially as he saw a blur of blue as the Ravenclaw Seeker spotted the Snitch as well.
He outdistanced her easily, and his hand closed around the Snitch only a meter off the ground. He pulled out of the dive, skirting around one of the goal posts with ease, holding the Snitch up in one fist and pounding the other into the air.
"Great dive," the Ravenclaw Seeker said, winking at him. Charlie flushed. But his gaze was drawn immediately back to the stands.
Christina Heppert was smiling.
"You're kidding!" Keith exclaimed, but his shout had more exuberance than doubt. "You really think they're gonna offer you a spot?"
"It would probably be reserve Seeker," Charlie said, kicking his feet up on the other arm of the squashy chair he was sitting in. He noticed the entire common room was pretending not to listen, and allowed himself a rare moment of smugness. "But she said Cotbra is getting up there, and she might retire soon. Which means in a few years-"
"You could be playing Seeker for the National team," Keith said with awe. "You're going to take it, right?"
"I wanted to," Charlie said. "But Mum and Dad want me to investigate other offers first."
"What other offers do you need?" Keith demanded. "Seeker on the National team. What is ever going to beat that?"
"I know," Charlie said, rolling his eyes. However, privately he agreed his parents had a point. Kelly Cotbra was only thirty six, and she was already thinking of retiring. If he had no other experience, he would be doomed to a life in some dull job. And what if he was injured? Seeker was not considered one of the most dangerous positions for nothing, after all, and an injury could make his professional Quidditch career very short indeed. Charlie pulled the schedule Kettleburn had given them out of his robes pocket. "Are you still going to the interview for phoenix breeders?"
"Me getting that job would be as fantastic as you getting National Seeker," Keith said. "Damn right I'm going."
Charlie nodded, and let his finger trace over the dragon posting again.
"We could use men like you," Steve McMahon had told Charlie when he'd interviewed him at Hogwarts. "Good marks, good references, and I see Rubeus Hagrid speaks well of you."
"You know Hagrid?" Charlie asked, a little surprised and amused.
"'Course. Not many men know dragons like Hagrid. We'd be right happy to have you come out and talk some more."
Now here he was, in Romania of all places, knee deep in the March snow. His cloak was soaked and the cold was seeping in through his boots, and he was facing a huge Swedish Short-Snout. It was amazing how much bigger they looked in person as opposed to textbooks. His heart was in his mouth, but he couldn't tear his eyes from the sight.
"Once we get this one down, we can examine her scales," McMahon said to him, leaning against a fence rail. "Charlie, would you do it?"
Charlie recoiled. "There's no way I could do that alone!" he said, his heart sinking. "It would take at least three, maybe four wizards to bring her down." What did they expect, anyway? But McMahon grinned.
"It might not seem like it to you, but you gave the right answer, lad. A dragon preserve is no place for false heroism. I wanted to be sure you have common sense as well. And you're right. This beauty takes about four wizards to bring her down- and that's only because she's small. Normally, these Swedish Short-Snouts take at least six wizards to subdue.
Charlie nodded, gripping his wand eagerly. An older witch- a woman with long brown hair streaked with gray- caught his eye and gave him a grin and a wink. In fact, for all that it was a test, Charlie felt more like he was part of a team.
The dragon fell easily, and McMahon motioned for Charlie to come closer. Up close, the scales shimmered under the watery sunlight. "Touch them," McMahon said, stripping off his own glove and demonstrating. "Tell me what you feel."
"They're smooth," Charlie said. "Except there's this ridge here." He felt it again- it didn't feel natural. "Scale rot?"
"Right in one," McMahon said with another smile. "I have a feeling you'll fit in well here, Charlie."
"So how was the dragon preserve?" Keith asked him when he returned to Hogwarts.
"Brilliant," Charlie said, yawning. "But I'm exhausted."
"Dragons are that demanding, huh?" Keith laughed.
"It wasn't just that." Charlie shucked off his dirty cloak and his clothing and picked up a towel. "I stayed up all night last night talking to the others. And then there was a pick-up Quidditch game at three in the morning, which ended when a Hungarian Horntail took it into its head to hatch. Watching a dragon hatch is the most brilliant thing ever."
"So'd they offer you a job?"
"Yeah." Charlie headed for the showers.
"You going to take it?" Keith called after him.
Charlie didn't answer.
Charlie sat staring at two letters. Both of them were offering him a job. Both of them were offering him a decent salary. Both of them were dream jobs.
"I could be the reserve Seeker on the National Quidditch team," he said. "Or I could go to Romania to study dragons."
"You know my opinion," Keith said, laying on his bed and tracing smoky patterns with his wand. "Seeker. Birds. Fame. Money. You'd be insane to say no. You can always go chase dragons after you're done playing Quidditch."
Charlie shook his head. It made sense, but… but.
He wrote to both Bill and his parents. Bill wrote back that either option would be good, but if he had had the chance to play Keeper for England, he wouldn't be in Egypt right now. His mother had Flooed him with excited talk about scores and the traveling he would get to do, and even his father conceded that now that the offer was here, it was certainly the opportunity of a lifetime.
McGonagall's position was clear. Go for the Seeker job. England needed him. Charlie was surprised she didn't start singing "God Save the Queen" as she made that little pitch, until she added that maybe then they'd have a chance at beating Scotland or Ireland, albeit a small one. (And she was quite smug as she said it.)
Nearly-Headless Nick sighed over both letters and commented that if his body died young, his name would live on as a Quidditch champion. A rather depressing thought, but it was a point that he'd have fame.
Sarah Kenderson, the prettiest girl in the year, smiled at him when he passed when the word of his offer got around.
Both the National team and the Romanian Dragon Preserve needed an answer, and Charlie couldn't come up with one. He was staring at both letters still when he approached the Gryffindor portrait.
"Password, dearie?" The Fat Lady asked.
Charlie ignored her, still staring at his letters. He sighed and slumped against the wall, sliding down to sit.
"Am I waiting all day then?"
"Sorry," Charlie said distractedly. He looked up at her. "Hey, I have a problem. Could you tell me what you'd do?"
The Fat Lady smiled at him. "Are you still trying to decide between the Seeker position and the dragon keeper?"
"Charlie, dear, you've asked every single person in Gryffindor, from that nice head girl Amy to little Oliver Wood. And they've all given you the same answer: take the Quidditch position."
"You don't miss much, do you?" Charlie asked.
She smiled again. "Sometimes you all think we don't pay attention. We do."
"So what would you take?"
"I'm not going to tell you," the Fat Lady said with a haughty little sniff.
"You won't listen to me, you'll just ask someone else."
"Dearie, by my count you got the same answer from forty-seven people. Is forty-eight the magic number?"
"No, but magic number is the password. Can I get in please?"
She swung open and he clambered through. "Think about what I said!" she called after him. He glanced back, but didn't reply. Instead, he looked around the Common Room for someone new to discuss his dilemma with.
The problem was, they'd all heard it before. The Fat Lady was right- he had asked everyone in Gryffindor.
His first instinct was to start in on one of the other Houses, and then what the Fat Lady had been trying to say hit him like a Bludger.
He darted up the stairs to find a quill.
"Well, this is it." Charlie pulled a strap tight.
"Right. This is it." Keith picked up a bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Listen, Bulgaria isn't that far away. We should keep in touch."
"We should," Charlie agreed heartily. "We've been friends for seven years. No reason to stop now."
They looked at each other awkwardly, and then Keith pulled Charlie in for a quick hug. "You stay safe," Keith said.
"You too. Good luck with the phoenixes."
Keith grinned. "Have fun chasing dragons."