Fandom: Harry Potter
Summary: Charlie is worried, because it turns out he’s allergic to dragons.
Notes: Written for day 21 of my 23 Ficlets project to celebrate my 23rd anniversary in the community
Charlie’s leg bounced up and down of its own accord as he rubbed the back of his wrist beneath his tickling nose. This absolutely couldn’t be happening. Not now. Not after all his work getting here. Just getting to Romania hadn’t exactly been cheap, not to mention the down payment for the flat close to the reserve. And leaving his family back in England had been painful, but this was his dream job. He had been so determined to make this work. He didn’t know what he was going to do if this didn’t work. “ehhh-Hihhshhhh!” But he also couldn’t spend the rest of his life sneezing like this to make it work.
He sat alone in the hospital wing waiting area, his worry growing exponentially with each sneeze and with each passing minute. He hated waiting, but he knew some sneezing wasn’t exactly as critical as whatever the medi-wizards were dealing with.
“ehh… ehh-HIHshhhh! H’chshhhh!” But he still wished they would hurry up. He rubbed at his eyes, which were watering. He tried to tell himself that was just the allergy and had nothing at all to do with his disappointment, but he wasn’t completely sure he believed that. His right eye did itch something fierce, however. No matter how much he rubbed at it, it itched even more a few seconds later. And it was even starting to hurt when it rubbed at it now. He tried sitting on his hands, but his watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezes all required too much attention. So he sat hunched over on the bench, one hand holding a handkerchief to catch his sneezes, one hand rubbing at his eyes, and one leg still bouncing up and down with impatient, worried, pent-up energy.
Maybe he should just go? Maybe all this had been just a big mistake and he wasn’t cut out to be a Dragon Keeper after all? Maybe slipping away quietly right now would be the best solution? The few people who saw him burst into the sneezing fit today would surely remember him, but after a while, this terrible mistake he’d made would fade from their memories. Once in a while someone might bring it up as a joke—hey, do you remember that dragon keeper we hired years ago who was allergic to dragons? But they wouldn’t remember that bloke’s name was Charlie Weasley.
Charlie would remember, though. All of his life, this was what he’d wanted. To come so far only to find out he couldn’t physically do the job made his insides twist madly. He felt like he might actually be sick to his stomach from nerves.
The medi-wizards had to have a solution for this. They just had to. “ehhh-Hihshhh! Ihhshhh! Ehh ehhh HIHshhhh!” He couldn’t keep on sneezing and itching forever. And if they could stop this once, maybe they knew a way of stopping it permanently.
The door opened, finally, and Rhayne burst out. Her arm was bandaged up from fingers to elbow, but she was glowing and smiling wider than she had been during their orientation session yesterday. And that was saying something. The witch had practically been made of smiles.
She spotted him at once and came bounding over, practically bouncing on the balls of her feet as she presented him with her bandage. “Look!” she said, as if he hadn’t spotted it.
“Are you all right?”
She nodded enthusiastically, literally grinning now from ear to ear. “I got bitten by a baby dragon, Charlie! I got to stroke its head and everything, and now maybe I’ll even have a scar. They say it won’t leave a scar, but you never know, do you? A baby dragon!” She let out a shriek of pure joy that startled Charlie. But he knew that sound. He’d been wanting to make that same sound ever since arriving at the reserve. “I’m supposed to go lie down while the potion has some time to work to stop the infection, but maybe we can have dinner later? I’ll tell you all about how it felt.” She wiggled her fingertips, just visibly protruding from the bandages. She stared at them in awe. “These fingers actually pet a baby dragon!” She made the sound again and skipped out of the hospital wing.
As Charlie watched her continue to skip down the hallway, he couldn’t help but smile. He’d have probably felt just the same in her place. But the second he’d gotten anywhere near a dragon today in the barns, he’d started sneezing his head off. He’d barely seen a dragon today, let alone been close enough to touch one.
“Keeper Weasley?” There was a medi-witch at the door, frowning at him. “Ah, you shouldn’t rub your eyes like that. They’re all red.”
“I know,” Charlie said, unable to stop rubbing.
“Vino aici, băiete,” she sighed. And then, when he hesitated, she said with a softer tone, “Come here. Let me take a look at you.”
Charlie stood up and started forward only to pause and turn away, handkerchief pressed to his face. “ehh-HIHShhhhh!”
He snuffled and trailed after her. “Sorry… sniff… I don’t know much Romanian yet.” He’d been studying for the past few weeks, ever since he’d landed the post. And though he recognized that ‘băiete’ meant ‘boy’ everything else she’d said had gone right over his head.
“Oh, noroc is a common blessing when someone sneezes. There’s a whole handful of ways to bless people, but noroc translates to something like good luck or good fortune.” He stared at her with incredulity for a second before scrubbing his knuckle at his eye. “Oh, I know you probably don’t feel very lucky right now.” She smiled so kindly at him. “So that’s why I gave you that blessing. Now, let’s see if we can’t figure out what’s wrong and put you right, băiete.”
He wanted to point out that at eighteen he was an adult and definitely not a boy, but he felt another sneeze coming on, and the helpless, uncontrollable nature of it invalidated any argument he might make. “ehhShtshhhhh! Ehhkshhhhh!”
“Noroc. Here.” From out of nowhere, she produced a box of tissues for him.
As he reached for one, she waved her wand. Charlie recognized the motion as one his mother had used many times to take the temperature of one of her children. It was that familiar movement that made him feel the very first pang of homesickness he’d felt since he’d arrived in Romania.
“This presents like an allergy.”
“Do you happen to know to what you are allergic?”
Charlie hesitated then nodded a second time.
She clapped her hands. “Well, that’s excellent! That’s half the game right there. What set you off, băiete?”
He mumbled the answer so badly even he could not recognize the word.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
Charlie took a deep breath, rubbed his right eye, winced, and answered, “Dragons.”
Immediately, she burst into laughter.
He could feel heat spreading from his cheeks to his ears. The shame and embarrassment threatened to overwhelm him.
“Oh nu, băiete. You can’t be allergic to dragons.”
He wiped his tickling nose with a tissue and stared down at his lap. “I sniff I am, though.” He wiped the tears from his eyes with the same tissue, hoping she would assume his eyes were just watering from the allergies. “And—“ His voice cracked, and he couldn’t continue.
“Your gloves are made of dragon hide. These shelves are made of shed dragon scales. Our fires and torches are lit with dragon breath every day. If you were allergic to dragons, you would have figured that out days ago when you arrived. And, besides, I’ve never heard of anybody ever who was allergic to dragons.”
He stopped rubbing his eye. Wait… what was she saying then?
“I suspect that you’re allergic to the bedding we use in the barns. You were in the barn when you had your reaction, da?”
“Da,” he repeated, nodding.
“They should add this to the orientation, honestly.”
“Add… ehhh what ehhh-HIHshhhhh! What?”
“I’d say about three out of five keepers come to me at the start of their residencies here, allergic to the dragon’s bedding materials. It’s a mixture of straw, alfalfa, flowers, and grasses. You could be allergic to any or all of it.” She took a potion down from the shelves. Through tear-filled eyes, Charlie could see there were dozens upon dozens of small bottles just like it. “Ia acest.” She unstoppered it and handed it to him.
He took it and swallowed the contents down at once. Given its red appearance, Charlie expected it to taste disgusting and burn going down. It was cool, however. Cool and refreshing. Even as he swallowed it, he felt his sinuses opening up, clearing. His eye still itched a little, but it was easier to keep from rubbing it now. The coolness began to spread throughout his body, even up to his face. It was crisp and refreshing and calming in a most surprising way.
“Better?” she asked, her head cocked and arms crossed over her chest.
Charlie nodded. He sniffed through his nose and found it completely normal again. No running, no tickling. “Much.”
“Mmm,” she nodded. “Definitely the bedding then. That potion will last you a month. I’ll add you to the list to make sure you get another dose before it runs out. Can’t have our newest keeper sneezing and spooking the dragons now, can we?”
“Thank you.” He breathed in deeply and out again just as deeply. Then he wiped the tears that remained in his eyes. Then he remembered he knew how to say that in Romanian. “Mulțumesc.”
“Pentru putin.” She smiled approvingly. “Back to the barn with you, băiete.”
This time, he didn’t mind her calling him that. He headed back to the barns, feeling so good he actually considered skipping down the hallway as well.