Title: Council Meeting
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: G, I think
Disclaimer: Charlie and the wizarding world are JKR's and I receive no compensation for this. The Romanian vampire village and Gustov are all mine, however. But I still receive no compensation :-)
Summary: Charlie isn't feeling particularly well and, as he's in a vampire council meeting, it isn't particularly the easiest of situations.
Notes: This was a character-study piece started after I began my fic, 'The Vampire'. I hit a wall and tried to use this to break out. No word yet as to if that worked, but at least this is finished! This takes place a few years before 'The Vampire' though, so this doesn't spoil anything.
Charlie shivered and uttered a silent curse at Thomas for his allergy to mold that forced Charlie to take this job instead. He might as well have one for all the sneezing he was doing from his cold.
"aiiKtchhh! ayKShhhh!" He rubbed his only handkerchief against his nose and tried to ignore the others staring at him. "Excuse me," he said as politely as possible and tucked the hanky away. He ran his hand through his curly red hair and tried to sit up straighter.
They were waiting for the last member of the vampire delegation to arrive before the meeting could begin the meeting. Charlie would eventually be introduced and be able to present a proposal, and after they formally accepted he would be able to relax. But until then he would need to try to keep his cold as contained as possible.
"ahh..." Quickly Charlie pulled the handkerchief back out and buried his nose in it. "aye-KShhhh! Chushhh!" He snuffled a little into the hanky to keep his voice clear. "Excuse me." He shivered as he slipped it back into the inner pocket of his vest. He'd considered wearing a suit but his work clothes seemed to have a more authentic air to them.
"Are you going to be all right here, Charlie-boy?"
Charlie turned his head and nodded. "It's just a little sniffle, Gustov."
In the room full of vampires, the only one of them Charlie actually knew was Gustov. He was Romanian, born, raised, and sired. His appearance was similar to any other vampire's, with a pale white face and yellowish eyes. His hair was jet black, long, and wavy but pulled back tonight in a dignified ponytail tied with a scarlet ribbon. Despite his physical characteristics, Gustov looked quite kind and sympathetic, especially at that moment towards Charlie. Sympathetic, but also a bit skeptical.
It wasn't as though Charlie could blame him; Charlie wasn't sure he believed himself, either. He shivered again and took his jacket off the back of the chair. He slipped his arms through and pulled it around himself. "And a bit of a chill." He rubbed his hands together, cupped them, and blew a warm breath into them. "Would it kill them to manage just one little fire?"
Gustov tensed and shot Charlie an appalled look.
Charlie nodded again, still rubbing his hands together. "Right. Might kill you. Just kidding about that, you know." He wasn't entirely kidding, but he wasn't going to let anyone know that. Just one small fire would have been enough to make him feel better at the moment. He was certainly not going to conjure one, though. The meeting room was miles underground in a chamber of the catacombs. It was dark apart from a few magical orbs floating above their heads and along with the dark came drafty and dank. He was certain Thomas would have been no good here. Not that Charlie would be much better if he froze to death before the meeting started. He blew another hot breath into his cupped hands.
"Get ready to stand up and bow," Gustav whispered sharply to him. "And for all zat is holy und sacred, please do not sneeze during introductions." Charlie sniffed and gave his nose a hard rub.
A black cloak was tossed aside as the final council member entered the chamber. Wearing an old high-collared robe and a stern expression, he did not look as friendly as Charlie would have liked. Nervously, Charlie fingered the string of garlic that hung around his neck, then buttoned up his jacket so it would not be seen. Everyone knew well he was wearing it, but he did not want to give the council any reason to listen to his words. He thought momentarily of pulling out his hank y just to have it at the ready, but decided against it. He was determined to handle his cold for a few minutes at least.
One vampire called the meeting to order and instructed them to begin introductions. At that, everyone in the seats around the perimeter of the chamber stood, including Charlie. They all bowed with great reverence. Charlie did likewise. The blood rushed to his head and his stuffy nose tingled. Charlie ignored it as best he could and remained silent. He did not dare straighten again until he was sure the vampires on both sides of him had done so.
The vampires and vampiresses seated around the table then stood and turned in place rather dramatically. They were all so much taller than he. As the shorter and stockier of the Weasley boys, he was used to men always being a little taller. But even some of the vampiresses were significantly taller. Or maybe it was a trick of the light and their mostly black outfits that made them all look tall and slim.
Going around the table in a circle, each of them stated their name and sired lineage back two generations, as well as the date they had been appointed to the council. Their voices were cold but regal. Each one sent shivers down Charlie's spine. None looked at him, however, not even those facing him at the near side of the table. He was rather glad of it, actually.
When those introductions were over, they nodded their heads towards the rest of the room's occupants. And, again, everyone else bowed low to them. Charlie's nose felt full, and his face warm. The second bow seemed to last far longer than the first, and he was quite relieved when it was over and everyone sat back down again. Charlie sniffled softly as the noise of so many bodies sitting hid the sound. He rubbed hard at his nose and sat up straight, trying to pay attention.
Several matters were discussed in full before Charlie's. He was rather glad that he did not need to follow any of the details because most of the business was conducted in fast Romanian, in a version that seemed to be a precursor to current day Romanian.
His nose started tickling again after a few minutes, and he pulled out his handkerchief immediately, just in case. He held it to his face, breathing hard but silently into it. Charlie had to sneeze. After all the bowing and the chilly, damp conditions. Charlie had to sneeze badly. He shivered again and cupped the handkerchief to his mouth and nose with both hands.
He could see a few vampires watching him out of the corners of their eyes. He closed his own so he would not have to see their looks. He was intruding and interrupting. And worst of all, he was doing something mortal where very few mortals were permitted. Involuntarily, Charlie took a sharp breath in and stifled his sneeze. "akK!" He let his breath out slowly and rubbed hard at his nose again.
When it came time for Charlie's bit, however, Charlie was especially attentive. In Russian, the vampire pouring over the list of scheduled speakers introduced him, "Next, to speak on behalf of the Romanian Dragon Reserve, is Charlie Weasley." He got no extra names added on to his like the vampires did, and Charlie knew well what that meant. Everyone could tell already he was mortal just by looking... smelling... sensing. But now the fact was undeniably clear.
Charlie stood and bowed, wishing immediately that he had not. His nose tingled terribly. Another sneeze. He swiped at his nose and felt a rush of adrenaline fill him at the prospect of speaking to the assemblage. Then, in his best Russian, he spoke as clearly as possible. "I am honored to appear in front of such esteemed members of the great vampire community." Though he did not look over, he guessed Gustov was trying not to mouth along after having helped him rehearse so much. "On behalf of the Romanian Dragon Reserve we would like to officially request permission to employ a member of the vampire community- sorry, the Romanian vampire community- in a highly specialized and well regarded position." He swiped at his nose and sniffed quickly before going on. "This request is covered under the Romanian Ministry of Magic Department of Magical Cooperation doctorate section fifty-eight."
Everyone's eyes were fixed upon him. One of the vampires around the table nodded. "And there is a specific vampire in question?" Gustov jumped to his feet and bowed. "The general job description is what?"
Charlie sighed inwardly. It was a good sign that the request was not immediately dismissed. He knew that the question was not directed to him, and he was glad for the fact as he felt like sneezing again. His nose twitched and he rubbed at it again.
"Part courier, part advisor, part delegate," Gustov answered in Romanian.
A vampiress spoke up, her eyes blaringly bright yellow and her brown hair done up on top of her head in ringlets. "All travel into other countries for business must be authorized in advance."
Gustov nodded. "Of course."
"And you are committed to this cause and position of your own free will?"
Gustov nodded. "I am, indeed. I look forward to the tasks and am glad to be of service."
Yet another vampire scribbled something on a piece of parchment. From what Charlie could see, he was writing in blood, rather than ink. Charlie's heart flipped nervously. "Permission is granted so long as the delegate from the Romanian Dragon Reserve signs a statement of understanding. The statement shall attest that he and his organization are knowingly employing a vampire and promising not to take advantage of the specialized skills and needs else they shall suffer a severe predetermined punishment."
Expecting them to make that request, Charlie nodded. He had been told that he would not be forced to sign in his own blood, but the way everyone was looking at him now made him have his doubts. He was certain he could sense their hunger, just as they could sense his mortality. A shiver swept through him but he held his ground and answered strongly. "We are willing and... and pre... prepared-ahh-pleaseexcuseme-" Charlie's words rushed and his breath caught. No amount of rubbing would make this sneeze go away. He did the only thing he could do and cup the handkerchief to his face and turn on the spot. He knew it was rude to turn away. He knew it was dangerous to turn one's back to a roomful of vampires. But he didn't want to sneeze in front of them either and he was running on instinct at that point. "ahh-AIKShh!" he sneezed, snapped forward a little, unable to restrain it. "ayishhhhh! aiKk-uhh!" He managed to get the last one somewhat under control, but the damage had been done by that point.
Charlie turned back, hanging his head and rubbing his nose. He put on as much of a smile as he could manage and lowered the handkerchief. Not wanting it to come through the wrong way, Charlie picked his words carefully. "I, ah, I suppose you're all feeling quite lucky not to have to worry about this sort of thing any longer." Slight smiles showed on nearly all of their faces, breaking the cold, serious demeanor of the meeting thus far. He sniffed. "I am terribly sorry."
Every one of them, down to the last, seemed to accept his apology. Some nodded, others even gave him mildly sympathetic looks. Charlie wondered if it might have brought back memories for some of them of their times as humans.
"Come. Sign your name here," beckoned the vampire with the quill and parchment. After pausing a moment to skim the document, a copy of which he had already read in full prior to the meeting, Charlie gave a nod. Everything seemed to be in order. Charlie signed his full name and added his job title and the date on the line beside his signature. Gustov signed as well, just below Charlie's signature, and one of the council members signed as an official witness.
"Now," said one of the vampires, looking up at him with a strong, eerie sort of stare. Charlie felt another chill rush through him. "Why don't you go home and take care of your ailment? No need to sit through the rest of the meeting."
Charlie let out a small sigh of relief. He bowed again and smiled. "I am eternally grateful. Thank you. Thank you all." His nose was running again, but he managed to leave before any more sneezes came to pass.
Gustov was granted permission to see him out of their realm. And though Charlie had been to the village enough times to know his way around and his way out, he was glad of the escort tonight. "aiiChhhh! aiiChuhhh!" The handkerchief was growing damp and he was starting to feel exhausted. He was used to working nights to care for the dragons, but his cold had taken much out of him. "I suppose it was a bad move to have said 'eternally grateful' to a vampire?" Charlie asked as they walked down the main street of the village, bat droppings squishing beneath their boots.
With a hearty laugh, Gustov shook his head. "I zink your meaning was understood. Und you vere simply being polite, not svearing allegiance."
He walked Charlie to the transportation point at the edge of town. It was not a particularly long walk, and it was in the opposite direction of Gustov's house, but Charlie was glad for the company. The conversation alone kept his mind off feeling ill. He was almost disappointed when they reached the end of the street. Adrenaline still rushed through him, along with pride for getting through the meeting unscathed. "Good day, zen," Gustov said with a nod.
Charlie smiled and wet to hug him goodbye as usual, but Gustov reeled back, out of his reach. "The garlic!" Charlie groaned. He took it off at once, flinging it onto the ground. "I'm sorry. I forgot I even had it on." They hugged tightly. Charlie smiled and gave his nose another rub. "Good day to you, too, fellow- sniff, sniff- Dragon Reserve employee."
Gustov smiled back. "Take care of zat cold, Charlie-boy."
"I will, Gustov. Thank you." Charlie headed down the narrow tunnel and the way out, sniffling but feeling quite proud of his accomplishment, all things considered.