Well, this is awkward
"Seriously? You want me to mentor him?" Charlie asked.
"He's new. He needs someone to show him the ropes so he doesn't get killed, Charlie."
"Please, Tank?" Charlie pleaded. "I'll do poop-a-scoop duty for a week!"
Tank was huge, he had long dark dreadlocks and his thick arms were covered in tattoos. He would have been intimidating if it weren't for the bright smile and friendly demeanor. "Mr Malfoy made a large donation, and he said that he wants his son to be mentored by the best. That's you." He smiled at Charlie, clapping him on the back.
"Just so you know, this could get ugly," Charlie warned.
"Charlie, I'm sure you can rise above anything the kid throws your way."
"You have way too much confidence in me, Tank." Charlie smiled as he walked off to officially meet his new trainee, and they couldn't be more different.
As he walked over he saw Draco stood there in the finest dragon-hide gear galleons could buy; they were completely pristine. He had clear–and completely scar-free–porcelain skin, there wasn't a platinum hair out of place, and he had on the most ridiculously overpriced–and soon to be demolished–leather boots. Charlie, on the other hand, wore beaten up, worn out, dragon-hide boots, his threadbare robes were tattered and scorched at the edges, and they weren't as fashionable as the ones Draco wore. They were much shorter and far less voluminous. His skin was almost as pale as Draco's but there were patches of angry pink skin where he had been burnt, and many white scars littering his body. Charlie wondered what on earth this pampered prince was doing here at the Romanian Dragon Sanctuary.
"Malfoy," Charlie said with a smile, holding out his hand. "I'm going to be showing you around, helping you out. If you need anything; advice, help with a job, even replacement gear, you can come to me."
Draco looked at him with a bemused expression. "You, help me?" he asked.
"Yeah, you know, 'cause I have been doing this job for around ten years now. I've picked up a few things."
"Right... The idea that you can help me get new gear is laughable."
"And why is that?" Charlie asked through gritted teeth.
"Do you even have two knuts to rub together? I assume not, if what you are wearing is any indication. If it's a fashion choice... I still don't want your help." Draco smirked.
Clearly, that Malfoy charm was hereditary.
"Okay!" Charlie smiled as genuinely as possible. "Well, I'm going to be your mentor so if you do need help, I'm the guy you would ask."
"I'll be fine. Trust me." Draco looked Charlie up and down, a curled lip telling Charlie all he needed to know.
"This way then," he said as he motioned Draco to follow him. "I'll show you around the sanctuary."
They walked towards a large hut. It was built from a wide range of materials and gave the idea that it had been put together by whatever the builder found lying around. There were gaps in the walls and holes in the roof; a mild breeze might have blown the entire structure over.
"Is that thing safe?" Draco asked in disgust.
"Of course!" Charlie beamed. "I made it! It's fire retardant, has anti-dragon wards, and while it doesn't look like much, it's very sturdy."
"Oh, I'm sure!"
"This is where everyone hangs out on their breaks. You can help yourself to food and drink, and just get to know everyone," Charlie continued through a forced smile. "And if someone shouts to run for cover, this is where you go! It's the safest place on the site if a dragon goes on a rampage."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"Hey! Did you get that? I'm not saying this for the good of my health you know. It's a dangerous job and you could get killed!"
"Of course, dragon-breath, not that I think I'll need to go running to your little, erm, safety hut?"
"Wow, Ron was so wrong about you! You're a delight!" Charlie mocked. "Follow me, I'm going to show you where the different species are. Depending on the species, you might have to go through a cleansing ward. If a Fireball smells some Ridgeback on you, it will come for you, so pay attention!"
"Obviously," Draco replied under his breath, rolling his eyes.
The muscular Weasley continued walking through the sanctuary, pointing out the different species and listening to every sarcastic and often disrespectful remark that Draco served up. By midday, it was wearing thin, and Charlie's patience was at its limit.
"Okay," Charlie said finally as they got back to the hut. Taking a deep breath he continued with the 'try and be helpful and kind' schtick. "If you want lunch I can show you where everything is—"
"Oh please, I don't even want to know what you pass off as food!"
"Kid, your attitude needs to change and change quick 'cause I am about ready to knock your block off! Last chance, do you want me to show you around the kitchen?"
"I'd rather have a chizpurfle invasion, than the likes of you, a poor, insignificant Weasley, that knows nothing about quality or breeding, helping me! Merlin, I told my father I would only work with the best, and this is what I get?" Draco groaned.
Charlie smiled, and now it was relaxed and genuine. "I love it when someone insults me. It means I don't have to be nice anymore." Charlie then turned on his heel and started walking towards the back of the sanctuary. "Follow me, Princess."
"Do not call me princess!" Draco retorted as he stomped after his mentor. "And what about lunch?"
"You don't want to eat before this job!" Charlie smirked. "Stand back everyone, Princess Malfoy is coming through." Charlie bellowed.
Everyone turned and watched as Draco stomped past, and he looked ridiculous. The rest of the workers had far more in common with Charlie; scarred, with singed clothing. Draco, by comparison, was a peacock holding his head high, despite the sniggers.
The further they walked, the stronger the stench became. A smell that was the complete opposite of their surroundings. Romania was a glorious country; vast green, sweeping hills as far as the horizon, and many of them held thick forests. The entire sanctuary was situated in a large valley, with three sides were surrounded by trees, and a vast lake on the far end. Beyond the woods and lake there were wards preventing any unsuspecting Muggles from wandering in, and any adventurous dragons from wandering out.
"What is that smell?" Draco complained as they came to a stop in a dark corner of the sanctuary.
"This," Charlie said with a grin on his face, "is where the Hungarian Horntails like to… basically, it's where they shit."
"And we are standing here because…" Draco trailed off, a sneer plastered to his face.
"You will be shovelling it, and borrowing it over to the collection tanks way down yonder." Charlie grinned. "Be careful, dragon manure is corrosive, and it stains like a bitch. Toodles, Princess."
"I am not shovelling that!" Draco shouted at Charlie's back. "I came here to work with dragons, not shovel feces!"
"So sorry Draco, but Princesses have to shovel before they get contact with dragons." Charlie didn't even turn round, he walked away leaving Draco with a mountain of poop, a wheelbarrow and a shovel.
"Weasley!" Draco bellowed. "I AM NOT SHOVELLING SHIT!"
Charlie continued walking. He was cool as a cucumber, paying no mind to the adult temper tantrum that 'Drakie-Poo' was throwing behind him. He made his way back to the main hut, knowing that the kid would either shovel, or leave.
"Chuck us a beer," Charlie said as he wandered into the communal area. "It's going to be a long shift."
The room was full of Charlie's co-workers, everything from dainty women with fierce expressions and scars that said 'don't piss me off', to huge hulking men that looked like they wrestled dragons for fun. The common look was badass, but a smile that showed you just how much they loved their job.
An ice cold bottle was launched in Charlie's direction by a girl with a long blonde plait and bright blue eyes, and she had a scar running down her right cheek. "You really think he's going to quit before the day is through?" she asked.
"Either that or he'll request a new mentor, I guarantee it!" Charlie popped the bottle top off with ease and took a long satisfying swig. "I have a plan, Becks." Charlie waggled his eyebrows in her direction.
"Tank!" she bellowed. "No matter what Charlie does, I am NOT mentoring the Malfoy kid!" Becks pointed at Charlie with an accusing expression.
Tank, who was clearly in charge, just laughed. "What's the beef with the Malfoy kid? You ain't hazing the guy just because of his old man being a Death Eater are you?" He stared Charlie down with a disapproving look.
"No, I'm hazing him 'cause he's a pretentious p–"
"Oh Tank, you should have heard how he spoke to Charlie. The kid got more than a fair shot," Becks backed up Charlie in a way that said she might have a soft spot for the guy. "But I won't let Charlie palm him off on me!"
"Becks, would I do that to you?"
"Yes, Charlie, you would!" Becks smiled. "If you succeed, just know I will make your life hell, think longhorn milking duty for a month."
"Come on! He'll be nice so to you; you're pretty, you're a girl!" Charlie whined. "Just take him off me and I will owe you one."
"Erm," she said with a mockingly thoughtful expression. "NO! You better get out there and make sure the kid doesn't break a nail." Becks pouted.
"Charlie, give the kid a chance," Tank said, his tone less lighthearted than it had been before.
"Right, boss!" Charlie groaned. "Since he was a little shit, I'm gonna let him suffer a while. I'm finishing my beer, cool?"
Tank shrugged as he exited the tent.
"You think the kid will buck his ideas up?" Beck asked.
"Not a sodding chance."
Meanwhile, Draco was stuck facing down a mountain of dung. He had seriously considered quitting, but he realised that this would mean admitting that his father was right; Draco was not cut out to work with dragons. It wasn't that Draco was opposed to a profession that kept him at a desk raking in galleons, but the satisfied look on his father's face if he came home set a fire under his arse.
It was with a pained expression that Draco scooped a huge pile of dragon dung into the barrow. The wheelbarrow was practically empty still, and so he kept on shovelling. He noticed that many of the other workers looked down at him, but he continued to shovel until the barrow was full to the brim.
Draco wheeled it to the tanks, which were far too far away from the dragons' chosen 'poop zone'. He finally stopped and his arms felt like jelly. Then he shovelled it, scoop by scoop, into the giant copper tanks. He was hot and sweaty, and the thick dragon-hide cloak smothered him, especially in the hot midday sun.
He thought about Weasley's insistence that Draco need help with his 'gear'; maybe the ginger had a point. Then he recalled the jeering and the nickname he now had; Princess Malfoy. There was no way he was going to give a Weasley the satisfaction. He hoisted up the heavy cloak and picked up the barrow, walking back to the opposite end of the enclosure.
When he got there, Charlie was waiting. Draco ignored him and started to shovel more dung.
"Hey, Draco, can I call you Draco?"
"No, you can't."
"Well, this is awkward." Charlie smiled. "Come on, you insulted me, I had my fun, now we have to work together. I can be of use to you, you know."
"I would rather eat glass," Draco replied cheerfully.
"Last chance, you continue to be the world's biggest ass and things around here can get a whole lot worse," Charlie warned. "I am trying to help you out. These guys, they don't take to your kind of pretension, and neither do I. If you keep it up, the nickname 'princess' will be the least of your worries. Seriously, you need to take the olive branch." Charlie held out his hand to Draco.
"Well, this is awkward," Draco imitated. "I can pull my weight, and I don't really have problems with people. I am pretty sure, given the chance, 'the guys' would much rather be on good terms with a Malfoy than a Weasley."
"Okay, Drakie-pie, you asked for it." Charlie folded his arms and stared the blonde-haired diva down. "Once you have shifted half that pile, call me. I'll show you how to feed the baby dragons!"
Draco watched as Charlie walked away again, leaving him with a huge pile of shit to shift.
Charlie was accepting large quantities of fresh mooncalf meat. It was a lot more tender than beef, which was perfect for the baby dragons. One of their Chinese Fireballs had just had a litter hatch, so it would be all hands on deck. Despite their last interaction, Charlie was going to attempt to stick it out with Draco. He was even going to help him feed the babies. He was, however, going to wait until Draco arrived before the preparation began; that was Princesses job.
Draco was soon approaching Charlie, and he did not look like a happy little princess like he had that morning. His pristine dragon-hide boots were filthy, and you could see where the manure had started to corrode the leather, leaving burn-like marks all over the surface.
"What are we doing now, Weasley?" Draco demanded.
"Well, Drakie-pie, we are preparing food for the baby fireballs." Charlie picked up huge chunks of hot grey flesh and dumped them in front of Draco. "You need to hand grind it."
"Hand grind it? Why would I do that?"
"For reasons unknown to us, they won't drink it when we use magic. Good luck, Precious!"
"Weasel, you're my mentor, show me how it's done!" he demanded.
"Cut it into smaller chunks, put it into the big bowl and use your hands to grind it down to juice." Charlie looked straight at his trainee. "You're smart enough to understand those instructions, right?"
Charlie practically dared Draco to complain, but his expression wasn't lighthearted anymore.
"You're supposed to show me!" Draco smirked.
"It's called learning on the job, Poppet! If you don't like it, go home."
Draco felt trapped. It was less than a day into his first shift and he was miserable. He knew everyone hated him. His father had put up a huge donation to cut through all the red-tape, and if he came back now, his father would know he had failed. Draco couldn't continue to work like this, and Draco couldn't go home. It was hopeless.
Charlie stood there arms folded across his muscular chest; he bore the scars of experience, and so did his clothing. It wasn't pretty, but it was a hell of a lot more convenient. In a last ditch attempt to mend his hopeless work situation, Draco removed the black heavy cloak, rolled up his sleeves and sank his hands into the dark blue calf meat.
"That'll do Princess, that'll do." Charlie smiled.
Maybe working with someone like Charlie wouldn't be so bad after all.