Warning (highlight to view): For biting, bondage, cock restraints, dominance-play, (magical) fire-play, and object insertion.
Word Count: 5050
Summary: Charlie is used to dealing with passionate, dangerous creatures, but he's never before experienced Lucius Malfoy during mating season.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Notes: Written for leela_cat during the 2009 run of fall_fantasia. Thank you, eeyore9990, fodirteg, reddwarfer, shiv5468, the_minx_17, and unbroken_halo, for various acts of beta'ing and encouragement. *smooches all of you*
The handshake was perfunctory, at least on Charlie's side, and once Director Mondragon moved down the line of keepers to continue the introductions, Charlie noticed two things: the first was that he was holding a small, folded piece of parchment; the second, was how Malfoy's eyes rested a moment's too long on certain of his fellow keepers. This irked him for some reason that he could not define as he surreptitiously unfolded the note.
His eyebrows rose as he read:
Omne initium difficile est.
'Every beginning is difficult' is right, he thought, grimacing as he pocketed what he presumed was Lucius Malfoy's idea of an olive branch.
However intriguing the overture, he didn't have time for it. It was mating season, and even though Malfoy was the Preserve's most generous patron to date, even though the man was about to become part of his family, Charlie wasn't about to waste his time on a tourist. Glancing up at the evening sky, he frowned. Through the protective wards, he could see the Romanian Longhorns circling in preparation.
The Display was a part of the dragons' mating ritual, but it had never been something that benefactors had been invited to see before Stefan Mondragon had been appointed director—for the simple reason that male Longhorns, once engaged in mating behaviour, had a nasty habit of viewing anything that moved as a threat. Competent keepers usually kept themselves out of sight during this time, and so Charlie had told Mondragon.
"You worry too much," he'd said when Charlie had objected to the plan. "Spectacle opens the purse strings, and it's nothing you can't handle."
"Right. What could possibly go wrong?"
Mondragon had snorted. "Exactly. Now, be polite to our guests, or I will revisit the staffing budget. Times are difficult, and my father expects me to keep Wizarding Romania's flaming cultural jewel shining brightly."
Times didn't look particularly difficult for Mondragon as he conducted Malfoy around the enclosure; Charlie could see by the tilt of his head and the bob of his Adam's apple that he was flirting with Malfoy. One might have thought that the man's Galleon's weren't yet in the Preserve's accounts, the way Mondragon was behaving.
For someone so aptly named, you'd think he'd know better than to be so fucking reckless.
Charlie wasn't sure to which he objected more: Mondragon's arse-kissing flirtation, or his ridiculous change of Preserve policy; both were dangerous.
'Flaming cultural jewel', what an idio—
"You are disturbed."
"Hmm? Oh, Razvan."
"Well, that is a welcome."
"Sorry," Charlie replied, shaking his head and looking up again as one of the dragons issued a long plume of smoke from its nostrils. "This could end very badly, protective enchantments or no."
"Yes, and Afina is entertaining an offer from the MacFusty's because of this foolishness."
"What? No! We can't loose Afy. She's the best draco-veterinarian we've had in years!"
Razvan stuffed his hands into his pockets and rocked back onto his heels, an almost comical position that would have seemed at odds with the older man's typical stoicism had it not been such a characteristic pose of his. "I know, and I have no desire to see my baby sister off to the Hebrides. Something must be done—or perhaps someone."
Charlie followed his friend's gaze and frowned. "You can't be serious, Raz. You're not going to fuck Mondragon over policy changes."
Razvan smiled and stilled. "Stefan is not homosexual. He is what you might call 'opportunistic'."
"That's not what I call him, but what do you mean?"
"Whom I mean is Malfoy. He is . . . ad omnem libidinem projectus homo, and wealthy. Taken together, these things might make him useful to us."
It took Charlie slightly longer to work out Razvan's Latin than it had Malfoy's note, but when he did, he replied, "I don't see how Malfoy's being a man disposed to every species of dissipation can necessarily help us. Mondragon's right about spectacle. These people are here to be entertained. They don't actually care how things are run."
"Oh, that one likes to interfere, I believe, and he is no doubt used to being obeyed in exchange for his largesse. I feel that were he compelled to take a deeper interest in the Preserve, he would wish to see things run well."
Razvan Amanar was a seventh-generation dragon keeper; his family had founded the Preserve. They were also respected greatly for keeping the goblin-wizard peace in the region, and the Amanar women were reputed to be born Healers. From what Charlie knew of Afina, he considered this local legend to be more fact and less fancy. It had come as a great shock to everyone at the Preserve, then, when Mondragon—the son of Romania's Minister of Dragon Affairs—had been given the directorship over Razvan. The Chief Keeper had only shrugged and said that it was good to be 'of use' however one might be. Charlie suspected that Razvan had his reasons for not wanting to take up the reins of the Preserve, but of them, his friend had never spoken.
"You're planning something."
"No, I am suggesting something. Tell me, what was in that note that Malfoy slipped to you during the introductions?"
Charlie rolled his eyes. "Perhaps a come on, I'm not actually sure—but he has been attempting to ingratiate himself with every member of my family since Draco and Harry announced their intention to bond. Why?"
"Ah, that is good, that is very good, indeed. Do you find him attractive?"
"Charlie. It has been almost a year since Milo . . . . Perhaps you now might be up to the challenge of taking someone new to your bed?"
"Hey, I could take someone to my bed anytime that I wanted!"
"Could you?" Razvan's eyes gleamed.
"You're daring me to shag Lucius Malfoy?"
The sound of rich laughter rolled through the enclosure towards them, and Charlie turned to stare at Malfoy, who appeared genuinely amused by something Mondragon was saying. Malfoy was attractive, in a refined, feral sort of way, tall, and . . . steely. Charlie couldn't think of a better way to describe him; Malfoy's charisma was as compelling as his arse, and the idea of fucking him roughly into a wall after the way that Malfoy had treated his family in the past was not without its appeal.
Hells, it would be better than borrowing another one of Raz's dusty old Latin philosophers, wouldn't it be?
Still, this was Malfoy. Charlie didn't want to contemplate a revenge fuck too deeply, not when Harry's happiness apparently depended upon the man's son, but mostly because, as Razvan was in a position to know, such behaviour ran counter to his tastes.
"Charlie? You are contemplating it. I can tell."
"No, I'm not. It's Malfoy, Raz. He's an abject shite, and I want nothing to do with him."
Razvan snorted. "He is comely, and by all appearances, seeking an 'opportunity'. You in particular aroused his notice, but I understand. You are afraid of him."
"I am not."
"It would be lowering to be refused by such a man. Perhaps a sweet village boy, then?"
Charlie balled his fists. "If we weren't friends, I'd belt you. Stop goading me, Raz."
The reverberating bellow of a bull interrupted Razvan before he could respond, and he and Charlie looked up with everyone else to see the "flame show." The Longhorns were issuing great gouts of flame into the sky before spiralling into death falls; they were almost too high to be seen clearly but for their fiery emanations, but the gleam of their green scales left afterimages once they came to abrupt stops at den level. Only the best fliers with the most powerful flames could induce the female dragons to take flight with them.
Magnificent, Charlie thought, as he heard someone's awe-filled voice speak: "Breathtaking."
Razvan, the prat, had left him to Malfoy; irritated, he retorted, "Apparently not."
Malfoy, however, wasn't looking at him; his gaze was fixed upon the sky. "What joy may be found in the empyrean sphere that we may never know?" he murmured, before looking at Charlie. "I can't fail to understand why it is that you've chosen to make your life amongst such amazing creatures."
Charlie, remembering just how many Galleons the Malfoy Charitable Trust had given the Preserve and taken aback by how truly appreciative of the Longhorns Malfoy seemed, allowed the sarcastic retort forming in his mind to go unsaid.
A female Longhorn, Charlie couldn't tell which one, rose and took flight with Zeus, the largest bull. Their bursts of flame lit the sky in a testament to their mutual interest. Other, lesser bulls circled away from them, and the pair flew in a complicated, entwined pattern towards the heavens.
"That place the ancient philosophers believed fire dwelt, that highest of holies, within the world's sphere but apart from it," Malfoy whispered.
Charlie raised an eyebrow at Malfoy's near-poetical turn. But of course he likes dragons. He named his son—
"Yes, to live amongst these beasts so near to that heaven—you've chosen wisely."
Charlie held his breath as the alpha pair began plummeting towards the ground as one. Come on, then. You can do it.
He was so concerned, so entranced by the scene, that he didn't notice the hand on his shoulder until after Zeus and his mate, whom Charlie now recognised as Long Claw, completed their coupling and broke apart well below den level.
"Damn, that was close!" he exclaimed, moving forward to the enclosure's edge, a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley below.
Zeus made another attempt to encircle Long Claw, and she proved her name.
"Fuck. He'll need seeing to now."
Zeus roared a pained warning to another bull, one which had come too near Long Claw, as his partner returned to her den.
"He's guarding the entrance to her boudoir to ensure his own success?" Malfoy asked.
"Yes, and he'll try for her again tomorrow night and every night until she wounds him badly enough—but it's done. If not, Long Claw would still be out there."
"An interesting reproductive strategy, and of course, a male of any species is never quite certain of his success."
Charlie looked at Malfoy, feeling the sense memory of the man's hand on his shoulder. He'd missed being touched, but that didn't mean that he had any intention of cosying up to Malfoy, of all people. "That's a strange thing for a married man to say, particularly one with a son who bears his likeness so strongly."
"Perhaps. Tell me, what will happen if, Zeus, is it?" Malfoy asked, nodding at the bull in question.
Well, someone's been paying attention, Charlie thought, nodding.
"If Zeus doesn't return to his den? His injury doesn't appear to be minor."
"It's not as bad as it looks, but yes, it needs tending. We've had Scale Rot to deal with lately, and—"
"It wouldn't do for his wound to become infected."
"So you'll lure him back, how?"
"With Long Claw's dung. We can Confound those bulls that take up positions outside their mates' dens and then lure them back to their own with the dung. It's dirty work, but it's better than having to care for an ailing bull."
"I'd imagine that you'd like to be down there."
Malfoy's expression was blank, but Charlie felt the weight of the other man's gaze and knew that he was asking something else entirely. Ignoring this, he said, "It's my job. I'm not paid to socialise."
"It's your calling, and you despise singing for your supper, as it were."
They eyed one another with mild speculation, and Charlie felt himself smile slightly. He hadn't mean to; he'd truly had no intention of responding in any way to Malfoy, but the man liked dragons, and he wasn't behaving like a supercilious prat. That was unexpected, and Charlie liked surprises.
"Have you eaten?" Malfoy pressed. "You were the last keeper to arrive, as I recall."
"No, I had preparations to make, but I expect that I should eat. Enjoy the rest of your evening, Ma—Mr Malfoy."
"I would enjoy it more," Malfoy said, moving a fraction closer to Charlie, "were you to join me for a meal."
He was close enough to Charlie that he could smell the spirits on his breath, and suddenly, Malfoy's near-poetical turn made greater sense to him—as did the note, which now that he thought about it, Charlie felt had been a rather impulsive gesture on Malfoy's part, and one that the man wouldn't have made had he been sober.
"I'll make do with canteen chow, and you'd be better off—"
"Mr Weasley, I assure you that I require no one to tell me what's best for me. I suspect that you feel the same—and since you seem keen to dine on . . . simple fare, perhaps you would be good enough to share it with me? It would interest me greatly to see," Malfoy said, flicking his eyes down Charlie's body and then back up again, "more."
Charlie inhaled Malfoy's subtle cologne and swallowed. This is a bad idea, he thought, shrugging with affected casualness at Malfoy, but if he wants to see . . . more of the Preserve, I suppose I should show it to him.
One of the younger keepers, if asked the same, might do something stupid—like conduct Malfoy to one of the dens.
"I expect that we'll need to Disapparate out of the enclosure?" Malfoy asked.
"Yeah. Walking to the canteen would be—"
"Then I place myself," Malfoy said, moving to wrap an arm around Charlie's waist, "in your capable hands."
His apology was on his lips before the pop! of Apparation finished sounding in Charlie's quarters. "Fuck, I'm sorry! I did mean to take us to the canteen, I—"
"Didn't, and you needn't exercise yourself," Malfoy replied, before feeding Charlie his tongue.
The sensation of it was akin to licking a battery—Charlie and Bill had always found their father's collection of Muggliana fascinating—but he didn't want to think about home or his family now, not now, not when Malfoy's warm, surprisingly well-muscled body was pressing him into the door, when his prick was thrusting against the placket of his leather trousers, when his hands were unlacing those trousers.
When Malfoy's gloved hand reached inside of them to firmly grasp the base of his prick, Charlie gasped.
"What colour are my gloves?" Malfoy whispered, his breath tickling the flesh behind his right ear.
"Buff," Malfoy corrected, nipping Charlie's skin, "but close enough to know that you've been paying attention."
Not so pissed, then, Charlie thought, shivering slightly.
Malfoy's other hand moved to rest on Charlie's right hip, and he shushed him. "None of that." He moved that hand from Charlie's hip to his straining prick, palm-polishing its head before slowly stroking downward in a light column of long fingers. "I want you to remain still."
Charlie clenched his teeth in an effort not to whine, feeling rather drunk, himself, on the heat and scent emanating from Malfoy.
"If you allow me to please you, if you consent to obey me, your release will be sublime," Malfoy promised, before sucking a path down Charlie's throat to his collar bone, which he began tracing with his tongue until he continued downward to worry a nipple.
It was then that Charlie realised he was nude, the chill air of his chambers teasing him as much as Malfoy's teeth. Move your hand, damn you, your hand!
"What say you, Charles?"
Charlie's prick pulsed, hard, at the formality. "Yes."
Abruptly, Malfoy released his prick. "Raise your hands above your head and clasp the lintel."
Charlie did so at once, his prick almost snapping back against his belly, he was so aroused. Not going to last.
"Accio trouser strings!" Malfoy continued, putting paid to that notion as he spell-wound the cording between Charlie's bollocks and around the base of his prick.
Charlie could feel the leather twining up his shaft, knotting itself at intervals along the vein on its underside.
"Beautiful," Malfoy murmured, when the string's length ran out and Charlie's prick was thoroughly bound.
Charlie sucked his lower lip inside of his mouth and forced himself to remain still, silent, while anticipating Malfoy's next command—as he'd once done for Milo.
"Do you remember the colour of my gloves?"
"If you wish to stop at any point, you have but to say 'buff'. Tell me that you understand."
"I . . . I understand," Charlie replied, almost breathless in his excitement, "but . . . ."
Without taking his eyes from Charlie's, Malfoy drew his wand and conjured a lace of flame. "Ignis me vocat—'Fire calls me'," he explained, flourishing his wrist to release the lace.
Charlie bit the inside of his lip in irritation at Malfoy's unnecessary translation, forgetting it entirely as the lace began to lick at his skin without burning it; slid over his nipples until they distended; snaked around one arm and then another, causing his muscles to tighten; tickled the skin between his arse and bollocks, as if urging him to spread his legs, which he did while throwing back his head and gripping the lintel more tightly to retain his control. "I—"
"Will not speak."
Oh, gods, Charlie thought, raising his head to stare at Malfoy, his plea, he knew, shining from his eyes. Oh, I can't, I n—
"But you may moan."
"—eed to feel more."
"And so you shall," Malfoy assured him, "as soon as I punish you for this act of disobedience."
Charlie closed his eyes and groaned as the fire lace's ministrations ceased. Shite!
He'd spoken. He'd spoken after being ordered not to—after being given permission to moan! What would Malfoy do?
He didn't have long to wait as he felt his knees bend and his legs rise towards the lintel, where he felt his wrists and arms being secured by soft, strong rope; his back felt supported, but not by any bonds. He didn't know the spell, but he liked it. Peeking out from between his thighs, he saw Malfoy snapping the fire lace in a deliberate pattern; symbols burnt themselves into the air of the room and combined until Malfoy sent them streaming towards him and they sank, so coldly that they burnt, into his skin.
His nerves began to sing with need as the symbols, whose shapes he could feel inside of himself, melted into a pool of erotic sensation that radiated throughout his body and left him feeling more desperately needful than he'd ever felt before. Blood dripped from his mouth as he bit his cheek to prevent his ecstatic screams, and gods, they were almost enough to force orgasm after orgasm from him, the pulses of alternating heat and cold making him writhe with a twisting pleasure-pain, but he knew that they wouldn't allow him to come. No, Malfoy wasn't about to allow that until he'd suffered sufficiently for his disobedience.
He didn't think he'd be able to bear it.
Please, please, please . . . .
Through the haze of his lust, Charlie felt something new, something blunt, rubbing its cold, metallic-feeling shape against his open, greedy arse.
His cane, the head of his cane, he thought, struggling violently. "Ungh, oh, fu—urgh!"
Suddenly, Charlie found his head jerked into stillness by his hair and fell desperately silent, his eyes flying open to find himself perhaps half an inch from Malfoy's face.
"You have no idea how much I want to fuck you right now," the man hissed, "but do you deserve fucking, Charles? Have you the restraint to earn my cock in your arse?"
The metal head twisted inside of him, but only just, and Charlie forced himself not to bear down upon it.
"Impressive," Malfoy said, releasing Charlie's hair to wipe the sweat from his brow. "I've never seen anyone react so feverishly to this spell." He nipped at Charlie's lips. "I like it."
The object working his arse began to slicken, and Charlie half-laughed, half-cried as it began its welcome slide further inside of him—but he didn't thrust his hips to take it in further than Malfoy would allow as he felt the ropes holding his wrists and ankles begin to lower him.
Malfoy smiled, a hungry expression. "I'm almost persuaded. You may beg."
"M—may I beg . . . with my . . . m—mouth?"
"Oh, yes," Malfoy whispered hoarsely, and Charlie craned his neck up to capture Malfoy's mouth with his own.
He sucked the other man's tongue into his mouth, rolling his own around it. He drew backward so that he could flick fast and teasingly against the tip of Malfoy's tongue, and as thrilling waves of heat and cold undulated through his body and he strained against both binding spell and rope, he bit down on Malfoy's lower lip.
Growling, Malfoy withdrew the knob from Charlie's arse and did something to cause the lacings around his prick to tighten painfully—and Charlie loved it as much as the taste of Malfoy's blood on his tongue.
"Yes! Please," he begged, as Malfoy shifted his position and steadied Charlie, his hand on one of Charlie's thighs, while his other ripped off his trouser buttons—Charlie's prick pulsed with every snick! of one hitting the floor—and he pressed his cock against Charlie's arse; whatever had lubricated the object lately inside of Charlie helped Malfoy to slide slickly home.
"Fuck, yes! Pound me, pound my arse!"
Malfoy's hands clutched Charlie's hips in a bruising grasp as he pulled him roughly forward, each thrust making Charlie feel the stretch and slide of Malfoy's prick until everything burnt, every part of him was alive with a blazing, rising, need—and then the unexpected absence of the leather constraining his prick overwhelmed him and he roared his release into claiming darkness.
The soreness that Charlie felt upon waking was lovely—and easing with every stroke of Malfoy's fingers.
"A soothing balm," Malfoy said quietly, continuing to rub the cream into Charlie as they lay on his bed. "You were magnificent and needed seeing to."
Charlie smiled. "Magnificent, but not breathtaking?"
Malfoy stopped his massage and looked up at Charlie from over his thighs. "You didn't see me after I came. It . . . took me some time to collect myself, I assure you."
There was something so deliciously vulnerable in Malfoy's expression that Charlie was moved to push himself up and kiss him. He made it a slow, searching kiss, eventually kneeling up so that he could pull Malfoy into a proper embrace.
"Made quite the Display. I'm impressed," Charlie said, falling back onto his bum. "Was that, I mean, are you usually so aggressive?"
A barely perceptible flush graced Malfoy's cheeks as he replied, "I was given to understand that you enjoyed . . . spectacle."
Charlie laughed. Oh, Raz, I'm going to kill you—no, to kiss you soundly—for this, he thought, taking a deep breath. "Lucius?"
"Mmm?" he murmured, a wariness to his expression.
"I know that you're trying to win us all over for Draco's sake, but fit as I am, I don't think that I could handle you if it's your intention to continue to go at it like a bull during mating season."
"Ah, I understand," Lucius said, rising from the bed.
Charlie followed him, stopping him by placing a hand on Lucius' shoulder. "I'm, er, not kicking you out of my den, man. I just want to get a few things straight, is all."
"You mean my wife."
"Yes. All appearances to the contrary, I don't make a habit of shagging married men."
"A romantic, then?"
"A pragmatist. Witches have their own talons, and I wouldn't like to meet your wife alone on a dark night."
"Nor would I," Lucius replied, looking at his feet, "and such won't be a problem once I sign the papers."
"Do you still—never mind—some questions are too personal, yeah?"
"If you'd offended me, I would have already hexed you."
"When did you decide to divorce, then?"
"Shortly after Potter convinced my son to be his bearer and Narcissa raised no objection."
Charlie started as he bit down on his cheek to prevent his laugh at Lucius' sudden scowl. "I don't suppose that your balm is safe for ingestion?"
Lucius flicked a finger towards the jar and then at Charlie. "You find it amusing that I should want my son to do his own begetting?"
Charlie, rubbing his inner cheeks, replied, "'At's 'one 'of ay 'isness."
"No, it isn't."
"Yet you're being strangely direct with me." Which means you've not yet got what you came for.
Lucius said nothing.
"Mrs Malfoy must be ahead of things in the winning-over department, I'm guessing."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because you've gone to such extravagant lengths to make me forgive you, that's why," Charlie said, moving to run his hands down Lucius' arms until he coaxed them to drop to his sides and took the man's hands. "That is why you came?"
"I came because of the dragons. I like dragons."
"And why else?"
Lucius blinked once, a slow smile spreading across his face. "Because of you."
The heat in his tone was compelling, but Charlie didn't relent. "And?"
Lucius sighed. "Because I could use some advice as to how to . . . ingratiate myself with your sister."
Charlie snorted as everything became clear to him. "You're on your own, there."
"I didn't realise quite what it was, or what it would do."
"You're a liar, and no one likes those, Lucius," Charlie said, releasing his hands and backing into the bed before sitting upon its edge. "Although you do like dragons, I'll give you that. What was that poetry you were quoting earlier?"
Lucius sat down next to him. "What poetry?"
"All that stuff about the highest of heavens."
"It wasn't poetry. It was—very well, it was poetry."
"And you're not a very good liar, either, it seems, at least, not after fucking. It was all just you, yeah? You indulging in a bit of dramatic extemporaneity?"
"I had been drinking."
Charlie snorted again. "I imagine that you never drink so much as to forget yourself completely. You're a romantic. Who knew? And why'd you fuck me, again? After the size of your donation, it was hardly necessary."
Lucius fell back on the bed and threw an arm over his face. "Potter won't set a date for the bonding until every member of your family agrees to accept my family—and by family, I mean me."
"Well, that is a problem. Tell you what," Charlie continued, lying down next to Lucius, "you might try explaining to my sister how much you love your son, how much you want him to be happy. I doubt she'll ever forgive you—"
"I am not the man I was when I slipped her that damned diary."
"You don't believe me." Lucius moved his arm and rolled over to look at Charlie. "If not, why are you still talking to me? Why allow my attentions at all?"
"Because I knew you'd be a fantastic fuck, but if you'd like to do it again, I think you're going to have to make things right with Ginny, and the only way to even begin to approach her is by being honest."
"So I suspected."
Lucius' tone of sufferance amused Charlie, but he did nothing to ease his concern. The man's problems were of his own making. Still, Malfoy didn't seem to be the utter bastard that Charlie had believed him to be.
But that could just be post-shagging naïveté on my part.
"And I suppose," Lucius continued, glancing about Charlie's quarters, "that I should trust you."
Charlie saw that Lucius was looking at his bookshelves and chuckled. "Cave ab homine unius libri, is that it?"
"'Beware of anyone who has just one book'—you surprise me. You know your Latin."
"Thank you for not sounding as surprised as you must be," Charlie said with good humour. "I wouldn't say that I know it well, but Razvan—he's our Chief Keeper—is something of a scholar and keeps lending me books."
"I'm . . . acquainted with Mr Amanar," Lucius replied, his expression lightening as if with a fond memory, "but it seems that you've begun your own collection."
Charlie shrugged. "I like to read. There's not much to do while the dragons hibernate."
Lucius reached out to caress Charlie's face, running a thumb over his lower lip. "I imagine that a man like you has no problem remaining active."
The compliment charmed Charlie, who decided to take pity on Lucius' Ginny situation. "Were you aware that Ginny's been seeing a lot of Neville Longbottom?"
Lucius raised an eyebrow as if in question.
"And that Longbottom's amazing with plants?"
"No, I was aware of neither of those things."
"Well, as long as you're content to go about investing in various enterprises," Charlie said, getting up and beginning to dress, "you might consider diversifying your portfolio to include, say, a landscaping concern."
"That is an intriguing idea, and where are you going?"
"My shift begins soon. Think you can entertain yourself for twelve hours? We never did share that meal."
Faint surprise registered on Lucius' face, which barely moved, but Charlie was quickly growing used to its minute alterations and what they meant; one had to be that observant when dealing with passionate, dangerous creatures for a living.
"You truly wish to see more of me?"
"You are planning to sign your divorce papers?"
Lucius went very still, and Charlie winced at the mistake he'd just made—and so soon after priding himself on his keeping of dangerous creatures, too.
Relaxing almost at once, however, Lucius said, "Your question implies an answer to mine."
"Oh, yes, I'd very much like to see more of you—much more than is strictly healthy for me, I'm sure."
The curl of Lucius' lip indicated smug satisfaction, but Charlie found that he didn't mind. I hope he's not as bad as I think he is, he told himself, grinning at Lucius as he took his leave, but if I'm wrong, I can always feed him to Long Claw—that is, if he survives his attempt to earn Ginny's favour.
It would be a difficult process, Charlie knew, but as he took himself off to the pens—and to Razvan, for whom he had more than one question—he found himself supporting Lucius.