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             “Look out, Ramsey!” I heard Charlie yell. I followed his voice and saw a ginormous Welsh Green lumbering toward me, its left wing sticking out at an impossible angle.

 “Are you kidding me?” I yelled back in exasperation. “And let you boys have all the fun?” I dodged a huge flame as it whizzed past me. “No freaking way, Weasley!”

“Fine!” He called out, laughter resonating in his deep voice. “Go behind the right flank- let’s see if you know what you’re doing.”

Rolling my eyes, I took a running leap at the nearest tree branch. I shimmied up the tree and saw Charlie and out two other team members, Ciprian Agaftei and Andrew Ross, dodging the Green’s fiery breath and whip-like tail.

Let me just say that, even for a grounded, injured dragon, this one was pissed off. I climbed down the tree and crouched behind it, ready to run at the opportune moment.

The Green’s back was turned, so I darted out from behind the tree and dodged its’ flailing tail. I reached the right flank and shot up blue sparks from my wand.

“I’m ready, Weasley.” I called out in mock boredom. This was so much fun!

“Okay, team,” Charlie’s voice went up in pitch- I guess he had to quickly leap out of the way to avoid another burn.

“Shoot the net on three. One, two, three!”

The Green whipped around quickly and I got a face full of tail as soon as I shot my net out of my wand. I didn’t even get to see the dragon fall; I was too busy falling myself.

“Stunners, go!” Charlie yelled, and I managed to croak out “Stupefy!” before I fell backward, completely winded.

Cautiously, I lifted my hand to my face and felt a gush of warm sticky liquid: blood.

“Shit!” I got to my feet, wiping my stinging face with the back of my hand, and walked around to meet Charlie, Ciprian, and Andrew.

“Wow, Ramsey, I must say- what the hell happened to your face?” Charlie exclaimed, his grin fading.

“Tail got me as he went down.” I said lightly.

“Here, let me help.” Charlie ripped the bottom of his shirt and took out a bottle of dittany from his pocket.

“It’s gonna sting.” He assured me before reaching out and wiping the gash above my eyebrow.

He was right. I recoiled slightly and took the cloth from him.

“Weasley, I’m not fragile, you know.” I told him, grinning.

“This is hard work, isn’t it?” He asked condescendingly.

“Nothing I can’t handle.” I said coolly before wiping my face one last time, cleaning the cloth and stuffing it into my back pocket.

“Okay, then,” Charlie said, grinning at Ciprian and Andrew. “Let’s fix this wing now, while he’s stunned.”

“You do realize that I know how to mend a broken wing.” I told him as he and the boys went to work.

“You sure?” He called over his shoulder. “This one looks like-“

“A double compound fracture with some tissue damage, yeah.” I finished for him, winning a glance of admiration from Ciprian and Andrew.

“Fine.” Charlie said, and I barely suppressed a smile. “Let’s see what you can do.”

“Fine.” I repeated, and marched up to Charlie and took the magically reinforced splint and bandages from him. I knew that they were going to judge me. This was only my second day on the job, and I knew I had a lot to prove.

Quickly, I set to work, aligning the fragile bones, using an adhesive spell that I learned at the ministry.

After about fifteen minutes, I stepped back and let them scrutinize my work.

“Seems like she knows what she’s doing.” Ciprian said, leaning back to grin at me.

“Yeah, Charlie, this is good.” Andrew agreed, his voice a thick, Scottish burr.

“It’s alright.” Charlie said grudgingly, stepping away and bending down to untangle the nets.

“Good work, team.” Charlie said, not looking at me. “We’ll put a tracking spell on him and check on him tomorrow.” He stood up and brushed his hands off on his cargo trousers. “Let’s go back to camp.” He gathered the nets and set off ahead of us.

“Don’t mind him.” Andrew told me as we set off through the woods for camp. He couldn’t have been older than twenty, with dark hair.

“I don’t.” I said, gingerly lifting a finger to my brow to inspect the damage. The adrenaline rush was starting to wear off, and my face hurt. A lot. “He’s been like this ever since I first met him. He thinks girls shouldn’t work with dragons.”

“Yeah, well,” Ciprian said bracingly, lifting his shirt up to wipe the sweat off of his face, revealing washboard abs in the process. “I think you impressed him today.”

“Thanks.” I replied, “But, actually I just think he’s jealous.” I joked.

The boys laughed, and I knew that I had at lest impressed them.

We entered camp to a fair amount of staring. I guess everyone wanted to see how many pieces I’d be returning in. God, men are so sexist. Their eyes flitted up to my forehead with some curiosity.

“What’d you do, girly?” Asked an old guy that I recognized from breakfast that morning. His arms were covered in burn marks and he had a long, jagged scar running down the left side of his face.

“That Welsh Green wacked her in the face with his tail.” Ciprian told the group, sticking up for me. “But, she just go up and mended his wing in record time.”

Murmurs of surprise floated around the camp, and the men were staring at me with gruff appreciation.

“That green is nasty.” Said Cliff, one of the keepers at the rehab center. The others nodded in agreement.

“He wasn’t too bad,” I said nonchalantly, and my stomach growled. “What’s for lunch?”

I was instantly handed a thick slice of bread with a slab of cheese.

“Thanks.” I said down on a log with Andrew and Ciprian, and started to eat.

“You were really good back there.” Ciprian said, taking a gulp of water from his canteen. “How long have you been interested in dragons?”

“My whole life.” I replied easily. “I think my parents realized what I was going to do the first time I saw a dragon; I almost attacked my dad to let me ride it; it was wild and I was three.”

“Wow!”  Ciprian said, elbowing Andrew amiably. “She’s crazier than you!”

“How long have you been working with dragons, then?” I asked them both. Andrew answered first.

“As soon as I graduation from Iceland’s Academy of Magic,” He replied. “I came straight here.”

“You went to school in Iceland?” I asked, interested. “Why didn’t you go to Hogwarts?”

“My dad teaches there.” Andrew said. “I think he wanted to keep an eye on me. But, it didn’t work. My first year there, I walked straight up to a Swedish Short Snout and tried to pet it.” He grinned at the look on my face.

“What happened?” I asked. I’d never met someone who tried to pet a wild dragon before.

“He almost took my arm off.” He replied, lifting up his shirt sleeve to show me a large scar.

“Whoa!” I breathed. “That’s awesome!”

“Thanks.” Andrew grinned and turned to Ciprian. “What about you, C?”

Ciprian laughed reminiscently. “I ran away from my Academy in Russia when I was fifteen.” He said, raking his fingers through his shaggy brown hair. “I’d had enough to know that school wasn’t for me. I’ve been here for ten years.”

“That’s mad!” I said, but I knew exactly how he felt. “But I know the feeling.”

“Yeah, anyway.” Ciprian continued. “I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here; Costache is a really great guy- he’s brilliant with dragons!”

“What’s the best thing you’ve done here?” I asked, swallowing the last of my lunch.

“I rode a dragon.” Ciprian said, his face lighting up in an impish smile.

“Are you kidding me?!” I almost shouted. “How?”

“I’d been working with this Chinese Fireball for about five months, and we were just forming this bond. So, one day, out of the blue, I jumped on his back.”

“You just jumped on his back?!” I repeated, awestruck.

“Yeah, and it was the best feeling in the world!” He looked at me and I smiled. “Better than being on a broom,”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know about broomsticks.” I said, an unpleasant sensation settling in the pit of my stomach. “I haven’t been on one in seven years.”

“Why not?” Andrew asked. I looked at the ground, drawing patterns in the dirt with my boot-clad toe.

“I- I just don’t like brooms.” I answered untruthfully. I was terrified of them.

The boys glanced at one another, but, thankfully, they didn’t press me. I couldn’t talk about it; that’s why I was here, away from anyone who would look at me with that “Poor girl” look. I didn’t need that. I just needed adventure.

“So, we have the afternoon off.” I said, getting to my feet. “Who wants to show me around?”

“We’ll go.” Andrew said, getting up and pulling Ciprian to his feet. “We have some awesome places to show you!”

“Let’s go, then!” I said, and, letting them lead the way, followed them into the unexplored territory that was now my home.

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