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Chapter 1

*******

Sitting on her broom some 30 meters above the ground, Louise Malone looked down at the scenery beneath her. Hidden between high mountains was the dragon reserve that she had searched for during the past two days. She slowly descended, landing with a soft thud on the ground. Gathering her broom and two suitcases, she prepared to do what she had come there for.

As she entered the reserve, she was met by many different smells and sounds. Dragons roared and breathed hot fire that made the air quiver, chains rustled, people talked, shouted orders, and laughed. Feeling completely lost, Louise looked around to see if there was anyone near to ask for directions.

A tall, blond wizard dressed in a brown robe approached her. "Can I help you?"

"Yes please. I'm looking for someone in charge of the staff."

"Well... what country are you from?"

"Ireland."

"Then you have to talk to Walter Preston. I'll help you look for him, follow me please."

Louise followed the blond wizard, and during their walk he asked her a little about herself and why she wanted a job at the reserve. Louise answered as best as she could, hoping that she didn’t make a complete fool of herself.

Suddenly the wizard stopped. "There he is. Walter!"

A short wizard with a round, kind face, brown hair and bushy eyebrows turned around as they approached him.

"Walter, you've got a visitor. She's looking for a job."

They shook hands, and Walter took Louise to an office-building nearby. His office was quite small, and he sat down in a comfortable-looking chair behind his desk before motioning towards the chair standing on the other side. "Please, sit down."

Louise sat down. For the next half an hour Walter interviewed her and told her about the reserve, and he finally asked when she could start working.

"Right now, if I'm needed," Louise answered and motioned towards her bags. "I've got everything with me."

"Good, we could really use another pair of arms. How about you start Monday?”

“Yeah, then I have two days to settle in.”

“I'll show you around then." Walter rose and beckoned Louise to follow him. "Everyone's got his or her own room," he said as they stepped outside again. "The men sleep there," he pointed towards a long barrack to the left of them that lay beside the nearest enclosures, "and the women sleep over there." A similar looking barrack, beside the one where the men slept. “Come, I’ll show you your room. Then you can leave your luggage before we continue the tour.”

They entered the barrack where the girls apparently had their rooms, and Walter walked ahead of Louise to a door in the middle of a row of green painted doors. The walls in the corridor were painted off-white, she noted as she looked around. No one else was there, and as Walter held the door to her new home open she stepped inside. The room was small, but Louise liked it. The walls had the same shade of off-white as the walls in the corridor, and there was a bed, a small wardrobe, a low shelf, a desk, and a chair.

“There are showers and toilets further down in the corridor,” Walter explained. “There are signs on them, so you can't miss them. So, this room will be yours from now on. It's not much, I'm afraid."

Louise looked around again. "That doesn't matter. I mean, I'm just going to sleep here."

"You're right. Now, let's just put your bags in here, and I will show you the rest of the British part of the reserve."

‘The British part of the resreve’ turned out to be quite big. The enclosures held one dragon each, and around the enclosures people were working. They stopped a number of times, and Walter introduced Louise to people he said worked in what apparently would be her team. Soon names and faces were whirling around in her head, and she wondered how she would be able to remember a single of her new co-workers names.

When they came to the dining hall, a large room with white walls and furniture made of wood, Walter told Louise about the eating hours. Breakfast was served between six and nine, lunch between twelve and two and dinner between five and seven.

After showing her the dining hall, Walter had to go back to work. Before dropping her off at the barracs he suggested that Louise could walk around and have a look at the dragons and maybe talk to the others who worked there during the rest of the day. Then she should get to know the surroundings and her co-workers a little better before she started working.

After giving her shoulder a squeez he hurriedly made his departure, and Louise walked back to her room to unpack. Not that she had much luggage with her, but she thought that it was better to do the unpacking first thing and not wait until later. She quickly unpacked, and decided that it was time to go and have another look at the dragons and the people she would work with.

When she had strolled around most of 'her' part of the reserve, Louise looked at her watch. A quarter to five; that meant that it was close to dinnertime. She was hungry, and hurried back to the dining hall. Upon approaching it she spotted Walter, and walked up to him.

"Hi!" he greeted her. "How are things going?"

"Just fine thanks. I've been walking around by myself, taking a look at the reserve."

"That's a good start." At that moment Walter caught sight of someone, and waved. "Weasley! Come here! I have someone I want you to meet!"

*******

So far it had been a regular day for dragon keeper Charles Weasley. His days consisted of taking care of some of the dragons at the large dragon reserve where he worked, and this day had not been any different.

He had worked at the reserve since he was nineteen years old. He had always been fascinated with dragons, something he had in common with Rubeus Hagrid, the groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The two of them had become friends during Charlie's seven years at school, and Hagrid had gladly taught him everything he knew about dragons.

After graduating from Hogwarts, many had thought that Charlie would chose to play Quidditch professionally, but instead he moved to Romania to study dragons. And even if he sometimes missed Quidditch he knew that this was what he wanted to do.

Now he was on his way to have dinner, and even if the food at the reserve was quite good, he still missed his mother's cooking. At the thought of his mother he smiled. He really admired her. She had raised Charlie and his six siblings, and sometimes Charlie wondered how she had managed taking care of all seven of them.

"Weasley, come here! I have someone I want you to meet!"

Charlie recognized his boss’s voice, and saw him standing by the entrance to the dining hall. Charlie waved and made his way over to him and a girl that stood beside him; a short girl with brown hair that came down to her shoulders.

"Louise this is Charlie, Charlie this is Louise. She just got hired." Walter said as Charlie stopped in front of him and the unfamiliar girl.

"Hi, nice meeting you. And please don't call me Mr. Weasley, it just makes me feel old. Call me Charlie." He smiled at Louise and extended his hand, which he shook and gave him a tentative smile.

Walter turned to Louise. "Charlie is on the team you’ll be on. Why don't you join us for dinner, then Charlie can fill you in on the things I've forgotten to mention. I'm sure there is more I should have told you, but my mind works slower than it did when I was young."

"That's old news, I've known that for ages." Charlie remarked, grinning mischievously at his boss.

"Charlie, don't make a fool of me in front of Louise, now," Walter admonished. "Well, shall we eat?"

*******

Nicole Rogers was standing in line at the airport, waiting to check in. She was going to Egypt, to visit her aunt Christine and her husband Mike. They owned a restaurant in Cairo, and had offered Nikki a job. Since she was currently unemployed she had said yes, and now she was soon to border the plane that would taker from Manchester, England to Cairo, Egypt.

"Nikki, are you really sure about this?" her mum Rachel asked for what had to the umpteenth time. "I mean, Egypt..."

"Yes Mum, I am going. Otherwise I wouldn't be standing in line at an airport at this moment, would I?" Nikki said patiently, for what also had to be the umpteenth time. "I'll be fine, Christine and Mike will look after me."

At the thought of her sister, Rachel smiled. "Yes, you're right. But I still don't understand why she moved to Egypt. Of all places she had to chose Cairo."

"I think it's cool," Nikki stated. "To meet a guy and move with him to a country you've never even been to after four months."

Rachel did not look as approving. As much as she loved her younger sister it was quite clear o Nikki that she had never really understood why Christine had left everything she had in England to move to her new boyfriend who lived in Egypt.

"Well, have you got everything? Tickets? Passport? Money?"

"Yes, I've double checked everything." God, was there ever a mum who could be more worried? Whatever Nikki did she was always worried.

"Good, good. Well, I guess I have to go then," Rachel said and gave her daughter a hug.

"Give my best to Dad," Nikki said as she gave her ticket to the girl at the counter outside the gate.

"I will. And promise you'll give us a call when you get there."

"Yes Mum, I will."

"Bye, take care."

One more hug before Rachel made her way through the crowd. Nikki concentrated on the line, and soon it was her turn to check in. Now she finally was on her way. She was really looking forward to see something else than boring old Manchester, and saw this as an opportunity to meet new people.

During the flight Nikki read a pocket guide on Cairo and Egypt that she had purchased. She knew that her Aunt lived in the outskirts of Cairo, and it seemed to be a really interesting city. Nikki had always been fascinated with the old Egyptians, and she planned on visiting the Cairo Museum to see all the mummies and other stuff from the pyramids. And of course the pyramids themselves.

*******

"Merlin, that was close!" William Weasley collapsed on the ground outside the pyramid, panting heavily. His shoulder-long, red hair used to be pulled back into a ponytail, but now sweaty strands of it were stuck to his also sweaty forehead, and the rest of it hung loosely around his shoulders. Sometimes, like at this moment, he wondered why he had become a curse breaker in the first place, but mostly it was an interesting job.

"That bloody pharaoh sure knew how to protect himself," his co-worker Yasmin said, and caught her breath yet again before wiping the sweat off her forehead with her robe.

They had been inside the pyramid they were currently seated in front of, trying to break the curses of the pharaoh buried there. Unfortunately they hadn’t managed to break all of them. Instead they had to run for their lives.

"I can't believe that Charlie says his job is more risky than this."

"Me neither. I mean, dragons... And you know what? I am definitely going to ask for a rise."

Bill tried to stand up, but his legs wouldn’t carry him. He rested for a few moments before trying again, and this time he was successful. As he had regained his balance, he bent down and offered Yasmin his hands. She smiled at him, grabbed his hands and let him pull her to her feet. They stood facing each other for a few moments, and Bill felt his stomach turn. She always made him feel that way when she looked at him. He had fancied her for a month now, but for some reason he had not told her yet. He wanted to wait for the right moment, and it never seemed to come his way.

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