The second time David visited her house, he knocked on the front door, something which Frankie was extremely grateful for.
Her mum answered it and Frankie could hear David’s awkward tone all the way in the living room.
“Erm, hi. Is Frankie in? I’m a friend of — “
Frankie skittered to a stop in front of the doorway, slightly out of breath and clutching the toe she had stubbed en route. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you about the other night…” He was shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot as though he was debating leaving at any moment.
She gave her injured foot one last squeeze and stood awkwardly. “Oh, of course.”
“So I’ll be going inside now,” her mum said loudly, giving Franking a significant look before hurrying off down the hall snickering to herself.
“I just didn’t want to — “
“Can we take this somewhere else?” Frankie looked over her shoulder into the apartment and she could hear her mum and sisters talking shrilly in the kitchen. Grabbing some shoes, she stepped out onto the porch and shut the front door behind her. Luckily, she was in her usual baggy pants and sweatshirt combo, so nothing seemed too off from the boy that David thought she was.
“Sure. I thought I saw a park down the street?” She nodded her head and they headed off down the street.
“So,” David started once they were seated on a park bench. Frankie picked at her pockets and wondered what he could want to talk to her about. It seemed like he was always dragging her places to talk. “Your mum is…”
“If you say hot, I promise I’ll punch you in the face.”
David laughed, “I was going to say nice.”
“Oh. Yeah, she’s great.”
“And it’s just your sisters and her?”
Frankie nodded. “My stepdad passed away a few years ago.” He looked at her strangely and she so explained, “Clemence and Lettie are my half-sisters. I’m surprised you couldn’t tell. Anyway, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“About the other night… it just didn’t seem right to go through the bank.”
He pulled his coin pouch and began counting out Galleons. “Fifty for the other half.” He handed her the stacks one-by-one. “And then I think you said fifty for handholding, and another hundred is probably fair for a kiss, don’t you think?”
Frankie’s mouth opened and closed a few times wordlessly as the coins clinked into her hands.
She thought David might have smirked when he said, “I thought that’s what we had talked about.”
After clearing her throat, Frankie said, sounding strangled and high-pitched, “Oh — oh, yes. It was, wasn’t it?”
Glancing down at the overflowing handfuls of coins, Frankie realized how ridiculous she must look and tried to shove some of the money into her pockets without much success. David pretended not to notice and seemed to be staring at a point just above her left shoulder intently.
“So. I was thinking.”
Frankie resisted the urge to express her surprise at that, mostly because she was still trying to get her hands free of all the Galleons. They kept slipping through her fingers and rolling out of her pockets like they had minds of their own.
“Things didn’t go to badly,” she shot him a look that screamed lit the table on FIRE and David amended hastily, “I mean, my family seemed to like you, and you need a job because of the whole… pink slip thing,” Frankie glared at him again and he rushed on, staring over her shoulder even more intensely, “Maybe we should just keep doing this.”
“This.” Some of the coins dropped from her hands into her lap and rolled onto the ground with a loud clink!. Frankie stared at him. “You mean… the fake dating thing.”
He shifted awkwardly. “Erm. Yeah.”
“And you’d still pay me the same.”
“Well, I don’t think you’d run around doing things like that for free.” He finally chanced a look at her. “I’ve just been offered a job in Germany and I’ll be leaving in three months, so it would just be until then. Nothing too serious, just some dates, another family dinner or two. Same rules we talked about from before.”
It was a job at least, Frankie thought as she picked up the couple of Galleons that had fallen to the ground, which was more than she had right now. And it wasn’t actually like she was doing anything illegal. The idea of David’s mum ever finding out terrified her a bit, but it wouldn’t have to be for long. Once he left for his job overseas, David could tell his family they had ended it, clean and simple.
“Alright, you’ve got a deal.”
David was still thinking about his family’s reaction to Frankie while he was at work the next day.
Honestly, David didn’t think that the whole lighting-the-table-on-fire thing was so bad. Sure, the moment with the kiss had thrown him off for a moment, but he had very cleanly, carefully, shoved the whole incident deep into the dark depths of his mind so he could never think about it again ever.
But how was it that everyone liked that guy? Even his sister, who had always been so critical of any girl he had ever brought home, had taken to him, despite the fact that he had lit his mother’s favorite table cloth on fire. David wondered if it had something to do with Frankie being a man instead of a woman. Did his family want him to be gay or something? There had been something in Jocelyn’s eyes when they had kissed that made him uneasy.
In fact, everything about the kiss was making him uneasy, no matter how he had brushed it off in front of Frankie and his family. Frankie’s lips had been more pliable than he would have thought, softer, hotter, melting against his like ice cream on a hot summer day, with his eyelashes fluttering closed against pale cheeks and —
David shook his head, trying to clear it and pulled at his tie to loosen it, suddenly feeling over-heated. The kiss had been as chaste as he could manage. That was not a road he wanted to go down. Really. He was so not thinking about it at all.
Still, the whole thing continued to nag at him so violently that he couldn’t make himself concentrate on the paperwork he still needed to finish from the Mulciber case (not that doing the paperwork was incredibly high on his priority list in the first place). It didn’t help that Yvonne had been the other Auror working on the case. She’d insisted on leading the interrogation after Mulciber had been brought in and David was having a hard time wording this report in a way that wouldn’t get them both fired.
He had this problem a lot when he ended up working with Yvonne.
David threw his feet up on his desk and sighed. If he was honest with himself, Yvonne’s ball-busting ways were one of the things that had attracted him to her in the first place. She was all edge and strength. Always attacking first and asking questions later, always taking the lead. Yvonne got the job done, even if it meant breaking a few heads on the way.
Not for the first time, David wondered if he should be going to a therapist. Did being attracted to an extremely domineering female say something disturbing about his psyche? He wasn’t sure that he really wanted to know.
“There you are, you lousy layabout.” His best mate, Ewan McCrouther, had come to meet him for lunch. Ewan was an Obliviator for the DMLE and they had been friends since school. “You ready to go? I’m starving. Some offended hippogriff went on a crazy rampage near a primary school over in Newcastle and I had to spend the whole morning Obliviating terrified school children.”
David had always thought that being an Obliviator would be terribly boring. But then, it might also involve less paperwork. “What’s another word for ‘brute force’?”
Ewan stopped, confused at the question. “Er, strong coercion?”
“No, I need something less…violent sounding.”
“Perfect.” He used his wand as an eraser and wrote the new word in with a flourish. Ewan watched him with a sort of disparaging expression.
“You’re writing up your and Yvonne’s reports, aren’t you? You’ve got to stop letting her talk you into doing that!”
“She didn’t talk me into it. In fact, she wanted to write them but I wouldn’t let her.” Erasing another large section of text, he explained, “I’m not a huge fan of being called into the bosses office to discuss possible probation.”
“Yeah. The last time Yvonne and I worked together, I let her write the reports and apparently, she didn’t see anything wrong with including the phrase ‘put the suspect in a headlock until he begged for mercy’ into our interrogation summary.”
Ewan glanced over to where Yvonne was lounging at her desk, calmly drinking a cup of tea. “That woman scares me.”
Chuckling, David stood up and headed over to his boss’s office, completed paperwork in hand. “Mr. Potter? Here’s the report on the Mulciber case you asked for.”
Harry glanced up from the papers in front of him, looking even more overworked than usual. “Thanks. Just add it to the pile and I’ll get to it when I have the chance.”
He gestured to the corner of his desk, where a towering stack of folders seemed to be doing an impression of the leaning tower of Pisa. David carefully balanced his on top as Harry added, “I’m looking for a new secretary, by the way.”
“Really? What happened to Vicky?” Vicky had been with the department for the last few months and, while she was a fairly good secretary, she had stuck to David like glue practically from the minute she stepped in the office, in spite of the fact that he had told her plainly that he wasn’t interested from the get-go.
And by ‘stuck to him like glue’, he meant she was a total stalker.
And by ‘stalker’ he meant, grade-A, certifiably psycho.
“Sent her off to intensive therapy yesterday. I found a stash of used tissues in one of the filing cabinets the other day and I’m sorry to say that I’m pretty sure she either kept all the ones she ever used, or they all belonged to you.”
“Ah.” David tried to conceal the glee he felt bubbling up inside of him. There was nothing like the pure joy of knowing that he would be able to go into work without her shadowing his every move in the office, trying to seduce him into having sex with her on top of the copier or something equally as traumatizing. “I’m er, really sorry about that, sir.”
“Not half as sorry as I am,” his boss sighed, eyeing the mound of paperwork like it was going to attack him. “So, if you know anyone utterly repulsed by you that’s in need of a job, let me know. I think I might add that to the job description this time.”
“Will do, sir.”
“And by that, I mean I’m expecting you to find a replacement as soon as possible.”
“Yes, you. You know the rules around here: you break it, you buy it. Or in this case, find me another one.”
That was the office rule, but David had always thought that applied to coffee makers and staplers and the like. Or that one time he’d accidentally lit the training mats in the gym on fire. He’d had to pay for that.
“But I didn’t -” he stopped at the look on Harry’s face. “I mean, I’ll see what I can do, sir.”
David thought his boss was great, but every once and a while, he would get this look — dark, empty and bottomless - and he would remember that Mr. Potter had been more than just Head of the Aurors.
About five years back, when the department had been hit with a child serial killing case and the public pressure was starting to hamper the investigation, Harry had taken over one of the suspect questionings. David remembered hearing someone whisper that the boss had a soft spot for kids after the way he’d been treated as a child.
He also remembered Ron Weasley having to pull him off the suspect after he had made one too many comments about desperate little girls in alleyways and Mr. Potter had snapped. The man’s nose, cheekbone and eye-socket had been broken and bleeding and the Auror’s had got the confession they needed. But everyone remembered what was hidden underneath their boss’s smooth, family-man exterior and Harry had never been asked to help interrogate anyone again.
That’s when David, having just finished the second year of his training internship the month before, had learned the most important rule, one they hadn’t taught in training:
Never assume you know all there is to know about someone. They might appear to be one way, and turn out to be the complete opposite. You could never tell.
Another thing he had learned in his time as an Auror was a little less generally applied, but still very important: when the Boy-Who-Lived(-Twice) told you to do something, you did it.
Ewan was waiting for him by the lift. “What was that about?”
“Vicky got fired.”
“Really? No more creepy stalker?”
“Apparently she’s in therapy.”
Ewan nodded sagely. David knew Ewan, along with every other Ministry Obliviator, was required to attend monthly therapy sessions. Something about the "trauma of erasing people's lives". Sometimes, David just thought that all the Obliviating made them overly sensitive.
Instead of saying anything about that, David asked, “Do you know anyone who needs a job?
“Not off the top of my head. Why?”
As the doors of the lift closed, he smiled grimly. “Because I’ve just been assigned to find Vicky’s replacement.”
“So let me get this straight,” Ewan said to him over lunch. “You got sick of your mother setting you up on blind dates, so you decided the best plan would be to pretend to be gay.”
“And this somehow lead to you hiring yourself a boyfriend. That you met in a food shop.”
“It’s just until I leave for Germany. It’s not like we’re getting married!”
“Well that’s good then. Congrats on the job, by the way. If I were the Magikfurer, I’d want you protecting me too.” He shoved a bit of sandwich into his mouth and asked around it, “What did your mum think?”
“I haven’t told her yet. You know how she is about my job. Would rather I was a bloody paper-pusher like my ‘successful cousin Scott’.” David’s voice went shrill in imitation of the speech he had heard his mother make multiple times. The he scowled and muttered to himself, “I hate that guy.”
“And now we’re getting off track I think. Back to your big gay relationship.” David rolled his eyes but Ewan ignored him. “Last night at dinner with your parents, you kissed him.”
“Oh leave it off, Ewan. Don’t be such a prude. It’s not as if you’ve never kissed another man before.”
“I most certainly have not,” Ewan said, sounding scandalized at the accusation.
“Yes, you have! Our summer visit to Cairo. I seem to remember you locking lips with some strapping, red-headed man? Said he was there visiting his brother?”
“I told you, I have no memory of that!”
“Yes well, that’s what drinking half of Egypt’s supply of Osiris’ will do to you I guess.”
“Ignoring the fact that that is a horrible lie and that this whole plan of yours is worse than communism, which at least looked good on paper, what’s this ‘boyfriend’ of yours like?”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that. I’m trying to decide what kind of man would be your ideal ‘type’. I can’t quite make it out.”
“Piss off,” David said, rolling his eyes and Ewan smirked at him to show he’d only been teasing. He thought for a moment. What was Frankie like? Besides complete ridiculous in almost every way, of course. “He’s … let’s see. He’s young.” Ewan snorted into his sandwich and David said hastily, “No, not like that. He’s probably twenty-three or twenty-four. Shorter. He’s a bit of an idiot but it’s almost endearing in a way. And Umma seemed to like him even though he set the dining room on fire, which is something.”
David laughed to himself, remembering the look on Frankie’s face after he had doused David’s mother in pumpkin juice the night before, and Ewan stared at him, chewing his sandwich suspiciously. “Yeah, that really is something alright.”
Even though he’d been coming here ever since he could remember, David had never really gotten used to the Gringotts’ goblins. Their terse, untrusting manner always had an unsettling effect on him and there was something about their pointy sneers that he didn’t trust. As a child, he’d even had a recurring nightmare about one of them going for his throat.
Of course, as a twenty-seven year old seasoned Auror, hardened by strenuous action and violence, he had gotten over that long ago. But going to the bank still wasn’t his favorite activity. However, sometimes it couldn’t be avoided. Like today. Jocelyn’s birthday was at the end of the week and, Auror or not, she would absolutely kill him if he didn’t get her a proper gift. And with Jocelyn, proper gifts usually equaled money.
“That makes fifty galleons even, Mr. Connors,” the goblin, who’s name he vaguely remembered was something like Bagnuk, said. His thin lips widened into what must have been meant as a helpful smile and David stifled a shudder. He told himself he was a hardened crime fighter. He’d seen much worse things. “Is there anything else I can help with?”
David started to reply when he heard at the desk next to him, “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do. The money you brought in is certainly a large sum, but it’s not nearly to pay off your family’s debts. I can only count it for the last missed payment.”
“Oh, I -”
“Sir?” Bagnuk asked, somehow managing to sound concerned around his fangs.
He gestured for the goblin to be quiet and continued to eavesdrop.
“The debt owed on the property is…considerable. However, there weren’t any problems with the payments until…” There was a shuffling of papers, “last month. If you can find away to keep up with the payment schedule that the late Mr. Delaney set up, no other issues -”
“Sir. If there’s nothing else you need, I’m going to have to ask you to move along.”
David looked back at the goblin, who was about half his size and somehow still managing to look very menacing, as he pointed past him with a clawed finger. “There’s a line.”
“Right,” David said, gathering up the sack of galleons lying on the desk. “Right. Thank you very much.”
He turned to leave, and ran smack into someone. The person who’s conversation he’d been eavesdropping on, of course, because he had the worst luck in history.
After a moment, he realized it was actually Frankie he’d nearly plowed over and suddenly all the dots connected. No normal straight man would ever consent to pretend to be another man’s lover unless it was a matter of personal pride. Personal pride that in this case, was attached to money. “Frankie. Hi. What are you doing here?”
“I’m knitting a sweater,” Frankie deadpanned, raising an eyebrow at David, and David could have kicked himself. “It’s a bank. What do you think I’m doing here?”
“Right.”David laughed nervously, cupping the back of his neck, and hoped Frankie didn’t realize he’d been listening in on his financial business. “Of course.”
They walked out of the doors of the bank into the sunlight that lit up Diagon Alley and David thought again about what he’d overheard. If you can find away to keep up with the payment schedule that Mr. Delaney set up…
Struck by a sudden idea, he stopped dead on the steps. “Have you had breakfast yet?”
Frankie paused at the question. “What?”
“Come on. I require tea and biscuits and you probably need food.” Smiling at Frankie’s confused expression, he headed off towards the cafe and called behind him, “At least I’m assuming you do, because you always seem to be hungry no matter what.”
David waited until he had his cup of tea and a nice plate of jam dodgers in front of him before he presented his idea. “So you know how you lost your job?”
Frankie looked up from the pictures he had been drawing in a pile of sugar crystals with a narrow fingertip. David decided that he had very delicate hands for a man. “You mean how you lost me my job? Vividly.”
David waved the accusation away with a hand. “Yes, that. It just so happens that my boss is looking for a new secretary.”
“So I think you should apply!”
“To be secretary to the Head of the Aurors?” David nodded, congratulating himself on his excellent idea. Frankie, however, looked horrified. “I couldn’t!”
“Never mind about being a bloke. My boss won’t care. In fact, he’ll probably quite like it. He’s a bit progressive that way. It took him ages to find one that wasn’t just some crazy fangirl.”
“What happened to the last one?”
“Well, turns out she was a little…” Obsessive? Psychotic? Creepy? David shook his head. “Turns out he wasn’t her type. Anyway, there’s an opening, and I think you’d be perfect for it!”
“No, really. I couldn’t.”
“Why not? You need a job, don’t you?”
Frankie sputtered for a moment. “Well, for one, I’m not qualified!”
“Not qualified to file paperwork and write memos? It’s just like any office job.”
“…Okay, true. But still, I couldn’t — ”
“So you’ll do it then. Great!” David popped a biscuit into his mouth. Jammie Dodgers were truly the best kind of biscuit, no matter what anyone said. This chocolate digestives thing people were always on about was nonsense. “How come you haven’t eaten any of your food?”
Frankie blew his sugar-crystal artwork away in a sparkling cloud. “I told you before, I’m not hungry.”
“I’m sure that’s a first. Does that mean I can have your kippers?”
“Knock yourself out,” Frankie said, pushing the untouched plate towards David, who snatched up the sausages and munched on them happily.
He saw Frankie picking at a hole in his shirt and frowned, distracted. “Though, if I’m going to send you in for an interview on my recommendation, we’re going to have to go shopping.”
David looked at the plain T-shirt Frankie was wearing and swallowed the last bit of kipper. “You’re not really thinking of wearing that to an interview, are you? With your trainers?”
Glancing down at his shoes, embarrassed, he said, “It’s just - I don’t really have anything -”
“It’s settled then,” David said, standing up and placing a few coins on the table. “I’m taking you though, because I don’t trust you to pick out anything suitable by yourself.”
Frankie made an indignant sound and he raised his eyebrows. “Do you want to take another look at your shoes and tell me I’m wrong?”
Getting up from the table, Frankie said reluctantly, “Fine.”
David felt himself smiling as they left the cafe, feeling very please with himself. “Excellent. I know just where to go.”
A job. It was almost impossible to believe that David of all people was offering her a real job. And a good one at that. The way the economy was now, Ministry positions were almost impossible to get, and here was one just being dropped into her lap.
Frankie didn’t like to admit it, but David was turing into a bit of a lifesaver. Her meeting at the bank about the debt owed on her family’s flat, while not nearly as bad as she had expected, had been painfully discouraging. On top of that, knowing that soon her sister’s yearly letters from Hogwarts would arrive, complete with a list of new supplies needed for the coming year, had started to make her feel sick with worry. There simply wasn’t enough money to go around.
But if she got this job…Frankie was still trying to wrap her head around it. Personal secretary to the Head Auror! That was miles better than any job she’d ever even thought about. Better than waitressing. Better than her mom’s old job at Flourish and Blotts. It was security and a steady paycheck. It was practically a miracle.
Only the sort of beholden feeling that she had towards David held her back from being too excited. The whole way to David’s ‘special’ clothing store, she wrestled with her pride. If she kept accepting his help, would he start to think she was some kind of leach? That she couldn’t do anything on her own? She wasn’t some charity case!
Although, he already though she was a man. It really couldn’t get much worse than that.
Money or pride? The choice seemed agonizing, pulling her in opposite directions.
Her family always found a way to manage, no matter what. But Frankie found herself wondering what would it cost them this time. If it wasn’t money, it would be something else.
She swallowed as they entered a posh looking clothing store. It was obvious that a whole week’s worth of tips from waiting tables wouldn’t buy even so much as a handkerchief in this place.
Money or pride?
Taking another look down at the old pair of trainers David had mentioned, Frankie sighed. Knowing what she had to do, she stuffed her pride as far down as it would go and followed him into the maze of the store.
A/N: Sooo this has taken forever. I know. I would apologize, but I basically wrote two novellas between this chapter and the last so I don't feel too bad. I do feel bad that this has been sitting on my computer 80% finished for the last six months though. But here it is! And I finally went through and outlined the entire story, so at least i know where I'm coming from now, lol.
But now Frankie and David seem to have gotten themselves into a whole new mess and David has another one of is "bright ideas". I don't know about you, but I'm concerned. I wonder what it is? Any ideas?
As always, endless thank you's to Gina (justonemorefic) and Melissa (witnesstoitall) who put up with my ranting and took a look at this while i wallowed in despair (two days ago, this chapter did not look like this, I can assure you) and a big glomping hug to Gubby (GubraithianFire), who I shall call my beta for this chapter, for helping me rip it apart and try to sew the pieces back together. And my friends, my little ponies (LOL)... you lot are crazy. Keep doin' what you do!
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and 'The First Shop of Coffee Prince' belongs entirely to MBC Korea. I own nothing you recognize.
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