“You’re not doing this because you feel sorry for me, are you?”
Frankie was following David closely as he wove his way through the racks of clothing, adding item after item to the stack in his arms.
Glancing back at him, David saw the same sort of glint in Frankie’s eye that was usually present in suspicious criminals, and decided not to mention what he’d overheard at the bank. Insulting a man’s pride was the last thing to do in a situation like this. He’d learned that the hard way.
Auror Rule #2: When in doubt, deflect. “Of course not. I’m just tired of my boss nagging me to find him a replacement. He’s really very persistent, and it’s getting irritating.”
“I thought you were an Auror?” Frankie picked up a large black T-shirt from a clearance rack and looked it over.
“Not a chance in hell,” David said flatly, taking the shirt from him and tossing it on a random shelf behind them. Frankie certainly did not need anymore of those. David looked at him for a moment. What he really needed was a good jumper. Every man needed a good jumper or two. “I am an Auror.”
Frankie looked sullen as David added several different-colored jumpers to the growing pile in his arms.“Then why does he want you to find him a new secretary? Shouldn’t you be out, I don’t know, catching Dark wizards or something instead?”
“Well, it’s kind of my fault he needs a new secretary in the first place.” He thought of Vicky and her claw-like fingernails and shuddered, hastily adding before Frankie could question him, “But that’s a long story.”
David shoved the pile of clothes at Frankie, hoping to stifle his curiosity on the subject. “Try these on. I’m sure there’s something in there that will work.”
Sighing, Frankie went behind the curtain of the dressing room. “Explain to me again why you know so much about clothes? You can’t pretend that this is normal.”
“My only sibling is my sister. How do you think?”
Jocelyn had long ago made a habit of dragging him out shopping. Although she and his mother had always picked out his clothes for him in the end, David realized that he must have gotten used to looking a certain way after a while. Jocelyn always said there was nothing wrong with looking nice. Now the clothes were simply a habit. Besides, there was nothing wrong with looking polished in his line of work. People seemed to find it intimidating or something.
That was Auror Rule #4: When working with deranged terrorists, try to look as intimidating as possible.
“What are you doing in there? What’s taking so long?”
There were several loud thumps. “I can’t — which way does this thing go on?”
“The front goes in the front, and the back goes to the back.”
“Oh, thanks. You’re such a help.”
Frankie opened the curtain, and David took one look at the outfit and said, “Absolutely not. You look like you’re a refugee from East Berlin or something.”
Groaning, Frankie turned to change into another outfit. “You’re the one that picked it out.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” After a moment of shuffling, Frankie said, in an uncertain sort of voice, “I think these trousers are too small.”
“Let me see.”
After a long moment, Frankie stepped out into the open again, this time dressed in closely tailored black trousers and a crisp dress shirt. David congratulated himself. He looked fit for a respectable desk job. Somewhere in the back of his mind, David was horrified to realized he also thought Frankie looked pretty fit in general, when he wore the right clothes. He violently pushed the idea away like it was catching, and said , “Have you seen the trousers boys are wearing now? The ones you’re wearing aren’t too tight. You must never have had the right size trousers before, that’s all.”
Frankie looked unconvinced, shifting in them uncomfortably, and David thought for a moment. He looked all right (more than all right, the voice in the back of his head told him), but something was missing….
He snapped his fingers. “You need to wear a tie for an interview.”
Frankie said flatly, “No.”
“Yes.” David put a red tie around Frankie’s neck. Red was the color of confidence, after all. It was a power color. And no, knowing something like that did not make him gay. “I would never hire someone if they weren’t wearing a tie.”
“Then it’s lucky you’re not the one who’s interviewing me,” Frankie snapped, taking the scarlet piece off of his neck.
David snatched it back and began to tie it again. “No one reliable will ever hire you if you’re not wearing a tie.”
“Leave off, will you? I told you I’m not wearing it!” He tried pulling it loose, but David had already finished the knot, pulling it tight against the collar of the shirt. Frankie tugged at it angrily. “I’d” tug “sooner” tug “wear” tug “a” tug “noose!”
David reached over to fix it again, and Frankie slapped his hand away, still struggling with the knot. “How the hell did you tie this?”
He knew that supplemental training course he’d taken on advanced knots would come in handy someday. Smirking, David said, “Here, let me help you.”
Frankie pushed him away again. “No! You’ll just make it worse!”
“I will not!” David squawked, offended, and he grabbed at it again. Honestly. It was like no one trusted him to do anything these days. Didn’t Frankie realize he was a knot expert? “Let me have it!”
Frankie pushed him away, and David pushed back. There was a good scuffle, and when it was finally over, they both were sprawled on the floor. Somehow, the tie had ended up knotted around David’s head, and he was in shock. For such a small person, Frankie packed a lot of power. And he had liked to fancy himself one of the best fighters in the department.
Served him right for ignoring Auror Rule #6: Never, ever, ever underestimate your opponent — and also Rule #8: No matter what anyone said, size doesn’t matter. What matters is how you used it.
“Would you wear a watch, then?” he asked, wrestling to remove the tie. The red seemed less like a power color and more like a badge of shame now that it was attached to his head.
“Yeah, I might do that.” Frankie smirked, watching him struggle with a sort of sick satisfaction. David made a mental note that his fake-boyfriend had latent vindictive tendencies. He also remembered belatedly that he had not done nearly as well in the knot removal part of the class. “It’ll make me look responsible, won’t it?”
“So would a tie,” David muttered. Frankie looked at him pointedly, and he no longer wondered why he and Jocelyn got along so well. His sister always gave him that look when he said the wrong thing. She had also always told him his skull was oversized and, at a certain point in his grappling with the stupid tie, David was inclined to agree with her. “But the watch will work just as well.”
“Good,” Frankie said, standing and brushing himself off. “What time did you say my interview was?”
“One o’clock.” He made a sound of triumph as he finally pulled the tie free and Frankie extended a hand to help him up. His hand was easily half the size of David’s, but Frankie pulled him upright without difficulty.
He ran a hand through his hair, saying awkwardly, “Thanks. You know, for all of this.”
“Well, my boss said if I knew someone who absolutely disliked me that might be suited for the job, I should mention the opening to them. So, of course, I thought of you.”
David heard Frankie laugh as he straightened his own clothes. “Makes sense.”
Then he ducked behind the curtain again, asking, “Do you think I’ll be able to just wear this out of here? I’ve got to stop at home before I head to the Ministry.”
“I don’t see why not.” There was a long moment of silence. “What are you doing in there?”
Frankie came back out of the dressing room, holding his previous clothes in his arms. David noticed that they were all folded neatly, and thought that only Frankie would take the time to do that with some old clothes. Reaching out to ruffle Frankie’s hair, he remarked, “You know, you’re not so bad. When you remember to keep your mouth shut, at least.”
Frankie ducked out from under his hand and stuck out his tongue.
“Did you just stick your tongue out at me?” He followed Frankie in the direction of the register, incredulous. “How old are you? Four?”
The younger man made a rude gesture over his shoulder, but followed it quickly with a small smirk and David shook his head. Frankie was one of the most unexpected people he had ever talked to, and some part of him really liked that.
He caught his reflection in a nearby mirror, and his smile dropped right off his face.
“You idiot,” David scolded himself quietly. “What are you smiling for?”
Even if Frankie hated that she had been fired, some part of her was glad that she had lost her job at the café, mostly because now she didn’t have to work nights anymore. It had been ages since she had been able to really spend time at home with her sisters, and they were supposed to leave for school in just a few weeks. They had grown up a lot since she had moved out, and sometimes it was a little hard for her to believe that it was their fifth and seventh years at Hogwarts. She could remember when they were born, for Christ’s sake.
All three of them were sprawled out in the living room with the windows at the far end of the room thrown wide open in the hope that a cool breeze would float in and provide some relief from the summer heat. Frankie had brought a bunch of snacks and sodas all around for lunch on her way back from shopping with David. Clemence was busy devouring the first fashion magazine she had seen in months, while Lettie, every inch the boy-obsessed fifteen-year-old, dragged out every detail Frankie could possibly stand to remember about her morning with David.
“— and then he told me I wasn’t so bad, when I kept my mouth shut, at least.”
Clemence turned a page in her magazine, her perfect lips pursing, and summarized her feelings with the usual bluntness. “What a prick.”
“Well, I think he’s hot,” Lettie said, munching on a crisp and reading Clemence’s magazine over her shoulder.
“What? He is! A dishy, single Auror — “
Clemence interrupted pointedly, “Who hired someone to pretend to be his fake boyfriend even though he isn’t even gay.”
Lettie went on loudly, ignoring her. “— in his mid-twenties, who buys you new clothes and takes you out on dates. How’d you manage to get so lucky, Frankie?”
“Some sort of demented animal magnetism, I’m sure.” Frankie shook her head and grabbed a large handful of crisps from the bag to comfort herself. “Or a cruel joke. I am thankful for the job offer, though. He didn’t have to do that.”
Her opinion of him had risen slightly because of that, even if she didn’t want to admit it. Whatever else she did, no one would ever be able to call her ungrateful.
“When I’m older, I want to date someone like that,” said Lettie, with a dreamy sort of look on her face.
Clemence snorted into her soda. “Of course you do.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Lettie rolled her eyes. “You’re such a wet blanket, Clemence.”
“Right. Sorry,” Clemence said, her tone laced with sarcasm. “Being realistic obviously puts a damper on things for you.”
Lettie huffed and threw a crisp at Clemence, hitting her square in the forehead. Clemence’s eyes narrowed and she brushed the food off her shirt.
“Oh, very mature, Lettie. Real fifth year behavior,” she quipped, chucking a whole handful back at her in retaliation. Frankie snatched the bag of crisps out of the line of fire. She knew from experience that her sisters would go through the entire bag if left to their own devices.
“You’re one to talk. I saw you snogging Derrick Cadwallauder after the year-end feast last year.” Lettie tapped her finger on her cheek, as though she was pondering something. “I wonder what Professor Flitwick would have to say about that, prefect.”
Frankie nearly choked on a crisp after trying to laugh and swallow at the same time, and Clemence flushed a deep red. “Oh? And what about what you and your friends pulled on poor Alice McEngleson?”
After opening and closing her mouth a few times, Lettie sputtered, “That was never proven!”
“Oh, please. I know it was you! Who else’s best friend’s boyfriend had been caught cheating with her the day before and knew the password to the prefect’s bath?”
Lettie’s face fell slightly. As usual, Clemence’s logic had very few loopholes.
“Er, lots of people?” Clemence gave Lettie a telling look, and she crossed her arms, giving in. “You’re the one that gave me that password, anyway.”
Clemence grabbed the bag of crisps back from Frankie, smirking. “True.” Reaching in the package, her smirk slipped into a scowl, and she swore, “Bloody hell, Frankie! You finished the entire bag! Why do you always do that?”
“Not my fault you always get distracted and leave the bag unattended. Besides, I wasn’t hungry for breakfast.”
“I can’t decide what I hate most: When you go through one of your no-food periods, because it makes Mum worry, or when you feel the need to try and fit the entire contents of the kitchen into your mouth at once. Can’t you just be normal and not eat all the crisps?”
“‘S better than throwing them all over the floor, like you two.” Frankie glanced at her new watch and swore under her breath. “I’ve got to go, or I’m going to be late for my interview.”
She peeled herself off the couch and straightened her new clothes nervously. The pants still felt strange, no matter what David said. “How do I look?”
Lettie grinned mischievously. “If you were actually a guy, I’d think you were hot.”
“Lettie, you disgust me. You look great, Mr. Delaney, ” Clemence said, rolling her eyes at her younger sister and chucking a pillow at Frankie. “Now go be a good boy.”
Frankie shut the front door on the sounds of her sister’s laughter and smiled. This would all really be worth it in the end if it kept her family together and happy.
On the whole, Frankie’s interview was relatively painless. The only difficult parts were hiding her shock when she realized that David’s boss was none other than the Harry Potter, and trying to give him noncommittal answers when he asked about her about how she knew David. Frankie wasn’t sure what was the right way to explain their situation, and so she thought it best to avoid it at all costs. But in spite of all that, Mr. Potter seemed to like her.
Of course, he thought she was a he, which complicated things a bit.
“I’ve never had a male secretary before, but I can’t see how that would be an issue, can you?”
“Er, no sir.” Frankie had possibly never felt so awkward in her entire life. Lying to the Boy Who Lived (Twice) was… a terrifying prospect, to say the least.
She opened her mouth to tell the truth when Harry leaned back in his chair, saying, “My wife would have me strung up if she heard me say this, but it’s lucky you are a man. I don’t think I could have handled another girl like the last one. She’s in counseling now. Hard worker, but a bit… obsessive.” Harry stared off into space for a minute and shook his head, as though remembering something a bit baffling.
Frankie shut her mouth again. Well, that certainly changed things a bit.
Mr. Potter rocked forward in his chair to set his elbows on the edge of his desk. “Anyway, we start work around here between 8:00 and 8:30. Will that work for you?”
“That’s it? I got the job?” Half of her wanted to jump up and down like a child in excitement, and the other half of her was completely flipping out. There was no way she could tell him the truth now, not when he’d said so plainly that he didn’t want another female secretary and she’d somehow gotten the job.
“Yes. Well, on a temporary basis, of course. And we’ll have to do a security check on you once we hire you properly, because of the security clearance required while working with me, but I won’t have you doing anything involving that for a bit, so you can learn the ropes.”
“I — thank you,” Frankie breathed, sounding a lot more shocked than she’d meant to. But she didn’t care. She had a job.
Harry laughed. “You can thank me after we give you the permanent position, if everything works out. I’ll have your name added to the security list starting tomorrow morning, so all you’ll have to do is let security examine your wand when you get here.”
Frankie stood there for a moment, almost willing Harry to take another look at her and notice something, anything that might tip off that she was a woman. It was almost impossible to believe that she could fool him so easily.
After a moment, he gave her a strange look, and her heart leaped up to her throat. He had noticed something. “You know, you can go now.”
“Oh.” A little disappointed, Frankie moved back towards the door. “Thanks again, Mr. Potter. Have a nice day.”
He just nodded, already absorbed in another set of files. Frankie shut the door quietly behind her, hardly daring to believe that she had fooled the Head Auror into thinking she was a man and she had gotten herself hired as Harry Potter’s personal secretary.
She was sure that stranger things had happened; she just couldn’t think of anything right now.
Frankie’s first thought after she got the job was that David had been wrong about needing to wear a tie, and that made her feel very smug. Her second was that the Auror’s office was not what she had expected, and that was slightly disappointing.
On her way to the interview, she had been too nervous to notice her surroundings, but now that she was positively swimming in the euphoria of being employed again, Frankie was able to take a look around. Up until now, she had been imagining sleek, black marble and chrome and state of the art training facilities. Well, she hadn’t seen the training facilities yet, but if they were anything like the rest of the office, they weren’t going to be anything special.
Like any normal office, there were cubicles and desks littered with parchment and a break room off to one side, near a row of fireplaces that ran along the far wall. The room had the same sort of gray, listless feeling most workplaces had, and the only unique thing she could find about it were the people working in it.
Although the office may not have been what Frankie had been expecting, the Aurors themselves definitely were. Off to her left, there was a rather lethal-looking pixie of a brunette placing several objects carefully into clear plastic bags - evidence bags, Frankie realized. When she strained her eyes to get a better look, Frankie could have sworn the objects looked like shrunken human skulls.
And directly in front of her, there were two men, one of them hulking, with a huge bloody bandage wrapped around his forearm, and the other long and swift-looking, like a snake, standing around a big map of what looked like northern Africa that shimmered with magical notes and location pins. Next to them was a blonde woman, the beautiful, sultry type that always seemed to be on the arm of some billionaire, who was draped over an office chair, slyly polishing the disassembled parts of a dangerous-looking handgun.
“ — if we try and rout him and that woman shows up,” the huge man was saying, “we’ll be totally fucked. She’ll pull out that Ankh again and — ”
The taller man interrupted, “That’s what the Curse-Breakers are there for. So we don’t have to deal with that thing.”
“If you two just stay on your marks, I’ll take care of her.” The blonde woman began to reassemble the Beretta, its metallic parts glinting in the fluorescent light. “I still owe her for that hex last week, anyways. Took me four days to get that rash to go away.”
The two men sniggered at the mention of the rash, but Frankie missed their reply, because David appeared beside her, asking, “So, how’d it go?”
“Good. I think he quite liked me.”
Shaking his head, David said, “Everyone likes you. I don’t get it.”
Frankie remember what she’d told her sisters earlier that day — some sort of demented animal magnetism — and giggled a little.
David looked confused. “What?”
“Nothing. I start work tomorrow.”
“Good,” David said, but he wasn’t looking at her anymore. He was staring at the beautiful blonde bombshell with the gun. “That’s great.”
The woman noticed David looking and gave him a familiar, seductive smile. Feeling almost uncomfortable as she watched her dark eyes travel up and down David’s body slowly, Frankie said, “So, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Yeah,” David said, not really listening. The woman had gotten up from her chair now and was running a hand through her long, golden hair. “That’s great.”
She flipped the gun’s safety on before languidly leaning over the map and slipping the Beretta into the leather holster that rested just under the small of her back. David’s mouth hung open slightly, and Frankie rolled her eyes, moving towards the door. Even though she was pretending to be a man, she still didn’t understand them sometimes. “You’re such a moron, David.”
He didn’t notice she had left for a moment, and then seemed to come to. “What? Frankie?” Frankie heard him say from behind her. “Bollocks. That’s the second time that’s happened this week.”
Ignoring the sort of pressing feeling she had gotten in her chest when David had been drooling over that woman, Frankie made her way out of the Ministry and headed home.
She had a job again! A real job. Frankie was so excited to tell her mum about it that she nearly forgot the little detail that she had yet to tell her mother why she was dressed up like a man.
Frankie’s mum, Augustine Delaney, was really not like the mothers of the other kids she had been at school with.
She had had Frankie straight out of Hogwarts with her school sweetheart, who, unfortunately, had turned out to be a right bastard and left her almost immediately after because he ‘wasn’t into responsibility’. Several years later, she married Frankie’s stepfather, Adam Delaney, a quiet apothecary she had met while doing lunch deliveries on Diagon Alley, and had set up house in the lovely flat Frankie was trying so desperately to save.
When Adam had passed away suddenly, Frankie had only been in her seventh year at Hogwarts, with Clemence and Lettie still too young for school and living at home. Somehow, her mother had managed to work two jobs and raise Frankie’s younger sisters at the same time, and even now, at the age of 45, somewhat magically, she still didn’t look a day over 30.
In short, Frankie’s friends from school had always agreed that her mum was ‘cool’. She was also the sort that let Frankie eat cake for dinner, and that was how she ended up telling her mum that she was now working as Harry Potter’s new secretary over a plate of buttercream-frosted cake later that evening.
Her reaction was a bit milder than Frankie had expected. Mostly, she had frowned. “So, what you’re telling me is that you lost your job at the café, but you’ve gotten a position as a secretary at the Auror’s.” She frowned again, this time looking a little confused. “And you mostly got the job because your new boss thinks you’re a man.”
“That sounds a lot worse than it actually is,” Frankie said hastily around a mouthful of cake. “See, I didn’t mean to lie. It’s just that the guy who got me the interview thought I was a man, and — “
Her mum held up a hand to stop her. “I don’t think I really want to know what happened. It sounds…”
“Confusing?” Frankie asked hopefully, swallowing.
“Stupid.” Her mother shook her head, brushing her dark hair out of her face and continued, “Anyway, I’m glad you’ve got the position. I just wish you’d told me about the café. I might have been able to talk to Bert or something.”
“I didn’t want to worry you.” Frankie pushed the rest of her cake around the plate, mashing the frosting into criss-crossed patterns with her fork.
“I know. Just promise me you’ll at least tell your boss there’s been a mistake. This job…” Frankie looked up and away from her plate finally, and her mother looked at her earnestly and said, “It’s a really good thing, Frankie. Don’t let a lie ruin it if you can help it.”
For some reason Frankie got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, and David’s face flashed through her mind, grinning at her as he tried to put a tie around her neck at the clothes shop earlier that day.
There was no way she could ever tell him. There wasn’t much point to it, either, since he was leaving in three months anyway, and they would probably never see each other again.
But telling Mr. Potter - that, at least was something she thought she could manage.
She nodded, and her mum smiled at her, reaching out to swipe a bit of frosting off the plate. “I promise.”
A/N: Tah-dah! I know I'm supposed to be on hiatus, but this completed chapter has been sitting, rotting away in my writing program and I really wanted to get it up because now, the story can really get rolling!
We all got to meet boss!Harry, whom we will definitely see more of, and had a look at Frankie's new job! Her and David are going to be working in the same office now though... keeping up the pretense is going to be a bit of a chore for Frankie, don't you think? And what about those other Aurors that she saw?
Nichkhun, love and bunnies to my beta for this chapter, Janechel (tenthweasley), who willingly argues over commas with me, to Gubby (GubraitianFire), for reading this over and telling me I was a raving idiot for thinking it had pacing problems, and to my silly friends: Happy (late) Anniversary! I can't imagine life without you all and here's to another year!
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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