Chapter 1 : Curiosity Killed the Kneazle
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Stupefying CI cred: Caren @ TDA
“Duck! Duck! You stupid sonofabitch, you were supposed to DUCK! Oh great...” I sink back against the soft throw cushions, and moodily shove a spoonful of Soy-milk chocolate ice-cream into my mouth.
If you would've told me two years ago that I would be where I am today, doing what I am right now, I probably would've laughed. Then hexed you for insulting me.
And yet, despite everything, here I am. At the ripe young age of 22, I'm jobless and sitting on the over-stuffed magenta couch in my younger sister's two-bedroom London flat, in my pyjamas, hair uncombed, eating the gluten-free vegan alternative for ice-cream while watching a stupid replay of the Quidditch match between England and Germany from the World Cup 2006, shouting unabashedly at the players on the screen.
Wonder who's laughing now.
My sister's tawny cat, Simba (formerly Jinglebell), jumps onto the couch beside me, and I absent-mindedly scratch him behind the ears, carefully scrutinizing every move made by the German Chasers on screen. That cat gave me quite a fright when I first saw it, about a week ago. I swear it resembles an undersized lion. Hence why I'd rechristened it after Disney's favourite lion cub.
“C'mon now,” I mutter under my breath, sitting up in exitement again. “He's going to aim left... Go left! LEFT, YOU FUCKWIT!”
(Yes, I'm aware that those dumb players cannot hear me, so it's pretty pointless to be shouting. No, I'm not going to stop.)
“Aw, fuck...” I grumble, scraping the bottom of the container to salvage every chunk of my precious, delicious dessert, one eye still intently trained on the English Beaters, who, for the record, were acting completely useless, and couldn't swing their bats to save their worthless lives.
It is just as I am jumping exitedly on the couch (Bianca was going to kill me for breaking those springs), jostling a napping Simba and yelling at the England Seeker to "Put on some SPEED, goddamnit!" that my phone blares its annoying ringtone, interrupting my spirited cheering-on of the lousy moron.
I glance at the caller ID and swear, before snapping into the mouthpiece, “Hugo. What d'you want?”
“Hi Addie! Oh yes, I'm fine, thank you. My life's been going great, you're so kind to ask,” he replies, tounge positively dripping with his trademark sarcasm.
“Cut to the chase, will you? I'm very busy at the moment,” I answer, hands itching to be done with the conversation and get rid of the stupid piece of Muggle technology that was preventing me from screaming some more, now that that absolute idiot of a Seeker had fumbled and missed the Snitch.
“Yeah? And what, pray tell, are you doing that's making you so busy? Yelling at your TV, are you?” You could practically see the derision in his tone.
For a moment, I am utterly non-pulssed, and I make the mistake of asking, “How did you know?”
I'm an idiot.
“Honestly? God Addie, you need to get. A. Life,” he answers.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I mumble, before he can continue and make me feel like even more of a dumbfuck. “I repeat, what do you want, git?”
He snickers, before saying, “I called to offer you a job, Addie.”
If anyone but Hugo had said that, I'd probably have kissed their feet. True, I was bored out of my mind sitting around doing nothing, but I would prefer that to whatever job Hugo had procured for me from his position in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Watching mindless Quidditch was better than being cooped up as some pompous Ministry official's under-paid receptionist, stuck writing stupid requests on memos- "Annabeth Flooed, she's broken one of her nails." Yeah, no, thanks.
So, without further thought, I reply, “Not interested, Hugo,” half putting down the phone.
“Wait, wait, don't hang up!” He yelps, and for the first time, I notice the anxiety and stress in his voice.
“What?” I huff, exasperated.
“Just...listen, fine?” In my mind's eye, I see him pacing agitatedly, running his fingers through his hair. “I know you hate being idle. You're restless and ansty, it's obvious. So just do us both a favour, and help me, okay?”
“I dunno Hugo... You have like, ten million cousins. Why not ask them to help?”
“I can hardly do that; they're so busy with their own lives,” he replies. “Besides, you have plenty of free time. You're unemployed, right?”
There was a beat of silence. Then-
“Jeez, rub salt onto wounds, much?” I comment dryly.
He backtracks quickly. “Holy fuck, I'm sorry! I swear that's not what I meant! I just...” He pauses, before getting out in a single breath, “Just hear me out, yeah? Then you can say whatever you want.”
He takes my silence as a cue to keep speaking.
“Basically, I need a someone who can be a combination of counselor, bodygaurd and secretary. Someone who's organized, assertive, trustworthy, and would take no shit from anyone. And frankly, you're the only one we could think of.”
I bite my lip, deep in thought. The 'job', whatever it was, did seem sort of different. And it certainly didn't sound like I was going to be stuck in some boring-arse desk-job, pushing papers. But still. So I say, “Wow, that's an elaborate job description. I really don't think-”
“Addie, please.” If puppies could speak, I decide, they would sound like Hugo did right now. “Please, it's not for long, I swear, and the pay is excellent.”
“Hugo, I appreciate it and all, but I do kinda like this 'no-working' thing, y'know.”
“Oh c'mon,” he scoffs, “We both know that's not true. You're going out of your mind with boredom. And think about it, wouldn't it feel good to be useful again? I mean-”
“Okay, okay! I-I'll think about it,” I cut across him. If I am being honest with myself, I really couldn't have said no without atleast considering it. Hugo is a persuasive and persistent douchebag, and unfortunately, my best friend. He would've simply kept bothering me anyway, the jerk.
“You, Addison Elena Bates, are an angel in disguise. Thanks so much,” he sounds hugely relieved, “You are the greatest friend ever. I owe you one.” He rambles on, “Now, if you do decide yes, you need to drop by the Auror office...”
My face pales instantly. “Why?”
“Um... Uncle Harry might wanna talk to you.”
“Er, did I forget to mention it? It's my cousin, James, who needs your expert services.”
And that's when I end the call, throw the phone on the couch and stomp my way into the bathroom for a shower.
Eventually, two hours later, I find myself on the second level of the Ministry of Magic, right in front of the the office of the Head Auror, staring at the partially tarnished brass plaque that reads Harry J. Potter, Head of Auror Department.
It had taken me an hour of debating with myself in the shower, by which time the hot-as-lava water had turned ice-cold, to decide to come here. I'd figured that I could always turn down the offer, return to my quiet, static life in Bianca's apartment, watching Disney movies with Simba and moping around all day. There was always the option of saying no. Besides, I was curious as hell.
I chose to disregard that adage my Mum used to repeat to me when I was young, every time I poked my nose into stuff that wasn't my business- Curiosity killed the kneazle.
I close my eyes and take a quick, deep breath. Then, nervously smoothing down the formal grey pencil-skirt I'd worn for the meeting, I push the dark mahogany door and enter.
Mr. Potter's secretary, a plain-looking dark-haired lady in her early-thirties, glances up from her paperwork at me. She smiles kindly, saying, “You must be Miss Addison Bates, right dear?”
I nod in answer.
“Mr. Potter's expecting you. Go right in, sugar.”
Another deep breath, and I knock on the frosted-glass door of the Head Auror's office, nervously stepping in when a voice says “Come in.”
The office is a spacious, classy room, with a long oak desk, leather chairs, Venetian blinds on the windows and bookshelves all around, filled with pavement-sized tomes with titles like The Psych of a Dark Wizard and A Study of Dark Arts in the 21 Century. A few portraits of previous Head Aurors hang on the walls, their occupants either fast asleep or absent. Behind his desk, Mr. Potter is dictating something to his blue Rapid-Report quill.
Memories hit me like a twelve-ton brick wall, so hard that I almost stagger. Dramatic, I know, but considering that the last time I had been in here, I was given an 'honourable dismissal from service for a year', I ought to be cut some slack.
Mr. Potter is somehow alerted to my presence, and he gestures me silently to take a seat before him. I do so, and wait for him to say something.
He stares at me for a long time. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that makes me think that his outrageously green eyes are looking right through my soul (which, admittedly, is creepy as well). Finally, he leans away from the desk and clasps his hands on top of it, and says, “Addison Bates.”
I resist the urge to answer with a,“That's me, yep” complete with popping the 'p'. Before I can say anything in reply, he states, “Miss Bates, I can understand if you have a lot of questions,” he pauses briefly, “but please, first, I need to know- do you know anything about, er... James?”
“Not...much.” The answer is, in fact, nothing. Zilch. I mean, I know he plays for some Quidditch team in the British league, but that's what Hugo told me. I abhor watching news on the TV, and since Bianca's flat is in Muggle London, I couldn't exactly have owls zooming around the place, bringing in the Daily Prophet. The limited correspondence with a few people I'd had in the past four months was all through Muggle communication systems.
Mr. Potter rises from his seat, and summoning a stack of newspapers, slides them across the desk to me. “Here, take a look.”
I pick up the one lying at the top. An edition of the Sunday Prophet, proclaiming across the front page, "James Potter Slated to Play for England in World Cup 2030", with a moving picture of a black-haired blur beneath it. The next few articles in other papers are not so pretty. Most center around reports of the wild parties he threw or attended, various pub brawls, and random girls he was spotted with. I gather nothing much from them, other than maybe James Potter is a spoilt wild-child (man?) with a mean right hook and a penchant for leggy brunettes.
Mystified, I put down the paper and throw Mr. Potter a questioning look.
He sighs, and says, “Miss Bates, you see, James is at a very crucial point in his career,” gesturing at the discarded Sunday Prophet, “And he seems to be bent on ruining it.”
“Mr. Potter, I'm afraid I don't know how to help you with this...”
Suddenly he slumps back into his chair, and wearily pulls his glasses off, massaging the bridge of his nose like he used to when the department was faced with a particularly tiresome case. “Addison, James hasn't been to a family dinner in three months. Every other day he's in the news for one scandal or the other. He hasn't been in a steady relationship since Hogwarts, it's a new girlfriend every fornight. Ginny is worried sick.” He scrutinizes me again before saying, “And I think you can definitely help keep an eye on him.”
“Okay, so basically,” my polite tone changes to curtness as confusion suddenly gives way to something much stronger, something like half-anger, half-indignation, “you want me to be your son's babysitter.”
“No, no, of course no-”
“Mr. Potter, I may not be working, but I'm still an Auror. I did not graduate top of my class to babysit an overgrown brat,” I realise that I'm standing.
The tension escalates quickly, and Mr. Potter stands up as well as he tells me in a tone of strained civility, “Well, you can hardly expect me to start handing you field assignments, Addison.”
“Why not?” I ask, my voice definitely louder than it was seconds ago. “I am ready for it!”
“Don't be ridiculous! You sustained life-threatening injuries not less than four months ago,” he replies.
“That is no excuse for you to give me fucking babysitter duty.”
Silence. I had crossed a line. I had cussed in front of my superior. I had shocked the Head Auror, and it was evident on his face. The moment of stunned silence stretches, and I wonder if he is going to hex me or something.
Instead, he takes a deep breath, runs his hand through his thinning mop of grey-black hair, and says with forced calm, “Okay, Addison. I know how you feel, so I will tell you the truth about this situation. Something that other than Auror Weasley, no one knows,” he glares at me, continuing, “but obviously, these are exceptional circumstances, so... Addison, I believe James' life is in danger.”
Oh. Well, that puts a whole another twist in the tale.
“So yes, I need your help. I need you to be with him 24/7, to stick to him like a shadow, and report to me, without anyone suspecting anything, for a month,” he states. “Are you up to it?”
I scowl at my knees, mind racing. I can say no, and walk away to a tedious existence of never-ending boredom. Or I can say yes, and end up as a nanny to a 25-year-old brat. There was no contest, really.
“You'll need to get someone to look after my sister's apartment and cat.”
A/N: The last thing I should be doing right now is writing another WIP. But what can I say, the plunny took up residence in my cerebrum and the chapter practically wrote itself. Plus, now that it's written, I can go focus on Serendipity.
I hoped your first impression of Addison was, I dunno, good? You can tell me in a review. Also, first time I wrote Harry in fanfiction. Eeep, I was so scared. I hope I did an alright job, as I tried to show his professional side, rather than the family-guy facet of his character.
Tell me what you thought in a review! Should I keep this up, or press the delete button and go back to maintaining two WIPs?
P.S. We meet James in the next chapter. Exited! 8)
Edit 1/02/13: CI of the amazing Diana Agron as Addison Bates added.