Chapter 2 : two.
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He looked up from where he had been drumming his fingers on the wooden table. A council of six bored-looking witches and wizards sat before him, and he had to wonder which of them cared least about the case at hand. Surely no one was less enthused than the pair of red-haired girls sitting over in the corner. Sighing, he stood up and spoke, shifting the dusty air that filled the small courtroom.
“James Sirius Potter.”
“Mr. Potter,” a middle-aged man sitting on the council began, clearing his throat. “You are here to represent Lily Luna Potter and Rose Muriel Weasley, is that correct?” He looked over at the corner table, glancing from one redhead to the other and back again, as if he were having trouble telling them apart.
James concealed a scoff. It was easy to tell Lily and Rose apart, painfully so. “Yes, sir, that’s right,” he said, stepping around the table so that his fine suit was more visible.
The man looked lazily back down at the stack of parchment on the table before him. “Ladies and gentlemen of the court, the charges against Miss Potter and Miss Weasley include trespassing and malicious mischief. In particular, the defendants are charged with damaging the property of several prominent fashion designers by…” He glanced down at the parchment to be sure. “…frolicking in a fountain.”
Several ladies on the council giggled.
“How do the defendants plead?” the man continued.
James looked over at his sister and their cousin. After a nervous beat, Lily stood up, shooting Rose a look of warning before turning her gaze to the speaker. “Guilty, sir.”
“Mr. Potter, please detail the events of July 21st to the council.”
James nodded. “On that evening, my sister and our cousin—”
“You mean Miss Potter and Miss Weasley?” the man reminded him.
“Yes. Sorry.” James looked down. Come on, pull it together. You’re not that new. “On the evening of July 21st, Miss Potter and Miss Weasley finished a fashion show in Edinburgh and were complaining about the heat. Part of their obligations for the show were to wear a new designer’s ball gowns to an after party, in order to demonstrate the…” He paused. “…special effects lent to the dresses by magic.”
“What sort of special effects?” asked a dark-haired witch sitting on the council.
James stood there, dumbfounded. How should I know? I wasn’t at the blasted party!
“The dresses were supposed to flare out a bit more than normal,” Rose said, speaking from her seated position. “There was glitter on them, stuff like that.”
“Miss Weasley, please do not speak unless you are asked to do so,” the original speaker cautioned, looking back at James. “Is that an accurate description?”
“Yes,” James said, in truth having less than a clue about the dresses. “They had a few minutes before the party, which the other models used to partake of the complimentary appetizers provided for them. However, the defendants stated that they were too overheated to eat, and they left the show to go and soak their feet in a fountain they had seen on their ride into the city. Miss Weasley suggested that they immerse both feet in the fountain… in more of a standing position… and Miss Potter complied. During this process, the bottoms of the dresses were soaked in water, which disrupted the effects of the spell and washed off much of the glittery potion. In addition, in her inebriated state, Miss Weasley forgot to take off one of her shoes and lost a pearl necklace in the fountain, though it was retrieved after the incident.”
“Anything else, Mr. Potter?” the man asked.
“Shortly after the loss of the necklace, the mayor and her husband exited their home to find the defendants dancing in their fountain, which had been purchased and preserved as a historical landmark, having marked the southernmost corner of Rowena Ravenclaw’s castle in the time of the Founders. At this time, the authorities were called, and the defendants were removed from the fountain and arrested.”
The man on the council folded his hands. “Thank you, Mr. Potter. Please be seated.” After James sat, he turned his attention to Lily and Rose. “Miss Potter and Miss Weasley, the designers of your attire from the evening of July 21st have asked that you compensate them for damage to their property, sustained while… frolicking.”
“To that end, your sentence is to pay the total damages of 250 Galleons, 42 Sickles, and nine Knuts to the parties of the prosecution. In addition, you are to refrain from returning to the mayor’s property at any point in the future, including but not limited to the historic landmark of the Ravenclaw Fountain of Wit.”
Lily rose again. “Yes, sir.”
Rose stood up as well, offering her best attempt at a sweet smile. “Sorry.”
“Court is adjourned,” said the man, and the council stood up and began to disperse. Lily and Rose left their table, walking behind James as he left the courtroom.
“I swear, if he doesn’t find a way to keep you two out of trouble, I’ll fire him myself,” James grumbled, lugging his thin suitcase along with him. “This is hardly respectable work, especially for someone who graduated top of his class. Too many more of these favors and I’ll be working a desk at the Office of Magical Law Enforcement.”
“Oh, James, still trying to eclipse Dad’s shadow?” Lily ribbed him gently.
“Very funny,” James said.
They emerged into the sunlight, and James stopped on the stairs of the courthouse. “Ladies, until next time, which will hopefully not be until the Christmas party.” He then turned, strutting down the steps and leaving them standing by the front door.
“He left us alone,” Rose observed. “They never leave us alone.”
“That’s damn right,” a voice behind them said. Both girls turned to see a boy with dark hair and brilliant green eyes approaching them from the nearly plaza. He sighed, folding his arms over his scrawny chest. “Well, how did it go, then?”
“Fine,” Lily said. Then, realizing the pun, she added, “the money kind.”
“Ah,” Albus replied. “I hope Rose kept her mouth shut.”
“Almost,” Rose answered, grinning in faux innocence.
“Come on, then. Let’s get lunch.”
“You’re the best, Albus,” Lily said, leading the way toward the city center.
Albus let them walk a few paces ahead, wondering for the hundredth time how he had ever decided that working as Lily and Rose’s agent would be a good fit for him. Rose’s sense of self-importance had grown exponentially since they’d left Hogwarts, and he remembered a distinct spike following the girls’ first cover shoot together. However, Lily – more specifically, her safety – had been one of few things upon which he and his older brother had come to an agreement. Lily, with her shy smile and gentle nature, was the one person Albus had never figured out how to reject.
“Albus, can’t we go in Uncle George’s satellite shop?” Rose pleaded, tracing her red fingernails along the glass in the storefront of Weasley’s Wizarding Toys and Gadgets. She peered longingly into the window, where George’s line of animated miniatures was performing like a circus for all potential customers to see. “Look, he’s got a little blue car that flies, and one of those funny blue police boxes…”
“Rose, I’m hungry,” Lily said, looping her arm through Albus’s.
“Maybe afterward?” Rose suggested, straightening regrettably.
“We need to talk,” Albus said, pushing forward slightly. “I saw this little outdoor café over there by a statue. Let’s get some sandwiches and think about your next move.”
“Sandwiches sound good,” Lily agreed. She reached back, taking Rose’s hand and pulling her gently away from the window.
The three of them pushed through the thin lunchtime crowd and settled at a table at the café. Rose and Lily ordered a small platter of cucumber sandwiches to split between them, and Albus requested fish and chips and a pitcher of filtered water.
“Now,” Albus said, taking a sip of water. “We need to discuss what comes next.”
“Have we gotten any mail?” Lily asked.
“A few things, yes. There have been two owls from Beauxbatons, asking if you would come next week to help take parents to tour the school and do interviews with the students. It’s feel-good stuff, inspiration and role modeling and whatnot. I think it would be good for you both.” He paused, watching the waiter pour water into three glasses, leaving the pitcher in the middle of the table. “Especially you, Wild Rose.”
“Don’t call me that,” Rose said, taking a gulp of water and rolling her eyes.
“Why not? It’s all the press here could talk about following the fountain incident.”
“Is there coffee?” Rose asked, ignoring Albus’s comment.
“No. Coffee dries out your skin,” Albus answered. “What do you think about France?”
“I don’t know if more drama is really what we need,” Lily said.
“Besides, it’s false advertising, isn’t it? You know, spending all that time smiling and waving at Beauxbatons when we’re both Hogwarts graduates,” Rose pointed out. “My mum wouldn’t approve.”
The waiter reappeared, bringing with him the sandwiches and Albus’s lunch.
“I suppose not,” Albus responded, forced to agree.
“Anything else?” Lily said gently, taking a cucumber sandwich from the platter.
“You could always try Witch Weekly again.”
“I don’t want us to be become another Gilderoy Lockhart, always depending on the friendly magazine back home to make sure we’re on a cover somewhere,” Rose said, idly picking the crust off her sandwich. “Besides, it would be boring.”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. You need boring. You need domestic,” Albus insisted. “There’s not much we can do to make the media stop portraying you as two little troublemakers, aside from distracting them with a fresh campaign, something fun.”
“Isn’t Beauty Week coming up soon?” Lily interjected.
“Yes, in a month.”
“Well, then, that’s an idea, Rose,” Lily said, smiling encouragingly.
Rose sighed. “Don’t owl them yet. If we don’t find anything else…”
“All right,” Albus replied. “Just don’t forget about it.”
“We won’t,” Rose said, pouring herself some more water. “So, before we try out being squeaky-clean, why don’t we see what trouble we can still legally cause?”
“Out of the question!” Albus groaned. “Do you want all of this season’s designers to avoid you like the plague?”
“Fine, fine,” Rose conceded with another sigh. “How about I go and figure out a good place for us to see about hair and nails, Lily? My ends are starting to get a bit frayed.” She stood up, tousling her hair, and headed for a small group of teenage girls standing over by the café’s counter, most likely seeking a local recommendation or two.
Lily smiled, standing up and changing places so that she was sitting next to her older brother rather than across from him. “Thanks for owling James for us, Albus.”
Albus cracked a grin. “I would say it’s no trouble, but knowing James, it was.”
“I think a little pro bono work is good for him,” Lily replied.
Albus laughed. “Just try not to make me bother him too much, please.”
“I will,” Lily said. “Rose, too. You know that we appreciate you both.”
“Only until you get famous,” Albus said, rolling his eyes and drinking some of his water. He glanced around the café, drumming his fingers absently on the table. “It’s too bad about Edinburgh. I was really enjoying my time in this city.”
“Me, too,” Lily agreed. “I wanted to twirl in that dress, too, before it got all wet.”
“Maybe one day you can design your own, like you wanted.”
“Yeah, that’d be good,” Lily said, smiling warmly. “Thanks for everything, Albus.”
“Go on,” he said, but she was already standing up and walking over to Rose and the local girls. They were laughing and admiring Rose’s shoes, and when Lily arrived, they politely greeted her and appeared to include her in their conversation. Albus imagined the ride back to London, with Rose gossiping about which of her nail polish colors was apparently most popular among girls in the current season, and wished momentarily that James had not been in such a hurry to get out of town.
He looked down into his cup, watching the water ripple gradually to a standstill after his most recent sip, and waited patiently for his sister and cousin to wrap up their conversation. He was not looking forward to another afternoon of supervising their shopping and flipping through old magazines while they pampered themselves. However, after that, he could expect another opportunity to travel somewhere else, to see another fantastic city and have another smashing good time.
Then, Albus sighed, unrolled his silverware, and tucked into a well-earned meal.
Hello again! Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to see some familiar faces in this chapter. I look forward to hearing what you think of this installment of The Middle Man in your reviews!
A couple of notes about this chapter: firstly, ‘malicious mischief’ is an actual charge that comes up in Scottish courts. It implies that the accused has damaged property, cost the owner financial damage, or both. Secondly, George’s little blue police boxes were taken from the creators of Doctor Who (Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber & Donald Wilson), which belongs to the BBC. All recognizable canon characters, events, and places belong to J. K. Rowling.
Stay tuned for chapter three!
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