Chapter 2 : One
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Getting fired in general is probably seen as a bad thing, getting fired on my second day is definitely going to be seen as a bad thing. Unfortunately for me, the thought of being lectured by my dad does not cross my mind until after the boss has me thrown out.
"I don't even want to work here anyway!" I yell at him, which is true.
It was my dad's big idea to start with, he thought I'd enjoy working in the old book store, maybe even lose myself in the history section once in a while. He didn't think there was any way I could cause trouble for myself. Obviously, he didn't factor in my personality - I love to read, sure, but I had to talk to complete idiots. It was only a matter of time before something snapped inside me and I opened my mouth. I'll be sure to mention to Daddy dearest of the fact that all of his big ideas, hell, even his little ones, have been failing epically recently. I'm surprised that he thought for a moment that this one would work out; I didn't.
Well, actually I am surprised. I thought I'd have been kicked out yesterday.
"Just leave, Damian," my boss - former boss - snaps at me, treating me like a little boy throwing a tantrum for drawing on the wall and being set to his room without dinner.
He runs his hand through his greying, balding hair just to emphasize his exasperation - like throwing me out wasn't enough - and uses his height to glare down at me, but I refuse to let him know that it works, that I feel small and young and weak around him. Pathetic. It's a word often thrown at me. Instead, I glare back, making sure to look right into his dark eyes, and let him see that he can't intimidate me. If I want to stand outside of Flourish and Blotts, even when the Autumn wind picks up, despite the sun, and freezes me from the inside out and the cobbled path digs into my thin-soled sneakers to the point of pain, than I'll bloody well stand here.
It's the voices of passersby that forces us to look away, hopefully him more than me - I only have to worry about this getting back to my dad, my family. He has a business to think about. Money makes him step back, it's apparently bigger than his pride.
"Just go," he repeats. "Consider yourself lucky I even let you back in as a customer. I can't understand what possesses you to open your mouth and say the things you do, but you crossed a line today. I hope you're as proud of yourself as your father will be."
With that, he disappears back inside, leaving me alone in the street. The mask cracks as his last words to me sink in and shatters completely when anger blended with hurt fills my mind and body. It's a bad combination of emotions to have, I know I should calm down before I do something reckless and stupid. But reckless and stupid runs in the family - don't even get me started on the things my grandfather did in Hogwarts, or my great uncle George in general, or fair few of my second cousins; it seems my dad was the only cautious one.
I search the ground around me and pick up the first thing I can find - a lone rock - and raise my hand, all but ready to throw it. Only when the whispers get louder, do I let myself pause and eventually drop the stupid rock. None of what happened is worth one lousy broken window; it doesn't take away the fact that what he said is true. My dad is not proud of me, he never has a reason to and I doubt I'll ever give him one.
I'm the family disappointment.
And on that depressing note, I turn away and wonder through the alley. Dad will know all about what happened soon enough, whether I tell him myself when I get home or Doug - said former boss - tells him for me. Either way, going home is an option best saved for later, I'd much rather stay here. Even though I have no where to go, since I usually hide in Flourish and Blotts. Going in as a customer would not be wise so soon after being fired, and then almost smashing a window, whether he saw that or not. He probably did; he's always watching. It makes you wonder why he said yes to hiring me in the first place, doesn't it?
I'm a disappointment, not an idiot. People say I just choose to say and do the wrong things. Maybe that's true, but at least I know when to stop when it matters.
Too bad there's only a handful of people in the world who see that - and neither of them are really the one I want it to be.
People side-step as they walk past, most likely wanting to avoid me, and I'm okay with that. It means I don't have to speak, to get them to move. Walking around like I'm a diseased loner with a required length to stay away gets easier every time I come out. I randomly browse the shop windows, having no desire to actually buy anything, and ignore the world around me, until a familiar looking poster manages to catch my eye. Doubling back, I grab the paper from the wall for a better look - it's another missing poster, there's been a number of missing posters over the last year or so, too many in my grandfather's eyes. This time it's a young girl, barely even a year older than me. Her dark blond hair is loose, but is pushed back with a headband, showing a pretty face, and her smile is wide and happy, lighting up her whole face, so it looks like her brown eyes are sparkling. Though that could also be a trick of the light from the camera that took the picture.
My own eyes widen, almost to the point of pain, when I recognize exactly who the girl is.
Without thinking, I grab the poster and rip it off the wall, stuffing it into my front pocket - I hear it tear and know it'll be a crumpled mess when I see it again, but I really couldn't care less. I just need the proof to show that I was right. Now people will listen to me.
I'll be... I'll be... Well, being listened to will be about as close to being a hero as I'm ever going to get. It's not even hero worthy news, but I'll take what I can get.
I break out into a run, pushing past some and bumping into others and ignoring every bad name they can think to call me, until I get to the ice cream shop. My breath has all but gone once I'm at the door, my chest heavy and painful. I have to work to control my heart rate, to feel like I'm not going to collapse - I'm not as fit as other members of my family - but I manage it, at least enough to know I can speak somewhat normally. Using the sleeve of my jacket to wipe the sweat that formed on my brow, I step inside.
It's exactly how I expect it to be at this time, on an early Autumn afternoon; it's not too full, I can clearly see a few empty seats around the shop, and most customers are recently-graduated-from-Hogwarts teenagers. I walk straight ahead, looking out at each person I walk past, until I get to the corner booth at the other end. He's where he always is, sitting alone with his ice cream - a new flavor each time, that's the only difference he makes. His elbows are on the table, his arms folded up to cup his cheeks in his hands and he has a straw in his mouth, because he waits for the ice cream to melt, so he can drink it. He's weird like that.
Zander Malfoy; my closest family member, maybe even friend.
Well, his name is Phoenix; the Malfoys are weird about naming their kids after stars, Scorpius Malfoy was no different. His middle name is Aleczander, hence the nickname 'Zander', which was his mother Rose's influence. While it's a fairly common name, she joined the Malfoy weirdness by spelling it like she did. I suppose that's what happens when you spend too long with that family; craziness ensues.
Not that I can talk, apparently I'm the one getting Zander to join me in my crazy schemes.
Zander immediately notices my presence from the shadow that's cast over his ice cream thanks to the sun shining brightly through the window he's closet to. The sudden shadow doesn't shock him; he barely moves except to turn his head a fraction my way, letting his blond hair fall over his blue eyes, nod and go back to his dessert. Rolling my eyes at him, I sit in the seat opposite and wait for him to speak first. I feel like my body is ready to burst with anger, the loud thud of my heart is no longer because of my run, and I just have to tell him what I found out. But I force myself to wait; Zander is predictable and can be easy swayed into doing what you want if he likes you, but he's certainly not an idiot. He asks the questions before he allows you to hear his own answers and when he gets his well known, very serious 'I will not take your crap' look in his eyes, it would be in your best interest to shut up. In a family as big as ours, strengths are necessary if you want to be heard. Zander's strength is his look, quickly followed by his 'no bullshit' attitude. An attitude we share.
He's got that look now. I can guess what he's going to say to me.
"Why aren't you in work?" he asks calmly, mumbling through his straw, then drinking some of his melted ice cream.
I may not be as predictable, but my reputation and personality in general is not a secret. Plus he's my closet friend; he knows me. He knows why I'm not in work.
So, I shrug my shoulders as a way of apologizing and don't even try to lie. It goes against our 'no bullshit' agreement anyway.
"Doug threw me out." That earns an eye-brow raise; it's not exactly what he was expecting, Doug hasn't thrown anyone out since my Dad's cousin Hugo made the shelves explode... Apparently he was pissed off by a number of customers then, too. But unlike him, I was an employee at the time. And he's adorable; adorable people can do no wrong no matter what they do.
"What did you do?"
"I yelled at a customer. Or two," I add, shrugging again, as though it was just an afterthought. Zander gives me the look. "I was very loud. I also threw things... It may have hit one of the idiot customers on the head."
Zander lets his straw go, needing the extra air to sigh loudly. "Oh, Damian. You promised me that you would give it a week."
"I can't put a time limit on how long it'll take for a customer to annoy me, you should consider yourself lucky I didn't throw something at yesterday's customer," I tell him, my voice raising just a little. Ironically, Zander is one of the people who know that I know when to stop. He's also one of the one's who will always have faith in me, even when I disappoint him, so I reign in my anger and change the subject. "Anyway, that's not why I'm here."
I pull the poster out of my pocket, just as he drops his straw to say, "Huh? So, you're not hiding from your parents?"
"Okay, hiding from my father is not the only reason why I'm here and I never need to hide from my stepmother because I like her; she sticks up for me," I point out. I'm quick to avoid his usual 'why don't you just call her Mum' question - I never feel comfortable answering because I don't know how - by smoothing out the poster and turning it. "Look."
"Why? What?" Zander grabs the poster and stares at it, until I start to think he's memorized every detail. "That's Lori."
"Yep," I mutter, making a popping sound at the P.
He doesn't seem to be listening to me. He keeps muttering to himself about her. I do hear one more thing, though.
"That's your stepsister."
Zander looks up at my forceful tone, at the anger in there that even I'm afraid of, but I refuse to hear it.
There are some things that we are not allowed to talk about; my biological mother's new family is one of them. I'm just glad they only have Lori; if she had had a kid with her new husband, I could never not see my own sibling - if we were allowed to anyway - which means I'd have to put up with seeing her. But she doesn't have one and I don't see her and I especially don't think of them as family. I have my dad and my stepmother and my half brother, as well as the rest of my family. That'll do.
"She's not my family, she's her problem. But I bet she's the reason why Dad has been 'busy' lately," I scoff. "I said she was sniffing around, wanting my dad's help. This is why."
"Your dad is a bounty hunter," Zander reminds me unnecessarily. "He's not an Auror or Hit Wizard, nor is he a private investigator. How can he help?"
"He went through Auror training, remember? He did it so they could call on him if needed, plus he thought it was necessary," I say. "He's not officially an Auror, but he has the training and the skills. He could help. She wouldn't go to anyone else, she doesn't like my family."
Zander stays silent, biting his lip as he goes through my small bits of evidence and logic that make up my non-hero worthy news. Well, I just want to be listened to, heard. But he finally nods.
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to look at the file," I whisper after a hesitant pause. Already he's tensed; listening to my ramblings is one thing, breaking into my grandfather's office is something completely different. "She may not have gone to the Auror department, but Dad would have. If I can find Lori, or find something to give to Dad, she'll go away."
"I am not breaking into Uncle Harry's office," he says softly, but dangerously. "No way, Damian. You can't make me."
I hold up my hands; he already finds me suspicious. "Fine. I'm going to see my grandad because he'll talk to my dad first about what happened today. If I happen to find the file while I'm in there, that's just good luck on my part. You're welcome to come along, purely coincidental of course."
"Purely," he mutters. "Fine."
I grin and get up. "Come on then."
I grab his arm and pull him up, forcing him to leave his half drunk, melted ice cream.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," he groans, walking with me to the alley's fireplaces to get to the Ministry. "It's not right."
"And I thought you were a Malfoy," I sigh in mock-disappointment, shaking my head. "It'll be alright, Zander. I just want to take a look. Besides, you're just as curious as I am. You want to know what's going on, too."
He says nothing to counter that, he knows I'm right. But he wants to know about the disappearances in general; people of different ages, genders and races, tall and short, big and thin, old and young - they have all been taken. Zander wants to know why, he talks to Grandad Harry about it whenever he can, not that he's able to get much information. Aurors can't talk about ongoing investigations.
I, on the other hand, just want to know about Lori, so I can stop my mother from coming to my dad. Maybe then the arguments between dad and Lexi (my stepmum) will stop and he'll stop being so weird.
We walk all the way up to Grandad's office in silence; Zander doesn't talk when he's sulking and doing something like this definitely allows him to sulk in his eyes. We get to Grandad's office and he keeps a small distance away from me while I talk to the secretary, Steph. She's been here since Grandad became Head Auror way back when, so unfortunately she knows me pretty well.
"Hey, Steph," I smile, leaning over the desk. She returns the smile, but it's suspicious. "Is Grandad in his office?"
"He's in a meeting, it might be a while yet," she answers. "What brings you here, Damian? It's not often you come to visit your grandfather. In fact he said you were working today."
I hope I look as guilty as I feel; I can not give a shit about anyone else, I can even handle my father's disappointment in me, but not Grandad Harry's. He'll be crushed when I tell him.
"I need to talk to him," I murmur. "Before I talk to my dad."
"Oh, Damian," she says softly, understanding what's gone on now. "His office is open."
I thank her quietly and pull Zander in with me, closing the door so I can look undisturbed. I go straight to the big cabinets on the right of Grandad's desk and look through them.
"Are you sure you know where to look?" Zander asks skeptically.
I nod. "Grandad is Head Auror for a few more days, so even when he doesn't take a case himself, they go through him and they come back to him. Grandad always has a copy and he keeps them in this cabinet until they become old or cold cases, then they go to the Archives. This case is still open."
I finally find it, the entire file on the case, all the disappearances, but before I can look through it to find Lori's case, I hear the door open. I have just enough time to turn around and hide the file behind my back, my wand out, when the door opens fully and Grandad steps through.
"What are you two doing here?" Grandad asks.
"Hi, Uncle Harry," Zander waves nervously. He drops me in it quickly just for something to say. "Damian lost his job."
"Hey!" Grandad turns his gaze to me and I see the small frown. "It's true, but it'll be okay. I find something else."
"And you want me to go with you to your dad?" he guesses.
I shrug. "If you don't mind."
"I'll take you," he replies softly. "As soon as you tell me what's behind your back."
I tuck my wand into the back of my pants swiftly, quick to make sure he doesn't see, and hold out the file. "I saw her missing poster and I wanted to know if she was the reason Dad's been acting funny. I'm sorry."
Grandad takes it and I move to let him put the file back. He runs his hand through his thinning hair, strands of grey mixed with black, then drops his hand onto my shoulder.
"You know not to go through the files," he says quietly, but his familiar green eyes are not yet filled with the disappointment I expect to see. "But yes; your mother went to Albus and he came here."
"He came to you," I say.
"No, he came to Alistair," Grandad corrects. "He will be Head Auror when I retire at the end of the week and Head Aurors are usually charged with managing the top cases; this is Alistair's case."
I should have known. Alistair Longbottom is Neville and Hannah's youngest child, he took after Frank Senior more than Frank Junior; he went to school with the Scamander twins and is Lysander Scamander's partner here. He's one of the best at his job, Grandad says. Of course he has this case.
"Come on, you two." Grandad pats my shoulder. "I'll take you home."
Grandad asks me about what happened at the shop today as we walk; just that one question. He doesn't speak then, doesn't judge, he just listens. I'm grateful.
Zander goes through the floo first; he says good bye and goes home, leaving me to face my fate. I step through the flames and into my house, then Grandad does, and I hold my breath.
"Albus? Son, are you home?"
"Yeah." Dad comes into the living room, angrier than I've ever seen him, and holds up a letter. "I just got this from Doug."
I'm not ashamed to say I grab a little more of Grandad's cloak.
A/N: I've borrowed Lexi and Damian's half brother, a character you've yet to meet here, from another story, because I love them so much. But the character you've yet to meet here is yet to be introduced in the story I've taken him from, so I'm not naming names. :P
I hope you enjoyed this new chapter and knowing a bit more about our main character, before he thinks about saving what is left of the world. Please let me know what you think. :)
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