Chapter 1 : A is for Adultery, Awkwardness and Albus Potter
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(because life's no fun without an ex-boyfriend in tow)
For the second time in history, the radio is silent as I open the front door to my parents' house. This in itself wouldn't be cause for concern in any other family, but as the daughter of Lee Jordan, I've spent my entire life listening to my father's show – either live or on repeat – while having our radio adjusted permanently to the station that he owns because he wants to know first-hand how interesting the shows his employees put on are. In fact, the only other time that the radio's been turned off during our waking hours is when my grandpa passed away sixteen years ago and we turned it off out of respect.
“Hello?” I call out, dropping my keys onto the side table in the hall. “Anyone home?”
“Alicia!” Mum shouts, moments before she emerges from our lounge. “You're on time, excellent – there's something that your father and I need to discuss with you.” While she was talking, she's whisked me into the lounge and sat me onto the armchair opposite the lounge that Dad's sitting on, ignoring the fact that I haven't taken my coat off yet.
“Okay,” I say, looking at each of them in turn with the hope one of them will explain what was so urgent about demanding that I come home while I was at work. “What's happened?”
Mum walks around the sofa and sits down next to Dad before she speaks. “Do you remember when your father and I discussed selling the agency?”
The agency that she speaks of is Jordan and Parsons, the business that's been in our family since way before I was born. During the Second Wizarding War, when the Muggle-born Registration Commission was in place at the Ministry, a lot of Muggle-borns – including Mum – were desperate to get their hands on false documents proving that they were pure-blood or half-blood. With Mum's ability to falsify papers and Dad's illegal radio show spreading the word about her, they started Jordan and Parsons to help the masses. When the war ended, they went exclusive and started catering to politicians, celebrities and diplomats, keeping the secrets of the rich firmly hush, hush – although the agency has a no-illegal-activities policy.
Since I graduated Hogwarts, I've been working at the agency – and so has my younger sister Leanne – and two years ago, I took over the day-to-day running of the business, effectively becoming boss chick, as Nick calls me. However, my parents have been considering selling half the business so that they can travel the world in retirement, therefore giving me the other half of the business and giving my sister the family house to be fair. The problem with this plan is that very few people are willing to invest in a business being run by a woman of twenty-eight, despite the fact that my parents were even younger than I am when they set it up.
“Of course,” I answer – it is my livelihood, after all; I'm not going to forget something this important.
“We've found a buyer,” Mum answers. “In particular, a buyer for forty-nine percent of the business, so you'll still be in charge with fifty-one percent. He's also agreed to be a silent partner; he's seen how much you've made the agency a success since you took over and he's quite happy to let you continue as you are.”
Such a buyer is quite possibly the Holy Grail in the business world, and I'm almost afraid to ask what the catch is.
“Who is he?”
“This is what your father and I are disagreeing on. I'm certain you won't mind working with him – you won't really interact with him much, anyway – but your father is convinced you'll hate the idea.”
Now I'm worried. I'm trying to think of who they could possibly be referring to; I don't have enemies, I get along with most people and although I have a few ex-boyfriends, I've parted on amicable terms with all but one of them – and I'm sure Albus Potter has no interest in an agency like Jordan and Parsons, considering that last time I heard, he's doing excellently as a professor at Hogwarts.
Dad sighs. “Albus Potter.”
I gulp. Professorships and scandal aren't a good combination. Albus and me working together is an even worse suggestion. After what happened when we broke up, I can safely say that he and I are about as compatible as electricity and water, or gas and fire, or any other similarly catastrophic combinations. In fact, Jordan and Parsons would probably end up sustaining more fireworks each day than all the bonfires on Bonfire Night.
“Unfortunately, your mother has already drawn up the paperwork. It just needs my signature – and yours, as the new co-owner of the business.”
I'm about to announce that my parents have gone off their rocker if they think I'm going to willingly work with Albus, when I see the morose look in Dad's eyes. He and Mum have worked so hard to build two businesses – the agency and his radio station – and raise four children. It's only now that I can really appreciate how much they sacrified for us, and now is a great time to retire – our house has been paid for in full and so have the other two houses they own and currently let, the twins have just started Hogwarts and Leanne and I are adults, so they don't have any commitments. They've got savings all ready to support them through retirement, but the agency money would fulfil Mum's dream of travelling the world while the twins are at school. It's then that I realize that if I don't agree to share the agency with Albus, they'll either have to sell to someone who will demand control or look into selling part or all of Dad's precious radio station.
“I don't really want to sign,” I admit, “but it is the best deal we're going to get. I'd rather work with Albus than lose the agency to someone whose only focus is the profits.” And that's the honest truth.
Dad looks up at me, and our eyes meet for a moment before he smiles gratefully. Mum is so astonished at this news, she's frantically trying to get me to sign before I change my mind, and is pointing at several sheets of parchment on the coffee table while pushing an upside-down quill into my hand. I straighten out the quill, pause for a moment to read the terms and conditions of our contract, and then sign my name upon the parchment, beneath Albus' and Mum's names.
I just hope that I don't end up regretting this decision.
When I get back to the agency, Albus Potter is sitting at my desk, in my office. It's an unwelcome surprise, and for a moment I'm tempted to throw a tantrum and ban him from the building, even though I know that he's the reason I'm still the boss of the agency and I should be singing his praises. Nevertheless, Albus is here and seems to be waiting for me to say something. I shrug off my bag and it lands on the floor with a loud thump, the noise caused by the heavy folders within. Once I take off my coat and hang it up, I stop in front of my desk and cross my arms.
“I thought you were supposed to be a silent partner.”
“I am,” he protests. “I just want to have a look around the office, hopefully meet your team if you'll let me. I'm their boss too, you know. I'm investing a lot of money in this agency, Alicia, and I just want to make sure that it's in safe hands before school starts. I won't be here when I'm drowning in homework that needs marking and lesson plans that need doing.”
I sigh. “Okay. Before we start, why me? Why buy into Jordan and Parsons when there are a lot of other businesses that need investing in?”
“Because most of the decent businesses wanting investors also want someone on board; someone who can co-run the place and I don't have the time for that. The only other businesses who want a silent partner are either out of my price range or brand-new startups, and since most start-ups make a loss for the first couple of years and have a fifty-fifty chance of going bankrupt within a year, I didn't want to risk that yet.”
He stands up and walks around the desk to face me before he continues speaking. “I don't know much about business, I'll admit that, which is why a start-up would've been too risky for me. And I trust you. I trust you to be honest with me and tell me upfront what's going on, even after what's happened with us in the past.”
I don't want to think about Albus trusting me. I don't want to contemplate how that's even possible. Instead, I give him a curt nod and open the door of my office, motioning for him to go through first. My office is situated at the back of the floor that Jordan and Parsons inhabit, so every time I arrive and leave I have to walk past my team. I start at the desk nearest to me, the one where Nicholas Creevey sits. Most people would keep a guy like Nick as far away from them as possible, but I keep him nearest to me: given his reputation, I'd rather have him where I can see him.
“You might already know each other,” I say, motioning for Nick to take his feet off his desk – he's allowed to do that, but not when visitors are around because it looks unprofessional. “Nick is dating your cousin Molly.”
Albus nods. “I know. So how come he works for you, then?”
I can't blame Albus for asking that question. Despite the fact that he's dating the Minister for Magic's daughter – I have no idea how he gets away with it – Nick Creevey is a well-known criminal.
“Nick here can get his hands on just about anything you need, which is useful if we need to get something to back up an alibi, and he knows the right people to talk to if we've been asked to keep a court case confidential.”
I'm wise enough to know not to mention Nick's reputation for being, as Dad likes to put it, the Mundungus Fletcher of my generation. Nor do I explain that the reason he knows who's willing to hush up court cases is because he's needed their services in the past. As far as I'm concerned, Nick's my expert on criminals and as long as he doesn't get caught in any of his illegal activities, I don't care what he does outside of work.
Albus shakes Nick's hand, and then we move on to the next person. I can see Nick looking confused out of the corner of my eye, but I don't explain Albus' presence just yet; I'd rather not repeat it to everyone, so I'll just tell them all at the end.
“Mr. Potter,” Sophie says, and I blink to see the newest member of the team smiling at Albus. It takes me a few moments to recall that Sophie is a die-hard Holyhead Harpies fan, and since Albus' mum played for them before she had Albus and is still respected in the Quidditch world, she's probably starstruck.
“Sophie is our Transfiguration expert. She can transfigure everything into anything, and put charms on them to extend the time period the item is transfigured for. She's also quite good at detecting whether an item's been Transfigured or not – you wouldn't believe she graduated Hogwarts a year ago. Oh – and her Animagus is a giraffe.”
“Oooh,” Albus says, impressed. “Do you think you could show me?”
I cast an involuntary glance at the ceiling. When I read about Sophie's Animagus ability in her reference letter from her Hogwarts Transfiguration professor, I was so impressed that during her interview, I asked her to demonstrate. Unfortunately, neither of us had remembered to calculate the difference between a giraffe's height and the height of the room, leading to the interruption of a retirement party going on the law offices upstairs, a substantial hole in the ceiling and several pissed-off lawyers who still haven't forgiven me, three months on from the incident.
“That's not a good idea,” Sophie and I both say at the same time, and Albus looks at us in confusion.
“She might be four foot eleven,” I answer, “but her giraffe form is much taller.”
“Ah,” Albus says in understanding, and no more is said on the matter.
Instead, Sophie's brother – well, half-brother – leans over the partition between their desks to poke his nose into the conversation. While Anton Krum happens to be the only member of my team that I dislike, I have no intention of letting Albus know that, so I plaster a smile on my face as I introduce him.
“Anton is Sophie's half-brother. He deals with our clients who are involved in the Quidditch world – players, managers, and so on – since being Viktor Krum's son gets respect from them. And he can speak twelve different languages, too.”
Albus whistles, a sign that he's impressed, and I see Leanne and Max look up at me, knowing that usually, I whistle to get their attention and they were expecting it to be me. I simply shrug, and nudge Albus in his ribs to get his attention.
“You already know Leanne,” I say, pointing at my sister. “She works as front-of-house, dealing with enquiries from clients and passing on cases to the people best equipped to deal with them. And Max is our legal expert; he has intimate knowledge of Ministry laws and the International Statute of Secrecy, and can access Gringotts records as long as you don't ask how.”
I do know how: it's because there are a couple of goblins willing to accept bribes, but of course, that's not something that Jordan and Parsons advertises. Despite his unorthodox methods, Max is a professional, and for that reason we aren't as close as I am to the others – although in Anton's case, that's because he likes to air his dirty laundry around the office. I notice that Leanne has a file in her hands, and while Albus asks Max some question or other, she steps closer to me and hands me the binder.
“Thierry sent an owl,” she explains. “He wants to see you personally, tomorrow. I tried to explain I'd have to discuss it with you first, but he refuses to take no for an answer. According to him, it's an emergency.”
I sigh, my eyes automatically drawn to Sophie. Thierry Mercier is the Seeker on the French Quidditch team, although at the time he and I dated, he was the reserve and hadn't shone in the limelight yet. Most girls would kill for the opportunity to date him, considering that he's quite muscular, pretty hot and charming to boot – hell, I was unfaithful because I found him irresistible – but they don't know most of what the agency knows about him. I know that the last time Thierry employed us two months ago, he was drawn to Sophie and they dated. She and I haven't discussed him recently, but as far as I know they're still in a long-distance relationship on the quiet – it is early days after all.
What's so worrying, though, is that every time Thierry's employed Jordan and Parsons, it's been to cover up an affair he's been having or to ensure his ex-girlfriends and former mistresses don't sell their stories to the press and sully his reputation. Not to mention that he and Albus don't get along, and it's my own fault.
I really am not looking forward to tomorrow.
Author's Note: So... a new WIP. *hides* As you could probably tell from the chapter title, this novel will have 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet in order.
What do you think of Alicia so far? Do you like her, and everyone else in this chapter? What do you think of the concept of Jordan and Parsons? I'd love to hear what you think - even one line would make my day! ♥
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