Chapter 6 : Wait for the Flames
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Wait for the Flames
The lie in on Monday morning messed me up, and I felt more tired than I had when I’d gone to bed. I saw Elizabeth off who was definitely excited about her study date. I hadn’t done in that such a long time, and as soon as she had gone I felt like crawling back under my duvet and getting a few more hours sleep. Instead, I plodded through my usual getting-ready routine and headed into work.
The timing was weird, so it was a lot quieter than normal. I climbed into the elevator after a woman in her thirties, wearing a navy suit with metallic gold accessories. She was standing tall, and smiled brightly at me.
“Where are you going?”
“Level Two, please,” I said.
“Oh, really? I’m going there too. Which department? Hit Wizards or Auror...?”
“Oh, no, I’m the Improper Use of Magic office.”
She hit the button, and we swayed in silence for a moment.
“This whole fugitive thing is a bit absurd, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, crazy,” I answered shortly. She shrugged, a little defensively.
“I, for one, am appalled.”
“Yes! I think if the muggles like this stupid man, let them have him! We certainly don’t want him.”
I turned to her properly. “It’s the view of the Ministry, certainly, that he can’t continue, but he is performing a service- a well meaning service- and I’m not entirely sure I’m opposed to that.”
“Yes, of course-“
The doors slid open, and we began to walk down the corridor together.
“But he’s putting the whole Statute of Secrecy in danger!”
I scoffed. “He’s not. The muggles often don’t see magic when it’s performed right in front of them, and even when they do, there have never been any incidents of great numbers of muggles finding out. Even during the war the muggles didn’t suspect anything.”
She tilted her head. “That’s true...”
“Anyway, this is my office-“
We both jumped as Harry Potter ran down the corridor, straight at us.
He grabbed her by the arm but turned to me.
“What did you say to her?” he demanded, shaking the woman’s arm.
I took a step back, hands up defensively. “I-“
“What did you say?!”
“We were just- talking about the superhero- why?!”
“Because this-“ he shook her arm “-is Bonnie Lawrence.”
She looked dejected, half-heartedly trying to wriggle out of his grasp. “I’d nearly gotten something good, too,” she whined petulantly, her elegance deformed into something grotesque and childish.
-he had to find me, couldn’t wait another thirteen seconds she was about to give me everything-
-all the same; never going to get any peace, first it’s Rita bloody Skeeter- why is it always women? Ginny never-
“Who?” I asked him, as he began to lead her back towards the lifts.
“Bonnie Lawrence. Daily Prophet reporter,” he said irritably, and directed his next words at her. “By the end of the day I’m going to make sure that you’ll be completely forbidden from entering the Ministry. Don’t think that you can prey on newer or lesser experienced Ministry workers, because they are protected by those who have been here a long time and know all your tricks. Have you got that?”
Bonnie nodded, like a surly child being told off.
“Rebecca, go to my office please. I should be back in the next five minutes.”
Without a word, I spun on my heel and headed straight past my usual turning and down the main Magical Law Enforcement corridor, into the Auror office- where Keiran caught my eye but I ignored him- and straight into Mr Potter’s office.
I sat on the edge of one of the seats, and bit at a hangnail. I knew I should have been more careful. It was my responsibility to make sure I divulged no information to the press- Mr Ryland had mentioned it.
And it would have been the perfect opportunity to drop some information to the wizarding world, a few things beneficial to me.
I stood the moment I heard the door sweep open, only to be faced by a redheaded man- Weasley, I recognised quickly. Ron Weasley, Mr Potter’s best friend and assistant head of the department.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Who are you? What’re you doing in here?”
“Oh- I’m Rebecca, sir, Rebecca Lewis. I work in the Improper Use of Magic Office, I’m Mr Ryland’s assistant-“
“Wait, hang on- the girl who’s working with Keiran?”
“Oh, right- I’m Ron.”
“I know who you are,” I said hurriedly, “I just didn’t want to presume-“
Ron shook his head. “Don’t worry. Anyway, when you see Harry, could you give him these-“ he reached out to give me a file, so I took it “-and tell him it’ll help him figure some stuff out. I’ve got to go now- bloody meetings all over the place.”
“Right. Yes, I will, sir.”
“Good. Right, gotta go.”
He shut the door again.
A few minutes later, Mr Potter came in, and shut the door behind him.
“Sorry- got talking to Ron. He says you have a file for me-?”
I passed it to him. “Yes, sir. Here you go.”
The weight of the incident in the corridor was constricting my lungs again. I couldn’t look Mr Potter in the eye.
“Call me Harry. I don’t like ‘sir’.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“
“Don’t worry about it, you didn’t know,” he waved off, sitting behind his desk again. “It’s always just felt... impersonal, you know? I like getting to know every single one of my Aurors before they go anywhere or do anything.
“Now, about Bonnie.”
I tried to control my breathing. In... out, in... out, in...
“I was wondering if you were okay.”
I nearly snapped my neck I moved to look at him so fast.
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Are you sure? You looked scared.”
“You were a bit intimidating, sir,” I said thoughtlessly. Then- “no, no, that’s not what I-“
“You’re afraid of me?”
He looked concerned, and leaned forward in his chair.
“No, no I wasn’t-“
“Rebecca. Tell me the truth.”
I put my head in my cupped hand that was resting on my knee. “I thought I was in trouble. I thought I’d lost my job.”
“Firstly... Rebecca, even if you were to get in trouble over it, I doubt that Mr Ryland would fire you. He speaks too highly of you to do anything like that over something as small as this. Second, you were never in trouble. Bonnie, on the other hand... will be when I’m through with her. She’s been interrogating people all day trying to get a good story.”
“Yes. As a matter of fact, she talked to the head of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol for twenty minutes in his office before anyone twigged who she was. She’s been duping people all day. Fortunately the man is rather overwhelmed by his love of broomsticks, and apparently refused to talk to her about anything else.”
I smiled slightly.
“So don’t worry, Rebecca. She’s wormed her way into a lot more corners than just yours today.”
I smiled more; escaping with only a few words of sympathy was not what had crossed my mind. “Thank you, si-Harry. Thank you Harry.”
“You’re welcome, Rebecca. Now, I’m sure Mr Ryland will be waiting impatiently for your arrival, so tell him you were with me and I’ll confirm it with him the next time I see him, okay?”
“Okay. I will.”
His smile was warm as I left the room, and I softly closed the door behind me. Keiran caught my eye again and tried for my attention, but I purposefully walked past and went straight to the office, where Jess was waiting to give me some jobs for the day.
Mr Ryland had been worried- not about my job, but about me- ‘you’re always on time, Rebecca. I was worried you’d Splinched yourself on the way!’ and assured me I was in no trouble, he trusted me. Besides, most days Cheri was fifteen minutes late and I had only been five. I nodded, and devoured any work he gave me, trying to get everything at twice my usual speed. I would not let his trust be wasted.
“-hey, hot stuff,” Keiran grinned, appearing at the door.
I rolled my eyes and dropped my quill impatiently. “What do you want, Keiran? I’m very busy right now. I would have thought you would be too.”
“Well, actually, I was just wondering about that drink.”
“I can’t tonight. I told you that yesterday.” I picked my quill back up and scratched the letters onto the page a little more savagely than necessary.
“I know. What about tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.”
He was a distraction.
He raised an eyebrow. “What days this week are you free?”
I had to bite back a sarcastic retort.
“I don’t know. I’m a rather busy person. I have a lot going on. Ask me again next week.”
At that, he shrugged and smiled. “I will,” he promised lightly, stepping back out and disappearing around the corner.
I forced myself not to grind my teeth. With an angry flick of my finger, I wandlessly slammed the door shut behind him.
That night, I decided to patrol. I was full of nervous energy and I couldn’t focus properly, not with Elizabeth sending me curious looks because I couldn’t answer her question about how work had been.
So I set out into the big wide world. Everything was quieter, more subtle, during the week shift- more late-night workers scurrying about, less rowdy gangs of drunken idiots.
Of course, there were still plenty of shady deals on street corners between guys with crappy haircuts and girls with too little clothing, and the desperate who seek refuge from their own mind.
I picked apart deals and made sure the only people who lost money were the people preying on the vulnerable. I sent the girls home and the guys to the police stations, and poured their white powder down drains. The council estate I was on was shabby but I walked too far, and it became a little bit too suburban and respectable with enough of them taking pride in their lives and homes to be a community of sorts. There was no room for anything exceptional, until I saw the young girl with a cigarette lighter.
She was flicking it, on and off, watching the flame. The contours of her face were thrown into a warm glow but it twisted her face with the strange, warped highlights of the single flame. I slipped into a nearby alley and watched her carefully, her smile contorted.
Her hair was greasy and unkempt; clothes thin and dishevelled. I was sure she had to be cold.
Eventually, she flicked the lighter to the floor and walked away. After she had disappeared around the corner I retrieved it, to check it wasn’t lit and could be disposed of. When I was certain it was safe, I followed her, determined to figure out why a girl as young as her- fourteen or fifteen at the most- was out on the streets.
As I rounded the corner, I smelt the acrid black smoke as it fluttered through the wind.
Thirty feet on front of me, beyond gates and down a drably concrete path, a school building was burning.
I swore and sprinted through the car’s entrance, wondering how the girl- I knew it had to be her, somehow- could have possibly caused the flames that quickly: it was spread across the entrance and at least two classrooms, glass shattered and the fire burning into the classrooms.
Glancing around, I noticed there wasn’t anyone there- yet- so I touched my wand, at my thigh, and begin to cast Aguamenti, water shooting out of my fingertips.
In my panic of the searing heat and the sting of smoke in my watering eyes, I realised that Aguamenti wasn’t enough, it was only slowing down the spreading and how could that be, it wasn’t Fiendfyre-
Finally, I placed the other smell that was barely lingering; petrol.
I wanted to do a Bubblehead charm, the urge to protect myself was becoming so great but I couldn’t, not with that muggle girl so close by- I would have her arrested for this, she could have burnt the whole building down in her stupidity- so I covered my face in the crook of my elbow and began the countercurse to Fiendfyre, although I had no idea how it could be explained away by the muggle police. It was not my problem.
I struggled with the complex magic, having only studied the theory, but water finished it off when I had wrestled it into submission. I ducked away as soon as the charred remains of the walls seemed unable to erupt into flames again, gulping in fresh air and noting that I needed at least two oxygen masks from then on.
Coughing and retching in my weakened state, falling to the floor and Conjuring a bottle of water up, I didn’t notice her.
“What did you do?”
Within seconds, I was on my feet and ready to fight her, throwing off the urge to splutter some more.
“I saved your school. No need to thank me.”
My voice was hoarse, and didn’t need lowering.
Her nose wrinkled in disgust, and pointed at me violently. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
“Why not?” I snapped, doubling over and hacking up disgusting blackened phlegm.
“Because they deserve it. They’re all stupid fucks who don’t care about anyone. They deserve to burn.”
“Believe it or not,” I said, keeping my eye on her, “there’s not going to be anyone in there at midnight.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “This was a warning.”
“Burning a building down is a warning?”
“Yes. I didn’t burn them, did I?”
I took several deep breaths. Thankfully, sirens began to shriek and wail in the distance.
“Okay. Maybe that’s not the healthiest approach.”
She glared at me, then pulled out a packet of matches.
“I’ll do it properly this time-“
“Don’t even think about it,” I said flatly.
She tried to slide the pack open. With a well aimed and swift kick it’d flew out of her hand and the matches had scattered all over the soot-smothered pavement, in some strange irony raining down on their own destruction. She shrieked in frustration and pain, clutching her hand and charging at me.
-NO I HAVE TO-
She was acting rashly, so her punches were somewhat misguided: in the end, I handcuffed her and sat her some distance from the building for safety. Her screams of abuse, swearing about their untimely deaths and mine too, faded. Peace was interrupted by her muffled sobs.
I borrowed her phone, and the fire engine promptly arrived.
The men looked shocked at my being there, particularly covered in soot and with a girl in handcuffs, but their professional masks slipped back on when I told them the remains of the fire was at the main entrance and a couple of classrooms. One of them radioed for a police unit as they pulled away from us, and I nodded at him.
We waited some more. She’d stopped crying. I helped her stand when she claimed she was getting cold, but held on to the handcuffs to stop her running away.
When the police arrived, I explained what I’d seen and what she’d said. At first, I kept the two of them at a distance and watched their every small move, monitoring their thoughts and their assessment of me. They put her into the back of their car- I felt uncomfortable letting her go, but I couldn’t change it- and asked if I wanted to give a statement. I couldn’t really do one anonymously. I told them no, but there was her lighter in a bin around the corner, and CCTV footage if they looked hard enough.
“Thanks for your help, mate,” said the younger one, grinning at me.
“It’s fine,” I shrugged, voice still gravelly from the smoke. “Part of the job, right?”
“Yeah, thanks. Although seriously- how did you put that fire out?” the other one asked, looking across at the still-smouldering wreck.
I smiled emotionlessly. “Just part of the job. Now, do you need anything else or can I get off?”
“No, we’re good. But- thanks for what you did. For our guy.”
“Officer Rentman?” I asked. The girl in the back of the police car wasn’t looking at me. She was staring straight ahead, crying again.
“I don’t know him personally... but it’s nice to know someone’s looking out for us,” he shrugged, and I brought my attention back to him as he started shifting from one foot to another.
“I’ll do my best for you all,” I said softly, as best I could with my rasping voice. “Anyway, best be going. More fires to put out, so to speak.”
I glanced at her one last time.
“Good luck, mate.”
The sturdier outfit I had designed with a few flicks of my wand (pads built into the seams of the elbows and knees, fingerless gloves with protection for my palms, and flexible, sturdier boots that were fastened tightly mid-calf) had been futile against the flames, so I noted that they needed fire-proofed, but had helped quite dramatically in my only fist fight of the night, the protection weakening his blows and enhancing mine, particularly the boots.
My new routine had also developed, transfiguring my outfit into other, less suspicious, clothes before entering my building. I’d come close to getting caught by Elizabeth too many times. I wiped away as much of the soot I could as possible, but I still absolutely reeked of smoke, so I went straight to the shower.
I jumped when I came out in my pyjamas and Elizabeth was sat on the sofa, smiling up at me.
“Where’ve you been?”
“The pub. Couple of guys from work wanted to go,” I answered carelessly, dumping my towel in the bedroom. “How was your night?”
She sounded proud. “I talked to Luke.”
“Oh. Oh- really?!”
I dashed back through to the living room.
She smirked. “Yup. He loves the Beatles and all things nerdy. We had a lot to talk about.”
I squealed. “Please tell me he asked you out!”
She snorted. “I’m doing it first thing tomorrow if he doesn’t. Bite the bullet and all that.”
Throwing my arms round her, I hugged her tight. “Yay! I’m so happy for you!”
“Me too! Now, seriously, what happened at work? What happened with that guy you were talking to?” she asked, withdrawing.
I scoffed. “He just... urgh. He called me ‘hot stuff’.”
She winced, and looked disgusted. “...and that’s the end of that romance.”
“Yup. It was pretty short-lived.”
“His loss. Anyway, I need to get to bed.”
“Yeah, me too. Goodnight!”
I wondered if that girl would be spending the night in jail. The desperation that had been in her eyes wouldn’t leave me, so I blocked it out with the kind voices of the internet.
Thank you so much #Superhero ! You saved my life :)
Does anyone else ever wonder what kind of job our superhero has? Is he an office worker, or a personal trainer? Does he have a family? A girlfriend? Do they know? Do they approve of it? I worry about him a bit too much.
I smiled, and scrolled a bit more before I slept.
A/N I don’t understand why this chapter took so long it shouldn’t be difficult to follow my plan but it is whyyy
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