Chapter 5 : Looming Wars
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I entered the Leaky Cauldron and was immediately reminded of what me and my mates looked like sitting in a booth together. Although Ryan Wood was a Quidditch player and not an Auror, he was sitting next to James, laughing boisterously at a joke he said. James was popping a chip into his mouth, grinning at Ryan, his best mate. Tevin was sitting opposite them, rolling his eyes at the pair. Teddy was even here, along with a few other guys who I remembered seeing around the Auror's office over the past few weeks.
"Albus! You made it!" James called, waving frantically towards me. The booth they were in was over-sized, but the five guys didn't look very comfortable within it. In fact, I saw Ryan's frown when he realized he would have to squeeze over to make room for me.
"If I didn't accept I think you would have kept asking if Raine and I were shagging." I rolled my eyes, sitting on the edge of the booth as Ryan moved over only a breath.
"Are you?" James wiggled his eyebrows at me and I grunted in response.
"Your brother shagging Nott doesn't count! You lost our bet fair and square!" Ryan punched James's shoulder and I couldn't help but hear Lily in my head, telling me about James and Ryan's bet on who could shag their co-worker the fastest.
"Oh bugger off, Wood." James grumbled, causing the guy opposite of me to laugh boisterously.
"That's a pathetic bet you made. No one could land Raine Nott." He said, his bright white teeth contradicting his dark skin.
"She'd shag me. I'm fairly confident." Teddy announced, puffing out his chest.
"Darn. Only if you weren't with our cousin!" I said sarcastically, getting a chip thrown at me from Teddy.
"I love Victoire, don't get me wrong....just someone with a little more spice would be interesting, you know?" Teddy partially teased, but I knew he meant some of what he said. Victoire may be part-veela, but she was a very collected person with a nice demeanor. Sure, she occasionally had flare ups where we were certain we would all die if we got in her way, but she normally kept a level head. It was even hard for James to poke fun at her without feeling guilty about doing so.
"Raine Nott has plenty of pa-zazz. You'd never have a dull day if you were with that girl." Tevin said with a shake of his head.
"Is my partner all you blokes talk about during these?" I asked in an attempt to get rid of this topic. I wouldn't be able to look at Raine the same way if we continued much longer.
"No. We talk about plenty of other birds!" James laughed. He gave Tevin a smirk. "Tevin here was caught shagging the Risk Management Attorney's secretary last week."
"You're just going to bring that up at every opportunity, aren't you?" Tevin rolled his eyes, but didn't look any more ashamed of the topic than James had bringing it up.
"Who caught you two?" Teddy asked with a playful nudge. I took a chip into my mouth, trying to stay out of the conversation. While I was fine talking about these sort of things, I felt slightly out of place with that being the only type of conversation being held. I thought of Friday nights with my old dorm mates and I wondered what outsiders would think if they listened in.
"The Risk Management Attorney. Gave us a speech about how 'risky' our actions were." Tevin told everyone, resulting in the group laughing hysterically.
Though I didn't find it as hysterical as they all did, I still forced a laugh that seemed far too fake for my liking. Bloody hell, I don't think I was coming to one of these things again.
"So that Burkes case is wild, huh?" Teddy brought up, raising his eyebrows at James. Though James wasn't supposed to talk about the case out in the open, I knew he was about to tell the gritty details of the case to everyone.
"It's definitely getting a lot of attention. Everyone seems to have an opinion on it and I've only had it for a couple of days." James sighed and I think it was the first time I saw stress cross his face. "Lot of pressure with this one."
"Well yeah! Harry even jumped in on the case!" Teddy added and I saw James's cheeks flush slightly. He was used to being under Dad's watchful eye in his personal life, but now with his professional life, I wondered how he was dealing with the pressure.
"Why'd he do that?" Ryan asked, taking a big gulp of his drink.
"Wants to make an example of what Lycan Zippen did to try to deviate any other extremists from acting out." I explained to Ryan. James was staring off, his mind elsewhere.
"Do you really think that Zippen was completely unprovoked? I mean, the Burkes don't exactly have the best record." One of the guys opposite me asked. "Wouldn't put it past them to be visiting for criminal reasons."
"People heard Lycan yelling at them before he even made it in the house." James explained before I could jump in. "A lot of witnesses."
"Pureblood witnesses?" The guy asked and from his tone, he was assuming such.
"Pureblood or not, Lycan Zippen attacked an innocent family. No one, no matter their past, should have to explain their reasoning for visiting their family." I cut in, my voice harsher than I had intended. Teddy and James turned to me with shocked expressions. Though I had strong opinions, I never voiced them very much, keeping them to myself.
"Zippen should have minded his own business." Teddy added, giving me a small smile. All I could picture was the look on Raine's face when we were in the Burkes' home and how hurt she was by these actions, whether or not she would admit it.
"I'm just saying that no one can be too sure in this day and age." The guy put up his hands innocently, leaning back in the booth to try to end the discussion.
"We aren't fighting a war, Peter. People don't have anything to be afraid of." Tevin rolled his eyes at the guy.
"Not yet. We aren't fighting a war yet."
It was the first time I saw any of these guys speechless.
"You look gorgeous." I whispered in Iris's ear, kissing her cheek as she blushed at my words.
"Thank you." She mumbled back, giving me a small smile as I pulled out her chair for her. It was a Wednesday night and we were having dinner at a small café on the outskirts of the small town Iris lived in. The lights were dimmed and floating candles resided on each covered table. I had worn a nicer jumper and Iris was wearing a peach floral sundress. While there were a fair amount of people sitting around us, it was a cozy enough environment for the two of us.
"Did I tell you who was leaving my flat this morning?" Iris asked, a secretive smile on her face as she sipped her water after the waiter left our table.
"Who?" I asked, knowing Alicia was Iris's flatmate. She was feisty and though I couldn't picture her sleeping around, I wouldn't put it past her.
"Your mate Luca." She announced and I nearly choked on the piece of bread I had stuck in my mouth.
"Luca Milestone?" I asked, not sure I had heard her right. She nodded once, giving me a smile.
"I tried to get it out of Alicia what had happened, but she didn't give much info." Iris told me. Luca was the type that would have saved himself for marriage had we lived a few decades earlier. He maybe slept with two people his whole life and he was absolutely convinced he was deeply in love with those girls.
"Have they been seeing each other long?" I asked and Iris shrugged.
"Not any longer than us, I presume."
"I'll ask Luca what is going on between them. He can't keep secrets very well."
"And if he asks what is going on with us to counter your question?"
I knew what Iris was doing here. We never truly 'defined' our relationship, even though we had been seeing each other for a while. It was a conversation I knew was coming, but I was going to let her bring up. Though some people believed you didn't have to have the conversation to determine you are 'exclusive' with someone, I was old-fashioned in this sense. I wanted to officially ask a girl to be my girlfriend and know exactly when we changed from one type of relationship to another.
"Well, what do you think?" I asked, taking a long drink from my water. After this past weekend and Iris ignoring me for a bit, I wasn't too sure where she stood on us. I didn't want to be the one putting too much thought into the relationship. I was the guy. I wasn't supposed to think about these things.
"I think that we've been seeing each other long enough to assume we aren't seeing other people." Iris was confident in her words and I immediately felt far more attracted to her.
"I'm glad we are on the same page, then." I said with a smile. "I have a Ministry Gala in a week or so that I wanted to invite you to and I wasn't sure what I was going to call you in relation to myself when I get asked by my mother."
"You mean, you don't want to call me your friend?" Iris asked with a small smirk. I felt myself going back to when Iris had run into Raine and I and I had referred to her as my friend.
"No. I'm hoping to call you my girlfriend."
"I'd like that." Iris whispered with a blush creeping up her cheeks. I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders and I leaned back into my chair slightly.
"So tell me about your latest article you are writing." I said, falling into an easy routine with Iris.
With Iris, things always came incredibly easy. We talked easily with one another and got along perfectly. We even ordered the same meal and were both equally impressed with the sauce that was used. Iris was working on an article about some Quidditch player and his two wives. Morally, she felt bad about writing the article, but she believed strongly in karma, so the felt the bloke had it coming. Our legs brushed casually underneath the table as we talked, laughing with one another. Though it was a work night, I wasn't paying attention to the clock at all, enjoying just simply being in her presence as she talked animatedly about her editor who didn't even know how to spell half of the writer's names.
"I heard about that attack in Godric's Hollow. Is everyone okay?" Iris asked as we switched the subject to my own work.
"Everyone is alive." I answered and Iris cringed slightly since I didn't say everyone was okay. "It was quite the scene to walk into."
"You were at the crime scene?" Iris asked, leaning in so that no one would overhear us. I wondered if I should continue. I knew this was confidential information, but the way Iris's eyes gleamed, I knew I could trust her.
"Raine is good friends with the family." I explained and Iris nodded, her silence enough for me to continue. "Some extremist saw the Burkes going to visit their grandma and demanded to know why they were there. When they didn't answer, he attacked."
"Oh bloody hell!" She gasped, covering her mouth with her hand in shock.
"I'm sure your paper will be covering the large case, but we will be prosecuting the attacker fully to make an example out of him." I continued and Iris nodded along.
"Wonder who will be covering that. That'll be huge." Iris responded and I could hear the bitterness in her voice.
"You could ask to cover it." I suggested and she made a face at me.
"I'd never be allowed to with it being so big. I apparently haven't proven myself enough lately." Iris quoted what her boss said during her performance review with a roll of her eyes.
"You could write an article about our sordid love affair. Potter fanatics would just eat that up." I teased and she grinned, squeezing my hand across the table.
"I'm hoping to catch something big soon or I might not have a job for long." Iris mumbled, biting down hard on her lip as she said this. It was my turn to give her hand a reassuring squeeze. The waiter put our food down, but neither of us touched it, our eyes locked. I felt my stomach stir like I was a teenage girl and though no one could tell, it was an embarrassing feeling. Iris made me feel things I didn't think were possible.
"If James does anything moronic, you'll be the first to know. Throw that article at your boss and he'll definitely get off of your back." I smiled at her, getting a small grin in return.
"As much as a Potter story would get my boss off my back, I think I'll have to find something better." Iris pulled her hand away, looking down at her food to end our conversation.
"I'll keep my eye out for you." I said with a grin, trying to lighten the mood as I began on my own dinner.
"Potter. Nott. My office." I looked up and saw Stanley already turning towards his office, expecting us to follow behind him.
I looked at Raine with a confused expression. She shrugged lamely, pushing herself out of her chair and dragging her feet out into the corridor and down towards Stanley's office. I had been standing over Raine's shoulder as we looked at a few photographs of items that had gone missing from a local shop that we were investigating. I followed her towards Stanley's office. It couldn't be a good conversation he wanted to have. We hadn't even crossed his path since Saturday when Dad had interrupted the argument we had with Stanley.
Was he going to fire us? Surely he wouldn't do that, right?
I remembered how angry he looked when he walked away from the Burkes' home. I swallowed loudly as I approached the open door to the Head of the Auror's office.
"It has been requested that the two of you escort the Burks family home from St. Mungo's." Stanley said dryly from behind his desk. It was obviously not his request and he seemed to have put up a fight to this, but had lost.
"They're being released from St. Mungo's?" I asked. Based on what Raine said a few days ago, Ophelia Burke was not doing too well.
"Yes and there are a lot of people who want to make sure they are fully protected. This case is going to get a lot of press once Lycan is released and we cannot risk the Burke family getting attacked any further." It didn't even sound like Stanley believed his own words. It was like he was repeating what was told to him to say.
"We will go get them and stay for a few hours to make sure they get settled in." Raine reassured Stanley. Honestly, I think she was more excited about getting out of the office than escorting someone from the hospital to their home. She had looked ready to fall asleep when Stanley had entered her cube.
"Nott?" Stanley said, grabbing Raine's attention. "I expect this to go without a hitch, hmm?"
"Of course." She said between gritted teeth. He gave her one nod and we both left his office.
"To St. Mungo's?" I asked, trying to ignore Raine's clenched fists at her side.
"It was your father that requested us." Raine said and I knew it wasn't a question. She knew just as well as I did that Stanley would never assign us to do this.
"He's impressed by you." I told her to try to curb the pity she might be feeling my father was giving her.
"Or by you." Raine said, beginning to walk away. I stood there for a moment, contemplating her words before I had to jog to catch up to her.
"How do you feel about a wheelchair, Mrs. Burke?" I asked, holding onto the arms of the metal wheelchair as Ophelia Burke slowly pushed herself out of the bed she was lying in. The room was packed with Burke members hoping to be able to hold up a united front with the inevitable press attention.
For an elderly woman who had just gotten attacked, she sure did clean up well. She was at least in her 80s, but she was wearing marvelous, expensive clothing and her cloak looked like it was made of silk.
"I may be old, Potter, but I'm not handicapped!" She growled at me, staring coldly at the wheelchair in front of me. I glanced at Raine. It was her idea for the wheelchair.
"Ophelia." Raine scolded. Baffle Burke, Ophelia's only son, chuckled under his breath. He was sickly pale and the age spots covering his face did the bloke no favors. "It was my suggestion for the wheelchair. We need to be able to get out of here fast."
"Are you trying to tell me that I'm slow, Raine Nott?" Ophelia asked in a warning tone.
"Ophelia, just get in the wheelchair." Baffle's wife, Catherine, whined, pulling at her fur shawl.
"You don't tell me what to do, Catherine!" Ophelia shouted towards her daughter-in-law.
I stood watching as every single Burke member started shouting at one another. I even think Ophelia's 7 year old great-great granddaughter was shouting profanities in someone's direction. Raine didn't look at all surprised by what was occurring. In fact, she was now leaning against the wall with a dull expression on her face. I weaved my way past Baffle, who was telling his daughter to sod off, and stood next to Raine, watching the chaos.
"What do we do?" I asked her. Raine rolled her eyes, pushing herself off the wall.
"Well, we don't do anything unless someone throws a curse I suppose." Raine said dryly. I couldn't tell if she was being seriou
s or not.
"But we have to get them home, don't we?" I asked, hoping to get Raine moving. She knew these people. She'd have a better idea as to what to do. And what if someone did throw a curse? Would this whole thing just start over again?
"OI!" Raine suddenly shouted, causing me to jump. The Burkes all turned their attention to her, the bickering coming to a sudden halt. "Ophelia, you are getting in the bloody wheelchair or you can walk out on your own and be bombarded by the press without our protection. Catherine, if you want to help, you can teach your grandchildren some bloody manners. What kind of 7 year old knows that many vulgar words? If you lot want our help, you are going to pretend to be a poised, mannered pureblood family. There are millions of eyes on you all right now and one slip up and you will be crushed before you can say muggle."
There was silence that followed her words. None of the Burkes moved for a moment.
Then suddenly, Ophelia grunted and moved forward, plopping down on the wheelchair.
"You heard the bint. Get moving, Burkes." She growled at the room. They all moved together, linking arms, face as hard as stones. The 7 year old even nudged me out of the way to push Ophelia in her wheelchair.
Raine took the front, leading the family out confidently. I watched Raine as she marched down the hall, her head raised high. Was this her natural environment, being around so many purebloods? I took up the rear, making sure everyone got out of the room. The hall was completely empty as we continued forward slowly. No one wanted to be around. I couldn't blame them. With all of the attention this was getting, I don't think people knew exactly what to do or whose side to take. We all squeezed into the over-sized lift, completely silent.
I looked over to Raine who was at the front of the lift, waiting patiently as the floors ticked by. Her jaw was clenched and her eyes were narrowed on the door in determination. I couldn't help but admire her. Her strong features were prominent, yet ever so gentle. She could be incredibly intimidating and I could honestly say I was afraid of her, yet you couldn't help but be drawn to her for some reason. For a cold, seemingly heartless woman, she had that sort of pull on people.
"Don't say a single word." Raine warned the group, who stayed silent under her words. The lift dinged, signaling we had made it to the lobby.
As the lift slowly opened, it was like all hell broke loose. If I didn't know it was camera's flashing, I would have assumed we were just attacked and bombarded with bright curses. The chatter that had obviously been happening before we arrived turned into literal shouting as reporters tried to get their voices heard over one another. Raine's shoulders tensed as she didn't move out of the lift. I debated closing the doors and returning to the floor we were just on and waiting this whole thing out.
But then Raine moved forward, pushing rather violently past the reporters who were shoving quills and cameras in her face. The Burkes followed behind Raine, all but climbing onto her back. They looked as though they would have followed her off a cliff if she would have walked off of one. I placed one arm on Bartholomew's shoulder who was in front of me, guiding him forward with the group as I did my best to ignore the reporters shouting towards me.
"A Potter with the Burkes?"
"Albus! Aren't you worried about your family's reputation being ruined by you being with the Burkes?"
"Potter, are you Team Burkes or Team Lycan?"
"What's it like to have Raine Nott as a partner?"
I gritted my teeth, pushing past a particularly strong reporter who had strong armed his way in between Bartholomew and Catherine, effectively separating Bartholomew and myself from the rest of the group.
"No comment." I growled at the reporter, my grip on Bartholomew's shoulder tightening. I saw him wince slightly, but he didn't make a noise.
"Potter, over here!"
"Is your father finally proud of you for following in his footsteps?"
"Do the Potters realize how they are tarnishing their reputation?"
I suddenly felt extremely overwhelmed. While I was used to press, I wasn't used to this many. I wasn't used to being surrounded and unable to move. It was like my body locked up and Bartholomew's eyes on me, wondering what we were going to do, definitely weren't helping. I swallowed the lump forming in my throat, blindly looking around for some sign of where the rest of the group had gone, but there was no sign of them. It was like the reporters had smelled my blood and had flocked right on over.
"I said no comment." I tried, but my voice was small in comparison to the voices around me.
"Potter-" Bartholomew's voice came to my ears, but the flashing of the lights was so bright that I couldn't even see him anymore. My heart began to pound loudly in my chest, filling my ears with the sound, drowning out the shouting of questions. I felt my head spinning. Was I seriously going to pass out in front of all of these people?
I felt myself being yanked forward as the corners of my eyes began to flood with darkness. I felt bodies crashing into me. I didn't have control of my body as someone pulled me forward. The darkness started to disappear from my eyesight, but I could still hear my heart through my ears. Then just as suddenly as the journalists had appeared, they were gone and we were in a private apparation room, the dull grey walls having a weirdly calming effect on me.
I blinked a few times and Raine was standing in front of me, her eyes narrowed into a dark glare. I swallowed under her stare and looked behind her to see the Burkes staring at me with disappointment. I suddenly felt extremely small under their stares. I felt incompetent. Maybe I wasn't made out to be an Auror after all.
But when Ophelia has the audacity to scoff at me, something in me snapped. Maybe it was because Raine always underestimated me and not the Burkes did too. Maybe it was because I was just so tired of being underestimated and looked down upon.
"I didn't need you to rescue me, Nott." I growled at Raine. She did a double take of me and pure shock took over every bit of her face. I didn't snap at people and I especially didn't snap at Raine Nott.
"You obviously did, Potter. You were ready to pass out." Raine said easily back once she regained her composure. I felt my face flush in embarrassment because her statement was true. Not that I would let her know that.
"I had it handled." I squared my shoulders, trying to look more confident than I felt. Raine's arms crossed. I wonder how many times she had been confronted like this. I saw her jaw clench and I swear my legs were shaking in fear.
"Did you? So if I wouldn't have dragged you out of there, you are honestly trying to tell me you wouldn't have fainted?" She was rubbing the dirt in deeper to my wounds. "You're not as assertive as you may think, Potter."
"I am." I countered pathetically. Raine raised an eyebrow at me with a small smirk.
"Prove it." She challenged.
"I'm tired." One of the grandchildren whined, snapping Raine and I out of our argument.
"Let's get you lot home." Raine said, shooting me one last glare that made me realize this argument was definitely not over.
Author's Note: ARGH AND WE FINALLY HAD RAINE AND ALBUS GETTING ALONG! I just had to go and ruin it, didn't I?
Thoughts on the impending war? Is Albus going to be able to fight or will be crumble under the pressure, especially if he can't even handle the press? Will Albus and Iris work out or does she have some sort of hidden agenda that we don't know about?
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