Opportunity Knocks

Previously on Potter-Less 

By: CJ

The morning of September first, Leah was jolted awake by Al, “MUM! MUM! Today’s the day!”  She blinked, and looked at the clock, six am?  Really?  She sighed, “Al, it only takes us twenty minutes to get to King’s Cross…”

“But what if there’s traffic?  Or the train leaves early?  What if they change the platform and we don’t realize it?”

She exhaled patiently, “The platform never changes, it always departs promptly at nine o’clock, and we’ll leave plenty early if there is traffic.  Go double check you’re packed.”  Not that it was necessary, he’d been packed for a week.

She pulled herself out of bed and peered into the kitchen, flicked her wand to get the pot of coffee going.  Al had served himself a bowl of cereal and was putting the bowl into the sink for cleaning, Leah flicked her wand again to get a couple slices of toast going as she got dressed.  Two buttered slices of toast and a large cup of coffee greeted her at the kitchen table.  The Daily Prophet had been delivered, Al was reading the headlines, still in awe of the moving pictures.  Leah had taken to getting the newspaper to stay informed on the wizarding world, something she hadn’t done in ten years.

“Mum, am I going to be behind the kids who grew up in wizarding world?”

“There’s some words and phrases you might not know, but educationally, you’ll be on the same page.  If you have questions about anything, you can always write me.”

They caught a cab to King’s Cross and arrived with plenty of time.  Leah smirked to herself as Al frantically searched for Platform nine and three quarters.   Leah caught sight of another wizarding family, pulled Al aside and said, “Watch this family.”  She pointed, and they tracked the family all the way to the wall and watched them disappear behind it.

Al’s mouth dropped.  “Ooooooh. I get it…..”

“Ready to try?  I’ll be right behind you.”

Al pushed his cart with vigor, and successfully made it onto the platform with Leah on his heels.  The scarlet engine was just as she remembered and the memory of meeting up with her new friend Lily along with her friend Severus sitting on the train eating pumpkin pasties and other treats watching the English countryside whiz by.

“Mum?”

“Yes, Al.”

“I’m scared.”

He hugged her tight, “You’ll be fine, you’ll make lots of friends in no time.”

He nodded and found his courage again as he boarded the train and found himself a compartment.  He was soon joined by other children his age and watched as they started up a conversation.  She kept watching him, already fitting in.  As the train whistled and started to pull away, Al looked back out the window and waved excitedly at her.  She waved back and turned to leave.

It was a bittersweet moment, she slowly exited the station and wandered in the direction of the pub, stopping only for a second, did she just see a flying car?  She shook her head, no, couldn’t have.

“You’re here early.”  Arnold said gruffly.

“What else am I going to do?”

“Al off to school?”

She nodded, “I don’t know what to do with myself.”

“How ‘bout ‘elping me peel potatoes.”

She nodded and started to peel away.  A couple hours later, she went to the front of house and did all of her opening duties.  The lunch crowd came and went like clockwork.  It was when things died down that Lord Cartwright stepped in.  “Ah, I was hoping to find you here, I’ve kept missing you.”

Leah apologized, “I’m sorry about that my lord.”

“No matter, I have to say, when I finally realized who you were, I must admit I was baffled to find the daughter of the great Major General Rickman working as a barkeep.  Unless you own the place?”

“No sir, just a barkeep.”

He nodded, “Well then, I have a proposal for you.”

“My lord?”  Leah was slightly worried.

Lord Cartwright continued, “I’ve done some checking up on you, you’ve been on your own since your father passed and you have a son.”  Leah nodded, but said nothing.

“The boy’s father, skip out?”

“Not exactly.”

Lord Cartwright pursed his lips, “Well, at any rate, if I remember correctly, you were a bright young lady and picked up on things quickly.”

Leah nodded, “Yeeeesss.”  Still wondering where he was going with this.

He continued, “I’m running for Prime Minister, polls are in my favor, but regardless of winning, I need an assistant.  Someone who can keep track of appointments, run some minor errands for me, and serve coffee to guests that kind of thing.  What do you say?”

Leah was taken aback, a job?  A real job.  “My lord, I… I don’t know what to say? I mean I don’t…”

“Nonsense, the day my campaign manager and I were here, you were a ghost and yet, we ate, our ales were full, and I got the impression you didn’t hear anything we discussed.  You performed perfectly in that regard.  As for the other stuff, you can learn as you go, it doesn’t seem that difficult and my house staff tells me I’m pretty easy going.  Plus, I’d hate to think what your father would say were he around today.”

Leah hesitated, yes, her father had lofty goals for her, even when they found out she was witch, he had started researching magical careers for her once he found a source that would share that information with a muggle.

Lord Cartwright handed her an envelope, “Here are the particulars, think it over.”  He tipped his hat and left.

Leah stood there and stared at the envelope, unopened.  Arnold came out, and simply said, “Take the job.”

“But…?”

“Don’t be daft, that’s a hell of an opportunity.”

“It seems too good to be true.”

“Well if it is, you’ll be welcome back here, but take the job, you’re fired.”

She laughed, “Can I at least finish my shift?”

Arnold glared at her in an all-knowing sort of way, “No, go home, get some rest, I’ll send you your final wages.”  He half-jokingly shoved her out the door.  She made her way to the Underground not wanting to risk being seen apparating in broad daylight.

As she entered her apartment, Mrs. Fisck peered out, “You’re home early, everything OK?”

Leah replied, still in shock, “I think so…”

“Oh, well, let me know if you need some tea.”  Leah nodded and let herself into the apartment.  She finally bucked up the courage to open the envelope.  It contained a full job description, personal assistant, basically act like a human organizer, simple enough.  Draft letters, send correspondence, etc.  She audibly gasped when she read the offer letter, she’d never have to worry about making rent again.

She spent the rest of the evening, wondering if this was such a good idea, only to be distracted by the Evening Prophet which had headlines of a flying Ford Anglia, “Huh,” she thought to herself, “I did see a flying car.”  She shrugged it off and went back to the offer letter.  After a very restless night’s sleep, she called Lord Cartwright the next morning and said, “I accept.”

He bellowed back, “Wonderful!!!!!  Come by the manor this afternoon, so I can show you around and introduce you to everyone.”

Leah hung up the phone and went to her closet, that’s when a slight panic set in.  She didn’t really have anything “smart” to wear.  Her job as a barkeep was very casual.  She had a couple nice outfits for the rare date she went on, but nothing worthy enough to be working for the next potential Prime Minister.  She also wasn’t confident in her magical seamstress skills to create something remembering the disastrous incident involving Al’s pirate costume for a school play.  Fortunately, Al took it all in stride skiving off the ridicule with, “Well, Mum only did as I told her, this is my interpretation of a pirate so bugger off!”  The other mother’s and Leah agreed though, he looked nothing like a pirate.

She finished her coffee and set out to a second-hand shop and found something suitable, though stained.  Back at home it took her minutes to completely refresh the outfit, making it look good as new.  She ate a quick lunch, got dressed, did her hair up, and set out to the address on the letter.

Leah stared at the front door, nervous for some reason.  She took a deep breath to shake off the butterflies and knocked.  A very stiff looking gentleman opened the door, “You must be Ms. Rickman.  Lord Cartwright is expecting you.  This way please.”  He bowed slightly and indicated the direction she should go.  She stepped inside and remembering her youth she paused and waited for someone to offer to take her coat.  The butler then proceeded to lead her into a study, offering her tea, “Yes, please.”

A maid brought in a tray, poured her a cup and left under the supervision of a very stern looking woman, who, was visibly judging Leah from head to toe. She then said, “Lord Cartwright will be with you and few moments.”

Leah nodded politely, “Thank you.”  She sipped her tea and glanced at the planner she had found at another shop that morning.

Ten minutes later, Lord Cartwright and the gentleman Michael Goodrich entered the room with a clamor.  “Michael, Michael, I hear what you’re saying, but I feel the Sussex speaking engagement is essential.  Ah! Leah! Excellent!  Michael you remember Leah.”

Michael looked at her quizzically as she rose, and then, “The young lady from that bar?”

“Yes, yes, Major General Rickman’s daughter.  I’ve decided to take her on as my personal assistant.”

Michael looked at him in confusion, “But sir, don’t I keep your calendar?”

“Yes, and you do a fine job, but when we’re on the road, I can’t have you doing that and fetching me things.  You’re my campaign manager, this is long overdue.  Help her get up to speed while I….”

Michael finished his sentence, “Finish drafting your speech for the longshoremen.”

Lord Cartwright pointed at him jovially, “Exactly.”

Michael led her out of the study, muttering, “Crikey…” and then to her, “I’ve been at him for months to get an assistant. I just thought he’d chose someone from the list of candidates I provided.”

Leah replied, “Someone with more experience rather than as a favor to a man who’s been dead for fifteen years.”

Michael was taken aback by her sharp retort, “Er… yes.  Well at any rate, let me introduce you to the house staff.”

She wrote down every name and what they did. She remembered people better that way.  After an hour and a half, she knew the lay of the house, the names of the staff, and Lord Cartwright’s daily schedule.  Michael led her into the library, “OK, so here’s what I imagine he’s to expect of you.  Mind you, it could change.  When we’re at home, you help me keep track of his appointments, help draft and edit correspondence, keep track of speeches, etc.  Help the house staff with errands, that sort of thing.  When we’re on the road, you’re expected to come with us.  We will take care of all expenses, and based on what you’re wearing, I’ll need to give you a clothing advance.  You will be seen by the public and are expected to look sharp.”  Leah nodded.  “On that note, you are not to speak to the public on Lord Cartwright’s behalf.  That’s my job. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.  You’re first task is to sort through this stack of letters, separating out ‘fan mail’ and letters requiring some sort of political response.”

It was dull at first, but then as Leah read the contents she realized the changes that Lord Cartwright could potentially make, took notes and weeded out the fluff and presented them to Michael when he came knocking a couple hours later.  He reviewed them and spot checked the fluff pile, nodding approvingly.  “Well done, Lord Cartwright wanted to see you before we set you off.”

Leah thanked him and went off to the study, knocking at the slightly ajar door, “Michael said you wanted to see me?”  Lord Cartwright waved her in, “Yes, yes!  Sit down, sit down.”  He turned to her, “So…? First impressions?”

Leah responded, “Well, it’s a lot to take in, but I think I’ll get the hang of it.”

“Michael says you need a clothing advance.  Personally, I don’t care, but public appearances and all… Here you are.”  He handed her a check, Leah went wide eyed, “That’s very generous, sir.”

He scoffed, “It’s nothing, now go home, enjoy your evening and your shopping.”

“Thank you sir.”

He responded, “Save the ‘Sirs’ and ‘My Lords’ for when there’s actually need for them.  Please call me Anthony.”

Leah smiled, “Yes, Anthony, have a good evening.”

“You as well.”

Leah left the house, feeling good about this change in fortune.  She stopped by the bank to deposit the check then stopped at a more respectable store to buy a few more work outfits and a couple pairs of shoes.  The woman was extremely helpful even if she did judge Leah’s appearance at first.  She treated herself to a nice dinner and a bottle of wine to celebrate at home.

Miles was perched on the window sill with the Prophet and a letter from Al.

Mum,

The train ride was incredible!  I’ve found my new favorite candy, chocolate frogs and they hop on their own!  The boat ride across the lake was amazing, and I think I may have seen a giant squid.  I am in awe of everything around me.  There’s a rumor that Harry Potter and his friend Ron flew a car to school!!! Right into a whomping willow, whatever that is.  I got sorted into Ravenclaw, the sorting hat said I had deep roots there and our house passwords are quizzes.  I’m so excited to start classes tomorrow.

Miss you,

Al

She could see in his handwriting how excitedly he was scribbling everything down.  She pulled out a piece of parchment and responded.

Al,

Glad to see you are settling in.  And, we do have Ravenclaw roots, my Grandmother told me when I got my letter we were somehow related to Rowena Ravenclaw, the sorting hat briefly considered putting me there, but thought I was better suited for Gryfindor.  I’m proud of you.

I thought I saw a flying car when I left King’s Cross this morning, that probably didn’t go over well since there were some Muggles that saw it.  Don’t get any bright ideas.

I have a bit of news too.  Arnold let me go yesterday, but only because an old acquaintance of my father’s offered me a better job, to be his personal assistant!  I had my first day today, and I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Good luck on your first day of classes.

Love

Mum

She attached the letter to Miles, and he was off, hooting cheerfully that he actually had some work to do.

Over the next few weeks she continued to get acclimated to her new role.  But like anything in life, she picked up on everything quickly, and to Michael’s surprise, she was up to speed on everything in Lord Cartwright’s personal life as well as the progress of the election.

Alphard wrote to her every week.  He seemed to be equally adept at his studies and was very excited for her new job.  “I think the most fascinating class I have is Potions and will also be the hardest.  The Professor definitely plays favorites with Slytherin house, but he seemed somewhat curious about me, asked about you.  Do you know Professor Snape?”

Leah mused, yes, she did know Severus.  He was always hanging about with her and Lily at least the first few years; very quiet, quite brilliant, but a little off especially once his fellow Slytherins roped him into their little clique.  She remembered James and Sirius always being especially mean to him and Lily always coming to his defense.  Leah did too on occasion, having suffered though a fair amount of bullying herself in primary school.

She went back to Al’s letter; strange things were occurring at school.  Someone graffitied a wall with something about the Chamber of Secrets being opened, and Filch’s cat had been petrified.  Leah found that somewhat concerning.  What was the Chamber of Secrets?  She felt like Sirius has shown her every nook and cranny of Hogwarts, and they definitely never found anything like Al was describing.  He continued on though finishing that their Defense against the Dark Arts professor was a joke.  “Honestly, Mum, Professor Lockhart had the second year Gryfindors rounding up a bunch of pixies he let loose and now we’re stuck listening to him ramble on about his adventures, I’d like to see him take you on in a fight.”

Leah laughed at that last bit.  When going through her old school trunk, they had unearthed her Dueling Club champion medal from her third year.  It took the school nurse three weeks to reverse Kyle Sampson’s hair growth.

As she finished up her reply, she reviewed her schedule for the next day.  Press conference, meet and greet at a local library, tea with a couple Members of Parliament and a private dinner with his wife.  Lord Cartwright lamented, “I have to schedule time with my wife, what does that say about me?”

Leah replied, “Depends, how likely are you to bump her off?”

He scoffed, “Are you insane?! She’d kill me?”

“Then, she’s important enough that she gets any time slot she wants.”

He smiled, “I’m glad you see it that way.  Keep that in mind, please.  My family comes first.”

Leah nodded, “As they should.”

 

To be continued..

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