“Now, this is the list of businesses, both Magical and Muggle that you currently have operating under each estate. I can give you my recommendation, if you would like, or which ones to sell off, ones to merge, and the ones to keep as is.”
Marigold Simpkins was the kind of witch that made Harry think of Hermione. She was bright, no-nonsense, and had a very nice sense of fashion. It was a combination of magical and muggle. What Harry liked about her was that her offices were smack dab in the middle of London proper. He wouldn’t have to make special trips into Magical Britain, all he needed to do was from his flat, take the tube to the city center, then hop on a bus and he was there in no time at all.
It was currently March, and Harry knew he had put off doing this for too long. But, part of the procrastination was the fact that Harry was in the library studying up on business. He knew he wasn’t going to become an expert, but he had studied every day, and knew enough to understand what Marigold was explaining to him.
“What if I dissolve the parent companies these businesses are operating under and create a single new parent company? I know it will take time to establish and each separate entity under the new company umbrella, but it would make both of our lives much easier. I can have Ragnok help.”
Marigold pursed her lips, and twirled the pen she was holding and appeared to be considering it.
“What would this new company be called? And you would have to have a basic management group, possibly board of directors.”
“I don’t want to make anything public yet. I want to get the new company established first. I already have some property, according to this list, that is just sitting there doing nothing. I want to go look at the building here at Canary Wharf. And I know there are some empty floors here in the Square Mile. I can open those up and make one of them the public face of PP&M Holdings.”
Marigold circled the two properties that Harry mentioned then looked at him with one raised brow.
Harry felt the heat in his face and bit his lip. It was the first thing that popped into his head, but it somehow fit.
“Prongs, Padfoot, and Mooney.” Just saying the nicknames made Harry’s heartache a little for the men he had not gotten to know very well in his life. It brought the old anger up, but Harry knew there was nothing he could do about any of those deaths.
“They stand for the animagus forms of my father and his two best friends.” Harry didn’t want to get into the whole werewolf thing. This was the shortest and best explanation.
“That’s sweet, Harry.”
“Well, I didn’t get the chance to really know any of them well and this seems like a fitting tribute.”
Harry could tell that Marigold didn’t know what to say. He still carried around some guilt for Sirius’ untimely death. He often, late at night, played the What If game with himself, which he knew didn’t accomplish anything, really.
“Then I shall start the paperwork going to get PP&M Holdings legitimized. Are you sure you don’t want your mail owled?”
“No. You can just send by regular mail.”
“You are an odd one Harry Potter, but surprisingly not the oddest client I have. Now, let’s go over these businesses individually.”
Harry had given Marigold a copy of the two ledgers, and they were able to pull all of the public financial records for each business. The ones that Harry was going to keep he would have to go in person with Marigold to get a true accounting.
“I know this might sound strange, but I’m not opposed to those companies that dabble in Dark magic, but I am opposed to any Black magic. I see this chain of ‘New Age’ shops have a lot of dark magic that it dabbles in, those I want to sell. These three clothing lines, they are all very similar, can we merge them? Maybe under one company, but they can keep their individual labels?”
“We can do that, Harry. And I’ll see to the sale of The Third Eye Bookshops.”
“Thank you.” Harry went over everything carefully, telling Marigold which businesses to sell and which to keep. By the time they were done, it was time for tea. Harry invited Marigold, but she gently declined stating that she needed to get home to her family. Harry understood and took the papers he would have to fill out for the new holding company, then left to go back to his flat.
The rest of the evening was spent going over the papers once more, reading some for pleasure and his now accustomed tea by the window watching the evening fall.
The next month was spent getting a staff hired to fill the offices Harry decided would be the headquarters of PP&M Holdings. There was a mix of Wixen and Wixen friendly muggles. Even though he had abruptly left the Weasley’s and had not contacted them since before Christmas, Harry found himself interviewing Bill Weasley, on the recommendation of Ragnok, for the position of Acting President of PP&M.
“Bill…” Harry tried to form the words to try to apologize to Bill for disappearing.
“Harry, you don’t have to explain. Mum can be overbearing, and while she tries her best she often oversteps. You were right, she isn’t your Mum and could never replace Lily Potter. And, I promise, Harry, that I will do my best for you. Fleur has wanted to move closer to the city and she adores Canary Wharf. Plus with this position, we’ll have more opportunities to visit her family in France.”
“So you’ll take the job? Because I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.”
Bill laughed and smiled at Harry.
“Yes, Harry. I will take the job. Besides, I need something to ground me. Our family will be expanding.”
Harry smiled wide and stood to give Bill a hug.
“Congratulations, mate. I’m happy for you two.”
“Thank you. We need to make our own place, away from my Mum.”
Harry was happy for his friend as he sat back down at the desk in the office that would technically be his but occupied by Bill.
“I’m just confused about why you want your updates by mail.”
“I don’t want to scare the other people in my building, Bill. Having owls flying in and out would be odd. I’m trying not to bring attention to myself. I just want to disappear for a while. Please, when you tell your family, don’t mention my name. Just…”
“I get it, Harry. Your secrets are my secrets and if you need me to make a vow on my magic I will. I promise no one in the family will know, and that includes Hermione.”
“Thank you, Bill. I appreciate it. I don’t know how involved I will be, I trust you to do right by me and by the trusts set-up. Like I said before, I don’t really want the spotlight and I know PP&M is going to make waves.”
“Harry, you do what you need to and I will be here taking care of things until you are ready.”
Standing up, signaling the end to the meeting, Harry shook Bill’s hand. He was leaving his family’s legacies in the man’s hands and trusted him. Especially after Bill voluntarily took vows on his magic to protect Harry and to not out him to anyone outside of the two of them. Feeling good that he was leaving things in good hands, Harry left.
Taking time he wandered around the streets of Canary Wharf, stopping for lunch, picking up a few things for his flat, Harry then went back home before it got too late in the evening. He settled into his new routine, wondering if he was just isolating himself too much. He had been out, but he barely interacted with those around him. He knew he presented an air of ‘leave me alone’ without resorting to magic, and for the most part, people give him a wide berth.
Harry was torn, he wanted companionship, but on his terms, not anyone else’s. He just didn’t know how to reach out, or to who. His trust had been broken one too many times and he was finding it hard to reach out. He had read up on social anxiety one day in the library when he was studying up on business. He saw himself in the description, but he didn’t know how to break the cycle that had begun, frankly after the Tri-Wizard Tournament. When he had been isolated over the summer months and even his so-called friends hadn’t spoken with him till he had defied everyone and left his aunt and uncle’s house.
Harry just wanted to be normal, but he didn’t even know what that meant. He had never really been normal for most of his life. Now, here he was out in the world, not even finished school, with no thought on what he wanted to do. Being an Auror had lost its charm after he saw what happened to them during the war. Harry knew he needed to do something with his life, he just didn’t know what.
Laying on his bed and staring up at the ceiling Harry was bored. It was the kind of boredom that had settled deep down inside him. All the excitement of getting all of his affairs in order had kept him going for so long, but now that things had settled down and things he wasn’t directly involved in were moving along, he found he was at a loss of what to do.
“I need to get a job,” Harry thought to himself. “But who is going to give a half-blood, school dropout a chance? Do I give this up and just give-in and work with Bill, learning what to do for my estate?” Harry scoffed at himself and knew he would bore himself to death if he invested his time fully to his businesses. Closing his eyes he knew he needed to leave his flat, which he barely had since May when he had met with and hired Bill. The man was thriving and went at Harry’s holdings with gusto. He knew he had made the right decision, and the monthly updates just reinforced that.
But, back to his present predicament. It was now the middle of June and Harry had barely left to buy himself groceries. When he found out one of the young men on his floor often ran errands for the elderly people on their floor, Harry employed him to get his groceries once a week. Then, the takeaway menus that always filled his mailbox was another excuse to not leave.
Harry was too used to the four walls surrounding him and he knew he needed to change that, and soon. He was also beginning to see his start-up money dwindle away. Forcing himself out of bed Harry stripped, took a shower, changed into a clean set of clothes before making himself leave.
Admitting that the outside world made him nervous was the first step in pushing himself not to hermit away. He wanted to. A part of him really wanted to retreat from the whole world in some small cabin somewhere and only leaving when absolutely necessary. But, even he knew that was no way to live, and that was the point of this whole thing. To learn to live his life on his terms.
Lost in thought, Harry didn’t notice the shop sign the first time he passed, but when he came back around again, there in the window was a help wanted sign. The shop was a kind of antique, second-hand shop, much like the ones he had spent a lot of time in when he had moved to London six-months prior.
Taking a chance, he walked in and was instantly charmed by the place. The low lighting, tan walls, and charming tiled floor gave an overall soothing atmosphere to the place.
“Well, hallo young man.” Harry looked to see the shopkeep sitting behind the counter. He reminded Harry of professors he had seen on the telly in his uncle’s living room.
“Are you looking for anything special?”
“Umm, no. I ah, I saw your help wanted sign in the window.”
“Well, I’d say that was pretty special, wouldn’t you?” The man smiled affably and Harry furrowed his brow. He knew he was acting shy, but he didn’t really know what to say to the man.
“Oh, um I guess so.”
“Come here.” The man beckoned Harry closer. When Harry stood near the counter, the man leaned forward and nodded. “Do you know anything about junk collecting?”
“Hmm. Running a register?”
Harry stammered and he looked around, his hopes slowly deflating.
“No, Sir. I’ve never done that in my life.”
The man stood and motioned for Harry to follow him to the back of the store where there was an office.
“Can you catalogue and inventory things?”
Harry brightened up a little at that. Though it made him think of days working under a hot sun cataloging things that had gotten shoved into the garage at his aunt’s house. But this looked a lot more fun. There were odd bits and bobs that Harry would have a blast looking through.
“Oh, Yes, Sir. I’ve done something like that loads of times.”
“Good, good. Now, last question, but this one is the most important.” The man smiled as he looked at Harry, and though the twinkle in the man’s eyes gave Harry thoughts of Dumbledore, this man not only appeared genuine, but his smile felt genuine as well.
“What is that, Sir?”
“Can you brew a proper pot of tea?”
“Oh,” Harry smiled wide, “Yes, Sir.”
“Kitchen is in the back. Tea service is laid out on the counter. Bring us both a cuppa and we shall talk more.”
Harry watched the man, who had yet to introduce himself, walk away. Harry looked back at the tea service that was waiting and thought that this was probably the strangest interview of his life. Of course, he had no experience with interviews, but surely this wasn’t normal, was it?
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, Harry got down to brewing some tea.
The process was soothing, it had actually become one of Harry’s favorite things to do as of late. He remembered that his tea skills were the only thing his Aunt had ever given him praise on. He had missed being able to do it himself. At the school, and the Burrow, House Elves, or self-brewing pots did the job, which Harry had to admit he hated. There was something special about being able to brew a proper pot of tea, and making it yourself was a small pleasure to Harry.
After the water was at the right temperature in the electric kettle, Harry carefully poured it over the leaves in the strainer that sat right inside the teapot. Once it was full, he closed the lid and let the tea steep.
Harry always knew just exactly when to pull the strainer out that would leave a perfect pot behind. Taking up the tray, that already had lemon wedges, a sugar bowl, and a little pot of milk along with two mugs on it, Harry carefully walked to the counter and set it down. He poured the man’s tea first, then his. He watched as the only thing the shop owner put in his tea was a bit of lemon. Harry preferred nothing.
“It seems, young man, that you can brew a perfect pot.” The man set his cup down and Harry felt the weight of his gaze. “I have been remiss in introducing myself. Name’s Ansel Grimsby, owner, and proprietor of this humble shop.” Ansel held out his hand, and Harry knew the man wanted his name as well.
“Harrison Black.” The two men shook hands, and Harry still felt that heavy gaze on him.
“Hm, good strong name. Names have meaning you know, and the right name on the right person can help you go far in life. I’ve found weak names, even on strong people, are harder to overcome.”
Harry frowned and wondered just what Ansel was talking about.
“You, young man, I suspect are going to go far and do great things.”
Harry grabbed his cup and sipped his tea hoping that Ansel didn’t really mean what he said. Hadn’t he already done great things? Harry was frankly tired of doing great things.
“You know, life has a way of surprising us. Great things don’t always have to mean being put in the spotlight. It could mean having a family and finding your place in life. Don’t look so scared young man. Life, it has a way of working out, no matter where you’ve been or where you’re going, you are exactly where you need to be.”
Harry was trying to think of something to say, but the door opened and the first customers of the day came in. It seemed that Harry had a job.
Harry had quickly learned how to work the old fashioned register that Ansel used, and by mid-day, he was ringing up customers with little issue. Most paid cash and a few wrote checks, which Ansel walked him through the verification. The time between customers was filled with inventory, cleaning, and learning what each alcove was designated for.
When Ansel told him it was time for him to go home, Harry cleaned up the remnants of the tea and cleaned out the cups and pot before he left. Ansel had given him the time to come in the next day, and Harry felt a little thrill. He officially had a job. He would fill out the paperwork when he came in the next morning.
Feeling good that he had overcome his anxiety that day, Harry decided to celebrate by nipping off to what was quickly becoming his favorite pub. He was also beginning to explore the different ales and beers that were on tap. Harry was developing a fondness for the darker stouts.
“Well, hallo love. Haven’t seen your face for a while.” Harry was glad to see that Edie was working at the bar that evening. She was his favorite of the staff.
“Yeah, been busy with some personal things.” Edie placed a pint in front of him, he had told her when he first met her to surprise him and she took that as a challenge.
Harry’s stomach growled, and his face grew hot. He had gotten so caught up working at the shop that he had forgotten to eat.
“I guess that’s your answer,” Harry smiled, but also felt a little exposed.
“Not a problem, love. Do you know what you’re in the mood for?”
“Got any of that hunter’s stew you had before?”
“You are in luck. Jamie made a fresh batch today. I’ll get you a bowl, be back in two seconds.”
Harry thanked Edie and sipped at the pint of ale she had left him. He took a long drink and found he liked it. It wasn’t as thick or bready as a Guinness, but it had a dark, rich flavor with some chocolate notes. A moment later a big bowl of stew and a plate of fresh bread was placed in front of him.
“Ale is good. Some nice chocolate notes.”
“Thought you’d like that.” Edie leaned in and lowered her voice just a bit. “Don’t tell anyone, but Jamie got it from the Colonies.”
Harry laughed and promised not to say anything.
“You’re a good lad.” Edie left him to finish his dinner while she went to take care of her other customers. For the first time since leaving the Burrow, Harry could say that at that moment he was genuinely happy. He had a job, was enjoying a good meal, and had a place to lay his head. Maybe this being on his own thing really was going to be good for him. He would take this life one day at a time, but for now, he liked where he was going.