Describing my life is like describing a stuck record in a player, listening to the same two seconds repeat and skip over and over again.
It started perfectly. Perfect family, perfect house, perfect friends and a perfect duck - which obviously became named Horace the Great and waddled after me for three years, quacking its beautiful little beak off, until his untimely death during the hard winter of 1977.
Life was truly perfect.
So, as perfect life goes in a magical family, I sat for three months at the breakfast table, eating waffles, pancakes, scones, cereal, toast and other savoury delights whilst watching the cyan sky for any sign of the family owl, Edgar, and that perfect wax sealed envelope as soon as I turned eleven.
Late August dragged into September, and I still sat at the breakfast table, counting the notches in the worn oak, glancing up at the endless blue at every opportunity, my heart heavy with dread and self loathing. Why hadn’t it come? And, on the first of September, as the first amber leaves began to wilt and crumble from their faded summer branches, the sky was still empty and my parents finally turned to me, after folding down their Daily Prophets with inky fingers and said, “Honey, I don’t think it’s coming.”
The self pity I felt, was indescribable. No letter from Hogwarts? How was that possible? Our family was pure blood, and always had been, for generations and generations. Why hadn’t they accepted me? Was there no room there for me? Was I not good enough? Sure, I hadn’t made things move when I was angry or break things when I was super elated, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t a witch, did it?
Apparently it did.
And therefore, I became the first Squib in the Clarke family. Lexie Clarke, basic outsider and disappointment to all magical beings albeit goblins, giants, nifflers and the Giant Squid, who I had come to love so much, but who I sadly had never met, and never would.
So, you’re screaming, I can tell, ‘What happens if you’re a Squib?’ Well, you cry, a lot. Then you pull yourself together, enrol in the nearest secondary school and live a delicately normal life. You curl up into a tight ball during Wizarding holidays, trying to ignore the continuous comments about Hogwarts and its lessons, punishments and magic – but it never works. The words seep into you like water in sponge, and you soak the information faster than Moaning Myrtle could explode the nearest cistern and completely drench you in sewage.
I could smell the Amortentia, taste the pumpkin pasties and even hear the crow like voice of Madam Pince, the eagle-eyed librarian as I sat in exam halls. I fell asleep, dreaming of echoic corridors and draughty dungeons. I listened to Physics teachers talk, but heard translations in Ancient Runes. I wrote down ingredients in Home Economics, only to read it back and see the words ‘wormwood,’ ‘asphodel’ and ‘valerian roots.’
My body yearned for magic; particularly for Hogwarts. But I never saw the towering turrets or embarked on the scarlet steam engine. Hogwarts was an alien world to someone like me – I would have never gotten on well there.
I left school with good grades, but I still felt empty – somehow lacking any enthusiasm to get out and do good for the world. Become an activist? No. Become a midwife? Hell no. All I wanted to do was pick up a magic wand and work where every other wizard and witch my age would be working after school. The Ministry of Magic.
After the death of my father in late spring, my mother took on his role of Editor in Chief of the Daily Prophet, her life long ambition. She had connections everywhere, all of whom knew of my status and my unfortunate lack of magical achievement. They pitied me as they knew what it was like to want to feel more than ordinary or average.
The sympathy gave me a position as a receptionist in the Sports department at the Ministry. Kyle Newton was a kindly old man, who ran his department as he ran the Holyhead Harpies over forty years ago. He was strict, yet kind. Humorous, yet serious. He was a fantastic boss.
Mr Newton came to dinner multiple times over the summer, a thank you from my mother really. Mr Newton, I learnt, was widowed and lived alone. He welcomed the home made meals with great enthusiasm, and awaited my arrival at the Ministry with great happiness. And I couldn’t have been happier.
So, September came and I flooed to the Ministry with instructions from my mother. Mr Newton met me in the Entrance Hall and walked me to the great, golden elevators. He explained the inter-Ministry memos, each department and even introduced me to some important figures that happened to bump into us in the elevator. At level five, we stepped out and walked into a large room, complete with offices and small cubicles. At the front of all of this was a grand mahogany desk, laden with office supplies and magical trinkets to decrease the amount of work I would have to do without any magical knowledge.
“Take a seat, Miss Clarke. Get comfortable. And welcome to your new home.” He said, smiling and walking away through a grand oak door at the end of the office. From that moment on, I saw him three times a day - welcoming him in the morning, glancing at him return after his lunch hour and waving goodbye to him as he left the office at four fifty nine on the dot every day.
Other than that, I was free to work as I pleased. There was a certain presence about me, as if people knew I was a squib, that I didn’t know magic or own a wand. But, I came to realise, that nobody knew I was a Squib – everyone was just overly friendly to new workers and enjoyed having conversations with different people. Delivery men smiled at me, as they would to any normal person. Secretaries from other aspects of the Ministry stopped to chat, delving themselves into talking about their ‘horror of a boss’ or the ‘most annoying man to ever walk the earth’ that worked with them. This was mostly from the Auror Department, I reflected.
“That James Potter! Smarmy git! Can do everything without one single fuck up!” Jess would moan, leant against my desk during lunch. She was tall and leggy, with dark hair and a lot of dark eye makeup. And this James Potter was her greatest rival in the Auror Programme. “Who does he think he is?”
“Urm, good?” I added, smiling at her resistance to like the poor boy.
“He’s funny, yes, but so self interested!” she said, puffing on a cigarette she had conjured from nowhere and lit easily with the tip of her wand. I was beyond jealous, to be fair.
“Ignore him, Jess. I’m sure you’re just as good as him.” I said, bitter now and pissed off at her constant moaning. I grabbed a stapler and pulled two invoices for new brooms together. A collision on Hogwarts grounds had caused them to revoke more brooms from the Ministry seeing as the enchantments upon them had now indefinitely worn off. Brooms didn’t last forever – not that I knew that until I came here.
“Yeah, well… Oh, hello!” she said quietly, taking her cigarette from her mouth and leaning her hand over the desk, bending back slightly as she watched a tall, grey eyed figure walk past her into one of the closest office cubicles. He didn’t acknowledge her, though she moved around, checking her bust quickly as he sat down at his desk and began rifling through the documents on his messy desk.
“Who is that?!” she whispered loudly at me, her fag ash landing in a heap into the centre of my invoices. Great. Now I’d have to do them again. “Oops, sorry,” she said, brushing the ash away with her wand, leaving them looking as good as new. “You could have done that, you know. No need to look so sour and put out.”
Yeah, I wish I could do that. “Yeah, haha, I guess I just had a mental relapse then.” I lied, hastily filing away the papers and taking a long drink from my lukewarm cup of tea.
“Of course, of course,” she said, brushing away the remark. She leaned over again, her blue eyes wide with delight. “So, who is he?”
I looked over towards the man she had been asking about. He had longish dark hair that he ruffled a lot, hence its messy appearance. Although it was also well cared for – it gleamed like a model’s hair on a Muggle television advert for shampoo would. His eyes were a dark grey, kind of metallic and silvery when he looked up in the fluorescent light. He was handsome; there was no doubt about it. Why hadn’t I noticed him before?
“How should I know? You know I’m always swamped with work here,” I said, taking another sneaky glance at the Adonis.
“Mind if I introduce myself?” she asked, smoothing down her pencil skirt hastily and stubbing out her cigarette in my final dregs of tea.
“Why would I care…” I started, but she’d already lolloped over to him, perching easily against his desk. She was laughing at something he said, but he looked highly uncomfortable. He picked up a quill and span it in his fingers. He had nice hands, I noticed. What? Stop! Focus. Brooms. Incidents…
“Oh, you’re so funny!” Jess chirruped from across the way. The guy just looked at her, kind of put out. Whatever. Not like I liked him or anything, so whatever.
I moved away to make myself another brew, why not? The kitchenette was small and empty. The kettle boiled in seconds, a fantastic upside to working in a magical environment – everything was ready so much quicker. The glorious tea was made in mere minutes, so I sneaked out a packet of chocolate covered biscuits too – why not?
Manoeuvring my way out of the small room, I walked towards my desk to continue work, only to be taken aback to see a strapping figure leant against it, his arms rippled with muscles from athleticism, obviously. I swear my inner blonde suddenly took over. Strut it said. No, I replied, flicking my golden, curly locks out of my face and settling myself into my swivelling chair, ignoring the stranger’s eyes.
“Hello,” a deep voice said. I looked up into a pair of grey eyes, of course, who else?
“Hello, may I help you?” I asked professionally, pulling my top up slightly as I was probably all cleavage right now.
“Maybe, you are the receptionist for the Sports department, yes?” he asked, smiling at me. It was pretty dazzling.
“Urrrr – yes, I am. I’m Lexie Clarke.” I said, holding out my hand to him. He shook it, with a lovely firm grip. My whole body shuddered involuntarily.
“That’s what I was hoping, that you’d have such a lovely name.” he said, still smiling at me.
“Um, thank you?” I said, setting down my mug and turning to face him.
“It’s certainly a compliment, love.” He said, laughing slightly.
“Then thank you, very much.” I said, smiling. I couldn’t help myself!
“Anyway, the reason I’m here is that I’m out of ink, could I borrow some of yours?”
“Can’t you magic some for yourself?” I asked sceptically, glancing at the wand positioned in his pocket.
“But if I did that, then I wouldn’t have an excuse to come and talk to you, would I?” he drawled, winking at me.
I swear my whole heart got caught in my throat. “I guess not.” I stammered, grabbing my whole ink pot and handing it to him. “Here.” I said, not realising at the time that now I wouldn’t have any ink – but did that even matter?
“Thank you. I’m the new guy, by the way.” He said, pointing a thumb to his chest.
“For this department?” I asked, feigning surprise.
“My cubicle is right across there,” he said, pointing at the cubicle that Jess had been flirting outrageously in, just minutes ago.
“Oh! Well, welcome.” I said, gesturing towards the whole department, as if it was a combined welcome.
“Cheers. I’m doing Quidditch reports. It’s so weird; I was always more of a practical kind of guy – not a theoretical one. You know?” he sighed, rubbing his head as if he’d said something wrong.
“Of course, I wasn’t expecting to do office work either. But you learn to love it.” I promised, giving him a small smile.
“How long have you been here?” he scoffed.
“Three weeks.” I said quietly, laughing at myself. I guess it did sound kind of absurd.
“You obviously speak from experience,” he winked, then laughed at me. I could feel my whole body relaxing at his laughter.
“Oh ha ha, at least I’m not the new girl anymore.” I added, proudly.
“What are you insinuating?” he said, clutching his chest dramatically.
“Stop it! Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?” I asked, glancing at the suited men walking back to their offices. Lunch was over.
“Oh, yes, yes of course! But here’s me thinking if I waited around long enough you’d at least offer me a biscuit.” He sniffed, looking at the unopened packet. I hastily ripped open the cellophane and poured them onto a plate.
“Oh, would you…?”
“No, Lexie, I’m just flirting with you.” He sighed, looking at me incredulously. Why am I so damn ignorant of this kind of contact?!
“Y-you are?” I stuttered. Wizards actually liked me? Even though I was… Different?
“Of course. Pretty girl like you? It’s a wonder you haven’t been snapped up by any of the other guys around here!” he whispered, glaring at a tall blonde guy who had smiled at me as he walked past. “See what I mean?”
“I’m urrrm – not their type?” That was saying something.
“We’ll see about that.” He said, swiping a biscuit and walking away, still looking at me as he walked backwards. He didn’t even bump into anything! It was miraculous.
“Hey, wait!” I called to him. “What’s your name anyway?”
“Sirius. Sirius Black.” He said, tipping an invisible hat to me. I giggled. Oh god damn, like a wretched fan girl!
“Well, Sirius, you’d better keep an eye out…” I smiled. Then, without warning, Mr Newton turned into the office, walking right through our conversation. “Cos if I see you slacking again, it’ll be your job on the line!”
Sirius looked at me and smiled as Mr Newton walked by without even raising an eyebrow. Was this the norm for such a place? I know Sports was definitely more laid back than Misuse of Muggle Artefacts, but this was just…
“Nice try, Clarke. How about we settle this over dinner sometime?” he mused, setting his ink down on his desk and then crossing his arms, watching me for an answer.
“How about you actually do some work?” I grumbled.
“How about you say yes first?” he winked. He wasn’t going to give up.
“We’ll see.” I said, trying to hide the small smile that had crept up on my face. Traitor.
“Is that a yes?” he asked loudly, causing many to turn and look at us from behind their documents.
“That’s a we’ll see.” I hissed, shrinking in my chair from sheer embarrassment.
“Hard to get, eh? I can deal with that!” he smiled, leaning back in his chair.
“Nope, just not interested.” I lied. Oh, such a damn lie!
“Of course, that’s why you’re so red.” He said, indicating my apple red cheeks.
Smooth, Lexie, smooth.
“You’re a travesty, Black!” I cried, patting my flushed cheeks continuously.
“And you’re a natural wonder, Clarke!” he smirked, still watching me in awe.
“Go back to work!” I moaned, putting my hands over my ears.
“Come to dinner with me!” he shouted. The whole office seemed to slide into mute. Everyone was so listening.
“Okay!” I yelled, grabbing my cold cup of tea and moving back towards the kitchenette. Now I’d need another one.
“Okay?” he called back, obviously bemused from his luck.
“Okay!” I shouted, running into the small kitchen and slamming the door.
He ran his hands through his hair and looked down at his desk, muttering happily to himself. “Okay.”