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The Lonely Hearts Club by Margravine
Chapter 1 : An Ocean Apart
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 19

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Time goes by and people lie and everything goes too fast
- An Ocean Apart, Julie Delphy

With subtlety and finesse, the flame haired woman gave up skulking in the hallway and attempted to stroll into the office as if she wasn’t wearing yesterday’s rumpled clothes and a guilty expression. In under three seconds eyebrows had risen.

“What have you done?” asked a petite Indian woman, barely biting back the ‘this time’ hovering almost tangibly in the air between her desk and the blonde.

“More like who,” muttered a co-worker two desks away, provoking general snickers.

Daphne Greengrass merely smirked and sauntered toward her desk, the cubicle next to Padma’s. Like the two women, one tall and ivory skinned, the other small and dark, the cubicles were a complete contrast, one overflowing with haphazard stacks of paper, the other systematically arranged with colour coded files and neatly stacked in trays.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Daphne informed her questioner, but there was a gleam of mischief in her pale blue eyes. Padma threw a quill at her which she caught easily and tossed back.

“Rank insubordination. I should have you sacked,” warned Padma, assuming an appropriately forbidding expression.

“Oh please, I’m the best reporter you have,” sneered Daphne, slinging herself into her chair and surveying the mountain of paperwork on her desk with distaste.

Padma rose to her feet and pushed her the chair precisely back into place in one fluid movement. She was looking particularly imposing today in dark red robes trimmed with Chantilly lace, her long dark hair swept into an elegant knot rather than curling wildly as usual. As she leaned against Daphne’s desk, her heart shaped face was unusually serious. 

“You couldn’t find the time to Apparate home and change?,” she asked quietly. 

Daphne met her eyes steadily and Padma bit her lip. “Daph, you’re not fooling anyone, love. Do you really want your family to disown you?”  

Daphne shrugged.
“I’m  a big girl. I can take care of myself,” she said lightly. As Padma continued to look concerned, she laughed forcedly. “They won’t disown me, just rant and storm about the shame I am bringing on the family,” she said, beginning to sift through the papers before her. Most of it was banal waffle about the upcoming Weasley- Granger wedding, which Fate’s Fancy had secured exclusive rights to, in large part due to Padma’s consent to run a series of articles on magical creatures rights. A thought struck Daphne and she turned an accusatory eye on her editor.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in therapy?”

In an eyeblink Padma Patil went from stern employer and concerned friend to petulant child.

“I don’t want to go to therapy,” she whined.

“That’s too bad,” her junior editor told her pleasantly. “You’ve  had a trauma inducing accident. You aren’t legally allowed to work until you meet with a therapist – shoo!” Daphne said, making flapping motions with her hands.

“I just needed to talk to Andrea about the interview with Neville Longbottom, rewrite that cover story about mermaids and make sure you were happy to take on the Weasley wedding, and-"

“I’m not happy about it, but I’ll do it anyway. Go, now!” Daphne said sternly, tapping her watch meaningfully. “We’ll be fine without you, you only get in the way and stop us from doing real work anyway,” she teased.

Padma sent her a dark look as she fastened her brilliant purple cloak and jammed her feathered beret on her glossy head. “I want to hear all about your new toy boy when I get back,” she demanded, waiting for a grudging nod before Disapparating.

As the staff of Fate’s Fancy relaxed without the agitating influence of their editor, the woman who had singlehandedly founded the quirky magazine and made it the hugely popular success that it had become was staring timidly at the bright green door of a small white cottage.

“Just open the door, Padma,” called a weary voice from the other side.

Grimacing, Padma gingerly reached out and turned the porcelain handle of the door. It swung open to reveal a smirking face framed by a fall of shining brown hair.

“Professional,” Padma noted dryly as she was pulled inside.

“You’re late,” Susan Bones, M.H said severely, towing Padma down the narrow hall into the study. It was a large, airy room, the stark white walls relieved only by the warm yellow of the fluttering curtains.

“Such a Hufflepuff,” Padma noted as she slid onto one the black leather armchair, crossing her booted ankles primly.

“Please at least pretend we don’t know each other and this is a formal therapy session,” Susan begged, taking out a notebook and sitting on the other armchair.

“I still think it is ridiculous I have to see a therapist,” Padma burst out. “So I was nearly trampled to death by the Manticore, big deal! Journalism is a dangerous job, and it got me the contract with Hermione Granger! I’m a well adjusted woman in her mid twenties, perfectly happy with her life. If Harry Potter can have a megalomaniac evil dark lord in his head for years and not need therapy, why do I have to go through this?”

Susan’s expression turned quizzical. “Actually...”

“No way,” breathed Padma, leaning forward.

“It’s a state secret, I can’t say a word,” Susan said hastily. Fishing out her reading glasses from her purse, she peered at Padma over her notebook.

“So Miss Patil, why are you really so opposed to therapy? Is it because you dislike being made to feel vulnerable? Or are you not used to stopping work long enough to scrutinise your rapidly falling apart life?”

Padma stared at Susan  for a long moment and then began to rummage around in her purple dragonskin handbag for a cigarette.

“Smoking kills!” snapped Susan.

“So does your therapy,” retorted Padma. They remained locked in a battle of wills for a moment, neither willing to be the first to look away, but Padma at last caved, allowing her handbag to slip to the floor.

“I don’t need therapy,” she repeated. “Least of all from someone I’ve known for most of my life!”

Susan pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Would you feel more comfortable with a stranger?” she asked kindly. “Someone who might be fooled by your facade of calm and control?”

“Susan, I swear to Merlin I will throw something at you if you keep up that psychobabble!” threatened Padma.

“Has rage issues,” murmured Susan, adding it to her notes underneath ‘compulsive liar’ and ‘threatened by intimacy’.

“How’s Theodore?” Padma asked, switching tactics abruptly.

“What?” asked Susan blankly,

“Your boyfriend?” Padma prompted with an eyeroll.

“He’s not,” Susan blurted. Padma stopped fiddling with the tassels of the cushions to look up at Susan, who was pale but composed.

“What happened?” Padma asked gently. “I talked to you both only a month ago at Ernie’s engagement party and you were both so happy!”

Susan shrugged, her usually expressive eyes slightly too bright. “We broke up yesterday.”

“What did he do?” Padma demanded. She had never been especially close to the fiery haired Hufflepuff, but fifteen years on acquaintance, coupled with the shared experience of the DA and war bound one together forever.  Theodore Nott was going to die.

“The stupid git.. he was never good enough for you,” Padma said bracingly.

“Oh, he was,” Susan said firmly. “There was nothing wrong in our relationship.. I just thought it would be better to go our seperate ways. . he didn't take it too well."

Padma stared at Susan in confusion. “If there was nothing wrong..” she trailed off delicately.

“We’re too different,” Susan explained. “We're an ocean apart, really. He’s such a Slytherin. . every conversation is a mind game, every joke is about ritual suicide.. and like you said, I’m a Hufflepuff. We don’t like conflict. I thought it was better to make a clean break now, instead of in ten years when we are so emotionally involved we don’t know where one of us begins and the other ends.”

“Oh Susan,” Padma said slowly, shaking her head. “Are you really sure about  this?”

“I’m sure,” Susan said brusquely, blinking furiously. Padma gave her a minute to gather herself together and then regretted it when Susan fired off another question at her.

“Now, what about Roger? How is he?”

It was Padma’s turn to blink. “He’s fine.. I think,” she hedged.

“What do you mean you think? Don’t you know?” pounced Susan.

“To be honest, I don’t see him that much, I work late, he travels all the time for Quidditch,” admitted Padma.

Susan scribbled something else down on her notebook. “Rumour has it he asked you to move in with him,” she probed.

Padma laughed. “Rubbish! And do you have any idea what my mother would do to me if I moved in with a bloke unmarried?”

Susan grinned for a bare instant before reverting to her professional manner.

“How would you feel if he proposed then?” she asked seriously.

“Oh look at that! Time’s up!" Padma said hastily, jumping to her feet. She blew a kiss to Susan and all but sprinted to the doorway, her heels clicking against the polished wooden floorboards.

"There's still another twenty minutes of the session!" objected Susan, following her out determinedly. She stopped in her tracks as she found Padma shaking in silent convulsions of laughter in the hallway.

"Hannah, not again!" moaned Susan, running her hand through her hair in frustration.

Susan's housemate Hannah Abbott flushed red to the roots of her flaxen hair. She was dressed in head to toe black, a muggle trenchcoat tossed over black robes, under which the Doc Martens Hermione Granger had gifted her peeped out. A jaunty black hat was tipped over one eye, and her round face was partially concealed by enormous sunglasses. To top it off, she clutched a crumpled newspaper in one hand and a three pack of Extended Extendable Ears in another.

"Does she do this often?" gasped Padma between giggles.

"I am here, you know," Hannah objected, taking off her sunglasses and hanging up her coat by the door.

"You've been stalking Neville Longbottom again, haven't you?" Susan asked ruefully.

A.N So the last thing I need is another WIP, but this is something I need to write for myself to exorcise various romantic demons! I've decided to make this my entry for llyralen's Mixed Tape Love Story Challenge. Today's song was An Ocean Apart, Julie Delphy. Thankyou to KaityB, TheEmpress, Eridanus, Witnesstoitall and the Mad Hatter for being so excited about this, you really helped me get back into ff!

I own nothing you recognise, but reviews are appreciated if you have the time :)

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