Chapter 1 : Time Will Tell
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Time Will Tell
It was one of those days.
It was one of those days which made her almost give up, but then not, and made her curse mentally in abundance. So when it came down to leaving, it took Cho only a few minutes to hurriedly pack everything into the shelves in her desk. A disorganized array of quills and parchment went clattering to the floor, and Cho, muttering tiredly under her breath, swatted at the mess before giving up and heading for the door.
“Leaving already?” came the voice of Genevieve Bell, two desks down. The blonde girl gave Cho a familiar smile as Cho grabbed her bag off the chair she’d slung it in.
“I’m afraid so, Gen. Finished my share of the paperwork for now.”
With that, Cho gave Genevieve a small wave and Apparated out of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, leaving it behind her in the spring sunshine.
Padma Patil had barely noticed that lunchtime was impending until the office began rustling as it did around noon.
“Padma, you’re not leaving?”
“I will in a minute,” Padma called out. She gave the map that she had been perusing an angry stare, jabbed it with her wand, before looking up to see half of the office trooping out in small groups, laughing in one familiar mess of people. Anthony Goldstein and Fanny Folwell both gave her pitying looks as she tossed down the map and reached for her purse.
“Still have a lot of work left to do?” asked Fanny.
“Yes,” said Padma irritably, “don’t you?”
“Fanny here got her report on Yemen done in time,” said Anthony, grinning as he ushered them out of the small rooms of the Department of International Affairs into a large marble floor that held the elevators beyond.
“Oh, hush, Anthony,” said Fanny, blushing. “Why? How’s the stuff on Qatar going?”
“It’s a nightmare,” said Padma gloomily, “a complete nightmare. Missing all kinds of information. I’m just making it up as I go along and hoping it works out, honestly.”
Fanny gave her a sympathetic smile and squeezed Anthony’s hand. They bade her farewell and made for an elevator. Padma stood alone, watching them enter an elevator, feeling blank and exhausted.
But she thought of lunch, which meant April Tuesdays and cloudy cobblestone and a café only her friends knew of. She thought of gossip and food and forgetting there was anything in the world as horribly boring as work.
It was a cheering thought.
With that, she sighed, smiled, and walked out of the hall.
Hannah Abbott had just finished arranging all the glasses in a neat pile when she heard a kindly voice behind her say, “Alright, that’s enough. Get going now, Hannah.”
“Did I scare you?”
“A bit,” said Hannah timidly, pushing her hair out of her face.
Susan grinned. “Your shift’s over. Go eat something. You’ve barely eaten these last few days and Mr. Abbott’ll kill me if I don’t make sure you get lunch today.”
“Thank Uncle Tom for me,” murmured Hannah under her breath as she untied the apron around her waist and folded it neatly on the hook. She took quick, eager steps out of the premise of the Leaky Cauldron. As soon as she swung the heavy glass door open, a swallow of cold wind enveloped her, relieving her body of the aches of the day.
The sky was brimming with clouds and the trees were green in the ways only spring could make them. Past her, Diagon Alley was relatively empty, scattered only with a few people idling about on street corners.
Today had been nearly a disaster, yet again. But for now, there were friends and talking and relief.
Cho sat, uncomfortably aware of the midday chill. Around her, the street was nearly empty, save for the scattered shoppers perched around the alley.
It was spring. Around her, trees were deciding whether or not to bloom and the sun was parting easily with its light, but not with its heat. The chair beneath her creaked and wind blew into her face.
“Today’s been difficult,” Cho said, thinking of the large stack of parchment still left to fill out.
Hannah picked at the remnants of food on her plate. “Why does everything have to be so difficult?”
It was one of those days. It was a Tuesday which fell easily into all the other Tuesdays of her mind and it was made of speckled sunshine and too much too fast and of all the words she could’ve said, but didn’t. It began with the clear sky and ended with the heat that was not here yet. The days melded together with a kind of easy monotony that only she could appreciate in its fullest.
“Spare me, Cho.” Padma sighed and resumed pulling at her freshly lacquered nails. “At least you don’t have to work for that cow.”
“Mrs. Marchbanks, you mean?”
“Who else? D’you know what she made me do today? She made me clean out her old office! It was a complete nightmare! There was at least a century’s worth of papers in there – and then she made me handle the issue with Qatar—when she knows that it’s not under my jurisdiction at all!” She shuddered. “I’m her assistant, not her bloody maid! She ought to be hauled off to St. Mungo’s before she works another assistant to death or depression. Old bat.”
“Which assistant number are you again?”
“I’m her twenty-fifth, as you very well know!”
“You are applying for a transfer, right?”
“My day’s been bad too,” Hannah said glumly, her features falling. “I spilled pumpkin juice all over some customer. I had to clean it up off of him.”
Cho raised her eyebrows. “Again? Really?”
“Uncle Tom wasn’t too pleased, but it was an accident!” Hannah waved her fork glumly and promptly dropped it onto the cobblestone beneath. She reemerged, blushing fiercely. “Well, I also heard from Alicia that Percy Weasley’s dating that new girl in the Obliviator office.”
“Aubrey or something?” Cho leaned forward. “She’s dating him? She’s got eyes, hasn’t she?”
“It’s Audrey, I think, and don’t be mean, Cho!”
“It isn’t being mean if you’re being honest,” Padma said. “Besides, it’s Percy Weasley and it’s only between us, so who cares?” She suddenly turned to Cho. “And speaking of Weasleys - hey – did you hear?”
“Well, I’m glad you’re being specific.”
Padma stuck out her tongue. “It’s about Ginny Weasley.”
“Then I definitely don’t want to hear this.”
“Come on, don’t lie! You’re curious!”
“I am not.”
“Padma, leave Cho alone.”
“Fine. You’ll regret it, Cho.”
“I will not. Besides, why would I want to know anything about her anyway?”
“You’re not still holding a grudge against her, are you?” Hannah interjected. Cho rolled her eyes. For all Hannah’s claims of neutrality to such commonplace gossip, she really was intrigued.
“I am not holding a grudge against her. She’s just annoying and I have nothing to do with her. Besides – “ Cho pointed to the morsels of lunch still scattered on her plate – “I’d rather not talk about her when I’m eating.”
A comfortable silence swooped in on them, the clattering of their forks the only sound puncturing it. Small wisps of cloud were now edging near the sun, staining the sunshine that roped onto the cobblestone with shadows. Air blew between them and Cho edged herself closer to the cold metal of her seat. The rosebuds which grew on the wall behind seemed to react and fluttered energetically.
It was the muggle café, made more of mismatched old wood than anything else. It was the old cobblestone alley that began from somewhere and lead to nowhere. It was the rosebuds that grew next to the wooden building. It was the three clouds that lay strewn across a brilliant blue sky.
It was Hannah and Padma, two girls whom she’d barely known two years ago, and who were suddenly, the two girls she sat with on a forgettable Tuesday and whined about her job with.
It was the café, the alley, the rosebuds, the clouds, the two girls, and all the words and laughter that came in between, all meant to be forgotten the next time she sat down here. Hannah dropped her fork again and Padma laughed and Cho watched them, contented.
It was evening and the three lone clouds had grown remarkably quickly. The sky was a mass of light grey. Street lamps flickered weakly in the distance and Cho hurried on.
Soon would come the spring rains which drenched the world in wetness and made the rosebuds unfurl. The pansies outside would again look like small blots of color, splashed on by accident. Trees waved lightly as she passed them, startlingly green In a world of mute color, their tears falling over her feet.
It had been a long day. It had been far too much paperwork and it had come all at once. She rubbed her eyes, blaming everyone but herself for her slowness on the days before.
Three years had passed since she’d taken her job at the Ministry – two since the war had ended and one since she’d moved in with Hannah and Padma. She had closed her eyes only momentarily and three years had passed. She had found a new job, new friends, and a new world.
Somewhere behind her, a bird chirped.
There was something frighteningly beautiful about the years passing. Where would she be next? Who would she be with? Her future was left for time’s telling.
It was, Cho reflected, simply life. It did not come in leaps or bounds or shine through only in kisses or tears. It came in laughter and conversations about things that didn’t really matter and on easy, forgettable Tuesday afternoons.
The street lamps grew nearer and nearer and another bird began chirping. A cloud rumbled faintly. It was silent and in the silence were life’s melodies.
The lovely chapter image above is by ChoS_sista_gurl at The Dark Arts.
Author's Note For those of you who remember this story from April 2010 in its first form, All Over Again has now been rewritten and is completed. Thank you to everyone who supported it the first time around and to new readers, thanks for reading! I hope it was an enjoyable read, even though it is based on minor characters. Please don't forget to review!