Chapter 3 : SHE'S NOT EVEN JOKING OR ANYTHING
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“Gemma! Gemma! GEMMA!”
“Calm down, I’m coming!”
The voice grew more frantic. “Oh my god, she’s bleeding! I think – oh my god, I think I’ve killed her! I told my mum – I told her – I just can’t be a Healer, but she doesn’t listen to me – “
“Will you please shut up?” Gemma was wiping the hair out of her sweat-soaked forehead.
Three hours to go. Only three more hours and she was free to go home.
Even if home promised nothing more than a warm shower and bed. But, still, anything had to be more promising that the sight of Rhoda Lee beside her, positively quaking with fear.
“I killed her – I – I think I really killed her – “
“Stop being stupid - you didn’t kill her,” said Gemma, through her teeth. Inside her head, it sounded like a snarl, but as she vocalized it, it came out entirely collected.
“Fix her, oh please fix her. I’ve got no idea why she’s bleeding so much…it’s like I’ve stabbed her or something…”
Gemma swatted at the gushing blood wound. It was starting to look a bit like a waterfall. “Rhoda, I think you really did stab her.” She began addressing the wound with stern professionalism. “Or at least, you’ve managed to puncture her pretty well.”
What a complete twit. If only Gemma could puncture her.
But it wouldn’t do to foster such unhealthy fantasies, as desperately wonderful as they might have -
“Did I? Oh my god, I’m going to have my license revoked! My mum’s going to positively murder me!”
Not that it mattered, of course, that Rhoda’d nearly managed to murder someone as well, but such were the workings of St. Mungo’s (when nobody was looking).
Gemma blinked, before looking back down.
She needed a drink. Soon.
Preferably before she started screaming and tearing her hair out.
When Pippa got home to the modest flat (the labeling was courtesy of blank walls, an ugly door, and caveman-esque furniture) she shared with her sister, she encountered Rhoda in a heap on her bed, looking entirely exhausted.
“Bad day at work?” She gave her sister an awkward, one-armed embrace.
“As usual,” said Rhoda glumly. “Nearly killed someone again, and I reckon Gemma Clarke wants to do the same to me.”
“I’m sure she likes you. I’m sure you’re brilliant at what you do.” After a long day of sounding more cheerful than she really was, Pippa had worn out. Even Rhoda could sense it. She gave her a strained smile.
“Thanks for trying.”
Pippa gave her sister a small peck on her cheek and wandered off to shower. When she emerged, the hot water wafting around her in a small cloud, she found her sister sitting in the same contemplative pose (the whole thinking aspect of it looked downright strange on Rhoda, who ought to be sent off to a club or a similar intellectual environment for her own sanity), her eyebrows knit and her lips pursed in thought.
“What is it?”
“Sometimes I feel like Gemma’s my better doppelganger.”
“Like your Fortinbras or something?”
“Never mind,” said Pippa hurriedly.
“She’s so patient with me. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” Rhoda looked up, her kind eyes widening. “I should do something nice for her.”
“We’ve got no money.”
“It doesn’t have to be expensive. I know, I’ll get her lunch at that place you’re always on about!” She clapped her hands together happily, ostensibly satisfied with her plans.
“The Love Lampoon?” asked Pippa, now mopping at her wet hair. “I go there with – “
“She’ll love it, won’t she? Oh, what’s it like?”
“Very pink and very full of women.”
Daphne didn’t forget. After all, decent companionship was so hard to come by.
Well, she had Ursula Urquhart. But Ursula didn’t really count. Everyone had Ursula, one way or another. Even James Potter’d had Ursula (though apparently in a loo and only in the ways that were vomit inducing to Daphne).
And Ursula was so frightfully dim. And everyone else seemed to steer kilometers clear of Daphne.
Obviously, it had to be because she was too good for them.
So, she remembered. And she asked the girl with a wart on her nose from International Relations to look up a Gloria – a Gloria something – and within the day, the letter was on its way.
On it, there were some sentences. Some nicely phrased, witty, introductory sentences, but none that mattered as much to the future of James Potter as the one that read:
Would Thursday be alright for you?
Gloria Atkins said a lot of things that day.
She informed her sister that she would be working late.
She introduced herself to James’s new girlfriend.
She met the new (and fit) bloke from Magical Equipment Control and chatted him up pointlessly during lunch, idly wondering the whole time if James was nearby.
But, most importantly, when she saw Daphne’s letter, she said yes.
Gemma had a bad habit of never being able to say ‘no’.
Not even when she was halfway to Norway positively screeching it inside her head.
Not to Rhoda Lee at least, who, while as incompetent as a toaster, had very big eyes and a very excited voice.
And lunch did sound nice.
(She hadn’t ever been to the Love Lampoon before.)
Josephine Ainsworth was a waitress with an affinity for pink tulips.
There was a variegated array of them over the top of the counter. Big tulips, little buds, but all most definitely pink.
Except for that Thursday of Thursdays, where one of the waitresses accidentally put up a tray of yellow tulips.
And that made all the difference.
Phillippa Lee was a miracle in memory and organization, chirpy bell voice, inability to stop smiling (damned dimples!), and unhealthy repression of anger otherwise set aside.
Gloria, of course, had a thing or two to learn (her defense, as always, was that she was organizedly disorganized.) Gloria didn’t have Pippa’s crazed methodology (“I have a system behind it, I swear! You just can’t see it!”), Daphne’s systematic monarchy (“I planned this ten years ahead of time and it will stay on route!”), Gemma’s mechanical apathy (“I’ve done this at least fifty thousand times before…”) and Josie’s utterly carefree mannerisms (“Fancy some toast for breakfast?” ).
Because, when it came down to it, Gloria double booked.
“I’ll just come some other time,” said Pippa dismissively, looking over a huge pile of parchment; only her cloudy brown eyes were visible. Random pieces of paper were sticking out in an odd manner, but such was Pippa’s government of work. Gloria had the common sense to stop questioning it ages ago.
“She seems really nice, I promise,” said Gloria, still not willing to admit that she’d made a mistake. “You’d like her, I think. Besides, you’ve got like no friends here.”
“You can blame him for that,” said Pippa. Her happy-go-lucky voice turned into a murderous mumble. “You won’t believe what he did today! First, he dumps all this – all this – augh – “ she made a small shriek, then fluttered her hands around the stack of parchment, “ – and then he spent me over to his girlfriend’s flat – ”
“Incidentally, what’s the name of this one?” asked Gloria coolly. “Because I thought her name was Eve something and they both got offended when I called her that.”
“Eve Abbott’s from two weeks ago. This one’s name is Dolores Vaisey, but she calls herself Lolita.”
“You’re a goddess for remembering. I don’t know how you do it.”
“It’s my job to.” This was supplanted by a mutual eye-rolling. “And anyway, she comes in like she thinks she’s a bloody princess or something and begins telling me what to do and how to do my job!” Pippa’s bubbly voice went octaves higher. “And Phyllis, remember, James only eats this kind of cheese, alright? Make sure you remember it when you go get him lunch.”
“Yes! And on top of that, he sent me off to her flat this afternoon to get her something to wear after the ninny spilled juice all over herself!”
“You’re a saint, Pippa,” said Gloria, enjoying herself far more than was proper. It was so much more fun when James’ girlfriends were idiots. He’d had a few decent enough ones, but Gloria was allowed to hate high-strung princesses publicly and garner sympathy from the much affronted masses while doing it. There’d been that one Healer girl in particular that Gloria’d absolutely loathed because she’d been nice and polite and intelligent. There had never been as much of a threat to the social butterflydom that was Gloria Atkins and her nonexistent relationship with “the” James Potter as much as an intelligent girl.
Not that James managed to hang on to them for very long.
No, The Perfect James Potter had to rotate them for his own health. And he found that often times, the intelligent girls were the most irksome. Usually well dressed, with an admirable sense of cosmopolitan foresight, and a distinct inability to go at it in loos, closets, offices, Quidditch changing rooms, and only Merlin knew where else.
Which was probably the reason he hadn’t made a move on her in the six years they’d been in close, close contact. Not one wink like the ones he spared for the salacious bimbos of yesterday.
(It didn’t matter. Really, it didn’t.)
Pippa was surveying her with an odd look. “You awake back there?”
Gloria blinked and emerged out of a nonexistent Quidditch match where an even more nonexistent tryst was taking place. “Huh?”
“You’re not paying attention!” said Pippa indignantly, “I was just telling you about how after I brought her dress, she made me go back and get her a new one because it didn’t match James’s robes or some fodder like that!”
“You poor thing.” Gloria was still blinking. The image was hard to remove…
“I wish I could’ve told her what I really felt! But every time I try, it ends up coming out all wrong! I wanted to tell her that stupidity was corrupting my happiness, but it came out pretty differently.”
Pippa gave a sad squeak. “I told her that she looked nice in her dress.” She deflated in surrender. “But really, she looked like one of those big ugly ice cream cones. She believed me, though, and ended up parading around the whole day in it, so I guess I win in that sense.”
“Some victory that is! So lame!”
“I know, I know, alright?”
“And then she told me this really long story about how she was an ugly duckling and she transformed herself. I really wanted to tell her about the lack of discretion in choosing the nickname ‘Lolita’ but I don’t think she reads.” Pippa gave a pained look at some spectacle in the distance before letting go of the column of parchment entirely. The top of it toppled down around her, bathing her feet in an ocean of paper. She gave a long-suffering moan. “I really, really need a break. Before I try murdering the pair of them.”
“I told you to come for lunch tomorrow!”
“Oh, I don’t know…”
“Oh come on, you can eat your weight in biscuits and lemonade.”
“That does sound nice…” Pippa gave a characteristically Pippa gesture by shrugging. “But what about the other girl? You know I’m not good with strangers, Gloria.”
“She seems nice enough. And anyway, she’s my problem, not yours. You can just focus on the lemonade.”
“Oh, the lemonade.”
“You can eat whatever you want. You can even try eating the other girl if she bugs us too much.” Gloria winked. “But I don’t think she will.”
Gloria was the social butterfly of the century and attracted people to her like moths (everyone, seemingly, other than The Perfect James Potter). Pippa was secretly terrified of people, though she had a polite way of talking and a tendency to agree with everything said (though she often fantasized of Reign of Terror-like beheadings upon the people that aggravated her). Gemma was a hard-worker and beyond the surliness, rather dependable and friendly.
Daphne, however, had the curious problem of being disliked.
Not that she was particularly dislikable, but she was simply disliked by the masses of the office.
Obviously, she was too good for the airheaded fools.
Perhaps it was the lack of a sibling or any extended family members of her own age that had done her in. Or it was her mother’s indulgent egging on of the Pucey family’s sense of pride. Either way, the fact that society had moved on from the glory of the Pucey family to the idiocy of James Potter seemed positively adulterous.
After the joint bi-weekly meeting between the Auror Office and the Magical Law Enforcement Squad, Daphne stomped her way back to her office.
James Potter had, as of today: worn new robes that smelled of freesia, spoken at length on increased crime in Wales that he had been briefed upon during his visit last Sunday (he’d never left his house and Daphne could prove it), had shamelessly expensive leather shoes, and had slicked his hair back.
Curiously enough, his gaze had kept wandering to her general vicinity as he spoke. How entirely irritating to have to look into those cesspools of hazel. Disgusting.
And he had approached her again too, having clearly forgotten her name and with an irritating manner about him that indicated that he had forgotten their previous meeting entirely.
It had gone something like this:
Daphne Pucey, 22, attractive blonde female (and like all women) singularly in the pursuit of a) a glamorous, yet respectable career and b) a glamorous, yet respectable and equally attractive male (basic hygiene, dress sense and social standing required) lingered near the door as Aurors and Magical Law Enforcement Officers filed out of the room. Papers and scowling expressions were abundant.
James had smoothly crept up somewhere behind her. She hadn’t been paying attention.
She jumped slightly at the sudden noise, before turning around to berate the intelligence of the person behind her. Her mouth opened, gaping.
“Did I surprise you?” James Potter was standing in front of her. James Potter. As much of an arse as a man could be without it becoming a terminal illness. Currently in the flavor of supreme prat.
“Uh…” No coherent response was escaping Daphne. As much as she’d spent an hour twice a week loathing the head off the idiot, now that he was actually in front of her, she found that she had no way to vocalize it. “Yes, a bit. I’m fine, though, thanks.”
With that, she turned on her heel and made for the door.
He followed, still flashing his even white teeth at her. His hair was falling into his eyes and -
“What’s your name again? You seem familiar.”
“It’s Daphne.” Her teeth were grinding against each other. “Look, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go now.”
Didn’t this idiot have a girlfriend? Or girlfriends?
“I’ll see you around, then,” he called at her hastily retreating back, before sweeping the hair out of his eyes for the umpteenth time and leaning casually against a wall, ever the perfect, charming, oily git.
At least he hadn’t resorted to what he usually did, which was calling every girl and woman in sight ‘miss’ or ‘madam’. Most of the girls at the Ministry swooned when he did, but Daphne found it particularly idiotic behavior. It was the kind of thing a man would do, alongside bathing in cologne and wearing sunglasses at night.
It was worse that Daphne had absolutely nobody to confide these woes to.
A brief survey of her office brought dismal results. There was Girl With Wart, Girl With Multitude of Warts, Seemingly Perpetually Chattering Woman, Woman Devoid of Fashion Sense, Mannish Woman/Womanish Man (it was hard to tell), Married Man 1, 2, 3, and 4, and Woman Currently Shagging Married Man 3. A few desks away was also a male type creature who had attempted asking out nearly every woman (and the womanish man/mannish woman) in the vicinity, but had been soundly rejected by all.
The best company Daphne had was Seemingly Perpetually Chattering Woman who had occasionally slithered out of her cave, desperately scrounging on any scraps of gossip that anybody could offer. But that in itself was an even more depressing thing to note.
Daphne sighed and thought about her plans for the following afternoon.
She really did need some company.
Thanks for joining the ladies for chapter three as anger and revenge bubbles over! More of them to come in the next chapter as a very important chance meeting takes place, no doubt arranged by the anti-James Potter Gods in heaven. Please don't forget to review and let me know what you thought of this chapter!
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