Chapter 5 : Fight the Blues
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Fight the Blues
Monday brought the week as widely dispersed as sunlight and with it, new sorrows. Sorrow came and went.
Today, its name was Hermione Granger.
She came into the Office of Magical Law Enforcement with that infuriatingly smug expression on her face. Hermione Granger always knew where she was supposed to be. She had the cool, collected air of a professional.
Cho resisted the urge to slap her.
She knew it was a bit childish to dislike her after a whole year apart. But it was a natural instinct. Breathe. Dislike Granger. Hate Weasley. Eat.
But it was the damn smugness that got her every time. Granger knew exactly what to do and everyone absolutely adored her for it. Hermione this, Hermione that. It was sickening, really.
Cho had remained lucky so far. She had had no brushes with the brunette monstrosity and for that, she was grateful. She could not believe she was going to be Hermione Granger’s assistant. She supposed it was too late now to claim to be a Death Eater and be carted off to Azkaban.
She spent the morning sorting through old paperwork. There were still reports of people missing from during the war. Several new files had been added last week – there were new Death Eaters being put on trial, who had feigned Imperiusing after the war’s end. Occasionally, the monotony of work was punctuated by a few light moments like clouds floating by in the light azure sky. When Genevieve had spilled coffee over Granger. When Cho forwarded a few marriage announcements for licensing, smiling faintly at the familiar names. When a poisonous camel escaped from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes and wreaked havoc in the first ten minutes of the day.
Noon came and Cho finally returned to her own desk, her arms sore from the day’s drudgery.
Tom leaned over. “So?”
She tried not to look at him. Tom grinned.
Merlin, that boy really knew too much. She ought to have him shut up before he spilled it all.
Thomas Derwent was eighteen, a fresh graduate of Hogwarts, and his soft features and brown eyes reminded Cho of a loaf of bread.
“How was it with Hermione?”
“I haven’t talked to her much, thank god.”
“Aren’t you being a little – “
“Oh sod off,” came the reply from the other side of the room. Cho turned and saw Genevieve enter, carrying coffee and an armful of folders.
“Thanks, Gen.” Cho gave the blonde a relieved smile.
“What? Don’t you admit – “
“I said sod off.” Genevieve said evenly. She flopped down in the desk across the two of them and let her soft, blonde curls ripple. She was fair-skinned, if not overly pallid, and loudmouthed, if not overly blunt. She examined her neatly filed nails and looked up at Tom. She stuck out her tongue and he laughed.
“Is she that bad?” He asked. “I haven’t met her yet, but I doubt she’s as bad as you say she is.”
Cho opened her mouth, but Genevieve cut her off. “She made me file through the Division Four papers!”
Both Tom and Cho flinched together at this. Division Four of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad was known for being notoriously disorganized.
“I swear, my hands are going to be scarred forever. My palms are all red.” She held her hands up. “It’s her first day here and she assigned me to sort Division Four papers! That - ”
Genevieve let out a string of colorful words. Tom frowned and Cho laughed.
“She hasn’t called on either of us yet,” Cho said, relief pooling through her. “It’s just a matter of time, I suppose.”
“Oh come now – “ Tom began.
“If you’re going to defend her one more time,” Cho said, “I’ll jinx you into a jelly.”
Genevieve laughed and Tom through her a dirty look and resumed his own work dutifully. Cho grinned gratefully. Genevieve really could save Cho’s sanity sometimes. Tom had the absolutely infuriating habit of being a nice person.
Genevieve had long abandoned that tiresome philosophy.
Several minutes passed in perfect silence. Cho returned back to the work at hand with a sense of monotonous familiarity. The bland gray tints of the room were suddenly flooded by shafts of sunlight. The easy tunes of spring were playing outside. It was a mild, but beautiful day. The garden outside and its flowers – roses, pansies and daffodils – were all swinging lightly, bathing in the glorious light. Cho had the sudden feeling of being stifled.
It was an anonymously sent report this time. She rolled her eyes and skimmed the thickly scrawled parchment, reading the names with impassioned fervor. Avery, Brutus, age 35; last spotted in Cornwall – Urquhart, Lysandros, age 41; possibly deceased, married to –
With a bored look, she flicked her wand. The parchment neatly folded itself into a bird. She flicked her wand once again and it rose into the air.
“Go to the Auror Office.”
It promptly flew away.
Finally, lunchtime came and Cho left, grumbling. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Genevieve and Tom bickering again. They could be so childish sometimes.
“Really, what are we doing today?” Mandy hurried to keep astride with the manically fast Alicia Spinnet. Alicia rarely worked; there was very little interesting work these days and of it, most of it only required some haphazard finishing and some frills and it was done. There was nothing that particularly interested or challenged her. But the few times she felt ready to work, she felt positively aglow with confidence.
Mandy was struggling to keep up. Even though she wasn’t the one wearing outrageously tall red pumps and a flimsy, lacy top, both of which looked ready to fall off the lean body of the woman trampling everyone she rolled over.
“Slow down,” said Mandy, quite out of breath. “You seem excited…”
“I am,” said Alicia, her eyes glinting. “You see, one of my friends had her birthday a few days ago and I came across another old friend.”
“Angie – Angelina Johnson? From the Holyhead Harpies?”
Alicia nodded, still steely-eyed.
“Is she at the office right now? Is that why we’re going so fast?” Not waiting for a reply, Mandy sprang ahead. “Oh wow, this is wonderful! I thought you’d left some of those vulgar Quidditch magazines you read and we were running back to get them before Penny found them, but you’re actually working!"
Alicia colored. “They’re not vulgar!”
“They’re positively obscene,” said Mandy, still skipping, waving a leopard-print purse into the air with little concern.
“I’m just curious – it’s perfectly civil and proper – ”
“Oh, this is lovely! And my sister adores Angelina – they say she’s going be boosting team scores as much as – ”
“I don’t care about that!” said Alicia loudly. “That bitch’s been hanging around George Weasley for ages now and I know something’s happening between those two and she’s just not letting on. Imagine that! My own best friend from Hogwarts not telling me a thing!” She clenched her fingers and began marching down faster, easily recapturing the distance Mandy had won between them. “I have to know!”
She flung open the door to the office, leaving Mandy outside by the door. She returned within a moment, dragging a laughing, tall black girl with her, still glowering.
“Alright, alright – ”
“You’re going to tell me, understand? Understand?!”
“Calm down, Cee, I’ll tell you.”
“Damn right you will!”
“I thought you wrote me to come in for an interview about the Harpies,” said Angelina, her eyebrows raised.
“I thought so too,” murmured Mandy. “Well, clearly, you two have some catching up to do. I’ll go inside, Cee. I’ve got to get in touch with Oliver Wood.”
With that, she left Angelina and Alicia alone in the hallway, illuminated by morning light and the easy chatter of incomers.
“It’s an interview and other stuff,” said Alicia dismissively, “all part of the job. So tell me, what’re the chances of my friend becoming the future Mrs. George Weasley?”
Angelina goggled. “What’re you talking about?”
“No point hiding it from me, Angie. I saw you with him the other night at the Niffler. I know you two are carrying on. Probably shagging it up in broom closets already, eh? Let me just say, though, he’s not a very good snog. Always thought Fred was better.”
“It’s not like that between – ” Angelina broke off. “And just how would you know, may I ask?”
“There’re slight differences when someone – ”
“No, I mean, when did you ever snog either of them?” Angelina had her hands on her hips, staring down disapprovingly. It was a familiar sight – one that brought back Quidditch practices and Transfiguration lessons and countless times Angelina had caught Alicia snogging someone or the other in some isolated broom closet as a prefect.
Alicia looked sideways. The hallway was empty, the door to the office was shut, but footsteps were approaching. Within seconds, Charlotte Seward and Wanda Wilkins passed, waving at her.
“Shh.” Alicia caught Angelina’s hand and lead her down the hallway, to the left, towards an isolated wooden door. “We can talk in here.”
She opened the door with a flourish.
“Cee. This looks like a broom closet.” Angelina cleared her throat. “It doesn’t even have brooms.”
It was a small, cramped room filled with boxes that stored old newspaper articles. It had three lone chairs in a corner and a sea of loose papers on the ground. There was a very old, very ugly portrait of a witch in bright pink robes hanging on one of the walls.
“Not everything has to do with Quidditch, Ang. This is our archive. We store old editions here and articles we’ve tossed out. Nobody really comes in here.”
“I wonder why,” said Angelina, under her breath. “I can’t believe I took the afternoon off from practice to come here and gossip – and I’m the captain – ”
“Oh shut up, we both know you don’t have any practice today. Like you’d cut practice for me. Stop trying to make me feel guilty.”
“You know me too well.” Angelina gave a shifty grin.
“That I do.” Alicia cramped herself on one chair, grimaced at her pumps and slid them off. Barefoot, she faced Angelina with tenacity. “Okay. Tell.”
“There’s nothing much to tell.”
“George. You. Weasley babies. More little gingers running around.”
“No, I’m serious. Nothing of the sort.” Angelina lowered her voice. “Look, George’s been really depressed. You know, it’s been a year, but he’s still not really – not really – you know – normal. Functioning. His brother’s done what he can to put back the Wizarding Wheezes, but George’s still a mess.”
Alicia sighed. “I hate this.”
“I hate that after the war, so many things were supposed to be perfect, but they weren’t. Ideally, we’d be here talking about you and George or me and my splendid career and harem of handsome men. Clearly, neither is happening.”
“Clearly.” Angelina sighed. “No matter how much either of us might want it.”
Alicia perked up immediately. “So, wait, you wouldn’t mind all that rubbish I was saying on being Mrs. George Weasley?”
Angelina grinned. “I have no answer for now. But it’d be nice if he’d notice that I don’t empty his rubbish bin and help him with laundry because I fancy spending my Saturdays doing so.”
“I knew it! I knew it! I’ve been saying so since fifth year! You were meant to be!” She pouted.
There was a moment of silence. Angelina fidgeted before asking lightly, “Anything happening with you?”
“Me? Not really. Career’s still as wonderful as the average loo. I’ve got no boyfriend, still hate life in general.”
“What about those girls you were with before?”
“Oh, them? They’re neighbours. Got a bit of a shock when I realized my neighbors were witches too. I’ve known Cho for ages, though. Since Hogwarts. It was a nice surprise. They’re all sweet.”
Angelina patted her hand fondly. “I’m glad for that, at least.”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” Alicia cleared her throat. “Well, enough of spending our afternoon locked up in here. Mandy’ll reckon I kidnapped you or something. Let’s head out to the actual office and finish up a real interview.”
“Now there’s a plan. Anything to get off these chairs,” muttered Angelina. Alicia followed her, laughing.
“Do you know what this place needs?” asked Susan, surveying the Leaky Cauldron with a deft eye, “A renovation. Just look at it. It’s the mess of the century.”
She said it far more loudly than intended. It had only been supposed to be audible to Hannah, who was currently moping on a stool beside her, lamenting the current failure of the day: an inability to boil eggs.
However, in her indiscretion, Susan had spat it out far too loudly. It echoed around, straight to Hannah’s Uncle Tom.
Tom Abbott, who had been stooped over picking up stray glasses gave Susan a reproachful look out of the one eye that was still working. He was as old as the place himself. A positive artifact. Honestly, the old man shouldn’t still ought to be running this place. It needed some new air. Fresh blood.
“I’ll remind you that I’m fine with it as it is, Miss Bones,” he wheezed. “You never had a problem with it the dozens of times you’ve been around. Neither have your parents or your aunts or even little Hannah here.”
“Yes, Mr. Abbott,” said Susan sweetly. “I was just thinking of little Hannah, you see.”
“Don’t bring me into this,” said Hannah glumly.
“It’s for your own good,” said Susan, under her teeth. Then, she looked up and smiled at Mr. Abbott. “You see, sir, this place could use with a little redecoration, don’t you think? Not much. Just a little. Not very expensive, mind you. And Hannah’ll be taking over this place soon enough, so you should let her handle it. She’s just fantastic with this kind of thing.”
Beside her, Hannah’s mouth dropped open in horror. “Susan!”
“It won’t be very expensive,” said Susan yet again. “Not at all. And it’ll get so many more people to come to this place. And it’ll give Hannah some control, you know? Some experience. Add some confidence to her.”
Uncle Tom seemed to be considering this. He leaned over from his stooped posture and slowly shuffled towards them. He gave Hannah a pitying look. “She sure needs some confidence, eh? Alright, Miss Bones, come to the back and we’ll draw up a budget.”
Susan’s eyes were gleaming. “That’s lovely!”
As Uncle Tom shuffled out of sight, Hannah yanked on Susan’s sleeve and hissed, “Why do you have to do this?”
“Because,” said Susan, “it’ll help this place and it’ll help you. Just trust me, Hannah. It’s time to stop worrying so much and take charge.”
She wasn’t good at that type of thing.
After lunch came the nightmare.
“Hello, Cho! I’d like to talk to you, please.”
A most unwelcome hello. A most unwelcome hello from a most unwelcome and most infuriating bushy-haired brunette. Granger gave her a small smile.
Thus far into the morning, Cho had elaborately managed to elude her. Run for tea at opportune times. Look under her desk for papers for up to fifteen minutes at a time to escape awkward conversations. Flit back and forth between the Improper Use of Magic Office to look for a file that she knew perfectly well was on her bookshelf.
Damn it, Cho thought frantically. A plethora of ideas rose to her head. She could hex Granger, pack her bags and make a run for China. Or she could move to Transylvania. Or plead guilty to murder. Or commit murder. There was a tempting thought.
But instead, she smiled back tightly and followed Granger into her office. The inside of the office had changed during Granger’s one day tyranny of it. It was considerably neater than its previous owner had left it. Gone were the vast array of tea cups Honoria Burbage had decorated the sides of her walls with. Gone were the portraits of her grandchildren. In place of the nostalgic and smothering disarray was the appearance of new bookshelves. A new clock chimed from the wall. The windows were irritatingly free of their characteristic, age-old grime.
The office was neat.
“Take a seat.”
Cho sat silently.
“Well,” Hermione said, “it’s nice to see you again.” She pulled up a file and perused through it quickly. “How’ve you been?”
“Fine,” said Cho.
A painfully awkward silence ensued.
“Everything looks in order here. I suppose we’ll start off, then?”
“Since you’re the most experienced of the three working with me, would you mind helping me today?” Granger gave her a weak smile. “To be honest, I don’t know much about this place.”
Cho was taken aback. “Sure.”
Granger didn’t know something? Impossible.
“Honestly, I don’t understand why the system here to be so difficult to navigate.” She frowned. “I think I’ll need to have a word with the Minister…”
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong here,” said Cho coldly. Trust Hermione Granger to enter the place and muck it all up.
“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” Granger said, colouring considerably. She lowered her voice. “I’ve been looking through the Ministry laws of late and they’re not much up to par, I’m afraid.”
“A lot of them still favor the pre-War pureblood hierarchies. It’s been one year since the war. The low standard and obvious favoritism – “ she bristled considerably “ – absolutely unacceptable. The morals we fought to instill – completely undermined – “
“You’re trying to revise legislature? All by yourself? Do you realize how complicated that’d be?”
“I don’t know much about it. Yet. That’s why I’ll need your help with this.” She smiled weakly.
Cho bit her lip and nodded. She was suddenly aware of everything; her senses seemed to jump a little. There was Granger’s office, circling, circling, full of midday sunshine. It illuminated the smooth wooden surfaces that lay everywhere – the desk, bookshelves, the lamp’s rim. The room emitted a warm, stifling glow.
She knew she could leave.
She knew she should leave.
It was Granger. It was part of a job that sounded indescribably tedious. It was part of something she had never imagined. She could walk out and point Granger to Genevieve Bell and flatter the girl’s qualifications.
“Of course I’ll help, Hermione.”
She knew she would not leave.
Granger smiled. A new breeze broke and washed over them, rattling the tops of Granger’s desk. Quills and parchment went flying.
As Cho watched Granger pull out her wand and charm the flighty papers into place, she could not help but feel slightly anxious. What had a moment’s whimsy gotten her into? Working constantly beside Granger.
But it was a part of something important.
She knew that she could not let her own childish prejudices stop her. True, she found everything about Granger mildly irksome – the way she smiled, the way she exclaimed when the wind toppled over the top of her desk. Granger was doing something good. She was going to, in some small way, right the past wrongs.
Cho took a deep breath. And she would be a part of it.
It was a time to take responsibility. As Hermione gave her a relieved smile and her thanks and finally dismissed her, Cho felt herself standing a little straighter. She returned to her desk feeling slightly dazed and averted Genevieve’s questioning gaze. She smiled at the faint, spring tinged scent of the nothingness that she saw. It was a realization that flowered as gently as the buds outside, pink and sweet and slow. It came with an overpowering sense of nostalgia – lakesides and perfumes and beds of flowers. Disastrous dates and friends and family.
She was growing up.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! Thanks so much for your support so far! I hope it's been fun following Cho and the others and watching Cho grow bit by bit across the chapters.
I'd love to know what you thought of this chapter, so please leave a review! As always, thanks for reading and I'll update soon!
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