“I think we should get going as well,” said Pippa after waving her sister good-bye. She looked worriedly at Daphne and Gloria. “Ministry regulations state that employees are not allowed more than – ”
“Listen up,” said Gemma calmly, taking a sip of her lemonade. “I’ve got an idea…”
After the first draft of The Plan had been vocalized by Gemma, there was much exchange of surprised glances, and the occasional dropped jaw.
Gloria was the first one to speak. “That – that sounds insane.”
“It sounds brilliant,” said Daphne. “It sounds fun!”
“We can’t do that! It’s illegal!” said Gloria.
“Is it? Is it strictly illegal?”
“Well, I’m sure it isn’t legal!”
“But does that make it illegal?”
There was a pause as Gloria frowned. “I’m…not sure, actually. But he’s still my friend. Oh, I couldn’t do - ”
“But you already know what you have to gain from this, right?” said Gemma. “Everyone’s involved some way or the other and everyone gets something out of it.”
“That’s right,” said Daphne, nudging her and grinning broadly. “You could finally – ”
“Why are two you so eager to do this?” asked Gloria.
“Revenge,” said Gemma simply. “For nearly ruining my life.”
“Something like that,” said Daphne. “Revenge…getting even, anything, really. I’ve sat through a lifetime’s worth of James Potter taking all my Department’s glory.”
Meanwhile, beside them, Pippa had gone entirely white. “I – I can’t.”
“You have to,” said Daphne. “It wouldn’t work without you! You’re practically central to it! You’re as important as I am! Anyway, it’ll all end when we get him alone, won’t it?”
“He’ll never listen to what we have to say otherwise,” said Gemma, nodding. “We’ll need a small space – somewhere he’ll never get away from.”
“I’ve got a basement in my house,” said Gloria shakily, a steely expression setting into her features.
Pippa was still shuddering. “I could never do something like that! I could never! It’d be wrong and I’d mess it all up and I - ”
Gemma seized her by the shoulders. “Look here, Penelope!”
“My name’s Phillippa…”
“Yes, Phillippa! We need you! Pull yourself together! You know you’ve wanted this!”
There was a silence as Gemma shook Pippa’s shoulders. Gloria was still looking uncertain. Daphne was still smiling.
From beside Gemma, Josephine finally piped up, “Will there be tea?”
“What?” said Gemma distractedly.
“Will there be tea? It does sound fun, but if I could bring tea, I’d do it!” She smiled happily. “Tea makes everything better.”
“Well,” said Daphne uncertainly, pondering the state of the vomit-flavored tea, “we could use it…somehow.”
“Excellent!” said Josie, clapping her hands together.
And somehow, The Plan was born. The Plan that lead to The Incident.
After a mutual agreement between most of them (Pippa had still yet to agree, but she was part of the plan anyway), things got underway.
That weekend, Josie began brewing tea. And brewing tea and brewing tea.
Gemma wrote Daphne (who she’d addressed as Darcy in the letter, to Daphne’s general indignation) what to wear and what lines to say. Having been a Potter girlfriend for five months, Gemma was suitably well versed in the minutiae of how to attract one James Potter. Daphne read, pressed her nicest robes so they’d be suitable, paired them with the highest heels she could find and put on enough lipstick to frighten a clown.
Gloria was put on standby for the most humiliating role possibly ever. But it was one she had played before.
Pippa practiced her lines in front of her mirror, still terrified of the coming week’s plans. She also had to remember to go to The Love Lampoon where Josephine would be ready with the tea that would change the fate of jilted girls everywhere.
And that Monday – after much rage, anger, and general seething – it began.
He waltzed in as usual, a good forty minutes late. Pippa had already been sorting through his paperwork for him as he rounded the corner, the jaunty spring in his step perfectly coinciding with his grin. She looked up, saw him and plastered a timid smile across a face.
“Hello, Mr. Potter.”
He was wearing the usual black robes paired with a black tie and his leather suitcase. His black hair was slicked back in an attempt at a debonair air; instead, it simply looked rather oily. He flashed a smile at her, his perfect white teeth peeking out in a straight line.
He really was handsome.
“Hey there, Phyllis.”
But of course, he had to open his mouth.
“Did the old man send any work my way?” He winked at her.
He had an annoying mysterious habit of referring to any senior authority in his Department as ‘the old man’ – including the Minister for Magic – and his own father. It all got very confusing, but Pippa gave her default reply. “Yes sir. I’ll complete it myself.”
“Perfect. Make sure you get my signature on it when you’re done.”
“Tell Lola to drop by for lunch. Make sure you don’t forget.” He added another wink.
Her stomach dropped. “Miss Vaisey, sir?”
“Will there be a problem?”
“Er – no – no, sir,” she stammered, “it’s just that – it’s just that every time Miss Vaisey comes, you take over two hours for lunch, and we’ve got a rather heavy workload of – ”
His brow furrowed as he looked at her, unimpressed. “Do as I say.”
There was a moment of silence as she dejectedly bowed her head. “Yes, sir.”
As he passed by her, Pippa clenched her hands together. And The Plan shifted to phase one as he walked past her.
“Reschedule the meeting,” she murmured to herself, before addressing him. “Just a moment, Mr. Potter. International Relations wrote asking to reschedule the meeting to four instead of two.”
“Apparently they double booked us with Misuse of Muggle Artifacts.” She prayed that her quickly reddening face wouldn’t give away too much.
“Fine,” he said, strolling into his office.
As Daphne emerged out of the Floo grate, she immediately elicited a few whistles from Magical Maintenance. Rather than feeling flattered, she glared at them (a girl had to have standards!) and stalked past, until she saw her reflection off of a windowpane.
She looked utterly ridiculous.
As a girl of an upper class household who had grown up with a certain sense of aesthetic appreciation, she had always taken care of herself well: she bought expensive robes and high quality makeup and usually prided herself on appearing too expensive for anyone’s good.
Today, she merely looked appalling.
She had dug out an old, low-cut blouse for the occasional – frills and all. It was paired with the shortest skirt she had, heels that sent her tottering every few steps, raccoon-like eyeliner and false eyelashes that made her eyes look enormous.
To herself – a self-respecting woman with an iota of class – she looked repulsive.
From the gawks she was attracting from the nearby males, it was enough proof that she would serve as the perfect bait for The Plan.
Gloria steadied her breath, attempting to steady the common sense that was screaming at her to run away.
It was nearly lunch. As planned, Dolores Vaisey would be arriving.
Gloria spent a long moment in her office, preparing herself properly. “James, James, James…”
It sounded convincing enough.
So a little prior to the beginning of lunch, she made her way to his office, preparing for the utter shattering of all self-confidence she had.
But it had been seven long years. It was about time, she assured herself as she stood outside his office door. She exchanged a glance with Pippa, who merely mouthed a nervous “Good luck!” as Pippa was prone to do.
After another long breath, she opened the door and twisted the features on her face.
At her entrance, James looked up from his reading and smiled. “Gloria, why’re you here?”
“Oh James!” It was a wail which until this point in her life, she had never given. “James, I’m so sorry!”
She fell into a chair, pressed her head into her arms and began heaving. “I’m so sorry, James, I’m so sorry!”
He merely looked his confusion and rose, hovering over her. “What’s wrong?”
“I didn’t mean to! It just happened and I told her that – I told her that she couldn’t do this to you, but she wouldn’t listen, James!”
“What’s wrong?” his concerned tone was mounting. “Stop crying, tell me what’s wrong!”
“I tried, I really did!” her voice climbed frantically as she struggled to maintain a straight face. Her eyes were burning with humiliation, but her mouth was simultaneously twisting upwards at the sight of his face.
“Gloria, stop crying already!” He grabbed on to her arm and pulled her forward. “What happened?”
“It’s Dolores,” she whispered, “James, I’m so sorry…”
“Dolores?” he stiffened. “Tell me, what’d she do?”
“She’s just using you…she doesn’t love you.” She went back to the fake-crying. “The other day –after work, you were gone – I caught her snogging someone from the Beasts division.”
“They were snogging, but I saw her and I went up to her – and she began yelling at me, James. I told her you’d be furious, but she called me a bint – ”
“Hang on, she called you a – ”
“- and she said you’d never believe me if I told you, you’d think I was just lying – and I was scared, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings and I’ve known you for so long, you’re like a brother to me…”
He was glowering dangerously. “Of course I believe you.”
She peered out through her fingers. “You do?”
“Yeah, of course.”
On cue, there was a faint, shrill cry of, “Jamesie! I’m here!”
“To think I’ve been shagging a person like that,” he said, shaking his head. “Don’t worry anymore, Gloria. I’ll take care of it.”
He strode out of his office. From the other side of the door, Gloria could hear James saying coldly, “Lola, we’re through. I don’t want to see you again.” It was promptly followed by an angry shriek and someone stomping away. Phase Two was complete, even if Gloria had to sell her soul – and more importantly, her dignity – to do it.
As planned, James missed the meeting by two hours. Pippa received several owls asking his secretary – a Miss Phyllis Lee – to please inform Mr. Potter that the meeting was proceeding without him. She crumpled the notices.
So, when he finally arrived at the conference room, he found it empty.
He stood there rooted in confusion.
Pippa carefully observed him as planned, hidden behind several potted plants. Until the Pucey girl entered, James was still her responsibility.
He turned one way, then another, clearly at a loss, before rifling his hand through his oily hair.
“Hello?” he called out tentatively. “James Potter here – I’m with the Auror Department, obviously – ”
There was a clacking of heels down the corridor. Pippa dove under the potted plants and covered herself with the leaves, peeking out very carefully.
For a moment, she thought perhaps that Dolores Vaisey had returned. The girl had the same blonde hair, same lipstick…but she turned as she passed the potted plant and Pippa’s eyes widened as she noticed the familiar high cheekbones.
Daphne wordlessly gave a terse nod of acknowledgement and slinked carefully towards James. He turned around at the sound of her approaching.
“Hello there,” she said, her voice much sweeter than usual. She bit the nail of her ring finger deliberately and widened her blue eyes. “Can I help you with something?”
“Er – uh – ”
Pippa and Daphne both watched as he assessed her, the breath hitching in Pippa’s throat. She had been through the procedure many times before and could pinpoint the next girlfriend of James Potter before even James Potter could.
His right arm immediately flew to his hair. Pippa breathed a sigh of relief as he ruffled his hair and sent his free hand to grab his tie. His eyes warmed and his voice took on a deeper, warmer sound. “Hi there.”
“Are you lost?” She made another attempt at widening her eyes and the urge to scream overwhelmed her as a false eyelash moved around in the process. She took a hand over her chest dramatically. “Do you need my help?”
“Yes, I just might.” He took three steps forward and closed the distance between them.
Daphne closed her eyes, remembering Gemma’s specific notes on the process that was James Potter.
You’ve got to play oblivious. Act like you don’t understand what he’s playing at. It empowers him, makes him feel clever.
“Oh, I don’t know though,” she said, batting her eyelashes. “I don’t know if I can help.”
“Of course you can. Promise me you’ll try?” He gave her a smile and took her hand.
She could swear she felt welts forming where they made contact.
“Yes,” she said, exhaling in a poor attempt to sound breathless. “What do you need?”
She bit her lip and tasted the disgustingly cheap flavor of her cherry lipstick. “What does that mean?”
“Whatever you want it to,” he said genially, pressing her hand to his lips with another self-assured grin. “Now tell me, have we met before?”
“No,” she said hastily. “I’m new here…I don’t know many people.”
“You know me now.”
“I just came here to help.” She wriggled her hand out of his sweaty grip and twirled another strand of hair as he watched. “I don’t know you at all.”
“Of course you do.”
“I don’t even know your name, though.”
At her pout, he laughed. “I’m James. And you are?”
She gave her imitation of a cheeky grin. She’d seen in pasted over the faces of adolescent girls often enough at Hogwarts. “Guess.”
“Lavender. Margaret. Viola.”
“No,” she said with a tinkling laugh. “I’m Daphne.”
“Daphne,” he repeated, clearly not having remembered their previous meetings. “Wow. That’s beautiful.”
She ground her teeth. “Thank you.”
He leaned over her, closing her off to the wall in the process and gave her the largest grin to date. “Listen, Daphne…you’re a nice girl, aren’t you? D’you know why there’s no meeting here today?”
“That was several hours ago, I heard,” she said.
“You look upset,” she whined, “did I upset you?”
“Of course not,” he said smoothly, “of course it wasn’t you. Besides, I’m glad I did. I got to meet you instead.”
The second of Gemma’s notes popped up.
Make sure he asks you out first, then suggest the date and location. He has a girlfriend, so you’ve got to be convincing.
Hating herself for what she was about to do, Daphne circled her arms around his waist. “You know, I’m glad I got to meet you too.”
He looked surprised, though not displeased, at how quickly she had made her move. “Are you?”
She pushed herself on to him and tucked her head under his chin. She could feel him gulping at the closeness. “Oh, I think we’ll be such good friends, James. I’m overjoyed that I met someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“So kind…” she twisted his tie with one finger. “So smart and famous and…”
She modestly lowered her eyes, causing him to press, “And?”
“And so handsome…” She immediately stepped away from him. “But I’ve said too much. You probably already have somebody.”
“No, no, of course not,” he said hastily.
“Really?” she simpered up. “Really, James?”
Note three of Gemma’s: Seal everything quickly. James likes to be rewarded quickly.
So, she threw her arms around him and pressed her lips against his. She prayed that he’d stand still like a dead fish and allow her to get it over with, but he responded enthusiastically. To suppress the gagging reaction, she peeled herself away and beamed at him as radiantly as a girl on the brink of vomiting could manage.
From the potted plant, Pippa gave a small smile. At this rate, Phase Three was nearing completion quickly.
“Are you free after work?” he said.
“I can’t today. But of course, there’s always tomorrow.”
“Brilliant. Tomorrow after work?”
“I can’t wait,” she murmured.
For a horrifying moment, she feared that he would attempt snogging again, but he instead kissed her on the hand and left. As soon as he rounded the corner, she made a mad dash for the Floo grates. Never mind that she had finished a grand total of thirty minutes of work for the day.
She elbowed several witches out of the way, desperately clambered in and reappeared at home. She kicked her shoes off and ran to brush her teeth, a venture which took nearly an hour.
With the completion of the first three phases, the downfall of James Potter was only a matter of a day.
Author's Note: This chapter's for Jo (Margravine) for intently stalking this story so much and for nagging me until I actually updated. The girls' plan is well underway at this point and I don't think this story's got too many chapters to go. Thanks so much for the support so far and I'd love to know your thoughts on 'The Plan'. ;)
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