Chapter 1 : Article the First
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Today marked the beginning of a bright new future. The sun was streaming in through the window, making even the dust dance and sparkle. I watched the particles float through the air, mesmerised, before realising there was an awful lot of dust around and I probably should have done something about it. But there were more important things to worry about today. The entire future of Muggle and wizarding Britain depended on the impression I made when I walked into the office in two hours’ time. No pressure. None at all.
“How’s the revolutionary?” Hugo Weasley asked with what may have been a hint of sarcasm, poking his head into the fridge.
“Good.” I exhaled slowly to calm my nerves. “Really good. Of course I’m good, this is the beginning of—”
“Yeah, okay,” Hugo said, cutting me off. “We’re out of milk, could you go and get some?”
I turned my unimpressed face towards him. “I’m about to change the world, and you want me to go buy milk?”
Hugo paused for a long moment. “Well, I kind of want it on my cereal and you’re a woman possessed if you don’t have your morning coffee, and someone put an anti-refilling charm on the last bottle.”
“You know perfectly well we don’t have a chance of integrating well with Muggles if we keep cheating them with refilling charms.”
“Then go integrate with the Muggle at the shop down the road, and get us some milk.”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Because I don’t know how to deal with Muggles as well as you.” Hugo gave me a winning smile. “You’re a Muggle-wizard liason extraordinaire.”
I rolled my eyes, but he had a point. I should seize every opportunity to interact with Muggles, and the shop was just down the road. I picked up my Muggle wallet, checked inside it, and turned to Hugo.
“Have you seen my Eftpos card?”
“That plastic thing?”
Hugo stood, fished something out of the sink, glanced around for a teatowel and wiped it off. I took it gingerly from him.
“Why does it have traces of butter on it?”
“Um, because we didn’t have any clean knives left last night and I wanted toast.”
“And then you put it in the sink?”
“What? It’s plastic, isn’t it?”
“It has a magnetic strip! It’s not a butter knife and you don’t leave it in the sink overnight!”
“Silly Muggles,” Hugo said, shaking his head. “What’s the point if you can’t use them to buy things and spread butter?”
“Next time you use a Galleon to spread butter, let me know.” I shoved the card in my pocket and walked out the door.
“That’s just impractical!” Hugo called after me. “It’s completely the wrong shape!”
The grumpy elderly lady who was usually behind the counter at the shop was gone, replaced by a young man with sandy blond hair and glasses.
“Good morning,” he said cheerfully, fresh out of customer service training.
“That it is,” I confirmed, waltzing across to the chiller and seizing the first carton I found.
“Got plans for today then?” he asked. “Or are you just in a good mood?”
“Both. I start my new job today.”
“Oh, good luck.” The young man smiled ruefully. “It’s my first day too, but I hope for your sake it goes better than mine.”
“Oh, you know how it is. First day, trying to figure out how everything works, you get the before school rush with all the frantic mums and demanding children, and the commuters who want tea and coffee in time to catch their train or bus, and they get a bit angry if you take too long. Two seventy, thanks.”
I pulled out my card, wiping the last of the butter off on my jeans.
“Butter?” the guy asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Flatmate used it as a butter knife.”
“Let me guess, you haven’t done the dishes in a while?”
“We just don’t have a lot of cutlery.”
With a small smile, the guy fished around underneath the counter for a moment, emerging with a handful of plastic knives, forks and spoons. “Free,” he informed me. “I know what flatting’s like. Just don’t tell my nana.”
I grinned. “Thanks!”
“Hope your first day at work goes well!” he called after me.
Hugo held up the carton. “You realise this is yoghurt, right?”
“Nope.” He upended the carton and a dollop of thick yoghurt plopped onto his cornflakes. “Distracted, were you?”
“I was talking to the guy at the counter.”
“The guy?” Hugo repeated. “It wasn’t old Mrs Whatsherface this time?”
“Nah, it was her grandson, I think. About our age.”
“Oh, is he now?” Hugo asked, raising his eyebrow. “I understand the distraction.”
“It wasn’t—Well,” I conceded, “He was kinda good looking.”
“That’d be new territory for you. Actually dating a Muggle.”
“Who said anything about dating?” I asked, rather astonished at the speed at which Hugo’s mind worked. “I had a conversation with him in the store where he worked and happened to pick up yoghurt instead of milk. Could have happened to anyone. I have to leave in ten minutes.” With that, I picked up my cold piece of toast and disappeared into my room to find my robes. Undetectable Extension Charm on my handbag, robes in handbag, I’d put them on once I got to the entrance of the Ministry. Most other witches and wizards Apparated to the entrance, but I had an example to set in terms of integration, and I would be walking and taking the bus. I had even gone out and bought a shiny new bus card – how many Hogwarts graduates had those?
In the time between finishing at Hogwarts and getting my NEWT results so I could apply for a job, I had walked and bused to the entrance of the Ministry of Magic several times for research purposes, so I knew how everything worked. I had gotten a few interesting looks from other wizards on occasion – I suppose it looked a bit funny, coming to the grotty public toilets that served as the gateway to the Ministry, having a look around and leaving again – but it was worth it to know what I was doing now. There were even a few familiar faces on the bus by now, though I knew better than to try and talk to them. One day, I told myself. One day I’d strike up a casual conversation, start building relationships and connections with the Muggles around me. A magical presence in a non-magical world.
I got off the bus at the now familiar stop outside the grotty Ministry toilets, falling into step behind a witch in bright emerald robes and following her into the toilets. At either end were two burly security wizards, dressed in navy blue robes and looking rather intimidating.
I looked around, feeling slightly awed. I’d never used the employee’s entrance before – I went through the visitor’s entrance for my interview – and it was so exciting to think I was part of this. Part of the Government. Taking my place in the real world at last.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” one of the security wizards began. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
I looked around, and realised with some horror that he was talking to me. Did I do something wrong? “Um, I need to use these.”
“There are others nearby, ma’am. You can’t use these ones.”
“But—” I was cut off by the arrival of a little old wizard, who Apparated directly onto the sink and tumbled onto the floor.
“So sorry,” the little wizard squeaked, “Was a bit off with my timing—”
The security wizards exchanged glances, and within seconds had grabbed both my arms and dragged me directly through the wall into a long, dark corridor.
“Wait!” I cried. “Where are you taking me?”
“There’s no need to panic, ma’am,”one of them said in a brisk, official tone.
“No – I need to get to work – ”
“We won’t keep you long, ma’am.”
“I start in ten minutes!” I wailed. “I can’t be late, it’s my first day—”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to come with us, ma’am.”
I began to get an inkling of what had happened. “Wait, no, there’s been some kind of misunderstanding—”
I reached inside my handbag for my wand, but before I could grab it one of the security wizards had taken my bag. “I’m afraid we can’t let you contact anyone, ma’am.”
My worst fears were confirmed as we reached the end of the corridor. The sign on the door said Obliviators, and they thought I was a Muggle.
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