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Chapter 3 : A Place In This World
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I'm alone, on my own, and that's all I know
I'll be strong, I'll be wrong, oh but life goes on
Oh, I'm just a girl, trying to find a place in this world
Disclaimer: Lyrics belong to Taylor Swift and anyone else who has rights to her song "A Place In This World". All of the recognizable/previously created characters in this story belong to JK Rowling and other people who have rights to the Harry Potter series which, sadly, does not include me.
Dear Miss Taylor Elizabeth,
The Ministry of Magic is pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Auror field training program for 2024-25. You're training will begin Monday, July 3rd, at 9 o'clock a.m.
To enter the ministry you will step into an out-of-order telephone booth on 23rd West Street and dial 915-887-1223. The Auror department headquarters are on the second floor. Please see Ronald Weasley, Assistant Head Auror upon your arrival.
The Auror Department looks forward to meeting and working with you,
Harry Potter, Head Auror
Running is a methodic type of exercise. I started running the summer before my fourth year at Hogwarts. My third year had been rough and the only thing that kept me sane the summer after was running every day. I would wake up in the morning, drink a glass of orange juice, and then run. When we were at home I would go through the streets of Diagon Alley, down to the park a few miles off the main drag. When we were at the Davenports I would follow the horse trails through the woods until I became hopelessly lost and would have to find a worker who would carry me back to the farmhouse.
When I started, I could barely manage a mile. I smoked my first pack of cigarettes my third year and that combined with my general lack of physical activity caused my endurance to be a bit below average. Slowly, I started getting faster. Eventually I got my mile down under eight minutes and so I moved to two miles and then three. Three became my average from then on but on a really crappy day or if I had time to kill I would go four or five. Eight was the farthest I had ever gone and I only went that far because Tyler bet he could beat me. He did, but only by two seconds and only because he tripped me. Always a gentleman that one.
Scorpious had been on my side, saying that Tyler cheated and I should win because I had been ahead of him before he tripped me. Natasha was with Ty, saying that tripping me was merely good strategy. It was one of the few times she and Tyler agreed.
In the end, we called it a draw and neither of us had to be the others slave for a day but honestly, we were both too exhausted to put up a real fight for our side and Scorpious and Natasha aren’t very good at fighting with each other. Actually, Scorp’s not good at fighting with anyone and Natasha always feels guilty taking advantage of him so she usually lets him win. Yeah, it’s pretty much the only time people believe she has a heart. Kidding; kind of.
After they agreed on a draw we all jumped into the black lake from the dock that had been our finish line. As soon as we resurfaced we were face to face with Professor Longhbottom, the Gryffindor head of house. I pushed my then naturally colored light brown hair out of my face and we all stared up at him silently. He didn’t say anything but motioned with his hand for us all to get out. We did as we were told, pushing ourselves onto the shore and standing guiltily in front of him; our clothes dripping with water. We were given three weeks of detention each—for not wearing our school robes, skipping class, and having been in the Forbidden Forest.
Technically, only Tyler and I had gone in the Forbidden Forest but when Professor Longhbottom asked both Natasha and Scorpious remained numb; unwilling to betray us. We realized a long time ago that the best defense is in numbers. We always got in less trouble if we were all together because they didn’t want to give four people detention for three months or knock twenty points off four students at the same time.
Arguing is also pointless so we never denied their accusation--even if they weren’t true. If you did do it and argued, it only got you in more trouble. If you didn’t do something and argued, teachers’ either didn’t believe you or would tell you to prove it which is usually an impossibility. Acceptance became our best policy for survival.
The night before I was due to be at the ministry I went for a run to try and calm down my nerves. I don’t enjoy being nervous and I spend the vast majority of my time finding ways to not be nervous but something about July 3rd just wouldn’t let me calm down.
Natasha went out that night to visit her dad over dinner and I had decided to stay in, planning on going to bed early. Needless to say, that did not work out which is why I went on a run at nine o’clock. Unfortunately, it didn’t tire me out enough to sleep so I was still wide awake and staring at the white ceiling above my bed when the door creaked and Natasha walked inside.
She went in to take her bath and somewhere between her turning the water on and turning it off I managed to fall asleep. Surprisingly enough, she was already awake when I got up the next morning.
“How’s your dad?” I asked her, pouring myself a cup of orange juice.
“Good,” she said, acting as if it was a normal occurrence for her to be awake before eleven. “He asked where you were and I told him about your training. He said to wish you luck and to remind you to look out for the interrogator.”
“I seriously think the interview will be the worst part,” I admitted, shaking my head at the thought.
“Probably,” she agreed easily, sitting down at the table with a yawn. “So you’ll dish on all the hot Auror’s when you get back, right?”
“If they’re within ten years of your age, wouldn’t make going to work awkward, and single, then yeah,” I agreed, rolling my eyes at her request.
“Single, shmingle, periwinkle,” Natasha said, waving it away. “It’s not my fault that guys can be unfaithful or that so many relationships are dysfunctional to the point where one person thinks they’re exclusive and the other one doesn’t.”
“And while it’s very kind of you to make these misunderstandings come into the light I would prefer it if you didn’t point out any relationship dysfunctions to the people I work with,” I said with mock seriousness.
“Fine,” Natasha agreed with a dramatic sigh. “Within ten years, no bosses, and single.”
“Thank you,” I grinned at her. “I’ve got to go.”
“Good luck,” she called out.
“Won’t help,” I sang but I was glad she said it none the less.
* * * *
All of my preliminary testing was done in Hogsmeade because they were improving the testing rooms at the ministry meaning that my first day of field training was also the first time I had been to the ministry since I was five years old. At the time the large building had seemed daunting and the quick pace intimidating. This time around…yeah, it wasn't any less terrifying.
I went through the visitors’ entrance and my hand shook slightly as I dialed the number and answered the creepy voices questions. When it dropped, it felt as though my stomach went with it and I had to bite my lip to stop the scream from escaping while my knuckles turned white from the death grip I had on the phone. When the booth stopped its decent suddenly my teeth bit down on my lip much harder than I had intended and I tasted blood in my mouth that was sure to match the red phone.
The Ministry was as big as I remembered and I stood still for a minute, taking in the commotion and listening to the different snippets of conversation as people hurried past, not giving me a second glance.
"I always knew a scandal was bound to come out, he's not—"
"Have you seen it yet? The balance isn't as good but the speed—"
"Don't know if there's a future for us. He can't seem to—"
"It was great, it felt like—"
"I am still so hung over from—"
"I just can't believe she's actually old enough to go—"
"Dailey Prophet! What is the minister going to do about an unsuspecting Muggle falling through the platform?" A young boy yelled louder than everyone else, trying to wrack-up sales as everyone made their way into work.
His voice snapped me out of my trance and I stood up a little straighter, walking over to the lift as confidently as I could and allowing my feet to guide me, trusting my body more than my brain.
I was one of the first five people on the lift but within seconds at least twenty more crammed in, blocking me from pushing the floor I needed. I heard someone chuckling beside me and glanced over to see a fairly attractive bloke standing beside me, leaning casually against the back of the lift.
“You haven’t worked here long, have you?” he commented with an easy grin as the lift dinged.
“Level Seven, Department of Magical Games and Sports, incorporating the British and Irish Quidditch League Headquarters, Official Gobstones Club, and Optimus Arroyos office.”
It was the same mechanical voice that had surrounded me in the telephone booth. The doors opened and more people crammed inside but not a single person left the lift.
“What gave it away?” I asked, struggling to move my right arm so that it wasn’t smashed against the metal bar that ran around the lift.
We jolted to a stop before I was able to reposition it and the mechanical voice rang out again.
“Level Six, Department of Magical Transport, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office, and Apparation Test Center.”
The doors opened and I was able to move my arm as a few people shifted their position but as far as I could tell, no more than one or two people got out.
“The fact that you didn’t know to hit your floor as you stepped in and the look of pure terror on your face were pretty good indicators,” the guy laughed, still seemingly unconcerned that should the lift get stuck we would all suffocate due to lack of oxygen. “Let me guess…third year out of Hogwarts?”
”Level Five, Department of International Magical Cooperation, incorporating the International Magical Trading Standards Body, the International Magical Office of Law, and the International Confederation of Wizards, British Seats.”
“Second,” I replied, pushing my long black hair behind my back as a few people stepped out, only to be replaced a moment later by a few more people stepping in.
“Level four, Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical creatures, incorporating Beast, Being, and Spirit Divisions, Goblin Liaison Office, and Pest Advisory Bureau.”
“Huh,” he said, cocking his head to the side and appraising me. “You seem surer of yourself than most Second years.”
“Level Three, Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, including the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad, Obliviator Headquarters, and Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee.”
“Really? You have a system for it or something?” I asked just as the lift dinged again and the mechanical voice announced my destination.
“Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters, and Wizengamot Administration Services.”
“Shoot, this is my stop. How do you get out?” I asked him.
“Two hands and shove,” he grinned at me. I sighed but did as he said, using my sharp elbows that were inherited from my mum to force my way through. My mum called them ‘Crowd Controllers’ and said they proved that we were born to shop.
“See you later Auror girl,” he called out as I made it to the front and outside the sliding doors just before they shut again.
I remembered the way from the elevator almost subconsciously, walking down the hall a ways and turning right at the last hallway before the bathrooms. It looked much the same as I remembered, full of cubicles and desks that were covered in photos and papers but the way everyone meandered around easily now struck me as more cocky than endearing.
I walked past the predominantly male cubicles and stopped at one of the two offices in the hallway. The one on my left had a worn looking plaque with Ron Weasley inscribed in neat cursive. I knocked on that door and opened it upon invitation.
“Err, hi,” I greeted awkwardly. “I’m Taylor. I’m the new—”
“Auror recruit! Of course,” he said, opening the door wider and ushering me inside. “Sit down, this will only take a few minutes and then we’ll have you head downstairs for your interview. It’s nothing to be worried about, just getting your take on your life. Would you like a biscuit? I’ve found that food always calms me down when I’m nervous.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, sitting down and taking one of his biscuits, wondering how he knew that I was nervous when the guy in the elevator thought I was a few years into my training.
“So Taylor you took nine OWL’s and dropped three of them,” he stated, getting right down to business.
“Yep,” I agreed.
“That left you with an NEWT in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, and Arithmancy.”
I nodded again, not really sure why he was telling me about my scores.
“You failed your History of Magic OWL, but passed your Astronomy and Care of Magical creatures’ exams and yet dropped both of them,” Ron said, looking through my rather thin folder that seemed to be a copy of the one Hogwarts had on record.
I had looked through it and—ahem—made a few corrections during some of my detentions with Professor Longhbottom. He found most of the changes we made and put them back but he never commented and there were usually a few harmless things that went over his head.
“What we found particularly interesting,” Ron went on. “Was that Hagrid wrote you an absolutely glowing letter and yet you didn’t take his NEWT class despite receiving an O and Neville vouched heavily for you as well despite Herbology being one of your lower NEWT scores.”
“Well I was one of the more…err…enthusiastic students in Hagrid’s class,” I said slowly, trying to figure out how to put it. “And I helped him out with some of his classes after the OWL’s so I got to know him pretty well. Herbology wasn’t my best subject but Neville was my head of house so he knew me as well as any of the other teachers.”
“And the reason your other teacher’s had less than glowing things to say about you was…” Ron asked. I have to admit, I sort of liked that he had not tact. It’s better than the people who beat around the bush for hours on end, trying to get me to talk. This was much easier to cope with.
“Well, they didn’t like me much, did they?” I said, raising an eyebrow at him. “I’ve never been much of a suck up and my less than enthusiastic attitude in their class combined with the fact that I got good grades on the exams without their help didn’t sit well with them.”
“Well,” Ron said, closing the folder with the ghost of a smile on his face. “I have to admit we went back and forth with you but the truth of the matter is, some of my teacher’s didn’t like my friends and I. We decided that Hagrid and Neville were good people to trust on character but I should warn you that Auror training won’t be easy and it’s not something you can learn from a book.”
“I know,” I said. “If I wanted to learn from a book I would have become a historian.”
“Not coming to work won’t work out,” Ron went on with the same warning tone of voice.
“Look,” I said with a sigh. “I know what being an Auror entails. I know how much time it takes up, I know how stressful it can be and I know that it requires a lot of work. Going to Hogwarts wasn’t my choice. If I decide that I don’t want to do this I’ll quit. I know what I’m getting into.”
“Alright,” Ron agreed. “In that case, welcome to the Auror department. There’s an interrogation room set up on level 12. Bobby Jenkins will be doing your interview. It’s just making sure you are who you say you are and we’ll be cross-referencing all the information we have on you. After he’s finished, you’re free to go and I’ll see you tomorrow in Harry’s office. It’s just across the hall. The interview starts in twenty minutes.”
“Thank you,” I said, standing up and straightening my knee-length robes. “Is there anywhere I can get water?”
* * * *
“So you're either lost, visiting someone, or trying to become an Auror,” a deep voice said as I poured myself a glass of water from the pitcher at the edge of the hall. “As I know everyone around here I'm going with the first option.” Since the idiot couldn't see, I let myself roll my eyes at his arrogance before turning around and looking up at the one and only James Potter.
“Auror training, actually,” I said, waving the folder as proof.
“Really?” he asked, sounding genuinely surprised. Since he could see my face now I resisted rolling my eyes and nodded. “Well congratulations on being accepted, I guess.”
“Thanks,” I said shortly.
“You look really familiar,” he added suddenly, looking at me shrewdly. I shrugged.
“You were a year above me at Hogwarts. Probably saw me around the castle.”
“Wait, you were in Gryffindor, right? Yeah, I remember you,” he continued before I had a chance to reply. “There were only three Gryffindor girls in your year and one was my cousin. Always hung 'round with the guys though.”
I shrugged again, not sure how I was supposed to reply.
“She liked Quidditch,” I said simply. That pretty much explained the lack of friendship between the two of us.
“Yeah,” James laughed. “Couldn't play to save her life but was always ready to discuss it with Sam.”
“Wood?” I guessed. He had been a year ahead of me too. “I heard he got recruited…” I trailed off, wondering if the rumor-obsessed Hogwarts students had been right. James nodded.
“Yeah, by the Tornado's. We all knew it was bound to happen. I'd say he's a shoo-in for starting at the world cup in two years. He was an alternate for the Tornadoes last year but when they had him play to give Fields a break he did great and the dive-drop is nearly impossible to defend so—you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?” he said suddenly, stopping his rant with a half-smile after noticing the complete lack of comprehension on my face.
“Not a clue,” I admitted. “My Quidditch knowledge doesn't go beyond there are four balls, catching a gold one ends the game, and you play it on broomsticks.”
“Are you a Muggleborne?” James asked.
“No, but my Mum is and she knows and cares about Quidditch even less than I do so…” I trailed off with a shrug. The only time I went to the games was when Tyler was able to guilt Natasha and me into it.
“So have you finished all of your testing yet?” James asked.
“I have the interview in ten minutes,” I said, crumpling the paper cup and tossing it in the trashcan.
“Ooh, I hated that part,” James said, wincing at the memory. “The hall creeps me out. Looked too much like the hallway that led to the Slytherine common room.”
“I always liked that hall,” I lied. “It reminded me of those mystery books where the hero goes through all those secret passageways and explores the hallways even though it’s really obvious they’re going to get caught and have to battle it out for their life. Besides, most of the teacher’s didn’t like going into the dungeon’s to begin with so it was always a pretty safe hideout.”
James was right about the hall, it did remind me of the Slytherine halls. The walls were pure stone and it felt empty. There weren’t any fake windows to provide light so torches lit up the area that I was walking towards, turning on once I was twenty feet from them and flickering off as soon as I passed. It smelled damp, like an old beach house after a big storm, and the noise of my shoes clicking on the concrete floor echoed around the seemingly empty hallway.
A lady was waiting for me part way down the hall.
“You’re Taylor?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said, her demeanor somehow making my brain automatically decide against answering sarcastically.
“Follow me,” she said. “You’re interview will be a floor below us. Unfortunately the lifts don’t go that far so we’ll have to take the stairs.”
I followed her quietly and the eeriness seemed to intensify as the clicking of her heels joined mine as we made our way down the spiraling stone steps and followed another hallway with no fake windows. This floor somehow felt even creepier than the one above it but whether it was due to the iron locks on the closed doors or her silent silhouette leading me without a word I couldn’t decide.
She finally stopped in the middle of the hallway and rapped on the stone wall. Almost immediately it began to rearrange itself, sliding back and over to allow us to enter a moderately sized chamber. She indicated for me to take a seat across the table from a guy who looked about my mum’s age—mid to late thirties. He had a mop of curly red hair and freckles decorated his nose and cheeks. I kept expecting him to smile as I walked in and sat down across from him but he remained stony faced.
“My name is George,” he told me, his face completely straight. “I will be interviewing you to find out more before the Ministry decides whether or not they would like to hire you for the England Ministry of Magic Auror Department. Are you aware that this is the job for which you are being interviewed?”
“No, I thought I was joining a dance team,” I said sarcastically. The interrogator, George, blinked at me.
“I was joking,” I told him. “Of course I know why I’m here.” George nodded and wrote something down.
“A few questions for a control,” he went on.
“Hold on,” I said suddenly, cutting him off. “Do you do interrogations for people before they get thrown in Azkaban?”
“I am not at liberty to speak of other interviews,” he replied mechanically. “What is—”
“I think I know who you are,” I cut him off again. “My friend’s dad said that he was interrogated by someone who looked just like you and he said that you never smiled.”
“Smiling’s good for you.”
“I’m going to get you to smile.”
“Excuse me?” he said. His façade was broken and he looked surprised.
“Yeah. That’s my goal for today, to get you to smile.”
“Err—I—well—ehem, let’s move on,” he stuttered but it didn’t matter. I already had him off balance, giving me control of the interview.
He briefly went over standard questions like my name and birthdate, using them for control purposes, and then asked me more personal questions. I answered all of his questions as honestly as I could and when he broached subjects that I didn’t want to talk about I talked in circles and deliberately didn’t answer the actual question.
It was like being back at Hogwarts, all the times I got called into Professor Longhbottom and Professor Sprout’s offices. They asked questions I didn’t want to answer and tried to get me to talk about things that I didn’t want to talk about. But thanks to the two of them, I became a pro at Avoid, Redirect, and Run.
The interview wound up taking a few hours and by the time it was done, I was wiped out. George didn’t manage to get anything out of me that I didn’t want to talk about but he sure gave me a run for my money. After it was done, the only thing I could think about was getting away from people and sleeping so I went over to my mum’s house and took a nap on her couch. Meg Ann was always out and about during the summer, my mum was taking care of the shop, and Peter was at work so I had the flat to myself.
Somehow my mum knew I would be there and when I got up she had a grilled cheese waiting, a pint of ice-cream in the freezer, and a deck of cards already dealt out.
* * * *
“Hello father,” James greeted his dad, walking into Harry’s office without knocking and plopping down in the chair across from Harry.
“Hello James,” Harry replied, not even bothering to look up from the folder he was reading.
“What are you reading?” James asked after a beat of silence.
“A mission proposal,” Harry answered honestly. “What do you want?”
“Nothing!” James exclaimed in faux innocence. Harry looked up, obviously unconvinced, but went back to reading the folder without comment anyways.
“So,” James started after another beat of silence had passed. “My flat seems to be having a bit of…structural issues.”
“Structural issues?” Harry repeated, raising his eyebrows.
“Yeah,” James said, completely unconcerned by the fact that it was obvious Harry didn’t believe him. “Structural issues and it’s going to take three months, starting this Sunday, for them to get it resolved so I thought I would stay at home for the next three months…if that’s alright with you and mum,” he added as an afterthought.
“It’s going to take three months, starting this Sunday, for you, Fred, and Sam to fix some structural issues in your flat?” Harry repeated skeptically.
“Sure is,” James agreed.
“Alright then,” Harry shrugged, deciding that wasting twenty minutes figuring out what stupid thing the three boys had done this time wasn’t worth it.
“Thanks dad,” James grinned, jumping up and leaving the room.
“He bought it,” James told Sam and Fred who were waiting outside the ministry.
“Awesome,” Fred grinned. “Overpaying French-people, we thank you,” he said with a bow.
“Where are you staying?” James asked, frowning at him.
“In the flat over the store. I told my dad I would manage the Hogsmeade branch for the next three months,” Fred said with a shrug. “I think he had to talk mum into it but eventually they both agreed to let me try it out.”
“And in three months we’ll all have six months pre-paid rent,” Sam added.
“Speaking of payment, I need to get some leprechaun gold to pay Albus back for loaning me three galleons last week. See you lads later,” James said with a careless wave over his shoulder as Sam and Fred laughed at Albus’ misfortune.
“How much do you want to bet Harry didn’t actually buy his story?” Sam said to Fred, still chuckling,
“Yeah, there’s no way. James is an awful liar,” Fred agreed, laughing as well.
A/N: For those of you who read my author's notes/sneakpeaks into the next chapters you'll probably realize that the scene I gave you last time wasn't in this chapter but that's because I had to do some re-writing to get it to make sense and not feel like I was rushing it so I had to divide the original chapter into two so it'll be in the next chapter instead.
What did you think about the tiny bit of Taylor's history in the beginning? Any ideas on what's up with Natasha's dad? What's your impression of James? And most importantly....
Yay or nay on the bit centered on James? I've got a few more little scenes written centered on him but did it work or was it out of place?
Review and let me know!
(Sneak peak into next chapter can be seen under the authors note of the last chapter.)
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