Chapter 4 : Perfect
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Made a wrong turn once or twice.
Dug my way out, blood and fire.
Bad decisions, that's alright.
Disclaimer: Lyrics belong to Pink and anyone else involved in the song/album. I don't own Harry Potter so I don't own the characters in this story either.
The next day I woke up late. My room in my mum’s flat was at the back, away from the rising sun. Growing up it was nice because I was able to stay up late without my mum knowing and sleeping in was never a problem. Unfortunately, in my own flat the sun came up through the window in the bedroom and I quickly became accustomed to letting it wake me up in the morning.
The day following my night of cards and ice-cream I woke up suddenly when my old pocket watch went off at the same time I had it set for the last time I had stayed in this room—the day I went to see Meg Ann and Scorpius off at Hogwarts the year before.
“Get up,” it croaked, sounding like a frog that needed to stop smoking. I jerked awake, not used to the sound, and fell back down on the pillows immediately, burying my head back under my covers only to be startled again. “Get up!”
When I set it the year before I set it to wake me up half an hour before we had to leave. I arrived at the platform without make-up in pajama pants and a pair of my mum’s old, yet immensely comfortable, Ugg boots with my hair thrown up in a messy bun. Not exactly the way I was planning on showing up at the ministry.
My mum got me the pocket watch when I was thirteen because she thought it might help me get to my classes, as though the problem was me not keeping track of time. To this day she insists that she thought it would help me to stay on schedule since I hated being late but everyone knows the truth.
When my friends and I were skipping classes and seemingly ruining our lives, my mum held onto my need for being on time to keep her sanity. When I came home for breaks, she never mentioned the letters that got sent home and we went about life as we always did. I know that it frustrated her, to see me completely fine and happy at home and then to watch as I went to school and got in trouble. At first she tried to talk to me about it but my mum’s awful at heart-to-heart emotional stuff like that so eventually she just let it go and did her best with me when I was at home. There were times when we would blow up at each other and not talk for a few days but I always knew she would be there for me when I needed her to be.
The funny thing is, when I started to clean up my life at the end of sixth year, my need to be on time diminished somewhat. I still didn’t like being late for things but when Natasha had to fix her hair before we went to class or I got caught up talking to Hagrid and was late to meet Tyler or Scorpius, I didn’t freak out. It wasn’t quite Buddha’s Middle Path but it was as close as I would ever come to it.
That day, however, was not a good day to be late so I had to rush to get ready. I put toast in the toaster, threw everything that I could possibly need into my black messenger bag, and got dressed in an off-the-shoulder purple and black robe I had stolen from my mum’s closet the year before. I found black heels I had forgotten about under the bed and slid them on as well. Twenty minutes later I was rushing out the door with two pieces of toast wrapped in a paper towel and a squeaky pocket watch shrieking at me to ‘hurry up!’ I considered leaving it in my room and dealing with it later but decided it would be more fun to take it home and see Natasha’s reaction when it woke her up.
I had learned my lesson the day before so this time I waited until fifteen or so people stepped into the lift before following suit, making it in just before the doors closed.
The Auror hallway looked exactly the way it had before with the same people at their desks and the same people sitting in other’s cubicles. The only difference was the robes they were sporting although I could have sworn at least two of them were wearing the same outfit.
Just like Ron had instructed the day before I knocked on the door opposite his; it had a similar plaque except that this one was crooked had Harry Potter, Head Auror inscribed on it.
There was a bit of a scuffle before the door was thrown open by a petite blonde who smiled widely at me before hurrying out. Harry was sitting calmly behind his desk and stood up when I started walking in.
“Taylor Elizabeth, right?” he asked, offering me his hand to shake.
“That’s me,” I said just as Ron walked in behind me and perched himself on the edge of Harry’s desk.
It took thirty minutes for them to get through everything from the long and erratic hours to the relatively non-existent pay but eventually they finished telling me everything I already knew. Harry stood up suddenly, saying he would be back in a minute to assign me a desk and have someone show me around a bit. Ron attempted to make small talk while Harry was gone but he was rubbish at it so we sat in a relatively comfortable silence until Harry came back.
“Taylor,” Harry said, walking back into his office. “This is my godson, Teddy. He’s been in the department for 8 years, qualified what was it, five? Six years ago?”
“Something like that,” Teddy agreed, grinning at me. When I saw him, the first thing that came to mind was that he reminded me of Tyler. Ty’s hair was a bit shorter on the sides but they both had it styled in a 70’s Mohawk and seemed to enjoy adding color to it. Ty had blue tips last time I saw and Teddy’s was currently bright orange.
“Teddy will show you your desk and be your mentor for the next few months. If you need anything, just find Teddy and I’m sure he can take care of it,” Harry said but his attention was quickly caught by a wizard with dreadlocks and Teddy motioned for me to follow him out.
“So like Harry said, I’ll be your mentor for the time being. All it really means is that I’ll show you around, introduce you to people who you need to know, and if you need anything I’ll be there to help out.”
“Alright,” I agreed easily, following him through the maze of cubicles until we reached the back corner that had ten desks without cubicles separating them.
“This is your desk,” Teddy said, indicating one of the four without any decorations on it. “James and Kyle are going to be training with you. They’re both in their third year. Abigail Monzel and Danny Stephens are both technically still training as well but they’re about to qualify. Abigail is in her fourth year and Danny is in his sixth, poor bloke. He transferred from France’s program to ours in order to take care of his younger brother and sister. It created a right mess with his training but they’re both expecting to get their promotion with the next board meeting.
“Derrick and Mackenzie are the other two desks. They’ve both qualified but nearly blew a mission last month because they couldn’t get along so Harry moved them out of their cubicles and said they had to deal with the trainees until they could get along.”
“And that’s a bad punishment?” I guessed.
“Depends on who the trainees are,” Teddy said in the same quiet voice he started using when he mentioned the Abigail and Danny’s years. “With James and Kyle in the mix…well Derrick’s taken to coming in at night to get his paperwork done and Mackenzie has started trying to hide out in other people’s cubicles until someone clues Harry in. To be honest, I think it’s started amusing Harry and Ron on boring days.
“Danny doesn’t seem to mind much but he’s got a kid of his own and two siblings at his house so I’d suppose he’s used to it. And Abigail…well she tends to row with them quite a bit. I’m warning you now they like to prank, especially when they don’t have enough to do or get bored. So watch your back.”
“Constant vigilance,” two voices called out at the same time and I turned around to see James and Kyle walking towards us with butterbeers in their hands, both grinning widely.
“Huh?” I asked, my eyebrows knitting together.
“Constant vigilance,” Kyle repeated.
“It means you always pay attention, know everything that’s going on around you,” James explained, turning his back on my desk and pulling himself up so that he was facing Teddy and I.
Kyle Jordan and James Potter were both a year above me at Hogwarts. Kyle had gorgeous cappuccino colored skin and huge black hair that was shaped to be a small afro. He had never been on the Quidditch teams but he used to commentate for the matches. He was taller than Teddy, James, and I though his hair may have given him the edge over Teddy. The only things James seemed to get from his dad was the dark hair and height, both standing at about 6 feet. His eyes were a chocolate brown and his features much were less harsh than his dad but they both had a good five inches on me, despite the three inch heels I was wearing.
“So you’re the new recruit,” Kyle said, looking me up and down. “Yeah, good choice Teddy.”
“Dude, you have a girlfriend,” James stated, rolling his eyes at his friends antics.
“I didn’t say anything, I just said that I thought they picked a good one,” Kyle defended himself, raising his hands in surrender.
“Taylor, this is Kyle and James. Mates, meet Taylor,” Teddy introduced us.
“We’ve met,” James said, grinning at me.
“We have?” Kyle asked, looking confused.
“I met her yesterday,” James said. “You know, when you were deathly ill and just had to stay home?”
“Oh yeah,” Kyle said, nodding his head as though he had temporarily forgotten about his sickness. “Yesterday. Really ill I was, wouldn’t stop puking.”
“I’ve got to get back to work,” Teddy cut him off. “It’s her first day so help her out, yeah? And if I find out either of you tried to dump any of your work on her then I’m telling your dad. Got it?”
“When did you become such a tattle-tale?” Kyle asked.
“Seriously Teddy,” James agreed. “Way to spoil the fun. When I first got here you piled all your paperwork on me!”
“Yeah, and she’ll have enough to do with all the paperwork she’ll be handed without your help. Taylor if you need anything my cubicle is just over there,” he pointed diagonally and I nodded even though I wasn’t sure which in the pack of three he had been indicating.
“Be nice James,” he added before turning and walking away. I sighed and sat down, ignoring James’ mumbled,
“I’m always nice.”
“What did you say your name was again?” Kyle asked.
“Taylor,” I repeated.
“And the second half?” he pushed.
“Elizabeth,” I said and Kyle’s jaw dropped. I mean literally dropped.
“Taylor Elizabeth?” he repeated. “As in—” James elbowed him and Kyle coughed quickly. “Err, I mean, you were a year below us at Hogwarts right? In Gryffindor?”
“As far as I know,” I said, raising an eyebrow at him. I knew there were probably a few million things Kyle meant to say in connection to my name and I knew none of them had to do with what house I was in.
“Right, well, uh, what I really meant was what’s your surname?” Kyle clarified, trying to disperse the slightly awkward lull.
“I don’t use my last name,” I told him coolly.
“What did people call you at Hogwarts?” he asked, looking surprised.
“Tay-lor,” I repeated, articulating the word. “Or Tay, or Lizbe, or Ellie, or pretty much anything else you can come up with using those two names. The options are pretty endless.”
“But I always call people by their last names,” Kyle said, looking put out. “Once I use their first name it’s a sign that I like them or am at least willing to be friends with them.”
“What if they don’t want to be friends with you?” I challenged.
“Everybody wants to be friends with me,” Kyle said crossing his arms and putting on a cocky grin.
“Whatever you say Jordan,” I shrugged, purposefully using his last name. Kyle glared at me.
“I’m going to figure out your last name,” he told me. I nodded patronizingly.
“You do that,” I agreed.
“I am,” he insisted.
“Yeah, you said that,” I reminded him.
“You don’t believe me,” he said, obviously annoyed.
“Says who?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Says me,” he stated, crossing his arms.
“If I guess your last name, will you tell me when I get it right?” Kyle asked after a beat of silence. I considered his offer for a minute before nodding.
“Sure. If you guess it, I’ll tell you.”
“Oi, Jordan!” a guy with long brown hair that was in a plait down his back stuck his head out of his cubicle called out to Kyle. “There’s a meeting in five that you’re supposed to sit in on.”
“Peterson, McCabe, Rivet,” Kyle guessed quickly, turning back around to face me.
“No, no, and no,” I told him with a slight smirk. He was never going to get it.
“I’ll get it,” Kyle said, pointing his finger at me and backing away.
“Okay,” I agreed, laughing when he turned around and tripped over a trashcan, shakily regaining his balance before someone grabbed his arm and pulled him into their cubicle.
“Sorry about him,” James said, rubbing the back of his neck uneasily. “He’s a good mate he just…isn’t always the most considerate of people.” I shrugged.
“I’m not either,” I told him. “Besides,” I added, unable to hold back my grin any longer, “it’s nice to know that our legacy lives on. We worked hard on that, it would suck to have it all crash and burn just because we graduated.”
James nodded slowly, looking at me a little oddly. I suppose if I had been head-boy, an all-star student, and a Quidditch star I might be surprised that Hogwarts’ rebel had managed to become an Auror without having an epiphany where she became all Zen and embarrassed about her previous reputation. But I didn’t have an epiphany and I definitely wasn’t Zen.
“Well,” James said, putting on a smile and looking like the happy-go-lucky guy he was known as at Hogwarts. “Why don’t I show you where to get some desk supplies? I don’t think we have anything on tap for today so it’ll be pretty relaxed for the most part.”
“Are you sure you’re not just trying to lure me to a closet so that you can lock me in with all your paperwork?” I asked him cocking an eyebrow.
“Ignore Teddy,” James said, still smiling. “He just likes taking the Mickey out of us. I’ve known him my whole life so he’s like an older brother to me, ya know?”
I nodded even though I didn’t. To me, family is family. Whether you like it or not, the people who share your blood are bonded to you irrevocably. Whether you’re close to your family or have never met them, there will always be a connection that can’t be erased.
There was a time when I liked to believe that I picked my family. It took a while but eventually I realized that family is one of the many things out of my control because the thing about family is that you get who you get. You can have people who feel like family and you can have people who act like family but you can’t change who you’re related to. It didn’t matter whether or not I recognized or even talked to my dad’s side of the family because they would always be there, lurking in the shadows with all their issues and dysfunctions.
“Are you guys actually related?” I asked, knowing that Teddy was usually included in the Wotter clan whatever’s.
“Not by blood,” James said with a casual shrug as he led the way down the hall. “But he spent so much time at our house growing up that he may as well have moved in with us. He married Vic two years ago though so I guess in the eyes of the law we are now.”
“Vic’s your cousin?” I guessed knowing, there were a lot of them.
“Yep,” James confirmed. “We’ve all been waiting for them to announce they’re expecting. Aunt Hermione recons she’s pregnant now but they want to wait until Vic’s done with her wandlore study before they announce it.”
“She’s becoming a wandmaker?” I asked.
“Yeah,” James said, rolling his eyes. “She’s really into it too. Every time we have a get together she makes us all answer a bunch of questions and tries to predict what kind of wand we have and then makes us hand over our wand so that she can study it and see if she can tell by observing them what kind they are. She memorized all of ours a few months ago so now she’s cornering anyone new we bring over. At first it was kind of funny; now it’s just strange.”
“That’s so cool though,” I said. “Wands are really complex; I don’t think I’d have the patience to study them.”
“You should meet Vic then,” James snorted. “She’ll talk your ear off about them. Ah, here we go. This has everything you could possibly need at your desk so take whatever you want. The maintenance crew keeps it stocked so if you run out of anything it should be in here.”
Looking around, I didn’t know what half of the stuff was. There were quills, inkwells, and parchment but there were also strange contraptions, one of which looked like a Muggle stapler except that it didn’t clip in place so you could spin it around in circles. Another was a dark pink something in the shape of a rectangle but when I reached out to touch it the color showed up on my finger. Not wanting to admit that I didn’t know how to use all of it I started grabbing things out of it and filled my arms. James picked up a few things that I wasn’t able to grab and we headed back to my desk so that I could set it up.
“So,” James said, breaking the silence yet again. I had only spent a few hours with him but I could already tell that he wasn’t very good at handling silence. Too bad for him, I’m not very good at handling constant conversation. I continued to stare at my desk but the lack of response didn’t deter him.
“What made you decide to become an Auror?” he asked.
“Oh, the wonderful pamphlet,” I said. “I took one look at the black cover with the silver writing and knew it was the career for me.”
“Yep,” I said, nodding my head seriously. “I can’t resist silver letters.”
“I’ll remember that,” James grinned, recognizing that I didn’t really want to talk about it for which I was grateful. He didn’t strike me as the perceptive type but maybe I was wrong.
“You should,” I told him. “One of these days I’m going to get on your nerves and it’ll come in handy so you can lure me into a closet and lock me in there.”
“You’re never going to let that go, are you?” James asked.
“Eventually I will,” I assured him. “It’ll just take a few lifetimes.”
“Gee thanks,” he said sarcastically. “You’re so very merciful.”
“I know,” I grinned at him.
I thought that our conversation would be done at that but of course I was wrong and he continued to pester me for the next few hours, making me really want to tape his mouth shut. He talked about his life casually and asked me about mine time and time again. I kept avoiding his questions but he wasn’t perturbed. He would drop it after I obviously avoided his question but a few seconds later another question would be fired at me. He was like a machine gun that never ran out of ammunition.
I went out to get lunch on my own and when I got back James became slightly less annoying, taking a few breaths in between his questions. By the time it was six and we were both leaving he had stopped talking all together and we were able to work side-by-side in comfortable silence. I hadn’t seen Kyle since his name was called that morning but James didn’t seem concerned so I refrained from asking, not wanting to seem like I didn’t know what I was doing.
“How was work?” Natasha asked when I opened the door and threw my bag on the floor.
“Tiring,” I muttered. “James Potter can wear people out.”
“You’re explaining that comment over dinner,” Natasha called out as I slipped into our bedroom and closed the door behind me. I froze when I heard her comment and slowly opened the door again.
“You’re cooking dinner?” I asked her. Natasha rolled her eyes.
“Don’t worry; I’m not going to catch the stove on fire again. I’m just making grilled cheese.”
I nodded, still slightly worried.
Pajamas and grilled cheese make me feel better every time, without fail. They’re my solution to everything: bad day? Put on pajamas. Feeling sick? Eat grilled cheese. Boyfriend broke up with you? Cry in baggy clothes and eat a golden brown cheese sandwich. When something really awful happens like your cat died, your boyfriend cheated on you, or you haven’t aren’t able to keep anything down add chocolate. No matter how sick I am, I can always eat chocolate and grilled cheese. Even when I’m throwing up. Tyler says it’s a disorder but I like to think of it as a gift.
“So,” Natasha pressed later that night. She let me get through dinner without making any conversation, for which I was thankful, but when we both climbed into bed that night she turned on her side and looked across the nightstand that separated our two beds.
“So what?” I asked, reluctantly closing my book.
“How was it?” she asked.
“It was…different. I don’t know. Do you remember Kyle Jordan, though?”
“Black guy?” Natasha asked frowning. “Year ahead of us, friends with James, good-looking…”
“Pretty much, yeah,” I said. “He’s doing the training as well. Teddy Lupin, ex-head boy, is my mentor. This girl Abigail is finishing her training; she was a Ravenclaw and used to chase us around Hogwarts. I don’t think she remembers me but I only saw her briefly. It’s just…weird,” I tried to explain. “I’ve never been friends with people like this. Heck, I never really talk to people like this.”
“But don’t you see Tay, that’s a good thing,” Natasha said earnestly. “Think about it. Who else could get an O in defense against the dark arts even though they missed more than half the classes? Who else can pull an excuse out of thin air when they get caught on the grounds at two in the morning whilst intoxicated? Who else can spread the truth so thinly that an aunt would be too much pressure on it and yet get away with it because in some really strange, roundabout way they’re able to justify it and talk in circles until it makes sense to everyone even though no one understands how the heck an elephant looks like a cat?”
“Huh,” I said thoughtfully. “Maybe I should have been a lawyer.” Natasha snorted.
“Yeah right, like you could actually listen to all those people complain without setting them on fire.”
“I’m not sure how to take that,” I laughed and Natasha shrugged.
“Look, my point is that you have experiences that most people in the Auror department don’t have. You’ve been…not on the other side exactly but you know how the people you’re tracking think. All of the goody-two-shoed Auror’s who were head boy and received all O’s on their NEWT’s—they don’t have that. They can’t even imagine something that would cause them to be in a situation like that because they’re too damn perfect. You’re not.”
“So everyone else in the Auror department is perfect and I’m not?” I clarified, able to stop myself from laughing only because I was so exhausted. Natasha threw her hands up in exasperation.
“Seriously?” she demanded. “Out of that entire speech th—”
“I’m kidding,” I laughed. “Thank you…But seriously, I would wipe shrink off of your possible career choices because you suck at pep-talks.”
“Considering you hate pep-talks I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Natasha said decisively and I laughed again, reaching over to turn off the light.
But as I fell asleep I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering back to my mind from wandering to my dad and wondering what his first day of Auror training had been like. Different than mine, this I could be sure of.
A/N: I'm sooo sorry about the long wait. My laptop has been having problems so I wound up having to copy a bunch of the chapters onto a flashdrive so that I could post them. I'm going on vacation for a week or so but I will update as soon as I get back so the wait shouldn't be as long. The good part about this chapter taking so long is that I'm way ahead now so I should be able to update regularly. Hopefully.
Anyways, more James/Taylor! What do you think of Harry? I always get super nervous writing the characters from the book. Any ideas what's up with Taylor's dad? Who can guess what her surname is? I only read through it once so please point out any mistakes.
Please review, it only makes the story better and it makes me want to get the next chapter out sooner (hint, hint).
And as always, here's a sneak peak into the next chapter:
Tyler: "I’ve heard nothing about Auror training though. And unless I’m much mistaking I saw an old Gryffindor Quidditch playing git who seriously needed to get over himself because what the hell you did was none of his bloody business.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I laughed, remembering my rant from my fifth year. “But, hypothetically speaking, if you meant James he’s really not quite as bad as I originally thought he was.”
“So he’s not a prick?” Tyler asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Oh no, he’s definitely a prick,” I assured him. “He just also happens to be a pretty decent guy who I may or may not have taken my bad moods out on a few times.”
I’ve never been one for picking fights; I leave that to my friends. Instead, I tend to rant. A lot. And when I was in school and in a crappy mood I usually ranted about James and his group of friends, if only because I actually knew Sam Wood pretty well and therefore knew what a git he was. And truthfully, as much as I say you shouldn’t judge people by who their friends are, I always assumed that his friends were like him. Though to be fair, they do seem awful similar.
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