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Wilted Flower by Roots in Water
Chapter 19 : Archives
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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It was a cool, brisk morning when Pansy stepped outside the manor doors at half-past eight, her hair done up tightly in a bun and her cheeks hidden behind a thick scarf. Though the grounds were still covered in snow, it was no longer a pristine white due to the rain that had fallen in sheets the night before. Instead the snow had hardened into ice at some parts, causing Pansy to be careful where she placed her feet, and traces of mud marred the whiteness.

Normally the imperfectness of the grounds would have irritated her but today Pansy refused to let it. She had bigger things to worry about and one of those things included leaving the grounds promptly so as to ensure that she would reach her destination by nine o’clock.

The wind curled around her body, teasing the edges of her robes in a manner that made Pansy clutch them all the more tight around her body. She hated the cold fingers that wanted to rid her of her warmth by snaking under her robes and wished that she didn’t have to brave the outdoors. Unfortunately, since no one had thought to provide her with the floo password even though she was now working at the Ministry, she could still only access the Ministry through the visitor’s entrance.

Still, as she reached the gates that marked the end of the Parkinson grounds and pushed past them to an area where she would finally be able to apparate, she thought longingly of the warm fire that the house elves had raging in the visiting room. It would have been so easy to simply take the floo…

She would see to the oversight today but for now she was resigned to once again taking the visitor’s entrance.

The atrium of the Ministry was even busier than the time she had spent in it before taking her N.E.W.T.s, filled with people rushing to get to their jobs on time. She was briefly distracted by the constantly flaring floos that lined the sides of the Ministry but she soon concentrated on reaching her destination. At least this time she knew where she had to go.

She cut a straight path through the throng of witches and wizards bustling through the atrium, heading towards the lifts, and was dismayed to see that the plump wizard from before was once again in charge of the desk guarding the lifts. Adri Bennett had mentioned his name, before he had abruptly ran away from her—what was it?

She shook her head—the man’s name wasn’t important.

There was a short line before his desk as he examined everyone’s badges and Pansy knew that it would have moved along faster if he stopped gossiping with everyone who entered his line of sight. She was dreading the moment that she reached the front of the line, even though she was aware of each second that ticked by.

When she did reach the front, she thrust her badge into his waiting hands and gazed around the rest of the atrium, hoping that if he couldn’t see her face he wouldn’t talk to her. Unfortunately, she had forgotten that her name was on the badge and hadn’t known that the man—Mr Richard?—had a very good memory.

As soon as he read her badge, he was talking to her.

“Miss Parkinson!” he said, lifting her badge closer to his face as though the news on it was the only interesting thing he had read that day, “I remember you!”

Pansy nodded and hoped that he would leave the conversation at that. However, the man seemed unconscious of her desires.

“How did you do on your N.E.W.T.s? Did you reach the examination room in time? If I remember correctly, it would have been a tight squeeze!” The man laughed and Pansy felt irritation bubble inside of her. She was not in the mood to banter with the man, not when she could still feel the coldness in her fingers. The warming charm she had cast hadn’t had much of an effect.

“And look at you now!” The man peered at her as though she was a strange, new creature. “If I’ve read this badge correctly—and my wife is always telling me that I need glasses!—it seems that you’ve gotten yourself a job! And with the Archives, no less. Not many people seek a job there.”

The man leaned closer to her, as though they were conspiring together. Pansy made no move to close the distance between them. If the man wanted to look foolish, it was his choice, but he wouldn’t drag her down as well.

“There’s been rumours that the place is so dull that people have fallen asleep at their desks.” The man laughed at the expression on her face and Pansy felt her irritation increase. “You should see the look on your face! No, it’s no secret that the Archives are a boring place. Let’s hope that you don’t get sucked into its pool of dreariness.”

The man looked as though he would say more and Pansy prepared herself for more inanities. She just wanted her badge to be returned to her so that she could be on her way. If she was late, what could she say? I was held up by the idiot guard by the lifts who doesn’t know how to keep to himself?

“Move along Richards!” a man called from behind her, “Let the poor girl go! Some of us have jobs to get to!”

Pansy felt her face flush as the stranger rescued her from Richards—she should have been able to save herself. But she didn’t allow any of her frustration with the situation show on her face and just accepted the badge from Richards with a stilted nod. Richards had taken the comment with grace, beaming at the man and waving her past him easily with a parting comment.

“You ought to get a real badge, Miss Parkinson. They’re so much better—impossible to fake!”

She hoped that the man wouldn’t be so talkative every day, though he was right about her needing to obtain the proper badge. She refused to come into work every day with a badge that was obviously from the visitor’s entrance that said “Pansy Parkinson: Archives Worker”. She wanted an official badge—it would just be one more thing that helped to prove that the Ministry did trust her, at least a little. If she continued to work with a visitor’s badge, she was sure to gain scorn and ridicule for being unable to secure a proper badge.

She would have to remedy its absence immediately.

Luckily, the lifts were prompt in their arrival and no one delayed her, though a few people did gaze askance at her as she walked past them. She hadn’t given any sign that she’d seen their disbelief or mistrust—she’d just continued walking, firm in the knowledge that she had the right to be where she was.

Besides, she had known that not everyone would be accepting of her position in the beginning—her family’s reputation preceded itself. The only reason that more people weren’t watching her suspiciously was that not many people recognized her. She had, after all, spent just over two years alone in her manor and she couldn’t expect all of the Britain’s Wizarding population to be at Diagon Alley at the same times she was – she had even planned some of the visits so that she wouldn’t be visiting when many people were in the Alley.

Even though people had recognized her for who and what she was in the Alley, the people in the Ministry had the benefit of being absorbed in their own tasks. Unlike in the Alley, wasting time here could end with one being sacked. Most people simply didn’t have the time to notice her.

Pansy soon found herself in the dim corridor that led to the Ministry Archives and almost immediately spotted the figure of the woman she assumed to be Theresa standing outside of the door Pansy had noticed the previous day.

She looked to be shorter than Pansy but she was wearing heels that lifted her up. Pansy noted that she was wearing the formal sort of robes that she would expect of a working person – black, with sleeves and a long skirt. Pansy found herself comparing her robes to those she herself wore – since it was her first day at the Archives she hadn’t yet purchased the business-woman robes for she hadn’t been certain of the level of professionalism that was expected of her. Seeing Mr. Craddle yesterday certainly hadn’t helped to sway her in one direction or another.

As a compromise with herself, she had worn her basic black robes, which weren’t as eye-catching as some of the robes in her wardrobe and yet had enough of a presence to suit her. While they weren’t a recent purchase, the basic style of robes never went out of fashion and they were of high quality.

They would do, Pansy had told herself and had sworn that as soon as she had enough information to properly choose her work-wear, she would go out and purchase it, no matter the price. After all, the robes she bought would help her to slip smoothly into the workings of the Archives and back into the upper levels of society.

She could spare a little money to accomplish that goal.

As Pansy watched and hurried towards her, the woman flipped open her pocket watch to check the time and then opened the satchel hanging by her side to fiddle with something inside it. The woman quickly glanced up and snapped her satchel closed, however, when she heard the sound of Pansy’s footsteps.

Running a quick hand over her hair to ensure that it was still in its tight bun (though Pansy noted that she must have had a harder time restraining it, since little strands were already escaping from the band tying them together), the woman smiled and introduced herself. Pansy could see that the smile was slightly forced and knew that the woman wished to be elsewhere, doing things other than escorting her around the Archives.

But since the lady—Theresa—seemed to want to keep up the appearance that she was perfectly fine in helping Pansy, Pansy wouldn’t draw any attention to her disinterest.

“Anthony told me to help you get settled into your position in the Archives,” she said and Pansy felt a pang of her irritation race through her—who was she to refer to her employer by his first name? It was unprofessional and Pansy hoped that the Archives weren’t run in such a messy manner – it would eventually reflect poorly on her.

Pansy let the anger fade away as quickly as it had appeared. She had thought that her anger would have disappeared after she had left the presence of Mr. Richards and had been happy at the thought—she didn’t want to spend her day at work angry. It would make it easier for her to lose control—not that Parkinsons ever lost control without first giving themselves permission to do so—and she couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

A single one could ruin all of her plans.

Theresa turned and placed her hand flat on the door, waiting a moment before pushing it open. Turning to face Pansy as she held the door open, she said, “It registers your identity. Your handprint will be logged into its memory today, so that tomorrow and for the rest of the time that you work here, however long that will be, you can enter this room without problem. Anyone else who wishes to enter this room, no matter what permission they may have, must wait for an Archives employee to let them in.”

Theresa smiled, as though she enjoyed having this power over others, before continuing. “The manner in which the door works is very similar to a muggle device, though you don’t need to know the specifics.” Pansy nodded—she had no desire to learn about Muggle machinery—and was struck by Theresa’s resemblance to the Weasleys. With her red hair and her apparent knowledge about Muggles (Pansy had heard the rumours about the elder Weasley’s fascination with everything Muggle—how pathetic a thing to spend your attention on), Theresa could easily be a member of their family.

She really didn’t want to work alongside a Weasley, particularly one whose position in the Archives seemed to be higher than her own. However, she caught herself before she opened her mouth to ask for Theresa’s last name – the Weasleys were known for being firmly on the Light side and if she could befriend one of them, it would go a long way in solidifying her change in the eyes of society—and bit her tongue. She would keep quiet about Theresa’s possible parentage, since it didn’t harm her efforts and because it would only look strange if she asked.

She wouldn’t alienate a co-worker so soon into her job. She wouldn’t.

Instead she followed Theresa around as she showed her the desks that were placed in rows just after the door, forming a barricade to protect the enormous bookshelves that continued until the room’s end some distance away. The bookshelves spanned wall to wall, with only a small pathway down the center of the room so that a person could reach the ones behind the first bookshelf, and went from floor to ceiling.

They were massive and Pansy felt small standing near to them.

Theresa stood beside her, a quiet pride shining in her eyes. She swept her arms out to encompass the portion of the room that contained the bookshelves and said, “These bookshelves contain all of the documents that anyone at the Ministry might require. They carry copies of all legal proceedings as well as clippings from most of the newspapers and magazines.” Pansy wondered how anyone could be so proud to work here, could be so proud of documents.

She shared a sharp glance with Pansy before saying, “We don’t carry the trash some people like to sell as news. You won’t find any issues of Witch Weekly or Sorcerer’s Fancy here and no one who actually should be here would come asking for them.” Pansy stopped herself from biting back that Witch Weekly wasn’t trash – starting an argument about a magazine, no matter how good the magazine was, was not something that would go over well on the first day of a new job. Especially not when the person she was arguing with held an unknown position in the workplace.

“Everything here is organized by subject and then by the first letter of the first word of their title. I trust that you are familiar with how this works?” Theresa looked at Pansy as though a negative answer would result in the immediate cancellation of her position at the Archives and Pansy answered “Yes” in a tone that made it quite clear that she was insulted that Theresa had even thought to ask such a silly question.

Theresa’s next smile didn’t seem quite so forced.

“Now special wards have been placed in this room so that nothing can be Accio-ed – it’s a precaution to prevent the documents from being easily stolen.” Pansy nodded her understanding and made a mental note to learn more about those wards – they could be useful in the future, if she ever wanted to ensure that something would be difficult to find. However, the use of the wards in this particular case could make finding certain documents hard, for certainly there were documents that fit under numerous categories.

Theresa’s answer to this was simple and, Pansy was happy to find, easy. Though the wards disallowed Accio from working, there was nothing in the room to prevent the Point-me spell from being used and, in fact, its use was encouraged by Anthony (there was another flash of irritation when Theresa mentioned his name and Pansy was unhappy in the knowledge that it took much longer to disappear this time) so that the time of those who had come to the Archives seeking information wouldn’t have to wait for very long before the required documents were in their hands.

She would simply have to remember to look the spell up later in her manor and practice it so that she didn’t look like a fool when she couldn’t perform it.

Theresa was momentarily derailed from her speech about the inner workings of the Archives by the sound of a soft cling as the door opened to admit a person. Turning around, Pansy found that the employee base of the Archives was even broader than she had previously imagined for entering the room was the type of person one would expect to find at a library: elderly, with a full head of grey hair and a thin frame that spoke more of a lack of desire to eat than starvation. He was holding a cane in his hand, which he used to support himself as he walked towards a desk. Pansy thought it would have fit better if the man was actually visiting for a document but knew that he had to work there. He wouldn’t have been able to get in by himself, otherwise.

“Hello Jonathon,” Theresa said, watching as the man made his way slowly across the stone floor (carpeting would soak up moisture and ruin the documents, Theresa had explained), making no move to help him. Pansy felt no urge to go to his aid as she once again heard the sound of his cane clicking against the floor—Theresa hadn’t and Pansy thought that there must be a reason for her inactivity.

But then doubt began to creep into her mind—what if this was just a test? What if Theresa was just waiting to see how Pansy would react to Jonathon? Perhaps in refusing to go to the old man’s aid she was actually sealing her reputation in the Archives as a heartless person.

Deciding that there was more reason to move than to remain immobile, Pansy started to walk towards Jonathon, who was steadily nearing the desk closest to the bookshelves, and was relieved when a moment later Theresa motioned with her hand to stop.

“That’s Jonathon,” she hissed, as though Pansy was too stupid to place the name she had said earlier to the person she had been talking to. “He likes to be independent.” She shrugged, as though to say “What can you do?” Pansy noted that she had become friendlier now—perhaps Theresa viewed speaking about the Archives as a bonding experience.

It would certainly make her life easier if she did.

“He also has bloody good hearing,” the man said loudly, startling the both of them and causing Theresa to blush. Pansy thought that her reddened face clashed horribly with her hair and hoped that she wasn’t one to embarrass easily. It would be hard to work with her if she constantly had to see such a horrible mixing of colours.

She didn’t say any of this aloud, though, preferring to watch as Theresa recovered. The blush was quickly fading away and she soon returned to her stiffer posture.

“Jonathon, it’s fifteen minutes after nine o’clock, the time at which you were supposed to be here.” Theresa’s voice had regained its strictness, though Pansy could see that she didn’t really want to punish Jonathon about his lateness. In fact, from Jonathon’s blossoming grin, Pansy assumed that this scolding was an ordinary ritual.

“I abide by no rules!” the man declared, sitting with a thump on his chair. “They just try to contain and restrain me and I won’t let them succeed!”

Theresa smiled, as though she once again sensed the weakness in his argument. “But Jonathon, you work in a place that thrives on rules and organization. The Archives would be a mess without the rules that guide us every day.”

“Pah!” Jonathon spat onto the stone floor, though he banished the stain on the floor just as quickly as he had placed it there – Pansy could see Theresa relaxing after he did that. She herself was slightly disgusted – she had never actually seen a man who was loose enough with his manners to actually spit on the floor. She controlled her expression, though, knowing that she was the outsider in this situation and that Jonathon, no matter how repulsive he might be after that last action, currently had the stronger relationships with their co-workers.

And it seemed that Jonathon wasn’t done with his anti-organization declaration. “How do you know I haven’t been sorting the potions articles under charms or slipping the latest issue of Witch Weekly onto the shelves?”

“Jonathon!” Seeing that Theresa’s face was turning as red as her hair, Pansy stepped back from Theresa’s side, deciding to remove herself, at least physically, from the ridiculousness of the people she would be working with. For the first time, she seriously wondered if the Archives were the ideal place to base the reparation of her family’s reputation.

Then she blinked and shook herself quickly, aware that the focus of her co-workers was only on each other – Theresa was scandalized that Jonathon would even think of ruining the careful organization of the Archives (though Pansy wondered why she cared as much as she did) and Jonathon was chuckling to himself in glee. She had to work here, she had chosen to work here because it was the first place to have accepted her. She had no choice if she wanted to continue with her restoration plan now… She had received no other job offers.

Resolving herself once more to stand firm in the face of all adversity, Pansy turned her attention back to the intense discussion between Theresa and Jonathon. However the discussion seemed to be nearing an end—Jonathon was reassuring Theresa that he hadn’t done anything to mess with the proper places of the documents.

“Are you sure?” Theresa’s face had returned to its previous paleness and she was slowly regaining the stiffness of posture that her anger had robbed her of. “If I see anything out of place, I’ll know who to blame.” She left the threat to hang in the air and turned around to face Pansy.

Pansy glanced one final time at Jonathon, who nodded at her with a wide smile, before watching Theresa. She didn’t want to risk Theresa’s wrath, for even though it seemed to burn quickly before disappearing she didn’t want to chance that that might only be the case in long-term relationships. She had known Theresa for mere minutes and that wasn’t enough time to build the relationship that would permit her to be careless around her without worry.

She didn’t know if she would ever build that relationship but she would try.

She would try and she would succeed.

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