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Chapter 20 : Meeting
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She could see why Jonathon was still capable of retaining his job at the Archives – there was no physical stamina involved, only mental.
She had also learned that the Archives were open longer than almost any other department in the Ministry – to allow for the necessary availability of information, Theresa had said proudly, as she walked among the bookshelves – and thus that she did have more than just Theresa and Jonathon as her co-workers.
One more person had joined them as Theresa showed Pansy around the Archives, who was in a much friendlier mood now that she was able to discuss the Archives without much interruption. Pansy had been careful to portray only an attentive air as Theresa had babbled on about things too inane for others to care about and had welcomed the brief distraction that the newcomer had provided.
And it was brief – Theresa did no more than say hello to the woman, who looked scared and was in constant motion, who hunched over as though to hide her height, and introduce her to Pansy. Then she had let the woman, Felicity Bolhorn, proceed to her desk where she had immediately dove into the stack of documents on the edge of her desk. She looked determined to ignore everyone in the room, from the way she never glanced up from the parchment and used her long, brown hair as a curtain to shield herself.
Pansy had been glad that Felicity hadn’t extended her hand to be shaken – Pansy thought that she was too open in her fear. Her father had always told her to never show her emotions, her weaknesses like that in public where anyone might see them and use them against her.
She had also been slightly puzzled by the fact that Theresa hadn’t scolded the woman for being late as she had done to Jonathon – after all, the woman had arrived just under three hours after Jonathon had.
Seeing her puzzled look, though, Theresa had quickly erased her confusion.
“The employees of the Archives work on a staggered schedule – we don’t all work at once, for that would leave us all with extremely long days. Instead, we work in shifts that overlap as the day goes on. Anthony arrives first, but he also leaves the earliest. After that, the timing of the shifts rotates on a weekly basis.
“However, you can request a certain time slot, so long as no one else objects. I prefer to be here in the mornings, when everything is quieter, because I find it easier to analyze the documents then. Other people, like Nicola, Lesley and Clive, prefer to take the shifts in the late afternoon and early evening so that they can help and talk with the reporters that come here searching for facts for their articles. Of course, the Aurors can come in here at all times, looking for information on their cases, but that slot tends to be the most populated of all of them. Jonathon likes to request that slot but someone always objects-” Theresa raised her voice at this point, slipping a glance over her shoulder at Jonathon’s desk “-since we all know that he likes to annoy the Daily Prophet reporters. Whenever the opportunity arises, he’s slow to let them in and even slower to help them find their documents, often claiming that he’s hard of hearing. We’ve had complaints that we ought to sack him.”
“They’re all parasites!” Jonathon called back, without looking up from the document he was reading. Theresa flushed red and muttered something about not properly respecting the people who wanted and needed information.
“Anyway,” she said, turning sharply back towards the conversation, “due to this staggered schedule, it may be some time before you see the rest of the employees of the Archives. But you can rest assured that everyone here is perfectly able to complete the tasks set to them, even though for some of them it may not seem like it.” Pansy assumed that the jab was directed at Jonathon and wondered if they were always this intense in their arguments. Jonathon seemed to take delight in antagonizing Theresa and she was quick to return his comments.
“You haven’t been assigned a specific rotation yet. Today you’ll do the first shift, which starts at nine and not 9:15,-” Another pointed glance “-tomorrow you’ll be placed on the second shift, which starts at noon, and you will continue like this until you have worked on all of the shifts.” Pansy nodded—this routine would allow her to meet all of the employees without it seeming strange. “After that point, you’ll be free to place your request as to which shift you’d prefer to be placed on, though you should be aware that any requests made are not set in stone—you can still bounce around on the shift schedule.”
Pansy almost raised her eyebrow at the idea that her request would be denied or put aside but remembered just in time that she couldn’t show any indications that she still considered herself better than everyone else in the room.
Theresa smiled. “Everyone bounced around a little in the beginning before they settled in—don’t worry about it. Soon enough you’ll find your perfect slot.”
Pansy nodded again and realized that the bouncing around on the schedule didn’t have to be a negative thing—it would give her an easy way to be in constant contact with all of the employees. Once she settled into a spot, she would have less access to certain people unless she requested a different shift or they did. And she couldn’t request a different shift without a legitimate reason – she didn’t want to offend anyone.
It was soon after Lesley’s entrance that Pansy was finally shown to a desk and given a stack of documents that was noticeably smaller than the ones on the other desks. She wasn’t offended, though – it meant less work for her and she was the newest employee.
Theresa still took it upon herself to explain Pansy’s new task; she seemed to have completely dropped her annoyed attitude from earlier in the morning.
“This is a really easy,” she said in a reassuring tone, and Pansy gritted her teeth minutely at the tone – she wasn’t stupid. “All you have to do is read the titles of the documents, and sometimes the contents as well, and file them in the appropriate section.” She patted the documents once, as though she was assuring herself that they were safe and whole, and, seeing Pansy’s fixed smile, left her to her work.
Pansy slowly picked up the first of the documents in front of her and examined it. The words “Improvement of Ancient Runes Ritual a Success” ran across the top in bold, black text and were accompanied underneath by the author’s name—a Patricia Lonslew. The name didn’t sound familiar and Pansy wondered briefly if she should make note of the name – the witch was an employee of the Daily Prophet and might be useful in the future—before deciding that she needn’t spread herself too thinly this early in the game. She would only allow Lonslew to occupy her thoughts if she proved to be a noteworthy journalist, something that this article didn’t reflect.
However, the title of this article made it easy to sort and Pansy moved to stand. She would place the articles into their proper places one at a time so that it would be less likely that she would make a mistake (not that Parkinsons did, though thoughts swirled in Pansy’s head reminding her of several actions she had done that could be classified as mistakes – Pansy hushed them, pushing them to the back of her mind).
As she stood, gripping the parchment lightly in her hand so that she would not wrinkle it, she noticed Theresa’s eyes on her. She smiled lightly, though she found her muscles reluctant to move into the position, and Theresa returned it, wider and brighter than hers had been, before ducking her head and returning to her own business.
Pansy moved smoothly around her desk and walked straight into the corridor of bookshelves, hesitating and stopping her walk only after she had disappeared far enough into the corridor that she was beyond the sight of her co-workers. It was only then that she allowed her confusion to surface and gave herself leave to search among the shelves for the relevant category.
Though she knew the organization of her library back at home quite well, the Archives didn’t organize their subjects in exactly the same manner and she found the Ancient Runes not in the middle of the row of bookshelves like they were at the manor but rather towards the back. Pansy wondered idly as she returned to her desk if the subjects were ordered in the bookshelves based on relevance and popularity – the Dark Arts and Auror shelves were nearer to the front, with potions close behind them, while the shelves on the discoveries of the Ancient Egyptian wizards were near the end of the row.
She sat down and began to read the next document – this one was harder to classify, for it walked a fine balance between a discussion on regular curses and the Dark Arts.
It was quiet work and Pansy felt herself slipping smoothly into a rhythm, barely looking up when Theresa slipped more documents onto her desk – the latest clippings from the Daily Prophet, Pansy noted when she finally saw them.
It was also easy work and Pansy found that she also had moments to think and plan during the day – she would move slowly, until she had a better knowledge of the personalities of her co-workers. She only had today with them, before she was moved to a different set tomorrow. At least they shared lunch – she had not brought her own and planned to join one or more of them if they left, if they would accept her.
And at least she was only with them for a short period of the day – her shift finished at three, after which time she was free to leave.
And free to plan.
The days after that passed quickly as Pansy strove to make connections with each of her new co-workers.
By the end of the fourth day she had met everyone that Theresa had mentioned on her first day and everyone that she hadn’t. There were none that she had formed an immediate bond with and she had been careful to avoid learning about their blood status. If she didn’t know, she thought, it would be easier for her to prevent any unpopular opinions from leaking through to show on her face and body gestures. She did, however, expect that she was working with those of mixed blood and knew that a day would most likely come when she did learn of their statuses. If and when it came, she was determined to stop any outward reaction – the blood statuses of her co-workers were something that she could and would use to her advantage – how could they fail to recognize her change when she forged friendships with those of pure and non-pure blood alike?
And she was careful to never let her inner thoughts through to her outer expressions as she listened to them prattle on about silly things that happened to them, though most of the time they were talking to a wider audience than just her. She hadn’t been accepted enough yet to become anyone’s sympathetic ear, something that she considered a mixed blessing.
While listening, she commented and nodded as though she was paying the utmost attention to them and continued to complete her work in a diligent fashion. Even if she wasn’t one of the fastest workers in the Archives, she would give them no easy reason to fire her.
And she stored the information they told her, repeating it in her mind until she had an opportunity to write it down. She was starting a collection at home of notes on her co-workers. It would help her to remember them and to gain their trust more easily.
She didn’t have much information yet—the basic information wasn’t talked about much and so, even if it was necessary to form friendships, it was the hardest to get. Instead she learned that Terrance, a thin, sandy-haired man who looked as though a strong breeze would easily be able to fly off with him (and Pansy did not smile at the image of him flailing in the wind—she didn’t), was having trouble with his marriage, though she didn’t know exactly what the trouble was. Nicola had just said that Terrance had temporarily moved in with his friend, a suitcase in tow.
Pansy wondered why he had been the one to be removed from the house.
Pansy hadn’t learned anything interesting about Nicola, either from her speaking or from conversations with her other co-workers. From her shifts that she shared with the witch, Pansy had discovered that Nicola was loud—loud in voice and loud in opinion. Her physical appearance bolstered this loudness, allowing her to dominate the room she was in.
Pansy had sniffed at this discovery but refrained from commenting. Privately, though, she wished that she was just as free and able to declare her opinions to the world as Nicola was and sometimes it was with an envy-tinged gaze that she watched Nicola expound her latest problem to the listening ears of Lesley. Her black hair would hang in a busy cloud around her head, shaking as Nicola nodded vigorously to underline her points, and her whole body would move in time to the emotion she was currently swept away with.
Lesley herself would be nodding her head, her large brown eyes almost covered by her brown bangs. Pansy found her to be the most friendly of any of her new co-workers, now that Theresa had fulfilled her duty to Mr Craddle (Pansy made a point of calling him that, even in her mind – Theresa’s casualness with his first name still bothered her, though no one else had commented on it) and had returned to being primarily occupied with reading documents and ensuring that the rules of the Archives were enforced.
Lesley was tall, though she wasn’t as tall as Felicity—a fact that had taken Pansy several shifts to figure out since Lesley had always arrived before her and remained sitting whenever Pansy’s attention wandered to her. She seemed to prefer sitting, something that Pansy reluctantly included in her notes on her co-workers. One never knew when a fact might come in handy.
However, beyond her introductions and her minimal participation in their conversations, Pansy hadn’t made any progress with forming a connection with her co-workers. Part of the problem was that she didn’t know how and had no one to turn to for help.
Even her reflection hadn’t answered her calls for aid.
Instead she had had to seek comfort from Astor, who had become even more active than usual when she paid more attention to him. The sight of him bouncing up and down at her approach, tugging and almost choking himself to get beyond the range of Milly’s spell and into her arms, had made her feel guilty and now she took him with her wherever she went in the manor. It seemed to make Astor happier and her mother wasn’t there to criticize or worry.
After her initial bounce through the schedule was over, Pansy requested the same slot as Nicola, Lesley and Clive in the “outgoing” shift, though she knew she was unlikely to gain a permanent spot there over the people who had worked in the Archives longer.
It hadn’t hurt to apply, though, and Pansy had done so after forcing herself to talk with Lesley about applying there. The witch had nodded her head excitedly and had started to regale Pansy with tales of strange people she had met while working on that shift. Though Pansy had been anxious to return to her work (she didn’t feel that she could be caught slacking off from the organization of documents), she had remained in place, listening to Lesley’s tales of a man who had come in wanting information on walruses and their relationship with the turning of the tides and hadn’t listened when she had said that they didn’t have any documents on that.
It was a move in the right direction, Pansy thought and gave a small laugh that sounded fake to her ears, though Lesley didn’t seem to notice.
Lesley had been the only overtly friendly person, the only person to initiate a conversation with her or continue it beyond the range of the beginning question. She seemed to be completely unaware of Pansy’s family history, something that Pansy didn’t think was possible. Everyone who lived in Britain had been affected by the war and Lesley didn’t have the accent of someone who had recently moved to the island.
On the other hand, Pansy had been shown no overt hostility. In fact, the only person who showed signs of being angry and irritated with her was Cyril Joist, a stocky redhead whose hair hung over his ears and whose freckles dotted their way across his face.
When he had barged in to join Felicity in the second shift of the day, he hadn’t acknowledged Theresa’s introduction of Pansy with anything more than a squawk that “she had better not be suited with a desk near his because he wouldn’t stand for it!”. Luckily for him, his desk was closer to the front of the room than Pansy’s was – Pansy didn’t think that her other co-workers would have been pleased to be forced to switch desks just to suit Cyril.
Unfortunately, she also suspected that they probably would have blamed her for the move.
Her time in the company of Slytherins had prepared her for the ever-shifting politics of human relationships, though Slytherins tended to be more reserved in their emotions and thoughts.
She felt as though she was climbing a never-ending set of stairs, trying desperately to reach the top and claim that glory that lay there.
And there were still many ways in which she was as knowledgeable as a toddler, as much as it pained her to recognize the fact.
She learned that a friendship of the kind that she wanted, needed, could not be built through a single glance or even a single conversation. It took time and effort, more than she had realized. She would need to do more than just pretend to listen, though her notes served her well. She would have to participate, to seek them out instead of the other way around.
She would have to initiate and persist and follow, something that she had never felt the need to do before, something that she had never had to do before (except, a voice whispered in her head, where your blond friend was concerned—a voice that Pansy ignored).
And there was the ever-present fear that, somehow, someday, the stairs would start to crumble under her feet and she would fall, in the same way as her father and the Dark Lord he followed.
She feared that she would fail and it was that thought that gave her nightmares, that gave her sleepless nights where she could only stare at the ceiling above her (she dared not spend the money on sleeping potions, not when they were still so short on money and when the purchase could cause rumours to spread and attention called to her problems).
But there was nothing she could do, but continue and so continue she did.
Parkinsons didn’t fail and she was a Parkinson in every way.
A/N: I'm posting this chapter early because I'll be on vacation for the next few weeks and I won't have much access to the Internet. Hopefully I'll be able to post another chapter in a week's time and, if not, I'll definitely have one ready in two week's time. Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts in the form of a review!
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