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Chapter 18 : You've Got Moxie, Kid
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 15|
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I’m feeling pretty stupid in my thief getup. Really I’m just wearing too many pieces of clothing, in varying shades of faded black. To any idiot, I look like a suspicious character—a tormented poet at the least. Adding this to my list of concerns, I can actually feel my stomach twisting into knots. It seems the calming walk isn’t doing the trick. I haven’t forgotten the portraits of snippy models lining WW’s corridors. If one of them sees us, surely we’ll be ratted out. My only hope is a secret stairwell leading from the kitchens to just outside Ward’s office (I’ve used it to lower my sandwich-retrieval time to a new record.) I may be able to shimmy into the corridor without being spotted. But it will be risky.
Ugh, what was I thinking asking Dean and Seamus to help? They’re not exactly the quietest, nor most graceful. Then again, neither am I. I should’ve asked somebody else; somebody small and quick.
A young man is heading my way. The portfolio he carries catches my attention and I realize that I’m near the Antiphilus campus. “Jae?” I call uncertainly.
I note that he’s wearing all black, and that he walks nimbly. Maybe I could just—
No! Squeaks my conscience, miniature-Lisa, Stop dragging others into your half-baked schemes!
I shake my head, chasing the thought away. Jae reaches me and eyes my getup suspiciously, “What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Just out for a stroll.”
“Through the vaults of Gringotts?”
“No!” I fire too defensively. “Just through town. Diagon Alley is lovely this time of night.”
A bedraggled wizard stumbles by, pausing to vomit loudly on the street.
“Lovely,” Jae steps closer and crosses his arms. He’s only a bit taller than me, but he’s actually kind of intimidating. “Well I think you’re up to something.”
“Of course I’m not! Why would you even… I mean… honestly! Some people!”
He waits patiently as I attempt to un-fluster myself. “Fine,” he says easily. “In that case, I insist that I join you on your stroll.”
My jaw drops, “Oh, come on!”
“It can be dangerous this time of night,” he smirks.
I can’t believe this. What a cunning, sneaky little… Wait. That’s right: sneaky.
“All right, fine!” I shout in one impossibly long sentence, “I’m breaking into my editor’s office, and it’s a long story, and I promise I’m not stealing anything, or doing anything illegal—”
“—Other than breaking in—”
“—and I can explain everything to you later, but I just really need to get this done, tonight, and there’s no point in trying to stop me!”
Jae looks impressed. Whether it’s by my determination or my lung capacity, I’m not sure. At last he says, “Sounds brilliant. I’m in.”
I’ve opened my mouth to retaliate but falter, “…Oh?”
“Yeah, why not,” he shrugs. I’m amazed by how easily my friends have agreed to this, and am beginning to question my character judgment. “I mean, you don’t seem to have any kind of plan whatsoever. And I reckon there’s some kind of security system we’ll have to get past.”
He winces, sucking air through his teeth, “Worse than guard-dragons, I hear. Well! Breaking and entering it is, then. But don’t think that this counts as our date.”
Although I’m not sure how I feel about Jae Chang as a human being, let alone a potential boyfriend, I still get all giggly. It must be the desired effect, as he puts an arm around me. We set off. It’s hard to walk like this, but I suppose it’s what couples do. And perhaps we’re honing in on couple-dom (Couple-ship? Couple-hood?) We chatter idly along the way, and soon my nerves dissipate. He’s warm and kind of smells nice. By the time we arrive at Witch Weekly, I’m feeling much more confident.
The moon is a thin crescent, shedding little light onto the looming building. It’s much creepier at nighttime, I note. There’s no sign of anyone. Only a few stray fairy-lights flicker in the arched windows, but those are always around. We tiptoe into the dark alleyway beside the building. Dean and Seamus must be here somewhere. For some reason I don’t want them to catch on to Jae and I just yet. Quietly I step out from under his arm.
“Guys,” I whisper, “You there?”
The response is a birdcall so elaborate and poorly-done that it could only be manmade. I roll my eyes. Seamus. Soon he and Dean materialize from the shadows, shoving each other and laughing.
“Shhh!” I hiss, drawing my wand. “Lumos Minimus.” The pinprick of light is enough to see them clearly by, and I roll my eyes. They’re wearing their old Hogwarts cloaks pulled over their heads, with black paint smeared on their faces. “Wow,” I mutter, “you’d never realize you two were up to something.”
“Just a bit of fun,” Seamus defends, again too loudly. “Who’s this, then? Thought you would’ve brought Ol—”
“This is Jae Chang,” I interrupt. “He’s a… friend. He can help us.”
“What’s he got that we don’t have?” Seamus pouts.
Dean murmurs, “An ounce of sanity?”
“No, tactics,” Jae corrects, and for some reason I want to roll my eyes. Seamus giggles at him, elbowing Dean, and I have to quiet them down again. Seriously, what was I thinking?
“So…,” Dean says. “Why exactly are we doing this again?”
I fish around in my knapsack, extracting the article with a flourish. “I need to get this onto my editor’s desk. The article in there now is going to the press first thing tomorrow. I need to stop it.”
They all look at me strangely, but I hold my dramatic pose. Dean murmurs, “I knew I saw a Gwendolyn Phyre book in your flat.”
I shoot him an embarrassed glare, but Jae says, “Right. Let’s get started, then. I think the best plan is for the two of you to guard an entrance. I’ll go inside with Edie.”
Thankfully, it’s dark enough that they can’t see my blush. “Oh, what?” cries Seamus. Dean claps a hand over the Irishman’s mouth, but says, “Yeah, why do you get to go inside?”
“No offense, but you two are about as subtle as a minotaur in a china shop. And too many people will make it easier to be caught. We need as many eyes out here as possible.” When they don’t immediately argue, he continues, “If you see anyone, or run into trouble, send a Patronus our way. We’ll do the same. There’s no point in you getting caught, if you don’t have to.”
“Sounds like you’ve done this before,” Seamus can’t hide his admiration (he is the worst Auror.) But he and Dean exchange glances, mulling everything over. I think they’re just upset to not be included. “Fine,” Dean concedes at last.
I nod, “I’ll send my Patronus once we’re finished. Then we can all meet—”
“At the pub!” Seamus interrupts. “We’ll celebrate with a pint, eh?”
Well, there’s no harm in a little self-congratulations. We agree that this is a sound idea. Dean jogs off to the front of the building, to guard the main entrance. Moments later Seamus disappears into the shadows and gives another birdcall. He’s having entirely too much fun.
Jae and I creep down the alleyway and I extinguish my wandlight. Once around the back, I turn to a very small, wooden door that leads into the kitchens. It’s for House Elf use, and only their magic will open it. But I’ve learned that if you ask nicely enough, the door will also let in a poor, locked-out intern. Then again, that was in the daylight. With a deep breath I wave my wand at the little brass doorknob. It wiggles around as if rousing from sleep. “Who’s there?” the female voice yawns.
“Terribly sorry to wake you,” I say. “It’s Edie Lennox. I’ve locked myself out… again.”
“It’s late,” she snaps. “What business do you have at this hour?”
“I’ve forgot my… my uh… Funny story, really, I’ve just gone and forgotten my…”
If this doorknob had eyebrows, she would be raising one skeptically.
“Edie,” Jae suddenly gasps, coming to stand beside me. “You never mentioned that this building was built in the gothic style.” He runs his hand up and down the stone doorframe appreciatively. Is he… massaging it? “It’s such an underappreciated genre, really, especially with all of this drive towards a more streamlined architectural aesthetic.”
Although to me, he may as well be speaking Mermish, the doorknob squeals, “I know! It’s that Gerkin building. Ever since that eyesore came about, it’s brutalism this, futurism that. We classics are quite neglected!” She whispers, as if delivering a great bit of gossip, “The flying buttresses have it the worst!”
“Oh, you’re so right. And it is such a shame,” Jae clicks his tongue, still caressing the archway. He musses his fringe ever-so-charmingly, “Well I attend AIVA, and let me tell you, contemporary doors are not nearly so kind. Try and ask them to let you back inside, after you’ve locked yourself out.”
The little doorknob giggles and I stare, horrified. Then Jae steps on my foot, ever so slightly. “Oh!” I blurt. “Um, yes, may we please go inside? We just need to—”
“Yes, yes, fine, don’t be so pushy,” she snaps, as if I ruined a very tender moment. But there is a soft click, and the tiny door creaks open. I avert my eyes; it now feels like she’s exposing herself.
“Thank you darling,” Jae winks. I can’t take it anymore. I crawl inside, on my hands and knees, down the little stone corridor lit by tiny torches. Jae follows suit, and as the door swings shut I distinctly hear it smack him on the rump.
It’s not until we clamber to our feet inside the kitchens, brushing the dust off, that I say, “Wow. You just… chatted up a doorknob.”
“What, jealous?” he smirks.
“Oh, stop it,” my face flushes.
The room is very dark, and I nearly topple a stack of cauldrons (thankfully Jae stops it with a quick spell.) Afraid to cast a light, I feel along the wall until I reach the spiraling stairwell. I’ve forgotten that it’s behind a tapestry of the founder of WonderWitch. Miraculously, though, she is missing from her post. I part the fabric cautiously and we begin our ascent. The portraits of models never sleep, and even now we hear their raucous partying. Hopefully they’ll be distracted.
We’re halfway up the stairs when Jae suddenly takes a hold of my hand. I freeze, fearing that we’ve been caught. But he climbs onto the same step, and takes me by my waist. Grinning, he kisses me once, and when I don’t stop him, he kisses me again.
Perhaps snogging in the stairwell isn’t the best way to spend our precious time. But the minutes go by, and soon we’re past the awkward stage of figuring out how the other’s mouth works. My back is pressed against the stone, and his hand is on the bare skin of my waist. He’s a decent kisser, and it’s certainly the most action I’ve had in months. But I can’t stop thinking of Seamus and Dean, standing diligently in the cold, while I’m being felt-up by my Mum’s studio assistant.
I pull away, offering a smile, “We don’t have much time.”
“Right,” Jae licks his lips. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I say, because I reckon it’s what you’re supposed to. My heart is racing, from which danger I’m not exactly sure. At last, we reach the door at the top of the stairwell. I’m embarrassingly out of breath, but Jae bounds up the last few steps. The door creaks open and his head pokes out with mine below it. Ward’s office is a stone’s throw away. To my immense relief, the surly male model who usually dominates the wall is off with the others.
Jae murmurs, “How do we get in?”
I roll my eyes. “My editor does not understand how to whisper. I know his password.” (It’s true; Ward jovially bellows “Mum’s treacle tart!” every time he unlocks his office. I’ve just never thought I’d need to use it.)
My eyes are trained on the door. It almost looks to be pulsating, but it’s just the blood rushing in my head. I take a steadying breath. It’s now or never. Without warning, my muscles release and I bolt for the door. I shout the password, foregoing all attempts at silence. I’m so determined that I don’t register Jae’s hissed whisper, “Wait, stop!” until it’s too late.
I freeze mid-step, my hand inches from the doorknob. Oh no. Oh, no. What is she doing here so late? Slowly I turn, like a child caught pilfering sweets. Mildred, like Filch with his lantern, has her wand-light trained on me.
Jae rushes out, brandishing his wand. “Don’t hurt her!” he bellows heroically.
I roll my eyes, “Oh, pack it in, she’s not going to hurt me… Are you?”
Her eyes go even narrower behind their spectacles, “They don’t allow it anymore.”
She should really get in touch with Filch.
“Fortunately for you, Miss Lennox, I don’t have the authority to fire interns. I do, however, have the right to know what is going on! What exactly are you doing outside Mr. Ward’s office?”
“I can explain,” I say stupidly. But Jae and I just stand there, neither one brave enough to speak.
“Well someone had better! Breaking into the building after hours! I have never, in all of my years, witnessed such behaviour from one of our own!”
As she works herself into a proper frenzy, I feel my resolve crumbling. It doesn’t matter what I tell her now. We’ve been caught breaking in, and I’m a lowly intern. Disposable. Everything I’ve worked for has gone down the drain. But Mildred stops—there is the sound of footsteps echoing in the stairwell. When a furrow-browed Tallulah Blakeslee emerges, I almost pass out.
I’m finished. I’m bloody finished.
“Mildred, what’s going on?” Blakeslee says. She’s holding a steaming mug of coffee—she must have just gone into the kitchens. We barely missed each other. Her eyes fall on Jae and I, and a look of recognition crosses her face. She says darkly, “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Brutus caught these two sneaking,” Mildred sneers, as though she’d actually said ‘fornicating.’
“Brutus?” Jae whispers, and we hear snickering from behind. The waif with the stupid haircut is back in his portrait, looking quite pleased with himself. I roll my eyes. Models.
“I found them trying to break into Mr. Ward’s office,” Mildred concludes.
Blakeslee’s eyes fall on us and she says gravely, “Is this true, Edith?”
I can’t help my look of surprise. She knows my name? All this time, I thought she saw me as Intern #463; just another in a long line of poor sods who work for free. Suddenly I feel my courage welling up. If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting. Seizing my chance, I step forward.
“It is true, Miss Blakeslee. But there’s something you really should know about the Quidditch articles. You’ve been lied to.” There are signs of interest behind her gray eyes. I venture, “I’d like to speak with you about it. Privately.”
From my periphery, I can see Mildred’s affronted look. But I keep my gaze trained on Blakeslee, even though it’s terrifying (she is really intimidating.) At last her severity dissipates, “Very well. We’ll speak in my office. Mildred, I trust that you’ll keep an eye on this young man.”
“Of course,” she says all too wickedly. Jae gulps.
As Blakeslee leads me round the corner, I hear him try valiantly, “Mildred, is it? May I just say that you look stunning in green—”
It’s like I’m having an out-of-body experience. I watch Blakeslee clip down the hall; see myself dragging behind; know that the article is burning a hole in my knapsack. My heart hammers so loudly I’m convinced she can hear it. We walk for ages before we reach her office, located in one of the tallest spires. She waves her wand at the door and passes through it like smoke. With a deep breath I follow.
Although it’s the middle of the night, the windows are charmed to glow with early-evening sunlight. The room is much larger than the spire would allow, obviously another charm. It’s full of magical and decorative objects, but there’s a rigorous order to it all—each knickknack looks perfectly in place. Blakeslee gestures to a studded dragonhide chair that looks like it may attack. Regardless, I sit as she returns to her desk. Dominating the wall behind her is an enormous black-and-white portrait of a fashion designer whose name I forget. Both gazes stare at me intently. She’s waiting for me to speak.
Kissing my internship goodbye, I pull the article out of my knapsack. I abandon all formality and break the silence with, “I’m the one who wrote the Oliver Wood article.”
Blakeslee shakes her head, “That’s impossible. The assignment was given to Miss Zeller.”
“It was…but then she gave it to me, because she was busy with her other work. We agreed not to tell anyone.”
She goes rigid as a broomstick. “Miss Lennox, this is a very serious accusation. It could cost Miss Zeller her job.” I nod wordlessly and she blinks several times. A silence passes while she tries to wrap her head around this news.
Gently, I prompt, “I did all the research, and the interviews, and wrote the entire article. I saw what was actually published—I don’t think Rose even edited it. And now I’ve written the second one, as agreed. But Rose wrote a different article and gave it to Mr. Ward. That’s why I was sneaking in to his office; to replace it with my own.”
“Why would Rose do that?” Blakeslee still holds her coffee though she hasn’t even taken a sip.
I open my mouth to tell her about Rose and Oliver. But for some reason, I can’t do it. Instead I shrug, “I’m not sure. And I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I don’t think that her article is as good as mine. I doubt she got the kind of interview that I did. I found out something really big about Puddlemere… I don’t think he meant to tell me, but… It’s really big, Miss Blakeslee.”
Her eyes fall on the parchment. Now it feels like marble in my hands. It weighs a ton. Suddenly I don’t know if I should hand it over; if it’s worth ruining a man’s whole career. But Blakeslee eyes me impatiently, and I pass it over with a steady hand.
“Here’s proof that I wrote it. If you don’t believe me, Priori Incantatem should do the trick. It’s deluded in my protective charms, not to mention the magic from my typewriter.”
She nods, considering. The room’s grown very hot and my tongue feels like parchment. I watch as she unsheathes her wand, long and thin like her. After a glance to me, she casts a silent spell.
The ink on the page disappears, and then returns in a flurry of click-clacking keystrokes. At last the watermark appears, glowing softly: Edith Hypatia Lennox. Blakeslee doesn’t look back at me. Her shoulders slump, either in disappointment or shock, or both. Then she begins to read. I am twitching in my seat, being crushed by her silence. Before I can stop myself, the words come rushing out.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Blakeslee, for sneaking around. I just really wanted to prove myself. To me, or the readers, or you—I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking about repercussions when I agreed to write the first article. But I want to be a journalist so badly. More than anything. And honestly, I feel like I’m completely ignored around here.” I don’t even realize that there is anger building in my voice until I’m practically shouting, “I mean, all I do is bring Ward his food! You had me handing out refreshments as the WNAG! I’m twenty-six, for God’s sake!”
Blakeslee looks up from the article, a patient smile upon her face.
“And now I’ve been sacked and lost my flat and my potential boyfriend, and this stupid internship—sorry—is all I have! And nobody will even give me a bloody chance to prove myself! I know I’m a good writer. You said it yourself! Well, sort of… you told Rose that she was a good writer, but really it was my article.”
Somehow I’m back on my feet, pacing and flailing my arms, “And quite frankly, Miss Blakeslee, if you want to get rid of me then that’s just jolly good! I know I’m worth more than this—”
“Miss Lennox, you may consider yourself hired.”
“And furthermore!” I freeze mid-pace. “What did you just say?”
Her amused smile is back—the one I saw weeks ago, in Rose’s office. “I said, consider yourself hired.” When I only gawk, she says, “Well I can’t likely have the articles fall through, can I? You said it yourself: you’re a damn good writer. And Witch Weekly has made a promise to its readers.”
“Shit,” I squeak. She quirks a brow and I breathe, “Sorry. I just…I don’t know what to say.”
She snorts, “I think you’ve said quite enough already.”
I don’t believe this. I don’t want to believe this. Every good thing that’s happened with Witch Weekly so far has turned out to be a horrible mistake. But this is real; not some under-the-table deal with Rose. This is the editor in chief offering me a position at her magazine.
“And… what about Rose? I don’t want her to lose her job.” As soon as the words leave me, my face clouds with confusion. Is that really how I feel?
Blakeslee sighs. “I expected much more from an employee like Miss Zeller. There will be dire consequences indeed.”
This hits me harder than expected. Even after everything—all of the petty, childish behaviour and the embarrassment—it boils down to just that. Childish behaviour. Yes, Rose has been horrible, but there may be no way to survive a plagiarism scandal like that. Who in their right mind would hire her? Would I really wish someone to have the life I’ve been living? The not knowing if you’ll make your next rent payment, or feeling worthless, or like you aren’t doing anything with your life?
Mustering my courage, I say boldly, “I’ll write the third article. But only if Rose doesn’t lose her job.”
Blakeslee’s jaw clenches and she glares stonily. I’ve gone and made her angry. But I’m feeling very brave right now. She’s all but said she needs me, at least until the last article is published. Then I’ll probably be sacked, too, but until then…
“I don’t think you realize the gravity of this situation, Miss Lennox. She unrightfully accepted an award by the Wizarding Newspaper Association for an article she didn’t write. This could put our publication in serious trouble.”
“Why? As far as anybody knows, Rose wrote the first article herself. Even if the award had gone to me, it still would have been to Witch Weekly.”
Although there’s no denying my logic, Blakeslee says in a low voice, “Blackmailing is a very serious business, you know.”
“I’m not blackmailing you,” I say honestly, my voice even, “I offered to resign. Then you hired me, and now we’re making a deal. Isn’t this how business is run?”
What is wrong with me? Right now, of my entire existence on this earth, would be the time to filter my thoughts. There is a long silence in which Blakeslee regards me coolly. I force myself not to look away, and finally she says, “It’s not going to be easy, you know. I won’t expect any less from you than I would any other employee.”
I want to jump in the air and cheer and skip around and throw confetti and maybe even hug her. Instead I manage a very shaky, “Yes, ma’am.”
“You’ll have deadlines, and revisions, and a fixed timetable. In fact, you’ll find that your whole life revolves around the magazine. But it’s the nature of the beast.” If she’s trying to be intimidating, it’s not working, because these are the exact words I’ve been waiting to hear. “You must adhere to Witch Weekly’s mission statement, even if you find personal quarrels with it. Don’t think I didn’t notice your political undertones.”
My face flushes but I say, “Of course.” At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll agree to anything.
“Now,” she sighs. “That’s enough mental exhaustion for one night. Tomorrow I’ll speak with Mr. Ward about the best plan of action. In the meantime, don’t mention this to anyone. You’re quite lucky, you know. If you weren’t such a good writer, you’d be in Rose’s place. I don’t reward bad behaviour. Ever.”
“Thank you,” I say stupidly. I’m certainly making a brilliant impression with my new boss. Oh my God, I can’t even believe it—my new boss. Though annoyed, I swear there is a little gleaming admiration in her eye. I want her to say something like, “You’ve got a helluva lot of moxie, kid,” but I’ll settle for the lessening in her icy glare.
She rises to her feet, smoothing her skirts. “You’ll be covering the Puddlemere match this Sunday.”
It’s not a question. Part of me wants to wince, but what are the odds I’ll be spotted in a crowd of thousands? It’ll be painless. It being Friday night, I have all day tomorrow to plan for the match. I’ve been procrastinating on that front. Of course, that bit I don’t add to my employer.
“We’ll see you at eight o’clock Monday morning.” Blakeslee extends a hand. I clasp it with both of mine, furiously shaking it.
“Oh my God, yes, okay, yes!” I’m floating; I must be. Blakeslee only nods curtly in response, but at least she appears amused by my idiocy.
When I’ve exhausted the handshake to the point of just being uncomfortable, I gather up my things. I almost knock my chair over, seeming to have lost feeling in my hands and feet. As I pass back through the closed door, I hear her chuckle, “We’ve never had so much trouble with an intern.”
Author's Note: A rather long chapter, but FINALLY! Some good has come to Edie. What to say about this chapter, except that it was really fun to write? Especially the bit that involved Jae, he was quite fun this go-round. And I hope the ending wasn't too cheesy. I didn't want Blakeslee to seem to welcoming; in fact she was quite irked.
So! Whaddya think? Surprised that Edie defended Rose? Does anybody want to check Jae into St. Mungo's for flirting with an inanimate object? Please leave your thoughts in a review, good or bad. I really can't express how much I love to read them!!
Thanks to artemis. @ TDA for the gorgeous chapter image ♥
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