Lovely chapter image by stealingEternity @ TDA
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.
Chapter Thirteen The Auror Office
We do not know really what is good or bad fortune.-Jean Jacques Rousseau
The Ministry of Magic had changed substantially since Artemisia had last been there. When she Floo’d in on August 9th, the Atrium was indecently crowded with personnel from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Harried Aurors came and went, sweating in their new, war-time issued uniforms which greatly resembled the fine crimson coats Muggle soldiers wore. One particularly short man stood on the rim of the golden fountain, a parchment longer than he was tall spilling from his hands.
“Ladies, gentlemen!” he called in a reedy voice, “I have the list. If you’re company is called, then line up and wait for further instructions. The rest of you are expected to report the training grounds. We have three regiments going to the colonies, the 14th, the 28th and the 70th. I repeat, the 14th, the 28th and the 70th. Line up now and please, let us keep things orderly!”
Artemisia was pushed roughly to the side as the crowd began to arrange itself into some complicated standing formation. She caught hold of one passing Auror’s sleeve, earning an annoyed grunt from the man.
“Me regiment’s been called,” he mumbled, “Leave off, will you?”
“But where are you going?” she asked him anxiously.
The Auror laughed hoarsely. “Boston, I wager, for a two week shift. We’re supposed to be keeping the peace. Hard to manage what with the Yankees shooting hexes at us. Now make way, lass, make way!”
He thrust her to the side, causing her to stumble, her wig slipping underneath her hat.
So it had happened.
This uprising in America, this revolution of sorts had involved the wizarding the world at last. Artemisia couldn’t remember the last time wizarding Britain had joined a Muggle conflict. After all, they had stayed prudently neutral during the Seven Years War and that clash had brought nearly all of Europe into the fray.
The thought made her feel more nervous than she previously was, for now she was not only heading to a much anticipated interview, but also facing a troublesome moral dilemma.
If she did indeed become an Auror, what would happen if she was called abroad to fight?
Well, I simply wouldn’t go, Artemisia thought to herself, but then realized just how childish and selfish her argument sounded.
If she swore herself to England’s service, then she might have to endure battle in the colonies. But how could any loyal Englishwoman clash with her colonial cousins?
It was then that the true horror of civil war dawned on her.
Artemisia shut her eyes for an instant, but was soon jostled further into the throng by the press of bodies. Struggling to gain her breath, she separated herself from the mass of people and headed to the Auror office. With any luck, the department would be entirely emptied of workers. She didn’t think she could stand being gawked at as she waited to be called for her interview.
Her stomach was already twisted into painful knots and she couldn’t help but remember that most unfortunate incident three years ago, when she had been refused employment because of a silly little duel.
But I must appear contrite if the matter comes up, she reminded herself, even if I don’t like the bastard that caused all the fuss.
What was his name again? Hert? Hart?
Oh well, no matter now.
Sweating in her smart business robes, she found the main staircase fashioned out of cool, grey stone and hurried down to the second level. A great golden plaque on the wall marked the domain of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and she followed a paneled corridor down to the Auror office.
As she had guessed, the place was mercifully quiet, the small atrium outside the Head Auror’s chambers empty except for a house elf who was busy lighting the floating tallow candles.
Artemisia found a seat on a cushioned bench and watched the portraits go about their business, the tiny figures of wizarding heroes such as Siegfried, Beowulf and Roland all doing battle over a disputed game of chess.
The heat in the closed off room made her slightly dizzy. She took one of many spare handkerchiefs from her pocket and wiped her brow, surprised when the linen came away yellow with sweat. Tucked under her arm she kept her official records in a neat ledger, not unlike the one Maxime had used to store their marriage certificates.
Hmm, what would her pacifist husband think of her if she became an Auror?
Artemisia could just imagine his pert, feline face narrowing as it did when he was flummoxed. She thought of his twitchy hands and tense shoulders and his ever-slipping spectacles.
Dear, darling Maxime!
Laughter rose to her lips and unintentionally, she began to chuckle. The arguing portraits stilled and stared at her.
“Touched in the head,” the gallant Roland in his French armor said gravely to his companions.
Artemisia was about to respond when the door to the Head Auror’s office opened.
She was on her feet in a flash.
“Ah, good morning, Miss Lufkin.” A tall, lean man emerged, resplendent in a turquoise suit, his waistcoat embellished with tiny threads of gold. “You are Miss Lufkin, I assume. Splendid! I am Mr. Hugh Brinton of the Auror office. Will you come this way please?”
“Of course, sir.” Artemisia waited until Mr. Brinton’s back was turned before she dusted the stray wig powder from her dark clothes. She followed him into a well-appointed office and sat in the chair opposite a gracious, stylish desk of light wood.
The chamber was much more airy than she had remembered it, the furniture having been changed to reflect the current fashion and the walls painted eggshell white to give the place a sense of openness.
Artemisia felt herself begin to relax.
No worries. No worries at all. I belong here.
Mr. Brinton himself did not sit, but rounded the desk with a warm smile.
“Thank you for being so punctual,” he said. “I cannot tell you how very much we appreciate your coming. New recruits are few these days, even though the Department is looking to hire.”
“Why is that?” Artemisia asked, wondering if she sounded foolish for posing such a query.
Mr. Brinton did not seem to think so. “Oh, this ghastly business,” he said, a slight grimace tightening his soft features. “The colonies, you know. No one wishes to be sent abroad. But it is a matter of duty and one must expect to be called.”
“Surely you are aware of that, Miss Lufkin.”
“Must assuredly, sir.” She handed him her records.
Briefly, he flipped through them and then laid the ledger on the desk. “Everything seems to be in order. You passed the initial Auror exam with an exceptional score. And I see you have completed all primary rounds of training. Nothing is lacking. You should be ready for service at the end of the month.”
“Truly, sir?” Artemisia found herself sitting on the edge of her chair. Excitement and relief erupted within her and she felt as though she would fling her arms around Mr. Brinton’s neck in gratitude.
She would be accepted. Accepted!
Her lifelong ambition would come to pass. She would be an Auror for Ministry of Magic. An Auror!
The thought made her faint. She folded her shaking hands on her lap and smiled brilliantly. “Thank you, sir!”
Mr. Brinton laughed lightly. “This is not our usual hiring process,” he said, a flicker of thoughtfulness coming to his light blue eyes. “Training is expected to take a year, at least, but we simply do not have the time. And since you have worked for the Ministry in extensive diplomatic relations and come with such high recommendation, we are quite willing to take you on. You shall have to work rigorously for the rest of the summer and then be partnered with another Auror for a time.”
“Of course,” Artemisia nodded readily. She would do anything they said, anything. If she had to crawl across Scotland on her knees then so be it.
“Enthusiasm, that is what this Department needs,” Mr. Brinton said heartily, his wide smile reflecting hers. “I shall just fetch Head Auror Hart for his interview and then we shall make it official, yes?”
“Yes…” Artemisia trailed off, her jaw slackening. “Er, Head Auror Hart?”
“Indeed. He must speak with you before you are hired. It is standard policy. We may get away with less training these days because of the conflict in the colonies, but you still must be approved by the Head of the Auror office.”
And then he left, shutting the door behind him with such ringing finality that Artemisia thought she’d leap out of her skin.
This was surely some matter of trap to test her mettle. It had to be.
The last time she had seen or heard of Auror Hart, he was only a mere deputy to the head of the office.
I must be calm, she told herself. I must not show any distress.
If she truly was expected to sit before Auror Hart, a man who had dashed her early hopes, then she must do so with ease and grace. A slight flare of temper or fear might very well finish her for good.
“Dear God!” Artemisia lowered her head and stared at her thighs. “I came so close.”
And now, all might be lost.
The door opened behind her once more and Artemisia sat up in her chair, straight as a ramrod, an unassuming smile plastered on her sweating face.
A handsome gentleman in his thirties swept into the room with the careless mien of a young lord. Unlike most of his colleagues, he was not wearing a wig, but had tied back his soft brown hair in a simple queue. His skin was slightly tanned, suggesting a fair bit of activity out of doors, although his eyes were sweet and kind.
Artemisia, however, only got a quick glimpse of the man. For some reason, she found she could not look him directly in face and she set her gaze somewhere just below his crisp, white cravat.
“Miss Lufkin,” he spoke her name gently, a hint of laughter adding a charming lilt to his voice. “Do you remember me?”
Merlin’s blood! Here it is.
Artemisia forced her chin upward, hoping to show attentiveness and not defiance. “Are you Head Auror Dick Hart?”
He nodded slowly, a pleasant twinkle in his eyes. “Richard Hart, yes.”
“I am sorry, Richard.”
“Never mind. I much prefer the sobriquet.”
“Ah…well, I will be frank. Yes, I do remember you.” Artemisia felt her body go rigid as she spoke. An unmerciful chill flooded her bones despite the heat and she nearly shivered. “There is little use dancing around the issue, is there?”
“Quite right.” Auror Hart settled himself in his chair, pulling back his coattails as he did so. “You are looking much better than when I last saw you. No bruises. I hear you went to France on diplomatic work?”
“With Ambassador Honorius,” she supplied. Her jaw was irritatingly slack, causing her to gulp in air like a fish out of water. “And you, sir, I recall you as a deputy to Head Auror Baddock.”
“Long since retired. I replaced him a year ago.”
“Congratulations are in order.”
“Indeed.” Auror Hart interlocked his fingers, tossing his head slightly to push the fringe of his hair out of his eyes. “It is a lucky turn for you, Miss Lufkin, that he no longer holds this office.”
“It is, sir?” Artemisia knew she was gawking at him, but she couldn’t help it. Was this yet another facet to his wit? Was he trying to lull her into a false sense of security only to spring some steely trap?
She tested his words and bearing for danger, but found none. Odd.
“It is,” he echoed, lifting up her records and opening the ledger for inspection. With his eyes bent upon the papers, he smiled. “For now, I can hire you myself.”
The unfriendly temperature and her treacherous nerves finally conquered her. Artemisia blinked once, the room blurring about her and then slumped forward in a dead faint. After a moment of darkness, steady arms lifted her off the floor and righted her head, Smelling salts were held carefully under her nose.
Artemisia gagged and awoke with a jerk.
“Dammy,” she muttered as Auror Hart grasped her shoulder, keeping her in her chair.
“How flattering,” he said. “I have never caused a woman to swoon before. Mr. Brinton, please fetch some water.”
The man, who had been standing anxiously by the door, left to summon a house elf.
Artemisia shook her head numbly. “I am well.”
“Forgive me, I should have been straightforward.”
They waited in silence until Mr. Brinton returned and pressed a chilled goblet into her hands. She drank it down slowly.
“If you have recovered, I shall risk telling you that have indeed been hired,” Auror Hart continued, sitting back against the lip of his desk once he was sure she was steady.
“I don’t believe it,” Artemisia said in wonder, her shaky fingers caressing the patterns cut into the glass goblet. “The Ministry must truly be desperate for new Aurors.”
“Yes,” Auror Hart allowed. “But my motives are not so simple. Forgive me, I am going to sound like an arrogant beast, but I thought you should know. After our, ahem, disagreement, I asked Baddock to hire you. He refused, of course, leaving me wretched with guilt.”
“So you are hiring me now to assuage your conscience?” She was being cheeky and knew it, but Artemisia simply could not stand becoming an Auror without rightly deserving it.
Auror Hart flushed slightly and drummed his hands on his desk. “Not at all. I thought you should have been hired three years ago.”
“Even after our duel?”
“You stood your ground that day. It was impressive. But do not think I was hesitant. Impulsiveness on your part was a concern. And yet, three years have passed. You have worked successfully for the Ministry here and abroad. Furthermore, it is quite obvious you feel some regret over our unfortunate quarrel. Otherwise, you would have been unaffected when you saw me.”
“You have a keen mind,” Artemisia admitted, “one that works in my favor, however.”
Auror Hart frowned. “Come now, tell me you still do not dislike me.”
“Of course not!” she blurted out, rising to her feet. “It just all seems like a rather impossible turn of fortune.”
“Then that will be your first lesson,” he said, leaning forward determinedly to emphasis his point. “Do not live by fortune alone. Agreed?”
“Oh, yes!” Artemisia did not know whether or not to trust her happiness. “And thank you. But I must clear the air and apologize for-”
Auror Hart turned suddenly grave. “I forbid it! Why repent for a sin that was in fact your saving grace?”
Artemisia regarded him with sharp, curious eyes. “What strange logic you have.”
“Do you think you can stand me, then?” he asked, suddenly grave.
Artemisia smiled through her tears of joy. “I shouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Very well.” He extended his hand and took hers. “Welcome to the Auror office, Artemisia. And now, congratulations are indeed in order.”
Author’s Note: And so begins Artemisia’s career as an Auror. I am very excited for it. In the following chapters there will be much more action, new characters and, of course, tons of 18th century goodness.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read! If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I would love to hear from you.
In Chapter Fourteen, Artemisia struggles to balance her new career along with her American sympathies. To complicate her internal conflict, a surprise visitor arrives at her flat to further test her values. The next installment should be posted no later than July 28th.
I hope you have a great week! Enjoy the summer!
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