Chapter 4 : Chapter Four
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“Remind me again why exactly you chose to wear that?” I hiss out of the side of my mouth, as we sidle past a man who’s attempting to herd some flying paper birds towards the lift.
“We’re going undercover; I had to look the part.”
“Well I can assure you, you hit it,” I growl, “the ‘escaped mental-patient’ look is quite flattering on you.”
“Just because you didn’t make an effort,” she huffs, while squeezing past a very substantially-sized woman, who’s making her way down the corridor, an unhappy scowl on her face.
“There’s making an effort, and then there’s making an idiot out of yourself.” I roll my eyes, as I step over a discarded briefcase. She grimaces back at me, and sticks out her tongue, making herself look like a twelve year old.
Sometimes, it is hard to believe we’re both twenty-five. It seems like only a few weeks ago we were sitting on the Hogwarts Express sharing Chocolate Frogs and gossiping about the fit boys in our year, most of whom Poppy managed to snog I might add. I wasn’t a nun or anything, but Poppy had a way with words when it came to lads. Still does, the lucky cow.
We come to a wide open space with about three corridors leading off it, not counting the one we just trapezed down.
“So, which way?” I ask, and she looks at me with a startled expression.
“Eh....... it might be down there?” she points vaguely right. “Or, it could be that one……”
“I thought you knew were your Dad’s bloody office was Poppy!” I shriek. “Who in God’s name doesn’t know something like that?”
“Well, we can’t all have Daddy’s with big offices on the first floor, which are clearly labeled with a shiny gold plaque, now can we?” she snipes back.
Just as I’m about to open my mouth to reply, she squeals from beside me, and grabs tightly onto my forearm.
“Oh my God, look!” she points over the sea of heads, to somewhere I can’t see.
“We aren’t all six feet tall,” I snap, and she makes a face down at me. Down being the key word in this situation.
To say I’m short would be a vast understatement. Well, okay, I’m not that short, but compared to Poppy I look like a leprechaun who coated their hair in black tar and ate one too many pumpkin pasties. It was worse when I was at Hogwarts though; people were still shouting ‘Move Firstie!’ at me in third year. I didn’t even get to have the whole ‘elfin’ thing going on, believe me, no one has ever described me as dainty in my life.
“There’s a guy over there who I’m nearly sure works with Dad.” she points again, and I stand on my tip-toes, attempting to catch a glimpse.
“Are you sure?” I raise an eyebrow and look at her skeptically.
“Well, it’s a start, and besides what are we supposed to do? Stand in this hallway for the rest of our lives? Now get a move on, he’s about to choose a corridor!”
We begin shoving our way through the throng, not caring now about bashing into people, or stepping on the odd toe or two. Much as I hate to admit it, Poppy’s right. What exactly were we supposed to do? Wait around for a couple of hours on the off chance Mr Higgs might choose this particular route to his office? That’s a great plan if I ever saw one.
“What does he look like?” I call to Poppy, as I wrestle past someone who is barely visible past a teetering stack of books.
“Tall enough, blondish hair, darker than mine,” she tugs at her honey locks, “and he’s wearing a maroon cloak.”
I crane over the heads again, and practically squeal with delight when I catch a glimpse of the persons back. I really begin to propel myself forward then, pushing and shoving, almost falling flat on my face at one stage. Old crones aren’t very cooperative. Honestly, they think just because they’re past sixty and there’s an off chance they might break something if they fall, that they have the right to almost knock me over.
We finally break free of the mass, but don’t have long to catch our breath, because Mr. Maroon is already speeding round the corner. We skid after him, and I literally mean skid. Bloody corridor’s covered in stray pieces of paper, making it like some sort of ice-rink.
“I . . . hate . . . running,” Poppy pants from beside me, her face turning a frightening shade of scarlet. I’m dying from the muggy humidity, so she must be past everything. Whoever came up with the ‘bright idea’ to build the Ministry underground needs to be kicked where the sun doesn’t shine. I know all those cranky Ministry officials spout all this rubbish about how they ‘circulate’ the air, so really it’s like being outside, but that’s basically all lies. Anything past the main auditorium is like stepping into a pit of Devil’s Snare; the deeper in you go, the more it tightens around you, until you drop.
“Me-too,” I wheeze, clutching at the stitch in my side.
We finally turn the corner, and come face to face with a large mahogany door. We look at each other, and shrug, before I tentatively reach out, and slowly turn the brass handle. The low creak echoes through the large room beyond and my shoes click off the marble flooring as we walk inside. Poppy’s rubber shoes squeak irritatingly, and I’m half-tempted to tell her to wait outside on the carpet where I can’t hear her, but I know that with her, should we happen to run into Mr Higgs, she’ll be able to come up with a valid excuse as to why we’re prowling through the records.
“Jesus Christ,” Poppy mutters under her breath, as we take in the sheer size of the room beyond. Roughly the length of the Great Hall back at Hogwarts, we stare at the rows upon rows of shelves, filled fit to burst with nothing other than brown paper folders.
“What do we do now?” she asks nervously. “There’s no way we’ll be able to find him in this.” she waves her hand towards the hall, as if her point wasn’t already proven.
“Well, we can at least try?” I say confidently, more confidently than I feel. I whip my wand out from the waistband of my skirt, and point it down the centre of the hall. “Might as well try this anyway,” I shrug. “Accio Teddy.”
A swarm of files hurtle towards me through the air. I shriek, and duck just in time for them to fly into the door, where a second ago my head had been.
“Well, it isn’t this one anyway,” Poppy chuckles, picking one up off the floor, and showing me the picture of the balding man on the front. “Theodore ‘Ted’ Nott, you can go back.” she taps the file once with her wand, and it sails back into place.
We sift through the other files, and come up with a blank. None of them fit the description of drunk-guy Teddy at all. I sigh as the last one flies back into place. “This is hopeless”
“Don’t give up yet,” she chides me “Did he happen to tell you his last name?”
“No,” I shake my head. “Which is a perfectly valid reason to give up now.”
“You’d make the most rubbish spy,” Poppy shakes her head at me in disappointment. “Trial and error is the name of the game.”
“Well then, what do you suggest, oh high and mighty detective?” I say sarcastically. She turns her nose up at me, and extracts her wand from her cloak imperiously.
“Accio males under twenty five?”
Even more folders come flying towards us, practically an avalanche. Poppy yelps from beside me, and I attempt to cover my face from the onslaught. It’s paper-cuts galore as they crash down on top of us, sending stray sheets flying everywhere.
“Well, that was a bad idea,” Poppy says from beside me, her voice muffled, suppressed by the sheer mass of folders.
“Just shake it off and start sifting through them.” I free my arms from the pile, and begin tapping them one by one, sending them back to the shelves. None of them are him.
“Oooh, this guy is pretty cute.”
I look up to see Poppy thumbing through some poor things folder, more than likely thinking of ways she can sink her kitty claws into him.
“That is an invasion of his privacy, not to mention, oh, I don’t know, illegal?” I snap my fingers twice. She pouts, and shoves the folder in under her leg with a ‘humph’.
“It’s only illegal if I get caught, which I won’t.”
“Just shut up and keep looking through them,” I chuck one at her, and she begrudgingly begins sending them back, one by one.
“Where in God’ name is he?” I groan, punching the air in frustration.
“Are you sure he’s from England? I heard like Scotland and Wales have their own little sub-sections for their residents”
“No, he sounded like he was from the south somewhere, definitely not Welsh, or Scottish”
“But you know as well as I do that going to Hogwarts can mess with your accent,” a mischievous grin spreads across her face. “I remember you used to sound like some snotty cow, all ‘may I’ this and ‘pardon me’ that.”
I stick my tongue out at her, in a very mature manner I might add, and continue thumbing through the files. The pile, though it seemed impossible when we began, begins to get smaller and smaller, until we’re onto the last one.
“And, that isn’t him,” Poppy sends back the last files, and sighs loudly. “So, what do we do now?”
“Well, we could always try-” I stop talking quickly I hear the sound of voices coming up the corridor “Oh God! We need to get out of here now Poppy!”
“But we haven’t found him yet!”
“That doesn’t matter” I grab her forearm, and frantically pull her towards the door.
“We’ll only have to come back again Annie, just wait a second.”
“Eh, hello? Earth to Poppy? We don’t have a second,” I deadpan, ever aware of the footsteps which were getting louder by the minute.
“Just shut up and let me think, there has to be some way to find him.” Poppy rips her arm from my grasp, and begins massaging her temples. I recognise her ‘deep in thought’ expression from our Transfiguration days. I know her well enough not to try and disturb her, lest I want the head eaten off me. I dance silently from foot to foot, nibbling my lip like it’s a Chocolate Frog.
“His hair was blue, wasn’t it?” she turns to face me after what seems like an age.
“Poppy, the people are coming!” I whisper-shout. They’re right outside the door at this stage, I can hear them talking about the state of the economy. Poppy huffs impatiently, and flicks her wand towards the door, causing the lock to click.
“Problem solved, now, what colour was his hair?”
“No,” I say slowly, “problem not solved, problem just put off until they break down the bloody door and arrest the two of us for trespassing!”
“His hair Annie! What colour was his hair?”
“Blue? It was blue wasn’t it?” I ask stupidly.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out here,” she rolls her eyes at me.
“It was blue,” I nod my head, more to myself than her “but what has that got to do with anything?”
“Accio blue hair,” she waves her wand confidently, and I snort despite myself.
“Seriously, because that’s going to work now isn’t it,” I say, sarcasm positively dripping from every word. She ignores me, and stares almost expectantly, as if waiting for a file to materialize out of thin air.
“Poppy, enough fooling around, let’s get the bloody hell out of here!”
“Hang on, give it another second,” she raises her index finger, and turns back to the shelves.
“Poppy, come on!” I stamp my foot, and dart forward. I wrap my arms around her waist and start physically tugging her towards the exit, but then my heart drops. The footsteps stop, right outside the door.
“I say, who on earth locked this door”
The pompous voice of what is more than likely a balding, overweight Ministry official -with the power to get Poppy and I both arrested and locked away in Azkaban for the rest of our lives- echoes through the room. A strange squeaking noise, sort of like a mouse being stepped on follows it, and it’s a few seconds before I realise that it came from me. I abandon my attempt of trying to convince Poppy to move, and start looking around frantically for a way out of the room. I soon figure out there’s only one way in and one way out.
“Annie, look!” Poppy screeches triumphantly, pointing at the three brown folders sailing up the corridor, seemingly from the very bottom of the room.
She snatches the three of them, and quickly throws two to the ground. Photos of a sixty-something lady with a light blue beehive, and a surly looking teenager with an electric blue bob float to the ground.
“Oh my God, I’m pretty sure this is him Annie!” Poppy shows me the photo attached to the file, and sure enough, there Teddy is, blue hair and all, smiling lopsidedly. We don’t have much time to celebrate though. The door slams open with a bang, and we both jump. I quickly grab the file before shoving it next to my wand in the waistband of my skirt. I suppose it is one of the perks of the horrible thing being a size too small for me.
“What in the blazes is going on here?” a balding, portly man demands, his moustache quivering comically. I stifle a giggle, realizing now really isn’t the time.
“Poppy, Annie, what on earth are you two doing in here?” Mr Higgs steps out from behind the other man, and stares at us both, frowning.
“Hi Mr Higgs,” I wave lamely, and try to smile charmingly, but it more than likely looks like I’m eating a lemon.
“Daddy,” Poppy says, her voice shooting up about eight octaves. “We were looking for you, so we came here and when we heard people coming I tried to open the door, but then I ended up locking it,” she slaps her head lightly with her hand. “You know how much of a ditz I can be.”
“Yes,” Mr Higgs says slowly, looking from one of us to the other suspiciously.
“And, now that I’ve found him,” Poppy turns towards me, “you can scoot off now Annie, didn’t you say you had something to do?”
“Err…..did I?” I ask stupidly.
“Yes,” she nods stiffly, clenching her teeth together, “yes you did, you know, the blue thing.”
“Oh yeah,” my cheeks flash red when it dawns on me what she means, “but I can wait until you’re done talking to your Dad if you want.”
“Not at all,” she waves her hands around. “Go forth, do what you must do,” she pushes me towards the door, and lands me out into the hallway beyond.
“Just go Annie, find drunk-guy Teddy, get this sorted out, and fill me in on all the details later, okay?” she winks at me, and before even waiting for a response, she whips her head back around the door, and slams it in my face. I sigh, but don’t go back in. Some people might call that selfish and cowardly, but I’ve just been given a get-out-of-jail-free pass, quite literally, and I’m not about to throw that back in fates face. God knows she hates me enough as it is. Might as well take the good while it lasts.
I walk back to the corridor with all the papers, and have a quick look around to make sure I’m alone, before taking out the file, and flicking it open. His photographs covering most of his information, so I flip that over, and begin to read. I don’t like what I find.
Turns out, the git’s been lying to me about his name. It isn’t Teddy at all, it’s Edward. Edward Remus “Teddy” Lupin to be precise. He’s twenty-eight, which is a bit surprising, considering he looks about sixteen, except really tall. He’s an Auror, specializing in something confusing, so I’m not exactly sure what that is, and then the biggest shock of all? He’s a metamorphmagus. No wonder his hair’s bloody sky blue.
I snap the file shut, and tuck it in under my arm. My destination is clear, the Auror headquarters. Summers of traipsing around the Ministry pretending to pay attention to Dad as he details exactly what it is that he does all day have given me a pretty fair knowledge of the main sectors locations. I shove my way back through the crowd, and along the original hallway we started in, until I get to the lift. Luckily for me, the Level Two button has already been pressed, so all I have to do is tap my foot anxiously as we make our ascent.
I’m first out, and shoot down the hall until I come to the door which bears the ledging ‘Auror Department’. Inside, rows upon rows of messy, disorganized cubicles are lined up against the walls of the long, narrow room. A cranky witch approaches me the minute I step inside the door.
“And what is it that you want?” she snaps irritably.
“I’m here to speak with T-Edward Lupin,” I stutter, and she looks at me sharply.
“Why?” she eyeballs me, her thin spectacles perched on the end of her nose.
“It’s to do with his, his…..” I look around wildly, before remembering the file I have tucked safely in under my arm, “his file, it’s to do with his file.” I wave it in front of her face, and she looks at me sternly, but nods slightly.
“Very well, he’s towards the back of the room” she waves vaguely, before shuffling off imperiously.
I don’t respond to the old cow, I just take off down the room, avoiding all the bits and bobs people seem to think is acceptable to place in the middle of the hallway. Why is it that Teddy or Edward or whatever his bloody name is always seems to be at the very back of every room? Perhaps authority finds his hair offensive, but it still means he’s a bit of a pain in the backside to find. A few wolf-whistles echo out from some of the cubicles, but I just shake my hair back from my shoulders and march on.
The back wall looms closer and closer, until I’m left staring at the bland cream paint. I take a deep breath, and turn back, to see quite a few heads poking out of their cubicles, gawping at me. I clear my throat slightly, and wiggle my skirt down lower on my hips.
“Who are you looking for love?” a woman with a severe black bob calls to me, a slight frown on her forehead. Alright, I can understand where they’re coming from. If someone just burst into the shop and marched down the centre to the back wall like they were headed to war, I’d be curious and more than a little confused as well.
“Ehm, Edward Lupin?” I say loudly, and a murmur ripples through the crowd.
“Who?” someone shouts, and I repeat the name louder.
“I think she means Teddy,” another voice says. Bob-woman nods towards whoever they were, and turns back to me.
“Do you mean Teddy love?”
“Yes,” I nod quickly, and she smiles.
“He’s just over there pet, shuffle along the back wall to the right and you’ll know it straight away,” she points to the small space to my right.
“Thanks,” I nod and the heads all disappear. I breathe in once, and begin my awkward side-ways shuffle. None of the people look up as I walk past; they’re all too absorbed in their work. They seem more serious than the ones along the main aisle, and I can see the ethic behind this. The back’s a lot quieter, less hectic and higgledy piggledy.
He’s hunched over his desk when I finally find him, sitting amidst a mess of files and papers. Bits of red wool tie pictures to newspaper clippings on the walls. I knock once, and he jumps about a foot from his chair.
“Annie?!” he exclaims, his eyes wide with shock.
“Hello Teddy,” I greet him coolly. I lift up the wool, and sit myself in the small plastic chair across from him and cross my heels like my Mommy taught me to, “or should I say, Edward?” I quirk an eyebrow, a small, patronizing smirk on my lips.
“Please, don’t call me that,” the tips of his ears redden, “it makes me sound like this stuffy idiot.”
“Oh right,” I say airily, examining my cuticles, and removing invisible dirt from in underneath my long nails. A very awkward silence descends, and Teddy shifts uncomfortably in his chair.
“Listen, Annie, I don’t mean to sound rude,” he ruffles his blue hair, “but why exactly are you here?”
“Well,” I finally look him in the eyes, and see they are olive green today, “you see, I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past couple of days, about the proposition you proposed to me,” I sigh dramatically, and fold my hands on my lap. “Somehow, I’ve found a shred of kindness in the cockles of my heart, and I’ve decided to help you.”
He leans back in his chair, shock evident on his face, “You’re…going to help me?” he asks stupidly.
“Yes,” I nod simply.
“Why?” he frowns at me suspiciously. “What made you change your mind?”
“Can you not just accept that I’ve had a change of heart and have decided to be a good person?”
“No,” he shakes his head. “You’re a Slytherin, there’s always a catch”
“That is stereotyping,” I point my finger at him. “What happened to not painting everyone with the same brush?” I say innocently, but he doesn’t buy it. He just folds his arms, and waits. The seconds tick by, and it’s my turn to fidget.
“Alright, fine!” I snap, and he grins triumphantly. “All you have to do is attend a wedding with me in June, and I’ll consider the favour repaid.”
“I’ve to go to a wedding?” he asks, clearly confused, “but, why?”
“Because you just do, okay?” I snap. “Now do you want my help or not?”
“Oh yeah, no I do, I do,” He nods. “Definitely”
“Alright then,” I breathe in deeply, and get up, smoothing out the wrinkles on my skirt. “So, I don’t know, just owl me or something” I start to leave.
“Wait!” he jumps up, sending papers flying everywhere, “I’m having dinner with my godfather tomorrow, would you be able to make it?”
“You’re godfather?” I ask, confused, but quickly shake myself out of it “Alright, look, doesn’t matter to me, I’ve nothing on, I can make it.”
“Brilliant,” he smiles widely at me, and I notice one of his front teeth is slightly crooked. “Meet me outside ‘The Purple Phoenix’ in Chelsea at around six, okay?”
“Tomorrow, ‘The Purple Phoenix, at six,” I repeat back, and he nods.
“See you then,” he waves me out of his cubicle, and I walk back out of the Auror department in a bit of a daze. It’s as I’m standing in the lift, waiting to go back up to the Atrium that the full impact of what ‘m going to have to do tomorrow hits me.
Oh dear God, I’m going to have to sit at a table, with his family-however distant-and pretend that I’m in love with a guy I met literally a week ago.
To put it simply, I am an idiot.
*Disclaimer: I do not own the board game Monopoly. Or anything else.
Well, if there’s anyone still out there who’s interested in reading this, here’s the new chapter. So sorry for the time it took to update. I am a terrible person. As always, beta’d by the absolutely wonderful AlPotterFan.
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