The Department Of OC Affairs
There is a small chance that this will become a chaptered fic sometime in the future.
Today, I started my new job at the Department of OC Affairs. I used to dream of having an exciting job, like a quidditch star (and in truth I still do), but in order to maintain my OC licence, I has to keep a low profile. Not that I'm good enough to play quidditch professionally.
I wore a conservative black cloak to my new job. It's the only one I own, but I didn't know what the Department thought about such things and I wanted to make a good impression. Though, as the day wore on, I was to decide that in the light of everything else that happened it was a truly irrelevant detail.
In my efforts to avoid being late, I arrived at the Department an hour early. I was much bothered by this, as I guessed that being inexcusably early is just as bad as being late. And so, I waited outside the imposing doors for the minutes to go by.
And as it happened, it was only the minutes that went by. Not a single person passed me for the first half-hour that I stood by those doors. It was looking less and less like I was in the right place, but the gold lettering indicating this as the The Department of OC Affairs argued with me. Just as I pushed off from the wall to search elsewhere (for I was definitely not going to peep inside the wrong door!) the click-clack of high heeled shoes echoed down the corridor.
I froze. This was not the impression I wanted to make. An early, lost and nervous new employee. My hand reached into my pocket and closed around my wand, and I whispered the incarnation to the invisibility spell.
I did not become invisible, of course. That would require wand movements and lots of practice, neither of which my spell had.
The striding gait of the approaching shoes spoke of a confidence in trip-ready robes that was rarely found outside senior government officials and muggleborns. I forced my eyes to stay open and hoped feverishly that it was the latter.
A woman in a long, royal-blue cloak approached quickly. She carried a large blue box that obscured her features and undoubtedly her sight. I stiffened, leaning against the wall, barely daring to hope.
That small hope fled as she passed me.
"Come with me, Mr. Papercoat."
I started, and stared at her, wondering for a moment how she had known me. I could see her hair then, a rich shade of golden-blond that could not be natural, set in stiff, perfect waves. She said nothing more, and I scuttled after her.
The massive doors of the department opened without prompting, and we moved into an open foyer. The woman crossed it quickly and set the blue box down on the receptionist's desk and, in clipped tones, told her to 'give it to the Cannon when he came by'. I could not help but feel they were speaking some language. I came out of my musing to realise she was gone.
I dithered for a moment, by eyes searching the foyer. The receptionist pointed to a corridor and I gave her an embarrassed smile while I ran in the direction indicated.
We navigated the maze of sterile corridors with a familiarity I could not hope to replicate, and at last stopped at a whitewashed door. It was marked by a small, grey 63 written in loopy handwriting. The woman opened the door and went in. I followed her after a moment's hesitation.
The office had two occupants. One was a young man, about my age, with short brown hair and a small smile. He twisted quickly in his chair when we arrived and widened his smile cautiously. Twitching fingers convulsed around the slender armrests of his chair before resting in his lap.
The other was a middle-aged woman. Her sharp brown eyes looked out from a round face topped with a thinning bun. Her robes were an indulgent forest green that somehow enhanced rather than detracted from her stern expression. She reminded me of Professor McGonagall.
My guide introduced us.
"Baker, Amethyst. This is your new colleague, Papercoat. He will be working with you on the Committee for Student Evaluation when it starts running on Friday. And Amethyst, if you could tack your signature onto the bottom of the final list, I'd appreciate it."
The green-robed woman nodded.
"It will be done, Cynthia," she replied.
The woman, Cynthia, disappeared from the room and I was left to stand awkwardly in front of my new colleagues.
Baker took a paperweight from the collection on his desk and set it on the floor. With a wave of his wand it became an armchair in which he invited me to sit. I did so nervously, and Baker introduced us.
"It's Baker, third generation OC, and this is Mrs. Amethyst." Baker said, jerking his thumb towards the woman "I'm new too. There hasn't been much work yet, but I've been assured that that'll change when the Committee for Student Evaluation is up and running."
Mrs. Amethyst snorted elegantly.
"You will not speak so flippantly when the work starts. Harry Potter's seventh year calls Mary-Sues like the pied piper and every one of them believes he or she is fated to be his girlfriend. They do not understand that we are the ones who decide who's in, who's out and who gets the guy."
"I've heard that committees are never actually disbanded," Baker added. "You'd better get yourself off the List when its business is over, or down the track you might find yourself roped into petitioning to let some Mary marry Harry Potter in a few years!"
I was to learn that 'Mary' is slang for a person of little depth, while 'Sue' means a person of no depth at all.
Mrs. Amethyst's brown eyes fixed onto mine, and I shrank under her gaze.
"You need to learn to get around the Department. Why don't you collect the List of committee members for the Committee for Student Evaluation from the Room of Records?"
It sounded perfectly reasonable, so I agreed.
I learned from Baker that the Room of Records is just past the corridor leading from the canteen, and therefore I just needed to follow the corridors as they got wider until I passed where the coffees were coming from. I managed not to lose myself in the white maze, much to my amazement.
The doors to the Room of Records are easily as extravagant as the doors to the Department. I pushed them open with trepidation.
The room was about half as big as the Great Hall of Hogwarts, and shaped like a semi-circle. Curved aisles of coloured filing cabinets arced around the entrance like a rainbow. More drawers tiled the far wall like lego bricks, circles, dashes and dots covering them, forming some sort of alien sorting system. Closer, in the middle of the arc, tables and chairs clustered together.
It looked like a technicolour library.
I wandered up and down the aisles, looking for something that might contain a list of committee members. Eventually, in the orange aisle, I stumbled across a green polka-dotted filing cabinet marked S Committees 1975—***. It opened with a slight squeal and to my relief I found a document titled The List in a file marked Committee for Student Evaluation. Satisfied that I had found what I had come for, I plucked it from the drawer and made my way out of the Room of Records.
I hurried back down the corridors towards office 63, but my journey was not to be without incident.
Something soft and squishy slammed into me, followed by a scalding liquid to drench my clothes. I leapt back with a yell, ripping off my cloak and clutching at my injured arm.
My eyes travelled downwards from my arm and focused on the floor, and suddenly my injury was the least of my worries.
On the ground was a sodden, brown, torn government document.
My heart jumped to my mouth and my breath fled me. A throbbing sensation wormed into my mind and pulsated to the beat of my heart. One by one my senses began to close, the walls around me becoming white blurs and the sounds a senseless murmur. I was frozen in horror.
The murmur increased into an insistent buzzing.
Oh Merlin! What was Mrs. Amethyst going to do to me!
"You should take it to Mrs. Amethyst," the feminine voice prattled. "She'll fix it."
I looked up. The speaker, a short, grey-haired, olive-skinned witch, smiled. It was a much more honest smile than Baker's.
"I-uh, will," I stated blankly.
"Don't worry," the witch said. "She'll fix it up."
"Thanks," I muttered.
I shouldered my way inside office 63. It looked exactly as I had left it. Baker did not notice me, his eyes glued to the crossword he was completing. Mrs. Amethyst grunted a greeting. I griped the handle, drawing the door shut quietly behind me.
As one, their eyes snapped towards me.
I gulped, and glanced at Mrs. Amethyst.
My fingers tightened around the wet paper under my cloak.
"What?" she snapped.
Well, here goes nothing I thought, and whipped out the almost unrecognisable document before I could completely lose my nerve.
Her gaze on mine was draconic.
"I-I heard you could fix it," I said, mortified to realise I was stuttering.
I licked my lips.
"I'll do it," she said icily. "I hope you are aware that this is your fault, and it is my neck under the guillotine if Cynthia comes back before I'm finished."
If there is one thing I have always hated, it is others suffering for my idiocy. It's why I always tried extra hard in group assignments back in school.
She held out her hand expectantly and I passed her the document in pieces.
Silence stretched through the room as Mrs. Amethyst began to work.
She licked her finger and pulled a blank piece of parchment from a stack on her desk. From her drawer she took a silver quill and a bottle of blue ink. Once the quill was loaded, she pulled the top half of the List towards her and set the quill on the department crest at the top.
The blue ink flowed onto the parchment, colouring the crest. For four seconds Mrs. Amethyst held it there, and then pulled her quill off the page. With it came a cast of the department crest. She pressed the new crest onto the blank parchment page, and with a wave of her wand it darkened to black.
Some parts of the document Mrs. Amethyst copied in this way, while others she simply copied by hand.
Every time she reached for the silver quill and blue ink, I winced.
It took too long. I was certain Cynthia was going to come. Amethyst could lose her job, and it would be my fault.
My eyes flew to the door as a rhythmic click-clack sound battered my ears.
"Cynthia!" Baker cried beside me.
The door knob quivered. The door knob turned. Cynthia stood before us, her clear blue eyes scanning us. Scanning our desks. Scanning the List.
I didn't dare turn to see it for fear of drawing attention.
"Have you signed the List?" Cynthia asked.
"I have," Amethyst answered with perfect calm.
Cynthia smiled. "Good. I'll take it to the Cannon then."
She popped out, and we stared at each other. Our faces masks of worry.
"Oh shit," I said.
"Eloquent," replied Amethyst before taking a pile of papers off her desk, revealing the List beneath them, her own slanting signature scrawled at the bottom.
She turned to me and Baker.
"I will try to stall her while both of you take the back route to the Room of Records. Baker, you know the route. Papercoat, you know where the filing cabinet is."
"Yes!" I answered, taking the List from her. Baker and I raced from the room and I held the List close to my body.
Baker led us in the opposite direction that Amethyst was disappearing. The twisting, turning maze he led us through erased all sense of direction. I hoped he knew where he was going.
We turned a corner, and the white-washed walls were replaced by naked brick. The corridor was thinning and thinning and our pounding feet echoed in the narrow space.
How had it taken me to get to the Room of Records?
Cynthia had a long pace. I hoped she wasn't hurrying as much as we were.
A dead end loomed ahead of us, and Baker slowed down abruptly with a muffled curse. He knelt down and ran his hand over the bricks.
"What is it?" I asked. My voice was high with the nerves Baker wasn't showing.
"Get out of the way," he deadpanned.
I backed away. My fingers twitched and rubbed against one another. I bit my lip.
Trying to ignore my anxiety, I fumbled with the list in my hands. Amethyst, Crystal and Baker, Hugh topped it. Their names were really quite normal, compared to Snoot, Sett and Scrambler, Zophia.
I did a double take.
Snoot's name I had seen before, but it hadn't been after Scrambler's. Snoot's had been directly below the single Q-names. I grew cold as I realised that Mrs. Amethyst had made a mistake!
"Baker!" I hissed. "She's added a name here. She copied it wrong! We can't submit this!"
But Baker ignored me.
"I'm sure it's this one," he said, tapping a wall at head height four times. "Yes."
Baker straightened, a look of satisfaction on his face. The wall fell away before us, revealing a small space about the and a half feet wide and four and a half feet tall. Baker ducked through it and I clambered after him.
We reappeared at the back of the Room of Records, among the purple filing cabinets.
"Where did it come from?" Baker asked me.
I told him, and he was striding away before I could ask about the extra name. Scowling, I followed him.
The doors of the Room of Records opened, and in strolled Cynthia.
My eyes flew to Baker. He looked very calm as he reached the orange and green polka-dotted filing cabinet and beckoned to me. He did not know that we would be unable to place this false document in that drawer.
As I ran to him, I could hear Cynthia's heeled shoes click-clacking towards us. I shoved it in front of his face.
"Look!" I frantically pointed to "Scrambler, Zophia". "Her name wasn't on the original list!"
Baker grabbed the letter from me, but I refused to let it go. He wasn't understanding the situation.
I froze, my eyes on the torn parchment. Baker was a statue beside me.
My heart beat to the unwelcome sound of Cynthia approaching footsteps.
Baker's eyes rose to meet my own.
"Are you honestly so naïve that you think that that Mrs. Amethyst didn't add that name on purpose?"
I stared at him wordlessly. Mrs Amethyst had changed the document on purpose?
"And you're okay with that?" I spluttered in panic.
"Doesn't matter," he answered, taking half of the List from my numb figures. I watched, the hairs on the back of neck rising as he placed the torn halves in the drawer and raising his wand.
"What are you-?" I yelped, my breath coming out in panicked pants.
My eyes rose slowly from the drawer and I saw her.
Clear blue eyes, perfect golden hair, upright figure.
I opened my mouth to formulate an excuse, but before I could the ground disappeared from beneath me. I did not fall, instead I floated in a shocked and hazy limbo for a moment. My feet thrashed, looking for purchase, but instead my surroundings were ripped from in an explosion of gold and crimson.
When I came to, I was lying on the floor of a very familiar office.
I blinked and stood up cautiously. Baker was looking at me concernedly.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "I've—I've heard side-along apparition can be rough."
"Yeah," I croaked.
I am sure Cynthia saw me and Baker in the Room of Records, but I cannot be sure. I hope I am wrong, and cling to the hope that nothing will come of it.
I truly hope that tomorrow will be less exciting.