Andy has a secret. A big secret. The life-changing kind. The only question now is: what’s going to happen when Miranda finds out? Because if Miranda didn’t find out, it wouldn’t be much of a story. A Devil Wears Prada/Harry Potter crossover. FEMSLASH!
Categories: Cross Overs Characters:
1. Prologue: ...and the Christmas Conspiracy by Hayseed
2. Chapter 1: ...and the Intimidating New Job by Hayseed
3. Chapter 2: ...and the Three Strikes by Hayseed
4. Chapter 3: ...and the Evils of Stereotyping by Hayseed
5. Chapter 4: ...and the Halfer's Regret by Hayseed
6. Chapter 5: ...and the Contempt of Familiarity by Hayseed
7. Chapter 6: ...and the Paralyzing Fear of Exposure by Hayseed
8. Chapter 7: ...and the Mistake of a Lifetime by Hayseed
9. Chapter 8: ...and the Capital-D Decision by Hayseed
10. Epilogue: ...and the Requisite Happy Ending by Hayseed
Prologue: ...and the Christmas Conspiracy by Hayseed
A/N: I wrote this for a DWP ficathon last year, and since it's a Harry Potter crossover, I figured Chaos would be a good home for it too. The biggest 'warning' here is FEMSLASH! Also, calling it a 'crossover' isn't really accurate. No HP characters show up, and if you don't have a pretty good knowledge of the Devil Wears Prada storyline, you're going to be fairly confused.
Official Disclaimer: None of the characters or settings in this story are mine, really. That's the problem with crossovers; they're even less mine than usual.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Prologue: ...and the Christmas Conspiracy
"We're on to you."
It was still kind of hard to tell the twins apart, even after living with them for more than a year. At least, it was hard to tell them apart if she was trying to look at their faces. There was an accusing note in that prim little voice, however, that was all Caroline.
In what she hoped was an appropriately wise-looking manner, Andy just kept calmly sorting through the box of delicate glass ornaments, not looking up. "I'm not exactly sure what that means."
"Yeah, you are," Caroline replied. "We've got you all figured out, and if you're not careful, we're going to tell Mom all about you."
"The whole living-together-thing means that odds are, she already knows whatever you’re talking about," Andy said dryly. "Do you think it's a good idea to put these on the tree with everything else?" She held up one of the little ornaments blown into the shape of a lumpy star. "I mean, purple isn't really what I'd call a traditionally festive color, and we've got a million and one boxes of stuff anyway."
More to the point, the set of purple stars was kind of ugly, and she was pretty sure ugly didn’t fly on the Priestly family tree.
"Of course they go on the tree," a voice that might have been mistaken for Caroline's chimed in. Instead of that slightly angry edge, though, Andy heard a hint of condescension that better belonged to Cassidy. "Prince Harry gave those to Mom a few years ago. They can't not go on the tree."
"And you're trying to distract us," Caroline said snidely. "It won't work, Ahn-dray-ah."
She absolutely hated it when they said her name like that. When Miranda said her name, it was just right. When one of the twins did it, it made her hand itch to slap someone.
Instead, she settled for putting the box full of blown-glass purple stars in the pile she'd designated as 'yes.' "I'm not trying to distract you. I don't even know what you're talking about."
"My iPod went dead last week," Cassidy told her in a lazy drawl. "Again."
"That's when we figured it out," Caroline said. "Since you moved in, I've gone through eight iPods and three laptops, and Cass has lost a bunch of her stuff, too."
Andy rolled her eyes. "Are you accusing me of being a thief?"
Cassidy matched her eyeroll for eyeroll. "Are you deaf or something? We're not saying you steal them; we're saying that you have some weird mojo thing that breaks our stuff. It's like, you walk by or something, and the screen goes all weird and fuzzy, and then it just... dies."
"And that's not all," Caroline interrupted. "There's the flickering lights, too."
"Oh, yeah," Cassidy said. "I forgot all about that."
"Like every night, all the lights in the house start flickering for almost an hour. And that never happened before you got here."
"We even called the power people, because we figured there was something wrong with the house, but they said it wasn't their problem. Hey, Caro, remember the other thing?"
Caroline blinked a couple of times. "No, what other thing?"
"You know... the gross one."
Shaking her head wildly, Caroline grimaced. "Oh, ew. I remember. But I can't say it. You better."
"I don't want to."
"One, two, three... not it!"
"Not -- oh, hell."
Andy was sufficiently entertained by their antics that she didn't even get after Cassidy for swearing. In fact, she stopped sorting through ornaments and looked up at both of them.
Standing side-by-side, arms folded, and glaring at each other, the girls looked like something out of a sitcom. But she couldn't laugh. She'd never forgive herself if she didn't find out exactly what they were accusing her of.
"We were all in the kitchen, and Mom was cutting something up, and she cut her finger or something," Cassidy said awkwardly, not taking her eyes off her now-smirking sister. "And you... oh, this is repulsive... you made a big fuss about kissing it better."
"At least Mom made a face and said she was stupid," Caroline added with a knowing nod.
"Yeah, but she let her do it," Cassidy replied, shuddering. "Anyway, I saw Mom's finger, like, ten minutes later or something, and the cut was completely gone. Not just healed up -- gone!"
"And there was blood and stuff, so you can't just say it wasn't as bad as we thought. The towel was all gross with blood."
Biting her lip, Andy thought long and hard about what to say. The line between alienation and humor was too thin to gauge here. So instead, she settled on, "What do you think all of this means?"
The twins exchanged a hesitant look. She could all but hear the conversation that passed between them.
Do we tell her?
Do we have a choice?
A decision was made and Caroline cleared her throat delicately. "We think... well, that is..."
"You're a witch," Cassidy interrupted in a flat voice.
"You know, pointy hat, bubbling cauldron, all of it," she said.
Caroline apparently regained her courage, because she took up the thread next. "You even have a cat."
Andy let that hang in the air for a while. But eventually, she had to speak up. "Um... so after you bust a couple of iPods and your mom fails to cut herself, you decide that I'm a witch on the sole basis that I have a cat?"
Bucky had a sort of sixth sense about knowing the absolute worst place to be. As soon as Caroline brought the cat issue up, Bucky came sauntering into the room. After giving the box of purple stars a dismissive sniff, she twined herself around Andy's legs and started purring.
"See?" Caroline crowed triumphantly. "Witch."
"Oh-kay..." Andy drawled, scooping Bucky up and scratching her ears. "Bucks, did you know that the Salem witch trials were still going on?" she asked her playfully. "I had no idea."
Bucky's only reply was a lazy feline blink.
"We're going to tell!" Caroline snapped. "We're going to tell Mom all about the spell you've got her under, and then you'll be sorry!"
"I will?" Andy asked blankly. "Because I've got to tell you, girls, I have absolutely no recollection of casting a spell on Miranda. Not that it would work, anyway."
"Not that what would work?" Miranda's sharp voice said from out of nowhere. Andy couldn't help jumping just a little at the abruptness of it, and Bucky's response was to gently hook her claws into Andy's shoulder.
"Hey, quit it, Bucks!" Andy said, just as Cassidy gave Caroline a vicious pinch and muttered, "Now you've done it, dumbass."
"Cassidy," Miranda reprimanded, but there was little behind it.
The claws tightened, and Bucky let out a quiet growl. "Jesus, Bucky," Andy hissed. "What are you trying to do?"
"Andrea, are you having an animal control problem?" Miranda asked, sounding amused.
Instantly, Bucky pushed off Andy's chest and made her way over to Miranda the instant her feet hit the ground.
"Traitor," Andy said, blotting the blood spots rising on her shoulder and watching Bucky butt her head against Miranda's knee. "I always knew I should have gotten a dog."
Bucky's whiskers trembled in a cat-laugh, and Miranda chuckled herself, leaning down to give Bucky a couple of perfunctory pats. "Speaking as a long-term dog owner, I can safely say that you probably would have gotten yourself into more trouble than you could handle, Andrea."
"Hey, Patricia is my dog!" Caroline interjected angrily.
"Oh, really?" Miranda asked. "How odd, then, Caroline, that I've never seen you pay for a vet's bill, or take her to the groomer's."
"I feed her every day," she retorted.
"Yeah, but I'm the one who always has to take her to the dog park when you forget," Cassidy said with a moue of distaste. "And she's always jumping up and knocking me down when I come in the door and getting that awful dog-smell on all of my clothes.” She gave Miranda a thoughtful look. “Hey, Mom, how come we didn't get a Jack Russell terrier like I wanted?"
Caroline elbowed her sister. "You lost the coin toss. Besides, Mom bought you that stupid hamster when you cried about it."
"Patricia ate Mr. Sparkles!" Cassidy all but wailed. "It was never fair! You always get your way!"
"Girls, is this really necessary?" Miranda sighed.
Andy wanted to point out that Miranda was more or less the one who started the squabble by bringing Patricia up in the first place, but that would almost definitely lead to an argument. And then the... ensuing discussion or whatever you wanted to call it once the argument was resolved would probably scar the twins for life.
"Don't get distracted, Cass," Caroline said, nudging Cassidy again. "Follow-through, remember?"
"Yeah, but it wasn't ever right, what happened to poor Mr. Sparkles," Cassidy replied. "I mean, you were the one who thought it would be a good idea to let him out of his cage so he and Patricia could play together."
"In my defense, we were six," she said. "Anyway... we've got Mom here now, so let’s, uh..."
Another silent conversation, but the content was fuzzier this time. All Andy knew was at the end, the twins gave each other a short little nod.
"Done something weird--"
"To you, like--"
"Or something," Cassidy finished with a triumphant smirk at Andy.
The freaky twin double-speak always threw Andy off-guard. Once they started ping-ponging words back and forth, she lost track of who was who and exactly what was going on. It wasn't until the 'or something' that Andy figured out which one was which again. Cassidy was nothing if not predictable.
"A spell?" Miranda echoed, nose wrinkling in obvious confusion.
"Yeah, Mom, Andy is--"
"A witch or something--"
"We swear it's true!"
"A witch?" Her tone was more even on this one, the confusion settling firmly into disbelief.
"Haven't you noticed all of the weird stuff going on?" Caroline asked desperately. "The lights, the electronics going all wonky, the... the..."
"Other stuff," Cassidy finished in a rare show of sisterly compassion. Andy almost laughed at the relief on Caroline’s face as she realized she didn’t have to elaborate.
A long pause.
With a loud meow, Bucky started pushing against Miranda's leg again. Miranda just picked her up and firmly deposited her in Andy's arms.
"A witch," Miranda said again, almost pensive now. "Girls, I know that meeting Daniel Radcliffe last week was very exciting, but that's no reason to--"
"Mo-om!" the twins wailed in unison. "Mom," Cassidy continued to whine, "you're not listening to us."
"No, sweetheart, I'm listening," she replied. "And what I'm hearing is causing me serious concern for your mental health. Maybe all of the stress with school, the Christmas season, your father..."
"Mom," Caroline said, rolling her eyes, "if you shacking up with a girl didn't disrupt our sanity, why on Earth would Daddy marrying Sandra bother us at all? I mean, they've been dating for, like, centuries. If me and Cass are stressed, maybe it's because we have to share a house with an evil spell-casting witch!"
Apparently, Bucky'd had all she could take. With one last stern look at Andy, Bucky jumped out of her arms and made her way out of the room, flicking an ear in the general direction of the twins as she departed.
"See, Mom?" Cassidy said shrilly. "She's even got that weirdo cat, her whatsit."
"Familiar," Caroline corrected. "All witches have familiars. I've read about it."
"Caroline, darling, I don't think you could call your Harry Potter novels 'valid research,'" Miranda said. "And if you two have such a problem with my relationship with Andrea that you are resorting to fantastical delusion, I believe it would be best for you to start seeing Dr. Thornton again."
"Mom, we don't need therapy!" Caroline insisted. "You just need to listen!"
"I'll call the doctor first thing tomorrow morning, dear," Miranda said in a voice that clearly brooked no argument. "Now, why don't you and Cassidy go and choose a movie to watch this afternoon. If you would like to invite some friends over for the duration, I believe that would be fine. I'll be at Runway for several hours."
The girls' mouths hung open for a good while, but there was a hard finality in Miranda's dismissal that was impossible to mistake. After about a minute of dead silence, Cassidy's mouth snapped shut. "Fine," she barked. "We were just trying to help you, but if you're not going to believe us, maybe we'll just let you stay under the spell."
The sound of their feet pounding up the stairs as they ran was as loud as a series of gunshots.
With a sigh, Andy returned to sorting through the ornaments. How on Earth had Miranda managed to get a tree decorated year after year if she always had to go through these boxes? There had to be a dozen boxes at the very minimum, each crammed to the brim with ornaments of various levels of acceptability. If there had been some sense of reason in the organization, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but the ornaments seemed to be jumbled together randomly.
She thought after a while that Miranda had gone back to her study to work on the Book, but a cool hand on her shoulder proved her wrong. "Your cat scratched you," Miranda said quietly. "You're bleeding."
Blinking, she glanced down at the pinpricks of blood welling next to Miranda's hand. "Yeah, well, you know Bucky..." she shrugged and concentrated for a moment. The blood slowly disappeared as the wounds closed themselves.
"I still can’t believe it, even when I see it."
Andy grinned. "I know. You just told the twins that."
"Honestly, Andrea," she huffed. "You know what I mean."
"I do," she conceded with a nod. "I just hadn't realized they'd put so many pieces together. I haven't been as careful as I thought."
"It is rather difficult not to notice the electricity flickering, you know," Miranda said, smirking.
She rolled her eyes. "Shut up. You know you like it."
Miranda said nothing, but her lips twitched.
"Anyway, maybe I should just come clean with Caroline and Cassidy. If I explained everything, maybe they wouldn't think I was evil," she said thoughtfully.
"Possible," Miranda replied.
"On the other hand," Andy continued, thinking aloud, "if it occurred to them what I can actually do, I might be forced to spend the rest of my natural-born life transfiguring the latest handbags at their demand."
"It would save me a small fortune," she said with a carefully neutral expression.
With a grimace, Andy shook her head. "You're a big help, you know that, right?"
"I aim to please," Miranda purred.
Miranda didn't really flirt all that often, but when she decided to... boy. The problem was, the end result was that Andy's brain more or less turned into mush. And she didn’t have enough practice to know how to get it to stop happening every damn time.
"Um..." she stammered. The lamp dimmed of its own accord, and Miranda's lips curled into a pleased smile.
"You do realize that if you told the girls about... yourself, then they might figure out why we have electrical issues," she continued in that same seductive tone. "We might have to... adjust. That would not be acceptable."
"I... you..." Yep. Brain still Jell-o.
Miranda leaned in and the hand on Andy's shoulder slid lower. "I don't have to go to Runway, Andrea. Not if..."
The light bulb in the lamp exploded, sending shards of powdered glass tinkling to the floor.
Andy blushed as Miranda continued to smirk at her.
"I’ll clean it up later..." she mumbled, trying to scrape the pudding in her skull together into something resembling a thinking mind.
"I look forward to it," Miranda breathed.
And with that, her brain clicked back into place. Turnabout was fair play, after all. It wasn’t fair that she was the only person in the room unable to string a sentence together.
Andy muttered a few well-placed words, and there was a loud click as the door locked itself.
A couple more words, and their clothes melted away. The first time Andy performed that little trick, it had brought everything to a screeching halt, as Miranda had to be reassured that her couture hadn’t been destroyed, just... relocated. Now, though, instead of complaining, Miranda blushed bright red and bit her bottom lip.
A final jerk of the head, and the 'yes' pile of ornaments slid across the room, leaving the rug clear.
Abruptly, Miranda craned her neck over Andy's now-bare shoulder, distracted by the shifting ornaments. "You're not planning on putting those purple monstrosities on the tree, are you, Andrea?"
"Cassidy said Prince Harry--"
"I wasn’t planning to invite the Royal Family to view our tree. Those ornaments are hideous; I don’t even know why they’re still in the house."
Something struck Andy at that moment, as she took in a naked Miranda kneeling on the living room floor, scowling at a pile of floating Christmas ornaments with a furious expression. Andy threw back her head and laughed long and hard. All the magic in the world couldn’t make Miranda any less Miranda.
"What?" Miranda asked irritably.
"I don't know why Cassidy and Caroline thought I had cast a spell on you," she said, still giggling. "It wouldn't work even if I tried."
Chapter 1: ...and the Intimidating New Job by Hayseed
A/N: To head off any potential confusion, you may have heard the word halfer before -- it's slang for someone who's half-Japanese. I'm using it to mean something different just because it's an awesome sounding word.
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chapter One: ...and the Intimidating New Job
(several years earlier)
“Holy fucking shit, Andy, did you have to bring everything at once?” Lily exclaimed, her expression verging on horrified.
“Well, what else do you expect me to do?” Andy snarled back, dropping a box full of computer parts and missing her own left foot by mere inches. “Just bring it to you piece by piece as it goes bad? Boy, I bet the Obs would love that.”
“Hey, you’re the one trying to go off and be a halfer,” Lily retorted, prodding at the monitor thoughtfully. “I’m just helping a buddy out.”
Rolling her eyes, Andy pulled the keyboard out of the box and started fiddling with the USB cord. “I offered to pay, you know.”
“And notice how I didn’t refuse,” she said. “You owe me dinner. The menu’s on the table; I’ve already circled what I want.”
Andy dropped the cord and picked up the menu in question. “But I hate Thai,” she moaned. “It’s all... weird stuff.”
With a loud snort, Lily finished taking the monitor apart and shook her head at the mess of wires in front of her. “I’m not even going to touch that one, Andy-who-loves-lutefisk.”
“If you would just try it...” Andy said good-naturedly, flipping through the menu.
“I don’t have to try it, dear heart. It’s fish dropped in soap.”
“It is not. My grandmother--“
Carefully, Lily tapped several seemingly random wires; the whole contraption went ‘ping.’ “Your grandmother, my left ass-cheek. Andy, I know your family, remember? Your grandmother has never touched that stuff in her entire life -- neither of them have, actually. You can defend your precious lutefisk all you want; we all know it’s fish dropped in soap.”
“All right!” she said in a loud voice. “I’ll order your stupid Thai food. Will you please shut up about lutefisk?”
Slotting the back of the monitor in place, Lily whirled a single finger in the air and smiled as the anchor screws lifted themselves obediently into their holes and spun into place. “I effing love that one. Do you have any idea how much of a pain in the ass it is to get those screws back in by hand?”
In reply, Andy just rolled her eyes.
“Oh, yeah,” Lily said, answering her own question. “That’s right -- you bring all your Muggle shit to me to fix. You don’t need to know hardware spells.”
“Please,” Andy groaned, “don’t say that word.”
“What the hell else do you want me to say? Non-magical? Created by persons who generally have no idea about the existence of the wizarding community? For Christ’s sake, Andy, the word is Muggle. Get over yourself.” Lily turned her attention to the tower and started disassembling it.
She fiddled with the Thai menu, crumpling it in her hands. “I just--“
“Andy, one more word about how much you hate the Harry fucking Potter books, and I’ll throw you out and let the Obs deal with you when all your techno shit goes ker-flooey,” Lily threatened. “Just be a good girl, order me some Thai, and sit back and watch your bestest bud work her magic. Figuratively and literally.”
After the Thai was safely ordered and Lily rescinded her threat to kick Andy (and her stuff) out, Andy offered her friend a hesitant smile. “I really do appreciate you doing this for me, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Lily replied with a wide grin. “It would cost a small fortune to have a professional charm this stuff for you. You’re just lucky I took that class in college on electronics spells.”
“I always wondered about that,” Andy said, sorting through her purse to find some cash for the delivery guy. “I mean, why aren’t you working as, like, a charms specialist or something? You’ve always been good at it.”
She shrugged and plucked the new Runway-issue cell phone out of its box. “I could do that, I guess, but I like art, and the people are fun, and you can’t really imagine the joy I feel every time my mother is forced to tell people that her daughter is an artist in New York.” Lily put on a mocking expression of horror as she imitated her mother’s usual prim tone of voice. “If I worked in the wizarding sector, she would feel free to fabricate a... respectable profession. Anyway, what about you and your shiny DADA degree? I would think the New York Aurory would be knocking your damn door down.”
With a wry chuckle, Andy pulled a twenty out of her wallet. After a moment’s consideration, she added a five. “Your mother would be horrified at pretty much everything you do that isn’t married-mother-of-three, but my parents would love for me to come back to the wizarding world. At least, as long as I was doing something that didn’t involve risking life and limb. My dad keeps trying to get me to go and interview at some bookstore over in Chinatown, and--“
“And you would rather pull out your own fingernails with rusty pliers,” Lily said, nodding sagely. “I get it. But why not the Aurory? Or a curse-breaking job somewhere? I mean, you were always good at that shit, even back when we were at good old BHH. You even sent old McMinamin flying with some of your hexes.”
Andy sighed. “What the hell is wrong with trying something different, huh? I want to be a reporter, so I’m--“
“A glorified secretary at a fashion magazine?”
“Shut up or your goong-sam-rod is mine,” Andy threatened, picking one of Lily’s choices more or less at random.
In reply, Lily just rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. You don’t even like shrimp. Much less pineapple. Anyway, I have a better threat: answer my question or go to work tomorrow morning and explain to the apparently famous Miranda Preacher why your cell phone has magically learned to talk.”
“Her last name is Priestly,” Andy grumbled. “And you can’t make a phone sentient.”
“Just try me.”
It was probably best to give in. Old Dr. McMinamin’d had a talking pet dragon he kept on his desk. The dragon was named Sandy, and he was a little toy whittled out of a piece of cedar -- McMinamin had to refresh his paint job every now and again, and Sandy would tell anyone who would listen how much that damned paintbrush tickled.
Which meant that while having a pet cell phone might be kind of cool in one way, it would definitely mean a visit from the Obs.
“I just... you’ve always been a halfer,” Andy said disconsolately. “You don’t know what it feels like to grow up watching a world without being able to touch it. To always have to be on your guard against Muggles.”
“Really, Muggle-borns and halfers aren’t anywhere near the same thing,” Lily pointed out in the snotty tone she used when she wanted Andy to think she was being rational. “I didn’t know wizards and witches existed until I was ten years old, when you set my hair on fire.”
“That was totally an accident!” Andy protested. “And my dad grew your hair back for you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lily said, “but that’s not the point. The point is, you can babble all you want about your Lifetime-movie-childhood of watching the Muggles as you grew up, poor little wizard girl, but you weren’t the one whose life got totally flipped upside down and who had to basically relearn how to be a human being all over again.”
Andy watched Lily put a protection charm on the cell phone with tight little stabbing wand motions. “Lily... I didn’t mean to start a fight.”
“I didn’t either,” Lily said after a long pause. “And I guess it’s not fair for me to get all bitchy when I was pushing you to answer in the first place.”
It was best to let that slide. “I didn’t mean to play ‘my life is harder than yours,’” she said. “But I guess I didn’t want to take the easy road. The wizarding world isn’t exactly an up-and-coming place, if you catch my drift.”
“What, you don’t want to wear wacky tie-dye dresses and work for a kook with a Chinatown cover to run his wizarding bookshop?” Lily asked nastily. But almost immediately, she looked ashamed. “Sorry... that came out wrong.”
Tilting her head, Andy gave her a sort of half-shrug. “But you’re kind of right. Just because my mom and dad chose to be wizards doesn’t mean I have to, except that I don’t really know anything else. And now...”
“Muggle city, Muggle boyfriend, and Muggle job,” Lily interjected, nodding. “I get it. But, Andy, are you sure this is a good idea?”
She picked up the freshly-charmed cell phone, turning it this way and that as she switched it on, making sure it wasn’t emitting sparks or anything. Muggle technology didn’t like magic, and if she was going to pull this off, it was important for all of her stuff to work properly. “What do you mean?”
“Andy, you’ve never lived as a Muggle, and now you’re kind of quitting the wizarding world cold turkey. You haven’t even gone without your wand since you were six years old,” Lily said seriously.
“I got through college, didn’t I?” Andy smiled, shooting for charming.
Shaking her head, Lily started to take apart the pencil sharpener next. “Northwestern was half-wizard and you know it, Halfer Girl. You had Defense classes as an outlet. What do you have now?”
Fortunately, Andy was saved from having to bluff her way through an answer by a knock at the door. As they sorted through their takeout and squabbled good-naturedly over the quality of Lily’s charm-work, their conversation moved on to safer topics.
“Jesus Christ, Sachs, it’s like you didn’t even graduate.”
She rolled her eyes. “Shut up, Luke.”
“I mean, my four-year-old nephew is better at controlling his temper tantrums.”
“Luke, I swear to everything you hold sacred that if you don’t shut your mouth right now...”
“Don’t you have some fancy-ass college degree or something? I thought you were going to be a big bad Auror, kicking ass and taking names. At least, that’s what you used to say in old McMinamin’s class all the time.” Luke’s grin was wide and more disarming than she remembered when they were kids, but it didn’t make her want to smack him any less.
“Clearly, Lucas,” she said through gritted teeth, “this was an accident.”
Threading his thumbs through the belt loops on his jeans, Luke let out a long, low whistle. “Hell of an accident, Sack-of-Shit. I’m thinking you have a little bit of an anger management problem. I mean, what did that poor coffeemaker ever do to you?”
Exist, Andy thought viciously to herself.
Every fucking morning, she had to drag herself out of bed at six AM, leaving Nate and Bucky to fend for themselves (never a good idea), just so she could slog through the morning crowd at Starbucks for Miranda’s morning latte. No foam, non-fat, center-of-the-Sun hot.
And she’d told herself she could live with it. Part of the job, right? A year as Miranda Priestly’s assistant, and then she could just sit back and watch the doors swing open.
A year of phone calls, designer heels that gave her blisters, coffee runs, and just in general pretending that the sun shone out of Miranda’s Prada-clad ass.
Which was all okay.
Until she saw the two-thousand dollar espresso machine, complete with all the attachments, and as brand-shiny-new as if Nigel had just taken it out of the box yesterday. There it was, sitting untouched in the Runway breakroom, mocking her.
And Serena, Emily’s bitchy clacker friend, standing beside the machine, drinking water bottled in paradise (probably by starving children who were paid less than a dollar a day) and sneering. “Can you imagine?” Serena had asked with a wide smirk. “Brewing coffee in the office like... blue-collar construction workers?”
Six fucking AM flashed through her head, and then something went bang!
Andy was really only aware that the bang wasn’t imaginary and she’d managed to blow up the coffee machine when a milk steamer went flying past her head to embed itself in the nearby wall.
Serena’s law had dropped, and Emily had come flying in from Miranda’s office to see what all the fuss was about. Even Madame High-Horse Priestly herself had come sauntering over to sniff disapprovingly at everyone.
But now, the three of them were just standing there, blank-eyed and slack-jawed. The Obs had arrived.
Well, four of them had. And they weren’t nearly as scary as she’d thought they would be. It helped, of course, that one of them was stupid old Luke Stephenson, one of the guys who she’d known at BHH and whose ass she’d routinely kicked in McMinamin’s Advanced Defense classes.
“Seriously, Sachs,” Luke said, sounding more professional than she’d ever imagined possible. “What am I doing here? I never thought you of all people would need an Obliviate Squad to come clean up after her.”
“It’s not like I meant to,” she said, hating how panicked she felt. What did Obs do to wizards who screwed up like this? Blowing up a coffeemaker wasn’t exactly low-profile magic. This couldn’t go well, especially with Luke grinning at her like that. Was he the type that held grudges? “It just... this is only my second week on the job, Luke, and I need this. More than anything, I need to do this.”
After the longest thirty-second silence she ever experienced in her entire life (complete with flashbacks of her childhood and horrific visions of a possible future), Luke just shook his head. “Relax, Sack-of-Shit, I’m not going to tattle on you. We Obs aren’t really the total evil bastards we’re made out to be.”
“So what’s going to happen?” As much as she’d hated the panic, the relief was worse. It felt... cowardly.
Luke smirked. “My buddies over there are going to make sure your delightful co-workers have no memory of you going all magical on their coffee machine, and I’m going to reassemble the damn thing. You are going to go home and calm the fuck down.”
“Thinks you’re off running errands or whatever it is you do for her,” Luke interrupted, waving his hand at the disturbingly blank Miranda. “Don’t worry about it, Sack-of-Shit. We’re professionals, remember?”
“I really hate it when you call me that,” she said, but she was picking up her purse and coat as she said it. “Lucas.”
He flicked his fingers at her, covering her coat in pink glitter. It was an old trick they’d learned back when they were kids. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “I don’t mind you calling me Lucas like I used to. There’s something kind of sexy about it. Lu-ucas-s-s...” He chuckled. “It sounds like something you’d moan in bed.”
“In your effing nightmares, Stephenson,” she shot back, twirling her fingers to clean the glitter off her coat.
She was almost out of the office when she heard him calling her name. “Hey, Andy!”
Her heels skidded a little as she spun around, and it took a lot of self-control not to land flat on her ass. “What?”
“You remember Goldeneye?”
“You mean that stupid video game you and Nick were so nuts about? Mostly I remember the time Nick and Lily had a big project due in Transfigurations and Lily damn near drowned him in the toilet when he showed up without his stuff done because he’d stayed up all night playing Goldeneye instead,” she said, wondering where the hell he was going with this.
“Okay...” He sounded impatient. “But one of the best parts about Goldeneye was that you got new lives as much as you needed them. So you could blow yourself up over and over, but you came back to life every time.”
She sighed and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “As fun as this stroll down Memory Lane is, Luke...”
“Living as a halfer isn’t as much like Goldeneye as it is like baseball,” he said.
“Baseball?” He was making zero sense by this point.
“Yeah,” Luke replied. “Three strikes and you’re out.”
Bucky always knew when her day sucked. She’d long ago given up trying to figure out exactly how Bucky knew, but whenever she came home with aching feet or after a bad phone call from her parents (or after an Obs Squad showed up at work to cover up her idiocy), Bucky was right there, waiting at the door to rub her head against Andy’s knee and purr up a storm.
“How was your day, Bucks?” Andy asked with a soft smile, scratching her ears. “Catch any mice?”
The answering ear-flick was a dismissive no, which Andy already knew. Bucky didn’t really do mice.
“You’re probably pissed that we’re not out west any more, huh? There’s not really anything for you to stalk around here.”
Bucky’s whiskers twitched a couple of times. There was too much cat food to be eaten to have to resort to pouncing on New York vermin, those whiskers seemed to be saying.
“Well, come on. Let’s see what’s laying around in the fridge, girl.” Andy scooped Bucky up into her arms and ambled into the kitchen.
“There’s food in the bowl,” she told Bucky, looking down into her dish. “So Nate remembered to put some out before he went into work.”
This ear-flick was somehow even more dismissive.
“Now, Bucks, don’t be like that,” Andy admonished. “It was nice of him to remember to feed you.”
Bucky looked up into Andy’s eyes, giving her a hard stare followed by a slow blink. Remember, nothin’.
“Damn it, Bucky, tell me you didn’t scratch him again,” Andy groaned, giving Bucky’s tail a little tug.
Another slow blink.
“It would serve you right if you only got dry food tonight,” she scolded. “Nate’s never been anything but nice to you, and you’re awful to him.”
She could have sworn Bucky actually looked satisfied as she jumped out of Andy’s arms and landed on the kitchen floor with a soft thud.
“I’m such a sucker,” Andy sighed, pulling the peanut butter out of a cabinet and starting to smear a generous portion on a piece of bread. “Why did Mom and Dad think I needed a cat, again? I mean, I could have had a dog, or a goldfish, or even an owl. At least owls are useful. What do you do, Bucky? Other than scratch the everliving hell out of Nate whenever you feel like it?”
Her tail twitched and she started to wash her face with an unconcerned paw. Everything about her body language screamed, Whatever it is, I look good doing it.
“You know,” she said pensively, putting the peanut butter sandwich on the floor next to the food dish and watching Bucky tuck in, “Nate bitches up and down about where all the peanut butter goes. He can’t figure out how I can eat a whole thing of it almost every week and not be big as a house.”
Bucky licked a dab of peanut butter off her nose and kept eating.
“Why do you have to be such a weird cat, anyway? Are you a Kneazle or something? I don’t think you are, because Mom or Dad would have said something, but how many twenty-year-old cats eat a peanut butter sandwich every day and spend the rest of their time figuring out how to torture a grown man?”
She wasn’t really expecting an answer, and she didn’t really get one, unless you wanted to count the little snorting sounds Bucky always made as she ate.
Bucky was just cleaning the last of the peanut butter off her whiskers when the front door opened and closed, signaling Nate’s return. “Honey, I’m home,” he called goofily.
“I’ll be ready with your martini and slippers soon,” Andy replied with an equally goofy grin. “Just as soon as I’m done at the feminist rally.”
“Only if you promise to let me watch you burn your bra,” he flirted as he walked into the kitchen to give her a quick kiss. “On a scale of one to ten, your day was...”
“Negative three,” she said with a shrug. “I was actually getting ready to open a bottle of wine, so the martini-thing wasn’t as much of a joke as it could be.”
“You should quit that job,” Nate told her seriously, disappearing into the bedroom and emerging wearing jeans and a t-shirt. “Anyone can see how much you hate it.”
The wine Andy pulled out of the fridge was a screw-top, and she twisted it as hard as she could, envisioning Miranda Priestly’s neck in place of the cap. “It’s a stepping-stone,” she said neutrally. “Besides, it gives me an excuse to drink.”
“Still...” But he left it alone and accepted a glass of wine, which was all she could expect for now. “I guess if you’re not going to tell me about your day, I could always ask Bucky about it.” He leaned down to hold his hand out to the cat. “Hey, girl; you gonna let me pet you?”
Andy blinked and suddenly Nate was on one side of the kitchen, nursing a bloody hand, and Bucky was on the other, tail a fluffy bottlebrush of hatred and hissing as if her life depended on it.
“Let me see,” Andy sighed, taking his hand and examining it. “It’s not that bad, you big baby. And it’s your own fault for trying to pet her. You know you have to let her come to you.”
He scowled at Bucky over Andy’s shoulder. “I can see why you named her after that psychotic little cat in the comic strips. She’s crazy.”
“I’ve had Bucky since I was four years old, Nate,” she reminded him. “There’s no way she’s named after that comic.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said, sticking his hand under the faucet and wincing at the cold water washing over his wound. “Old cats aren’t that full of piss and vinegar, and yours is a damn sadist.”
Andy just bent down and made little clucking noises at Bucky until she came out of her corner with a plaintive meow. “Maybe if you didn’t insult her all the time, she wouldn’t be so mean to you.”
Nate rolled his eyes. “Come on, Andy, it’s a cat. She knows two words -- her name and supper.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, not agreeing but hoping against hope he’d change the subject. “Anyway, what’d you bring for dinner?”
“Isn’t it your turn?” he asked blankly. “I was expecting a home-cooked meal followed by a long foot-rub as I watch wrestling.”
“So you hit your head at work, then,” she retorted sweetly. “Should I call a doctor?”
“How about a pizza guy?”
In that moment, life wasn’t so bad. She had the boyfriend, the job, and it was all in the city she’d dreamed of living in since she was ten years old. So what if the Obs had to come to the office once? It was like Luke said -- she had three whole strikes. And she was determined not to need them.
Chapter 2: ...and the Three Strikes by Hayseed
A/N: None for this chapter.
Official Disclaimer: Big surprise; still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Chapter Two: ...and the Three Strikes
“Lily,” Andy hissed into her cell phone, “I need you to come to Runway, now!”
“Andy, baby, I can’t just--“
“Please,” she begged, desperation welling in her gut. “I’ll owe you for life.”
Lily’s reply was more amused than anything else. “You already owe me for life. I never told old man Russell that you broke his window back when we were eight.”
“All right, all right. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ll be over in three. Can I come directly, or do I need to use more... conventional means?”
Andy looked furtively around the office. It was empty, just like it ought to be at eleven PM. Even Miranda, who was the one holding Andy at work so frigging late, was nowhere to be seen.
“Just be careful.” She snapped her phone shut and started saying silent prayers to every single god she could think of.
No more than three minutes later, there was a loud popping noise. Andy winced and all but tackled Lily the instant the Apparition was finished.
“Did you have to be so loud?”
“What?” Lily asked blankly.
She was going to cry any second now; she really was. “Oh my God, Lily...” she half-sobbed.
“Andy, you’ve got to chill,” Lily said, giving her a little shake. “Because I have no clue what’s going on, and I’m standing in the middle of an office basically just waiting for your boss to leap out of the closet or whatever and bite off my head.”
“Th-the computer,” she stuttered, pointing over at Emily’s eerily blank monitor screen. “I swear, Lily, I didn’t mean to get so close, and now it’s dead, and it’s got all the records on it, and you have to fix it, or I’m so dead, and they’re going to put me in jail or something, if I manage to survive, because Miranda is totally going to kill me dead, and--“
“Breathe, Sachs,” Lily interrupted with another shake of her shoulders. “Just breathe. In and out. That’s a good girl. Do you realize how many times you just used the word dead in a single sentence?”
Her breathing slowed marginally, but her eyes were still wild with fear. “And she’s still here, Lily. She’s conference-calling someone or something, and... Jesus, what if she sees you? Do you have an Invisibility Cloak?”
Lily sighed and covered her eyes with a single hand. “Two things to mention here, chica,” she said irritably. “One, it would have been nice to know I would be working around Muggles before I got here. And two, fuck no, I don’t have an Invisibility Cloak! How much money do you think I have?”
“I’m sorry,” Andy replied, meaning it. “I’m just--“
“Freaked out beyond the limits of all reason, wizarding or Muggle?”
“Not helping,” she said with gritted teeth.
“Sorry,” Lily said, distinctly unapologetically. “Which computer am I fixing, again?”
She nodded toward Emily’s Mac before all but collapsing at her own desk. “I don’t know if I can do this, Lily.”
“Do what?” But Lily was already in her own world, disassembling the computer and beginning to pull at various wires.
Letting her guard down since... well, since the last time she’d talked to Lily, Andy just sighed and studied her fingernails. “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a halfer,” she admitted. “A month ago, when I first started here, I just... I snapped, Lily. The Obs had to come wipe half the staff because of me. I’ve never been so out-of-control, even when I was a little kid. And Nate and I, we’re fighting all the time, and it’s about stupid stuff, too. He doesn’t like me working here. It was a lot easier when we were in school.”
“So you’re quitting?” Lily asked, looking up from the motherboard with a confused expression.
“No... yes... I... hell, I don’t know,” she said with another heartfelt sigh.
“Well, as long as you’ve made up your mind.” Biting her lip to hold in what was clearly a giggle, Lily turned back to her work.
Andy rolled her eyes. “It’s not funny, Lils.”
“Oh, I know,” Lily replied, tapping the motherboard with her wand in a sequence that resulted in a puff of bright pink smoke. “But I also know you, remember? If you don’t see this halfer thing through, you’re going to spend the rest of your life working in a dingy old bookshop, counting quills and wondering what you could have been.”
“You make it sound so appealing,” she said, staring at the screen of her cell phone before dropping it solidly on her desk.
“Hey, best friends don’t let best friends throw away life goals, you know?” With a satisfied grunt, Lily slid the motherboard back into the guts of the computer. Andy heard a little click as it fell into place. “Well, that’s one problem fixed. Now, let’s see what you managed to do to the--“
“Emily?” A hatefully familiar voice asked from somewhere across the office.
It was as if she was frozen in place. “Oh, no,” Andy breathed as she looked up into the eyes of a baffled (and therefore angry) Miranda Priestly.
She thought Miranda’s entrance was the scariest thing that had ever happened in her entire life.
As it turned out, it was nowhere near as scary as hearing Lily calmly say, “Stupefy,” from her position at Emily’s desk.
Which also wasn’t anywhere as bad as actually watching an arc of red light hit Miranda square in the back.
The worst part, of course, was when Miranda’s eyes rolled back in her head and she hit the floor.
Andy felt her mouth fall open as she stared down at Miranda’s motionless body. “Um, Lily?”
“Yeah?” It was kind of comforting that Lily’s reply was equal parts dazed and horrified.
“Did you just Stun my boss?”
“Um...” And then, unbelievably, Lily appeared to think about it. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“My incredibly famous, powerful, and evil boss?”
“Unless there’s someone else walking around Runway who calls you Emily?” Lily sounded almost hopeful.
“I’m so dead,” Andy whispered, slithering out of her chair and barely even noticing when her knee whacked against the leg of the desk. “Merlin’s fucking left tit, Lily, you just Stunned Miranda Priestly! And I didn’t even do anything to help her!”
With a snort, Lily resumed her efforts to remove the hard drive without further damage (it was melted in spots, making it more difficult than it might have initially appeared). “Because her watching me Stun you instead would have been so much better, right?”
“What are we going to do?” Andy all but wailed, peeking around the edge of her desk to look again at Miranda sprawled on the floor, looking more like a corpse than anything else. “She’s going to--“
“Wake up?” A completely different voice said, kind of muffled by the fact that it was through the locked office door. “Damn. A little help here, ladies?”
It couldn’t hurt now. Andy waved her hands in a complicated gesture that left Lily shaking her head and the door clicked open to reveal none other than Luke Stephenson.
“Evening, all,” he said, nodding and grinning. “And how are we doing?”
“Actually, we’re wondering exactly how much trouble we’re in,” Andy said tremulously.
He laughed. He actually laughed! Andy wanted to hit him.
“Well...” he drawled. “That depends entirely on how much I let your pal the Dragon Lady here remember after I wake her up.”
“Don’t call her that,” Andy said automatically, wondering why she was leaping to Miranda’s defense even as she did it.
Maybe she was doomed to turn into Emily after all. A fashion-crazy compulsive-worrier of a stick insect with nary an independent non-Miranda-approved thought in her brain.
She shuddered involuntarily.
“What, are you afraid she’s going to hear us?” Luke asked with a sarcastic tilt of the head. “Are you sure you’re Andy Sachs, Defense teacher’s pet extraordinare? She’s out cold.” He gave Miranda’s thigh a nudge with his foot. “See? Harmless.”
Don’t do that, Andy wanted to cry, but she wasn’t quite sure what she was protesting, so she dropped it.
“Anyway,” Luke continued blandly, “I’ll take care of it, Sack-of-Shit, so you can just relax.”
“Technically, if you’re splitting hairs, Lucas dah-link, this one’s my fault,” Lily said, flicking her fingers in a pattern Andy recognized as a Warming Charm to heat the hard drive’s casing. Another charm that Andy didn’t recognize left Lily’s fingers glowing a warm orange, and she started carefully reshaping said casing.
Another one of those stupid laughs that made Andy long to brain him with something heavy. “Yeah, I know,” he said, “but Sachs over there looks so much more worried than you do.”
“Andy’s the one that depends on the woman’s survival for a steady income,” Lily pointed out. “I’m just here because she melted someone’s computer with her magic mojo.”
“Hell of a first job, Sack-of-Shit,” Luke told her with a wide smirk. “You sure you want to work with Muggles?”
“Shut up,” she said sullenly. “Isn’t it your job to fix shit like this?”
With a causal air, he stretched out in one of the comfortable chairs nearby. “Yeah, but only after you two have cleared out. I’d really like to only have to mess around with her memory once.” He paused, considering his own words. “Well, twice now, I guess. If we’re counting.”
It wasn’t funny, which was why no one laughed.
“Boy,” Luke said into the silence. “Tough crowd.”
“Let’s see you laugh about a stranger having to fuck around in your boss’ head because of your continual ineptitude,” Andy said, almost giving in to the hysterical tears that had been threatening ever since Emily’s computer screen went blank.
The silence was even more awkward than before, and she could have sworn she saw Luke and Lily exchange nervous looks.
“Andy, baby, this isn’t your fault,” Lily said seriously.
“It’s, like, your settling-in period or something like that,” Luke added with what she was sure he thought was a helpful smile. “You’ll get the hang of it, kiddo.”
“Nate thinks I should quit,” Andy pointed out.
“Who’s Nate?” Luke asked, just as Lily sighed and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Andy, why don’t you take the advice of the clueless cat-hating Muggle who’s been hellbent on turning you into his granola-eating bride practically since the two of you met?”
It was Andy’s turn to sigh. Lily had never liked Nate. “He’s not that bad,” she protested. “And he’s never once forced me to eat granola.”
“Man... chicks are weird,” Luke said to no one in particular.
With a final twirl of her finger, Lily turned in Emily’s chair to give him a sweetly sarcastic smile. “Still a virgin, huh, Lucas? Come on, Andy, baby. I’ve done all the damage I can do here tonight, and there’s a bar stool with your name on it.”
As Lily dragged her from the office, ignoring her spluttering protests that she had to work in the morning, Andy saw a scowling Luke leaning over Miranda’s still body. Briefly, before the door swung shut, she wondered exactly how much of tonight Miranda would remember.
“I can’t believe this,” Nate exclaimed, voice tight with fury. “You’re staying? After all your goddamn whining and moaning about how awful life at your stupid job is, and you’ve decided that a new pair of shiny boots makes it all better?”
“What the fuck does that mean?” Andy cried, putting her hands on her hips. “Are you implying that I can’t do my job?”
“Andy...” Nate blew out a breath of air and ran his hand through his hair. It was an act he always pulled during their arguments to make her think he was calming down and being rational; it usually just made her madder. “Andy, sweetheart, that’s not what I mean at all.”
“Sure sounded like it,” she snapped.
She held up a single hand. “Don’t.”
For emphasis, Bucky (perched up on top of the fridge like any sane cat would do in a situation like this) let out a loud growl.
“Look, all I meant was that you clearly hate working for that damn magazine,” he said, taking a cautious step forward. “Even your fucking psycho cat agrees with me, see?”
To Andy, Bucky’s hiss and puffed tail did not at all indicate agreement with Nate, but it didn’t really seem worth pointing out at the moment. “You mean that you hate me working for Runway,” she said flatly.
“Me?” he asked. “This isn’t about me, it’s about--“
“You bet your snippy little ass it’s about you, Nate Reichart,” she cut in, wishing she had claws like Bucky to vent her frustration all over his stupid face. “That’s what it always comes down to. What, you don’t like my new haircut? Your new cell phone? What about all the free clothes? What is so wrong about my job? You know what? I’m not half-bad at it, either.”
At least, she wasn’t half-bad at it when she didn’t have nagging little thoughts in her brain that she was better than Runway. Because she wasn’t, really. No matter what Nate said. Fashion might not cure world hunger or anything, but it was a step in the direction she wanted to go in, and that was all that mattered.
If she told herself that often enough, she might even start believing it.
“I just... whatever, Andy,” he sighed. “I’m tired of fighting with you. I’m going to bed.”
It was a clear signal to stay the hell out of the bedroom.
Nate turned his back on her and strode out of the den. As soon as he set foot into the kitchen, there was a loud yowl and a scuffling noise.
“Goddamn freak cat!” Nate shouted.
Without even hesitating, she scrambled after him to see what had happened. It was pretty clear, actually. Bucky, from her excellent vantage point on top of the fridge, had jumped onto his shoulder once he’d gotten close enough. She’d gotten a few good licks in before he’d knocked her to the ground.
Andy had arrived just in time to watch him raise his foot to deliver a vicious kick to a hissing, spitting Bucky.
Petrificus totalus, she wanted to cry. That and a dozen other hexes.
Instead, she leapt forward and gave him a big shove. “Nate, don’t you fucking dare!” she said coldly. “You kick my cat and you can find somewhere else to live!”
The glare he shot her was full of pure hatred. “Just keep that thing the fuck away from me,” he snarled, stomping off into the bedroom.
Once he was out of earshot, Andy sat down on the floor and scooped Bucky up in her arms, scratching her ears until the cat slowly relaxed and began to quietly purr. “Bucky, you have to cut him some slack,” she said in as soft a voice as she could. “I can’t put up with the two of you going at it all the time. Besides, he doesn’t understand us yet, but he will, if we give him time.”
The purring stopped, and Bucky gave her a look that was clearly full of skepticism.
“I’m so tired, Bucks,” Andy said, pressing her face into the warm fur and breathing in the smell of catnip and flea shampoo and... cedar. For some reason, Bucky always smelled like cedar and she could never figure out why. “I told Nate I could do this, and I told Nigel I could do this, but I don’t know if I can.”
She felt Bucky’s whiskers brush against her cheek. You can.
“I almost hexed him just now,” she confessed into Bucky’s side. “I wanted to hex him. And I’ve wanted to use spells a million times at work, and I just... I can’t, can I? Even thinking about it makes me tired.”
So sleep. Bucky’s ear twitched in obvious amusement.
“Not a bad thought,” Andy told her, giving her ears one last scratch before letting her go to begin her night explorations. “I guess I’m stuck on the couch, though. I wouldn’t chance the bed tonight for anything.”
Bucky laid both ears back and flicked her tail dismissively at the bedroom. She never slept there.
Andy chuckled. “Seriously, Bucks, just leave him alone for a little while. If you do, maybe I can find my way to leaving some Oreos in your food bowl tomorrow.”
You better. As she sauntered off to do whatever it was cats did under sofas and behind chairs, Andy reflected that even Miranda’s most punishing smirk couldn’t hold a candle to Bucky’s.
“I come bearing gifts,” Nigel called, sauntering into the office with a couple of shoe boxes. “You can still wear a seven, can’t you?”
Actually, she was an eight, but who was she to turn down free... Louboutins? At least, she was pretty sure that’s what the box said -- it was kind of hard to tell from across the room.
“Sure,” she said neutrally, although her inner child clapped her hands and cried, Pretty, when Nigel opened the box to reveal a pair of red-soled black shoes with glittering five-inch heels. “I can do a seven.”
“It’s just that’s all they send for samples, even though I tell them over and over that we don’t staff a model who wears below a nine. Really, we don’t employ midgets!”
A month ago, she would have probably argued with him about his unreasonable standards, but that was before she decided to play Dress-Up With Nigel. One of the unspoken rules about Dress-Up With Nigel was that his sly insults were either agreed with or ignored.
She chose to ignore the midget comment, mostly because she couldn’t decide whether or not it was directed toward her personally. The only person in the whole office who didn’t absolutely tower over her was Miranda herself, and she didn’t think even Nigel could bring himself to call Miranda a midget.
“Well, come on, darling,” Nigel simpered, dropping the box on her desktop. “Let Uncle Nigel see what your tootsies look like in your new shoesies.”
“Okay, Uncle Nigel sounds kind of... creepy,” Andy replied, lips twitching.
He tittered. “Granted. Now, put ‘em on, Six.”
It was a close thing, but she managed to cram her foot the whole way in without Nigel noticing how much of a struggle it was. She could have sworn that one of her toes actually made a cracking noise, just like old McMinamin’s knuckles right before he started throwing hexes at some poor student who fell asleep in lecture. But Nigel remained serene through the whole ordeal.
“So... what do you think?” he asked, watching her teeter to her feet.
They hurt. Bad. It was like turning her foot into an accordion while trying to walk on a bed of nails without any shoes.
“Oh... they feel awesome,” she lied with a wide, fake smile.
Because the last thing she wanted Nigel to know was what horrible pain she was in. First of all, she really wasn’t in the mood to hear another ‘beauty isn’t without sacrifice’ lecture. On top of that, she wasn’t about to give all of the clackers yet another reason to snicker at her behind her back.
But, really, the clincher in the whole deal was that these were free Louboutins and she wasn’t above making a few modifications to render them wearable.
Like right this second, for instance.
If she had to take so much as a step in these damn shoes, she was going to fall screaming to the ground.
So as unobtrusively as she could manage, Andy sat back down in order to caress the soles of her new shoes, muttering the words to a Cushioning Charm under her breath. It didn’t fix the agony in her cramped toes, but it meant that she could probably walk to the ladies’ room to transfigure them without dying of pain along the way.
She might even be able to wait for Emily and Miranda to get back from wherever the hell they were before she made her escape.
One of her toes spasmed at the thought. Screw it, she decided. If the phone rang while she was away, whoever it was could damn well leave a message. She hadn’t fallen flat on the job in a few weeks; really, she was due a good fuck-up. That would give Miranda a good excuse to glare at her, and lately, Miranda had been deprived of some quality glaring-at-Andy time.
“Oh, Nigel,” she said as sweetly as she could manage. “Could you watch the phone for me? I really need to... um, go.”
“What happens if it rings?” Nigel asked, regarding the phone warily. “I don’t do reception work, kiddo.”
“I’ll be quick,” she wheedled. “If it rings, you don’t have to touch it -- it’s my fault.”
“Didn’t we discuss this, Ahn-draya?” he asked with a pointed expression. “Not backsliding, are we?”
She grinned. “Wouldn’t dream of it. After all, I hear a million girls would kill for this job. I just really, really have to pee.”
Or magically fix my shoes so I don’t suffer long-term, debilitating foot damage. It amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?
He frowned. “Run, Six.”
Nigel only called her ‘Six’ when he was feeling playful, so she was pretty sure he would cooperate if the phone rang. Or at the very least, deflect the Miranda-glare in the event someone had to leave a message on her voicemail.
As she hobbled toward the bathroom, she got the distinct impression he was laughing at her. But she so didn’t care.
The instant the lock on the stall slid home, she dropped onto the toilet and popped the Louboutins off. While wiggling her still-cramping toes, she waved her hands over both shoes, adding a slight transfiguration to the Cushioning Charm, stretching them from a seven to an eight. Since she was already going to Fashion Hell for defacing a pair of designer heels, she went ahead and added a cooling spell, a lightweight spell, and a No-Wear Charm on the sole.
She left the ladies’ room with a deep sigh of relief.
“Feel better?” Nigel asked playfully upon her return.
Andy just tossed her hair in a dismissive gesture. “Shut up. Did I miss any calls?”
“Oh, dozens. She’s going to be out for your blood when she gets back.”
“I hate you and take back anything nice I’ve ever said about you,” she replied without missing a beat, folding her arms across her chest.
Nigel shook his head. “Is that the thanks I get for slaving away over a busily ringing phone while you ran off to do whatever it is pretty young things do for fifteen minutes in a bathroom? See if I ever help you again.”
She seated herself as primly as possible, crossing one leg over the other and tapping her foot impatiently in the air. “The phone didn’t ring, did it?”
“Not once,” he said with a cheerful grin. “But I notice those shoes are really suiting you, Six. You came striding back in here like you were wearing bargain-bin sneakers.”
Another sly insult she chose to let slip by without comment.
“In fact...” His tone shifted to something more thoughtful. “I’d swear you were wearing different shoes.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, keeping her voice absolutely level. No, really. That squeak? Runway must have a problem with mice.
“You winced when you put them on, Andrea. Don’t try denying it. And then you walking out of here? Nobody has to pee that badly. That, my wonderful girl, was new-shoe-limp at its finest.”
“I just... my fingernail got caught when I put them on, and you know how much that hurts,” she said casually.
Boy, the office was just overrun with mice today. Squeaking all over the place. One of the clackers must be on some weird cheese diet.
“To which I reply: bull and shit, my dear.”
And before she could even react, he lurched forward and tugged the shoe off her dangling foot. “Hey!”
“What on Earth happened to this thing?” Nigel exclaimed in wonder, turning it over and over in his hands. “It... I’ve never felt anything like this. It doesn’t weigh anything at all!”
“Well, you know Louboutin,” she said weakly.
“And this isn’t it,” he breathed. “This is... this is a miracle shoe. You have to tell me what you did, Andy.”
She couldn’t pretend any more. Her entire body went numb. “I didn’t do anything,” she said, feeling like she was on autopilot.
“You have to have done something,” he persisted.
Voices floated down the hall.
“No, it’s just a really good shoe,” she replied. “I told you it was awesome when I put it on, didn’t I?”
The voices were getting closer. Well, one of them was, anyway. Screw the imaginary mice. Andy was so far past squeaking, she was on the verge of hyperventilating.
“Didn’t you hear me? No shoe is as good as this one. I just... I can’t believe this.”
Andy’s head dropped into her hands as if of its own accord. It was about to get so much worse.
“Miranda,” Nigel replied smoothly. “Have you seen Louboutin’s latest work?” He held the pump up in an affected gesture.
“Sufficient,” she said, dropping her coat and bag on Andy’s desk, apparently willing to ignore her stricken assistant.
“Yes,” he said, “but have you felt it?”
She quirked an eyebrow. “I’m certain I don’t know what you mean.”
“Here.” He pushed it into Miranda’s surprised hands.
The eyebrow went higher.
After a brief pause, the other one joined it. “Nigel...” she drawled dangerously.
“Don’t look at me,” he said with a smirk. “I lent them to our dearest Andrea to try on, she dashed off to the restroom for a split second, and when she came back, this shoe was magically transformed into the miracle of engineering you’re currently holding.”
Andy wanted to keep her head in her hands. Watching all of this unfold through her fingers was bad enough. But now, she was going to have to maintain eye contact with Miranda Priestly while lying through her teeth.
She’d rather face a Dementor.
“Andrea?” Miranda asked in that slow, even voice that usually meant she was about to verbally flay someone for no good reason.
Strike that. She’d rather face a Dementor riding a fire-breathing dragon and armed with a machine gun.
“Yes, Miranda,” she said automatically, looking up and pasting on her best Employee-of-the-Month smile.
“Explain why I am holding a shoe that feels more like a marshmallow than anything else,” Miranda told her, dangling the Louboutin by its heel in front of her face.
“I... uh... Miranda, I...”
Her stuttering was interrupted by a popping noise loud enough that Nigel jumped and Miranda dropped the shoe.
“Andy, Andy, Andy,” someone said into the resulting silence. “Haven’t we learned anything about Muggles?”
Her heart fell into her stomach. Shit.
“Who are you?” Miranda snapped, giving one of her best glares to the person who’d just literally appeared right in front of her nose.
“Luke Stephenson, ma’am,” he replied with a tip of an imaginary hat. “We’ve met before, believe it or not.”
“I would remember such a rude person,” she said loftily.
He grinned. “Funny you should say that, Mrs. Priestly.”
Andy sighed, and even from across the room, she saw Nigel’s jaw tighten. As much as that idiot Luke knew about everything, he didn’t know about that?
“I wouldn’t call myself rude,” Luke said conversationally. “In fact, I think I’m rather charming. Wouldn’t you agree, Andy?”
“Would you just shut the fuck up?” Andy asked, feeling tears well in the corners of her eyes. “Do you have to be so nasty?”
“Has anyone ever told you that your sense of humor sucks, Sack-of-Shit?” he retorted. “It’s not like they’re going to remember any of this anyway.”
Nigel blinked at this. “What?” he asked, and Andy could hear the panic in his voice. “Not remember?”
“I’m calling the police,” Miranda announced imperiously, hand swooping for the phone on Andy’s desk.
“Petrificus totalus,” Luke sighed, twirling his wand in Miranda’s direction.
Nigel’s jaw flopped open as Miranda’s entire body went stiff and slid gently to the floor. “But... you just... who are you?”
“Like I said,” Luke told him with a wide grin. “Luke Stephenson. Good night, Mr. Kipling. Stupefy.”
Less elegantly but just as effectively, Nigel dropped to the ground.
“What’s wrong with you?” Andy asked Luke, now crying in earnest.
He sighed. “Aw, I was just playing around, Sachs. Don’t take it personally.”
“How the hell could I not take it personally?” she retorted, wiping her cheeks. “You’re here to kick me out of the Muggle world, and you decide to twist the knife on top of it?”
“Kick you out?” he echoed. “But, Andy...”
“Three strikes and you’re out,” she sniffled. “One, the coffeemaker. Two, Emily’s computer. And now, this. I can count, Luke.”
With a shrug, he flicked his wand at Nigel, sending a jet of warm golden light toward his head. “That night last month went on Lily’s tab. She’s the one who used a spell in front of a Muggle, not you. So, really, Miss Magical-Counting-Witch, you’re only on strike two.”
“Really?” Somehow that made her cry more, not less. “Do you mean it?”
The next wand-flick was in Miranda’s direction. “Would I lie about something that important? Trust me, Andy, no one’s dragging you in for a Council hearing any time soon.”
“Oh, my God, Luke,” she said, almost choking on her tears. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”
“Not that I don’t appreciate it,” he told her with a wry shake of the head, “but I’d prefer if you save the inappropriate romantic declarations for later and get the hell out of here now. I’ve got to mess around in these two weirdos’ heads so they don’t remember you and your magical new shoes.”
“Yeah, okay,” Andy said, still sniffling. “Thanks, Luke.”
He laughed. “Don’t mention it, kiddo. Although, you could do me a teensy favor.”
And all of a sudden, he went from comforting, vaguely dim Luke who she teased in school to big, bad Obs Squad member with a menacing frown. “No more magic at work, okay? Just because it isn’t strike three today doesn’t mean it won’t happen if you’re not careful.”
“Deal,” she said, meaning it. Even if her job did kind of suck and Miranda was ten shades of hell on a good day, it beat the alternative. She was going to make Runway work even if it killed her.
Chapter 3: ...and the Evils of Stereotyping by Hayseed
A/N: One of the reasons I decided to write this story in the first place is because there's a whole bit in the movie/book where Andy has to go chasing down a copy of the latest Harry Potter novel for Miranda's daughters. Which is, obviously, the part we've gotten to in the narrative. Enjoy!
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chapter Three: ...and the Evils of Stereotyping
“Why does it always come back to goddamn Harry Potter?” Andy asked, sounding as mournful as she could.
Lily grinned and took a big bite of her sandwich. “It doesn’t,” she said. “But to someone who has an unnatural fixation, I can see why it might seem that way.”
“I do not have a fixation,” Andy countered automatically, flicking a fry across the table in Lily’s general direction.
“Hey, thanks,” Lily said, snatching up the fry and dragging it through the puddle of ketchup on her plate. “But, all teasing aside, what’s that damn Potter brat done to piss you off this time?”
“Miranda let me take the Book to her townhouse last night,” Andy said by way of explanation.
Lily took a sip of her soda. “Not sure what that has to do with Harry Potter, but okay.”
“And I...” She closed her eyes, reliving the horror of the incident. “I went upstairs.”
“Based on the sheer dread in your voice, I’m guessing that’s a bad thing.”
With a grimace, Andy stirred her own drink with her straw. “It’s so bad it’s beyond bad. You do not invade Miranda’s space. Rule one of the job.”
“I thought rule one was that you didn’t call her Mrs. Priestly,” Lily replied with a confused frown.
“There are a lot of rule ones. Anyway, I went upstairs, and I saw... something that I shouldn’t. So when I went in today, she, um, decided to make life difficult for me.”
“Gosh, your boss? Make things difficult? How unlike her,” Lily said sarcastically.
“No one thinks you’re funny, you know,” Andy replied with a nasty smirk.
Lily’s responding smirk was equally nasty. “It’s a good thing I think I’m fucking hilarious, then.”
With a deep sigh, Andy just took a long drink of her soda. “It doesn’t matter how funny you think you are. Miranda’s asking for the impossible, and she knows it.”
“Are you telling me she wants the G -- the, uh, Hogwarts Sorting Hat or something?” Lily asked wryly.
“No,” Andy said slowly, as if she were addressing her two-year-old niece. “That’s just dumb. Miranda wants the possibly impossible -- a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book. By three.” She checked her watch. “No, wait, by two. The twins’ train pulls out of the station at three, and I have to get it in their hands before they leave.”
Her eyes were wide, round as saucers. “But... that’s classified! Everyone knows that.”
“Muggles don’t, dummy,” Andy shot back. But almost before the words were out of her mouth, she felt a guilty knot in the pit of her stomach. “Sorry, Lils. It’s not you; I’m just... losing my mind, I guess.”
“So...” Lily drawled, and Andy knew she’d been forgiven. “What are you going to do?
“Get fired, I guess,” she said. “I told Nate about everything when I got off the phone with my dad. He’s probably planning a party as we speak.”
Lily paused, a limp fry halfway to her mouth. “Wait... your dad? What insight could Sir possibly have to over into Miranda’s questionable psyche?”
“I haven’t asked,” Andy said with a genuine smile, feeling like herself for the first time since the twins ‘invited’ her upstairs the night before. “He and I were chatting about the ins and outs of the publication process for the Potter books. He was one of the content editors for the fourth book, you know.”
Somewhere in the middle of her explanation, Lily’s entire mood shifted. She sat up in her chair all of a sudden and started giving the surrounding customers suspicious looks. “Andy, baby, not that I doubt your discretion or anything, but is this really the best place to be having this conversation?”
Andy laughed. She loved Lily; she really did. “Muffliato, my dear. Learn it, live it, love it.”
She just gave her head a knowing shake and rolled her eyes. “Why did you tell the Aurory to take a hike, again?”
“I figured working in the high-paced world of fashion would be lower stress than dealing with evil, deadly monsters on a daily basis,” Andy replied, deadpan.
“Well, it’s probably more interesting, anyway,” Lily said, biting her lower lip to hide the obvious grin. “I have to say, Andy, you’re taking your potential unemployment remarkably well. I’d’ve figured you’d be a gibbering, apologizing mess right about now. I mean, we’ve been here talking about this for half an hour at least, and you haven’t mentioned your imminent demise once.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Andy countered with a little shrug. “Daddy said that by this time in the layering process, the book might even be safe enough to hand to a Muggle, but first I’d have to lay my hands on a copy of it.”
“How the hell are you supposed to do that?”
She snorted. “That’s the fucking point, Lils. I’m not supposed to. Anyway, to find an editor, I would need contacts who work full-time in the wizarding world. The only people I know who fit that description are my parents, and when I called home, I came up dry.”
“You know...” Lily said thoughtfully. “There is someone else you could call.”
“Yeah,” she retorted sarcastically. “Because I know so many wizards in New York. The only one I know besides you is...”
“Oh, shit,” she groaned. “Lily, no.”
“Well, you don’t have to,” Lily said in an innocent voice. “I’m not going to charm the phone to stick to your ear and dial itself or anything.”
By this time, she was stirring her soda with such agitation that the cup threatened to topple over. “I hate my job,” she said, more to herself than not. “My boss is Satan incarnate, my co-workers think I’m a badly dressed nutcase, and the only person there who even seems to have a soul mostly likes me because I let him treat me like a life-size Barbie doll. I’d be an idiot if I enjoyed enduring that kind of shit on a daily basis.”
“Okay, first of all...” Lily started ticking off points on her fingers. “You’re not badly dressed. Any more. Second, you totally don’t have the tits to pull off a Barbie analogy, so don’t even try it, sweet cheeks. And third, if you can’t even convince me that you don’t like your job, how the hell do you expect to convince yourself?
“I... hey, did you just criticize my clothes?” Andy asked blankly, losing track of whatever insightful rebuttal she was about to make.
Sighing, Lily leaned over and pulled Andy’s cell out of her purse. “Call information, ask for Luke’s number. I’d bet my next paycheck he’s too cheap to pay not to be listed. After you’re done begging him to save your job, we can move on discuss your past fashion mistakes. Starting with your unironic usage of plaid kilts past the age of sixteen.”
Her finger hovered over the ‘4.’ “But...” she whined in a last-ditch effort to worm out of a conversation with Luke.
“Tick-tock,” Sachs,” Lily said in a stern voice. “Haven’t you told me that a million Muggles would kill for your job?”
“Idiots,” she grumbled. “Every last one. Hi.” She shifted gears as the operator’s voice chirped in her ear. “Yeah, um, New York City, Luke Stephenson. Would you connect me directly if you can?”
The phone clicked a couple of times before starting to ring.
By the fifth ring, she shot Lily a knowing look. “Nice try, Lils, but he’s not--“
“Oh, fuck,” she sighed.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. “Well, isn’t that lovely, Ms. Crank Caller,” Luke eventually said in a dry, disbelieving tone. “I’m hanging--“
“Luke, wait!” she interrupted. “It’s me. Andy.”
“And you were just calling me up to talk about fornication?” His voice hadn’t shifted at all. “What do you need, Sachs? And how the hell did you get this number, anyway? I don’t seem to recall giving it to you.”
“Information, dumbass,” she shot back. “If you don’t want to be listed, you have to tell the phone people.”
“Oh, like you have so much experience with Muggle telephones yourself, Miss Prissy-Pants Pureblood,” he retorted.
She rolled her eyes, wishing he was here to see the scowl on her face. “First of all, I fucking grew up with a phone in the house, just like everyone born after 1900. Second of all, like you have any room to spout that blood-purity shit at me. Who’s your mom again, Lucas?”
“So you really did call me up just to be a bitch, then.” He sounded like he was leaning closer to pissed than amused, so she started backpedaling.
“Well, I kind of, sort of ran into my boss last night when I wasn’t supposed to, and she’s made, and I have to get a copy of the last Harry Potter book in, like, two hours, or I’m fired,” she said in a rush, trying to sound as pathetic as possible.
“I hate to break it to you, Sack-of-Shit, but I can’t Obliviate your boss just because she’s being mean to you.” His voice was amused now, and she blew out a sigh of relief.
“Actually, Lucas, I’d pretty much guessed that. I was calling to see if you knew anyone who has access to the book.”
A long, low whistle. “Boy, Sachs, when you ask for a favor, you don’t go by halves.”
She shrugged, forgetting briefly that she was on the phone. “I figured the worst that could happen has kind of already happened. No harm in asking.”
“You sound like you’ve already been fired.”
“I was told that if I couldn’t come back with the book, I shouldn’t bother coming back at all,” Andy said. “For all intents and purposes, I have been fired.”
“Well... maybe not,” Luke said, sounding so blasé that Andy wished he was right in front of her. So she could slap him.
“What do you mean?”
Damn it, she was not going to get her hopes up. In fact, they were already up and in serious peril of getting dashed -- she hated her job, and getting fired was the best thing to happen to her since she’d started at Runway.
“I might know a guy who could help you out,” Luke replied. “He owes me a solid for taking care of an issue with... well, he owes me, anyway.”
“Who is he?” Fuck it, who was she kidding? She was practically chomping at the goddamn bit to keep her job. “Do I need a number, or maybe he doesn’t have a phone! I might be able to scrape up some Floo powder, but--“
“Hang on there, kiddo,” Luke interrupted with a chortle. “I’m not going to just cash in with this guy out of the kindness of my heart. You owe me, sister, and I intend to collect.”
Collect? What was he talking about? What did she owe him for?
“I’m sorry about that time in old McMinamin’s class when I stuck you to the ceiling and then told him you did it to yourself and he spent the rest of class calling you an imbecile and threatening to have you expelled for sheer idiocy,” she said breathlessly, frantically grasping at straws.
“That wasn’t what I was referring to,” he said wryly, “but thanks for bringing up that old childhood trauma. Also, I seem to recall that story ends more appropriately with a spell cast by, gosh, I don’t even know who that turned your chair into a cactus, causing you to curse a blue streak that landed you in McMinamin’s detentions for a month.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied, wrinkling her nose. “Clearly fun times were had by all in good old Defense class. Now, what the hell do you mean with this ‘I owe you’ bullshit?”
“Well, if I bail you out, you’ll owe me,” he told her, clearly amused. “Are you sure you can handle that, Sack-of-Shit?”
“Bring it,” she said firmly.
“All right, here’s the deal,” he said in an agreeable tone. “I give you my buddy’s name and number. If he can’t help, then you owe me nothing. But if he can...”
The pause was long enough that for a horrible second, Andy thought the call had been dropped. “What?”
“If he can, you’ve got to convince Lily to go on a date with me.”
“Have you lost your effing mind?” she exclaimed unthinkingly.
She could all but picture the aw-shucks grin on Luke’s face. It got on her nerves all the way across the damn city. “Look, if I ask her directly, she’ll just blow me off because she’ll be thinking of the goofy kid she knew back in school. If she goes out with me, though, maybe she’ll figure out I’ve changed.”
Yeah, right, Andy thought to herself. “This is emotional blackmail, but you’ve got a deal.”
“Got a pen?”
Andy scribbled the name down. “Christian Thompson. 212-555-0726. All right. If it works out, you’ll be hearing from her.”
“Hearing from who?” Lily asked curiously as soon as Andy punched the ‘End’ button.
She pasted on her biggest, friendliest smile. “It’s the weirdest thing, Lily, but Luke--“
“Why did all the hair on the back of my neck suddenly stand on end?” Lily asked no one in particular. “Just... call the guy first, Andy. I only want to know what despicable thing you promised Luke I’d do if I actually have to go through with it.”
It was probably for the best, Andy decided as she started dialing in Christian Thompson’s number. Really, what were the odds that he would come through?
She’d made it three whole weeks delivering the Book without fucking up royally.
Well, nineteen days, if anyone was counting, but that was practically three weeks, so there. More if you counted in business weeks.
Which Miranda didn’t, of course. Weekends were just workdays with less traffic on the subway.
But complaining somehow lacked the appeal it used to have. She wasn’t sure why, but it all felt... flat.
It probably had something to do with that stupid Harry Potter thing. She really would go to hell and back to keep her job, and now everyone knew it, Miranda included. From an increasingly sulky Nate right down to that fucking arrogant Christian Thompson.
There was a whole laundry list of reasons not to like him. If nothing else, the fact that he saw no problem with hitting on a girl who’d told him (repeatedly) that she had a boyfriend should have been enough to turn her completely off. Even though she owed him one. And he had a blindingly handsome smile. And--
Damn it, she was doing it again.
Focus, she told herself resolutely, watching the townhouse come into view in the Town Car’s windshield.
Christian Thompson could suck an Acid Pop as far as she was concerned. She’d gotten what she needed from him; now, she needed to do her job.
Which currently involved getting in and out of Miranda’s house a) without being seen or heard and b) without using magical means to accomplish it.
Using magic only meant getting caught, and getting caught meant having to deal with Luke. Who she wasn’t avoiding at all, no sir.
She wasn’t concerned even in the slightest that when Lily showed up for their enforced date at the swankiest wizarding club in the whole city, she’d hexed Luke’s hair electric pink, called him a manipulative bastard, and stomped off to threaten Andy with eternal pain and misery for agreeing to Luke’s deal in the first place.
Nope, not worried in the slightest.
It would be rude to bother him, though.
So she pushed the lovely thought of a Disillusionment Charm out of her mind and gathered up the dry cleaning in as manageable a pile as she could.
“You don’t have to wait for me,” she told Roy as she slid out of the backseat, juggling the Book with the slick plastic bags.
“I don’t mind,” he replied. “It’s so late, and--“
“I’m a big girl, Roy,” she said. “I can take care of myself.”
Also, she failed to say, I can Apparate and I don’t want to have to wait another half an hour to get home.
He looked skeptical. “Andy.”
“Roy,” she countered firmly. “Seriously. I’ll be fine.”
Shaking his head as she closed the car door, he pulled away from the curb, but she could tell he was still reluctant.
Oh, well, right? She had bigger things to worry about.
Like the townhouse looming in front of her. Every time she had to go in, her gut twisted, reminding her of her first abysmal failure of a visit. Which was probably stupid and counter-productive, but that didn’t make it go away.
Swallowing against her rising anxiety, Andy forced herself to climb the stairs and let herself in.
She hated the foyer. How could Miranda stand living somewhere that looked more like a hotel than a home?
Not her problem.
As quietly as she could, she made her way over to the closet and hung the dry cleaning in it, smoothing the plastic as if on autopilot.
The Book went on the correct table, and she was done. All she had to do was get out the door and she was home-free.
Somewhere in the bowels of the townhouse, a door suddenly slammed, and Andy froze with her hand halfway to the front door latch.
She should ignore it. Her inner-Emily was screaming at her to get out, for fuck’s sake, get out right now!
But she hesitated.
The slam was followed by a loud thud that she couldn’t place. Something hitting a wall, maybe.
You stupid fat cow! inner-Emily shrieked. Now’s not the time!
All Andy did was blink. Honestly, that really was it. She didn’t leave the foyer, she wasn’t lingering (much), but whatever she did to offend the gods, it was apparently enough.
She blinked and suddenly Miranda was in the foyer, giving her one of those damnably inscrutable looks.
Inner-Emily was apoplectic with rage.
The only thing Andy could bring herself to do was lower her eyes to stare at her feet.
“Andrea,” Miranda said evenly, and Andy felt her name ripple all the way down her spine just like she always did when Miranda said it.
And then, a laugh.
Wait... Miranda was laughing?
Inner-Emily fell silent. Maybe it was the shock of it.
“Of course,” Miranda said, biting the laugh off almost before it had fully registered in Andy’s brain that Miranda Priestly was capable of laughter. “Of course you’re here.”
The way she said it made Andy’s head snap up.
She looked perfect, as usual. Except... except she looked completely miserable.
“I, uh...” Andy stammered, for lack of anything better.
Miranda’s eyes narrowed into the familiar Why-Do-I-Even-Bother Glare. Without another word, she snatched the Book off the glass table and sauntered back the way she came.
Leaving Andy’s head whirling.
A miserable Miranda was something of a novelty. Miranda could be many things: angry, high-handed, demanding.
But actual human emotions?
What a bizarre concept. Miranda could be sad.
Of course you’re here.
Whatever Miranda was feeling, it was sending Andy into a tailspin.
She’d never felt sorry for Miranda before.
And yet, here she was, wondering who gave Miranda a hug when she needed one.
After more time passed than she should ever have spent in Miranda’s home, she blinked one last time and turned to leave.
One of the flower arrangements caught her eye.
Did Miranda even really like flowers? So much about her seemed calculated for maximum effect, but did that carry over into her private life? Were the flowers just part of the furniture, or did Miranda actually look at them?
An impulse Andy didn’t question sprang into her mind. Before she could even begin to talk herself out of it, she leaned toward the drooping arrangement and whispered a few words.
Automatically, the flowers perked up and several more buds bust open on each stem.
Andy smiled at her handiwork and left the townhouse with a spring in her step she would have denied if anyone had asked.
“So you’re talking to me, then?” Andy asked as she answered her cell.
“I’m fine, thanks, bestest bud,” Lily replied. “Thanks for your observance of the social niceties.”
“Sorry,” Andy said, not meaning it in the slightest. “You caught me off-guard, and I’m trying to pack for Paris.”
“First of all, when the fuck did we stop talking to each other? And second, aren’t you going to get into trouble, packing your own bag like that? What if some non-Runway-approved gear winds up in there?”
She sighed and continued thumbing through the contents of her underwear drawer.
Women like Miranda might have lingerie drawers, but hers was damn well going to stay an underwear drawer if she had anything to say about it.
“I’m pretty sure Miranda doesn’t care what I sleep in,” Andy said dryly. “At least, she’s never asked about it. And if we’re not fighting, then what the hell was going on Tuesday at the gallery show?”
“Oh, that,” Lily said dismissively. “Look, Andy, baby, I may think your boyfriend is an asshat of the nth degree, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to look the other way while you make a moron of yourself over another guy.”
“A moron?” Andy echoed, wounded.
“Yes, my little halfer. A moron. At the end of the day, I really don’t give a shit about your magical love adventures with Mr. Whitest-Smile-In-The-State, but at least dump the Muggle dweeb first.”
Somewhere in the middle of Lily’s lecture, Bucky decided that Andy wasn’t planning to take nearly enough cat hair to Paris and jumped into her suitcase.
“Oh, for... Bucky!” Andy cried as the cat started rolling around on a two-thousand dollar original. “Hang on, Lily.”
She dropped the phone on the bed and lunged forward to attempt some damage control.
“Jesus, Bucky, most of this stuff isn’t even mine,” she scolded as she untangled a silk stocking from a squirming Bucky’s claws. “And it’s not the kind of thing I can just transfigure without anyone noticing.”
Bucky finally escaped Andy’s arms and landed solidly on the floor, ears flat against her skull.
“Don’t give me that,” Andy said, picking the phone back up in her free hand. “I can’t help that I have to travel, and I offered to let you stay with Lily while I’m gone, so don’t you pout as if I’m deserting you or anything stupid like that.”
With a clearly offended growl, Bucky stalked off, tail twitching in irritation.
On the other end of the line, Lily was laughing. “Having domestic problems, my dear?”
“My cat, my boyfriend, even my best friend,” Andy said pointedly. “I can’t catch a break.”
“Hey, you and I are solid,” Lily said. “I’m just trying to keep you on the moral straight and narrow. And who was that guy, anyway? The only other place I’ve ever seen such blatant over-sexed flirting was in that soft-core wizarding porn Nick and Luke used to leave lying around their room.”
Andy snorted at the mental image. “Believe it or not, he was Luke’s old contact.”
“Oh, the Harry Potter guy,” Lily said.
“Yeah, and you won’t believe--“
The front door slammed open.
“Shit, Nate’s home,” Andy said in a rush. “I haven’t told him about Paris and--“
“You haven’t told him?” Lily’s voice all but exploded out of the receiver. “You told me about it a month ago!”
“I just... he’s not...” She groped around for a good reason, but her heard just wasn’t in it.
“You’re flying out tomorrow,” Lily exclaimed. “Don’t you think he’ll notice when you fucking disappear for a week?”
“I was going to tell him,” Andy said lamely.
The fridge opened and closed, signaling Nate’s approach.
Lily sighed into the phone, sending a shiver of static rattling through Andy’s ears. “Look, Andy, baby, dump him or come clean with him, but get off your ass and do something about him!”
The phone went dead just as Nate finally stepped into the bedroom.
“Oh, you’re home,” Andy said unnecessarily, sliding her phone shut. “Lily called, and we were just--“
“Am I missing something?” Nate interrupted with a raised eyebrow. “Why are you packing all your stuff?”
Dump him or come clean.
Well, really. Why not do both?
“I, um,” she stuttered, her resolve failing as quickly as it had risen.
Apparently, dumping him or coming clean was easier said than done.
Bucky was sitting in the doorway, calmly cleaning her face with a single paw. An ear flicked at Andy. Coward.
“I have to go to Paris,” Andy said in a rush, before she could second-guess herself. “With Miranda.”
Why the hell did she say it like that?
Whatever her reasons, it sure had the intended effect. Nate’s eyes widened for a split second before his whole expression settled into a hateful sneer. “Honeymooning in Paris, huh?” he said snidely. “Bring me back a t-shirt?”
“Nate...” she began in a placating tone.
“Don’t,” he said sharply. “Whatever lie you’re about to tell me, just save your breath, Andy.”
He couldn’t have hurt her more if he’d slapped her. All of the air in her lungs gone, she was reduced to silently gaping at him.
“I’m not stupid,” Nate continued, glaring at her. “I’ve always known you were off the beaten path with your weird cat and staying up all hours with those bizarre friends of yours from high school or whatever. And it was okay, because we were okay. But ever since you started working for... working for that bitch, it’s like you’ve lost your damn mind!”
“Don’t call her--“
He plowed right over her like she hadn’t even opened her mouth. “You spend all your free time with Lily, and whenever I come in the room, you look like you’re... I don’t know, scared or something. And I can’t handle that kind of shit, Andy. Whatever it is you’re not telling me, just tell me! This... this secrecy is tearing us apart.”
“Maybe,” she said delicately, sensing an opening. “Maybe that’s for the best. I’ll be gone for a week, and that’s plenty of time for you to--“
“I don’t fucking believe you!” he cried. “You’re dumping me?”
She blinked in surprise. Hadn’t he been listening to himself? “It’s just that my name’s on the lease, so it would make more sense for you--“
“Bullshit!” he interrupted (again). “You’re so full of shit, Andy. You can’t even tell me what’s going on before you kick me out?”
He turned as if to stomp out of the bedroom, but there was a loud yowl as Bucky’s tail got caught beneath his shoe.
“You goddamn cat!” he shouted, lifting his foot and clearly aiming a kick at her.
With a cry of sheer rage, Andy flung her hands at him. She had no particular spell in mind, but everything in her was screaming at Nate to stop.
And stop he did.
One second, Nate was standing upright. The next, he was spread-eagle on the floor, his face mashed into the carpet at an unnatural angle.
“The fuck is going on?” he yelled, but since he was mostly facing the ground, it came out kind of muffled.
“You bitch at me for supposedly hiding things from you, you bitch at me when I try to make things better by giving us time away from each other, and then you try to take it out on my cat,” she said, so angry she was actually shaking with the effort of holding herself together. “You want to know what’s going on?”
“Andy...?” There was a note of fear in Nate’s voice that she mentally filed away to think about later.
She flicked her fingers, releasing the hex.
Panting, Nate rolled over. “What the hell was that?” He still sounded scared.
“A spell,” she answered honestly.
“A spell?” he echoed. “What do you mean?”
She rolled her eyes. “I mean a spell, moron. You know, magic? Hocus pocus? Surprise, Nate, you’ve been fucking a witch.”
A witch. His lips formed the words, but no sound came out.
“You remember how Lily and I were busy with classes all the time in college?” she asked rhetorically. “Like way more than anyone else you knew? My actual degree is in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Magic.”
All of a sudden, Nate seemed to find his voice. “Andy, have you, like, hit your head on something? Maybe at work?” He pulled himself up to a kneeling position, as if poised to take off running.
She laughed, but there was a hysterical edge to it. “Nate, use your goddamn brain for two seconds,” she said contemptuously. “It all makes sense! Bucky, Lily, my odd hours, even the fact that I’ve never taken you to my parents’ house. One of the reasons it took me so long to find a job here was that I had to apply for all the Muggle paperwork -- birth certificate, Social Security Number, the works. I didn’t exist in any Muggle legal systems until about eight months ago.”
“Muggle,” he repeated stupidly. “I think I get it now. It’s those idiotic kids’ books. It’ll be all right, Andy. I’ll--“
Fuck this, she decided, reaching into her pocket and yanking out her wand. “Levicorpus,” she said, giving her wand a wiggle followed by a sharp flick.
Nate let out a decidedly feminine squeal as his legs flipped over his head and he dangled there, mid-air.
“If you still don’t believe me, I can always turn you into a frog,” she offered sweetly.
His face was turning a dangerous shade of red. “I... you...” he gibbered.
Another wand flick sent him spinning back upright and gently floating to the ground.
“You freak!” he shouted as soon as he hit the floor. “I always knew there was something wrong with you and your freak friends, but I was willing--“
“Stupefy,” she said sadly.
Dump him or come clean.
Fat lot of good that did her. He wouldn’t let her dump him, and coming clean was...
Well, a stupid mistake, if she was honest. Fortunately, it was one she could fix.
With a surprisingly even hand, she picked up her cell and dialed. “Yeah, hey,” she said once he’d picked up. “I think I might need some help here.”
Chapter 4: ...and the Halfer's Regret by Hayseed
A/N: This is where the storyline begins to majorly deviate from the plot of the film. In case anyone's still reading...
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Chapter Four: ...and the Halfer’s Regret
Something was really wrong.
Not in a memory-loss kind of way, though. Andy had never woken up not knowing where she was (and privately thought that people who did needed to either get to a doctor or to an AA meeting pronto). She knew exactly where she was, what she had been doing, and who she’d been doing it with.
It just felt... bad. Wrong. Stupid.
Why had she let herself be talked into bed with Christian Thompson of all people?
Oh, dinner had been nice enough. After defending Miranda yet again (and boy didn’t that feel weird), she’d gotten him talking about his job in wizarding publishing. Which was mostly boring, but there were a few flattering moments when Christian quite obviously tried recruiting her.
It had been refreshing to have a conversation that wasn’t particularly based around her job or her crumbling love life. So refreshing, apparently, that she wound up doing the nasty with a man who, if his current lack of splashing in the bathroom was any indicator, used Cleaning Charms in lieu of actually bathing.
Luke’s high-school and college roommate had been big on Cleaning Charms. Nick was usually technically clean, but there was a constant musty odor about him, and his hair always looked kind of greasy.
Just like Christian.
Who she’d just slept with.
She decided to freak out about her increasingly frequent lack of judgment later. It was already seven-forty-five, and Miranda expected a freshly dressed Andy waiting by her door (in a different hotel than the one she was currently in) at eight on the dot.
Meaning, of course, that she was late. Very late.
“Shit,” she muttered, leaping out of bed and scrambling to find enough of her clothes that she wouldn’t get arrested for going out in public.
Somewhere in the middle of untangling her bra from a pair of boxers, her hand landed on a piece of photo-laminated cardboard that made her stop dead in her tracks, clothes forgotten.
“Christian?” she called, deliberately keeping her voice as level and friendly as she could.
He poked his head out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist and a toothbrush sticking jauntily out of his mouth. “Yesh?” he asked through a mouthful of foam.
“What’s this?” She calmly held the mock-up Runway cover in the air.
With an eloquent shrug, he ducked back into the bathroom and turned the tap on. “My aunt gave those to me to look over,” he shouted over the running water.
“Sure,” he said, walking back out into the bedroom with another one of those devilishly seductive grins. “You’ve met her.”
“I have?” She did not have time for this bullshit.
“Jacqueline Follet,” he replied casually. The towel slid partway down his hips, but she had never felt less turned on in her life.
In fact, her blood was running cold. “What?” she whispered, feeling tears prick in her eyes.
“Jesus, what’s the big deal?” he asked blankly. “My aunt -- a halfer just like you, by the way -- is being tapped to step up as editor-in-chief for Runway New York. She wanted my professional opinion on some of her new ideas.”
“But... but Miranda is my boss,” Andy breathed.
And Miranda damn well is Runway, she didn’t say. There is no Runway without Miranda Priestly.
Great. What was that Muggle expression Lily used all the time? Something about soda, or beer, or... Kool-Aid, that was it.
Andy had officially drunk the office Kool-Aid.
“Not for long,” Christian said, still sounding relatively uncaring about the entire deal. “If you still want that shitty job after Priestly’s gotten the boot, I’m sure I can put in a good word for you with Jacque.”
“I... you...” she stammered in disbelief. “You horrible, backstabbing snake!”
“But,” he protested, towel slipping even further, “this doesn’t have anything to do with me. Andy, baby--“
It was like nails on a chalkboard. Lily’s nickname didn’t belong in the same time zone as Christian-fucking-Thompson, much less coming out of his mouth.
She tossed off some retort about not being his baby and stormed out of the hotel room, leaving easily a thousand dollars worth of couture littering his floor.
But she didn’t have time to agonize about that right now. She didn’t even have time to curse herself (yet again) for being stupid enough to sleep with the asshole.
It was seven-fifty-five.
Not only was she going to be in Dutch for failing to meet Miranda at her hotel room, she had to get changed, get to the reception area where the banquet was being held, and somehow manage to let Miranda know that Jacqueline Follet was trying to make a power-grab right under her nose.
In under five minutes.
And her wand was currently tucked in her bag over at the hotel, so Apparition was out of the question.
She started to run.
Andy slid into the car’s backseat and did her level best to ignore the somersaults her stomach was currently flipping.
She was in trouble.
She wasn’t quite sure how much, because really and truly, she hadn’t done anything all that wrong apart from being late, but sometimes being late was all it took. And Miranda didn’t generally stare at her with one eyebrow raised if there wasn’t some serious disapproval behind it.
Which was why she was absolutely stunned when Miranda opened her mouth and said, “In other circumstances, Andrea, I would owe you my gratitude.”
It took a couple of seconds to process exactly what had just happened. She felt her mouth flop open like a fish.
Miranda chuckled at her astonishment, which only served to increase said astonishment. Any more of this, and Andy was going to have to literally pick her jaw up off the car floor.
How impressive. She almost slapped her forehead at her own stupidity, but Miranda was watching her like a hawk.
“You thought I didn’t know.”
The conversation that followed deserved at least fifty out of ten on the weirdness scale. Even for a witch. Nose-Biting Teacups? Normal. Miranda paying an employee something in the same ballpark as a compliment? Crazy Town, population two.
Even weirder was when Miranda started detailing her evil plan, clearly expecting Andy to be proud of her.
It kind of reminded her of Bucky, bringing her dead birds and snakes with the obvious expectation of a pat on the head.
She could have been okay with her newfound position in Miranda’s eyes; she really could have. It would have made all the shit with Nate, and even with Luke and the Obs, worth it to have even a teaspoonful of Miranda’s respect.
“I see a great deal of myself in you.”
That brought her up short.
It shouldn’t have, really. It should have just been more icing on the Compliment Cake that Miranda was trying to jam down her throat.
But instead, the I see a great deal of myself in you just slithered down into her belly and twisted unpleasantly.
And for the stupidest of all stupid reasons too.
Nothing alike! her brain screamed reflexively almost before Miranda was done saying the words.
Miranda probably worried about things like matching her lipstick to her belt buckle and whether or not she’d paid the power bill. Muggle things. Normal things.
But Andy had to worry about whether or not she’d accidentally set fire to anything in public that day, and if she’d made anyone suspicious with off-color remarks about dragons or wands. Things that were decidedly not normal.
There was a little echo of Nate in the back of her mind -- Freak! -- but she brushed it away like a cobweb.
Miranda kept talking through Andy’s panic. Continued singing her praises. Well, as much as Miranda was going to, anyway.
Andy barely heard a word.
She couldn’t do this.
More to the point, she didn’t want to do this.
Her breath hitched on a sob, and Miranda gave her a strange look.
Ah, time to reply. She stuttered something about not being able to treat people like Miranda did, concentrating far more on not bursting into tears than on her actual words.
This was so toxically bad there wasn’t even an adjective for it.
Whatever Miranda said was lost in a haze as Andy fought a losing battle for control. But apparently very pleased with herself, Miranda sat back in her seat and offered Andy a thin smile.
Fuck crying in front of her boss, Andy was about to puke in front of her boss. Depending on her aim, maybe even on her boss.
Taking twenty-five eternities to do it, the car slid to a halt in front of wherever was next on Miranda’s itinerary. She’d forgotten and it so didn’t matter at the moment.
The instant the car stopped, Andy was out the door, breathing in the fresh air and telling her stomach fervently that throwing up wasn’t really the best option. There were better things it could do -- not throw up, for example.
Miranda, in the meantime, strode away from the car without so much as a backward glance, clearly expecting Andy to scurry in her wake.
And Andy wanted to.
That was really the clincher. Despite everything, she really, really wanted to trot alongside Miranda, continuing to impress her by playing the part of a normal girl.
But it was only playing, and that was the problem.
Steadily, Andy forced herself to walk in the opposite direction, one foot in front of the other, mind carefully blank.
Her cell phone started to chirp, and when she pulled it out of her handbag and looked at Miranda’s number on the screen, flashing imperiously, everything came rushing back, and the absolute longing she felt almost brought her to her knees.
The phone started to smoke in her hands, the screen going dark as the plastic started curling up in the heat.
With a sigh, Andy dumped the flaming cell phone into the nearby fountain. She’d burned her fingers on the damn thing, but getting rid of it hurt more.
Lily’s going to be pissed that I broke it, she thought idly, sticking one of her fingers in her mouth to ease the sting.
Somehow, that broke the moment. The nausea, the tears, the urge to run back across the street and prostrate herself in front of Miranda sobbing apologies... all gone.
Was it really that simple?
Probably not, but she’d take what she could get for now.
“Excuse me, sir-or-madam,” she said brightly in her awful, awful French, turning to the first badly dressed person she saw. “Where embassy of the Americans should be?”
“How can I help you, miss?”
The woman at the counter was wearing sparkly pink robes and a pointy purple hat. She looked like she’d gotten dressed in the dark, and Andy couldn’t be more relieved.
Although to be fair, it probably had more to do with the fact that she’d finally gotten someplace useful. It had taken a couple of hours to find the American embassy, and then a couple more to find someone who could direct her to the American embassy she actually needed. There weren’t many people at the wizarding branch of the American embassy, but they were all waiting in the same line. Moving at the speed of slow.
She’d ditched Miranda before lunchtime, and now the sun was setting.
But it was okay. She was going home. Back to New York, where Bucky would probably bite her for deserting her, and Lily would yell at her for how she handled the Nate situation, but everything would be normal.
Maybe she would even call her dad and get the number for that Chinatown bookshop that was hiring.
So when the nice embassy witch asked her how she could help, it was all Andy could do not to lean across the counter and give her a big fat kiss.
Instead, she smiled. “I need to get a Portkey back to America. New York City, if at all possible.”
There was a pause as the witch tapped a book with her wand in several places. “Hmm... well, dear, I’m afraid there’s a bit of a mix-up.”
“Mix-up?” Her smile fell.
“We have no record of an Andrea Sachs leaving the country. Why are you in Paris, again?”
“For work.” She winced at her own stupidity. “I, uh, you may need to check the Muggle manifests. I came over on a commercial flight.”
An eyebrow rose. “Community status, Ms. Sachs?”
Whoops. That sounded awfully formal. “I... I’m a halfer,” she almost whispered. “Well, I was, anyway.”
The eyebrow went even higher. “Was?”
The jaunty hat looked out-of-place on the embassy witch’s head now. All pleasantry was gone, and she looked as dour as a schoolmarm. Andy resisted the urge to stare at her feet like a wayward student. “It’s personal,” she said as quickly as she could. “No Obs showed up or anything; you can check. I just... I need to get back stateside, and I need to do it as a witch, not a Muggle.”
More wand taps. “You did say Andrea Sachs, didn’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” She felt sick to her stomach.
“I found your file. It says here that your magical record is clean, you have a return flight to LaGuardia scheduled in two days, and if the Muggle authorities are after you, it hasn’t shown up in our files yet,” the witch reeled off. “I’m afraid I can’t just put a halfer on a Portkey on the strength of personal reasons.”
The witch’s frown deepened. “Ms. Sachs, community status assignments are not meant to be taken lightly. The American government has gone to great expense to arrange all the necessary documents to enable you to move freely within the Muggle world with the expectation that you understand and obey certain guidelines. One of which is that out-of-status transactions are properly requested, documented, and implemented within the preset time frame.”
She tried to sort through the legal double-talk; she really did. It wasn’t her fault that her morning had basically turned her brain into a pile of mush. “What?”
With a sigh, the witch pointed her wand right between Andy’s eyes. “Halfers cannot flit back and forth between magical and Muggle on a whim. You decided to live as a Muggle. So... basically, Ms. Sachs, you’ve made your bed. Now lie in it.”
“But... but it’s been less than a year!” she exclaimed unthinkingly. “Isn’t there, like, a trial period or something?”
“If you would like, I can submit a Portkey request on your behalf, given sufficient reason.”
It was clearly a consolation prize, but Andy knew what they said about beggars and choosers. “Is mental breakdown a sufficient reason?”
She started tapping at her little book again, and somehow, Andy felt relieved. “It should take between ten and fourteen days to process. The embassy will contact you by owl post.”
“Ten to fourteen days?” Andy almost shouted. “But... but I don’t have anywhere to go! What am I supposed to do for two fucking weeks?”
“Now, Ms. Sachs, there’s no need to resort to such--“
She would be damned if a witch wearing a stupid purple hat was going to chastise her for bad language. “Yes, there is,” she interrupted. “You just told me that I’ve got to find somewhere to crash in Paris-fucking-France that doesn’t require money or anything since I’ve got less than ten bucks total in my pocket while you sort out whether or not it’s okay for me to take a goddamn Portkey back to the country I was fucking born in just because I decided to take a year to find out how Muggles really live. If ever there was a time to swear, you bet your sparkly pink ass it’s fucking now!”
The embassy witch raised a single eyebrow.
Okay, so maybe that last outburst wasn’t a good idea. And when the manager showed up after the witch raised that dangerous, dangerous eyebrow and pointed her wand at the red box on the counter, she definitely shouldn’t have threatened to hex him.
Or tried to hex him, really.
In retrospect, the biggest mistake was casting that first Expelliarmus. Especially once the Auror came in to see what all the fuss was about.
Frankly, she probably should have just put her wand down at that point. It was hard to turn off a decade’s worth of DADA reflexes, though.
But on the other hand, the holding cell at the embassy wasn’t really that bad a place. She had a bed, a metal toilet, and they were pretty good about remembering to feed her. All in all, if this was where she had to wait for her Portkey request to be approved, fourteen days here was better than even an hour answering phones at Runway.
At least she could pee whenever she wanted to.
She was deliberately not thinking thoughts like what if my Portkey request isn’t approved or what if that French Auror decides to press charges for that one last hex. And she definitely, absolutely, not in a million years was not wondering what Miranda Priestly was up to.
Miranda was gone. Or, more correctly, Andy was gone out of Miranda’s life. Full stop, the end.
She walked off the job. THE job, in fact. Thank goodness a million girls would kill for that job; now they had their chance.
Miranda would probably never think of her again. Never wonder what happened to that smart, fat girl who never even asked for a reference. Not that Miranda would have given that weirdo a reference, but it would have been nice to be asked, she would share with Emily as they chatted over their morning Starbucks and painted each other’s toenails or something. Emily would say something appropriately British and snide about how you can’t trust anyone wearing a plaid skirt as she took a big bite from a piece of chocolate cake, and Miranda would laugh.
Andy snorted and pressed a grimy hand over her eyes. It should probably be concerning how quickly she fell into that particular fantasyland.
“You are so lucky I think your best friend is hot,” a voice said loudly, breaking the silence so suddenly that Andy almost gasped.
She kept her reflexes under control, though. Not so much as taking the hand off her eyes, Andy smiled up at the ceiling. “Nice to see you too, Luke.”
“I mean, I sort out all of that mess with Nate the dweeb boyfriend -- what did you do to him, by the way? When I pulled out my wand to work my voodoo, he started screaming and promising not to tell.”
Her smile widened. “I threatened to turn him into a frog. Glad to see he was listening.”
“What a dork. What did you see in that guy, anyway?” Luke asked.
Normalcy. But she didn’t say anything out loud.
“Anyway, not only did I take care of Nate, the stupidest Muggle in existence, but now I’ve been summoned to France because you somehow wound up in a Parisian drunk tank?” he exclaimed, sounding amazed.
“The story’s not as interesting as you’d think,” she said blandly. “And the only reason I’m in the ‘drunk tank,’ as you call it, is because the French Aurory didn’t want to cause a diplomatic incident by arresting an American in her own embassy.”
“Yeah, well, you’re on the verge of being extradited, missy, so play nice,” he warned.
Finally sitting up on the bed, Andy ran her hands through her hair and sighed. “I’ve been trying.”
Luke rolled his eyes. “Bullshit. You disarmed an embassy officer and hexed an Auror so thoroughly they’re talking about locking you up for the next century.”
“I didn’t actually hurt the guy,” she said in a defensive voice.
“The ear reattachment procedure went quite well, in case you’re wondering,” he said with a distinctly sarcastic edge in his tone. “And he’s still puking up pink glitter, but time is the only thing that will take care of that one.”
“I always did like that spell,” Andy said with satisfaction. “Creative. And long-lasting.”
“I should just leave you here,” Luke said, disgusted. “Especially if you’re going to act like such a bitch about all of this.”
“Luke,” she sighed, dropping the nonchalance. “I’m... I just...”
“Had a bad day?”
She laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Actually, no. I had an awesome day.”
With a snort, Luke shook his head. “So you have a bad day at work and you blow up a coffeemaker. You have an awesome day at work and you create an international magical incident. Have you always been special like this, Sack-of-Shit?”
Only since I met Miranda Priestly, she thought but did not say. “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, you are,” he said, but the teasing glint was back in his eye, and she knew she was forgiven. “So, you ready to blow this pop stand?”
“They’re letting me go?” she asked. “So assault and illegal dueling are just kind of throw-away charges in France? Three days and you’re done?”
Smirking, Luke tapped at the lock on her holding cell. “Well, not exactly. There are two conditions. First one is, you’ve got to find your own way back to New York. You’re, um, kind of on the wizarding version of the No-Fly List at the moment.”
She shrugged. “There are black market Portkeys around. I can tap my bank account.”
“I figured you could manage that one.”
“What’s the second condition?” The cell door swung open and she stepped out, smoothing her dress.
“You’re not allowed back in the country.”
“Ever,” he confirmed with a short nod. “Of course, if you want to take your chances with due process instead, you’re welcome to stay in your comfy little cell there.”
She thought about it. Never come back to Paris, never get to see everything she’d missed this time around. Paris, the City of Lights and Hopes and Dreams.
Paris, the City Where She’d Royally Fucked Herself Over By Blowing Off Miranda-Freaking-Priestly.
It didn’t even take thirty seconds to consider. “I’m okay with that.”
He grinned and gave her shoulder a companionable whack. “Excellent. Well, consider that yet another one you owe me, Sack-of-Shit.”
As they walked toward the exit, Andy mulled over this recent turn of events. There was something that didn’t quite line up. “Hey, Luke?”
With an interrogative hum, he continued using his wand to unlock the door.
“How did you know to come get me?” she asked curiously. “I didn’t tell them to call you. And the only number I have in my purse is...”
The tips of his ears turned bright red.
“Lucas Stephenson!” she said in a firm voice. “Are you defiling my best friend?”
“Hey,” he protested mildly. “I’m not--“
“Are you?” she repeated. “Because the only person in America they could have possibly contacted since my cell got fried is Lily, and Lily wouldn’t call you to come bail me out all the way in France unless you were...”
“I was there, okay?” he interrupted. “Nothing’s happened yet, but she’s talking to me again. And when the Floo call came, I was there, so I offered to help.”
“Just talking?” she asked suspiciously.
His smile was devilish, and there was something in it that reminded her of Christian-fucking-Thompson. “For now.”
“Luke?” she asked with a wince. “Do me a favor.”
“Anything for you, Sack-of-Shit,” he said with a debonair flourish that looked more stupid than anything else.
She stepped out into the Parisian sunshine with a sigh of relief. “Don’t ever smile like that at me again, okay?”
Chapter 5: ...and the Contempt of Familiarity by Hayseed
A/N: None for this chapter.
Official Disclaimer: Does anyone actually think I can claim ownership here? Because I can't.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chapter Five: ...and the Contempt of Familiarity
Having to take an illegal Portkey from Paris to some isolated moor in what was probably Scotland was one thing. If nothing else, she’d thought maybe she could throw herself on the mercy of the British Ministry of Magic, drop old McMinamin’s name and score a Portkey across the Atlantic.
She had not, of course, counted on dropping smack into the middle of a raid conducted by Aurors eager to put a stop to non-subsidized Portkey travel.
Fortunately, it was dark, and Andy excelled at tree-climbing.
What she seemed to suck at was finding reasonable transportation. Because the closest she could get to America was a Portkey to fucking Greenland.
Which wasn’t green anywhere.
Even the next Portkey (to Saskatchewan) was better than everloving, Godforsaken, fucking Greenland! Saskatchewan had trees. And people. And coffee. And it wasn’t fucking Greenland. That was the best part about Saskatchewan.
But she was home, now. Safe in her comfy recliner, wrapped up in a quilt and drinking a cup of Lily’s chocolat-iest cocoa. “I’m never going to feel totally warm ever again,” she moaned. “Fucking Greenland...”
“Oh, poor baby,” Lily clucked sarcastically from her position on the sofa, scratching a purring Bucky’s tummy.
Bucky’s only interaction with Andy since she’d arrived back home had been to bite her thumb. Andy was prepared to ignore the cat until the cold war broke down into a détente.
“Yeah, how about you go to fucking Greenland and then tell me how I’m complaining too much,” Andy said petulantly, taking a sip of cocoa and burning her tongue.
“You do realize you wouldn’t’ve had to go to Greenland if you hadn’t gotten yourself declared persona non grata in France, my dear,” Lily retorted, sounding distinctly unsympathetic.
Andy just rolled her eyes. “You’re just pissed because I interrupted your booty call with dearest, darlingest Lucas.”
Mouth open, Lily just stared. Bucky gave up on the tummy-scratching and jumped off the sofa, flopping down in front of the television. “I... can’t believe you just said that.”
“What? It’s true, isn’t it?”
“Jesus, Andy, who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?” Lily asked incredulously. “This is low, even from you.”
Another sip of cocoa. Either it had cooled sufficiently or the nerve endings in her tongue were sizzled enough that it didn’t matter. Whatever. “I have an interview this afternoon,” she said without preamble.
“Oh,” Lily said, all faux-sweetness, “so we’re just going to ignore the appearance of Andrea Sachs, Super-Bitch, are we?”
She glared. “I’m trying to explain. Apologize. Whatever.”
“Is it an interview for Unsympathetic Whinging Queen of the Universe? Because I think you’ve got it stitched up,” she shot back.
“No,” Andy almost snarled. “It’s at a shitty little wizarding bookshop in the middle of Chinatown. It’s with a dude named Pythagoras Tuttle.”
All of a sudden, Lily’s demeanor softened. “Goddamn, Andy.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said, staring down into her cocoa. “Welcome to Failure, population Andy Sachs.”
“It’s... it’s not failure, you know,” Lily said after a long pause.
She smiled humorlessly. “Four days ago, I walked off a job that a million girls would kill for, mostly because I was tired of pretending that I... that I’m not normal. Yesterday, Luke sprung me from jail on the condition that I never go back to France again, and I spent the night in fucking Greenland, trying to get back here in time for an interview with a man whose name sounds like a reject from the goddamn Harry Potter books.” She sighed. “If that’s not failure, Lils, I don’t want to know what failure actually is.”
“But...” Lily paused, clearly searching for the right words. “If it makes any sense, Andy, baby, you’re doing it all on your own terms. That’s what makes it not failure. If you’d gotten tossed out on your ass, that would be failure.”
“The only reason I left is I knew it was coming,” she said dully. “It was just a matter of time before I fucked up again.”
Because she still didn’t want to leave. There was still a pretty big part of her that wanted to go to Runway, fling herself prostrate on the ground, and fucking beg Miranda to take her back. To let Andy take care of her. To include her again; say us like she meant it.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, Andy, baby, but I think you kind of needed to fail at being a halfer,” Lily said seriously.
She blinked in confusion. “What?”
“I mean, no offense, but you’re a wizard through and through. I’ve never understood your fascination with Muggles. And when you wanted to live like one? Come on, Andy. You had to know that wasn’t going to work.” Lily’s tone was gentle, but it didn’t really do much to take out the sting of her words.
Little wizard girl, playing Muggle.
Well, it was true, wasn’t it?
And her punishment was apparently named Pythagoras Tuttle.
“What’s it like?” Andy asked suddenly. “Being a Muggle-born, I mean.”
It wasn’t something she’d ever asked. Somehow, it was easier to keep that kind of thing unspoken between them, because at the end of the day, Andy and Lily came from such different worlds that it was amazing they had ever become friends in the first place.
Which was one of the big reasons why Andy knew she had to leave Miranda.
Leave Runway, her brain amended quickly.
Most people never got a chance to have that kind of connection with someone, and Andy had been greedy enough to try for it twice.
“Confusing,” Lily eventually said. “None of the rules match up. It’s lonely sometimes, too, because it’s like you get pushed to play I’m-a-better-wizard-than-the-purebloods, which is bullshit, because we all know blood doesn’t matter a damn bit. And sometimes you kind of feel like a zoo exhibit. Not so much at BHH, but when we were at Northwestern, and we had some of those really cloistered kids who didn’t know a light switch from a telephone. I don’t know... what’s it like being a pureblood and actually fitting in?”
With a sad smile, Andy pushed herself out of her recliner and made her way to the bathroom. “I don’t think anyone fits in, Lils.”
“Maybe that’s what we’re all trying to find,” Lily called as Andy shut the door. “Maybe we do fit in somewhere.”
Andy didn’t reply, but as she stepped into the shower to prepare for her interview, she realized she was crying.
His name really was Pythagoras Tuttle.
Seriously, who the hell named their kid something as stupidly stereotypical as Pythagoras Tuttle? It was like permanently attaching a Hex Me sign to his back for all of childhood.
As Andy shook his hand and complimented his brightly patterned Hawaiian shirt, she amused herself by idly imagining how Mr. Tuttle would have handled himself in old McMinamin’s class.
The short answer was: not well.
“A very good afternoon to you, Miss Sachs,” Tuttle said jovially.
Were his eyes twinkling?
She squinted. Damn it, they were.
“Yeah, it’s really nice out today,” she said vaguely.
“Your father tells me that you’re a very well-read young lady,” he continued, still grinning like a bizarrely dressed combination of Merlin and Santa Claus.
She wanted to stab her eyes out.
“I like to read,” she confirmed with a short nod. And write, but that wouldn’t go over so well, probably.
“And you and I share a penchant for Muggle dress, it seems,” he said.
Blinking, Andy stared down at her outfit. She’d gotten dressed on auto-pilot, but Runway had kicked in, and somehow, she’d wound up in head-to-toe couture. Leftovers from the Closet that Nigel swore she could keep because no one else was fat enough to wear them.
And she missed Nigel?
Stockholm syndrome, and nothing else.
“Yeah,” she told Tuttle. “I, um, like your shoes.”
Birkenstocks. Bright pink. His toes jutted over the sole.
“To be honest,” he said, leaning down and giving her a conspiratorial wink, “my neighbor gave these to me, and I just don’t have the heart to explain to the poor dear that they don’t really fit.”
Or are designed for women, but she kept her mouth sensibly shut.
“Mrs. Kim is a wonderful woman,” he said brightly, “but sometimes her fashion sense is a bit... off.”
Says the man wearing a Hawaiian shirt that has big flamingoes on it. But again, she didn’t say a word.
“So...” Tuttle kept speaking, almost oblivious to her presence. “I’m looking for your basic bookshop assistant. Cataloguing, ordering, cashing out. Randall said you were interested in pursuing the literary arts.”
I’m going to kill Dad, Andy thought viciously, managing a polite nod to a beaming Tuttle.
“Forgive me for prying, child, but... are you all right?” he asked gently. “Randall told me you were generally an outgoing sort, and I confess I haven’t really seen any of that yet.”
“I...” Andy said, feeling sick to her stomach. She was in hell, she really was. Next time someone like Miranda Priestly tried to pay her a horrifying compliment, she was damn well going to suck it up and stick it out. “I’m sorry,” she finally whispered
“Oh, goodness, there’s no need to apologize,” Tuttle said with round eyes. “Randy and I are old chums. I dandled you on my knee when you were a baby, child.”
That did it.
Andy burst into tears.
Not soft little tears, either. No elegant teardrops sliding down cheeks for Andy Sachs, no sir. This was full-on hiccupping sobbing. Swollen eyes, red cheeks, snot, the whole effing tamale.
“Oh, my dear,” Tuttle exclaimed, putting a warm hand on her shoulder.
Which, of course, only made her cry harder.
She was so not getting this job.
“I... I just...” she stuttered in between hiccups.
“How about we take this in a different direction?” he offered with a friendly smile. “I have a teapot in the back. Care for a cup?”
She nodded and sniffled.
By the time he came back with two cups and an assortment of cookies on a tray, she’d managed to more or less stop crying. And transfigured a button on her jacket into a handkerchief to blow her nose.
Emily (and Donatella, who Emily would certainly call, just to tattle) would be pissed if she knew Andy had just more or less defaced an original Versace design, but Andy was trying really hard not to care.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Tuttle asked quietly as he handed her a steaming cup.
She shook her head. But as she stared down into her cup, watching the milk he’d added without needing to ask swirl around, it was as if the words came of their own accord.
“I tried to be a halfer,” she said. “Did my dad tell you that?”
“No,” Tuttle replied. “But you certainly don’t dress like a witch trying to fit in, if you know what I mean.”
“I had a job working at Runway. A Muggle fashion magazine,” she amended upon seeing his confused look. “And it was terrible. My boss was insanely hard to please, and I hated going to work every day.”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’ somewhere in there.” He took a sip of tea and sighed with obvious contentment.
Slowly, she nodded. “One day, I didn’t hate it. But then... then it got too hard for other reasons. And I had to walk away. But--“
“But you didn’t want to,” he completed. “I think I understand a bit better. Fish-out-of-water never handle it well.”
“I’m just not cut out to be a halfer,” she admitted. It was the first time she’d said it aloud, and it felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
“Have you ever considered that maybe you’re not really cut out to be a witch either, my dear?” Tuttle asked with another sip out of his cup.
“What?” A cookie was halfway to her mouth; it just dangled there as she tried to sort out what he meant.
He laughed, and it was the closest she’d ever heard a grown man come to giggling. “Don’t think I didn’t see the look you gave my shoes when you walked in the door. You may be a fish-out-of-water in the Muggle world, child, but I’d be willing to wager that you’re a fish-out-of-water in the wizarding world as well.”
She frowned. “I--“
With a wave of the hand, he cut her off. “Make no mistake; I don’t mean it as an insult. But consider, why did you become a halfer in the first place?”
“I applied to the Aurory when I finished my degree,” she said, polishing off her cookie. “But it didn’t feel right.”
Just like Runway didn’t really feel right.
“You see?” he exclaimed triumphantly. “The wizarding world isn’t for everyone, my dear. That’s why we’re all given a choice.”
“But that means I’m stuck,” she said with a scowl. “I don’t fit in anywhere. And you have to choose.”
“Who says?” Tuttle asked.
She fumbled with her teacup and came embarrassingly close to dropping it. “What do you mean?” she asked carefully.
“Youngsters are so black-and-white,” he told her with a smile that had more than a little condescension in it. “Wizard or Muggle, you think you have to choose. The worlds aren’t as separate as they seem.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said honestly.
His smile was more enigmatic now, and the twinkle was back in his eyes. With a flourish, he waved his wand and a little white card flew off a nearby countertop and into her hand. “Call the number on that card and maybe things will be a little more clear.”
“I... I didn’t get the job, huh?” she asked with a sheepish smile, putting her cup back on the tray and tucking the card into her pocket.
“Well, the job is yours if you want it, but I doubt you actually do,” Tuttle said, returning her smile. “Although now that we’ve reconnected, I’ll expect to see you for tea every now and again. Randy says you’re a dab hand with transfigurations; maybe you can take care of my shoes for me.”
“Do you still want them to be pink?” But she was grinning as she said it, and he giggled again.
Maybe Pythagoras Tuttle wasn’t the worst wizard in the City to know. Even if he did own the ugliest Hawaiian shirt she’d ever seen.
“So...?” Lily drawled.
“So...” Andy replied, lips twitching, “you’re currently looking at the newest reporter on staff at the Mirror.”
“The Mirror?” she echoed. “But isn’t that--“
“Yep,” Andy interrupted, unable to contain herself. “The only newspaper in the whole state of New York with a wizarding division.”
“Luke gets--“ But Lily cut herself off.
With a groan, Andy buried her head in her hands. “Why do you know... no, wait, I don’t want to know!”
“He’s a nice guy,” she said in what was clearly intended to be a chastising tone.
“Oh, I know,” Andy answered, uncovering her face. “He’s bailed me out... well, enough that I don’t really bother counting any more. I just really don’t want to know what he looks like naked.”
“That’s good,” Lily said. “I don’t want you to know what he looks like naked either.”
“One? Ew. And two? I totally didn’t know it had gone that far.”
“For those of us not still stuck back in middle school,” she said with a self-important sniff, “mature, adult relationships proceed at an appropriate pace, especially in circumstances where the two involved parties have a long history together.”
Andy rolled her eyes. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but less than two months ago, you were dumping cocktails down the guy’s pants in a public bar. So if I’m in middle school, you better let me borrow your Ace of Base album, chica, because you’re there too, and you’ve got gum stuck in your braces.”
“So... tell me,” Andy said, fluttering her eyelashes and clasping her hands in between her breasts in her best twelve-year-old impression. “Have you and Lukey held hands yet? That’s so totally awesome. Are you going to French him? Because that’s gross; boys have cooties.”
“If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to hex you,” Lily threatened.
“Oh, please,” Andy retorted, dropping the act. “As if you would hex moi, your bestest bud in the whole of existence. If I wasn’t such a terminal screw-up, you might never have reconnected with your loverboy.”
“I mean it, Andy!”
She grinned. “Can I be your maid of honor? Or better yet, how about godmother for all your little Luke-and-Lily-ettes? I mean, that’s really the best way to...”
With a shriek, Andy fell backward as her chair suddenly tipped over. She cracked her head so hard on the floor that, for a split second, she actually saw stars.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lily said in a voice rich with satisfaction.
“You bitch,” Andy said good-naturedly, picking herself up off the ground.
“Hello, pot, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Andy flapped her hand. “So, you and Luke are... you and Luke?”
“Yep,” Lily replied, sounding surprisingly shy. “It’s... it’s really good this time, Andy. I don’t want to fuck it up.”
She smiled. “You won’t. Not with that kind of dopey lovesick expression.”
In response, Lily flicked her fingers and water from her glass splashed itself into Andy’s face.
“Hey!” she exclaimed. “I was being encouraging and everything.”
“Right. Anyway, if I recall, you were the one who called me with good news. We’ve gotten off-track, Andy, baby.”
She swiped at her eyes, wincing when she saw the smeared make-up on her napkin. “So you know I went for that interview at the bookshop.”
“With the turtle guy,” Lily confirmed, nodding.
“Tuttle,” Andy corrected. “Anyway, he’s actually a pretty nice guy. He, like, gave me tea and cookies when I went hysterical.”
“Hysterical?” Lily’s voice was oddly flat.
“Batshit insane,” she said cheerfully. “I was full-tilt bozo sobbing, and instead of doing the sane thing and throwing me out, he listened to me and wound up giving me some pretty good advice.”
“So you’re telling me you took advice from the Chinatown turtle guy? And it worked?”
She sighed and fiddled with her soda straw. “I told you he was nice, didn’t I? Anyway, he’s the one who hooked me up with the Mirror. Turns out that one of the editors is a customer.”
“And it was as easy as that?”
“Well... not exactly. I didn’t know why Mr. Tuttle gave me a card for the Mirror until I got there, so that was kind of awkward. But once I realized I was having a job interview, I gave them McMinamin’s contact info, and he told them they were idiots if they didn’t hire me.”
“What about... her?” Lily didn’t say Miranda’s name much any more; she’d probably noticed that Andy flinched every time she heard it.
Andy couldn’t quite manage a smile, but she didn’t start tearing up, either. So... progress of a sort, right? “They didn’t even try. I gave them her name, but they didn’t really seem interested once I told them I had full Muggle paperwork. I was pretty much hired on the spot.”
“What’s so great about Muggle paperwork?” Lily asked blankly.
“I can actually maneuver in the Muggle world. I may not be a registered halfer any more, but they didn’t take away my social security card or anything. So I can get into places a lot of pureblood wizards can’t.”
With a slow shake of the head, Lily picked up her water glass and drained it. “Huh,” she said. “Who would have thought being a halfer would have actually come to something?”
“I know,” Andy replied, biting back a laugh. “Maybe that means my encyclopedic knowledge of designer scarves will come in handy too.”
“I doubt it,” Lily told her, giggling madly. “Not unless you start dating again really soon.”
Pasting on her best wounded expression, Andy put a hand over her heart. “Must you bring up my suffering with such impunity?”
She just snorted. “Just you wait, Andy. Soon you’ll meet another mealy-mouthed little Muggle boy, and--“
“Watch it,” Andy broke in, waving a warning finger under Lily’s nose. “I’ve got plenty of hell saved up about you and Luke. Don’t push me.”
Life was getting back on track. Andy had a new job, Lily had a new boyfriend, and even Bucky was coming back around. Granted, Andy had been bribing her for the last week with peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, but still...
Andy even had time to watch television every now and again. Of course, she’d had to buy a new TV (when Luke made Nate and all of his possessions disappear, the TV had been among them... Andy hadn’t questioned it), and that had been an adventure in and of itself.
But whatever. The point was that not only did she have a brand-spanking-new flatscreen, she also had the time to watch it.
Well, sort of. At the moment, she was drifting in and out of a light doze, Bucky curled up on her stomach and a glass of wine sitting on the coffee table. Someone was singing and possibly dancing on the television, but she didn’t feel like opening her eyes to figure out what was going on.
She probably ought to go to bed. The next morning, she was scheduled to interview some Auror named Graves about a string of break-ins that seemed to have been propagated by a wizard. At least, that was the best explanation for how they got into apartments without disturbing the--
A loud knock on the door startled her out of her thoughts.
Well... not true. The knock did startle her, but Bucky’s claws abruptly digging into her belly through her t-shirt was the bigger attention-grabber.
“Holy fuck, Bucky!” Andy cried, shoving the cat to the floor.
With a discontented yowl, Bucky flipped her tail and slithered under the sofa.
The knocking got decidedly louder. Frankly, it was getting close to hammering.
“Jesus-tap-dancing-Christ,” she grumbled, borrowing one of Lily’s mother’s favorite expressions. “It’s eleven-fucking-o’clock, you know.”
Lips bared in a parody of a smile, she wrenched the door open.
And about swallowed her tongue.
“Uh...” she said blankly. She couldn’t have formulated a coherent sentence for all the tea in China.
“Well, Andrea,” Miranda said in a crisp voice, “aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Chapter 6: ...and the Paralyzing Fear of Exposure by Hayseed
A/N: A word regarding the Andy/Miranda dynamic, for readers who may not be particularly in the DWP fandom -- there's a lot of tension between these two characters (especially in the film), and even on casual viewing, a big part of that tension feels sexual (I swear there's a scene where Miranda blatantly checks out Andy's ass). So for anyone reading this who's wondering where the 'random' femslash is coming from -- rewatch the movie and I promise it's there.
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Chapter Six: ...and the Paralyzing Fear of Exposure
“I... um... what?” Andy managed to squeak.
“I said,” Miranda enunciated slowly, “will you invite me inside or do we have to have this conversation in the hallway?”
But whatever Miranda was here for -- at eleven o’clock at night! -- couldn’t be good.
Wordlessly, Andy stepped back from the door, and Miranda swept inside without any hesitation, taking off her coat and shoving it into Andy’s arms.
“Yeah, I’ll just... hang on a sec,” she said, scrambling toward the bedroom to hang up the coat.
Is Miranda wearing pajamas?
It was kind of hard to tell. She was wearing something silky, but it could have been a dress just as easily as a nightgown. Mostly, Andy was trying not to marvel at how toned Miranda’s upper arms were; she almost went into the bedroom again to put on a sweatshirt.
Fuck it, she eventually decided. She didn’t have to live her life according to Miranda’s rules any more. And there wasn’t anything wrong with her arms.
In the meantime, Miranda settled onto her sofa like a queen, smoothing the dress (nightgown?) and looking up at Andy with something approaching a glare.
She really, really wanted to ask what Miranda was doing here, but there was a ghost of Emily’s voice in her head, reminding her that one did not ask Miranda Priestly questions.
So she dropped into a boneless heap on her recliner and waited.
Eventually, an obviously bored Bucky emerged from under the couch and gave Miranda’s bare toes (clad in the latest Jimmy Choo sandal) a cautious sniff.
“What,” Miranda said distastefully, “is that?”
“Um... a cat?” Andy asked, somehow no longer certain herself.
Without moving, Bucky stared up at Miranda and started to purr.
Well, that was weird.
They fell back into awkward silence.
After a few more moments passed, Bucky jumped up onto the sofa and butted Miranda’s elbow with her head. Miranda stared down at her in clear astonishment. “What is its name?” she asked, reaching out what appeared to be hesitant fingers to give Bucky a cautious scratch behind the ears.
The purring doubled.
“Bucky,” Andy said, curiosity all but eating her alive. This was the weirdest conversation she’d ever had.
“Bucky,” Miranda repeated, her voice doing all the sneering for her. But Andy noticed she never stopped scratching. “What on Earth possessed you to punish the poor creature like that?”
She never liked admitting where Bucky’s name came from. It was stupid; it had always been stupid. So, of course, she heard herself answering Miranda’s question almost automatically. “I was four, I got a kitten, and my dad’s a raving OSU fan. You can connect the dots yourself.”
Miranda’s lips drew back in either a smile or a smirk -- Andy wasn’t good at telling them apart. “Are you telling me this poor cat is named--“
“Buckeye,” Andy completed with a nod. “I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me, if it’s any consolation.”
“Not to her, I’m sure,” Miranda said quietly. By this time, Bucky was all but flat on her back, her legs sticking up in the air as Miranda scratched her belly.
Andy held her astonishment in with some effort. Even Lily, who was the only person apart from Andy that could touch Bucky’s stomach and emerge unscathed, had taken several months to bond with Bucky.
Andy narrowed her eyes at Bucky. Traitor.
Bucky’s tail twitched. Idiot.
See if I ever feed you leftover bacon again.
Her tail was swishing freely. Doesn’t matter. You’re still an idiot.
Miranda blinked and took her hand off Bucky’s belly. Almost instantly, Bucky let out a pathetic mew and stretched out to bump her front paws into Miranda’s side.
“Your cat... is different,” Miranda eventually said.
“She’s pretty old,” Andy replied. “She’s gotten kind of set in her ways.”
“That’s not what I mean,” she said in a slow, measured voice. “Your cat is different in the same way that you are different.”
“I... I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Andy stuttered. “I’m not--“
Miranda narrowed her eyes and Andy fell silent. “I would swear that you were communicating with her just now.”
“Why have you not requested a recommendation?” she asked abruptly.
Andy’s brain screeched to a halt. Was this what an actual conversation with Miranda was like? Because if it was, you could have it. She’d never felt more confused in her entire life. “I--“
“I would have given you a recommendation, you know,” Miranda said in a neutral voice. “While your... unprofessionalism gives me reason for pause, I can understand your reasons. I would have helped you.”
Lady, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Andy almost laughed but managed to catch herself at the last minute. “I have a job.”
With a blink, Miranda crossed one leg over the other, and the silk rose high enough up her thighs for Andy to idly wonder if Miranda had actually walked out of her house without underwear to interrogate Andy about her job prospects at eleven o’clock at night. “That is impossible,” she said emphatically. “I would have heard about it.”
She shrugged. “Probably not. It’s a kind of obscure paper. The Mirror.”
“The one across the street from Runway,” Miranda said flatly. “I know of it. But to my knowledge, the Mirror has not hired anyone in the last twenty years at least. It’s a dying business.”
Another shrug. “They hired me. In fact, I’ve got an interview for a piece I’m working on that starts tomorrow morning at seven.”
Miranda brushed the hint aside as if Andy hadn’t even spoken. “There’s something about you that makes no sense. You are insignificant, insubordinate, and far too outspoken for your own good.”
Wow, way to make a girl feel good about herself.
“And yet,” she continued. “You come into my office with no connections, no previous work history, and you manage to make yourself indispensible.”
Back to the weirdly worded compliments. It was a good thing Andy couldn’t think of anything to say -- Miranda seemed to be content having a conversation with herself.
“If asked, I would say you were one of the most erratic, unusual employees I have ever had, and yet I cannot give a single example of eccentric behavior,” she mused aloud. “Except the dreams.”
Oh, no. Her heart skipped several beats. “What did you say?” she whispered, feeling her eyes widen.
“Something about... a coffeemaker? And shoes. And a young woman with curly hair. At first, I dismissed them, but they’ve grown worse.”
Something in her reserved tone made Andy wonder if Miranda wasn’t actively afraid to go to sleep.
Miranda looked up and caught Andy’s gaze. Her eyes were full of some unidentified emotion, so blue they almost took Andy’s breath away. “I thought if I saw you again, I would be able to forget them. I would remember how un-extraordinary you really are. But then you talk to your cat.”
Where was Luke? Shouldn’t the Obs have showed up by now?
Something really, really weird was going on.
“I don’t--“ Andy began.
Miranda scowled. “Do not patronize me, Andrea,” she snapped. “All I am asking for is the truth.”
Something inside broke, and Andy heard herself let out a derisive laugh. “All?” she echoed. “It’s just that simple, is it?”
Eyes blazing, Miranda’s lips thinned and she tugged her gown back down to her knees.
“Miranda, you don’t know what you’re asking for.”
“I don’t care,” she said flatly.
“All right,” Andy said, rolling her eyes. “Here goes... you want to know why you’re having weird dreams? Your memory’s leaking.”
Aha, that did it. Sitting up straighter, Miranda gave her a blank look. “Leaking?”
“Too many Memory Charms, I guess. Or maybe you’re just special. Why not? You are the great and powerful Miranda Priestly, after all.”
“What are you talking about?” Miranda asked icily.
She smiled her best witchy smile. “Let me put it like this: I know the twins have read the Harry Potter books. Have you?”
She blinked. “Harry Potter? What does--“
“It’s all true,” Andy said in a rush.
Practically dumping Bucky off the couch in her haste to stand up, Miranda gave Andy a wild-eyed look. “What?”
“Well, it’s not all true,” she admitted. “We couldn’t let all of our secrets get out. The content of the books is carefully controlled, to make sure that Muggles don’t really believe it. There’s some pretty crazy physics stuff in there, I can tell you. You can’t turn dead stuff into live stuff, for one, and that shit happens all the time in those stupid books.”
Miranda took a cautious step backward.
“Okay, I guess I’m pretty bad at this,” Andy said, holding her hands out in a placating gesture. “What can I do to convince you that I’m not insane?”
No response. Just a little shake of the head.
“I’m really not, I promise,” she said. “But I tell you what, I swear I’m not going to hurt you or anything. I’m just going to get out my wand so I can show you a spell.”
“You’re... you’re...” Miranda tried to speak, and Andy took a moment to wonder what Emily would think if she saw her supposed mentor all bent out of shape like this.
“Yeah,” Andy said gently. “I’m a witch. You can say it; it’s okay.”
She took her wand out of her pocket. Well, kind of. Witches and wizards who routinely wore Muggle clothes generally tore out their pockets so that they could fit their wands in specially sewn pouches in their clothes.
“I’m going to cast a spell now, but don’t worry,” she said. “It’s harmless.”
Normally, Andy didn’t bother pulling out her wand for easy stuff, but something tickling in the back of her head was telling her Miranda might come closer to believing her if she saw something a little more stereotypical. So instead of just silently concentrating and flicking her fingers, Andy actually pointed her wand at her recliner and said a few words out loud.
A splash of white light shot out of her wand and appeared to shatter against the recliner, leaving red streaks wherever they landed. Within seconds, the entire piece of furniture was a bright, garish red.
“See?” Andy asked with a smile, tucking her wand back in her pants. “Witch.”
Miranda sat back down.
Actually, if Andy was honest, it looked an awful lot like Miranda fell down and the sofa happened to catch her.
“Do you want me to keep talking, or do you need a minute?” she asked.
For several long beats, Miranda was silent and unblinking. Then, her eyes seemed to focus on Andy. “Talk,” she said hoarsely.
“Both of my parents are wizards,” she said. “My mom actually comes from a family of wizards. They’ve been wizards since before the Revolutionary War. My dad’s half-and-half. His dad married a Muggle, but she died before I was born. So I didn’t really know anything about Muggles when I was little. Magic was totally normal.”
Miranda laughed, but it sounded more like a moan than anything else.
“But my parents sent me to public school. American wizards don’t really live all that separately, so it’s important for wizarding kids to know about Muggle stuff too. That’s how I met Lily. She’s the woman you remember from your dream.”
“She... she did something,” Miranda murmured. “And there was a light...”
Andy decided it would be a bad idea to tell her that Lily had hexed her. So she pressed on, mostly babbling in an effort to make that wild look disappear from Miranda’s eyes. “Lily’s family is kind of... strict, so she always liked coming over to my house, which is probably why we stayed friends for so long, even though we weren’t always in the same class or anything. It was good practice for me, hiding my magic. And she always called my parents ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am,’ even though they told her she didn’t have to. It’s kind of a thing with them now.”
Miranda stayed silent, but she wasn’t tugging on her gown any more, which could have been a good sign.
“Lily didn’t even know she was a witch; both of her parents are Muggles. That’s why I had to keep my magic a secret. But when we were nine or so, my magic started getting really out of control, and I accidentally set her hair on fire.”
Her eyes widened.
“It’s... it’s okay,” Andy said quickly. “My dad took care of it, and actually, Lily got so pissed that she managed to cast her first spell. It knocked me out without her even realizing what she did. That’s how we knew Lily was a witch too. Kind of ironic, huh?”
“Ironic,” Miranda repeated, sounding dazed.
“So when we went to school, we got to go together.”
Miranda did have something to say to that. “You mean you went to a school like... Pigpox or Hog--“
“Yeah,” she interrupted. If she let Miranda keep going, she was going to get the giggles, and that probably wouldn’t help. “But you know all those names have been changed, right? America has a few wizarding schools; larger population and everything. None of them have dumb names like Hogwarts. Not even the one in Britain.”
“Real but not real?”
Andy smiled. “Yeah,” she said softly.
“I’m not crazy,” Miranda said, almost sounding like she was asking a question.
“Nope.” She shook her head.
“And you’re... you’re magic.”
“I ought to call the police,” Miranda muttered, more to herself than to Andy. “Followed by the closest mental hospital.”
With a shrug, Andy sat back down on her (now red) recliner. “If you like,” she said. “It won’t make what I’ve said any less true, though.”
“So my dreams--“
“Aren’t dreams,” Andy completed. “More like memories, I guess.”
After a long pause, Miranda’s lips twitched. “So you really did blow up the coffeemaker in the break room?”
Groaning, she let her head fall into her hands. “I’m going to regret telling you this stuff, aren’t I?”
A rustling noise signaled that Miranda was standing. Automatically, Andy looked up to see if she needed anything.
Miranda’s expression was unreadable. “I must amend my opinion of you, Andrea. Previous to this evening, I thought you were the most ordinary young woman I had ever met.”
She tried to smile, but it didn’t quite make it to her lips.
Her cell phone chirped and she managed to answer it on the second ring. “Sachs.”
“I can’t believe I’m even doing this. It took me ages to track you down, and here you are without so much as a ‘how do you do.’ Really, Andrea, manners should be your watchword in everything you--“
“Hang on,” she interrupted. “Is this Emily?”
“Well, of course,” Emily huffed. The you idiot was unspoken but present all the same. “Don’t you even use caller ID?”
She didn’t really have anything to say to that. “Um, not that it’s not great to hear from you, but why are you calling?”
A long sigh. “Why do you think?”
“Aw...” Andy drawled playfully. “I missed you too, Em.”
“Oh, be serious,” she snapped. “Miranda wants a meeting with you.”
“A meeting?” she echoed, wondering when the hell she’d stepped into the Twilight Zone. “With Miranda?”
“This afternoon at two. I assume you’re free?”
The clock on Andy’s desk was currently reading 12:54.
“What if I wasn’t?” Andy asked, not really expecting an answer.
She didn’t get one, either. “Miranda’s car will arrive at one forty-five. I’m sure you know what to do, Andrea.”
“Um...” Not really, she wanted to say, but sending Emily into apoplexy wasn’t really on her ‘to do’ list for this afternoon. “Yep,” she eventually lied. “No problem. One forty-five.”
Andy stared in dumfounded shock at the phone as the call disconnected.
Miranda. Here. At the Mirror.
In a conference room that had a bowl of Peppermint Toads in the middle of the table. The real ones. The ones that hopped in your stomach.
Miranda was coming to sit at that table. In a little more than an hour.
For a ‘meeting,’ whatever the fuck that meant.
“I am so effing screwed,” she told the ceiling with a deep sigh.
It was incredibly obvious that Miranda didn’t actually want to sit in the chair. She gave it a glare generally reserved for truly heinous crimes against nature, like opaque tights and lukewarm lattes.
The poor chair. It couldn’t help being plastic.
And it was the best Andy could do with an hour’s notice. So Miranda could suck it up and act like a fucking grownup for once as far as she was concerned.
“It’s clean and everything,” Andy said pointedly. “We interview the homeless in our other conference room.”
“I am not worried about sanitation,” Miranda retorted with an arch expression. “I am simply recalling our previous conversation about this place.”
She thought about it for a second. Could Miranda really be worried about...?
Stifling a laugh, Andy shook her head. “The chair’s not magical or anything. If you want, I’ll sit there. You can take my chair. It’s totally safe.”
“Nonsense,” she said stiffly. After a few more pauses of silence, she settled herself in the chair, tucking one ankle over the other and folding her hands in her lap.
It was absolutely hysterical that Miranda was trying to maintain the upper hand when she’d so completely lost it the second Andy figured out she was actually afraid of something as stupidly unlikely as a magical chair.
Okay, so she’d had a run-in herself with a hexed chair back in high school, but, really.
They blinked at each other for a little while. Now that Andy more or less had control of the situation, she wasn’t going to give it up by asking what Miranda was doing here. And Miranda... well, who the hell knew what went through her head anyway?
“You said your parents are... like you,” Miranda said abruptly into the silence. Andy resisted the urge to check her watch to see how long it had taken for her to speak.
“They’re wizards,” she answered with a short nod.
“How many people are...”
“You can say it,” she said, amused beyond reason. “It’s okay; remember that this is a halfer’s newspaper.”
“Wizards that live as Muggles,” Andy explained. “Like I was doing...”
Her turn for the veiled references. When I was at Runway was just too hard to say in front of Miranda.
“Ah. My question still stands, however.” Andy could almost picture a notebook and pen in Miranda’s hands. How incredibly surreal.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “There are lots of us, though. I’m sure there’s an average percentage of the population, but I have no clue what it is.”
“And you live as normal... as non...”
Andy took pity on Miranda yet again. “The word Muggle is kind of stupid-sounding, isn’t it?” she asked with a sympathetic smile.
Miranda winced. “Those books... how much is real?”
“Honestly? Not as much as you might think, in one way, and way more than should be, in another. It’s true that a kid wizard in England defeated an evil wizard not too long ago. The names have been changed and everything, but it really is just as much of a big deal as the books make it sound. And I haven’t read the last couple, but I know most of the events are pretty much fiction. The author... kind of went off on her own.”
What Andy was failing to mention was that the wizarding author had outsourced the writing of the last three books to a Muggle to make everything supposedly ‘more readable’ to a non-wizarding audience.
But Miranda wasn’t really asking about the nuances of publication. Probably, anyway.
“So the people in the books are... famous?”
“Sort of,” Andy said, lost in memories. “One of Ma -- of Harry’s teachers actually transferred over here after everything sorted itself out in England. He was my teacher at... hang on,” she said slowly, a horrible, horrible thought popping into her head. “Why are you asking?”
Miranda frowned. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
She was going to make her spell it out? Okay, then. “You run a magazine. A very successful magazine. That would stand to make a fortune on a story like this.”
The frown deepened. “Andrea...”
“Look,” Andy said, hating the desperate edge in her voice, “I have to be careful. I’ve never told anyone as much as I’ve told you over the last two days. What’s to keep you from...” Selling me down the river like you do to everyone else. But she caught herself in time. “Anyway. It’s a fair question.”
Miranda’s eyes narrowed, and Andy was kind of surprised to see hurt in them. “I did not realize you had such a low opinion of me, Andrea,” she said quietly.
Oh, shit. Guilt.
Lots and lots of guilt.
She needed to backpedal, and she needed to do it fast.
“I... I don’t,” she stammered, not knowing whether or not she was lying. “I just... I don’t know what to do here.”
“I don’t either,” Miranda admitted.
Which damn near made Andy topple off her chair in shock. It wasn’t terribly surprising that Miranda was just as much at a loss as she was, but it was surprising that Miranda would actually cop to it.
But ultimately useless.
“Everything I’ve been told my entire life makes me think it should be impossible for me to tell you anything at all,” Andy said with a shrug. “The Obs are supposed to show up when a wizard drops their guard.”
“The Obliviate Squad,” she elaborated. “Sort of like cops in a way, I guess. But they come in and make sure Muggles don’t remember anything they shouldn’t about wizards.”
Miranda’s brow furrowed. “Do they wear red stripes?”
All Andy could do was stare at her. “Yeah. Their robes have red stripes on the shoulder. Kind of like a badge or something. How on Earth do you know that?”
“I think I remember it,” Miranda told her, something like wonder written all over her face. “I think I’ve seen them before.”
Andy made a snap decision. “I need to find out what’s going on here,” she said. “Something is really, really wrong. You shouldn’t... I mean, this is crazy.”
Miranda didn’t say anything, but her lips pursed, which Andy took to mean, Tell me about it, sister. Or the Miranda-equivalent.
After a long pause (more staring and blinking at each other), Miranda abruptly stood. “I expect an update on this situation, Andrea.”
And before Andy could formulate a response, Miranda was gone, leaving her to gape at the empty chair.
Had Miranda just ordered her around like she was back at Runway?
Of course she did. Ordering people around was what Miranda did.
What was totally worse was that Andy was going to obey, like the good little assistant she had conditioned herself to be.
“Fucking Pavlov,” she grumbled, pulling out her cell to dial a familiar number.
“I could still be at a perfectly good long-lunch-date right now,” Luke said, sounding distinctly irritated. “I mean, we’re talking major ‘afternoon delight’ possibilities here. So make it good, Sack-of-Shit.”
“Okay, so you’re not allowed to say shit like that about my best friend when I know it’s my best friend you’re talking about,” Andy retorted.
“Tell my overeager libido that,” he said, sticking his tongue out at her for good measure.
She rolled her eyes. “What are you? Five?”
With a hand over his heart, he let out an affected sigh. “Ah, I live for these moments of witty banter. But as wonderful as this has been, my dear, I’m afraid I’m going to need you to get to the fucking point.”
“No more sex jokes?” she asked suspiciously.
He waggled his eyebrows at her. “Not from me, kitten. Now, spill.”
“Seriously, you’re, like, deranged,” she muttered, giving him a half-hearted glare. “Anyway, I have a kind of weird question for you.”
“If we were still in the witty-banter-stage of this meeting, I might make a casual dig regarding the fact that everything about you is kind of weird, but it’s probably best to press on,” he said companionably.
“How kind of you,” she said, voice grating with sarcasm. “So, I maybe, kind of told a Muggle that I’m a wizard and the Harry Potter books are real. And nothing happened.”
An eyebrow went up. “No Obs?”
“Not one. And what’s the worst part is the reason I told her is that she might have been Memory Charmed before, but she was starting to remember stuff.”
It went higher. “The Obliviate broke?”
“I guess,” she said with a shrug. “You’d know more about it than I do. But I wasn’t thinking straight, and maybe there was a part of me that figured the Obs would show up once I started talking, but then no one did, and now I’m kind of wondering what the deal is.”
“I’m only asking this in my professional capacity, but are you sure she was charmed?”
This was the part of the conversation Andy was not looking forward to. But there was nothing for it. “Um, yeah,” she said, looking down at her sensible work shoes. “Youweretheonewhodidit.”
He blinked. “Come again?”
“She just showed up at my door, asking about magic shoes and exploding coffeemakers, and she actually looked freaked out. Do you know what kind of heavy-duty shit has to happen before she’ll so much as make a sarcastic comment? I mean, if she started crying or something, I don’t know what would have happened. I had to tell her!” she almost wailed.
The tiny part of her brain that had retained its sense of reason was currently commanding her to crawl under the table and die of shame. She ignored it as best as she could.
It took a second, but she could tell the instant he got it. A big shit-eating grin spread across his face. “By chance, are you telling me that your buddy Miranda is the one you spilled the metaphorical beans to?”
She’s not my buddy. All she could muster was a miserable nod.
“Oh, this is too fucking rich,” he chortled. “You have no idea what’s going on, do you?”
There was no response she could make that didn’t make her sound like an unending Emily-esque bitch.
“Of course you don’t,” he finally answered himself. “You always stuck to theory classes in college. Well, let me give you some practical enlightenment, Sack-of-Shit. There are some people that just aren’t wired for Memory Charms. When they fail -- and they almost always will -- a risk-assessment study is conducted by MBI Aurors.”
“What do you mean, risk-assessment study?” she echoed suspiciously.
“Sweet Jesus, did you just effing sleep through your Defense classes?”
She folded her arms over her chest in a defensive gesture. “Okay, now, could we please quit playing Who’s-Dumber-Than-Who? I was on the operative track, and you damn well know it. They don’t give a fuck about teaching bureaucracy to ops. So quit giving me shit about stuff that isn’t my fault.”
“I just relish the opportunity to hold knowledge over your head,” he said with a smirk. “But all right, kiddo. We’ll play it your way for now. Risk for exposure must be assessed and quantified in the event that the usual protections won’t work. Sometimes incarceration is possible, but often, termination is the only answer.”
Andy bit back the involuntary whimper with only limited success. “Oh, no.”
His nod was solemn. “Oh, yes.”
“What have I done?” she breathed in horror.
But something far, far worse was only dimly dawning in her mind.
She had to tell Miranda what she’d done.
Her eyes slid shut. “I am so dead.”
“Well...” Luke drawled, sounding hatefully cheerful. “Not if the Aurors kill her first.”
Chapter 7: ...and the Mistake of a Lifetime by Hayseed
A/N: There's a passing reference to the Ricky Gervais Show in here, but if you miss it, that's cool.
Official Disclaimer: Still totally not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chapter Seven: ...and the Mistake of a Lifetime
How did you tell someone you’d probably just gotten them killed?
It wasn’t a problem a lot of people faced, in all likelihood. At least, not if ‘getting someone’ killed was literal, anyway. There wasn’t a whole lot of point in apologizing to a corpse.
Although, knowing Miranda Priestly, she’d return as a ghost just to haunt Andy out of sheer spite.
And Miranda was scary enough alive.
But on the other hand... scary wasn’t really the right word for it. Not any more.
Intimidating? Hell, yes. Forever and ever, amen.
Scary? Not so much. At least, not since she’d been exposed to the new-and-different vulnerable side of Miranda. Knowing that having weird dreams freaked her out and that she could worry about dumb things like magic chairs wasn’t scary as much as it was... endearing.
Really, even worse than whatever Miranda’s reaction would be was the mental image of Miranda’s unmoving body splayed on the floor of some nameless government office, dead because Andy couldn’t keep her damn mouth shut.
Those thoughts didn’t matter, though. Not now.
Not when she stood on the doorstep of Miranda’s townhouse, hand poised to ring the bell and stomach twisting itself into the Gordian knot.
Abruptly, the door swung open under her hand. For a split second, Andy thought about shouting in surprise, but when she met Miranda’s cool gaze regarding her from across the doorway, she settled for some rapid blinking and hyperventilating instead.
“You have an update,” Miranda said.
So something like ‘hello’ would be too prosaic for the likes of Miranda Priestly, huh.
Andy didn’t reply. Replying would suggest that Miranda had asked her a question, and she clearly hadn’t.
“Perhaps you should come inside,” she continued.
Still no questions.
As she stepped into the foyer, Andy couldn’t help but remember all the times she’d snuck in like a weird Runway-version of Santa Claus, leaving dry cleaning and the Book instead of candy and toys.
At least Santa got milk and cookies. What did Andy get? Insults about her intelligence and sly digs at her weight.
Being fashion-Santa sucked.
Without so much as a backward glance, Miranda sauntered toward the den. Feeling vaguely like she’d stepped back in time, Andy trailed in her wake like an obedient little lackey. Her right hand twitched, and it took her a second to realize it was looking for a pen and paper.
Goddamn but she hated this bullshit!
Why couldn’t Miranda treat her like... well, not like this. Like someone who mattered. Like someone who wasn’t her employee.
“Andrea?” Miranda asked quietly.
Andy realized that while Miranda had been settling herself, she’d been standing dumbly in the doorway, staring at the floor and trapped in a mental rant. She blushed and sat in the nearest chair.
Which was, in retrospect, possibly the least comfortable chair she’d ever sat on in her entire life.
Counting the chair Nate ‘made’ for her their junior year of college that consisted of a handful of milk crates haphazardly nailed together. She and Lily called it the Iron Maiden and used it as a victim when they practiced hexes.
Why would Miranda even own such a monstrosity?
It must be designed by someone incredibly famous. Or once owned by someone incredibly famous. Or once sat upon by someone incredibly--
“You have information,” Miranda said, snapping Andy out of her brief reverie.
“Well, um...” she hesitated.
Miranda rolled her eyes, and she could almost hear the How delightful.
Act your age, damn it, a voice whispered in the back of her head. You want Miranda to see you as more than an employee, you have to give her a reason to, stupid.
She cleared her throat and started again. “I spoke with one of my wizarding contacts, and he let me know that there’s likely an investigation pending.”
“Investigation?” she echoed smoothly.
“Yeah, uh, the MBI -- Magical Bureau of Information -- has to conduct an inquiry to make sure there’s no risk of... exposure.”
She really, really wished Miranda would stop that. It made her feel about six years old. “Well, what if someone found out about us?”
That didn’t sound right.
“Um, wizards, I mean,” she clarified hastily. “What if y -- a Muggle found out and couldn’t be trusted?”
“Yes, Andrea,” Miranda said, quirking an eyebrow. “What if that happened?”
It would be totally awesome if the floor opened up and swallowed her right about now.
Maybe someone knew a spell for that. Luke, maybe. He was used to humiliation, right?
“A... uh, a threat to national wizarding security would have to be taken care of,” she admitted grudgingly.
“How so?” Miranda snapped.
Andy gulped. “One of two ways,” she muttered.
“Allow me to guess,” she interrupted dryly. “They will give me the option of involuntarily spending the remainder of my life in their... protection, or they will use some sort of magical curse to render me unable to share any secrets I possess.”
“Well, I suppose you could kind of think of it that way,” Andy said, trying to sound thoughtful instead of despondent.
“Enlighten me, Andrea.”
“My contact told me that the two options were incarceration--“
A slight widening of the eyes. Someone who hadn’t spent almost a year trying to gauge Miranda’s moods might have missed it.
Andy hung her head in misery. “Termination,” she whispered.
There was a long pause.
A really long pause.
Entire civilizations rose and fell during the time it took them to sufficiently recover themselves to speak.
Surprisingly, Andy tried her voice out first. “Miranda,” she said softly, “I am so incredibly--“
“Don’t,” Miranda said in a harsh voice.
It was the closest thing to a shout that Andy had ever heard come out of her mouth. She didn’t really know what to do; her hands fidgeted in her lap of their own accord, and she stared down at the tips of her shoes.
“You,” Miranda continued venomously.
“You are the most bothersome girl I have ever met,” she spat.
Well, that was a cue, if ever she’d heard one. Without a word -- speaking would only turn the tears brimming in her eyes into full-blown sobs -- Andy stepped into the open center of the room and Disapparated.
“This is such a freaking mess, Bucks,” Andy sniffled, swiping at her wet cheeks with a tissue and giving her nose a hard blow for good measure. “I don’t know what to do.”
Bucky did not stop purring, and Andy took that to mean that she didn’t either.
“Miranda hates me. I mean, she really, really hates me. And who can blame her? I may have gotten her killed because I can’t keep my goddamn magic under control.”
Gently, without any malice, Bucky bit the side of Andy’s hand. Her teeth prickled against Andy’s skin, reminding her that the situation was far more complicated than that.
Of course it was. Complicated was, like, Andy’s middle name. Even stupidly simple stuff like going to the bathroom seemed hellishly more complicated these days. Everything that could go wrong generally did.
And she was sick of it.
“All I wanted to do was write for a newspaper,” she groaned, burying her face in the side of the sofa. “What the hell is wrong with me?”
Nothing. Bucky began kneading her claws on the fabric of Andy’s jeans. Except maybe a tendency toward melodrama.
She sighed. “I shouldn’t care about any of this, should I? What problem is it of mine that Miranda happens to be one of five people in the entire world that has an intolerance toward Memory Charms? Maybe she really should be locked up or something.”
You don’t mean that.
“No, I don’t really mean it,” she agreed glumly, lifting her head and giving Bucky a watery smile. “But why the fuck not? If Emily was the one knocking on my door in fancy nightwear because of her weirdass dreams, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn her in.”
Whiskers trembling in a feline grin, Bucky let her tail twitch rhythmically against Andy’s knee. You don’t know?
Andy rolled her eyes. “No, I don’t know.”
An ear flicked dismissively. Humans. All the subtlety of a hammer.
“You know...” Andy drawled irritably. “Dry food really is cheaper than anything else. I should really start thinking about my budget. Because, honestly, what’s more important: rent or my stupid, smartass cat?”
Bucky’s eyes narrowed, and Andy figured she was in for a fresh set of scratches, but her cell started chirping abruptly, startling Bucky into jumping off her lap and scurrying under the couch.
“Chicken,” she told Bucky with an affectionate chuckle, picking her phone up and checking the display.
Huh. Not a number she recognized.
“Hello?” she asked cautiously.
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
She started counting. If she got to five and no one said anything, she was hanging up.
One. Two. Three. Four. Fi--
Okay, so she could have been knocked over by a fucking feather.
“Miranda?” she asked after a stunned pause. Why are you calling me? she wanted to say but didn’t. From your home? And why didn’t I know you had a home phone?
“I was angry earlier this evening.”
No shit. In the end, Andy didn’t reply; it was safer that way.
“When I am angry, I tend to say unreasonable things.”
It was a really, really good thing Miranda had called instead of coming over, because if she saw the incredulous look on Andy’s face right now, she’d probably get pissed all over again. “O-oh?” she managed to stammer.
“You are not bothersome.”
Something in the pit of her stomach went all tingly.
Miranda was apologizing to her. Or, trying to, anyway.
She decided to give her a break. “You have every right to be angry with me, Miranda.”
“It is not your fault, Andrea.”
Boy, she wished she’d had the presence of mind to record this call. She could listen to Miranda saying that one sentence over and over for hours.
Emily would never believe it had happened. Miranda giving a former employee the benefit of the doubt? Impossible.
“I would like for you to come to dinner tomorrow night,” Miranda said briskly. “As amends for my poor behavior. The girls will be out for the evening, so you would not be an inconvenience.”
“I--“ She wasn’t sure if she was going to say yes or no, because on the one hand, it meant being forced to spend at least two hours enduring Miranda.
But on the other hand, it meant getting to spend at least two hours with Miranda. She wasn’t quite sure how that had worked out to be a positive all of a sudden, but there it was.
It didn’t matter, though, because Miranda just plowed on. “I will expect you no later than seven-thirty, Andrea.”
“Oh-“ The phone clicked as Miranda hung up. “Kay.”
Andy stared at the little numbers blinking on her cell. “Bucky,” she said slowly, “I think I just got invited to socialize with Miranda Priestly.”
Bucky gave her a little mew and made her way back into Andy’s lap.
After idly scratching Bucky’s ears for a couple of minutes, a thought popped into her head. “Oh, fuck,” she said out loud. “What the hell do I wear?”
What Andy really should have worried about had nothing to do with clothes, and everything to do with... well, where to start?
The meal, maybe.
She knew Miranda had the metabolism of a hummingbird; she’d watched the woman tuck in to steak dinners that burly truckers called Spud would have backed away from. And that wasn’t all. A Starbucks a day does not do a damn thing to keep one’s weight under control, and if Miranda had a four-Starbucks-day, she was obviously trying to limit her caffeine intake.
So, of course, dinner in Miranda’s household would have sent Emily straight to the nearest toilet she could find.
Lasagna, oozing with ricotta and mozzarella. Salad, which could have been okay, but it was Caesar, which meant the dressing alone would have sent Emily into fat-induced seizures.
And the bread. The homemade Italian bread, fresh out of the oven, served with roasted garlic cloves that spread like butter.
If she’d been invited to dinner by anyone but Miranda “Pretty Girls Should Really Be a Size Two” Priestly, she would have loosened her belt to the next notch and dived in like she hadn’t eaten in a month.
But, no. Heaven on a plate had to be served to her at the house of the woman who called Andy fat so often that she didn’t even register it as an insult any more.
She picked sullenly at her food, hoping Miranda would abruptly be called away from the table long enough that Andy could actually get something to eat.
Even worse, there was a not-insignificant part of her that wanted Miranda to fall to the floor after she finished her next helping of lasagna, curled up in pain as she suffered the worst bout of indigestion she’d ever had.
Andy’s inner child was kind of on a roll tonight.
But if the food (or lack thereof, to be honest) was making her act like she was twelve years old and her dad had taken her wand away, the conversation was enough to send her back to her terrible-freaking-twos.
As in, there was no conversation.
For the last forty-five minutes, Andy had simply stared down at her (full) plate, listening to the clink of Miranda’s silverware against china.
It was surreal. Miranda had shown Andy in, offered her a glass of wine, and then proceeded to ignore her for the better part of an hour.
Isn’t she supposed to be amending her poor behavior? Andy thought pitifully to herself. The fragrant garlic swirled in her nose, and her stomach let loose a mortifying rumble.
Miranda swallowed a mouthful of salad. “Is dinner not to your liking, Andrea?”
Andy had never been asked a more loaded question in her entire life. “I... um, no! Of course not; it’s wonderful. I just...”
Head tilted down at just the right angle, Miranda gave her that skeptical look that always made her feel like gum on the bottom of Miranda’s Manolo.
Andy’s cheeks pinkened.
“Andrea,” Miranda sighed, all but rolling her eyes. “You are not fat. I would think you, better than anyone, understand the difference between the high standards established by the fashion community and those set by social mores.”
Blinking, she tried to sort out whether or not that was a compliment. In the end, she just picked up her fork and took a big, heavenly bite of lasagna. “Yes, Miranda,” she murmured, more out of habit than anything else.
“Besides,” she continued blandly, “it would not be unreasonable to assume that... your ilk have methods to maintain whatever standards they choose.”
Ilk? When did they step two hundred years back in time? Chasing her (wonderful, glorious, orgasmic) lasagna with a mouthful of wine, Andy chose to ignore the wording and answer the sentiment. “Well, um, I guess we do,” she agreed. “It’s called dieting and exercise.”
Miranda arched an eyebrow.
“Wizards aren’t all that different,” Andy told her with a faint smile. “Muggles seem to think that magic is sort of a cure-all, but in my experience, it causes a lot more problems than it fixes.”
“True,” she replied musingly. “I suppose that magic has not done me any favors either.”
If she had been sitting across the table from Lily, Luke, even Nate, that would have been her cue to crack a joke. But she wasn’t. After a long, expectant pause, she shoved almost an entire slice of bread in her mouth to avoid having to respond.
“Is this some magical etiquette of which I am unaware?” Miranda asked her, previously arched eyebrow rising even further. “No conversation while eating?”
For a horrible second, she choked. Inhaling in shock while halfway through chewing a two-inch thick piece of bread was not a good idea. Fortunately, she had the presence of mind to pull her napkin up to her nose as she hacked, so Miranda wouldn’t have to watch the worst of it.
And the only thing running through her head while she coughed was something along the lines of, was Miranda waiting for me to talk? Fuck, I wish I knew what I was doing!
“All right now?” Miranda asked calmly as Andy’s coughing morphed into gentle wheezing breaths.
Her hand went toward her wine glass, but she forced herself to pull it back. Probably not the best idea to pour alcoholic stuff down a throat that was already screaming in protest. “Yeah,” she said, taking a sip of water instead. “I just... never mind.”
“I think perhaps we’re finished eating,” Miranda said, letting it pass without comment. It was a good thing Andy didn’t have anything in her mouth; she would have choked again. “Coffee in the den?”
Boy, when Miranda invited someone to dinner, she didn’t do anything by halves, did she?
A silver service was already laid out on the coffee table. If Miranda had a housekeeper, Andy hadn’t seen her at any point, but then again, the coffee Miranda poured into her cup was steaming hot, so someone must have served it.
Maybe Miranda had house elves...
With a short laugh, Andy accepted a hot cup and dropped in a single lump of sugar.
“Yes?” Miranda asked, settling beside her on the sofa and taking a sip of the absolutely scalding hot coffee, somehow managing not to take the skin off her tongue.
Not nearly as brave, Andy settled for what she knew looked like idly running a finger around the rim but was really a gentle stirring spell. “Oh, nothing,” she said. “Just a private joke, I guess.”
Miranda was staring at her finger. “Andrea, are you...?”
Blushing slightly, Andy pulled the finger away, watching the little coffee whirlpool in her cup slow to a stop. “Sorry.”
“No...” she said, sounding very nearly dazed. “It’s... it is not my place to censor you, Andrea.”
Not any more. “I know it’s unsettling, though,” she replied. “I don’t want to...”
As she trailed off, they just stared at each other. Miranda’s eyes glittered in the dim light.
“This is ridiculous,” Miranda finally said without malice. “It should not be so difficult to have a simple discussion.”
With a wry grin, Andy decided it was now or never and took a hesitant drink from her cup. The tip of her tongue protested against the heat. “I’m not sure it’s all that simple.”
Miranda looked like she wanted to protest, but in the end, she just sighed. “You are possibly correct. No one has contacted me.”
She tilted her head, trying to figure out what the hell Miranda was talking about but desperately not wanting to ask. Another sip of coffee.
After a beat, Miranda all but huffed with impatience. “The wizard police you told me about,” she explained slowly. “I have not been waylaid by anyone wearing a strange bathrobe. Not outside of a photo shoot.”
Andy let out a surprised bray of laughter.
The eyebrow went up.
Her mouth snapped shut. Oh, no. What if it wasn’t a joke?
A corner of Miranda’s mouth curled. “Honestly, Andrea,” she drawled.
This was new. And different. And impossible.
Since when did Miranda Priestly tell jokes?
Better yet, since when did Miranda Priestly tell jokes within Andy’s range of hearing?
If she’d learned anything from her tenure at Runway, it was that there was a time and a place for everything. Except asking questions.
“I thought Jocelyn wasn’t allowed in the Closet without direct supervision any more,” she ventured cautiously.
“Nigel cannot be expected to keep rein on the girl 24-7,” Miranda retorted wryly.
“So, outside of bizarre fashion experiments that will hopefully never see the light of day...”
“Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred,” she agreed with a short nod. “Except, of course, self-stirring coffee, but I find myself becoming increasingly inured to the impossible in that respect.”
On impulse, Andy stretched her fingers toward her coffee cup again and gave them a neat little twirl. The coffee obediently leapt into the air and swirled into a complex pattern.
Miranda’s eyes widened, but she remained silent.
“I got lucky with that one,” she admitted, continuing to spin the liquid through the air. “About half of the time, it just splashes everywhere. Kind of depends on my concentration.”
She blinked, and the coffee slid back into the cup as neatly as if it had been poured. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you that. I’m capable of concentrating more than half the time.”
Instead of the usual smirk, Miranda offered her a genuine smile. It was prettier than Andy would have expected -- not threatening in the slightest. “I don’t doubt it, Andrea.”
“It’s something wizarding kids have to learn when they’re very young. American ones, anyway.”
Miranda didn’t say anything, which Andy took as her signal to elaborate.
“In other countries, wizards live more separately, but here in America, wizards and Muggles mix all the time without anyone knowing the difference. So when a kid starts showing magic, it’s really important that they learn concentration and control early on. Muggle kids get swimming lessons, wizarding kids get ‘don’t accidentally set your friends on fire’ lessons,” she said wryly.
With an elegant snort -- of course it was elegant; Miranda probably even bled elegantly -- she gave her head a gentle shake. “It is rather disturbing to hear you describe such... such a surreal situation as casually as you do.”
Andy thought about it before she answered. “I don’t know any other way,” she finally said. “I know why all the secrecy is necessary, but at the same time, there’s not a whole lot of point in talking about my life like a spy thriller.”
“Why is the secrecy necessary?” Miranda asked, kind of abruptly. Andy had been mentally preparing for more discussion about American-like-apple-pie-wizardry, and Miranda’s question kind of threw her off guard.
But really, it was more surprising it had taken Miranda this long to ask in the first place.
“Surely tolerance and acceptance are watchwords of the 21st century,” Miranda went on, apparently taking Andy’s surprised silence as confusion. “I would think that your--“ She caught herself, and Andy was absolutely stunned to see a faint blush graze her cheekbones. “That wizarding society would be progressing along much the same track as the rest of the world.”
With the tiniest of smirks (she couldn’t help it; she made Miranda Priestly blush), Andy just shrugged. “It’s a nice theory, but there’s about five thousand years of history working against it.”
Miranda quirked an eyebrow, and it was Andy’s turn to blush. Not as elegantly as Miranda, of course. Where Miranda’s cheeks turned a pretty pink, reminiscent of a little girl playing with her mother’s makeup, Andy’s whole face went as red as a tomato.
“Okay, so that could have come out better,” she admitted. “But one of the things they teach in history classes is that times may change, but human nature pretty much stays the same. At least when we’re dealing with stuff outside the realm of our understanding.”
Something in Miranda’s posture became less defensive, and Andy took that to mean she was at least listening to her.
“What do you know about Egypt?”
Finishing off her coffee, Miranda took a moment to refill her cup before replying. “Pyramids, sand, lots of gold. Shall I continue?”
“The pharaohs were wizards,” she said, feeling breathless at telling all of this to a Muggle and somehow expecting Luke to come exploding into the room to erase her memory, take her magic, and kick her in the shin for good measure. “Ancient Egypt’s entire religious network is based on what pretty much comes down to wizard-worship.”
“And then?” Miranda turned so that she was almost reclining on the sofa arm, her knee brushing against Andy’s thigh.
Boy, she thought she was blushing before. She tried to concentrate on what she was saying, and not on the tingling sensation the brief contact had caused. “Well, inbreeding isn’t any better for magic than it is for other stuff. Basically, the Egyptian civilization fell apart because the pharaohs and their generals lost their mojo, I guess you could say. Which wouldn’t have happened if wizards had just stayed out of it in the first place.”
“I fail to see how this explains the need for a conspiracy of silence in modern times,” she said archly.
“Worshipping it is just one response to the unknown,” Andy pointed out. “The other response is generally worse. At least for the outsiders, anyway. I’m sure you know what people did to witches for, oh, I guess about a thousand years or so.”
Miranda’s eyes widened ever-so-slightly.
“We generally figured out ways around burning,” she said quietly, head bowed, “and that’s how we survived. But technology has kind of caught up to and surpassed us. Superman may be able to stop speeding bullets, but wizards can’t. Well, not any differently than Muggles can. Which usually ends badly.” Andy tried to smile but mostly failed.
“I--“ Miranda started, but she closed her mouth almost as soon as she’d opened it.
“It’s not anyone’s fault,” she said. “Wizards suck at that kind of stuff as much as Muggles do. I mean, the Harry Potter books aren’t really fiction. Just like there are big parts of the Muggle population that couldn’t handle living with wizards, there are parts of the wizarding world that can’t deal with Muggles. Maybe the reason we keep everything so secret is because we’re busy enough with lunatics like... oh, what did the book call him? Voldemort?”
Slowly blinking, Miranda’s head dipped into a nod. “That makes a surprising deal of sense,” she said thoughtfully. “Although I must say that I did not expect an anthropology lesson, Andrea. You continue to... impress me.”
Something in her belly hummed with pleasure at the compliment. “I’ve been thinking about all that stuff lately,” she admitted. “Us versus them, you know?”
Maybe if Andy hadn’t possibly gotten Miranda a death sentence, maybe if they didn’t have Runway and everything it stood for standing between them like a stone wall; hell, maybe if they had shared more than one companionable meal together before...
Maybe then Andy could have continued. She might have told Miranda all about the insecurities she felt her entire life about having to hide so much of herself from the world, the lingering suspicion that wizards kept themselves isolated because the Muggles were right about everything, even her devastating failure as a halfer.
Instead, she shrugged and offered Miranda a small smile. “When I tried to tell a guy about being a witch a few weeks ago, he called me a freak. It’s kind of stuck with me.”
There was something in Miranda’s eyes Andy couldn’t quite put her finger on, but whatever it was, it made them shine a brilliant blue. “You know that’s not true, don’t you, Andrea?”
She shook her head self-deprecatingly. “Rationally, yes.”
“I will only say this once,” she told Andy, lips twitching downward in a slight frown. “If I have learned anything, it is that petty, small-minded people often refuse to recognize true worth... true beauty, even when it is right in front of them.”
Do not gape at Miranda Priestly like a fish. Do not gape at Miranda Priestly like a fish, even though she might have just called you beautiful.
Her eyes were tingling suspiciously.
Do not cry, you stupid bitch! If you ruin this moment by turning into a red-faced, sobbing snot-rag, you will never forgive yourself.
She could feel the tears pooling. This was so damn stupid!
But then, something amazing happened. No, something elegant happened.
A single tear broke free and slid down Andy’s right cheek. Andy Sachs, who most closely resembled a baboon’s ass when she cried, was currently tearing up as gracefully as a heroine from a Jane Austen novel.
Cecil-B-fucking-DeMille couldn’t have created a more cinematic crying scene.
Which was totally why she felt smooth, cool fingertips on her face.
Miranda couldn’t help touching her cheek, right? The moment was just too perfect. DeMille was calling for her close-up.
Yeah, that had to be it.
Because Miranda Priestly didn’t comfort former-employees-slash-girls-who-might-have-gotten-her-killed. That would be against the natural order.
She almost leaned into those fingertips but caught herself at the last second.
They stared at each other for a little while. Miranda’s hand was frozen mid-air, and Andy could feel the cold dampness around her rounded eyes.
What the hell did this possibly look like?
Miranda blinked, and the spell was broken. Her hand dropped back to her side, and Andy gave her cheeks a nervous swipe.
“Um, it’s getting pretty late, isn’t it?” Andy asked in a soft voice.
In reply, Miranda just nodded.
“Well, maybe I ought to go, then,” she said awkwardly, pushing herself off the sofa and wrapping her arms around her chest in what might have been a defensive posture. “Early morning and stuff.”
“Yes,” Miranda said hoarsely.
She lingered in the doorway, wondering what on Earth she should say.
“Thanks, I guess,” she finally settled on. “For supper and coffee and everything.”
“Yes,” Miranda repeated, sounding absolutely dazed. “You are very welcome, Andrea.”
As she made her way out of the house and down the steps, it felt like her heart was stuck somewhere in her throat, and she really, really didn’t want to think about why.
Chapter 8: ...and the Capital-D Decision by Hayseed
A/N: I have totally and completely ripped off Terry Pratchett in this chapter, because he is made of win.
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Chapter Eight: ...and the Capital-D Decision
“So... how was your date last night?”
Andy rolled her eyes. “For fuck’s sake, Lily, would you quit it?”
“Look, sweetie, you’re the one who called me up last night in a dead panic because you needed help picking an outfit to wear for dinner at La Priestly’s. If that’s not a date, I don’t know what is,” Lily replied in a saccharine voice.
She threw a pencil at Lily’s head, scowling when Lily managed to dodge it completely. “It was an invite to Miranda-effing-Priestly’s dinner table, Lils! Not an event you just wear any old thing to. We’re talking about a woman who owns shoes that probably cost more than your rent for a whole year.”
“Have intimate knowledge of her wardrobe, do you?” Lily smirked.
Flipping her laptop open, Andy began typing fiercely. “Okay, let me know when you’re done being six and can hold a rational conversation again.”
A long pause. Andy did not look up.
“Well, you have to admit, it’s all kind of strange,” Lily said slowly.
No reply. She had a deadline, Lily was in her way, and she didn’t need anyone confusing her any more than she was already.
“I mean, you freak out over all that Muggle shit, and you run screaming. But she all but comes after you, and you start trailing her around like a damn puppy. There’s no part of this that isn’t weird beyond all reason.”
“Are you done now?” Andy asked tightly, jabbing at keys so blindly she was sure she was mostly typing gibberish.
“Um... you’re going to break your keyboard if you don’t quit treating it like a punching bag?” But she sounded sheepish, and she was probably even smiling.
Andy finally looked up. Lily was smiling, and it was a sheepish, apologetic one. “Got any suggestions for alternate punching bags?” she asked, deadpan.
She grinned. “Luke’s not too busy this afternoon; you like kicking him around, don’t you?”
Raising her eyebrows, Andy closed her laptop. “I thought he was off-limits these days.”
“Hey...” Lily drawled with a shrug, “what’s the point of having a doting boyfriend if I can’t throw him under the bus every now and again?”
“And you think I’m weird?” she asked, eyebrows going higher.
“I didn’t say exactly that,” Lily hedged, holding up her hands in a defensive gesture, “just that the situation is weird. And it is. And that makes me worry about you, Andy.”
Lily was good at guilt trips. Although, she ought to be; she learned at the knee of a master. “Yeah, I know,” Andy admitted. “Believe me, I’m not sure what the hell is going on, either. I just...”
“Just what?” Lily asked gently.
“I can’t stand the thought of Miranda getting hurt,” she said, feeling her face redden.
“Well, they say acceptance is the first step,” Lily replied in a cheerful voice, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Now come on, let’s split before your security guy notices that I snuck in here.”
“I was kind of wondering how the hell you got in,” Andy said.
Lily’s answering grin was wolfish. Andy was well-acquainted with that grin; she usually saw it right before they got in hideous trouble for something. “Disillusionment Charms are wonderful, wonderful things,” she said. “I wanted to surprise you with lunch.”
“And yet, as surprised as I have been, I seem to see no lunch...”
“Funny thing about Disillusionment Charms,” Lily said. “Did you know they don’t really do anything to hide smell?”
Yes. Of course. Any idiot should remember that. Instead, Andy permitted herself a small smirk. “Continue...”
“So I had to ditch all that awesome Mexican takeout before I could get in your office,” she said with an airy wave. “You might want to avoid the elevator for a few days. Or alternately--“
“Since my office is on the fifth floor,” Andy interrupted good-naturedly.
“You could place a concerned citizen call to maintenance suggesting they check out the panel behind the emergency phone,” Lily continued without missing a beat.
She put her hands on her hips. “It totally wasn’t my fault! There was this guy, and he wouldn’t leave it alone. Every time I tried to get in the door, he was all, ‘I smell tacos. Who’s got tacos? If you don’t have tacos, then I’m under a spell.’ And I couldn’t put it in the trash, because the asshole actually searched the trash. I didn’t have a choice!”
“All you have to do to get in the building is call me,” she couldn’t help pointing out. “I let the security guard know you’re coming, and he lets you in. It’s a pretty simple process. I bet they’d even let you in with food.”
“You have no sense of adventure,” Lily complained. “Now, grab your coat. The hot dog cart awaits.”
“What happened to Mexican?” she asked, shooting for plaintive and winding up much closer to smug.
“I don’t get paid for three days, and I owe you an apology for backing you into a corner about your Miranda.”
Gracefully, she let the ‘your Miranda’ slide. “How about you let me apologize and treat you?”
“To my knowledge, you haven’t done anything wrong,” Lily said. “Lately.”
She grinned. “I’m sure that’ll change soon enough.”
“I wanted to check in and see if you’d heard anything,” Andy said as the door opened.
Miranda sighed. “Good evening, Andrea. Would you like to come in?”
She did and she didn’t. But, of course, once Miranda moved away from the door in obvious invitation, she was decided. “I really did just want to make sure everything was okay,” she said once the door was closed and she was standing in the foyer.
“As you see,” Miranda said with a quirked eyebrow.
Her nerve was faltering. “Yeah... uh, well... I don’t want to... that is, if you’re not...”
“The girls are at a concert. One of those boy groups everyone is so eager about.” Andy didn’t have to ask Miranda’s opinion; her tone said it all. “They are allowed to stay out until midnight as long as Roy and Cara accompany them for the duration.”
Andy tried for a smile. “I bet they were thrilled about that deal.”
“It was preferable to the alternative.” Suddenly, Miranda smirked. “I threatened to send Emily.”
Her lips formed a silent ‘o,’ unsure as to how to respond.
“I had to use her computer to send an email, and I happened to notice that she had a music program open. Let’s just say sending her to one of those concerts wouldn’t be the punishment it would be for... the rest of us.”
She couldn’t help it; she snorted. Emily, a closet Jonas Brothers (or whoever) fan? Yeah, she could see that. “So you’re telling me that they have no idea how easily they got off?”
Miranda chuckled and made her way through the house. Andy knew she was expected (invited?) to follow.
“I have lemonade,” Miranda told her as waved a hand toward a frosty silver pitcher sitting on a tray in the middle of the coffee table. “If you would care for some.”
Andy automatically moved toward the pitcher and began filling a glass.
“You might want to try it first, Andrea,” she said, eyeing the lemonade level with a raised eyebrow. “Nigel once drank an entire tumbler full at a soiree and ended up in my coat closet with one of the catering staff.”
After her glass was about half-full, Andy put the pitcher down and took a cautious sip. The whiskey burned all the way down to her stomach. “I can see why,” she said, trying really hard not to wheeze.
“To be fair, he was one of the more attractive waiters,” Miranda told her dryly. “But that’s no excuse for such poor discretion.”
Andy took another sip and remained silent, totally stumped as to what she could say in response to that kind of veiled insult that wouldn’t offend Miranda. She was pretty sure a little voice in her head muttered ‘Ugh,’ but that wasn’t too hard to ignore.
“Now, Andrea, that pleasantries are out of the way...”
Pleasantries? Like what? Well, maybe the ‘good evening’ counted.
“I must come straight to the point: why are you here?”
She almost choked on her lemonade. “Like I said,” she tried to say through a virtual cavalcade of coughs, “I wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
“I would assume you would know if it wasn’t,” Miranda said, putting a finger under her chin. “Unless, of course, the magical community reacts to breaches of security by only punishing one of two offenders?”
“Even in that highly unusual event, there is the not-insignificant matter of my children and their care if I should happen to disappear suddenly. It is entirely likely that such an issue would show up in one of the many fine New York newspapers.” She smiled, and it was that old unpleasant smile that always made a frisson of fear run up Andy’s spine. “I believe you are employed at such an organization?”
There was no point in trying to reply. Andy nodded miserably.
“It is, therefore, rather difficult to believe that you felt the need to physically check on my well-being, what with the various other resources at your disposal.”
“Ugh,” that little voice said again.
Except that it totally wasn’t in her head.
“I guess maybe it’s hard to believe unless I can actually see that everything’s fine,” Andy said slowly, turning her head as much as she dared in an effort to find the source of the little voice.
“Crivens!” it said in obvious disgust.
“Oh, no,” Andy sighed, realizing exactly what was going on.
Miranda blinked. “Andrea? Is there a problem?”
“Hang on a sec,” she said, continuing to scan the room, looking for suspiciously dark corners in particular.
A sudden, slight motion caught her eye, and she lunged, turning over the lemonade pitcher in the process.
“Gotcha, you sneaky little bastard!” Andy cried, holding the wriggling intruder up in the air, pinched firmly in between two fingers.
It (he?) squirmed frantically. “Ach, ye wicked hag, pickin’ on a wee beastie such like meself.”
“What the hell are you doing in here?” Andy asked, giving it a shake.
Kicking its legs in a defensive gesture, all that managed to happen was that it started spinning in the air slightly. “Waily, waily, waily,” it moaned. “M’innards all weakenin’ like. Do a bunty lad a favor, hag lass?”
“You totally didn’t answer my question,” she said. “Tell me what you’re doing here and maybe I can see my way to letting you go.”
He sighed. “Ships.”
She blinked. “What?”
“Ah’s figurin’ a grand hoose such as this-like would’ve ships bigger than those fasty-chines you bigjobs ride in. What with the grass in the back ‘n all. Nowhere else to feed ships on Big Island but like places.”
“You’re off a couple hundred miles, at least,” she said wryly once it’d clicked. “Most New Yorkers probably have never seen a real, live sheep before.”
“Pfteh,” he spat, giving Andy a pretty good idea of what he thought about sheep-ignorant New Yorkers. “Any chance o’ me’n offski, hag lass?”
“...Andrea?” came a very faint voice from all the way across the room.
Andy looked away from the creature; in her irritation, she’d forgotten all about the fact that she was standing in Miranda’s den, having a conversation with what Miranda probably thought was thin air. “Um, yes?” she asked hesitantly.
Miranda’s eyes were as round and huge as dinner plates, and she had a big splotch of lemonade on her blouse, soaking right through to the skin. She didn’t seem to care, though, because every ounce of attention she had was focused on the little blue man dangling in Andy’s hand. “Andrea... what... what is that?” she whispered, raising a trembling finger to point at the thing.
He grinned, revealing a mouthful of yellowing teeth. “Heya, bigjob!” he told Miranda, throwing in a cheery wave for good measure.
Miranda gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth.
Andy just rolled her eyes at the creature and shook him again. “Behave,” she said sharply. And then, shifting to a gentler tone of voice, she looked back up at Miranda. “This is one of the Nac Mac Feegle, or... I guess we might say Wee Free Men.”
“Name o’ No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy,” he said with a solemn hand over his chest. “Me kelda is auld Molly-May, down on t’other part o’ Big Island.”
“Feegle are, um...” She gave No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy a thoughtful look. “They’re renowned fighters.”
He puffed out his little chest. “Ah bin throwed out o’ all sorts o’ important places for usin’ ma heid. Pubs, mostly.”
“And drinkers,” Andy added with a grin. “And thieves. Mostly, they like stealing big things, but they also like--“
“Ship liniment,” No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy said hopefully. “Mebbe a wunnerful hag lass such o’ yourself can see her way to sharin’ a wee tipple?”
“If you’re really good, I’ve got some lemonade,” she said, giving his belly a small poke.
“Ach, rubbish-y bunty drink,” he said in a dismissive tone.
Andy frowned. “You be careful, No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy. My friend here knows lawyers, and she’s not afraid to write your name down.”
His eyes widened comically. “Waily, no! Ah dinnae mean it, hag lass. Ah’ll loove yer le-mon-aid. No lawyers!”
“What a strange... little person,” Miranda said. She hadn’t moved from her position on the sofa, but she wasn’t looking terrified any more, which was something, at least.
“Yeah, they’re a type of pixie.”
“Am not!” he interrupted indignantly. “We’s pictsies! Naught o’ that fairyin’ about wit’ wings for us.”
“All right,” Andy conceded. “Pictsies, then. Honestly, I didn’t think you’d seen him at first.”
Miranda blinked, taking in the wild red hair, bright blue skin, and rumpled tartan kilt. “He’s hard to miss, Andrea. Even at five inches tall.”
She smiled widely. “Yeah, but do you realize what that means?”
“Obviously not,” Miranda said, sounding vaguely offended.
“Magic isn’t like an on/off switch,” Andy explained. “That means you have enough magic to see magical creatures like Nac Mac Feegle.”
“Two hags?” No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy exclaimed in disgust. “Crivens!”
“You want to spend the rest of your death as a beetle?” Andy asked him in her most menacing voice.
He looked as thoughtful as a Nac Mac Feegle could. “Might be nice,” he eventually said. “Could get back that auld scunner Daft Wullie for teachin’ our gonnagle that one about knobs and staffs.”
Miranda chuckled at Andy’s look of dismay. “I’m not entirely certain what he just said, but I doubt it was what you wanted,” she said.
“I forget how pragmatic pictsies and things can get about magic,” Andy said. “Maybe I’ve spent too much time around Muggles lately.”
“Really.” Miranda’s voice was sharp and flat, and even No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy looked startled.
Andy almost took Miranda’s cold response as a sign that she and her weirdness were no longer welcome, but a good look at her expression instead told her that Miranda was actually hurt, not angry. “Of course,” she said quickly, “if I really meant that, I wouldn’t be annoying you by constantly hanging around on your doorstep, right?”
“Right.” Her reply was still flat, but her whole body relaxed.
“Disgustin!” No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy broke in, shaking his head.
“What?” Andy asked, offended.
“Shameful display,” he replied. “Ah ain’t never seen such a great pile o’ mushy stuff since that kelda from the Tall Island came over and all me brothers went stupid over her. Yeh shouldnae get so tiptoesies around each other. Ain’t nothin’ wrong aboot bigjob hags courtin’. ‘Cept mebbe the length o’ it, yeh ken.”
Andy’s mouth fell open, and a glance over at the sofa let her know that Miranda’s cheeks were flaming red.
“Enny-ways, even with yer kindness, Ah’ll be needin’ sommat else off ye,” No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy continued apologetically. “Auld Molly-May’ll give me a kickin’ if Ah only brung le-mon-aid. So if mebbe Ah could borrow, say, one o’ them electricky picture-thingsies, Ah’ll be on my way, and you hags can get down to the lovin’ business.”
He wriggled easily out of Andy’s grip, which made sense, given that her hands had pretty much stopped working by this point. As he scrabbled across the floor, Andy’s knees also decided to give out on her, and she went from standing to sitting without so much as a blink.
Wordlessly, she and Miranda watched the television lift itself off its cabinet. “Best o’ luck to yeh, bigjobs!” No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy said gleefully, picking up Andy’s partially full lemonade glass in one hand and supporting the whole flatscreen with the other.
With an equally cheerful ‘poof,’ he, the le-mon-aid, and the television were gone.
“I wonder if his clan gets cable,” Andy eventually said into the silence. “I just... what if they discover Braveheart?”
Miranda smiled thinly. “The world may never recover.”
They kept staring at each other, nervous smiles widening and turning into equally nervous laughter.
“I hope they don’t live anywhere near here,” Andy gasped between giggles. “Not a bar on the Upper East Side will be safe!”
“I just hope they really do prefer... what did he say? Sheep liniment to lemonade,” Miranda replied. “They can destroy bars all they like, as long as they stay away from my house.”
“Your grand hoose,” Andy reminded her, setting them both off again. “Full of ships.”
Before long, Andy was stretched out on the floor, holding her aching stomach in an effort to stop laughing, and Miranda was wiping tears out of her eyes.
“I must say, Andrea,” Miranda said, standing up and moving over toward her, “over the last two weeks, I’ve had nightmares, been given a potential death sentence, had a blouse ruined, and I’ve just now had a television stolen.” She stretched a hand down in clear invitation.
When Andy took it and let herself be pulled to her feet, she couldn’t help feeling a little shiver of pleasure. “Miranda, I’m--“
“If you apologize to me one more time, I’ll scream,” Miranda interrupted, not letting her hand go. “You silly girl, don’t you realize I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with you more than anyone I’ve ever known?”
“I... that’s good,” she finally said, trying to lighten the mood, “because there’s no way I can afford to replace your TV. Or probably even your shirt, for that matter.”
She smiled and took Miranda’s free hand in her own. “I know,” she said. “Believe me, I’ve spent the last two weeks wondering if I’m insane or if I’m finally not insane. I know.”
With a hesitant, almost child-like expression of wonder on her face, Miranda reached out to touch Andy’s cheek. “We’re both crazy, you know.”
“Absolutely barking mad,” Andy agreed, leaning into the touch with a grateful sigh.
“Oh, my God, girl, you did what?” Lily cried.
Andy shrugged and pulled a blue shirt off a hanger, contemplating its potential merits. “I went to Miranda’s, I said something brainless, she called me brainless, I caught a pixie, and then we made out for an hour.”
All but ripping the shirt out of her hands, Lily grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. “You’re going to explain. Now. In enough detail that I understand, but not so much that I need therapy. Got it?”
With a grin that she knew was stupidly happy, Andy dove back into her closet, searching for something that would match her skirt. “You might have been right about the date thing,” she conceded. “But to be fair, if you were, you were the only one who knew anything about it. Miranda and I were clueless until No-So-Wee-As-He-Was-On-Account-O-Growin Billy all but shouted at us.”
Lily blinked. “Come again?”
“The Nac Mac Feegle. He was looking in Miranda’s house for sheep, of all fucking things. But you know what was weird, Lily?”
“I would say that I could take my freaking pick, but you go right ahead, dearest,” Lily said sarcastically.
“Miranda could see him!” Andy was so excited that Lily’s decided lack of enthusiasm barely registered. “Isn’t that amazing? I mean, they told us in school about the magical spectrum, but I’ve never actually seen evidence of it before. It’s fascinating.”
“Yep, fascinating,” Lily echoed. “But how about we fast-forward to the making out thing.”
Another stupid, soppy smile. “It just... happened.”
“And it’s... you’re okay?” she asked in a careful voice.
Andy looked up from her sweater perusal in confusion. “What? Of course I’m okay. More than okay. When we’re together, all of the stupid, messed-up stuff about my life doesn’t feel nearly as stupid and messed up. She just... she’s okay with me, Lily, and I didn’t think I’d ever meet anyone who was.”
“It’s not that I’m not thrilled for you, Andy, baby, because I totally am,” Lily said. “But as your lifelong bestest friend, I’m contractually obligated to point out that less than twenty-four hours ago, Miranda Priestly was one of the biggest factors making your life feel stupid and messed up.”
She held her hands out in a helpless gesture. “I can’t explain it, Lily. I just... okay, in the wizarding world, it’s all about who’s more magical than who, and you and I both know what a stupid game that is.”
Lily’s mouth opened, but Andy knew exactly what she was going to say and cut her off.
“I know Luke’s not like that, dumbass, but that’s my point! I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t like that with me, and I damn near drove myself into exhaustion hiding everything from Nate, and you saw how well that ended.”
“Plus, Nate was a doorknob,” Lily said helpfully.
She sighed. “Yes, Nate was a doorknob. Moving on. She just... do you know what she did when I told her about being a wizard? She listened. Nothing like what they tell you to expect with Muggles. I never for a second thought she would tell anyone.”
“I haven’t felt so sure about anything in my entire life,” she said firmly. “The reason I’ve been freaking out lately is because I thought she hated me for getting her in trouble.”
“So you don’t think that any more?”
She grinned. “I thought you said you didn’t want to end up in therapy.”
“Uh-huh.” Lily was quiet for a few beats, clearly processing.
Abruptly, out of nowhere, she started to laugh.
In the middle of pulling a scooped sweater over her button-down, Andy scowled. “What?” she asked, trying to untangle one of the sleeves.
Still laughing, Lily reached over to help. “You have no idea what’s been going on, do you?”
She started straightening the collar of her shirt and making sure everything was aesthetically untucked and sloppy. “What the hell are you talking about, Lils?”
“The Obs... the reason they never showed up... you... she...” Lily broke into uncontrollable giggles.
“You’ve got two seconds before I either smack you or hex you,” Andy warned.
Clearing her throat a few times, Lily collected herself. “The magic that the Obs and MBI use to detect potential breaches is only effective when there’s no attraction. It wouldn’t make sense if you couldn’t ever tell your significant other about your magic. There’s an inquiry and everything, but it takes less than an hour.”
Andy mulled it over a few times before it actually hit home. “You mean... all that bullshit about the MBI was...” Her mouth fell open, remembering Luke’s amusement when he found out the one she’d told was Miranda. “I’m going to fucking kill your boyfriend, Lily. You mean he knew what was going on?”
Biting her lip, Lily nodded, eyes dancing with mirth.
She sighed. “Miranda can never know. Deal?”
“No problem,” Lily replied. “Although since I have no plans of meeting up with her any time soon, I don’t see how it’ll be an issue.”
Andy glanced at her watch. “You’d better Disapparate, then.”
Lily winced. “She’s coming here, isn’t she?”
“In about five minutes. And the woman is never less than five minutes early.”
As if on cue, there was a brisk knock at the door.
“So, Lils, are you in or out?” Andy asked, putting her hands on her hips.
With a scowl, Lily gave her a pat on the cheek. “You think you’re just the cutest thing in the world, don’t you?”
“Absolutely adorable,” she agreed, as she flounced toward the front door. “Everyone thinks so.”
Practically flinging the door open, she offered Miranda a wide, happy smile. “Hello.”
“Andrea,” Miranda all but purred.
With a deep blush, she stepped back from the door, allowing Miranda inside.
Almost immediately, Bucky came trailing into the room, wrapping herself around Miranda’s legs and meowing pathetically.
Andy scooped her up. “Bucks, we’ve had the no cat hair on designer clothes talk before. Chill out.”
“I don’t mind,” Miranda said mildly.
Bucky practically leapt out of Andy’s arms and resumed her weaving pattern. Miranda leaned down to pat her back, and Bucky’s purr doubled in volume.
“Hey, Andy, where’s... oh, hello,” Lily said, choosing her moment to leave the bedroom.
With an eyeroll at Lily’s absolute lack of decorum, Andy moved toward the couch. As Miranda followed her, she dropped her coat on the kitchen table as if an assistant was about to scurry out and hang it up.
“Miranda Priestly, meet Lily Cunningham. Lily, this is Miranda,” she said dryly.
Miranda just stared. “We’ve met.”
She gave Miranda a curious look.
“In my office,” Miranda clarified. “I don’t know why you were there, but you were. I remember you, and then a red light.”
“Oh...” Lily said awkwardly. “Huh. I’d forgotten all about that.”
“Shut up, Sachs,” Lily shot back. “It was your fault, anyway.”
As she settled herself on the couch, Miranda looked up at Andy with raised eyebrows.
“I’ll tell you later,” she promised hastily. It would be easier to soothe Miranda’s potential ire at being hexed if they were alone.
In a rare display of charity, Bucky further distracted Miranda by jumping into her lap and loudly demanding her attention. With a smirk, Miranda threaded her fingers through Bucky’s fur.
“Bucky always knows whose good side she needs to be on,” Lily said with obvious affection.
“Despite the fact that I’m the one who feeds her,” Andy pointed out in bemused frustration.
“Oh, please,” Lily said, rolling her eyes. “You two have been inseparable since she was a kitten. Don’t think I didn’t notice the ‘school is for humans, not cats,’ conversations you used to have with her when she tried to follow you onto the bus. And that was before I knew about magic.”
“Really?” Miranda asked, looking up from Bucky’s ears.
Lily grinned. “You wouldn’t believe what a little scamp Andy was. And Bucky always followed her everywhere, no matter what kind of trouble she got into. I have all kinds of embarrassing stories.”
“And I don’t?” Andy asked indignantly. “Fair’s fair, Lils.”
“Like Luke doesn’t already know what an awful kid I was,” Lily said with a dismissive wave. “I superglued half the boys in our graduating class to toilet seats in our first year at BHH. Including him.”
Andy let out a loud laugh. “I’d forgotten that. Most of them thought they’d been hexed because they didn’t know what superglue even was.”
“Although it never would have worked if you hadn’t cast that handy little spell to keep the glue fresh,” she continued thoughtlessly. “So, really, I guess I don’t deserve sole credit for that one.”
“Andrea?” Miranda asked, clearly amused.
“Well, I guess you had to hear it some time,” Andy said with a faux-sigh. “The illusion of perfection that I had worked so hard to build is broken, isn’t it?”
Miranda’s lips twitched. “Oh, yes. I’m afraid I see you in an entirely new light, Andrea.”
They held eye contact long enough that Lily had to eventually cough to get their attention. “I’m... um, I’m going to go somewhere else now,” she said with a smile. “Miranda, it was very nice to meet you. Bucky has an excellent sense of character.”
“Likewise, Lily,” Miranda said demurely. “I am sure we will have ample opportunities to get acquainted later.”
Lily’s smile widened. “I certainly hope so. Andy? I’ll catch you later, baby.”
“Later, Lily,” Andy said brightly.
As the door opened and closed, Miranda turned to Andy with an expectant air. “I believe you promised to explain why your best friend cast a spell on me several months ago?”
Nac Mac Feegle Primer
They are indeed pictsies, thrown out of Fairyland for possibly moral reasons but definitely for getting drunk and smashing up the place. They don’t exactly believe in the afterlife for the bizarre reason that they’re sure they’re already dead (and in heaven).
The clans only have one female, the kelda, who basically tells all the men what to do on account of she’s marginally smarter. The other clan member who might have an ounce of intellect is the gonnagle, or warrior poet. They write terrible songs in an effort to obliterate the enemy (the joke in the text is that a song title that often appears in Pratchett’s works is A Wizard’s Staff Has A Knob On The End).
Finally, nothing terrifies a Nac Mac Feegle more than a lawyer, threatening legal action. Many clans have banned reading and writing, but some have decided that the best way to beat the lawyers is to join ‘em, with expectedly hilarious results. For more, read Wee Free Men and its two sequels. They also feature Granny Weatherwax, the Coolest Witch Evar!
Epilogue: ...and the Requisite Happy Ending by Hayseed
A/N: If JKR has taught us anything, it's that no story is complete without a super-sweet, sticky epilogue. Bring on the sugar shock -- diabetics beware!
Official Disclaimer: For the last time (ha!), nothing you read below is mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Epilogue: ...and the Requisite Happy Ending
(back to ‘present day’)
“Can Carrie and I go to the park?” Cassidy asked with a beseeching air. “I want to try out my new board. We’ll be super careful, and if I see any ice at all, I promise I won’t get on the ramps.”
“Wear a helmet,” Miranda said with a sigh.
As soon as Cassidy scampered out of the room, Miranda fixed Andy with a baleful glare. “A skateboard?” she asked venomously. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“I gave her a helmet and pads and everything with it,” Andy said. “And you saw how tightly she hugged me. She’s been wanting a skateboard for ages.”
“If she breaks her neck, I’m blaming you.”
“Miranda, she won’t break her neck. Caroline and Cassidy are smart girls; they know how to be safe.”
With a sad expression, Miranda resumed shoving bits of wrapping paper into a garbage bag. “I know I can’t keep them under glass, but a part of me wants to.”
Andy dropped her handful of wire ribbon and wrapped an arm around Miranda’s shoulders. “I can’t pretend to know what it’s like,” she said quietly. “But I want to help you. And I’m sorry about the skateboard; I didn’t think it would upset you.”
Miranda turned in Andy’s embrace. “There’s no need to apologize,” she said into Andy’s shoulder. “It’s a good thing. It’s what she wanted, and I need to learn to let her have her own opinions. Caroline as well.”
Andy grinned. “As long as you’re willing to keep that kid in piano lessons, I think she’ll be happy for the rest of her life.”
“I don’t know where she gets her ability. Her father was absolutely tone deaf.”
“Um-hmm,” Andy hummed, thinking of the one and only time she caught Miranda singing in the shower. It sounded about like Bucky caught in a storm drain, howling her head off. Not, of course, that she would say such a thing to Miranda’s face.
Drawing out of Andy’s arms slightly, Miranda gave her a mild glare. “I know you’re thinking it, Andrea. You might as well just say it.”
“Thinking what?” Andy said innocently. “About how absolutely gorgeous you are? All the time.”
“Nice try,” Miranda replied, stepping away and picking up the trash bag again. “When are they coming over?”
“She said one. You know how Lily gets about Christmas, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if--“
The doorbell rang.
“Well, hey,” Andy said, smiling widely. “Speak of the devil. Devils.”
“We’re leaving now!” Cassidy cried as she came barreling through the den, Caroline hot on her heels. They both had helmets strapped to their heads, Cassidy was carrying her new skateboard, Caroline had a battered pair of rollerblades, and they were both grinning ear-to-ear.
“You have your phone?” Miranda called in their wake.
“Yeah!” Caroline’s voice floated back. “Oh, hi, Lily, Luke.”
“Gosh, Jack’s gotten really big,” Cassidy said. “We’ll be back later. I got a skateboard.”
Obviously, someone said something that didn’t carry through the house.
“Yeah, Andy can be pretty cool sometimes,” Cassidy said in reply to whatever it was, causing Andy to chuckle and Miranda to give her a wry look. “Anyway, bye!”
The door slammed, and Andy hoped Lily and Luke had the presence of mind to be on the correct side of it.
“Boy,” Lily said as they came into the den, “it’s kind of like getting caught in a whirlwind, isn’t it?”
“Just think,” Andy said playfully, coming over to exchange hugs and to take the dozing Jack out of his mother’s arms. “One day, yours will be their age.”
“I’m hoping he skips adolescence entirely,” Luke said, leaning forward to plant a kiss on Miranda’s cheek. “Stephenson men often have what is kindly referred to as an ‘awkward’ period as teenagers.”
“Yeah, maybe you’ll grow out of yours some day,” Lily told him with a playful nudge.
He rolled his eyes. “Remind me again why I proposed to you.”
“Imperius,” Lily replied promptly.
Shaking her head, Andy made her way over to the sofa, arranging Jack in her lap as she sat down. “There’s no hope for you, is there, kiddo? If only one of your parents was crazy, you might have a shot. But both of them?”
Miranda sat beside them and looked over Jack with an intensity she usually reserved for the Book. “Cassidy was right; he’s growing like a weed.”
“And his powers are starting to flare,” Lily said. “Yesterday when I went in to wake him up, all of his toys were floating mid-air.”
“Two’s pretty young for that stuff to start,” Andy said, giving him a little cuddle. “How’s he going to control it?”
“We’re working on it,” Luke said. “Between my parents and yours, Andy, we should manage to at least construct some shields for him if nothing else works.”
“Well, that’s good,” she replied. “It would be awkward to have to play big bad Obs man to your own son.”
He shrugged. “I’ve done worse. And I know for a fact Jack would never do something as stupid as... oh, let’s say, blow up a coffee machine in full view of half-a-dozen Muggles.”
“Fu--“ She looked down at the sleeping boy in her arms. “Screw you,” she snarled, catching herself in time. “That wasn’t my fault.”
“It never is, is it, Sack-of-Sh--“ Lily jabbed an elbow in his side. “Tuff.”
Lily laughed. “How funny is it that Jack thinks ‘sh-tuff’ is a swear word? A couple of weeks ago, we were at the park, and he fell down in the grass, looked down at the stains on his knees, and shouted Sh-tuff at the top of his lungs.”
“Better than the alternative, right?” Luke said with a shrug.
“Poor kid,” Andy said, brushing hair out of Jack’s eyes. “You’re going to be the weirdest one in kindergarten, and it won’t be your fault at all.”
“Are you speaking from experience, Andrea?” Miranda asked slyly.
“We’re not going to answer that, are we?” Andy asked Jack, deliberately not looking up. “Of course we’re not, smart boy.”
“Although,” Miranda continued, “I cannot count the number of calls I received when the girls were in kindergarten. Apparently, Caroline quite enjoyed the flavor of paste.”
“Every class has a paste-eating kid,” Luke said with a sage nod.
Miranda sighed. “As the parent of a ‘paste-eating kid,’ I can tell you that it causes a fair number of digestive problems. Not to mention that whenever a child would tease Caroline about it, Cassidy would always leap to her defense. I had as many calls about Cassidy’s fights as I did about Caroline’s... food choices.”
Lily smiled. “I don’t have to tell you how awesome your kids are, Miranda, but I have to say, it makes me feel better as a parent to know they had some bumps along the road growing up.”
Jack’s eyelashes fluttered slightly, and Andy pulled him up to something resembling a seated position. “Are you waking up, Jacky-boy?”
He grunted and shoved his fists into his eyes, rubbing fiercely. “Tired,” he muttered. “Santa early.”
“You should have seen him at five this morning,” Luke said fondly. “He was all but bouncing off the walls.”
Andy grinned. “I’m betting Lily had him all charged up about Christmas.”
“Hey,” Lily said defensively, “Christmas is the best holiday ever, and I will argue anyone into the ground that disagrees with me. I’m just instilling the proper Christmas spirit in my household.”
“All I’m saying is thanks for the invite, ladies,” Luke said in a serious tone, giving Andy and Miranda a very earnest smile. “If I had to watch A Christmas Story one more time, I was going to take a hammer to the television.”
“You would not,” Lily told him indignantly. “You love that TV.”
“Shoot your eye out,” Jack mumbled sleepily, nuzzling into Andy’s shoulder.
“Oh, my God,” Andy exclaimed in disbelief. “You’ve turned my godson into a Christmas zombie!”
“Christmas!” Jack said, perking up out of his stupor. “Got presents, Andy. Got presents?”
As he struggled out of her embrace to perch on the sofa between Andy and Miranda, she couldn’t help but smile down at him. “Yep, I got presents. What did you get?”
He furrowed his brow in concentration. “Bear. Box. Pid-shirt.”
Miranda looked over toward his parents. “What on Earth is a pid-shirt?”
In response, Lily glared at Luke. “I’m guessing,” she said dryly, “that he’s saying ‘stupid shirt.’ My mother sent clothes, and Luke wasn’t impressed. Repeatedly.”
“Come on,” Luke protested good-naturedly. “Who the he-heck gives a two-year-old clothes? That’s as bad as my horrible Aunt Bertha always giving me underwear for Christmas.”
Biting her lip, Andy turned her head to look at Miranda, who was doing a pretty good impression of a statue. Which meant she was on the verge of hysterics.
“And they were always the wrong size, too,” he complained. “What twelve-year-old wants underwear with Mickey Mouse on the butt?”
A snicker escaped from between Miranda’s tightly clamped lips, which nearly set Andy off, but she managed to rein herself in.
Jack looked delighted. “Funny!” he said, giggling and clapping his hands. “Funny Daddy.”
“I will say, kiddo, that your daddy is usually funny completely unintentionally,” Andy told him with a conspiratorial wink.
“Funny daddy,” Jack gurgled.
“Okay, Sachs,” Luke cried, frowning. “You, me, wands, midnight. You’re going down!”
“At least ten years of Defense classes together says otherwise, Lucas,” Andy replied sweetly.
Jack shook his head and crawled into Miranda’s lap. “Silly Andy,” he told her.
She nodded. “Absolutely, dearest. Andrea can be very silly.”
“Silly Andy. Funny daddy.”
Miranda smirked. “Lily, I would have no concerns about Jack’s progress in school if I were you. He’s a very astute young man.”
Lily returned her smirk. “I’ve trained him well. Haven’t I, sweetie?” she asked him.
With a beaming smile, Jack clapped his hands again. “Smart mama!”
Laughing delightedly at the crestfallen look on Luke’s face, Lily gave him a companionable pat. “So the kid knows which side his bread’s buttered on, eh, Lucas?”
“Maybe Santa didn’t mean to bring you all those toys,” Luke told Jack in a mock-stern tone. “Maybe I should ask him whether or not some of them should go back.”
“Smart daddy,” Jack said after a moment of obvious panic. “Smart daddy and smart mama.”
“And smart Jacky-boy, too,” Andy said, kind of impressed at his grasp of logic.
He put a finger to his lips and gave her a sly look, sliding over to her again. “Smart daddy. Smart mama. Silly Andy.”
Her mouth fell open. “Oh, so is that how it is?” She tickled his side until he shrieked with laughter. “Silly Andy, is it?”
“Yes!” he cried, squirming away from her tickling fingers. “Silly, silly, silly!”
“Oh, well...” she drawled, settling back against the sofa arm. “Maybe you’re right.”
“Aah!” he crowed, throwing himself on her, small fingers looking for any potentially ticklish spots.
“Uncle,” Andy said, laughing. “Uncle!”
He looked up into her eyes. “You give?”
She nodded. “I give.”
“All right.” He grinned and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek before scrambling back over to Miranda.
“Boy, I sure am glad we picked her for godmother,” Luke said after a fairly long pause. “Who needs playmates when your godmother is just a big ol’ kid herself?”
Andy sniffed. “Because I am a mature, responsible adult, Mr. Mickey Mouse Underpants, I will choose to let that insult slide.”
As Luke’s mouth opened to respond, Lily gave him a gentle nudge. “Just let it go, Luke. You won’t win.”
He sighed, but his mouth closed again.
“So, Andy,” Lily said with forced cheer. “Christmas dinner?”
“Oh, yeah,” Andy said, “we’ve got the full spread. I even managed to finagle Mom’s chocolate pie recipe.”
“Wow, I thought she’d take that one to her grave.”
She grinned. “I may have given her the impression that a very important food critic regularly dines at our table.”
“Andrea Sachs!” Lily exclaimed. “You big fat fibber, you.”
“Hey, Miranda is a very discriminating eater,” Andy said seriously.
Miranda rolled her eyes at the mention of her name. “Only when you cook, Andrea.”
“I can cook,” she protested.
With a laugh, Lily shook her head. “Only if scrambled eggs counts as a meal. Which it doesn’t.”
“I made the pie,” Miranda confided to a grinning Lily.
“Pie?” Jack asked hopefully. “Good pie?”
Miranda smiled. “I certainly hope so. I assume you like pie?”
He nodded vigorously and reached up to pat her cheek. “Pie!”
Andy gasped. “Miranda, your... your... oh, shit!”
Jack just laughed and patted her cheek again. “Pretty,” he said with a giggle. “Pretty, pretty, pretty.”
“What is it?” Miranda asked, going very still. There was a thud as Luke knocked his chair over in his haste to stand up.
Leaning over, Andy ran her fingers through Miranda’s hair. “Your hair,” she whispered in her ear. “It’s, um, it’s pink.”
She blanched. “Pink?”
“Can you fix it?”
“Lily’s better at that kind of thing than I am,” Andy said, giving her friend a significant look. “In fact, if I recall correctly, their first date ended with Luke having pink hair.”
“If it’s any consolation, Miranda, you look far better than I did,” Luke said apologetically.
Lily came over and picked up a lock of Miranda’s hair. “Um, Andy? I don’t know how to get rid of this,” she said with a sigh. “Jack didn’t use the standard hex, so I have no clue how to undo it.”
“Well, let me...” Andy ran her hands back through the pink hair, messing it up thoroughly. “I can feel the charm... maybe I can...”
“Mom?” twin voices exclaimed in horror.
You could’ve heard a pin drop. In Montana.
“Shit,” Jack said, offering the girls a bright smile.
With an appropriately maternal moan, Lily covered her face with a hand. “Thanks, Andy. I really appreciate that.”
“Could we maybe concentrate?” Miranda snapped.
“Um, girls?” Luke tried. “Maybe we should step into--“
“Lucas Stephenson!” Miranda exclaimed, cheeks turning scarlet with sudden fury. “You are not going to erase my daughters’ memories.”
“For the record, Miranda, I was only trying to give Andy some quiet to focus. I wasn’t going to do anything to the girls.”
“Do anything?” Caroline all but shouted. “Like what?”
“What the hell is going on here?” Cassidy shrieked. “What’s wrong with my mother?”
Andy gritted her teeth. “If you give me thirty seconds of quiet, Cass, I promise I can answer both those questions. But right now, I need you two to shut up so I don’t accidently hurt your mom. Okay?”
They fell silent.
After a few more moments of probing Miranda’s scalp, Andy felt comfortable enough to start. “Miranda, I’m only going to test some hair at the back. That way, I can make sure it’s going to work.”
“Fine,” she replied hoarsely.
Carefully, Andy grabbed a bit of hair and closed her eyes. Concentrating as hard as she could, she ran her fingers down the length of the hair.
“Did it work?”
With a silent prayer, Andy opened her eyes. “Yeah,” she breathed, unable to contain her sigh of relief.
Miranda’s eyes slid shut. “Thank God. I was not looking forward to explaining this at the office.”
Andy pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “You’re not quite out of the woods yet. Hang on.” This time, she wrapped her hands around Miranda’s whole head, touching as much hair as possible.
There was a gasp.
From one of the twins, probably.
When Andy opened her eyes, Miranda’s hair was mostly back to normal. A few more strokes and the few remaining pink streaks were gone. “Got it,” she said, sliding back onto the sofa to give Miranda a brief hug.
“Now, you and I are going to have a long talk, John Andrew Stephenson,” Lily said sternly, grabbing Jack and all but yanking him out of the room.
“Miranda, we are so, so sorry,” Luke said. “We didn’t--“
She flapped a hand at him. “No harm done, Lucas. Andrea and I have discussed the possibility of accidents like this before. It was only a matter of time, really.”
He offered her a tentative smile. “If Lily weren’t busy reaming out Jack, I’m sure she’d point out that at least you weren’t set on fire like she was.”
Andy rolled her eyes. “Come on, she’s not still milking that tired old story, is she? My dad put the fire out, and she was completely fine.”
“Fire?” Cassidy asked shrilly.
Blinking, Andy turned in her seat to stare at the girls, standing in the doorway with twin expressions of shock. She’d actually forgotten they were there.
Miranda smiled at them. “Come here, girls. I’m fine.” She opened her arms, and both girls all but catapulted themselves toward her.
“Are you really okay, Mom?”
“She didn’t hurt you, did she?”
“We told you she was dangerous--“
“But you didn’t believe us!”
“Caroline, Cassidy,” Miranda began slowly, “you’re going to have to listen to us without interrupting. Do you understand?”
Andy took that as her cue. “A couple of days ago, you said you thought I was a witch. Well, you weren’t completely wrong.”
Cassidy’s eyes widened. “I said--“
“Cassidy,” Miranda admonished in a gentle voice.
“The Harry Potter books are based on a true story,” Andy continued. “Hogwarts really exists, even though it’s called something else. Both of my parents are wizards, and I’m one, too. And so are Lily and Luke.”
“I’ve always known, sweethearts,” Miranda told them. “Andrea and I decided it would be best if you didn’t know for a little while. That way you could get to know each other without magic getting in the way.”
“So... you’re a witch?” Cassidy asked slowly. “Like, for real?”
Andy smiled. “For real.”
“Why did you work at Runway, then?” Caroline asked. “That seems kind of lame for a witch. Especially if you could be off, like--“
“Taming dragons or something,” Cassidy broke in.
“That answer may be longer than you want to hear,” Andy admitted. “Let’s just say that I was as interested in Muggles as you are in wizards.”
Caroline giggled and elbowed her sister. “Cass, did you hear what she said? She said Muggle.”
“Did you go to Hogwarts?”
She shook her head. “Nope. Lily, Luke, and I went to BHH. That’s Black Hills High. American wizards have their own schools.”
“Caro, maybe... hey, Andy--“
“Do you know Harry Potter?”
Over their heads, she and Miranda exchanged a wryly exasperated look. “Not personally,” she said, holding back a laugh with some effort. “But I’ll tell you something even your mom doesn’t know.”
Their eyes widened. “Really?”
“One of my professors in high school, my favorite professor, actually, was the basis for Professor Snape.”
Caroline’s nose wrinkled. “He was your favorite? But he was so nasty in the books.”
“Did he really have yellow teeth and everything?”
Andy laughed. “No, he looked pretty normal. A lot of stuff in the books is made up. But he was hard on us, just like Professor Snape was hard on Harry and everybody. He was my favorite because I learned more from him than anyone else.”
“Gosh...” Cassidy exclaimed.
“So,” Andy said awkwardly. “Has this convinced you that I’m an evil witch?”
“Are you kidding?” they asked in unison. “This is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to us,” Caroline said. “Well, apart from meeting Daniel Radcliffe.”
“And my skateboard is pretty awesome,” Cassidy said. “Although this is cooler. But not by much.”
They raced from the room, chattering so rapidly that Andy couldn’t make out a word.
Luke grinned at the empty doorway they’d just disappeared through. “I’m going to make sure Lily hasn’t scared Jacky to death,” he told them mildly, heading out through the same door, leaving Andy and Miranda to stare at each other.
“Well...” Miranda said quietly. “It’s been a busy day, hasn’t it?”
“Understatement of the century,” Andy replied with a short laugh. “But we survived.”
“I have always meant it,” Miranda told her all of a sudden.
Andy furrowed her brow in confusion.
“I still enjoy my time with you more than anyone else in the world,” she said. “Even with pink hair.”
“I love you,” Andy said impulsively. It wasn’t something they said often, but that made it even more valuable.
Miranda’s eyes sparkled. “So the Defense professor you’ve raved about so often is the prototype for this Snape character? And he was evil?”
Andy shrugged. “What can I say? I appreciate a challenge.”
“I will choose to take that as a compliment,” Miranda said haughtily.
“You should,” Andy said, leaning over for a kiss.
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