Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device by: Hayseed (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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?”