Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
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?”