Author's Chapter Notes:
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.”