If ever asked by someone on the street, Cho Chang, would say that no, she did not follow the teachings of Confucius or Buddha. She would say it slowly, disdain dripping from the extended vowel, deliberately thicken her brogue and wait for the embarrassment of assumption to flare on the questioner’s face. Then she’d give a tight smile when she was sure that she’d broken down the correlation between her eyes and her views on the workings of the universe and walk away.
If ever asked the same question by her mother, well, she was sure there was something to support the necessity of the white lie somewhere in one of the philosophies.
However, in this particular instance, she withheld her usual response, mostly due to shock. And a latent sense of self-preservation. She was fairly certain that Percy Weasley had somehow misspoken and she was willing to give the Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic the benefit of the doubt. Just this once.
“I’m sorry?” she asked, giving him the opportunity to backpedal while keeping an eye on the numbers above the lift doors, hoping they’d reach one of their floors before this became too uncomfortable.
“I only ask because some briefs the Minister has received from the Chinese Ministry don’t seem to be fairing well with the translation charms,” Percy continued, unaware of his snafu. “Confucius keeps coming up and I can’t for the life of me believe he has much to do with trade policy.”
“You want me to check the translation charms on the documents?” she asked, wondering why he couldn’t have led with that information.
“That is your job, is it not? Translation?”
“Yes, it is.” Her mother might say that her accent was atrocious, but she could read and write Mandarin well enough that the Ministry, such as it was these days, kept her on. It was hardly demanding work, but that left her attention open for her other, more covert occupation: mole.
“Very good. You’ll accompany me to my office, then? No time like the present.”
Cho nodded her assent just as the lift chimed, doors sliding open to reveal Percy’s floor. They both stepped out, Percy leading the way through the corridors until they reached an office that was further from the Minister’s own than Cho expected. From what she’d heard, she expected Percy to have a cot in the Minister’s office. Perhaps Thicknesse didn’t value Percy’s grovelling work ethic as much as previous Ministers?
“Please, come in,” Percy prompted, turning a key in the lock with one hand while waving away a flock of interoffice memos with the other. “It will be easier if you just look at them here.”
The office was sparse--just a desk, chair and coat rack. On the wall beside the window hung his Head Boy and Prefect honors. There were no pictures on the desk, just a row of quills, an inkwell, and a few carefully arranged stacks of parchment.
Cho, awkwardly aware of why there were no pictures--Fred and George had been quite vocal about their brother during D.A. meetings--thought it was an awfully depressing place to work. It was hard to believe this had been worth more to him than family.
“Here they are,” Percy tapped on a particular set of papers as he lowered himself into his chair. He sat straight, watching her expectantly.
Lacking a chair of her own, she leaned a hip against the desk and picked up the documents. She felt her eyebrows rise as she read the translation.
“You’re sure these are from the Ministry in China?” Cho asked, flipping past the translations to the attached originals. No, those definitely weren’t any better.
“I’m afraid you may be mistaken,” Cho demurred, looking at the strange language configurations that only came from translation charms. There was a reason the Ministry still hired living, breathing translators; the subtleties of another language were often lost even with the help of magic. She was certain this had not come from anyone fluent in Mandarin. “This was written in English then translated with a charm. And I highly doubt the Ministry there would send you what looks like every Confucius says joke ever. And a few new ones.”
“Excuse me?” The ginger squeaked and swiftly rose from his chair, all long limbs and elbows as he took the papers back from her. He flipped through them wildly, trying to find something to prove her wrong. “But I’ve been handling this correspondence for weeks! It was going to be my big-” He stopped mid-sentence, the whirlwind of panic and confusion draining out of him, leaving him solemn and deflated. He sank back down into his chair.
When he spoke again, his tone was resigned. “Can you find out who did this?”
Cho shook her head. She felt sorry for the man. Proud and overbearing as he might be, this was obviously a blow. “I’m a translator, not an investigator. Unless they left their names in the letters, I can’t help.”
But they both knew. There was no great mystery in who thought Percy Weasley deserved to be strung along for weeks with promises of a profitable trade agreement then let down with crude jokes.
He sighed. “Thank you for your assistance, Miss Chang. My apologies for taking you from your work.”
Nodding, Cho began to back out of the office, glad to be cut loose from the complicated ways of the Weasley family. Then she looked again at the bare, precisely grey office and the shock of ginger at its center. She’d seen that lost look before in the mirror, been in this depressing room. She’d lived there for months.
“Would you like a cup of tea?” she asked before she could talk herself out of it. “There’s a lovely place down the street. Muggle, but you can’t beat it.”
The surprise on his face was heartbreaking. You want to have tea with me?
“No, thank you. I don’t want to inconvenience you any further,” he replied softy, directing his words toward his desk rather than her.
She approached the him again, leaning over the desk to take his wrist. She felt him stiffen beneath her and tightened her grip so he couldn’t pull away.
“I was on my out.” She smiled softly. It was a lie, just another white one.
Buddha/Confucius/Merlin would forgive her.