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Tried and True

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"Kobe!" 

I wadded up a piece of paper and tossed it into the trash in my shared office. Absolutely no one applauded my efforts despite the fact that it was a perfect shot. There was even a little flair. Do Brits not appreciate flair? I didn't think their personalities were as dry as their food. I sighed, and kicked my feet up on my desk. Only the ticking of the clock and the occasional shuffling of paper filled the silence. It was suffocating. I was itching for something to do, something that didn't involve a pen and paper. 

Trying to keep my mind busy, I pulled out popcorn from my desk. It wasn't as good as way too buttery movie theater popcorn, but it filled the void. Passed the time. I only missed my mouth about half the time. Only when I decided to launch some at the red-headed man did he finally pay attention to me. 

"Would you stop?" He huffed, slamming his pen down on his desk. 

I flashed him a grin. "Oh good, you can talk. Man. You Brits are not as sociable as you'd like the world to think, huh?" 

"I'm trying to get work done," he replied, rolling his eyes. "Shouldn't you do the same?" 

I snorted, and brushed some papers off my desk. "Please. This isn't work. This is desk duty. Real work is out there, catching dark wizards. Bringing people to justice."

"Harry steps out for lunch and I get stuck with the bloody jabbering American," he muttered. I couldn't tell if he wanted me to hear or not. It wasn't exactly quiet. He turned to face me, raising an eyebrow. "Who are you anyway?" 

I feigned offense. "I've been here a whole-ass month and you still haven't learned my name?" 

His ears reddened, but he didn't say anything. 

I grinned. "That's okay. I haven't learned yours either, Red, nor your friend Glasses. We can wait for that pleasantry until we save each others lives in the line of work. Until then, you can call me...Superior. Since I am. Clearly." 

"How about jabbering American git?" He snapped. "Since you are. Clearly. And it's Ron."

I laughed. "Funny. You and I might get along after all."

"I doubt it, considering you don't know who Harry Potter is? The boy who lived? Who defeated Voldemort twice?" 

I rolled my eyes. "We're all alive, aren't we? I didn't exactly get a lot of news about Voldemort alright? Grindelwald's lingering cultists are a bit more of a concern in the States. But yeah. Y'all did a great job defeating him." 

Now his cheeks were red, a shade to compliment his hair. He turned away from me, refusing to indulge me any further. I frowned, and leaned back into my chair. Had I come on too strong? Maybe. My annoyance factor was dialed up high, but back home everyone loved that. Sure, MACUSA had strict regulations, but at least I could tease people, have a little bit of work-fun when I was actually in the office. Here, everyone was stiff as a board. Then again, maybe that was just because I was new. An outsider. No one here trusted me. If they could just give me the chance to prove myself instead of sitting here in the office all day, they'd see that I was the best damn Auror the Ministry could get. 

A deep longing ached in my chest. I missed home. Hard to believe how perfect my life had been a few months ago. Highest arrest record. Well on my way to becoming President of MACUSA. Found a venue for my wedding. That date had passed a few days ago. After all the death threats I received, we had to cancel the wedding. Indefinitely. I didn't know if I'd ever get to go back and see my fiance. It was becoming clear I had to think about starting a new life here, thinking of this as permanent and not temporary. And all because I had one attempt on my life! Scourers will always be out there, always looking to get rid of me because my parents were both No-Majs. 

I could still remember the day I was told about my relocation to the Ministry. I wasn't even allowed to go home for my things. My fiance, my friends, my family, they all found out by owl. None of them know where I went to, or what I was called. It was all for my own protection. As if my own skills weren't protection enough. Everyone knew my reputation, a reputation I worked my ass off to earn. That came with a lot of enemies. I knew it wasn't going to be a safe job, not with all the knowledge I'd gained. This was pointless. My time was more worth spent doing my job at home. 

Time ticked by slower than ever. Glasses, er Harry, came back an hour later. Barely paid me any attention. Judging from the fact that his wild hair was even more disheveled and his coat was not buttoned correctly, I guessed lunch was a little more than that. I tried to ignore the pain that struck my heart. I closed my eyes, and Nick's face flashed in my mind. I couldn't remember the last thing I said to him before I left for work that day. I kept telling myself it was "I love you," but I was pretty sure I just told him not to waste any more money on avocados. I knew for a fact that he was smiling at me the last time I saw him, one of those smiles that lit up his blue eyes like they were missing pieces of a summer-days sky. I relived that memory for hours. 

I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes. Everything was blurry. I swallowed over a lump in my throat and blinked away my tears. Ron happened to look over at me right then. I quickly wiped them from my face and flashed him a smile. 

"You kids know where a girl could get a drink?" I asked, masking my sorrow with a thick layer of obnoxious cheeriness. Hard to believe I'd made it through seven excruciating hours of mind-numbing desk work. "I've had a long day. Need to get wasted after...work."

Both of them gave me a concerned look, with just a sprinkle of pity. Just what every woman wants. I narrowed my eyes at them, waiting for an answer. When they didn't give one, I scrunched my nose and rolled my eyes. 

"Alright, I'll find one myself," I muttered. I grabbed my leather jacket and threw it on. "See you tomorrow, Red. Glasses." Halfway out the door, an idea popped in my mind. I turned around and poked my head into the office. "Hey, what's that place you're always talking about? The Three Broomsticks? Yeah, that's the place."

They exchanged a glance with each other, and nodded. I gave them another half-hearted smile before heading out.

I pulled a white beanie over my hair and wove my way through the crowded Ministry. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone. That led to conversation, which was the absolute last thing I wanted to do right now. I was Minnesotan. My whole life had been unfortunate small talk. Plus, I was about ready to burst into tears. Honestly, I hadn't really dealt with the fact that I'd left my entire life behind me. Simmering in anger about it had been my thing, because I thought I'd have at least received word from MACUSA by now. Now seemed like it was turning into forever. I wasn't ready to be here forever. 

I didn't know what to say when I stepped into the fireplace. I usually let out in the fireplace of a bakery a few blocks from my apartment since I wasn't personally connected to the floo network. Tonight, I decided I'd finally go to the Three Broomsticks. Seemed like the place to be. And if I needed to distract myself from my emotions that was probably my best option. 

It was fairly crowded when I hopped out of the fireplace. Almost enough to steal my breath away. Immediately, I regained my composure and headed for the bar. An older woman with unruly blonde hair pulled up on top of her head stood behind it, pouring drinks. She smiled at me when I approached. 

"You're new, aren't you?" She said, a knowing glint in her dark eyes. 

I nodded. "Yep. Please give me whatever's strongest. Firewhisky? Please tell me you have that over here."

The bartender smiled, and handed me a shot glass with steaming red liquid. "Don't get many Americans in here." 

"Yeah, well." I shrugged and downed the whisky. It burned my throat, but damn it felt good. "That's probably for the best."

She laughed. "Not if you're an example. You're always welcome here. I'm Rosmerta."

I downed a second shot and smiled at her. "You're going to regret saying that someday. Until then, please keep the alcohol coming." 

As the night wore on, buzzing filled my veins. At first, it was a comfort, an excuse to escape my thoughts. I chatted up just about anyone I could, not really comprehending what I was saying, only knowing that I was distracted. It wasn't until my sixth shot I began to feel ill. Roiling twisted my stomach around. The world spun. I headed for the door, using the table and strangers for balance. If I could just stare at my feet, make sure one was in front of the other, I would make it out fine. 

Before I knew it, I stumbled backwards, nearly tackling someone else to the ground. Someone familiar. I squinted as he caught me. 

"Oh, sorry Glasses. So not a good impression, huh? Whatever I've already impressed you at work. Or I totally would if Shacklebolt would give me a damn assignment. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Sorry for mowing you down. Super drunk." I pushed away from him, before he could respond. Instead, I reeled on the man I'd run into at the door. "Watch where you're going would you? You'd really hate to piss me off." 

He cocked his head, as if assessing me. I was doing the same myself. Objectively, he was incredibly attractive. Quite a chiseled jaw line. Matched his neat pale blonde hair. His calculating gray eyes bore into me.

"Yes, I'm sure I would," His voice was much warmer than I expected. Alluring. It didn't match his cold exterior at all. 

I swallowed back some bile. "Great. Now that that's covered. Glasses, Red, I don't know if you actually came here for me, but I'm gonna pretend you did, and I super appreciate it." 

With that, I raced out of the pub and turned down the nearest alley I could. The moment I stopped moving, I puked. Everything in my stomach came up, leaving me back down to two drinks buzzing in my veins. With the emptiness in my stomach, my memories flooded in place. I sat down, leaned my head against the cool wall and let my past take over me. I reached up to the chain around my neck. Dangling from it was my engagement ring, a simple beauty that brought me more joy than I could have imagined. I'd never been a materialist, but I'd do anything to keep the ring. 

"No," I murmured to myself. "I'd do anything to get back to you, Nick." 

Tears welled in my eyes. They rolled down my face hot and heavy as I rocked back and forth on my haunches. Sobs escaped my lips. I was finally here. I was finally breaking down. Probably not the healthiest way to deal with my situation, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to go home. 

I acted like a childish asshole to everyone here. And that had gotten me no friends, no work, no purpose. Nothing but painful memories and too much to drink.