I didn't like him. He hadn't spoken to me yet, but I knew. It was a gut instinct.
He swaggered around like everyone was watching him, and because he was walking like this, they were. He had his hair swept over to the side and a smarmy grin on his face. He flirted with the female staff, looking at them like they were all he wanted to talk to, while he bantered with the lads, slapping them on the back and laughing heartily at all their jokes.
I didn't like him because he was basically a male version of me.
"I see you've spotted Mr. Denn"
I tore my eyes away from the disgruntling scene I had been watching through the glass doors. A slim, slightly tired looking woman appeared beside me. She looked at him wearily. Mutual dislike usually led to a high-possibility of friendship, so first impressions were going well.
"You're Ms. Greengrass, from the WWC?"
I followed the woman into what I will kindly describe as a 'modest office'. The desk was pushed up against the filing cabinet, which was squished in between the shelving unit and the coat hanger. I cringed slightly when the door hit the chair on the way in. She gestured for me to take a seat.
"Ms. Greengrass, you are interviewing for the position as Mr. Denn's personal assistant. Obviously this is a very demanding job" She paused. "I assume you've seen the papers?"
By 'the papers', I assumed she was not talking about the Daily Prophet, considering she was a Muggle. It felt so odd, to be watching what I said and what I didn't. It was the first formal experience I had had in the Muggle world since I knew about the Wizarding one. And possibly the last, if I messed up in any way.
"No. I prefer reading novels"
Lie. She looked surprised, which immediately made me defensive. Did I not look like a girl who read books for fun? I didn't read for fun, but I still wanted to look like I potentially could. When Daphne had first told me about the interview, I played it all out in my head. Not the work, or the experience I would gain, or the people I would meet. No, I imagined the image I would have. I could be that girl, the street-smart, geek chic girl who waltzed into the board room and although she was only a personal assistant, she puts forward the solution to the problem that the other company members are left scratching their chins over. Or something like that. But I suppose that girl would read 'the papers', wouldn't she?
"Okay. Well, Mr. Denn has had some unwanted publicity these past couple of weeks. He has become some what of a joke in the media" She paused. "You are interviewing for the position I am currently filling"
I made an 'oh-really?' face.
"I just... need to pursue other opportunities"
Code for 'this job is more trouble than it's worth'. I knew he was trouble. Didn't I tell you I had a gut instinct?
"You have very good references. It says here you worked for two years in an advertising agency in Bath?"
"Yes, it was an interesting and rewarding experience that opened my mind to the world of advertising, but unfortunately I feel I have reached my full potential in that sector and wish to seek new and exciting opportunities"
The woman nodded approvingly, looking down at my CV again. Ha, this interview thing was easy. Daphne had being prepping me for the last week, or trying to at least. According to the WWC programme's rules, I was to have seven one-hour sessions with an experienced witch or wizard to develop my interviewing skills, and then had to pass a mock interview with the programme's director. I got through the week of prepping by not paying attention to anything Daphne said, and she eventually resorted to writing down a few fancy phrases for me to learn off so I could get by. Thankfully, I had a great memory, and passed the mock with flying colours. And it looked like the real thing was going the same way.
"So, tell me why you think you'd be suited to this job?"
I looked at the floor. I was quite happy to exclaim all the qualities I didn't have for the job, like how I wasn't very organised or conscientious or likeable, even. To be perfectly frank, I would be very offended if someone said I was suited to the job I was applying for. Assistant to the creative director of an advertising agency. Not exactly editor-in-chief of Witch Weekly. Or VOGUE.
"Well, I would say I'm determined and driven"
"Especially when it comes to my career"
"And I'm a good team-player. I work well with others and am happy to participate in team-work"
The interview continued steadily. I wasn't wowing her with my answers, but I wasn't making any inappropriate jokes either. It seemed to me that the result could go either way. Which, in my books, was a win.
"Okay, well thank you for coming in Ms. Greengrass. We will be in touch with WWC."
So that was that. I noticed the amount of lavish furnishings around the main office space, the modern, glass windows with a view of London city, the trendy orange upholstered sofas with expensive cashmere (I felt them) throws. What was up with my interviewer's mouse hole of an office?
I was contemplating all this as I pressed 0 for ground floor. My phone rang. It could only be two people. Daphne, checking up on how my interview went. Or the people who gave me the phone, WWC. All members of the programme got them, because they are 'an essential part of Muggle culture for this generation'. At least I was familiar with technology after growing up in the Muggle world. Some of my class were talking into the back and speaking to the buttons. Needless to say it was far too amusing for me to help them.
WWC. Wizarding World Careers. What a joke.
I mean, I could understand the idea behind it. Hogwarts destroyed, the Ministry of Magic in tatters, Gringotts verging on liquidation. They needed something to inspire hope in people, what better than a new training initiative for those just having left school? They needed something to keep us busy. There were simply no jobs available. The physical damage done during the Second Wizarding War required a lot of money to repair, which meant taxes. The Ministry was financially shaken as well, which meant job losses. So two years after the Battle of Hogwarts, WWC was created. Bring in newly graduated youths, train them up, send them out to the Muggle World.
Yes, I went from the Muggle World to the Wizarding World back to the Muggle World. But this time, I had an advantage, as seen when the mobile phones were introduced. Of course, I couldn't show this advantage, seeing as Astoria Greengrass was never part of the Muggle World. Even if Tegan Asher was.
"Hi Astoria, this is Callister McCabe from WWC"
I rolled my eyes. Callister McCabe was only a few years older, but he acted like he possessed the wisdom and knowledge that Dumbledore was known for. He was arrogant and not in an endearing way like myself. I could name few redeeming qualities that Callister had that made him suitable for his position at WWC. I don't think many people applied. People didn't want to work there. It probably wasn't a very well paid position and no one wanted to deal with a bunch of bored, hopeless youths in their late teens. But I personally believed that what turned people off was its association with the Muggle world, the fact that the training programme involved getting a job there. After all this, people were still scared.
"Callister, what do you want?"
I could nearly hear him wince through the phone.
"I think it's best you call me Mr. McCabe, Astoria. I know we have a past, but lets just keep things professional"
I shuddered. Our 'past' started and ended in my fourth year, his sixth year, of Hogwarts. It consisted of me saying yes to going with him to Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop in Hogsmeade one weekend, but later cancelling in favour of going to a party Dean Thomas was throwing. Thoughtfulness wasn't a quality I valued in my school years, mostly because it didn't go along with my life-style choices. Callister ended up back at the party, saw me with Dean Thomas, and left.
He then proceeded to say I had 'questionable moral values' and 'low self-esteem' to just about everyone. I responded by creating the rumour that he was actually a thirty-five year old man posing as a student to prey on young girls. Needless to say, we weren't the best of friends by the time he left school.
"How was the interview?" He didn't stop to let me answer. "Well, you know what they say, you get out of it what you put into it. Some people are naturally intelligent enough to get away with not doing any work, Astoria, but we're the lucky ones. You're just not in that category. Take Avia Wintours for example. She aced her interview with Barclays bank"
Avia Wintours was an annoyingly clever girl in the programme, who was in my year in Hogwarts. She was a Ravenclaw, obviously. She reminded me a lot of a girl I used to know in Hogwarts, pre-Astoria. I was Tegan Asher, rebel foster kid visiting Hogarts turned newly appointed witch in training. Her name was Hermione. We didn't speak after I became Astoria. But that mess of hair and annoying assurance of herself couldn't be forgotten.
"Apparently, they called her the most impressive mind of your generation. Wow, imagine. She beat out muggles, muggles who have studied business for years. She really is..."
I hung up. I decided a lecture in the morning is better than one now. I hailed a taxi and paid an unreasonable amount of money to be transported to my apartment. That was one thing about going back to the Muggle world. Things that we took for granted to be free, like travel, cost a ridiculously large of money amount here. I had only spent two years away from the Muggle world, and I had forgotten things like this.
In front of my apartment building, I began to fumble for my keys. Again, a task that I was used to completing with a flick of a wand and an utterance of a word. Finally I found them, beneath the outdated magazines and chewing gum wrappers in my Michael Korspell bag. I walked towards the door, suddenly noticing the figure on the steps in front of the door. He stood up once he saw me. He was wearing a long beige coat, like one a Burberry model would wear, and his blonde hair was tousled to the side. His bright blonde hair. I sighed.