I stare at the memo that lands upon my desk. It flops on its right side for a moment, like a dying fish, before it stills and I open it. It is from Alastor Moody, asking me to meet him in Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office at three this afternoon. I have just returned from lunch, so it is not too far off. I should have enough time to finish this stack of grueling parchment work. I am alone in the office today, so I have been able to get much done.
I make my way to the Auror’s floor and am admitted into Mr. Shacklebolt’s office shortly before three. Auror Moody is already, waiting for me. They motion for me to take a seat and as I do, I notice a large burlap sack on Shacklebolt’s desk. I cross my legs and settle into the seat, intrigued by what they could possibly be preparing to tell me. Moody waves his wand and the door closes behind me before he mutters what I am sure is a silencing charm. He then asks me for the memo and once I hand it over to him, he casts an incineration charm and destroys it.
“Ms. Chang, we have asked you to join us because of the loyalty and trustworthiness you showed during the last Wizarding War,” Shacklebolt begins. “I’ll cut to the business. We need your assistance and your expertise in the area of Portkeys.” He stops and looks to Moody before returning his gaze to me. “We suspect that an undercover team assigned to a top secret mission has gone missing.”
“Then why do you need my help here…why all the secrecy? Can’t you just assign this case to some of the investigative Aurors?” I ask.
“Because we know the team ran into foul play. One of our agents looked into the warehouse that was the last known location of the team and found evidence of a scuffle. Magical signature traces were found and registered. The agent also happened to discover fifteen Portkeys at the site,” Moody barks impatiently.
“Fifteen? At one site? That sounds like a trap or a cover-up job to me,” I chime in.
“Precisely Ms. Chang,” Shacklebolt continues. “The thing is, the team won’t be assumed to be missing for another few days, so the agent’s premature investigation into the matter was and is to remain, completely off-record. Besides, there are suspicions of a security breach on the Force, so the information we are telling you is more than classified, it doesn’t exist.”
“So you’ve broken procedure on a rogue Auror’s hunch that has proved true and now you need my help to figure out what’s up with the Portkeys?” I look from one man to the next, all the while Moody’s eye is buzzing in its socket. “This sounds fishy to me and I’m not sure I want to get involved.” I stop and weigh my words. “But if I don’t agree, you’ll Obliviate me, won’t you?”
They do not answer.
“Ms. Chang, the reason we have asked you for your assistance in particular is because you are a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and as such, we hope that we can trust you and count on your help.” Shacklebolt sits back after he finishes speaking, waiting for my response. Well, I certainly don’t want to be Obliviated. Besides, this must be a terribly serious situation if these two men are playing the Order of the Phoenix card with me. My decision to help them in this endeavor is made, but I will not commit until I feel that they have been completely forthright with me concerning all the information they have on this particular case. I lean forward.
“Well, gentlemen, you have my attention. Now tell me the rest of this story and I will tell you whether you need to Obliviate me or not.”
Tonight George has decided to teach me how to cook his mother’s Shepherd’s Pie
, a dish since, because of my cultural upbringing, I have only eaten out or during our days at Hogwarts. I have never prepared this dish before, nor have I ever eaten it at home, well, because Mā mī only cooks traditional Chinese dishes, not traditional English foods, like Mrs. Weasley.
“No, not beef, but roast lamb, that’s the meat you use in Shepherd’s Pie, if you use beef, it’s called Cottage Pie.” George enchants a knife that carves the fat from the roast lamb and begins to chop it finely. “Hey you, grab a carving knife. I’m not going to be the only one doing all the work tonight.” The sweet and aromatic smell of the lamb makes my mouth water as I begin to help George.
“This smells delicious; couldn’t we just eat it like this?”
“No!” He bats my hand from my mouth before I can sneak a taste. “That’s cheating! Luv, could you get the drained potatoes and start mashing them? The butter and cream are in the icebox.”
When I walk to the icebox and open it I notice that the contents are all marked with Fred’s, or George’s name, or twins.
“Hey…why do you have everything in here marked ‘Property of’?”
“Well,” he remarks casually, “That’s the way we’ve always done it since we were born. Everything that we have is either mine, Fred’s, or both of ours. It helps us keep things organized. Plus, I don’t end up wearing that git’s nasty pants. Mum started us doing it and it’s just stuck.”
“That makes sense,” I place the butter and cream on the counter and cast a charm that measures the ingredients and places the whole lot in a large mixing bowl. I stand close to the edge while I watch a potato masher begin to squash and mix the ingredients, mesmerized by the rhythm of the instrument.
Pounding, pounding, pounding, grinding, grinding, grinding.( Pounding, pounding, pounding, grinding, grinding, grindingCollapse )
“Let’s order take away,” he whispers.
Morning comes so early whenever I’m with George. I roll over and slip out of bed and when I look back, I see him sprawled diagonally across the mattress. I slip into the shirt he wore yesterday and find my knickers somewhere on the floor between the bed and the doorway. He is snoring quite loudly so I don’t think I will wake him if I sneak into the kitchen and fix us some breakfast.
Besides, I want to make him spam fried rice. I made a pot of rice last night that has been cooling in the icebox, so all the moisture should be evaporated. He had most of the ingredients the last time I checked.
But the kitchen is a mess. I think I will do a small bit of cleaning while I cook. I have to get some ironing done too before I go to work. I look toward George’s bedroom door…I don’t think the noise will wake him. A hippogriff could march through here and George would not wake up.
So I begin. I find my wand in my bag and in an instant, the dishes are collecting themselves and the sink is prepping for the wash. My next move is to charm the ironing board (where did they hide it…there it is) and soon my clothes for the day will be wrinkle-free, including my robes. I personally start collecting the ingredients required for the dish: one can of spam, two bunches green onions, fresh ginger, three eggs, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, some soy sauce, a little sesame oil…of course I made George shop for the basics at Jade Tower.
I charm a knife to do the chopping and slicing for me while I scramble and cook two of the eggs. The dirty dishes that were once strewn throughout the flat are well on their way to becoming clean and my now-ironed clothes drape themselves over the back of the sofa in the lounge.
When I turn around to gather the ingredients, I nearly scream. Standing in the doorway of the kitchen at the top of the stairs, looking right at me with a very serious expression, is a somewhat short, plump, older red-haired woman with a covered dish in her hands.
“Oh dear Merlin!” I exclaim as I quickly put down the bowl and spatula before I drop them. I make to dash out of sight as I am only wearing my knickers and one of George’s shirts (thank Merlin it covers me down past my bum) but then I realize there is nowhere to run and hide. So I can only stand in silence in front of this woman, who is obviously George’s mother, as the sound of the scrub brush scrapes over a dish in the sink behind me.
She stands for a moment, then puts the container down on the counter.
“Hello,” she begins. “I’m Bill’s…” she waits.
I shake my head.
“Charlie’s…” she asks.
Again I indicate no.
“Then I’m Fred’s…”
No, yet again.
“Oh thank goodness! I’m George’s mum.” She extends her hand to shake mine. “We were beginning to wonder about him, you know.” She stops to look around then back at me. “You seem to be very handy, what are you cooking?”
“Breakfast fried rice,” I say, unable to hide my nervousness.
“That sounds lovely. And your name is?”
“Cho, my name is Cho.” Gee, I’m sounding very intelligent right about now…
“Cho…Cho Chang? You were at Hogwarts with my sons.” I nod at her words. “Didn’t you…date Harry for a time?”
“I, I, er, well, yes. I guess you could say that.” So I am famous for blowing it with Harry Potter…that is nice to know…
“Oh dear, don’t let me keep you from what you’re doing.” She adds. “May I watch? I don’t know how to make this dish…what is it anyway…Oriental?”
“Chinese,” I glance to her as I put the onions and ginger in the sesame oil and then add the sliced and chopped bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. George’s mum, who tells me her name is Molly, asks me a few questions about the dish as I cook…and watches me like a falcon in the meantime. I cannot help but feel she is scrutinizing me through a pair of Omnioculars. I add the meat and cooked eggs and the remaining ingredients, including the rice and begin to stir. I take my wand and summon the soy sauce and the remaining raw scrambled egg and add them while I continue mixing the ingredients on the hot stove. Mrs. Weasley looks like she is taking mental notes as she asks me about the different ingredients. Without thinking, I magically charm the dishes to clean themselves as I go along and summon clean plates from the cabinets.
About the time the rice is finished and I banish the now cool iron and board to the kitchen cupboard, George walks around the corner, yawning, stretching, and wiping the sleep from his eyes.
“Cho, luv, why didn’t you wake me to help you?” then he stops, “Merlin save us Mum! What are you doing here?” He goes back to the bedroom at his mother's urging, as he is only in his boxers and he retrieves a pair of pajama bottoms before he quickly returns.
“Well, I’m learning how to cook Chinese-style from your, your, your Cho, here,” Mrs. Weasley smiles tightly and looks at George. I take the opportunity to serve the three of us while the rice is still warm and summon the hot tea kettle for green tea.
Yesterday when I got home from work (and a very long day it was) mà mi was in the back yard working in her garden. She had spent a great deal of time there; I could tell, because it looked as if she harvested a number of herbs she uses in her traditional dishes. I could not help but feel she timed it so she would be out there when I arrived home.
“Good evening, Mà mi,” I greeted her. I wanted to go upstairs to my flat, but I knew better. I have not been home very much in the past four weeks, so I have to spend time with my parents when the opportunity arises.
“Well hello, stranger! Who are you? I once had a daughter, but she does not come around very often anymore. Perhaps you have seen her? Her name is Cho?” Mà mi did not look up from her work and I knew she would not be happy until she spoke her peace to me.
“I have just been very…”
“Busy at work? Well then, daughter, that cannot be very good for you. When will you find time to get a man if you are always work, work, work? All work and no play make Cho a very boring girl.”
I knew what she was doing.
“Why you not answer your mother? Pray tell, daughter, are you perhaps, hiding something from your mother?” She asked and finally looked up from her project.
“Yes Mà mi, I believe you know I am. I have never been able to hide anything from you for long.” I sit on the ground next to her and pick up a pair of shears to cut Chinese parsley. “I think you might know what it is too, Mà mi.”
We work silently together for a few moments.
“I think you already have a man. I think he is the one who makes you busy, not your work.”
“You are right,” I told her; it was the truth.
“How long is this man with you?”
“A month now, Mà mi.”
“Where you meet him?” she plunged her little trowel into the earth.
“We were at school together. He was a year ahead of me.”
“He Ravenclaw? Like you?” Her small hands tilled the earth as she spoke.
“No, Mà mi, he is Gryffindor.”
“The snake house?” she looked up at me once more, “Because I no like the snake house at your school.”
“No, the lion house.”
“Oh,” she stopped and I could see her thinking, “Better for you if he Ravenclaw. Smarter that way.”
“He is smart,” I said as I handed her the aromatic leaves, “Just not Ravenclaw.”
“What his name?” There it was, the question I most dreaded. Once I told her his name she would know. She would know that he was not Chinese.
“His name is George. George Weasley.”
“Weasley, Mum. George Weasley, Weasley, Weasley.”
“Oh! You no have to yell! I hear you first time. George Wee-slee.”
We became quiet once more, and started working again. My mind was racing, turning over the silence between us. I knew what she was thinking. “He no Chinese; he bái rén.” But I did not, could not speak. I did not feel shame. How could I feel shame when it came to George? I knew Mà mi did not approve.
She collected her tools and herbs and stood as she dusted off the dirt and debris from her apron. Before she walked to the house she turned around and looked at me.
“Your father and I wish to extend an invitation to George Wee-slee,” she said. “Tell him to come to your parents’ house this Friday night for a small family dinner. That is when he will need to introduce himself to your father and me and request your father’s permission to see you.”
“Yes, Mà mi.” I bowed my head and looked at her tiny feet. Then she left.
The little bell on the door to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes jangles as I step through it. George is finishing up with his last customers, two pre-teen boys with a wicked look of mischief about them. George smiles and motions for me to go upstairs. After a few minutes he joins me as I sit on the sofa. He smiles and stares at me, as if trying to figure me out.
“You seem a bit preoccupied,” he announces as he tilts his head to the side. “Want to talk about it?” His puppy dog look is endearing and I find myself sliding close to him as he wraps his arms around me.
“Let’s run away together and stay away forever,” I whisper to him.
“That bad, huh?” He nuzzles my ear and squeezes me to him. “Feel better if you tell me, luv. I promise it will.” I pull back a bit and just look at his face, trying to figure out just exactly how I am going to tell him what happened between my mother and me yesterday evening as the sun was setting.
“I have some good news…and I have some bad news.”
“Dessert first, vegetables later,” he chuckles.
“George, I love you,” I whisper and after a couple of seconds George’s body goes completely ridged.
“Oh dear Merlin! You’re pregnant!”
“No…no, NO! Not anything like that!” I have to laugh a bit at his panic. “The good news is that we don’t have to hide and sneak around anymore.”
“I wasn’t aware that we were hiding and sneaking around. Oooooo…but that does sound like fun,” he says as he nibbles at my ear. “Let’s do play hide-and-seek.” He tugs me toward him again.
“Seriously though,” I reply as I push his chest, hoping to delay his enthusiasm. “The bad news is that my mum and dad know about us and they want to meet you.”
He freezes, and his face loses so much colour that his freckles seem darker on the palette of his skin.
“This Friday you are invited to come to my parents’ house for dinner…to meet them.” I really have no idea how to say the next part, so I guess I will just need to blurt it out. “And it is at that time when you will ask my father for his permission and my mother for her blessing concerning your courtship of their only daughter.”
George stares ahead at the dormant fireplace. Just stares. He’s going to run; I know it.
“I’m going to fuck it up, Cho. I just know it.” He releases me and sits with his hands on his head. “I’m going to royally fuck this one up.”
“No you won’t. Don’t worry. I don’t want to hear talk like that. You’re wonderful, George…and mum and dad are going to see that. Just be yourself.
“That’s what I’m afraid of…”
“Of course,” I begin as I lean forward and wrap my arms around him, “We could still run away and hide if you like…”
He sits up and turns to me. Then the smile slowly returns to his eyes.
“Actually,” he replies, “I think a game of hide-and-seek would be very nice.”
Our part of the Williamson case has been closed. With the discovery of Miles Bletchley’s body, dead in his flat, we were able to match his magical signature to that of the residual signature left on the illegal Portkeys used in the attack on the Auror and his family earlier this month. I feel that there is something we are overlooking in this investigation, but my wand is snapped, there is nothing else I can do to look into it anymore. Our part is over. The rest is up to MLES. I am glad to be done, but still...
Mà mi is growing suspicious. She is complaining that I am not at breakfast as often as I used to be. She keeps asking me why I am not coming to breakfast. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to put her off. Bà ba is silent, but mà mi; she is not. She cannot be silent. She has to know why.
“Why daughter, why are you gone from us so often now?”
I am not ready to tell her. Not ready for that argument. Not ready for the bái rén fight. So I cannot tell her, at least not yet. I don’t know which is more horrible to endure, mà mi’s constant nagging or bà ba’s silence.
They both know. I cannot hide it from them any longer. They both know.
And I am afraid that I have done George a grave injustice by not telling him. By not telling him what he needs to know about my culture and what is expected of any suitor by Chinese parents. I fear the moment he discovers exactly what he has gotten himself into, he will run. I would not blame him, especially when it comes to mà mi.
But I know that I must sit down and talk to him about this very soon. I will not be able to put mà mi off much longer; she will demand to meet him. And when she does, she will do everything in her power to intimidate him. It is her right...after all, she is my mother.
At the very least, I will know whether or not George truly loves me after I tell him. I only hope he understands.
I love you, George.
I have been saying it for two days now.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
And I do...I really do.
He stopped everything, all movement, when I spoke those words for the first time. Frozen, still. For a split second I thought he was going to drop me on the floor and
walk run away with his trousers down around his ankles.
But he did not.
Instead he became very, very gentle. Gentle in an extremely affected way...and I was incredibly ashamed.
I had said it. I had said it. And I could not take it back.
He reached down and cupped my face in his hand and lifted my chin, forcing me to look into his eyes. I wanted so very much to look away, but he would not allow it.
“I love you too, Cho,” his voice did not falter. Not once.
Nor did my smile upon hearing his reply.
And I have been smiling ever since.
I’m tired, just very tired. I am at the Ministry shortly after dawn (earlier than father even) and I haven’t been able to leave until well after sundown every day since Auror Williamson and his family were attacked over a week ago. We have been experimenting and trying to find magical signatures in the area of the man’s home and even though we are collecting a great deal of information, until we can pinpoint the signatures to one witch or wizard, we haven’t solved anything.
I’ve only been able to see George Weasley twice since our encounter over a week ago
. Both times he visited me at the Ministry while I was on break and we sat outside in the concealed patio and spoke...not of anything in particular. He brought me flowers on his second visit...
He talked of his business and his family and I chatted about my job in the Portkey Office (or what I could talk to him of when it comes to my job right now). He was very interested in the stories I had to tell him about the time I spent in Tibet working with his brother Charlie. Although he seemed a bit disappointed when I couldn’t tell him any embarrassing stories about his dragon hunter brother. I told George he would be the first person I spoke to if I ever recalled any.
I did not see George over the weekend either, even though I had the time off. He was too busy with his shop, as it is the busy summer season and he and his brother, Fred, are also preparing for the school rush next month. That’s all well, I slept most of the weekend anyway, trying to catch up after the overtime last week. I will Firecall him...
I hope he doesn’t get sick of my excuses and begin to think I am putting him off...so I decide to Firecall him.
“Hello, may I speak to George Weasley, please?” I ask into my fireplace. A familiar redhead pops his head into sight.
“Hallo, luv, this is George,” he replies and I am just a tiny bit wary of the smirk on his face. “How have you been doing?”
“Are you sure you’re George? Something seems off about you.”
“Of course I’m George. Who else would I be?” he says but before he can respond again I hear a man yelling in the background...
“FRED, YOU BLOODY WANKER! GET YOUR LYING ARSE AWAY FROM THE FIREPLACE!”
There is a slight scuffle and George finally appears in the flames. “Er, sorry, Cho, but my LOSER OF A TWIN BROTHER seems to think he can take advantage of you when I’m not looking.”I must admit, he is cute and rather funny. I need cute and funny in my sad and boring life right now.
Our conversation continues.
“I say, Cho, Fred and I were planning on having a gathering of friends, perhaps this Friday evening, to go out for drinks to celebrate something that is happening with our business, and I, er, I was wondering if you would like to be my date?”
“Of course, I'll go with you. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. But, just one request, please,” I begin.
“We won’t drink as much as we did that night. I promise,” he responds with a smile before I can finish my sentence.
But my conversation with George is interrupted as I feel the talons of an owl land on my bum and I jump with a fright, pulling my head from the green flames. I take the urgent message from the bird and notice George’s head pop into the flames as I open the letter.
“Hey, where’d you go, Cho?” he calls from the Fireplace.
“I got an urgent owl from work, George.” I read the note as he waits for my response. The letter is from Campbell Bullfinch, one of my co-workers, another of the Field Agents at the Portkey Office. It seems there has been a break in the Williamson case.
“George, I need to go. I have to go into work tonight. I’m sorry.”
“That’s fine, that’s fine. Are you alright? You seem a bit distressed... Nothing’s wrong, is there?” It’s so sweet of him to ask...
“No, just all the overtime I put in last week may be paying off,” I tell him.
“Just be careful, Cho. And Firecall or owl me if you need anything. Even just a cup of coffee, any time, Ok?” I’m going to just die of his sweetness!
“Even in the middle of the night?” I ask.
“Especially in the middle of the night!” He laughs as the fireplace goes dark.
Getting myself to work yesterday morning was no small task. A broken nose, an annoying foe, an unfair loss, an excessive amount of libation, and a rival-turned-lover
were too much not to experience some type of confusion in the morning
.Although he is kind of cute...and funny, Merlin, he's so effing funny. It makes me mad, how hilarious he is. Because I don't want to laugh at him and acknowledge his wit, but every other word that pops out of his mouth makes me want to belly-laugh out loud, something my mother might not approve of me doing, especially in public.
And he's not stupid; he might be a Gryffindor, but he's not stupid. He's more of an intellectual slob...
But he is talented...he fucked me like he was reading my mind the entire time. Oh dear Merlin, that was fan-bloody-tastic...
Does he deserve a second opportunity with me? If he plays his Exploding Snap cards right, he just might. And if he doesn't come sniffing back around, to Azkaban with him. Because he certainly will have left me with a thrilling memory of him.
Who am I trying to fool? Myself, actually. Trying to make myself feel better by justifying a one night stand that has me thinking about him when I should be focused on my work.
Work...this investigation couldn't have come at a more unwanted time. I usually throw myself into my work, but for some reason I can only make a half-hearted effort with it right now.
Parker made great progress in the Williamson case during the weekend. He narrowed the scope and signature of the spell used to make the Portkey used in the crime to a certain series of Charms. A series that Filius Flitwick began teaching to advanced Charms students during the 1995 school year at Hogwarts. The simplicity of the spell justified its teaching to sixth year Charms students to use in cases of extreme and life-threatening emergency. (You-Know-Who rose to power that year and Filius stood behind Headmaster Dumbledore in spite of that toad, Umbridge, constantly interrupting his Charms classes. And besides, my petite mentor may be tiny, but dangerous and threatening in his own cute and blustery way. "My dear Miss Chang, the body may be weak and small, but the spirit and the mind hold all the power...remember that always, my child."
) I'll have to Firecall Filius today and ask him when and to which classes he taught this group of spells. Then I will have to petition the Wizengamot for a warrant to get the Advanced Charms class rolls from those years from the Board of Governors for Hogwarts. A decade of classes to comb...but it is a start. Then I'll have to cross-reference likely suspects from the lists and profile anyone we believe could be possible of committing such a heinous offense.Could I please get a list of all Advanced Charms students who were sorted into Slytherin House, please? Thank you.
Now, if I could just stop thinking about George Weasley...
This is what I need.
The past few weeks have been getting progressively more difficult at work. The spike in illegal Portkey activity
(all requiring investigation), and now the attack on the Auror and his family
, have played into raising my own stress levels. (Not to mention what this time of the year makes me think back to...)
Mother and Father aren't going to accompany me to today's match. My team, the Dogs of Chinatown
will be visiting the Diagon Alley Dangleberries, a team comprised of old Gryffindors. The group is led by the infamous twin pranksters, Fred and George Weasley, who happen to jointly own a burgeoning joke shop in London's most well-known magical shopping district. I have to say, I do respect their abilities on the pitch as they are formidable Beaters. Today I will have my work cut out for me just staying on my broom with the two of them on the hunt.
But I'm not too terribly concerned. I need the adrenalin to help purge my system. I feel like I have five years worth of frustration built up inside...just dying to be released. Well, release
I will receive...
Damn it. Damn it. Damn it.
I did NOT need this right now. Thank Merlin Parker Chestnut is the one on call this weekend in the Field Agent office. Poor fellow, I just know he hasn't been able to go home yet this weekend. After what happened Friday night
it's safe to assume he's sleeping at the Ministry Portkey offices for the entire weekend. When I heard the news of the attack on the Auror and his family I contacted Parker to ask if he required assistance investigating the illegal Portkeys used in the crime. He said he didn't need any extra help, that the person or persons who created the Portkeys used in the crime were novices. He said the perpetrator(s) used naturally occurring elements that left magical signatures all over the crime scene.
Naturally occurring materials (that were once part of a living creature, such as feathers and shoe leather), or NOM's (as the Portkey Office refers to them), are the most basic and easiest to use of all the possible materials one could use to design Portkeys. Normally, someone who is not very well-trained will use these materials and the Portkeys created are not very reliable beyond a single use. As one grows in their mastery of designing Portkeys, they can use better and more reliable (and easier to conceal) materials. I am a Master Portkey Specialist and there are only seven of us in Great Britain...and all of us work for the Ministry. In fact, I am probably the only one under the age of fifty...like I said, it takes a long time to become a Master. It normally takes years to become a Master and those who are my age are still either a Portkey Apprentice, First Class, or, if they are lucky, Portkey Specialist, Novice Class. Even Marietta Edgecomb (whose mother heads the Floo Network Office) is still a Portkey Specialist, Journeyman, Second Class, and is unable to fully design and implement a Portkey on her own. Not until one reaches the Expert Classes are they able to even make the simplest Portkeys.
The only reason I am a Master is that I was lucky enough to have been taken under the wing of Albus Dumbledore and Filius Flitwick, two of the most prominent Portkey Masters in history. They taught me everything they knew about Portkeys during my last two years at Hogwarts and that gave me a huge head start on my peers who began working at the same time I did.
One of our most closely guarded secrets is how Masters can design Portkeys which are powerful enough and stable enough to transport large items or masses of people, which are normally the primary uses of Portkeys. The other primary use of Portkeys is for long distance travel and again, only a Master can weave the Spell Web necessary to accomplish this task. It is a long and exhaustive process, often taking days of Spell Work to make a Key 5
and above, which are used for these particular undertakings.
Even after designing the simplest Portkey, it can take days to recover from the process (unless the maker is Dumbledore or Flitwick, of course) and even longer for the larger Portkeys. In theory though, anyone could make a Portkey if they had the proper Spell Web (another closely guarded secret by the Master Class, although a few wizards have stumbled upon it). But the reliability and safety of such Portkeys would be suspect. It is quite a risk, because one's life could depend on the Portkey in question. Even if one has the proper Spell Web, it is nearly impossible to duplicate the effort if one isn't trained properly because of the volatile nature of the web (although most novices will try the same Spell Web over and over again...and fail).
That is why each Portkey is logged and tested for signature recognition by the Portkey Authority because each person who activates one will leave their magical signature on it whether it be in the web of spells used, in the material used, or in the design. The Portkey Authority has hidden charms in place all over England which will be able to tell when a Portkey is activated. If the Portkey is not at the site of the illegal activity, Field Agents will use charms to detect signature, make, and design quirks which each maker possesses. Then, after the Portkey is confirmed as illegal, Field Agents and personnel from other agencies will trace the user back to the source, and if that doesn't work, most non-Portkey Authority designers will leave their magical 'fingerprints' all over the Spell Web or the item used and then it is a simple matter to find them...and judging from Chestnut's response when I asked him if he needed my help, this case should be solved rather quickly.
One of the reason Portkeys are so guarded are situations just like this. Some neophyte gets hold of part of the Spell Web used in making Portkeys and they use it to commit crimes. Hopefully, we will get lucky and the next Portkey this bastard designs will become unstable and collapse during activation and use. I still don't understand why the perps even used Portkeys when Apparation would have worked just as well, but that is not my department, but for the Auror Force to figure out. Anyway, I am confident that before the designer will be able to make another Portkey, we will have him and his fellow perps in custody, depending on who touched the feather when it was activated.
Even though Parker insists he can handle the situation (and I know he can, he's got thirty year's experience on me and I've been working with Portkeys since Cedric died), I feel like I should go into work and help him. But that's just it: I don't want to. Shit, with the memories of Cedric sneaking up on me like they did the other day, I just have a difficult time when work involves investigating death. I'd much rather be tracking smugglers or poachers, not murderers. It's just too close.
Besides, I wanted to play some Quidditch this weekend...to get my mind off of everything that's been bothering me lately, including Cedric. (Damn it, that's three times I've thought of him in the past minute or so.) I've got to get out and do something
because I'm too young to be dealing with shit like this.
Tomorrow, Quidditch match...Quidditch, yeah, that will get my mind off of...things.
The rain finally broke during the day while I was working. The windows in the Portkey Field Agent Headquarters are charmed to reflect the current weather and not some silly reflection of a monsoon or earthquake.
I looked up from my desk piled high with paperwork and documentation of the illegal Portkeys we have been able to trace just as the weather broke and it dawned one me...
This past Friday, June 24th, was the fifth year anniversary of Cedric's death.
This year I entirely forgot him. I have never forgotten before. I cannot decide which pains me more, the fact that he's still gone or the fact that I forgot this year. I should be happy that my life is progressing, pleased that I can go for longer than a few days without an emotional breakdown.
But I'm not. I forgot...how could I do such a thing? Only a heartless person would forget...
"Cho, Cho? What's happened? You're crying," Campbell Bulfinch's hand touched my shoulder. "Are you not feeling well?"
I looked up at him with what I know was an expression of horror on my face. How could I do such a thing? Wicked, wicked witch that I am.
"Go home, Cho. You've been working too hard. You need to rest. Parker and I will handle things for the rest of the afternoon."
What Campbell said is what I knew to be best, although I also knew that if I went home I'd be alone in my little carriage house flat behind my parent's home. Alone to cry even more over a boy I hardly had the chance to know. Five years...
I silently gathered my knapsack and stood. "Thank you Campbell, Parker." I swallowed hard as I left the office, trying desperately to control my sadness, not wanting anyone to see me in that condition. I summoned the lift and since it was mid-day, the doors opened to reveal that it was thankfully empty. Even so, I stepped all the way in and stood with my back against the far wall.
I barely noticed the disembodied voice announcing each and every level or the memos flying aimlessly above me as I sank to the floor and wept.
I have been granted the rarity of a lazy Saturday afternoon and I take full advantage of it, sitting in my small flat, sipping green tea, and looking through some scrap books and memory books. I can hear the delicate tapping and hammering of my father downstairs as he works in his wood-shop creating little wooden animals. That's his hobby, crafting things from wood the Muggle way, with his hands. Only on occasion does he take advantage of his magical abilities to aid him in the creation of his statues. The sounds of his tinkering have been a source of comfort for me since I moved out of the main house to the carriage house in the backyard by the Oriental garden that is my mother's pride and joy. Father's workshop is downstairs from my flat.
I turn a page and am reminded of my school days...
I finished up at Hogwarts quietly, throwing myself into my studies and a myriad of Ravenclaw activities during my seventh year. The Ravenclaw Quidditch team photograph from that year catches my eye. I was Seeker again that year and shared the position of team co-captain with Roger Davies. Roger found it difficult to accept my rejections of his constant advances after Michael Corner and I broke up early that year. Michael was a rather overly serious and boring fellow and we didn't mix well. I like to be the more sober partner in my relationships, that's just the way things have always worked out for me. Plus, back then, I had this unbearably annoying tendency to burst into tears at the mention of Cedric's name. I made for a miserable girlfriend and soon decided that I needed to take a break from romantic relationships for a while. My sixth year encounter with Harry Potter is to this day the definition of disaster and well, no one seemed to be able to make me want to forget about Cedric, so moving along with my life solo seemed to be a wise choice.
The next photo I notice is my seventh year Ravenclaw house photo. Oh, look, there's the picture of Filius Flitwick I thought I had lost...
After Cedric Diggory was killed in part by the use of an illegal Portkey, I become obsessed with the particular charms that were involved with developing a Portkey. I worked in secret with Professor Flitwick (who is considered to be an authority on Portkeys, along with the late Headmaster Albus Dumbledore) to learn the intricate charm work necessary to master this precise craft. By the end of my seventh year, Professor Flitwick pronounced that I was one of the finest Portkey developers he had seen in all his years.
And here is my collection of Tutshill Tornadoes Qidditch game ticket stubs...
I was the happiest person in the world when the Tutshill Tornadoes offered me the position of back-up Seeker shortly after I left Hogwarts. But my parents, being very traditional Chinese parents, let me know in no uncertain terms that an athletic career would be unsuitable for someone of their daughter's intelligence and social stature. Not wanting to disappoint them, (after all, they fled Beijing, where my father was a touted educator, to protect me, their only child, after the student uprisings in 1989) I reluctantly succumbed to my parents' will and turned down my favorite team.
I didn't speak to my mother and father for nearly a year after that.
After my disappointment with the Tutshill Tornadoes, I ended up taking a job at the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Magical Transportation Portkey Authority. The mother of my Ravenclaw friend, Marietta Edgecomb, Madam Edgecomb, helped me make the proper connections within the Ministry in order to secure an interview. I like to think my intelligence and natural talent at charms landed me the job, at least, I hope so.
Here is a copy of the Daily Prophet announcing my achievement as Master Portkey Specialist...
"Miss Chang is extremely proficient in creating Portkeys and joined the Portkey Research and Development Section shortly after leaving Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She is able to accurately charm a number of never-before-used objects as Portkeys and more impressively, the accuracy of her Portkeys allows travelers to meet the point of arrival standards within six centimeters...a standard that won her the status as the youngest Master Portkey Specialist in history."
Back then I developed and improved upon several Portkey Theories, but soon found the work to be monotonous and tiring. The excitement of my past as a Seeker seemed to call out to me and the theoretical and research-based work in the Research & Development Section did not fulfill my adventurous needs.
I look like such a Ravenclaw geek in the picture next to the Daily Prophet article. Merlin save me, I'm even wearing a pair of glasses...
I wanted more out of life and after only six months in the R & D section, I asked for and was reluctantly granted a transfer to the Portkey Field Development and Investigation Section. That's where I was trained as a Field Agent. Field Agents are highly trained specialists who are masters of Portkey development. They are also trained in surveillance and infiltration techniques. Portkey Field Agents are trained in a number of advanced charm work spells and the defensive/offensive spells necessary to carry out their duties in dangerous situations. British Portkey Field Agents are seen as the best in the world. Often, Field Agents work in conjunction with the British Magical Law Enforcement and Auror force, in addition to being loaned out to other countries.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to become a Field Agent.
Soon after my Field Agent education was complete, the war against Voldemort occurred. Dumbledore saw the need for my skills and invited me to join the Order of the Phoenix. I did my part in the fight, often creating Portkeys and hiding the Order's use of such transportation during those dark times. At one point, my involvement in illegal Portkeys was almost exposed, and as a result, I had to participate in the obliterating of Marietta Edgecomb's memory of the discovery. My investigation and the eventual shutdown of the Dark Lord's Portkey network was my contribution in helping to end the war.
This is the last photograph of me and Marietta before her Obliteration...I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive myself...
And then I happen to come across a photograph of me and Charlie Weasley, arm-in-arm, holding a big "FREE TIBET NOW!" banner...then the words fade and reemerge to say "SAVE THE CHINESE FIREBALL DRAGONS!".
After the war I was assigned to work with the Romanian Wizarding Dragon Compound to set up secret Portkeys to and from the region of Tibet for the purpose of rescuing a group of Chinese Fireball Dragons targeted for euthanasia by the Chinese government. I was actually assigned to Charlie Weasley's Dragon Hunter team on several missions, including the final mission which led to the transport of four dragons slated for execution.
My hand brushes over a picture of me in front of the temple, accompanied by a few of the monks with which we worked. That time in China was the first time I was really happy since Cedric died.
During that time I rediscovered my lost pride in the country I fled as a child. While in Tibet I converted to Buddhism. The time I spent in China changed my life for the better. I finally found peace in my life and found a way to deal with Cedric Diggory's death. I still love him and miss him but I know we will be together again in the next life.
My homecoming picture is the one I keep on my bed-side table. It is a happy photo of the joyous reunion between me and my parents. The images of mum and dad fuss over me at the Ministry of Magic the day I Portkeyed back from Tibet. I take one last sip of tea and close the book. I can hear gentle tapping from downstairs and my mother's voice through the open window as she sings while she works in her garden.
There has been a recent spike in the amount of magical signatures left behind from illegal Portkeys.
The Minister of Magic wants to know why and we don't have an answer for him. At least this Minister is encouraging the investigation into the spike in this illegal magical activity and not burying his head in the sand, pretending nothing is wrong, the way a certain former (and late) Minister of Magic did. Cedric might still be alive today if it weren't for the ineptitude of that buffoon...rest his soul...
So with no answers, that means tracking. Tracking and tracing for the field agents. This week we began following the chains of signatures left over from used Portkeys. I both love and hate tracking and tracing. I love the excitement and adrenaline of spontaneously creating field Portkeys based on the magical traces of those left behind. I never know where I might end up...
And that's why I also hate it. Sometimes we end up in terrible situations. Once Parker, one of my colleagues, and I ended up in the dark basement of some castle ruins. When we rematerialized we were attacked by two unsavory individuals, as my partner and I landed ourselves in the center of a storage facility for a smuggling operation. Nasty business, that was.
This week I will need Quidditch practice and the league game scheduled for the weekend. The stress of work will melt away while I concentrate on that Golden Snitch...
I work with two of the dearest and coincidentally, most irritating gentlemen at the Ministry of Magic. In my office at the Portkey Authority's Field Agent section work three individuals: Campbell Bulfinch, a former Hufflepuff and eldest of the three of us; Parker Chestnut, another Hufflepuff whom I attended school with for a few years; and of course, me.nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong.
Campbell and Parker, both coming from Hufflepuff, are rather close comrades. They are outstanding agents and I'm lucky to work alongside such talented people. But sometimes I wish I could toss them both in the fountain at the Ministry's entrance. You see, they are insufferable pranksters and it's only logical that the very serious Ms. Chang ends up being their constant victim.
You see, we are the Field Agent Group Section, or as Parker and Camp like to call us, the FAGS. It's all I can do to keep myself from rolling my eyes at them as they beam with pride upon hearing that name. When we aren't serving in the field, we are constantly testing Portkey properties. Experimenting with different types of Portkeys and the objects from which they are constructed. My colleagues take great joy in coming up with different ways of transporting such things as a simple quill (or a Muggle water balloon) across the office (or sometimes to a re-entry point right above my head). But I must admit that I do enjoy the laughter and jocularity that comes with my work. It is a bonus and a blessing that has been delivered to me in spite of some of the sadness I experienced in school.
"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky."--Buddha
Perhaps this is now my opportunity to laugh at the sky...
Today began like any normal day in the Field Agent office. A few small experimental Portkeys, some work on precision timing...and then it happened.
I get up to go get myself a cup of tea and when I come back to my desk...
That is, until I sit back down in my chair...
I should have known. It has been a week since Camp and Parker ambushed me. I had it coming. They changed my office chair into a Portkey while I was getting my tea.
I land on my bum with a harsh thud in a very, very dark and cramped space. And then the crash happens. At first only a couple of objects land on me, trinkets of some sort, I suppose. Then the avalanche pours forth. I have the sudden realization that I AM IN A CUPBOARD!
"Damnit Campbell, damnit Parker!"
I attempt to stand but cannot. Instead I grasp the door handle and find that the particular cupboard into which my esteemed coworkers have transported me is locked. I knock on the door because there is really no hope of being able to stand until it is opened. Silence from the other side, then.
"I say, did you just hear something, Charlie?"
"Someone, or something, is in your cupboard, Dad," the second voice sounds familiar.
I hear footsteps approaching where ever it is I am stowed away and the door opens, flooding the cupboard with light.
"Ms. Chang, Ms. Chang, what in Merlin's beard are you doing in there?" I find myself looking up into the warm face of Arthur Weasley. I have apparently been Portkeyed into the little storage space in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. He generously offers his hand and assists me in removing myself from his cupboard. I attempt to compose myself, smoothing down my hair, which now has some sort of metallic confetti in it.
"Mr. Weasley, I am terribly sorry. I didn't mean to intrude."
"It seems you are once again the recipient of another of your colleagues' Portkey pranks," Mr. Weasley smiles and is very polite, but I can see he's having a difficult time controlling his amusement.
"Yes, Bulfinch and Chestnut are in competition with your sons when it comes to pranks," I reply with a smile.
"I hope not," another voice, behind me speaks and when I turn to she who's there I find that I am looking at Charlie Weasley.
"Charlie, you're home!" I hug him and the two of us briefly catch up with each other. Eventually, Mr. Weasley's curiosity gets the better of him and he inquires as to how Charlie and I are acquainted. We go on to tell him about the time we spent working together in Tibet on the Chinese Fireball rescue project. Before I realize, nearly an hour has passed in conversation with Charlie and Arthur ("No, I insist you call me Arthur!"). I give the two men my regrets and return to my office.
It's lunch time by now and Campbell and Parker are nowhere to be seen...and I get an idea...
When Parker and Campbell return after lunch, it is to a very quiet and empty office. That is, no one is here except for me. I am sitting in my office chair in front of the entrance. Between me and the entrance I have positioned both Parker's and Campbell's own chairs. On the back of each of their chairs I have placed a towel. Between the towel-laden chairs and the entrance is a braided rug large enough for both men to stand on simultaneously. The rug has always been in our office.
"Well, Cho, we were beginning to worry about you? Where did you go?" Parker asks innocently. Both he and Campbell step on the edge of the rug and in a flash of Charm-Work brilliance, their clothes disappear and they are standing in front of me, both completely naked. I fight to control my laughter and end up smiling broadly as they automatically cover their crotches with their hands.
"Looking for something, gentlemen?" I respond as I stand behind their chairs and motion to the towel I have draped on each. Parker and Campbell each make a mad dash towards me, stopping just in time to grab the towels from the chairs.
This activates the Portkeys.
Now Parker and Campbell disappear...
I realize that I have not yet had lunch and decide to charm a quill and Portkey directly to the entrance hall of the Ministry. When I reach my destination, I notice that a crowd is beginning to gather around the circular fountain at the hall's halfway point.
...I wonder what all the fuss could be about? I think as I grin wickedly. Before I leave the Ministry I believe I'll toss some coins in that fountain.
I rummage through the pocket of my robes, find a few Sickles, and toss them into the glistening water.
They bounce off Campbell and Parker as the two naked men hide behind the statue of the centaur...
The abandoned entrance to an old section of Chinatown is the hidden doorway to Jade Tower, the Asian market for the wizarding world in London. From the Muggle point of view, all that is seen is an empty building, some twenty stories tall. But to the wizard's or witch's eye, a lovely and graceful multiple-storied structure rises from the pavement, it's architecture reminiscent of the ancient buildings of Far Eastern worlds.
More simply put, Jade Tower is the Asian version of Diagon Alley.
"Why did you not catch that flying gold ball sooner, Cho? You nearly lost the game for your, what is it, weekend team?" my mother's nasal voice invades my ears as we step through the entrance to Wong's, a restaurant my family has been patronizing weekly since we moved to London back in 1989. I was only a little girl when we fled the chaos of the uprisings in China during that time. Father felt we would all be safer away from our homeland, so we immigrated to London.
"It's a Snitch, Mum, a Snitch. S-N-I-T-C-H," I reply as the hostess shows us to our regular table, "Thank you, Cloe, hot green tea, please."
"Snitch! Strange name for simple BALL!" Mother sticks her tongue out at me and smiles as the three of us are seated and begin searching the menus. "That game scares me. I am always afraid you will fall off your broom and break your neck."
"Mei, leave Cho alone," my father chides my mother before patting my hand. "You did a fine job today on the field of competition, daughter."
"Long, you spoil her rotten," my mother shakes her head at my father and now it is my turn to stick my tongue out at her before the three of us laugh at ourselves.
This is the way it has always been amongst the three of us, or I should say, almost always. There was the time, the dark time, during the last war, when I was so angry with them. They made me feel so guilty about even thinking of playing professional Quidditch.
"No daughter of MINE is going to play 'flying football' and that is FINAL!" It was one of the only times in my life that my father ever raised his voice to me.
It was nearly two years before I agreed to speak to or see them again. Of course, my leaving the U.K. to work in Tibet as a Portkey Field Agent made it difficult for me to communicate with my mother and father, but the distance and silence helped me heal from the pain of their disapproval of my dreams. My time in the mountains of Tibet, creating Portkeys for the Romanian Dragon Hunting Team, helped me to forgive my parents for not allowing me to be the person I wanted to be. I also learned to forgive myself for letting my parents down.
Saving Chinese Fireball Dragons was good for my soul.
After a dinner of Chinese Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce with the Hot and Spicy Noodles, mum asks the question she asks me at least once every month.
"When are you going to find a man?"
"Mum, we've been through this before. I'm not looking for a man just to be with one; so I won't be alone. I've got my career at the Portkey office. I have many friends. I wish you could see that I'm happy with my life just the way it is right now."
"You are not getting any younger and neither are we. We won't be alive forever. You are our only child. We want to be grandparents one day. You better hurry up before you become an old maid and nobody but an old man wants you." She never lets up on this subject and my eyes dart to my father for support. He looks away.
As father takes care of the bill I feel the old wounds covering my heart tear open just a little. I've just begun to come to terms with getting over the loss of my first love. How do I explain to my parents that the real reason I don't have a man now is because none of them seem to measure up to the ghost of the boy I loved when I was fifteen?
As we leave the restaurant, my father pulls me to the side. "Your mother is only worried about you. She doesn't want you to be alone."
"I'm fine, Dad, I'm fine. Don't you believe me? Can't you tell?"
"You need to get over Cedric Diggory, child," mother steps up behind us to pat me on the back. "He's no Harry Potter."
"For Merlin's sake, MOTHER!"