Growing up shouldn't be this hard. Your home is on the edge of a little town in the mountains, with the next house disappearing beyond the treeline. If you squint hard enough, you can make out the faintest silhouette of the children down below, playing with each other and their siblings in the fields from the time the sun peaks out behind the clouds to long after the last light leaves the sky. When your mother returns one day from work, you are bursting with questions. Why don't you have anyone to play with? Why is no one looking after you? Why does every other family have a set of happy parents, and yours... doesn't?
When your Hogwarts letter comes, you take a good, long sniff, as if inhaling deeply enough will transport you to the storied castle itself. Your mother's smile doesn't quite reach her eyes as she takes the plates from the dinner table, listening patiently as you read it aloud for the umpteenth time. You know she's not ready for you to leave. It's just been the two of you for as long as you can remember, filling the rooms with chatter and laughter, even when you two couldn't stand the sight of each other. You've dreamed of this moment for years, a chance to explore the world beyond your small parcel of land, in a school full of magical children just like you. With the crisp parchment dangling between your fingers, you're suddenly not sure anymore if you're ready either.
With a final squeeze so tight that you're afraid you might split in half, your mother regretfully lets go of you at Platform Nine and Three Quarters, blowing her nose and dabbing away tears with a small scrap of cloth. You give a reassuring smile, filled with more confidence than you really feel, before stumbling into a cabin of other first years. Your entrance breaks up the awkward tension in the car everyone bursts into laughter. You can't help but feel the heat of embarrassment across your face before you hear someone else enter the car and admonish others for not helping. A few seconds later, you are right-side up again, the kindred spirit offering you a reassuring smile before dashing away to get an every flavor bean out of another student's nose. Off to a great start, you think ruefully, easing into a seat and looking nervously at the others. This was going to be a long train ride.
For the first few months, you feel like you don't have a second to yourself and you love it. Your letters back home are long and detail every little thing that happens, from the excruciating wait of being sorted (into Hufflepuff! There hadn't been a Sato in Hufflepuff for generations) to the new friends you were making. Well, saying that you were making friends was a bit of a stretch. You were awkward and had virtually no practice making friends, but somehow you had become adopted into a friend circle along the way. You applied yourself eagerly and earnestly in class, soaking up material like a plant starved of sunlight. Of course you weren't good at it all, certainly not. Your cauldron boiled over with abnormal frequency in Potions, and you were slightly nervous that you still couldn't tell Gemini and Cancer apart in Astronomy. But you were happy beyond measure, and that was the most important thing.
The prefect pin feels heavy on your robes, and you fidget with it uncomfortably. You can't decide if you deserve it for being an exemplary representative of your house or if you don't deserve it because it brings you a sense of sinful pride that you can't shake. Your mom clicks her tongue, annoyed, as if you're foolish for questioning it at all. Perhaps you are foolish, but aren't willing to accept that being idealistic and foolish are such bad things after all.
The letters home are less frequent, although the content remains the same: a pretty painting of your life at Hogwarts. You aspire to be the Flora of the letters home - the one who is patient and kind, the one who never fails to help others with their problems. The reality is that you fall short of that Flora, and you fall short quite often. You are unusually sensitive (even for a thirteen year old) and moody, and when you get like that, your housemates know there's no solution other than to wait it out. It is hard to draw you out of your shell beyond superficial niceties. You truly do feel affection for your peers, but it's difficult for you to express it in a way that they will understand. While you were willing to help anyone who asked, with no reservations, there is no avoiding the way you distance yourself the minute anyone tries to get closer.
Years of curiosity and hard work in class did not necessarily translate into success. You were proficient in an odd mixture of subjects, but not masterful at any except Arithmancy, oddly enough. You were the lone Hufflepuff in your class, accompanied by a stray Gryffindor and a smattering of Ravenclaws and Slytherins. You felt this desire to prove yourself, insecure that you truly belonged amongst some of the brightest minds you knew. You were not immune to the odd looks that you got, as if your classmates were confused as to why you were there. Truthfully, you weren't entirely sure yourself. The only thing you were sure of was the comfort that you took in the constancy of the numerals on the page - the dazzling arrays of numbers, each combination producing an infinite amount of possibilities.
You accept a job as a curse-breaker with the Ministry's Improper Use of Magic Office, fresh out of school. There is an alarming backlog of cursed objects, filed away in storage where they are promptly forgotten about once their creators are prosecuted. The work is tedious. It is constant and at times, overwhelming. You devise a system that reduces the amount of time cursed objects exist in bureaucratic purgatory, and your work is swift and precise. You try your best to keep your head down and work diligently, but there's just some part of you that selfishly longs for something... more? It goes against everything you were taught was good, from your mother to your housemates, and yet you can't help but feel unsatisfied with what you have. There is something more for you out there, you just need to find it.
A year later, the answer to your unspoken question arrives in the form of a black envelope, tied neatly with a silk ribbon. It comes shortly after you cracked a particularly dangerous curse, applied to a spelled scroll that had felled more men than anyone could recall. There is no name, no indication from where it came. It instructs you only to proceed directly to level nine for a practical interview. There was an opening in the Department of Ministries, and they needed an intern.
"Fuck yes!" you blurt out as you shake the hand of your new boss, a man as dignified as you would expect the head of the DoM to be. Sheepishly, you cover your mouth with a dainty hand. Probably shouldn't have said that before the paperwork was drawn up, but you are surprised when you are given merely an eyeroll and a reminder to get a good night's sleep before your first day of work.
Relief washes over you when you realize that the Department of Mysteries is exactly where you were meant to be. You haven't felt this excited since you were an awkward eleven year old, off for the first time to school. Every day is a new puzzle to solve, a new mystery to uncode. You are challenged in every way - physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is no room left in your life for anything else now. When you close your eyes, you imagine the possibilities again, and everything else falls to the wayside. Dates smatter your first year as an intern, but eventually dry up as no normal twenty-something is willing to put up with your unavailability when all they wanted was a quick shag. Even when you're with someone, you're not really there, instead preferring to escape to the safe place inside your mind where it's you and the problems that are not your own.
You are on the cusp of being forced to choose a sector to specialize in when Temple disappears abruptly. A bit ironic, that the head of the department's absence is a mystery that no one can solve. Suddenly choosing a sector seems drastically less important than making sure that all things under the department's purview don't reach a level of irreversible catastrophe. You react poorly to Temple's disappearance, far more poorly than you thought you would. The curse words are exhaled with every breath, and suddenly you aren't sure of anything anymore, much less the sector you want to focus on. You've spent the last few years out of school running, never taking a moment to truly pause and take it all in. Looking beyond what was right in front of you was something you had resolutely avoided, but there was nothing like a jarring disappearance to make you reevaluate everything. You were unsettled, unable to ignore what was going on outside of the four walls of your work, and you were going to do something about it. You just weren't sure what.
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