This is a post I should have made at the beginning of November, but am finally getting around to now! This year, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and I am happy to announce that I did hit my 50,000 word count and finished the project I set out to write. Unfortunately, this meant that I have not yet finished a single book this month, which is why there have not been any book reviews all November. I am very close to finishing the book I’ve been reading, Cast in Secrets and Shadow, by Andrea Robertson, and will have that review up in early December.
This past summer, I went to go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the Hollywood Bowl with some friends, and the events of that movie made us realize that so many conflicts in the Harry Potter universe could have been avoided simply with background checks, verifying references, and other basic hiring practices. With that conversation fresh in my mind, I decided to write a Harry Potter fanctiction novel for nanowrimo this year, resulted in Hogwarts Department of Human Resources.
I will be posting Hogwarts Department of Human Resources on Archive of Our Own (also known as Ao3), by the end of the week for all to read. Expect another post with the link when that happens!
For now, please enjoy this excerpt–Chapter 3: The Muggle Life of Jasmine Sunder.
Lamps Lamps Lamps was not a large company. Nor was it a small company by any means. Rather, Lamps Lamps Lamps was perfectly situated right in the middle. Just small enough to fall under the radar when people decided to protest sexual harassment of low pay, but just large enough to have general brand awareness. Everyone had heard of Lamps Lamps Lamps, even if it took them several minutes to remember which exact company it was, and, even then, they only knew of it as a series of retail stores, completely ignoring the big new website that had been set up. So, Lamps Lamps Lamps was neither a small nor a large company, which was exactly how Jasmine Sunder liked it.
Yes, she rather enjoyed working for a company that could never be considered important in any sense of the word, except for providing shoppers with relatively nice, slightly overproduced, and generally mass-produced lighting fixtures. Jasmine thrived in the monotony of the office, reveling in the structure that never seemed to change. And, when it did, when something out of the ordinary happened, as it was her job to be aware of such things, Jasmine Sunder took great pleasure in conducting a full investigation into the cause, removing the problem, and working to ensure nothing like that would disrupt her structured world. This was easier said that done, of course. Many of Jasmine’s coworkers did not enjoy her choice of lifestyle and were frequently trying to shake things up, and her superiors oftentimes downplayed the severity of their employees’ missteps. More than once, she had discovered that high ranking executives were actually the source of problems, but found herself unable to implement her preferred fix of ejecting them from the company and writing up robust new policies and training guidelines. Although Jasmine had the very strong feeling, and some evidence, that the company was not taking her many missives seriously. Why, if they had followed her recommended course of action after the large sexual harassment investigation last year, the company could have entirely avoided her current investigating the same man for rampant use of racial slurs. Really, how hard was it for people to just stay professional in the workplace?
Thoughts like that often sent Jasmine’s mind back into her worst memories, of a chaotic youth and home, a school where the rules changed on a daily basis (not that anyone paid much mind to them anyways), and a society that saw itself as structured but was actually the polar opposite. Very dreadful stuff.
Whenever Jasmine’s thoughts turned that direction while she was at work, she liked to distract herself by tidying her desk, as she did the day of her sudden career change. Taking her time, Jasmine organized the many loose papers on her desk into neat little piles, each separated by incident or personnel file, before removing the pristine folders from one of her desk drawers, ready to be filed away for later use. Then she took her sweet time dusting the surface of her desk using only the softest of microfiber clothes, even lifting up her computer keyboard to clean in the space beneath. It was amazing to Jasmine how many people never removed so much as a speck of dust from that place. Finally, it was time to open and tidy up the slim, center drawer on her desk. She tried to avoid opening it too often, but that was where she kept her pens and such, so it really was unavoidable.
Jasmine took a deep breath and opened the drawer, steadfastly ignoring the splintered wood segregated in its own divider, and quickly tidied up. Horrifically, she discovered a loose piece of notepad paper, crumpled and forgotten, which she promptly removed. Going to close her desk, Jasmine could not help but look at the splinters of wood. Shining cedar threads seemed to reflect a light that was not there, and she could see the remnant of a familiar handle buried underneath, worn with use. Peeking out from the splinters was a dull, tarnished silver thread, its luster long since gone. Jasmine looked at it as one would look at the picture of a dearly department friend after realizing that you had not spent nearly enough time with them as you should have. Her breath caught, and Jasmine shut the drawer quickly before anyone walked in saw her in an emotional state at work. That simply would not do, not at all. Emotional states were best experienced alone in private.
The rest of Jasmine’s day passed without any other such incidents, although it was by no means boring. The Department of Human Resources had received a brand-new complaint from a very brave lower-level employee accusing their immediate supervisor of repeatedly using the incorrect pronouns in reference to them. Jasmine took great pride in correcting such mistakes, despite the dismissive attitudes of many of her coworkers. After drafting a list of people to interview and documents to review, Jasmine left the office at exactly five o’clock PM, saying quick goodbyes to anyone still present, ignoring that one man from marketing with the smarmy attitude, and smiling at the cute new secretary before she could stop herself on her way out.
Jasmine Sunder had a very strict after-work ritual that she tried her very best not to miss, although circumstances were not always in her favor. Luckily, nothing stopped her on her way to the café today, and she arrived just in time to smell the roasting of fresh coffee grounds. Her eyes swept the room upon entering, an involuntary reflex no matter how many times she came here, and spotted an empty table in the corner. Moving quickly, Jasmine set her bag down before getting in line behind, peering up at the chalk menu. A plethora of new items graced her eyes—the baristas here was always experiment, not like that new chain that kept opening new locations—but Jasmine was not feeling particularly adventurous today. Seeing the splinters of cedar in her desk had made her desire something comforting. “One cappuccino, with extra sugar. Raw, if you have it,” she said with confidence. “Oh, and one chocolate éclair as well,” she added quickly. “They look delightful.”
Jasmine returned to her seat, order in hand, and prepared herself to enjoy her new paperback until exactly six-fifteen PM, when it was time to return home to dinner. The éclair was, of course, delicious, and the cappuccino was excellently made. Not quite as good as the ones she had in Florence several years ago, which introduced her to her love of coffee, but she was working on lowering her standards. However, several pages in, Jasmine noticed, or rather felt, something odd. A tingling, a tickling along her back. Not incredibly uncomfortable, but certainly unpleasant, as Jasmine watched some of the hairs on her arm stand on end. The feeling was quickly followed by the sound of a somewhat loud “pop”. Eyes widening, Jasmine hurriedly packed up her book and polished off the éclair. The remainder of her cappuccino sadly remained in its large mug on her table as she rushed out of the café, not listening when the handsome barista wished her a wonderful evening.
The pop had sounded like it had come from outside, and Jasmine tried her best to look around the now crowded sidewalk, but all she could was normal, everyday Londoners going about their business, occasionally glancing at the woman staring at them all. Jasmine let out a sigh of relief, feeling the tension loosen from her shoulders, and began the short walk back to her home.
Very quickly, Jasmine realized she was being followed. She had read about the phenomenon before, how people could tell when they were being looked at. Most of the scientific consensus she had read suggested that it was simply a matter of your peripheral vision seeing something that your conscious mind was not aware of. Jasmine was very aware of the fact that her peripheral vision had not seen anything as the person following her did not wish to be seen. Very well, two could play at that game. Jasmine may have loved her normal, mundane life, but she was still capable of looking after herself, thank you very much. She stepped towards the edge of the sidewalk before quickly darting down an alley instead. Unfortunately, Jasmine very quickly saw that the alleyway came to a dead end. No matter.
Jasmine turned and tucked her right hand in her pocket, forming a fist. “Be warned, whoever you,” she called out, rather impressed with the imposing note in her voice. “I am armed and will not hesitate to defend myself.”
At that, a tall, rather well built red-headed young man stepped into the alleyway after her, one hand held outward towards her while the other seemed to hold something behind his back. “I’m sorry miss, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said, a slight tremor in his voice. “I was meant to wait for you to arrive home before knocking on your door. You see…” he began to say.
Jasmine did not wait for him to finish. Stepping forward, she removed her hand from her pockets and splayed all ten fingers out at the man, whispering “Nebulus.” Thick, gray fog shot out in a jet, colliding with the man’s face and exploding in a large cloud. As the man shouted and stumbled, trying to wave the grey away, Jasmine reached forward, made a grabbing motion, and pulled back with one hand. “Accio wand,” she said, feeling the force of intent in her voice, and saw the slender piece of wood leap into her outstretched hand as the man finally stumbled out, coming face-to-face with his own wand pointed back at him. “Now, what’s all this about?”