Monday (Day Shift)
The weather outside his window is miserable when Arthur gets to the office. Above ground, the weak spring sun is poking through the usual curtain of grey, making Muggle London’s dull streets a little bit less bleak than they usually are. Here in Arthur’s little office in the Accidental Magic Reversal Station, however, it’s practically storming.
What kind of idiot would purposefully create a storm on an actual sunny day in London?
With a frown, he points his wand at the window (which isn’t really a window at all) and mutters a charm under his breath. The first rays of sun that break through the parting dark clouds do little to dissipate his bad mood, and by the time his desk is bathed in sunlight he doesn’t feel particularly ready to tackle the day ahead.
“So apparently the fresh batch of rookies have just been slotted in,” says a voice at Arthur’s door, startling him. He looks up to see Elyan Smith leaning against the frame, amused at Arthur’s little jump of surprise. “They started last night.”
“About time,” Arthur says, sitting up a little at his desk, choosing to pretend that he hadn’t been that surprised. “Hopefully that means we can have Gwaine back from night shift soon.”
“Not likely,” says Elyan, crossing over to Arthur’s desk and sitting down in the chair opposite him. “According to Pellinor, Gwaine is staying on to make sure the rookies’ first week on the job goes well, after which they may make it permanent because night shift is so understaffed at the moment.”
“Like we aren’t?” Arthur huffs in annoyance.
“We’re apparently getting the best of the new recruits at the end of the week,” says Elyan, “so we should be alright then.”
“Sure,” says Arthur sarcastically, picking up a few scrolls of parchment from in front of him and setting them down heavily on the other side of the desk, “if by ‘alright’ you mean babysitting a bunch of inexperienced kids.”
“Okay firstly, it’s not ‘babysitting’ when they’re only a few years younger than you,” says Elyan with a raised eyebrow, “and secondly, what’s wrong with you today? You’re even more miserable than you usually are.”
“It’s nothing,” says Arthur, suddenly embarrassed that something as silly as a little bit of magical rain would set him off like this. Elyan’s raised eyebrow climbs higher and Arthur sighs. “The idiot on night shift left the weather stormy after they left so I had to change it.”
“Is that all?” Elyan chuckles. “God if I knew it was that easy to get under your skin I would have tried that ages ago.”
“Ha bloody ha,” says Arthur with narrowed eyes, “for your information I–”
He doesn’t get to finish that thought however because at that moment a bell rings shrilly through the office – their first case of the day.
Arthur and Elyan make their way to the briefing room where the rest of the AMRS workers are gathering and sitting within their teams. The four teams, each consisting of a Healer, an Enchantments Expert (or NX for short) and two Obliviators, begin to file into the room until there are only two or three noticeably empty seats.
Arthur sits next to his friend and teammate, Lance, who offers him a warm smile. He smiles back, trying to fix his attitude. Going into the field in the wrong frame of mind is how mistakes happen and in the business of fixing mistakes, they can’t afford to make any.
Drake Kilgharrah, their enigmatic head of department, is standing next to the chalkboard at the front of the room. He glares over them all with piercing eyes and Arthur wonders if he’s internally lamenting that this is the lot he has to deal with day after day. With the look of immense boredom that seems to be etched into the lines on his face, Arthur imagines that old Kilgharrah’s expected a lot more from life than what he got.
“Right,” Kilgharrah says, following Kay with a sharp gaze as he runs into the room five minutes late and takes a seat with Team C towards the back. He waves his wand at the board and a number of diagrams with labels appear, the chalky writing detailing the ins and outs of the case. “Team A, you'll be heading into the field. Team B, you'll be monitoring. Team C, you're on backup if it comes to that and Team D, you're on standby. Don't bugger it up.”
Arthur, Lance, Elyan and Mithian make their way to the board quickly to scan over the details, with Team B close behind waiting to read after them. Arthur scans through the information once, makes sure his teammates have read it, then reads it again before making sure they all have their Apparition locations a few blocks from the incident source. Arthur knows from first-hand experience that Apparating too close to the scene only causes more problems.
“Ready?” He asks and the other three nod back. “Then let's go.”
The case turns out to be a Muggle mugging gone awry.
The source of the magic, Mabel Rogers, is a doddering old lady in her late nineties who, upon being seized from behind by the tall Muggle, proved to have mighty quick reflexes. She had apparently pulled out her wand faster than the man could say “hand over your money” and had turned him into a rather large toad, much to the horror of the other Muggles at the bus stop.
Their first minute on the scene is frantic. Lance, the NX, has to hastily throw up a few Muggle-repellent jinxes in case the Muggle witnesses have called the police, while Mithian and Elyan, the Obliviators, use a sleeping charm on the witnesses. This gives Arthur, the Healer, a chance to reverse the enchantment on the mugger and deal with any effects the magic may have had on him. Thankfully the spell is pretty easy to reverse and the man, though shaken, seems to be in alright health.
Mithian puts the mugger under the same sleeping spell as the witnesses before turning to help Elyan wipe all of the Muggle technology in the area – a recent but necessary addition to the traditional repertoire of AMRS spells. Arthur and Lance turn to question Mabel in the meantime.
In the end, since it appears the incident was in self-defence, there is no need to call in any Aurors. Lance gets a written statement from Mabel while Arthur helps Elyan and Mithian with the memory modifications. The new story is that the mugger attacked one of the witnesses and the other witnesses jumped in and managed to restrain him. It's as if Mabel was never there.
Lance waits until they're out of sight of the Muggles before removing the Muggle-repellent jinxes so that the police can get to the small group of Muggles. Arthur sticks his wand out into the road and a second or two later, the Knight Bus arrives with a bang in all its purple glory. After an uncomfortable bus trip and making sure Mabel gets home safely, they Apparate back to the station.
It's a quiet day after that and the only other incident they get called out for is a two-year-old boy who has accidentally conjured up a roomful of birds. As Arthur packs up to leave, he takes one last look out of the window, at the golden hills basking in the last glow of the setting sun, and smiles.
The night-shift prick better not screw with the weather again tonight.
Monday (Night Shift)
Merlin can't believe how much paperwork Agravaine left him. After a quick beginning-of-shift meeting with Annis, their coordinator, Merlin makes his way to his paperwork shelf and nearly cries at the number of scrolls sitting there. When Agravaine was fired for gross negligence, Merlin had immediately applied for his position as Team A leader. He probably would have thought twice about it if he knew how much catching-up would be involved.
Gathering the scrolls with a resigned sigh, he makes his way over to his new desk. The light from the full moon streams in from the window, giving the room a strange light, like the black-and-white films his mother loves so much. He waves his wand and illuminates all the lamps and candles in the room and then mutters a spell at the window. Clouds begin to gather, obscuring the light and it's not long before he hears the first clap of thunder in the distance.
If he's forced to do paperwork all night, he's going to need the rain. He always concentrates better when it's raining.
He's just about halfway done filling in his tenth form when there's a soft knock on the office door.
“It's open,” he says, setting down his quill in frustration. He's never been a big fan of Agravaine, but right now he could strangle him. Gwen, a friend from school and a new AMRS rookie, pokes her head around the door.
“Hey,” she says with a smile like a warm hug. “Gwaine was telling me that you're eyeballs-deep in paperwork, so I made you some tea.”
“And that is why you'll go far in this department,” Merlin grins as Gwen walks in and places the tea carefully in front of him. “Thanks, Gwen. You're an angel.”
“You're welcome,” she says with a smile. “I thought you could use the boost. Not that I'm saying you can't do it without the boost. That's not what I'm saying at all. I just thought, you know, it might help.”
“It definitely helps,” says Merlin, picking up the tea and taking a sip. It's perfect.
“Well, I'm not going to keep you,” Gwen says, heading towards the door. “I'm supposed to be going over strategies with my team. Good luck with… all this.”
“Thanks, Gwen,” says Merlin, still smiling as she closes the door behind her. He's immensely grateful that she transferred from the Muggle Liaison office to become a AMRS worker. She's always had the uncanny knack of making the worst days a little bit more bearable. He hopes she'll stay on night shift, but Merlin knows that they'll be moving the best of the new recruits to day shift and Gwen is so good she'll more than likely be one of them.
Despite his misgivings, Merlin surprises himself by managing to get through a quarter of that night's pile by the time they get their first call out.
In a small living room in Kent, little six-year-old Katie Mohr, a Muggleborn, has accidentally turned her parents bright blue and is sobbing hysterically. It's not an uncommon case for them, but Merlin has never encountered a spell this thorough. Even though he's one of the best Enchantments Experts in the AMRS, it takes him five incantations to get her fathers, John and Sean, back to normal and by the time he’s finished all three members of the small family look terrified.
In a corner of the room, Freya, the Healer, is trying to comfort the little girl, while Elena and Mordred stand by to see if Merlin’s talk with the parents goes well. If it doesn't, Merlin knows they'll be quick to jump in and modify memories until a Hogwarts representative can come and speak to them at a later stage.
“I realise this must be a lot for you to take in, but please know that we really mean you no harm,” Merlin says soothingly. “My name is Merlin and these are my colleagues, Freya, Elena and Mordred. We're representatives of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. Katie was born with the gift of magic and sometimes when she's angry or frightened, her body expresses that outwardly. Even though this is probably the most dramatic display of her magic you've ever experienced, I'm sure if you thought about it, you've probably had other incidents involving Katie that you couldn't quite explain.”
The couple exchanges a look that tells Merlin he's right.
“She… all her pink clothes once mysteriously turned blue after I washed them,” says Sean, quietly. “I blamed it on the detergent at the time, but it changed specifically only the pink things.”
“The cat’s tail too,” the other father adds, nodding. “We have a white cat and we found her with a blue tail one day. We thought she might have just gotten into the neighbour’s dye, but this makes more sense.”
Merlin nods and inwardly breathes a sigh of relief. These parents appear to be taking it remarkably well. He turns from them and makes his way over to where Katie is sobbing into Freya’s shoulder.
“Hey Katie,” Merlin says in a soothing voice. “My name is Merlin. It's a bit of a strange name so it's okay if you laugh. Freya here laughs at me all the time.”
Katie stops sobbing at that and Merlin takes that as a good sign.
“Firstly I think you're really brave,” he continues, offering her an encouraging smile. “Most magical children have daddies with magic who can explain what's going on or older brothers and sisters with magic who can help them. Even though your daddies don't have magic you've been really brave and strong. Secondly, I want you to know that magic is nothing to be scared of. It's a beautiful gift that can be used to do beautiful things. I'm taking it your favourite colour is blue?”
Katie nods, her tears now replaced with a rapt curiosity. Smiling at the focused look on her face, Merlin waves his wand.
“Orchideous!” he says and a bunch of bright blue daisies burst from the tip of his wand. Katie giggles delightedly as Merlin hands them to her. “Those are for being such a champ. If it's alright with your daddies, maybe you could show Freya where she can get a vase or a glass so you can keep them in water? Your daddies can't turn things blue the way you can, so I just need to explain some things to them.”
Katie nods, standing up to lead Freya by the hand to the small kitchen. Merlin sits on a nearby armchair to talk to John and Sean again.
“I realise that this is a lot to process,” he says, “but it's really important that you have a basic understanding of this stuff. Magic is real, but we keep it a secret from Muggles – or non-magic people – because of issues we've had in past centuries. Is Katie related to either of you by blood?”
“No, we adopted her,” John says, sinking down on to the sofa behind him. Sean sits next to him and takes his hand.
“Alright, in that case it's possible one or both of her biological parents had magic, but it's also possible that she's a magical child from non-magic parents. We call children in this case Muggleborns. This doesn’t make her any less magically gifted than children who come from magical parents.”
The couple on the sofa nod seriously, waiting attentively for more information and Merlin smiles at them.
“You’re taking this a whole lot better than most Muggles do.”
“Well,” says Sean, smiling back at Merlin, “We’ve always said that our Katie was magic. It’s nice to have confirmation.”
“What can we do to help her, though?” asks John. “You just said that you lot are trying to keep magic a secret – isn’t a six-year-old who goes around turning things blue going to raise some questions?”
“The first thing is to make sure she’s content at home and at school,” Merlin explains. “I’m sure you’re already making sure her home life is happy and comfortable, and I realise you can’t always control what happens at school, but since most accidental magic happens when the child is angry or afraid, we encourage you to assess those areas. If it gets too difficult to keep her magic a secret at school, there are a number of playgroups around the UK where Katie could learn with other magical children.” Merlin pauses to rummage in his bag for a small chalkboard and a box of chalk. “This might also help. It’s a Two-Way-Chalkboard and it’s connected to the Muggle Liaison Department. If you ever have any questions, you can write them on the chalkboard using a piece of this chalk – it’s magic so it doesn’t run out, by the way – and a representative will either write back or send someone to answer your questions in person.”
Merlin picks up the chalk and writes, This is Merlin Emrys testing the board.
A moment or two later the reply starts appearing.
It’s Will. Tell Freya I say hi and that I’m free for breakfast ;)
“Sorry, that’s my friend, Will,” says Merlin, embarrassed. “He fancies himself a bit of a joker. Do you have any questions you’d like answered now while we’re still here?”
“Will she…” starts Sean. “Will she eventually be able to control her powers?”
“Formal magic training starts at age eleven in the UK,” Merlin says. “There are a number of magic schools around Europe but most British children go to Hogwarts in the north of the country. If you don’t want her attending a boarding school, there is always the option of private tutoring, but that can get pricey. Thankfully you have a few years to decide what to do and a Hogwarts representative will definitely be in touch before then to discuss your options in more detail.”
John and Sean nod. Merlin notices how exhausted they look. He doesn’t blame them, it’s a lot to absorb in such a short space of time.
“Well, it’s just past one in the morning and I’m sure you lot are beyond knackered,” he says, standing up, “So we’ll be on our way now. It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“You too, Merlin,” says Sean. “Thanks for the information. You’ve cleared up a lot of questions for us.”
After a shy goodbye hug from Katie, the team Disapparates back to the Ministry.
“Well that was bollocks,” says Mordred grumpily. “I didn’t even get to do anything.”
“Thank god you didn’t,” says Elena, frowning disapprovingly. “It means Katie’s parents aren’t total wankers. You’ll see soon enough that it doesn’t always go as smoothly as that.”
Mordred makes a retort but Merlin leaves before he can hear what it is. He’s still got a mountain of paperwork to get through and Elena will make sure that Mordred is kept in check.
After the Katie incident, it turns out to be a quiet shift, with Team B and Team C dealing with the only other two cases they get that night. It’s a good thing too, because Merlin gets through all the paperwork he’s set aside for himself and has even taken a few scrolls from the next night’s pile.
It’s with a comforting sense of satisfaction that he extinguishes the lamps at the end of his shift. Taking one last triumphant look at the pile of scrolls he’s conquered (firmly ignoring the enormous pile of scrolls he still needs to do) , Merlin smiles and leaves his office, the sound of the door closing mingling with a clap of thunder in the distance.
Tuesday (Day Shift)
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Arthur says as he walks into his office after their beginning of shift meeting the next morning. It looks as though a small hurricane has been through it. There’s an enormous pile of scrolls on the shelf labelled ‘Night Shift’ that’s spilling over onto his shelf, ink splatters all over the desk, a dirty mug sitting directly on the rich mahogany wood (the coaster is sitting less than a few inches away from it) and worst of all, the weather outside the window is stormy again.
With an exasperated sigh, he clears away the clouds. It doesn’t make him any happier.
Arthur frustratedly wipes the ink off of the desk, clears away the mug and tries his best to get rid of the ugly ring it’s left in the wood. After that, he spends most of the morning organising the scrolls on the night shift shelf to give his office some semblance of order.
By the time his team gets their first call out of the day, Arthur is fuming.
“What’s the matter with you this morning?” Mithian asks angrily when they get back from the case, where Arthur was less than gracious to a middle-aged wizard whose topiary spell had gone awry.
“Nothing’s the matter with me,” snipes Arthur in a tone that makes it clear that something is definitely the matter.
“Do you want to try answering that again?” says Mithian, folding her arms across her chest, glaring at Arthur. He defiantly glares back for a moment before running a hand down his face in frustration.
“The fucking night-shift prick left the office in a complete mess this morning,” says Arthur. “The desk was in a state, he left a condensation ring and everything, and his paperwork filing was a disaster. I had to spend this morning cleaning up after him. I haven’t even started on my own paperwork.”
He doesn’t add that he’s upset that it was stormy outside again. Even though it’s what he’s most annoyed about, he realises how petty that would sound out loud.
“Is that all?” says Mithian, eyes wide in surprise. “Christ, Arthur, you almost took that poor man’s head off earlier! We’re supposed to be calm and collected at the scene and you were going off at him like he was about to single-handedly reveal magic to the world!”
Arthur wants to argue, he really does, but he knows that he’s in the wrong and he’s never been one to hide from his mistakes.
“You’re right,” he says. “I’m supposed to be the leader and I was acting like a spoilt child. I’ll keep it together better in the future.”
“Good,” says Mithian with a serious nod. After a beat, the expression on her face softens. “Look, if this person is annoying you so much, maybe you should just leave them a memo to explain why you’re upset. If that doesn’t solve anything you can always take it to old Kilghy.”
“You see, I knew there was a reason we kept you around,” Arthur smirks and though Mithian’s eyes narrow, she can’t quite disguise the humour on her face.
“Please, ” says Mithian. “You lot wouldn’t last a day without me. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to leave to find somewhere where I’m appreciated for the magical genius I am.”
Arthur chuckles, thanking her as she heads towards the station’s waiting room. He crosses over to his desk, plonking himself down heavily on the comfortable office chair. Pulling his memo pad and his quill closer to him, he begins to write his note to the night shift idiot.
Even though he tries to get through some of his paperwork, the sight of the memo on his desk keeps tempting him and he spends more time rewriting the note than he does on actual work that day.
It’s practically the end of his shift when Arthur finally decides he’s happy enough with the note to leave it on his desk. With a small tap of his wand, it folds itself into a paper jet. He realises that he hasn’t put a name on it, but he figures that the night shift person will know it’s for them. He doesn’t really care to know who his nocturnal counterpart is anyway.
As he has a point to prove, he does one last sweep of the office to make sure everything is immaculate. He adjusts the memo on the desk so that it sits perfectly parallel to the edge, hoping that it communicates clearly that he’s not to be trifled with.
With one last smirk at his handiwork, he crosses to the door and heads home.
Tuesday (Night Shift)
The first thing Merlin notices when he walks into his office that evening is that everything is far neater and more organised than he’s ever seen it. It makes him smile for all of five seconds before he realises with a jolt that his scrolls are sitting neatly organised on the shelf.
In one pile.
“No no no no no!” he says as he crosses over to them to survey the damage. He knows he didn’t leave them in the neatest state, but they had been in two very clear separate piles. Now, even though everything is neatly stacked, there ‘s no differentiation between the scrolls he’s completed and the ones he still has to do. It’s all he can do not to scream in frustration.
He turns to his desk and notices a memo sitting there. There doesn’t appear to be a name on it, but seeing as he’s one of two people who use the office and seeing as the dollophead from day shift hasn’t taken it with them, Merlin assumes it’s meant for him. He taps it with his wand to open it and is met with the most condescending memo he’s ever received.
Note to Idiot:
Firstly: that little square board with the Ministry logo on it? That’s called a coaster. It prevents rings forming on the beautiful mahogany desk. Use it.
Secondly: believe it or not, there are washcloths in the kitchenette. You can use any one of them to clean up those ink splatters that you seem to enjoy spreading all over the place.
Lastly: it’s commendable that you’re so determined to do what looks like the paperwork of the entire department, but if it strays over onto my shelf it becomes my problem, so don’t do that. Clear?
I trust that the office will look as good tomorrow morning as it looks when I leave tonight.
P.S. We live in sodding Egnland. Why make the weather more miserable than it already is? Did the sun do something to offend you?
Merlin turns to the window. The moon is shining onto his desk again, highlighting the condensation ring that he does actually feel a little bit guilty about. He mutters a spell to get rid of it. Glancing around the immaculate office, he realises with a horrible pang of annoyance that the Dollophead has a point. He did leave the place pretty messy that morning.
He decides not to focus on that too much. Instead he zeroes in on the fact that thanks to the prick, he probably now has to spend a good portion of his shift sorting through the scrolls to see which he’s completed and which he hasn’t.
He points his wand aggressively at the window and dark clouds begin to swirl over the moon.
The sorting process thankfully doesn’t take as long as he thought it would, but it still eats away at a significant chunk of his paperwork time. Merlin is immensely grateful that he managed to complete more than he had planned for yesterday, even if he has fallen a little bit behind now.
He stews on the prick’s memo as he forces himself through scroll after boring incident report scroll, in particular, rolling the initial ‘A’ around in his mind. Merlin tries desperately to think of anyone in the AMRS whose name begins with that letter, but in the end, the only two he can think of are Annis (who it was highly unlikely to be) and Agravaine. He knows Agravaine doesn’t work for the Ministry anymore so it’s definitely not from him, but the writing is certainly arrogant and passive-aggressive enough to be his.
Perhaps they’re related, thinks Merlin bitterly, as he pushes another pile of Agravaine’s unfinished paperwork away from him.
By the time he’s ready to head home that morning, his reply to the memo is fully formed in his mind and all he needs to do is jot it down. He sets the purple paper jet next to his dirty mug (which he’s left on the coaster, just to tick the dollophead off) and makes to leave the office, pausing only to make the weather in the window even more stormy.
Wednesday (Day Shift)
The office is immaculate, save for the dirty mug on the desk, and Arthur is about to congratulate himself on a job well done until he realises that it’s even more miserable outside the window today than it has been for the previous two days. He fumes as he corrects it, making the weather outside so sunny, it’s practically tropical.
Marching over to the desk, he spots a memo next to the mug which, he realises with reluctant amusement, is sitting on a coaster. He picks it up roughly and taps it with his wand, causing it to lie flat on the desktop.
Note to Dollophead (yes it is a real word)
I would firstly like to congratulate you. I don’t know how you manage to hold down an eleven-hour job while being such an interfering prick, but you give hope to arseholes the world over. It was very kind of you and the stick you’ve clearly got shoved up there to clean up after me. I especially appreciate how you organised my paperwork.
You see I’m still catching up on all the work that the person who had this position before me failed to do (because he, like you, is a massive clotpole) and I reckon I was beginning to get a bit too productive. I was making too much headway. Thanks to you mixing up the scrolls that I’d already completed with the ones I still had to do, I could take a (completely unwelcome) break from completing them to sort that out instead. In the end I only managed to get through half of what I usually get through in a normal day, so seriously. BIG thank you.
I’ve left my mug on the table so that you can see that I DO in fact know how to use a coaster. For future reference, the spell Nitorem gets rid of those condensation rings, so you don’t have to worry about them hurting your feelings anymore.
I’m absolutely 100% completely THRILLED to be sharing this office with you, dear collegue. Here’s to many more happy memories.
P.S. Is “Egnland” code for something? Should I be concerned? Or did the “Egnlish” language do something to offend you?
Face burning as he realises that he must have misspelled ‘England’ in his memo, he rereads the reply. His feelings hover between amusement at the way it drips with sarcasm, and indignation that this ‘M’ would complain about his workday being ruined when he spent most of the previous day cleaning up after him.
It sounds like it could be –
He doesn’t let himself finish that thought. Settling on frustration, he crumples the note into a ball, throws it angrily at the closed door and immediately begins working on his reply.
Eleven hours later, as the day shift gets ready to hand over to the night shift, Arthur waves his wand at the window and the setting sun stops in its tracks.
There’s no way I’m letting you have the last laugh.
Wednesday (Night Shift)
Note to Idiot
I apologise if I ruined your productivity, but I think you’ll agree that spending half a day cleaning after an adult who should know better is a pretty good reason to not give a toss what they think.
I’m glad that you’ve mastered the use of the coaster. If you keep it up, maybe one day I’ll explain to you how to take your mug to the kitchen sink. Won’t that be a fun day?
Nitorem , you say? Well it’s good to know that you have at least one household spell under your belt. Maybe your house isn’t the ramshackle mess I imagine it to be.
If the past few days have been anything to go on, I’m sure we’re going to be having a great many super fun adventures in the future. Or will you still be doing paperwork then?
P.S. “Egnland” is the perfect world I’ve created for myself where it never rains and I don’t share my office with a complete sod.
Merlin pushes the purple memo away in annoyance before pulling it back to reread it. He has half a mind to wait in his office past the end of his shift so he can give A a piece of his mind in person, but another part of him says that this would be a very bad idea.
Apart from a small case involving a cursed microwave (which, after they sort out the magic side of things, becomes the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Department’s problem), Merlin’s day mostly consists of him attempting to get through more of his paperwork and trying to get the bright sun to set. It appears that the Dollophead put some sort of permanence charm on it and no matter how many dark clouds he forces in front of it, he can’t quite get it to look like it’s night.
“Ah brilliant!” says Gwaine when he pops into Merlin’s office in the early hours of the morning. “You’ve got daylight in here. You’re going to have to show me how that’s done.”
Merlin rolled his eyes.
“It wasn’t me,” he says, setting down his quill to rub his hands down his face. “In fact, if you have any ideas on how to fix it, I would love to hear them because at the moment it’s driving me up the bloody wall.”
“You’re the only person I know who would complain about sunlight, you know that?” chuckles Gwaine. “Have you tried Finite Incantatum ?”
“Er, not yet actually,” says Merlin, a little bashful at having overlooked something so simple. He turns to perform the spell, but to his dismay, instead of making it nighttime outside, the clouds clear and his office is washed in afternoon sun. “Oh for fuck’s sake! It’s two in the fucking morning!”
Gwaine laughs so hard, Merlin is sure he’s going to burst a blood vessel.
“God, I wonder who hates you so much,” he says, wiping tears from his eyes. “It’s so cruel but so good.”
“I know exactly who it is,” says Merlin, handing Gwaine the memo from underneath a pile of scrolls. “It’s the prick who uses this office through the day.”
The note only makes Gwaine laugh more.
“Well, if this tells me anything,” says Gwaine handing it back to Merlin through gasps of breath, “it’s that Arthur is more of a prick than I thought he was.”
“Arthur?” asks Merlin, and suddenly everything clicks into place. “Arthur Pendragon ?”
“The Princess himself,” Gwaine nods.
Merlin’s mind is reeling. The Dollophead is Arthur Pendragon: captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Head Boy and all-around prat. The same Arthur Pendragon who used to make prefect patrols a nightmare by simultaneously being the most beautiful person Merlin had ever seen and also the most insufferable person he’d ever been forced to interact with.
“God,” says Merlin, planting his face on the desk in front of him, “that makes so much sense.”
“If it helps,” says Gwaine, amused, but nonetheless placing a comforting hand on Merlin’s back, “he’s one of the easiest people in the world to annoy. It won’t take much to get revenge.”
“What do you suggest?” Merlin sits up, removing a scroll that has stuck to the side of his face.
From the evil grin that slides across Gwaine’s features, he can tell it’s going to be good.
Thursday (Day Shift)
Arthur can’t get the fucking curtains open.
He’s tried everything from wrenching them open to cursing them but no matter what he does the two sheets of purple fabric stay resolutely stuck in place. To make matters worse, there’s an almighty thunderstorm going on outside and the thick curtains repel all the charms he tries to use to change it.
Most annoying of all, the office is sparkling clean. There’s even a faint smell of pine telling him that the arsehole actually used proper cleaning products.
With a growl of frustration, Arthur wrenches open the memo on his desk, too angry to use magic to do it neatly. He shakes out the purple parchment and reads what it says.
Note to Dollophead
Doesn’t this remind you of patrol duty at Hogwarts? At least a little? You being an insufferable prick and poor me having to suffer through it? Or maybe you’ve had your head up your arse since then already?
Either way, it’s been fun reminiscing.
P.S. Your own little perfect world, huh? Well, it’s nice to know you have an imagination. I was always under the impression that you were a boring, humourless prick. I must say the past few days have done little to prove me otherwise, but I suppose you never know.
Arthur’s eyes widen in shock. There’s only one person in the AMRS with whom he can remember doing patrol duties at Hogwarts, he just didn’t realise that he’d been promoted to Team Captain too.
Merlin bloody Emrys, the swotty Slytherin who had cleaned up all the academic awards, who was the only person who didn’t seem to be impressed by Arthur, who had seemingly taken immense joy in knocking Arthur down a few pegs on a constant basis.
Merlin bloody Emrys who Arthur had never admitted to fancying – not while they were at school and certainly not when they were going through AMRS training together – but whom Arthur fancied all the same.
After AMRS training, as frustrating as Merlin was to be around with his constant sniping comments, Arthur was more than a little disappointed when he specifically requested to be left on night shift while Arthur was moved to day shift. At the time, he was tempted to tell Annis and Kilgharrah that he’d be staying on too but realised that it would look highly suspicious. As a rookie, it was an honour to be put on day shift and turning it down was practically unheard of. For two people to turn it down at the same time would be a dead giveaway.
Arthur throws down the note in frustration because, fuck, of course it’s Merlin. He’s the only person who could make himself such a nuisance without actually being present.
The revelation leaves him reeling in confusion. For all that Merlin drives him up the wall, he’s never quite gotten over those high cheekbones, those downright kissable lips and even those ridiculous ears of his. And even though he’s still immensely annoyed at the fact that there’s an inaccessible storm going on outside his window, it now brings a reluctant smile to his face to think that it was Merlin who put it there.
What is wrong with me? Arthur laments as he begins sorting through his paperwork.
For the first time all week, Arthur can’t think of what to say in reply and leaves his desk clean.
Thursday (Night Shift)
There’s no memo on Merlin’s desk that night.
He knows it’s a pretty ridiculous thing to come to expect after what hasn’t even been a week, but as annoying as Arthur’s notes have been, they’re a good distraction from the mountain of paperwork that he hasn’t seemed to have made a dent in.
Merlin doesn’t even really feel that excited at that his and Gwaine’s plan seems to have worked. He listens to the distant rumble of thunder behind the sealed curtains as he slides into his office chair.
Was it because Arthur knew who he was now? Unless he was that upset about not being able to open the curtains, it had to be. They'd never been on the friendliest of terms but he'd never actually hated the prat, and oddly now that he knew that Arthur was the one behind the notes, they were funny in an ‘oh-yeah-that-makes-sense’ way.
Merlin tries writing a witty memo that will hopefully strike up the banter again, but the alarm bell sounds just then and Merlin has to leave it abandoned.
By the time Merlin gets back from the case (another underage Muggleborn with far less understanding parents), any motivation he has to write the note is gone. He flicks his wand at the window and the curtains open as the clouds outside part.
He leaves work that night gladder than he's ever been that it's the weekend.
Friday (Day Shift)
Arthur knows that there won't be a memo on his desk the next morning but that doesn't stop the small ripple of disappointment he feels when he sees the empty desk.
He's even more disappointed to see that the curtains are open again and the light outside is a sunset gold.
God, Pendragon, you're pathetic, he thinks to himself unkindly before tackling the small pile of paperwork he has to complete before the weekend. Free from the distraction of Merlin (or maybe to distract himself from Merlin) Arthur gets through it in record time and by mid-morning is left tapping the back of his quill on the clean desk.
He looks up at Merlin's overflowing shelf (it had to be at least a year’s worth of forms) and wonders briefly how Agravaine could have fallen so far behind without anyone noticing. He also wonders how Annis could expect one person to do all the catching up. It's ridiculous and laughable and before Arthur knows what he's doing, he's picking up a handful of forms from what he now knows is the ‘incomplete’ pile and is filling them out.
By the end of the day, he's shifted about a quarter of the ‘incomplete’ pile to the ‘complete’ pile. To stop Merlin from freaking out, he writes him a short memo and leaves it on top of his ‘complete’ pile.
With a rewarding sense of accomplishment, he points his wand at the window and the sun begins to set again.
There's no use in annoying the weekend shift as well.
Sunday (Night Shift)
There's a sinking feeling in his stomach when Merlin gets to the office at the start of his week and notices that there isn't a memo sitting on his desk.
He tells himself it's ridiculous because A) it was Owain’s shift in the office earlier and B) he's never cared about what Arthur might have had to say before – now shouldn't be any different.
Merlin shuffles over to his paperwork shelf and his heart almost stops when he sees that his ‘Incomplete’ pile has shrunk considerably since Thursday night.
“Shit shit shit fuck shitity fuck,” he swears as he tries to survey the damage. He's about to reach for the nearest scroll when a memo flies out at him and catches him on the cheek.
Bending down to retrieve it, he’s surprised to see his name on the wing this time.
Note to Idiot
As annoying and infuriating as you are most of the time, I don't think anyone deserves the amount of paperwork Agravaine left you, so I'll help you. I've already started and I’ve tried to keep as close to your lackadaisical and frighteningly nonsensical filing system as possible.
Please let me know if I've overstepped.
Merlin looks at the pile of scrolls suspiciously, wondering if Arthur is trying to sabotage him and decides that he probably isn't. For all that Arthur is arrogant to the point of delusion and acts annoyingly superior to everyone around him, Merlin has never known him to be cruel. In fact, the few times Merlin saw him with a head that actually fit onto his shoulders, Arthur showed himself to be infuriatingly noble and kind.
Merlin thinks back to the time on patrol where the little Ravenclaw first-year couldn't get back into his dorm after curfew because he couldn't answer the riddle. Arthur sat with the boy, comforting him, until between the three of them they managed to crack the answer. Or that time when Gwen and Mithian got into an enchanted snowball fight and broke a window. Arthur happened to be passing through the courtyard when Filch apprehended the girls and, to save them from a Filch detention, he admitted to breaking the window, despite having been nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time.
Or that really stormy day when Merlin’s next class after Care of Magical Creatures was Charms and he was forced to sprint through the rain to get there. It was only halfway to the castle and wondering why he wasn't soaked to the bone that Merlin realised that someone had cast an Umbrella Charm on him and that the only person who had been near enough to do so was Arthur.
Merlin knows Arthur wouldn't do anything really evil, so he grabs a handful of scrolls from the ‘Incomplete’ pile and sits down at his desk to get to work, not quite able to stop the stupid grin that spreads across his face for the rest of the night.
Monday (Day Shift)
Arthur smiles when he sees the memo on his desk on Monday morning and doesn't even mind the mild drizzle outside. It's bucketing down on London up on the surface, so this is actually an improvement.
Eager to see what Merlin has to say, he sits down and taps the paper jet with his wand.
Note to Dollophead
I suppose you want me to thank you for being such an interfering sod, but I think I was handling the situation pretty well myself. At the risk of sounding arrogant (which, as someone who has never been able to pick up on his own arrogance, I know might go straight over your head) I am quite a gifted wizard. I would have got those all done eventually.
Tell me, do you get off on meddling in other people’s lives or is it something you do by accident?
P.S. Seriously though? Thank you. You didn't have to do that and I really appreciate it. Please let me know if there's any way I can make it up to you.
A smile spreads across Arthur’s face and his good mood doesn't leave the whole day. Not even when Mordred severely fucks up his Memory Modification Charm so that the old man they're helping thinks he's a duck and has to spend the day at St Mungo’s. Not even when he gets a Howler from Lamia after their date that weekend (Arthur had spent most of it in a daze thinking about Merlin). Not even when he discovers another condensation ring on the desk. If anything, he ends up smiling more as he happily says “Nitorem” and watches it disappear.
It's like he's a lovesick Hogwarts student all over again, but this time Arthur will have enough nerve to get what he wants.
Or rather, he'll at least try. Starting with working a little late that night.
Monday (Night Shift)
Merlin nearly drops his wand when he gets to work that night and sees Arthur sitting at the desk, writing on a purple piece of parchment that he assumes is going to become his memo.
Arthur looks up and for the first time since training, they lock eyes. He's just as annoyingly handsome as he's always been – he has the same gorgeously carved face, the same ocean-blue eyes and the slightly crooked smile that Merlin has always secretly liked most of all – but now he has a faint dusting of stubble and a few laughter lines.
Merlin doesn't know what to do when Arthur smirks and nods at him, so he tries to nod back in the same way. He has the impression he looks like one of his mom’s bobble heads.
Arthur holds on to his gaze for a second longer before going back to his note and it's like taking a deep breath after being unexpectedly plunged underwater.
This was new and very unwelcome.
Merlin is about to ask Arthur if he's planning to leave at any point that night, when the man in question stands up, taps the memo with his wand to fold it and glides it to Merlin who snatches it out of the air without thinking.
“Nice catch,” says Arthur in amusement as he walks towards him. “Pity you didn't play Quidditch. You could have been a decent Seeker.”
“Scared of heights,” says Merlin, not sure why he's admitting that. He notices that behind Arthur, outside the window, the clouds are still grey and stormy. “It's raining.”
“Very good, Merlin,” says Arthur patronisingly as he heads out of the door. “Maybe tomorrow you'll be ready to run through your primary colours.”
“Sod off,” says Merlin, rolling his eyes but unable to keep the smile off of his face as he says it. He slams the door closed before Arthur can see this and leans against it heavily. He takes a deep breath before pushing himself off to go read his new note.
Note to Idiot
Pray tell, if I wasn't there to interfere, who would check to make sure that ridiculous head of yours is still attached to your shoulders? It's not meddling if it's in the public’s best interest. No one wants a scrawny swot in the Headless Hunt.
I don't feel the need to meddle in other people's lives because most people I know have their shit together. But you've always been something special, haven't you, Merlin ?
P.S. There's no need to thank me you dingbat. I don’t think it's fair for anyone to work as hard as you have this past week. Especially when settling into a new job. Consider it a welcoming present, one Team A leader to another.
P.P.S. You look amazing in blue. It's definitely your colour. ;)
Merlin's heart triples in speed as he reads and rereads the letter. He can't quite believe what he's seeing. Phrases like ‘you've always been something special’ and ‘you look amazing in blue’ bounce around his mind playing havoc with his emotions. A glance over at his now almost halved ‘Incomplete’ pile is enough to confirm that Merlin might have to reassess a few of his thoughts on Arthur.
Unable to suppress his grin, Merlin flicks his wand at the window and allows the moonlight to spill across the desk, highlighting the memo as it rests next to the coaster.
His smile grows wider.
Thursday (Day Shift)
It's been over a week since Arthur stayed late at the office to catch a glimpse of Merlin he's thought of little else since. He somehow blessedly manages to keep his head when he's on a case or when he's doing paperwork, but any moment not spent on work is a moment where his thoughts are consumed with Merlin.
Merlin who is intelligent and snarky and hilarious.
Merlin who is infuriatingly good at knowing which of his buttons to push.
Merlin who looked so sinfully good in that royal blue shirt the other day, it was all Arthur could to not to crowd him against the nearest wall and kiss him senseless.
Arthur pulls his hands down his face to clear his head before rereading Merlin's latest note again.
I've been doing a lot of thinking and I have a theory about your aversion to storms.
Picture with me if you will: little Muggleborn Arthur Pendragon, who has just discovered that he has magic and has taken it upon himself to educate himself on what it means to be magical. Now imagine that little Arthur Pendragon watching a little movie by the name The Wizard of Oz. Imagine with me that this little Arthur watches with delight the exploits of Dorothy and Toto in all their sepia-toned glory right up until a massive storm sweeps up our heroine’s house and deposits it on the first magical person it comes across: The Wicked Witch of the East
I don't think you've looked at storms the same way since, mate.
Just a theory, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
Well you should fucking know who by now
P.S. There is no way “Moon Sick” was as good as “Last of the Thestrals”! You can't call yourself a fan of Hippogriff Rampage and come out with shit like that.
Honestly, Pendragon, I thought we had found some common ground there for a bit. It's a good thing I like you for more than your taste in albums.
Arthur grins as he sets the note aside with heart racing to continue working on the pile of Agravaine’s neglected paperwork. If everything goes according to plan, between Merlin and him, they should have it finished by the end of the week, a fact that makes Arthur beam with pride every time he thinks about it.
And if all goes according to plan, by the end of the week, he’ll have fixed what he should have done years ago.
Half an hour before closing time he nervously pens his reply to Merlin and on a whim, makes him a cup of tea which he charms to stay warm until he gets there.
To think that this time two weeks ago he'd been worried about a little bit of fake rain outside his window.
Thursday (Night Shift)
Merlin sees the memo on his desk but he can't bring himself to read it.
Last night’s memo to Arthur was a risky one in as much as he had mostly admitted to having feelings for the prick. It was new territory for him. He'd definitely always found Arthur attractive but it was only in the last week or so that he realised that that strange swooping feeling he got whenever he saw a purple memo sitting on his desk probably meant that he liked more than just his face.
And though he didn't say it in so many words, he definitely implied that he might have feelings for Arthur in his note, which meant that he was now too nervous to read the reply.
Instead, Merlin drinks the tea that he assumes Gwen has left on his desk and decides to focus on work. He's so close to the end of Agravaine's forms now that he can almost imagine his perfectly clear shelf. If he can push through as much work as possible tonight, he knows Arthur will be able to get through the rest tomorrow. From next week, he should be able to start fresh. He can finally feel like it's his job and not some favour he's doing for the Ministry.
If Merlin's eyes keep flitting back to the memo in front of him, well that's just because purple is a very eye-catching colour.
He waits until the very last minute to read the note from Arthur. All the night shift workers are shuffling past his office as they head home and he can hear the unmistakable sounds of the day shift workers filing into the briefing room.
With trembling hands, Merlin taps the memo and it falls flat on his desk. He takes a deep breath and begins to read.
So I could write you a detailed letter about why I don't like stormy weather, OR we could discuss it in person.
Say, over dinner maybe? At 8 on Saturday night?
It's very possible I'm misreading a lot of things from your side (it’s pretty difficult to tell with all the sarcasm in these notes), but I'm a little bit crazy about you – have been since Hogwarts really – and it would be really great to get to know you better off of this purple office parchment.
At the very least I feel like we should celebrate the fact that from next week you'll be free of Agravaine's pile of crap.
Let me know. And please excuse me if you bump into me tomorrow and I look like a zombie. I'm probably going to be too anxious to sleep tonight.
P.S. You would prefer their weird underground experimental album over their big hit. It's a good thing I like you for a lot more than your music taste.
Merlin has to reread the letter two more times before he's sure that he's read it properly. His heart seems to be trying to escape his chest. He can't remember the last time he's felt this elated and excited and terrified all at the same time.
With shaking hands, he scribbles his reply onto the nearest bit of spare parchment he can find, realising that he's splattering ink everywhere in his haste, and by the time he's done, the office door opens and Arthur is standing there, looking as much the zombie as he promised he'd look.
Without a word, Merlin walks over to him, slipping the folded note into Arthur’s hand, allowing his fingertips to linger on the skin there for a moment longer than necessary.
He leaves before he can see Arthur's reaction.
Friday (Day Shift)
Merlin is still in the office when Arthur arrives the next morning. His heart jumps into his throat at the sight of him, rumpled and tired looking from a long night of work. His shirt is rolled up at the elbows and from the way his soft curls stand in disarray it looks like he's been running his fingers through his hair.
His heart catches at how unfairly adorable the prick is.
Before Arthur can say anything, Merlin is walking up to him and Arthur is suddenly aware that this might well be the closest that Merlin has ever stood next to him. He feels him press something into the palm of his hand, parchment by the feel of it, and revels in the soft brush of long fingertips over the heel of his hand.
And then, Merlin is gone and Arthur is hastily unfolding the small piece of parchment in his hand, eager and terrified in equal measure to see the reply.
Saturday night, 7:30, The Purple Imp
Don't be late.
Arthur can't stop his barking victory laugh or his little jump of excitement. He can't stop the grin that spreads across his face and stays there even as he looks at the small pile of paperwork he still has to get through.
Turning to the window, he waves his wand and dark clouds swirl across the sky, darkening his office so much that he has to ignite the lamps. He doesn't care anymore. In just a few hours he would be on an actual date with Merlin Emrys.
As the first clap of thunder shakes his office, Arthur decides that storms aren't that bad after all.