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Chapter 4 : The Ultimatum
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This is probably going to be the last update until August, though. I'm going on the other side of the country, where there is no internet access, nor a keyboard to type :( Enjoy it while you can!
Many thanks and attackles to shadowycorner (Elizabeth) for rereading this chapter and helping me with it.
Speaking of the editing. There is a section I was very nervous about; it can partially be considered racist. I would just like to clear up, right now, that I am not racist, nor am I aiming to portray any ethnic group in a negative light. This is a character's point of view and not mine.
*cough* *is done*
Work is one thing, but the plus side is that it ends at some point. Always does. Infallibly, at some point or another – this fluctuates between seven in the evening and three o’clock in the morning – I can leave and look forward to not seeing Mackey, Vicky, or Romilda for a few hours.
But I don’t generally take kindly to when Padma sends me an owl just as I get home, and when she and our mother beg me to come quickly or risk screwing up the entire bloody wedding.
Well, when you put it nicely.
I barely wolf an extra cup of coffee down before Apparating to my mother’s house, my childhood home. It’s mostly abandoned now, since Mum and Dad have been globetrotting ever since we graduated and moved out. They’ll sell the house after Padma’s wedding to my true love.
Speak of the devil.
Guess who else is here? While I’m still ink-splattered and bloody exhausted and not looking the least bit presentable?
Roger Davies was always kind of dreamy in school, but in the so-called real world, he’s even hotter. He’s mature now. He’s got that aura of I’ve made it, bitch! Which, despite the occasional ostentatious-ness, is really, really attractive. Plus, he has every right to flaunt his success. At twenty-seven, he’s already bought the Kenmare Kestrels Quidditch team. As I understand it, they’re quite good. He’s a mogul.
And this is the guy who sees me looking like a literal wreck who is figuratively wrecked.
“Roger,” I mutter mutinously, not at all happy to see my – ahem – true love. Especially not when he’s so obviously obsessed with my sister. And especially because he kind of wrinkles his face like he’s disgusted at my sloppy appearance. “Can I talk to you? Before she sees me?”
Roger thinks I’m referring to his fiancée, my sister. I’m not. It’s Mum I’m more worried about.
“Sure,” he says cheerfully. I doubt he’s actually happy to see me personally, but I’ll ignore that. I have to, anyway.
Roger leads me (as if I need leading in the house I grew up in) to the kitchen, far from where my mother and twin are heatedly discussing the merit of inviting the Parkinsons. They haven’t seen me yet, thank God, and I fully intend to take advantage of that.
No, damn it. I’m not beguiling him now. That’s a bit much, even for me. I’m going to be subtle about ending the wedding while making it look like I’m helping thing. That way, Roger sees who’s really the better person on the outside.
I can’t say who is better for real, anyway. I mean, there’s me, the slanderous gossip – cough, social commentator – and there’s her, the squeaky-clean socialite who is constantly being followed by paparazzi and all that fun stuff. How Padma Patil got so bloody popular, I have no idea.
Okay, I lie. I do know why people like her better than me. Again, she’s the one who can keep her mouth shut and a straight face. I can’t. I’m just that unsociable, which is why I’ve resorted to reporting about those who are. Remember how people are horrible? Yeah. Padma Patil is the reason I know that so well.
“Parvati?” Roger interrupts me gently. His voice is all gravelly and sexy and… yeah. I’ll shut up now. “What did you want to talk about?”
“Mistakes,” I answer smoothly, not sounding half as fazed as I am. “Your mistake.”
“This India business!” I answer hotly. Not that I was especially sexy while I said it, no – meaning that I was hot tempered. and angry. God, I’m not that twisted. I’m not going to seduce my sister’s fiancé in a kitchen. That’s just sick. “I’m – seriously, Roger, what the hell are you thinking? Who is going to go to India of all places? That’s just too much to demand from your friends and family!”
“If they really care, they’ll come,” he says confidently, nodding his chiseled godlike head vigorously. God, what is that cologne he wears? It’s so… masculine… and alluring…
Wait. I’m supposed to be arguing. “Roger, do you really think–”
“Parvati!” he interrupts, taking one of my ink-stained hands in his own and gazing earnestly into my eyes. His eyes are just the dreamiest shade of blue ever, and they go on forever and ever and… “I appreciate your concern, but this is mine and Padma’s decision. Not… not yours.”
Maybe I am as sick as Vicky thinks I am. I’ve never heard Roger speak that earnestly ever, let alone to me. So what if he was ignoring my warnings and blowing me off? I’m such a masochist.
“Okay, now, before you go–” Brilliant, he’s kicking me out, too? “–Priya needed you to tell her who your date will be.”
I blink. “Priya?” I repeat, bewildered. “As in my mother? As in the woman who nearly throttled me–” I belatedly realize it’s probably not the best idea to divulge humiliating, scarring events of my adolescence. Let’s leave it at the fact that my mum and I don’t usually see eye to eye in regards to the male sex. “As in – my mum wants me to bring a date?”
Shit. Leave it to my mother to pop her head into the kitchen at this very second to see her daughter arguing with her other daughter’s husband-to-be. She sounds horrified, not just at my crappy appearance but also because she only now learned I was even here. Good job, Mum.
“Parvati!” she chastises loudly, waddling toward the center aisle where we are. “What the hell are you doing here?”
See why I’m such a horrible person? My mother uses profanity in front of me. That’s such a good influence.
“Padma was the one who invited me here!” I defend myself, crossing my arms sulkily. And speak of the true-love-stealer! Padma glides in, too, shocked to see me here. “You think I’d actually come here when I have to go back to–”
“Who’s your date, Jannu?” Mum cuts in irritably. She snatches a long parchment list from Padma’s hand and brandishes it at me as if it’s a butcher knife. “Oh, come on,” she rolls her eyes extravagantly at my vacant expression. “Can’t you get someone – anyone – to be your date?”
“I’m a good Indian girl, remember, Ami?” I reply evenly. Roger looks so confused – but very attractive, as usual – and he skips gingerly over to Padma, the only person who he can actually deal with. “I don’t bring dates to my sister’s wedding.”
“One date,” Padma happily corrects me. She loves it when I make mistakes in public. “You only need one date. Besides,” she adds thoughtfully, though it’s so obviously a threat Roger skives off the girly discussion and runs back to the parlor, “if you’re not already taken, you know who’ll get all excited.”
I do know, and I cringe at remembering. “Fine,” I acquiesce mournfully. “I’ll find a date. Should he be brown?”
“Better if he’s not,” Padma advises sagely. “He’ll get all offended if you’ve chosen some whitewashed son-of-a-bitch instead of him.”
I’m not racist, I swear. I’m in love with Roger Davies, remember? And he’s about the most British bloke I’ve ever seen. My family isn’t racist, either. Especially in regards our own people. It’s just that there are some out there who are a bit more, you know, fanatical about this sort of thing, about two cultures mixing and all.
Just to make sure no one starts slandering me. That’s my job.
And I’ll thank you to remember that I’m pretty damn good at what I do.
But dating? Yeah. Not so much.
Wednesday mornings are the lowlight of the workweek. Halfway done, but two more days to battle through. So naturally Maxwell Mackey’s melodious voice implying that I screwed something up again is not my favorite sound on a Wednesday morning. Especially when Vicky’s called in sick and some subordinate gave me bloody breakfast blend tea. And last night, after agreeing to find a plus one for the entire week of Indian-wedding-festivities, my mother insisted on all of us drinking chai in celebration. Tea is bad, chai is worse.
Needless to say, Mackey can tell exactly how badly I want to throttle him right now.
“I don’t care what personal problems you have to clear up,” he begins the second I march into his office, “but real life is waiting for you.”
I don’t answer him and trudge to the coffee machine. Ah, Kona blend. There is justice in the world.
“The Potter article is crap, Patil, and I want you to get your paws off my coffee.”
Strike that bit about justice. I can only smell it now, and I silently curse my son-of-a-qutti boss who dares deny me Kona blend.
“It’s crap, Patil,” he continues once I’ve grumpily obeyed him. He doesn’t mind the mutinous glare I’m fixing him with, either. “This is nothing. Find Potter. Get more. Now.”
“Kona,” I demand simply. “You’re not getting shit if I don’t get Kona.”
“There are hundreds of people who’d kill to have Potter’s blessing to interviews. And I can fire you just as soon as they can poison your coffee.”
As usual, he’s right. I just love rowing Mackey. Invariably I lose and feel like a complete and utter idiot.
But, I remember with a dry grin, every man has his price.
“What would you say if I could make him my plus-one to Padma’s wedding?”
“If you can get Harry Potter to be your date to her wedding – what then?” snaps Mackey excitedly, leaning forward and getting his shirtsleeves in his own cup of coffee. Waste of the most expensive beverage in Diagon Alley.
“Then I get a lifetime supply of Kona coffee.”
Mackey snorts, amused and disbelieving. “If you can get the story of the century – what it’s like to be Harry Potter’s date to the wedding of one of the most famous socialites of this era and the owner of one of the most successful Quidditch teams in the League – all you want is coffee?”
“A lifetime supply,” I correct him.
And why ever shouldn’t I make this ultimatum? It’s perfectly reasonable.
I get a date, Harry gets a life, Mum doesn’t attack me, Padma’s shown up, and Roger sees how mad Harry is about me and gets insanely jealous and demands that I marry him. Win-win-win-win-win situation.
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