Chapter 8 : The Return
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Obviously I don't have much to say, but I am excited about this chapter, which was written spontaneously and might not make sense. But don't worry, it will. Later. You'll see. Ahem. ^_^
Hindi defined at the bottom. (And, any of my Hindi speakers, please correct me if I'm wrong. Gotta love phonetic spelling).
Love, stuff, and cinnamon snickerdoodles,
When we finally do leave, it’s about an hour after Harry very astutely observed that we should have left half an hour before that. There are some major crises as we finally file out of my parents’ townhouse – all twenty-seven of us – but naturally I don’t pay attention. This entire bloody mangni, as Mum insists on calling it, can go to hell for all I care. Padma and Roger aren’t meant to be, I’m not the wedding planner anymore, and at least five different people have trampled on my dress.
Harry, on the other hand, is absolutely entranced despite himself. And when I say that, I obviously mean that he’s only here to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. I have no problem with that, but it does deflate my ego considerably. Just once it would be nice to be with someone who cares that at least five different people have trampled on my dress.
After the torturous limousine ride – which was solely for the benefit of the Muggles on both our and the Davies’ side – we’ve finally arrived at the bloody hall. It’s in a Muggle hotel in London proper, one that Roger apparently has been fantasizing about having his wedding in. Since that’s not going to happen, I obliged him and booked the engagement party to be here. And, about two hours late, we’re finally entering. The poor Davies are probably going to end the engagement right here and now to protest the Patils’ lack of courtesy. And since I am the only one on the bride’s side to care even slightly about punctuality, Roger will be overjoyed and marry me instead…
Oh, well. I can dream, can’t I?
“Parvati,” Harry utters, almost urgent. I snatch his hand, sans watch, thank Merlin, to make him shut up. This isn’t the time to ask about really stupid Indian traditions. Like showing up for a party two hours late. It’s something he’ll have to get used to on his own.
“Harry, we’ve got an engagement to go to and we’re already bloody late!”
The hotel staff seems terrified of the very brown crowd of Patils. And I do have to admit, we make a pretty intimidating crowd, the lot of us: even if I’m trying to be polite and silent, no one else is. The fact that we’re also not wearing traditional clothes – except Mum, of course – is probably confusing them a lot, too. Clearly they know a thing or two about Southall.
“Excuse me.” A black-suited orderly cuts in front of my parents, who are leading our troupe and who look baffled by the interruption. Surprisingly, the orderly doesn’t seem at all terrified of us. I suppose that’s why he’s the only one to come up to us. “What event are you here for? The Steiner bar mitzvah, the Quraishi party–”
Mum and Dad blink at the orderly. They don’t get it.
“Oh, for the love of all things coffee,” I grumble, and let go of Harry’s hand. It seems that I, being the whitest brown girl of our company, will have to deal with the aggravating formalities. I argue with ushers and organizers all the time to get into exclusive wizarding events, after all. Muggle party people can’t be much different. “Here, what’s all this about now?”
The orderly sizes me up before repeating his query. “I’m sorry,” he sniffs condescendingly, “but you can’t just gallop in here and expect to–”
“The Patil engagement party?”
“I’m sorry, but there is no Patel engagement party scheduled for tonight.” Because, of course, he knows that off the top of his head. Bloody orderly.
“Patil. With an eye. Pee-a-tee-eye-elle. Patil.”
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate being called Patel? I hate it. It’s so bloody annoying. Patel and Patil are very different surnames, and it’s absolutely not fair for us to be mixed up. It’s just one of the many problems of being a minority. No one can pronounce my name and no one believes me when I say that English is my first language. But that’s neither here nor there. What is both here and there is the fact that I’m not a Patel, and the hotel orderly smirks at me. I don’t know why.
“Well, miss, there isn’t a Patil engagement party scheduled for tonight, either,” he sneers. “Our only events are the Steiner and Quraishi parties.”
“Davies?” Padma butts in, clanking obnoxiously in her stilettos. For a society woman, she never did learn to walk in heels without clanking obnoxiously. It’s something that I do not hesitate to exploit whenever Mackey forces me to write about her. “The Davies party? Roger Davies?”
“I’m sorry, miss, but there is no event scheduled for tonight under either name. There’s just Steiner and–”
Padma giggles. I can’t imagine why she’s giggling. After all, it’s her engagement party that’s in jeopardy, not mine. Although I might be wrong; the Patils plus Harry are getting jittery. Once Indians are ready, they can and will party until past daybreak. They don’t even need alcohol to stay awake. Give an Indian chai and the latest Bollywood hit, and they’ll have themselves a bash worthy of a Daily Prophet write-up. Not like I’d write about them. But still.
“You’re having a laugh. Very funny, sir, but can you direct us to my bloody engagement party now?”
That’s the Padma I grew up with. She’s hysteric. Understandable, of course. Like I said, it’s her engagement party, not mine.
“I really am sorry, but there–”
“You said that already, dammit.” Oh, God, is she going to cry? I hope so. She never wears waterproof mascara, that one. Thinks she’s above crying. As if. “You’ve got to be having a laugh!”
“Shut it, stupid,” I snarled under my breath. As I know very well, we’re not going to get anywhere with these stupid Muggles unless we reason with them. Again, it can’t be all that difficult to reason with them. I am reasonably well-versed in causing havoc, but I can fix what I break, too. Sometimes. “Oi, you!” The orderly had begun to edge away from our hysteric group (seems they’re all listening now), but I’m not letting him get away. I suffered physical scarring for this party, and that’s not going to be in vain. “Oi! Get me your bloody manager, you!”
The orderly wrinkles his protuberant nose, but nods and stalks off. I exhale triumphantly. Never go to orderlies for help. What do they know?
Of course, this isn’t true in my case. Vicky knows more than I ever will about what I do.
But I’m not at work right now, especially not now. Strictly speaking, I shouldn’t care: I’ve been planning since the beginning to ruin the wedding. I should be happy that someone’s obviously been to do this already. But I’m not. Someone stole my job. And is doing a really shoddy job of it, too.
“Aapi?” Sandhya Khala jostles our tittering little crowd to get to the front. “What’s going on?”
“Voh gora sala kehre hai kei humare mangni yahaan nahin hai,” Mum answers in terse Hindi. I wince at her use of profanity. Swearing in another language isn’t subtle, it’s obnoxious.
Admittedly, with my twin sister on the verge of a mental breakdown, this does seem to be the time for subtlety.
“What’s wrong, everyone?”
I wince again, since Harry, too, makes his way to me. He fits in best with the clientele at this stupid, disorganized hotel, I notice. Belatedly, of course. I should have gotten him to do the negotiating for me. Then that orderly might stop messing with us.
“Nothing, Harry,” Padma squeaks, rubbing her eyes. Probably to stop herself from crying. And streaking her face with black. She’d look splendidly like a raccoon, and I look forward to the occasion. “Nothing, they’re just saying my party isn’t happening!” She heaves a pained sigh, and my mother and aunt flock to comfort her.
“Well, I did try to tell you,” mutters Harry. No one else hears him, but I do. And that should be enough, shouldn’t it?
“What? What do you mean?” I tug his arm and break off from my family’s colony. Word has spread, and they’re all twittering feverishly about what will happen in at least four languages. “Harry, what’re you–”
He gestures smugly at the ornate entrance, where people are filing in–none of them looking for the Patil engagement party. I wonder for a moment where Roger might be, but if Harry knows what’s going on… “There’s a chart over there that says where all the events are,” he says, “and I looked, and your name wasn’t on there, so I wondered…”
“It’s a mistake,” I say confidently. I don’t know why I feel like this. It’s not as if I wanted to go through with this wedding, but still. When the time comes, I want my wedding (to Roger) too. It won’t be as bloated as Padma’s, but it will be my wedding and for once, I kind of feel like Padma and I might be sisters after all. I guess I’m indignant on her behalf?
Well, who’d have thought?
“What if it isn’t, though?”
Trust the Chosen One to be the pessimist. Figures.
“Then Padma will blame me, obviously,” I shrug. I’ve come to this conclusion quite simply and with significant grace, considering this is me. “I scheduled it here, didn’t I? My fault.”
Harry’s eyes are narrow as he peers at me. “You didn’t screw up on purpose, did you?”
My face says it all. At least, I hope it does. I’m not going to bother dignifying that question with a response.
“Just asking. I mean, it’s no secret that you and Padma–”
“Hate each other’s guts?”
He grimaces. “Something like that.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not horrible enough to cancel my sister’s engagement party.”
But he doesn’t have to know that, does he?
He doesn’t. And, I decide, he won’t.
But, now that I think about it… if I didn’t screw up this scheduling mess – and I seriously didn’t – who did Or did I really screw up – accidentally? (Since even I wouldn’t put that past myself. Who knows? I might have made a mistake. I do have a habit of doing that, after all).
While I ponder the question of the hour, Harry continues to fidget on the spot as the rest of our lot waits for the hotel manager. He seems to do this a lot. Wonder why. Padma hasn’t fainted yet, so I suppose that’s good; it does seem, however, that Mansi has – Mansi, the one who’s been feuding with Divya… anyway. That isn’t important now.
What is important, though, is why my plus-one’s eyes are trying to escape their sockets.
“Harry?” I ask, but he snatches my hand in his, which is suspiciously sweaty for someone who doesn’t care about what happens.
“Act natural,” he whispers.
I start to ask why, but I don’t finish because I see why I’m supposed to act as if my hand in Harry Potter’s is natural.
Ginny Weasley, my plus-one’s ex-girlfriend, is striding across the lobby of the hotel wherein my twin sister’s engagement to my true love is supposed to be celebrated but won’t be because I probably screwed up again and accidentally sabotaged the wedding I was going to sabotage anyway, but not quite yet because I might have some shreds of humanity left.
I think God hates me.
1. mangni - engagement
2. Aapi - respectful nickname for an older sister; Sandhya uses this name for Priya.
3. Voh gora sala kehre hai kei humare mangni yahaan nahin hai. - That white bastard is saying that our engagement isn't here.
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