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Chapter 3 : Of Dressing Sordid, Being Classy, and Obsessions with Umbrellas.
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Indian mothers nag.
They nag and nag and keep nagging until you do what they want, whether it be to eat more or visit more or dress up nicely for your brother’s 10th anniversary party. Then, once you cave, they’re still not happy.
No, then they start whining and complaining about your lack of love life and that it’s not fair to make them worry so much about you.
Aisha used to say that it’s because Mum hates that we don’t live under her roof anymore. I disagree. Mum did, after all, nag us for the first seventeen years of our lives about getting good educations and careers so that we could support ourselves and be independent.
But I dunno, maybe all mums do that. Maybe it’s a ‘Mum’ thing, the desire to control every aspect of your child’s life while you can before they escape from your clutches and nothing you can say or do will change the fact that they’re going to do what they want to.
Being a mother must be terrifying.
Suddenly, I had a new respect for my mother.
“What are you wearing?” Mum said, startling me as she snuck up from behind. Her voice, full of condescension and horrified surprise, brought my internal monologue to an end. “You can’t wear that!”
“Ack!” I exclaimed, covering my face with my hands, my shoulders tensing up. “What the hell, Ma.”
“Stop being such a drama queen,” she said, giving me a once-over. "I'm your mother, I'm allowed to come to your place of residence."
Yeah, respect’s gone.
“That's fine, Mum,” I said impatiently, looking at her through my full-length mirror. “What’s wrong with what I'm wearing?”
She came up behind me, the top of her head coming up to my chin, and started patting my hair, her fingers weaving between my dark. “Sarina, dikra, it’s so sordid. We’re going to a celebratory party, not some old baa’s funeral.”
I blinked, ignoring my mother's tendency to emphasize every other word, and then gave myself the once-over. A short, black halter dress with a glittering, not-too-low, neckline that criss-crossed in the back and an empire waist paired with red heels and dangling ruby earrings.
I think not.
At worst, I looked like I was going to a semi-formal cocktail party, not a “celebratory affair” whose guest list was comprised of the most famous and important people known in the magical world.
But most definitely not a funeral.
Instead of arguing with her over my apparel, though, I attacked her on another point. “What are you even doing here anyways?”
“Making sure you’re dressed appropriately,” she answered with a sigh, pulling her hand out of my hair and taking a step away from me. She turned around and started to walk into the living room of my flat, pulling up the hem of her sari. I got a view of her three-inch heels, and Merlin, they looked painful. At least they explained why she looked so tall today. “But I guess that can’t be fixed, since we’re running out of time. You're already two hours late, but at least your hair looks decent.”
I frowned and picked up a curl, examining it closely. It was shiny and bouncy and curly, and, looking into the mirror again, I couldn’t find a single hair out of place.
I looked good, and I was utterly confused as to why my mother couldn’t see it.
“Ree! I brought the gif- oh, hi Mum. What are you doing here?” Aisha’s voice trailed in through the open door.
I didn’t hear what my mother said, but I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like it either way. Preparing myself for the worst, I walked out of the bedroom. Aisha, in her silky yellow knee-length dress and black peep-toe flats, looked a lot more sordid than I did, in my opinion. In fact, besides the color of the dress itself, the only things lively about her were her peacock feather earrings and the look on her face.
“You look hot,” she told me, a smirk on her face. “Doesn’t she look hot, Ma? She’s going home with someone tonight.”
“Don’t be stupid, Aisha. Your sister doesn’t do any of those things,” my mother harrumphed, making a show of looking down to arrange her bangles so that we wouldn’t see her deep blush at the thought of my going home with someone. “Besides,” she added quietly, a little less irritation in her voice than before, “she’s wearing black.”
“Black is classy, Ma,” my sister explained, throwing an arm over my mother’s shoulder, her amusement clearly visible. “And,” she pointed at my toes, which I wiggled for emphasis, “Red nails, red shoes, red earrings. This girl doesn’t need any more color.”
“Hai bhagavaan,” my mother said exasperatedly, moving away from my sister. She shuddered, probably trying to clear her mind of Aisha’s innuendos, and moved to the coffee table and picked up her purse. “My daughters are such mysteries to me.”
“Your daughters are mysteries to each other,” I told her, following her lead and picking up my clutch. “Now if we’re done here, can we go? The sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave.”
“No, no no no no no, wait!” Mum exclaimed, waving a paper in the air. “I have your speeches. Read them over a few times first.”
And then I was officially convinced that my mother was trying to ruin my life.
Society parties were not my thing. Despite the fact that I’d only attended a handful in the past decade, I hated them all. Up until I graduated Hogwarts, my parents never let me go anyways, since I was underage and there was alcohol and I was going to be bored to death anyways. Then, once I went to Healing School, I threw myself into my studies once again and claimed any and all free time as my own. Family obligations be damned; I was going to be the Prodigal Daughter. I still was, despite the fact that I’d finished Healing School four years ago and no longer had a legit excuse. Now, I just told them that there were always so much paperwork to do and so many patients to take care of, I just didn’t have the time to dress up and go to a gala and pretend to have a clue about what my father did.
Unfortunately, when your family is the one throwing the party, it’s kind of mandatory that you have to attend. I had tried to protest and make some excuses about shifts and whatnot, but my mother is a powerful woman.
You don’t disagree with Minal Shah and come out unscathed, that’s all I’m going to say. I had tried to rebel and now she was bringing out the big guns.
“What the hell, Mum,” Aisha asked flatly, all traces of amusement disappearing from her face in seconds.
“A speech, Ma, really?” My tone mirrored Aisha.
“Yes,” she narrowed her eyes at us. “Do you two have problems with professing your good wishes to your brother and his wife in front of a crowd?”
“But they’re already married, Mum!” Aisha protested. “I don’t understand why we’re celebrating their 10th anniversary. They got married, which was commendable, don’t get me wrong, but staying married is not a big deal. It’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“You do it for 10 years,” my mother responded with a raised eyebrow. “And then tell me you don’t want some praise and gratitude.”
I snorted behind my right hand and then extended my hand so Mum could give me my speech. “She kind of has a point,” I added to my sister, taking the slip of paper. “Samir is kind of a handful.”
Aisha made a face but grudgingly accepted her half-sheet of paper as well. “In all the years I’ve known Samir, I’ve never seen him as happy as he is when he’s with his wife,” she read. Looking up from the speech, she proclaimed, “Mum, no! I’m not saying this. I’m not his best friend from Hogwarts, I’m his sister! I’ve known him my whole life. I’m pretty sure I will be able to come up with a speech better than this on the spot.”
“Me too,” I added. Aisha wasn’t normally this playful or laid-back, and I couldn’t even remember the last time she decided to do something impulsive. We’d had a nice long talk after that day in Diagon Alley three weeks ago, though, about the sticking points in our relationship; it had ended with her agreeing to be a little more like her old self and me agreeing to be supportive and put her problems higher up on my list of priorities.
This was me being supportive.
My mother glared at us one last time before muttering a terse, “Fine,” glancing at her watch, and apparating away with a loud CRACK.
Aisha waited three seconds. “Okay, so I brought the gift, just put your name on the tag,” she motioned to a spot on the sofa where a nicely wrapped box with a big blue bow sat, “and then we’re all set to go.”
I hurriedly Accio’d a pen, scribbled my name across the tag next to hers and added my own faux-personal note before picking up the gift. “Are we good to go?”
“Yeah, d’you want a coat?”
“No, it’s fine.”
“If you say so,” she sung. “Let’s go.”
I was bored.
I couldn’t help it. This was just not my thing. I’d much rather be elbow deep in someone’s blood and guts and trying to save their life than stand around here and kiss people’s cheeks, pretending to care about an issue as unimportant as the amount of money that the Daily Prophet was losing these days. It was a newspaper that lied, and when people couldn’t trust the media, they went to different outlets. The Quibbler, I heard, was doing exceptionally well these days.
I had snagged a glass of champagne almost as soon as I’d walked into the ballroom, not wanting to take any chances. The last time I had been to one of these things, I’d spent the whole night being introduced to everyone my father knew who was over the age of fifty, boring me to death. Since I tended to drop out of the Society radar, I was positive that the same thing would be happening tonight, too. I hated the label that came with being the Minister’s daughter, and I only showed that side of me if I absolutely had to. I put up the facade when needed, but it was not who I was. The forced laughter and faked smiles, the insincere enquiries of how I was doing, what I’d been up to, they weren’t my idea of a fun-filled evening.
Neither was giving a speech, I thought dryly, taking a sip of champagne from my now half-empty glass. But I had to give one of those, too, and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to say. I mean, when Aisha had said that she could basically pull a speech out of thin air, she had meant it. She was a writer, she was good with words. She had all sorts of public speaking and interview experice -- not to mention the fact that she had always been more social than I was. More than likely, I would go up there and babble incoherently for a few moments about how much I loved Samir and how awesome Janvi was for doing his dirty laundry for ten years.
“You look troubled,” someone drawled into my ear.
I jumped, surprised at the fact that Albus Potter had gotten so close behind me without my realizing. “Oh my God,” I yelped, placing a hand over my racing heart, turning around to look at him. “You scared me. Merlin.”
“Actually, my name’s Al. I thought we covered this.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Stop talking, you’re not funny.”
“Hello to you, too.”
“Yeah, yeah, hello,” I said impatiently. “You’re not funny.”
“I’m very funny, Sarina. I’m hurt that you’d think I wasn’t.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, I changing the subject.
He stared at me for a moment. “Well, the Minister of Magic is throwing a party,” he gestured to the ballroom with his right hand, “for his son. He happened to invite Mr. and Mrs. Harry James Potter. The invitation said, ‘and family’, so Mum made us come together as a family.” He accompanied his statement with a cringe, as if being in the presence of all four members of his family was physically painful for him.
“Life must be horrible for you. How can your mother expect you to waste five hours of your life in a place like this? Where there’s free food and an open bar? I feel so bad for you. Your plight makes my heart ache.” I placed my free hand over my heart for emphasis, an exaggerated look of pity on my face.
“Funny. But what are you doing here?"
I stared at him blankly, unsure of how to answer his question. I was ninety-eight percent certain that he had no idea that I was the Minister’s daughter, and I would have loved to keep it that way.
On the other hand, I had a growing attracting to this fine male specimen, and a relationship was always hindered when based on lies.
Well, when in doubt, compromise.
“Oh, you know,” I said vaguely, waving his question away. “Indian people know other Indian people.”
He nodded, “Oh, of course.”
It wasn’t a lie, all Indian people did know each other. (God forbid a teenager hides a relationship and gets caught by some random Indian auntie. By the next day, everyone will know.) It just wasn’t an answer to the question he was asking me, even though it seemed like it was. He seemed to buy it, though, and for that, I was grateful.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want him to know, it was that I didn’t want anyone to know. I had lived through being ‘The Minister’s Daughter’ during my teenage years, not being able to trust a large majority of the people that I called “friends”. I’d been lucky that all of the other children of importance were too wrapped up in their own popularity and family drama (Lily Potter and Rose Weasley’s two-year long feud over Scorpius Malfoy comes to mind) to pay any attention to me. Besides, Aisha was the one who used her identity for certain benefits. She’d lived it up as one of the popular ones, and while we were extremely close now, we hadn’t exactly publicised that we were sisters. The world knew the Minister had another daughter, they just didn’t know who she was.
Unfortunately, I think that it had led to my being more of a public figure, not less. People wanted to know who I was.
“Excuse me,” Al interrupted, snapping his fingers in front of my face. “I asked you a question. I mean, I know that I’m looking handsome tonight, can't blame you for being distracted, but I have to admit, I do feel slightly violated by that look that you’re giving me.”
He was looking admittedly handsome tonight. Dressed to the nines in a black suit and an emerald tie, with a conspicuous lack of glasses, he was dressed to impress. Not that he actually had to try.
He was still looking at me, green eyes twinkling in amusement.
I cleared my throat. “A green tie? Really?”
“An emerald tie,” he corrected.
“It brings out your eyes,” I stated,
“I know, isn’t that a wonderful coincidence.”
“That is not a coincidence!” I laughed. “You purposely chose a tie of that color because you knew it matched your eyes. You’re like a lion who knows he has a full mane and just constantly puffs his chest out.”
“Hi, Pot.” He stuck out his free hand. “I’m Kettle, it’s nice to meet you.”
“What are you on about?”
“Are you telling me that this,” he said, pointedly giving me the once-over, “isn’t you wearing a dress that you chose specifically for tonight so that you could rub in everyone’s faces that while you may be Healer who doesn’t actually have a life outside the hospital, you can look better than every other woman in the room when you try?"
I softened. “I look better than every other woman in the room?” I asked shyly.
“Yes,” he admitted, a small smile tugging at his features, replacing the smirk that had been prevalent for our conversation.
“But no, to answer your question, I did not choose this dress specifically to one-up everyone else tonight.”
“So you just threw it on,” he asked sardonically.
“Well no,” I said defensively, brushing back a stray hair. “I mean, you know, I actually gave some thought as to what I was going to wear --”
“Of course you did.”
“What? I wanted to look nice.”
“And you do,” he said earnestly. “You look beautiful. But you know you look beautiful, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“I’ll be honest with you, I stopped listening at the first beautiful.”
“No, you didn’t,” he dismissed, “because you knew I said it more than once.”
“I could just know you that well.”
“You’ve met me three times.”
“All under extremely shady circumstances. Are you sure you’re not stalking me? No one would expect me to be here.”
"Actually, I do follow your every move. I knew you’d be here tonight,” he sighed. “So I had to come." At my raised eyebrows, he continued hastily, "Only joking. I’m not stalking you, I promise. I just have an extremely intense attachment to my umbrella.”
His umbrella. The one that I’d borrowed three weeks ago, the one that was currently stashed in my foyer closet. I had stuffed it in there the moment I’d come home from St. Mungo’s the morning after my shift, and I hadn’t seen it since. Quickly, I tried to recall if there was anything special about it, but all I could remember was a nondescript black umbrella with a curved wooden handle. Other than the fact that it was charmed to mask the loud noises of raindrops falling onto it, it seemed to be just like any other umbrella I’d ever used in my life.
“...why?” I said blankly.
“It was my only umbrella,” he said matter-of-factly.
I snorted behind my hand. “You’ve been going around London for the past three weeks without an umbrella?”
He shrugged and took a sip of his champagne. Despite the fact that the party had started three hours ago (Aisha and I had been extremely late, and my mother had come to my apartment to tell me so), his champagne glass was barely touched.
I assumed it wasn’t his first glass.
“You could have just bought a new umbrella.”
He averted his gaze. “I like that one.”
“Do you actually have an attachment to it?” I said curiously.
“Uh, no. But if I bought a new one, I would never get that one back and then you would get a free umbrella. And if, on the off-chance that I ever did get that umbrella back after buying a new one, I would be stuck with two umbrellas, which is completely unnecessary for one person.”
“You are cheap.” I slapped his shoulder.
“You try living off an Auror’s salary!” he defended. “It’s not like I’m a Healer or anything.”
“Auror’s make a lot.”
Before he could answer, however, another voice interrupted our conversation. “Al!” Harry Potter called out to his son, walking closer to us. “What are you doing all the way back here? We came here to enjoy a party, son.” He was accompanied by someone who looked strangely like my father, and...
Yeah, that was Daddy.
Oh, damn it all to hell.
“Sarina, what are you doing back here?” My father asked as he came closer, forgoing a greeting. He stuck out a hand to Al. “And Albus Potter, good to see you.”
“She’s actually my date, Minister,” Al said smoothly, sticking out his free hand. He placed the champagne glass on the table behind us and slipped his arm around my waist. I froze, not expecting the action, and bit back the laugh that was sure to spill out of my mouth. “She’s keeping me company.” He probably assumed that I wasn't on good terms with the Minister, and was trying to cover me. I mean, it wasn't like I'd spent most of my childhood begging the Minister of Magic to play horsey with me or anything.
Except that I totally had.
“Your date,” My father repeated slowly. I took a chance and raised my eyes to see his expression, only to realize that he was looking down at me for an explanation.
“It’s a new development,” I explained. “Very, very recent.”
“I see,” he replied, in a tone that told me that no, he did not see at all.
“Yeah.” I had to keep talking, to get the point across to my father that he wasn’t supposed to mention our connection, or this could turn into something very, very bad. “Have either of you happened to see mum, by the way? My -- my mum.”
Harry obviously didn’t think this question was anything out of the ordinary, but my father, on the other hand, knew that I would never go seeking out Mum at a time when her stress-levels were high. And on the occasions that I did, I tended to be beyond livid, relinquishing all rights to possessive nouns. It was always, ‘your wife,’ or ‘that woman’.
Simple, and yet so complex: The relationship between Indian mothers and their white-washed daughters.
“She’s out on the dance floor,” my father said slowly. “Where you two should be. After all, that’s what we’re here for, right? To celebrate?”
“He’s right.” Harry stepped in with a smile. “You two should go have some fun.”
“You up for some dancing?” Al asked me.
I shrugged. “Sure.” I liked dancing enough, and I was willing to do anything to get out of the presence of my father and his inquisitive gaze. Al started to pull me away when I realized that our fathers might have actually come to talk to us about something. When I looked back, though, I saw a flash of black before the door to the ballroom slammed shut, seemingly unnoticed. “Wow.”
“They pushed us into the center of the room and then they escaped.”
He didn’t seem surprised. “Yeah, my dad hates these things.”
“Is he here tonight?”
“Oh, oh, no. He...couldn’t make it,” I told him as he pulled me into his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck and we started swaying in place. “This is not dancing, by the way.”
“I’m bollocks at dancing,” he informed me. “And your father seemed to have the right idea.”
“Hey, this night was very good for you.”
“Because you’re dancing with the most beautiful woman in the room.”
“Okay, one, I look like an idiot right now, and two, are you ever going to let that go?”
“Damn it,” he groaned, throwing his head back.
Luckily for Al, the band stopped playing then, something about having played for two straight hours and taking a quick break. We pulled away from each other awkwardly, not knowing what to do with ourselves since we weren’t in a secluded corner of the room anymore.
“We should go do something,” he said abruptly.
“What,” I looked around, at the fancily-dressed people making their way back to the tables. “Now?”
“Yeah, it’s not like anyone would notice.”
“Al, I can’t leave, I have to give a speech.”
“A speech?” he said flatly.
“A speech,” I confirmed. “Talking about Samir and Janvi and how amazing it is that they’ve been married for ten years.”
"How well do you know these people?"
"Well enough to give a speech," I deflected with a smile.
“Seriously?” he asked in disbelief. “A speech for that? You get married and stay married, it’s not that hard.”
“Yeah, tell that to my mother,” I muttered, the initial irritation at her insistence of speeches coming back to me.
“Okay,” he agreed readily. “But what does your mother have to do with this?”
I stared at him, “I’m kidding, I’m not going to actually let you meet my mum.”
“Why not? Any girl would be lucky to take me home to her parents.”
Not this one, I thought.
“I’m sure they would, but uh...no.”
“You’re no fun,” he whined. “It’s not like I’m saying ‘run away with me and get married’, we can just go to a pub or something. I cannot stand this suit for one more second, and this tie,” he started tugging furiously at the green garment, “is choking me.”
“No one’s asking you to stay, you know. You can leave.”
He sighed dramatically. “I’m beginning to think you don’t want me around, Sarina.”
“Boy you catch on fast, don’t you?” I joked.
“What can I say? Perception is a requisite trait for Aurors.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You’re really going to stay?” he asked me seriously, one eye on the door. “I promised myself I’d only stay half an hour for propriety’s sake, but I stayed a whole extra hour for you. That kind of dedication to you deserves some kind of reward.”
I knew he was joking (mostly), but the look he was giving me, well, it was his version of the Puppy-Dog look.
“Yes!” He pumped his hand in the air. “So you’ll come.”
“No, I just told you I can’t leave!” Immediately, his face fell.
“But,” I continued, “If you’re going to be at Louis’ birthday dinner next weekend, I promise to bring your umbrella. And you know what, I’ll even give you one of my own for all the trouble I’ve caused you.”
He looked offended. “I don’t need charity! I’m a miser, Sarina, I’m not poor. I have one umbrella by choice.”
“Er. Alright,” I said awkwardly.
“That was a bit much, wasn’t it?”
“So I’m going to leave now, but I will see you next weekend at Louis’ birthday dinner and if you don’t have my umbrella, well...bad things will happen.”
“I promise you will get your stupid umbrella,” I told him as he started walking away.
“Next weekend,” he called over his shoulder. “Or bad things.”
I didn’t even bother to respond. I just watched as he walked away, wondering what, exactly, “bad things” meant.
At least I knew it wouldn’t be as bad as my mother’s tirade when my father tells her that I am apparently “dating” Albus Severus Potter.
That was going to be interesting.
dikra- child. Like, if you were to call someone 'kiddo', it's basically the same thing.
sari- a type of Indian dress that women wear. Basically it's nine yards of cloth that you wrap around yourself. There are quite a few ways to wear one, and they're really pretty. I love wearing them.
A/N: So, what did you guys think? I'm hoping that it made you guys laugh a little bit, and it gave a little insight to the way Sarina's family works. Chapter 4 should be up soon, since I'm going to be at Barnes&Noble every day this week, and they just have a really nice atmosphere. Plus, this is just more fun to do than my AP Lit summer assignment.
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