Chapter 4 : Of Brothers, Sisters, and Atrocious First Dates
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“So, a little birdie told me that you’ve got a new boyfriend.”
I nearly choked on my coffee. That was not a topic of conversation that I had been expecting for this morning. It was nowhere near what my brother and I normally talked about.
Samir and I had this tradition of meeting for breakfast every other Sunday. On the weeks that we didn’t have Sunday breakfasts together, we did Thursday night dinners. By hook or by crook, he made sure that I got to see him at least once a week. Occasionally, Aisha would join us, but that wasn’t very often, considering that our routine revolved around my schedule at Mungo’s. Those were the two meals that I always knew I’d be free for, and Aisha had better things to do than wake up at six o’clock on Sunday morning so that she could eat with Samir before he went off to do his important people things. The Muggle post didn’t work on Sundays, but the Ministry of Magic never closed.
At least, not anymore.
I cleared my throat and took a breath, pasting a bright smile on my face. “I’m happily single, thank you.”
“That’s not what Albus Potter said, apparently,” my brother said slyly before taking a sip of his own coffee.
“Albus Potter can say whatever he wants, but that doesn’t mean it has to be true.”
“Why wouldn’t it be true?”
“Sam,” I warned.
“What? I’m just saying. It’s not like it’s unbelievable.”
“It’s believable that I’d date Harry Potter’s son?” I asked with raised eyebrows.
“No, it’s believable that you’d date Albus.”
“I...” I blinked, slightly confused. “I’m not sure what the difference is.”
He leaned forward, putting his coffee down and leaning both his forearms against the edge of the table. “You are Sarina Shah, the Minister’s daughter, right?”
“Yes,” I said, unsure of where he was going with this.
“But you’re just Sarina. You’re slightly sarcastic, funny, intelligent and witty, beautiful Sarina. You’re not ‘The Minister’s daughter’, you’re Sarina.”
I wasn’t sure what it was, maybe his background in law and politics or the fact that he was paid to make people understand what he was saying.
But then I suddenly understood.
“He’s just Al. And you’re saying that it’s believable that I would date Al because of the type of people that we are, not the labels we have,” I stated.
Maybe it wasn’t that hard a concept to grasp.
“Exactly.” He leaned back in his seat. “But, I mean, I know you’re not dating him because he was laughing when he said it and I know for a fact that he was teasing me.”
“Al told you this?”
Another bombshell. This whole time I thought it was something that my father had blabbed to Samir about, to see if Samir would talk to me about it and get out the truth.
“Well yeah, who else would?”
“I didn’t know you knew Al,” I demanded, ignoring his question.
“He works in the Auror Office. I work as the Assistant Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. We talk.”
“How have I never met him before?”
“You ignored him at Hogwarts; he was in Auror training the summer after your graduation when you went to visit Louis at the Burrow, and you don’t come to any of the events that Mum wants you to go to. You do a pretty good job of not running in his circles.”
“Oh.” I deflated. “Wait a minute, is this why we’re having breakfast on a Saturday? Because you couldn’t wait one more day without attacking me about this?”
“Yes,” Samir answered, unashamed. “Also Janvi wanted to know if you could get Victoire to re-decorate our house, but you know, no pressure.”
Victoire Weasley-Lupin had become one of the most successful interior designers in the Wizarding World. Most of the Potters and Weasleys were successful, that goes without saying. There was the occasional failure, like Teddy getting fired from his Gringotts job in his first year there, but they typically didn’t last long. Ted was now a successful Wizarding barrister, and sometimes dabbled in Muggle Common Law as well.
“Why don’t you ask Al, since you two talk a lot anyways.”
“Who did you think told me?” he repeated his question.
“I thought....” I trailed off uncomfortably. “Daddy?”
My brother’s reaction was comical; he actually spit out his coffee. Luckily, there was nothing else on the table except the napkins, which remained unsoiled. He stared at me, daring me to laugh, but I didn’t. I mean, my lips twitched, but I just picked up a napkin and started wiping the table.
“That’s disgusting, by the way.”
“Don’t tell me disturbing things while I have food in my mouth then.”
“How am I supposed to know what’s going to activate your gag reflex?”
“You’re the Healer!”
“People have got to stop saying that around me.”
“Sarina,” Samir said, exasperated, “what does Dad know?”
“Not much,” I said unconvincingly, growing meek under his gaze. I could handle Mum. On my best days, I could even handle Dad. But Samir... he was my older brother. He knew what it was like to be in my shoes, and if he was disappointed with the way I was handling things, then it must have been really bad. Samir I could not handle.
“Why do I not believe that?”
“I don’t know, you're the one that doesn't believe it!”
He narrowed his eyes at me and I shut up.
The thing about having a brother so much older than you is that at some point, he becomes sort of like a parent/guardian figure. He knows when I’m lying, when I’m hiding something, or when I’m not okay. In fact, Samir knows me almost as well as Aisha, which is extremely commendable, considering the fact that we didn’t talk much for the first seventeen years of my life. I was one when he went off to Hogwarts, and though I saw him during summers and breaks, there really wasn’t much for us to talk about except Hogwarts. I remember how he would tell me awe-inspiring stories about Hogwarts, about moving staircases and talking paintings, about statues that sang and enchanted mistletoe and the charmed ceiling of the Great Hall. Unfortunately, that was all we talked about. All I got out of those conversations was a excitement for learning, when all I really wanted was a close bond with my brother.
Ten-year age gaps are hard. There wasn’t much for us to actually talk about until I had graduated Hogwarts, and by then he was already married and out of the house. It wasn’t until he came home early one day and found me eating lunch with Aisha and Janvi that he decided that it was his duty as an older brother to try and build a relationship with us. After all, if his wife could do it, why the hell couldn’t he?
And so he started dropping by my apartment near Mungo’s School of Healing a few times a week, bringing copious amounts of coffee and home-cooked food, bringing his work sometimes so he could keep me company. Sometimes Janvi even tagged along, and it was nice, knowing that he cared enough to not want me to be alone all the time. We talked about lots of things, from Muggle current events to the sometimes-infuriating, sometimes-hilarious antics of our parents. A lot of times, we even made fun of Aisha.
I mean, she knew, and she hated it -- but come on. We’re her older siblings. We’re allowed.
As I got farther along in school, though, and he climbed up the ladder in the Ministry, we started to get less and less time. And then Janvi got pregnant and I started as a Healer and then all our free time just flew out the window, so we decided to do the one-meal-a-week thing. For the most part, I loved it, knowing that I could count on him.
On the other hand, I hated it because now he could read me like a book. He knew that that Dad knew something, but he didn’t know what.
“Al doesn’t know I’m the Minister’s daughter. When Dad bumped into us at your party, Al said I was his date because he thought that I wasn’t actually, you know, supposed to be there, and I haven’t actually had a chance to explain everything. Dad knew to keep his mouth shut though, so Al still doesn’t know anything. I figured you asked because Dad told you to,” I said in one breath.
Samir is a pragmatist, which is one of the reasons that he’s gotten so far along in life. Unfortunately, it means that all of my “teenage drama” as he calls it, despite the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore, is stupid to him. Which is understandable. I mean, his job involves making sure one whole department of the Ministry runs smoothly. Anything that doesn’t have to do with politics or danger is not a big deal to him.
His reaction when Aisha broke up with her boyfriend of two years? He was sympathetic for about a week, and then after that it was, “Aisha, stop being such a baby. Life happens. Besides, there are so many flavors of ice cream, you don’t have to eat chocolate chip cookie dough every single time, you know?” Although to be fair, he actually was talking about the carton of Florean Fortescue’s hand-packed ice-cream.
So, having told him my dilemma, I was fully expecting something like, “I don’t really see the problem here.” But instead, he put aside his condescension (or maybe it was apathy?) and decided to show a little bit of support.
“I think I am actually speechless, Ree.”
Yes. That was him being supportive.
Anything that wasn’t him being apathetic or condescending was him being supportive.
“Ugh, I know,” I buried my head in my hands. “This whole thing just sucks.”
“I think you misunderstood what I meant. I’m not speechless because of your, er, dilemma. I’m speechless because you think it’s a dilemma.”
“It is a dilemma!”
“You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
“I don’t understand why I ever tell you anything when all you do is laugh at me,” I said petulantly. He sighed and rolled his eyes, but I could see the resignation in his expression.
“Fine, you want my advice?”
“That’s why I asked.”
“You should probably talk to Dad before he says anything to Mum, because once Mum finds out that you’re dating someone and she wasn’t the first to know...aavjo.” He slid his finger across his throat, the universal sign for, ‘you’re so dead.’
“That is really helpful, thanks.”
“You should probably also refrain from seeing Al, but I know you, you’re not going to do that. ‘It’s innocent’,” he imitated me. “‘We’re just friends.’”
“Shut up, Samir,” We said together, him still imitating me. Thirty-five years old and he still acts as if he’s five.
“You’re such a child, you know that?”
“I’m not the one who thinks she’s in some sort of moral dilemma.”
I sighed loudly.
“It’s not even a big deal,” he pointed out. “You’re not in love with the guy or anything. You’re not even dating, you’re just friends. He said something that could be misconstrued, but the whole thing can easily be cleared up. It’s only a big thing if you make it a big thing, so don’t make it a big thing.”
I glared at him.
“Fine,” he raised his hands in surrender. “But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
By that night, I had forgotten about the whole mess.
Well, I’d stopped worrying about it and that was the same thing, really. My brother was right. It wasn’t like I actually had anything to worry about.
My parents were understanding, and, while my mother would be disappointed at the fact that I was currently unattached, she would get over it. And I highly doubted that Al wouldn’t understand why I didn’t tell him of my family.
It was with those happy thoughts in my brain, that I entered Jinx, the new Wizarding club that was hidden in Muggle London. The place was extremely exclusive, joining the string of other exclusive famous-people places I’d been to lately. The line to get in was exeedingly long and I didn’t have the patience to get in, so I skipped ahead. The bouncer, a tall albeit lean Asian man who couldn’t have been any older than I was, took one look at my loose orange chiffon dress, oversize black belt and all, and asked me, “You sure you’re not too fancily-dressed?”
I shook my head, one of my black curls (I had curled my hair especially for Louis’ birthday tonight) hitting my cheek. “Nope.” He raised his eyebrows in doubt, checking me out once again, his eyes going all the way down to my feet. I wiggled my toes, painted a bright blue, just for fun, because I was wearing black peep-toe ankle booties, and I could. “It’s my best friend’s birthday.”
He thought I was crazy and I wasn’t even drunk yet. What a shame.
“I see,” he said slowly, turning his attention to the List. “Name?”
“Mine or the name of the best friend?”
“Whichever one is going to get you in.”
It only took a split second to make up my mind. “Sarina Shah,” I told him. If I had given him Louis’ name, he wouldn’t have believed me. Plus I had no form of identification to back me up, and no club worth it’s salt let people in without verification. It was easier to just be me.
He looked surprised. “Minister’s daughter?”
“That’s me,” I told him, faking cheer. I flashed him my Mungo’s ID and then held out my left hand so he could mark me. He waved his wand and I felt some tingling on the back of my left hand, but 30 seconds later I was in.
And it was loud.
I think clubs are overrated. They got full too fast, there wasn’t enough room to dance, it was always too hot inside, and the prices were ridiculous. You’d have to wait twenty minutes at the bar before you even got served, and then you’d pay way too much for a drink you could have probably made by yourself at home.
I’d assumed that Jinx would be the same, but it was really easy to see why the line outside was so long: because the inside wasn’t so crowded.
There were a decent amount of people inside for eleven o’clock, considering that the general mass of people who wanted to be inside weren’t, and there was an actual dance floor and some cozy, dimly lit booths. The bar was full, but not crowded, and shot glasses and other alcoholic drinks floated three inches above the surface, constantly gliding over air until someone reached out and picked one. It was a pretty nice place, I had to admit. If the music was good, I would completely understand why it was so exclusive.
It reserved the right to be.
Finding my friends wasn’t hard, as they were clearly the loudest people there. Louis had gone all out for his birthday, probably having paid for an open bar beforehand. There were floating drinks a few inches off of everyone’s shoulders, rotating, just like the bar. Any other observations I would have made were put on hold as I saw the giant ‘Weasley Is Our King’ banner that was hanging over the booth.
Oh, he would.
As I walked over to our booth, I found that a lot of people I knew were here tonight, calling out to me and waving. It was slightly odd, but I didn’t realize until I sat down and asked, “Why are there so many of our other friends here tonight?” that Louis had failed to tell me that he had changed from a “small birthday dinner, really cozy,” to an all-out 26th birthday party celebration.
“You know what,” I said dryly. “Never mind.”
“You look...sordid,” Scarlett told me. Her eyebrows were furrowed and she was looking at me as if I was a puzzle she was trying to figure out.
“I’m wearing orange!” I wailed, reaching my hand up for a drink. “That is the second time in two weeks that I’ve been called ‘sordid’ when I’ve dressed up.” I took a large gulp from the champagne flute.
Oh yes. Classy.
“Oh, did your mother get on your case about wearing black to Sam’s party?” Ella asked in understanding. She had been subject to my mother’s criticism before. Unlike me, though, she took it with a smile and a grain of salt.
“Yes.” I made a face. “I looked good that night. Why couldn’t my mother see it?”
“Because mothers always want us to be better,” Louis contributed. “Thanks for the birthday wish, by the way.”
“Happy birthday, King Weasley. I am so honored to be in your presence tonight.” I swiveled in my seat and pretended to count the steadily rising amount of people in the club. “Oh wait, everyone you know is here. Never mind.”
“Shit, Ree, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. But it’s my birthday. And you know how spontaneous I am!”
One time, in fifth year, Louis decided that he was going to go on the Hogsmeade trip even though he’d planned to study that day.
That was how spontaneous Louis was.
But whatever, I could figure that one out later. Besides, it was his birthday.
“You look good tonight. I just meant your facial expression,” Scarlett said, bringing us back to our original topic. She waved her hand over her face in one fluid motion. “It was sordid. You look like someone you love just died.”
“Shut up, ho.”
“Excuse you,” she scoffed back at me.
“No, no, Ree’s right, Scar. I’d totally go home with you tonight!”
“In what universe was that a compliment, Chandler?”
He leaned forward on the edge of the table, mouth slightly open, blinking stupidly. “Okay, that came out wrong.”
“I hope so, for your sake.” But still, she blushed.
Chandler and Scarlett had this... thing going on. They were never officially together, but it was always understood that it would be Chandler and Scarlett. How long this had been going on now, I didn’t even remember. Frankly, I didn’t even care. Their love lives didn’t affect me in a major way, and as long as Chandler could make me laugh and keep my best friend from hating men altogether, he was golden. Plus, we’d all just grown close as a group. If everyone canceled on plans, I’d be comfortable enough with Chandler to be able to spend time alone with just him.
Shit, we really were like that television show.
“God, you guys. Stop it, it’s my birthday! I don’t need to see my cousin get hit on.”
“I’m not related to you, Louis,” Scarlett pointed out.
“Oh. Right. Continue.” He slid out of the booth, took the champagne glass out of my hand and pulled me up. “I’m taking Sarina to the dance floor.”
“There’s no music,” Ella informed him.
“We can create our own music.”
“Oh my God. Oh my God.” I averted my gaze. “I am never watching Indian movies with you ever again.”
“Sarina, you need to relax,” Chandler said. “I’ll go get them to put on some good music. Scar,” he said, turning to her and sliding out of the booth. “You coming?”
She shook her head. “I’m not drunk enough to not care about looking like an idiot on the dance floor.”
“That’s a no,” she clarified.
“I understand,” he shot back at her.
Before they could turn that into a full-blown argument the way they were prone to do, Aisha came running up to us. She threw her hands about me, grabbing tightly onto my shoulders to make sure she wouldn’t fall. Without releasing my shoulders, she stood up straight and then said animatedly, “You will never believe who I just saw.”
“I probably will, considering whose birthday party we’re at.”
“Jai,” she said intently, staring into my eyes.
“Um.” I blinked. “Okay.”
“Jai,” she repeated, more forcefully this time. “Jai!” I blinked again, waiting for her to explain the importance of this ‘Jai’ person. “Merlin, Ree, do you ever listen to what I say, ever? Jai, the guy that Mum and Dad tried to set me up with in May!”
I tried to recall as much as I could about what she had told me about this guy, but all I could pull up was that he was a complete Indian-type, the kind that didn’t get along well in British society and who was only looking for a girl to bring home to Mummy.
It majorly sucked that those boys still existed, but there you go.
“I thought he was...” I paused, searching for a diplomatic way to say it. “Not your type.”
“He’s not,” she said emphatically, shaking her head.
I waited for her to continue, to solve the un-solvable problem, but she seemed to think that I had all the answers and was on the same wavelength as her -- which I wasn’t. I was confounded, and Louis, clearly bored with the conversation by now, excused himself to go meet all the other famous people he had invited tonight to make him feel better about himself.
“Right, Aisha,” I said, untangling myself from her arms. “You really need to start clarifying things because I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She huffed impatiently but started following me as I began to walk around. Louis was mingling, so why shouldn’t I? Besides, I was on a mission.
To find Al.
“Apparently Jai was faking it. He actually looks good right now, Ree.”
“So, what, he pretended to be someone atrocious so that you’d reject him?”
“Yeah,” she scoffed. “Except for the fact that the only things I didn’t like about him were his dress sense, the way he talked, and the fact that he was a mama’s boy, three things that I clearly misjudged.”
“Well one, that’s a bit shallow. Two, he was expecting for you to be shallow, so he obviously doesn’t have a high opinion of you. Are you sure you even want to start something with this bloke?”
“That’s really supportive, Sarina, thanks.”
Then I had to defend myself, because I'd said the same thing to Samir earlier, and I finally understood his irritation. He was just trying to be helpful, and I couldn't stop with my sarcasm.
“What?” I asked defensively. “If you wanna go talk to the bloke, go talk to the bloke!”
“I can’t just introduce myself.”
“Funny, I thought that was generally how people met.”
“You want me to go up to the son of one of my father’s oldest friends and say, ‘Hi, I’m Aisha. I know we got off on the wrong foot a while back but I was wondering if maybe you’d like to dance?’”
“You should add in a bit about you being the Minister’s daughter in there somewhere,” I suggested.
“He already knows that part,” she said sullenly. “It won’t help me any.”
“You’re the Minister’s daughter?” Al had suddenly appeared behind me, causing butterflies to appear in my stomach. He raised his eyebrows at me in greeting, his lips turned up in amusement. “You didn’t tell me you knew the Minister’s daughter.”
“I don’t tell you a lot of things,” I pointed out.
“Regular woman of mystery, you are,” he agreed.
“What are you talking about? Ree’s like an open book,” Aisha exclaimed, surprised.
“Ree?” Al asked curiously, raising his eyebrows at the nickname.
“We’re really close,” I put my arms around my sister and pulled her against my side. “Known each other most of our lives. She’s allowed to give me nicknames.”
He looked at us suspiciously, eyeing her bright smile and my slightly forced one before deciding to drop the topic. “I see.”
“We’re like sisters.” Aisha smirked.
She, of course, knew of my growing attraction to this fine male specimen, even though I’d only met him a handful of times. As my sister, it was her job to tell me when I was being stupid and when I was doing the right thing, and now, despite the fact that she thought I was being stupid, she agreed that if I didn’t want to tell Al about who I was, then I didn’t have to. She’d agreed to keep my secret, but she did believe that sooner or later, he should find out.
I had no idea what she’d say to him.
“In everything but name,” I said through clenched teeth.“Anyways, Al, this is Aisha, one of my closest friends. Aisha, this is Al.”
“Al Potter.” He stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Aisha Shah,” she responded, flashing him a smile. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“All good things, I hope.”
“You will never know.”
“That’s not unnerving at all.”
“I should hope not.”
“Aisha,” I interrupted sweetly. “Don’t you have to go introduce yourself to Jai?”
“With my luck, he’ll remember who I am, anyways.There’s no point in even going over there, seeing as he already hates me.” she grumbled.
“If you like the bloke, go after him,” Al said. “There’s no law that says that women can’t make the first move.”
“I can’t go over there and just talk to him. I mean, I’ve already made a bad first impression.”
“So be secure in the knowledge that you can’t make another.”
For some reason, his response gave her confidence, and she raised her eyebrows as if to say ‘touche’. She took my drink out of my hand, downed it in one gulp, and then, shaking her head, said, “All right, I can do this.” She turned to me and paused. “I can do this, right?”
“Yes you can!” Al answered for me, giving her a little shove. “You can do this.”
“I can do this,” she kept repeating to herself as she started walking away.
“That’s the spirit,” Al cheered after her as she walked off, head held high. He turned to me. “She’s something, your sister.”
“She really is,” I agreed.
And then I froze.
Translations: aavjo- Literally means 'come again' in Gujurati, but most people use it for 'goodbye'.
'We can make our own music'- There's a very famous Hindi movie called Kuch Kuch Hota Hai in which the Male Protagonist asks the Female Protagonist to dance in the rain, and she tells him that there's no music. He tells her that they'll make their own, and then starts playing the piano in midair, and cue gushy romantic scene.
A/N: I hope you guys liked it! I'm really not sure how good/funny it is, but my beta 'ramitaarora' is telling me she likes it, so I hope you guys do, too!
This would have been up sooner but my Google Chrome kept crashing and then I guess I spent too long editing or whatever and HPFF signed me out. Gah ):
Anyways, I enjoyed writing it, so please review! (:
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