Chapter 3 : THREE: Hell Hath No Fury
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“Why is a pancake called a pancake? It doesn’t taste anything like a cake.”
It was Sunday morning and six girls were piled into a large kitchen. Four of them were hard at work, the others sprawled at the table. To the absolute surprise of no one, Dahlia was one of the lazy two.
“Nala, would you shut – “ one of the hard workers began in frustration. She paused in the middle of flipping one of the pancakes over. “You know what, I don’t actually know.”
“Exactly!” Nala exclaimed. She shook her head in amazement. “The English language. What a strange thing.”
Reagan, the pancake-flipper, rolled her eyes and carried on with her job. A smile that played with the edges of her mouth revealed her amusement. Still, she said sternly, “Are you going to go on about the fucking English language or actually help us out? You too, Dahlia. Don’t think we don’t notice you not helping either.”
Dahlia propped her bare feet onto the chair next to her and crossed them at the ankles. She flashed a sardonic smile. “Yeah, I think I’m good,” she said.
It was an argument they had regularly, though ‘argument’ was likely too heavy a word for it. Once a week every week, the lot of them met up for breakfast, a small way of ensuring that they maintained contact now that they no longer shared a dormitory in Hogwarts. They were the 2A girls from Hufflepuff, some of the very finest from the house who had graduated the previous summer, and their friendship was a wonderful thing to behold. A fortress that had miraculously withstood the test of time, even with that nasty business back when they had been in Dormitory 2.6A.
Outsiders looking in had always marvelled at the strange dynamic brought into existence by the six. Each was a force to be reckoned with in their own ways: Dahlia volatile, Nova calm – Alice outgoing, Reagan shy – Nala whimsical while Cassidy had her two feet planted firmly on the ground. Each with their separate quirks and contradicting personalities and a love for crass language (though it had to be said that Dahlia was the guiltiest of this) and somehow, somehow, they had made it work. It required a whole lot of honesty, a hard shell and a perseverance to preserve the threads that kept them attached to one another until they were iron chains –
But they weren’t Hufflepuffs for nothing, after all.
But yes, this argument, for lack of a better word, was a pretty frequent occurrence now that they had to make their own Sunday morning breakfasts. Whenever they met up at their favourite café in Hogsmeade, the only issue was making sure they all fit in the booth, but breakfast at someone’s house was an entirely different story. Nova and Reagan usually took control, both the eldest siblings of their respective families and familiar enough with cooking to not butcher it all. Cass was usually a helping hand, though as a pureblood, she was also far less experienced and was usually relegated to the smaller tasks. Alice was… Alice.
And then there was just Nala and Dahlia. The first was terrible at cooking – she had accidentally set fire to the toast the first time they’d cooked at someone’s house – while the latter was simply lazy.
Hence the argument.
“I swear to God, Darzi, I will jam this spatula in your eye,” Reagan was now promising.
“Now, now, Davies,” she said mockingly. “No need to get so violent. I don’t know if you heard, but this is a peaceful environment, okay? Kindly take your hateful bullshit and leave it at the door.”
There was a unanimous snort around the busy kitchen. Dahlia Darzi preaching peace? The irony of it all was incredible.
“Just shut up and wash the damn plates,” Cassidy said from where she directed a knife to cut the peppers. It slowly chopped away in front of her, as if grasped by an invisible man. “They’re in that cupboard over there.”
Dahlia stretched out of the chair, contorting her back as she pretended to reach for it. “I can’t,” she whined. “It’s too far.”
“You lazy piece of shit.”
“This is my house.”
Dahlia sent her a lazy smile. “Not anymore. I’ve decided to take it.”
At that point, Alice whirled away from where she was hovering behind Reagan as she made the pancakes and to the cupboard containing the plates. Not breaking a step, she murmured a spell and they rose out of their pile, following her as she twirled like a ballerina towards Dahlia and dumped them all in her lap. She ignored the grunt and successive curse.
“Wash the plates, Dahlia,” she said, patting her on the head and then spinning away.
She watched her go with a scowl. “You can’t even fucking dance!” she called after her.
Her only answer was a laugh.
Cass smirked. “Best get washing,” she said. The knife began to slowly push the peppers to one side of the chopping board.
Dahlia shot her a venomous look and kicked away the chair her feet had been resting on. Her wand sent the plates flying over to the sink. “Fuck off,” she repeated and then went to wash the damn plates.
Fifteen minutes later, they were all assembled around a veritable feast. Having opted for an English breakfast this Sunday, each plate had two triangles of toast made golden with dairy-free butter, two Quorn sausages (slightly burnt thanks to Nala’s attempt to help), a couple of rashers of turkey bacon (except on Cass’ plate), a couple of tomatoes, fried eggs, chopped mushrooms and chopped peppers (because Dahlia bloody well loved them) as well as a sea of baked beans. The oak table groaned under the weight of a teapot of Earl Grey, a pitcher of coffee, a jug of pumpkin juice and another of water. Pancakes were stacked high on a plate, dripping with a liberal coat of chocolate syrup; next to it sat a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream, preserved with the use of a handy charm.
They sat back and drank it in.
“We’re such fat shits,” Cass said and because it was Cass, they all cracked a laugh. Of the six of them, she had struggled with her weight the most until her ordeal had peaked in sixth year when she had been diagnosed with bulimia. Even now, two years later, each little victory meant a lot. The fact they had this much food was nothing short of miraculous.
“Who the fuck cares?” Dahlia shrugged. Her stomach growled in anticipation. “I fucking love food.”
And with that, she shoved half a piece of toast in her mouth.
Directly opposite her, Nova scrunched up her nose. She could already tell what was about to slip out of her mouth – sure enough, Nova grimaced and, just as she knew she would, she deadpanned, “Classy.”
Purely to annoy her, Dahlia flashed her the widest smile she could. Nova nearly threw her water back up. “I am, aren’t I?” she said happily.
“You’re so fucking disgusting,” she complained.
“Well, it’s not like I’m having tea with the bloody Queen, is it?”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Alice chimed in from her left. She speared half a mushroom on her fork and placed it onto her tongue delicately. “I am a queen.”
“Well, then, I guess it’s time for the next French revolution because I sure as hell am not bowing down to you.”
“What?” Her mouth fell open in shock. “Why not? I would be a great ruler!”
She probably would. Alice was the sort of girl who captured people’s hearts easily and then proceeded to treasure them. She had the sort of easy confidence and charisma that would win her the loyalty of the people within an instant.
“Nah,” Reagan said. “You’re not cutthroat enough.”
This was also true.
“I am too!” she insisted.
The rest of them burst into laughter. When they recovered, Dahlia smacked a hand on her back and amended, “I’ll be cutthroat for you. Put me by your side on that throne and no one will mess with us.”
“Merlin,” Nova said. “You might as well send all the boys in the country to their deaths.”
They shared another laugh. Dahlia’s disdain for all things male was no secret, especially with her running around Hogwarts and declaring it to anyone who gave her so much as half a chance to. She was fierce in her derision and Alice often chided her for championing inequality, the others far too amused with her outbursts to do the same. Dahlia’s response was more or less always the same: was it really misandry when she hated most of the human race anyway?
To which Alice always rolled her eyes and asked the ceiling why she even bothered.
“Maybe we should,” Dahlia said now, grinning in a way that could only be described as evil. “The world’s first all-female state! What a blessing!”
Naturally, Nala opposed this. “What about kids?”
“What about them?”
“How would we have kids without the guys around?”
Clearly enjoying Dahlia’s vision, Cass shrugged and said, “Artificial insemination.”
“... Banks,” Reagan said at the same time.
The first stopped and then grimaced. “That’s a nice way of putting it. Really classy, you know?”
“Oh, fuck off!” The points of her ears burned crimson. “You know what I meant.”
“Do I? Do I really?”
Nala interrupted their bickers with a snort. “Are you telling me that you of all people, Cass, would prefer artificial insemination than… you know, actual sex?”
“Are you insinuating that I have sex a lot?” she asked in amusement. When Nala only sent her a look, she laughed and then sighed wistfully. “I actually haven’t gotten with anyone in ages, you know. This bloody internship leaves me drained all week. Come weekend, I just want to relax and watch the MagiVision. I even wear joggers when I do it.”
“You’re fucking lying to me,” Dahlia deadpanned. She was promptly flipped off.
“I can’t even remember the last time I snogged someone, let alone shagged them. And to think, I once used to kiss boys on a regular basis. Such is the price to pay when you want to be on the Wizengamot.” She sniffed dramatically.
“I don’t know how you do it,” Nala said. “You’re the only one of us working in the Ministry. How does it feel to be so… old?”
“Old?! I’m still eighteen!”
“Yeah, but… you’re still a proper adult now. I’m still living at home with no job.”
“Same!” Reagan exclaimed. She reached across the table to high five her comrade. “I have absolutely no bloody direction in my life and here Cass is with an internship in the DMLE and her own freaking house. You’re, like, a mile ahead of us, Cass.”
She blushed. “Shut up. It’s not like I bought this house with my own money. I’m still on my family grounds, I’m just living in the outhouse instead of the manor.”
Of course, all this explanation gained her was a barrage of teases from the girls about how rich she was and whether they should all be bowing down to her instead. Naturally, Dahlia led this because she was Dahlia Darzi and had the most creative arsenal of insults known to man. There was no resentment in any of this, of course, though it would’ve been easy to have felt it.
Dahlia had grown up in the grittier streets of Oldham. Her dad was a Maths teacher with seven mouths to feed, her parents both immigrants all the way from Jammu and Kashmir back in India. They had always made sure that their children did not want for anything, that their stomachs were full and the lights kept on and they had every opportunity they could find. But they had still struggled to make ends meet sometimes – they still did.
Perhaps in the darkest nights, it was easy for Dahlia to resent Cass. For Cassidy Greengrass had grown up in this valley her entire life, walked through hallways of marble and money, had been given anything Dahlia wanted thrice over. Her father had an overseas business, her grandfather had been on the Wizengamot, she was the heir to a fortune and she had easily moved into an outhouse that was twice as big as the Darzi household because she could do that.
Fortunately, it was currently a bright winter morning so Dahlia did not feel anything of the sort.
Conversations moved on from Cass’ wealth to what life had been like for them the past week. Nova’s job in Twilfitt and Tatting’s had been entirely unremarkable, though Dahlia’s passionate rant about The K more than made up for it. Alice was enjoying her shifts at the Leaky, especially because it kept her close to her little brother (a boy named Archie who was Khayri’s age) and the rest of her family. Cass had been teamed up with another intern called Akira Himura to study some legislation or something.
“He’s fairly cute as well,” she mused. “Twenty two years old, dark hair, great arse. Maybe I should ask him out on a date.”
Nala and Reagan were both unemployed. The first was enjoying the freedom, the second more than a little bit frustrated at the lack of response to her applications. Alice offered a job at the Leaky but she shrugged it away, citing her inability to handle large crowds and lots of interaction as the main reason.
“What do you want to do?” Nova asked, assuming the role of coaxing her best friend into action once again. It was something she was familiar with, for Reagan had always needed coaxing to make serious decisions whether it was studying or looking at career prospects.
“Fuck knows,” was her groan. “Does anyone but Cass know what they want to do?”
The answer to that was a resounding no.
“It’s snowing,” Nova said.
They were in the middle of Diagon Alley, wandering the street with no real aim. It was a world away from Cass’ house, slap-bang in the centre of London while the Greengrasses stayed tucked away in some valley in Wales or wherever the fuck their estate was. Heating charms from the buildings were exacerbated by the swell of bodies so Dahlia wasn’t feeling very cold, but the sudden sensation of snow on her head sent a shiver through her.
“Thanks for that, Einstein,” she replied. “You’re really smart, you know!”
“Fuck off, Dahlia,” she said absent-mindedly.
“Rude.” She turned to the others. “Are we going to stay in the snow or go somewhere I can feel my fucking fingers?” She wasn’t that cold, not really, but Dahlia had a habit of phrasing everything in harsh terms and she knew that soon enough, she wouldn’t be able to feel her fingers.
“Yeah, let’s get out of the cold,” Alice agreed, jerking her head towards the closest shop. Moving mannequins displaying dark, wintry outfits beckoned them from the windows. Alice grabbed Dahlia’s hand and began to lead the group towards it. “This’ll do fine.”
They opened the door the same moment two customers on the other side stepped forward to do the same. It flew back to crash against one of them, the sound of wood on a head scaring the living daylights out of them all. A worker rushed forward.
“Mr Potter, are you okay?” they cried, helping the man up.
For a brief second, Dahlia honestly wondered whether she had accidentally killed the Saviour of the Wizarding World – but then the figure shifted and she realised he wasn’t so much as a forty-something year old Auror as someone who had just hit his twenties.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” James said, wincing. He glanced over at his companion. “Thanks for the help, Al.”
“No problem,” his brother said, struggling to stifle his laughter.
They turned to look at the people on the other side of the door and then froze at the sight of the 2A girls. Just behind her, Dahlia heard Nova take in a sharp breath of air and knew her eyes were fixed not on the injured party but Al. He was similarly unconcerned with the rest of them, staring at her and only her.
One thing that had always irritated Dahlia about Albus Potter was the fact that he was so bloody hard to read. No matter what she had done, she had never quite managed to bother him – all she had received for her various insults had been an amused smirk and a calm that had managed to both annoy her and earn her respect. She supposed it was the Slytherin in him.
Now, however? Their sudden appearance had caught him off-guard too quickly to school his features. It was plain to see that he was every bit as in love with Nova as she was with him, to read the longing in the twitch of his fingers, the bitter regret underscoring his acceptance that the two of them were simply over. Dahlia hadn’t seen him since The Break-Up but now she had, she could see why calling him a traitor wasn’t particularly accurate at all.
“Nova,” he finally managed.
Her voice was just as weak. “Al. Er. Hi.”
The nine of them stood in silence. And then Alice, ever the ice breaker, exclaimed, “It’s good to see you two! Sorry for nearly knocking you out, James! It was our fault, entirely.”
“No worries,” he said, waving the apology away. He flashed her an easy grin which faded a little by the time it got to Dahlia. “Er. Hi, Darzi.”
She appraised him coolly. “Potter.”
It had been two days since she had last seen him. Their last encounter had been one of the most bizarre in her life – and with her group of friends, that said something – in which he had grieved the death of his relationship with his girlfriend, nearly cried because he had reached enlightenment and had discovered that their relationship had not been as serious as he had thought, and then had suggested that he and Dahlia should hook up. Just for banter.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, actually,” he said, clearly thinking along the same lines. He rubbed the back of his neck. “About the other night.”
There was a mystified whisper from somewhere towards the back of the group, probably from Nala, but Dahlia ignored it. She scowled. “If you ask me for a shag one more time, I will honestly punch you in the face.”
The worker gasped incredulously. The rest of them nearly choked on air.
“Wait – what – shag?” Nala exclaimed, loudest of all.
James turned red. “That’s not what I was going to do,” he said. He coughed awkwardly under the weight of everyone’s dumbfounded stares, Al’s the most horrified of the lot.
“Good,” she said acerbically.
“Uh.” He shifted on the balls of his feet, nervous and uncomfortable and his skin itching at the never-ending barrage of shock; Dahlia felt no sympathy for him, the memory of the other night still fresh in her mind. She still didn’t know what had possessed her to humour his conversation, but this showed just what being nice to someone really resulted in. “We should probably talk? In private, you know?”
She eyed him in disdain. “Probably not.”
“Dahlia,” Alice hissed, none too discreetly stomping on her feet.
“I’m just trying to apologise.”
“Well, I would like to do it when there aren’t fifty people listening into our conversation,” he said irritably.
“Can’t always get what we want, can we?”
“Oh my fucking Merlin – “
A pointed cough from behind them cut them off. “Um, excuse me, can you get out of the doorway, please? Some of us are trying to get inside.” There was an embarrassed flurry of movement as they hurried to let the woman and her daughters pass. Alice tugged Dahlia to the side and the others followed like they were linked in a daisy chain until the six of them were crowded next to the Potters. She sniffed, “Took you long enough.”
They watched her go, their embarrassment automatically morphing into annoyance, and Dahlia had to seriously battle the urge to bite something back.
“Can we talk then?” James said.
His voice was much closer than she had expected. Jerking away, she turned her head to see that she had almost been pressed up against him, strands of her knotted black hair splayed across the fur lining his cloak, the faint trace of his shower gel curling around her. Her mouth instantly flattened, twisted down; her eyebrows slammed together.
She darted her eyes around at her friends to see if they’d be of any help but it was of no use: Nala had managed to get a wayward hanger tangled the hood that had slipped off her afro and was busy extracting it with the help of Cass; Nova, on the other hand, had somehow found herself tucked into Al’s side and the two were muttering to Reagan and Alice about how old people never had no manners when it came to teenagers. She had been abandoned to James freaking Potter of all people.
“No,” she snapped. “We can’t. I promised my little brother I’d hang out with him and I’m not going to bail on that for some git who tried to get into my pants.”
And then, regardless of propriety or manners, she apparated away from him once again.
To her credit, Dahlia had promised Khayri she’d hang out with him, but it had been an airy “It’ll happen when I want it to happen, you little twerp,” just before she’d whisked away to Cass’ place for breakfast. And because she actually did like his company, she spent the afternoon with him.
At Khayri’s pleas, they sat cross-legged on her bed, Euripides fast asleep in the corner, surrounded by sweets (both Muggle and magical, of course) and whatever first year textbooks had survived her years at Hogwarts. The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 1 remained open, its spine cracked, its pages worn and stained with smudges of ink and loved.
Technically, letting her brother practice magic at home was probably a violation of the law, but Dahlia figured that loads of magical kids in all-magical families did the same before they went off to Hogwarts. Maybe they didn’t master it properly, but they were certainly more familiar with it than she had been on her first day so it didn’t hurt to let Khayri learn some.
Besides, the kid made her pretty damn proud.
Eventually, they abandoned the magic once Khayri nearly tossed her wand out of the window in an enthusiastic, loosely-held attempt at swishing and flicking it, and retreated downstairs to watch the tv.
“I’m busy,” Jaspar grunted, pressing his controller frantically. On the screen, there was a burst of gunfire and a soldier flailed in the dust, blood exploding out of him. “Come back later.”
“But we want the tv now,” Khayri whined.
He didn’t get a reply. Dahlia rolled her eyes and smacked the back of his head before turning to the youngest. “We’ll watch tv later. Do your homework while you wait.”
“I don’t want to,” he groaned. “You don’t even do Maths at Hogwarts.”
“But you do it at primary so you’re going to get it done,” she said. Her tone brooked no arguments, even when he gave her his best puppy dog eyes, two round chocolate drops melting into her, so he finally groaned and stomped over to get his bookbag. Dahlia dropped down onto an armchair. “Where’s Dad?” she asked Jaspar.
He shrugged. “At his desk. Marking homework probably. Why?”
He didn’t reply.
By now, Dahlia was used to it. It wasn’t that Jaspar was purposefully rude or didn’t like her – she was his sister, he was obligated to like her or Mum would have his head – but he wasn’t like her. He didn’t thrive off chaotic situations and didn’t like interacting with people, even if it was just to tell them to piss off. He was an introvert through and through, had been ever since she had returned after second year and he hadn’t been able to carry a long conversation with someone who had been virtually a stranger to him. True, it had hurt at the beginning, but she had learnt to accept it.
Jaspar liked comic books and video games and was an ace at Computer Science at school. He didn’t mind sitting with someone, but he preferred it to be quiet. Dahlia wasn’t quiet very often, but she could make an exception for him.
“Sana’s in the garden with Mum,” he offered after a while.
“Out with his mates.”
She made a face. “He’s always out with his mates.”
“So are you,” Jaspar said, a small smile playing on his lips. He suddenly pressed down on a myriad of buttons, almost rising out of his seat. His character annihilated a string of enemy soldiers in a wash of red and he grinned at his win.
“Oh, come off it, you know I wouldn’t be able to hang out with them so much if I wasn’t a witch,” she scoffed. She shifted until she could properly sprawl in the armchair, legs thrown over the side, her hair dangling down the other. Small sparks crackled out of her wand. “The only thing letting me out is the fact that I can poof away from danger in a second.”
Khayri frowned from where he kneeled beside the coffee table, his work spread out in front of him. “How do you work out what three thousand and seventy four divided by seven is?”
“Bus shelter method,” Jaspar said, eyes still trained on the tv.
“I don’t know, you just do.”
“But if I was a Muggle, there’d be no way Mum and Dad would let me out so much,” she continued. “Just because I’m a girl.”
“Because there are creeps out there.”
“What, and creeps don’t go after boys now? Boys are immune to it all?”
“Well, no. But they’re more likely to go after a girl than a guy. Especially since you’re Indian so there’s a higher chance of a racist drunk starting something.”
Dahlia scowled. “Bloody men,” she grumbled, crossing her arms. “They ruin everything and then they think they should run everything. I hate them all.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean.”
He didn’t reply.
Her dad walked into the living room then, glasses balancing wearily on his nose. He looked tired, jet black hair tousled in that way that suggested he had been tugging it in frustration. Glimmers of silver threaded through the thick mop. He paused next the sofa Jaspar was sat on, rubbing his stubble.
“I can’t do it,” he said. Unlike Mum, his English was perfect. Accent crisp, polished. “Why are my Year Eights so stupid?”
Dahlia snorted and tilted her head further back so she could peer at him upside down. “Hi, Dad.”
“Hi, phool. What are you talking about?”
“Dismantling the patriarchy.”
“Such light conversation,” he said drily. He spotted Khayri by the coffee table. “Is that Maths?”
“The bus shelter method,” Khayri answered promptly.
“Oh, God, the bus shelter method. I don’t think my Year Eights know how to do even that.” He shook his head mournfully. “Don’t become a teacher, children. Marking homework will destroy you.”
“Do it later,” Dahlia said.
“Would if I could, phool. I have to give it back tomorrow like I always do. Monday is the day we go through the homework and get a new one. Speaking of tomorrow, your Auntie Supriya is coming for dinner in the evening. Your uncle and the kids are visiting his family in Birmingham so she’s going to stay over.”
There was a collective groan. “I don’t want Auntie Supriya to come,” she whined.
“Well, she is, so make sure you come back from work straight away,” Dad said. He patted her on the chin as that was the closest thing he could reach and then pushed his glasses back up his nose. “I’m going to go mark the rest of this homework. Wish me luck.”
“See ya, Dad.”
He ruffled Jaspar’s hair and left the room.
Dahlia waited until his footsteps were steady on the landing upstairs. Then, she pushed the soles of her feet off the side of the armchair so she crashed dramatically to the ground. “Kill me.”
She fucking hated Auntie Supriya.
Dahlia’s father had two sisters. Sohana, who lived down in London and occasionally called to ask for some money, and Supriya, who lived in Oldham and occasionally called to spread gossip. Supriya was by far Dahlia’s least favourite relative, a tall woman with stick-thin wrists that jingled with bangles and a long neck adorned with gaudy jewellery. She was a lover of paan and anything that screamed tradition – which meant she and Dahlia were often at loggerheads about some issue or the other.
“You should really wear Asian clothes now, Dahlia,” she said the second she clapped eyes on her. “You’re nineteen now, you’re too old for this.”
Battling a fearsome scowl, she glanced down at her attire. Black trousers, black polo, Harpy apron. “I just came back from work.”
“Where do you work again?” Auntie Supriya asked.
“One that’s not here.”
“Dahlia,” her mum said warningly. She sent Auntie Supriya a strained smile and gently grasped her elbow. “Come now. We eat. Jaldi.”
It wasn’t a special occasion, but Mum had outdone herself with the food. Three curries sat in a row along the table, steam wafting from them in tendrils that twisted and turned in a dance. They filled the kitchen with the rich aroma of a feast, one that Dahlia readily inhaled, her stomach already quivering in anticipation. Her eyes drank in chicken jalfrezi sizzling with spice, potatoes scattered inside a lamb curry, and a chana masala that almost had her crying with joy. A plate was stacked with warm roti, a bowl displayed white rice.
She fucking loved food.
Auntie Supriya ladled some chana masala onto her plate and tasted. “Oh, good. You didn’t make it so salty this time.”
Dahlia did not fucking love her aunt.
Dinner passed in the way everyone expected dinner to pass. Auntie Supriya divulged anything racy that had happened in the area, Mum and Dad indulged her and the kids persevered through it, all fake smiles and feigned interest. She made jibes here and there, of course – Dahlia was too modern, Jaspar should really get out more, Khayri was a little too excitable and Sana had to be careful she wasn’t writing to a boy because of this new pen pal system. Danyal, like always, was perfect because he was Danyal. The oldest Darzi boy could never do any wrong.
Several times, Dahlia opened her mouth to lay waste to her, but Dad seemed to have a sixth sense about this because he always glanced over and shot her a look before she could.
She settled for shoving a handful of rice into her mouth instead.
Of course, it was never going to last. Noticing after possibly the hundredth time she did this, Auntie Supriya scrunched up her nose. “Dahlia, beti, you really shouldn’t eat like your food is running away. You’ll never get a husband like that.” Brave words from a woman who had stained her teeth from paan.
“Guess it’s a good thing I’m not looking for a husband,” she said.
Sana snickered into her water. Auntie Supriya did not. “You’re nineteen. Of course, you’re looking for a husband – or you will be.”
“I will not.” Her voice turned harsh; the tension skyrocketed within seconds. “I don’t know where the hell you got that idea from, but it’s not happening.”
There was a small silence. Her mum broke it with an awkward cough, her worn hands grabbing the plate of roti eagerly. “Only one left! Anyone want it?” she said, loud and eager.
Auntie Supriya ignored her. Deliberately setting down the glass of water in her hand, she stared Dahlia down with a look that was clearly meant to quell any wild Western notions of not marrying. In Dahlia’s expert opinion, it was weak and unimpressive just like the rest of her – she held it easily, making sure to eat as messily as usual, her eyes steady on her aunt’s.
“You’re nineteen years old,” the woman began.
“And you need to finally grow up,” she said. “I’ve said it time and time again to your parents: you’re too wild. I blame the school they sent you off to. I said it from the very beginning that it was a bad idea, that it didn’t matter if it was paid for, a private boarding school meant that they couldn’t keep an eye on you and make sure that you didn’t become this way. Didn’t I, bhai?” She turned to Dad, his face as blank as stone. “I told you that this would happen, but you said you trusted your daughter. And now look at her! Saying she won’t get married, refusing to wear Indian clothes – “
“What’s it to you if I don’t get married?” Dahlia demanded loudly. “You’re not the one who’ll be with the bloody guy. It’s not your life that will change forever, it’s mine.”
“Dahlia,” Dad shot warningly. “Watch your language. And Supriya, drop the subject.”
“How can I? She’s clearly off the rails.”
“I don’t want Dahlia to get married,” Khayri interjected. He leaned over to grasp her left hand and squeezed. Though she wouldn’t say it in front of her aunt in a million years, the gesture of support filled her with a burst of emotion she couldn’t describe. “I want her to stay here with us.”
“It’s her duty to get married,” Auntie Supriya said.
“This isn’t a bloody conscription,” Dahlia snapped. Despite the warmth of Khayri’s small hand in hers, she could feel a rage stacking up inside block by block – true rage, not the vaguely volatile irritation she so often felt but the sort of destructive force that could ruin countries and fell cities with a single blow. “I’m not a freaking soldier that’s being sent off to war. It’s my life. I don’t have a duty to do a goddamn thing.”
“Oh, really? And how are you supposed to have kids?”
“Who said I want kids?” she shot back.
Auntie Supriya looked ready to throw something. A vein in her pulsed dangerously, standing stark against the deep brown. She ground her nails against the engravings on her glass. “Of course, you want kids! You’re a woman, you have to have them. What else do you think you were born for? Women were created to give birth to children!”
“I don’t have to do a damn thing,” she snarled.
There was a little cough. Sana dabbed at her mouth with the back of her hand and said carefully, “Auntie Supriya, I get what you’re saying, but it’s Dahlia Didi’s choice if she wants to have kids or not. And even if she did want to, she could always adopt one instead.”
“Adopt,” she said flatly.
Sana nodded. “I mean, it’d be a good thing to do. Give a baby that’s already in the world a better life. People adopt children from Africa all the time.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Auntie Supriya scoffed.
“The only person being ridiculous here is you!” Dahlia exploded.
God, she couldn’t handle it anymore! How could someone be so goddamn ignorant? Who the fuck did her aunt think she was, dictating what Dahlia did with her body? She didn’t have an ounce of control over Dahlia’s actions, Dahlia’s life choices – she was just some sad, aging woman with an unbelievably narrow mind. She wanted to… she wanted to whip out her wand from her bloody apron pocket, jab it right at the woman at the opposite end of the table and see what happened. Maybe turn her into a toad, or make her shrivel up like a prune. Do something other than sit here and hold herself back for the sake of respect.
“I’m being realistic,” Auntie Supriya said in an infuriating tone. It was calm. It was smug. It made Dahlia want to throw something at the wall. “You’re nineteen years old. You’re not in education. What else are you going to do?”
“Support myself, maybe,” she retorted.
“Auntie-ji,” Jaspar said tentatively, “why do you keep mentioning that she’s nineteen like it’s important? No one gets married that young anymore.”
“I know some people who have.”
“And none of them are me,” Dahlia said venomously. “And they never will be. It’s my life, my body – I decide what I do with it, not you. So I’ll thank you kindly to keep your butt out of my business.”
“Dahlia!” her dad hissed once again.
There was silence again. For a long moment, not a single member of the Darzi dared to break it. Sohail sat upright, his eyes like thunder: angry, troubled and dark. Dahlia was just as dangerous, simmering with an anger that crackled around her, ready to lash out and strike her aunt down. The tension was palpable, electric in the air and in their mouths, increasing the beats of their hearts by the second.
Dahlia’s siblings exchanged wary glances, all too aware of the imminent danger. Of the four of them, only Danyal had yet to speak and, for all anyone knew, he didn’t intend to. He drank his water like nothing was going on, tore his roti and mopped up his curry, lounged in his seat like the prince he was – but his eyes betrayed how attentive he really was. They tracked the forbidding glare of their father to Dahlia, Dahlia’s unspoken challenge to their aunt and their aunt’s answering smirk.
“I only say this out of love for you,” she finally said, her voice much softer. Immediately, Dahlia dismissed this with a scoff. “I’m serious. You’re my niece and I love you. Which is why I need you to realise that this sort of behaviour, these western beliefs you have aren’t right, Dahlia. And you need to realise this sooner rather than later so you can get a headstart on getting married. After all, you’re not pale like Sana – it’s going to be so much harder for you to find a husband.”
Slamming her chair back, Dahlia smacked her hands on the table and stood up with a glare. “I don’t want a fucking husband!” she shouted. “The only way I’m getting married is if I find the fucking darkest, most ‘western’ girl in all of England JUST TO THROW IT IN YOUR FUCKING FACE that that’s what I think about marrying for the sake of fucking marrying. You will never drag me down to an altar, I will never promise myself to some twat who cares about my skin colour, and I will never have sex with someone just to pop out a couple of hundred babies because it’s what society fucking expects of me. Fuck society and fuck you too, Auntie Supriya. Now get out of my goddamn house.”
“DAHLIA!” her parents shrieked.
Her mum turned to her sister-in-law, a rapid apology in Hindi flowing from her mouth. “Supriya, I am so sorry. You know how Dahlia gets about these things, you saw how it was two years ago – “
“That was two years ago,” Auntie Supriya hissed viciously. Her cheeks were dark with blood, embarrassed and angry and flustered. “Are you that useless that you don’t know how to teach your daughter some manners in two years?”
Mum froze, her eyes wide and glassy, her mouth a perfect O.
“Oi,” Danyal finally snapped. “Who the fuck do you think you are speaking to my mum like that?”
For some reason, it worked. Danyal’s intervention shut Auntie Supriya up in less than a second. She stilled, shocked that the prized son of the Darzi household had ripped her down in a heartbeat, barely a sound escaping her mouth in her defence. All she could do was stare at him.
“Supriya,” their dad said, the name stiff and black with anger. He stood from his seat, jaw clenched so tight he was going to shatter his teeth, chest heaving. “Get in the living room.”
“Sohail,” she began.
There were no words. Tears pooling in her eyes, his sister rose, gathering her saree around her carefully, her head bowed. She left the room, shoulders hunched at the prospect of a tongue-lashing from the patriarch of her family, a deafening silence heralding her exit. Dad turned to face Dahlia, his mouth flat with barely-controlled anger. She was still stood up from her dramatic outburst, palms flat against the table and stinging from their assault; at his attention, her spine straightened with pride.
“You stay here,” he said quietly. His tone allowed no room for arguments. “And you too, Danyal. The way you both spoke to your buaa was not acceptable.”
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked into the living room.
Dahlia was fucked.
Disclaimer: Chapter title taken from the saying hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the woman in this case being Dahlia Darzi.
Author's Note: I am basing Dahlia's mum's speech off how my own mother talks (she's Bengali and not really that fluent in English), but sorry if it comes off awkward! Also, lemme know if I mess up on the tiny bits of Hindi I'm scattering throughout this piece bc like... I don't speak it.
This was a highly dramatic chapter because wtf is subtlety when you can have Dahlia go off on one instead. It was supposed to have been up last weekend, but uni started and I have been freaking S H A T T E R E D. At least it's long though?
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