She couldn't help it. Sally-Anne Perks had cut her hair over the holidays and it looked good. Really, really good in a way that set warning bells ringing somewhere in her mind. Padma ignored them of course. Growing up with Parvati's noise and mad ideas and sharing a Common Room with Seraphina Fawcett and Ellis Campbell for six years had irrevocably altered Padma’s sense of propriety—and relative danger and made her very good at ignoring things best left uninvestigated.
It was a very cute cut. Combined with the new uniform design, well...Padma blamed her fluttering stomach on the Arithmacy quiz she knew Vector was going to "surprise" them with.
History of Magic was the worst class. All the other professors had their own idiosyncrasies and maybe they were gits or drunk, but at least they knew things (well, from what she’d heard, that was up for debate when it came to Trelawney). But Binns?
Binns had died three hundred years ago and had stopped paying attention to the world seventy years before that. Binns’ information (and historical research methods) was outdated. And that was worse then him being an awful teacher.
Snape might try to make her cry, but Sally-Anne learned things (well, once Snape spilt up her and Lisa Turpin in Potions and they weren’t fighting and accidentally turning things invisible or blowing them up). Binns droned on and gave the few students still trying to pay attention the wrong information. Sally-Anne read journal articles published within the past hundred years and wondered why Padma Patil kept looking at her.
Su was cuddling Mandy’s cat on the sofa. At the moment it looked like it was paint-splattered, but Padma wasn’t sure if that was from Mandy’s tie-dye kit or the result of Luna Lovegood’s painting-in-progress. It seemed like half of Ravenclaw had deemed this evening arts and crafts night. Padma had really just been hoping to toast marshmallows with her friends, but the search for marshmallows had unearthed, among other things, one of Mandy’s forgotten birthday presents and Terry insisted on trying it out.
So now they were at a commandeered table, with someone’s old cauldron bubbling with swirling incandescent colours (Padma was pretty sure the dye resembled an LSD trip) transfiguring bits of parchment into interesting things to tie-dye. It wasn’t the worst way to spend an evening, but the magical dye demanded serious safety precautions so there’d been a scramble to find enough pairs of dragonhide gloves (several people had dropped Herbology and Potions) and Padma, Michael, and Lisa were looking up stronger cleaning charms in case something dripped.
“I think this is what they used to write those epigrams outside the fourth year dorm,” Michael said, looking dubiously at the multicoloured dye.
“Probably,” Lisa said, rapidly scanning the index of a borrowed seventh year Charms text. “I hope not, because Prefects have been making second and third years try and clean it off for years as an alternative to losing points and if we get it on anything, we’re fucked.”
Padma’s stomach tightened with dread. “Um, did we decide if Athena was covered in paint or dye? Because Su’s petting her on the sofa.”
Michael looked up sharply from his copy of The Really Useful Household Grimoire. “Fuck, I think that splotch by her ear changed colour. Mandy—cover that damn cauldron. Su! Don’t move and don’t let the cat move!”
If the next several moments were slowed down, this is what it might have looked like:
Su started at Michael’s yell, which caused the cat to bolt. Padma raced after the cat to make sure she didn’t get any more dye on anything before they figured out how to get rid of it. In his rush over to Su, Michael knocked into Terry, who was in the middle of charming an old tie black and white, and then promptly lost his balance. The spell ricocheted off the mirror a Divination student was using for homework and it was redirected at a Fourth Year who was patiently trying to teach his friend how to knit. In her rush to reach the cat, Padma knocked over Luna’s water container, which wound up soaking the rest of the non-striped yarn. Lisa had, very wisely, stayed put and continued looking for spells. Mandy, amazingly enough, managed to cast a stasis spell on the cauldron of dye but then Morag and Padma both dived for Athena, crashed into her, and the three of them knocked the cauldron over, completely negating the spell.
When the Head Boy rushed in the Common Room after hearing the shrieks, he saw this: a soaking wet floor, two pissed off Fourth Years with ruined knitting, a wide-eyed Lisa Turpin standing on a chair looking at three of her roommates piled in a psychedelic-coloured heap on the floor, Terry Boot rubbing a scarped elbow, a very startled looking Su Li being held in place by Michael Corner, Morag MacDougal holding a hissing green-and-bluish purple cat at arms length, a myriad of bemused and amused Ravenclaws, and a spreading puddle of colour changing liquid.
“This is Fawcett’s fault, isn’t it?” he sighed.
One of the multicoloured girls shakily raised a hand. “Actually, it was my leftover birthday present.”
“And for an early Christmas present, I think I know how to get rid of this!” Lisa said delightedly, waving her book. “Variation of Tersus Maximus, it’s simple really.”
“Good, now do it!” the Head Boy said. “I don’t want to explain to Flitwick why we now have a swirling rainbow coloured armchair.”
Justin exited the loo with a disgusted look on his face.
“I told you the Hog’s Head loo was filthy and you should just take a piss outside but would you listen?” Zacharias said dryly.
“Well, it’s not like we had much choice,” Sally-Anne said, “what with Ernie’s brilliant plan to sneak out and get plastered on Rosmerta’s night off which, since this is Ernie’s idea, happens to be the same night fucking Snape decides to leave his crypt and be sociable.”
“I wouldn’t call buying a bottle of Ogden’s and then glaring at everyone from the corner being sociable,” Susan said quietly. “I mean, I suppose if that’s the definition you’re using I really don’t want to see unsociable.”
“Or anti-social,” Cordelia added, twisting one of her small bell-decked braids as she helped Sally-Anne and Zach renew their Notice-Me-Not charms.
Justin still had the same disgusted, disturbed look on his face and Ernie asked him about it.
“There’s some really horrible graffiti in there about gays. Like, painfully killing them horrible,” Justin shuddered. “With stuff like that I don’t know how you’re out Zach, I really don’t.”
“Halfblood mate, it’s better in the muggle world—there’re no bigoted maniacs with wands there. And I’m one of the fastest wand-draws in the school,” Zach said quietly, leading them out of the pub to where Ernie and Hannah were waiting with brooms they’d borrowed from Ernie’s older brother’s shop.
“And that,” Sally-Anne whispered to Zach as they mounted their brooms to fly back to Hogwarts before the illusions broke and someone told Sprout the entire Sixth Year was missing, “is why I’m not officially out. I’d like to stay on my insane Death Eater relatives’ good side for as long as possible.”
Morag made a frustrated sound and tossed her quill across the room. Padma tried to figure out her next word.
“In 1578 Lady Verence routed her lands of the Unseelie fae, freed her husband and in a triumph of…good? Clever? Astute, maybe? Morag, what’s a good word for doing something really, really well that’s far-reaching and—“
“The word you’re probably searching for is politic,” Morag drawled.
“Brilliant!” Padma exclaimed delightedly, finishing her sentence with a flourish. Morag flopped back against Padma’s pillows and pointedly caught the brunette’s eye.
“Take a break with me,” she said.
“Let me finish this—the essay muses are with me right now.”
“No they’re not,” Morag said. She tugged Padma’s braid lightly, forcing her to abandon the essay. “I’m you’re human thesaurus and editor tonight and I want a break from both our papers.”
“Fine,” Padma muttered.
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
Completely out of the blue Morag said “You know that Anthony likes you, right?”
Padma made a face. “Can we not talk about that?”
“Why not?” Morag asked. “He’s cute, he’s nice, and Su says that Terry said he’s fancied you for awhile. Perfectly good, non-homework related thing to talk about.”
“Yes, but can we not discuss it?”
Morag sat up. “What’ve you got against Goldstein?”
Padma studied Lisa’s Escher poster and tried to pretend she wasn’t getting flustered. “Nothing. I just don’t like him like that, so I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Is there anyone you do fancy?”
Padma immediately thought of Sally-Anne Perks, but that couldn’t be right. She just thought the Hufflepuff was pretty, in a slightly intimidating way. She didn’t fancy her, she’d hardly ever spoken to her. “No,” Padma said as decisively as she could.
Morag raised a perfectly-shaped brow. “Right,” she said, clearly not believing Padma.
Mandy rushed into the dorm, face flushed and eyes sparkling.
“Well?” Su demanded.
Su shrieked and destroyed her book’s spine in her rush to be the first to hug Mandy, Padma and Morag also mobbed the girl; Lisa hung back a bit, but she had a huge smile and joined the chorus of congratulations.
“Who else is on the team?” Padma asked once Mandy had demanded air and pushed them out of her personal space.
“Otto Wood and Nick Hardcastle as Beaters, James McAvery co-captaining with Cho, and Robert Chant and Maladicta Reynolds are the other two Chasers.”
“Better be careful about sharing a locker room with Mal—I head she and Polly Oliver from Gryffindor got caught snogging last term,” Morag said with a wicked grin.
“Really?” Mandy’s eyes were wide and she looked uncomfortable. “Doubt I’m her type, though,” she tried to joke.
“True,” Su said. ‘You’re too girly. But who cares? You’re Keeper!”
Padma opened her mouth to say something and then paused; she wasn’t sure how to respond and the conversation had turned back to Ravenclaw’s chances for the Cup.
The trouble, Sally-Anne felt, with Padma Patil was that she was very pretty, very smart, and very straight. If it wasn’t for that last factor she’d be a fantastic person to fancy. Sally-Anne didn’t particularly fancy Padma, it was more that the other girl was in most of her NEWT classes and kept studying her out of the corner of her eye and driving Sally-Anne to distraction (not that this was difficult in some of her classes) as she attempted to figure out why. This led to giving Padma consideration, which led to a mental reclassification from “the smarter Patil twin” to “interesting.”
Interesting leads to all sorts of possibilities, including wondering what Padma looks like outside her school robes or uniform—and that naturally leads to wondering what she looks like naked. In her purely theoretical defence (because dear Uncle Alphonse Gibbon has a rather lovely bone white mask he wears on company get-togethers which puts a bit of damper on her desire to come out), Sally-Anne claims hormones and Padma’s too-curious dark eyes on her in Charms.
“I do not fancy Padma Patil” she told her mirror. Her reflection smiled sweetly and replied “Of course not, dear, just like you’re not already five minutes late for Sprout.”
Sally-Anne swore and grabbed her bookbag, not even bothering to check the clock.
It was really very simple.
Sally-Anne, wonderful human being and best friend a bloke could ask for when she wasn’t throwing books at you or trying to eviscerate you through sheer force of will (if she ever got over her issues with Lisa Turpin the pair of them would probably figure out a way to kill people with their brains which was terrifying and actually a very good reason to keep her away from the Ravenclaws, now that Zacharias thought about it) clearly wasn’t straight.
And Padma Patil clearly had a thing for Sally-Anne. So obviously, they needed to get together.
Zacharias wasn’t sure why this hadn’t happened already. Clearly, women were very strange creatures and he was damn lucky he had nothing to do with them beyond friendship. Though, he’d be the first to admit, being friends with a girl might be more complicated then dating her—especially when Padma’s calumny-minded newsmonger of a sister kept asking him to confirm whether or not he was dating Sally-Anne for her gossip rag.
Frankly, Zacharias’ life would be so much better once Sally-Anne’s Death Eater relatives were locked up and she finally came out and started dating Padma (not necessarily in that order). It was inevitable and why why why wouldn’t she cooperate for once and make everyone happy? Contrariness could be admirable, but Zacharias felt there were limits to it. Especially when he was involved..
Her lips were warm and a bit chapped and the kiss was entirely unexpected, but not unwelcome. Definitely not unwelcome. Padma leaned into the kiss, desperate for as much of it as she could get before Morag realized what she was doing.
Morag broke the kiss with a gasp and, brown eyes wide and searching for and finding something in Padma’s expression, kissed her again. Padma had no idea why this was happening and she didn’t care because Morag was tracing patterns underneath her shirt and she had her fingers twined around silky hair and oh my god Morag really got her tongue pierced this summer and somewhere she was thinking that she shouldn’t be snogging her best friend but then there were short nails running down her spine and she shivered and forgot about that and arched her back because if this was happening then she was going with it.
Morag broke the kiss and whispered “I want you,” followed by an insistent tug at her belt loops.
“Oh, good,” Padma breathed, pulling the other girl in for a harder kiss. She was about to execute a very clever move involving kissing down the redhead’s throat and stumbling towards one of their beds when Morag’s leg seemed to give out and then they both fell to the ground, narrowly avoiding crushing Mandy’s furiously spitting cat.
“Fuck,” Morag hissed, rubbing her elbow.
“That was the idea,” Padma said with a small smile, hoping she hadn’t misjudged and hoping the joke would make things okay and they’d finish this or forget it. Morag’s eyes darkened and she reached up to cup Padma’s face. Padma leaned into the touch and hesitatingly kissed Morag and suddenly it was on again.
Frantic kisses and then they got so tangled in Morag’s robe that they had to scramble for a wand to Vanish it. Padma straddled the other girl and discovered a spot on her neck that made her gasp and writhe. Padma grinned and admired the line of Morag’s neck until she caught her breath, gave Padma a rather smouldering look and tugged on the bottom of her shirt. Oxford shirt went the way of Padma’s robe, and the thin tank top soon joined them.
Soon enough she discovered that Morag was soft curves with unexpected angles; her hipbones fascinated Padma and she traced one lightly to help ground her while Morag palmed her breast and did her best to discover what sounds she could wring from Padma.
Later: a ragged breath; “Padma, I need—” and Morag’s back arched and Padma wanted to lick the lovely line from her collar bone to her thighs.
Padma tensed and felt desire pool—Morag brushed her clit and she gasped, twisting the rough robe clenched in her hand. Morag smiled wickedly and kissed her way down to Padma’s centre and explored and finally she found the right spot and Padma was undone.
Afterwards, after coming back to earth and Morag’s almost bitter asides about clichés involving cats, curiosity, death (of the little variety), and experiments best not repeated to preserve friendship, they cleaned up and pointedly talked about other things. Padma wondered what Morag was thinking and she also wondered what Sally-Anne Perks looked like when she came.
Sally-Anne was tired of dancing around Padma Patil. After Charms, she very pointedly caught Padma’s eye and then walked to one of the more secluded courtyards. Unsurprisingly, the other girl followed and started when Sally-Anne abruptly stopped and faced her.
“Right, so, you’ve been studying me in all our classes since the term started and I can’t figure out why and I want to know so I can go on with my life without you distracting me.”
Padma had a very odd expression, part disbelief and what might have been nerves. “You’re very direct, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” said Sally-Anne a bit coolly. She waited; either the other girl would explain herself or she wouldn’t. After nearly three months of stolen glances and Padma’s unceasing interest, Sally-Anne was convinced the Ravenclaw either hated her and had a secret plan to somehow ruin her (Cordelia and Zach both thought that was ridiculous) or she fancied Sally-Anne (which Zach had been saying since mid-September).
“Well, then I guess I’ll be direct. Well, more direct than usual. Um,” Padma broke eye contact and started to look much more nervous. “Well, you…and I, and I haven’t ever really done this before, but um,” she smoothed her skirt a few times and then seemed to steel herself and met Sally-Anne’s eyes again. “I like you. Rather a lot, actually. And um, that’s all.”
Sally-Anne tried to keep her expression as neutral as possible as she searched for words. “Oh.”
That was a completely inadequate response and Padma looked disappointed for a moment and then very worried.
“It’s fine, I mean, it’s not like I’d expect you to reciprocate or anything, I just, I mean, you wanted to know and I probably needed to tell you at some point and now you do and we can go on with our lives and forget this conversation.” Padma looked like she wanted to disappear and that she was about to turn away and Sally-Anne had to burst out,
“But I do! Reciprocate. Fancy you, whatever.”
Padma looked stunned and Sally-Anne could feel the blush and that just made it worse and god, she actually said that? Out loud to someone?
“Really?” Padma squeaked.
Ah, sarcasm! She could take refuge in that. “Yes really, I just told you that. And, no offence Padma, but, reciprocating feelings? Who says that?”
“Well, you weren’t exactly forthcoming with your feelings, so you can’t talk,” she said defensively.
Sally-Anne considered this, then stepped closer. “Yes, but I can act,” she said before kissing Padma with more confidence then she actually felt. It was a quick kiss and more than a little awkward, but it got the point across. Their second kiss was much better, and by the third, Padma had worked her hands around the strap of Sally-Anne’s bookbag and they were resting lightly on her hips and Sally-Anne had figured out how to work the height difference by tugging down on Padma’s striped tie.
“So…are we?” Padma asked nervously.
“Are we what?” Sally-Anne said rather distractedly. She sat on the other side of the window niche looking far more interested in her history book then her, well, whatever Padma was. Which was way they needed to talk. Or snog, because while the brunette was reading (Padma had given up on her own homework a quarter of an hour ago) she had responded with real words which meant she could be distracted and really, she looked very cute with her glasses and this was exactly the attitude that had gotten Padma into this situation.
During her wool-gathering, Sally-Anne had clearly slipped back into her academic reverie. Padma sighed and tried again. She cleared her throat. Sally-Anne turned another page.
Padma had a sudden flash of insight and empathy for those who dated Ravenclaws. Changing tactics, she grabbed the book and tossed it into the hall proper. Ignoring Sally-Anne’s glare and bitching and attempts to scramble down after the book, Padma grabbed her arm and quickly got out “Are we or are we not dating?”
Sally-Anne blinked at her. “Of course we are. Can I get my book before classes change and cretins trample it?”
Padma let her go and watched her jump down. Retrieving her now-bent tome, she turned to Padma and raised a brow. “Well?”
Padma tossed her bag down and ungracefully followed. Sally-Anne steadied her and they started walking to Transfiguration.
“Idiot,” Sally-Anne said affectionately. Padma poked her girlfriend and couldn’t stop smiling.
“I’ve never done this before”
“Really. Why do you sound so disbelieving?”
“Because it’s you, Sally-Anne. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d have thought you’d have experience in.”
“Well I don’t. And what makes you think I’ve done this before?”
“I do know you.”
“Yes, but I’ve never mentioned it and this is exactly the sort of thing I’d bring up with you.”
Pause. The sound of fumbling and a feminine giggle.
“This sounds really stupid but—”
“It’s fine, trust me, I’ll let you know if you—oh, do that again!”
“Not quite, a bit to the left.”
“Yes, there. Hang on, let me show you how—”
Another pause; this one much longer.
Fabric rustles, the sound a low laugh.
“I told you it wasn’t hard and that it’d totally be worth it.”
Triumphantly, Padma revealed a hitherto unknown secret entrance to the Potions storage room. Sally-Anne beamed and hugged her girlfriend.
“This is brilliant, we won’t have to destroy that potion base and start over once we’ve got the scurvy-grass!”
“I think you’ve got the path down and the pattern to tap into the bricks,” Padma said. “And you already knew how to conjure a proper skeleton key—“
“For once my evil relatives came in handy,” Sally-Anne muttered as she quickly scanned the shelves for ingredients.
“Quite. So you should be able to break in at will now.”
Sally-Anne stopped her search for a moment. “You’re fantastic, you know that right?”
“Of course,” Padma said with a smile as she double checked Anthony’s list. “I’m brilliant. Everyone knows that.”
Rather unexpectedly Zacharias threw his bag down next to theirs and took Padma’s vacant spot on the settle. Both girls started and Sally-Anne glared at him.
“We were busy,” she said tartly.
“You realize I don’t care, right?” Zach said cheerily.
“Do I interrupt you when you’re with someone you fancy? Or snogging someone?”
“Hey, how’d you see us anyways?” Padma asked. “I cast Somebody Else’s Problem.”
“Sally-Anne is perpetually my problem,” Zach explained.
Sally-Anne promptly smacked him and Padma wondered if the spell would hold if the two of them started bickering in earnest—more often then not one or the other would hex something fluorescent yellow to make a point (Susan assured Padma that this stemmed from a long-running in-joke but she suspected that the entire Hufflepuff sixth year was just insane) and while Somebody Else’s Problem was better than invisibility most of the time, it was really hard to ignore the Problem when it resulted in flying fish (one of Zach’s phobias) or tartan elephants (they’d discovered in Transfiguration that the spell malfunctioned when there literally was an elephant in the room). And then, as suddenly as it’d started, they stopped bickering.
“She’s totally a five,” Zach said.
“What are you talking about Smith?” Sally-Anne asked, leaning to look over his shoulder.
“Ginny Weasley. Totally a five.”
“I thought you were gay?” Padma said. “And five’s a bit low, all the blokes want to date her and I know Morag fancies her, she’s got to be an eight at least.”
Zach laughed at the girls’ confusion. “I’m talking about the Kinsey scale, not the out of ten fitness scale or whatever you’d call it.”
“And Kinsey is?” Padma asked.
“Right, you’re both wizard-raised. Kinsey was a muggle sexologist—“
“What’s a sexologist?” the girls chorused.
“Person who studies sexuality, obviously. Anyways, he created a scale where zero is exclusively heterosexual and six is exclusively homosexual, with three being in the middle. True zeros and sixes are extremely rare. And Ginny Weasley is definitely a five.”
Padma was confused. “But, how does that work? How do you quantify sexuality? And what if it changes? And how do you know she’s a five? Maybe she’s a one.”
Zach looked at her in exasperation. “Padma, you’re over thinking this. And there’s no way she’s a one, she has six older brothers, she’s played two different Quidditch positions, since the uniform redesign she never wears skirts—“
“Yes, but neither does Hannah,” Sally-Anne pointed out. “Well, except occasionally over her dress pants, but that doesn’t count.”
Zach continued talking over Sally-Anne “—she goes through good-looking boys like tissues, like she’s trying to prove her straightness, she’s like, in love with Potter-the-saviour, not Potter-the-person because he’s a git—”
“You know, there are times when I’m pretty sure your animosity towards Potter is a displaced crush,” Padma said dryly.
“I’ve been saying that since October of fifth year,” Sally-Anne said.
“—and she flirted with Susan like it was her job in the DA last year. There’s no way that girl is straight. Bi, maybe, but not straight.”
“Zach, you’re just stereotyping. I mean, look at the three of us. Not exactly your stereotypical queer kids. Just because she’s a bit of a tomboy doesn’t mean she likes girls,” Padma said. She was a bit appalled that Zach was making these kinds of speculations in public, well, it was behind a powerful spell, but still! The hall during the break between classes was not the place to have this sort of conversation and they shouldn’t be having it to begin with, someone’s private life was private for a reason.
“Except she was flirting with Susan so much that she seriously considered asking her out,” Zach said.
“He’s right,” Sally-Anne said. “Susan hadn’t ever thought about it before, but Ginny had her all mixed up and then she and Michael Corner became official and that ended that. I’d say Weasley’s a three or a four.”
“Which one?” Zach joked.
“Both,” Sally-Anne said with a small smile.
“Wait, you think Ron Weasley—actually, that would make perfect sense. He spent all of the damn Yule Ball ignoring me and the only girls he’s been interested in are Fleur bloody Delacour, Hermione Granger, and Lavender Brown—”
“Delacour’s part Veela and Lavender Brown doesn’t count,” Sally-Anne said decisively. “Everything I’ve heard is that she initiated it and no sixteen year old boy is going to turn down that much snogging. Except for Zach.”
Zach tried to punch her in the arm, but he got Padma instead.
“Ow! Hit her—” she poked him hard “not me!”
This started a brief scuffle and Zach’s bag got kicked into the room. Pansy Parkinson noticed it and the spell wore off. Several people looked confused as a settle and three students suddenly appeared, looked at each other, and started laughing.
“Parkinson’s totally a two or a three,” Sally-Anne whispered. Padma tried to stifle her giggles.
“Puts a new spin on her obsession with antagonizing my sister,” Padma stage whispered.
Sally-Anne was trying to catch her breath and Padma wasn’t helping. She was tracing patterns on Sally-Anne’s hip, which was still sensitive and very much reminding her where those fingers had been not too long ago. Sally-Anne could feel the blush that thought evoked and considering Padma’s expression, it wasn’t stopping at her cheeks. She twined her fingers with Padma’s, briefly admiring the contrast of their skin tones, before tugging the other girl up for a long kiss. Padma broke it to better curl up against her and Sally-Anne brushed a strand of Padma’s hair out of her face. Padma scrunched her nose and sat up to gather her hair and twist it out of the way.
“Honestly, I should just cut it, it’s always in the way,” Padma grumbled.
“Why haven’t you cut it if it annoys you so much?” Sally-Anne asked, doing her best to look up at her girlfriend as she turned to prop her chin on her hand.
“My mum’s harped on and on about how a woman’s beauty is in her hair all my life, which is stupid. What’s really annoying is that she’s never grown or charmed her’s much past her shoulder blades—she has no idea how annoying it is to have it this long or how impossible it is to take of sometimes,” here Padma made a face.
“Anyways, Parvati was such a girly kid, worse then she was third and fourth year, that she had no problem with such long hair and she always wanted mum to do ridiculously complicated curls and such with it, but I hated it growing up. No matter what I was doing, it got in the way. That’s why I usually braid my hair-it’s too long and too thick to do much but complicated updos that I don’t have the patience for, and it drives me mad to constantly push it out of my face when I’m reading. Point is, that was the status quo for years, then Parvati was fighting with mum about something over the winter hols and got it into her head to cut it and someone in Gryffindor obliged once we got back to school. Mum got over it around March and she loves it now. This sounds stupid, but I don’t want to cut it now because Parvati did it first and because mum’s okay with it.”
Padma forced a small laugh. “It’s a completely nonsensical and boring bit of defiance, but there you go. I’m the boring Patil twin.”
“You think you’re boring?” Sally-Anne asked incredulously.
“Rule-abiding Ravenclaw prefect who does homework most Saturday nights,” Padma said bitterly. “I’m not exactly interesting.”
Sally-Anne sat up suddenly and faced Padma. “Says the girl who snuck into another House under a very advanced charm that’s usually used by burglars—don’t ask me how I know that—just to shag her girlfriend while said girlfriend’s roommates are out, doing something the first girl arranged to distract them. That’s hardly boring, dear.”
“To be fair, you told me Cordelia’s doing something musical this weekend, and I just had to call in a favour with Fawcett to get Stebbins and Summers to do something in the Common Room to distract Hannah, which would then distract Susan.”
Sally-Anne waved a hand, dismissing Padma’s attitude. She had to get through to her—maybe this time Padma would listen and start to doubt herself less. “Yes, but boring people wouldn’t have known all of that and then decided to use that knowledge to have sex. And then they certainly wouldn’t have come up with such an audacious and underhand plan to pull it off. You’re not boring Padma, far from it. You’re incredibly bright and you’re very good at figuring out people and there’s a lovely streak of pragmatic amorality—”
“I like to think of it as selective morality,” Padma interrupted.
“Yes, well, since you have a preferred term for it, obviously you’re not boring. Boring people are black or white and you’d be outraged I was questioning your morals if you were boring. But you’re not, because you see the world for what it is and you live in it and make sly jokes about it. You care passionately about things and when it comes down to it, you will do whatever you think is best—be that using a borderline illegal spell to break about fifty school rules to see me or staying up all night to write the best essay you can or joining illegal resistance movements to metaphorically tell a sadistic teacher to fuck off and to make sure you’ll get good OWL score. Those are not the actions of a boring, predictable woman. You’re not boring. And as for now refusing to cut your hair in some kind of ill-defined rebellion? No one said everything you have to do is twenty kinds of spectacular or that it has to make sense. It makes sense to you, so who cares what the rest of us think?”
Padma tilted her head and looked at Sally-Anne for a moment.
“Did you just make a motivational speech?” she asked a bit incredulously.
“Um,” Sally-Anne said, trying desperately to come up with a witty—but still supportive—response.
“You did,” Padma said delightedly. “I can’t believe the most cynical person I know just made a sincere motivational speech!”
“You have met Zacharias, right?” Sally-Anne said.
“Yes, and you’re far worse.” Padma started to giggle and Sally-Anne thwacked her with a throw pillow. Padma grabbed her wrist and before Sally-Anne could comment, she met Padma’s eyes. The burned with an emotion Sally-Anne couldn’t yet name.
“Do you mean it? You don’t think I’m completely boring and useless?” Padma asked very quietly.
Sally-Anne swallowed and laced her fingers with Padma’s again. “I think you’re the most amazing person I know and anyone who doesn’t look past the surface and doesn’t see you is an absolute idiot.”
“You’re such a romantic, Sally-Anne,” Padma said before pulling her down for a kiss. “Thank you, though,” she murmured.
“Hypothetically speaking, if I were to kiss you in the Library, how would you react?”
“Sally-Anne, that’s not a hypothetical question, it’s a “how public are we going to be” question and walking back from Hogsmeade is not the best place to have this conversation,” Padma said tartly as she mentally prepared herself for next hill. She’d charmed Mandy’s birthday present, but Keeper’s gear was still heavy and awkward.
Sally-Anne sighed. “Where is the best place Padma? And when’s the best time?”
Padma stopped so Sally-Anne would know she was serious. “This is not about being out or hiding things or me being ashamed of you, this is about the fact that it’s winter and snow’s predicted and Mandy’s bloody stupid wrist guard is hitting a bruise I got from tripping over one of Fawcett’s Potions’ experiments. When I’m not cold and tired and a long walk from tea, then we’ll talk. All right?”
Sally-Anne brushed Padma’s cheek with her gloved hand. “What’s sad is that you don’t even realize how much you’re avoiding this discussion. Last time it was studying for a quiz, next time it’ll be distracting your roommate from Quidditch nerves, and you’ll still be freaking out every time we walk to class together because someone might suspect we’re together, but you’ll pass me notes in the hall even though we’ve never really hung out before this year. I can understand not being out and you know I think that snogging in the halls between classes is just crass, but is it too much to ask for some consistency so we both know what’s allowed and what isn’t?”
Padma closed her eyes. “Let’s get back to the school and then we’ll talk.”
She had to time things perfectly.
If she made it to the passageway in time, she’d be able to cross to the statue gallery with enough time between Lee Jordan being seen chatting with the prefects and their next public sighting to stun Sunny Moon and cast an illusion that would continue the patrol (assuming Stebbins gave her the signal) so they could raid the Potions lab. Except for the timing (and making sure several people had actually spoken to the Hufflepuff prefects so the illusions would pass), it was a simple, elegant plan.
Seraphina Fawcett checked her watch one more time—she had to hurry a bit if she was going to make it to her position by 9:47 Fawcett Standard Time. She walked quickly, boot heels click-clicking on the stone. In one of the shortcut passages, a flash of yellow caught her eye. A quick double take revealed a couple snogging. Fawcett knew her watch was a few minutes fast, so she indulged her curiosity and took a moment to try and place them.
The petite brunette was a Hufflepuff, not a seventh year though. Fawcett couldn’t tell what house the other girl was, but the incredibly long black hair narrowed the list considerably. Unless Tracey Davis or Megan Jones liked girls or Parvati Patil spelled her hair longer in the past few hours, that had to be Padma. Fawcett grinned widely. Good for her, she thought, pleased Padma was seeing someone and that the other girl had the good taste to pursue Padma. Curiosity satisfied for the moment, Fawcett jogged to her position. She had a carefully planned revenge to rain down of a pathetic excuse for a human being.
Susan was absorbed in her drawing and Cordelia was going to go mad if she didn’t do something besides Snape’s homework in the next ten minutes. She seized on the nearest easily distractible person she could find.
“Hannah, let’s do something fun, anything that has nothing whatsoever to do with Dark Curses.”
“Ummm…” was Hannah’s clever reply. “Exploding Snap? Oh! We could finish making rules for Geo-Politics or—“
Zacharias slipped into the empty spot between Susan’s art books and Hannah. “You two aren’t still trying to create that stupid board game are you? Because it’s never going to sell.”
“Shut up Zach,” Susan said without rancour. “It’s a brilliant idea and you know it. I’m designing the World Leader Cards in History of Magic—“
“Sally-Anne better not hear about that,” he said gleefully. “She’d crush you under a pile of history books and magical theory and I’d laugh—”
“You’re a git,” Cordelia said, “so shut up or entertain me.”
Zach raised a brow and pulled out a copy of The Daily Notes From History of Magic. “Your wish, princess. Shall I read from “Spotted at the Astronomy Tower,” then? Oh, here’s an expected one: Weasley broke up with Lavender Brown and was seen ogling Hermione Granger at meals—after she attacked him with canaries last term. Kinky?”
“Who cares?” Cordelia said. ”Weren’t they dating already? What’s one of the rumoured couples?”
“Hmm, McGonagall and Hooch, Malfoy and Parkinson, Malfoy and the butchier Nott brother, Malfoy and Zabini—“
“Covers all the possibilities then, with Zabini,” Susan said unexpectedly. “Since ze’s genderqueer.”
“Is Sally-Anne—“Cordelia started and then stopped, unsure how to continue.
Zach lowered the paper, “I won’t make assumptions.”
Hannah leaned in, “Yes, but in your opinion?”
Zach shrugged. “It is the opinion of this gay boy that there’s a reason for the rainbow star laces in her Doc Martens and her obsession with exorcising Binns for literally being a dead white man who only teaches us House stereotypes and ignores women’s roles in magical history.”
“Parvati, you’ll never guess who I saw leaving the Astronomy Tower with your sister!” Lavender shrieked as she jumped on the bed.
“Who?” Parvati demanded. Padma was notorious for not being linked to anyone romantically and she never told her sister about crushes over the holidays or at any of their “twin time” meetings.
Lavender’s eyes were comically wide as she proclaimed “Sally-Anne Perks.”
Parvati frowned, looking disappointed. “Well, who cares about that?”
“What are you talking about?” Lavender asked. “Your sister who doesn’t date was at the Astronomy Tower with someone outside class and everyone knows what that means and you don’t care?”
Parvati rolled her eyes “If it was a boy I would. But Padma’s crap at Astronomy and probably getting tutoring again, so it’s not like it means anything.”
It was Lavender’s turn to roll her eyes. “Parvati you idiot, she’s not in NEWT Astronomy with us and even if she was—inter-house tutoring? How often is that actually tutoring?”
Parvati went still thinking about that. “Oh.”
She’d fallen asleep and Padma couldn’t help but smile at her girlfriend’s mussed hair. She leaned over to smooth it and move the open inkpot away before bad dreams came and caused Sally-Anne’s hand to twitch and knock it over. Padma settled back into her chair and took a moment to really study her. Padma didn’t often get a chance to just look at Sally-Anne; they were both so busy that there wasn’t much time to spend together and Sally-Anne said it made her uncomfortable to have people watch her when she wasn’t doing anything to merit it.
Her hair was growing out and Padma could see more of the natural blonde and her striped t-shirt was torn. She knew without looking that Sally-Anne’s left hand was smeared with ink (despite learning to write with a quill and automatically angling the parchment and teaching herself to write right-to-left she still got ink everywhere) and that a patch on her stomach was still faintly mauve from a Charms-accident-related skin graft.
Asleep she wasn’t nearly as pretty as when she was awake and arguing furiously with Lisa about Booth’s Sliding Scale of Stability and Instability or helping Hannah and Justin create a solid cover story for whatever mess Ernie had gotten them into again, or mocking Quidditch players with Zacharias (despite the fact that he played Chaser), much less when she was laughing at one of Padma’s jokes or flirting with her or utterly ignoring the rest of the world because Padma was there and the absolute centre of it just then.
Padma waved Sally-Anne and a few of her friends off when she ran into Parvati during the break between classes. She made her way over to her twin, adjusting her backpack so she could lean against the wall and talk for a few minutes. Parvati met her and gave her a hard look.
“What?” Padma asked, instantly defensive, though she wasn’t quite sure what Parvati was mad about.
Parvati cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm and said “You know exactly what.”
“Um, no I don’t? I mean, I’m brilliant and we’re twins, but I actually haven’t figured out how to read you mind yet sister dear.”
“I’m not mad at you, well no, I am, but not for the reasons you think and—“
“Parv, I’m serious. I don’t know why you’re mad at me. Please tell me so we can have a fight about the same thing? Or be adults about whatever it is?”
Parvati shifted, unconsciously echoing her sister’s posture. “Sally-Anne Perks.”
“Ah,” Padma said, forcing herself to meet her twin’s eyes. “What about Sally-Anne?”
Parvati just looked at her “You, her, the Astronomy Tower? Reminding you of anything? And don’t you dare say you were getting tutoring again!”
“I wasn’t going to,” Padma said quietly. “I respect you too much to lie to you, plus that’d be the worst lie ever—I practically threw a party when I got to drop that class.”
‘Right,” Parvati said, “so what’s going with you and her? And why haven’t you told me?”
Padma looked at the other girl with exasperation “I haven’t told anyone we’re together. You’re the first to know and you would have been the first person I told if you hadn’t come to me about it—and why didn’t you wait?”
“Padma, you’ve never dated anyone, of course we were going to notice you had a thing with Sally-Anne so why didn’t you tell me that you liked her?”
“Wait, who’s we?”
“Lavender saw you two leave the Astronomy Tower. And don’t try to distract me! Why didn’t you tell me sooner that you liked girls? I don’t care, well I do because it’s sort of a big thing to take in and we’re twins and it’s unexpected but not really once Lav pointed it out and I need to get used to it, so I do care, but I don’t hold it against you. But I am mad at you.”
Padma just blinked. She took a moment to work through everything Parvati said (and hadn’t said—those things were as important). “So, you’re not happy I didn’t tell you I’m questioning my sexuality. And you’re not happy I’m dating Sally-Anne and didn’t tell you. But you’re okay with it overall?”
“I just said that,” Parvati said. “And I’m mad at you.”
“Yes, I got that. It’s very clear. Are you completely furious at me mad or are you just very annoyed at me for not telling you sooner and going to pull a 180 in five minutes and go back to treating me normally?”
Parvati seemed to be considering this carefully and Padma felt her stomach knot and she hoped, oh she hoped Parvati was going to be okay with this because she was her twin and her best friend and she wasn’t sure she could handle Parvati hating her and—
“I’m very annoyed at you. And if you start wearing baggy tartan robes and awful hats, I will never speak to you ever again. It’s one thing to be gay or refuse to wear dresses—I mean, androgynous is in this year—and it’s another thing to look like a complete mess.”
Padma looked at her sister and she laughed. Parvati looked indignant at first, but there mischievous spark in her eyes and soon enough she caught the giggles and then the two of them hugged and Parvati’s backpack knocked them off balance and they collapsed laughing in the middle of the hall.
Seraphina Fawcett took a seat across from Morag and Terry. She leaned in conspiratorially and asked “So, what are the odds on the two of them” she gestured towards where Padma sat at the Hufflepuff table, “admitting that they’re dating.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Terry said stiffly.
“Please,” Fawcett waved her hand grandly and nearly knocked over Luna Lovegood’s glass. “Sorry, anyways, it’s obvious to me at least that they’re together and I know that you, MacDougal here, and Goldstein run most of the Ravenclaw books since Julian Castle and Mark Belby finished school. So, what’re the odds?”
Morag scrutinized Fawcett very carefully and the older girl wondered why. Betting was pretty common place among the upper year Ravenclaws and Slytherins and there had to be a pool about this. It was strange that Morag and Terry were being so circumspect about it. Then it clicked.
“I’m not going to announce it to the world,” Fawcett said quietly. “Hell, I’m not even particularly interested in wagering anything on this, I’d just like to know if they’re officially together or not and how you guys think they’re doing since the two of you are Padma’s best mates.”
Fawcett could see Terry relax, though Morag was still tense. Interesting, Fawcett thought, there’s something else going on here.
“There aren’t real odds. Well, except Anthony’s betting against Cordelia Moon about whether Sally-Anne is going to come out as a lesbian or tell her friends she’s dating Padma first. I think the stakes are Cordelia writing something for his band if he wins, or him editing her final Magical Theory paper. Everything else is evens or favours we’d do anyways.”
Fawcett nodded. “Well, I think Padma’s going to come out in a spectacularly awesome way because if nothing else, the girl has style. And when she does, I will definitely be standing with her.”
Morag smiled, “Good. I’ll put you down with me, Terry, Anthony, and Luna as “supporting Padma.” Mind you, that’s not supporting Padma dating her. Luna and Terry are the only ones willing to lay stakes on that.”
Fawcett started to laugh at Morag’s expression, then choked on her orange juice. Luna had to pound her on the back.
“The MacGuffin whale-spiders also make their champions pass trials before they are allowed to stand with them. Though, usually it’s not extra pulp orange juice,” she said serenely.
Sally-Anne looked at the pair ensconced in the overstuffed couch, whispering and giggling madly. Dark hair and darker eyes flashed with amusement and one of them shrieked and smacked her near-doppelganger with a book. Surprisingly, it was Parvati with the book.
“Am I interrupting?” she asked wryly.
Padma made a face, “Eww, not you too! Why does everyone want a threesome with us?”
“I said nothing of the sort!” Sally-Anne said. “It says something about you though, that you’d read that into my perfectly innocent question. I respect twin bonding time is all and dear god, that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?”
“A bit,” Parvati said. “And it’s not helping your case, either.”
Sally-Anne just looked at her. “You’re cute, but not my type. I like my girls well-read, plus, incest is gross.”
“Please tell Seamus Finnigan that twincest is disgusting and it would never, ever happen. Also? I read Dostoevsky for fun last summer. So stop treating me like I’m an idiot because I’m not in NEWT Potions with you.”
Padma looked imploringly from one girl to the other. “Can you two stop fighting? For my sake?”
“We’re not fighting,” Sally-Anne said, perching on the arm of the couch. “If we were fighting she’d be crying from my caustic remarks.”
Parvati glared at the Hufflepuff through her bangs. “No, if we were fighting you’d be perfectly nice to me because I’d have blackmailed you by this point.”
Sally-Anne made a dismissive noise, “Hardly. You have nothing on me and even if you did, it’s not like you’d have the guts to go through with it or an effective way to ensure my cooperation.”
Parvati raised an eyebrow (something Sally-Anne belatedly realized her twin couldn’t do). She cast a quick spell and met Sally-Anne’s eyes. “You’re not out, your mom’s family has Death Eater connections that you keep quiet, which is probably why you’re not out, and all of that proves you do care what other people think of you. I’m on the staff of the official school paper and I’m the editor-in-chief of the underground zine that everyone reads and trusts after Umbridge. I’d say I’ve got a few things on you and the means to expose them. As for the balls?” Parvati smiled coldly and suddenly Sally-Anne was glad they weren’t actually fighting. “There’s a reason Pansy Parkinson hasn’t said anything about me or my friends since third year.”
Sally-Anne whistled softly and Padma cocked her head, “I wondered. And it was right around the time you and Lavender started The Daily Notes From History of Magic that she stopped teasing us...that’s cold Parvati.” Sally-Anne caught an admiring undertone to her words though, and she smiled. She stuck her hand out over Padma’s shoulder.
Parvati shook her hair out of her eyes, ‘Yeah, all right. Rather have you at my side than against me.”
“Likewise,” Sally-Anne said. “Blatantly blackmailing and threatening people, and our dear sweet prefect Padma lies straight to the professors’ faces and breaks into the Potions storage closet with her roommates and my friends. How the hell did the pair of you miss Slytherin?”
Padma leaned back against her knees and looked up at Sally-Anne. “You’re one to talk. And anyways, Slytherin is characterized by ambition and dedication; ruthlessness and moral relativity are not exclusive to them.
“An excellent point,” Sally-Anne said. “I still don’t like your sister, but I do respect her.”
"I’m still here,” Parvati pointed out.
“I know,” Sally-Anne said cheerfully and then she promptly leaned over to kiss Padma. She smiled into the kiss at Parvati’s disgusted noise.
“I’m leaving. Padma, we’ll talk later. And I still think you’re a bitch Sally-Anne.”
Sally-Anne just waved in the direction of her voice and slid on to the couch proper to continue snogging her girlfriend.
Sally-Anne sat very stiffly on the edge of the coffee table.
“And?” Cordelia asked.
“What do you mean, and?” she asked. She looked worried and a little defiant and more than ready to bolt at the first opportunity. Zach almost took pity on her, but if she’d done this months ago he might have been able to hook up with Anthony Goldstein during Campbell and Fawcett’s Ides of March party instead of having an awkward conversation about how The Daily Notes was wrong for a change and he wasn’t dating her.
“You did hear me, right?” Sally-Anne asked.
“And you heard Cordelia, so we’re all hearing each other and on same page then! C’mon, I missed dinner and I want to snag a sandwich and some éclairs before I start this essay and forget to eat and then annoy the House Elves when I go to the kitchens at two in the morning utterly starved.” Hannah was practically bouncing and Zach thought it might be a good idea to attack his Transfiguration project tonight and leave the rest of his essay writing to a time (or place) when Hannah was in a less caffeinated state and not adding sugar and more coffee on top of it.
Sally-Anne looked confused.
“S-A, we knew you two were together months ago,” Justin said.
“Yes and before that Zach knew Padma liked you and it was pretty obvious in retrospect that you’re not exactly heterosexual—” Ernie was interrupted by Hannah:
“I mean, you did to the Yule Ball with Zach.”
“Hey!” he sputtered. “What does that mean?”
“Exactly what you think,” she said sweetly.
Zach gestured impotently and Susan cleared her throat before he could try and think up a comeback. He scowled but let her speak.
“Sally-Anne, did any of us except for Ernie—and that was only for a week because he was paranoid Zach wanted him which still makes me think Ernie’s a bit bent—care that Zach is gay? Since you’re not sleeping with any of us” she gestured to Cordelia and Hannah “because that would be all kinds of awkward, who cares if you like girls? And Padma’s a sweetheart.”
“Also?” Cordelia added “it wasn’t a secret. Ever. Justin, Susan, and Zach had a bet about how long it’d take you to tell us you two were together. Morag won our bet though, that Padma’d tell her sister first but I beat Anthony out on you coming out before you admitted to dating Padma.”
“Wait, wait, Anthony also knew she wasn’t straight? But, that whole, ugh! I’ll kill him! We could have—”
Sally-Anne held up a hand. “I do not want to know about your sex life. Especially since mine has apparently been such a lucrative source of income for so many people. Some friends you are.”
“Can we please go to the kitchens now Susan?” Hannah asked plaintively. “I’ve only eaten a muffin and Sally-Anne can threaten us all after I’m full and then she and Zach can glare at each other and trade insults and we’ll laugh about it and take bets on when Padma finally comes out to her friends and really, I’m starving guys.”
“Padma’s writing a paper about Deep Magic and chosen kinship bonds with a focus on women—”
“So, magical lesbians?” Ernie asked.
“Yeah,” Sally-Anne said. “So I’d say she’s out to her house.”
“Damn,” Cordelia said. “I was so sure she’d only told Parvati.”
“Kitchens?” Hannah asked hopefully.
“Is it okay if Sally-Anne revises with us?” Padma asked at dinner.
Michael shrugged and Lisa said she didn’t care. Morag didn’t reply and Terry said she could suit herself, so Padma decided it was fine with her friends.
Studying as a group didn’t go well. With Sally-Anne generally came Zacharias Smith and Terry liked him about as much as a cat likes being caught in thunderstorms. Morag was pointedly ignoring both Hufflepuffs, though that at least made sense to Padma. Zacharias spent a large part of third year mocking Morag for her rather unfortunate haircut and that one time when Kevin Entwhistle’s voice cracked in the middle of casting a Cheering Charm on her, and Morag had made it very clear she thought Sally-Anne wasn’t nearly good enough for Padma.
Hannah Abbott rushing over in blue tinted school robes to grab one of her books that had fallen into Zacharias’ bag and going on about earworms and puppets not liking washing machines didn’t help.
“Someone put her up to that then?” Lisa asked faintly.
Both Hufflepuffs shook their head. “No,” Zach said. “She’s just like that. You sort of stop noticing it after awhile.”
“Are you all insane?” Morag hissed. “You’re a complete bastard Smith, Abbott’s functionally insane, Macmillan’s a pompous git, Moon sings opera between classes, and you,” she pointed at Sally-Anne, “you’re practically a sociopath!”
“Yes, but Susan and Justin are pretty normal,” Zach said sweetly.
Morag let out a small scream and several tables glared and shushed her. Morag flipped them off as Padma tried very hard to will her friends and girlfriend away.
“Yes, but you’re not,” Terry said quite reasonably. “And it’s true that Perks here has a somewhat relative moral code. And a penchant for hexing people.”
“As do you,” Sally-Anne said. “Hannah and Ernie have both taken points from you for fighting in the halls.”
Terry’s smile was a bit terrifying. “Yes, and that’s why when I tell you that if you hurt Padma, I will make you pay, you should listen.”
There was a pause.
“…so, are you telling me this then?” Sally-Anne asked.
There was a longer pause.
“Stop being a bitch Sally-Anne,” Padma said. “I think Terry was very convincing and you should listen to him. He’s quite ingenious when it comes to curses.”
Padma slipped her hand inside Sally-Anne’s pocket and the smaller girl leaned in to nod towards where Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were talking.
“How long ‘til they’re dating?” she asked.
Padma considered this; “You mean they aren’t already? Five galleons on the next big Gryffindor party.”
“Not their next Quidditch victory?” Sally-Anne teased.
Padma glared at her “We’re going to win. The team’s flying brilliantly, thank you very much.”
Sally-Anne laughed and pulled Padma in for a kiss, ignoring the rest of the school. She kissed her for all she was worth and thought damn the consequences, whatever they might be.