Ron was dubious, to say the least. “Must we? Really?”
“There’s no one else Mother deems appropriate, so yes,” Padma replied impatiently, as she carefully rolled the robes she planned to wear at the brunch on New Year’s Day and placed them into the suitcase. The Patil New Year’s Eve ball was that evening, and she and Ron were packing what they needed to spend the next few days up in Cambridge at Patil House. But Padma’s father had taken a spill and broken his foot, so he couldn’t lead her mother on their traditional opening spin around the floor that signaled dancing had begun. (Skele-Gro worked fast, but not that fast.) So her mother had asked if she and Ron would fill in.
“What about your sister?” Ron asked, tossing three pairs of socks into the case.
“She isn’t married.”
“I thought your mother was okay with the lesbian business. She seems to like Pansy.”
Padma carefully placed some jewelry and makeup into a smaller bag. “She does, but she still thinks they should get married, since no reason why they can’t. They just don’t want to.”
“Why not a cousin?”
“They might take it as a signal that Mother wants them to take over the party, which could be seen as an insult to Parvati and me. At the very least it would start gossip.”
Ron, who was folding his pajamas, looked up sharply. “Do you want to take over the party?” he asked.
“I think Parvati wants to,” she said, “which is fine by me.”
“But she’ll have to get married first?”
“Perhaps not. I don’t see Mother handing over the party for a good ten years or so. Anything could happen by then.”
“This is awfully complicated.”
“Welcome to wizarding society, Ron.”
“Huh,” he said, sitting down on the bed. “I wonder who’ll take over Mum’s Boxing Day Buffet.”
“Oliver and Percy, of course,” Padma said. She looked around the room. “Is that everything?”
“Everything I need,” Ron said. “So, what song will it be? Can we choose that, at least?”
“I thought we’d use my parents’ song, to show we’re only filling in. You know it, anyway.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I like it well enough.”
Padma sat down next to Ron and took his hand. “It won’t be like our wedding. We won’t have everyone watching us dance for an entire song. Our friends can join us after the first verse, and everyone else will follow suit.”
Ron nodded. “You’re right. I’m just nervous, but we’ll be fine.”
“You’re sure?” she asked.
“I’ll have you in my arms, won’t I?” he asked, and kissed her on the cheek. “Oh!” he said, suddenly.
“Toothbrush!” he replied, jumping up and going into the bathroom. “Can’t forget my toothbrush!”
The quirk of the Patil New Year’s Ball was the dress code of Muggle formal, which made it feel less like a gala and more like a costume party. Padma looked splendid in a green dress made by her sister, and Ron knew that his tux fit perfectly well. That wasn’t the trouble.
The trouble was the people—people he knew from the Ministry, from his time at Hogwarts, from Padma’s family, and plenty of people he didn’t know—all staring at him expectantly, and the music hadn’t even started yet.
“Don’t tense up, darling,” Padma whispered. “You said we’d be fine.”
“I may have spoken too soon,” Ron admitted.
The music started, sweet chords on the piano, and Ron led Padma out onto the dance floor and pulled her into his arms. He felt stiff and clumsy, like he had two left feet. He did remember the song—a trumpet of some sort was about to come in and play the melody, and just as it did Padma leaned in closer, her lips on his ear, and began to sing:
You see this girl? This girl’s in love with you
And just like that, the tension drained from him, and he smiled.
Yes I’m in love / Who looks at you the way I do?
His feet were even working now, and he led her in that big circle across the edge of the dance floor.
When you smile I can tell we know each other very well
Just a little bit further now, and they’ll have made it all the way around, by themselves, in front of everyone.
How can I show you I’m glad I got to know you?
That was the cue for all their friends to come on the dance floor, and Ron sighed, relieved.
“See?” Padma said. “You were right; we were just fine.”
“Thanks to you,” Ron said, smiling, and kissed her cheek.