“Padma, you can’t just go up to him and start ranting about India,” Parvati hissed, grabbing a hold of her sister as she made a beeline for Harry.
“He doesn’t know anything about his heritage!”
Parvati rolled her eyes. “Well, duh, he grew up without his parents. And it turns out he never even saw pictures of them until he came here!”
“All the more reason to talk to him,” Padma insisted stubbornly. “He doesn’t even know he’s desi -”
“He never got the choice to be British or Indian,” Padma grumped. “It’s not fair.”
“What if he doesn’t want to be Indian?”
Padma looked at her sister, bemused. “Why wouldn’t he? We’re awesome.”
Parvati looked heavenward. “Why am I being the sensible one here?” she demanded plaintively.
“You’re being a downer,” Padma corrected. “Besides, he’s your housemate, you could totally talk to him. Just slide it into a conversation, like talking about our flying carpets when he’s talking about brooms or whatever - or Sachin Tendulkar!”
“Just because you have a crush on him -”
“Or maybe food,” Padma said over her sister with a raised voice, “Like curry or that awful jalfrezi we had on Monday.”
Parvati paused and shuddered. “That was awful. Mausi would be horrified. And Pansy was crowing about it being a British dish!”
Padma sputtered. “What - how - ugh. See, this is why Harry needs to know more about being Indian! What if he winds up believing stuff like that!”
Parvati groaned. “Fiiiiine, I’ll try and talk to him. But if Granger comes at me demanding a treatise, you get to handle that.”
Parvati burst into Padma’s study room, eyes bright with tears. “I hate her!”
Padma’s eyes widened and she shot out of her chair. “What happened?!”
“Lavender,” Parvati sniffed, burrowing into her sister’s hold, “She kept trying to get me to wear this awful skin-whitening potion because her dumb magazine says pale skin is ‘in.’”
“What?! That’s ridiculous!”
“It isn’t fair! Just because she knows all these beauty tricks doesn’t mean I’m not pretty!”
“Of course not,” Padma immediately replied, “You’re beautiful.”
Parvati’s tears dampened Padma’s shirt. “Then why don’t the magazines think so?”
“Because they’re dumb and wrong,” Padma said defiantly. “You’re perfect the way you are, and brown skin is way cooler than pasty white. Listen to your big sister, I’m always right.”
Parvati laughed wetly, swatting Padma’s arm lightly. “Only by ten minutes!”
Parvati looked up from her essay as her sister dropped onto the couch beside her. “What happened now?”
“Professor Snape,” Parvati grumbled. “Also Granger’s White Saviour Complex.”
Parvati winced. “Did you write your name in Marathi again?”
“No! I suggested using kokum in the Gentle Draught of Peace because it’s less toxic than hellebore so you don’t have to use microlitres to measure it out, but nooo, if I ‘want to use rustic folk medicine, perhaps I should leave the Draught-making to a more modern potioneer.’ And then he took off points for ‘backward thinking!’”
Parvati’s eyes were wide as saucers. “Seriously?! Half the potions he makes are based on Ayurveda!”
Padma scowled at her textbook. “Saala kutta -”
“ - Imperialist racist -”
Parvati threw up her hands and decided to wait out her sister’s storm of swearing. Eventually, Padma huffed and resumed scowling.
“… I’m almost afraid to ask what Hermione did.”
“All arranged marriages are terrible, and clearly Aai is oppressed and needs to divorce Baba.”
“… I’m definitely not asking.”
“Does no one in this country understand duty or the idea of working to better your family or loving someone without being lust-crazed before marriage. Building a friendship and falling in love after marriage is a thing, you know! And all Indian women are oppressed and must be liberated by spreading Western feminism.”
“So Indira Gandhi didn’t exist?”
“Neither do Lakshmi and Saraswati, apparently. Oh, and British colonisation gave India all its technological advances that brought it into the modern world.”
Padma blinked. “… Hi, Parvati.”
“Ughgh it’s so unfair!”
Padma set aside her sewing. “What is?”
“I’m not allowed to wear a sari to the Yule Ball.”
Padma’s brow furrowed. “I thought you were planning on wearing dress robes.”
“That’s not the point,” Parvati dismissed, “Turns out saris are not appropriate wear for a formal event as they are too immodest or something. Never mind that Romilda runs around like a bloody kanjri and Pansy’s neckline is basically two feet below her boobs. And I had to listen to Morag go on about how saris didn’t let you walk properly and it was so weird that Indians didn’t wear normal clothes like the rest of the world.”
Padma rolled her eyes, “Look at all the cultural appreciation we get.”
Parvati scowled as a large crack appeared in the table in front of her, but nothing else. Beside her, Padma’s target was a pile of fine dust on the floor.
“Tighten your movements,” Padma advised, “You need to guide your magic.”
Parvati gave her sister a dirty look. “I hate you, I hope you know that.”
Parvati stared at her table mulishly, before huffing. “This is so dumb.” She held out her wand. “Here, hold this.”
“Parvati, what…” Padma trailed off as she saw her sister’s stance shift, her breathing slowing.
“Parvati, do you need help?” Hermione asked, coming up to them.
Padma waved at her to be quiet. “Ssh, don’t break her concentration.”
Then Parvati moved. Her arms stretched above her head with sinuous grace, her body moving through sharp, elegant patterns.
“Is she dancing?!” Hermione demanded, scandalised.
“We’re supposed to be practising -”
“Hermione, leave her be,” Cho said, joining them. Several other DA members were looking at Parvati now, too, and Harry was making his way towards them. “She’s invoking Nataraja, right?”
Padma nodded, not turning away from her sister. Suddenly, Parvati lashed out, freezing with one leg bent to press her toes against the floor and the other leaning out to press her heel down, her arm thrust towards the table.
The table shuddered and exploded.
Padma clapped, loud and strong as everyone else stared in astonishment.
Parvati straightened up, grinning proudly. “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of India.”
“That man is a terrible teacher.”
Seamus and Dean waved to Padma absently as she settled down beside Parvati and started filling her plate with food.
Everyone near them rolled their eyes in agreement. “Amen to that.”
“So what did he say about India?” Harry asked wryly, because six years and nothing was surer to get Padma Patil riled up than dismissing or insulting India.
“The ICW’s attempts to negotiate with the goblins,” Padma explained, “This rice is distinctly undercooked, what the Hell. He was going on about how it was a irreconcilable situation, and I brought up how the Mughal Empire handled India’s goblins, and he literally went ‘No, Poppy, it was impossible to negotiate with goblins then.’ Seriously, I had my old history book and everything! Here, see.”
Padma opened up Student’s Guide to the Mughal Empire - Standard V - VII, and flipped to a page with a colourful painting. She thrust the book towards Harry, who held it to the side so he and Hermione could both read it.
“And he thought it was a novel! What is the point of teaching if you’re not open to new information?!”
“Come on, Padma,” Ron complained, “Everyone knows Binns is terrible. That’s just how it is. How do you even stay awake in the class?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Eat your food, Ron.”
“Your very terrible food, because you Brits are incapable of making good Indian food.”
Ron rolled his eyes, and Harry scanned down the page, turning it over. “This Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal?”
“Mhmm. With the help of the goblins. Impossible negotiations my foot…”
Rajiv Patil closed his newspaper sharply, his expression tight. “This is only going to get worse from here on. It would be better for us to return to Mumbai.”
Padma immediately protested. “What! Baba, we still have a year of school left!”
“Which you can easily finish at home,” Anjali Patil responded. “Your father’s right, it’s too dangerous here.”
“Aai!” Parvati cried, “All our friends are at Hogwarts. We can’t just leave them!”
“And how many of their parents are planning on letting their children return? This country’s at war, kanyaa.”
“What about your job, Baba?” Padma demanded.
“You can’t let Voldemort win.” Parvati insisted.
Parvati stood firm, jutting out her chin and tilting her head up defiantly. “I won’t run away like a coward.”
I’m a Gryffindor. I’m brave enough to stand up to Voldemort. I won’t let my housemates down.
“This isn’t cowardice, it’s safety,” Rajiv snapped, “You’re going home!”
“Hogwarts is my home!”
Rajiv’s lips pressed into a thin line, but Parvati pressed on. “We live in England; we’re British. I want to stay.”
“Parvati’s right,” Padma agreed quietly, moving to stand beside her sister.
Rajiv and Anjali’s eyebrows rose. Padma had always been more willing to follow her parents, holding tightly to her Indian heritage.
“India will always be my home,” Padma said, fighting to hide the crack in her voice, “But if I leave, it will be a choice I will regret forever.”
I’m a Ravenclaw. I’m wise enough to know the importance of this fight. Our futures depend on it.
Padma and Parvati interlinked their fingers. They would return to Hogwarts.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Ginny smiled in delight. “You look fantastic, Harry!”
Harry shifted shyly. “You think?”
“Absolutely. Parvati did a great job!”
“Hey, she didn’t do it all alone!”
Parvati rolled her eyes as Padma grinned at her teasingly. Harry stood before them in a silk green salwar kurta, the long-sleeved deep green tunic hemmed and embroidered with gold thread. The loose pants were white, also embroidered with gold around the ankles.
“It makes your eyes pop,” Parvati said, nodding in satisfaction.
She was right; Harry’s green eyes were highlighter by the outfit, vividly contrasting with his olive skin.
Ginny stood beside him in a maroon kurta over a black churidar, the narrow-legged pants stacking up in ripples above her ankles. The kurta was lined with black fractal patterns, the bodice decorated with a swathe of black cloth embroidered with small mirrors and silver sequins.
Harry grinned, tugging her her close. “Well, you look even more stunning.”
Ginny laughed, and the Patil twins exchanged amused expressions with each other.
Harry gave them a sunny grin. He’d finally gotten the chance to come to India and explore his heritage, his father’s heritage, that Padma and Parvati had tried to pass on to him. The sun shone bright above them, and there was no war, no danger, no expectations here.
All was well.