The Path to Happiness

By Orla

A Harry Potter fanfiction



Summary: Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you really want. In this future story spanning several years, Padma Patil reflects on love and choices.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling.



When I first met him I was wearing a pale blue robe with a silver pattern stamped on the border. My hair was loose, hot against my back, and held in place by charms and two sparkling clips. He was dressed in black and white, and there was a hint of amusement lurking in his eyes as my mother prattled about my abilities and qualifications. I kept silent until we were left alone and even then he was the first to speak and smile. I remember how pleasant I thought his voice was and how his smile transformed his face into one that was more than just handsome. I decided that I liked him, but I wasn’t ready to marry a man eight years older, especially not when I’d just turned nineteen and was embarking on a successful career in the Ministry of Magic.

So how did I end up sitting on this marriage bed with henna on my hands, vermilion in my parting and a wedding ring on my finger?

Why did I watch my twin sister cry as I walked around the fire with him, the chants ringing in my ears?

What am I doing waiting for a man I’ve known only a few short months to come and take me on this bed and then the very next day take me away to a country I’ve never seen?

I’m sure that I love him, my heart a victim to the charm I observed from our very first meeting, but I never expected that my choice to love would take me away from all that I care about. I will have no friends, no familiar places, and no sister close by. Visits will be few and distant, not even magic can cross the vast gap between England and India so easily.

The sound of laughing male voices draws near and then the door opens. He sends his friends packing before they can make any more jokes and closes the door firmly, looking at me. He smiles reassuringly, but I can’t stop the hammering of my heart. I can’t help feeling nervous, although Parvati tells me that the experience can be wonderful and the pain not so bad the first time.

He’s very gentle, touching me with experienced hands until I’m ready, but it still hurts and I cry just a little. But Parvati is right and it gets better, awakening feelings inside that I’d only idly thought of in the past. Then it’s over and I lie in his arms, the sweat cooling on my skin. He whispers that he loves me and I believe it, murmuring the words back to be rewarded by a smile and a rain of kisses on my face. It’s long past midnight when we finally close out eyes for sleep.

***

The weather is hot and oppressive. Even after six months I’m not used to the heat of Mumbai. Inside the house it is cool, special spells cast on the stone to keep the temperature just right no matter what is happening outside. But I can’t avoid going out, as much as I would like to. My only comfort is that Anthony will help me forget the discomfort by coaxing me to laugh. He is the first friend to make this journey to visit, stopping by on his way back from a job for Gringotts. I show him the sights of Mumbai and the surrounding areas, enjoying the companionship and the chance to be Padma again, instead of a wife and daughter-in-law.

On his last day, Anthony gives me a present, a pretty silver box from China that he’s kept out of sight until now. I see an expression of regret in his eyes as he says goodbye, clasping my hand and kissing by cheek. I can’t stop asking what the regret is and he sighs heavily, looking away.

He regrets not telling me his feelings while we were at school. He regrets not having the courage to ask me on a date before I met my husband. He regrets leaving me alone here.

So when he is gone I sit on my bed and look at the Chinese box with thoughts of ‘what if’ chasing themselves around in my brain and tears in my eyes.

That’s how my husband finds me and his face is ugly with anger. One of the servants overheard Anthony’s confession and tattled to her master, and so he confronts me. It’s jealousy that drives him to throw vicious accusations at me, but my own temper overrides my logic and soon I am screaming back at him, throwing things as I rage. All my frustration and loneliness pours out as I unlock my emotions. Our voices rise as we compete in volume, both of us determined to be heard and to drown out the other. Then the charm he cast to shield himself from the objects I throw bounces my last, wildly hurled missile straight back at me. The sharp edge of the Chinese box scours deeply into my forehead and I drop to the ground, his horrified cry of shock ringing in my ears.

When I open my eyes, he’s holding me close, tears in his eyes as his trembling hand touches the cut bleeding profusely on my brow. He begs my forgiveness, saying that is only because he loves me so much that he is driven mad by the thought of anyone else claiming my affections.

I slip back into unconsciousness, not sure whether to be pleased or frightened by his confession of such deep love.

***

The baby kicks me sharply and I suck in my breath. For the last few weeks I’ve been marking off the days, counting down to the moment when I will finally be free again. I’m sick of being huge and ungraceful, of waddling when I walk and enduring jabs from tiny hands and feet from the inside. I feel ugly and bloated, ill and tired all the time. My emotions swing back and forth without warning, causing everyone to tiptoe about me warily. Only my husband seems able to endure my moods, sitting with me when I cry for my mother and sister, placing cool cloths on my forehead when I overheat and even brushing my hair to help soothe me when I’m fractious.

In the last three years we’ve learnt much about each other and even now, when there are times I hate everything and everyone, I’m aware that one deeper and lasting has replaced my first shallow, tentative love for him. We’ve come through our trials, the evidence of the worst still mars my forehead, a thin, white scar, and there were times I wished myself back in England, but he holds my heart now and the life kicking so determinedly within me is an affirmation of our commitment.

As I sit and think about all this, shaded by the trees in the garden, what I’ve been so anxious for happens: my water breaks.

Twelve hours later, after enduring pain that I’d never imagined, I’m lying exhausted in a bed surrounded by a midwife and the best medi-witch in Mumbai, and my son is placed in my arms. He’s red faced and crumpled, clearly displeased with being expelled from his comfortable home in my womb, but when his eyes open I feel such a rush of love that I almost pass out. He’s mine and to me he’s the most beautiful child in the world. When a finger touches his tiny hand I almost growl from the protective urge rising within me, but the finger belongs to my husband and this little child is as much his as he is mine.

With eyes shining, he takes our son in his arms and looking at him so infatuated with the baby, my heart swells and the last shreds of longing for my old life melt away. This is where I belong and this is where I want to be. Some might accuse me of choosing wrongly by pointing out that my mind could be put to better use than being wasted as a rich man’s wife and a mother, but I would retort that, despite the twisty road that brought me here, I am happy now and have no regrets.

How many others can truly say the same?

The End



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