Welcome! I hope you all are ready for some 'Fireworks'. Here's the first chapter of the third installment of my Magically Arranged Marriage series. The POV and [...] between Ron and Padma. So without further ado...

{i always felt it before, that the world was filled with much more than-}

.sara bareilles.

I love my life.

I love my job, my clothes, my parents, my friends and my twin. I love being able to have a career that I know I was meant for. I love the breath of inspiration I get when I walk down London streets, both the Muggle and the magical - the spotting of something new and different, or old and classic, that will be fodder for this month's hottest fashions or latest must-haves. And God knows I love shoes - love them! - and I can't possible live without the thrill that I get when I rub my hands over a pair of heels that I just had to have as soon as they came out. I came out of a ridiculously long and horrifying War with my family intact, my best mates alive, and am not all the worse for wear for it. I ignore the rare nights that I wake up in a cold sweat, stuck in a blasted fog of remembrance, but those are far and few between. I can appreciate the shortness of life even more now, can take what I want without feeling too bad, and I damn well charge forward and take life by the snout-

Or was it trout? Or maybe horns?

I can never remember exactly how Muggles put it.

Anyway, my name is Padma Patil and I like to live life fabulously.

Today, I rolled out of my fabulous bed and went down my fabulous stairs to eat a fabulous breakfast made by Mum (alright, I'll abandon use of that word though heaven knows it perfectly describes me!), then headed out the door to get to the work.


I forgot to tell you where I work and what I do. I am one of the creators and primary editors of magical England's newest arrival on the magazine scene, Mode.

After the War, Parvati told me about an American woman named Rebecca Winters. She's the grand-daughter of Amanda Roberts who created the first American version of 'Witch Weekly' forty years ago. Anyway, I approached her with the idea of a different kind of magazine that focused more clearly on the kind of witch that would exist after the War - one who was more mature, less frivolous, but still had an eye out for the better things life had to offer, and one that was willing to incorporate more Muggle sense of style. Mrs. Roberts had been looking to launch something similar to my ideas, and had a creative set of people on board with her, and as they say the rest is history!

I could lie and say that I knew all about what positions in a fashion corporation together but I would probably also then lie and say that I knew I was going to be made primary editor. And that's simply not true! Yes, I got to the top of this little magazine (which is currently becoming a fashion trend in itself!) but that was pure accident. Mode is what it is because of the pure originality and creativity of our executive board. We have seven men and women, excluding myself, who had a hand in its creation. Most live all over Europe, and are involved in similar projects in their countries, but were brought together by the illustrious Amanda Roberts.

Because the headquarters were to be stationed in London, and because I have a clever eye for fashion (hello? I mean I was in Ravenclaw, for heaven's sake), I help head this headquarters with Amanda Roberts' grand-daughter Rebecca Winters. We report directly to our fellow board-members, we go out into the streets to look for new blood interested in working in the fast-track fashion, and we're looking to establish ourselves as a permanent fixture in this new age.

Can you tell I'm passionate?

I have always known that I was going to end up doing something in the fashion, ever since the first day I successfully dressed a dolly at the venerable age of five. Even at that point, I suspected that the bright purple dress clashed horrible with the apple red shoes on her feet - perhaps I even thought 'Oh God, what an awful color scheme!' - and that something really needed to be done about her pre-painted face. Now, at the venerable age of nineteen, I can tell you with certainly that purple and red are never a good fashion statement, that it's much better to have a lighter hand with makeup than a heavy one, and that thought I might be the quieter twin I'm certainly not a quiet person.

Did I mention that I love my job?

In addition to being an editor, I also get the nifty gift of serving as a fashion stylist for the magazine a few times a year. A fashion stylist is responsible for bringing to life a photographer or director's vision for a fashion photo shoot, layout, commercial, print advertisement or music video. That means that when I do serve as an fs, I get the pleasure of scouting out locations, selecting and setting up the appropriate props, fashion, accessories and even models to fit the theme of the shoot. I don't think anyone could have designed a more perfect job for me, which makes me believe that there must be a God.

Another thing about me, I like belief. I like to believe in belief. But more than that, I have to believe in 'love'. I might have come through the War relatively intact but...


I have to believe in belief and I want to believe in hope and I love to believe in love because - let's face it - people need something to believe in. It's an eternal human condition, really. And I can't help but believe when I look around at the new reality of magical England. Look at what love did for Harry Potter - it saved him from at the first, and another love saved him at the last. The kind of love that crosses life and death, that breathes life into death - that's what I find most compelling.


Isn't that all there is at the end of the day? I firmly believe that that's what will see us - all of us - through in this new world we face after the War. I want it to learn its in and outs, I want a love that will make me feel more vividly than I've ever felt before in my life.

I want love.

So let me reintroduce myself-

-my name is Padma Patil and I am waiting for something - anything - new to come along.


"Good morning, everyone!" I said cheerily as I breezed into the small lobby of the small but fashionably modern Mode headquarters. The two receptionists waved and chorused back. "We have Mrs. Roberts flying in later this week, and the rest of that backed up paperwork to file for last month's prints. Get Christina in as soon as she gets back and let's work hard again today."

I breezed - yes, breezed since I was so happy today that my feet probably weren't touching the floor - up to the second floor which was where my small snazzy office awaited me. I dropped the coffee cup on my the desk, glanced at the three thick parchment rolls awaiting my perusal, and glanced out the window with a smile. Becca would be here at any moment, all brass and balls and take-charge to set up the fourth bi-monthly meeting of the execs. It was hard to work out a schedule in which everyone got to be together in a single space at the same time, but all eight of us made it work.

Becca, despite a tendency to be late to anything less important than work, was inexplicably on time everyday. Actually, it was rather like clockwork. She would be here in three, two, one-

"Padma!" Tall, brash and blonde, and a whirlwind of what looked like ruffled feathers. I smiled as she trounced in, whipped off her cloak, and dropped her coffee on my desk. "Again! Again! The same man, again! I'm about to haul off and punch him!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"No, no, he should be 'begging my pardon'!" Becca fumed with a hand on her hip. "Every damned morning, this man - who has it out for me, I swear to God he does - cuts in front of me in the line. The coffee line. The one line even more volatile than a traffic line, for crying out loud. Honestly, and that ditzy little cashier girl-"

"Interestingly enough, I've never heard of him," I said mildly.

She glared.

"That's because I'm feeling pretty damned stressed today since it's D-day!" American slang was taking some used to - most days, I had to intimate what she meant from context. "Anyway, that little ditz at the register just hands him his coffee without telling him he needs to go to the back of the line. I swear he doesn't even pay her. He just smiles that damned smile and leaves and that fast little flirt lets him! I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands, next time."

And what capable hands they were.

Rebecca Winters was the only child of the only child of Amanda Roberts and at age twenty-one she was making no secret of the fact that she wanted to succeed her grandmother's empire, and surpass the work done before her. She was brainy but, for some reason, most people were fooled into thinking of her as a delicate flower that they tried to treat her like a helpless female... it was actually quite amusing to go out with her and watch men translate her looks into 'damsel in distress'.

I didn't understand it since she looked like the quintessential 'erratic' intellectual - she wore giant rimmed glasses looked harried half the time, was always on about some obscure topic when she wasn't focused on fashion, and was attached by the hand to caffeine. So why people persisted in looking at her features and thinking 'delicate'? No idea. Until they got a steaming heap of the 'kickass' (as she calls it) that is Becca. Once I'd gotten over my initial surprise, we'd become fast friends, then she'd met Parvati and they'd become fast friends, so now we were all just a neat little crew of really good mates. I'd forgotten what it was like to have a great female friend besides my twin.

She slipped a hand into her handbag and produced five thin rolls of parchment.

"Quick note, Jean-Pierre & Shinji won't be able to make this meeting."

I was concerned.

"Trouble at home?"

"Jean-Pierre's mother is ill, and Shinji's taking time off to take care of his daughter."

I began a mental check-list, making sure to send international post to the two of them, before turning back to Becca's bad mood. Something big was going down with the Ministry, information that Becca had come by after flirting with some nameless desk-worker by accident. What this might mean for the interests of our consumers in days to come we couldn't be sure.

"I take it last night didn't go particularly well."

"I don't know what they're hiding, or why, but all I could get out of the Ministry rep is something about nuptials."


She nodded and sat with her arms and ankles crossed.

"Nuptials. Which makes absolutely no sense to me because what under God's great sky could your country be doing that would have anything to do with marriage?" She managed to look irritated and intrigued, and pushed her glasses back on the bridge of her nose. "Mm I like the idea of a conspiracy though, and this time I say we get Parvati to do her thing."

"Spy for us?"

"Think of it as taking one for the team and spying for all of us."

I laughed.

"For the team? What, of mankind?"

"If my hunches are right," murmured Becca, "it'll be for womankind, as well. Because it takes two to get married, and your Ministry is up to something sneaky."

Yesterday, I'd thought that desk worker what's-his-name was spouting nonsense but Becca was sort of clairvoyant (sort of like Parvati, really) when it came to sensing truth in haystack. Today, I was inclined to look at the info from afar.

"So what do we know so far?" I asked out-loud. "We know that the Ministry is doing something that apparently is centered on 'nuptials' which we shall take to mean 'marriage' in the most general sense, that covers at least two departments. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement and-"

"Magical Maintenance Department," interrupted Rebecca. I stopped and stared. She shook her head. "The lift attendant was from the department of magical maintenance."

Now, that was interesting.

"But that department serves as the custodian branch of the Ministry, which means we have two very different departments working together."

"Custodian like the magical containment and clean-up?"

She was on the same brainwave but I was the first to voice it.

"Which means that either an incredible amount of magical acts that leave messes to be cleaned are being performed or I'm a flobberworm. And even if that's the case, we still need to be worried about how this will affect the industry. Do you know anything about marriage magic?"

Becca shook her head. I began speaking.

"Marriage is an institution and a tradition as old as time. Wizarding England made an allowance for divorce around eleven years ago that hasn't really caught on because of the stigma associated with divorce," I said slowly. "We've never adopted a way to marry one's magic to your spouse though Daddy has definitely mentioned that the Department of Mysteries might have tried something like that in the very early 1800s but it ended in failure. Which means-"

Now my blonde-haired green-eyed friend's interest was piqued.

"Jesus Christ, but why now? Because of the aftermath of the War?" It was the only thing that made sense, but Becca wasn't finished. "That's incredible, though it doesn't have immediate impact on anyone who is not actually planning to get married."

"I think we need to find out two things - whether the Department of Mysteries or the Department of International Cooperation are involved, and what the nature of the clean-up is."

We looked at each other.


I nodded.

"You or me?"

"Your phone's already out, Becca," I laughed. "In any case, while you do those, I'll look over the parchment on the desk. I think it's safe to say that we might want to look into doing something for the fashion-forward witch who has just become engaged."

Becca laughed.

"I think it's a safer bet to wait on that, actually, because if your Ministry's magic is something to be implemented nation-wide then...we'd have to devote an entire issue to the topic."

She had me there.

"Make the call, I'll read."

This was the last bit of work that I would have to have the secretaries work on - making sure that the itemized list of payments due to the magical photograph printing press company was forwarded and honored, and that the boutiques were all sent the customary 'work with us again' notes. Now that Mode was beginning to really take flight, we were earning enough to hire more staff. The four secretaries we already employed had very helpfully suggested others that might fit the role so that now we were up to a core full-time staff of seven.

Two old secretaries had been re-installed as personal assistants - one for Becca, and one for me. They would help us create the reports for the executive board, and serve as sounding boards for ideas.

"Are you done? And have you seen Anna or Heidi?"

"Yes and yes," Becca said distractedly, still fiddling with her handset, "since Anna is downstairs double-checking the itemized list copies, and Heidi is on her way here with breakfast for everyone."

"Merlin, I wish I knew what was going on," I muttered, "but until we know, there's still work to do."

When Heidi popped her head through the office doorway, I smiled widely and motioned her in.

"Thank you for the hard work. Will you help me with this? We still have lots to do."


Who am I?

In my short eighteen years of life, I've accumulated a shite load of nicknames. I've been called everything from 'Weasel' and 'Weasley' to 'Oi!' and 'ginger' and 'brat'. I can count on both hands the last time I was called all of those or a combination of some in the last week, and I can tell you that Hermione makes up the most cleverly acidic names when I've gone and irritated her. I was born Ronald Bilius Weasley, last son and second-to-last of the Weasley clan, I guess. I'm an older brother and a younger brother and a best friend rolled into one. I'm a damned good - okay, hello, I'm bloody amazing! - wizarding chess player, a pretty good Keeper, an excellent flyer, an alright student, and a decent hand at working.

Maybe, I'm at a crossroads in my life where I don't have the faintest idea what I might want to do. Maybe that keeps me up a few nights a month, as I try and figure out where I see myself in ten years. Maybe that doesn't matter. I can appreciate the fact that I have time on my hands, and that I've got time to have time on my hands. I've seen a bunch of things in my life that are hard to believe, I suppose, and I've been very lucky to live through all of that and come out as jaded as I have. Which really means that I could have been much more of a cynic than I really am.

Geez, I'm only eighteen years old anyway. Who said I'm supposed to have everything figured out?

I could lie - or channel Hermione - and say that I've always wanted to do 'fill in the blank with something amazing and complicated here' or that since I was young I only ever dreamed of being a 'fill in the blank with something equally as amazing but way less complicated here'.


I have dreams, sure, but I don't know if any of those will ever become reality. What I do know is that life is a gift that I'll never get tired of, and thanks to the end of the War, I have time to make time to make my dreams reality.


"So," I said slowly, "what you're saying is that we have no choice?"

My father, Arthur Weasley, was usually the most patient of men. He was actually one of the most laid-back parents as far as parents went, though Luna's dad definitely had him by a mile. Still, Dad was calm and patient and all those things that helped him deal with bloody Fred and George as they were growing up, then me and Ginny while we were growing up. Today, my Dad was not calm nor was he patient. He wasn't even particularly happy. What Dad was, was apologetic and angry. Percy didn't look any happier sitting next to him.

"We had no idea that a few other departments were working with the Department of Mysteries," said good ol' Perce. "And this can't get out, you all have to promise us, because it would cause a panic."


It sure as hell would. I mean, the Department of Mysteries was involved in this? No one knew what the hell they were on about and Neville couldn't tell us since he'd been sworn to secrecy when he took up his job as an Unspeakable, but that could only mean that some serious stuff was involved here.

Fred was up and moving around the kitchen table, pacing like he was going to wear out the bare floor if he needed to. George was actually as silent as the grave on my one side, while Harry looked absolutely dumbfounded on the other. Ginny had gone completely white next to the door and Charlie had a hand on her shoulder.

"So," said George slowly, "there's nothing we can do?"

Dad shook his head slowly.

"Whose idea was this?"

"I doubt it was Kingsley's," George muttered. "But does it matter?"

"Merlin," said Ginny. "Nothing at all."

"Nothing," I echoed dumbly. Yeah, there was fucking nothing we could do. Not a damn thing - the Ministry and their bright ideas to help us heal. This was going to be far more harm than good, someone mark my words. I could see Harry tense up besides me, could feel him looking at Ginny even though I wasn't looking. "And when is it supposed to go public?"


That was two days notice before everyone else found out just what was in store.

"Bloody brilliant," snarled Fred, "amazing that we come through one War only to find ourselves in another situation not of our own doing. Can someone please tell us why they think this is a good idea?"

"I imagine it's a reaction to the War," Dad said unhappily, "though the details aren't too clear. They intend to simply owl all of England ages sixteen through twenty-nine, and then release the news to the papers and the airways a few minutes later. And-"

A clinking sound, followed by that signature annoying Ministry chime - Dad was being called in to the office.

"Don't tell your mother yet," he said hurriedly. He grabbed his cloak. "I'll tell her myself tonight, alright, you lot?"

We waved him half-heartedly out the door, then as one unit, turned back to the problem at hand. Today was Friday June 12th and it was barely past two thirty in the afternoon. Every single one of us had gotten an urgent owl from Dad and Percy, asking us to get home as soon as possible. If we'd known the emergency was going to concern our own lives, I'm pretty damned sure we'd have gotten here sooner. Charlie had been out of the country in Romania to begin with, and luck was on our side that he'd decided to drop in to see the family this weekend.

"Our main problem is you three," said Charlie steadily. He was looking between Harry

"I can't imagine the Ministry would break up the most romantic couple of the century," snorted George, "and-"

"But if this involves magic then how can they bend the rules just for one couple?" retorted Percy.

Percy was right, if this had anything to do with any kind of magic that bound people together. I opened my mouth to speak but was shut down before I could begin.

"You're awfully calm about this," sneered Fred, seeming to encompass the rest of the room. I had no idea what that prick was on about - the hell? it wasn't like he was the only one affected! - but Dad didn't seem like he was going to quiet this down. He was listening very closely instead.

"Would you like to rephrase that? Especially since I'm the only other person in this room with a significant other," yelled Percy, getting mildly red.

"Oi, everyone take a deep breath," interrupted Charlie. "No use in getting angry when there is nothing that can be done about it, and when anger doesn't help."

"Still," I mused, "if not even you or Dad know the nature of the magic, then we're bloody well screwed either way. And what's this about finding soulmates?"

Perce shrugged. George reached behind me and clapped Harry on the back.

"Cheer up, mate," he smiled, "I still don't think the Ministry will break up the two of you. And Gin makes the cut-off age so..."

"Agreed, besides who wants to piss of the Savior?"

Harry punched me in the arm then stood. I zoned out, especially since my brotherly senses were telling me that Harry and Gin were about to become especially lovey-dovey in the face of all this...not-at-all-awesome-ness.

How the hell are we supposed to get ourselves out of this one this time? I thought to myself. It's not like it was an adventure that we could go on, and get off at the end of the day. I hadn't had the time to figure out anything besides falling out of love with Hermione during the War, and that was looking like a really good thing since I didn't have the complications Percy and Audrey or Gin and Harry might have. But who wants to be thrown together with some stranger for life? Sure there's divorce but it doesn't sound like they'll be letting that go down too easily? And the Ministry sure likes to cover its own arse..

Which basically meant that everyone this side of fifteen years old was fucked.

"-the rest? Dean's off at his grandparents', Nev's out of the country, Luna is hard to reach when she's at The Quibbler and 'Mione didn't respond-"

The poor sods who were actually in a relationship with someone were also fucked.

"-can't let this get out so don't tell anyone who will leak-"

Did they expect us to live happily ever after, have lots of babies, and die happily at the good old age of 90?

"-call her over, while we call Dean and Nev when we get back to the apartment-"

And just how many of us were there? At any given time, Hogwarts had about a thousand kids but since they were crossing two generations the number must be closer to two thousand. That's a fuckload of people who were getting tied.

"Well, you lot can tell 'Mione tomorrow, I suppose, right Ron?"


Fred and George rolled their eyes while Charlie clapped me on the back.

"Yea, 'course we can," I said easily, "I was listening the entire time."


"What do you think?" I asked Harry later that evening.

He'd remained at the Burrow all day, then showed up at the house looking more than a little crazy and dragged me off to Copernicus Park. I knew he was worried. But I also knew that he would come out alright. I told him so before I threw another stone and watched it skim the lake.

He didn't respond. He just watched the skipping stone too.

"You're meant for each other." The weight of the other rock I hefted in my palm was comforting. "If there's anything I know, it's that."

He picked up a stone and palmed it before he held it up to the sky. I watched him look at the thing before he tossed it half-heartedly. I couldn't believe he was so torn up about this. There was no way those two weren't meant for each. I wasn't a believer in the 'one person for you' theory that lots of blokes seemed married to.

Maybe it's true but it's not true for everyone. I feel like you grow in stages and at each stage there's someone who can come along and just...fit you. They fit you. But once you change without meeting them, they probably don't fit anymore. Someone else fits better.

Harry had already met his fit. Gin and him had grown together through so much that I simply didn't think it was possible for some stranger to come along out of nowhere and fit better than she did.

"You know I make it a point to not agree with the twins in most of what they say, right?" I nudged him in the shoulder and it got a faint smile out of him. "But there's no one else who understands the way you're mind works, and the things you've been through with Voldemort quite the way my baby sister does. I honestly have to agree with George. That letter is going to arrive in two days with her name on it."




Saturday morning dawned grey and cold and beautiful. Parv had been pretty late in coming home last night, so I hadn't had the chance to talk to her yet without our parents around, but if I could get her now...

"Parvati Patil," I sang.

I think some twins have a special bond with each other if they get close. We were inseparable as little kids, and even though we were sorted into different Houses, we luckily never lost that. Sometimes I swear to you that I can feel what she's feeling a room away, and she can do the same. We're as close as peas in cup - a saucer? that didn't sound quite right! - and she would forgive me for accosting her so early in the morning by jumping on her bed.

"Parvati Patil," I trilled again. "Wake up, wake up, and tell me what you found out!"

"Urgh!" She poked her head above the comforter and glared balefully at me. "The hell, Paddie?"

Okay, maybs she wouldn't forgive me so easily.

"I'm going into the office today and I want to know what you wormed out of someone yesterday."

She groaned again then threw the comforter open so I could wiggle into bed with her, just as I usually did. When I was comfortable (which really meant when I was practically on top of her since it was cold and Parv gives out body heat like it's free money) she sighed and flipped the comforter over our heads.

"They're involved."


"Department of Mysteries." This was not good. "The other one, International Cooperation, they're not as deep in this as D.E.M. but they have at least minimal contact."

"Who else?"

Parv shook her head, and I frowned. She didn't know then but she continued.

"What's worse is this - a new Committee was formed about four months ago, within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement which-"

"-means that it might be exactly what we thought it was-"

"-a marriage law," she finished.

"A marriage law," I repeated dumbly. "Oh, sweet heavens. Magic nature?"

"Couldn't find out anything about that," Parv muttered, "though heaven knows I tried, even when I didn't want to kiss him."

"You had to kiss him?"

She sent me a very sly look.

"Honestly, how else did you expect me to get all that information out of him?"

"Flirt," I teased.

"For a cause," she shot back. "Besides, you and Becca needed me and I was already in the building to chat someone else up for my news article. And I know."

"Know what?" I grinned at her but she didn't smile back.

"I saw you yesterday."

"Saw me?"

Parvati was watching me carefully and watching me suspiciously.

"With him."

I immediately descended into panic mode. What had she seen? What had she seen? It was a struggle to maintain the smile on my face while my breath had suddenly sped up and my heartbeat was pumping faster than before. I've been careful, I've been cautious so, I thought frantically and yanked a calm look unto my face.

"What do you mean?"

This time when she sighed, it sounded like it came straight from her heart.

"Paddie, I usually know you better than you know yourself, you know. Why are you still-"

"I'm not," I insisted, "I'm not at all whatever you think - I'm just not."

"Look at how angry you are right now, though!"

"Because you keep pursuing this and I keep having to tell my own sister that I'm not doing anything I'm not supposed to be doing!" I retorted. "If I needed help or anything, don't you think I would ask for it?"

Parv looked uncharacteristically worried.

"Would you?"

"Of course I would," I murmured, "of course."

She took both of my hands in mine and tried to smile.

"As soon as-"

"-anything happens, I know," I sighed. "And if I ever-"

"-need me, see you already know the rest." Parvati squeezed hard. "I'll see you and Becca at lunch. Go-

"-to work." I sighed again. "I'm going."

I went.


Sunday afternoon found us at Florean Fortescue's.

"If I were Rita Skeeter," Parvati twirled her spoon, "I'd leak this to the press."

"You know," said Rebecca around another bite of raspberry sherbet, "everyone loves to hate that woman but her viciousness is actually the funniest thing this side of the Atlantic. It's just so friggin' delicious!"

"Delicious?" I asked dubiously.

"Dee-licious," she repeated for emphasis. "As in utterly enjoyable. I could watch that woman spout vile things all the day and lay back with popcorn and enjoy the show. Actually, almost as delicious as this mulberry ice-cream is right about now."

"Dee-sgusting" Parv interrupted. "Almost as disgusting as the letters we hold in our hands."

"An ice-cream date over marriage proposals?" Oh, I just loved it when Becca became sarcastic. "Did I mention that I'm glad I'm not one of you, Brits? The Federal Government of Magic would meet far too much opposition to put some sort of crazy forced nuptial law into effect. That's why we brag about our governmental system, huh?"

"Please can the 'America is the best' talk, thanks," I interrupted in supreme irritation. "There's only so much Yankee ego we can take in one go. Especially since our lives are ending today?"

She was instantly contrite.

"I am sorry, you know I am. I think joking's just my way of trying to help."

The letters had come in ominous black envelopes with silver embossing. Mum and Daddy had lost their shit as soon as we explained what was happening, and had demanded we open them together as a family. That had been the absolute last thing that Parv or I had wanted to do, so we'd talked them into staying at the house and finding out what they could while we dragged Becca out to eat.

Unpredictably enough, my father had written a letter.

"Do you really think we are going to let any of our daughters into this farce?" was the first thing the Howler my father had sent off to the Ministry was instructed to say. Perhaps followed by a string of curse words in both Punjab and English. Followed by...more...curse words in Punjab and English. My mother had been writing her own separate but equally as dramatic Howler, which meant we probably wouldn't be able to get anything out of them for the next hour or so.

Right now, I'm certain they were trying to see if they could call in any and all favors to get us out of whatever the hell was happening. I doubted that it would be successful.

"We know," said Parv with a frown. "We know. God, this is going to get ugly. You know Mum and Dad wanted to fix up who we get married with, right? And now?"

Parv through her hands up in disgust. "Madness! Everything will be chaos!"

Speaking of madness-

-we hadn't expected the letters to come in so early. In fact, I'd been breezing through the weekend thinking we had at least another month before any real legal action would be taken. Too bad the Ministry had adopted this way of actually getting things done on time. What we held in our hands were the rest of our lives.

I don't think there's a way to elegantly curse, though I do wish I could find a way to do so. Luckily enough, Parvati and her potty mouth were doing a grand job of it at present.

"We should open this."

"We should open it later," I replied.

"No, we should really open this."

"No, you should both let me open this since the two of you clearly want to put this shit off as much as possible," said Becca. She offered a non-sticky hand. My twin willingly put hers in it. "Take a deep breath."

Instinctively, Parvati and I found each others' hands.

Be kind Fates, please...

Becca skimmed the letter with a carefully blank face.

"Good news or bad news first? Actually, I'm not sure if either of this is good or bad news."

"Oh, sweet God-"

"Bad news - he's not anyone you know personally." Parv looked dumbfounded. Becca managed a small smirk. I just held onto my sister's hand for dear life. "Hard to believe with all your connections, isn't it. Good news? You're going to be a very wealthy woman."


"Chirag Whitewater."

The name meant absolutely nothing to me.

"Whitewater?" Parv repeated dumbly. "Chirag...who?"

Clearly, the name also meant nothing to her too. Becca was brimming over with glee as she shoved the letter back into Parvati's limp hands.

"Parvati Patil, you are going to be an extremely wealthy woman - not that you aren't well off at the moment - but Chirag Whitewater...well-" She took a deep breath and started again. "I met him a few years ago when I was much younger. Do you know the new hotel they're building over in Muggle London, near Whitehall, near the Ministry?"

We nodded dumbly.

"Do you remember what it's called?"

"Whitewater Re-" started Parv before her eyes went incredibly wide, "Whitewater Resorts. First to be built in England, although there's loads of them over in the United States. You are kidding."

"But," I interrupted, "it's being built in Muggle London."

"He's the only son of a Muggle family that is incredibly wealthy in the States. His father is American, his mother British Indian - I hear he was born here and schooled at Hogwarts but this was probably a little before your time."

"How old is he?"


Wow, I thought.

Not only because I could fairly see Parv's eyes glazing over at the mention of money (which, let's be honest, we are not all gold-diggers but love doesn't buy diamond rings or flashy necklaces) but because he was older. I don't think we'd ever considered the possibility of having someone you'd never even met before become your betrothed. Although I could completely see an older man balancing out Parv's 'savoir-fair' attitude.

Wow, good Lord.

So the chances of me not knowing my potential mate was actually a lot higher than I'd originally thought.

"What is he like?"

Becca thought about that one for a little while.

"He's reserved...quiet. And I seem to remember that he is very very kind."

Interesting. Almost the exact opposite of her.

Not that my twin wasn't kind...most of the time.

Which left only my letter to deal with. I opened it with shaking hands, a trembling heart. Would he be kind? Would he be quiet? Or reserved? Would my future be full of long walks along beaten paths behind a lovely town-house? Children and a puppy? Would he be the kind of man who valued reputation or would he not care for propriety? Maybe he would be outgoing and outlandish, loud and brash and a little bit of devil-may-care man? Or perhaps he would be strong, tall and silent - the kind of man that could weather storms and not be shaken by them. Maybe he would love me, maybe I would love him. Maybe it would be love at first sight. Maybe, just maybe, I could trust him with my dreams.

I badly wanted to dream, to return to dreaming the kinds of dreams I'd dreamt before the War.

Before him.

Dear Miss Padma Patil,

As of today, the Ministry of Magic has instated a new marriage law that will apply to witches and wizards of ages sixteen through twenty-nine.

Though this may appear to be a sudden and drastic measure, be reassured that the Ministry has taken the necessary steps and precautions to ensure that each and every witch and wizard is matched with someone suitable compatible. We are matching wizards and witches with their soul mates, the ones that have the greatest potential of providing mutual happiness.

It should be noted that these matches are not random. For security reasons, the specifics of the extensive choosing process will not be disclosed. Be reassured that your match is the best choice for you.

The Ministry requires immediate cooperation from the populace, as it will be in your best interest to contact your betrothed as soon as possible. The magic that binds the witch and wizard together is already in effect.

Further documentation and paperwork will be owled to you on the morrow. Please sign the attached blank page and return it. We wish you good luck with your marriage.

Miss Padma Patil, you're betrothed is Mr. Ronald Bilius Weasley.

Have a magical day!

Melda Babcock
Department of Mysteries Office
Ministry of Magic

For about 3 and a half seconds, my brain ceased functioning.

"What?" asked Parv frantically. "What? Who is it?"

"It's Ronald," I said blankly. "Ron Weasley."