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HP: totally an excuse for fic

kath_synecdoche in synecdochewords

Title: It's Time to Come Back
Author: kath_synecdoche
Characters: Padma Patil, Susan Bones, Michael Corner, Cho Chang, Seamus Finnegan, OCs
Summary: Someone has a surprise visit to make, and a mission to complete.
Rating: PG
Warnings: Nothing that's not thematically in the books, I don't think. Nothing graphic.
A/N: This started at about when I was writing Padma and/or her daughter for an RP. I recently refound it and decided to finish it off, because I couldn't stand to leave it alone. May have finished it off drunk. Unbeta'd.



Silently, she walked through the streets of London. They were cold, and hesitant flakes of snow were falling from the sky, but though the woman appeared thoroughly unprepared for the weather, she didn’t look cold.

She walked into the phone booth, picked up the receiver, and dialled 62442.

“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic, please state your name and business,” the disembodied woman’s voice said.

The woman stood unphased by the phenomenon, and replied crisply, “War Hero to meet with Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.” There was a moment of silence, and a crinkle formed on the woman’s brow. Would that suffice for a name? She didn’t want to give more.

A click and a rattle accompanied the return of the voice, and the woman relaxed slightly. “Thank you. Visitor, please take the badge and attach it to the front of your robes.” The woman lifted the small silver pin and fastened it to the front of her scarlet red sari.

The voice spoke again. “Visitor to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is at the far end of the Atrium.” The woman muttered something in Hindi, which roughly translated to “Like hell I will.”

The elevator doors opened, and she entered the Atrium. Resisting the urge to gape, she moved swiftly across the hall toward a smaller hall with access to the lifts. Knowing that she was incredibly noticeable, she bowed her head slightly and ignored the whispers, alert for any voice that she recognised and might need to silence. As long as she kept to herself she thought she would be fine – there may not be all that many Indians in the Ministry, and certainly none that wore saris to work, but this was her sister’s colour, and so long as she didn’t meet anyone who knew them too well, she supposed she could pull it off.

She moved elegantly to the end of the hallway, where the crowds were the thinnest. Knowing that the security wizard would know something was up very shortly, if not already, she moved herself to the front of the line. The lift opened, and she stepped into it, knocking a pair of older wizards who were leering at her out of the way in the process.

And then came the voice. “Pa-”

It was cut off by a silently and secretively cast Silencio, and the speaker was pulled by her wrist into the lift with the woman. The lift was then shut with a firm, but also silent, Colloportus. A swift Muffliato to the golden grill door later, and the spell was lifted.

“Susan!” the woman exclaimed. “Oh, it’s been too long.”

The red-haired woman beamed. “Padma! I didn’t know when you were coming back, and my surprise! Parvati’s sworn never to come in here, so I knew it could be no one else.” She paused, smile dimming noticeably. “But why the secrecy?”

Padma smiled. “Oh, I felt like making an impact. That, and I didn’t want to come back not knowing what I wanted. And now that I know what I want, I simply have to get it. I wanted to get that done before I saw you all again, and didn’t have anything to report.”

“But we wouldn’t care!” Susan protested, though not entirely sure what Padma had just said.

The same voice from the entrance chimed out a level, as Padma replied, shaking her head, “India changes people. I would.” But her voice quickly hardened. “I assume you’re in the DMLE?” Susan nodded. “Do you know who I would speak to in order to meet the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation?”

Susan answered quickly. “Senior Secretary to the Department Head. Not one of us, a Ludwig Sondheim, I believe. Junior Secretary is Cho, bless her.” She reached out to give Padma a hug. “I don’t know what you’re doing exactly, but good luck.”

Padma smiled a thank you, and opened the door to the fifth floor. Stepping out, she walked down the corridor towards the Department Head’s office, ignoring the stares and nudges as she walked, speeding up to leave them behind.

Approaching the inner sanctum, Padma pulled open the door. She passed a nod to Cho Chang, and with a finger to her lips and a flash of a Galleon spelled with a Protean Charm to confirm her identity, she progressed, opening another door.

The nametag on his desk confirmed what Susan had said. “Good afternoon, Mr. Sondheim. I was told you could help me?” Mr. Sondheim simply stared. “You see, I would like to meet with the Department Head.”

Shocked to his senses, Sondheim began to flip through sheets of parchment, looking for the Head’s schedule for the day. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” Padma said, smiling, “I’m well aware that I’m not on the schedule. The question then stands, who is on the schedule now?”

“If you aren’t on the schedule then there isn’t an available spot until...” he trailed off, until he snatched up a piece of parchment – the schedule – and concluded, “next Thursday.”

Padma sighed. If she could see any other way for this to work, that would be so much better than having to deal with these ridiculous rule types. And though there was no doubting that Padma had once been one of those types, a year under Snape and the Carrows and then sixteen months in India had taught her that rules were good to a point, but if you were too particular or the rules were just plain bad, you suffered. She knew she was setting herself up for a lifetime of dealing with these types, but she knew she could do it better than they could.

Her hand sat on her hip, ready to pull her wand out in a moment. “I was hoping to see him today, actually,” she said, clearly, calmly, and slowly.

Mr. Sondheim shook his head. “That’s simply not possible.”

Padma felt her smile slipping and forced it back into place. “Who is on the schedule now?”

The man looked flustered. “That’s confidential!”

Her wand was pulled out of the folds of fabric, but stayed at her side. “Do you see my nametag?” She asked. “Do you know who I am?”

The man shook his head, presumably to her identity.

“Where were you on the night of May 2nd, 1998, when the world fell apart and then began to mend? I was at Hogwarts. The Battle of Hogwarts.” Padma’s voice was soft, as if she was telling a story to children who could never have any real idea of what she was talking about. Her voice picked up a disdainful tone as she added, “I’m sure you’ve heard of it.” It was impossible not to have.

To his credit, while the blood visibly drained from his face, the man did not back down. “That doesn’t give you any right...”

“I fought with them,” Padma cut in. “We knew it wasn’t likely to be easy. We were students, and we were facing trained killers and torturers. They lived of the joy of death. We were dying in the hope that some would live.”

“But – ”

“I watched as people older and more experienced died trying to save us. I watched as then the least experienced of us fell, trying to be brave and strong. Where were you?” A pause hung, and Padma’s voice sounded haunted. Before he could answer, she continued. “I went to school in a year when the Cruciatus was typical punishment, and floggings were an ever present threat. It was a lost year, and I went to school again. It was a year where the gaps were so huge that the promise of a safer future wasn’t enough to fill them. Housemates, year mates, schoolmates, friends - dead. And so young, such wasted life.”

Padma took a deep breath to continue, and Mr. Sondheim managed to speak. “This is... why are you... what does this have to do with... who...” His half-formed questions lay unanswered.

“I had to remember what life was before I could discover what I wanted from it. It took sixteen months half a world away. And now I’m here.” Her voice strengthened as her tale reached its end, and she repeated, “and now I am here. And I wish to speak to the Department Head. Would you please be so kind as to tell me who is presently in that office, and who is the person set to follow?”

Mr. Sondheim looked nervous, but he acquiesced. “Michael Corner is in there presently, set for a reprimand, Merlin knows what he’s been up to lately, always causing trouble, and next is scheduled to be, ah, let me see...” He flicked at the pages in front of him, flustered. “Blaise Zabini. Promising lad.”

Of course the world would see things that way, Padma thought. It’s how we got in this mess in the first place. “I’ll be popping in now, then. I don’t think there will be any problems.” And before waiting for any comment, she opened the door.

She hadn’t quite expected to enter into a full-fledged shouting war, but that couldn’t be helped. Her path didn’t leave time for this, but it also didn’t leave much time for more delay. She hoped Cho would hold off the security for a little while at least, as she had no doubt that Mr. Sondheim would not.

Closing the door behind her and securing it with a Colloportus, she observed silently for approximately three seconds, unnoticed. Something about rebellion? It sounded about right, given Michael’s role in the DA, and how easy it was to keep up old patterns. She had been an observer after all.

It was Michael who saw her first, recognition dawning not a moment later, but she silenced him with a spell. “Sit down Michael,” she said, pointing at the chair, ignoring the gobsmacked Department Head, “it'll be easier for all of us.” He mutely complied, confusion clearly clouding his face.

“Now see here,” a startled Mr. Cotton started, “you can’t just come in here, I’m a busy man! And you certainly can’t go jinxing Ministry employees, as you certainly had to do to get in here; it’s illegal! I’m sure you’ve heard of Hestia Jones, she’s a war hero type and runs the security – she’s hardly likely to have let you through without an argument! And Miss Chang and Mr. Sondheim wouldn’t let you in either!”

Padma waited for him to finish with a bemused smile on her face, and when he stopped (without even a comment on her attire, she noted sadly), Padma simply stated, “I didn’t need to jinx anyone. I’m not that type. Sorry to disappoint.” She wanted to smirk, but resisted the urge, though beside her she sensed that Michael was trying not to show that he was laughing. She was here to get a job; it wasn’t a great idea to antagonise your employer, and she suspected Michael could do with that reminder.

The moment Mr. Cotton opened his mouth, Padma was speaking. “Do sit down, Mr. Cotton,” she encouraged, before adding, “I would sit myself, but Michael is in the chair, and it’s a pain to sit in saris.” He sank into the chair.

“What do you want?” he asked brusquely.

Padma arched one eyebrow. “Straight to business? I wouldn’t have thought that the diplomatic way, but if you would prefer... I’m here for a job. I’d like to be British Representative to India.”

She dropped the words like a bombshell, and they had a similar effect. Mr. Cotton rose from his chair and pronounced, “WHAT?” Michael snorted silently.

“I’m sure it must be a surprise, but I was speaking to the current Representative on my extended visit there, just last week in fact, and he was telling me how he was set to retire. He agreed that anyone who wanted the post should be able to speak Hindi fluently, and other dialects would be an asset, but he said sadly that he couldn’t think of anyone back home who was capable – he himself only spoke it brokenly.” She spoke sincerely, continuing, “of course, I’m well aware that it’s a fairly senior post, but I’m well qualified, and come with excellent references.” She didn’t mention that she hadn’t asked any of them yet, but she knew it would be fine.

“WHO ARE YOU?”

“I’ll let Michael answer that in just one moment.” Padma replied, “but first, read the name tag.” As she leaned forward, she placed her hand on his desk, and when she stood straight once more and lifted it a single Galleon – the same one she had flashed at Cho – sat on the desk. “Consider that in context,” she stated drily.

She turned to Michael. “Do tell me you’ve worked it out.”

“It took a little bit longer than I would have liked, mostly because I was struggling against a non-existent Silencio. You’re teaching me that later, by the way.”

Padma nodded. “If you can learn it,” she affirmed. She laughed, knowing he'd appreciate the challenge, and continued, “now if you would do me a favour and explain to your boss who I am.”

Michael stood and flourished his arms. “This here,” he gestured, “is none other than Miss Padma Patil, war hero, member of Dumbledore’s Army, Ravenclaw, intended class of 1998, ex-Prefect, excellent student, and one of the best looking girls in our year.” Padma sighed inaudibly, and pointed her wand at him.

“Play with that,” she pronounced, and Michael opened his mouth to protest only to find that she had thrown another silencing spell on him.

Padma turned back to Mr. Cotton, who looked utterly disoriented. “Michael, get out of that chair,” he snapped. “Miss Patil, sit down.” Padma nudged the concentrating Michael with her foot, and he obliged, Padma replacing him, and sitting gracefully. “I see that you’re obviously a very talented witch, and you certainly have quite the resume there, but you have no experience.”

Padma resisted to point out the contradiction of terms. (A resume without experience? Honestly!) “On the contrary, sixteen months in India is experience that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. I spent a year managing, as best as possible, the exceedingly complex relations with the volatile leaders of Voldemort’s Hogwarts. Further, I speak Hindi fluently and the basics of several other Indian languages, and fit into the culture seamlessly. You’ll find it impossible to find another person in Britain who has those qualifications or better.”

Silence was golden, and considering Michael Corner was part of it, it was even better.

“Fine,” Mr. Cotton stated, a full minute later. “I have a proposal. You can be the current representative’s assistant. You have the experience for that. Any more can come later, if and when appropriate. This is more than reasonable considering the way you’re treating this noble institution and its employees.” He sounded sincerely offended, and very firm. Padma knew better than to argue.

“Excellent,” she pronounced. “When do I start?” She reached to take off her visitor’s pin, placing it on the desk, picking up her Galleon as she did so.

Not two moments after the agreement had been reached, while Mr. Cotton had his drawer open looking for a quill to draw up a contract, the door swung open forcefully.

Seamus Finnegan stood in the frame, surprised and wand raising to the ready position. "When Sondheim said that there was a disturbance, I assumed it was just another one of Michael's disciplinary meetings gone wrong, not an unexpected visitor." He paused, and the scene settled in. "Padma?"

"It's her," Michael confirmed, from his spot leaning against the wall. "I want that spell too, that's golden."

"It's me," she said with a laugh. "Good to see you."

He shook his head. "Security question. Standard procedure. Uh, where does Parvati have a birthmark?"

Padma laughed again. "If that's the best you can do, then alright. Her left hipbone, right below her jeans line. I have a matching one on the right. If you want my Galleon, then, here." She tossed the coin to him, and he inspected it for a moment, before grinning and pulling her into a hug.

"Glad to have you back."

Mr. Cotton coughed behind his desk. "As you can see, we have no disturbance here, Mr Finnegan. Thank you for your concern. I have a contract, Miss Patil, if you would like to go through it?"

Padma turned her attention to the man behind the desk. "Yes, yes, let me see." She skimmed the contract, nodding periodically, while Seamus and Michael silently shared looks, trying to figure out the whole situation. She held out her hand for a quill at the end of it, and signed.

"Thank you, Mr. Cotton. I assure you I will not disappoint. I'll be here tomorrow to go through the briefing notes to catch up to speed." She nodded, and stood, holding out her hand to shake. Mr. Cotton took it, though he still looked a little shell-shocked.

"Thank you, Miss Patil. Now, if you would..." he trailed off, and Padma nodded. She looped one arm into both of her old classmates, and lead them out the door.

Mr. Sondheim's jaw dropped at them as they went out, and Padma held her comport until they were out to Cho's office. "Cheers love," she said, beaming.

"Glad you're happy. Braving a Corner/Cotton fight is something not just anyone would do. Sondheim sends me in to deal with it." She grinned, then, and stood up to hug her. "No, but really Padma! You'll have to tell us everything later."

"Oh, Parvati and I will throw a party. Say, this Saturday? We're sending out the owls as soon as I'm back at her place." She grinned, and Cho beamed back.

"It's really, really, good to see you."

"It was about time for me to come back."

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