Summary: It might seem like it's fear that keeps Padma buried in her schoolwork, but she likes to think it's planning and proper caution. Caution doesn't make mistakes, and neither does Padma Patil.
Characters: Padma Patil, Hannah Abbott, Su Li, and appearances by other minor characters
Pairings: There's a hint of Padma/Hannah if you squint.
Word Count: 1466
Can the Order post to Tumblr?: Nah
If yes, your Tumblr username: N/A
Note: I don't know what kind of witchcraft the Ravenclaws use to brew tea in their common room, but I do know that Ravenclaws can't live without caffeine.
She always runs from things. Her sister, Parvati, is the brave one. Parvati would catch spiders, befriend strangers, and be the first to volunteer for any challenge. Parvati toys with boys and laughs at other girls within earshot. Yes, Parvati was always the gutsy one.
It isn’t fear that keeps Padma from doing these things – no, it’s just precaution. Caution is sane and level-headed; it doesn’t make mistakes, and neither does Padma Patil.
Each and every morning, Padma wakes at sunrise. She hates the foggy-headed gloom that comes from sleeping in, and moreover, she hates running late. She also loves that first hour of quiet before the other students drag themselves out of bed. Sometimes she finds students still awake from the night before, wild-eyed and practically twitching, desperately trying to finish a complicated assignment.
So it was one rainy morning when Padma got up to find Su Li sitting in the common room, clutching a cold, half-drunk mug of tea.
“’Ello, Padma,” Su greeted her placidly.
“Su? You’re up early.”
“Up?” Su harrumphed. “Haven’t been to sleep. That bastard of a Potions essay’s due today – six feet of parchment!”
Padma murmured absently as she fixed a fresh pot of tea. She suddenly felt the other girl looking at her.
“I didn’t see you up last night working with the rest of us,” Su said. “Had you already finished?”
“Finished Wednesday afternoon,” Padma said. “Who else was up last night?”
“Everyone but you,” Su said pointedly. “Even Anthony Goldstein was scrambling around ‘til midnight.”
“Really,” responded Padma. “You lot will be useless in lessons today.”
“Of, come off it. Some of us have more interesting things to do than schoolwork. You should try it sometime. Living a bit, y’know?” Su grinned and scrubbed a hand through her short black hair. “But anyway, I’ve got to get back to this. It’s due in four hours.”
Potions, predictably, was a nightmare. Professor Snape had prepared a nastily difficult lesson. Quite possibly, he had predicted (correctly) that most of his students were procrastinators who would come to class on very little sleep. Terry Boot made a valiant attempt to stay attentive, but he stumbled into Michael Corner in what looked suspiciously like falling asleep while standing. Su had shown up simply to turn in her assignment before feigning severe illness and leaving class immediately after. Professor Snape wasn’t fooled, and Su knew it. “Wasn’t going to bother with your N.E.W.T. levels anyway,” she muttered audibly on her way out. This whole affair cost Ravenclaw fifty points, which visibly deflated the already downtrodden class.
Padma was relieved to notice that the other half of the class looked only slightly better. The Hufflepuffs too, apparently, had burned the midnight oil. Zacharias Smith yawned loudly, which cost his House ten points. Ernie Macmillan, a prefect, hissed at him angrily, which lost the House another ten points.
Padma watched as Ernie furiously sulked. She caught his eye to give him a sympathetic grimace, and he seemed heartened. Ernie, at least, looked well-rested. That was only to be expected. Padma recognized that he was also the sort of person who never made mistakes if he could help it.
She glanced at Su’s empty place beside her and considered her other sleep-deprived Housemates. They had all begun bumbling about gathering ingredients, and Padma took that golden opportunity to slink over to Ernie’s table.
“Hello,” she whispered.
“Padma?” Ernie gaped. “What are you – ?“ He glanced at Snape in panic.
“Shh. I can’t work with any of those idiots today.” She smiled, hoping to let Ernie know that she didn’t really think her Housemates were idiots – irresponsible, yes, but not idiots.
Across from her, Hannah Abbott giggled.
“That’s okay! You can work with us today.”
Ernie shook his head. “We can’t work four to a cauldron. Justin’s coming back with the hellebore syrup – “
“Oh, it’s fine,” said Justin, returning with the very distinctive-smelling syrup. He gave Padma a friendly nod. “We can split into two groups. You and I, and Hannah and Padma.”
Ernie puffed out his cheeks, considering this. “Oh, all right. We can always help each other out if we need it.”
Hannah smiled at Padma as the two of them prepared the ingredients. Padma set the cauldron to heat, and soon the water began bubbling. She watched worriedly as Hannah set down her pestle and gazed with unfocused eyes at Ernie and Justin’s bubbling cauldron.
“Oh! Sorry. I’m a bit off today, I’m afraid.” She rubbed her eyes (which is never a wise thing to do in Potions class), and Padma noticed her pallor and the dark circles under her eyes.
“Well, you’d better finish grinding that dandelion root. We’re supposed to add it as soon as the water’s come to a brisk boil.”
Hannah nodded. “Of course, of course.”
Padma figured she should make conversation to keep Hannah’s attention.
“Didn’t get much sleep?” she asked lightly.
“No,” Hannah said mournfully. “I was up until nearly five finishing that Potions essay.”
“That’s a pity,” Padma murmured. It seemed her attempt to get a responsible partner had backfired.
“I’d just been so worried,” Hannah continued. “I tried to get started the weekend after we got the assignment, but I just couldn’t. I – I froze. I can barely understand why you need salamander blood in a Wiggenweld potion to begin with. How could I write six feet on improving the potion if I don’t even understand how it works?”
She brought one hand to her mouth, paused, then drew it away. Padma noticed that the other girl’s short, uneven nails were bedded in puffy red skin. Her mother would have said it’s a dirty habit – chewing one’s fingers – but Padma couldn’t maintain her disgust. It was a dirty habit, yes, but also the mark of an anxious person. Anxiety is the curse of someone who hates to make mistakes but often does.
“How did you manage it then?” Padma asked.
Hannah shrugged a shoulder. She scooped the powdered root into the cauldron and brushed a strand of blond hair off her flushed cheeks.
“I did my best, which wasn’t very good. I asked Ernie to explain it to me, but….” She shook her head and continued more softly, “He’s so smart. It’s hard for him to explain things to someone like me.”
Padma eyed her critically and tried to interrupt, but Hannah barreled on.
“Plus, he was a little upset with me. Said I was procrastinating - setting a bad example as a prefect.” She sighed.
“What you’ve described isn’t procrastination,” Padma said evenly. “You were anxious. Frustrated. That’s what was holding you back – not laziness or poor planning. Or lack of intelligence,” she added. She stirred the potion expertly, once clockwise, twice counter, and then repeated.
In lieu of her fingers, Hannah chewed her lips. She looked at Padma intently – gratefully – with her mouth slightly parted. That pesky strand of hair had fallen into her face again, and with her puffy lips, and her face flushed from the heat of the cauldron, Padma stared a moment too long.
“That’s very kind of you,” Hannah whispered.
Padma didn’t answer. She averted her eyes to the simmering potion, giving it far more attention than it required.
Something about their interaction had alarmed her. Perhaps it had been Hannah’s openness, her willingness to divulge her weakness to someone who was barely a friend. Hannah’s weakness scared her; the same fear that makes Hannah freeze and fall apart propels Padma forward and away, to detachment and intricate timetables.
She set the cauldron cooling and visualized her schedule for that week. She’d dedicated the afternoon to a Divination assignment which was due the following Monday. If she wanted sufficient time to devote to her weekend homework, she needed to finish that essay immediately.
Several of the other students were already cleaning up, including Ernie and Justin, who offered to toss her and Hannah’s ginger root ends and other scraps. Padma nodded and carefully scooped a vial of their potion for Professor Snape.
“I’ll bring these up,” Padma said briskly. “Can you all finish cleaning?”
“Certainly,” said Justin with forced cheer, stifling a yawn.
“Um,” Hannah began uncertainly, and Padma turned around. The other girl was smiling at her, but the boys, busily cleaning nearby, didn’t seem to notice.
“Thank you,” she said sweetly.
Padma felt her throat constricting, so she simply nodded and left. She weaved her way through the crowd of milling students and placed the two labeled vials on Professor Snape’s desk. Her current task was now complete, and Padma fled the dungeons. Her heart beat like a rabbit’s. The sooner she got back to work, the better.