"Parvati Among the Slytherins"
Disclaimer: JKR owns all things Harry Potter. Amitav Ghosh owns Padma's reading material. I own nothing except this computer, which is really too old for anyone to want.
Date: July 2001
Summary: Parvati character exploration. Parvati thinks about India, Death Eaters, Padma, the Boy Who Lived, psychiatry, her hair, Gryffindor, and her past experiences with Pansy and Draco, not necessarily in that order. One part.
Note: You don't need to read any of my other fics to understand this one, but it does fit into my universe after "Innocence Lost and Found" and at the same time as "Cyanide."
The top drawer of the bureau slid open before Parvati as she approached it, and she cocked her head to peer inside. Pink, pink, pink. The vast majority of her hair accessories were pink; this color scheme was something of a holdover from infancy, when her mother had dressed her in pink and her twin sister, Padma, in turquoise. Peeking out from beneath the sea of pink, though, was a sparkle of bright orange.
Parvati smirked and snatched the plastic butterfly from the drawer's clutches. Professor McGonagall absolutely hated this particular hair ornament (she claimed that it was "ridiculous"), and as a result Parvati gained special pleasure from wearing it even when the chances of McGonagall seeing her fell somewhere between zero and none. As Parvati twisted the butterfly into the end of her long, black braid, the drawer sang out "good choice!" and shut itself.
She had heard Padma walk downstairs a moment before, so she followed suit, being careful not to hurry so much that she smudged her makeup or upset the line of her robes-- beautiful robes, not like the standard black ones she was forced to wear at Hogwarts.
In spite of herself, she felt a tiny pang in her heart at the thought of her school. Hogwarts. Would she ever be allowed to return? Parvati was almost three whole years from becoming a fully qualified witch, and, as someone who came from an old wizarding family, she had absolutely no idea what a woman who was not a witch might endeavor to do with herself. Perhaps she would ask Lavender the next time she wrote.
"There you are," said Pandita Patil softly from behind the forced smile she so had often worn around her daughters in the past few weeks. Parvati and Padma had been through quite an ordeal at the hands of Death Eaters eager to show Albus Dumbledore and the rest of the wizarding world how much their power had grown in recent years. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes," said Parvati, reaching into the ornate jar of Floo Powder her mother offered her.
"Do you want me to come with you?"
Parvati tried, successfully, to force a laugh. "Don't you have a meeting this morning?"
"It can be canceled. I don't ever want the two of you to feel like you have to go over there alone. You come before my work."
"We aren't alone. We're together," Padma answered for Parvati.
"Yes," agreed Parvati. "There's no reason for you to miss work. We do this every day." Her voice held a hint of reproach, but she did not especially care. If everyone who had ever been attacked by a Death Eater had been sent to the mental ward of Saint Mungo's Hospital for evaluation, the entire wizarding population of Great Britain would either be sitting in the waiting room or employed by the hospital.
"It's the way things are done, Parvati," said Pandita, her voice still soft.
Parvati nodded, and stepped into the fireplace, shouting "Saint Mungo's" as she did so. She heard Padma following along behind her, and the twins climbed together out of the fireplace in the hospital's main entrance. They did not need to read the directory or ask directions. Instead, they made a sharp right turn and headed down the passageway to a brightly-lit room full of comfortable chairs and stacks of Quidditch Magazine and Witch Weekly.
The brown-haired woman behind the reception desk smiled warmly when the twins entered the room. "It's Parvati and Padma. The two of you are in here more often than I am," she said pleasantly.
Not by choice, thought Parvati to herself. I wouldn't come here voluntarily even if they paid me, like they do you. Aloud, she said "We just come in because we admire you so much." The receptionist, whose name Parvati had not bothered to learn, chuckled. "You can both go back right away today. Who is going to see Dr. Shepherd first?"
"I am," said Padma. "Padma," she added quickly. No one had difficulty telling Parvati from Padma had Hogwarts. One had only to look at the colors at the throats of their robes: Gryffindor for Parvati and Ravenclaw for Padma. When people had a dependable way of telling twins apart, they gained confidence and learned more subtle differences, such as the slight hesitance Padma's step held when compared to Parvati's or the angle at which each twin held her head.
However, when Parvati and Padma lived at their parents' house during school holidays or for . . . other reasons, they spent most of their time together, and subtle differences in speech and posture faded away and vanished. Additionally, they did not wear signs of house identification which may as well have been name tags.
Thus, when they traveled to Saint Mungo's, Padma always went to see Dr. Shepherd and then Dr. Murphy while Parvati saw them in the reverse order. For their first few visits, they had taken turns seeing Dr. Shepherd first, but it had become evident that the doctors were very uncomfortable with this plan. Dr. Murphy now relied on seeing Parvati first the way Professor Dumbledore relied on seeing the crimson and gold colors at Parvati's throat. Almost everyone that the twins met seemed to need some sort of physical assurance that Parvati was Parvati and Padma was Padma.
Visiting Dr. Murphy bore a strong resemblance to visiting Nurse Pomfrey. He almost never spoke to Parvati about anything but the physical damage her body had undergone. She had grown tired of talking about it as soon as her body had been healed. His repetitive, prying questions made Parvati wonder why the other doctors had bothered mending her bones and sealing her cuts if Dr. Murphy wanted her to remember them so thoroughly.
"How did the Cruciatus Curse feel?" he queried for the umpteenth time.
"It hurt." As I told you before. As anyone could tell you. It hurt. That's why I begged for them to stop. That's why I screamed and cried. That's why I told them everything I know about Harry Potter-- which isn't much more than the average person knows. I honestly don't think You-Know-Who cares that Harry's a lousy dancer. He doesn't even know how to lead. Harry, that is. I wonder if You-Know-Who ever danced. If he did, he probably wasn't any good, either. Maybe that's what drove him to become pure evil.
"Parvati? Do you think so?"
Parvati had no idea as to what Dr. Murphy had just said. She had been trying to think about things not called the Cruciatus Curse. "Yes," she answered, hoping that she was right. Apparently, she was. Good for me.
"You can run along to Dr. Shepherd, then. Send Padma in."
"Thank you. I'll see you the day after tomorrow."
"I look forward to it."
I don't. She and Padma passed each other in the short hallway between Dr. Shepherd's and Dr. Murphy's offices and sent one another sympathetic glances. Parvati almost considered switching places with her twin after all. It might be interesting to talk about the Imperius Curse, under which Padma had been placed, instead of the Cruciatus Curse; but two sessions with Dr. Murphy would kill her faster than Avada Kedavara. Is counseling always more painful than the thing that sent you there?
Dr. Shepherd's door was open, and he beckoned Parvati inside. "Hello, Parvati. How are you today?"
"I'm having a good day. How are you?"
"I'm very well, thank you. Is there something you would like to talk about today?"
How tired I am of coming here every day or two, or at most three? How little this is helping? How dreadful that robe looks on you? How the unpleasantness of talking about my body with Dr. Murphy is only matched by the unpleasantness of talking about my relationship with everyone I've ever met with you?
"No," she answered. She always answered 'no.'
"We've talked about your sister a great deal." Too much. "I'm just mentioning her because I've just seen her." As you always have when you see me. "You two seem to get along well."
"You truly don't resent that Padma was able to pass herself off as you."
"She was under the Imperius Curse."
"Your friends were not. Lavender, you say, is your best friend. But she did not notice that Padma was not you."
"She knew something was wrong. She thought it was just the trauma of getting kidnapped. I can't blame her for that. She was so upset afterwards. She was so upset that Professor McGonagall even talked my parents into letting her visit me here, once, when I was still healing."
"You're still healing now."
I won't ever heal if you keep dragging things up. "I meant physically."
"I see. How do you feel about Padma's being the one who remained at Hogwarts?"
"She was under the Imperius Curse. She had nothing to do with it," Parvati repeated boredly.
"That's not quite what I meant. You could have been the one who stayed at your safe, familiar school, enjoying both your life and your sister's with the aid of a Time Turner, and she could have been the one taken to a hideout and tortured for information before being held hostage."
"Padma wasn't enjoying herself. Neither was I. I don't see why I should rank my pain against hers."
"You and Padma are different people. The Death Eaters differentiated between you, didn't they? They kidnapped you and put Padma in your place because they thought that you might throw off the Imperius Curse. They kidnapped you, not her, because you know Harry Potter. Do you feel like they punished you for being good? More talented than your sister?"
"I'm not more talented than my sister." She considered going on to explain that Padma had kept her from failing more than one exam in their lifetimes, and that she didn't put much stock in the logic of Death Eaters, and that she didn't know Harry Potter all that well anyway. As she debated beginning with one point or another, though, a new thought occurred to her. Blaming Padma was an unpalatable idea, and one to which she would never succumb to please an employee of Saint Mungo's Psychiatric Ward. Harry, on the other hand, was not a close friend. He barely counted as a friend at all. She could place some blame on him and then get over it, or not get over it, and Dr. Shepherd would be pleased and quiet. "I don't even know Harry very well," she said, hoping she sounded as if there was something which she was not saying.
"I recall that you went to a dance with him last winter. Your photograph was in the Daily Prophet. You looked very beautiful."
I know. "Thank you."
"Surely the Death Eaters noticed this photograph as I did. You said in an earlier session that you were walking next to Harry on your class field trip when the street was destroyed and you were kidnapped. You said that someone even shouted at you that it was dangerous to walk next to him because he is well known to be the primary target of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"Yes. She doesn't like either one of us."
"The young woman who yelled at you."
"Why does Pansy not like Harry?"
It seems odd that he'd ask about Harry and not about me. Of course, everyone is fascinated by the Boy Who Lived. Maybe if I start talking about Harry, the stupid doctor will leave me alone. Parvati had pretended to be better acquainted with Harry Potter than she actually was before. It was a good way of making small talk. Every time she met a new person who asked where she went to school, she was instantly bombarded with questions as to what it was like to be in class with the famous Harry Potter all day. He must get very tired of being the famous Harry Potter.
"Well, Harry doesn't like her boyfriend. The two of them yell at each other or even go for their wands almost every time they see each other. I'm not sure how it started. Someone told me that Harry refused to shake the boyfriend's-- Draco's-- hand the first time they met." Dr. Shepherd was listening with fascination. Parvati's plan was obviously working. "I know that they already hated each other a few weeks into our first year at Hogwarts, when we had our first flying lesson. Another boy in our class had never been on a broomstick before and he took off too soon. He hurt his wrist, and as soon as the teacher left to take him to the hospital wing, Draco started laughing and making fun of him. So I told him to shut up, and Pansy started yelling at me about liking crybabies. Then Draco stole something that the boy with the broken wrist had dropped, and he went flying up into the air with it. Harry had never been on a broomstick, either, but he caught up to Draco and Draco dropped the ball-- it was a Rememberall, I think. Harry went swooping down and caught it. That's how everyone knew he was a natural Seeker.
"Then Professor McGonagall came outside, and she started screaming at Harry for being up in the air without permission. I tried to tell her what had happened, but she just told me to be quiet, and she wouldn't listen to Harry's friend Ron, either. But it turned out that she only wanted to give him special permission to play Quidditch for Gryffindor as a first year."
The doctor had obviously been enjoying this apparently little-known story of one of the most famous wizards in the world. When Parvati stopped speaking, he did not instantly say "So, in the expanse of about five minutes you both stood up for a classmate to a bully and defended Harry's actions to a notoriously intimidating teacher, but Harry and his friends still look as you as if you are brainless, giggling, and stupid? Does that bother you?"
As it happened, it did bother Parvati, but only ever so slightly. It did not bother her so much that it had ever occurred to her before.
Dr. Shepherd finally noted that Parvati had stopped speaking. "You've mentioned Draco and Pansy before. Have you known them for a long while?"
"Most of my life."
"We're almost out of time today, and I'm not certain whether this has any bearing on any psychological problems that you may have. Would you do something for me this afternoon?"
I'd rather not. "Yes."
"Good. I'd like you to write out some of your thoughts about Pansy and Draco. Just think about your history with them, or list incidents that have occurred between them and you."
Just think about the hours of my childhood that I'll never get back if I spend my time writing the stupid thing. "All right."
"You don't have to show it to me. But I would like to discuss it-- tomorrow?"
"The next day."
"Right, we had a scheduling problem."
A minor miracle. "That's right."
"You may go."
"See you soon."
Parvati tried not to sprint from his office. The brown-haired receptionist informed her that Padma had already left, and Parvati walked alone to the fireplace. Padma was sitting on the hearth.
"Ready to go?" asked Padma.
"No. I've decided that to save Floo Powder we should just move in here."
Padma sighed. "We'll be done soon enough."
"You really think so?"
"I don't know."
Parvati glanced around furtively, hoping not to discover someone who might overhear her. "Honestly, Padma, do you get anything out of these sessions?"
"Do they make you feel better?"
"I don't feel all that bad."
"Neither do I."
"'Vati, it makes everyone else feel better that we're here. That's something. And they haven't suggested that we move in for round-the-clock observation. That's good, too."
"Don't you worry that we'll never get to go back to Hogwarts?"
"Sometimes," Padma admitted reluctantly. "But Harry Potter goes through a lot worse than getting kidnapped and tortured or put under the Imperius Curse and made to impersonate his sister. He's still at school."
"He hasn't got parents," said Parvati sourly and somewhat jealously. "It's our parents who've decided to keep us out of school indefinitely."
"They just want us to be safe."
"And bored to death. Don't tell me that you like having your day revolve around a trip to the hospital and braiding your hair."
"Nothing wrong with braiding your hair," said Padma with a small grin.
"There's no point in being the prettiest girls in our year if we aren't where the boys are."
Padma rolled her eyes. "Are you ready to go?"
"I was ready to go before we got here."
Padma removed her spare Floo Powder from a pocket in her robe, climbed into the fireplace, and shouted at the fire to take her home. Parvati followed soon after, and felt Padma's hands helping her out of their kitchen fireplace. Parvati had not needed help climbing from a fireplace for at least ten years. "Wh--" she began to ask, but Padma promptly placed a hand over Parvati's mouth. Padma then nodded toward the next room, and raised voices soon reached Parvati's ears.
"I don't want to, either," their mother was saying. "But the girls have already been attacked. They can't remain in a school that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is desperate to take over. They'd be safer in the Delhi Institute."
"They'll never get the education there that they'll get at Hogwarts," their father argued.
"But they will live to become fully trained witches. They already have the benefits of growing up in England. If they want to come back when the war is over, it won't be for them like it is for real immigrants."
"They're used to speaking English. Their Hindi is far from perfect. They didn't grow up speaking one language at home and another at school the way we did."
Parvati's stomach churned unpleasantly. She did not mind the yearly or twice-yearly visits her family made to India. She even enjoyed them. She was proud of her ability to speak Hindi, even if it was not perfect, and even if knowledge of the language was not strictly necessary even in India. But actually living in India all year would mean leaving almost everything she had ever known.
She had had the same bedroom, adjacent to Padma's, for as long as she could remember. She had lived in this house, with miserable Pansy Parkinson down the road and the expectation of attending Hogwarts never far from her mind, for all of her life.
As for Hogwarts, she missed it now when she had barely been gone for a month. She missed Lavender. She missed Gryffindor Tower. She even missed her classes. The thought of never returning, for certain, was even worse than the thought of possibly not returning. Parvati had not really believed herself when she had told Padma that their parents might not let them finish out their education at Hogwarts. Now she wondered if she had had some sort of premonition. She could ask Professor Trelawny if she ever saw her again.
Padma had crept upstairs to her bedroom a moment before, and, after listening to make sure that there was nothing else interesting to overhear, Parvati followed. The door that connected the sisters' rooms stood open, so Parvati walked directly through her room and into Padma's.
Padma had curled up in an oversized chair and was reading a book.
Or rather, Padma was pretending to read a book. Because of their close friendship, and because they spent so much time together, and because of Parvati's cleverness, and because of the deep connection identical twins shared, Parvati was able to discern that Padma was not actually reading at all.
Additionally, Padma was holding the book upside down.
Parvati smirked. "Interesting book?"
"Yes. I've had it for a while."
Parvati bounded forward and covered the thin, tissue-like pages with her hands. "What's it called?"
Padma blushed, and twisted in her chair. "It's in my room, so it must be good. Do you need to know any more than that?"
"Yes. The title."
"Well, you're covering it up with your hands." Padma reached out and forcibly removed Parvati's hands from the book. Then she looked at it as if for the first time. "This is upside down."
"I always knew you were brilliant." Padma righted the book without responding. "What are you reading?"
"The Shadow Lines."
Parvati made a face. "One of those?"
"One of what?"
"One of those books about the connection between India and England." Parvati did not like books intended to make her think. She thought enough when she was in class. For entertainment purposes, she preferred a good, mindless romance from which she could learn nothing but an interesting metaphor or two.
"Among other things."
"Do you like it?"
"So much that you want to go to India, permanently?"
Padma at last dropped her pretense of reading. "Of course not," she almost choked. "Never see my room again? Here or at Hogwarts? Never see Mandy or Lisa?"
"So what are we going to do about it?"
"What can we do? It's not our decision."
"I really want to read my book."
"You don't really want to," corrected Parvati. Padma was upset, and that was why she was reading, or pretending to read.
At first, Parvati's Hogwarts roommate, Hermione Granger, had reminded her of Padma. Towards the beginning of their first year, another classmate (the fantastically immature Ron Weasley) had gotten upset at being shown up by Hermione and had responded by making her cry. Parvati had happened to find Hermione's hiding place and had attempted to calm her down, as she would have calmed Padma, but Hermione had only repeated "leave me alone."
Parvati had obeyed, to a point. She had purposely repeated what she had seen to Lavender when she knew that Harry and Ron could hear her. Self-absorbed, insensitive Ron would not care, but Harry, who was most of the time a better friend than Ron deserved, had the potential to set him straight. Things had played out in some variation of how Parvati had hoped that they would, and Ron and Harry had accepted Hermione into their tight circle of friendship.
Hermione had never viewed Parvati as a friend, however. That was not a problem; Parvati still had Padma, and Lavender, and had grown close to Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan, Lavender's boyfriend, as well. Hermione was pleasant, and civil, and a decent enough roommate. But she was vastly different from Padma. Hermione read and studied to the exclusion of everything else. She attempted to remain aloof, not trying to make friends beyond the two Parvati had practically handed her. Hermione had not even told Parvati that the two of them would be leading last year's Yule Ball together because both were partnering school champions. That's a rude thing to forget to tell your roommate, Parvati recalled sourly.
There was no one like Padma.
"Padma--" Parvati began again. If she asked enough times, Padma would talk to her. She always had.
However, Padma snapped the book open and began to read out loud: "You can never be free of me, I shouted through the open window. If I were to die tomorrow you would not be free of me. You cannot be free of me because I am within you . . . just as you are within me . . . ."
Finally aware that Padma was not going to give in today, Parvati returned to her own room, calling a playfully derogatory "Ravenclaw!" behind herself. She could feel Padma's smile even though she could not see it.
Parvati and Padma were similar in many ways, but neither had been terribly surprised when the Sorting Hat had separated them. Their mother, Pandita, had been a Ravenclaw, while their father, Paras, has been a Gryffindor. The twins had, fairly naturally, divided, with one being Sorted into each parent's House. Padma had always been a touch more shy than Parvati, allowing her twin to be the leader more often than not. Parvati had been a touch more impulsive than Padma, willing to speak or act without meticulously thinking her action through or getting her facts straight.
Thus, Parvati was very unhappy to be forced into a situation in which she could do nothing but think. She was perfectly capable of thinking, of course; she just preferred not to do so.
Alone in her room, with the doorway to Padma's room mentally if not physically shut, Parvati heaved a deep sigh and sat down at a small table in the corner. A roll of parchment and a quill sat atop the table, scolding her for not keeping up with her lessons.
Why should I keep up with my lessons if I'm going to go to the Delhi Institute? The oldest students there are probably working on spells I learned in my second year.
There was another option besides studying. She could write the essay that Dr. Shepherd had requested.
I have nothing else to do. Most girls do keep a diary or something at some point, don't they? It won't be so bad. She sat down and pulled the parchment and quill to herself. Draco and Pansy. Two of my favorite subjects, she added sardonically
Not certain where to begin, she simply put quill to parchment and thought as little as possible.
When Padma and I were six years old, we had two favorite pastimes. One was playing on our toy broomsticks in a corner of the garden. The other was working on each other's hair.
Our mother, when we were six, had incredibly long, beautiful, black hair. She almost always wore it tied up and back, so that she would look more professional I assume, but when she took it down it was amazing. It drew the eye like nothing else.
Padma and I wanted hair like that. Our mother gave us a choice between wearing our hair short or wearing it braided back, so that it would stay out of the way while we played. We both chose to wear it long. We weren't old enough to braid it ourselves, but we had learned how to braid it on each other. Twists and ropes and other little tricks came later. One of the most concrete positive aspects of having a twin sister is having a living doll on which to learn how to style hair.
One day, we were outside, in the low corner of our garden where a passing Muggle-- not that there ever were any passing Muggles, but you can't be too careful-- would not be able to see us. We were, as usual, playing on our brooms, and chasing each other in circles until we felt dizzy and tumbled off the brooms to lie side by side in the grass.
We started planning the rest of our day. Predictably, we wanted to work on each other's hair, and we began to bicker about who would work on whose hair first. We were only six and we had a habit of pulling a little too hard, and of forgetting that our "living doll" had feelings. We never resolved the argument.
Our mother came outside and called to us. "Parvati and Padma. It's a lovely day outside. If you've finished playing on your broomsticks, put them away. Then you can go visit Pansy Parkinson."
She made it sound as if visiting Pansy was a special treat, but the fact is, neither Padma nor I wanted to go. We watched the pouts form on each other's faces; clearly, we both preferred our own company to that of anyone else. I might have said that we didn't want to go, I'm not sure, but in any case we ended up walking down the road together, hand-in-hand.
Pansy's house was the only place we were allowed to visit on our own. If our mother watched from the highest window in our house and used a magnification charm on the glass, she could see us until we got to Pansy's front door. There was no way that we could get lost. We just had to walk down the road from our house, and the next house we came to was Pansy's. We had been going to visit her almost since birth.
Before we reached our destination, we were surprised to see Pansy walking out to meet us. We wondered if our mother had gone over in their fire to say that we were coming, and decided that that could not have been the case, because Pansy did not look forward to our visits any more than we did. Her parents, like ours, insisted that we become playmates. She would not have come out to greet us.
To my great shock, greet us she did. "Hi, Parvati. Hi, Padma."
She always said my name first when she spoke to us. Our parents always alternated, sometimes saying "Padma and Parvati," sometimes saying "Parvati and Padma," sometimes just saying "girls" or "twins."
"I didn't know you were coming to play today," Pansy said when we all got closer to each other.
"Neither did we," said Padma and I in unison.
"Why are you dressed up?" I added. She was wearing robes much fancier and heavier than the everyday robes that we played in.
"Someone else is coming." She giggled, and looked torn between teasing us with the secret and bragging about her other friend. The latter idea won out. "He's my fiancé."
"What's a fiancé?" I asked, probably mangling the pronunciation of the strange word.
"That's what someone is before he's your husband. We're engaged. Engaged is what you are before you get married."
"When are you getting married?" I asked, wide-eyed, and expecting an answer such as "Tuesday," or perhaps "next month."
"Oh, not for a long time," she said. "Ages and years and years. You can stay and meet him, though."
"We don't have to," said Padma. Padma was the smart one of the two of us, even then. She saw an excuse for us to get away from Pansy and she was determined to use it. She jerked my hand backwards. "It sounds very grown-up."
"We're the same age," said Pansy. "But you can't say."
"Can't say what?" I asked, completely failing to back up my twin and too curious for my own good.
"Can't say that we're engaged. It's a secret."
"Does he know?" I wondered, my eyes even wider.
"Of course," she said witheringly. "But you still can't say. Promise?"
"Promise," I said, and squeezed Padma's hand.
"Promise," Padma repeated.
"Good," said Pansy. "Wait with me. They're coming by broomstick."
I couldn't understand what she meant, but I decided that I had asked enough questions in the past few minutes and should not ask any more. I did not want to look foolish. So I stood in front of Pansy's house, with Pansy on one side and Padma on the other, and wondered how Pansy's fiancé could possibly arrive on a broomstick. Padma's and my broomsticks did not rise high enough to fly over a hedge, not that we would have tried to fly over a hedge, because if we did we would be visible to anyone who happened by our house. We had once begged long and hard and extracted permission to fly to Pansy's house, but we had done so only once. The journey was achieved more quickly by walking.
My jaw must have dropped when, after several hard pokes and cries of "look, look!" from Pansy, I saw a strange shape emerge from the clouds overhead. As the shape came closer, it turned into two shapes, a large man and his small son, just our age. The boy was riding a real broomstick-- not a toy, like Padma and I played with-- but a broom like an adult would have. It was shining in the sun, as if it was brand new and had never before been ridden.
The boy and his father landed, and Pansy's parents rushed outside. I hardly noticed Mr. and Mrs. Parkinson, though, because I was staring at the boy. He had jumped off his broom gracefully, and even if the broom looked new, this had certainly not been his first ride. His hair, which was a shocking shade of blond, shone as much as the broom. I had never before seen hair so light in color-- as bright as mine was dark. He was also dressed in strange, high-necked robes that made him look like a good match for the similarly-dressed Pansy.
My trance was finally broken by Mrs. Parkinson's sharp voice.
"Pansy, dear, introduce your friends."
"Oh." Pansy drew herself up importantly. "Parvati and Padma, this is Draco. Draco, this is Parvati and Padma."
He stared at us as I had been staring at him.
"They're twins," Pansy added.
"How do you tell them apart?" asked Draco with some interest.
Pansy looked, for a fraction of a second, confused. "You just do," she said at last. "That's Parvati. That's Padma." It seemed easy to Pansy, but she is the third-best person in the world at telling Padma and me apart, right behind our parents. We are identical. Very identical.
Draco became bored right away. "I know that," he said. "I've seen twins before."
If Mrs. Parkinson had not been glaring at us with the clear intent of making us be quiet, I would have asked Draco where he had met other sets of twins. I had never met another set of twins, even though I knew that they were not uncommon, particularly in wizarding families. Later, of course, I realized that Draco had not only never seen twins before, but that he had no idea that such things existed.
Soon after Draco declared Padma and me uninteresting, his father was towering over us, focusing on us in a way that made my skin crawl. I was glad that I was still holding Padma's hand.
"What's your surname, girls?"
We had no idea what a surname was, or if we had one.
"Patil," Mr. Parkinson broke in for us. "Parvati and Padma Patil. Paras and Pandita Patil's daughters."
"An old family," said Draco's father, and his glare was suddenly not quite so harsh.
I had heard my family called "old" before. I thought that an old family was one that had a lot of grandparents in it. Padma and I had two grandmothers, two grandfathers, three great-uncles, and four great-aunts, but I had no idea how Draco's father knew about them. Most of them lived far away, in India.
"Say hello to Mr. Malfoy," added Mr. Parkinson in a nervous sort of way as he looked at us.
"Hello, Mr. Malfoy," we said together, Padma speaking about half a beat slower than me.
"Hello," he answered hastily, before jerking his head at his son. "Go off and play, all of you."
Off we went to the field that covered most of the Parkinsons' property, Pansy proudly and bossily leading the way. We spent the next hour or so holding a championship gobstones tournament.
Padma won. Padma always wins at gobstones. She's very lucky that way. (She claims that it's talent.)
"That's all Padma's good at," Pansy whispered to Draco loudly. Padma looked like she might cry, I know now, but at the time I just thought that it was nice that Pansy didn't say anything mean about me. It was not my finest moment. I actually told the story to my mother, as if it wasn't about Padma and me, about a year later. She said "Some people only care about being better than everyone else. She should have defended her friend."
Draco was bored-- he was always bored-- and he and Pansy started talking as if Padma and I weren't there. At first, we tried to pay attention to what they were saying, but we didn't understand them, so we started talking to each other. We stopped talking to each other when we decided that Pansy and Draco might be discussing us. We kept hearing things like "It's to make it look like you're on the other side. They're definitely on the other side."
I meant ask Padma, or my parents, what Draco could possibly have meant, but we had had a long day and we fell asleep as soon as we got home. Then the idea was pushed to the back of my mind as Padma and I fell into the usual rhythm of playing our days away together. Soon, we added school to our routine. We used Floo Powder to go to an all-wizarding school every day.
Because we spent time with other witches and wizards our own age while we were in school, our mother stopped insisting that we go down the street to play with Pansy. We saw Pansy at school, anyway, and we were not friends, though not enemies.
"Twins often learn to relate to each other and no one else," she explained a few years ago, when I asked why she had insisted that Padma and I spend time with Pansy. "I wanted the two of you to have experience playing with other children, and Pansy was the only witch your age in this whole part of the country. You didn't mind playing with her so much, did you?"
"No," I answered, but I lied.
I hated visiting Pansy's house. I was always very uncomfortable there. Mrs. Parkinson always said things like "We don't put our feet on the furniture in this family," as if I did not know enough to keep my shoes off of her couch. Sometimes she would have food sitting on tables throughout the house for her own guests, and she would tell me that the food was not for me, as if she thought me a thief. She certainly thought that I was below her social status.
Padma was the one who figured it out. We were eight years old. We had spent a full week of classtime poring over A Child's Tale of the Age of Darkness, and had learned, for the first time, the story of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the fear he had inspired throughout the world. We also learned that he had been defeated by a child just our age. Our writing assignment that weekend was "Write a thank-you letter to the Boy Who Lived." I did not want to write it, because someone had asked if Harry Potter would write back and the teacher had admitted that we would not really be owling him.
Padma dropped her quill midway through the assignment. "The other side," she said.
"What other side?"
"Do you remember Pansy Parkinson's fiancé?"
"Do you remember how he said we were on the other side?"
"Yes." Padma's idea sunk into my head. "He's not a Death Eater."
"His father might be."
That night, she snuck a more advanced history of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's reign our of our parents' library. We could not understand much of it, and the few pictures gave us nightmares for a week, but we did see the name "Malfoy."
(Later we learned that he claimed he had acted under the Imperius Curse. Still later, we learned that no one actually believed him.)
We did not see either Malfoy in person for another two years. Pansy had a spectacular tenth birthday party, and she invited Padma and me. She must have invited us only as a courtesy, but I went. Padma refused. We seldom did things separately, but it was not an unheard-of occurrence; and at the time I felt a strong need to please our mother. More and more often, people were saying that I was my father's daughter, and Padma her mother's daughter.
Pansy greeted me presently when I arrived at her house. Her eyes were glued to the package I carried. "Padma's sick," I lied. "She says happy birthday." She'd said no such thing.
Pansy nodded and snatched the box from me. "I hope she feels better." She hoped no such thing.
After shutting the door, Pansy led me up to her bedroom, where four girls, two of whom I already knew, were grouped around a mirror and trying on makeup. For the next hour or so, we tried different shades and colors, and told jokes, and giggled. I had more fun than I had ever expected to have with Pansy.
Then Pansy grabbed a pair of earrings away from her friend Millicent, and exclaimed "It's almost time for the party to start!"
I had thought that the party had started already, but was wise enough to say nothing. Another girl, though, voiced my thoughts and brought Pansy's superior sneer down upon herself.
"Didn't you notice that there are no boys here?" Pansy asked. "Draco can't come until later, so we changed the starting time. I didn't tell any of you because I didn't think you'd actually come."
We all trooped out of Pansy's room just as Draco and a dozen other people our age, most of them male, arrived. Draco had brought Pansy a small, wrapped box that obviously contained jewelry. She fawned all over him for perhaps ten minutes, but then she had to greet her other guests and collect her other presents. He detached himself from the group and planted himself in front of me.
"Parvati, is it?" he asked. He was the sort who only asked questions to which he knew the answer. He still is. Pansy must have told him, if not where we had met before, certainly which twin I was.
"Yes. Hello, Draco," I answered politely.
"You go to school with Pansy and Millicent?" he asked.
I nodded. "Where do you go?" I was suddenly curious. It seemed odd that he did not attend school with his fiancee.
"I have a private tutor," he explained smugly. You would think that so much smugness in one place would cause some kind of an explosion. "Several." That figured. "My father doesn't want me to mix with the wrong kind of people before I have to."
"When will you have to?"
"When I go to Hogwarts, of course. They have a Headmaster who'll let just anyone in. Aren't you going to Hogwarts?"
"If my sister and I are accepted," I said calmly. It was the appropriate answer to make. I knew full well, and had always known full well, that Padma and I were more than magical enough to be accepted into Hogwarts. Our names had been on the roles since birth.
"That's right. You're a twin." As if he had forgotten. Draco Malfoy hates to be caught off his guard. He never forgets. "Where is Padma?"
"I hope she feels better." He sounded just as insincere as Pansy had.
"Hey, Malfoy!" We were interrupted by a pair of ugly, dumb-looking boys whom I did not know.
"What?" he asked.
"Why are you talking to her?"
"I'll talk to whomever I like."
The dumb-looking boy was partially cowed in the face of Draco's cool control, but he stumbled on. "Why would you like her? She's not our kind."
Now I was old enough to know that the tosser ("tosser" was my favorite word at the time) was questioning the purity of my blood and the age of my family. "Her name's Patil," Draco said, as if that explained all. "She's the same kind as you."
"No, he's right, we're not the same kind," I broke in. Tosser gloated. Draco looked calculating. Calculating is Draco's favorite way to look when he doesn't look bored.
"You're not?" asked Draco levely.
"No," I said. "I'm human. I'm a witch. He's a rotting dragon carcass with the brain of a dung beetle." It's not the best insult I've ever come up with in my life, but by the standards of a group of ten-year-olds, it was very clever and very insulting.
Draco almost smiled at me.
Pansy gave me the only appreciative, respect-filled glance that she has ever given me in our almost fifteen years of acquaintance.
And Tosser burst into tears.
That had been unexpected. Tosser had seemed to me to be, well, a tosser, and a bully. I did not even know his name. I have not yet learned it. If he attends Hogwarts, I have not recognized him the group of friends that are never far from Draco's and Pansy's sides.
Draco and the other boys were now gathering around Tosser, and tormenting him all the more. He looked furious and hurt all at once. Meanwhile, congratulations surrounded me.
I felt sick.
I turned to leave.
Draco, who is very observant-- I don't like him, but I'd never claim that he's not smart-- saw me separate myself from the crowd and followed me outside.
"Why are you leaving now?"
"I want to check on my sister."
"The party's just starting."
"I feel like she feels worse." People are always willing to believe that twins, especially wizarding twins, have a telepathic connection.
"You were great in there," he said appreciatively, jerking his head toward the door, which stood half-open behind us.
"No, I wasn't," I said, my voice as calm as his. "See you, Malfoy."
I never went back to Pansy's house. I managed not to see her or Draco until the day we were all Sorted, them predictably into Slytherin, Padma predictably into Ravenclaw, and me, happily, into Gryffindor. I managed not to speak to them until the day the Slytherins and Gryffindors first flew together and Neville fell off his broom.
Pansy announced that she never thought I'd "like fat little crybabies" when I stood up for Neville. I know why she thought that. I still feel guilty about it.
My parents want Padma and I to leave Hogwarts and move to India, where we can attend the Delhi Institute. I don't want to go. I don't want to leave Hogwarts to the likes of Pansy and Draco.
When we graduate from Hogwarts, I don't want to leave England, or the world, to them, either.
I have already been made a target by Death Eaters because I am a twin (and who isn't fascinated by twins?) and because I have something of a casual friendship with the one and only Harry Potter.
I won't pretend that being put under the Cruciatus Curse is dramatic, or romantic, or a test of willpower, or anything but excruciatingly painful.
I won't pretend that I was particularly brave when the Death Eaters tortured me.
I won't pretend that if I had known vital information, I would not have given it up.
But I believe that I owe it to myself, and to my friends, and to my family to return to Hogwarts and to stay in the region most coveted by the Dark Lord. My best friend, Lavender, is Muggle-born. So is my other roommate, Hermione. I do not want to run away and hide while the Dark Lord tries his best to destroy them for no reason but their parentage.
I have been hurt, but I am not ready to give up the fight. I have heard adult wizards and witches say that children should not be on the front lines of this conflict, and that I am a child. Be that as it may, "children" my age are on the front lines. They are making decisions. And if the decision is mine to make, I want to return to Hogwarts.
Parvati stopped writing only because she ran out of parchment. Massaging her writing hand with her other hand, she stared in shock at the length of her composition, and wondered how her recitation of her relationships with Pansy and Draco had become a rant against leaving Hogwarts.
She stood up and peeked around the doorway that led to Padma's room. Padma was still reading, or possibly reading again.
"You've been quiet," Padma remarked.
Parvati waved the parchment at her twin. "I was writing."
"Dr. Shepherd wanted me to write it. Want to see?"
Padma nodded, and Parvati handed the parchment over. She would have been nervous to think that anyone else might read her essay, but the essay contained nothing that Padma did not know.
"Wow," said Padma as she finished reading.
"It's very good. I didn't know you wrote so well."
"Honestly, it's very good."
Parvati stood straight up and drew in a breath. "I want to go back to Hogwarts."
"So do you."
"Of course I do."
"Are you ready to plan how not to go to the Delhi Institute now?"
"I don't think we have to," said Padma quietly.
"What do you mean?"
Padma held up the parchment. "You've already explained it all."
Parvati shook her head. "No."
"I'm not saying they have to read it. I'm saying you know what to say."
"You're going to help," commanded Parvati.
"I am," agreed Padma easily.
They spent the afternoon practicing their recitation.
Then they went downstairs.
Then they sought out their parents.
Then their files at Saint Mungo's were closed.
And then they returned to Hogwarts.