Erised

Parvati, laughing, slipped her hand around the girl next to her. The other girl pouted and looked in the opposite direction, but one could tell that she was trying hard not to laugh.

"Oh, Padma, stop pretending to be mad! I know you're not.." Parvati's voice trailed off teasingly.

"How would you know I'm not mad? Hmm?"

"Because, silly," Parvati squeezed her twin's hand. "I'm your twin sister. I know everything about you. We're connected."

Connected. It was a word that held warmth, a word that signified a bond that only certain, privileged people held. It was a word that had, for years and years, signified the Patil twins. Before Hogwarts, their names were never separated. It was always Parvati and Padma, never one without the other. Not that they minded, of course. They pretended to act bothered and disgruntled, but secretly, each girl felt a surge of happiness. Not everyone got to be as special as they were.

Then came Hogwarts, and with Hogwarts came boys and magic...and separation. The Patil girls acted as if they were glad to be rid of one another, but inside, they were shocked. The first night, when one was in a red-and-gold bed, the other in covers of blue and bronze, Padma and Parvati cried. They cried out of fear, loneliness, and they cried because they knew the other was crying.

Eventually, though, things settled down, and they got used to being Parvati or Padma. Not the Patil girls, not "the twins," not "ParvatiandPadma!" like their mother called them. They were two separate people. Except in the summer.

In a way, their separation helped them. The girls learned to treasure their summers, and the inseparable bond grew, if at all possible, stronger. They were happy. The world was happy. ParvatiandPadma were immortal, untouchable, invulnerable. Until the Battle.

Until seventh year changed them forever.

"Padma? PADMA! Where are you? Please, Padma, please!" Parvati tore desperately through the castle, screaming for her sister. Not Padma. Anyone but Padma.

"Parv, is that you? Parvati?" Parvati heard Padma's voice to her right. Shoving people this way and that, she suddenly collided into someone who looked exactly like her. Only their cuts and bruises could distinguish them.

"Padma! Oh, Padma, Padma, Padma..." Parvati sobbed again and again, locking her arms around the other Patil in relief. Padma was here. Padma was fine. Her Ravenclaw was unhurt, uninjured, and alive. It was alright. Everything was going to be alright-

"Aw, how touching. A little family reunion." Parvati and Padma froze. No. It couldn't be. It couldn't be who they thought it was. Slowly, they turned around. And there she stood. Bellatrix Lestrange.

"Well, what do we have here? Twins?" Lestrange's voice was eerily calm and controlled, her face blank. And then, terrifyingly, a sneer formed on her face. "I hate twins." And she took aim. A flash, a rush of green light aimed at Parvati...

"No!" And Padma whirled and leapt in front of her sister, instinct taking over. Parvati's scream and Bellatrix's insane laugh masked the sound of Padma falling to the floor in a crumpled heap.

"Well then, I'll leave you to it...only child." Bellatrix cackled, an eerie, disturbing sound, and vanished in a whirl of darkness, leaving Parvati alone with her dead sister.

Gently, Parvati lifted the other girl's head and placed in her lap. She stared, unseeing, into Padma's beautiful brown eyes, exactly like her own. She stroked hair that was identical to hers, and caressed the delicate face that no one could tell apart from hers. Parvati dumbly stared for a few moments more, and closed her twin's eyes so that she could be sleeping.

Then Parvati Patil lifted her head and screamed, a wild, keening, animal scream that shattered the silence around her.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Parvati awoke with a start. She looked around, panicked, and stopped thrashing. Then, she suddenly realized where she was. In Hogwarts, in the Gryffindor dormitory, alone. Not in the middle of a battle. Not with her sister. She had been screaming again. She had probably woken someone up, too-

"P- Parvati?" The Patil girl slowly turned around and saw, to her, shock, The Great Harry Potter. Saviour of Hogwarts, Boy Who Lived, Chosen One. At this moment, though, he looked like none of those. Just a tired and rather frightened-looking teenager. Seeing her confused face, he smiled sadly.

"I couldn't sleep, and I heard your voice.."

"I'm sorry." Parvati said it mechanically,without emotion. Ever since...the night, the girl had drawn into a shell, closing off everyone around her, refusing human contact or comfort. Lavender and Hermione had to practically force food down her throat, and even then she would vomit most of it up. Now, she was little more than a walking corpse.

"No, no, it's fine. I just- I just thought you might want to see something." Harry shifted uncomfortably.

"Okay." Parvati said it more out of politeness than curiosity. Nothing interested her anymore. The world had faded to black and gray. The Patil girl climbed out of bed and slowly walked towards Harry, uncaring of the way her hair stood up in a tangled mess, or how the dark circles were clearly visible under her eyes. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She followed Harry out of the room.

Once they were in the empty Gryffindor common room, the Boy Who Lived pulled something out of his pocket. He held up a silvery, whispery cloak, and Parvati felt her eyes widen the tiniest bit.

"An Invisibility Cloak?"

"Yeah, a gift from...from Dumbledore. Here, step a little closer." The dark-haired girl obeyed, and Harry swung the Cloak around both of them. Then, with the Chosen One leading the way, the two Gryffindors walked into the cold, silent hallway.

After many twists and turns, Harry and Parvati arrived at a small, dark door. Harry grinned in satisfaction.

"I knew Dumbledore wouldn't have moved it." He confidently swung open the door, and they stepped inside a cold room. Parvati suddenly realized where they were.

"This is the 3d floor corridor." But, try as she might, she couldn't even get herself to sound interested. All she could think about was how much Padma would have loved this place. Padma had always loved finding mysterious things.

"Yeah, but the enchantments aren't activated anymore."

"Oh," Parvati said stupidly. The old Parvati would have been mortified at sounding stupid in front of the Great Harry Potter. But the old Parvati was gone. She'd never be back. Because the old Parvati had been just a half of a whole. Just half of "ParvatiandPadma." But now it was just Parvati.

Harry walked over to a trapdoor and gently opened it. Parvati peered down into the murky gloom. She couldn't see the bottom.

"It's okay," Harry reassured her. "You can hold my hand, if you want." Parvati took another look at the seemingly infinite darkness and took hold of the Chosen One's hand.

"1...2...3...jump," he said. And Parvati fell down, down, down into the unknown. Then something occurred to her. "Is there anything to cushion us at the bottom?" Harry's face paled. "There was...eight years ago." Parvati muttered a Cushioning Charm just in time. The two Gryffindors landed softly on an invisible pillow.

"Good thinking. You know, you could have been in Ravenclaw, with..." Harry quickly stopped, remembering. "...With, er, Cho." Parvati laughed bitterly. She knew what the Wonderful Harry Potter was going to say. With Padma. Funny, how everyone seemed to mourn Fred Weasley's death, but no one could remember the smart, brave, beautiful girl who had been in Ravenclaw. Was she not important? Was she not famous enough? Was that what is was? Parvati wanted to scream with the frustration and rage and unfairness of it all. But outside, she was just a corpse, a shadow of the old Parvati.

Suddenly, Harry stopped in front of another door. Heart pounding, Parvati wondered what could be behind that door. A monster? A Dementor? Something horrific?

….Nothing. Just another empty, shadowy room. Parvati suddenly wondered where the hell the Boy Who Lived was taking her, anyways. Perhaps he was tired of her screaming and wanted to silence her forever, she thought morbidly. The Patil girl would take Death in her open arms. Without really noticing, she vaguely realized they had passed another room, and another...and then, suddenly, Harry stopped. Somehow, the Gryffindor girl knew that this was the Door. Behind this was something powerful. One could almost feel the magic pulsing from the place. Harry cautiously opened the door and Parvati, breathing hard in anticipation, saw...

...a mirror.

"What is this, Potter?" she hissed. In reply, the teen just took her hand again and tugged her down the steps. Once they were about three feet from the mirror, he stopped again. Parvati took a real look at the mirror. It was maybe six feet tall, with a dull gold frame. Inscribed around the edge was a bunch of elegantly carved words that seemed to be in a different language, something she couldn't make out.

"Go on," Harry said. He pushed the reluctant Indian girl closer to the mirror.

"What is this?" She asked again, but this time in wonder.

"This," replied Harry, "is the Mirror of Erised."

"What...what does it do?" The Boy Who Lived smiled sadly, remembering when he himself had asked Dumbledore this question at eleven years old.

"It hows you your heart's deepest desire. Nothing more, nothing less."

"Padma." The single word held such agony. Wordless, aching agony. "Padma." The dark-haired Indian stepped forward, and then she saw it. Standing and looking lovingly at her, in that wonderful and annoying and completely Padma way, was her twin sister. Wonderingly, the Gryffindor stretched out her hand, and the image in the mirror did the same. It was like looking at herself, but at the same time, it was like looking at an alien being. Parvati felt something inside her break.

"Padma, Padma, Padma, Padma, Padma," she chanted her sister's name again and again, like a prayer. The Patil girl fell to her knees and started sobbing in front of the mirror. "Padma, Padma, Padma, Padma!" Harry, watching her from behind, started backing away out of respect, not fear. "I'll...come back..." he trailed off. Parvati did not hear him leave. She looked up at the mirror again and found the identical person kneeling as well. Padma, too, looked on the verge of tears, but somehow Parvati knew she could not cry, could not speak, could not do anything but stand there. But that did not stop her from standing up and screaming, "Why did you leave me? Why? YOU WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO LEAVE ME!" Padma just smiled at her sadly, which made Parvati even madder. The Gryffindor, standing up, now took on the look of some wild demon from the twins' Hindu religion. Her tangled raven tresses were actually standing out, and her eyes were almost red with fury. Suddenly, everything Parvati had held inside for so long, all the rage and loneliness and longing and despair she had harbored broke out in a wild tempest of violence. The shadowy image in the Mirror could only stare in horror at what had once been her sister. "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME? HOW? I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! DO YOU KNOW WHAT I'VE BECOME?" Unable to reply, Padma shook her head mutely. She could see the fragile sanity Parvati had clutched on to for the past few weeks shattering. She wanted to cry out, to get someone, but she could do nothing but witness the horrific transition that her twin was going through.

Parvati threw her head back and let loose with a wild, terrible cry. The scream went on and on, shattering the darkness and the silence and Parvati's own mind. In that instant, Padma knew her sister was gone forever.

Parvati was never coming back.

Finally, the broken Gryffindor fell. Eyes rolling back in her bed, Parvati crumpled and went unconscious.

The identical girl in the Mirror faded.

All was silent.

The next morning, when the Chosen One found her, he knew she was gone. Her heartbeat went on, but there was nothing else. She was nothing but an empty shell.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams."