The hat descends upon her head, dipping past her eyes and tickling her nose. A small voice whispers in her ear.
"The creative sort, you are, but there's something more - determination and courage marks you well, and though your loyalty to your twin keeps you tethered... you'd do so well in GRYFFINDOR!"
With the final word screamed to the Great Hall, the Sorting Hat is lifted from her head.
Parvati stumbles to the table of red and gold, eyes wide as she stares across to where her sister just left to - Ravenclaw. For the first time in their life, they're apart. Every moment guessing at their house, every giggle over how they'll stay awake chatting well into the night, every assumption that they'd be together... it all flashes through her mind.
As she takes her seat, her eyes close, blocking out the applause of her new housemates. Soon she'll need to confront one more terrifying mystery: where she will sleep. She had expected Padma to be at her side, her calm reassurance that it would be fine.
"Parthiv," her father starts, then freezes. The erumpent in the room. Parvati stares at her plate, the misal pav untouched. "Parvati." He corrects himself, but the damage is done. Her stomach clenches uncomfortably. Silence reigns for a few long seconds before he goes on. "I wrote to this Professor McGonagall," he says gently, brandishing one of the Hogwarts acceptance letters in a wave, "and it's all been sorted. Your name has been corrected on their records, and you should be accepted into the girls' dorm."
"Should be." Her voice is soft, repeating it with a shake of her head. "That's not sorted, bābā."
Silence, again. She hates it. Are they judging her? Do they think she's causing a fuss over nothing?
"There... is something of an issue with the dormitories." He's trying to be tactful, but it only frustrates her more. "Some sort of magic, they only provide enough space for as many girls as there are in a year. McGonagall couldn't promise that they'd have confirmation until you are already there."
"So I'm expected to turn up and hope they have space for me?" Her expression must show how pained she is, for the looks her family shoot her are full of concern. "This is wrong! I am a girl!" Rising, her chair squeaks loudly across the linoleum. "No dormitory is going to tell me I'm not."
She storms to her room, ignoring their pleas to calm down.
"And up here, you'll find your dormitory." The prefect hasn't said anything about her. She simply leads them up the spiral staircase and opens the door. One by one, they enter. Lavender, Sally-Ann, Fay, and Hermione.
It's her turn. Parvati swallows hard before entering, dreading what she expects: four beds, no room for her. There's a cat just inside the doorway, one that seems strangely familiar though she can't place it. Her eyes brush past the other girls, counting the four-poster beds arranged in a circle.
One, two, three, four... five.
Her trunk, painted with patterns in extraordinary colours, sits at the end of one.
Collapsing into the sheets, she balls the quilt into her hands, sobbing in joy at the comfort and the knowledge that she belongs.
"We'll be able to do everything together," Parvati gushes as they walk through Diagon Alley. "We'll still share a room, of course, and I'll make room for you during any storms - Ravenclaw is meant to be in one of the towers, isn't it?" Her sister nods. "We can talk well into the night and do our homework together - you can do Transfiguration, you're doing so well with reading through bābā's books. I'll handle charms."
Padma nods slowly, eyeing the windows. She knows that look. Her twin isn't half as interested in dresses and jewellery as she is.
"What is it?"
A sigh. That's bad. "What if... we can't?"
"Can't what?" They stop, and Parvati pulls her towards the windows before they're jostled by other shoppers. "Padma. You're scaring me!"
"What if you're not in the same dormitory? They might put you in one by yourself, maybe. Then we couldn't be together." Padma's bottom lip trembles, on the verge of tears. "I don't want to be without you, Par." It's silly, Padma's nickname for her ever since they were small, much easier than either of her names. It warms her chest. Just knowing how much her twin would miss her reminds her that she's loved, no matter what. She could be worse off.
"I'll march straight to the headmaster!" They share a grin. "I will!" she insists. "I'll tell him he has it all wrong, and if I have to have my own room, it's only right you get to share with me. And then we'll decorate it, almost like home, it'll be wonderful..."
She wakes earlier than the rest of them. Brushing through her hair, Parvati watches as Hermione springs from the bed, then Sally-Ann awakens, followed by Fay, and finally Lavender groans into the waking world. Mere minutes must have passed, but it feels like a lifetime as she traces their features, committing them to memory. Without Padma, these are the girls she must know and trust each night and with all of her belongings.
Each of them use the attached bathroom - she's already been - and then they're all getting dressed. That's when she hesitates, dragging her uniform back into the bathroom. There she dresses, staring at a wall as she does. Lavender gives her an odd look on her return, but nothing is said.
"This!" Her mother beams as she holds the robes up against her frame. "Yes, yes, this will go very nicely." The enthusiasm is cripplingly embarrassing, and Parvati ducks her head down as one of the tailors' other customers walks by. "Hmm. Something for your hair as well?" Even as she speaks, her mother is digging past hats and rifling through bows.
"Mātā," Parvati groans, looking at them in horror. "Honestly, my hair is fine! Maybe some hair ties instead?"
She ignores the dubious look she receives, but they figure it out together - a headband and some scrunchies, almost as plain as from the muggle shop. She's happy, though, to build up her new wardrobe. Robes aren't awfully gendered, but she wants to feel feminine.
Just not her mother's vision of feminine.
Professor McGonagall pulls her aside on the way to the Great Hall for breakfast.
"Ms. Patil," she says, that stern face breaking with a neat, purposeful smile. "Now, I'm very pleased that you've settled into the dormitory."
Gazing up at her face, she catches the shape of her spectacles and gasps, a hand to her mouth. The cat had such odd markings about its face. Could it be..? No, impossible. Of course Human Transfiguration is a thing, but it seems so improbable.
She realises McGonagall is gazing at her with concern. "Sorry - yes, I have. I found all of my belongings waiting for me."
"Good." There's an abruptness to the professor's voice, something she noted the evening before, but it doesn't seem to be hostile. "I wanted to assure you personally that we are doing our utmost best to attend to your needs. If you are ever in need of anything, please come see me at once."
"There are a few other matters to attend to as you progress through your schooling. Nothing to worry yourself over, of course. We'll approach them as needed. You should be aware of our school matron, Madam Pomfrey - she has been informed of your condition, and is known to be both reliable and discreet--"
"Professor," she interrupts, and feels terrible for doing it as the witch is cut off. "Sorry. But, um. Can we not refer to it as my 'condition'? This is... this is how I am. Who I am."
There's a pause, and she's frightened she's overstepped.
"Of course. I apologise," McGonagall says profusely. "What I mean to say is that Madam Pomfrey is there for you as well."
"Thank you, miss."
"To breakfast then - I have your timetables to deliver."