Chapter 1 : Time
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The sky was a light grey color and with it, it carried the gentle promise of rain. Within the last hour, it had gone through every shade imaginable as the sun mulled over whether or not to set – from a light chartreuse to a smooth silver as translucent as glass.
To the untrained eye, today was another ordinary day. Padma stood by the doorway, relishing the feel of a clement evening against her skin. May nights brought small treasures: breezy weather, sunsets like tapestries and ample silence. Her mother was upstairs, talking loudly on the phone with her radio warbling between another love song and static. Her father was downstairs, reading his collection of newspapers and now and then, he eyed the kitchen hopefully.
Padma had grown up here, in the very same cloistered suburbia outside of London that she had once so despised. She had been the ordinary second daughter of ordinary parents, unremarkable in looks and talent, once lost amidst a sea of better friends and family and cousins.
Outside, her sister sat in the garden, her eyes scanning a book but not absorbing it. When their eyes met, Parvati smiled and between them, there was a wordless, timeless understanding. They stared at the grey clouds, enormous against the horizon, which was now just a singular yellow crack on the sky.
Padma didn’t mind the greyness. It reminded her of the decaying hospital building in Madras where she was born, of the grey airplane they’d boarded, of their first apartment, of the grey hairs on her father’s head that he now slicked down with coconut oil, of the color of the Black Lake when she’d taken a boat ride to Hogwarts for the very first time.
Silently, as they watched the sky, there was a flowering of color. The sun tilted and there was a burst of orange slowly fanning upwards from the yellow. Parvati could smell the familiar scent of her mother adding garam masala on saffron, creating a painting within their dinner, could feel the thrill under her skin when she’d heard “Gryffindor!” for the first time, could see the ocean of colors at her first Quidditch match. The sunset fanned away the grey, bringing and they both mused that all these things had not been so very long ago.
It had not been so very long ago that Padma had stuttered over her first English words, nor when she had left for Hogwarts. It had not been long ago that Parvati had made her first friend, a girl whose namesake was now falling like ink in the dusk sky. It seemed like yesterday that they had cried together out of fear and uncertainty, that there had been a day when the school had been scattered in red, that they had fought for their lives, that they had said their final goodbyes to their fallen classmates.
They exhaled in unison. The sky was black now, and the spring night was rife with its balmy sonatas – crickets were harmonizing and an idle wind blew between them. The moon loomed out of the horizon, enormous and yellow-white, cratered and complexioned the color of honey milk.
Out of the silence, they heard their mother. “Parvati! Padma! Dinner!”
They smiled and dusted each other off, nudging each other past the doorway as they had when they were five and ten and fifteen. In their past eight years in India and their eleven in England, everything had changed. And nothing really had.
Behind them, perhaps to keep the moon company, the stars were rising.