What she said to the messenger:
Did you really see?
Or did you just hear from someone who saw?
Tell me, I pray,
I want to know only one thing -
the coming of my lover
from whose mouth did you hear it?
May you receive as gift
the city of Patali, full of gold,
on the bank of River Conai
where elephants with white tusks bathe.
She gripped his collar with her small dark hands, her white teeth bared as she pressed him against the cool wall. The hand that held her wand beneath the fat of his chin trembled, but her shoulders were erect as she stared him down.
The shocked courier (an old employee of the family) was twice her height and girth, but Parvati knew that size had little to do with power.
"Is she here?" she hissed, "Do you know-"
"Miss Patil, I have b-brought you the British newspaper."
The young woman released her grip on the harmless messenger and fell back onto her feet, as she'd been on her tip-toes to almost be at eye level with him. She was breathing shallowly, and the two of them stood there, unmoving, for nearly a minute before she tore the Daily Prophet from his white-gloved hands. His shiny shoes clinked on the tile as he walked out of the open entry into the courtyard and disappeared around the corner.
Parvati took a step forward to move into the sunlight but found it unsatisfactory and loosened her grip, allowing the newspaper to flutter to her bare feet. She turned on her heel and stalked deeper into the hall, impatiently throwing out an arm to part the tapestry that separated it from her main chambers.
"Do not buy either the moon or the news, for in the end they will both come out," her mother would often say after Mr. Patil had left for the Ministry each morning.
The ancestral manor had the pungent stink of old magic that seared at her nostrils even then, but she was reeling from the scent of the city that had been on the poor soul who brought her mail day in and day out. She had been holed up at the manor for weeks now, and the smell of fruits from the vendors, oil from the muggle automobiles, and stale cologne lingered in her clothes and was familiar, yet unwelcome at the same time.
She tore at the silk of her sati and pushed aside the curtains that covered the open window in the small drawing room, staring out at the dry-looking foliage just outside of it. Everything here was devoid of moisture, and for a split second she thought of London before a gust of wind swept up the documents that had accumulated on every available piece of furniture. The dry sound the parchment colliding sounded like wings, and she was almost panicked as she slammed the window shut, sealing the room once again.
One bloody owl was all she needed, and yet nothing had come in weeks.
She rubbed her arms and moved into one of the smaller bedrooms. It, too, was a mess of yellowing papers, but also contained dozens of books and old furniture and pottery stacked haphazardly on dusty shelves. The sheets of the bed were not visible for all the rubbish strewn there, but she unpinned her hair and climbed atop it without removing her clothes.
Parvati awoke with a start at the sound of shoes clinking on tile, and tore out of the bedroom, through the drawing room, and into the hall, her hair and silks fanning out behind her as she skidded to a halt just before the entryway.
The urn was bronze and not at all ornate, which would have infuriated their mother, and looked too small and light in the white gloved hands of the courier.
"I'm sorry, Miss Patil."