i. a broken lavender
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” – Amy Bloom
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” – Amy Bloom
– 2nd May, 1998
Surrounding her is horror horror horror as she lays there with pain erupting up her spine like a thousand bolts of electricity thrashing across her body.
She’s dead, surely she’s dead.
The heavy matter on her chest is exhaling its rotten breath, letting it roll across the plains of her once-milky skin, now stained by blood and bruises and cuts and scars, before it sinks its teeth into her and all she can do is scream scream scream and pray that death comes swiftly because she cannot handle the excruciating pain as her flesh is ripped apart, seams opening in places that shouldn’t ever come undone.
A moment later she feels the weight disappear but this offers no reprieve.
She’s not screaming anymore. The pain is blinding; constricting. Every breath bubbles out of the open wound on her neck.
There cannot possibly be another outcome.
She is dead.
– 1st September, 1991
“You’re like an explosion of colour and happiness,” is the first thing the pretty Indian girl says to her. She introduces herself as Parvati Patil over a bowl of mash potatoes. Instantly, Lavender knows they will be good friends.
Unfortunately the other students and she don’t take so quickly. They see her as annoyingly ditsy; stupid on purpose. Their thoughts are silent but Lavender can see it. They’re wondering why she – of all people – has been placed amongst the daring, bold and valiant with her giggly nature and bright pink hair ribbons.
She doesn’t belong. She senses that right from the beginning. Just another Pureblood socialite, as far as they can see, blind to the passes of the world. They don’t know the weight she carries. They don’t know anything.
Parvati is giggly too, sharing the air in Lavender’s bubble of naivety with glee. But they don’t treat the girl who quickly becomes her best friend the same way they do her. No, Parvati is spunky with a sharp wit about her. She’s left alone because she’s funny and can make the boys laugh with ease and Lavender cannot.
Nobody likes her. She knows that but she tries not to let it get to her. She’s just another preppy little girl, anyway, living behind a warped public persona.
– 6th May, 1998
White. All around her.
White walls, white sheets, white bandages.
White white white.
She can’t focus. She’s clutching at her neck when the Healer comes in, the only semblance of colour in her monochrome world. Tired bags hang under the woman’s eyes, her lime green robes rolled up to her elbows. They’ve been put on in a hurry: the left sleeve hangs off her shoulder.
Lavender begins to cry before the Healer can even open her mouth.
“Ms Brown – Lavender – please, try to remain calm.” The Healer seems shocked to see her awake. Lavender wonders how long she has been unconscious. “We won – you won. It’s over, Ms Brown, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead. Nobody will hurt you now. We’re in St Mungo’s. You’re safe. Everything will be okay.”
Confusion spirals into despair into relief into anguish. Won? At what cost to the world?
The Healer continues to speak to her, carefully extracting her words as if Lavender is a delicate little flower that needs protecting from the harsh realities of the world (she is – she does).
“You were bitten,” she says, “by an untransformed werewolf.” Pity colours her tongue. “As of yet we’re unsure what the side-effects might be, other than –”
Lavender grasps at her neck again; feels the cool padding of thick bandages wrapped one, twice, thrice around the delicate skin. There is more: wads of cotton stuck down against her cheek bone. Her left eye is swollen shut.
“– permanent scarring.”
– 10th October, 1991
Parvati and Lavender arrive in the Great Hall arm-in-arm the way best friends do, closed off to the rest of the world. They are swinging off each other, laughing about that idiot boy Peter in their Herbology class who stuck his hands straight into dragon’s dung thinking it was plain old soil.
They slide into two spare places towards the middle of their house table, leaning in closer together over the mash potatoes as they both continue to giggle behind muffled hands, acknowledging his presence not far across the Hall with two barely concealed sniggers.
Lavender can’t help it, but sometimes she thinks about how inept the Muggleborns are. She knows they can’t help it either and she really does try to eradicate her prejudices – particularly because she shares a dorm with one of the smartest witches, never mind their blood, she’s ever heard of – but it’s hard, she discovers, to unwind ingrained thoughts of old.
It’s to everyone’s swivelled heads that the evening post is announced, the handful of owls soaring low over the crowds. One tawny bird flies straight to where the two girls are sitting. They break apart, eyeing it and the silver envelope it carries in its beak. Lavender knows instantly that it is from her mother and though she will never admit it aloud, an uncomfortable feeling drops into her stomach.
Swallowing, she reaches out and grabs the letter, allowing Parvati to feed it tidbits of food as pay. She has to calm her fingers, holding them and the envelope under the table until she determines it safe for them to re-emerge.
“Your mum?” Parvati questions.
Lavender nods. The bright purple handwriting would be distinguishable anywhere.
Have you been keeping up with your skincare routine? I packed enough potions into your trunk to last you until the Christmas break but if you need any more just send me an owl. I know you’re only young but if you don’t keep up a good daily routine now you’ll only complain when you’re an acne-ridden teenager! And who will want to date you then? Just trust me, darling.
Also, grand news! Your father has just signed a big new contract so to celebrate we’re getting you a rabbit – just like you’ve always wanted! How exciting? Do remember to exercise though sweetie since this means there’ll be at least a few additional parties to attend over Christmas and the New Year. None of your clothes will fit if you keep scoffing those treacle tarts.
Lots of love,
Breathing heavily, Lavender makes sure to stick her hands back under the table before locating the elastic band she always wears on her wrist. She snaps it hard against her skin, concealing the flicker of pain with a bite down into her lip. It soothes her, distracting her mind from her mother’s critique.
No one blinks. No one has seen.
– 11th May, 1998
Lavender is afraid, oh so very afraid. Her Primary Healer, whose name she has come to learn is Lorna Langdust, stands by the doorway as two members of the Werewolf Capture Unit from the Ministry walk around the room casting protective spells across every wall and window, going back over and over until they are content that the entire room is secure.
She can’t help but begin to cry into her pillow. Terror swallows her whole.
In a matter of days she has been condemned, trapped not only within herself but physically too. Tonight’s full moon will reveal all – and she is petrified.
There is a beaker of Wolfsbane on the desk beside her bed, tendrils of vapour still unfurling from its brim. Fresh Wolfsbane for a fresh werewolf, she supposes. There’s no proof yet but she won’t be surprised if it is true. If somehow the venom of the foul creature that plagues her sleep has permeated into her wholly.
The cravings for raw meat are terrible.
She is snappier than she has ever been.
There is no love or acceptance for werewolves. She thinks about what she will do if it is true, if she does become an It rather than a She.
Professor Lupin is a werewolf. Look at him. So downtrodden and scruffy and dead.
Lavender reasons that if she, too, is a werewolf she might probably rather be dead as well.
– 12th May, 1998
She is not.
She is safe.
She’s still not sure if she is happy about this.
– 24th March, 1994
Dark hair tumbles between her fingers. She and Parvati lounge in the sunshine, the other girl’s head lain on Lavender’s tiny stomach. Their homework lies forgotten on the grass beside the lake: the first days of spring are more important, they feel, than some poxy potions essay due first thing tomorrow.
Hermione would have their heads – she’d tutted at them both when they’d announced where they were going – but really, with the year she’s been having, Lavender wants nothing more than to soak in the rays of sunshine streaming down from the Scottish mountainside and let tranquillity roll over her.
She’s been feeling hungry lately – more than usual. Plenty of letters arrive through the post for her penned in her mother’s hand: little words of encouragement and tips for how to lose weight; magazine cut-outs about how to maintain glossy hair and articles on ‘what teen wizards like best’.
Parvati’s slender fingers thread through hers. “Lav, I’m worried about you.” Her voice carries like a song drifting on air, calm and melodic to her ears.
Lavender can’t help but shift uncomfortably. The inner side of her thighs burn white hot at the thought and the myriad of bracelets she wears on her left wrist clink together as she pushes them closer to hide the slithers of raw skin that shine between the bangs.
“Don’t be,” she says after a few beats of silence. “I’m fine.”
Parvati picks up her wrist – her right wrist, thankfully. “You’re getting so skinny,” she frowns, turning over skin and bones in inspection.
“Just watching my figure,” Lavender forces a smile; pushes out a broken laugh.
Parvati tuts. “There won’t be anything left to watch if you carry on.”
If only it was that simple: if only someone could tell her to stop and she would. Parvati’s words will swim back to her every time she pushes a blade against her wrist, every time she caresses her throat with two fingers, and yet there will be nothing she can do to stop.
Why can’t she stop?
– 13th May, 1998
Today Healer Langdust has convinced her to have visitors for the first time.
So far, news of the outside world has come to her in sparse chunks, hearsay from the Healers and Mediwizards that pass by her room. She isn’t quite sure what’s happening. She doesn’t know which of her friends are alive and which of them are – no, she can’t even finish that sentence.
Since she woke a week ago she’s retreated into that all too familiar bubble of ignorance, as if she’s on holiday rather than confined to a private hospital room (paid for by her parents, no doubt). Despite the panicked and harrowed healing staff that are rushed off their feet by the infinite amount injured in the Battle, in her white white room she can pretend that nothing is amiss.
Nothing, of course, except the beauty she once held. And that gaping hole in who she is is none the more obvious when her mother enters the room, visibly paling at the sight of her daughter.
“Lavender darling, you look awful!”
A dazed smile fixes itself to her face like she has taught it to do, welcoming her parents into the room with open arms. Bruises still run up and down them, illuminated brash circles of purple and yellow colouring her porcelain skin. Self-consciously she shakes down the sleeves of her hospital robes to hide them.
The other scars are hidden too.
Healer Langdust is right behind them looking significantly more presentable than the first day she woke. Lavender reckons things are maybe calming down now. She figures those that were clutching onto life by only a unicorn’s hair have let go, and those that were to be fixed are in the process. Like her. Again, her thoughts drift to her friends – Parvati, Seamus… what has happened to them. Are they okay? Are they – she has to shake her head again. She is entering dangerous territory.
Facing her parents, she lets her father take hold of her hand.
Her mother is busy plumping up the cushions.
Healer Langdust tries to tell her that they are fine as they are; that Lavender is entirely capable of rearranging them herself. She’s not invalid, Healer Langdust reminds them, just in recovery. Still.
“Parvati,” Lavender croaks out, pleading with her eyes for news – good news – about the girl who means everything to her, who will always mean everything to her.
Her mother shakes her head and in that split-second action her entire world collapses around her, her body convulsing. No, no, no. It’s like a shattering of glass, several thick shards piercing her chest. She can’t breathe – she can’t focus on anything other than the glaring light streaming through the windows, illuminating her in a spot light. Parvati. No, no, no.
She feels hands grip her shoulders and voices calling her name but it all sounds like she’s stranded underwater listening to the conversation through a foggy haze of rippling waves.
There’s no oxygen for her. Just an empty room suffocating her slowly, pressing down down down against her chest…
Suddenly the hands are gone and the distinctive, calming voice of Healer Langdust surfaces above the others.
“Lavender,” she says in such a way as she did on that first day, “try to concentrate for me. Can you tell me how many windows there are in this room please? Try to think please Lavender. Take as much time as you need. Everything is going to be alright. Count the windows if you can. Mr Brown, could you conjure us up a glass of water –”
It takes her a while to calm down. Of course it does. All she can picture is the shake of her mother’s head on continuous loop, all the can feel is the crushing against her chest as if she is dying all over again.
This is what life will be like for her. Forever. A world without Parvati is a world –
The cool glass of water is pushed into her hands.
“Drink,” Healer Langdust says with a tip of her chin.
“You never said she gets panic attacks,” Lavender’s mother hisses at the Healer. The phrase feels funny in Lavender’s ears. Panic attacks – what are those?
Healer Langdust pauses for only a second, frowning as she scans the sheets of parchment in front of her. “I told you that it was extremely likely she would suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mrs Brown. It is unfortunately a psychological disorder that cannot be treated with just potions. We’ll need to monitor her carefully for another two to three weeks and, providing her symptoms don’t improve, your daughter will undergo a course of therapy and medication.”
Lavender feels sick to the stomach. So much has happened; so much has gone wrong in such a short space of time. Her body has been defiled, her face and throat scarred for life. Her friends ripped from the tips of her fingers, drawn away before she can even choke out a goodbye. All this, and on top of that she has been deemed emotionally unstable.
If only they knew about the nightmares, too.
– 1st May, 1998
Parvati’s lip trembles as the two girls face each other, so different and contrasting in looks yet so similar under the surface.
The War has affected them both so badly and now, here they are, brown water-filled eyes facing startled blue as preparations for what they hope will be the final battle happen around them.
Never did she imagine it would come to this. Not even as she was tortured by the Carrow twins, not even when hushed whispers had followed Neville down Aberforth’s tunnel.
She’s yet to say it out loud, but Lavender Brown is truly and utterly terrified. She’s eighteen and steeling herself to go into war. No matter how much training the DA has given her she knows she is merely a puppet for the greater and braver, for whom is she when Harry Potter is running around the castle?
Gryffindor. It’s still wrong.
They are ordered into separate defence teams.
Stunned, neither she nor Parvati can muster out words strong enough to convey just how they feel. This will be their first time apart. This may be their last time together. Their arms are wrapped around each other without another moment to loose, closed so tight it’s as if they’ll never let go, as if they could never bear to break apart.
Eventually, though, they do.
Parvati unwinds herself, coached on by her sister. Lavender’s hand reaches out for her best friend at the last moment. They fumble, catch each other barely by the fingertips before they are forced apart again, walking with trepidation set in their hearts in opposite directions, marching into battle.
This is the last time Lavender sees her alive.
Her call of ‘I love you’ is lost under the swarm of stampeding feet.
– 19th May, 1998
Hair in her eyes, hair in her mouth, hair in her nose. She’s choking, gasping and screaming against the heavy thing on her chest, pinning her to the floor as pain erupts freely across her body, the bites falling down like hail upon her neck. She can’t breathe. She can’t breathe!
It is there. It is everywhere.
She’s not at Hogwarts anymore. She’s in a forest.
Gleaming red eyes pierce through the thick foliage and she just knows. Now she’s running, pounding as her calves scream in protest. Branches snap at her arms angrily; twigs catch in her free-flying hair.
It’s slowing her down. Everything is slowing her down.
Instead she pulls pulls pulls and watches through watery eyes as clumps of hair come apart in her fingers. She tears at her clothes; she pushes and pulls and tears and cries and cries and cries.
She’s naked. She feels the harsh wind against her frigid chest. Naked and hairless and scared.
She feels It behind her too. Almost as if it’s snarling snout is at her back, breathing heavily against her neck.
And then she is falling. She feels paws – hands? – against her back but it’s a momentary thing and she barely has time to think or twist herself away before she feels sharp teeth sinking into her flesh all over again.
She screams. She’s screaming and yelling and shrieking into the cold, night air as blood pours from every orifice and it’s all too much and she can see Parvati, being torn apart too, and her chest caves in with loss of air and –
Lavender wakes up to a pounding heart and a cool patch of sweat coating her bed sheets. The cover is tangled around her legs, wrapped several times around her body, a mark to the number of times she thrashed in her sleep.
The nightmare has thrown her, as they always do. Judging by the light curling in through the window she figures it’s turned five in the morning, with the dawn of a new day just peeking over London’s cityscape horizon.
There’s a pitcher of water on the table beside her bed. She goes over and pours herself a glass, sloshing a liberal amount over the sides with her shaking hands. Breathing once, twice, thrice like she has been told to do, she pauses for breath before resuming the task with much better results.
The water glides down her throat with difficulty. Everything is still sore. She has yet to eat anything more substantial than cold soup.
Despite this, one of the Mediwizards told her that her wounds were all but healed. They don’t need bandages anymore – they hadn’t in several days – and yet the thick wads are still stuck as they had been when she woke, a smooth salve coated underneath. They are like her comfort blankets now. She’s grown so attached to the cover and protection that they offer that she never wants to let them go; she never wants to see the damage that has irreparably occurred beneath.
She is broken. She is definitely broken underneath. She doesn’t want to be broken.
There’s a mirror in her hospital room. It’s facing backwards, the faded brown backing contrasting against the rest of the pristine white walls. Her mother must’ve ordered it that way whilst she was unconscious in those early days, not wanting her to risk catching a glimpse of herself in its reflection.
And she was right to do so. Lavender didn’t want to see the mangled remains of her body. Until now. She can’t quite figure out why but it’s like an niggling itch in an unreachable place. She just has to scratch it.
With shaky legs (she hasn’t used them in so long) Lavender walks over to where the mirror is mounted right next to the closed door. It’s with trepidation set hard in her bones that she flips it over, steeling herself with eyes squeezed tight until she can bear to open them and seal her fate.
Open them she does. Her face – it’s – she’s – horrendous. Dead. Dark bruises colour her eyes and her skin is a swallow tone, so dissimilar to the porcelain perfection she is used to.
Lavender let’s tears build across the startling blue of her eye, reaching up and ripping ripping ripping because she cannot bear another moment with these horrible bandages disfiguring her and it is exactly like in her nightmare the way she begins to pull and tear, blind to the pain as the exposes the jagged angry scars that decorate her face and neck.
She is ugly.
Her mother will hate her.
Broken. Broken. She is broken.
She can’t – she doesn’t know – what – how –
Fortunately there is nothing sharp in her vicinity. Lavender has no choice but to sit back on the bed and cry, wishing that she could be swallowed whole, rocking as her wrists flash hot, burning hot, itching to be torn apart.
She’s ugly, so terribly disgustingly ugly and now nobody will ever love her, just like her mother warned.
– 5th December, 1994
She pauses with her hands in her hair, braiding the thick blonde strands into a funny plait that looks like a mermaid’s tail. She’s pretty certain she looks rather comical but she turns to face the Irish boy calling her name anyway, swivelling in her seat by the common room fireplace.
“Hi Seamus,” she smiles. He looks nervous, fidgeting with the collar of his shirt as he looks anywhere but at her. “Was there something you wanted?”
“I wondered if you wanted to go to the Yule Ball with me? Me mam just owled in my dress robes and I figured it was about time I got round to actually asking someone, so…”
Surprise catches the response in her throat. Parvati was saying Seamus’d been staring at her a lot last night at dinner. At the time she’d brushed it off but now she’s realising his genuine intentions.
“I – sure, Seamus.” She and Parvati were planning on going together as mates but the other girl will understand, surely, now that somebody else has asked her.
“Great – that’s great. Thanks Lavender.”
Against rationality, she’s quick to pen a message to her mother as soon as he disappears up to the dorms, bubbling with excitement at the idea of a date – her first real date, imagine!
When her mother’s response comes the next day it is one of the first times Lavender remembers opening a letter bearing her handwriting without an uncomfortable fear accompanying it in a long while.
This news is so wonderful! I told you all the slimming potions and beauty regimes I set up for you would pay off eventually. You’re a beautiful young woman darling with a bright future ahead of you. Don’t let this news get to your head, mind. You still need to keep it all up or else he’ll never ask you to a dance ever again! Imagine – the horror. You don’t want to end up wrinkly and alone now do you. Who else is going to give me grandchildren?
Stupid, Lavender thinks to herself. Why did she expect anything other than this?
– 24th December, 1994
The corridors are winding, ancient portraits peering down at the couple as they drag each other down the halls, grinning and giggling at each other as they go. Torches flicker in their candelabras casting dancing shadows against the old stone walls.
Lavender stops, pulling Seamus into an alcove by the collar of his dress robes.
He falls clumsily against her, bringing one hand up to rest against the wall behind them in order to steady himself, grinning down at her now that he is leant over, his styled hair brushed away from his eyes for once. Cheekily, he winks.
Lavender responds by rising to her tip toes and pressing her lips against his. She tastes the slightest hint of alcohol, clinging to his breath. She knows he can taste the same sweet liquor on her lips too.
Unsure whether or not it is simply the mead she’s consumed dulling her senses, she’s struck by surprise at the lack of spark she feels between them. Where are the fireworks – the celebrations she was promised? What happened to her fairytale ending?
No matter how long she and Seamus stay pressed together she can’t quite understand why his legs feel so wrong hooked under hers and why the fingers tangled in her hair don’t seem to evoke any emotion in her. At all. She is nothing short of apathetic as Seamus’ tongue glides across her bottom lip.
“Seamus, I –”
– 21st May, 1998
Corridors wind down and down and down and Lavender knows she shouldn’t be there but she can’t possibly bear to sit in that room anymore with that stupid therapist discussing ‘why’.
She’s stormed out, bitterly slamming the door. Walking and walking as her legs feel slack beneath her, able to support her but only just. She is still getting used to walking again after weeks lain still in a hospital bed.
The people Lavender passes recoil upon catching glance of her mutilation. Scars scars scars. Seamus would find the humour in it – “now you know how Harry feels,” he’d joke with a stellar grin sported on his face – but Seamus isn’t here, she has to remind herself. She doesn’t know where Seamus is.
Only three names have managed to be drawn from the hospital staff’s lips: Harry, Ron and Hermione. All safe.
Lavender can’t help but feel bitter no matter how relieved she is that none of them are grievously injured. What about her friends. Why won’t anybody tell her? Why did Parvati have to go? Why did she have to leave her all alone in this world?
If Lavender could push a blade against her skin a thousand times to bring Parvati back, she would. She absolutely, definitely, without hesitation would.
Instead of going back to her room she finds an old abandoned potions cupboard and curls up inside, pressing herself beneath two shelves like she can just box herself up and ignore the world. Nails press hard into her back but she ignores them as her breathing shallows.
Air is everywhere but nowhere all at the same time. The cracks of light creeping in from under the door start to blur as her vision turns hazy. It’s hard to focus as panic overwhelms her, tears choking her even worse than she already is.
Her best friend. All she wants is her best friend.
Her chest heaves as she sits in that little crevice aside from the world. She thinks ‘this is it’ ‘I’m going to die’ and her mind flashes back to that horrible night and she can feel the pain erupting up her spine all over again and the scent. It threatens to overwhelm her. She can’t concentrate. She can’t think.
Dead. She is dying again.
Her shaking hands are clutching at her throat, seconds later prying at her mouth trying to open it wider.
Air. Air. Dying. Air. Oxygen. Breathe. She’s dead. What’s happening. Dying. Air.
She is dead.
– 16th November, 1995
The first time she hears the word pass someone’s lips she’s a bit confused, to be honest.
Girls loving other girls.
It’s a weird concept, isn’t it?
It’s Seamus that first says it, referring to Professor Trelawney.
“Got some gossip for you ladies,” he whispers conspiriously, leaning across the desk to talk to Lavender and Parvati.
They’re in the middle of History of Magic, sat towards the back so they can show the bare minimum of attention. With their interest peaking, both girls sit up a little straighter and eye the boy, Lavender rolling her hand in a ‘go on’ gesture. She might have grown up a little since the beginning of the year – joined the DA, for starters – but that doesn’t mean she’s immune to being a girl.
Seamus’ grin widens. “I heard ol’ crazy eyes Trelawney is into the,” he drops his voice lower, “ladies.”
Dean, overhearing, rolls his eyes and says, “how did you work that one out mate?”
“I just know,” Seamus retorts with a glare over his shoulder. “Me cousin’s girlfriend told us she’s a lesbian.”
Parvati giggles, sucking on the end of a sugar quill. “Do you really think so?” she asks. “It’s weird to think of any of the teachers being sexual.”
“Mm,” Lavender nods, barely paying attention now. She can’t stop thinking; her mind on overdrive as she processes the idea. Girls can love other girls, of course they can… so why then has it never occurred to her before?
Parvati’s leg brushes against hers as she swings back and the movement causes electricity to jolt through Lavender’s body. Her breath hitches. No… she definitely doesn’t think of Parvati like that! She could never.
Biting her lip, she distracts herself with a pinch before going back to doodling across her parchment in her new silver ink.
– 22nd May, 1998
“Lavender! You need to focus on getting better right now, not your silly little friends.”
Her mother is stood with her hands on her hips, frowning severely through dark rouged lips. Her eyelids are heavily done up with makeup too, as is the rest of her face.
Lavender has been crying again. She’s also been scratching at the top of her thighs where nobody is going to notice, using her own claw-like fingernails to do the deed.
All she wants is Parvati and to enjoy Parvati’s company and to hold Parvati in her arms once more and press her forehead against hers and whisper how she’s never leaving ever again and maybe even taste her lips, if she’ll let her.
“Mum,” Lavender pleads. Her voice is hoarse from the harsh sobbing. For nigh on eighteen years she has been victim to her mother’s vilified words, silently accepting them without a word of backlash. She let herself be walked all over; allowed her mother to emotionally abuse her into someone she never wanted to be. According to her, Lavender was ugly before. Now – she doesn’t even want to imagine the thoughts that flavour the woman’s mind.
“Mum, please. She’s my best friend! I need her. She needs me.”
She hasn’t even been to the funeral. She never got to say goodbye.
Her mother’s eyes narrow to slits.
“Don’t be an idiot, Lavender. Nobody needs anybody.”
That’s not true, she wants to exclaim. She needs Parvati. She needs her.
– 1st September, 1995
“– he’s crazy. Batshit crazy I tell you!”
Lavender sits across from Seamus on the train, Parvati leaning against her shoulder, listening to the Irish boy’s tirade against Harry Potter’s claim of Voldemort’s return. He’s pretty set on the idea that Harry is lying through his teeth about the whole affair which she finds odd at first, considering how well they’d gotten along only months ago.
She has seen The Daily Prophet’s articles all summer long, though. They don’t paint him or Dumbledore in a positive light at all. Her mum agrees with Seamus’ view: Harry Potter has a filthy, disgusting, traitorous mouth on him.
Lavender still isn’t sure who she believes.
When she voices this to Hermione later that night, she silently thanks the Gods that looks cannot kill. The dark-skinned girl narrows her eyes, frowning rather severely as she begins to berate Lavender.
It doesn’t take long before guilt flickers inside her but she can’t, she absolutely cannot accept these stories to be true. She doesn’t want to live in a world which harvests terror at every corner. As a Pureblood she’ll be safe, sure, but what about her friends? What about Parvati and Padma, with their Muggle grandfather? Dean? Seamus? What about Hermione even?! Though the two girls barely get along, she certainly doesn’t want to see her murdered in her bed.
And this, this is why she dismisses Hermione against all of the qualms she feels inside. She has to. She can’t live knowing that more darkness is out there: waiting.
– 2nd May, 1998
The castle is dark dark dark as Lavender sprints amidst her group, wand clasped hard in hand, out like a baton in front of her.
She’s scared, practically choking on the overwhelming terror. She doesn’t know what to expect. She doesn’t know what is coming.
Dark wizards stream around them, shooting sparse curses at them as they run to where they have been stationed on the east side of the castle. Itching to shoot off her own spells, Lavender has to grit her teeth and restrain herself from breaking ranks and running full pelt into where she sees people like Cho Chang – people she has always admired – battling it out against adults twice their age.
Someone to her right crumbles as an illuminous green spell hits them.
She can’t do this. She can’t do this.
– 22nd May, 1998
“I’ll find your friends,” Healer Langdust promises. “I’ll find them for you.”
– 17th August, 1995
There’s a mirror hanging on the wall across from her bed. It follows her wherever she goes, reflecting the skin stretched hard against her bones. She can’t escape it, try as she might.
The worst thing is that she can see what her mother has done to her. She can see with her own two eyes the skeleton of the girl she once was and she just doesn’t care enough to change it.
Apathy had never been a trait she’d assigned to herself before - other than that night in the dark stone corridor, entwined with Seamus. She feels it now though, creeping through her veins like a disease.
She doesn’t care.
She can’t care.
– 12th May, 1998
“I want you to get better but you have to want to get better too, Lavender. Or you’ll be stuck here for much longer than either of us want you to be.”
– 24th May, 1998
Lavender is sat up in bed spooning warm soup into her mouth. Slowly, she is beginning to enjoy the taste of food again. Slowly – but surely.
Healer Langdust stands at the edge of her bed checking over some of the notes that were made by other staff whilst she was off shift.
It’s early afternoon. Lavender still hasn’t discovered the true fates of her friends. She’s starting to worry again. Her mother has forbidden any visitors aside herself and her father. It is living hell.
“Your weight seems to be going up well.” Healer Langdust nods encouragingly. “We’ll have you up at ideal in no time.”
Her mother tuts into her coffee.
Lavender grits her teeth and bares it.
She made a decision last night. She dreamt of Parvati – like she has done every night that The War doesn’t permeate – and Lavender was beside her grave with a bouquet of lavender (because what else?) but Parvati was there too, just sitting atop the gravestone as if she’d never even been in battle, and dream-Parvati made her promise to stop. She made her promise to get better.
When Lavender woke to the sky’s own lavender shade of purple, she knew it was a sign.
With a smile on her lips for the first time since she’d been admitted to hospital she decided she was finally going to do what her best friend had been silently asking of her for years.
It wouldn’t all happen in a day, she knew that. She wasn’t so naïve anymore. If she worked, though, worked hard and replaced every bad thought with a happy memory, she might eventually get somewhere.
One day she might even spit at her mother’s feet and walk away from that horror for good.
For the first time in a long while she feels brave.
– 7th April, 1997
Silence pulls at Lavender’s trembling pink lips.
Her parents are gaping at her, their jaws unhinged and hanging low.
“E-excuse me?” Her mother repeats, clearly astounded.
Lavender herself is stunned she has dropped this bombshell, releasing the words into the now still air like they are nothing, like they mean nothing, and she can’t help but let her lips tremble as her parents’ expressions fall and she just knows this isn’t going to end well she just knows.
“I – I’m a lesbian, mum,” she repeats.
“Don’t be silly. You were dating that nice Weasley boy not too long ago. What happened to him, hm?”
“He seemed like a good lad. Father a bit mad but you can’t judge everybody by their parents now can you,” her father inputs with a frown.
“I was just confused! I was trying to hide it but I’m sick and I’m tired of that. I like – I’m in love with –”
“Is it that wretched Parvati?” her mother hisses.
Lavender can’t bring herself to nod. She can barely admit it to herself.
She’s in love. In love with her best friend. Her best friend who is a girl.
“Go to your room Lavender and come back down when you’re thinking straight, if you’ll pardon the irony of that statement.”
Every word feels like a punch. Like another backhand compliment, severed to her on a silver platter with sprinkles and sparkles as if she’s the dumb blonde that everyone already thinks she is.
It’s just another tally. Just another mark against her skin.
She’ll never be better, will she?
She’ll never be good enough for the likes of some.
Gryffindor. She almost has to snort at the Sorting Hat’s decision all those years ago. It couldn’t have picked any further from the truth.
– 24th June, 1995
The events of the year have been pushed to the back of her mind. Lavender goes on as if everything is normal, as if there isn’t some nagging suspicion taking root at the back of her mind after Seamus and that kiss in December and the feelings that overwhelmed her soon after.
The Triwizard Tournament is drawing to a close. Her fourth year of school is almost other and what, what does she have to show for it? Two more ribs on display and robes a dress size smaller; no boyfriend, no good grades and a far from complete beauty schedule. Her mother will be livid.
Parvati scoots along the bench past disgruntled but cute-looking Durmstrang students and several other Gryffindors, Padma following close behind.
“Did we miss anything?” Parvati asks as she resumes her seat. They’re two rows back on the benches; spectators at the last Triwizard Tournament task.
Lavender shakes her head. “Not much,” she chirps, “still puzzling it out. What’re the odds on Harry like now?”
“2-1, though the Weasley twins think he’s almost certain to win.”
The three of them chat about mindless topics for the next forty five minutes, leaning close so they can be heard over the general noise and bustle of the crowds. The Final Task has all three schools out on mass, not a single student stopping behind at the castle. Everybody wants to find out who the winner will be. Everybody wants glory for their school.
Unfortunately, with the task being in a giant maze grown out on the Quidditch field, there isn’t actually much to see other than the occasional wand sparks flitting across the sky.
“Can’t be long now, they’ve been in there for–arghhh!” An anguished scream begins pouring from Padma’s mouth.
Eyes wide, Lavender whips her head in the direction of Padma’s transfixed gaze and stares in confusion at the spectacle before them. It’s Harry, he’s won! – is her first thought but it is short lived and dies in her throat before she can voice it. Something is wrong. So very, very wrong.
“Holy Helena,” Parvati mumbles. Her jaw is slack.
Around them the screams are building – higher and higher in decibel as more people work out exactly what has happened – but Lavender knows, she can see it all as clear as day. Clutching at her wrist, she digs her nails into the fleshy skin as she struggles to comprehend how there can be a dead body laid on the pitch like that, with Harry Potter draped across it.
A flash of dark black hair whips in front of her: Cho. She’s the worst of all with swollen eyes and a trembling body, quivering in hysteria. Lavender remembers that Cho and Cedric were dating.
Immediately she shudders at the use of past tense. How insensitive of her.
She barely has time to look confused before her hand is being ripped out of its clutch on her left wrist, pulling the nails out sharply. A sudden bout of pain follows, one she was too preoccupied to notice before.
Parvati stands holding her hand up like an exhibition, her eyes flashing with what seems like horror, and then, disappointment. “Godric Lav,” her voice is but a whisper. Drops of blood glint against the tips of her nails. “What have you done?”
Lavender realises there is no escaping this one. Finally, she has been caught out.
– 31st May, 1998
Knock. Knock. Knock.
She’s laid in bed, flicking through yet another mindless magazine, her mind falling to mush. She used to love these things – she used to breathe them in. Now they’re too much. Too much. Too much. Too much.
“Come in,” Lavender calls, surprised that the Healer hasn’t just walked straight in. They usually do. In a hospital, there’s no such thing as privacy.
“Lav?” the voice is timid and quite but by Merlin Lavender would recognise it anywhere, even if it is so fragile now.
She’s here. She’s real. Wait -- Is she seeing a ghost?
“Parvati.” It’s a barely audible whisper on her lips.
Of course she is dreaming.
But how can she be, when the dark-skinned girl is there only metres away stood stoically, loosely holding the elbow of Healer Langdust like some sort of lifeline in a sea of crashing waves. Her dark hair hangs loose across one side of her face but it is her. It is definitely her.
Except, the girl seems to have trouble locating exactly where Lavender is, even as she stands, and even from the distance they are, the milky cloudiness to her usually dark eyes is terribly noticeable and Lavender is so so confused because here is this girl – her best friend – who she thought was dead but is truly alive and – oh Merlin, her eyes.
“Lavender?” Parvati sounds unsure. Questioning. She probably believes this just as little as the blonde hospital-bound girl does. “Lav is that you? Are you there? Oh tell me I’m not hearing things, Healer Langdust! Is she here?”
Blind. Parvati is blind.
Lavender’s mind spins out of the control. It has been thirty days since she last saw this girl and now, finally, she is here again and they are together but everything is so, so different.
Why does everything have to be different?
Why did her mother shake her head when she asked after her? Why had her parents let her believe her best friend dead?
Before she can process what she is doing Lavender is running running running, grinning with sporadic joy as she lunges at Parvati and throws her arms around the girl with a bubble of laughter. This is the happiest she has been in a long time. This is the happiest she has ever been.
“Lav! It is you!” Parvati cries, wrapping her arms tight around Lavender in return.
They sink to the floor sobbing and laughing and running their hands across each other because they are both real and it is truly a miracle they made it out of the war alive. Her throat closes up again but this time it’s not panic that is choking her but her own relief.
She still can’t believe this. She can’t believe these odds.
“I thought you were going to die,” Parvati says a moment after her lips leave Lavender’s cheek. “I thought that night – I thought – well, I mean, it was – it was the last time I saw you. The last time I’ll ever see your beautiful face ever again.”
They’re still on the floor but her Healer has left them alone. Lavender pulls away slightly so she can look fully at the dark girl whose face is clear of makeup for the first time in what feels like years.
“I’m ugly now, Parvati. I was – I was –” Lavender is unable to stop her voice wobbling with emotion.
“I know what happened,” Parvati soothes quietly. “I heard. But it’s okay Lav, it’s alright. You’re beautiful. You’ll always be beautiful to me.”
“You can’t see me. You wouldn’t say that if you could see me.”
Her scars are so ugly. She’s so terrified to look in the mirror again, so devastated that she allowed herself to do so in the early hours of the morning last week. She’s working on getting better – she truly is – but some things take time and acceptance of her torn face is one of those.
She doesn’t even realise she’s crying again until she watches Parvati’s dark fingers brush against her cheekbone. She leads down, running her hands all the way from her face to her shoulders to her wrists and there they stop, slowly caressing the delicate skin where scars used to populate.
Braille. Braille is the only language Parvati can read now.
Suddenly Lavender realises what her friend is doing, feeling with her hands for the things that her eyes can no longer tell her. It’s here that she realises how much has changed since they last were together. She thinks about Healer Langdust’s comments – about the weight she has put on, which surely Parvati can feel in her arms. She thinks about the scratches, and then the vow in her dreams to make her best friend proud. It’s not been long but she’s done it: one week clean. Once upon a time she thought hurting herself was the answer but she was wrong, oh so very wrong. It offered a short release, nothing more. It was not a solution. Never a solution.
She spent years battling her inner demons and even longer fighting the ones on the outside. Their temptations still creep at the corners of her mind, trying to coerce her into sin. She isn’t sure yet if she can do it – if she can truly, truly get better – but Healer Langdust believes in her and now Parvati believes in her too. She’s going to the therapy sessions. She isn’t walking out anymore. She isn’t mindlessly accepting what her mother says. She is working to correct the errors in her life and working to accept herself.
Tears like a lagoon cover her face. Of course – of course she is crying again.
“I’m getting better,” Lavender sobs against Parvati’s shoulder. “I’m getting better for you.”
“Lavender honey, get better for you.”
* * * * *
A/N: Honestly, you would not believe how long this took me to write. I started developing the idea early October where it was initially supposed to be a short story collection with three chapters telling the stories of Lavender, Parvati and Hermione post-war but with little twists on what we know about them (i.e. Lavender as she’s written about here, blind Parvati who suffers from anxiety, POC demi/asexual Hermione). Then milominderbinder posted the ‘reset the default’ challenge on the forums and I thought ‘hey well I might as well write this for that then’ so I ignored the idea for all of NaNo and eventually came back to it in December, only to discover I didn’t have the time to make it any longer than it is right now. Maybe one day – hopefully! – but for now here’s this oneshot, which I hope you enjoyed reading. I hope, in some sense, if you were a firm Lavender-hater before that this might’ve changed your opinion on her. I believe she’s not the two-dimensional character she’s been painted as but so so much more.
(sorry for rambling)
last edited 11.03.15
(sorry for rambling)
last edited 11.03.15
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