Once upon a time, Lavender had wanted everyone to look at her. She had been the kind of kid who put on dramatic plays for her stuffed animals, for any visitors to the house, and for any neighbor or passersby she could snag from the front yard.
Dating Ron in sixth year had been fun, most of all because everyone had kept sneaking glances at her. She had heard her name in curious whispers and she had grinned and giggled into Parvati’s shoulder.
Everyone was looking now, or pretending not to. She heard the whispers– oh it’s that poor Brown girl. Can you imagine, if it was your daughter, if it was you? Oh and she was so pretty before, too– what a pity– almost makes it worse, doesn’t it?
“You know Professor Lupin was a werewolf?” Hermione said, ten minutes into a very awkward lunch she had asked for in an equally awkward letter.
Lavender pushed a sauteed carrot through a little puddle of pasta sauce. “I think everyone heard about that one. Someone told the papers, or something, right?”
“Er, yes,” said Hermione. “Snape did. Which is what I– I mean, it’s related. Oh, I wish you’d gotten to talk to Remus about this. He was a lovely man.”
“Not as lovely as Lockhart,” Lavender said and she and Hermione spent a moment in wistful remembrance. “God, I feel old,” Lavender said.
“Anyway, Snape,” said Hermione. “Snape and Lupin. When Lupin was at school, Snape would make him a potion that would… tame him, on full moons. He could just curl up in his office and sleep by the fire. If you’re interested, I’m trying to learn how to brew it myself.”
Lavender shook her head. “We’re not friends,” she said. “Never have been. So why are you doing all this?”
Hermione looked like she was trying to say “we’re friends,” but she couldn’t get it out. “I was there, once, when Lupin turned without the potion. I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”
“Afraid I’ll sniff you out on a dark night?” Lavender said, face twisting as she sank back into her wicker chair.
“No, I–” Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, and all the hesitation was making Lavender more and more uncomfortable. Even at eleven, Hermione had bulldozed through things. She didn’t waver. “I was so scared, but I think it was even worse for him. It hurt, but he looked so scared, too, I–”
“I know how it feels,” said Lavender, very quietly, and Hermione snapped her mouth shut. Lavender took a big sip from her tea. It was still steaming– it had not taken long to exhaust small talk, between the two of them.
Hermione cleared her throat and tried again. “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to make amends. I’m trying to– make things better. Do you want this?”
Lavender put her mug back down, shaking out scalded fingers, and said, “Yes.” Then, because her mother had raised her right, she said, “Thank you.”
“That sounds like a weird conversation,” said Parvati, whose door Lavender went and knocked on after she and Hermione had split the bill with the precise-to-the-Knut math of the vaguely acquainted and recently employed.
Lavender kicked through the fall of autumn leaves that had collected in front of the porch swing. “She was trying to be nice, I think.”
“She’s not very good at it,” said Parvati.
Her father wept. He tried not to but he was a crier, always had been.
“You were so brave,” said Lavender’s mother, cupping her cheeks in her warm hands and not even flinching at the scar tissue under her palms. “We are so proud.”
Lavender’s mother was a Muggleborn, daughter of a math teacher and a door-to-door salesman (“now there is a profession that requires some magic,” her grandfather used to tell her).
Her father was a wizard and he was trying hard not to cry, bending down to pet the dogs weaving between all their ankles. Lavender bent down, too, scratching behind Fiddlestick’s floppy ears while Mopsy cleaned her cheek forcefully. “Hey,” she said, and her father looked up, trying to firm his wobbly chin.
“You know I’m proud of you, too,” he said, trying not to tremble on it. “I just…” He reached out to squeeze her knee gently. “You did everything right. You did everything good. I’m so proud of you, chickadee.”
“I know,” she said, and she did. He was a Gryffindor, too.
It took Hermione more than a month to figure out the potion sufficiently well enough that she’d let Lavender try it. She was founding a non-profit for nonhuman rights, too, after all, as well as doing a fair few local speaking gigs, petitioning the Wizenagamot on a half dozen issues, getting an advanced degree, and supposedly, at some point, sleeping.
It took more than a month, so Lavender spent another night locked in her parents’ newly fortified cellar. She didn’t remember much, but she woke up with her throat sore and her nails ragged. The door was gouged from the inside. She wondered if she had been screaming. She wondered if that’s what the howls were. She felt like screaming, maybe, a little.
The door cracked open the moment the moon had dropped down below the horizon, outside. Her mother came in with a tray of her favorite breakfast foods– danishes and boiled eggs, steaming hot cocoa with the barest splash of bitter coffee in it.
Parvati came stomping down the stairs after her. “Graceful,” said Lavender. She winced at the roughness of her voice.
“Look who’s talking,” said Parvati. “Up, c'mon, eat your breakfast. We’re doing midnight manicures. Your dad says he’ll let us doll up his nails, too.”
The next full moon night, Lavender locked herself in the cellar again. “It should be safe,” Hermione had said. “It should. I mean, I’ve done all the tests. I followed all the instructions. It should work.”
Lavender didn’t remember, because she never remembered– she didn’t recall the cellar door unlocking and opening after ten minutes of post-moonrise silence. She didn’t recall Parvati Wingardium Leviosa-ing a comfy chair down the stairs, or her sitting down and pulling out a stack of Witch Weeklys, nor did she remember curling up on Parvati’s fuzzy button slippers and going to sleep.
But she did remember waking up in the morning, her cheek pressed into a soft pillow. She was tattered under a thick blanket, but she was human and looking upward at Parvati’s slack, sleeping face. Her dark plaits tumbled, curling, over the soft pink polka dots of her pajamas.
Lavender pulled herself up to sitting, stole the open Witch Weekly, and waited for Parvati to wake up.
“You’re going to be alright,” Professor Trelawney said and she wasn’t even looking at Lavender’s palm, just holding her hand tight in her cold fingers. “You’re going to be happy. You’re going to be fine. People are going to love you and stand by you and we will be there.”
The tower room was just the same as Lavender remembered it, down to the spicy-sweet tea and Trelawney’s big blinking eyes. Lavender squeezed her hands back. “I love you, too, professor.”
“You know, I think you can call me Sybil. It seems the time for it.”
Dean and Seamas’s housewarming for their ugly little first flat was a crowded mess, but the afterparty wasn’t. Lavender and Parvati came by with paint swatches, opinions, and hangover remedies. They ate greasy Chinese food on the floor, because it was about as comfortable as the couch.
They came back the next week, and the next. Parvati conjured a crackling fire in a big fruit bowl Dean’s mother had given him and they all sat around it like they were back at Gryffindor Tower’s hearths, procrastinating on homework.
On nights like that they sometimes talked about Hogwarts, but most of the time they didn’t. Dean had started drawing again and he walked them through his notebooks– his sisters, caricatures of the customers he dealt with in Ollivander’s wand shop, the snarky little comics he’d always scrawled in the edges of his notes. Parvati told them about the Auror trainees’ antics, going out on their first field missions with their mentors. “All bravado and caffeine,” she said. “Bunch of show-offs.”
“So you fit in well, then?” Dean said.
“Nah, that’s Lav,” Parvati said. Dean and Seamas glanced warily at Lavender, but she just giggled and reached for another potsticker.
Seamas was considering going back to school. “Hermione’s been badgering me about it,” he said. “Says I have a talent for pyrotechnics, and there’s a whole major for fire magics at Brinxley.”
“What about you, Lav?” said Dean. “You still thinking about vet school?”
“Oh, uh, that’s the Muggle word. Veterinarian– a medimagizoologist?”
“The schools aren’t too interested in a werewolf as a student,” Lavender said, shrugging.
“Not that that stops Hermione from showing up on the doorstep with half-penned anti-discrimination lawsuits she wants Lav to star in,” Parvati said.
“When does she sleep?” said Dean.
Little children asked about it in the street sometimes. “Mum, why’s her face like that?” “How come she’s walking all funny?”
Sometimes their parents turned to Lavender with eager bright eyes in the grocery store line, expecting her to answer. (“I got hurt, but I’m okay now.”) Sometimes they shushed their kids and gave her little apologetic half-smiles, glancing away from the raised lines of scar tissue. Sometimes they pulled their children closer to them and crossed to the other side of the street.
Harry Potter had a godson. Teddy Lupin was four the first time Lavender met him, just outside Gringotts. Teddy clung to Harry’s pants leg, peeking past his godfather’s hanging robe. “Why’d her face do that?” he said and Harry dropped a hand down into Teddy’s hair, which was bright green.
“She’s just like your dad,” said Harry.
“Puppy,” Teddy whispered, eyes wide with joy, and his skin shifted until scars stood out stark on his smiling chubby cheeks.
Lavender bit her lip and sank down to her knees in the street, holding out a hand. “Why aren’t you handsome, chickadee. What’s your name?”
Once, Lavender had wanted everyone to look at her.
She hated stories that told you to be careful what you wished for. Were you not supposed to want things? Was that the answer? She was nearly twenty two and she could make things fly with a few whispered words. She had lived through her seventh year at Hogwarts, had stepped out into that battle with her wand out and her eyes open. She had woken up–hurting, wounds tended, poison in her veins–to Parvati sleeping on Sybil’s shoulder at her bedside.
She had cried when they told her about the lycanthropy. She had cried over her bunny because a fox had gotten to it. Both times it had been with her face buried in Parvati’s shoulder and Parvati’s hands stroking her hair. She wished and she wanted– animals that never left you, bodies that never betrayed you.
Once, Lavender had wished that everyone would look at her, and now they were. Everyone was looking– so Lavender held Parvati’s hand in the grocery store at midnight, because they had both been craving green apples. Everyone was looking– so Lavender curled her hair and pinned it up, wore tank tops and little skirts on any day hot enough that she could get away with it, laughed aloud in public spaces. Everyone was looking– so Lavender knocked on Hermione Granger’s door one evening and asked, “What would it take to get me into magical vet school?”
Hermione had her bushy hair all tied back and a quill behind each ear. “A lot. There’s some statutes we’ve got to fight, and even if we can handle that you’ll still be under intense scrutiny for years.”
“I can work with that,” said Lavender, and Hermione grinned.
When Teddy marched down the aisle with the rings, his hair was a shimmering swirl of pink and purple to match the flowers woven into Parvati’s braids and Lavender’s curls.
The honeymoon would be short–a week in magical Paris in the townhouse of a Beauxbaton girl they’d befriended fourth year. Lavender had more medical textbooks packed into her luggage than anything else. Parvati’s bags were lined with half-finished reports that she’d owl to Auror headquarters from a rumpled Parisian morning, getting croissant crumbs in the bedsheets.
But for now the hall was filled with pink and purple blooms, white candles, familiar faces. Hermione stood in a violet bridesmaid’s dress, and Dean and Seamus in matching ties at Parvati and Lavender’s respective backs. Padma was luminescent with joy over Parvati’s shoulder. She had taken Lavender aside that morning for a short quiet walk in the mist and told her, “I know tonight’s what makes it official, but I’ve thought of you as my sister for years.”
When Lavender leaned forward and kissed her wife, her father burst into proud tears in the front row. He was a crier, always had been. Lavender buried her face in Parvati’s shoulder, smiling so hard she thought she might come apart. Her scars creased and puckered in her dimples, and she was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.