Summary: I kind of ran into a mental wall with my previous Harry Potter Story as it was honestly so I'm moving to a different story until I get out of the roadblock (Though I'll try to get out of the block as soon as possible. Maybe if people want I can make a full fledged story out of this one too.
This Story is an AU as there are a significant departure from the prime Universe. (Mainly a different romantic pairing) It also changes Harry's personality a bit. I just...I didn't like how cleanly and wrapped up in a bow everything was in the books even though Harry was put through the wringer and the wizarding world (at least should have been) torn apart. Anyway, that's just me so I wanted to explore some of those ideas. Hopefully, everyone else will enjoy this too.
A/N: This is co-written by a friend of mine and fellow fanfic writer London Bai. Check out her stuff
Paring: Harry Potter X Lavander Brown
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, that is owned by JK Rowling
The crisp crunch of icy sheets forming on Hogsmeade's streets are not something Harry hears, rather feels instead as each step sends a shock straight up his bones. But the winter chill and discomfort pales in the face of a bittersweet tang on his tongue as he studies the quaint village untouched by time and strife. Many faces, as they also brace against the bite of the flurry-laden breeze, are familiar erring on the side of comforting, which is expected.
The wizarding world in Great Britain in general is a place frozen in time regardless of how fast the world outside is advancing and devolving. No matter how the years pass, things here remain precisely where they've stood for centuries prior providing a sense of unity and homecoming. Since stepping foot on Scotland soil, after five years of first leaving it, it's only now that the tightness in his chest relaxes in spite of the flood of agonizing memories. The rest of the world wouldn't understand how the nostalgia and sense of community in this portion of the realm is uplifting to Harry's battered soul.
Hopefully, he can revisit these places without being recognized, though it shouldn't be too hard as he's let himself go shaggy with head and facial hair. There are times when he catches his own reflection, expecting Sirius to say hello. As long as his lengthy hair isn't brushed back, no one would assume that he is the Boy Who Lived. Especially since he decided to go through with the magic alteration to permanently fix his eyes so that no one can spot him by his old frames either. It is a blessing to take a stroll without someone recognizing him.
His stride pauses as his gaze lifts to the weather beaten sign of the old inn. Merlin knows that Harry could go for a drink to warm his extremities, so he steps on the stoop and takes a moment to shake the snow off his shoulders before entering. Heavy notes of bread and beer waft in his face as the inside warmth rushes past him in a mad dash for the icy world outside. More familiarity calms his heart as he shrugs off his coat to hang it up as he peeks around the aged building.
Soft wooden creaks moan in the pressure of the wind, dried herbs hanging around the open floor plan uplift the heavy heat and smells, and conversational murmurs fill the air where the boisterous folk don't fit. This is his homecoming for certain.
The only difference is that Madame Rosmerta is not only missing, but replaced entirely. Unless this is a daughter of hers that he never knew she had or she's completely new. Harry takes this opportunity to study her if only to see whether this young witch is trustworthy.
We're about the same age and height, Harry ponders to himself. Long, wavy hair the color of creamed latte and a full figure bearing enough plump to her curves to catch the eyes of men. Who is she?
Harry gets the sense of a matriarch by simply peering upon her, from her comfortable form to how effortlessly she dances between table and loyal patrons as if being an observant hostess comes naturally to her. Exactly how one would expect any matriarchal head of communities or families to appear as. She exudes a powerful aura to match, but there's something underneath.
Something he recognizes yet can't quite put his mind on it.
"Sit anywhere you like, luv," she calls out as she fills a tankard behind the counter, effectively pulling Harry from the depths of his inquiries. "I'll be with you as soon as I can."
Her words remind him of Madame Rosmerta, pulling a minute grin to his winter chapped lips as he settles into a seat closest to the fireplace. Though the smile fades as he doesn't see anyone from his days at school. Since returning, he has yet to have spotted any alumni. It has been years since the war and their grim graduation so people may have moved on from the past.
While Hogsmeade remains steadfast against the march of time, the people seek change. Harry quietly accepts that he might go without meeting friends or old acquaintances during his visit.
"Ey, Madame Rhea," the gruff voice of an elder wizard sounds from across the room, "bless an old man and top off his grog, will ya?"
The woman, Rhea, warmly smiles as she flits around to him and back to the bar. Harry is once again plagued with a blinding sense of remembrance. There's something about her… maybe it's the unwavering tone of her voice or the pride in her shoulders. The confidence she has in herself and within this inn is evident and in the presence of such raw power, Harry can't help but find himself slightly smitten with the graceful lady as she glides towards him.
"Alright, darling. What can I get you?"
"Irish Coffee," Harry says firmly, "heavy on the cream." Perhaps if he were still the nappy-headed boy, he might have been a bit tongue-tied under the attention of a beautiful woman, but time and weariness has a way of helping him move past such childish anxiety.
"Sure thing," she grins as she makes her leave for the bar again, engaging in small talk with those sitting at the counter as her hands adeptly prepare his drink. Within minutes, she returns with a soft, "Here you go."
Harry grasps the warm mug and partakes in the brew, finding it exactly as he prefers with enough whiskey in there for his body to forget the cold outside. In the corner of his eye does he catch that look growing on her visage, eyes widening to the size of saucers and brows twisting with confusion and recognition.
"Wait…," she trails off, pausing for a couple minutes as she, very obviously, studies him looking for a hint of who she might be serving.
"Harry," her voice lowers to a whisper as her eyes dart around at the other patrons before sticking to him with determination. "Harry Potter?"
Setting the drink down and running his hand down his face and beard as he bites back a perturbed sigh. His hair may have gotten long, but at times it does part in such a way that showcases the scar. She could very well have seen it and he hadn't noticed. His hand travels up to fix his hair only to find it still perfectly curtaining his forehead. Either way, his privacy was pleasant while it lasted.
"The one and only, I'm afraid," he quietly answers to avoid garnering the attention of others, though he'll use this chance to press a question. "Er, do I know you? You seem familiar."
He wants to take another swallow of the warm brew, but the more he talks to her the more that he can't shake this overwhelming sense of knowing surrounding this lady. His fingers mindlessly rap against the table as Rhea's grin returns with a vengeance, dimples in her cheeks and a twinkle in her eye like she's the cat who caught the canary.
"I would certainly hope so, mister." She cocks her hip out, resting a hand on it while the other floats to her chest as she gives a soft bow to her head. "I am, or rather was, Lavender Brown."
By the grace of any higher beings, Harry is glad he didn't take a swig right then. His own tongue tries to kill him as he chokes on it, coughing violently as something goes down the wrong pipe. While his physical form is recovering, his mind is whirring.
Did he hear her right? Is she really…? He grazes his eyes over her once more, really looking at her as a familiar face. It's then that Harry finds it so obvious and clear. It truly is her.
"Bloody he… it's you." Harry stammers, the war coming back in unwarranted pieces. "What… what happened to you? Last I saw you-."
"I wasn't as heavy and most definitely not the hostess for the inn," she quickly interjects, claiming an empty chair. "A lot has changed."
Harry sips at his coffee, almost wishing he had ordered something stronger as Rhea, rather Lavender, continues.
"I got tired of the ditzy, air-headed little girl, so… I ate her."
"Oh, sweet merciful Merlin!" This time it's the hot drink making an attempt on his life as he couldn't contain the guffaw bubbling up from his chest, the alcohol leaves a distinctive burn in his sinuses. "Warn a bloke next time you want to make a mum joke, Lavender. Whiskey burns as it comes up the nose, you know!"
She giggles innocently, though she is quick to, sheepishly, hand Harry a washcloth with an apology. Despite the change in appearances, it's painfully obvious that her bright personality remains intact. How he could have not known it was her is beyond him. Though… when he thinks about when she was last seen… and the war…
Harry's mirth falls, a solemn tone to his lowered voice. "Seriously, though. What happened? I saw you myself. The damage done… a-and then no one could find your body… because of your injuries, we all assumed you…"
Lavender slowly closes her eyes and softly smiles. Harry is well acquainted with this look of relief and patience well rewarded. That face that screams at how long it has been since someone noticed the difference or change.
"I did die," she finally states. "Sort of, anyway. It'd be more accurate to say that I was mostly dead. Madame Rosmerta found me and brought me here. She… I guess you could say she gave me a second chance at life before she left."
Harry cocks a brow at her purposefully vague words. After everything he's experienced, everything he's learned, any time something is described with little to no detail or further insight to the situation, there's ancient history and/or powerful magic involved.
"When you said that Rosmerta left and how you mentioned being the inn's host… there's a deeper meaning, isn't there?"
Lavender mutely nods. "You know of the wizard of Woodcroft, correct?"
"Hengist? Only from the trading cards. He was persecuted by muggles and as a result founded Hogsmeade. This inn was his home, right?" At her nod, he asks, "what about him?"
She takes a moment to check around the inn, waiting to see if her services are required. Seeing that she's not needed, she leans in. "When he first settled here, he feared for future witch hunts so much so that he began praying to any higher or greater power. He prayed for the protection of his family and those who need refuge and peace. All the worldly goddesses with similar powers of abundance and fertility heeded his prayers. In exchange for protection, they require one woman to become the host for a goddess' magical power."
Lavender lowers her voice still. "His wife, understanding what must be done, accepted her role and became the first host. I do believe Aphrodite selected her. Since then, their home became the Three Broomsticks and every chosen hostess who tends to this place becomes the vessel for a goddess, taking on their name, aspects of their appearances, even bits of personalities."
Harry has questions, millions of inquiries about this long kept secret. Every hostess has been an avatar for deities, meaning that Rosmerta…
"Wait… the Romano-Celtic goddess of fertility… Rosmerta was…"
"You're quite sharp, Harry," Lavender grins. "I wish I could tell you who the previous madame was in her former life, if she even had one. D-don't get me wrong, though," she verbally trips over herself, "it's not like we're possessed or anything. We've just been… given a little more."
Magic of this magnitude always comes with a price or a curse. Just thinking about that possibility twists his stomach to its depth making him regret the coffee. There's always a catch, he knows this for certain.
"So you're doomed to stay confined to this inn?" He is fairly certain that he's seen the former madame around the village, but it's been years and he can't be sure anymore.
"Of course not," she quickly comforts. "Madame Rosmerta could travel the world if she so wanted as long as she remained the inn's owner."
"But she chose to give it to you to be the new host?"
Lavender finally sports a small frown, her shoulders tense. "She felt so guilty over her actions while under the Imperius Curse when she found me. In thinking of saving my life by transferring her role to me, it would help her atone for her misgivings."
Harry's shoulders relax as he lets out a sigh, not realizing that he was that tense to have been holding his breath. "I'm sure your parents are pleased to have you back in their lives."
"They," her pretty face drops to an incredible sorrow, "Harry, they don't know and they won't be able to recognize me, ever."
He couldn't have heard that right. Surely he must have heard wrong. Perhaps the fire is roaring too loudly or the other patrons were conversing amongst themselves too jovially for him to have heard the correct words.
"What," his voice catches, his very breath uncooperating, "what are you talking about?"
"It's the way the enchantment works. While I may not have physically changed completely to render me unrecognizable and am blessed with certain attributes, the magic runs deeper than that. And there is a cost; one of which is in revealing my previous life to the first person I tell, they become the only one who can recognize me, mostly, as I was before."
Harry's jaw falls agape, finding a painful thrum in his chest as this blessing is beginning to sound more like a curse as he first expected. "You revealed yourself… to me of all people. But… that doesn't make any sense. So what if you've developed more curves and wear elaborate dresses, I knew you looked familiar before you said anything."
Lavender gently shakes her head. "You had a feeling that you could have known me, your mind finding a puzzle that just needed to be answered, right? Like my name might have been on the tip of your tongue, but you'd never spit it out. Had I not said anything, you would have filed through your brain for a time, perhaps my name would have finally flown across your mind and form on your lips, but it wouldn't be long before the enchantment guides you into accepting the idea forevermore that I only remind you of an old classmate. A ghost and nothing more."
Harry's heart sinks to the crushing pit of his soul thinking about all the people she had known throughout her life. Loved and cherished ones who would never again recognize her even if she told them point blank who she was. Only to speak to them as mere strangers. This has to be a curse.
"No, no. There has got to be a way to work around it. Maybe if you told them something that only Lavender Brown would know. I mean they may not be able to recognize you but they would at least know it's you."
"And the moment any truth passes my lips, their minds would believe it to be false knowledge to enforce that I couldn't possibly be their daughter." Lavender points out.
"Maybe if you wrote it down."
"The message would come out a jumbled mess of nonsensical words."
Harry clenches his teeth as he speaks there is almost a sense of panic. "There must be something we-."
Lavender holds up her hand and, whether he intends to or not, the rest of Harry's sentence dissolves in his throat.
"The only way for others besides you to recognize me again would be to cease being The Host of the Inn,"
"Can't you do that? I mean, if Madame Rosmerta could transfer the curse to you so easily, surely you could transfer it to someone else. Someone with no friends or family."
"Harry…" Lavender tiredly closes her eyes and grimaces as if she is chewing on her words. It becomes clear to Harry that she is trying to tell him something he's not yet understanding. "I nearly died before she even had the chance to transfer the enchantment to me. Without the magic, I'd succumb to the wounds Greyback inflicted on me in a matter of hours, if not minutes. In short-."
"You'd die," Harry finishes.
"Besides, even if I could live after passing the role on, I can't be selfish enough to take someone's potential in life. Even if they have no family or friends because those can always be made. My old life is already forfeit, so I will make the most out of the life I am given."
Lavender breathes out heavily, opening those oceanic blue eyes. "I know you mean well, Harry, and please believe me when I say I appreciate the thought more than you could ever know," she gently places her hand over his arm with the most gut-wrenching smile, "but you have to understand that Lavender Brown is, for all intents and purposes, dead."
His jaw is painfully tight as he heaves through his teeth as dread, insurmountable frustration and sheer agony, echoes in his head of voices never to be heard from again except in his memories. Dead, this word is one he is all too familiar with. Death follows him and touches all those unfortunate enough to be associated with the Great Harry Potter.
James and Lily Potter: Dead
Sirius Black: Dead
Albus Dumbledore: Dead
Remus and Nymphadora Lupin
The list goes on and on.
And now Lavender Brown. Probably one of the most innocent students next to Colin can essentially be confirmed for a spot on that ever consuming list.
There's a growing vibration under Harry's palms, the table trembling slightly under his unchecked force. Lavender, Lady Rhea, whomever she is now looks at him with concern and sorrow, perhaps it was a mistake to reveal herself to him.
"Harry, it's okay," she whispers to him in a tone that is intimate and comforting like a mix between a mother comforting her son and a wife comforting her husband. "It's okay. I'm alright, I promise.
"Alright…Alright?" Harry's voice is starting to audibly crack almost as if at any moment he could burst into tears. "You can never be recognized by your loved ones. You've been inflicted with a terrible curse that's disguised as a blessing because you were forced into a fight you shouldn't have had to be involved in because… because of… of me."
Lavender gives him a small smile. "Harry, what I'm about to say is speaking strictly as Lavender Brown, okay? If this is, indeed, a curse, then it is a wonderful curse. The idea of everlasting youth is a sort of boon, and…" she leans in close to whisper with a giggle in her voice, "and I'm honestly getting far more attention from men as Madame Rhea than I did as ditzy Lavender Brown. Besides, life is more fun as the busty barmaid who serves drinks and takes names with a rosy smile."
Harry once again holds back a laugh, nearly choking as a result. As silly as it might have been, it does break his sorrow for the moment at the very least.
"Were you always this witty?"
Lavender bats her eyelashes and sways a little from side to side. "Maybe," she says in a sing-song voice, that impish grin growing wider. "You like this new me, don't you?"
Harry clears his throat and sheepishly looks away, staring at his drink like its the most interesting object in the world. He wasn't expecting her to get right to the punch like that. "I will admit I've found something about you alluring ever since I first stepped in here. I don't think it's just the whiskey talking."
Lavender's playful smile refuses to leave her face even for a moment as she effortlessly grabs a floating, empty tankard and begins wiping it down. Without needing to look, she handles this position very well. Five years is enough time for practice.
"Why, Harry Potter, I never would have thought you were a Renaissance Man."
"Huh?" He tilts his head a bit in confusion. "I'm not quite sure I get what you're saying."
Lavender rolls her eyes with that ever-present grin. "That was meant to be a joke, Harry."
Harry chuckles sheepishly once more before letting out a quiet apology. "I guess that one flew over my head a bit."
"Can't win 'em all, I suppose."
He swallows down the last of his now lukewarm coffee, but he can see the intent in her gaze. Perhaps she can see the gears ticking away as a single question bites at his tongue behind his tightened jaw. He lowers the mug, a little roughly than he meant, determined to get an answer.
"Of all the people you could have revealed yourself to, why me of all people? I mean, surely there was a loved one who deserved to know much more than I. Why choose to be a memory to everyone else?"
Lavender lets out a pained sigh, bordering on groaning with deep displeasure which forces Harry to take pause with a bated breath. In a split second after noticing the twist to her features, he wonders if he hit a nerve and regrets pushing the question.
"Harry, you were one of the only people that vaguely cared about Lavender Brown while she was alive."
Harry's heart drops to his gut, relating to her before his acceptance letter to the school. "What, how can you say that? Lots of people cared about you."
"Name one." Lavender says in a short huff.
"Ron and Hermione."
"Ron was using me to get back at Hermione for dating Victor Krum. And Hermione? Please, you know better than anyone that she despised me."
She is quick to rattle off more people before he has the chance to compute how cast aside she used to be.
"Pati? I blew that friendship with her over my obsession with Ron, and my parents… how do you think I got so obsessed with men in the first place? I was mocked, ridiculed, the butt of all jokes. Nobody cared until Greyback nearly ripped my throat out. No," she firmly says with finality, "I don't want people to suddenly claim love for me purely out of guilt for how they treated me after thinking I died. Lavender Brown is forever enshrined on the memorial of the Fallen. It's best to let her rest in peace."
Harry can't help but wince. The pain in her eyes is one he knows all too well. It's the same eyes, those browbeaten eyes that gaze back at him when he was the chosen one.
"I know what it's like," he whispers softly, "though I'm not sure I'm comfortable discussing it here."
Lavander's impish smile returns just slightly.
"I know a place where we can talk." She calls to one of the cooks to hold the fort for the rest of the day and pulls Harry out of his chair. As she leads him towards the cellar door, there seems to be an excited skip in her step as she does so.
"Where are you taking me," Harry asks.
Down, down, down she takes him past the cellar door. She taps a few bricks on what seems to be an ordinary wall but it proves to be anything as simple as that as said wall shifts open akin to Harry's first trip to Diagon Alley. Twelve years since he first learned of magic and it still manages to surprise him.
Behind the wall is a room that appears to be a blend between an elaborate temple shrouded in precious materials and a highly decorated bathhouse.
Once again, Harry's mouth is agape. "What is this place?"
Lavender sheepishly rubs the back of her head, seemingly embarrassed by the showy display. "This is the Temple of Hengist… it's essentially my bedroom."