Written for the Harry Potter Fanfiction Challenge Forums' "First Love" Challenge.

The prompt is: "People don't marry their first love".

A love story told in two parts, with Seamus Finnigan, Lavender Brown, and Anthony Goldstein.

I own nothing. Rated T for suggested sexual situations.

Thank you to all the reviewers for the first part of this story. I really appreciate your support.


Her First and Her Last

Part Two: . . . Let Love Bring Together.

I.

Anthony Goldstein likes girls who are smart and who apply themselves to their classes. He thinks girls who have depth and intelligence are, for lack of a better word, brilliant.

Of course, Terry disagrees, but even Anthony knows that Terry knows objective beauty can have little permanence.

It's why he likes Hermione Granger so much. Her brains impress him, as does her commitment to her beliefs, even if he doesn't necessarily agree with them. So, he accepts her offer to join S.P.E.W. after he asks for a small speech to justify why he should.

"I was going to accept it anyway. I just wanted to hear her talk," he admits sheepishly to Michael Corner and Terry Boot, who just shake their heads, roll their eyes, and flick their S.P.E.W. badges towards him.

In their fifth year, Anthony gets word that Hermione likes Ron Weasley. He lets Terry and Michael give him enough booze to pickle Hagrid's liver, despite his protests that he's a prefect.

II.

He has no idea how Lavender Brown could have ended up in Flitwick's Advanced N.E.W.T.-Level Charms class during their sixth year. He just stares at her, completely stumped.

Her and Padma's sister . . . don't they ever stop giggling?

They can't even take this class seriously!

Lavender's proclivity for giggling only gets worse, and Anthony can't help but notice her constant, persistent flirting and laughing with Ron Weasley. He wants her to shut up even though she sounds like she's having the time of her life and she is truly happy and alive and whenever she laughs her blue eyes catch the light in such a way that they look like they're dancing—

He gets his wish towards the end of April. Anthony sees Lavender walk into Advanced Charms, her face red and blotchy. She has Parvati's arm around her and they sit as far away from Ron, Hermione and Harry as possible. She is sobbing throughout the class, and though it should annoy Anthony, he finds himself wishing she would laugh instead.

III.

A few days later, Anthony hollers, "Hey! Lavender!" He leaves his two smirking and laughing friends in his dust.

I hate Mike and Terry . . . sometimes.

"Hi, Anthony," she says with a smile, and Anthony coughs to cover up the very obvious and very loud gurgles rolling in his stomach. He hopes desperately that she doesn't notice.

"Did, er- . . . do you want to talk to me?"

"Huh? Oh, y-yeah . . . I just, well." He coughs again and feels a severe case of Tied Tongue coming on. "We were sort of thinking," he gestures over his shoulder to the two clowns who are supposed to be his best mates, but who are currently taking the piss out of him, "about starting a N.E.W.T.-level study group to help us out for this year and next year. And we were thinking you and Parvati both might want a little extra help—"

Anthony knows he's never been good with words. One look at her face, and he realizes he should've been planned this out better.

"Do you think Parvati and I can't handle Advanced Charms? Hmm?"

Anthony draws back, horrified. "N-no . . . I didn't mean—"

"Let me tell you something, Mister Goldstein. Parvati and I might not make as many 'O's as you do, but between us, we make a darn good share of 'E's and 'A's! More than those two back there make without your help, I'm sure." She narrows her eyes. "So, thank you very much, but I don't want your help with my classes!"

"B-but that's what I meant!" Anthony stutters. "I-I meant that, y'know . . . you and Parvati know your work and you have your strengths and may-maybe there's something you might can help us . . ." His voice fades as he looks at her face, scrunched up and squinting and clearly trying not to laugh.

She fails miserably.

"Hah! Oh, oh . . . ah, Anthony," Lavender says wiping at her eyes. "S-sorry. I just—" she's practically choking and gasping for air, "I needed that." She bites her lip and Anthony, who can feel himself blushing, tries to look cross, but he cannot. Not when she is laughing so heartily. He can't remember the last time she's laughed like this. It certainly hasn't been for a week.

"Thanks!" She swats him with her book and Anthony feels his chest tingle where she touched him.

As she walks away, she turns back over her shoulder. "Let us know when you start the group. We'd love to join up!"

Anthony forgets to wipe the smile off of his face as he jogs toward Terry and Michael who continue to take the piss out of him.

However, at the second meeting of the study group, Anthony overhears Parvati and Lavender talk about Seamus Finnigan and he sees Lavender blush.

Somehow, he knows that he's already too late.

IV.

Anthony watches as Seamus and Lavender pick each other up off of the floor, practicing various offensive and defensive charms that they might have to use on the Carrows or a couple of Slytherins should they find themselves in a sticky situation with them.

And after each spell is cast, Seamus gives Lavender a small kiss on her lips.

Anthony feels a nasty jolt in his guts. He looks back down at his parchment, with a grunt.

"He was there for her when she needed someone, you know?"

Anthony casts a glance towards Parvati. He grunts again.

"I don't care. She's just a friend."

"But you do like her, don't you?"

He forces himself to shrug. "She's happy."

He prays to Rowena's fanciest lace knickers that he's not blushing when Lavender stumbles into him accidentally and she uses his shoulder to brace herself. She sits down.

"Anthony," Lavender says, twirling her quill in her fingertips, "we should find you a nice girl, y'know?"

He can only stare at her.

"I'm serious! Terry's always going on about your love life, or lack thereof."

I'm gonna kill Boot!

"Is there any girl that you're interested in? Anyone strike your fancy?"

Anthony feels his face falling, his mouth open, just about to say something—

To his relief, Lavender chuckles softly and reaches out to grasp his forearm. "I'm sorry. I need to stop teasing you, don't I?"

Anthony rearranges his face so he can look indignant and annoyed but he can tell his face is coloring a vibrant red. "Do I have some sign on that says, 'Please Take the Mickey out of Me! Thank You and Have a Nice Day!'?"

"You're not mad at me, are you?"

Anthony feels his face soften; he cannot lie. "I can't stay mad at you, Lavender."

"Hey! We've studied together. We're doing this whole Dumbledore's Army thing together now. Call me Lav, and I'll call you Tony." She smiles sweetly at him.

"Will that make you happy?"

Lavender nods her head vigorously. "It would make me very happy."

"Right, then! Lav it is."

"Thank you Tony."

He even manages to keep the smile plastered on his face when Seamus comes over and plants a long, lingering kiss upon Lavender's lips.

V.

Anthony hears about her going up to the Hospital Wing after having taken a curse meant for a little first-year girl.

He runs up the stairs, the stitch in his side threatening to slow him down, but he pushes through it. Because he has to check on her, as he always does whenever Carrow hits her with the Cruciatus Curse.

He stops and he hides because Seamus is kissing her good-bye. Once Seamus is gone, Anthony quietly slips inside and he approaches Lavender's bedside.

Thank goodness she's still awake!

"How're you doing?"

Lavender snorts weakly but smiles at him. "Well, considering I was target practice for Carrow today, I thought it'd be obvious." She laughs quietly, "I thought you were in Rave-Ravenclaw, T-Ton – . . ." She coughs. It gets worse and worse and she sits up in her bed, violently hacking. All propriety flies out of his head and Anthony sits beside her, his arm practically around her, and he reaches for a glass of water.

"Here . . ." he holds the glass steady so Lavender can drink from it, which she does in great big gulps. She lets herself fall back into her bed.

"Ah! Thanks." She turns to look at him. "Great bedside manner there."

"Oh? Er . . . yeah."

Lavender gives him a thoughtful look. "Have you ever thought about being a Healer?"

Anthony tries to keep his composure. It's one thing he keeps thinking about.

After all of this is over. If there even is an after.

It's the one thing he keeps thinking about . . . besides—

"I have, actually." Anthony chuckles. "Kind of feel like this whole year's been an unofficial 'training program', you know?"

"For you, Susan and Padma? The 'Official Healers of Dumbledore's Army', eh?"

Anthony's smile grows bigger as he looks at her. "I'm glad you're all right, Lav."

She grins at him and nudges him with her elbow.

VI.

It is the battle.

The war that will end all of this.

And it's still not over. Anthony has just finished helping Terry carry Michael from the Astronomy Tower. They find a corner where they can get him seated and Terry runs to find a medi-witch or wizard or a Healer. He is yelling and Anthony can hear the fear in his voice.

Anthony and Terry both stay with their best friend — their brother — until a Healer can come over and give Michael the medical attention he so desperately needs.

He looks around the Great Hall. There are no tables, just people everywhere. They bring the injured in, carried in their arms or Levitated in the air. They fling themselves into outstretched arms when they are reunited with friends and family—

They bring in the dead, slung over the shoulders of the weeping and the numb.

As soon as the Healer has Michael stabilized, Anthony looks around the room, seeing if he can help out in any capacity. . . .

That's when he sees her.

And as scary as Michael's injuries are, they seem to be nothing compared to Lavender's. He is by her side so quickly; he has no idea how he got there. He reigns in a sob as he looks at her face. One side seems to be unmarred, but the other—

Something has ripped her apart.

Anthony asks what happened, and someone is able to give him a brief but vague account. But he makes sure he's holding her hand in his.

Always in his.

He stays by her side. When she wakes, he is the first person to talk to her. He can't remember anything he says, but his paramount goals are to make sure that she knows someone's with her and to make sure she gets everything she needs.

VII.

She has been at St. Mungo's for one week.

Anthony steps up to the desk on the first floor of St. Mungo's. Before he can even greet the nurse, she says to him, very briskly—

"She had a rough night, Mister Goldstein. Keep it short today."

He walks, then jogs, then runs to her room. He stops and braces himself against the doorframe.

Lavender lies in her bed. Small tremors course through her body and Anthony can see small beads of sweat on her forehead and forearms. Her hair is plastered to the right side of her face. She is painfully pale and her fingers and toes keep flexing and curling into claw-like shapes.

That is when Anthony notices, with a jolt, the white bands surrounding her wrists, holding her arms and legs firmly to the bed. Instead of letting himself cry out or turn away, the clinical part of his brain — the part that spent almost all of last night memorizing every possible fact about Wolfsbane Potion's effect on non-infectious wereworlf bites — turns on for a brief moment.

Her dose might need to be strengthened . . . less aconite, perhaps, and more bloodroot and witch hazel.

But, just as suddenly, he returns to the present and he is the boy who wants nothing more than to make sure she's okay.

Lavender turns her head towards him and she speaks in a whisper that is more of a croak than any normal sound. "You sh-shouldn't see . . . me . . ."

"I can leave if you need me to, Lav. But I don't want to."

Something flashes across Lavender's tense face; Anthony watches as her brow falters. "I-I'm a-. . . an animal. . . ."

Anthony shakes his head forcefully. "You're Lavender Brown. You're always Lavender Brown. You will always be—"

She looks at him, her teeth closed, rattling against each other. "L-Lavender Br-Brown?"

He smiles and bites his lip. "Yeah."

Lavender blinks and he notices the right corner of her mouth pulling upwards. Hopeful that he can help her, Anthony pulls the chair that rests against the wall up close to him, but he does so with his feet. He sits down and never lets go of her shaking, clawing hand, even when her fingernails dig deep into his skin and draw blood.

VIII.

Four weeks later, the nurse greets him, unsmiling and severe. "Mister Goldstein." She thrusts the weekly sign-in book at him. "You know the drill?"

Anthony raises an eyebrow at her. "Thank you, Nurse Crotchety."

"It's Crochey. Cro-chey!"

"Sorry." He tries really hard not to lose it. "I'll get it right next time."

The nurse purses her lips and walks away, mumbling under her breath.

Anthony lets his eyes linger for one moment at the sign-in sheet. He furrows his brow and flips through all the signatures. He sees his name. Twelve o'clock to three o'clock. Every day for the past week, visiting Michael Corner and Lavender Brown.

It's been his routine for over the past month.

He finds Seamus' name written down twice. The last time he was here was two days ago, visiting Lavender. Under Seamus' signature was Dean Thomas'. They were here for thirty minutes.

Anthony feels himself getting angry with Seamus even as he makes his way to Lavender's room. He knows it's unreasonable because of everything Dean's going through, and Seamus is trying to help him. But he thinks if he walks into Lavender's room and she's in the same state as yesterday—

His heart drops when he sees her back turned away from the door, and he sees her shoulders shaking.

He can't watch her cry. He's seen her cry so many times now. But he wants her to know that he's there for her, no matter what. That he'll always be her friend.

Even if he wants more.

"Hey," he says to her gently, "Lavender?"

She does not move, and he can see her shoulders tremble. Anthony feels his heart breaking.

"Lav . . . hey. I'm here, okay?" He steps up towards her and extends his arm out. "It's going to be all—"

"ROW-ARR!" She flips over in a flash and lunges at Anthony. She swipes her curled, claw-like hand at his face.

She startles Anthony so much he jumps back and stumbles over a chair, almost doing a back flip.

"YEARGH!" He hits the floor.

"Oh, Godric! Are you okay, Tony?" Lavender grunts as she wriggles off of the bed, limping over to him.

Anthony's adrenaline's still racing and he looks at Lavender's who's clearly okay and who wasn't crying at all. He laughs a little.

"I'm . . . I– " she's laughing; she cannot help it. "I'm sorry. I knew you'd be visiting today at noon. And I — I just wanted to play a little joke." Her voice squeaks at the end.

He continues laughing, increasing in volume.

"I mean, what's the point of living with all of this," Lavender says, gesturing to the left side of her face and body, "if I can't laugh about it a little." She stops laughing but she is still smiling and nibbling at her thumb nervously.

"I was not expecting you to growl at me!"

Lavender shrugs, and she looks at Anthony sheepishly. "It seemed . . . I don't know. Appropriate?" She gestures to her face and she limps back to her bed, making grunting noises as she gets settled. "I'm really sorry. I didn't want to embarrass you."

"I'm not embarrassed," Anthony says and he can hear a little bit of indignation creeping back into his voice. "Just caught off guard."

Lavender stares at him but with a soft expression and a grin. That's when Anthony realizes he didn't even notice Lavender's scars. He looks at her face, and is shocked at the progress of her healing. She's smiling, and even though she favors the right side of her face, Anthony can see her left side turning upwards. More than it ever has before.

He lets himself stare at her smile, soaking it in. Because it's filling up her face and giving her a light that has been missing for so many days. He had almost forgotten just how much he loved that light.

Almost.

And before he can stop himself he blurts out — "You're really beautiful, you know?"

She doesn't know what to say so she doesn't say anything and a silence falls between them.

But Anthony notices she never stops smiling.

IX.

"Seamus?"

Anthony's heart pounds as Lavender says his name.

They are at the Leaky Cauldron, which has been reserved for a private dinner with the surviving members of Dumbledore's Army. Lavender's Healers allowed her to join them for this evening. Anthony asked to escort her and she shyly accepted.

They came with all but two.

And the two "missing" blokes are sitting at the bar, lost in their own private party.

"Seamus . . ."

He turns his sandy blond head around, holding his pint of Lethifold Ale high in the air. His expression is as if a young boy has just been caught pilfering from the shop of a long-time family friend. Dean Thomas turns around and looks at the other members of Dumbledore's Army. Anthony watches as Dean sees Luna.

It's the first time he has ever seen Luna regard someone with such stark, pointed sadness. The melancholy in her protuberant eyes is tangible and heavy; everyone in the tavern thought things would start between them. But the whatifs are far more prevalent than their actual relationship.

The Dean she sees is the Dean he sees as well — he has an odd puffiness about him, and his skin is dull and is growing blotchier. Seamus is faring no better. Their faces look drawn and fatigued and all Anthony can see in their dark and calloused eyes are the remnants of war and pain.

Seamus walks to her. She backs away.

"Was this planned? Did you plan on coming here with Dean and not tell me?"

"Lav, it . . . n-no. It wasn't like that at all! I thought ya wouldn't be able to leave St. Mungo's--"

Anthony can hear Seamus slurring his words and can smell the ale on his breath. On the counter in front of both blokes, there are several discarded bottles and glasses of already-consumed beverages.

Lavender limps to the bar-top, using her cane to support her left leg. "Shay . . ." she turns to face his friend, "Dean." Her voice is filled with worry and anger. "What are you two doing to yourselves?" With her right hand, she holds out two empty bottles to Seamus, her face demanding an explanation.

The pleading quality in her voice hurts Anthony. But he feels the torrent of anger that has been building up inside of him over the past month nearly reaching its breaking point. However, it is not his fight, it is hers, so he will let her have her say.

Lavender slams the bottle down on the countertop. "I know you've had a hard time dealing with this," she swirls at her face with her right hand viciously, "and I know Dean needs you too. But sodidI!" She spits out the last word at him. "Why? Why the hell couldn't you be there for both Dean and me? Why the hell did you tell me you love me and then leave me?"

"Lav," Seamus' head swirls a little bit, and he's extending his arms out to her. She is seething. "I haven' lef' ya . . . I still visit—"

"TWICE SEAMUS! TWO – TIMES THIS WEEK. TEN TIMES THE WHOLE MONTH I'VE BEEN THERE!" Lavender yells and the whole of Dumbledore's Army stands back, letting whatever needs to come out between the two of them come out. "Why? Am I that repulsive? Is it really easier to drink and drink and forget everything that's happened? Because I can't, Seamus! I'm stuck with this face and this body and I can't forget!" Lavender pants hard and she's sobbing now, but her tears are filled with anger.

"Lav," Seamus pleads, trying to placate her, "yer jus' as beautiful as—"

"No!" She points her right index finger at Seamus and lowers her voice to a dangerous volume. "You don't say another word about me! You don't get to say I'm beautiful or you love me anymore." She bites her shaking lower lip. "You chose him. You left me. And that's it!"

And Seamus looks at her, his eyes full of desperation.

"But Dean needed me, Lavender! 'E needed 'elp and we weren't there for 'im! We all had each otha' . . . Dumbledore's Army, righ'?"

Anthony chances a look at Dean who is sitting at the bar, his face turned away from the fight; he makes no move, other than to hold back a hiccup, to touch the rim of his glass, and to wipe at his tired eyes.

"HE WAS ALONE!" Seamus is now panting and shouting. Dean jumps up, shocked at the turn the conversation takes. "HE WATCHED HIS MATES DIE! D'YA UNDERSTAND? D'YA KNOW WHAT HE CARRIES WI' HIM EVERY DAY?"

Everyone in the pub is frozen, unable to turn away.

"It tears 'im up, because Ted Tonks and Dirk Cresswell told 'im to run, to hide. He watched them get killed! And I—" Seamus fell on a barstool and let his head fall into his hands. "I left ya. I let Greyback attack yeh . . ." he looks up at her and Anthony sees that Seamus' eyes are getting more wet. "An' I hate myself for wha' he did. Every time I look a' yer face, I f-feel it all changed. It changed and . . . why can't it go back? Why can't it go back--"

Seamus puts his hand over his mouth and moves fast. He's out the door and they can hear him swearing and cursing into the air around him. Dean tosses a few Galleons, and tells old Tom to put it on his tab. And without any words or smiles, Dean exits the Cauldron.

Anthony thinks it is not meant to disrespect anyone. He thinks Dean is ashamed.

"I'm s- . . . sorry about that, everyone." Lavender's voice sounds muffled and far away. She turns to Anthony. "I didn't know how bad it was. I-I handled that wrong, all wrong--"

He finds her hand and he slides his own inside hers. He gives her a gentle squeeze of reassurance. She looks up at him and she is crying again, but quietly. She manages to look at him with a small, sad smile.

A few of them manage to settle down and eat and drink a little and talk, even after all that just happened. Ginny and Luna are both clearly shaken and the girls have to excuse themselves a couple of times and Hermione joins them.

Neville, Harry and Ron, however, excuse themselves almost as soon as Seamus and Dean exit. They go to try to help them, to brave the insanity as only Gryffindor boys — no, men — can do.

Lavender clings to no one tonight, not to Parvati nor to Anthony. Instead she joins in everyone's conversation, nodding when appropriate and giving Anthony's hand a gentle squeeze every time he looks at her.

From that night forward, each person vows, both silently and out loud that neither Seamus nor Dean, nor any other brother or sister, will suffer quietly or alone anymore.

X.

Four days after the Leaky Cauldron, Anthony and Lavender's relationship changes.

He is sitting on her bed at St. Mungo's reading and studying for his N.E.W.T.S., which, this year, will take place in July in the Department of Education. She is reading too.

Which surprises him.

"You're not planning on taking your N.E.W.T.s too, are you?"

Lavender's gives him a very put out look. "And why not?"

Anthony realizes the current line of questioning can turn out badly for him if he's not careful. So, he tries to take it back without it being obvious that he's taking it back. "Well, I certainly think that you are, er- . . . a very capable, uh, witch. I just thought that, you know, you might want to, well—"

Lavender shuts her book and looks at Anthony, her eyes firing dangerously at him. "I might want to what?"

"Take things slow?"

Anthony hates it when his voice both squeaks and breaks, but it does so as he talks and Lavender's looking at him in a way that makes him very nervous.

She pushes her face closer to him and she lowers her voice. "Take what slow?"

Anthony feels his heart race.

Lavender looks like — a lion!

Does that mean I'm her prey?

"Don't want to, y'kn-know . . ." Anthony stammers, "over-exert, uh, yourself."

Did somebody turn up the heat in here?

"Tony," she says, very softly, "I need to show myself I can," she grins and there's a definite provocative quality to it, "that I'm capable of doing it. The question is, with everything going on around you and with everything you have to do . . . can you handle it?"

Anthony's eyes widen.

I don't think she's talking about N.E.W.T.s

"You know I'm not talking about N.E.W.T.s, right?"

Lavender smirks at him and Anthony realizes that it's a moment.

The moment.

And he has to take it — now!

He cups her left cheek with his hand, and he feels her skin that's still rough and scarred but he doesn't care because it is beautiful because it's on her face and — dammit! He loves it. He traces the left side of her mouth and touches the lip-less skin growing there and it's beautiful because it's a part of Lavender and he has watched her as she giggles and laughs at whatever life throws at her, regardless if her lips are there or not. And regardless if her lips are there or not, Lavender can still kiss him.

Anthony leans forward. Lavender does the same.

Their lips meet.

It is, quite simply, fantastic.

XI.

Lavender and Anthony are completely out of breath, but in total bliss.

They are also sweating like a couple of sows.

He turns to look at her. "Good for you?"

She turns to look at him. "Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!" She kisses him twice on his lips. "You've got some moves there, Goldstein," she whispers against his mouth. "I've got no idea where those came from—"

I shall thank Terry for his advice later!

Anthony laughs and he has no idea what's going through his brain. It's empty, but it's full and he's got a million thoughts running at a million times each second. They all seem to be coming at him in little explosions. And for some unknown, inexplicable reason, the one thought that manages to escape the pleasure-induced chaos is the last thing he should bring up, despite how long they've officially been together—

"We should get married . . ."

Lavender gives him the oddest look. "Huh?"

Anthony looks at her. He smiles at first . . . but then he realizes what he just said.

His face falls. He is horrified.

"U-uh- . . . um . . ."

"Anthony Goldstein. Did you just say we should get married?" She's peering at him in that striking, piercing way she has about her now. It's primal and it unnerves him — but only because he cannot hide from her when she looks at him with those eyes. That gaze compels him to be totally, completely honest with her.

And himself.

"Yeah. I- . . . I did." Anthony girds himself. "I mean, we've been together now for almost a year. I've fast-tracked my training program at St. Mungo's and you're starting your internship at the New Witch Weekly tomorrow." He shrugged. "Maybe it's time. Maybe it's right."

Lavender falls back into the bed. "Wow!" She stares at the ceiling. "I didn't think . . . wow!"

He looks at her curiously. "What."

She meets his eyes. "I was not expecting you to blurt out that you want to make me an honest woman." She giggles. "It's just . . . I got all these flashes about me, my history . . . me and you. And how we got together."

"And it made you giggle?" He cocks an eyebrow at her.

"Yes, it made me giggle." And, of course, she laughs — Sweet Merlin's Y-fronts, he loves her laugh! "Because I never thought we would be here!"

"What? Making love in the afternoon? Me proposing we should get married after I'm thoroughly 'shagged out'?"

Lavender grins and she swats him — rather hard. "I'm serious. And I'm feeling meditative, okay?"

Anthony simply puts his arm around her and pulls her close to him. "So tell me what's on your mind, my 'Witchy Woman'?"

Lavender glares at him, but it's full of teasing and love. "I was thinking about Ron and Seamus, okay?"

Anthony shuts his eyes and groans. His nose touches her cheek. "I just proposed marriage and you think about your exes?"

"I thought about my exes because you proposed marriage and I wanted to pinpoint just what went right with you and me."

Anthony blushes and Lavender smirks. "Okay . . . lay it out for me." He wraps a piece of her hair around his fingers, reveling in her silk.

"Well, Ron was my first—"

"Are you serious?"

"—kiss, and I'll give you details if you keep interrupting." She swats him again. "Clearly, it was just physical, you know. Snogging . . . a little petting—"

Anthony groans again. "I did not need to know that."

She snickers. "I thought Ron was my first love, but whoa . . . was I off on that one!" Lavender snorts. "Then Seamus was . . . well, my first."

He nods.

"He was my first everything. My real first." Lavender counts them out on her hand. "First love. First time." She looks at him and cups his cheek. "First marriage proposal."

"What?"

Lavender smiles but it is full of something lost. "He and I talked about it during our seventh year . . . it was going to be after the war, after Dean came back so he could be his best man."

Anthony ignores the monster growing in his chest asking for Seamus' head on a platter. He does so because Dean and Seamus were so broken before and they've only just started healing now—

"But some things aren't meant to be, y'know?" She kisses him and the monster subsides.

"I knew it when Seamus couldn't look at me after I had been attacked. It hurt him. It hurt him so much that he couldn't look at me and he couldn't talk to me. But you did. You were always there for me last year and while I was in St. Mungo's. I needed to help myself, but I wanted people around me. I wanted you there."

She takes his face with her left hand. "I wanted you to always be there."

Anthony doesn't know what to say. He keeps brushing her cheeks with his fingers.

"And that fourth week at St. Mungo's, it just hit me . . . like a Ten-Ton Troll. Before even seeing Seamus and Dean at the Cauldron—"

Lavender leans forward, nuzzling into Anthony's face and she speaks softly and slowly against his lips.

"I let go of those childish notions." She kisses him on his lips. "Love doesn't necessarily happen," she kisses his nose, "at first," she kisses his chin, "sight." She looks at him. "And more often than not," she kisses him again, "people don't—"

"Marry their first love?" Anthony finishes. Lavender looks at him for a very long time and smiles.

"But, Tony, they do marry their last."