Author's Notes: Written for the rarepair_shorts Winter 2008 fic exchange on LiveJournal. There were originally four photographs and some pretty formatting to go with this, but obviously, this site doesn't allow that.
Wednesday morning, Lavender finds a ship at the bottom of her teacup.
It's a good sign, she thinks, even before she plucks a book from a nearby shelf and carelessly thumbs through the pages. Ships mean movement, and movement means change, and change is always helpful when you're stuck somewhere and can't get out.
After a few more page-turns, a chart tells her she'll be setting off on a worthwhile journey, and soon.
It almost makes her smile.
Everyone went back, in the end. They said they wouldn't, that they didn't need to, now that the fight was won. But Hogwarts has a way of calling people home to it, and they all went, anyway, leaving dust and excuses in their wake.
Lavender stayed. There are some days—the bad days—when she wishes she'd gone, too; she wishes she could see her friends face-to-face, and not through a screen of ink and parchment; she misses the safety, the certainty, that the castle had always provided until her seventh year, when everything went wrong. She misses spending her time somewhere else—anywhere but here. Here is wedged between Ollivander's and the secondhand robe shop. Here is Madame Cassandra's Divination Parlour: All-Seeing Eye, All the Time. Here is lost amidst old, rank books, candle stubs, crystal balls, and sour perfume.
It's the necessity of it that she hates. She's always wanted to feel useful—mostly because she never was. But now that she finally is, the feeling of accompanying satisfaction is lessened—she's on her own, after all, and must be useful to survive.
Every day, it's always the same. People want their fortunes read; they want to know the truth, the future. They want to confirm suspicions and fears, to justify their predictions. They want to say hello to the pretty girl with the scars on her face who's too young to be so starving for a little conversation.
Come Wednesday morning, though, there's a hole in the apron of her lacy, molding uniform, and an unfurled sail in her tea, and Lavender knows she's going places.
At the front of the store, a tinny bell chimes.
Christmas is coming, unmelted snow settling between the cobblestones of Diagon Alley. Seamus stamps his boots upon the ground as he ducks out of Gambol & Japes, and the cold air strikes his face.
"We'll letcha know," the manager calls from behind him. "An' if it don't work out, you can always try Weasleys', eh?"
Seamus frowns. "Already did," he mutters. "They're full up."
"Full up already, you say?"
"Blimey. Well, Happy Christmas to you."
Seamus closes the door. It isn't that he's bitter—though in truth he is, for different things. He's grown used to the process of being turned down; he knows why it happens, when it's his fault and when it's not. Being little more than a kid, he thinks, usually has a lot to do with it—but who's at fault, then?
He doesn't bother to look up as he crosses the street; everyone's shut up inside, so there's no one to run into. It's a lonely feeling.
Everyone went back, in the end, just like he expected them to. He'd talked about it with Dean, and they'd made plans, rationalized. Another year of midnight essays and backfiring spells was nothing when they could help rebuild the school. They'd ease into the real world, get an extra year to fall back into the habit of normal life. Then they'd go places.
Seamus is going places, but nowhere fast or far. He's always moving, never even physically standing still when he has the chance.
Dean went back. Seamus didn't.
It's not that he's waiting for something better to come along. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn't know what to wait for—and he's not patient enough to find out.
His mother told him that sometimes things happen for a reason, but that nothing's left up to fate alone. Seamus has always insisted that fate is rubbish, and he stopped believing everything his mother said a few years ago; yet somehow, for now, wandering aimlessly feels right, like he's meant to do it. He can't explain it, but sometimes it's almost like he's supposed to be here.
Wherever here is.
And whatever that means.
"Do you know anything about owls?"
Seamus starts, then backtracks. There's a dark woman peering at him from the doorway of the Magical Menagerie, a mildly frantic expression upon her face.
"Yes, owls, that's what I said."
"Me mam had a few nasty—"
"We're a bit short of staff at the present," the woman interrupts, "and there's been—that is, we have a bit of a problem, and we're recruiting."
Seamus hears feathers, rustling and frenzied and pulsing like an uneven heartbeat.
"What'll you pay?" he asks. He's not supposed to be picky, but it's always the first question out of his mouth.
The woman is exhausted. "Whatever you want."
Well, Seamus thinks wryly, you can never go wrong with owls.
Maybe his luck has changed. Maybe it's a sign, or something. Maybe it'll be worth it after all, staying behind.
Then he hears the scream.
"A bit of a problem?" he echoes, staring at the woman with a half-grin.
She doesn't return it.
"That didn't come from inside."
This shouldn't make him feel cold, but it does.
The woman looks uneasy. "I think someone's been hurt," she says needlessly.
He leaves her without a thought, without a care for her stupid owl crisis or the fact that he's walking away from easy money. He doesn't know why, but the cold feeling isn't leaving, even now that the initial surprise from the scream has dissipated.
"Anyone in here been hurt?"
Seamus demands it breathlessly at the front of each surrounding shop, spilling through the doorway only long enough to receive the same answer: "Everyone's fine."
It could be nothing—it's probably nothing. In the wizarding world, books scream without the slightest provocation, and if a situation becomes a crisis, there's always magic to save the day from disaster. It's nothing to worry about, surely, and he doesn't understand why a wave of panic rises with each affirmation of safety, why he's rushing about like a madman when he has no ties here. He's acting the part of the brazen Gryffindor, trying to play the hero, when he isn't fit to be called a member of his former house; true Gryffindors don't make noble plans and then go back on them.
Except the scream, when he replays it in his head, unconsciously allowing it to grow louder each time, is familiar. He's heard it before—twice. Maybe more; but twice can he dredge it up in his memory, twice can he remember the sound, though out of its original context. It's just there—here—belonging to someone he can't recall.
Seamus is almost at the end of Diagon Alley when he notices a shop he's never noticed before. He doesn't bother to read the name.
The door is open, and inside, it's dark.
This is an oddity in winter.
Inside lies chaos. Pieces of broken china crunch beneath his feet, a crystal ball teeters on the edge of a shelf. A table has been overturned beside an open book, its corresponding chair still standing, and a deck of Tarot cards is scattered across the floor, faces peering up at him—Justice, the Devil, the King of Pentacles upside down…. Seamus steps over them and deeper into the shop.
He weaves through bookshelves quietly, as through the Forbidden Forest, pages turning to leaves and stained wood to trees. Seamus has never much believed in Divination—Trelawney successfully destroyed all respect he might've had for the subject—but the environment, now transformed in his mind's eye, is known, drawing forth instinct and habit.
A display of tea leaves is at his left, a spare pamphlet on palmistry flutters down as his hand knocks it from its place, a twig cracks somewhere behind him, a spider drops from the branches above; there is movement as a hooded figure—
Seamus stops for a moment and shakes his head, the memory separating itself from reality. There isn't time for that, and it's not the same place. He draws in a breath, then glances around; the tea leaves are still there, and the pamphlet is by now at his feet, and a body—
He shakes his head once more, closes his eyes, but when he looks again, there's still a hand on the ground, fingers limp and nails red, attached to a body that's hidden behind the next shelf.
He swears a little too loudly. The fingers twitch.
As if on cue, Seamus starts toward them at a run, his form bent over to avoid being seen. More and more of the body comes into view as he approaches, first a wrist, then an arm, then a shoulder and the sleeve of a dress, a lock of dirty-blonde hair…
And then it's Lavender Brown who's lying unconscious before him.
Fourth year, he'd told Dean that he'd only asked Lavender to the Yule Ball because she was the only girl left. Or close to being the only one—and possibly the prettiest of those few. Dean hadn't especially believed him; he'd agreed that she was pretty, but said he'd seen Seamus eyeing her since they were twelve. Seamus called Dean a liar, and they didn't speak to each other for a week.
But Seamus was the liar, of course, and Dean had got it right. Lavender could be girly and stupid and too stuck up for her own good, but she was kind when she wanted to be, and brave, and she always knew what she believed in. And she was pretty. And Seamus fancied her for it, being stupid and girly himself because he thought about her every day and couldn't get over it.
By seventh year, he'd thought about her entirely too much, yet now he hasn't thought of her in months. It seemed pointless, when there were things of more importance to worry about.
"Lavender." Seamus touches her shoulder. There are scars on her face, slightly raised and just barely visible beneath makeup and Glamour Charms. She isn't as pretty as he remembers, but the realization hardly lingers.
Lavender's eyelashes flutter.
He reaches out again, this time to her face, but he's stopped midway when a wand presses sharply into back.
Seamus ignores the command, mostly, though he keeps his eyes fixed upon Lavender, his heart beating a little faster. "Or what?"
The intruder doesn't miss a beat. "Or I will kill you both, is what."
Everyone talks about THE WAR all the time, this strange and cruel entity that made tatters of their lives. I lost all my family in THE WAR; my best mate died in THE WAR; so-and-so hasn't been the same since THE WAR; THE WAR THE WAR THE WAR.
THE WAR is over, but no one allows it to rest. It is the accepted justification for all abnormalities and wrongs, a two-word explanation to stopper all questioning and conversation. Just blame THE WAR, Seamus thinks, and you may get away with murder.
He's tired of it, the inexcusable excuse that's fallen into fashion. THE WAR is at fault for many things—for bringing him to this point in his existence, for breaking him down into something unrecognizable—but he wishes everyone would stop talking about it, and using it. It's a safety net now, there to catch those who cannot—will not—try and change.
Seamus has tried and failed, tried and failed; he's still lost, still in ruin and confusion. But he hasn't stopped being alive deep down beneath the somnific layers of winter. There's no excuse for not clambering, fighting and bleeding, to reach the edges of sunlight.
"Put your hands above your head and stand," the intruder instructs softly. "Do not reach for your wand. Do not speak unless I ask it of you."
Seamus lifts his arms and rises to his feet, Lavender still filling his gaze. Her eyes are half open, fixed upon him weakly.
THE WAR is no excuse for this.
"Good. Now turn around slowly."
He rotates until the intruder comes into view: a man with no face, draped in black robes and wand held aloft. Seamus feels his anger sizzle and rise.
The intruder nods, pleased. "Very well. Now, on the count of three, I am going to take my wand, and—"
"And shove it up your arse," Seamus mutters, mutinous.
"This will not hurt," the intruder continues, ignoring him. "One…"
But everything hurts, a constant burn, and any solemn promise otherwise is intolerable.
Seamus's hands curl into fists.
In hindsight, it's too easy, almost funny. Seamus gives an infuriated roar and flies at the intruder, his knuckles smashing cartilage and bone and startled screams into the wall. He is primitive, and he is rash, impulsive.
Yet almost always do Gryffindors act before they think.
Wednesday afternoon, Lavender finds a sandy-haired boy sitting beside her.
It's a good sign, she thinks, even though she's on the floor and her head throbs each time she draws in air.
For a moment, she holds her breath, focusing.
His eyes snap to her face, his hands hovering about her, uncertain. Lavender reaches for him without a thought and lightly traces the faint line down the center of his palm.
Then she realizes.
"It wasn't a ship," she gasps.
Seamus stares at her quizzically. "You hit your head," he says. "Healing spells aren't me best, so—"
"It was a boat," she interrupts.
He laughs. "Aren't they the same thing?"
Lavender tries to shake her head, then winces. "Not really. I mean—"
"You probably shouldn't talk, if it hurts—"
"I mean, um…"
Seamus shifts closer to her, and she closes her eyes. Her mind is foggy, not allowing her to say the proper words she needs to express the difference between a ship with a sail and a boat with a triangle settled overhead.
There are some symbols Lavender knows, and some she doesn't. But boats, she remembers, are smaller, and they are safe, carrying friends and protection to those who need them.
Triangles are unexpected.
Maybe she's not setting off on some grand journey to discover herself and the meaning of life, to seek her fortune and succeed. Maybe she's not traveling anywhere at all—maybe she's staying right here, where she's come to be held motionless.
But maybe, just maybe, there's still a chance that she's going places.
Seamus stares at her again, and Lavender fights the compulsion to giggle.
More or less in order of appearance…
TASSEOGRAPHY: ship (a worthwhile journey); boat (a visit from a friend, protection); triangle (something unexpected)
TAROT: XVII The Star (as shown in the first picture with the teacup: hope and inspiration, possibly from an unexpected source); Ace of Pentacles reversed (as shown in the second picture with the scattered cards: wealth does not always mean happiness); King of Pentacles reversed (a ruthless, immoral person); XV The Devil (emotional, spiritual, or physical bondage); II High Priestess reversed (as shown in the second picture with the scattered cards: vanity, instability, selfishness, and deception); XI Justice (decisions will be fairly made)
PALMISTRY: Lavender reaches for him without a thought and lightly traces the faint line down the center of his palm. Lavender traces Seamus's Fate Line. Your Fate Line is supposed to describe how outside things like society and the world will affect you, as well as your purpose or direction in life. A weak Fate Line like Seamus's supposedly denotes an unsettled person who often changes jobs.
OTHER SYMBOLISM: Owls—apart from their usual representation of wisdom and intelligence, they are also known to symbolize protection, mystery, power, intuition, and perspective.
*Please note that different sources may give slightly different information from what has been presented, so I apologize for any errors that I may have inadvertently made.