Meh. Don't know if I like this much. I really like the last line, though.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Harry Potter Franchise. That honor belongs to J.K.R. I hope I am true to her characters in this one shot.

Rating: PG. Bit of swearing, nothing bad.

Broken Bottles is another bit of the Antipathy universe. Hope you enjoy! I don't know, Lavender always kind of bugged me, personally, but...it is St. Patrick's Day, after all. Happy St. Patty's!


Broken Bottles
by Shu of the Wind

***

The first Saint Patrick's Day after the battle, Lavender Brown wore makeup over the scars on her face, just as she always did, and hid the rest under a light green scarf.

She knew it was ridiculous to try and hide the scars, but she tried anyway. She graduated from shoulder-baring T-shirts to short-sleeved turtlenecks. She wore scarves when it was cold and tied little bands of flashy cloth around her neck when it was hot, and used far too much cover-up on her cheek every morning to make sure no trace of Fenrir Greyback could be seen in her skin. And since no one knew her there in Salem, no one knew her well enough to ask about it.

Even now, she can still feel the pain of the claws and teeth ripping into her cheek, neck, shoulder, and she cries from the pain of it, and Seamus puts his hands right on the scars and strokes her hair and slowly she can calm down again and fall back to sleep.

But that is now. Then, she had no one to calm her, and Lavender rarely if ever slept through a full night given to her, cursed by her dreams.

When she finally succumbed to her parents' requesting a visit, and Lavender decided to return to England for a few days, she organized it without remembering that it would go right over Saint Patrick's Day. She had always picked Saint Patrick's Day as one of her favorite holidays, though she couldn't exactly explain it. Maybe it was the grace of a holiday where she didn't have to go to any important dinners, or have to give or receive chocolate; she could just wear green, which was always guaranteed to cheer her up, and continue on throughout her day with absolutely no effort.

Last year, she had scooped all the hair off of the back of her neck, but this year, she left it down, and stuck a green headband into her hair for good measure. There were scars there, too, against the top of her spine, and she didn't need the reminder, on today of all days.

The Leaky Cauldron wasn't quite the way she remembered. First of all, it wasn't wrinkly walnut Tom behind the counter. Hannah Abbott's sunbeam smile pierced her the instant she stepped over the threshold, and before Lavender could escape, she had been enveloped in a warm, sweet-smelling hug.

"Lavender, I can't believe you're back!" Hannah squeezed her hard before stepping back, glancing over her shoulder than at her face, and Lavender was forcefully reminded how little personal space she'd been left with. "You look so tired, though, where have you been?"

"Salem." Lavender couldn't help cracking a smile at Hannah's enthusiasm. No wonder Neville had been so drawn to her. "With the Salem Witches Institute." At Hannah's quizzical look, Lavender sighed. "Internship."

"Oh, of course!" Hannah beamed and hugged her again before leading her back to an empty barstool, forcing her down on it. "So this will just be a break, then? The others will be disappointed they missed you, we're having a little get-together tonight to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day."

Lavender said nothing, letting this disturbing subject slide. "Why are you working here, Hannah? I thought Tom was the barman?"

Pain flashed across Hannah's face. "This was Uncle Tom's job, yes. He was k-killed," the word stuck in her throat, "by Death Eaters a week before the battle. Dad couldn't tell me until afterwards."

"Oh." Lavender felt abruptly, piercingly, guilty. "Hannah, I'm so sorry."

"Don't be. We all lost something in the war, didn't we?" Hannah mustered up another smile with difficulty and put down the glass she was cleaning. "So, other than the fact you're on break, what are you doing here again? Any special occasions? Did anything exciting happen in Salem?"

"Not particularly." Lavender said unhelpfully, and sipped at the butterbeer that had somehow appeared in front of her, courtesy of a chatty Hannah. "Mum's birthday is tomorrow, I said I'd celebrate it with her. I'm here until Saturday."

"So you can come to the party?" asked Hannah, who looked delighted at the thought. "We're having a party tomorrow, all of us old D.A. lags. Will you come? Everyone will be happy to hear you're in town again; Parvati and Seamus were both trying to figure out where you'd disappeared to. I think Seamus missed you," Hannah added, cocking an eyebrow playfully. She still hadn't looked Lavender in the face.

Lavender ignored this too. "What about the others, Harry, Ron, Hermione? How are they?"

"All of them fabulous." Hannah picked up another dirty glass. "Harry and Ginny have been going out again for over a year now, and they're both ridiculously happy. And Ron and Hermione –"

She stopped abruptly, looking worriedly at Lavender, and Lavender shrugged. She felt the sting of pain as Hannah's eyes slid away, unable to remain on her face for long, even with the cover-up. She remembered the way the scars had looked, those first few months, raw and red and angry, and too sensitive for her to use make-up on; was that what Hannah was seeing, even now?

"If you're going to tell me about Ron and Hermione, I knew it was only a matter of time. I've let it go."

And to her surprise, the words felt true in her mouth. It hurt, and she knew it was going to hurt to see Ron with Hermione, but yes – she had let it go.

"Well, they're all coming to the party this evening." Hannah sighed. "I really think you should come, Lavender. We really have all missed you. You'd meet up with the rest of the D.A. again, and I know Parvati has been talking about going to find you in America – maybe you could save her an expensive trip?"

She just wasn't going to let the subject drop until she had a yes, was she? Lavender repressed a groan with difficulty, and closed her eyes. "Fine. Yes. Okay. One night."

"I knew you'd come 'round!" Hannah crowed. "You'll want to be back here by seven sharp, all right? We're closing this part of the pub for the private party. Oh, they'll all be so happy to see you!"

Someone at the other end of the bar called for another drink, and Hannah pressed Lavender's hand once before excusing herself and swishing away. Lavender nearly dropped her head onto the bar, disgusted with herself.

A party. With the other members of the D.A. With Harry, Ron, Hermione; Ginny, Neville, Luna; with Parvati and Seamus and all the other people she hadn't seen in over a year. She'd have to answer questions and hear stories that she wasn't any part of and try not to scream at the sight of her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, and a dozen other horrible things. And oh, God, did she wish she'd stayed strong and said, "No, Hannah, I can't. Sorry. Send them my apologies."

But she just hadn't been able to damn well do that, had she?

Am I that horrible that no one can look me in the eye?

Lavender finished her butterbeer, smacked a few Knuts down on the counter, and left the Leaky Cauldron, wondering how long it had taken the rest of the D.A. to move on from what had happened during that final year she'd spent at Hogwarts, and wondering if somehow, yet again, she'd been left behind.

The Leaky Cauldron was packed full that evening with light and laughter. Lavender stopped at the doorway, fiddling with her light green scarf under her hooded cloak and wondering whether or not she could just make her excuses to Hannah and not venture inside at all. It was too soon for her to deal with them.

Through the open doorway, she could see them all, almost just as she remembered: Parvati and Padma, smiling and talking; Anthony Goldstein sat on Padma's other side, involved in a conversation with his two friends, Michael Corner and Terry Boot. At the bar, Angelina and George sat whispering, and the atmosphere around them was so powerful that everyone else seemed to be veering around it as best they could. Susan Bones and Justin Finch-Fletchley had their arms around the other's waist, and Susan was chatting happily to Hannah as Hannah darted around the room, playing hostess. From this vantage point, Lavender couldn't see anyone else, but it was clearly a room where she no longer had a place. They would all laugh and cheer and say they were glad to see her, but none of them actually would be. None of them would look her in the face, just like no one in America had after they had learned of her scars. Not a single one.

"If that's who I think it is, why're you waitin' in front of the door? Parvati will be glad to see you."

The voice was familiar, an echo from another time. Lavender turned and blinked at Seamus, who grinned at her happily.

"You're back, Lavender. Didn't think you would be until next year, at least."

Lavender made an ambiguous noise and turned to stare inside again, the scars on her face and neck and shoulder throbbing angrily underneath her scarf and make-up. Her eyes flickered to the missing fingers on Seamus's right hand and then away, wondering if he would mind if she mentioned them. "Who else is in there?"

"They all are. You just can't see them." Seamus stepped up to stand next to her, and Lavender shifted a bit, putting some space between them. "Dean, Macmillan, Dennis Creevey, Alicia and Katie and Oliver Wood – Katie invited him – and everyone else you can think of. Why are you just standing out here? Thought you would have been one of the first inside."

She didn't have an answer to this. Lavender lifted her unscarred shoulder in a lopsided shrug.

"Lav, where've you been? Parvati's been worried sick about you, no letters, nothing." He sounded uncharacteristically stern. "Not to any of us."

"I didn't know what to write." It was true; she really had no idea what to say in a letter. What could she say, after all? I'm sorry I ran away to America without telling anyone, but I didn't want to stay here where every time someone looked at me I saw the pity as they saw my scars. Or maybe, What did you think I would write, that I was having a grand old time? I hated it, I hated it, I hated it, and if you'd gone and seen what it was like you would have hated it too.

But no. She couldn't say that.

"You're acting a bit strange, Lav." Seamus continued, turning away from her. Lavender still hadn't quite looked him in the face, hadn't seen him look at hers. She wasn't sure she wanted to. "Did something happen in America?"

Nothing. Everything. Look at me!

"No." Lavender pulled her cloak tighter around herself, shrugging again. "I'm going home. I can't…I can't go in."

"Why not?" Damn him for sounding so much like he always had when she was upset, a mixture of patronizing condescension and real concern. Lavender looked away, fiddling with the end of her scarf. "It's not like you don't know anybody, and you're not shy."

Look at me! "Seamus, can you see the scars?"

He blinked a few times as she pulled her hood back from her face, staring at him, right into his eyes. He kept the gaze, though he looked startled, and his eyes roamed over her face, and narrowed.

Look at me.

"Lavender, what's wrong with you?"

Please look at me.

"Can you?" She demanded angrily, tearing her scarf off her neck and throwing it to the ground. "Can you see them? I thought I covered them up this morning, but maybe I didn't. Is that why no one will look at me? No one – ever –" Her voice shook, and she swore angrily at her self. "No one ever looks me in the eye anymore! Why? Why is it that no one ever –"

"Lavender." Not only did he look startled, he looked a bit irritated. "Don't be daft, of course we can't see them, you've slathered that stuff all over them –"

"Then why won't anybody look at me?"

Inside, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a few members of the D.A. turn to stare at her. Parvati shot up out of her chair, running to the door, but said nothing; her eyes had filled with tears.

"Lavender, calm down, no one's accusing you –"

"Why can't you look at me anymore?" Her voice was high and loud and angry. "Why can you act like nothing's wrong, like nothing's changed? Everything has changed, we made it change, and still people act like Voldemort never happened and because they're such absolute hypocrites not one of them looks me in the eye anymore!"

No one spoke. Lavender stood there, her chest heaving with both anger and tears, glaring at the D.A., waiting for someone to say something so she could bite their heads off. Finally, with a shout of frustration, she snatched up her scarf and bolted, intent on heading home, crawling under her bed, and never ever looking back.

She ran, and ran, and ran. The gleaming windows of Diagon Alley shops blazed past her in a rush of color and sound, and when she finally crashed into the loo at Madame Malkin's, tears were pouring down her face, and she scrubbed off the makeup with a hand towel. Slowly, the puckered, angry scars came back into view – long claw marks down her face and neck, gleaming like red lightning bolts across her skin. There were more on her shoulder, but it was her cheek and neck which had received the worse damage.

It wasn't just the scars that were making her look awful, though. There were plum colored bruises under her red-rimmed eyes; her face was white with frustration, and the little freckles she'd always cared about before last year were standing out like golden spots of ink in her skin. Lavender put her hand flat against the cool glass of the mirror, closing her eyes so she could take deep, shuddering breaths. Nobody really understood. None of them had been attacked by Greyback. None but Bill Weasley, and she hadn't spoken to him since the Battle.

"You're such a bloody drama queen, d'you know that?"

The voice echoed through the door, making her jump, and Lavender threw the hand towel onto the sink, pointing her wand at the doorknob. It was Seamus.

"Go away, Seamus!" She called, horrified to find that her voice was croaky and rasping from tears. She shook her head slightly. "I don't want to talk to you right now!"

"You're acting like an eejit." She heard him let out a long breath. "Why are you so frustrated?"

Look at me. The words wouldn't come. Lavender worked her throat for a moment, wondering what on earth she could possibly say which would get the message through his thick head.

"We do look at you, Lav." Seamus said, as though he'd read her mind, and she nearly flung the door open right then and there so she could strangle him for the lie. But she kept her hand tight around her wand, ready to curse anyone who tried to break in. "Or we used to. As I remember, you told us to stop it."

The words hit her like a punch. Lavender mouthed silently at the door, struck literally dumb; her tongue stumbled. "I-I don't remember doing that!"

"Not a surprise, you were pretty whacked on something Pomfrey had given you at the time." Was that – was he laughing? She was going to damn well kill him for this. "It's not the scars, Lav. It's never been the scars. We're not looking because you asked us not to."

"I – that's – you're lying –" Lavender struggled to remember, knowing that whatever Seamus did to take the mickey out of people, he wasn't a liar. "You're – you're not serious?"

"Serious as those scars, love." Now he wasn't laughing; now he sounded as serious as he'd been in the Room of Requirement, when they'd all been hiding from the Carrows. "Come out. Parvati wants to talk to you."

Lavender lowered her wand, sliding it back into the pocket of her cloak, and fixed her light green scarf back around her neck. But she didn't open the door. Instead, she took a second look at herself in the mirror, processing slowly.

My fault. All of this time, she could have had people look her in the face, could have had her friends meet her eyes when she talked, but she hadn't. When she'd been in Salem, no one had looked her in the eye, but that had been their problem.

Here she was. She stared at the scars, studying them honestly for the first time since she'd been given them. She remembered Bill Weasley's face, far worse than her own; remembered Professor Lupin's, with the hair-thin scars and the premature lines from his own strain of being a werewolf. She wasn't one; sure, she had a bit more of a taste for meat now, but that was very little affect, considering. She wasn't a werewolf and the scars weren't as bad as Bill's.

She touched the mirror again, slowly, tracing the reflection.

"Seamus," she said, her voice trembling through the door. "I have scars."

"So?" He sounded frustrated now. "They're not shameful things, Lav. They're badges. They show that you fought. Don't be ashamed of something that shows you're a fighter."

She was still tracing the reflection of the scars, the rabid wound from her temple almost to the point of her mouth, the long scar which traced from the tip of her jaw down under her chin, parallel to the first. They were there. They existed. They were her, much as she hated them.

Did she hate them? Lavender looked at them for a moment longer, wondering. She hated how people reacted to them, but maybe she should be proud of the scars. Like Seamus had said. Seamus, who had never cared that people gave his hand strange glances, who had probably told the story of losing his fingers to anyone who would listen.

Finally, Lavender let her hand fall back to her side, the tears pouring down her face, and opened the door, smiling.

Seamus stared at her, blankly, with a question on his face, but Lavender shook her head.

"Seamus." Her voice was trembling with laughter. "Seamus, I have scars."

Seamus grinned a little, and slid an arm around her shoulders. "See? Told you."

And this year, she wears shoulder bearing bottle green robes for Saint Patrick's Day, displaying them to the air like she never did before. The scars are simply part of her now. And this Saint Patrick's day party, no one ever stops looking.