Author's Note: If you remember from chapter 1 of "The Mercury Chronicles: Transitions" (I'm getting to it - honest!), Lavender told Albus that she was quite nearly his "Auntie Lav". Here's more of that story.

Of course, you'll also remember that I borrowed Lavender and Charlie's marriage (and meet-cute) from Lady Altair's classic "Cauterize". If you haven't read that story, go do so, now. If you have, please enjoy...

Before there was Mercury: Almost Auntie Lav

Nine years since the end of the war, and Pavarti still hadn't gotten used to the new, introspective Lavender Brown. While her best friend may not have been killed during the Battle of Hogwarts, the part of her that enjoyed a couple of hours' girl-talk in the dormitory certainly was. This Lavender was serious to the point of severity; calculating as a Slytherin, with a snake-like sense of self-preservation. Lavender's marriage to Charlie was supposed to (at least in Pavarti's mind) cure her of some of that. He was bold, loud, risk-taking and fun-loving. He was a Gryffindor's Gryffindor, and a seeker to boot. Yet since their marriage, the (now) usually withdrawn Lavender had become nearly anti-social. Her accidental business was thriving, and Pavarti's accounts at Gringotts were thrilled to see that she'd brought Spelled By Patil along for the ride. But for all that success - married, businesswoman, war heroine - Lavender was miserable. At least she was that day, at Pavarti's flat, finishing up a look at Pavarti's new Autumn line over a third bottle of Elven Mead.

"I don't know what to do, Pavarti," Lavender said, after yet another prolonged silence. Pavarti had been doing her best to listen, rather than interject at every lull, but the silence in the room had been growing deafening. "I should never have married him in the first place."

"What do you mean? You were so perfect; 'two ships without a harbor, now setting sail together,'" Pavarti asked, quoting a line from her friend's wedding. "What in Godric's name happened?"

Lavender fairly slammed her goblet onto Pavarti's coffee table. "Molly Weasley. Molly fucking Weasley happened, 'varti, and there are just some forces in life that nothing can resist. She's been on 'im to 'Make a proper housewife' out of me since the moment we moved in together, and for fuck's sake, he's listening to her. I can't do it. I won't."

Pavarti sighed. She'd heard a bit of this from her own parents, who mostly passed down what they heard from her grandparents, who even now wondered how a lovely 27 year old woman could be still unmarried. "What did she say?" she asked.

"Not a damned thing. She doesn't have to. It's all about "Oh, doesn't Ginny look so happy with a baby on her tit?" and "Couldn't you let Fleur show you how to cook a bloody meal?" and "Have you noticed how George has come around since Angie's started taking care of the house?" and all this. Meanwhile, Harry's working 18 hour days since being promoted, Fleur's had the same split-ends since '02, and the only place George is coming is his stock-keeper Verity. "If only you'd spend a bit less time with that hobby of yours and - you know what, 'varti? She's bloody jealous. I pulled in damn near 30 thousand Galleons last year, and she's jealous 'cause that's more than Arthur's ever seen in one place in his life."

"So, she thinks that by having a baby, you'll -"

"She thinks that she's the bloody Matriarch, which I reckon she is, but that hardly gives her the right to tell me how to run my life. And Charlie's. Merlin, but Charlie probably gets it worse than I do. Sunday dinner. He's over there now, and I missed it, again. Fuck." A tear began to roll down Lavender's face, which Pavarti wiped away as she pulled her oldest friend to her breast.

"She knows, doesn't she?" Lavender asked.

"About the miscarriage? I know she's family-oriented and everything, but I doubt an six-week old embryo really rates a hand on her clock."

"It wasn't a miscarriage. That's just what I told Charlie, and then that's what got around - I was going to tell you, but there was never the right time, and - oh, Pavarti. Oh, I'm so, so sorry."

"Ssh, love. It's fine. Don't worry about me. You really didn't tell Charlie?"

"No! I mean, no, I didn't. Godric, but you should have seen his face light up when he figured out he got me up the duff. He cried when I told him about the miscarriage, then he ran out of the house and came home legless six hours later."

"How did you - I mean, the potion? That was never really your strong suit."

"Hermione found me an apothecary that stocked it. Real hush-hush like. Fuck. She had to have found out."

"And what if she did? You think she's going to tell Charlie?"

"She'd jump at the chance, Pavarti. She's been trying to break us up since the first time she met me. No 'career women' for her boys. Except for Hermione, of course."

Pavarti laughed. "Of course. But she's always been a bit of an exception, hasn't she?"

Lavender sat up and wiped her eyes. Pavarti poured them each another goblet full of the mead.

"So, what'll you do if she does know? Will you come clean about it to Charlie?"

"Of course I will; we're not teenagers. He'll either respect me for doing what I had to for the business - the business that's been paying for him 'find himself' for the last two years, mind - or he won't."

Pavarti didn't ask the question implied by this statement. She just waited, because she knew Lavender would.

"And if he doesn't, well then I suppose he can find another way to support himself. But I almost died, Pavarti. Almost died because a few close-minded idiots wanted to tell the rest of us how to run our lives. And I'll be damned if I'm going to throw away the life I've been given a second chance on because of Molly fucking Weasley."

Pavarti took the goblet out of her friend's hand and placed it on the table. "Just remember that I'm here for you, love," she told Lavender. "Either way. Now, about those Autumn hemlines."