They've taken a flat in the magical quarter of York; it is not the cheapest area, but for some reason Lavender was drawn to the little image in the catalogue – it seemed to possess that same magical quality that leaks from the walls in Hogwarts, and sold her a concept of an idyllic future. The tiny photograph has been flattering, just as Lavender expected (as silly as she can be, she is not so disillusioned from reality to expect such embellishments), but Parvati has described the feel of the place to her a multitude of times and it is exactly how she always wished it to be.
She walks around the fringes of the flat feeling oddly free and disconnected from reality: for several months she has been confined in St Mungo's. Although, in those final weeks, she was permitted to take walks around the hospital and explore – never had someone so often frequented that little tea shop – she was still trapped within the confines of the magical institution. And now, she has walked out of her medical prison and into a tiny flat pealed out of her own ideas of fairy tales.
There are four rooms, which is enough. The kitchen is never small nor generous and instead exists in a state of the in-between, but there are plenty of work surfaces, lots of storage and a large kitchen table that stands in the centre of the room; currently, the table is littered with boxes of her belongings. Parvati moved in three days ago, and now Lavender's parents are apparating in and out of the kitchen, depositing boxes of cutlery and clothes and makeup and memorabilia from a childhood that seems so long ago now that she might be squinting at it through the misty grey haze of a pensive. They'd toyed with the idea of moving Lavender's stuff into her flat before she had been discharged, but Lavender was reading a book about psychological progression and she had read that it is the transitory things which can help you to move on – attending the funerals, watching as your life is packed up and moved from one home to another. She had expected that watching the room fill up with the bits and pieces which cluttered up her life would make her feel more grounded, instead she still feels like this is some strange dream inspired by hallucinogenic potions for the pain.
She steps out of the kitchen and into her bedroom. The room is decorated in a way she typically associates with magic. Muggles, Lavender often thinks, are far more stylish and clean in decorating their buildings. Whilst Muggles favour crisp, clean colours in varying shades of neutral, magical dwellings are often lathered in rich, intense patterns: in Lavender's new bedroom, the wallpaper is a crimson so concentrated that it makes the room seem smaller (magic, however, makes the room much bigger so this roughly cancels out), the exposed wooden floor is covered by magnificently embroidered rug, the furniture is all crafted from mahogany and the candles burning in the brackets altogether give the impression that she has walked into a building from a different era. As is always the case, this archaic taste that magical folk seem to retain makes her smile slightly – it's comforting to know that, through all these wars and trials, they maintain their prerogative of not keeping up with the modern era.
Her room at home is a mark of her younger self. Her parents had always favoured lighter, airier decor, particularly when it came to their daughter's bedroom. It is painted in light purple colour that had been called lavender nights and had struck such a chord to her twelve year old mind that she had insisted upon it, it is girly and silly. A scattering of photographs in ornate silver frames, of Parvati and her and Hogwarts and her parents – these have been uprooted from their fluffy surroundings, seeming slightly too minimalistic and out of place as they now stand, propped up against the kettle and waiting from Lavender to rearrange them inside her new bedroom. She likes the contrast, though, between her old room and the new: this, more magical, less childish, a change of direction.
"Aren't you going to help?" Lavender's Dad asks, stepping into the bedroom and glancing around. His hand briefly rests on her shoulder, before the weight is gone and Lavender's whole arm feels too light and disconnected from him. "Should have known you wanted us here to get out of doing any of the work yourself."
Lavender smiles, following her Dad out of the room and making some light joke in response; Parvati chimes in, quipping about slave labour and House Elves, and they all skit round the edges of the kitchen table. Her parents have always liked Parvati.
"You should get yourself a Flat Elf, eh Lav?" Her Dad continues. "Saves you doing the washing up."
"It's just a simple little spell, Mr Brown."
"And yet Lavender's yet to manage it," He grins, "where does this box go, Lav? Another box of clothes?"
"Bedroom." Lavender says, frowning slightly as her mother pops back into the kitchen clutching her old trunk – she's caught between wanting to think about Hogwarts and not wanting to think about Hogwarts. The sudden reappearance of those seven years feels slightly jarring, as though she has missed the trick step and her foot falls straight through, and down, until she is caught and trapped and trying to heave herself out by will alone.
"I'll take that." Parvati said, glancing at Lavender and pulling the trunk into her arms. The door to her bedroom is still open, so she sees Parvati pushing the empty trunk under the bed and out of the way. Parvati has always been good to her – such a good friend, from the first day that they met.
"Nearly done." Lavender's Mum says, glancing round at the flat with a complicated expression. Her mother had wanted her to come home, had wept through a continual stream of tissues by Lavender's bedside until the third day after she'd regained consciousness, and now thought that the silly venture into adulthood was pointless and much too soon. They hadn't argued about it as much as disagreed: Lavender's Mum thought she was moving out simply to prove to herself that she was okay and that it would be much better just to move back home until she found her feet, whereas Lavender protested that she was fine and she wanted to do this. In the end, her mother had grudgingly accepted that Lavender remained headstrong and convinced of her opinion (just as she had when she'd joined that Dumbledore's Army) and that she had to let her daughter make her own mistakes.
"Cup of tea?" Parvati suggests, placing Lavender's photo frames face down on the countertop as she taps the kettle with her wand.
"Girl after my own heart," Lavender's Dad grins, "milk, two sugars for me."
He pops away again and for a second Lavender is struck by the lack of permanence – that one second someone can be there, and then they are not. It is the same with Voldemort: her whole life she's been told stories of you know who, her seven years of school clouded with rumours and suggestions of dark magic existing beyond her sphere of life, of deaths and curses and enchantments and wars. Lavender never saw his dead boy, but Parvati said that it was unremarkable and startling – she said that after years of his name sending a shiver of terror down her spine, seeing him crumpled and dead and so very human had been shocking and strange and mesmerising. Cathartic.
In ten minutes, he's back. He leans against the kitchen counter, sipping tea, and props up each of Lavender's photographs again, until the smiling faces in the silver frames peer out into this new room. They provoke a monologue of parental affection, too, and whilst they unfold clothes and hang them up with a flick of their wand Lavender is reacquainted with the story behind each and every moment frozen in their frames.
Parvati is helping, attaching the frames to the walls and nodding and laughing and smiling as her Dad continues to speak. Lavender, though, is quiet – ever since the first time she saw a muggle photograph, she finds them slightly disturbing: the thought of an image forever frozen at a particular moment, of stagnation and fixture. Of nothing able to change. Worse, though, the pictures remind her of the scars on her face and neck and side – never again will she look the way she does in those photos, because of the ugly cross stich that he bit into her neck. She doesn't want the photos on her walls but has no idea how to voice her concerns, so she simply doesn't. She stays silent.
"It's a nice place you've got here." Her Dad says when they've finished: her collection of books has been alphabetised in her bookshelf, her robes are colour coordinated, her make-up is shoved into one of the draws in the bathroom.
"Lavender picked it out," Parvati says, smiling over the third cup of tea of the day, "I love it."
Lavender loved it too when she peered over the tiny photograph in her hospital bed. Now she is full of the disconcerting feeling of having stepped into the photograph – she feels like she has shrunk into it, that if someone where to look through the brochure they might see a tiny version of herself leaning against the kitchen table and her photo frames attached to the walls.
Parvati and her parents start chatting about Parvati's new job (helping in her father's potion company) and Lavender can feel some strange emotion choking up the back of her throat. She puts it down to having just moved out of her parents' house, although she feels that, in a way, she moved out when she was eleven, and casts it aside as irrelevant. Then, when there is a lull in the talk, her Mother declares that they should probably get back home – both her parents hug her, then once again they disappear and, suddenly, Lavender's new life has officially started.