Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to the genius that is JK Rowling, I am merely playing in her toybox.
A/N: Written for WeasleySeeker's Goodbye Competition at HPFC – I was given Lavender/Seamus as a pairing and the prompt them saying goodbye to each other somehow and this is what I came up with. Also, whilst I am a hardcore!Romione shipper, I actually like Lavender (go figure) so this is not character bashing and if you came here looking for Lavender hate, I'd leave now :o) If you do stay to the end, I'd love a review!
They didn't let her go back to school until the third week of September. Partially because it was only at this point that her injuries healed enough for her to walk unaided, and partially (she was sure) because they just wanted to double-triple-quadruple check that she wouldn't transform at the full moon. She understood their prejudices about having werewolves (though, of course, she wasn't one) around young children, particularly after all the terrible things Fenrir Greyback had done during the war, but that didn't mean they were any easier to cope with.
Regardless, she was not the only student to return late. Anthony Goldstein didn't arrive until the end of that first month – his left leg had been cursed off during the final battle and it had been touch and go as to whether he'd survive. The healers had pulled him through, and he limped up the drive four weeks into term on a wooden leg and a lot of determination. Jimmy Peakes, who'd been hit with a multitude of nasty curses that left him in a coma for two months, didn't return until after Hallowe'en, and even Professor Sprout was absent for the first two weeks of term after taking a Dark curse to the chest in the final battle. (She had thrown herself in front of a student and received a standing ovation—led by the Hufflepuffs—on her first day back.) Several others didn't return as they had joined the workforce – the Auror Office had been especially keen to recruit all the young, able bodied persons it could find as it had been particularly badly hit during the war. And some, of course, did not return because they had been killed.
Still, when these others did return, they were treated as heroes, as were the family members of those who did not return having given the ultimate sacrifice during the final battle. She did not begrudge them their fame, such as it was, as she knew all too well the terrible events they had had to live through that defined them as heroes. But she wished that she counted as a hero, too. Everyone knew her as Lavender Brown, the idiotic little girl who had been attacked by a werewolf ten minutes into the battle and played no further part in it after that. The girl who had once been beautiful, but was now hideous. The girl who might – without meaning to – transform into a dangerous creature and hurt the young, innocent children. It was best to forget about the fighters who were no longer photogenic, or who didn't have a lovely happy ending, wasn't it? This was what everyone thought, and she knew it. She couldn't blame them. She remembered – shamefully – her fear and disgust when she'd learnt that Professor Lupin was a werewolf. She knew where they were coming from.
Everyone thought this. Everyone, that is, except Seamus Finnegan. And he was the one person she wanted to think it. But more on that later.
"Well, this is awkward!" Parvati said with a nervous giggle. Lavender shot her a glare. It hadn't been quite so awkward before she'd felt the need to point it out...
"Lavender?" She turned, and saw Ginny Weasley walk through the door of the dormitory, a friendly smile on her face. "It's so good to see you again. I'm glad you made it back. How was the journey?" The redhead's fieriness had faded somewhat over the summer – due, she knew, to the death of her brother – and she was quieter than she had been before. But she seemed older, more in control, and crucially, she was willing to look Lavender straight in the face. Pavarti – her best friend – couldn't yet do that, and neither could her other roommate (though she suspected that this was more to do with Hermione's current relationship situation than her own scars).
Thank Merlin for Ginny she found herself thinking, as the two of them made small talk about her journey and the repairs to Hogwarts. Pavarti joined in their conversation, but Hermione remained silent. "I'm going to head down to the Great Hall for dinner," Ginny said, after a while. "Is anyone else coming?" Pavarti nodded, but almost instantaneously, Lavender and Hermione refused.
"I've already eaten," Hermione said – the first thing Lavender had heard her say since she'd jumped in surprise and said a very hesitant 'hello' when she'd arrived in the dormitory.
"I want to unpack, and I had a big lunch. I'm not that hungry," Lavender said.
"Alright then. We'll see you later. Still on for the library in a bit, Hermione?" asked Ginny.
"Yes, definitely," Hermione replied, as the two of them disappeared down the steps.
"Good to see some things never change," Lavender joked hesitantly.
Hermione gave a polite chuckle. "No indeed," she said, turning to her bedside table, and making a big show of looking through the sheets of parchment stacked there.
Lavender took a deep breath. She could do this. She was a Gryffindor. She was brave. And she clearly had to get this out of the way. "Hermione," she said firmly. "I'm very happy for you and Ron. You make a lovely couple, and I'm not angry about it. You don't need to worry about upsetting me."
Hermione looked at her in shock for a moment before running over to her and hugging her. "Oh, thank you," she said. "I didn't want – I mean, I love Ron, but after everything you've been through – and I don't want to hurt you any more, but—"
"Hermione!" Lavender said, extracting herself from the other girl's hug. "It's okay, I promise. Ron and I...I don't have feelings for him any more. And besides, you saved me from the worst of Greyback from what I hear. I can't hold anything against you after that."
"Oh, you don't have to—"
"I do have to say thank you," Lavender insisted. "So, thank you."
"You're welcome," Hermione said smiling shyly.
"So..." said Lavender, after a pause. "I heard you and Ron got together in the middle of the battle?" Hermione blushed and nodded. "I can't believe it took you both until you were possibly going to die to admit your feelings for each other!"
"Well...it's us. I don't think we could have done it any other way," she admitted. "And I heard you're with Seamus now?"
"Yeah," Lavender said shortly, irritation clear in her tone.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry," Hermione said, hastily backtracking.
"No no, it's not that," Lavender said. "It's just...look, this is going to sound weird, given that we were never the best of friends. But I think I need someone who's kind of removed from the situation and capable of giving me an objective opinion... Yeah, that would be best...don't you think?"
"Sorry?" asked Hermione, frowning slightly. "I don't quite understand what you mean..."
"I need relationship advice from someone who will tell it to me straight," Lavender said bluntly. "Would you...I mean, if I asked you something, could you maybe give me some help?"
Hermione looked surprised – and Lavender couldn't blame her, for she had surprised herself in asking the girl who had previously been something of an enemy for advice – but to her credit, she nodded and indicated for Lavender to go ahead.
"Look at my scars," Lavender said. "Seriously, look at them." She removed her scarf and unbuttoned her blouse, displaying the scars which ran across her neck, arms and torso as well as those on her face. "These won't heal. I will never look how I looked before. I don't transform into a werewolf on full moon nights, but I feel different – animalistic. I don't know; it's hard to explain. And they hurt, too. And it's going to be like that for the rest of my life. I have to put up with it – but he doesn't."
"Is he...does Seamus not want to be with you any more?" Hermione asked hesitantly.
"No!" Lavender said, throwing her arms up. "That's exactly the problem. He keeps banging on about how he doesn't care about my scars, he still loves the real me behind them and all that – which is lovely of him, don't get me wrong. But he's staying with me out of a sense of duty, I'm sure of it."
"What do you mean?"
"He'd feel too bad breaking up with me now because deep down, we'd know it would be about my condition," she said. "I don't want him to be stuck with me and end up resenting me. I've tried to explain that to him, but he's all 'no, no, you're still the same girl I fell in love with' and everything, but...ten, twenty years down the line, is he still going to think that? I probably can't have children – again, he says he doesn't care about it. But in a few years time, he might."
"So what you're saying is, you're worried he's staying with you because it would look bad for him to break up with you now, after everything you've been through?" Hermione asked.
Lavender nodded sadly.
"Well...do you want to stay with him?" questioned the other girl.
"No," whispered Lavender. Then, more strongly, "No. I don't want to, because I know he'll end up hating me – or at least resenting my condition. And I'd rather we end as friends than, you know, enemies, surrounded by bitterness. But I've tried to break up with him and...he's just not having it."
"How hard did you try?" asked Hermione.
"Well...not very," Lavender admitted. "But you try telling someone to bugger off, that you don't love them when you're wrapped in bandages and can't even feed yourself, let alone wash your hair or put make up on, so you look hideous, and they're still standing there saying you're beautiful to them. It's a bit...selfish, I think."
"Maybe, but you can't help the way you feel. I think you're just going to have to be blunt and do it," Hermione said. "You can't keep putting it off forever. Maybe ask him up to see you on a Hogsmeade weekend and do it then?"
"To tell the truth, I was hoping that we'd just sort of...fall apart, you know? I mean, long distance is hard – I'm guessing you know that now – and with me in school and him not, it would be easy for one of us to slip up and snog someone else, and that'd be it, a reason for ending it, you know? Or we could just drift away from each other; we both have different lives now – he's in the Hit Wizard squad, working a proper job for the Ministry, and I'm just a silly schoolgirl. What do we have in common?" She shrugged and blew her hair out of her face with a sigh.
"No, you have to do it to his face, properly and finally," Hermione said. "You owe it to him, at least. Break up with him as nicely as you can, then move on."
"At least you're telling me to break up with him," she grumbled. Hermione threw her a questioning look. "Parvati thinks it's all wonderful and terribly romantic that he wants to stay with me and I should be grateful, basically. But grateful isn't a good look in a relationship – if there's nothing else I've learned over the years, it's that."
Hermione gave a wry grin. "It's your choice, Lavender," she said. "No one can tell you what to do with your life. My advice would be to do what you want, which is break up with him. But that's just me. It's up to you, really."
"Well, thanks for listening, and everything," Lavender said. "It's helped just to get that off my chest." Hermione nodded, picking up her bookbag. "And hey," she added, as the other girl headed for the exit, "I never thought I'd be asking you for romantic advice. So thanks for not, you know, throwing that back in my face."
"It's okay, Lavender," Hermione smiled. "It's all in the past, now."
Of course it is Lavender thought to herself. All in the past. My relationship with Ron, my hatred of Hermione. And soon, my relationship with Seamus. Oh, Merlin.
"Excuse me? Is there a Hermione buried under all those books, or...?"
Hermione poked her head out from behind a large stack of books and smiled at Lavender. "Hi," she said. "I'm just trying to get this finished before tomorrow, hence all the reading," she said.
"All of it? But Professor McGonagall gave us the whole holiday to do...wait a minute, you plan on doing something else over the break, don't you? Or should that be someone else?" Lavender asked with a wink.
"Oh, shut up!" Hermione laughed, blushing slightly and sticking her tongue out at Lavender. Over the course of the term, they had become quite close – better friends than either would have thought possible a few years before. They brought out different sides in each other – Lavender encouraged Hermione to be a little more outgoing, and Hermione encouraged Lavender to sit down and study with textbooks instead of Witch Weekly occasionally – and Hermione found that she liked having girl friends. Whilst she was close with Ginny, neither of them discussed their relationships with each other, as Ginny did not want to hear about her brother's love life, and Hermione felt the same way about Harry, so she enjoyed giggling over boys occasionally with Lavender and Parvati. It was a completely frivolous thing to do, but after everything they'd been through last year, both girls were grateful for the chance to just be normal teenagers, for once. (Lavender was yet to persuade her to allow her to make her over, however. She had to draw the line somewhere.)
"Well fine, then I won't give you this!" replied Lavender, pretending to be offended.
"What is it?" Hermione asked, curious. Lavender handed her a package, neatly wrapped with a ribbon on top.
"Nothing much – just a little Christmas present," she said. Hermione unwrapped it and exclaimed over the box of Honeydukes' chocolates.
"And what's this? A book?" she added excitedly, turning it over to read the title. "'Witch Weekly's Anthology of the 100 Most Eligible Bachelors of the Wizarding World'? Oh, my!" she laughed. "Thank you Lavender!"
"No worries," said the other girl. "I thought you needed it as a heads-up more than anything: Ron's number three on the list."
"I shall write a letter to the editor immediately!" Hermione said seriously. "But thank you again."
"You're welcome," Lavender said. "I wanted to get something to say thanks to you for all the help you've given me with my schoolwork and everything. I really do appreciate it."
"It's no trouble, honestly," said Hermione. "And you don't use me nearly as much as Harry and Ron did."
"Those boys," tutted Lavender. "Can I ask you a question?" she added, after a pause. Hermione nodded. "Why did you come back here? I know you want to go into the DMLE but they must be falling over themselves to offer you a job. You're Hermione Granger – you could practically have walked into the Head of Department's job and no one would have batted an eyelid. Why come back to school?"
"Well...firstly, I wanted to do things the proper way – you know, take my NEWTs, get an apprenticeship and so on, like everyone else," she said. "But whilst I've been at school, I've realised that I could probably do what I want to do – you know, equal rights for House Elves and such – better from the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures than DMLE. I've tried to build up a few contacts there, I know that Dirk Cresswell is sympathetic and—sorry. I'm rambling. The point is, I'm glad I came back to school because it gave me chance to step back from everything and really consider what I want to do."
"I get that," Lavender nodded. "I've kind of...gone through a similar thing. I've been thinking about what I want to do when I leave school a lot recently, and I think I've finally decided – I want to be an Auror. Not like Harry and Ron, going out and duelling the 'bad guys' or whatever. I mean like someone who does all the behind the scenes stuff – tracking and spying. Like espionage, almost. I'm a gossip, so I may as well put that to good use. I can read situations and people really well, make them trust me by lending a sympathetic ear, that sort of thing. Just, you know, more important things than 'this person fancies that person' sort of stuff – more 'this person is collaborating with that person to bring down the government'."
"That would definitely suit you!" Hermione enthused. "You should go for it. I'm sure Professor McGonagall would write you a good reference and everything – plus, and I don't mean this in a rude way, they're desperate for people there at the moment. Given that you're more than quick enough on the draw with a wand...they'd love you!"
"Absolutely I do. But you don't?"
"My parents are against me putting myself in anymore danger. But hey, I'm nearly a werewolf. What could possibly be worse?" she sighed. "And then there's Seamus."
"Seamus?" Hermione asked. "I thought the two of you were going to break up?"
"We were," Lavender said morosely. "But he's so nice, I just can't bring myself to do it. Every time I try to bring it up, he just does something lovely and I can't do it. Like when I told him I wanted to be an Auror, he said that I didn't need to worry about getting a job because he would be there to support me and everything once I left school, and I just...argh!" She let out a growl of frustration and dropped her head onto her arms. "He's suffocating me. And I'm beginning to think that I can't break up with him because of his niceness. But I still want to..."
"Lavender...you have to. If you feel that way about him, you have to. You can't keep dragging this relationship on and on. It's not fair on either of you – but especially him," Hermione said seriously.
"I know," she replied. "I just...I know I do. But it's hard."
Hermione reached over and squeezed her hand. "It will be okay," she said. "Look, maybe you can do it over the Christmas holidays? Face to face, a nice clean break...and it's the New Year coming up, you can both have a fresh start in January. Easy!"
"I can't," she said. Hermione frowned. "I'm not going home for Christmas; I'm staying in school. I can't face Seamus again so soon after last Hogsmeade weekend, my mother can hardly stand to look at me after the attack and she hates full moon nights – it's on the twenty third, right before Christmas this month – and...I just can't do it. I'm staying here."
"Oh Lavender," her friend sighed. She got up and came to sit next to her, putting her arms around her gently. "It'll all be okay, you know."
"I'm no Gryffindor," Lavender mumbled.
"You're one of the bravest people I know," Hermione countered. "I honestly don't think I could cope with what you do every month. And write to me, over the holidays. I'll write straight back, I promise." Lavender gave a small smile of thanks. "And hey!" Hermione added brightly. "The train doesn't leave until the day after tomorrow. There's still time to change your mind!"
But Lavender did not change her mind, and she stayed at Hogwarts over the Christmas holidays. She stayed over the Easter holidays, too, citing exams, which she also gave as the reason she could not go to see Seamus on any of the Hogsmeade weekends. "I have to stay and revise – if I want to get onto the Auror programme, I have to get stellar NEWT scores," she wrote to him, hating herself for doing so.
(She hated him more for accepting it, only asking if there were any books or revision aides he could send her. The war had matured him beyond his years, and whilst everyone else considered this to be A Good Thing, she spent most of the time wishing he was still the hot-headed, daft and occasionally bad-tempered individual he had been when he was younger. At least then people would understand when she said she wanted to end things – Parvati still thought she was being stupid for wanting to finish with someone who was 'literally perfect'. But why would she want perfection when she could never reciprocate that?)
The first anniversary of the war's end meant that she couldn't ignore him any more, however. A memorial service was being held at Hogwarts, and Seamus was coming – along with other members of the DA and the Order – to give thanks and remember, and Lavender couldn't very well ignore him for the entire time he was at school. She did her best to be as unresponsive as she could (and trust the general sobriety of the situation would make it seem as though she was just in mourning, and not rude) and not be left alone with him. She knew it was inappropriate and selfish, given all the sacrifices they were supposed to be honouring on that day, but she couldn't bring herself to think of anything other than her condition. She had lived with it for a year now, and it had been a year of hell. If everything went according to plan, and she did not die an untimely death, she could look forward to another ninety or so years of going through the same thing once a month.
She honestly didn't know if she could do it.
After all the speeches and the dedications and the tears, she, Seamus, Parvati and Dean went for a walk in the grounds, when Pavarti oh-so-subtly remembered something she just had to show Dean right now and dragged him off, leaving Lavender alone with Seamus. He started to say something about what was going to happen after she left Hogwarts, how he'd found a nice flat they could maybe rent together on the outskirts of London, when a voice that sounded suspiciously like Hermione's popped up in Lavender's head.
"It's now or never," the Hermione-like voice warned, and Lavender suddenly stopped where she was, reaching out and grabbing Seamus by the arm.
"No, Seamus, I can't," she said wildly, and he looked at her in confusion. "I can't live with you after I graduate because I can't be with you!"
Understanding flickered on his face. "Ah, Lav," he said, smiling sadly but kindly at her. "Not this again. You think you're not good enough for me, but you are. It's me who's not good enough for you, you daft girl! And I don't care about your scars, or your condition, or anything like that! God knows, I've got enough of me own scars from the war, and—"
"Not like these you haven't!" she cried, so loudly that another couple, taking a walk of their own nearby turned and looked at them. "Your scars don't make you become a monster every full moon! And I have to live with that every month for the rest of my life and you don't and I don't want you to have to!"
"But I—" he began soothingly.
"No!" Lavender said. "No, no, no! I don't want you to have to because I know that at some point you will start to resent me for it and I don't want to wait for that to happen. I don't want you to feel like you've got to look after me or whatever, because when you're sick of doing it, you won't be able to bring yourself to leave me and then you'll start to hate me and I'll hate you and it just won't work!"
He took a step backwards, doubt beginning to creep onto his face as she breathed heavily after her outburst. "Relationships don't work when there's a massive power imbalance – and that's what we've got with your need to look after me, even though it's well intentioned. Our relationship can't work. This is it, Seamus. It's over. I'm sorry, but it is. This is goodbye," she said, much more calmly.
She reached out to touch his arm, but he jerked his hand away. "Fine," he said, some of his old bitterness creeping into his tone. "Fine. If that's the way it's going to be, fine. Goodbye, Lavender Brown."
He turned and began to walk away from her, back towards the castle. She took a longer route, heading up to the girl's dormitories in Gryffindor Tower. Mercifully, she didn't meet anyone on her way – they were all still gathered in the Great Hall for the Memorial Lunch – for she didn't know how she would have held it together if she had. Tonelessly, she gave the Fat Lady the password, and clambered into the Common Room.
Just a bit further she told herself. Just a bit further, then you'll be alone. Just like you wanted. You've certainly got that wish now, you stupid girl...
She pushed open the door to the dormitory, stepping backwards in surprise when she realised it wasn't empty like she'd hoped: Hermione was kneeling by the end of her bed, her head in her hands.
"Don't. Say. Anything," she said in a stilted voice, as Lavender entered the room. "I know I'm supposed to be down there having my photo taken and looking after everyone, but I just need a minute. Ginny's covering for me. I need a breather."
"Okay," Lavender murmured, crawling onto her own bed. Hermione looked up at her, surprised by her unresponsiveness. "I broke up with Seamus," she said tonelessly, a single tear sliding down her cheek.
"Oh, Lavender!" Hermione said, hurrying over to her, her own worries forgotten.
"No," Lavender replied, shaking her head. "I broke up with him. I'm the bitch. I don't deserve any sympathy."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Hermione briskly, sitting down on the bed next to her. Lavender rested her head on her shoulder, and the two girls stayed like that for a long time. It had been a strange year, but now that things had finally been sorted with Seamus, things would get better. They would. They had to.
And if they don't, at least I have a new friend Lavender thought.
"...and finally – yeah, I know, I've been rambling on for far too long – but finally, I'd like to thank the lovely Hannah, for saying that newly qualified Aurors don't have to pay for their drinks tonight!" Lavender said, and everyone laughed. "So, next round's on me!"
"Oi, you're not allowed to bankrupt me!" Hannah Abbott called from behind the bar, and there was more laughter, followed by another toast of congratulations.
"You really didn't have to say all that," Hermione said, when she made her way through the throng towards Lavender.
"I did," Lavender insisted. "I'd never have got through my NEWTs without you coaching me."
"Well, thanks," she smiled, leaning in to hug her. "Congratulations again! And," she added, lowering her voice, "Seamus is here."
Lavender pulled back from the hug, startled. "What?!" she asked.
"Just a heads up!" Hermione said with a wink. "Oh, hello Luna! Fancy seeing you here!" She waved at someone over Lavender's shoulder and headed off. Since when does Hermione wink?! Lavender thought. And just what is Seamus doing here?
It wasn't that strange for him to be there – most of her old schoolfriends were, and he may have just turned up for a drink at the Leaky without realising she was there for a celebration – but they'd barely had any contact in the past three years since she'd broken up with him. She wondered if it would be a good idea to go and say hello, but before she could come to a conclusion, she heard a familiar Irish voice behind her.
"Now, what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?"
"Excuse me?" She turned on her heel and arched an eyebrow.
"I said, what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this?" he repeated, the familiar cheeky grin on his face.
"I happen to know the barkeep personally, and she'd be very upset to hear you insulting her establishment in that way," Lavender said coolly, determined not to show the frission of excitement that had run through her on seeing his face.
"Terribly sorry, Miss...?" he drifted off, acting as though they'd never met.
"It's Auror Brown, actually," she said, playing along.
"Oh, an Auror!" he exclaimed. "Well, let me introduce meself. I'm Seamus Finnegan, Deputy in the Hit Wizard Squad. We'll be working together sometimes, I do believe."
She paused for a moment, eyeing the hand he was holding out for her to shake. "Seamus, what are you doing?" she asked, all traces of pretence gone.
"I haven't stopped thinking about you," he said. "After all this time...but I realised that maybe I came on a bit too strong before. You needed space and time after the war, to get over your injuries and I didn't give you that. But I thought that was it, that we were done – after all, you made that pretty clear three years ago. I've had a few girlfriends since then, but I can't feel about them the same way I used to feel about you..."
"Seamus," she began, but he held up a hand to stop her.
"No, let me finish," he said. "I bumped into Hermione at the Ministry the other day. She told me about you passing your Auror exams, and it made me think that I might have been a bit...dismissive of your plans, before. So I'm sorry for that. But she told me about this little celebration party for you, and invited me along and...here I am."
"That girl," Lavender said, shaking her head.
"That girl is the brightest witch of her age, and a very good friend to you," Seamus said.
"Oh, I know that," she replied. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that she maybe knows you better than you know yourself," he said, "and that maybe you should give us another chance."
"No," Lavender said, crushing the hopeful look on his face in an instant. He turned away, but she reached out and pulled him back. "No. We can't pick up where we left off. But we can start afresh." She held out a hand for him to shake. "I'm Lavender Brown, and you are?"
There was a long, unreadable pause before his face broke into a grin. "Seamus Finnegan," he said. "Pleased to meet you. Does this mean I can buy you a drink?"
"It'd be rude to say no after you called me pretty," she smiled.
"That was a lie," he said. "You're beautiful, not pretty."
And, for once, she didn't argue.