For Camp Potter, Archery, Week 5, scars.

Also for the Harry Potter Femmeslash Project, inspired by prompt 29: battle scars.

For Amber, my dearest wifey Amber, because I cannot help but think of her when I write this pairing.

.

"You're so beautiful, Lav," you say, because it's three a.m. and she's staring into the mirror, because her eyes look so sad, so empty, and most of all, because it's true.

"Don't."

Her voice is as broken as her gaze and you, you shatter inside for the thousandth time because it kills you to see her like this. It kills you to see your beautiful, strong, confident Lavender so small.

Her fingers trace the lines on her face, down the swell of her throat.

You put your fingers on the base of the scars on her hip, trace them up her bare stomach, the curve across her sternum, the end at her collarbone. The skin is puckered and off color and mottled and she hates it, hates herself but she is so damn beautiful you can't even breathe.

"Don't what, baby?" Your voice is a whisper in the dim light of the night.

"Don't lie," she spits, and you want to recoil but you can't because she would take it the wrong way. Your fingers keep tracing the line of the scar, oh-so-gently.

"I would never lie to you."

And you mean that. You are a lot of things, but you are not a liar — you believe in brutal honesty over lies. She knows this. She knows this, because she was your best friend for six years, and she's been your girlfriend for two. She knows you. Knows you can't handle being lied to, not after Padma lied to you too many times in her misguided attempts to keep you safe. Knows you would never lie to someone else. Especially not her.

And that… that is exactly what terrifies you so much about this. She is so absolutely convinced that she is hideous, broken, ruined, that she would believe that you are lying before she would believe that you think her beautiful. That is terrifying.

You gently turn her around, away from the mirror. You take her face gently in your hands.

"Listen to me. You. Are. So. Damn. Gorgeous." You punctuate every word with a kiss along the scars on her face. "You." Kiss. "Are." Kiss. "Perfect." Kiss. "And beautiful." Kiss, kiss. "And. So. Damn. Strong." One, two, three, four.

"These." You trace your fingers lightly along her scars, down her cheek, across her collarbone, her sternum, her breast, down her stomach. "All these do is remind me every single day you are alive. You are still alive. I came so close to losing you — but I didn't. You didn't. You survived." And you can't… you can't really continue, because if you try you'll get all… weepy. And you hate getting weepy. You just don't really know how to explain to her exactly how much it matters to you that she is still of this world.

But the heavy cloud of darkness in her eyes doesn't lessen. Instead, she simply closes off. She leans forward, buries her head in the crook of your neck and you wrap your arms around her and hold her so tightly you forget how to breathe. "He has not broken you," you whisper gently into her ear, and you feel the moment her body begins to shake with sobs.

.

You slowly begin to regain some degree of normalcy, some degree of equilibrium. You get a job in some shop in Diagon Alley and it's not mentally stimulating at all but it doesn't matter because the inanity of it all keeps your mind moving on tracks other than dark and depression and war and what I've lost. You make enough to scrape by, keep paying rent on the flat you two are sharing. You watch your sister rise through the ranks of the Ministry and you know you could, if you wanted to. But you don't.

You're… not happy, precisely, but you are content. You are settled enough that you can keep your mind off things, sometimes.

But as you regain your balance and try desperately to steady her, she slips. She can't seem to get a grip, can't seem to tug herself up onto level ground, and your hands scrabble uselessly at her wrists but you aren't strong enough.

You grow more steady and she swirls further and further into decline, and it eats at you, corrodes your insides, makes you ache.

Sometimes, you wonder. Wonder about how different people react to similar trauma, wonder why she draws in, you push on, Padma ventures out. Padma was always the one into all that psychology stuff, so you can't explain it, but you wonder.

.

Anger.

Sadness.

Self-loathing.

Fury.

These are the things that she is bottling up inside. These are the things that are growing and growing and growing inside of her.

These are the things that have you tiptoeing a high wire, waiting for the explosion.

Because it will come. You know it will come. A person can only hold so much inside before it all comes bursting out the seams.

You, you want nothing more than to take it all away, to take her anger and her pain unto yourself, make them your burden only to take away hers, because she doesn't… shouldn't have to bear it. And you don't think she understands that you would do anything for her, be anything she needs you to be. You tell her that she is your world, tell her you would bear it if you could, tell her… tell her over and over and over again that she is so beautiful, so perfect, so everything.

It doesn't help. Not they way it should.

You hold her tightly on nights she can't sleep. Her head rests on your chest and your breath creates ripples in her hair, the strands swirling in the eddies of your breath. You don't speak in the middle of the night; you merely… coexist. You try to silently speak of your constant presence, tell here you are there if ever she needs you.

.

The shiver starts at your scalp and shudders all the way through to your toes, instantly turning you to ice.

No.

You jolt yourself out of the frozen state, take a lurching step forward, your fingers at her wrist, your other hand on her cheek.

"No, no, no. Baby, no. No. Wake up, wake up, Lav, talk to me baby, please. Please."

And there it is, the slow — too slow, too slow, oh God, is it supposed to be that slow? — sluggish flow of blood pumped by a heart in the middle of her chest, and you start breathing again because she is alive. For now.

You scoop her up and cradle her in your arms and when the hell did she get so light? You carry her through the Floo to Saint Mungo's and hand her off to someone who knows how to purge from her body whatever stupid, asinine thing she's decided to put in it.

Your fingertips beat out a relentless rhythm on your leg as you wait for her, your impatience bleeding through to ever movement even as your mind loops on a vicious cycle of the worst. The not knowing is torture.

Please please please please please and the thing is you aren't even sure if you're begging her to be okay or God to heal her or the Healers to make her all right again and you… you know that whatever comes this doesn't end today. You know that her mind isn't right and she can't just down a potion for that and move on. It doesn't work that way.

You also know that you will do anything not to have to come home to her unconscious form ever again, not to have to feel that sluggish pulse under your fingertips and to know that her life was seeping out through her very pores.

And you spent so much time trying to not let it get to this point but the fact is that you have no idea what you are doing, no idea how to help her. You spend too many moments torn between giving her space and holding her tight and trying to strike that balance but apparently, clearly, you struck it wrong. You weren't good enough to save her, you weren't enough to stop her.

Guilt settles in your stomach, heavy and obtrusive, but you force yourself to ignore it, force yourself to push it away. This isn't about you. This is about her right now. It has always been about her.

Hours later, long after the adrenaline has faded and you feel absolutely drained both physically and mentally, someone finally comes to you.

"You're here for Lavender Brown?" the Nurse asks. You are on your feet in an instant.

"I am, yes. Is she going to be all right?" You can't quite keep the note of desperation from your voice.

"Physically, Miss Brown will be fine."

You notice the evasion immediately. It's not like you didn't already know, but the confirmation is still a knife to your so-vulnerable heart. You can't stop your slight but perceptible recoil, and you see the sympathy in her brown eyes.

"I'm sorry," she says gently, though she knows it won't help. You nod anyway. The sentiment is appreciated, even if it doesn't do anything to dull the ache.

"Can I… God, is she awake?"

"She is."

"Can I see her?"

Instead of replying, the woman gestures for you to follow her. Her steps are quick, and as you dart after her, the adrenaline starts thrumming again.

You push past the nurse when she hesitates in the doorway. A few rapid steps and you've crossed the room, are at her side. You take her hand in yours, fierce but gentle. Your eyes fixate on her face. Her eyes are closed, but she is awake — you can tell, as always, by the pattern of her breaths.

"Can I see your eyes, love?"

Her exhale is caught in the land of almost-sigh. She turns her head toward you as though it takes the effort of moving mountains (maybe it does. You don't actually know what she's done to herself). Reluctantly, her eyes open.

You fight the urge to flinch away. Her eyes look… for lack of a better word, dead. Oddly vacant, as though some essential part of her is missing and it isn't coming back.

You talk to her softly, pitch your voice just right, choose your words carefully. But even you can see it's not enough.

.

You tell her every single day.

That she is beautiful.

That she is brave.

That she is so strong.

That you are so glad that she is alive.

But she doesn't hear you.

.

And then.

Then the day that you are most afraid of, the day you never wanted to face, comes. The jolt of ice through your veins, the moment of motionless shock, the lurch into fervent action. It feels so familiar, so foreign, so wrong.

The sink in the washroom of your flat is stained red, and that fact is entirely inconsequential when paired with the limp posture of her frame on the cold tile floor.

Her too-thin left wrist is torn open with a spell.

Your fingers stumble over it's twin, desperate, unable to give up hope despite knowing exactly how little you will find.

Her skin is growing cold, and there is no pulse.

Your breath catches in your throat. You are, for just an instant, a portrait of agony, torn wide open and exposed for anyone to see.

Then you force movement. You can't leave her on the floor in a heap; you make the appropriate calls and then scoop her up into your arms. She is still limp in your arms.

You aren't sure what you intended when you picked her up, but you wind up setting her on your shared bed. You nudge her limbs until she looks natural. Give her some dignity.

And then, only then, do you break down.