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Chapter 1 : Ravaged
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When you walk down Diagon Alley mothers pull their children closer when they spot you. They rush across the cobbled street when they see you coming, shoes clicking against the stone in disapproval. You know what they are thinking, it's always the same. They assume you to be a criminal- an assassin- instead of a victim of circumstance and idiotic bravery.†
Sometimes, you want to scream at them. During your brave moments, anyways. But those moments are fleeting and insubstantial, and you know you will never be able to act on them.
They don't flinch away from Seamus. They call him a hero, come up and shake his hand in the pub or the shops. You were there too and they know it. The Order of Merlin in your flat proves it. But it makes them uncomfortable. They dislike this ugly representation of what the war left. They do not shake your hand or even smile at you.†
You wish someone would smile at you. Itís been too long.†
You didn't want to go out, but he pulled you along anyway, out into the sunshine that seems to mock you. It casts shadows on the raised skin of your scars, throwing them into sharp relief. Seamus never listened to you before, so why should he start now? And now itís come back to you, all of it and you hate him for it.†
You don't remember when exactly he started living in your flat. He was always over in the morning to get you up anyway, ever since you came home. Eventually it just became simpler if he slept here too. He's paying the rent, he says, so he might as well get a room out of it.
You take over the cooking, but only because you fear you'll end up back in St.Mungo's if you ingest anymore of his. You're no gourmet chef, but you know the staples. He agrees to buy you some cookbooks in return.
You hand him his plate of spaghetti and he grins from his seat at the rickety wooden table. You make an effort to smile back because he has been good to you. It is forced, but it is something.
You hear them whispering about you when they think you're asleep, or out of the room. "What's wrong? Why isn't she getting better? The healers said she would get better." Seamus †whispers to Parvarti, one night after dinner.†
"Just give her time, Seamus. She'll come round, you'll see."†
They expected you to be fine, but you wanted them to understand. Needed them too. You were so shallow before the war. You still are, sometimes.†
You thrived on makeup, clothes, boys, and gossip. You wanted to write for Witch Weekly. Everyone knows Witch Weekly reporters have to have a pretty face. You were no stunner before, and you had frizzy hair, but you were alright.
And now Fenrir Greyback ripped away your life and all those things you knew when he attacked you on the night you lost your childhood.†
Once, he tells Parvarti about your nightmares. She just shakes her head and says, "What do you expect?" You want to remind Seamus that he has them too, that you have had to wake him from them more than once. But he does not point out your weaknesses and you know that night hurt him too. Even if it isn't written all over his face like it is yours.
"Dammit, Lavender! I'm trying here; I'm trying to help you! But you don't want to be helped!"†
He is shouting and you stand opposite him in the claustrophobic kitchen. His voices reverberates around the room, bouncing off the outdated cabinets that line the wall. You understand his anger, really, you do. You wish it was easy to go out like it was before. When your hairdresser called you beautiful and rosy-cheeked toddlers would wave at you instead of stumbling away in fear.†
He does not know how much it hurts.
You almost want to shout back and instigate one of your raging rows that you were famous for in Sixth year. Scream at him until you are hoarse, but then not remember what you were even fighting over. But you are not impulsive, not anymore. You are cautious, which is a much safer thing to be. When you are cautious, you don't fall from balconies.†
In the end, you do not shout back.
He falls silent and runs his hands over his close-shaven hair. He goes to bed without giving you his customary goodnight and it surprises you how hollow you are.
You wish he was a little boy and you could just spell "I'm sorry" with pepperoni or sweets. But that is something the old Lavender did, not something you do.
Instead, you make him his favourite breakfast the next morning and when Parvarti calls wanting to go shopping you agree without his prompting. He genuinely smiles for the first time in days and the stares you get later are worth it.
You had dinner ready at six, but he stumbles in at half past two; reeking of firewhiskey and other spirits. You suppose you should be mad, but it is the first time and you cannot find it in you to not allow him a break. After he downs the hangover potion you help him to bed and put a glass of water on his bedside table for morning.
He is tranquil in sleep and you feel bad for how much he must do each day. You resolve to start running the errands and doing the books yourself from now on.
In the morning you pretend to be annoyed, but not for long. There is a vase of flowers you bought from the vendor down the street in the middle of the oval table; they brighten the small flat considerably. He apologizes, and you make him oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. He is happy when he rushes out the door and it makes you glad.
You booked your hair appointment last week. It's a surprise and you want to be home for when he's done work. Your hands are shaking when you push the glass door to the salon open, but you approach the glass-topped front desk even though you desperately want to run away.
You ignore the receptionist's half-stifled squeak and go to the chair she indicates. When you leave forty five minutes later, your hair is trimmed and curled in waves that frame your face. You are smiling, because your hairdresser was kind and showed you her own scarred hands.
Impulsively, you decide to dig out your makeup that you have not touched since you were beautiful. It is dusty after months of disuse, but it works. You want to make an effort on his birthday.†
You're almost done icing his cake when he walks in. You look up, beaming. He drops his bag onto the worn wooden floor, and your smile falters. It was stupid, you can't be pretty again, why did you try-
But then he is grinning too, your favourite grin, and he says, "You're beautiful, Lav." This time, you almost believe him.
Dean and Parvarti are there soon and they exclaim at your boldness. Parvarti wants to know all about where you got your hair done, and you giggle. You find you've missed your best friend.
You heave the last of your plastic shopping bags onto the cluttered counter and put your coat on its customary hook by the door.
He is in the living room and you smile at him, surprised. "You're home early. I thought you worked late tonight?" You say as you reach to start putting the groceries away.
He clears his throat. "I called in sick," He explains. You look up, concerned. "Do you want some soup? I can make-" He shakes his head and you stop, confused. Seamus loves your soup.
He stuffs his hands in his pockets and comes towards the kitchen. "It's nothing, just nerves I guess." You wait for him to offer an explanation, and press him when he doesn't.
"Nerves? What do you mean?" You quirk an eyebrow at him and narrow your eyes. Seamus has the constitution of an ox. It's not like him to be sickly.
He comes towards you from the living room and before you can comprehend it, he has asked you out. All at once, you realize you've been waiting for this, and you're sick of being cautious. So you go straight up and kiss him, because you love him too. He is incredulous, and beaming, and laughing. You join in his laughter, and realize you can laugh again.
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