Chapter 1 : never silent or dark
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He talks psychology to her, because she asked him and because he is a newly qualified Healer who still believes in talking to his patients, and so she receives more information than perhaps she had wanted. That sometimes, when a war is over, there are people who feel like their strings have been cut loose and that nothing ties them down anymore. That all the passion and energy that gave them the ability to fight to the death can turn inwards and destroy a person.
They’d won. She’d been unconscious at the time. Sprawled out on the grass; bloody, bleeding out, weak and desperate.
It is never silent either. She lies awake at night, insomnia clinging to her brain irritably (because if she could sleep then there would be no lingering effects), and can hear the rhythmic breathing of half a dozen people, wounded like her, inhaling and exhaling. She finds it reassuring and listens to it for hours, until the sun rises and she pretends that she has been asleep, it has become a lullaby of life – a reminder that they are all still alive, that they survived this, that she can still breathe.
She’d thought she was dying. With his teeth sinking into her flesh; leant over her, lips moving over her skin like a whisper, until his teeth broke through and tore her apart. Thought she was dead.
The dizzy, confused mix of pain that had greeted her when she was pulled out of her unconsciousness has ebbed away now.
Your wounds are healing well, Lavender Brown.
The scarring is permanent, but that is little payment to live. Some were caused by curses and spells, others by him; they crisscross across her neck, arm, creeping onto her face. The Healers have done well, because each was once a gaping, spacious wound, and now it merely looks as though her skin had disintegrated and been forced back together again. She is a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing, but a stubborn child has shoved the pieces back together anyway – not quite fitting together neatly and succinctly, but nevertheless complete.
“Hey, Lavender,” Parvati says, smiling as she takes a seat on one of the chairs next to her bed, “the Healer said it’s good news.”
Her best friend remains the same as always: a constant throughout the years of Hogwarts, unharmed and still as pretty as ever. It hurts, actually, to see the crisp beautiful lines of her face still curving into a gentle smile of purposefully enforced hope and optimism. Lavender refuses to let herself resent it – Parvati is her best friend, always, permanently. Eternity.
Visitor’s hours aren’t imposed as strictly as they used to be, Pye told her, because there are so many loved ones suffering and hurting and dying. The Healers have their work cut out, because any single person might have been hit with a dozen curses, been infected by some dangerous plant, been bitten by one of Hagrid’s giant spiders – some of the dark magic, the darkest, might not be apparent straight away. Patients could die before their families have been able to celebrate the fact that they all made it through with their hearts still thudding in their chests.
As a result, Lavender’s friends from Hogwarts haunt the seats beside her bed. They have been her eyes and ears. She is one of the many riding out the dawning of this new age on a concoction of medicinal potions – in terms of experience, she is definitely not alone. She is too unwell to attend the funerals, so Parvati relays them too her the subsequent day – Lavender hears of who made the speeches, where they were buried, who cried, who had the nicest black robes. It is a bitter, solemn tradition, but Pye said that funerals bring resolution and closure.
“I looked round the flat again today,” Parvati says, her eyes twinkling slightly with excitement, “I’ve cleared out your room, so it’s ready for you to move in.”
Are you ready to leave?
They poured over the estate agent’s brochures together a few days after Lavender had regained the ability to sit up: searching for a two bed flat in a somewhat magical dwelling, with a manageable rent where they could live together. The giddy excitement about something so grown up still hums in Lavender’s veins every time she thinks of it (which she does, often), because she can think of nothing so lovely as to live with her best friend.
(Pye says that, all too often, war victims move out on their own – with no one to ground them and with nothing to ensure that they’re okay, their mental state disintegrates rapidly: Lavender will not let that happen to herself.)
Parvati gushes about the flat, her new job and idle gossip in turn, filling up the empty space of silence between them with a sea of chatter and giggling: at the moment, Parvati doesn’t expect her to talk that much. Not because Parvati thinks that there is anything wrong with her chatty friend, but that after a month in a ward in St Mungo’s, there is little else to say.
“Smethwyck says you’ll be discharged by the end of the week.” Parvati says when it is time for her to go, to hurry back to her new job and her life that exists outside the four walls of this room: Lavender is not jealous, in fact quite the opposite, she has learnt to feel safe within this space and the idea of her world expanding again into the realms of the unknown sends a shiver of something like fear down her spine. Excitement, too, but Lavender cannot deny that she is also scared.
“My parents are coming to pick me up,” Lavender says with a smile, “see you at the flat.”
Pye stops Parvati before she has exited the ward, striking up conversation about something or other which Lavender can’t hear.
Lavender has procured a job at Glad Rags. She is very nearly over qualified, but she cannot face returning to Hogwarts and continuing her education as though nothing ever happened: she discussed it with Smethwyck, Pye, her parents and Parvati and it was decided that it was for the best. She could finish her NEWTs another time, perhaps, but an occupation that would allow her to broach the idea of self-sufficiency would help her rebuild her life.
And so, she has her whole life planned out and mapped out. This is just a temporary blip on her plan, nothing to worry about exactly, because she has a job and a place to live and her friends. She absorbed Pye’s talk of psychology, construed his dialogue as a warning against letting herself be defined by a war that she fought in, once upon a time, and so she will not let it affect her life.
In one week she will leave St Mungo’s, after all this time, and emerge into a world where Voldemort no longer lingers in the darkest corners of her mind: a bad dream, a threat, and a possible future of death.
There is a compulsory check up with a councillor, for post-traumatic stress and adjustment to real life, but no one will notice when she doesn’t turn up: for Lavender Brown is a perfect recovery case, with her bright plan, her optimism and the solid presence of her smile.
Then again, no one knows about the insomnia.
Entirely sure this breaks my numbers of WIP rule (I wasn't planning on posting it before the last chapter of SSTTAP) but then this was ready and the other wasn't so... here we go! Warnings of angst in the forseable future and dealving into the realms of mental health issues, just so you know. But, I've wrote over 10k of this in a week and I'm excited about posting it :)
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