Izzy here, with my fanfic, “Many Shades of Black,” my contribution to the Lavender/Pansy ship, therefore contains a quote from Don MacLean's "Vincent." Lavender/Parvati too. The three characters are Rowling’s, and the song isn't mine either.
Parvati had never asked why Lavender had taken up painting. She had thought it a neat thing to do, and one that didn’t really need a reason. And because she didn’t know the reason, she encouraged her freely. She oohed and aahed over the completed paintings, never mind that they could never be anything other then mediocre, and always looked sad when one of them was sold to make room for another in the apartment. Which painting they sold was always up to Lavender, and if she never seemed to consider parting with the only one that hung in the studio, Parvati never asked why, assuming it bespoke some personal achievement that a non-artist simply couldn’t understand.
The painting moved around the studio, as did Lavender’s easel. Sometimes she wanted to paint looking at it, other times she thought it disturbed her concentration too much. On the fifth anniversary of the Dark Lord’s defeat, she was halfway through a painting when she pushed the easel aside and stared, trying to absorb the painting into her eyes, her face, and her heart.
It was of a wilted flower on a black background. The flower had been white, but was now brown, but a very light brown, its original colour not entirely lost. It still stood up almost straight, even though it shouldn’t have. Several of the petals looked like they were about to blow off, but none of them drooped. The background was many shades of black.
“There are many shades of black.” Pansy had said that to her once, when they had first started painting together. She had been living in the ancestral home of the Blacks then, hiding from the You-Know-Who after the death of her husband. Never a Death Eater, she had finally taken sides against them instead, because when her husband Draco Malfoy had been a Death Eater, and killed by Aurors, she’d blamed the Dark Lord. She’d had to hide, and the Order had taken her in, even though she hated most of its members.
But she hadn’t hated Lavender, even though Lavender was a least a half-blood and possibly worse. Except there was another detail to that, but Pansy didn’t know it, or at least had given the impression she didn’t.
Lavender’s role in the Order was minor; maybe that had had something to do with it. But Parvati’s had been equally minor, and Pansy had hated her. Lavender sometimes indulged the belief that it had been jealousy, and thus Pansy had wanted her from the start. But the rest of time she knew better. Pansy had hated all members of the Order, however small their role, except Lavender, and what reasons there were for that were known only in Pansy’s head.
Many things had been known only in Pansy’s head. Even Lavender had only seen so much, most of it through Pansy’s paintings. She said she’d started painting in Grimmauld Place, as a way to pass the time, but Lavender thought she was too good for that to be true. Years later, and Lavender’s paintings didn’t begin to approach the beauty Pansy could conjure without thought, it seemed.
Such paintings, which Pansy had only let Lavender see! Some of them stood out so vividly in Lavender’s memory that the mere thought of them made them appear before her eyes. She remembered the black snake against a black background. Of course, the snake had been defined by a white outline, but Pansy had told her the snake and the background were different shades. “There are many shades of black.”
There was the door to Pansy’s room, its knob gleaming, begging to be opened. There was the pattern of fabric on top of the white pillow, looking like it was about to fall off. These and countless others, but even after those, there were the paintings of the members of the Order.
Lavender had heard of the gift of an artist of seeing through to people. It was a gift she lacked, which Pansy had. She had, at one time or another, painted every person who had passed through Grimmauld Place. Several of her portraits stood out more in Lavender’s memory then others. Pansy’s painting of Harry Potter, for instance, made him look so angry and terrifying that she hadn’t wanted to be the same room as the real Harry for a week. Equally disturbing was her portrait of Severus Snape. He was bent slightly and staring at the viewer as if he were a beaten beast, one ready to lash out at whatever apparent enemy came within range of his broken-down claws.
She had painted Lavender twice. Once before they were lovers, and Lavender still smiled at the thought of how warm she had looked, like very few of the other portraits had. Then one evening, when Lavender had lay languid in post-coitus Pansy had set up her canvas and began painting, the only time anyone had ever sat for her. Or laid, as the case ended up being. Lavender had felt rather like Kate Winslet in Titanic, but after seeing the finished picture, she could not imagine herself wearing a jewel in it. Any accessory besides sheets and pillow would be inappropriate for such nakedness.
Though she knew it was for the better that noone else could ever see it, Parvati especially, Lavender felt a pang of regret that that painting was gone, burned like all the others before Pansy had left Grimmauld Place one dark morning to take her revenge for Draco on his father. She’d come to trial for killing him; she hadn’t been given authorization to use Avada Kedavra. Dumbledore had gotten her off, but after that she’d vanished. She could still be alive for all Lavender knew, but for some reason she suspected not.
Pansy had painted her husband too, more then once, and both of his parents. Lucius Malfoy looked pitiless and foreboding. Most of Pansy’s portraits had been unflattering, but the one of him the worst so. She had been kinder to Narcissa Malfoy, painting her as blank, more then anything else. Perhaps one of the few portraits where Pansy made no comment or judgement on the person in question. And she had painted many Dracos, some of which she hadn’t let Lavender see, the only paintings Lavender had not been permitted to look at. Those which she had seen depicted him across the map, from nearly as harsh as his father to as warm and loving and open as Lavender had been in Pansy’s painting of her lying naked on the bed.
If there was one thing Lavender was certain about, and perhaps there was only this one thing, it was that Pansy had loved Draco, and far, far more then he ever could have deserved. She couldn’t be certain Pansy had loved her. Pansy hadn’t seemed to believe that Lavender had loved her. She had wondered out loud more then once why they were lovers. And Lavender had wondered if she had guessed that little detail about Lavender’s parentage, and that was the answer.
When Pansy wasn’t painting, she was often relating anecdotes. They were never ones about herself, always about the people around her. She had told tales about Lucius Malfoy that Lavender thought exaggerated, and she would have believed that the one most important to her was if she hadn’t had such a strong suspicion of who was involved.
Pansy had formally introduced herself to Draco’s parents as his fiancee at a party thrown for the occasion. At some point in the evening, she, Lucius Malfoy, and another Death Eater had ended up talking together, and Pansy, who claimed drink as having to do with it, had inquired as to what fidelity she could expect from her husband. Her future father-in-law had assured her that Malfoys did not have low affairs, and if she did not want a mistress around, she could see to it that there wasn’t one. The second Death Eater had asked if Narcissa Malfoy allowed mistresses, and the reply had been, “No, I do not have mistresses or low affairs.”
Pansy had insisted something about the way he said it had made her suspicious, and she had wondered if it was really possible to forbid her husband a mistress. So she had eavesdropped on the private conversation between them a few minutes later she had discovered that actually consensual adultery was out of the question for Lucius because of Narcissa, but if sexual acts entered the torturing of Muggles that Death Eaters did for sport, Lucius Malfoy for one thought nothing of it.
Lavender had said at this point that rape was more about power then sex, and Pansy had replied that she did not care; she would not tolerate it. And what Draco Malfoy had done as a Death Eater Pansy had never said, if she even knew, and Lavender had certainly not asked.
But nor had Lavender asked, and nor did she ever intend to ask, who her father was of her mother. When Lavender was a girl, her mother had claimed her father had died before Lavender was born, and strangely avoided answering questions about him. But that night she had stood in front of the mirror and stared at her pale grey eyes.
There was no way Pansy hadn’t noticed those eyes. They had stood out in both her paintings of Lavender, even when they were half-closed in the second one. They stood out in the paintings of her husband and the one of his father too. They were the sort of eyes that stood out. Lavender knew they could appear cold to a stranger, though Parvati had certainly never found them so in Lavender, and Pansy had found the warmth in two pairs of them.
It could just be a coincidence. And there was the chance Pansy had assumed it was a coincidence. She hadn’t known anything about Lavender’s parentage, she might have assumed that it wasn’t suspicious, if only because Lavender hadn’t said it was in response to that anecdote.
But maybe she had guessed, or thought it possible even. And maybe her involvement with Lavender had been an attempt to seek comfort for the loss of her husband in the arms of his half-sister. Or maybe she had just found resemblance in the eyes a comfort. Lavender would never know.
One thing she thought likely was that Pansy never believed they would last. She had even said so. She had kept telling Lavender about how when the war was over, she could see Lavender and Parvati getting themselves married. Lavender had asked her where she saw herself, and Pansy had replied. “Long gone.”
Surely, Lavender thought, when one did not except a relationship to last, it could not. Yet the break-up was harsher than was necessary. Cruel. Lavender hadn’t cried so hard since she was very young, and she had found Parvati’s shoulder, as she had after every breakup she’d suffered through.
It was obvious why Pansy thought the way she did. It was the same reason that while Lavender and Parvati were both bisexual, their strings of youthful love affairs contained only a few girls amoung the many boys. Neither could be as close to any other girl, or any boy for that matter, but the boys typically accepted that without second thought, as they were to each other.
Should she have told Pansy that Parvati didn’t know about their being lovers? Parvati knew they were friends, of course, and Lavender thought that just might have made her more jealous than she would have been had she known the truth. Lavender knew, and forgave, that the breakup had probably secretly made Parvati happy, though she had comforted and consoled in a truly selfless manner.
When Lavender had openly told Pansy she was more to her than most of Lavender’s many boyfriends. She was the only creature on Earth who had threatened Lavender’s relationship with Parvati.
Perhaps that knowledge, and that Pansy had failed to break them from each other, was what gave Lavender the impetus. Or perhaps it was just that they had both grown older, had tired of superficial romances, and now wanted their lover and their best friend to be the same person. They could never have hooked up when they were younger. It would have driven them apart. But within five months of the end of Lavender’s relationship with Pansy, she and Parvati were together, and five months after that, they gathered a number of guests in Grimmauld Place, at that time one of the few places they could all safely gather, and fed each other marigolds to finalize their engagement.
Pansy had attended. She had smiled and clapped and congratulated them both and Lavender was convinced she’d meant it. It wasn’t three weeks later when she’d gone after Lucius Malfoy.
When she stared into the painting of the flower, Pansy’s voice and hands came into her mind. Much of Pansy had faded in her memory, but her hands never would. Stiff looking, but the skin was slender and her fingers very flexible.
She could almost feel those fingers on her palms again, crawling up her arm, and to her neck...
She shook her thoughts off. She was married to Parvati now, and she loved her wife more than anything. Yet this was not the first time she had dwelt on her old lover, and her artistry and complex and subtle mind, next to which Parvati looked a little simple, really.
A knock on the door. Parvati always knocked before coming into the studio. If she didn’t, she risked Lavender snapping at her. “Come in,” Lavender called.
Parvati always seemed like an intruder in the studio, and she knew it. Yet today she came in and said, “You’ve been in here awhile today. Painter’s block?”
She wasn’t going to go away. She probably had the right not to as well. As the anniversary grew around, Lavender had spent more and more time in the studio, telling herself she’d make it up to Parvati in a month when their own anniversary rolled around. Maybe she should start making it up to her right now.
But instead she stood there, trying to smile a bit, until Parvati came over behind her and wrapped her arms around her wife. Lavender sighed and leaned back, let Parvati press their heads and cheeks together, but did not take her eyes off the painting.
“Do you ever think about old Pansy?” she asked quietly.
“Mrs. Malfoy, you mean? You were friends with her for a time, weren’t you? But didn’t she turn on you?”
Of course. It was easy for Parvati to write Pansy off like that, because of how their relationship ended.
“That was part of who she was. She was very deeply hurt, you know. Being married to Draco Malfoy was no flight through the valley.”
“Well, then, why did she marry him in the first place? You’re being too nice to her.” And Parvati found it incredible that Lavender should be nice to Pansy, because Pansy had hurt her.
“It’s been some years,” Lavender said easily. “And she married him because she loved him, obviously.”
“She, capable of love? Look, I know you knew her better than I did, but I just can’t believe that.”
Lavender was hard put to conceal her shock. She knew Parvati’s opinion of Pansy wasn’t very high, but to be that harsh to her? That close-minded?
“Did you know she painted too, when she was a little girl?" Parvati asked, forcing Lavender to conceal her surprise that she hadn't. "I didn’t really know her that well, mind you, but she and I learned how to paint from the same witch, and according to this witch she was really good at it too. The best of the class, she said. But that was so long ago, I don’t suppose she kept it up.”
“She did,” said Lavender. “She showed me some of her paintings.” She didn’t dare say more.
“I bet they weren’t as good as yours, though,” Parvati murmured into her ear.
Lavender knew it would shock her, when she replied, “No, she was much better than me.”
But Parvati only said, “Don’t put yourself down like that. I hate it when you do that.”
She had a shield to narrow her mind, but she'd built that shield of love. The knowledge could not help but provoke a strong tenderness in Lavender. “Shall we go out tonight?” she asked Parvati.
“Oh yes! Some of the old members of the Order are getting together in the Leaky Cauldron. I came in here to tell you about that. You need to clean yourself up.”
“I will, don’t worry.” She kissed Parvati, and her wife left.
Once Parvati was gone, Lavender felt herself sag, with a real amount of regret, that Parvati couldn’t understand.
She cleaned her brushes the way Pansy had taught her, generating water from her wand and running the tip over the top of the brush, helping the bristles keep their shape. Then she put them and her paints away in separate parts of her cupboard.
Before leaving, she took one last look of her painting of Pansy. Because that was what it really was, though explaining how it was her was beyound Lavender’s ability. What she could say was that it was the only good piece of art she would ever create.
“Explain it? Explain her?” she said aloud. “They would not listen. They’re not listening still.”
“Perhaps they never will.” When she left the studio, she suppressed her long-standing tears.