Lavender thinks Parvati is the most beautiful girl in school, perhaps in the whole world. She's so graceful and so dignified and so clever, secretly much more clever than Padma and even Hermione (in the most important ways, which don't have much to do with homework) and much more wicked and funny than anyone would ever guess. Lavender watches Parvati brush her hair in the morning and imitates the way she casts spells and wishes that she had half the easy charm of her roommate, who sometimes seems to be so similar to Lavender they might be mistaken for twins and sometimes seems so much more self-confident and mature and beautiful than Lavender that she can hardly believe Parvati's chosen her as her best friend.
And Pavarti thinks Lavender is--well, Lavender's not actually sure exactly what Parvati thinks, because even though she talks to Parvati more than anyone in the world, Parvati is still fairly quiet about certain things. This Thing, particularly. But Lavender does know that they take all their classes together, and they join all the same clubs, and they stay at dinner talking over the pudding until the house-elves come upstairs and chase them out, and then they do their homework together, talking all the while. Sometimes late at night they still aren't done talking, and so then they make Hermione cast her own damn Silencing Spell if she's so good at it, and they stay up into the night until one of them (usually Lavender) realizes the other hasn't said anything for ages and might even be snoring a little. It doesn't matter; in the morning they'll have more to talk about, after they've dreamed.
It's not enough to say they're best friends, because they're best friends with Padma, too, of course, and Lavender has a Muggle best friend, Harriet, back home. They're not twins, because Parvati already has a twin. Professor Trelawney says they are soul mates, but, as much as Lavender admires Professor Trelawney, who's much more clever than anyone realizes, that's not the kind of phrase you'd ever actually say out loud where anyone could hear you. There should be another word for what they have but there isn't, so Lavender secretly calls it their Thing. What's odd is that even though they've never said anything about their Thing to anyone (especially Padma, who sometimes seems not to like Lavender as much as Parvati does), everyone else seems to know about it, even stupid Ron, who was a bit surprised that one Saturday to find they were going in to Hogsmeade alone. Where's Parvati? he asked, with that twitchy half-shrug that Lavender thought was cute when they were still seeing each other.
Lavender rolled her eyes. I don't always do everything with Parvati, do I? she asked, but even as the words came out of her mouth she realized that, yes, she did do everything with Parvati, and even Madam Puddifoot's would be better if Parvati could come with them. But she can't, because Madam Puddifoot's is for girls and boys. The same way kissing seems to be for girls and boys, and Hogsmeade, and sex, and adulthood more generally.
That's thing about the Thing: it's not going anywhere, the way even her stupid not-Thing with stupid Ron Weasley went somewhere. Lavender's done everything she can think of to push the Thing a little further: hint, touch, stay up late into the night talking, touch some more, ask Parvati if she wants to practice kissing, ask her if she wants a boyfriend, ask her what she wants in a boyfriend, and if it isn't perhaps even something very much like what she already has in her best friend. Nothing's worked. Pavati listens carefully (like she always does) and nods and laughs (that's why they get along so well, because Parvati always listens and always laughs), but she never responds to these kinds of questions, not in any real way. She has this solemn, frowny expression Lavender recognizes from times Parvati doesn't want to talk about something (like that time Snapey gave her a T), and she turns the questions right around--what do you want in a boyfriend, Lavender? What do you think your husband will be like? And No, I don't want to practice kissing, I don't have any real reason to learn, but thanks, anyway.
Which could mean that she really doesn't want to learn but could just mean that she doesn't want to kiss Lavender.
You see, Parvati never touches back. Lavender knows that she touches and hugs and cries more often than the other kids in their year do, and she's gotten used to it, because that's the way she is, and that the way things are, here at Hogwarts. Mum says wizards are a little more standoffish than Muggles at home, not just friends but boyfriends and girlfriends, too, and Lavender had never really realized just how true it was until she came home over the winter hols last year, and everyone she remembered from school was paired off and snogging all the bloody time, and her best friend (that's Harriet, Lavender's best Muggle friend, who now goes to the comprehensive) said her little sister was expecting a baby. A baby! Lavender felt a little sad and a little guilty and a little relieved that she'd be heading back to Hogwarts in a few days, despite the fact that the wizarding world felt like it might fall apart at any moment. Preggers before leaving school--Mum would kill Lavender if that happened, or at least yell at her until she was red in the face, and then she'd Floo every relative who'd ever given them a few Galleons and tell them what a huge, huge disappointment Lavender was. Not that there was any chance of that happening, really. Lavender'd decided before she started seeing Ron that she'd let him put his hand in her knickers and nothing more, but Ron had just made sucking noises and looked like a dying fish when he tried to kiss her and groped at her boobies through her shirt, and it was pretty obvious that Hufflepuffs would win the House Cup before Ron got anyone up the duff. (Sad, actually. Good thing she's moved on from him.) But Parvati, that was different. Just last night Lavender was sitting on Parvati's bed with her, snuggling under the covers because it was cold and Parvati was always warm, even her feet and her fingers, and Lavender had turned to kiss her before going back to her own bed--not in a boyfriend-girlfriend way; she just liked kissing and wanted to see what it would be like to kiss someone you really, really like, someone who smells good and laughs at your jokes and has the same friends and the same ideas about the world--and Parvati pushed her away and said I need to go to sleep, Lavender, good night.
So that's the first reason why this Thing with Parvati isn't going anywhere: Parvati isn't interested. The second reason is that Parvati's Indian. Lavender hasn't thought about that very much because...she doesn't know, it's just the way things are. They talk about India a lot. They've been planning on going there together ever since they'd become best friends during the second week of their first year (Lavender knew the exact moment, it was when Lavender asked, Can you read Padma's mind? And Parvati asked, Why is your hair like that? and neither could stop giggling). They would get the Galleons for the International Floo from Parvati's parents, and they would stay with Parvati's favorite cousin, who had a house with a view and extra bedrooms for guests, and they would visit a famous magical temple which wasn't too far away from where the favorite cousin lived and which Parvati said was the most beautiful place she'd ever seen.
Parvati, who loves talking about India, has the trip all planned out. She'd bought a special notebook at Flourish and Blotts that they wrote down their plans in. Lavender, who can count the number of times she's been outside of London (apart from going to school), can't imagine the trip quite as clearly as Parvati can. She's thrilled to be going to India one day, of course, and maybe Jamaica, too, since she's never been there, either (not really, not in a way that counts), but she's thrilled in the same way she's thrilled about getting married or having a baby, vaguely, because deep down she isn't quite sure these things are ever going to happen, despite what Mum says and what Parvati says, and despite what Professor Trelawney says about fates and life lines and the first letter of the surname of Lavender's future husband. They could all be killed by Voldemort, couldn't they? Or be forced to live as Muggles, because it's too dangerous to be wizards and witches? Who's to say anything that was supposed to happen to them would ever happen at all?
Last summer she visited Parvati at her house in Hertfordshire, and Lavender realized something awful: Parvati was Indian and Lavender was not, and being Indian was always going to be a huge part of Parvati's life that Lavender was never going to be part of. Lavender Brown, not Patil. Very definitely not-Patil. Lavender had always thought she had a rather posh set-up in South London because she lived on the ground floor of a house with a tiny bit of a garden in the back and her father owned a shop that sold wizarding things if you knew how to look for them and Muggle things that everyone could buy, and her parents always gave brilliant gifts to her and Harriet at the holidays, but Parvati's house was huge and surrounded by a garden that looked more like a park. It was filled with dozens of relatives, some of whom seemed to live nearby and some of whom seemed to be visiting from India, which they talked about all the time, and some very beautiful furniture and luxurious blankets and pillows and carpets and one pure white cat with bright blue eyes like Ron and his annoying sister. The Patils also had house-elves, which Lavender had never seen outside of Hogwarts, though now she realized that's where they'd probably got their name, from working in houses. No one called them Hogwarts-elves, did they? The Patils were very kind, but they also asked where her parents were from and what she was going to do when she left school, and Lavender knew even as she replied that she wasn't offering quite the right answers for someone who was going to be in Parvati's life much past the time they left school. Sensing how awkward it all was, Parvati told a funny story about the way that Lavender's mum met Lavender's dad, when Mum got lost in the Floo and wound up in Kingston, Jamaica, instead of Kingston-upon-Hull, and everyone laughed, but the most memorable thing about that visit, apart from the house-elves, was the ice-cold realization that she and Parvati were not mis-matched twins, like they always joked they were, that maybe she and Parvati weren't going to be best friends forever.
Lavender moped a lot when she got home, and Mum asked her why she hadn't enjoyed her visit, and Lavender didn't know what to say, because she had enjoyed her visit, very much. Instead, she asked Mum why they never went to Jamaica, and Mum looked puzzled and said, But, sweetie, we have gone, don't you remember? And Lavender didn't know what to say to that except that she didn't think that a twenty-four-hour trip to attend the funeral of a grandparent you'd never met was a proper visit, and so she said that she wanted to see the house she was born in, which was something Mum might understand. And Mum did understand, or at least didn't start talking about the shop or the furnace or the fact that they needed to bring Dad's brother over to see a Healer at St Mungo's. Instead, she gave Lavender some extra pudding that night and went to mind the shop by herself for an hour while Dad showed her pictures from the time he was a child and the Quidditch World Cup was in Jamaica and it was delayed for two weeks because the Canadian Seeker caught the Snitch but then disappeared. No one knew exactly what happened to him, but they found his robes on the beach, and Dad said he'd always imaged him flying over the Caribbean, starkers, stopping only to have a drink or bathe in the sea. Which wasn't exactly what Lavender had expected to hear, but she listened carefully, so she could tell Parvati the story when she got back to school. Perhaps one day they could vanish over the Caribbean, too.
The third and final and real reason that this Thing with Parvati isn't going anywhere--if Lavender is completely honest with herself, which she tries hard to be, at least about the important things in life--is because it can't. Because if it went somewhere, if Lavender kissed Parvati or told her just how much she liked her, they would find themselves in this awful state, not being friends any more but not able to do anything else. Lavender supposes they could do other things--she lies awake at night sometimes, thinking about it, her knickers pulled down and her fingers shoved inside of herself and her blanket pulled over her head--but there are words for better-than-kissing or more-than-friends, and Lavender doesn't know how she feels about those words, or how Parvati feels about them, and in any case, she's fairly sure those words will kill the Thing she has with Parvati quicker than anything else. Which is just about the most terrible thing Lavender can think of. And she's been in Dumbledore's Army, and so she can think of some terrible things that could happen.
So those words lurk there in the background, threatening but as-yet-unspeakable, like the prospect of leaving Hogwarts or facing a Death Eater. Padma used one of them last week, talking about Loony Lovegood after Potions, and Parvati snapped back at her viciously, more viciously than Lavender had ever seen, but Lavender hardly noticed, because all she could think was, That word has something to do with me.
That made a chill run up and down her spine, like Voldemort himself was standing in the corridor with them. I'm cold, Par, she said, to stop the conversation. Lend us your cloak? And Parvati said they could share and threw part of her cloak over Lavender's shoulders and slipped an arm around Lavender's waist. They walked on to their next class, together and not together, whispering about how Padma simply doesn't understand sometimes, and Lavender relaxed a bit and thought about how very, very much she liked Parvati and how lucky they were to have this Thing. If Parvati wouldn't practice kissing with her, if Parvati was happy with their Thing the way it was, and if visiting India or vanishing into the Caribbean proved to be impossible, she might still be happy with Parvati, here at school, for one last year.
Because even if this Thing with Parvati isn't going anywhere, it's at least here, for now, and it's absolutely brilliant, much better than fish-mouth Ron Weasley, and Lavender's going to hold on to it as long as she can. After all, who knows what's going to happen to them next?