"Hey, it looks like we're one hammock short," Seamus says as he leads the group to the centre of the room. Based on what Neville's told them all about this place, it's supposed to provide whatever you need from it and has been automatically expanding with more of whatever they need everytime a new group of people joins them. Only apparently it didn't get the memo that she, Padma, and Lavender are three seperate people, and a quick scan of the room confirms there is one less hammock hanging from the ceiling than they need to sleep them all. Parvati's jaw clenches in annoyance—apparently even fucking magic thinks twins only count as one full person. Still, she does her best to squash her irritation—compared to the hell they've been living through under Headmaster Snape and the Carrows, sharing a hammock is nothing.
Neville's brow furrows as he stands. "Give me a minute," he says, before disappearing out the door.
"Neville's the room-whisperer, he'll get us sorted," Seamus says with a grin that looks painful with the skin pulling at deep gash along his cheek. Not too long ago, the sight would have made Parvati feel faint, but she's grown used to blood and bruises and terror over the past school year; the brutality has only been escalating since they got back from Easter hols. She wraps her arms around her middle and attempts to return Seamus's smile, marvelling at how cheerful he's managed to remain in the face of such brutality.
Neville enters and leaves several times as the four of them stand in the centre of the room. Parvati takes a moment to look around, absorbing the dark, windowless, wood-panelled walls covered in bright tapestries for Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor—Slytherin is unsurprisingly absent. Against the far wall is a bookcase stuffed full of thick books, and in the corner next to it is a large wireless, cased in light wood. There are several multi-coloured hammocks hanging from the ceiling but their number remains unchanged, no matter how many times Neville exits and enters.
Eventually a patrol of Slytherins force him back inside for good, and he looks at them apologetically. Padma waves away his concern. "Don't worry about it," she says, and Parvati is probably the only one who can hear the tension underlying her words. "It's not the first time Parvati and I have shared."
Parvati can't help but think that sharing a hammock is a whole hell of a lot different than sharing a bed, but it's not like they have much of a choice in the matter. Neville nods, looking relieved before falling into a conversation with Michael and Seamus and leaving the three girls huddled alone in the middle of the room.
"You hate sharing a bed," Parvati whispers, low enough that the boys can't hear. "I can't imagine sharing a bloody hammock is going to be any better!" She doesn't want to make Neville feel guilty for something he can't control, and she knows all of them would sleep ten to a hammock if it meant the Carrows couldn't find them, but still. Parvati never minded sleeping with her sister growing up, had actually quite liked the closeness, but Padma has always been a light sleeper. They had to share when they visited their grandparents in India the summer before last, and Padma was miserable, hardly sleeping a wink the whole trip. They're running on so little sleep as it is, and all of them have become grimly aware of the importance of being well rested in this climate.
Padma can't entirely hide her grimace before her lips spread into a forced smile. "It'll be fine," she says with false cheer. "Just like old times."
"Parvati and I can share," Lavender offers quietly. Parvati looks over at her in surprise, and Lavender's skin flushes. "I mean, if you don't mind kipping with me? Then Padma can get her own. I'm okay with sharing."
Parvati feels her own cheeks begin to heat as butterfly wings tickle at her stomach. The thought of sharing a hammock with Lavender, knowing there won't be even a hair's breadth of space between them, makes her pulse race with something like dread and anticipation. A part of her—the terrified part—wants to decline, but she can't do that to Padma. Especially not when there's also a part of her that's begging her to say yes so she can finally have an excuse to feel Lavender's body pressed up against her own for longer than the length of a friendly hug.
"Yeah, sure," Parvati says, shooting for breezy. She thinks she does a pretty good job, but not good enough to get past her sister, who looks at her with amusement as she slowly raises one eyebrow—a look that, thankfully, Lavender can't see from where she's standing. Parvati shoots her a glare, and Padma's lips quirk into a grin.
"That would be great," Padma tells Lavender. She smiles at her warmly, but Parvati can see the hint of playfulness still lingering at the corners of her mouth. "I know it's stupid given everything we've gone through to care about having to share, but…."
"I don't blame you for wanting a little comfort, a little normalcy," Lavender says, her expression kind and heavy with the weight of all they've had to endure over the past hellish year. It makes Parvati's heart skip a beat, seeing that open compassion on Lavender's face, that good-natured spirit that people are always so easy to dismiss because Lavender likes horoscopes and makeup and glitter. It makes her so angry sometimes, that others can so easily overlook Lavender's warmth and brilliance, but it's their loss. Parvati only hopes that Lavender will make it through these dark days unscathed and untarnished, that her bright light will continue to shine, just as radiant as the sparkles on her favourite pair of heels.
"Thank you," Padma says again, reaching out to squeeze Lavender's shoulder. "I think I'm going to get ready for bed now. It's been a long day."
The three of them exchange exhausted and commiserating glances, clearly all doing their best not to think of that day's events, the ones that finally made them seek asylum with Neville. It's strange, still being in the castle and getting ready for bed somewhere other than the Gryffindor tower. Parvati can't quite shake the feeling of unease, the worry that they're still too close to the Carrows, that they can still be found. It makes her grateful that she won't be alone tonight. Fretting over her unrequited love for her best friend and worrying about how she'll manage to spend a whole night practically on top of Lavender without kissing her breathless is pretty decent as far as distractions go. It's the kind of thing seventeen-year-old girls should be worrying about, instead of the phantom memories of Cruciatus that haunt her nightmares.
"Do you want to get in first or shall I?" Lavender asks after they've brushed their teeth in the conveniently provided lavatory and changed into the Hogwarts pyjamas the room has produced for them—thankfully there were the right number of those, though the thought of having to share a set of pyjamas with Lavender makes Parvati's entire body shiver.
Seamus has clearly claimed the hammock hanging next to them, and he raises his eyebrows as he catches Parvati's eye, looking pointedly between her and Lavender. It's not the first time a boy had made a rude insinuation about her and Lavender, and even if Parvati wishes those insinuations were true, it doesn't make them any less annoying. She glares at him fiercely, and he puts his hands up in mock surrender as he turns around and climbs into his own hammock with all the grace of a drunken hippogriff.
"I can get in first if you want to hold it steady?" Parvati says as she turns her focus back to Lavender. She still feels off-kilter and shaken, and some animal part of her brain wants nothing more to find a small, safe space to hide in. Cocooned in the bright red hammock with Lavender's warm, solid body wrapped around her sounds like a good compromise.
"Yeah, sure," Lavender replies easily before reaching out and grabbing hold of the fabric. "After you."
Parvati can feel Lavender watching her as she climbs unsteadily inside, doing her best not to awkwardly roll right back out again. She tries not to read into Lavender's gaze, tries to remind her foolish heart that this is an innocent necessity, nothing more. Still, when Lavender climbs in after her, practically falling directly on top of Parvati, she can't stop her pulse from speeding faster than those shooting stars she always looked for during Astronomy class.
It takes a couple moments of awkward jostling before they both seem to find a comfortable position, the hammock swinging wildly back and forth and probably giving Seamus all kinds of filthy ideas that are (sadly) inaccurate. Parvati lies on her back and it's no time at all before Lavender's wrapped around her like the Giant Squid, throwing an arm around her waist and nuzzling her head in the crook of Parvati's neck. Their limbs slot together, the two of them entwined as easy as breathing while Parvati's stomach tumbles over onto itself at Lavender's proximity. The scent of jasmine-scented shampoo fills Parvati's nose, and her reaction is almost Pavlovian by now as desire pumps sweetly through her veins. Lavender's curls tickle at her throat, soft and teasing as a feather, and Parvati clenches her thighs to relieve some of the ache that has taken up at her core. It's a bit of a marvel, really, that in the middle of the war Parvati can still feel this little thrill in her belly at Lavender's nearness, that her pulse can still pound with want instead of fear.
She's dreamt of this, has fantasised about finally making her move in a million different ways, and adrenaline threatens to surge through her at the thought that maybe this could be her moment. Merlin, she wants to, wants to desperately, wants to taste Lavender's lips, wants to finally give word to the feelings that swell within her breast every time Lavender's near. The reality of the war has grown clearer every day, and she knows that some of the people in this very room might not make it through. She tries not to think about it, can't bear the thought of losing Padma or Lavender or any of the others, but it adds a weight to every moment, knowing it could be their last.
"I'm so glad you're here with me," Lavender says softly, her words a warm puff of breath against Parvati's throat. "I'd be so scared without you. I don't know how I'd deal with any of this if you weren't here."
Parvati shudders as all the pent up tension inside her melts away in a tiny puff of shame, leaving her abruptly exhausted even as the fog of lust begins to clear.
Now's not the time for bold declarations.
Lavender's never given even a hint that she returns Parvati's feelings, and though Parvati knows Lavender loves her, she's not certain her boy-crazy friend will ever love her the way Parvati wants her to. Confessing her feelings right now would be selfish, a self-motivated desire to free herself of the desperate yearnings and the what-ifs. At the end of day, if Lavender doesn't return her affections, it will only make things awkward and painful between them during a time where they need to rely on each other more than ever. Despite being a Gryffindor, it's not a risk Parvati can take, not when so much is at stake, not when the distraction of a broken heart could literally mean life or death. It's clear that what Lavender needs right now is her best friend, not another suitor vying for her affections. Parvati loves her enough to put what Lavender needs right now above her own desires, especially given everything that is at risk.
One day—and Parvati has to believe this is true—Harry will defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the war will end. One day Parvati can tell Lavender how she feels on her own terms, and not out of selfish fear. Maybe Lavender will return her feelings and maybe she won't, but without a war looming over their heads, they'll have time to figure it out.
Parvati snuggles in close, her insides melting when Lavender sighs into her embrace, mumbling sleepily about how Parvati makes the best pillow. She lets herself sink into the warmth surrounding her, allows herself to take comfort in her best friend being so close, and lets the desire fade into the background, ever-present, but not all-consuming. It's not the time for it, not now, not tonight, but Parvati has faith that there will be a time for it. One day.
Parvati can wait.