The look in her eyes is daring. Daring, not in the sense that she is being adventurous. It’s a challenge, and one that he isn’t particularly inclined to accept. Having had experience with the sharper end of her tongue, Seamus knows how to pick his battles. Or an idea, at least. So when he locks eyes with her in the Ministry library, he chooses to spin on his heel rather than comment on the obvious dried tears and lines etched into her face from a(nother) night of sleeping on her books.
“I saw Padma today …” Dean begins, his tone hesitant.
Seamus simply stirs his meat pie once more and hopes his face isn’t red. He blames being Irish, but the one thing he’s always—always—hated about his appearance more than anything else, teenaged acne included, is his utter inability to control his blush. Downright impossible.
Dean simply stretches his long limbs under the table and continues. “She doesn’t look so great, mate.”
“Why would I care what she looks like these days?”
“Don’t act like you don’t care.” Dean sighs. “I hear Parvati’s gone.”
Seamus sits up, trying to will away the goose pimples that have just run up his arm. “What do you mean ‘gone’?”
“I heard from one of the girls that she’s run off somewhere. She didn’t tell anyone, but most of them are guessing the Continent or India.”
“Right,” Seamus mutters. “She never was the same after.”
He doesn’t have to fill in the rest of that for Dean. After the Battle. After so many died. After Lavender died. They’d all taken that particular blow to their numbers poorly, but nobody so much as Parvati. Her reaction still haunts Seamus sometimes. He tries not to watch Muggle horror films anymore, because it seems like anything can trigger his memory of her pale, unnatural face and the wailing. As if her sister had died. As if she didn’t have any other family but the young woman lying prone on the dusty floor.
As if she didn’t have a twin sister standing within reach of her.
He figured he’d run into her again. Despite that she probably wants to see his face even less than he wants to see hers, the Ministry is only so big. Seamus has told Dean on more than one (drunken) account that he doesn’t know if he’d have gone into curse-breaking if he’d known how closely they work with researchers in the stacks. Dean, of course, always knows that it’s all utter shite. He loves curse-breaking from start to finish, and if he has to cross paths with a Dreaded Ex, so be it. (Except that even Dean knows she isn’t so much that as a Scared to Stay Ex.)
If Seamus weren’t so familiar with everything Padma, he’d never have known that she’s crying. But to him, she’s a textbook he’s long since memorized—one with really good pictures, so he can’t as easily forget. Upon seeing the way she’s positioned herself over her research—elbow propping up her head, her hand covering her eyes, her hair curtaining around her—Seamus’ eyes almost immediately snap to her other forearm, where he sees the expected tension.
His first instinct is to bolt—again. But Dean’s gossip is still ringing in his ear, and if Seamus knows one thing about Padma Patil (besides the fact that she hates being vulnerable, but that just can’t be helped), it’s her fear of abandonment, especially at the hands of her sister. Having basically grown up in the same common room as Parvati and Lavender, he’d never thought much of how close they were. Most of his thoughts on the two girls went more along the lines of “They’re such annoying twits”. There were also thoughts about changes that happened between terms, physically speaking, but Seamus preferred to not acknowledge those.
The last thing he’d ever thought about would be how the Patils were affected by being sorted into different Houses. When he’d been with Padma, he received mainly obscure clues about why Padma is the way she is. Aside from the pride he felt at figuring that part of her out, there was no joy in it.
To put it plainly, knowing what he’d figured out in Hogwarts combined with his new knowledge about Parvati’s whereabouts make it difficult for him to flee. He sighs, wondering where his conscience has been all this time.
Unfortunately, that sigh is enough to alert Padma to the fact that she isn’t, in fact, alone. He’s sure the second she sees him her mood will sour trifold. As if it isn’t bad enough that someone sees her crying, it has to be him, he’s sure she’s thinking.
Her voice sounds too controlled to be a proper snap. “What are you doing here?” She reaches up with the sleeve of her robe to wipe the tracks from her cheeks.
Seamus purses his lips and shrugs. “Last I checked, I’m allowed to walk through the library, Pad.” She rolls her eyes, and he continues to stand there, hands stuffed in the pockets of his trousers. He doesn’t feel so awkward in the silence, and he uses the time to note her other physical cues. Padma never had understood the idea of body language, at least not the way Seamus did. Her eyes are puffy and not quite bloodshot but reddish.
“You’ve been crying.” The second the words come out of his mouth, he regrets them. Her entire body immediately tightens, culminating in one of the worst glares he’s seen in a few months.
“Bugger off, Seamus,” she says, almost seething. It’s times like these, when her borderline hatred of him digs deep under his skin, that he wonders why he left. This is what he gets for doing the “right” thing.
This time he’s the one to roll his eyes. “Sorry that I was trying to find out what’s wrong when you’re so obviously upset.”
Her body immediately gets more tense, which hadn’t seemed possible moments before. “I’m not – I’m not upset”
Seamus is barely able to suppress his amusement, as ill-fitting as it is for the moment. “Could’ve fooled me.”
“What do you want?”
“Just because we aren’t together doesn’t mean I don’t ca—“
“No!” It seems then that she realizes how loudly she’d just exclaimed.
“No,” she nearly whispers, “you broke up with me. You don’t get to care anymore. You don’t get to ask me how I am.”
“Well then it’s a good thing I don’t subscribe to your rules. Not everything is black and white, Padma. Shades of gray, remember?”
Her eyes slip closed, and he can almost hear her counting to calm. Anything to regain her composure and not cause a scene in this most holy of libraries.
Seamus takes advantage of her concentration and mutters, “I just wanted to say I’m sorry about Parvati.”
Her eyes snap open. “What are you talking about?”
“I heard she took off.” He looks down and fidgets, moving his balance from one foot to the other. When he doesn’t hear any signs that she heard him—usually in the form of huffs or slight violence to his person—he looks up. The look on her face startles him—it’s too open.
“I have to go.”
Seamus stands still, biting his lip, as she throws everything from her table into her bag without so much as a thought to how wrinkled the papers will be and beelines for the door to the library. It takes all of his willpower not to run after her and force her to talk to him. Deep down—or perhaps not so deep down—, though, he knows that’s probably the last thing he should ever do.