The first time I saw her, she had flowers in her hair. Bright, colorful flowers in full bloom, and that was what drew me to her. In a sea of black robes I might have drowned, were it not for that island of beauty, right there, floating serenely along in her blonde tresses.
When I reached her I didn’t know what to say, but she spoke for me. Her extended hand of friendship was the first of its kind I had encountered, and I took it gladly. We spent an entire train ride just talking, giggling as young girls will, and when we got off it was as if I had known her as long as I had known myself.
Later I reflected that, in a way, I had. After all, it wasn’t really until I met her that I truly came to know myself. And it wasn’t until much later that I came to accept who I am, and again it was she who led me all the way. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On that first day, the day with the flowers as it were, our friendship was doomed to die. We were sorted. As soon as she became a Gryffindor, I knew it would be the end of whatever we might have had. I was to be a Slytherin, just like my family before me, and proud of it.
I was entirely wrong, of course. I did become a Slytherin, as I had known I would, and yet that very evening, she returned to me. She told me to meet her here, in the Great Hall, that night. Only eleven years old, I had rarely been up so late before, but on my first night in Hogwarts I forgot about bedtimes and early mornings. Together we gaped at stars beneath an enchanted ceiling.
We explored the castle that night, as we would so often in years to come, just her and I. I noticed that the flowers were still in her hair, and that they had not wilted. But, accustomed to magic as I was, this did not surprise me. It did entrance me, somehow.
Looking back, I’m amazed we were not caught that first night, that our friendship was not ended forcefully by a detention in the very first week of school. Instead, we were given free reign as she told me all about Gryffindor and I shared my findings of Slytherin. I suppose after that night it was impossible for us not to be friends. After all, we had already broken through the boundaries that ought to have separated us.
It was the shortest night of my life, and yet the longest. The next day I nearly fell asleep in class, but when I finally saw her in one of the lessons and she grinned conspiratorially, it was easier to pretend to be listening to my new professors.
As was natural, over the years we grew apart in many ways. My dislike for Gryffindor house, fueled by centuries-old rivalries, was only intensified by my resentment for the house which captured her affection. I have come to realize that this was exactly how she felt towards Slytherin, but at the time I could never understand that I was as good a friend to her as she was to me.
Once she brought her beautiful friend from Gryffindor along with her on one of our nightly explorations. This friend spent most of the time giggling about some stupid boy. The day after I couldn’t help insulting the dark-haired friend of my friend, which is just what I thought of her as, in front of everyone. She, the girl who cared only about looks, pretended to stick up for Longbottom when he fell off his broom in our flying class. I truly found it hard to believe that she, of all people, was sticking up for him, and I saw nothing wrong in pointing that out to her. Of course, I didn’t see much in Longbottom myself, either. He was a Gryffindor, after all, and a crybaby.
That night my best friend would not speak to me. But, I noted, she had come to our meeting point and she did stay there with me, as we each did our homework silently. She never again brought anyone else with her on our excursions, and, learning from her mistake, neither did I.
Of course that wasn’t the only thing I learned from her over the years, nor was it the most important thing. I remember, one warm night at the end of third year, we were out by the lake. We had put our nightly wanderings on hold while Sirius Black was loose, but now he was gone. Escaped, still at large, the papers warned, but to us it didn’t matter as long as the Dementors no longer guarded the school. It was that night that she asked me a question I was totally unprepared for.
“Do you think I’m pretty?”
And suddenly, from one instant to the next, I knew. I knew that she was vulnerable too, that she was not flawless. I knew that the innocence of the flowers, the lovely, unwilted flowers, had left both of us long ago. I knew that she worried about being pretty, just as I did, and that she was not above being human. Strangely enough, this sudden knowledge brought me closer to her.
Literally, as well as figuratively, and we spent that whole night snuggled together on the grass, neither one of us uncomfortable with holding the other in the tightest embrace, nor truly aware of what that night would mean. I didn’t answer her question; I didn’t need to.
Afterwards things could never be the same. On the night when she had fallen out of her role as a goddess, she had become a human being. A whole summer apart seemed inconceivable and for the first time we met outside of Hogwarts. I told my parents she was a friend from school, and they didn’t ask any more on that matter. We spent hours walking through the streets of her hometown, and loving being side by side in the sunlight. We explored the depths of my crumbling family mansion, finding excitement in our tiny adventures.
Back at school it was terrible to be apart for most of the day, but it made our evenings together sweeter. All of the other friends I had must have noticed that I was gone a lot, just as hers must have, but we didn’t care. We were best friends, nothing more. And yet, nothing less.
The squabbles that had accompanied our friendship for the first three years were gone, as we discovered ourselves that year. I think we didn’t fight once throughout fourth year. That was bound to change.
After Harry Potter swore the Dark Lord had returned, I was pulled back into my own family circle. My parents were not Death Eaters, but most of the people I knew had parents or older siblings who were. I convinced her that the Dark Lord wasn’t really back. And then, suddenly, she decided I was wrong. Umbridge was vile, but everyone I knew was going along with her. And, hoping to show Gryffindor up, I did as well. Fifth year, we barely spoke at all, except when we met accidentally. The insults we traded back and forth were far more personal than the average exchanges between our housemates, but I don’t think many people noticed. I was drawn into my group of other friends, and I lost sight of what we had shared the year before. I lost sight of all that was right, and everything that was her. I admit, the Dark Lord appealed to me, and I did not turn away from the prospect of power. I was young, but that is hardly an excuse.
That summer we did not even owl each other. Away from my glory as a member of the Inquisitorial Squad, though, in the loneliness of home, I realized how much I missed her. I realized that I wanted her back as my best friend. I realized that I needed her in order to have the life I wanted to have. Sixteen years old, I couldn’t think of a way to get her back. Apologizing, talking to her – that was out of the question. I devised a plan. Oddly enough almost the same one she thought of that summer.
When we first returned to school, I spent all of my time with one of my male housemates; I suppose you could call him a friend. I held his hand when I could, and I fawned on him whenever she was near. Make her jealous, I thought. Make her want to be my friend because she realizes that I don’t need her. Make her see that I have a boyfriend now, and who needs friends when you have one of those? But that wasn’t how it worked out.
Instead, she suddenly had a boyfriend as well. I hated how fake she was around him, and I hated him for bringing that out in her. I wanted nothing more than to slap her – hard. It wasn’t until her boyfriend dumped her and I saw her beautiful friend comforting her that I couldn’t stand it any longer.
Coincidentally it was the night before the Death Eaters penetrated Hogwarts for the first time that we made up.
Standing in the Great Hall, under the same ceiling we had stood under, side-by-side, almost six years ago, the stupid two-year fight ended. We yelled, we screamed, and again, looking back, I don’t know how it was that no one found us. But finally it was over.
“I think you’re very pretty,” I said, answering the question I had never responded to so long ago. She remembered, and somehow, she understood. We were both people, both equals, neither one better than the other. And here we stood, together, and why fight when we could just accept each other?
I cannot pretend that I behaved admirably the next day, or afterwards in the war. I will not say that I helped her fight the Dark Lord. I was not brave like she and her beautiful friend and Longbottom, whom I had insulted all those years ago. I was on the wrong side of the war, and I knew it. But I was a fighter, after all those years, and I was a selfish fighter.
A year after his first attack, the Dark Lord came again. When he declared a way for everything to end, I seized on it. Why not sacrifice Potter, and save all the innocent children? Why not sacrifice Potter and stop the fighting? Why not sacrifice Potter and end this war? Why not sacrifice Potter and make sure that we were not forced to fight again, not after a year of blissful friendship and wonderful peace? But she was alongside those who refused to take the easy way out.
I left with my housemates, ashamed that none of us would stay, but unable to face fighting against her, and knowing that I could not battle the Dark Lord’s forces, either, without endangering everyone I cared for. I knew how Draco’s family had ended up harboring Him, after all.
And then, suddenly, it dawned on me, running along the corridor with the children and the cowards. Did it matter? Tonight everything would end, either way, and what mattered except that she forgave me while she still had the chance? And so I fought my way back to the battle, I fought my way to her side. We didn’t speak, and I think she still hated me that night, in a way that she had never hated me before. She hated me more than she had during fifth year and sixth; she hated me for leaving her.
But that night I was there, and I fought alongside her, and since then I haven’t left her side, you could say. In the morning she forgave me, in a way that I have never been forgiven since. The war did end, and I overcame my cowardice that night, if only for her. It’s been years, and we’re still in this together.
Yesterday she asked me, what was my favorite flower. I remembered the ones in her hair so long ago, but they were not my favorite. They were a part of her, a part we both grew out of sometime in third year. My favorite flower was not a part, but all of her.
“Lavender, of course,” I said, and she grinned when she heard her name.
“That’s funny. My favorite are pansies.”
I smiled, and she smiled, and though we knew that by the end of the day we’d have argued over something or other, we also knew that what we had would hold. Because we were two girls, both flowers, I suppose, drawn together by flowers to form a great friendship.
Well, truthfully, our friendship was a friendship made in hell, right from the start. But somehow it held all this time. Strangely enough, we made it through all of those years – we’re still making it, and will be for years more – with only a few bruised egos and, just once, fingernail scratches down both of our cheeks. But that’s a different story.