Lavender Brown had always found it ironic, really, that Harry Potter’s best friends were Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. For all that they claimed to know him, they didn’t—not really. Sure, they knew the small stuff: his favorite color, what he ate for breakfast, and his favorite class. But they didn’t know him.
Strangers and acquaintances could figure those same things out from all the way across a room without any difficulty.
She could count on one hand the number of times she had talked to Harry before the start of the year. But just because they had never really spoken didn’t mean they didn’t understand each other. Both she and Harry were experts at making people see what they wanted to see, at letting people make assumptions based off little to no information.
It was all about perception—what could be shown and what must be hidden.
To the majority of the school, Harry Potter was a spoiled prat who always got his way. People assumed he was treated like a king and that his relatives worshipped at his feet. She wasn’t sure how anyone could be blind enough to believe that, but they did.
It had only taken her five minutes in Harry’s presence to see what so many others missed.
His childhood hadn’t been pleasant.
Lavender knew Harry hadn’t been physically abused—that would leave different signs—but she would bet her crystal ball that he had been neglected. His eyes belonged to someone who had never been told he was loved, who had never had a kind word spoken to him, who thought he was worthless.
It manifested, sometimes, in a physical way. Harry would hide away from his friends, often near her, and they would just sit in silence. If her presence could help him in the smallest way, then Lavender would offer that comfort freely.
When she had come to Hogwarts, she’d had detailed plans about what her life would be like. She was going to be the top of her class, Head Girl when the time came, and she would fall in love and find a respectable husband.
Those plans had all flown out the window the moment she met Harry and Saw what he needed.
No one else seemed to understand him—not even their Head of House or the Headmaster. His closest friend, Ron, was too thick to see that Harry needed more than he was offering. And Hermione, well, Lavender hated her. For all the girl claimed she was a genius, she wasn’t—not where it really mattered. Harry didn’t need someone to mother him, someone to bully him into doing his work. He needed someone who would sit silently and let him be himself, let him escape from the pressures of his life, if only for a moment.
So Lavender became that person for him.
Lavender was the top female student in the year, but no one would believe that if she said so. They all thought she was too busy painting her nails to understand the assignments, that she was too busy gossiping about boys to study, and that she was too busy shopping through catalogues to write a proper essay. People tended to think she was vapid.
She had spent the last five years supporting Harry to the best of her ability, and she wasn’t going to stop now, not when he needed her the most.
Everything had started changing in third year, when Lavender had taken him the pieces of his shattered Nimbus 2000—the first real present he had ever received. She knew Hedwig didn’t count as a present, because Hedwig was Harry’s friend.
As the others talked around his hospital bed, she seemed to be the only person to notice how much pain was in his eyes. It might’ve been foolish, could’ve ruined the mask she had crafted, but it was the right thing to do. Lavender squeezed Harry’s foot through the blankets, locking her eyes with his, and she had seen it then—gratefulness and understanding.
In the months following that incident, Harry visited her little corner of the common room at least once a day. He would sit beside her, sometimes with homework, sometimes without, and say nothing, because there was nothing to say that the silence didn’t say for them.
Fourth year had been the hardest on her, because it was hardest on him. She had known that he hadn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire, and that’s why she had to leave the common room when Ron and Hermione and so many others tore into him. She stormed to her empty classroom and threw curses and hexes at the wall for over an hour.
They claimed to be his best friends, to protect him from harm, and they damaged him more than Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape combined.
Once Lavender calmed down, she returned to the common room, the plush red velvet armchair, and Harry’s side. Again, they said nothing. There was no need to, when their eyes spoke for them.
When Harry fought against the dragon, Lavender started shaking.
She was still trembling hours later as she curled up in her armchair, staring into the fireplace across the room. The fire. . . . She didn’t stop quaking until Harry wandered into her corner and set a hand on her knee.
Their eyes locked and a small, tremulous smile appeared on her face, unlike the haughty and flighty ones she usually wore. For a moment, just a moment, her mask vanished completely; she let Harry inside.
He squeezed her knee once, carefully, and then nodded, letting her know he understood how rare such an event was, and then wandered back over to his best friends, who were yelling for him.
Lavender could pinpoint that as the moment she simultaneously fell in love with Harry Potter and decided she hated Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. They didn’t deserve forgiveness, but he was too noble, too kind, and too afraid of being alone to not forgive them.
She hated that Harry felt like he didn’t have a choice.
It didn’t take long, less than one day, for Rita Skeeter to surpass Sybill Trelawney as the person Lavender hated most in the world. Trelawney made a mockery of Lavender’s craft, her true Sight, but she knew Harry laughed off the death predictions. But Rita mocked and tarnished Harry’s memories, and lack thereof, of his parents, which was unforgivable.
After that, Lavender found herself spending an increasing amount of time with Seamus Finnegan. She didn’t enjoy his company, not really, but she wasn’t above using him to mitigate the gossip that got out. She protected Harry as best as she could from the students by claiming the title of “Gossip Queen,” because he needed more help that year than he had in second year.
When the Headmaster announced the Yule Ball, she agreed to attend with Seamus. She didn’t have feelings for him, and never would, but she knew she couldn’t go with Harry—they both did—because Hermione would harass them about it and make life miserable for weeks.
That didn’t keep Lavender from teaching him to dance, nor did it keep her from hating her best friend, Parvati Patil, for weeks when he asked her to accompany him. He allowed Parvati one dance, and one dance alone.
It made Lavender feel horrible and petty that she was glad he shunned further offers, even though she could see the pain on Parvati’s face. She briefly wondered if relishing in her best friend’s pain made her a monster before discarding the thought. It wasn’t Parvati’s pain or humiliation that pleased her—it was Harry’s indifference to Parvati.
It almost seemed like a silent declaration that Harry loathed his inability to dance with her.
The dance lessons had been silent, late at night in her classroom, except for the music. But they had learned to speak without words over the years, and Lavender had seen in every line of his body that he would have asked her if he could, just as she had surely shown that she had wanted to go with him more than anything.
That was the last night he let Hermione come between them, much to her relief.
“It wasn’t true.”
Three simple words that meant the world to her, accompanied by his hand on the back of her neck. She released the breath she had unconsciously been holding in a sigh of relief. Ron Weasley wasn’t what he would “sorely miss.” She hadn’t lost out to someone who had betrayed him.
What Lavender Brown considered to be her greatest failure was Voldemort’s resurrection. She’d had a vision the night before the final task of Harry and a rat that was missing a toe. The rat looked identical to Ron’s, identical to what her Boggart became. The rat had appeared in several visions since she had begun getting them.
The rat killed a bumblebee, cut off its paw, hurt Harry, and then there was nothing but laughter and pain.
It was intense, powerful, and she hadn’t mastered Occlumency yet, so the mental exhaustion pulled her under, not freeing her until it was too late to speak with Harry—too late to change what would happen.
And happen, it did. Cedric Diggory died and Voldemort returned.
Lavender had never thought anything could block her Sight, but she was proven wrong mere hours later. Mad-Eye Moody was actually Barty Crouch Jr., an escaped Death Eater. That eye, that cursed magical eye, had almost cost her Harry’s life for the second time in one day.
Disgusted with herself, Lavender sat on the couch before the fireplace long into the morning, plans for the summer racing through her head. She would master Occlumency so that something like this would never happen again.
Her hands curled into fists so tight that her long, lacquered nails cut into her palms, almost drawing blood. And then the pain faded as her hands were forcibly uncurled by larger, stronger tan hands that were rough against her soft skin. Lavender didn’t need to look up to know to whom those hands belonged; she had studied them often enough over the years to recognize them at a glance.
Sighing, she relaxed and leaned her head against his chest as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders in a loose hug. The silence was heavy, pressing down on them, weighted with their knowledge of the events that had happened in the past day. But, at the same time, it was comforting, bearable, because neither of them faced it alone.
“It’s not your fault.”
Lavender pressed closer to him and vowed that her summer would be useful to him.
She mastered Occlumency that summer, as she had intended. And Lavender was exceedingly grateful she had when she read the rubbish the Daily Prophet printed about Harry. It took all her newfound skills to compartmentalize the hatred so she wouldn’t kill Skeeter or burn the Daily Prophet to the ground with gray magic, perhaps Fiendfyre.
Each year at Hogwarts was worse, more painful than the previous one for Harry, and, in turn, her. What possibly hurt most was the knowledge that he would rather be at Hogwarts, a place of suffering and betrayal, than with his Muggle relatives.
Lavender didn’t bother defending him to anyone, because she knew he would be upset with her if she did. Defending him would result in detentions with Umbridge—the pink toad—and her hand getting torn open with a Blood Quill, as Harry’s did.
Almost no one respected Harry’s wishes. Lavender refused to join the ranks of those who didn’t.
So she kept her mouth shut and healed his hand as best as she could when he got back from detentions and met her in the classroom she had claimed as her own.
When word spread that Harry would be teaching a defense group, Lavender winced—not because she didn’t have faith in him, but because she knew Hermione was pushing him to do it. In the end, he agreed, and the glance he threw her when she walked into the Hog’s Head for the initial meeting let her know why he had: they could interact freely at these meetings without anyone being the wiser of their past interactions.
That was when Lavender realized that Harry Potter was in love with her, though they were happy to keep their feelings a secret, not even needing to voice them to each other. It wasn’t time for that, not yet.
Girls approached him: purebloods, beautiful, wealthy.
Harry was fifteen now, less than a year away from gaining the Potter Lordship—along with countless vaults, properties, and priceless heirlooms. He rebuffed them all—one after the other—even Cho Chang, the one girl gossip said matched Lavender in looks and lineage.
She knew that she and Harry often got funny looks when they sat in silence.
The boys probably thought something was wrong with Harry since he wasn’t hitting on the ‘sexiest’ girl in Gryffindor. And the girls would giggle or glare, depending on whether they thought Harry and her made a good couple or were jealous of their closeness.
Lavender would readily admit that she was vain, but then, she had every right to be. She had gotten the best genes from both sides of her family, the perfect pureblood daughter.
At fifteen she was tall, almost five-ten, and her legs seemed to go on forever—at least that’s what she had heard the Weasley brothers talking about on more than one occasion. Her hair was honey-blonde, as deep and warm as her aureate eyes. Her skin was smooth, like peaches, but a smattering of freckles lent character to her face. Even though she was a pureblood, she wasn’t someone who would magically alter her appearance.
She was who she was, and that was it.
Maybe that’s what the boys find so sexy—the lack of glamours, the rawness of my beauty, Lavender thought as she stood before the mirror in her pajamas.
The pajama bottoms hung low on her hips, clinging to her curved bum and fit thighs. The matching tank top was low-cut and clung to her skin, showing off her ample breasts and flat stomach.
She heard Hermione snort behind her and resisted the urge to grind her teeth together. There were some things that Hermione would never understand, and this was one of them.
Yes, Lavender was vain—admittedly so.
However, a witch’s magic strengthened when she was in peak condition. Magic could become ill, just like flesh could, and Lavender prided herself on never having been ill. She sighed. Along with a loving husband, Lavender wanted children. To that end, she kept herself as fit as possible: eating right, dueling, exercising, anything to make her dreams become reality.
Well, the dreams that weren’t visions of death anyway.
“You look beautiful, Lavender,” Parvati said.
She smiled at her best friend in the mirror. Parvati understood what Lavender wished for, as did the other girls in their dormitory. Hermione seemed to be the only one who didn’t grasp the subtleties, which Lavender had come to expect over the years.
“Better than last week even,” Edith Boot, one of her two other roommates said.
“I dare say you’re in better shape than Pansy Parkinson. She must be insanely jealous and worried she’ll lose Malfoy to you,” Agnes Boot said with a wink.
Edith and Agnes Boot were sisters, but not twins, even though they were in the same year. Agnes had been born at the end of September and Edith in the middle of August the following year, just making the list for incoming first-years in 1991. They were Terry Boot’s cousins, half-bloods, and the other two girls she had shared a dorm with since she was a first-year. They had never been particularly close, but they understood the pureblood traditions and why they were so important to her.
“You want Malfoy?” Hermione asked, mouth flapping.
Lavender sighed and rolled her eyes. What a ridiculous question! She had never been interested in anyone other than Harry, not that Hermione knew, of course. Lavender knew that Hermione and Ginny Weasley were plotting to get Ginny and Harry together. The two girls didn’t understand what he needed, and it disgusted her that they intended to convince him Ginny was the girl for him.
“I want Malfoy as much as you do, Hermione,” she replied as she walked over to her bed.
It was different than the others in the room. Oh, it was still a four-poster bed with down pillows and a down mattress, but the hangings and comforter weren’t identical to the other girls’. Lavender was proud to be a Gryffindor, but that didn’t mean she had to sleep in a bed decked out in red and gold, did she?
Her hangings and bedding were identical to the ones she had on her bed at home. The sheets were a pale lavender, flannel at the moment, soft and comforting. Her hangings were a deep royal purple, embroidered with constellations in silver thread that illuminated the room at night.
She knew Hermione thought the bedding was ostentatious, for the witch had in fact told her that on more than one occasion, but she didn’t care. Lavender wasn’t the type of person who would forgo comfort and familiarity for the mundane—to fit in.
Honestly, she thought that Hermione was jealous.
“I hate Malfoy!” Hermione said as she closed the book she had been reading and set it on her nightstand.
“We know, we know,” Parvati said as she rolled her eyes and climbed into bed.
“We’ve heard it all before,” Lavender muttered before closing the hangings and setting a locking and silencing charm on them.
Lavender sighed and rubbed at her temples, which had been throbbing for the past several hours now. She knew the signs, had been familiar with them since she was eleven.
“What I wouldn’t give for one peaceful night of sleep.”
Groaning, Lavender stretched out, toes spreading apart and feet arching. She settled back against the pillows, fluffed exactly how she liked them, and drifted off to sleep.
The vision started as soon as Lavender went under.
There were balls, glass balls, but not quite crystal balls like they used in Divination. A mountain of them, rolling across the floor, breaking, not breaking, flowing in waves down black marble corridors. In the mountain of glass balls—no, orbs—a black dog, a large, scruffy black dog was swimming.
It reminded her of the past summer, when she had visited Agnes and Edith in Muggle London and they had eaten at a place where little kids played in a large tub of colored balls. However, for all the similarities, it wasn’t remotely similar.
The dog wasn’t laughing and smiling; it was drowning, buried under the orbs, and then it fell still. There were no more struggles, no barks for help, just silence—an unbearably painful silence.
And then there was laughter—cackling, horrid laughter.
Lavender shot upright in bed, chest heaving and sweat making her pajamas stick to her skin. She shivered as the cackling laughter seemed to resound and echo through the closed bed-curtains.
She wrapped her arms around her knees and tugged them to her chest, burying her face in them as she tried to regain control. The sound of Harry’s scream kept echoing through her head: agonized.
“Focus, come on. Focus, Lavender,” she muttered as she used Occlumency to sort through the vision, separating the emotions from the visual representation.
She would approach this as she had ever other vision she had gotten over the years: as a puzzle that needed solving.
Visions weren’t exactly straightforward. No, Fate would never be that kind to those who Saw beyond the veil.
Lavender was just grateful that her visions stayed in this world, unlike Lovegood’s. Luna Saw into other dimensions, and Lavender didn’t think she could bear that. That was why she wouldn’t let any of the other girls bad mouth Luna Lovegood. Lavender might’ve been stuck with that poor girl’s Sight.
“Marble hallways. They looked familiar.”
Her lips pursed and her brow furrowed as she shook the lingering remnants of sleep away. Black marble hallways . . . the Ministry! She had seen them three summers ago when she visited her father.
Lavender grabbed a silver brush off her nightstand; the back was engraved with her initials and bore a hand-painted lavender. It had been a present for her ninth birthday from her older brother Lawrence. Brushing her hair helped her to think, the monotonous action allowing her to focus on the pieces.
It was yet another thing for which Hermione criticized her.
“Glass orbs, like crystal balls, but not.”
She nibbled her lower lip and shifted her long, blonde hair to fall across her chest so she wouldn’t have to stretch her arms so far to work the brush through it.
The brush stopped in mid-stroke as her eyes widened.
She almost dropped the brush, but then her grip tightened and she resumed untangling the golden locks.
“The Hall of Prophecy.”
Lavender nodded. That had to be it. Now, what about the dog? Why would a dog be at the Ministry?
Lavender gasped, brush falling from her limp fingers as years of clues and gossip consolidated in her mind to create a clear picture. The Fat Lady—torn to shreds.
“Sirius Black’s an Animagus.”
Black was Harry’s godfather. She knew that much already, having overheard Ron and Hermione speak about it last year.
That explained it, then. Sometime tomorrow, Black would die in the Ministry.
He was a wanted criminal—though he must be innocent, otherwise Harry wouldn’t scream like that (haunted) when he died.
“Wait a minute, Harry was there. So Black followed Harry?”
Lavender sighed and clenched the sheets. “Why would Harry be at the Ministry?”
“Stupid, girl,” she snapped. “Why else would he be at the Ministry? Voldemort, of course.”
Lavender slid across the bed and then threw the covers back, hopping to the floor and pulling on a pair of bunny slippers.
“Those visions he’s been having—Voldemort must lure him there tomorrow. There’s no way Black would be stupid enough to go to the Ministry—unless Harry was in danger.”
She winced at the insult to Harry, her love, but it was true.
Harry was brave, honorable, but emotionally weak. He let people walk all over him. If Voldemort was planting horrors directly into his head, there’s no way he would be able to realize the difference.
Lavender swooped her hair into a messy bun, parted the hangings on her bed, grasped her wand, and then tiptoed out of the room, more thankful than she could ever express that the house-elves oiled the doors frequently. The last thing she wanted was for Hermione to wake up and demand—in her snooty prefect voice—where Lavender thought she was going at this hour of the night.
Carefully, fearful of being caught out of bounds, because losing points for Gryffindor was never a good thing, she headed up toward the boys’ dorms. She passed the first door, which was marked “7” much to her amusement. It seemed the boys’ dorms were the opposite of the girls’.
She paused outside the door with the large brass “5” on it.
Pureblood ladies didn’t sneak into boys’ dorm rooms in the middle of the night, and they most certainly didn’t do so in their pajamas. Lavender might be known as the “Gossip Queen” and the “Sexiest Girl in Gryffindor,” but she knew that opinions changed faster than the Headmaster ate Lemon Drops.
Her reputation was one of the few things that mattered to her, and she really didn’t want her title changing to something offensive if she was caught in the boys’ dorm.
Lavender shook her head and sighed.
“Harry would never let that happen.”
With that belief firmly in mind, she pushed open the door, slipped inside, and then closed it behind her.
The room was round with five beds evenly spaced around it. A door off to the side obviously led to a communal bathroom. It was identical to her room, pretty much.
Now, which bed was Harry’s?
There were sketch-pads and bits of charcoal on the floor next to the first. She bypassed it and the next, which had to be Seamus’s. She squinted, ignoring the voice in her head—which sounded identical to her mother—that said she would get wrinkles. Fanged geranium. Chudley Canon’s jersey. Those had to be Neville Longbottom’s and Ron’s beds, which left the one in the middle as Harry’s.
“I better be right,” Lavender whispered as she approached the bed.
She didn’t even want to imagine how mortified she would be if she snuck into the wrong bed. Neville would be a gentleman about it, and as embarrassed as she would be, but the other three boys in the room were liable to act like lustful cretins.
Taking a deep breath, Lavender pressed a hand to the closed hangings, shocked that they weren’t Locked. She curled her hand around the break in the bed-curtains and entered them, allowing them to fall closed behind her.
She had guessed right.
Harry lay on the bed, thrashing, sheets tangled around his legs. As he struggled, moans falling from his lips, they refused to release him. Tears fell from his closed eyes, pouring down his cheeks in rivulets.
“No, no,” he whimpered as his nails tore at the sheets.
The tip of her ash wand lit up, and she couldn’t hold in a gasp at the sight of the red and brown stains on the sheets. Several of his nails had torn off and he bled onto the bedding.
Lavender wasn’t sure whether the thought that he might be locked in his mind—in a nightmarish vision—was worse, or the possibility that pain was such a common part of his life he could sleep through tearing his nails.
Lavender leaned forward, and said, “Harry, wake up.”
She placed a hand on his shoulder and shook lightly, not wanting to startle him awake; that would be dangerous—he might think he was trapped in the nightmare and attack her.
She shook him again, but there was no response.
Lavender gulped as she realized that she would have to physically get in bed with Harry. If entering a boys’ dorm in the middle of the night was frowned upon, this was taboo: something pureblood ladies could expect to lead to disownment.
Still, her parents were somewhat liberal. She doubted they would disown her, even if she somehow got caught.
“For Harry,” Lavender whispered as she gathered her Gryffindor courage.
Lavender climbed onto the bed, making sure to Lock and Silence the hangings behind her; it would offer a small measure of privacy and protection from discovery. She ran one hand through his hair, letting it rest against his cheek before smacking it lightly.
“Harry, wake up!” she commanded.
Harry moaned and began thrashing more wildly.
Lavender pursed her lips and pulled her hand away; it was wet from Harry’s tears.
“I’m not going to just sit here and watch you suffer,” she hissed.
She twirled her wand, pointed it at his hands, and said, “Episkey.” To her satisfaction, the wounds healed and his nails grew.
Now, for the hardest part.
Throwing all caution to the wind in favor of helping Harry, Lavender swung one leg over his body and straddled his hips. She cupped his face with both her hands, preventing him from flailing about, and then pressed her forehead to his.
“Let me help you, Harry. Please, let me in.”
She took a deep breath, and then whispered, “Legilimens.”
When her father had hired her a private tutor over the summer, he had expected her to learn both Occlumency and Legilimency, regardless of her assertions that she didn’t want to access others’ minds as she had enough to deal with in her own. Not for the first time in her life, she was grateful that her father was so demanding and thorough.
Lavender’s consciousness slid into Harry’s mind and right through his shields, which looked like they had been clawed apart from the outside. They shone vermillion, seeping imaginary blood into his head.
“Whoever did this will pay,” she growled before pushing deeper as gently as she could.
His mind was shrouded in mist, swirling about in eddies, casting shadows as she moved forward.
The barest hint of a whimper sounded.
Lavender moved onward, determined to figure out why he was trapped in his mind and do her utmost to prevent it from ever happening again.
“No, no, not Sirius.”
She paused for a moment, but all that she could hear now was a soft whimpering, the sound of someone who knew that they were helpless and that no one would offer assistance.
“I’m coming, Harry!” she called.
As soon as the words left her lips, a pressure bore down on her. With each step she took, it grew, becoming so heavy that she could barely draw breath.
“What’s happening?” Lavender gasped.
A sharp pain tore through her forehead. She battled against the force, keeping it from entering her mind as she pressed onward.
Her tutor had warned her about what would happen if someone successfully invaded her mind while she was in another person’s head. Lavender would lose everything she was inside of Harry’s mind, leaving her body to wither away like a dry husk, as if she had been Kissed by a Dementor. She shivered, erected shields on top of her shields, and turned the corner in the maze that had appeared.
“Why won’t anyone help?”
“Harry! Let me help! I want to help! Where are you?” she called, breaking into a sprint as she attempted to follow the echoes to their source.
“He’s hurting. Stop hurting him!”
Lavender spun around another corner and sped forward, leaping over a ditch filled to the brim with spikes. Torchlight from the wall of the maze glinted off the tips of the spikes, revealing a purple liquid: poison or a paralyzing agent? Each would be equally damaging.
“Harry, where are you? I promise to help! I’ll get you out. I swear it!” Her magic spread as she made the vow, passing through the walls of the maze.
“So warm,” he whispered. “Do you promise?”
The words were soft and low, innocent of guile, as if the speaker were a child and not a boy on the brink of manhood.
“I swear on my magic that I will help you,” Lavender said, meaning every word.
This time her magic rippled out in a visible wave, smashing through the walls and tearing them down until they were nothing but rubble.
“Come to me.”
The rubble vanished as if it and the maze had never been there.
Lavender cocked her head to the left, finally sure of her direction, and tore off running. Her feet ached and her calves burned. She had been exhausted before going to sleep, and that exhaustion carried over. Her chest heaved with each deep breath she dragged in, each more desperate than the last as the pressure became greater, restricting her air.
Lavender kept her eyes focused on the ground, unsure if other traps would materialize as she approached the center of Harry’s mind.
One more step. One more step. Until—
“You came! You really came!”
“Of course I came, Ha—” Lavender almost swallowed her tongue when she glanced up to see Voldemort holding a wand to Harry’s neck.
Harry was crouched on the ground, like a dog, chains attached to a collar keeping him there.
Voldemort ran his wand up Harry’s cheek, narrowing his eyes at her; they glinted in the darkness like burning rubies as he asked, “Not what you were expecting to see? Silly, foolish Gryffindor—racing into trouble, desperate to save the day.”
Lavender choked, hand rising to grasp at her throat, which sealed beneath the weight of Voldemort’s presence. She pointed her own wand at her throat, hoping to cancel the spell—something, anything! She hadn’t come this far to fail and leave Harry trapped as the Dark Lord’s pet.
“It amuses me, you see, how Dumbledore thinks Potter will save you all. How everyone thinks he will save you all. Oh wait, they don’t. I’m not alive. The great Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter are nothing more than two attention-seeking liars.”
Voldemort’s smirk melted as he burst into a bout of malicious laughter.
Her legs fell out from under her and she collapsed to her knees. It took all her concentration to keep her shields up and attempt, just attempt to drag in a little oxygen.
“You’re a silly girl, just like his mother was, thinking you have the power, the right to stand against me. Me!”
Lavender fell back onto her bum, balance so compromised that she couldn’t hold herself on her knees any longer. The jarring sensation cast a veil over her eyes, and, for a moment, she saw a thick, sickly green chain connecting Voldemort’s hand to Harry’s neck. What in the—?
“Did you know, little Gryffindor, that Potter’s been screaming inside his head for help all year long?”
He chuckled when she shook her head.
“No? I didn’t realize the connection at first, but it wasn’t long before the potential of the situation became apparent.”
He patted Harry on the head, a sneer on his face.
“Severus, my sneakiest serpent, made the task so much easier.”
Imaginary blood flashed before her eyes, seeping from torn mental wounds.
Snape, the bastard!
Lavender had never liked the Potions teacher; something about him rubbed her the wrong way. However, she hadn’t outright loathed him, as many of the Gryffindors were prone to do. Now, though, she could feel the hatred bubbling inside her.
Her fingers fell limp, her ash wand rolling from her grasp to land on the ground. Black spots appeared before her vision, and she knew it wouldn’t be long now, not long at all.
“Did you know, little Gryffindor, that the human body can only survive for just over three minutes without oxygen before the brain starts shutting down, causing irreparable damage, then death?” Voldemort hissed as he stepped away from Harry and walked toward her.
Tears gathered in Lavender’s eyes, making their reflection in the stone floor look like molten gold, before spilling down her cheeks.
She had failed.
“It never fails to amuse me: others’ suffering. But I’ll admit I have a weakness for Potter’s suffering. It’s so—beautiful. Yes, beautiful.”
Voldemort nodded, as if approving of his word choice, tongue clicking against his teeth as if he could taste Harry’s pain.
“He loves her, you know. Lily Potter, his mother. And you, Lavender Brown, yes, he loves you as well.”
Voldemort reached out and stroked her cheek, before grabbing her hair. She shuddered and flinched, but that only made him fist her hair and yank cruelly until her neck was pulled at an unnatural angle.
Lavender had failed Harry.
“All the flowers in Potter’s life will wither away and die. I’ll make sure of that. And he’ll watch helplessly as you die, just like the night his beloved mother died,” Voldemort said as he smiled, eyes lit with unholy glee.
The words stabbed into her like cutting curses. No!
Lavender tore her head from Voldemort’s grip, tears streaming from her eyes and mouth opening in a silent scream as hair ripped from her scalp in clumps. She collapsed on her side, eyes locking with Harry’s. He was in there. She could tell. His eyes might normally look like emeralds, but, at the moment, they looked like diamonds: hard and cold. They bore into Voldemort’s back, and then flickered down to her face.
It took every bit of remaining strength she had, but this was the right time. It was finally the right time.
I love you, Lavender mouthed.
An audible crack broke the silence, reverberating through the floor. She blinked. The sickly green chain—she could see a fissure in it.
Voldemort leaped to his feet and snarled, “What do you think you’re—?”
The floor shook and buckled, magic speeding through it so quickly that it was causing a mental earthquake.
Lavender felt the pressure leave and she gasped in several desperate breaths. It hurt and burned; her throat felt raw and torn open. She pushed herself to her knees and then scrabbled forward, fingers curling around her wand.
Ignoring the blood she could feel running down her scalp, she crawled to Harry’s side, thoughts shooting through her mind. They had to break the chain that attached him to Voldemort.
She fell against Harry’s side and entwined their fingers before wrapping them around her wand. Ash with a phoenix feather core—hopefully it would be compatible enough for Harry’s magic to help her. Lavender angled their hands, tendons pulling in her wrist from their low position, but it was the best she could hope for since Harry was bound to the floor.
“Blasting Curse?” Harry whispered against her ear.
Lavender nodded, thankful that she wouldn’t have to articulate her plan. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to force more than the incantation through her throat.
“On three,” he said. “One, two—”
“Reducto!” they shouted in unison.
Lavender winced and curled into a ball, clutching her throat as the sickly green chain turned to dust. Her eyes followed the trail, and she found herself staring at the hem of Voldemort’s robes, which disintegrated as she watched.
“Don’t think you’ve won, Potter. This is only the beginning. You won’t be keeping your precious flower long,” he snarled before vanishing from Harry’s mind.
“Are you all right?” Harry asked as he got to his feet and then offered her his hand.
She nodded once and then accepted it, stumbling when he pulled her to her feet.
“Easy,” he whispered as he wrapped his arms around her and held her to his chest.
Harry pulled her wand from her slack grip and gestured to her scalp.
Lavender nodded and smiled at him after he healed her with a soft “Episkey.” She wouldn’t be the first to admit that was one of the most useful spells he had taught the DA.
Harry kept one arm wrapped around her waist and guided her toward the edge of his mind. He winced and tightened his grip when he saw the gaping wounds.
“That bastard! I suspected he wasn’t really teaching me, but I didn’t realize he was doing this. Can it be fixed?”
Harry stroked Lavender’s cheek, washing away the taint of Voldemort’s touch.
Lavender made sure his eyes locked on her lips before mouthing her answer. Tomorrow.
Harry ran his thumb over her plump lower lip and whispered, “I can wait. You saved me from Voldemort when I was trapped in my own mind. I don’t know why you’re here, or how, really, but I’m grateful. Thanks for coming when no one else did.”
She smiled up at him. I always will, she mouthed.
Harry grinned at her then, an honest grin that lacked the artifice with which most pureblood males smiled. It filled her with warmth that she could feel to her bones.
“In all the rubbish he spewed, Voldemort was right about one thing,” Harry whispered as he stared into her eyes.
Lavender cocked an eyebrow and tilted her head to the right. She felt a blush suffuse her cheeks, and then nothing, as his forehead pressed against hers.
“Oi, Harry! You really need to get up, mat—”
Lavender startled awake, a combination of Ron’s loudness and the sunshine spilling through the now open bed-curtains. She blinked once, twice, but Ron’s gawping form didn’t vanish. How in the world had he gotten into her dorm? She was going to send him to the hospital wing for this!
“Ron, go away.”
The deep, gritty words puffed against her chest.
Lavender glanced downward, the haze of sleep clearing from her mind as she caught sight of Harry’s eyes. He was staring up at her, his chin pillowed on her chest. Right. She had snuck into his dorm room last night to warn him about one of her visions, only to break some link with Voldemort.
She didn’t remember anything after that, but she must’ve fallen asleep in his bed. And now she was snuggled with Harry under the covers, his head on her chest. It didn’t take a genius to figure out how this would look to Ron.
“Lavender’s in your bed,” Ron said.
He rubbed his eyes and then opened them again, as if he thought she was an illusion.
Harry ground his teeth, but didn’t move his head.
Lavender was grateful for that, because if he had Ron would’ve gotten more than an eyeful of parts of her body that he had no business seeing.
“Go away,” Harry repeated.
She had never heard him use such a harsh tone of voice with Ron before. The git deserved it. What kind of pureblood wizard would gawk at her, instead of looking away like a gentleman? Well, that was an easy question to answer, apparently. Ron Weasley.
“Harry, you’ve got Lavender Brown in your bed. How in the world did you manage that?” Ron asked, jealousy dripping from every word.
It was a disgusting question, because it implied all sorts of things that certainly hadn’t happened.
Ron glared at the back of Harry’s head, as if Harry had once again gotten something that Ron felt he deserved. She couldn’t keep a sneer off her face. Ron might be Harry’s friend, but she couldn’t tolerate him. If he shifted to the right once more in an attempt to see her chest, she was going to curse him and tell the consequences to hang themselves.
“Need some help?” Neville asked.
“Nev,” Harry said, hands sliding beneath her to block the bare skin of her arms from sight, “if Ron doesn’t stop looking at my fiancée in the next five seconds, do me a favor and throw him out the nearest window. I’ll owe you one.”
“Harry! What’s wrong with you?” Ron shrieked, cheeks darkening to match his hair.
“What’s wrong with him? What’s wrong with you? Your mother’s a Prewett! She better have taught you proper manners in the presence of a pureblood lady,” Lavender hissed, hunching her shoulders to hide as much of herself beneath Harry as she could.
“Pureblood ladies aren’t found in wizards’ beds,” Ron retorted.
Lavender hated the tears that forced their way to the surface, because she knew that the night spent in Harry’s bed had been innocent. However, the implications hurt. She had known, of course, that anyone who saw her might make improper assumptions and ruin her reputation. That didn’t prepare her for the pain, though.
Ron didn’t have to say the word, because his eyes said it for him. Slut.
“Obliviate!” Neville’s voice was a hard, fierce snarl.
Another spell sent Ron’s body crashing to the floor.
“Seamus? Dean?” Harry asked, vibrating with rage.
He wiped away her tears, and Lavender noticed for the first time that the lightning bolt scar on his forehead was different. It wasn’t an inflamed ridge anymore. In fact, it was almost invisible to the naked eye.
“They left for breakfast twenty minutes ago,” Neville said.
Lavender closed her eyes, grateful for the small mercy. Seamus still asked her on dates, but she had refused every request since the Yule Ball. It wouldn’t do to offer him encouragement when she had no lasting interest in him. Besides, the only type of dates she was interested in were Courtship Dates with Harry.
“Thank goodness for small mercies,” she whispered.
Ron’s body Levitated into the air, before settling onto the only bed she could see from her angle. The hangings around it shut with a swish.
Neville said, “He’s back in bed, Harry. I think someone would notice if I threw him out a window. Sorry.”
“There’s always later,” Harry muttered.
He seemed fiercer and wilder this morning, as if breaking the chain to Voldemort had freed something inside him. He was like a Nundu cub that had escaped the monster who sought to tame it and change its very nature.
“I don’t want to make assumptions, so I’ll just get all my questions out of the way at once. Heiress Brown, are you in Harry’s bed of your own free will? If not, do you require assistance? Are either of you injured in any way? Do either of you need something from me?” Neville asked, his back was towards them like a true gentleman.
Harry turned to face Neville, pillowing his left cheek on her chest.
“You’re not going to ask if I ruined her?” inquired Harry.
Neville snorted. “Harry, I’ve watched Heiress Brown watch you since we were eleven. She’s invested too much of herself in you to chance losing it all. She let herself be known as the ‘Gossip Queen,’ and acted like a brainless chit so that she could have the most advanced spy network in school, all on your behalf. I’ve seen her twist and disseminate rumors to your advantage for years, Harry. No matter how much she loves you, and I’m sure it’s a lot given that she’s in your bed right now, she wouldn’t give up her only hope of keeping you forever.”
Lavender carded her fingers through Harry’s hair, touched by Neville’s comments. He had seen more than she meant for him to see. However, she couldn’t bring herself to feel upset about it. Neville had only been looking after Harry, and that was a goal she thoroughly supported.
“I’m here of my own free will, Heir Longbottom,” she assured him. “And Harry healed my injuries.”
“What happened?” Neville queried, wand in hand, as if he were prepared to battle at their sides.
Harry sat up, and Lavender followed him. She leaned against his back and hugged him. The memories of last night made her cold, made it hard to breathe, and she hated them.
“We got into a fight with Voldemort,” Harry said.
Neville’s foot twitched, as if he wanted to turn around and visually inspect them to make sure they were okay. It was sweet. Why couldn’t Neville be Harry’s best friend? He was a gentleman. He didn’t jump to conclusions. And he didn’t think she was a—
“You’re both healed?” Neville asked.
“Yes,” Lavender replied, then shivered.
Even if someone cast Reparo at her a hundred times, she wouldn’t be able to forget what it felt like to be touched by Voldemort’s evil magic. She had no idea how Harry had managed to resist him for so long, because she had a feeling that chain had been there since Voldemort first failed to murder him as an infant.
Neville relaxed. Then he laughed, a teasing tone entering his voice as he asked, “So, how long have you been engaged?”
Lavender flushed. Being engaged to Harry would be the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. Someday, surely, he wouldn’t care what Ron or Hermione said. Someday her opinion would be enough. It was a selfish dream, but she wouldn’t release it. She wanted to keep him.
“Not long enough, and much too long, because Voldemort knows about her now,” Harry said, glancing at her with a tender form of possession that solidified to razor sharpness.
“I don’t care,” Lavender replied.
She didn’t. She had known that she wouldn’t be able to hide her conniving and influence forever. Someone was bound to hear about it eventually and report that she was assisting Harry from the shadows. She was just glad that Voldemort didn’t have any idea she was a true Seer. That would be her and Harry’s secret weapon in the fight against him.
“I’ll help you protect her. At least one of us deserves a happy ending after what he put us through, Harry,” Neville said as he fisted his trouser leg.
Harry smiled; it was his true smile. She adored it.
“Can you head down to breakfast now? Lavender and I need to talk.”
“Sure thing, Harry,” Neville replied.
Lavender turned her attention to Neville, thoughts racing. She might control almost all of the gossip at Hogwarts, but she was the type of witch who kept true confidences. If someone told her a secret, she wasn’t in the habit of blabbing. They provided blackmail, character insight, leverage, and so much more. But she was a romantic at heart, and Neville’s implication that he either wouldn’t get or didn’t deserve a happy ending pained her.
“Neville, please,” he corrected her.
Ah, offering his given name to his best mate’s girl. He was a catch. She decided to return the favor.
She would prefer to be close to people who would actually benefit Harry. Maybe it would help him see farther than Ron and Hermione.
“Heir Neville, can you keep a secret? I have it on good authority that Daphne Greengrass is besotted with you. The authority, of course, being the lady herself.”
“This was the best day ever to forget my alarm charm,” Neville said as he hurried out of the room, ears red.
Harry collected his wand from his nightstand and Locked and Silenced the bed-curtains.
“It’s tomorrow, Lavender. Are you feeling well enough to fix those wounds in my mind?”
“Yes, of course!”
Truth be told, she was still tired. However, Harry always came first with her, and those wounds need to be closed as soon as possible. They were dangerous; it not only made his mind easier to invade, but any memories that floated around and came in contact with them would vanish from his recollection.
Mind Arts were dangerous.
Harry stretched out along the bed and lay on his back. She straddled him again, blushing horribly because he was awake this time, and it brought to mind things she wasn’t ready for yet. In a few years, yes, but not just yet. At least she knew she looked lovely with rosy cheeks; it highlighted her features instead of making her hideous.
Lavender accepted her ash wand, which he held out to her. Harry stayed relaxed and trusting even when she pointed it at him.
“Whenever you are.”
Lavender focused on his eyes, only dimly aware of his hands settling on her hips.
“ Legilimens ,” she stated.
Mindful of the mental injury she now knew was there, Lavender was even more gentle than the night before as she slipped into his mind. The sky was blue with white clouds in it, instead of a gray mass of murky mist. The contrast of colors only made the incisions seem even more brutal and rubicund.
“I can do this,” she whispered.
The next however long was spent thinning her magic into slender, unbreakable threads, which she then used to sew the wounds shut. Her stitches were small, neat, and evenly spaced. Whenever she learned something, she didn’t stop until she mastered it, and sewing had been no different in that regard.
When Lavender finished, she surveyed her handiwork. The minute rows of pale purple stitches were the only signs of the previous injuries.
Yawning, Lavender stretched. It helped relieve the soreness that had settled into the muscles of her back. How long had she been suturing Harry’s mind?
A buzzing sound, like hummingbird wings, caught her attention. Lavender looked down from the sky for the first time.
The maze from the night before was gone. In its place was the largest garden she had ever seen. There were miles and miles of lilies in every direction; each one was withered and dead. Tears pricked her eyes so thickly that she almost didn’t see the Snitch as it fluttered past her. It swooped around her in circles, and then zipped off into the garden, keeping above the stone paths.
Lavender chased after it, wondering what purpose it served. Was Harry hiding memories inside it? Was it a guide? Did it lead people into danger if they invaded his mind? Her Gryffindor curiosity kicked in, and she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without finding out the truth.
Later, much later, it hovered over a dome that resembled diamond. Then it disappeared.
Cautiously, Lavender approached the structure. She fell to her knees, hands clasped to her chest, as she remembered Voldemort’s threats from the night before. He had sworn that all the flowers in Harry’s life would wither and die, but Lavender didn’t believe that. Because the diamond dome rippled with Harry’s magic and it was protecting a single flower, which was different from all the others in the garden: a lavender.
She kissed the stone and vowed, “I’ll protect you, too, Harry.”
Then Lavender exited his mind.
“You’ve been in there for over four hours. Are you all right?” Harry asked, brow furrowed with concern; his grip on her hips was tight.
“It took a little longer than I thought it would,” Lavender whispered.
She wanted to jump out of bed and dance around the room, because she could not imagine a surer witness of anyone’s love that what she had just seen. However, it was also very private and deserving of a reward. Lavender leaned down and kissed Harry, sighing at the feeling of rightness. His hands ran up her back and into her hair. When their lips broke contact, she traced his jawline with her fingertips.
“Much,” he croaked, voice gruff.
Harry tugged her down until her forehead rested against his, just as he had done last night when they were in his mind. He seemed to love staring into her eyes up close; Lavender didn’t mind in the least. His own eyes were captivating. She could stare at them forever and never get bored.
“Thank you for everything,” Harry whispered, before kissing her tenderly.
Lavender grinned, before kissing him yet again. She would never tire of tasting him.
The exhaustion caught up with her, though, and she slid to the side with a yawn. This time around, Lavender rested her head on Harry’s chest. His arms wrapped around her protectively.
Last night’s vision was the most useful she had ever received. It had ensured she would never forget what many people did.
Sometimes, even a hero needed to be saved.