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Chapter Five Half a year later, Lavender's bumblebee episode has become a mere anecdote, and a hush has fallen over the Wizarding world. No one knows for sure what happened; all they know is, the Tri-Wizard Tournament had ended with two champions and one of them, Cedric Diggory, had paid with his life. Dumbledore, on the word of Harry Potter, is claiming that Voldemort has returned and had caused the boy's death. Dumbledore has loyal supporters but others, like Thomas Brown, have grown increasingly skeptical. "Fudge insists there is nothing to worry about," he tells his family every night at dinner. This is, to him, the end of the debate. But Lavender believes Harry and Dumbledore, Mrs. Brown doesn't voice an opinion (which of course means she disagrees with her husband), and Violet tries to separate fact from fiction with very little information at all. It is a tense time, and for most, denial eventually overrides fear. By the end of the summer the Ministry has things under control, and Harry Potter and Dumbledore have been all but discredited. What no one sees are the battles that occur daily in certain households, battles based on pride and fear and uncertainty that have the power to rip families apart as surely as Voldemort does. One such battle shakes the foundation of the Weasley home; a more subdued standoff drags on between Seamus Finnegan and his Mum; and a third, unspoken war wages on at the Browns'. Violet, who has both kept and been kept from the Wizarding world most of her life, suddenly finds herself in the middle of a storm. She knows about Voldemort just as she knows about Harry Potter; these things transcend the line between magic user and Squib. She has taken a side, if only in her mind. She bases it on little more than an opportunity to show silent solidarity with her sister, and her ardent belief that Minister Fudge, a frequent dinner guest, is a high-functioning baboon. She knows what War is. She knows she is in as much danger from this abomination of a wizard as the rest of her family, perhaps more so, unless she decides to leave and sever ties forever. She agonises over this. Why should she suffer the trials of the Wizarding world when she can reap none of the benefits? What is keeping her here? The threat of War, with its permanent mark of death and destruction, inspires hate in some and love in others. She doesn't know if the feeling is mutual, but she feels, well, related to her blood kin for the first time she can remember. When the time comes, the time when they will need to band together as a family or die, she wants to be there. She supposes she has made her choice. She wonders if the War will be over in time for her to go to University, and whether there will indeed be any universities left standing. ******************************************* Lavender has had the dream so often lately, she is beginning to wonder if it is a dream at all. It's always the same. She, Parvati, several classmates and teachers and for some reason, Violet, have formed a line around the exterior of Hogwarts, trying to hold off an encroaching flank of Death Eaters. They're matching them almost spell for spell (except for Violet, who is holding a wand like an epee, as if expecting to fence the Death Eaters into oblivion), when suddenly He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appears. The Death Eaters seem to double in rank. Lavender watches helplessly as Seamus Finnegan, Colin Creevey, and Professor Sinistra fall to the ground around her. She doesn't know if they're alive or dead, all she knows is she has to keep fighting. She points her wand at the mass of black robes, shouting random curses and hoping some of them hit home. Tears stream down her cheeks til she can hardly see, but she fights on, Parvati on one side, Neville on the other, and Violet slightly behind. They catch one another's eyes and, amazingly, smile... Lavender wakes up, breathing heavily and drenched in sweat. Why does this keep happening to her? Are these dreams a product of her anxiety, her belief that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has returned? Or are they something more significant? Exhausted, she falls into a restless sleep. The next time she has the dream she is awake, and she doesn't remember it. ********************************************** Lavender returns to Hogwarts on September First, while Violet stays at home. Her school does not have Repelling charms around it, unless you count the smell from the cafeteria, so her mother has insisted it's too great a risk for her to return. As much as Mr. Brown doesn't hold with the idea of Voldemort's return, he holds even less with Muggle education, so he lets his wife have her way. So Violet, caged in her own home, begins spending all her time on her computer. She discovers a way to finish school without ever leaving her room, and signs up immediately. She doesn't know if it will impress the University people, but she figures it's better than nothing. Whatever might happen in the Wizarding world, Violet feels the need to keep her options open. Maybe Dumbledore was right when he said she was lucky. She knows how big the world really is; one could fit the entire Wizarding world into a thimble, relatively. Lavender's owls home become increasingly agitated, then stop altogether. Lavender has a flair for the dramatic, but it's unlike her to stop writing at all. Mr. Brown, who knows all about and approves of the changes the Ministry has instituted at Hogwarts, says she's probably "in a snit" about all the new rules. "Those children are used to having free reign," he says. "When presented with a little discipline, of course they're going to rebel. Luckily, Dolores Umbridge is on the case. Very sharp woman, Dolores." When Lavender comes home for Christmas break, she is strangely subdued. As her mother questions her and plies her with hot chocolate, the tears start to flow. "Oh, Mum! We have this positively horrid new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor! Dolores Umbridge." She shudders. "You should see what she WEARS... pukey pink sweaters with HEADBANDS, if you can believe..." "Now Lavender, I don't believe even you would be sent into tears over some unfortunate fashion choices. Just what is going on at Hogwarts?" As Mr. Brown is spending much of the holiday at the office, she feels she can speak candidly. Violet walks into the kitchen, helps herself to some hot chocolate, and joins them at the table. "What's wrong?" she asks Lavender. Lavender sniffles. "This disgusting old hag we have for a professor! She... she practically threatened Professor Trelawney, it was barbaric! She tried to hide it, but she was almost in tears... Parvati and I tried comforting her by telling her about these awful dreams we'd had, but she was too distracted to pay attention. Oh, Mum, what if they... s-sack her!" Mrs. Brown reaches out and pats her hand. "Now, now, dear. You don't think someone who's been teaching for that long is just going to be sacked, do you? Dumbledore would never stand for that!" "Something's wrong with Dumbledore, Mum. Hogwarts has gone all funny and he doesn't even do anything!" "Hmm..." Mrs. Brown looked pensive. "I'll ask your father about this. I think he knows more than he's telling. I can't promise you I'll find out anything, but..." Lavender smiles, and hiccoughs. "It's okay, Mum. Thanks. I missed you so much!" She flings herself into her mother's arms. After a moment she wriggles free, glances to the side and says, "I missed you too, Violet." Violet almost chokes on her hot chocolate. "Oh! I, ah, missed you too, Lavender." Lavender looks like she's about to say something monumental. (Either that, or hiccough again.) She wipes her eyes. Her voice trembles slightly. "Mum, Violet... I think we should talk, don't you?" ***************************************** The Browns sleep well that night. Violet is the last to fall asleep, her mind buzzing. Why hadn't she and Lavender talked ages ago? What had prevented them? It had to be more than just the dominating presence of their father, or the apparent spinelessness of their mother. What had made two sisters afraid to even speak to one another? She replays the conversation in her mind. The requisite apologies and tears, then the parts that hold true meaning for her. The three women admitting they believed Voldemort had returned, and sharing their fears, out loud, for the first time. Lavender's in-depth discussion of a group Harry Potter and his friends had formed to teach students *real* Defence Against the Dark Arts. The pride she felt for her sister. Her desire to help, however she can, being met with understanding and gratitude instead of laughter. Their concern over what was happening at Hogwarts, and what it might mean for the rest of the world, even the Muggle parts. Would it have happened the same way, or at all, if Voldemort had remained a shadow? Violet decides not to think too hard, lest it destroy her newfound confidence. She wonders how she can feel so good and so afraid all at once, and finally drifts off to sleep. The War at home has reached a truce; the one outside is about to begin. ********************************************

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