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Chapter Eight Violet lives in a small space. There is room for a narrow bed, a nightstand, a closet, and her trunk. There is no room for thoughts to stray, for a mind to wander, for any unwanted feelings at all. An expansive room might invite expansive thoughts; a narrow room allows one to stick to a narrow purpose: breathe. Breathe deeply enough to fill the lungs, but not so deep as to fill the mind. She hasn't left her room in days. The truth is, she hadn't thought much about Becky since Becky had moved away. Her best and, let's face it, only childhood friend and she'd forgotten her, like an old photograph left to gather dust. Her eye strays to the photo still propped on her nightstand. No... she hadn't forgotten her. Does that make it any better? She is startled by a knock on the door. It isn't time for the house-elf to bring her dinner, and no one else seems to care. (That isn't exactly true. Lavender had come to see her but she hadn't felt like talking, and Madam Pince had stopped by to inform her that "Books don't shelve themselves, you know!" Violet bit back a retort that yes, they do, but they apparently injure innocent bystanders en route.) "Who is it?" she calls. Her voice sounds like a hinge in need of oiling. "It's, um, Neville. Neville Longbottom." She hears a muffled but distinct croak. "And Trevor," he adds. She can almost see him blushing through the door. Why... now? She sighs. "Okay, um, just a moment!" She hurriedly pulls her lank hair into a ponytail and throws on one of Lavender's robes over her pajamas. She opens the door. Neville stands there, looking like he is supposed to be selling something but has forgotten what. One of his pockets is bulging and moving; she sincerely hopes it contains Trevor. Is that a toad in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? The line springs to mind unbidden and she stifles a giggle, causing a fresh wave of depression to wash over her. How can she think vaguely sexual thoughts about amphibians when her dearest friend has just been murdered by Voldemort? How can... oh bother, how can anything be happening at all? Life is absurd, and hers doubly so. Neville just stands there. "Can I... ah, help you?" Violet cringes before the words are out of her mouth. "Oh!" A sort of quavery smile. "I just wanted to, ah, see if you were all right." "Well, I'm... yes, I'm all right." When people, wizard or Muggle, ask if you're all right, they don't really want to know if you're all right. They just want you to say you are. One of those oddities she'll never understand. Neville clears his throat. "What I mean to say is, ah... I know you're not all right, and I just wanted to say that that's all right. I mean..." Violet gives him an encouraging smile, even though she doesn't really know what he's on about. His face looks wonderful. Her memories hadn't distorted him; she hadn't idealised his kind face, or soft voice, or gentle manner. "It's all right," she says. Then she laughs. Neville looks startled. "Wha... why are you laughing at me?" "Oh! I wasn't laughing at you. I was laughing at... both of us, I suppose. The way we keep saying 'all right.'" "Oh." Neville smiles vaguely. "All right." They both laugh, nervously. When they're finished they look anywhere but directly at one another. "I caught you," Neville says suddenly. "Er... eh?" "When you fell. After... well, you know. I caught you before you hit the ground." "Oh. Then I should thank you... Neville." It sounds odd using his name, just like that. Do all moments tinted by romance feel so surreal? Perhaps only when the 'romance' is imagined, she thinks drily. "So... well, thank you." "You're welcome." There seems to be nothing else to say. Or maybe - "Um, ah," Neville says. "What is it?" "Look, I..." He clears his throat again, for good measure. "I know what it's like to lose someone. I didn't want to see anyone, or do anything. But... well, I just thought you might be ready to see someone. That's all." He clasps his hands behind his back. "That's really kind of you," Violet says. "Now that you mention it, it does feel good to talk to someone. Especially someone who isn't Madam Pince." Neville laughs, a small chuckle from somewhere in the back of his throat. "Well, I guess that's all." He moves to leave. "Unless..." "Unless?" "I was thinking, you might want to have dinner in the Great Hall tonight." Violet blinks. Is he asking her out on a date... in the cafeteria? (Cafeteria, Great Hall. Whatever.) Or is he just generally concerned for her well-being, and not wanting her to go mad alone in a little room, particularly one shaped like a trapezoid? "Yes, maybe I should...." She sighs. She'll never be able to see the Great Hall without seeing that newspaper, without remembering that dizzying rush in her head... "I know it's hard," Neville says. "But the sooner you get on with it, then..." He seems to be working to convince himself. "Well, the sooner you can get on with things, I suppose. Life, and all." "You're probably right." She smiles. "Thank you for catching me," she says softly. Neville says, "Anytime," and immediately stares at his feet. "Guess I'll meet you there, then." Violet assumes he is speaking to her and not his shoes. "Okay." She takes a moment after he leaves, chuckling a bit in spite of herself. What a terrible conversation! Why does she feel so... good? Such irrational thoughts can only mean one thing. **************************************** Who is that woman? Lavender asks herself over and again, both in waking and dreaming life. For her, the two have almost merged. The dream has become more vivid, yet more enigmatic and altogether more frightening. Why has she been cursed with the sort of specific knowledge no Seer is supposed to remember? Such as, the world as they know it is going to end. What is she supposed to do, roam the corridors of Hogwarts with a sandwich board shouting, "The end is near! Repent!"? She spends a lot of time in bed. Someone (i.e., Pansy Parkinson) has spread a rumour that she is pregnant. Lavender immediately regrets spreading that same rumour with Parvati about Blaise Zabini the previous year. Lavender regrets a lot of things lately. The dream-woman is clearly important, yet all she can remember is the swish of a cloak, and a mirthless, throaty laugh cut short by - what? And why is she trying so hard to remember? She doesn't want to know! She wants to return to the simple days of searching for doom at the bottom of a teacup. How naive she has always been; how naive Parvati still is. If she knew what it was like to truly See... But someone does. Professor Trelawney does. Why can't she go talk to her favourite professor, the woman she has near idolised for three years? The dam breaks. The answer she has been avoiding rushes into her conscious mind. Professor Trelawney is now in awe of her. And afraid. Afraid of her power and what she has Seen. Someone might claim the professor is jealous of her student's Gift, but Lavender senses that nothing is farther from the truth. So why is she trying so hard to remember? The answer is simple enough: because she has to. This is more than a Prophecy, it's a warning. A message. But from whom? And why? Lavender's hair hangs limp and unwashed, and her robes have a stain from breakfast she's failed to notice. Her face is free of cosmetic charms, her nails bitten to the quick. It's no wonder Parvati has taken to spending her free time with Padma, her twin. And it's no wonder Professor Trelawney lives alone in a tower, rarely descending to fraternise with those who only see what's directly in front of them. Violet, she thinks. I ought to see if she feels like talking yet. She won't understand a thing that's going on, but maybe that's just what I need. ********************************************* Violet is dressed, her hair is clean, and she is sitting beside Neville Longbottom at the Gryffindor table. She has no idea if she is on a date, so of course decides to pretend that is the last thing on her mind. She senses the other students are uncomfortable having her there, especially in Lavender's absence. Where is Lavender, anyway? she wonders. She notices Parvati giving her an especially dirty look. This isn't a major source of surprise, though Parvati has never been outright nasty to her. She looks down at her meat pie, wishing Neville would say something. She is starting to feel more than a little ridiculous. Suddenly she feels a kick under the table. She flinches in annoyance. When it happens again, the heel digging in sharply this time, she glances under the table. Of course. The only girl in the vicinity wearing black high heels is Parvati. Then she notices a piece of folded paper beside her own scuffed, ancient loafers. She grabs it and straightens up, giving Parvati a questioning look. Parvati gives a slight, perfunctory nod. What is this all about? After a quick glance around, she decides it's safe to read the note. Neville is enthralled by his potatoes, and everyone else is chatting in a way that makes it seem like she, specifically, is being ignored. Schools are all the bloody same, she thinks, unfolding the note under the table. In purple ink: "Meet me outside after dinner, I need to talk to you. What is the matter with Lavender? Does it have anything to do with you being here? By the way, there seems to be plenty of room at the Hufflepuff table." Violet stifles a laugh. Parvati clearly wants the Gryffindor table to be the Popular Table, but Violet senses that isn't possible at Hogwarts, that there will at least always be room there for someone like Neville, if not someone like her. The thought cheers her. She gives Neville a benign smile and Parvati a rather poised nod. When everyone is more or less finished, she taps Neville gently on the shoulder. "Thank you for coming for me," she says softly. "It meant a lot to me, really." Neville smiles broadly, revealing a small bit of potato skin stuck between his teeth. "It's good, isn't it?" Violet nods. "It's the same food I had in my room, but somehow it tastes different out here." Neville eyes her thoughtfully. "I'd like to know what it's like," he says. "What what's like?" "You know, being a Squib. My Gran said... well, until I got my letter, she thought I was one. And for a while, even after I arrived here, I thought I might be one, too. That they'd made a mistake. But, tell me, is it as dreadful as Gran said it is?" "Being a Squib? No, not really." Violet shrugs. "Other than feeling a bit awkward wherever you go, but..." "But I feel that, anyway," Neville says with a shy grin. Violet smiles. "Yes, perhaps I would, too. Hard to say." Neville clears his throat. "Um, would you maybe like to, ah, take a walk or something sometime? I'm really curious about... you know. I mean, I've always thought Gran was a bit full of hot air, if you want to know the truth..." he looks happily scandalised to have said this. "Okay, I'll tell you all there is to know about being a Squib. We'll have to find something else to talk about on the way back, though." "May...maybe we can talk about what it's like to be a wizard who was almost a Squib." She smiles. "Deal." She feels a tap on her shoulder, and turns around. Parvati, looking like she owns time. She turns back to Neville. "How about tomorrow?" "S...sure. I'd like that." The smile on his face is tentative; the one in his eyes is radiant. Violet excuses herself, and Parvati leads her out to an empty corridor, her dark eyes flashing. She folds her arms across her chest. "I assume you know what is going on with Lavender." "I don't, actually. I don't know why you'd think that. I'm here because Voldemort murdered a Squib. That's all." Parvati makes a scoffy sound. "That's all, is it? That, and sitting at our table, and making a date with Longbottom, of all people..." "Who said it's a date, and what on earth is it to you?" "You don't belong here, Violet. We both know it." Violet blinks. "Do you want to date Neville?" Parvati laughs like she's just heard the funniest joke in her life. "Honestly, you're even thicker than I thought! Neville Longbottom? Why, he's practically a..." "A Squib? Then we're perfect for each other, aren't we?" She turns to go, but Parvati stops her. "Wait, Violet!" Violet turns around, and sees something in Parvati's eyes that makes her pause."What is it, Parvati? Shouldn't you be talking to Lavender?" "That's just it! She won't talk to me! I thought it had something to do with you, but..." she sighs. Violet realises with alarm that she is on the verge of tears. "I'm sorry. Really, I am. I've never known... how to act around you, you know." "I know. The feeling is mutual." "It's just, I miss Lavender. Something's wrong, and I don't know what it is." "Well... this is just a wild stab in the dark, but might it have something to do with the return of Voldemort." She feels a sudden jolt, and cringes for the first time when saying his name. Parvati's eyes soften. "He killed your friend, didn't he?" Violet nods. "My Muggle friend, Becky. I hadn't seen her in years, but..." "I'm sorry." Two tears spill down her cheeks. "I don't know what's going on, our teachers don't talk to us, my best friend won't talk to me, and I don't even know if I want to be a Seer anymore! Everything's different, and I don't know what to do." "I don't know what to do, either. I grew up half in one world and half in another, and most of the time felt like I was nowhere. I feel as out of place here as everyone seems to think I am. I'd like to go home, but I don't even know where that is." Parvati looks pensive. "There is no home until all of this is over." Violet nods. "I feel that here, too. A sense of being suspended in time, waiting... and all I can do is shelve books for the cause." She snorts. "My friend is murdered, and how do I fight back? By shutting myself away because I know I can't fight. This war has affected me as much as anyone else here, and I can't even bloody defend my friend's life!" She leans against the wall, grasping for support. Her breath comes short and ragged. Parvati slowly walks over and puts an arm around her. Both girls are crying, and both are silent. They stand there for several long minutes, tears streaming down their cheeks. Finally Parvati whispers, "You will fight. When the time comes, we all will." This is Lavender's messy, bloody Prophecy condensed in two simple sentences. But Parvati hadn't Seen the future, she'd felt it. She'd felt it in Violet's angry words and quivering shoulders, and in her own resolve to see this thing through, if only to have the opportunity to feel right, and happy, again. ******************************************** a/n Oops, sorry about girl!Blaise.

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