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Chapter Twelve The battlefield is nearly bloodless. The sight of the clean, still corpses unsettles Violet almost more than the battle itself. Who wants to be sent into the afterlife without a mark upon them? It seems almost a mockery of death. Their blood should stain the pristine snow and sink deep into the earth below. Violet doesn't realise that only someone familiar with Muggle forms of murder would entertain these thoughts. It had never occured to her that Wizarding death would be so... tidy. There is just one dark patch on the field, one life which was allowed to bleed out in all its glory. Most of the survivors avert their eyes from the corpse of Voldemort. There are only three who'd hated the Dark Lord so acutely in life they wished to see him in death. Harry Potter kept looking after the fatal blow was delivered, well after his friends had turned away, after the great shiny sword had vanished from his hand as mysteriously as it had appeared. The look on his face reminded Violet of her mother's after finishing a long, painstaking project: relief, satisfaction, and a kind of disbelief that his hands had been the cause of it all. Neville Longbottom had looked squarely into the Dark Lord's eyes in their final seconds of life. In them he saw the agonising pain that his parents must have felt, he saw the Dark Lord stripped of all power and pretense. He saw him as human. It was an image that would both console and horrify him for the rest of his life. No one on the field saw Severus Snape, hiding in Hagrid's cabin with a small group of Slytherins, look upon his dead former master with the closest thing to satisfaction that would ever cross his sour face. Not relief, for even though his spying days were over, the prejudice that accompanied them would follow him for the rest of his life. But it was a price he was willing to pay. After all, his charges were alive. They would grow up to embrace everything that Slytherin ought to be: power, ambition, greatness. They wouldn't live a misguided life or die for a foolish cause like Voldemort. They would find success and raise families, and live for no cause other than their own. Severus' life had not been in vain, after all; he had kept alive all that was right and good about Slytherin. Once Voldemort sunk to the ground and lay still, there was an odd silence. The survivors expected the Ministry to turn up at any moment, to storm in and attempt to put their lives back together the way only officiousness and red tape can do. To dull their senses with the rhythm of routine. They're still waiting. They stand outside instead of going in by the fire, because they don't want to leave the dead. They shiver without noticing. Someone had gathered blankets, gloves and scarves, which are shared between the groups of huddling students and teachers. Professor Snape, who had emerged with his Slytherin charges, takes a toll of the dead. He and the Slytherins are greeted with icy stares. They keep busy and pretend not to notice. Missing from the field are the wounded, Madame Pomfrey and Luna Lovegood, a novice Healer. The small infirmary can't hold everyone, so they spill out into the corridor, in order of the severity of their injuries. Most gravely wounded are Colin Creevey and Albus Dumbledore. Colin relinquishes his place in line so that the dying Headmaster might be saved, and in doing so gives his life. A Gryffindor to the end... Dumbledore, having been hit with a Dark curse he'd had no knowledge of and no defence against, hangs between life and death. The Lestrange woman had done it, lashing out in blind fury after the death of the Dark Lord. Neville had tried to kill her afterwards. Had tried to, but couldn't, instead whispering "Petrificus Totalicus" as the woman just stood there, smirking. She didn't care if he killed her or not; her life had ended along with her Lord's. She'd simply wanted to watch the boy squirm. Violet had been proud of him. Bellatrix Lestrange lies frozen and bound alongside her fellow Death Eaters. Several students and teachers had died, but only one Dark wizard: Voldemort himself. Violet wonders about the justice of this as she stands clustered with Neville, Lavender, Parvati, and Dean. The Death Eaters used the Death curse, she thinks, but my side didn't. Only Harry had taken a life, but not with words. Would he have used the Death curse if he'd had to? Could he have? Could Lavender have? Could I have, if I were somehow granted power again? Power. Power like she'd never felt, like electricity shooting down her arm and into her wand. Or had it been the other way around? Is there such a thing as a wand so powerful that even a Squib can use it? But Lavender had said it wouldn't work again... She glances at her sister, who is being supported by Parvati and Dean. Lavender's face is frozen in numb horror, and Violet can only imagine what she's thinking: Why didn't I See Seamus? Why couldn't I save him? Why had my Prophecy spared only Harry Potter? Violet realises that being a Seer is one of the most awful jobs she can imagine. She would rather clean the wastebaskets at her father's office. Professor McGonagall, after conferencing with the remaining teachers (except for Snape, who continues to move among the dead), decides it's time someone take charge. The elderly witch seems to have aged ten years in the course of an evening, and her steady brogue trembles slightly. "I needn't remark on the tragedies that have occured here today, nor the concern I feel for Alb... for Headmaster Dumbledore. The question is, what do we do now? How do we move forward from this, now and the rest of our days?" She looks out, straightforward and moist-eyed. "I ask that you all move into the castle. There is nothing that can be gained from standing here contracting frostbite. Wait for us in the Great Hall. Build a roaring fire, and have the house-elves prepare tea and nourishment. Take care of yourselves, for you're still very much alive." Hermione raises her hand, and a flicker of amusement nearly crosses the weary Professor's face. "Yes, Miss Granger?" "But what about you, Professor, and the other teachers? Surely you're as susceptible to frostbite as we are?" "Don't worry about us, Miss Granger. You know about the various Warming spells as well as anyone." "Oh, yes... of course." Hermione turns toward the castle. There seems to be nothing else to say. The cluster of Violet, Neville, Lavender, Parvati and Dean tread silently toward the castle. All hold on to one of the others' hands, connecting themselves to the group. How quickly they've become a family, moving ever closer toward each other, trying to close the gaps left by Padma and Seamus. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Outside,the death of Voldemort and capture of Death Eaters has resulted in great celebration, but inside it's brought only heavy, claustrophobic silence. Too many of their own are gone for them to appreciate the fall of Voldemort. It's too soon. Too raw. Classes have been cancelled, and N.E.W.T.S. rescheduled for the summer. As long as Albus Dumbledore lies suspended in time, so does Hogwarts. Not that tragedy hadn't befallen the outside world as well. Voldemort had had an "agent" at the Ministry, just as he had at Hogwarts, and as a result the Ministry had been "compromised." (This being the word Minister Fudge had dictated to the Daily Prophet to describe the obliteration of the southeast corner of the Ministry.) The culprit had been captured before he could blow the whole place sky-high, but the distraction had served its purpose. While the Ministry tried to put itself back together, the Death Eaters marched on Hogwarts. What they couldn't count on was Lavender Brown, the seventeen-year old novice Seer, or her nineteen-year old sister, the Squib. They would never know what had happened, but they'd have a lifetime to think about it in Azkaban. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx After a long, uneasy week filled with alternating tears and silence, a miracle happens: Albus Dumbledore wakes up. The news rings joyfully through the school, and while it can't bring back the dead, it does breathe some life into Hogwarts. Madame Pomfrey fusses around him. "Poppy, I assure you I am quite capable of feeding myself. Now please, put down the spoon!" Madame Pomfrey looks properly embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Sir, it's just that... oh, I'm so glad you're back with us!" She enfolds him in a hug, neglecting to put down the spoon and getting strained carrots in his long grey hair. "Oh, Sir... I'm so sorry!" She tries rubbing the carrots from his hair, and only succeeds in ingraining it so deeply that he resembles an elderly Weasley. The two look at each other and laugh. Eventually, Dumbledore's expression turns serious. "Poppy... how bad was it?" Madame Pomfrey sighs. "It was bad, Sir. Our losses were great. Of course, one loss would have been one too many..." The faces of the dead flash through her mind, one in particular. She will never tell the headmaster about the Creevey boy's sacrifice. He wouldn't be able to live with himself. Dumbledore pats the Healer's arm, and sighs. "I would like to say that at least this has come to an end, but evil never truly ends, any more than good does. It's folly to think the world will be sunshine and lemon drops now. We mustn't let down our guard - ever." Madame Pomfrey nods. "I'm afraid you're right, Sir." Dumbledore allows a slight smile to cross his lined face. "However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't allow ourselves... some relief. I do believe we've earned it." He pauses, and Madame Pomfrey stays silent. "How is Harry?" he finally asks. Pomfrey's voice drops to a hush. "His injuries were slight, but he has sequestered himself in his room. Refuses to see anyone, even Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger." Dumbledore sighs heavily. "Yes, I imagined it would be this way, if the boy survived at all. He has blood on his hands. That is not an easy thing to live with, even in times of war..." He sinks into thought, and Madame Pomfrey wonders about his old wartime days, when Grindelwald was defeated. "Mr. Potter will come to me when he's ready," he finally says. "I'll not push him. However... I do wish to see the Brown girls." Madame Pomfrey looks puzzled. "Lavender Brown? And the Squ... and her sister?" "Indeed. Please inform them to come see me as soon as possible." "I... of course, Sir. Oh, Sir, the students are just so happy that you're back with us. As are the teachers, of course. And myself... oh dear, I'm babbling. But it was dodgy there for a while. I thought..." Her voice catches. "Well, I'll go fetch the Brown girls, then." Dumbledore nods. "Thank you, Poppy. And for the record, I'm glad to have myself back, too." His eyes shine with their customary twinkle, and Madame Pomfrey walks out with a smile on her face. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Dumbledore welcomes the rather awestruck sisters to his hospital room. "Please, have a seat," he says. Lavender smiles nervously. "I'm so glad you're all right, Headmaster. I was almost certain you'd pull through, but..." She looks down, her fingers twisting the folds of her robe. "Don't worry. I'm certain my death will warrant a prophecy of great magnitude." Lavender looks up to catch the smile on Dumbledore's face. "Yes, I'm certain it will, Sir! I mean..." "Just do me one favour, Miss Brown. When my time comes... don't tell me. I'd like for it to be a surprise." Lavender's eyes widen slightly. "Of course, Sir." Dumbledore glances at Violet, who has been sitting quietly. "I expect you have a question or two on your mind, Miss Brown." Violet nods. Her mind is bursting with questions, but in light of everything that has happened, she's been holding them in. If her life as a Squib has taught her anything, it's the importance of timing. "My wand," she says simply. "Yes... cherry wood, I believe? May I have a look at it, please?" He guesses correctly that Violet is still carrying her wand. She hands it over wordlessly. Dumbledore takes it in his hands and holds it gently, like a new baby. If Violet didn't know better, she'd think he didn't know what to expect. After a moment of examination, and complete lack of response from the wand, he asks, "This wasn't purchased at Ollivander's, am I correct?" Violet frowns. "Ollivander's?" "No," Lavender cuts in. "Our mum made it, actually. She's an artisan." "Ah yes, of course!" Dumbledore looks quite excited. "You see, Miss Brown, this wand doesn't have an ounce of magic in it... and yet, it seems to contain the most powerful magic of all. Most extraordinary." He hands it back to Violet, who looks at it like it might be a fire-breathing salamander. "What do you mean? How could I do magic, Sir?" "I understand," Lavender says softly. Violet turns to her. "What is it?" "It's because mum made it, right, Sir? Mum made it with her own two hands, and... and..." "You're on the right track, Miss Brown. Unlike any of the wands at Ollivander's, which are made with great skill, this wand was fashioned purely from love." "Oh," Violet says, wishing she could think of something more profound. "You mean, my mum's magic made it work." "No, not exactly." He smiles. "I'm about to have a similar conversation with you that I once had with a very special and celebrated young man. A boy who learned at an early age that some of the most powerful magic on earth can't be learned from books; it exists in all of us, Muggles and Wizard folk alike, and it's the most powerful magic I've yet to come across. And I've come across some pretty powerful magic. Do you know what it is?" he asks gently. "A mother's love," says Lavender. "That's exactly right." He smiles. "Sometimes the heart is so powerful, it can do things that defy the mind's logic. Turn dark into light, give magic to a Squib... even save the life of a baby boy, lying in his crib." "You mean Harry Potter, don't you?" Violet asks. "That's how he survived Voldemort. His mum saved him." "Yes. And this same magic, older than the most ancient, dusty tome of spells - older even than myself! - powered your wand." Violet looks down, embarrassed. "Please, don't compare me to Harry Potter." Dumbledore looks surprised. "Why ever not? The two of you have a lot in common." "Er..." Dumbledore takes his glasses and a Daily Prophet from the bedside table. Perching the glasses on his nose, he examines the newspaper. "Yes, this is the right one. Though I expect it will be one of many." He holds it up. Lavender gasps. Violet sighs. "That's a terrible picture," she says. Dumbledore nods cheerfully. "It's quite large, too." On the front page of the Daily Prophet is a picture of a thirteen-year old Violet, her hair in pigtails, accompanied by the headline, MORE TO SQUIBS THAN MEETS THE EYE? "Oh, Merlin," Violet groans. "I don't want to read that." Dumbledore hands her the paper. "I understand. But someday, I think you will. Or at least, your grandchildren will." His eyes twinkle. Violet wonders if that ever gets on anyone's nerves. Lavender covers her mouth and starts giggling. Dumbledore, who was going to pass on his sympathies for Seamus Finnegan, decides that now is not the time. Instead, he feigns a yawn. Lavender and Violet stand hastily. "I'm sorry, Sir, you must be dreadfully tired," Lavender says. He nods. "Yes, dreadfully. But, before you go..." The girls pause at the door. "I want to commend you both on your bravery during the battle. You are a credit to this school, and your community." He smiles at Violet. "Whatever community you may choose." Violet smiles a little, tucks the newspaper under her arm, and follows Lavender out of the room. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx A week later, Dumbledore is greeted with a standing ovation as he walks into the Great Hall. He stands at the staff table, between McGonagall and Snape, and tings his goblet with a fork for silence. He smiles encouragingly out at his students, his eyes skimming over the empty chairs. "It is wonderful to see you all!" he exclaims, to more applause. When it dies down, his eyes grow more solemn. "However, we are not complete, are we? And we can make no effort in moving toward wholeness again until we honour those who are gone." The Hall is silent as he continues. "So before we celebrate the resolution to this war, before we think to the wonderful future that I hope lies ahead of us all, let us take this time to remember the dead." He looks down for a moment, and clears his throat. "In Hufflepuff House, let us remember Susan Bones, Lionel March, Zacharius Smith, and the first casualty of this war, Cedric Diggory." The students bow their heads. "In Ravenclaw, we remember Padma Patil, Mavis Rothman, Timothy Connell, Filius Flitwick, and Veronica Sinistra." He pauses. "If such things can be measured in degrees, I find the death of Professor Sinistra particularly tragic." His voice rises above the escalating murmurs. "Consider the irony that she was murdered by Voldemort for being a traitor to his cause, while in this very room she is considered a traitor to our cause. Surely, we have more capacity for open-mindedness, and forgiveness, than Death Eaters. Surely you can understand that Veronica Sinistra did not wish to harm Harry Potter, nor any other student at this school. Lucius Malfoy did. In perhaps the finest moment of a dark life, he confessed to casting Imperius, absolving my friend and colleague of guilt. That's good enough for me, and I hope it's good enough for you, too." He lets this sink in, then continues. "I will, however, have to see to the Charms around the chicken coop. We really can't afford to lose any more livestock to sinister messages." Relieved murmurs are heard throughout the Hall. There had been much speculation as to the source of all that blood... Dumbledore continues. "While Slytherin House suffered no casualties, due to Professor Snape's... timely shielding, there are many empty places at the Slytherin table." He does a quick scan of the table. Malfoy's seat is empty, as are Crabbe's, Parkinson's, and Zabini's. Only Goyle remains in that section, looking alone and somewhat more confused than usual. (He had been raiding the refrigerator at the time of the Great Battle, and had, as a result, missed the whole thing.) "And for this I ask myself, why? Why are half the members of one of my school's Houses in Azkaban, or fugitives from the law? Is there something I, or any of us, could have done to prevent this?" He looks out. "The answer is, no. No more than I or anyone else could have stopped young Tom Riddle, fifty-odd years ago. One's true essence always shows itself in time. But I do not want anyone in this room to think such evil is the essence of Slytherin. Those remaining here today are proof of that." He turns to the Slytherin table. "I commend you, and your Head of House, for standing up for what you believe Slytherin should be. You have done your house proud." This is met with hesitant applause. Dumbledore continues. "In Gryffindor, let us remember Colin Creevey, Rachel Madigan, Alex Patchett, and Seamus Finnegan." Violet squeezes Lavender's shoulder. "As you live your lives, pursue your careers, raise your families, let them live on in you, in your memories and deeds. And remember, only by moving forward, not dwelling in the past, do we allow them to come with us. So in short: live!" He bows his head, to thunderous applause. "One more thing, then I promise you we will eat. I simply want to say how proud I am. You met danger with courage. You defended not only this school, but the way of life we hold dear. And you prevailed in the end. But I want you to know that even if you hadn't, the pride I feel for each and every one of you would not be diminished in the least. You showed your character, and I feel great satisfaction that I have taught you what is important. Yes, victory is the goal, but never the cause. Remember that. And remember too, that in war there can be no true victory, only resolution. Voldemort has been defeated, but evil lives on. There will always be battles to fight. Sometimes we'll win, sometimes we won't. What's important is that we do what we feel is right." He smiles. "Now, who wants turkey?" xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx "Dear Violet, "I never realised how quiet it would be here without you. I guess some people don't have to talk much to fill up a room, they just... have a presence. I've always felt that about you, Violet; I just never had the courage to say anything. Well, anyway, I'm sorry. I know that may seem like an odd thing to say now, but I needed to say it before I see you again. I've needed to say it for a long time, but the timing wasn't right, what with the war and all... Yes, I miss Seamus horribly. I can't even face the thought of looking at other boys, which is something I never thought I'd say! Maybe someday, but... right now I'm really busy with my studies. Merlin, I can't believe I used to dream about being a Seer. It's not exactly how I fantasized it would be, but honestly, I love it. I had an interesting conversation with mum the other day. It seems that her grandmother was a Seer, and so was dad's! I wonder what the odds of that are? Anyway, I asked Professor Trelawney about it, and she said it might mean I'm a Prophetess, which is a sort of extra-powerful Seer. My first response was, Brilliant, more bloody work! But I don't mind, really. And I kind of like that I'm not supposed to understand it all. It makes what happened to Seamus make more sense, that it didn't make any sense. Oh hell, now I'm not making any sense. Well, maybe you know what I mean. If I'm going to see the future, I still want there to be some life to live, you know? Some surprises. I guess Dumbledore was right. He always is, the smug bast... kidding! I know you don't know Harry very well, but I saw him the other day and he asked about you. Wanted to know how you were handling being the World's Most Famous Squib. I told him you didn't stick around long enough to fully enjoy the, er, honour, and he kind of smiled and said he knows the feeling. He then said something odd about going off to Scotland to raise sheep, but I'm sure that was just a joke because he's scheduled to join the Ministry as an Auror next year. Well, I hope you're having a great time at University. I always knew you'd do something great, you would-be Ravenclaw nerd. Kidding! Say hi to Neville for me when he visits. Lots of love, Lavender xoxo." Violet puts down the letter and a tear rolls, rather sneakily, down her cheek. She feels a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong, love? Everything's all right at home, I hope." Violet smiles, sniffing loudly. "Everything's fine. I just... miss Lavender." She grins. "I really do!" Neville looks on in mock scorn. "Well, I suppose I'm not good enough, after I travelled all this way..." "Puh!" Violet hits him with her notebook. "You flooed in right down the street!" Neville grins. "And seeing you is well worth the trip." He sits beside her on the campus lawn, under a wide shade tree. His face turns serious as he takes her hand, and she lays aside her notebook. "Really, Violet, I don't see how I can ever make it all up to you... for what I did." "Neville..." she bites her lip. "I'm not going to lie and say you didn't hurt me. I'm trying to understand why I don't find it harder to forgive you. I suppose it could be your boyish charm, but..." She smiles. "I don't know. Maybe allowances ought to be made in terrible times, like war. And maybe... if love is true, it will survive and rise from the ashes." Neville smiles, leans toward her, and then they don't say anything for a bit. "Violet," he whispers, when they come up for air. "Hmm?" A tear rolls down his cheek. He makes no effort to wipe it away. "I have no excuse for how I behaved. All I can say is, my Gran is the only family I've ever known. My only connection with my parents. I wasn't ready to risk losing her. But I see now that I wouldn't have lost her. She may be disagreeable sometimes, but she's family, and I'm her only link to her son. I just can't believe I risked losing you in order to figure that out. " He looks miserable. He looks, for the last time in his life, like the Neville Longbottom that had arrived at Hogwarts, scared and awkward and searching for his lost toad. It can take a while to get over something like that, even when the rational part of you knows you've outgrown it. "Neville, I'm happy. And I want you to be part of that, no matter what happened in the past. I want you to be part of my life." Neville stands, pulling Violet up with him. "I want to be part of your life. More than anything. It seems like I've never wanted anything else." "Me, too. I've wanted it ever since... well, you probably don't remember, but ever since the first day we met." "In the Gryffindor common room..." "I screamed at you not to curse me..." "And you scared me more than I scared you!" Violet laughs, and Neville pulls her in for another long kiss. "You remembered," she whispers. "I never forgot." xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx a/n I hope you enjoyed this story. All feedback is appreciated!

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